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How Did You Become This Way?

Chapter Text

    You don’t think of yourself as a good person.

    Given, you don’t think of yourself as a particularly bad person, either. You did bad things, occasionally, as did everyone on Earth, but you don’t do it with the intention to cause harm. The entirety of your life you had known far too many people that intended to cause others pain. You know about those kind people better than anyone.

    You used to be one of them yourself, after all.

    When you were younger you were furious. Furious at the injustice around you and the actions of others. You hated the world, you hated everyone around you, you hated feeling that way. Eventually you let yourself lash out, taking the role of the aggressor, and you intended to cause pain. You were young, stupid, but age isn’t an excuse for what you did. You understood it would hurt, and you hoped it would. You hoped everyone who came into contact with you would suffer and broil just as you had.

    But you’re older, you’ve matured. You have regrets, many, many, regrets, and the consequences of what led to those regrets will follow you and snap at your heels until the day you die. Maybe even past that. More than that, you’re tired. Tired of the constant anger and having to fight, tired of being mean. You just… Don’t have the motivation to run around claws out anymore.

    It feels good to be kind. You miss it. You miss people being kind to you.

    You wish someone had been kind, back then.

    Just because you want to, doesn’t mean the anger goes away. You just… Find a way to redirect it. Spiteful determination. You would be that person. The one who you dream of swooping in and saving, protecting you before your heart burnt to the point of being a smoldering pile of embers and ash. For just one person, even if it was just for a while. You would… Help. Try to, at least.

    But where you were is not a place you could be nice. You were known too well, no one would trust you to try, and the picture of them in your head was twisted and cruel. You might not be thinking of the situation objectively, but you couldn’t bring yourself to care enough to try and put the baggage down. Even if one of them did the same.

    You were just waiting for an opportunity to leave. A good motivation to excuse your disappearance. Leafing through a newspaper for the first time in years gave you that chance.

    Ghoul Services.

    You knew a bit about ghouls, not much, but you knew what they were and the fact that they were treated horribly. And that the media lied about them constantly. You had enough political awareness to understand that at least.

    A human-like species that was only capable of eating, as far as you knew, human meat. Identical to humans excluding a higher count of a specific type of cell and the organs that only formed with the concentration of said cells. They were born they way they were, but apparently could be artificially made through organ transplant(???).

    As you understood it, they were people that had to deal with eating other people, and were demonized of it. You didn’t have a problem with cannibalism, normal humans resort to it all the time, but they have to. Calling them monsters and rallying people to exterminate them was just verbatim genocide. You’re not even that into infrastructure and you could think of at least five different ways to provide human meat without murder being involved. These were just traumatized, hunted people trying to survive in a world that hated them for a stupid reason.

    So you called the number in the newspaper ad and were on a bus to the nearest city that night.

    Turns out, there was a lot you didn’t know about Ghouls. But everything you did know was right. It was worse than you thought, their circumstances, but it turns out the horror hunger element was pretty much the only thing not super cool and/or interesting about them. Were you developing a special interest in a group of people? Yes you were.

    After dealing with the very real possibility that a fascination with ghouls could be seen as racist if enough people cared about them, you absorb information given in your course like a sponge.

    Apparently, the main difference between ghouls and humans aside from the entire “eating humans” thing was an organ that when not in use turns to a collection of liquid cells that circulate the bloodstream. Referred to as a “kagune” when expelled, they exit the back of the ghoul and change their eye’s colors. The type is dependant on the region of the body.

    The third role of Ghoul Services was massage of this organ, scientifically proven to reduce aggression and improve the mood of ghouls. When you got to practice on your first living patient, you felt almost as happy as the ghoul on the table must of. There you were! Actively being kind and helping someone!

    The second role of GS was protecting and sheltering ghouls, setting up places where they could live safely without being ridiculed or hunted. You found that admirable, sure, but you didn’t think you could cohabitate with anyone full time like the staff at that job entailed. That was, until you found out about the first role.

    Ghouls can eat human food.

    Ghouls can eat human food.

    There is an injection that allows ghouls to process human food without getting sick, removing eating humans from the equation altogether. Vials cost less than five dollars to make and hold tens of doses, and this technology has been around at the same affordable price for seventeen years.

    You had sort of lost it when you were told. Demanding why no one knew about this, about why ghouls were forced to live this terrible life style when the solution was right    there. It had taken you hours to calm down and listen to your teacher’s explanation, but what you were told wasn’t nearly enough. Some bullshit about little to no ghouls being willing for it, even those that lived in Ghoul Service facilities full time. Not trusting it. Ghouls not approaching the GS out of fear of being killed when it’s the only recourse you can go through. Lack of knowledge.

    This is when you decided that you would be the first resident employee at a GS building in one of the worst-off countries ghoul situations wise, Japan. There, Ghouls were hunted systematically. Slaughtered for being alive, even if they didn't actively hunt, pushed into isolated slums through a combination of necessary anonymity and the fact that even a suspicion of being a ghoul could throw you into the depths of a horrific prison that, according to the Human Rights Council, would land you in a prison yourself for war crimes in a combat scenario. A human rights violation, or it would be if people actually considered ghouls human instead of the closest real life equivalent of a horror movie monster.

    You had to get a license, first, finish courses and get certified and prove yourself capable. And you did, rising to every challenge with enthusiasm that pushed you through the three-year training period in just one. Just in time to sign up to be the front-runner for your organization's Japanese branch.

    And that's what brought you to where you are now, flying coach on what would most likely turn out being a one-way trip. It was your first time on a plane and you had the absolute pleasure of getting to fight for your prepaid seat window seat with a very irrational man who was apparently convinced he was the most important person on the entire aircraft. After holding up the entire flight with his entitlement, the plane ended up having to be re-boarded sans that man, which took hours.

    After that entire kerfuffle, you had the window seat you had personally paid extra for, and you were tired enough to nap through the majority of the flight. But only after the other patrons finished making the biggest racket possible by attempting to accomplish several other things they could've done before the last minute. Bathroom usage, shoving unreasonable amounts of luggage into the world's smallest overhead compartment, and even still trying to find their seats. You would think that people would have more sense than to wait until minutes before take off to do that kind of thing, but the universe was just dead set on disappointing you at every turn today.

    You ignored the passengers around you, instead staring out your window to watch the employees rushing about and the blinking lights down on the ground. You inevitably turn back to introspection and expectations in your buzzing nervousness, wondering if you would enjoy Japan. That wasn't the point of your immigration of course, but it was still going to be a big change in an environment. A significantly different culture and language, not to even mention the stigma you would receive for you career choice.

    Despite the unfortunate circumstances that led you to being willing to uproot your life in the first place, you couldn't help that think... You would. You would enjoy Japan. Of course you would be. You were about to be in a different county, hundreds of miles away from where you came from, away from them. The people you had already ruined yourself for. This was... A fresh start, in a way. A blank slate for sure. You wouldn't be in contact with anyone from your old life, the only exception being the higher-ups in Ghoul Services, and they were met in a transitional period so it didn't really count.

    Aside from just getting to do good... You think this will be good for you.

    A jolt of noise cuts through your train of thought and you stare forward. Before you knew it, the flight had officially began. The stewardess who had spoken over the intercom attempts to redirect your attention to a screen behind you. As soon as realizing that it's just the informational flight video, you lose interest and turn back to the window. Your seat was some sort of faux leather, not the most cushy but comfortable enough that curling in towards the windows and resting your head on the glass was enough to let you close your eyes and pass out.

Chapter Text

    Re-boarding turned your late-night arrival time to Tokyo to a sunny mid-afternoon the next day. The sky was clear and the temperature pleasantly warm, but you couldn't find joy in it with how jet-lagged you were already starting to feel. You hoped that guy's night in jail would hurt just as bad as the rays stinging your eyes, hoped his delay would be as potentially catastrophic as yours.

    Opening even a day late could potentially set all the outreach your colleagues had done to get the word out about your services back. Betray the flimsy trust that had just started to be built for those people toward humans for the first time. Potentially even ruining a chance to try and repair it afterwards. That's not something you'd like to even dream about risking.

    You want to be exaggerating, you really do, but things are just so flimsy here, not just in the tentative relations of the Services and the ghouls they’re here to help, but between your organization and Japan’s government. They were hesitant to let you operate at all with all of the measures they had taken to try and exterminate their “problem”. Through a lot of complex international relations you didn’t quite understand and years of fighting for it, Ghoul Services were finally allowed to send the agents that would set up their infrastructure. 

    You and the services you would be offering happened to be a cornerstone of it.

    As soon as you and your row empties out you nearly bolt, a combination of a brisk power walk and your height letting you speed the other passengers. You’re exhausted, extremely annoyed and anxious at the setback, and your ass is sore from sitting down for twelve hours straight. You rush through the airport, side stepping around slow walkers and tourists standing in the middle of the walkways. 

    Getting turned around was an inevitability, but an irritating one. You walk right past the baggage claim at least three times before you manage to see what’s right in front of you. Asking for directions isn’t an option here, a combination of all the social interaction on the plane and the headache it caused impeding your ability in translating your thoughts into another language.

    Eventually, you manage to find your way out after power walking around on the moving walkways for what felt like hours. You glare into the sunlight as soon as you step outside, natural light re-blinding you in a way completely different yet still just as intolerable as the fluorescent bulbs behind you did. With a heavy sigh, you step out of the way of other foot-traffic to shield your eyes with a hand, looking for…

    There! Standing a good thirty feet away is a nondescript man holding a sign with your last name printed on it.

    The Ghoul Services had been kind enough to offer a ride to your building to you, and predicting how difficult navigating another country’s capital would be at all , let alone in one with such a different language than English, you had gladly accepted. Past you did a great job, he deserves a pat on the back. A trans-temporal “good job!” to you, past self.

    You had been told that your makeshift chauffeur would be, technically, a coworker. Same organization, different branch. The rush of excitement that usually came at the prospect of meeting another person who genuinely cares about ghoul welfare was absent, but you still take a moment for a deep breath to try and make yourself a bit.. More sociable. No need to be short with him when you have common goals, and you sure as hell aren’t going to ruin your first impression.

    Straightening your back, you stride towards the man with what you hope will come off as confidence. He keeps his expression neutral even as you approach him, but with a hand raised in a hesitant wave and an only partly-fake smile creeping up your face he seems to recognize you. 

    With that, he closes the gap between the two of you. You’re greeted with a request to see your work’s identification card, and when it’s met the subtle tension in his posture eases slightly. The friendly gleam in his eyes intensifies, or maybe just becomes less guarded, as he nods and holds out a hand, “Welcome to Japan,”

    Oh thank god, English. His accent isn’t very strong, not exactly subtle either, but the pronunciation is smooth and his words are refreshingly clear compared to the stilted stewards on your flight. You really didn’t want to look like a complete buffoon and struggle with basic conversation, so him meeting you halfway is extremely appreciated. You shake his hand readily, thanking him for waiting and telling him exactly that.

    A smile crinkles the corners of his eyes, “It’s no problem, a lot of us have been waiting for much longer for someone like you to get here. A couple more hours don’t make much of a difference,”

 You give a tired chuckle in response, “Ah, I’m flattered I’m already so appreciated over here. You’ll have to point them out to me so I can thank them personally,”

    The easy-going grin playing your colleague's face dropped as you both reached the car, “Ah, about that. I’ll explain on the ride there,”

    Your stomach drops at his words, the familiar sensations of a spike of ice in your chest as anxiety takes hold of your heart. What? You can’t just. Say something like that and let it hang?? Regardless, you obediently slide into the passenger seat of his car as he loads the trunk with your things.

    Folding your hands in your lap, you stare forward through the windshield. You carefully measure your breathing as thoughts race, were you right about the delay’s effect? How had you already messed up? Forty minutes in Japan and already things seemed to be going wrong.

    The man opens the driver's side door and easily slides into his seat, though he doesn’t even insert his key, let alone turn it and start the car. He doesn’t try for eye contact, which you are almost achingly thankful for, and starts in an even tone, “As I’m sure you’ve been told, Japan is very different in the way it operates around ghouls, yes?”

    “Of course!”

    “Then you will understand the need to be especially careful,” Your coworker sighs heavily, “I will be the only individual belonging to the Ghoul Services you will come into contact with here barring emergencies,”

    Your brow furrows, most of the anxiety rolling in your gut evaporating at the unexpectedly light words, “Why..?” 

    “The main reason is the risk of corruption,” He responds, starting the car at seeing you relax, “Unfortunately, some have decided to attempt to infiltrate us and sabotage. The only people who will know what your building is for who will actually go there in the first place is yourself and your patients,”

    When you didn’t stop him, he continues, “Even the ones delivering your medicine shipments will not know what they are outside of being medication, nor will we likely end up meeting in person again after this,”

    “I will be the one to contact you with new patient information, your job is to just be there and help them. Other than that, I’ll send you instructions from the higher ups and the paperwork that I do to introduce them to you. You can contact me at any time for resources and help, there is both several secure phone lines and an email account waiting for you at the building,”

    “I’ll give you a tour of the facility when you arrive and some basic instruction, but then I’ll be on my way,”

    “Oh,” You weren’t entirely sure how to respond, but you’re not going to let silence hang and give him the impression that this is inherently bad, “I don’t think that… Is really a negative? I can still contact you, right?”

    His smile returns as you reach a stop sign, “Yes you can, but I’ll be keeping physically distance,”

    You nod continuously, filing away that information. The two of you make idle chat for the rest of the ride, nothing really of much importance. He helps you with some Japanese pronunciation since you’re a bit refreshed from the comparative isolation of the car’s cab.

    The commute is as long as could be expected in a city. However, the traffic doesn’t cause any stress to your current companion, so you don’t let it affect you either. You’ve perked up quite a bit by the time he finds parking, and the other man is kind enough to get your bags out of the back for you.

    You swing the passenger side door open and slide out of the car, keeping your eyes downcast so the building you’ll be spending the rest of your life with will be seen all at once. You angle your head backwards and look up, and the Ghoul Services building is--

    Oh. Oh wow, this is not what were expecting at all. You sort of just keep giving it long up and down looks, mouth slightly open.

    “Alright, you ready for the grand tour?”

    You continue staring up at the building where you’ll spend the rest of your foreseeable future, “Uh. Before we get to that, one quick question. How did you let the architect get away with this?”

    Your colleague bursts into the peals of laughter he had been holding back since you exited the car as you try to get a handle on what you’re seeing. It’s… It almost reminds you of a capital “L”. Like a 3d rendered L that the camera decided the perspective of would work best from the front backwards. The first two floors jut out significantly further than the others, like everything above them are only half of the frontward length.

    Besides the extremely irregular shape, especially compared to the other buildings surrounding the two of you, it’s much, much taller than you would expect for the “first experimental” facility. Triple-checking your count, you almost feel slightly intimidated by the fact your supposed “a couple simple therapy rooms on ground floor and group home above” set up was actually ten stories . You were expecting two. Maybe three. Hello??

    The exhaustion keeps you from checking your behavior, and you round on the devil that is going to make you live here with the incredulity that only the extremely tired from lack of sleep or the extremely tired from high-saturation of shenanigans can emulate properly, “I’m serious! Wh-- I thought we were trying to be subtle !”

    The man lets out a small ‘whoo’ as he straightens from where he was bent in laughter, “Well, what ghoul-fearing bigot is going to think that their ‘man eating monsters’ are living in such an eccentric place?”

    You give him a very exasperated look, “There’s “eccentric” and then there’s “clown castle” and I think you know which this is. How did you even get the permits to build it like this??”

    You lose him at the words “clown castle”, but you can’t find it in you to care. It feels damn good to make someone laugh out of genuine mirth, and laying it on a little thick in pursuit of that is frankly just your style. The building's color scheme makes it look the exact opposite of clown castle, the same inner-city grey as everything around it, but just the shape is enough to make it stick out.

    As your colleague takes a bit to calm down and recover, you notice another thing about the zone between where the roof of the second floor is before the third floor’s wall starts. Is that. Is that a tree ? A rooftop area that has a tree on it. A full grown adult tree. How did they even get it up there, they couldn’t have planted it as a sapling and waited for it to grow, you know for a fact that construction started three years ago and only finished a few months. And who?? Puts a tree on a roof??

    In you blitz of further confusion, the other man calms himself and notices where your eye line is leveled, “Oh, I see you noticed the rooftop garden,”

    “ Rooftop garden ?” You ask, voice exaggerated in disbelief, “What kind of public service has a rooftop garden . How did you people even get that tree up there?”

    “Hey, I didn’t put the tree there!” He says, raising his hands placatingly in a mock ‘I didn’t do it!’ gesture, “All I know is that it’s a peach tree,”

    You rub your face with your palms before sliding your hands to capture your nose in between them, “A peach tree,”

    “There’s a patio up there too,”

    Okay. A patio. Why not? “I am going to lose my mind if I look at the outside of this place any longer,”

    “The tour it is!”

    You continue to mutter to yourself as he removes the keys from his pocket with a flourish and walks towards the big glass door, “I swear to god, this is some sort of fucking punk’d show. What billionaire decided to fund this? Why ? Real people don’t have rooftop gardens when they have designated space for a backyard. Rooftop gardens aren’t real ,”

    He swung the door open and held it open, jestering for you to enter, “I can see you love the design of this amazing, modern structure,”

    “When they die, I will drag the architect behind this and the people who approved it into hell where they belong,”

    “Alright! Moving on,”

    You enter the Services building ahead of him as you were invited and can’t help but look around wildly, drinking everything in. Now this is a bit more in line with your expectations. It’s styled to be in line with a hospital’s waiting room, rows of back-to-back, only slightly cushioned blue plastic chairs. Paper white walls with one of those cordoned-off desks attached to the wall in a corner on one side. The other side is presumably plexi-glass given the circumstances, a metal-rimmed door in the middle slightly obscuring the elevator and staircase behind it. Three more doors lead off of the lobby, one on the rightward wall with a bathroom sign on it, the other two just behind the desk.

    “So, what do you think so far?”

    You give the room another once over, “It’s a bit… Lifeless, I guess? All the white and plastic… This isn’t the kind of space I’d be able to relax in, personally. It kind of feels like it will screw with first impressions, put people’s guard up before I even get to speak with them,”

    “I can see what you mean,” The man repockets his keys and looks around himself before nodding, “But luckily for you, you’ll be given an initial fund to decorate the first two floors and basement at your leisure,”

    You round on your colleague, surprised, “What? The Services are giving me a fund specifically for interior decorating ?”

    “Well, you’re the one with the psychological training to make it comfortable for your patients,” He tells you with a grin, “So who better to make the space comfortable than you?”

    “I-- I guess you’re right,” You stutter, flustered but pleased at the praise, “Show me where these doors go?”

    “So, he starts, pointing at the door with a sign that you now realize features a stylized toilet on it, “The door to your right is an all-gender restroom, it has three stalls, two the standard and one wheelchair accessible, a baby changing station, and a urinal. There’s also a closet with all the cleaning supplies and extra toiletries you’ll need for a good couple months. I don’t see the need to check out somewhere both of us already know extensively,”

    You snort, “Of course,”

    “Glad to see we’re on the same page,” He tells you, guiding you towards the desk with a hand hovering over your shoulders, “Back here is all the facilities and such you’ll be using with your patients, as well as basement access. We’ll do here before looking around upstairs,”

    You swing open the little waist-height door on the back right of the desk and step through, your coworker closes it behind you before turning the knob of the leftside’s door. You’re met with a short, carpeted corridor that has, you guessed it!, more doors leading off of it.

    The two of you peer through the first door to the left, only opening it instead of stepping in, and find a medical exam room. The wall across the room was almost completely occupied by the obviously high-quality examination table, next to it a large trash can and a cabinated sink, above it a sharps container and several sensory exam tools. You’re told the cabinets above the sink contains vials of the ghoul nutritional injection on one side and general medication and other supplies in the other. Just in general a very standard room that you’d expect to see in a clinic.

    The next room on the left is almost completely empty, white walls and carpeting making it look like even more of a void, with the exception of a fainting couch of all things and an armchair. At your questioning look, the other man explains, “This is the therapy room, or it will be,”

    “Did the people who chose the furniture think therapy is exactly like what you see in newspaper comics?”

    “I did think the chaise lounge was a bit stereotypical,”

    “I might actually keep it depending on what my options are to substitute it with,” You tell him, mind already bursting with possibilities of this room.

    “One can only hope,” Says your companion, breezing out of the room with you in tow.

    The final room is at the end of the hall, door on the wall perpendicular with the one you entered through. This one has a sort of employee break room vibe, down to the kitchenette, shitty fake-wood table surrounded by folding chair, and vending machine.  It was a bit more swanky with the full fridge and oven than what an employer would choose for their workers but this room was pretty clearly to allow ghouls their first taste of human food. This room also has a door leading off of it.

    “What's that, another bathroom?” You ask, pointing at the door.

    “No, everything over there is basically like a hotel room,” 

    Curious at the combination of “everything” and the analogy, you walk up and open the door. Behind it is another short hall, though horizontal this time, with another three doors. Each door leads to the same room down to the positioning of the furniture. There’s a table incredibly low to the floor surrounded by throw pillows in the center, and then the back wall has an empty bookshelf, short cabinet of draws, and a twin bed only made with a single, thin sheet and bare pillow. Your upper lip curls over your teeth as you expression twists, they could at least up in some books and better bedding before you.

    “So, why do the Services need hotel rooms?” You ask the man to distract yourself from the spark of anger flickering in your belly.

    “If one of your patients needs somewhere to stay but aren’t inpatient, or if they just can’t make it home after a session. It’s just emergency dwelling, like a homeless shelter,”

    One eyebrow raises, “And I can’t just put them up in one of the apartments because…?”

    “You technically could , but if they’re not a registered inpatient you don’t get the extra money for accommodations, nor do you get to write anything you purchase for them on your monthly reimbursements,” After hesitating for a few moments, he continues with a cringe, "It's also illegal. The government tried to make everything the most difficult they could, so there are a bunch of stupid restrictions like that,"

    “Ah, there’s the red tape I was anticipating to pop up eventually,” you sigh, “But can’t I just sign them up as inpatients myself?”

    He sighs too, eyes downcast, “Bureaucracy requires patients come through my branch to be registered,”

    “ Ugh ,” You grimace, “I’ll keep that in mind for now on. You said the basement next, right?”

    “Yep!” Though he chirped his words, you couldn’t help but notice the man stiffening up. That seemed almost… Strained.

    You have a bad feeling all of a sudden.