“Tch. Aaggh…” I sighed as the blue vixen applied my own
medicine onto my wound.
“I’m sorry…I really am trying to be gentle. Your medicine’s
just very unfamiliar.” She said, dabbing the cotton cloth I’d handed her with
more disinfectant. Hesitantly, she pressed it against my side once again and I
tried harder to cover up the pain I felt. I was only half successful, some of
it escaping as a hushed grunt. She looked like she was about to apologize
again, but I held up a hand to stop her.
“It’s fine. You’re doing the best you can.” I said, my voice
low and still very much tired. “It still needs a couple more presses.”
We went through the routine again. I handed her the cloth
back, she dabbed it and pressed it against my wound. The sting lost its
intensity over time, but we both remained silent. I still wasn’t sure how to
feel about what happened. I was happy that I could now understand these people
and that, with a little effort on my part, they could understand me back. From
what this vixen told me, she had established some kind of mental connection
with me and used it to access my memories in order to learn and understand my
language. And once she understood mine good enough, she’d telepathically taken
her language and translated it, so my brain would know what words in her
language matched up to mine. Needless to say, I could now speak two languages. Theirs
But at what cost?
She’d seen my memories. She’d invaded the sanctity of my
mind. No, it was more than that. She’d taken a glimpse into my very being. My
past experiences, both good and bad, the ones that built me into the person I
was today, she knew about some of them. Thankfully, only the most recent ones.
However, she’d gotten a short peak into the depths of my subconscious. The area
I tried daily to battle against, one that stuck with me every second of the
day. I was lucky enough to stop her when I did. She almost found out more than
she bargained for.
Still, what was I supposed to say to her that she didn’t
already know? My name? She knew it. My grandparents, she knew them too. My
hobbies, my career, everything that would normally take up small talk and take
up this awkward air that remained between us as she treated me, there was no
point in saying any of it. If that wasn’t bad enough, she also had some kind of
psychic power that I knew nothing about. I mean, how far did that power go?
Could she read minds? Could she really read my thoughts at a moment’s notice?!
I took a second to look down at her, only to catch her
pausing with the needle and thread I’d given her and glancing over at me, all
but confirming my worst assumptions. Shit.
She really can hear what I’m thinking! Ugh, and I just cursed too. Way to make
a good first impression Axel. She turned her head away from me for a
moment, obviously trying to hide a smile or something at this and continued
wrapping my side, while I held up my shirt just enough for her work.
“So, you can read minds huh?” I sighed, stating what we both
already knew to be true.
Her head dipped down, avoiding my eyes. “Yes. With a little
concentration…” She murmured, clearly a little embarrassed that she’d been
caught in the act so quickly.
I gulped inwardly. “Are you…the only one that can?” I asked,
hoping to hear a confirmation, but dreading the possibility of more than one
telepath. It was already hard enough to watch what you say around people, but
to have to guard your thoughts at all times? That was enough to drive someone
completely insane. She paused once again, seemingly thinking over what to say.
My stomach dropped another degree as I realized yet another daunting and very
real possibility. As a mind reader, she could probably tell whether or not someone
was lying or telling the truth. Not that I intended to deceive any of
these…people, I suppose I should start calling them. I guess animals would be a
denomination in this culture. But the real danger lay in the fact that she can
choose to be truthful or not, while I can’t. And that was a scary thought to
someone like me.
“Not exactly.” She finally stated. “Everyone’s…different in
their own way. Some are blessed with special gifts, but only a few select
people can read minds like I can.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “And I do not
like being called a liar when I have spoken only the truth.”
I wanted to smack myself. Of course she heard that. “Sorry,”
I said, truly meaning it, “But can you really blame me? I mean, it was only
about an hour ago that I was held a spear-point and threatened to be killed. Or
something like that. I couldn’t understand your language yet, but the intent
was pretty clear.”
I watched as her ears droop ever so slightly. “I do
apologize for their actions, but you must understand.” She said, focusing her
eyes back on me. “You are as much foreign to us as we are to you. The last time
we encountered a new species, well…you saw them.” She said, downtrodden. I felt
kind of bad to see her like that and seeing the cruelty of those monsters out
there firsthand, I understood the implications that went unspoken. Their tribe
likely suffered losses from those things. Then, she chuckled half-heartedly. “Of
course, it also didn’t help that you practically took out an entire squadron of
Karmasukas by yourself…” She stopped herself short and moved closer with the
needle and thread.
It didn’t go
unnoticed and I didn’t need to be a mind reader to guess what she’d meant. She
wasn’t necessarily referring to the fact that I’d scared the tribes warriors
because I managed to defeat a whole bunch of those lizard men, or Karmasukas I
suppose. It was the way I’d defeated them. No doubt I was a force to be
reckoned with, even though the details were still a bit fuzzy. However, I knew
what I felt in those last few minutes of the battle. No doubt they had too. And
if I were an outsider looking in, I couldn’t fully blame them for their
I exhaled, grabbing the wood frame of the makeshift bed I
was sitting on. “Maybe.” I said noncommittally, twirling my shirt up and
rolling it until it was nice and compact. Shutting my eyes, I bit down on the
cotton roll. “Go ahead. I’m ready.”
There was a moment of hesitation from the blue fox before I
felt the first prick. My jaw clenched and I squeezed my eyes tighter as I felt
the needle pass through the skin, pulling a portion of it back taut. The second
prick was even worse, covering a larger area and sending wave after wave of
throbs and sharp pain through my body. Unfortunately, antistatic medication was
nonexistent in this world, so each one felt like its own separate knife, slowly
sinking through my skin and out the other side. My breathing that had started
slow and steady had now become harsh and staggered. I fought hard against my
natural instinct to cry out and blinking away the faint traces of liquid
forming just above my eyelids. Dammit. I was supposed to be tougher than this.
When she finally finished, I let out a huge exhale. I hated stitches. Really hated them.
Nonetheless, I examined her handiwork. Wow, I’m impressed. That actually looks really good. I flinched at
this thought, realizing that she probably had some practice if attacks from the
Karmasuka were common. I snuck a peek while she was tossing out the used
needles and gauze scraps from this little operation. She followed her actions
through without pause or indication that she’d heard what I thought. Guess it
really did take some amount of attention for them to read other people’s
thoughts. Good to know.
I briefly plucked out my pocket watch. It read around six
o’clock pm, but it seemed like early afternoon was just beginning before I was
led inside. I frowned. This planet’s night and day cycle was going to take some
getting used to. If I was going to have any chance at finding some kind of
shelter before nightfall, it would be best to head out now. I overstayed my
welcome as it was already. With a short click, I slipped it back in its
appropriate slot and was just staring to shift my legs over the bed.
However, before I even had the chance to rise, the blue
vixen placed a paw on my shoulder. “Wait, where do you think you’re going? You
need rest. The nearest settlement isn’t for many rak. You won’t make it there
before nightfall.” Rak, was this world’s equivalent for miles with a three to
one ratio. Frustration seeped into my thoughts for a moment before I made the
conscious effort to beat it back. I wasn’t quick enough though, as I caught the
vixen’s expression go from worried to embarrassed a second time. “I’m sorry.
Since I established the link earlier, it takes much less effort for me to read
I sighed, running a hand through my hair. “Not trying to be
rude here, but can you please stop doing that. It’s really…” I paused, my mind
racing to try and find the most polite word I could think of. Irritating, annoying, not nice,
disrespectful. That last one, I hadn’t meant to put in there, but again it
was too late to take it back. Not that the others were really any better.
Her ears drooped down even more than before, closer to her
head and she looked away. “No, you’re right, it isn’t right of me to do so. Not
without your permission. It’s just that, you’re so different from anything I’ve
seen on this planet. Actually, you’re not even from this planet.” She looked
back up at me, her expression apologetic, along with a twinge of guilt. “I was
more curious than anything. Please do not think I would use my gift like this
all the time. I’m sorry, again, and I promise I will refrain from using it if
it makes you uncomfortable.”
How exactly is having
your thoughts on display for someone else to overhear in any way comfortable?
I watched her for a second after I thought this to see if she really meant what
she said. Her expression didn’t change at my thought, and again her body
language gave me no reason to suspect that she’d heard it. Or, she could be
making the conscious effort to feign ignorance and still be using her ability
to read me. But honestly, if I kept that kind of mentality of always wondering
whether or not she was using her gift, I really would go insane. So, I decided
to trust her words for now. If nothing else than for my own sanity.
“Thank you.” I said gratefully, letting out a long breathe
of relief. “And if all you really were was curious about me and what you saw,
you can just ask. You know, like normal people do?” I said was a playful smile.
She giggled softly. “Yes, I suppose that’s what normal
people do, isn’t it?”
“Something normal people also do is introduce themselves.
I’m sure you know my name, but I’ll say it again anyways for formality’s sake.”
I said, chuckling as I extended my hand to her. “My name is Axel. Axel Rogers. Nice
to meet you.”
“My name’s Krystal. My last name doesn’t really translate
well in your language, so I hope you’ll forgive me for leaving it out.” She
said, returning my gesture with a kind smile. “And, I really do apologize for
my behavior. I haven’t really properly thanked you for earlier, for saving my
life.” She reached over and grabbed my right hand in both of hers. “And for
saving my younger sister’s life.”
Right, the kit. God, that had been a bone chilling
experience. One I hope I never have to revisit ever again.
She was lucky. The
arrow that I’d initially thought struck her dead through her chest, actually
hit further to the right near the rib. Not fatal to an adult, but to a kid, it
may as well have been. They have a higher potential for bleeding out faster as
well as a higher risk for infection and since medicine around here was probably
pretty primitive, they likely wouldn’t have been able to treat it right.
In fact when I had rushed over to where she had been shot,
nearly causing myself another swift execution, nobody had touched her. Another
female fox was kneeled over her, holder her, sobbing and crying out to those
around her, begging for someone to save her daughter. I could tell from all
their defeated and anguished faces, that they’d already given up. They’d
accepted her as already gone. When I did reach her though, it wasn’t difficult
to see why. Her eyes were open, but vacant, hardly moving or focusing on any
given point. Not even on the form of her own mother that coddled her. Her breathing
had slowed to little more than shallow hoarse gasps, a very dangerous
combination. For all intents and purposes, she was indeed dying.
There wasn’t a whole lot of time and by then, I’d already
been reaching in my respective pouches for the proper medicine I was going to
need. I quickly explained to the distraught mother that I couldn’t guarantee
anything, but I did have the means to attempt to save her daughter’s life. But
I was going to need her help and that the items I was going to use were not going
to be familiar and that she would just have to trust in my abilities. I did
warn her. It was going to look very bad before it would get better.
After hesitatingly agreeing to help me, I asked her to prop
her daughter’s head on her knees, so as to raise the head and encourage blood
flow to the brain. This bought me a little more time. Thankfully, the arrow had
penetrated all the way through her body. If it had gotten lodged inside, or
worse stuck itself inside one of her bones, I doubt that I could have done
anything at all to help.
Knowing what had to be done, I had grabbed a hold of the
arrow about halfway down the shaft. With a quick exertion of force, I was able
to snap the end off cleanly, leaving only six inches or so of the shaft left. I
then shouted to one of the surrounding foxes to get me something flat. A rock,
a piece of wood, I didn’t care. It took a painful few seconds before one of them
acted on my command and rushed over with a rock from nearby. I ran my hand over
the flattest portion of it and palmed it.
While I mentally prepared myself for what I had to do, I
prepared a special kind of ointment that had been created by our science department
and handed a bottle of strong disinfectant to the mother. I also had to jot of explaining
to a skeptical and already hysterical parent that I was about to cause her
daughter a hell of a lot of pain and that she was going to have to help me do
that. At first, she outright refused when I told her what I intended to do, but
after a little reminder that her daughter would certainly die if this wasn’t done, she gave in.
I took only a moment to make sure my aim was good, and then
smashed the flat end of the rock onto the end of the broken shaft with all the
force I could muster. Let me tell you, that had done it. The kit woke and let
out a high pitched screech as if someone was murdering her. In a way, it wasn’t
more than a stone throw’s away from the truth. She kicked, thrashed, and
struggled against her mother as I grabbed the bloodied arrow from underneath
her and yanked it the rest of the way out. I then told the mother to apply the
disinfectant, which she did why trying her best to calm her child. It didn’t
help much, so I just aimed to finish as quickly as possible, smearing the
ointment over the hole left by the arrow. It was designed to act as a fast
acting sealing agent for deep wounds like this. The moment it left its
seal-tight tube, it began to sizzle and melt over the wound, slowly covering
the distance at a sluggish pace. That being said, the child’s screams had reached
ear-piercing levels at the time.
Eventually, she did tire herself out enough for me to force
some military grade painkillers into her, which knocked her right up and then
right out. She would probably be bedridden for a week, but she’d live.
“Yeah, well, don’t thank me yet. Recovering from that is
going to take some time and she’ll probably end up hating me for a while,” I
said, using my free hand to scratch the back of my head and smiling lightly. “But
the worst is over for her. She should be back to normal before too long, I
think. And with you, well, that wasn’t really a big deal, you know? It’s kinda
just another day for me.”
She looked up at me incredulously. “You’re saying it’s
normal for you to hop across worlds to help people like this?!” She exclaimed,
her eyes widening in disbelief, yet not quite dismissing the notion entirely.
“No, no, no.” I said, waving my left hand back and forth,
doing my best to keep from laughing. “I mean, my job on my planet was keeping
people safe. Very important people. So, it’s not really uncommon for me to be
put in dangerous situations.” Granted, most of those were simulations created
for my numerous tests I’d needed to pass for my job, but she didn’t need to
know that. Besides, I treated them as if they were real. The feeling is the
same, even if real danger isn’t present. Not that my real life experiences had
skimped on the fact though.
Her paws clasped my hand a little tighter. “Well, even if you
don’t think what you’ve done for me and my sister isn’t a ‘big deal’, I do.”
She said, turning her head back to mine. “I am very grateful that you came by
when you did.” Suddenly, she pulled on my arm and moved her head closer. A
tingling sensation shot through my body as I felt the wet surface of her tongue
flick across my right cheek. “So, thank you.” She said.
If the mind can be related to a computer, then my neuron
cables just encountered an error. Her action failed to register for a few
seconds before my brain did a reboot and it all clicked together way too
quickly. I felt myself heating up from the inside. “W-what was that?!” I asked,
startled and cursing myself for stuttering.
Krystal raised an eyebrow. “Is this not how members of my
species and yours exchange affection? Forgive me, but I thought I recalled
seeing something like this in your memories.”
Oh my gosh…she thought that pets in our world were the same
“Um, no, that’s not…what you saw was…” Agh! I couldn’t even
form a proper sentence. I took a second to calm down, all the while Krystal
just kept watching me with a confused look. Once I felt my temperature return
to normal, I cleared my throat. “Krystal…that kind of relationship and what you
saw…those animals weren’t, well, you guys. They were pets.”
Now it was Krystal’s turn to be in shock and I saw the fur
on her cheeks start to change to a deeper shade of blue. “O-Oh! I’m so sorry, I…I
didn’t mean it like…”
“Am I interrupting something?” A deeper, more masculine
voice resounded from the entrance to the teepee.
“No!” We shouted at the same time. We both looked at each
other in surprise for a moment before I made the move to end this awkwardness
before it got any worse.
Slowly, I rose from the bed, a dull ache emanating from my
side, but it was much more manageable. “No. Krystal just finished sewing me
back together.” I said with a small grin, doing my best to put what just
happened as far out of my head as possible. “What can we do for you?”
Another blue fox approached me with slow, even steps,
allowing me time to get a good look at him. His fur was a shade of blue that
closely resembled Krystal’s. However, he did not share the strange markings or
tattoos that she did. He also wore a corded necklace similar to Krystal’s, with
yet another single sharp tooth of some kind. Except, the gemstone that lay
within his was a dark shade of green. The only article of clothing other than
that was a dark brown loincloth. I shuddered a little bit on the inside. Why
couldn’t normal clothes be a thing here?
“Nagi, our tribe elder, wishes to speak with you.” He said,
stopping a couple feet away. I had to look up a little to keep eye contact with
him. He was a few inches taller than me. “But first, I have something I want to
say to you.” I tensed up a little, this guy’s deep tone putting me a little on
edge. I didn’t break eye contact though. For some reason, I felt like if I
moved or showed any of the uneasiness I felt, it would be somehow been seen as
weakness around this guy. His hazel eyes never left mine, a long pause hanging
in air between us.
“John, that’s enough.” Krystal interjected, moving over to
us. “You’re being rude to our guest.”
He smirked, shrugging like that little test he was giving me
hadn’t existed. “Don’t know whatcha mean sis’. I was just getting ready to
introduce myself.” He extended a paw to me. “Name’s John. I’m Krystal’s older
I took his hand and immediately felt an intense pressure on
my fingers as he squeezed it well beyond what would be considered firm. It took
a lot of self restraint, especially in the state that I was in, not to make a
sound or a face. So, this guy’s the
overprotective brother type huh? Message received dude, thanks. “Nice to
meet you.” I said politely, staring back into his eyes and making it known that
I understood very well what was going on here. “I’m Axel.”
“Heh. Funny name.” He commented, earning a disapproving look
from Krystal. “Alright, alright.” He cleared his throat and let go of my hand.
“Thanks for savin’ my little sis’. And my other litte sis’ too I suppose.” He
said, tussling Krystal’s hair playfully, successfully getting a rise out of
“I am not you’re little sister!” She exclaimed. “We are the
“Really?” He said with an amused smirk. “Cause’ I recall
coming out a good five minutes before you, little sis’.”
“Well, you’re certainly not acting like it.” She said,
turning her head away from him and crossing her arms.
“Then I suppose as the more ‘mature’ older sis’ you want to
be, you can lead the way to Dad’s hut. He seems really interested in talking
with this…guy.” He said, stumbling over his words, unsure of what to label me
“Fine, I will. This way.” She said, walking out of the
With her gone, John set his sights on me, his demeanor now
turning fierce and intimidating. “Just so we’re clear, you may have won over my
sister’s trust, but I know what I felt from you earlier and I know where it had
been directed after you finished the last of those Karmasukas. So, let me give
you some friendly advice bud,” He said, putting his arm around me and pulling
me into a semi-headlock. “You do anything to hurt my sister or my family and I
swear those dumb lizards are going to be the least of your problems. Got that?”
“Y-yeah,” I responded, despite the difficulty of my windpipe
being partially blocked.
He let me go. “Good.”
I followed him as he stepped outside, rubbing the side of my
neck. Great, not even through with my first day yet and I’ve managed to make an
enemy. Wonder if this Nagi fox was going to resemble his son in any way. If so,
this was probably not going to be the friendliest of meetings.
I sighed quietly and soon followed John out.