288: Missed Messages

on September 24, 2008 in Book 11

In Which Mackenzie Lets Someone Down

The rest of my day on the town with Sooni was pleasant enough in a surreal sort of way. Away from campus and with no TV in sight, we were disconnected from recent events on both the personal and global stage. We were just three people, three girls… not exactly friends, but we were getting there. One of us had only a tenuous grasp on the imperial language, and one of us had only a tenuous grasp on reality… the conversation was kind of sparse, but that probably helped keep things running smoothly.

We poked around the shops in the upper city, then took a public coach across the canal and browsed through the bazaar for a bit before we finally made our way towards the gate and the school carriages.

“Well, this has been fun,” I said when the carriage pulled into the turnaround back on campus.

“Yes,” Sooni agreed. “Don’t forget to think about everything.”

“I won’t.”

“Oh, hey!” she said brightly. “The golem said there were arena fights tonight! Do you want to go watch?”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “Gladiators aren’t really my thing.”

“Oh, okay,” Sooni said. “I guess… I guess I will see you later?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Later.”

She seemed reluctant to part company with me… I didn’t mind her presence, but I really wanted to either hook up with Amaranth, or failing that, get some alone time in my room. Even getting along with her, being with Sooni was mentally fatiguing. I was wary of stumbling into traps or unprovoked ambushes.

“Hey!” she said, her face lighting up. “You should come swimming with us tonight!”

“Sooni,” I said. “We’ve gone over this… I don’t have a swimsuit, and honestly, I’m not entirely confident about getting into a big pool.”

“Oh,” she said. “Well, when we… if we get our business started, maybe I’ll make you one.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I said. “Have a nice afternoon.”

“You, too!”

The next bit was a little awkward, as we’d just said our goodbyes and then immediately started walking across campus in the same direction. Duh… even if we were just going back to our respective rooms, they were right across the hallway from each other.

“I think my father has some trading partners in the East Reaches,” Sooni said after we’d walked near each other in silence.

“Does he?”

“Yes,” she said. “I wonder if he knows anybody who…”

She trailed off. I understood why. “Knows anybody who died?” It was a morbid thought. A hundred thousand people… we’d avoided the topic since leaving the Crystal Palace, but it was hanging there in the background. It felt like the whole world had changed, shifting under our feet while we walked on oblivious.

The sort of men that Sooni’s father did business with could probably afford every protection imaginable, but who would imagine a giant wave that smashed whole towns and then swept people by the thousands out to sea? Even if you could afford a resurrection, how would they ever find the body among all that open water?

I suddenly wondered if there were mermaids in the eastern sea.

“Do you think it will hurt his business?” I asked. It seemed a little cold, but it was easier to think of the impact on things than people. And from Sooni’s point of view, that could be an important question.

“I… I do not think so,” she said, but she sounded worried. “He did not export very much until recently. Most Yokano business stayed within Yokan. He only started expanding in the last few years.”

“What does your father do?”

“He manages several enchanteries,” Sooni said. “That is why I am majoring in applied enchantment. I am going to help him with his business!”

“Was that his idea?” I asked. Unless Mr. Hoshinotama was as good at blocking out reality as his daughter was, I couldn’t imagine him thinking she would be a valuable addition to his team.

“No, he said I could study whatever I wanted,” she said. “It will be a surprise.”

“I bet it will,” I said. “Aren’t you minoring in transportation?”

“Yes,” she said. “It is father’s dream to make carriages that are the envy of the world. I will need to understand them, too, in order to take my place at his side.”

“If the dress thing takes off, though, you can have that as a back-up plan,” I said. “I mean, since you enjoy making them anyway.”

“That may be a fun hobby, but my destiny is with my family’s business,” Sooni said. “My father wanted a son to raise and teach, but the gods blessed him with me instead. So when he retires, I will become the first woman to head a major company ever in the history of Yokan.”

“Uh, good for you.” If women didn’t run companies in Yokan, I didn’t really see them making an exception for her, but who said it was my job to crush her dreams? She was going to spend at least four years in college, with many opportunities for reality checks along the way. “I’ve got to go downstairs and check my mail,” I said, as we were nearing the dorm complex. “See if the replacement mirror arrived.”

“Alright,” Sooni said. “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the arena?”

“Positive,” I said.

“Then I guess I’ll just go to the pool again,” she said.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“After you think about the weavesite!”

“I’ll be thinking about that for a while, Sooni,” I said. “I won’t necessarily have an answer the next time I see you.”

“Oh,” she said, frowning. “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“Okay.”

There were no red envelopes in my mailbox, though there were coupons and a couple things for Two to prove that the mail had arrived. Had she given up? That would be great timing… no letters meant that I’d be able to obey Amaranth’s order without doing anything. Neither of us would have to be exposed to my grandmother’s guilt and poison.

Two had something from the student work office, a letter from a Miss Ruth at Hearts of Clay, and one other thing that I almost missed: a hand-addressed envelope from a Stephen Callaway in Logfallen Shire. That was a little weird. Why would a gnome be writing to her? Well, I could ask her, but otherwise it was none of my business.

I flipped through the coupons and flyers looking for anything good or even interesting for a bit before shuffling over to the counter, where of course Moeli the hobgoblin was on duty again. I always felt at least a little awkward talking to him… I felt even more awkward at the prospect after our disastrous “double date”.

“Hey, Moeli,” I said. I smiled nervously. “It seems like you’re always down here, doesn’t it?”

“Well, you seem to come by in the afternoon,” he said in his slow, rumbly voice. “That’s my shift, you know.”

“Yeah… yeah it is,” I said.

“The first time, I thought it was a coincidence,” he said. “The second time, I started to wonder…”

“Still coincidence,” I said.

“Oh. Have you, uh, talked to Oru since the dance?” he asked. “She’s on your floor, isn’t she?”

“Yeah, I’ve ran into her,” I said. “She’s a little mad.”

“At me? Or you?”

“At me,” I said. “She kind of bit me, actually, after the dance. On the leg. It really seemed kind of random… does it mean something, uh, culturally?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“What?”

“She doesn’t like you very much.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Men get in fights over girls and things, but women just bite each other,” he said. “Though that sort of thing is becoming frowned upon. Too many fatalities.”

“From the fights, you mean?”

“No, we use our fists,” he said. “The bites. Did you see her teeth? Goblin women can bite clean through an arm. ”

“Yeah, I guess I kind of noticed that,” I said.

“Oru’s an old-fashioned kind of girl,” he said. “Too old-fashioned for me. She wants to chain herself to a man and start popping out babies. Anyway, I’m sorry she bit you, Mackenzie. Why don’t you let me make it up to you by…”

“Moeli, you seem like a nice guy,” I said.

“Oh, here it comes,” he said, waving one of his oversized hands dramatically. “The ‘nice guy’ speech… I thought that was something only hobbish girls did.”

“I think some things are universal,” I said. “I’m just… well, my personal life is kind of involved to begin with. I don’t see how another person… any person… would fit in it right now.”

“So if you weren’t seeing anybody else?”

“Moeli, I… well, probably not,” I said. “Sorry.”

“You don’t date hobgoblins?”

“I’m just not interested,” I said. “Don’t take it personally… there aren’t a lot of guys I, you know, notice.”

“What if I was a woman?”

“I… I like women with breasts,” I said. “Mammals, you know? And maybe mermaids. I’m trying not to be racist, but goblinoids and reptiles just don’t do anything for me… physically. Sexually. But that’s moot because you aren’t a woman.”

“So it is because I’m a hobgoblin.”

“You aren’t my type,” I said. “And if you got to know me better, you’d probably… well, a lot of people think I’m annoying. I’m socially oblivious, I’m clumsy, I’m forgetful…”

“You smell nice,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said, blushing like mad. Damn. It sucked having hypersensitive cheeks. “I could… well, I could stand to hear that more often, but… there isn’t any alchemy, Moeli. Sorry.”

“Oh, it’s not your fault,” he said. “Do you want me to talk to Oru?”

“What would you say?”

“That it isn’t your fault I don’t want to be with her,” he said. “I can’t stand her voice, and the way she clings…”

“Yeah, no, that’s fine,” I said. “I’ll deal with her.”

“I just thought I’d offer.”

“It’s sweet, really,” I said. “Um… anyway… I’m looking for a package that was supposed to have been rushed over?”

“We don’t usually get packages in on Saturday,” he said. “Unless it was the imperial mail, and they just came an hour ago. I don’t remember any packages.”

“Well, please check,” I said. “This would have been like a special delivery. It’s from my lawyer…”

“Oh, that sounds important,” Moeli said, and he turned and headed back into the office. “What size would it be?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s just a mirror, but it might have packing stuff.”

“Found it!” he said. He came out carrying a small padded envelope with a rectangular bulge. “It was the only one on Gwen’s desk. Just sign this slip for it.”

“Okay,” I said. I signed it, and he gave me the envelope. I tore it open, pulled out the box and got out the new mirror. It was sleeker than the old one, a polished black octagon case that flipped open. The interior was lighted, and there was a sparkly purple powder in the bottom compartment. “Ooh, what’s this?” I asked, sticking my finger in it. Some of the dust adhered to the tip, but I couldn’t feel it, and when I pulled my finger up to my face it faded. “Some kind of illusion,” I said. I poked my finger in the dust again, and then prodded the mirror. The dust made a glowing dot on its surface. “Oh, it’s a smart mirror!” I said, noticing there was a little brush recessed near the hinge. I pulled it out and started doodling a little face. “This is awesome.”

“Your lawyer sent you that?” Moeli asked. “Did you win a big lawsuit?”

“Uh, no,” I said. “It’s just a loaner. They were having some problems and I guess they had to get all new ones.”

“Wish I had those kinds of problems,” Moeli said.

“I should probably let him know I got this,” I said. I picked up the box and handed Moeli the envelope. “Can you toss that for me?”

“Sure, why not?” Moeli said.

My drawing disappeared when I invoked the mirror. Lee didn’t answer, though I didn’t really expect him to. If he was still working that late in the day on a Saturday, he was probably too busy to grab a mirror. I left him an echo saying that the new one had arrived, obviously. The picture came back when his echo catcher faded.

“Oh, cool,” I said. I willed the image away, then held the compact up to my face. “Reveal your functions to me,” I said, extending my will towards it. Immediately a series of tiny images fluttered into view. One of them practically jumped out at me: ethernet.

I knew what I was going to do with the rest of my afternoon.


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4 Responses to “288: Missed Messages”

  1. pedestrian says:

    hey she got a bite of the apple

    Current score: 0
  2. Hiinst says:

    At any point did either of them actually look at the address on the package?

    Current score: 2
  3. Jechtael says:

    First things first: ASK IF THE ETHERNET IS ALLOWED. Maybe you’re only budgeted for a new phone of whatever model is standard and a P2P audiovisual connection, and logging onto the Ethernet through its connection is way above your grade.

    Current score: 2