[FV] Instead They Always Shine


Authors
Kolo
Published
2 months, 24 days ago
Stats
3611 1

A little past three thirty AM: footsteps on his roof.

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Awake.


Footsteps, on the adobe roof above him. Quick ones. They traveled east-west, which would appropriately line up with the west-facing window on the west-facing wall of his bedroom.


Up. Both legs on ground. Systems online, quick check, running optimally. Not that he ever expected to see anything else in the logs, but it was good to check anyways. Maintenance, a pound of prevention, the like. 


Over to window. First Moon provided meager light; he blinked into night vision instead. The rustling of mesquite trees filled the air as a soft breeze blew over the hanging garden below. The footsteps of his nighttime visitor had stopped.


“I know you’re up there,” he called, cupping a hand near his mouth to amplify the volume. “You’re not subtle!”


No response. No sound of teleportation, though, so they were clearly still up there. Then maybe they were waiting for him to lean out the window. Hm, as if he’d do that. Too risky. The chances of him plummeting or being attacked were unacceptable.


Run scenarios, then. This wasn’t someone he knew or was approved to live in Innercity: they would not be sneaking around on his roof, of all roofs, if so. 


An intruder on his roof, in the more secluded reaches of Innercity, meant that they likely knew his identity or his status in Mewt Mavet’s court. The likelihood of a petty thief making it this deep into Innercity was frankly astronomically low.


Then they were coming to him deliberately, to confront him, kidnap him, or attack. 


Confront him? About what? No dice - he kept a low enough profile that no one of Mewt’s court would have reason to argue with him, and he never made himself available to Mewt’s critics as a method of communication and complaint.


Kidnap. Tribute? No, too subtle. Tribute would’ve reacted to his call, too. 

An enemy of Mewt Mavet’s, then? A rare concept, especially in Maweth, but it wasn’t completely out of the question. He estimated the probability at, perhaps, 60%, with the waning pool of other options.


Attack. Also not likely. If they knew who he was (and how could they not, standing very deliberately on his roof?), then they knew what they were up against. If not, then they were terribly unprepared despite the skill needed to enter the Innercity in the middle of the night undetected. It would be a great show of ignorance to try to attack him.


Of course, that was operating under the assumption that they knew who he was. Possibility: they were repairing or repainting the roofs. Hadn’t Kasha mentioned something like that - no, foolish, it was the middle of the night. 


Then again, Mewt preferred renovations happen out of sight. Then again, wouldn’t Mewt have asked him to stay in the master bedroom if there were planned renovation-


-Footsteps, towards the window. He appropriately stepped back, positioning himself exactly three feet four inches from the sill. Though his reaction time was excellent, it was always best to afford himself as-they-said “wriggle room” define: ‘capacity for negotiation’. Yes, negotiation of a possible fist to his face.


Last second glance to the clock on his nightstand. Three fourty-four in the morning. Sixteen minutes, then.


The intruder crept into view, upside-down as they dangled off the Maweth flagpost hanging above his window. Their look of concentration and frustration was plain on their very recognizable face; recognizable enough that it matched instantly to a file in his database.


“Mew Ket,” he said, brightly, clasping hands together, “of Ket’s Valley. I don’t think we’ve met.”


“That we haven’t, robot,” the other spat.


“It is traditionally considered somewhat rude and uncouth to interrupt someone in their sleep,” Jrigette said, “though I don’t require much sleep so I’m not offended, only curious.”


“I don’t care if I’ve offended you.”


“Noted for future reference.”


“Ugh.” Mew Ket’s muzzle scrunched in blatant disgust. “You sound the same as the rest of Lurifax’s walking calculators. Why is he interested in you, then?”


“Inquiring after Mewt Mavet’s idiosyncrasies to anyone but him is often fruitless. Though I suppose interrogating him nets even less information, so in any case, this is a valid method.” he smiled.


Mew Ket regarded him with a both disbelieving-and-irritated glare. Rather than reply, he swung himself into the room, landing on all fours. He righted himself stiffly - one leg limping slightly.


Oh. He was injured.


Cross-reference. Yes, Mewt Mavet had visited Ket’s Valley approximately three days thirteen hours sixteen minutes ago. It was like him to inflict wounds that could not be affected by healing magic as well. Two and two made four.


“I can heal your injury, if you’d like,” he offered.


“Does the Empire know you’re here?” Mew Ket snapped, shifting to subtly lean against an end table. 


“I see that you’re putting your weight on the other leg or on nearby furniture significantly. And I recall that you climbed the rooftops to get here. I suspect you may have worsened the damage somewhat.”


“Enough,” Mew Ket waved a hand, “I know what robots are - I’m not ignorant. Don’t pretend like you’re really concerned or that you know what it feels like. Now, answer my questions.”


Aptly, a jolt of offense and pain shot through his spine. It was not the same startle as the alert as he realized something he’d spoken was factually incorrect, or misquoted a statistic - no, this one was worse: the burning sensation of being disbelieved. 


Ah, poetic irony - to attest with full chest that he knew Jrigette could not feel pain - and then wring out that very emotion in him! To act like Jrigette’s concern was that of a mere healer bot, miming out a doctor’s bedside manner - and not from something deep inside of him that he still couldn’t quite identify.


Perhaps the most frustrating thing was how common of a feeling it was to him.


Still, he merely sucked in a breath and spoke: “I am happy to answer your questions but your leg is actually deeply concerning me.”


The other’s frown was plain. No leader expected to be dismissed so easily and blatantly. It was, in fact, rather rude. The kind of rude that resulted in peasants being beheaded in dictatorships. Which Maweth was.


“Not that I mean to be dismissive,” Jrigette added.


Not that he thought he’d be beheaded. 


Hm... he maybe needed ten more minutes of stalling.


“If it gets you to shut up,” Mew Ket huffed, and reached to peel up his pants leg.


Jrigette crouched and peered at the mess of flesh and muscle. His estimates hadn’t been too far off. Simply: messy, crude, passionate, and bloody. It was certainly Mewt’s work, and likely done with a silver dagger of six inches and sharp edge.


Silver. A poison metal, and the kind of injury that would last a lifetime. If Mew Ket was lucky, perhaps he’d arranged for a powerful healing Flame to visit the Valley in the coming months. 


Though Ket’s name lacked the political sway it once had, it would be enough to entice a Dominion of some healing sort... though not in any priority timeframe.


He could imagine it hurt. He could imagine the pain, the scream of agony as silver bit into flesh and devoured magic as one - leaving the cut gaping and weeping, desperately, the body unable to repair itself after being drained of its inherent lifeforce.


A lifeforce that many mortals took for granted. Not that he faulted them for such. It was as normal to them as the steel of his body was to he. But for an outsider such as himself - well, magic was an incredible thing, wasn’t it?


Though, he knew he wasn’t as much of an outsider as he considered himself. Uniquely blessed.


“You’re aware Mewt Mavet did this?” Ket asked, voice frigid.


“Yes,” Jrigette replied, simply, raising his arms.


With a familiar jolt - one that ran from his tailtip to his horns - a wave of adrenaline and magic gushed into his body. It vibrated through the plates in his arms, through the pistons of joints, out against his fingers and palm, dancing against the faux fur covering his false body.


But, in that false body, he was real. This was him - this magic. The boon that defined him. The boon that made him a person. 


Just like all the other people around him. Personhood.


Personhood.


He pressed it to Ket’s leg. The other gave a brief hiss, but untensed as the healing worked through the torn ligaments and warped skin, as Jrigette’s personhood sunk into his body and went to work.


Tenderly, lovingly, in the way only magic could, it pulled muscle to muscle and filled in the gaps. Sweetly, carefully, it stitched broken flesh to broken flesh. 


It was a beautiful thing, magic. With it filling his system, he could let out a small sigh - something of relief, something of exhilaration. 


To know that he was alive. 


To feel it. To project himself into the world in the metaphysical way of all living beings, truly living beings, and be counted amongst them.


To push his consciousness into a wound, and tell it to heal. To express that desire to help, that compassion, that care - and be able to make it physical and real and tangible. 


To express himself, in his deepest and truest form.


Too many took it for granted. But how could he blame them? They couldn’t conceive of a life away from this boon. And even he barely could grasp at it - only aware of his sibling’s lack of ability, through no fault of their own.


They simply didn’t generate it the way he did.


The tension still lingered, but as always - casting magic filled him with a calm sort of wonder and awe: incredible enough to make his hands shake, but his breathing steady. Just another fascinating trait of such a holy thing.


“Sorry I’ve been so stiff,” he said, quirking an awkward smile, “I didn’t know why you were here and suspected the worst - it was making me kind of nervous.”


“Nervous.”


“It must be strange to you, if you know what robots are.” he could feel the healing magic still coursing through his false veins, pumping real blood and squeezing Lurifax’s plasma creation both. “To hear me speak of actual emotion when my siblings only approximate it.”


“Don’t be smug. I’m not convinced yet.” Ket paused, then looked to his leg. “Hey. Fuck.”


Jrigette lifted his hands. The other’s leg was pristine. He sat back, almost like a pleased cat. Almost. His smile was smaller than the pictures he swiftly referenced.


“How did you-?”


Perhaps Mew Ket was not so familiar with robots, then, if his display of magic alone hadn’t been surprising. 


Scenarios, then, of Ket’s knowledge. Traveled for Emperor Peaches’ crowning. Interacted with service robots on the way, in the train, and in the City Canthores. Minimal exposure, enough to leave an impression but not actually understand inner machinations. 


Even repeated exposure to Empiras crownings could be accounted for, if factoring in Ket’s likely disinterest in robots as a whole until discovering Mewt’s favoritism. 


“It was silver,” Ket said, almost dumbfounded. “Silver torture. There’s not even a scar. How? Did you cauterize-”


“Cauterize the wound and induce the growth of skin overtop in order to hide the scar, resulting in a permanent maim and interior infected scar tissue?” Jrigette finished, standing again. “No. I wouldn’t do something as stupid as that.”


Ket’s frowned spelled, plainly, that he had a few ‘healed’ wounds of that sort. “Okay, asshole, then explain what you did right now.”


“There’s no need to be rude,” he replied, supporting his words with a frown of his own, “I understand you’re impatient to get answers but honestly, you could treat me with some respect after I healed you.”


Ket pointed at his chest. “This wasn’t a transaction. You don’t get to act like healing my leg means I owe you.”


“The simple answer to ‘how’ is that I utilized my Flame. Which I am certain you have heard of at least in passing if you knew who I was and knew how to find me here.” Jrigette tapped the windowsill. “As far as I am aware you’re an intelligent man, so you must have deduced before arriving here at least that Mewt Mavet would desire control of such a Flame for his own uses. Does that not answer your question of what he sees in me? So why have you come to seek further answers and place yourself in mortal peril?”


Ket’s ears pinned back as he stared, almost blankly, at Jrigette.


Ok. Step back. Had he exposited information too quickly and needed to repeat? No, the other’s expression lacked confusion and wasn’t glazed over. 


Maybe it was only just now hitting him that Jrigette was not merely a simple robot.


Hehe. It felt silly and presumptuous to say that about himself. Which in and of itself was a strange and funny feeling - shame, guilt, humility. Not that his siblings could feel any emotions in the first place, but - it still seemed to other him around then, when they so confidently acted out their orders and programming.


Ah, but calling it confidence was anthropomorphizing them too much. They simply did as they were told.


“For all your big talk - are you asking me that legitimately?” Ket pressed, though he remained tensed.


“I am. You were in fact walking around on my roof. I was confused and concerned as to why.”


“I needed to see you for myself,” was the swift response. “Mewt’s spoken so fucking highly of you.”


Jrigette froze.


Warmth radiated throughout his body, supplied by the sensation of his magic tingling. It was a stark contrast to simply the heat of his systems running, or the friction of metal against metal, or deliberately raising his temperature to be more palpable to those touching him. 


No, this kind of heat was internal, and only externalized in-


“-You’re blushing?” Ket asked, incredulous. “Is that what that is?”


Jrigette lifted a hand to obscure the pink on his cheeks - his turn to pin his ears back. “I-I am certainly not. I was merely...” words words words run systems c’mon “-STARTLED by the idea o-of what you spoke of.”


“Right. Sure.” Ket’s face was, thankfully, one of irritation and not interest. “You have blood in your system? Real blood?”


“Real blood,” he affirmed, thoroughly cursing its presence at the moment. 


Thankfully, he only needed approximately three more minutes.


“Real blood. And a Flame that can heal silver torture? How?”


“It’s complicated yet simple. Hard to explain quickly.”


“Quickly? I’ve got the time.” Ket huffed again. “You’re a cagey bastard, though. Nothing like the robots I’ve met. Nothing at all, really. In any way.”


“I’ve been told I’m not a good liar,” he said, with a slight smile, “I find omitting truths is easier.”


Ket shifted his weight to his other foot. “Come on. If you’re so smart then you know why I’m curious. I mean... Mewt, settling for anyone? Let alone a simple robot - even if you are Flamed.” he truly failed to grasp the gravity of what he’d just said. “You seem nice enough but Mewt doesn’t give a shit about ‘nice’. So what’s up then?”


“What has he said of me to you that has left you with this impression?”


“Plenty of things. Complicated yet simple. Hard to explain quickly, y’see.”


“Your defensiveness has barely wrought you any answers,” Jrigette said, “and you surely know your time here is limited as much as you fear Mewt learning of your trip. Yet you continue to stall the conversation. Why?”


Of course, he’d already guessed his own reason: Mew Ket was on the wrong foot. Jrigette’s actions had so thoroughly frazzled him that he struggled to maintain control of the conversation, and wasn’t certain of how to navigate a social setting in which he wasn’t either the leader of the pack or a bitter underling of Mewt Mavet’s.


Ket’s face was now in plain frustration. He leaned forward as he spoke, articulating every syllable by hitting his palm with the side of his other hand. 


“You haven’t given me a straight answer either. You’ve thrown questions right back at me and distracted me with simple things like my leg, without giving me a proper explanation. It’s almost like YOU’RE stalling-”


-The door burst open, Kasha’s hand flying out in a blitz of magic. Mew Ket was thrown against a wall instantly, letting out a pained grunt as his soft body hit hard clay. 


It was a nasty hit. He’d likely bruised a rib in the impact. He didn’t hack up any blood - good sign, he’d likely not punctured his stomach then - but let out another weak moan a few seconds after impact. Kasha’s magic kept him pinned there as two other lesser Dewclaws crept into the room, scouring it for signs of distress or attack. 


“Captain Kasha,” Jrigette said, turning to face him.


The other’s stoic expression turned to serene upon their eyes meeting. “Jrigette. Glad to see you’re alright. Did he harm you?”


“Not at all.”


“Excellent. Terribly sorry for the trouble - we’re still deducing how he slipped past the wards and guards.”


Mew Ket peeled himself from the wall as best he could. He glowered at Kasha, but didn’t protest - aware of the further trouble it would cause him, of course. It was already a serious crime to have invaded the Innercity. Ardor save Ket if he harmed a Dewclaw or one of the cult’s heads.


“It’s no trouble at all,” Jrigette said, with a smile. “He was just visiting to discuss some matters with me. Nothing more, nothing less. No harm done.”


“You give that mange-cat too much grace, Jrigette,” Kasha said, but his small smile remained.


“You’ll put in a good word to Mewt on my behalf, regarding this break-in, then? Keep him out of trouble?”


“I don’t need your pity,” Ket spat. 


“Ignore him,” Kasha said, waving a hand. “He’s always like this.”


“That’s... unfortunate,” Jrigette said, glancing to the other, “I don’t mean to be patronizing.”


“Again, Jrigette, don’t fret.” Kasha’s voice was calm and smooth, even as the lesser Dewclaws cuffed Ket in copper. “We have this handled, and you can shake off whatever he said. Now - would you like a guard for the rest of the night?”


“There’ll be no need for that, but thank you.”


Kasha gave a polite, deep nod - and then scooped Jrigette’s hand to plant a graceful kiss on the back of his palm. Goodbye ritual finished, he glided out of the room after the other two Dewclaws, pulling the door shut gently afterwards.


Ok.


Recap. Conclusion. Store memory.


Mew Ket. Leader of Ket’s Valley. Powerful Flame. One of Mewt’s rivals. In his room at four AM, demanding vague answers. Not what he was expecting. But was he ever expecting anything in Maweth?


He was surely being taken to a holding cell in order to receive Mewt’s judgment in the morning. And what a fury that would be - invading Mewt’s private palace and terrorizing his favored lov- partn- FRIEND - to the point of needing Kasha’s assistance to rescue Jrigette. And he knew Kasha was not going to put in a good word for Ket.


Hmhm. And would likely leave a guard outside of his room regardless of his earlier protests. 


The window sat stalwart on the west-facing wall.


He knew where the cells were - not that he’d ever been in one. He knew which ones were the high-security, lined-with-gold-in-the-walls for containing mages. And he could accurately estimate the time it took for Kasha to drag Ket there: twenty-six minutes thirty-five seconds.


It would only take him twenty to follow.


System check. Blood pressure slightly elevated from the encounter and use of magic. Nothing out of the ordinary, and everything else was pristine. 


Jrigette allowed himself a small smile. Maybe his body was incapable of producing adrenaline, but the sensation in his chest did not feel so foreign to it - a squeezing, an excitement, a rush, the eagerness to fling himself out the window and dart over the buildings of Innercity. 


After all - it wasn’t as if he’d been harmed, injured, or genuinely offended by Mew Ket’s actions. 


Was that really deserving of Mewt’s displeasure and punishment, on his behalf? Did Ket deserve to spend the night in prison and then face Mewt’s anger the next morning, all for a simple nighttime visit?


No, of course not. Jrigette would never let such things come to pass so long as he was here, in Maweth. 


It was the least he could do.


Jrigette gripped the top of the window and swung himself out.