“Remain here for five minutes before you leave, would you KITT?” Lieder asked as he opened the passenger door.
Lieder climbed out onto the familiar street in front of his temporary residence. The sun had sunken beneath Reverence’s mammoth skyline, but the brilliant flare it continued to cast over the western clouds indicated that it had not truly set.
Lieder groaned as he forced his exhausted body towards the vacant vehicle that had followed him from Interpretive Precepts. He’d commanded his own ride delay its departure to make sure his follower could be certain of his destination. Still, Lieder felt he also needed to make it clear that his stalker had no need for caution.
“I have a message for your owner,” Lieder spoke to the driver-side door.
For a moment, there was no reaction, but before he could second-guess himself, the window darkened and a single word was projected onto it.
“My door is always open, to everyone, and my agenda is entirely blank. If you want to approach me, I won’t stop you, and if you summon me, I’ll come. Just do whatever it is you want to do, so we can both be done with it. End of message.”
Lieder sighed and smiled. Truly, this world was full of convenience.
He turned away and walked towards his temporary home, confident that it was safe to leave the vehicles to their own devices. Midway through his approach, he noticed that the door was open, the space occupied by a bowing figure.
“Welcome home, Lord Lieder,” Beri greeted, her voice dulled by her face’s alignment with the ground. “Deepest appreciations for your hard work.”
“Who you talkin’ to?” Lieder grinned. He hated formality, but Beri’s greeting reminded him of Japanese custom, and he loved the Japanese. “’Cause I ain’t Lord Lieder, I’m Carl Flappycheeks.”
“Ah, yes,” Beri straightened back up, an excited grin dominating her face. “Apologies, I’d forgotten.”
“I’m the sorry one, I should have let you know I was safe,” Lieder brought his right hand to the back of his head in sheepish apology. “I hadn’t really planned on staying that long.”
“Oh, no, I wouldn’t dare pretend I have any business asking you to report on your whereabouts. Please forgive my concern.”
“There’s nothing to forgive, thanks for sending the ride,” Lieder dismissed. “I do have a favor to ask of you, though.”
“Anything!” Beri enthused, her gaze following him as he brushed past her and into the hallway.
“If anyone comes looking for me, let them in and lead them to my room. I’ll have the attendant grant access.”
“Sure, that’s easy enough.” Beri shrugged, her brow furrowed in confusion. “Couldn’t you just tell me who you’re expecting? I know it’s unlikely, but what if some sinister person shows up?”
“They’re also welcome. Everyone is welcome.” Lieder smiled.
“That’s so reckless!” She seemed more opposed to the idea than Lieder had expected. “You didn’t do such dangerous things in your past life, did you? Why are you asking me to do this now?”
“It’s only dangerous if you try to keep people from getting what they might want. So long as you stay out of their way, you’ll be fine.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about!” Beri was becoming increasingly exasperated, and this puzzled Lieder. “It’s not common, but someone could come here wanting to take your life.”
“They’re welcome to it,” Lieder shrugged. “At least they’re welcome to come up and try. If they want it bad enough, telling them they can’t come inside wouldn’t stop them from taking it.”
“Why?” Beri seemed on the verge of tears. “Do all of your gifts mean so little to you?”
“It’s not that,” Lieder denied. He was boggled by her resistance. Why was she so invested in this? “It’s the idea that I’ve been given so much more than most anyone else. I’m not going to disqualify anyone’s claim to something I have without hearing their side of the story first, that’s all.”
Beri said nothing; in his exhaustion, her gaze made Lieder feel vulnerable. Why was this such a big deal to her? Was it his weariness that prevented him from predicting it?
“You haven’t slept this whole time, have you?” She finally asked.
“Not a wink.” Lieder’s smile suggested that he was somehow proud of this guilt.
“I’ll do as you ask,” Beri sighed. “Just get some rest, Carl.”
“Aye aye.” Lieder performed an obedient salute before turning and walking towards the elevator.