Styx: 010

Over the next few weeks, Xavier found his life falling into a routine. In the morning, he would seek out Sumiko and help her around the wayhouse while she patiently worked on expanding his vocabulary. She appeared to be in some position of authority over the house, although he was having difficulty determining whether she owned it or was working for someone else or what. In any case, she kept the common rooms clean, and when someone moved in or out she was the one who facilitated it. There appeared to be a rotating schedule, because other residents would join them in cleaning on occasion, but Xavier was not sure how it was arranged, and since he didn't have anything better to do he tried to make himself useful in hopes of continued food and board.

Other than Sumiko, the vast majority of the residents of the wayhouse seemed to be non-permanent residents of the town. In Xavier's admittedly short stay a group of animal people had spent most of one morning loading up wagons and carts out back behind the wayhouse before departing and leaving Sumiko and Xavier to clean their rooms.

The other longer-term resident was an ornery old goat man who ruled the kitchen with an iron hoof. Curious over how they prepared the bread that was a regular staple at meals, Xavier had hunted out the kitchen only to be shooed away. He did catch sight of what appeared to be an oven, but once again there was no chimney or anywhere he could see for smoke to escape. It was very strange; perhaps it was heated with magical rocks, the way all of the rooms appeared to be?

That was something that he was having a hard time coming to terms with. As far as he could tell, transforming a rock into heat was pure magic, but everybody seemed able to do it. One of the primary duties Sumiko had him performing was in fact refilling the baskets of rocks that were in every room. Xavier tried multiple times to discover the trick, but to no avail. Whenever he held a rock, it was just a rock. He still needed Sumiko's help at night to prepare a warm blanket when the temperature started to plummet.

After lunch, Xavier often ended up napping, as did most of the other residents of the town, far as he could tell.

Mid-afternoon, Kahina would drop by the wayhouse, and while the activities that they undertook were quite varied what was always constant was that Kahina insisted that Xavier hold her normal-sized hand, or at the very least be in contact with her arm, at virtually all times.

At this point, Xavier was fairly certain that whenever he came into contact with living beings he drained magic power off them. «Vigor» was the word the animal people used—or bakuhito, as they seemed to call themselves. His best guess was that something about Kahina's gigantism resulted in excess vigor building up in her body, and Xavier's draining effect gave her relief. Unfortunately, while he was getting a lot better at understanding what the people around him were saying, he was still having trouble forming coherent sentences, so he had so far been unable to ask for clarification.

The main unpredictable element of his routine was Yukio. The cat-boy lived at the wayhouse and was obviously smitten with Sumiko, but after the first week when he would constantly drop in on Xavier and drag him off on one unintelligible adventure or another, he began going missing for days at a time. From what Xavier could gather, he was traveling around the area fighting youkai with the same group that had rescued Xavier. On one of the stints when he was in Henka he dragged Xavier off with him to a training session with the group. They were cordial, but evidently uninterested in Xavier, particularly when it became clear after one of the wolf people invited him to try their training exercises that he was badly outclassed physically.

Someone who was interested in Xavier was the old goat man who had tested him when he was taken in front of the elders, whose name was evidently Sadao. Xavier encountered him at least once or twice a week, almost always when he was doing his activity of the day with Kahina.

Xavier wasn't sure what exactly it was that Sadao was looking for, but he often would encourage Kahina to try different exercises with Vigor while he poked and prodded Xavier in an evident attempt to figure out why exactly Xavier was unable to come into contact with bakuhito without draining some of their Vigor. Despite his comprehension growing by leaps and bounds, however, Xavier was still just as much in the dark about his weird ability as Sadao. It was frustrating, particularly since it evidently prevented him from interacting with Vigor the way apparently everyone else was able to.

Aside from Sadao, Xavier hadn't come into direct contact with any of the elders, but he was growing increasingly nervous about whether he would be able to maintain his place in the community. Kahina clearly needed him, but from what he could gather she was as much an outsider as he was and had come to Henka seeking some sort of fix to the chronic pain that she suffered in her right arm. Xavier was able to help her with that, but it seemed the citizens of Henka had been unhelpful overall.

His nervousness over his place in the community was nothing, however, compared to the feeling that grew with every passing day that this routine couldn't last. Ever since arriving and falling in with Yukio and his band of hunters Xavier hadn't noticed any obvious manga coincidences, which didn't jive with his understanding of isekai at all. Isekai tended to be fairly action-packed, with crises that scaled from immediate personal harm to national threats. Treating a giant's chronic pain was decidedly small-time for isekai challenges and Xavier was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Of course, it was also possible that he was just stuck in a narrative time skip; given his lack of the language when he arrived, that was a real possibility.

Six weeks later, the howls of the wolf people heralded in the first of the changes that would propel Xavier out of Henka and into the broader world.