Author: Crystalynn PM
He thought she was a pet. She thought he was a pushover. Needless to say, they were both horribly wrong, and maybe that'd be okay... if he didn't have fangs. Tags: love sexy dragons romance magic funny war teen angst oh and wolves.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 15 - Words: 129,143 - Reviews: 845 - Favs: 191 - Follows: 148 - Updated: 01-12-13 - Published: 06-30-10 - id: 2823398
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Part 1: Pets
Warnings: Human Trafficking.
This one I barely remember writing. Sometimes I do awesome things like write entire stories at 3am. Then in the morning I have no idea what happened. I even once found and reviewed a story I thought was awesome, only to realize I'd just reviewed my own work! XD
There's my embarrasing confession for the day!
Forever your insomniac author,
"Is my Heather okay?"
"She'll survive," Rosa panted, rushing past in her hurry. She followed up with a quick, "get to bed!" but he couldn't. Instead Chris wandered back toward the stairways, where he knew his poor friend must be trapped. Had Heather been put in isolation to heal or for punishment? Rosa had deferred her own duties to others, introducing her new students quickly to a handful of different new teachers, and now here she was late into the night, still rushing about, looking scared. The news couldn't be good. You should get back to bed…
Christian paused, yet still pushed through the familiar glass doors, ignoring the hiss of the prizer tailing right at his heels. "Just a minute," he whispered to it, receiving a hiss in response. He slid the door closed just behind it, carefully dodging those long, scaly tails. Foolish human. "You're the dumb one," Chris scoffed, "I'm your prize so just shut up and guard me." The prizer opened its mouth but no true words came out. Instead it just let out a strange, rolling hiss. "Hehhhhh…"
Chris ignored that, as well as the uncomfortable feeling it'd set in his stomach. What a pathetic excuse for a creature. He wondered what horrible breeder had purposely cultivated something like this. It's grey eyes only glared, empty and so unlike its far, far off ancestor, Merenteren. Even as he contemplated the horrors of chimeras, however, Christian found himself met with an opposite sight. He'd accidentally brushed past the showcases, meeting eyes briefly with Hanna, who blushed, and he had to think twice about trained shiren breeders. Maybe they could do somegood after all.
Unfortunately the door leading back up the stairs was now locked, or rather, formed back into a solid glass wall, so Chris found himself unable to get any closer to Heather. He ignored the "I told you so," hiss from his prizer and reluctantly turned back, but this time Chris stopped cold, meeting eyes with a creature who set his whole body aflame and yet froze it, captivating yet terrifying all at once. It can't be.
He made to take a quick look behind him, just to check, but could not force his eyes to look anywhere else. And he already knew what was back there. The female display case remained just behind him, showcasing Hanna and one other female, while what he'd assumed was the male case stood before him. But that just couldn't be. In this case lay not a male, but an angel, with its soft streaks of platinum hair falling into blue eyes which were already set directly on Chris. He stepped closer without even feeling the change as his breath caught itself in his chest. The pet watched, seeming curious, while Chris drank in its splendor. Those long, thin limbs were pale as snow and those eyes were a shining sky blue, too intense to be real. Fine, platinum blonde hair had fallen in front of that beautiful face, the longest of it reaching down past its neck while some slightly curled tips brushed those tiny pink lips. This angelic creature seemed almost aglow, as if someone had dusted every inch of its beautiful body with a fine sheet of silver-blue glitter.
It sat elegantly on a soft white mattress, wearing nothing more than a snowy, silk bedsheet and a pair of small, crystal earrings. Those long, white gold lashes fluttered with charm, gently endearing, but when Chris tried to speak, the pet shied away, the very picture of coy perfection. When he tapped on the glass, the familiar Firebreather did not appear, but instead Rosa's voice spoke up, relaying a formal, prerecorded message, which seemed fixed into the glass.
"You are viewing Estelle, the shining night's star. Standing at a mere sixty-five siv, Estelle boasts a purebred, open-air status, with naturally occurring snow-colored skin and eyes the exact color of Veltrin. Currently, Estelle is for display only."
"Yeah but what is it," Chris wondered aloud, turning to the prizer beside him, "It's a boy?"
It's Estelle, thought the prizer.
"Not the name!" Christian sighed, "I mean is it a boy or a girl?"
It is neither, hissed the creature, silver eyes glowing. It is only Estelle.
"Stupid thing…" Deciding to ignore that, Christian stepped only closer, determined, but this caused the young angel before him to flinch. "You can hear me?" He wondered aloud, immediately regretting his rudeness. "I'm so sorry. Come back. I won't hurt you." He wasn't sure Estelle heard and so painted a sincere frown on his face, silently begging. This worked. Those thin, delicate limbs settled down and enchanting blue eyes met with his own once again.
Estelle shifted, perhaps also wanting a better view, and Chris nearly knocked his head on the glass, trying to catch the first glimpse at this pretty pet's chest. Only a few glorious inches of bare skin slid out, teasing fleeting sweet glimpses of snow-white perfection beneath, but he still couldn't tell if Estelle might or might not have had breasts. His hands met with the cold glass on instinct and Chris desperately wished to be able to reach through it, but those torturous inches of thick, clear confinement remained. Oh, Estelle seemed so close. It was painful to stand here, merely inches away, trapped outside. He put his palms to the glass, absently whispering, and somehow, miraculously, Estelle seemed to respond. That tiny hand rose up and one by one those fingers matched with his, pressing smoothly to the glass, as if Estelle understood. This small gesture made Chris want to just head-butt this damn glass, but he remembered the prizer from before and resisted, though he couldn't stand still anymore. He found himself pacing around, searching for even the smallest of cracks in this case. There were none. He could not even guess how Estelle had crawled in there, let alone how he might get this angel back out. He finally returned to Estelle, who had watched the whole time, with those fingers gently pawing at the glass. "How'd you get in there?"
Only fully trained pets can pass through, the prizer answered. "Fully trained," Chris absently echoed, turning back to Estelle. "Can you get out?"
Estelle shook that small head, seeming sad, but Chris made his decision, just that fast. Heather was wrong after all. There were rewards-breathtakingly beautiful rewards- for becoming a pet. "Then I'll just have to train my way in." With that said,
Chris returned to his earlier place, his larger hand pressed as near to Estelle's as was possible. He wasn't even aware of doing it, but Chris planted his feet, ready and willing to just stand here all night, as close to this pet as he could possibly put himself. Something inside of him insistedhe must. The sweet pet offered a soft, gentle smile, but soon became soothed and apparently sleepy, since it shifted to lie on its stomach, arms folded delicately beneath a small, cloud-shaped pillow. Christian only then noticed, but the display case itself had been meticulously decorated to mimic the empty night sky. Soft, magically realistic blue heavens covered the ceiling and the three walls that were not glass, and the flooring seemed to be a cleverly disguised waterbed, draped in rich blues and blacks. None of it mattered. This gorgeous environment paled in comparison to the living star that it showcased. Even Estelle's name felt alive on his tongue, like a sliver of moonshine. Christian wished he could sing it.
"Oh, Estelle…" Those blue eyes only blinked with a gentle allure, falling half-lidded as Chris watched, letting their rhythm enchant him. Every soft, silent rise of those lungs drawing breath stole his own, and every blink of those eyes drowned another piece of his soul into rivers of crystalline blue, where he knew nothing could ever emerge. But it didn't feel bad. It felt nice, heavenly even, for the first time, to be pulled into a new plane, where even breathing became second priority.
"I need her to know, Leon, my dear friend! I love her!"
"She'll be killed. Whatever knowledge she holds, he will steal from her blood. You of all people must know that!"
"But she's my wife! How can I leave her alone?"
"You have a mission to do! You forget who you are!"
"I have not!" Heather put a hand to her flat, aching chest, recognizing it as not possibly belonging to her, but the pain remained real. She stood in the forest, looking down at a familiar white wolf. The tears in her eyes blurred the image, but she knew it was Leon, and she felt without doubt that this would be the last time she'd see him. "If you return, even once more," the wolf warned, "If you speakto her, Marcus. He will know and your wife will be killed."
"But-" Leonevir snuffed, cutting him off. "If you do love her, as you claim, you will stay here, in the world you belong to." Heather stood frozen, letting the somehow cold tears roll from eyes she knew were not even her own. Her body was thick and masculine, yet trembling as if broken inside. Her hands shook as she reached out then, begging Leonevir to accept the small note in her hands. "You must take this to her, then. Just this. Please, Leon." She stared miserably down at that pitiful letter, wishing desperately to give something, anythingmore. "To the one I promised eternal happiness and devotion… To the one I destroyed. Can't I leave only this?"
"Only this." Leon sighed, taking the letter into those large, powerful jaws. The wolf prince disappeared then, into a flurry of purest white snow, and Heather stood for a moment in sudden miserable stillness, completely alone. Her fingers pressed themselves to her eyes, and for a moment she just let the tears fall, knowing this was it: everything and everyone she loved, would be dead to her now. She envisioned Celine, with her teary brown eyes and herself, but in a younger, more innocent form. The then eight year old Heather would no doubt be home now, at her mother's side, crying. "But…" She stood proud with a forced air of calm, now determined to muster her stength, "only I can protect them."
To destroy Ruby Weapon would be to destroy every credible threat against humankind. And no other, man or Shiren alike, would have the knowledge and willpower to do so.
So Marcus turned himself around, away from his home. There was the volcano lake, and just beyond lay the palace. Strong, alabaster towers stretched skyward, boasting massive halls, pillars and chambers, all of them built many times larger than those of any other castle: designed for the girth of a dragon.
What felt like cold water on her face roused Heather rudely awake. "What the hell!"
"Oh thank goodness, Hikaru!"
"Chris?" Heather froze up, suddenly much more embarrassed than angry. Chris had plastered himself to her back the very moment she sat up. Still completely confused with her head pounding mercilessly, she reached up to pat his wet hair. "I'm okay," she assured, despite herself. If she had to be honest, it felt more like she'd just gotten hit by a truck. Heather forced herself into sitting upright but immediately wished that she hadn't. The blood rushed to her head and it made her feel ill. "Ugh. Where are we?" And why was the room spinning so fast?
"This is my bathhouse." Yuck! Heather recognized that voice all too well. She opened her eyes, despite the dizziness, just to glare at Miss Rosa, but apparently the redhead wasn't at all moved. "Oh, don't even give me that look," she snapped, "it was your own fault for running off like that. Scared me to death. Open your mouth."
"What?" Heather dodged, even as her teacher sat down with what looked like real worry in those strange purple eyes. "What a pain," Rosa sighed, handing over a compact-sized mirror. "If you won't let me see it then here, take a look for yourself."
"Look at what?" Heather found out too late that she'd asked that too soon. The moment that mirror snapped open she saw them; terrible, bleck-colored cuts on her face. And she opened her mouth, hating her own curious heart as she gagged at the sight of her tongue. Sickly black splotches covered the entirety of it, and some had even stained up the back of her throat. "What the hell is this stuff?"
"Prizer scales," Rosa sighed, catching a glimpse for herself. "It looks better than it did when they first brought you in."
"It looks- what do you mean when they first brought me in? How long was I out for?"
"Since yesterday," Christian offered.
"Oh, I think you mean moon," Rosa absently added, "but take heart little human. A moon is a short healing time, if you ask me, and it seems like the prizer scales didn't take root in your lungs, so you may not die after all."
Heather only grimaced, worriedly checking her tongue.
"Will the black go away?" Christian wondered. He had finally sat on his own, no longer clinging to Heather, and he smiled when Rosa assured. "Yes, I've got potions for that. Won't take long, especially if she gets a good long soak in the tub." Their new teacher walked off at that point, and Heather put down the mirror, in favor of glaring around at the bathhouse. The place seemed similar, at least in design, to where Master had allowed them to bathe, only Rosa's bathhouse looked much more luxurious. The whole thing was smooth marble with soft scented soaps curling up with the steam. In the center of the oversized bathtub there was perched a large, violently red-colored bird which every now and then opened its mouth to breathe fire, keeping the still water hot. Heather wondered if the thing were a chimera at first, but then spotted the long hair of a shiren. This place is just like a big guessing game.
"Here you are then." Rosa was suddenly before them, interrupting her thoughts. In her hands she held four glass bottles, offering two of each to both humans. Heather absently noticed her long, perfectly manicured nails. "What's this for?"
"Well this one is for scent," Rosa offered, rolling her eyes when Heather immediately refused. "Why do we need some smelly potion, thing anyway?"
"Because we smell bad," Chris explained, beating Miss Rosa to the punch. Like Heather, he was wearing another white bathrobe, and again she noted the apparently calculated nature of Shiren. They had planned all of this: shipping humans off from one bathhouse to the next. "I bet you smell like prizers and I guess maybe I smell like testosterone."
"Test-a-what now?" Was Miss Rosa's only input.
"Like a guy," Chris clarified.
"Oh. That is correct," said the curt redhead, offering him the same thing, "but not for long. You just go on and wash up with this. It'll make you smell just like the girl Pets!"
"Oh." Chris accepted it, flawlessly masking his displeasure with gratitude. "How… nice."
"And this too," Rosa added, handing over the next, smaller bottle. "It's human hair remover. Put it on your face and wherever else hair is not meant to grow. And by that I mean everywhere, except of course your head and your eyebrows."
"Okay…" He accepted this one a little more slowly, but luckily Rosa didn't notice. The little white bottle felt almost cold in his hands, and as he stared down, reading the label, Chris felt his inner masculinity mourning. "Eliminates and permanently ceases growth of body hair- use it anywhere!" And he'd only just begun to appreciate the satisfaction of stubble! Still having a baby face at seventeen was not exactly something he'd been very proud of...
"You can't be serious!" His best friend interjected, "Men are supposed to have body hair!"
"Well male pets aren't." clucked their teacher. "Not if they want to be purchased, that is." She seemed annoyed. "You silly humans are so preoccupied with ridiculous things like your gender. As if such things actually matter! Pretty boys are just as valuable as pretty girls. They just have to be smooth and demure, and so that is what I will make him." With that said, she turned away, shooing Chris off to stand in front of the mirror. "Go on now, and be careful not to touch the hair on your head. It'll never grow back, so I'm warning you now."
Chris nodded, screwing the cap off and tipping some of the thick, white potion into his palm. He dipped one finger into it and then trailed it across his upper lip, watching as the hair there simply melted to nothing. "Wow. Magic makes you twelve again."
"Yes, yes, very good," dismissed Rosa, apparently unaware of the sarcasm in his voice. "As for you, little girl-" Heather cut her off with an immediate, "No way."
"Come now," Miss Rosa insisted, "I can't have you smelling like all those nasty male prizers that touched you. No one's ever going to want you!"
"Oh, so letting boys touch me makes me worthless," was her sarcastic, venomous reply.
Heather glared right up at her nastily grinning new teacher, and repeated herself just a littlemore firmly. "Go screw yourself."
"Fine, then." Miss Rosa chirped. She set those two bottles near Heather and left, calling back. "But remember little girl. If no shiren buys you, you'll have to live here with me forever…"
That did it. As soon as the door closed, Heather quickly scooped up her own bottles and grudgingly kicked off her shoes before moving to join Chris. He had already sat down at the base of the giant soaking tub and was currently rubbing hair remover onto his arms. Heather grumbled, sitting beside him and screwing the top off her own. "This is humiliating,"
"Eh, it's better than shaving I guess," was his honest reply. Chris was only seated a few feet away on her left, and he didn't seem shy, but Heather made sure not to look at him, just in case. "I kinda never liked my happy trail anyway…"
"Are you kidding? What kind of man doesn't have a happy trail?" Chris shrugged.
"This kind? Not anymore anyway…" He watched it disappear with some satisfaction, and then, after a moment of debating, decided to go ahead and do the rest of his body as well. Through the corner of his eye, he could see his disgruntled best friend running her hands down her legs, and decided to mimic the gesture.
"It works slower on me," Heather grumbled, glaring down at her own leghair, which didn't seem to want to disappear. Chris turned, and she instinctively pulled her robe on tighter, even though she already knew he wouldn't be rude enough to stare.
"Hmm. You're right. Maybe it's 'cause you're a girl.?"
"I hate this." Heather tried not to sound whiny, even while knowing Chris had seen her in worse moods before. "That stupid Trick didn't even tell us what all this 'training' is about! What if it's like, something gross?"
"It's not," Chris shrugged, "and she did tell us. You were just knocked out at the time. Everyone gets their own bedroom, and oh yeah, we get prizers for servants. It's actually kind of cool."
"Those things are our servants?"
"Yeah, it turns out we're the prizes, so they have to protect us and do what we say. They can go outside but we can't. I asked mine to go get me something to eat yesterday, and it did."
"I think it's cool. We get to pick a theme too, like that one chick that had flowers all over her? We get to pick a theme and a name if we want, just like Twister and Flitter." He ran his fingers down his legs, watching absently as the hair there disappeared, "You know, I bet this is gonna be even easier than theatre class."
Heather rolled her eyes, recognizing the enthusiasm in his voice. Why was Chris okay with this? Shouldn't he at least be upset about losing all of his manly body hair? And what kind of man actually wanted to choose some stupidtheme like flowers for clothes? "And hey-" Chris was smiling now. She hated to see those cute lips all excited about something she hated. "You know what else?"
"Ugh…What?" Heather sighed, glaring at her now bare, hairless arms. So much for her cute tomboy reputation. She wanted to just sit and sulk, but Chris seemed hellbent on cheering her up. "I heard the teachers talking about this training thing. You know there's a tea pouring class? How easy does that sound? We basically just have to learn to sit still and look pretty. Piece of cake if you ask me. Not like high school. This is gonna be great. No more Algebra, no Chemistry and hell no Calculus! Just pouring tea and looking pretty! Pets don't even have to wear shoes!"
"Yeah but that means we're dependent forever," Heather scoffed, "We're gonna have to do everything some dumb 'master' says just 'cause he pays the bills!"
"Well that's not a big deal. We already gotta do what mom and dad say because they pay the bills, right? Same difference, and besides, Twister and Leon and them will come rescue us soon. It's not real, remember?"
Heather seemed to have given up. She knew when she was beaten, and she at least looked a little relieved that this wasn't all real. "And hey Hikaru… I was thinkin' about somethin' else…"
"What, Chris?" She was distracted, rubbing hard on her fingers, which did not seem keen on relinquishing their hair, but Chris noticed his own fell off immediately. "Do you think…" He thought better of asking however, and stopped.
"I think what?" Heather absently mumbled, but Chris was still lost in his thoughts. He remembered the pets that he'd already seen, the already fully trained ones, and now wondered what it would cost to get into the showcase with them. Truth be told he just thought of Estelle, wondering what lay beneath that blue veil. Estelle's body had been devoid of its hair, much like his would be now, but it was much more than that. He could honestly not figure out if Estelle had ever been male or female. But just what did that mean? Could his teachers be planning the same thing for him?
"I saw this uh… this pet, one of the ones from before…"
"Um, yeah I guess."
"What about them?"
"I dunno just… do you think we'll be like them? After all the training I mean. Are we supposed to look like that?"
"Yeah right. Nobody's getting me up there with friggin' flowers for clothes. I'd rather die."
"But then… how do we get in the palace, if we don't dress like pets? And you know what I was thinkin', what if all the shiren guys just want women for pets?"
"What do you mean?"
Chris rolled his eyes. "I mean that I'm not a woman, duh."
"I dunno," Heather shrugged, "maybe guy humans are really rare too. I didn't see any others, did you?"
"Uh… well I thought I saw one but I'm not really sure…"
"How can you not be sure?" Heather scoffed, beginning to splash water onto her legs. All traces of hair slid right off with the potion, and Chris wondered why she didn't seem very happy to see that. Didn't girls hate their leg hair?
"You're sad," he couldn't help but to notice, but she only snapped back with, "I'm not."
Heather turned so she wouldn't have to face him, pretending to be busy with rinsing her arms, but he still asked a question.
"Are you scared? 'Cause I'm here if you-"
"I'm not scared!" She finally scoffed, lips trembling as she looked at herself in the mirror, "I'm just- I don't know- but I just," Heather stumbled over the words, wishing she didn't have to admit, but they tumbled out anyway. "I don't wanna be sexy, okay?"
"Don't pretend you don't notice," Heather scoffed. "All those girls dressed in bathrobes and flowers. Why else would they keep us half naked?" Heather turned to show him her legs and her arms, voice still quivering. "Think about it. We don't wear any clothes and we have to stay smelling real nice. What if all this is a trick, Chris? What if these shiren are gonna buy us 'cause they wanna have sex with us? What am I supposed to do then? Tell some dragon guy no? They're much bigger and stronger. Did you see the guns on Adamanti? Something like him could tear us both in half, and he didn't even have fangs!"
"But wait, though. There aren't any sex classes. Rosa only teaches about tea and dancing and stuff. And I'm sure she'd say something if we were supposed to do that. Maybe to the shiren we're just like… pet puppies. Maybe these classes are just like how we teach dogs how to sit and roll over. I think it's all tricks."
"But there's no shiren girls! It's a whole world of guys with no girlfriends! You're saying you wouldn't be horny if you've never even seen a freakin' girl all your life!"
"But I'm human. Maybe shiren are different."
"How do you know?"
"Pets are sexy, admit it." Heather sighed.
"…Yeah." Christian hated confirming, but did not want to lie to his Heather. More than anything he had thought that those creatures were gorgeous. They had looked like a page come to life from a magazine. But if it came down to having one, all to himself, all alone in his room… would he really be satisfied, just with looking at it? He certainly hadn't been satisfied with just looking at the one called Estelle. He tried to imagine himself as a shiren, wondering over which pet he would choose, but this wondering didn't last long. Christian already knew which he wanted, and that fact only made his gut squirm. "Um, well we won't be real pets."
Heather was staring at him with those narrowed brown eyes, and he wondered if she might've been trying to read into his thoughts. "Yeah right. You're worried too," was her scoffing reply. "What if a guy buys you, Chris, ever thinka that?"
"Well more than likely it will be a guy I guess."
"Doesn't that freak the hell outta you? What if he wants you to sleep with him, huh? Could you sleep with a guy, Chris?"
Christian should've said no, off the bat, but he couldn't. If he did it would prove Heather right in her worries, but he knew all the rules. He was supposed to jump back and pretend to be sick. He was supposed to say "gross!" and "no way!" whether he felt that or not. Instead though, Chris put a hand to his chin, trying to give it more thought. He imagined himself next to the handsome Lucas, the closest thing that he knew to the shiren who'd most likely be buying him, but the scene didn't seem all thatbad. Lucas seemed funny and cool. Couldn't the shiren who bought him be like that? Or what if-
"Oh my god." Heather had rudely interrupted his thoughts, her face contorted with shock, "Chris, you're gay!"
"I am n-"
"Yes you are! Oh my god you were thinking about sleepin' with guys, weren't you? You were thinking about it!"
"Well you asked me a question!"
"You were supposed to say no!"
"What?! How can you ask me a question if you just want me to say the same dumb answer you were already thinking about?"
"Oh my god." Heather plastered her hands to her face, and for the first time in his life Christian wanted to slap her. What she said through her fingers just after only made it much worse. "I've been friends with a fag all this time…"
And he should have just slapped her. Chris knew that. He should've been angry and yelled and demanded she take that right back. But he didn't. Instead Christian gathered his thoughts, forcing himself to at least soundsomewhat calm. "You know what, Heather Mayhue? Fuck you."
She reacted with shock but he just cut her off, standing to yell down at her. "I was trying to make you feel better about this whole pet thing and you coulda been grateful, but no! Instead you just ask me impossible questions and then call me names when I'm trying to be realistic! I'm not like you, okay Heather? I'm not gonna just go in there, grab my dad and then leave. I'm not here to fix my family so it can be perfect again. You know why? Because it'll never be perfect, okay? My whole family is shit! Even if I did go back home, no one would be happy to see me. You don't know what that feels like, do you, to have parents who don't even miss you? You have no idea what that feels like, misses little pink room with your jewelry and books. At least your mom and dad usedto be there, meanwhile mine were out drinkin' all night n' all day. So screw you. You don't know me!"
Heather shot back, eyes wide with surprise. "Only 'cause you didn't tell me!"
"You're supposed to be my friggin' best friend! Didn't you figure it out? How I stayed all the time at your house without anyone calling or worrying about me? Why I had to get a job as soon as I turned sixteen? Why I had to pay for my own damn car and my own damn gas and my own damn food? You never once wondered about that?!"
Heather stayed silent for the longest of moments, gazing back into tear-filled, angry eyes. She had never heard Chris yell before, especially not in her face."
"I only came here for you," Christian seethed, "And all you can think of is asking impossible, stupid ass questions, just so you can call me a fag!"
"I didn't mean t-"
"Well you did. I thought you liked me because I like jewelry and art. It's not like we sat around watching football and drinking beer all the time. Is that what you think I should do?"
"Even better, maybe I should just leave. How 'bout that? 'Cause I can't win, either way. You told me you hate men. Now you make fun of me for not acting like a friggin TV fratboy! I can't win with you, can I?"
"Okay, okay! I'm sorry!"
"No you're not. You never are."
For a moment both fell into silence, Chris breathing heavily, and Heather felt herself wilt, like a flower left under a heat lamp. In truth, she honestly didn't know what her Christian must feel, being left as he was, with no one to go home to. Would he stay here and become a true pet? What other choice was there for him? "I really am sorry," She offered, feeling empty. All she had were mere words. She didn't know how he felt or even have any idea how to help him. "I- I didn't know things were like that."
"Yeah," he scoffed slightly, sarcastic, "cause you've always been sogood at listening." With that, Chris carelessly hopped down into the tub with a splash, resolutely ignoring her.
"Chris…" Heather tried to catch those blue eyes again, but he refused to look back. "Chris, I'm sorry. I can listen. I promise."
Chris said nothing, staring off at that very same thing as her words tempered patience he hated. Inside him a tempest of fears and anxiety churned, and he knew her intentions were good. But just how much could something so baseless amount to? And just why should it make him feel better?
But at least she had tried, more than his absent parents anyway.
Turning back, with those still half-used bottles clutched in the water with him, Christian spoke only once more. "You're really lucky I love you, you know that." It wasn't really a question, and after he said that, he promptly ignored all of hers.
Christian hoisted himself easily up, right back out of that tub and walked off, his heart heavier even than his soaked-through, ruined robes.
The halls had only just begun to grow more familiar, but now they seemed to loom endlessly upward, dying to darkness above. Almost every torch had already burnt out, just as every other soon-to-be pet now lay down, ready to rest through the night. Chris could not even consider calm sleep, anytime soon, since his brain swam with worries and wonderings now. What would he do here, if pets really were meant to sleep with their masters? And if he agreed and just went with the flow, would his own friend truly think him disgusting? But it's not.
He tried to tell himself that, approaching the case of his angel as if seeking the sight just to prove it. How could anything Estelle was a part of be bad? He wanted to ask, perhaps even stooping to breathing and then writing on that case, backwards, using his fingers and breath, but unfortunately the showroom turned out to be locked. So instead Christian sat by the door, leaning back against it with his gaze staring up at nothing. His prizer had followed the whole way, guarding dutifully, but he'd hardly even noticed. He didn't notice much of anything, in fact. He thought of his parents, and how dearly he wished they had loved him. He thought of his friends, and how even they'd sneered, scoffing "sissy" and "fag," even at silly things like his preference for black clothes. And he wondered, most fervently if there might be anywhere, in any world, where he truly belonged.
"Something got you down, Chris?"
He nearly hurt himself startling, at first failing to recognize her, but his teacher stepped forth, seeming to summon a light from pure air. Rosa said something else, perhaps asking why he sat there, soaking wet on the ground, but he found himself absently staring, tuning out every word. "Oh, so you've never seen phoenix flame," Rosa noticed, holding out her right hand to her still awe-struck pupil. In her palm danced a bright golden flame, burning nothing and yet still spreading warmth and pure light. "Phoenix flame is bright and hot, but burn your finger it can not," Rosa sang, "just like the mothsongs always say. They're usually right, you know?"
"Is it magic?" Christian heard himself ask, even while scolding himself shortly after with duh!
"Yes it is. Very basic, but useful. Many chimeras can pull off something simple like this, but very few can make clothing or shoes like I can."
"So you made all those shoes."
"That's correct," Rosa grinned, kneeling graceful and poised as she made to sit beside him. "But enough about me, little pet. I'm not the one out of bed, all alone and for some reason wet. Did you fight with your friend?"
"No," Chris immediately lied, bowing his head. He didn't feel much like talking, and yet dozens of questions sprang up into his thoughts. Rosa would have been perfect for answers, if only she herself didn't already look like the answer. Tonight Rosa wore yet another sheer robe, with a delicate touch of red fabric beneath, only just barelypreserving her modesty.
"I think I can already guess what you're thinking," she said, causing Christian to bow, staring hard at the floor. "Many pets wonder at first, if this is the right job, so you needn't feel bad. It's a good thing to think of, because sometimes there is no going back."
"Why not?" Christian found himself suddenly asking. It couldn't hurt right? Rosa knew all about this. "Is it true we're 'sposed to be sexy? Are pets prostitutes, Rosa?"
She looked stunned, with those purple eyes wide. "Who has told you such lies?"
"No one told me… I just…"
Rosa let out a sigh, harassed shock melting back into gentle concern. "Oh, I see now. Perhaps I should've shown you this sooner..." She stood then, holding her free hand for him to latch onto, and her student obliged. Once he'd put those bottles down, ensuring that neither would spill, Christian stood, and Rosa turned to lead him off into the showroom. The glass door melted away at her fingers and she let him inside.
"Look at them," Rosa instructed, releasing Chris only once they'd come to face Hanna and Keena. "Look at their grace and their beauty. Look at their brilliance and innocence. Do you see prostitutes?"
Christian thought about that, meeting eyes only with Keena. Her companion lay sleeping, nestled in a large bed of rosepetals, but Keena seemed to have only just lain on her own bed of what looked like wet onyx. It must have been a cleverly disguised leather mattress, and the pet resting on it betrayed little of her own human heritage. Chris could tell she had chosen the theme of a gemstone. Even her skin appeared polished and smooth, with a soft sprinkle of glitter just under her eyes and a curtain of sleek beads adorning much of her hair. She had skin the exact color of Tigers eye, dark and rich. And as he looked in those eyes, the answer came straight to him, without Chris even having to try. Perhaps those chocolate-dipped diamonds blinking so curious and coy sent it rippling outward, like a soft wave of clarity. "No. They're art."
"Yes!" Rosa proudly affirmed, "human art rests before you; a testament to the wonder of your kind. Do you realize, sweet Christian, that onlyyou humans truly capture such fleeting perfection? Like the flower you bloom in your youth, bright and beautiful, but only for that short minute! Only a human could capture the true, fleeting nature that makes beauty true beauty. And you learn too, very quickly. Even once your beauty fades you'll have that. Humans evolve, from a flighty child to a delicate flower, to a wise, crystalized nugget of intelligence and good conversation. Imagine how valuable that must be to a shiren. How special it is for us to watch you mature. Everything pales in comparison to a human companion, and so of course, I will sell you to shiren. And let me tell you of shiren: they are awed by the mere human shape. It's their weakness, to look and to marvel. And why shouldn't it be?"
"So you're making us pretty."
"More than that. I will train you to be pleasing, not just to his eyes but his nose and his ears. You will learn to speak to him in ways that will sooth him. If I do my job right, Christian, you will look like the most brilliant of sculptures and speak just like the sweetest of songs. Your new master will have no choice but to be charmed into treasuring every moment you might find to be near one another. With a shiren you'll find wealth and affection. You'll find strength and protection, and with you he will find his heart soothed. For you see, it is only in coupling what may seem hopeless opposites, that we stand even a small chance of achieving the euphoria of balance."
"Yes, Christian. Pets, like the one you'll soon be, remind shiren that kindness is key. More powerful they may be, in many ways, but how much can that mean without company? Years ago the great wars split the world and killed many, but I marvel at the fact that just after, there was such perfect peace. And the only new difference? The existence of humans. I chose my profession to see it first hand; what they've done to our kind."
Christian thought on those words as he stood there, gazing down at those lovely brown eyes. Someone incredibly lucky would have those for their own some fine day, gazing back with a reverence they currently lacked. "She almost seems lonely…"
"As are we, deep inside." Rosa sighed. "When it all boils down to it, even with magic, we are all only half of a whole." As she spoke, Christian tried not to turn, but his body wouldn't obey him. Estelle seemed to have been awake all along, watching them talk.
That perfect angel was sitting up, and so now Chris could see that Estelle had a flat chest, afterall, with light guava pink nipples perched on that smooth, porcelain canvass. Chris wasn't sure if this meant Estelle was a very young girl or a very pretty boy, but he wasn't sure anymore if he cared. He almost felt beside himself, separated from his mind and his body, because he wasn't sure what sense it made, but he already knew who his other half was. He had always loved art anyway.
The dreams kept getting worse. From what she remembered, Heather had never been one to dream much, but now she had them every night and sometimes even when she was not even asleep! She kept seeing huge red reptile eyes and hearing Leonevir's voice. "Do not ever look a dragon in the eye. Once you're in, there'll be no getting out until the wolves come to escort you, so be cautious. If you find it, do not associate with Ruby Weapon." None of his advice made much sense, and sometimes he called her Marcus instead. The dreams seemed to run together in her mind: visions of venomous fangs and all-seeing eyes, always accompanied by fear and sharp pain.
She remembered blinking and seeing nothing but red. "Beware of the king, and his wrath."She remembered dizziness and weakness and cold, wet puddles at her feet.
"He kills without even having to chase. He makes his victims cry blood." She kept seeing images of suffering women, especially leopards. They had dark, chocolate brown skin and those same yellow eyes Lucas had. But unlike Lucas, they were broken and scared. She saw them running, electricity crackling, but they'd always be caught, yellow blood painting the walls as those huge fangs sank in. The dreams painted a terrifying picture of fire-breathing dragons, yet while awake, Heather remained in a city built by the Firebreather king, surrounded by giggling girls, good food, comfortable beds and luxurious décor.
It just didn't make any sense. Lucas had described the king as a tyrant, but from what Heather had seen, his people and the way they lived didn't reflect that. True, she was not thrilled about their treatment of humans, kidnapping them in the forest, but that might've been better than leaving them outside to starve or be attacked by chimeras. And they had easy jobs, too. The Pet training seemed lax, just as Christian had predicted. She was expected to dress and act like a lady: a fact she despised, but all the while Heather felt safe, sheltered from the streets of Loustre, and was treated with kindness, even when she refused to participate in daily training. The girls who did their training were praised every day, and it seemed they were happy. Going along with society, it seemed, offered a comfortable life. Chris especially, seemed to be having a ball. Because Chris he a boy, he was put through different 'classes,' with different teachers, but Heather caught a few glances at her best friend, and every time she found him looking more and more like a pet. The Chris she'd known seemed to just fade away, with the new one looking more like a lovely Christine. His hair only seemed to get longer, his gait was infused with a jawdropping grace, and his manner of dress grew exotic. He'd be draped in rich silks or light metals each time, balancing books on his head or else teacups on his fingers. She couldn't help but to think it was good that he didn't like football or beer, because things like that didn't seem to exist in this world. There was plenty of jewelry however, just like he loved. Chris seemed happy, and even Heather felt safe.
Nothing felt wrong, except the dark visions of her dreams and the memories she had of Leon's warning words. She remembered her only glimpse at a dragon: huge black scales, long, deadly fangs and those stark, blood red eyes. "He makes his victims cry blood." Was that his true form, hidden beneath the Shiren luxury and adorable Pets?
Or was that just what Leon wanted her to believe?
Miss Rosa stood from her armoire and threw open the balcony windows, allowing the phoenix chimera to flutter down and land on its back, cat-shaped paws. She reached down, absently patting the cooing little creature on its head. "I thank you." The messenger took a bow, happily allowing her to claim the glowing crystal from its tightly clasped, birdlike front talons, and she spoke then, to her magical message.
"I assume I'm the one for whom this message is intended?"
"Depends." A voice she had never heard before whispered back, reverberating from the softly glowing clear crystal. Its colors changed from blue to silver as the voice of a man whispered back.
"Am I speaking with Rosalynia, of the proud, phoenix tribe? Please be aware, your answers will be monitored by leopard magic."
"Not to worry. It is truly I that you seek."
"Greetings to you then, Rosalynia, valuable ally. My codename is Leon. You may know me as head Firestarter."
"It's a pleasure," she replied, fighting the urge to bow since her royal visitor could not see, "but to what do I owe it?"
"A mission of the most dire importance," he explained, voice turning grave, "I have left, in your care, a human who is vital to everything."
Rosa startled at this. "Which? I have many humans undergoing training here."
"A female with hazelnut hair and matching brown eyes. She keeps beside her, a male at most times."
"You mean that loud one? How c-"
"Ah, ah, ah Rosa! You of all shiren should know never to underestimate females."
"Very good. Now, I've another favor to ask. Take this Flier and send it westward, to the castle of Firebreathers. There it must reach the hands of Kintra: the youngest of the two princes, not the eldest, understand?"
"The youngest prince, Kintra," she repeated, hoping to better remember, "and what message shall I send?"
"Come you to Loustre Bay, when next the Pet Bazaar reaches town. Therein you shall find a human companion worthy of your affections." He reiterated, clarifying. "If this message is spoken correctly, from the mouth of a true phoenix, the magic should take hold of his mind. He will not refuse, but you must send him this message exactly, understand?"
"Yes, but… You mean to say, you'll sell that girl to a dragon?"
"Are you sure? Dragons are- I mean, Firebreathers tend not to like humans, don't they? Unless you mean them to eat her."
"I am certain she will be safe, so long as she's sold to that Shiren. Would you be able to put a price on her worthy only of royalty?"
"I believe so. She smells very valuable unless I'm mistaken."
"She is. Heather lets not even human males touch her."
Rosa brightened. "Ooh. She could sell for a huge profit then!"
"Profit is of no concern. Set her price so that only an onyx scaled dragon could afford her. I shall then use my powers to direct this chimera backward in time. The prince will get your message two moons prior to this one.
"Oh. I see…"
"You have seven moons, Rosa, understand? Only seven. And after that, I will send someone to seal your memory. Do we have an agreement?"
"Very well. Should you succeed, any skel earned shall serve as your well-earned reward. Farewell Rosalynia. May you live out the rest of your life in my blessing and comfort."
The crystal's blue light faded to grey then, and Rosa watched as it crumbled to dust in her hands. "This really could work," she couldn't help but admit, feeling suddenly giddy, "I'll be set for life after just this one sale!"
The next morning, however, Rosa found herself eating a breakfast consisting of fish, tea and of course, her own words. By mid-morning, that same brown-haired Pet, otherwise known as Heather, had somehow bound and gagged its guardian prizer, and then had to be restrained by three more, who subsequently acquired many bruises and injuries in the process.
The redheaded teacher stood before the wreckage once known as her best, spotless classroom, and for a moment could only stare down in shock. "What in the world..." Rosa sighed, stepping over a pile of broken china, and met eyes with the furious but now safely pinned human. "And what's got you causing trouble so early?"
Heather, who'd triumphantly discovered that the Prizers couldn't hurt training pets, gave the one atop her a kick, ignoring the way that it hissed. "I won't be anyone's Pet!"
"I don't believe you have a choice," replied Rosa, turning her nose up as she flicked just one finger. The room steadily began cleaning itself, broken china mending and scattered documents re-alphabetizing before rising into the air and floating back to her desk. "Don't suppose you even have an excuse," she sighed, "for why you wrecked threerooms in one morning…"
"Because I woke up wearing this!" Heather raged.
Rosa craned her neck but couldn't see past the flurry of green feathers and mismatched animal appendages. The Prizers were still struggling just to keep Heather pinned. "Release her," she finally commanded, bidding the creatures to each stand aside. They did so and Heather finally got to her feet, arms crossed over her chest, but Rosa saw nothing out of the ordinary. The human female had been fitted with traditional Pet clothes: a translucent skirt, hung with many strings of weightless silver feathers and a matching belly shirt. "It looks lovely on you."
"I look like Britney Spears!" she spat back, and though Rosa had no earthly idea of who this Britney girl was, she assumed this was somehow insulting to the human before her. "And that's... a bad thing?"
"Yes, stupid," scoffed the human, "these clothes are friggin see-through! There's no point to see-through clothes!"
"Of course there is. The clothes are like this for your master's convenience. This way he'll be able to see what he's buying."
"You people are sick," was all Heather spat, "I am not wearing this crap!"
"Well, perhaps you could go nude," suggested Rosa, "that is preferable but I assume the seamstress didn't want you to get cold..."
"Argh! No you idiot! I want to wear something that actually covers my business!"
Rosa furrowed her eyebrows. "Why? That would be such a waste. You have no tail or wings to hide. All humans should be proud of their beautiful forms! Even shiren mimic it, didn't you notice? It's lovely."
"You have got to be kidding."
"I most certainly am not," she said airly, "the human body is a work of art. Did not anyone inform you? And no art was ever meant to be perpetually hidden beneath a drape."
Heather ended it there, with a final demand. "I want realclothes."
"Hmm." Rosa obviously didn't understand. She herself was wearing another of those nearly translucent red dresses, but conceded all the same. "Perhaps I can find you something that offers less visibility. Maybe something more suited to older, uglier humans…" Rosa wandered off then, mumbling new outfit ideas as Heather stood fuming, and eventually Chris wandered in, looking for answers. What the hell happened to the hallway? Looks like a bomb hit it or-" He froze, mid-sentence, having caught an eyeful of Heather, and then he just dropped it. "Oh."
She only glared.
"Well, if it makes you feel any better," Chris offered, showing off his new outfit, "at least you don't have junk." His was a less see-through black robe, but the bottom was shorter. "I just hope it's not windy outside, if you know what I mean…"
Heather snorted, wishing Chris were a little more easy to hate. Or at least a little less cute. She dodged looking at him, blushing, but Chris gently continued. "Sorry I yelled at you yesterday."
"You're so dumb," Heather scoffed staring hard at the ground, "It was my fault, okay? I'm the one who's sorry Chris."
"Well I'm sorry too."
"Yeah, well I'm sorry more, okay?" Heather countered, "I suck. So that makes me the gay one, not you."
"That's okay," Christian sang, "you were buh-orn that way!"
"Exude beauty," the teacher cooed, folding her vibrant red wings so the feathered tips moved with her matching sleek nails. "Follow my movements exactly, and you too will soon capture the beauty of the most breathtaking of creatures ever known to exist: the proud phoenix. Flawless, yet effortless, the phoenix allures and enchants. As new pets, you must all become just like the phoenix. You must capture pure grace. Forsake the swaying hips and clumsy, promiscuous gait of your human days, and be reborn anew: ever soft-spoken and chaste." As she spoke she moved thusly, showing swirls and soft spins to her students, as well as an elegant courtesy, more perfect than could ever be mimicked. "He will love you," she promised, "He has to, just from watching. Every subtle movement weaves an effortless spell. Every turn captures the gaze and eventually heart. Carefully memorize each skill that I teach, and you shall learn to sway any man's desires, just as the moon commands waters: naturally and without fail."
Three girls watched every move, mimicking each gesture until the group moved in unison. The nearly transparent, form-fitting fabrics slid like water over pale, magically blemish-free bodies and each turned a full spin, flaunting dazzling waves of perfectly straight, long blonde hair. All of them danced as the phoenix, letting grace sink itself into their souls. All of course, except Heather.
The brunette had only just procured a slightly less revealing outfit, but she still wasn't buying this "training." The real phoenix, the teacher, was undeniably captivating, with her impressive scarlet wings and matching velvet hair, but Heather knew it felt wrong just to think about mimicking her. Inside she already knew she was hardly a phoenix. She felt awkward and normal, not graceful and gorgeous. "Come try," the phoenix teacher eventually offered, attempting to lead Heather gently into a dance, but she declined with an honest admission. "Uh, no thanks Miss Phoenix. I don't think that's for me."
"Why ever not?" asked the phoenix, "don't you want to look perfect, like them?"
"I dunno," Heather sighed, "can't I just look like myself?"
"Like yourself? But you must be as perfect as possible to attract your new owner. Shiren males only buy beautiful females."
"So I'm not beautiful now?"
The phoenix woman hesitated, only now seeming uncomfortable. She had apparently never thought over something like this. "Well that is, I didn't mean you weren't pretty but- well you know, it doesn't hurt to increase your chances…"
"Chances for what? Getting some guy who just likes me because I can dance? Then I'll have to keep dancing like, all my life, won't I? I'm not even sure I like dancing."
"It is a show, like the beautiful peacock, waving its feathers. If you won't put on a show, then how will you ever attract someone special?"
"I… I dunno." She thought better of admitting that she wasn't even sure she wanted to attract someone special, particularly if that someone was going to be male, but inside Heather already knew that she'd have to, according to Leonevir's plans. I have to live with some guy if I wanna find Dad.But how could she? Even Father himself had once left her heart broken, so just what could keep shiren, with their much stronger bodies, from just breaking her more? "No," she decided, head bowed, "I don't think I should dance."
Miss phoenix tried again, kindly offering to show her the steps, but Heather again shook her head, ignoring the glares from the girls all around her. She was stalling the class, she could tell. To her, they all looked desperate to learn more about being matching blonde clones, and Heather knew she just couldn't be like them. Instead, she walked to the edge of the room, standing before the wall-sized glass mirror, and stared back at herself. Absently she wiped her eyeliner away, letting the smooth streaks of black fade to grey. "Nothing ever changes… No photoshop. No more movies, but I'm still never pretty enough. What's the point?" She spat that last word out with distaste before walking away. Was there truly no place, in any world, where people could be "beautiful" just by being themselves?
"I already know that you love only me." Heather lay in his lap, gazing up into soft, ruby eyes. "That's exactly why…"
"Exactly why what?" She absently wondered, feeling his fingers gently stroke through her hair. His powerful arms supported the whole of her weight without effort, and the way that he grinned, cocky and confident, made his word absolute. She could trust him. She knew that, if not anything else. "We should be one, you and I. Surely you wouldn't mind making that happen…"
"Hmmm…" She pretended to think, teasing "maybe I'll try…"
"Maybe you'll try?" He grinned wickedly then, and Heather took in a gasp, stunned as the sensation of falling sank in. She landed in a soft heap of blankets, however, with him leaning atop, and she realized too late that he'd tricked her. "My mistake," he teased back, nuzzling his face into her neck. Heather wrapped her arms around him, not noticing her own bright silver nails or unfamiliar, soft voice. "What will I do with you?" She was shaking her head as she sighed, but he only swooped down and caught her lips in his own. His kiss incited rippling warmth as his arms held her body to his.
We'll be together forever. Heather felt sure of that much, yet she always woke up shortly after, and an empty reality settled back in. Sometimes she just lay there, an unfamiliar sadness sinking in with reality as the night dragged impossibly slowly, riddled with nightmares. She'd never noticed what she started to now. Her own skin felt almost colder, somehow strangely more lonely, and sometimes she even started to wonder just how the silver-haired her had such luck finding someone to fix that. "I don't want to be anyone's pet." Heather fell back asleep, mumbling that every time, yet she still dreamed of that same firebreather, holding her close like he owned her.
AN 2. Holy moly. Romance already? I seriously do not remember writing any of this!
Anyway too late. It's there. I think Heather deserves nightmares. XD
Anyway 800 reviews is amazing. Thank you so much for all the love and support.
I owe you guys the world.