The picnic ended rather unremarkably. Mom tried to convince everyone that it would be a good idea to go hiking through the woods. Thankfully, I didn’t need to speak up at all, as it was generally agreed upon by all of her children that this was not something we were willing to do. Since Kio seemed to not push my patience anymore after the debacle with Ivy and Maya, I decided to leave it.
That wasn’t to say I didn’t have my own plans though. “Mother, I’ll need to stop here.”
I gestured at a store I noticed us passing. It was the store I had planned to head to today anyway before Mother interrupted me with her plans for a picnic. Perhaps, I could still save this day and be able to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish.
“An organic store?” Mother asked.
“I don’t want to go there!” Kio made a face.
“If we do not go there, then I will not have the supplies needed to make that acne cream you want,” I explained.
“Ah!” She turned at shot me a glare, but then didn’t say anything else.
“Alright, we’ll go.” Mom seemed to take her silence as acceptance, while Hina only gave me a side look and didn’t say anything.
When we pulled up, Mom and my sisters ended up joining me in the store. Mom grabbed a cart, but I grabbed my own handle basket instead. Mother appeared to want to pick up some things, and even Kio was eyeing a location called weight loss. Kio wasn’t particularly fat though; it was just that her body structure was off. That didn’t mean I didn’t understand. Even in my world, women were always conscious about their weight. This was why I was willing to humor Lana, who needed such weight loss.
Even after I had gotten the reputation for being a child killer, I found desperate women would occasionally come to my tower, having heard I was a flesh mage and desiring a bodily change. I could help them lose a few pounds or fix a hump in their back, but few were satisfied with that. They began to want more and more changes, and when it came to the face, I was severely lacking. After I ruined a few women’s faces, I realized that being a flesh mage wasn’t enough.
I decided to spend ten years sculpting, truly growing to understand the concept of beauty. When I realized the truth, I found myself very disappointed. Beauty seemed to come from familiarity. People liked things that reminded them of other things. The water reminded them of the sounds of amniotic fluid in the womb, so they enjoyed the sounds of streams and waterfalls and considered them beautiful. When it came to faces, the most normal face was considered the most beautiful. Well, by the time I became good at doing faces, I had gained a reputation for disfiguring women, and even after finding and fixing a few of the women I had wronged, they didn’t thank me and continued to spread hateful rumors.
It wasn’t difficult breaking off from the other girls. I had my list of things I had needed. I had used the internet to the best of my ability and found this store had the most ingredients that I could use for my magic. It was called a health food store, although it contained a ton of elixirs, mostly in pill form, which claimed to be able to do anything from improving skin to curing headaches. Some of them might even work to an extent, but once I got my hands on them, I was confident I could do even more.
I walked around grabbing a large assortment of different items, fulfilling the various requirements. As I did so, I added up the tallies on a sheet of paper and pen I had thought to bring. However, I had underestimated the price of some of the items, and I was only 1/3rd of the way through when I found my paycheck already consumed.
As I was thinking about what to put back and what to keep, I turned the corner and ended up face-to-face with a familiar person.
“Aiko!” Skylar let off a noise of surprise. “You’re here?”
“Is it that remarkable?” I frowned.
We were only a dozen or so blocks from the workplace. It wasn’t like we lived in different cities. The chances of the pair of us randomly running into each other outside of work didn’t come off as that surprising. As I was speaking to her, a large, meaty arm suddenly wrapped around her shoulder. Her face that was surprised turned slightly white.
“Yo, Aiko.” A tall, muscular guy spoke up. “You’re still alive? After you’ve been gone for so long, the guys have been discussing who will get your locker!”
I only gave him an ancillary glance. Of course, I didn’t know who he was, but he seemed to know who I was. This was unfortunate. I had made my agreement with Ivy to avoid these kinds of situations, but this was outside of school, so I would just have to bear with it.
“You know Aiko?” Skylar seemed a bit surprised by this.
“What are you saying? We share two classes together.” The guy chuckled. “Don’t we?”
He reached out and punched my shoulder. It was enough to cause pain, but I didn’t let it show on my face. He had a similar size to some of the demons I knew, but his punch was weak. It wouldn’t even bruise me.
“Of course.” I lied. “Are you here for some muscle supplements?”
He blinked and then grinned. “You guessed it. The coach wants me to gain another twenty pounds in muscle before our first game. I suppose you’re hoping to bulk up too?”
I had noticed a jar in his hands that said muscle mass and jumped to my conclusion. As for his response, I had a subtle feeling it was making a dig at my size. The demons used to also mock me for being small relative to them, so it wasn’t like this was something that bothered me. If anything, his attitude was a bit familiar to me. Big and dumb, it felt a bit nostalgic.
“You can never be too young to worry about your health,” I responded in a noncommittal way, making him blink.
He then looked at Skylar who had grown silent, and also had her head down, and then his eyes narrowed on me. “How do you know Skylar?”
“We work…” I began, but then noticed Skylar’s eyes widen and an imperceptible shake of her head,” near each other.”
I changed what I was going to say, hopefully covering up the slip enough. I wasn’t sure why she didn’t want him to know why we worked together, but a second later I had a good clue.
“You know Skylar works at the slut shop?” He asked, far too loud for a public place.
“Shhh!” Skylar’s face turned red and she hissed a whisper. “It’s not… that. It’s just an adult shop.”
“So, you seen her walk in and out too?” He laughed. “I just turned 18 last week, and I was going to go into the slut shop just for kicks, and then I see a girl from school walkout! I was totally surprised.”
As he spoke, Skylar had a miserable expression on her face. Even though his arm was around her, it was clear that she didn’t have much affection for him. That was none of my business though. I was just looking to leave the conversation as quickly as possible.
“Okay,” I responded simply.
“He just asked me out yesterday.” Skylar declared suddenly. “While I was closing up, he suddenly appeared.”
The tone of her voice seemed to suggest she wanted me to know that this was a sudden thing. I suppose she did say she had nothing planned this weekend. To only come back a day later with a date, she probably felt like I might accuse her of lying.
“It is fine, I understand,” I reassured her, trying to use that as my opportunity to end the conversation.
“No, wait!” Before I could take a step, Skylar had reached out a grabbed my arm.
I looked back at her, and she appeared as startled as I by her sudden outburst. She immediately let go of my arm, but her boyfriend whose name I still didn’t know was glaring now. His eyes suddenly lit up as he had finally realized something.
“Did you have intentions on my girl?” He asked.
“Daryl!” Skylar glared at him in shock.
He looked at her and then laughed. “Oh, I see, he was going to blackmail you into a date, and you’re afraid he’ll tell everyone your dirty little secret now that you’re with me?”
“That’s not it…” She responded, but her voice was weak, and lacked confidence.
He reached out a grabbed my shirt. “Hey, you think I’d let some pervert like you try to blackmail my girl?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Is what you’re doing any different?”
Skylar looked away with a look of shame on her face. I mostly could guess the situation from this. Maybe he didn’t flat out say that she had to go on a date with him, but she would have been very pressured to do so after he just revealed he knew her secret. Although I didn’t care much for my reputation, I understood enough at this point to grasp that a young woman working at such a shop could damage her image.
“When did you start getting so ballsy?” His expression twisted, his hand balling up into a fist as he raised it. “I’m going to show you your place.”
“S-stop…” Skylar had a horrified expression, and she was grabbing his arm but wasn’t able to successfully get him to let go of me.
Just as it looked like he was going to let his fist fly, a voice came from behind him. “What do you think you’re doing?”
I glanced over his shoulder to see my mom standing there, a frown on her face. Daryl didn’t even look back at her. He let go of my shirt and then smoothed it out.
“Nothing… I was just admiring his shirt. Come on, Skylar.” He grabbed her, and hand, which was easy because she was still holding onto him, and then dragged her.
As he passed by me, he bumped into my shoulder, pushing me into the shelf. I acted as well, my hands moving with a blurring speed. As he walked by, Skylar gave me one last worried look, but then she was pulled out of my sight. As soon as they were passed, Mom ran up to me.
“Aiko! What was that about? You’re not getting into fights with boys at school, are you?”
I smiled at her. “It’s okay, Mom. I know my limits. You don’t need to worry about me.”
Mom stopped short for a second, a bit stunned at my response. I quickly cleared my face of my smile. I had allowed myself to enjoy the moment a bit too much and acted strangely. That’s what I was thinking, but suddenly Mom teared up.
“You’re still capable of smiling,” she said. “I thought my baby boy was gone forever and replaced with a teenager. Come, hug mommy?”
I found the bully much easier to deal with than my mother. I was used to dealing with creatures like him. They were a reckless and stupid lot. They never paid attention to things and were always convinced they were right. For example, this guy hadn’t noticed that his muscle mass stuff looked extremely familiar to a colon cleanser on the shelf next to me.
“Honey? Do you have everything you need?” Mom asked.
I put a bottle of muscle mass on the shelf. I suspected that he was going to take some before he began his date was Skylar, and I also suspected that date wouldn’t be going very far. It was unlikely I’d ever see the outcome of my actions, but it was sometimes nice to enjoy the little things.
“Yeah, Mom. Let’s go.”