“Yeah, I am.”
“…damn,” Selia admitted after a second. “Yeah, you really are. You sure you don’t wanna-”
“Figured. No harm in checking, right?”
“…nope as in ‘no, there’s no harm’, or nope as in ‘nope, you’re wrong’.”
Selia sighed. “Yeah, I should have seen that coming.”
“You really should have, yeah. Why shouldn’t I take a job?”
Selia paused, folding her skirt to sit down on the bricks surrounding one of the flowerbeds. Ash did the same opposite here, legs wide, arms folded. The pose drew up the legs of her pants slightly, and she didn’t miss how Selia’s eyes darted away from the exposed fibreglass and metal
“So,” she began, “if anyone asks, you didn’t hear this from me.”
“Oh, yes, very amusing. I know you don’t pay attention to world events, but surely you’re aware of the recent kerfluffle between the Chivs and Kallus?”
Ash was aware of it, which definitely was unusual. She didn’t like to concern herself with that sort of stuff – global politics didn’t put bread on the table, after all. But considering that what did put bread on the table relied pretty heavily on the interplay between Chival, Kallus and Sesate, keeping track of it was an unfortunate necessity.
“It’s just a border dispute, isn’t it?” Ash said.
“Not just, no. The Blackguard are sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong again, and for whatever reason, Kallus is covering them for it.”
“Where, exactly, doesn’t their nose belong?”
“Ostra.” Ash’s lack of recognition must have been obvious, because she quickly elaborated. “Tiny, tiny little country, on the other side of the Vaya. Used to be part of the Empire, I think, and the Chival have kept a pretty strict blockade there for the last century or so.”
“And this is relevant to me because…” Truth be told, she already had an inkling of where this was going, but she wanted to hear it from Selia
“I’m getting there, I’m getting there. Official word is that things are being settled behind closed doors, but what I’ve been hearing is that the Chivs are being curiously hands-off with the Blackguard in question.”
“Hm.” Ash tried to call up a set of dusty files from the back of her mind. “Other side of the Vaya… is that still Boneheart?”
Selia shook her head. “He vanished about a year ago. Could’ve been them shuffling him off somewhere quiet, but my bet is that his years of being a prickly little shit caught up with him and he pissed off the wrong person.”
“Sounds about right, yeah. So there’s a new GC?”
“Emphasis on new, yes. Dr. Indira Khoura, formerly of the Research Division.”
Ash raised an eyebrow. “No moniker?”
“Nope,” Selia confirmed. “The whole situation is shady as hell, if I’m being honest. None of my contacts had ever heard of her until she showed up. Apparently, she’s spent the last twenty years doing archeological work out in the middle of bumfuck nowhere, and then is suddenly the newest Grand Commander of the Chival?”
“Could have been a cover,” Ash pointed out.
“If it was, it’s the best cover I’ve ever seen. This woman has published more papers than I’ve ever read.”