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You woke up screaming hoarsely, your throat a burst of pain.

Eyes wild, you looked around into the darkness; your hand reached for the dex and triggered the light. Instantly the beam shot into the dark, and you used it to scramble to turn on the lights.

A harsh white glow blinded you, leaving you to wince and cover your eyes.

The room was empty save yourself.

Grey concrete walls, chains on one side, hoops on another. A box. An empty cage.

You were alone.

A deep breath. Your heart was pounding in your chest, you were drenched in sweat head to toe, the bed uncomfortably damp, your breathing heavy and laboured as if you'd just ran a marathon. Your body felt like it was just about ready to jump and make a run for it towards the door.

What... What had you been dreaming about? What sort of nightmare had made you jump like that? Your throat ached, you'd been screaming?

Only black, panic, fear? Your brain fumbled through an attempt to recall anything else. You forced yourself to sit and think as you calmed down. But like sand slipping between your fingers, you felt the memory escaping from your grasp until there was nothing else you could clutch.

A groan escaped dry lips. You could feel the shiver of the sweat cooling you off, and you moved to the shower while dropping one of the spare towels on the bed so it'd suck up some of the sweat.

What time was it? You hadn't cared to check, you just closed the glass door and turned on the water. Your head pressed against the cool tile, barely feeling the heat as you let it wash over you. There was barely any energy in you. It was like trying to light something when there was no fuel- your body craved energy, but it would have to wait until afterwards.

Closing your eyes, you stood there for long enough your throat had stopped hurting. It would be only then that you'd turn off the water and step out.

Caring little to dry yourself more than the bare minimum, you pulled out the dex to check. It was three in the morning.

And you had mail.

Empty eyes coursed through your inbox. Kat confirmed Tomas was fine, and that they wanted to hit the road tomorrow. She'd sent that roughly at half-past five yesterday. Had you been asleep all this time? You vaguely remembered recalling Diane and Monica before just collapsing completely after the aborted attempt to take a nap.

You'd been alone for hours.

You were alone.

It was fuzzy- you realized that not once had you slept on your own since coming to this world. If not for the others in the group it'd be Monica, and if not her it would be Diane. Always someone nearby, always someone there almost within arms' reach.

Not tonight.

The first night truly feeling like you were on your own, and you'd had a nightmare as if you were some bumbling kid again. The notion brought back memories of your first night in that little village, the city kid terrified of every noise that came from the woods and the house, too scared to sleep, fearful of the terrors that awaited in the dark.

Now, one of those terrors was held within a simple spherical device inside your backpack.

Monica...

Her face flashed through your mind's eyes, her face drenched in blood, her hands holding a severed limb. You knew the piece of meat had belonged to someone. Alice had called them by name too. But for the life of you, nothing specific came to mind. Only a blank.

A grimace. You collapsed onto the bed, feeling your chest wracked with a cold chill that clawed into you and had nothing to do with the little remaining humidity upon your skin. Deep breaths- you pushed yourself to look at the other message while fighting against the discomfort.

Felix. The dex's screen shone against your face as you read what felt like a hastily worded response.

It is unfortunate things went down like that.

I truly hope this did not impact tamer Tomas too harshly.

Regarding the acquisition method specifically. It is a rather interesting thing to hear of a tamer gaining hold of a willing succubus by specifically not taming her. Excuse me if the tone might seem perhaps disrespectful, but it is something that I would be greatly interested in hearing more of if you wouldn't mind.

Would you happen to be available to make a call? Don't worry, I will cover the costs.

I await confirmation of when might be your best moment. Best of luck.

Felix.

The laugh that left your lips was hollow, a short push to make a sound.

You closed your eyes.

Why the fuck not. You sent the reply.

Today I will be taking to the road. So long as the call can be done before 10am?

Though I'm not familiar with the devices that'd allow for a "call" you mentioned.

And just like that, you leaned back to the bed, closing your eyes and taking several more breaths as the chaos inside your chest was finally calming down.

Maybe you should've been more-

Your dex vibrated. Your eyes opened.

8am sound good?

Who was awake at this hour? You just sent a confirmation. Looking at the roof of the room, you tried to figure out what you should do for the next four hours. You should probably sleep, but the thought sent a twisting gut-wrenching dread through you. You needed something else, you needed coffee.

A check of your dex funds- you had enough, it'd cost two meals, but you'd find a way to compensate. You just needed something that didn't taste like cardboard.

Dressing up, you'd been just about to step outside when your eyes glanced at the capture device. Four monstergirls contained within. Who would you bring? No, wrong question, you shook your head; it was three in the morning, and they were asleep. Except Kiara- the Succubus was able to function with just two hours of sleep.

Did she...?

No, you left, no sense in bringing THAT mess out when you were feeling like you were too tired to handle even yourself. You remembered the route to the centre cafeteria. But stopped yourself as you heard... voices. There was a dim light and the lilt of laughter. It made you slow down and look through the door. Five nurses were there, three pink hair, one blue, one black. They all wore the same uniform. They were seated around one of the tables, casually talking to one another.

"Can I help you, sir?"

The voice didn't make you scream so much as it made you spin and tumble. Your back slammed against the partially open door and that pushed it all the way. You stumbled back, falling to the floor and looking at the source of the voice. A brown-haired nurse, she was rather short, and had been carrying a tray with what looked like beverages.

"Sorry, sorry," you muttered, moving to try and stand up.

A part of strong hands helped you before you could even finish the movement, and your eyes turned to the blue-haired nurse who'd practically lifted you to your feet. "Are you all right, sir?" She asked, her hand pressed slightly against your chest.

You recoiled away from her touch as soon as you'd seen the glow. "I'm... fine. Thank you," you muttered, realizing a moment later what you'd done and mentally chastising yourself as you saw their confused expressions. "It's nothing, I just stumbled. Sorry for interrupting your break."

Hurrying to leave before anything else could be said, you'd been about to return to your room when you stopped right at the door. What were you meant to do? Who were you going to pull out? Another hollow laughter, you just entered and closed the door behind you. Your eyes looked at the spheres.

Slowly, you moved onto the bed. Turning the lights off.

It felt like you'd only blinked by the time your dex was buzzing away.

7am.

You were more tired than before, somehow.

Forcing yourself up, you pushed yourself. Time to move. You didn't feel the need to shower, you just grabbed Diane's ball and released her. She appeared on the floor, asleep. You grimaced a little, approaching and laying a hand on her shoulder. "Wake up," you spoke softly.

She did a sharp intake of air, and she opened her eyes, looking around. "Master?"

"It's early morning, I have a call to make and we're going to need to hit the road later."

"Master," she spoke as she looked at you with a slight frown. "Are... you alright?"

You figured you looked like death warmed over. "Been better," you replied with a slight shrug. "We need to get moving, get the others to help. I'm going to get something to eat before the call."

"Call?"

"With the Felix fellow," you replied.

Diane looked at you, hesitating before you turned to leave, only stopping as you felt her hand grasping your own. "Master," she spoke, her eyes widened a little. "Your adrenaline is-"

"I had some nightmares, Diane," you interrupted, pulling your hand out of her grasp. "That's all. I'll get over it." A pause as you watch her linger for a moment. "Just be sure to be ready to hit the road at 10, I'll keep the door unlocked in case you need anything."

"Yes... Master..." You heard her mutter as you stepped outside.

Ignoring the pang, you moved towards the cafeteria, empty this time. With your dex, you purchased some caffeine and some actual pastries. They tasted bland, and the coffee was crap. You got yourself another two cups, whatever got the job done. You headed towards the entrance, spotting the receptionist as she put up the fake customer-service smile. "Good day, sir. How may I be of help?"

"I have a call in a bit?" You asked. "I've never had one, where are the phones?"

"The call booths are down to the left." She pointed towards the side. "Is the call pre-paid?"

"By them, yeah."

"Ah, then could you please give me your dex, sir?" She took it, nodding a little before returning it. "You have a call scheduled in ten minutes, booth #02."

"Thanks."

You followed the instructions and found a room with what looked like photo booths. Just one large box with a door, a three people bench-chair, and a computer screen. You entered and heard the hiss of the door when it closed. Suddenly there was no sound at all. Soundproof? You guessed that made sense.

The screen turned on and asked you to deposit your dex in a metallic pocket in front of the screen. The system proceeded to greet you by name and... nothing. It just stayed there, the screen going black with a small text of "waiting" on the lower right corner.

You saw your reflection on the screen. There were bags under your eyes, your hair was a bit on the deeper edge of messy, your cheeks slightly pale. You didn't look back, but you definitely looked like you'd had to spend three days straight without sleep trying to grade your student's exam on time.

Before you could attempt to hastily fix your looks at least a little, the screen lit up and you realized you were a moment too late to try to look any more presentable.

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About the author

Ravnicrasol

Bio: Got into writing English fiction out of practice.

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