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Day 7: A Paladin is Pure of Body

Lanternon2 Apr 1st, 2015 1,107 Never
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  1. Day 7:  A Paladin is Pure of Body
  2.  
  3. "My report, sir."
  4.  
  5. Erlinson lifts the dozen sheets up to glance over them.  "Nice handwriting."
  6. "Thank you, sir."
  7. He flips through the paper.  "Big report."
  8. "I witnessed much, sir."
  9. He breathes heavily as he reads through a random page.  "Hmm.  'Proportions of men and monsters entering popular bar, Saturday 2100 to 0200."  He raises his brow and looks back up to me, "Finding out how many are being taken, are ya Victor?"
  10. "That's better shown in the table below, sir."
  11. He looks back to the graph.  "Ah.  'Couples leaving.'  Yes."
  12.  
  13. He continues gazing over the report for a moment before finally setting it back down.  "So tell me, what are you looking for, Victor?"
  14. "Weakness, sir."
  15. "So that we can kill them?"
  16. "I mean human weakness, sir."  He raises an eyebrow.  "We can only kill them in self-defense.  In order to end their depredations we have to change the humans here, and how they live."
  17. He leans back again nodding slowly.  "And you want to reinstitute the prohibition to do this?"
  18. I straighten my back, bristling under the scrutiny.  "I'm reporting what I've seen as the imperator has ordered me to, sir."
  19.  
  20. He stares impartially at me, then at my report.  Finally, he sets it in a small, plastic partition on the side of his desk marked "To Central."  
  21. "Will that be all, sir?"
  22. "Have a seat, Victor."  I deflate before sitting down as slowly as proper protocol would allow.  "You've been here a week and this is the second time I've ever seen you."  He partially disappears behind his desk as he pulls open a file folder.
  23. "I've been busy, sir."
  24. He lifts himself back up.  "So you have.  Near as I can tell, you've never not been busy."  I don't respond.
  25.  
  26. He sets down a brown folder and opens it up.  "Victor.  No family name or title.  Called by the other students 'just Victor,' 'Victor the Blade," he taps the sheet, "here's one I don't understand: 'Victor Ninety-eight."
  27. "It refers to my animosity index, sir."
  28. This makes his brow pull into itself over his nose.  "Odd, according to your report that should be 'Victor Ninety-nine."  I turn my head slightly and furrow my brow.  He taps the paper again, "Looks like it was a bit higher for your evaluations."
  29. I smile inwardly.  I'm one step closer to utterly besting James.  I'm almost tempted to write him a letter.
  30.  
  31. Erlinson leans back again, gazing thoughtfully at me.  "Tell me, Victor, what is an 'animosity index?"
  32. I don't enjoy being tested after my evaluations.  "It's a measure of emotional response to monsters, sir.  Specifically, what portion of it is hatred or disgust, as opposed to apathy or pity, or something worse."
  33. He hums in feigned thought.  "That's a lot of animosity."
  34. "It is, sir."
  35.  
  36. He slowly closes my folder and puts it away while he thinks.   "Tell me, Victor, have you been on the clock the entire time you've been here?"
  37. "No sir."  He lifts his brow.  "I've been sleeping for approximately a third of it, sir."
  38. This gets a laugh out of him.  "Fair enough.  But tell me, Victor, in that time have you seen any assaults or attempted rape?"
  39. "Not yet, sir."
  40. He nods and asks "Not even at the bar?"
  41. "No sir."
  42. He then gives a small snort of laughter as he smiles further, "Well then, Victor, I want you to do something for me.  I want you to take a day for yourself.  Just put on your civvies and relax for a day."
  43. "Must I, sir?"
  44. He smiles further as he thinks.  "Yes, I think you must.  Who knows, Victor, you might see things differently afterward."
  45.  
  46. I stand and am excused, all the while silently chewing on this.  This is the second time we've met, and I've once again seen the sickening implication that he's on their side.  At first I dismissed the possibility outright, but this time I simply have to include it in my report.  If someone of his position is compromised then it would certainly explain the state of Min.  I haven't seen any other patrolling paladins in the city, but before now I'd assumed that to be coincidence.  I can't assume that anything is now.
  47.  
  48. I stop when I get into my room, suddenly struck by an idea.  It makes me smile.
  49.  
  50. ---
  51.  
  52. I march up to the creature behind the counter.  It smiles when it sees me, then jumps when its eyes settle on my neck.  After that it simply stares, frozen under the weight of my advance.  I stop at the other side of its counter, staring it down.  It swallows audibly before finally working out an almost imperceptible "Can I help you, sir?"
  53. It jumps when I immediately ask "Where are your hoodies?"
  54. It lifts a wing to point into the men's section, "In the corner, sir."
  55. I smile at it.  "Thank you."  And then I turn, releasing it from my gaze.  I can hear it slump to the ground as I advance on my quarry.
  56.  
  57. Right, colors.  I have to actually pick something out now.  I don't want something colorful or striking.  More, it should just blend in.  Black is too stark.  Grey.  Grey will do.  I start to put back one that's a size too large, but then I think better of it.
  58.  
  59. The thing's getting back onto its feet when it spots me marching toward it again.  "I want this."  It nods quickly, muttering something under its breath.  "What was that," I growl.
  60. It cringes and siezes up, half-shouting "It's on sale!"
  61. I smile at it again.  "Good."
  62.  
  63. I pull up the hood as I walk back out into the city.  Pulling it over my sword makes the handles stick out oddly around the neck, but for the most part it keeps my collar and my blade out of sight.  The change is immediate.  There are no random pauses or stopping as the creatures simply go about their lives.  Humans only stop to glance at me, while the monsters crane their necks to try and peer at my face.  I'm not a paladin in their eyes.  They aren't keeping their guards up anymore.  If they want to play the part of wolves in sheeps' clothing, then I'll be a hunter in the same.  
  64.  
  65. And then I walk.  I walk through the streets, into the shops, and in the restaurants when I rest my legs.  Each of them turn, smile, or wave while trying to probe my hood for my eyes.  Each one either plays the parts of sweet and innocent maiden or else openly flaunts their state as inhuman seducers.  I, for my part, simply walk and wait.  None of these things are my targets.  Not yet.
  66.  
  67. For now it's violently disgusting, and I want to be gone from this place.
  68.  
  69. ---
  70.  
  71. "You look sour," the spike-eared girl tells me.
  72. "Duly noted."
  73. She furrows her brow and pouts at me.  "You always come in here, but you never talk."
  74. "I like the quiet."
  75. She studies me for a while, sitting across from me at my table as though I'd asked for her company.  I'm assuming that it's simply some elven custom, if only to dampen my annoyance.  "Do you like writing," she asks suddenly.
  76. "Not right now."  Reporting on a superior leaves a sour taste in the mouth.  
  77. This, for some reason, seems to anger her.  "That's no good," she half-shouts.  "You should always enjoy telling stories!"
  78.  
  79. I stare at her, tempted to simply leave and find a different spot to write my report.  "This isn't a happy story."
  80. "Then make it one."  It's so simple to her that she doesn't even need to think through the answer.
  81. "That's not an option."
  82. "Sure it is!  You just need to look at it from a different perspective.  It can be a happy story if you look at it differently."
  83. "Tea."
  84. She tilts her head, "What?"
  85. "I want more tea."
  86. She pouts again even as she stomps off to the kitchen.
  87.  
  88. I put down the pen and rest my sore fingers, watching the sun slowly sink toward the sea.  When it does, I'll head out and see if the things don't grow bold in the absence of their own hunter.  For now, though, I'm going to enjoy my tea and my silence.
  89. "Hey, do you like musi-"
  90. "No.  No I don't."
  91. She whines plaintively.  "You're no fun."
  92.  
  93. ---
  94.  
  95. I stop at the corner of the street, watching the building with the garish neon sign.  The small lot in front of The Broken Tail is half-filled with cars, and empty of people.  They're all inside.  What little music is slow and quiet.  This isn't a hunting ground for predators; it's a place where the broken gather to drink, and to keep drinking until they're done.  Only the one base urge is being satisfied.  I keep walking; this place isn't what I'm looking for.
  96.  
  97. I pass from streetlight to streetlight, peering down alleyways and smaller roads.  They're all strangely empty, and the lights in the buildings lining them are all out, giving the city the feeling of a ghost town.  It's like a ruin that simply hasn't crumbled yet.  Whoever lives and works here must've already adapted to the monstrous horde, instituting their own curfew.  This bodes well for me; it means that I'm not out here for no reason.
  98.  
  99. I turn down one of the alleyways, heading toward the Frigid Succubus.  The light shifts before I'm halfway through and I come to a stop, peering into it.  The light shifts again, reflecting off of something on the other side of the alleyway.  I advance slowly, trying to figure out what exactly I'm seeing.  And then the thing stumbles forward, and I recognize it for what it is.  The Arachne shifts slightly into the light, staring at me as intently as I'm staring at it.  Only one of its main eyes is actually open, and it's still holding a paper cup in one hand.  I hear a long, drunken "Hmm," as it confirms its suspicions.  "Wad'z a buh-oy doinnng here?"
  100. For a moment I consider if this thing is what I'm here for, but it doesn't last long.  It's just a pathetic drunk - those are no different across species.  "Walking," I answer, and then follow through with.
  101.  
  102. It tries to sidestep me and instead stumbles and collapses into my path.  "Notsso fa- ohey," it smiles as its eyes refocus, "y'ur ky'nna cue-ute."  It leans forward, dropping its coffee to pull its shirt down more with a black, chitinous hand.  
  103. "Duly noted."  I start to move around the thing when it happens.  I see the black spike moving toward me with inhuman speed and my reflexes take over.  My head feels a chill from the night air.  My hand grips a hard, leather wrapping.  My boots are splattered with warm blood.  The black spike falls to the ground.
  104.  
  105. The thing stares at me, suddenly sober.  Its eyes rest on my neck, now visible with my hood thrown off.  They turn to my blade and the limb resting on the ground, then to the stump from which red blood now flows.
  106. It shrieks, and I almost swing again out of reflex.  It stumbles backward, even more unbalanced, before lurching out of the alleyway as quickly as it can manage.
  107.  
  108. I simply watch, unable to get my bearings with it around.  The vile appendage cools in a pool of the thing's blood.  The same blood on my blade.  The blade that cut it open.  I take a deep breath, trying to clear my head and settle on what I should be doing now.  It attacked me, obviously.  It had tried to pin me with that leg.  It was nothing more than a rapist, one that I've cleansed from this city.  I should finish this.
  109. My stomach twists itself into knots as I set forth, following the trail of blood.
  110.  
  111. The trail is so thick that I barely need any light at all to follow it.  The thing lurched from side to side, occasinally stumbling into a wall, before lurching down another alleyway on the opposite side of the street.  I see the slight reflection of light from its carapace, and I advance.
  112.  
  113. I come to a stop before it, and my already tense and roiling stomach threatens to turn.  It rests on its side, the remaining legs have all curled inward and wrapped around itself, and the human-half has pulled inward with them.  Its arms clutch its body with its hands pressed into its chest.
  114. Its face is still twisted with pain and fear, and a wet trail lines its cheeks.  It doesn't blink.
  115. It doesn't move.
  116.  
  117. It doesn't take long to realize that I have nothing more to do here.  I'll report this to Erlinson.  He'll report this to the police.  They'll verify the events.  I lift myself back up to my full height.  This is simply one less rapist in the world.  I defended myself, and in so doing I've protected every other man that this thing would have attacked.
  118.  
  119. A feminine voice asks, "Did you?"
  120. I turn with a start, staring back down the alleyway.  It didn't come from the alleyway, but it didn't come from anywhere else, either.  I squeeze the leather grip more tightly.
  121. "Wasn't she just trying to stand up?"
  122. I look upward, scanning every possible point from whence the voice could come.  "Who's there?"  Nothing answers me.  I finally turn back to look at the body.  
  123. More quietly, the disembodied voice asks "Is this really what you wanted?"
  124.  
  125. The only sound to follow is the slow drip of blood into its growing pool.  I back away, slowly, as though the voice would start again if I moved too quickly.  Whatever it was getting at, wherever it came from, my nerves are shot and I don't want to deal with it again.  I pull an old, regulation phone from my pocket.  The voice that answers is one that I recognize from the hall.  "Paladin Thomas, this is Victor.  I have defended myself at an alley between Reginald and Percival Street.  The thing's body is off of Percival."
  126. There's a pause before he finally answers, "Noted, sir.  Autocrat Erlinson says that he'll be there in a few minutes."
  127. "What?"  That's not regulation.  He doesn't need to be here.
  128. "That's just what I've been told, sir."
  129. I stare at the phone for a moment, then stare out at the road.  This has been a long and confusing day, and I don't like where it's headed.
  130.  
  131. True to his word he's pulling out of a well-maintained, twenty-something-year-old car within five minutes.  He has a phone pressed to his ear as he answers, "Yeah, Sam, same drill as always.  One of my boys had to defend himself off of Percival, near the Frigid Succubus.  No, I'll be here for this."  He smiles at me as he pulls the phone away before it blares out in tinny noise.  "Yeah, Sam, you can chew my ear off when you get here; we both got work to do."  With that he finally puts away the phone and sighs, "Well, the police mare'll be here soon.  So, what did you think?"
  132.  
  133. I simply stare at him, confused.  "Sir?"
  134. "It's different in plainclothes.  They don't keep up their act; the pure, innocent, harmless little things go right back to being the animals they were before the war.  The ones that'll insist that they're 'not at all like the others' will all hunt you down at the drop of a hat when they think they can get away with it."
  135. I've heard something like this before.  I've seen something like this before.  "Sir, were you a heartbreaker?"
  136.  
  137. He smiles and answers, "You know, I was quite the charmer when I was your age."  That's all the answer I need.  Heartbreakers, also known as the Order of the Twisted Knife.  Also called ravens for the stylize raven on their seal.  They were known for having some of the highest indexes among the orders, and yet also hiding their hatred.  They lured monsters in before the war, seducing the seducers, before killing them when they had their guards down.  It was extremely dangerous, and required exceptional skill at subterfuge.  
  138.  
  139. He watches the gears turn in my head for a moment before smiling further, "Still worrying that I've fallen to their side, Victor?"  I slowly shake my head while he leans over and peers down the alleyway.  "So then, what was it?  Minotaur?  Amazon?"
  140. "Arachne."
  141. His face twists in displeasure.  "Oof, that's unfortunate.  Those things bleed like there's no tomorrow.  All that blood flow's what keeps their legs movin' you know."
  142. "I know, sir."
  143.  
  144. He turns and walks back to his car, "Well, now you've seen how to actually get the things, so next time we'll follow standard protocol.  With that said, I think everyone's first time should be celebrated."  He open up the backseat and reaches in, calling out "It was a tradition for Ravens, but I think it should be a tradition for everyone."  He lifts himself back out and closes the door, holding a reflective, bottle-shaped package.  "So here you are, Victor."
  145. He offers the thing, and I take it.  The aluminum crinkles in my hand as I turn it to look at the note stuck to the side.
  146.  
  147. "CELEBRATING YOUR First Blood,
  148. FROM a Happy Autocrat
  149. TO Victor"
  150.  
  151. His hand lands on my shoulder as I look at it.  "Take the night, Victor.  Rest, relax, have a drink.  You can get back to work in the morning."  I hesitate, thinking of the voice that called out to me.  "Anything else?"
  152. "No sir.  Thank you sir."  I step, salute, turn, and walk off back toward the hall.
  153.  
  154. I drop the bottle off at a trash can on the way there.  Alcohol lessens the reflexes.  I need to stay alert.  Clean.
  155.  
  156. Pure.
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