Meet my noisy next-door neighbor.
This is Ramon Antonio. An arrogant, short-tempered nerd who lives next to my flat. I don’t recall who fired the first shot, but we’ve been enemies for months now.
“What do you want, you goth band reject?” my neighbor insults me with the most unimaginative word.
“Nothing much, old pal.” I love sarcasm. “But I’d appreciate it if you’d tone down the fucking noise, please.”
“Not my fault that my bud’s in there playing video games.” he gets defensive and looks as if he just made up a half-assed excuse. “Mind your own damn business.”
“You’re disturbing everyone on this floor, do you know that? Ms. Pizzazz moved out because of you and your noise!”
“Don’t care. Complain to Mr. Yamamoto. He’s the landlord.” And apparently a distant relative of his.
“That incompetent uncle of yours told me to address the problem directly to you! I’m trying to do some work and I can’t concentrate with that racket going on!”
“Just listen to some fucking music! Ever heard of noise-canceling headphones? And you’re complaining about me making noise… during the day!”
I try to restrain myself from punching or hurting him. One act of violence would probably get me kicked out of the apartment in no time flat. (Get it? Apartment? Flat? Oh dear I think I’m becoming more like Papa.)
And then it happened.
“SHUT. UP.” I growl in a voice that I do not recognize.
This leaves Antonio speechless as I sense a bit of fear from him for the first time. But he quickly reverts to his usual, crabby self.
“Good night.” my neighbor just says flatly as he picks up his groceries and enters his apartment with an expression of defeat.
After that, I find myself wondering about why I said that in a different voice. Maybe my so-called dark powers are becoming stronger. Papa did always tell me to keep it cool, even if he was a hothead himself. I leave it at that and just head back inside.
I do not hear any more noise from his flat for the rest of the night.
Two years later…
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU PUT IT?” I shout at my ghost underling, frustrated that he misplaced our business license renewal forms. “The license renewal office will be all over our asses if we don’t submit those next week!”
“I-I’m sorry, Doc!” my underling apologizes while his armor makes those awful clanking noises. “I just can’t recall if I placed them on your desk or by the computer here.”
“Maybe… that one, Doctor?” Park, seated by the entrance points to a neatly-stacked pile of papers on top of an old crate.
I go over to the stack of papers to check. “Ah, yes indeed. These are the papers I’m looking for. Thank you, Park.” I feel satisfied and set the stack of papers in the pending tray by the computer.
“I owe you one, Park.” Preston sighs with relief.
“Do not think you’re off the hook yet, Preston.” I look at the cowering ghost with disdain. “You shall be filling out every single form by hand by yourself as punishment.”
“I want those forms filled out and on my desk at exactly 8:00 p.m. tomorrow night. And instead of Park, you’ll be bringing those forms to city hall for the ultimate punishment!”
“That punishment is what, Doctor?” Park asks.
“WAITING IN LINE!” I laugh in a sinister way. The long queues at government offices in Newcrest can drive one to the brink of insanity. Before I had Park do daytime errands, Preston always had to wear this corporeal disguise that made him look like a hobo with a knight helmet.
Preston just grumbles as I look at Park and his clothing.
“Doctor?” Park just looks at my curious expression.
“Your clothes. You don’t exactly fit the image of a henchman.” I speak to him in Koguryeon. “You look as if you got your clothes off the night markets in Koguryeo.”
“That’s true. But I’ve always worn these ever since I got here.”
“And it’s sickening, but we’ll fix that. Antonio!” I look around, hoping to see my pupil somewhere.
Antonio comes down the stairs, looking impeccable.
“You’re looking dapper tonight.” Preston mutters about Antonio as I agree with him silently. I told Antonio to look the part as my protege/butler. He even started wearing gloves.
“Yes, Doctor?” my student presents himself, ready to carry out any order I give.
“Park here is in need of a makeover. He needs to fit the henchman archetype more.” I tell Antonio, with Park seemingly understanding what I said.
“I know just the thing.” Antonio says with confidence. “I used to live in San Myshuno’s Fashion District, after all.”
“Yay, dress up change!” Park exclaims in Simlish with joy as he gets up from his chair and Preston claps mockingly.
“Right, enough talking. Go to the walk-in closet upstairs and find something better to wear.” I order them as Antonio and Park go upstairs.
Antonio gestures Park to follow him while Preston gets to work filling out the forms, grumbling incoherently like always.
While they all go off to do what they were told, I think about the events that transpired in the past year. The battle with the Pastor, regaining my lost memories, and learning that my old teacher has been plotting to kill me for decades are the things that stand out the most. The hunterling we befriended was sent by the Guild on a mission to a faraway place, and I sent young Teresita to the safest city I know for her to start a new life, away from vampires and the Guild. My promotion to Mid-Archon has also increased my influence within the Association to the point that even Archon Valmonte no longer heckles me. My dear Dominica also regularly sends me packages from San Myshuno containing vampire figurines that I’ve always been looking for. Things seem to be looking good.
But the warning that the Don gave me after the battle with the Pastor still lingers in my head. And that is one thing that I must face someday, even if it scares me a bit. There will be a time when I must face him head-on.
After a while, I hear my two underlings come down the stairs, with Park looking much better than before. Both of them seem to have had a good laugh, so they must have enjoyed themselves.
“I must say, I’m quite impressed. Good work, Tonio.” I praise Antonio’s work as I see Park fiddling with his new outfit, obviously amazed by the quality. “What do you think, Park? Those are the finest clothes that money can buy. A fine Massimo jacket from Botas, Asahinian-designed hoodie from Tohoku, and of course, ripped jeans from Daewon Bang Road.” I speak in Koguryeon.
“Yes, Mr. Antonio told me. I really like these clothes. Thank you so much, Doctor!” Park thanks me as I smile and then look at Antonio.
“Now prepare some hot plasma tea for everyone. We shall take a break from our criminal activities tonight.” I order Antonio as he nods.
“I’ll just go to the 24/7 store to buy some fresh plasma fruit.” Antonio exits the building through the back. Then, Preston comes over to look at Park’s new outfit.
“Nice threads, Park. You really look like a henchman now.” the ghost compliments him. “At least you and Tony are getting some nice clothes. I’m just stuck with this clunky suit of armor.”
“You can remove your helmet at least.” I remind Preston, who has rarely taken off his helmet. “Like when we first met at Forgotten Hollow and I forced you to become my minion more than a century ago.”
“I still prefer having it on, Doc.” Preston says with pride, seemingly remembering those moments when he was a knight. “I feel braver when I wear it.”
“But you’re still scared of chickens!” I snap back as Park points and laughs.
And after that, a knock on the door.
“I’ll show you brave, Doc. I’ll get the door.” Preston volunteers as I wait with a bit of anxiety.
That’s strange. I’m not expecting any visitors tonight.