JRSV-CAMV-23 level: down 0.03%
—Log book entry
In the next few days, I took care of all the mundane details of life in the city.
The tiny studio apartment Uriel found for me was in a residential building that was twenty minutes walk away from East Thuesen’s sector eight. He had chosen it because it was relatively safe compared to the more rundown buildings in the area. It was too expensive for most single girls from the country like me, but I could explain it away since I had sold Signe’s house when I left. That and the fact that I had a job at the trendy book cafe “The Brew Crew” on sector eight should explain how I was able to afford the apartment.
Cash in hand, I shopped for clothes and other essentials. Seraphiel wanted to accompany me everywhere but, since I wanted to pose as a simple country rube, I persuaded him to go to work while I scoured the secondhand stores for bargains. My sewing skills were good enough that I could alter the clothes to fit me properly.
The hero must have arrived in the city a few days ago, but it would be seven days more before I would have a good opportunity to meet him. I spent those days getting to know Seraphiel and the others better. They were pleased that the artifacts I had rented out to them were working perfectly, so they were all in a good mood.
The three Commanders were the three greatest warriors in the world, and their daily routines reflected that. Like dedicated professional athletes on Earth, they spent most of their time exercising or training. They had one monster-hunting mission during the seven days I stayed in the apartment, and they came back cheerful and refreshed. Kraej Company paid a bonus for each monster a soldier killed, and the higher level the monster was, the bigger the bonus. The Commanders made a killing both literally and figuratively each time they went on a mission.
Though they had limited free time, all three of them had hobbies.
Seraphiel spent at least an hour each morning tending his plants. He had dozens of them in an indoor and outdoor garden. His terrace was strewn with watering pots, shears, organic fertilizers, potting soil, seedling trays, and other gardening accouterments. There were lots of potted plants as well as a complicated-looking hydroponics system indoors.
I was glad to know that his other passion was books, just like the time when he lived in the EL lab. We spent many hours discussing the latest popular books, and I packed a bag full of books to read in my apartment.
When I asked what Uriel did during his free time, Sariel and Seraphiel both smiled.
“Can’t you tell just by looking at him?” said Sariel.
“Alligator wrestling?” I said.
“What’s an alligator?” said Seraphiel.
“Oh my dear, take a good look. This...” Sariel gestured, raising a hand in Uriel’s direction then sweeping it downwards to indicate Uriel’s entire body. “...Is Kraej’s City’s biggest manwho-”
Uriel coughed loudly, interrupting Sariel. “Watch your language. There’s an underaged girl present.”
“What?” I said, shocked. “You all said that the tabloid stories were all lies!”
“The women in the news aren’t the ones that Uriel is seeing, but truth is stranger than fiction. Uriel’s conquests number in the thousands,” said Sariel.
“Don’t exaggerate,” said Uriel.
“What are we talking about here?” I leaned towards Sariel and used my hand to cover my mouth as I whispered in his ear. “Like who?”
“Practically every actress, model, and society lady in the city,” Sariel whispered back at me.
“Shut up!” Uriel threw a sofa cushion at him.
“We should have realized he was sick when he stopped seeing a different woman every night,” said Seraphiel.
“Not you, too! Don’t start,” said Uriel.
“Oh my. What’s Sariel’s vice then?” I said.
Sariel got up from the sofa and threw his arms wide as though to embrace the world. “My vices are legion. I’ve done it all and in excess. Drinking, gambling, drugs, promiscuity, driving too fast, wearing white socks with black shoes, mixing plaid and stripes…”
“Let me guess, your hobby is something extremely boring like collecting antique spoons, right?” I said.
“I collect people!” said Sariel.
“He spends all his money partying,” said Uriel.
“I’m the king of the nightlife!” said Sariel. “Uriel is the one who collects stuff. If he asks you if you like swords, say no. Otherwise, he’ll show you his collection and you’ll be stuck for hours.”
“Hmph,” said Uriel.
“What’s your hobby?” said Seraphiel to me.
“I like to train chibis. That’s what I call spell creation in the spiritual plane…” I trailed away since the three ELs had fallen to the floor, clutching their heads with almost identical expressions of pain on their faces. “What’s wrong?”
Uriel staggered off to vomit noisily in the toilet while I helped Seraphiel and Sariel get up and sit back down. “What happened?”
Sariel just groaned.
“Your voice sounded…” Seraphiel didn’t finish the sentence.
“My voice?” I said.
“Was like a thousand icy needles stabbing my brain! I thought I was dying,” said Sariel. “I take it back. You really are an angel.”
“Huh?” I hadn’t done anything.
“Or, more likely, a demon,” said Sariel.
“But all I said was that I like to program chibis-”
“Stop!” Uriel, who had just returned, screamed. All three of them covered their ears.
“That’s weird,” I said.
“There must be things mortals aren’t meant to hear,” said Seraphiel.
I scratched my head. “The goddess must be censoring my words.”
“It figures that her hobby is something unspeakable,” said Sariel.
“It’s not unspeakable since I can talk about it.”
“Please stop talking about it,” said Uriel.
“Okay, okay. I’ll talk about safe hobbies. Anyway, I like to read. Shopping is also nice. And you all know I love candy,” I said. “I’d like to go out somewhere there’s a lot of beautiful things when I’ve finished making friends with the hero and don’t need to hide my friendship with you guys.”
“Beautiful things?” said Seraphiel. He recovered faster than the others and looked back to normal. Uriel was still looking a little green around the gills while Sariel was still dramatically collapsed on the sofa.
“Oh, you know. Paintings, sculptures, objets d'art, stuff like that,” I said. “I’d love to tour museums, art galleries, and gardens.”
“I know the best up-and-coming artists!” said Sariel. The subject at hand had made him perk up. “I can get tickets to any art event anywhere.”
“Great!” I said.
“What was that about ‘when I’ve finished making friends with the hero’? How long will that take and why do you have to be friends with him?” said Seraphiel.
“It will probably take a few months,” I said. “And obviously, it’s absolutely essential that I become friends with the hero.”
“Why?” asked Seraphiel.
Damn, “why” really was his favorite word.
“Because I need to stalk the hero!” I was exasperated enough to tell him the real reason why.
Sariel and Uriel looked at each other then burst into laughter. Seraphiel just stared at me.
“Stalking isn’t very angelic!” said Sariel.
“Hmph, that just goes to show what you know!” I exclaimed. “Haven’t you been educated in the classics? Stalking heroes is the number one duty of angels! How do you think Adon found the sword Rust inside the bowels of the Great Wyshirm?”
“How?” said Sariel.
“Because an angel fed the sword to the serpent and sent it to block Adon’s way! Why was King Torkild the only one to discover Fleshrender even though the barrow had been there for hundreds of years? Because an angel put it there a few days before Torkild arrived!” I said.
“That does make sense,” said Seraphiel. “I always thought it was strange that Berit was lucky enough to find a set of legendary armor in the treasure hoard that fit her when the epic poem said she was extremely small for a warrior.”
I nodded. “Yes, that was the work of an angel tirelessly working behind the scenes to make everything run the way it should.”
“Huh,” said Sariel. He still looked doubtful.
“I have to befriend the hero because he’ll be seeing a lot of me while I run around secretly preparing items for him. That will be easier if I have a normal identity. Now, good night, everyone! I’ll have moved into my new apartment by the time you all get off from work tomorrow.”
I retreated to the guest bedroom, pretending not to hear the three Commanders muttering “why,” “I should be the hero,” and “now I smell like vomit.”
I needed to go to sector eight soon to meet the hero.