There are places in the Last City that were not made for the Average citizen to concern themselves with. A place that catered to the powerful, the unique, the gifted, a place for...you.
It was known simply as Red’s. An unassuming warehouse tucked in the crowded market streets of the Citadel’s fabric district hid a gem of a bar for the less reputable. Inside you would not find the elite nor the innocent, a stark difference to its neighboring establishments. Colourful drapes and pennants billowed above a slew of stalls and carts for at least three city blocks in Old Town. Vibrant fabrics, jewelry, the smell of food vendors intermingle with shoppers, fabric workers and city guards. The merchants' voices filled the streets with a clatter and murmur during the day.
But at night..
“Hurry uuuppp!” he drawled, pulling the last word out with a strain. His grip on the machine was slipping.Why they hadn’t bothered or thought to make sure the door was open before they started hauling the heavy tech up was beyond him, but then again, his band mate wasn’t the brightest of kids. A genius on the keys but not much else going for him. There were stairs in the back, tucked away and almost hidden from most except those keen to the smell of potentially winning big.
The younger one looked back, a ring of keys in his hand jingling as he picked through them. “All of these look the same, Kal. It’s not my fault!”
“Stop aching and just bang on the door, I’m going to drop this thing and it was a bitch to grab. Getting it to work at all was a miracle.” he shifted his hand placement for the fifthteenth time.
“Risur is going to be pissed if we break it before we even get it inside. I really don’t want to see what she’s capable of, man.” the third one finally spoke up. He had been focusing so hard on keeping the weight balanced he hadn’t wanted to risk talking until that moment.
While they were the house band for the bar and lounge, Risur had since joined the employee roster and with it, came a certain luxurious air and rebel streak. She was good at finding things, while her other abilities had been tainted during her ‘trip’ to this universe, this was a skill she was more than glad remained and could be put to good use within the Cartel. To start, a Golden Age relic in the form of a jukebox with more than a few working musical selections. It was perfect for her vision.
Amidst the taste makers and power brokers that found their way into Red’s every night were many with money to lose, and Risur was many things, and that included being an opportunist, so she went to Red with a proposition; he would rent out a space for her in his bar where she could run her betting house and she would split the profits with him. While she was more than capable of handling herself in this new world, she also saw the benefit of saddling up with the right people until she could find a way back home.
Red’s was a large warehouse, fronted with an inconspicuous front lobby that opened up to the actual bar. Among the staff was a floor manager and a waiter as well as a few security hidden in strategic parts to make those feel at ease. The bartender, Amelie ,was young, fun and some would even call her spunky and she didn’t mind, she was who she was; authentic and didn't question herself. Further to the back sat a lounge area. Between the two was a makeshift stage with a lone piano. The house band was a ragtag band. When they weren’t riffing new blues and jazz melodies you could find them discussing music excitedly with thin sticks of smoke pressed to their lips and a pair of cards in their hands. They took a liking to Risur almost immediately.
The boys were still arguing when Risur unhooked the latch and swung the door open, causing the youngest to drop the ring of keys and the other two to almost lose their grip on the tech. Risur lifted an eyebrow. “Took you lot long enough.” she crossed her arms, a hint of a smile playing on her lips. “I did all the hard work for you, this was meant to be a quick snatch and grab.” They were musicians, not scavengers nor treasure hunters and she knew this. Still, it was fun to give them shit from time to time.
She waited a beat before stepping a side and guiding them in with a hand. “Put it over there,” she turned her guide hand into a compass needle and pointed to a back corner. “That’s the last thing I need set up before the crowd starts pouring in.”
All of this lies within the walls of The Citadel. Walls erected to keep the world at bay, and to protect this monolithic society from the world at large. Many find the wall a comfort. Its standing means they are safe. Others find it a stain upon society. Offering a false protection when many dangers lie within it already. Some are even said to live outside the wall. Outliers to the societal norm of this rusted futurescape.
So come on in to Red’s, grab a seat, order a drink, listen to the house band and forget about what lies beyond the walls, forget what lies beyond Red’s, because all that matters here is a good time.
No matter the weather or time, when Zalvich was out and about, his face was draped with fabrics to shade his face. They were not unlike those which adorned the shop-fronts of the market street or hung for sale from some merchant’s arm as he tried to get his last deal of the day. It wasn’t a matter of fashion, though Zalvich did pride himself on being the most flamboyant in the room once comfortable…
It was a matter of moving in the shadows. He may not have been a creature of darkness by any means, but he had his reasons, and almost all of those reasons were quite frankly his own fault.
If he were to catch the eye of those he was trying to avoid, some examples of their exclamations could be;
“Oi, you! You filthy weasel, you owe me money!” Or “Lord above is that Z? Get here you bastard, I haven’t forgot about you and my wife!” And maybe even “Uh… aren’t you supposed to be dead?”
All of which he’d pretend not to hear. Ignorance is bliss, after all. And as far as he was concerned, Zalvich lived a life of moral perfection and luxury. You can convince yourself of anything if you try hard enough.
But all was quiet as night crept in, any remaining lanterns cast dancing light across the cobbles as it shined through fabrics waving in the dying winds of the day. He avoided the brightness as he continued on his way.
Zalvich closed in on Red’s with his usual smug smile and overflowing pockets, he was ready for a good time. Whatever that may be… drinking himself into a blackout? Losing everything he owns? Accidentally getting into a fight based off the fact that he was, well, himself?
A good time.
He remained inconspicuous as he passed through the entry into the initial space. Zalvich would describe himself as more worldly than many, but he had to admit, this place brought a toothy smile to his face as soon as he stepped foot inside. A smile that could be taken out just as quickly, depending on which of his fellow Cartel members were relaxing inside. Well, perhaps ‘frenemies’ would be a better term.
You can’t please everyone. He’d tell himself.
Zalvich gave the password after a few minutes of jokingly pretending that he had forgot. Little did he know, it was one of those jokes that was only funny the first time.
His homecoming was not as grand as he had hoped. He made his destination, passing into the bar and throwing off his cloak to reveal the stranger garb beneath. Zalvich stood for a moment, grinning as though expecting a round of applause.
It never came. He just got a few slightly disapproving looks from behind the bar and an awkward murmur.
He blamed it on the fact that it was pretty early and cleared his throat amidst the soft blues tones.
"Well, well, well," A smoky whisper snaked its way from the deep void of the gambling hall in Red’s bar, followed by a man who had an air about him that some would describe as “a jungle cat ready to pounce.” The man stalked his way from the gambling hall towards the back of the bar, his face blank except for a questioning eyebrow that hanged a bit higher than the other.
“If it isn’t Citadel City’s prodigal son, returned to disappoint friends and go back on promises, Zal?” The man’s voice was firm, deep, and what some would confuse for friendliness.
Red, the titular owner of Red’s bar, grabbed a couple things from under the bar, keeping an eye on Zal all the while.
“You still take yours with some chili oils?” Before Zal could answer Red put a few cheeky drops of his own special chili oil blend on the tin cup, followed by the other ingredients. As the Jazz band played a few experimental notes, Red worked the musher over the mint leaves and lemon wedges, both grown in the farming fields in the northen edges of Citadel City. Red ensured all Carmesi Cartel contracts for produce always had a little extra just for Red’s bar. The infamous leader of the Carmesi Cartel knew keeping Red’s well stocked meant the influential citizens of the city always stopped by for a good time.
Red might never admit it, but even Zal had some pull in the last city. The loud mouth always had some fingers in half a dozen meat pies, and as a high ranking Cartel member, Red liked to keep himself informed of the loud mouth’s whereabouts. Red poured rum and carbonated water into the cups, sliding one towards Zal.
Soft, pale red lips frowned as hazel-colored eyes rolled slowly over the dusk-shadowed buildings. A few stragglers bustled about, closing up their stalls or hurrying home or elsewhere, but the streets were mostly empty now; the sun was a glowing red ball hidden beyond the distant wall of the Citadel. Ze was deep in the heart of the city now, in a place that usually would have put zir off: crowds and noise, emotions flowing like a fast river, overwhelming zir…but not now, not as the evening descended slowly into night. Already stars were starting to peek out from clouds that seemed to be napping despite the breeze that played with zir clothes and the dark-brown hair ze had pulled into a high pony behind zir head. That breeze carried rain, yet the storm had passed two days prior; perhaps another was on its way.
Ze looked at the card in zir hand again. It was an odd symbol ze couldn’t really describe, like a tilted square with the sides all different lengths - something that zir eyes and zir brain couldn’t quite agree on the nature of. It was a shape that shouldn’t exist, at least not that way…or perhaps it should. But flipping over the otherwise plain white card put the symbol in thick black ink out of zir mind, showing zir instead a brief description and name: Red’s, warehouse bar, look for where people aren’t going.
An odd thing, that. Ze shook zir head and stuffed the card into the left breast pocket of zir purple denim jacket. The thing was a little too big for zir, but it had been zir father’s and ze was loathe to be rid of it. The turned-up collar kept the wind off zir neck, and the sleeves pushed up to just above zir elbows mostly kept them from getting in zir way. A sudden gust blew back the jacket, revealing a loose black tank top tied into a side-knot at the bottom, revealing zir toned belly but also keeping the shirt from whipping about the way zir yellow-and-black plaid knee-length skirt did. Who said plaid was out of fashion, anyway? For that matter, who gave a rat’s tail about fashion? Ze dressed in what ze had, and if plaid wasn’t popular, then the rest of the world could piss off; ze’d wear it anyway.
“Look for where people aren’t going” - and come at night. That had been the important thing. Ze wasn’t fond of the idea of going to some random warehouse that might hold a bar as soon as it got dark, especially since ze didn’t exactly have a lot of friends. Actually…ze had no friends. Being an empathic introvert had some serious disadvantages when it came to making friends. But ze’d been promised some rare books and a free meal for the piece of old-world tech that now formed a good-sized bulge in zir inside jacket pocket. Exactly what it did, ze had no idea; but it had been hard to find and it was apparently valuable.
Zir purple hiking books made a hollow sort of sound on the empty street as they moved zir through the unnerving quiet. As far as ze could tell, there were a lot of places that people weren’t going right now. It took a while to spot the pattern. Most of the shops were closed, and most of the people that owned shops in this area lived above, under, or in the back of them. But the few that still had lights on, whether the doors were locked or unlocked as yet, all had people moving around inside - putting things away, probably, or preparing for an end to the day. One place, though, seemed like it hadn’t been touched in years. Truth be told, ze had to look at it three times; it was definitely a warehouse, but it had seen better days and ze had probably walked right past it more times than ze could count without ever seeing it. Where people weren’t going…that had to be the place.
Ze pulled out the card again as ze stepped up to a door on the side of the building. There was a pass word written on it - that was zir way in. Ze only glanced at it, though, before putting the card away again. Ze knocked, then knocked again, and finally got an answer as ze was about to knock a third time - a muffled call to open the damn door and step inside.
What hit zir immediately was all the red; that, and the place actually looked…not untended. It was surprisingly clean, if a bit empty. Ze walked across, looking around, until ze spotted a door on the back wall with someone standing guard; ze walked over to it, gave the pass word, and was allowed to step into the bar proper. There was almost no one here at the moment. Wonderful. So either whoever it was wasn’t here, or he was somewhere else in the building. A band of some kind was setting up, and a couple of people who had the look of being moderately important were chatting near the bar. The place looked like it was built for drinking, dancing, and drinking some more but nobody was doing either of those thinks just yet. It must have just opened up for the evening.
Sighing, ze walked over to the bar and sat on one of the stools. An arm dropped onto the bar immediately, zir hand hanging off of it, as ze turned sideways to have a look around. Yeah, zir client was not here. He’d better show up or ze’d be finding another buyer. Ze felt the place out as ze sat there, letting the “white noise” that ze usually ignored dance along the edges of zir mind: anticipation, amusement, cockiness, a touch of disappointment…and that was just from the only other person on this side of the bar who didn’t look like he worked here. Ze absently gave zir skirt a gentle tug around zir legs, not quite conscious of the fact that ze was wearing a skirt in the kind of place where serving girls probably got their asses pinched by drunks and fools but not quite ignorant of it, either. The last thing ze needed was some idiot getting a free peek at zir underwear. Zir mind, though, was mostly on the emotions ze could feel around zir rather than zir clothes.
All in all, there wasn’t much going on here at the moment. Ze half-heard someone asking if ze wanted a drink; ze wasn’t much one for booze but perhaps there was something less idiocy-inducing here. The only thing ze could think of off the top of zir head was green tea, but that was usually served hot; still, zir mind wasn’t on drinking, either.
“Green tea, if you have it,” ze said without looking at whoever was addressing zir. “Iced. Please.”
The “please” was added as an afterthought. There was no need to be rude. The last thing ze wanted was to make enemies in a bar, and anyway, ze was usually fairly polite to people. Ze was just distracted now. No one else was coming in…wait. Someone was…no, that wasn’t zir client. Sighing again, ze turned around to see someone pulling some things from under the bar. Ze didn’t think that was who had asked what ze wanted to drink; the voice didn’t sound right. It didn’t matter, anyway. Ze crossed zir left leg over zir right as ze faced the bar properly and adjusted zir skirt, resigning zirself to a bit of a wait. Ze had told the man ze’d be wearing a yellow plaid skirt and a purple denim jacket, so ze should be easy enough to spot when he finally showed up. Ze idly fingered the key hanging around zir neck, hoping ze’d at least get zir drink quickly. Ze was a bit parched and the tea would do zir some good, especially as hot as it had been during the day.
A shadow swept through the streets, unseen as though they were the wind itself. Carefully dashing through the familiar alleys and dark parts of the mostly empty streets, Ash found Red’s tavern with ease. Before she entered she took a long sweeping look at the large unassuming warehouse, and let the sight of it stir up pleasant memories. Then she took a deep sigh and entered the tavern, a smirk slid onto her face as the thoughts of what she could stir up tonight ran through her mind.
Immediately she clocked her father as she entered, the infamous Red, pouring some drinks behind the bar. Sigh. Ash was hoping it was going to be one of those nights where he played puppet master behind the curtain. Not that she wasn’t happy to see her father, it’s just she wasn’t in the mood for a fight about her dealings with the Weeping Sisters. Too bad the bar wasn’t packed or she might be able to slip through without him noticing right away. At least it looked like Red was busy conducting business with a shady looking man of whom she recognized as Zalvich, the man with connections.
Ash decided to not avoid it and gave Red a quick nod of acknowledgement, before she gave the rest of the bar a good scan. Where oh where is a good place to start some trouble...hmm.... A quick contemplation of the lounge was thwarted when her eyes landed on a peculiar looking subject sitting on a stool at the bar. A sly smile took root upon her face as she smoothly slid herself next to the mysterious stranger. Ash gave zir a once over taking note of the unbar-like clothes and posture. Before she engaged in conversation with the stranger she called out to Amelie.
“An Old Fashioned please.”
Then Ash turned her attention to the stranger.
“What does a place like this have to offer someone so… regal?”
Her dark eyes were full of curiosity and mischief.
With little else to do, Tris let zir mind wander. Zir ears tuned into the sounds around zir, but the rest of zir was busy pondering a dozen different things that had nothing all to do with one another. Ze wondered whether those twin gray cats wandering about zir neighborhood were all right, as ze hadn’t seen them in a while; ze still put out milk for them when ze could get it and water when ze couldn’t, though ze didn’t like wasting the milk if ze didn’t have to. Ze also ran through ideas for zir different projects at home and the to-do list for tomorrow, which included (among many other things) an unfortunately necessary shopping trip to pick up much-needed supplies; that would be fun - about as fun as shoving a hornet’s nest up zir ass. Ze’d have to spend extra time meditating for that. Then there was the strange device in zir jacket pocket…
Ze blinked. Someone was talking to zir. Ze turned zir head to the right to get a better look at the dark stranger in zir peripheral vision. A dark-purple hoodie only partly hid locks of dark hair and dark eyes set in a face tinted brown; she looked young, whoever she was, but ze didn’t need to see the smirk upon her lips to know she had mischief on her mind. It was a different kind of cockiness mixed with that same anticipation, the kind that meant someone was looking for trouble with which to amuse herself.
Regal? Tris? Ze cocked zir left eyebrow at that. Ze was hardly regal, especially when knee-deep in junk covered in rust and filth several decades old - but even like this, Tris was more casual than regal. But ze supposed that compared to ripped jeans and greasy hair and leather jackets, ze probably did look regal. Ze didn’t see any of that here just yet, of course, but who knew what kind of people might show up later? The place did look clean, though, so maybe it had a better-dressed clientele than one would have expected of a bar. Either way, ze certainly didn’t consider zirself regal.
On the other hand, as far as pick-up lines went, it was more polite than most. Then again, the girl looked young - maybe a teenager. That was a little young for Tris. Ze had a strict five-year rule: no one older or younger than five years. Anyone older or younger than that was jailbait or some other kind of trouble ze didn’t need. Besides, ze wasn’t here for pleasure.
“Business,” ze said in response, zir tone probably more formal than ze meant it.
Ze was thankful for the sudden distraction of a tall, clear class being placed before zir on the bar, the coaster catching the slight condensation sliding down it. Another drink was placed in front of the stranger.
“Thanks,” ze murmured, hoping ze didn’t sound ungrateful.
That was always a problem for Tris. Did ze sound rude even when ze was trying to be polite? Did ze sound unfriendly when ze was trying to be anything but? Did others think ze was weird or just not into conversation, or was ze just coming off as shy? Ze never seemed to sound how ze wanted to sound, and ze always felt more awkward than ze probably was. People were…difficult. Maybe if ze’d spent more time around them in zir youth, they wouldn’t be, but zir abilities had never really let that be an option. It was why ze’d spent so much time sifting through ruins as a kid and why it had been worse for zir when zir father died than when zir mother had died, though that hadn’t been at all easy.
Ze contented zirself with sipping zir tea through the provided straw. The cold tea hit zir throat and ze felt an instant rush of relief and pleasure. It was good, too - well-mixed and holding just the right amount of honey. Ze was glad the server had added honey instead of just sugar; it gave it that extra little boost of flavor, a hidden treat that ze added to zir own at home. But too much and it became sickeningly sweet; too little and it remained as bitter as if it had none. Just a little honey was all that was needed, and it made all the difference.
There was something about Red that made the hairs on the back of Z’s neck stand up. Though he’d never admit it. Not even after 10 mojitos. He was a little surprised to see him manning the bar himself – but it was a pleasant surprise.
“Nice to hear I’ve been missed, Red” he said with a wrinkle of his nose as the smell of the chili oil wafted over along with the glass, which he caught in a waiting hand.
“And I never disappoint, thank you very much good sir. It’s hard to when everyone’s opinion of you is so terrible…”
Hey, at least he was self-aware.
He gestured then nodded as though he had said something incredibly wise and took a sip of his drink, his rusty orange silk sleeves flourishing dramatically. Zalvich then gave a toothy, awkward grin to hide the fact that the drink almost had his eyes and nose running. For someone with Eastern blood, he sure could not handle even a nod towards his heritage when it came to spice.
“Ahhh, but Red” he borderline guffawed once he’d seen his sip down the hatchet. “It isn’t a loss of money when it’s going to such a charitable source as keeping this gem open…
I mean. How many lovely expensive red drapes and crystal shot glasses can one bar really have?”
Zalvich let that settle rather smugly before eyeing the first newcomer. A newcomer, he knew for certain unless he was being fooled, as he frequented Red’s far too often to not know almost everyone. Although he could be fooled pretty easily after a few drinks.
He observed quietly for a moment. A rare occurrence. Green tea. Purple and yellow? This was indeed a telling of bad taste on a monumental level.
He was getting prepared to stir the pot, but it looked as though Ash could manage that all by herself, despite only having just arrived.
“Say, Red, have you ever thought of opening a strip club called Purple’s?” he asked, trying to sound absent-minded, though his smirk said otherwise.
“A canteen called Orange’s. A salon called Blue’s. A grocers called Green’s… actually, I think I’ve heard that one before. Scratch that. But you’re missing out on a whole franchise here. ”
Zalvich sighed whimsically and arranged the obnoxiously sized jewel ring on his finger.
“Also, you need a stricter dress code in here” he stated.
“Business…” Ash paused and let Amelle set down the iced tea. She watched zir drink it with pure amusement. Ash seemed to ponder the situation in its entirety, searching for the perfect thing say in an all too perfect moment.
“Hmmm, I love business. Now, what kind business could you be doing here, in a bar, drinking iced tea?” A deeper smile locked on her face as she searched ravenously in the strangers eyes for answers or emotions.
Then she followed up with, “I could buy you a real drink if you wanted.”
As if by cue, Amelle brought Ash her old fashioned. She thanked her then took a long sip, saving the familiar, yet much need, flavors. The rich, smooth taste was a welcome addition to her mouth, and once again her whirled with warm memories for a moment. Ash glanced at Red, remembering the when he first taught her how to make an Old Fashion. That was just over three years ago, so much has changed since then.
Tris frowned at the woman. No…ze frowned at the girl. The same pleasure ze felt from zir tea was felt by this girl from her drink, but that thirst for mischief had only grown stronger. This girl wanted to know everything, but Tris didn’t think she was trying to pick zir up. It didn’t quite feel like that. No, this was something else. Ze had to be careful here.
One thing zir father had taught zir early on was not to trust people too freely, no matter their looks or how nice they were. Tech from the world before it had “fallen” was valuable, and the market for it was constantly evolving. People always wanted something particular, though they were usually willing to settle for something rare or merely something useful. Some people would pay out the ass to get it; others would swindle or steal it from someone else at the first opportunity. There were a handful who were even willing to kill, and using someone to get something from someone else was a common tactic.
The girl was young, yes, but that didn’t mean much. Tris was in (mostly) unfamiliar territory here, zir client hadn’t shown up yet, and ze was being approached by someone who barely looked old enough to shave her legs. Ze thought very carefully for a moment about what to reveal and what not to, choosing zir words before ze let them fly.
“I find things for people,” ze told the girl. “He isn’t here yet, though.”
Crap. That was stupid. Well, she could probably see that Tris was alone. That much was obvious. But should ze have said anything? No, probably not. Ze covered another frown with a second sip of zir tea.
In quiet anticipation Ash watched the stranger frown and then contemplate zir next words. When ze finally spoke Ash arched her brow as her own wheels of the mind began to spin.
What sort of things did this person find for people? Ze didn’t look like one for the more nefarious trade, so weapons and drugs were most likely off the table. What could be worth zir meeting someone in a bar in the dead of night? By the look of zir’s clothes, nice, but caked with a healthy coat of rust and dust, zir was a scavenger.
“You find things, like a scavenger?” Her eyes studied the stranger for answers. “What kinds of things are worth scavenging, or what is left to scavenge? And what sort of...clientele do you serve?”
This stranger could be worth something, to Ash and her employer. She needed to make a connection. Her face changed slightly from the devious curiosity to a friendly curiosity.
“By the way i’m Ash.” She extended a hand for the stranger to shake.
General question, or was she probing? No, she seemed earnestly curious. Sipping zir drink gave zir a moment to think, an excuse not to answer immediately. When ze set it back on its coaster, however, it was time to answer.
“Junk, mostly,” ze said off-handedly. “People want lots of…things. Stuff. Old junk. Some of it still works. Dunno what most of it does, but I can usually figure it out.”
Great work keeping things back. No, there was a limit to how much could be safely kept back in a conversation, just as there was a limit to how much should be divulged to a total stranger. But ze was a tinkerer and a scavenger, and who knew? Maybe this teen wanted zir to find something, or would once ze found out what ze did. It could be a potential business opportunity. Even if zir client didn’t show up, maybe ze could use this to zir advantage; plus, ze’d have to find a buyer or figure the thing out zirself if he didn’t show, anyway.
Oddly, despite mostly wanting trade instead of coins, Tris had collected a small fortune ze rarely used. A few dozen obsidians’ worth of mixed coins were hidden among zir possessions at home, but it was only ever the jades ze took with zir to get supplies. People seemed to want them more than trade as often as not, and ze wasn’t using them for anything else - well…mostly. The metal had been useful for certain unconventional designs, make-shift things and jury-rigs that needed a thin piece of metal for a prop or to form a circuit, things like that. But in general, people ze met would find more use out of the coins than ze ever would.
“Tris,” ze said as the girl introduced herself.
Ash was an interesting name. Why would someone name their daughter after the burn-off from a fire? Maybe it was a nickname, perhaps derived from her full name. Ashley? Possibly. Well, Ash it was, anyway. Ze took Ash’s hand briefly, zir own a mix of lotion-softened skin and the firmness of a working person's hands. Ze took care of zir hands, considering how much use ze got out of them; ze was very hands-on, and ze had cut or bruised or burned zir hands more times than ze could count. Quick work with basic medical supplies zir father had taught zir how to use meant ze didn't scar much, if at all, and lotion kept zir skin healthy. The faint scent of blueberries was undetectable to most people now, several hours after ze'd last applied the scented lotion, though anyone with an exceptional olfactory sense could pick it up. The lotion was one of the few personal items ze bought with coins; it was a little expensive, but when you took in as much coin as you did goods for trade and mostly put out the latter, you tended to stock a lot more coins than you realized. Tris wasn't even sure exactly how much ze had saved up.
When ze took zir hand away, it instinctively went to the other one, hanging off the bar where zir other arm was now resting. Ze played with zir hands and fingers idly, not really conscious of the fact. It was a nervous habit, this...washing or rubbing or whatever one might call it. Ze stopped it when ze noticed it, but ze didn't always notice it. It was kind of like the surface emotions of others, only physical instead of emotional white noise. Where had ze heard that term, anyway? Ze couldn't recall. But it seemed to fit, so ze might as well apply the term to that.
Zir mind was rambling, trying to distract zir, put zir back into zir comfort zone. That edge, though, would keep zir alert - and ze needed to be alert here.
“You need to loosen up, Aza. You’re too tightly wound.” Mayumi’s elbow jabbed the other sentinel’s side sharply. The ceiling’s lobby loomed above them, giving way to the bar that she hustled Azalea through.
As she spoke, Mayumi peeled off the sentinel mask, grinning at the taller figure.
There was a distinct unease in the way Azalea moved – like a feral barn cat; skittish and attentive.
Following her companion's direction, Azalea removed her mask, and as her eyes glossed over the room, she had no doubt counted the numerous potential threats or the various different defensive options at her disposal before they found themselves a booth.
"Why are we here?" she asked, taking a seat across from Mayumi and fixing her with a mis-matched set of eyes. Despite appearances, neither eye was blind; on the contrary, one saw further than any would dare to see.
“Because I want a drink,” Mayumi retorted obstinately. “And you need one.”
She flagged down a waiter before Azalea had time to protest.
"What can I get you?" Cleo was quick to appear and just as quick to omit any pleasantries with Red's overtly diverse clientele.
In response, Azalea narrowed her eyes at her sister. "Just a glass of water."
“She’ll take an ale and I’ll have a rum.” Mayumi beamed at Cleo.
The waiter nodded and departed.
When they were alone, Azalea folded her arms on the table length and followed the waiter's retreat. "That was unnecessary."
Had it been more than just the two of them, she probably wouldn't have been so candid, but alone, after their nearly twenty years together, Azalea didn't always catch her tongue.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mayumi snorted. “Honestly, Aza, sometimes you’re such a wet blanket — oh hey, Ash is here! Near…”
Her brow furrowed in thought for a moment, before her silvery gray eyes widened almost comically.
“Isn’t that Zalvich? From the Cartel?” she hissed.
Azalea sighed. "Hence why the drink was unnecessary."
Something in Mayumi’s gaze glittered; impish and sly.
Red was in the middle of setting up two shots of silver tequila, one for Zal and one for himself, when the scoundrel decided it was a good idea to suggest that Red open a line of colored named establishments across the last city.
Then the Crimson Lion added five dashes of chili oil to Zal’s drink.
“To be fair, Zal, I didn’t name the bar, the patrons took the initiative all on their own, I suppose it’s a compliment in it’s own way. Red’s all class and charm, just like it’s titular owner.”
Red placed Zal’s shot in front of him, the blood red wisps of the chili oil suspended in the clear liquid of the tequila, staring menacingly back at Zal.
“Though Purple’s wouldn’t be a bad idea, half your exes could be dancers, and the other half patrons.”
Red picked up and held his glass to Zal’s head, before giving him a nod and taking it down in one gulp.
Red looked over at his daughter while Zal mustered the courage to drink Red’s idea of playful teasing, studying Ash and her bar companion. Zal was right about the dress code but at the moment he could care less, Ash’s very presence at his establishment was her own idea of playful teasing, or it would have been if she hadn’t joined ranks with the Citadel’s most powerful cult. Some children’s idea of rebelling was a ludicrous hair cut or perhaps a tattoo, at the most extreme running away and joining a local merc company. Not Ash, no, her idea of rebelling against her father was working for the one organization that was just as powerful as the Cartel but far more psychotic, and that was saying a lot.
The Cartel had a decent amount of psychotics among their ranks.
And on queue, the Weeping Sisters biggest crazies walked into the bar, taking a seat at a booth.
“Looks like things just got a little interesting tonight,” Red whispered to Zal before calling over Risur. She had been quiet, leaning on the door post, watching, waiting, taking it all in.
“Be a dear and take them a house wine, I need them relaxed and not scaring potential clients with their cult vibes.”
“Now you,” Red turned his overwhelming gaze back to Zal,” how much money are you planning on losing to me tonight?”
She slid her eyes over to Red, inhaling deeply before pushing herself to a fully standing position. “Of course,” there was a slight accent hinting in her words that most couldn’t place. She grabbed glasses and an opened bottle from the shelf behind Red, placing the stems between her deft fingers and walked to the two sentinels.
She passed Cleo on her way over, giving her a wink, before setting three glasses down in front of the two sisters with a clink. She nodded a greeting to them before popping the cork out with a single fluid motion. The red liquid poured like a ballet in each of the glasses, a perfect dark storm. When she was finished, she eyed the remains of the bottle and grimaced. “To your health, wealth and happiness of your children” she saluted them with a nod and raised the bottle to them with a saying from her home world, and then proceeded to down the leftovers straight from the bottle.