[Of Tales and Tastes] The Candymaker - Chapter 3 & 4
Of Tales and Tastes
The air filled itself with a warm and comfortable taste. With nothing but its open mouth exposed, the monster took in a great gulp of air, and its senses were struck by an avalanche of calcium. The creamy pleasure of warm milk, sweetened with tossed sugar and impotent fear, provided by the flames of the burning Kaguya. Skin and bone fusing together in fleshy caramel, a brick red, orange and golden spectacle of despair, sweet despair.
The constantly orange diffuse light signaled the approach of twilight inside the settlement. As he walked down the streets, Ota would stop and chat with the villagers, keeping in touch with their needs and worries. The Candymaker had been a constant topic of conversation for quite some time, yet, regardless of the panic, he would always be able to comfort them. His handsome figure and calm ways served perfectly to keep the peace within the settlement and secure his position as leader. He ended a conversation with 2 gigglish women, giving them a tender smile and a soft squeeze to their hands (Which were nonchalantly caressing his muscled arms) , which only served to pull out even louder and more squeaky noises. The reason was not that the girls were a bad company, I mean, they were pretty and all that, but neither had even a couple of neurons to rub on each other, let alone keep a relatively interesting conversation.
No, he ended it because he noticed the recent influx of new faces, arriving to the main gates. As if synchronized, the Kaguya and the Hozuki came at the same time. Ota looked at them impassibly. If there were ever two groups of people more different than the other, they wouldn't be from the same species. The Kaguya dressed in all milky white, their marble skin pale under the mist. They moved about in a formal and organized manner, as if dancing a very bitter and controlled routine. Their creamy faces were locked in a cold expression, calmed and poised, yet their eyes expressed an unknown sourness and rage, a wild threat of war. On the other side, the Hozuki dressed in blue, same shade as their grease-filled hair, combed sleek and tight. Their watery skin was pale, and their manners poor, with all the grace of cooked toad. They carried themselves arrogantly and demanding, yet eyes spell sleazy and spoiled smarts, not to be truffled with. Their leaders were the culmination of all these characteristics, leaving one to wonder if the head of the clan is the personification of the clan, or if the clan becomes a reflection of its head. Ota rubbed the sulk of his nose and closed his eyes in thought, inhaling deeply before resuming his calm expression, turning on the signature smile and approaching the guests.
"Hozuki Ayu, Kaguya Kemono, I savor your arrival. And so soon, it's not even past sunset"
"Temujin Otaghen, is it not best to arrive sooner rather than later?"
"Yeh Yeh, presentations’re done. We're here, I assume we can start plannin’ right away?"
The smile that came from being greeted sooner than the Kaguya savage quickly faded when the same spoke before him. And Ayu knew the step forward he took was only to make himself seem more important, and he wouldn't have any of that. So he stepped forward.
"We could, but since we meet so early, why not invite the both to eat?"
"Gratitude, Temujin Otaghen. I shall-"
"Yes, dinner’s a good idea, I-"
"As I was mentioning, I-"
"Oh, but I-"
"Gentlemen, gentlemen, let's not get too spiced up. I believe the point was made, and our conversation shall resume over the table"Ota courteously smiled to both, and took a step back, finally regain an healthy personal space from the far too close guests. Things are not tasting too good, his only hope was that they wouldn't ruin the food. And it was in that train of thoughts that he heard the piercing and accusatory tone of the Hozuki woman.
"So, we're havin’ a lunch. Good, I was starvin’."
The three men turned around to see Milia standing alongside a clearly Kaguya general. Ota motioned to speak but Ayu was quicker.
"What in the world do ye think ye are"
"I’m the new Hozuki general, haven't you heard?"
The sleazy man's face swelled purple with outrage and, at a loss of words, he raised his hand to beat her, before a commanding voice stopped him on his track.
A chill ran through the Hozuki man's spine, and he swallowed dry, as if all water was vanished from his mouth, leaving behind a bitter taste of hesitation. Ota gave a step and put his hand on the girl's shoulder, never breaking his glare.
"Otaghen. Are you messin’ with my clan's business?"
Ayu clenched his hand into a fist, and lowered it, trying to regain composure, but unable to remove the bitterness and dryness of his mouth, under the glare of the settlement's leader.
"Not unless costumes conflict. She is my guest, disrespecting her is disrespecting me.
Both man glared at each other, Ota menacing through his calm, Ayu threatening through his fury, until the Kaguya leader stepped in, with all the posture and formality of his clan, and the commanding threat of his glare.
"I did not come here to bear witness to childish brawl. Do not deliberately waste my time"
While not breaking the tension, Kemono's words forced both men to stop their argument. Ayu released the tension on his clenched fists and, with a last fulminating glare to Ota and Milia, he pushed through the hall gates, towards the table area. Kemono glanced towards the Kaguya general and went through the gates, which prompted the general to follow. Without a word of gratitude, the Hozuki woman passed through the gates, hiding the kunai she had pulled in secrecy, prepared to strike down any aggressor.
Ota rubbed the sulk of his nose and closed his eyes in thought. He inhaled deeply before resuming his calm expression, turning on the signature smile and pushing through the gates.
As it breathed, it tasted the air. The dark town was filled with the flavor of fear. The night had become like that. Just around the corner, the flavor of fear was encased in an aggregation of others, as it savored a growing watery sweetness, a fragile taste of a woman. It approached her soundless, until its exposed mouth was so close he could feel her organism moving, her hormones running through her iron blood, the oxygen and water vapor inhaled, and constantly higher frequencies, and the energizing flavor of adrenalin kicking in, as she suddenly saw it standing in front of her. She fled, her taste increased.
Otaghen was the last to enter the dining hall, where all the guests were sitting down. The hall wasn't spacious or lush, yet held a table big enough to sit several trays of bog boar. Sitting at the head of the table, he placed himself between both clan leaders. The only gesture of courtesy came from the Kaguya general, yet he froze in his chair when Kaguya Kemono glanced at him. The tension was still in the area, yet, as Ota sat down, it started to became less sour. He smiled at the giant woman in front of the kitchen door who, blushing deeply, started yelling inside for the food to be brought over.
It was Ota's mission throughout the lunch to keep the conversation flowing and the spirits sweet, and he carried it magnificently, amidst the sake plates and mouth-watering pork. Even Ayu had opened up, the warm haze of alcohol flushing his cheeks and lightning his social skills. It was Kemono, though, who broke the idle conversation, as he spoke.
"Enough with the pleasantries. We have important matters at hand to attend to."
Ota smiled as he touched the corners of his mouth with the cloth of the table.
"Yes, gentlemen. If you may..."
He rose up and stretched his hand to the large woman. She quickly brought a map, which he open on top of the table, pushing past the fleshless ribs of bog boar, and the half drank bottles of warm sake.
"Ye’re goin’ to do business drunk?"
Ayu's eyebrow twitched at the piercing accusation of the Hozuki woman, yet, this time, Ota got first word.
"Obviously, business can't be done sober"
Kemono's silent agreement was shown by serving another plate of sake to himself. Everyone quickly followed, excluding Milia, in a disapproving pout. The map showed the Otafuku peninsula, and the location of the Yuugyo settlement, as well as the villages of both Clans. Crosses of bright red were marked all over these areas, signaling the attacks of the Candymaker. They totaled over twenty, in a joint population of a little less than a hundred. Every face in the room twitched in anger, as if each cross was an abominable enemy. Ota drew his finger on the map, pointing towards the Kaguya village, which promptly returned Kemono and his general to an impassible and unreadable expression.
"This was the last sighted attack of the Candymaker."
"I concur with that"
There had been more sightings of attacks to each of the clan, including the Kaguya, but they remained within the secrecy of the higher ups. Only those handled poorly or sighted by a different clan or a settlement villager would get reported. The iron-bone clad Kaguya clan mastered the game of secrecy until recently, giving rise to the "first" Kaguya death within the clan, as witnessed by an Hozuki diplomat.
"Although it is seemingly random, the Candymaker's oldest attacks were made within the settlement, and were then spread out across the peninsula"
"O’course, the Candymaker came from the settlement"
"Or it came from the mainland, Ayu."
"I figured you'd say that, Otaghen, yet it's clear it's because of yer poor defenses that the Candymaker’s able to live"
"Yuugyo is a commercial settlement, a merchant and fisherman town. It is not a fortress!"
"It matters not it’s provenance, it matters only where currently resides."
Ota and turned his eyes from Ayu, who had stood up in half-drunken rage.
"Yes, Kemono, I agree. Although it seems to spread across the region, it seems to concentrate across the western wall of the settlement, and it's probably through there that it spread to the closest clan village"
He nodded to Ayu, who sat in a displeasing glare.
"And it is most likely from there that it spread to the peninsula. It seems to be making a liner path, even though it branches out every time it reaches a town. It's not like the attacks on the settlement stopped when it reached the Hozuki, and they most likely will not stop in both villages after reaching the Kaguya, which makes me think he must be in a relatively centered position, freely moving against any village."
"It is still a large area to survey."
"Yeh, are ye suggestin’ we look through every hole an’ tree in this forsaken mist?"
"Not in the night. But through the day, when the Candymaker doesn't attack, I think it beats standing around doing nothing. What is that?"
A loud scream pierced the room, coming from outside. Alarmed, the men and woman rose from their chairs. They quickly ran to the street, where chaos ensued, people screaming of the Candymaker.
Ayu couldn't help but smile.
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