Doubt

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Sen had followed Korikiya without much thought on his part. The reality that he had just met this Raveeness, and knew absolutely nothing
about her loyalties, didn't come up until after the two had already passed deep in to the tree line. At first it was a fleeting thought from the
back of his mind - 'She could be leading you in to a trap. You trusting fool.' - but now, it was a real worry.

The Raveeness hadn't actually done anything to make his doubts at all righteous, but she hadn't exactly done anything to prove otherwise
either. She had taken him in to the trees, when at first her path had seemed intended to continue along the open area. Along the way she
had stopped, looked off to her left, and given Sen an unreadable glance. With the faintest twitch of a lip she had turned and walked past
the trees.

His suspicions had only begun to run more wildly after that. Every change in expression from the Raveeness was carefully examined,
dissected, and dialogued. Any further shift in their path was eyed distastefully by Sen, who caught the same small lip twitch he had seen
earlier from Kiya again. Little voices began to whisper in his mind, offering their own opinions on the situation. Most claimed him an idiot,
and he was inclined to agree.

It was when his worries became too much that Kiya realized something was amiss. She had apparently been asking him something, and
repeated the question several times only to receive no reply. Sen was almost in a daze as he watched her speaking, unable to
comprehend sound. Her mouth's movements were studied, and scrutinized much like her previous expressions had been.

"It's almost time." Sen could almost hear her saying, but the words failed to sync with her mouth. "Just a little bit further. And then you'll
die." were her next failed words, offered up by the Guardian's imagination. "She'll reward me for all of this, you know.". Again, it didn't fit.
Sen strained his ears forward, willing himself to catch her true spoken words. "I wonder if your blood will add some spice to my good looks. I
really want to look just right for my promotion in Her ranks."

...no, that last one was way off. Grimacing to himself, and shaking his head for good measure, the Guardian forces himself back on the real
world.

"Are you alright? You've been awfully quiet." Ah, so that was what she had been saying. A harmless inquiry.

"I'm fine." Sen replied haltingly, almost having said something else entirely. "Just thinking."

"About?" And now the Guardian was in for the question-and-answer game. Maybe he should have just stayed with his mind's cruel pranks,
at least he wasn't required to play a speaking role in those.

"This is the South." A brief glance for affirmation was sent to the Raveeness, who nodded lightly. "I didn't think anyone was alive down here
anymore."

"A few months ago, that would have been true. It was just Demons, but then.. They started acting wild, killing themselves and their allies.
Myself and a few others saw a chance to re-enter our homeland, and we took it. We thought that, maybe, we could retake this land a little
at a time." Kiya replied, in a tone that clearly displayed her pride for the whole thing.

"Fighting them from inside their borders. A basic plan, at best. Has it been working well?" Sen was once again studying her, paying careful
attention to whatever managed to flicker through her eyes. At the briefest glimpse of offense, the Guardian has no need to even hear her
reply.

"A basic plan? I'll have you know that that basic plan has done wonders! We've accomplished something not even Demon Hunters could!"

"I apologize." Sen quickly interrupted, not wanting to allow her to fully mount the soap box. "It was not my intent to offend."

Kiya sent a dark glance in his direction, one which shouted 'you better mean that'. "That's alright. You were probably just amazed by it all. I,
too, was skeptical when we first moved in but that all revealed itself to have been lacking reason. The Demons just aren't what they used to
be - basic plans actually work now."

"So Her removal has been effective..." The Guardian quietly says, before trailing off and later clearing his throat. "I didn't think the Demons
would be a complete mess. Aren't there Demon Lords overseeing them?"

"There are, but they're not.... Well, they seem to be lacking a little something I like to call intelligence." Kiya replied sweetly. "Without their
Mistress it's all an utter wreck. That which killed so many is now nothing more than a nuisance with the skill to kill."

"Seems more than just a nuisance to me." Sen commented, one ear swiveling back. "I had thought the Shades hadn't entirely removed the
Great Evil, but it seems they have."

Kiya stopped in her tracks, sending a near-startled look at Sen - who looked equally startled by her sudden decision to cease all
movement. "She's not gone at all!" A pause, as she tried to better collect herself. "I wish she was! That would make all of this so much
easier on all of us. She's still here, just not anything like She used to be. She... Her... It.. whatever, has four forms - three of which are here
on Orcle's Isle, and in perfect health."

Slowly, Sen was beginning to discover a piece of a much larger puzzle. "But how? I was there when the Shades banished the Land of the
Lost. She was there, and they removed her."

The Raveeness let out a maddened laugh, one which caused Sen to take an unconscious step back. "What they did was make everything
so much worse! The form that they removed - as you put it - was the connector between all of Her personas! Just a think about it.. A
Kyorako is connected to it's Queen by a psychic link, but underneath that link there's a suppressed personality unique to the Kyorako.
Remove the psychic link to the the Queen and what do you get? A creature so afraid to lose it's newfound escape from servitude that it's
completely crazed."

If an ebony Kat could pale visibly, Sen would be stark white right now. "Which means... Her personas are free... completely free."

"Exactly." Kiya spat bitterly. "They're completely free to do whatever they damn well please. To any extent they please, anywhere they
please. Without their leash they're wild animals seeking to experience that which has been denied to them for years. That, in my opinion, is
nothing to be happy about. What the Shades did was deliver a critical blow to the Great Evil's control, not only over her minions, but over
herself as well."

Somehow Sen's suspicions of the Raveeness had been forgotten, even after the two fell in to an uncomfortable silence. After a few
seconds to cool down the Raveeness, Korikiya, had begun forward again. Sen followed silently, his movements almost robotic as his mind
wandered elsewhere.

The Shades attack on the Great Evil didn't seem so random anymore. It had been a blow so deadly that it had utterly destroyed the
balance of the Demon world. If they couldn't work together, then Demons could no longer pose a threat to the Shades, or anyone.

For a sickening moment Sen almost felt like thanking them.

..

A few minutes later Sen found himself being led to a large rocky outcrop. It was a huge wall of black rock, which Sen figured had blended in
perfectly with the dark trees previously as he hadn't seen it until now. Kiya had come to a stop, and was now looking intently at the
Guardian. He didn't flinch under her calculating gaze, but he did raise a brow questioningly at her.

"We're here." She announced with a light smile, finally breaking the uncomfortable silence that had risen between them.

"This is your safe haven?" Sen's raised brow was now directed at the wall of rock, disbelief clear in his orange eyes. "It's a little..."

"It's just an illusion." Kiya said, an amused smirk plastered on her features. As if to prove her point she stuck out her paw and ran it
through the rock, which wavered lightly at her touch. "Keeps the Demons out, and it's location is only known by those who know about it."

"Ah." His brow slowly dropped back in to place.

"Come on." The Raveeness took a couple steps forward and fully submerged herself in to the black rock, which rippled like water as she
stepped through. As her flame-tipped tail vanished from view, Sen felt the sting of hesitation hit him. Was that trap he had been worried
about beyond this illusion? Was he about to walk in to his own 'surprise party'?

Pushing his fears as far back as possible, and giving himself a few words of encouragement, the Guardian forces himself to step forward.
He moves through the cold illusion with only the slightest twitch of his muscles. The world plunges in to darkness, and all of his instincts
begin to yell at him for being such an idiot for actually passing in to the illusions. He had just sent himself in to oblivion! He was dead now!
Floating somewhere in the region known as 'nowhere', with his body dangling over cold ash and hungry spiders.

As fast as the thoughts and fears begin to coil around him, they're sent scattering as faint blue light gently illuminates the world once more.
Kiya is just a head of him, in what looks like the opening of a small underground cave, an amused grin on her face.

"How was it, your first trip through?" She sounded curious, but Sen couldn't ignore that flicker of cubbish amusement that was evident. It
was all too clear she had known the experience was going to be...ah.. enjoyable.

"Exciting." He commented through gritted teeth.

"Great." She flashed a wide smile as she turned away from the Guardian. "I'll introduce you to my allies now.. Just come this way."

'She's about to introduce you to your attempted killers.' Was his only thought as he obediently followed.

The cave was as expected - a simply wide tunnel which lead downward, curved slightly, and opened in to a large and damp cavern. It
seemed to hold the source of the blue light in the form of a small pool of glowing liquid in the middle of the area. Even with all the light it
was emitting, there didn't seem to be risk of blindness from looking at it.

Sen immediately took notice of the other presences in the area. There were several Raveens situated about the cavern, some lazily resting
on the damp rocks, while others quietly conversed with one another. A fair number of them shared the same bleached fur as Korikiya, but
they all seemed to have more than just a forehead marking and didn't look at all related to his guide.

At once all eyes turned to him, and he braced for the inevitable.
.The Downward Spiral.