Tondzaosha Police Station
Kruhl glanced down at herself and swallowed. For the first time since her transformation, she wore clothes that fit, but she wouldn’t say she liked them. They displayed her body in ways that made her cheeks feel as if they were aflame.
She tugged at the thick fabric which hugged her breasts and sank her teeth into her lower lip. The short sleeveless tunic, Serena had called a vest, was a soft shade of pink, and made of a material that might have been some kind of leather.
Six metal-lined holes, called grommets, adorned the front, and a string made of the same fabric as the tunic was woven through them. It ended about two-thirds of the way down the front of the garment, leaving a fair bit of her abdomen exposed. The bottom of the vest ended just above her navel.
Her black belt, thicker but of the same material as the vest, sported an over-sized metal buckle, fastened through a double set of metal eyelets. Though the former warrior king could not fathom why, the grommets ringed the entire length of the belt.
The tight-fitting ‘jeans’ were almost as bad as the vest. Overall, Kruhl did not find them too cumbersome for day to day use, but they would limit her range of motion in combat. Gaping tears exposed the flesh around both of her knees and portions of her upper legs. She had supposed the garment was damaged when Serena had first handed it over to her, but much to her consternation, the Van den Broeke matriarch revealed that it was, in fact, intended to be that way.
She wore black boots which came up to her mid-calf. They sported several buckles with no discernible purpose. She scowled and peered down her shirt, though her chest was now enshrouded in what she now knew was called a brassiere, the undergarment was visible even from her vantage point and she could see the crack between her breasts protruding beneath the vest.
She felt ridiculous, but as she peered down at her form, she realized that there was a certain visual appeal to her ensemble. She swallowed and turned away, shaking her head and growling under her breath. You are Kruhl, Son of Wurdan, she reminded herself, you will not succumb to the allure of this flesh. You are not some simpering doe-eyed human girl, you are a warrior of great renown.
Though she moved towards the door with quick steps, both fists clenched at her side, she experienced an unexpected pang of regret just before slipping out of the room.
Agent van den Broeke found her in the hallway just a moment later. The taller woman flattened her lips and folded her arms over her breasts. “We need to talk.”
Kruhl nodded, regarding Amy with gleaming cat’s eyes. “Yes, we do.”
Amelia held her hand out, directing the shorter woman toward the room she’d just vacated. Kruhl released a weary sigh and spun around on the balls of her feet, before popping the door back open and stepping inside. The agent followed her in and closed it behind her.
Kruhl studied the eldest Van den Broeke sibling for several long moments, before slipping atop a bed. When she was seated, she turned her eyes on Amelia once more. The agent did not take a seat, instead she kept her arms tucked over her chest and regarded the once-king between narrowed eyes.
“Listen Kruhl, I don’t know exactly how to say this, but while I realize you have a bigger stake than any of us in this, I think maybe it would be best if you sat this one out.”
Kruhl blinked, but did not speak. Instead, she rocked her head back and forth, a scowl creasing her delicate features. When at last she spoke, it was in a quiet, halting tone. “That would seem the wisest course of action.”
Her stomach lurched and the tiny woman cupped her face with both hands, tears streaking her face. She was pathetic, a sad shell of her former self. She was weak and entirely useless on the battlefield. Her father would weep to see his son in such a state. Still, despite everything, she had assumed she would fight alongside the agent when they at last faced off against Leoffa. It seemed… wrong.
She glanced up at the agent, eyes burning with fire even as tears soaked her cheeks. “No! I must be there, I must see this through to the end. I would never be able to live with myself, if I did not.”
“Look, I understand, but—”
“But Nothing!” Kruhl howled, leaping to her feet. “You do not understand! With Leoffa at her full might, she may very well be as powerful as Odalrik and even were she not, she has both the power of the crystal and Waldere at her disposal. With them she is far more dangerous.”
Amy regarded the other woman, hands on her hips in a severe, almost chastising posture. “I don’t really understand what you think you can—”
“There is still a chance that I can win back the loyalty of the sword.” Kruhl locked gazes with her. “It has the power to dispel most forms of magic, it may mean the difference between victory and defeat.”
“Okay,” Amelia said, leaning back against the wall. “There’s nothing to stop anyone else from trying, is there?”
“No,” Kruhl admitted. “But the sword knows me, I may still hold some sway over it. It gives me a better chance than most.”
“You speak about that thing as if it were a conscious, reasoning being,” Amy said, her voice taking on a musing, almost sing-song quality.
“It does not think.” Kruhl shook her head. “Not in any way I have ever been able to determine. It’s magic resonates with those who wield it. It’s capable of distinguishing the traits for which its creator’s sought for those who would come to wield it, nothing more.”
“You realize what you’re asking me, right? If you fail, you will become a liability. We can’t afford for Leoffa to take advantage of that.”
“I know,” Kruhl spoke, her words intersected by a sob. “But you cannot ask me to sit idly by. Leoffa, is a monster, at least, partially of my making, I cannot allow her to wreak havoc upon this world without at least trying to stop her.”
Amy nodded and released a long sigh. “Okay, good enough. Be ready, the team from Salt Lake will be here soon.”
The agent turned to leave and Kruhl threw a hand out, rushing after her. “Wait!”
Amy spun back around and pressed her lips together, but Kruhl spoke before she could say anything.
“I asked you a few days ago, if you would give me a new name. Have you pondered upon it?”
Amy sighed and licked her lips. “With everything that has happened, I haven’t really given it a lot of thought, but one stuck out. Alexandra, it’s the feminine form of Alexander, one of our history’s greatest conquerors.”
“Alexandra,” the tiny blond repeated the moniker. “It sounds like the name of a warrior. Thank you, it will suffice.”
Amy placed a hand on either of the second woman’s slender shoulders. “If we come out of this alive, we’ll see about assigning you a transition specialist. I won’t lie to you, adapting to life here, will not be a walk in the park, but AEGIS has some experience helping people adapt to transformed bodies. We’ll help you in whatever way we can.”
Alexandra quivered, craning her neck down to peer at one of the agent’s hands, before peering back up to meet the agent’s gaze. “Is it not your people’s custom to have multiple names?”
Amy nodded. “There’s an entire process involved in creating a new identity. There are a whole slew of records that AEGIS will have to fabricate across a number of government agencies. Not to mention all the paperwork involved. It’s a complicated process. Let’s just focus on what’s ahead of us and we’ll figure everything out later.”
“Very well,” Alexandra nodded and bit her lip.
The once-king believed her when she claimed it was complicated, if for no other reason than she’d understood almost nothing of what she said. The agent smiled, released the other woman’s shoulders and shuffled toward the door. “I know it’s been difficult, but I understand what it’s like living life in the wrong body, I’m always happy to talk if you want a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.”
She exited the room and Alexandra cocked her head and wondered, how could a shoulder be sympathetic?