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supernal

--Instruction

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"We are not friends."

The voice was disembodied, the figure it was borne from completely cloaked in the shadows; it was one of the countless alleyways that were scattered about the town and, though the lack of light made precise vision more of a dream than anything else, the stench that blanketed them was undeniable. Garbage littered the gutters; not just crumbled papers and refuse, but human garbage as well. Those with no lives, lost in a drunken stupor, watching the faded colors of the world through equally faded eyes.

And he walked among them, pristine.

"And we never will be. I am your teacher, I am your instructor, I am your superior. I will speak, you will listen; I will lead and you will follow."

His frame was mousy, almost timid in this light, but his voice did not lack a single shred of power; in the presence of this tacit might, the lowly, filthy beggars surrounding him flinched as if about to be struck. Finally, as he reached the very end of the path, the man stopped and turned around slowly; the lavish suit he wore truly lofted him above and beyond these dross surroundings.

The barely tanned flesh, the sinister mien, those piercing, golden eyes; chilling - ghastly.

"And in this lifetime, you will never have friends; you have only betrayers with the potential to do more damage than most. 'Friends' will deceive you with quickness and with ease, for they are easily aroused to envy; they become jaded by your power. With their kind words and soft intentions, they will lull you into security and, only then, will they destroy what you've become."

The right hand slid out of view for a moment and, whence it returned to the world, it clutched gently a glistening scalpel. Those aureate eyes began to search the grounds for something that he knew would not be found.

"You see? Trust is a commodity that we cannot afford. It involves a reciprocation that too few are willing to give with no price. Do you understand?"

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The darkened day had been no more interesting or attractive as any other, the boredom no less, the monotonous schedule no less monotonous. Every slum was packed with its desolate family as always, every working man was returning to his home after a day's work- if you could even call it that anymore: "day."

The youth of the city still wound their way through the streets, playing what games they could think up in their lustrous minds. There were some, however, that stuck out. Some who simply could not participate in carefree play, some who would simply not take place. Michael had definitely not been exemplary of either, since he had always loved to play with the others. He had of course outgrown some sorts of play, but not all.

Here he found himself, following the wretched beast of a man who had brought these odd. contradictory feelings about. Michael Commager, a boy born into the carefree, tossed into chaotic mentality and mutinous emotions. The boy was tainted. He didn't know that he was, truly, but he knew that there was something amiss. Happiness still wove its way through his smile and the twinkle in his eyes, but it was only a thread. The thread that had once been an elaborate blanket of joy draped over the boy had withered.

Now he walked along the alleyways of the depressed, the weary, the tired. Who was he following? That man he despised. Though Michael was a joyous boy, he craved power. He craved that ability and authority that he did not have, he wanted.. more. There were boundaries he would stop at, though. Of course, the Commager child  had always been taught to use moderation, and he intended to. Didn't he? Of course. He thought he did, at least. So here he was, walking with this stranger. The man stood out from the vast majority of trash and drunkards that scattered themselves throughout the entirety of the small opening the two had to travel through.

The Wielder had been silent this whole time, but he finally spoke as his neck bent sort of uncomfortably to address the man he'd come to know so.. terribly.

"I.. I understand."

In truth, the boy knew virtually nothing of this man he walked with. His nature seemed stern enough.

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?So, you never had friends when you were little??

Golden irises rose to catch a glimpse of Faustus, much of what he?d just preached given no respect and forgotten. She had not intended to disregard his teachings, but such a lackluster voice and lessons?she could not help but be attracted by the visions about her. Even the somber face of poverty proposed more entertainment than Faustus. Quite aware he?d more than likely ignore her comment and continue onward with his futile tirade, Kushiel dropped her eyes to the youngest among them, an amicable smile offered.

?Have you eaten anything yet? We?ve been traveling for days. I?m kind of hungry myself. But, I don?t know where we could??

She trailed off as she glanced about, lips pursed in thought. She appeared unaffected by the devastating sadness, the horror of Faustus? very aura barely raising a yelp from her lips. Amidst it all, she radiated with warmth, the apparition of the light so many of them had long ago lost.

?Mmmm. Well, well.?

Carelessly, she raked fingertips over sunflower locks, invisible strings lifting her shoulders into a shrug.

?I see no place to eat here.? 

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His eyes came to rest sharply on Kushiel shortly after her digression; he knew her insolence intimately, almost as if it were his own, and it irked him that she took his lessons so lightly. His lessons were never meant to entertain her; they were meant to mold her, to advance her, to exalt her to a pinnacle of intellect and might that she?d never reach by herself.

For all intents and purposes, she was mocking him and Faustus did not take such disgrace lightly.

?There?ll be a test later on in the night. Whichever one of you passes will be fed and, consequently, whichever one of you fails will have to wait for another time. Now, come with me.?

Far from a request, the demand was enforced by a stoic mien to each and every one of his footfalls; his leadership of the two was uncontestable. With the grace of a predator, Faustus stalked through the alley as quiet as a gentle breeze until he came upon the door of a house hidden in the shades and behind shrubbery. The scalpel, still tenderly clutched in hand, was gently fitted into the locking mechanism; a quit jut, and the blade bore through and quickly disabled the lock.

?Wait here. Count a half a minute and then come inside.?

Still, without a sound, he passed through the threshold and was lost in the darkness of the house?s interior. All was muted for a while and then there came muffled cries, barely noticeable even by ones who were actively listening; three thuds, and the sound of bodies being dragged.

And then nothing.

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The sky remained just as dark as always while Michael followed his new, 'beloved' teacher through the alleys and sidestreets. The trio had only travelled a little while before they came upon a door, a locked door. The privacy of whatever waited inside seemed insignificant to Faustus, and so he must have chosen to violate it.

Redirecting his gaze from his own, bare feet to his teacher, Michael nodded when he passed through the door, even though the gesture wouldn't be seen. When the door swung shut menacingly slow, the boy half expected something to jump out at him from the darkness, but nothing did. So, in anticipation, the boy held his breath. Those thirty seconds passed like thirty days would, the sounds he heard as he stepped forward to get a better hearing advantage on the place sounded as if the man inside was doing some 'spring cleaning.'

"28..29..30."

When he went to open the door, he felt the ability--the urge to simply blow it in off its hinges. Not in a sense of urgency at all, but because he could. That in itself was odd enough, but the fact that Michael could find even an ounce of respect for the deviant of a man who called himself his teacher. Withdrawing his hand quickly, as if he'd shocked it on the door, the boy stared at it for a moment before advancing once more, this time walking straight into the place.

What he saw could have made the weak-hearted beg for mercy on what lay ahead, but Michael simply stared, lock-jawed and stern. There, about ten feet in front of him, lay a family of three; the mother, the father, and a child, gagged and tied up-- squirming. Just behind them sat the perpetrator. Over the muffled cries and scuffling noise the family made, there was another stench that predominated the room; fear. He could see it in their eyes, he could smell it, he could hear it in their shrieks, but none of it mattered. Michael Commager was here for Michael Commager, not these nobodies.

Why had he thought this? Why was he changing so? The old Michael would have risked his life to save these people, but this boy just stood there, awaiting orders like a 'good' boy always should.

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Michael?s lack of response did not surprise her; since their initial meeting, the boy had been quite short with his words, the apparent fear Faustus inflicted upon him preventing the development of a friendship between the two ?pupils?. However, of course, she could only assume that to be the cause of the frigidity. She knew too little of him to properly formulate an accurate theory. Either way, her breast did not heave with resentment; she understood his situation, respecting his determination to continuously uphold false reverence for their teacher. 

The curt glance from Faustus lacked the potency needed to conquer her demeanor, Kushiel remaining unaffected by the negativity he produced. A childhood spent dreaming of adventure had diminished the sentiment of fear in her, the addition of the Taint into her system nearly eradicating such a worthless emotion. The slight pout of her lips released a bubble of air, Faustus? detached voice hammering against her ears once more.

Pls, oh pls shut up just once?

There?ll be a test later on in the night. Whichever one of you passes will be fed and, consequently, whichever one of you fails will have to wait for another time. Now, come with me.

A test?

Kushiel witnessed Faustus? form disappear beyond the door, silence reigning for the first twenty seconds. Anticipating failure in that ?test? of his, she threw a glance at the boy, the same smile she?d offered earlier still in place.

?No food sounds like a deal I?d rather not take. I?ll go see what I can find. Tell him I?ll be back later.?

Her right hand rose, two digits propped up to signal ?peace?. Without another word, she fled from Michael?s side, anxiously seeking some kind of nourishment.

Somewhere.

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?Hm.?

It was an indignant scoff as Faustus instantly noted that only one of his two would-be prot?g?s entered the door at his command; the situation would have to be duly rectified. His free (left) hand rose with a regal air and flicked his fingers skyward; there, the Taint that rooted itself so deeply into Kushiel?s very being, sprung to life. There, her limbs were no longer hers to control and she?d find herself turning with methodical grace and slinking through the threshold. There, she?d find her limbs frozen in place, her eyes glued to the scene of the three beings and her lungs pumping just barely enough air to sustain her.

There existed here no contest of wills; there was only his desire and her response. Faustus hardly felt the need to exercise these eclipsing traits of the Xynzicht, but it seemed that the femme enjoyed forcing his hand.

?Come now Kushiel, the very least you could do is watch.?

His right hand mildly clutched a crystal goblet, half-filled with an aged wine that he soon brought to his lips to sample. That sinister countenance made no twist of satisfaction nor even recognition that he had sated thirst; he seemed more a machine that autonomously sifted through actions than a man who felt a need to execute them.

?So, it seems, the burden of decision lies solely upon you my boy, as your surrogate sister frees herself of her responsibilities so easily.?

There was a barely perceptible, but still present, tint of scorn to his words; he could care less if it grated Kushiel?s mind?she would learn to respect soon enough.

?Tell me, Michael, do you think that these three deserve their lives? No no, better yet. The husband??

The left hand lazily trailed its index finger to aim at the man.

?Do you think the husband, the father, the protector of his family?s love and life?do you think he deserves to live??

Golden eyes shifted from Michael to the frozen Kushiel before inevitably landing back onto the family; it seemed that the family, so blinded, was also struck deaf to their surroundings. They could neither see, nor hear, what transpired, but an innate sense of foreboding filled them with dread nonetheless.

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The girl was annoying. Of course, Michael wouldn't tell her that. The two fingers she rose just before he'd entered only told him that she was weak, and he did resent her. With that said, Michael had already decided he was going all the way. His mind was set, he was in this for power, not a friend. The girl wouldn't have been a friend should she pass this 'test' or have met him on the street.

Staring calmly at the elder man just above his hostages, the boy rubbed his palms idly on the cotton slacks at his sides. He hadn't even noticed, but it was a sure sign of nervousness.

There was a pause just long enough for Michael to concoct the words necessary to respond to his master before he decided to speak.

"No."

A blatant lie. The boy who once was would have been too terrified to speak trying to think of a way to save the innocent, but the new one simply shook his head. There was clearly a meaning behind it, but whether the man deserved his life or not didn't matter. The father was simply chosen out of any adult male who lived near here.

Michael took an abrupt step forward, clenching his fists staring at the family with what malice a thirteen year old boy with blond hair and blue eyes could muster. A part of him found what he was doing sadistic and cruel, wrong overall. The part that was slowly beginning to dominate found it sadistic and cruel as well, but.. fun. Hoping his movements would stir a frightened reaction from the prisoners, Michael opened his eyes wide. He couldn't help the slightly childish gleam of light that reflected in those cobalt hues, though.

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"No"

The boy hid beneath a feil of callous and uncaring, though it was clearly faux; his hands were heavy with perspiration, and his eyes light with misguided idolism. His emotions would be put to test, and his true moment?the moment that might determine the length of those to come?was surmised 'pon the tip of a blade, which was aimed directly at the small of his back. It did not grace his flesh, though if he was cognizant, he might notice a faint warmth, as an azure flame danced carelessly aloft Verutia's edifice.

"Next question," came the stranger's voice, "do you think you deserve to live?" The flame, though small, grew radiant, and for an instant(albeit brief), one might relish in the newcomer's facade. It was heavy with scowl, and torn between apathy and bloodlust. A trademark scar extended partially up the side of the neck, though a second glance would reveal the wound gone, as though an abjuration of the mind.

Had Faustus, Kushiel or this Michael Commager been on guard whatsoever, they'd likely find astonishment in this stranger and his stride; as wholly as it was silent, it was equally entombed beneath a filter, which for all intensive purposes, suggested that spiritually, mentally and mystically, this man did not exist.

Though a blade, who sung of wolves, said different.

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Her momentary escape met an interruption, voluntary movement halted.

Awww?man!!

The Taint surging through her veins transformed into binding strings, her limbs shackled into submission. Unable to oppose Faustus, her rigid body made its appearance into the horrific scene, the gold of her eyes infused with disgust.

Ugh!

Although she was not surprised of his actions, Kushiel remained appalled by what she witnessed. Her body continuously refused to obey her commands, the failure to even produce sound a great frustration for the golden youth. She could only pity them; pity and pray silently for their end to be as swift as possible.

You horrible monster?

The beast birthed a question, her earlier insolence ribbing the opportunity of input from her. Instead, all responsibility was transferred to Michael, the young boy granting Faustus with the answer he?d mostly likely preferred.

No.

Sickened by the Michael?s lack of spine, Kushiel?s anger unconsciously recuperated enough control to cast a frown over her face, the tint of her eyes growing dark.

If only she could form words?

Next question, do you think you deserve to live?

She could not move still, incapable of catching the possessor of such courage. 

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No.

?You?re correct. You see??

Suddenly, he became aware of the second man?s presence; amber orbs settled upon him, shifted lightly to the blade aimed at his young charge?s back, and then finally came to rest back upon the family of three. He was undeterred.

?You see, I had given him a quick offer before the tw?before the three of you introduced yourselves.?

He paused for a moment, taking a gentle sip of the rich wine; Faustus savored the taste, even going so far as to smack his lips lightly, before continuing.

?I told the husband that his life was the deal-maker. He could sacrifice his own life, and I would let his wife and daughter free or I could take both of their lives and let him go unharmed. He chose to let them die on his behalf.?

A two-fold pulse was discharged from the carnal flesh of Faustus; it held, with it, a two-fold submission. One borne of a gifted skill to manipulate flame would snuff the azure blaze out into nothingness; one innate ability to disjoin magic followed in tow, should the flame prove to be of esoteric make, to undo the intricacies of its arcane foundation and negate it nonetheless.

?You know, on his wedding day, Jared?? Faustus motioned to the bound husband, to leave no question as to whom he was referring. ?Swore to his wife that he?d give his life to protect her. This was a vow, a sacred thing; look at how little weight it holds. Michael, take the man?s life and you may undo the other?s bindings.?

It was then, and only then, that the intruder was met with Faustus? full scrutiny; he?d give him no warning, he?d offer no reprimand. Already, the stranger was walking on a dangerous trail, and Faustus did not doubt he already knew this; he?d wait to see how far down into the depths of hell the stranger wished to be sent.

?You?ve come at a most inopportune time.?

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The boy was waiting for a rhyme or reason to take the man's life, and he would find it, but not before he realized something. Before the stranger behind him had even spoken to give away his presence, Michael noticed a subtle shift in Faustus' gaze. That was enough for him. Pivoting on his left foot, which was position just a bit further ahead of his right, he came to a graceful stop after about a quarter of a turn, his back to nobody. The will-bound girl was directly in front of him, the intruder to his left, and Faustus along with his prisoners to the right.

Taking one step backward, Michael calmed his nerves. Afterall, there wasn't much he could do unless he wished to simply give up the power his teacher offered him. With that in mind, the boy turned and began walking toward the man. So many thoughts made their way through his mind during the three steps it took to reach the man. Thoughts of hatred not only for the disgrace of a father, husband, and man tied up before him, but for his mentor. Some were thoughts of respect mingled with this hate, though. The fact that Faustus could keep so calm was a marvel in itself, and the boy wanted in on it.

When he reached the man, Michael already knew what he'd do. He knelt beside the man on one knee, taking the pointer and middle finger of his right hand and placing them against the man's neck without a word. The only person who knew what was about to happen to this man knew it was probably going to be a little messy, but he'd suppress it as much as he could. All that was needed was a little spark. Through closed lips, a quiet grinding noise might have been heard by somebody close enough, because his teeth were scraping together in his mouth, debating. Then, as if he'd just made his decision at the last moment, the boy clenched his eyes shut and ended the man's life. There was a loud popping noise as if somebody had just set off a weak firecracker, then there was blood running steadily from a wound made in the man's neck that went directly through the jugular. It looked almost as if somebody had blown right through the skin.

There hadn't been as much blood as Michael thought there would be, and when he felt no pulse, Michael stood and wiped what little had made its way onto his fingers onto his shirt. The daughter and her mother were untied with sure fingers. What he did wasn't wrong, afterall. The father had nearly failed to fulfill his vow to love and protect his family with his life, but Michael made sure his promise wasn't in vain.

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Frozen still, Kushiel has no means of interacting for the moment. She only listens, and waits.

[Kushiel idles.]

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Though the boy had removed himself from before the blade, the stranger which held it made no attempt to follow; for a moment, he was wholly unmoving, and gave little protest when an inconsequential pulse stripped Verutia of her subtle glow. When Faustus, Kushiel or Michael thought they would find a glimpse of a lackluster weapon, they'd be abashed by her pristine facade, which returned with threefold the intensity, and nearly double the girth.

"Oh, do forgive me," he glanced to Faustus, "how dare I charge into someone else's town and conduct murders at my whi?" he paused, and though the shadows hid his countenance, he was likely grinning. "Oh, right. I didn't," another bit of hesitation, and then, "you three, however."

The moment Michael Commager unfastened the wife and daughter from their bindings, they were murdered; a pair of tendrils tore from the earth, and struck each woman squarely in the nape of the neck. Their eyes widened with shock, and their color quickly departed them; they'd fall, becoming nothing more than a pair of lifeless thuds. He opened his mouth again, and surprisingly, changed the entire subject at hand with no regard to what the other's might have felt.

"Even the most pitiful of victims can become your greatest foe when armed with both your face and name." Though he hadn't moved, it seemed(through word alone) that this man was responsible for the murder of the two women. His cold, gunsteel eyes danced across the alleyway, sparing Faustus their cold glare for a second, and fitting themselves solely on Michael Commager.

A small crack had etched itself into the earth; two more, of similar length, had decorated the ground nearest the location of the two tendrils, though the two weapons had long since vanished. This man, who seemed very much entombed in the workings of thought, turned back to Faustus.

"I've always found it proper to introduce myself to my victims; it's extra motivation to make sure I kill them," Verutia's glimmer had grown enough to illuminate his facade, "you may call me Donovan Cutler."

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The name the stranger offered cause Faustus? right brow to perk upwards almost imperceptibly and the ends of his lips twitched into a visible smile; still, he twirled the wine around, refusing to allow all of the taste settle to the bottom, and a took another gentle sip of the rich wine. His left hand then came to idly stroke his chin; around him, the air grew heavy and it seemed like everything within a certain proximity began to sag, weighed down by his presence.

?I?m sure we could, but why would we??

This was the stranger?s test; it?d take a well-cultivated mind to connect the abstract dots that Faustus had put into play. Within the first couple of seconds, Faustus could tell that this man was not as dulled in his intellect as majority of beings he had met in his life, but Faustus needed to know just how far his sharp mind could cut.

?I hope that now you?re finally starting to understand what rock-bottom depths the world has reached, Michael and Kushiel.?

The playful smile he had brandished prior transformed into a smirk of sinister mockery; at the utterance of her name, Kushiel?s unseen bonds would be undone, and her body released from its cage.

?The woman and child were blind and deaf, there was little they could have done to harm us. Even if such wasn?t the case, we aren?t like you; a common-place thug, an unjust, blood-driven murderer. No no no.? He shook his head in time with each of his admonishments. ?We are to change the world; the most you can do, it seems, is spill unnecessary blood.?

Faustus reached out gently and made the motion to set the cup on the table that wasn?t there; the glass slipped from his fingers but did not shatter, for it had vanished long before it reached the floor.

?And I find myself doubting the sincerity behind your words. You?re outnumbered, facing enemies with abilities whose extents you know nothing about and, thanks to young Michael?s understandable indiscretion, we are already on the verge of drawing unwanted attention. I think, rather, that you were implementing a test. I also think that myself and my two charges will step out of this house unscathed. What do you think??

As he spoke, Faustus reached over to his left wrist; there, he made no motion to hide his actions, and obviously fiddled with whatever trinket was strapped to that wrist.

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