New Ulsan, Paju Province
The half-elf sat up on her hospital bed. She had managed somehow, to get Dallas and Wolf to temporarily abandon her and she was for the moment, suddenly alone. She lacked the regenerative abilities of Creature but the Gartagen doctor was skilled at her craft. Her injuries were less severe than Creature's but it was going to take her longer to fully recover. The doctor said they would discharge her soon but she would again need physical therapy to get herself back to 100%.
It was the same thing the doctor had told her on 605. She needed to devote the time to physical therapy and her recovery. That she would be more valuable to her comrades if she was 100% rather than 60%. She had been desperate when she went off planet for equipment and then Creature had been arrested. She did not have the luxury of time because they were at war.
Lukina returned in the middle of a battle they had lost. So completely and utterly defeated. Their infantry had broken and been run down, save the units that Gallve's Calvary and the Xeno and the Direwolf had cut down with her assistance. Valériane had fallen in duel leading an army she wanted no desire to command. Then they had failed her further by not being able to recover Valériane's body from the monsters that had violated her in life, to have them take her corpse and corrupt her further. It was a waste.
The revelation of Valériane's rebirth should have been jubilant but it was tainted. The Black King had done as Bhelith warned her- that if they took you they would break and twist you to desire their abuse. The conviction in the risen Huoshio's voice was strong. Valériane had intended to kill her for instigating the murder of the Black King.
There wasn't much for her to actually look at it in the room. Just white walls, curtains and time to dwell.
Eventually she was joined by Gol, who seemed somber, but carried something more colorful than the walls; they were, as she had sent before, flowers. This time, Gol came attached to them, and with a little smile to ice the cake.
"Hey, Luki. Get in a fight with another stray cat?"
It was a stupid joke, but Gol apparently didn't care much. She set the gift-vase down on the side of the table, and then sat down herself. Gol wore her uniform, casual clothing beneath the Marshal's duster, and her gun, which indicated she was technically 'on-duty'.
"In a sense," Lukina offered Gol a small smile. The blanket of her bed covered her hospital gown. She was only attached to a heart-rate monitor on her finger. There were bandages on her arm and an IV cart beside her bed that indicated that she had a line recently removed. "How are you?"
"Oh, could be better, could be worse," said the Marshal, blithely, as she took in Lukina's condition. "I've had all sorts of things thrown at me today, and none of them aren't machine-washable."
The half-elf was pale, but she did not have that haunted look of exhaustion from the last time. Her hair could use a decent brushing to get the ruby shine back but- from what Gol could see, Lukina wasn't badly injured. "That sounds unpleasant. What's happening to make people throw things at you?"
She could see Gol's tongue over her lower teeth, for a moment, as she figured out the next phrase. It came out with a sort of rich amusement. "I arrested the leaders of one of the city's biggest shipping companies."
"I'm sure he did something to deserve it. Is it a problem I need to handle?" Lukina asked with a serious expression on her face. The nurses had left Lukina's weapons at the end of her bed, along with the pile of armor plating on top of the folded bodysuit to her power armor. Someone had taken the time to clean the gore from her armor.
That seemed to hit Gol strangely, and the smile waned a bit. She, too, had noticed the weapons on the table. From where she was sitting on the doctor's stool, she folded her hands together between her knees and leaned forward, elbows on her legs. "Nah. This is more my speed."
Gol shook her head slightly, "You don't slow down, do you?"
"I have to now. This chapter of the Black King saga is over... but I am not a super soldier, Mao or a super Gartagen, so I have to heal up. The Gartagen doctor here did some things to help me recover faster but this will take time. I should be cleared to go home soon but I can't get back to normal operations just yet," Lukina replied softly. Her hands were folded neatly on her lap. "How much did they pass you on what happened?"
The Hane itched at the base of one of her horns. Lukina knew, by now, that this was Gol's way of biding time while she, patiently, considered what to say or how to phrase it. "Valériane, the people's hero, has gone over to darkness. Cut you up, blasted Rochon in there to cheese with a bunch of people who think she's the answer to everything."
Itch. Gol glanced up. Her eyes were pretty, and sparkled a bit with an intelligence and depth in clear, deep crimson pools, but just then the water seemed troubled. "We could have busted them all too, Luki. Look, I know you're going to disagree with me, he did a lot of real bad shit, but we could have had him up there hanging. You could have called."
"Male Vekimen have a weird pheromone thing that affects women.. it messes with us, look what he did to Valériane. The Black Army had taken her captive and they brutalized her. She was different when we rescued her from them but she did not love the men that had raped her and broken her hands." She shook her head. "If you had seen the look in her eyes, on her face.. she was angry with me for killing him, for killing the generals because she loved the Black King. She honestly hated me. She earned the title 'Slayer' for brutally executing the brute of the Black Army after her rescue during the Battle of Kirikuu Ranch. She had no love of the Black Army, let alone the king."
She closed her evergreen eyes for a moment and then opened them as she focused on Gol again. "Valériane was taken, restored and changed to his ideal. She fell in love with the thing that shoved a spear between her eyes and ran off with her body. This makes no sense, she's been manipulated... But, I was not willing to risk you or anyone else by arresting him. Taking him alive would have brought all of that fire power back to Lorani and would have leveled the province to get him back. Your way works when we are dealing with rational beings that aren't set to burn the world down and rape and subjugate the survivors. You have seen the mass graves of the men that we couldn't save... the haunted looks of the women." Lukina's voice was still soft though she was pained by the admission and the memory.
Gol had been watching her throughout. If she'd had a hat, if she were that sort of Marshal, she might have taken it off and dusted it a bit and waved it around like some sort of thinking prop. As it stood, she just bobbed her folded hands a couple times, sat back in the chair, moved her wings slightly, and frowned lightly for a moment.
Then, the former cop fished into her jacket and came out with a little cigarette tin, which she opened. A few seconds later and she had lit up in the little field hospital.
"Well, I'm just glad you're safe," she said, tucking the lighter back into her pocket with the tin. "I don't want to argue, I'm just worried about you. Both of you. You're a woman too, Luki, and you're talking like you're supposed to be a napkin."
"I took an incredibly stupid risk for a high payoff. I got lucky and it worked but it cost me a lung, my spleen and almost cost Creature his life because I did not account for vehicles mounted with high caliber weapons. It is my fault that all of those people in the club got wasted trying to escape. They got mowed down with Creature for simply being there," the half-elf winced a bit, like something pinched her side.
"These doctors weren't going to treat Creature as he bleed out on the pavement. They didn't give a damn. He was nothing to them. Those people that died were nothing. Only I was important because I made a deal for the King. He only got to live because I tied my life to his and Wolf used some sort of nanite stuff. It's a shitty world. I only have worth because people are using me. I only had worth to that one psychopath because other people wanted me." Lukina cracked her knuckles as she toyed with her hands, still not looking at Gol.
"I think you are the only person that actually sees me as a person. Even these people that say they love me are projecting something on me. I am not me, I am this ideal of myself. I don't know if I can live up to it," the half-elf ran her hand through her hair and looked back down at her hands.
Gol reached out and took one of her hands, and held it for a moment. It seemed like she didn't quite want to let it go, and the look that she gave Lukina was warm and sad, the picture of honest concern. "You know, you don't have to, right?"
Lukina met Gol's gaze and smiled. "I know. It's complicated. I love Creature but I am not sexually attracted to him. I am sexually attracted to Wolf and find that Dallas just needs someone to validate him and treat him like a human being. I've never had this much love in my life before this moment."
Gol flicked the cigarette ash onto the hospital floor, and scooted a bit closer to the bed, still holding Lukina's hand. "I'm glad you're finding it. I think that the warmth of other people is the best feeling in the world."
There was a judicious pause. Gol gave her a sidelong glance. "Really? The dog? I have questions, Luki."
Lukina sighed and rolled her eyes. "Sweet Saule. Get your datapad, Go-chan." She gave Gol's hand a gentle squeeze. "But no, he's not really a dog, he's something else." With a most judiciously interested expression, Gol managed to sort of maybe look ashamed, but it came out a bit fake. When it came to sex and Lukina, Gol could be remarkably blasé. She popped the cigarette into the edge of her mouth and dug her small datajockey out, and offered it over. When she had sat it on the side of the bed, she looked back up.
"I'm serious, though. I'm glad you're finding people you care about, even if you care about them different ways. Fire and water, though, I wish you would take the time to really enjoy them. You worry me." Gol hesitated, then added, carefully; "I noticed some of your scars."
"Everyone has a light inside of them, some burn more brightly than others. People are drawn to the heat like moths, some seek the warmth and some seek to extinguish it. The hard part is not burning out or giving too much of yourself away to light other embers," Lukina took the datajockey and confirmed the connection before she handed it back to Gol.
"There's no end to the depth of the wellspring," Gol responded, getting comfortable with the hand-holding, and turning to lean a little on the bed's post, using it as a back for her doctor's stool. The extent to which she was able to manipulate the datapad, propping it on her thigh as she folded her legs one over the other, while still holding the cigarette, was impressive. "So said the Prophet. Might as well be word for word."
"I didn't know how to handle these complex emotions I was feeling as I grew up. I had to wrap myself in lies to survive and I hurt myself. It took something truly evil trying to take my soul away to make me accept the things I feel." Lukina lightly touched her chest. "I've been treated with so many nanites and fentomachines and so much hemosynth that my scars have faded. The doctor restored my leg and I am whole again." She offered the Lorr a wry smile.
"It wasn't healthy what I was doing. I accept it now. It took me almost putting a bullet through my brain to come to the conclusion that I don't want to live that way." The half-elf glanced to the datapad and queued up what Gol had asked her about. Video footage of Wolf shifting forms from the direwolf, to the half-wolf to the ripped, naked and generously endowed humanoid. Lukina seemed most interested in the Wolf's unique glowing cyan eyes that persisted in all of his forms there was something there she found particularly attractive though the chiseled physique was also intriguing. Gol was, understandably considering everything, doing the mental equations, and interested in something else entirely.
"...Wow." Gol tilted the pad up, examined closely, and then looked at Lukina. She sounded genuinely impressed. "I guess the nanites repaired you after this too? I couldn't get more than two fingers in you and this blazing hot thing. Halifel's tits, girl. How?"
"I haven't yet," Lukina replied with a bit of a blush. "He was telling Thad that he can control the size of it on the way to this province. I got an earful about Thad's cock too."
Gol looked back at the pad. "If he wasn't making puppy eyes at you so hard, I'd race you to the finish line. Shit. I just figured he was some sort of sentient talking dog, he was running around sniffing out perps and peeing on fences and now he's some sort of ancient living god of sex."
"Piyapon is a vortex of weird alien races. Even our ancestors weren't native to Liang, but he seems to think he got here through something like a dimensional gate like the Temples. Maybe if we are lucky, we'll find more," Lukina added thoughtfully.
Gol watched the exchange quietly play out on the screen of her datapad for a little bit longer before switching it off and turning it over. She returned to her cigarette, and with it, the regarding of Lukina. "That's impossible. They all closed before we were even born. It was prophesied." But this wasn't the discussion, so Gol continued, "You're doing better, though, and not just in the hot guys after you department. I mean, you're smiling a bit more than when I met you. You're smiling now. Need somewhere to stay for a while? I'll put you up again, it's no trouble."
Lukina's eyes flashed for a moment as she broke the connection between her augmentations and Gol's datapad. "Like any stray, I have a couple of places to stay." The smile reached her eyes, "Besides a nook of a tree, I promise, I actually have a place with walls and a door that is mine. I just drift between locations."
"Drift over to me once in a while then," Gol said, "I didn't use to live alone, myself. This would be the first time actually. It's a bit lonely."
The Lorr spun the little tablet on her knee, idly, and a little listlessly. She ashed the cigarette and then put it out on the floor, which wasn't sterile anyway, by mashing it with her hoof. Though, she didn't look back up, just settled back on the bedpost. "I liked having you around. Anyway, I thought I'd offer since you're going to have to heal, and I didn't know where else you were staying if anywhere."