After patiently explaining what parts of what Teacher Markel had taught were bunk and elaborating on the parts that were actually useful I watched the girl sink into a meditative fugue.
Back then…when we first met, the girl was actually only five feet, seven inches, or so…Which I guess is still pretty tall for a twelve to thirteen year old.
Considering that she’s preemptively blacklisted, bean sprout, string bean, stilts, amazon, legs and stretch for nicknames I’m allowed to give her, something tells me that she’d probably spent most of her young life being the tallest girl in class.
Taking all that into account, and the fact that I knew better than most just how terrible kids could be when they wanted to be, it made it extremely difficult for me to explain that her recent growth spurt was my fault.
She was already tall to begin with, and the small modifications I’d made to her genetics over time had exacerbated things.
Granted all those modifications had been necessary things. Changes “she’d” asked for. But my current projections, didn’t see her growth stopping till she was just a few inches short of seven feet.
So honestly, shitty as it is, I kind of was leaning towards not telling her and just hoping I could maybe stop things before she broke through the seven foot mark.
(I mean, besides that there really wasn’t anything I could do, and there was no need to get her pissed at me right?)
As for where and when little Innes and I met, it was…a few months ago. I was in the wastes, hanging around…not being dead. I wasn’t technically alive either but I wasn’t dead, which was the important thing.
She was…in a bad state, bloodied and crammed into a steam trunk. Unconscious. A trunk that was being carried by two guys who from the uniforms they were wearing, I guess had probably students in this academy. Though they were older by a few years or so.
My Archive probably could have told me details on this but at the time I was bit…feral and my mind wasn’t really interested in that information.
I can’t recall if I stumbled onto them or if “they” stumbled onto me. I can say that it gave all of us a fair fright.
Anyway…for once….I wasn’t the one pissing himself in terror. I at least I don’t think I was…actually no, no, I definitely wasn’t because I’m pretty sure I don’t have the right…internal workings…for it anymore.
So there we were, me a shadowy, red eyed monster living in an old apartment building…them a couple of dumbass, twenty-something year olds who’d come out to the wastes for…whatever reason.
My best guess now is that it was some kind of field trip or academy task. I wasn’t getting the feeling that what they did was perfectly pre-meditated, or if it was, it probably wasn’t supposed to go so far.
Even being mostly a beast as I was..I could pretty much puzzle out what had happened.
The girl was by her own admission, a foreigner. She was someone who transmigrated from another world and either left her starter town on her own or levelled out and been forced to leave the town.
In her case, remarkable as it was it seemed that she’d down the latter.
And in Agartha kid with that kind of talent could easily get themselves invited to sect or school or company. And as like I’ve repeatedly said, the sects and schools were generally some of the highest powers in the land, those invitations can be pretty generous.
New clothes, a roof over your bed, three meals per day. And The backing of an organization powerful enough that even the local law would step carefully around you.
If I was a kid with no attachments and nowhere to go, there’s no question what I’d have done.
Actually…that question’s probably already moot, since I’d pretty much did exactly that…joining a school to try and get myself some status.
I was probably expelled by now, since it took me three years, (…well it’d be three hundred years if we account for the subjective time and the time dilation that takes place in this part of the Agarthan Wonderland) to sort myself out after the divine calamity befell me.
Either that or I guess they’d think I’d left on my own, which would lead most to assume that I’d died somewhere in the woods…which….I guess I don’t really care about or particularly mind.
People thinking you’re dead means that there’s no one out trying to kill you…Not that they’d taught anything worth sending people after me for…it’s just something my dad used to say.
But I’m getting off the topic here.
The point is, when you’re young with no other prospects, even if you’re lucky enough to get into even a “small” sect or school without too much competition, you best expect to have deal with competition and factions and the like once you’re inside.
Even in Silent Glenn it was kind of a rat race to see who could climb up the rankings from outer-student to core-student as the higher your rank was the better your treatment.
Naturally in any kind of competition there are winners and losers.Victory brings glory and honor and reasons to hold your head high. As for loss it could either mean death, or it could mean that it was time to bow your head a bit and try your chances at getting in the good graces of one of the so called winners.
That’s pretty much where shitheads like these two came from. Winners came in grades, separated by caliber. Same for losers.
Looking at the mixture of styled hair, second hand swag, and bulky builds, these two pretty much stank of lackey.
If they weren’t trembling in my presence, they’d probably have looked semi-impressive, but there was something about how readily they acquiesced to my objective superiority that made me think that they were used to giving way to those who were stronger than them.
Like villains in a cheap play they were sort that knew when bully the weak and fear the strong.
Which was pretty much exactly what had happened.
Innes was talented as far as her energy manipulation skills went a heightened intellect making it easier for her to pick up the knack. A quick appraisal would reveal that she had a fairly decent eighty-five talent points. Which was fairly excellent for a leveller either immortal or non-immortal. More than excellent even if you ignored all the abnormals and outright monsters in the world whose power grew by more than one hundred percent with each level up.
All the same, the girl was still very weak. Through her own explanation of her past and what the archive could find out, I’d learn that Innes was from an alternate earth with fairly low anomalous activity.
They were just barely starting show signs of developing superhumans, mostly doing so through science. Which actually should have been a red flag for them, right there. Because honestly, sudden superhumans and signs that physics wasn’t working as it should was a sign that all was not right in the world.
A world would generally stick to its ongoing internal logic unless something was very wrong. I used to remember reading comic books and seeing people wonder aloud if the world would be better without a “blank”-man in it. Since after all without “blank”-man all the costumed villains wouldn’t have shown up either.
The future-me would actually lay down some useful information for once by clarifying that bit of fuzziness for m one day while perforating me with his laser eyes.
Apparently in worlds with superheroes, the supervillains were also an important part of the big picture. It wasn’t about good versus evil, it was about existence versus non-existence.
The plot lines involving non-human, non-sentient, cosmic invaders from alternate dimensions and vague forces that would somehow “destroy the world” were often given less dramatic attention in most of the works I read and watched. The thing is, they were generally the things that world, and the universe was trying to fight.
Men don’t evolve wings unless there’s a dire risk of falling…as it were. But again I’m getting off topic.
“Blank”-man doesn’t exist to stop bank robber and catch criminals, he’s just a living buffer for the extinction level events that are about to be thrown your way.
Ditto for a fair number of the non-crazy villains, since if they don’t want to die, and there’s no where they can run to they’ll generally be expected to throw down for the greater good as well.
The point is, little Innes was the daughter of cape. Thirty something year old C-list superhero who’d knocked-up a starstruck seventeen year old. Who’d spend the rest of both her and her daughter lives resenting her daughter for being born and screwing up her life.
Though she was a child of super hero she didn’t get any super powers, except maybe a little heightened intelligence.
So yeah, like I said, the girl was weak and as I’ve previously mentioned the girl was tall and though any idiot could see that despite her height she was still very much just a kid, for some creeps tall was enough for them consider a person “old-enough”.
From there the rest of the unpleasant story, pretty much told itself. You have a young new student in academy. You have two older, significantly stronger students. Who by their own admission had forced the girl and a bunch of other little fresh faced students into joining them into a little jaunt into the wastes.
Now that I think of it…I think I’ve changed my mind, it probably wasn’t the first time they did this kind of thing. At least part of this was definitely premeditated.
They’ve definitely bullied little groups of junior classmates into following them into the wastes before. They’ve definitely bullied those same classmates into staying back and not saying a word about it, before.
What I’m guessing they didn’t plan beforehand, was her fighting back so hard. Or the fact that it was looking pretty impossible for them to force her silence.
She fought and then they fought, and because they were stronger, they nearly beat her to death, but they didn’t die. So they locked her in the trunk and spent the next hour or so trying to figure out what to do.
I know, because this was about the time where I woke up. Waking up for maybe the first time in weeks. At first I thought I was just dreaming.
There they were two spiky hair thugs in school uniforms, like something out of a nineteen-eighties british post-apocalyptic film.
One of them was talking about maybe selling her. The other just wanted to kill her and get out of there. The other argued that she’d probably die since there wasn’t much air in that trunk and they beat her up pretty badly.
Someone called someone idiot. The other said something inappropriate about the other’s mother.
Honestly I was a bit taken about how thin skinned these lads were for two attempted rapists, but I was also just very annoyed because they’d woken me up for the first time in weeks…when I’d still been planning to sleep for several years more.
So I made my presence known and the fat one fouled himself, which to my hyper acute senses was almost enough to offend me into killing them both right there and then.
They did a bit of groveling and crying and then more groveling.
I was just about to kill them, because in the past few years, I’d found my reservations towards taking life growing increasingly faint, and I’d just simply never been a morning person to begin with.
Then the skinny one through himself onto his knees and asked what he could do to get me to spare his miserable mortal life. Which actually got me thinking, because at that point I didn’t know he was a rapist yet, because my archive wasn’t “archiving” yet or at least it hadn’t been actively “archiving”.
And also I was in one of those weird hyper receptive states of mind. So when he asked me if there was anything he could do to get me to spare his life I actually took it seriously and started wondering what exactly it’d take for me not to kill this guy.
Thus it was that I’d just about figured out that if he could somehow go back in time and make my eighth christmas not be the shitty debacle that it was, I’d probably send him home, none the worse.
Which was about the same time that the fat one got the bright idea of opening the trunk and offering me the girl.
Which was honestly the first time I’d been offered a whole person, to you know, just have. Like as a possession.
I was kind of turned off, also kind of thrown because despite my tacit acceptance that people were terrible creatures and a return to barbarism had meant the return of slavery and open human trade, I’d not yet really ever thought about my personally owning people.
And the boys must have taken my pensive silence as an acceptance of their bargain, because they ran out of their like a devil was chasing them.
(Which is ridiculous since I was lying down at the time.)
Then I decided I didn’t really want to own any people, at least not right now anyway, plus the person they gave me was already almost broken, because she was pretty close to dying.
At which point I got fair pissed because the beast in me was noisier these days, and my temper though no shorter than it had been before, burned much, much hotter.
In my head the boys had tried to cheat me. Me…Desmond Bose. Samhain of the Red Moon. The Monster who swallowed a hundred billions gods…(or at least I swallowed the essence fractured souls anyway).
I launched myself out of the window and flew after the boys, my body an invisible black and red streak in the night.
I landed in front of them as they ran and then I stripped the flesh from their bones and sucked their souls from their bodies.
Which wasn’t really a punishment so much as it was, how I ate in general. I’d then go on to chase down eat all and any wildlife I happened to spot within the range of my consciousness. (As well as a few unlucky adventurers and mercenaries.)
At which point the beast got sated, which put the real me back in charge. Which was a bit like getting blackout drunk and then coming out of it whilst still awake.
It wasn’t the same in the sense that I couldn’t remember anything I’d done, because I could. Every terrible thing.
It was just that I now had to deal with consequences and implications of having had a “not”-me acting while the “real”-me was still asleep.
After “sort of” waking up the first time, the rest of me came alive once I’d been fed. I awoke with a killer headache and the taste of several strangers in my mouth. Which actually reminds me of my home life rather than my time at college, but getting into that would be another digression and I’ve done enough that for today.
The point is that my mood had gone from pretty foul to “why hasn’t the sun exploded already?”…I flew back to my den in the apartment building.
An area that was thankfully dead silent, free of both regular animals and demonbeasts, because nowadays even a sleeping me, was less than healthy to stay around if one didn’t want one’s life expectancy drastically lowered.
Once I’d returned to my den my first thought was going back to sleep, but then I noticed the open trunk, with the half-dead girl in it. And because I wasn’t a “complete” monster a part of me, felt that I should maybe do something. So I fixed her.
Pulling her back from that great unknown, because by then she was more dead than half-dead really.
Undoing all the damage that had been done to her mind and body and even admittedly getting a bit carried away and switching on a few of the super genes that had been switched off beforehand.
If that sounds at all impressive, it really isn’t. I’d just eaten. And after consuming and being consumed by the combined wrath of a hundred trillion deities and immortal monsters I was much different sort of existence than what I’d been before.
So fixing one small girl and bringing her back from the edge of death, was more time and energy expensive than anything else. Consuming a day’s worth of time and three days worth of energy, but taking almost no actual effort.
I didn’t even really have to think about it, at a certain point. All the things that those immortal knew and all the things that future-me had been into me, made it an almost brainless process. Enough so, that I almost definitely might, have maybe, probably, made some changes to the girl’s being, while I wasn’t paying attention.
I didn’t touch her mind or her soul though. I still have some morals. There are still some lines I won’t cross. I’d rather eat a soul than change a person’s innate nature. At least I wouldn’t do so without their express permission and very, very damn good reason for doing so…
Anyway. I brought the girl back to life and then being the kind of stiff faced git I was I asked, her if she was okay. And she said,
“I don’t know.” which sounded about right, except was maybe just a tad too honest.
She then said,
“Are you going to kill me?”
To which I responded with a,
“Well young lady, what do you think?”
Which was answered with the absolutely correct,
After which I sent her on her way, briefly explaining a convenient route that would take her back to her school without letting her run into too many troublesome fellows, human or monster.
(The streets tend to get nice and quiet once a huge scary monsters blown through.)
She showed some unexpected politeness and thanked me because apparently she’d aware enough to know that she’d maybe been more than a little hurt just a little while ago.
Putting it together with the fact that she was apparently now suddenly fine and assuming that thanks were in order.
I didn’t need her thanks and like I said, they hadn’t been expected. However since manners in the face of extenuating circumstance, and life and death peril is something a gentleman like myself greatly approves of. Thus I more or less had to reward the girl.
Giving her a heavily enchant magic blade. Which was actually the sword I’d used when I was last humanoid, wandering through the deep wastes and the wilder parts of the wonderland for decades, confused and insane. Hungrier and angrier than words can describe.
She briefly made a difficult face but thanked me again, bowing deeply as the school and Agartha culture probably would have thought her to do. Never mentioning that “she” actually wasn’t all that great with swords.
Unfortunately my good will had just about run out by then and honestly it was and is a very good sword and at the time the girl was just one or two months over twelve, so I figured even if she didn’t know how to use a sword the blade was already keyed to her and she had enough time to “learn” how to use a sword.
As the more good intentioned of my foster parent would say, I figured, “[s]he’d grow into it.”
Thus with that settled, I went back to sleep. Or at least that what I wish I could say, but the obviously I didn’t. Instead I spent that whole night tossing and turning. Bloated from all the people and monsters and people that I ate.
I ate too many people that day. Way too many people. (Funnily enough, I still “don’t” consider myself a cannibal.)
Plus directly eating conflicting sets of enchanted armor makes me bloat apparently and I probably should have chewed more properly. But getting thirty-two chews with every bite always feels so tedious.
On top of all this a certain young face, with dull eyes and intelligent if slightly despondent look on her face, kept coming into my mind.
The next day, I left my apartment to at least make sure that the girl back to town okay. She didn’t. Though usually, any rampage of mine would have most of the local fauna and the more active members of the flora keeping things low key, occasionally there would be a few young arseholes who thought they were something special. As well as a few older fools who thought they could challenge me for supremacy.
When I found the girl she was being set upon by a flock of griffins.
I dealt with the griffins accordingly, despite my dislike of swallowing feathers…(they tickle my throat)…Then I landed in front of her to ask just how exactly she’d managed to get a flock white griffins, a generally, benevolent and peaceful species angry at her.
She just sort of panted, and just stared. So I healed her, recovering her stamina and erasing the damage she’d taken.
Which stopped the panting but not the blank staring. I asked my question a second time. To which she answered with an,
“I don’t know.”
The archive told me that wasn’t a lie. So I dug a little deeper and realized that funny enough her witch of mother had been an actual witch and if only by accident, she’d managed to do her daughter a good turn.
In her veins flowed the blood of a certain Evil God from a certain hell dimension. It was on his say so, that all his descendants were pulled from the girl’s earth once it looked like the superhuman buffer was no longer going to hold.
The world died but a handful of its populace, who were the descendants and inheritors of different immortal beings, were saved. So…pretty much the usual story.
The part where this became a problem, started when I fixed the girl and turned on all her useful genes. Turning on the genes she’d inherited from the evil god would have further boosted her intelligence and neural development, and increased her affinity for darkness, life, illusion.
I’d neglected to notice that it’d mark her as an evil creature to all, quote unquote creatures of good.
Now I probably could have just quickly fixed my little mistake a number of ways and then headed back home, but as I was going to do so, she kept looking at me. Wide eyes solemn and silent.
There was this odd little “hey, what can you do?” look on her face as this huge colossal bore down on her. Its very aura freezing her in pace.
It was like she wasn’t so much scared of me it was that she’d somehow resigned herself to my existence. Something most grown men failed to do. Either throwing themselves at my feet. Trying to run. Or trying to fight. Usually to no avail, though I’d sometimes let the stupider or sillier ones go with their lives and limbs intact because I could find food anywhere but a good laugh was rare thing.
Curiosity struck me and I had the archive take a look at who she was and all that she’d seen in her short little life. Some of it was good. Most of it wasn’t. Some of it was amazing. Most of it was quite dull.
I don’t know why but the girl reminded me of a younger me. Her childhood had been less than stellar like mine had been, even if she’d stayed in the custody of her real parents. If you could call living in a dreadful boarding school custody. But her attitude about life was probably healthier than mine was at her age. Or maybe she wasn’t as far gone. Again I’m not really sure.
And she said,
“You’re kind of helpless you know that?”
And she said,
“You can’t fight…you don’t really know how to use magic and you don’t have any special abilities…”
Which was smartly responded to with a slightly indignant,
Which I’ll admit I deserved because really who was I to talk, if my future-self hadn’t beaten so many cheats into my I’d have probably been caught by somebody and turned into a soul slave. A fate that has befallen many an unfortunate immortal.
One of several other bad ends, experienced by those who were too weak to ensure their own safety and foolish enough to give away what they were.
A practice that was thankfully not very widespread as the converting of immortals into immortal objects was seen as a perversion or obstruction of the system’s intended purpose. Soul slaves couldn’t properly level up since they were technically in a state of middling state of half-death, meaning they couldn’t become heroes and fight demon kings, to create the reactions necessary to safely defuse the cosmic bomb that was our planet.
All such perversions against the system were dealt with by the “mysterious” gray moderators. Meaning while having a soul slave was a very powerful thing, it could also get you and all your people eliminated from this world with extreme prejudice.
Even the higher entities of this world were no exception to this rule.
(Self-Awareness: You’re Digressing Again…)
Ahem…anyway…my point is that compared to her, I was just a spoiled rich kid, whose future-self used its connections to set him up with all the coolest toys and secret codes, so really I shouldn’t have been criticizing the little girl who pretty much just trying her best.
“….Um….Anyway….You don’t know much and I know lots. So what do you say, how about I show you a thing or two?” I said. Feeling slightly awkward and unsure of what I was offering and why I was offering it.
The girl looked up at me, her expression a mixture of wariness and calculation, the look left naked and plain on her face. Undisguised by any guile or attempts at tact.
It took her a good five minutes before she nodded and strangely enough despite our relative positions, it felt even longer. I felt myself tensing up a little.