Hinjo/Tsukiko (Part 1)

Tsukiko’s mouth tasted of copper and her hands were warm and sticky, and she felt like she was coming home from an all-night party at Azure City’s disturbingly large graveyard. Yes, that kind of party. She was so exhausted that her eyes kept drooping closed even as she walked, and she was a little sore from overexerting herself, but she was happy. Very happy as she approached that majestic lich through the debris-littered corridors of the city’s newly-captured fortress. Dreamily she called out to him, “Hey.” She set down a duffel bag of clothes and things she’d picked up from her house in the midst of making her way through the city, Creating Undead and Animating Dead wherever she walked. Mother and Mizuki hadn’t been home. Not that she cared.

“What?” the lich grumbled, too preoccupied with checking rooms for hidden survivors to even stop and look at her.

“I’ve used up all my spells for today,” said Tsukiko, picking her bag back up with a grunt and following Xykon down the hall. “I was wondering where you want me to sleep.” Had her voice sounded suggestive just then? So what if it had? Maybe he would change his mind about her.

“Why in the name of the Lower Planes should I care?” the lich replied levelly, “Just pick a room, get rid of anyone else who’s occupying it, and get back to work in eight hours.”

“O-okay,” said Tsukiko, disappointed that still the lich refused to even look at her. She wasn’t often the vision of aesthetically blood-spattered and battle-worn gothic beauty that she was at the moment; it was a pity that the effect should be wasted.

“And send your new friends downstairs with the rest of the troops,” the lich added brusquely.

“Huh?” The sad sound of aimless shuffling behind her made her turn around. “Oh! Bless your little hearts…” She beheld a small mob of Zombies sprinkled with Undead Skeletons making their way down the corridor to stand behind her and watch her expectantly. Every time she’d used Animate Dead today she’d told the new creature “Follow me”. She’d forgotten to tell them to stop. “I flew up ten floors to get here, babies,” Tsukiko said, gently tucking a lock of the long, wild hair of one of the zombies who stood at the front of the group behind his ear, “Did you take the stairs just to follow me?” This one had pleasantly soft hair with practically no gore in it at all. In response to her question, he merely gave her a blank stare. “Of course you did,” she said, patting his arm. “You,” she said, giving his arm a final squeeze before letting go, “Keep following me. The rest of you go downstairs and don’t fight anyone.” She turned to thank her new boss for pointing out her embarrassing mistake without chastising her for it, but he’d already disappeared down some other hallway, still looking for survivors.

“Well,” said, Tskuko, holding her zombie’s soft, cold, and slightly damp hand and interlacing fingers, “Shall we?”

It took the better part of an hour to find a room to her liking, and even then, her choice to stay there was motivated more by fatigue than preference.

“Another Sapphire Guard Paladin’s suite,” she said with a sigh, examining the now familiar layout: bed on one side of the room, writing desk next to a little closet on the other side, just enough room in the middle to do a little solo training if one wanted, and a door on the left side of the room next to the bed leading to a tiny but complete bathroom. Everything was blue, but since Tsukiko had grown up in Azure City, she never really noticed that sort of detail unless it applied to some other color.

What caught her attention about this room was that it was slightly different from the other suites of its kind she’d seen so far. What she noticed first was the mustiness tickling her nostrils: there was thin layer of dust on several surfaces where you wouldn’t expect to find one: the doorknobs, the wooden surfaces of the bed, and even, she found upon examining the bathroom, in the sink. Clearly this room had been abandoned for a while before the battle, but that fact itself was odd because of what else could be found in the space: Books and papers piled on the desk, a few lonely coats hanging in the closet, a towel discarded on the floor of the bathroom, it was if a while ago the paladin had to move out of his room in a hurry (Maybe he was kicked out of the Guard or something?) but then had been too busy to ever come back and get the rest of his stuff.

In the back of her mind, Tsukiko wondered if the ruler of Azure City was supposed to sleep in a nicer suite somewhere else in the castle with thicker walls and perhaps some magical protection that she could be searching for right now, but the front of her mind quickly dismissed that idea on the premise that if such a room existed, the lich would want it to himself and reminded her that she was very, very tired. Not to mention, there was one more thing that made this room different from all the other rooms: There was no window. Every other Guard-member’s room she had seen so far had a window, usually on the far side of the room. The views of the city these windows provided were probably magnificent under normal circumstances, but now… This room was nice. This room would do.

“Alrighty, then,” said Tsukiko as brightly as she could manage, leading her new zombie outside the door and closing it. “Don’t take this personally, but I doubt you have very nice penmanship, so, let me do this.” She held his unresisting hand in hers, caressing its pliable skin with her thumb before closing the hand into a fist and uncurling one of his fingers. “Keep your hand like this, and let me borrow this,” she told him, carefully removing a dagger from his belt. Within minutes, the zombie got his dagger back and the door to Tsukiko’s new room bore the message:


“Lovely!” said Tsukiko, clapping her hands merrily. “Finger painting can be so much fun. You just keep sucking on that until it stops bleeding, honey; we don’t want to stain the carpet. Run along downstairs, now.” She hoped she’d be able to find him later, when she wasn’t so tired; he was cute.

After casting a Glyph of Warding on her door (Hey, better safe than sorry, and the sooner her new “friends” learned that “KEEP OUT” means “KEEP OUT”, the better.), Tsukiko nearly went straight to bed without examining her new home any further. She found herself drawn to the writing desk, though. The thing was so cluttered that only inches-wide patches of its actual surface were visible. Hadn’t there been anything on the desk that the missing paladin thought he’d need to take with him? She absent-mindedly opened and closed a few drawers, finding the degree of clutteredness was consistent throughout. Except for one.

“How odd…” Tsukiko observed aloud when she came to the drawer that was completely empty save for a single book with no words on its cover. This book must be very important to the paladin to get its own space, but if it was, why did he leave it behind?

Too curious to leave it alone now, Tsukiko picked up the book and opened it to the first page.

“For the record,” that page read, “I would like it to be known that I am only keeping this so-called ‘therapy journal’ because Doctor Yamaha instructed me to do so.”

Tsukiko burst out laughing and it took her several minutes to stop. “Aw man…” she said, sucking in her breaths in an attempt to calm down and wiping a stray tear from her eye, “If I’m laughing that hard at something this stupid I know I need some sleep.” She tossed the journal back in its drawer and crawled into bed, even her longing to know what exactly one would write in a therapy journal unable to stop her falling asleep within seconds.

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