Volume 4 - Criminal Crow, Chapter 23 - Living the Wild Life
Wherever Haru and Yuisu were headed after the mall, it must have been nearby, since they just dropped their purchases off in Yuisu’s truck and kept walking. The couple made their way down 8th Street and Mara, Misaki, Yamato and Agent Will followed along about a block behind. Before long, they had entered the nightlife part of town, filled with bars, nightclubs, and pachinko parlors.
Haru and Yuisu considered a few different bars and clubs, then entered a nightclub called Wild Life. Over the door was a bright neon sign of a furry and claw-tipped hand holding a beer bottle. They weren’t surprised to find a photo of Korbin the kobold in the entryway, proclaiming him the owner and founder of the club.
As soon as Agent Will saw where Haru and Yuisu had gone, he put his arms out to block the way. “Well, that’s the end of the line, you three. Time for you to head back home.”
Mara said, “What? Why? I want to follow them into that club!”
Agent Will patted Mara on the head. “I’m sure you do, and maybe you could, since you’re twenty years old, but these two,”—he pointed at Misaki and Yamato— “are too young to get inside.”
Misaki tucked her folded wings under her chin and frowned. “It’s true. I’m only seventeen, and Yamato’s only eighteen.”
Agent Will turned to Yamato. “Can I trust you to take Mara home? Feel free to send me a receipt for a tank of gas and I’ll reimburse you.”
“Sure thing, Agent Will,” Yamato said, then ushered Mara and Misaki back towards his car. “Let’s get you home, Mara. I’m sure Tsuen’s worried about you.”
Mara lit up. “You really think so?”
Agent Will waved goodbye and started towards the Wild Life nightclub. Thanks to his all-purpose black suit, the club’s dress code was no problem. As he stepped inside he thought, I’ve been curious about how the liminal-centric businesses in town were doing, so this’ll serve double duty.
It was only a bit after 9PM, so the club wasn’t very busy yet. A handful of liminals and humans sat at the bar and in booths along the walls. The center of the room was a large lowered dance floor lit by spinning colored lights, but no one was dancing yet.
Haru and Yuisu sat down at the bar, which was stocked with a huge variety of beer bottles. It seemed the Wild Life specialized in beer rather than cocktails. Haru waved a wing at the bartender and he ran over quickly. He had short black hair and seemed to be a regular human.
“What’ll you ladies be having this fine night?”
“I’ll have an Asahi Super Dry,” Yuisu said, then looked over at Haru.
“Hmm… Got anything… ‘meatier’?” she asked with a shrug.
“We don’t have any carnivore-specific brews in yet, but we’ve got an imperial stout that might fit that description. It’s hefty, dark, and it’s got a chewy mouthfeel.”
Haru nodded and smiled, showing her sharp teeth, “Sure, I’ll try that.”
The bartender leaned over. “Can I just see some IDs, please?”
They slid their IDs over to him. He read both and saw that Haru’s ID listed Yuisu as her host. “Ah good, you’re host and homestay. Saves me another question. I’ll get those beers right up.”
The bartender returned with their beers in frosted pint glasses. Haru and Yuisu sipped at their drinks, made small talk, and observed the other bar patrons for a while. Yuisu, encouraged by the alcohol, really wanted to kiss Haru, but she held herself back. Stupid law. What’s even the point of a liminal-human nightclub with that dumb law in place?
After a bit, the club turned up the volume of the music and people trickled onto the dancefloor. While a particularly lively EDM song was playing, a gap suddenly formed in the dancers. They stepped back and formed a circle around a single woman that was moving gracefully, perfectly in tune to the beat.
From her vantage point at the bar, Yuisu could see the woman clearly. At first she looked human, but as she spun around, Yuisu noticed several things. First, sticking out of the back of her skimpy green club dress was a long, scaly tail that curled into a spiral at the end. Second, she had two small horns protruding from her forehead. Third, and strangest of all, the color of her skin was changing in beat with the music, and it wasn’t just the dance floor lighting.
Yuisu elbowed Haru, and half-yelled to be heard over the music, “Holy crap. I think that girl’s changing colors!”
Haru watched for a moment as the girl cycled through blues, reds, greens, and everything in between. The color changed in waves from the tips of her fingers and her spiky gelled hair down her body to the tip of her tail. Haru nodded back. “Wow, yeah, she is. Must be a Chameaonide.”
Yuisu leaned closer. “A what?!”
Haru mouthed it out slowly, trying to time the syllables between beats of the loud music, “Ka-may-oh-nide, like a chameleon. I’ve only ever heard of them. I guess they're related to Lizardfolk”
Yuisu didn’t fully hear that last part, since she was already focused on the girl again. The combination of her fluid dance movements, shifting skin colors, and revealing club dress was hypnotizing. The spectrum of colors ran over her bare shoulders and back, and across her exposed hips and legs. The busy nightclub faded away until the only thing Yuisu could perceive was this one mysterious woman, and all that mattered was seeing more of her.
“...su. Earth to Yuri-su!”
The trance broke and the world came crashing back in around her. Yuisu shook herself to clear her head. “Huh? What was that, Haru?”
“It’s a little rude to zone out and undress other girls with your eyes when I’m right here, Yuri-su…”
“Sorry, sorry. Wait, Chiyoko’s got you using that nickname too?”
Haru grinned. “Yep. It’s just so fitting sometimes, it’d be wrong not to use it.” Haru grabbed Yuisu’s hand and pulled her towards the dance floor. “But forget about that. I want to dance!”
Neither Haru’s nor Yuisu’s dancing skills could hold a candle to the chameleon girl’s amazing moves, but they didn’t care. They both danced up a sweat, until Haru suddenly grabbed Yuisu by the arm and dragged her off the dance floor. “Sorry, Yuisu. I suddenly don’t feel so goo—”
A man’s voice cut her off. “Hey there, ladies. Looking fine tonight.” A tall, lean man with short cropped hair blocked their way.
Another shorter man with unkempt hair and a mustache approached from the side, wearing a sinister grin. “I ain’t normally one for freaky wings and claws, but when she got a booty like that, I’d hit it jus’ the same.”
Haru was already in a bad mood, thanks to her upset stomach. Haru looked the tall man in the eyes and growled, “I’m not interested. Let me by.”
He smirked back at her. “Oh, the monster girl wants past me? What are you gonna do if I don’t let you go? I know that the Interspecies Protection Act says you can’t hurt me. You wanna risk getting deported?”
Haru’s eyes narrowed like gleaming blades and she tapped her talons on the floor menacingly. She snarled, “You wanna risk getting disemboweled?”
Yuisu tugged at Haru’s wing, pleading, “Calm down, Haru, please…”
Meanwhile, Agent Will spotted the altercation from where he was lurking in a booth near the front door. He called out, “Brutus! Kyle! We’ve got a situation over here!”
Two bouncers, both wearing tight black t-shirts stretched over their bulging muscles, ran over to Agent Will. “Hey, I didn’t know you were here tonight, Agent Will. I woulda bought your drink!” the blond human bouncer said.
The other bouncer was an orc, a hulking liminal with a pig’s face. On his way past, he slapped the human across the back and said, “Shut up, Brutus. Now’s not the time for chatting. I see the trouble over there.”
They sprinted across the room to where the men were hassling Haru and Yuisu. As the bouncers closed in, they heard the short man say, “Ooh, I like ‘em feisty. Maybe there’s more to like about these monster girls than I thought…”
Just then, Brutus forced himself between the two sleazeballs and Haru, his arms spread wide. “Break it up, break it up! You don’t want me to get physical on you.”
The tall man sneered. “Who’s gonna stop this psycho harpy?”
“I am,” Kyle said, stepping into view and straightening to his full height of 7 feet. With one massive hand, the orc grabbed Haru gently around the middle, then lifted her and set her down a few feet away. He looked between Haru and the two men. “Now are we all done here?”
The short man glared up at the orc bouncer and mumbled, “Ugly freak,” under his breath.
Brutus grabbed him by the shirt. “Big talk for someone that could pass for an orc, if you weren’t so tiny. Let’s go, you’re outta here.”
The taller man yelled, “This is bullshit! Why aren’t you doing anything to that bitch? She threatened me, you know!”
Without breaking stride, Brutus grabbed the man by the collar and pulled both men along towards the front door. They struggled feebly, but they weren’t any match for the bulky 6-foot-5 bouncer.
Kyle stayed with Haru and Yuisu. “Are you both alright?” When they nodded, he added, “Now be honest here, who started it?” Buried under his heavy brow and behind his pig-like snout, he had kind-looking blue eyes.
Yuisu stepped forward and put a reassuring hand on the small of Haru’s back. “They did. We were leaving the dance floor when they blocked us off.”
Kyle smiled. “That figures. Sorry for the trouble, and I hope you won’t think any less of the Wild Life.”
Yuisu smiled back. “I think even more of it now. Thank you for stepping in. Sadly, we’re gonna leave now, since Haru isn’t feeling well. We’ll be back again, for sure.”
After a whispered conversation with Haru about where she wanted to go, Yuisu guided Haru out the front door.
Haru flashed a sickly smile, “Sorry for ruining the night, Yuisu.”
“None of that was your fault. Let’s get you home, and I can nurse you back to health,” Yuisu said with a grin.
On the drive home, Haru described the various symptoms she was feeling. Yuisu recognized them from seeing people go through the same thing back in school.
“The good news is, I know what’s wrong, and it isn’t severe. The bad news is, I caused it.”
Haru tilted her head 90 degrees. “Huh?”
“It sounds like you’re lactose intolerant, and I made you try that frozen yogurt. It makes sense really, since raptor harpies don’t normally eat milk products.”
“At least we—” Haru was interrupted by her stomach gurgling loudly. After a moment of discomfort, she resumed, “At least we know about it now. No lactose for me, I guess,” she said with a frown. She had actually kind of liked that frozen yogurt, after all.
While Yuisu drove, she patted Haru’s shoulder with one hand. “I’m sorry Haru, for making you feel sick.”
“It’s fine. The rest of the night was divine.” After a moment of quiet, Haru casually added, “Oh, I assume you didn’t notice, but Mara and Misaki were totally tailing us for part of the night.”
“What!?” Yuisu turned to look at Haru in shock, but then turned back and focused on the road. “Really?”
“Yup. Though, they had Yamato and Agent Will with ‘em, so I’m sure they didn’t get into too much trouble.”