Kellie was annoyed.
She was sitting in a restaurant of sorts with Da Seul, who was industriously but carefully eating a bowl of ramyun. Kellie’s bowl remained untouched. Unusual, but then again she was almost fuming.
Kellie was annoyed for not coming to the city earlier. “I knew about this for like a year!” she burst out, “Why didn’t I do it sooner?”
Da Seul shrugged and neatly avoided slurping a noodle.
“I mean, seriously!” Kellie continued, “I’ve been left out up until now, and because of what? Me!”
“Well, how’d your first round go?” Da Seul asked, trying to get Kellie’s mind off of the past.
Kellie groaned. “I was entered as Varsity…” Da Seul winced in sympathy. “You?”
Da Seul looked surprised and a bit embarrassed. “I think I did better than the other people in my round. But…well…”
Kellie and Da Seul probably wouldn’t have met, except for Speech. You never can tell, though. Neither one’s talent really aided them in the tournament; Da Seul’s, to Get a Ride, only helped with transportation. Kellie’s ability to split into two people temporarily seemed convenient for Duo at first, but playing both parts of a Duo with oneself was no better than simply doing bog-standard Interpretation.
Kellie made a note to look up the term “bog-standard” and turned to look out the window, catching as she did the sight of two other competitors hastily looking away. Hmmm…that looks suspicious…
“Kellie?” said Da Seul concernedly, “Are you OK?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Kellie waved a hand around vaguely. “I think I’m going to go to the bathroom.” She got up and walked towards the window, listening as she did for snatches of conversation from the mysterious pair.
WOMAN: I don’t think we should bring others into this. It’s too risky!
MAN: Frankly, I’m not the one who’s been risky here. I didn’t even want to come here this time!
WOMAN: Oh, right, like I’m the only one who has a steak in this?
MAN: Stake, not steak.
WOMAN: Oh, whatever! We need to figure out where this came from, why it’s here. *noise of unfolding paper* Grrrgh!
DA SEUL: You know, the bathroom’s over there.
Kellie shook her head and blinked. “Oh. Um, yeah.” She turned but didn’t move her feet.
“O…K…” said Da Seul hesitantly. Kellie hurriedly listening back in the direction of the table.
MAN: You know, she’s watching us right now.
MAN: I SAID—
Both competitors got up. “What are you doing?” asked the woman.
“I’m…I was just going to the bathroom…” Kellie trailed off. Great going, Kellie, there’s no way they’re gonna believe you now.
“Kellie?” Da Seul had returned to her shoulder. “What’s going on?”
The man turned and sighed. “Nothing we can do, now.” He stuck out his hand. “Hi, I’m—”
“Edward!” the woman hissed. Then she slapped her forehead.
“Pay no attention to her, she’s Elaine,” Edward continued. The woman—Elaine—groaned.
“This is Da Seul, and I’m—”
“Kellie.” Edward gave a faint smile. “I’m observant enough for that.”
“Stop showing off, Edward.” Elaine shook her head. “Well, since you’ve gotten them involved already—”
“Involved in what?” interrupted Kellie.
Elaine gave her a long-suffering glance. “I was just about to tell you.” With a flourish she produced a neon-orange piece of paper. “The latest in a series of strange events happening all over Zix.”
Kellie took the paper, read it over, and handed it to Da Seul. “So? How does this affect me?”
Elaine started to say something honest but Edward cut her off. “Well, you’re in the tournament, right? So if something happens here, it affects you. It’s that easy.”
Elaine looked ready to smack Edward (yes, smack), until Kellie answered. “OK.”
“Wait…what?” asked Da Seul incredulously. Kellie and the two competitors (who, she saw, both had tall black cloaks with those nifty starched collars) were already moving towards the door. “Kellie, did we pay?” Da Seul continued almost plaintively.
“Check!” Kellie answered affirmatively.
Da Seul picked up her jacket and frowned slightly. “That was a really bad pun,” she called back. But the door was already swinging shut. “Hey, wait for me!”