Chapter 5:

Chapter 5


Child of Darkness, Mother of Light

Despite Salem's newfound sanctuary, she found her rite of passage incomplete. Much of the alien city was to be seen. And with the departure of Kalis, there were far too many loose ends to be investigated. Salem was then swift to vacate her homely abode. The streets below were simply too ominous to not attract the witch's curiosity as her senses began to falter.

"Something is amiss, I can feel it," Salem scoffed as she gazed upon her own hands. "It's as if my body is warning me."

Sure enough, those same red flowers that had taunted her before now seemed to have planted themselves along the exit path. She had every intention of following this visage, regardless of its intent. But while Salem knew only she could see this message, she found her actions to be rather transparent.

"Trust none of it." Anger growled as he motioned towards Salem and her delusional gaze. "This place is not done with you yet, expect another meddler come looking."

Indeed there were many more with Salem in their sight. The peculiar sensation she felt was now irresistible at best, and voraciously addictive at worst. She knew better than to trust her flawed instincts by now. But Salem would swiftly succumb as she found herself climbing down the steps of Cora's abode.

"How can I run now? Even if it's death, this path must mean something." Salem sighed as she stepped on the first flower along her path.

The pale girl kept her wits about her as she descended into the vibrant city. An uncountable amount of evil would await her there, lying in wait for the perfect moment to strike. But once again she doubted her importance, her powers remaining a mystery.


The group wandered for some time as the experience had them enamored. Even Anger could feel somewhat at ease seeing the perfection of it all. There were no brothels, and certainly no gallows. It was as if sin itself had learned to yield to the mighty Valekry.

But paradise is a prison to those who could not leave. Not even the Valekry could escape the endless cycle of life. And in her glee, Salem failed to detect the dozens of eyes that traced her every move.

"It is a lie. They cry from within." Anger whispered to Salem, realizing her potent effect on life.

As Salem began to frantically wander the neon-lit streets, something had indeed become amiss. She felt as if a thousand souls had begun to simultaneously observe her pitiful form. The pristine life of the city had come to a standstill as even the Tella became weary of their surroundings. Some had already begun to vacate the premise upon realizing the danger of it all. For in a single instant, every robotic protector had fixated their crimson gaze upon the witch. Her very presence seemed to awaken, if not stimulate the hidden misery within their steel hearts. This of course had Salem reeling in an instant as she began to calmly flee.

But as she drifted further and further from the light, the witch found herself entering an unusually vacant section of the city. It was not like the Tella to leave their beauty unclaimed. And it was certainly unheard of for the Valekry to forsake anyplace worth protecting. Indeed, something had gone wrong in this so-called heaven.

With each passing moment, more gruesome details emerged before Salem. Evidence of a great battle drew her closer and closer to the cause of the matter. Something was provoking the machines as splotches of organic blood could be found lining the empty streets.

"Those who attempted to kill me, they mentioned this." Anger paused, remembering the scourge his brethren were so concerned about.

Valor nodded both machines prepared for the worst. But Salem was unphased, her attention now turned towards the faint sound of steel in the distance. It was a loud and visceral soundscape, filled with the tension of a lonely battle.

Everything about it could not be ignored. Especially not from the same girl whose obsession with death seemed to outlive every other memory. And as the witch clambered over the rubble, she came upon a ruined chapel, its shattered halls emanating the seductive feud.

Salem stumbled in, eager to witness the carnage. But the reality of the situation ripped away from her shallow ignorance. There was merely a single Valekry, his ruined blade embedded deep within his lifeless brother. He released the corpse, allowing it to gently fall amidst the countless others. And as the many pools of blood quivered beneath his step, he struck a silent pose. The single-edged blade pointed towards Salem with about as much honesty as one would expect. She was next, and not because her demise was desirable. The Valekry never really wanted death. But in the end, it was all they knew.

"Keep your distance." Anger growled. "It may be infectious."

"Whatever could have caused this?" Salem whined, her motherly concern forcing a response. "Will this happen to you?"

But just as the crazed machine lunged towards its prey, a great bolt of crimson plasma struck it down. An entire barrage of blood-colored weaponry soon followed. Whoever was responsible had to be sure these scorned would never move again.

"Hopefully that'll be the end of it." A masculine voice bellowed, its echo originating from the chapel's rafters. "No one deserves that."

Valor stood in awe as the Valekry revealed himself, leaping down from the ceiling in a graceful yet intimidating manner. His chassis was nearly as white as Salem's skin, embroidered with royal gold throughout. A singular red eye was shown with confidence as the floral patterns around its lens gently glimmered in the light. He was well and truly different than the rest.

"And you might be," Salem smirked, clearly impressed by the machine's presentation.

"Oh! Pardon me. My name is Korus Remani, captain of the honor guards and the princess's right hand. I am at your service." He beamed, forming an imaginary smile. "May I ask who you might be?

Salem scoffed, clearly weary of all the introductions. She placed her palm on her chin as Valor did the explaining. Though beneath the act, she was internally relieved to meet a kind soul. Everything about this Korus seemed honest and pure. Though still, she trusted none but those she had made.

"Indeed my brother. Though I must inquire. Where does your mother hail from?" Kalor asked, directing his attention towards Salem.

"Not from here, that's all that matters isn't it."

"Certainly. It is of the utmost importance. I shall take you to her highness right away. If you consent that is."

"Off with my head this time around?" Salem joked, assuming the worst.

"Don't be silly. She loves outsiders." Kalor laughed. "And besides, few else would be pleased to see you. This place can be...unpleasant to some."

"Believe me we've noticed."

To her surprise, Salem was treated with an immense amount of respect upon approaching the machine. He held her hand as if she was a queen, his grip gentle enough to imply her consent in the matter. Perhaps the visit would be less disastrous than the last. Though expectations were low as always. For wherever the witch of malice seemed to travel, death followed closely behind.

"May I ask the nature of these events?" Valor asked.

"I'm afraid there is a little to say. The princess may elaborate. Though what I shall say is that it is an incurable defection. The Valekry are going mad."

"Is this not the fault of their creators? Salem added.

"I pray that it is not. For they will not dare mettle with our identity. The Valekry grow uneasy by the minute. They will not tolerate it."

Kalor shook his head in disappointment as he raised a single white finger. A sleek vessel appeared almost out of nowhere in but a few moments, its mirrored reflection providing the most excellent camouflage. One could surmise the nature of this particular vessel meant its presence was irregular. The knight had come alone, seeking an audience with the crazed. And for now, his princess seemed the least bit concerned.

This fact proved to relieve Salem. She was interacting with a person, not a soulless device. And unlike the majority of the Valekry she encountered, Korus seemed to care. He even took the time to help her aboard the vessel in yet another unusual display of respect. It was so unusual in fact, Anger had begun to think it might not be a facade. Though still, his hand would never leave the side of his weapon. Not that Kalor seemed phased by the passive threat. In reality, he respected the loyal notion.

The ship itself departed just as soon as it arrived once the group sat within. It would not be a long journey. In only a few moments, Salem could witness the grand blue gardens of the palace's rim. A singular spire came into view as they began to descend one final time. It was the home of Ina no doubt. Its lonely apparel was clear even to visitors. Once Salem was properly introduced to the smell of rotting leaves and dusty stone, she became almost sentimental towards the place. It reminded her of her hole or at least one of the many brothels she had endured. Something about the lack of human scent was also quite invigorating.

But their time alone came to an end as an assortment of orange-colored Valekry calmly surrounded the ramparts. They were Ina's loyal honor guard. And they would not be trifled with.

"She is a visitor?" Their leader asked, his bright yellow signifying his rank. "Pray she is no trouble."

"And if she is?" Korus sighed.

"The princess may only demand so much. We will ensure her survival. Whether she wishes it or not."

But before things could escalate as they always had, a feeble gasp could be heard from behind the Valekry's ranks. It was Ina, who nearly fainted upon viewing the crimson witch. Something about Salem's presence had her flabbergasted, to say the least.

"By the gods! Who is she!" Ina beamed as she ran as fast as her heels could take her. "A visitor?"

"Indeed princess." Korus nodded as he met her grateful embrace.

It had been some time since the friends had met. But their bond was untainted. Ina scolded the machine for his absence, as she was unbearably lonely without him. Her weakened soul could only take so much before it was finally spent. And it was quite the taxing day, to say the least.

"You are the fabled Tella princess?" Salem smirked, as she shamelessly eyed every inch of the pale girl. "Not bad."

"You must be Salem. It is my pleasure to meet you." The princess smiled as she bowed her head and raised her dress.

"What's something like you doing in a place like this?" The witch scoffed, clearly seeking to tease the girl.

"Oh, so many questions! I shall answer them all, come along now!" Ina laughed as she pulled Salem by the arm.

She was almost comparable to a schoolgirl as she dragged the mother away. All that was left was both their mechanical partners, their gaze now fixed on each other. Somehow, Salem knew Korus and her children would get along. Great men did think alike. And perhaps that same ideology applied to the two women. Even their appearance screamed the essence of duality.

The witch was soon pulled deep within the castle's interior. She witnessed the countless amount of lonely halls, filled with nothing but rotting tapestry and unflinching guards. Ina had no interest in these places. Salem would have to be taken to the one place they both understood. It was the only element of the palace that could boast its organic nature. It was no surprise these women felt drawn to its foliage. Like them, it was old, purposeless, and stagnant, as if its existence revolved around the act of looking pretty.

"You seem overly eager. Why so pleased?" Salem scoffed as she was gently pushed into a white wooden chair.

"I've never had company in this place. It's...enjoyable." Ina smiled, as she expressed her love of the garden.

Salem struggled to form her usual frown. She had every reason to distrust the stranger. But the princess seemed to possess an unnerving insight, one strong enough to procure sympathy for the scorned girl. But even that was a fool's errand. Salem hated nothing greater than secrets. After all, it was a misconception that forced her into the hell she knew.

"What do you want?" The witch hissed.

And just like that, Ina's glee left her spirit. She had been devastated by the comment. A surprise for Salem to be sure, the girl had rarely seen her enemies be so easily defeated. There was no retort or clever trick to be found within the princess. She just gazed downwards, the crippling loneliness practically seeping forth. How could one with so much power be so possibly weak? Despite being the one to initiate all cruel intent, Salem felt damaged in much the same way.

"I...don't know." The princess sighed. "Perhaps I hoped for you to play along. Selfish, I know. What kind of princess invites over a guest for her gain?."

"One who values others, to begin with," Salem smirked, playfully tossing a dead leaf towards the princess. "You're the first thing here to want something from me. Or you know, something that doesn't pertain to defilement."

"Truly? What has transpired?"

"Nothing that couldn't be fixed. Or killed. No need to worry yourself."

Ina hadn't the slightest clue as to what horrors dwelled in her kingdom. She had chosen to forsake those responsibilities long ago. Whether or not it was fear that caused this, or simple laziness, was a mystery. Either way, she was not about to allow her guest to be treated in such distasteful ways.

"Are you safe? Do you need shelter? I can provide whatever you need."

Realizing she could now exploit the princess's fears, Salem began to smile. There were many things she needed to procure and facilitate her mechanical needs. If she were to tend to her children, she would require a royal amount of resources. This of course was not a problem for Ina. Upon hearing the requests, she nodded without a moment to guess.

"I'm sure Korus will be eager to help. He...hasn't taken the deaths of his brothers lightly. Kalor, Kalar, they were truly good men. One was colder than the other. But in a way, they shined brighter because of that duality."

And just like that, sweet victory turned sour. Salem froze, unable to effectively claim innocence on the matter. She knew for certain that Anger had murdered those machines. And in no reality would she blame anyone but herself. He was indeed a reflection, and in a similar situation, she would have slaughtered them all. An awkward standoff between the two women swiftly emerged. But Ina had no intention of exposing her guest, even if she greatly suspected her role in the calamity.

"But that's just what you are, I assume. Cruel intent does not have to lead to death. I hope you realize that." Ina sighed as she rose from her chair, circling the pale girl.

Salem released an embarrassed groan, her shame rising to its peak. There was no way around this predicament. And eventually, the truth would have to be released.

"What do you want Ina? Truly, you must desire something. Everyone does."

Once again, the princess was defeated by mere words. She knew better than anyone that true intent required some form of vigor to begin with. And her heart had long since gone dormant, rendering her vision worthless. She continued to pace while twirling a blue flower with great disdain.

"I…" She whimpered, holding back the tears. "I don't know what I want. Do you know how that feels Salem? It hurts like nothing else. And do you know why?"

"Nothing is more painful than the lack of pain itself. You feel nothing. I understand." Salem finished.

"I just wish I could be honest with you. But truly, I lack the strength."

With great hesitation, Salem decided to comfort the princess in the only way she knew. That of course was brutal honesty. Or in other words, the only reason she didn't wish to rip that pretty face apart.

"I can't imagine meeting someone else like me. I'd hate them. Maybe from jealousy, or some odd sense of mercy, I'd want nothing more than to smite them where they stood. For how could I ever trust something so vile? I was never good. That's why I don't hate you, Ina. I know that may be a surprise. But I don't relate to you. Not in the same way at least. Pain can take many different forms, and I feel we experience it in different ways. And for that, you have my condolences."

Never before had Salem spoken so profoundly. The message was sincere and impacted the princess greatly. She wanted nothing more than to embrace the witch but held steadfastly. After all, the witch did just admit her absence of love for the princess. But it was not hatred. And that was indeed a start.

Ina smiled as she offered her blue flower to Salem. "Take it. It means more than you know."

"Does it come in red? I mean you know, for fashion's sake. You seem to be on top of such a game. Just look at you. Overcompensating a little?"

The princess smiled as the witch reeled in shock, her flower transforming into the exact shade of crimson that glimmered in her eyes. For Ina, this was a glorious confirmation. Perhaps someday the pale girl would understand the meaning behind it. But until then, there was much else to be done. For only one girl remained half as clueless as she appeared.


"They seem lifeless." Valor remarked, staring out into the endless ranks of royal guards.

All three machines stood at the heart of the castle, their gaze fixated towards the impenetrable defense put on display. Anger seemed rather impressed, while his brother was more or less disappointed in the soulless arrangement. It was of no surprise then for the two knights to agree on nearly everything. Both Korus and Valor shared a heart of gold after all. Their bond was formed in almost an instant, the role of mentor and student quickly taking hold of their interactions.

"They were never given life, something we all tend to take for granted. For without a creator with heart, we see nothing to emulate. These guards were built, not born." Korus sighed.

"You act as if there is a difference for machines." Anger scoffed.

"I understand why you'd think that. But when you first looked upon your mother, what did you feel?"

Both Anger and Valor paused, unable to describe their overwhelming emotions at that time.

"Imagine feeling nothing. That is a true pain for our machines. But when our mistresses built us from scrap and tears, we felt their anguish. That moment of pure agony is what makes us alive."

"You mistake life for brutal efficiency. Whether you admit it or not, we cannot exist without our creators. If we were alive, we would be independent." The cold machine replied.

"Indeed it is an unsolvable debacle. Are we less wise for following those we love? Or are we truly lost when we seek anything else? I enjoy these interactions, even when they lead to nothing but frustration." Valor chuckled.

On that, they could agree. And even when Anger felt he was surrounded by fools, tension was at ease. It was quite ironic for such warlike entities to bond far better than the so-called goddesses of love. But this brotherhood had its limits. As Valor had suggested, their ability to think and act was skewed by their loyalties. To them, Ina and Salem were unfaltering. Their will was law, even if it was a fool's gambit.

"I do hope they can reconvene. It is high time she sought allies in a place like this." The white knight beamed.

For a time, his request would be granted by the omniscient forces of fate. Their intrinsic nature had long gone unnoticed by those who played their part. But now the time was ripe, and the witch would be next. Whether or not she would survive the process of enlightenment was not of concern to the great meddlers. They cared not for life or death. In reality, they embodied such concepts.