Close to Death

O-Chul got up from the floor. The pain seemed to have subsided. How much were they going to push him? Were they going to keep devising more painful and lethal forms of torture until not even he could take it? This last session had been particularly bad. It was actually surprising that the pain was already gone. He looked down at his chest. There appeared to be a chain attached to it. What did that mean? Come to think of it, why had the torture stopped at this point anyway? He turned around. Xykon was still there and he was holding what appeared to be a human. The human was not in good shape. He was badly wounded and his body was covered with old scars. Suddenly, he looked back down at his body. He had the same pattern of scars. "Redcloak!" screamed Xykon, "The paladin isn't breathing! I want him back in the ring before I get bored and have to start using hobgoblins instead!"

Redcloak came running into the room with a desperate look on his face. Xykon proceeded to throw the body violently into Redcloak's arms, knocking him over. With the view of the body's face know unobstructed, O-Chul's suspicions were confirmed. It was his body. Had he really changed this much? Redcloak looked at the body. "I told you that you'd kill him if you weren't careful!" he exclaimed, "You've ruined our best chance of finding more about the gate!"

"Remember who you're talking to, Redcloak." growled Xykon dangerously.

"Of course." answered Redcloak obediently, "I'll try speaking with dead. It's not perfect, but it might help."

"And what about my entertainment?" asked Xykon, "Should I start gathering hobbos?"

"No need for that sir." answered Redcloak, "While there isn't much point in trying to raise someone whom knows that if they come back, they'll just be tortured some more, there are plenty of slaves whom you could use." O-Chul furrowed his eyebrows. This was bad news. How could he pass on to paradise knowing that innocent slaves were being tortured in his place?

Suddenly, a short brunette woman in a kimono walked in through the wall. She had a lock of hair in front of her face and was carrying a katana. Was she a mage using ghostform? Why would a mage spend a feat to gain proficiency in the katana? She reached back through the wall and pulled in a similarly dressed man with spiky hair, the same color as that of Miss Haley Starshine from The Order of the Stick. Instead of a katana though, he had a much thicker sword, wrapped in what appeared to be bandages. "Come on," said the woman, "the plus is in this room." The man had his brow furrowed in an angry expression. "Why do you need me here, again?" he asked, "If you did this by yourself, then I could carry on training."

"Shinigami have duties besides just killing evil spirits." answered the woman. She then turned to O-Chul. "I am here to guide you to the afterlife." she said.

"You are shinigami?" he asked, wracking his brain for all the legends that he had heard.

"Yes," answered the woman, "My name is Rukia and this is my partner, Ichigo."

"We always end up assigned to places under the influence of soul-devouring abominations." said Ichigo.

"Do you have to take me?" asked O-Chul.

"We can't risk having your soul devoured or being transformed into some kind of undead." answered Rukia.

"Is it true that if I defeat you in a contest, that I can return to life?" asked O-Chul.

Rukia's eyes shone with sympathy. "You need not fear." she said, "Celestia is a wonderful place. You will enjoy it there. It's certainly far better than being a prisoner of a lich."

"I do not fear death." replied O-Chul, "but I cannot allow others to suffer in my place. Besides, if I ever escape I will have useful information for Lord Hinjo and I'm trying to help out my new friend."

Rukia sighed. "Alright," she asked, "what is your challenge?"

"How about an art challenge?" asked O-Chul. Rukia's face lit up and Ichigo planted his face into his hand. "I love art!" Rukia proclaimed, "I have everything that we'll need right here!" She pulled out a sketch pad and various markers. "I suppose that Ichigo will have to judge."

"I thought that now that you've got you're powers back, I'll kill the evil spirits and you'd perform konsoh and the other easier duties."

"Look Ichigo," answered Rukia, "There's no one else available, so just do it." Ichigo sighed and sat down with a bored expression on his face.

"I'll go first!" declared Rukia. She then proceeded to produce an extremely childish looking sketch of a group of rabbits. "As you can see," she said, "these are various bunnies in a group." O-Chul raised an eyebrow. If Ichigo was fair, this should be pretty easy. He proceeded to draw a rabbit with practically photographic detail. "This is how I draw a rabbit." he said. Ichigo turned to Rukia and said, "Rukia, I think that it's time that you realized that you can't draw. You just make these incredibly sucky scribbles that no one can understand. This guy is obviously the winner." Rukia, however, was not paying attention. She was starring at O-Chul's picture with an almost hungry look in her eyes. "So cute!" she exclaimed, "Can I keep it?"

"Of course." answered O-Chul, "I doubt that they'll let me keep it in my cage." Rukia grabbed the drawing and began to hug it tightly against her chest. "I shall call him Chappy!" she declared with glee. O-Chul smiled. He was glad that he could make her happy. It was nice spending time with someone friendly whom at least appeared human. She was certainly an attractive woman. It would actually be a pity to leave her. "Do you have to leave right away?" he asked. Rukia appeared startled at the question, but then smiled. "We should be able to spend some more time together as long as your body remains intact." She turned to Ichigo, "You can head back Ichigo. I'll be fine here but I should be busy for a while."

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