Chapter 5:

Must Be Nice (part 2)

Mylo and the Summoned Hero

Mr. Morin fancied himself well-informed. Hence he walked into his favorite cafe with a current newsletter tucked under one arm. It wasn’t from Edule, where he lived and worked, oh no. This was the news of Dioon, the capital.

He was tall, wore an all-white suit, and peered down a hawkish nose at everything.

Led by the host to his usual table on the patio, Mr. Morin sat down to breakfast and coffee. Over his newsletter, he watched the waitress with the shaky hands as she maneuvered the coffee press over his cup. The hot black stream wavered near the rim, but didn’t spill.

"Really, what’s the world coming to?" he muttered, plenty loud enough for the waitress to hear. "Can’t money buy good service anymore?"

The waitress grimaced. Why did he keep coming back if he was never happy? But she straightened up, raised her chin, and stalked off to another table.

The cafe perched right at the edge of Edule. Its patio, where Mr. Morin now sat, jutted out into the dense pine woods to the city’s south.

At least he had the lovely view—not that he appreciated it. He didn’t so much as look for his fork when he mislaid it, preferring for his hand to hunt like a blind spider across the table. Wouldn’t want to lose his spot in the column of condensed words.

Mr. Morin devoured the newsletter's main articles, in particular the reporting of L. Lonne. What hours she must keep, to be out in Dioon’s dance halls and anila bars, to witness the late-night scandals, and get back in time to write up her report. He marveled at the cutting assessment of the disarray of the new generation (hers) and the paralysis of the old (his). Under L. Lonne’s pen, Mr. Morin’s old ghosts lost their power.

He also had rather good coffee, light roast, imported from Bowenia.

"Really, can’t a man get a decent cup in this city?"

Apparently couldn’t appreciate that either.

When the waitress came back, Mr. Morin ordered a dish with very soft cheeses, particularly tender ham, sugar-dusted bread, and especially strawberry jam. A few minutes later, she resisted the urge to throw it in his face.

He picked at it daintily, and declared it passable.

The waitress resolved to quit, soon as she could line up another job.

By the time Mr. Morin finished the paper, he’d only gotten through half his food. He felt satisfied he had learned everything of importance today could bring. But if he’d only looked up for a moment, to appreciate the forest, would have seen that he, or rather his plate was being watched by hungry eyes.


Mylo changed back into his own clothes. In the blur of Kasumi’s picks there had been a few he really liked, but his meager savings couldn’t tank a hit from Paul’s price tags.

Emerging through the curtain, he found the clothier waiting for him.

"Your new friend is the interesting individual, is he not?"

Mylo straightened the garments and hung them back up. "Yes. Pelgram’s quite the character."

"Well, I am glad he brought you here. I was hoping that we could have the little chat."

"Another lecture?"

Paul pulled him into the store’s center, away from the two customers currently just browsing. Here he employed a well-practiced whisper. "I have learned you have the arrangement with some adventurers. You sell them the path to the final room in the ruins."

Mylo turned away from Paul’s gaze. "It’s not illegal."

"But using Callawea’s equipment for personal gain is expressly forbidden. So it is written in your employee handbook."

"I barely make rent, the way they pay me." Mylo smiled and nudged Paul with a playful elbow. "Besides, you’re a detective, or used to be. How likely are they to find out if it took you this long?"

"Truth does not always require a detective. Stop, if only to guarantee a good reference when you do leave."

"Fineeee," Mylo said, but his heart wasn’t in it.

Mylo took the opportunity presented by a customer plying Paul with questions to make for the door. Still running on impelled mana, he needed to get home and sleep as much as he could. Tonight's shift was going to be rough.

On such a sweltering day he couldn’t run home. He had to walk downhill into the narrowing streets and flaking walls of Edule’s east side. Here, apartments long since fallen from grace crumbled around their tenants. Mylo’s room was on the second floor.

Flopping down still dressed, Mylo relaxed and let the mana go as it pleased again. Exhaustion hit him hard and fast, but not quick enough to have him snoozing before he noticed the lump in his pocket.

It was a crumpled bit of paper.

Pelgram, did you leave me something?

The handwriting proved to be Paul Etier’s.

"Don’t give up. The Jagai dreams for us all. You are not forgotten."

The words backfired and cut deep.

I thought you knew I hate hearing that name.

Mylo closed his eyes and let the paper tumble.


That evening, the same time that Mylo was dragging himself down the road for another night shift, Paul heard something from the back of his shop. A faint, vanishing sound, like the scrape of two pieces of wave-worn glass rubbing together, but an octave down.

The door sat snug and locked. Curtains hung undisturbed over their windows. Paul leaned his broom in the changing booth and crept towards the back of his shop. Hands raised before him, Paul Etier advanced behind the curve of a transparent, pale green barrier.

In the back of his shop, he found a person wearing a deep-hooded traveler's cloak. Despite the garment’s deep shadows, Paul recognized her on the spot.

"Lady Wode." His tone was warm, warmer than when he spoke to Mylo, but he did not walk toward his unexpected guest. "It is a pleasure, but you should have called ahead. I would have put on the kettle."

Lydia Wode kept her hood up. "This is not a social visit. I am here only to give information."

Letting his barrier drop, Paul wordlessly offered a chair. She made no move to accept. He smiled and waited for her to continue.

Passing a disinterested eye over his merchandise, Lydia meandered with her feet but not her words. "There’s a hero. We don’t know the province of their arrival, or even a general bearing. We don’t have their face or name."

Heroes were a sometime-necessity for this world. Adventurers could take care of most threats, from human marauders to a cantankerous dragon. Not all of them would survive the encounter, but the threat would be dealt with. Threats like demon kings and fasral hordes required something more. Then, and only then, did the nations of this world attempt to summon a hero. Lately though, they seemed to drop in unannounced.

"I always thought it strange, heroes arrive so randomly anymore. Falling to earth on some grassy hill, or born as a mere infant in some little hamlet."

Paul held out a tin of biscuits with the lid open. Lydia paid them only a glance before moving on.

"It’s inconvenient," Lady Wode said. "Haphazard. Makes us look bad."

"So you come to Paul Etier."

Lydia’s eyes flashed. "Not just you. I have several stops to make tonight."

If this wounded Paul’s pride, he didn’t show it.

"But of course, I am but one man and the hero might be anywhere."

Lydia’s curiosity and hand strayed to a particular garment. "I say, is this shirt transparent? You made this?"

Paul waved panicked hands. "No, it is sheer. Translucent only."

"How indecent! What has living in the wilderness done to your brain?"

"It is a man’s shirt, for wearing to the fancy costume parties."

"Oh. Well. I didn’t realize they had parties out here."

"A small but a lively scene."

Lydia dropped the shirt sleeve and the topic. Paul sighed relief.

"As you guessed, you and other…potential assets are being activated to find the summoned hero. We can’t just slap up posters, or we’d be buried in a wave of false reports. Last time we tried a public search, we were inundated with would-be heirs claiming this father or that aunt." Lydia shuddered. "We’re still going through paperwork on that one."

Paul straightened his already laser-straight tie. "And for my most capable assistance…"

A sly nod was all it took to lift Paul up, but the next words brought him crashing back down.

"But only those directly, significantly contributing get noticed. Not my policy, of course."

Paul swallowed sour disappointment. "Of course."

"Well, that’s all I guess."

As she turned to go, Paul Etier forgot his pride. He raised his voice. "Lady Wode, I ask a favor."

"Not for the likes of you."

He smacked the point of his cane on the floor hard enough to crack the tile. "One question! I MUST know."

Lydia half-turned to look at him.

"Does the Three Feather Cafe still offer the strawberry shortcake?"

For a beat, she stood motionless, mouth locked in a frown, considering leaving without an answer.

Lydia nodded. "I go every Saturday."

Then with the sound of rubbing sea glass again, she was gone.

Paul Etier retrieved the broom. Sweeping up the dust and the occasional thread, his brow furrowed.

"Every Saturday…must be nice."

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