Lasha woke up when sunshine illuminated the room, but she decided to see how long she could stay in bed before someone came to get her for breakfast.
Milala eventually opened the door. “Hey, wake up. We got sandwiches.”
Lasha put her clothes back on and joined the others at the table.
“I really like sandwiches.” Milala said. “Anyone can make one and they taste amazing when you do them right.”
“We’re lucky we live this close to a bakery.” Mary said.
Lasha couldn’t think of small talk at the moment, so she decided to jump right in with the big topic: “Hey, Mary. Are you open for some… overwhelming information right now?”
“Like… if I told you magic was real.”
“Sure, lay it on me.”
“Well… there have been intelligent species living on this planet before humans. And still do.”
Mary stopped chewing for a moment. “Like, living among us?”
“No. They’ve been hiding from humans.”
“For, what, three hundred years? Why?”
“Scared of the technology, our big spaceship, mostly.”
“Okay. Are you for real or is this a thought experiment?”
“No, it’s real. I got proof. My friends here aren’t human.”
“Guess we’re doing this now.” Milala took her hat off to reveal her ears. “My real name is Milala. I’m an Asterian.”
“What the-” Mary stared at her ears, then reached out to feel them. Milala lowered her head.
“They’re real.” Mary noted.
“No way.” Tommy petted Milala as well. She started to purr.
“She’s a real life catgirl…”
“What’s Denise then?” Tommy asked.
Marvyad changed to her regular form. “I’m a Shandari. We are not native to this planet either though. My real name is Marvyad.”
“She’s blue!” Mary said. “Okay, hang on. This is what you’re involved in? You’re not a spy?” she asked Lasha.
“No. I was adopted by Sjetta. When we first met and you got shot, a Sjetta healed you. Her name is Estih.”
“How many- How many different species are there?”
“Five, I think?”
“And where are they all hiding?”
“Depends. Underground or in areas of the world humans haven’t settled in yet.”
“So what are you three doing in Red City?”
“We wanted to get an idea how humans would react to the reveal.”
“So how do you feel?” Milala asked.
Mary shook her head. “Terrified? No, not scared. Nervous? I feel like, before I do anything else, I have to go understand the world again.”
“Do you think we’ll have the chance to explain everything in detail to everyone?” Milala asked.
“Maybe you could prepare an explanatory video everyone can go see?” Mary suggested.
“I don’t know, we aren’t so good with technology. “ Lasha said.
“Maybe an interview?”
“I don’t watch talk shows. You’ll probably get some politician. Those aren’t good at asking productive questions though, but maybe you can make the best of it and then talk to someone else. You’ll probably get lots of interview requests after the news is out.”
“Okay…” Lasha drank some tea. “But who do we send to the interview? Probably one of the gods, right?”
“Sorry, gods?” Mary interrupted.
“Apolomyem would take precedence here.” Milala said. “But even if we got him to do it, that wouldn’t be a good idea. Cynthia often takes charge in his stead.”
“I don’t know Cynthia very well.”
“One god is called Cynthia?” Mary asked.
“It’s a nickname.”
“Cynthia is currently investigating Jaliehv. We should talk to her once she’s back.”
“Maybe clear up whatever controversy is brewing before the reveal.” Milala added.
“Hey, is it me or is your sky looking worse?” Marvie interjected.
Lasha looked out the window. The sky was red.
Moments later, they heard glass shatter and something fleshy slithered towards them from the living room. Lasha traced the appendage back to the mouth of an alien creature clasped onto the wall outside.
“What the fuck is that?” Mary screamed.
Lasha enveloped her hands in shadows and punched the tongue. It recoiled in pain and lashed out at her. Lasha instinctively grabbed onto it, which made the creature try to shake her off, before ultimately pulling her towards its maw. Lasha jumped onto the snout and punched it. The being was scaly and her fists did little damage to the hide, but the burning of the shadow still hurt it. In pain, it let go of the wall and dropped into the alley, almost shaking Lasha off. The creature had no eyes, no vulnerable spots. Lasha wasn’t sure how to effectively attack it. It slammed its head against the wall, knocking Lasha off. It then ran out of the alley into an open space where it could open its wings.
There were thousands of them in the sky, swooping down to pick off humans with their incredibly long tongues. Above the city, a portal had opened in the sky, a dark red sky with black earth.
The others came out of the building while Lasha stared stunned at this event.
“What are these?” Lasha asked Milala.
“I’ve never seen these before either!”
“They’re not from my world.” Marvie said.
“What do we do?” Lasha watched the sky. These creatures weren’t hunting for food, they just killed.
“We should get Mary and Tommy to safety first. A place underground where their tongues cannot reach.”
“There’s an underground parking lot over there.” Tommy said.
“I don’t think these things like to crawl into confined spaces. They operate like anteaters in that regard.” Milala said as they began to run for it.
“What about all the other people?” Lasha asked. Distant screams echoed.
“We go back out to save as many as we can once we’ve taken care of Mary and Tommy.”
Lasha accepted that. That was the best they could do in this situation.
Tommy and Mary hid in the deepest part of the nearby mall’s parking lot. Some others had gathered there already. Lasha, Marvie and Milala turned around before they were seen. The latter two changed back to their human disguise. “It would be better if we aren’t seen during this. Two xenobeings appearing in the middle of this attack would start this off wrong.” Milala reasoned.
They reached the surface just in time to see one of the creatures wrestle with a black, skeletal demon about four times as large as a human and therefore twice as large as the creature. Lasha thought the two to be of the same species at first, both having a similar body structure, wings and even the long tongues matched. She wasn’t sure how the skeletal one was even alive though. It had no organs, A gaping hole in its rib cage that still glimmered with fire.
“Get back inside!” It shouted at them.
“What the hell is going on here?” Milala shouted back.
The skeleton smashed its opponent’s head into the concrete, pink blood squirting out through cracks in the skull. Despite its wings being skeletal, the demon then took flight to find a new enemy. The attackers appeared to be in the process of retreating. They all flew back towards the hole in the sky, some still carrying humans. The skeleton tried to wrestle them away from them, but soon was swarmed. Tongues pulled the bones into opposite directions until they broke. With shattered wings, the black skeleton fell out of the sky, somewhere outside the city. As soon as the last invader entered the portal, it closed and revealed the blue sky again. Lasha’s eyes lowered to the ground again. Walls smashed, cars crumpled and flipped, blood, both red and pink, corpses both human and alien.
“I think we should leave it to the survivors.” Milala said.
“There’s nothing we can do here. We should go back to Amieredetta and report to Algasath. Us three can’t help at the moment but maybe all Asterians can. All Sjetta.”
“What about the big skeleton?” Marvie asked. “Maybe it knows more about what happened. If it’s still alive.”
They used the carnage to get out of the city unseen. They had seen one creature get killed by the skeleton, but many others lay dead in the streets with no wounds whatsoever. Milala thought they may have suffocated. She didn’t know what else could’ve killed them so fast. They weren’t able to breathe this air. It wasn’t clear for how long the assault went on before Mary’s apartment had been attacked.
It was easy to find the large body in the empty fields around Red City. Despite its lungs burnt out, the skeleton was still breathing.
“Neither of you know healing magic, right?” Milala asked. The bones were only covered in skin, no organs or muscle hid the damage. This being was dying. It had to be. “I don’t think we can transport them to the village in time.”
Lasha knelt down by the creature’s skull. It had no eyeballs but a small light hovering in the socket indicating the pupil.
“What can you tell us about this attack?”
“Don’t worry, they won’t come back.”
“How do you know that?”
“They are dying. In their own world and here.”
“I’m sorry we can’t help you.”
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll be fine. I just need some rest.”
“What’s your name?”
“Susi?” Lasha asked, incredulous.
“I’m Ess’sinon, but people call me Susi.”
“So what are you, Susi?”
“I am fear incarnate. I am the child of the Tumor God. And hopefully, I’m a hero. You are Susi.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you saved many people today.”
The white fire in Susi’s eyes vanished.
“I’m… concerned.” Milala said.
“She said they won’t come back.” Marvie said.
“Yeah, but where the hell did she come from? What the fuck is the Tumor God? And what is happening now?”
Susi shrank, the short black fur covering the skeleton retreating and revealing brown skin. Clothes appeared on the body. Then there lay an ordinary human girl instead of Susi.
“What the fuck?” Milala reiterated.
The girl sat up, looking back with purple eyes. She had white hair, but that was the only unusual thing about her, aside from being a giant skeletal demon moments earlier.
“Susi is resting. I’m Chloe. We share a body. Though we each have our own. It’s a long story.”
“You’re not dying?”
“Susi’s body got a bit roughed up, but it’ll heal just fine. I’m all good to go.” Chloe stood up. “The attack stopped, but I’m sure those people could use some help from a mage.”
“No, wait, they can’t know about magic! And… half-demons.” Milala stopped her.
“Maybe it’s better you come with us first.”
“Oh? What do you think, Susi?” Chloe asked. “Maybe you should go with them. You have a tendency to run headfirst into things with no plan and only making it worse. I wouldn’t say it made things worse. I’m not only talking about that one time.”
Lasha realized that Chloe and Susi were talking using the same mouth.
“Okay, we’ll come with you. I’m sure we have a lot to explain to each other.”
The four of them made it back to Hotecia. The attack did not reach this far beyond Red City, but the villagers could see the hole in the sky from afar. A portal to Amieredetta had already been opened to evacuate the population. People were in the process of carrying their belongings back to their homes by the time they arrived. Lasha led her group through the portal and to the other end of Amieredetta.
In the throne room, Algasath was talking with Malai, freed from her prison.
“Lasha, you’re back!” He said. “Who did you bring?”
“That’s Chloe. And Susi. They’re both in there. They helped out in the attack.”
“Red City was attacked by…”
“Sykyyr.” Chloe said.
“By what? What happened?”
Lasha explained the situation.
“That is… bizarre.”
“Do you think Jaliehv is behind it?” Malai asked.
“I’m not sure how she would do that. You can’t just open portals to other universes. Even for a goddess, that would be extremely difficult.”
“Has Cynthia not returned yet?” Lasha asked.
“No. That’s why I’m consulting Malai.”
“But she’s immortal, right? What could have happened?”
“That’s the thing, we don’t know. We can only say for certain Jaliehv is doing something.”
“You’re in the middle of something, huh?” Chloe asked.
“So, what do we do?” Lasha asked.
“I don’t know. If Cynthia couldn’t handle what’s going on in Jaluxar, then I’m not going to send you. For now, we should figure out if we want to reveal ourselves to humans to help them through this crisis or wait it out.”
“I think helping them would gain us a lot of trust.” Milala said.
“I’m worried they might think we brought this onto them somehow.”
“They’ll think this regardless of when we help them.”
“...You’re right. Milala, please inform the Asterians, so we can organize some volunteers. We should have them ready by tomorrow.”
“Alright. I’ll be going then. It was fun hanging out, Lasha.” Milala ran off.
“Okay. We should talk now.” Chloe said. “About what’s going on in your world right now. And about what I’m doing here.”