Deflated but full of motivation, Minori didn't stop. She hadn't really expected the Djinn to wait around in the workshop for her to change her mind. At the time, she had really been counting on Lakia leaving before anyone found her. As soon as Minori realized that the mysterious woman had in fact already left, she was out of the workshop and running out of the Harrah household.
"The docks," she said to herself as she ran out of the gate. Lakia would probably be looking for a way off planet. There would be no reason for her to stick around on Tara. How would Lakia get to the docks? She wouldn't have any money to hire a hover there, would she? Or could she make money? Minori knew that Djinn were able to do all kinds of things with their magic, but she didn't know much about it. They kept it pretty quiet, aside from piloting ships.
Not wanting to stop and waste time on wondering how, Minori grabbed her net screen from her pocket and ran towards the main street. A line of almost identical blue and white hovers waited along the opposite side of the road. Minori crossed the light traffic and moved around to the passenger side of one.
"I need to get to the docks, quickly," she explained, barely looking at the driver. She held her net screen to the one built into the dashboard of the hover and authorized the fare.
"Won't be long this time of day, Mistress," said the young man from the driver's seat. "Picking someone up?"
"What? No. Looking for someone." The tone in Minori's voice must have made it clear that was wasn't in a talkative mood, because she was able to worry in silence for the time it took to get to the docks. According to her net screen, it was just over eight minutes. Time was ticking down for her mother.
"Thanks," she murmured as she got out of the hover and looked around. It was getting dark, but she could see the wooden ships in the distance, up in the sky. From here they looked almost small, but she knew that most were huge. They were made to look like the sailing ships used in the ocean, as the Djinn that piloted these ships were a sailing people by nature. Some would carry hundreds of people, some only a few crewmen, but each one was at least a hundred feet long. On a ship that had just come in above the docks, there were billowing sails being pulled in. She couldn't see them well at this distance, but she knew that there were smaller boats going up and down from many of the ships, carrying cargo and passengers to and from the ground.
Between here and the docks themselves were a series of streets filled with shops like the one the Jewelers Guild maintained. Restaurants, bars, and inns lined the main street leading to the docks, the street that Minori headed down. There were definitely small ships for hire at the docks, and surely a Djinn would know that. From what Minori had heard of them, they were supposed to be very old and well traveled.
It was around dinner time, and though the hover traffic had been light, the foot traffic around these businesses was heavy. Minori pushed her way past the throng of sailors as quickly as she could, not wanting to miss Lakia. Surely she couldn't have left yet?
She came to a crossing with another street that had been made wide. People walked around a fountain surrounded with benches. On one of which, Minori couldn't help but spot a familiar face, right as he spotted her. Dark eyes met hers, and a grin spread to them.
"Mistress Engaged, as I live and breathe!" Ledge pushed himself up from the stone bench, leaving an empty behind.
"Master…Ledge, was it?" With a flourish, Ledge took off his hat and gave her an astonishingly balletic bow, his right foot crossing behind his left and arms going wide.
"I'm honored by your memory. What a wonder that we should meet again, and so soon. Yet it feels like eons since I've been graced by those green eyes of yours." He straightened, still grinning.
"Right. Listen, have you been here long?" she asked him hurriedly.
Ledge seemed to look past her for a moment and then cast his gaze at the sky. "Oh, I'd say nigh on three hours now." He took a step towards her and held out a hand as he looked back to her. "There's been a captivating young lad bringing me refreshments for a tip. I like to people watch while I brood." Now he did look around her, pausing. "He's overdue."
"Great, great. Have you seen a woman, a little older than me? Red hair, bronze complexion, you couldn't miss her here."
Looking back at her again, Ledge put his hands on his hips and quirked an eyebrow.
"Hmm. Have I? Perhaps. I might remember, if you'd consider go on that date with me."
Unsure whether she was embarrassed or annoyed, Minori felt a flush coming over her. She took a breath and a moment to think. Why wouldn't she agree? He was drunk. He'd never remember. He didn't even know who she was. Taking a step forward, she smiled and told herself to calm down.
"Yes, why not, I'll consider it. Have you seen her?" More of Ledge's gleaming teeth appeared.
"Wonderful! Yes, Mistress Engaged, I have indeed seen a woman of that description. I happen to know where she is right now, in fact."
"Ledge, that's great news," she said quickly, no longer able to stay calm. "Can you take me to her?"
"Perhaps. But I would feel a bit more comfortable escorting a young lady around if I at least knew her real name?" He made a request out of it, and Minori felt that he wouldn't push too much if she declined here, but she thought he had earned it.
"Minori. Let's go, lead the way."
Spinning on his heels, Ledge headed off farther down the street towards the docks, and quickly detoured to a bar just past the crossing.
As soon as they stepped into the dark bar, Minori spotted Lakia. Her hair and opulent dress stood out even in this diverse crowd of sailors. Drink in one hand, Lakia was leaning against the bar with her other hand on the shoulder of a well dressed man who didn't quite blend in with the sailors. Minori pushed through the crowd to get to her.
"Lakia!" Straightening, Lakia put her drink down and turned to her with a smile.
"Imas!" Lakia said, a word that meant nothing to Minori. She didn't stop to consider it.
"I'll take your deal. The —" Lakia slapped her hand over Minori's mouth.
"Great! Okay! Not here!" she said, urgently but quietly. She removed her hand.
"Fine, not here. At my home. Now." Lakia nodded.
"Take me there." Grabbing Lakia's hand and turning at the same time, Minori headed towards the exit.
"Wait! Minori!" Ledge reached to her as she brushed past him, not stopping. "Our date!"
"Tomorrow!" she called and continued on outside.
Back on the street that housed the Harrah household, Minori finally took a moment to stop. She had had time to consider some things in the hover ride over, but hadn't wanted to speak until she was alone with Lakia again. They hadn't talked at all in the hover, instead sitting in silence that was, to Minori, frantic all the same. Misha had tried calling her several times now, though Minori had just ignored them. She hadn't read the messages Misha had sent, either.
The street was bright though it was now fully night, lit by electric lights set along at intervals.
"I don't know how you're going to get to her, though."
"Minori, is that your name?" Lakia asked. Minori nodded. "We need to make the Deal first. If you want to make a Wish."
"Okay, sure, anything."
"And I need you to know, we Djinn don't really talk about Wishes to just anyone. So I'd rather you keep it between us. I'm going to make that part of the Deal, actually."
Minori looked down the street, where she could see the gate to the Harrah household. It was open and there were black hovers just inside of it.
"Okay, can I take your hands?" Minori held her hand out to Lakia.
"I, Lakia," the Djinn said, her hands starting to glow red, "having not granted a single Wish in over one thousand years, am now making a Deal with this Imas, Minori." The red glow was spreading from Lakia's hands to Minori's, and up their arms. With the glow came heat that started out as a comforting warmth and grew to be an almost painful searing. "I will grant her Three Wishes in exchange for her help breaking the curse that the Djinn Benazir cast upon me. Minori will help me in any way she is empowered to break this curse." Everything Minori could see and feel was flaming. "She will speak to no one of our Deal." The glow died down around them, the heat drained away from Minori, and it was like it had never happened. "This Deal is made."
Letting go of Minori's hands, Lakia took a step back and smiled.
"So it sounds like you already have a first Wish in mind," she said. "I suppose that's alright."
"My mother, she's been poisoned. They won't do anything for her, but you can do it, right? You can make her better." Suddenly, Minori realized that she should have asked that question first. She didn't know much about magic, but she was pretty sure that whatever had just happened was binding in some way.
"Poison? Oh sure, I can fix that. Take me to her!" Lakia looked around, like she thought Minori's mother might walk up.
"That's the thing," Minori said, "there's emergency medical services, and now it looks like the Guard is there, too." She chewed on the inside of her lip. "I don't know how to get you to her.
"Well, it's been a while," Lakia said, letting it hang in the air, "but if you let me into your mind, I think I can do it from here."
"Into my…mind?" Minori wasn't sure about the sound of that. She took a step back.
"Look, can you wait here? I…I hate to ask you to just stand around outside, but I don't want anyone asking questions about you."
"Not a problem!" Lakia reached around behind her neck and came back grabbing a necklace from under her dress. "Wear this. I'll be inside. Call for me when you need me." Minori looked at the locket and at Lakia.
"You'll be…inside," Minori said, fastening the clasp of the locket's chain.
"That's where I've been for some time now. A little while longer won't hurt me." One moment, Lakia was standing in front of Minori, smiling, and the next moment, she was engulfed in flames. And then, gone.
"Alright," Minori said to herself. "Let's deal with this."