October 11

Fictober, Prompt 11 – “I swear, it’s not always like this.”

Original fiction.

Warnings: none.


“Wait,” he said, stopping before I could hurry us through the next door. “Was that a real dinosaur?”

“No,” I said quickly, “No, it was not. This way.”

It was certainly a dinosaur, of course, but given its origins, one could technically debate the term “real.”

Understandably, Toshiaki did not find this especially convincing, but he let me push him along to the next room and get the door closed. The little protoceratops was pretty well settled these days, and not aggressive, but best not to chance it.

And Kanchana wasn’t overly fond of it anyway.

Of course, my main workshop was just as cluttered, if not more, than the rest of the building. From the mess along the far counter near the sink, it was clear that Ryuu had been through and that my fifteenth lecture about not cooking in the workshop had not stuck any better than the previous fourteen. The iguanas were safely shut away in their big enclosure, at least, but our tegu, Iwa, had gotten out again, and was sleeping in a patch of sunlight from the one big window along the back wall. I had apparently forgotten to put several books and scrolls away, and the remains of at least two potion experiments were still crusting up the spare pots.

I winced as Toshiaki paused again, eyebrows lifting as he took in the state of the room. “I swear, it’s not always like this. We’ve just…been busy, lately, and then we had an…unexpected guest.”

He pursed his lips briefly, then asked. “The not-real, not-dinosaur in the other room?”

I groaned and gave up, slumping down onto the nearest clean stool and burying my face in my hands. “I’m sorry. I wanted to make a better impression than this.”

Sensing my agitation, Kanchana chose that moment to lower several feet of her considerable length from the beams overhead, her tongue flicking ticklishly at my face.

“Oh!” Toshiaki said, and I heard him shuffle back a couple of paces. Kanchana was large, even for a reticulated python, but perfectly friendly.

“It’s okay,” I assured him, dropping my hands to my lap before lifting one again to rub under the snake’s chin. “She’s— Well, for a long time, I didn’t know to be careful with my warding, and she absorbed a lot of magic when she was small, and so she’s Affected. Definitely not a threat, unless you were to try to hurt her.” I paused. “Well, or me. Maybe Ryuu.”

I risked a glance at him, and couldn’t decipher the expression on his face. It was gone a moment later, though, replaced by a smile that was only slightly wry. “I have no intention of harming any of you,” he promised.

I waved the assurance off. That was never in question. “But are you going to run away? It really isn’t always like this.”

“I am, if anything, even more reassured that you can do what you say you can,” he said.

My jaw dropped. “Wait, really?”

He raised an eyebrow at me again, and I was forced to concede the point. I could do what he needed, and I supposed that, despite the apparent chaos, nothing he had seen today would contradict it.

I had just really wanted to make a good impression.

“Really,” he assured, and with one last cautious look at Kanchana (who was now resting her head on top of mine), he pulled up the one other clean stool in the vicinity. “So, shall we talk details and a contract?”

“Yeah,” I said, starting to smile. He returned it. “Yeah, let’s get started.”

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