Chapter 178 - Private
Keeneff is dead. He’s still alive, his hearts still pumps, and he even takes the occasional breath, but he really is dead as they come. This annoys Keeneff to no end. He is even losing appetite on several levels over this issue.
His large canines dig into his pencil, the small stick of wood encasing a core of pigment offering a surprising amount of resistance. He casts another inquisitive glance at the new invention, his worried mind seeking relief from the circular path his thoughts have been going through for the past few days.
And that’s because Keeneff is basically dead. His remaining life can be measured in seconds. Glancing at the piece of scrap paper he wrote the calculation down on, he reaffirms that he has an estimated one hundred and fifty million seconds left to live. His death looms over the horizon years away, but this does not diminish the fact that it impacts his mood in a rather negative manner.
“Ah, honey. Hell is truly other people. How could they do this?”
The voice that is slowly growing louder sounds distinctly feminine and distinctly beaked. The occasional snap and clatter of what Keeneff suspects to be a sizable set of bills adds interesting kinds of inflexions to the soft-spoken voice.
“I still don’t know the answer to that. And they say that hell is getting to watch you live your own life in productive ways instead of all the ways you fucked up. Maybe I can get to see what life I would have lived had I not married someone of your temperament.” Keeneff can’t help but smile as he hears the other voice, a slightly high pitched yet masculine timbre. His large nostrils flare, and he unconsciously combs his fingers through his mane.
The concept of hell is a bit vague to him, but he understands that it’s supposed to be a negative thing. He muses that he’d probably end up laughing his ass off at all the useless things that the productive version of him would have accomplished.
“Ah, honey. You always know what to say to get me in the correct mood.” The sound of the clattering beak is enough for Keeneff to recognise what kind of relationship exists between the two. The soft padding of feet growing fainter is even more of a clue. Keeneff idly picks a fibre of sinew from between his teeth and hunches over his desk.
He silently laments the chain of events that has put him in his current position. He used to be above all this, never having to walk through the dirt like some peasant. The small room he is currently in is the epitome of all he has been trying to avoid.
But then again, Keeneff likes dying even less than working. He sighs deeply and looks around the small space. A few beams of sunlight shine through the closed shutters, illuminating the clutter surrounding his desk. He is seated upon an old and worn leather chair, his legs splayed upon the dusty, massive bureau. The walls are covered in a dense tapestry of filing cabinets and cupboards. None of the storage items show any signs that they have been touched in the last ten years or so.
The timid knocking on his door wakes the large man from his sullen musings. “Come in. It’s open.”
The first thing that follows the opening door is a long and yellow beak. It nervously clacks and clatters as it enters the dark room, bringing an elegant and feather-covered head along with it. A shapely body follows as the woman steps into the room.
“Hello?” An elegant coughing fit follows her nervous greeting. The woman grabs a piece of cloth from her purse and blows her nose in a manner that can only be called elegant. “Are you detective Keen?”
“Private eye Keeneff, what do you want?” He eyes her up, his gaze roving over each curve of feather and keratin. The woman shudders - as they all do - while Keeneff licks his lips.
“My… My pet has gone missing. He disappeared yesterday, and I haven’t seen him since. I don’t know what could’ve happened, but normally he always comes home after sundown. It’s just so unlike him to not return after galavanting through the neighbourhood. I told my neighbour and she told me that her cousin’s acquaintance knows someone who had been helped by you. So I decided to come here immediately. Please help me find poor Gronxar…”
Keeneff keeps staring at the woman. His eyes slide over the tight dress she is wearing, a simple yet elegant high-quality cut of silk. He drinks in the small decorations drilled into her long beak, the unobtrusive necklace worn around her long neck. “And Gronxar is a…”
“A wonderful dear and sweety. He is always so gentle with kids. He likes to annoy new guests, but you only need to give him a swat on the nose and he becomes as meek as a kitten.”
“And his species?” Keeneff rumbles.
“No, no. I wouldn’t dare categorize him like that. Neither should you, mister. You might be the best detective in the Capital, but that doesn’t mean that you can just categorize people and beings like that…”
Keeneff keeps staring at the woman, her huffy attitude melting under his predatory gaze. He licks his lips again and stands up, slowly walking closer. She clutches her purse tighter to her chest, backing up against the closed door.
“You see,” he speaks in a low rumble, “I’d love to help you in any way possible, but I need to know what I’m working with first.” He stalks closer, the woman not quite knowing how to react. The predatory eyes trained on her start doing all kinds of funny things to her body. The glowing eyes of the large detective boring into her soul with sintering intensity come nearer still.
“So, ma’am,” he continues while walking ever closer, “please tell me what you want me to do.” Like a predator stalking their unaware, masochistic, and perverted prey, Keeneff walks closer. His large frame towers above the small figure of the beaked woman, her long legs rubbing together.
“I…” she falters, “I’m sure that you can help me…”
Keeneff grins, showing large teeth, his gaze never leaving his victim.
Keeneff shuts the door behind him, stepping into the narrow hallway. He adjusts his clothes, wiping away the stains as best he can. He licks his hand and drags it through his luscious mane, bringing some form of order to the wild tangle.
The soft snoring that comes from his highly satisfied customer shuts off the moment he closes the door. He walks down the rickety stairs and steps outside and into the bustling streets. He casts a glance towards his shuttered windows, making sure that the sprawled out and naked form of his newest client isn’t visible to the outside world. He adjusts his pants, shifting himself into a more comfortable position, and walks on.
The client had managed to tell him more details amidst their other activities. The pet she lost is her mansion's guard mutant, a specific strain of animal that hadn’t lost its reason after experiencing a mutating mana imbalance. Things have just calmed down a bit, so the pet going missing now is only slightly unusual. The appearance of the new energy did cause a few incidents of pet’s eating their owners. They all had been warned about this danger repeatedly, enough so that the few casualties were deemed the owners’ own fault.
Keeneff lets the new information percolate through his mind slowly, piecing the scattered sentences of spoken data into a structured whole. In the meantime, the large framed man makes his way over to the island’s central plaza. There he sees his next target, a large and round figure sitting down in the middle of the crowd.
Keeneff has to admit that he has gained an odd sort of respect for the sitting human. He doesn’t really share any of the rather common prejudices over race and origin that a lot of the pedestrians around him hold. The fat person’s incredible physical resilience is something the brand new detective is gaining more and more respect for on a daily basis. This, combined with the absolute dedication to moving as little as possible the human seems to exude, has Keeneff impressed.
“It’s golden hair, step back.”
“Yeah, don’t bother. He will ignore you, and you can’t beat him.”
“Hey, break it up.”
“Calm down. That gutcore condenser tried fighting him yesterday. She still hasn’t woken up.”
The crowd parts as they move aside for Keeneff’s unfaltering stride. The maned man himself does not notice any of the whispered warnings. He doesn't even take note of the crowd parting in front of him, clearing a path to the central figure.
“Fat one, I’m here to try again.” He shows all of his teeth as he limbers up his muscles. This form is not one he has chosen voluntarily, but the only one that will let him have a chance at not dying. Keeneff suppresses these thoughts, instead, he lets his inner power calm down as he focuses.
Dust goes flying as his fur covered fist smashes against wobbly cheeks. A faint ripple of motion is seen as Keeneff studies the results of his single strike. “I will return,” he tells the seated figure while walking off. Behind him, the crowd surges towards the sitting shape, all kinds of weapons ready to strike at the eyesore of a fat human. The fact that he dares sit in their midst, ignoring all their attacks is only further proof that their combined forces are needed to drive away this evil.
Keeneff secretly rubs his wrist while recovering from the massive exertion he just went through. He really thought he’d be able to make that piece of fat move this time. The big man sighs as he walks through crowded streets and busy bridges to his next destination. He slides across a wide variety of paving materials, ignoring the changing crowds as usual. He eventually ends up in front of a rather tall building. Fluted walls form a high rising piece of architecture, the horizontally challenged design being oddly free-ing and looking rather lightweight.
All the other styles inside the varied city are made up from rough concepts. This island uses repurposed materials, that island insists on only using black stones, all kinds of weird and seemingly arbitrary limitations are imposed upon the localized styles of architecture. The island belonging to the beaked ones is oddly neutral, however. Any form of building material seems to be acceptable, as long as the buildings are high.
Staring at the towering mansion, Keeneff grudgingly admits a small part of him admires the building. This does not prevent him from kicking down the spindly gates when he is ignored for more than five seconds. The white fencing crumbles under his booted kick. The only reason he breathed heavily after that single punch was to refill his reserves. This proved a smart move, as the workmen responsible for maintaining this property seems to have started enhancing the structures with the new power already. It took Keeneff a good tenth of his total power to demolish the locked gate, so his admiration was well placed, in hindsight.
Stepping over the ruined section of architecture he had recently admired, the large man is stared at by a dust-covered servant. Several other livery clad beastkin of varying sizes peer at the sudden intruder. He smiles a rather toothy smile at them. They flinch back. “Hello there. I’m looking for Gronxar. Where did you see him last?”
“I’m just the groundskeeper, sir. I wouldn-”
“Answer the question, my good sir.” Smile more. Keeneff is a fast learner - remembering things prevents him from having to exert effort in handling the same problems in the future, after all - and he has learned that smiling makes troubles go away.
The groundskeeper swallows hard as he sees the vicious array of teeth bared, and scurries off inside. Keeneff follows him and is met by a rather dusty looking bird person moments later.
“May I help you… sir?”
“Yes, your mistress asked me to look for Gronxar. Where was he seen last?”
The butler looking type in front of Keeneff goes through a rather impressive amount of facial expressions. In the end, he motions at the big man to follow with a rather pained expression on his face. Keeneff follows him into the house, through a complex set of high stairs and finally into a room that’s obviously a kennel.
“Did my mistress expound on when she would be returning? I was under the impression that she would return with some help, not send some… a single person to the mansion...”
“She’ll be indisposed for at least half an hour longer. She’s a tough gal. After that, she’ll feel right as rain. This was where the beast slept then? Just gotta find it, okay.” The servant’s mood has not been improved by the forceful entry of some muscled savage, and the way the long haired brute kept ignoring protocol and smiling at him has been most vexing. Then the large man breaths in through his nose, and the butler was nearly knocked off his feet.
Knowing a powerful figure when he sees one, the butler gathers his hat, which had flown off, bows, and leaves. Keeneff is alone once again. Just the way he likes it. Also, he just picked up a rather distinctly dog-like smell coming from one of the doors, so Keeneff kicks the obstruction to smithereens and picks up the trail. His large nostrils flare as he follows the scent, the trail guiding him through a window, down the rain pipe, and down to the ground level.
Sniffing some more, Keeneff wonders why he is doing all of this again.
Then he remembers what is now called Dragon Day. He remembers napping peacefully, doing one of the three things he loves most. Sleeping, fighting and fornicating. He remembers the breaking of the seal, the single action he had taken to fulfil his duty. He remembered hurrying over, enraged at being woken from his nap. Then he remembers being absolutely fucked in the ass by something he couldn’t even see. Then he remembers realising that not getting a grip on the situation will be similar to a death penalty.
His reasons for actually putting in an effort restored, the large man looks at the neatly tiled pavement. Previously, his way of doing things had two modes. The brute way entailed being sleepy, and he performed the subtle way by being a swell guy. This situation seems to require a dozing sort of focus.
Then Keeneff remembers that all of that emotional control has absolutely zero effect on the energy swirling through his heart. He sighs deeply and looks at the centre of the city for a brief moment. Above the exact spot where he recently poured his all into punching an overweight youth hangs a crystal. Looking into the crystal brings forth odd ideas. Alien structures become visible in his mind's eye for a short moment before he shakes his head.
That can come later. First, he should understand what is happening. If the elders ever decided to blame him for this entire fracas, the least thing he should offer them is another target and just enough evidence to make the unfortunate person a plausible scapegoat. That might just save his hide.
He looks down. Then he looks again. And he looks once more. Only when he concentrates upon looking for the fourth time does he see it. Fine wires of power are woven through the stones, a faint web of energy forming an intricate structure of latticework and meaning.
“Those brain fucks again. I hate those idiots.” Keeneff’s temper rises as he recognises a braincores handiwork. Growling with suppressed fury, he punches the shit out of the street tiles he is standing on. The square pieces of stone predictably crumble into high-velocity dust, sandblasting a portion of the tunnel network revealed in the act of mindless violence.
He crouches low upon landing, the power in his veins speeding up through pure instinct. He sprints away, now determined to complete this task a soon as possible. Only when the customer is satisfied on more than just the physical level can he ask for the information he needs, after all.
Keeneff wonders again whether this is the correct course to follow. Brute force didn’t work, so now he needs a more subtle approach. But still, sometimes he wonders whether this entire thing might be a tad bit too subtle.
Then he stumbles upon a rather gory sight. A cave with a diameter of a hundred meters is lit up by a penetrating red glow. The source of the lighting is the large shining circle in the middle of the cavern. Cages filled with bleeding beastkin of all shapes and sizes are located at evenly spaced intervals, red streams of thick blood dripping from each one.
“NO! That is not how you consume females, you stupid human!” If there is one thing that Keeneff hates more than not being able to sleep, fuck, or fight, it’s when good things are wasted in front of his eyes. A human in ragged clothing is standing inside of the ornate red circle of blood, and even the rather insensitive muscled man himself feels the gathering power radiating from the entire thing.
But still, the realisation that the power in front of him is one he can't easily beat is unimportant when he sees the several excellent females being bled dry. “That is not how they should be used AT ALL!” Pointing at the suffering women in a blind rage, he storms forward. Tendrils of blood strike at him but are ignored. He sprints ahead, storming into the bloody formation with brute force. He is stopped a mere meter from the rather desperate form of a crazed-looking human, formless limbs of shining red holding the snarling beastkin back.
“Another one for the slaughter, yes come to me! Give me your blood. It’s an honour for you to feed your betters. I’m high mage Fredon and I thank you for your sacrifice of blood! Oh nice, he’s a heartcore. That should get me enough to fill up with liquid, at least! Good, good.”
Keeneff gasps in indignation as he is stabbed. He fights the draining force with all his might, managing to resist for seconds before a steady trickle of blood escapes his control. The withered human staring him in the face is perspiring now, the gloating speech of before halted. Keeneff then calls upon his previous affinity, willing the very rock around him to his will. The ground still responds to him, if in a diminished fashion.
Then two things happen at once. The single shard of rock surrounded by loose dirt is wrenched free under Keenef’s forceful mental command, and a rather fat fist smashes the human’s skull to smithereens. The entire ornate blood formation collapses into a dirty looking puddle of red mud as both Keeneff and Fredon’s corpse collapse to the floor.
“Thanks, furry guy. I kept losing him. Come punch me again tomorrow, okay? You’re the only one helping me advance anyway. Bye!”
And so Keeneff finds himself laying on top of a desiccated headless human corpse inside a large puddle of blood-soaked mud. The dim figures in the cages around him stir back to life as the constant draining of their life force stops. The mysterious round figure that helped him out this time went as fast as it came, leaving Keeneff more confused than not. He curses up a storm when he sees a pile of drained mutant corpses to the side of the room. Realizing that his client will not happily provide him with more information due to her pet being dead, he looks around.
Once again wondering how his life went from the relaxed affair it was before to this mess, the incognito dragon turned detective starts questioning the groggy prisoners whether or not they know who killed the previous Tooth of the Beastkin.
He only has five years before his task as Guardian ends, and he has a scapegoat to find whom he can blame why the entire world went to shit.
This power called qi is wonderful, but it’s truly wreaking havoc upon the wildlife, after all.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter