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Towards Others.


I did not want to hurt anyone.

In fact, when I learned that demons could only be killed by holy weaponry, I felt relief; living as and amongst demons, it meant I could not kill anyone. But Father was quick to remind me that there are fates worse than death, and that I was expected to deal out a lot of hurt. If I did not meet that quota, he was quicker to remind me that he was capable of meeting it himself.

Today, we as a family were to appear at the twice-weekly dinner party. The Barons of the 7th Circle got together and exchanged gossip and business advice. I, as Pluto, son of Babalon and Therion Theleman, Heir to the Throne of Violence, was expected to surpass all expectations.


And yet, I had failed firearms practice. I had also failed my Execution 101 class, for refusal to butcher the convict they brought before me. Father was meant to boast of my marks tonight, and we were to celebrate over a meal I had helped prepare. By failing, I had embarrassed him. Yes, I could not accurately fire a gun for the life of me, but that is an issue of skill. The latter had been willful, idiotic disobedience.

I looked at myself in the mirror, disgusted. I could not even summon the strength to slaughter a common criminal, so it should go without saying that I did not deserve to be comfortable with the way I look. While the concept of being dressed up in formal attire had always appealed to me, I did not feel right in… anything. I did not feel right in my very soul, truth be told.

I had hoped that maybe it was because I had not grown into my Crown yet, however, I doubted three flames appearing over my head would magically fix my self image.

Father opened my bedroom door. "You are not going to attend dinner tonight," he sneered. "All you had to do was commit a simple fucking execution, but you couldn't even do that right, could you? Frankly, I'm embarrassed to be even seen talking to you right now. If anyone asks, tell them you're sick. Understood?"

"Yes sir," I sighed, kept my head low and avoided eye contact. He stormed off. I sat at my desk, and let my head fall onto its surface, before I shrugged out of my coat. At least I did not have to smile and pretend everything was fine. A few moments later, there was a faint knock at the door, before my mother poked her head in.

"Pluto? I just wanted to check in on you. May I come in?"

"You may," I replied, my voice muffled from my face still pressing against my desk.

I soon felt her hand on my shoulder. "C'mon. Sit up, look at me."

I could not bear to see her face right now, but I pulled my head up regardless.

"You are capable of so much more. We know you are. You will always be my little Rose Petal. Yes, your skills with riflery are… lacking, but that isn't the only form of violence out there— it's the weakest, if you ask me."

I did not want to say that I hated when she called me that, but I felt… flustered. "So you are saying what happened today does not matter?" I tilted my head to hear her more clearly.

"Well… your father is right about one thing. You do need to accept that you have to kill people. Including other demons…"

"… I do not have a problem with killing mortals; they do not truly die, they just become like us… But when it comes to other demons? I just… can not." I sighed and looked away from her.

She gently slid her hand under my snout and propped my chin up. "I understand, Rose Petal… I, myself, am not at all comfortable with your father's skull room. Resigning someone to that fate is cruel, in my eyes. It is why I put so much research into regressing demons into soul gems via demonic weaponry. It allows for a quick, merciful death, with no waste… but I'm not as strong as I was before you were born. I can't protect you from everything, dear."

If there was one motivator for getting over my reservations against violence, it would not have been protecting myself. It would be protecting her. "… How do you do it? How do you have the courage to end someone's existence?"

"Well, I certainly wouldn't call it courage… It's more… a purpose. A reason. When I kill, it is with the knowledge that it was for the betterment of all. Additionally, their soulstuff goes to a worthy cause."

"And Father's reason?"

"Tradition. Entertainment. Wanton self-indulgence… Power, as well." Mother listed. She never did hide her distaste for Father. "If our marriage had not been arranged, I would not be bothering with such a man."

Her marriage and my eventual conception was demanded by the Theleman royal family to secure an heir to the Throne of Violence. When demons give birth, they must give a portion of their own soul to their offspring, resulting in them losing a significant amount of their power. It is expected that both parents equally contribute, but my father refused to give up any of his own power, forcing my mother to relinquish most of hers.

She had not been Babalon the Great for a very long time now. And it was for my sake.

"I… I am sorry for what you went through on my account."

"No, no, Pluto, you didn't do anything wrong. You don't have to apologize, but… Soon, dear. Soon, we will not have to deal with him… Still, in one regard, he's right. In order to inherent the Throne of Violence, you must be better. I know you can do it, but I don't want you to do it for me, or Therion. I want you to become a proper lord and earn the throne for you."


I paused. "But… What if I do not want to be a Lord?"

"O-oh? What would you rather be?"

"Well… Whores can take the throne as well, yes?"

"A-a Whore? Like me?" This time, she tilted her head.

"Yes. Like you, mostly. I would put my own spin to it, of course, but I wish to help people. I wish to teach, to use my power, my position, and my talents for the benefit of everyone. To uplift them. Just like you do."

"Oh, Rose Petal, that's an admirable goal but… it won't be easy, you know that right? Even for me. Between Therion and the other Barons of the 7th Circle stymieing my many attempts at social welfare and charity, I feel like I've failed more often than I succeeded."

Mother sighed sadly. For all her power and privilege, she was still only one person against a system determined to make sure the peasants knew their place and the rich continued to grow fat.

"But… I think you'll be different, Pluto." Mother smiled. Her sadness now eclipsed by warmth as she looked at me. "You will succeed where I failed, it may be difficult but I know you are up for it. Whores may be traditionally women, or at least feminine-leaning, but a male Whore is far from unheard of."

"Thank you, Mother…" I still felt dejected but… Mother always knew what to say to help me feel better.

She looked me over slowly before she spoke carefully.

"Pluto, how are you… how are you feeling?"

"How do you mean?"

"Well, are you… comfortable?"

"I… suppose?" I lied.

"Well, you know that I will support you regardless."

"Of course. I am just happy I do not have to be a Lord." I partially lied. I did not look forward to playing the role of a Lord, but I knew that was not the only thing. It went skin-deep.

"Good. Good… You know that you still have to kill other demons if you're a Whore, right? Whores might actually kill more demons."

"They do? Oh… well, I still want to become a Whore."

Mother hummed for a moment. "Is there any other particular reason you want to be a Whore? You want to help people?"

"I guess. I do not know." I was at a loss for words. I did not know why myself. It was a respected position, of course. But… "I think I just want to be more like you."

She blinked in surprise, before she smiled back at me. "Pluto, no matter how you earn your seat at the throne, I know that you'll make me proud. You will always be my little Rose Petal. Try not to let this get to you, dear. I love you, and I know you'll get through this." She beamed. I tried to be positive for her sake, but I simply could not. At most I managed to eke out a weak, lopsided smile.

She noticed and sighed softly, rubbing my chin.

"Do you remember when we started your pyromancy classes?"

"Yes, I do. I distinctly remember being awful at it." I could recall all my failed attempts at manifesting fire. At the start, all I could manage was an ember. Small and pathetic, like I was.

"Well, I don't remember it that way. I remember a hardworking and intelligent young man who spent days mastering control over a flame. You went from a spark, to an ember and finally to a whole bonfire." She rested her hand on my head and gently pat it.

"I know how Therion treats you like you're a failure. I promise you are anything but. With the right kind of support I know you're capable of achieving anything you want to."

"I… maybe you are right."

"Well, of course I am, silly. I am your Mother after all." She giggled and I could not help but smile back. "Oh, how about this. We can have a nice day out tomorrow, just the both of us. We'll go check out that new Brimstone Creamery™ they opened up in town, and maybe afterwards we could go shopping for clothes too. Get you something really nice."

"I-… I think I would like that." I nodded. Salted Sinnamon™ and time with Mother always managed to cheer me up.

"I'll always love you, my little Rose Petal. Never forget that." We exchanged hugs, and she left me to myself. I did not see much point in studying. Not in the state I was in. I simply took off my remaining clothes, and went to lie down.

I envied the living for their ability to sleep naturally. I could not, no demon and angel could without the help of medical aid. I opened my drawer to find my inhaler of DreamSmoke™ completely empty. I sighed, slammed the drawer shut and closed my eyes tight. Though I did not require it, I would have loved to sleep past this entire event. But instead, I heard the whole party. The servants set up the tables, the guests shuffled in, and the bands played The Ceremony For The Binding Of Raphael in G minor.

There have been crude attempts to recreate that song in the Living Worlds, but I take comfort in knowing the authentic work is at least a luxury that we in Inferno can enjoy.

I wondered if Father knew that I can hear the goings on past my room. I could hear the whole house, in reality. I have unintentionally eavesdropped on many of his conversations, but either he did not know, or care.

"My son, Pluto, is doing so well in his education. He got perfect scores in knife throwing and polearm training, you know. Oh, and his core classes? All perfect. He will make a fine King once I retire. Or if I retire, that is!" He laughed, as did many others.

"Where is the lad, anyway?"

"Oh, he's under the weather. We're letting him rest in his room."

Of course, that was a careful withholding of information to save face. I do have to admit, Father's policy of never technically lying was a good one. By some metrics, I did do very well. But I am expected to be perfect in all things. One should not be able to cherry-pick my flaws. So from there on out, perfect is what I had to be.

"Ah, well, I wish him a speedy recovery. Abominations do tend to recover quick. Perhaps that's a good thing for him, I heard that Pluto's gift is rather self-destructive."

Father chuckled. "We were bred for war. And Pluto's more than capable of exploiting his gift. I made sure that kid's regeneration goes into overdrive. Would hate for him to bleed his power all over the place on the frontlines."

I could redirect half of the harm I receive to someone else, it was the type of ability that only worked if you had the resources to improve upon and exploit it. Everyone had a particular quirk, but it is only apparent after one consumes enough soulstuff. Since my gift only works one way, it is a great punitive tool. But I hesitated to use it offensively. To hurt myself was hard, especially for the purpose of hurting others. Just another thing I had to get over.

I heard someone try to get Father's attention. She was an imp. Likely our Head Handmaid. "King Therion, if I may, you have a package from the Red Dragon." I heard the faint clang of metal, likely from the sound of one of our serving trays.

"Is this what I think it is?" Father whispered.

"Indeed it is. The Red Dragon accomplished his assignments just this afternoon. I have set an appointment to arrange payment after the party is over."

"Excellent. Did he say anything?"

"He said that he had sustained severe injuries during the assignment, and depleted most of his munitions."

"Ugh, of course he's fucking complaining again. I'll throw him a bonus if it'll get that little pussy to stop whining."

"Of course, my king." She said with as much respect she could muster.

"Everyone! I have an announcement!" He got to his feet and presumably snatched the tray from her. He waited for everyone to quiet down before he spoke again. "We've been talking a lot recently about the expansion of the 7th Circle. Our circle is the benefactor of the most prevalent sin in all the living worlds. A sin so simple —violence towards others— even mere animals are capable of committing it. But we can be so much more. Can't we?"


Murmurs of agreement flared up amongst the crowd. It was at this point that my curiosity had gotten the best of me, and I decided to sneak out of my room to more properly observe Father's announcement. I took position from upstairs, out of sight, and silently watched.

"Last cycle, we were able to expand violence to include concepts directed towards oneself. And so, Suicide has been added to our Portfolio. But why stop there? Abstracting of the concept of Violence has proved to be the most effective way to expand. But we hit a wall. A lot of the concepts we wished to acquire for ourself had been owned by other lords. Until today."

As his smile stretched wide, he lifted the tray's lid with a flourish. "I present to you… the skulls of Sullmoth: The Late Lord of Sodomy, Gardruth: The Late Lord of Addiction, and Jagonoth: The Late Lord of Blasphemy. I have killed them, and acquired these sins for our portfolio. And with the right to these new sins, we are projected to become the strongest of the Nine Circles."

Father merely chuckled when he noticed the Barons' confusion. "Allow me to explain. It all starts with the acquisition of Blasphemy. What is blasphemy, though? Heaven dictates the meaning of sin, and as such, they have defined it as speaking out against Heaven's authority. Additionally, they consider speech to be a form of violence."

He started to pace, but at a calm, measured speed. It was the kind of walk that 'let people know who ran this circle' as he liked to put it. "I noticed a trend. Taking into account multiple living worlds, when mortals gain access to technology that makes information more readily available, Heresy drops while Blasphemy heightens. Securing Blasphemy would diversify and expand the 7th Circle's portfolio with speculative sin. Additionally, the 6th Circle now can no longer be called the Circle of Malediction."

"Without Blasphemy…" He brought his hands together, in one, thunderous clap. "All they have to their name is Heresy. A sin that only decreases in value."

I could hear Mother stammer, then faintly growl. From the outside, she looked calm. Poised, even. But I could tell she was furious.

He ignored Mother and gave the party goers his full attention, he held up the late Lord Sullmoth's skull, before he idly tossed it back and forth in his hands like a common hacky sack. "But I would not commit to such a bold act if the only benefit was speculative. We have stolen Sodomy from Sullmoth, of the 2nd Circle, Lust. The sin of Sodomy has been bastardized repeatedly, and has only proven to expand in definition. It originally meant disrespecting a guest, but has expanded to include anal and oral sex. The latter of which are insanely common amongst intelligent mortals, and has been considered an act against Heaven in the past. The acquisition of Blasphemy allows us to harbor this sin, as well as many others. I have stolen Sodomy to act as a potent demonstration of how easy it would be to simply… take the most valuable sins."

"And finally, we have Addiction, from the 4th Circle, Greed. Greed famously causes addiction, whether it be in the selling of drugs and creature comforts, or simple gambling. By taking yet another product of their sin, we have made them completely dependent on us. They are forced to feed into us. Delicious, no?" Even I was impressed at this point. Greed had mostly been monopolizing on non-sexual desires up till this point. That would certainly hurt their bottom line.

"With just these three acquisitions, I predict our expansion to quicken tenfold, conservatively speaking. Friends, we are looking at a very, very good future for Violence." He raised his hands up to applaud, because that is what followed. It was smart reasoning, but even I knew that killing three Lords from three different circles would cause an uproar. He must have had a plan.

"So did you kill all three of them before this party? As in, hours ago?," a raspy voice asked. They likely came from under the River.

"Well, of course. I have to set a good example to my son, don't I?" He chuckled, which prompted everyone else to follow suit.

The party went on for a while after that, but I had already seen enough. I took the opportunity to return back to my room and looked out my bedroom window to see if I could catch a sight of the Red Dragon. Sure enough, he was there with a Focalor Griffin .50 Anti-Material Rifle by his side. He sat on our doorstep, wrapped in bloody and torn armor, bullet holes and gashes riddled the outer protective plating and managed to punch through the padded layer and skinsuit beneath it, tearing large chunks of his flesh out. One of his legs seemed to have been bent the wrong way, and I am certain that something was sticking out from his torso.

If he was not sitting straight up, the distant stare on his face would have told me he was dead. No burning Crown or angelic Glory sat on his head either, despite him clearly being an adult.

It unsettled me to think about how he may not even be an angel or a demon, even more so given his line of work. I was under the impression that demons and angels were the strongest beings in the known universes. But this man killed both for a living. For my father, no less.

And he was alone. People came back and forth from our estate and made active attempts to avoid him, without a single person offering help. In the end, he gave so much to Father, and did not get anything meaningful back.

What finally pulled my attention away from the Red Dragon was when I picked up Mother yelling at Father in her bedroom.

"Are you fucking insane?! We're going to have all the other circles of Inferno at our throats! We're going to have EVERY part of Inferno after us! What the fuck have you DONE?!" Mother screamed. I did not need such fine hearing to hear that. "Do you even care that you put your family in danger because of this? That they would hurt our son?"

"He's old enough. He'll be fine. And you know what, big fucking deal. If he dies, he dies. We'll just make a new one."

There was a long silence between the two of them. Mother finally spoke up. "I… can not believe you just said that."

"You know what, I hope they come for us. Maybe it'll get Pluto to be useful for once instead of hiding between your legs crying like a complete fucking failure."

"… Do you even begin to comprehend how doomed we are now?"

"Relax. They aren't going to do a thing."

"Why?! What would possibly stop them from busting down our door the moment they link it back to us?" She asked. Though her voice trailed off towards the end. As if she realized something.

"You know what." I heard the rumble in his voice. "I've told you so many times to allow me access to your research for demonic soul compression. You know how easy it would be to utilize it into something that would wipe out entire circles. You have it behind so much cosmic red tape to prevent anyone but you and 'your heir' from using it."

Mother inhaled. "I trust Pluto with this more than you. I made it exclusive to myself so I could develop a more humane death for people unfortunate enough to be butchered. To be frank, you should be thankful it was my team who secured this first, otherwise someone would be planning to do exactly what you're trying to do. I patented this research out of mercy."

"Well, don't you sound like a fucking angel. Nothing but excuses. You did it because giving up half of your soul for that boy crippled your power. I can't even design a weapon around the same concept because of you and that fucking fork! Now, I think I've been kind enough to allow you to keep it until now, but I'm not going to wait around for you to give in. Give it to me. Now!"


"No. I am not going to sacrifice eight entire Circles for y-" Mother was cut off by the sound of rattling chains, and the impact of metal on wood. She must have dodged. "You fucking PSYCHO."

Chaos erupted. It was a hideous cacophony of snarls, splintered wood, and the rattle of frozen chains. Mother's ability was in the same vein as mine. The more blood she shed, the stronger she became. In wars of attrition, she was usually the victor. Additionally, she was always armed. Her pitchfork, Blood Rose, could appear in her hands any time she needed it. But Father's Cocytian chains were all enveloping, and even more constricting. He did not need to break skin. And he was more than capable of disarming her.

I quickly tried to put something on, as the ringing of cold iron and yelps of pain rang in my ears. By the time I reached for the door, I heard it. One heavy impact, preceding a stifled gasp, followed by panting and chocking. I was too late to do anything.

Father let out an exasperated laugh. "You know… I always wondered which of us was the strongest. If it were before I knocked you up, you would have won. But having that boy made you soft, made you weak, it's about the only useful thing that boy's ever done for me. But don't you worry, I'll be correcting the rest of his faults right after this."

I heard… one final attempt at freedom. One final desperate struggle. Then sound of flesh being torn from bone. A wet thud. Then the clang of metal as Blood Rose hit the floor.

"… Pity, guess you can't give me another heir."

I could not move. Time and space felt… frozen, from the realization of what happened.

She… was gone. Worse than gone. I… knew what Father was going to be doing for the next hour. That is, butchering what is left of her. Until the only thing left is her helpless, conscious skull. And there was nothing I could do about it. I did not even notice the music stop, until it came back on again like Babalon the Great had not been murdered.

If I had confronted him then I would have been subjected myself to the same fate.

I heard him pick up Mother's pitchfork with one of his chains, he open the door, and walk down the hall, towards my room. Reflexes kicked in, and I slunk back to my desk, pretending to study; oblivious to what happened. He thankfully passed by my room and headed straight towards his office, likely to put Mother's fork in the safe. He did not stay long, because he went right back to Mother's room to… handle her. Prevent her from coming back in any capacity.

The image of Mother's severed head could not leave my mind then, and never has. And never will.

I wanted to cry, but… I could not. Physically, I could not let myself cry. All I knew was that I was too late for her… but I will be blessed before I allowed Father to carry on with her fork. I breathed in. I needed to leave.

I got together a few things I thought I might need. A hoodie and shorts, ritual dagger, and backpack, my school books replaced with some survivalist keepsakes from my time as a Boy Scout. The 7th Circle consisted mostly of blood rivers and swampland, so I had to dress with that in mind if I were to literally run away.

I left my room, and snuck towards Father's office. He used the same 4-digit code for everything in this house, so getting past the safe was a non-issue. I hooked Blood Rose to my back, careful not to prick myself on its thorns, and headed down the stairs. I did not care that I was seen dressed like a commoner with Mother's pitchfork strapped to me. Because neither did they. Not really. When they saw me, they saw an obligation to smile, at best. At worst, they saw an opportunity for clout.

I walked out the front door, and saw the Red Dragon sitting on our steps. With the amount of blood and gore drenched over him, he smelled like a seraphim. The fact that he had not been helped yet was the only thing that stopped me in my tracks. If I did not help, then I was no better than the people I was leaving behind. No better than Father.

"You are the Red Dragon, yes? May I help you?" I asked.

"No." He stared forward and did not look at me.

I realized that may have come off as a rhetorical question, so I was more specific "I mean with your injuries. I can assist with healing wounds."

He looked up at me, emotionless. "Did Therion send you?"

"He did not. I saw you from my window and noticed that you needed help." Technically not a lie. I would rather him not know where I was going.

He did not respond with words. He nodded. And I got to work. Restorative magic was something that came naturally, but this was the first time I helped fix a leg. That required me to reset the bone manually.

"This will hurt." I said, getting in position for his leg. "Do you need something to bite on?"


"… Very well. Going to do it in three… two… one…" I gave his leg a hard tug and heard a sickening crack, an indication of my relative success. He did not flinch. "… There. The rest should be easy enough."

"You're Therion's son. Why are you doing this?" He finally asked.

"Because you need help. There does not need to be an explanation beyond that." I grabbed my dagger, sliced the back of my hand open and used my blood as a magical component to seal his wounds. He resumed his stare. I sensed an opportunity to speak and I could not help but break the silence. "Why work for someone who cares this little for you?"

He looked at me. "Same reason anyone wishes to be near Therion. His money."

I could not think of a response; not immediately at least. But before I finished dressing his wounds, I spoke. "Nothing would ever be good enough for Father. He would just take. And take. And when you could no longer give, he would take more anyway. Money is all he brings.”

I gave him a final once over, I finished bandaging up the more serious wounds and stood up. My novice magic ensured he would be fully healed in a few hours. "Take care of yourself. I will be seeing you."

The Red Dragon regarded me silently, boring a hole through my skull with his stare. I should have chosen my words better.

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