Previously: Yi Fan released the ghostly, bestial creature inside her to kill Biryukov. The creature then told Twain that he was the one who brought the curse upon Yi Fan. And now…
â€œI did?â€ Twain asked.
The thing ignored him then, looked down and picked up the golden mask from the floor. â€œSo this is what she thinks will lift her curse. Her shining hope of freedom. I should destroy it now, shouldnâ€™t I?â€
â€œTo protect the Czar?â€ Twain asked.
The thingâ€™s eyes flashed with anger, and the howling of the phantom wind took on a more strident tone. â€œHe doesnâ€™t need my protection.â€
â€œAnd yet you serve him,â€ Twain said.
â€œI tried to destroy him, but failed,â€ said the ghost. â€œHe spared me in exchange for my service, keeping the rabble in line. I will continue to serve him for as long as I am unable to defeat him, and not a moment longer.â€
â€œNoble of you.â€
â€œThere is nothing noble about me, and being dead, I have no need to deceive myself that I am anything other than what I am.â€ The creature considered the mask again, naked greed on his face. â€œDo you really think this can bring him down?â€
â€œIâ€™m sure of it,â€ Twain said. â€œBut Iâ€™ll need Yi Fanâ€™s help. Return her to me, please.â€
The creature turned petulant. â€œYou donâ€™t need her. Sheâ€™s weak and gloomy. Iâ€™m strong and interesting.â€
[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”left”]Use the mask only on the blue fool. Do not attempt to use it against me, now that I have seen what it can do. If you try it, you will wish for the luxuriously easy death that the cretin on the floor enjoyed…”[/blockquote]â€œBut the Czar trusts her,â€ Twain said. He wasnâ€™t sure how true it was, but she couldnâ€™t have a mansion like the one she lived in without having the Czarâ€™s favor. â€œI can get close to him through her. And Iâ€™m sure he would drop his guard around her in way he never would with you.â€
â€œYes, she is pretty. Fine, use her,â€ the creature said. â€œUse her and break her heart. Teach her that she can never be truly free from me.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know that Iâ€™d go that far,â€ Twain said.
â€œI do,â€ answered the creature. It brought its face down close to Twainâ€™s, and even though it had no physical body, Twain was sure he smelled rot on its breath. â€œUse the mask only on the blue fool. Do not attempt to use it against me, now that I have seen what it can do. If you try it, you will wish for the luxuriously easy death that the cretin on the floor enjoyed. See you later, or perhaps before.â€
The howling wind faded to silence as the creature dissolved from view. Yi Fan gasped as the thing released her from its control, and then she burst into tears.
Twain got to his feet and took Yi Fan into his arms. The scar was bright red against her face, as if it were fresh rather than years old. She buried her face against his shoulder, and he stroked her hair. His fingers avoided the white streak in her hair.
The tears didnâ€™t last long. She gave a long, single sigh, then pushed back from him and swiped the tears from her face. â€œAre you okay?â€ Twain asked.
â€œIâ€™m cursed,â€ she said, â€œand now that he knows about the mask, Iâ€™ll never be free.â€
What will Twain and Yi Fan’s next move be? Don’t miss our next exciting episode!
To read from the beginning, click here…
Sorry this is late. Everything in my personal life seems to be in flux right now, so getting into the proper headspace to turn out an episode is not always easy. I will try to get caught up today, though. Look for the weekly illustration and another episode later today (fingers crossed).