This would happen sooner or later. Ganymede would meet Tieragoran, then end up talking to Sprinkles about it. And that happened exactly as Sprinkles expected; albeit, after a few more days than he expected. Gany had called him to talk about Tieragoran, so as to avoid others listening, Sprinkles suggested they speak in a private area.
After his last class, Sprinkles entered the empty classroom the two agreed upon meeting. He sat at a table that would be difficult for people to see from the outside, then waited for the one he considered a little brother.
Ganymede was panicking inside. He thought they had all left Tieragoran behind.
Why was he allowed to be here? How did he find them? What was he planning? Ganymede wasn't entirely sure about any of these things - but what really scared him was the idea that they were all going to get eaten. They were all defective now, weren't they? Tieragoran ate NEK0s who were defective, who they couldn't sell anymore, and the island had ruined all of them.
Sprinkles didn't have to wait long. He would be looking at something else, perhaps his phone, perhaps something at the back of the room, when he would hear a voice. "Hi Sprinkles." Ganymede was a lot more serious than usual. None of the bubbly attitude that had become normal for him here. He was also sitting on a desk now, right across from Sprinkles. He had gotten there without making a sound.
He would continue without pausing: "I have something important to tell you about. How much do you know about that man Tieragoran?"
He didn't just sound serious. He sounded jittery. Scared.
Things were already starting off. Sprinkles had been caught off guard by Gany's sudden appearance. His serious attitude didn't help things either. Not wanting to dismiss Ganymede's concerns, Sprinkles presented himself with a calmness. No sense of fear to further Gany's. No sense that he may throw out one of his jokes to lighten the mood.
"Hi, Ganymede. I already know some about Tieragoran, yes. I learned about him when Natsuki and I met him at the community center. I've spoken to him a few times after too when we ran into each other. I'm familiar with the history he has with the NEK0s." It was simply better for Sprinkles to tell the truth and omit what was unnecessary. Ganymede didn't need to know about the private chat he and Tieragoran had.
Sprinkles was familiar with his history? They've spoken a couple of times?
No, no, no. There was no way Sprinkles knew the whole truth here. "He was in charge of stuff at the trading post. And he would eat us if we were defective or they couldn't sell us," Ganymede said, a little bit more upset. "That was real. It wasn't just a rumor. I saw it."
He was after them next. Gany stood a decent chance against Tieragoran, he thought. He had Candle and Monday and his gift. Even then, he didn't like the idea of having to watch his back, and the other NEK0s weren't quite as lucky as him. He was afraid for them.
Seeing the shock on Ganymede's face was painful. There was no good way to explain the situation, so he thought it would be best to lay most of it out.
"I believe you. Trust me, he mentioned all of that in great detail to get a scare out of me and Natsuki." Sprinkles sighed, wondering what else to say. It felt demeaning to just say, Tell me something I don't know.
"I was scared at first, but I'm not scared of him anymore. He hasn't tried to hurt me. He knows he shouldn't."
Sprinkles seemed so calm about this. Why was he so calm!? Why didn't he see what Gany could see?
"He's a criminal, he doesn't care what he should or shouldn't do. He gets rid of NEK0s they can't make money with, and we're all defective now, because the scouts took us here and a lot of us don't want to be owned by anyone anymore, and..."
He was getting more frantic. His eyes were watering a little bit. He had a nasty thought - "Where is Natsuki? Is she safe?"
Ganymede was starting to cry. Sprinkles grimaced, annoyed at himself for not handling this better. What was he supposed to do? Panick and become outraged? That would've made Gany panic more.
"Natsuki's back at our dorm. She's not much for getting out. And, Gany, most people here are criminals who quit after coming here. The island can cater to their supernatural needs that they couldn't get away with legally before. If Tieragoran wanted to kill me, he's had plenty of chances. We're safe. I promise."
Gany took a few shaky breaths. He was still scared of Tieragoran. That demon featured prominently in the nightmares he had, very occasionally, when he chose to take a nap. He could clearly picture what was left behind of his fellow NEK0s, those times when they made him clean up. Unlike the horrors he'd seen before, he faced this one vulnerable and alone. No master to protect him.
But Sprinkles was so calm about this, even as Ganymede panicked. And those reassurance felt truer and truer as Sprinkles continued giving them. Gany took a handkerchief out of his pocket and just pushed it against his eyes for a moment. He was starting to cry. That was unseemly.
"Are you sure?" his voice cracked. "And he's not trying to trick you, or make..." he sobbed, "make you let your guard down?"
Oh good, he was calming down. Sprinkles wasn't sure how much more he could take. Not that he would lose his temper with Ganymede. What worried Sprinkles was that he would find himself getting anxious as well, leading to him giving bad advice and further worrying his young friend.
"I'm sure. I don't think he's stupid. Think about it. If any of us got hurt or disappeared, he would most likely be sought after first. He has the worst history with us. And the island pardoned him of all his crimes before. Why would he do something to get himself in trouble when there's no actual benefit to him?"
"It could be money," he said, still distressed, but calming down. "B-because he could still be working for them..."
He took a few more deep breaths, then sighed. Sprinkles was probably right. The more he spoke, the more sense it made that Tieragoran wouldn't be out to kill them. After Sprinkles had a chance to do one last round of explaining why Tieragoran wasn't dangerous, or even if Sprinkles didn't do that again, Ganymede would say: "I'm sorry if I bothered you about nothing."
He was almost ashamed of himself. Letting his fear control him like this, getting Sprinkles all worried, wasting their time...