Well, it’s been far, far too long, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. But things happen and next thing you know, several months have gone by. On top of that, these next few chapters were a literal Hell to write. It’s a wonder that I have any hair left. But when you have three years worth of notes to organize coherently and there is a lot of moving parts that you want to get just right, that tends to happen.
Also, at some point in the future I plan on uploading this story to archiveofourown.org. So if something ever happens to the story here, you can find it on there.
And RIP MGEWiki. What happened to it was fucking bullshit.
Anyway, here it is.
Almost two weeks had gone by since I came back home to Veina. Of course I’m using the term ‘home’ pretty loosely, so let’s call it a ‘home away from home’. Working most of the day in the shop, performing a little rehab on my injuries, coming home to a hot, hungry, nymphomaniac Demon with the intent on ‘parallel parking’ with me every night.
Just the stuff I’ve come to refer to as “normal”.
Since my return, Veina had now taken a deeper interest in my work and took it upon herself to become a personal investor in my all-so mighty crusade. We’re not just talking cash, we’re talking supplies, too. With a seemingly infinite wallet and generosity to match, Veina restocked my collection of potions and even gave me plenty of electrically-charged hair from a Raiju. The energy in those hairs effectively upgraded my crude generator, providing much more ample power for my tools to work with. If that wasn’t enough, she’d often give me ‘gifts’ in the form of ingredients from various mamono or some medieval weaponry. Anything that might be of use to me. The result was a halfway decent workshop with better tools, better resources, and greater potential for a little R&D.
All was not rosy, however. I’m sure you folks are wondering what happened with my portal situation. Well, my prospects on that front were flatter than a three day old can of Rolling Rock. Veina did her best to improve my utilities, but unfortunately for both of us, the kind of sophisticated technology needed to generate an interdimensional portal was a far cry from the fragmented tech I’d gathered. I didn’t even have the resources to locate a portal, much less generate one. The only thing I once had was that tracking device that I’d threw off somewhere in Wonderland. I almost kicked myself for ditching it, but that device was too shit-fried to salvage anything out of it, other than a depressing paper-weight.
In terms of my little anxiety attack a few weeks back, there hadn’t been another one since, at least not nearly as bad. Even mild peace of mind was most welcome in the time that I was using to rehab my body from the injuries it sustained in my campaign run. For a brief time, however, there was a period where I regularly had incohesive nightmares. While I couldn’t describe the specifics of them, they were troubling enough that’d I wake up in a cold sweat. Of course this caught Veina’s eye and she made sure to be my landing pad each time I dropped back into reality, which was appreciated by yours truly. Her comfort proved effective as the nightmares gradually began to disappear. What a relief.
Back in the present day, my biggest worry was about how I was going to hunt for Skarliks. Hell, worrying about them was pretty much my default job by now, so you can file that bullet-point in the “normal” category. But at least there were no other emotional breakdowns. I didn’t know what caused it before, and I think I’d rather suck on the end of a bottle than try to figure out what did cause it. Something tells me things that it’s simpler not knowing.
After another work day at the shop, I arrived back at my apartment. Veina was in the living room standing in a fencing pose. In her hand, she held her “personal matters” sword, as she put it. Like her rapier, this sword was detailed with similar crests, colors, and patterns to match the motif of her outfit. Unlike her rapier, however, was the fact that this sword was wider, longer, and much more fierce. Running along its shining blade, guard, and other parts were curving spikes and jagged edges. Apparently, Veina subscribed to the idea of a weapon making a statement before it turns your asshole inside out. A form of silent trash-talking, if you will.
Across from her was, well, let’s just call it a ‘dummy’. Simple in its structure, the thing must have been made from sticks and straw in a modest set of armor to resemble a knight, complete with a sword and shield combo. From the looks of it, it had been through Hell a few times, and I know the Demon who sent it there.
Veina stood with her back to me, poised and locked onto her target with deadly, unwavering focus despite my entrance. With blinding speed, she elegantly spun, arcing her sword at her target in a perfect crescent before going motionless again. However, the dummy hadn’t shifted an inch. If I didn’t seen her move, I’d have assumed nothing happened. I was just about to utter “You missed”, before I noticed the dummy’s head slowly slide off the top and crash onto the floor.
Killing never looked so sexy.
Veina turned to me. Her stone cold face twisted into a confident and comforting smirk. And lusty, let’s not forget that there was lust was almost always mixed into her expression in some form.
There wasn’t much point in saying ‘hello’. This Demon could smell me half a mile away.
In truth, I didn’t see Veina as an intruder in my life anymore. Sure, there was the whole chastity thing with me, but I knew that I could lean on her when I needed to; in an emotional sense of course. Any bad day in the shop tends to bring down one’s spirits… after the filthy swearing and physical frustration, of course. But by the time late evening rolled around, Veina’s charm and level-headedness always managed to lift me out of any funk I was in. Knowing how I was, that’s pretty damn impressive on her part.
Besides, name one dick-itching, sack of man-meat that isn’t looking for a strip show as soon as he gets out of work. And here was a call girl that even got delivered to my house every day. Fuck me running. If my spirits didn’t ‘lift’, something else sure as hell would.
All in all, Veina was rapidly closing the gap between herself and a bottle of booze as the best intoxicating stress relief. Shit, to think that I only experienced a tiny fraction of the kind of possibilities that Veina had to offer. Booze may yet be dethroned.
Mysteriously, for almost a week, Veina would be periodically absent when I arrived home at my usual time. Not even a note was left behind. What kind of fucked up sense does that make? Realizing before how Veina was always on standby whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on, imagine how curious I was to not have Veina there waiting to ‘pick me up’ and give me a place to crash… onto. If you had a dirty enough mind, you’d see what a lame joke that was.
But regardless, Veina made it very clear that I was the brightest spot of her day and, in some respects, she may have been the brightest spot in my day, as well. When I returned from that misadventure, I told her that I missed her. Well, that wasn’t just butterflies in my stomach, because I was kind of disappointed whenever she wasn’t there to greet me. It was part of what I’d come to call “home”. It wouldn’t be until later in the evening when Veina would pop in through one of her portals. And while she would instantly be delighted as ever to see me again, I noticed a slight change in her demeanor. Unbenounced to her, those gorgeous red peepers always divulged the discontent plaguing her mind. Far from the point of tears, but something was up with my demonic roommate.
Of course I’d never get anything out of her. She’d always just pass it off as nothing; “business matters” as she put it. If I kept pressing, she’d just transition from the subject using her finely sharpened carnality to curve the conversation; emphasis on the ‘curve’. Hard to focus on anything else when that was literally shoved in your face. As incredible as it may have sounded, I chose not to dwell on business matters. Imagine that.
“What’s the score?” I remarked. Veina chuckled knowingly in response as her sword vanished in a purple light.
Then she strutted towards me. Nope, that aw-inspiring strut of hers hadn’t gotten stale yet. Anyway, it took almost a week, but Veina’s gusto eventually surfaced again and we did inevitably slip back into our little game of American handball. My wall of snarky quips against her hard-hitting eroticism. Winner take all.
“Let’s see, it’s been…” Veina playfully pondered. “oh yes, hours since we last met, my love. Far too long since our last… touch”. That last word rolled out of her mouth in a torrent of depravity. As she reached me, she leaned in. Her lips going for a blitz and sacking me right on the mouth.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Veina had made a habit of locking our lips together every time I came home. She liked to get to my mouth before the bottle did.
As usual, kissing Veina gave me a tsunami-level surge that could reduce a man to a quivering mass if held too long. In fact, I actually think the experience got better each time we locked up; magic immunity or not. Her hot breath and sizzling skin mixed with the rich scent of frankincense to create a sensation that sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. Nevermind the fact that the saucy little devil enjoyed putting a level of pizzazz into it to make the experience more “immersive”. Besides the pleasurable moans, her delicate hands held and massaged my neck and cheeks which then upscaled my blood flow several beats. Afterwards, the sweet taste of her inviting lips seem to stay on mine all day long. Always serving as a reminder…
The lush pheromones pouring out of Veina threatened to overpower me, so I had to dig my hands into my pockets just to keep them off of her. Shit, I was lucky enough to have regained my self control that first time, and I didn’t want to try my luck again.
But why did I allow her to keep kissing me? Well, why do guys like tits? I don’t know, it feels good. It’s just part of the pre-programming of being a guy. Just being near a sexy chick gets us fired up. Consider it a friendlier version of that French ‘La Bise’ greeting, that’s all.
At long last, it stopped. I say “long” because three seconds with Veina was like a paid vacation at the Copacabana, right down to the Hindenburg-sized hangover. The first step to recovery was always to fortify my buckling legs to hold me up. My mind would take a moment to refresh, but once it did, I was always met with Veina’s sultry but smug kisser. She made no attempt to hide how much she basked in the sensual thrill of having overwhelmed me like a prude.
It was exhilarating, but my inner competitiveness had something to say about it.
“Welcome home, my love” she purred, licking my saliva off her lips.
“Give me a second…” I gasped as I recovered from the stimulation. “Lucky for you that I didn’t have grease all over my face”
Veina was undeterred. “Let me worry about that. All you have to do is enjoy it. I like to think of it as my way of softening any bad news you might have”
I chuckled quietly. I never thought of Veina softening anything when it came to me.
“So what’s new with you?” I chatted, now composed enough to continue.
“Meeting new and interesting people. And you?”
“Me” I shrugged. “Experimentation is a tough game. You win some, you lose some. For me, it’s mostly the latter”
Veina played her fingers around my stomach, just above the belt. “Do I detect some bad news that hasn’t been softened yet?” she gleamed. Her tail pulled me by the waist and smashed her breasts into my chest even harder. Presumable for a second dose.
“Uh, I’d better not. I’ve got to stay sober so I can drive”
“Drive? Sounds like you have plans for this evening”
“You could call it that. Of course, we could spend the evening playing ‘sinful insinuations’, or we could go out for a bite to eat. I feel like having something other than leftovers”
“I see. You desire something ‘fresh'” Veina surmised as she studied me.
Uh-oh, now I did it. Considering that most nights Veina had prepared me a meal just short of a gourmet, maybe I shouldn’t come across as a douchebag
“Now, don’t get too broken up over it” I ribbed her. “There’s nothing wrong with those din-dins of yours or the silver platter that you serve them on. In fact, I quite enjoy them. I just have a hankering for something a little more unhealthy. And if I’m going to gorge myself on something, I assume that you’d want to tag along and make sure that no one gorges themselves on me, right?”
I knew how territorial Veina could be and I wanted the condescending grin across my face to tell her that. Hey, in a battle of wits, I took no prisoners.
Veina planted her hands on her hips and squinted at me; frown beginning to take form. “Not so fast, Jason. Let’s make something clear”
“Yeah?” I needled as I leaned my cheeky face toward her.
“Jason… are you going to want an unhealthy dessert after that meal?” she smirked while dropping her facade.
“Naturally” I answered her smirk with one of my own. “As I always say, ‘If you’re going to dig in, then dig deep'”
“Oh, I’ll remember that, my love…” Veina cooed, her legs spreading ever so slightly as one of her fingers played with the strap of her hellaciously hot bikini bottom. Her eyes sparking with that blood-heating flair while her immoral smile’s overpowered my own grin.
“Behave yourself, ‘Pancakes’. There are a lot more meals in this town than just blueberry pie. Now let’s go. I’m starving” I beckoned her with me as I stepped out the door.
“So am I!” I heard her call behind me.
“Save the jokes until after I’m drunk” I answered sarcastically. “Are you coming or not!?”
Here we go. A night out with Veina. If I play my cards right, then tonight won’t escalate beyond simply a “good time”. Fingers crossed.
Me and my stunning escort chose “The Snuggling Oni” as the ‘fine establishment’ for us to patronize. Inside, you had a bunch of roundtables sloppily organized into rows and columns with a busy bar on the left. By “busy” I meant that there wasn’t too many mamono seated at it. If it was a slow night, you’d have a row of mamono waiting there until they snagged a date. Judging by the amount of tables that still needed to be cleared of used dishes, my guess is that the waitresses were scoring tonight, as well. Finally, overlooking all of this, was a large wooden stage; torn curtain and all. The three member Ogre band sat on it, bored out of their minds as they waited for their cue.
Okay, it wasn’t exactly like dining at Le Meurice, but it was the best place that Vallick had to offer in terms of classy restaurants. Credit where credit is due, they had an actual carpet on the floor, tablecloths on the tables, and silverware that had seen soap more than once. Plus, believe it or not, they didn’t have live pornography going on right in from of the dining patrons… No, they were good enough to keep that kind of nasty action one room over from ours. How considerate of them, right? The entertainment committee wouldn’t take kindly to being upstaged.
After we were seated, we were then served by a pair of spicy Succubi, whose tight and skimpy wardrobes made the place feel akin to a nightclub in the red-light district rather a restaurant. On that note, every time I went out in public with the ravishing Veina at my side, I felt like a fur-sweating pimp; but I digress. I survived that cesspool Haybrew, so this place was a couple steps up. Hell, the Succubi hadn’t gone topless yet, which for their species, is pretty rare. Funny enough, the Succubi seem to be on their best behavior around me. Thanks Veina. Her laid-back, lavish attitude had painted a clear picture of her reputation around these parts. She was the only woman I knew of that could impose fear onto other girls through benevolence. There might even be some secret mamono signals flying under my radar.
I ordered a nice juicy steak while Veina ordered a pair of chicken wings. Her first choice would’ve been a thick, boiled sausage, go figure, but it wasn’t on the menu. Nevertheless, it was good quality food. And we’re talking real food, unlike the Dairy Queen fever-dream meals in Wonderland. Those tasted great on the way down, but you need some sandpaper on hand when it comes out the other end.
We did get some dessert though; syrup covered apples on a stick. You’ve got to love healthy food made unhealthy, especially when it’s on the house. Veina’s name carries all kinds of perks.
As I found out, that stage wasn’t just for sappy, romantic band music. Nah, it was for high quality entertainment; like stand-up comedy. Yep, you heard that right. Stand-up comedy. Fittingly, a Bogie came cartwheeling out into the spotlight in a boisterous fashion. No dead-pan humor in this act, but you could bet your ass to ‘shits-ville’ that there was going to be humor as dirty as a CEO’s pocketbook. Though in all fairness, most of the audience was mamono, so she was playing to the right audience.
The show was pretty much what you’d expect from a Bogie. She may have had her juggling and acrobatics, both loaded with fan service, but her main attraction was her sexual jokes. Accompanying that was a heavy dose of childish voices and sound effects. And let’s not forget the props; she was loaded with them. None of them wasted and none of them modest. Teenagers looked like nuns compared to her imagination.
I’ll think twice next time I call my jokes lame.
You know, it occurs to me that Bogies have been known to entertain kids as well. That raises a few questions when they’re invited to a birthday party, and even more questions about who invited them. If a male clown was telling these kinds of jokes to children, then authorities would have his seltzer-soaked ass on the ‘sexual predators’ list faster than you could say “balloon in my pants”. So if this Bogie targets ignorant children, then wouldn’t she be… wait, most mamono in this world could be pinned on the ‘sexual predators’ list, so that’s a pointless argument.
Still, I chuckled more than once. As immature as her show was, Veina and I found it amusing enough. Also, I found that Veina wasn’t too bad at making some jokes of her own. Some of my verbal zest must have started rubbing off on her, to which there was no cure. By the end, we both gave her a hand at the end to which the clown pranced off to give her hubby a ‘hand’. Hey, that was one of her jokes, not mine.
By the time it was dark, we left the restaurant and headed home; Veina managing the bill, as usual. We chatted amongst each other, quoting our favorite jokes like you’re supposed to do after a good comedy. Overall, it was just a simple night out; nothing more, nothing less.
We arrived back at the apartment, chit-chatting away before I stumbled over the decapitated head of Veina’s Order “dummy”. Luckily, I caught myself before I fell flat on my ass.
“You forgot to clean up your toys, girl. Too much more of this, and and people will wonder where we hid the dead body” I joked as I picked up the helmet and head.
“Indeed, my love. Let me take care of that”. Veina took the head and helmet from my hands and inspected the area underneath where her blade had severed through. “See? Perfect” she boasted with a coy leer on her demeanor.
“So? It’s not too hard to chop through a couple of sticks and straw” I challenged her.
“I’m referring to the fact that only the neck was cut, not the helmet”
“Oh really? Only the neck? Let me see that thing” I pulled the helmet from her hands.
I called bullshit on her but, wow, she was right. The bottom of the helmet didn’t have a single mark on it, unlike the neck.
“No magic?” I puzzled.
“No magic, I assure you” she confirmed.
“How? What’s the trick?”
“No trick, just careful precision. My blade slid perfectly through the space between the helmet’s bevor and the gorget. Thus, bypassing any steel and piercing only the neck”
Well damn… Veina put the ‘kill’ in ‘killer looks’.
I pursed my lips in defeat and glanced at Veina, who snickered quietly.
“Such a feat is not so easy. Would you care to try?”
And humiliate myself? I think not.
“I chose marksmanship over fencing when in college. So let’s just assume I failed and move on” I huffed.
“It’s okay, my love. It hardly has any effect on your raw… magnetism” she hummed with delightful lewdness as she looked me over.
Thoroughly undressing me with her imagination… done.
“Are you over compensating for something or do you just like to show off?” I teased her.
“Neither, I prefer to keep my skills honed” she replied with a twirl of her sword.
“Are you expecting someone to muscle in on your territory in the near future?” I asked. To me, it made sense for a commander to be ready in case any Order patrols stepped on her tail.
“In a way, yes. I can hardly stand by as your Skarlik ‘friends’ threaten your life, so I must be prepared. However, since you want to keep your operations secretive, I can’t bring my forces into combat and risk raising the Maou’s suspicions. Therefore, I must help you in secret. But when you find your elusive quarry, I assure you that you will not fight alone”. Veina took the helmet from my hands and set it on top of her practice dummy. She then began teleporting it away into her bright-purple cloud storage.
Meanwhile, I quietly choke up as my body went tense. Faceless images of war and anguish in my mind suddenly struck terror into me. A stark reminder of the hell that was waiting in my future.
This was somewhat new for me. Not that I was absolutely fearless, but a snide son of a bitch like me usually led the campaign against the Skarliks with hostility, rather than fear. They were simply the biggest goddamn cockroach that needed squashing with prejustice. So why, all of the sudden, did I dread the next encounter with them? Okay, I never looked forward to dealing with them, but now I was starting to feel like a chicken-shit.
I even wondered if I should abandon my mission and just hope for the best…
All of this ran through my head in the mere seconds it took for Veina to magic-away the dummy and turn back toward me.
“It’s been quite an eventful night, and late too. Would you care to turn in?” she posed.
“Uhh… n-no, not yet. I need to make some plans for a new project for tomorrow. Just for a bit” I awkwardly stuttered, trying and failing to hide all of the turmoil going on in my head. Because that was it. The levity of the night had gone up in smoke, as far as I was concerned.
You know, I think I just had a mini panic attack.
“Are you feeling alright, my love?” Veina’s perky spirit took a little downturn as she noticed my change in attitude. So I tried to deflect her suspicion.
“No, I just need to wind down with some peace and quiet. My ears are still ringing from all the noise in that place”
“Very well. Do as you wish. I haven’t had a chance today to do some cleaning”
The rest of the evening was pretty quiet, all things considered. My joking mood had disappeared along with any desire to chit-chat. I actually didn’t feel like making any plans for tomorrow. It was just a cover-up to keep her from probing too much. And it gave me a reason to sort things out in my head undisturbed.
But almost an hour had gone and I hadn’t felt any better. Instead of figuring out what was needling me, my mind followed Veina as she tidied up the apartment. I didn’t stare at her, but I always found myself aware of exactly what she was doing.
Whenever I would occasionally lock eyes with her, she would give me that oh so sultry look. Effortlessly flaunting her desirability that no human could match. I returned a half smile, but that was all I could do. The little soldier in my pants didn’t even stir. That’s how troubled I was. Because as salivating a sight as she was, I wasn’t looking at how sexy she was. It was something else that had my interest. Peculiar, I know.
Without many other choices, I eventually chose to go to bed with Veina right behind me. I hoped that sleep would either kill my restlessness or give me a clear answer in the morning.
But boy I was wrong.
I had another dream, or rather a nightmare. But this one I could describe. Standing alone and unarmed in the middle of war-torn rubble, I took in the massacre around me. There was no Skarlik present, however, there was a sea of hundreds of dead mamono laid about. Their faces were stuck in an agonizing scream as their deep-fried bodies almost blended in with the smoldering debris of the area. Reminded me of a Holocaust video.
Amidst this carnage were five, or so, mamono piled together. They weren’t burned, but they were a bloody mess. Even then, I did recognize the girl on the top…
It was Veina. Gaping wounds covering her once gorgeous figure with her arm desperately outstretched, seemingly to me. Her eyes open but seeing nothing. No hint of that enchanting red glow that I’d come to know so well. The horrifying shock of the display before me had me screaming bloody murder before I even looked at the bodies underneath her.
That was when I awoke with a sharp gasp. I had been asleep for about three hours, give or take. My breath was short, my forehead was drowning in sweat, and my thoughts jumbled with confusion. Once I realized that it was all a dream, my attention turned toward the peaceful Demon spooning me in her sleep. She began to stir because of my jittering, but I stopped soon enough for her to doze back off.
Veina slipped back into sleep, but I had woken up; holy pill-popping Popeye, I had woken up. And not just from sleep. I had woken up to a cruel, harsh realization. The Skarliks, that Succubus, my panic attacks; all of it came together to form the truth. A truth that, deep down, I probably knew all the time but I just willingly ignored it.
I was a fool. A big, weak, idiotic, shortsighted, blind dumbass, is more like it. This situation, between me and Veina, it’s gone way, way too far. It’s actually fucking pathetic that it took me this long to realize that I’d fallen into a ‘cycle’, of sorts, with Veina. A comfortable cycle. So comfortable that I took for granted what this cycle would inevitably lead to once the next portal had to be dealt with.
What did you expect, moron? After you ran out on her? Did you think she’d just be at the sideline cheering you on? Of course she would want to become your squadmate. Wherever I went, she would be right next to me. Risking her life for mine. Fighting for what she cared about.
Just like that Succubus did, right? And how did that turn out for her? Does that nightmare need to become a reality before you wise up? Because it just might come down to that. Down to Veina’s life.
Now the stakes in this deadly game had been doubled.
But the question remains. How the hell did we get to this point?
Because… let’s just call it ‘war agony’. The guilt and anxiety of losing track of the Skarliks was like a railroad spike jackhammering its way into my skull. I knew I was stuck, and I had no solution to speak of. Of course, with things not going my way, I needed some emotional support; subconsciously, if anything. And Veina just so happened to be the only one around to comfort me during my moment of weakness; too damn much comfort.
Call it “addiction”, call it “dependence”, call it whatever you want. The point is, realizing how relieved I’d become each night I’d come home to Veina, I knew I had it. For the record, Veina and I still considered each other ‘unexplored territory’, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t hooked on her in terms of coping with my hardships. I mean, each time we met, she gladly planted her lips to mine with the most passionate and exhilarating kiss that my testicles had ever felt. I stood there, took it, and loved every second of it, for fuck’s sake. Yeah, I’d call that being drunk on her emotionally. Thus, her awe-inspiring charm tricked me into believing that things were okay and I could enjoy myself a little bit. Merely a friendly greeting, I thought. But even a little bit of Veina’s delights had made me lose track of my top priorities; Skarliks and Earth.
Well, this was my wake up call; the first and only. This party was officially over. Because as much as she tried to assure me that everything would work out, I now remembered that it wouldn’t. I can’t afford to forget that again. And I remembered why Veina wasn’t supposed to become a factor in this conflict. As far as I was concerned, the only ones that this battle should end badly for were the Skarliks… or me.
So now, I’d have remove her somehow. I didn’t give a fuck if that was considered selfish on my part, that’s the way I wanted it. My private little war with less people to worry about. The only blood I needed on my hands was my own. One dead mamono was too much already.
I should have kicked Veina out that first night we met. Gave her the quick brush-off and warned her not to come back. Sure, it would have been dickish, but I knew how complicated things could get with a mamono, even if our feelings were not mutual. Plus, it would have stopped this whole thing a lot sooner. And yet… I didn’t; like a spineless dipshit. Now I have a huge problem to deal with.
With guilt weighing down on me more and more, I tried to unravel myself from Veina’s embrace and scoot away to the other side of the bed. But the snoozing Demon instinctually crawled after me and tied me up even tighter than before. She pleasantly moaned with a sigh while nuzzling my chest.
A huge problem, indeed…
In the morning, I was seeing things really clearly. My ‘time off’ with Veina had turned me too soft for the hardships ahead, which meant that I had to make a choice. It was time to sort my shit out and get my priorities straight, so that’s what I did. Once again, there was only two things that mattered to me: finding the Skarliks and neutralizing them before they did damage to anyone; myself excluded. And also amass as much technology as I could from them. It was my sole job and my responsibility.
Frankly, I felt that I hadn’t been working hard enough. Crazy thought? Yup, it seems that way but I didn’t care. Fear was behind the wheel now. So from that point on, I began devoting as much time in my workshop as I could. Leisure time, lunch time, sleep, all of it would go into my experiments. Even without the proper technology, I felt it was time for an overhaul.
Over the past few days, I’d left for my shop extra early and stayed out late. My goal at this point was to minimize my time at the apartment. That way I could sort of lay the groundwork to remove Veina from the equation. But everyone has to eat and sleep eventually, so the only I returned when necessary.
On one night, I arrived back at the apartment. As you may have guessed, not spending too much time with Veina at the apartment only ramped up her enthusiasm when she greeted me.
“Why hello, my love. At long last, we come together” she beamed with ravenous arousal. Instead of sensuously strutting her way over, she trotted like an eager little beaver right up to me. Lips loaded with a big wet one.
As usual, she reached for my face to pull me in. And each time, I, by sheer willpower, deflected her embrace and opted to just pat her arm. A low-key, “Hey there” is all that escaped my lips. Then I walked past her.
“Is something wrong, my love?” she asked, quick to catch up with me this time.
“What makes you say that?” I replied and sucked in a breath.
“There hasn’t been an intimate exchange between us for several days. Even your unique form of joviality has been absent. Tell me why” she pleaded, sounding concerned but also like she was starving for some attention.
“Nothing. I, I-I just don’t feeling like kissing, alright?” I lied as I dared not look her in the eye for too long.
“You don’t, hmm? You enjoyed it before, did you not?” Just from her voice, I could tell, she was flaring up her lust even more to entice me.
Boy was she right.
“Look, I’m just getting a little sick. And I don’t want to give it to you, that’s all”
A lie… but only from a certain point of view.
“Oh, I don’t mind. Exchanging a kiss with you far outweighs the effects of any paltry virus”
“No, you don’t need to get sick too. We’ll just have to keep some distance”
I felt her hand lovingly grip my shoulder. “If you are really that ill, then it’s my duty to bring you back to health” she mewed. “Is there anything you want me to serve?”
“That’s okay” I stepped away from her. “I’ll be alright in a few days. So let’s just relax for the evening”
I caught Veina’s face. Her lustful grin didn’t falter but her eyes narrowed slightly as she studied me. While not overtly obvious, she seemed to be batting something around in her mind.
“Very well, my love. Another night in” she sighed and headed off to retrieve dinner.
It occurs to me that she might be beginning to suspect something was up. Not that it could have been that hard to detect, anyway. Did I have a plan on how to keep putting her off? No. I’m playing it by ear.
For the rest of the night, Veina did most of the talking. She performed a little show-and-tell with the collectibles she’d acquired in her day job. Lots of pillows, vases, dishes, and other trinkets that she’d use to fancy up the apartment. Not that they had much interest to me. All I could muster up was a cheap compliment here or there. I may have come across as a icy-veined jerk, but I was torn up inside. You think it was easy to keep my rising anxiety from her? Like hell it was easy. There was nothing more that I wanted than to accept some free comfort from someone who meant well. But I had to do this. Slowly but surely, I had to remove her from this mess of mine. It was for her own damn good.
Over a week had gone by. In that time, I’d froze Veina out pretty good. Each evening consisted of me gobbling up her meals, blowing off her chit-chat like an asshole, and sketching out my plans for the next day before going to bed. I could only imagine how dejected Veina must have felt each time she unsuccessfully tried to evoke some emotion out of me rather than gloom. Maybe she would start to feel as shitty as I do.
As far as my work in the shop goes, it was just as unhealthy as any hysteria-driven obsession usually is. Long hours, splitting headaches, and no satisfaction. Outside of restocking on weaponry, I had nothing substantial to show for my efforts. Thus, you can imagine my mood knowing that all the hard-running that I’d done over the past week hadn’t even gotten me out of the gate yet.
It was just another strenuous day in the workshop when, out of the blue, Veina came to visit me.
“Greetings, my love” the Demon addressed me as she formally walked in through the front door, rather than teleporting in.
“Uhh, hi” I replied with mild shock. It was always a little awkward to have Veina in the shop with me. On top of the shameless distraction on her part, I kept my guard up for some reason. Like I was hiding secrets… which I was. But now with my new-found isolation, I had a lot more secrets than usual, so this development was not exactly welcomed. “You don’t usually come by during the day”
“I’m aware of that. However, since you’ve been spending so little time with me at our abode lately, I’d thought I check if there was any trouble that I should know about. So I ask you again… Is there something wrong, Jason?” Veina surmised. The look she gave me out of the corner of her eye carried a bluntness that transcended all uncertain terms.
Yup, I was right about her suspecting something was up. It was easy to see this coming, but I chose to do nothing.
“Well, all my experiments to find the Skarliks went more belly-up than a beached-whale. So outside of the panic that’s been setting in, I’d say things are mediocre” I answered with some harsh bluntness of my own.
“Mm-hm” she accepted with a nod. “So none of your trials have proven fruitful, have they?”
“Of course not. No matter how much time I put into that big bastard next to you, it still does fuck all” I added as Veina leaned on the large tarp-covered generator that I dragged back a long time ago.
“May I ask what it is?”
“Nothing that I need you worrying about. Without the right tools, it’s nothing but a hopeless dream. Something that’ll have to be left to my imagination” I grumbled bitterly, subtly dodging the question.
“In that case, the news that I’ve brought you should alleviate some of your stress”
Should be worried or not?
“I know how distraught you are since you cannot hunt for the Skarliks. So I took it upon myself to search for them over these past few weeks”
“H-how?” I asked, now giving my full attention to her.
“I have posted scouts at strategic points throughout the region. Don’t worry, I didn’t provide them any sensitive details to draw unwanted attention upon your mission. They are to patrol and report to me, not to engage. So, if there is any information that may pertain to the Skarliks, I will be the first and only mamono to know. Well today, my love, I’ve been informed of an immense blue tempest in the sky, matching your description. It appeared several miles Southwest of Vallick, near Cavoline Stream. Perhaps this is the lead you so urgently need” she grinned proudly.
Better rename that stream to “Jackpot Pacific”
“You got that right. It’s earlier than I predicted but it’s the break that I’ve been looking for. And I’m not waiting around for them to start shit” I declared with malice instead of excitement. At that moment, I hopped to my feet and began to gear up. At least I’d had enough time to repair my armor and recharge my ammo before this portal. All I had to do was load my equipment into my cart and I was ready to head out.
But it wouldn’t be that easy.
“I knew that this would peak your interest. Well, I am ready to depart whenever you are, my love” Veina concurred and leaned on the wall by the exit, patiently waiting.
Chills raced down my spine. For a split second, a flashback to my graphic nightmare popped in my head, serving as a stiff warning that now was the time. There was no putting off this confrontation between me and Veina. As much as I didn’t want to deal with this, I had no choice.
Truthfully, I knew that it would come down to this. Which is why it didn’t make sense to concoct a way out of it.
“You’re not going with me” I muttered, still nervous.
“What? I didn’t catch that” she asked, oblivious to what was about to happen.
I took a deep breath. “‘You’re not fucking going with me’, that’s what I said!” I cursed out loud.
Veina straightened up, her face twisting with muted disbelief.
“What do you mean? Of course I’m coming with you”
“No, you’re not. I’m doing this like I always have; solo”
“But why do you-?”
“This isn’t up for debate! I have to do this alone!”
Any remaining glee in Veina was quickly usurped by an almost morbid manner as she realized that I was dead serious. And ‘dead’ was also the first thing on her mind. “Jason, you know how difficult it has been for you in pursuing this alone. You were almost killed last time”
“You think I don’t know that?”
“So why then do you insist on this path?” The Demon had walked over to me, almost cutting off my path as I gathered things.
“Because this isn’t your business. It’s mine. And I don’t need you to share in any consequences intended for me” I maintained my stance with a hard scowl as I slithered past her.
“I’m not some youngling with no experience on the battlefield. I’ve battled the Order for decades”
Oh, I damn well knew that from the times that I’d seen her practice. She was as lethal as she was lovely. But my kind of war was a whole new ball game for this Demon.
“I bet that Succubus we found had said the same thing. You think she lived long enough to regret that decision? Because she didn’t know what she was up against. Neither do you, for that matter, but I do! I’ve seen what could happen to you out there and it’s not worth the risk”
“Jason, if your emotions are left unbounded, the dread in your mind will lead you astray. Such a mistake could have dire consequences for more than just you” Veina pleaded with me.
But then, something burst within me. “Yeah, it’s because of fear that I fucking ended up here!” I snapped with PTSD-fueled aggression before I could stop myself.
Veina was morbidly shocked. The tough-minded leader made way for the incredulous realization at the reason of my outburst.
“What?” the troubled Demon beseeched me.
Considering how I did everything in my power to hide my past from her, I knew I was going to regret my slip up.
“Forget I said anything” I tried halting the conversation as I really didn’t want to go down this route. Especially not right now.
“What did you mean by that?” she demanded more.
“Nothing. It meant nothing” I grumbled.
“No, I feel it’s something that’s been needling you for quite some time. But I cannot help you if you do not tell me”. The earnest softness in her eyes begged me to open up.
Through all of my apprehension, she may have been right. It was eating away at me like my blood turned to acid. But I hadn’t folded yet.
“You already know that I’m from a different world and even that might be too much info. So I’m stopping it there”
Just like the stubborn son of a bitch that I was.
I had turned my back to Veina hoping that I could shut her and the topic out cold. For a second, I thought it worked. Until she spoke again.
“Jason…” she said switching to a much more stern voice. “You owe me one more favor…”
I stopped my packing and froze up. An irritated huff escaped my nose as I slowly turned around toward the ever-so clever Demon. She faced off against my irked frown with a tough front.
“Tell me everything you’ve been hiding about your past. I want to know about the Skarliks, your history with them, how you found your way into this world, everything. And I want to know right now” she ordered with as much authority as any drill sergeant I’ve met.
No way I could postpone my way out of this.
“Don’t make me do this, Veina. It’s only going to make things harder” I glared at her.
Veina pulled up a chair with her tail and sat down, those scarlet eyes never leaving mine. Her crossed arms and crossed legs demolished any notion that she would back down. In response, I growled like a defeated child and yanked up my own chair.
Well, she got me. Time to tell my Demon about my… other Demons
“It’s a complicated story, but I’ll try to stick to the highlights” I huffed, vocalizing my distain for this topic loud and clear.
“I have nowhere to be but by your side, Jason” prodded Veina as she tapped her fingers on her crossed arms. I got the sense that she was excited to learn more of my secrets, but she wasn’t trying to let on.
‘By my side’? Not if I could help it. And she’ll soon see why.
I composed myself with a weighty sigh and then began.
“Alright, since it began on my world, let’s start there. You remember when I told you that my Earth has lots more of this stuff called ‘technology’?” I asked to which Veina nodded. “Well, my Earth has even more technology than I let on. It’s kind of our thing. We use technology to make better technology, which is then used to make even better technology, and the vicious-cycle continues. Kind of like your magic arts, only more obsessive. What you call ‘mages’ and ‘sorcerers’, we call ‘scientists’ and ‘engineers’. Do you follow me so far?”
“I do” she affirmed.
“Good. Now, instead of leaving good enough alone, we weren’t content with just using technology to make our lives easier. As it turns out, scientists had secretly been researching the possibilities of other dimensions for decades. Time marches on, one thing led to another, and next thing you know, scientists were able to generate a gateway for interdimensional travel into different worlds”
“What made your ‘scientists’ take interest in these other worlds?” she interjected.
“Their excuse was for so-called ‘exploration’. But that’s just code for all kinds of nefarious motives” I sneered as my cynicism had to chime in.
Veina’s deductive reasoning was in full swing. “I gather that this is directly related to your portals, is it not?”
“Congrats. You catch on quick. Anyway, with seemingly infinite worlds to explore, scientists and world leaders were slobbering for their chance to dive in and stake their claims on new discoveries. Without going into fucking government organization and country policy and all that shit, things weren’t going too bad at first. The wealthiest countries organized their own representative expeditions into whatever world they could find. At first, some small worlds were discovered but didn’t have much to offer. Specifically, they didn’t have any intelligent life forms on them. Some floral life or simple animals to research, and that’s about it. But… that all changed about twelve years ago. That is, twelve years on my Earth. One expedition from the United States, the country that I’m from, came across the homeworld of an alien race”
“Damn right. That’s when there was no turning back. Earth would never be the same again”. I had to bite my tongue and restrain myself from going off on a explicit rant.
“Is this when the Skarliks declared war on humanity?” Veina queried. From her tone, I gathered her to be inquisitive but partly infuriated as well. But that’s my job.
“Not quite. Contrary to my opinion of them, Skarliks can be clever motherfuckers”
“What did they do to Earth?”
“More like ‘what did we do to ourselves'”
“We trusted them” I scoffed, thick with contempt.
Veina didn’t say anything. She instead shifted toward the ground. It looked like she was in deep thought about something. About me, perhaps?
But I resumed anyway.
“Let me explain. At first, things seemed cordial enough between our races. At least as cordial as two races can be after a giant portal brings them together. There was tension to say the least, but after roughly two years of dedication, there was a working communication between our languages. With that barrier gone along with all of the knowledge and resources to be gained, you can imagine how eager Earth was do business with them; too eager. Heh, yeah, my people were just dumb enough to think we could trust them” I chuckled.
“Not to bring up the question of hindsight, but were there suspicions at the time?” Veina turned back to me, intrigued by Earth’s thought process.
“Oh yeah. A whole lot of suspicions by a whole lot of people”
“Interesting. Then what was it that drove your people to disregard these skepticisms?”
No way for me to censor the answer to that.
“What the fuck do you think? The same goddamn story has been passed down over millennium, and no one every fucking learns from it. Greed, global competition, profits. You name it, it caused it. And let’s not forget the political pressure. Every kind of self-righteous religion, ass-backwards political party, dick-jerking activist group, or power-hungry movement had something to say on it; some assholes even considered the Skarliks to be Earthlings deserving of our legal rights, if you can believe it. Bottom line, all of this brouhaha culminated in the biggest mistake the world had ever seen. Just Earth being Earth, if I’m being honest”
“Mmhm” Veina sympathized with a sigh just above a whisper. She then motioned for me to continue.
“Well, as our guard was being lowered, we started sending larger expeditions to visit deeper into the Skarlik world while the Skarliks came over into our world. The whole thing was like when a grand ruler from another country comes for a visit; only on steroids. It dominated all of the news headlines and internet. How couldn’t it? The government was touring them around with more publicity than all celebrities combined. They also answered all of their questions about our world… including some specific details about our technology and military”
“What happened to the people that were sent into their world?”
“Oh, they came back fine and dandy… At least it seemed that way at first”
“What do you mean?”
“Little did we know that those returning people had a, well, it would take hours to explain the science of it, so just consider it a ‘spell’ that the Skarliks had put in their brains. Undetectable by our technology and no memory of procedures as far as the individuals go. What was the spell for? I’ll get to that in a bit. For now, let’s just refer to these individuals as ‘corrupted'”
“Quite a treacherous deceit” Veina muttered.
“You don’t know the half of it. Anyway, fast-forward a year and a half and plenty of people had gone through the gateway into their world. That meant that they accumulated plenty of ‘corrupted’ by that point”
“How did you learn of their deceit?”. Veina sounded a shade impatient. Not out of boredom, but eagerness for why I hated them.
“By sheer luck. One fortunate soul on an expedition had uncovered their mind-tampering deeds and managed to escape back to our world and inform his superiors. It went over with our leaders as well as you’d imagine”
It was worse than an international incident. It was an interdimensional incident.
“Surely, this must have been cause to take these Skarliks to task” she goaded me.
“You bet your sweet ass it was time to retaliate. But by that point, it was too late. The Skarliks already knew of our little informant escaping back to Earth, so they knew the jig was up and there was no point in trying to talk their way out of it. Unfortunately for us, they had already planned for this, long in advance. Remember that ‘spell’ I mentioned earlier? The Skarliks used it to control them. Specifically, they systematically placed these ‘corrupted’ at pivotal points around our gateway facilities like pieces in a chess game. These individuals weren’t even aware of the Skarlik’s subtle influence over them. But that subtle influence was just the tip of the iceberg. The Skarliks could assume total control over their brains; personality, morality, and loyalty. So then, with a single order, the ‘kill-switch’ in the brains of the ‘corrupted’ engaged, causing them to turn against their companions. Completely normal one second, and a slave under the Skarlik’s power the next. What came next was them carrying out their orders”
“What orders would those be?” Veina intoned, the intrigue never letting up in her voice.
“Secure as much portal-generating technology as possible, deliver it to the Skarlik homeworld, and kill anyone that stood in their way”
Veina gasped. Despair spread across her face as if she already predicted the outcome of this turn of events.
“Mmmhmm. We knew we had a catastrophe on the horizon. These Skarliks had acquired more than enough details about our operations than necessary and they made sure to put it to good use. But they got more than just our technology. Part of their ‘corrupted’ staff had enough capabilities to manage and operate the stolen portal technology, allowing the Skarliks the freedom to create their own gateways into our world. Maybe a portal over a military base or a portal over a heavily populated city. Who knows? Heh, funny isn’t it? The naïve dumbasses of Earth had unknowingly handed a militaristic alien race the keys directly into our world” I chuckled bitterly.
You didn’t need 20/20 vision to see the irony. It’s laid on so thick, you’d need a chainsaw to cut through it.
Veina suppressed a second gasp with her hand. “More portals into your world would lead to-”
“Full scale war” I affirmed.
Gone were the days when we could refer to “Independence Day” as ‘just a movie’.
Veina gulped and released a sorrowful sigh. “Their plot would lead to war, one way or another. Why did they choose war over coexistence?”
“Conquest for power and resources. Not too different than stuff from human history, really” I muttered under my breath. “Anyway, their invasion ravaged the world. A lot of people died…”
“I’m sorry” Veina lamented, hoping to give me some comfort. Too little, too late.
“It was worse than any other war in history because hordes of Skarlik militia could appear any time, anywhere in the world. We may have had the ability to detect whenever a portal opened into our world, but that didn’t necessarily mean we were ready to deal with it. It all depended on when it opened, where it opened, and how fast we could respond to it. In the worse case scenarios, their forces managed to build some fortified outposts around each of their portals entryways. That made it easier to bring more battalions through in order to expand their control beyond the outposts. Sure, it seemed simple to bomb the outposts into a oblivion. But the Skarliks were smart enough to take hundreds of hostages and hold them in each outpost. That put pay to our reluctance in using brute force”
“But you couldn’t stand by and do nothing…”
“Of course. So we did our damnest to hold them off and keep their forces from expanding, hopefully finding a way to save the hostages in the process. But that wasn’t the only problem. Even if they didn’t have hostages and we chose to bomb an outpost, that wouldn’t stop the Skarliks from closing the portal and then just opening another one elsewhere to start all over again. Shit, I saw it myself once after they were driven back into an opened portal”
“I think now would be a good time to explain how you factor into all of this, Jason” Veina urged me for, probably, long-awaited answers.
Oh boy. That was going to be a tough thing to explain. So for now, I decided to tell her only part one of my personal story.
“If you’re thinking that I was some kind of special figure in this war, then you’re dead wrong. Like a lot of other guys, I was a soldier serving in the United States military infantry division” I shot down her delusions of grandeur. Best to burst that bubble before it over-inflated.
“It doesn’t surprise me that you served in an army. In which case, I can consider you a knight… of a particular persuasion”
Maybe it’s the thought that counts, but compliments would do her no good now.
I sucked in and inhaled with a gruff sigh. “Truthfully, I never really aspired to be a full-fledged soldier. I did take serve a tour in the military but my field of study was computer-engineering and electrical technology. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that, after college, I’d be entering the military once again. Did I want to? Fuck no, but it didn’t matter how I felt because there wasn’t much choice considering that Earth was being invaded. Stakes that large had, at last, put our world on a singular path. For the first time probably in history, all of the countries in my world were united and pulled every resource they had to fight back. That alone was a miracle”
“Evidently, you’ve engaged in battles”
“Oh, I’ve seen my fair share of active combat before I arrived here. Yes” I declared with a contemptuous sneer. My veteran status was a love-hate relationship with me.
“I don’t wish to trouble you but… how bad was it?” asked the morbidly curious Demon.
“Heh, you see all of these weapons I have?” I chuckled as I held up my firearm. “Well, both Earth and the Skarliks have weaponry that make this look like a peanut. Stuff like tanks, jets, missile launchers, weapons carriers, and all kinds of massive war machines were dispatched alongside us troops as a counter-offense against the portals. And the Skarliks always answered our firepower with advanced weaponry of equal force. Roughly the same type as ours, just of a different brand. Naturally, when two explosive forces collide, the results are always devastating. It was loud, it was destructive, and it was brutal”
“Yet, you survived”
“Some people I knew… didn’t. But by some miracle, I walked away from several battles”
“How many?” Veina probed, trying to be as delicate as possible with me.
“I don’t remember. They all blend together after a while. All I’ve got left is a mish-mash of battlefield memories. I wish I could say that I was a regular Captain America who charged in like a fearless leader, but no, I wasn’t. No matter how much adrenaline is pumping through you when the time comes to dive into the fray, it’s so fucked up to see people you’ve come to know get shot down like flies. Makes you wonder if it’s your turn next…”. My breath became somewhat short and my voice tensed up at the my past experiences.
For better or worse, war has a habit of changing a man; mostly for worse. Complete with complementary PTSD.
Veina cupped my hand lovingly in hers. Clearly I did a lousy job at hiding my stress. “It’s okay, Jason”
“I’m fine” I insisted, reinforcing a resolute demeanor. “I lived, so I must have been doing something right. Even if you can’t tell who’s winning or losing, you keep fighting. That’s what I was trained to do and that’s what I did. At least for a time. After a few years of combat, I got promoted to the status of corporal and my skills with technology got me transferred from the front lines to an artillery support role. I was among the squads behind drone strikes and other types of automated munitions”
That kind of knowledge sure came in handy during my days in the workshop. It gave me my only hope of getting home, as slim at it may have been. Being tech-savy was one of the few blessings that I could count. If I had been nothing but an uneducated meathead before the war, I really would have been paddling up shit-creek with my hands.
“Something has me curious. If these Skarliks used your own tools to open portals, then doesn’t that mean that you could do the same? If they entered your world and wreaked havoc, then why not enter their world and do the same?”
“We considered that. And we did try it a few times but ultimately decided against it. From the years of correspondence with the Skarliks, we learned that their population outnumbered ours almost ten to one. Suffice to say, it’s a lot easier to just drop militia behind enemy lines when you have the manpower and resources to spare it. They did, but we did not. It pretty much took the entire population of Earth to keep our head above water in this war. That left very little manpower available to start our own invasion”
I didn’t feel the need to explain our nuclear weapons to Veina. Basically, with heavily populated areas, as well as militarized strongholds, the leaders of the worlds refrained from going to those extremes in our world.
At one point, we planned on sending nukes through our own portals into their world and shutting the ‘door’ behind us. The problem with that battle plan was fear of equally powerful retaliation and the inevitable escalation that would follow. We wanted to preserve our world and the Skarliks wanted our world for its resources. So it made little sense for either side to turn the whole damn Earth into a wasteland like a ‘Fallout’ game come to life. Nobody would win.
“Mmmhmm. It must have been quite the conundrum. You had to act defensively, but there must have been some sort of plans to end this conflict” she suggested. By now, she probably was getting a pretty complete picture of how tough our situation was.
“There was only one. The Skarliks could only get to Earth through the technology that they stole from us. So we had to shut down the portal generators from their side and cut them off for good. As usual, that was easier said than done because they would simply shut down a portal as soon as we closed in on one, halting any attempt by us to cross over. Under those conditions, the best we could get against them in the war was to drive them off; essentially making it a stalemate. Still, over the next four years we managed to keep the Skarliks from gaining too much ground into our world. We were able to halt their advances through the portals but our resources would not hold out forever. It was really taking a hellacious toll on us all. How Earth held out long enough to reach a technological breakthrough is still a mystery to me”
Though perhaps it just seemed longer than it actually was. When you’re in the thick of things, days feel like weeks, weeks feel like months, and months feel like years. Nevermind knowing who’s winning or losing.
“A ‘breakthrough’? What do you mean by that?”
“Well, as I said, they outnumbered us. Their best plan to overtake our planet’s resources was to win by attrition. So with the clock ticking, we needed some kind of gambit before that happened. But while we struggled, our scientists finally came up with a new device that would change the tide of the war”
“What was it?” asked Veina, finally perking up again.
“Let’s see… the easiest way for you to understand the invention was that it allowed us to hold one of the Skarlik portals open for a limited time, regardless of what they did on their end”
“Extraordinary” Veina smiled lightly. I continued.
“At that point, we had formed a plan. Squad-based platoons would sneak into their homeworld as the portals were held open. Then, each squad would track down each of the stolen portal generators and shut them down for good. It was going to be an extremely dangerous operation, but it was the highest of priorities. The most preferred candidates were soldiers with combat experience, as well as technical expertise with portal technology. I had both, so I volunteered. For the sake of Earth, it felt like the right thing to do”
Veina smiled beautifully and teased her hair a bit. “Noble…” she admired me for what she perceived as courage.
I should have been flattered, but… my story wasn’t finished yet. Now, it was time for part two of my story.
“Anyway, several teams were assembled for this operation. I was part of ARCO-4 squad, along with twenty other members. The operation was going pretty smoothly. All teams successfully entered the Skarlik homeworld. Since it was our technology, we knew that each generator would have to be within half a mile of its portal. Though finding it was easy, getting to it was another story. Whether by blunt force or by stealth, every team would have to maneuver through Skarlik defenses in order to reach a generator. But in the end, all of the other teams successfully reached the generators and shut down the Skarlik’s access to our world. Only one remaining generator had to be shut down… and my team was closing in on it. However, this is the point where things got… complicated” I huffed, knowing how this story ended.
“To start, there was one very important detail about this mission. Whoever went through into the Skarlik homeworld, wasn’t coming back once the generators were taken out. No way in, no way out. The rest is self explanatory”
Veina sucked in a short breath and tensed up. She nibbled on her finger in suspense but said nothing, eagerly anticipating what came next.
“Anyway, all but six of our squad was dead, but we did reach the generator. Killing any Skarliks that tried to stop us, including corrupted humans”
“You had to kill humans, too?” she shuddered.
“Unfortunately, yes. To our knowledge, there was no known way to snap them out of the Skarlik’s control. So what choice did we have other than ending them? Sure, it sucked, but with the stakes so high, we had to get them out of the way” I asserted. I didn’t enjoy having human blood on my hands. But shit happens.
Veina heaved in and then huffed out an uncomfortable breath. I could tell that she understood, maybe even from personal experience.
“While my squadmates were busy holding our position, I worked on the control panel. All I had to do was shut the portal down, then fry the control panel with a bomb I had planted on it. I had one job to do, but instead…” I let out probably the most painful sigh of my life. “I fucked up. Bad”
The lowest point of my entire life.
“Jason…” she consoled me to continue. Without having to say another word, Veina let me know that she was there for me regardless of what I said. And that nothing could prevent her from learning the truth.
Though, despite her best efforts, I still didn’t feel any better.
“You know, they can teach you a lot of things in the military. How to shoot a gun, how to trim your waist size, and how to sort your shit out. But one thing they can’t teach you is how to be brave every time it matters”
“What happened, Jason?”. Veina was hanging on my every word.
“Oh fuck it. I don’t feel like bullshitting anymore, so I’ll give it to you right between the eyes” I snapped as all of the frustration and anxiety that had been building up to this point finally erupted. “I knew my duty as a soldier and agreed to sacrifice myself for the sake of mankind; just like all of the other men selected in this mission. But no matter how righteous it sounds, things become a lot more nerve-racking when it’s time to pay the check. The mind can start to disintegrate. What do I mean? Well, at that moment, I was suddenly overtaken by an unruly desire to live… at any cost. So when the time came for me to shut down the portal, I chickened out, like a yellow-back, pussy-peckered, motherfucking coward! My squadmates shouted at me to finish the mission, but I froze up. The tornado of anxiety and dread blocking my better judgement ultimately led me to do something that I’m going to regret for the rest of my life”
I felt Veina’s hand tighten on mine. I reciprocated.
“At that moment, I wanted out of that place. I didn’t give a shit where, just as long as it was out of the Skarlik homeworld. So I turned to some place unknown”
“‘Unknown’? Didn’t you try to get back to Earth?” pondered the ever-so quizzical Veina.
“It’s not that simple. By that point, the shutdown process had scrambled the navigation controls and the path to Earth would take way too long to find again. Creating an interdimensional portal isn’t like reading a map. The process needs precise calculations and a helluva lot of control over the required energy output. Not that I cared at that point. So in an act of utter desperation on my part, I threw all safety regulations out the window and opened an uncontrolled wormhole into God-knows where for me to escape”
“Were you the only one to escape through this ‘wormhole’?”
“I wish that were true. My actions caused the portal gateway to erupt into a massive vortex which began sucking up everything within a mile radius. That includes myself, possibly my teammates, Skarliks, and other equipment. Eventually, I was spat out into this unknown world. I’m sure you know the rest”
Bear in mind, that the fallout of this kind of reckless act is a mystery even to the best minds on Earth. In theory, it’s likely that this massive vortex emerged on both sides of the gateway; including on Earth’s side. God only knows what happened over there.
On a sidenote, this is precisely the reason why we couldn’t just blow up the portal generator right away and start cheering “invasion-dwarted”. The generator was controlling a massive surge of energy, so it had to be shut down properly by first neutralizing the energy. Otherwise, the possibile shitstorm that might happen could shake all the laws of physics. Think of it like a scaled down fusion reactor. You don’t want to fuck with it.
Veina sat back and exhaled. She must have been taking all of my story in. “Yes, well, that’s quite a story. My suspicions of you being a soldier were correct, yet I never anticipated how vast the circumstances in your world would be. I understand why to entered the wormhole, but how did you end up here?”
“It was a wormhole. A complete anomaly with possibilities even more outlandish than Wonderland. You could be dropped in a new universe, in a new dimensional, or right in your own backyard. Then again, you could end up inside a sun or lost in space. You could go to Mars, while your ass could go to Pluto. You might also never even leave the wormhole at all. In my case, and by some random chance, I ended up here. These portals that I’ve been hunting must be residuals from my wormhole. We were all, coincidentally, on the same trajectory”
“If that were true, why have they showed up periodically? You first showed up months ago yet they did not”
“Don’t you get it? An uncontrolled wormhole has no rhyme or reason. If a Skarlik went in seconds before me, I could show up at a destination six months before he would. That is, if we both even went to the same destination at all. You see? There’s no explaining it” I threw up my arms in aggravation.
“I see” Veina confirmed. Now she knew as much about the nature of wormholes as anyone else did; barely a goddamn thing.
“The first Earthling to find this place. I guess that makes me a regular Chris Columbus” I sneered as I found myself conflicted. I’m not going to lie, it was a tremendous relief to have let out the secrets that have been haunting me for what seemed like decades. It was as if someone had taken a three-hundred pound barbell off of my shoulders. But at the same time, I was pissed. Now that she knew about my past, a whole knew set of problems would arise.
Dammit Veina, why did you have to force my hand?
“Is that the whole story?”
“Yup, that’s the best I can give it to you. But you know what the worst part is? I don’t know if my little fuck up had any damning effect on Earth. Did another Skarlik portal show up there? Was Earth completely swallowed up by a temporal vortex? I don’t know! And it drives me insane when I imagine what kind of catastrophe could have happened to my world. And if I just had the right tools, I wouldn’t have to imagine anymore” I barked out of frustration as I kicked the leg of the table.
Veina went wide-eyed on me. At first, I didn’t know why. She flipped from me to the covered generator. Then, a moment later, she yanked the tarp off of it. She flipped back and forth between me and it.
Oh, now I get it. Between my accidental comments about “rights tools” and “imagination”, she was able to put two and two together regarding my project from earlier.
“Then that’s for… a portal… You were trying to return home, weren’t you?”. Veina was mostly surprised, but sorrow wasn’t far behind.
Fuck. For emotional sake, I wanted to keep that a secret. Even if it was just a generator that I augmented with some salvaged computer parts and a control panel, it meant much more than that to Veina. As crude as the project may have been, it was sadly the only chance that I had to get back to Earth.
My lips curled into a half-smile and I shrugged.
“W-why would you want to leave me?” she lamented. She must have figured that since I was keeping it a secret from her, she was excluded from my plan.
Like I said, I was pissed that another secret of mine got out. But then I quickly deliberated with myself and came to the conclusion that this was the best thing that could happen. There was no way to ease Veina out of my life slowly by this point. Plus, she deserved the whole truth and nothing but. There was no avoiding this now.
Besides, since we’re all about revealing secrets today, why not just spill all the beans, right? Let it all out. Go for broke.
I groaned as I braced myself. Like when the smell of fresh, frothy cat puke hits you as you reach down to clean it up; you know it’s going to get messy. “Veina, I don’t belong here. I never did. The only reason I came to this world is because I made a major mistake. And I’ve only brought all manner of trouble with me since I arrived. That’s why you need to forget about me”
Already, this breakup had her in an upheaval. Can you imagine how ugly this is going to become? Believe me, I didn’t want to tackle this subject, but I knew damn well how much worse things would get for both of us if we continued like this. Regardless of how I may have felt, Veina considered herself to be my property, and visa-versa. And you know what that means? All kinds of shades of pain and grief and guilt and everything else would come crashing down on top of us once the inevitable happens. This would probably end bad for me, but it shouldn’t end bad for her.
“That’s nonsense, Jason. I realize that you’re upset but you know that I could never leave you. We belong together forever” Veina stood up and drifted her way over to me. Her delicately clawed hands found their way to my chest and traced their way down to my hands. Taking ahold of my hands, she took the liberty of placing them directly on her provocative waist. “There… is that so difficult to understand?” she whispered while her succulent lips targeted mine as she leaned in.
Considering how shitty I felt at that moment, I wanted nothing more than to lay back and let her plant another bone-rattling gift on my lips in all of its sizzling glory. But I had to be strong; stronger than I’d ever been before. And I’m not just talking about blowing off her kiss like before. This time, I had to knuckle down and draw a line between us.
Veina had just about made contact when abruptly I sprang up and shoved us apart, almost knocking her into a table. “No! Not this time!” I denounced her call for intimacy. The instantly distraught expression on Veina’s face said it all. I had never pushed her off of me that aggressively before. “Don’t make this more difficult than it already is”
Now we have to fix this the hard way.
“Jason… What’s wrong?”. In her dismay, she wasn’t even trying to restrain the rising pain in her voice.
“It’s over, Veina. We can’t do this anymore”
The confounded Demon tilted her head. She really could not understand what was going on. And in her bewildered state, she managed to squeeze out some words again. “Don’t say that. You are the man I love. My life would be meaningless without you”
This is getting uglier by the second.
Even then, I knew that Veina wasn’t genuinely trying to manipulate me with that kiss. Naturally, there was a lot of carnality to go along with it but it was simply meant to comfort me like it had always been. Sure there were some lusty meanings behind it, but comfort was her main goal. In a weird and stupid way, I took it like encouraging words from a friend. However, I couldn’t con myself like a sap again. I knew the real meaning behind it and my head had only got more convoluted as a result of it.
“You don’t want a future with me. I was supposed to die during my last mission, remember? But I cheated. If anyone has to suffer at their hands, it’s me and only me”
“That doesn’t have to happen. No one said that you must face this by yourself”
“Wrong. I’m doing was needs to be done. Making sure that no one else has to pay for the huge mistake I made” I attested gruffly.
“By dying needlessly?”
“Call it an occupational hazard. I’m a soldier. My job is to do whatever it takes to prevent the Skarliks from killing anyone else. I may have seriously panicked back there, but when I signed my life away on that dotted line for that mission, I fucking meant it. It’s my job, not yours”
“I’ve already told you that-” Veina started.
I cut her off. “-No! I don’t care if you are some kind of commander. You’re not getting involved in this because I know what’s going to happen in the end. Just like what happened to that Succubus. If it’s not me that gets your ass killed, then something else damn sure will. Maybe even that Demon Lord that sits up in her palace and barks orders all day. Her kind always fuck someone over” I fumed with the aggression of a rabid dog. Figures, since the authority figures in this world had a knack of bringing out my inner ‘Cujo’.
Veina’s breath grew heavier, and so did her woes. “Why are you so paranoid? It’s breaking you”. She looked ready to tear up.
Regardless of that, something in me snapped.
“Yeah, it fucking wrecks me!” I shrieked in a knee-jerked outburst, slamming my fist on the table in the process. “Do you think that I like being this way? Someone my age should not be this cynical. But life has a harsh way of molding people. Just consider me a victim of reality”. I turned away from her and resumed packing.
As most things go in life, you keep moving forward.
Veina’s hand stopped my hand from packing. “My heart goes out to you, Jason. I too know of the hardships life has to offer. But I trust in fate to see me through” she consoled me to the best of her ability. She was wearing her heart on her sleeve so big that I could practically see it.
As much as I wanted to believe her claim, I knew that life didn’t work that way. You can’t always have what you want.
“Admirable, but naïve. If I could have my way, I would never have had to join the military because none of this would have ever happened in the first place. But that’s how life is. I’ve had to learn that the hard way. So give me one good reason to trust fate because my luck sure hasn’t given me a reason to” I scoffed bitterly.
It’s no secret that luck and I haven’t gotten along very well. Up to this point, I’ve mostly been the only one on the receiving end of those misfortunes. But that event made me feel unreliable to those around me. What if it happens again? At least going solo means that the only person I could screw over was myself.
She gingerly turned my head to look her right in the eye. “Fate brought you here… To me”. Her lip quivered.
Goddamn. Even though I lived under the assumption that my heart was too broken down to operate like normal, I think I felt something crack in it. I wanted to say something else. However, this wasn’t about what I want, remember?
“…Maybe it shouldn’t have” I uttered, devoid of emotion.
That did it. Veina grit her teeth and caught her breath deep in her throat. The water-works began to stream down her cheeks before she drooped her head in dejection. She may have not been all out wailing, but that didn’t make the pain that she was going through any less real.
Several uncomfortable seconds went by with neither of us being able to speak. Seeing her cry had even caused me to choke up. That was harsh. Too harsh. I felt that I owed her an apology for my lack of tact, but I had to keep up a stern front for both of our sakes.
“Y-you cannot possibly believe that” she sniffled, barely holding herself together.
“I brought one Hell of a burden with me when I arrived. Now I have to carry it alone because I created it”
“But this isn’t something that you can do on your own!”
That struck me. Based on my recent excursions, she might have been right about that. My body told me that it wasn’t getting any easier. but I had a head of steam too big to derail now.
“Maybe not, but it sure as shit doesn’t make it your problem to deal with. You’ve got bigger troubles to worry about than mine, so why make it harder on yourself? And when it comes to that Demon Lord versus the Order fiasco, I’m exactly as I should be; insignificant. Live or die, it doesn’t matter” I insisted as bluntly as I could.
It was a bad idea to connect with anyone here and it was an even worse idea for either of us to get involved in each other’s politics. Karvale getting into a fight with a Skarlik squad? Purely a victim of circumstance. Sure, I saved those leaders of Gamberton that one time, but that was an accidental conscience on my part. But their war wasn’t my war. The Order and the Demon Lord could smack each other around for another century for all I care. And besides, I could still disappear before any retaliation from the Order. Point is, it was best for everyone that our worlds didn’t cross; especially when it comes to conflict. Stuff like that makes goodbyes, in one form or another, all the more brutal to confront. It can even muddle up what’s actually important.
All I have to do is outlast these Skarlik portals that keep showing up. They can’t go on forever, at least I hope not. And once they’re done and taken care of, I can focus on getting back to where I belong. It sounded easy on paper, but there was no way of knowing how hard it might be to handle these portals if things did get worse…
“But you do matter now!” Veina stressed with such burning passion and urgency that you’d think that I had a sniper aiming at my head. Almost felt like there was an underlying context to it.
“Well, I shouldn’t! That’s exactly why I’m doing this by myself so no one else will have to risk their necks for me. Then, your life and the lives of those other girls that I’ve met won’t be ruined. It’ll save us all the emotional scars and if you just stop to think about all of this, you’ll realize that I’m right” I barked with more emotions than I anticipated. Seems like the more I had to tell Veina off, the more fired up I got. It sucked.
It’s because I’ve been here before. Seeing familiar faces fall in battle isn’t something that one tends to forget. Nor is it something that you want to see on a re-run. I’ve already lost enough people to the Skarliks, and my conscience already had enough weighing on it without adding to the body count. Really, I guess that was the real driving force behind all of this. It’s what kept me motivated during this breakup and impeded me from having an emotional meltdown right there.
But by God, not only did I feel responsible, but completely shameful, too. It wasn’t fair for me to have led Veina on this much. And as a result of my goddamn leniency, Veina had gotten too close. Close enough for this to hurt bad.
Veina gulped like an anxious child. She dropped her tear-filled gaze and wiped some of her tears away.
“If it wasn’t for me, then it wouldn’t have to be like this” I muttered. “I should have kicked you out back on that first day”
“Then… Then why didn’t you? Why did you allow me into your life?” Veina sniffled, lifting her head back up. I think her rattled brain was trying to reason with herself as much as she was trying to reason with me.
The feeling was mutual.
“Another human weakness, okay? During tough times, people can’t help but make some kind of bond with another person. Even just for a small semblance of solace. Whether it’s fighting side by side or just a simple act of kindness, it always slips in there. But it doesn’t last forever. Look at those other girls I met. I got a little tranquility from them and then all parties moved on. So now, it’s your turn” I pointed at the grief-stricken Demon.
I felt lucky that I only had to explain this to Veina. It was hard enough without bringing anyone else into this.
“Jason, I… I-I need to explain something to-”
“No! Shut up! This is where it ends for us!” I roared, having officially lost all of my patience. I wanted this miserable breakup to finally be over. So I bit the bullet and I went as brutally blunt as I could. “I didn’t do it back then, but I’m sure as Hell going to do it now. So make no mistake. I’m not asking you to leave for good, I’m telling you to. And if you don’t get out of my life, I’ll kick you out if I have to. Get your ass out of here and stay the fuck out of my business!”
There it was. My ultimatum.
The mortified Demon let out a wretched gasp and fell to her knees. She wept into her hands with agonizing anguish. I might as well have put a high-powered shot straight through Veina’s heart and then crushed it under my boot. Her pain was as visceral as anything that I’d witnessed in war.
Goddammit, Jason. You heartless motherfucker.
My face stood its ground, but inside, I wasn’t holding up as much. So not to risk breaking down myself, I scooped up my bags of equipment and stormed out the door.
“When I get… If I get back, don’t be here” I ordered as my last words before exiting out the door, leaving the heartbroken Demon weeping behind.
As I loaded up everything into my cart and road off, there wasn’t a fiber of my soul that didn’t loathe myself for having been that cruel toward Veina. I cursed myself internally with every obscenity that I knew; even the ones reserved for women. Even if it was for her own good, it still didn’t feel fair. For her I mean. Sure, I said those things toward her, and they were hurting me worse than any of my throbbing injuries. However, I didn’t have any hatred toward Veina. Instead, I hated this whole situation and what she had to go through because of me.
My guilt almost made me turn around and race back to her and apologize. But… this was no time for the Grinch within me to grow a heart.
Was I doing the right thing? Well, it made as much sense as anything else and I knew it. Only caring about myself and not others is how I fucked up the mission and what landed me here in the first place. This time, I am concerning myself for others. Veina did insist that I’m noble or something, right?
This whole thing became so hard because I couldn’t stay focused. As much as I wanted an easier life, free from my troubles, this was about steeling up and owning up to my responsibilities. Stick to business and avoid any distractions. Unfortunately for Veina, she sat in that category because there wasn’t room in this for her. No other girl will have to feel the wrath of the Skarliks and no hearts will be broken if I die. The girls would live in this world like I never arrived here in the first place, if that makes any sense.
It was going to take me almost five hours to get to the portal sight, so let’s focus on the task at hand and come up with some sort of plan. I have all of the weaponry, ammo, and potions at my disposal. Armed and ready for action. My body, however, wasn’t nearly as ready. Less than a month and a dip in a hot spring wasn’t going to magically make sprains, cracked bones, internal bleeding, and a minor concussion go away. Maybe I was sixty to seventy percent better, but a long way from full capacity.
Mentally… well, through some mental-gymnastics, I managed to convince myself enough that it had to be this way. Remove the innocents from the equation. I was a soldier. That meant that Veina and the others girls were just civilians who had to be evacuated from the danger zone before any casualties could occur. And I did that, like dutiful soldier. That’s all there was to it.
That’s the story that I chose to go with. But… Veina sure believed in something deeper than emotional support. And that little voice in my head was incessantly nagging me before I tuned it out. Was there truth in it?
I’ve got more important things to think about so don’t worry about it. Worry about what happens if I go down before the Skarlik invasion can be thwarted? What then? Well, all that means is that, one way or another, I can’t fail. To any God that may be listening, consider this a prayer. The best prayer that’s going to come out of me.
Still, for a brief second, I wished that I wouldn’t have to come back…
Author: Once again, I’m sorry that this took so long be finished. But on the bright side, I was writing the next chapter and this one sort of at the same time, so the next chapter will not take NEARLY as long to come out. Stay tuned.1448 Views