Chapter 25:

Move In, Move Out

Mylo and the Summoned Hero

In the mouth of an old iridium mine, Kasumi and Couzinet waited for night fall. This far north and on summer's downhill slope, they'd have to wait a long time as the low sun skimmed towards the trees in a low arc. Tonight promised a long dusk, and a brief darkness.Bookmark here

"So, kitty, what are we waiting for?"Bookmark here

"Once it's dark, we move south. There's nothing for us north of here, and to the east or west it's a hundred miles at least over mountains or exposed tundra to the next town."Bookmark here

"When do we slip into Edule?"Bookmark here

"We don't. Get down there and kill more monsters, you're still underleveled."Bookmark here

"Fiiiiiiine."Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Mylo knocked on the door of Ezre's flat. A heavy thump preceded the door opening. A frazzled Ezre ushered him inside and apologized if she made him wait.Bookmark here

"Had to do a little cleaning. I was so busy moving things, I'm not sure I heard the door the first time."Bookmark here

"You did," Mylo lied.Bookmark here

"Great, make yourself comfy. Unpack a little."Bookmark here

He settled on the couch and placed his cardboard box on the floor, but left it closed for now. Ezre asked if that was all his stuff. Mylo said it was.Bookmark here

"Ah. Right. I rediscovered earlier that the sofa slides out. So we won't have to...yeah."Bookmark here

She sat down and twiddled her thumbs a moment. "Oh! Did you see the new pumping station?"Bookmark here

"They rebuilt it already?"Bookmark here

"Oh it's amazing. Internals aren't finished, and the piping isn't hooked up, but the building itself it like nothing I've seen. You'll like the new spotting tower, it's even taller, but it's all...swooping curves and stuff."Bookmark here

To be fair to Ezre, Mylo didn't have much in the way of architecture vocabulary either. They chatted for a while about various things, but kept wrapping back around to the town's transformation.Bookmark here

Ezre mulled it over. "I thought after the quake that this place would spiral and be abandoned in a few years. I didn't think anyone would suggest anything bold—a little change here, another there, nothing big enough to bring people back after hearing that the town shattered. Pelgram really did us a favor. And that architecture style—where did he even come from?"Bookmark here

"You mean where did she come from. I don't know."Bookmark here

"Oh? When did you get to know hi-her so well?"Bookmark here

Mylo started unpacking recent history. There shouldn't have been that much to say—it had been, what, a week since they met? But the telling unfolded, and Kasumi's presence seemed to weigh on those moments when she wasn't around. He thought retelling the dinner and ensuing fight would reopen the wound, but it didn't.Bookmark here

"I've met her too, you know," Ezre said. "But when Pelgram talked to me, it was all focus. None of the cheeriness you described, just measurements and designs and theory. It was like she didn't even see me. What is Pelgram?"Bookmark here

"Paul thinks she's a hero." Mylo sat up and edged forward out of the sofa's sleepy embrace. Bookmark here

"There's a lot he didn't tell me, like who hired us to find the hero, or why the hero needed finding. But something's up. These last few days I was supposed to be sticking to Pelgram like glue. But when Paul found me without Pelgram in sight, he didn't mention it. Even introduced me to some hotshot from Dioon who wanted to give me a job."Bookmark here

"I got pissed and abandoned my task." Mylo reached for the glass of water on the table and took an agitated swig. "But they're wrapping up like it's mission accomplished."Bookmark here

Ezre looked up at him. "What are they going to do with a hero?"Bookmark here

"No idea. What is a hero anyway?"Bookmark here

"You don't know?"Bookmark here

"Pelgram probably doesn't know either, and she is one. Sure, I've heard the basic story—hero gets summoned from another world, kicks some demon lord ass, the end." Mylo stood and began pacing the small flat. "Is it a class? No, Pelgram is a battlecaster."Bookmark here

Ezre watched, brows tight with concern. "What does it matter? Hero is just a title. A word."Bookmark here

"That one word makes her more amazing than I'll ever be! For a while, just having some self-respect and a place to sleep was enough. But Kasumi's already second to the gods—everyone will want to know her, just because she came into this world differently."Bookmark here

Mylo slumped thoughtfully back onto the sofa, not realizing he had dropped the alias. "Kasumi's a hero. Someone asked for her to be here, sacrificed for it, probably. And then there's me: unwanted kid of a Stangerian prostitute and a dead iridium miner."Bookmark here

"I thought you didn't know who your parents were."Bookmark here

"A while back I asked Paul to snoop around. Can't say I liked the answer. Would you be in any rush to share such a noble lineage?"Bookmark here

Ezre stomped over, pulled Mylo off the sofa and into a hug. Her grip was tight, warm, secure, and she was tall enough for Mylo's chin to rest on her shoulder.Bookmark here

"You're not unwanted here, you know?"Bookmark here

Mylo grunted that he knew.Bookmark here

"You want to go with Pelgram?"Bookmark here

Mylo's head rocked on her shoulder in the nod. "I don't know if I'd be protecting Kasumi from the world, or the world from Kasumi."Bookmark here

Ezre grabbed Mylo by the shoulders and held him out in front of her. In the stern tone she would use to chastise an adorable kitten which had knocked a favorite vase off the mantle, she said, "I love you."Bookmark here

"I was starting to suspect."Bookmark here

"I can wait, for a while—the local boys in Edule are pretty meh. But if you're traveling with someone, you might fall in love with some place or someone, and never come back."Bookmark here

"It's a risk," Mylo admitted.Bookmark here

The hug ended. "To think I'd have to worry about Pelgram stealing you. Well, I guess if you say she's a woman...."Bookmark here

"You should have worried from the start. I like guys too."Bookmark here

A curious eyebrow went up. "How come I've never heard you talk about boys?"Bookmark here

"Like you said, the good guys leave Edule."Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Not much light filtered into the mineshaft now. The sky had darkened about as much as it was going to. Kasumi resurfaced from the gloom, kicking pebbles and watching them bounce in front of her.Bookmark here

"Hey, kitty. I've killed everything down there. Can we go now?"Bookmark here

"Not yet. A few more minutes."Bookmark here

"Hey, kitty. Can we get reinforcements or a distraction?"Bookmark here

"N—okay. That's actually a good idea. Who do you have in mind."Bookmark here

"Call Mylo."Bookmark here

"How about someone useful? That barbarian and rogue you fought the boss with, how about them?"Bookmark here

Kasumi's face was placid. "They went home after the quake."Bookmark here

"Oh for...fine. I'll call Mylo."Bookmark here

Settling down into a more stable position, Couzinet grumbled. Her eyes unfocused. Then she lurched and was falling alongside the tilted landscape of Mylo's subconscious. Tufts of pale grass whipped past. Red beetles swerved out of her way. With flailing arms, Couzinet latched onto a hanging leaf broad as her and long as a street.Bookmark here

"Mylo!" Couzinet called as she scaled the swaying leaf, aiming for the steady vantage of the tree branch. If she got dizzy, she might drop back to her own mind before she could relay instruction.Bookmark here

Mylo thought he heard someone call him, which didn't seem likely. He stood in the whispering bank, Ezre beside him, taking stock of the items the lemming boss had dropped in his lunch box, days and days ago.Bookmark here

Couzinet scrambled onto the branch. Its bark crawled with thin, pulsating blue scratch marks. She didn't pay them any mind—hadn't seen the trees up close last visit, and right now didn't have the time.Bookmark here

"Hey leaf boy!"Bookmark here

That did it. Mylo's mind's eye kicked in, fighting with his vision over whether to see the sword in the safety deposit box in front of him, or the demi-human clinging to an impossible tree.Bookmark here

"Leaf boy?"Bookmark here

"Yeah!" Couzinet scowled around, looking for him. "Didn't ya know? Your last name means leaf."Bookmark here

Mylo grabbed the scabbard and slid the blade partially free. It was short, a bit broad, and only curved at the very end. A tendril of red flame licked the cutting edge. Mylo clicked it back into the scabbard.Bookmark here

He said, "That's because we're a branch family."Bookmark here

"No time for joking! The Jagai's forces have blocked our way south. We don't have the gear to cross the glaciers. Kasumi and I need a diversion, or a mercenary band."Bookmark here

Picking up a pair of large clear stones, Mylo showed them to Ezre. "Any idea what these are?"Bookmark here

Ezre nodded. "Natural doped beryl. Take them to an optometrist—they'll happily make glasses to get their hands on the left over material. Get your eyes checked, and get glasses whatever the result. They'll be useful. You've got a pretty round face, so get rectangular frames—fun ones, if possible."Bookmark here

Internally, to Couzinet, Mylo said, "All our mercenary-types left days ago. And my detective friend...might not be on your side."Bookmark here

"Then gather up whatever winter gear you can afford and meet us...."Bookmark here

"Meet you where?"Bookmark here

Couzinet may not have been able to see her surroundings while in the basement of another mind, but she could hear, and right now she heard silence from her tufted ears. No kicking of feet, no whining about boredom.Bookmark here

"Shit! Forget the winter gear. Kasumi's on the move."Bookmark here

Marshall Eastman
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