Chapter 39 = Two sides to every coin
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
“Well met… but I’m so sorry, Visali. I won’t join your parents just yet…”
With a flick of her wrist, Xenly flung the smoke bomb down to the floor, where it shattered on impact and released the cloud of short-lived but dense smoke inside of it. Sprinting away as Visali stumbled off out of the cloud, she broke through the smoke and headed straight for the far end of the hall, jumping up into the air and going feet-first through a plate glass window out into the courtyard.
She ran off for the main gates, aware of the wounds on her shoulder, nose, leg, and her arm, the gash on her chest, and the punctured lung, struggling to breathe and running on sheer willpower. Running through the crowded streets, she attracted many looks and gazes, but she scanned the crowds as she made her way through them, until she spotted another white Yoshi. Xenly grabbed the Yoshi around the neck and dragged her into a nearby alleyway, putting on a burst of speed and ducking down a side alley, only to find it was a dead end.
Xenly reached into her saddlebags and pulled out a small knife, cutting the surprised Yoshi in roughly the same places as her wounds were, and stabbing her in the chest, penetrating almost enough to puncture her lung, but not quite. Aware of loud footsteps approaching, Xenly unsheathed her swords and forced them into the hands of the stunned, injured, and frightened Yoshi before pushing her forwards. Cursing as she noticed that the Yoshi had red fins rather than white ones like hers, which might be a giveaway, Xenly ducked down behind a nearby crate, and tried to catch her breath.
She heard a cry of pain, and something hit the ground, but she forced herself not to look lest she be spotted and killed in the end anyway. She could hear heavy breathing, then the sound of someone spitting, and footsteps heading away from her, getting ever more distant until they finally became inaudible.
Xenly got to her feet, struggling more and more to breathe, before collecting her swords from the dead Yoshi, and heading for the nearest hospital so she could get her injuries healed…
Later that day, after the sun had set, Xenly was once more out on the streets, but keeping carefully to the shadows and staying on alert for any sign of someone who might recognise her. Crossing over the bridge and heading for the university, she kept her eyes open for Visali, though her only intention was to avoid him, and not end his life.
I don’t want to give myself away… and he could very well kill me if I fail again…
Sidling up against the outer walls of the university, she moved slowly for the now closed gates, before attempting to climb up and over them. However, they made a loud clatter as she tried to clamber over them, and she dropped back down, hiding in the shadows until all was calm once more. Walking over to the other side of the street, she made a U-turn and took a running jump for the gate, furiously fluttering her arms to get her over the ornate metalwork on the top, she only just made it over unscathed, landing on her feet safely on the other side.
Moving quickly but silently through the empty courtyard, Xenly headed over to the nearest door and tried to open it, but found it to be locked. Reaching into her saddlebags, she removed two tiny pins, crouched down to her knees, inserted the pins into the keyhole and began to pick the lock.
For three or four minutes she knelt there, looking over her shoulder every so often, forcing the pins around until the pins fell into place and the lock finally clicked open. She wrenched open the door and headed inside, immediately lost in a maze of unfamiliar corridors and near-complete darkness, but within a few moments she used a spell similar to the ones she had used on Visali to light a small, white flame at the end of the two pins, casting only light.
For almost half an hour she stumbled around in the darkness and deserted corridors, checking the names engraved on door plaques, until she finally found one that said ‘Lab Number Three’. Moving on slowly, she passed number four, and soon came to a door labelled ‘Lab Number Five’.
“…anyway, Darcen and some friends of his found a way to make artificial pigment… we’ve got a whole store of it in lab five…”
Picking the lock again as she recalled the rest of what Visali had said, Xenly soon released the catch and made her way inside, holding up her makeshift light to look around. Spotting a large cabinet on one side of the room, she found it to be unlocked and looked inside.
Most of the shelves were laden with sheets of paper and vaell parchment, but further down she spotted a tray of crude syringes, simple needles with hollow cylinders attached to them… and many were filled with varying colours of pigment. Smirking to herself by the light of her assassin magic, Xenly sifted through the tray in an attempt to find two syringes the same colour, and was dismayed to only find a pair of metallic silver ones.
Better than nothing, and they aren’t white…
Very slowly and cautiously, Xenly raised the tip of the first needle to her nose, touching it against her skin before gently pushing it forward, feeling only a slight prick. Taking it out again, she dabbed at her nose with her other hand, finding some kind of liquid seeping out from the puncture, and she licked her hand cautiously, checking for any taste of blood. She found none, however, and with equal care and precision she raised the syringe to her nose, pushed the tip of the needle into her skin to the same depth, and put down her needles in order to push on the end of the syringe and inject the contents into her skin.
She could feel something very cold spreading across her body as she did so, and when she finally reached the end of the pigment store and removed the needle, she felt the cold feeling go away. Repeating the process at the tip of her tail, she emptied another syringe, and quickly put everything back where it had been, leaving no trace of her visit except for the two syringes, which she threw behind a large, heavy desk pushed up against a wall.
Once she was out in the corridor again, she switched her shoes for the spiked ones she had been given in the feral village, stashing her normal shoes in her saddlebags for now. Under the cover of darkness, she left the university grounds and vanished into the night…
Visali slammed the empty bottle down on the table, making their other empties rattle. He and Manny had so far consumed fourteen bottles of beer between them, and things were starting to go hazier than Visali liked, to the point where he couldn’t make out the rest of the nightclub beyond their table. Manny was extremely unsteady but still conscious and still drinking, waiting for one of the Yoshi waitresses to come and clear their table.
“You know,” he said to Visali, “I reckon Shiala is kind of nice looking for someone that Marcus pulled, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, she’s pretty hot.” Visali said, nodding. “I hear that ferals are like wild animals when they get going… so never get in an argument with one. But, if you can handle their personality, they’ve got plenty of muscle… I always liked strong girls.”
“Speaking of strong girls…”
The red-orange Yoshi looked over to entrance just in time to see a blurry pink object move through them, and Visali swore loudly; even at this range with his alcohol-impaired vision, he could still tell what that particular shade of pink meant: trouble.
“Sira’s here!” Visali whispered to Manny, before ducking under the table, almost hitting his nose on the edge as he went underneath.
“It’s no good, man… she’s already spotted you. You’re not exactly hard to spot, you know, with that red-into-orange colouring of yours…”
Visali kept crouched until a pink hand grabbed the back of his neck and hauled him up to his seat. “So this is where you’ve been the whole time! You had me so worried after you disappeared from the tournament!”
“But I achieved my vow! I gained vengeance! Xenly is dead!”
“Really?” Sira asked, her tone suddenly shifting. “Did you really kill…?”
“Yes! I did it… she’s dead now. You can be proud of me now, right?”
The pink Yoshi promptly sat herself down on Visali’s lap and they started to kiss, leaving Manny to catch the attention of one of the veil-covered, waitress-shaped blurs that was moving past to clear the table for them. As she got close to Manny, he spotted the yellow skin not covered by the veil, and cried, “Hey, Gemma!”
She looked over to him and nodded. “So, did you win?”
“Nope… no idea who won.”
“What do you think of the club?”
“Well…” Manny started, looking around. It was mostly blurry except for Sira and Visali who were still tonguing each other passionately, and off to one side he could make out some dancers and singers on a stage, though they were fuzzier than they had been before.
“Pretty nice.” Manny said eventually. “Kinda… tough to see, though…”
“Had one too many?” Gemma asked as she grabbed the last bottle.
“You could say that…”
“Where are you planning on going after you leave the city?”
This seemed like an odd question to Manny, but he racked his brains and came up with, “Uhm… Sansata, I’m heading for the castle nearby…”
“Really? For Foryo? You should talk to the manageress, she knows about him.”
“Oh… uh, great!”
“She’s not here, though… come back tomorrow, okay?”
“Sure!” Manny replied, too drunk to think of much else to say. “Uh… see you later.”
“Later.” She replied, moving off into the depths of the dark nightclub and disappearing from view.
“Nice tail…” Manny murmured to himself, before standing up and abruptly falling over. “Uh, Visali, I’m heading back now… I’ll see you later, okay?”
There was no response, but Manny continued on his way, standing back up and staying that way, making his way out of the club drunkenly trying not to hit anything.
I hope Marcus isn’t awake. Manny thought. I can do without the lecture on drinking, thank you very much…
The brown Yoshi opened his eyes and looked up at the sound of his name. He was lying next to Shiala with an arm around her, and they were both on their sides, having fallen asleep together shortly after night fell. “What is it?” he asked softly, but there was no reply from the red feral, and he closed his eyes again.
“Mmm… Marcus…” he heard her murmur. Must be dreaming… he thought to himself, moving closer to her and resting his head on her shoulder. All was silent for a moment, before she suddenly squirmed, crouching into a foetal position, breathing heavily, before giving a low whimper of, “No… no, M-Marcus…”
“Shiala?” Marcus asked, opening his eyes again and sitting up. He couldn’t see in the darkness under the hangings of the bed, but could feel her next to him, shivering slightly. He softly touched a hand to her shoulder, and she calmed down a little, before suddenly rolling onto her back and alternately sniffling and whimpering as though she were about to cry.
He was about to wake her up, when he remembered what she had said about her being strong enough to take care of her own problems and to make her own decisions. If it gets much worse, I’ll wake her up, but I don’t want to treat her like a child…
She calmed down once more and only twitched every so often, allowing Marcus to fall asleep again, at least until she started to thrash around wildly and struck him across the chest. He grabbed her arms and attempted to pin her down, but she was too powerful for him, and he gave her a sharp smack to the side of her nose, waking her up immediately. He expected her to reprimand him, but much to his surprise, she instead flung herself onto him and began to cry loudly, burying her head in his chest as best she could and hugging him as tightly as she could manage.
They didn’t need to exchange any words; some form of mutual understanding between them prompted Marcus to put one hand on her fins and the other on her back, holding her gently in his arms as she cried, keeping her close to him until her tears abated and she slowly drew away from him. Shifting a little closer, she leant forward and put her arms around him, resting her head on his shoulder, and he finally asked her, “What’s wrong, Shia?”
She sniffled once more, before giving a low, deep sigh, and replying, “Oh, Marcus… I’ve lied to you… I told you I was strong, I told you I wasn’t weak, I told you I can face my own problems… I’ve lied… I’m sorry, but I didn’t want to show weakness to you… it’s just my feral instincts; I know you would support me, but I just didn’t want that to happen… I don’t want to be a burden on you…”
She fell silent for a moment, forcing a smile he couldn’t see as he held her tight against his body. “Marcus… I… I had a dream… several dreams… they were horrible… I… first, I was back at the village with you when the dragon attacked… only, you didn’t survive… you died… it hurt me so much, even then, because I was feeling for you what I feel now…”
“Then, we were together again when we met Visali… only, instead of accepting me, when I tried to kiss you, you pushed me away and spurned me… you didn’t want me, you wanted to get rid of me, to see the end of me…”
“And then in the next nightmare… we… we were outside, somewhere… I’m not sure where… and suddenly, a girl Yoshi came along… I can’t remember what she looked like, because that nightmare was fuzzy… but you recognised her as Alziana… and you left me… you and her just vanished, leaving me alone without a glance back…”
“A-And then, we were here, together, and I… uh… I…”
“You what?” Marcus asked, finally speaking.
“I… offered… to mate with you… because I love you so much… and you got angry, saying I didn’t love you, and I was just lusting after you, and you got up and left me… then… just before you woke me up… I had another dream… it seemed so real… it was just you and me in a castle somewhere… I think we’d finally found that person who killed Alziana…”
Marcus finally interjected. “Murdered.”
“Murdered Alziana… and… he… he killed you right before my eyes… I was there next to your body, and he grabbed me and was about to kill me when you woke me up…”
She fell silent, and Marcus thought for a few moments. Eventually, he gently stroked her fins and replied, “I think that you’re deathly scared of me leaving you… to the point where your mind makes out worst-case scenarios of every possible thing that can or could have gone wrong. It sounds like you’re… not that I’m trying to sound big-headed, but… you’re madly in love with me, and you don’t want it… our relationship… to stop.”
“I know, I know… but, I have this idea in my head that if you leave me, it’ll be in the harshest way possible… I know that that probably isn’t the case, but… I just wouldn’t like it to happen…”
Marcus rested his head against hers and said, “It won’t happen… though I’d be interested in knowing what would have possessed you, in this world or your dreams, to make you think I’d want to mate with you.”
“I know that you don’t want kids, but… I don’t know either… it was just a dream…”
Marcus gave a sigh. “There’s a reason that I’d refuse, though I might not walk out on you… even though you are helping me, it’s still too soon after I lost Alziana to try something like that with someone else… even though I love you… because there are just some things I don’t want to let go of yet… and besides, I don’t want to risk kids. Me and her, we looked at it as something that wasn’t for fun, but more something that went beyond hugs and kisses in showing affection for someone, but we still almost never did it… so don’t think you’re being hard done-by.”
“Contrary to what Manny might think, you don’t need that to keep a relationship going… you need love, not lust, and a mutual understanding between both parties… which we have. I love you, Shiala, for who you are, and nothing short of death will stop that.”
She smiled and pulled away from him, looking into his eyes. “I knew that in the real world, you would always do that… explain things to me like you do… because you want me to understand what I don’t know, right?”
“Right.” Marcus confirmed. “You’re still young, Shiala… if there’s anything I can do to help you, just ask.”
“You do so much for me already.” She replied. “Just… don’t tell anyone else about this, okay? I won’t try to pretend I’m strong in front of you any more… but I don’t want the others to think I’m weak.”
“I promise.” Marcus answered, before leaning forward and giving her a kiss on the nose. “Let’s get some sleep, then… and no more nightmares, okay?”
“Just keep hold of me, Marcy… as long as you’re there, your presence will be enough for me…”
There was a brief pause, then the two of them both spoke and said, “I love you” to each other in the darkness.
To be continued…