“I say we go out on the town and celebrate.” said Hildreth. “How about it?”
Master Shinowa seemed to consider his words. “Yes.”
“All right. For the record, going to a tofu café is a bad way to celebrate.”
“Maybe. But it is good.”
Hildreth decided not to disagree.
I don’t want to be thrown across the restaurant. All the same, I was hoping for something with an insane amount of calories. Like…I don’t know. A triple cheeseburger with sixteen different cheeses and a whole slop of melted cheese drizzled over the whole thing.
“You are lost in thoughts again.”
“Sorry, Master.” He opened the menu and scanned the tofu-tastic choices. “Ahh!”
“What is wrong?”
“They have cheeseburgers!” He looked up at Master Shinowa and his eyes were almost sparkling. “Cheeseburgers! With freaking meat!”
Master Shinowa shook his head, but he smiled. “They do sell some not tofu here, which goes against the tofu aesthetic, I think.”
“I don’t care what it goes against. I am so getting that lovely, lovely meat and cheese on a bun. Whooo!”
The waiter, a young man with tattooed on eyebrows, made his appearance. “Hey, all. What can I get ya?”
“I want the Tofu Hysteria with extra soy sauce.”
“‘Kay. What to drink?”
“Cold water with a slice of lemon and one slice of lime.”
“Sure. And you?”
“Cheeseburger. No. Two cheeseburgers with extra cheese.”
Master Shinowa shook his head in disapproval.
“Ehh? Not my place to question customers, but our hamburgers are like platter-sized.”
“And you want…”
“Two of them.”
“Both with extra cheese.”
“Uhhh…’kay. But if you drop from a heart attack, it’s not my fault. What to drink?”
Hildreth looked over the menu. “ooo. Milkshake…”
“You will make sickness.” Master Shinowa said sternly.
“Yeah, but what a way to go. Vanilla milkshake. Large.”
The server sighed. “Just so you know, our larges are…well. Like large.”
“Good. That’s what I want.”
The server reclaimed the menus and walked away, just shaking his head.
“Too much food, Hildreth.”
“I know. There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you. How did that simulation thing work? I mean, I get that Ambrose was an illusion. He wasn’t really there. But I was able to grab him and punch him. So, how?”
“I am surprised you have not asked.”
“Well. You know, I was kind of busy thinking about other things.”
“That is so.”
“It is fey magic.”
“Oh. That explains a lot.”
Master Shinowa smiled. “Not all though. The gas…” He paused and seemed to struggle to come up with the right words. “It prepares the mind for the magic. Opens the mind to visual and audio cues that are not there. Helps reveal fears and insecurities that the magic can manipulate.”
“So, it’s basically a colossal mind game.”
“It is fey mind game.”
“How’d you get it? I’ve never heard of fey selling their technology.”
The server brought their drinks out. “The food will be ready in a few minutes.”
The server left.
Master Shinowa took a long sip of water.
Hildreth sat back and waited.
“I have my ways.”
“Oh, come on! You can’t just say that. You have to explain. You have to give details.”
“That is so. But not now.”
“There is a matter we must discuss before food comes.”
“About you and your plans.”
Hildreth carefully tore the wrapper off the straw.
“About you going to Indust City.”
Hildreth stuck the unwrapped straw into his shake. “May I go?”
That question required another sip of water. Apparently. “Do you seek revenge?”
Hildreth opened his mouth to speak, but Master Shinowa cut him off.
“Yes. You have given me this answer already, but I want to know if it is true answer.”
“It is, Master. I hate that vampire, but this isn’t about revenge or vendettas or anything like that. This is about protecting her. This is about…” He thought about Master Initskay’s words. “Light. My motivation is light. I love Elsie. I don’t want to see her fall under that lecherous vampire’s spell. I don’t want to see her change. Not her. Not ever.”
“If you find that Smith the vampire was the one who…” He cleared his throat. “If you find out Smith the vampire is Kencha’s killer, what will you do?”
“I don’t know. I honestly haven’t thought that far ahead.”
Master Shinowa laughed. “You haven’t thought? You always thought. Even when you should not.”
“Sorry. I don’t know, Master. But I will know when the time comes. If it comes.”
The server arrived with Master Shinowa’s food.
“Your cheeseburgers will be out shortly.”
And he left the scene.
“What do you want me to do, Master?”
He unwrapped his chopsticks. “I want you to choose what is right.”
“And what would that be?”
He snapped the chopsticks apart. “I am uncertain.”