KRYSTOFF: What do you think? This scarf or this one?
Krystoff stands in front of a full body mirror, holding scarves up appraisingly. Regenald rests against the wall with his eye closed, probably completely checked out of the conversation at this point, which I cannot blame him for. I tear my eyes away from the notebook in front of me and squint at the articles in question.
JUN: No matter how I look at it, they’re both the same.
KRYSTOFF: Come now, don’t be stupid. The thread density is completely different.
JUN: Then wear the lighter one. I don’t know how you can tolerate wearing a scarf at all in this weather.
KRYSTOFF: If you’re uncomfortable, then just say so. I can change the temperature in here.
He snaps his fingers, and true to his word, the mansion drops a good forty degrees all at once. Goosebumps shoot up my entire body at the sudden change.
JUN: T-too much!!
KRYSTOFF: Picky, picky.
JUN: I don’t wanna hear that from the guy waffling about which thread density to wear!
It’s hard to believe it, but the beginnings of summer are already upon us in Duen, and I’ve fallen into a fairly comfortable routine with visiting Krystoff and letting him siphon my atrocious vibes or whatever it is he does. Spring was already on its way out when I first crossed over from the human world, and here I thought maybe I’d be dodging a bullet by spending my summer in a land of magic and mystery, but nope. The sun hits Duen the same as anywhere else, magic or no.
Despite the heat, I’ve been outdoors more than ever. I spend a lot of time just wandering the city on foot, hiking about, hopping on buses and seeing where they’ll take me. There’s a lot to see in Duen outside of this little cul-de-sac, and some of it is more along the lines of what I pictured when I tried to imagine a land of mythical creatures. Austere castles and boundless oceans and winding forests you could get stuck in forever if you went in too deep… But I can never wander too far. I don’t know if it’s a barrier or a spell, but when I try to go past a certain point, I just… can’t. It fills me with this paralyzing fear that I know isn’t my own, and as if my body were acting without me, I always find myself turning around.
Lady says it’s a protective measure, and that we’re in a safe suburban sector meant for more civilian-type duenkhy. I have my questions about it, but I’ll answer them in my own time. Until then, I still have plenty of places to explore and things to do in this area. I never fancied myself a very adventurous person, but I’m trying to make the most out of my time here.
In that same vein, I’ve picked up some hobbies I’d always wanted to try but never had the time to dedicate myself to. Whether or not I’ll still have them if the barrier ejects me, who’s to say, but my hope is that even if the mind forgets, my body will remember. And if it doesn’t, oh well, it’s fun to try things without worrying about “failing.”
And so, I find myself in Krystoff’s dressing room, which is more like its own entire wing of the mansion, perched at a tea table, putting my thoughts to paper while he fusses over outfits. Creative writing was never my strong suit in school, but it was never my worst area either, so I see no reason not to nurture the skill a little.
KRYSTOFF: Ribbons? Or no?
JUN: I’m indifferent. I’d say no.
Most of my time spent with Krystoff consists of him finding a menial chore for me to do around the house, or having me accompany him into the city for energy collection and errands. It’s kind of like being his personal assistant, but it’s not as bad as I imagined it could be. Despite his penchant for provoking grief, he’s unexpectedly generous with me. He buys me food and trinkets without me even coming close to asking. Of course, he never frames it like it’s a kindness, and if his inter-dimensional mansion is any indication, I don’t think he’s exactly struggling to make end’s meet anyway. So I typically accept the generosity without putting up much of a fight.
More valuable to me, though, is his extensive knowledge of the duenkhy world. Lady is of course equally knowledgeable, but she’s been preoccupied with coordinating some reconstruction at the bar, so I’m trying to stay out of her hair and not make her life any more difficult. Plus she’s been a little morose ever since breaking up with her partner… I suspect the bar reconstruction was more a means of distraction than a strict necessity. But that’s just a theory.
Anyway, Krystoff is useful for navigating the area and learning about new duenkhy I’ve never seen before. Today is one of those days where he’s just putzing around the house without anything for me to do, so I’m actually writing about the sights I’ve seen this week.
Today I’m penning some thoughts on dalaketnon, a beautiful humanoid duenkhy that falls somewhere between vampire and dark elf. I saw one at the store the other day. I get a few more sentences out before Krystoff demands my attention again. He’s usually not this high maintenance, but he’s being particularly needy today.
KRYSTOFF: These pants? Or these? Which do you think would flatter my legs more?
JUN: Um, I really can’t say without seeing you in them, you know.
KRYSTOFF: Fine… if I must.
He motions like he’s about to unzip his pants, and I nearly instinctively chuck my pen at him like a dart.
JUN: CHANGE WHERE I CAN’T SEE YOU.
KRYSTOFF: It was a joke. God.
He floats off around a corner to divest himself of pants in privacy. For someone so offended by innuendos, he sure makes a lot of them himself.
In his absence, Regenald opens up again and hops over to my side—a sight I’m still not entirely acclimated to and have to summon a healthy dose of self-control to stop myself from laughing at. I respect Regenald too much to laugh at him.
REGENALD: What have you been writing all this time, honorable Jun?
Normally I’d shield my writing from prying eyes—er, eye—but Regenald is Regenald, so I’m not quite so embarrassed by the thought of him seeing my first draft. If he has judgments, he’ll be polite enough to keep them to himself.
JUN: I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s not really a diary, but it’s not quite fiction, either. I guess you could say I’ve been writing free-form poetry about things I’ve seen while in Duen. Artsy memoirs of sorts.
REGENALD: How very studious of you.
JUN: Not really. I’m sure it’s probably corny trash, but it’s kinda fun to just come up with stuff and write it without worrying about it getting graded or something.
JUN: Plus, I feel like it helps me be more mindful in my day-to-day life. I take things a little slower and try to appreciate the beauty of the simple things, so that I can write about them better. …Or something like that, haha.
REGENALD: That sounds quite nice. As a matter of fact, even the young master—
KRYSTOFF: Pants time! This is the first pair. Thoughts? Concrit?
REGENALD: Stunning as usual, young master.
KRYSTOFF: You always say that. How about you, Jun? You’re usually honest.
JUN: Usually? Anyway, those look, uh… tight… I mean, they’re not bad, but can you even move in those??
He grounds himself experimentally and tries to walk in a few small circles. He looks like Sandy at the end of Grease in her little leather pants that she had to be sewn into. I keep this comparison to myself, though, since I’m almost certain Krystoff would have no idea what I’m talking about.
KRYSTOFF: Well. Nobody ever said fashion was comfortable.
JUN: Nobody ever said it was uncomfortable, either. You could stand to go up a size or two—you’d still look good. And then maybe you could walk with more flexibility than a Barbie doll.
KRYSTOFF: So you think I look good??
JUN: Why are you fishing for compliments from me? You already know you’re obnoxiously attractive. You hardly need me to tell you that.
Damn, and yet he still weaseled more compliments out of me. He smirks predatorily and stalks over to me like a wolf. But, like—a wolf in pants so tight that he probably couldn’t successfully chase anything down. I’m already over this simile, let’s move on.
KRYSTOFF: You have something you wanna tell me Jun? Huh?
JUN: Yes. You’re too close to my face.
KRYSTOFF: Am I, though?
JUN: Yes. Definitely.
KRYSTOFF: Man, you’re no fun. I’m gonna go try on the other pants. These ones are making me lose feeling in my ankles.
And off he goes again, leaving me to write another sentence or two in peace. Though it’s kind of hard to focus now that he’s all but shattered my concentration with a sledgehammer.
Regenald emits some kind of impatient noise but stays silent; he knows better than to argue with Krystoff when the apparition has his mind set on something. Even if that something is just what he’s wearing on a Saturday afternoon.
KRYSTOFF: Okay, how about these? Do they clash with this top?
JUN: They look almost identical to the other pants.
KRYSTOFF: You’re joking, right? The sheen is completely different on these ones. Can you see alright in that little Halloween mask of yours?
JUN: You may not have guessed from my illustrious wardrobe of two different shirts, but I’m not really a fashion person. I mean, I can tell when something looks bad, but I couldn’t tell you why. I’ve never really had the money to invest in clothes for any reason other than practicality.
He looks over his shoulder at me with a rare flicker of sincere consideration. And then it just as quickly gradients into an impish grin, and I know I’ve somehow landed myself in hot water.