Nobody asked questions.
It was her weapon, her obvious symptom of daemonhood, her left arm that became a devouring claw on command. Bandaging it warned anyone who'd seen it of the danger underneath and acted as a buffer for those who hadn't. Townspeople wouldn't question what had happened to her arm out of politeness, propriety. You’d have to be brave to approach someone who looked like her. She decided that if anyone did ask about it, or insinuate, or joke, they could meet the therion claw themselves.
The opportunity, however, passed her by. Even with a witch, another daemon, two malakhim, and a nosy exorcist in the company, Velvet never received a question about her bandaged arm.
For now, she was barricaded in the bathroom alone, a luxury she might have enjoyed when she was human. Now it was just a necessary evil. The bandages needed to be changed. After all, she wore them when she bathed in public or with Eleanor and Magilou. Without anyone to watch, she could sit naked and stare herself down in the mirror until she felt like taking the bandage off. It was a process.
Velvet unwrapped the bandage slowly, using her fingers to collect it back into a circular shape as it unrolled. She didn't have to look down as she did it. She’d gotten used to the unwinding and winding in the dark of the prison cell, a lesson in efficiency.
Down to the fingers, now. She set aside the full roll and picked apart the smaller pieces to place atop it.
Please, she thought.
She closed her eyes and pointed her face down to her arm and hand, saw the claw in her mind's eye. Then she opened them.
No scars, no black-and-red streaks. Pale, unharmed skin stretching from shoulder to fingertip. A minuscule band of silvery shimmer where the bandage ended, but unnoticeable in this light.
It was the ugliest thing she’d ever seen.
When she'd lost her arm—no, when Artorius cleaved it from her—she had sprung from the rift with the therion claw activated, its deformed appearance obvious. She'd already become a monster. And when she awoke in Titania’s underbelly without its shape or glow, she was certain she was still in a nightmare. In its place was an arm, a hand that looked and functioned like her own human limb.
But it wasn't. So, when the first daemon victim fell, she spared its tunic before eating the carcass and made a makeshift set of bandages. At least if that one had seen the state of her arm before the fight, it hadn't lived long enough to remark.
There would be many observers outside of that cell. It wasn't a problem with Seres; Seres was there when Artorius had moved her from the rift in Aball to the prison. If she had seen the deactivated arm, she stayed silent. Velvet almost ditched the bandages then, when she sought new traveling clothes before departing from Titania. But as soon as she realized her journey would bring her into contact with an entire prison population, and later, a traveling party, she knew she'd have to keep it covered.
No. She wanted to keep it covered. She wouldn't have had to cover it at all; to an outsider, it was simply her arm, her human arm. Unless and until malevolence seeped out of it or it transformed, nobody would know the truth about what she was. The cover was… safe. They didn't need to know it hid nothing.
Velvet picked up the pitcher and lobbed water onto her newly exposed flesh.
There was something romantic, poetic, about the way Rokurou's marks covered his face. She'd have to thank him for the expectations he'd set, one day. If not for meeting him, she might not have known humans could retain the entirety of their form with slight skin anomalies. He looked nothing like the wolflike daemons she'd eaten for three years.
Once, he recounted that his mind's state of illness was what caused him to become a daemon, and Velvet suspected it was why the marks donned just the one side. He couldn’t exactly bandage his head. He did obscure his red-eyed gaze with convenient bangs, but it wasn't as though he was hiding the fact he was a daemon. It was something between a gang tattoo and a radical birthmark for him, it seemed.
But he was a yaksha, not a therion.
Velvet shook the water rivulets from her ugly, normal arm.
If there had been at least some sign, some large scar to serve as a reminder, she’d uncover it. Even Eleanor had a large, mysterious scar. Not that Velvet envied her for it; the deepest scars aren't the ones you can hide from sight, anyway. They're the ones you don't have to hide because others wouldn't believe they exist. Humans only believe what they can see.
It would be stupid to dwell on it. With the halfhearted rinsing done, Velvet reached for the new set of bandages.
She scoffed, briefly. If Artorius could take so much from her, why couldn't he give her a more obvious mark? Would a fully daemonized arm have had too much tactical advantage against him? Probably no answers there.
Probably, Artorius had nothing to do with it at all, and it was fate her new arm would look so...
Velvet wound the strip of fabric around her limb as quickly as she could. The less time she spent staring at it, the less it might mock her.
Nothing to show for her most courageous act. Nothing there at all.
But daemons don't feel, and neither did the man who had cut off her original arm, so Velvet let the tension in her throat overstay its welcome rather than be brought into the world.
Maybe someday she could show someone without the questions. Already in her head, she attempted to answer Phi’s inevitable, “What happened? Did your arm get healed?”
No, Phi. It's the same monster underneath.
“Then how did you change the way it looked?”
It's always looked like this. I want to hide it.
That part of me is dead. It won't come back. I don't know why it has to look like it never left.
Her fingers were deft to weave the bandage around the creases of her hand.
It would never be the same. It could never be explained when it looked the same. Not to the daemon who had the marks of his transformation on his face. Not to the child learning to live a free life. Not for the witch with a thousand muttered jokes. Not for the cursed malak with his coin to flip. Not for the exorcist who would only have cared if there were a scar to cry over. Not for the headless suit of armor, or the lizard without a tail, or the little girl whose appearance had changed so much from her human form.
She made sure there were no questions to ask.