The morning after Irapesha's incident, I had her enroll in an overnight sleep study the very same day on Ines' suggestion. Cresta agreed to stay at the university campus where it took place just in case she rampages again. Having Irapesha absent for a day also gave Ange a peace of mind who was traumatized by the incident.
It was about time I picked the two up, but I figured to check on Ange upstairs before leaving. She had stayed in Tamara's room all day, the furthest place from Irapesha's room despite the resident not being there.
I peeked in to find Ange fast asleep in Tamara's bed. The sheep girl herself sat on the bed, reading from a science textbook.
"Shhhh!" Tamara whispered, quietly flipping to the next page.
"Sorry to have you look after her when you're studying," I said on my way in.
"It's fine!" She smiled, then lowered her voice and leaned forward. "Ange is always taking care of me like a mom. Taking care of her back feels nice. Hehe!"
These two had come a long way since Ange revealed to me the tragic way in which they were connected. No doubt both of them had a hard time coming to terms with it on their own. Any closer and Ange might adopt Tamara.
"I'm going to go pick up Irapesha and Cresta now. When Ange wakes up, can you tell her I'm—"
"No more apologies" Tamara declared, tousling her bountiful woolen hair.
"What? Why not?"
"You're just going to make her feel more guilty each time you apologize. She thinks it's her own fault that happened. When you come back, just give her a big hug and tell her you love her," she explained.
Having Tamara scold me on what to say made me blush up like a cherry. Especially since it involved Ange. She was like an innocent child who somehow knew better about her parents' relationship.
Was I just that incompetent?
"Alright, alright. I'll keep that in mind," I replied to Tamara's approval.
The closest sleep study readily available was a city college in downtown Vandice, which specialized in preparing students entering the medical fields. They had a hospital that also conducted sleep studies and was the first place Ines had found for me.
"Mr. Katagiri, Dr. Ainsley is ready to receive you." A nurse popped her head into the waiting room, and I stood up at her call.
She led me to an examination room where a doctor was already inside. Her eyes were glued to a computer screen and occasionally wrote into a file on the desk.
"Irapesha and Cresta are just now waking up. They should be here shortly. I have to say, I'm beyond honored to perform a sleep study on a netherfolk. This is probably the first ever case done on one," Dr. Ainsley said.
"Well, I've certainly had my fair share of firsts. What do you have for me?" I asked, taking a seat on a stool she pulled out.
"To begin with, Irapesha's brainwaves demonstrate many of the same patterns as a soldier who returned from tour. Almost the exact same crests and troughs. Many who sleep while under constant threat of danger have their brains rewired in a way that keeps them alert even while asleep."
The doctor proceeded to give me a whole bunch of medical jargon I didn't quite understand. When it became clear to her that it was going through one ear and out the other, she directed my attention to the computer. It played a recording of Irapesha and Cresta's separate rooms and the hallway between them.
"As you can see, Irapesha sleeps quite soundly for the most part. This is good, her REM cycles are normal. Then… this." Dr. Ainsley slows down the video to normal speed as Irapesha starts thrashing around in bed, scratching at her own body. Cresta awakened soon after and raced towards her room, only to be stopped by a nurse in the corridor. She pushed past her, picked the lock with a claw, and climbed into bed with Irapesha.
However, the trashing grew worse. The dragonewt spewed fire from her mouth. Not enough to catch anything alight, but still concerning nonetheless. Eventually she settled down. The bedsheets and pillows were the only casualty, having been shredded to their base materials.
"Uh. Whatever damage they caused, I can pay for it," I said apologetically.
"No need." She shook her head. "Normally, a sleep study patient is not to have a bedside partner. That way, nothing interferes with the data. I made an exception because of the danger Irapesha posed on us. Having Cresta present turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the study despite that."
"How so?" I asked just as Irapesha and Cresta entered the room.
"You want us to sleep together from now on?" Cresta exclaimed after Dr. Ainsley gave them the short of it.
"A bit simplified, but essentially yes. As former soldiers in arms, you may give Irapesha an ease of mind just being near her. The mere act of moving your bed into the same room could help," she said.
"We could give it a try. It will be like old times, like when we would stay awake coming up with creative ways to kill demon generals," Irapesha chimed in.
"Right... " The doctor cleared her throat. "Anyway, here are some recommendations on different activities to improve sleep. Try them out."
I was handed some papers stapled together that listed and explained ways to help a person sleep better. Whether or not they would work for Irapesha was another story.
As we stepped out of the building, the sight of two netherfolks began to draw attention again.
"Who are they?"
"Gross. One of them is missing an arm and wing."
Some people remarked with revulsion from afar. I expected nothing less of my race, but I did hope they would be better about keeping comments to themselves.
"Akira, how is the succubus?" Irapesha hesitated to ask.
"She's fine!" I hastily answered. "You don't have to worry about what happened—"
"I must worry. From what I understand, you two are intimate. I… Cresta told me she was trying to help that night, yet I attacked her in my stupor. I feel absolutely terrible about it." She hung her head in shame.
Cresta put a hand on Irapesha's arm and said, "That wasn't your fault, and you didn't even mean to do that!"
"Even so…" The dragonewt scooted away from her touch, seemingly ashamed to be comforted. "If there is anything in those papers that can help, I wish to try all of them."
There was a lot to try. Ones that stuck out to me were acupuncture, diet change, exercise, supplements— the problem was, Irapesha was already sleeping well. It was the trauma of war that plagued her.
"Why don't we try acupuncture? There's a place near the grocery store in Vandice," I said.
"Acupuncture?" she echoed in confusion.
Irapesha reluctantly agreed to the procedure, so we drove to the only acupuncturist in the city. The practice was performed by an older chinese man, who was just as astounded as Dr. Ainsley about their prospective patient.
"I… I suppose at least the body structure is similar," the old man said, squinting at Irapesha. "Very well. Let's have you lay down, and I shall prepare the needles."
Cresta and I watched from the other side of the room as the acupuncturist attempted to pierce Irapesha's skin. Everytime he tried to press a needle to various parts of her body, the piece of metal broke or the tip blunted on impact.
"Eh? One moment, please."
Puzzled, but undeterred, he went into the back to fetch specialized needles. They eventually went through over a hundred needles before he finally gave up.
"Ai-yah! There's no way. The dragon girl's skin is way too thick, like… like rock!"
I still had to pay him on the way out and was more than likely charged extra for breaking his needles.
"Um. How do I say this? I'm sorry for having thick skin." Irapesha apologized as soon as we exited the building. She gazed longingly into the blue sky. As a flock of birds passed by overhead, she held her gaze on them until they flew out of sight. Her remaining wing unfurled and closed, then uttered a sigh as she silently made her way back to the car.
I grabbed Cresta's shoulder as she was about to follow after her.
"Did Irapesha fly a lot in the past?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah! Like any dragonewt, Pesha loved soaring through the skies. She terrorized so many demons that way. Sometimes she takes me along, too. Ahhh, I really miss all that…" Cresta said, then began to choke up. "Can we help her? It hurts a lot seeing her in so much pain after we brought her back. I sometimes wonder if she was better off back in Weyera—"
I planted a hand on her head and made a mess of her hair until she pouted at me like a stuffed chipmunk.
"Of course, we can. It's my job to take care of you guys after all. The fact that you worry so much means you care. We'll just have to support her together, right?" I grinned.
Cresta nodded and smiled back. "I have an idea that might help!"
"Oh? And what's that?" I asked.
"We get her a gigantic cardboard—"
"That's just something you want!"
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VN dev - part time writer, creator of American University Life ~Welcome Week!~, former scenario writer of ACE Academy, and lead writer and designer for I am Succubus. Currently working on These Cosmic Horrors Are Kind of Cute, penning LNs on the side.
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