(reading guide: Ghosts are Italicized, living are “quoted”, “when both, singing together”, Caps is shouting)

Candles are set in a large circle along the runes of the protected zone in the hideout, a task for the apprentice, as Argus sets a record on the player. A musical collection of one of his favorite stories, of a king who used Guile to conquer his foes, but was punished for his pride and wonton mercy. He faced many trials, combated monsters, Gods, and betrayers close and far, eventually reaching his distant home, but the man he was when he departed, died along the way. A lesson he wanted to provide his young apprentice, the dangers of ambition, the price of mercy, and the sharpness of guile. And one particular lesson, a harsh truth he found in all his years, the only lesson he would pass down to her from his own master:

“Ruthlessness, is mercy upon ourselves.”

He begins to play the music, it slows starts, the strings and soft singing of a chorus.

“This Ritual I perform every year, maintaining my connection to the afterlife, and seeking guidance from not only my ancestors, but old enemies, and even older versions of myself, but it has been a quiet few years..” He removes his armor, standing in a simple sleeveless shirt and tattered old lower robe, markings and wear and tear show not only how ancient it is, but that he has taken great care to maintain it.

The music seems to carry, lending to his voice as he begins to sing, the runs that hide just under the surface of his skin begin to glow softly. She had received her instructions, she was to watch only, not to move from the spot he had put for her, wearing all of her affixture’s except her ring. She needed to see the spirits, to see what he saw, to hear them as he would, so she could understand.

(A)”Apprentice, my instructions are clear, no matter what you hear..”

(H)”Full speed ahead” comes sternly and through gritted teeth.

(A)”Until we finish the rite.”

(A)”Hibichi, this rite confuses your mind, so no matter who we find..”

(H)”Full speed ahead, until the rite is finished.” She responds, markedly not singing.

(A)”Good.”

The music swells as he stands in the circle, clicking a button on his mechanical arm, letting it fall to the ground, his energy no longer circulating properly, it begins to spill out from his stump. A ghostly arm forms from it, waving a hand as the candles all light, twenty in total, burning a cool green color, illuminating the room in a similar light, as if walking through the underworld.

There is a pause, as soon the choir beings to almost chant in their vocals, as the sound of souls howling and shouting being to fill the room, swirling around the inside of the bubble, being summoned. Faces of many people flash before him, swirling around him, and at first he seems calm, looking around with a sense of, sorrow? Regret?

His voice is tender a moment, vulnerable, as if confessing to her, and to them.

“All I hear are screams, everytime dare to close my eyes… I no longer dream…only nightmares of those who’ve died. ”

“Nothing’s what it seems..” nothing’s what it seems.”But in the underworld the past seems close behind.”

This land confuses your mind…
20
There is a pause from him, the voices are singing along, and there is a very real sense, that he is no longer in control.

19

When does a man become a monster?   
Ghosts, taking the form of so many people, all shapes and gender, mostly human, stand around him, some bleeding from the mouth and eyes, some with blades sticking out from their backs. Each of them bearing a mark somewhere on their body, one Kyrtan word she knew. RAT
558 men, who died under your command.

All of the ghosts reach out to him, trying to grab him, pleading to him, screaming and choking as they call out for him
Captain….Captain….Captain…Captain!
18
Argus grips his head, trying to swipe the bandits away, a conflicted and angry face on display as he pushes them out of the way. Suddenly Seven figures appear on the edge of the barrier, pointing down at Hebichi singing with voice so close to Argus’ but all slightly different, his past lives. Versions of himself he killed as he evolved from petty criminal and necromantic freak, into the Phantom.
Why would you let the small one live, when Ruthlessness is Mercy?!
17
“All I hear are Screams! Every time I Dare to close my eyes! I no longer dream…only nightmares of those who died!”
16
Nothing’s what it seems..
Nothing’s what it seemsBut here in this Ritual the past seems close behind.”
15
“I keep thinking of the fire from that night..I keep thinking of the fire from that night..”
14
Argus is clearly struggling, wracking his mind as those he killed, parts of himself and the gang who raised him, torment him. He falls to his knees, trembling, terrified, stricken with guilt and doubt. But after a moment, they are all snapped away, a blast from his ghostly arm bursts inside the barrier, almost towards her, but not quite, something is in the way? 
13
The ghostly power and the various ghosts, swirl and form into…a small boy. He was human, couldn’t be older than six, bright, happy smile, and brighter green eyes, hair as pale as the snow. The last shreds of who he was, before the night of the attack on his family. He sings with a sweetness and joy that could only come from an untarnished youth.
12
This life is amazing when you greet it with open arms….”
“Arcturos…?”
“Whatever were facing we’ll be fine if we’re leading from the heart!”
11
“No matter the place we can light up the world heres how to start..Greet the world with open arms..Greet the world with open arms!”

Argus moves to hug his former self, only for the small form to disappear, muttering under his breath.
“Arcturos…”
10
Argus kneels there, a tear rolling down his cheek, his glowing eyes lifting to meet Hebichi’s, she starts to move to him, but he holds up his hand, waving for her to sit, taking deep breaths as a new voice enters. It sounds soft, sweet, gentle, as the form of a woman appears behind him at some distance. A warrior by the look, caramel brown skin, with firey red hair, smiling to him as she sings.

Waaiiiting…

“That voice… It can’t be…”
9
Waiiiting

“Myra?”

Waaaiiting…. Oh Degarus when you come home i’ll be waiting…

Argus slowly turns, seeing the warriors spirit for what must be the first time since her death, pregnant, smiling…happy.

Even if you’re the last thing I see ill be waaaiting.. Waaaaiiting.
“Im right here love…can’t you see.. im waiiiiting……..”
8
“I took too long..”
I’ll always love you

He strikes the ground, tears streaming down his face, his cloak burning from around his back in the form of his wings.
“I ventured too far….”  I’ll be in your heart..While you were..”
“Waiting….waiiiiting….waiiiting…”
7

He reaches for her spirit, and just as he hand was to touch his face, she fades away, always out of reach, separated by death.
6
“Bye love..”

The music swells again, the spirits all mix together, becoming many armed, faced and legged creatures, all jumbled together, all screaming, all angry.
5
Argus grits his teeth, standing quickly, the cloaking forming over him as he calls out, still singing, even with the strain of his sorrow in his voice, pushed by his determination and rage.
“ALL I HEAR ARE SCREAMS!” all I hear are screams!EVERYTIME I DARE TO CLOSE MY EYES” “I NO LONGER DREAM”I no longer dream “ONLY NIGHTmares of those who died!
4
Nothing’s what it seems. “
NOTHING’S WHAT IT SEEMS” “BUT HERE IN THE UNDERWORLD THE PAST SEEMS CLOSE BEHIND!”
3
THE PAST SEEMS CLOSE BEHIND!” “DOWN IN THE UNDERWORLD!”
2
Argus’s power waves over the gathered ghosts , binding them and opening the gateway, forcing the twisted ghosts of his past back into the world of the dead, to whatever fate befits them.
1
The last of the candle burns brightest, as the portal closes, and his cloak retracts, pulling his prosthetic into place as he stands there, tears still streaming down his face, the record quieting. The music is finished, and as much as she struggled, it was only once that last candle snuffs, does she run to him, catching him as he falls.
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Author Scond
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