Saraba sleeps uneasily. Her normally well-trained, orderly mind is tearing itself apart in dream.
Isn't this what you wanted?
Her hands and feet, which were never especially delicate or pale or soft, have become sharp and blue, unquestionably an oni's tools of ripping and tearing.
To become this.
Her horns, once easily hidden underneath her hair buns, now jut out of her head defiantly, daring anyone to see them and to see her for her newly monstrous nature.
No matter how many times I told you to be quiet, that you would only make things worse, you kept muttering your wish in our darkest moments.
Her teeth, once one of the more human things about her, now fangs that make even her smile something that would send good-hearted humans running for help - or their weapons.
I hope you're happy. I hope you're proud of what you've made us.
And her hunger, always repressed since back then, never allowed to see the light of day... Her hunger has become insatiable, impossible to stuff back into its corner. Her moment of weakness has allowed her basest, most evil urges to take over completely.
Oh, I am.
Saraba's conflicted mind goes back. Back to the days when she was still part of the Order, which seem so long ago.
Back before Kiara had turned them all against her. Back before Kiara had accused her of being the Adversary's tool, back before everyone had seen her as a monster.
That isn't how it happened, and you know it.
When they still thought of her as one of them, one of their Sisters, and not a weapon of discord who needed to be eradicated before she could hurt anyone.
They believed that long before she said it. Before she made it okay for them to say it.
Back to the memories of her first encounters with yokai. Speaking with them, reasoning with them. Caring for them like she would a human criminal, while still making clear that their evil acts were unacceptable.
I was so angry.
Not that all the yokai she'd been sent against had been guilty of the things they were accused of.
Some of them she'd even loved.
Babao. A yokai woman with shark teeth and a strictly meat diet.
She'd been accused of killing off the fish and churning the water to blood around the little village where she lived with her ravenous appetite. When Saraba had come to confront her, she'd sworn her innocence. "I've only ever fished inland at the lake," she'd claimed. "I wouldn't dare risk the village's safety for my own hunger, not when they've been the first civilization to let me live among them like this."
Even back then, Saraba wasn't unused to yokai lying to avoid retribution, but Babao's story had the element of earnest truth to it.
She'd visited the village and Babao several times in the coming months. She had found pretty quickly that the area's fish had died off due to a sudden algal bloom - a red tide, the blood that the villagers had seen.
She had accompanied Babao on her fishing trips, and verified that the girl had, indeed, only ever eaten freshwater fish.
The villagers' suspicion of Babao had remained, however.
And her sisters' suspicion of her had grown. They were never so direct about it back then, no. Just acting strangely around her. Making allusions. Starting to discuss things behind her back, only invite her at the last moment.
Saraba had not cared. She'd only cared for doing what was right, and the more she got to know Babao, the more she understood that this was what was right. Keeping the shark-girl safe, moving her out of her home to a new place. Checking in on her. Helping her move when the villagers found her hiding spot.
It had been on her sixth or seventh visit that Babao had confessed to falling in love with her. And Saraba had welcomed that love and returned it in kind. She had felt the same.
The maltreatment had worsened, then, and her relationship with her sisters never fully recovered.
Some began to tell her right to her face that yokai were undeserving of love. That Babao specifically was undeserving of love. That yokai were monsters who only sought to devour the Sisters. The flesh of hermits was considered especially appetizing by yokai, after all. Babao only wished to keep Saraba close to eat her later, and in a moment of weakness she'd strike.
Saraba knew otherwise. Babao was a sweet woman, an expert on the loom - and it had given her a patience Saraba rarely saw even in humans. Far from a scheming carnivore owned by the whims of her stomach, she was considerate, thoughtful. Even during their fishing expeditions, Babao made sure Saraba got her pick of the fresh fish before taking the rest home and freezing them with magic.
It had chafed at her that they could only see a monster when they looked at Babao - and a monster-lover when they looked at Saraba.
The relationship didn't last. Babao just... disappeared one day. Simply gone, nowhere to be seen. Saraba didn't know for sure, but her sisters' attitude when told about it - smugly assuring Saraba that Babao had likely gotten what she deserved - made her suspect that her sisters had done something.
They killed her, and when I wanted to avenge her, you told me they were right to do so.
Saraba had been angry, tried to track down Babao's fate. Finally, she'd found that one of her Sisters had been attacked by Babao, and another Sister had been forced to protect her and seal the monster for good.
I didn't mean-- It broke my heart, too, you know.
The story had sounded off. It wasn't the Babao she knew. Her Babao would never try to jump someone. But the Sisters would not lie to each other. She'd swallowed her anger and despair, and tried to let it go.
I didn't know that you had one.
But her sisters had never given her the same courtesy. Even human civilians had started to eye her warily, where before her habit had brought trust and acceptance.
In a way, Kiara's betrayal, as much as it had stung, had only ever taken advantage of what was already there: Her sisters had hated her long before they were willing to say it to her face.
No... I-I can't accept...
Long before they had any reason to.
Ah, yes, my favorite. Denial.
So why does it sting so much that this is what she's becoming?
They will hate us now. Fear us. Think us a monster.
All she's done is... give them the reason they had sought.
At least we've earned it now.