Arc 1, Chapter 1
If the crowded pestilence of the passersby and the gasoline-hazed skies of this city couldn't paint its own picture, then the carelessness of corporatism in its prime, the bustle of a silenced, burdened society, and the heart-wrenching fearful stares from children and lesser beings toward the officers that patrolled the streets mercilessly enforcing their laws, did. A day in the meadows was desirable; nay, necessary. The air was so intoxicating within and near the city borders that it felt as though it was attempting to suffocate any who dared breathe it. Fresh air nigh-on non-existent, assimilated by such foul odours as produced from the encroaching refineries. A mixture of machinery, pollution, sweat, and in some places, blood. Violence wasn't just the answer here; rather, it was at the very core of this society.
The kindness of motherly love long-since forgotten by the fortunate age of maturity, or regretfully likelier adolescence. Be it the tyrannical Syndies suspecting, the rebellious Forest Dwellers intercepting, or the criminal Urchins assaulting; it never mattered when it came down to it. Either you fought to survive, lost your mind, or you died. It's a vicious and visceral cycle, with few spaces of seclusion to breathe in between. Atop one of the many rooftops of the cascading skyscrapers, teasing the heavens with their size, sat a man dressed in a raggedy grey leather jacket with outfit to match. Their linings were strewn with holes, cuts, and stains that could never, or were never, cared to be washed or mended. He slept ignorant to the world against the entrance block of an elevator to the roof, along a precipice dangerously unguarded against accidental falls. Those that wished to venture this high never fell unintentionally. It almost seemed tempting: looking down into the abyss of societal stagnation, inviting one's suffering to end as swiftly as it came.
"Wouldn't make a damn difference anyway," he grumbled, his gravelly voice strained as he awoke from deep meditation. The man appeared to be well into middle-age, the many scars and wrinkles adorning his face almost betraying the youth that had since abandoned him.
He maintained—hardly so—rough, black spiky hair that fell dense and long by his shoulders. He stood up with a pained groan, stepping to the edge of the colossal metal cliff, before sitting down on its edge almost carelessly.
"Wonder how many..." he asked himself in a mutter, taking in his grip a bottle of some alcoholic beverage shamelessly branded with messages of good promise and a smiling face, as if to push salt into the wound.
After a few seconds of contemplation, the man wrapped his unusually sharp teeth around the bottle's neck, chewing it off with a heavy wrench of his jaws. Blood oozed from his mouth, but a quick spit was all he cared to do in response before guzzling the now-dangerous liquid with complete abandon. Once drained, he looked at the emptied bottle in thought, noticing his complexion in its blurry reflection.
"Paint me older, Victus. You aren't there yet," he chuckled to nobody in particular, raising his arm to throw the bottle down into hell, but stopped himself just barely as he gathered his bearings. Surely any unfortunate enough to fall victim to its plummet would wind up dead, so he mercifully opted instead to place it amongst the many other finished drinks littering the perch. With a low sigh, he stood up once more, observing the falling sun along the cloudy horizon.
"I can almost see you now, Moon." He smiled to himself, opening his arms anticipating an embrace, before dropping forward.
Walking through the foliage of a quiet, canopy-covered forest was a youthful boy nearing the age of adulthood, searching for any scraps of food the bountiful brush could provide. The humble silence was interrupted only by his gentle steps along the imperfect path, leaves and sticks snapping under the soles of his shoes.
He appeared famished, though not entirely unhealthy. His pale skin was still soft to the touch, no visible scars marking his form beneath the lining of a black hoodie and casual blue jeans. The only adornment seemingly out of place was a crimson-black switchblade, folded and fastened to his belt. His spiky hair was an opaque silver that wrapped around his head and concealed the sides of his face, his bangs hanging down by his brows. In spite of his situation, he seemed to carry a faint smile. The forest was a place of tranquillity. It soothed him to remain distanced from the chaos of the work-driven townspeople he lived amongst.
Setting himself on one knee, he took the extravagant weapon and brought the blade down upon a plant's exposed roots. After taking a cutting of the medicinal herb, he slotted it in a satchel and continued on his way.
After a few hours scavenging, the teenager sat down by a tree, deciding to rest. With an eager intake, he breathed in the nature that surrounded him, a soft smile showing through his admiring gaze. The soft tranquillity enveloping him relaxed his body, until the agonized howls of a wild animal pierced the landscape. Under normal circumstances, a fledgling's instinct was to run in the opposite direction of the clear and present danger. What was a kid on his lonesome to do against a threat strong enough to take down whatever fearsome beast had just cried out for help? But as he stood up to bolt, the boy found himself stuck in place.
He waited for a few seconds, before hearing the beast again. More perceptive now, he realised the panic-filled howl came from what was likely an infant, and just how much it churned his stomach to leave such a creature behind. With a frustrated huff and a nervous gulp, he withdrew the only weapon from his belt and clumsily readied it. Taking a deep breath, he began a sprint towards the source of the noise. Drawing closer to the epicentre, the boy felt increasingly nervous.
In part due to the demographic he had been raised in, he had never been the type to engage in confrontation unless his very life was threatened. Regardless, he pushed on, the tall grass brushing aside and crushed underfoot as he advanced in the direction of the screeches. After hearing one final pathetic scream, he made a swift turn to realign. His breath grew shallow, weak and hoarse as he stepped closer. His pace steadily decreased and became softer as he arrived at the scene of the disturbance. Once in sight of the edge of the clearing that would surely spell his fate, he halted entirely.
His breathing subsided into short silent takes as adrenaline washed through his veins. With one last moment of hesitation, he pulled apart the foliage obstructing his view. In front of him stood a monstrous black canine, its teeth bared and razor sharp. The animal was intimidatingly huge, standing over a meter tall as it arched over its prey.
Cowering bellow sat a smaller canine with luscious, puffy snow white fur. It appeared far shorter in stature, measuring roughly half a metre in height, while its musculature seemed underdeveloped in comparison. In spite of that fact, the lad knew that it would only take a
well-placed bite to his throat for the inferior mutt to end his very existence.
The smaller of the two was clearly wounded, scared and defenceless. Even though he could just turn around now and leave, he felt compelled to fight for this unfortunate creature's survival. At the very least, it would just go towards proving this world's backwards view on morality wrong.
When he noticed the large monster rev up to pounce on its target one last time, the boy yelled out and tore through the bush, sprinting forward with knife in hand. The beast turned, surprised but unyielding. The boy realised he had absolutely no offensive experience with the weapon, his only resolve directing him to relentlessly stab at the monster as long as he could. Before the human could land a decisive blow, the beast jumped forward and slammed its massive hind legs into the boy, sending him flying several feat back. His knife flew from his hands, but seconds later the blade disappeared in a brief flash before magically snapping back into his belt, bound to its owner's soul.
The boy groaned painfully, lifting himself up with slight difficulty through the shock. Quickly turning around, he was barely able to witness his attacker before it knocked him to the floor, roaring with such ferocious volume that it shook the teenager to his core.
Desperately crawling backwards from the fray, the boy was blocked by a tree, cutting off any hope of escape. As death approached hungrily, the boy withdrew the knife from his belt once more and held it shakily in front of him for all the good it would do. Opening its wicked maw, the beast lunged forward with intent to kill. Seeing doom within its scarlet muzzle, the teen weakly thrust the blade forward and turned away… but before he was met with death, the sound of the beast howling in pain reached his ears.
Opening his eyes, he saw that the wounded canine had not yet bolted when given the chance. Instead, it had leapt upon its attacker, gnawing bravely at the beast's hind leg. Seizing the opportunity, the boy wasted no time stabbing the creature's nose, causing it to whimper and spasm. It kicked the smaller creature off and shook its head to quell the white hot agony flowing through its bloody face. The knife had become embedded in the beast's fresh wounds, but as it stumbled towards the tree-line, the blade reappeared in the boy's belt once more. Noticing his defender laying still nearby, the teenager sprung from the ground to render aid.
Quickly picking up the severely weakened canid, he made a dash in the first random direction he could. His heart boomed madly in his chest, his breath struggled to maintain as he ran for his life with the significant weight in his arms. Despite the effort, he was painfully aware his pace was lagging, and that the danger loomed over them. With no alternative, he continued running for dear life. He could easily drop the animal in his arms yet every fibre in his body forbade him to, compelled to protect the creature that had saved his life.
Tears of frustration and fear broke from his eyes and fogged his vision. With renewed, adrenaline-filled vigour, he sprinted onward, opting to make random twists and turns in the hopes of losing their pursuer. It was all in vain. Over the beating in his head, he heard the gallop of the monster, then the panting of its final charge. Just as the beast's warm breath grew hotly up the boy's back, a cannon-loud gunshot rattled the air, causing the boy to jump to the ground and shield his ward before a resounding crash shook the forest. As deafening silence lingered in the air, the teen lifted his pale face to see that the beast who had so relentlessly hunted the pair was dead mere metres away.
"Don't look so pitiful, kid," Startled, the boy looked up into a nearby tree, catching sight of a Man in grey leathers chuckling to himself. "They eat fear," he added, voice glazed with alcohol.
Dropping from his vantage point with a heavy thud, he advanced towards the kid who noticed the glint of an iron on his belt. Suddenly fearful, he buried his face once more, covering the wounded canine protectively. The Man stood an imposing height of nearly two metres, easily towering above most other humans, which aided little in calming victims or innocents.
Exhaling with a roll of his eyes, The Man instead walked over to the felled beast, kneeling down to inspect his bloody handiwork. "He's dead. You can lift yer face. I won't bite," he jested, flashing a tooth-filled smirk. He noticed the kid shift slightly, but no other response. The Man turned to the sky in frustration before approaching the young man.
"Victus," he cursed, "I ain't gon' eat—"
"Back off!" the boy cut him off, springing to his feet with knife in hand. "I'm not afraid to use this!" he warned, his legs numbly holding up the rest of his body in an attempt to hide the weakened creature.
The Man assessed the boy skeptically. He found the boy's boot-trembling stance whilst wielding a tiny dagger almost funny, if it weren't so pathetic. "Fancy lookin' blade ye have there. Shame you haven't a clue how to use it."
"That doesn't mean I'll hesitate to hurt you, stranger. I'm w—warning you." The teen took a step back, his shaky, squeaking voice betraying his words.
Raising his hands, the man responded, "Look, I seriously don't mean ye any harm. Relax, aight?" His newfound calmness didn't placate the boy who regarded the rest of The Man's tenseness as hostile.
By the look of his attire, there was only one clear definition the boy could reach. "Y—You're some kind of murderer, aren't you?" he demanded, with a sliver of concern tailing his words. The Man searched for a better explanation, but he resigned with an easy shrug.
"Harsh. Aren't we all these days?" The Man retorted casually before shifting his gaze lower.
"Your Cryptid friend looks a lil' rough." he commented, pointing at the canine with an idle finger.
Irritated by his seemingly hopeless position, the boy yelled back, "And does that somehow trouble you?!"
"Nay, I don't see why it should," The Man replied, ruffling his hair in confusion. "You two have ties or somethin'?"
"Do I need an excuse to be a decent person?!" the boy cried out desperately.
Shaking his head, the man answered, "Nay, 'course not. Just odd for a young'un to be so willing to..." he stopped himself, opting to not finish his sentence. As The Man looked away, the kid, sensing an opening present itself, turned suddenly and scooped the creature under his arm. He managed to run but a few meters before catching his foot under an exposed root, causing him to tumble and fall with an agonised groan.
The Man cringed in embarrassment, meandering up to the pair. He took the boy's leg and examined it carefully. "How's about you calm down? That's a nasty hit. Looks like you twisted yer ankle, kid." The Man's hands glided to the injury, but froze firmly as the teenager bucked his leg. The Man raised a judgemental brow at his patient. "It ain't gonna heal if you leave it like that, you know." After a few moments' pained consideration, the boy exhaled a sharp breath and nodded. "Aye, I'll make it quick."
Maintaining his steady grip, The Man suddenly twisted the ankle back into position with a
bone-churning snap. The boy flinched, screaming as his head collided with the dirt as streaming sweat flew from his furrowed brow. His job done, The Man stood and offered the kid a hand up. As the kid hesitatingly rested an arm around his shoulder for support, The Man proceeded to lift and burden himself with the creature to then set out on their walk.
"It's gettin' dark out. You should be at home, kid," he warned sternly with an air of concern.
"Ngh— I know, I got caught up in… this mess," the boy replied, still wary of the stranger, but too tired to argue. "Is it going to live...?" he added, staring at the injured animal in The Man's arms. It seemed dead for a moment, but noticed it was sleeping through troubled wheezing breaths.
"She'll be fine, I'm sure. Cryptids are tough bastards." The Man tried to console, a reassuring smirk forming across his face.
After a short trek of silence between the two, they slowly drew closer to the edge of the forest just as the last of the sun's rays threatened to vanish. Seeing the stranger had been honourable in his intentions, the boy spoke.
"My name's To—"
"Tokken. From the Tsuki family. Aye, I figured." The Man interrupted with a sly chuckle.
"H—How did you—?!" the lad asked, astounded by the stranger's sudden knowledge.
With a sleazy grin and a skyward gaze, The Man explained: "Indistinguishable, kid. The Tsukis loved their damn hair. The family that disappeared overnight. I heard it was uh...pretty rough."
He looked down at Tokken who seemed to have lost his enthusiasm, staring away solemnly at nothing in particular. The Man shook his head, looking out as the lights of the vast cities slowly revealed themselves overhead. "I wouldn't know. Wasn't there." he began with a shrug. "Aye, Miss Insula and Mister Anderson. Fine tailors; shame fortune found 'em so...openly," The Man recalled, the words catching in his throat at the sight of the teenager's grim expression. He added, "Heard they uh...they named their son after the man's gamblin' addiction, no?" He let out a friendly laugh, and managed to form a small smile that crept through the boy's melancholy.
"Yeah...it was pretty bad." Tokken sniffed, before adding with a snicker, "I don't mind the name, though." The Man let out a hearty laugh.
"Aye, but don't expect the casino open for you just yet, kid. If you picked up anythin' from yer father, you'll drain the house," he teased, nudging the boy and earning a grimace in turn.
Finally arriving within the city limits, the pair soon arrived at the front of a sizeable white building. A hospital dedicated to all walks of life; from the simple animal and common man, all the way to the most monstrous-looking Cryptids. All who were injured were welcome — a peaceful sanctuary to temporarily evade the dangers of the outside world… at least until the officers forced you from the sanctum.
"I think I can walk now. Thanks." nodded an appreciative Tokken, taking back his arm and gathering up the pup. Entering the complex, he was surprised to find The Man walking inside behind him. Turning around, the youngster asked.
"Are you injured?"
"Nay," The Man responded flatly. "Ain't a place on Earth safe for youth these days." he stated matter-of-factually. Feeling somewhat patronised, Tokken turned away from the stranger's concerned gaze and directed himself towards finding assistance for his newfound friend. Walking up to a counter, he hurriedly explained the situation to a woman with pale orange hair that sat slumped at her post.
It was clear that she enjoyed very few hours rest, yet tried her best to follow the teenager's hurried ramblings. After nodding along with quiet hums, the surprisingly tall woman eventually detached herself from her ageing swivel chair and stretched her stiff legs. She rounded the desk and entered the hall begrudgingly.
"Sure. Room 6A, Bay 2. You're with me," she declared, motioning Tokken to follow with a lazy brush against his silver-white hair. Puffing his cheeks in lieu of frustration, Tokken proceeded to follow the nurse, unaware of the subtle glances his saviour shot at them from the lobby. As they disappeared from The Man's view, the nurse sighed obnoxiously in a mixture of fatigue and relief.
"Victus, it's brutal out there. They won't let the staff catch our breath — it's a miracle if you manage to sneak in a lunch break these days," she complained, cracking her neck. "I'm tired, starving, and agitated. Seriously, how do they expect quality work if...?" she continued, but her playful tone wavered as she noticed the boy's distracted gaze from the corner of her eye. He was fixated on the wounded juvenile beast's body as though afraid a new wound would suddenly appear. Clenching her teeth, she spat in an exaggerated tone, "Are you listening, brat?"
"I've travelled through that forest so many times for… two years now, I think? I've never seen anything like this creature before," he explained. Despite her initial anger, the nurse almost bumped into oncoming people as she became intrigued with Tokken's story. "I don't know why I decided to help it," he continued. "I suppose, at the time, it felt like the right thing to do. Who knows..." Tokken sighed, shifting the creature so as to not drop it accidentally. "It saved me though. That's what caught me off guard. I understand Cryptids have intellect, but wild ones aren't usually selfless like that unless—"
"Maybe it mistook you for a one of the pack?" she interrupted, waving her hands knowingly in the air as she explained. "Howlers are known for forming interspecies colonies sometimes. It does seem quite young."
Looking up at her briefly, Tokken pondered. "So they're called Howlers? I see... Well, I think bringing it here for assistance is only fair, considering its situation."
"It's a her, by the way," she corrected, nonchalantly. "Don't let a Cryptid catch you calling them anything but normal. They're notorious for being sensitive about it, you know."
"I...guess so. It's not really fair for us to call them monsters either. I mean, they're like us, right?" he asked, looking up at the tall nurse, expecting her to approve of his morals.
"Intellectually speaking? They can be. But they're savages, don't forget that. Humans have to stick together if we want to deal with their high and mighty bullshit." Leaning close to the boy's ear, she whispered. "If you ask me? A society shouldn't have to coexist with something the majority fears."
As the nurse drew back before they approached their destination, Tokken couldn't help but sigh and look down at the creature in his arms. For just a moment, he swore he saw a frown upon her face.
A short distance away...
Tapping his boot against the floor, the man in raggedy leathers waited with a bored, toothy complexion. The incessant taps of his boot against the stone floor displeased some of the other waiting patients, their silent glares rebutted by an intimidating clack of his teeth. Standing up suddenly, he heeded his pace to the door, stopping outside for a breath of not-too-fresh air. Waiting patiently, he soon heard the flaps of wings alongside the thud of a significant weight impacting the floor. Not even offering a glance towards the sudden appearance of an angel-like being, he spoke.
"Evening, Guardian," he responded, a slight mock tone in his calculating, matured voice.
Staring out towards the horizon of raw society, the veteran chuckled slightly, spitting on the ground. "Hush. What's Alpha's word?"
"He wants a conversation. He'd never dare give orders to diligent supremacy, not that he couldn't." the 'angel' known as Corvus chuckled, continuing. "Trust's his game. He'd bet on your strategies working better than his own, don't you think?"
Huffing in both frustration and amusement, The Man responded with visible concern. "Aye, but the Head of Men should give orders. Last thing he needs is people believin' he's too weak a man to lead."
Nodding, Corvus looked up towards the pollution-stained sky.
"That boy, is he—?"
"The last living remnant of the tailor family, aye."
"So the kid managed to survive? Sounds hard to believe. Positive he isn't just a Chameleon?"
"Nay, positive," the man responded, confident in his words.
Raising a brow at him, Corvus shrugged his shoulders with closed eyes, resigned. Their respite was interrupted by a short sequence of loud gunshots some distance away, resonating off the walls of the gigantic buildings. Sighing almost simultaneously, The man pressed a thumb against his forehead as he spoke.
"Oi… Thirty fuckin' minutes, folks. Thirty fuckin' minutes," he mumbled, desperately. Corvus smiled sheepishly, suppressing the urge to snicker at the other's expense. With a hand resting on his sheathed sword's handle, the angel smirked.
"Let's stretch our legs, eh?" With a short sprint, the battle-inspired Celestial jumped high in the air, taking flight in a magnificent burst of forward energy, propelling him several meters ahead.
With a tired groan, The Man stared back at the hospital, as though expecting the teen to emerge the moment his eyes focused on his target. His disappointment was short-lived as he faced towards the city, taking a deep breath as his lips slowly forged a smile.
"This is my home,"—he mused—"and these morons are my people."
With one last glance at his surroundings, he too made haste for the disturbance in the distance. After a few minutes of stumbling and navigating, he soon found himself near the presumed source of the noise. An alleyway to his right would surely uncover whatever danger he would undoubtedly have to face. He paused, a strange hesitation halting his step. It confused him, but something didn't feel quite as right as the average encounter with a less-than-polite Cryptid or a hysterical human's ill market affairs. Snapping out of his unusual thoughts, he turned the corner, only to see a
hyena-like beast mauling what appeared to be a fallen bag of trash. With a raised brow, he chuckled at his own foolishness.
"'Yer getting old, you mug.'" Shaking his head, he opted to whistle at the creature so as to shoo it away. The beast looked up at him, but soon resumed to eat the expired goods. With a low grumble, the man pulled out a gold-sprayed gun with significant heft and fired into the air, the noise being nearly as loud as cannon fire. The mutt immediately dashed away, throwing several other containers to the ground in the process.
"Aye, run off ye lousy shité," he grumbled, to nobody in particular. Reaching into his coat, he produced a flask as he proceeded to guzzle some of the contents down, cringing at the taste.
"Drinking on the job. Admirable attitude, Brigadier," a heroic voice spoke, teasing him. Earning a huff from the guilty man, he turned to the source. Standing behind him was what appeared to be an officer, covered from head to toe in a smooth, light blue armour akin to a thin spacesuit, and lacking no less in gadgets and features. The headpiece, which resembled that of an astronaut's at the size of a helm, had had its face-sized visor opened so as to reveal its user's features. A man in his forties stared back, an amused look on his face as he chuckled at his subordinate. One he called a friend.
A smile creeping on the guilty drinker's face, he shrugged in compliance. "Evenin', Kev."
"And resorting to such pitiful work? I'd address me formally if you'd like to keep that promotion, hm?" he continued, his frustration exaggerated.
"Forgiveness, General. We old codgers lose our ways, eh? Give a kindred feller a blessin'. Can't live off of pisswater," the raggedy geezer chuckled hazily, coughing as if due to karmic retribution.
"Aye. Perhaps a shiv as a bonus?" Kev retorted, toying with The Man. "I'll be offering no drinks, shrimp. You'll be dead sooner than we need if you keep at it." Looking at a clock tower, he continued. "Alpha wants a word. Maybe if I escort you, you'll actually listen, hm?"
"Tsk. Nay, General. Have to pick up a lad sooner than later."
"It's an order. We can send a team if it's urgent." Kev retorted, watching him from the corner of his eye.
Raising his arms in defeat, the man retreated.
"See right through me, you lil' bastard. Right, let's move." he proceeded, walking past him.
Stepping beside him, Kev proceeded to inquire.
"Where's your suit, 'E'?"
"Trashed. Our buds in Yanksee don't take kindly to outsiders, seems."
"Any incidents?" Kev asked, raising a suspicious brow.
"They managed to take down a guy in a Nynx suit. Victus's sake if there weren't none I'd be smilin'." The Man countered.
"Fair. Confirmed kills?" as he asked this question, a small rock hit the General's armour-covered shoulder, bouncing off rather uneventfully.
"Sixteen." The Man responded, taking out his heavy pistol before firing it carelessly at the silent protester, not hitting his mark hopefully on purpose. With an angry voice, he barked. "And I'll make it seventeen if you fuckin' pull that shit again, aye?!"
With a roaring chuckle, the experienced soldier tackled the gun out of the man's hands swiftly.
"Victus, man! Calm yourself — we aren't the savages!" Kev protested, between low cackles.
As the pair continued to walk through the dense neighbourhood, a thought troubled the man.
"Keep movin',"—he thought—"he's fine."
In the meantime...
Sitting beside his bedridden saviour, Tokken couldn't help but be captivated in thought. What would this small, sapient beast think of the endeavour? Would she react kindly, or hyperventilate? Would she try to kill him…?
The nurse that was attending the creature's wounds couldn't help but to glance at the boy's scrapes. God knows where this kid came from. He could just as easily have escaped a kidnapping in his filth-covered attire. She felt the urge to poke her nose into his experiences, but she held her breath.
"My name's Caroline," she spoke, a slight hitch in her voice after breaking the tremendously awkward silence.
"Tokken," he replied, his voice monotonic and focused. The nurse furrowed her brows, sighing at his response. Waving a wrist, she spoke with an irritated tone.
"Victus, I hate the silent types. Do you ever expect a girl to fall for you if you're that quiet?!" she exclaimed, losing her temper slightly. Upon noticing the silent gaze of the young man, she gulped.
"Okay, okay. I'll mind my own business. Fine," she conceded, returning her attention to the creature in question. After a few minutes of silence, and a few subtle glances from Caroline, the boy finally spoke.
"Sorry…" he spoke, sighing.
"No, really. I haven't spoken to too many people since I started living on my own, and now suddenly it's like I'm being injected into a society I don't have much care for," he admitted, sorrow in his voice as he caressed the creature's fur.
"Not too patriotic..." she mumbled, chuckling softly under her breath. "This cutie. You care about her, huh?"
"W—What? I've never even spoken to the thing! For all I know it doesn't speak—! Huh?" he stopped his ramblings as he noticed her begin to snicker.
"There we go. Finally, some life in this room. We can't resurrect people, but that doesn't mean we enjoy all the lifelessness, y'know?"
He looked up at her, narrowing his eyes in slight frustration. Focusing on the Howler, he watched the beast's soft breathing. In spite of her race, she seemed so delicate. Vulnerable.
She looks more like a puppy than a beast. "Is it okay for me to think of her as something like that…?" he pondered, sweating slightly as his adrenaline started to spill into his system. He'd soon have to confront such a being, and time was falling short.
Caroline rolled her eyes, sitting down for a coffee once the creature's vitals were secured. She took a long, almost arrogant sip as she started scrolling through her phone. Tokken watched her sit idly by, glaring at her with a stinging feeling of betrayal in his mind.
"You chose this career to help people…?!" he bit his lip as he looked away, not wanting to be caught staring. Not with those eyes. "Then why aren't you—?!" his thoughts were interrupted as a gunshot rang from outside, followed by a commotion. It seemed relatively close. The boy jumped in his seat at the noise, feeling as though somebody had just now rang a bell that ensured someone lost their life. The thought was terrifying, yet the nurse seemed more annoyed than anything, earning more of the boy's silent ire.
"Did you hear that?!" he asked, his question seeming more a demand than an inquiry. She looked at him with skepticism.
"It was louder than my alarm clock. Of course I heard it," she replied, confused as to his motive.
"And it doesn't concern you?"
"How do you think these people end up here?"
"You're not from the city, are you?"
"...No," he admitted, looking outside the window for answers. Hearing this, the nurse just kicked her feet up.
"Yeah, that's how it works around these parts. Ever since the Syndicate's had the Police by their balls few people gave a crap about throwing hands during debates. Add savage Cryptids to the mix and you have a nice catastrophe smoothie. Just don't go anywhere alone, and don't meddle in people's affairs unless you're prepared to kill a guy. Or a dozen, if you're a snowflake," she rambled on, wafting her hand in disinterest.
Tokken raised his brow at her, unable to fathom how accepting she seemed of the terrible circumstances this city seemed to abide by. Not wanting to question the rough culture with his naiveness, the boy opted to simply look out the window once more, hoping something would keep him distracted from his head-splitting internal conflicts.
He was quick to turn, however, when he heard the soft groans of the Cryptid lying on the bed, stirring from her slumber. Looking around with narrowed eyes, she resorted to raising a paw to shield her eyes from the bright lights of the room. In a quick, startled motion, Tokken rose to his feet and ran for the nearest light switch, stumbling in his path as he clumsily turned off the invasive lamps of the room. Caroline watched him with a roll of her eyes, choosing to focus on her phone. Rushing back to the injured creature's side, he felt a cold sweat begin to form on his forehead as he slowly made himself visible to her. Looking around still, the creature seemed startled—petrified, rather—but still. Her energy all but gone, any attempts to run would only result as a potentially painful mistake.
Noticing her expression, Tokken couldn't help but feel sorry for her.
"H—Hey!" he greeted, trying to keep calm so as to not intimidate the beast, offering a soft smile. "Sorry if this wasn't… what you were expecting. Are you feeling okay…?" he asked, concern slowly growing on his face. Waiting patiently for a response, he suddenly widened his eyes as he came to a realisation. Looking at the uninterested nurse with a look of pure shame, he demanded.
"Wait! This thing can talk, right?!" he yelled, frantically.
"Do you want to die or something? It's a 'her', dipshit. And I don't know! You grabbed her from the freaking forest! What am I, a witch?!" she yelled back, a stern look on her face.
"O—Oh, that's right..." he looked back down at the further distressed beast, scratching his head slightly.
"Sorry. Do you speak, ma'am…?" he asked, trying to keep his composure. The nurse snickered at his word choice, clicking her tongue.
Looking up at the pair with a scared complexion, the creature simply whimpered to herself before shielding her face from any kind of harm. Slightly dejected, Tokken backed away slightly, not wanting to further sour her thoughts of him.
After a few long seconds, the nurse stood up to check on the beast one last time before leaving, placing her hand carelessly on the scared canine's features to inspect any injuries worth further treatment. After a few seconds, the beast squeaked before instinctively growling, baring her wickedly sharp set of teeth. Caroline reflexively moved her hands away in fright, losing her momentum temporarily. After a few seconds, the nurse furrowed her brows in frustration at the she-beast's behaviour.
"Vicks, way to show kindness. Give your life-giver some respect! I should've checked her for rabies!" Caroline protested, feigning her offence with a subtle smirk. "Still. It's good you've got some spirit. Need me to fetch you something? Some cold water, hm?" she offered, chuckling to herself. At that, Tokken couldn't help but ask.
"H—Hey, mind if I could get a cup—"
"Get your own luggage, 'honey'. Not runnin' a charity here," she spat, turning to leave the room with a quiet snicker to her as she slinked away. Catching her subtlety for once, Tokken couldn't help but smile to himself, turning to the beast he risked his life for. The beast that saved him for saving it.
"She seems… mean," she finally spoke, much to the boy's surprise. Remembering that this was no animal, he opted not to pry.
"Well, they have to get their kicks in somehow. I'd imagine working in such a place isn't always so cheery… but never mind that! Are you doing okay? Are you in pain?" he asked, hesitating to inspect her himself.
"I—I'm fine… where am I?" she asked, her face flushing as her voice seemed to waver in embarrassment.
"You're in a hospital. You fell unconscious, so I brought you here. You got hurt pretty bad back there, you know." the boy condemned his increasing anxiousness, unused to having to talk to a such a peculiar stranger all alone; the burden of comforting the hurt creature on his shoulders.
"A hospital…? Y—You mean a human place?!" The realisation dawning on her face, she began to understand the complexities of her immediate location. With a nervous grin, Tokken held out his hands in innocence.
"Wait! Don't panic! Nothing's wrong, I swear. Though I suppose that doesn't mean too much coming from me..." his attempt to convince her dying in his own tracks, the boy felt his voice grow silent. Deciding not to be so cruel, the beast cleared her throat before speaking.
"My name is Chloe… What would yours be?" she asked, cutting through her natural timidness to at least settle introductions. With a wave of relief, the boy smiled nervously at her.
"Chloe! That's a uh… A nice name! I'm Tokken. Just Tokken."
With a little smile on her face, Chloe responded.
"Well… I'm Chloe. Just Chloe."