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Though she tried, she really did, Saliim never even came close to the stamina nor passion Brin could show. Mel could feel the effort, could see that she was pushing herself as hard as she could, but it was the difference between the perfect club sandwich, the bread toasted perfectly while the inside was still nice and fluffy, the cold cuts pristine and perfectly fit on the bread, the cheese smooth yet had its kick, and just enough salad dressing and sauce without being a flood, and a cheapo burger from a fastfood restaurant. He gave her words of praise during, instructed her on what was working, but after a while she just told him to shut up. Turns out, telling her that she was doing great at the pelvic thrust and her vaginal membrane was squeezing his phallus in the right locations enough to reach climax was not what she would constitute as sexy.

As Sunday “night” settled on the Institute, she had given up. She was still in his lap, still in the middle of coitus, but she could not move any more. Her flesh, spirit, and mind were all exhausted, limp as a rag doll in his arms. He got tired of the woman, so he changed it to concept art from one of his favorite movies, remembering all the great scenes in it. They were a little blurry, but still brought such joy; if only there was a way to relive those scenes, to see the entirety again from his home, like a device that could play such things. However, as far as he knew, no such device existed, so he settled on watching the poster and enjoying those scenes.

Monday arrived soon enough. Mel did not know how he took his shower, but, through some black magic fuckery, he managed to get her off of him and into the room before she could dig her grave any deeper. Brin was going to be back any minute, and, when Mel tells her that Saliim attempted to replace her with hilarious results, though they’ll be laughing, just destroying her pride is probably not going to be enough.

As Mel expected, too, the glass didn’t haze up when he was taking his usual shower, able to see perfectly out across the courtyard. The glare from the glass was starting to leave an interesting pattern in the grass, which brought to mind tribal markings and tattoos. The dirt had been blackened by the glass, the ink carved into the flesh of the world. It wasn’t only the grass, either. The stone around was, also, starting to gain blackened lines, each one a different marking, etched in by the faeries as they placed the panes, each one unique.

Mel could spend hours in there, taking in all this, but he had Primal class today. He had high hopes as he got dressed, gathered the dead woman walking, and hurried to the dining hall... Before remembering the food Brin made, stowed away in the fridge... When she got back, they’ll eat it in “celebration”. For now, he’ll settle for what the spirits concocted for the student body.

“You seem awfully chipper,” Saliim mused, keeping pace well considering. Her legs shook the entire time, but thankfully her wings took most of the strain off them –though they, too, were shaking. She giggled, taken by a groan as the chair she “sat” in beside shrieked against the stone as it slid across and into the table. Her crash landing could have been worse; she only sent the circular sausage bounding off its plate, landing on the bacon plate or rolling under its lip. “What’s got you so ‘pumped’, huh?”

He hummed a moment, thinking over her question, before exclaiming, seeing his prize. It was tucked in the upper right corner, hidden behind a mound of triple berry pancakes, but he had his mind dead-set on them this morning. Nothing was going to stop him from having his waffle-breaded chicken fries. He piled his plate with two heaping handfuls of them, then grabbed some bacon and sausage. Something more savory to cover for the sheer amount of sweetness he was about to partake.

Saliim, meanwhile, was growing impatient. He continued to hum, almost sing, as he dug into his mountain of pork and chicken, while she continued to lean on him, to rub his shoulder. She forgone her chair and wrapped her legs around his middle, caressing his chest, nails digging in a touch as she continued to shake and shudder. Her soft sighs turned to heated groans then growls, blowing against his ear as he enjoyed his meaty-sweetie paradise.

“Well?” Saliim blurted. She dug her nails hard into his pecs, tearing his robes a bit and drawing the tiniest pricks of blood. “What has you so happy? Was it, maybe, something you did last night?”

“Nah. That was mediocre,” he said, muffled by a dozen chicken fries. “It did the job, I guess, but I’m actually happy because today is Primal class. Brin will have to come back if I, say, push myself and actually give a damn.”

“Please don’t,” Peneloputty said, sitting in what was once Saliim’s chair. The succubus wasn’t going to need it; she had turned to stone on his back, her face pallid, all joy and hope in her visage forsaken for the hopelessness and depression that consumed it in its absence. “I just got out of the infirmary... Something wrong, Saliim?”

“Everything’s fine,” she said, flat, the despair palpable in her tone.

“You sure? You look like you’re about to cry.”

“Everything... is fine.”

“Okay, then... As I was saying. I know I told you to push yourself before, Mel, but I don’t think it’ll bring Brin back.”

“How do you know? We haven’t tried.”

“Mel... I know I haven’t been the greatest friend for a while, but, if you don’t mind, I’d like to be blunt: If you believe Brin was only gone for a moment, don’t you think she would be back by now? She adored you.”

The way she said the last part was as if she was spitting out something foul, but Mel got the point. She was onto something: Brin loved him to bits... and pieces, at that! She loved every part of him, especially the squishy red thing in his chest that felt like it was down in his left foot... Bah! There’s another point to be made, too: Absence makes the squishy red thing grow fonder. He couldn’t exactly follow it up with the second part because abstinence was completely out of the equation not because of Saliim and her attempt to live up to great expectations but of the fear of another cumehameha, so his arm would simply have to find another way to grow stronger.

“Mel?” Peneloputty said, snapping her fingers before his eyes. “Mel?”

Mel stood... which Saliim followed, hanging like an old man’s scrote from his back.

“I know what I’m going to do,” he declared.

“I’m a good fuck,” Saliim muttered.

“What?” Peneloputty said, imploring Mel. Saliim, meanwhile, decided to adopt the question to her own statement.

“I try to do my best. I fellate, use my chest, play with it with my tail, then I can go for hours of penetration. I naturally give off aphrodisiac down there, so he can remain erect as long as needed, climax as much as he desires... I’m a good fuck.”

“You are,” Mel said, which made her rise a bit on his back.

“W-what... What!”

“You are a good fuck. It’s just that you don’t hold a candle to Brin. Which is good, since she’s most likely going to kill you when she gets back. Now, come along. We have an apocalypse to consider.”

“Mel, no!” Peneloputty cried after.

“Mel, yes!”

And so he marched off to Professor Faust’s, his plan already in motion. His would-be assailant better think twice, because he was about to rock this Institute to its foundation, if not rend its entire plane. That should make Brin return posthaste... Sadly, as he sat in Benjamin’s office, she did not even show up then.

Benjamin was pinching his brow, Professor Faust floating beside, cackling away as screams and explosions rose out the window. Blood bathed the courtyard -at least, what was left of it- sheet upon sheet pouring down on all, hissing and steaming. Moaning howls rose in the distance, building upon themselves... until it was all silenced by a single wave of Benjamin’s hand. No more acid blood rain. No more zombie werewolves. No more towering black flame pyres; Professor Faust groaned, the face on his screen an annoyed frown.

“Why did you do that? That was an exemplary display of power,” he grumbled.

“Your presence is not required for this,” Benjamin said.

“I am here to make sure an exceptional student is not punished for doing exactly what was expected of him.”

“Then you can leave, knowing he is not in trouble.”

“Really?” Peneloputty said. Though the fires and smoke were removed outside, her robes were still sizzling, her hair frayed and smoking still. “After what he did?”

“This Institute is built to be a place of learning. Primal magic, and all that it entails, is covered under that. There have been more than a million buildings and sectors blown up since this realm’s inception. In fact, JS is going through a magical war at the moment. Fifty magus on either side; they only know explosions and sudden regrowth before more explosions.” Benjamin shot Mel a dirty look. “Then again, that’s one-hundred magus; Mel, you have done more damage than they do in a week.”

“Which is why I do not wish to see him punished,” Professor Faust explained, cackling again. The face on his screen had a greater-than and less-than symbol for both eyes, the mouth open to match the laugh. “How could you not admire and stand in awe at the power he wields! All of this in two years. I remember when he first began. Could barely summon a bucket, but, when he finally did it, it was filled with bees!”

“Who doesn’t want a bucket of bees?” Mel said.

“Ah, but then each of those bees exploded into an array of lightning that shorted out the classroom for four hours. I was blind for that, but I knew that he had great potential from that day on! And then this lass was a perfect catalyst. So long as she was around, he would have the emotions to tap into.”

“Thank you, Professor Faust,” Benjamin said, sighing. “Your shining approval of my grandson has been acknowledged; you may go now.”

“Very well very well.”

Professor Faust sang as he left, a rather corny jig that probably would have sounded exotic and interesting if Mel could have heard it in actual German. His monitor bobbed to the beat, lazing down the stairwell and fading as he was heard down in the courtyard. Benjamin pinched his brow again, shaking his head, and took a deep, long breath. He slowly let it, and his brow, go as he exhaled, and once more gave Mel a hard look.

“What happened this time?” He said, shooting a quick glance at Peneloputty. “Did you tell him to ‘take it serious’ again?”

“No! I was actually advising him NOT to.”

He looked over Mel’s shoulder, at the succubus still hanging there, still looking like she saw somebody drown her puppy and was powerless to stop it.

“I take it you are, also, innocent in this?”

“I wouldn’t say that exactly,” Saliim mumbled.

“Then why did you decide to flex your magical power again, lad?”

“Because I was hoping to entice Brin back early.”

Benjamin blinked, slowly, and took another deep breath.

“Mel,” he breathed out as he exhaled, and Mel wished he kept the hardness in his eyes. It was far more welcoming than the... pity that blinked in the center of the softened orbs. “Daisy gave her account last night, about why we no longer need to search for a way to unbind your... additions. On that tangent, Saliim, why are y-”

“So that’s why I did it,” Mel jumped in. “I wanted to tempt Brin back harder than ever, but it seems this wasn’t enough. Let’s see... tomorrow we have-”

“You have nobody,” Benjamin stated. He creased his hands together under his chin and leaned on it, even more softness growing inside those cancerous eyes. “Mel... until you are... ‘better’, you are to be remanded to your room. You are not allowed to leave it, and any attempts to do so shall place a silence rune upon you. You will have no power outside of your four walls –and that even includes if you try to make the building into an animated being.”

“Damn, you’re good,” Mel said. “Quick! What color is my underwear?”

“Saliim. Penelope. Make sure he makes it to his room.”

“Yes, sir,” Peneloputty said. She began to stand up, reaching for Mel’s arm, but Saliim had hopped off his back, wrenching him out of his seat and into her embrace.

“I will make sure he gets there.” She stated, running her hand through his hair. “I am the only one that will be allowed near him during this time, correct?”

“Since you are no longer bound to him, you are not even truly allowed near him,” Benjamin said, but sighed. “However, you are choosing to stay on this plane. Your reason is your own.”

“Don’t you worry, sir. I shall make sure to watch over him.”

She shot Peneloputty a smug look and hurried to get Mel to his room, where she deposited him on the futon and where he stayed for close to four weeks. He got up occasionally to take a shower, but, for the most part, Saliim brought him his meals, gave him his drinks, and... entertained him. Mel must have gone through a thousand posters during that time, just waiting for Brin to show up, but every day that passed in that room, every ride Saliim took, his hope died more and more.

By the time Sunday rolled around for the sixth time, what hope was left was little more than a husk, like the husk of the slime down in the tower. He hasn’t even seen Daisy, which would have been a ray of sunshine after the bleak overcast that fell over the room. He wondered if she simply found another guy, one with less baggage but nowhere near as good looking, but how would he know unless he was allowed out of the room. Saliim collapsed on his chest once more, panting, drained of all three again; even after all this time, her stamina didn’t improve... Kind of sad, really. She was crying into his chest this night, pawing at it, growling a little.

“After all this time,” she croaked. “Why!”

“Because I had killer sex,” he said, and huffed as he drummed on her back. “Well, you better hop off and clean up. It would be your luck that Brin will appear at this very moment, and I don’t want your blood and entrails on me when she does.”

Saliim stopped crying, and slowly raised her head. Mel could only see pure hate in them, still their yellow slits, once again shadows of Brin’s that could invoke true terror without ANY malice or loathing.

“You still believe she’s coming back, don’t you?” She said, her voice distant, cold. She scoffed, a derisive sound, but refused to give an inch, instead locking her legs against him. “After all this time... Mel... she’s gone. She no longer exists. Death doesn’t even begin to describe where she went. When a Lady of Mercy ‘dies’, their spirit is meant to join their child’s, as is the essence of the one they love. However, she was consumed by that slime, without her loved one, and so she is simply... gone.”

“So... she should be back! With milk and plenty of cigarettes to celebrate our baby g-”

“She’s not coming back! What part of that don’t you understand?”

“The coming back part. That sounds nasty. How does one come out the b-”

“For the love of the Dark Lord, be serious for once in your forsaken life!” She groaned, shaking her head, and cupped his cheeks. “It’s been well over a month, Mel. Denial is not healthy, so it is time for you to see the truth: she’s gone. She’s not coming back.”

Mel sighed... shaking his head. “You want me to be serious?”

“Yes! For the Dark Lords’ sake, yes!”

“Fine!” He took a deep breath, snorting a little as he did. This was going to be a long one... “The part I’m not getting... is that it is all my fault she’s gone... I thought I was doing the right thing by sending you all up through the grate and sacrificing myself because I knew something dumb was going to save my ass, but even when I did the right thing it ended up with somebody I cared for dying.” He scoffed, wiping his face, feeling the hot sting of tears racing down them. “I fucked her twice over, actually. She was going to die anyways because of my sacrifice, but, because of my cockiness, she gave herself to what was left of the slime to save me, to save us... She gave her last moments in the belly of a Nazi slime instead of in my arms, telling us her goodbye’s... It’s my fault she was even here to begin with, so I truly fucked her thrice over... D-dammit. J... just get off me.”

He pushed her off and hit the back of the futon, forcing it to flatten out. The metal almost shrieked as he flung himself towards the back, curling up against the corner, arms held out for his pillow, waiting for her to simply fill them again. His leg was cocked over, raised enough so that it wasn’t uncomfortable but still pinning her legs against the bed... The pillow still had her scent, soft lavender mixed with jasmine, kept away as his nose stuffed up by the rain falling through the roof directly onto his face. His chest felt so hollow, so cold, missing the weight and warmth that pressed against it, while his head hurt so much, making it that much harder for him to go to sleep.

Saliim settled behind him, wrapping her arms around him as usual.

“It’s not your fault,” she said, sniffling into his ear. “I shouldn’t have pretended to be memory-wiped.”

Mel’s eyes instantly snapped open. He no longer felt even a single iota of coldness, not a single chill, and neither did the room. The walls gurgled, the air, itself, turned into a haze, glowing red-hot and giving the room. Mel spun around, looking her in the eyes, and she reeled back, almost falling off the bad under their ferocity.

“You did what?” He said. His voice was just above a whisper, but it was enough to crumble stone, falling, crackling down from above. “Y... you did WHAT?”

“I thought it would be an opportunity to, shall we say, reset the board. You already hated me-”

“I did not hate you! I said you were a bitch.”

“Which was why I thought it’d be a perfect time to recompose myself! For the longest time, I wanted to get the hell out because I thought you were unbelievably annoying and, to be quite frank, a random idiot, but then this assassination attempt flourished. Penelope was getting her just deserts. You and Daisy together was entertaining and cute. You had focus for those random thoughts, and, in truth, when you’re focused and trying, you are unbelievably attractive... Really, I didn’t expect Brin to be so opportunistic when it came to filling my shoes, but, damn it all, if she didn’t do a fantastic job. I knew between the two of us, you would choose her, hands-down... I am truly sorry it came to this, but at least you and her were happy, right?”

“So those pity fucks-”

“Those weren’t pity fucks... At least, not for you... In truth, I thought you were showing me pity-”

“I wasn’t, and, if I had known all that at the start, I wouldn’t have let you anywhere near me!” His breathing, his pants, had become a long, drawn out growl. He covered his face, shaking his head, bashing it against the pillow... then took a long, deep breath. The haze cleared. The stone settled, and, as Mel exclaimed, the rain stopped falling on his face, stretching into a wide yawn. “Okay. I’m done being serious... If you don’t mind, I’m going to eat my bed now.”

“A...and? What do you want me to do?”

“You’re not tied to me now, so the real question is what do you want to do? Rather, what do you think you should do?”

“I... I don’t think I should leave, for starters. Brin wouldn’t want you to be alone. Not when you’re in so much pain-”

“That you caused.”

“Y... yes... that I caused... If you want me to leave-”

“I don’t give a fuck what you do. Stay, leave, rape me in my sleep, make tequila waffles, grow a penis out of your tailbone, replace your spleen with a crowbar; do whatever you want.” He rolled back over, settling into the lavender and jasmine again... and Saliim held him from behind again, sniffling into his ear. Every other niggling that kept him from sleeping was gone save for that pitiable noise, so it wasn’t long before he was conked out. At least he can look forward to being out of one layer of Hell come the morning, but he had just descended into another. Brin was not coming back.

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