45- What Insanity Comes from Rage and Love
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Marik checked on the idiot who decided to betray them and saw that it was the right leg he hadn't hurt so he grabbed the unconscious bandit's left leg with is right hand and started dragging him towards the screaming idiot.  He barely gave the idiot more than a glare as he he used his other hand to grab the unhurt ankle and continued dragging both of them along the ground in the direction Sara had run off to.  As he got closer to the convoy he paused he steps for a moment while he looked over at Anthony's face watching from the carriage window.

"Anthony," he shouted out and waited for the window to open.  "I think you should come, too.  It's best if you don't say anything until we're alone."

Anthony merely nodded, sensing that Marik was more serious than he had been on the whole trip and not wanting to anger him after the previous display.

Marik didn't bother to make sure that Anthony was following and continues dragging his captives behind the far wagon where they would be hidden from the prying eyes and ears of any curious employees.  As he rounded the wagon, he saw hands sticking out of seemingly nowhere and touching and unconscious Sai, who was still in fox form.  He almost dropped his prisoners to run up to her and make sure she was fine.  Sara heard the approaching screaming and looked over at Marik, then at his captives being dragged unceremoniously behind him, and then back at his face again.  Her expression warped into a slight grimace but she didn't say anything and turned back to watch Kiara continue working on Sai.

Marik stopped a little bit before coming into sight of the portal opening itself and dropped the ankles he was holding to the ground.  He made a half sprint, unable to control himself any longer, and knelt down near Sai's head.  He looked up with a worried face at Kiara and saw that she didn't look too happy but she didn't look that worried either, which eased his mind a little.

"Is she going to be alright?"

"Ya.  It was some cheap crap that got used.  It's fast acting but not too terrible and easily curable.  Right now she just needs a little rest and in a couple hours she should be just fine.  Aside from that little scratch, of course.  I did what I could but it'll probably leave a light scar because of the poison."

"I'd rather have her scarred than dead.  The bastard who did it is going to have more than a scar, though.  I don't plan for anyone to even be bale to recognize his body when I'm through with him."

"Good.  If you want some help, I'm available for a little longer."

"Sure.  I have him right here.  I don't mind letting you have a little go at him as long as you still leave some for me."

Marik walked over and grabbed the idiot's ankle again and started to drag him around to near where Sai was so that Kiara could do whatever she was planning on doing.  He noticed that Anthony was quietly approaching, although slightly hesitant at the sight of disembodied arms flying around in midair.  Marik ignored him for the moment as he turned and dragged the body.

Kiara stopped paying attention to Sai for the moment and Marik carefully went over to his wife after letting go of the idiot again and carefully picked up her sleeping body to take her a little further away.  He didn't want the bastard anywhere near her at the moment in case he lashed out and knocked her awake.  Kiara said she needed rest and Marik intended to make sure she would get it.  He sat down and put Sai's head in his lap as he watched the event unfold.

Kiara glared at the moron who was screaming a little less and a lot quieter now.  Apparently his voice was starting to give out after all the screaming and yelling.  Kiara started to sculpt some spell or another that Marik didn't recognize and then she waited for a moment while looking at the man.  She nodded once as if she was sure of her work and started sculpting another spell that seemed slightly intricate and the man's mouth suddenly opened in horror as if he were trying to scream out even harder in more agony than he had been in previously.

"Wow.  What was that?"

"I used a spell that helped keep him conscious first so that he wouldn't be bale to pass out from pain.  It should last about and hour so he's all yours, now, and you don't have to worry that he won't be able to realize what's happening to him.  The second one was a slightly modified one I came up with one the spot.  It's one of those meant for healing but I reversed some of it so it should instead feel like his whole body is constantly being burned now."

"Well, that's just awesome.  Does Sai know about that one?  That's actually a spell we've been looking for so you may want to write it down or teach her next time you have the chance."

"Really?  I'll do both, then.  I'm satisfied now so you can have him back."

"Hmm.  I don't suppose you've picked up any mind reading spells, yet..."

"No.  That's too advanced for me."

"Too bad."

Marik gently put Sai's head out of his lap and walked over to the wide-eyed man and looked him in the face.  He stopped himself and looked over at Anthony, who had stopped a slight distance away while trying to maintain a calm face but not succeeding as well as he likely hoped.

"I don't suppose you have any complaints about how I deal with this bastard, do you?"

"Um, no.  I don't think I do."

"Good.  Hey, you stupid shit stain!  Ya, you.  I'm going to be the nice guy here.  Aren't you glad?  I'm sure you are.  You get one chance, only one, to try and tell me how long you were in contact with those bandits.  Was it since the beginning?"

The man just stared at him with wide eyes.  A look of anger and spite briefly crossed his face before he lost to the feeling of the pain again and went back to his blank staring.

"I see.  You don't think your situation can be worse..."

Marik knelt down and cast his force claw arcanistry.  He carefully used one finger and slowly started to run it along the man's shirt to put a rip in it.  It also cut a little into the man's skin but that wasn't something Marik cared about.  Once he felt he had done enough, he used the hand his claws hadn't been cast on to pull the man's shirt open.  Then he started using one finger to go slowly across the skin on the man's chest in a mostly horizontal way, as if he were trying to peel the skin off as carefully as possible.  The man's head flew back a bit more and he tried to scream even more although his voice had long since left him.

"I gave you your one chance.  Now I'm going to enjoy this for a while.  In your next life, maybe you'll be a little wiser or a better person..."

Marik continued his work, sometimes using his other hand to hold the man down when he started thrashing around.  He could feel Sara's disapproving gaze on his back along with Kiara's proud one.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw Anthony still standing there while shifting his weight back and forth on his feet in an uncomfortable manner.  A slight movement made him pause in his work and look up.  The unconscious man was coming back around.  He looked back down and resumed his efforts one the only person he knew he hated in the entire world at the moment.

"Sara.  Our other guest seems to be waking up.  Would you mind making sure he stays put?  It might help for him to know how bad things will get if he tries to anger me as well before we move on to him.  As for you my little practice subject, I must apologize to you after all.  I'm not too good at the crafting arts and such so I'm sure I'm making a bunch of little mistakes here and there.  Of course I'm sure you're feeling every mistake I make when I go a little to deep or not deep enough, aren't you?  Don't worry too much about it.  This is good practice for me and my hand-eye coordination.  You'll likely die of blood loss before I actually finish, anyways.  Just know that this is all because of your choice to purely piss me off.  I want you to die in horrible pain while knowing that you touched on something you never should have..."

He could see Sara now holding her swords over the bandit in his peripheral vision and he was sure that the bandit was already aware of what was going on around him by this time.  It didn't take too much longer before the man he was peeling finally stopped moving and went completely silent.  Marik continued for about another minute just to make sure there were no reactions and then slit the man's throat as a finale before letting his force claws dissipate away.  He stood up, feeling somewhat refreshed and realizing that he might have a little more insanity in him than he thought after all.  He looked back and saw that Sai was awake now and quietly watching him.  There was a look of deep and heavy love in her eyes instead of fear or disgust and he realized that he probably matched her better than he wanted to admit.

He looked over at Sara and the terrified bandit for a bit before turning his gaze to Anthony.  There were some serious talks that needed to be had here.  He nodded once as he confirmed the order in which he needed to do things and glanced over at Kiara.

"Thanks for the help.  We should be home in about a week and a half, I guess.  I'll give you the best reward I can come up with then."

"Normally I'd look forward to that but this time it was something I would have been angry at you with if you hadn't called me.  I'm not so terrible as to ask for a reward to save my own sister.  We can talk about it more when you get back, though.  I'll leave you guys to take care of your business.  Try and be more careful from now on, okay?"

"Right.  I plan to.  Bye."

The portal shrank away and disappeared.  Marik gave a light sigh in relief that everything was turning out to be okay so far then turned back towards Anthony.

"So.  I'm sure you have a bunch of questions.  The problem is that you shouldn't.  Nobody is supposed to know about any of this yet and that you do poses a rather big problem for us.  Part of that problem is that I don't really dislike you and, in fact, I'm somewhat fond of you and don't want to have to kill you.  So let's put out heads together here and try to come up with a solution where I don't have to kill you in order for my little secret to remain as such for a while longer, please."

"Umm.  Right.  So you're planning on killing me?"

"Oh, that?  I'd rather not, honestly.  If I do end up having to, I'll at least make it as painless as possible, though.  Like I said, I rather like you.  Let's try and think up something that'll make it so I don't have to, okay?"

"I could sign a contract declaring my silence."

"Mm.  I'd like to accept that that would be enough.  There are people who can pull thoughts and memories from your mind just by walking in the same town as you, though.  Even if we don't count that somewhat rare person, how would we even make sure such a contract is upheld.  Someone else would have to arbitrate and that would mean my secret gets spread more instead of contained."

"There's an enchanted contract.  It's very expensive to make and they're only used in the rarest of situations.  Many places even consider them illegal due to how it can force people into situations that the don't want to be in but I keep a few for my...erm...less known deals."

"I see.  Let's put our faith in that then.  I might be willing to help with the costs some depending on how this next part goes so let's go ahead and say we'll do that.  Until it gets signed I'll trust you to keep your mouth.  You, yourself, have proven yourself quite trustworthy so far even if your employees..."

"Right.  I might need to do some cleaning up of my staff after this."

"Well, now that we've managed to avoid having to resort something neither of us wanted to happen, let's move on, shall we?  Hello, mister bandit idiot.  I'm sure you got see some of how far I'm willing to go if you do something that pisses me off.  I want you to be open and honest with me so I'll offer you that same courtesy.  You are not going to survive this.  You made your decisions, as poor as they were, and now you will have to face the consequences of those actions.  What hangs in the balance for you right now is how, exactly, you're going to die.  Will it be quick and relatively painless or will it last for longer than you thought possible while being more painful than anything you've ever experienced?  The choice is purely on whether you decide to lie to me or not."

Marik walked closer to him and knelt down to look at his face on the ground closer.

"Let's start with some simple stuff so we can make this feel a little more friendly, ya?  What's your name?"

"...Garth.."

"Hmm.  Okay, Garth, how do you feel at the moment?  Still a little tingly and numb all over or are you okay now?  Does anything hurt particularly badly?  I'm sure you have a few bruises so I don't thing we need to mention those or light scratches.  Would you like to sit up some and get more comfortable while we talk?"

"Uh.  I still feel a little numb in my toes I guess?  I think I'm okay just staying down here, right now though.  My whole body kind of aches so I don't want to move.  Umm.  Sir.  Is that okay?"

"That's fine, Garth.  Let's start moving into some of the more obvious but necessary questions.  How long have you known about us?"

"We just...right...since you left Ekseth.  We couldn't catch up so we went into the city and found out when you were leaving again..."

"I see.  So the whole trip, huh?  That makes sense.  You're doing quite well, Garth.  I might even offer some kind of healing if i had some at the moment as a reward.  Sorry about that.  How many of you were there waiting here for us?"

"Si...Seven.  There was a scout hiding away from everything in case one of you escaped and we had to chase you."

"In case you had to chase us, huh?  Not to go report back to the rest of your group?"

"He probably went to do that now but he was just there to catch runaways originally."

"I see.  Well, I can respect loyalty to an extent so I'll let you decide between two options for the last question.  How many are in your band altogether?  Or, where is your base at?"

"It's...there are about twenty of us..."

"Is that counting the ones that came here or not?"

"No."

"So twenty more.  You've been quite helpful and I believe you.  Since you haven't lied and kept up your side of the deal then I'll keep my side as well.  If you close your eyes then it might be even better.  Sara, you can go ahead and shop his head off now."

"Wait," Sara suddenly cried out, "why do you still need to kill him?  Why me?"

"*sigh*  Look here, sis.  There are things we need to try and keep secret for a while longer.  Whether it's us who kills him or not, unless you plan to just let him go he's still going to die.  The laws dictate banditry as punishable by death.  At least we'll be giving him a quicker and nicer death than the city guards would.  As for why you: it's because you need to.  You plan to stay with us, guard me, and become known as one of the greatest fighters and blade dancers in the world.  None of that is possible if you aren't willing to kill when necessary.  We'll also be going after the rest of his band soon.  If you aren't prepared to kill then you're going to die."

"I don't like this..."

"I know.  Do it anyway.  I have yet to ever suggest something much less tell you to do something that would be bad for you, have I?"

"No.  Sorry, Garth."

Garth kept his eyes closed and let Sara and Marik finish their discussion without interruption.  Sara hesitated for a bit but after looking at Marik's serious face again, she finally swung down one of her swords and separated Garth's head form the rest of his body.  Mostly.  There was a bit near the ground that she wasn't able to cut through due to how she swung her sword and made it hit the ground first but it wasn't enough to let him survive any longer than otherwise.

"If you feel sick and need to, you can go stay behind the wagon for a bit.  Killing someone for the first time can be unsettling to some people so I won't blame you for it or anything.  Take some time and collect yourself."

Sara nodded with tears at the corners of her eyes and ran off to the back of the wagon.  Marik soon heard some retching sounds but ignored it as he stood back up and looked at Anthony again.

"Well.  It looks like we'll have to do some extra work.  No, I'm not talking about getting any kind of bonus or anything.  I'm not a fan of unnecessary blackmail and that's what it would feel like if I tried to ask for that.  These bandits have been after us the whole time, though.  That means, with their scout going back to report, that they'll most likely try again and this time they'll be more prepared and have more people.  I want at least one of us to try and track their scout as we go in the hopes that we can catch him before he makes it back.  If not then we'll likely have to leave you for a short time at some point to preemptively attack their base before they're expecting us.  If you think it'll make you feel safer then we can stop and have you all rest for an extra day at one of the camps while we go take care of them."

"I think that might work.  In the meantime I'll be looking through my things to make sure I have all that I need still for the enchanted contract.  It's been a long time since I had to use one so I'll make sure that I still have everything and that none of it has expired.  If any of it has then I know of a place to get what I need when we get back to town.  You have me word that I will say nothing of you and your companions."

"That's good enough for me for now.  You shouldn't have to worry about the contract too much, either.  It'll probably only be for a year or two at most.  I just the need time to make sure everything is ready before certain people learn about us."

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