Intermission: the Duress of Bottom Feeders

<< Revenant Faith and Foreign Pilgrimage

Shelilafior Seventy-six-centimeters was, among other things, the grand high poobah in charge of PR, editorial duties, management, headhunting, (occasionally) drug-dealing, and everything else on the part of Ghost Grid Caliber Publications. It meant he was used to dealing with unusual people, normal people, people who probably ought not to be called “people” in the traditional sense of selfhood, people who hated media productions, people with really weird stories to tell, people that qualified as better-than-professional gamers – though those were usually only on his virtual sports days – and people with inordinate numbers of things that they wanted to show him in the name of insufferably arrogant self-promotion.

Unfortunately, he had to deal with one Sheyey Duspink and her assistant at present.

“… and so,” the harridan was concluding in her very best impersonation of a concerned public servant, “I have a responsibility. If there were any signs of Mr. Richard’s infirmity at prior occasions, then we must know what those signs were. It’s as much for his own good as that of those around him to ensure he can’t pose a danger, and to document when he might have been communicable at various major crossroads of his life.”

The medium-built woman with riotously colored hair stepped back from his desk a moment, her glittering pastel eyes making little contrite downward arcs as she amended her speech.

“I’m sorry; his existence. I misspoke.”

I’m sure you did.

Shelilafior, unlike many other pohostinlats, had a very well-developed filter on his mannerisms that kept him from being labeled with the same “boorish and rude” brush strokes as many of his kindred. It was a necessity for those in positions dealing directly with clients, unless one wanted the dubious joy of re-clarifying one’s content as well as one’s presentation in any meeting or communicative scenario. Thus, when he replied to the muckraking mogul and her companion, it was with no inflection, no hesitation, no nuance of meaning beyond the literal content of the precise vocalizations he made.

“I can neither confirm nor deny the factual information pertaining to any of my clients, except to claim that they are my clients. Eihks Richard is my client.”

“Ask about whether he has any existence-class weapons!”

The stage whisper came from Uudroal Susans, the aforementioned helper. What precise relationship she had with Ms. Duspink was a matter upon which worthwhile speculation might be exercised. While Ms. Duspink was a born-human, and Mr. Seventy-six-centimeters was a born-pohostinlat, Ms. Susans was a born-something-conjugated which had happened to catch werehuman at some point. To her credit or shame, she’d always made her public appearances as a merely large homo sapiens female, with annoying tendencies to seed verbal caltrops wherever she could.

She also liked being sickeningly overdramatic.

“Mr. Seventy-six-centimeters,” began Sheyey, “would Mr. Richard happen to possess any existence-class artifacts, weapons, tools, or other paraphernalia on an equivalent level of enforced control as defined by-”

“I can neither confirm nor deny the factual information pertaining to any of my clients, except to claim that they are my clients. Eihks Richard is my client.”

HAD the pioneer possessed any such things, Shelilafior would actually have been legally required to disclose his knowledge. As that was not the case, his persecutor couldn’t use it as a lever to coax more data from him.

“I see.”

The razor-tongued woman simply gave a saddened down-sign.

“It’s a shame that we must come to such implicit misunderstandings about your clients,” she lamented.

Shelilafior almost told her that her misunderstandings were perfectly understandable, given her tendency to outright fabricate unfalsifiables whenever she could get away with it, in between negligible oases of actual morally upright work. However, he caught himself. That was the simplest, easiest-to-pull trick imaginable, and he’d almost fallen for it. It was a mark of her disarming nature, and evidence of how she’d amassed a staggering quantity of dirt and dirty lies about any number of people. She was a totem of filth that stood above the ability of many extrafacetary civilians to touch, let alone seriously challenge, yet too small and petty in her aims for anyone to step in and call her to heel.

“I can neither confirm nor deny the factual information pertaining to any of my clients, except to claim that they are my clients.”

“Yes. It was just that we had heard from the long and well-stocked grapevine that Mr. Richard had as much as admitted to being an undead himself.”

Yes. I’m so very glad you’re such a lovably patronizing soul; you need at least one redeeming quality.

The woman produced a sensory, and wearing a mask of crocodile tears sent it to the man she’d come to harangue within an inch of his life. The sensory showed a village of the people who’d been “inconvenienced” by the Weeper’s research teams, and whose goddess was in the Pursuant’s deific drunk tank after she’d gone and worked her blessings upon the aforementioned researchers.

You see this?” asked a perfect representation of the creator of the Journals of Gem Pioneering. In the sensory, some of his leg skin was bared, and it almost glowed in the pale daylight. Turned away, the recipient of his focus was a not-too-bad-looking pohostinlat lady. She and everyone else in the village watched him as he pointed with imperial emphasis.

It’s not imaginary. It’s also not relevant to this time or place. That’s all I’m going to say for now.

Red glinted like a bloody tooth at the end of his index finger, where an anankite nonagon hunched. It was an arcane cap, though redmetal was an unusual medium to say the least. It had been mounted to the inside of his hip via pitons sunk all the way into skeletal muscle, and likely even the femur or pelvis. A cursory lookup on the Monolith was all it took to confirm that the symbols on the shape indicated particulars of the ritual used to reanimate him. They also included some behavior-modifying sigils.

They looked the exact same as when Shelilafior had first seen them, on the day he and Eihks originally crossed paths.

“It’s very strange, how we’ve never heard of any such thing from yourself, or any other sources pertaining to Mr. Richard,” said Ms. Duspink. “I cannot say that his academically-inclined work is, say, as well-known as the Conferred Encyclopedium, or that of the Telluride Sisters, or even Deep in the Near. Even so, one would have thought this would have gained mention.”

“I can neither confirm nor deny the factual information pertaining to any of my clients, except to claim that they are my clients. Eihks Richard is my client.”

“Is that all you may tell me? That he exists?”

Sheyey sounded like she was actually beginning to show the faintest sign of her irritation.

“I can neither confirm nor deny the factual information pertaining to any of my clients, except to claim that they are my clients. Eihks Richard is my client.”

Eventually, the two women left his office, but not before leaving him with a very ominous utterance.

“I will not enjoy the fall of Mr. Richard’s career…” said Sheyey, “… but I will get enjoyment from it. Have a good day, Mr. Seventy-six-centimeters.”

Dispensing that lie through the thinnest tooth gaps imaginable, she turned and followed Uudroal out into the eventide.

“I hate that woman like I hate little else,” Shelilafior said five seconds after she left, and couldn’t help but allow his spurs to extend from his wrists.

His personal eidolon agreed.

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