Noara was holding the wooden door to the building open for Lea to walk out. She stepped outside and started looking around. There were large apartment buildings around her separated by a road in very bad state. The gaps and fissures on it made it look impossible to drive on. The buildings themselves didn’t look much better. Their paint was cracked and some of them had windows broken. By the looks of it, she was at the entrance of a small city, at the outskirts of it. Looking right, she could see slightly larger buildings in better conditions, and at her left she could see the entrance of the town, where the cracked road fused with the dirt. It was a desert, a complete wasteland. Completely barren, without a single mountain. Everything, of course, washed by the crimson light from above. She looked up, but she didn’t see the sun or anything providing light. She saw a ceiling, hundreds and hundreds of meters above her head, bright red. She dared ask.
- Is... – She stammered at first – Is the ceiling glowing?
- Ehm, not exactly – Answered Noara – It’s just reflecting the light of the Pyre
- The what? – Lea turned around to look at Noara with a puzzled look
- You know, the center of hell, the fire of the damned, the eternal flame, etc – She casually explained to Lea as she started walking deeper into town – It’s so big that its reflection lights up the ceiling and gives this red light all day. The buildings are making it hard for you to see it, but once we get to a crossroad look right and you should be able to see it.
Lea had her eyes wide open hearing Noara’s explanation. She had so many questions that she wanted to start asking about that fire, but she feared that talking about that would move her away from the topic that she wanted to discuss. She started following behind Noara, still a bit perplexed about her surroundings.
- So... – She didn’t know where to start – That contract you had with my dad – Noara turned her head towards a bit, signaling to her that she was listening – What did you have to do exactly?
- It was a complicated jig. I had to get into a house that was heavily guarded, find a contract that 2 brothers made with a demon, burn it and get out without anyone noticing me – Noara’s eyes looked up towards the ceiling, contemplative – These 2 guys, the brothers, had a prostitution ring and your father thought that me being half succubus could do the job of infiltrating rather easily. The fuckers had a habit of sometimes getting prostitutes that worked in their places to their house, so you can imagine what I had to do.
Lea couldn’t keep her eyes off Noara as she was explaining to her the details of what she had to do. She started to feel a bit uneasy about the whole subject though. She always tried her best to stay away from the criminal world that her dad seemed to be deep in, to not much avail.
They got to a crossroad and Lea looked away from Noara to witness the pyre. It was smaller than she had expected, but that’s because it was kilometers away. A gigantic column of fire spewing it up from the earth and hitting the ceiling with anger. Looking at it was like trying to look directly at the sun. She could feel her eyes burning and she looked away while Noara kept talking.
- After that I ran away from their mansion and no one even saw me leave. The morning after they found the bodies, but I was already gone. No one knew what happened exactly. I do feel a bit bad for those guys; it’s not like I enjoy killing. But taking into account the kind of people they were, I’m sure they’re down here with their souls becoming demons of greed.
- So then, why didn’t my dad pay you? – Lea was rubbing her eyes a bit, feeling some tears running on her face from the brightness her eyes were exposed to – It seems like you did your job, no?
- Well, yes, but your dad specified that I did it without anyone noticing me – Noara’s expression grew a bit darker – Because those 2 idiots discovered me, your dad decided to not pay me, even if I silenced them.
As they were moving forward, the buildings seemed less broken and some stores and shops started to appear. A lot of them were drug stores, clothing shops, bars and convenience stores with some very aggressive advertisement plastered on the windows. The streets were rather deserted, except for a small green demon with an oversized jacket and a hat covering his face sleeping at the door of a closed bar and a lizard-like person with similar punk clothes, as Noara walking on the other side of the street.
- Isn’t he afraid of you wanting retaliation? What even happens if he doesn’t uphold his part of the contract? What binds him to pay you?
- Ok, one question at a time – Noara moved her hand in front of Lea with her index finger up – First, these contracts are created and written by meslis, demons of pride. Big gargoyle like demons, very unsettling guys. They like laws and are very good at writing the small print of a contract. If there’s a dispute about the written pact a mesli figures out who is in the wrong. But neither your father nor I want to contact one of those demons in fear they think the other is right. And you don’t want those people to think you broke an agreement. They – She paused for a second and smirked – Take a lot of pride in their work. Punishments for breaking a contract are severe. Neither I nor your father want to risk having enforcers on our back.
- So, since you’re not strong enough to take on my father and his gang, and therefore you cannot physically retaliate, you kidnapped me to force my dad to pay you.
- Bingo – Noara snapped her fingers pointing at Lea and winked with her left eye – Now all we have to do is wait for him to pay. Sorry, again, for the inconveniences.
- Don’t mention it. I’m honestly – Lea thought deeply about what she was going to say – relieved that I have some days away from that house – Noara looked at her a bit surprised, raising an eyebrow. Then shrugged and kept walking.
They got to a roundabout with some food stores and general stores. In the center there was a hole with a raging fire inside. Around the hole there were metal railings that seemed rusty. This place wasn’t quite as deserted, but Lea could only count 5 people walking around. Noara stepped in front of a stored called “Un-Holly market” and walked in.