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“Holy shit…” the elven woman I was sleeping with said.

“I know right,” I replied, blowing the smoke from my lungs as I laid back into my feather bed. I looked at my woman and gently moved the hair in her face back behind her pointed ear, “I told you it would be good.”

“Holy shit…” she said again, unmoving.

I laughed heartily, confident in my strong performance of manliness.

“Holy shit!” she screamed. My confidence turned to alarm as I looked at my maiden.

She licked my face, which wasn’t exactly odd considering the circumstance, but a familiar smell from my childhood jarred something within me nonetheless. I woke up.

“Damnit, Goldrin…” I said as I pushed my greying companion off my chest, “not again!”

“Holy shittttt!” Lorelai exclaimed, “I can’t believe it worked!

“What worked?” I inquired after having a brief but severe conversation with Goldrin that centered around not waking me up when I am dreaming, especially if I seemed to be making noises. I stood up and walked into the tattoo area from the front lobby. It was filled with four chairs, reminding me of a barbershop. Magazines were scattered all around the floor and tables. Their glossy covers gleamed with the green and pink neon light of a sign that dangled from the wall, threatening everyone that it would fall at any moment, but never actually doing so. Lorelai sat in one of the chairs. She was also gleaming. Nikko stood next to her saying the same phrase as the hot elf from my dream. He was trembling, the same way a tattoo needle trembles before it comes into contact with skin. Apparently, the man could handle any sort of violence without blinking an eye, but magic was too much for him. I repeated the phrase that had been going around lately.

Lorelai stood up, her visible skin giving off a dull blue glow, “Stick me with your sword,” she asked of me.

“My katana?” I confirmed which sword she was talking about with a gulp, bringing the weapon in closer to my body, protecting it, “No, why would I do that?”

“Just trust me,” she said, “do it.”

I hesitated. She gave me a look. I caved and stepped closer, cautiously. I gripped my katana tightly and gently pressed it against her stomach. She grabbed the blade with her bare hands, pushed it back into me briefly, then shoved it back into her stomach with reckless abandon. I may have yelped, but it also could have been the dog.

The blade refused to pass into her body. Right in front of my eyes, the blue glow surrounded her intensified where the katana touched her skin. Blue lines of force ripped through her, wrapped around her, and slowly pulsed until calming down and becoming one smooth, dull blue again. I looked at her with awe in my eyes. Maybe a little love too, but I didn’t think she could see that part.

“It’s a shield,” she said with a smile.

“How?” I asked with a cracked voice.

Lorelai pointed to Nikko, who was still trying to grasp what was going on. He pulled his eyes away from his tattoo gun that had previously created many beautiful works of art, but nothing that beautiful, and looked to Lorelai, hoping to listen in on her explanation of his actions as well.

“His ability was Inscription. He can tattoo magic into skin.”

I finally cleared my throat and rallied, “Awesome!”

“Yea, sit down and he will give you one too,” She said, wrapping her tiny hands around my massive arms like a baby trying to grab onto a cement column -if that cement column happened to be made of jello.

“Oh, no,” I interjected as I reluctantly let her pull me, “I don’t do tattoos.”

The look she gave me said it all. Then it said it all again, with fancier words. What the fuck do you mean? This tattoo can save your life. Also, it is magical, and you are a nerd, what the hell is the problem? Are you an idiot? Don’t answer that, you are definitely an idiot, but you're going to be an idiot with a tattoo, do you understand me?

Luckily, Nikko spoke up and granted me a reprieve from answering her onslaught of non-verbal questions.

“Wait, I have an idea,” He said before turning around and rifling through his drawers. He had gotten over his magical delirium and returned to normal. I only knew that because he found another indirect way to insult me, “I don’t have enough ink, and giving The Unit over here a shield would waste too much of it. Hold on.”

Nikko found what he was looking for and pulled it out of the drawer triumphantly.

“How is that stupid little knife going to help us?” Lorelai asked.

I recognized the knife in Nikko's hands immediately and stood up from my chair, ready to drop some impressive fact bombs, “That’s not just any knife. That’s a Kershaw Tilt. You can’t even buy those anymore,” I said, turning to Nikko “seriously, how did you even get one? It’s cutting edge is made from Udderholm Vanax 75! It has a ton of unique features that were all well ahead of its ti-”

“SO?” Lorelai interrupted me, “Jesus, what is that going to do for us. Does Vanax or whatever kill fucking zombie people super fast? If not then it doesn’t matter.”

My brain stuttered to come up with a reply, but it eventually puttered out, “Cool. Cool.” I said with a nod of my head. Not cool man, she doesn’t even like blades, I thought as I sat back down in my chair, feeling defeated on multiple fronts.

Nikko paid no attention to us though and quietly walked over to the nearest Scrounger, which happened to be Brittnie. He knelt over to her limp body, slide his Kershaw into the top of her suit jacket and pulled. The knife, as any good knife should, cut cleanly through Brittnie’s clothes, which fell to the side. I nodded in appreciation - at the fact that Nikko kept his blade well oiled and sharpened, and not at Brittnie’s pair of perky double A’s that were suddenly exposed.

“Oh, C'mon,” Lorelai complained, “what are you doing?”

I was wondering the same thing but opted to sit there and watch. I would find out eventually.

Nikko repeated his process until Brittnie lay on the floor completely naked unless you counted her Katana wound. I sat there in awe - of the skilled knife work. I would never have expected such a basic and uneducated man to own, never mind appropriately wield, such a blade with that much grace. Meanwhile, Lorelai’s complaints reached a crescendo until she stood there fuming and powering up her explosive fist ability. The ability made a sort of sizzling electric sound. It was enough to get Nikko to consider his situation and offer an explanation. I leaned in closer to get a better look at what he was going to say.

“Oh, right,” he said in a moment of introspection, “this is going to be gross, but I had an idea that might help protect us from the Scroungers. You guys might want to go into the back room.”

“Excuse me? No, I will not. YOU WILL NOT, OR I WILL-” Lorelai yelled.

Nikko dashed across the room in a split second and grabbed Lorelai’s magically infused forearm. He pulled her face close to his. Her powered up fist powered down. “Do not fucking threaten me, do you understand?” He threw her arm away, “Especially when you need me and have no intention of coming through with your threats. Little girl,” he added for good measure.

This time it was Lorelai’s turn to deflate. She walked past me without making eye contact and quietly, but still somehow loudly, sat down into the corner chair.

“Seriously,” Nikko warned as he picked Brittnie’s body up from the floor and threw her over his shoulder, “you guys aren’t going to want to see this.” Nikko shuffled to one of his open chairs, threw Brittnie’s slim limp body into it, and prepared his equipment.

***

Pots and pans filled the back room of the parlor Lorelai was busy dragging me into. Among the other objects necessary for living in a small room; a small refrigerator, an old-fashioned television complete with alien ear attenai, a set of weights for getting buff, various magazines that featured beautiful woman wearing only tattoos, and a box of tissues, there was a worn and slightly yellow mattress that lay directly on the floor. It didn’t have any sheets, which I figured suited the mood of the place. What didn’t fit the mood, or at least the mood I wasn’t suspecting so early in our relationship, was that Lorelai led me to the bed. We both sat down on its edge. Admittedly, I had no idea what to do from here, as I have never actually sat on a bed with a woman.

“Fuck,” Lorelai said as she clutched her hand in another and rocked back and forth on the edge of the bed.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I think I broke my finger,” she said with a pained expression, “trying to power punch one of those scroungers.”

“Well you did punch one of them hard enough to make its head explode,” I added.

“No, not that one,” she said, “It was a different one, I went to use my ability, but when I punched the thing, it never activated.”

“Oh, it probably just has a cooldown,” I replied.

She looked at me, never acknowledging my helpful explanation, and said, “What are you doing here Milton. Like, how are you still alive,” she returned to looking at the ground and rocking away her pain, “I don’t even know how I am alive. One moment I was waiting to get a tattoo and the next second the guy in front of me attacked.”

I recalled the first moment I met the rainbow colored letters, and the painful moments afterward, “I was visiting my Grandma’s dog like I do every night after work… then she attacked me.”

Goldrin wined at the mention of his mother and hopped up onto the bed with me. He wasn’t supposed to be on furniture but probably had some sense that it was the end of the world and that the old rules no longer applied. Besides, from the state of the room, I didn’t think Nikko would even notice a little bit of dog hair on his bed, so I didn’t say anything to him. Besides, I didn't want to be on the receiving end of his Bork, Bork, Growl skill, whatever that was.

“And you killed her,” Lorelai stated. She was a brunette, my favorite color of hair for damsels, and had a small splattering of freckles below her green eyes that were only visible if you were sitting on the same bed as her. She reminded me of Tifa, a character from one of my all-time favorite video games. I had dreamt of meeting someone as beautiful as Tifa many times, but somehow the moment wasn’t as magical as it was in my head.

“Yea,” I whispered. Then I remembering that it wouldn't make a good impression if I broke down crying, so I took an exaggerated inhale and said, “or at least I killed the thing that killed her. I guess I don’t see it as killing my Grandma; she was dead before I got there.”

“Still sucks though,” She added.

Despite my best efforts, I nodded and joined her in looking at the floor, “Yea.”

“Okay, you can come out now!” a slightly Spanish voice echoed from the main room.

I immediately stood up, eager to get out of whatever type of social situation I was in, just in time to see Lorelai wipe her freckled face with a good hand and stand up after me.

Had she been crying? I asked myself as I looked back at her, I didn’t even notice.

“C’mon Nerdboy,” Lorelai said after me, with a forced wink.

I flapped my arms, unaware of why it was appropriate to insult me in such a social situation, especially after we seemed to bond for a short time. Or at least I thought we were bonding.

Maybe it wasn’t obvious enough that I wanted to bond with her? I wondered as I walked out of the backroom and into the main parlor, should I get her a gift?

The Parlor was mostly unchanged. Its broken neon signs still clung desperately to the walls by lonely but determined screws. A gift appropriate for such a beautiful woman was nowhere to be seen. The various industry magazines still lay scattered about, although a few of them had likely laid somewhere slightly different now. The only apparent changes in the room were that Brittnie was gone, Nikko was doing his best to mop up a rather large pool of blood from the floor, and there was a dull blue glow outside the Parlor’s main window.

“Where did Brittnie go?” I asked, my priorities admittedly screwed up.

“Jesus, you named her man?” Nikko said as if I was the disgusting one and he wasn’t currently mopping up a pool of blood from a dead woman he stripped naked.

“No, it was from my Inspec-” my explanation was interrupted.

“You probably named your sword too,” Nikko accused.

“Well, of course, Moira has a name,” I replied indignantly while clutching my Hero’s Katana to my heart,” But-” I was cut off again, and in immediate danger of losing control of the social situation. Like many times before, mostly in high school; I felt my stomach growl in nervousness and my pride harden to prepare for the insults that were bound to smash up against it.

“Nikko, what did you do?” Lorelai asked in awe as she inspected the shield that surrounded the outside of the parlor.

“I protected us. The gay rainbow words said that we needed to defend our base. So that is what I did,” Nikko replied as he twisted the mop with his bare hands. Blood oozed from his fingers and dripped into the bucket, creating the sound of water droplets, only thicker.

As I did my best to build up my mental defenses and quickly prepare my repertoire of counter-insults, I caught a glimpse of Goldrin sniffing around.

‘Your mom,’ was always a proper reply.

Goldrin sniffed his way to the front of the lobby.

‘I know you are, but what am I,’ Got me through at least one social interaction that I had lost control of. Was that one from middle school though?

Goldrin settled for sniffing a specific corner of the Parlor where the door met the floor.

'f my face is pizza then your face is poop, I thought, starting to feel like I was prepared to talk again.

“But how did you do it?” Lorelai asked.

Nikko finally paused his work and looked up to Lorelai. Instead of answering her, he darted after my dog, who had managed to find something to eat.

“Hijo de puta,” he swore, “Don’t eat that you idiot.”

I was never good at social situations, I never had the knack for it, but what did make sense for me was pain. I especially understood feeling pain, no doubt from the troublesome experience of growing up as a human child. And one thing I was good at was defending my loved ones from pain. I sprinted after Nikko and managed to grab Goldrin before the monster could kick him. As I did, I got a glimpse of what he was trying to eat.

“Keep your mut away from there,” Nikko said, impressed with the speed I managed to muster, “or I will kill him.”

My brain barely took in the threat; it was good at ignoring those types of intimidation tactics. Besides, I was too busy inspecting the tattooed piece of parchment that Goldrin almost ate. It was nailed directly into the wall for some reason. Upon, further inspection, I learned that there were similar pieces of curled up parchment nailed all around the window and door. I looked up, as if doing so would give me a glimpse into the life of the sort of people that got tattoos, and how they liked to decorate their abodes. Something dropped onto my forehead. It was wet. I wiped it away with a fat finger and realized that Nikko’s parlor had a leak. It wasn’t a big deal. I figured a lot of the business establishments in the area had these sort of leaks. It was just how things were in the ghetto. But this leak seemed to have rust in it, so I figured Nikko should at least be aware of it.

I turned around, “Hey, Nikko, your building seems to have a rust prob-”

I was interrupted, yet again, by the sounds of a damsel scream. My mind whirled and readied its list of counter insults.

What did I do this time? Why is she screaming at me? I wondered.

I looked at Lorelai as she yelled and realized that she wasn’t looking back at me.

Good, maybe I am not the problem, I thought with relief, letting my brain forget some of the insults it had prepared.

I followed Lorelai’s eyes and turned around to see what she was screaming at. She seemed to be very upset at Nikko’s choice of decoration.

I don’t understand it either, but it doesn’t seem that bad. I mean I wouldn’t decorate my apartment like that but to each their own. The pieces of parchment kind of add to this place’s trashy feel, which I imagine is good for his target market, I thought as the screams continued after taking a short break to reload. Maybe she was going to school to be an interior designer and Nikko had broken some rule of the trade. Well, I don’t recall the parchment being here before. Goldrin also doesn’t eat paper. Maybe a little bit of grass when he doesn’t feel good but… where did Brittnie go?

Realization dawned.

I turned around, just in time to see Lorelai bend over and a torrent of barely digested things flow out of her mouth. It splashed against the floor and mingled with Scrounger blood. I felt my stomach begin to churn.

Constitution Check Failed

I gagged, determined to hold down the half dozen hot pockets in my stomach. They were having none of it though and broke through my esophagus like a small leak in a giant damn - small and manageable at first, but rapidly flowing into a violent river.

Constitution Check Failed.
Constitution Check Failed.

“Goddammit, guys!” Nikko yelled, waving his mop handle around in frustration, “Get a hold of yourselves!"

Constitution Check Failed.

I barfed again, surprised at how much food I had eaten throughout the day. My final conscious thoughts were, Maybe this is why I am fat, and, Carrots, why is there always carrots.

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About the author

BigMartyrs

Bio: Writer of disparate LitRPG stories.

Current works = Legends of the Great Savanna (published) , Milton (Ongoing)

Stay in touch at JLLincoln.com

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