“We ran into Laura earlier today,” Simon said. “And that little blond Asian girl. It was an ‘L’ name…Li?”
“Ling,” I corrected. I settled into the couch at the cafe a little gingerly. I was still pretty badly injured; my wounds had only barely stopped bleeding, and Laura would kill me if she found out I was running around this soon. I was supposed to be in bed. “Ling Yu. She’s Chinese, and in AU on a scholarship.” I grimaced, both from my wounds and from trying to remember. “…soccer? Yeah, soccer.” When she got cornered, she fought like a soccer player. Lots of kicking.
He pulled up a chair and sat down next to me. “Well, she seemed nice enough. Only saw her for a second, though.”
I chuckled. “Next time you see her, be prepared for a discussion about anime. She’s majoring in animation.”
“Fair enough. I know ever since I chose my major, I’ve started spewing toy maker technobabble given half the chance.”
“Oh, you decided on that after all? You had it narrowed down to that and…something else. Something political, right?”
“Culture studies. But my Power offered me a scholarship, if I majored in the toy maker.” He shrugged. “Made it easy.”
I leaned back, smiling. “I imagine it did. You know Akane and I almost chose ours at random? Thankfully, they started offering Monster Study this year.”
“They didn’t have that before?”
“Not as a major. Just one or two classes.”
The demon shook his head. “I don’t know why your mom is so insistent you go, anyway. You guys are making great money already.”
“She never got to go to college, so she’s insistent I take the opportunity.” I indicated my injured body. “Besides, monster slaying is dangerous, and if I’m incapacitated, suddenly I’m not making any money.”
“Yeah, I understand, it’s just…” he shrugged again. “Our matron was never quite so insistent.”
A waitress sidled up. “Can I get you boys anything?”
“Croak,” Simon said, naming a soda.
“Water for me,” I added. “In a plastic cup, if possible. I’m afraid I might drop it.”
The girl nodded and sashayed off.
“That reminds me, Derek…” Simon said slowly. “How exactly did you get those injuries, anyway? I don’t think you mentioned.”
“I didn’t?” I thought I had. Oh well. My head still wasn’t working quite right. “Got in a fight with some Nosferatu.” I grinned a little weakly. “You should see the other guy.”
He blinked. “Wait, you mean last night? With the bats?”
I shrugged awkwardly and tried to answer without actually lying. “That area.”
He rubbed his hair back, wincing as he nearly sliced his hand open on his horns. “Nine hells. I heard that was a bad one. They brought down a skyscraper, right?”
“That was the Paladins. Containing everything.” I hadn’t been conscious for that part, obviously, but the girls—mostly Laura—had filled in the blanks.
He nodded. “Should have known. True Necessarian style. Destroy a few things so you don’t have to destroy everything.”
“That’s a little harsh.”
“Harsh? That was a compliment. Without them, everything would have gone to hell years ago, even discounting the cultures.”
I rubbed my face with my hand, embarrassed. “Sorry for snapping. I lost another friend last night.” I paused, then realized there was no harm in telling him. “She got turned, actually.”
“Oh, shit, I’m sorry. A friend of mine got turned into a burner—do you remember Paul? But yeah, I know how that is. You know Clarke a little, right? They any closer to a cure?”
How did he know—oh right, he knew I was friends with Clarke’s daughter. “Not that I know of. I’m pretty sure they haven’t even figured out what’s causing it. It’s not viral or anything like that.”
“You just hear the song and turn into a bat?” The demon shook his head. “Seriously, the world is getting weirder by the day.”
“This from the man who is purple.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
The waitress came back with our drinks. As I had requested, she delivered mine in a soft-shelled water bottle. As I nodded my thanks to her, I noticed a maintenance man walking in, setting up a ladder in the corner to service the speaker there.
As the waitress walked away, I turned my attention back to Simon. “They might be getting closer, though. Last night, Necessarius caught about five hundred bats. Plus the hundred burners and ten or so biters, that’s a nice, big sample pool.”
“Five hundred? Hells…how many dead?”
I thought about the question for a second. “Not a lot. Fifty, I think. No, less than that. Two dozen or so.”
He set his soda down in surprise. “Seriously? The blogs have been making it sound worse.”
“Well, the turned ones are effectively dead, so yeah, its pretty bad.”
“Oh, I know, I know, just…” he shrugged. “A couple hundred people died at the Battle of Shendilavri. Almost a thousand at Hathsin. That’s what you think when someone says there’s been a major battle. Fifty sounds more like what happened at Androlynne, or Minauros.”
I frowned. “There was a fight at Minauros? When did that happen?”
“No, that was my point.”
“What, that no one cares about Mammon enough to pick a fight with him?”
Simon looked at me sideways. “Derek, Mammon’s been missing for almost a year. Doresain stole Minauros from the Mammonites a few months ago.”
I snorted some water up my nose on accident, but managed to recover quickly. “You’re kidding.”
“Wish I was. The ghouls have gotten bolder because of it.” Doresain Gravetouched was king of the ghouls, though of course not all of them followed him. Still, generally the violent ones were willing to pay attention to him, if nothing more.
“Huh.” That explained why bounties on ghouls had gone up the last few months. I hadn’t thought much of it. But then I grinned. “You gotta admit, its funny. The Thieves’ Guild got its fortress stolen?”
He rolled his eyes. “Yes, everyone has already heard all the jokes. You really need to pay more attention to politics.” The sibriex waved his hand dismissively. “Anyway, my point is that the screamers don’t really seem like a threat if we go by their actual kills.”
I took another sip of my water, contemplating. “Laura thinks the Composer has some master plan that makes this all make sense. Maybe one that doesn’t involve actually destroying the city.”
“What’s she basing that on?”
“Mostly? On the fact that the city is still here.”
He winced. “It’s really that bad?”
I wiggled my hand back and forth. “It’s…not good, by any means, but it could be much, much worse. Everything’s just so confusing.”
The demon leaned back in his chair. “And here I was hoping it was all fear-mongering and paranoia…” He frowned. “Where are you getting your info, anyway? You sure its legitimate?”
“Oh yes,” I assured him. “This is confirmed from high up in Necessarius. I’m absolutely certain its legitimate.”
Behind the Scenes (scene 41)
I really like how this one came out. Normally I have problems with pure dialogue scenes, but I think this one is perfect.
EDIT: I just realized I had no link to the site’s RSS feed anywhere, so I added one on the right bar, under the “Blogroll” header. Trying to find a more obvious place for it, but for now, there it is.