The train pulls over into San Myshuno’s Spice District. After escaping from the hideout, I thought about all of the traps we left behind for the Fengs who went there. Preston boasted about how he almost scared a man to insanity, but I doubt that he was able to pull that off. I have Antonio and my reliable lieutenants to thank for buying us some time.
We get off at Myshuno Bridge Station, which is near our lodgings and Archon Salvatore’s hideout. Without asking for my approval, Dominica goes on ahead to find one of her gang members, who resides in the Spice District. I insisted that she take Park with her as an escort, but she refused. And with that, we find ourselves in front of the station, slightly fatigued from the four-hour ride.
“And I was all sneaky-like, dropping those rolled pieces of paper wherever the Feng thug went!” Preston, for the nth time, boasts about what he did to stall the thug that he claims was the captain of the Feng raiding party. “Scared him silly until he was babbling nonsense, I did!”
“Maybe you can use that wile of yours for our night-to-night operations then.” I suggest, remembering how incompetent Preston can be.
“But I work best under minimal supervision!”
Minimal supervision my behind. “In that case, go scout ahead for any possible threats. Meet us at the center of the plaza there.” I order Preston as he giggles like a little girl and floats off. That should keep him occupied.
With Preston in the distance now, we wait at the crossing to turn green. The Spice District is still alive event at this ungodly hour, with cars full of revelers, late night foodies, and weird individuals only clad in party hats and underwear. The smell of all kinds of spices fills the air, including a familiar scent: garlic.
“This brings back memories.” Antonio comments as the light turns green. “I was often sent here to sample all kinds of spicy dishes.”
“But you can no eat normal food anymore, right?” Park asks Antonio as we cross.
“I’ve also been meaning to ask you something, Tonio.” I comment as we reach the other side of the street. “Don’t you miss the taste of human food? You were a so-called foodie, after all.” Foodie. Such a word did not exist back in my time.
“The smell can be tempting sometimes, but I remember that everything that I eat will taste like crap. Only plasma for me.” Antonio replies as I just nod and see the plaza in view.
“And plasma fruit cuisine that I make!” Park exclaims and laughs along with Antonio. It’s wonderful that he was able to create a plasma fruit variation of his country’s signature dish.
We enter the plaza and see all of the colorful mosaic, late night food stalls, and a few street musicians playing what they think they call music. I frown at the sight of guitars, drums, and bongos. Especially bongos. Nothing will beat the classic magnificence of the piano, the pipe organ, and my personal favorite, the violin.
“What’s that building over there, Doc?” Antonio gestures at a familiar structure at the other end of the plaza.
“That, my pupil, is Archon Salvatore’s hideout.” I reply and look at how nothing has changed after two years. “But first, we rendezvous with Preston over there.”
We make our way towards Preston, who has just finished tipping a man on the floor playing bongos and speaking in rhymes.
“What did I tell you about giving money to humans who play bongos?” I whisper with anger at the ghost. “You know how suspicious I am of such an instrument!”
“He was saying good stuff Doc, he was. His beats were pretty rad, too.”
I do not think of a comeback and just smack his helmet, creating a clanging sound.
“My beats ARE rad, man!” the man nearby playing bongos adds as I look at him straight in the eye.
“You will throw those bongos in the nearby garbage can.”
“Throw bongos in… the garbage can.” the man goes into a trance and stands up with his instrument. He walks up to the garbage can with bongos in hand.
“And you will remember nothing of what happened.”
Just as the man was about to throw the bongos in the bin, he seems to snap out of the trance and look at his bongos.
“Whoa, what am I doing here, man? I’m supposed to be playin’ my beats!”
The bongo playing resumes to my chagrin as I hear Preston’s canned laughter and see Park scratch his head at what just happened.
“I still have yet to master that, Doc.” Antonio comments at how I was able to command that musician to unsuccessfully throw away his bongos.
“It is a tricky skill that even I haven’t mastered.” I defend myself and sigh with frustration and focus on the task at hand again. “But for now, Preston. Report.”
“No Fengs or Guildies, Doc. What do we do next?”
“Take Park with you and get some rest at our lodgings.” Preston nods as I also give orders to Park in Koguryeon.
“And one more thing.” I lean in to whisper something into where Preston’s ear is supposed to be. “Check up on Dominica and her friend as well. I haven’t met this friend of hers yet.” Preston nods and heads for the apartment building where our flat is located. Park follows him as I turn to Antonio.
“What do we do now, Doc?” Antonio asks as I reveal to him what I’ve been planning.
“We meet Archon Salvatore to let him know that we’re in the neighborhood.” Like many other Archons, Salvatore is quite the character.
“What kind of person is he? I hope he’s not like the Don.” Antonio reminds me of what my former mentor did. Thankfully, Archon Salvatore is one of those vampires whom I can fully trust.
“A lover of music and art. A very sincere fellow with a big heart. A gentleman vampire. Those are the things people describe him, but I think it’s best if you meet him yourself.”
Just as Antonio and I walk towards the Salvatore hideout, the man playing bongos gets up and throws his bongos in the garbage can before leaving the plaza. I hate it when the command spell delays itself.
“Here we are, Tonio.” I walk up to the curb and marvel at the beautiful hideout. “Let’s pay my old friend a visit.”
“MISS GUPTAAAAAA!” I call out to my trusty aide from the mezzanine. “I cannot find my favorite black moccasin shoes again!”
“It’s right on the counter where you left it.” Miss Gupta calls out and points at the counter behind me as I tap my forehead lightly from being silly.
“Ah, I totally forgot that I placed it there! Thank you, Miss Gupta!” I get my shoes and put them on with excitement. Cannot start things without wearing the proper shoes! I walk down the staircase to the meeting table. “Now we can get the ball rolling! Is everyone here?”
“Just me, Karim, and that new fledgling of ours, Andre.”
“Ah, yes, of course! Andre! Yes! Of course! Andre!” I walk to the meeting table to see that my companions have assembled. “Good to see you all, my friends! No need to stand up to show respect, this is a quick meeting.”
I sit down along with them in unison and look at Miss Gupta.
“The agenda tonight, Miss Gupta, if you please!”
“Yes, Archon.” Miss Gupta clears her throat. “We are to discuss the profits and losses of our businesses in the previous month and your nomination in the Association as the vampire with the largest collection of moccasin shoes. We have also received word that Feng gangsters might attack the hideout again.”
“And the rascals never managed to do so, have they?” I comment with pride as I remember sending the Feng ruffians away with their tails tucked between their legs. “They’ll never break through our network, they won’t! Persistent bastards, they are, aren’t they! Slimy little rogues, they are!”
“No cause for worry, Archon.” my commander Karim boasts. “I have already kept anyone suspicious away from the hideout.” I nod at Karim’s report and give him praise.
“Very good! Quite wonderful, indeed!” I then turn to the new recruit. “And you must be Andre! What a wonderful name, it is!”
“Yes, Mr. Archon. It’s an honor to be a part of House Salvatore.” the recruit bows with deference, something that I feel slightly uncomfortable with.
“No need for the ‘Mr.’ or the bowing, good man! I’m no stuffy, uppity, snobby old vampire! Just ‘Archon’ will do!” I smile as Gupta gestures that she wants to say something.
“Andre here was the one who revived you with a Heimlich maneuver after you almost choked on that large piece of plasma fruit the other night.”
“Oh yes, I do remember now, yes! I should take more caution when eating those fruits!” I laugh along with the others and make a personal note to not buy cheap plasma fruit anymore. I rewarded the fledgling by offering him to be one of my beloved henchmen.
“He is also acquainted with the daughter of an old friend of yours.” Miss Gupta adds.
An old friend of mine? Which one would that be? I have many old friends!
“Yes, with the daughter of Archon de Guzman of Newcrest.” Andre speaks as I remember the man whom I used to hang out with in the academy back in Forgotten Hollow.
“Ah, old Domsy! I remember now! The old bat’s still undead and kicking, ain’t he?”
“And that lovely daughter of his, what was her name again? Dumminy, Domey, Domain-”
“Her name’s Dominica, Archon.” the recruit speaks up to correct me.
“Ah, yes! Yes, indeed! That is her name, I remember now. Yes, it was. Wasn’t it?” I smile a bit from embarrassment not remembering the name of my old friend’s daughter. “Makes me wonder how old Domsy is doing.”
“You have known that doctor from Newcrest for a long time. Strong and admirable fellow.” Karim comments.
“Yes, indeed, I have! He’d even challenge me to duels at random if we were not admiring art or playing classical music together.” As I remember that, I look at the dueling area that I made for any vampires who want to have a good old-fashioned gentlemanly spar.
Then a knock on the door. Did our men want to report something?
“I say, there’s someone at the door, Karim! Are we expecting anyone else tonight?”
“This looks suspicious. Andre, come with me.” Karim gets up and gestures Andre to follow him.
I wonder who it could be. A worried Miss Gupta looks on. And just as Karim and Andre approach the door, my eyes widen.
I did not expect them to find us so soon.
And with such ungentlemanly behavior.
Yes, very ungentlemanly indeed.