Chrysanthemum and Oberen walked out of the Librarium. They strode down the steps and came upon the end of the wide flight… and then stopped.
“Um…?” Oberen crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Can you tell me what we’re supposed to do, again?”
“Go to the Dean…?” Chrysanthemum said. “I really want to help Quinen. The Dean is supposed to be super-powerful, right? Maybe he can help us?”
“Well,” Oberen sighed. “Yeah, I guess. Hey, we’ve kind of been moving around a lot. Aren’t you getting tired?”
Chrysanthemum rubbed her eyes and yawn. “Now that you mention it…?”
Oberen chuckled. “I know of a good cafe just nearby. Come on.”
The two of them walked off, down the street, stopping as the pedestrian’s crossing was flooded with traffic.
Shikoth perched atop the gargoyle known as Gardya. “I wonder where they’re going?”
Gardya’s stone ears perked up. “They’re going to a cafe.”
“Ah,” Shikoth nodded. “I thought they were gonna take some action. There’s a reason why Hakumatheia sends a skeleton bird like me to do reconnaissance.”
“Probably not because you’re the quietest and most agile and most elegant.”
“Tsk.” Shikoth slapped the gargoyle’s stone head with his skeletal fingers. “No. I know how to move around without being spotted.”
“A flying skeleton anzu isn’t the most inconspicuous thing in the world.”
“Ah, shut up!” he said. “I come from a long tribe of anzu clans that specialize in this magick called ‘Shizu’. It’s basically the magic to manipulate sound around us — it’s an offshoot of the usual anzu Vayu magick, if my–”
“Don’t say memory. You don’t have a brain.”
Shikoth grit his teeth together. “I’ll leave you to your eternal tortu-este, ‘vigilance’.” And with that, Shikoth took off, leaping from the gargoyle head and flying upon skeletal wings. Gardya saw the faintest fluttering of winds circulating about the hollows of his bones. Definitely magick.
Oberen and Chryaanthemum stopped by a store by the side of the main road that connected to the Inner Interstate Road. The traffic was heavy, albeit moving at a regular pace. The cafe itself had glass walls, so one could see clearly through it. The nymph snow fell softly, pattering, but the walls were clear of humidity. Oberen raised an eyebrow, and he could feel the faint humming of Transmogrifier-induced heat.
Hanging outside the store, positioned in such a way so people walking down the street could see it, was the sign. It was simple enough: three squiggling lines that made it look like the steam rising from a coffee cup — one was red, one was blue, and one was brown. Below it, written in a modern font, were the words: “Low Fidelity Cafe”. Written first in the universal script of Shennin, and then the more thematic and arguably cooler runes of Sidefnian.
The two of them entered through the door. A bell rang, somewhere. Chrysanthemum looked up, and found no bell at all. Yet, there was a sound.
The smell of coffee was strong and aromatic. It made everything smell brown and feel cozy. The setup of the entire cafe was as such. While there were tables and chairs, comfy sofas and couches were used in excess. The Transmogrifier produced an arcane heat — enough so nobody caught the sniffles, but not too much that they couldn’t wear their sweaters inside.
The two of them approached the long counter. There wasn’t a line, and the cafe wasn’t filled to the brim.
“Good Ascending, and welcome to Lo-Fi Cafe! May I take your order?” The barista wore a white button up shirt and a skirt that went to her knees, finishing up with knee-high socks. She adjusted her red rimmed glasses as she tilted her head at Oberen. Her ponytail was set atop her head, but the tail itself still reached the upper part of her back.
Her eyes were green, her hair mauve. She opened her mouth in a surprised “o”. “Oh, Oberen!”
“Heya, Kasu,” he waved. “I’ll get the usual.”
She nodded once, and turned to the strange girl with glowing pink hair beside Oberen. “Who’s this? Another disciple, perhaps?”
Chrysanthemum grinned and waved. “I’m Chrysanthemum, and I’m a Siddivata.”
Kasu furrowed her eyebrows, and then turned to Oberen. Oberen grinned, closed his eyes in a grimace, and scratched the back of his head. “I’ll explain over some coffee. Care to join us?”
“Sure,” she said. “It’s break time for me anyway.”
“It is?” Oberen asked.
She nodded. She removed her brown apron and shouted to the employee’s area. “I’m taking a break! Seltha, take the front counter!”
“Y-yes!” Far behind the counter, Chrysanthemum saw a black furred belgar, a bit smaller than the usual belgar one would see, standing at 6 feet tall. She bowed and put on her own brown apron. Kasu took off.
“I”ll make your orders first, before we settle down.” She paused. “What will the… ‘Siddivata’… want for her break?”
“Ah! Um, chrysanthemum tea would be wonderful.”
Oberen had to make an effort not to laugh.
Shikoth glided over to a perch that jutted out of a low building. It gave him an adequate picture of the scene within the Low Fidelity Café, wherein he saw the Magicker, the glowing pink haired girl, and some other girl that looked like she breathed caffeine instead of life-nourishing zephyr like the rest of them.
The brainless husk of a bird sat on his haunches, watching below. He wondered if he ever had meetings like that in his past life, where he would just sit together with his friends and talk the world away. He would sip anzian wind-ale and get whisked away by its powerful contents, and spill things and make jokes and talk about girls.
He wondered if he ever lived a like that.
Hell, he wondered if he ever lived at all, or if he was just something Hakumatheia conjured up with his unlimited cosmic power.
He shrugged. It was kind of pointless to think about it. He’s here, now, and that’s all that mattered. What was the point in changing something that had already been done?
Shikoth watched them as Oberen laughed and Chrysanthemum snickered and the caffeine-breather shrugged and smiled sheepishly, scratching the side of her face absent-mindedly with her pointer finger.
He watched them from his perch above, as the crystalline snow of the Nymph season swirled.
“Shikoth.” Came the rousing voice of-
“Ah, Hakky-baby!” Shikoth turned to the floating rune that materialized out of nothing. “Miss me yet? I think our safeword should be Siddivata.”
“About that,” Hakumatheia began. “It should be quick, enough. A Knight Vigilant is coming there to assassinate the Siddivata. I want you to make sure she gets her job done.”
“Knight Vigilant!?” He snorted. “Ah, those hacks. Wastes, they are.”
“Make sure the Vigilant succeeds. That is all.”
“No worries, Hakky-baby!” and with that, the rune dispersed into free-floating motes that eventually dissipated back into the eternal cycle of the world.
And Shikoth sighed.
And the brainless husk of a bird went back to watching a life he never lived.
“So,” Kasu said as she sipped from her crimson caramel coffee. “What’s this talk about Siddivata?”
Oberen sighed. “We actually just came here to try and wind down but…”
“I am a Siddivata,” Chrysanthemum said as she put down her chrysanthemum tea. “But I don’t know much about being a Siddivata. I’m… a queen? Of Avalon? I have contracts?”
“Yes,” Kasu nodded. She crossed her arms. “Huh. I just realized how weird it must be for you. Do you have any memories before the time you, um, forgot you were a Siddivata?”
Chrysanthemum bit her lip, and then shook her head.
“Interesting,” Kasu leaned back. “So, how did you know who you were?”
She brightened up a bit at that. Just a bit. “Quinen told me! He told me all I needed to know.”
“Except for the fact that you’re a Siddivata?”
She shrugged. “He would explain how I still need a mortal body, and that I still am not part of this world, and how I shouldn’t fall in love, but I never understood any of that, so I never paid it much attention.”
“Understandable, I guess,” Kasu shrugged. Oberen kept sipping on his coffee. “So, you thought you were a…?”
“A normal human,” said Chrys.
“Hm, weird.” She shrugged and turned to Oberen. “You’re not Quinen.”
Oberen furrowed his eyebrows, thought for a moment, and then nodded. “Yeah. Um, Quinen got into a fight with a fiagai, it seems. His physical body is battered up. He’s in the Collegium’s Medicum for now. His Soul seems to be… not there either.”
He nodded. “Most probably. Maybe to the Field of Timespace.”
“Maybe,” she shrugged. “Maybe, maybe, maybe.” She tapped her lip. Chrysanthemum watched her.
“How do you know about Siddivata, Kasu?”
“Well,” she sipped her coffee. “Rast? The dreorg I studied under? He was fascinated by them, saying that they were ‘Magick Incarnate’. Naturally, he’d ramble to me about them, and that’s how I’d learn a lot about them. Hell, he even digitized the contracts after he got a hold of them. Although, only the ones in the Dwarf Court.”
“He digitized the Contracts?”
Kasu nodded. Then she furrowed her eyebrows. Then she shrugged. “Well, a bit more like, he copied what was written on the Contracts. He got into a small friendship with a Siddivata of the Dwarf Court. Her Narrative was that she was a ‘Slave who desired to become a Lord.’ Rast wanted to help her with that narrative of hers, and he got some of the Contracts in return.”
“So did the girl become a Lord?” asked Chrysanthemum.
Kasu shook her head. “No. She was killed, along with Rast.”
“O-oh.” Chrysanthemum looked down into her tea.
“Yeah, it was kinda sad,” Kasu said. “But hey, it happens.”
“Yeah,” Oberen said, nodding. “That’s true. It does happen.”
Kasu took a sip of her coffee again. “So if you’re a Siddivata, and you don’t know your contracts, isn’t that dangerous? Contracts can help you defend yourself, you know. And you might suddenly lash out at something, verbally, not knowing that you have a contract attached to it.”
“Heh,” Oberen said. “That’s kinda specific, Kasu.”
“Well, contracts are specific, after all.”
Chrysanthemum nodded. “That is what I’m trying to do, Kasu. I’m trying to find out my Contracts, but… I don’t know how.”
“Yeah,” Oberen nodded. “I think she can manipulate snow by talking to it.”
“Hm.” Kasu pressed her lips together. “Well, I don’t know any Contract relating to snow. Maybe… maybe you’d like to try and read the Contracts from the Dwarf Court?”
Oberen thought. “I think that should be a good start. If I remember right. Zinnia said that Chrysanthemum was a daughter of both the Dwarf Court and the Nymph Court.”
“Ooh,” Kasu said, nodding. “Fascinating.”
“Am I?” Chrysanthemum asked. “That’s so… I don’t know. I don’t know anything that’s happening.”
“Don’t worry,” Oberen said. “I’ll help you through it, alright?” He placed a hand on Chrysanthemum’s shoulder. She squeaked, and looked at Oberen’s pale hand. She felt herself getting hotter, and she tried to hide bother her hands within her sleeves.
“U-uh, mm.” She said, agreeing.
“Well, if we need to access Rast’s archives, I’m gonna have to get home to my desknode. Can’t go into the Scape without the proper equipment.”
Kasu rose to her feet, one hand holding the cup. Oberen sighed. “So much for a break.” He turned to Chrysanthemum. “Hey, Chrys – Chrys? Are you okay?”
Chrysanthemum breathed hard. Deep breaths, as if she were trying to recover her air after running for too long. She looked up when Oberen spoke, but found that she couldn’t look into his eyes. She stood, turned, and walked after Kasu.
Chrys inhaled. “What is the Datascape?” She asked.
“Huh?” Kasu tilted her head. “You mean you don’t know?”
“Strange. Almost everyone knows the Datascape. You have a node? A palmnode?”
“Oh,” Chrys dug into her sweater pocket and brought out the rectangular piece of glass. “You mean this?”
“This is the Datascape?”
And they spoke as they walked out.
Oberen watched Chrysanthemum with furrowed eyebrows. Then, he rose, shaking his head, and walked after them.
Knight Vigilant Rexza turned the corner and saw her Siddivata target in front of her. She was talking with another woman who wore glasses and sported mauve hair. A tousled-haired boy ran after them, wearing a dark blue hoodie and dark green pants. He raised an eyebrow when he noticed Rexza, but otherwise walked past her, following after her Siddivata target.
Rexza grit her teeth. She thought it would be harder to find her, but easier to kill her.
Shikoth watched from above. He saw Rexza, who sported the mantle of the Knights Vigilant. Shikoth hadn’t seen a Knight Vigilant in a while, he realized.
Shiktoh flew down, dropping off of the perch. He landed beside Rexza and tapped her back.
The Knight Vigilant turned, lumbering, seven feet tall and three heads taller than Shikoth. “What is it you need, skeleton?”
“I’m a spy,” Shikoth said. “And I assume you’re that Knight Vigilant Hakky hired?”
Rexza glared at Shikoth with hard eyes and untrusting furrowed eyebrows. Shikoth glared back with that deadpan expression only a skeleton would be able to do.
“Cool,” Shikoth said, nodding. “Permission to ride on your head, Knight?”
Shikoth flapped once, took to the sky, and then landed on Rexza’s wide head.
“Now, kill the Siddivata!”
Rexza furrowed her eyebrows, and turned to the three humans walking down the sidewalk.
Hakumatheia approached the Medicum building. Various medic-mages bowed or greeted him as he passed by.
The Dean of the Collegium walked up to the front desk. “The room of the Warlock, Quinen Argist.”
He was given the key to the room, and he went straight up.
Hakumatheia locked the door behind him and walked up to the clear white bed that housed the Warlock. Quinen’s physical body breathed ragged breaths, but showed no signs of waking up. He was pale, and was slowly turning much too thin.
“Oh, Warlock. Your curiosity got the best of you.”
He Willed Power to become reality, and a scintillating ribbon of magick shone in his hand. When it dispersed back into motes, a flowing lance of white-hot Diwal energy crackled within his grasp.
“While you were fun… I suppose I have to get rid of all the hindrances.”