In the morning, Chloe milled about her room. She regarded the day clothes on the ground and wondered if she would have to wear them again. Then she remembered that Riley had tricked her travelling bag back from the police. She put on new clothes. Chloe stuffed the old clothes back in the bag and leaned it on the desk.
“Oh right, the letter. I guess I’ll find a courier for that today. Lillith must know someone.”
Chloe headed down to the ground floor, hoping her host would be there. The letter contained a simple question to her father asking who Venus was, as well as assurance that she had made it to the underside okay, but that the Lussa city certainly was troubled.
“Ah, you’re awake.” Lillith said.
Chloe returned to reality, “ah, yes. Is there anyone who can take this letter to the Overside, to my father in the Solune Kingdom?”
“The Overside? It isn’t easy to deliver to the other side of the planet.” Lillith considered for a moment and then added, “although, I do know a merchant who takes goods there occasionally. This isn’t urgent, is it?”
Lillith gave Chloe the merchant’s location.
“But return soon. We still need to figure out what weapon best suits you, and also to build up your stamina.”
Chloe left the house and wandered around for a while, glancing at the address that Lillith had given her. Eventually she encountered Elliott, who had come to see her. After explaining her predicament, Elliott offered to help. They found the merchant with ease, and he accepted the letter. The man accepted Solune coin, so Chloe paid him for his trouble.
Elliott said, “hey, you know, this place is close to the shop we’re painting. Want to see?”
“What do you mean?”
“Okay, I told you I do odd jobs for Prince Riley, right?”
“Yes, and that you have a lot of free time,” Chloe nodded.
“Right, well with the rest of the time, I do commissions with a few friends.”
Elliott began to lead Chloe towards the shop.
“Commissions?” Chloe asked.
“I’ll explain,” Elliot said, “you see how this place, this whole city, is made of iron right? It’s the easiest material to find around here other than, like, sand. And for some, it’s nice and shiny. But others find it all grey and dull, because everything looks the same. So, those people come to me or one of my friends, and ask us to paint it!”
Elliott rummaged through his bag and took out a metal tube. On one end was a nozzle, and on the other was a capped hole.
“See, you can take the top off and fill it with paint, and then you pump air into the bottom. Then it’ll spray.”
“Interesting. I’ve never seen this method of painting before.”
“Oh, it’s great. So, there’s a shopkeeper who wants his building painted with a design. Nothing two intense, it is a place of business of course, but enough to make it stand out. Of course, we can’t just paint, you need to get government permissions. Oh look, there it is!”
They stopped in front of a long, thin, two storey building on the corner of a marketplace block. In front of it was a small group of people.
Chloe said, “That’s it? This building looks just like the rest.”
“No no, we haven’t started yet.”
“We’re planning today. Look, you can see Spider up there on the wall with the soft stone, checking measurements and doing outlines.” Elliott pointed.
“Wow, this is a whole process, huh?” Chloe said.
“Yeah, it’s our project.”
One of the people in the group was shouting instructions out to Spider.
Elliott introduced Chloe to his colleges.
He pointed to a white skinned, perturbed looking bald man who was staring at an outline on his sheet of reeds-paper, “this is Gerome. He’s the oldest, and he’s volunteered to help the Prince, kind of like you. Gerome, this is Chloe.”
Gerome said, “hey there, Chloe, nice to meet you.”
Chloe gave him nervous smile.
Gerome went back to his work, “Alright, so who all drew up this plan? It’s giving me a lot of mixed signals. Eh! Spider! Rub off that marking at the top there! No, not that one!”
Elliott looked at the awkward situation, and said, “yeah, it’s probably better to let him be. Anyway, these two are my brothers.”
Chloe looked at Elliott’s brothers. They were young, but older than Elliott. They were clearly twins, and they both had pale skin and light orange hair. They looked back at her, one at a time, bored. Chloe turned to Elliott, who had black hair and dark skin.
Elliott said, “they are Olllie and Eastton.”
Chloe felt a little better about talking to these two, since they were related to Elliott, and she knew Elliott.
Confused, Chloe said, “And they’re your brothers?”
“Elliott, look, you’ve gone and confused her,” Olllie said.
Eastton added, “Yeah, really. Did you even bother to explain why we have different skin tones? She probably thinks we’re adopted.”
Chloe looked from the twins to Elliott with a questioning look.
“Right, okay,” Elliott nodded, “good point. So, my brothers are albino. Apparently Lussa people have a higher chance of being albino than other races. You do know what albinism is right?”
Chloe nodded, “yes, it’s when you have no pigmentation in your skin.”
Olllie said, “right. Although, it’s a little different for the Lussa. Since it’s so common, even the albino people have become more adapted for the sun and whatnot.”
“Whatnot,” Chloe nodded.
“Right, so it’s not a complete loss. That’s why, while I may be pale, I can stand the sun, at least for a bit. It helps that the sun is fairly weak on the Underside.”
“That’s very interesting…”
“Very interesting, Olllie.”
“And,” Eastton added, “it goes the other way too. There’s a decent chance of a white person being born melinistic!”
“It’s around fifteen percent either way,” Ollie finished.
“So,” Chloe said, “it can be hard to discriminate without the pitfall of being straight out wrong, huh.”
The twins looked at each other, then shrugged.
“Okay, but who made these plans, anyway?” Gerome said, “they don’t make much sense.”
Elliott walked over and began explaining his outline. A few times, he himself got confused, or had to scratch lines off of the reeds-paper and redraw them. The twins left shortly after to go to work. As the day went on, Chloe watched as Gerome and Elliott with amazement as they instructed Spider, who diligently began to replicate the dark lines on the page as light marks on the wall.
Some time in the afternoon, Spider came down from the wall.
She took off her helmet and said, “I’m tired. My mom wants me home.”
Elliott and Gerome shrugged. Gerome packed away the plans, and everyone went their separate ways.
Elliott followed after Chloe and said, “hey, maybe I should stop by and see if Riley’s there. He might need something, you know?”
“Sure, we can walk back together,” Chloe said.
It didn’t take long for the two to get back to the House of Angels. Chloe went inside to find Lillith, and see she could get any food, and Elliott followed. Instead, she found Col.
“Where is Lillith?” Chloe asked.
Col gave her a nervous look, then said, “she’s in her study on the second floor. She’s… waiting for you.”
Chloe headed up the stairs, mumbling, “waiting for me?”
A neat label declared it’s door to be the study.
Elliot stopped and said, “you know, I’ll wait here. I don’t know why she wants to see you, but I don’t think I should interrupt.”
“Sure,” Chloe said.
She entered the room.
Sitting behind a large desk, Lillith looked up at Chloe and gave her a stern expression.
“I was wondering when you were coming back.”
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First draft disclaimer: This narrative is a first draft, and is therefore subject to grammar errors, repetitiveness, lack of clarity, repetitiveness, weak character voice and other issues. Later drafts will smooth such things over, but for now they remain.
If you want, you can help me out on Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/DanielTriumph)
This chapter was a real struggle to write. Not only because I’ve got my bipolar depression issues right now, but also because I’m starting to find all sorts of holes in my plot, or unnecessary portions. I think this is a lesson on planning.
I really want to finish anyway though. At least I’ll have something I can add to consistently, and also first drafts are notoriously terrible, right? Maybe I’ll have a better outlook on it when I’m not so down. For now, at least I got something out.