I stared at my phone. Derek had just called, and wanted to meet up at a coffee shop nearby. Oh, and I should bring Lizzy.
Silver and gold, that man was annoying.
“So that was Derek?” the girl in question asked, shuffling her shopping bags in her arms. She was wearing a canary-yellow sundress, despite the declining temperature. She compensated with a long black scarf wrapped a couple times around her neck, but I still couldn’t understand how she could survive. “What did he want?”
“They just finished a monster hunt and wanted to have lunch,” I said tiredly. “Over at that cafe near the dorms.”
“Cool! That could be fun!” We were heading that direction anyway. There was really no reason not to go.
Shopping with Elizabeth Greene is an…interesting experience. She seems to consider it a challenge to buy the most stuff with the least amount of money, despite the fact that she has pretty decent funds from the web animation thing she is a voice actress for. Now, one may think that this isn’t any different from what anyone else does while shopping, but Lizzy doesn’t care what she buys, so long as she gets good deals. Her bags were filled with nicknacks, souvenirs, and all manner of junk she didn’t care about in the least.
On the other hand, she did buy a bit of winter clothing for herself. When she’s buying things she actually needs, her brain apparently turns off. I had to keep her from buying a two hundred dollar sweater that wasn’t noticeably different than the twenty dollar one a couple stores down. That’s why she drags me to these things: She needs a chaperone.
For my part, I just bought a jacket, some underwear, and more ammo for my Occisor. I was pretty much out since the attack a few days ago. It wouldn’t do to run dry in the middle of a mission.
“Laura! Lizzy! Over here!”
I glanced up to see Ling waving us over; they already had a couple tables pulled together.
They were wearing different clothes than this morning, and had picked up another member: An ambiguously dark-skinned baseline with a long black bag next to him—probably a sword like Akane’s.
Lizzy ran over quickly, weaving through the tables with her big bags, and I followed close behind, a little reserved. We came in at the middle of a conversation.
“I just don’t get how you can leave them behind,” Derek said in an annoyed tone.
“I didn’t think I’d need anything more than the Sica,” Adam replied. “I won’t make that mistake again, trust me.”
“Hey guys,” I grunted.
Everyone looked up and greeted us warmly, especially Derek, though he only had eyes for Lizzy. Well, everybody greeted us except Akane, of course, and the new boy didn’t quite seem to know what to say, though he tried.
“Hisashiburi desu ne, Ken-chan!” Lizzy said warmly. “Kono otoko-no-ko wa dare desu ka?”
“Hello, Elizabeth,” Akane replied in English—very pointedly in English, I might add.
This was one of the strange things about Lizzy. She can’t learn facts about history or science to save her life, but her language skills are incredible. I didn’t even know how many she spoke, but Japanese was apparently one of them. She had tried to do the same thing to me with Spanish, but I had never had any interest in my heritage, and I wasn’t particularly good with languages anyway, so eventually she had given up.
Before Lizzy could launch into a whole conversation in a language only one of us understood, I plopped down in the nearest chair and set my bags on the table. “So what happened with the crawler?” I nodded at the baseline. “And who’s the new guy?”
“I’m Flynn,” he said quickly, offering his hand to shake. I took it. “I’m in Akane’s kendo class.”
Lizzy nearly jumped out of her seat. “That’s perfect!” She dug around in her bags for a moment before finally pulling out a small carved wooden statuette of a giant in a combat stance. A troll, judging by the claws. She placed it carefully on the table in front of him. “There, that’s yours.”
Flynn blinked and picked it up. “This is amazing detail…where did you find it?”
“Somebody makes them…somewhere,” Lizzy said cheerfully, not caring that she couldn’t even remember something that had happened less than an hour ago. “They’re really good.”
He held it carefully. “And you bought it…for me?”
She laughed. “No, of course not. But I knew it would be a good present for someone, and then you showed up.” She smiled widely. “Isn’t that what they call fate?”
“I…” he nodded in thanks. “Thank you. I’ll treasure it.”
She might be dumb as a sack of rocks, but she found ways to do kind things for others, no matter the circumstances. Not to mention that she seemed to always know the right kind of gift for each person; Flynn clearly liked wood carvings. Was it luck that she had chosen that one, or something else?
Of course, it would probably break in about a week. Lizzy had a good heart, but she wasn’t very good at buying things that would stand the test of time. Actually, that explained a lot of her shopping.
“Ii hito desu ne,” she said. Though she was still looking at Flynn, she was obviously talking to Akane. “Kareshi desu ka?”
Akane coughed, struggling to breathe. If she had been drinking anything, she probably would have actually been in trouble. Flynn immediately patted her on the back, trying to help her get out whatever she was choking on; she waved him away, and he stopped quickly.
“Naraba, hontōni kareshi desu nē?” Lizzy pressed excitedly.
Akane finally deigned to reply. “By Musashi’s gravestone, stop talking.”
Adam spoke up. “Uh, for those of us who don’t speak Japanese…” Akane made a cutting motion with her hand, and the matter was closed.
There was an awkward silence for a moment, which I managed to break before it dragged on too long. “So why’d you all change clothes? I thought you were just hunting crawlers.”
Derek rolled his eyes. “Don’t get me started on that. It…didn’t go as planned.”
Ling raised two fingers. “Two crawlers, two hundred feet long each.” She shook her head. “Ridiculous.”
Lily suddenly stepped into view, still wearing her waitress smock, and sat down next to Adam. She kissed him lightly on the cheek before speaking. “I hope you got a bonus on that one. I’ve never even heard of worms that big.”
Adam shrugged. “They sold the corpses to an orc, ah, what was his name—”
“Obould,” Akane provided.
Derek nodded. “Yeah, him. I sold them for five hundred each, which was pretty good considering the state they were in. And we got twenty-five hundred for the actual slaying.”
I frowned. “You should have gotten more than that. What’s the normal reward for one crawler? Seventy-five? You should have been able to get four thousand, easy.”
“Base was a hundred. I argued him up to twenty-five.”
“Derek was being nice,” Ling said with a roll of her eyes. “But considering the morons let the worms out intentionally, I don’t think they deserved it.”
Adam cut in. “I thought they just let them into the sewers on purpose. They got out on accident.”
Ling waved her hand. “Whatever. The point is, you start playing with the fey, this kind of thing happens.”
“But I still can’t believe it,” Flynn said, finally pulling himself away from his gift. “It was incredible to watch—men and monsters, that hurt!” He grabbed at his ankle where someone had kicked him.
“What was incredible?” Lizzy asked, wide-eyed.
Of course. If the fight was really as difficult as they were saying, Flynn would definitely have seen them use their powers. He seemed trustworthy enough, but apparently they hadn’t told him that Lizzy didn’t know anything.
I stepped in before Flynn could say something stupid. “Derek and Akane fighting. They’re very impressive.”
She grinned. “Well, they’d have to be.” She turned to Derek. “How long have you two been monster slaying? Five years?”
“Seven actually,” he replied, with only the barest hint of boasting. He might have the ego of corn starch, but he can rarely resist making himself look better in front of Lizzy. “We make about ten thousand dollars a month.”
Adam coughed. “Seriously? I thought you just ran around catching rats.”
Derek laughed. “No, that was just to ease you into it. We’re a bit on the higher end of the scale.”
“Those two are some of the best slayers in the city,” Lily explained patiently. “They’re very well known, in those kind of circles.”
Lizzy turned to me. “Laura, didn’t you say you did something like that up in North Outer?”
I waved my hand. “Just minor consulting. Pocket change.” I smiled. “But you’d be surprised how little people know about the monsters the fey drop in their backyards.”
Adam was still a little bit shocked. “You can really make a good living like that?”
“Not really, you can only charge so much to teach people things they can learn on the internet.”
“No, I meant the hunting. If a hundred bucks is the most you can get each time—unless something goes wrong, like today—then I don’t see how that would be viable.”
Flynn chuckled. “Crawlers are hardly the most dangerous things in Domina.”
“Drakeswarm,” Derek suggested.
“Deathmarked,” I added.
“Land piranhas,” Flynn insisted.
Lily cocked her head. “I don’t know, dog eaters are pretty bad.”
“Fey,” Akane whispered.
We all shut up.
We had gotten lucky during the burner attack. The Princess of Killing Sparrow wasn’t prepared or interested enough to fight ten well-armed men and women, and had decided to go play with something easier. Normally, if a fey sets a horde on you, you’re lucky to be armed at all.
Lizzy sighed. “Why are you guys always so depressed? You shouldn’t focus so much on the negatives.” She smiled. “I mean, you just made thirty-five hundred dollars for what—an hour of work? That’s something to cheer you up, isn’t it?”
Lily smiled a little at that. “Good point. It’s a nice day.” It was actually a bit chilly. “There are no zombies running around.” Because they were all locked up in one of Butler’s warehouses—I could hear them even now. “And there’s nothing to worry about right now.” Actually, the rest of us already had a lot of homework piling up. “So let’s just talk about something else, all right?”
Everyone muttered agreement, which made Lizzy and Lily smile.
“Good enough,” Elizabeth said. She grinned at Akane. “But wasn’t Red going to tell us about her new boyfriend?”
Akane turned as crimson as her nickname and Flynn looked distinctly uncomfortable.
I smiled a little. Maybe today wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Behind the Scenes (scene 25)
Yes, Lizzy calls Akane ‘Ken-chan.’ It means approximately ‘Little Sword,’ and is one of the reasons Akane refuses to speak Japanese back. The other being that Japanese is actually her second language. She’s fluent (not least because of Lizzy), but she’s still more comfortable speaking English.
Also, while I am mostly certain the Japanese is correct, please e-mail me if you notice any glaring errors.