Acid green eyes and a too-wide smile greet me. “Thanks for holding it down for me.”
I glare. “Using your magic is illegal here, ‘Blood Demon.’”
I’m rewarded with a sinister little laugh. He stands, revealing himself in full. He looks the same as always: dark blue-gray skin, a dark gray robe lined with edges of shiny black leather. His upper arms are bare but his elbows downward are clothed with wide sleeves to match the robe. He wears long pants of black leather as well, though his stomach and feet are bare. His eyes are slitted, iris colored bright acid-green like his chroma, and sclera colored blood-red. The same red colors the horn coming from his right temple and the talons on his fingers, toes, and tail. He has dark red hair of a different shade, long and flowing in the wind, split by his long ears.
He smiles, revealing the acid-green glow of his mouth as well as his blood-red fangs. “Aw, don’t be such a stickler,” he says, giving a shrug. “I was in danger, and used my magic in defense.”
“Cut the blather, Kiun,” I say. “We both know that’s not true.”
Kiun chuckles. “And we both know you won’t arrest me.”
I clench my jaw. He’s awfully confident, when there really is little in reality holding me back.
“Besides,” he says, interrupting my darkening thoughts. “It’s all these restrictions that are driving us insane. Wouldn’t you agree, ‘Shadow Beast’?”
“Don’t call me that,” I snap. I brush past Kiun without another look, kneeling before the slain monster.
The yellow glow has faded, leaving the crystals the same purple as their blood. The mouth is open, and blood still flows from the fatal slash at the neck.
Nothing more than a corpse, now.
“They were once human, you know,” I say. “Just like us.” I pull out my data cubes, allowing them to scan the body and gather all the necessary information from it.
“Does that look like a person to you?” Kiun asks behind me.
A holographic screen appears, revealing the monster’s identity as a Tien Rukure, last seen as a human last year. They must have wandered into the city somehow… hm.
I sigh, closing my eyes and dismissing the cubes. “We’re looking into ways to reverse the effects of unstable khimaerization. One day, they could be people again. That’s why we only kill them as a last resort.”
Kiun laughs, and I resist the urge to do something violent. I instead pull out my Annihilite, a golden crystal with a black frame, activating the technology’s magic with my own signature and directing it to Tien’s body.
“I doubt that’s possible,” Kiun says, continuing from his laugh. His tone shifts to something darker. Bitter. “This is just the way the world is. When someone becomes a monster, that’s the end of the person they once were. That’s the end of the person we once knew.”
I frown, keeping my gaze on Tien as the destruction magic spreads to the body, blackening it and turning it into crackling dust before that fades to nothingness, too. When the crystal’s job is done, there is nothing of the body left behind. I reach forward and take the Annihilite back into my hand, absorbing it into the shadows of my body.
All this was unnecessary.
After a moment, I stand. “What are you doing in Ascera, Kiun?” I ask, turning around. “Don’t you spend all your time in the Wilderness now?”
“Well, sometimes the Boundary, too,” he says, shooting fingerguns at me. His expression immediately sobers, however. “Have you noticed? More and more monsters are attacking the city.”
I snort. “How could I not? I’m only sent out if there’s more than the regular agents can handle.”
“Ah, yes,” Kiun says, tilting his head and letting his gaze fall to the ground, where my shadows curl around him threateningly. “Don’t want you running out of control, do they?”
I narrow my eyes at him before looking away. “Something like that,” I murmur. A few seconds pass before I look back at him. “So, what? Do you know something about the monsters—?”
I startle slightly at the voice, turning to see the familiar face of Maron Klaer landing in a rush of water. She’s wearing her usual outfit of a dark purple shirt with lighter purple sleeves and robe flaps concealing where her body transitions to her fish-like tail—a gray-teal thing with white tips like the four fins coming from the sides of her head. The heels of her disembodied prosthetic legs click against the ground.
Her maroon hair flows in the air, framing her face—teal, like her tail and fins, with white markings. Her irises are a brighter teal, with pale yellow sclera and white pupils. She parts her mouth in surprise upon catching sight of Kiun, revealing her array of sharp pale-yellow teeth.
Klaer’s eyes narrow. “What’s he doing here?”
“He is right here, you know,” Kiun says dryly.
Klaer stares at him before her face splits into an ominous grin. “You’re right,” she says. Her eyes begin to glow, and globules of water glowing with the bright teal of her chroma begin to form. “So, Kiun Narx. What are you doing here?”
Kiun’s own easygoing expression falters briefly, but he quickly recovers and laughs. “And I think that is my cue to go,” he says cheerily.
He starts running in my direction, and I prepare to attack? Defend? I’m not sure, but he only places his hand on my shoulder, quickly leaning in to whisper, “Keep in mind what I said, Eirien.”
And then he presses down, using my shoulder as leverage to launch himself into a leap away.
I’m unfazed, of course, only watching him as he goes. I look back at Klaer, who still has her magic floating around her.
After a moment, she allows her magic to dissipate, looking almost disappointed as she does it. “Eirien, how are you feeling?” she asks.
I sigh. “I’m fine, Klaer. This was nothing.” I turn away from her, ignoring whatever expression she makes at the response. “How much have monster attacks increased in the last month?”
There’s a pause before she answers. “It was rare to see more than one a week not too long ago,” she says. Her steps approach. “But now they’re coming in almost every day. Even more than one in a day sometimes, like today…”
I glance back at her, seeing her with a troubled expression. “How did things go on your end today, come to think of it?” I ask.
“I drove it back to the Wilderness,” Klaer says. “The attack was by the Boundary, so it didn’t take much for it to flee.”
“I see,” I murmur, letting my eyes slip shut. “Much better than my end. Kiun killed the one here before I had the chance to sedate them.”
There’s a touch on my shoulder, and I look up to see Klaer in front of me, brows furrowed. “You can’t save them all,” she says softly.
I know, I don’t say. I instead step back, pulling a teleportation ring from my shadows. “I’m heading back.”
The ring glows with its lilac chroma, expanding from its palm size to the full radius, wide enough to encompass me. It floats above me before I feel the familiar dizzying sensation of spatial displacement.
Then, I am gone.