Daily Life with a Monster Girl Fanfiction: Everyday Life as an American Host - 29. Chapter 29 Interview 5: Centaur part 3
- Daily Life with a Monster Girl Fanfiction: Everyday Life as an American Host
- 29. Chapter 29 Interview 5: Centaur part 3
I do not own Everyday Life with Monster Girls.
Chapter 29 Interview with a centaur part 3
The interior of the shop was colder, much colder than she was expecting. While the sweltering heat of the late afternoon in the Midwest was barely an irritation to her, the thirty-plus degree drop almost shocked her system when she trotted in.
The almost bright white of the building interior disoriented her vision and she blinked several times.
“Verandys? You alright?”
She rattled her head and raised a hand to block out the oppressive white coming from… everywhere.
“Yes, yes.” She answered automatically. “I’m fine.”
Her companion snorted. “Yeah sorry, probably should have warned you about walking into this place. They like everything to look like vanilla and shine like a new penny.”
She closed her eyes and let out a breath. “Cleanliness is a good thing.”
He chuckled. “Yeah. But even I think they take it an extreme.” The centaur cracked her eyelids and gazed at her host. He was waving around the building.
There were only a handful of customers scattered about the tables. All human. Most returned their attention to their confections but a boy from a family of four kept his eyes glued to her.
She ignored it and stepped forward. “So, Sylly told me to try something called a…milked strawberry?”
“Strawberry milkshake.” He corrected and walked up to the counter. He nodded at the attendant who wore a pristine white outfit and a cap.
He wasn’t the friendliest looking clerk she’d ever seen, but his smile didn’t seem as fabricated as others she’d encountered. His black eyes gave her a once over and returned their attention to Jack.
“I’ll have a single scoop rocky road on a cone and she’ll have a large strawberry milkshake please.”
The attendant nodded at Jack’s request, punched in the register keys and directed Jack’s card to a reader. Jack collected a standee with a large printed ’29’ and he waved her over to a table with a single high chair.
“You play chess?” He asked as he stood off to the side.
Her eyes finally adjusted to the unnecessarily brighter than the sun lighting and noted the checkered pattern painted on their table.
She smiled lightly. “Yes. My mother taught me how to play. Many years ago.”
“Cool. I’ll get us a set.” He walked back up to the counter. A few minutes later he returned with a large plastic baggy filled with instantly familiar monochromatic figures. She let him set the pieces in their proper place (and to buy herself time to remember all the strategies her mother instructed).
“Let’s see.” She mused to herself and rested her fingers over one of the cream-colored pawns. She gripped it lightly and placed the piece two spaces forward. Jack selected his own black pawn and placed it two spaces forward as well.
“So, you mentioned something back at the house.” He said. “You’re a…” He tilted his eyes upward. “Massage therapist?”
She nodded and hummed. “Yes.” She moved another pawn to reinforce her front line. “I remembered my father complaining about aches and pains in his muscles after a day’s work and mother would lay her hands on those areas and knead them. Made him feel better.” Jack moved in a knight right behind his advanced pawn. “I found out quickly that there was actually a career for that sort of skill.” She countered with her own knight. “And I’ve been studying that craft ever since.”
Jack nodded approvingly. “That’s cool.” He slid a bishop out of its starting position. “I’ve gone to a masseuse parlor before.”
She eyed him coldly. He noted her change in demeanor and stared up. He blinked a couple times. Then his jaw dropped. “Oooh crap.” He placed a few fingers on his forehead. “I forgot. That term is uhh…outdated.”
She lifted a finger. “Offensive actually. I don’t do sex work.”
He nodded quickly. “Right right, sorry.” He gazed off to the side. “Dammit, I actually knew that.”
Verandys kept her stern expression. “Not that I have any issue with sex workers.” She moved out her queen. “But that’s not what I trained for.”
He glanced down at the table and blinked at her aggressive response. “Yeah that’s actually what a friend of a friend of mine said.” He slid his own queen out in reaction but placed her in a sub-optimal position. He lifted his hand off the figure and then froze. “Oh that’s-“
She smirked at his misplay. He frowned a little and withdrew his arm.
The centaur moved out another pawn in an aggressive position. He may have apologized for his inappropriate comment, but now she was determined to crush the man who had bought her ice cream and invited her to live in his home.
Jack moved his own pawn to match hers. “Yeah Stacy gave us a lecture on that term’s history before she gave my friends and I free massages for her student hours.”
She narrowed her eyes and set her rook forward. “I hope you’re not expecting any free massages from me, host.” She smiled inwardly at his penitent reaction. “I am certified for humans in this state. I expect to be paid”
He lifted a hand placatingly. “Oh no. That’s not, I would never..”
“It’s your turn.” She reminded him.
He blinked and reviewed the board. “Uh yeah…” He stared at it a moment. His eyes squinted a bit and he made a decision. He slid a pawn against one of hers and removed it from the board. Verandys countered and took his pawn with her knight and simultaneously threatened his queen. Jack repositioned his high value piece safely and sighed. “Yeesh. Should have seen that coming. I haven’t played in years.”
She grinned sharply. “Is that going to be your excuse when you lose to a girl?”
He raised an eyebrow and looked directly into her eyes. “You’re not going to get me with that.”
His poise changed. Something within his pupils sparked. Verandys wasn’t sure what it was. Not anger but…something related. She expected him to get defensive, flustered. Like most guys she used that line on.
The ice cream arrived in the middle of their stare-down. Jack took his cone and licked the little curl off the top. Verandys grasped her glass and sucked in a little dollop with the provided straw.
“Mmmmm.” She broke off her stare and eyed the light-pink substance. “Sylly was right. This is good.”
Despite the tense moment before, Jack smiled. “She has good taste.” He set his cone aside.
Verandys closed her eyes and sipped on the treat slowly. “Mmhmm.” She held a sigh for a few moments and the set the milkshake down. “It’ your…ah.” She evaluated the board and noted that in fact it was her turn. She delicately moved up one of her rooks.
Jack picked up a bishop and slide it forward. “So, you said something about already being certified in Illinois. Are you studying something else?”
Verandys made a counter move with her own bishop. “Yes. I am certified for humans and my stable also recognizes me as a professional, but…” She held up a finger. “I know next to nothing about massage therapy for many other species. There’s precious little research on them that I could find.”
Jack held a knuckle to his chin. “Huh, yeah that’s… huh.” He blinked and faced back to her. “How would one learn about that sort of thing?” He smirked ruefully. “I suppose you’ll have to practice on…different… species…” He blinked a few times. “Well damn.”
She smirked back. “Figured that out pretty fast.”
He nodded lightly. “Yeah…” He looked up at her directly. “You’re kinda in the right place.”
She lifted a finger. “Not kinda. Perfectly.” She took a sip of her shake. “I specifically requested to be placed in a household with as many extra-species as possible.” She lifted another finger. “And since Sylly is learning medicine I can consult with her on the limits of various species anatomies.” She waved outward casually. “There was a house in Japan that had a bunch of different extra-species but they already had a centaur there and the coordinator didn’t want to double up or something.”
Jack gave her an odd look. She shrugged and brought her arms back in. “Whatever, their loss.”
“Hmmph. Cool.” Jack acknowledged. “So… tell me about svelte centaurs.”
She smiled. “Well we are vegetarians. And while we do like to run…” She held up a hand. “That’s not really a good description.” She nodded her head side to side. “For instance, there isn’t a subspecies of humans that are racing humans, is there?”
Jack chuckled. “Heh, yeah no, there isn’t. I sort of get the ‘light’ moniker that Syleris mentioned but it’s not exactly a great name for a species. And anything with a means of motion can race.”
She nodded widely. “Good, you understand.” She raised a finger. “We prefer the term ‘svelte’ because it means graceful. The average female mainline and heavy centaurs tend to be overzealous or brutish.” She inclined her head and eyed him seriously. “And don’t get me started on their males. The term ‘grace’ probably isn’t in their limited vocabulary.”
Jack tilted his head to the side. Curious but not probing.
“You’ve not heard.” She commented. “Let’s just say that, it is almost a good thing they’re not interested in many things other than themselves.”
Jack mulled that over. “I’m not sure I understand.” He raised a hand at her. “But I’ll chalk that up to an ‘ignorance is bliss’ scenario.”
“That’s probably best.” She commented.
“How about the males in your…what was that term you used..stable?” He asked.
She smiled lightly. “Yes. The men in my stable are much more refined.” She traced a finger in a small circle by her captured pieces. “Much, much more.”
Jack smirked. “A boyfriend?”
She closed her eyes and nodded. “Yes and no.” She faced him directly. “I’m a bit of a popular item where I come from.” She flexed her knuckles. “These hands were almost never idle.” She sighed. “And that had its drawbacks.”
“…too popular?” Jack hazarded.
She chuckled. “Yes. Any and everyone found the most ludicrous excuses to request my services. Several of the boys would claim I made extra efforts for them personally. Which led to a few awkward moments when they declared me their girlfriend.” She closed her eyes briefly. “Which was no small amount of vexing when they would also declare they had ‘exclusive special access’ to my services.”
“Please tell me you put a stop to that.” Jack implored.
“Oh yes.” She nodded. “I heard that some of my most frequent customers were in a tavern and talking about me very loudly and disrespectfully. Barty was in the process of making up a story where I had given him ‘extra special’ service when I walked in.” She curled her fingers in air quotes.
“So I trotted right up and slapped him.” She swung her right hand across the air with her open palm.
Jack winced. “Hooo. Ouch.”
“Indeed.” She continued. “His friends all started laughing at him. I yelled at them to shut up.” Her face set in an unamused expression. “When they didn’t…” She gripped the board with both hands and tilted it up. “I flipped their table.”
Jack’s eyes widened and he snatched up his half-finished cone. “Oooh man.” Some of the chess pieces slid out of place.
“I turned around and started to leave.”
Jack looked at her askance. “They didn’t…?”
She closed her eyes briefly and reset the table to the floor. “Oh they came after me…for all of two seconds.”
He gave her a quizzical expression. “What happened?”
She folded her arms. “The rest of the tavern, including the staff, got in their way.”
Jack smiled. “Nice when the town’s got your back.”
She nodded. “Yep. I faced them back and told the boys that if they ever wanted me to massage them again they would apologize right then and there.”
“Did they?” Jack asked.
She shook her head. “They were obstinate, but I convinced them. After I started listing off all their weaknesses.”
“Weaknesses?” He repeated.
She nodded. “When you massage someone frequently you get a very good sense of what physical imperfections are present. You actually have to know some of these things during a session or you could hurt a customer if you’re not careful. And I am always very careful.” She smirked. “And I knew those boys better than their mothers.” The centaur giggled to herself. “Oh the looks of pure terror on their faces was priceless when I informed the tavern of all their physical shortcomings.”
Jack’s eyes widened again. “Oh damn. You are a very dangerous enemy to make.”
She grinned like a predator. “After I get my hands on someone, yes.”
She sighed. “Things were smooth for a few weeks after, and those boys didn’t come around much more after that. But the rest of the town certainly kept me busy. Even after I’d received my certifications and started charging they were not deterred.” She blinked and looked down a degree. “And I could see that would be my life.” She let out a long breath.
Jack squinted after a moment of quiet. “Is that such a bad thing?”
She shook her head. “No, no. Massage therapy is what I want to do.” She looked up. “But I want to learn more.” She held up a hand. “And I couldn’t do that there.”
He smiled. “Thus the Exchange.”
She smiled back. “Exactly.”
He was about to ask a follow-up but her face went slowly neutral and almost…disappointed. He glanced to the side and then back to her. “I..did I miss something?”
She closed her eyes briefly. “No, I just… I guess I didn’t want to have to leave to try to expand my skills.”
Jack hummed. “Get good enough at what you do and folks’ll come to you.” He smiled. “You could set up shop wherever you wanted, then.”
She chuckled to herself. “That’s true.”
He leaned back, obviously ignoring the disrupted chess game. Neither of them attempted to correct the positions of their pieces. “So, how did you and Syleris meet?”
“Oh, at the Exchange office.” She waved casually toward a window. “It was almost like fate. Like one of those silly stories my ‘cousins’ are always yammering about.”
He cocked his head. “How so?”
She grinned. “We arrived the same day. Practically within minutes.” She giggled to herself.
“It had been a long trip. The flight into the city and then the ride in the van.” She sighed. “I was so anxious I almost sprinted down the ramp. Then I saw Syleris exit out of the vehicle she was in, just ahead of my escort.”
“Our eyes met, and right then we knew.” She smiled at Jack fiercely. “It was instinct. We had to race.”
Jack shook his head. “Oh, boy.”
Verandys chuckled. “She took off first. I yelled ‘I’ll get her’. Like I was going to try to stop her.” She picked up a knight piece from the board and placed it behind a bishop. “But of course I wasn’t.”
She shook her head. “We had no idea where we were going. No track to follow, no markers to aim for. We just ran and ran.” She nodded lightly. “‘Til they caught us.”
Jack cocked an eyebrow. “That must have been a hell of a lecture.”
She snorted. “Goddess yes. First, agent Halia yelled at us. Then agent Magnus.” Her eyes stared at a point past him. “But agent Smythe…”
He waited. When she didn’t continue he leaned forward. “Agent…Smythe…” He prompted.
She blinked a few times and reared her head. “He said…’I know you needed to run. I sympathize.'” Her eyes froze. “And then… he said…’But don’t lie to us.'”
She swallowed. “That …I was afraid they would send me back, right then and there.”
Jack hummed lowly. “Yeah. That guy’s pretty intense.”
She faced her new host. “It’s cause he believes. He believes this can all work.” A pause. “But only if we are honest with each other.” She steepled her fingers together. “His office has a stricter policy when guests make… false statements.” A rueful smirk. “Probably why he doesn’t have many devils in his jurisdiction.”
Jack twitched an eyebrow. “They uh.. have a reputation?”
She nodded. “And then some.” She waved her hand. “Not that they’re all liars and tricksters mind you. The one in his district I met the other day seemed quite pleasant.” She waved casually. “And there was an elder devil that visited my stable years ago. I remember her being very polite.”
She shook her head. “At any rate, he overlooked my little fib. And now here I am.”
“Here you are.” Jack nodded widely. “I probably should ask… how are you getting along with our echidna guests?”
Her eyes dulled for a few seconds. “That was…illuminating. They looked so…the men, their fathers…they looked so..” She glanced across the table. “Happy.”
Jack nodded lightly a few times. “I had a hard time believing it myself, the first time Sula explained it to me. How their family works.” He folded his arms. “Must be an even greater shock for you.” He waved his hand at her. “You said you saw, the other way, first hand.”
She nodded once. “I did.” A pause. “And I’ll never forget it. But Joey, I mean …Joseph he…loves them.”
Jack smiled. “Yeah, he seems like a solid guy.”
Her eyes evaluated him a moment. “And Sylly told me, that you love Tetra, the arachne.”
He closed his eyes and smiled a little. “I do.”
“I saw her when your brother left. Is she…?”
Jack glanced to the side. “I don’t know what’s bothering her, but she told me that if I give her time and take her out to hunt tonight, she should be fine.”
Verandys blinked. “Hunt? What is she going to hunt?”
He shrugged and looked back. “No idea.” He raised a finger and widened his eyes a second. “Oh wait, she said…game. She wants to hunt some game.”
Skepticism settled onto the centaur’s face. “And what will you do? While she’s hunting.”
Jack raised his eyes. “Uh, hadn’t really thought about that.” He admitted and shrugged again. “I’ll probably make a campfire to cook whatever she catches and…oh.” He waved a finger as an idea hit. “I’ll bring a clip-on book lamp and read while I wait.”
Verandys just stared at him. “You’ll be alone, in the middle of a forest, at night.”
Jack waved his hands placatingly. “Oh no no no. I’ll just be at the edge of a forest.” He thumbed behind himself. “There’s a campground park about a half-hour’s drive west. It’s patrolled by park rangers, shouldn’t be an issue.”
The centaur stayed silent for almost a minute. “If you say so…”
He made a ‘what are you going to do?’ shrug. “Risk is part of the job. I’ve…” His eyes unfocused. “I’ve accepted that.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m not sure that’s a healthy perspective.”
He shrugged again. “Can’t really escape it. Not after…things that have…happened.”
She stared a moment. “I’m sorry to state it this way but…you’re going to let her loose on a forest at night. And you expect her to come back.” A beat. “You really trust her that much?”
He smiled. “She’s saved my life twice. Risked her own to get the …well.”
Verandys’ eyes widened. “Risked her own..?” She lifted a finger to her cheek. “Is that what that scar was? That looked fairly recent.”
“…Yes.” He answered.
“Why did she have to-oh my goddess!” She jerked forward. “You were the host that was abducted.”
He shut his eyes at her outburst and lifted a hand. “Keep your voice down.”
Her eyes scanned him frantically. “Are you alright? I heard it was an arachne that took you. That must have been-“
His eyes opened with a flare. “It was terrible.” His steely tone cut her questions short.
Jack sucked in a breath and let it out his nose. “Yes…I was taken.” He locked eyes with her. “Tetra, Sula and Dawn and Kuro came after me and got me back.” A pause. “So I trust them. I trust them all with my life.”
Verandys blinked a few times in silence.
“I can tell you all about it later. But not right now.” He glanced to the side and picked up his cone. “Right now, I’d rather have this ice cream and talk about you.” He gave it a lick. “Okay?”
The centaur just stared. “Umm okay.” She picked up her shake and gave it a sip. When she didn’t say anything else for few moments he gave her an odd look.
“What?” She asked.
He snorted. “Sorry. That usually works.”
She blinked. “What works?”
Jack smirked. “Appealing to your ego.”
It was her turn to give an odd look. “What?”
He raised a hand. “When I want to defuse a situation or bring some levity to a conversation…” He waved across the table. “Sometimes I try to say something flattering to one of my guests.” He snorted lightly.
“Oh.” She replied. “I uh… I’m sorry, I was gathering my thoughts.”
Jack looked at her askance. “You needed to gather your thoughts to talk about yourself?”
She gave him a chagrined glare. “I was concerned about you, host. Pardon me for sparing you a thought.”
He chuckled ruefully and glanced down. “I apologize. Thank you for the consideration, Verandys.”
She folded her arms and gauged him. “You’ve got some very forceful personalities to deal with daily don’t you?”
His eyes shifted to the side. “Yeah, you could say that.”
She continued to stare. “I suppose I should apologize too.”
He narrowed his eyes. “For what?”
She thumbed behind herself. “For earlier, that little trick Sylly and I played on you.”
He closed his eyes briefly. “Oh. That’s not…” He shook his head. “Almost everybody messes with me, kinda like that.” He folded his arms. “Hell, Tetra’s practically made it a mission statement of hers.”
Verandys folded her arms. “Well it’s not one of mine.” Jack blinked a couple times. “I…I don’t know what it is about her, about Sylly, but…” She smirked and shook her head. “She always brings out my…’bad side.'”
Jack barked a laugh. “Yeah, she’s a rebel. And she definitely has fun with it.”
The centaur sighed. “I was never a rebel ’til I met her.”
He smiled. “Rebels like Syleris are necessary, I think.” She glanced up at him. “To remind the rest of us that rules and order and all that are not as important as people sometimes think they are.”
She rattled her head. “I..I would think a host with so many responsibilities would be averse to someone so disruptive as her.” She held up a finger. “Literally running around, as the saying goes.”
Jack chuckled. “It’s not about imposing rules.” He tilted his head up a degree and to the side. “Okay well, yes, there are many, many rules.” He growled and waved a hand casually. “But the point is to find a way to coexist. More than that, even.”
He looked down at the table. “I remember the first months after the reveal and some folk talking about ‘getting back to normal’ and such.” He shook his head. “But there is no going back. Some of the old rules and norms just don’t apply.” He glanced up. “We have to create a new normal. Make up new rules. And that’s what this homestay is about.”
The svelte centaur smiled. “Smythe was so right about you.”
Jack blinked. “What. What’d he say?”
She laced her fingers together and leaned her chin on them. “You’re not some guy who fell into a host position by happenstance and is just trying to exploit it for his own gain. Neither are you treading water and merely keeping afloat.” She tilted her head slightly. “You’re certainly not tolerating extra-species existence like we’re something to be ignored, either.” A pause. “He said that you don’t just see the bigger picture, you embrace it.” She smirked. “You just needed the opportunity.”
Jack leaned back after a moment. He rubbed the back of his head. “I…I guess that’s how…I mean I didn’t really ask for any of this.”
She shook her head. “Aaand you’re annoyingly modest.” She put her hands down. “I think I get what Smythe expects of you. Why he’s trusting so many liminals to you.”
He blinked, speechless.
“Whether or not you asked for this isn’t the point. It’s the fact that none of your homestays have requested to be transferred to another host. If they were unsatisfied with you, I am certain that they would have left for someone else by now.” She drummed her fingers. “And you haven’t rejected any of the ones he’s assigned to you. Despite all you’ve been through. That tells me more than enough about what kind of man you are.”
Jack didn’t move.
She took up her milkshake and slurped up the last of it. “Well, that was nice.” She stepped a pace from the table. “Shall we continue to the grocery store?” She patted her trail bags.
He blinked a couple times. “Uh sure.” He picked up his cone, now more of a stub, and finished it off.
“Sorry about ruining the game.” She commented as he picked up and replaced the chess pieces to the baggie.
Jack hummed. “I think you’re just sorry you didn’t complete your little victory.”
She folded her arms and smirked. “You could’ve made a comeback.”
He chuckled. “Maybe.” He placed the baggie on the counter and an attendant nodded their thanks. “If you want, I’m pretty sure I held onto my dad’s old chess set.”
The centaur grinned. “A rematch? Very well host.” She opened the door and held it for him. “I’ll be sure to crush you thoroughly next time.”
Jack rolled his eyes and waved forward. “Come on.”
The trip back home only took a few minutes more. Guest and host took their time hauling their goods from the store. Jack punched in the garage door code and parked his bike. “Well at least it’s still standing.” He commented as he strode toward the kitchen door.
“We’re back!” Jack announced to the house. No one answered as they set down their bags. He looked about and checked the adjoining rooms. “Huh. That usually gets a response…”
“What’s this?” Verandys picked up a folded scrap of paper from the small table. “‘Out back relaxing with the kids’.” She read out loud. “‘Love, Sula’.” She blinked a couple times and looked over at him. “Love?”
Jack sighed and waved a hand casually. “It was a whole ..thing. She thought she…it doesn’t matter. She’s just joking.”
Verandys squinted skeptically and unhooked her backpack. “If you say so.”
They set the groceries in their proper place and Jack selected a pair of recipes from a couple cookbooks. He flipped open both tomes and placed them on opposite sides of the small table and got to work.
Verandys stood off for a moment. “Would you like some more assistance, host?”
He waved at her distractedly. “I told you, call me Jack. Please.” He drew out a couple pots, pans, and several utensils. “Umm…yeah.” He selected a large bowl and a box of flour and other ingredients. “Start mixing these in the amount this says.” He pointed at one of the cookbooks on the small table and turned back to the oven.
Verandys followed the instructions to the letter and watched her host work while stirring the batter.
He talked out the instructions as he darted around the kitchen. His focus was observably unshakable. It was like he was operating in another world. Or like a machine.
What was that term…auto…automatic…automaton?…no it has an ‘R’ at the beginning…Rabbit? No that’s not…Robot!
“You’re like a robot.” She blurted.
Jack emerged from the pantry for the third time and stopped. “Sorry did you say something?”
She kept stirring. “Umm… no I…”
“How’s that coming along?” He stepped over and visually inspected her bowl. “Good. I’ll need that in a minute.”
He picked up two empty pans and placed them on her table. “Good ahead and pour that in.”
Verandys followed his instructions and continued to observe as he went about. “You um…have to do this quite often don’t you?”
“Yep.” He answered. “Almost everyday unless I feel like ordering out.” He partially turned back to her and held up a finger. “Which I already have today so…” The centaur hummed and nodded. “Why don’t you check-in with Syleris and the others. Let ’em know I’m back and making dinner.”
Although she wanted to stay and help, Verandys did appreciate being given a task that involved her friend. And new friends I suppose.
She nodded and trotted out to the hall and down toward the gym. She remembered seeing a pair of double doors on the opposite side of the room that probably led outside. For a moment she stopped and eyed the doors to the ‘fight gym’. She let out a breath and ignored it. Whatever was going on with her new arachne roommate wasn’t any of her business. Best to leave her situation to more experienced hands.
Verandys pushed on the bar and walked forward.
The backyard was expansive. A wide field of cut grass stretched at least a hundred meters out from the walls of the house to a small creek and a road running parallel. She craned her neck up at the near cloudless sky.
For a moment, she held her breath and allowed herself to transport back to her home. To the fields of Marigolds she used to race through. When she exhaled she thought: This place needs some flowers.
The centaur smirked as her current reality crashed back into her. Or rather, her friend.
“Hey Sylly.” She embraced the lithe torso of the terrestrial harpy. “How’re you doing?”
Syleris stepped back a pace and grimaced. “Ugh. It’s been awful.”
Verandys twitched and blinked. “Awful? What’s wrong Sylly?”
Syleris half-turned and waved over at the lamia family lounging on the lawn. “Well, look.”
The three kids were laid out on multiple lawn chairs, dozing contentedly in the afternoon sun. Sula and Joseph shared a wider lawn chair and cuddled with each other. In between them all was a tall narrow table with clear cups and a pitcher of lemonade. The Yuki-onna/dead girl was sitting on a lawn chair as well. She looked over with a bright blue glow in her eyes and waved.
Verandys waved back with her free hand, confused but not alarmed. “I, I don’t see the problem Sylly.”
The harpy harrumphed. “Jack left me and Dawn in charge while he went out with you.”
Verandys nodded. “Okay, I’m with you so far.”
“Then Sula finally came out and gathered up her kids and I thought we were all going to play together.” She pumped a fist in the air. “But they got all the lawn chairs out of the garage and took a nap.”
She folded her arms and pouted. “A nap.” She spat the term like a curse.
The centaur blinked several more times. “I still don’t see the problem Sylly.” She waved over at them. “They don’t seem to be making any trouble.”
“I know.” She threw her arms down. “They’re not doing anything! It’s soooo boooriiiinnnng.” She shook her head. “And I couldn’t leave them alone. Jack said I was in charge and now I’m responsible for all of them and I have to see to their needs while he’s gone and-“
Verandys placed a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “Wait, Sylly. Who said you needed to see to their needs?”
The harpy waved dismissively. “Well Sula said that I’m a substitute host while Jack is gone and-” She halted and blinked.
Verandys furrowed her eyebrows. “But Sylly, you’re a guest here too.”
She blinked several more times and then growled. “oh that sneaky little…” She spun on her talons and marched over to the lamia family. “I am going to rend her scales and rip out her fangs.” Still a bit confused on the situation Verandys followed in her wake.
The harpy pointed right at the largest of the lamias and stood tall. “You can get your own drinks you lazy snake.”
Sula’s eyes fluttered open. “Oh Syleris, how could you be such a bad host?” She curled one arm up protectively. “We can’t possibly be expected to do everything in such a strange foreign land.” Her helpless tone accented her large-eyed innocent expression. “It just can’t be done.”
“Don’t pull that bird crap on me.” The harpy insisted. “I’m no one’s substitute host.”
Lissa cracked a grin. “Looks like she figured it out mama.”
Sula sighed and smiled deviously. “Ah well. Fun while it lasted. Hehe.” Almost all of the lamias and the human were grinning. The harpy clenched her fists and her cheeks were starting to turn red.
“I’m so sorry Syleris.” Dawn chirped up reluctantly. “I didn’t have the heart to tell you.” She was sitting on a low cot and held a hand on the arm of Maria. Her eyes were still glowing.
The harpy held her stance a few seconds and then pivoted and stomped toward the door. “Rugh! I need to go blow something up.”
Verandys blinked several times and raised a finger. “Blow something..up? Wha…?”
Syleris ignored her and reached out for the handle. Sula slide out of her chair and darted over to the harpy, hugging her from behind. “Aww don’t be mad. You made a wonderful host Syleris. Almost as good as Jack.”
She swiveled her head and narrowed her eyes. “You owe me snake, I’m no one’s host.”
Sula chuckled. “Very well.” She loosened her grip and let the harpy go. “We’ll make you something special tomorrow. How about that?”
“Hmmph.” Syleris yanked the door open and stomped inside.
The lamia turned back toward her family. “I suppose we did take it a little far.” She giggled again.
Verandys raised her hand again. “I know I haven’t seen her in a while, but is she actually going to…?”
Dawn chuckled. “No no. She’s just going to play some violent video games.”
“Ah.” The centaur acknowledged. “That..makes more sense.”
“Would you like some lemonade Verandys?” Dawn waved at the taller table in the middle of their formation.
She nodded. “Please.” She picked up a glass and poured it herself.
“I would get up and get it for you myself.” Dawn waved with her free hand at Maria, who looked fast asleep. “But my other half is a little busy.”
Verandys took a sip and tried to parse out the hybrid’s meaning. “You are…I mean..Kuro and.” She pointed at the sleeping echidna. “Her are…dreaming? Together?”
Dawn chuckled and her eyes flashed brighter. “Kind of. It’s hard to explain without experiencing it yourself.”
The centaur placed a finger on her chin as she contemplated. “If she would be willing…”
Dawn smirked. “She’d love to, but.” She waved at the other two echidna kids. “You’ll have to wait your turn.”
Lissa raised a hand. “Yeah, I got next.”
Verandys took another sip and eyed the human as his wife settled in by him.
“So…Mr. Joseph is it?”
He perked his head up and looked over. “Just Joseph please.”
She nodded. “Joseph, may I ask you some questions about your family?”
He cocked his head curiously. “Seems a bit boorish to ask just me.”
“She used to live by a lamia tribe in Mexico papa.” Priscilla explained. “One that did things…the other way.”
One eye narrowed. “The other way..? Oh.” His eyebrows shot up. “I see.” He nodded several times. “You are concerned that I was taken.”
She nodded seriously.
Joseph exhaled and sat up. “No miss Verandys. I volunteered to be a husband for this tribe. I was not coerced in any way.”
Verandys didn’t detect any falsehood or stress out of his answer. None of the lamias were giving him a look of warning or any other signs of intimidation.
“I see.” A pause. “So then…not all the children in your tribe are yours…biologically speaking?”
He smirked. “No. My brothers and I share that responsibility.”
“So Lissa, Maria and Priscilla…?”
He held a finger to his lips and gazed at each of the children. “Hmm. At a glance I can’t quite remember.” He faced his wife. “Do you know?”
The centaur stared incredulously at the human. How could he not know his own children?
Sula also lifted a finger and looked down. “Hmm. I believe Lissa…might be mine.” She nodded her head side to side. “Biologically speaking.” She tapped her claw on her chin. “Maria…I think is Tamara and Yatsudo’s” She tapped her claw a final time. “And I have no idea who gave birth to Priscilla.”
Verandys just stared. “I…I don’t…how…?” She swallowed and shook her head. “How could you not know?”
“Oh we got all that recorded.” Sula waved dismissively. “The matriarchs and senior fathers keep track of all that. If we were back on the island I could tell you.”
Priscilla shrugged and held out a hand. “It’s not all that important to us.”
The centaur slammed her fist to her side. “Of course it’s important!”
Everyone save Maria gave her a wide-eyed stare. Dawn’s glow faded a degree.
“Your parents gave you life. They nursed you and taught you and raised you.” The urgency in her tone had a note of incensed incomprehension. “I can’t believe you don’t-” She clenched her teeth. “You don’t-“
The lamias and Joseph looked between each other and back to her. But they didn’t say anything.
Dawn raised a hand.”It’s different for them.” Verandys swallowed and gazed at the dead girl. “They don’t keep, for lack of a better term, traditional family structures.”
Lissa folded her arms. “It’s traditional for us.”
Dawn smiled lightly and bowed. “Like I said.” She sighed. “For lack of a better term.”
“This.” The centaur stammered. “This is…I just. I don’t understand.” She waved one hand up and down. “Everything I thought I knew about lamias is just…” She blinked a couple times. “It’s…” She faced Sula directly. “Are you telling me it’s wrong?”
The elder lamia stared a few seconds. “I don’t know what you know about lamias.” A pause. “But if you lived near a tribe that did things…” Her eyes narrowed. “The other way, then no. What you know is probably not wrong.” Verandys blinked. “We know that some of our ‘cousins’ still kidnap and enslave men.” She shook her head and slide one arm around Joseph. “But we don’t do that.”
“Yeah.” Lissa insisted. “Our way is so much better.”
“I like having lots of papas.” Priscilla quipped.
The centaur took a few moments to calm herself. “I’m sorry. I..I don’t mean to offend.”
Sula shook her head. “No offense taken.” She held up a hand. “And besides, that’s what all this is for anyways.” Verandys just blinked a couple times. “The Exchange.” She expounded. “Learning about each other, expanding our understanding of the world.”
The centaur took a slow breath. “Right, right. Of course.” She picked up her glass of lemonade and took a sip. “I think I need some time to…process all this.” She took another sip and then held up a finger. “Ummm. One more question.” Sula raised her chin expectantly.
“Your…claws and the scales on your arms.” Verandys pressed her lips together. “The tribe that I knew didn’t have those.”
“We’re echidna lamias.” Priscilla answered.
Verandys shut her eyes a second and slumped her shoulders. “Oooh that’s what…I see.” She nodded a couple times. “Echidna lamias are a subspecies of lamias.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry, I probably should have deduced that earlier.”
Sula chuckled. “That’s alright. Our kind don’t really get around that often.” She glanced down and sighed. “We’re not always welcome in most places.”
The centaur narrowed her eyes. “That’s not… plenty of other species have claws and scales… all the lizardfolk species, dragonewts.” She lifted a finger. “Craglin in MON is a sobek.”
Sula and her girls were silent for almost a minute. Then Joseph spoke up. “They also have a venom.”
She blinked. “Oh.” She blinked a couple more times. “Like an arachne’s?”
The elder echidna shook her head. “Worse…much, much worse.”
Verandys stayed still for a five count. “I’m… almost afraid to ask…”
Sula continued to stare ahead. “Lets just say it’s not pleasant and leave it at that.”
The centaur took stock of each of their downcast expressions. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was a sore subject.”
Sula smirked ruefully. “Not sore, just not one worth talking about in casual conversation.” She waved at Verandys. “Like striking up a talk about… your ‘cousins’ males.”
She pursed her lips. “Oof.” She nodded. “Understood.”
All fell silent. Then Dawn blurted out. “Really?” Everyone stared at her. She didn’t seem to notice. For some reason only her left eye was glowing. “That’s disgusting!” She held a hand to her stomach, like she was about to retch.
“Ugh, of course they’d want out. That’s a terrible way to – oh, I am?” She blinked and looked back at everyone else. Her right eye started glowing blue again. “I, I’m sorry.” She held a hand up apologetically. “Kuro was telling me about the teasers and I didn’t realize I was talking back…out loud.”
Verandys tilted her head. “This is such a strange house.” She took a final gulp of lemonade. “I think I’m going to find Sylly.” She bowed lightly. “Thank you for the drink and the conversation.” She turned and trotted back toward and through the doors.
It took her a minute longer than it probably should have but she found Syleris in the front room. The cacophony of a virtual battle drew her attention to the front of the house.
“Sylly?” She raised a hand to get her friend’s attention.
The harpy had planted herself in front of a couch and focused on the large flatscreen. Her hands held a controller and rapidly manipulated the buttons and flattened stalks. She didn’t say anything. Her face was set in concentrated scowl.
“Sylly? I was wondering if you wanted to play some more?”
The harpy tapped a button and the screen’s image froze. She reached to her side and grabbed another controller.
“Here.” She offered it. “You can help me kill these guys.”
Verandys raised an eyebrow. “Um.. that’s not what I had in mind.” She gingerly took the object but didn’t pay much attention to it.
Syleris tapped that same button again and resumed her virtual carnage. “Whatever.”
Verandys watched the game for a few seconds. She didn’t understand what exactly was going on but it seemed her friend was doing well. But if one studied her face they couldn’t tell.
She set the controller aside. “I have a better idea.” She laid both hands on Syleris’ shoulder and began to knead them.
The harpy bristled a moment, then relaxed and smiled lightly. “Ahhh, I missed this.”
Verandys blinked. “You could have asked.”
Syleris blinked back. “But don’t you charge? I don’t have any money.”
She smirked. “Weren’t you telling me your new boyfriend Isaac bills stuff to his brother?”
Syleris giggled clear and loud. She set down her controller and covered her face with her other hand. Her whole torso shook with laughter.
“Jack is supposed to see to all of your needs, Sylly.” She slid her hands down and kneaded the upper arm. “And you clearly need this.”
The harpy nodded confidently. “You’re right, I do. Hehe.” She sat up straight. “In fact, I deserve this.” She raised a fist and her eyes focused at a point ahead of her. “I won the dodgeball match, I filled in for Jack, I do so much around here.”
Verandys smirked. “I’m sure you do.”
“I’m the one studying to become a doctor, I’m the one that tended to Jack after he was taken.” The centaur paused a moment. Syleris turned her head at her. “What? What’s wrong?”
“It…it actually happened then. To Jack.” Her eyes dulled. “I…he wouldn’t tell me about it.” She lowered her head. “Agent Smythe didn’t tell me my host was involved in that.”
Syleris nodded. “Yeah. It’s not a pleasant subject around here.” She waved a wing-hand casually. “I think he’ll be fine though.” She grinned. “He’s living with his heroes and seeing a counselor. His own brother flew back here for him.” She smiled and leaned back to the couch. “Yeah, I think he”ll be fine.”
Verandys smiled at her friend’s calm confidence. She resumed her technique.
The harpy sucked in a short breath. “Hey, do you have the table?”
“You want a full body session?” She raised an eyebrow. “Do we have time for that? Jack’s making dinner.”
The harpy pressed a few buttons on the controller and picked up a TV remote. The flatscreen darkened and the console device’s lights faded. “He’s gotta prep food for almost a dozen people.” She stood up. “And only two of them are human. Come on I’ll help you set up.” She pivoted and started walking toward the hall.
Gladdened to help her friend, and earn some cash, Verandys followed and entered her own room. “Alright, lets set up my massage stuff over there and we can get started.”
Bonus vignette: First Snow
Maria glided across the field of white, giggling and whooping as the wind whipped past her face.
Arms outstretched, she darted to and fro, leaping into banks of snow and popping out the other side.
“Hahaha. This is amazing!” She fell back on her spine like flopping onto a blanket and slide her arms and tail over the ground, inadvertently making a five meter tall snow angel.
The matronly lady in a snowflake style kimono gingerly stepped on the unbroken surface and leaned down. “Enjoying yourself?”
Maria focused on the pupiless eyes of the mistress of this reality. “Oh, oh yes.” She leaned up into an equivalent of a sitting position. “Is this really what snow and winter is like?”
Kuro smirked. “For the most part.” She waved a hand gracefully. “I’ve removed the cold temperature aspect, but physically this behaves exactly like real snow.” She placed a finger on her chin. “I might gradually allow for a temperature sensation someday…” She shook her head. “But I’d rather not experiment on a lamia, just yet.”
Maria hummed. “But it’s not real, right? So…” She patted her chest. “So I wouldn’t actually be in a cold environment.”
“True.” Kuro acknowledged and held up a finger. “But I’m concerned about the psychosomatic effect.”
The young echidna scrunched her face and squinted one eye. “Psycho-whatsit now?”
She smirked. “Psychosomatic.” A finger rose and tapped the yuki-onna’s temple. “You’ve heard of the power of the mind over the body?”
The child nodded lightly. “Yeah, papa Patrick gives lessons on human psychology.” She shook her head. “And he asked to interview several of my mamas and the matriarchs to study lamia behavior.” She shrugged. “I don’t know how far he got.”
“Well,” Kuro continued. “My fear is that if my simulation’s cold is too realistic then your real body would react accordingly.”
Maria furrowed her brows. “Huh, I think one of my papas mentioned a movie that had that sort of idea. It was really popular.”
Both inhabitants turned their heads toward the newcomer.
Kuro’s spiritual host, Dawn, materialized and stood in the snow, clad in the same white summer dress she wore in real life.
“I think you are talking about the Matrix.” She lifted a finger.
Kuro frowned in concentration. Maria was about to answer back when she noticed the yuki-onna’s expression.
“Um. Is she alright?”
Dawn giggled. “Yes. She’s just scanning my memories.”
The lamia blinked. “Oh…I…” She blinked some more. “Is that…? Are you allowing that?”
She shrugged. “It’s complicated. Our minds are intertwined but the threads that make up those minds are still distinct from each other. I can do the same for her vault of memories.” She waved dismissively. “But there’s almost too much to sift through.” She smirked. “She’s been alive a lot longer than I have.”
Maria lifted a claw. “But I thought you were both dead.”
Dawn chuckled. “Like I said, it’s complicated.”
The child wanted to follow-up but Kuro smiled and nodded. “Yes. The Matrix. To borrow from the character Morpheus…” She faced Maria directly. “‘Your mind makes it real’.”
Maria paused her current train of thought and attempted to regain the previous subject’s track. “Ah. Okay.” She nodded. “I should probably watch that to get the full context.”
Dawn nodded. “Our host has a copy. I’m sure he’d allow you to view it.”
She pumped a fist. “That’s warm.”
The elder women blinked and glanced at each other.
“What?” She lifted her hands apart. “That’s what we say when we hear something we like.”
Dawn snorted, placed a hand on her forehead and closed her eyes. “Right, poikilotherms would say that.”
Maria blinked. “Well yeah.” She narrowed her eyes. “What do you say?”
Dawn ignored the question. “Never mind.” She shook her head. “Anyways, I should get back to reality. I think our centaur guest just trotted in.” She waved good bye. “Laters.” And then she winked out of existence.
For a moment, Maria felt utterly alone.
Kuro tilted her head. “Is something troubling you, child?”
She hugged herself and turned away. “I don’t…the way she just…disappeared like that.”
Kuro nodded. “Breaks the immersion, doesn’t it.”
The child agreed silently. “I…I wish my sisters could be here.”
The yuki-onna shook her head slowly. “Can’t risk it. Not yet.”
Maria pivoted back and held her hands on her hips. “Why not?” She demanded.
Kuro took a moment to regard the guest in her head. “It’s a lack of focus issue. Mine and Dawn’s minds are anchored to this body. But yours is anchored to your own. Drawing your mind into my world requires concentration and your willing consent.” She pointed at the lamia. “In a way, we are making this world together.”
Maria nodded. “My mind makes it real.”
“Yes, but the mind is a tricky thing.” She held up a pair of fingers. “In general terms there are two major parts: The conscious and unconscious mind.” She folded one finger down. “You consciously allow yourself to experience this world. That allows me to concentrate and trick your subconscious, which is constantly trying to get back to reality.”
Maria scrunched her forehead. “But I don’t want to go back to reality.”
Kuro nodded. “No, but your subconscious does. That’s why you almost faded out yourself when Dawn left.”
She reared her head. “I did?”
The yuki-onna nodded. “Yes. There’s a literary term known as ‘suspension of disbelief’. You, my audience, hold back the critical analysis of this unreal world in order to enjoy it.” She lifted a finger. “But if something happens that reminds you that it’s all an illusion…”
Maria frowned, thinking. “…then it’s a lie. And I don’t like being lied to.”
“Precisely.” Kuro folded her hands. “At that point your conscious and unconscious minds are synchronized in their rejection.”
Silence stretched on. Maria dropped her hands and faced Kuro. “Are you sure there’s no way you can’t bring in my sisters?”
She paused and placed a finger on her chin. “If I was just allowed to create my wonderland while someone or something else maintained the mental connections… I suppose it’s possible.” A pause. “I’d need some device or a true telepath to pull that off without overtaxing myself.”
Maria blinked. “Oh, Is this..painful or stressing you?”
The yuki-onna chuckled. “No child, I quite enjoy this mental exercise.” She kept her grin. “But this phenomena is not natural for yuki-onnas or humans. Even I do not know the full limitations or capabilities of this interaction.” She held up a finger. “But my fear is that…because I won’t be able to devote my attention to more than one mind, the illusion will break down and you and your sisters will reject it.”
Maria hummed. “I suppose I’ll just have to enjoy it myself then.” She turned away and leaned down, in fact she almost collapsed forward. Hers hands sunk into the snow and propped up her torso.
The yuki-onna started. “Maria? Are you..?” She approached quickly. Her geta barely scraped the snow she walked above.
The lamia wasn’t moving. “Maria! What is wro-“
The sneaky echidna grinned viciously and spun around in a flash. “Snow fight!” She announced and released a handful of packed snow. The projectile impacted square on Kuro’s belly and partially exploded into frozen dust.
“Guh!” Kuro exclaimed and glanced down in surprise at her kimono, which sported a fresh white blotch.
“Hehehaha!” The lamia darted away and scooped up another handful.
Kuro narrowed her eyes. “Foolish.” She targeted the mischievous snake. “Very foolish.” She raised a hand. Six points in front of her sucked in snow from the ground and the air, forming a half dozen perfect snowballs. “You should know a saying of my people.” She tilted her wrist back, the floating spheres poised in the air. “‘Vengeance is a dish’.” Her hand flicked down. “‘Best served cold’.”
The six projectiles launched at the lamia. She placed her forearms in front of her as a shield and laughed excitedly as the balls impacted and exploded.
Maria grinned and dove sideways into the snow. She gathered up another handful in each and fired them off. They exploded into snow shrapnel off the yuki-onna’s legs.
Kuro retaliated with another barrage of snowballs, but the lamia lashed her tail like a whip and batted all six away.
“Hmm.” Kuro grinned. “Very good.” She raised her whole arm. “But can you parry this?” At a point half her own height above her head, snow compacted. This time it took in the substance from a large radius around her, forming a sphere of unblemished white a full meter wide.
“Oh no.” Maria stared at the gravity defying mass. Kuro smirked.
She flicked her fingers down. The cannonball of rime flew. Maria ducked and lay flat on the ground. A massive explosion of ice and snow particles impacted her side and caked most of her left side like frosting.
The echidna brushed herself off and scooped up another snowball. “Not done yet!” She announced and threw it defiantly. It impacted on the yuki-onna’s arm, leaving another blemish.
Kuro shook her head lightly. “Foolish child. This is my world. I command it.” She raised both arms and clapped her hands above her head. “Time for an avalanche.”
Maria blinked and reared her head. “Avalanche? There’s no mountains around…here…oh goddess.” An icy claw gripped her heart.
As she watched in horror, the very landscape warped, miles in the distance. The horizon curled up into the sky like a magazine being rolled up. The previously dormant carpet of snow adjusted to the shift and broke in waves and waves of icy debris. The waves gathered as it ran down the slope, reinforcing themselves as they advanced with the fury of a storm god.
A colossal tide of white crashed down the impossibly twisted earth with a howling roar of an army of enraged gigantes.
“Ohgoddessohgoddessohgoddess!” Maria tried to sprint away, to outrun nature’s fury. She looked back an instant and was completely consumed by the thundering wave of snow and ice.
The tsunami rolled on to the other horizon.
Silence pervaded the wonderland.
And walked over the freshly destroyed landscape.
At a slightly curved mound of snow she waited.
A golden limb punched out and broke the surface. It retracted and punched again, removing more snow from a deep pit. The young lamia crawled out onto the surface, panting and laughing.
“Hehe hahaha.” She threw back her snow disheveled hair. “What a rush!”
The yuki-onna shook her head, bemused. “A thrill chasing echidna…I probably should have guessed.”
Maria grinned wide and pumped her fists. “Let’s do that again.”
Kuro regarded the enthusiastic child. “How do you even know about snowball fights?”
“Oh.” Maria waved a hand. “I heard some of my papas talk about thing’s they miss from the countries they come from.” She scooped up a handful of snow. “I remember them talking about this stuff.” She pumped a fist again. “So can we do it again?”
“Hmm. How about something a little different?” Kuro suggested with a tap of a finger by her mouth. The lamia’s face lit up with interest. “Want to try surfing an avalanche?”
Maria’s eyes couldn’t get any wider. “You can do that!?”
Kuro smirked. “You can do almost anything in my wonderland.” She snapped her fingers.
An instant later they were both staring down a steep frosty mountainside. Maria pivoted around and gaped at an infinitely ascending glacier. She literally couldn’t see the top.
Kuro stepped forward and hefted a red and black board that was easily twice as tall as her. “You might need this.”
Maria gripped the board with both hands. “Uh…I’ve never been surfing. How do I…?”
The yuki-onna just smirked again. “Might want to figure it out fast.” She snapped her fingers again. “‘Cause here it comes.”
The now familiar rumbling of ice and snow filled the air. A gathering wave of unrelenting hoarfrost careened down the cliff above them.
Maria spun, slammed the board to the ground and hopped on it. She leaned down and dug her claws in to propel her ahead of the coming avalanche. “Oh goddess, oh goddess, oh goddess!”
The wave crashed and flung the board and its rider into the air. The terrified echidna clung to it like a life raft and encased her whole tail around it.
As gravity reasserted over her, she realized her mistake. “Oh no!”
With milliseconds to spare she unwrapped her tail from the board and she interposed it below to shield the impact. The board bounced once and then slid over the raging ice.
“Whoaaa! Waaahhhaha! Whoaaaa!”
Maria set her tail and leaned up. She spread her arms out like she’d seen in video’s of humans surfing the ocean and tried to balance her weight to keep the board semi-parallel to the rush of rime mere inches from her scales.
“This is awesooome!” She shouted and flowed with the simulated natural disaster. Her figure disappeared into the distance.
Kuro merely smiled to herself.
“Hey. Can I ask you something?”
Her partner partially materialized at her side. She turned and faced a half portion of Dawn. Only her body from the waist up was visible.
“Yes. I have all the time for you dear.” She answered. “What do you want to know?”
“I want to ask you a couple things about centaur culture.”
Thanks for reading.