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Day 26

Lanternon2 Aug 1st, 2015 (edited) 900 Never
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  1. Day 26
  2.  
  3. "So?  How did it go?"
  4. "My first full moon?"  
  5. "Yeah!  Regale me with your exploits, oh noble paladin."  Ember grins, stretching her freckles into thin lines along her cheeks.  
  6. "It went fine, I guess.  I found a dozen monsters, all of which immediately apologized for being out past curfew and went straight home."
  7. Her smile fades, before resurging.  "Wow, so you just gave them a look and they ran off with their tails between their legs."
  8. "Yes.  Literally, for two of them."
  9. "Think that's how it'll be for all of your moons?"
  10. "No.  Next time I'm going out with my hoodie."
  11. Her eyebrows shoot upward.  "Oh wow.  I wish I could be there to see that show."
  12.  
  13. "And you?"
  14. Her head flops backward over the back of her chair as she sigh-growls in exhaustion.  "Studies for years."
  15. "Doing well?"
  16. She wraps her head around, simultaneously showcasing her flexibility and giving me a dirty look.  "You know I am."
  17. I laugh.  She laughs.
  18. "Anything else going on around here?"
  19. Her expressions clouds slightly.  "Lots of rumors lately.  People saying that Caithness is starting to prep for war."
  20. "Nonsense.  They'd lose in a minute, and they know it."
  21. "Their president's saying that we've fallen under the control of monsters."
  22. "And if they believe him then they deserve him."
  23.  
  24. The conversation dies down.  Regardless his stupidity, if they're actually starting to prepare for war it'll still mean casualties.  We've mastered the art of killing monsters, but how long has it been since we've had to fight other men?  We haven't been training or arming for that since the last great swell of monsters three hundred years ago.  Our armies aren't psychologically prepared to kill other human beings.  That takes training, and Caithness has, historically, always attacked by surprise.
  25.  
  26. "Are you heading out after this," she suddenly asks.
  27. "Yeah.  Can't leave the things alone for too long or they'll think that they can go back to what they were doing before."  I take a sip of my coffee as she sits and thinks.
  28. "And you?"
  29. "What about me?"
  30. "How're you holding up?"
  31. For a moment I wonder if she's heard anything about me in my absence.  "As well as ever.  It actually feels pretty good to set boots to pavement and get to work."
  32. She smiles, "Yeah, I imagine."
  33. "Relax, you'll be working for the corps soon enough, and then you'll be astounding everyone almost as much as I am."
  34. Her grin stretches wide again.  "Always gotta win at everything, don't'cha, Victor?"
  35. "Ha ha."
  36.  
  37. ---
  38.  
  39. The trees slide past, one after the other, as though marching by at different speeds.  The rain makes the vision so distorted that, for a moment, I could almost convince myself that that is what I'm watching.  It's hard to stay awake as they pass, as the rain patters on the metal roof and the tracks cause the gentlest trembling throughout the cars.
  40.  
  41. I don't want to rest, though.  Not while I'm going back to that place.  Not while I can hear the murmurs of the couple in the compartment next door as they frolick in their senseless, subhuman lust.  Not while my mission has only grown more dangerous.
  42.  
  43. Fortunately, there's an easy way to forget the quiet comfort of the traincar itself.  I look back from the window, to the pair of eyes that's been staring at me for the past hour.  "Out of curiosity, do you blink?"
  44. "Sometimes," the short mantis states.  That it has a sense of humor doesn't make my position any more comfortable.  I turn to stare back out the window and watch the lines and rivulets of water race at random speeds toward the back of the car.
  45.  
  46. "Are you afraid of getting married," the thing interrupts, offering only a virtually unnoticeable change in tone to imply that it's asking a question.
  47. "No."  In hindsight, I should've just told the thing to find a seat elsewhere.
  48. "Then why do you wear that thing(?)"
  49. "This 'thing' is why I'm not."  It goes quiet again, for almost long enough to let me think that I won't have to keep talking to it.
  50. "I am."
  51. I stare at it as it stares back at me.  It doesn't look like it's lying, but then, I'm not sure its expression would change if it just claimed to be king.  "Then don't."
  52. "I don't want to, but I will someday.  Soon, probably.  And then whatever I feel now will change."
  53.  
  54. My brow slowly pulls itself toward the center of my face.  Am I listening to a monster having a crisis of puberty?  Is that what's happening here?  And why?  "Did your mother teach you to talk with random strangers like this?"
  55. "She said my life would be much easier if I spoke to men early and often."
  56. "To help you get married."
  57. "Yes."
  58. "But you don't want to," I confirm.
  59. "I don't want my personality to change that much without my willing it to do so."
  60. "Have you considered talking to a fertility mage?"
  61.  
  62. I'm counseling a monster.  The thought draws me even further out of what was once a tired reverie.  It's almost like combat; my senses are all honed and aware of my exact position and hers.  I didn't even notice shifting from a conversation to counseling.  It was so surreal to begin with.  And yet, I find myself smiling as it cocks its head a millimeter to the side.  "Why?"
  63. "Well, your instincts will only flare up if you're fertile, right?"
  64. One set of eyes turn to the window in thought.  "I suppose."
  65. "Then just have a spell performed to render you barren, and change it back when you want to change."
  66.  
  67. It looks down to its knees, its human eyes focused.  I try not to catch my breath.  Did I really just manage this?  Did I just convince a monster to remove itself from the gene pool?  Have I ended this thing's attempt at rape and kidnapping before it even considered doing so?
  68. "I think I might," it announces suddenly.  "Thank you.  You're very helpful."
  69. I smile, and I try very hard not to make it as lethal as the one I usually give these things.  "I'm a paladin; it's what we do."
  70. "Would being infertile help you, too?"
  71. I shake my head, suddenly much more relaxed about sitting three feet away from this insectoid sub-human.  "Not at all.  Nothing that would hunt me couldn't reverse the spell with enough time and demonic energy.  The church tried that millenia ago."
  72. "That's unfortunate."
  73. "We know."
  74.  
  75. That was the strangest, most cordial thing I've ever been involved in with one of these things.  Maybe it was that this one didn't want to be a rapist.  Perhaps there's a possibility that some of them want to be better than what they were born to be.  I hadn't even thought it possible.
  76.  
  77. The rest of the ride is blessedly silent.
  78.  
  79. ---
  80.  
  81. There are flowers on my kitchen counter.  
  82.  
  83. I slowly draw and ready my blade.  I don't keep flowers in my kitchen, and they wouldn't be fresh even if I did.  I take a few cautious, silent steps in so that I can peer down the hallway.  Seeing nothing, I move forward.  It's either in my bathroom, or in my bedroom -- assuming it's here at all.  I don't let the possibility lull me into calm.  I round the corner on my bathroom, finding it empty, save for a new bowl of potpurri.  That just leaves one option.
  84.  
  85. I swing the door to my bedroom open, and find it as empty and as spartan as I left it.  The closet, with its singular hoodie, sits open.  I'm almost certain I left it closed.  The only object in the room in my bed, which looks fine.  Mostly fine, anyway.  There's something-
  86. The doorbell rings.
  87. Why is the doorbell ringing?  Who needs to talk to me?
  88.  
  89. I march back to my door and pull it open, and there the thing sits.  "Hello master," it beams, wearing its stupid outfit and acting wanted.  The realization is instantaneous and sickening.  The kikimora standing here did it all, and now it's back to try to taint my soul.  The abomination happily announces "I'm Elsie, and I'm your new mai-"
  90. "The hells you are," I snap.  It jumps slightly as I growl out, "How did you get into my home?"
  91. "I," it starts, panicking slightly.  "I got a key from the mana-"
  92. "Give it to me."  I thrust out one of my hands as the other tightens around my sword.  It responds immediately, fishing around in a small pocket on its chest.  "H-here!"
  93. The key is no sooner on my palm than I bark "Out!"
  94.  
  95. And it's gone.  My heart is still pounding at my ribs, and I can swear there's a crawling sensation on my hand.  I turn and quickly make my way into my kitchen and toss it into the trash.  It was only a few seconds, and I know it takes weeks for one of those things' taint to change a man, but I still can't help but feel violated.  I've read all about Kikimoras, as one of the most subtle and vile violators of human dignity.  So insidious was their mind altering magics that for centuries we didn't even know if it existed or not, forcing us to consider the possibility that humans -- even the most dignified and honorable among us -- had an inborn urge to mate with monsters.
  96.  
  97. And now one of them is seeking me.  But why?  With the shield around my neck, what does it hope to accomplish?  The constant weight that's slowly bruised my collarbones has never been more comforting to me.
  98. Wait a minute.  I return to my bedroom and eye my bed again.
  99.  
  100. That worthless piece of trash.
  101.  
  102. It fucked up my hospital corners.
  103.  
  104. "Hey!  Master Victor!"
  105. I grind my teeth and march back to the half-open door.  "Don't call me that!"
  106. "All right!  I have dinner for you!"  
  107. I lean out the door, glaring at it as it stands right outside of what seems to be its own and holds a plate of meats and cheeses.  So we're neighbors, is that it?  Are you having a good belly laugh at my expense, fortune?
  108. "I have my own."
  109. Its smile returns, though hesitantly.  "Don't bother lying, ma- sir.  You've only got four slices of bologna," it chirps.
  110. "Exactly.  Two for tonight, and two for breakfast tomorrow."
  111.  
  112. For a second it looks like it's about to drop the plate.  Its smile disappears in an instant.  One hand rises up to cover its open mouth as its eyes grow wide and misty.  It weakly shakes its head as its mouth starts to move.  "But- but no," it waveringly refutes, as though it were answering a question.
  113.  
  114. I step outside and lock my apartment.  "Don't talk to me again, and don't you dare touch my things.  If I find you in my apartment, I will protect myself, am I clear?"
  115. It steps back into its apartment, "ye-"
  116. "I said don't talk to me," I repeat, staring murderously at it.
  117. Its door closes very quickly.
  118.  
  119. I march to the main office barely a half-minute away and lean into the door to see the mutant fox-thing lazing back in its office chair.  "No one gets a key without my express permission."
  120. It sits up with a start, "I- what?"
  121. "If I find someone in my apartment, and I don't know who they are, their blood is on your hands."
  122.  
  123. And with that I'm gone.
  124.  
  125. This whole damned city needs to realize that this isn't acceptable.
  126.  
  127. ---
  128.  
  129. I stare at the covered plate sitting in front of my door.
  130.  
  131. I'm too damn tired for this.  I stick the tip of one boot under the raised edge and, with a kick, send it over the railing and down to the ground.
  132.  
  133. Then I go to bed, re-ruining my hospital corners in the process.
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