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Innocence

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You know them. They look so different now, but you recognize them immediately. You know their name.

You watch them as they enter the innermost room of the Sanctum, moving with a grace and purpose you don't think you've seen before. Before, like so many, they had hid who they were, but here in the Dream, they had no fear. You've never really spoken with them, but you want to know more about them. You want to know why they're here. You want--

!!

Realization strikes you, emotions flood through you
Fear, guilt, SHAME

They begin to turn towards you, but before your eyes can meet, you quickly look down at your hands clasped tightly in your lap, tightly, tighter, as a silent prayer runs through your mind
please let you have the strength to overcome this you know you're stronger than this you know this isn't right

From the corner of your vision you can see them start to approach
this isn't what you want you don't want to feel like this you don't want to be like this

They're standing right in front of you and you turn your head, turn away, as if refusing to acknowledge their existence them will make them disappear
please let them disappear

"Ah, child, you have arrived!"

Father's voice echoes across the Sanctum floor. "Come over to the font, your Cleansing is nigh."

A pause before the sound of their footsteps carries them away. Only then do you dare to release a breath you didn't know you held, glancing over your shoulder at the font, at them, as the sickening burning in your chest begins to temper your fear into something hard and biting.

Your trials have only just begun.