“Hail, Noble Seena,” Laura Grand said, raising her mug in salute.
I growled. “Nothing has been decided yet.”
She snorted as she took a sip of her drink. “Sure.”
“You’re already on target,” Serena insisted gently. “You’re not going to change your flight path at the last second.”
I rubbed my forehead. “I’m not…it’s a massive decision to make, and I’m just not sure—”
“What is there to think about?” Laura cut in. “You were offered a position as warlord in a powerful—”
“Declining,” Frank muttered.
Laura glared daggers at him. “—in a still powerful culture. That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, make no mistakes about that.”
I sighed, and got up from the table, regretting the decision to sit down in the first place. “Thanks for the drink, but I think I need some time alone.”
The short, brown-haired passer slammed her mug down, nearly toppling the other drinks. “Look here, there’s no cause to be rude—”
“Laura,” Serena said, placing her hand on her friend’s shoulder to calm her. “Just leave her be.”
I turned and walked away before anyone else had a chance to react.
They were right, of course. I had already made my choice. I was already on target to become Nyashk, and nothing would stop that. If I was really still on the fence, I wouldn’t have let Zepar announce that I was thinking about it. He had wanted to keep it secret, have ‘Seena’ die in some accident and then bring in ‘Nyashk’ a few days later.
But I hate all the lies of politics and…ugh. I just hate dealing with that kind of crap. So I insisted that if we were doing this, we were doing it out in the open. He had jumped on that quickly.
By all Nine Hells and the black gates that guard them…I shouldn’t have to deal with this. A nineteen year-old college student shouldn’t be forced to…
I’ve fought before. Killed before. Whenever the orphanage needed a bit more food or whatever, Simon and I would go rat hunting.
But that’s not much. That’s…that was like I had played soccer once or twice, and then got asked to join the South Central Zeroes.
If I were in that situation, wouldn’t I do it?
If you’re given a once in a lifetime opportunity, don’t you have to take it? Otherwise, you’d spend the rest of your life wondering.
Yeah, this was a bit more dangerous. Yeah, the reconstruction could have side effects, or I could get assassinated in the night, or I could accidentally start a war, or one of a million other things could go wrong.
But what could I do right?
I spun on my heel and marched right back up to the audience chamber, everyone who saw me quickly rushing to get out of my way when they saw the look in my eyes.
The penthouse room was still in ruins from the fight last Monday, but Zepar was still waiting patiently, sitting on the ground with his legs folded under him, mighty tail twitching, and gently sipping tea.
“I’ll do it,” I declared without preamble.
The dusk-skinned vampire smiled, but still decided to play dumb. “Do what, Honored Nightstalker?”
I growled. Yeah, this was making me enjoy my decision. I plopped down in front of him, well aware he would drag this out as long as possible, and not wanting to spend the next ten minutes standing.
“I’ll become Nyashk,” I said. “I’ll go through the reconstruction. I’ll even pretend I was sleeping with Baal, if that makes things easier.”
His smile broadened, revealing his fangs over his teacup. “Oh, no worries on that front. I’ve already been spreading enough rumors. I couldn’t stop them now if I tried.”
That made me scowl. I was beginning to hate this man. “Whatever. When can we do it?”
Suddenly serious, he put down the teacup. “Whenever you’re ready. I’ll call in Baftis, and she can get you started within the hour.” He pulled out his phone and tapped a few buttons.
I sighed in relief. “Good. Hells, I just want to get this over with.”
The warlord frowned. “Ah, right, about that…any chance you can take the time to correct your speech patterns?”
Suddenly, my anger was back. “I’ve always spoken like this.”
“Well, yes, but having a vampire Noble speaking like a demon is—”
I held up my hand. “I don’t want to have this argument. But just…I’ll try, okay? I’ll try.” I had never made a conscious attempt to change the way I spoke, mostly because I had never seen the problem with it. My orphanage Patron had been a demon, so I spoke like a demon. That was really all there was to it.
“Miss Lancaster?” a gentle voice spoke up. I turned to see a pretty young vampire with a crimson body and spiral horns. She was wearing a large, thick lab coat that didn’t quite hide the fact that her back appeared to be glowing.
She winced at my gaze, specifically moving her back out of sight. As she squinted in the darkness, I noticed that she had violet eyes. Not dayeyes, but still definitely not nighteyes.
“I-I’m sorry,” she stammered, probably misinterpreting my look. “Noble Nyashk, can you please come with me? I’m ready whenever you are.”
Ah, this would be Baftis. Our reclusive head scientist. Our only scientist. No wonder she kept out of the public eye. With a demon’s horns and an angel’s dayskin, she probably got stared at constantly. But why didn’t she just have them removed?
Whatever. I could always ask her later. Right now, it was time to become a warlord.
Finally, I would be strong enough to be a player in the power struggles of Domina City, rather than just another victim and bystander.
Finally, I could protect my brother.
Behind the Scenes (scene 154)
As Seena implies here (and you may have already figured out due to Ling), sports are a pretty integral part of Domina culture. Currently, there are limits on what buffs you’re allowed in order to play, but those have been relaxing recently. The story hasn’t been focusing on the sports, because, to put it bluntly, I don’t care about them. The South Central Zeroes are named after the most prominent landmark of the district: The Zero Forge.