Yasha stared down at his green jacket. The jacket with the sheep wool trim, the jacket with the multitude of incredibly useful pockets. The jacket he’d purchased during his first week in Djisi three years ago and cherished ever since. In the harsh light of the morning the damage was inescapable. Tears from broken glass, singed holes where droplets of phantasma fuel had burned through the outer fabric and soaked into the lining. Splotches of blood.
‘It’s ruined,’ he said dropping the jacket down on the top of Ludo’s tiny kitchen table and slumping back in the chair.
Ludo patted his shoulder as he passed on the way to the sink. ‘My condolences mate. I know how weird you were about that coat.’
‘I wasn’t weird,’ Yasha muttered. ‘I just really liked this coat.’
‘Yeah, a little too much. You liked it more than you like most people.’
‘It was more useful than most people,’ Yasha shot back. ‘And anyway, at least I didn’t name it like you and your damn car.’
‘Don’t malign my girl Ivanonka just ‘cuz you’re salty.’ Ludo swallowed a grin as he tweaked the curtains, letting in more hateful sunshine. ‘You got plans for the day, mate? It’s your first real day of freedom, after all.’
‘Yes, and there’s an evil scion after me,’ Yasha retorted. ‘I’m not really feeling all that free at the moment.’ He sighed and picked at the long sleeve of the chocolate brown tunic Ludo had loaned him. It wasn’t the best fit, but Yasha appreciated the fact that Ludo hadn’t tried to foist any Kitviker button downs on him. He knew how Yasha felt about buttons and collars on shirts. They were an affront against sartorial dignity.
‘I’m going to go talk to Dotcha,’ he said. ‘She has to know something about Matriev.’
Ludo paused in the act of stirring honey into his tea. ‘You just can’t help yourself, can you?’
Yasha frowned at him over a slice of fried black bread. ‘What do you mean?’
Ludo shook his head. ‘You’re really going to walk right into the lion’s den?’
Yasha smirked. ‘Dotcha’s really more of a reptile.’
‘You know what I meant, mate,’ Ludo ground out repressively. ‘You sure this is a good idea?’
Yasha swallowed the last of the bread, relishing the rich peaty taste of the dark rye and the bite of the salted bacon. ‘Yes,’ he said rising from the table. ‘These people are coming after me and I need information. So far the only thing I know for sure is Matriev wants me alive. I can use that to my advantage.’
‘Are you forgetting the part where Mladin nearly possessed you?’ Ludo asked him setting his tea mug down on the counter a little too hard.
‘Do you have a better idea?’ Yasha asked meeting Ludo’s glare with one of his own.
‘Yeah, you and me leave town,’ he said. ‘C’mon, we can set up anywhere. There’s nothing keeping either of us here.’
Yasha arched a brow slyly. ‘What about Vee?’ he asked.
Ludo’s scowl became thunderous and he hunched his shoulde...