Chapter 20:

Lord of Destruction

There's a Demon in my Basement!

Their uncle had decided to get Astaroth out of their home. He had decided that their home was bad for them. Hades had no idea.Bookmark here

And yet despite all the energy Astaroth had spent, resisting in the end it was all in vain. In the end, they were in the last place they wanted to be. The Underworld. Bookmark here

They had stopped resisting, but they had also stopped talking with their uncle. Bookmark here

"Come on," Hades said, "You'll like it here! Just have a look around! I bet you'll find a bunch of friends! Didn't you always want that?"Bookmark here

No. That hadn't been what they wanted. At least not like that. They didn't want to find any friends in the Underworld. What were they supposed to do with demonfriends? They weren't one. ...Or maybe they were now. And it was Hades' fault. Bookmark here

Their uncle didn't wait for their response and instead put a hand on one of their shoulders. "There is a nice place, I'd like to show you. You'll like it, I'm sure. It's quiet, not too many people around and you can have some time for yourself, sort out how you're feeling, get used to the Underworld - you'll enjoy it, I promise!"Bookmark here

How were they supposed to enjoy any of this? This place was not where they belonged. It was the exact opposite. They wanted to go home. But they couldn't. And they didn't understand why. They always did what they had been asked to do. So why were they punished? Bookmark here

It was a nagging question that wouldn't leave their mind. Not when Hades showed them the place he prepared for them, not when he visited them regularly and also not whenever they met another demon.Bookmark here

They continued to spend their time just doing nothing. Just waiting for time to pass. Maybe the world would just end and with it, Astaroth would perish, too.Bookmark here

But that wouldn't happen, they were aware of that. It just took a while for them to accept that. Yet, the acceptance didn't bring them any closure. It just made everything worse. Because now they didn't know how to go on. They were no longer considered an angel. But every fibre of their being revolted the idea of them being a demon. Demons were filthy, despicable and vile creatures - that was just not who they were. Bookmark here

But they knew how one should act upon meeting a demon. Slowly their body turned - their human-like features disappeared, replaced by pitch-black skin, long and sharp claws and glowing red eyes.Bookmark here

There was only one reason one could possibly throw them down here. To reduce the Underworld's population. Honestly, the more they thought about it, the more of a no-brainer it became - the dwellers of this realm were Godforsaken beings, nobody in this universe would approve of. Bookmark here

Almost automatically their hands changed their form to become much less humanlike and way more fitting for a demon. They weren’t an angel anymore so there was no point in keeping up the appearance. Bookmark here

Their limbs grew longer, their teeth sharper and their fingers into claws. Wings formed on their back, covered in shiny silver blades, just ready to be shot. And with their new body a single thought manifested inside their head: Nobody would be spared.Bookmark here

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Who could tell how many demons had been slain by their hands? How much blood was on their claws? Only a God would know. For example, the one standing in front of them at that moment. Bookmark here

Astaroth cracked their neck a little bit before fixating Hades with their eyes. A low growl emitted from their throat What did their uncle think he was doing?Bookmark here

The God wasn't faced at all. He just folded his hands on top of his cane. "I know you're in a different age right now but for how long do you want to keep throwing temper tantrums like this?"Bookmark here

The demon could feel their hatred surging through them, reignited by the casual way Hades was talking to them. "This is all your fault!" Their voice was distorted and would be hard to understand for a lower being like a human, but for Hades it was no problem. Bookmark here

He just sighed. "Told him that isolating you isn't good for your mental health…" It seemed like he was talking more to himself than to his nephew. "Look. Astaroth." The God looked directly at them again, returning their look. "Why are you doing any of this?"Bookmark here

"You know exactly why!" Their voice grew more feral and even less comprehensive. Bookmark here

Hades just tilted his head curiously. "Have you been happy before?"Bookmark here

"Yes!" They spread their wings and shot the blades at Hades. Bookmark here

He didn't flinch. The missiles either missed him to begin with or got diverted by some invisible force. "No. You weren't."Bookmark here

"You can't just decide that!"Bookmark here

"No. But I can observe it. You're not angry, you're just scared. Staying in your little cell had been easy. But have you never wished for some company?" He paused. "Wishing for someone to talk to? Going out, seeing the world and experiencing everything it has to offer?"Bookmark here

The demon clenched their fists. "You know nothing."Bookmark here

Hades shrugged. "Maybe I don't. Or maybe I know it all. But in any case, I will not exile you, no matter how much havoc you cause." Bookmark here

"I will destroy any demon that crosses my path." Filled with determination they lowered their head and stared directly into Hades' eyes. "That's my duty." For them, that was as clear as day. There couldn't be another reason for them to be here. "That's why I'm here. That's why I'm here."Bookmark here

The Lord of the Underworld didn't seem to be impressed by their reasoning. "And? Who cares? It’s your life. It’s not about what you’re supposed to do. It’s about what you want to do.” He just shrugged and observed Astaroth eagle-eyed. Bookmark here

"What I…" Astaroth hesitated and lowered their gaze. "What I want?" They paused for a few moments. The question that should be so easy to answer felt so heavy all of the sudden. They wanted to go home. But somehow, that didn't feel right. What was it they actually wanted? "I… I don't know…" Frustrated, they shook their head before fixating on Hades again. "You can't confuse me like that! I know what you did! It's all your fault!" Bookmark here

"Oh my." Despite the amusement in his voice, Hades retreated. "I suppose you're not ready, yet. I'll visit you again." Which the God did. Even though Astaroth was never happy about that.Bookmark here

They had stopped murdering demons shortly after the first visit, though that didn’t stop Hades. He still dropped by, every now and then, trying to initiate a conversation with Astaroth. Most of his words didn’t manage to grab their attention. But one sneaky question managed to slip past their barrier of indifference.Bookmark here

“You aren’t attending your duty anymore.”Bookmark here

Astaroth winced. Somehow the question felt like a jump scare to them - even though it wasn’t a far-fetched one. “There’s no point. You’re just reviving anyone anyways.” They shrugged as if they hadn’t just lied through their teeth. That wasn’t the reason.Bookmark here

Hades looked at them for a few moments before he turned away with a sigh. “I didn’t revive anyone. You can’t revive someone who can’t die in the first place. I healed most of your victims, but some of them…” He shrugged. “They’re injured beyond repair. Maybe your father could do something about that but we both know he won’t.” The whole time Hades talked calmly despite the gruesome things he was talking about.Bookmark here

Astaroth knew what they had done and they didn’t understand how they could be so.. calm. They had dismembered demons, more than once, burned them or deepfroze them just to break them into a pile of shards. In a futile attempt to swallow down the shame they felt, they averted their gaze. They didn't want to think about this topic any further. "I see." Keeping up their facade of apathy they shrugged. "If they can't die there is still no point in killing."Bookmark here

"Oh, you could murder them if you just used a little bit more of creativity. But seriously don't - dealing with loose souls in the Underworld is always a bother."Bookmark here

"And why should I do you of all people a favour?" The bitter resentment was dripping from Astaroth's voice. "You're the reason I'm here in the first place."Bookmark here

"I suppose you're right. I was honestly hoping you'd give the Underworld a chance. Isn't it much better than being locked up all day?" He shrugged. "I guess that's a question you can't answer, anyway. After all, you basically just threw yourself into the next prison right after leaving the old one."Bookmark here

Astaroth pulled their eyebrows together. "What do you mean? The door is wide open. I could leave this room if I wanted." Unless Hades meant the Underworld as a whole. In that case, it was another prison. But they highly doubt that was what he meant.Bookmark here

"And that's preciously the issue. You're not leaving. Tell me, where is the difference between being locked up and staying all day in a room with an open door?"Bookmark here

The answer felt too obvious. "One is done by free will the other is enforced."Bookmark here

"Is it truly your free will though? Or is it a misguided sense of loyalty and duty?"Bookmark here

"There is nothing misguided about my wishes." They had a feeling that wasn’t true. No, they knew it wasn’t. Deep down, they had buried a part they didn’t want to acknowledge. Because doing so would bring them pain. Things would change - even more than they already did. And they couldn’t tell if it would be for better or worse, so they decided against taking a risk like that. Bookmark here

“...Could you handle it, if you found out one day, that you were wrong this entire time?”Bookmark here

Hades’ question surprised them. Confused they looked up at their uncle. “What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“Well, if you were to accept that neither I nor the dwellers of the underworld are the personification of evil - could you live with the suffering you caused?”Bookmark here

They swallowed. Suddenly their throat felt so dry it was unbearable. That was a new sensation, they may have marvelled at it if it was in any other situation. “I…” Could they? They shook their head. “Doesn’t matter. Demons are evil.”Bookmark here

“But you’re one yourself. And you know how you got into this situation. You didn’t do anything wrong, did you?”Bookmark here

Instantly they jumped up to their feet. “No, it’s all your fault!”Bookmark here

Hades didn’t seem faced by that. “If you want me to be the bad guy, then I will comply with that. But how do you know that you’re the only one who ended up here despite being innocent?”Bookmark here

Astaroth opened their mouth to give an answer but not a single word was spoken. They opened and closed their mouth a few times before stopping. Finally, the cold realization took hold of them. They couldn't know. They hadn't stopped and started asking the demons - they had just attacked them, injuring them in the most horrific ways. Bookmark here

"You really don't have to feel bad about it. Demons fight all the time. You just managed to fit right in."Bookmark here

Astaroth couldn't tell whether their uncle wanted to comfort or mock him and they didn't care anyway. It didn't change the fact that their doings had been terrible. How could they claim to be better than any demon if they just started acting like one the first opportunity they got?Bookmark here

Distantly they realized how they slumped down onto their knees. Weren't they supposed to be better? What was the difference between angels and demons in the first place?Bookmark here

The God that accepts their soul.Bookmark here

It was such an easy answer but Astaroth couldn't help but feel physically sick the moment the realisation hit them. The implications it brought with it were terrible. Bookmark here

Hades sat down next to them with a sigh. "It was easier when I was the bad guy, wasn't it?"Bookmark here

"Shut up!" The frustration was still dwelling in Astaroth. Bookmark here

His uncle ignored the request. "I can't change the past - nobody can. But there is one thing I am able to do. That is almost as good." Bookmark here

That did catch the demon's interest, even though they did try to hide it. Still, they couldn't help but glance at Hades, silently prompting him to continue.Bookmark here

"I can adjust your memories to a point where you forget what you did."Bookmark here

Astaroth stared now directly at their uncle. "That.. wouldn't make anything unhappen."Bookmark here

"And wallowing in your guilt will?" Hades shook his head. "It is your decision, and you don't have to make it today. Just know that our memories define the past the very same way our deeds influence the future."Bookmark here

Real Aire
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