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Chapter 8.CrashCourse

“Now just humor me, here. This is going to teach you more about your environment than anything else before. This will level the playing field when it comes to your selective ignorance. Once you head down this path, if I’m right about you; you’ll probably pressure me to teach you more. But you gotta pace yourself…” Karl advised and then held his index finger; “Now I need you to focus on your eyes only, follow my finger. I need you to watch it, but also follow the path it makes. This may seem stupid, and it will take a long time… but it’s the fastest way to learn… and the wolves are, quite literally, at the gates.”

Xavien sighed, nodded and humored this odd crow-man-shifter. His eyes followed Karl’s finger, but also tried to memorize the path that it took; all the while he listened to the word’s Karl spoke.

“Now this is a little like prayer… I know it sounds stupid to a hyper-logical person like yourself… but it isn’t gods that we pray to. Sometimes the spirits help us, if we’re kind to them. You can learn a lot from them, you can also learn from other shifters… but things can go wrong if you don’t focus right. I don’t have the time or patience to give you the full explanation right now. Okay… now… remember the path. It’s sort of like a zig-zag pattern… it’s more or less like a spiritual sigil drawn in the air, like an ethereal constellation traced in the air. Now, you focus on my hand and follow the path with your mind… but also try to mimic it.” Karl said in a low, calm and steady voice.

Xavien did as he was told. He had been lulled into an almost trancelike state by this point, but remained fully conscious of his environment. It felt as if his ears would pop from the pressure, and that his eyes could not open wide enough to see what awaited… but his mind was hungry for the information, so he patiently followed along.

“Good. That’s the right pattern. Now… I’m going to stop the motion. You continue the motion and just focus on me. I want you to look at me… look through me… then I want you to try to look in the spaces in between. Before you get confused, just… look at me… then through me to the wall behind me… and you will feel… a shift… in your focus… pull back and look there.” Karl instructed; himself in a trance-like state.

Xavien’s mind almost snapped out of the hypnotic state at the obtuse nature of the instruction, but he willed his focus to remain steady. He looked at Karl’s face, the slight pock-marks in his shockingly pale complexion, the haunting gray eyes, the shaggy black hair and large nose. Then he focused through him to the memory of the wall that was behind Karl’s head. He focused on the textured beige wallpaper on the wall. As he did so, he felt the slight shift that Karl had mentioned. He pulled back and tried to see what was there, what he could not see. As he continued the hand motion, he then saw Karl’s skin darken and then his eyesight left him temporarily. A moment of panic set in for a split second… and then… his mind flooded with the distinct image of a horrid seven-foot-tall creature that was half-bird and half-man… almost as a memory of what he had already seen, even though he saw it currently.

The sight startled him and then it fascinated him. He tried to ponder it further, but then the vision faded. He put his hand down and sighed as he looked at Karl.

“No luck?” Karl asked; “It’s no big deal. No one gets it on the first try. You know, I’m actually not even supposed to know how to do it, either.”

“Oh, no… I got it. It was as you said.” Xavien nodded.

Karl drew in the left corner of his mouth, tilted his head down and furrowed his eyebrows skeptically; “Really.”

“I saw…well, I… remembered… seeing… a half-bird, half-man thing. Scary because it startled me at first, but now that I think about it, it was kind of ugly and ridiculous looking… like a side-show freak.” Xavien recalled, and then added the sardonic embellishment as a smug expression spread over his face.

“Okay. That is a bit scary, to be very honest with you. And, thanks, shit-heel… We can’t all be pretty monsters. But I always hear of prodigies and upstarts and chuckle, because they’re almost always bullshit. You weren’t supposed to pick it up that quickly. Whatever. I guess you’re the real deal… The Golden… errr… Silvered Child.” Karl’s admiration seemed slightly overstated, in comparison to the streak of jealousy that became evident.

“You’re a good teacher. You assessed it correctly, when you thought I would want to know more. Teach me more, bird-man.” Xavien broke into an amused smile and allowed his charm to surface.

“Bird-man?” Karl chuckled; “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. Okay, Dogmeat… We’ll see if your mind can handle more. Eventually, you will be too tired to continue… I have a good suspicion that your stamina is not as high as your brain wishes it was. Now… go over to the front door and lock it. I’ll teach you something that many of my kind learn very, very early on.” Karl instructed.

Xavien did as he was told, and watched as Karl displayed another hand motion; this one more circular and directed toward the doorknob. Karl told him to focus on secrets that lay outside of the door, but to focus only on the fact that there were secrets, not anything specific.

“The key is to understand that the spirit that helps you wants to know the secrets too... But if you demystify it too much, they may lose interest.” Karl explained.

Xavien mimicked the movement, obeyed the instruction as to where his focus should be. When the door unlocked, Karl shook his head quickly and re-locked it.

Xavien mimicked it once again and the door unlocked.

“No way. This is stupid. I quit. Shit, are you fucking with me, here?” Karl asked in an accusatory tone.

Xavien tilted his head; “I’m not sure what you mean. I’m doing exactly as you told me.”

Karl wasn’t quite satisfied, but nodded; “Yeah? We’ll see. I’m gunna see exactly how fast of a study you really are. I’m going to teach you something that is beyond your natural capacity… and if you get it… you get it… If you are for real, then I will be able break you tonight. If you aren’t for real… then… Well… I have no idea.”

He didn’t move as slowly as he did before with his hand motions, he also did not provide any further instruction. Xavien mimicked but was not able to discern an effect. He then nodded and piped up; “I got it, I got what the motion is… what do I focus on?”

“What does the motion look like? Pretend we’re playing charades… what does this look like?” Karl asked, this time in his normal grating tone.

Xavien repeated the hand motions and could not determine what the purpose was. He levied guesses; “Dressing? Putting a robe on? Ringing a bell?”

“Close. What sort of clothes would we need to put on?” Karl asked, as a teacher would coax an answer from a student’s mind.

“A disguise? To blend in?” Xavien blurted, hopefully.

“Not quite, Wolfman Jack. Keep going.” Karl said, and almost seemed intent on harrying Xavien.

He pondered further. Karl was a cowardly creature, more out of survival. He did not like confrontation and did not get up close and personal. But this hand motion was not a disguise. Then he understood.

“Armor.” Xavien stated assertively.

“Yeah? If you think that’s what it is… make it happen. You’ll have to focus a lot harder… I’m gunna warn you… you’re going to be disappointed because your mind isn’t trained this way yet.” Karl said, in a bit of a gentle tone, to let him down easily.

Xavien was pleased with himself, and focused harder. He felt taxed and drained… Tiny dots of light flooded his vision, as if the blood had rushed to his head. The sensation of pins and needles flooded his body as if it had just had circulation returned. After a few moments, all that was left was the feeling that his skin was tighter than before.

“I think I did it wrong.” Xavien said, dejectedly.

Karl sighed; “Good—er… well… at least for now.”

“I mean, my skin feels tighter, and I feel a tingling sensation. What’s supposed to happen?” Xavien asked, innocently.

Karl squinted; “Wait, what? You feel something different? Hold on… just… hold on.” He then fled to the kitchen, grabbed a knife; “Now hold still, I’m going to stab you.”

Xavien laughed at the absurd nature of Karl’s statement, but before he thought to move away… Karl had stabbed him in the shoulder.

Karl dropped the knife and slumped his head to the right side; “Maaaan…You’ve gooootta be fucking kidding me!”

Xavien looked at his shoulder and saw that the knife did not pierce the skin… but had left a hole in his shirt. He smiled slightly; “If it makes you feel any better… I don’t think I could do it again if you threatened me with certain death.”

“Really? Well that’s something, at least.” Karl shook his head in amazement; “Shit, you’ve seriously been wasting your time. It’s like that movie where that guy gets shot with the silver bullet… then returns to play baseball? Except you’ve just been fucking around. Well, since it worked… let’s go pick a fight. That shit doesn’t last forever.” Karl said quickly.

“Wait, huh? I told you I don’t work that way!” Xavien spouted.

“Vampires feed on the blood of the living. Most of the time they don’t take enough to kill, but sometimes they do. I think you’d prefer to get rid of one of those parasites for good… unless you’re a fucking pussy. Is the doggy afraid of fighting?” Karl sneered.

Xavien bristled at the commentary, but agreed that vampires… if they were real… needed to die… or die again, as the case would be; “Well if I don’t kill something soon, you’ll have to do.”

“That’s the spirit! Now keep up with me on this… you gotta be four-footed for this exercise… I’ll… talk you through this.”

“Yippee.” Xavien deadpanned.

“You’re the man… you’ll be fine. I hope.” Karl smirked and chuckled nervously.

“If not?”

“Then you’re fucked and I gotta bail you out. Don’t let that happen; your ego will never recover and I will never let you forget it.” Karl said half-jokingly.

Xavien shifted down into his small wolf form and followed Karl out of his house. He then quickly lost sight of Karl, but somehow, he still heard his voice.

“Okay, now… head down behind the complex into the shadows. You are sort of noticeable and don’t want to attract too much attention. Not too many wild animals beyond raccoons make it this far into the inner city. I have word that there’s a young vampire that is pretty close by. If you get there soon enough, you may be able to get to it before it feeds. You’ll want to do it quickly, and without a lot of noise. I’ll lure it into an alley.” Karl’s disembodied voice instructed. Xavien did not enjoy his voice normally, but the fact that it now seemed to follow him irritated him further.

Xavien followed the path as directed and awaited further from Karl.

“Okay, second left and it’s show time. Good luck.” Karl spoke in a manner that convinced Xavien that this had to be some sort of telepathic communication, as it did not seem like noise.

He took the second left and saw a tall, gaunt female that had begun to stalk Karl from behind.

Quickly, Karl shifted into his crow form and flew away. This startled the female and she turned to make a quick exit. She was dressed like a hooker with a tight rainbow-colored pleather mini skirt and black halter-top, with black knee-high boots and large hoop earrings. Her face and form was not unlike that of a drug-user, sunken features with a slight smell of death about her.

Xavien tried his best to adopt a stance that would intimidate, and began to snarl. The female bared her fangs, which confirmed to Xavien that this would be an okay creature to destroy. It lunged to his right side and he blocked her path. She lunged to his left and he leapt in front of her. It was obvious that it had no desire to engage him, and felt that it may know more about his kind than he did.

After a few more dance steps, Xavien tired of this form. He certainly did not want to bite this thing. He shifted into his human form, grabbed a short, rusted metal bar that lay in the alley and held it in his left hand. It was about fourteen inches long, and he hoped to stab her in the neck.

Move.” The vampire hissed.

“Seriously? You face her as a man… holding a piece of metal?” Karl spoke in his mind; “Couldn’t you figure out another… form… to approach this?”

Xavien wasn’t quite convinced that he needed to turn into a damn werewolf every time he wanted to fight something.

“Shut up.” Xavien said aloud, to both of them. He wasn’t nervous, but he was unsure and felt under-prepared.

The vampire hissed and swiped at him. Its fingernails had distended into claws. Xavien responded quickly and reflexively drove the metal bar directly into her eye socket. The creature, stunned and mortally wounded, fell backward awkwardly.

Xavien took this opportunity to jump on the body as it was about to land. He yanked the metal bar out and jammed it into the other eye. The creature was dead.

“Damnit, you’re a fucking werewolf. This was a chance to… oh, I dunno… exercise?” Karl’s voice came from behind him.

Xavien chuckled and looked at his blood-spattered clothes; “Well I may be a werewolf, but that doesn’t mean I should abandon common sense. If you wish me to exercise my abilities, how about you put me in a situation that I actually need to use them. If I can beat it as a man, there’s no need to make a big scene and risk being seen.”

“But… gaaah! You motherfuckerthat’s the whole point! You knew that we were coming here to kill a vampire!” Karl spat out in frustration.

“You said nothing about actually shifting up into a werewolf form and pretending to be all frightening and scary just to make a big production out of it. I used my environment to my advantage and destroyed the creature. I followed the letter of your instruction; it isn’t quite my fault that I did not do exactly as you preferred.” Xavien spoke in a cheeky tone. He figured that a bit of fun at Karl’s expense would mitigate some of the annoyance that Karl exacted upon him.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake. I thought you were like, intelligent… at least enough to know what the fuck is going on!?”

“Perhaps… But this is something that I’ve never presumed to be… I merely am as I have been. I work hard and do what I need to in the effort of accomplishing my goals.” Xavien smirked.

“But… gah… nothing in your file or reputation said that you would act this way. At worst, I expected that I’d have to dodge a bullet or two… Stop fucking with me and at least pretend to know precisely how fucked you are without my help.” Karl whined.

“Perhaps you should be more direct and provide me something that is not a gross underestimation of my abilities.” Xavien spoke, in a slightly more serious tone.

“Let me be honest… those spiritual tricks I taught you? There’s no way you should have been able to do them or learn them as quickly. Even still, the spirits should not have responded like they did. Either you have some sort of spirituality that you haven’t told me… or they just naturally love your stupid ass. I know you’ve been known to surprise people… but to see it myself? It’s rather annoying, actually. Makes me feel like a fucking idiot. How the hell am I supposed to know what your abilities are, if you don’t even know? Tell you what, Mister Brawny-and-Brainy… you just go ahead and humor me. Let’s just assume that, if I tell you to kill something? Use your werewolf form. You need practice. Okay?” Karl sighed and stated as calmly as his high-strung temperament would allow.

“Fair enough. That tingling sensation is gone from my skin. I guess that spirit-effect or whatever has worn off. Mmm… I think I smell doughnuts. Do we have time for a doughnut break?” Xavien asked.

“What? You… you just finished two of the biggest meatball subs I’ve ever seen… like an hour ago…” Karl said, with exasperation rising in his voice once more.

“I didn’t get dessert now, did I?”

“An arrogant and pompous prima-donna… well, at least you won’t have an issue fitting in with your particular breed… Fine. Let’s get you a doughnut. I do have a question… You’re like, twenty-five, right? You aren’t secretly seven years old, are you?” Karl asked, derisively.

“Well that’s certainly a ridiculous question. I can only assume that you find my desire for doughnuts at this moment to be puerile as well as an unnecessary diversion from your expert training.” Xavien winked as he levied another barb at his instructor.

“Let’s just get this done. I’ll go find something else for you. Keep in mind, I can up the ante… but remember that even the ‘easy’ kills can get lucky and make you look stupid or worse. If I put you in over your head and you die? I get nothing, and probably worse—but I don’t want to think about that.”

Xavien sighed and nodded; “Let’s forgo the fried dough for now. I’ll humor you until we find my baseline. Just don’t get irritated if I continue to surprise you.”

“Gee, thanks… so nice to have your cooperation.” Karl chirped sarcastically; “Alright… my contact has let me know about another leech that is currently in the process of tracking an underage drinker that is stumbling home.”

“This information, I assume, is coming telepathically?” Xavien asked.

“Yeah. Quick study. What’s it to you?” Karl asked, in a surprisingly defensive tone.

“I want to know how to do this. Maybe not this evening. But very soon.” Xavien demanded.

“No. No. Huh-uh. You’ll get in over your head too quickly. Now, let’s go do this thing.” Karl shook his head dismissively, then shifted down into his small bird form and flew off. Xavien shifted down into his wolf form, and pondered what would happen to the re-deceased corpse in the alleyway. Would it burst into flames in the morning? He would ask Karl another time. It wasn’t like Xavien to be so careless, but he was in new territory and held out faith that Karl was not going to steer him wrong.

A few more telepathic directions later, and Xavien had made his way to Hyde City Central Park. There was a young man, roughly about eighteen, thoroughly soused and in tears about something. He reeked of beer.

Xavien sniffed the air and caught the subtle scent of death. He crouched down and took cover until it was located. His nose directed him and he spotted the creature, a small girl about the age of twelve. This disturbed him, because he had not expected to find one that looked so young. It also did not appear to be as gaunt as the other one; Its skin was very smooth and looked a little like polished marble in the sunlight.

He froze as the vampire looked directly into his eyes from across the park. It smiled and motioned toward him. This was a little disconcerting, but Xavien accepted this challenge willingly. He shifted into his human form and walked toward the child-shaped vampire. It was wearing a dark plaid Catholic schoolgirl’s jumper and white shirt.

Karl’s voice chided him; “Seriously? Okay. Actually, this one is a bit stronger, so you will have to be careful. You can take her, but don’t fuck around. The most you’re gunna do is give the drunk kid a story that no one will believe… so go ahead and shift up and do this leech in.”

Xavien smirked and nodded; he liked a challenge.

The vampire advanced toward him; “Xavien Vandeleur… or do you still want me to call you Brady, still?”

“Abort! Abort!” Karl’s tinny bird-voice rang out from the trees.

Xavien had no intention of doing so. He was interested in what the vampire had to say; “Does it really matter, at this point?”

“I suppose not. Are you here looking to save this poor kid’s life? Changed to supernatural police work? I assure you, I only want a little bit.” The parasite smiled innocently.

Xavien pondered for a moment. This creature was as enchanting as it as interesting. He wished to speak with it a bit longer, to perhaps learn. It did not seem as feral as the other creature, nor did it seem as fragile.

“What’s the name you go by?” Xavien asked.

“April. I admire your restraint in this situation. You’re not like others of your kind, but we all knew that. The thing that I particularly enjoy is that you do not intend on attacking me. As a measure of good faith, I will let you in on a bit of a tidbit. If you had… my sisters would have come to my rescue and we would have had some fun with you. Can’t say we would have killed you; that’s sort of spontaneous.” The vampire spoke a sweet, but icy tone.

“Your sisters? Where are they and what are their names?” Xavien asked, thoroughly intrigued.

Why the fuck are you holding a fucking discourse with the motherfucking cock-sucking blood-drinking sister-licking shit-eating vampire?!!” Karl’s exasperated and angered tone was evident, even telepathically.

“May and June. I assure you, I am not coy. In life we were identical triplets. Our dear old dad shot us all in the back on our twelfth birthday. If it wasn’t for our eventual sire, our story would end there. But… long story shorter, even we undead can enjoy beauty and symmetry. Our sire considered us trophies in triplicate. I enjoy the hunger you have for information. I see it in your eyes almost as clearly as the annoyance you have for whomever vexes you telepathically.” April spoke soothingly.

“I believe I have vexed him greatly as well. However, I feel that there is no real need to act hastily. I’ve always acted with equal measures of intellect and intuition. I do wish to learn from you, but understand that I will never be able to trust you or your kind. I suspect that one of my kind is viewed the same way. Is there a neutral ground where we may meet again some time?” Xavien asked.

“I like you. I really enjoy you. Believe what you will… but I think we could work something out to be mutually beneficial in that regard. After all, we all know your real target…” April spoke.

Xavien blinked and was startled by the fact that he suddenly saw three of April standing before him; “Wow. Truly identical, that’s nearly impossible…”

“And yet… there is another set of triplets in this city… identical, as well. Funny how this land attracts the unusual. You work with them.” The voice came from the April on the right.

“Which are you? May or June?” Xavien asked.

“My name is May.”

“Fantastic. I work with identical triplets? Impossible, I would have noticed!” Xavien refuted.

“You have an officer by the name of Jorge in your building. Works on your floor. Jorge Camino. He’s actually a different person every other day. He’s like you, but a different… totally different breed.” June, who stood to April’s left, spoke.

“Really? Hmph. Interesting. I should get going, I guess my teacher is somewhat irritated and would prefer if I left.”

May and June turned and spoke to April in unison; “He shows absolutely no fear.”

April nodded; “They like you. You don’t know enough to be fearful, however… your soul has much potential to do some good. If you wish some training… we could provide a safe place and a less… controversial target?”

Xavien tilted his head; “This trust thing doesn’t come naturally… why would you help me?”

May spoke; “You can’t always walk around free of risk. We will hedge our bets to protect ourselves… but consider yourself a bit of a… project… for us. As long as you perform within the boundaries of reasonable political decorum… I see no reason why we couldn’t work together.”

“What would I kill for you? Rival vampires?” Xavien guessed.

June grinned, her mouth full of pointed teeth unlike those of her sisters; “He’s very sharp! Yes, of course! We get along even less than your kind does.”

“I’ll consider it. I don’t need to know anything about your kind to suspect that this could be relatively hazardous if I do not proceed with caution. How may I contact you?” Xavien asked.

“We expect nothing less than caution and discretion from someone such as yourself. Let us meet here in three nights’ time.” April nodded decisively.

“Fair enough. I appreciate it.” Xavien nodded with a professional smile. He watched in awe as the three child-vampires faded into an ethereal mist and then vanished completely.

“Wooaaah… dude… did you see those girls just disappear?” A stunned voice slurred from behind him.

Xavien grinned and thought of something somewhat impulsive. He shifted up into his werewolf form and whipped his body around to face the boy.

The boy’s eyes lit with fear and he froze like a deer in the headlights.

“You will never drink alcohol again. If you do, I will hunt you down and tear your fucking arms off.” Xavien’s deepened werewolf voice growled and rumbled.

The smell of feces and urine permeated the air around the boy as he nodded.

“Do. You. Under-stand. Me?” Xavien spoke in halting tones.

“N-no-no… not real…” The boy shook his head.

“Do. You. Under-Stand. Me? No more alcohol. Ever.”

“No-no-okay… no more. N-no… no more.” The boy stammered and then passed out.

Xavien, pleased with himself, shifted into human form. He then heard the sound of small hands as they provided polite golf-applause from behind him. He turned and saw Karl standing beside a waifish female that looked to be about twenty. She was dressed in a patent-leather dress and thigh-high leather boots. Her skin was extremely pale, and she had long, straight black hair that cascaded down her body to her hips. Her face was not very pretty, as her nose seemed unusually large and her black makeup only served to make her appear ghastlier.

“Grand Central Station for freaks tonight, I guess…” Xavien muttered aloud.

“Speak for yourself, wolfie.” The girl spoke, unoffended.

“And who are you?” Xavien asked, suspiciously.

“I am Agony. I was called in to help you, in case you needed help.” She drew a crossbow that had a wooden crossbow bolt notched.

“Agony, eh? All the other names were taken?” Xavien asked as he stretched the boundaries of social convention. Her demeanor seemed to allow some liberties in this area.

“It’s my spirit-name. Some of us wear it on our sleeve… others choose to go by different names in different circles. It usually fits our purpose or desire, and announces our presence properly to others without a word being said. That was your real question, wasn’t it?” She spoke astutely.

“What’s yours Karl?” Xavien nodded at Agony as he asked.

“Karl Tellam. It’s a family name. We typically have a first name that plays on our last name, almost creating a running joke for anyone who pays attention. For example, my cousin, Hugo and my niece Shelly.” Karl spoke, with other thoughts clearly beneath the surface of this conversation.

“So… do I need one?” Xavien asked.

“You don’t need one… but as irony would have it… Xavien means New House… and by all accounts? It seems that you are definitely going to live up to it. Cute display with the boy, by the way.” Agony smiled. Her teeth were not straight, and it seemed as if she had a few less than normal, although none were apparently missing.

“Well, thanks for being my backup… Karl? I suppose you’re intent on a dressing-down… Let’s have it so we can get back to work.” Xavien looked at Karl, patiently.

“Ya know… the only thing I had a real problem with was that you talked to it. I admit that you did the right thing by holding back… but… The biggest mistake you can make is by allowing them to talk to you. If they get inside of your head, they can really fuck you up. There have been situations where they’ve, essentially, made remote-controlled werewolves.” Karl said, slightly calmer than before.

“Can I see your dick?” Agony asked, casually.

Xavien was taken aback; “Excuse me?”

“Your penis. Can I look at it?” Agony asked, as if it this was a perfectly acceptable request.

“Wh-umm... why?” Xavien flushed red with embarrassment.

“Well, I am a connoisseur and would like to see it. We can go fuck if you like, too.” She spoke as if this was a normal occurrence.

“No. Just… no. Why would you even think this is normal and within social convention?” Xavien shook his head incredulously.

Agony was nonplussed; “Hey no biggie. It’s how I work. I talk a lot for a living, and am involved in political situations where I need to be delicate. I prefer to be direct when it comes to my basic needs. Food, sex, sleep and torture.”

“Torture?” Xavien asked, slightly less offended and slightly more curious.

“Well, I like to make examples of my prey… which are usually abominations of nature like vampires, ghouls, errant shifters, corrupt humans and other random pukes that get too full of themselves.” Agony explained.

“Ah. Fantastic. Let’s just hope that you don’t make a misstep. I would hate to have to give you some of your own medicine.” Xavien spoke plainly.

“Don’t worry… You may not have the same mission as I do, but I assure you that my victims deserve no pity.” Agony assured

“Anyhow. Karl… I figured that it was not a good idea to accompany them, but I have goals beyond my education. I still have a job to do… I did not see the need to close that door just yet.” Xavien reasoned.

“You don’t need them; ever. Trust me…” Karl shook his head slowly, for emphasis; “Promise me you won’t ever… ever go to that extreme… there’s always another way.”
“I make no such promise. You do your job, I will do mine.” Xavien shook his head dismissively.

“Dammit… you’re a real fucking pain in the ass.” Karl said and then spat on the ground to punctuate his sentence.

“No, Karl… I am the man…” Xavien laughed at his own joke.

“That’s really not a terrible spirit name for you.” Agony chipped in.

Xavien pondered thoughtfully, and then he nodded. He raised an eyebrow and tilted his head; “But how does it describe my purpose?”

“It’s a less pompous way to set yourself apart… and it describes your inauspicious beginning and late-blooming supernatural persona. Plus, it works in the vernacular since you have already shown a propensity for surpassing expectations, breaking records and precocious nature.” Agony smiled as sweetly as her unfortunate face could muster.

Karl nodded ruefully; “Can’t argue with that.”

Xavien grinned “So what’s next, professor?”

Karl shook his head; “Can I trust that you will at least try to cooperate?”

Xavien shrugged; “I’ll do what comes naturally. You should know enough about me to work with me. But yes, I will attempt to.”

Agony smiled; “Gotta fly, boys. Later, sexy!” She nodded and winked at Xavien, then shifted into a raven before she flew away.

Karl sighed; “Let’s just call it quits for the night. You need to rest and recharge. I know you are curious enough to stay up all night, but trust me… it will do you some good.”

Xavien performed a self diagnostic and nodded. He recalled the exhaustion that he felt while Karl taught him those tricks and decided that he truly wanted to prepare for more of that.

“I’ll catch up with you after your shift tomorrow.” Karl shifted down and flew off. It also seemed that Karl needed a break from him, which was also relatively entertaining.

He walked home as a human, on foot and reflected on the past several days. It was tumultuous and excited him, to a point. But, then he recalled the events that truly introduced him to this world.

By the time he had reached his townhome, tears had coated his cheeks and his heart weighed heavily in his chest.

Perhaps he was foolish to want to have a family, but he still had loved them fully nonetheless. It hurt a great deal, and he truly did not know if that wound would ever heal.

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