Chapter 42: Revulsion

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We were naive. We were blind in our thinking. We proclaimed the Arbiter of moral value dead, yet we were very simplistic in our moral thinking. Good could only produce good, wicked could only produce wicked. The Eight came from good, safe homes, and we trusted them. The King came from a shattered mess, conceived in evil. And we loathed him for it.

***

You are not a monster.

Laidu awoke to whimpering. On the floor, Thaen was sleeping, quiet and insensate to the world. Torvan was the source of it. The bandit was slumped over, still tied up, asleep, but terrified. Terrified of Laidu, terrified of the monster.

You are not a monster.

Laidu frowned. That was a new voice. Kasran's acidic hatred bubbled underneath a layer of...something, willpower or resolution. They were thoughts and feelings, but there was a tangible aspect to them, as if they were as real as the blanket he lay under, as real as the lumpy straw mattress that he was stretched out on. Those feelings and thoughts were something more, and Laidu was the one who wasn't real.

I'm not a monster? he asked the voice, conveying disbelief with his thoughts. He was getting batter at communication with them. It was a bit disturbing and unsettling, actually. He was getting better at talking to the voices of insanity.

You are not a monster. The voice was adamant, and somehow, Laidu could feel the iron resolution, could feel the willpower behind those words. It was an odd feeling, an almost physical sensation.

And how would you know? Laidu asked, rising from his bed.

I have lived it. And with that, the world changed.

Well, the world didn't change, but it felt like it did. There was a hatred, a vile, disgusting hatred, like filth and sewer slime and maggots poured, no, forced, down Laidu's throat, a powerful, almost undeniable self-loathing. What do you know of being a monster? What do you know of being hated? Hated by everyone, including yourself? Answer!

Laidu slumped to his knees, staring at his arms. But they weren't his. He didn't have innumerable scars, crisscrossing his forearms, raised lines of dead flesh, ripped scales. What do you know of loathing? Have you ever felt unclean? Dirty? Born by the seed of hatred, spawn of maggots?

Laidu hissed as pain ripped through him, tracing the lines of scars with lines of burning, scarlet pain. And he knew. He knew that it was his hand that carved those scars, his hand that brought the pain. What do you know of being a monster, where your very flesh is a blight on the earth, and pain is your only penance? Tell me, then. Please, enlighten me. Laidu grunted, grinding his teeth, his claws digging into the floor, pulling up little curling shavings. The pain and sickening emotions were a physical force, crushing him down to the floor.

Tell me, then. Have you ever hated yourself to the point of tearing into your own flesh, scarring and mauling yourself, because you would rather look at these abominable scars, and not look at yourself? Laidu looked down, at his chest, rising and falling, breath heavy with anguish and agony. He could feel claws digging into his chest, tearing at his flesh. Do tell me, the voice hissed, almost mocking. How are you a monster?

A hand touched his shoulder, and the vision vanished. Laidu's breath was ragged. "Laidu? Are you alright?" Thaen asked. The Vesperati was wearing a pair of pajama pants, made with red, black, yellow, and white cloth, in a traditional Vesperati fashion. It clashed with the grey and brown fur of

"Yeah. Now I am," Laidu said. He sat down, leaning against his bed. Thaen sat next to him, pushing up against Laidu's side.

"You don't seem it," Thaen said. "Is it...is it about the voices?" Laidu nodded. The Vesperati leaned in, putting an arm around Laidu. "You want to talk?" Laidu shook his head. How could Thaen understand? How could he ever comprehend the worry? The fear?

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