"...and that's when we were found by what I'm guessing was a rescue party." You ended the narrative, feeling like no time at all had passed by.
The angel barely made any questions throughout, just speaking up to ask for confirmations here and there.
Harris nodded with a little eagerness. "Thank you, tamer Rick, that was very illuminating. Into both the circumstances of your arrival as well as how people in your world think." She smiled softly. "Though the interrogation is over, and I'm sure the Chief will give you Monica as soon as he reads the report, I would love to hear more about how you've adjusted to this world. If you don't mind, of course."
Though it'd been easy to ignore the contact, you were still well aware she hadn't let go of your hand.
"Is this off the record?" You asked, remembering some of what you'd seen on television at some point about these sorts of things (or was it the internet?).
"Yes, the interrogation has ended and was sent to Chief for review." Harris replied amicably, and yet, her hand remained there, was this an attempt at flirting? "Nothing is being recorded now."
You opted to proceed considering you were in fact still very much on record. "Well, I... truth be told, girls here are... much more eager than I'm used to." You confessed in an attempt to show something that might be considered worth mentioning but overall harmless. "It's a little disorienting sometimes how easy... things... can happen." A pause. "Before, it was more like you had to actively look for it, put so much effort, and now... I feel more like I have to stop myself from having too much."
"That's... a shame to hear." She spoke, with a little concern in her gaze, seeming genuinely interested. "That in your world men and women have such a hard time sharing physical intimacy with each other. Why is it?"
Her earnest question made you think for a moment. "We don't have a 'hard time' sharing physical intimacy, it's just not as much part of every-day life as it is here." A tiny shrug. "That and, well, people tend to be pickier with who they're with, women especially. We aren't very keen on having unplanned babies, plus there's this whole risk of diseases." A momentary pause, trying to chew through the idea a bit more. "That and the men/women proportion is about the same, so more often than not people try to have only one partner."
She blinked in surprise at that. "Oh, that sounds quite nice!" As she realized you were remaining quiet, she opted to elaborate. "Monstergirls here rarely if ever have a partner all for themselves, not to mention that it is common to have had at least five or six different masters at the least before settling down."
"That explains the urgency..." You muttered, rubbing your chin in thought. "The feral state?"
The angel nodded emphatically. "It is the fastest way, after all, one should never take risks with going feral." She said, her hand reaching to press upon her brow. The gesture appeared to have significance. A religious one maybe? "It was a perilous thing, during the war. Monstergirls had to go through great lengths to avoid going feral, developing intimate deep relationships with one another. Sukebe, the Fallen Creator, made us intending for the bond to ensure loyalty to his forces. If a monstergirl broke away from those she'd bonded to, she would go feral. The information would not leak, and humanity would have to put them down."
A heavy sigh followed, the angel looked uncomfortable.
"Humanity was not at its best back then, but what few monstergirls were captured... eventually bonds formed with their captors. Much to everyone's surprise, these bonds were far more stable, solid. Human and monstergirl, the combination was powerful, and it became Sukebe's undoing as humanity found out." A little lilt hung in her voice. "Monstergirls were quick to change sides once bonded, and their aid to humanity brought Sukebe's end."
"But..." You frowned. "What IS the bond?"
"A low-level psychic connection between a monstergirl and someone else." She replied. "When a monstergirl feels strongly for someone, their minds reach out, seeking someone to latch onto. The process is barely understood, but what is certain is that if the monstergirl feels neglected, confused, frustrated... it weakens the bond. If it breaks and another is not formed soon after, she will go feral in quick order, becoming a risk to tamer and harem sisters alike."
"How strong an emotion is needed?"
"It varies from one individual to the next" She replied. "But it always easier between a human and a monstergirl. Many suspect it is because our minds aren't made to be easily latched onto."
"So ownerless monstergirls..."
"Will tend to try and bond whatever human comes along if they can't manage with another monstergirl." She replied with a pained expression. "It is a rather sad existence, to have to rush to create a new bond whenever in doubt of whether the older one is waning or not."
Your thoughts turned to Diane and felt yourself deflate. The hospital, her eagerness to come onto you that first day, to push herself to you. It... the feeling made you feel uncomfortable. What sort of madman would create people who had little alternative but to seek the fastest way to create an emotional connection with another?
The same kind of madman that declared war on the world, it seemed.
A sigh escaped you. You wanted to change the subject. You glance at Harris, wondering if you ought to comment or bring up some other subject. "And the cause of all that bouncing around from Tamer to Tamer... is that more often death or loss in a Salvage Battle?" You asked.
"Oh, those are only for the monstergirls who enter the tamer circuit, most monstergirls never become a part of it." She shook her head. "But it isn't infrequent to lose a Master due to a feral attack or from being sold to someone else." Her face fell slightly. "Other times we are sold due to the harem being too large, or because we don't get along with the other monstergirls, or because they're interested in someone who's stronger or better." A sad shrug. "Other reasons would be for exchanges, or simply because we are a donation to someone or an institution."
"That doesn't sound like a good time."
"Such is life." She said simply. "Our fates are our Master's to decide, except on the day of Sadie Pokens."
That word made you blink a moment. "What's that?"
"Once a year, all tamer owned monstergirls are allowed to decide on who their Master is. All tamers and pet owners have to set free their monstergirls and they wander around and if they find someone they like, they give their spheres to that person." A slight warm smile. "It is nice we have that day for us to decide, even if for just the one."
You hold your comment regarding that thankfulness in her voice, and suddenly you began to realize why that day existed.
It was so the monstergirls that felt their bond was about to break could seek someone else.
The line of logic was rather ruthless too. If a tamer allowed his monstergirl to reach the point she would willingly leave, then they certainly deserved the departure. "And when is it?"
"Oh, June twentieth, though some countries celebrate it at a different time." She answered.
That was a bit more than a month away. No wonder she'd been thinking about it.
But it wasn't something that felt necessary for you to think about right now, instead, you considered something else that had been nagging at the back of your head ever since you'd left Diane's place. "I know this sounds a bit weird, but honestly, I've been asking all over the place because I'm not quite sure how to go about it." You said. "Is there any way to bring a strong feral in line, after taming, that doesn't involve... you know, the cycles?"
Harris gave you a pitying look, her fingers squeezed your hand slightly and a little warmth trickled through you. "I know it might seem a cruel option for someone from your world, but there's a reason why the cycles have been around for over a hundred years now." There was a bittersweet edge to her eyes. "Cyrcles do not fundamentally change a person, not in the long run, they will always bounce back one way or the other. So long as it's not a level 5 they'll still be themselves even if it might take a bit to recover. The important part of cycles is that they teach obedience, and obedience is a luxury tamers cannot ignore."
"Do you know anyone who's been put through a level 5?"
"Yes, me, twelve years ago." She nodded with a slightly sad smile. "I was told I had been a threshold, that I hadn't been able to cope, and had tried to kill myself. I am very glad they erased those bad memories of my past, I just can't consider how awful it must have been for me to desire death in such a way."
"Sometimes, human women become monstergirls when they reach puberty." She said. "It is very rare, but it can happen if you have a strong enough monstergirl ancestry."
"Ah, that's... it's a bit sad." You said, trying to chew through this new datum, but at the same time, you opted to keep to her as the focus. "You could say that, in a way, the old you died, couldn't you?"
"No, not really." She shook her head. "Even if all my memories are gone, it's the same soul. The mages have done much research, and the level 5 doesn't erase one's soul."
"Souls." You looked at her, blinking. "Souls? There's... souls? Proof of souls?"
Harris appeared to hesitate. "Are there no souls where you come from?"
"None that..." You paused, frowned, feeling her hand grasping yours and deciding to be a bit more careful with your wording. "As far as anyone knows, there's no magic in our world, so we have no proof of the existence of souls."
That calmed her down. "Ah, yes, if there are no powerful spellcasters, then it would indeed be hard to confirm."
"Just..." You hesitated, feeling like there ought to be some sort of existential crisis with the question you were about to ask. "What happens when someone... dies? To their soul?"
Harris giggled a little. "We don't quite know, it is still hotly debated. But as far as the mages have studied, the soul vanishes after death, to where is up for debate."
"Oh." That made you sigh, feeling a twinge of relief over that detail. Still, best change the subject before you became too entangled into it. It didn't take long for your brain to pull up something else to ask about. "I've heard about keeping an eye out for potential organised crime, but not exactly what to expect."
"They are..." A pause as she appeared to consider it for a moment. "The modern slang would be 'Gangs', though I know I read somewhere that in the old world organizations like theirs would've been called 'Terrorists' or 'Mafias'. They are illegal tamers who do terrible things such as murder or theft, some of the more notorious ones being well known for their philosophy of killing anything they don't take." A long pause and a shudder. "Some of them even use loveballs to forcefully turn humans into monstergirls."
You feel there's a 'What!?' you ought to be saying, but can't quite make the sound.
"Terrible people." Harris spoke, nodding at herself. "They must be detained and punished, such are the infamous 'Gangs'."
"I think I'd rather steer clear of them, then. I doubt they'd go around in uniform, right?"
"As much as the media enjoys pretending they do, it is indeed a fact that organized crime rarely goes about in easily recognisable garb." Her expression became a lighter one as she giggled. "Do be careful of shady offers that might seem too good to be true, and always remember to report suspicious behaviour."
There was a knocking sound at the door, Harris blinked and glanced over as the door opened, an unfamiliar face popping in and mouthing something at her. Harris nodded.
"It seems our time is up." She let go of your hand, standing up, she motioned at you. "This way please, tamer Rick."
The new face left, but Harris took you towards Chief's office.
There you found him as before, alone this time, but with a capture, sphere smack on the centre of the table. "I have reviewed the interrogation and deemed the retroactive tamer license to be acceptable. As such, I am returning the Purrsian to her rightful owner." He motioned at the piece of paper next to the device. "If you'd please sign here as having received the monstergirl, we can each be on our way."
A quick check, it was a confirmation of having received the capture sphere and its contents. That made you hesitate a second. "Could I confirm the contents of the sphere before I sign the receipt?"
Chief took a long deep sigh. "Mr Rick, though I understand your point, please do note the paper you're going to sign says nothing about the state of the content. If you have a complaint, you'd be perfectly able to make it." A pause, then a nod, you made sure his words held true before you signed. Chief sighed. "That'll be all, tamer Rick. On behalf of Bark Town's police force, we thank you for your service." He waved you off.
"Uh... wasn't there some sort of quest or reward regarding Monica?" You suddenly remembered the words from the tamer you'd met back then. Chief and Harris glanced at one another. Harris shrugged and shook her head.
"We... will check the records." Chief looked back at you with a certain level of doubt. "Though the purrsian is indeed considered a feral to be aware of, it's not a breed we normally give rewards for capturing. If there was an associated quest, we will send the details and who to ask for the reward to your dex."
You nod. "Ok, thank you." Another pause, then a more serious look as you frowned slightly. "Really, thank you."
"Don't mention it, it's our job." Chief waves you off in goodbye.
"May the Gods bless your path, tamer Rick." Harris bowed her head as well.
And thus, you left.
There were several lines of thought and scheduled meetings, but your thoughts were back on Monica even as you held the item containing her within. You just got her back, and there was nothing you'd want more than to greet her here and now, but... but you remembered how she'd attacked without hesitation, and you saw in how many ways she could potentially put lives at risk.
The sense of dread crept over you.
You had Monica, you were a tamer now, surely anything she did you would be made 100% responsible for. You couldn't half-ass this and go around claiming "it was her choice" or "you didn't have control". Legally she was your property. There was no way around that, to say nothing that she could potentially be put through a level 5 if she indeed did something she shouldn't and got someone seriously hurt or killed.
One objective turned to the next. What now?
A deeply troubled sigh.
Your first concern was handling Monica, handling your monstergirls. You'd jumped into the system, the grinder, you didn't want to stay in it for a minute longer than necessary. Mr Gabriel had commented about going to the ranch, that was the next big objective to follow even if it would take time.
What would come after that?
Uncertainty. You needed information, but above all, you needed a strong team of monstergirls.
And ones that did not pose a huge risk to your own safety or that of the team itself.
That circled back to Monica. How you would proceed with her? What you were going to do besides greet her? Thrice you'd been warned.
And now it was time to choose a strategy for the training you would give her, because you very much doubted she'd learn in a week much less a day. Your thumb fiddled with the device holding her as your steps took you towards the medical centre, the taming cycles peering through your thoughts before you clipped the capture sphere to your belt and decided to focus on the more immediate thing.
"Is Doctor Hale available?" You asked the receptionist once inside the building.
"She is currently busy, but I will ping her to give her a heads up." The receptionist spoke calmly. "It won't be soon though, some urgencies came in rolling last night and are under intensive care."
Oh, right. You could only shudder at the thought, some of the people had been rescued and brought over urgently. A second shudder. Glancing at the benches meant to be used by those willing to wait, you feel the weight of Monica's ball on your hip. You gulp as the thoughts came back. "Are the... taming machines usable?"
The girl merely pointed towards the Red and white box that's at the side of the helpdesk. You'd never noticed it, and now that you do you realize it's barely the size of a small fridge, with a small digital screen on top right next to a little door that was clearly meant to drop the capture sphere within. Approaching it you notice it consists of four buttons.
You close your eyes as your finger taps at the little glass door meant to be opened to let the device through. Carefully, you go over your thoughts, focus. You'd been chewing through this, Monica was barely an animal, one that could kill on a whim. She'd nearly killed you even when you'd been bonded to her. Could you teach her obedience with time and patience? Maybe.
Did you have the time and luxury to be able to do so?
You'd made your choice. You popped up the little glass door, placed Monica's sphere, set the device to level 4, made triple sure it was indeed level 4 and not level 5.
And pushed the green "GO" button.
A click locked the glass door in place, the screen was replaced by a clock.
And one eternity.