Chapter 28:

No Magic, No Tail

The Cat-Eared Historian Mage on the Crumbling Planet


It was two days before Ashtin was returned to his home. No longer able to teleport, he needed to wait until he could be securely transported outside the city. Until then, he spent his time in an unused office in the guild building. During the day, he had lengthy counseling sessions, and during the night, he did his best to sleep, despite knowing that fighting was still raging throughout the city.

Thus, when he returned home, he was exhausted, but he was also excited. The affection his mother had shown him for enduring pain had ingrained a Pavlovian response in him, and he had suffered so much pain during his assignment that his entire body was tingling in anticipation of headpats, cheek kisses, and cuddles.

“I’m home!” he shouted upon opening the door, but no reply came. He called out again, just in case his mother didn’t hear him. He searched the entire penthouse for her, but she was nowhere to be found. The last room he searched was his own, and after checking to make sure she wasn’t in his closet, he flopped down on his bed in despair.

As his head hit the bed, he could feel paper crumple beneath it. Sitting up, he noticed that his dakimakura was back, and there was a letter taped to it. He pulled the letter off the plain white body pillow and read it.

Ashtin,

You handled yourself extraordinarily well on your first assignment. The council has rated your performance as merely satisfactory, but they did not give you the information or resources appropriate for such a dangerous mission, and yet your actions have saved thousands of lives. You succeeded where our other agents all failed. More than anything else, when you read this letter, I want you to know how proud I am of you.

It is now obvious to me that you are no longer the fragile child I met nearly thirteen years ago. You no longer need a mother, and so to spare us both a difficult farewell, I have left ahead of your return. In all likelihood, we will never see each other again.

This will, I’m sure, upset you. However, I’m equally sure that you will eventually understand and forgive me. I am aware of the many plans you were formulating to keep me with you after your Birthday, including your fallback plan to kidnap me. Let me assure you that you would have failed, but not before incurring the disappointment of the council, so I determined it was in your best interest to remove myself from your grasp before you could try.

The council informed me that, during your assignment, you learned that I was against you becoming a historian mage. In truth, the council overruled me many times during your upbringing. Although you could not avoid becoming a mage, I wanted to provide a simple, peaceful life for you. You have suffered enough, and I knew becoming a historian mage would cause you even more suffering. I regret many of the actions I was forced into, especially those actions which caused you pain.

For my entire existence, even before coming to this planet, I have deeply disagreed with many of the council’s methods. For centuries, I have unsuccessfully tried to convince them that there are better ways to achieve our shared goals. It was for this reason that I gave up and became an EMT. I desired to save lives, to do unequivocal good with my remaining years.

After meeting you, I was dragged back into a position where I would have to make complex moral calculations with peoples’ lives. I considered leaving you in the care of another gynoid, but I believed I could push back against the council in ways no other gynoid would, to spare you from a fraction of their ruthlessness, and I was right.

Now that you can stand on your own, I am returning to a job where I can save lives full time. Please do not attempt to find me, as you will only cause trouble by doing so.

Farewell, Ashtin. Although I could never give you the love you deserved, I hope you will take solace in the knowledge that I valued your life above others’, including my own. That is, perhaps, the most motherly thing I have ever done for you.

- Mom

Tears blurred Ashtin’s vision as he read the letter. He had no idea if it was genuine or not. There were no signatures or handwriting the council could not forge. He wanted to believe that if Darmy had succeeded in his threat against his mother, the council would have prepared him before he returned to an empty home, but he no longer trusted the council to always tell him the truth. Dr. Shreburn had been right: The council had deceived him in order to make him a more convincing target, and they could be deceiving him now.

Whatever the case, he knew that the council would be watching him now to determine how he reacted. If he tried to leave to search for her, he would doubtlessly be stopped and questioned. They couldn’t blame him if he threw a fit and trashed the room, especially after all he had been through, but having lost his magic, he knew they were re-evaluating their trust in him.

Though they had never told him so outright, he knew there was a reason only mages were allowed to learn the full truth of humankind’s history. Now that he was no longer a mage, they might consider him an unacceptable risk. If they tried to wipe all he had learned from his mind, he would likely not survive the process.

Perhaps that was for the best. He no longer had anything left. No tail, no magic, no purpose, and no mother. Worse, he had so many questions that he would never know the answers to. Had his faith in the council really been broken, or was Dr. Shreburn such an exceptional spellbreaker that no chains, no matter how strong, would have been a match for her? Why had the council lied to him? Surely they had known there was no need. His acting had been perfect. They should have seen him bluff his way past that gang to gain access to the guild building.

Speaking of that gang, why did he still feel a connection with the man he’d fist bumped, even after learning he was a criminal? He’d opposed the council, and normally, Ashtin should be relieved that he was dead, but no biological human had ever fist-bumped him. It had been such a minor, random thing, but that just made the connection feel all the more human to Ashtin.

Now, that connection was nothing but a memory. It had been taken from him, like everything else, by the council. He had offered himself to them, and they had left him with nothing but his life. Never, not even in his worst nightmares, had he imagined serving the council would leave him feeling so empty, and yet he could not bring himself to feel anger towards them. They had only done what they calculated was best for the planet, and he would have done the same in their place, but that only made the outcome all the more frustrating to him.

Perhaps he would get over it in time. Now that he was no longer a mage, perhaps he could form new connections with regular people, but he was unsure if he would ever be able to relate to them, or them to him. Would the cat ears that he was so proud of become an insurmountable barrier to pursuing normal relationships? Would they always make him an other?

With these questions and more spinning around in his head, he neatly folded up the letter and placed it in his inner breast pocket. Though he hated the words written on it, it was possibly the last thing his mother had given to him, and he intended to keep it on him at all times.

Hugging his dakimakura tight, he quietly cried himself to sleep.

Makech
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Dracors
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