"It boggles my mind that you can eat raw meat like it's candy," I said to Cresta as we walked down an aisle of bread to pick up a loaf.
The kind butchers' charity left us with a ton more briskets and lamb than I asked for. I wouldn't be so ungrateful as to look a gift horse in the mouth, but one could only put so much meat into a hot pot. Since we had extra and Cresta was hungry, I figured it couldn't hurt to let her munch on some, and so she had been popping them into her mouth like popcorn.
"Meat in your world is a lot juicier. The marbling on it is enough to make my mouth water just looking." She admired the last slice of brisket I allowed her to eat from the bag. It did have a shine to it that made any connoisseur of meat nod in approval. And while the rawest I'd eat briskets were cooked rare, straight from the cut was a hard pass from me.
As I reached for the rich in fiber goodness of a whole grain loaf, Cresta reached out to me and hugged me from behind. She buried her head into my back and sighed.
"What's up back there? Not enough affection for one day?" I teased her.
"Tarcosa's the one who wrote my dossier. I asked him not to include some stuff. It's not that I didn't want you to know, I just… thought I could move on from my past. When we talked to Joseph, it just came spilling out. Guess I can't forget about the people I left behind after all," she explained, sighing a second time as if hoping to expel the guilt through her lungs.
I grabbed a loaf from the shelf and tossed it into our cart. Several lines passed through my head, but not a single one was worth saying. Telling someone it was going to be okay didn't do anything. It wasn't what someone suffering from trauma wanted to hear.
Unlike Joseph who shared the same experiences as Cresta, I couldn't sympathize with what they went through.
"You don't have to tell me everything. If you want to, I'm available for whenever you're ready. Maybe one day we can go to Weyera together and put those ghosts of yours to rest. What do you say?" I offered.
Cresta finally let go. When I turned around, she was grinning from ear to ear. She stuck out a hand which I clasped.
"I'm holding you to that promise. Leave me to be your tour guide and everything! I can even introduce you to Tarcosa and former operatives." She began to list out names which I quickly gathered were her friends and colleagues, people who survived and fought alongside her in the war. The way she spoke about them brought a smile to her face and occasionally made her burst into laughter.
One particular story she was fond of had been a game of tossing knives, in which she and her companions accidentally threw an enchanted dagger that exploded their gunpowder supply. These guys were cut from a different cloth to be able to view that as a good time.
Regardless, they were pleasant memories. Ones that sorely needed to be remembered than those that brought her pain and anguish.
On a more serious note, I just promised Cresta I'd go to Weyera with her. I didn't know anything about their world, and who knew if Professor Markel would even allow it given my current occupation.
We made way for the dairy corner of the store to pick up some milk and hopefully find Remmy along the way. It didn't take long to come across traces of her handiwork. A young, blonde-haired store employee was slimed up and stuck to the floor. Her mouth was also covered and couldn't so much as utter for help.
"Oh, my god… This is not happening." I tried to break her free, but the slime was like hardened rubber. It wouldn't budge to my strength. "Cresta, give me a hand— actually, a claw."
"You got it!"
Cresta made a vertical cut across the slime bindings, freeing the poor worker. As I helped the girl to her feet, the uniform she wore also split away and left her in a state of undress.
"You cut a little too deep…" I scolded Cresta and covered my eyes.
"S-Sorry! I think I might need to file my nails soon," she said.
"Ahhh! I'm not paid enough to deal with this shit!" the grocery store employee screamed, hopelessly clinging onto the shredded fabric of her uniform.
"You ran into a netherfolk slime girl, right? Any idea where she went?" I asked, turning away.
"I thought she needed help because she was staring at the dairy stuff for so long. But when I offered to help her find something, this happened. Don't tell me you're the caretaker?" She growled.
"I… I am…" I answered shamefully.
Seriously, letting any of my tenants out of sight always resulted in something bad happening.
"Last I saw, the bitch went towards the front of the store."
I turned to see the employee pointing and inadvertently let her clothes slip off her body. We went beet red as I got a full frontal view, then she made the mistake of spinning around to hide herself and gave me a good look at her ass instead.
"Thanks for the info. Sorry for the trouble, ma'am!" I grabbed Cresta and a gallon of milk before booking out of there with the shopping cart faster than a racecar.
We found Ange in the candy aisle, kneeling down and speaking to a group of prepubescent boys. They all had their hands covering their crotches and appeared entranced by her.
"ANGE, NO! THAT'S ILLEGAL IN THIS WORLD!" I yelled.
"What do you think I'm doing?" The succubus stood up, arms folded across her chest and brows furrowed.
"W-What are you doing?" I asked, raising my brow in response to hers.
"Stopping them from making a mess of the aisle" She pointed to the children who, now that I was close enough to see, had a pile of candy at their feet.
"Oh," I muttered. "Actually, that's rather well-behaved of you to confront them."
"You thought I wanted to defile their innocence, didn't you?" Her eyes narrowed as she glared at me.
"Maybe…" I looked away, ashamed at my hasty assumption.
Ange lifted my chin between her fingers and whispered, "The only innocence I want to defile is yours."
The group of boys and I gulped simultaneously.
"I found her!" Cresta called from the end of the aisle.
Remmy, who had a gallon of milk in her hand, was trying to exit the store and coated another two employees in slime who were in her way. But before she could leave, Cresta jumped into action. She freed both workers in an instant, this time without shredding their clothes, then put herself between Remmy and the door. Ange and I caught up, but hesitated to get in the way unless we wanted to get slimed.
"That's enough, Remmy. You've been causing trouble since the moment you arrived. Are you going to tell me what's wrong or not?" I demanded. All of us were at our wit's end with her antics. Being introverted was fine. Some people just didn't do well socially interacting with others and preferred being alone.
However, making trouble for store employees who just wanted to help? Normally, you would just decline and go about your day. This went beyond just an antisocial troublemaker.
"I told you, I didn't want to come out to begin with…" Remmy began, shoulders trembling and voice shaking. "Just leave me alone!"
Remmy reduced herself to an amorphous slime form and went for the door. Cresta tried to scoop her up, but the slippery slime passed through her fingers.
The rest of us followed after, apologizing to the employees on the way out. Once we got outside, the slime was nowhere to be seen. Blood drained from my face at the possibility that I might have lost my tenant, but for good this time. A runaway netherfolk was going to reflect badly on my report, and at worst, cost me the job.
I fucked up again. Was confronting Remmy the wrong thing to do? Just what the hell was I missing that I wasn't getting through to her?
All I could think of was whole milk that she was particularly keen on drinking.
"I have her scent. What do we do?" Cresta asked, raising her nose into the air.
"We're going to bag up our groceries and find her," I said, picking up the milk Remmy had dropped when she changed forms.