Randidly paused, considering what a fortune of his might reveal. If it was an actual Skill she was using, it might be troublesome. But then again it might also give him some warning of what was to come. Perhaps the Creature had a trap ready and was waiting for him this whole time. Wouldn’t knowing be better? Could this woman really tell his fortune?
“Yes!” Sonya blurted out, the desperation clear in her eyes. The beautiful woman smiled sweetly, then looked over their shoulders to scan the party. Randidly noticed how her eyes changed then, as she looked around. Before, she was out to charm them and draw them in. But when she looked around the party there was only iron in her gaze. Was she here in some supervisory role then?
The woman’s hair was up in an intricate braid that oozed class and sophistication. Curious, Randidly attuned his senses a little more directly to her, felt her heartbeat and the soft sound her skin made as it brushed up against the fabric of her dress. It honestly made Randidly feel somewhat guilty, that he was scanning her so closely. But it did confirm that she carried multiple weapons on her person; she was not as simple as she seemed.
Her eyes refocused, and the beautiful, dark-haired woman offered her hands to Sonya. “I’m a palm reader, so all I’ll need is your name, lovely, and your hand.”
The word lovely left Sonya as gushy and melted as butter on a cast iron skillet. With obvious excitement, she spoke in a whisper, trying her best to mirror the other woman’s flirty manner. “Mm…. uh, it’s Sonya,”
With gentle fingers, the woman took Sonya’s fingers in her own. The woman’s gaze was careful, going over the entirety of the skin and joints of the hand. There was no haste in her movements, and at that moment her focus was entirely concentrated on Sonya. Waiting silently, Sonya’s face slowly became increasingly red.
“There is a sharp branch in your future.” The woman said, gazing down at Sonya’s palm. Randidly remained silent. “Perhaps initially, it will not seem like much of a difference, but this decision will tie your destiny to another’s. And it is not the individual that you think. As time goes on… you will either regret the decision or grow to realize it was one of the most important in your life.”
“And tonight?” Sonya said, swaying slightly. Sudden boldness seemed to suffuse her, and she took a step forward. “What do you see in my future tonight?”
Randidly looked over at Gregory and then winced. The man’s eyes were sparkling with obvious interest. This was… slightly disgusting. Randidly glanced around. No one else seemed to notice their group, isolated on the opposite side of the pool from the main part of the party. But then Randidly forced his gaze back, trying his best not to withdraw into himself.
With careful hands, the woman folded Sonya’s fingers back into her palm. Then she spoke in a breathy voice. “Warmth.”
Then, after Sonya had taken a second to take it in, the mysterious fortune teller turned to Gregory. “How about you sir, would you like your fortune told?”
Gregory waved his hand. “No, no, I’m much too afraid someone will tell me I’m about to die. I prefer to ignore the future as much as possible. I’d much prefer to watch.”
Nodding, the woman turned and looked Randidly directly in the eye. It was so sudden that he almost blinked. Although he didn’t notice it at the time, it had been quite some time since someone had met his gaze so directly and held it during a conversation. “And you sir? Do you have a bright future you’d wish to share with me? Tell me your name, and let’s find it together.”
Inwardly, Randidly was taking notes to try some of these techniques later in his own conversations. But he still couldn’t pull away from the conversation itself. So he cleared his throat and said. “How about a trade? A name for a name. Mine is… Baloo Erickson.”
“Tatiana,” She said with a smile. Her lips were soft and sensual, drawing across the air like brushstrokes to create her words. Immediately, she scanned over his shoulder again, looking at the party, and then reached for his hand. But before she could take it, two people broke into their circle.
Inwardly, Randidly was slightly disappointed. Maybe it was the small trace of alcohol in his system, but he decided to let her read his fortune. What was the worst that could happen? And he was very curious about this strange social creature in front of him, that seemed so different than himself.
“I hope you are enjoying the party,” Ricky Stain said with a wide smile. “I see you’ve met Tatiana. Such a charmer, right? She came highly- ah, she’s one of my favorite friends.”
Ricky Stain clearly was going to say something offensive, so he changed his language at the last second. Still, he felt Tatiana’s stance shift slightly, a wall coming up. Her body language changed slightly.
Randidly didn’t like Ricky. The man was clearly willing to cut Randidly in on a larger share of the profits of selling steel, but that was a small thing that would only affect him for a few weeks. Stain’s integrity was not a small thing.
It was bad enough to have a name like Stain, but did he really have to live up to it?
“Tatiana,” Sonya growled, raw hunger in her voice. Only now did it seem that the name had drifted through the smog of intoxication to land upon her brain.
“And this,” Ricky Stain said, pointing to the muscular man next to him, “Is Griffith Lipschitz, a business associate. He is a Tier II citizen, so he helps arrange for all of my raw material ties.”
In this Zone, there was a large emphasis on what citizenship tier a person was. Randidly only had seen a small portion of it, like being required to have probationary citizenship to work on the drones, and scaled pricing for the train tickets based on your Tier. In addition, there were clearly caste elements emerging, as the few Tier 1 individuals who came into the steelworkers part of town had smirks on their faces.
Both Gregory and Sonya seemed to lose some of their tipsiness by the reminder of their lower station, with wide eyes. To a person without citizenship, a Tier 2 Citizen was far above them, Randidly supposed. This was certainly the highest Tiered person that Randidly had run into. He supposed most of the important people were exploring the borderlands.
To everyone’s, Griffith stepped towards Randidly and offered his hand. “My name’s Griffith, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Sir, I couldn’t help but notice your… bearing. Did you serve previously? I’d love to know how you ended up here.”
‘My bearing?’ Randidly wondered. He suppressed an impulse to awkwardly scratch his head.
Inwardly, he could sense Lucretia’s amusement. She spent most of her time handling the affairs of his inner world, so it took him somewhat by surprise. What was worse, Neveah also sent a mental message.
Bearing important. Strong jaw, firm resolve… hmm hmm, Inspiration!
Then her consciousness went off. Exasperated, Randidly wondered what she had gotten up to in Zone 1. She was supposed to be acting as a distraction, but he supposed it was good that he hadn’t heard any news of her doing anything… catastrophic. After all, she was using his face while she was here. At least he thought she was.
Randidly refocused on Griffith. Well, the fact that he could recognize Randidly’s strength, through the illusion was impressive. Still, Randidly had to admit that he usually was constantly utilizing most of his Yggdrasil Skills. At that Skill rarity, they tended to show through. “Yea… I suppose you could say that. I came here to learn… more about the world. There are some things you can’t discover from fighting,”
Randidly spoke slowly, carefully checking his story mentally. Then he turned to regard Tatiana. “My name’s Baloo Erickson. This fortune teller was about to give me my fortune; perhaps if you stay to watch, we can both learn something.”
“She does palm reading.” Gregory supplied, his expression tight and unreadable.
Then everyone was looking at Tatiana, expectantly. Randidly offered her his hand. Ricky Stain kept giving him, but Randidly ignored it as best he could. There was a moment of indecision and confusion in Tatiana’s eyes, a small thing. Her face didn’t even mood. But Randidly could clearly feel that she was torn.
Then she laughed, her nose wrinkling up. “I’m really nothing so glamorous as a fortune teller… but I do have some gypsy blood. Can you tell? Come, give me your hand.”
Their hands touched. As soon as it happened, Tatiana’s eyes once again twitched. She felt something then. Randidly leaned forward, curious. If her Skill was powerful enough… if he could obtain a clue here…
“You fucking bitch!”
Violent words ripped across the night. There was a sound of impact, of flesh on flesh. Almost as one, the group turned, looking over toward the source of the sound. Tooya stood tall above an Asian woman, his eyes red and furious. His brother was next to him, his face surly as he joined his brother in glaring.
Before he even realized what was happening, Randidly felt the vegetation around him explode into motion. Grass elongated and stretched up the side of the building, running along the support pillars. But then he hesitated, forcing that impulse down. His toes flexed. It was… discomforting to not be touching the ground, although the threads of energy could still climb up through the rock and metal to reach him.
And considering the cause of the commotion… using a Skill wasn’t even necessary.
Besides, it seemed he didn’t even need to act. Beside him, the air around Tatiana became frosty.