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A Reminder of Relevance

A Reminder of Relevance

Tommy hung up the phone. It was an old-fashioned rotary model, manufactured in a garish shade of mustard yellow, which was probably why it was hidden so out of the way behind the counter. Tommy still hadn’t quite gotten a handle on just what era of tech Discord was suppose to have. Ultimately he figured it was best to just settle on ‘whatever would be the weirdest’ and leave it at that.

He sighed, and sat back down at the bar.

“Not a fun phone call?” Kuro asked, raising an eyebrow.

Tommy had to think about that one for a second. The news had ultimately been good. Cindy had called from—of all places—the clock tower, and had explained that, long story short (very, very short) Doug was the king of Discord and his daemon accomplice Kei had been keeping Gil locked up in order to keep the clock tower running. Great news obviously, except for just one, tiny little detail: Kei.

He’d met “Doug’s daemon accomplice Kei” once before, and for just a second was reminded of his old friend named Kei. At the time everything had happened so fast, and her face had been so different, that he hadn’t even thought about it. But now…

If she truly had jumped into the rift those nine odd months ago, and if she’d even survived, that would make her… well, a daemon. And if Kei was a daemon, her face not being the same was a moot point entirely.

“Yeah, ‘fun’ might not be the word I’d use,” Tommy finally answered Kuro. “Just found out that an old… that someone I haven’t seen in a long time might be in town.”

“Is that the person you were looking for?” With a singular, jerky motion, Kuro cocked his head a bit to the side.

Tommy nodded, and ran a hand through his hair.

“Sounds like it’ll be an awkward reunion,” Flora chimed in, plopping down next to him. There were a few patrons here and there, scattered throughout the room, but no one who needed her immediate attention.

Though he didn’t want to get into the specifics, he was having trouble sorting out his feelings about the whole thing on his own.

“I might have done something that hurt her, or, at the very least, allowed her to do something that hurt herself.”

"And you don’t even know whether you should be apologizing or not.” Surprisingly, it was Kuro who responded.

“I’m more scared that she won’t blame me at all, I think.”

Kuro and Flora glanced at each other, an odd look crossing both of their faces. An almost… sad look.

“If I were you, which I’m not, but say for the sake of argument,” Flora struggled a little with her words. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Go and meet her, and be grateful that she’s still around to worry about.”

She glanced downwards, and even Kuro wore a somewhat wistful expression. “Some of us don’t get the chance,” he said.

Tommy glanced first at one, then the other, noticing the near-identical remorse obvious in each of their gazes. Though he desperately wanted to know just what circumstances could enable such pain, he didn’t want to tell his own story, so odds were that neither of them wanted to either.

So instead he just nodded and stood. “You’re right. ‘Course you are. Just being a dumbass.”

“You’re not a dumbass, Tommy,” Flora smiled kindly. “Well, okay, you are, but not right now. People are hard. Trust me, it don’t get any easier.”

“Thanks,” he muttered, pulling on his jacket.

“You going to see her?” Kuro asked.

Tommy thought about it for a second. “I think so. But I’ve gotta just take a walk first, figure out what I’m even gonna say.”

“Well, good luck then,” Flora waved, her smile widening into a full-on grin. “We’ll have a good, stiff drink ready for ya when you get back!”

Though he was just about out the door, Tommy turned back to them. “Knowing her,” he said, “I’ll probably need it.”

If he wanted to meet with her, she’d probably still be at the clock tower, or somewhere near the Tea Party at the very least. So Tommy headed the opposite way instead, down to the seedier parts of town. He remembered the first time Remus had taken him here, all those years ago, when they needed a replacement whazzit for Mathilda. Tommy had been terrified of walking anywhere in the city, let alone the lower city, let alone by himself.

Now he was doing both without a second thought. It was weird how things changed like that. How life just changed. It felt so odd to be back in this vague memory of his childhood, after his life had become so very detached from it.

Kei was a part of that too, he supposed. A part of his life from before Remus had died. He was almost afraid something would happen if he tried to bridge that gap. But that was ridiculous. Kei was a person, not just a memory. It wasn’t like she’d disappear if he tried to touch her.

He still didn’t know what he was supposed to say to her. “Sorry I inadvertently guilted you into sacrificing yourself for my happiness”? Or “You know you didn’t have to. I wanted you to go with me, and that would have been enough”? Or even “Sorry I slept through a dumb idea I definitely would have talked you out of, had I been conscious at the time”?

All of those sounded dumb, and Kei would definitely laugh at him.

Usually, he was really good at this whole talking thing, just not when it really mattered the most. At some point he was just gonna have to turn around and deal with it. He couldn’t just keep walking away from her forever. The city literally wouldn’t let him.

This was going to be a shitshow, and on top of that, an uphill battle to get there.

Again, quite literally.

~~ o ~~

Mike watched as Tommy hesitated, shook his head, and turned on his heel, heading back upwards towards the heart of the city. It was only distantly that he was really conscious of the fact that it was his older brother he was tailing.

He imagined that Mike Miller would have really liked him. Tommy was ideal big brother material. He was worldly, and chill, and really cool. Mike Miller would have followed him around like a lovesick puppy dog.

It was a shame then, that he’d never gotten to meet him.

As it was, Tommy was nothing impressive to Mike. He might have been older, but he was wishy-washy, insecure. Mike didn’t begrudge him these things. Most normal people were wracked with character flaws like that. But they were such ordinary flaws that it rendered him boring. Not worth expelling energy on.

He wouldn’t have even bothered with him if Abigail hadn’t told him to keep an eye on everyone. This was probably enough. Mike knew where he was headed for now.

In a matter of minutes, Mike found himself back at the warehouse. There was a pause of sweet, sweet silence as all that awaited him was a laptop with a black screen, but it very quickly turned itself on without any input from himself. The harsh start-up sound booming through tinny speakers made his ears hurt.

“Oh, hello Mike,” she crooned, after he waited way longer than necessary for her start-up sequence to complete. “Back so soon? It’s only been thirty-three minutes, twenty seconds, and fifty-two milliseconds since you left.”

“I thought I was Nihil?”

“I go back and forth. If you can’t figure it out then why should I bother?” It was impressive how she’d created five whole frames of pixels just to illustrate her shrugging her shoulders. It must have taken her quite a while. But it wasn’t like she had much else to do, ultimately.

He decided it wasn’t worth it to respond to her comment. “A lot’s happened in the last thirty-three minutes, twenty seconds, and fifty-two milliseconds.”

“Did you really memorize that?”

“No. I already knew before you said it.”

Abigail’s facial expressions were becoming more nuanced. He could see her visibly pouting.

“Do you want to hear my report or not?”

“Fine, fine. Yes, go ahead.”

“Doug and the others have finally met up,” he explained. “And they found Gilveidan in the clock tower. After that Borozov and Doug went off to the Soul Market to find the ‘weasel woman’ or whatever—”

“Rat Lady.”

“It really doesn’t matter. The daemon woman met with Desault. He did not look pleased, but it was a little hard to tell from ten floors down. Now Tommy’s going to see her too. Though I doubt he’ll actually find her today. I don’t think she wants to be found.”

“Well, it seems it’s all going exactly as expected.” Abigail sighed, sounding a little disappointed.

“I still can’t believe you predicted it all.”

“I can.”

“But why did the Truth show you these events, of all things?” Mike’s eyes narrowed a fraction of a centimeter. “These stupid teenagers can’t be that important.”

“Says the stupid teenager.”

“I’m not even human how can I be a teenager?”

“Regardless, you’d be wrong about that. These stupid teenagers are right smack dab in the very middle of causality itself.”

“Causality? Are you talking about fate?”

She rapidly cycled between two frames of scratching her head. “Sort of, I suppose? I don’t really know how it all works just yet.”

“That must really irritate you.”

“Oh dearest Nihil, you know me so very well!” The steam on her glasses was heart-shaped. “But that’s honestly one of the reasons why I decided to come here: to compare my notes with what actually happens and see if I can’t come up with some sort of hypothesis.”

“A hypothesis to calculate… fate.”


“And, like usual, you’re going to use Doug to do it.”

She activated a three-frame hopping animation at the mention. “I know! Isn’t it just poetic? Even at the very end of the final act Doug has proven himself to be so very useful. A real tool, if you will.”

“I wish you’d just leave him alone.”

Doug was crass, impulsive, and difficult for even him to comprehend. But there was still a modicum of lingering affection for the fuck-up, even if he didn’t respect him like Mike Miller had. He was finally getting away from Abigail. Straight into the arms of another manipulator, but at least with her he was getting a little calm before the storm.

Being around Abigail was like watching a tornado bearing down on you all the time always. Doug was a little lucky that he could get away from her.

“You know I can’t do that, Mike. I need to see where his story goes from here. Wait, you actually look a little upset. I didn’t think you really felt emotions anymore.”

“I do,” he grunted. “Just usually not as strongly.”

“Well, if it makes you feel any better,” she grinned, revealing a mouth full of pointy teeth. “Pretty soon he won’t have to worry about me ever again.”

~~ o ~~

Jack had heard enough. He’d crept over to the door of the abandoned warehouse when he’d caught voices within. Doug was a pretty common name, of course, but he had a feeling he knew… exactly who they were talking about.

It seemed like they—whoever they were—weren’t going to interfere, so he could leave them alone. He did think it was funny though. That kid seemed to attract the oddest people. Go figure, he supposed.

Jack pondered briefly just why they were here if they weren’t planning on doing anything, one way or another. To literally just watch? Well, that might be a little hypocritical coming from him. In the end, that was really all he was doing, too.

But unlike them, Jack was fully prepared to step in should the situation arise. He also had a vested interest in things happening as smoothly and quickly as possible. Malachi might be declawed, but a certain other bitch was not happy with his presence in the city. Already she was starting to send people after him. And as much as he appreciated the sport, it wasn’t easy to watch from the shadows when at any moment they could also be watching you.

Speaking of which, he’d best move on for now. Jack was a little too out in the open for his own liking. He turned, but hadn’t taken more than a few steps before he was interrupted.

“What are you?” asked a voice, low and steady.

Jack pivoted back, only to meet with the oddly hollow eyes of the boy from the warehouse just now. “Now that’s an interesting question,” he grinned. “How on earth did you know I was here? I was pretty sure I was being rather quiet.”

“Doesn’t matter. And you’re avoiding the question.”

As Jack looked at him for a minute, he realized that the boy was young, couldn’t have been more than sixteen. It was strange just how long it had taken him to notice. “My apologies,” he leaned back against the wall, “you just took me by surprise. Most people don’t pull out the ‘what’ question until I’m flaying their skin from their bones.”

“You are human,” the boy was staring at him, and had clearly come to the correct conclusion that Jack wasn’t actually going to answer him. “But there’s something else… in you head. A dark spot. A lot of them, actually.”

“What’re you, a bloody MRI machine?” Jack’s fingers caressed the pocket knife hidden in his coat. He didn’t appreciate snotty whelps getting into his business. “And wha’ssit to you, anyway?”

“Nothing, really,” the placid, slightly bored look on the boy’s face hadn’t changed this whole time. “I’ve just never met someone like you outside of the place I came from.”

Jack took one, singular step forward. There was something about this boy. Something about the weight of his being. It was almost… too heavy for one person. It was the same thing that he felt every second of every day.

“Just so you know, I don’t intend to interfere. And I’ll make sure that she doesn’t either,” he gestured back to the warehouse behind him. “So there’s no need for you to interfere with me, right?”

“Right…” Jack nodded slowly.

“Glad we reached an understanding.” Without another word, the boy turned away from him and vanished back into the warehouse.

“Who was that, Nihil?” asked a strangely tinny voice from within.

“No one,” the boy responded. “No one at all.”

Quickly, Jack turned on his heel, and didn’t look back.

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