Deception

potassiumboron

~To a mystic place where tears won't cry~
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Though he was prone to being stubborn, a characteristic he inherited from his strict parents, he did falter at the mention of the potential surrogacy; a plan that had seemed to become more likely when Neotoma hadn't shot the idea down in flames, and while Lysander could easily find someone else to help him and Imogen out, he had had his heart set on Neotoma for countless reasons - the main one being that he already liked the man and was more than happy to involve him in the parenting process if he grew attached. Hell, though the idea was a relatively new one, he had gradually grown excited by the potential for it to not only go ahead, but to share the process not only with his girlfriend, but with the halfling he wasn't afraid to admit he was attracted to.

Petulantly frowning once realising Imogen had a point (though he didn't want to admit it), he shrugged childishly in refusal to say anything else... though the fact he wasn't rattling on about Neotoma's execution was a sign that he had dropped the idea before it went any further. He knew that the kingdom appreciated the sort of leader he was, in contrast to the centuries of rule under his ancestors, and he didn't want to betray the trust instilled in him by following the behaviours of the past. While his people were in favour of overtaking the other kingdoms and stamping down their authority over them, he didn't think mindlessly executing the citizens within their own kingdom would go down well; not now Imogen had pointed it out to him, anyway.

"...Right. Fine. You're right. Don't fucking boast about it, but you are right," he relented as he let himself relax, his arm snaking back around her waist to pull her close, a slightly annoyed sigh escaping when realising his urge to pull her close and smother her with kisses wasn't entirely appropriate with Themus lingering in the room. "He can stay in the dungeons tonight; I'll go and talk to him tomorrow. I just can't face him right now, I'd rather lay in bed and catch up with you."
 

saturnia pavonia

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"When am I not right, Lysander?" She replied with a cocky smirk, happily accepting the affection the young King was so desperate to show. Despite feeling as horrible as she did, it was nice knowing that Lysander didn't care and was more than happy to be in a serious relationship with her rather than anyone else. The quick flings didn't matter to her (outside of him being with her brother) just like she knew that Lysander didn't mind her flirting with her maid. The fact that Lysander was open with her was evident in her eyes

"Let's just relax, yeah? Tell me about Harenae, if there's anything interesting there? Would it be a nice little vacation home?" She decided to drawl, happy to change the subject if she needed to. "Unless you're utterly traumatized and want nothing to do with Harenae now, we can totally demolish it when we invade. It's your call, dear, you know that. I would like to go there at least once before you totally destroy it, granted - it sounds pleasant, from what I know."
 
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potassiumboron

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"...It's alright. It's no Ignis, obviously. It's hot and there's some nice scenery, even if it's all covered in sand. And it's got a good feel to it, I guess? The markets are nice and... I don't know. The whole thing was sort of soured by Neotoma being a spy and all. Plus his family hated me. I didn't need to know their language to know that they thought I wasn't a great guy for their dear Neotoma," he responded with a faint tone of bitterness - he was offended by their dislike of him, but he couldn't really find it in himself to care too much when they were almost inconsequential to him at this point. His feelings about the family had taken a dramatic downturn once he stopped seeing Neotoma in such a positive way - he was the only reason he had tried to like the parents in the first place, after all.

If anything, the only positive of that entire trip had been shopping at the markets which were admittedly interesting, and the interaction with Neotoma's siblings, which had only really solidified the desire he had to be a parent sooner rather than later.

"I'm not going to devastate the place, Imogen. I don't care enough to want to avoid damage entirely, but demolishing it entirely wouldn't be... helpful, I suppose. I don't need them all grouping together to take me down if I devastate their entire country, you know? A little damage I can fix up might even earn me some respect," he shrugged, shooting Themus an unsubtle glare to get a move on, though the physician deliberately ignored the hint to leave - if Lysander could be an asshole with the whole Neotoma situation, then he didn't really deserve to get everything he wanted.

"You're actually on board with the conquest, then? You don't think it's a little... I don't know... fucking atrocious?" The physician continued as he set himself down in an armchair, resting his head on his hand with his fingers at his temple, carefully massaging the space when a headache unsubtly began to set in. "Don't you think that all our energy should be going on building bonds with the places we've been cut off from for centuries? Rather than proving to them that demons are barbaric - I don't know, i'd rather show them we're not evil, you know?"
 

saturnia pavonia

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"Let's be honest, they're going to fear us no matter what. Wouldn't you be scared to talk to people like us if all you've ever heard have been rumors passed out through generations? We can either make them fear us and they take us seriously or we can try and befriend them. I don't know how likely they'd be to be gung-ho on it, Themus," she replied, holding her own head when she began to feel nauseous. She reached for the pan beside her bed, though there was nothing she hated more than getting sick in front of anyone other than her maid.

"Look, can we not talk about consequences right now? It's not like we're taking forces to the desert right now, we're laying in my bedroom and talking. You must be really enamored with him if you're willing to be so nice and liberal to people you've never met. You've never been the kind of person to care for others like this, Themus, let's be honest. There's nothing wrong with that, it's sweet to see you being so googly-eyed over this halfling, actually. The only person I've seen you this kind to is my brother," she teased.
 
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potassiumboron

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"I am not googly-eyed over him. He just happens to be a nice person and he's proving to be a welcome aid to my work; he's intelligent and his knowledge of ingredients and herbs is beneficial to you, Imogen; he's helping me make you better. I find it strange you aren't as enthusiastic about him as I am," he pointed out as calmly as he could, despite the fact he felt his jaw clench tighter at the fact he wasn't acting as characteristically around Neotoma as he would normally act with other people. He was cast as 'cold' and 'unemotional' to people outside of his sister and Lysander, but it wasn't an insult to him; he much preferred to focus on his work and stay away from the drama of life outside it.

Neotoma was an exception in that he could not only abide his company, but actively enjoy it. Sure, he had feelings for him that he had never once felt for anyone else, but when he had already consigned himself to defeat (who would go for him when Lysander, a literal King, was -or had been- an option?), admitting to those feelings didn't feel worthwhile.

"...From the looks of it, you're only getting sicker, Imogen; I'm not being cruel, that's just a fact. And I can't help you by myself; I think the fact you aren't better yet after my years of trying to help is proof of that."
 

saturnia pavonia

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“I understand the benefits, I’m not an idiot.” She replied, her teasing tone being replaced by a flat, equally as cold murmur. She turned away from both demons and instead stared out the window to the bubbling lava below as a distraction. She had been trying to lighten the mood by teasing her brother and seeing just how serious Themus reacted was only proof of that.

She knew she was getting sicker, no one knew better than her. She was in high spirits and thus feeling okay but that only meant she would crash from all the effort she was putting in to nave a normal chat. She knew that it would lead to her getting sick, or her being unable to move from pain. To have her brief moment of feeling better ruined by Themus being sour only made her grimace.

“He’s more knowledgeable on herbs and whatnot but how do we know any of that would help? I’d be more willing to support him if he proves to me that he can actually help instead of spending his time studyingvplants.”
 

potassiumboron

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"How's he supposed to prove anything to you if you aren't interested in even talking to him, getting to know the knowledge he has? Herbs may be the answer, at least herbs not native to this kingdom - and he has knowledge of them. I don't want you getting
sicker, but it's almost inevitable unless you don't take him seriously--"

"Can we stop talking about it? Imogen's going to get better. If she doesn't, we'll manage and I'll love her the same regardless. Just-- stop bickering. I'm already in a foul mood; you bringing in your perpetually downbeat and pessimistic attitude, bringing us down too, isn't helpful, Themus. Go and hang out in the dungeon with your boyfriend if you want; just stop being a prick, alright?"

Sucking in his breath quickly at the insults (even if they were somewhat warranted), the physician opted to take the other's advice in spite of how irked he was by both him and his sister. Without a parting word, even if he wanted to question his sister intensely about her sickness to see if there was anything he could brew up to help momentarily, he took the advice and headed to the dungeons. The dark and the cold didn't bother him too much, but the sight of Neotoma held within one of the small cells did, a pang of anger and sympathy hitting him hard.

"...How are you?" He asked quietly, his deep voice only seeming to echo in the empty space, with Neotoma the only person present in the cells. Carefully, the tall demon leaned against the wall opposite the other's cell, biting his lip hard to keep himself from rattling on about how disgusted he was that the situation had gotten this bad. "I... asked him to let you go, he's willing to do that tomorrow to talk things out. The execution is no longer a plan, either. Imogen played a part in ensuring that, alongside me of course-- I'll stay down here with you tonight if you wish? I don't mind, really. It'd be unfair for you to suffer alone when it's unwarranted in the first place."
 

saturnia pavonia

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“It’s surprisingly cold in here,” the Harenaen replied quietly, voice croaky from crying to the point he no longer could shed a tear. It wasn’t freezing like Pruina to the point where he was near immobile but his joints certainly were hurting and he felt a bit sluggish. Now that his things had been taken away from him and he was left simply in his simple tank top and baggy pants, he couldn’t really help fix it.

“That’s - that’s nice. If I have to spend the rest of my life here, I’d rather just be done with it. I don’t - I just want to leave. If it means being kicked out of Ignis, I could at least see my mother again,” he tried to explain, his black eyes closed in the small, furthest corner of the cell. He was terrified, completely unaware of what sort of torture could be exclusive to Ignis that he had no idea about and while he’d love to know in a research sense, he didn’t really want to find out from experience. He pulled his knees close to offer some warmth and comfort when he wasn’t allowed any and sniffled when another wave of sadness hit.

“It means a lot that you’re here, Themus. You don’t have to - you... could just leave. I mean, I’m a traitor, right? I-I... I didn’t mean for any of this, you know that, right? I didn’t mean to have things end up this way. I just wanted some money and to learn about Ignis more but it was a dumb idea, huh? I just - I’m sorry, Themus.” He stammered, his accent breaking and making a few words hard to hear, but for someone who wasn’t a native speaker he did his very best to try and be cohesive even in emotional distress.
 

potassiumboron

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"Technically I withheld important information from the King so he threatened me with the guillotine too - he's just angry and he's saying a bunch of rubbish to try and scare you. He doesn't want to hurt you, I don't think - he'll probably even keep you around to help my sister. Just-- don't worry. I'll stick up for you if he gets too intense," he promised as he approached the bars of the cell and opted to sit down on the ground just in front of them. The coldness was chilling, to the point where he didn't think he could stand it for an hour let alone a night, but he knew that was purposeful - the reigning leaders didn't want the prisoners to have a happy time of things in the cells, after all.

"...You aren't a traitor. I can't imagine you could have said no to the Queen, or you'd have been punished by her, wouldn't you? I know Lysander will realise that in time. As stupid as he looks, he's actually rather smart," he continued, a flicker of a smile passing his lips in the dim light left in the dungeon. It didn't last too long, naturally, but the fact he even smiled was an indicator of how much he liked the halfling - he wasn't in the habit of letting his guard down around just anyone.

"Look, you'll be okay. A little chat with Lysander tomorrow and you'll be back at work beside me, and I need you. You're the smartest person I know and you're shaping up to be a... good colleague, actually. If anything, the only repercussions will be on Pruina; he'll probably kill the Queen, but... you'll be okay. Just survive the night down here, I'm sure I'll bore you to sleep eventually; my speciality happens to be droning on and boring people, so..."
 

saturnia pavonia

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“I-I hope,” he replied meekly, his claws tapping together. They could be heard in the echo of the empty dungeon, the sound only causing him to grow embarrassed and stop even if it was the only coping mechanism he had. He dared to scoot closer to the bars of the cell even if it hurt his joints to do so. He sat cross legged, sitting neatly on his hands.

“This is nothing compared to Pruina. It still hurts and I’m exhausted but I was only in Pruina a few months and it just so happened to be the worst months of the year. It was hard to wake up most days because I was so cold but I needed the money. T-The fact that I stayed there for as long as I did should be evidence enough that I was only doing it to afford to get back home, at least until I learned about Ignis opening the borders. That sort of changed my plans pretty quickly, the idea of finally, truly getting a census of every kingdom’s flora and fauna. Talk about boring, right?” He tried to tease, though his shaky voice didn’t support him feeling much better.
 

potassiumboron

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"It's not boring, I'd love to explore other regions. Not only because of the benefit to my work but to satisfy my own curiosity. There's been nothing for me to study and research from regarding other kingdoms, so getting out in the world and seeing it for myself is my only chance, but-- well, when Lysander initiates war, I doubt I'll be able to go rooting around the forests of Silva freely," he chuckled, imagining that the poor reputation his species already had would only be consolidated once war and Lysander's true feelings were established. It wasn't really fair, not when he had made his feelings about the conflict clear, but he could hardly go against him when his own sister seemed fully invested in the conquest too - and he was too loyal to her to go against and possibly lose her.

There was only so much he could take from watching Neotoma before he snapped - the sight of him in clear discomfort and the chattering, shaky voice left the demon wasting little time in breaking the lock to the cell. He couldn't bend the bars, given the special alloy of metals leaving them virtually indestructible to the strength demons naturally possessed, but the lock was a much more feeble entity. All it took was for the physician to grab a rock from the corner and smash it down against the lock in one swift move before it fell to the ground in two pieces, a quiet smile daring to break on his face in triumph.

"...Right, come on. You can't stay here - I'll take the fallout from this, you can see I took you against your will if you're worried about Lysander and a possible punishment. I have a place in the village I go to when parties here get too loud or boisterous - I'm no party animal and I need my sleep, so... I purchased this quaint little house to escape to if I needed space. We can go there; I can make soup or something," he decided, talking for the sake of talking just to keep his mind active and focused, rather than dwell on how big his own punishment might be for breaking out a prisoner. Before he could dwell on that, he extended a hand to the smaller creature with a wider smile. "Really, it's... fine. I have a bed for you there and blankets, and a bath, and... it's better than the cold hard floor of a dungeon cell, isn't it?"
 

saturnia pavonia

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“N-No, no, you’ll be in more trouble than you already are, Themus.” He firmly replied, though that didn’t mean he didn’t get to his feet and wasn’t super excited to leave. “Youre important to Lysander and the others, I’m just some halfling from Harenae. You could be put to death a-and... that’s not worth it, Themus.”

As he stammered, he cautiously stepped out of the cell only to realize just how tiny he felt next to Themus. With his many layers of clothes, he felt it at least gave him some mass. He looked around, much like a nervous animal, before hiding behind Themus in fear of someone arriving.

“This is crazy, you know that? Are we going to try and get back, o-or...? I’m confused and scared,” he admitted with a nervous laugh, his clawed hand gripping Themus’ right
 

potassiumboron

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"We'll see. If Lysander's really pissed off, you can hide out at my place until he calms down, or until you decide what you want to do and where you want to go. In regards to me, it's... fine. He might be irked, but it helps that my sister is his girlfriend. I can't imagine Imogen ever sitting by and allowing Lysander to put me to death, so... I think I'll be okay," he reassured with ease, waving the worry off almost immediately when he knew there was little to no chance of that ever happening. Other punishments certainly were a possibility, and being kept in the dungeons would be traumatising... but it was a price he was willing to pay to save Neotoma that horror.

Besides, he was doing the right thing and it was worth whatever came his way. In his eyes, Neotoma hadn't done anything wrong, not when he had ultimately been forced into the job in the first place, so standing up for him was the position he felt was the right one to take. If he got punished for doing the right thing, he could live with that.

"You aren't just a halfling from Harenae, that's not true. Lysander cares for you, I certainly respect and admire you - even Imogen has to concede that you're remarkably intelligent. This is a... temporary period of heightened emotions from Lysander that will settle down eventually. I've known him since we were children, he throws a tantrum, kicks off and then realises he's gone too far and apologises. We just need to wait it out," he promised as he calmly manoeuvred his way through the winding, dimly lit corridors that comprised the castle, opting -wisely- to head through to the servants' quarters and take their exit that way, knowing they wouldn't risk bumping into Lysander that way.

"If you don't want to stay in Ignis and wait for Lysander to apologise and have a mature conversation, I can give you money and arrange travel for you to go back to Harenae for awhile, to be with your family? It's an option if you feel safer there; I wouldn't blame you."
 

saturnia pavonia

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“I’m scared but that doesn’t mean I’m not a coward,” Neotoma murmured in response as they scurried from the castle. The sky never seemed to be truly dark like other kingdoms because of the scattered lava pits so despite slipping out, he was terrified to be seen. Themus was the King’s royal physician and Neotoma certainly wasn’t the average Joe so they stuck out like sore thumbs in his opinion.

“If things really do go badly, then I will return to Harenae. I’m- I enjoy being here for the most part. If this hadn’t happened, this would have been the most fun I’ve had in years. Unfortunately that fun might leave to execution. What does that say about having fun, huh?” He continued in a whisper. “... I will admit, running away like this would be fun in any other circumstance.”
 

potassiumboron

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"It can still be fun? If we ignore the, uh... the potential repercussions of our decision - well, my decision. You hardly had a say in the matter so I doubt you'll be punished for any of this. Mind you, Lysander's a... child. I can't promise he'll think rationally about this," he admitted honestly as he found the time to take in the sight of the reddened sky. Though his home was the only kingdom he had ever known, and despite realising he was probably biased in its favour, he refused to believe that anywhere else could be as beautiful to him as Ignis in the evening. The pits of bubbling lava and the swirls of ash in the air might not be to outsiders' tastes, given how different the land was to anywhere else, but Themus had always adored the aesthetic.

It wasn't long before he stepped through the door to his home, hurrying the halfling through before fiddling with the locks, doing each and every one up just to be on the safe side. Only when he was sure that they were safe inside did he turn to take in the sight of the small cottage, awkwardly scooping up some of the stray scrolls he had been using as research, though the home itself was work-free. He kept all his work at the castle, with the home being a place he could get away from it all and truly relax. It was homely and, though he hadn't stayed in it for awhile, still had the scent of the freshly baked traditional cake he had baked for himself the last time he was there. If anything, the cosiness of the cottage, with the homely decor bordering on the cutesy, was almost antithetical to how Themus presented himself on a day-to-day basis.

The juxtaposition between the home and the cold, stern personality was extreme, though was in no way false - he just did well to hold up a guard and preventing most people from realising he wasn't soulless or tough constantly.

"...I'll start making the soup. I have vegetables here, I know that, and they won't be rotten or anything; I doused them in this potion I made to keep them fresh, so-- I can get started on that. You can go and take a bath or... have a nap or something? I don't know, I imagine today's been stressful so... do what you need to unwind. This place is no palace, but it's... cosy and... you'll be safe here. Lysander doesn't know about it; not even my sister does. They won't find you."
 

saturnia pavonia

local non-binary edgelord
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It’s “This is very nice, reminds me of my home in Harenae,” he replied after pausing to take his breath. Running had never been his forte, he was more the sort for climbing if anything - he distinctly remembered his mother having to hold him on on the way for shopping or visiting others simply because lamias were skilled and meant to travel in the sand. He, on the other hand, had the shape of an elf which were obviously not adjusted to walking on sand as easily as his mother. After years of practice and some practical shoes, he managed to get around relatively well but nothing compared to his mother and other lamia.

Once getting his breath back, he felt the rough brick that made up the house. It’s structure was similar to Harenae with its mix of freedom architecture for the use of the natural obsidian and bricks that finished up the rest. The straight black was nothing compared to the sun bleached whites and pale yellows of his home but it was still miles ahead of the castle in familiarity.

“A bath would be nice, yeah,” he admitted while peeking at the rest of the small cottage. It was perfect to the halfling: quaint, warm, comfortable and clearly loved. He wished for some more light but that came with all of Ignis, so he didn’t complain too much. He found the bathroom not too long after he ran his fingers along the walls and alongside the stone tables in glee from the texture alone.

“Depending on where you are in Harenae, it can take days to bathe. Granted, bathing in the oasis is the most relaxing experience you can have,” he explained before staring at the tub in confusion. “The orcs aresunilar in the sense that they don’t have baths either, though they’re actually quite clean since there are swamps everywhere, and the elves have their freshwater springs. The only other place I’ve been to have a bath is Pruina, though their water would freeze constantly which only made me more ill.”
 

potassiumboron

~To a mystic place where tears won't cry~
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"Well, um... you should like the baths here, I hope. There's no worry about the water going cold or lukewarm; it'll maintain the same temperature for a fair while, and-- obviously that's good for you, isn't it? Just, uh... just don't touch the red taps, stick to the silver ones. They're the water the red ones are for lava. Demons can bathe in lava without an issue; you'd probably just burn and possibly -it's quite likely, actually- die, so... I'm babbling. Here, let me get it started for you," the demon awkwardly smiled as he leaned across to set the bath running for the halfling, cussing himself out under his breath for spending so much time rattling on about something inconsequential and embarrassing himself in the process.

He stood back once the hot water began to fill the large, standing tub, a faint smile crossing his face when realising just how big the tub probably appeared to be for Neotoma. It was large even for Themus, who stood at more than 7'0" with the broadness to match that sort of height, so he could only imagine how it would appear for someone whose father was an elf.

"You'll be okay, won't you? In the bath? Don't let the water fill too much, the tub's obviously not designed with, uh... anyone but demons in mind. just give me a call if you need me, I don't want to hang around here and make your bath awkward, so... just enjoy it. The food'll be done when you get out, and-- I have some pyjamas here if you wanted them? They'll be ridiculously big on you but you could just wear a shirt, that'll fit you like a nightgown I imagine, but... it's clean and I want you to be comfortable."
 

saturnia pavonia

local non-binary edgelord
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“You don’t need to do all of this for me, Themus; I’m not royalty, far from it,” he reminded with a deep blush, watching as the physician treated him so nicely. When you keep to yourself, you don’t really make friends or get to know others. The fact that he was forced to settle down changed that, his blush only vanishing at the mention of lava.

“A... lava bath?” He confirmed, his voice cracking in shock. “Oh, gosh - why? I-I mean, that’s ridiculous!” He gushed, his hands holding his cheeks in emphasis. “Oh, what if I had touched that? My hands would have burned off- at least it would be cauterized. That’s why I need you, right?” He babbled in return to fill the silence, afraid that saying nothing would just make everything more awkward than it already was. His fear only grew when he saw just how much water the tub took up, the thing being a hot tub in size compared to him.

“I owe you for all of this, Themus. I don’t desefve this, especially when I should be in a cell in the dungeon. I-I mean, this - I promise to make it up to you. If you leave Ignis, I’d love to treat you to a meal myself. I don’t know all of your resources or food yet, I’ve barely gotten any information done with all of this drama, which is unfortunate - I just want to do my research, is that too much to ask?”
 

potassiumboron

~To a mystic place where tears won't cry~
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"It's relaxing; nothing like a lava bath to make you feel cleansed and refreshed. Babies have them, Neotoma. Imogen and I were a few months old when our parents gave us our first bath in lava; it's fine for us. For your kind, not so much - but I can't imagine I'd fare well in the sand dunes of Harenae, so you have that over me at least," the physician grinned, finding the awkwardness melt away a little when he realised he didn't need to make some grand effort for Neotoma to like him - the other seemed to like him anyway, even before he had broken him out of the dungeon.

When the demon barely made any friends -though he personally chose not to-, having someone who actually seemed to like him did make him anxious, fearing that he'd be incapable of maintaining the friendship, but for now, he seemed to be doing a relatively good job with Neotoma.

"Unfortunately, Lysander attracts drama. He loves it, in fact; he thinks it's great. But I have a lot of books here for when I can't relax; you're free to read through them and get some research done. I'd rather teach you practically, back at the castle, but that's not an option right now. I... don't bring my work here either, which I'm regretting now, but I can't really head back to the castle and move my work things out without gathering suspicion," he explain as he returned with a pyjama shirt for the other, setting it down neatly on the side cabinet.

"...When this is over, I suppose a meal sounds nice. Something other than traditional Ignis food might be interesting. Not that I don't adore our food here, but I'm willing to change it up a little and explore - granted, that might be difficult when Lysander initiates the conflict. You'll be okay, I assume; I, however, might not get away with travelling other kingdoms when they see I'm a demon, Neo."
 

saturnia pavonia

local non-binary edgelord
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"You might have to help me with the books. While I'm pretty knowledgeable on your language, I'm still not quite adjusted to written word," he admitted, stepping back as the other spoke and folded the night shirt. It was all so neat and proper while being in a small, taken care of yet simple cottage, having just escaped from a dungeon. It was probably the shock from it all that caused him to nervously laugh. He held his face, forcing back tears as the nervous laughter continued.

"Oh my gosh, wow - I can't. I can't - how did I end up this way? All I wanted to do was be left alone and here I am, dealing with demons a-and for what? All to work on something that no one even cares about," he babbled out, completely oblivious to the fact that he had switched to his native dialect. He began to pace just a bit, only stopping to eagerly slip the dirty tank top off, exposing the mixture of smooth skin and natural scales that lined the edges of his skin. "Sorry - I'm sorry."