"You're out of your mind."
Even with a massive piece of light-obscuring headgear obscuring her eyes and most of her eyebrows, the darkness remnant on the other side of the counter still managed to look entirely unimpressed by Six's attempts to look threatening. "He specifically requested you, Six. As per our policies, new remnants have a great deal of sway in determining where they stay, should they have an opinion." She leaned forward, resting her hand on her chin but otherwise matching Six's posture, their noses only a few inches away from each other. "Forveau has made his very clear. And I distinctly remember the last several times you have shirked this part of your duty. Perhaps even…enough to write a report…?"
Six recoiled with a hiss, snatching her hands off of the counter as though it had burned her. "Uuuuuugh...Fine," she spat, "but if he causes trouble…"
"Then you will take care of it. As you are expected to." The Director of Integration smiled pleasantly, with no trace of her earlier iciness. She studied Six for a moment, head cocked slightly to the side. When she spoke next, her voice was gentler. "You know, I am not sure why you're so opposed to this. Your report said you found him wandering the Twisted Spire, perfectly at ease...and, apparently, had been wandering in such a manner for, as he puts it, 'a long time'? Surely such a self-sufficient remnant would be more suited to your…lifestyle, than the average one."
Six scoffed. "See, here's where I'd agree with you...if he hadn't attached himself to me as soon as we stumbled across him." She crossed her arms and looked away. "...He unnerves me. And that self-sufficiency is exactly why. No new remnants last out there for that long…either he's lying, or he's nuts. Not sure which I prefer."
The Director clicked her tongue sympathetically. "Well, I suppose you will have to find out. Unfortunately, being a little odd does not disqualify a remnant from having a mentor. If it did, you might never have gotten one. " She smiled again. "Dismissed."
Six burst out of the office in a huff, finding the rest of her rag-tag team still waiting outside. Oonie, who normally towered over the rest, was curled up against a wall as she usually did, nearly dozing by now. Which was almost miraculous, considering Kriyah was excitedly (and loudly) leading a game of tarocchi, having roped both Argozi and Leo into it. Judging by the way Argozi's tail flicked against the tiled floor, he was winning. Ever observant, Leo looked up first when she arrived. "So? Snuck out of babysitting again, fearless leader?"
Six scowled. "You and I both know that you can hear right through that door."
The tabaxi shrugged, adjusting his mask with his free hand. "Was trying to be polite. Glad to hear that Siobhan didn't go easy on ya this time. I think it'll do you some good."
"Aw, chin up!" Kriyah butted in with a grin. "I bet you'll be friends by the end of the month!"
Argozi snickered, not looking up from his cards. "Red? And the old guy? I'd bet she kills him first. Also, I win this round. Again. Easy game." He spread his hand out directly on the ground, gesturing triumphantly at it.
Six ignored Kriyah's squawk of indignation and the resulting scuffle, letting Leo handle it and instead crossing the floor to her only other squadmate. She reached out to bonk Ooniemme lightly on the noggin. "Hey."
A rumble was all she got in response. Good enough. She turned back to the group, and with a look, even Kriyah and Argozi stopped their spat to look at her expectantly. "Alright, listen up!" she said. "That remnant we found this morning has once again stuck to me like a skybarnacle on Kri's house. As a result…" She grimaced a little. "...you all get a month vacation while I babysit. Try to spend at least some of it keeping up with your skills, yeah? Volunteer with other squads, try to find us a darkness recruit, all that." She waved a hand dismissively. "Just don't do anything I wouldn't do."
Leo nodded. Argozi gave a half-mocking salute. Kriyah responded with a hearty "Aye aye, Captain!", which finally prompted Ooniemme to open one eye. She nudged into Six a little, almost like a cat. Good enough.
A few hours later, Six's squad was taken care of, some requisite paperwork was filed, and she was left to stand awkwardly in front of the Void Runner headquarters, grumbling to herself as she did her best to avoid doing more than sneaking a couple of glances at the man next to her while they waited for the caravan to arrive.
He was tall, impossibly so, for what the Runners deemed to be a human. Though she'd been too annoyed during their original trip back to headquarters to properly check, she had a feeling that he might have come up to Oonie's chest - impressive, given that Oonie easily sat at an even nine feet tall, and that was with her usual slouch. His skin was a rich tan, and it practically glistened in the ever-burning sun of Praecidia Luxor, so pretty that she half wondered if it was somehow fake. His eyes were heavy-lidded, with silver irises, and apart from a shock of red curls at the front, his hair was shaved close to his scalp, a massive improvement to the wild mane she'd seen when they first took him in. What was most odd, however, was the fact that he seemed to have every piercing she'd seen while hopping around bars back home…and several she didn't. How in the world he'd managed that out in the Flux Edge was a question she didn't want answered, right up there with why he was shirtless in the coldest neighborhood in Praecidia.
Truly, she had her work cut out for her.
Forveau looked down at her with that weird, fond smile of his, and she cursed under her breath. She'd stared just a little too long, and now she was going to pay the price. "Tell me…Do all of the people live here?" He was much more soft-spoken than his stature suggested, but it did nothing to soothe her annoyance at the appearance of yet another question.
"Remnants. I told you this." She pinched the bridge of her nose. "People is the chosen plural for human remnants, but there's selkies and sirens native to here, not to mention the androids, land deities, tabaxi, fungivolk, elves, dwarves…Ugh, I can't even remember them all. Just…call them remnants. And no. Of course not. I'd go nuts if I lived here."
She glanced up and down the road, hoping for a reprieve, and with luck, there was indeed a small caravan heading up the road. With the pay she'd just gotten, they probably wouldn't mind a little side trip to Regalios along the way to wherever they were headed. Maybe they'd even be persuaded to keep their mouth shut without breaking her bank, they looked small enough.
"But…" Six broke out of her mental calculations when Forveau spoke up again, gritting her teeth. "...Where do you live, then? And…what's a selkie? And a ta-ba-zi? And…why are you called remnants? Is people not easier?"
"Oh look!" She cut him off and stepped into the road, arms spread wide to flag the caravan down. "Our ride is here! What a shame!" The human driver, a purple one, shook a fist at her, and Forveau watched as she slipped a small bag into his hands and whispered something. A hard look was exchanged, and the tension was broken when he laughed uproariously. Six turned back to beckon to Forveau. "C'mon. We're wasting daylight."
She smiled, the first time she'd done so since she accepted him as a ward, when he ambled over to the caravan without asking anything else. At least until he broke his streak, watching her climb over the metal railing to sit comfortably amid the crates stacked there. "Oh…Is this safe?"
He did. Six nodded approvingly, then leaned forward to wrap her arms around her knees as the driver revved up the caravan engine. The whole thing moved forward with a jerk, a rumble, and a cough of foul-smelling smoke, and then it started purring comfortably as it made its way down the road to the Luxor border. Once they'd gotten moving, Six took a deep breath and gave her unwanted companion a critical look. "Alright…we got lucky enough to find a Metal trader, so he'll keep his mouth shut. But! We'll be passing through Praecidia Trigneros and Praecidia Lignarum - that's the Fire and Wood neighborhoods, before you ask - and both of those gods' remnants are nosy as shit. Head down, mouth shut. The last thing I need is another incident like Eiran's."
Forveau tilted his head. "Eiran? Another… remnant?"
Six nodded. "Not to tell his story for him, but…" She looked around, then dropped her voice lower. "He's one of the goddess of darkness's remnants. But they found him in a piece of the Flux Edge that's light-aligned. Word got out, remnants thought he could move between realms, and everybody tried to get him to teach them what he did…but of course, he didn't know. He just…happened to show up there." She shot a glare at a nearby crate, still bitter over the memory. "...He didn't leave his house for months. Too many remnants. Might have died there if I hadn't been smuggling stuff in."
A minute passed in stony silence, save for the ever-present rumble of the caravan engine. For once, Six was the one that broke the silence. "...Anyways. The less attention you attract, the better." She looked up at Forveau again, her eyes narrowed. "Being a metal-aligned human, let alone one as tall as you are, is already putting you at a disadvantage...but let me do all the talking for the first few days, don't do anything weird, and maybe we'll get through this dumb welcoming period without any incidents." She eyed him for another few seconds, steeling herself, and then closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Do...you have questions. About this."
"Would you like a cushion?"
Six's eyes flew open again, and she looked down to see that, sure enough, Forveau was sitting on a golden velvet cushion. He reached out to put a hand on her shoulder, and she shrugged it off almost immediately, which didn't seem to bother him. "I am…sorry, to hear about Eiran. Many blessings be upon him. But I will let you be my voice and my guide only if you permit me to grant you a boon somehow. So." She blinked, and where there was an empty hand, suddenly, there was a matching cushion. Red, in velvet like the one he was sitting on, almost the exact hue of her skin. Forveau held it out to her, smiling at her as warmly as a lover. "I ask again. Would you like a cushion? It sounds like a long ride."
She took it without even thinking. In fact, her mind had gone blank. It refused to even begin considering what had just happened...but luckily for her, she was too stubborn to let that stop her. "...Where did you get this." After a second, an explanation came to her, and she brandished the cushion at him like a weapon, which in her hands, in this mood, it might have been. "Step one of Don't be Weird, stealing is bad!"
"I am no thief!"
"Then what's this!?"
Forveau snatched the cushion pointed at him easily, and Six was about to give him a severe tongue lashing…until, with some imperceptible motion, the cushion in his hand was no longer red. She watched with mouth agape as it turned purple, then yellow, then had a photorealistic picture of her face, mouth agape, on it. It happened too fast to even see the color change, so fast that she almost wondered whether it had been the old color at all, or if it had always been this way, and she'd just imagined the rest.
When he handed the cushion back to her, it was red. The exact shade of red that her skin was.
Six was not devout, but she was also no idiot. She looked back up at the man seated in the caravan with her with new eyes. It had been only a few short years since she, the last metal-aligned human remnant, had herself been found by a team of Void Runners. A few weeks after that, they'd found their first android in the leavings of the god of metal, and the doom prophesying amongst the humans of Praecidia Regalios had begun, in whispers and worries that only grew louder as the months passed without a single human found. Their god had abandoned them. They had not found his forgiveness in time. He was dying. He was dead. He'd never existed at all, and neither had Metal, as a concept.
…He had been wandering, for a long time.
Six looked at Forveau, and lifted herself just enough to tuck the cushion he'd given her under herself. It was the best thing she'd ever sat on. "...Forveau. How much do you remember, from before you came to the Void?"
He blinked at her, a politely puzzled frown on his face. "I…hmm." He put a hand to his chin, and closed his eyes, and it was all Six could do to not reach up and shake the truth out of him herself. After a long moment, he continued. "I remember feeling...acceptance. And...being pushed. And two names." He opened his eyes, held up two fingers. Tapped the first. "Mine, Forveau." Tapped the second. "And…Another." He dropped his voice, and what was already soft turned quiet, a little melancholy. "...Dame Infinite. The… goddess…of Metal. Besides that?"
He looked away, past the front of the caravan, at the long, long road that lay before them. "...Nothing. Nothing at all."