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Sorry for the late release, I was covering additional shifts and JUST got back from the ER. I sliced my fingers open, needed 22 stitches. Additional edits will come tomorrow; from now on, Monday releases are on Tuesdays. This way, I have the same space between chapters.

 

PS Edits are up.

 

Where was I with my thoughts?

 

After my short distraction caused by some internal confusion, I brought myself back to something I hadn’t initially thought of.

 

Ah, right, if even my mind is limited, if everything I think of or do is still limited by my mental capacity… I can slash one of my theories away… Hopefully.

 

The thoughts of how I was here made me nauseous whenever I thought about the worst possibility.

 

Possession… I’d known for some time now that if I found that without a doubt that it was the case, it would have driven me to suicide. If I couldn’t free her from me, I couldn’t force her, if she were able to witness everything, to sit captive within her own head as someone else lived her life.

 

 The thought of it scared me from time to time after experiencing Kiyomi’s memories.

 

Let alone that, what of the people that I would have affected? If I killed myself as my out… Mama, she’d be devastated. So would the others. Lorn would feel horrible, undoubtedly. Avery would be sad. And now-

 

I glimpsed back to the two who I’d been following to our destination.

 

-these two. Beryl, and Vaughn. They’d lose a friend. I’d be a piece of shit, and a bigger coward than when I died.

 

I moved on from the specific topic, as I could feel it dampening my mood.

Back to it. Possession. If it were as simple as that, I wouldn’t be experiencing this much limitation to my consciousness… to my emotions even… From what Mama told me, after extended questioning about when I space out, my mood and character don’t really divert from what I was doing. Meaning that Kiyomi and my own thought processes work in tandem? Whenever I’m not fully in control, it still feels like I’m doing something. It’s just… it feels like I’m acting on a base impulse? Something I want, but my personality would usually restrict?

 

I was caught next on what our state would be instead, now that possession was out of the question. I’d been referring to myself as ‘us’ anytime I experience memories or dreams where I didn’t feel entirely in control.

 

The fact that we both seem to act within the same line of interest leads me to believe we’re both fully conscious… but she doesn’t reach out… does she? She’s only ever… added on? Like when we were talking to Beryl’s mothers… or when we cried in Hatsumi’s arms…

 

I was looking at the sky as we walked, a new unsettling feeling taking the place of an old one.

 

I need answers… I don’t think I can grow or mature from here without them-ah-

 

I grimaced as I felt a slight pain in my abdomen, initially it was just some discomfort, but it was now growing into a dull constant pain. 

On another note, my body is growing… something I forget most of the time. Since I’m a growing girl, the more my anatomy grows… I hope I don’t start experiencing dysphoria… I’m sure I’m experiencing it to some degree right now… But I need to grow accustomed to this eventually… or it’s going to wreak havoc on my emotions and mentality… Maybe I can reach out and try to bond with Beryl some? She did talk about teaching me girl stuff…

 

As I started waffling on seeking help or advice, the smell of grilling meat, vegetables, and other delicious pallet satisfiers wafted began creeping into my nose.

 

Food, let's get food… Stop thinking about these depressing things.

 


 

Fifteen minutes later, we’d managed to get our food. Beryl was hounding me for something I never thought I’d be hounded for.

 

“You’re seriously telling me you can’t eat veggies alone?”

 

Beryl was questioning me as we were eating our skewers we’d just purchased. I’d asked for meat, cheese, and spinach on my own, whilst Beryl chose all meat, and Vaughn chose the same meat and enoki combo skewer I’d first gotten from the same stand.

 

“Yes, I can’t really eat vegetables on their own.”

 

Ever since waking up, I’d been unable to consume any vegetable on its own. I had to trick my body by eating each bite with meat to help combat my gag reflex. I could never tell, however, if it was tied to my species or to me being a child again.

 

Beryl, you aren’t even eating veggies anyway for crying out loud. Can you even eat them in the first place?

 

“Ya’know, at least she tries. It took your mothers’ and my Pa to get me to even look at vegetables again.”

 

“Don’t remind me.”

 

Beryl’s face twisted some, and she stuck out her tongue.

 

“Vaughn was a step away from getting scurvy if he kept that up. Stunk really bad too.”

 

“Hey, now that’s just unnecessary. I smelled just fine!”

 

Vaughn replied defensively.

 

“Now that’s a fib! Vaughn, you didn’t even bath but maybe once a month back then either!”

 

Beryl poked jokingly.

 

“Psh, say’s you. Never seen you go to bathe! Same for your mothers’.”

 

Vaughn shot back, to which Beryl sighed and rolled her eyes.

 

“Vaughn, that’s cause Lamias only ever bathe alone or with their partner. I’ve bathed by myself since I could swim.”

 

“Convenient excuse.”

 

“Not like it matters anymore, we’ll be hard-pressed to bathe anywhere, but a river till the houses get built.”

 

Beryl and Vaughn continued, branching from topic to topic. Eventually, going on about how Gregor starting construction in a week on the longhouses meant to house everyone from the caravan. Listening to the two was a breath of fresh air, considering all of my conversations before meeting them last week were with adults. Even the two closest to me, Hatsumi and then Callum, were primarily parental figures. The thoughts of them being peers from earlier crept back into my thoughts.

 

I feel like I disrespected them some; I’ve been treating them as some kid’s to be looked after. While it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye out for them, I should do that for more than my own peace of mind. On that note-

 

“If you two really need a place to bathe, I’m sure my Mama won’t mind if you both use ours. Especially since we’re a team now? We can even choose to go in one at a time if we need to.”

 

Going by Beryl’s words, it wouldn’t be possible otherwise. The two looked at each other before looking back at me.

 

“Wait, can we?”

 

Vaughn asked.

 

“Well, I mean, we’d still have to check first. But probably, I don’t think Mama would turn you away. You’ll have to bring changes of clothes, though.”

 

Beryl sighed in relief at my answer.

 

“Haaaah, I won’t have to pat myself down with rags anymore if that’s the case. I’ll be able to scrub my body in the water.”

 

“I won’t need to prepare buckets anymore. Thank the gods’; it would have been torture with how sore this trainings already made me.”

 

Vaughn exclaimed.

 

I have to remember, stuff like this will probably help them since they’re relocating.

 

“Yeah, I’ll try and convince Mama to let you both use the baths.”

 


 

We’d finished eating in relative peace, with me questioning what other necessities Beryl and Vaughn needed. We’d moved on to reaching our destination outside the city walls. It was a section just outside the gates that was lightly forested. The same spot we’d picked out the first time we played together. I'd brought the same ball as usual, but this time it was wrapped in twine. I'd been prototyping a baseball before bed every night, and now felt like the time to test the next phase; if it was clear now, I would ask Callum to coat it in leather. Pulling it from my satchel, I placed my sword against the wall and called to Vaughn. 

"Vaughn, catch!"

Seeing he made eye contact, I readied to throw the ball, minding my strength so as not to send it into the wilderness, as there were some clusters of trees where we'd set up. 

"Got it!"

Vaughn brought his hands up like I'd shown him, crossing his thumbs in front of his face and using both hands to form a makeshift mitt. This was so he neither missed his catch nor hurt his hand, and so far, he's caught every throw me or Beryl have tossed at him. As he caught the ball, I made my way next to Beryl. 

"We can go two versus one, the girls vs. the boy? First to 3 misses loses."

I proposed, trying to shake up the standard game. Pitting myself and Beryl against Vaughn, at this point, Vaughn was the only one never to miss a catch. My own record was mixed, and Beryl was just behind. 

"That doesn't sound too fair."

Vaughn said, tossing the ball from hand to hand. 

"Are you sure you two can really avoid fumbling over each other?"

Vaughn taunted. 

Oh, this boy, is Callum rubbing off? They barely talked, though.

"Alright, hotshot, let's do it."

I felt my eye twitch at Vaughn's prod before looking to Beryl.

"Does he usually act like this?"

Beryl smirked, then shrugged. 

"I'm surprised he isn't tired after that beating mister Callum gave him."

"Speaking of Callum, he pulled both of you off to the side; what was that talk about?" 

Beryl gave the same face this morning before Callum brought her into the forge too. 

"Eehhhhhh, let's not worry about that."

Beryl flushed whilst smiling nervously.

"... "

"For real... don't worry about it."

Okayyyy, weird.

"I'll drop it; it's your business anyway. Jeeze, you look like you'll drop-"

"Hey, this good?!"

Vaughn called out to us; he'd moved out some ways. This left as all lined along the woodline, meaning the ball shouldn't end up in the trees from just throwing it. I looked to Beryl, waiting for her input. 

"We're good! Throw it already, ya ape! or are you afraid to lose?!"

Beryl yelled through her cupped hands. 

"Wait, what are we even playing for?"

Vaughn yelled back; arms spread to the sides. Looking to Beryl for any suggestions, she shrugged, prompting me to come up with something on the spot. 

"How about this, you carry my sword and any books Beryl has for a week to training!"

"Kiyomi, that's like, two days out of the week."

"Fine then, just be it for 'tag' on first-round all week, jeez!"

Vaughn looked up to ponder something before looking down and giving his own condition. 

"Alright, and if I win, Kiyomi takes a punch from Callum."

"Deal-wait, what? Wait, NO!" 

What the hell, Vaughn?

I yelled in protest at Vaughn's proposal. 

"Well, I mean, it's not like there's not much else could ask for. Unless you wanna use your underwear as leverage or something?"

...wat? ...

Both Beryl and myself were looking at each other in shock. Beryl didn't seem too flustered, but this was my first time being on the receiving end of any such joke.

"So... throw rocks at him?"

I asked.

"Don't aim for his head, also don't throw too hard."

After nodding to me, Beryl added a few conditions.

"Deal! Alright, Vaughn, new game, it's called pelt the perv!" 

You're not becoming another Callum!

I told myself as I stuffed my palm with pebbles. Now rearing my arm to throw them above Vaughn, who was running for cover.

 


 

Elsewhere along the walls of Brenton...

Situated around a table in one of the city walls towers, Stanis spoke to a mix of city guard Captains, refugees, and officials.

"We all understand we may not see any advances from Morus within the next few years; we are in agreement on that."

Stannis wiped away a strand of hair that fell in front of his face.

"But we are also all in agreement that we need to start construction immediately. These walls are rated for fending off monsters and storing captured monsters, not defending from armies and sieges. The ramparts and battlements need to be reinforced. We need additional wall entrances from the interior side to facilitate expedient deployment. And we need to establish a new outer wall to slow down any advance of siege weapons. Going by Morus's advances throughout Va-ren, reported by our guests-"

Stannis gestured to the Lamias, Cressida, and Sophia.

"-And our newly acquired engineer."

Stannis gestured to Gregor. 

"We DID agree that attack is inevitable; Morus attacked before, their unpredictability leads us to assume they will do so again. Mrs. Cressida, Sophia, with your leadership, we expect to see nearly seamless integration and settling of the refugee population."

Stannis said, furrowing his brow.

"Of course, to the greatest of our ability."

Sophie nodded, bowing slightly in acknowledgment. 

"As agreed upon, half of the working populace will be put to work on the new wall and the updates to the standing one. In turn, wages and materials will be provided for settlement and construction in expanding the residential sectors of the city."

Stannis then looked to Gregor. 

"Knowing that you're a rather successful engineer, Gregor, we'll be depending on you for leadership with the workers and designing the wall modifications."

Exhaling after his direction, Stanis stood, walking back from the table a step. 

"Is all this to your agreement, my Lord?"

"It will have to do; we are short many materials for now. So any small projects will have to go first." 

From the corner of the room stepped a middle-aged man with sleek, black hair. He looked at the rough proposal in front of him 0n the table. 

“Anything deemed unsatisfactory now may be renegotiated at a later time in any matter... Well, on about it. Can't stay here debating our ventures forever.” 

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