Red Dragon

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SMITE ME, OH, MIGHTY SMITER

Saturday. Sweet, dear Saturday.

Francis brayed into his pillow, devolving into crying as he stirred from his slumber. His hips were too sore to lay down, his legs propped up by the pillows from the other side of the bed. His muumuu was off, at least, and so was his “extension”. That... was the most uncomfortable he had ever been in that card shop. And he was sure Beatrice caught on by the end that he was “enjoying” it far more than he should have.

He didn’t stay long, though. He had a long HARD day, so he retired early, and that was when his third leg decided to really give him a workout. Even as he cried into his pillow, it was little more than a wheeze, keeping his face raised enough to not suffocate under his own weight. His poor fins lazed on his back, too weary to even slurp back inside, and the less said about what his third leg did to his true third leg the better. The poor thing... He needed to find a girlfriend. He needed a job. Fast! If only to get away... He needed to get away from that... from that...

He brayed into pillow again, screaming into the void that was his personal Hell. Worst part of it was he couldn’t really complain. He was getting laid... Nonconsensual, but still laid. Who would believe a big, burly, hulking brute of a beast was being used by a gilf a quarter of his size? Not only that, but being used to the point that he couldn’t move after?

“Ah hear ya in there,” Nicole called, almost singing it. “Breakfast’ll be ready in ten. Git ye sorry arse moving.”

I really don’t want to, he thought... but his hips finally unlocked. His legs, locked in place for so long, both CRACKED as they let go, toppling into the bed. He moaned into the pillow again, stars, lights flashing before his eyes, but found the power to crawl away and into the bathroom. A quick shower would do wonders; always did. The real challenge was opening the door, and how he knew those of shorter stature did not feel welcome in a tall person’s world. The latch was always just high enough on most “conveniences” to require a bit more effort for those below 4-foot, meaning they needed to either stretch or stand on their tippy toes or, in Francis’ case, pop his arm out of his socket to fully reach.

As it did, his chest also popped, and both were a euphoric rush of adrenaline he needed. His legs creaked, and found their place under him, propelling him back to his normal, gargantuan height. He could have ripped the door off now... but gently closed it behind him, slapping his arm back into place as he did. The shower, itself, was brief, but a heaven, a haven, holding him, nurturing him, helping him alleviate the pain of knowing what awaited him outside of those three walls (and one curtain).

“Cummoan, laddie. Breakfast is gettin’ cold,” Nicole said. Standing outside the shower. She tittered, reaching for the door. “Unless ye are hopin’ for something-”

“I was just finishing,” he said, turning off the water, and stepped out –through the curtain. She had showered earlier, but was still in the buff save for a flimsy stained apron. It did little to hide the glimmering patch between her legs nor the prodding tips digging through the shoddy fabric, which height only helped to accentuate that bust. Francis cleared his throat, and eased himself out of the tub, scuttling towards the bag STILL ON THE SINK... Fortunately, after today, it would be moved. It would have to be; there was nothing else left inside. “So what did you make good to eat?”

She chuckled, that throaty thing, and scratched her cheek.

“It depends. If ye are still in the mood, ah am right delish-”

“Actually to eat.”

“Ah, ye would ruin me fun. All ya men are the same; once ye sink the link ye don’t care –until it comes around time to be dogging for the hole again.”

“Or... or... just putting this out here... you wore me out and I need food more than a fuck.”

“Ah know, laddie. Ahm but teasing ye... for the most part.” She giggled- then slapped his rump, making him jump into his gray slacks. “Do ye have any decent pants? All ah ever seen ya in were these baggy monstrosities and that bloody muumuu. Where did ya even get that?”

“From a temporary friend.”

“Well, ye better start findin’ a job so ye can buy some decent clooths. Ye think any lassie wants a barra who don’t even own a pair of slacks?”

“You do. As does... well, I could list nine off the top of my head right now.”

“Nine! Ye right rapscallion! Ye should know better than to play with that many women’s emotions.”

“I really should, especially when I met all of them in detention.”

“Detention! Are ya gettin’ in trouble at school, laddie?”

“Not really. I’ve only been there twice in a row this week-”

“TWICE IN A... Does Eve know?”

“I would assume so.”

“And why have ye been ge-”

“Can we discuss this as we eat?”

“Agh! Fine fine.”

She spun on her heel and stormed out of the bathroom-then-bedroom, all the while still keeping a sultry bounce in her step. Francis followed, though it took him a moment to put on his pink tank. He was used to putting his head in pink, but didn’t pay too much mind which hole was the right one. It took him nine times before he managed to find the right order, then he jogged out after, meeting her in the kitchen.

The table was laden in so much meat, and not only for breakfast... At least, not in the traditional sense. It was about eleven at night; to call it breakfast at that time would be criminal, but then Francis remembered what the goblin initially taught him. Breakfast wasn’t only a morning term, but, in fact, whenever one broke fasting. It was usually saved for the meal in the morning, but that was because most people woke in the morning then ate, thus breaking their fast in the morning- and he was stalling. The fairies were still so kind to him (and Nicole), and left a couple packs of buns of the hamburger, hot dog, and hoagie variety, perfectly accentuating the choices given to him.

“You went all out today,” he stated, grabbing a hoagie roll. He flicked his thumb thrice against his palms, making sure to at least spark once, then ran the nail along its side. The hiss it made, the soft smoke... it enticed him, urged him, tempted him to rush, but he kept it steady, all the way to the other side. It flopped open, the edges slightly toasted, and he piled in the thin steaks before him. It could fit eight comfortably, with rows of gooey cheese in between, as well as a thick level of peppers and onions, sealed shut... before he did the same to a second. He “cut” open a hamburger bun next, and, after three cheese-topped patties and three sausages, he ended each with a row of bacon, crunching it down to the size of one of the mockeries from the fast food place i-

“So why were ye in trouble? What happened, laddie?” Nicole blurted... and Francis explained, between finishing the rest of his first plate, what transpired, what lead him not only to detention but to play with so many hearts... and what came after. She cackled as he finished the story about the auction... and what Desiree did the day before, shaking her head. “Oh my, laddie. You sure know how to pick ’em.”

“I know, right? Who knew that the only ones that could stand to be in my presence would be complete fucking nutjobs?”

“Aye, that may be true, but those are the type of women that don’t lie to yer face. They accepted ye for who ya are, for better and worst. Truth be told, ah think ye ruled out the lamia too soon-”

“I didn’t ‘rule her out’. I just think she is a crazy snake lady –which she is.” He bit into his first steak at last –and could have cried again... It shouldn’t come as a shock to him, but Nicole really knew how to work meat. Even as thin as they were, she was able to bring out so much flavor in every individual steak. The cheese sauce, though was the block cheese he knew, had a bit of smoke to it from a drizzle of chipotle added to the melting process, while the vegetables? Thrown into the skillet just long enough to begin caramelizing, leading to a sweet, crunchy, savory layer of perfection in a sea of perfection... He sighed, swallowing the first half of the sandwich, and drank a cup of water before he continued. “Won’t lie: Out of all the girls, though, I like Ali the best... yet she’s also the one I don’t want to fuck.”

“That is a surprise.”

“I know... but... I don’t know.”

“Ye know but don’t? She must be good at what she does, then.”

“Oh, she is. You heard from the dick auction she hosted-”

“Aye. That was slick. Where did ya put the money?”

“That’s not important-”

“But it is, laddie... Unless you don’t trust me.”

“That’s a silly statement. I don’t trust anyone.”

She barked a laugh, munching down on a cheese-and-meat covered fry.

“That’s me wee barra. Trust no one; not even yerself... but no romantic notions? Not even wanting a shag?”

“Nope, and hell no... Really, I see her as my friend. Out of everyone at the school, she’s the only one to have been completely real with me.”

“Ah, then ah cannae blame you for not wanting to ruin tha. A good friend is hard to come by these days.”

“Exactly... I have a feeling, no matter what, she will have my back. Far more valuable than a hole.”

“But that doesn’t mean ye should rule it out-”

“For her? I think I should.”

“Understandable. For now-”

“For good.”

She chuckled, eating another fry. “Whatever you say...”

They ate in relative peace after, and Francis excused himself to go down to The Chalice. Once more, Nicole was more than happy to see him go, passed out in his bed after he helped her clear the table and package it into servings, so it was only him and his case dropping in front of the st-

“Oh my god,” he exclaimed, louder than the three other woman surrounding him. Thankfully, the fourth one was quiet, but he actually cared about her. Her scalp was sort of stuck to his foot. He raised it, and the canid himan followed, limp on the end of his nails. “Are you okay... Hello?”

He peeled her off, held her in both arms, and gave her small shakes as he continued to call out. Blood spurted out of the five holes he left, washing down her front, her back, on the road behind her... but... she finally groaned- then screamed, floundering out of his grasp and into her own crimson slick.

“Whoa. Easy there,” he said, holding up his hands. “I didn’t m-”

“Stay back!” She whimpered, repeating it, again and again. Each one grew in strength, her body shaking, rising and bolting away- right into traffic. Tires screeched. Horns blared, but it was too late. There was another, solid thump... Francis cleared his throat, and chuckled as he looked to the others, all animal himan, the most common aside Fangs.

“I really should get a sign there, shouldn’t I?” he said, fanning his arms. “Warning: Falling Drachen-”

“You think this is a joke?” One exclaimed, her thin nose flicking up.

“Of course he would,” another answer, her tall, wide ears red, matching the ire in her beady little eyes. “Our lives mean nothing to him.”

“Do you really think you should be saving that?” The third squeaked out, her tiny hand shaking, holding up her bag to Francis. “He’s literally standing right there.”

“You’re right. Let’s go.”

“We need to go report this to Eve,” the first said, and they all scampered off... Leaving Francis to collect his case and wheel to the hobby store.

“Well, things can’t possibly get worse from there,” he grumbled, and lumbered into the building. Beatrice was not waiting for him this time, but good old Wesley was behind the counter. Francis went over to him, scanning the display case as he did... and was surprised to see none of the cards he sold to them were in there. “Hey, Wes. How’s it-”

“She’s downstairs,” he said, turning the page.

“You’re still on that series? Which one are you on now?”

“Do you really care?”

“Not really, but it never hurts to small talk.”

“It does when I’m not being paid for it.” He licked his fingers, and turned the page again... closing it as he groaned and looked up at Francis. “What?”

“That’s not a very good attitude to have with a customer. Or a potential fellow employee.”

“You’re not going to work here.”

“And why do you say that?”

“Frankly? Because Beatrice doesn’t want you to work here.”

“But she was the one to offer me a job.”

“A job, yes, but what ‘work’ is she expecting you to do?” He sighed, opening his book again, and settled back on his tail. “She’s downstairs.”

Francis rolled his eyes, and slung his case over his shoulder as he wheeled about, heading for the stairs. Each step thudded harder than the one before it, his already sullen mood sinking further into the abyss he descended into. First Nicole, then that dog bitch, then Wesley; what’s next? What else could God do to ruin his weekend? It was bad enough his Friday was a train wreck, so let’s see if He would be more than happy to throw a Titanic out of nowhere on top of it.

He threw the door open, and was a little sad there was nobody right behind it. That would have been the perfect time, God; you’re losing your touch. He rolled his eyes again, getting more mileage than his legs at that rate, and saw that the room was mostly barren. As was expected; it was still TECHNICALLY a school day. It wasn’t even lunch yet- which, if that was the case, why were those himan there? Did there teacher let them out early? Oh. Yeah. They’re going to have A LOT of fun explaining THAT to Lilith; they weren’t even meant to be there, but somehow SOMEHOW it was HIS FUCKING FAULT.

He took a deep breath... and accidentally let out a puff of fire as he exhaled... Again, no one there. Throw me a bone here, God, he thought and snorted, waving to Beatrice as he approached. She was at her usual place, but her face was down in a pile of cards, mumbling as she checked her phone and marked down on a notepad. He sat across from her, thundered his case on the table... but still she didn’t look up. His case clacked open as loud as it could; the deck boxes inside hissed and scratched and echoed through the room as he sifted between, trying to pick one for the day. He settled on the ruby red tower, and slammed the case shut, cracking open that box with thunderous resolve... yet she still didn’t notice.

“Bea?” He said, and jumped back as she yelled at him.

“What!” She screeched- then gasped. “Oh, no. I’m so sorry, Francis. I didn’t realize it was you.”

“That’s... what are you doing?”

“Oh. Well, the full release of the next set is this weekend. I managed to snag a few prerelease kits online, so I cracked open a pallet of them to get a feel for it.”

“A... pallet?”

“Yes.”

“How much is a pallet?”

“About a hundred cases.”

“And how many in each case?”

“Eighteen kits.”

“... And how many in each kit?”

“Six packs.”

“So... you cracked open- I’m not even going into the rest of the math on that. That shit’s retarded-”

“What did I say about that word?”

“That was on faggot.”

“Both words, then!”

“Fine, fine. Sorry... so you cracked open that many... so these cards-”

“Are the ones worth above $5 right now. Before release... The online client has done a fantastic job of playtesting for everyone... I’m formulating what the possible best decks for standard will be, and what to charge the ‘money cards’.”

“Wouldn’t you want 20% above price?”

“Well, sure, if you ONLY want to turn a profit... but we live in a college town. We are in a hotbed of people wanting things now NOW NOW. They will want to pay whatever price they can to get ahead and be the best.”

“Are card games that competitive?”

“Very. You should see it; downright cutthroat, where people do whatever they can to win.”

“Even cheat?”

“Especially cheat. Some go the next step and even contact the ban team so they can get ahead.”

“That sounds illegal. Like, trade secrets-insider trading illegal.”

“Ah ah. Insider trading is technically not illegal in card games because there’s no “financial value” in the cards, themselves.”

“You fucking people and your loopholes.”

“It’s build into the game; it’s to be expected... Okay. If my calculations are correct, green-white is going to be the biggest. The overall manpower on the board, combined with using them to cast spells, is going to catapult them to the top.”

“Are you sure? I like green, but white feels weak as shit.”

“Well, it’s either that or people will run triple color and do red-black-blue.”

“You mean like my faggoty dragon.”

“Yup. He’s going to be a main contender for these two guilds –which makes me feel a little bad for blue-black. A lot of good cards, but it’s going to be completely overshadowed with red in the mix.” She mumbled something, which Francis could have sworn he heard a certain card in there. A certain dragon he used to have.

“What was that?”

“Hmm? Nothing... In any case, I feel... this elephant, this enchantment-”

“Isn’t it only an uncommon- oh. Wow. That is powerful.”

“Yeah. These two cards are going to be the money cards from green-white-”

“But they’re only white.”

“Yes, but green gives better payout early... Then... this demon-”

“Mister hands!”

“Yes. Mister hands... This card is going to sell like hotcakes-”

“Eh? Why? Take four or draw three doesn’t sound that g- nevermind.”

She giggled. “I thought it would click in with that second part of the card.”

“How is that fair! How can anyone look at that card and think being able to cast it TWICE was a good fucking idea!”

“The same kind who made this steamy boy.”

“‘Get’s a +1/+1 for every red spell... THEN can remove them for more mana’! The fuck!”

“If anything, red will continue to dominate... Then there’s this phoenix, but I think it will be a flash in the pan... Oh, and the set brought back these lovely lands.”

“Eh? What’s so special about them? You have to hit yourself for two just to use them right away.”

“Exactly. You hit yourself to be able to use both colors of mana instantly.”

“Okay? Seems kind of unnecessary when you have those other lands from dino land which can enter okay as long as you control the specific supertype-”

“Which these work with?”

“No shit? Damn... that’s strong.”

“It is... Shame they won’t be together. All those sets you opened? They rotated out this week.”

“So... what does that mean?”

“For us? Absolutely nothing. For competitive players... They’ll be spending a lot for their land base.”

He barked a laugh, and began to shuffle. “That’s funny to me. Imagine: a card game where you spend more for the cards that let you play your other cards. That’s... that... w... why aren’t you laughing?”

She slid the cards aside and pulled out her deck, simply smirking at him. They began, which the difference was night and day –and not because it was day versus night. The deck flowed like water, the merfolks in it hopping out and to his aid. He absolutely loved their mechanic of flipping the top card of the deck. If it was a worthless land, it would go to the hand, but if it was anything else, well, his merfolk got a nice boost then he could choose to toss it away if it was pointless. It almost seemed criminal for how smooth it went... which Beatrice noticed as well.

“You are doing a lot better today,” she stated, cleaning up her board for the next round. “School must be taking a lot out of you.”

“You could say that,” he muttered, shuffling.

“A bit of rest, and your head is in the game instead of... wherever it was yesterday. Could simply be that deck, too. Merfolk were a nightmare in early standard, then board wipes came along –which I just sided in.”

“Oh. Lovely. I was just asking how was I going to get fucked over.”

“You’ll be fine,” Desiree said- DESIREE SAID.

“Crazy snake lady-” Francis began, falling out of his seat as he slid away from her.

“Easy, Francis,” Desiree said, her tone hurt. “I came to check on you. Lilith asked me to... She heard from Wilma, Carrie, and Veronica what happened to Daisy and wanted someone to make sure you’re okay.”

“Eh? What happened?” Beatrice said.

“Francis crushed her in his fall,” Wesley said, leaning against the wall by the door. “He checked to see if she was okay; she freaked out and ran into traffic.”

“Oh, dear. Are you okay, Francis?”

“Peachy,” he said, standing... and sighed as he took his seat again. “What about Dix?”

“The imps are tending to her,” Desiree said. “She’s going to be out for a few weeks, but expected to recover.”

“Will it be a full recovery?”

“Maybe after a few years of therapy-”

“If only we were all so lucky.”

“Amen,” Wesley said, turning the page in his book.

“Well... you told me,” Francis said, drawing his hand. “Y...you can go now.”

“I would... but...”

“But?”

“I was... sort of... given the rest of the day to make sure you were okay.”

“Oh. Lovely... Well, I’ll just be playing cards with Bea here, so you can-”

“I’ll watch.”

“Really? You do know what game this is, right? It’s not that exciting to watch... You do know, right?”

“Oh, she knows,” Beatrice said, drawing her own hand. “She’s-”

“I’m a quick learner,” Desiree cut in, and sighed as she leaned on his arm... while her other hand teased his leg. “Relax... I’m taking Johnny’s advice and going slow. That won’t stop me from teasing, though.”

“That’s fine. That was how we met, after all.”

“How did you two meet?” Beatrice said. “She’s a-”

“I was sent to detention,” Desiree said. “I had... an itch.”

“You met in detention, then.”

“It’s a long story.” One I am already tired of repeating.

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