"You want me... to bring Kassandra out? Again?" Lily sputtered, their eyes wide. "But... but she's... she's in a bad place, I'm not sure it'll..."
"Last time, I was able to convince her to listen to reason," Magnolia reminded them. "I asked you then, and I'll ask you now. Do you trust me?"
"Yes. Of course I do! But, I just... I... I'm scared, I guess." Lily was already hesitant about bringing Kassandra out at all. Sure last time it went better than they had expected. They trusted Magnolia, that much was true, but... they didn't trust Kassandra. Or, well, they didn't trust Kassandra when she was acting so... off. "B-but I don't know why Kassandra is acting this way. She could lash out. Not listen to you even if you make a good point. She could... she could attack you."
"She didn't last time. And if she's as tired as you say, she most likely won't attack me, will she? If Kassandra is going to interfere with what's mine, I'm going to confront her to solve the issue," Magnolia declared with clear intent.
"Bring her out. That's an order."
Lily couldn't argue. That's what they drew their strength from - their will, given to Magnolia, who could make them do whatever was told of them. After all, obedience was pleasure. So they didn't have much of a choice. And they did trust Magnolia to handle it, so...
"Okay. Just... let me..."
As Lily tried to speak, their voice dropped off, already fading as they reached into the back of their mind, trying to call out to Kassandra. They tried to project that they only wanted to help her, to handle whatever was troubling her.
Kassandra didn't have the energy to fight back. She didn't have it in her. She just rose to the surface to face the inevitable with an exhausted sigh.
"Hello, Kassandra," their fucking Mistress Magnolia said conversationally as she watched Delta's expression become Kassandra's, her eyes opening with a look of contempt, which then flicked away.
Kassandra took a deep breath. She pointedly looked off to that evil bitch's side, not giving her the satisfaction of her attention. She didn't want to be here, and she was going to make that known.
"What do you want?" Kassandra asked, voice dropping low as she settled into her body.
"I just want to know why you're so tired," Magnolia said. Kassandra scoffed, but she ignored it, and just kept speaking. "It's bothering Lily, and that makes it my business as well."
Kassandra rolled her eyes, still deliberately not meeting Magnolia's gaze. "Okay, first of all, Delta? Is Delta. I'm not calling them a fucking flower," she growled, the confrontational energy peeking through for a moment, but she didn't have enough in her to keep it up. "Second, it's none of your business. It's none of Delta's business, either. I just... need to handle what I need to handle."
"There must be something I can do to help," Magnolia urged. And why should she care? Didn't want her stupid toy getting damaged?
Kassandra scoffed. "You don't want to help. Don't give me that bullshit. You want Delta to be a perfect, delicate little flower, one you can prune and shape to put on display with hypnosis."
"Hypnosis? Kassandra, will you listen to-"
"I'm the protector of this system. But apparently I failed to protect Delta from your bullshit, and like hell I'm going to let Chain-"
Kassandra's eyes snapped wide open, and she slammed her hands in front of her mouth. Damn. Magnolia definitely caught that.
"Kassandra, what - or who - is Chain?" she half-whispered, her expression an infuriating mix of confusion and worry. As if she gave a damn. She was not her friend.
She waited for a response, but wasn't given one, other than Kassandra finally meeting her eyes, expression guarded.
"Is... Chain... another alter that I don't know about?"
She didn’t want to be present, let alone play some guessing game. Magnolia didn't deserve to know anything else about their system. She already knew too much. And now, she knew more than Delta themself. She knew dangerous things, best left unthought. Things Kassandra didn't even dare to think about. And now...
"I'm leaving," she growled.
"No. Don't you dare," she hissed, "tell Delta anything about this conversation."
Before Magnolia could respond, Kassandra had already made a tactical retreat.
Seconds later, Lily came back to the surface, feeling as if they had been drowning. That had definitely been the most sudden and forceful switch they'd had in a long, long time.
"You're back," Magnolia murmured.
Lily tried to respond, but as they opened their mouth, they doubled over with a searing headache. As they did, they realized something very disconcerting - they couldn't remember a single thing from their switch. Usually, they could remember bits and pieces. Impressions, at least, of how she had felt. But now... nothing. Nothing at all.
"What... what happened?" they asked haltingly. "I can't... I can't remember anything..."
Magnolia stared at them, but her expression was unreadable. "I talked to her," she finally said. "She's dealing with it." A long pause, neither breaking eye contact. "You were right, for once. She does just need space."
"Um... okay," Lily mumbled, their head drooping. They still knew nothing, and now they were tired too. It didn't help that, in a weird way, they still didn't completely know how to function without Kassandra. Or rather, Lily was so used to Kassandra showing up when she pleased, angry and vibrant and fierce. Magnolia might not be able to hear Kassandra's voice, but she had to be able to see how they were feeling... and it didn't look like she was used to it either. That had to be why she looked uneasy, right? They didn’t feel the need to press more, if they were even allowed to.
"Get up, and get dressed nicely," Magnolia ordered suddenly, and Lily snapped to attention. She clearly wanted to drop the subject immediately. "I have dinner reservations for us at eight, and I'm not going to let you make us late."
"Y-yes, Mistress Magnolia," Lily stuttered, rushing into the bedroom to change out of their sweaty clothes into something that wouldn't embarrass her. As they got dressed, they had to pause for a few seconds to try and mend their pounding headache. They opted for what Magnolia had jokingly called their 'airplane attendant' ensemble - a nice blue vest on top of a gray button up, with blue slacks and a nice yellow handkerchief-scarf hybrid wrapped around their neck.
Lily came out, and Magnolia stared them down appraisingly. Her face was almost unreadable, but Lily could swear there was a tinge of admiration in her eyes - more evident as she hummed, moving closer to run her right hand down their cheek. The sting of her slap contrasted with the warm gesture, but that pain felt so strangely... good. Magnolia's hand slowly slid down to their neck, and she gripped it, choking them lightly. Lily coughed in surprise, losing their oxygen, since they hadn't been expecting this. They stared at her, blood pounding, wet for reasons they couldn't understand as they waited for the ability to breathe again.
There was suddenly a buzz. Not taking her hand off of Lily's neck, though she did loosen it enough for them to grab a quick gulp of air before she tightened again, Magnolia pulled out her phone and checked it. She typed something in with her other hand, then turned back to Lily.
"The limousine is here," she smiled, giving them one final squeeze before graciously giving them back fresh air. Lily gasped, almost suffocating in the sudden lack of difficulty breathing. It had felt so terrifying... So why did they want more? "Let's go."
The limousine ride was a lot quicker than the trip to the mall. The restaurant Magnolia had chosen was equally fancy, and likely equally expensive, as the first one she had taken Lily to. It was a lot closer to the apartment, though. Despite that, she'd taken them in such an exquisite car - Magnolia would have nothing less.
She took them by the arm as they left the limousine... not that it mattered, considering Lily would follow her as if leashed anyways. Dragging them inside, she confirmed her reservation, and they got their seats almost immediately. The waitress gave them menus and left the two of them to make their decisions.
Lily had quickly decided on a drink to order for when the waitress got back. Something alcoholic, but not too strong. Their Mistress would probably enjoy them being tipsy, though they didn't want to make her deal with them when they were drunk.
"Thank you... thank you again for taking me here," they murmured, shifting in their seat. "You... um, you treat me very nicely."
"And you're not used to it yet?" Magnolia scoffed, not even looking at them, instead opting to look at the menu. She had to think that was more interesting than they were... and... they shifted in their seat more, although they were hardly uncomfortable. "It's been months since I bought you. You should know full well how I want to treat you by now."
Lily nodded, not trusting themself to respond. They kept looking through the menu, but were interrupted by Magnolia suddenly standing up.
"I have to go fix my makeup," she muttered. "Make sure you don't leave." Lily nodded - why would they want to? - as their Mistress walked away. They kept looking through the menus, just thinking to themself. She was so nice. Too nice. They knew it had been a long time since they met, but it still felt so new to them... It had been a long time since they were shown such kindness.
They began to think. When was the last time someone showed them so much kindness? If anyone could have been said to be fully on their side, it was Kassandra... but she wasn't kind. Her idea of helping Lily was to protect them from themself. As they paged through their memory instead of the menu, they cast their mind to their earliest memory, before everything faded into an unreadable mess. It was late, from when they were thirteen. They'd been in school, and they remembered the few friends they had, their mom... and yet, they couldn't think of anyone being as nice to them as Magnolia was.
This... might be the best case scenario for them, despite being her property.
They didn't want to leave. Maybe they never wanted to leave.
A familiar voice that was not Magnolia's spoke behind them. "My lovely, loyal Lily."
And just like that, they obeyed, and became mist.
Magnolia walked back to the table, her makeup redone. She was very ready to enjoy the night with their wonderful plaything... when she saw the empty seat. Around their table, there were waiters and customers staring at the mess, both menus on the floor, the tablecloth crumpled beside them. Magnolia blinked. Her first thought was did Lily escape? No, that couldn't be right. They were too stupid to want to.
Magnolia heard some hushed chatter from the people staring. She turned an ear to listen - someone asked who 'that person' was, where 'they were being taken,' and that 'someone should call the police.'
Magnolia's heart dropped. It wasn't that Lily escaped. That was too obviously wrong. Unfortunately, the answer was obvious. They were kidnapped.
But... by who? She panicked, wondering who would have the motive. Someone from the party? They wouldn't want to risk her finding out. A business rival? No, they wouldn't risk something so illegal.
Lily cared about them. And, as much as it was hard to admit, she also cared about Lily. The moment she'd realized that, she had a weakness she didn’t want to openly admit. She cared about Lily. She truly, truly did. And now there was a chance she would never see them again. The last memory she would have of them would be choking them way too long.
But now wasn't the time to think about that. Now, Lily was in trouble. And she definitely didn't want people calling the police - that was a surefire way for Lily to get taken away from her, probably put into Witness Protection, Magnolia arrested or something worse. While that would be justified, she supposed, she didn't feel it'd be fair. But who could have taken them? Her heart pounded as the panic built, a feeling that was not familiar, and certainly not one she liked.
She had to take action. She said, almost as an afterthought, "Don't call the police. That's my partner, and I'll take care of it."
She gathered her belongings, and rushed out of the restaurant before anyone had the time or audacity to ask her further questions.
Lily was awoken by a splash of ice-cold water to their face. They jolted awake, out of trance now, and found themself in a cold area with steel walls. It must have been a basement, or garage, or something - it was far less fancy than the places Magnolia had taken them to.
They shouted wordlessly at the cold, panting and catching their breath. Questions pounded through their head. Where were they? Why were they here? Who had that voice been? Where was Magnolia? Were they in danger? Were they being taken away from her?
They glanced around the room, trying to find any sort of answer. They tensed as they noticed a woman in front of them - taller and thicker than them, with bright curly red hair and a vintage dress. The first thing Lily noticed aside from her attire was her sadistic smile on her face. That smile might have been comforting on Magnolia, but she was nowhere to be found.
"Morning, sweetheart," she hummed, sing-song. "How was your trance?"
"Where... where am I?" Lily asked, their breathing till uneven. They were met with a slap across the face, which hurt. Magnolia's slaps hurt as well, but those were light, quick, and were more shocking than painful.
"Keep your mouth shut. You may not remember me, the ungrateful bitch you are, but I placed a fairly high bid on you back at the auction. Would have gotten you, if it weren't for that cocky, spend-happy bitch, and the fucking threefold rule."
Lily frantically cast their memory back to the auction, something they didn't try to think about often. They did remember that Magnolia and a woman, this woman, were going back and forth at the bid before Magnolia had offered the ridiculous sum that she'd purchased them for.
"But we can put that unfortunate incident aside, now, and focus on the happy future. I have you now. And I didn't even have to spend a penny for you. Fair, huh?" Her smile didn't break at all as she spoke, and it looked sincere to Lily. Was she insane? Lily tried to stand, then realized with horror they were tied down with ropes to their chair.
They weren't sure what to say. How could they get out of this? Buy for time? Beg? A cold sweat broke on their face. "...Please let me go," they whimpered desperately.
"Ooh, that's a tempting idea. Let me think about it... God no!" she laughed. She turned around, then stopped, turned back, and slapped them again. "Wow, they were right about you at the auction. You really are an idiot."
Lily began to struggle again, panic and adrenaline beginning to burn in their chest.
"Is your tiny little brain finding that scary? Aww, poor thing."
"How did you know my trigger phrase?" they growled, anger beginning to mix with their fear. If Kassandra was too tired, they'd just have to try to protect themself.
"You have a lovely neighbor who told me. Heard it through some hole in the wall," she explained. "Maybe your old Mistress was too stupid, to get you an apartment good enough. Or maybe some sound amplifiers were involved? Who's to say?"
Lily blinked. A neighbor? Who? They didn't know any of their neighbors...
Oh, wait. I do know one. But... they couldn't possibly...
The blood froze in their veins as their captor spoke again in that sickeningly cheerful voice. "Oh, Jenny, dear, could you come out for me?"
A familiar face, but one they hardly recognized, showed itself from behind one of the concrete pillars. Jenn looked... wrong. They were wearing skimpy clothing, just blue and red lingerie. But it wasn't just that which kept Lily from recognizing them at first. Jenn's expression was utterly unlike them. It was... fear, defeat, acceptance, depression, all at once. Despite that, they put on a plastic, awful smile as they were called over.
"Jenn, what's going on?" Lily blurted, horrified. "I... I thought... thought we were friends..."
"I'm sorry, Lily," they said, eerily without emotion, even as tears welled up in their eyes. "I lied to you. I'm one of Mistress Crimson's playthings. I made friends with you to lure you in. I didn't have a choice. I hope you understand. I just..."
Jenn kept explaining, but Lily stopped listening, retreating into themself to escape from that awful smile and those lifeless words. They considered their options for escape - none. They thought about how hurt they were - irreparably. How much they let themself be deceived - like the idiot they were. How stupid they were to trust Jenn - useless.
"What are you going to do to me?" Lily demanded, although the fire was dulled, the fog in their head returning. They weren't Kassandra, as much as they tried to pretend. And they could barely reach her, with how tired she was.
"Well, first of all, I'm going to undo all of the conditioning that greedy bitch put you through," she chuckled, walking in circles around Lily. "Then I'm going to put you through some of my own. Make you obey no one else but me. She was too unpracticed to realize how exploitable what she did was, you see. No foresight. And then, I'm going to erase every single memory of her from your mind. Actually, scratch that - I'm going to erase every single memory you've ever had, although I might let you remember how to read and talk if you ask nicely. I'll make you think you've always served me, for your entire life."
The blood drained from Lily's face. They were not willing to forget Magnolia. But... what if they couldn't stop her? What if they really were too powerless?
"Not to mention, I'm going to erase your crazy multiple personalities - and yes, Jenn picked that tidbit up too. No more Kassandra! She doesn't exist. Never did! Just a figment of an idiot's imagination, blown way out of proportion. Won't be too hard to fix that."
"No!" Lily shouted in pure horror. "I won't... I won't let you!"
"Imagine being psycho enough to think you're more than one person. Isn't that hilarious, Jenny?"
"Yes, Mistress Crimson. Absolutely hilarious," Jenn said tonelessly.
"It's actually kind of hot, you know. They say that people with multiple personalities always have trauma. I wonder what you went through. Oooh... what if I made you relive it? Over and over and over again? Don't worry, I'll take it away from you after I'm done watching you be a crying, stupid, pathetic mess on the ground. I don't want a broken toy, after all... not permanently, anyway." Crimson laughed sadistically again, clearly taking pleasure in instilling fear into Lily.
Lily felt... something. Someone? It felt like Kassandra, but at the same time, utterly unlike her. What was that?
Just as soon as they noticed it, though, it went away, leaving them alone again. Kassandra wasn't there. Magnolia wasn't there. Jenn, or at least, the Jenn they knew, wasn't there. They would have taken Pierre or Rye, told them everything just to beg them to help. But they had nobody. They were completely alone.
"So, let's have some fun, shall we?" Crimson grinned. "Jenny, would you please strip this bitch?"
"Yes... yes I will," Jenn droned. They walked up to Lily and began tearing their clothes open, popping the buttons off their vest and shirt roughly, dragging their pants and underwear down.
"W-wait! Wait, please!" Jenn paid their cries no mind, working robotically with that awful fake smile. As they pleaded with their friend, Crimson walked in front of them, and pulled out her phone. On the screen was a red and white spiral, going round and around.
"Just watch the spiral, and drop. That's what you're good for, slut," she sneered. Lily, as frazzled as they were, couldn't take their eyes off it. If Kassandra could... but no. They were alone. Their muscles slackened as Magnolia's conditioning turned against them, and Jenn took off their clothes. They teetered on the edge, the mist filling them up again - this mist, though, wasn't the bright, warm red, the red of fire and life and love, that Magnolia used. It was darker, sinister... crimson.
"Now, let's have some fun, my lovely, loyal Lily," she sneered.
"You're all mine."