Art Post – Night Fox Comic Short: Answer The Call

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Comic Short - Answer The Call

Butts to this I say.

So originally this started off as just the colored picture of Kitsiyuna, as I was once again experimenting with different character poses. I settled on another butt shot because I wanted to try a pose that would give me a chance to really capture Kitsi’s more toned and muscular build and also because I really just want to draw hot girls. And if that’s good enough for Yoko Taro, it’s good enough for me. Anywho… once I finished the drawing, I ended up coming up with a comic idea surrounding it that wasn’t quite worth doing a full thing for so I just decided “FUCK IT! LET’S JUST MAKE THIS A LITTLE COMIC INSTEAD! I DON’T CARE AT THIS POINT! IT’S YOUR BLOG! YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT WITH IT BRO!” So I used it as a chance to also experiment how I do the panel layouts and what not. The method I used actually ended up taking a lot longer than expected as I ended up arranging the panels one at a time as their own individual things as opposed to my usual method of just drawing everything all at once on a slightly larger than average sketchbook page that I half-assedly divided up with a ruler before going over said divisions again in Photoshop. Because of the extra time it ended up taking, it’s probably not going to be a method I change to in the future unless its only for small comics like this one.

Anyways, hope you guys appreciate the butt. That’s all I really wanted to say for now, so until then, I’ll see you next post.

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Night Fox – Novel Post: Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

When Alex had first gotten up that morning, he had anticipated his day going any number of possible directions. Having spent the past couple of weeks failing to track down a significant number of items he had been looking for on his checklist, he was prepared for some potential disappointment. He also anticipated the possibility that his bad luck up until that point could eventually turn around and he would actually make some head way on his list, so he was also prepared for something just a tad more optimistic. What he did not anticipate at all however, was a potentially violent individual pointing a gun in his general direction.

“How the hell did I get into this situation!? This is just insane!” Alex thought to himself, unsure of whether or not it was safe to move at all from his current position. While Alex had reflexively cowered behind Kitsiyuna, she herself remained steadfast, unflinching in the face of the gun pointed straight at her. The expression on her face only grew more serious and focused as she stood there, anticipating the bounty hunter’s next move.

“What, were you planning to just up and shoot me?” she asked defiantly without a single ounce of fear in her voice.

“Well, only if you tried to resist. We only get paid if we return you alive after all.” the hunter responded. Kitsiyuna’s calm demeanor and the hunter’s apparent desire to only capture her cued Alex in that the current situation wasn’t as dangerous as he was anticipating. While still too cautious to leave his position behind Kitsiyuna, he did once again peak out from behind her, finally giving the bounty hunter a proper look over.

His face was partially obscured by some rags he had wrapped around his neck like a scarf, leaving only the top half of his head visible. His face was even paler than Alex’s, with his skin and hair both being almost completely white, with dark red V-shaped markings on his forehead and underneath his scowling yellow eyes. He was wearing what appeared to be a black trench coat that had several large sections seemingly deliberately cut open, revealing more skin covered in the same dark red markings. The rest of his outfit was accentuated with more rags wrapped around parts of his arms and legs like bandages without any seeming rhyme or reason, as well as bits of what appeared to be armor covering his chest and joints. The armor was black in color, and looked to be made from leather, but Alex figured they were probably made from a much tougher and possibly magical substance.

Having given the bounty hunter a good look over, Alex then shifted his attention to the gun he was aiming at them. It was a revolver made from a very pale, almost white metal. It had a skull like design at its rear sight and around each individual chamber of its cylinder, appearing like each bullet was being eaten by said skull. Instead of having just one single barrel, it had five arranged into an X shape. Alex didn’t know too much about guns or how they worked, but figured due to the gun’s unorthodox barrel and chamber setup, it was probably actually a magic weapon and didn’t function like a normal gun at all.

“Now the question is: are you going to resist or not?” the bounty hunter asked Kitsiyuna smugly, ready his fingers onto the gun’s hammer and trigger.

“There’s no way in hell I’m going to let myself get captured without a fight.” Kitsiyuna responded, lowering her stance while cupping her right hand around her face, her fingers tensing back. As Kitsiyuna moved, Alex could feel something brush past him as he hunched down in anticipation at one of the two Spirits making a move.

“I was hoping you’d say that! It’s always so much more fun when they actually fight back!” the bounty hunter shouted in jubilation, a psychotic grin forming across his face that could be seen underneath the rags covering his face.

Within an instant, he quickly pulled the trigger and fired close to nine times within the span of three seconds, sending numerous orbs of burning black shadow in Alex and Kitsiyuna’s direction.  Before Alex could even react to the firing, he saw a faint streaking light rapidly slice up the air in front of Kitsiyuna, destroying every single magic bullet that had been fired in their general direction. Alex stumbled back a bit in shock at how quickly that had all transpired, while Kitsiyuna merely stood unflinchingly in place, a smirk forming on her face.

“What the hell kind of magic was that!? How could that go off so quickly!?” the bounty hunter shouted, also in shock.

“Why are you so surprised? I figured if you were a good bounty hunter, you’d know I can do stuff like that easily!” Without any hesitation, Kitsiyuna quickly wrapped her left arm around Alex while throwing back her right arm like she was winding up to throw something. “Get ready to move!” she shouted to him.

Within seconds, a bright orange flame began to form into Kitsiyuna’s right hand, coalescing into a burning sphere the size of a basketball. Once the fireball reached a size she was satisfied with, Kitsiyuna hurled it forward at the bounty hunter. The fireball hit him square in the chest with enough force to send him flying backwards into the wall 30 feet behind him. Upon impacting the wall, the fireball exploded into a giant cloud of smoke, filling the entire hallway with a thick veil of darkening smog. With how run down the apartment building had looked from the outside, Alex wasn’t surprised in the slightest that no smoke detectors went off in the process.

“Let’s get out of here while he’s distracted!” Kitsiyuna exclaimed to Alex. Before Alex could even start moving on his own, Kitsiyuna had quickly lifted him up off of the ground and began just straight up carrying him off to her side, his chest parallel to the ground. She then quickly started to sprint in the opposite direction of the smoke before Alex could even start complaining about the arrangement.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING CARRYING ME LIKE THIS!?” Alex barked in outrage at Kitsiyuna.

“Trust me. I can probably carry you faster than you can run on your own and this is much safer than me just dragging you by the hand!” she replied.

“DAMN IT! Get back here!” the bounty hunter cried out from the end of the hallway, fumbling to get back to his feet, as Alex and Kitsiyuna disappeared from view as they rounded the corner. Undeterred, he gave chase to the duo, continuing to fire upon them as he turned the corner after them. Most of his shoots were well off the mark, the spreading smoke hampering his aim while the ones that did come close to hitting the two were similarly cut up like they had been before. Realizing his current plan of attack wasn’t working, he halted his movements at the corner of the hallway.

“I found the target on the third floor! Key into my location here and you should be able to tell where she’s going and cut her off! She’s not alone though! She’s got a kid with her. Probably her Spiriter, so watch out!” he shouted out loud, clearly communicating with the other bounty hunters.

“Looks like I was right. They’re going to involve you in this after all kid…” Kitsiyuna said to Alex as she continued to carry him, losing absolutely no speed as she drifted around another corner. “You know, if I’m going to be carrying you like this, I feel like you should at least tell me your name, because calling you kid just sounds so impersonal at this point…”

“Well if you must know right this second, my name is Alex Haser…” he replied.

“Alex huh? I like it. I guess if you didn’t catch it from that guy earlier, my name is Kitsiyuna. It’s nice for us to finally formally introduce ourselves.” she happily responded, shaking his hand with her free one as she did so, still running, and still continuing to carry him.

“Is this REALLY the best time for that right now!?” Alex asked with a thick layer of annoyance.

“Why not? We’re doing fine so far. We just gotta hope that these guys don’t have any backup that’s much worse…” Kitsiyuna replied. She continued running, Alex in tow, until the two began to approach a door at the end of the hallway.

Without breaking her stride or losing any speed, she swiftly performed a jumping spin-kick on the door, slamming it open to another stairwell while still maintaining a comfortable grip on Alex. He was about to ask if such a maneuver was necessary before he found himself getting cut off by Kitsiyuna’s method of navigating the stairs. Rather than simply continuing to rush the stairs like she had been doing for the rest of the hallway, she opted to simply jump onto the stair’s metal railing, and began to quickly jump to the railing on the opposite side, directly above them. She proceeded to essentially parkour the two of them up the stairs, quickly jumping from railing to railing without missing a beat. She quickly ascending three floors within the span of about 10 seconds until there were no more railings left to jump up to, having reached her apparent destination of the door to the building’s rooftop.

“I was right. This girl has some REALLY FUCKINGSTRONG LEGS!” was the only thing that could pop into Alex’s head as he fought back the urge to scream the entire way up that very quick and unorthodox ascent. Despite having not exerted any effort himself, Alex was finding himself once again out of breath. Kitsiyuna on the other hand simply continued moving forward, once again spin kicking the door to the roof open, all of it for seemingly no other reason than because it looked cool. Only when the two of them were standing in the flowing summer breeze of the apartment’s flat roof did she finally slow down and give Alex a chance to recoup himself.

“Was… all of that… REALLY necessary…?” Alex found himself asking in an exacerbated manner, pausing in between words to tiredly gasp.

“Eh… Probably not. But you gotta admit it got us up here real quick!” Kitsiyuna replied in a playful tone, still carrying Alex in her left arm.

“Uh huh… And why the hell did you drag me all the way up to the roof? Shouldn’t we have been, ya know, HEADING DOWN so that we could escape these guys…!?”

“I’m trying to thin their numbers without potentially getting any other bystanders involved. This roof is perfect for that because it’s nice and open while also being isolated off, so no random person can just wander in and get hurt.”

“Wait… You mean you’re actually going to fight these guys!?”

“If they’re as tough as that first guy we ran into, they should be a piece of cake for me to deal with. The only reason I didn’t completely blast that guy on the spot is because I didn’t want to blow up the entire floor.”

“You can actually do that!? Blow up an entire floor of a building!?”

“Oh, if something pissed me off enough, I probably could destroy this entire building…” Kitsiyuna responded with a very pleasant smile on her face in intentional contrast of what she just said.

“I might not know the power level of Spirits too well, but I don’t think being able to pull off a feat like that is something a lot of them can do… That being said, if she’s telling the truth about that, she definitely would be a great asset if I can get her to team up with me once this mess gets sorted…” Alex thought to himself, a small hint of anticipation growing at getting a chance to witness Kitsiyuna’s apparent potential. Any hint of concern about her being dangerous to his safety were pushed to the back of his head, deciding that she seemed nice enough, so she was probably safe enough to still hang around.

“…But yeah…. We’re going to wait up here for a bit so that we can potentially bait out some more of these bounty hunters. That way, we have less goons potentially following us to the hideout…” Kitsiyuna continued.

“Oh. Well, if that’s what your plan is… CAN YOU PUT ME DOWN NOW!?” Alex snapped at her, flailing about as he remembered the fact that she was still very much carrying him like a ragdoll. Kitsiyuna sheepishly apologized to him before finally setting him back down.

“…Speaking of hideouts… That reminds me, I need to make a call…” she said, reaching into her jacket pocket to pull something out. Anticipating a cellphone, Alex got a very confused look on his face when Kitsiyuna ended up pulling out a cylindrically-shaped green crystal that was just a little bit bigger than the palm of her hand.

“Is that… a Utility Crystal…?” Alex asked, recalling one of the many items he had failed to collect on his checklist.

“You know what a Utility Crystal is…?” Kitsiyuna asked back, surprised at Alex’s ability to identify the item.

“…I’ve heard a thing or two here and there. While there’s a little bit more to them, aren’t they mostly just used by Spirits as glorified phones…?”

“Well, I can’t really speak for others, but that’s mostly what I use it for… Anyways, I’m going to try to contact a friend of mine. In the meantime, you should find a place to hide for when those bounty hunters finally catch up.” Kitsiyuna replied.

Alex’s curiosity wanted him to hang around and see the crystal in action up close, but the disapproving look on Kitsiyuna’s face eventually convinced him to find a spot on the roof to hide. He quickly settled on hiding behind a large AC unit that rested in a corner of the roof, directly behind the stairwell entrance they had just come out of, realizing it was probably the best spot on the mostly bare roof. He sat with his back towards the machine as its shadow provided him cover from the sun. He began to lean back directly against the machine, its mild vibrating and loud humming providing a kind of pleasant ASMR for his unfocused mind as the wind gently caressed his face. Rather than the wait building up an unpleasant anticipation, Alex found his anxiety about the current situation quickly melt away as he unintentionally mediated behind the machine.

“Feeling the wind like this… It kinda reminds me of the day she first taught me how to channel…” Alex mused to himself, recollecting a faint memory of his from a few years ago. He recalled his younger self standing in a quaint field, seemingly isolated from the outside world, reaching out into the wind around him as he tried to grasp the energy that surrounded him the same way Spirits did. He remembered failing many times, as a much older woman with snow white hair stood there watching over him with a patient smile on her face. As he recouped the memory, he found himself instinctively forming a light blue wispy flame like he had done within the restaurant earlier in his hand. Once the wisp reached a large enough size, he slowly closed his fist around it until it eventually got absorbed into his body.

“I can’t believe I used to think channeling Spirit Energy like that was hard…” he thought to himself. “Just imagine how much better you’ll get if you can actually convince her to make you her Spiriter…” he mused to himself as he briefly looking around the AC Unit in Kitsiyuna’s general direction.

Though she was a fair distance away, he could vaguely make out the utility crystal in her hand. It was emitting a green glow that radiated out around it, cueing in Alex that she was still using it. The humming coming from the AC Unit made it impossible for him to hear any of what she might’ve been talking about, but he could still make out a look of concern coming across her face. Whatever she had been talking about had caused her to shift to a worried mood.

Sensing Alex caught the dour expression on her face, she quickly tried to fake a smile as she looked over in his direction. Her faux smile obviously didn’t fool Alex, as he took the sudden change in her mood as a potential cause for alarm. Wanting to clear up just what the situation was, Alex started to move back to her to ask her what was going on before he found himself sitting right back down. He sensed another bounty hunter had caught up to them.

From the other side of the roof, opposite the end he was hiding on, Alex saw a figure had apparently climbed up the side of the building to reach the roof. Without a moment of hesitation, they rushed at Kitsiyuna, with a large blade ready to strike her. Thankfully, Kitsiyuna was equally as aware of the situation and quickly turned to intercept this new attacker.

“Well you certainly found your way to me faster than I expected!” she responded as the new bounty hunter jumped up and lunged at her with their blade. They were briefly stopped mid-jump, their blade apparently being blocked by the same force Kitsiyuna had been using earlier to slice up those bullets. After hanging there for a few seconds, the hunter was eventually sent backwards, flying a good distance across the roof. Alex, confident Kitsiyuna could handle the situation, decided to sneak up closer to get a better view of the fight, hiding behind the back of the stairwell out of the attacker’s view.

While the previous bounty hunter could’ve maybe passed off as a regular human under the right lighting, it was very obvious this particular bounty hunter was a Spirit. While they were draped in a tattered black cloak that obscured some of their body, it was still easy to notice the fact they were mostly just a skeleton underneath with horns growing from the top of their skull. Their body was mostly just pale bones that were partially covered by a dark red membrane that resembled exposed muscle. Their face, or rather, lack of a face was left uncovered by this membrane, with all of their facial bones exposed and glowing red dots instead of any kind of actual eye. Their torso was similarly uncovered, exposing a ribcage housing a giant singular red organ mass that had fused to the entire length of the spine. Finally, the blade Alex had thought the skeleton was holding, upon closer examination, turned out to be growing directly from their arm in place of their right hand.

“I think that freak’s a Cornossa…” Alex thought to himself as he watched the horned skeleton furiously try to slash away at Kitsiyuna who parried every single attack, recalling its appearance from a book he had skimmed through some years ago about the different races of Spirits.

“DAMN IT! STAND STILL!” the Cornossa screamed out in frustration, without any lips, lungs, or vocal chords as Kitsiyuna effortless knocked away a swing from its blade-arm with the back of her fist. The Cornossa’s voice was deep enough that Alex was confident that it was supposed to be male in absent of any other visual indicators outside of the width of the skeleton’s pelvis which Alex had no way, nor intention, of measuring.

“Do you guys just not know anything about what I’m capable of!?” Kitsiyuna shouted out in disbelief.

“There’s only two things that are important to our job: where our target is… AND HOW WE’RE GOING TO BEAT THEM INTO SUBMISSION!” the Cornossa shouted, punctuating his yelling with a surge of red sparks going up his blade-arm. Suddenly, the muscle like membrane began to spread, completely engulfing the blade, bringing it to a seemingly sharper edge. Red vapors began to undulate from this newly formed blade as Alex could feel the increased power coursing through it, as if the very air itself was being warped around it. The Cornossa flicked this blade back behind him as he winded up for another attack, with a faint ripple of energy being emitted as he did so.

“Try blocking this one you bitch! BLOOD MARROW STRIKE!” he shouted as he swung the blade forward, aiming to strike downward from overhead. That faint ripple from the wind up reemerged as a very visible pressure wave surging through and compressing the air around the blade as the Cornossa aimed it at Kitsiyuna. While the swing had been no slower than any of his previous ones, it felt as if time began to slow to a crawl to Alex as he looked on in slow motion, taking in every millisecond of the magic attack that was being performed in front of him. It was almost as if his slight familiarity with Spirits and magic gave his mind an extra sense to process the attack in time, as when the blade was about to strike Kitsiyuna, he could feel himself reflexively try to guard against the attack as if it had been aimed at him.

The compressed frame of time for Alex quickly passed when the blade seemed to make impact with Kitsiyuna. The burst of pressure exponentially expanded across the air until it was no longer perceivable, as Kitsiyuna slide back a few feet, seemingly the only result from the attack. Kitsiyuna had both of her arms braced in preparation to block the strike, but it appeared there was no visible cut on either of her jacket sleeves. It didn’t seem like there was a single cut anywhere on her body, and yet a wince of pain shot across her face as blood began dripping from the Cornossa’s sword arm. He had apparently hit something, but Alex had no idea what.

“Well how about that…?” the Cornossa replied with a small hint of surprise in his voice, staring at the small trickle of blood coming from his blade. He apparently had no idea what he actually hit either.

“Seems like you’re not so untouchable after all!” the bounty hunter shouted out in glee, continuing to try to hack away at Kitsiyuna. The smug look she had been wearing on her face got far more serious as rather than try to block or parry any more of the Cornossa’s attacks, she did her best to completely bob and weave out of the way of each swing.

“It looked like she just had some kind of a natural defense against his sword… Did whatever the hell he just did to his arm let him cut through her defense?”  Alex thought to himself in concern as he continued to look on, still trying to conceal his presence. “Why is she keeping to the defensive though? Why isn’t she using her own magic to fight back!?” It didn’t take long though for Alex to figure out why she was so seemingly hesitant to fight back as he continued to watch her movements.

“Wait… It looks like she’s… leading him away from my position… Is that why she hasn’t used her magic on him yet…? Because she’s trying to make sure I don’t accidentally get caught up in any of her attacks…?” he thought to himself as he analyzed the path backwards Kitsiyuna seemed to be taking as she continued to evade the bounty hunter. “…I mean, if that’s the case… shouldn’t she have more than enough room by now…? “ Alex lingered on this thought in his head for a bit, wondering if it might be possible that Kitsiyuna didn’t have complete control of her abilities.

“She did definitely kind of overdo it when she was ‘restraining’ me in that supply closet… She might not know her own strength… Now the question is… If I became her Spiriter, would I be willing to put up with that…? Because that kinda sounds like it could be a major pain in my ass…” Alex would’ve continued on with this train of thought were it not for the reminder he received as to just why he was in this situation currently. He heard footsteps rushing up the stairwell right next to him as the door to the roof swung open. Alex cautiously peered around the corner of the stairwell to see that the gunman from earlier had finally caught up to them.

“All right. Let’s see how well you can defend yourself with a gun trailing your back, you bitch…” the gunman murmured to himself as he took aim at Kitsiyuna, who seemed unaware of his presence.

Another hit of anxiety hung over Alex as he stood motionless a mere few feet behind the bounty hunter, who also seemed unaware of him. He was torn between running back to his hiding spot, or doing something to distract the bounty hunter, silently taking a few steps back as he deliberated. After taking about four steps, the crunching of a discarded water bottle underneath his feet ended up making the choice for him, as the gunman turned around to see the source of the noise.

“So I see she’s not the only one up here!” the gunman replied with a hint of glee as he begun aiming the gun at Alex.

“What the hell are you doing aiming that gun at me!? …I’m… just an innocent bystander in all of this!” Alex stammered out, continuing to slowly walk back. Every step he took backwards, the gunman matched with a step forward.

“Bullshit. You were just about to interfere in our little hunt! We can’t have that now can we!?”

“W-what if you’re wrong!? You’d be completely fine with killing a potentially innocent person!?”

“If that ends up being the case, as far as I’m concerned, that’s just a bonus!” the gunman shouted in excitement. His finger began to wrap around the trigger of his revolver as he clicked down the gun’s hammer, preparing to shoot Alex pointblank. Before he could pull the trigger however, Alex’s survival instincts kicked in once again.

Within a course of about half a second, Alex telepathically commanded his tome to once again fly out of his backpack and slam into the gunman’s face with enough impact to send him reeling back. It had hit him hard enough to get him to drop the gun without it firing. The gunman was left temporarily stunned by Alex’s counterattack, too stunned to even do something about the tome that was currently being telepathically jammed into his face. Without a hint of hesitation, Alex pulled out a small dagger made from an eerie white looking metal with a skull motif etched around its hilt, and an interlocking cross bone design going down the length of the small blade.

“All right Alex! It’s him or you!” Alex echoed out in his head as he ran forward with the dagger at the ready. Having had his life so callously disregarded by the bounty hunter, Alex wasted no time in mercilessly jamming the dagger in and out of his stomach. With each thrust of the dagger, Alex let out multiple grunts of anger as he was riding high on adrenaline, basking in the small splashes of blood that spurted out with each hit.

“Don’t let up Alex, even for a second…! Once you head out there, it’s kill or BE killed…! There’s no telling how many asshole Spirits like this one are going to be there…! You need to be willing to fight all of them…!”  Alex continued to think to himself as his relentless stabbing continued, his fight or flight instincts easily allowing him to justify potentially killing his attacker. He was so absorbed with trying to incapacitate the gunner, he didn’t even realize the gunner had recovered from his daze. After receiving close to 40 stab wounds in his stomach, the gunman merely responded with severe annoyance. He tossed Alex’s tome aside before quickly kicking him straight into the brick wall of the stairwell, pressing his boot directly into Alex’s stomach to keep him pinned against the wall.

“YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!” the bounty hunter shouted at Alex as he began crushing his ribs under his boots. Alex could tell by the ease he was still moving that the amount of stabs he had received were ultimately only a mild inconvenience to him. It seemed Spirits were definitely made of stronger stuff than humans. The gunman gestured his hand to his discarded revolver, levitating it back into the palm of his hand. With the gun returned, he wasted no time jamming the gun’s barrel directly against Alex’s temple. Though the stabbing only seemed to mildly injure him, Alex could tell from the rage in the bounty hunter’s eyes that it really pissed him off.

“Damn it! That didn’t do anything to him! I really need magic to get out of this!” Alex thought to himself. Though he was definitely panicking, he still had a clear head to him despite literally staring down the barrel of a gun. Alex was not yet resigned to his fate, as he readied one last ditch attempt to get out of his predicament. Thankfully for him, Kitsiyuna quickly intervened before that was necessary.

“HEADS UP JACKASS!” she shouted. Before the gunman could even look over, his body was sent flying backwards across the roof as he was pelted by his fellow bounty hunter. Alex, now free, looked over to Kitsiyuna, wondering what had just happened before he quickly realized she had managed to grab onto the Cornossa and threw him as a projectile. Wasting no time at all, Alex picked his tome off of the ground before quickly stuffing it back into his backpack and running over to Kitsiyuna.

“I told you to find a hiding spot! Why didn’t you listen to me and stay hidden!?” she chastised Alex.

“I’ve never gotten to see two Spirits fight before. I just wanted to get a closer look! Is that sooooo wrong!?” Alex responded childishly, disregarding Kitsiyuna’s concern.

“It is when you staying out in the open almost gets you killed! And what the hell are you doing with a knife like that!?”

“Like you said, I’m small kid. It’s the only way I can protect myself from assholes like that…”

“That was with you the entire time, and you were just willing to use it on that guy just like that…?”

“I always have this dagger with me… And as far as I’m concerned, if you mess me, I respond in kind! That guy was an asshole, so he deserved it! …I mean… why the hell are you trying to make me feel guilty for defending myself in the first place!? You’re not my freaking mom…!” Alex replied to Kitsiyuna in anger. The concerned look on Kitsiyuna’s face quickly shifted to a different kind of concerned look. Rather than being concerned for his wellbeing, Kitsiyuna quickly grew concerned about the idea that Alex was completely okay with the fact that he could’ve just stabbed someone to death.

“What is up with this kid…?” Kitsiyuna thought to herself. She decided not to focus too much on that for the time being as her and Alex shifted their attention back to the two bounty hunters. While being thrown across the roof definitely messed them up, they were apparently still determined to keep going. The gunman got to his feet first while his Cornossa companion slowly scrambled to get up behind him. Being used as a skeleton cannonball seemed to have messed with him more than his partner getting hit by him did.

“YOU DAMN BITCH! BOTH OF YOU!” the gunman shouted across the rooftop, aiming his gun at the two of them. Alex wasted no time taking cover back behind Kitsiyuna again. As the bounty hunter aimed his gun, a small sphere of black energy began to form from the front of the revolver’s barrel, growing ever larger in size as bolts of black lightning emanated from it. Alex’s body instinctively tensed in anticipation of the new spell that was being aimed at them. He felt his body getting ready to move on its own to dodge out of the way, but he held his position when Kitsiyuna raised her hand up behind her to signal him to stay there. She clearly felt he was going to be safer remaining behind her as she braced for the attack.

“What the hell are you doing!? We’re supposed to be taking her back alive! That right there is a damn kill shot!” the Cornossa shouted to his companion as the sphere grew to a size larger than either of the two of them.

“I DON’T GIVE A DAMN! AT THIS POINT, I JUST WANT IT TO HURT!” the gunman replied, shouting over the loud pulsating sound his magic was giving off. “NOW, CHOKE ON THIS! OBLIVION CANNON!” he yelled, pressing the gun’s trigger, sending the sphere flying at Alex and Kitsiyuna with alarming speed for a projectile of that size.

As the sphere flew across the roof, it ate away at large chunks of the floor as its bottom scrapped by, absorbing the broken off bits of matter like it was a black hole. Without an ounce of fear, Kitsiyuna angled her arm behind her again, orange flames once again forming in her open palm. She kept her arm behind her, timing it for the exact moment of impact. Time slowed down again for Alex, as he observed ever single motion Kitsiyuna went through as she prepared to intercept the sphere of destruction hurling towards them.

Just as they were about to be engulfed, Kitsiyuna swung her arm forward, her palm striking the front of the sphere with great force. Rather than getting her hand consumed, the sphere began to warp around the point of impact as it quickly grew more and more distorted. The blackened mass began to radiate out shafts of light caused by the fires Kitsiyuna had just stuffed into it. It seemed like Kitsiyuna’s magic was too powerful for it, as it continued to expand and distort around Alex and Kitsiyuna before it eventually burst, releasing a visible pressure wave through the air in the complete opposite direction.

The sudden snap in pressure, though heading in the other direction, was intense enough to whip up a moderate updraft of wind around the two, as Alex had to brace himself to keep from getting knocked over, holding onto his stomach as a faint hint of nausea rolled over him from the force of everything. Kitsiyuna, on the other hand, held her stance, unaffected by the shockwave. The two bounty hunters found themselves once again being knocked to the ground as the shockwave finally reached them, easily knocking them off of their already unsteady feet.

“Impossible! How the hell did you stop that!?” the gunman yelled out in frustration and desperation, the realization setting in that he and his partner were woefully outmatched.

“I’m just that strong.” Kitsiyuna replied in a confident voice.

“We need to get out of here! There’s no way we can take her without the boss’s help!” the Cornossa yelled out in a panic, attempting to get to his bony feet again.

“No way in hell I’m just going to let you two creeps just walk away from this! FLARE PILLAR!” Kitsiyuna shouted, raising her elbow up above her head as she pointed her fist to the ground. With one fell swing, she plunged her entire fist directly into the floor as burning embers emitted from the point of impact. A series of glowing orange cracks emerged from the ground in a line, stopping just underneath the two downed bounty hunters. Even from his distance, Alex could see an intense column of hot air arise from underneath the two, with burning hot embers slowly rising up around them. Before Alex could see what was about to happen next, Kitsiyuna quickly turned around and wrapped herself around Alex.

“GET DOWN!” she shouts, as she lowered the two of them closer to the ground. Just as she did so, Alex could hear the sound of a colossal fire erupting behind him. The air in front of him darkened, while the air behind him began to glow white hot, Alex figuring the only reason he wasn’t burning up from the temperature was because Kitsiyuna was shielding him from her own magic. As she was keeping a tight grip on him, he couldn’t freely look at the effects of the spell she had just cast, but could still maneuver himself just well enough to get a peak.

A white hot inferno of fire towered from the ground where the bounty hunters were, sparks being whipped up in all directions, many flying right past Alex’s face, as the burning pillar incinerated the two Spirits. Alex could just barely make out the sound of them screaming in pain over the roaring fire, but those screams were swiftly muffled as their bodies were cremated by the flames, with them most likely burning up so quickly, the pain barely had time to set in. After huddling for about half a minute, the flames eventually receded back into the ground before they completely disappeared, the only real sign that they had been there was a faint ring scorched into the ground.

“Woah…” was the only word Alex could form out of his mouth as Kitsiyuna released him from her grip. He slowly approached the ring Kitsiyuna had burned onto the ground. While it was an impressive display, he found no signs that the fire had caused any kind of lasting structural damage to the building, chalking it up to being a side effect of how her magic behaves. He crouched down as he felt the ground around the scorch marks. Not even ashes of the two bounty hunters remained.

“Did you actually… watch that…?” Kitsiyuna asked him, glancing to the side as she did so, seemingly afraid of him making eye contact with her in that moment. The tone of her voice indicated she was a little upset with the idea Alex may have just watched her burn two people alive.

“Why wouldn’t I watch that? That was freaking awesome! You said you had the potential to level this building, and after watching that huge ass tower of fire, I gotta believe you…!” Alex replied in overeager excitement.

“But I just incinerated two people right in front of you… That doesn’t bother you at all…?”

“…Well, technically it was right behind me, but semantics… Anyways, why should it bother me…? From a moral standpoint, they were murderous assholes, so I shouldn’t feel bad about them dying… Plus, as Spirits, they’ve already died once, why should them dying a second time be any more tragic…?”

“…That… could’ve been the case for them… But, you do know that once you’re slain as a Spirit, you don’t get another chance, you just stay dead…” Kitsiyuna replied, with a noticeable tinge of guilt building in her voice.

“Well, the way I see it, becoming a Spirit is the second chance you get to potentially avoid any mistakes you made during your first ‘life’. Those two were definitely assholes when they were human, and continued to be assholes when they died and became Spirits. They clearly refused to learn anything from their first deaths, so I’m not going to feel bad that you killed them off permanently in self-defense…  And quite frankly, neither should you…!” Alex replied with a bit of a standoffish tone. “…Especially because… ya know… you were also trying to protect me too…” he hesitantly continued, almost whispering under his breath.

“…Is this his way of thanking me…?” Kitsiyuna thought to herself. She had been so wrapped up in her own actions, it had completely slipped her mind that Alex was more or less an unwilling bystander in all of that. “…Telling me that I shouldn’t feel bad because I wasn’t just protecting myself, but him too…?”

“…Burning people to death still isn’t something you should be doing right in front of a kid though…” she replied, still refusing to allow herself to be absolved of her actions.

“…Oh please…” Alex responded back dismissively. “Them burning to death was pretty damn tame in comparison to some of the gruesome death I’ve been privileged enough to witness first hand…” That last bit took Kitsiyuna by surprise.

“This isn’t your first time seeing someone die…?” she asked.

“Nope, though, by the way you’re acting, you could definitely fool me into thinking this was YOUR first time…” Alex replied with a joking tone.

“Just… How old are you anyways…?” she asked, that being the only thing that could pop into her head at that moment.

“15.” he replied bluntly.

“He’s only 15…!? And he’s completely un-phased by all of this…!? Seriously… what the hell is up with this kid…!?” Kitsiyuna thought to herself as she pressed her hand against her forehead. The concerned expression she had on her face made it extremely easy for Alex to figure out what she was thinking.

“…So are we done here…? Or are we waiting for more goons to show up that you can have another conniption fit about killing, even if it’s ultimately the right thing to do…?” Alex asked as Kitsiyuna was lost in her thoughts.

“Wha…?” Kitsiyuna replied in confusion.

“…You know, the whole reason we went up here to the roof…?” Alex clarified as he tried to get Kitsiyuna to focus.

“…Oh right!” she replied, snapping back to her senses. “You said you sensed those guys when you were outside of the apartment… How many of them were there…?”

“I think it was four total. Those two were definitely among them…”

“Well… Considering I was able to handle those first two pretty easily, I think we can safely move on to the hideout without those other two being too much of an issue… That friend of mine I contacted earlier is supposed to be meeting up with us there to help sort out this situation if it turns out there’s more than just those four bounty hunters, and I don’t want to keep her waiting…”

“I did hear that bastard gunman give orders to the other two to watch the exits of the building. They might try to follow us if you plan on just heading straight there…”

“Oh, don’t worry, I think we should be able to get a good enough head start that it shouldn’t be an issue…” Kitsiyuna replied with a mischievous hint to her voice. She then once again wrapped her arms around Alex’s body, who began to tense up as he anticipated just what Kitsiyuna was planning on doing next.

“OH HELL NO! YOU ARE NOT CARRYING ME AGAIN WOMAN!” Alex shouted as he tried to squirm out of Kitsiyuna’s hold.

“You’re not going to be able to follow me without me carrying you!” she replied as she tightened her hold on him.

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo…!” he replied, his no almost sounding like a cow mooing, with his overreaction causing Kitsiyuna to giggle.

“Here, why don’t I hold you like this this time…?” she said as she chuckled. She scooped her left arm underneath Alex’s shoulders as she lifted him up into the air, supporting his legs with her other arm. She ending up getting Alex into a position where she was carrying him in such a way one would carry another ‘over the threshold’, with Alex’s impotent flailing putting up no resistance during the entire process.

“ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!? DO I LOOK LIKE A PRINCESS TO YOU!?” Alex shouted almost in disbelief, extremely annoyed with the way Kitsiyuna had decided to carry him.

“ Hey… It’s at least gotta be comfier than the way I carried you through the hallway. Besides, you’re going to be much safer through what I’m about to do…” Kitsiyuna replied in a tone indicating she was enjoying herself.

“What you’re about to do…?” Alex asked in a mix of confusion and irritation. Rather than give Alex a verbal response, Kitsiyuna began running full sprint to the edge of the rooftop. Alex in turn, responding by screaming his head off in fear as Kitsiyuna proceeded to barrel her way off of the roof. Upon reaching the edge of the building, Kitsiyuna leaned forward with one foot firmly planted in the ground as the other was stepping off of the side. For a brief moment, Alex could feel time once again slow down as Kitsiyuna slowly leaned the two of them off of the building into freefall. Alex fell silent for a moment as the two of them continued to lean forward until eventually they were falling straight toward the concrete below.

“GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH ARE YOU INSANE!?!?” Alex screamed as he held onto her for dear life. Kitsiyuna merely responded by muffling him as she shoved his head into her cleavage mid-fall while she braced him for her next move.

Once she began freefall, Kitsiyuna guided her feet to the side of the building that was rushing past, and with one swift motion, dug the heels of her boots into the wall, changing their freefall to a 90 degree slide straight down. Despite the verticality of it all, Kitsiyuna was able to keep her feet firmly planted as the two continued to skid down, her heels noticeably cutting into the brick as they went by. After quickly descending down to around the third floor, Kitsiyuna suddenly stopped all of their momentum by digging her heels deeper into the brick.

“Did… did we reach the ground yet…?” Alex hesitantly asked as he noticed they had stopped moving, too cautious to remove his face from Kitsiyuna’s chest to verify for himself.

“Not quite…” she replied as she looked over the wide stretch of neighboring buildings before her.

The drop to the third floor had put her more in line with the tops of most of the other nearby buildings, allowing her to more easily look over the interconnected alleyways and isolated courtyards before her. After a quick scan, she saw an empty enclosure sandwiched in between four buildings a straight shot from where they were ‘rooted’. A quick trace of the surrounding rooftops revealed an alley connected to the enclosure that fed back to the main street. Upon noticing this, she quickly set the enclosure as their next destination.

“Hey, do you think I could make it to that big abandoned gap between those buildings over there in one jump?” Kitsiyuna asked playfully.

“What…? One jump!?” Alex responded, his curiosity piqued enough to finally look for himself. He felt himself beginning to sweat once again as he quickly realized just what she was going to do. Before he could interject, he could feel Kitsiyuna beginning to crouch down on the wall, ready to do one hell of a leap.

Within seconds, Kitsiyuna launched the two of them off of the wall using her powerful legs, denting in the brick wall with an impact crater from the sheer force of the jump. Immediately after jumping, Alex could hear roaring flames trailing behind them as they were being rapidly propelled forward at a downward angle. A quick glance to Kitsiyuna’s boots revealed she was creating a concentrated stream of fire from both feet to literally rocket the two forward through the air. It took the two of them all of about six seconds to reach one of the walls right above the enclosure.

A split second before hitting the wall, Kitsiyuna cut off the flames coming from her feet and flipped forward, landing against the wall with her boots while still keeping Alex in his secured position buried in her bosom. She then proceeded to bounce back off of the wall while flipping backwards this time, landing in the middle of the grass covered enclosure. Once she had landed safely, she gently let Alex go back onto the ground. Alex, having been shaken from the whole ‘jump’, landed on his feet for all of one second before he promptly lost his balance and landed square on his ass.

“Well, aside from coming in just a little on the hot side, I thought that was pretty good! We cleared like, what…  200 feet in one jump!” Kitsiyuna said in an optimistic tone as she patted Alex on the shoulder. Alex replied by slowly turning his head to face her. His eye was twitching, his hairs were standing up on end, and he had a shudder going down his arms and back.

“If you… can move like that… why the hell… do you take… the damn bus…!?” Alex asked hyperventilating.

“Well… I might be pretty mobile by people standards… But the bus is way less conspicuous and is usually still going to be faster than that…” she replied, reaching her arm down to help pull Alex back to his feet. Though he was able to remain standing, he was still frazzled enough to have to lean his torso forward as he tried to calm down, clutching his stomach as he breathed in an out.

“Can all Spirits… do crap like that…?” he asked, still regaining his composure.

“Well, I can only really speak for myself, but from what I’ve been told, I’m considered above average in that regard…” Kitsiyuna answered, lightly chuckling as she did so. “…But anyways, if we follow that alleyway over there, we should be able to follow it to another bus stop. From there, we ride the bus until we get to the hideout. We should probably try to keep moving so that we don’t give those guys a chance to catch up…”

“Just give me like… 10 seconds alright…” Alex said in exacerbation as he meekly held his hand up.

“Am I going to have to carry you to the bus stop too…?” Kitsiyuna asked, placing her hands on her hips as she leaned in closer to Alex with a smirk on her face.

“NO. YOU ARE NOT CARRYING ME ANY FURTHER!” Alex replied bluntly.

“Well then come on! I might be pretty fast, but it’s still possible those guys are fast enough to catch up…!” Kitsiyuna said as she grabbed onto Alex’s hand, lightly pulling on it to get him to start moving.

“All right! All right! You don’t have to drag me there either!” he said in protest, following behind Kitsiyuna as she led the way forward.

The two made their way out of the grassy enclosure on foot, heading into a narrow alleyway. Though there was enough room for the two of them to walk together side by side, Alex decided to linger behind her as they made their way to the bus stop. As they continued on down the alleyway through its twists and turns, the angle of the surrounding buildings slowly blocked more and more sunlight from coming in. It wasn’t before too long that they reached a section of alleyway where the sky was covered by some overhanging structures that turned it almost completely pitch black. Alex had no trouble following behind Kitsiyuna however, as the orb on her necklace was once again letting out a faint light blue glow bright enough to illuminate the surrounding walls. The glow of the orb once again sparked curiosity in Alex.

“So what’s up with that necklace?” Alex asked inquisitively.

“My necklace…?” Kitsiyuna replied, looking down at the orb around her neck as she fiddled with it in her hand. “What about it…?”

“It is magic right…? That’s why it’s glowing right now…?”

“Oh… Yeah, I suppose it is a little magic. I’ve never really stopped to think about it…”

“You just wear that necklace without really thinking about it…?”

“Well yeah… I’ve had it longer than I can remember. I always liked how it looks on me, so I’ve never felt the need to take it off… It’s become like a part of me that I don’t really think about, and yet I’d feel completely naked if I wasn’t wearing it at all times…”

“Does it actually do anything aside from ‘looking pretty’?”

“Well, I have seen it change colors a couple of times… But other than that, I don’t think it’s actually supposed to do anything…”

“So you’re just wearing a glowing necklace because you’ve always thought it looked nice…? Even though it could EASILY out you as a Spirit if somebody saw you in the dark with it…?”’

“And what’s wrong with wanting to look nice, huh…?” Kitsiyuna replied in a semi defensive tone.

“Well the way you were parkouring up that building, hurling fireballs, and fighting that guy with your bare hands, it made you seem like one of those girls who would hate girly stuff like that… You know, like a tomboy or something…”

“Well I ain’t no tomboy, that’s for sure. I love to wear dresses, going shopping, doing my hair, and walking around in high heels among other things. It just doesn’t feel right to me trying to fake being a guy like tomboys do…”

“Really…? Your giantess Amazonian build had me thinking otherwise…” Alex replied with a joking tone to his voice.

“…Well okay. I do get a little bit of a kick out of being really tall and really strong, which I guess is more of a guy thing… But I still like to be seen as a proper lady.”

“…A proper lady who can pack away something like eight cheeseburgers in one sitting…?”

“That’s just because I’m a Spirit! When we get hungry, we tend to eat a lot is all…!” Kitsiyuna replied in a flustered tone with the light from her necklace revealing her reddening cheeks.

“I could’ve sworn I read somewhere that Spirits don’t actually get hungry…” Alex thought to himself. “She is a Spirit right…? I mean, sure… she looks like a normal, albeit slightly taller than average human, but she’s probably just using magic to disguise herself… But only a Spirit could do all of that stuff she did earlier…”

“…Just what kind of Spirit are you supposed to be Kitsiyuna…?” Alex asked out loud.

“What kind of Spirit…?” Kitsiyuna replied quizzically.

“I mean what kind of race of Spirit are you. You know, like how that guy with the sword hand was a Cornossa, and I think that guy with the gun was a Wightling… I mean it wouldn’t surprise me at all if you were some kind of fire Spirit with all of that fire magic you’ve been using…”

“Oh… I’d… rather not say…” she replied very meekly. With how open she had just been with him, Alex found himself a little blindsided by her hard walling his question.

“You’d rather not say…? Why the hell not…?”

“I just… Don’t think it’s that great of an idea… given my current circumstances…” Kitsiyuna trailed off. The tone of her voice indicated she was a little upset she had to blow off Alex’s question, but it was clear to him he wasn’t going to get anything more than that. He merely figured keeping what kind of Spirit she was secret was in some way tied to why she was hiding in Lunaridge. Alex decided to walk a little faster, matching Kitsiyuna’s pace so that they were side by side. As he walked, he kept his eyes on her face, noting again how different she seemed when she was in the dark.

“Yeah… Her true from definitely shows through more in the dark…” he thought to himself, continuing the observations he had made about her on the bus. He noticed how much more serious and dour the look on her face felt when in the darkness. Looking at her under illuminated face still put him on edge, but he felt a little less uneasy than last time now that he knew a little bit about what kind of person Kitsiyuna actually was.

“What’s putting me off about her right now…? It’s not like her face is any scarier or anything… Maybe it’s just the potential power of her true form that’s freaking me out…?” Alex didn’t linger on that thought for too long, as the two of them finally made their way out of the darkened part of the alleyway into more direct sunlight. It didn’t take long after that before they found their way barred by a chain link fence, the door to which was held tight by a small metal padlock on the other side.

“Stand back a bit… I’m going to try to melt this lock off…” Kitsiyuna said, putting her hand up to signal Alex to stop.

She reached her hand through the fence and placed her thumb, middle, and pointer finger around the loop of the lock. After a few seconds, Alex could making out a faint amount of steam coming from the lock as Kitsiyuna was attempting to heat it up. The steam quickly turned to smoke as Alex could see the metal of the lock turn a brighter and brighter orange. Even the safe distance he was standing back, he could still feel the air around him slowly increase a good 30 degrees into an uncomfortable swelter. Thankfully for Alex, the air quickly returned back to normal as Kitsiyuna successfully broke off the lock after a couple of seconds, with it bouncing to the floor with a metallic thunk. She then turned her attention back in Alex’s direction, forming another fireball in her hand as she did so.

“Uh… What’s with the fireball…?” Alex asked with a concerned look on his face.

“I knew us slowing down to talk was going to be a bad idea!” Kitsiyuna replied, running forward towards Alex ready to throw the fireball in his general direction. Alex panicked and dropped to the ground as Kitsiyuna hurled the fireball before he quickly realized she was aiming at something directly behind him.

As the fireball flew across its trajectory towards the wall behind the duo, it suddenly popped midair just shy of Alex. Just a second after the fireball exploded, Alex could hear something impacting the wall before the sound was then followed up by a goblin-like grunt. Kitsiyuna then rushed forward towards the sounds, as she seemed to just grab at the air, before slamming whatever she was apparently grabbing at against the wall. A crater formed on the wall as another Spirit began to magically materialize into Kitsiyuna’s hand.

“Sorry I didn’t tell you to duck first…” Kitsiyuna replied to Alex sheepishly, her attention focused on him as she began strangling the small Spirit she just grabbed by the neck. Alex felt a slight singe to his hair as he had realized just how close Kitsiyuna had been to hitting him.

“Thought you could sneak up on us, huh you little Gremlin!?” she said to the diminutive Spirit as she held him against the wall. At first, Alex thought Kitsiyuna was just trying to insult the Spirit before he realized that is actually was a Gremlin.

The Gremlin was obviously small in stature, probably a few inches shorter than Alex with a reddish tint to his skin and curly tufts of faintly purple hair coming from his head. He had large yellow, almost cat-like eyes with an even larger nose, taking up a good third of his face. His ears were similarly large, pointed, and drooping and were so disproportionately sized to his already tiny head, that they made his head look even smaller. He was wearing similar black clothing to the bounty hunters from earlier, though smaller and a little grimier, indicating he was probably with them.

“How the heck did you even notice me there!? I freaking made myself invisible!” the Gremlin yelled out in a raspy, almost oxymoronic high-pitched bass.

“What can I say, I have some REALLY fine-tuned senses, especially for a Spirit…” Kitsiyuna replied smugly. “What the hell were you even doing following us…? Did you think you were going to sneak up on me and take me out all by yourself…?”

“I uh… I have no idea what you’re talking about…! I was just… passing through!” the Gremlin said, in tone that made it painfully obvious he was lying. Kitsiyuna responded by flicking his large nose with enough force that it started to bleed a little, causing him to reel back in pain.

“Don’t try to play dumb with me you little idiot! I know you’re with those other bounty hunters who were chasing us! Now what the hell was your plan here, because there was no way a little Gremlin like you was going to take me on alone!” Kitsiyuna continued to grill him.

“You… you think I’m just going to tell you that…?” he stammered out.

“When push comes to shove… YES I DO.” Kitsiyuna said sternly, setting one of her fingers on fire before quickly jabbing it into the Gremlin’s eye. He quickly closed his eye shut as he let off a series of high-pitched winces.

“Now tell me what you were doing trying to sneak up on us! From the looks of it, it looked like you were trying to sneak up and grab that kid over there and take him as a hostage!” she said, pointing to Alex, who suddenly realized the Gremlin must have been right up behind him, potentially close enough to grab him, and he didn’t even notice.

“Is that the case!? Because trying to take a kid hostage like that is pretty damn low, even by your rotten bounty hunter standards!” she continued in anger, raising a burning fist to the Gremlin’s face, ready to punch it in.

“NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! I wasn’t trying to grab the kid, honest! I was just trying to follow you to your hideout in secret!” the Gremlin replied in a panic.

“You were trying to follow me to my hideout? Did you honestly think I wasn’t going to sense you at any point the entire way there!? Seriously, just how bad are you assholes at your job that you don’t even know what your target is capable of!? All you guys just seem to get constantly surprised by my abilities!” Kitsiyuna said to the Gremlin with a hint of disbelief.

“I don’t know what to tell ya! Our boss is the only one who bothers to learn that crap. It’s never been an issue for the rest of us!” the Gremlin replied.

“All right then. Who is this boss of yours?” Kitsiyuna asked.

“You think I’m going to tell you that!? You probably wouldn’t even have any idea who he is the first place!” the Gremlin said in defiance.

“Tell me who your damn boss is!” Kitsiyuna shouted, slamming the Gremlin into the wall again with both hands as she began to engulf them in flame.

“GAHH! COOL IT WITH THE DAMN FIRE! His name is Ombrix Masserk! He’s a Somnight who has been bounty hunting as a Spirit for years…!” the Gremlin yelled in mild agony. Alex’s mind once again flashed back to that book of Spirits he had read some time ago, trying to recall just what a Somnight was. He remembered they were among the more humanoid race of Spirits, possessing skin with a violet hue, pale hair, and soulless black eyes, but couldn’t remember much else about what kind of powers they tended to have.

“Who the hell is Ombrix Masserk…?” Alex asked.

“No clue.” Kitsiyuna replied back bluntly.

“I told you you wouldn’t have any idea who he was!” the Gremlin said.

“All right, fine, next question… WHO THE HELL DID YOU ACCEPT MY BOUNTY FROM!?” Kitsiyuna continued to interrogate the Gremlin, showing no signs of easing up with her fire.

“I don’t know! The boss is the one who accepted the bounty! We just went along with it!” he blurted out.

“You don’t know anything about them!?” Kitsiyuna continued to bash the back of his head into the wall.

“They… they did give the boss something in advance for accepting the job…! They gave it to him because they wanted him to test it out! Said it would help us capture you!” the Gremlin said in an increasing panic.

“What was it!?” Kitsiyuna asked in a very intimidating voice.

“I don’t know! Only the boss has gotten to see it in action himself! He just told us that the thing they gave him was super-efficient at hunting other Spirits and it would make all of our jobs in the future trivial because of it!” the Gremlin continued to confess. Kitsiyuna paused for a bit as the expression on her face grew more concerned.

“Why do I have a bad feeling about this…?” she said out loud to herself.

“Why? What’s the problem…? Do you have an idea of who might be after you…?” Alex asked.

“…I’d rather not say right now…” Kitsiyuna said. “After all… I could be wrong… Anyways, I doubt this idiot actually knows anything helpful, so we should just get moving to the hideout…” she continued, slamming the Gremlin one last time into the wall with enough force that it caused it to crack. She then let the Gremlin go, as he fell limp to the ground, out cold.

“That’s all you’re going to do to him?” Alex asked as he pointed to the beaten down Spirit.

“Trust me, if he somehow pops up again, he’s not going to be a problem… All of these guys are turning out to be more of a nuisance than an actual threat…” she replied dismissively.

“…Grghhh… You so sure about that…!?” the Gremlin said in pain as he lifted his bruised head from the ground. Apparently he wasn’t actually unconscious.

“Are you kidding me? That last slam was supposed to knock you out.” Kitsiyuna said in a tone half way in between disbelief and mild annoyance. “Hold still while I fix that…” she continued, raising up her boot in preparation to stomp his face in.

“…You’re going to regret screwing with us…!” he replied with a smug voice and a bleeding smile on his face.

“What the hell are you even on about…? You guys started all of this!” she said, her boot still ready to smash his face in further.

“…That kid… he’s your ‘partner’ isn’t he…?” the Gremlin said, pointing at Alex. “Well my boss already knows you killed two of our own. Once he captures you, which he WILL by the way… He’s gonna literally skin that kid alive, and force you to watch as punishment…!” he added, laughing with a sadistic grin to his face.

Kitsiyuna at that point wasted no time repeatedly kicking the Gremlin’s face in until it became an almost unrecognizable bloody pulp. Alex could visibly see the anger growing on her face despite standing directly behind her the entire time. Once she was done stomping his skull in, she readied another fireball in her hand and aimed it at his face.

Instead of shooting out a fireball however, she instead launched an incredibly concentrated stream of roaring fire, like a flamethrower. The flames spewed out so fiercely that the streams of fire began to shoot off the wall, rocketing past Kitsiyuna and causing Alex to have to take cover to avoid getting burned. Kitsiyuna eventually stopped, having essentially vaporized the entirety of the Gremlin’s body, with once again nothing being left behind except very faint scorch marks in spite of the power of the flames. She then turned around to face Alex, with look of extreme anger mixed with sadness on her face.

“Don’t… say anything okay…?” she said to him with a sorrowful tone, clearly guilty about what she had just done. “Let’s just get to bus stop before any more can catch up to us…”

Alex wanted to interject, but decided it was probably for the best that he at least waited until they were back on another bus. The two then preceded in silence the rest of the way to the bus stop, arriving just in time as the bus pulled up. They boarded the bus, with Kitsiyuna dropping in enough quarters to cover both her and Alex’s fare, and proceeded to sit down in an isolated seat in the back. Despite his discomfort from last time, Alex once again decided to take the inside seat, this time feeling more inclined to take up his share of the seat.

“So uh… why didn’t you lead off with straight up incinerating those guys on the roof…? Because it certainly felt like you were taking your time with them…” Alex asked Kitsiyuna after they had been on the bus for a couple of minutes.

“…Because… it’s kind of risky just going all out right at the start you know…” Kitsiyuna replied, unsure of her answer.

“Couldn’t you just control your magic to make it… not… risky…?” Alex asked. Kitsiyuna let out a long sigh before she answered again.

“…You would think… Let’s just say I’m not in my top form right now, and it kind of affects my abilities to do magic…”

“How so?”

“Well… How much do you know about magic? I can tell based off of that book of yours and the fact that you can channel Spirit Energy you must know a little bit…”

“…I know just enough to deal with other humans, but that’s about it…” Alex candidly replied.

“Well, the long and short of it is magic, whether from a human or a Spirit, requires Spirit Energy. How much you put into a spell determines how strong the magic comes out. I’ve just been having trouble lately with that finer control of my Spirit Energy, making my spells not as stable as I would like them to be…”

“I don’t know… It seems like you’ve had okay control so far, especially with those fireballs…”

“…Those fireballs you’ve been seeing from me were all supposed to be about half as big as I was making them. It was incredibly lucky I didn’t hit you with that last one. And that’s not even getting into the problems I’ve been having with my stronger spells…”

“You mean like that fire tower you made…?”

“Yeah. Stronger spells like that Flare Pillar require you to do any incantation in your head in order for them to cast properly. Incanting in your head is supposed to be a relatively simple skill to pick up, but I’ve been having issues with that too. I’ve been having to devote more of my focus to incanting for much longer than I used to for spells like that to come out… That’s why I didn’t lead off with that… Because I kind of can’t at this point…”

“Well you still did a lot better than I would have…” Alex replied with a tone indicating he was disappointed in his own abilities.

“Well, that’s just because the Spirits we’ve encounter so far have been complete and total jokes…” Kitsiyuna humbly shot back, continuing to downplay her abilities.

“…If that’s the case, why are you having to rush me out to this hideout of yours…?”

“At this point, it’s mostly just a precaution. I need to meet up with my friend so that we can figure out exactly how many of these bounty hunters are currently after me and what we can do to prevent them from calling in backup in the future… And, well… my friend specializes in doing both of those…” Kitsiyuna paused for a bit as she looked over directly at Alex. “…That and she kind of wants to meet you in person now that you’ve sort of gotten involved with me, among other things…”

“Is that so…?” Alex found himself pausing for a moment as he remembered the call Kitsiyuna made to her friend on the roof. “On the roof, when you were calling her on the phone… er… Utility Crystal… You looked pretty freaked out when you were talking to her… Why was that?”

“Oh that?” Kitsiyuna responded in an extremely nervous tone. “She was just… chewing me out for getting a bystander wrapped up in this whole thing, that’s all…”

She let out a light, insincere chuckle as she finished giving her explanation. Alex could clearly tell she was lying to him, but couldn’t pinpoint just why that was. An unpleasant thought began to well up in the back of his head that this hideout might not be so safe for him. Kitsiyuna, clearly realizing Alex wasn’t buying it, nervously tried to change the subject.

“You know what…? That reminds me! You said the entire reason you were following me was because you wanted to ask me a question. You never told me what that question was!” Kitsiyuna asked, mildly overplaying her eagerness. “Now you’re absolutely positive it’s not the fact that you wanted to ask me out or anything, right?”

“Ew. I already told you that wasn’t it! You already look like you’re at least eight years older than me, which is already a big age difference as is! But, considering you’re a Spirit, you could easily be a thousand years old hag for all I know!” Alex replied, also overplaying his disgust at the idea as he tried to hide the fact that he was blushing.

“…That’s just rude…” Kitsiyuna responded, the joking insincerity of her tone indicated she didn’t actually take it personally. “…Though… I’ll have you know I have heard of humans younger than you in the past hooking up with Spirits hundreds of times older than them and it usually worked out okay for them in the end, you know…  like, twenty percent of the time…” Kitsiyuna ended with a chuckle.

“I… I can’t tell whether or not she’s actually upset I didn’t want to ask her out…” Alex thought to himself in mild confusion. He then quickly snapped his mind back as he realized he was getting thrown off onto a tangent.

“…Do you want to actually hear my question, or are you going to just keep distracting me…?” Alex replied bluntly, his mind refocusing on his primary motivation for stalking Kitsiyuna in the first place.

“All right, all right. Go ahead, shoot.” Kitsiyuna answered back, eager to hear his question.

“I was going to ask you… would be willing to forge a Pact with me…?” Alex said, trailing of at the end of his question. Kitsiyuna looked over to him with wide eyes, almost like she was afraid of that question in particular. She hesitated for a good few seconds before finally figuring how to respond.

“You wanted to form a Pact with me…?” she asked back, with heavy hesitation in her voice.

“I heard you talking about looking for a human to form a Pact with in that restaurant. It’s why I decided to follow you back to your apartment in the first place, because I’ve been looking for a Spirit to form a Pact with myself.”

“Do… do you even know what a Pact is…?” Kitsiyuna stuttered as she asked in disbelief, clearly getting nervous about the subject.

“Of course I do. I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t! A Pact is special kind of link that only a human and a Spirit can form that binds their two Souls together, creating a flow of Spirit Energy between the two of them, allowing them to share their power with one another. The human in a Pact becomes a Spiriter, exponentially enhancing their power while doing the same for their partner to a lesser extent. That’s why I’ve been desperately looking for any kind of Spirit I could form a Pact with, I feel so weak and powerless… and I just… want to get stronger!” Noticeable desperation began to well up in Alex’s voice as he explained just why he sought after a Pact with a Spirit. A sense of dread was building up within him that Kitsiyuna wasn’t going to give him the answer he wanted.

“…Well it is true I need a Spiriter… for multiple reasons, not just because I’ve been having trouble controlling my power… but…” Kitsiyuna didn’t even have to finish her sentence. That single but instantly drained all of the hope from Alex’s face.

“…I don’t think forming a Pact with you would be a good idea…” And just like that, Alex got the rejection he feared, the entire reason he was hesitant to ask her in the first place.

“Wh-why not…?” Alex stammered out as his voice began to crack. Alex had been apparently banking on this for some time. With Kitsiyuna’s denial, despair began to set in.

“…Now, don’t get me wrong Alex. You definitely have been the most interesting human I’ve ever really hung out with. Granted, with my current situation, I don’t really get to hang out with too many humans in the first place…” Kitsiyuna was trying her best to soften her rejection, but it was seemingly doing nothing to actually calm him down.

“Then why!? I actually thought we were getting along fine all things considered…! Which like, NEVER happens for me…! I mean, for fuck’s sake, I’ve already had my face in both your crotch and your damn boobs after only knowing you for like an hour and you were like completely fine with both of those things happening…! All of that seemed pretty buddy buddy to me…!”

“…It’s not you…! It’s… it’s me alright… I’m not a Spirit you can just form a Pact with…” Kitsiyuna replied with an anguished and exhausted tone.

“What are you talking about…? Any human is supposed to be able to form a Pact with any Spirit! Sure, some are more compatible with others… But at this point, I don’t care…! I’ve been looking for a Spirit for years! At this point… I just want to form a Pact with someone…” Alex’s words started to eat away at Kitsiyuna as she could feel the guilt pilling on, but she was set on trying to turn him down.

“While that is true under most circumstances… I know for a fact I’m an exception… I mean, I’ve been looking for a partner, same as you… There are millions of people in Lunaridge alone… If I really could just form a Pact with any one of them, I obviously still wouldn’t be looking for one right now… I would just pick the first person I saw…! Not just any human can be my Spiriter, Alex…”

“Well then, why…? Why is that the case?” Alex asked in sad desperation.

“I’ve tried to initiate Pacts with humans before, and the same thing would always happen whenever I did: my Soul would always try to rip theirs apart.” Kitsiyuna answered with a grim tone.

“…Are… are you serious…?” Alex replied, half in shock.

“You know how I said I was above average in terms of Spirits? Well it turns out my Soul is incredibly strong. So strong, that it can rip apart the soul of any human I try to form a Pact with the instance I do so. That’s why I don’t want to form a Pact with you, because you’d probably just die on the spot… And it wouldn’t just be a normal death either. If that happened to you, you wouldn’t get to pass on and become a Spirit. You would simply cease to exist, in the same way a Spirit dies…”

“Can you actually tell if that’s the case before hand…?”

“No, I can’t, and I’m not going to take that risk. I know it’s possible to cancel the Pact the second I can feel my Soul trying to rip apart the other one, but even still, that’s incredibly dangerous and isn’t even guaranteed to spare the other human. If I don’t react fast enough, they still get ripped to shreds, and even if I do, cancelling out of a Pact like that can cause irreversible damage to both the human and Spirit… That’s not something I just want to chance with random people…” Kitsiyuna’s voice grew sadder and sadder as she tried to convince Alex to back down, but to no avail.

“If that’s all true… Could anyone actually form a Pact with you at all…?”

“It would have to be a human with an incredibly powerful Soul, one stronger than most Spirit’s.  That way, they could withstand the intense pressure my Soul would exert onto theirs. I’ve heard the odds of a human being born with such a Soul are 1 in 2,000,000. So it would be incredibly rare, but not necessarily impossible… And before you ask, based off of what I can sense from your Soul right now… I sincerely doubt yours would be strong enough…”

“…But, there still could be a chance right….? You never know until you test it…! Like you said, you could always cancel out of it if you can tell it’s not going to work…!” Alex replied, the anxiety and anguish in his voice continuing to compound.

“I already told you I’m not going to try that! It’s for your own safety anyways! I mean, do you like the idea of just straight up ceasing to exist at 15, with absolutely no chance at an afterlife!?” Kitsiyuna replied with a stern voice. “…You just need to learn to hold out, all right…? I’m obviously not the only Spirit out there. I’m sure you’ll eventually find another one who’d be willing to help you with whatever it is you’re trying to do…”

Alex didn’t respond any further, as he just sat in mortification. His biggest fear, being rejected by someone he thought could finally accept him, had been laid right in front of him. He lifted his feet up off of the floor and onto his seat, wrapping his arms and legs tightly around his backpack which had resting in his lap, and began to cradle it in his melancholy. He just wanted to storm off of the bus, causing a big disruption if he had to just so that he could get thrown off then and there, not caring where he ended up. But he decided not to if only because Kitsiyuna was blocking his way off, figuring she would try to stop him he if tried anything.

Well Alex, you got the answer you knew you were going to get…” Alex began to think to himself as he began to uncomfortable hunch up against the window like he did the last time.

“You know she’s right… You could just wait for another Spirit to come along, or hell, maybe you could just convince her to help you without forming a Pact… But if I tried to get her help without forming a Pact, I’ll never be able to get stronger…Why… Why does it feel like a Pact with her is going to be my only chance…!?”  Alex’s fears began to build inside of him. Using all of the willpower he could muster, he tried to turn his anxiety into determination.

“…I… don’t care about the consequences… Even if it means me dying…  I need to convince her to form a Pact with me…! I don’t think I’ll ever find a Spirit better for my mission than her!”

 

 

Art Post – Tactical Retreat

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Doc and Dannie's Tactical Retreat

Here’s some more Meldworld art, this time of Dannie and Dr. Strangelove perfecting the art of the tactical retreat. Not really much to this one other than I thought it would be funny to draw. And really, who could want a better reason than comedy? This picture is a little bit different than my usual work on virtue of the fact that I was experimenting with different colored outlines rather than sticking to one uniform color. I think it turned out okay for this particularly picture, but I still haven’t quite decided if its something I want to stick with for other pieces. But that’s mostly what these drawings are for, to give me a chance to try experimenting with various aspects of my art.

Anyways, I’m trying to keep this post short, so until then, I’ll see you next post.

Art Post – Knife To Meet Ya

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Stiletta and Dannie

Starting off the random pictures of art I said I was gonna be posting, here’s a picture I did over a year ago. These are characters from another comic idea I’ve had rolling around in my head for quite some time now called Meldworld that takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting that does not take itself seriously in the slightest. Their names are Dannie and Stiletta. Stiletta is a knife-loving cosplayer with no sense of personal space. Dannie is a cowardly hentai loving pervert that has panic attacks whenever actually girls get anywhere close to him. And I TOTALLY ship ’em. If you’ve been attentively following the blog for a while now, you might’ve noticed Dannie actually has had two small appearances in the main comic already. Stiletta on the other hand, not so much.

In Meldworld, Dannie would travel about the wastelands in an RV along with his bossy short-tempered older sister Bonnie, an irresponsible scientist with a questionable grasp on reality named Dr. Strangelove, and a bomb-like robot nicknamed Quirky who is incredibly naive, exceedingly dense, absolutely stupid, and probably had a role in causing the apocalypse in the first place. As “The Crew” travels about the wastes, encountering all kinds of freaks, mutants, and down right weirdos along the way, they would discover the nature of the world ending is a little bit more complicated than initially thought, possibly involving multiple dimensions and plains of existence converging together in a process that they just might be able to reverse.

Stiletta would be one of the more “major” characters the Crew would encounter on their travels. Being the big doujin reading pervert that he is, Dannie becomes infatuated with the pink-haired knife fanatic the second he lays eyes on her. She gets convinced to join the Crew on their travels because they’re nice, unassuming, and most importantly, have an actual functioning car. While friendly on the surface, her allegiances quickly get called into question the longer they spend with her when its revealed she might be working for some shady people whose goals are in direct opposition to the Crew’s…

Pretty much the only reason I ended up drawing this picture in the first place was because I saw another picture with an interesting pose that I felt like trying to copy. I used these guys for my version purely because I felt like it fit them and would be a situation I could see popping up quite a few times in the comic.  But yeah, other than that, I don’t really have too much to say on this picture because like I said, it’s over a year old at this point and whatever decisions I have made when it came to making this have been lost to me at this point. As to why I never posted it until now despite it probably looking better than half the crap I post here? From here on out, you can pretty much always assume the reason I don’t post art is purely because I’m too lazy to type up a post to go with it explaining the picture. A habit of which I’m trying to break from in the coming weeks…

That all said, I’ll see you next post.

 

 

Night Fox – Novel Post: Chapter 1

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Click here for the easier to read PDF version. 


Chapter 1

Are you fucking kidding me!? Screw all of this damn sunlight. Beautiful day my ass. I don’t get why everybody has to get so excited whenever the freaking sun comes out. I mean, do people not realize that the sun is going to engulf the Earth eventually and kill us all?” were some of the thoughts going through the head of a clearly disturbed individual as the early afternoon sun beamed down on them.

‘It’s going to be another bright, sunny, and absolutely beautiful day today’ were the words echoed by various weatherman in Lunaridge. The relatively remote metropolis, with its skyline dotted with buildings of various sizes, ranging from humble two-stories to moderately tall skyscrapers, was located in the temperate mountains of the eastern seaboard, and as such was no stranger to a typical summer day like this. The bright rays from the sun, unhindered by the absence of any clouds in the sky, warmed up the city to a pleasant temperature of 75 degrees that those dreading the oncoming cold that autumn would inevitably bring, would find solace in this last bastion of summer weather. No doubt most residents of the city would enjoy the weather to be like this pretty much all year round. Though, there is at least one resident, who would’ve preferred some overcast that day.

In the middle of the city’s Felnor Plaza, a scrawny looking teenager sat in the comfort of the shade of a small maple tree that had been growing from one of a few patches of dirt left open amongst the rows of bricks that paved the rest of the plaza. His hair was black and messy, covering most of his forehead and dipping into his eyes, but was not completely unkempt, as there was a rhythm to how his hair stuck up in various places on his head. He wore a faded dark red hoodie whose sleeves were cut just above his elbows, exposing a longer sleeved dark-gray shirt underneath. In addition, he wore faded blue track pants with sneakers tightened with Velcro straps instead of laces. He was clearly emphasizing comfort over style with his clothing choices, though nothing about his attire would make him stand out from anyone else under normal circumstances.

What was striking about him was his face, or more particularly his eyes. He had dark bags underneath them, which sharply contrasted the rest of his relatively pale skin and only sought to highlight his most unique feature: his eyes having an unmistakably crimson hue to them. He definitely looked like someone who preferred to avoid direct sunlight. Various passersby were clearly wary of him, with a few of them making active notes to themselves to not get too close. Their aversion to the boy though, wasn’t without some merit however. He was named Alex Haser, and he was not normal.

Alex had pulled out a small sketchpad from the backpack he had lying next to him and began scribbling out an address with a mechanical pencil in a fairly annoyed manner.

“Damn it. Another waste of my time.” Alex thought to himself as he crossed out the address. “I’m never going to get everything I need if all of these places I keep hearing about turn up as duds…” With pencil still in hand, Alex began cupping his chin with his right hand while his elbow rested on the corresponding knee.

“There’s still that place in the mall I haven’t checked out yet. But even still, with how every other place has been turning out at this point, I doubt they’ll have anything that I need either…” Alex assumed a more contemplative pose, shifting the position of his hand, so that his chin was now resting on his knuckles, freeing up his fingers to freely fidget about with his pencil.

“What should I do if I can’t get everything on my list before my deadline? Should I just go in anyways? Or should I just give myself a few more weeks of prep time? I mean, it’s already been almost two months at this point. Should I really be wasting any more time than that? It is also possible that I might not need as much stuff as I think I do…”

Alex stuffed his notepad into one of his pockets before reaching back into his backpack. He pulled out a thick, hard-covered book that had been bound in leather with small triangular copper plates faceted to each corner of the book’s front and back. Strange, yet ornate symbols and markings had been etched into the leather that almost glowed in the shadow of the tree Alex was sitting under. Perhaps tome would be a better description than book. He opened to the very back of the tome, and pulled out a sheet of loose-leaf paper he had stashed in between the last page and the back cover, and then promptly put the tome back into his bag, barely acknowledging how weird of an object it was to have in his backpack in the first place.

The paper contained a check list of various items, most of which being something completely unrecognizable to the general population at hand. The list had a few of the items checked off sprinkled throughout the list, but for the most part, more than two-thirds of the list was left unchecked.

“There’s gotta be something on this list of crap that I probably don’t actually need…” Alex contemplated to himself as he looked over the list. But before Alex could give any kind of serious evaluation however, he quickly got interrupted by the low moaning of his stomach growling.

“Stomach, are you kidding me? Ugh, what time is it…?” Alex thought in a mildly exacerbated manner. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cell phone. While not a flip phone, the phone was still clearly several years old in terms of model, but was still in a fairly pristine condition. No doubt due to the fact that Alex probably wasn’t the kind of person to call others very often.

“Oh, it’s 12 o’clock, which is TECHNICALLY lunch time. I suppose this is the price I gotta pay for choosing to skip breakfast so that I can start heading out sooner…” Alex put his phone back into his pocket and began to pack up the rest of his belongings, mildly irked by his hunger. He slung his backpack over his head before securing its single strap to his left shoulder and wrapping it around to the right side of his body, taking extra care to insure it has no chance of sliding off.

“I guess I can grab something to eat real quick, then head onto that place in the mall. I can give the list another look over while I have lunch so that way I’m not wasting time just eating.” While initially unsure where specifically to go for lunch, Alex quickly made up his mind as he walked towards the edge of Felnor Plaza. He quickly eyed a fast food burger joint among the many shops littering the sides of the plaza, and decides eating lunch there would be the most efficient use of his time.

Upon entering the restaurant, Alex quickly entered the small line of people who had already gathered up to order their food. While there were only five people ahead of him, Alex was still none the less displeased with the idea of having to wait in line.

“Damn it. Figured getting lunch out of the way early would mean I wouldn’t have to deal with any kind of line. Clearly these five other jackasses had the exact same idea as me!” he thought to himself. While very annoyed in his head, Alex kept a very bored and uninterested look on his face. “Bet these fatties couldn’t wait to line up at 12 on the dot so that they can start shoving crap down their damn nob holes as soon as possible” Alex continued to think to himself, purposefully ignoring the fact that everyone in line ahead of him was just as skinny, if not skinnier, than him. He continued to think very angry yet entirely impotent thoughts about everyone ahead of him until the line eventually moved forward.

“Can you give me a minute? I just need a little bit to think about what I want.” the new front of line said to the cashier, who happily obliged their request.

“Oh kill me now. Actually, no wait. Kill them instead. I’ve got shit I need to do today. I mean seriously, why even get in line in the first place if you don’t even know what you’re getting!? You. Fucking. Jackass!” Alex’s ultimately childish tirade continued on in his head as an inner monologue, completely un-phased by the relative speed the line was actually moving at. His thought process got quickly derailed, however, as he felt somebody behind him touch his hand that had been resting on the metal queue that had been dividing up the line.

“Oh, sorry about that!” the woman who accidentally ended up touching Alex’s hand said, sliding her hand back.

“Whatever.” Alex flatly replied to her, closing the gap ahead of him as the line got shorter. While on the surface, Alex seemingly paid no mind to her or the exchange, he quickly internalized her appearance as he felt something a tad… off about the woman who had just touched him.

She was a very tall woman, probably around 6’4” in height, a good head size and a half taller than him. She was wearing a black cabbie hat over her straightened blonde hair, which had been layered and reached all the way down to her waist in the back. Despite the length, she obviously took great care to maintain it, as it had a brilliant luster to it. Her eyes were green, with an inviting and gentle look to them, which complemented her youthful face. Based off of how young her face looked, Alex speculated her age, figuring she was probably 22 at the oldest. After getting a good look at her face, Alex’s eyes were, naturally, drawn downward to her rather ample cleavage. Alex didn’t know much about bra sizes, but figured she could easily be a DD in size. Their size did give him some pause, but not for the usual reasons.

“She could probably kill a man with a rack that big if she put them in a headlock. Probably easily snap their neck, or just smother them to death… Damn it Alex! Stop looking at her dumb boobs. Woman love to slap men for that…” he thought to himself. “Oh don’t stare at my boobs, you pervert! …Even though I’m purposefully wearing an outfit that draws attention to them, you’re still a pervert for looking!” he continued monologuing to himself, this time in an intentionally high-pitched girly voice. Once he finished his internal rant, he quickly turned his eyes away from her chest and got a look at the rest of her.

Her “nice rack” was being accentuated by her tunic-styled dress, whose length dipped just below her knees. Slits on either side of the dress exposed her fairly well-toned legs. Further accentuating her legs were the high-heeled boots she wore that went all the way up to her exposed thighs. All of these clothing choices were the same general shade of “royal” purple.

“Bet she wears something with heels on ‘em cause she likes to kick people…” Alex mused to himself. “She looks like she actually has some pretty strong legs too. It would probably really hurt if she kicked ya…”

Over her dress, she was wearing an unzipped black leather jacket with a fluffy fur trim around the neck. The jacket did go with her hat, but seemed a little warm for the weather. The jacket’s trim did highlight probably the most interesting item of clothing on her: a small black choker she was wearing that Alex couldn’t help but bring his eyes to.

It looked almost like a dog collar in no small part due to the small blue orb hanging from it resembling a tag. Alex couldn’t quite tell just what kind of substance the orb was made from, but he could make out what appeared to be a swirling mist inside of it. Not to mention, it almost looked like it was glowing. Before he could get a closer look at the orb, though, he noticed the woman starting to look at him, and quickly diverted his eyes elsewhere. The woman merely gave a quiet smirk in response, amused by his apparent fascination with her.

“I think that kid is staring at your chest.” Another woman who had been standing beside her said in a quiet and dry tone. “You should probably zip up that jacket of yours so he stops looking…”

“It’s fine Angela. There’s no harm in it.” the first woman responded back in a gleeful tone.

Alex looked at the woman apparently named Angela. She was a bit shorter than the first girl, but definitely seemed older than her, probably in her late 30s. Her hair was blonde as well, though had far less luster and was done up with a clip. She was wearing glasses over her faint blue eyes and an off-white secretary’s outfit, with a very stern expression on her face that seemed just a little worn out.

“She looks like a WASP with a major stick up her ass…” Alex thought to himself based off of her rather grumpy appearance. “Probably her older sister if I had to guess…” Alex spent the rest of his duration in line keeping his eyes forward, paranoid of the older woman watching over him with an icy glare. Though she didn’t stand out quite as much in his head as the first girl, Alex could still tell there was definitely something off about her as well. He eventually made it to the front of the line and placed his order.

“Okay, and this order is going to be under… Hazel?” the cashier asked with a hint of disdain, as they misheard Alex’s last name in the order.

“I might be a bit of a nut, but I’m not that kind of nut! It’s pronounced HEY-ZER. Get it right yah pleb!” Alex shot back in a joking tone that was masked in a veil of fake outrage. As Alex walked away from the counter to claim his table, he could hear the first girl lightly giggling to his response.

“Everyone else is way too weirded out by me to laugh at my jokes. There is definitely something up with that girl…” Alex thought to himself as he sat down in an empty booth in the corner of the restaurant. As he waited for his food, he looked over his checklist again, contemplating what items were on it that he could consider unessential and that he could remove without much issue. Unfortunately for him, he remained unable to concentrate on actually making any changes to his list and merely sat there constantly re-reading the entire thing until eventually his order was ready.

“Son of a bitch messed up my order. I said no mayo on my burger!” he thought to himself as he examined the food he just received. “Now I have to be careful to make sure nothing actually gets on my stuff!”

Alex ended up partitioning off the booth he was sitting it, devoting the entire right side of it to his food, and the left to his list so as to lessen the odds of him potentially spilling unwanted condiments on it. Trying to regain focus, Alex intently stared at the list he had set down onto the booth’s table, while absent mindedly eating his food with his right hand. He was so focused on his list that he wasn’t even looking to see where his food was, merely feeling around his tray until he grabbed either some french-fries or his burger.

“Why do I keep drawing up blanks when I’m looking at this damn list!?” Alex thought to himself after a good 5 minutes of uninterrupted staring. “Look, you just gotta think smarter here. Stop taking in the list as a whole. Just look at every item individually and think, do I really need this?” While Alex figured that idea would work in theory, Alex quickly realized a problem with this plan when he put it into practice.

“What if something happens and I end up injuring myself? I’d be screwed if I didn’t have some of these! I can’t cut this! And I can’t cut this one either, because if someone or something tried to attack me, I wouldn’t be able to properly defend myself! And this one if too important for navigating, I NEED to get one of these otherwise I’ll just get lost and probably die. And if I cut this one, then I definitely need to get at least one of these ones to make up for it…”

This continued for every single item on the list that Alex considered cutting. He eventually made it to the very bottom of the list, realizing that he had just talked himself into keeping the whole list for one reason or another.

“Now I know why I’m having such a hard time with this. I’m too damn paranoid to cut anything… GAH! What the hell is wrong with me!?” he thought to himself in anguish, slapping his face with both hands, absent-minded of the fact that he was still holding a burger in his right hand. “Way to go there dumbass…” he continued, removing the pieces of his burger he accidentally slapped onto his face while putting them back into their bun.

“All right, let’s try this from a different angle…” he thought to himself. “Let’s look at the stuff you actually did manage to get so far and see if you can use them in place of any of the things you haven’t gotten yet…” As Alex attempted to figure out some creative uses for the small portion of his list that he did complete, he found himself once again having difficulty concentrating. Though this time, it was being brought about by an external source.

The source of distraction was a conversation coming from a neighboring booth. Alex was about to get angrily incredulous at the fact that people were choosing to sit so close to him, while simultaneously being loud enough for him to actually be able to hear what they were talking about, before he noticed just who was talking. The two woman from earlier, whether knowingly or not, had decided to eat their lunch within earshot of Alex. Not wanting the two of them to notice him if they hadn’t already, Alex kept his eyes forward on his list while he continued eating, to avoid bringing attention to the fact that he was listening in on their conversation.

“So how’s the job hunt been going?” the woman with glasses asked.

“Ugh… not so good…” the other woman replied with a dejected tone.

“Have you actually been looking at places to apply to?”

“I.. I have! It’s… just hard you know? I don’t know this town too well, so I don’t really know too many places that I should even be applying to…” she replied again in a slightly defensive tone.

“I can buy you a newspaper with some job listings.” the bespectacled woman shot back bluntly, in a tone indicating that she didn’t want to have to listen to excuses.

“Well, it’s not just that I don’t know where to apply… There’s also the fact that I don’t really know a lot of what I should be putting down on the applications…”

“You put in what the form tells you to put in. It’s not hard.”

“I know that! I meant in regards to the whole… situation… with my identity…”

“I gave you an identity didn’t I? Just put down what I gave you and you should be fine.”

That last bit of the conversation mildly piqued Alex’s interest, as he began to wonder just what she meant by that. “Is she like… in witness protection, or something like that…? Or maybe she’s actually a criminal…” he thought to himself. As the two women kept talking, Alex took another glance at the woman who had accidentally touched his hand, sure that the two of them were too distracted to notice him watching them.

While Alex made no new observations about the woman’s appearance, he did notice something else that certainly caught his eye that he was surprised he didn’t notice when the two first sat down. The two of them had ordered an exceedingly large amount of food; far more than two men would normally eat, much less two women. Alex counted at least six burgers alone from where he was sitting, though there could easily have been more, not to mention various orders of French fries and chicken nuggets. All of the food had been unwrapped with the clear intent to be eaten there in the restaurant. What surprised Alex even more though, was the fact that all of the food was being eaten by the woman he was specifically watching. The woman with glasses that sat across from her had not taken a single bite of anything.

“Holy shit! Is she going to eat that all by herself!?” Alex exclaimed in his head. He was mesmerized by the speed of which she was eating the food while still being able to hold a conversation. The woman she was talking with seemed completely un-phased by her eating, like she had seen her do so before, and that amount of food was in some way normal. What was probably the most impressive thing for Alex was how seemingly gracefully she was eating her food. She was taking concise bites, not taking off any more than necessary so that she could chew through efficiently without making a mess of herself by spilling food bits everywhere like one would expect with that kind of volume of food. Her chewing was perhaps more impressive, as she was so quick and quiet about it, it almost seemed like the food was merely disappearing the second it went into her mouth, allowing her to hold her side of the conversation with minimal interruptions.

“Where the hell is she putting all of that?” he continued to wonder. “I can tell she has some meat to her, but I don’t see a single bit of real fat on her body… Well aside from her boobs that is… Heh, maybe that’s why they’re so big, because it’s the only place the fat will go…” His mind continued to wander on just what exactly the situation was with her. “Maybe she eats that much because she’s some kind of body builder…? Looking at her build and hair color, it wouldn’t surprise me if she was Slavic. Slavic girls can get pretty big can’t they? Maybe she’s in the country illegally, for one reason or another, and that’s why she has an issue with her identity…” Alex eventually settled on this idea, though figured it still wasn’t entirely correct, based off of the fact that the woman was speaking with no discernable accent, which seemed implausible for someone entering a country illegally. Once he settled on a backstory in his head, he realized he had completely tuned out of the conversation the two were having. Still entirely curious about the woman’s story, he resumed his eavesdropping.

“You can keep coming up with excuses all you want, but sooner or later I’m going to run out of rent money for your apartment, and you’ll have to be the one to help pick up the slack.” the woman with glasses continued. It seemed the only bits of the conversation Alex missed were them arguing over why the one woman’s current lack of employment.

“What about that guy you’re being a liaison for? Why can’t he give us some more money?” the other woman asked.

“Because he doesn’t exactly deal in any kind of money that people would accept for rent around here…” the woman with glasses answered back in an annoyed and exacerbated tone. She let out a tired sigh as she began resting the side of her head on her right hand. She then began to look listlessly off into the distance, like she was thinking about something. “…Though I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask him. He might be able to do SOMETHING to help us with our whole funding situation…” she continued on, in a far nicer tone than she had been using the entire conversation.

“…Though, I also know we would be able to get you at least an extra month’s worth of rent if we could do something about this appetite of yours…” she added on, with a small smirk on her face.

“No!” the other woman replied bluntly in a child-like cutesy tone. “If I want to get back in top form, I gotta eat as much food as I can!” she continued, shoveling an entire half of a burger into her mouth before effortlessly swallowing it like it was a cup of water.

“I know that… I just wish you weren’t so… insistent on eating being the only way to do so…” the other woman replied back, trailing off as she did, like she knew there was no way she could actually convince the other woman in a little something called moderation. A brief air of silence then fell over the two as the woman who was eating was clearly thinking something over in her head before she eventually decided to continue talking.

“You know what would really solve the money situation?” she asked, pausing as she swallowed a bite of french-fries. “…You guys finally getting around to finding someone for me to form a Pact with. I wouldn’t have to keep paying for my crappy apartment and I could just go live with them…”

“Did she just say a Pact?” Alex thought to himself in complete surprise, the phrase clearly sparking something in head as the gears in his brain began to turn.

“Uh… It’s probably best we don’t talk about something like that right now… It’s a bit too NORMAL here for that kind of talk after all…” the woman with glasses replied. Though she was using a calm tone, she was clearly not expecting the other woman to bring up something like that. “…But yeah, we’re still trying to find somebody who will work. It’s just, you know we’re working with a very small pool of potential people here… But please trust me when I say we will find you someone.”

“Are they talking about the same kind of a Pact I’m thinking of? Is she one of them…?” Alex’s mind continued to ponder the implication of her saying that word. “It would explain why she’s able to eat so much food like that. It would explain why she’s so tall. It would also explain all of those weird vibes I was getting from her! There’s just one way to be sure…” Alex reached down underneath the table of his booth with his left hand, his fist clenched tightly. He looked over to make sure the two women weren’t looking in his direction. Satisfied that they were too busy to pay him any mind, he proceeded with his little plan.

Underneath the table, away from the prying eyes of anybody in the restaurant, he began to slowly open up his clenched fist, his palm facing upward. Alex started to rest his head on his free hand and began concentrating his mind on something.

“All right. Let’s not release too much now. Send out just enough to get her attention.” he thought to himself. As he did, he slowly began to open the fist he had made underneath the table. As he opened his palm more and more, it began to give off a surreal light blue glow. And from the glow, a small wispy vapor emerged, simmering in the same ghostly blue hue.

Alex then began to swirl the vapor around in his still partially grasped hand, being careful not to open his hand completely. As he swirled it around, he used his fingers to help form and mold it as it were a piece of clay, compacting the vapor into a more dense fire-like form. In one quick motion, Alex jerked his down ever so briefly, creating a sort of spark from his hand which sent the tiny flame flying from it. He clenched his fist again, and gestured it in the direction of the women’s booth, with the flame following this direction. Using his thoughts in tandem with his subtle hand movements, he directed the flame underneath the table the two women were sitting at. Once the flame reached its destination, it quietly dispersed into the vapor it was made from, before that too disappeared into nothingness.

“Now let’s see if she was able to sense that…”  Alex thought to himself. He took a sidelong glance at the younger woman, trying to observe any changes in her behavior. For a few moments of observation, there was no deviation to how she was acting. She was merely talking and eating like she had been the entire time. But then suddenly, in a brief second, Alex was able to catch something off. A small shiver had run down her spine, and her ear twitched ever so slightly. It seemed like she noticed Alex’s little trick.

“Did you feel that?” she asked.

“Feel what?” the other woman replied.

“I got, well… THAT kind of sensation again… like something was being channeled somewhere pretty close by…”

“I didn’t feel anything like that. You are more sensitive to things like that… You could just be overreacting again…”

“I guess…” the young woman said, unsure of whether or not that was the case. She briefly scanned the entire restaurant, her eyes not focusing on any one place in particular. As she began to look over to the booth where Alex was sitting, he quickly buried his head into his list so as to not draw her attention. Her gaze fixated on him for a few moments. Alex was able to feel every single second her eyes were looking in his direction, with the slightest bit of anxiety building up inside him as she did. But eventually, she returned her focus back to her own table and continued eating the rest of her food that she had been diligently working on. Believing that she had found nothing suspicious about him, Alex let out a silent sigh of relief.

There’s no question about it. She’s definitely it.” he thought. “I need to follow her, and see if I can maybe get a chance with her when she’s by herself. I just gotta make sure she doesn’t notice me and scare her off in the process…”

And with that thought, Alex decided to make a diversion to his original plan for that day, deciding that potentially stalking the woman was a far better use of his time. He quietly sat in his booth despite having already finished his food, diligently waiting for the two women to finish theirsas well. Eventually all of the food at their table had been consumed, pretty much all by the same person, and the two began to leave the restaurant after tossing out their garbage. Alex continued to sit in his booth, merely counting down time in his head. After around 30 seconds had passed, Alex quickly gathered up his things and headed out the restaurant as well. After quickly determining which direction the two woman were heading, Alex set out and tried to match the speed the two of them were walking so as to not make it too obvious he was trying to follow them.

The two women made their way down the end of Felnor Plaza before turning onto the sidewalk of the main roads that ran parallel to it. Alex kept his cellphone in his hand so that in case anybody looked back at him, all they would see is a disinterested teenager too busy keeping his eyes glued to his phone to pay attention to the world around him. Whenever the two women would momentarily stop, he would as well, usually playing it off like he had to stop and tie his shoes, despite the fact that his shoes had no laces to speak of. Were it not for the fact that the crowds of people he tried to blend into were taking active steps to avoid being anywhere near him, he would’ve blended in perfectly. Still, regardless of that fact, Alex was able to follow the two to their destination without them being any the wiser. They ended up stopping at a bus stop a few blocks away, which eased some of the stress off of Alex having to continue following them.

They have to take the bus too? That’s perfect!” he thought. “I was worried that I’d either have to keep following them by foot half way across the freaking city, or that they’d just end up getting into a car and driving off without any way for me to follow… With this, I can keep tailing them just by getting on the bus and there wouldn’t be a single suspicious thing about it…” Satisfied with this revelation, Alex sat down at a nearby bench as he got ready for the bus’s arrival. He noticed the two women had decided to wait just a few feet behind him, still talking with one another. Confident that noticing him at this point wouldn’t raise any suspicious from them, he decided to remain on the bench and continued to listen to what they were talking about.

“I guess I’ll stop by in a day or two to check in on you again.” the woman with glasses said. “I want you to make some kind of progress into trying to get a job; otherwise I might just start dragging you off to random places you can apply to…”

“Ugh… Why do you have to be so pushy about the job thing Angela? Wasn’t me living here in Lunaridge supposed to be only a short term thing anyways…?” the other woman replied.

“I was only going to have you relocated to another city if we couldn’t get you to blend in to Lunaridge. And considering how convenient of a location Lunaridge is for us on our end, I’d prefer not to have to send you somewhere else. So please just make it easier for all of us and try to find yourself some work. It will really make it easier for you to blend in here…”

“Guuh…” the other woman let out an exacerbated breath of air as she tried to let out a long groan.  “I don’t know… I still think you guys finding someone for me to work with would be better…”

“Well, obviously we’re still looking into that as our Plan A. It’s just that you being able to support yourself here would still be a nice backup in case that takes a while…” the woman in glasses answered in an understanding, yet tired tone. It seemed like after talking about the subject with the other woman for so long, she was too drained to try to be assertive with her. She walked a couple of steps away before letting out a bit of a sigh.

“Anyways, I really should get going now. I’ve got a work thing I really should be getting on top of. Apply for some jobs, and call me when you get back to your apartment all right?” she said.

“All right, I’ll be sure to call you, and thanks for buying me lunch again.” the other woman replied. The younger woman gave a quick hug to the older one, who seemed a little bit uncomfortable at just how tightly she was being squeezed. The two then waved goodbye to each other, as the older woman continued down the sidewalk, turning the corner at the end of the block. Once she was out of view, the other woman resumed standing behind the bench Alex was sitting on, and proceeded to wait just like him.

“So she’s not even going to ride the bus with us?” Alex thought to himself. “Perfect. It’s going to make following this girl even easier, because that’s one less person I have to hide from.” Alex was rather pleased with how things had been turning out, quietly smiling to himself as he waited for the bus to arrive. “Provided her apartment isn’t too far away, it shouldn’t be much longer now before I can ‘see’ her in private…”

Aside from getting mildly irked when more people showed up and sat next to him on the bench, the rest of the wait was fairly uneventful for Alex. While he did occasionally check his phone ever few minutes to see just how long he had been waiting, for the most part Alex merely sat at the bench with a contemplative look on his face. The woman he had been following similarly did not much of anything during her wait. She mostly just paced around in a circle with her arms folding while occasionally stopping to whimsically rock back and forth on the heels of her feet, having no difficulty maintaining her balance despite wearing high heels. Alex for the most part was content with her pacing about behind him, if only because she was tall enough to shade him from the sun from her position. After about eight minutes of waiting, the bus eventually arrived, letting off a few passengers at the stop before everyone who had been waiting began to funnel into it. Alex was a little bit slow on his feet however when it came to getting on the bus, and ended up being one of the last people on.

He quickly climbed the small set of stairs onboard, with two quarters already prepared to pay for the bus fare. He quickly stashed the coins into the change receptacle before turning his attention to the main aisle of the bus. While the bus was fairly clean and well maintained, with no hint of any kind of unpleasant odor, Alex couldn’t help but let out a groan of disgust, if only because of the large concentration of other people on board with him. Though, the feeling was probably mutual, as he noticed a vast majority of the other passengers staring at him as he got on with worried looks on their faces before they diverted their gazes elsewhere. Ultimately un-phased, Alex began to make his way down the bus’s crowded aisle, stumbling over the legs of other various passengers who were sitting with their feet angled into said aisle.

“Move your damn legs you assholes! Seriously!” he thought to himself as he stumbled over a particularly unobservant man’s feet. “This is why I hate public transportation. Too many assholes who don’t give a shit about inconveniencing others…” He continued to make his way towards the back of the bus, doing his best to “accidentally” stomp onto any feet he deemed too far into the aisle. And whenever anybody would complain, he would merely respond with the most insincere sorry he could muster, having no sympathy for those who couldn’t slide just a little bit further into their seats to make it easier for the new passengers to get by.

He eventually made it to an empty seat on the right side of the bus and scooted himself in close to the window, sliding his backpack off as he did so to allow him to sit with it in his lap. As he waited for the bus to start moving, he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“Hey, do you want to sit on the outside seat so you don’t get as squished?” the woman he had been tailing asked him. In his apparent disgust at having to be stuck on a bus with so many other people, he had glossed over the fact that she had been following behind him the entire time. Alex looked at her and quickly remembered just how much bigger than him she was. There was no doubt in his mind she could easily sandwich him in if he remained seated by the window.

“Yeah. That’s probably a good idea” he thought. He began to shift his way out of the seat so as to allow her the window seat before he quickly realized why that might be a bad idea for his tailing plan. He then completely stopped in his tracks.

“Uh… Actually, no! I prefer sitting by the window!” he said in a half stammer, quickly shuffling back up as close to the window as he could.

“Are you sure?” she asked. “I don’t think a tiny little guy like you would be very comfortable sitting in between me and that window, especially considering you’ve also got a backpack with you…”

“I.. I said it was fine…!” he stuttered back. “… And don’t call me little…!”

“All right…” she said, as she sat down in the outside seat. She assumed a very prim and proper posture in her seat, with her legs pressed together directly in front of her, and her hands clasped together in her lap. Obviously, she was still trying to be courteous of Alex, taking up as little space as her large build would allow for. Despite this, Alex buried his head further into the window, his face pressing directly against the glass. His arms wrapped around his backpack as he began to hug it tighter and tighter, clearly getting nervous about this seating arrangement as he did his best to compress his already small frame even smaller. The woman quickly noticed the sizable gap that had formed between the two as Alex continued to uncomfortably scrunch himself up against the window.

“Are you… alright?” she asked him.

“I just don’t like other people touching me…” Alex replied. The woman gave Alex a concerned look but eventually decided it was probably better to just leave him to his own devices. Not soon after, the bus continued along its intended route. Alex kept his face in the window, trying to underplay any kind of interest he had in the woman sitting next to him, not realizing he was probably doing so to an overly suspicious degree.

“Man this sucks… But I gotta let her take the outside seat.” he began to justify to himself. “I can much more naturally just follow her off of the bus if I don’t have to let her out from the seat.” Alex used the faint reflection of the window to continue observing the woman’s behavior. For the most part, she merely sat in the same position she had assumed as when she first sat down, with her eyes diligently focused towards the front of the bus. She would occasionally make glances towards Alex, but they would rarely last more than a few seconds, and it was entirely possible she was more interested in looking out the window than similarly watching him. After a few minutes passed, Alex eased up a little bit, de-compressing from his position and filling in more of the space the woman was allowing him. He still refused to look directly at her however.

After traveling straight for a few blocks, the bus ended up making a fairly sharp turn to the left. The turn did cause some shifting around for most of the passengers, but for the most part, everyone who had been paying attention to the turn was able to brace themselves so as to stay put in their seats. Unfortunately for Alex, he had been too busy staring off in to the distance to have noticed beforehand.

As the bus turned, he was quickly jerked to his left, his scrunched up posture providing no resistance to the sudden change in direction. Before he had even realized what had just happened, Alex found his face buried into what he thought was the seat of the bus. Mildly confused, Alex turned his face upwards and ended up meeting the woman’s gaze eye to eye. Something clicked in his brain, and then he finally realized he had just landed face first into her lap. While her chest obscured most of his view of her, Alex could still make out a wide-eyed expression on her face. The two of them sat like that for almost 15 seconds before Alex, eyes quickly dilated, suddenly realizing the potential implications of what just happened.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH MOVE BACK! MOVE BACK YOU IDIOT!” he screamed internally to himself. He instantly snapped back to the position he had glued up against the window, doing his best to play it off like that bit of potential sexual harassment didn’t just happen. He once again used the window’s reflection to determine just how annoyed the woman had gotten from that unintended bit of face planting. Much to Alex’s surprise, the woman didn’t seem angry or annoyed. She merely responded with a light, yet hardy chuckle with a smile plastered on her face.

“Are you okay there?” she asked him, still partially laughing. “I guess I should’ve warned you we were about to make a sharp turn, huh?”

“IT’S FINE! I’M FINE! IT’S ALL FINE!” Alex rapidly yammered out. Feeling that his face was becoming as flush red as his eyes in embarrassment, Alex wedged his head down in between the corner of the window and the seat in front of him. “Ughhhhhhhhh… Why did I have to land face first into her lap!?” he thought to himself. “It’s so stupid! LIKE absolutely retarded! And it’s going to make me look even more suspicious if I try to follow her now! There’s no way she wouldn’t notice the guy who just had his face in her crotch!” Alex, very visibly mortified, continued the downward spiral in his head, cursing his rotten luck.

“Hey, this might sound like a dumb question, but… your eyes… is that natural, or do you just wear contacts?” the woman asked Alex.

“…What…? My eyes…?” Alex responded, looking at her in confusion while feeling around his right eye with his hand.

“Their color I mean. I’ve never seen someone who had red eyes before. I wanted to know if that was because you were wearing colored contacts or not.” she continued. Alex was used to people freaking out whenever they got a close look at his eyes, so when she asked him with such earnest fascination, he wasn’t quite sure how to responded.

“Um… Why does it matter!? And why are you asking a total stranger such personal questions anyways!?” Alex eventually responded defensively.

“Sorry… I just figured it was only fair considering where you just had your head!” she said in a jovial tone. Her laughter continued to embarrass Alex, putting him further on the defensive.

“Look, they’re naturally like that, okay!? Now can you just leave me alone!?” he replied in a frustrated tone.

“…Sorry. I was just really curious. I’ll… I’ll leave you alone…” she said in a dejectedly sad tone.

“Why the hell did she want to know whether or not my eyes are actually red!?” Alex thought. “I mean, most people take one look at my eyes and think I’m some kind of a vampire or something… Why is she so interested in them…?”  Alex’s mind continued to wander before he remembered the reason why he decided to follow the woman in the first place. “Oh yeah… That’s right. I probably don’t freak her out because she’s not like the rest of these people…”

The bus continued its route through a tunnel, darkening its interior. For the most part, the only real source of light was coming from the lights installed into the tunnel’s sides, though Alex could make out another source of light from the window’s reflection. The orb the woman had been wearing around her neck was glowing rather brightly in the dark. Realizing this, she quickly covered her neck with her hand so to not draw attention to it. Alex acted like he didn’t see anything, but seeing the necklace glow in the dark reignited his initial interest in it. He opened his mouth to ask her what the deal was with her necklace, but ultimately ended up stopping himself.

“…I mean, there’s probably no harm in asking…” he thought. “But I did just blow her off about my eyes…” He paused to himself as his mind began to drift to a different subject. “I know I was going to wait until I was alone with her… But maybe I should just go for it right now… I mean, what’s the worst that could happen…?”

Alex took a deep breath through his nose, slowly lifting his head up to face the woman. He looked over, expecting to see the same face he had familiarized himself with up to this point, but something caused him to hesitate. Due to the low lighting of the tunnel, he couldn’t make out the clear details of her face anymore, only a vague silhouette of it. Viewing her in the dark like that made her face look far more sinister. Nothing about her face had actually changed. But, without his ability to see the gentle look of her eyes, she appeared far more ominous to Alex for a reason he couldn’t put his finger on. A sense of dread began to well up in his stomach, as something about this woman being in the dark terrified him.

“What if she says no when I ask? Who’s to say she wouldn’t react in some kind of crazy way…? I… I don’t actually know what she’s capable of… If… if she did take it the wrong way, I would want a way out just in case… I should just… wait to talk to her at her apartment…”  Alex eventually decided that asking whatever he was planning on asking could wait until after they had both gotten off the bus. Though far more uneasy about the prospect of continuing to follow the woman to her apartment, Alex was still determined to go through with it.

“Even if I don’t go through with asking her, I should at least figure out where she lives. That way, if I ever build up the nerve to do so, I can still follow through later…” he thought to himself. Eventually, the bus cleared the tunnel, with daylight seeping back in through the windows. The woman uncovered her neck now that her necklace would stop glowing. Alex looked over to her on more time. Now that he could once again make out the welcoming look of her eyes again, he felt a lot calmer about her.

“The dark definitely changes her. Maybe the dark reveals her true nature…” he surmised in his head. He promptly returned to gazing out the window for the remainder of his ride on the bus. Eventually, the bus’s movements temporarily halted as it approached the next stop on its route. Alex felt the seat shift as the woman sitting with him prepared to stand up, indicating to him that this was her stop. He began to get ready to stand up as well before he realized it would be easier to follow her unnoticed if she didn’t know he was getting off at the same time as her. So when she finally stood up to make her way off of the bus, Alex pretended to stay behind and fiddle with his backpack. Only once he was sure every other person who was getting off at the stop had begun to head off the bus as well did he stand up to make his way off. Unfortunately for Alex, his precautions ultimately turned out to be completely pointless, as the woman immediately noticed him getting off the bus. Apparently she had also decided to linger around a bit herself.

“Oh, so you get off here too huh?” she asked him. While there was nothing confrontational about the way she talked to him, Alex couldn’t help but feel she might be onto him. A voice in the back of Alex’s head was telling him to bail and jump back onto the bus before it left again, but he decided to just stand his ground.

“…Y-yeah… You got a problem with that!?” Alex tried to sound as stand-offish as he could in hopes she would get uncomfortable and keep walking. The woman however, remained un-phased.

“Well it could just be that I’m paranoid… but I feel like I’ve been seeing you around a lot today…” she replied, stepping in extremely close to Alex. As she got closer, she began to hunch over a bit, so that her face was level with Alex’s. “Are you sure you haven’t been intentionally following me…?” she said, eyes closed, with a big grin on her face. The tone of her voice was just as friendly as ever, but her getting in Alex’s face directly like that only put him more on edge. She was definitely on to him. Alex did his best to keep all of his panicking internal, and replied in as calm and collected manner as he could.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about lady. It’s probably just one big coincidence that we’ve been going to the same places. If you think otherwise, then you probably are paranoid…” he answered in an even collected tone, trying to sound as disinterested as he possibly could.

“Oh really? Well, where are you going from here?” she asked inquisitively.

“Well… I don’t think it’s any of your business, but if you’re going to suspect me as some kind of STALKER, I’ll have you know that I’m going to meet someone at their apartment near here…” In an attempt to make his story sound more believable to her, he decided to inter-splice it with his true intentions, hoping she wouldn’t catch on.

“Which apartment building is it?” she continued to drill him.

“…It’s uh… one of the ones on this street… I think… I don’t know. I haven’t actually been there before…” he said, less confident with his response.

“Sounds like you don’t quite know where it is. You DO have an address for it right…? Maybe I can point you in the right direction… I mean, if it’s a real place that it…”

Alex wasn’t familiar enough with this part of Lunaridge to bluff an address. “FUCK. What do I say now…? I don’t know how well she knows this area! If I fake an address, she might be able to figure out I’m lying!” he panicked to himself. His mind quickly tried to brainstorm a way around having to give an answer.

“I uh… Have it written down somewhere…” he said, pretending to reach into his pockets. “Now… where is it…” He continued to root around in his pockets, acting like he was searching for an address that wasn’t there. “Oh no… please don’t tell me… I… I had it with me on the bus…” Alex said, quickly emulating an increasingly stressed out tone. “Don’t tell me I left it on the bus…!” Just as he said that, the bus they had just gotten off of began moving once again, and started speeding off down the street.

“NO! I’m such an idiot! I did! I did leave it on the bus! Now I don’t where I’m supposed to go! Wh-what am I supposed to do now!?” he said, mustering up as much fake anguish as he could. He then proceeded to fake shivering in fear. “They’re going to kill me if I’m late…! I KNOW I won’t be able to handle that…!” he blurted out. He could see the woman visibly start to get more concerned.

“Holy crap… Is she actually buying this…!?” he thought to himself. “Maybe if I get her to feel bad enough for me, she’ll no longer be suspicious of me…!” He then proceeded to really sell his act, mustering up all of the negative emotions he could to force himself into actually crying. Tears began to visibly drip down his face. He was ready to start bawling his eyes out before the woman came in and stopped him.

“Hey, hey! You don’t need to start crying! You didn’t actually lose anything on the bus!” she said, trying her best to talk to him in a soothing tone.

“Wh-what…?” Alex muttered, fighting back his fake tears. “What the hell is she talking about…?” he thought to himself. The woman reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out a very familiar looking sketchpad. It was the very same sketchpad Alex had had with him in Felnor Plaza.

“When you were getting to your seat, I thought I saw something fall out of your pocket when you were stumbling over those people on the bus. I wasn’t 100% sure though, so I didn’t say anything at first. But then I saw it on the ground again as I was getting off and realized that was probably what you dropped… It has a bunch of addresses written in it, so I figured that’s what you were looking for right…?” As she handed back the sketchpad, she did so with a remorseful yet simultaneously understanding look on her face. Alex stared at the sketchpad, completely dumbfounded. He didn’t even realize it had been missing the entire time he was on the bus. After staring at it for a few seconds, all he could muster was a very confused thanks.

“That’s why I was waiting around here at the bus stop, so that I could give it to you.” she continued, reaching her arm out to pat him on the shoulder. She then used her free hand and used it to wipe the tears that were still on his face. “I’m also really sorry about accusing you of stalking me… I was just trying to tease you before I gave it back to you… Looking at you right now, I should’ve realized you’re probably one of those kids who gets teased enough as is…  I didn’t know how important to you that sketchpad was… I should’ve just given it back to you immediately…”

Alex stood there for a couple of seconds, holding onto the sketchpad firmly with both hands. While he did overplay its apparent importance, it was still something he would’ve been very upset about had he actually lost it. Alex found himself completely blindsided by the woman’s kindness and understanding. Even if it had been based around a false pretense, it was a sort of kindness he felt like he hadn’t experienced in a long time. The feeling felt so alien to him at that point that he had no idea how to respond to her. Entirely unsure of what to do, his brain defaulted to his typical grumpy attitude, something which was probably not the best fit for the current situation he was in.

“You think!? That’s a pretty dick move you pulled there! I have enough issues as is! I shouldn’t have to deal with some random ass hoe getting so full of them self that they think that just because I’m going in the same general direction as them that I’m stalking them!” Alex’s natural reflexes kicked in, as he began chewing the woman out while the voice in his head was doing the same to him. “What the hell are you doing you fucking idiot!? She just finished being nice too you! Now would’ve been the perfect time to ask her! You’re just completely ruining your chances here you fat fucking retard!” The woman merely sat there with a completely surprised expression on her face as Alex unloaded his tirade onto her.

“I don’t need this right now! I’ve still got to meet up with someone I don’t even know that well to talk about something I’ve been dreading for months, and you being ‘nice’ to me like that is only making my anxiety worse!” he continued, making air quotes as he said nice.

“I said I was sorry!” the woman replied, now finding herself on the defensive. “Look, if you tell me the address of the building, I can probably point you in the right direction so you won’t be late…”

“No thanks. I’ll find it on my own!” Alex said, walking off from the bus stop in a huff. Once he was a fair distance away, he pretended to look over his sketchpad to compare it to the nearby street addresses, while secretly using it as an opportunity to observe the woman. He glanced behind him to see her looking on, utterly confused, before she eventually just shrugged her shoulders and walked off in the other direction. Once he was sure she was out of view, he quickly turned back around and continued to follow her.

“Way to go moron. Because you had to be such a ‘tard, now it’s going to be EVEN harder playing it off if she notices you again!” he thought to himself as he continued tailing the woman. In comparison to when he first started following her from the restaurant, Alex decided to be far more overtly stealthy in his approach. He took care to duck into nearby alleyways, or remain hidden behind any trees he passed so as to stay completely out her view. While this behavior was incredibly suspicious, and he was frequently observed by various other pedestrians as he walked by, they thankfully payed little mind to his behavior. Though he was pretty clumsy overall at remaining hidden from her view, it ultimately seemed like the woman never noticed Alex had continued to follow her. Eventually, the woman turned into the lobby of a fairly ramshackle building, Alex surmising it was probably her apartment building.

“Ugh… This is where she lives? It’s only a few steps up from being a shithole…” he thought to himself as he stood outside, staring up at the entire building. The apartment was about five stories tall, with a small film of dirt forming over the entire front of the building. The various front facing windows of the complex appeared to be equally as grimy, as if the building’s tenants didn’t care at all about being able to view the world outside, though, given the state of most of the other buildings on the street, they probably weren’t missing much. Though, at least the building appeared completely intact, with no signs of any structural damage or vandalism. The place just seemed like its landlord was teetering on the cusp of no longer giving a crap about its state. Given the conversation he had eavesdropped on between the woman and her friend, Alex figured the building was the perfect place for someone like her to lay low.

After examining the outside of the building for a few moments, he decided it was probably more just dirty than dangerous, and figured it was safe for him to go inside. As he was about to head in however, he could see the woman still standing in the lobby through the entrance’s glass door. She was standing in front of a wall of small square lockers, most likely serving as mailboxes for the building’s tenants.  She had already opened hers and was in the process of disinterestedly looking over a stack of envelopes that was most likely junk mail. After she was done going through the entire stack, she quickly jammed the entire set of envelopes into the pocket of her jacket before shutting the locker door behind her and disappearing up a flight of nearby stairs. Once Alex was sure she was out of sight, he quickly stepped inside the building’s lobby and approached the wall of lockers. Taking out his sketchpad, he took a note of her locker number in addition to the building’s address before stepping back outside.

“After my confrontation with her, I think this is probably good enough for today…” he thought to himself as he stood just outside the building’s entrance. He unzipped the main compartment of his backpack and stashed his sketchpad in there, determined not to lose track of it again. “Now that I know where she lives, I can always come by at another time… Maybe I can play off visiting her apartment as if I was coming to apologize to her directly for going off on her…”  Alex continued to think about his future plans as he was about to make the trek back to the bus stop before he noticed something else that gave him pause.

The sound of metal and glass rattling could be heard from the alleyway to the side of the building. Curious about the source of the noise, Alex decided to take a detour back there and investigate. As he went down the entire length of the building, he rounded the corner to the back of the building before his path was blocked by a chain link fence. He could tell the source of the sound was on the other side of the fence, but due to his inability to climb over the fence, Alex was unable to proceed any further. Before he decided to turn around however, he heard a very gruff and raspy male voice talking to someone.

“Alright, we’re pretty sure the target is here. You two stay out here and watch the exits. The two of us will go inside and try to flush her out.” the voice said. Alex couldn’t see anyone, but as soon as the voice was done talking, he heard a series of metal clunking echoing up the side of the building. It sounded like two people climbing up the fire escape.

“Target…?” Alex thought to himself. “Don’t tell me…!”  Another pit formed in Alex’s stomach as he realized they were probably targeting the woman he had been following.  Alex began to breathe in deeply through his nose, like he was trying to sense something.  As he finished inhaling, he felt a dark chill running down his spine.  Whatever the source of the voice was, he could tell one thing: everyone who was hiding beyond the fence was not human.

“SHIT! When I thought she might’ve been in witness protection, it didn’t occur to me she was probably hiding from people like that!” Alex immediately turned around and began running out of the alleyway. “She could end up being my only chance at this! I just need to flat out tell her what my intentions are and warn her!”

He quickened his pace and headed for the building’s front door, swinging it open as fast he could. He then quickly booked it to the first set of stairs he could find. While his initial pace had been very quick, he began to seriously slow down as he attempted to rush up two flights of stairs. He quickly found himself winded as he reached his destination on the third floor. Though he felt the need to catch his breath, Alex powered on through the third floor hallway, determined to reach the woman before the people outside did. The hall formed an L-shape, with the first half of the hallway only having rooms on one side, with grimy windows taking up the opposite side. The hallway’s set up made it easy for Alex in his weary state to quickly verify that none of the rooms before the bend in the hallway was the one he was looking for.

As he was about to turn the corridor to the next part of the floor, he passed by a supply closet just at the corner. Were he not in such a hurry, he probably would’ve noticed the door to said closet had been hanging open ever so slightly. Alex didn’t notice this little detail however and as a result was quickly grabbed by whoever had been hiding inside as soon as he passed the door. Because he had been winded from his climb up the building, he was too out of breath to fight back as he found himself getting dragged inside by his backpack.

Having been pulled back with such force, Alex suddenly found himself getting flipped over backwards, crashing to the floor on his back, with his backpack unable to cushion the blow as it had been pulled off in the process. The sudden impact of hitting the floor knocked any breath he had remaining out. Coughing and wheezing, Alex tried to orientate himself as best he could but could barely make out any of what had just happened. The one source of light coming into the cramped room from the open doorway was suddenly extinguished as the closet door slammed shut, seemingly on its own. Alex couldn’t make out what had closed it as he desperately scrambled to get onto his feet. Still lacking proper air, he could only manage to make it onto his knees before he once again felt something come up and grab him.

Suddenly, two strong arms reached out and began to put Alex into a chokehold. The grip was tight, but not so tight as to stop him from being able to reclaim some of the air he just had knocked out of him. He then felt himself being leaned back slightly as whoever was holding him effortlessly lifted him off of his feet. Alex tried to struggle out of the chokehold, but was too weakened to lessen his attacker’s grip. He desperately grasped at his assailant’s arms, tugging at the sleeves of their clothing. As he continued to struggle, Alex found himself being pulled in closer toward his attacker, the hold of one of their arms shifting lower towards his chest to prevent his weak arms from moving. He suddenly felt an immense pressure on the back of his neck, as he felt like he was getting crushed against the assailant’s chest. In his panic, it took him a bit to realize just what was pressing against his neck, until he realized just how soft it actually felt. He then quickly deduced what had just happened: the woman he had been following since lunch had just put him into a chokehold.

“GAHHHH! I knew it! These damn knockers of hers can totally kill a man!” he thought to himself in anguish. While her chest did feel nice and soft on the back of his head, Alex could still feel the sheer muscular power behind them exerting more and more pressure on him, slowly smothering him into unconsciousness.

“So this is what you meant when you said you didn’t know where the apartment was!” she shouted at Alex in a deeper and far more aggressive voice than she had been using before, doing her best to angle Alex so as to stop him from being able to flail his legs as she did so.

“So I’m just being paranoid huh? That it was wrong to tease you just because it was just a coincidence you were going exactly where I was going? I just thought you were a harmless, if a little grumpy kid. I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt… But wouldn’t you know it? You actually are the stalker creep I accused you of! ” The woman continued to berate Alex, getting more and more irritated as she went on.

“You think it’s a good look? Spending your entire day just stalking a woman? I would’ve liked to think you were just too socially awkward or something to realize what you were doing was so messed up… But the way you so effortlessly played the victim when I called you out, makes me think you have a LOT of experience pulling crap like this!” Her hold on Alex got tighter and tighter. He tried to muster all of the energy he could to say something to get her to ease up on him, but he had so little air at that point that all that he could let out were a few wheezes.

“Damn it woman! Just give me a chance to explain myself!” he thought, wishing desperately that she would somehow be able to hear what he was thinking. “I wasn’t trying to do anything nefarious!”

“So why’d you do it!? Did someone put you up to this!? Did someone tell you to follow me all day because they figured I would’ve given a little kid like you a free pass!? Is that it, huh!?” she continued to grill Alex.

“No, you’ve got it all wrong! I followed you of my own accord because I just wanted to ask you something…!” Alex desperately screamed in his head.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself kid!? DO YOU!?” She squeezed her arm around Alex’s torso so tight; he could feel his stomach being churned as she flatten it with her raw strength. Alex tried desperately to say something, but whether intentionally or not, the woman had him in such a hold that he couldn’t get enough air to properly speak. All he could do was let out a long grunt of pain through his grit teeth.

“What? You’ve got nothing at all to say!? Should I take your silence as an admission of guilt?” She moved both of her arms across Alex’s neck and began apply pressure. Alex continued to grunt and groan in pain as he could feel his consciousness literally being squeezed out of him. “If that’s the case, say good night kid!”

“Damn it! Did she not realize she knocked all of the wind out of me when she first dragged me in here!? She hasn’t given me a single opportunity to catch my breath! How the hell does she expect me to say anything if she won’t even let up a little bit!?” Alex continued to feel light headed as more and more pressure was being applied to his throat. “She’s definitely trying to knock me unconscious…! But the question is, what does she intend to do after she knocks me out…!? I’ve got to get her to stop, and fast!”

Alex’s mind began to rush for any kind of solution he could think of, anything at all to get the woman to ease up her grip on him. He thought about the fact that his hands were no longer being pinned down. But try as he might, he was becoming too faint to move them. And the same could be said for his legs. He thought to maybe try biting her arms to loosen her grip, but that too was something he could not do, as his head was being squeezed too tightly for him to even get his mouth open. He could feel his cheeks begin to swell, his eyes begin to bug out, and sweat running all over his face. He was going to pass out at any second. As the world around him began to turn black, something awoke inside his head. An incredibly strong, almost primal force kicked in, and encouraged Alex to try one more desperate attempt to escape.

“Come on Alex… What have these past two months of preparation been for if not for an exact situation like this!? If you can’t do anything physically to escape… do something magical instead! Isn’t that how you learned how to deal with her kind!?” With his mind slipping from him, Alex pulled together all of the will power he could muster and focused his brain. Focused it on just one thing, and one thing only. He began to reach out with all of his senses into his surroundings, desperately trying to find something. After a few brief moments of searching, he found exactly what he was looking for: his backpack that had been tossed aside onto the floor. He focused his mind as best as he could muster, his sheer force of will screaming throughout his entire consciousness. With one focused, desperate thought, his backpack opened. The tome he had been carrying with him all day began to float out, following the inexact thoughts Alex could pull together in his last moments of consciousness. The woman seemed to notice something strange had been going on behind her, as for just a brief moment, Alex could feel her lessen her grip on him as she turned her head around. In that brief moment of weakness, Alex made his move.

A surge of energy churned through Alex’s entire body, as his mind prepared for his course of attack. Alex gathered all the power he could, rallying one decisive order to be delivered in that exact moment. With one last thought, he commanded the floating tome to fly forward, smashing into the side of the woman’s face before quickly dropping back down to the floor. As the heavy surface of the tome’s cover hit her in the face, a painful jolt went through her entire body. The shock of this surprise attack caught the woman completely off guard, loosening her grip on Alex even further. Alex wasted no time, pushing the woman’s arms off of him, completely freeing him of her grip. He then promptly fell on to the floor, face first, desperately gasping for air.

“What the heck was that…?” the woman asked in confusion, rubbing her face where the tome had hit her. Wasting no time, Alex got to his feet, though, because he was still exhausted and breathless, the best he could manage was to lumber into a standing slouch. Despite a bit of dizziness and disorientation, Alex did his best to turn around and face his attacker directly.

“What the hell… IS WRONG WITH YOU!?” Alex shouted, still short on breath. “You put me into a freaking chokehold and don’t even allow me enough air so that I can talk and explain myself! I mean, seriously… WHO DOES THAT!?”

“Fair enough…” the woman bluntly replied. She then quickly moved forward, before Alex had a chance to react. She immediately grabbed him with both hands by the base of his hood and lifted him up against the closet door. His brief moment of triumph quickly thwarted.

“There, you should be able to talk just fine like that. Now… Why the hell have you been following me since this morning!?” she asked, shaking Alex as she did so, causing the back of his head to repeatedly bump against the door.

“…This morning? What are you talking about!? I’ve only been following you since lunch, when we both happened to coincidentally eat at the same restaurant! And… I was only following you because I wanted to ask you a question I was too nervous to ask you around other people…” Alex replied, trailing off with his last statement.

“…A question you were too nervous to ask me around other people …?” The woman began to process Alex’s last statement. After a brief pause, Alex could just barely make out her turning red as her eyes also began to widen. She then quickly let go of Alex’s hood, dropping him suddenly to the ground, as she turned around and buried her face into her hands. “Ooooooh… Don’t tell me THAT’S the reason why you were following me…! Why didn’t I see that as a possibility!? Ugh…. I REALLY AM TOO PARANOID!” she began to shout in embarrassment.

“Um… I think you’re getting the wrong idea here… again…” Alex replied bluntly, staring at her as she started to flail about in shame.

“I can’t believe I just attacked you like that… I mean, it all makes sense too…! Of course you wouldn’t be confident enough to do it in front of other people! It must be hard enough as is for a nerdy geek like you to just go up and ask a girl out…!” she continued, her voice noticeably reverting back to the gentler tone she had been using up until that point.

“Excuse me…!? That’s not what I was going to ask you…!” Alex interjected, feeling a bit insulted by the woman’s assessment of him. She of course, was too focused on her own train of thought to acknowledge him.

“But wait… You said you’ve only been following me since lunch… That can’t be right. I know it felt like somebody has been stalking me since at least 9:00 this morning…” she pondered aloud to herself.

“I just said it wasn’t me! Are you even trying to listen to me lady…!?” Alex blurted out in increasing frustration.

“…You sure…? I mean, I can definitely still feel the presence I felt this morning right now. It kinda put me on edge. It’s why I grabbed you in the first place… You’re saying that wasn’t you at all?”

“Yes! It wasn’t… me…” Alex replied at first in extreme annoyance before he was quickly reminded just why he rushed to find her apartment in the first place. He immediately started to panic, grabbing his tome from off the floor and stuffing it in his backpack before securing it back onto his back.

“Why are you freaking out again?” she asked, curious about Alex’s sudden hurry to gather his things.

“Because I just remembered the reason why I was in such a hurry to track you down in the first place! I was trying to warn you!”

“Warn me about what…?”

“When you were talking with your friend at the bus stop, I overheard you two talking about Lunaridge as a place for you to lay low. Like people were after you… Well, I just heard about four people talking in the back alley of this building… I didn’t see what they looked like, but it sounded like they were hunting you down!”

“WHAT!? Are you serious!?” she replied, grabbing onto Alex’s hood again in concern.

“Yeah. I sensed their presence as well. It felt like they were Spirits, just like you…!” As Alex said that, the woman’s eyes widen greatly. She didn’t expect Alex to have figured out her true nature as something beyond a human.

“You… can tell that I’m actually a Spirit…?” the woman looked at Alex in disbelief. “I thought you were just a normal human but, thinking about it… it makes sense considering the kind of energy I’m sensing from you…” She was ready to continue on that train of thought before the concerned look in Alex’s eyes caused her to snap back to the more pertinent matter at hand.

“Wait…! Why am I thinking about that at a time like this!? If someone is trying to hunt me down, we need to get out of here for the time being…!”

“We… As in, the both of us…?” Alex asked in a concerned voice.

“Yes. If they are other Spirits, they might be able to detect that you’ve been in contact with me. If that’s the case, you can be in danger as well!”

“What!? I didn’t sign up for something like this…!” he exclaimed, as the woman grabbed his hand. She then opened the closet door as she begun to lead him along with her.

“Consider it a bit of recompense then for so shamelessly stalking me and then LYING about it. Now come on, I have a place worked out already where we can hide in this exact kind of situation…!” she replied, continuing to pull Alex along by the hand.

Just as she was about to round the corner with him however, the two of them are halted in their tracks by the sound of a nearby window being smashed into. The duo quickly turned around and focused their attention on the source of the sound at the other end of the hall. Somebody had just jumped through one of the windows and was staring down the two. Almost as soon as he had jumped into the building, the woman instinctively pushed Alex behind her to shield him from the intruder. As a result, Alex didn’t get too good of a look at them, but as soon as he started speaking, Alex could tell it was the same man he had heard outside.

“Well look what we’ve got here. There were a lot of rooms in this building… Didn’t think it’d be this quick to flush you out, Kitsiyuna…” he said, his harsh taunting voice sending chills down Alex’s spine.

“So her name’s Kitsiyuna…? Glad I finally know what to call her…” Alex thought to himself. “…That is a pretty weird name. Definitely sounds like a name a Spirit would have. So why does it sound like I’ve heard it somewhere else before…?”

“Who the hell are you? What do you even want with me…?” Kitsiyuna asked.

“…I’m just a simple bounty hunter.” the man replied. “Somebody with a lot of cash payed us a lot of money to get you, and like a good bounty hunter, I intend to collect!” Alex peered out from behind Kitsiyuna to get a better look at the bounty hunter. He noticed the bounty hunter reaching his right arm down for something by his waist. In a split second, Alex realized exactly what he was reaching for and quickly hid back behind Kitsiyuna.

The bounty hunter had pulled a revolver out from its holster, and started aiming it directly at the two of them.

 

Night Fox – Comic Post #128: Heart To Heart

Not caught up on the comic yet? You can go visit the comic’s archive through this link here.

Comic-128A

Just a reminder that the novel posts are going to start going up next week. The first four chapters are going to cover the events that force Alex and Kitsiyuna into forming a Pact in the first place. That chapters have been written in a way that assumes you have absolutely no knowledge of anything in the web comic because I wanted it to be an okay starting off point if web comics aren’t your thing. I’m going to try to have two different versions of each chapter: one you can read in blog, and a PDF version. I mostly decided this in part because I can kind of understand how tedious it would get reading close to 20 pages worth of text on a blog without any page breaks, so I wanted to provide a more reader friendly alternative while still allowing those who can’t open PDFs (for one reason or another) to still be able to read them.

In terms of the supplementary content that I said I would be posting alongside the chapters for those with absolutely no interest in them, I’ve got most of it sorted out already. I’ve got a couple of old pictures ready to post that I still think actually look decent enough to go up online in addition to some much shorter comics which are mostly going to be one off jokes. The short comics are kind of going to be a way for me to test the waters in term of different tones and slight changes to aesthetic, so even after I’m done posting the chapters, I might still make some more of them in future if I can come up with enough ideas for them.

Anyways, just like I said last week, I hope you guys can bear with these temporary changes as the novel thing is something I really want to see if I can actually go through with. And for the rest of you who don’t care about any of this in the slightest (which I feel is going to be most people who actually read this post) well… we’re already good! So until then, I’ll see you next post.