CHAPTER 3: Just Rewards
“Eat deeply of the Daikaiju’s bounty, warriors!”
The camp’s dining hall grew raucous with battle-weary kaiju (all of us limiting our current forms to about 6 feet tall, of course), ignoring our aches and bruises as we tore their fangs into dragon steaks, gryphon thighs, and all manner of luxurious foodstuffs.
I, for one, was too enamored by the stuffed phoenix in front of me to close attention to the mannerisms of my peers. Every bite crumbled with a juicy yet chunky crunch, blessing my taste buds with spicy fat. Every bite filled my body with a gentle warmth, allowing my kaiju metabolism to kick into overdrive and grow new flesh over my inner wounds. And at the same time, I grew hungrier with each wound closed, my stomach repeatedly crawling towards and slipping away from true satisfaction.
Though, by the time I had eaten half of the entire phoenix, I noticed that the clattering and chattering of the knights had noticeably slowed down, particularly the ones sitting closer to me.
“Hey, uh… you’re eating a lot there, buddy,” a scarred lizardman -- I think the same one who had doubted my strength before -- addressed me.
“Yeash,” I admit with a large spoonful of potatoes.
“I uh, see your wounds still are recovering over there. You must have had a tough fight, huh?”
“Mahh,” I shook my head, holding a full phoenix thigh. “Jusht a few shpearsh to de torsho. I lived thru worshe.”
“O-Oh, I see, you must have a big appetite…” he nervously stammered. “You must be strong. Really strong. Hey, uh, about when we spoke at the gate, are we… uh…”
“Cool?” I tore my mouth away from the now-clean phoenix bone. “Shure, we’hre cool!” I swallowed. “And I’m sorry for getting a little aggressive myself back there. I’m used to being doubted. One of the many ‘perks’ of having the Empire’s bloodline written all over me and my crew,” I raised air quotes.
“Ah, yes…” the scarred lizard slowly recovered his composure, presumably taken aback at the leisure with which I spoke of such things. Then again, it’s common knowledge that most insectoid kaiju -- I.E. me and all the other lion-sized arthropods I invited to join us at the camp’s mess hall -- were descended from the Daikaiju Katacalisa. You know, the same god-beast the Empire inherited its namesake from. So yeah, I’ve dealt with much worse than a rude leer or scoff. I’m also quite fortunate that my father built such a good reputation aiding Armergida’s war against the Empire, or else this awkward moment would probably be a thousand times more awkward. And violent.
“Hey, uh,” I broke the silence again. “You mind if I take a few plates out? I wanna check up on a few of my men in the infirmary,”
“Oh, sure, help yourself!” The scarred man eagerly complied. The rest of my warriors at the table, aware of my shallow half-lie, gave me their own gestures of approval. With a gleeful smirk, I grabbed a plate in each of my hands, carrying a full course dinner out towards the infirmary.
“Hey, guys,” I hailed the tent mostly full of smallfolk knights with a flutter of my wings. To my luck, the nurses and doctors were currently tending to matters elsewhere. Not so luckily, the wounded wolf I met in battle had not acknowledged me. With a childish pout, I stubbornly set out my deliveries in front of him, spreading out some extra towards his adjacent kin.
“What… are you doing?” The weary wolf’s voice quietly yipped at me.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” I shrugged. “Injured soldiers need to eat better than… whatever that slop is.”
“No, I don’t…” he coughed. “You know that there are no canine kaiju. You know I won’t heal the same. I’ll be lucky if I can wield a sword again after this.”
“So? You showed more guts and spirit than any private I’ve met in battle,” I beamed an infectious smile. “I know I can’t give you what you ACTUALLY deserve without risking my good faith with the knights, but I’d feel a lot better if you’d at least take this much.”
“O-Oh no, I couldn’t…” the wolf brushed his meal away with another cough. Most of the other smallfolk showed similar hesitance, though I think I saw one of them eating out of the corner of my eye. “Our squad didn’t do half the work a single kaiju did. The kaiju need this more than I do…”
“And what does that matter? Do I deserve better treatment than you just for being born with powers you don’t have?”
He sat silently for a while, resisting his throat’s urge to cough again through sheer contemplation.
“The kaiju have plenty to eat. They’ll live. I’m not gonna stop bugging you show me you will too… or until I feel the nurses’ auras approaching. The same goes for the rest of you.”
I could see the doubt in his face, but it gradually washed away as I continued to egg him on. When he finally took his first bite, his eyes beamed with a gentle spark, like a phoenix’s feathers kindling.
“I’m gonna see if I can bring a few extras for your buddies, alright?”
“… I’d like that. Thanks.”
I left him to-
“... You have a gang?” I turned back.
“No, Sir Kesei, that’s my name. Maxwell Wolfgang.”
“Oh, sorry!” I laughed awkwardly.
“Don’t be,” he smiled weakly. “It’s not our family’s original name, actually. It’s a long story.”
“I’ll have to make time to hear it the next time we meet in camp, Maxwell,” I nodded. “And please, call me Felsac.”
“Don’t you have anything more important to do?” He chuckled.
“I’m a freelancer. I do whatever I think is important.”
”You’re a strange man, Felsac.”
“Same to you.” I saluted him proudly. I left him to return to the mess hall. I had another meal or four to sneak in… and a good word to put in to Deusarg. It’d be a war crime for a man like that to not get a promotion, traditions be damned.