Previously, Table of Contents
Finch strode towards Alice, consciously letting go of Jutt’s arm as he left her side. He reached out to her with both arms. He felt possessed almost. They embraced. Alice knew exactly what was going on because, like Finch, she could see just fine in the dark light.
Finch spoke, his head now level with Alice’s. She had grown faster than he in their four years apart, and now they were exactly the same height.
As they touched, something primal within him stirred. He let out his whisper. All of these primal urges sought to deny him his words, to stop him from ruining their one chance, the chance to be together with Alice.
It took a long time for the wind in his lungs to finally vibrate against his vocal folds.
“I have failed you. The guard will hunt you still.” He said, and then a piercing whistle came out of his maw.
Alice’s soft grip hardened. Her fingers dug into his back. She pushed him away.
Alice had never, not once, considered that this could happen; that Finch would not hold up his end of the agreement. She leaped back and stared into his eyes. She saw his failure, his regret.
All of her anticipation, everything she had been looking forward to, everything she had been counting down, all of her hopes had been dashed. And it was all Finch’s fault. Worse, he had cowardly given up. Maybe he hadn’t even tried at all.
Apathy fell over her emotions, and at once every other thought became muted under its seething and pleasing relief.
Alice’s breathing intensified, eyes burning a bright red, hands baring long claws. She stepped closer to Finch and then opened her mouth so wide that her jaws unhinged, as a snake’s would. Her long, suddenly dangerous canines were now visible, clearly brandished. She stood, an armspan’s distance from Finch’s face and then shrieked.
Finch stiffened and stepped back, reaching out his hand to protect himself. Alice had turned into a monster before his eyes, talons ready, teeth bared. This was not how he wanted to reunite with her. He wasn’t scared, but he also wasn’t sure what she was going to do. That primal feeling stirred again within him, but the last thing it called for was a fight. Instead, paradoxically, Finch saw Alice with rosy eyes.
Alice leapt the short distance towards him, and then struck his feeble outstretched hand. Her index nail cut through the flesh between his thumb and index finger, piercing all the way through his hand.
She froze, staring him in the eyes. He saw her fear and all of her youthful adolescent insecurities. Finch didn’t really care if she, too, saw what he was feeling. His wound began to bleed, but it was too deep, and his nerves had not noticed yet. Finch was entirely unconcerned with the blood he was presently losing.
Alice stepped away. She looked at the city gates, and ran. She ran away.
Finch stared after her for what felt like a sixth.
“No…” He whispered.
Alice ran to the only place she knew would be safe. She ran to her triangular alley.
Thoughts flashed in her mind, emotion recollected in tranquility as she cantered. Finch had not been weak in his admission. He had also been wearing guard uniform. He had certainly tried. He had joined the guard at sixteen, maybe even earlier just for her. She knew he was an academic at heart. He had abandoned his own dreams, entirely for her sake. And then she had injured him. And she had stared into his face and seen an unexpected expression. He reacted with love, and understanding, and even a touch of something else.
Alice blushed. She was certain now, that he had seen her beastly Plainkind form as beautiful. When she reached the cathedral, she stopped and leaned her back on the door to think further. Her mind was slow, and could only concentrate in a limited capacity while she was running. She slumped and sat on the dirt and thresh.
Alice put her elbows on her knees, and her face in her hands. He bloody finger rested below her mouth. Her thoughts hovered between Finch and Victimus. Victimus was always saving, or being saved by a princess. Her name was Captialla. The children’s books always stated that they were in love, a true love, and that their relationship never wavered.
Alice had always identified with Victimus, as she too had suffered all her life, although in far less childishly comical ways. Was Finch Captialla? Was he the captivating object of her affection? Maybe it was the other way around, maybe she was Captialla, and Finch was the poor victim, the victim that had been doing his very best and had failed. Victimus had failed before.
What had Captialla done when her love had failed? Alice thought. She had… she had always saved herself, and then gone and saved him after, saved Victimus from his failure. And then, she forgave him when he said he was sorry. Forgiveness had always been a major theme of the Victimus stories.
Alice looked at her bloody finger. She had not forgiven Finch, but she still could. She stared up at the cathedral door. On it was a note, stitched into stiff and hardened leather and nailed to the wooden entrance. Alice stood up to read it, as she was now entirely literate.
“Huh.” She said when she had finished, “That was awfully nice of him.”
She was not talking about Finch.
“It seems you do not know how to treat a lady,” Jutt said plainly.
Finch fell down, kneeling on the grass.
“Oh,” He turned to face her, “What should I do Jutt? Can you help me? Can you please help?”
Jutt pointed an accusing finger at him.
“You have to go find her.” She said, as though this was more obvious than breathing.
Finch tilted his head, “Why do you think that?”
“I used to read a lot of romance novels.”
“Used to?” His head tilted the other way as he asked.
“Yes. They’re all the same after a while, you see, so I had to stop.” Jutt shrugged, “It gets boring. Repetitive.”
Jutt walked over and fell beside him. They sat in silence together, then as suddenly has she had dropped, Jutt stood up and reached her hand down to Finch. He stared up and grabbed it with his still bleeding palm. Jutt pulled him to his feet and he winced, realizing suddenly that he was in immense pain.
“Don’t worry, Alice will understand. She is far from unreasonable.” Jutt stated.
Finch nodded, and then hugged Jutt.
They stood together. Finch said, “I have no idea where she is.”
Jutt said, “I have an idea. I’ll talk to you later.”
She awkwardly exited the embrace, and Finch realized that he had bled all over her back.
“Wait! This is important, what are you going to find out? How will it help with Alice?”
“I think I know where she went. I need to go to the tower of Law and Poetry before they close for the day,” She said, “And you need to go to a doctor before you die of blood loss.”
She was right. Finch stared at his hand. It had not stopped bleeding.
“Look, you made my back wet, so now you have to pay the consequences,” Jutt stated, “Take off your shirt.”
Finch looked at her, confused, but she immediately started doing the same, taking her shirt off. Finch stared at her shadowed form. She was slim, like all Riley, but she was also unusually tall because she was half Solune. Her legs were strong from running, her arms slim, only really good for carrying books. Her stomach was flat and smooth. Jutt did not wrap her chest like most Solune did. Finch noticed that it had grown, but was always kept hidden under the shirt. It was not hidden now. Jutt looked at him, and he looked back.
“I’m not abandoning my clothing for your amusement; although, I am flattered.” She gave Finch the most mischievous look he had ever seen.
Jutt had gotten that one from one of the more well written romance novels.
Finch coughed, almost vomited at his indecency, and then unzipped his uniform. They traded shirts. He noticed that he had bled right through the back of hers.
Finch had not finished growing, but Jutt had. She was nineteen. Her shirt was too big for that reason, and because it had been baggy. His was too small. Jutt wasn’t exactly fit, but her slim Riley form was accentuated by it.
“You know,” Finch said, “You’re pretty good looking. You don’t really need romance books, you could just get a mate whenever.”
Jutt smiled at him, “No, I don’t need books, I told you that. You’re right though, I have had eyes on me for a while now. Girls notice stares, you know.” She looked at him meaningfully at this, “It’s just a shame none of the students at the university have realized how things work. Even you must know that a signal of interest is necessary to initiate a conversation.”
Jutt crossed her arms in the tight shirt. If she wasn’t so much like a sisterly, and sometimes even motherly, figure to him, he might have given her such a signal. Right now his heart was focused on someone a little less attractive and a lot more beautiful.
“I like this shirt. I’m going to keep it unless you ask for it back.” She said. And then, “Finch, aren’t you feeling a little emasculated now? Don’t you feel some sort of need to figure out this situation on your own?”
“No, not really. If you know where Alice might have gone, then I need your help. Wouldn’t it be stupid to refuse your help now?”
Jutt tried to shrug, but it was hard for her to do.
“It would be stupid,” She said, “That’s actually one of the reasons I stopped reading romance, characters do a lot of stupid things to string the plot along. I’m happy you’re not like that. I’ll come back to you, just go get help. Your hand hasn’t stopped bleeding.
And then Jutt ran into the city and turned left.
Finch started to follow, but after a couple steps, he became very dizzy. Then he actually did vomit. Then, he fell over onto the ground. Then, after blinking a few times, he became unconscious with his eyes open.He would have died from his wound, which was too large to heal on its own, if someone hadn’t been listening to Finch and Jutt’s echoing conversation with bashful interest.
The eavesdropper peered out from a castle window after hearing Finch’s thud and gasped at what she saw below.
Thinks are getting spiceyy~