The Way Home

“Find the pretty lady. Go on follow her and claim your prize,” Zeke said, swiftly shifting the three cards as more people joined the crowd gathered to watch.He’d been on the sidewalk for at least three hours already, and had a sizeable stack of pound notes on the table in front of him. It was quite tricky keeping people enticed while fleecing them for all they had. He’d had to let one or two marks make off with a few notes so as not to seem suspicious but he knew he was pushing the envelope.His eyes were tiring from the strain of the magic, and it wouldn’t be long before a copper came along.“There she is,” an excited man cried out, pointing at the leftmost card.The poor sucker. He was with a woman, most likely a date considering how uneasy she looked standing next to him. She nervously touched the scarf around her neck and was trying to smile.“You sure that’s the one you want mate. It could be this one,” Zeke said gesturing at the card in the middle.“Don’t try to trick me. It’s that one,” the man replied with a big smile on his face.“Okay,” Zeke said, shrugging his shoulders.He turned over the card to show a 3 of Diamonds. It was the queen of clubs that was the money card.“Ahhh,” the crowd groaned together.“That’s him,” somebody shouted from the back of the crowd.Zeke turned to see a man he’d swindled earlier standing with a copper.“Hey you!” the copper called out to him as he approached.“Well that was fun, but I’ve got to fly,” Zeke said, grabbing the money off the table and bolting.“Don’t run,” the copper yelled chasing after him.Zeke run around a corner with the copper close on his heels, but when the copper reached the spot where he’d seen Zeke he’d vanished.“What? Where’d he go?” the copper mumbled to himself. He was facing an alley and had his hand on his nightstick. He wandered down to the end and found a door, but it had a security gate and a secure padlock. He retraced his steps and then decided to return to the scene to question the crowd.When he’d left Zeke peeled himself off the wall, and let its colours dissolve from his clothes.“Jeez,” he said, as his hand seized up.Too much time on this plane was wearing away at his magic. He stumbled away from the alley with his hand stiffened into a claw.

An hour later he traced the right manhole cover and worked it free to jump down into the sewers. He was holding a green plastic bag with gyoza buns, but when he felt the heat coming from ahead of him he slowed down.He knew the male kusa was hungry. He hadn’t fed it since the day before and he also knew that it wouldn’t venture above ground, not where any poachers might spot it. Kusa skins were fairly rare even in a city as large as London. He spotted the reeds first, then saw the kusa’s white and purple fur disappear and reappear as it tested the portal that had deposited it in man’s world.“Jake,” Zeke said.The kusa showed its bright amber eyes and revealed a pair of long upper canines in a snarl. Zeke had found the kusa months ago, injured on London’s docks and had through a lot of magic and struggle led it into the sewer tunnels where he’d thought it would be safe. Despite all that Aizal’s mark had made the creature cautious of him. It was a mark that only the most heinous of Neron’s criminals ever got.It was the same reason he’d been exiled. Zeke approached cautiously, slipping his hand inside the bag and through touch alone picked the bun with a trace of his blood on it and set it on the floor.“Go on. I know you’re hungry,” Zeke said, stepping back.Once Jake ate the bun Zeke’s blood would tie them together, and Aizal would be forced to allow him to cross through the portal if he wanted the kusa to return home.The kusa sniffed the air and smelt the pork in the bun.“It’s from Doujikiri, your favourite,” Zeke said, trying not to sound too eager.The kusa eyed Zeke for a moment, and he tried to keep his thoughts placid. He had no idea if it knew how to read minds but he wasn’t ready to find out. The kusa gave a small snort then lowered its head to eat the bun. However just as it opened its mouth to eat it Zeke reached out his hand and the bun flew into it.The kusa roared with anger, but Zeke used his powers to atomize the bun.“You don’t want that,” Zeke said.Jake’s teeth were bared, and its whiskers stood out like lances readied to strike. Zeke could tell that he was in danger now, and thought about running but instead he picked out another bun and held it out to the kusa.“Take it. It’s safe,” Zeke said.Jake came forward, his fur still bristling with rage and met Zeke’s eyes. Zeke tried to convey his regret and his honesty. He wondered if he’d gone too far when the kusa licked up the bun leaving its saliva on his palm.“Eww,” he said, wiping it on his jeans.Jake pressed his nose into Zeke’s chest and after hesitating Zeke placed a hand in its fur. He could remember now the last kusa he’d been this close to, when he’d killed it to sell its fur to a goblin trader. Aizal had been so enraged he’d thought the god would unmake him. Smelling Jake’s musk he laid his cheek on the kusa’s back and cried.He wished he could take it all back. It was then that the tunnel was lit by a golden light. When Zeke raised his head there was a portal suspended in the air and through its flickering tones he could see Neron on the other side. Jake turned as a wind blew through the portal. The kusa went towards it while Zeke remained behind staring with wonder at the sight.The kusa stopped and growled at Zeke. It seemed to be asking him to follow.“Can I?” Zeke asked. The kusa growled once more then entered the portal. Zeke took a deep breath and then risking Aizal’s wrath walked through the portal and returned home.


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