“Should we bring anything with us when we go to visit your parents?” Ami rubbed her hands together a bit to warm them and looked over at her fiancee. They’d just gotten out of work and Ami was desperate for something to do to keep her mind off of the fact that their bus was running late.
William looked up from what he was reading on the ebook reader that Zane had recently convinced him to buy. He had actually taken a liking to the thing, much to Ami’s chagrin. She was firmly planted in the “paper books will always be superior” camp and the fact that her two tech focused friends were trying to convert William irked her. Though, as Risa pointed out, William was probably more inclined to use the technology because the Overcurrent, where William had spent most of his life, had many technological advances that the Mid-grounds didn’t. Even searching for a physical book in a library was done using handheld technology over there. In any case, that thing had been with William almost constantly since he’d bought it and Ami was tempted to start keeping track of just how much time he was spending paying attention to it instead of her.
“I don’t think it’s truly necessary,” William responded. “It’s likely they’ll have stocked the house in preparation for our visit. They always get overzealous when I’m coming home. Or, to the Overcurrent, rather.”
Ami saw the frown he was trying to hide. Since his being accused of being a traitor for his part in keeping Risa from the Overcurrent Council, his extended family and many other people in Reinvale treated him coldly. To make him more comfortable while visiting them, his parents had offered to prepare his father’s family home (which was in a fairly isolated location) for visitors and stay out there with him and Ami during their upcoming visit. It wasn’t going to be home to him, but it would be comfortable enough. They were planning to leave in a couple of days and they’d be there for almost a week.
Before leaving, they’d decided to have a “friendship dinner” with Zane and Risa. It wasn’t that different from what they’d usually be doing on a Wednesday night, really, but Risa insisted on a movie marathon, and of course that meant they needed more food than usual. “Are you up for making dinner tonight or should we just stop to pick something up?”
William sighed and packed up his ebook reader, seeing the bus pull around the corner. “Let’s just pick something up. I’m feeling exhausted after that last rush of customers.”
Ami made a noise of assent as she fished out their passes and boarded the bus with him behind her. They rode into the city center, to where one of their favorite take-out places was located. As they walked from the stop to the restaurant, William stopped suddenly, eyes fixing on someone across the street. Ami also looked, but didn’t see anything particularly remarkable about the 20-something year old.
Except for maybe her dyed purple hair tied back in pig tails and the black and white layered dress she was wearing. It had lots of lace and bows on it with extremely long and flared sleeves. Her outfit was called gothic lolita style, if Ami remembered correctly, and it wasn’t nearly as over the top as Ami knew from the internet (and Risa’s anime collection) that it could have been. Sure, it was unusual, but to William, who had grown up in a world of dragons and fantasy creatures, it couldn’t have been that weird.
“Ami, stay here,” William whispered. He headed over to the crosswalk to cross the street to where the girl was. The last time he’d had that tone of voice, it had been because he’d sensed the presence of a demon in her apartment and was planning to fight for her safety.
“Like hell I will,” she mumbled, following him. He shot her an annoyed look when she stood next to him at the crosswalk waiting for the coast to be clear, but didn’t protest.
Together, they made their way to the girl who was looking around at the different stores with an expression that was a mix of fascination and frustration. She turned her head sharply in their direction as they got closer. Frowning deeply, the girl turned completely to face them, suspicion clearly evident in her red hued eyes. She considered them quietly, gripping the strap of the old looking messenger bag at her side and waiting for them to speak first.
“I know what you are,” William stated flatly.
The girl snorted. “What a coincidence. I know what you are too.”
Ami found herself curious about the girl’s accent. She also found herself wanting to avoid any potential fighting between them, noticing for the first time how tense they both were. She pushed to stand next to William (which he protested against quickly) and held out a hand to the girl. “My name’s Ami and this is William. Listen, we don’t want to hurt you or anything and we don’t want any trouble. I’ll admit I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I’m sure that he’s just worried about the safety of the people in this city. Please, don’t take any offense to it.”
The girl eyed her hand warily. She crossed her arms and looked away. “His people always assume that we exist to cause trouble. I’m just here to find someone; I’ve no interest in the other people here.”
“Who are you trying to find?” Ami asked. When the girl narrowed her eyes at her, Ami held up her hands in a gesture of peace. “I just want to help. Really.”
The girl sighed and uncrossed her arms. “I guess you would be the best people to ask. I’m looking for a demon. My dad said this is where he was living, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so big and hard to find him in. He might be going by the name Zane.”
“Why are you trying to find him?” William asked, crossing his arms as he looked at the girl.
She grinned, showing off pointed teeth. “So you do know him!”
Ami suddenly got the sense that she knew why William was so tense about the girl. “Are you a demon?”
“Half,” William answered for the girl. “It’s possible that we’ve encountered a demon in this city before, but…”
She glared at him. “I need to find him and you’re going to lie to me and say you don’t know where he is. And we’re supposed to be the naturally cold-hearted ones.”
“Ok, let’s just all be reasonable about this. If you’re reluctant to tell us why you need to find him, why don’t you tell us how you know him?” Ami smiled at her reassuringly, trying to diffuse the situation. “Or tell us your name or something.”
The girl frowned deeply and was silent for a long time while she eyed William. She then turned to look at Ami. “Maia. My name is Maia. Zane’s a friend of my father’s from way back.”
Ami blinked at her. Zane had never mentioned having other demon friends besides the one that got killed by an Angel. William cleared his throat to get her attention. The frown on his face clearly showed that he was skeptical of the story.
Maia was able to tell that, too, and she let out a frustrated growl. “I don’t have time for this.”
Ami took out her phone and scrolled to Zane’s number. William frowned. “Ami, don’t.”
She held up a hand to quiet him and turned away from him and Maia’s confused expression as she held the phone to her ear. After a few rings, Risa answered it. She spared a quick mental laugh about how Risa’s and Zane’s numbers were practically interchangeable nowadays. She was never sure which one would answer when she called either one of them.
“Ami~, what’s up? When are you guys and dinner getting home?” Risa practically purred.
“Risa, I need to talk to Zane about something. Is he around?” Out of the corner of her eye, Ami caught the hopeful expression on Maia’s face. She was pretty sure the girl was telling the truth.
“Oh sure. We’re chilling in your apartment waiting for you guys.” There was some shuffling, which Ami assumed was Risa rolling out of a contorted position on the couch. She pattered into the kitchen where Ami could hear the sounds of the kettle boiling water. “Zane, Ami needs you.”
“Yeah?” Zane asked, sounding distracted as he took the phone.
“Do you have friends?” Ami asked bluntly. After a moment, she decided to clarify. “Friends besides us, I mean.”
“What’s this all of a sudden?” Zane laughed lightly, though there was a guarded tone to his voice.
Ami rolled her eyes. As noncommittal an answer as she should have expected. “Do you know someone named Maia?”
“No. Should I?”
Maia leaned closer and made to reach for the phone. William stepped between her and Ami, using himself as a shield. Maia glared at him before looking past him at Ami and speaking quietly. “Lucien and Hyacinth. My parents’ names. He’ll recognize them if he’s the same demon I’m looking for. I was born after the last time they saw each other.”
Ami could practically hear the frown in Zane’s voice. “Is someone else there with you?”
“How about someone named Lucien? And Hyacinth?” Ami had to pull the phone away from her ear to make sure it was still connected. Though she could hear the kettle in the background, Zane had gone completely silent.
“And this… Maia, was it? This Maia told you those names?” He sounded hesitant.
“She says they’re her parents. You do know them?” She smiled. The girl’s search was coming to an end, it seemed.
There was another long pause before Zane sighed. “Please, bring her back with you.”
“Sure. We’re going to get dinner now so we’ll be back in 30 minutes or so. See you then.” Ami hung up the phone and turned back to the others. William took a few steps back from Maia, who was smiling at him smugly. Ami laughed lightly. “He wants us to bring Maia to see him.”
“Why can’t he just meet us out here?” William asked grumpily.
“William, nothing bad’s going to happen if she knows where our apartment is. Her parents are Zane’s friends.”
“So she says. Just because Zane knows them, doesn’t mean they’re actually on good terms. One of them is a demon.”
“So is Zane.” Ami shook her head and smiled at Maia. “Would you mind coming with us while we finish up our errands? We can buy you dinner, too.”
“I don’t mind. Thank you, Ami.” Maia smiled at her and put a hand on her arm as they walked, shooting William a sharp toothed grin over her shoulder.