“How do you feel, young one?”

Mamoru’s roused from unconsciousness by the noble’s words. He tries to open his eyes, but a cloth is covering them. Sluggish still from the medicine, he reaches up to pull it down.

“Ah, I wouldn’t do that yet,” the noble says, taking Mamoru’s hand. “Your eyes are going to be very sensitive for a bit.”

“What did… you do..?” he mumbles, slowly becoming aware of the dull ache in his chest, the throbbing behind his closed eyelids.

The noble chuckles. “An improvement, and a… tool.” Their voice is amused. “Let’s make sure the tool works.”

Mamoru tries to sit up, confused. “What… what kind of tool–” But he’s cut off as a throbbing replaces the ache, and he gasps, clutching at his chest. His left breast, right over his heart, something’s, something’s moving there, and it’s hot, and it hurts, and Mamoru screams.

“Your training’s already started, little bird,” the noble says. “The first, most important lesson to learn, is silence.” The throbbing stops, and Mamoru doubles over, feeling feverish and weak. “Each time you speak, you will be punished just like that, as a start.”

He shudders, holding a hand over his heart, feeling the stitched-together flesh and some kind of lump there. “What did you do?” he demands again, voice choked, threatening to lock up.

The pain returns, hot and intense, spreading out from his heart to the rest of his body. He screams again, and when it stops, he collapses backwards, breathing heavily.

“Speech will be punished,” the noble repeats. “Nod if you understand, little bird.”

Clenching his jaw to keep himself from speaking, Mamoru nods.

“Good, very good.” The noble sounds pleased. “As for your name… You’ll not need the one from your old life anymore. Your new eye color, your hair…”

“They remind me of a bird called a grackle.”


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