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The first time he hears the door open since he's been down here, it's an hour after sunset and Khada Jhin is dying. That's how he feels, anyway. His hands and feet are bound, still tingling from whetever poison is still in his veins, and he hasn't eaten in a day, not since the Witch brought him down here.

Her name is Kathryn. He wasn't prepared for her, not enough. He had his movements choreographed, his escape route planned, but she wasn't where she was supposed to be and instead was a cool prick in the side of his neck from behind that made his whole body numb and his perception a blur. She dragged him down the stairs into a basement, tore off his clothes, his mask, the things he used for protection, bound his ankles and wrists and chained him to the wall by the neck, like an animal, then left him like this, cold and hungry and in the dark.

Jhin looks up groggily and watches her shadow descend the steps carrying a swinging lantern. He can see only a little of the Witch from the lantern's glow -- the side of a jaw. When she reaches the landing, she hangs it on a stand and then turns to face him, a mystery on the other side of the stone cellar.

She snaps, and all around her, glowing lamps strung along the ceiling come to life, casting a soft, orange light about the room.

Then she takes a wooden chair which faces her captive -- he hears it scrape annoyingly along the stone -- and sits down. The Witch crosses her legs at the knee with deliberate care before unfurling a list, which she studies before turning her attention to him.

"I have your receipt, Mr. Demon," Kathryn says at last. Her tone is serious, her voice high and clear, full of the energy she has clearly robbed from him. She gestures to the paper for his benefit. Whatever she has written is illegible at this distance and in this light, but it's so long that it curls at the end. "I don't know your real name. I don't really care. I just want you to understand what you're being punished for." She turns the list back towards herself, tapping her lips with one finger as she examines it.

"You have quite a lengthy track record here. I hope you don't mind that I summed all that up as one item, but I don't know exactly how many people you've murdered. We'll call that variable x. From now on, the size of variable x depends on how much I like you. Right now that's not very much, because as you can see, the rest of the items on this list are all microaggressions. There's the lock you damaged to get through my back door, the paintings in my front room you inexplicably rearranged, the seventeen tripwires, the bullet hole in my wall..."

She holds up her hand. A bandage wraps all the way down to her elbow. "And let's not forget the little toys you left in my garden," she chirps. "Thank you so much for adding to my weeding list. Really! I needed more things to do. And thank you for the injury. I needed less mobility with which to do them."

Silence on the other end. Infuriating, really. When he gets what he wants the guy doesn't shut up. Held accountable and suddenly he's silent.

This woman knows of the Golden Demon -- everybody does -- and of the fact he escaped. She doesn't know why he decided to come for her. Perhaps he's someone's dog, now, but that doesn't explain why she'd be on that person's hitlist. They would have to be the kind of person to abide by reprehensive, and yet useless, criminals. Rapists, mostly. Petty, impulsive killers when she can't find the rapists. Either way, the kind of person nobody would ever miss, whose toes you can easily smash with a hammer without losing any sleep, not one little wink.

Disrobing and chaining criminals to torture in her cellar might certainly be described as overkill. But so are they, in all honesty. This guy, for example, with the mask, and the monologue, and the fucking dance moves or whatever that was, is an entire overkill masterclass. He's so quiet now, though. He hadn't expected to have the tables turned.

"Hellooo?" she calls to him, drawing out the vowel so that it echoes in the dark. "Where'd Mr. Chatterbox go? You were so talkative last night."

Finally, the demon looks up at her. There's something unnerving about his eyes, ice blue, cold, like he stole them from one of his dead victims. The man lets out a shaky breath.

"Please," he says quietly, almost like a prayer. "Don't kill me."

Don't kill me? What is that, an imitation? Or is he just sincerely a coward when it comes right down to it? "Oh no, Golden Demon," she laughs. Kathryn stands, rolling the list to tuck safely in her cleavage, and she crosses to him. As she does so, her fingertips start to glow until they're blood red, then orange, then yellow-white, a demonstration. "I'm not gonna kill you. I'm just gonna make you wish you were dead."

Behind the trained facade his icy blue eyes are unreadable. What is that look he gives her? Boredom? Fear? She decides it doesn't matter. Time for a taste of his own medicine.

She kneels down, straddling him, and looks him over, the lines of her face lit by a menacing glow.

"I hope you don't mind, but I have to do this kind of slow or else it comes out uneven." Kathryn looks over his chest, remarkably toned considering the guy specializes in amateur dance moves and firing a gun. His chest rises and falls with bated breath. Not a bad canvas. She licks her lips appreciatively, and then she gets to work.

The sound he makes when she burns through his skin, as it slowly turns black and peels, is halfway between a scream and a sigh, though aside from turning his head and pressing one heel into the floor, the man doesn't squirm much. Normally when she brands a criminal she writes their victim's name, but that would be her own in this case, not knowing any of his others, and Kathryn's name is much too lovely for scum like him. Instead, without realizing, she draws hearts, because he is scum with very nice abs.

Half-delirious and threatening madness, Jhin tilts his head back in near-ecstasy from this new sensation. How long has he been craving a duet like this? His performances are all one-way, and his performers, often caught at a disadvantage, have no way of returning his affections. Now the spotlight is turned, and somebody else wants to hurt him, but not all at once out of anger -- slowly, tenderly, with care. He falls in love: not deeply, not yet, not even with her as a person, but the pain she represents, the only part of her he's familiar with. Surely she knows the space where his dark mind lives, where pain is indistinguishable from pleasure, and pleasure from ascension to a higher form of being. And because she knows this, she is a pair of hands that understands him and can do anything to him, and he wants that badly.

His penis springs up for her.

Kathryn purses her lips, feeling this new bulge against her. She strips her victims nude to humiliate and dehumanize them, a taste of the injustice they have done to someone else, though she can't deny the thrill when the more depraved ones get like this. The Golden Demon is the fastest anyone's ever been, however. She's been at this for not sixty seconds and he already has an erection like a horse.

She tilts his chin curiously with her branding iron hand, burning a handprint onto his neck and jaw. It stings. It stings so good. "Aww, do you get off to people beating the shit out of you?" she asks.

The words catch in his throat. Without a mask to protect him, when his voice is attached to an ordinary, ugly face, the clever things he has to say crystalize from fear before they ever reach his lips. Jhin's clarity disappears. He is as blind as a newborn kitten, stumbling forward with one hand shielding his face, terrified that beneath the glaring sunlight there is a sneering audience of people who can see everything and despise him. This woman probably already does. But she can at least pity him. That would be enough.

Jhin hisses through his teeth, raising his pelvis into her without words.

She removes her hand and backhands him across the face.

"Can't you fucking control yourself?" she says. "This isn't a brothel. This is torture. The reason you're here is because you don't know the difference." She looks down on this pitiful, naked, desperate man, who probably hasn't been fucked in months, who feigns control and coolness but by night clutches his sheets beneath the first woman that'll take his money and choke him. Disgusting.

"I changed my mind," she says. "I think I am going to kill you."

"Please," Jhin rasps. Clearly he's not beyond begging either. He wants to say more, but right now he's weak. She can't kill him, not yet, because he loves her now. She can't kill him later because, when he has his mask again, he wants to reciprocate.

The Witch rolls her eyes. This so-called demon is a child, groveling and helpless. But she hesitates. He is warm. He's well-built and handsome enough, and she might as well get something out of this before she discards him, whenever she does. She sighs.

"Please what?" Kathryn obliges.

"T-Touch me again. P-Please."

She looks at her burning hand again, a little ashamed her torture instrument of choice has had the exact opposite effect than intended. Then she presses a palm down onto his chest, searing, scorching hot, the smell of burning skin starting to curl into the air, and covers the heart she's drawn to erase it. Then she drags her hand down, leaving a charcoal trail in its wake.

"Hah, hah," Jhin gasps in delight, his eyes sparkling, breathing almost rhythmically. Precum leaks from the tip of his exposed cock.

"You are actually human trash," she says, curling her fingers to dig her long nails into his fresh wounds. "If you get any of your gross fluids anywhere near me, if you get even a drop of sweat anywhere near my skin, I'm inventing the world's first candle made out of a human penis."

"I... I can't." He wants to laugh like usual, in the Virtuoso's voice, but his pulse has gone up and he's hungry, all over, going a day without food and who knows how long without sweet, tortuous intimacy. He thought he found it through his work, but now Jhin realizes he never had it really, not like this, not the way he's always wanted it.

"Can't what?" she asks, annoyed.

"C-Control myself. The sweat." Again a laugh that sounds more like a madman's chittering. "You're too hot... for me."

Kathryn's jaw drops. This fucker is making jokes. She considers bashing his head into the wall until he stops moving, but then he would go unconscious, or simply be dead, and that would be much too easy. Instead, she gets up and crosses to the west end of the room. Jhin watches her go, catching his breath, too distracted by the way her dress frames her hips to notice the sharp and dangerous tools lining the wall.

The Witch prefers, of course, to use her own magic, but it's not uncommon for her to get freaks like this one, who view third-degree burns as a type of foreplay, which is when she has to broaden her arsenal.

When she turns around, Kathryn is holding a dagger. His heart begins to race, wondering what terrible ways she is going to love him. She returns, stops in front of him, and, without any artistry, reaches under her skirt and pulls down her underwear. He notices her feet are bare as she steps out of the garment and tosses it aside. He sighs in anticipation. She's barely undressed and he's still hit with waves of lust and anticipation just looking at her.

The Witch kneels then, cuts through the rope around his wrists to free his arms from behind him, and then abruptly shoves him onto the ground. Though he could, even in his weakened state, still physically overpower her, he is as submissive and docile as a ragdoll as she crawls onto him and presses him into the floor.

Jhin looks up at her almost dreamily, hands splayed on either side of his head.

In an instant, she brings down the knife and stabs through his hand. Jhin cries out in pain and surprise, laughing hysterically. His other hand balls into a fist on reflex, but he unclenches it.

"That's so you don't try to touch me," she says.

He chuckles, his senses coming back to him if just for a moment. "Very effective," he laughs.

She situates herself onto his cock, her face frozen in a half-scowl as though she's following steps in a manual. Jhin tilts his head back and lets out an audible "oooh," beneath her as she takes him in, adjusting his hips for a better fit. Her hand, which is cool now, finds his face again, turning him and smashing his cheek into the stone floor while squeezing his chin in a half-carress, loving him not as a person but as a pound of flesh, and hoping those cold blue eyes of his won't find her from the floor as she begins pumping along his length.

Jhin is a vocal man. He practically sings through the sex, riding waves of lust and endorphins, mistaking the ache in his hand where the blade has struck through small bones for a loving touch. When was the last time a woman just pushed him to the ground and started riding him like this? He tried using whores once or twice, to relieve the urges he got after a performance, but Ionian whores are so coddling and gentle it only fueled his frustrations. In an ideal world Jhin would love canopied king-sized beds and perfumes. Instead he craves the smell of iron. If he cannot, on the inside, conquer his wild rage and self-loathing, then he'll get off on it, and she will too. He'll feed it to her.

Jhin begins talking before he can even stop himself. "When I was 14, a boy in my village went missing," he says in a rush.

"I didn't ask." Kathryn makes no sounds of enjoyment. She breathes quietly, not wanting this human scum to know how satisfying it feels having him inside her.

"I kept him -- in my basement. I was -- experimenting -- with my work." Jhin's voice deepens, his sentences shorten every time she comes down again, her warm pussy surrounding his throbbing manhood.

"He was so -- beautiful when he cried," his breath hitches, "that I started to bring him flowers. He would cry about the missing pieces of his body, and I would listen and watch him and masturbate. I loved him."

"Stop."

"I told him he could love me too, if he wanted, and take pieces of me with a knife, but by then he had no fingers."

Her hand heats up in an instant, searing his face like steak. "Shut the fuck up," she says, twisting his head further into the stone. She half wants to break his neck. The Golden Demon clenches his jaw and laughs and laughs, until she covers his mouth, burning his lips. It is a wonderful laugh. She hates him all the more for it, because it means she'd regret shoving a knife down his throat.

She begins pumping faster, trying to get her fix and get this over with. He moans in pleasure, one eye turning towards her and catching her by surprise. Though his face is starting to blister, his eyes are still breathtaking.

Yes, Jhin decides, two people fighting like this, giving each other pleasure and pain, is the purest form of love. She must love him too. He dares to reach towards her with his uninjured hand, sliding his fingers under her skirt, squeezing along her thigh.

Before he can react, the Witch yanks the blade out of his right hand and uses it to pin his left back down.

"Fuck, Kathryn!" The sudden, sharp stinging where the blade has gone through makes him start cumming. He lets out another shout and begins bucking his hips, filling her with his warm seed in trembling spurts.

Kathryn gasps as though she was being held underwater. The Golden Demon disgusts her, but seeing him unravel like this, for her, with his blue eyes, takes her beyond the man in the basement. There is no Golden Demon. There are only stars.

He feels her cunt tighten around him in response. For the first time in his life, Khada Jhin is also loved.

She wants to call him a fucking pervert for climaxing when he wasn't supposed to, but she's too out of breath, and she's ashamed of herself. The Witch had a friend, once, who dabbled in unusual body transformations and, she remembered, once offered a spell that would give her womanhood teeth. Kathryn said no at the time. She regrets it often.

They breathe for a while, the two of them, in silence.

"I am so gross," she decides, removing herself from him all at once. She tries not to notice the way his cock glimmers faintly from the wetness she leaves behind. Jhin doesn't move from the floor, not even to look at her. He's still breathing slowly, trying to hold onto his bliss before it collapses into guilt again. "I am so so gross. I need a bath."

"Yes, my love," he whispers as though this was to him. "The whole world for you."

***

The water washes the traces from the demon out of her, but as she sits in the bath thinking about it, about him, it also washes away the anger, the contempt, the hate, until there is nothing left but a weary afterglow of compassion. It's diluted, yet still strong enough that she brings him food the next time she comes down there, and clothes, and bandages, and when he regains the strength to walk she drags him upstairs to somewhere more comfortable, where he can recover as she thinks of a plan to kick him out of her house.

Compassion is rewarding on his own, though. The demon is beautiful in sunlight.