REGENALD: Apparitions are powerful magical beings that thrive on the negative energy of other living beings. In a world as predicated on magic as Duen, the consumption of negative energy is particularly vital. The laws of equal exchange could result in total chaos and destruction, were it not for apparitions to maintain balance.
JUN: So… kinda like how trees use up carbon dioxide?
Krystoff snorts derisively but doesn’t deny it.
REGENALD: It’s not too dissimilar. Because of this symbiotic relationship between Duen and apparitions, many of the most powerful apparitions have been officially ordained as the protectors of each sector of Duen.
REGENALD: I assume you are familiar with the fact that duenkhy were once far more common in the human world?
JUN: How so do you mean?
REGENALD: For example, human folklore is rife with stories of mysterious creatures, unexplainable phenomena, unusual sightings… There was a time in history when humans were seeing and interacting with duenkhy far more than they are now. Do you know why that changed?
JUN: I’ve wondered before.
REGENALD: Because that was before there was a protective barrier between Duen and Earth. Passage between the two worlds was easier back then. But certain duenkhy overseers foretold danger in allowing the passage to continue unchecked. After all, humans lack magic to protect themselves from less magnanimous duenkhy. And many duenkhy lose power or even die if left in the human world for too long.
REGENALD: So as not to bore you with all the belabored political intrigue that went into the decision, I will just say this resulted in apparitions being consulted for protective barriers being put in place around Duen. These days, a human must make a contract with a magic-capable duenkhy and be forcibly torn through those protective barriers to find their way in.
KRYSTOFF: Those barriers are also why humans are ejected after a certain amount of time with their memories of Duen erased. It’s all in the name of maintaining the safety and balance of our respective worlds.
REGENALD: And in return for the massive magical undertaking that is maintaining a constant protective spell, apparitions are given judicial rights to their sector’s negative energy. Frankly, most of them probably would not be able to keep up such an immense magic output were it not for an equally immense intake of energy.
KRYSTOFF: Though it results in the most hideous turf wars between apparitions, at times…
REGENALD: Certainly. Not all of the ordained apparitions are the kindly protectors they are expected to be.
JUN: Okay… That was a lot of information. So are you one of these ordained apparitions? You’re in charge of protecting this area and eating the bad energy or whatever?
KRYSTOFF: Must you phrase things so repulsively?
REGENALD: Yes, that’s right, honorable Jun. My young master is the ordained apparition of the zone you are currently in.
JUN: Whew. Alright. Give me a sec to wrap my mind around all of that.
I finally take a sip of my tea in a bide for time. I’m not much of a tea person, but it’s agreeable enough to my palate. Not too bitter, not too sweet, with a hint of something floral intermingled. I can’t help but notice Krystoff and Regenald both seem to be staring at me, perhaps trying to gauge my reaction to the drink.
They did both just dump a lot of information on me, so I can dignify their curiosity, I suppose.
JUN: This is good.
KRYSTOFF: Well, of course it is! You’ve probably never had correctly prepared tea in your life.
JUN: I actually drank tea, like, just a couple days ago with the white tiger next door. That was pretty good too.
KRYSTOFF: The tiger?! Tch, I’ve seen the swill he takes home. Not even comparable…
If I didn’t know better, I’d say I wounded his ego a little.
JUN: Okay, okay, so why does all this apparition stuff matter to me, exactly? Don’t get me wrong, it’s all interesting and answers a lot of questions I’ve had. But did you really bring me over just for a history lesson?
KRYSTOFF: Patience. We’re getting there.
REGENALD: The hole that is torn in the barriers when a human crosses over does not heal until the human leaves. It is small and difficult to notice, usually nothing dangerous enough to let anything else in or out. But it is there, all the same.
KRYSTOFF: And other nearby apparitions sense it.
REGENALD: And though this is not always a problem…
Krystoff holds up a hand, preemptively stopping Regenald from taking ownership over whatever this next thought they’re formulating is.
KRYSTOFF: Let’s just say there are things going on right now in our surrounding zones, and the hole you and Lady have torn in this sector’s barrier may attract trouble. To me, or to you. Or both of us.
JUN: Does… Lady know that?
KRYSTOFF: I doubt it. Unless she is far more aware and far more malicious than I assumed. But as I gather she brought you here out of some misguided affection for you rather than to feed you to warring, power-hungry apparitions, I’d guess she’s unenlightened.
REGENALD: It would behoove her to consult you before making decisions, regardless…
KRYSTOFF: Lady doesn’t hold me in any particularly high regards. As far as she knows, she has no reason to involve me with her personal affairs.
It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kinda comment, but I’d almost hazard to guess that Krystoff is defending Lady right now. I don’t know how well they know each other or what their history is, since Lady has never once mentioned Krystoff to me, but Krystoff speaks of Lady with a certain type of deference that stands out when it’s worn by him.
I put a pin in that thought and decide to revisit it later when I see Lady.
KRYSTOFF: This brings us to what we can get out of each other amidst this whole situation. As a powerful apparition, I have knowledge of two little things that may be of interest to you.
JUN: That being?