Kioshi Origin 1

December 25th 2015, Early Morning

“You useless piece of shit!” A shout shattered the silence and I woke up as Nana was shoved into the room.

I pushed myself to an upright position just in time to see Boss throw Nana against the table. She cried out and collapsed to the ground. I started to stand but Boss pointed his shaking finger at me, “Don’t you move, boy.”

I froze and sunk to my knees as Boss dragged Nana to her feet by her neck. “You think you’re more important than my reputation, kid?” Nana didn’t struggle, struggling only made things worse. I felt my nails dig into my knees. In the silence of the night, I could hear her gasps for breath in between his words. “You’re not even worth the upkeep!” Even in the darkness, even with the few feet of distance I could see the veins on the back of his hand pop out as he tightened his grip on her throat. Her legs started to kick and she started to claw at his forearm.

She’s going to die.

The thought had barely come to my mind before I transported onto Boss’s back, my arms wrapped around his neck, squeezing tightly. Nana fell to the ground and for some reason I didn’t know, I still held onto Boss. Even as he pulled on my arms and backed up, slamming me into the wall. Part of me, a large part of me, was still kneeling and watching everything unfold. I didn’t feel any pain, but even still I think I was crying. Or maybe I just wanted to. My vision narrowed until all I saw was a small square of Boss’s dark brown hair and my skin burned were my forearms touched his neck. I held on and held on and held on.

Until I heard my name being called over and over, “Kioshi! Kioshi! Kioshi!” I realized the burn on arms was a cold one and there were warm hands on my back. I blinked a few times. Boss was under me, not moving. Nana was shaking my shoulders and calling my name, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Kioshi, he’s dead!”

I stood up, stumbled on legs that weren’t all there, and collapsed against Nana. Wrapping my arms around her and squeezing tightly, I transported us away.

December 25th 2015, Early Evening

I woke up with my head in Nana’s lap. Her body hunched over me, shielding my head from the rain. When her eyes locked with mine, tears started pouring, “What are we going to do?”

I had no answer so I rolled over, wrapped my arms around her, and buried my face in her stomach…

“Rain on Christmas fucking sucks!” The sound of a young man’s voice, startled me into squeezing Nana tighter and turning us both unseeable. But I was still tired from transporting us and the unseeability wore off quickly and the two teenage boys saw us as they rounded the street corner. They stopped, “Are you okay?” the blonde one asked.

I jumped to my feet, holding Nana’s hand, dragging her with me as I started to run.

But I hadn’t run since before Boss, since before the Syndicate, since before my legs became like a cat’s. Pain tore through my legs and I fell, pulling Nana down with me. My heart beat rapidly as their footsteps quickly chased us down. The blonde one, his pale face red with cold, put a gloved hand on my shoulder, “Are you okay? Let us help you.”

December 26th 2015, Morning

I sat on the bathroom floor with my back against the sink as Nana threw up into the toilet next to me. Quiet voices drifted through the door, “We can’t just keep useless stray.”

“Come on, Reese. The girl is pregnant.”

“All the more reason to kick them out now! Cause we sure as hell don’t have room for three!”

“Kioshi?” Nana asked, her voice rough from the burn of puke. “I’m not going back. If they don’t let us stay, then I choose to die.”

I couldn’t respond to her…

I heard the sound of a palm connecting with skin, “If I had said that when you needed the Phantoms, where do you think you’d be now?” An unfamiliar woman’s voice cut through me. I found myself standing up and starting for the bathroom door, wanting to listen closer. As I reached my hand out for the door, it was thrown open and in strode a woman with tan skin and frizzy gray hair. “Welcome to the Phantom’s! Please call me Mother!”

December 27th 2015, Afternoon

I sat on the double bed Nana and I now shared in the Phantom’s worn down home, Nana’s head in my lap. Her long black hair and rabbit ears splayed across my legs as she hugged my thigh as she slept.

A light knock came at our bedroom door. I put a hand over Nana’s ears and answered, “Yes?”

The door opened slowly and the blonde one, Aaron, poked his head into the room. “Hey Kioshi, Nana – Oh.” His voice became softer when he saw Nana laying down. “I have some clothes for you guys.” He set a bag down and closed the door behind him.

January 1st 2016, Midnight

Sparkling grape juice spilled over my hand as Reese clinked his glass against mine. “Happy New Years and welcome to the Phantoms!” I flinched at the loud laugh Reese barked out.

He’s drunk.

Drunks tend to be rougher.

I scooted my chair a little bit away from him, closer to Nana, who was staring down at the worn table, her glass of sparkling grape juice untouched in front of her.

My heart jumped at the sound of a glass being put down too harshly. I looked across the table at “Mother”. Her hand held her glass loosely and she watched me intensely, her gray eyes cold and unblinking.

January 1st 2015, Early Afternoon

I didn’t sleep. As “Mother”, Aaron, and Nana went to bed shortly after one in the morning and Reese passed out drunk on the worn out couch in the living room right off the dining room, I stayed awake. Sitting at the table. Even when Reese woke up at four and passed me on his way to bed, I stayed.

We were useless. Dead weight. What could we even do for them, none of them even seemed to want to fuck us. The room around me was cold and the furniture old and falling to pieces. They don’t have that much and they are sharing it with us. I put my hand over my crotch. What else could they want from us? What else am I good for?

The light filtered through the broken blinds as dawn broke. And I still sat. As the sun climbed higher and the sounds of the day happened outside, I sat.

After a few hours, the coffee maker began to drip in the kitchen behind me. “Kioshi? Have you been here all night?” Aaron’s voice was tired and hoarse as he called to me from the  kitchen. I turned around to face him.

He wore an old stained T-shirt and boxers. His blonde hair was messy, falling into his eyes and his slender fingers were wrapped around a chipped coffee mug. I’d never seen him not wearing gloves.

“Have you been here all night?” He repeated, coming closer. I nodded and he frowned. “Is everything okay?”

“What do you want from us?”

He set his mug down on the table, rubbing the back of his neck and shaking his head. “Nothing really… I mean if you want to stay forever, you’ll have to pull your own weight eventually, but we’ll teach you everything you need to know.” He smiled down at me, the dimples on his cheeks so deep I thought I might get lost in them.

“All I’ve ever been useful for is sex…”

The chair beside me creaked as Aaron collapsed into it. I stared at his bare thighs as he folded his legs underneath himself. “Mother was right… You’re one of the Syndicate’s… Hey, look at me!” He snapped his fingers in front of my face, pulling my eyes up to meet his serious, determined ones. “The people who told you that are fucking liars, okay? You are worth so much more.” His eyes frosted over, “And if anyone touches you without your permission ever again… I will kill them myself.”

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The Valkyrie’s Daughters: Part VI

The Valkyrie’s Daughters

Part VI:  Clique

Avery and I went to the cafeteria and looked around the options. Much to my dismay, they didn’t have curry, so I joined Avery in the fast food line.

“What are you getting?” I asked them.

“They have chicken nuggets.” They said with a smile, it came their turn and they ordered. “Look at them, this one looks like a heart!” They said receiving their plate, all happy and bouncy. “Is it bad if I only eat these and don’t get anything else?”

“Maybe a little. But if it’s just this once, it’s okay.” I laughed. “No curry here so I guess I’ll have some nuggets too.” The cook took my order along with fries, but they didn’t have curry ketchup, just the regular kind, which was a shame. “Do you see anyone?” I asked, once I had my food.

“Yeah, there’s my roommate, Drew. Do you want to meet her? She’s really awesome and she has these fire powers that are so amazing. She lit a candle from across the room yesterday. That was awesome. But then I smelled it and it gave me a headache and we had to put it out.” They spoke so quickly and excitedly, it was adorable. “Anyways, let’s go say hi!”

They started walking and we reached Drew’s table. She was all by herself, others were on the same long table a few seats away though. Drew was black like me, but unlike me her hair was the more the kinky type and made into little braids.

She was wearing dark blue jeans, a purple tank top under a green jacket, high heeled boots and her eyes had purple eyeshadow. A long crystal necklace hung from her neck, plunging toward her cleavage. She had style, I was kind of jealous.

“Hey Drew!” Avery said. “This is my new friend Michelle. Can we sit with you?”

Drew smiled at us, looking up from her wonton soup. “Hi Avery! Hi Michelle, nice to meet you, I’m Drew. Of course you can sit here. I was looking for you earlier but didn’t see you.”

“We took a detour at the house. I needed to change.” I explained.

“Drew, look! Michelle gave me a chewy necklace!” Avery added, pulling the necklace from around their neck closer to Drew.

“Okay, that’s cool.” She said to me, then looked at Avery. “That’s really neat Avery!” She then looked back at me. “How are you enjoying Ravenhold, Michelle?”

I nodded.  “I love it. I always wanted to be a hero, but I didn’t have powers until a week ago.”

Someone else came to our side. They were also black and they had this amazing multi colored afro. Their clothes were odd and patchworked. “Hi! Mind if I sit with you guys!” They asked. They carried this plate with a huge pile of food on it.

“Hey Riley!” Drew said.

“Hey!” I waved quickly at them. “What did you get?”

They sat down and for a moment I saw something on the corner of my eyes, like there was something on their shoulder, but when I looked at it there wasn’t anything there…

“Oh a little bit of everything. I’ve never seen this much variety in one place!” Riley said. “Michelle, right?”

They extended a hand, I looked at it for a moment before I realized they wanted me to shake it. I took it and shook it awkwardly.

“Riley! All my friends are here with me, this is great.” Avery said with a little excited clap. “Did you get chicken nuggets? They’re really tasty, like even tastier than my favourite ones from home.”

I took one of the nugget and popped it into my mouth. They were great. “Avery’s right.”

“Yes, I’m glad they’re good!” They dug around their mountain of food until they got to the nuggets.

We all enjoyed our meal for a moment. “What do you all think about the school?” I then asked.

“Everyone is so cool!” Riley said between two bites.

“Oh, can Michelle bake the cookies with us?” Avery asked.

“The more the merrier!” Riley said.

I looked at them and Avery explained. “We were going to have a cookie baking party after school. We’re making all kinds of cookies. Wanna join in?”

I wanted to, but I’ d already promised Ike we’d hang out. “Oh, I already had something planned with Ike this evening. We’re going fishing.”

“Aw, too bad. Maybe some other time. Have fun fishing, though.” Avery said.

“That sounds fun.” Drew said. “We’ll save you some cookies. What’s your favorite?”

“Chewy oatmeal cookies.”

“Awesome!” Drew answered. “I think we were already making some so that works out great!”

“Thanks.” I said with a smile. Fresh oatmeal cookies were like the best cookies ever. Too bad I couldn’t bake. “Do you bake a lot? I don’t know how. I’m not good at cooking.”

“I love to bake!” Riley said. There was a little puff of black smoke over their hands and suddenly they had a tiny notebook in hand. They wrote something and it disappeared in the same manner.

“That’s cool.” I mumbled.

“What? This?” Riley said, doing it again except now they had a bottle of water in their hand.

“Where did you pull it out from?” I asked.

“Hell” They answered. I couldn’t read their tone. Surely that was a joke?

“What?”

Riley shrugged. “At least that’s what Teddy tells me.”

“Teddy?” I asked.

“Not a lot of people can see him so I’m not surprised you can’t but…” They gestured to their shoulder. “My friend Teddy is here. He kinda gave me my powers.”

When they said that, I felt a little bit of tension in the air, it was hard to explain.

Were they teasing me? It was so hard to tell… I looked at Avery. Hoping they might clear things up.

Avery sighed. “Why is this the first time I’ve heard about this, Riley? That’s so cool! Seriously. Why didn’t you tell me this yesterday?”

Riley shrugged. “Just didn’t think to.”

“You seem serious.” Drew said. “I mean, that’s really cool. Hell is real? I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but…wow”

“Ah.” Avery said. “Well, from now on I’m reading your brain to see all the interesting facts you have stored up in there. Like, hey, you made friends with more demons than just Teddy.”

I turned to Avery. “Demons?”

“Yes. But they aren’t bad though!” Riley said.

Demons weren’t real… But Valkyries also weren’t real, but I was one… I really wasn’t sure of what to think anymore. Was this all a prank on me? They didn’t seem the kind to do that… I focused on my fries for a moment. I noticed Avery had already finished her food so I gave them some of my nuggets.

“Thank you for more chicken nuggets, Michelle. You’re my favourite!” Avery said.

I smiled at them. “You’re welcome.” My wings stretched and the next thing I knew the one on Avery’s side wrapped around her shoulder. When I realized what had happened, I pulled the wing away.

Avery giggled. “Michelle, we’ve been over this. Give me your wings back and never let go!”

I blushed at the thought. They wanted me to wing hug them. I’d never had someone want to be close to me like that. I wrapped that wing around their shoulder again, consciously this time.

“Better?” I muttered.

“Much! Thank you.” Avery answered. “They’re so fluffy and soft and warm! Riley, you gotta feel how soft!”

Riley looked at my wings. “They’re so pretty… can I touch them?”

Was it weird to let them? Was it weird to only have Avery? I carefully reached out with my wing over the table. Riley reached out and pet the white feathers.

“Your wings are gorgeous. I’m glad I’ve met you all, you’re so nice and welcoming.” Drew said, I offered her the chance to touch it and she agreed. “They’re soft.” She smiled. “Can you fly?”

“I just grew them last week, I’m still getting used to them and I only learned how to fly yesterday. I can carry people too, I’m strong enough that I lifted Ike into the sky this morning.”

“That’s really cool.” Drew said.

“Avery told me you control fire. That’s pretty cool too.” I said.“Can you fly? Like do a rocket thing some pyrokinetic do?”

“I probably could? I don’t know, I’ve honestly never tried.” She said.

“That’d be cool.”

“Yeah. I have pretty decent control over my powers, but I’ve never really had the chance to practice something big like that. It’s one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Ravenhold.” Drew said.

“How did you all get here?” I asked everyone. “I almost got killed by nazis.”

“I heard of it and applied so I could get away from my parents.” Avery said, looking down. The wing around her shoulder moved to be tighter around them. The move startled them but then they rested against the wing. “You’re my best friend, Michelle. I never had friends before but I’m pretty sure you’re the best one in all of history.”

“I try my best.” I said with a smile.

“I have a mentor and he recommended I come here.” Riley said.

“Ooh, who is it?” I asked. Mentors were rare nowadays, it wasn’t like the old days when to become a superhero you become someone’s sidekick.

“Tohu wa Bohu.”

My eyes went wide. “Tohu wa Bohu? From the Legion?” I squeed at the thought, if Riley was his apprentice, then maybe we’d meet him too!

Riley nodded.

“One of my reasons was kinda like yours Avery.” Drew said after a moment. “My grandmother is really conservative, so it’s a bit hard living with her, seeing as I’m a gay mutant…”

“That’s not good. But here it’s going to be better.” I said.

“I really hope it will be.” Avery said. “I just wish I could forget about them but seeing as that’s literally impossible, I guess I’ll settle for never seeing them again.”

“Me too. Ravenhold seems so much better already.” She said.

There was a little bell ringing and we looked at the source.

“Is that a desert cart?” Avery said.

“Looks like it.” Riley answered.

So we got up and lined up for desert. Hopefully, they had blondies, those were great.

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The Valkyrie’s Daughters: Part V

The Valkyrie’s Daughters

Part V: A Friend Like Me

Then, someone came toward me, a girl I think, she had short curly blonde hair and was wearing a baggy sweater and jeans.

“Uh, do you mind if I sit with you?” She asked. “I don’t really know anyone and I can’t seem to find my roommate and she’s the only one I really know that well and everyone else seems to have friends and I just really don’t want to talk to a group.”

I nodded a little, not quite verbal. Her presence at least served as a distraction.

“Are you okay? I’m Avery, I got by they/them.” So she was not a girl, I think… They sat down next to me. I noticed they weren’t looking at me, we were both just sort of looking a little off.

“Little shook.” I managed to mutter. “Michelle.”

They nodded. “Is that a stim necklace? I’ve always wanted one but Mom says they’re for freaks. I don’t think you’re a freak though. You seem nice. My parents just don’t get it.”

I nodded and smiled. Most people thought it was weird or gross… Maybe Avery was autistic too?

“My parents are just happy I stopped chewing my shirts.” I managed to say, the words were hard to say though. “Yours sound mean.”

“You’re right. They aren’t very nice. I was happy when I got accepted here. I wish I had one of those to keep myself from chewing my shirts.” The collar of their sweater had chew wear at the collar.”Do you have any other stim stuff?”

I frowned, I did, but not with me. “I have a spare, I don’t use it much, the octopus is just so good. I didn’t bring the rest. It was kind of an emergency exit…”

“Oh, man. Did you run away from a situation? I do that lots. I haven’t quite found a good hiding spot yet, or I’d share it with you.” They shrugged. “Have you seen the book collection in the living room? They have some pretty good ones and books usually help me stop feeling like I want to scream.”

Clearly they were excited by the books. They seemed so nice.

“I didn’t find one yet. And Wycked tried to kill me.”

They looked at me and I felt something odd, like a tingling in my brain.

Was that what I thought it was? “Is that you doing that? My head feels weird…”

“Oh, right, sorry. I didn’t mean to poke around, but you were just very sad and I didn’t think you wanted to talk so I thought that it would be better if I figured it out myself and I just really hate Wycked now so much and ignore her, Michelle. You’re a great girl and I really hope you defeat her one day and become super happy.”

I blinked. How much had they learned from reading my mind? It wasn’t like I had secrets, but it was odd… It had to come in handy, getting to learn stuff about people, being able to tell how they were.

“It does come in handy.” She confirmed out loud with a little laugh. “People tend to get upset about it though…”

“So you can read minds?”

“Yeah. I can also store a ridiculous amount of information. Like, I don’t really forget much anymore unless I really try hard. And I can hear from like kilometres away when I forget to turn it off. What are your powers?”

That sounded so useful, if I had their power, maybe I wouldn’t lose my things or forgot what I was supposed to do all the time. It took me a second to remember to answer her question.

“I fly! And eh… I guess I can hit things.”

“Yours sound better than mine. How could I even fight if I’m just normal? Ha, the one time I’m normal I’d rather be different. Strange.”

I took a moment to think. They were right, telepathy wasn’t the most superheroic power. Lots of villains were psychic, but not a lot of heroes… “That is a problem…” I conceded.

“Yes, I agree. I suppose I could someone who helps from the sidelines with planning and stuff. I just need to figure out how to read minds without people knowing I’m in there.”

“Practicing must be hard, people don’t like psychics.”

“Yes, that’s true. It gets frustrating sometimes. But listening is fun because I can hear heartbeats if I listen really closely, and they’re just so rhythmic and soothing. I like it.”

Maybe I could help. I thought. It wasn’t like I had anything to hide, and beside it’d be easier to be friend if they just knew me right away? I really hoped they were autistic too, I didn’t have any other autistic friend…

“Are you good at flying?” They asked. I’d gone quiet again.

“I only learned yesterday, but I practiced a lot last night.” I said with a smile. Just then, the bell announcing the end of class rang. “I guess we’re free now. I think it’s lunch time.” Just then I had an idea to make friends, hopefully it wasn’t going to be too weird… “Want to go to the house with me before we go to the cafeteria?”

“Yeah, sure. What kinds of food are there at the cafeteria?” They said.

“I don’t know. I hope they have curry, it’s my favorite thing.” I got up and we walked out along with everyone else.

“Maybe they have chicken nuggets? Those are good.”

I laughed a little. I too had my history with chicken nuggets. “I used to eat those all the time when I was young, it was one of the only things I liked.”

“When you were young? Aw man, I feel behind now. I still eat them all the time. They’re the best!”

“I’m better with food. Not so much with crowds and noise.”

“I’m a lot better with food too but chicken nuggets, Michelle. They’re great!”

I had to agree with them. “Nuggets are indeed amazing.” Whenever I’d have a sensitivity episode, nuggets had been one of my go to food along with potatoes and peanut butter sandwiches.

We split from the rest of group and headed to the house, which wasn’t far. We went inside and headed for Freyja and I’s little annex.

“Should I just follow you to your room or wait here or what do I do?” Avery asked.

I looked down at myself. My shirt was sweaty and had a few bloodstains from my cut. “I need to change shirt, so you should wait outside?”

“I’ll be out here waiting.”

I went inside my room and removed my shirt before putting another one on. It took a few minutes to get it correctly, having to get my wings to cooperate and fit inside the slits… When that was done, I looked through my drawer and found just what I wanted. I took it, clenched my hand around it and went back outside.

I came to face her, even looked her in the eye for a moment before focusing my gaze at her neck.

“You said you didn’t have one so I thought you might want it, if it’s not weird, I mean, I barely ever used it.” I handed her what I had gotten to her. It was a little purple rubber flower on a cord. Unlike my octopus, there was no obvious chewing marks. “Is it weird?”

“Are you sure? I don’t think it’s that weird. I would like to wash it before I chew on it though but that’s just because I would be nervous about dust or dirt or something. It’s very pretty. Can I give you a hug to say thanks?”

“Yes. I don’t use it. And I’ll take a hug.” I said. I opened my arms and waited for them.

Avery wrapped their arms around me and squeezed tightly. “I’m happy I made a new friend today! You’re really awesome.”

“You’re welcome!” I said, grinning. “I’m glad to have made friends too, I don’t have a lot back home, just Lina.”

I squeezed them and my wings wrapped themselves around them by instinct.

“Ooh! Your wings are soft and warm!” They said, which got me to realize what they were doing and pull them back.

“They kind of have a mind of their own sometimes.”

“Why did you pull them away? That was great! I loved it! I don’t have many friends either. Just Drew, she’s my roommate, and maybe Riley but I haven’t talked to them much.”

I put my wings back around them. “I don’t want to be overwhelming. How are they?”

“They’re great! It’s like a hug but it’s even better because it’s soft and everywhere. It’s almost as good as my weighted blanket! That reminds me, do you have one? I taught myself how to make them and I could probably make you one. They’re really great. Mine is purple and made with fabric like t-shirts so it’s really soft.”

“I left mine at home, I hope I can get it back soon. Let’s get something to eat now? Maybe we can meet Riley and Drew at the cafeteria.”

“Yeah, sounds good! I’m hungry.” They answered.

“But first, washing the necklace.” I reminded them.

We went into the kitchen and rinsed the flower thoroughly before Avery put it around their neck.

“There! I got it!” They had a huge smile on their face with I matched.

“I’m glad you like it. Now food. If we’re lucky they’ll have curry and nuggets. Maybe a nugget curry!”

“That’d be heaven!”

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The Valkyrie’s Daughters: Part IV

The Valkyrie’s Daughters

Part IV: The Ravenhold Education

We all rushed to the school and into our first class of the year, guided by the map on our tablet. The teacher wasn’t there by the time we came in so we all took a seat, me between Ike and Freyja.

A minute later the same woman with glowing skin that had showed us to our house came in. She was dressed in a black pantsuit that seemed to block out her natural luminescence.

“Good morning everyone.” She said, walking over to the whiteboard and taking a marker. “For those of you who were a little too excited to remember me guiding you around, my name is Valeria Contreras.” She wrote her name on the whiteboard before turning back to face us. “I’ll be your supervising teacher for the year, so if you need anything or have questions about the school, please come to me.”

The teacher decided our first class was going to be about the ethics of killing while caping. Which was wrong, but she insisted it was just a thought experiment and we should play devil’s advocate.

There was a lot of arguing back and forth and it was really hard to follow, especially since I wasn’t sure who was even talking most of the time. With so many people around, my ability to tell voices apart wasn’t really working…

One person I recognized arguing was Freyja. “They don’t get to escape from Jail.” She said.

I frowned. I hadn’t expected her to think like that. She was Valkyra’s daughter and raised by her… How could she support killing people?

“It’s not like escaping from Mingulay or the Freezer is easy.” I answered her. Prison was the right thing to do. What if there was a mistaken identity? What if they had information on other crimes? Killing was just wrong…

She laughed at me. “Tell that to the people who died on bloody Monday. You’d think a norse death goddess would understand grey morality.”

Everyone knew about the Bloody Monday incident of two-thousand, when the Xenobreed had destroyed Mingulay and released all its inmate to join their parahuman supremacist movement or die. But that had been a one time thing…

Then the teacher stirred the conversation on the benefit of not killing and thankfully some people had the right idea about what being a hero meant. Eventually we were dismissed and we left for our next class.

That class was the one I was looking forward to: Combat training. It was the class to become a hero, we’d learn to fight villains! We came into a dojo kind of place and I followed the others who sort of stopped in front of some benches before looking around.

Then our teacher came in. He was dressed in armor from head to toe, even his eyes were covered with goggles. The mask kind of looked like a bird. I had to stop myself from flapping right then and there. It was a hero, a real one.

“My name is the Rook. I’m your basic combat training teacher.” He declared.

Everyone knew the Rook! Or at least cape dorks like me did. He was one of the Raven family; they fought supervillains without having any powers, just gadgets and their fists, they were amazing. If there was anyone to teach us to fight, it was him.

“My job is to teach you the essential of how to survive through a fight, defend yourself, and protect others.” Rook continued. “To do that, I will not be pulling any of my punches, make no mistakes, you will get sore, bruised, maybe worse even. Hate me as much as you would like, but when I’ll be done with you, you’ll stand a chance to survive in the big bad world out there.”

That didn’t sound so fun, but it was for our benefit.

“To do that, I need to see what you are all made of. So you and I will have one on one fights, I don’t expect you to hold back. And do trust me, I suggest you don’t.”

Leo decided to question just how dangerous could the Rook be to him. So he got to go first, taking place in the middle of the dojo while a protective glass came out of the ground and separated us.

Within a few seconds Leo was down on the ground unconscious after getting kicked in the head. He woke up a few seconds later. He tried to get up but feel down, still concussed. Rook had Ike and a boy named Erik drag him to the school’s clinic.

“Your turn, bird girl.” Rook said, pointing at me with his staff.

I nodded. “Yes sir!”

“I like the enthusiasm.” He laughed. “Hope you can match it.”

We got ready, I took a fighting stance and Rook did the same. I opened my wings and let the magic flow through them. When he gave the ready, I flew at him, trying to punch him like I’d seen Valkyra do so many times.

He was so fast though. He stepped aside, grabbed my arm and tossed me down onto the ground. I fell on my back and felt a painful crack in my wings.

“Too slow.” He said, he let me get up before attacking. “Come on, show me what you’re made of, Valkyrie.”

My right wing hung at a weird angle and hurt. I stayed on my feet, I tried to swing some punches at him but he deflected them easily despite my enhanced strength.

“Is that all you’ve got?”

I grunted and tried to bull rush him only for him to trip my leg and send me down on the ground face first. The he kicked me right in the kidney and my body folded itself in half.

“Very disappointing. Come on, this can’t be all you’ve got?”

I got up and didn’t get to do anything before something wrapped itself around my legs, sending me down onto the ground again.

“That wasn’t fair. I wasn’t ready.” I said, trying to pull the rope off.

“No shit Sherlock, I’m here to prepare you for the outside world, Villains don’t play fair, they will kill you the first chance they get. Learn your weaknesses, adapt and overcome. That’s how you stay alive.”

He took out a knife, then grabbed me by the hair, raised my head and slid the knife across my cheek. I felt a warm and painful sensation followed by something wet. I touched my cheek and there was blood.

“You might be a brick, but you’re not indestructible. If you go in guns blazing everytime expecting strength and endurance to carry you, you will die.” He said. “You’re dismissed.”

I got the rope off, turns out it was a bola and walked back to the others.

“The new Valkyra, ladies and gentlemen.” Freyja announced with a slow clap.

I frowned, why was she mocking me? It was my first try… I felt myself tense and frustration build up in my head, it was like I was trapped and it started building up.

“Mom could heal her injuries if she focused on them.” She then said to me. “Let me reset your wing, I’ve done it before.” She didn’t wait for permission before grabbing my bent wing and forcing it back into place. “Now, focus, do the magic thing.”

Ike came to my side with a tissue, putting it to my bleeding cheek. “Are you alright?” They asked.

I nodded, I really wasn’t but I wasn’t feeling too vocal at the moment.

They didn’t get to stay at my side as Rook called them to fight.

I could feel the incoming meltdown, but I had to try… My body began a little rocking motion, back and forth. I called the power from my wing and I fiddled with it, it radiated through my body and the cut on my cheek felt better…

I popped my chewing necklace into my mouth and focused all my attention on the mechanical movement of my jaw and the sensation in my mouth, hoping to starve away the melt down.

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Broken Dream: Part VI

A Broken Dream

Part VI: Memento

The fights continued, Nalar the alien and Luke the cryokinetic were the closest to doing well, although they didn’t win.

Kioshi seemed to be calming down a little.

“Class is almost over, we’ll be out in a few minute tops.” I told him. It was just a few minutes before lunch.

“Is this what… all classes- all schools, are like?” He asked, looking at the current fight.

“No, not at all. I trained in boxing for a few months and the instructor didn’t do this. This Rook guy’s just a jerk.” I thought it’d help me be a better hero, but it had mostly taught me how weak and pain sensitive I was… But I wasn’t going to give up, I had to continue.

“Oh. Well I hope there  are less jerks like him here and more nice people like you.”

“Thank you.” I blushed a little at the compliment.

Rook gave us a quick run down; we sucked was the verdict, and he dismissed us seconds before the bell announcing the end of class rang.

“Guess it’s lunch time now. Want to go to the cafeteria?” I proposed.

“What’s a cafeteria?”

I blinked. I wasn’t sure what to chalk it up to; Kioshi not being american or him being a chimera? “It’s a place where you get and eat food.” I said and he nodded. “Have you never been to a school?”

He shook his head. “Not since I was a very small child. And that was in Japan.”

“Oh wow… I’m sorry.” There was a moment of silence as we followed the others walking out. His words only confirmed the human trafficking victim theory… “So, are you hungry?” I asked.

He frowned and it took him a moment to answer. “Yes.”

Most of the class went into the cafeteria. It was a rectangular building at the back of the central administration building. The place was pretty crowded and more people were coming in.

One side had rows upon rows of cafeteria tables while the other had seven food counters with signs and menus above them. One for italian food, one for fast food, a custom order sandwich place, a lebanese counter, a mexican one, a chinese one, and lastly there was one of those Japanese flat top grill.

“So, what do you like eating?” I asked Kioshi.

“Like? I just eat what I’m given…”

“Well, you have choices here.” I listed him all the options available.

“Japanese? I haven’t… it’s been so long…” He trailed off, chewing his lip.

As we took place in line, I was a little anxious. I’d never tried Japanese food before so I had no idea what I was in for. Well, I kind of had, mom would sometime get sushi and I’d tried it once but the wasabi hidden between salmon and rice had been one of the worst experience of my life…

Not far ahead of us in line, I saw an Itharii was talking to the chefs. They were these small amphibian aliens that had arrived on earth as refugees fourteen years before. I’d seen some before, but his one was different. In addition to the orange skin and the black spots, they had these odd glowing blue lines coursing through their body. Clearly they were just as confused about the menu as I was.

There were a few things but the names were japanese without explanations. “Anything that interest you?” I asked Kioshi.

He was looking at the board and squinting, like he was focused. Could he even read english? I leaned toward him, whispering, “can you read the menu? I can tell you what’s on it if you need.”

The was a little frustrated frown on his brow. “I can’t read it sorry, too many words I don’t know.”

I read the few options available outloud to him, a sign announced tomorrow’s dishes meaning they rotated options. “Are yakisoba noodles spicy?” I asked when I was done.

“No, or at least I don’t think… yakisoba, it’s good, I think.” He looked down. “My mother used to make it, I think.” These last words barely came out of his throat.

The Itharii ahead of us was served and the cook turned to us for our orders.

“Two yakisoba for us.”

“Would you like any miso soup, or gyoza, or both?” The cook asked.

“Eh…” I looked at Kioshi. “Do you want some?”

He just sort of looked at me then at the cook and then back at me, looking like he didn’t know what to say.

“Yes, both please.” I answered for both of us.

We got served and walked away from the counter. I looked around at the seats and they were pretty crowded. “So… Want to eat here or outside?” I asked Kioshi.

“W-Wherever you want!” The anxiety in the stutter was clear as day. Clearly he was a little overwhelmed…

“Well, it’s kind of crowded, so outside seems nice.” Avoiding crowds seemed for the better.

“Okay.”

We left the building and came into a park at the back of the school ground, furthest away from the entrance gate. I looked around a little and found a bench a little way from the main path. I sat down and put my platter on my lap only to see Kioshi was standing, looking at the bench like he was silently asking permission to sit next to me.

“Aren’t you going to sit?” A little nervous laugh left my mouth. This was kind of awkward and sad, Kioshi was clearly walking on eggshells like he was expecting to make a mistake and be punished for it…

He nodded and sat down. I turned my attention to the food, sniffing the plate, moving it around to make sure there wouldn’t be any surprise. There was cabbage, which I didn’t like, but apart from that the noodles looked and smelled okay. The soup and dumpling I was more afraid off. I grabbed a few noodles with my fork and put them in my mouth.

It was a little on the salty side, had a sweet note, and there was a little vinegary taste to it, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

“Not bad.” I declared.

“Itadakimasu.” Kioshi muttered. He took a bite and when he was done chewing there was this smile on his lips. “It’s good.”

I had to smile back. For a moment, he seemed happy and not scared. “Yeah, I could get used to it.”

There was a quiet moment as we both ate. Kioshi was surprisingly voracious for his small size.

“Y’know, it’s nice making a friend here. I don’t really have any back home…” I said.

“But you’re nice? Don’t nice people have a lot of friends?”

A little bitter snicker made it out. How I wished he was right and it was that simple… I mechanically moved food around my bowl for a moment. “I get bullied a lot back home, well not as much since I got my power… But I guess people don’t want to associate with me in case it’d extend to them.”

Kioshi looked at me, frowning and head tilted. “Bullied? A-associate?”

“Right…” I sighed. I couldn’t expect him to know complicated words in English. “People are really mean to me and others are scared to be my friend because the others might be mean to them too.”

“I’m sorry… there are a lot of mean people.” He said, the cat-like ears at the side of his head folded back.

“It’s alright, I’m here now. And not everyone was bad…”

“Gabe was nice? Like you? I hope he gets better, the world needs to keep as many nice people as it can.”

I felt a little tightness around my heart at the mention of his name. “Yeah, he was the kindest, sweetest guy I’ve ever met.” I answered after a moment.

We went quiet, filling the silence by eating some more. I dissected a gyoza, it was filled with cabbage, meat and smelled a little like ginger. I offered them to Kioshi, saying how I wasn’t going to eat them. He took them and ate them too.

“So, we have homeroom after lunch, maybe that’ll be more normal, it’s apparently English and maths combined into one.” I said after a moment, breaking the silence.

“There is so much to school, all I remember is coloring, and serving food and writing kana.”

“Yeah, it can get a bit overwhelming, but if you need any help, you can always ask.” I gave him a smile. “Unless it’s geography, I cannot for the life of me remember countries’ name and location.” I laughed at my own half-joke.

“Thank you. I’m happy you’re my roommate.”

“And I’m happy you’re mine and not someone like Gloria… Or Kayla, she seems nice but she’s kind of a lot to take in.”

He nodded firmly. We’d both noticed how they could be overwhelming or downright terrifying.

“So, do you like music?”

“I like Koto, my mother used to play it…”

“Koto”?

“It’s a…” He paused trying to find his words but failing.

I took out my phone and looked it up. It was a Japanese stringed instrument. “This?” I asked, showing him the picture.

He nodded.

I put on a koto video and when the musician first stroked the strings I saw his eyes light up with wonder.

“It’s beautiful.” I said.

Kioshi seemed a little too emotional to answer. I smiled and put my phone on his lap. For a moment we just stayed there, listening to the sound of a beautiful melody.

Broken Dream: Part V

A Broken Dream

Part V: Trauma

Ethics class ended and the second period of the day came. Instead of the classroom building, our class was held in one of the dojo. We loosely lined up by instinct close to some benches.

A moment later, someone came out. Unlike Miss Contreras who was dressed in a suit jacket and skirt, this guy was in full superhero costume. It was a dark rubber or leather looking armor with a bird cowl and stuff strapped to him everywhere. He even had a staff in his hand and his eyes were hidden behind red tinted goggles.

“Good morning students.” He said, then there was a little chuckle. “Oh how your morning will not be so good when we are finished today…”

He walked toward us and we lined up more properly.

“My name is the Rook. I’m your basic combat training teacher. My job is to teach you the essential of how to survive through a fight, defend yourself, and protect others. To do that, I will no be pulling any of my punches, make no mistakes, you will get sore, bruised, maybe worse even. Hate me as much as you would like, but when I’ll be done with you, you’ll stand a chance to survive in the big bad world out there.”

He paused, gauging our reaction, but nobody dared to argue with him.

“To do that, I need to see what you are all made of. So you and I will have one on one fights, I don’t expect you to hold back. And do trust me, I suggest you don’t.”

“So you’re Rook, huh?” Leo said, really cockily and visibly unimpressed, looking him up and down. He summoned some giant impractical looking floating sword out of nowhere and leaned against it.

“Alright, you go first.”

Leo and Rook took position in the mattressed part of the dojo and a transparent barrier raised itself, separating the benches from the fighting portion of the dojo.

I don’t know what I was expecting from Leo, he was clearly cocky, had this arsenal of weird swords, maces and stuff…

What I didn’t expect was for him to get hit right in the face from the getgo, pass out and have to be dragged back to the bleacher within seconds. He quickly came to, tried to get up, summoned more swords and then immediately tumbled down on his face.

“You’d think that thick head of yours would have protected you.” Freyja said.

Leo muttered something in answer but it came out all garbled.

“You two, get him to Doc Venus.” He said pointing at Ike and Erik. They didn’t question and carried Leo out who tried to walk by himself with mixed success.

Leo done with, it was time for others have their try and by and large they didn’t go well…

Most notably for me, was Gloria. For such a proud assassin, she didn’t do so well. She’d used her one trick, her poison that is, and when it failed she was out of options. Apparently she’d never learned how to take care of any kind of competent resistance.

Out of everyone of us, Vicky was the one who did the best. She’d grabbed a staff from a rack and jumped in with Rook, using her phantom double to aggressively press the offensive and play defense while she worked on undermining his balance and finding gaps in his defense. Another to do well was some black enby kid named Riley who could teleport around through portals.

When Kioshi’s turn came he went inside the arena and turned invisible. Rook announced the start of the match and for a moment nothing happened. Then the Rook swung his staff… and nothing. There was a pause and he did it again. Unlike with others, there was no banter from Rook, just focus.

After a minute or two, he threw his arm out behind him and Kioshi appeared, his thin arm in Rook’s grip. Rook flung him easily to the ground. Kioshi didn’t move as Rook moved to press his staff to his throat. He could’ve teleported but he didn’t, he stayed there.

“You’re officially dead, kid. Come on, scram.”

Kioshi didn’t move so Rook nudged him with his staff. That got Kioshi on his feet.

Rook came back to our line up, looked at us one by one. Then pointing his staff at me “Your turn kid.” He said. “Show me what you’ve got.”

I hesitated, then decided to take a staff from the rack like Vicky had. My power wasn’t exactly fighting material…

“Ready?” Rook asked once I was in the arena.

I nervously nodded.

He rushed toward me and I put the staff between us, the moment I felt him close enough, I froze him. His armor was good, but it wasn’t immune to my power. I hurried behind him and got ready to hit him.

It took about half a minute for the effect to wear off, but it felt like ten times more. His colors returned, his momentum too and with a swing of my staff I only hit him with the tip at his side. He expertly rolled with impact, getting up in a microsecond.

“Impressive trick.” He said. “What’s the range on that? You didn’t use it when I was further away.”

He quickly got some distance and took out a bola. He tossed it at me and I dove to the mattressed ground to avoid getting ensnared.

“Can’t dodge forever, kid.”

I got back to my feet only for smoke to fill my vision, it itched my nose and lungs a bit but that was it. At least it wasn’t tear gas. Then a second bola hit me. Its coils wrapped around my torso, tightening themselves around me and rubbing my shirt against my skin, I grit my teeth at the pain.

I wasn’t going to scream. I wasn’t going to cry.

There was a bang. Something hit me. It felt like a punch to the guts. I let out a ground.

Then another a second projectile hit me, making things even worse. I screamed.

Don’t cry. Don’t cry. I repeated to myself mentally, I couldn’t give him the satisfaction.

“If those were real bullets, you’d be dead.” Rook announced, coming forward. He untied the bola. “Get back in line.”

I was shaking from the pain, biting my own cheek hard as to not breakdown. I struggled to get back to my feet. I walked toward the others.

“You did well.” Someone said. My brain wasn’t in any state to recognize anyone.

Other words came to my ears, some whispered, some not;

“He’s a jerk.”

“These fights are so unfair.”

“Oh my god, you guys are so terrible for wannabe capes.”

I sat down on a bench, letting the pain lessen a little. When I came back to my senses, I looked around and saw Kioshi. In the excitement of watching the fights, he’d slipped away from the others and was curled up all alone in the corner.

I got up and walked toward him. “Are you alright?” I asked.

He didn’t answer. He didn’t move either. He looked toward me, but not at me. At least his chest was moving a little with each breath…

I sat down not far from him. “Kioshi?”

He blinked, looked sort of in my direction again. A choked out word came out of his mouth, again and again. “Sorry.” Tears started rolling down. “Sorry… Sorry… Sorry…”

“Jesus…” I muttered to myself. I’d had emotional breakdowns before, from my dad, from being bullied at school… So I knew what Kioshi was going through…

Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw others coming closer, having noticed us. “Let’s not crowd him please?” I raised a hand and they stopped. Maybe they’d thought I’d freeze them.

I turned back toward Kioshi. “Is there anything I can do?”

“I’m sorry… “ He said. “I’ll be good, I’ll be good…” He kept repeating the words, stuck.

I felt my stomach churn… Old memories stirred but I focused on Kioshi hoping to chase them away… What had been done to him?

It didn’t take long for the gears in my brain to turn, he was part cat. What if he wasn’t any paramorph but a chimera? I’d seen documentaries… Trafficked children experimented on, made part animal, used as slaves…

“Hey, it’s over Kioshi, you’re not going to get hurt.” I said, he didn’t quite react so I prepared myself. I could feel my whole body tensing up as I reached out with a hand. I half expected him to jump me when my hand touched his. I took it and gently squeezed it, my skin feeling like it’d been burnt from the contact.

It was like his whole body got shocked. This time he looked at me rather than toward me. He’d stopped muttering too. Then he turned his head away. “Thank you.” he muttered.

“It’s alright, you’re safe, and it’s over.”

“Thank you.” I was worried he was going on repeat but he wiped his tears away with his hands. He squirmed in place just a little.

I got up and offered him support to get up. “You’re welcome, I’ve had my shares of public breakdowns.” I smiled at him.

“I-It’s not as painful as be-before. I don’t know why I…”

“Befo—” I almost asked, but cut myself. “You don’t have to answer that.” Echoing the same words he’d told me.

He crossed his arms protectively over his chest, hunching a bit, but a sad kind of smile appeared on his lips. “I… Aaron told me no one would ever touch me again without my permission… I guess his promise doesn’t work if he’s not here…”

“I’m sorry…” I said, looking down at the thoughts of whatever might have happened to him. “I know how you feel… I’ll make sure nobody does it again.”

Renegade Part IV

Renegade

Part IV: Choices of Mate

After a long travel the day before, I did not stay up long. I woke up early and went downstairs without bothering to put on a shirt. Luke was still asleep by then and I left him to it.

When I came down, the smell of food tickled my nose. Others were already up and about. Two people were busy around the stoves; a dark skinned female and one whom I believed was a pale skinned male. They introduced themselves as Vicky and Ike respectively.

Just about the same time I did, Kayla the canine-being came down, they had a blue satin nightgown on. They yawned, mouth canine mouth hanging wide open. “Morning.”

“Greetings.” I said. Ike and Vicky served me food and I made sure to thank them, bringing my fist to my heart. “And I thank you for your service.”

“Yeah, what he said.” Kayla said, stacking quite an impressive amount of food onto their plate while yawning again. If the previous night had any indication, they were quite voracious.

“You said your name was Kayla, was it not?” I asked.

“Yep!” They said with a toothy grin. “Kayla Walker”

“Call me Nalar.” There was a pause before I decided to clarify the issue of their gender. “I believe that Kayla is a female name, is that right?”

“Traditionally, yes.” They said before filling their mouth with food. They kept talking even with their mouth full. “I use she/her or they/them pronouns. I consider myself a demigirl, something between girl and something else. That something else being wolf. And before you sit in silence out of politeness I got a dick and I want to keep it.”

Kayla’s forwardness took me by surprise, I’d learn that humans were rarely open about these kind of things as we Tzari were. “That is good to know?” I said, a little laugh escaping my throat. “I am not well versed in human gender norms, but would that make you transgender?”

“By most standards yes.”

A smile formed on my own lips. “On Resh we are called Rhaskru.”

“Now that is a fucking cool word!”

“It means Rhasnel’s kin, he is supreme lord’s husband, his sigil is our symbol.” I explained before showing them the tattoo I had on my arm. It was the solar sigil of Rhasnel.

“Whoa that’s so cool!”

“My species is very open to these things, something I have notice yours often is not.”

“My dad can be an asshole sometimes.” They said with a shrug. “But this school is pretty nice.”

I snarled at the thought of their parent not being supportive. “Should you need it, I could introduce him to Bardiche, teach him respect.”

In answer, they laughed. “He pretty much shuts up if I growl at him, he’s been a bit scared of me since I became a wolf and honestly it’s better that way.”

“I do have to ask, why turn yourself into a wolf?”

“Don’t I look great, no,  Awesome!? It’s what I always wanted to look like!” Kayla’s tail waggled from side to side in excitement as they spoke.

“That I cannot argue against, I do admit, you look quite well.” They were quite unique, quite pleasing to look at too. “You reminds me of the old gods of Resh I learned off.” In old historical archives, I’d learned that before they had turned to worship the creator the ancient Tzari venerated half-animal half-tzari creatures.

“That sounds so cool!”

“You know, you seem quite open.” I said, a grin forming. “I admit, most of the humans I have met were quite… Prudish, if I might say.”

“Why beat around any bushes? I’m not a fan of mind games or taking anything slow.”

“Then we have that in common.”

“You’re pretty interesting! I like you!”

“I must say, the feeling is mutual.”

“I wonder what it’d be like to have sex with an alien.” They mused out loud, looking at me.

“Perhaps you’d like to find out?” I proposed.

“Tonight?”

“I had no other plans, It seems I have now.”

“Okay!”

I finished my plate and then looked at the time. “Well, I better give Bardiche a last minute maintenance, I saw we have combat training today, I wouldn’t want him to be uncalibrated.”

“Have fun!” They said.

I went back upstairs and got Bardiche out as well as put on proper attire for the day. Luke was just waking up. “Others have kindly  prepared a morning meal for us all.” I informed him.

“Right.”

With that, I left him and went to a little living room that was upstairs, using the coffee table to hold my tools as I ran diagnostic and recalibrated Bardiche. After quite some time I decided to take a break and went downstairs. As there was little time remaining before our first class of the year began, the kitchen was almost empty save for one green haired human male who also had horns and a forked tail.

I sniffed the air and the sweet aroma of coffee came to me. It was just what I needed. I walked to the machine which thankfully was still half filled. I looked around for a cup and saw one on the dish rack further away.

Rather than walk, I opted to try Bardiche’s calibration. I took him off my back and aimed him at the rack. “How about a little test run, Bardiche? Get me a Cup.”

Bardiche’s orb came to life. “Yes, Sir. Manipulator mode.” Bardiche reconfigured itself into its telekinetic manipulation mode and it released a pulse of energy, encapsulation one of the cups. It lifted upward gently for a moment before cracking and breaking.

A little disappointed growl escaped my throat. I walked over, cleaned the mess and then got myself a mug, this time with my hands. I walked to the coffee machine and filled the mug before taking a sip. It left a pleasant tingling on my tongue. I’d heard humans felt awakened by by coffee but its effect on my species was different, we got a little more excitable and happy.

My craving stated, my eyes fell back on that human male sitting at the counter. He slowly nursed a cup of coffee, barely looking awake, staring right down into it. I came closer and rested my arms on the counter.

“Hello there.” I said.

“Uhh…hello.” He took a moment to even look up at me.

“You are quite distinctive. I’m Nalar.” I said with a grin. There was something about the horns on his head and the claws on his hands that were quite attractive, I must say.

“Thanks, I guess? I could say the same for yourself.”

“Do you happen to have a name?”

“It’s…Nine. I’ve already forgotten the other one, it seems.”

“Nine?” I arched a brow. “That sounds like there’s an interesting story behind that, or did your parent love numbers?”

“Oh, my parents didn’t give me this name.”

“We have something in common then.”

“Alright. You’re who, then?” He said, a frown on his brow.

“I am Nalar, but I was not always.”

“Sounds pretty cool. What as it before?”

“Ankiran.” I said with a shrug. That had been my name before my rebirth as male.

“Interesting. Nice to meet you, then.” He didn’t sound too enthusiastic. Or awake. He sipped his coffee only to grimace.

“Something wrong with your drink?”

“It’s so bitter…”

I took another sip of my own, I’d always found the taste delectable. The pleasant buzz that my brain was starting to experience was also great. “I have seen others add sugar or milk to theirs, perhaps you should try that?”

“If I add any more, it’ll be mostly that.” He said with a little laugh.

“Different tastes, I guess.” I shrugged.

He shrugged too. “I’m still so exhausted.”

“What from?”

He hesitated before answering. “…Not enough sleep.”

“That seems like an easily solvable problem to me, and if not perhaps you should look for a medic?”

“It’s not so simple…” His hand went to his other arm and scratched at the edge of some metallic bracelets. Both hands had one and they had tech in them, so clearly they weren’t just decorative.

“Interesting contraptions. What are they form?” I asked.

“Well…I don’t know if you want to hear about it as it wasn’t really my choice to wear them to begin with.”

“Why would I not? And if you do not want them, why not remove them?”

“I can’t remove them. I’ll get punished.” He said bitterly.

I frowned, who could force him to wear those? The school perhaps? But why? I decided to just ask rather than keep wondering. “By whom?”

“Eh, just some people who I used to work for sort-of. It’s complicated.”

“That sounds quite like it.”

He shrugged. “Cool axe.”

That was a blatant attempt at diverting attention away, but I didn’t press on.

“That’s Bardiche. Bardiche, say hello.” I said.

As usual, Bardiche came to life briefly before going back to standby mode. “Greetings sir.”

“It…talks?”

“He does, yes. Bardiche has its own artificial intelligence to calculate and operate his different functionalities.”

“Made him myself. He’s very versatile.” I said, omitting how some of those functions were still in need of perfecting. At least I already had Bardiche’s force blade, the particle pulser and its device mode working…

“Wow, no wonder you’re here. They’d be blind to not see potential there.”

“Oh, but I’m just a humble armorer.”

“What about you, surely you have skills worthy of being here aside from your dashing good look.”

He choked on his coffee. “W-What…? You’re joking, right?”

“Why would I?”

“Cuz, I’m a mess and look like a rolling dumpster fire?”

I snickered. “We have different opinions on that, her perhaps I have different views than you humans.”

“I doubt I’m much of one anymore.” He sighed.

“You look much closer than many of the humans I have met.” I said with a shrug. Some of the paramorphs as they were called were completely alien in appearance. Other than horns, a tail, claws and some strange black marks he was quite normal.

“I guess that’s a good thing, right?”

“It is.”

“Well…thank you, then.”

I looked at the clock and saw there were only a few minutes left before we had to go.

“Well, I better finish tuning Bardiche, I heard we have combat training today.”

“Right. Was nice meeting you.” He said, giving a little wave.

“Likewise, Nine.”