You felt the tug, and your knees fell to the ground. You tried to push against it, straining every muscle in your body, but your neck fell forward and you bowed your head.
The harsh laughter stung your ears as the clomping footsteps neared. Your heard sped as those footsteps slowed. The anticipation drilled a hole in your stomach; a wave of nausea tried to overtake you and the acrid air you breathed in only served to intensify the sickness. Bile rose in your throat, but you clamped down. You would not show weakness.
“You may look up, Y/N.”
Gritting your teeth, you refused, silent. You wouldn’t speak to him if you could manage it.
An invisible force shoved your chin up and your eyes met inky black orbs.
The Devil sneered. “Resisting me until the end, Y/N? How very...noble.”
You struggled against his mind control, trying to bolster your magic to break the invisible chains wound around your body. But it was no use. With every push you gave, they tightened further.
He laughed at your grimace. “You should know better than to try and fight me now that you and your friends have lost.” He chuckled and began to circle you. “Your efforts were valiant, I’ll give you that. No one has dared to challenge me in eons. In fact, I’ll grant you this.” He paused, then leaned down. You could feel his warm breath on your skin and you averted your eyes. “You almost won. Just...almost.”
He pulled away and walked back towards his throne and sat. Crossing his legs, he propped his elbow up on the armrest and put his chin in his hand. Silent, he observed you. His expression transformed from one of triumph to one of neutrality.
Your blood froze. You did not like that look. That was the look of contemplation. The look of planning. And if the Devil was planning, it could only mean the worst for you.
“What should I do with you, magician?” He asked.
Your lips formed into a flat line. He must be baiting you. You would not give him the satisfaction of rising to it.
“I am genuinely asking,” he answered your silence as if he’d read your mind.
Still, you did not respond. He sighed. “I’m tired of this. And when I’m tired of something, I grow bored. And I assure you, you do not want me to be bored.”
That sent a shiver down your spine. You swallowed, your throat dry from the fear that had leeched your body when you knew you’d lost to him. You couldn’t get away with not answering if you wanted to live, but you needed to be smart about your response.
“What do you need?” You asked. “A servant? A slave?” The very thought caused you to shudder, but it would be better than a cage or torture.
He cocked his head to the right. “You want to be my servant.”
You cleared your throat, willing yourself to keep the tremble out of your voice. “Or a gatekeeper.”
“You are much too powerful for that. I need to utilize your magic, for it is strong.” He pondered, “How would you like to be my general?”
You paled. After the final battle, the Devil had successfully broken the invisible border between the realm of the Arcana and the realm of the humans. Vesuvia was overwhelmed immediately, and the Devil was ready to send his demon armies to conquer the rest of the world.
Did he truly want you to lead the armies?
“There are so many innocents out there who do not know the good that will come to them. The rewards they will receive once they bend to my will. You can tell them. You can encourage them to submit peacefully so there will be no unnecessary bloodshed.”
You shook your head. You could not be a party to the apocalypse.
“I guess if that’s distasteful to you,” he tapped his claw on his chin thoughtfully, “I could think of something else. How would you like to see your friends?”
You froze. Your friends. You hadn’t seen them since the Devil had won. You had no idea how they were, if they had survived. You couldn’t feel their auras with the chains tied around you, caging your magic. And you were desperate.
“They’re still resistant. No doubt, you already knew that.” The Devil chuckled.
He snapped his fingers and ghostly images materialized in the air between you two. As they began to solidify, your heart skipped a beat. Each showed one of your friends in a prison cell.
Desolate, Asra sat by the bars, making shapes in the air with his magic.
Desperate, Julian wept and shook the bars, screaming.
Meditating, Nadia called on her magic and attempted to break the bars, but to no avail.
Frantic, Portia searched for a way out, examining every nook and cranny until she pounded her fists against the brick wall.
Enraged, Lucio writhed against his bonds, shouting curses, slamming his body against the bars to break them.
“How sad. And little do they know what tortures await them.” The Devil snapped his fingers and the visions disappeared. “But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
“What do you want?” You snapped, though your voice wavered.
“Tsk tsk. Is that any way to speak to the one who holds your friends’ lives in his hands?” The Devil wagged a finger.
“How can I save them?”
“You can do what I asked of you. Help me conquer the world and I will spare them.”
Your nostrils flared. No choice was good. A deal with the Devil meant there would always be a loser.
“If you do well, I will allow you to visit them from time to time.”
That was enough to make your heart leap with hope. “And they won’t be tortured?”
“Not at all. Simply kept as pets for me to enjoy parading around from time to time.”
Your hands clenched at your sides.
“As much as I enjoy you, Y/N, I do not need you. If these terms are not acceptable, I will dispose of you and torture your friends in the most painful way possible.”
Your stomach dropped. “Promise me no harm will come to them, physical or otherwise.”
He rolled his eyes. “You are no fun, Y/N. But have it your way.” He stood and sauntered over to you. Stopping in front of you, he kneeled, so you were eye to eye. “Do we have a deal?”
You clenched your jaw and nodded.
“I need to hear you say it.”
“We have a deal.”
And he leaned forward and kissed you. Your eyes bulged at the heat that came from him. But a surge of power flushed through you. It tangled inside your body, coiling with your magic, seeping into your veins. The strength filled you to the brim, threatening to overflow. Everything was hot, fire, burning. It was almost too much to take.
The Devil pulled back and the flames were gone. He examined you, a mischievous twinkle in his black eye.
A mirror appeared next to him and you looked into it. Your eyes had turned red. Black tattoos curved around your eyes and traveled down your neck. Your lips were blood red and two fangs poked out from under your top lip.
“Now you are bound to me.”
The mirror disappeared.
He snapped his fingers again and you felt the invisible chains fall away. You took a deep breath, filling up your lungs with the sweet air.
You stopped. It no longer smelled vinegary or tasted sour. No, it was sweet as honey. Reality sunk in and your body shuddered, mourning. You were transformed.
The Devil held out his hand. “Are you ready to change the world?”
There was no reason for hesitation. What was done, was done. You wanted to scream, but there was no point.
So instead you slid your hand into his and he pulled you up.
“Very good, magician. And as a sign of my appreciation for your allegiance, I gift you this.” Out of thin air, he plucked a large scythe and held it out to you.
A weapon for death and destruction. A weapon to cut down those that would rebel. Your stomach turned as you closed your hands around the pole.
“It suits you,” he ran a clawed finger down your jaw, pleased. Then he withdrew his touch and straightened. “Let’s go. There is much work to be done.” And he strode out of the hall.
Slowly, you followed, your hands tightening on your weapon. You had done this to save your friends. You had sacrificed the world for them. This was the only way to keep them safe.
You hoped that they would understand.
But that would have to wait. Now, you had a job to do. It was time to usher in a new world era, and you were to lead the charge.