p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"The upstairs had indeed just exploded. In the few moments after the shudder, Mr. Mao had come barreling down the stairs, a cowering Simon in tow, and told Ruth to go outside. She did, but not before slipping the pendant into her pocket. She wasn't quite done with it just yet./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"It turned out that despite her well-offered advice, Simon had decided to use the ethensizer. And, as she had said, it was broken. Ruth hadn't known that Simon had hidden in his bag a small vile of liquid magic. She didn't know how he got it or how he had managed to not let it react with anything, but when Simon had tried to run it through the ethensizer, the entire machine had backfired and gone up in smoke. Literally. All that was left of it was a smouldering lump fused to the table where it had once sat. Simon had been thrown into a state of panic by the reaction and couldn't get a word out, let alone get himself out of the room. So it had fallen to Mr. Mao to drag him out of the store./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"Now Ruth sat hugging Corvus on the curb of the street opposite the store, watching smoke pour out from the open windows and watching Simon beg for her grandfather to not kick him out. He pleaded that it had only been a simple mistake, that he really hadn't done em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"that/em much damage, and that he would pay for everything very soon, he promised. /span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"As much as she would love for Simon to pack up his things and go cause mayhem elsewhere, she knew her grandfather wouldn't make him leave. They needed the money too much and there was no guarantee that they would find someone else to rent that room. Especially now that it was half charred. No, he wasn't going to go anywhere. But at that moment Simon didn't know that and Ruth was enjoying the show her grandfather was putting on. He'd let him stay, but he had to give him heck about his mistake first./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"Eventually, Mr. Mao declared that they'd have to let the store air out for the day and wandered off to either sift through some junk piles or play cards with some of his friends. He'd probably end up combining the two and sift through his friends' junk. Ruth swore that half their inventory came from his card buddies./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"After he had tottered off, Simon stood silent and unmoving, unsure of what to do. He only stared at the store as if the magnitude of what'd done had just occurred to him. He turned around to glance at the street, but most of the people who had gathered to watch the commotion had retreated back into their houses. It was still early after all. The only people left in the street were him and Ruth, and, inevitably, his eyes fell to her. She stared at him with all the malice she could muster./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"This proved to be enough to snap Simon out of whatever trance he was in and he turned on his heels and strode down the street. He kept his head low and his hands in his pockets, doing a bad imitation of someone trying act inconspicuous. As soon as he started to go Ruth began to chase after him. There was no way she going to let something like this morning's events happen again. Her grandfather may have already chewed him out but now it was her turn./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;""I /spanem style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"told/emspan style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;" you," she snapped as she caught up to him. She followed him so close that she scuffed the back of his heels with her toes. Corvus, now perched on her shoulder, gave a caw of support./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"Simon didn't say anything. Ruth decided to try again./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;""I /spanem style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"said/emspan style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;" that-"/span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"Simon abruptly stopped and turned around./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;""Why are you following me?" he snapped./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;""I have to make sure you don't blow up anything else!"/span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"Simon rolled his eyes and continued walking./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;""You're a menace!" Ruth went on. "I knew from the minute you pulled out that ethensizer you had no idea what you were doing."/span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;""Is that why you've been spying on me?"/span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;""Well, I had to keep you from doing something dangerous! If I had known you had liquid magic that you were actually going to use in that thing, I would have stopped you."/span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;""I was wondering why you weren't hovering over my shoulder this morning."/span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;""I was- um, I got… distracted."/span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;""By what?"/span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"Ruth suddenly became aware of the pendant weighing down her pocket. It seemed to have grown three times as heavy and she could feel it bounce against her leg with every step she took. She slipped one hand into her pocket./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;" "…By nothing you would understand," she finally said. "If you didn't have enough sense not to use that ethensizer then you wouldn't have enough sense to understand my role in the store."/span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"There was no way she was going to tell him about the pendant. Whatever it was, it was much too valuable and complicated to fall into Simon's hands. She was already going to have a hard enough time fixing it as it was; she didn't need him to damage it any further./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"Simon opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it and instead decided to go back to pretending Ruth didn't exist. This didn't deter her though and she continued to try to explain to him how careless and incompetent he was. But after a while, her argument died off. It's only fun if the other person actually listens to you. She briefly thought about letting Corvus continue his revenge on Simon for kicking him out of the spare room, but Corvus seemed to be in a mood where he only wanted to be pandered to and Ruth doubted that he'd want to do anything for himself. Her comment about him being beautiful must have gone straight to the mess of wires, gears, and machinery that the mechanical bird called a head./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"Now that she wasn't distracted by trying to teach Simon a lesson, Ruth began to notice their surroundings. And they were changing. Because she worked so much in the store, Ruth had never had much spare time to explore Morenhurst on her own. She, of course, knew that it was the great capital city and the pinnacle of modern technology, but all she ever really seen of it was the less affluent back streets of her home. It wasn't that bad of a place, but it certainly wasn't here./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"Shining automobiles jittered along the street and shops, which looked nothing like her grandfather's, lined the sidewalk, boasting everything from the latest fashion to the newest home appliances in their gleaming glass windows. Even the people were different. The men wore stiff hats and ties while the women on their arms were decked out in beaded dresses and fur wraps. And they all wore dazzling smiles as if the world were watching them. A girl about Ruth's age passed them, wearing the same smile and a crisp white dress with frills. Ruth looked at her and felt awkward. She was dressed in her overalls that she was sure had more than a few stains on them; it was the price paid for fixing broken machines all day./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"Ruth knew that this was a place where the people didn't have to rent out rooms to inept magicians just to make ends meet./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"But they weren't on the busy street for long and Ruth was secretly a little relieved to get away. Simon turned down an alley between two stores and Ruth followed. He led her through a series of narrow streets and alleys so winding that Ruth became turned around and no longer knew which way they had come from./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;""Where are you going anyways?" she asked./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"Simon still refused to acknowledge her./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"Ruth then began to notice that it was getting louder. Even though they had left the street of people far behind, it sounded as if there were more people than before. And she soon saw why. Rounding another corner, the buildings dropped away and she found herself at the edge of an enormous plaza, alive with people. She drew in a breath and became still, taking in the scene. Then she beamed./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"This was her kind of place./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"She was standing at the edge of the famed Morenhurst City Market. Though she had never actually been herself, instead finding the parts she needed among what her grandfather brought home and the city's lesser markets, she had heard the stories. It was the capital's largest market, held every weekend right in front of Palace Station, the main thoroughfare for traffic in and out of the city. Every day hundreds boarded the great steam trains at Palace Station that sped between Morenhurst and the towns too far to reach by automobile. It stood at one end of the plaza, its glass and marble reflecting the light and looking much more like the royal residence its name implied rather than just a train station. The market sprawled out before it to catch the passersby on their way to and from the trains. But it was amazing that anyone could pass through it./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"Everywhere was packed with stalls, shelves, carts, and blankets laid out on the cobblestones stacked high with anything you'd ever seen and more than a few things you hadn't. Vendors were selling elaborate clothing, fresh produce, spare parts, machines, some of which were in worse condition than those in Mr. Mao's store, and tanks of magic in every size. You could buy anything, but some people here could obviously afford more than others. Well-tailored people casually browsed the wares while beside them people in rumpled clothes haggled over prices, trying to save any penny they could. Everyone was welcome here, provided you had money to spend./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a;"And dotted through the crowd were magicians. They strode from stall to stall, vendor to vendor, silently calculating whether their wares would be useful in their latest experiments and inventions. They walked with confidence, knowing that most of the eyes they passed were on them but not caring that they were. They had enough going on in their heads; planning and making calculations and whatnot. Their minds were always turning, thinking about the world, the way it worked, and how they could make it better. /span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"Ruth watched their pointed hats bob in and out of the crowds. She had never seen so many in one place before. They were everything Simon wasn't./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"Then she realized that Simon was gone./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"She had stopped to take in the wonder of the market, but Simon hadn't. He had just kept going, leaving her behind. Ruth climbed on a nearby crate, stood on her toes, and desperately scanned the crowd. There was no sign of him. She clenched her fists, fingernails digging into her palms. Simon had been reckless enough with what he brought with him to the store. Here, had access to magic and equipment his mind could think of./span/p
p style="text-align: justify; line-height: 115%; margin: 0cm 0cm 12.0pt 0cm;"span style="color: #0e101a; text-indent: 36pt;"It was a very bad place for him to disappear./span/p