[Krystoff] The Cage (13)

Rotys’lav cackles unpleasantly from his vantage point, and Krystoff is immediately on the defense. He pulls me behind him and looks up at Rotys’lav with a hatred so barefaced and unbridled, I find myself wincing a little reflexively at the sight of it.

Half brothers or not, the family resemblance is undeniable, even beyond just the… purple. Rotys’lav has a similar angular elegance to his features that Krystoff has, down to the long eyelashes. But he’s a good deal taller and more built than Krystoff, and Krystoff’s already pretty tall. His four eyes practically glow with predatory malice.

KRYSTOFF: …What are you doing here?

ROTYS’LAV: I recently annexed this territory to my own, actually, so you’re in my zone. Funny because I was going to go looking for you, but you just showed up all nice and easy for me!

KRYSTOFF: Okay. Then what do you want?

ROTYS’LAV: Was curious if you’d listened to my advice, but looks like that’s a big, resounding, fuckin’ nope!!! You’re hopeless as always, Krystoff! You make me so sad.

KRYSTOFF: Don’t be disgusting.

ROTYS’LAV: Sorry, don’t want me to embarrass you in front of your pet, huh?

He hops onto the ground and stalks towards us which makes Krystoff put himself in front of me even more. I’m starting to wonder if I should have made a dash for the portal, but I don’t want to leave Krystoff alone with his brother. So I just cling to his back and brace myself.

ROTYS’LAV: Are you intelligent enough to talk, you doleful creature?

I glare at him, which is thankfully easy to do with the absence of my mask.

JUN: Of course.

ROTYS’LAV: Then let me ask you this. Do you have any idea of how your selfish continued existence is putting Krystoff and me both in danger?

KRYSTOFF: Rotys’lav…

ROTYS’LAV: Let it answer my question, Krystoff.

JUN: …What do you mean?

ROTYS’LAV: Your soul, stupid bitch, your soul!! It’d benefit Krystoff a hell of a fuckin’ lot more than you, so do you want him to live or not?

JUN: I-I don’t know what you’re talking about…

ROTYS’LAV: Man, this gnat doesn’t know anything, does it? You never intended to use it correctly, did you, Krystoff? You told me a biiiig fuckin’ lie last time I was here, didn’t you?

He starts to pace around us in an agitated circle. I do my best to stay behind Krystoff in correlation to Rotys’lav, but it feels pretty distinctly like we’re at his mercy.

KRYSTOFF: I won’t kill Jun. I can sustain myself without that.

ROTYS’LAV: You tell yourself that now, but if our dad gets ahold of you—that’s it for sweet baby boy Krystoff!

He rubs his nose with one hand and folds the other three behind his back as he stalks and analyzes. Every calculated step he takes fills me with more dread.

ROTYS’LAV: Kaguyos is gonna paint a room with your guts if you keep acting like this. I’d hoped my visits would make you realize how lacking your abilities still were… Humble you a little, maybe…

ROTYS’LAV: But looks like letting you escape has just made you more arrogant. If you lack the conviction to fortify yourself and stand with me against him, then I’ll annex your meager strength to mine and do it myself! For real this time.

KRYSTOFF: Rotys’lav, wait!! Please, wait. I didn’t mean to lie, I—I just—I don’t have what it takes. Please, I can’t be the one to stop him, not even with you. Surely there’s another way.

KRYSTOFF: Perhaps if we were to gather other sector apparitions and discuss a bureaucratic way to remove him from his position…

ROTYS’LAV: You know goddamn well he isn’t going to step down because a bunch of lesser apparitions took a vote on it. He’s too powerful for that now.

ROTYS’LAV: But you’re right about one thing; I’m gathering other apparitions in a few months. That’s when we’re going to strike, but it ain’t gonna fuckin’ work if you’re not there.

ROTYS’LAV: No one is going to stand half the chance against Kaguyos that his own kin does. Even as humiliating as you and your little bleeding heart are, you’re still our father’s child. You have potential for immense power. I’ve seen it.

ROTYS’LAV: So why are you being a pussy about it?

I want to interject or—pull Krystoff out of this conversation or something, but I can only guess what they’re talking about. It sounds like I may not have had the full picture of what Rotys’lav’s role in this apparition conflict was after all. He’s certainly still an untrustworthy person, but… it almost sounds to me like he was trying to rally Krystoff to his cause to some degree. I don’t really blame Krystoff for simplifying the details to me, though.

KRYSTOFF: I know… I just… don’t think we’ll survive it. And if he takes all of us out together in one place, the barrier… the human world… It’ll all be…

ROTYS’LAV: Well, I’ll tell you one thing, Krystoff. We won’t win with that attitude. As burns within you, and all that shit, right? Your resolve is like a soggy matchstick.

ROTYS’LAV: So how about this? As your generous big brother, I will hold your sticky little hand one last time.

He lifts all of his four terrible arms, palms facing the pavement, and Krystoff stirs, magic beginning to manifest at his own hands. But I know he’s hesitant to act because Rotys’lav has the advantage in this territory. Rotys’lav gestures, and for a moment, it seems like he isn’t doing anything—

But then—

Krystoff tries to shield me, but it’s to no avail. A lance of that black, inky, magic solidifies into a lethal solidity, sneaking up behind me in a pillar, and tears through us both like paper. Regenald clattering to the ground is the last thing I hear before the surge of blood in my ears nearly deafens me.

Damn. Krystoff warned me once about watching my back. If only I’d taken it to heart.

ROTYS’LAV: There. See? Not so hard. Now feast on your human’s suffering before it bleeds out. Enjoy the boost in vitality. Then come see me once you’ve managed to do that a few dozen more times and we’ll see if we can’t contend with our dearest father like proper adults.

ROTYS’LAV: Bye bye for now, my querulous little brother.


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