“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 sleepily as he forced himself to walk towards the vacant vehicle that had followed them from Interpretive Precepts. His command to make his ride delay its departure would almost certainly tell whoever owned this car where his destination was. Still, Lieder felt he needed to make it perfectly clear that his stalker should abandon their caution.
“I have a message for your owner,” Lieder spoke loudly at 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 sardonically. 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 already in place. “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 let the attendant know to let them up.”
“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 sleepily.
“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 it could easily happen that someone comes here wanting your life.”
“They’re welcome to it,” Lieder replied casually. “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 completely boggled by the strength of her resistance. “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; even in his exhaustion, Lieder felt uncomfortably vulnerable under the scrutiny of her gaze. 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 smiled guiltily.
“I’ll do as you ask,” Beri sighed. “Just get some rest, Carl.”
“Aye aye.” Lieder saluted obediently before turning and walking towards the elevator.