Chapter 199: Warmth "Upstairs? There's more?" Aldrich asked the girl.
The Chrysalis nodded with vigor. "Yes. I built using the blocks I had, all the blocks that were a part of this thing you call a 'soul'. So it won't be new to you, but it's better than this place, I promise."
She came by Aldrich's side and looked up at his hand. He was too tall for her to take a hold of his hand, so she settled with just grasping at the fabric of his pant leg. Like a lost child. "Okay, let's go," said Aldrich. As soon as those words escaped his lips, something happened in the jail cell.
In the thick darkness of the cell where the light of the eye above did not reach, movement ickered. Aldrich tensed up in immediate alarm. He tried to call upon his magical energy, but found that he could not.
It was not that anything prevented him from drawing out his energy. But when he felt the energy expel from him in cold waves, he felt them disappearing into some innite void, unable to form into anything resembling a spell.
The darkness ickered again, stronger this time, and Aldrich realized that there was not movement within the dark. The darkness was the one that was moving.
Like a mass of living, writhing shadow, the darkness crawled into the eerie yellow spotlight in the form of shadowy tendrils.
These, Aldrich recognized. They were the same type of shadowy tendrils that the Chrysalis used when it was dormant to draw things into its territory. "Scary." The Chrysalis hid behind Aldrich's legs, peeping out between to see what was going on. "You don't control the shadows?" said Aldrich.
The Chrysalis rapidly shook her head. "No. They were already here." "But didn't you call on them?" said Aldrich. "Every time I willed you to draw something into your territory, it seemed like you were controlling them." "They didn't have a home to be in before me. When I built this place, they moved in, and they got power. In the end, though, I think they only listen to you," said the Chrysalis. "Hm." Aldrich watched as the tendrils hovered over the Butcher's body like hungry vultures. "No! Get away!" the Butcher yelled, causing the Chrysalis to wince and put her ngers in her ears.
The tendrils formed into brutish saws and began shearing away at the regenerating esh around the Butcher's arm and leg stumps. They slowly ripped apart chunks of esh and bone, making sure the Butcher had ample time to feel the agonizing pain.
When the saw tendrils were done severing the regenerated stumps, other grasping tendrils took the bloody, torn meat and violently began shoving it into the Butcher's mouth.
When the Butcher closed his mouth and turned up his face to stop them from feeding him his own body, more tendrils, thinner and sharper in shape, dug into the Butcher's face, digging under his esh and bulging visibly under his skin.
They acted like strings on a puppet, forcibly making the Butcher open his mouth. They tendrils even forced his eyes open to make sure he could witness everything.
The Butcher gurgled in his own blood of esh as the tendrils crammed in his own limbs into his jaw with violent force.
Aldrich tried to will the tendrils to do something else, testing whether he had true control over them. They did not respond to him, only continuing their cycle of innite torture against the Butcher and his regenerating body. "Can we go now?" The Chrysalis tugged at Aldrich's pant leg again. "Yes," said Aldrich. As he stared at the Butcher's suering, he felt satisfaction.
This was the man that had caused his parents all that agony. It was only right that he suer the same himself.
It was what he had intended in the rst place, too. The biggest reason why he had even captured the Butcher alive. If these tendrils had not done this, then he would have made sure Fler'Gan would have created something just as painful, if not worse.
But Aldrich did not feel it was right to be reveling in this torture with the
Chrysalis right beside him. Something about her childlike appearance and demeanor made it feel inappropriate to be watching this with her by his side. "Let's go." Aldrich turned to leave, and the Chrysalis followed close behind him. As he left, the bars of the cell door closed on their own. He took one last look at the cell, not at the Butcher, but at the entire cell itself.
From farther away, even the Butcher's sizable bulk seemed tiny inside the cell.
Granted, he was just a torso and head, but even had he been whole, the cell would have been far too big for him.
There was an odd, eerie feeling that this cell was meant for something much, much bigger. But what - Aldrich had no idea. "This way." Outside the cell, the Chrysalis gained more pep and took the lead forward, tugging at Aldrich's leg to follow.
Overall, the Chrysalis was rather emotionless in her expressions and tone of voice, but Aldrich could nd hints of emotion beneath it all. It was the inverse of Rella who had lost how to have proper human emotions over long isolation.
The Chrysalis, Aldrich sensed, was learning how to express herself, learning how to be comfortable with her newly developed soul. "Up, up, up..." The Chrysalis started to walk on what seemed like thin air, taking ascending step by step like she was scaling an invisible staircase. Aldrich followed.
They were still in the ceiling-less hallway of darkness leading from the torture room into the cell, but at a certain point, the Chrysalis stopped going up. "Here," she said as she put a small hand above her head. Her palm pressed at against an invisible surface. A circular outline of light, big enough to easily t
Aldrich through, drew around her hand. The darkness within the circle then slid over like a sliding door, revealing bright light.
From that light, warmth emanated outwards. "Much better." The Chrysalis stopped shivering as she pranced her way up and through the circle of light.
Aldrich did the same. When his head crossed the circle, he found himself peering at what looked like a regular apartment. He blinked, processing his surroundings. "Come on up." The Chrysalis stood at the edge of a circle of darkness surrounding Aldrich. It seemed that the circle of light was inverted in color up here. She knelt down and held out her hand.
Aldrich took her hand, and she helped raise him up with surprising strength.
When Aldrich stepped out of the dark circle, it closed up with light sliding over it. When the light stopped glowing, it meshed with the rest of the hardwood oor. "I...I know this place," said Aldrich. He stood still for a moment, blinking several times as he processed things.
He stood in the living room of an apartment. A modest one, based upon its rather cramped size.
A far cry from the enormous rooms of wealthy corporate Suit apartments that had enough space to house things like replaces that they almost never used and pianos that they probably did not even know how to play.
No, instead, the comparatively tiny living room had a sense of heart to it that made it seem much bigger than it was. None of the decorations were thoughtless, placed solely for their worth in credits.
On small stands, there were vases lled with carefully tended owers. On the walls, there were paintings of lakes and oceans and beaches that, though good, were obviously not crafted by some artisanal master. Just someone who had tried their best and was proud of what they had done.
There was a hand built, slightly crooked bookshelf of dark wood in the corner lled with colorful comics, graphic novels, manga, and hardcover ction books.
All of those were rarities in today's digitized age, more collector's items than anything that people bought to really read.
Yet, each and every one of those books had little bookmark tags sticking out from their pages.
Aldrich sat down on a creaky blue couch. It felt so familiar to him. And for good reason.
This was his parent's apartment. Where he had spent all of his early years. This was where they had raised him from a helpless infant to a child lled with dreams.
And, after they had died, this was where he had raised himself, shattering his dreams, picking up the pieces, and forging them into something deadlier.
Colder. He had emptied the place out and lled it with training gear and a VR combat simulation rig that took up most of the living room.
But this was how the apartment looked like before Aldrich's parents had passed.
When they had passed, he had over time changed everything. He had taken down all the paintings his mother had made. He had tried to keep the owers she loved alive, but he had no talent for it. When they withered and died, he had to throw them away.
The shelf full of books his father loved - Aldrich had given those away or thrown them out. It was not that he had not cherished these memories of his parents.
But in the rst year after their death, the memories were just too painful to bear. Every book, every painting - all of it was just a sharp reminder of what he had lost. He had felt better o throwing it all away and letting the oblivion o
It was a decision he came to regret later on, but by then, what had been done had been done.
Aldrich turned around to look at the biggest painting in the room: a family portrait. There was his dad, smiling wide even when the photo was supposed to be serious. There was his mother staring up at his dad with admonishing eyes, telling him to be serious, but even then, she still smiled at her husband's antics.
Then there was Aldrich, just ve years old, between them, each of his hands held in one of theirs.
This portrait, too, Aldrich had cast away.
To see all of this again -
Aldrich took in a deep breath, feeling overwhelmed. He felt happy, that was for sure, happy that everything he had thought was lost had been immortalized in his Boundary, but at the same time, witnessing all this again - the memories and feelings hit him all at once.
Everything here reminded him of his parents' love for him. So much love. So much lost. So much he had forgotten. So much he had resolved to never feel again. "Are you okay?" The Chrysalis sat right next to Aldrich's silent gure. "Yes," said Aldrich. "Do you like what I built? I used everything I felt in you that I felt was warm and nice," said the Chrysalis. Her legs dangled from the edge of the couch, and she kicked them playfully. "I like this place a lot better than the cold spot. Do you?"
Aldrich took in another deep breath, and then sighed. He smiled. "I do."