Eight years ago
I rubbed at the spot where my horns used to be. “This still feels weird.”
Aka Manah’s daughter, a pretty girl my age named Riya, poked at my head, giggling. “It looks weird, too. You without horns just seems wrong. Why’d you have to remove them? There are other demons in your orphanage.”
I shrugged. “I dunno.” And I didn’t. I realized years later, though, that the point was to cut me off from the succubus culture as completely as possible. They left many of my internal toys in—ones that I hadn’t understood the purpose of at the time, things that couldn’t be easily pulled out—but were careful to remove the rest, and tell me they were removing everything. Aka Manah wanted me as far from a succubus as was possible.
At least I had something to make up for the loss. Nighteyes. Darul de vrăjitoare, the gift of the witch. Striga, the first vampire, had tricked them away from the Mother Monster years ago. Some people were still upset about that.
But all I knew was that suddenly, Damavand was no longer dark.
I had spent the last two weeks with bandages over my eyes, but now I was free to blink in what seemed like sudden light. The endless shadows that filled every corridor were gone, the black halls suddenly as bright and cheery as your average hospital. I dropped the flashlight that I had brought with me out of habit. It was nothing but dead weight now.
Riya, apparently realizing what I was thinking, carefully led me outside onto a balcony into the night. My eyes were fully healed from the treatment, but my vision was still a bit blurry from disuse, and I would have walked straight into a wall without her help.
It felt like walking out in the middle of the day.
The bare light from the stars was more than enough to see perfectly. The nearest street lamp, maybe a hundred feet away, shone as bright as the sun, and I had to raise my hand to block it. I bumped into the railing in my bleariness, but luckily Riya was there to keep me from doing anything worse.
I could see the vampires and other nocturnals on the streets below. It was midnight, basically noon for anyone with nighteyes, and I could see as easily as if… well, as if it were noon, I suppose.
This… was incredible. I had never really thought about what it would be like to have nighteyes. I had known I needed them to be a real vampire, and my matron had (grudgingly) agreed, but I hadn’t stopped to consider that they might be worth having on their own.
Most of the succubus toys were just cosmos, and the few buffs that were part of the package were internal things that didn’t affect day-to-day life. I had known, intellectually, that people became vampires to see in the dark, just like they became giants to be big and strong, but it hadn’t… clicked.
Maybe it was silly, feeling like I was seeing some brand new world when it was just the same one as always, albeit at a later hour. Maybe it was a side effect of having been blind for two weeks. But this all felt real and wonderful in ways that being a succubus never had. That had just been a means to escape my matron. This was something real.
“Miss Ling,” a prim voice said from behind us. Riya and I both turned to see one of her servants standing at the door to the balcony, a sour look on her face. Of course, this woman always had a sour look on her face. “The doctors said not to strain yourself. Please, come back inside.”
I did so reluctantly, Riya skipping along ahead of me, but the truth is I was grateful. My eyes were starting to hurt from all the light outside. There might not be a lot of it, but it was just a shade too much for my new eyes. The medical room had all its lights turned completely off, so the only source of illumination was the glow from behind the curtains. It was still enough to see by.
“If there’s nothing else you wanted to do today, we could watch cartoons,” Riya suggested cheerily. “I know you missed a few of the newer ones. And now we can watch them together!” She grabbed my hand. “C’mon, that young voice actress was on last week’s.”
Much as I was tempted, I resisted. “I don’t know, Ri, I think I want to just walk around a bit. Not do anything that will hurt my eyes.”
“Okay, that’s fine. We can go back to my room and—”
I scratched my wrist, uncomfortable. “Actually… I think I want to go for a walk. Alone.”
She looked a little hurt, but didn’t push the issue. “Uh, yeah. I get it. It’s, uh, what’s the word?” She looked at her guard. “What’s the word for when lots of big changes happen all at once?”
“Overwhelming,” she answered, unconcerned with our drama.
“Yeah, that!” The little vampire grinned at me broadly with sharp teeth. “It’s fine, Li! Just go take a breath.”
I smiled weakly and squeezed her hand briefly before letting go. “Thank you.”
She smiled in turn and walked down the hallway to her room, her bodyguard trailing behind.
Trying to ignore the sick feeling in my stomach, I turned and started heading in the opposite direction.
I hated this. It had all seemed like such a fun idea at first, but how did people live like this? Constantly lying to people you care about, constantly avoiding spending time with them in favor of stupid vague ‘goals’ and ‘ideals.’
I wanted to spend time with my friend. Was that too much to ask?
Yes, it was. Because right now, I had a mission.
I reached the room I was looking for within about ten minutes or so. I didn’t have a watch, and my phone was now too bright to look at. But no matter the exact time, the people waiting for me didn’t seem too worried. “Ah, Ling, you’re here.” The doctor patted the examination table, which already had a stepstool next to it. “Lie down, little one.”
Gingerly, I did as ordered—however polite an order it may have been—clambering up with some effort. The doctor pulled a device out of the ceiling, some strange metal thing with lots of lenses and dials.
“How are your new eyes treating you?”
“Fine,” I murmured. I always found it hard to talk around this one.
She didn’t seem to mind, or indeed even notice. “Good, good… and are you eating right? You’re not drinking too much blood, are you?”
“I don’t have a blood-drinker buff.”
“I know, that’s why you shouldn’t be drinking the stuff. But some people insist.” She turned a page on her medical pad. “But let’s get down to the meat of the matter, hm? Pretty much everything south of your…” Her eyes flickered over to my flat chest. “…breasts is still in dire need of repair. Have you been taking the vitamins I gave you?”
“Any effects? Drowsiness, dizziness, nausea?”
I shook my head.
She frowned and resumed tapping at the pad. “There should have been. It’s part of a set of diagnostic routines that help us identify problems with various organs. It’s similar to the Reed-Osborne Procedure, except it has a more general scope and requires less specialized equipment…”
I felt my black eyes glaze over. It was like being back in school—my matron had been making me go again. Oh, maybe with the nighteyes and my new sleep schedule, I’d be able to avoid all that for a few days. We had a test coming up, maybe I could dodge that.
“And I’m boring you,” the doctor said with a sigh. “Well, let’s make this quick then, yes?” She adjusted a few dials on the device hanging from the ceiling, but didn’t move it, and then rolled over something that looked almost like an ultrasound. “Roll up your shirt, please. I need your belly.”
Like an ultrasound, the device had a cold paddle wired to a screen, but this one had four paddles, and they were smaller. The doctor placed them carefully on my chest—one uncomfortably low—and started fiddling with the screen. “Okay, I just need to… there we go.” She tapped at the screen more before downloading something to her pad. “That’s all.”
“That’s all?” I echoed as she started pulling the scanning devices off my belly. Every other session had taken at least an hour, more typically two or three.
“Yep!” she confirmed cheerily. “I’ll need a few days with the toy maker to growpram the seeds that will be used to rewrite and repair your physiology. I suppose this would be easier if we removed all the birth control and so on toys you’ve got, but your body’s under enough strain as it is. We don’t want to have to use it on you more than we have to.”
Most of that went completely over my head, but I got the idea. “So… you’ll call me back in a couple days?”
“Correct.” She smiled. “Go off and play with Riya. I have everything I need here, I promise.”
I was still hesitant, even as I swung my legs around to dangle over the floor. “But Aka Manah said that I needed to help you as much as possible. That it was… my mission, my duty to fulfill the daeva ideal.”
The doctor gave me a weird look, but soon turned back to her machines. “Well, you already have helped me today. I suppose if you really want to stay, I can perform a biopsy.” She picked up an excessively large scalpel from a nearby tray and made a show of examining it. “It’s your choice, really.”
I was running off towards Riya’s room before she even had a chance to laugh.
Behind the Scenes (scene 250)
Ling’s scenes have a purpose beyond just worldbuilding, I promise.
And the Patreon is up! Still a little bare-bones, but it’s got some rewards and some stretch goals.