Chapter 18:

Meetings, in Descending Order of Success

Mylo and the Summoned Hero

The old healer shuffled through her living/waiting room, on her way to deal with the tricky patient in the yellow drawing room. She had now cured and sent home just about everyone brought to her right after the quake, and she was looking forward to a cup of chamomile tea and crocheting her way to a trance. When she saw Mylo sitting on her sofa, in torn and stained clothes, with his wrist wrapped and bruises aplenty, she threw up her hands.

"You again? What is it this time?"

Mylo stared at the rug. "I fell into Old Edule."

"Young people these days," the healer muttered, conveniently ignoring her own youthful pursuits. "Wait here a while, I've got more important patients to deal with."

"I will, thank you." But she'd already hustled off.

The breeze from the window pushed around lace curtains which tickled the back of Mylo's neck. He leaned forward and put his chin in his hand, winced, then switched to his other hand.

Kasumi was too busy farming for loot to worry about me.

Mylo felt mixed up, blustery inside. They'd only known each other a few days. Sometimes she sought out his company. Sometimes she seemed preoccupied with little things. Did she need a fire weapon that badly when she had a good fire spell already? In the long run, sure, having an array of damage types was good, but fasral aside, the monsters around here weren't particularly tough.

Not knowing what he meant to her ticked him off, but what did he want to mean to her?

Dwelling on the question a moment, the answer clicked. He just knew.

He sat up and settled back into the cushions.

No. The relationship doesn't matter in this case. Adventurers are supposed to look out for each other. You see someone get hurt, you help, or bring help.

Still, Mylo would have a few questions for Kasumi when they next crossed paths.


Paul Etier paced the hall of his apartment. His décor was well appointed—he had spent three hours straightening the paintings and aligning all his books on their shelves in the wake of the manaquake.

He was just lucky not to have been in his shop at the time. The street it was on hadn't been fixed yet, and there was a half ton of cobblestone blocking the front door. There was a meeting at town hall later to discuss some plan for the repairs, but hours remained.

No clothes to sell, and he'd already trimmed the list of would-be heroes down. Nothing to do but wait. Waiting, in this place, when he could almost taste the salty sea breeze of home? It was infernal.

A thump from the pantry, then a crash and a string of curse words.

Paul waddled over and opened the door. "Ah, Lady Wode, good of you to drop in."

She stood in a puddle of safflower oil and glass shards. With an accusative finger, she pointed to the darkened resistive-tube bulb in the ceiling socket.

"I thought I told you to leave this light on!"

Paul's apartment ranked swankier than Ezre's flat despite being a bit smaller because it was hooked up to the mana grid. That didn't count for much now, with the pumping station still down.

"I did. We have had a major disturbance, no one in the city has power now."

Then he noticed the thin red lines. A few shards had spun by her ankles, leaving hairline cuts.

"Lady Wode, you are bleeding!"

Lydia gave an exasperated nod. "Well spotted, detective."

"I have a few supplies, I'll—"

"No. I don't want to stay another minute. Just tell me you've found the hero."

Paul hesitated. "I think so. A few days, if you please, for the making sure. I would hate to hand the wrong man to the Jagai's Quorum. I must confer with my assistant."

After a moment's frowning consideration, Lydia agreed to the extension. "Now, how far in which direction to a healer's? You do have healers out here, right?"

Paul gave her decimal-point accurate directions.

"Just tell your helper not to let the hero level up, okay? Easier to capture that way."

Lydia Wode vanished before Paul could say anything more.


Despite the agreement he'd made with himself earlier not to think about it, despite the reassurance that he'd filed a report with the Adventuring Bureau, Mylo found his thoughts dragged underground, back to Old Edule.

Maybe fasral are nice?

Probably not, there were enough reports of them attacking first to rule that out—heck, that's just what happened when he and Kasumi met one on the surface. They seemed intelligent, though, so perhaps they were used to being slain by adventurers on the surface. Perhaps the fasral assumed, like people did.

Glimmering blue bones surfaced in his mind. Mylo shuddered and stood.

Nope, not thinking about it. It didn't move, and I'm just walking over here to get some water.

On the side table the healer had left a white pitcher with blue flowers on it. And paper cups, because of course there were paper cups in a medical waiting room.

Mylo poured a splash. Putting the pitcher down, he examined the fingers of his right hand. Weren't they covered in that weird powder? No sign of it now. He hadn't had a chance to wash it off yet, so...maybe it dried and fell off?

Behind him, a bit of a whooshing sound. Mylo turned. 6 inches to the right, and Lydia Wode would have dropped in on top of him.

"Gah! When did you get there?" He jumped back and almost upset the pitcher.

Lydia swished over to a chair and sat down. Blood beaded at her cuts and dropped onto the carpet.

They sized each other up.

Mylo assumed correctly she couldn't be from around here. Her robes were clearly colored by better dyes, like some of the imported bolts of silk Paul had shown him. Even bleeding, she carried herself with what he could only call 'poise'. She was lovely in a regal sort of way. Mylo imagined that she always dressed to the nines.

As for Lydia, she saw a country bumpkin standing there.

The healer broke the staring contest by shuffling in. "Two of you now?"

Lydia stood in the most effortless motion Mylo had ever seen. "Finally. I need healing."

"Bah! Those are just scratches." The healer grabbed Mylo's broken wrist and squeezed.

Mylo almost passed out, but as she released, the bones returned to their stations and knit back together.

"One down." She whipped a bag of medical supplies out of nowhere and shoved into Mylo's arms. "Make yourself useful! I've got real patients to worry about."

His wrist felt...pretty great, actually. It was so quick he wondered why she didn't do that when she passed him earlier. Mylo chalked it up to senility.

When he looked up, the healer was gone. Old lady could book it when she wanted to.

Mylo smiled at Lydia. "Hi, I'm Mylo Bract. I guess I'll be your healer today."

A flutter of recognition breezed across Lydia's face. "Paul Etier's 'young friend'?"

"Uh, yes."

"I see." She sat down and waited.

Mylo knelt down and eyed the cuts. Not deep nor wide, this would be straightforward—unpack kit, sterilize hands with raethwater, sterilize wounds, and so on. He was grateful that Lydia's robes went well past the knee—would be terribly rude to get distracted.

Must have been a strange image, him still beat up, stained, and ripped up clothes kneeling to clean and bandage the ankles of someone who dressed like she was about to officiate the Golden Day festival.

Mylo stowed the medical supplies and clicked the bag shut.

"Finally, I can port out of this backward town," Lydia muttered.

"You couldn't do that before being bandaged up?"

Lydia glanced at him, and vanished without bestowing the answer.

Whatever. She didn't even introduce herself.

On his way to the door, Mylo spotted a fresh newsletter. Ezre had said there was going to be one reporting on the manaquake and Callawea's many failings. Might even be a picture of the station.

Mylo picked up the many folded newspaper and unfurled it. There on the front page, above everything else on the front page, in full color, double bordered, was a tintype picture of Mylo. Not Mylo lying on the chaotic pumping station floor, as Ezre had suggested. It...needed a little unpacking.

The foreground and background blurred, enough to give a measure of privacy to most of the employees while conveying the recoil of a hit. That might be Brendan, stumbling backward. With all the nergalite scattered on the floor, the lighting from below lent the image a dramatic, disorienting wrongness. And there in the middle, crisply focused, Mylo hung limp in Ezre's arms.

Kasumi would have called it a "princess carry," but would have pointed out that Ezre was doing it wrong.

It was kind of adorable. Ezre looked so determined.

It was really funny. Ezre's right hand was clearly too far forward, and twisting aggressively at the wrist. Perhaps, in the tumult, she'd fumbled the lift? But the result was Ezre grabbing the maximum possible acreage of Mylo's thigh.

When the healer came back in, Mylo asked if he could keep the newspaper.


Couzinet strolled into Edule through the north gate, hood up, walking past Ezre, who was frantically adding fuel to a bonfire of newspapers.

This wasn't the first time she'd been inside the city proper, but up till now she had only moved about under cover of darkness within these walls. No law or custom prevented her from coming and going to Edule as she pleased, but this far north demi-humans like herself drew lots of attention.

Couzinet disliked attention on an existential level, but she had other reasons not to be noticed right now. Trouble was, her goal had just walked inside the Town Hall—currently bustling with preparations for some event.

The crowd made her queasy. But maybe all the comings and goings would make this easier? She joined the flow and walked right past the guards.

Nice. I should try that more often.

She spotted Kasumi in a back room adjoining the public atrium. The hero seemed to be sketching on large paper. And alone.

Couzinet slipped in and closed the door.

"Oh, hi." Kasumi turned around. "Can I help you?"

This was it. The moment of contact. Their relationship as hero and summoner would be defined right here. Better take a grand, formal tone.

"Yes, you can help me, hero." Couzinet pushed back the hood so Kasumi might see her clearly. "That is why I summoned you to—"

Kasumi gasped, then grin. Her eyes went nova. "Yes! I knew it! There had to be catgirls. Now, smile and say, 'nyan!'"

Ataga Corliss
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