Red Dragon

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The Calm Before

Francine was not gentle, but she wasn’t as bad as Nicole as he hoped. No, she was WORSE. Youth is a terrible, horrible, abominable thing that the young really should not have. Though lacking in as many tools and experience, youth can be a good bit more... creative.

She made sure he didn’t enjoy it. Though she (ab)used Francis, though he loved being dominated... The way she did it, it was his body reacting that allowed to shoot off. There was no pleasure. There was no intimacy –not the kind he was used to. He saw a movie once, where pleasure and pain were one and the same. Hell, the guy had an eye-raising visage of a head covered in thick nails, but Francis had no doubt that even that pin-headed bastard would call what happened in that room too far.

By the time she finished and left to wash up, he was more blood than man. The term “hate-fuck” wasn’t even a place to start describing to himself what had happened. As his alarm rang, he had the realization that he really didn’t want to explain it. He would rather just... go to Lilith’s office- yes. Lilith’s. After his night, being around her was heaven.

He... somehow made it into the bathroom-then-shower... Somehow. Because what he did wasn’t a walk. It wasn’t even a crawl. His limbs made an attempt at some amalgam of transportation and it, again, somehow worked. “Which limbs” was, also, up in the air. As were most of the items in question. It took him several tries in front of the shower door, leaning against it, to angle his wings right to remove the buckles wound over their tips. He needed to balance it with the wires that dug into their soft fibers, as well as the ones wrapped around his ankles.

Thankfully, though, he hurt enough to break through the numbness and feel the pain, giving him enough rage to snap the left one free. The rest fell after, all one, solid device, and he laughed, almost drunkenly, as he pulled the door open, falling inside. His wings fell over top of him, as hugging him... or trying to crush him. He wasn’t entirely sure at that point, nor did he really care.

He showered as quick but as thoroughly as he could, making sure to get in the cuts made with a rusty spoon –Francis had to give her credit: She had been planning that for a while. Still not the worst torture he was put through, but for someone so young to have such anger, such... FIRE... It’ll be her doom, in the end. Until then, let the good times roll. She looked so smug when she climbed off of him, but he knew that revenge is not satisfying. Not on its own. It’s about seeing the aftermath that makes... or breaks it.

And, boy, did he break it to her.

He came out of the bedroom humming. He had on the other pair of blue jeans Bridget got him, as well as the first polo shirt, swinging his silver suitcase on his index. Even that small bit of action, that mite of brevity, shifted the air of the apartment. It was, for the briefest moment, so hot, almost comfortable, but now a frigid despair and crackling fog of hatred suffocated all in its sea. He didn’t have the chance to see her smirk turn to the scowl that she had at the table, but at least he could relish in the disbelief upon her brow. And the disgust in her eyes.

“Good morning, sunshine!” He sung- and slung the case at her- which he pointed after, guffawing as that silver bullet struck and stuck into the wall. Meanwhile, the goblin and chair were on the ground, that persnickety little avenger covering her head. Giving him a footrest. He pressed down upon her arms, grinding her into the tile, growling softly. “Fast. Definitely fast. I’ll give you that... So, tell me: What was your end game here? Did you honestly think that I would have a heart-changing moment after that? Sink into despair, have no place to turn?”

He rose his foot, giving her an air of relief- only to slam back down. That time on her rump. He leaned over her, but his wing beat him to it, clawing at the back of her head. Squeezing. She hissed- winced- cried as those white digits were painted red by her blood (this time), digging into her scalp, towards that thick skull.

“Y-you can’t-” Francine began.

“And why can’t I, lo- oh. Right. Nicole and Eve.” He sighed, and pulled his “claw” free, patting her head with his actual hand. He gave her rump one good, quick kick, and sent her skidding across the tile as he sat at the table, leaning and smirking at her. “Luckily goblins have some regeneration. Otherwise I would be in hot wa-”

She pulled out her phone, raised it to get a good angle- and cried out as he swiped it out of her hand-

“Do it, and they’ll definitely know something’s wrong,” Francine stated, stopping his hand from... completely crushing the cell. It was a bit squeezed on the edges, popping the bedazzled case off, but the screen was still intact. She got to her feet, and tried to slap it out of his hand. Instead, she simply made the slide of the camera click, showing a lovely picture of her palm, locked on his. “Let g-”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Francis said, pushing her away. He sat once more, turning that phone over in his hand... chortling. “Unless that was you answer. You really didn’t plan anything after.”

“Oh, I have a plan.”

“Really? Do tell.”

“I don’t have to tell you anything. Not after what you did to so many.”

“Yes. Please. Tell me how many lives I ruined. Oh, the plight of goblins already on their way out-”

“Not Loralei! You robbed her.”

“Loralei... Loralei... Which one was that again?”

“You can’t even be bothered to remember any of us, can you?”

“Do you remember which dildo you used ten years ago, which bit of chocolate you ate five years and four months? To me, you were all just junk food. Goblin Pussy: cheaper by the dozen.”

She lunged again- but Francis didn’t like that silver glint in her left hand. So he met it head-on. With her phone. That silver dagger dug right through it and into his palm, its tip dribbling both blood and liquid crystal. He grabbed her ass and pulled her in, chuckling as fire roiled from his lips.

“So clumsy,” he said, twisting his hand, ripping more of himself and the phone. “You really should be more careful with sharp objects... or are you going to blame me for this. Hold on.”

He pulled out his phone, using his wing-arm, and rose it to capture both of their “smiling” faces. And their clasped, bloodied hands.

Just us lovebirds having our first breakfast, he added, sending it to both Eve and Nicole, then pocketed it before shoving her away again, letting her phone crack down on the floor.

“You bastard,” she grumbled, and stormed off. All the while Francis waved after, blood still flowing down from that palm.

“Love you too, darling,” he said, and sighed... crushing the last of the phone under his foot. “She really is going to be fun... But I doubt whoever that is at the door will be.”

He stood, yanked his suitcase free, and marched to the door.

Finding Cassidy and the other harpies there.

Cassidy’s face was beat red, but he doubted it was just from him with how the others flaunted and cooed for his attention.

“Francis!” Melanie exclaimed, reaching for his hand. “How are y-”

“Back off, dummie!” The black-feathered one said, pulling her back before reached for him. “Good morning, Franc-”

“You back off!”

“No you!”

“Hello, Francis,” The fourth said, covering her mouth. “You’re looking well.”

“I’m looking like a place where water rests?” Francis said, scratching his ear- before chuckling, holding out his dribbling palm. “Oh hey! You have a point there.”

The two stopped squabbling, all their eyes wide, staring at that spring of blood.

“What happened?” Melanie said.

“I played with myself too hard,” he said, and flicked some of off, painting the concrete of the pathway off to the right. “It’s not that big a deal. So, what are you doing here? Cass?”

“W-well,” she began... then cleared her throat, standing up straight. “W-I-we thought it would be nice to f...fly together to class.”

“Yeah!” Melanie said, her own wings rustling under her arms. “You got those two fine sets right there yet you don’t allow them to breathe. Come on! Let’s fly let’s fly!”

“For the record, I’m not wholly for this idea,” the raven said. “I thought there was a good reason you weren’t.”

“You’re right, but... well. Nothing like a test to see.” He eased passed them, and leaned on the railing. He looked over it, at his landing sight, that crater more than likely his destination... and sighed. His wings spread, flapping thrice, releasing great gusts in their wake... tensing as he raised his leg onto the bar. They curled, ready to thrust down... and he stepped over, welcoming the open air.

Two beats... and he was on the ground. The concrete still crunched. His toes still dug in... but they weren’t as deep as before. They only covered the nails on them instead of the whole toe-then-foot. He didn’t even have to shimmy them out, raising with almost ease. The last beat of his wings sent the shards of concrete flying, clacking away across the parking lot, and those folds ached from even trying.

“Huh... Well, that went better than expected,” he said, but continued to strain those limbs, gusts billowing across the asphalt. “What about... a... grounded at... attempt- no. No... Not getting anywhere with that.”

“Nor will you,” Tina said. She was leaning against The Chalice’s front door, munching into a green apple. “The muscles haven’t fully developed yet, and you need strength training.”

“Are you going to haunt me every morning?”

“Why not? It’s entertaining, at least.” She huffed as the harpies descended at last, shaking her head. “Was entertaining.”

And she was gone by the time those feather-heads landed, exclaiming and decrying how worried they were –with the raven even quoting herself all the more. Cassidy was the least worried but the most annoyed, tugging on his wings.

“What?” He blurted, aimed directly at her.

She backed away, as if truly hit by that word, and hugged herself.

“It’s... it’s nothing... I just realized. You don’t actually have school today, do you?”

“Eh? He doesn’t?” Melanie said.

“I thought he and the others simply skipped,” the fourth added.

“Nah. We’re on a trial schedule,” Francis said- and a lightbulb went off. “Wait. How is it we have the same lunch breaks and get out at the same time?”

“I mean, I never see you guys leave the classroom for hobbies in the evening. Maybe they removed those?” The raven said.

“It would make sense,” The fourth said. “Always seemed silly to allot it but allow people to leave the classroom anyways. If they were going to go do it, they’ll go do it anyways.”

“Well, I don’t like it,” Melanie stated. “Seems like they are trying to phase out the arts even more.”

“Of course you would think that. You just aren’t happy unless you are playing sexy little songs on your sax.”

“Hey hey! Back off,” the raven exclaimed. “I have to agree with her... I just don’t feel like the day is complete without working on my paintings... What about you, Cass?”

“Why are you asking rich girl?” The fourth blurted. “She just goes home and does... whatever.”

“By the way, how did your dad’s hunting trip go?” Francis said.

“You know her dad?”

“Yeah. We met last weekend, where he was polishing and sighting in his guns. Nice guy.”

“It wasn’t what you guys think,” Cassidy grumbled, beating the rumor mill to the punch... and rolled her wrist to Francis. “He did well. Got an eighteen-point.”

“Hot damn! Tell me he has some jerky left-”

“More than enough... He’s been saving a ten-pound bag for you.”

“My man! Sorry, Cass. If things keep going, I might need to cheat on you with your dad.”

“What the hell did I just walk down to?” Penny said, but was already shaking her head. “So you actually riding with me today Francis or continuing your ditching streak?”

“To be fair, you ditched me yesterday. I was at the school until the final minute.”

“It took you that long on the initial test?”

“Yup... not that it matters. Seems that Lilith already filled you in on it.”

“So, wait, you do have class today?” Cassidy said.

“For, what, twenty minutes?” Penny said, and rolled her wrist. “Regardless, I’ll be there all day.”

Since he couldn’t fly, the harpies said their farewells with heavy hearts, and Francis rode with Penny. The wizard did her usual stop at the fast food place, and the two ate in contented silence. He might have... indulged a bit that morning. The poor worker needed to work triple time to keep up with the sheer bulk, only for it to be gone within fifteen minutes.

“Didn’t cook this morning?” Plank said, scoffing. “Guess Nicole wasn’t too happy with you skipping the last few days.”

“Probably,” Francis said, gulping down his fourth cup of iced tea. “Maybe that’s why she unleashed Francine.”

“Who?”

“Her granddaughter.”

“Wait. She’s old enough to have grandkids- old enough to have grandkids who are legal to fuck!”

“Yeah... yeah... and fuck she did. Oh, lord did she.”

“I know. Everyone in the apartments knew. She didn’t make it a secret she was there, and I sort of assumed whom the bastard was being railed. You were quiet compared to how hard Nicole does you.”

“Kind of hard to yell with eighteen holes in my lungs.”

“Wait... what?”

“Yeah, she absolutely despises me. Which is what makes this so fun...”

He didn’t dwell long on his “test” in Lilith’s office. To call those four questions a “test” is an insult... but he still needed to get it done. He was far calmer that day, almost elated, so he finished in the twenty everyone allotted then skipped on down to the card store... Where he was, sadly, the happiest one in the room. It was quite apparent Beatrice was not pleased with the news, and, after the ninth time, Francis joined Wes up to grab snacks and drinks. As well as helped him refill the mop bucket.

Desiree joined at just the right time for a Mountain Dew to geyser, sent up into the air with one, hard, “fuck”. Beatrice slumped back in her seat, shaking her head as she snickered... and caught the bottle on the way down, wetting her whistle with the side of the bottle.

“Today is just not my day,” she grumbled... and pointed to her deck. “Francis, flip that card and tell. Please tell me it was not land number fourteen.”

“I wish I could but... it was land number fourteen... fifteen... sixteen... seventeen-”

“Toss it into the fire, Wes!”

“Fire?”

She let her head drop, and glared at him.

“Build a fire and toss it in. It’s not rocket surgery.”

“Rocket... surgery?” Francis said.

“Brain science. Whatever the hell... Oh. Hey, Des. When did you get here?”

“Just now,” she said, and groaned as she laid her head on Francis’s arm on the table. “That test sucked... Made worse by the birdbrains... Do you really need to go out with Cass tomorrow, Francis?”

“I’m a man of my word,” Francis said, shuffling his deck –as well as Beatrice’s. He shook his head to Wes, but the naga simply winked and hid face behind his book again. “Besides, she’s a virgin, with a weak constitution. It won’t be that long. No matter how much she says otherwise.”

“Oh. Yeah. That gives us virgins a lot of confidence to hear,” Beatrice muttered, slamming her deck down on the table. She drew seven cards... and chuckled, shaking her head. “Fuck this game today... I’ll keep it, though.”

“You sure? If it’s bad-”

“Oh no. No no no... This is the one time where I DIDN’T have a shitton of lands at the start... but yeah. How do you think she’s going to feel when you compare?”

“Well, that’s just it: I don’t tell the person right in front of me how they did (in comparison). That’s just rude. Besides, they can only get better after.”

“True enough, I suppose... I’ll never know, though. I’ll die a virgin at this rate.”

“Again. Sex dungeon. Make use of it.”

“Aside you, do you really think I want to sleep with anyone else that comes down here? If you haven’t noticed, the games I sell don’t exactly attract the most... handsome of clientelle. And I’m not even talking about their looks. SOOOOO many elitist douchebags.”

“Yeah. It’s why I dropped out of the c-” Desiree began, but cut herself off by whining and tossing her arms around Francis’s shoulders. Smooth. “Do you really need to go with that girl, though? She’s already insufferable. I don’t want to deal with her after she finally gets laid!”

“Again, I’m a man of my word.”

“The curse of being a good man... Just... promise me. Promise me next week we can have a date. I’ve been wanting to go out with you for so long.”

“Hey! You finally catch on. I would love to.”

“Wait, really? Even with you getting a job-”

“He isn’t!” Beatrice barked, slapping down a land.

“Not by choice,” Francis added, trying to soothe her , and even patted her hand. “You’ll have me as your good little buff boy eyecandy soon enough.”

She scoffed, smacking his hand away, and drew her next card. “That doesn’t help me now, does it?”

“Just fuck already,” Wes mumbled behind his book- and it was a good thing he was faster than Francine. That card sliced clean through the spine of his novel, embedding in the concrete pillar he was leaning on.

“Francis, can you be a dear and get that for me,” Beatrice said, tapping her lands. “I was about to play that.”

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