Chapter 11:



"I dunno. What did you hear, yo?"

I rotate to face the source of the voice, seeing up close and personal just what Ode’go has to offer. There, I discover a boy wearing an ornamental white outfit, a thin veil of similarly coloured translucent fabric over his face.

It’s the traditional garb of Crilandese warrior monks, those who undergo extensive training for both combat and discipline alike.

It’s an interesting detail, because the Savagesplice are an Aoelian government pet project, not a Crilandese one.

Could Ode’go be some joint monk-experiment project, a defector from the hold of the Aoelians, or even just wearing cosplay?

I don’t know, but the idea of it fascinates me.

Such a contradictory combination of attributes makes me smile, leaving me to wonder as to why.

Perhaps because Ode’go notices my observation, the cat boy goes out of his way to flaunt his short black hair, showing it off in its splendour.

"Just a little bit about something Duwangamazing, Azama, and Azamazing, that's all."

Excellent. Now that he's noticed my existence, we can proceed to the next step.

"Oh, how awful, yo."

I give a half-hearted response, as if to dismiss the circumstances of my abrupt naming.

Giving pause, I meet his eyes with due patience.

"Well, why don't we just cut to the chase?”

A simultaneous release of both tension and delight alike comes through those words.

“I know you're the same Azama who leapt through the window, did a magnificent dance and deflected all the tables."

"Oh, aptly spotted, yo."

It’s not surprising. If he’s a cat-savage, then the ability to track me by scent should’ve been a natural given.

"I also seem to recall someone known as the Gossamer Fiend with a very similar appearance to yours and how they've killed hundreds of people."

Very good Ode'go, very good! Points for deduction and prior revision. It seems someone is aware of little ole me's identity within the school after all.

Maybe he knows me by word of mouth, I mean that is decently possible. If there is some sort of cat social club, it may very well be that one of his friends informed him of my existence.

That and on a few occasions, I had even slaughtered a whole ensemble of his people.

Right now though, let’s see what he has to say.

"Though, if you don't mind me asking." His eyes gleam elsewhere, looking towards my lunch tray. "Mind if I have myself a little piece? I assure you my hands have been rinsed and soaped."

I give an enthusiastic nod in turn, a wink accompanying it all the while.

Satisfied with my response, the catboy reaches out and, with finesse, plucks himself a thinly sliced piece of cucumber with his claws.

But, instead of his mouth, Ode'go simply lifts the vegetable to empty air.

We all instinctively observe it, the dangling of a cucumber mere finger length away from me.

On a surface level, it's just a piece of sliced cucumber, marinated in the essential White Zygarian Peppercorn, and topped with minced garlic.

As if affirming its normality, Ode'go takes a bite, the usual crunch coming out.

Two seconds pass and the piece of cucumber is gone.

Yearning for more, however, he glances towards me for approval.

I nod.

What he does next is quite amusing to behold.

One by one, small pieces of green vanish in and out of sight.

About five minutes in, and all my cucumbers are gone. All but the remains of its wet red sauce, of course.

It pleases me to see his enthusiasm, one that continues even now as he eyes the tangy liquid on my lunch tray. With his charisma in mind, I can only assume that Ode'go is about to come up with something suitably charming to say, eyeball the spicy liquid with increased fervour, and proceed to combine it in some fitting gourmet special.

With a smile, I entice an expected response.

"School lunch is free, you know."

The catboy's unspoken reply tells me everything I need to know.

"Ah, but, haven't you heard?" he says, with equal parts question and delight. "Nothing is free."

"In what sense?"

"The oxygen you breathe oxidises and kills you over time, the water you drink comes from a government bill, and the skills you possess come only through the input of training and time."

He lifts a free hand, scratching his chin.

"Now tell me, does any of that sound free to you?"

“My, Ode’go, I didn’t take you for a budding philosopher.” I say, clearly amused. "That being said, what does and doesn't sound free is only a matter of perspective, could be that I find time and oxygen free, while you very well don't."

"Could be, but is it what you really think?"

Content to proceed, Ode'go flashes a heightened grin. Then, reaching into his pocket pulls out a box of canned fish.

Labelled with a distinct green print titled 'MALEK' and accented by corners of purple and background of mustard yellow, betrays what is a matter of national preference.

The choice of any Crilandese household, the purportedly number one canned fish in the world.

Rip. His supple fingers twist and pull a metal ring.

The scent of fermented fish wafts through the air.

How nostalgic! What a smell that is.

To support the boy's endeavour, I make an effort to wave the fish's scent into my nostrils. A physical gesture of goodwill and mutual understanding, if one may.

Something the Crilandese and Savagesplice should be fond of if speaking in terms of average reception.

In Criland, people tend to be far more emotive with one another, going as far as to greet a person with a kiss on the forehead. As for the Savagesplice. Well, given their part-human and part-animal aspect, I suppose it's inevitable they take a liking to physical signals and indications.

Though I may very well be overdoing it, I still thought it an interesting enough fact to recall and a way to cement my actions.

Even if he is highly unlikely to have been motivated by my action, Ode'go nonetheless proceeds to eat a piece of fish.

Immediately, his shoulders droop with a degree of despondence, and he utters a "Could use some flavour."

I am sure at this point that he's going to dip the fish in the spicy sauce and offer some perhaps subversive remarks on the nature of indulgence.

Which, to my unsurprising perception (albeit pleasantly receptive one), he does.

It so happens that he lavishly drenches the fish with spicy dressing and lifts it vertically down into his mouth.

"Mhmm." He mumbles with delight. "Crazali!"

Just to explain to the potentially uninitiated, I subtly lean to Rainee (for a more exaggerated gesture than necessity) and explain that it means 'Delicious.'

"You know." Relates Ode'go enthusiastically, a flaunt of his hands as support. "Nothing against plain fish, of course, very delicious in its own right, but once you've had all that spice, the taste sort of diminishes itself."

Go on...

"What I'm trying to get at, you see, is a question."

"Which is?"

"Which is, if you." He remarks, thrusting a finger. "Mr. Azama can enjoy a fish, plain as it is, despite any lack of sauce or dressing."

His expression accommodates a playful glare as soon as he finishes.

However, despite the clarity of his comparison, I'm afraid our resident catboy here made a few mistakes.

In the first place, canned fish is salted, submerged in delectable oils and even accompanied with sauce.

How can that be anything but not-plain? Duty in mind, I must do all I can as a teacher to rectify his error!

"Now now, Ode'go, while the composition and delivery of your analogy are splendid, you seemed to miss a detail."

Conceding with a laid-back posture, he offers a warm "Yes, go on."

Taking it as a sign of confirmation, I pluck a piece of fish from his can.

My two fingers now dangle a fish in mid-air. Our focus unanimously diverges on that single focal point.

"That detail being that you think this school is a plain fish, freed from the taste and spice of killing."

Following his method of eating, I lift the fish down my mouth.


"While in reality, it's merely a different variety, submerged in a lovely and fragrant oil, less tasteful in some places, and more so in others, sure, but enjoyable all the same."

"So that's how it is then, merely another delicious break away from the normal."


Steward McOy
Kya Hon
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