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If Living is a Torture

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Case Identification: A22451

Name: Gladiolus Amicitia
Age: 23
DOB: April 2
Family: Clarus Amicitia (A22450 | Deceased), Iris Amicitia (A22452)
Distinguishable Physical Traits: bird tattoo across the Case’s back, chest, shoulders, and arms. Possible matching leg tattoos, confirmation unavailable. Two perpendicular scars line the Case’s left eye and forehead - unknown origin.
Past Employment: Security, under various employers.
Current Employment: ??
Current Location: ??
Cause of Death: [redacted]
Time of Death: [redacted]

 


 

Just what Ignis needed, during an already busy day: a special Case assignment. When everyone was understaffed, overworked, and thoroughly exhausted - it was a good thing all of their employees were already dead. Then, naturally, they couldn’t complain they were being worked to death - a managerial favorite. Grim jokes, they said. This particular Case had run away from the charts, most likely by a technical fault and not some inhuman ability to rewrite death.

And so they sent Ignis in all his tactical, sleuthing abilities to track down their missing Case. Given that he had family that was still alive, this Gladiolus couldn’t be too far from his last noted location. Wandering the streets was easy. No one could see Ignis, but what frustrated him was that every time he walked down a residential street, any animal in the immediate vicinity would start barking, howling, hissing, braying, and make general racket that would have surely given him a headache if he was capable of feeling pain on a human scale. Ignis considered himself lucky. There were very few things that could hurt grim reapers, and empathy was one of them. Inability to feel human pain assisted greatly in that aspect. It kept him able to do his job efficiently.

Ignis did his best to trace the provided path in the Case notes, stopping at a run-down townhouse. He caught sight of a man unlocking the door - he was wearing a tank top, as it was a hot day, a perfect match to the Case’s provided picture of the tattoos. Everything was a match. Time to get to work.

He followed Gladiolus inside, silently, watching as he set his rather heavy-looking bag down on the couch, sighing, and covering his eyes with his hands. It must have been a long day for him as well. It would all be over soon…

Producing a silver-black dagger that served as his soul-collecting scythe, he brandished it readily over his Case’s exposed throat, point ready -

But he stopped. Frozen in place. It was as if time itself slowed in that one second, and Ignis alerted to the discomfort he felt in that moment. He readied his dagger a second time, forced it downward, ready to collect the soul… but again, his blade refused. Was it… not his time to die? The files never gave him a correct date, but why send him to track down a missing Case if it wasn’t to claim his soul?

Gladiolus slowly removed his hands from in front of his eyes as if woken from a trance, his reflexes acting defensively when he realized he wasn’t alone. The man lunged forward, knocking Ignis’ daggerscythe aside as he pinned the unsuspecting reaper to the ground.

“How did you get into my house,” he growled, eyes blazing with fury. “What do you want from me?”

“Your soul, sir,” Ignis muttered bluntly, but was met with a hissed response of “that’s bullshit” from the Case. Lovely.

“I’m behind on work. It’s my job to collect your soul and go about my day. I don’t make the orders, I only follow them. Please don’t make this difficult for me.”

“Yeah? Well you’re not following this one today. I have to take care of my sister. I’m all she’s got. I’m not planning on dying anytime soon.” Gladiolus remained pinning Ignis to the ground, and even maneuvered himself so one hand was at Ignis’ throat, squeezing harshly, ready to crush him.

Ignis found himself smiling bitterly in the moment. “Trying to suffocate me, I see? My lungs stopped functioning ages ago. You’re out of luck. I feel no pain whatsoever. I haven't felt pain in centuries.”

The grip squeezed, harder and harder and became equally frustrated when it slowly dawned on Gladiolus that yes, Ignis was right. With a defeated growl, he threw Ignis to the side, picked up the stray dagger, and pointed it directly at Ignis’ chest. The tip of the blade dug just slightly into his shirt, enough to break fabric and skin. Yet there was no blood.

“Do you believe me now? Or are you going to make this difficult?” Ignis asked, launching his own defensive strategy. He was able to knock the dagger free once again with a quick sideswipe, but he wasn’t prepared for the bout of wrestling he was subjected to. Humans were unfortunately brutal in their strength when their adrenaline peaked.

“You’re crushing me,” Ignis muttered simply, “If you wish to inflict pain upon me, you’ll have to try much harder.”

“How’s this, then?”

He heard it before he was aware; the sound of metal slicing skin; his dagger easily slid right through the meat of his body and lodged directly between his ribs where his unbeating heart still remained. Yet he felt nothing aside from the slick splitting of flesh and the bizarre sensation of cold metal against his insides. This was the first time he’d ever been cleaved by his own blade and he honestly felt betrayed by that. Never before had anything like this happened to Ignis; he had to say he admired this man’s determination.

“Gladiolus, you can’t kill me. I’m already dead. You may stab me as much as you wish, beat me, break my limbs, but nothing will kill me. I will heal regardless. You see, my humanoid form is more of a vessel than a boundary. I can reformulate myself at any time. This is simply the form I choose to take before a Case’s death, as… we hope to make the Cases comfortable in their last moments.”

“Well, go back wherever the fuck you came from. You’re not taking me today, tomorrow, or any time soon. I don’t want you near me - or gods forbid, my sister - ever again.”

Sighing, knowing he was ruining a perfectly good shirt, Ignis used what strength he could gather to push himself free of Gladiolus, dislodging the blade and running the flat edge against his thigh to clean it once it was fully withdrawn from his chest. There was only one option he had left, one reserved for either the most stubborn of Cases, or the most weary and frightened… one that he didn’t like doing, but had little choice.

Stepping forward, he pushed Gladiolus’ back against the nearest wall and leaned forward to bring their lips together.

All he tasted was flesh. Lips. Hot, confused, anxious flesh, the most human he’d ever known. For a second he found himself flooded with what he could only define as pure humanity. It would have been beautiful if Ignis himself wasn’t so frightened. Gladiolus’ soul wasn’t dislodging. It remained anchored within him, unmoving, as if there may actually be something more supernatural grounding him.

Ignis pulled away, a frustrated palm swiping at his mouth as he tried to rid himself of the thoughts whirling in his brain.

Surely I can’t be losing my power. The Kiss always works. What is going on? This has never happened before, to me or anyone I’m aware of… what is this man? Why… why me? I’m not strong enough to handle this kind of controversy…

Gladiolus spat against the ground as if he too were disgusted by the gesture.

“You’re sick,” he hissed, and Ignis only shrugged.

“Correction, again: I’m dead. Apparently the Fates don’t agree with my job at the moment which is rather annoying. It seems I cannot kill you, for whatever ungodly reason. Consider yourself lucky. But when I figure out what to do, I will come back for you. That much you can be assured of. I suggest you find alternative living arrangements for your sister in the meantime. You seem to care about her a great deal. Perhaps you could send her to that school you’d been saving up for. She would be living there, after all. She’d be away from the dangers she faces here.”

How did I know any of that? I have no information from his sister’s file. None of this was in his, either…

This whole evening had Ignis completely backwards, so without another word he picked up his dagger and disappeared, reappearing several yards away on top of the roof of a building down the street. Best to be safe in odd times.

What do I do? I can’t exactly return with an empty Case file and no progress…

Something within him was different… a sensation he realized he hadn’t felt in years. Decades. So much longer than that.

Pain.

Centered right in his heart, where the now-healing skin had been pierced so easily by his own weapon. A pain blossoming like fire, agonizing and slow, the burn of defeat and of shame and of utter fear.

Pain, unlike anything he’d ever felt in an entire century, possibly two.

There were two things that led to a reaper’s downfall.

One was empathy, the other:

Sympathy.