"So are you ok? That looked pretty painful from where I was standing. Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Nothing? I could carry you? Hug you?"
"Still no. Why don't you go bother a different woman?" Adrenna sighed out. "Please go bother a different woman. That would help."
"You know, if you gave in and accepted him, I woudn't have to hear this every day," Damien explained while rubbing the bridge of his nose.
The three of them were all advancing towards Basic Spells. Since Ranger had met Adrenna, he'd made a point of walking both Damien and her from Advanced Combat to Basic Spells, regardless of the fact that he, in fact, did not have Basic spells and that his class was, in fact, on the exact other side of the building.
Most days Damien just laughed it off. Most days.
"You're right; it would be worse," she responded. "He'd touch me the whole time, and you'd have to watch."
"No, no," Damien said with a grin. "You'd be with him constantly from that point onward. Obviously, I couldn't bear to keep you two apart, I'd gift you to him. If you truly want to help me out, it's what you would do."
"I knew you were my best friend!"
"My Master is so cruel," Adrenna said in a monotone voice. "Giving me away to a lecher."
Ranger gave Damien a thumbs up from the other side of Adrenna as she shuddered. Flirt as he may, the man always kept a respectable distance from her and never touched her. He only fussed over her whenever she was particularly rattled from Advanced Combat.
"Don't worry. I'll get Enna soon enough. If she really hated me, she'd try to injure me somehow during class," he said with a grin. "Don't you remember when Jorel made a pass at her?"
Damien smiled at that. The Minotaur, Grum, had found her abrasive attitude appealing in his own way. He'd made a pass at her in more than a bit off-putting way and demanded Damien hand over her slave rights so he could 'bed her.' Apparently, the gesture of hip thrusting and breathing deeply was extremely flattering and 'cute' in their culture, but to Adrenna herself, it was more than a little disturbing. Especially when some of his spittle had flown and landed on her arm.
Feeling that she was justified in acting in self-defense, Adrenna had kicked the man where no man should be kicked. It was his own fault for not understanding the difference in cultures, Damien had explained. It was a memory that brought him no amount of embarrassment now that he looked back on it, considering the events of the morning.
"I don't think not kicking you in the nuts is an indication of her affection," Damien replied, turning to face his grinning friend. "In fact, based on what little I know about her, I think that just means she's never gotten the chance."
"It's better than nothing!" Ranger said with a wide smile as he met Damien's gaze. "Have an excellent class, I'll see you during the break, my muse," he finished, blowing kisses to the black-eyed, pale, and white-haired Brinter.
'He sure knows how to pick them,''' Damien sighed out in his mind.
"Alright, alright, get gone," Damien said, making a shooing motion as Adrenna rolled her eyes and moved for the classes door, opening it up for Damien.
Ranger cocked his head and smiled wider as Adrenna turned around, looking at Damien and simultaneously ignoring Ranger's face.
Damien shook his head as he moved into the classroom.
"Damien! Perfect timing," Mr. Feival called out.
Damien smiled while mentally cringing. Even if he was planning on talking to the man himself today, that didn't mean he wanted instant, loud conversation.
Looking around the classroom, most of the students hadn't shown up yet today. Turning back towards Feival, the Human was moving in his direction.
"What were your plans today?" he asked while on his way over. "I heard through the grapevine you were trying to learn a bit about chantless sound enchantments."
"Hey, Mr. Feival. I was actually-"
"Finn, call me Finn. We've talked about this, lad!" the man interrupted, waving Damien off. "But anyway, I happen to know a thing or two about that. The class is on self-study today, why don't I help you out?"
Damien almost took a step back as the instructor got close. He was approaching in a very animated manner, waving his arms about. The level of energy on him, today in particular, was palpable.
"Well sir, as much as I'd like to, I already reserved one of the private study lounges in the library for this period," Damien stated.
Mr. Feival's face immediately deflated, but Damien had to be firm. He'd been working on that particular magic himself and was already making progress in it; it would be more productive to use this time to research a few topics he'd been putting off. Top of the list being the many different motions he should avoid doing whenever speaking to members of different cultural backgrounds.
"Are you quite sure? I could always assist in whatever else you are up to as well," Mr. Feival pressed.
Damien looked up at the man quizzically before shaking his head. He didn't need help, no matter how fervently it was being offered, when just researching cultural quirks.
"I'll be ok, thank you, though. It is alright if I go as usual though, correct?" he questioned as Mr. Feival sighed.
"Yes, that's fine, of course. Have a good study session then," the man said, walking back to his desk and plopping down like Damien had just ruined his birthday.
Feeling a bit bad at taking all the wind out of the man's sails, Damien briefly considered changing his mind before remembering how horribly the morning had gone. He turned around and exited the classroom, Adrenna following along closely.
"Damien!" a feminine voice rang out, causing him to stop and almost audibly grunt at the unwelcomeness of it.
"Hey Gianna!" he replied with fake enthusiasm. "How goes it?"
"Just fine," the Celestial said, jogging to catch up as he traveled from the library to the Cafeteria.
Research had gone swimmingly. Bowing was apparently almost universally looked at in strange light and different ways by the many cultures, so Damien had decided not to bow again as long as he was alive. The only reason he'd done it the other day was that he assumed that's how you showed the most sincerity when apologizing. Layla was a brute of a teacher. The last thing he needed was her disliking him more than she already did for a slip of the tongue when angry, so he'd tried to be as sincere as Humanly possible.
It had backfired. Horribly, horribly backfired.
On that topic, it seemed that the way apologies were viewed as sincere throughout the many different cultures was by presenting the person with a very unique and interesting looking stone of some type. The more unique, the more sincere.
It was viewed as such because it meant you'd decided to spend time and in the case of an extraordinary rock that was found for the specific person, more time, searching for a better way to apologize while considering what you'd done wrong. No matter the rock, your intentions were pure and expressed.
Maybe he should go rock hunting for one that looked like anger.
"Headed to lunch?" Gianna asked as she finally came up alongside him. "Hello Adrenna, it's great to see you again."
"Hi," Adrenna responded, interposing herself between himself and Gianna like a barrier, causing Damien to almost snicker.
He wondered if she'd been given orders from Alexa or not. Either way, he was thankful.
"Yes, we are headed to the cafeteria right now," Damien responded as they seemingly paid Adrenna's actions no mind.
"Oh cool, me too-"
'Same, irritatingly beautiful smile as always,''' Damien thought, having glanced over when she replied.
"Mind if I come with?"
"Not at all."
He'd had it with overly kind people today. Everyone seemed to have an ulterior motive and to be honest, he just wanted to get home where his pets and favorite women were. He was over this.
At least they'd be at lunch. Maybe he could convince them to take Adrenna.
"You'll be training with Layla after school, don't forget," Adrenna suddenly mentioned, abruptly ruining Damien's daydreaming.
"Where did that come from?" he asked.
"You had that look on you get whenever thinking about those two naked," she responded with a shrug. "I figured it meant you forgot. Though based on your 'apology' earlier, I might be wrong about who y-"
"I do not," Damien interrupted, hurriedly clasping a hand over her mouth, "know what you are talking about, but surely, whatever it was, was an accident!" he whisper-yelled. "And I do not have a 'look'"
"You so do," Gianna piped in from the side. "Ever since after I saw you on lover's day, you've had the same look whenever around the girl. It's how I knew you were off the market officially," she said with a downtrodden face.
Adrenna's eyes and eyebrows showed him the face of a smug woman as he let her go in a defeated manner and continued trudging forward.
"So you admit you're done trying to seduce me then, right?" he asked backward loudly.
"That I am," Gianna consented. "I'm not foolish enough to try and take you away from Lexi. If she is finally going to admit she cares enough about you to make it official, then I've lost any chance I had."
"Thank god," Damien exclaimed, sighing out and chuckling slightly.
"Hey!" Gianna replied as he heard her footsteps stop, genuine hurt in her voice.
"No no," Damien replied quickly, looking turning around to look back at her. "You're great and all. Really, really pretty and sweet. It's just... you were really forward. Like, really forward, and I don't know how much longer I would have lasted turning you down if Lexi hadn't finally caved. I'd much, much rather have you as a friend than a nuisance," he explained.
Gianna had a complicated expression on her face for a few moments before she decided to smile back. Damien hoped she'd never repeat a word of what he'd just admitted.
Within moments they were through the back doors of the main building and passing by a few demi-Human students leaving. Damien smiled when Kastra noticed him and waved at her.
"Look, all I'm saying is you don't know if it will actually go bad for the continent," Alexa stated, in the middle of a heated argument with Gallion as Damien moved behind her. "You just assume it will. The-"
"Hiya," Damien interrupted, wrapping his arms around her waist as she jumped slightly. "Ah, sorry if I startled you," he exclaimed as she looked directly upward at him.
He interrupted her again with a quick, upside-down kiss.
"Fine..." she finished with an embarrassed smile.
"Damien, Adrenna. Good to see you as always. And look! You brought the tramp," Gallion exclaimed. "Excellent timing. I was just wondering what this trollop would think about the impending war. Her dad and her lovvveeee supporting the fat, lazy, and all in all waste of space of an Emperor and his dozens of followers."
"I can sit wherever I please and support whoever I please," Gianna said in an indifferent tone as she moved to sit a bit further down the table, next to where Adrenna sat. "And like you'd know what we support, you left years ago. Things change!"
"Were removed," Gallion corrected. "And I'd respect that statement if you actually did support the Emperor's goals and weren't just following in daddy's footsteps," Gallion snorted out. "You aren't welcome to sit here."
"I can sit wherever I please," she finished, plopping down.
"Really, because it feels like, because I'm sitting up here on this shiny thing, I get to decide things like that. Leave."
"She can sit wherever she pleases," Damien said with a sigh. "If you two don't like each other, ignore each other."
"That's not your-" Gallion started before a glare from Alexa silenced him.
Damien sat down to the right of Alexa and rested a hand on her leg, squeezing it lightly when she backed up his decision. It showed trust in his decision to allow Gianna to be around. It made him happy. Plus, this table was going to be a much better influence on the Celestial's personality than the other one would be.
"Adrenna!" a voice yelled out from the direction of the entrance.
"Great," the called sighed out, resting her head on her palms.
Damien laughed a little bit as he motioned for Gianna to move down a seat. If she'd shrug and play indifferently when he was in an uncomfortable situation, well, he wouldn't save her from a great guy.
Lendor Shressle toured the compound, making sure his soldiers were set up how they needed to be before falling asleep. He was one of the most structured men in their army that had made it this far, and his men all played by his rules. Some called him strict, others called him a Demon. He called it good discipline. Different opinions would always clash.
"Get yur feetsss off that chair!" he barked out, one of his currently small retinue jumping at his voice and sitting up straight immediately with his arms to his sides.
Deference. Obedient soldiers. Scared men. He loved this about them. The cowardice they felt before him. The feeling of power it gave him.
Another reason he'd been sent. He was a bit of a sadist. He knew this. He didn't care. He accepted it as a part of what he was and because of it, grew to be where he was today; serving as the Nivarian ambassador for communication with the Hellial presence on the continent they were currently fighting.
Hellials. Universally looked down on in every Elerian culture except theirs. The Nivari were a race that lived under the ocean. They had no land holdings when the Hellials went on their first rampage, so it stood that they held no bad feelings now. In fact, one could call the Nivari and Hellials long lost cousins. While not nearly as violent as their winged friends, it still stood that of the Demi-Human races, the Nivari were quite the violent ones. The fact that they wanted land holdings and the Empire was unwilling to compromise only exacerbated this particular trait of theirs and gave them an open, on the table reason to go to war.
It was neither here nor there that they knew he'd reject their demands. That was simply helpful. Either way, they'd have come for Human blood.
Shressle continued through the camp, weaving between many trees as he made his way for an opening in the hillside. The pitter-patter of rain against his skin helped his usually perpetually wet outer layer stay lubricated, keeping him from having to create his own water to moisten the mucous that covered his body.
"Shressle I presume?" one of the oversized birds asked, moving towards him with the same trademark dark wings they always had.
The man stepped through a patch of moonlight, the beam of light shining over his figure and turning his wings transparent, showing off the skeleton beneath. When he entered the shadow, once more, the wings became one with the night and showed no indication they could ever be transparent.
Shressle looked up to Hellials in a way. Wished he could have been one in his younger years. But alas, it was not to be. A stronger Mage than anything, while Shressle was a good fighter, he was a wonderful Mage.
The Hellial across from him stood five foot ten and appeared meek. Intelligent. Not a strong fighter possibly, but a good strategist, similar to himself.
"My name is Uhren. I have orders to bring a Lendor Shressle to Minerva."
"Yess. Take me to Minervaaa. we have a few things to discuss," Shressle responded, trying to hide the lisp all members of his race had as much as possible.
"Follow me then," the man, Uhren, declared, turning on his toes and moving into the cave.
Shressle moved in after the man. The cave was rather narrow, dark, and loud. Droplets of water echoed into his ears, their footsteps made loud, echoing booming sounds, and to top it all off, there were cries of despair that sounded out from further within, all feminine in nature.
No branching pathways, no alternative routes... just the one he was being led down. Uhren finally stopped before a fork, the cries of despair echoing out from the path on the left. Shressle smelt the distinct smell of blood, feces, and reproductive fluids coming from that tunnel.
"Minerva is to the right. If any of your men have animalistic needs of any kind, bring them to this left corridor. Tell them not to breed with them though; we need them for that purpose."
Shressle nodded to Uhren's statement and moved down the right corridor. After a half-minute of moving at a healthy clip, he arrived at a stone door.
Slowly, it disappeared into the ground.
"Come in, Lendor Shressle. Are you hungry? Thirsty?"
He took a few steps in and located the owner of the voice immediately.
She sat at a desk on the far end of the room in a lavish chair, drinking a glass of what looked like blood. He had heard from his diplomacy instructor that this was perhaps wine and not blood, but he'd never had either, so he was unable to tell.
The woman was beautiful. Smaller in stature, but rigid. She looked so confident, so in control... Even though she was a member of a separate race, at first glance, she was what he'd look for in a future wife.
He tore his eyes off of her and looked to the other end of the room where some whimpering could be heard coming from a small, huddled figure. After realizing what the creature was, he almost lunged for what he saw, his hand immediately clawing at the blade he had strapped to his waist.
"Easy, easy," Minerva said, standing and interjecting herself between him and his prey in an instant. "That is a pet project of mine."
"It isss an abominationnnn!" Shressle screeched out, inching closer to the creature.
'How dare she try to protect it!'''
"It is a relative of-"
"NO RELATIVE OF OURSSS!" he bellowed, infuriated.
That the woman would dare say those lesser... things were part Nivari was more than a little insulting. Dark skinned, four arms like them... but the second arms were longer. More normal. They had no webbing, they had no lisp, and they had little in the way of violent tendencies.
They were abominations. Not true to their kind.
"I am sorry, I was under the impression Dresmyrs were distant relati-"
"Shut up!" he interrupted. "Not relativesss! Abominationsss. Unwelcome mutationsss forced upon usss," Shressle yelled out. "Entire vilagesss captured, experimented onn to make! You dare own one!!"
"What?" Minerva asked, confused. "You can't manipulate someone elses bod-"
"Theyy could!" Shressle said, pointing back to the corridor. "Human Magesss. Found a way, practiced with usss. We come to collect the debt!"
"Right..." Minerva said, moving toward the Dresmyr child that was now whimpering on the ground. "Well, don't kill this one."
"WHY?!" the impatient thing before her screeched, daggers already pulled halfway out of his thigh holsters.
"It is a small pet project of mine, unrelated to our mission. I need it to kill or capture another," she explained. "Once that mission is done you may do... whatever it is you would like with it."
The man/monster glared daggers at her for a few moments longer before sheathing its daggers. It turned toward her and continued to glower, but made no move to attack the thing.
She did her best to attempt a smile.
"Why am I here?" the Nivari asked impatiently.
"We are to see if your Mages and our Combatants work well together," she explained. "If so, we will join forces more openly and raid settlements together. If not, we will simply coordinate our large-scale strikes between our leaders. We are a test run," Minerva explained.
The Nivari stood still for what felt like an hour before finally nodding and turning around quickly, ignoring the Dresmyr still whimpering in the corner.
"If I ssee it, I kill it," he declared before moving out the exit in a rush.
Minerva watched him go while wondering about what the Nivari had said.
"They could," she wondered aloud.
So serious when speaking of Humans. It was a tad off-putting to say the least.
"Well, I won't let him kill you, darling," Minerva said, moving towards the child and running a finger along his trembling, purple jawline. "You're important to what I want after all. And I really, really want it."
Support "A Gentleman's Curse: Arc 2"
Wildland Helicopter Firefighter from northern California. I'm writing during the winter but plan on returning to my job in the summer. I'm enjoying writing more than I thought I would. Will be posting frequently, but once I start work in the summer posts will slow down. Hopefully I'll have a cache of chapters built up by then and I won't have to scale them back too much though.
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