January 2, 2022


As the Consultant exited the tearoom, she happened to run into Trish.  Inwardly, she reeled; a reporter was the absolute last thing she wanted to come across.  Especially when said reporter was tailing the likes of Daos.

Trish didn't miss the subtle wince.

"You," the reporter practically bellowed.  "You're that friend of Daos's, the one who randomly shows up and brings him, like, books and stuff."  She gave the Consultant a once-over.  "I'm Trish Flores with the Medianoche Herald.  And you are?"

"Leaving," the Consultant replied.  She tried to sidestep Trish and failed.

"You were his phone call," Trish probed mercilessly.  "You were the reason he suddenly bailed on during dinner last night."

And right then, it occurred to the Consultant that it would be most unwise to continue talking with this one.  Trish was a shrewd, hungry reporter, the kind who could sniff through any lie and note every evasion.  The Consultant racked her brain for an escape.

"Who is Hyun-jun Im and who does he have Daos so on edge?" Trish fired, words like bullets.

The Consultant kept her face and tone perfectly neutral.  "I don't even know who that is."

"And yet the moment I said his name, you were the first person Daos ran to," Trish pointed out.

"He did ask me about that person, but I couldn't help him," the Consultant shrugged, feigning haplessness.  "I'm just the gal who brings the books."

"And yet manages to breeze through an entire conversation without so much as sharing your name."  Trish cocked her head to the side.  "Did you really expect me not to notice that?"

She needed to get away from Trish. Now.

"Trish, is it?" the Consultant asked sweetly, changing tactics. "I'm sorry I'm not big with the sharing, but I'd rather not read about myself in the Herald tomorrow. I'm going to leave now, so you can go on and have tea with your boyfriend."

"Oh, please," Trish snorted. "You'd have a better shot with me than Daos."

She finally brushed past, making a beeline for Daos's favorite table in the corner.  Behind her, the Consultant stood speechless, gawking after her.


"Daos, I'm onto you."

He didn't even bother looking up from one of his older volumes on the dokkaebi.  "You're always onto me, Trish," he replied patiently, licking his finger and turning a page.

"I just met your little girlfriend," Trish announced snarkily, plopping down across from him.  "You know, the one you always consult with and seriously think the rest of us don't know about it?"

"She's not my girlfriend, Trish," Daos murmured, still not looking up.  "It's not even remotely like that."

"Tell me something I don't know," she chortled.  "She ever so cleverly dodged my eyes my ogling my rack - when will people learn reporters notice everything?"

Now Daos looked up her, eyes wide and bright with curious amusement.  "She did what?"

"Like you didn't know," Trish rolled her eyes  "If gaydar were a car alarm, she'd have every ride on this block beeping loud and clear."

For the second time, she was able to make Daos roar with laughter, once again startling the tearoom staff.

Trish raised an eyebrow.  "You really didn't know?"

Daos suddenly remembered the Consultant's rather random, offhand comment about Chief Bibiana Solís's lips and laughed even harder.

"No," he finally shook his head.  "I didn't know.  She's not the sharing type."

"I take it you don't know her name either, then."

"No," came the begrudged reply.  "I've run her license plates, fingerprints, even put her through facial recognition - nothing."

"Well, at least we know she's a law-abiding citizen."

Daos resisted to the urge to snort or roll his eyes.  This wasn't about the Consultant being a "law-abiding" citizen; she was a simply using a concealment charm and a damn good one.  It easily fooled both the mystical and the mechanical into thinking something or someone didn't exist.

Sexual attraction, however, was a little trickier to disguise at times.  Daos relished this tiny revelation about the Consultant.  It was so...humanizing.  Metaphorically speaking, of course.  She could still just as easily be an otherworldly creature as a purebred human could be asexual.

So the Consultant has a weakness for beautiful women, he mused.  Gotta wonder other weaknesses she's got.

He just needed one thing confirmed.

"I'm, uh, sorry she ogled you," he chuckled lightly.  "Next time she's in town, I'll tell her to back off."

"Don't bother," Trish yawned.  "She's cute.  Skinny, but nothing I can't work with.  So who is Hyun-jun Im and why's your friend pretending she doesn't know him?"

"She doesn't know him," Daos answered neutrally, though he was grinning all over inside.  "She's just the gal who bring the books."

Next: A Candid Conversation

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