Then again, Jamie didn’t need to be honest about her feelings and impressions, why would she?
“Been working out so far,” Jamie said, “I guess we’ll see which of us is delusional in the end.”
“Oh, sweetheart, you already know,” Amara said.
Jamie sniffed in annoyance and crossed her arms while Amara retreated her hands into the outfit once again.
“Well, I must be off,” the Lady of Light said, “I have made the faithful wait long enough. I doubt we’ll have the opportunity to talk again before this is all over, so I sincerely hope you will consider our words.”
The Street Rat’s poise became even more childish and arrogant, like that of the Scavenger that she was.
“There’s no words I gotta consider twice, lady,” the Street Rat said, “Shadow Conclave’s been fightin’ the hardest, and Shadow Conclave’s gonna win this dumb fight. Not anyone in particular, and most definitely not any dumb saint-wannabe-heroine.”
Amara smiled knowingly, and nodded.
“The right action, even when perfectly executed, doesn’t guarantee the right result,” the Lady of Light proclaimed. “Results will always depend on other people, who are a hundred percent free to do what they want, and think what they want, regardless of whether it’s right. That is how much respect we are shown, that we are allowed to be wrong. That is how all of us, though we came from the Light, become the dark ones. By choice. By the same token, I cannot force you to consider my words, less even to believe them.”
“That’s what you call the Beasts, the dark ones, ya can’t just use that on everyone,” Jamie said.
Amara smiled, seemingly always willing to talk some more.
“Well, I did not coin the term, but I promoted it with the intention of later applying it to everyone. It is an integrally valuable lesson to realize we are no different from them. All creatures are equal before the Light, the only differing factor is whether one has come into the Light, to have the darkness in them exposed so that you allow Them to—”
“Arright aright already,” the Street Rat rose in interruption, very much meaning to sound disrespectful. “If all yer gonna do is preach, ya better go, yeah. I’ll find my way out.”
Eeesh, Jamie thought, exhausted as ever by having to handle religious expletives.
The Lady of Light gave a little respectful bow.
“We are dark ones as well,” Amara said in closing. “Whatever circumstances have spur the Beasts to be the aggressors in this war, they would most likely affect us the same way. Consider that.”
“Sure.” Jamie said, making it obvious she had given up. There was no arguing with a loony toon who internalized life philosophies based on writings supposedly telepathically whispered by imaginary friends.
The Street Rat had been wrong about Amara, indeed, she was not the Holy Lady at all.
“I’m going, now,” Jamie said, turning around. “Thanks for your time, our Lady of Light.”
Amara sighed, a bit disappointed yet still maintaining that very sincere smile.
“It was my pleasure, Jamie. You are, of course, free to leave. I hope we get the chance to talk again.”
“Arright,” Jamie said. She gave a little mock bow, half-turned towards her, and promptly left the scene.
On her way down, Jamie’s feelings settled a bit on how to regard Amara in as much as they agreed they never wanted to see her or interact with her again. By the time the Street Rat left the world-famous building, she had accepted that was because she felt cheated.
Getting cheated was on the victim, not the cheater, the Street Rat didn’t have anything against someone who actually managed to fool her, but the way in which Amara had fooled her had been a cheat.
How could Jamie possibly have known Amara was legitimately religious? That she acted selflessly while making use of her cunning to seem otherwise, for years. One could argue she had a not idealistic-enough view of how to practice her faith, it wasn’t radical enough, but one could not argue with results.
Crowds quickly gathered as she left the building…with no armed escort. No husband, no guards, nothing but a group of other priests and priestesses. No one tried to harm her, no one would, even at the end of the world. The crowd itself would protect her from any individual who tried.
“When the times are dark, we must shine all the brighter! Spread the word that the Light looks over us all to see how we act and live, especially in times like these. Do not harm your neighbor, who just wants to live as you do. Do not keep from them what you would need if you were walking in their shoes.”
It took Jamie an hour of walking to get back to Eliza, and by that time, even though she could no longer hear or see Amara, her words were still carrying through and the crowds had calmed down. The Street Rat was confident that by the time she left the meeting she was about to have, she’d be seeing no more instances of crazy chaotic violence.
That was why they had given her the task of getting the Lady of Light back, after all.
“Good job, kid,” a weird voice said in greeting.
The Street Trash looked up to land eyes on the Circus Freak. He was sitting on a trash can, which he had emptied and cleaned, in the lotus position, with eyes closed and that creepy grin stuck to his face.
It was exactly how he had looked when Jamie had seen him at the start of the day.
He hasn’t moved the whole day? Jamie thought, a bit shocked, but without showing any reaction of course. The Circus Freak was there to keep others away, basically, and what he was doing definitely worked.
The Street rat was also not one hundred percent sure why that trash can was such an odd sight. Probably because he had never seen a clean trash can?
“Careful,” Jamie teased, “yer face’ll stick like that.”
The Circus Freak cackled once.
“If only,” he said, winking at Jamie and then chuckling. “Man, did the Lady do that to ya? Didn’t know she could fight.”
“It wasn’t her, no,” Jamie said, putting his hands inside his pockets, “but it wouldn’t surprise me if she could.”
“I hear ya, kid,” Hugo said, in-between grinning teeth. “Ya never know ‘bout them religious types.”
They might actually be religious, Jamie thought, almost as if from another source because he processed the thought as if someone else had said it.
He snorted. Then he giggled.
Then she started laughing. Jamie laughed hard and for quite a long time. She laughed herself to small tears that she promptly wiped off, opening her eyes to see the Circus Freak eyeing her curiously, both eyes open.
“You alright?” Hugo asked, amused.
“No, yeah,” she giggled herself to a stop, “geez, it’s just that. Well. You’re pretty right about that. Also, I dunno, I guess life’s pretty funny, ya know? Just hit me how much.”
He grinned happily.
“I know, right?” Hugo said, laughing as well, “can ya believe we’re the only hope all these people got? It’s crazy!”
“Downright insane,” Jamie agreed.
“In fact, man, screw this,” the Circus Freak protested. He stood up out of the trash can, saying, “crowd o’ people to freak out and I’m just sittin’ here on my butt. I mean, that’s the craziest thing of all!”
“The others haven’t gotten here yet?” Jamie asked.
“D’ya see any giant balloon in the sky? I didn’t.” Hugo spoke, while stretching. It sounded like every inch of cartilage in his body was snapping.
Jamie had to admit, the Circus Freak was fun.
“Is it really a giant balloon?” Jamie asked.
“That’s what they said, so it better be,” Hugo said, bending down to reach for his toes. “I’ve been looking forward to it, after all! But I guess I’ll be able to see it from anywhere.”
“Yer gonna bail on us?” The Street Rat asked. “At the end? What if we need ya?”
“Well tough luck, then,” Hugo said, “but ya shouldn’t, though, right? Why’d need you a clown for at this point?” The Circus Freak giggled and walked away.
Jamie frowned, thinking of how he could get Hugo to stay since, contrary to his expectations, he might be useful.
“Don’t think she’ll be very proud o’ya runnin’ off like that,” Jamie said, in a cocky manner.
The Circus Freak turned with a terrifying grin on his face that didn’t really scare Jamie. Yet, when he reached for Jamie, not really that fast and with the one hand he had to reach with, Jamie still edged away. There was something to the slowness of the movement, and his garish presence, that made the Street Rat forget to step back. Instead, the Street Rat leaned back until his footing got lost and he fell.
Alright, supposed to be scared now, Jamie thought.
The Street Rat looked up, his eyes wide with concern, as the Circus Freak squatted down to meet her eye level. Of course, the heavy make up on his face formed crosses over his eyes since he had them closed.
“Tell me. Who is crazier? The loony clown or the little brat who thinks it’s okay to prod him with the metaphorical stick?” Hugo asked.
Jamie didn’t have to fake a reaction to that. It was a thought too similar to Amara’s accusation to go unanswered.
“Hello?” The Circus Freak called out.
Jamie shivered in her mind, but the outside showed nothing.
“How can anyone know that?” Jamie asked, “two people’re crazy, how d’you know who’s crazier?”
The Circus Freak tilted his face and smiled.
“Really?” he asked, “smarty pants brat doesn’t know something that simple?”
Of course she did. There were a number of ways to answer that question, one of them being that it takes someone who isn’t crazy to tell.
“It’s pretty simple,” Hugo went on, not really caring to wait for a reply. “Whoever’s acting and thinking are, well,” he stopped himself and thought it over for a second longer. “Alright, I got it, whoever the least amount of people understand, they’re the craziest.”
That…was a remarkably good answer. And insightful.
“And it doesn’t matter how funny they are!” The Circus Freak announced, standing up in a quick jerk, “or smart! Crazy is crazy and crazy is bad! And dangerous!”
The Street Trash felt the animosity and sense of danger vanish at the speed of light. It was quite a talent, to so quickly manipulate the mood around him, and twisted it by use of his body language and tone of voice.
Jamie manipulated people but Hugo manipulated the mood, which invariably affects people, of course.
Jamie realized then there had been a slight growl to his initial question, after he had crouched. It had been a threat, over something as simple as mentioning her.
“Yer definitely crazy,” Jaime said, straightening up.
“Oh,” Hugo expressed, growling pleasurably, “everyone’s very aware of that. But anyways,” he looked down at her, “you listened in on my talk with big momma, no biggie, I don’t care. Or maybe it’s just obvious how I think. I don’t care.”
Hugo grinned happily, looking away at the crowd like it was far away even though it started mere feet away from them. It started off with some group of young adults who seemed to be involved in some drama since one of them was crying and giving a speech that seemed to be having an impact on the rest of them, they were looking down ashamed.
Everyone had a life and they all were playing out, on different tracks but at the same speed.
“Caring’s no fun,” the Circus Freak continued, “so I’ma go away from all your caring. I’ma go and have fun.”
“All I’m saying is maybe yer doomin’ us all,” Jamie said, shrugging.
“Ha.” Hugo shook his head, thoroughly amused. “This world’s not counting on me. Or on the little Street Rat, for that matter. If it is, it’s already doomed.”
The Circus Freak bowed at the Street Rat.
“Case in point!” Hugo said, just before turning around and running away.
Jamie stood up to see him steal a notebook the young man giving a speech was gesturing at the others with, and then running off with it. The expressions they made, of both shock and confusion, she had to admit, were pretty funny.
Giggling, she shrugged and walked inside.
So what? Jamie thought.
Amara had duped her, yeah, but she had duped everyone. End of the day, the Lady of Light was out and about, doing her job, as had been Jamie’s task. The Street Rat hadn’t lost to anyone, really, that’s all that mattered.
After all, the Street Rat didn’t truly believe she was able to control others completely and perfectly, it was just that no one else could do it better. Whether it be Amara, Hugo or Falk. Or the Don or Eliza or the Shadow or anyone.
Some people were beyond anyone’s reach, even hers, but if there was a line of people who could reach and pull their strings, the Street Rat would be the first on it.
The inside of the little dusty old building was luxurious and, for a lack of a better word, enhanced. It was no House of Magni, no huge mansion rivaling the size of a big town, but it was still making use of their trademark ability to trick the laws of space.
Not that Jamie knew that much about laws, she was ever only interested in them so far as in how to break them. It was because of that, she figured, that she was more comfortable around magic than most.
The Street Rat navigated towards the meeting room, albeit a bit slowly since she had not waited to be fully healed back at Amara’s place. She found it empty. Promptly, Jamie backtracked and found her way to Eliza’s study only to find that it was also empty.
Hmm… Jamie thought.
Finally, it occurred to Jaime that Eliza was a normal human being and could very well be doing normal human being things. Like eating.
The Street Rat did end up finding her in the kitchen sort of nervously eating a piece of cake.
Emery was there–first one to notice Jaime–and also munching down a piece. The Kagekawa representative had nothing in front of him, he was the type you’d be surprised to see breathing, let alone ingesting anything normal. And that was it, nobody else was present.
It reminded her of Don Infeperio since he would also have been there, waiting on all the others to arrive while groaning and complaining impatiently.
“Jamie, welcome back,” Eliza greeted.
“Hey,” Jamie said, hands in her pockets as she walked along confidently.
“I’ve heard you were successful,” Eliza said.
“When am I not? By the way, Hugo bolted,” Jamie reported. “Told me he wanted to have fun.”
“Did you stop him?” Emery asked, casually.
Jamie pulled up a chair and sat, quite impolitely.
“Made sure he’d help once the Beasts get here bu’ couldn’t really do more with that guy,” the Street Rat said, “it’s like he eats nothing but sugar. Sugar made of stupid.”
That much was true. The comment about his beloved, and her opinion of him, would gnaw at him. Very lightly as things progressed without problems, but as soon as the Beasts attacked, and people were in danger, it would press too hard on him not to have an effect. He would return, then.
Eliza chuckled calmly.
“It’s for the best,” Emery chimed in, “might be he’d volunteer for a suicide task and you know him, we wouldn’t be able to stop him.”
“Suicide task, huh?” That was foreboding.
Emery smiled knowingly in response. “Let’s leave that as a surprise, Jamie,” she said, winking.
Jamie replied with a flat and bored expression. The question had clearly been rhetorical but if Emery wanted to be embarrassed, the Street Rat was happy to oblige.
“So you’ve found out where the Beasts come from,” Jamie stated.
The two women were obvious in their reactions but it was the way the Head of Mists glanced at Jamie that sold them out and confirmed it.
The Street Rat leaned back and smirked arrogantly.
Right on the money, she thought.