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Leotie weaved her way between passerbyers on the bustling sidewalk, replaying directions in her head in the hopes that she wouldn’t forget. At this point she’d been basing her directorial decisions entirely on some instructions she’d been given by a kind stranger she’d approached on the street, but as time went on the route she’d created in her mind began to dwindle in its clearness. She started going back and forth in her head, arguing about whether she should approach someone new for directions. This only made it harder to focus on the actual getting-there aspect, though.
She came to a halt and gave her surroundings a good once-over as she rubbed her numbed hands together. She hummed to herself, becoming overwhelmed by the crowds of people walking along the city streets. This was such a different atmosphere than what she was used to; she’d grown up surrounded by a calm woodland with the soothing sounds of trickling streams in the distance and warm sunshine illuminating the endless forest for all eternity.
Without giving it much thought, she slipped through the front door of the building directly to her left. Upon entering there was a deafening, and almost calming, silence.
It was a long, darkened room with clusters of round wooden tables, walls adorned with paintings and other knickknacks, and a large service desk wiped clean except for a bottle of beer used for decorative purposes. No faculty could be seen and upon glancing behind her, she noticed that the windows were concealed behind lowered blinds. Aside from that, all the chairs had been placed on top of their respective tables which is typical of closing time.
Leo walked up to the desk and lifted herself up onto tiptoes to peer over it. “Hello?” she called, though for a good moment there was nothing but silence. At this point, a sense of dread had developed in the pit of her stomach.
“Hello,” a voice spoke from behind her.
Leo jerked her body backwards and turned abruptly, her nails digging into the surface of the desk that was now digging into her back. Upon seeing who it was, she threw her head back with an aggravated sigh.
“Not very punctual, are we?” the male lilted with a small grin, tucking his hands into the pockets of his field jacket.
Leo, having regained her composure, brushed her sleeves off and took a few steps toward the male. “I got lost, no thanks to you.”
“That so?” Without waiting for a response, he drew one of his hands out of its warm compartment and snapped his fingers. Immediately, the lights flickered on and illuminated the room in its entirety. At the same time, a quirky late-80s esque song began playing over the speakers installed into the corners of the room.
Out of the corner of her eye, Leo could make out the shimmer of something mounted on the wall. Turning her head to look, she saw the words ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ fixed on the dead center of the wall, colored in a glistening golden paint. This was her destination. The Hard Rock Cafe. She’d… made it.
“How did-” she started, looking back toward the male. He wasn’t standing directly in front of her anymore, however. Baffled, Leo spun around in a circle and saw he’d appeared behind the service desk, pouring himself a drink.
“Sorry, y’say something?” he called, looking up at her with a twinkle in his eye.
Leo pursed her lips in an irritated type of way before she walked over to the desk. She pulled up one of the bar stools and hopped onto it, her feet dangling. “Where is everybody?” she asked.
Deo perked a brow. “Shop’s closed for the day.”
“Closed on a Tuesday?” Leo leaned toward the desk, her arms crossed across the edge of it. “Why’s the door unlocked?”
“How’d I get in, then?”
He lifted his drink to his lips, taking a long sip from it. “Simple lock charm. Anybody else tried openin’ that door, it wouldn’t of budged.” Leo furrowed her brows a bit, glancing back the front door somewhere behind her. “So!” he said, “Let’s get to business, hm?”
She swiveled in her seat and rubbed her fingers against her thumbs, still notably cold to the touch. However, when he went to open his mouth again she stopped him with a wave of her hand. “First of all...” She paused, her gaze resting on his as she squinted her eyes. “Your name.”
This seemed to amuse him, as he placed his drink down on the desk surface and wore a faint smirk on his lips. “Gideon, but I prefer De—”
“Deo.” His expression hardened slightly. “Just Deo is fine.”
“Mm.” Leo forced a small smile, which was quickly replaced by the pursing of her lips in thought. “How’d you know my name, Deo?”
“I know a lot of things.”
“Right. ‘Cause you’re a…” She gestured with a hand. “What’d ya call it? A cosmiiiicc...”
“Entity,” he finished. His expression no longer held that underlying amusement it had a few moments ago.
“Right.” She was clearly dissatisfied with that vague response, and he caught on without much of a struggle.
“So, Leotie... Why do you think we’re here?”
“I believe you called it ‘business’,” she shot back, squinting her eyes as she watched him take a heavy chug of his drink.
Deo let out a painfully sarcastic ‘hm’ of interest before he placed his drink back on the desk. He turned his body entirely, now resting his elbows on the wooden surface of the desk. “Alright. Before I ask any favors of you, what do you want to know?”
“What are you?”
“A cosmic entity—”
“No.” She fixed him with one of her looks. “I mean, what are you? And don’t just give me that ‘cosmic entity’ bullshit.”
“Okay.” Deo folded his hands together, pressing them against his chin as his upper body hovered over the desk. “Where you came from—The Forest, I think you called it. You had gods there, yeah?”
Leo had stiffened noticeably, her arms crossed against her chest as she sat upright. “You’re a god?”
“The closest thing to one, though our definitions of ‘god’ probably… vary, I imagine.”
“So in your words, what’s a god?” The words were sour in her mouth. She was trying to not take personal offense as he went about belittling her homeland’s divine.
He sucked in a shallow breath through his nostrils. “To put it simply, a god is the supreme being of a realm. They’re usually the ones who created the realm in the first place.” Seeing no immediate reaction on Leo’s face, he continued, “They’re extremely powerful individuals. Sometimes they have physical forms and are tied down to their realm, but that’s on rare occasions. Typically they’re more… free-roaming… entities—”
“Like you?” she interjected, her fist resting against her lips.
“Except I’m a lesser entity. I’m no ‘supreme being’ of anywhere. I just hop around their worlds. I observe the life forms, clean up others’ messes, report back to my superiors.”
Leo lowered her brows, holding a finger up at him. “What kinda messes?”
“Now that’s confidential,” Deo grinned. “There’s a reason you don’t know ‘bout ‘em,” he added.
“And that is?”
“‘Cause I do such a stand-up job at keeping locals oblivious,” he shot back, sipping at his drink. “I’m what my people call a ‘Gatekeeper.’ Someone who holds the metaphorical key to the universe in his hands,” he added, holding his palms out for added effect.
Leo tipped her head back, looking him with one of those blank expressions you might get from a kid.
“I can control portals,” he said flatly, hands falling to his sides. “I can make ‘em, close ‘em. Move ‘em around.”
“I know plenty of folks who can ‘make portals’,” the redhead retorted. “What makes you so special?”
“My portals require substantial amounts of energy to exist,” he started. “And because of that, they’re extremely dangerous to leave open for longer than necessary. They can… break a realm, leading to these ‘messes’ I mentioned earlier.”
Leo began to formulate an idea of what he meant. Messes. Side-effects. “Oh.”
Leo clasped her hands together. “Okay, well. That’s… great. Awesome.” She cleared her throat before she hopped off the stool, running her hand along the desk. “So. What do you want with me, then?”
“Well,” Deo replied with a chuckle, “the thing is… I’m not actually here for you.”
Leo’s brows furrowed a bit. “What?”
“I was sent by my bosses… to fetch your brother.”
Leo blinked, her eyes narrowing. “My brother?”
She licked her upper lip, fist clenching against the wooden surface of the desk. “Why?” she asked, voice tightening.
Deo gripped the base of his drink, gaze lowered before he tentatively looked up at Leo. “Now that’s… also confidential.”