Together with Richter
Part 2 of ShadowedLightning's Promised Protection .:Vore:. Story
Warning! Read the Artist's Comments before reading this story! And just in case you don't know, in all of my writings, I use an asterisk (*) to mark jargon, words, and phrases that I felt needed some extra explanation. Simply put your cursor over the word to see the notes I've written there!
The First Time
Richter and Emil walked side by side through the vast fields of Sylvarant. As if by some blessed miracle, they had been allowed to walk free after all that had come to pass at the Ginnungagap; it appears as though Verius, the Summon Spirit of Heart, had spared them all. Verius must have somehow found a way to separate both personalities, Ratatosk and Emil, into two separate bodies without the use of an effigy or sacrifice. Ratatosk, the recently separate personality of Emil, and Richter were able to combine their powers with the Centurions' and managed by some wondrous twist of fate to seal the door to the demon world, Nifelheim, without mana. The world was safe at last from the demons beyond the Ginnungagap and the World Tree began to flourish under the protection of Martel.
Ratatosk was left once again to guard the door, but that's not to say he was imprisoned there, and from time to time, a bit of wanderlust carried him and his band of monsters to the surface once more. He would roam wherever he pleased, and on occasion, ran into one of the members of their little band of heroes. Most often, he would run into Emil, who still had a bit of Ratatosk's strength and courage, perhaps at the cost of a bit of his kind and tender, child-like spirit, which Ratatosk himself even felt the presence of within him.
On this day, however, it was just Emil and Richter, alone on the mount of a hill, taking in the beauty of the vast expanse of grass and scattered flowers, stretching out to meet the distant, unobtainable horizon. To Richter, it almost seemed as though Aster was smiling down at them, from wherever he was. After all, Verius connects all hearts, so maybe, just maybe, in some small way, that connection kept Aster alive in Richter's heart. He could remember it all so well: Aster's smile, personality, voice, laughter, those tender eyes, that courage Those memories never faded, still clear as crystal in his mind; and yet he knew that the Aster he remembered was long since dead and there was no way of undoing that, no matter how much he might have wished for it.
And yet, as he lay in the grass with Emil, in the shade of a full, green oak, seeing that familiar smile, it almost felt like Aster was sending him a sign. It was time for Richter to live his own life, not for Aster's sake, but to meet his own ends, to seek out his own happiness. Richter's lips curled into an uncharacteristic smile; it had taken a long while, but he had finally grown accustomed to smiling again. He slid one hand out from beneath his head and slowly inched it across the soft, green grass toward Emil's. First, he barely brushed against Emil's fingers, and when it aroused neither a reaction nor a protest, he proceeded to discretely intertwine his blunt fingers with Emil's, whose skin was soft and tender against Richter's. Emil turned his gaze away from the crisp blue sky to face Richter, a cute smile framed by flushed cheeks and eyes squinted in an expression of pure joy and contentment; and Richter, shyly but surely, followed suit as Emil gripped his hand tightly in exchange.
Aqua, who still followed Richter out of habit, sighed as she hovered invisibly near the lower branches of the large tree. Once Ratatosk had been freed from his obligations at the World Tree, guarding the Ginnungagap seemed a much less monolithic task, so he freed the Centurions from many of their duties and allowed them to roam wherever they wished. They still had to control the monsters of their element and keep tabs on the mana flow of the world, and in the end, Ratatosk's orders were of the highest priority. But it was a better life (if Centurions could be considered "alive") than the one they had led before, lingering at Ratatosk's side as he guarded the door to the demonic realm, a job with no end in sight. Now, at least, they all had a little bit of freedom. Tenebrae was off somewhere too, probably following Marta around out of the same habit Aqua had. Aqua, however, was a little more clingy than most Centurions. Ever since Richter had stormed the Ginnungagap with Aster that fateful day, Aqua had wanted nothing more than to be by his side forever To protect him, to support him, to help him achieve his goals because that was just the kind of Centurion she was. In the same way Tenebrae was known for being spiteful, Aqua was known to have strong convictions and potent emotions.
Though she had fallen in love with Richter and dedicated herself to helping him avenge Aster, she was still bound to Ratatosk no matter what, so she really could not hate him, (not that she forgave him for what he had done, but he was tolerable ) And now, even though Richter no longer sought revenge, Aqua was still dedicated to him. She was still deeply entranced by him, infatuated to the point of jealousy when he took his eyes off her in favor of someone else. This had been a source of many fights between them on their journey, since Aqua was in the habit of torturing anyone who seemed to catch Richter's eye. More than once she had sicced a Polwigle on an unfortunate girl that Aqua felt had been talking to Richter quite long enough. Richter had often reprimanded her, but as long as she thought she was Richter's one-and-only, she was content, no matter the consequences.
However, there was one obstacle that had always irked her, Emil Of all the people that Richter had talked to, Emil was the only one Richter genuinely seemed to like, and that made Aqua furious. She knew it was only because he reminded Richter of Aster, but she still couldn't make herself accept it. Somebody else catching Richter's attention, unacceptable especially if that somebody was a reincarnation of Ratatosk (though she did not realize this at first). For a long time, chasing him away had not been enough for her, though when avoiding him was necessary, she followed Richter's orders and ignored Emil. For ages, she would have liked to just kill him, get rid of him permanently, but Richter had always had other plans. So she complied for a while But there was one time she couldn't hold herself back, one time she couldn't obey Richter any more, she just had to punish Emil, she had to. Every fiber of her being screamed at her to do it, and after all, it was for the best or so she thought
It had happened not so very long ago, while Emil and Ratatosk were still united in one body. Richter had needed his assistance for something. You see, there was a stone, hidden deep within a cave, a stone that Richter needed but could not reach. Aqua herself didn't really know what he wanted it for, she had never heard of an Yromem* Stone before, nor did she know what it did, but if Richter wanted it, she would help him get it. However, when they searched the depths of the cave, they could only walk in circles, and when Aqua finally discovered the path they needed, they reached a dead end. Richter saw an etching on the wall at the end of the passage, it vaguely resembled the pattern on the walls and floor of the Ginnungagap with a symbol that he remembered seeing on Ratatosk's core. Though Aqua tried her best, she could not break the seal.
Richter knew what that meant, only someone with the ability to utilize Ratatosk's power directly could open the path he sought. This could only be two people, Emil or Marta. Though he would have liked to simply tear the core from Marta's forehead, he knew that while Emil was around, he could not touch her. And besides, if he could obtain the core, he could destroy it, and there would be no need for the Stone. Getting her to come along willingly would be nearly impossible and moreover, he didn't much care for her company. That left Emil as his only option. As a Knight of Ratatosk, he ought to have the power to break the seal, and if he brought only Emil along, he could avoid annoyances such as Marta and Tenebrae. After all, Emil trusted him, surely he wouldn't be hard to win over.
Aqua was reluctant, but after a great deal of convincing, Aqua accepted. She had opted to keep her invisible form, and had gritted her teeth as Richter invited Emil to come along. She fumed silently behind them; each time Richter helped Emil, Aqua became more and more enraged. Watching Richter fussing over Emil all the time, defending him from monsters, lending him his coat, Aqua's blood boiled at the sight; and at the end of their journey, Richter gave Emil the very thing that they'd worked so hard to find. Then, he said something Aqua couldn't believe He called Emil beautiful That was the final straw. She completely lost it
Before, she had maintained a moderate disdain for Emil, didn't like him at all, but as long as he wasn't in the way, she didn't bother giving it any thought. But now? Now that Richter had revealed his true feelings, Aqua was completely in denial. Richter belonged to her and to her only No little snot-nosed brat was going to steal him away from her. In a blind rage, she summoned a fleet of tortoise monsters and ordered them to kill Emil at any cost. With both Emil and Richter bearing wounds from the venture up until that point, neither could do anything against her. Richter tried to reason with her, but it was no use; reason had no bearing in the mind of a maiden whose heart over-ruled her logic in jealous ambition. Unable to lift a sword, Richter did the only thing he could he grabbed Emil by the arm and ran.
They escaped into a narrow passageway, just out of reach for the huge, lumbering monsters. However, their overwhelming strength was too much for the cavern wall, and it soon began to crumble in on the two males. Richter had no other options, he had promised to protect Emil, and after losing Aster, he refused to allow the same thing to happen to the boy who now shared his face. He had never needed to use his powers before, but now, he had nothing left to use to defend the young blond. After brief explanations and rushed words of comfort, Richter somewhat convinced Emil to trust him, and Emil allowed the half-elf to strip him down. The only advantage Richter still had over Aqua was her obsession. She would never dare to harm him, even at the expense of letting Emil live. Her summoning ability prevented Richter from shielding Emil in any usual method; after all, Aqua was the Centurion of Water. She could summon the slimiest creatures of the cavern to slither between them and steal Emil away from Richter's protective grasp; he himself had been surprised that she hadn't thought of doing that as soon as they had slipped into the narrow passage.
Richter knew of no other alternative, and once he had Emil prepared, he began the embarrassing ordeal. Richter had never really thought of his power as a gift, it had always seemed a curse, but at least it was of some use now. Richter had long possessed the ability to consume large quantities, even control the rate at which digestion took place, but now, despite infrequent use, that latent talent had been enhanced beyond fathomable reason. He had never imagined using such powers, especially against people, but now, as the only method left for Emil's salvation, he didn't have time to think about practicality or propriety. Slowly, he began to wrap Emil in his lips, and as steadily and gently as he could, began to consume the boy. Even though he was quite conscious of his actions, Richter couldn't believe what he was doing, almost like a dream; only the sensations proved it was real. If it wasn't for the fact that he could see Emil's body slowly disappearing into his own, taste the mild salt of the boy's sweat-slicked skin against his tongue with every swallow, feel his stomach stretch to accommodate the wriggling blond, undulating with every tiny movement he made, hear the boy's soft whimpering muffled by the walls of his engorged midriff, and smell the uniquely Emil-like scent that Richter recognized was very much akin to Aster's if it weren't for these constant stimuli, Richter would not have believed he was actually doing something so unthinkable.
Even as Emil shook with fright, Richter never wavered, only pausing long enough to give the boy a reassuring pat before continuing. When at last the deed was done, the three of them - Richter, Emil, and Aqua - were all very aware of what had just happened. Aqua was too shaken at the time to even respond, and faded back to invisibility with breathless awe.
This was Richter's first experience with such things. It was amazing; a feeling that he would never have conceived of on his own, (though that may just be because such sensations were not experienced by many normal people under normal circumstances.) Emil also found the whole experience to be amazing - terrifying and traumatizing at first, but amazing - and when at last Richter released him, there was much for the two to discuss.
Lying in the grass with Emil brought back such memories The time between that first chance experience and their current lives, the good times, the hard times, the quiet times, the impassioned times, all the time he had spent with Emil came flooding back to him. Though it was shorter than the time he spent with Aster, his time with Emil had become just as precious, maybe even more so. They were memories Richter held dear, memories of his own transcendence, learning to forgive himself, and finding peace of mind. Richter sighed, and faded into a daydream - a panoramic montage of these memories - gripping Emil's hand tightly and smiling
Just after Emil had fallen asleep for the second time*, wrapped in the soft, warm folds of Richter's belly, Aqua had reappeared to confront Richter. She had calmed down significantly, but was still obviously infuriated.
"Master Richter Why'd you protect that wretch? He's our enemy and you know it! I could have gotten rid of him easily " She whipped her tail back and forth irately.
"I don't want to be rid of him, Aqua. Enemy or not, when he's like that I just "
"I said it a thousand times before! He is not Aster! You even agreed with me! You're just prolonging his life, you know!? Eventually, we'll probably have to kill him "
"I don't believe that will be necessary, but even so, Aqua, now is not the time. And yours were not the reasons "
"M-my reasons?! Master Richter, I !" she huffed breathlessly, offended and embarrassed all at once.
"You only wanted to kill him because of the things I said to him, you can't lie about that Aqua. You were jealous. You know you were " Aqua looked askance, unable to deny what he had said, but not willing to admit to it either. Richter continued his lecture, disdain more than apparent in his voice. "You do realize, Aqua, that I can have a relationship with whomever I please? You have absolutely no say in the matter; my personal affairs have nothing to do with you."
"But, Master Richter !"
"But nothing, Aqua! You and I are neither a couple nor under any circumstances will we ever be. It's simply not possible. I merely allow you to follow me. I appreciate your help greatly, your skills have been invaluable, but your interference in my personal life has gone on quite long enough. If I have to, I'm willing to terminate our "partnership", for lack of a more appropriate word. If need be, I'm quite willing to crush whatever hopes you have of a relationship with me right here and now, by any means necessary How do you want to proceed? Shall we just agree upon the facts I have set forth? Or shall we sever this abhorrent tie the hard way? Are you willing to accept that your interference is not welcome in my life, or do I have to convince you by other means that you and I will never share an intimate bond?"
Aqua sniffled, but nodded in response. "I I understand, Master Richter I'll go then " She turned about and began to slink away. "B-but I still love you " she squeaked, over her shoulder, face pitiable and moist with tears, her sniveling shrill and impossible to ignore.
Richter sighed, vexed, "Nnnngh Fine, fine! I'll let you continue stalking me! Just stop bawling like an infant. You'll rupture my eardrums with all that foul shrieking "
Aqua threw herself into his unwilling arms. "Oh, thank you, Master Richter! I knew you loved me, I just knew it!" She wriggled close against his chest, grinning from ear to pointed ear, blushing like a bride.
Richter fumed, but could do nothing about it too full not enough energy to push her off of him so he just sat and he fumed. "Don't you start that again, you hear? I said no such thing As soon as your jealous antics outweigh your avail, I won't hesitate to reject you again."
"I understand, Master Richter " She nuzzled closer, and Richter sighed anew.
After a few minutes, Richter spoke again. "I have a condition, though and if you refuse, I can't allow you to follow me."
"Anything, Master Richter; I'll do anything to make you happy."
"About Emil you have to leave him alone, alright? I won't tolerate any more of those outbursts " Aqua looked up, lips parted in preparation to speak, but Richter shushed her immediately. "No, I mean it; no objections, no ifs, ands, or buts about it! You need to leave him alone, you got it?" Richter stared coldly at Aqua, unwavering in his resolve. She paused, thought to speak, but withdrew her yet-spoken words before they reached her lips, instead nodding in ascension. Richter sighed, softening his gaze. "Good. That's more like it " Richter relaxed a bit, Aqua was still clinging to him, but he ignored it. His mind was still not entirely at ease, he wanted to make absolutely sure that he could trust Aqua around Emil before he released him again. And it had to be soon, he was beginning to notice that, though he was still profusely full, he was not nourished and exhaustion was beginning to settle in; he would have to eat some real food soon.
He thought for a moment, he wanted to be able to guarantee Emil's safety, but how? Finally, he came up with a plan, an agreement that Aqua would not refuse. "Aqua " He shifted a bit, sitting up as best he could while still accommodating his massive stomach. "Aqua, I'm well aware that Emil is not Aster, and I know that we cannot think of him as an ally however, I do not wish to label him an enemy. You have to understand, I hate Ratatosk as much as you do for what he did to Aster and to me as a result but I cannot hate Emil, even if he wants to reawaken Ratatosk I have one last proposition. In exchange for your agreement to treat Emil as a neutral, I will allow you this one loophole. If it ever comes to a point that Emil jeopardizes our goals with his interference, leaving no other possible course of action, and I cannot bring myself to harm him, I charge you with the duty of doing it in my stead. You may do whatever necessary in that situation, but only in that situation. Until such conditions arise, you must not interfere with my association with Emil, only when there is no other alternative, is that clear? Do we have an agreement?" Richter held out his right hand.
Aqua stared at Richter's hand for a long moment before she finally grasped it with her own. "It's a deal, Mater Richter."
"R-Richter ?" Emil gasped as he was suddenly shaken from a brief nap, finding himself slouched in an awkward hump on a cold, stony floor. The darkness that enveloped him reminded him that he was still deep within the caves. Slimy, wet, and frigid, his skin entirely exposed, cap-a-pie*; except for his boxers, he was very much naked. He lifted himself up to see Richter, wiping a bit of saliva from the corner of his mouth, as he seemed to be lifting himself off his knees.
"Oh, you're awake " Richter glanced over at Emil as he reached for the blonde's clothes. "Sorry I had intended you to still be sleeping after I spat you out, but I guess my technique's not that advanced yet I figured that it might be less traumatic for you that way, but I suppose it didn't matter much . I'll have a fire going soon, so try to bear the cold for a bit, okay?"
Emil nodded, shivering as he took back his clothes from the half-elf. Suddenly remembering the reason for the whole ordeal, Emil looked around in panic. "Richter! Wh-what happened to Aqua?! I-is she still ?"
Richter cut in, comforting the boy with a rough pat on the shoulder. "It's alright I talked to her. She won't be bothering us about it anymore. I promise "
Just as Richter had said, within a few minutes, he had a small fire set alight in the middle of the cavern floor, and Emil was grateful for its warmth. Once Richter had removed his gear and settled down on a rock beside Emil, the questions began.
"Umm So, uh, Richter where do we go from here?"
"Well, I suppose I'll go about my business as usual, and you'll go back to yours " Richter completely ignored Emil's perplexed glance. What was that supposed to mean, anyway?
"Umm R-right I guess " Emil stammered. Why was everything so awkward all of a sudden? Well, more awkward than usual Did he do something wrong? "S-so all you needed me for was getting this stone?" Emil pulled the gem from his bag, taking another admiring inspection in the firelight.
"Yep." Richter bluntly declared. Emil was definitely beginning to think that the half-elf's behavior had something to do with him.
"So, umm, y-you're just going to let me k-keep it then? You d-don't want it?"
"That's right all yours " Emil sulked. He was happy to have such a beautiful treasure to keep, but he would have been happier if Richter wasn't so dismissive all of a sudden. He resigned himself to silence, deciding that whatever he had done, he wasn't going to be able to fix it now, no matter how many questions he asked.
They sat for a long time, neither saying a word, until Richter's stomach broke the silence. He sighed as he got to his feet, Emil just noticed how sluggish Richter's movements had become, he looked exhausted. "R-Richter? Are you okay?" Emil cocked his head to the side, trying to catch a glimpse of the half-elf's face.
"Yeah I'm fine " Richter moaned. He was quite obviously not fine. He staggered across toward his supplies; his slow strides were shaky and uncertain. Emil gasped and leaped to his feet as Richter stumbled - a decidedly un-Richter-like motion - before his knees buckled and he collapsed on the cold cavern floor.
"Richter!" Emil rushed to his side, grabbing Richter by the shoulder and rolling him from his side onto his back. Emil was relieved to see that Richter was still conscious, but aggrieved at his friend's apparent pain. Emil stammered out something incoherent, some unrelated, stuttered words and primitive, anxious sounds, as he glanced around him. Aqua was nowhere to be found. It was a relief, since his last experience with the Centurion had ended with her attempting to murder him, but at the same time, he could really use her help. He had never seen Richter like this before. He had seen him wounded before, but his arm couldn't possibly be causing him such pain; the bandage still covered the gash, and the bleeding had ceased. Emil checked Richter's forehead. No fever so there wasn't any sign of infection What could it be?
Richter's breathing was heavy, labored, and that frightened Emil a great deal. He would have liked to ask Richter directly what pained him, but he was afraid that if he coaxed Richter to speak, he might pass out. Emil fidgeted, rubbing his sweaty hands together as he asked himself what he should do. He shifted his attention from random, panicked thoughts to a focused, deep concern; Richter was attempting to lift himself back to his feet again.
"N-no, Richter! Stay put. You shouldn't strain yourself. Just lie down and rest, i-it's okay. I can get whatever you need " Richter continued to force himself upright, supporting himself on his unwounded arm. Shaking, he lifted himself about halfway upright before his body refused to cooperate anymore, he gave an exhausted gasp as his arm crumpled beneath his weight; and he lay, breathless once more, in the same position he had started at, winded from the intense effort. He cursed under his breath, being in such a vulnerable position. He rather wished he had passed out, at least that would be an excuse for not being able to even sit up on his own. He dug his nails into the musty filth on the floor of the cavern, and cursed again, barely able to form his hand into a fist. He had no strength left.
Emil, still unclothed, grabbed his own supplies and tucked them under Richter's head. He grabbed a scrap of paper from his journal and a bit of charcoal from the fire. He turned Richter's hand palm-up, opened his fingers and clasped them in a pencil-grip position around the black piece of burned wood. He placed the paper beneath Richter's wrist and placed Richter's hand upon it, poised in a suitable position so that he could write comfortably.
"J-just write out what you need i-if you can Just try to be brief I'm sure I'll figure it out even if you can't write it completely Do you think you'll be able to manage it? I-I'll come up with something else if you don't think you can. Just d-don't overexert yourself, okay?" Emil went on babbling, not really forming one complete thought, but stringing several together randomly Richter sighed, but willed himself to move his wrist just enough to scrawl out four tiny letters on the worn piece of paper. He dropped the makeshift pencil with a dull clack, which was just enough to grab Emil's attention, even as he continued to mutter something about using the "one blink - yes; two blinks - no" method. Emil slipped the paper out from under Richter's motionless hand, being careful not to smudge it. He had to squint, the letters were wobbly and nearly invisible, not to mention tiny. However, eventually Emil was able to make out a faint 'F', and then a 'D' at the end. He quickly identified the two squiggles in between as two 'O's; then everything just clicked.
"Ah! O-of course! I should have figured it out sooner! I-I'll fix you something right away, Richter!" Nearly tripping over himself, he rushed over to Richter's things, pulling out a few cooking supplies, all the ingredients he could find, and a few gels. Emil picked out a few apple and orange gels and stuffed them back in Richter's bag, rushing them over as quickly as his bare feet could carry him. Setting the bag down, he realized it would probably be a lot easier for Richter to eat if he was sitting upright. The closest wall was well away from the warm firelight and much too far for Emil to carry Richter, who outsized Emil by at least six inches and Emil wasn't the strongest of human boys (or at least, the strongest manifestation of Ratatosk )
However, what Emil lacked in physical prowess, he more than made up for with quick wit and intellect. Seeing neither suitable rocks nor other means of support for the half-elf, he used the only tools he could think of. He grabbed his sword and unsheathed it, then, judging Richter's height, thrust it into the cave floor at a 45-degree angle, and - borrowing Richter's fine blade - did the exact same thing about an inch to the left of his sword. The result was a gentle incline, both the blades lay side by side, the flats of the blades made about a foot wide surface, and Emil gingerly lifted Richter by his underarms, and carefully dragged him the foot or so over to the blades and carefully leaned Richter's upper body against them. It was a proper and ingenious recliner, and Richter seemed more comfortable in the full glow of the warm fire as he lay back on the gentle slope. He sighed contentedly, though still unable to move, and peered at Emil through his exhausted, half-hooded eyes. Forehead sweaty and brow furrowed with mild anguish, he gave Emil a weak smile, it was as good a thank you as he could manage.
It was of little consolation to Emil; Richter's expression rather resembled that of a man on his deathbed, that knowing look that his end was near, and a smile to hide his pain. This was only half-true. Richter indeed attempted to hide his suffering from Emil behind a façade of a grin, but he was far from death. Despite the strain it implemented on his body, having to use his powers as unrehearsed and suddenly as he did, Richter certainly wasn't going to die from it. Still, this was the first time his body had undergone such an unusual regiment, and it was rather perplexed as to what to do with itself. Restore its energy with food, or take the time to sleep off the exhaustion and balance his body again? It didn't know, as most bodies by themselves do not, and was quite fixated on its attempt to do both. He wanted to eat and sleep all at the same time, it was rather annoying, since he would have to sacrifice one for the other after all, how many people do you know who are blessed (or cursed) with the ability to sleep-eat?
It was uncomfortable, but Richter chose to force himself awake, despite his weary eyelids that refused to remain even 50% open, growing heavier and heavier each moment. It was better, he thought, than allowing himself to drift off to sleep for who-knows-how-long Emil might not be able to wake him for days, even if he only intended to sleep for a moment. It took a great deal of effort, but Richter managed somehow
Once he had Richter propped up comfortably - or at least as comfortably as he could make him, after all, the flats of a couple of swords and the cold, damp floor of the cave weren't at all comfortable by any standards - Emil once again removed the gels from Richter's pack. They were certainly no substitute for real food, usually reserved for emergencies because they were convenient and easy to utilize, but Emil hoped they would at least be enough to tide Richter over until he could prepare something more sufficient. He knelt beside Richter, holding out the gels. "Do you think you can manage it yourself ? I-if you can't, I'll understand " Richter cringed as he tried to lift his arm; it felt substantially dense to him, even his fingers were weighted like lead, and all his joints felt rusted, the way a person felled by illness suffers. He struggled to bring his forearm up, but after a few shaky inches, it dropped dully at his side once more. He closed his eyes and sighed; Emil was touched by his expression, the mild undertones of sadness on the usually rigid and stern face was a moving sight, he would have cried if he wasn't so determined not to Perhaps if Aqua was there to tend to Richter in his place, he might have allowed himself to sob, but he couldn't afford to be sensitive and emotional now, not when Richter was depending on his strength.
Emil bit back his tears and did his best to keep a straight face, firmly resolving to stay strong. Tenderly, he slipped his hand beneath Richter's head, his velvety red hair pouring over the edge of the blades, resembling a crimson sanguinary homage. Emil shook his head, forcing the terrible image out of his mind. Why did all these images of death linger in his head? But now was not such a time to delve into that matter Richter needed him. Lifting the half-elf's head ever-so-slightly, he tilted Richter's chin forward, offering the first gel he could pick up, not even bothering to check the type; it didn't really matter, did it? As long as Richter was able to eat it, that was all that mattered
Richter's lips parted, even they were shaky, almost schizophrenic, as though they were struggling to perform several tasks at once. Who would have thought that it took so much effort just to open one's mouth? Emil gulped nervously, he began to worry that Richter wouldn't even be able to swallow on his own. Richter let his jaw go slack, though for him, even that felt forced. Now, Emil was trembling, what was going to happen if Richter couldn't swallow? He had no knowledge of Richter's powers, how they worked, what effects they had on his body, he had no idea what Richter was physically able to do at this point. If it took that much effort to open his mouth - a task that Emil had always thought effortless - would a reflex be any less affected?
Tremulous, Emil lifted the gel to Richter's scarcely open mouth. Pressing it up to Richter's quivering lips, Emil held his breath, apprehensive of Richter's undoubtedly arduous task of getting the pseudo-solid into his mouth through such a narrow opening. Luckily, gels were liquescent , and at the touch of the cool, gelatinous morsel, Richter instinctively began to suck on it, slowly pulling the sweet, semi-fluid substance into his mouth. It's nearly liquid constitution made it easy to fill his mouth without strain, and once he had taken in about half of the grapefruit sized gel, he pinched his lips closed around the mouthful and with some effort, managed to force the slippery food to the back of his throat. He struggled to maneuver his tongue properly; it was as though all his muscle-memory had diminished, but slowly, he was able to move the uncooperative mass of muscle into the right position. Emil was tense with anticipation, watching Richter's face contort as he struggled with his mouthful of gel. Brow furrowed with concentration, Emil watched as Richter forced his body to move the gooey blob of nutrient to the back of his mouth. Richter pressed his tongue against his palate and took a deep breath through his nose; Emil did the same, holding his breath as he carefully watched Richter's expression. Richter subconsciously clinched his eyes shut as he forced his esophagus to relax and the muscles of his tongue to move before his body finally took the cue and, with a loud gulp, he swallowed the glut of food.
Emil breathed a sigh of relief as Richter exhaled deeply, huffing for a moment at the unexpected effort his body had just confronted. It alleviated some of Emil's stress, knowing that Richter could at least swallow on his own, and after waiting a short while for Richter to recover a bit, Emil lifted the rest of the gel to Richter's lips once more.
This time, it was a bit easier on Richter, and he swallowed the second mouthful with less effort. Emil wiped the anxious sweat off his brow, pleased, as Richter seemed to stabilize. He pulled another gel from the bag and lifted it toward Richter's lips; he was glad to see the half-elf was able to fully open his mouth this time. With his body somewhat more cooperative, Richter took in the entire gel in one mouthful and swallowed it with no struggle or effort at all. A faint smile formed on Emil's face as Richter finally seemed to regain some muscle control. Apparently, Richter's body had finally decided what to do itself, and was now entirely focused on eating. His eyelids ceased being heavy and his joints loosened somewhat, he now had the strength to hold his head up on his own. After Emil had fed him the third gel, Richter was able to muster the strength that was needed to lift his hand to his mouth. He gave Emil a grateful smile, and, although his movements were still shaky, he selected a gel from his bag and gingerly lifted it to his eager maw.
Emil giggled as he watched Richter gulp down a fourth, fifth and sixth gel in the same time span it had taken him to eat the first one. He quickly set to work preparing the simplest and fastest meals he knew how to prepare for Richter; after all, those gels wouldn't last for long with an appetite like Richter's to satiate, Emil figured quantity was more important than quality at this moment.
He was right to think so, and before long, the 20 gels that had been in Richter's bag were in Richter's belly. Emil had just barely finished a pan of risotto and potatoes-au-gratin when Richter pushed himself upright with a low grunt.
"F-feeling any better, Richter?" Emil stammered, plating the cheesy rice and potatoes before hurrying them over to Richter.
"Much better, thanks " Richter muttered, adjusting his glasses with his left hand and reaching for the plate with his right. He took in the aroma with a few quick, inconspicuous sniffs. "Mmmm Smells good " and without another word, he quickly began stuffing the gooey, sticky forkfuls of the cheese-coated potatoes and rice one after the other into his mouth.
Emil smiled to himself for a moment, and then realized something that made his hair stand on end and his eyes grow wide. 'Good'? Richter used an adjective that meant something other than 'average' or 'sufficient' to describe my cooking?! Emil trembled with delight; it wasn't what most people would consider praise, but coming from Richter, it was essentially the equivalent of a normal person saying "By the power of Martel, that has got to be the best thing I've ever tasted!" Emil was beaming as he rushed back to the fireside. He had decided right then and there that he was going to prepare all his best recipes and see what kind of response they would elicit. Just as Richter polished off the plateful of starchy comestibles, Emil was eagerly offering him a wide variety of sushi and sashimi*: Onigiri*, Maki-zushi*, Nigiri-zushi*, and even Gunkanmaki*, complete with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger. Richter blinked with surprise, momentarily startled by Emil's overbearingly fervent submission, but all the questions as to why Emil was suddenly so zealous were quickly erased from Richter's mind when his stomach gave a loud reminder that he was, in fact, still quite famished.
He gratefully received the plateful of edibles and commenced with this second course, and Emil was overjoyed to hear Richter subconsciously grunt with approval with each little bite.
"So, umm D-do you do you like the food?" Emil blushed slightly as he forced the question out rather quickly. Richter's mouth was too full to answer, but Emil was gratified beyond words at just the enthusiastic nod and throaty sound of affirmation. Wait Enthusiastic? Richter was capable of being enthusiastic? Emil was starting to think that he and Richter really could be friends. Emil was beyond excited now, a nice change since he was usually trembling with anxiety or fear, and he nearly fell over more than once as he rushed around preparing more and more complex dishes for Richter.
All the while, Richter was eagerly awaiting each serving that Emil brought, regardless of what it was. It might have just been because he was hungry or exhausted or a combination of the two, but whatever it was, somehow Richter felt relaxed for the first time in ages. He felt like all his problems were insignificant, the only things that mattered now were the warmth of the fire and the flavor of the food He had forgotten the pain in his arm, though a twinge would interrupt him briefly if he moved wrong, and for a while, he was completely at peace. Emil had always been a good cook, but for the first time, Richter really noticed how well balanced the flavor was, the texture, the aroma, every inconspicuous detail. Food had never tasted so good; he couldn't remember the last time he had allowed himself to eat so much For the most part, Richter had viewed eating as nothing more than a necessity to live. Ever since Aster had died, he had pretty much lost all enjoyment, especially in mundane things. Food was merely something to keep his body running, like wood for a fire, and he only ever ate what was necessary to keep his body running smoothly. But now, Richter seemed to reawaken to the concept of pleasure, and slowly but surely, his enjoyment for indulgence in food was reborn.
After about the ninth or tenth course, (Richter had stopped counting and Emil hadn't really kept track), Richter was finally starting to feel full. He leaned back once more and, without even thinking, folded his arms over his middle. He was a bit startled when he felt an unusual mass that had never existed before and immediately looked down. He blushed slightly as he realized what it was. His abdomen had become noticeably distended, and he was more than a little embarrassed at his obvious over-indulgence. He shrugged after a moment, supposing that there was nothing he could do about it now, and was just about to doze off when he felt like he was being watched. He peeled one eye open and was nearly startled out of his skin when he was greeted by one of Emil's big, green eyes, mere inches from his face.
"Oh " Emil blinked at Richter, "Are you full now?" Richter looked away and tried not to blush.
"Uhh, yeah I'm sorry about that I shouldn't have let myself eat quite so much " He mumbled, feeling rather self-conscious. Emil just laughed.
"Oh, well I didn't mean it like that! I actually thought you'd want to eat more What a shame " Richter looked at Emil with puzzlement. 'More ?' 'Shame ?' What is he talking about? The half-elf sat up and watched Emil cross the cave, back to where he was cooking before, and followed his return with wide eyes and gaping mouth as Emil brought back a rather large slice of cake. "Look's like I'll just have to eat this cake all by myself then " Richter tried not to make any sort of gesture to reveal how much he really did want to eat more, especially if it was cake, but apparently, Emil correctly read Richter's wide eyed, unwavering stare as an expression of suppressed desire, and Emil more than happily handed the slice to Richter. "Ha, I knew you wanted it " Emil giggled as Richter pined over the moist, chocolaty morsel. He was at the horns of a dilemma, and he fought with logic and instinct for a long moment. I've already eaten too much, he thought, but, the cake smells so good, and Emil already went through all the trouble of making it but no, I really mustn't, I have to control myself although it's not like it'd do any harm to just eat one slice no, no, I really shouldn't, I can't just carry out every whim and desire that springs to mind and just when Richter had finally set his mind to refusing to let himself give in to his self-proclaimed 'foolish instinct', his stomach gave a low grumble that he simply couldn't ignore. Logic was outdone by instinct. Without even thinking, Richter bolted down the slice of cake in one giant mouthful.
Before he had time to regret it, and curse himself for again loosing his composure, he felt additional weight added to his recently empty plate. He glanced up to see another tempting slice of cake had appeared on his plate, and Emil was licking a bit of frosting off of his fingers as he set the knife he was holding onto a large round plate right beside the rest of the massive chocolate dessert. Emil smiled innocently, as though he had nothing to do with the sudden appearance of the cake on Richter's plate, and Richter, again overpowered by instinct, proceeded to gulp down the second slice. Two slices became three, then four, then six, and then before Richter even knew what had happened, the entire cake was gone. Breathing deeply, Richter thwumped down against the makeshift recliner one last time, wholly and happily full and content. Before Emil had the chance to ask if Richter enjoyed the meal, he was fast asleep. Emil shrugged, deciding that the question was pointless anyway, Richter had obviously enjoyed the meal, and he felt foolish for trying to win more praise than was owed.
For a while, Emil just sat and watched Richter sleeping there, the warm firelight beckoning him to a drowsy state as well. He watched Richter's chest rise and fall with each breath and he watched Richter's eyes dance madly beneath his eyelids as he dreamed. Mostly, however, Emil found it impossible to look away from the fleshy mound just below Richter's pectorals. He thought back to when he had been inside of Richter, trying to imagine just how big Richter's stomach must have been while he was inside of it. He suddenly missed being wrapped in a warm, squishy blanket and hearing the beating of Richter's heart and wished to himself that he could once again be curled up inside of Richter's belly. He decided that he should just forget about it ever happening again after all, Richter had only done it because it was an emergency and after seeing the effects it had on his body, Emil thought for certain that Richter wouldn't try something like that again.
Emil sighed and lay down beside Richter. He stared up at the half-elf's face, peaceful and calm, red hair spilling over his shoulder and dangling just in front of Emil's nose. He reached out and fondled a strand of it, admiring the sheen in the flickering firelight. His eyes slowly drifted to Richter's chest, and were thusly drawn again to his protruding stomach. Emil was struck with the sudden, undeniable urge to touch it, for reasons he couldn't explain. Without a thought, he extended his arm, delicate fingers poised at the ready and, being careful not to wake Richter, he gave the half-elf's belly a gentle prod. Emil watched, mesmerized as the slight touch created ripples across the surface of Richter's plump belly. Richter did not stir from his slumber, so Emil edged closer, placing his whole hand on the massive bulge. It was warm from both the extra blood flow and the heat of the fire, and created a soft, welcoming cushion where Emil gratefully nestled his head. With his ear pressed close against Richter's engorged belly, Emil could hear the soft gurgling of Richter's churning stomach as it worked to break down his large meal.
Emil snuggled close against the half-elf, petting Richter's overstuffed middle affectionately. He closed his eyes and listened to the soothing crackling of the fire and the quiet sloshing of Richter's belly before he too drifted to sleep. Once he was undeniably snoozing, Aqua made herself visible. She had been watching the whole time from a distant corner of the cave, determined to see just what exactly it was that Richter saw in Emil, why he cared for him so. She had gotten what she was looking for, reason to keep her promise to Richter. She gently floated down beside her beloved Richter and his beloved Emil. She placed her delicate hand on Emil's head, stroking the blond's hair gently. "I guess I guess you're not such a bad kid after all " she whispered. "You took good care of Master Richter thanks " She disappeared only to reappear on Richter's opposite side, lying down on the soft, cushy belly as well. "And I guess you were right to trust him, Master Richter I think I just might let him live " She closed her ocean-blue eyes and fell into peaceful rest with the two males The three slept together for a long while, but it seemed all too short when they parted again. The events after their waking were awkward and uneventful, each left alone with their respective thoughts, embarrassed for their own private reasons as they prepared to separate again. Their journey out of the cave, through the forest and field and all the way back to where Emil had left Marta and Tenebrae was spent in relative silence. They all tried to push what had happened from their minds, convinced that such events were better left alone, the memories left to decay, never revisited, as such events were unlikely to take place ever again
But the three of them never forgot that experience And they were quite wrong in thinking that it would be the last time such scenarios would occur.
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