The trip back to the hospital was a short one, it was actually closer to the station than you'd expected, it seemed that you had done a very long round-trip while looking about and trying to familiarize yourself with the place. Stepping inside, you hoped to find the others, and probably Dia, scratch that, Dia had been a delight, you definitely were looking forward to meeting her again, but you probably ought to focus on the others. You'd yet to see them and they definitely needed an update on things.
That plan was short-circuited when you nearly stumbled onto the pink-haired nurse.
"Ma- I mean, sir!" Dia's voice rang out in surprise, waving at you. "What are you doing outside of your room? You should rest." She declared with more concern than firmness to her words. She tried and failed to contain a million-watt smile from blossoming from her lips as you approached.
"Hi." You greet back.
"Are you feeling ill anywhere?" She asked, reaching out and stopping as she just about almost touched your hand. She hesitated for a heartbeat before she did.
You saw her focusing. "I'm fine." You commented offhandedly.
Still, it took her a moment to confirm, her grip on your hand quite firm even her skin was soft and warm. Her eyes remained closed and you could almost feel a tingle run through you before she eventually opened her eyes to look at you and nodded. "Yes, it seems you're doing well." She hadn't let go of your hand and was instead grasping it as she talked, looking into your eyes with a wide happy smile.
"By the by, did you just try to call me Master?" As you ask this, your fingers brush her hair behind her ear, you hear the receptionist let out a choked laugh.
Dia blushed up a storm at that. "No, it was nothing."
You notice the receptionist snickers louder still, you're suspecting she can hear you from way over there but say nothing of it. "Could you take me to the others I came in with?" You speak softly, noting how she leaned into your touch, your mind tries to focus on your companions. "I'm worried about them, and I would greatly appreciate it."
"I don't know..." She fidgeted a little.
A little twinge of daring lanced through you. "I might be appreciative enough to take you on a date tomorrow?" As soon as you said this you frowned, no, that didn't sound right. "Scratch that, I think I'd want to take you out anyway, I'd just really like to get to talk with my friends, it's somewhat-."
"No, no, I-." She nodded, though you heard her bumbling some words quickly, pausing, flustered. "No, I'd... just one minute!"
Before you could say anything else, she ran off.
Now the receptionist was giving you a scowl. You awkwardly scratch the back of your head. Maybe that last part was a bit... you could only feel a little twinge of guilt.
It didn't take even a full thirty seconds for Dia to come back, you saw her dead sprint only to the corridor, and then slow down, trying to look a little less rushed as she fixed her skirt, stepped forward, and approached you again. "Currently only miss May, her guardian miss Alice, and miss Katherine are here, they're in rooms 03 and 05."
The scowl from the receptionist became sterner now.
You blink as you realized exactly what your words had done to the poor girl. You had, basically, dangled your attention as bait on a hook to get her to do "a favour" for you, and seeing how she appeared to be crushing on you quite hard... The guilt escalated a tad, you promised to be more careful with your words next time around.
"Thank you so much, Dia." You decide to keep to your word rather than play her. "At what time would you get out tomorrow?"
The smile she gives you is positively dazzling. "I get off- I mean! I get out at nine!" She declared loudly, her hands grasp yours as she's smiling from ear to ear. "Is there anything else I could do to help?"
"No Dia, you're a lifesaver as is, and I think you have work to do and... well, I have to talk to my friends."
"Thank you, sir!" She proclaimed before rushing off.
The receptionist clearly wasn't happy, the scowl still there as you moved past, the best you could do was apologetically smile and awkwardly shrug as you continued your way inside, heading towards the rooms Dia had pointed out. It appeared they'd been told to expect you because all three were within the same room. The little girl was in the bed reading a book of some sort, while the other two were seated at a small couch near the window.
"Hey." You greeted them, and their greeting, in turn, was a slight shrug.
"Feeling better?" Alice asked politely, she looked tired and distraught.
"For having been out like a light for a full day, can't say I'm feeling bad right now." Came your reply. "Did Major Huge...?"
"Talk with us? No, only her girls did. Asked us some questions and told us we'd go through orientation tomorrow." Katherine replied, there was certainly a bitter edge in her words. "They took Liz and the kitty, they said something about interrogation."
"They've got Monica too." You pointed out with a scowl. "Claimed I didn't have a license to own her."
"It's sickening." Alice's glare turned outwards, to look at the street and the people walking by. "According to the law of this place, monstergirls are objects, not people. Property."
There wasn't really much you could say about that except feel yourself angry at that, even if somewhat confused. "Any word about the others?"
"No, they said they were looking for them." Katherine shook her head, looking gloomier than ever.
"Major Huge mentioned they'd found some people, but that news was being slow." You muttered.
"Figures." Kat grumbled. "Doesn't seem like they have much of a phone network out here."
An extended silence stretched out as it seemed they weren't volunteering to continue the conversation, you could sense the sulleness two of the three were currently feeling. "I found some information about what jobs one could take." You commented, trying to share with them what you'd learned from Bea.
Alice gave a weak nod. "Yes, those are the ones if you want to go around capturing monstergirls." The tone was bitter. "And if you don't want to use your human-card and aim for something like... accountant, or just teacher, then no one's going to be interested because monstergirls will do it better and for little more than food and shelter."
Definitely bitter, and angry.
"You're also forced to enslave them." Kat muttered darkly. "Feral girls you catch and either train or sell, and there's this whole 'I bet my girl' that some do..."
Hugging her knees, the girl had a long look in her eyes that appeared haunted. "And the cycles..."
"Cycles?" You have to blink.
"Brainwashing." Alice was pale as she talked, appearing as withdrawn as Kat was. "They have these machines that brainwash monstergirls, put them in some 'proper mood for learning', they even set levels to it, and level five will... erase them."
A sense of dread crept through you. "Wait, when you mean 'erase'..."
"No memories, no personality, nothing, just push a button and you're left with a body that'll obey the orders given to it, amnesia on a button." You realized Kat's eyes were reddened. "But don't worry, they will develop a new personality after a while." Her tone seemed to be mocking someone.
"Jesus." You cover your mouth. "And all of this...?"
"Is legal." Alice replied. "It's absolutely normal, it's been around for centuries, it's how they grab the ferals who don't know how to behave and force them to behave, it's sick, especially because it's used on the non-ferals too, and..." She turned to look outside.
And you felt a twinge of... not something quite like anger, but a realisation. The bond... and now the cycles, the reason humans were the ones calling the shots. You felt yourself fall and sit on the bed, looking out the window and thinking. Humans... what other way would there be for humans to be the ones calling the shots when they were only one in every five people in the streets? And when the other four could do things like spit fire or outrun a car?
A grim thought.
Had there been rebellion before? What would that mean to... you? To those like you? And yet you think about Monica, and Dia, you think about just pushing a button and leaving them entirely without memory in their minds and it made your stomach twist into a tight knot, it was chilling.
"Gabriel and Tomas said they were going to try and see if they could find any information about a way back."
"Back to our world." Alice nodded.
You take a moment to think about it. "I'm not sure leaving is going to be easy." You muttered, scratching the back of your head.
"Then what's the alternative here, Rick?" Alice glared at you. "Starve to death because we didn't want to participate in enslavement, or participate in it and ruin God only knows how many lives?"
"No, Alice, no, I never said that." You breathed deeply. "Look, there must be something that can be done in the meantime. I mean, even if there IS some sort of world-hopping machine, I doubt we'd be allowed to use it just like that."
Alice gave you a withering glare and you raise your hands in a sign of appeasement while thinking things through. "They did insist I give samples whenever I got to a new medical center, so maybe that's a bargaining chip we could use."
Carefully you take a minute to consider why the government would be interested in those 'samples', frankly speaking, it didn't seem to make much sense. There was the thought they'd use it for breeding, but there didn't seem to be much of a reason to... or was there? You weren't sure.
Maybe they wanted the samples to keep an eye on you? Major Huge had commented that practically anything could be an outlander, so perhaps it was just protocol to ensure you didn't abruptly react to something and slowly start turning into some Cthulu monster or something. That said, it would also serve as a perfect way to keep tabs on your location since they'd always know when and where the last sample was given.
And considering how easily they'd mentioned capital punishment, you had to think that, maybe, this place wasn't governed by very nice people.
You shook your head, either way, it didn't seem like fighting over the whole sample thing would do you any good. Major Huge had said even he wasn't sure why they were insisting on this, only that it came from higher up. This meant that you couldn't really use it to convince the Major into anything since he had to follow on that command.
A heavy sigh followed you shook your head, this was getting a bit big for you, you felt. "What are your plans? What will you do while looking for an answer?"
"Tamer." Kat muttered. "I'll team up with Tomas, we'll save up as we go and see if we can find something. We'd call everyone if we discovered a way back." A heavy sigh. "And Mr Gabriel said he'd apply for breeder if there are no alternatives."
You glanced at Alice, and rather than answer she just looked out the window with a sour look on her face.
"Watcher." May muttered, much to your surprise, then glanced back down to her book.
"And you?" Kat's eyes focused on you at the same time Alice's had, both of them seeming to pay close attention.
You sigh in turn. "I honestly don't know. Right now I just want Monica back, and the best way for that seems to be to become a Hunter." A groan followed. "It's either that or being a Tamer I guess..."
"You shouldn't try to get Monica back." Alice spoke up, her eyes suddenly looking both panicked and determined.
"Where does this come from?" You couldn't avoid wondering out loud.
"Rick, she's dangerous and nearly killed us twice while you were 'handling' her." She spoke sternly. "She literally ate some of our students. She ate Gloria like she was a snack."
You gulp but scowl right after. "It was an emergency..."
"She had a 'pet' girl she'd crippled just so she could play with when she felt like it. She almost gored the lizard girl in front of us without a second thought because she felt hungry." Alice didn't relent. "Rick, Monica is a sadist murderer that just happened to like the way you gave it to her. You may be safe but no one else would be." She crossed her arms. "She's better off with someone who would actually know how to handle something like her and is better prepared to teach her to be civilized."
"You mean the slavery you're against."
Alice now growled. "Need I remind you exactly how 'in control' you were when she took a whiff of that pink cloud?" The memory was blurred, but still felt intense, of your body hurting all over, and how close she had been from unintentionally killing you.
Your mind turned back towards the 'meals' she'd had, and how you didn't remember seeing any recognizable faces. Was it accidental? Intentional? Some subconscious self-defence? You weren't sure, but it made your stomach feel revolted all over. You practically bit your tongue to keep yourself quiet, knowing full well that her words were true. But honestly? You were as fed up of this situation as much as she was.
This world wasn't one you could agree with, it fucking treated people like objects for crying out loud and had people-eating sex-beasts. How could you agree to it?
Didn't make it any less the world you were currently in though.
A pause followed this thought, you closed your eyes.
When in Rome...
"You know what? You're right." You growled. "Had I had a fucking clue what was going on and what Monica was, and had I been better equipped, then all the fucking mess would've been far less messy." Your voice sounded louder, it made the others flinch. "But you know what? It wasn't, and I wasn't. I did what I could to survive, and Monica helped. Without her, we would likely ALL be dead right now."
You didn't relent, it was like a slow explosion going through you and out. "We were fucking stranded and at the whims of a feral who didn't kill us because I was a fun to have around." You said dryly. "But you didn't mind that, did you? Because it wasn't you who was handling her. Let me guess, you also told yourself that it was perfectly acceptable that I was the one doing it because I was a guy?"
A second flinch, bigger this time.
"Yeah." You sneered. "Just because murder came in a nice package doesn't mean I was any less aware I was with a killing machine. That first time? It was hell, I can still smell the blood, I can still feel my hands shaking thinking that the woman in front of me will rip my arms off if she felt like I wasn't amusing enough." You continued in a deep growl, the memory was blurry now, but you ignore that; you step towards Alice. "Without me, ALL of us would likely be dead too, and you'd have nothing to worry about regarding slavery and abuse because you'd be some other feral's meal."
Alice is rendered mute now, you can't stop, you feel your voice raising further.
"You know what? I agree I'm totally unprepared to handle Monica, and I also agree that slavery fucking sucks." A dark look crossed your face. "But I also agree that if you don't adapt you will either die or worse, end up dragging someone else with you." Crossing your arms, you take a moment to control your breath, realising you were almost out of breath. You take a second, stabilising yourself, lowering your voice to a growl. "So I'm going to adapt and I'm going to learn what it means to have a monstergirl, I'm going to keep Monica, and I'm going to learn how to continue not dying as best I fucking can. And if it means I have to use my body as a tool to do it then so be it!"
Turning around, you leave the room, feeling too hot-headed to properly say or do anything else.