[Krystoff] The Cage (3)

I roll up my sleeves and set my mask on the countertop.

JUN: Alright, let’s take inventory. I don’t see any open wounds. What’s the worst damage?

Krystoff sniffles and stares at the ceiling.

KRYSTOFF: My face, mostly. That brute likes to hit me in the face because he knows I value my appearance.

He’s definitely got a pretty intense nosebleed going on, not too different from last time. I take him by the chin and dig my fingers lightly into his jaw to urge him to open his mouth for me. He’s clearly caught off guard and offended by the unsolicited manhandling, but I don’t have the patience today to dance around Krystoff’s peculiarities.

JUN: Yuck. You’ve got a broken tooth. It looks awful in here.

KRYSTOFF: Ah coulh hah tohl you thah—

I let go of his mouth.

KRYSTOFF: I could have told you that. …Ow. He knows manifesting new teeth is a hassle, that puerile bastard.

JUN: And while we’re at it, who is this bastard anyway? It is the same guy as last time, right? I want an actual explanation for what’s going on, no vague explanations, please.

I start rooting through the cabinets for things I could potentially use to clean him and Regenald up, but it’s almost solely bath towels and haircare products. Looks like I’ll have to work with what I’ve got yet again.

I grab an empty, abandoned mug, probably once used for tea if I know Krystoff at all, and rinse it out before filling it with water and passing it to Krystoff.

JUN: Swish and spit in the sink.

He frowns at the cup like I’m making him do a menial chore but complies all the same. I can always tell when Krystoff isn’t feeling well because he’s actually obedient.

I get a towel wet and gesture to Regenald like he’s a cat I need to put a collar on.

JUN: Come here, I’ll clean the blood off of you.

REGENALD: I will be fine, thank you. Focus on the young master. When his strength has returned to him, I too will be restored.

JUN: Alright, if you’re sure.

I turn back to Krystoff, whose mouth looks a little clearer than before, but the sink looks like a nightmare vomited in it now. It’s fine. I’ll deal with it later.

I take Krystoff by the back of the head for leverage and start wiping at his face. Again, he angles his big eyes at me like he’s offended by the casual touches, but I level my own warning expression at him and he yields.

JUN: Ew, your hair is crusty with blood.

KRYSTOFF: Trust me, Jun, I know.

JUN: So who was this guy?

KRYSTOFF: …My brother. Rotys’lav.

JUN: Your brother is also a sector apparition?

KRYSTOFF: As is our father.

JUN: Oh, so you’re a little nepotism baby. I see now.

KRYSTOFF: Must you insult me when I’m trying to tell you something serious?

JUN: Sorry.

KRYSTOFF: Jun, I lied to you.

JUN: Okay. What about?

KRYSTOFF: About the apparition conflicts. It’s not just some ambiguous, far off war happening between violent factions; it’s a fight that directly involves me and my family. Rotys’lav is attacking me because he and our father both want me dead so they can annex my sector.

KRYSTOFF: When I asked you to agree to my contract, I was only thinking of myself. I wanted someone who could fortify my energy and make me stronger. I knew Rotys’lav would sense the tear in my barrier, that he would come to inspect it, and that he would likely hunt me down while my defenses were weakened.

KRYSTOFF: I thought he would kill me if I didn’t act fast. I grabbed the first creature who would have a reason to agree to my demands, and that was you. I’m sorry.

I stand back a little, pausing my cleaning to consider his words. This is the first time he’s openly apologized for anything; granted, it’s probably also the biggest mistake he’s made with me and therefore the most deserving of an apology, but the weight of his penitence isn’t lost on me.

JUN: Okay. I mean, when I said yes to the contract, I suspected you had your ulterior motives, and I just decided that the possible pros outweighed the possible cons. I haven’t really lost anything from being around you and letting you siphon energy. Maybe just wasted time doing your chores for you, but that’s not really a big deal.

KRYSTOFF: Are you not angry?

JUN: Do you want me to be? You’re so cagey and weird about your past, I kinda figured maybe you had family stuff going on. I guess I’m annoyed that I was just a pawn in your family’s war, but I get why you did it. You could have just told me that it would help protect you, y’know. I wouldn’t have left you to die.

JUN: Thanks for the apology, though. I appreciate it.

KRYSTOFF: …I am not accustomed to creatures like you, who have any reason to concern themselves with others’ wellbeing. Much less someone like me.

JUN: Guess you just haven’t kept very good company in the past, then.

KRYSTOFF: Admittedly not. At age 257, I’m finally beginning to suspect that I don’t know what normal companionship looks like.

I smile gently at him and continue my cleaning efforts. I know cleaning blood off won’t help him heal, but it makes me feel useful, and it’s sort of comforting after the spike of anxiety I felt at the idea of something worse happening to him. I hope it’s comforting to him, too.

JUN: Boy, your clothes are a mess. Regenald, do you mind fetching a change of clothes for Krystoff? …Are you able to do that?

REGENALD: What do I look like to you? Of course I can. I will be back.

He hops off, and once I’m certain he’s gone, I permit myself a small giggle at his expense. Krystoff seems unconcerned with Regenald entirely and instead raises his brows at me.

KRYSTOFF: Are you going to dress me?

JUN: I will if you need me to.

KRYSTOFF: It’s not fun if you’re not weird about it. Never mind.

JUN: Back on topic. Why didn’t Rotys’lav finish you off that first time? You were certainly in a state where I’d think he had the upper hand if his intention was to kill you.

KRYSTOFF: Apparitions lose power very quickly when we’re outside of our home sectors. It’s part of what stops us from just usurping each other constantly. I endured him until he had nothing left.

JUN: Ah, makes sense. Then why this time? You’ve had time to recover and grow stronger since his last attack. Seems like the odds were stacked against him.

KRYSTOFF: …This time was a warning. Though I suspect he may also just hate me.

JUN: I’m sorry…

Krystoff sighs, irritated, but he also looks a little grieved by the whole thing. I don’t know what his feelings towards Rotys’lav are, but I can’t imagine your own brother attacking you repeatedly feels too good.

KRYSTOFF: I really did get off easy this time, though. And it will all revert to normal with some time.

JUN: Still, though, you poor thing…

He openly grimaces at my sincere pity, but it doesn’t deter me at all. I approach the sink and wave him over.

JUN: Why don’t you lie down with your head over the sink so I can wash your hair for you?

KRYSTOFF: Wash? Wouldn’t it be easier for me to just take a shower at that rate?

JUN: Do you want me to leave so that you can?

He contemplates briefly with a troubled expression.

KRYSTOFF: I’ll heal faster if you’re near me. So, no.

JUN: Alright, then, lie down.

>Wash Krystoff’s hair

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