Smiling in the Face of Hell

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Chapter 9

She found herself brushing past every plant, giving it a great examination, taking in their beauty. She found her spending most of the ‘day’ in the garden, looking at everything, and it seemed roughly about maybe 7 pm in the afternoon with the Hell’s big bright sun only minutes away from falling behind the jagged mountains she saw at the distance. The sky began to slowly turn more a dark crimson colour the more the sun set, she would have to sit and watch the sunset and sunrise more closely one day to examine the differences and really.

She had zero knowledge on plants on the earth’s surface so it was impossible to tell if there was anything visually similar to any of the ones around her, although she strongly doubted it since there was literally a tree made of metal and fire, whereas the strangest plant Scout knew of on the surface was the venus flytrap. No comparison.

She noticed that many of the plants were similar to the tree, with some kind of mineral as a stem, surely nothing from earth, but resembled that of rocks and metals that she knew of. Even some of the fluid moving petals looked like glass and other unreal looking things, which there was no name for them for her yet.

She wondered if Lionel had any kind of books on them so she can familiarize herself with the elements and science of Hell that was a whole new world to her in every sense.

With no care of her surroundings which she should have been paying attention to, she finally reached the back where the fascinating trees were, the one presence that did not strike her as a plant like the others at all.

It was a very fluidly moving plant, if that was even the right term to call them. The surface of their trunks were silvery and reflective like polished silver and seemed to move fluidly like mercury but also breathe visibly like a living being.

It was mind-blowing to see up close, everything she knew of earth she had to discard and learn all of the new things of Hell where she was.

Just like the rest of the garden, the tree swayed even though there was no notable breeze to make it do so, it moved in unison with the each other as well as the rest of the garden. That was another thing she did not understand, was why they seemed so alive and noticeably moved on their own and seemed to play out actions a plant on the surface would do. Only it was lacking certain things that made it all the harder to understand just the why of everything, like there was absolutely no wind, but everything in the garden seemed to give Hell the illusion that there was such thing.

The air was deadly still, dare she say it almost seemed suffocating. So far the sky showed no sign of having something like clouds or such thing as weather. So just how were these plants suppose to survive?

Just as she was about to press her palm to the trunk of the tree in front of her, completely forgetting Lionel’s discrete warning before that they were dangerous, not even realizing she was in any danger if there was any real danger, as well as completely not paying a lick of attention to anything else around her, she heard a loud booming voice sound off behind her, making her jump and turn to face the stubby creature.

“I would not get too close to those if I were you,” the creature who spoke was a short, bright blue colour that seemed to stick out like a sore thumb against the overall dull reds and browns of the rest of hell. The thing had wide eyes that almost took up it’s entire face, with no sign of a nose, and a tiny little mouth in the little left space under his eyes. His face was perfectly circular, a small bump under his small mouth that she assumed was supposed to be a chin, but it was practically invisible against it’s thick meaty neck that had no curves and just went straight down to it’s body that was short and stout. It’s arms barely looked long enough to cross it’s jello like belly that was barely covered with clothing, it’s legs seemed even shorter she almost didn’t even see them.

The thing was very short, it barely reached the height of the garden’s walls, which were only to her hip, it was unexplainable what this thing made her feel, just for sure, discomfort was the main thing she felt in the presence of this thing, yet he hardly even looked like a threat.

The worst part of everything was it’s dime-sized patch of hair that was direct atop of it’s head, the thick strands stuck up like a greasy feather, making it practically impossible to look at it’s face with the tip of it’s hair was tall enough to be eye level with Scout. On any other occasion, she would find something like that hilarious, but for some reason, she did not know why, it was just very disturbing to her instead.

Scout did not let any of those emotions she felt show though as she turned her back to the tree completely, eyeing the thing that stood what she saw was a safe distance, not from her, but the tree,” and who might you be,” she questioned, wondering if she should be ordering this thing around or if this was some kind of higher up that she did not know about, considering it was dressed in somewhat of a professional clothes versus the mere scraps of cloth that most of the servants wore.

She wondered if it was even wearing any pants since the suit jacket seemed to hide the practically non-existent legs almost like a dress.

It’s body structure and fashion almost reminded her of an NPC she would see in games like Zelda or something.

Oh, how she really wanted to laugh at this, presumably, man, but she restrained as she kept her face as flat as the planes of Hell beyond this large home, waiting for her answer.

“Theodor, at your service, madam, I am part of the council, well a branch of it, and I came by to see for myself our new Queen,” he gushed, as if trying to sell that was his real reason, but the harder he tried to sound convincing the more she doubted it, his stubby little arms spreading almost as if he was asking for some kind of embrace, but she wasn’t sure what his point was of that gesture.

“And surely you knew the King was not around, so why come when you knew he wasn’t in?”

Where did this attitude and confidence come from? She never felt so strong and authoritative, nor did she think she ever had it in her to play the cold distant leader type. It was like she turned into a whole different person overnight and it was almost unsettling, as well as a blessing in disguise, helping her stay level headed and handle the real problems without having to crawl over to Lionel for help. It was like if lines were crossed and alerts were sounding, then all bets were off and Scout was on autopilot.

Theodor was good at hiding his reaction, but her ears revealed the heightened heartbeat at her question, telling her she hit a spot, and he did not know she knew because he played it off otherwise flawlessly, if she had not heard that heartbeat flutter, then she would have fell for it easily,” I assure you it was not intentional, this was just the only time I had to myself so I did not properly check as I should have, I apologize.”

He must have been a con man in his years on earth. A pretty bad one at that.

“I see, so, was a ‘hi’ all you are here for,” she asked, keeping her head held high, but her eyes down and steady on him, keeping that kind of bitchy kind of look to try and show she was not interested in making friends.

However, people with motives were blind to those particular signs of wishing to be left alone as he continued on cheerily as if he was being welcomed,” Yes, I wished to get to know our queen a little better, I heard from the others that an official introduction for you to the rest of Hell here has been pushed back. That’s highly unlikely of the King to hold back,” he said as his large, impossible to ignore eyes flickered to the large dark ring on her finger that stuck out against her pale skin just as much as this blue man stuck out from all the red around him,” I would think that with you baring the ring of the soul woman, that he would show everyone and make it very clear who you belonged to.”

That immediately struck a very harsh corde in Scout, except unlike before, she actually got very angry. The way he spoke like she was nothing more than an object and trophy had her wanting to squish this little man right where he stood. He suddenly had striking similarities in attitude to Pride and Pignose put together. Just everything about him and his words rubbed her all the wrong way, and she was angry about it.

“I do not know where you get your careless mouth from,” she began, watching as he snapped his mouth closed as she continued with narrowed eyes,” but if you only came here to gawk at a prize, then you can leave.”

He did not catch the hint, nor did he acknowledge her anger that she did not particularly hide with the glare she sported,” I meant no disrespect, madam, I would never disrespect the queen,” he says as he then proceeds to do just that,” a soul mate is something to be treasured and flaunted, so why he has not already done so baffles me. The King I know is usually more on his toes about such things, making sure that things are clear, why he would postpone showing us you, and hiding you has me wondering. Is it because you are not strong,” he then asked, making her narrow her eyes.

He did not know she was a fresh demon, only the Princes, select Council members, and the servants knew, it’s seemed as if maybe the rest of Hell did not notice the moment they felt her was not her just finding Lionel, but just becoming a fresh demon.

He was fishing for information, information Scout was sure she did not want just anyone knowing, his motives were beginning to show more and more they spoke.

“I cannot say what the King has in mind in regards to me, but I can assure you, I am not weak,” she warned, giving him a clear invitation to just drop it but like the kind of man she already knew he was, he ignored her warnings and continued on like it was nothing. She did notice as well that he slowly inched forward as he spoke, perhaps he did not think she noticed while she was getting angry, if only he knew she saw a lot more than she wished she had to see.

Manipulative, cunning, persistent, his colours were showing, and she wondered just how dimwitted he honestly thought she was.

She watched as the closer he inched, the more he shot glances at the tree that swayed tall behind her.

“You also speak quite well, from what time are you from and how old are you,” he casually asked, trying to distract her by making unneeded gestures with his hands to distract her from his subtle movements, or maybe he was trying to outsmart the tree, she could not say at this point, but she last minute swallowed her underline hesitation and decided she was going to play his game and see where he planned on taking this.

“Why would that matter to you, I’m here now that is all that matters,” she said taking a step away from the tree, playing his game, mimicking his movements.

He eyed her with a tiny grin, making her smile innocently back, in the corner of her own eyes, she noticed that all swaying came to a halt, and he did not even notice as he seemed to absorbed only in her movements. The entire garden stopped moving.

Suddenly like a title wave, she heard Lionel, as if he was right in her ear, speaking in a very calm tone,' If you need to put someone in their place, do not be afraid to do it, you bow to no one, never, they are the ones who bow to you,' he said, making it very clear that he somehow knew what was going on, and he maybe can feel her whirlwind of emotions that she seems to just be going through from being serene, to alert, angry and now daring, he must have felt it.

Scout raised her head to look off into the distance at the dark red sky, face not showing what just happened.

The man did not take his eyes off her, taking that moment to get a good eye full of her, revealing another disturbing trait of his carelessly thinking her peripheral vision was not good enough to catch that disgusting look that crossed his face.

“Why don’t we talk over there,” he asked, gesturing to the center of the garden, away from the tree, which seemed to be his only big concern at that moment.

What he planned on doing once she was away from the tree was beyond her, she almost wanted to test it, but thought better of it as she tore her eyes away from the sky and turned to look up at the tree that was glowing beautifully over her head, flames getting very close, but no kind of heat seemed to affect her. She seriously was immune to any and all heat it seemed, if it was a hot and dangerous temperature, then it seems like it was toned down for her.

“Why? Isn’t this just a gorgeous tree,” she said, letting him think she was playing carelessly by putting her back to him, no longer keeping her eyes on him like before.

“Trust, me, you are far more beautiful than a lump of metal on fire,” there it was.

Scout gave him a smile over her shoulder,” how sweet, but I can assure you that is not true,” she disagreed as she reached above her head to stroke a smooth branch that hung the closest to her, finding it was even cool to the touch and the fire felt like nothing but air brushing against her skin.

She watched the man stiffen before collecting himself,” I heard they can see the past of those around it and the bigger the sin, the more they crave to burn someone alive,” he said, as if that was supposed to scare her.

She knew she was safe. The tree spoke to her.

It was startling at first and she let it show, giving the man the false idea his attempt at scaring her worked, when really she was just shocked at the fact the tree showed her things she did not ask for at all.

It was like the second the man mentioned that the trees see everyone's past and sins, it showed her just how right he was by showing her the disgusting truth of him within seconds. Even current, and uncomfortable thoughts were included, putting Scout in a very bad position. Although most of what she was shown, she had in some sense already expected it, but to see all that plus more, it had her on edge. Her stomach also twisted in nauseating knots.

What was worse than his past that lead him to Hell was his current thoughts that were so grueling and detailed that she almost was ready to run with her tail in between her legs, but she straightened her back.

Showing that man that side of her will only feed his hunger, would only make him try harder to get his tiny little disgusting hands on her.

The fact that this man had the gall to approach her with such a disgusting motive was stunning. It showed how confident he was that he was going to get away with his little plan she now fully knew about, and not have any consequences. He clearly was uneducated on the whole Soulmate thing although he acted like he knew, but if he truly knew then he would not dare make such a bold and stupid move, towards his queen nonetheless.

She felt Lionel, but the man clearly did not as he showed up silently and zero presence behind the man, looking ready to kill. Clearly, Lionel heard and saw all that she had, and he was ready.

'Get back,' she then shot, no holding back, she was not even sure how she did it, but it went through as clear as day as he stiffened at her words. His entire body was strung so tightly he looked ready to kill on sight, his eyes never leaving the little man between them, who was completely oblivious to the situation he got himself into. If she was not so focused on not showing this man anything that would give him too much pleasure, she would have been terrified of Lionel, more than any other time it crossed her mind that he was pretty scary.

Before the man could follow her eyes, Lionel was gone, just as soundless and unnoticed as when he arrived, leaving the man to glance back to see nothing, turning back to her with confusion on his face.

If she let Lionel run amuck for her, she would never be taken seriously and things like this would not stop. The Princes’ might be on her side, for the most part, give or take Envy, Pride, and Greed, but she is 100% sure they would not vouch for her and would probably let others find out the hard way as Pride and Greed had found. They would not miss a chance to make others suffer, so in no way would they speak out for her and make it a point not to mess with her.

“Why don’t you come over here, I will keep you safe,” he then pulled the gentlemen card, which at this point was hilariously stupid of him, but he underestimated her a laughable amount and he was only making things worse.

The best part was he still thought he had a hold of things, he did not even notice that she had shifted her attitude three times now trying to figure out the best way to play his game without giving too much away when in reality she gave so much more away than he cared to pay attention to.

If he had that little of a thought about her and underestimated her to the point of thinking she had to be absolutely brain damaged, had her stomach rolling at what others also thought of her or if this was just his foolish thoughts alone. She had never seen such a high seat as his that he made himself, she wondered what face he would put on had he seen Lionel ready to kill his little fat ass right then and there, or if he would act like he was no less than him and ask him to lend him Scout for the night.

She should not have expected less, this was, after all, Hell. Full of the disillusioned and sinned, never wrong people of the world. They were all here for a reason.

She pulled her hand from the tree branch to reach over to ask for the man’s little hand, playing the innocent little scared child she absolutely was not.

His little mouth was pulled into a sick grin as he watched her take a step away from the tree, followed by another, giving him the illusion he was safe from the tree to go ahead and take half a step forward to reach for her hand.

The second those stubby, slick feeling fingers wrapped around her index finger, literally unable to grab any more than that, Scout reached down with her other hand to grab the man’s arm, twisting with much-unneeded strength to hurl the little man right into the tree, where the tree immediately engulfed him, it branches wrapping around him to hold him as it just let loose and began to cook the little man alive.

The man screeched, she thought she heard words, but she could not make out what he might have been trying to say, she doubted it was anything she cared to understand anyway.

She did not even act cool about it and take this opportunity to try and give him a lecture while he was burning alive, instead she crossed her arms over her chest and watched the tree do it’s thing.

Suddenly Lionel was there, wrapping his arms around her waist, instantly her frayed nerves were soothed and she no longer felt the need to chop off her hand from having to actually touch such a disgusting thing,” you sure are cruel,” he then said in her ear as he too watched the show, eyes glittering in satisfaction.

Scout shook her head," Not enough. You spent years hardening yourself to see the sins of those around you, but I was not ready to see what that tree showed me, it was disgusting, I wanted to be the one to make sure he understood to leave me alone.”

Lionel then buried his face in the crook of her neck,” I felt it that was why I came back so quickly, I thought you would freeze up and something terrible would happen to you. I did not know the tree can do such a thing, I had heard it could read those who approach, but no one ever got as close as you did so no one really had the pleasure of knowing what a tree truly sees. If I had known I would have told you to stay away.”

“You would tell me to stay away if you knew it revealed secrets, but not mention the fact that it would not burn me because of my innocence,” she questioned incredulously just as something began to grow and growl from the tree.

Lionel eyed the tree wearily, but Scout already knew who and what it was, she wasn’t intimidated either,” that’s not what I meant, you are still young, and vulnerable. If you thought he was bad, then it might just kill you to know some of these other’s past, I don’t want you seeing that kind of stuff all the time, that’s my job, I would never wish that burden upon you.”

The tree swayed as the demon turned beast grew inside it’s branches, breaking free from the tree’s hold, making Lionel stiffen slightly before continuing,” also, it’s not too much of a shock that it would not burn you if you thought about it, if anything they are your friends more than anyone else around here, except me of course.”

“I always wanted a tree bff,” she gushed sarcastically, turning away from Lionel to eye the tree as a huge black beast flew from the grasps of the tree’s branches.

Theodor had easily grown over 10 times it’s original size and as it landed just a few feet away from behind them, it continued to grow until it practically stood as tall as the mansion, looking like some dollar store Godzilla, with an extra ‘a’ at the end just to try and sell itself as the real thing.

Lionel twisted to face the beast calmly,” Theodor, I would not if I were you,” he called as if he was talking to a pet.

Scout heaved a sigh as she turned to watch the Godzilla-wanna-be lift it’s thick leg above their head.

Slowly she glanced over at Lionel who peeked over at her,” do you want to, or me?”

Scout rolled her eyes, he knew she wanted to make a point, and he did unintentionally remind her that she should, because if she let him finish it, then the fight she put up until now to do things on her own would be pointless.

The foot seemed to be moving extra slowly as she looked up. She took an extra moment as it took it’s time falling to contemplate what she should do, but the reality of the fact was she did not know what to do, there was limited things she actually knew how to do.

Suddenly before it could get too close, she lifted a hand, stopping it mid-air.

With the huge foot above them, unbothered by the beast itself, she turned to Lionel, slightly worried,” what am I supposed to do, will he die if I try and kill him?”

Lionel laughed at her question, as if actually wondering why she was being that way,” second-guessing yourself and hesitating will only get you hurt, Scout, just do what you always have up till now, do what comes to you naturally, don’t worry about little details like that,” he said, waving away her ‘worries’.

To their side, they saw the beast’s other foot lift in an attempt to put all weight on the one foot, not moving an inch. The clueless beast repeated the same thing a few times before lifting his foot off her hand to pull it back to take a hard kick at them instead.

She had no idea why he would try to punt them when he could not even squish them.

She followed Lionel’s advice and just let her body move on it’s own, she did not know what to do, but her body seemed to know, she has proven quite a few times already that she was able to do things the less she thought about it.

Her hand moved to the front of her, catching the foot, ’catching' maybe not quite the right word since it’s foot was massive and in reality, she could not really even 'grab' anything. The hard ground under them cracked from the pressure, but Scout went nowhere.

Suddenly, she felt a very ticklish feeling feather across her palm as the spot that she touched on the things disgusting toe began to turn an interesting shade of burnt red. The entire foot and leg jolted and the next thing she knew it was exploding like bloated roadkill, the entire leg all the way up to its midsection blew off like it was nothing, raining chunks of flesh and demon blood all over the garden and side of the mansion.

Scout glanced around them to notice there was an umbrella-like dark transparent glass above her and Lionel, blocking them from the onslaught of the large peices of flesh and bodily fluids that fell around them. It must have been Lionel’s doing because from what little she knew, she wasn’t doing it.

The beast howled tipping back to fall against the garden behind him, effectively toppling over about one-fourth of the entire garden. What a shame this beautiful garden is getting destroyed by this monstrous sized beast who seemed to have been blinded entirely by it’s anger towards Scout that she dared retaliate, that he could not even think about maybe asking for forgiveness to survive. Instead, it continued to try and fight, even while it was flat on it’s back, over who knows how many plants that were most likely poisonous in one way or another.

The beast tried to roll on it’s good side to get his eyes back on Scout to attempt another attack that was sure to lead to failure one way or another.

“Just sit back and let your instincts take over, it seems you have absorbed much of my own natural instincts as well as developed strong ones of your own, you literally just have to relax and let things happen,” Lionel said, not a worry in the world with his smile he flashed her as if it wasn’t raining blood and gore and a huge beastly creature was not on a slow move to try and perhaps kill them.

“Are you really trying to teach me how to fight now in this kind of situation, are you ever serious,” she asked, as if she had not just seen his deadly serious face moments before.

Lionel smiled innocently,” I’m not teaching you how to fight per say, I’m helping you discover the extent of your power, I am connected to you through the bond remember” he asked just as the beast tried to swipe him out of the way, failing when Lionel did something similar to what she had done, by putting his hand out to catch the much larger hand, except he easily ripped the entire arm off the beast’s body and flung it who knows were, all Scout knew is it flew far and almost glittered like a star, much like in the cartoons did when someone was blasted out into space.

His careless attitude was rubbing off on her, she did not feel concerned one bit anymore, even though the beast still moved even in it’s condition, not giving up.

“I already know how you have been functioning until now, so keep it up and continue to go with the flow, figure out how your powers work,” he said, confirming that all along he knew a lot more about her than she thought,” Can’t blame me for seeing an opportunity to practice,” he shrugged glancing over at what was left of the beast.

She had just stopped paying attention all together at one point, all her attention on Lionel who was just, she did not even know how to explain him, just so unbothered about everything now, it was a complete about-face than what he looked before.

“I really do not understand you at all,” Scout scoffed as the howling beast seemed to manage to sit itself up despite a missing left arm and right leg and side.

Suddenly the beast screeched right in their faces, making Scout wince at it’s loudness.

With a sigh, she finally looked up at the beast, wondering what she was supposed to do now, she began to hope he would just give up, she felt dirty, and the scenery of blood and skin surrounding her was beginning to get to her in none pleasant ways, making her queasy.

If only she could turn off the smell like she could her hearing, she inwardly complained as she brought her hand up in an attempt to fight off the smells that began bombarding her, only to quickly find that was a terrible mistake, since her hands were coated in something indescribably disgusting, it’s smell even worse.

Lionel had the balls to be amused as she threw both her arms out to the side, away from her, grimacing from disgust.

She heard a pair of footsteps approaching, making her shoot a glare over to Lionel, losing her patience,” can we just cut off visitors for a while, tell whoever it is to go away if it’s not work related,” she ground out, trying not to order him around but the situation had her in a very uncomfortable position and she was tired of demons for the day, her emotions kept fluctuating between not caring and just getting pissed, she had a feeling that calming hand that kept trying to press out her anger and calm her was from Lionel, perhaps unintentional. Her emotions were becoming far to wild and all over to even be tamed by that calming effect now and it did not seem to be working as flawlessly as it did before in previous occasions.

Lionel looked up at her confused, before suddenly there was a voice that called ‘master’ from behind the beast, making him snap his face up in shock, as if he actually did not notice he was there beyond the beast.

“Cuthbert,” he called back as he heaved a sigh, he too did not particularly look pleased anymore.

Suddenly someone appeared right beside Lionel, completely uncalled for and out of the blue for Scout, which caused a bit of a mess when she shoved the unsuspecting demon to the ground with her force that came out all on it’s own from all the stress that was suddenly consuming her at a far quicker rate.

The man fell face first into the ground under them, grunting, completely unable to fight her force at all, not that he seemed to actually try surprisingly.

Lionel eyed Scout as she slowly began to go from annoyed to uneasy, there was something terribly off by this new man, and it was far worse than it was Theodor. This only added a new notch of emotional stress that was building under Scout’s skin

“He is just an assistant, he is above this one here, I’m sure after seeing the commotion he came to collect his underling I’m sure,” he assured, seemingly watching her reaction carefully.

She nodded slowly, her mind going slightly blank for a moment, forcing herself to let up her pressure, letting the man sway back to his feet, rubbing his forehead before giving a deep bow to both Lionel and Scout, nearly tipping over from the feat,” I am terribly sorry to come like this, please forgive me.”

His tone was strikingly similar to that of Johan when it thought it was in trouble. It seemed there were some who understood their place other than the servants.

Lionel suddenly turned to her catching on to every hitch and emotional jump she was having. She felt him try and help keep her level with the new range of emotions that seemed to just have hit their limits for the day by reaching out to grab one of her nasty coated hands to pull close to him.

Scout was beginning to have a serious identity crisis with herself, she just did not know who she was anymore. Everything plus that was stacking up all within mere seconds.

“What would you like to do, Queen,” Lionel asked carefully, making sure to call her Queen as if to make a clear point to the man in front of them as well as the still struggling and howling beast behind them, whom they completely ignored now with this new man there, having a conversation like it was completely normal.

“What do you mean,” she asked with a steady voice, eyeing the new demon in front of her, taking a moment to actually look at him. He was short and round as well, but instead of huge eyes and a tiny mouth, he had large rounded ears sticking out at the sides of his head, his eyes were as small as buttons and they looked like small black orbs on his otherwise flat face, his mouth was perhaps a ‘normal’ size, but on his big rounded head it looked small, not proportioned to the rest of his features. He also had no noticeable hair or fur, he was just all skin.

“Would you like for both Cuthbert and his underling here to get punished? Send them somewhere,” he began, throwing around ideas, clearly wanting her to chose, putting that burden on her shoulders even though he knew she was struggling with herself.

She saw the man, Cuthbert stiffen, head down, hands clasped in front of him tightly in regret and fear.

Scout cleared her throat, putting her other arm back at her side so she did not look silly,” it’s not Cuthbert’s fault,” she began struggling to pronounce the strange name without messing up, not seeing anything in what the tree showed her that he had anything to do with his arrival and motives, it was all on his own that Theodor chose to gamble and try to get something out of what he had no business getting into.

Suddenly, Scout realized their mistake of ignoring the beast behind them when it broke past Lionel’s umbrella and snatched the already on edge Scout, catching her way off guard since she was desperately clinging to Lionel’s help to calm herself down. Which was very bad for the beast as Scout lost it for a moment completely blacking out the second the beast touched her.

When she came too, she was standing in the center of a dark crimson mess of flesh and bones and, well, blood, and a lot of it. It reminded her of when she woke that morning as a demon, it was gruesome and it was quick to do a number on her stomach.

She twisted to run to the cleanest corner of the garden to let her guts pour from her mouth, puking right behind one of the many fire trees that still stood proudly and untouched in the back. She heard Lionel speaking calmly in the distance, she assumed to the little man, Cuthbert, dismissing him with a clear warning that if anyone else under him came for her, then he would be next.

Scout crashed to her knees, practically almost right in her puke pile, making her rear back in regret, twisting to fall back against a cool trunk of a tree, not even remotely scared of it, knowing that none of the trees would hurt her as Lionel stated.

Yet another mistake was made when she looked down at herself, finding she was, for the second time that day, covered with blood and skin.

Why did things seem to happen in twos for her, she felt like she kept feeling deja vu since that morning.

She leaned to her side to hurl once again, feeling her stomach twist painfully from now being emptied so suddenly.

She was surrounded by her own puke and covered in demon body parts and fluids, that was enough to warrant some tears as she covered her blood slick face with equally bloodied shaky hands finding it hard to hold it all in.

No more big girl Scout, no more strong Queen Scout in front of Lionel, she was nothing but small vulnerable Scout that was scared and would just love to be left alone to catch up with everything properly instead of trying to just run with the crowd, because that clearly caught up to her and was making her regret ever trying to take this all in stride like she thought she could do.

She went way too fast, and because it did not immediately affect her, she thought she was fine, but oh was she more wrong than ever. The stress of knowing she was surrounded by criminals and disgusting beings made her sick to her stomach as much as the blood did. The thought of being stuck here forever scared her now more than it did before. The fact that she thought she could find some good in Hell was a laughable and naive thing for her to do, and now she was paying for even thinking she could actually do it.

A simple garden stroll turned into a harsh reality check for Scout, and it began to chip away at her entire being.

Why did she have to be here?

Suddenly she felt that airy feeling caress her as under her bloodied hands, she saw the flames of the tree completely engulf her.

She looked up with teary eyes, pulling her hands away from her face to watch in utter disbelief as the flames of the tree literally licked away every speck of blood from her skin. The feat did involve incinerating her clothes, but she did not at all mind as that only made her feel better as the blood and flesh of the demon was scorched and swiped clean off her skin, she saw her hair fluttering around her face, and instead of her hair being burned off, it actually stayed completely in tacked as the flames combed through each and every strand to eliminate every single thing from her entire body that was not hers.

With a hard, unattractive sniffle, she rubbed her now clean fingers together, amazed at how actually clean she suddenly was, not even any burning smells invaded her nostrils, all she smelled was something like a spring breeze, which is a bit strange, since she clearly recalled Hell having nothing but the scent of minerals and rocks.

Suddenly off to her side, she saw something that she did not think she would see. She saw the other trees suddenly growing, creating a canopy together with their metallic branches and bright orange fire. She first hand got to see everything that was in the garden was set ablaze, even Lionel, who stood at a distance, completely unphased by the attack from the tree, it seemed like he was actually immune to it, but much like her own, his clothes were not, and those were quickly set on fire, and eventually all just gone with no evidence of there ever being any.

His eyes were glued on her, but her watery eyes looked away to watched as the Tree’s altogether as one all just got rid of everything, including the existing plants, which made her a tiny bit upset to see go as the trees were clearly on a purge of everything that displeased her.

Once everything was burned and cleared away, what happened next was probably the last thing she expected to ever see in the pits of Hell ever as new plants literally grew before her eyes. Instead of in squared sections like before they grow as if in a field, just random and free, making the entire garden far more vibrant and beautiful than it was before, which she did not know was possible. She watched as the trees displayed a side of them that seemed not known to any other but her and Lionel now as they revamped the entire garden, fixing the broken walls, replacing them with veins that looked very similar to their own branches that eventually lit up, confirming her suspicions. Metal plates then surfaced, creating a metal replica of a stone path through the garden, giving a nice walkway.

It was as if Mother Nature suddenly just sneezed in this one spot in Hell, topping it off with little things like the walkway, metal gate that replaced the bland brick archway. Not to mention the exact thing that she knew did not exist in Hell also ruffled through the plants, making them sway with a real reason, as she found there was now an actual breeze that gently pulsated through the garden. The smell of crisp warm spring air was very strong.

What is going on, she thought, sniffling once again, swiping the back of her hand against the beautiful dribbling snot she began to sport, feeling like a child who just threw a temper tantrum, slowly standing to her feet, still feeling weak from all the puking she had just got done doing.

Dare she say there were actually far more different kinds of plants than there was before, she knew because she took the time to examine each plant before, but she clearly saw over fifty different plants that sprouted to say hi to their new home. She was under the impression that his garden had all that Hell had to offer, but she was clearly wrong as the plants just seemed to keep coming. It was a beautiful and breathtaking sight she never thought she would be blessed with seeing in Hell.

Suddenly her attention was on Lionel, who stepped in front of her, his eyes glittering with plenty of his own emotions.

Suddenly regret slammed into her, he probably heard her thoughts, probably heard her wonder why she had to be the one stuck in hell.

Just as she was about to think up of a way to apologize, she was engulfed in a strong warm hug,” there was once a myth that Fire Trees were far superior than they are known now to be, having more than just the sight of sins and somewhat of a stubborn attitude. No one could get close enough to one of them to find out, so the myth was quickly forgotten. Only one other pure soul lives in Hell, but even they could not pull out such a reaction from her own, and I heard she is pretty fond of it too, so all the more no one ever believed they had such power. It was said they heard more than just sins, but grief, pain, as well as happiness and wishes. Since you were so distressed, they must have gone out of their way to make you feel better by surrounding you with the things you previously were enjoying. Were you thinking about wind too, because they made that happen, and as you seemed to already know, Hell has no such thing as real wind.”

She remembered thinking it was almost unfortunate the plants didn’t have real wind to dance too like music and artificially swayed to the silence instead, but she wasn’t sure that she particularly craved it.

“I’m sorry Scout,” he then said, just like that over the subject of the trees and what just happened as if the myth he just talked about has not just come to life and become very real,” I knew things would get rough, I hoped that me at your side being strong for you would help you cope, but I did not expect someone to dare try something so boldly so soon while I was away, even though I should have seen it coming. I put way too much expectations on how you would handle it, seeing how well you handled the Princes this morning and Guo, I foolishly thought you would be alright.”

Scout buried her snotty face in his shoulder, grimacing at her disgusting state,” it just came at me all at once, I thought I was fine too, but I guess not,” she said, then wishing now more than ever they had clothes so she could wipe her nose on that instead of letting it drip all over Lionel. She wondered if that disgusted him as it was beginning to disgust Scout.

Lionel then made an interesting noise, making Scout raise her head slowly to see what he was making noise for.

At that moment that was when she heard the strange string of noises that erupted from inside the mansion, making her stiffen as she watched in disbelief as she saw what she assumed to be every servant in the house lifted and almost thrown out from the home entirely.

Scout gasped, wondering what was going on as she even spotted Johan off in the distance, being shoved out of the front door for a good thirty or so feet away from the property, far enough to be seen from where it was in the garden.

Lionel chuckled, hugging her close, smoothing down her hair,” It heard your wish to want to be left alone.”

No way.

Scout watched in amazement as everyone from inside were pushed out of the home and placed, somewhat safely for some and not so much for others, off to a distance away from the property, creating a very visible circle of servants around the mansion.

Scout never noticed there was so many of them until she saw there were enough of them to make a complete circle around the place,” it doesn’t affect you?”

Lionel looked hurt as he pouted,” I mean, if you want me to go too then I will,” he began making her backtrack, shaking her head hard.

“No that’s not what I meant,” she said in a panic,” I just meant-” she began unable to find the words, fumbling over her words.

Lionel effectively silenced her by pressing his soft lips on hers, taking advantage of her shock by deepening the sweet kiss when she gasped at his suddenness.

After a few minutes of steamy tongue tangling, they pulled back. Scout covered her face with her hand, feeling disturbed she got tangled up in the moment so easily in the state she was in.

Lionel chuckled, most likely knowing what she was freaking about, and only confirming it as he dared actually bring it up,” don’t worry, every part of you is tasty I’m sure, that includes that too,” he said gesturing at her runny nose, making Scout rear back at his teasing gone too far.

“Your so gross, if you don’t stop I’m going to puke again,” she said, speaking of it more as a threat more than a warning.

Lionel laughed,” It’s yours, what’s the problem, I have seen worst,” he began, as if it truly and honestly did not bother him.

Scout smacked his chest, keeping her to keep her other hand up to cover her face, specifically her nose,” That does not mean it’s still not gross,” she whined, feeling so embarrassed she could die.

“Gross? Not at all, here let me lick it clean for you,” he suddenly said, the teasing tone in his voice was strong.

Scout pushed away from him, but not getting far with one of his arms hooked strongly around her waist keeping her close as he tried pulling her close, trying to pull her hand from her face with his free hand.

“Lionel,” she groaned.

That got him stiffening in a whole different way that she did not even want to acknowledge, but she felt it, it was there!

“Say that again,” he then purred, clearly loving it way more than she wanted him to.

Suddenly there was a loud crack, Lionel hissed out a string of curses in various languages, jumping and twisting out of the way, making Scout uncover her face shocked to find a branch from overhead from the trees had stretched down and whipped itself across Lionel’s bare behind like a whip, making him groan, rubbing his cheeks with a pain-filled grimace.

Scout lost it, barking out a burst of loud laughter, laughing so hard she snorted. Tears reappeared in her eyes as she cried from laughing too hard at the suddenly pitiful man that looked hurt at the betrayal of his own garden.

“I can't even have fun in my own garden now,” he ground out, eyeing the bright flame canopy over their heads, glaring at it with hard eyes.

This laugh was clearly something she needed as she leaned heavily on her knees, still laughing loudly, tears freely flowing, her side cramping from laughing so hard and her cheeks hurting from all the smiling she was doing.

Lionel glanced down at her, cracking a smile, despite the growing red welt across his rear, poking her shoulder,” hey it’s not that funny,” he whined, as if he was now the victim, which he was it seemed,” That really hurt,” he said as if he leaned down to try and see her face that was covered by her hair that acted as a curtain to block his view of her laughing features.

Scout straightened herself after a few extra moments to calm herself, straightening her back, looking up at the canopy, taking deep breaths with her hands on her hips, trying to contain her painful urge to just keep laughing with no stopping.

After a moment, she looked down at Lionel, who gave her a pouting frown, one hand behind him, still rubbing the spot.

Scout flew back onto her own rear to just laugh, she could not possibly hold herself up with all the giggling that rattled her ribs and weakened her knees. She landed on a cool metal disk that seemed to soften at her fall, keeping her from getting hurt.

She was so distracted by Lionel and his teasing that backfired in the end that she did not fully take the time to appreciate the complexity of the Trees that seemed to mold all into one and just became its own being over this garden, looking to stay like that permanently.

Lionel looked down at her with a smiling face, as if not even mad at her laughing. He stood there, enjoying the sight of Scout losing herself, letting her get it all out as he waited patiently.

Finally, she took a deep breath clearing her throat as she scrubbed away the tears. It was one thing to find something hilarious, but it was another thing to spend well over thirty minutes just laughing non-stop after a boatload of things were dumped on Scout and this small break, in reality, was everything she needed to release all the built-up stress. Laughing out the stress during a cry laugh session that was clearly needed was one of the best feeling ever.

She slowly got to her feet after making sure one look at Lionel did not send her into another laughing fit, straightening her back, the fact that she was nude did not bother her at all, not because she forgot she was nude, she just truly at that moment did not care as she stood confidently taking in deep breaths to assure she didn’t go at it again.

“You done,” he asked, arms crossed over his chest.

Scout cleared her throat, nodding as she glanced around to take another look at the new garden, seeming to not get enough of it,” yeah, I guess I needed a real good laugh,” she said with a light voice taking that moment to finally observe what the garden turned into thanks to the trees and their strange but beautiful power.

“I thought you had all the plants in hell before, but there are a lot more now, how many are there in Hell?”

Lionel placed himself at her side taking in everything himself,” what I had is simply what is brought back to me once it’s discovered, it is very possible that there is way more out there than many know, in the unreachable places in Hell. I have pre-recorded files in my library on them, but it’s truly uncertain how many are out there since Hell is a very big place and many of its parts are inaccessible to just anyone.”

“Really? That’s so cool,” she gushed as she fearlessly strolled off the path to examine the new ones she did not recall seeing before. The polished disks of the makeshift walkway followed her feet off the given path, giving her a flat disk to step on as she moved through. The work the trees were putting behind keeping her safe and comfortable was astounding and more than before she felt like she had an actual friend, although it was hard to tell just exactly how personable and humanoid these things really could be or if this was just really some kind of pleasant instinct from it.

Lionel hissed, missing her arm to stop her by just an inch before freezing to watch with an uneasy grimace,” Scout, I do not know how safe those are to just casually stroll through like that,” he began, finding himself unable to move far with the flowers that were in front of him, wondering why he would risk stepping close to the trees knowing he was unwelcome, but suddenly shy away from a flower.

The trees, or tree, kept it’s touch on her at all time, so she felt it passing on information on the plants around her like a plant encyclopedia was being uploaded in her mind, similarly to how the council somehow gave her the knowledge of all ever existing languages ever all overnight. She was amused at how much more complex and unknown the tree was even to Lionel, she was sure he would be shocked to learn about what the tree shared with her as Lionel feared for her safety. Instead of going to her side, he was forced to stay where he was, staring after her from a distance instead of close like he would prefer.

Her curiosity was soon answered about why Lionel could not pass the flowers when she finally learned about them in a whole millisecond. It was because they had an extremely strong poison and could paralyze him if he was careless and she is sure that if he moved in with the intent of saving her, he would only get stuck trying because he would be instantaneously rendered useless the second the poison from the flower hit his skin, in which he was completely nude, so it was impossible for him to even try. She also learned that to very weak demons, in very high quantities of exposure, the poison can shut down all functions of a demon, effectively “killing” it after making it suffer by immobilizing it completely.

She then realized a particularly interesting thing, she sure was getting the easy way out of things, and she wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about that. Like the languages, she was given the ability to speak and understand all languages that ever exist ever, and all in one day. She now was absorbing an entire plant dictionary full with descriptions on their uses and their abilities and poisons, all at once all without having to lift a single finger to put the actual effort in learning. She also had this unrealistically great sense of instincts that have saved her in more ways than one by not even thinking, which she already long noticed, but only now began getting frustrated with it because she knew how to do things, but didn’t know how she knew.

She was seriously getting a free ride, and how easy it was made for her made her feel uncomfortable. She was getting used to it, getting used to how easy things were happening, all in her favor, so in the future changes will just come as hard and she will get used to the easy life and turn weaker than she truly already was.

Of course, the thoughts that she would prefer not to be heard at the ones that are actually heard as Lionel sighed,” Scout, you are thinking too hard about things, trust me, you are far from weak, and you are even farther from turning weak. It is not all that strange to have such a heightened instinct, especially with a soul bond to an old demon as myself. You ever think that it’s just a thing that you are actually able to do, and not that things are making it that way for you?”

Scout crunched up her brows in confusion,” what do you mean, you worded that weird,” she said waiting for him to explain.

“The language thing, I can see it being made to go fast, it would just simply take too much time and effort to actually manually make you learn each and every single one, so it was formulated to be fast and ready to use almost immediately,” he began explaining, looking as if he wanted to walk over to comfort her, but she was surrounded by various poisonous and dangerous plants that would only make things harder to try and comfort her,” but your instincts are from me, when you came to my side, you were already slowly learning things without realizing it from basically just pulling it all from my knowledge and experiences. When you changed, all that became much faster and you absorb everything you know now, you do not even know you know. You never second though anything when I said that Hell was huge and there were some unreachable areas, because you already knew and knew exactly where and what I was talking about. When I explained the reasons on why Guo was allowed to still work for me and be around me with the clear intentions he was aiming for the seat, it took you mere minutes to fully absorb the entire thing and accepted it because you sucked up everything that was on my mind and no longer needed to ask for the things that still bother you because you got your answer without knowing.”

Scout glanced down at the purple grass beside her thoughtfully, recalling all the moments she just let things drop without further thinking about it, she thought that was just her being oddly accepting of it, but if what Lionel said is true, then it did make more sense than just simply accepting it. She knew there was no fighting Guo and his quest, she also recalled there was a particular understanding when it came to Johan, and unlike what she knew she would normally do, she let it happen, not because she wanted to, but she understood that it was how things were.

She understood much more than just that was what Hell was about, she understood it was her job, and understood favoring would only make things harder for another, they are only working to survive. She easily went from worrying about being too nice to suddenly willingly let things happen as they needed to, understanding she could not put in personal feelings in any part of Hell or she would most likely disrupt the order that was down there.

There was also the entire situation that just played out before, where she got confused and hesitated mid-battle because she knew she knew how to fight, but then again she did not.

The thought of knowing but not knowing, but literally knowing what to do confused her, and she did not know why and she thought too hard about it and got jumbled up, confusing herself with trying hard to act like how she thought she was supposed to act, but her body acting how she really should have been and those two collided completely ruining her groove.

Things did make much more sense then, every time she got confused was when she was wondering why she wasn’t acting a certain way or questioning certain things, or just being so bothered about something she knew her human self would be bothered about. All she did was get confused on what was going on and why she was just so bipolar and unable to have one mindset and seem to have almost two different beings raging and fighting for dominance inside of her.

Literally, it was her human self fighting the new knowledgeable demon self, unsure on what was supposed to be happening.

“Also now, I’m sure that it,” he paused, gesturing to the many parts of the Tree around them, in one way or another touching both of them,” is only meaning to show you a few things here and there, but you are just sucking it dry of knowledge, and everything is finding a spot to make itself at home in your brain. It only goes the speed at which it should be understandable for the one it is teaching. I only know this because it is doing the same with me, since it knows I am of no harm to you and you trust me, it is giving me the same honour at learning as you, knowing that even I do not know of some things, but I can tell you know it is not going even close to half as fast as how quickly it’s buzzing through your head.”

Scout cleared her throat, so all this time it was all her doing and not just the universe giving her the easy ways out of things, specifically learning.

“So really you just have to slowly catch up with everything so that you are not relying on yourself to act or think as needed by not even trying. I’m sure it will not be hard, I have my library up there that you can scan over some things to kind of refresh yourself and almost remind yourself of the things you know.”

Scout scoffed,” wow, this just keeps getting weirder and weirder,” she mused, shaking her head, returning her eyes back to the scenery around her.

By then she already knew of everything in the garden but was still learning of what seemed to be thousands of other plants that the tree deemed too dangerous to bring here, even for her. She, as a non sinner who simply in every way possible did not belong in Hell, she was immune to everything poisonous to others who were there for a reason, but the dangers were a concern for Lionel, for he was the one who was not immune to all the foliage in Hell, and had the Tree truly graced this garden with each and every plant of hell, it will more than likely put Lionel in danger. There was a reason only certain things were available and reachable by demons, because the rest would literally kill or permanently imprison the demon.

‘Kill’, as in reset the demon’s time it was to serve in Hell, start over their countdown essentially, sometimes permanently putting demons in endless cycles of resetting depending on where they are trapped. The tales the Tree told her from sharing it’s knowledge of the plants alone in Hell was enough to make anyone understand the true and deepest parts of Hell that have never been heard of because no one was around to share their experience of it, except her now simply from the Tree telling her so.

She even learned of some things that others would kill to know, some things that could very well be used as an effective advantage against Lionel in a deadly way.

“You should rest Scout, if you stay in here you will break again.”

Scout shot a look up at Lionel seeing his sincere eyes, he most likely, like any time before that, heard her worries.

Of course she would, although the tree was only telling her what she needed to learn, she still was not strong enough to handle all the facts. Just because she knew the truth, did not mean she had to like them.

With a nod, she slowly stepped back out to the path, in front of Lionel.

Her unease had the Tree pausing, realizing it’s mistake, making her wonder just how much this Tree felt and wonder just how much of its own being it was, because it’s worries and actions were strangely very human-like and oddly considerate, it seemed much more than just some instinct, but actual thoughts and a conscience.

Lionel immediately approached and scooped her up, no longer allowing her away from his side, as he quickly transported them to his room.

He had worked so fast she could not stop him, knowing that was a mistake for him.

The second they stepped into the room, Lionel was falling forward to his knees, losing his strength as his muscles immediately locked on him and kept him from moving at all.

Scout rolled out of his arms to look over at him, his face scrunched up in annoyance as she bit back her laughter.

The pollen on her skin transferred over to him the second he grabbed her and the paralyzing poison from the flowers she had stepped through did it’s job, and quickly too.

She knew it did not hurt, and the feeling of his frustration rang loudly through her mind although he could not physically talk, she heard his curses and complaints loud and clear.

Johan, if you could bring some towels and a bucket of water for me that would be great,’ she then called out with her mind, not realizing what she was doing until Johan was there a split second later with water and towels, knocking on the door.

Ah so that’s how he did it, she thought to herself, amused as it was no longer confusing on what things just happened, because she now knew that they happened because she knew how to do it, but as Lionel said, she just needed to remind herself she knew it.

Instead of letting it in, she stood and met it at the door, blocking it’s view from the completely vulnerable and open Lionel to make sure it did not get any ideas or anything.

She took the tub it had brought and took the towels to toss behind her, her foot behind the door to make sure it did not open any further than it had to,” thanks, you can go now,” she said, taking a step back to close the door swiftly, not giving it a chance to ask, look, or even respond.

With laughter bright on her face she turned, eying the poor man stuck were he was, on his knees, arms out, face stuck in an ugly grimace, the only thing he was able to move was his eyes, which he rolled when she came around to his view, showing how much it was amusing her to see him stuck there.

You really are quite cruel,’ he said in her head, making her snort.

Scout set the bucket beside her as she sat on the floor, getting one of the many towels that Johan brought, soaking it to immediately wipe the places his skin touched hers, knowing that she needed to get the pollen off his skin and the rest of him will relax and recover after a while.

She ignored his eyes that zeroed in on plenty of places she did not even care to hide anymore as she focused on getting the pollen off his skin.

She knew that once it was off, he would be released instantly, but his strength would take a few moments to come back so she needed to be ready to catch him so he did not faceplant the floor.

As tempting as it was to get yet another good laugh, she did not wish to bring harm to him after he went out of his way to do something he probably knew would backfire on him just for her.

By how fast he got her out of there, she had no doubt he knew the consequences.

You really are something,’ he then stated, not paying too much attention to anything but getting him in the clear.

She thought he was talking about her thoughts like he had proved he heard a lot of, but she looked up to see he was clearly addressing how easily she was able to sit in front of him, buck naked and not feel a shred of shyness or embarrassment, even as a certain lower part of Lionel was raging and was craving a certain kind of touch.

Scout cleared her throat, returning her attention back to getting him clean trying to find that same level of fearlessness and confidence as before, failing terribly when Lionel would not let it go and insisted on making sure she knew.

“I can’t help that I am focused on other things, get your mind out of the gutter,” she tried to say in a scolding tone, but it was impossible to be too mad at him. She had commended him before for his tolerance and strength to hold back, but she may have spoken too soon as his lustful gaze sent a fire ablaze inside her, making her shift, trying not to egg him on.

There is no way my mind can possibly be ‘out of the gutter’ when a beautiful person is sitting in front of me, showing me everything, and in my room,’ he said eyeing the bed behind her.

She stiffened, not looking back at the bed, trying not to give into things, even though it was steadily becoming harder and harder as not just his eyes began to affect her in that way, the air began to grow thick.

She remained quiet as she resumed her cleaning, trying to keep her mind off of it.

His mind also began to invade hers, it was almost breathtaking how intense his thoughts were, and he knew it was intense, purposely showed it to her, she had no doubt he did.

He was getting a very strong point across, and his actions showed her what she already knew was going to happen. She was not going to be safe once he was recovered from the poison and knew it, and oh boy did she know she was going to welcome it like she never thought she would.

He proved just how serious he was when she got the last of the pollen residue off and things just went haywire from there.

Scout thought she would have more time to prepare for the inevitable, but she was wrong when Lionel used who knows how much of his strength to break free the poison and move immediately as if he wasn’t just poisoned, scooping up Scout like she weighed nothing, taking her straight to the bed behind them.

Lionel showed her just how serious he was, and made her understand many things that she did not think she needed to know, but loved every second of it.

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