KRYSTOFF: Let’s dress you up! Let’s put you in something handsome!! I’ve been dying to get you out of those ugly chinos since the day I first laid eyes on you.
JUN: You gonna ask ask me to dinner first?
He glares daggers at me as if he hasn’t said worse to me. In fact, he probably has, like, today alone. Maybe even within the last ten minutes.
KRYSTOFF: Why must you be so crude, Jun? Come along! I’m going to pick something nice for you!
He’s already navigating me by the shoulders like I’m a little grocery cart, so it’s too late for me to protest. Regenald chases after us, and it’s my sole beacon of amusement in this whole situation.
His closet is organized like a small department store. I don’t even know what I’d do with this many clothes. Probably forget I had them at all and wear the same three outfits, knowing me. He, on the other hand, skims through each row with a clear familiarity of how everything’s laid out, and holds random things up to me with a serious expression. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him treat anything so seriously.
JUN: Is anything you have even gonna fit me? I’m shorter than you.
KRYSTOFF: Please. I’m not a worm. I know how to tailor an outfit.
He cycles through holding a dozen more tops up to me before settling on one.
KRYSTOFF: Skirts or pants, yay or nay?
JUN: Indifferent. I just want something comfortable that isn’t gonna cut my circulation off.
KRYSTOFF: Fair enough.
JUN: What’s the occasion, anyway? Are we going downtown again?
KRYSTOFF: We’re going to my personal library.
JUN: Like… in the city, or…?
KRYSTOFF: Down the hall. I just like to look nice. It isn’t that deep. You get bored sitting alone in a mansion for hundreds of years with nothing but an umbrella to talk to so you find ways to make the day-to-day more interesting—no offense, Regenald.
REGENALD: It is fine.
When it comes to age, Lady tends to be dodgy about answering questions, but I don’t feel the need to be quite so delicate when I ask Krystoff things, so I let my errant thought out unceremoniously.
JUN: Does your kind live indefinitely, Krystoff? I’ve been wondering.
KRYSTOFF: Heavens, no. We have long lifespans to be sure, but we are no gods.
JUN: Do you go through a normal aging process? Like… do you start as a baby and get wrinkly when you’re older…
Krystoff makes a face at that.
KRYSTOFF: Ah… How to answer that… not exactly? Well… I-I don’t know how to put it in terms your small human brain will understand, so don’t concern yourself with such things.
REGENALD: I could explain if you wanted, young master—
KRYSTOFF: Jun, what’s your shoe size?
JUN: I don’t like wearing shoes indoors.
KRYSTOFF: Oh, right. Just stockings, then?
JUN: Yeah, that’s fine.
He rifles through some drawers of a giant, ornate dresser and pulls out four armfuls of stockings before he finds the pair he likes. He definitely just dodged my question, so maybe I was wrong in assuming he’d be more straightforward about his biology than Lady. I decide to tackle a different line of questions.
JUN: If a life leech like Lady wanted to live, like, almost basically forever, would it befit them to go after creatures like apparitions in particular?
KRYSTOFF: …Sure? But a life leech has to overpower their prey, and I can’t imagine your average apparition being weak enough for a life leech to break through its defenses. Why are you asking that? Is Lady trying to kill me?
JUN: Oh my god, no, haha. I just come up with all kinds of questions the more I get to know about duenkhy.
He squints suspiciously and piles clothes into my arms.
KRYSTOFF: Well, that’s why I’m showing you my library today. You can research to your little heart’s content. And you can take books home with you, as long as you promise not to get your slime all over them.
JUN: Humans don’t… slime.
KRYSTOFF: Sure, sure.
JUN: And you’re showing me your library for my sake? Really? That’s super nice of you, Krystoff.
KRYSTOFF: I—just think it’s prudent to put a library as extensive as mine to good use…
JUN: It’s okay if you’re just nice to me sometimes, Krystoff. I won’t tell anyone.
I smirk under my mask and delight in knowing he can probably smell my evil emotions. He turns away to pick up Regenald and rest him against his shoulder, probably to have something to fidget with rather than as a kindness to Regenald.
KRYSTOFF: Shut up. Go try that on.
JUN: All of this?
KRYSTOFF: Yes, all of it, what do you think this is, a public pool?
I slip behind a screen partition in the corner of the room to try my clothes pile on, but first I have to figure out what order and in what direction all these things go on. It’s like a thrilling little clothes puzzle.
The partition doesn’t come with a locked door or any real sense of enclosure that comes with your average changing room, and yet I feel pretty at ease, which is a nice realization to have. Krystoff and I like to antagonize each other, but he respects my privacy in subtle, implicit ways that maybe he thinks I haven’t noticed. But I have. And it’s nice.
I catch myself smiling. Oh, boy, I really shouldn’t be smiling over the emotionally constipated demon boy. Knock that off.
KRYSTOFF: You doing alright in there? Haven’t accidentally strangled yourself in the layers yet?
JUN: No, actually, I’m dead, and now I’m bleeding and decomposing all over your clothes.
KRYSTOFF: How’d you make yourself bleed during strangulation?
JUN: That’s a fun, sexy secret for me to know and you to find out.
KRYSTOFF: I hate you.
That actually makes me burst out laughing, and my only regret is that I can’t see his expression while I laugh. I think I catch the telltale sharp exhale of a suppressed snicker, but it’s hard to be sure. Regenald offers no audible reaction, and I imagine he’s probably rolling his eye. He really can’t stand our insipid banter most of the time.