Having mud caked to you is not fun. Especially not when you have to deal with getting it out of your hair.

It took me a good two hours to wash it all off, and by the end I felt like I would have the smell of Purgatorian marsh forever infused into my skin.

Some demon handmaidens came by to braid my hair and drop off some black robes, and I hoped that I wouldn't be stuck going to another beheading ceremony. Once was far more than enough.

When night fell Cupid swung by the tent to escort me outside, in full armour. I had to lean quite a bit of my weight on him, as the foot was still giving me trouble.

We reached the clearing and I found that there was already something of a crowd gathering. As soldiers noticed me they began to make a path and I had to push down my apprehension and keep walking forward. 

My foot hurt, which was almost a good thing. It took up a considerable amount of my brainspace that would have otherwise have probably been involved in freaking out. 

Once we reached the clear space in the center of the crowd Cupid waited until I let go of his arm and then disappeared somewhere in the crowd.


"Brothers!" Lucifer called, "And sisters! Tonight we will celebrate our Commander's bravery and strength in holding the Lethe!"

An inhuman roar went up from the crowd and Lucifer waited until it dissipated before continuing.

"As is the tradition of old, to honour such an accomplished soldier, the Commander will be named to the Order of Belphegor!"

A scantily-clad demon woman materialized from the crowd and handed Lucifer a small tray.

He approached me and I watched, remotely confused, until I realized I was getting some kind of award.

I bowed my head as he pinned an iron pentagram onto my left shoulder, partly out of respect and partly out of fatigue.

An award. 

My head felt empty, but there was some vague sense of irritation in me. 

I had barely clawed my way to survival from being mired in blood and mud, and I was getting some dinky little trinket to make up for it.

How about my soul? My freedom? That would have been thoughtful.

As soon as the ceremony was over I pushed my way out of the crowd and limped back to my tent.

I lay down in my cot and buried myself in its sheets.

My foot hurt. I still smelled like swamp.

"Not joining the party?"

I opened one eye and shut it again.

"We both know I don't do parties."

I heard Eversio walk over and sit on the cot.

"Fair enough."

I sighed, pulling down the covers enough to look at him.

"Why don't you go join the party? I'm sure Manara wouldn't mind."

I didn't want him to sacrifice his fun to console the loner. 

He scratched the back of his head.

"I don't know...things haven't been particularly great between us."

I raised an eyebrow.


Eversio shrugged.

"She doesn't...I don't feel like she understands me. Or takes me seriously."

The End

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