“Ow, son of a -”
The sudden jolt of the coach car sent Luric's head in collision with the cold, hard window frame, and the sharp flash of pain on the left side of his skull made him forget the nightmare he had been having just moments earlier.
He rubbed his concussed skin through his disheveled, thick locks while a low hiss escaped his lips. Still a little drowsy, Luric slowly became aware of the violent way the wagon was now wobbling; a sure sign that the train had left the even plains of the Anlalize province and was now chugging down the old, worn out tracks of the north-western highlands. Home sweet home, he thought sourly while looking at the dreary landscape.
Luric had been eagerly waiting for a chance to be sent back here for years- the Institute choosing him over his more experienced colleagues due to his familiarity with the region- but his excitement had subsided quite a bit over the course of the long journey.
He dimly recalled the dreadful dream filled with angry, accusing faces and then the brutal way he had been awoken from it, his mood darkening further. But then he also remembered why he had dreamed of the angry, accusing faces, who they were angry with and the reason behind their accusations, and he felt his zeal to see this endeavor through successfully return. No, he would not allow anything to spoil this for him.
“Your face is unpleasant.”
Sitting on the bench opposite of him, posture stiff and expression stern, was his companion. Her presence on this trip had been compulsory. Or so his boss had insisted when he protested. He had still tried to change his mind until the last moment.
“I know quite a few women who would strongly disagree with you on that.” He shot her his most feral smirk, wondering if he should let a little bit of fang peak between his lips to add to her discomfort.
“That's not what I meant,” she said rigidly. “Can't you feel it?”
He looked at her confused, but then took notice of how her eyes were wide with alertness, shoulders raised with tension, how her hands that were nestled in her lap had balled into tight fists. She tried to hide it, but her entire body was poised for either fight or flight, and he tried to suss out what had triggered this reaction. There was no immediate danger he could sense and right now it was him she was staring at intently.
That made him pause.
He turned back to the window, but this time instead of looking through the glass out into their surroundings he focused on the faint, transparent reflection of his face, and he finally understood what she meant.
Whether it had been the nightmare or him hitting his head or both combined, he didn't know, but something had triggered his fight or flight response and for him that meant something else entirely. Forget a little bit of fang- he had brought out both rows of white, razor sharp teeth, his canines gleaming menacingly as his jaw dropped a bit. How had he not felt them when he spoke just now? His eyes had bulged too, pupils unnaturally dilated and irises now a just a thin ridge of bright yellow. Even his ears had turned a little pointy. Unpleasant, indeed.
“Sorry about that,” he mumbled in her direction, and then focused on retracting his monstrous features.
It wasn't hard; not much of the beast had seeped through. There was only a sliver of agitated force vibrating around his skin, a feeling he had become so used to that it was no surprise it could move past his barriers and out into the open without him noticing when his mind was too preoccupied or his heart too perturbed. Still, it shouldn't have happened. Not to a Graduate. And definitely not in front of someone who was tasked to monitor his conduct and report back to his boss.
She wasn't looking at him anymore, head turned pointedly towards the window, but eyes too unfocused to claim there was anything of interest to her outside. Luric frowned. If this was all it took to make her so uncomfortable, then she was definitely in the wrong line of work.
He closed his eyes, let a long-practiced calmness wash over him, then reached out towards and around the edges of his essence, and slowly started to push back the prickly energy he found there, radiating outwards. He pushed and pushed until it dwindled and disappeared somewhere within the deepest part of his being, taking the fangs and the yellow eyes and pointy ears with it.
There, all better.
She only turned her head a little to look at him, nodded once, and then shifted her gaze back to the window, shoulders still tense. It would seem that calming down didn't come as easily to her. Unfortunately, that would likely reflect on her assessment of him.
He sighed and leaned against the cushioned backrest of his seat, aware again of his aching head. Suddenly, a long-forgotten memory dislodged itself from the crevice of his mind, and the new-found irony almost made him laugh. Back then, when he had been riding these same tracks out of the high lands, he also had an injured head. That particular bump, though, had been courtesy of a special perpetrator. Recalling his face - recalling all of their faces - made him feel that initial excitement return, though not without a healthy dose of resentment. Beneath his skin, the beast's energy simmered tepidly.