[Krystoff] The Cage (1)

JUN: And… there.

I push at the heavy tome before me, and it falls closed with a satisfying thump. With a well-deserved stretch and a glance at the clock, I realize I’ve been at my studies for several hours now. The sun has long since set, though as the seasons change, nightfall has encroached more and more upon my usual waking hours. The swift passage of time itches at my palms, almost urging me to open my books again, but I know better than to overwork myself by now. I need to eat and focus on something else for a while.

Autumn is upon us in Duen. I’ve spent weeks, now, cramming the traditional duenkhy language in earnest—at Krystoff’s recommendation—and I’m at the exciting precipice where I’m starting to see results. He wasn’t kidding when he said Cyrabuian was accessible, if even a notoriously mediocre student like me can already be at the point of understanding basic grammar and writing. Now I feel like it’s just a war of attrition between me and memorizing enough words so that I don’t have to pause my studies every other sentence to page through a dictionary.

One of the books I’ve been reading for practice is about magic amongst duenkhy, and the conclusion I’ve come to there is that there are so many different systems of magic in Duen, it’s kind of a wonder the entire place doesn’t collapse in on itself. Some duenkhy are born like any other organic being, some are created from extraordinary circumstances, some are actually given form by humans’ belief in them… And with this variety of beings comes a variety of magic types.

It makes me realize the truth in what Lady said of Duen when I first crossed over: this world works on its own system, by its own rules. Maybe it’s best left at that.

Perhaps equally important to my magic studies, after a whole lot of procrastination I’ve finally finished reading the strange novel Krystoff insisted I borrow. Contrary to the corny title and cover, the story within was actually fairly compelling, if a little purple prose-y.

A lot of the main characters’ conflict was born of their vast differences as different kinds of duenkhy. The couple actually gets together early in the story and spends the bulk of the book sorting through the various bumps their relationship hits. It wasn’t anything deep, but the author had a good sense of the character’s voices and motives, and by the end you feel like you watched the couple grow strong together.

…There were a few scenes here and there that kinda made me raise my eyebrows, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t read them with some small measure of curiosity. I feel like I learned a lot about duenkhy courtship from the whole thing. Ha ha ha.

My memoirs are also still an ongoing endeavor. I’ve been writing less and reading more, but I still try to make time for my musings on the duenkhy world. Now that I’m finally getting a grasp on Cyrabuian, I’m even trying to write in that a little.

Deep down, I know why I’m really studying languages so fervently. I want to stay here. I want to earn my keep in Duen and be able to face others with the knowledge that I’d gone the extra mile to understand this world and its people, and that it wasn’t just a choice made of desperation. I know I have no one to prove this to but myself, yet it still weighs heavily on me as an important distinction to make.

I haven’t talked to Krystoff recently about these thoughts. He still doesn’t know whether I’m staying or leaving at the end of the year, and for some reason I’m holding off on committing to the thought. I can’t shake the feeling that my continued presence here will just burden him in some way. No, worse than that; I’m scared he’d only be happy because I’d be a continued source of energy. As drawn to him as I am, I still don’t know where we stand with each other, and I’m self-aware enough to know that my unwanted feelings towards him are complicating the situation.

It doesn’t help that… Never mind, I can’t keep dwelling on the alcohol-driven happenings of one night from months ago. None of it meant anything. Sure, it hurt my feelings a little that we never talked about it again, buuut…

Agh. Stupid.

Eager for a distraction, I glance at my long-neglected phone, which can mysteriously still receive messages in this world, but only from others in Duen via an app Tor showed to me.

upwhenimdown: Working late tonight!!! Someone broke the jukebox fml lol
Should I bring home dinner or did you eat with the demon boy

junnnnn: just feed yourself! i’m about to eat right now, but thanks lady!

To my surprise, I have a few other unread messages too. I guess I really had my nose in the books today.


junnnnn: um… no what is that


junnnnn: lol ok!

Little scared of what that might be, but I’ll try it. For Tor and Rafael’s sakes.

hooklinesinker: jun someone fuxkin broke the jukebox LMAO

junnnnn: lol lady just told me

hooklinesinker: but did she tell u how it got broken

junnnnn: what happened??

hooklinesinker: ghost possessed it

junnnnn: scuse me?

hooklinesinker: jukebox is haunted
we gotta call an exorcist and everything
it’s a whole thing now 🙂

junnnnn: aaaaa i’m so sorry LOL

hooklinesinker: it’s fine i’m just like oh ok as if my job isn’t already busy enough

Lady and Tor are kind of the only ones who message me with any regularity, with Calisto being an occasional presence in my inbox, and a very, very rare message here and there from Cassius (usually a funny picture he thinks I’ll like; they’re kind of hit and miss, but I always appreciate that he’s thinking of me). I friended Rafael too at some point, but he never messages me and has gone so far as to say he hates texting.

Krystoff just straight up doesn’t have a phone and has expressed negative interest in ever getting one. I suspect he may not know how to work machines, but I can’t get him to admit to it one way or the other.

I wonder what his texts would be like? I could see him being overly formal, but I could also see him sending me esoteric nonsense. The curiosity is almost enough to make me want to badger him to get a phone again. He shut the idea down pretty soundly last time I brought it up, but maybe if I ask cutely…

JUN: Ow…

My head throbs suddenly. I could almost attribute it to simple eyestrain, but it’s very quickly accompanied by an overwhelming sense of unease that seems familiar.

…Oh, shit, I know exactly what this reminds me of. I grab my mask and keys and make a dash for the front door. I can only hope I’m not too late this time.

>Check on Krystoff

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