Chapter 200 - Eating (2)
Looking down on the mess he has made, Keeneff feels pretty good. Her black fur is a total mess, but that’s just what happens when you get down and dirty with a dragon. The tongue lolling from her mouth is also a mark that he takes pride in. Gently draping the curtain he nicked prior to their activities across the snoring woman, Keeneff sneaks out of the library.
Going over the new information in his mind, the dragon in beastkin form smiles viciously when he connects a few dots. That one bird from over a month ago had given him some information despite the fact he had returned her precious guard mutant Groxnar dead. She had been teary-eyed when he had presented her the desiccated husk of the monster, but had still answered quite a few questions.
That new data had led him on a new trail, one he is following even now. Rumours of two humans infiltrating the city, a dark-haired wench and a pale youth had made a rather large ruckus a short time before the Hour of the Dragon. Keeneff had immediately felt that those two humans had a lot to do with the events that led up to the Tooth’s demise, and he had been hunting for them ever since.
He had crawled through the twitchy sector, ignoring all the wide-eyed stares coming from the diminutive caste as he followed rumours of the black and the metal one appearing there. He’d asked around at the mercantile red furs, showing more teeth than usual to combat their ever-present greed. He even went as far as to talk with the various soldier groups, entering without carrying a weapon to display his superiority and lack of fear.
It had all gotten him nowhere. Even now, he has been searching the few libraries present in the capital. He even managed to get some reading done before this lovely girl had strutted by, just begging him to be conquered. Keeneff had listened to his draconic instincts, but the moment of clarity that always comes with such activities had made a single face flash into his mind.
The fat face of the punching bag had done away with any desires for more, so he had given the poor girl the rest she deserved. The fact that she had kept up with him for over an hour testament to her amazing physical constitution. Making a note in his mind to come back later, a first for the self-styled private eye, the dragon knows what he must do.
After the fat human interfered with the fight underground, he had avoided the boy. He hadn’t done so consciously, but his pride had prevented him from going near someone whom his instinct told him was more powerful than himself. Flight rules are simple, you either follow or submit. Cooperating with someone is not something that is done. There is always a leader and a follower, and the very reason Keeneff is now in the position of a Watcher and Guardian is the fact that he does not like to follow. At all. His draconic form still has the scars to prove this.
But all his other avenues of progression and sources of information are empty and dried up. He had avoided the fat boy for the past few days, foregoing his daily attempts at beating him into submission. Looking at the sun, the boy might still be at the plaza.
Keeneff’s eyes accidentally brush across the sky-bound crystal glittering up high. Alien constructs attempt to enter his mind once again, but he manages to beat them out of his head before they take hold. Other people have told him of the slow trickle of data and knowledge that can be keened from the floating sparkler, but Keeneff will be found dead before letting some unknown thing control even a part of his mind.
Keeping his eyes down and determined to not let the warm glow of satisfaction he feels from slipping because of some random rock suspended in the sky mind-raping him, Keeneff makes his way to the central plaza. He arrives shortly, just in time to see the silent crowd stare at the capital’s most affluent restaurant. Even the Fang himself would have been turned away had the little guy come in without a reservation, if he was still alive, that is.
His good mood soured by the reminder of his failure, and more importantly, the interruption of his planned fifty-year nap, he walks through the still beastkin. Soft whispers start up as people recognise him, but a single glare is enough to silence them again. Following the small trail of blood into the majestically decorated building, Keeneff makes sure that projects self-confidence itself.
The people working there, all of them affluent nobles, important scions, and influencers themselves, don’t even bat an eye at what would have been a near capital offence on other days. The usually extremely snooty and arrogant waiting staff is quaking in their boots. Keeneff can clearly remember his first time trying to enter this place. He knows that the collective stares and passive aggressive politeness couldn’t have hurt him, but it sure felt like it should have incinerated him on the spot. Their glares of indignation at him breaking some obscure protocol or unspoken rule would have wiped him from existence if the opinions of the working personnel had anything to do with it.
Not now, though… Every single person in the establishment is keeping their attention focussed on the fat human sitting at the central table. Keeneff freezes in his tracks as the fat kid looks him in the eye, cheeks wobbling menacingly. He then smiles, and Keeneff’s world freezes. What he feared would happen, happens immediately. The dragon has to fight with all his might to not fall to his knees, showing his subordination to this immensely powerful individual.
Then a waiter distracts the boy with a drink. Keeneff could have kissed the slender beastkin right there and then, so thankful is he for the interruption. The dragon regains part of his bearing as he walks towards the table. His legs stop shaking, and he manages to unclench his fists as he sits down. “I’ll joi-” the words stick in his throat, his nature not allowing him to be this impudent with someone he knows is more powerful than himself. “Mind if I join you?”
Those words took centuries of his lifespan, he is pretty sure. The dismissive wave of a fat arm allows him to take a seat, and Keeneff takes the long minutes the boy spends staring at the furiously working cooks to study the human. Small sunken eyes stare out at the world from a round face. Instead of accumulating fat around his waist in large rolls, the blonde youth seems to be depositing fat evenly around his body. A chubby roundness makes him look harmless, but Keeneff is sensitive enough to know that he is anything but.
Clad in simple clothes, the boy seems to exude a magnetic air, something more than just an accumulation of power creating a palpable gravitas. Keeneff manages to look away in time when the boy’s concentration on the kitchen is broken. “Where did you go?”
The truth nearly slips out at that short question, yet Keeneff manages to keep his answer short and to the point. “Out.”
It’s not enough, though. The boy’s piercing stares peers into his soul. He knows. The dragon is sure. He knows. What the human knows, he isn't sure, but the human knows. In the end, it’s inevitable that the dragon breaks. “I was investigating some leads.”
Still not enough. The stare continues, and those piercing blue eyes demand more, must receive more. The least Keeneff can do is to try to get some information in return. ”Have you heard of the mysterious disappearances?”
Seeing the boy distracted, Keeneff sees his chance. Maybe he needs to give up some more position in this social duel in order to get ahead? “The large mutants and beasts that just end up disappearing?”
What follows is the most confusing and maddening conversation Keeneff has ever had. The fact that his draconic instincts scream at him to obey the kid isn’t helping. So when he is offered a single plate of food, he is forced to take a bite. The taste explosion combined with the near overpowering amount of qi inside the meat shuts him up for half an hour.
Keeneff spends this time sweating like mad, trying to pump the foreign qi from the food he’s eating through his system at top speed. He is further scared shitless when he realises what level the animal they are eating must have been at to have this much power in its meat. Keeneff has managed to compress his qi into liquid a few weeks ago, but filling up his heart has been going rather slow. The dragon is only eating a fraction of what the fat kid is stowing away, yet his core is filling up faster than at any time before.
The conversation continues when the boy starts talking about teaching how to steal stuff and insulting Keeneff by calling him boring. The dragon manages to bite his full array of titles short when his name is asked before he is asked if he wants to eat more.
This pulls Keeneff from the mad eating spree he has been on. It takes him a relatively long time to wake up from the faux food coma he finds himself in. The warmth radiating from his stomach is lulling him to sleep, but he realises that he is hungry still. “I… I could eat?”
With a single wave of a chubby hand, a tentacled monster appears. The aura remaining on the twitching corpse is enough to take Keeneff’s breath away. The qi running through his system goes wild, and blood wells up in his mouth. It takes the dragon all he has to prevent from coughing up blood and falling unconscious. Adding insult to injury, the cooks, waiters, and other restaurant personnel all manage to withstand the immense pressure wafting from the still dying octopus with only a slight paling of their faces.
Keeneff struggles immensely for long minutes, each second of immense internal pain and agony another test he is not prepared for. By some miracle, he prevents any of this from showing on his face, keeping stock still as he watches the boy carve the scaled tentacles.
To top it all off, his heartcore seems to have imploded somewhere along the way. Instead of the rapidly filling reservoir of liquid, now a small grain of sand is moving along with his madly beating heart. Mentally completely drained and drenched in sweat, he barely registers the fact that the fat boy is seated once again and the first dishes of cooked octopus are being served.
Taking the first bite of the meat that’s absolutely stuffed with qi makes Keeneff realise that he is famished. Between bites, he manages to ask some more questions of the boy but gets only nonsense in return. Not even phased by the super weird answers, he just soldiers on while eating.
He asks about the Fang, the Hour of the Dragon and if he knows where all the Royal assassins are. Each answer is more stupid than the last. All Keeneff can do is try to chew faster as volumes of meat many times the boys own size disappear down his gullet. Half-heartedly trying to ask some more questions, he is summarily ignored by the energetically eating young man.
“Thanks again guys! Very good. Are you sure that you don’t want money or something?” The boy leaves, and Keeneff deflates. Eyeing the immensely valuable materials left behind, the dragon understands why this restaurant is slowly but surely becoming one of the capital’s most prominent powerhouses. Scales that no blade can pierce and bones that contain more structural power than many cultivators combined are scattered throughout the kitchen.
A slow murmur of conversation breaks out as the crew starts cleaning up, sorting and packaging the precious treasures. Keeneff stands up but is halted by a politically smiling waiter. “Sir, how would you like to pay for our services?”
Keeneff stops mid-rise, staring at the elegant beastkin. “Pay?”
“Mister Bord provides us with valuable materials, him graciously leaving the leftovers to us more than compensates for the fact that he demands the entire place to himself. You, on the other hand, have not yet provided us with compensation.”
Keeneff has had enough. Rising to his full height, he towers over the small beastkin. Noting with a slight bit of concern that the suited slimeball is still rubbing his hands unphased, Keeneff smiles.
“Very impressive, sir. How would you like to pay?”
“You should feel honoured that I’m even willing to grac-”
“I presume that you have no plans of compensating us, am I correct?”
Smiling wider, the dragon wonders why his usual tactics aren’t working. Taking the small trickle of power that has started gathering around the small core in his heart, he starts pumping it through his system.
“A core forming heartcore, I see. Very impressive. Do you plan on paying for our services rendered or shall we find a suitable method for you?”
Wondering what this core forming stuff the little shit is talking about is, Keeneff just plans on leaving. Moving to walk past the waiter, he shows some more teeth and walks towards the door. “Good day. Hope that I won’t come agai-”
A burst of menacing power brings him to his knees. Although not comparable to the power wafting from the scaled tentacle mutant, it’s still enough to halt him in his tracks. Every single waiter, server, cook, busboy, and other personnel are staring at him. Each one is locking him down with their gaze, their respective cultivation bases roiling through their bodies.
And so it is, that Keeneff, the mighty dragon, member of the Flight, Guardian of the Beastkin Capital, Watcher of the Fang, Keeper of the Tooth, and representative of the true rulers of the planet spends a couple of hours washing dishes.
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