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“What the fuck was that?” Gadlihob hisses at me while Rhynn sets up some sort of flying vehicle. “You didn’t tell me you could make gigantic diamonds fall out of your ass.”

“I just used my cantrip, like I told you before. I can conjure stuff.”

I was honest with him before, I swear!

“Wizards conjuring diamonds worth more than this city block is not normal. If you have the urge to do anything like that, I recommend running it by your fucking lawyer. Also, I was handling your case pro bono, but I think you can afford to pay me, so we’re coming up with an invoice of billable hours by the end of the week.” Gadlihob seems somewhat perturbed. “You just painted a giant fucking target on your back, and now criminal organizations are going to be gunning for the goose that lays the golden eggs, except you’re a troll that shits diamonds.”

“He does have a player on his side,” Rhynn puts in. “I’ll take care of the furball.”

“Except plenty of these groups also have players, so you’re going to be engaging in PVP in the city. Fuck, you’re going to have hide out in the battleground if this gets bad so you fuckers don’t destroy the city, fuck.”

“Isn’t the battleground where players fight each other?”

I’m not sure I want to be involved with that.

“Yes, and if you’re going to immigrate here you have to stay in your area of residence for six months. This is a big monkey wrench in immigrating. Of course, player battles destroying the city is another big monkey wrench, because nobody can reside in a fucking crater.” Gadlihob has a potty-mouth all of a sudden.

“Calm down. I got this.” Podlihob speaks up for the first time in a while. “If anybody comes after him, I’ll educate them about clowns.”

We pile into Rhynn’s vehicle, a hovering silver car.

“It’s not that big a deal. I can protect Zav in the city just fine without destroying anything. I am actually a little famous for PVP.”

Rhynn, despite driving at night, is wearing sunglasses. Why is he wearing sunglasses? That seems dangerous.

“I used to top leaderboards back when I gave a shit.”

“I’m not really comforted. I’m in a car with two players and a maybe-player and I feel like a turd that’s about to be flushed.” Gadlihob’s voice sounds hopeless. Two players?

“You’re a player too?” I ask Podlihob.

“Yeah, I’m a reincarnator. My cousin doesn’t judge me for it.” Podlihob is intent on a tiny contraption of metal wire in his hands. It’s too dark for me to get a good look, as he bends and folds pieces of it around.

“It’s really not that big a deal, as long as you obey the law.”

“Laws which include stiff limits on how much defense a player can mount in the face of an attack,” Gadlihob interjects. “At least your skills are good at not blowing up cities.”

“I could still blow up the city if I wanted.” Podlihob seems slightly offended.

“You know what I mean. Don’t turn it into that crap. I need dinner, and I have some other work to do. Can you let me out at my office, and we can meet back there in the morning for going to the immigration office?”

“I thought you were supposed to stay with your client till they got their immigration paperwork done?”

It sounds like Podlihob is holding a grudge about that comment

“Or an agent of the firm. Guess what; you’re nominated.”

Gadlihob gives Rhynn directions to this law office and, once we arrive, he scuttles off into the night. On the way to the tailor, we go through a drive-through for fried chicken. As we float in a line of vehicles, I am struck by how weird this is. I’m in a magic flying car with a muscle wizard and a blue clown debating how many pieces of dark meat we want in our bucket. We can hear the thrumming bass of the next vehicle over, along with angry yelling. Rhynn smokes a cigarette, and the smoke wafts around the car before escaping through the window. Something about the moment feels profoundly normal and jarringly strange, all at once.

What is normal? I can’t tell.

The biscuits that come with the chicken are better than the chicken. When I mention that, Rhynn says

“That’s always how it is. If you don’t have good biscuits, then your chicken ain’t worth a tinker’s damn.”

“All the other sides suck. Their dirty rice has actual dirt, the green beans taste like they were shit out of a can, the mashed potatoes have a sandy texture, and I swear their desserts are made with a diabetic’s urine as a sweetener.” Podlihob is a man of strong opinions regarding fast food, I guess.

“Too right! This is an important lesson, amnesia boy: Only buy the chicken and biscuits.” Rhynn lectures, and I giggle in response.

I take a sip of a soda they got me, something made with lemon and lime, and nearly gag on the sickeningly sweet acidity. Popping the lid off, I decide I will just eat the ice out of it.

“This soda is gross. Are they all this sweet?” I have to know, because if they are all like that, I don’t want any of them.

“That one is actually less sweet than the rest. Palates in Diversity are not that diverse, hur hur. Everyone here crams sugar into their mouth non-stop.” Rhynn sounds disgusted. “All those diabetics have to come from somewhere to sweeten the desserts, right? The fast-food places try to encourage that by highlighting the sodas on the menu. I thought you might enjoy it as a new treat, my bad.”

“I only drink soda if I’m mixing drinks, and when I mix drinks I tend to lose track of my life and ruin it, so I try to stay away from liquor now.” That’s so heavy, Podlihob! Don’t lay that on us so soon!

“We’re here. Let’s finish our chicken before we go in, and make sure you use some wipes to clean your hands before we go in. This guy is sensitive to dirty hands in his shop.” Rhynn seems very definite about cleaning our hands, and the oil is already making my fingers itchy, so I am okay with that.

“Will he be open this late?”

It is dark out, right? Do tailors really work this late?

“He’s a night goblin, so he sleeps all day. Right now he’s probably having his morning coffee.”

“Is that different from what you are, Podlihob?”

He’s a goblin too, right?

“Fuck you, I’m not a goblin, I’m a hob. My hob is hob.”

“What does that mean?”

Can my hob be hob too?

“It’s cultural, I don’t have to explain a thing.” Podlihob glowers at me for a long moment before finally breaking into a smile and laughing.

“Honestly, I have no clue what that means, but all my relatives here say it like I’m supposed to get it. I got raised by an elf in the woods, so I’m clueless with hob culture. Learned how to trap and hunt, before I joined the circus.”

“Yeah but trapping and hunting doesn’t pay dick in this place. You should consider hitting one of the other shards and blow off some steam, then come back here and steamroll some dungeons.” Rhynn really likes the other shards for some reason.

“This is the only shard that feels real, man.”

The others don’t?

“You’re not wrong about that. A vacation to another shard is nice, though. Once we get the furball back there sorted, we’re taking him to some other shards to see what happens.”

We finish the chicken and Rhynn distributes wet wipes from his center console. His car’s interior is immaculate; I think he may be a bit of a clean freak. We hustle into the tailor’s after Rhynn makes his car vanish.

Inside, I see a raccoon in an apron fussing over the inseam of a pair of pants.

“Hey Boniface. You busy tonight?” Rhynn is talking to a raccoon. That is a trash panda. I mean, I know I’m a talking ape, but that absolutely is a raccoon. With an oversized pocket protector in his apron. His shoes have spats. I’m not sure why this is breaking my brain, but I give up, my brain is broken. Raccoons are night goblins? Okay. I’m okay with that.

“Not really. Just working on a repair for a fat bastard who refuses to get his clothes adjusted after gaining weight. His work can wait.” His voice sounds like full chords, with several tones. It sounds like a couple of high tones and one really low tone. That’s a talking raccoon and his voice is weird and his hands are just normal raccoon hands. He has a tiny teacup. He is drinking from a baby doll teacup.

“My man here needs some new threads. Nothing extravagant, since we think he has a curse or something. Just something that won’t get him laughed at in public.” Rhynn pats my back, and I only stumble a little from it.

“Your man is a troll. He’s not hooting and flinging shit, though, so you did a good job training him. Why did you dress him up like a homeless wizard, though?”

Mister Raccoon, I have feelings too!

“He is a wizard, and as befits a troll wizard, his magic specialty is flinging shit.” Rhynn’s face sctretches into a grin.

“How about a wizard’s robe for when he is formal, and maybe a half dozen pairs of pants and shirts the rest of the time?”

“I see a single turd and you’re out of here, you got me?” The raccoon wags his finger at me menacingly.

“I keep all my poop in a pocket dimension. I don’t actually go to the toilet anymore.” I can show off my magical skills a little, right?

“That sounds like you shit yourself. Don’t shit yourself in here.” My face burns as Rhynn and Podlihob laugh.

“Now come here and take off that trash bag so we can get you measured.”

The raccoon measures me all over from the neck down. My two companions step outside to smoke, while the raccoon mutters.

“No tail, you lucky bastard. The damned things get in the way all the time. It only takes one door getting shut on them to hate your tail. Makes it easier to sew your clothes too. I have some children’s robes I can fit to you easy so you’ll have something to wear out. The rest of your clothes will take me a week. Do you have a preference on color or material?”

“Blue. Something soft.”

That is what the robes I originally had looked like before they got turned into trash.

“I think I have something that fits the bill.”

The racoon climbs a ladder to go through a rack of clothes stretching across one wall near the ceiling. After a few moments, he comes back down with a shiny blue robe stitched with golden thread in rune patterns.

“Rhynn said not to do anything extravagant, but oh well, this robe has some basic runes. Cleaning, auto-repair, deodorizing, that sort of stuff. Also has a slowfall ability if you find yourself falling. Now put it on so I can check for alterations.”

While he is marking down the alterations, my friends come back in.

“Looking sharp, monkey magic! You could be an archmage in that thing.” Rhynn smells like whiskey.

“He’ll be ready for the Mage Duels in no time looking that good.” Podlihob smells like cigarettes, and idly adjusts the mask on the side of his head.

“Okay, give me a few to fix thing up. It’ll be a few minutes.”

The raccoon takes the robe over to a large, low workbench with a tiny sewing machine on one end. I have small hands, but I can’t get over his tiny hands.

“Never seen a night goblin before, furball?” Rhynn mutters to me.

“No. That is a raccoon, right?” He’s definitely a raccoon.

“That is a racist term, and if you use it again I will slap the bigotry out of your mouth.” Rhynn poorly suppresses a chuckle. “Seriously though, don’t call night goblins that; it’ll get you in trouble.”

Rhynn then pulls out a small stone slab.

“You familiar with phones?”

“I guess? I think I remember what a phone is. Why?”

“We’ll need to get you one. For your first phone, we’ll probably get you something cheap till you have a better idea of what kind of phone you want. Since you’re a wizard, you may not need a fancy one. You can just cast spells on your own. Or a zillion cantrips, whatever you do.”

“You’re a wizard too!”

“I’m a muscle wizard. A thousand percent different. Anyway, here’s my phone. Poke around on it for a few and get used to it. Don’t call or message anybody. They’re handy little multi-tools.”

He hands it to me, and I see several icons on the slab. Under each icon is a short description, like Flashlight, Camera, Calculator, basic stuff like that. I mess around with it, getting used to the controls. Then I see one that says Virtual Browser, so I poke it.

“I see the last thing you were looking at in your browser was frilly curtains?”

I did not expect that.

“You got to be ready to decorate if you want a potential screw to come to your place and not be revolted. Curtains seem pretty stupid when everybody has blinds, but women love them.”

“Well I’m not worried about getting women to my place. First, I don’t have a place; second, I don’t have women like me around.”

“Maybe troll chicks are into curtains, too. It might be baked into the genetics.”

Podlihob tries to give me something positive to hold onto. Thank you, pretty boy. The fact that you can probably get laid without trying while I am doomed to be a permanent virgin makes your attempt to soothe me completely inept… Wait a minute, he’s not trying to soothe me at all! He’s laughing!

“I’m sure you have a lot of experience with troll chicks, pretty boy.”

Haha, I have zinged him so hard I zunged.

“Your robe is done. No need to lounge around in underwear anymore.”

Boniface the night goblin who would be offended if I called him a raccoon thrusts the robe at me, cutting off my moment of wit.

“Who’s paying?”

“I’ve got this for little man.” Rhynn grabs the phone from me and spins it between a finger and thumb while Boniface pulls out his own phone and pokes at it. Finally, they thrust their phones towards each other.

“I’ll text you when the rest of his clothes are done. It should be about a week depending on how busy I get.” Boniface waves us out the door as we thank him.

“Alright, it’s getting late. You guys want to crash at my place? I have a spare bedroom and a couch.”

I obviously agree as I am homeless. Podlihob takes a moment before he agrees.

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