East-Emerbury had two good points: because of all the signs you could see through the smog, and that it was where the best bar in the city was located.
The bad points are everything else.
“Watch where you’re going asshole!” Niccole heard someone shout as she zipped along the packed street. It is one of the most common sentences that she overhears when she speeds along the neon-lit streets on her hoverbike, right next to ‘Come back here, you bastard!’ and ‘Oh shit the cops!’. Truly East-Emerbury was the embodiment of welcoming.
As she turned a corner and down an alley, the intensity of the neon sea died down allowing the world to return to its natural smoggy state. Swerving to avoid the random junkies that could be found living there – probably getting high off of the newest drug someone was peddling – she finally arrived at her destination. The only working neon sign in the alley displaying the name of the bar in bright red: THE DEMON KING in English and probably the same thing in some language she didn’t know right below it, she never to ask and didn’t care about it enough to change that fact anytime soon.
DK was tending the bar, the counter already full since he opened at noon. Everyone just called him DK, that or Owner. Nobody knew his true name and each time someone asked him he would tell a different answer just to fuck with them. A classic one was Zachary Alexander Gregor Andrew Nightly the sixty-first. Hanging behind the bar was a poster of a winged bull, DK’s custom made logo.
The funny thing about DK was that if you saw him from a distance you would not think he was one of the most dangerous men in all of Emerbury, with his tall, lanky frame and bartender suit covering most of his glyphs he didn’t look like much. The messy blonde-dyed hair and glasses didn’t help the look but as they say, appearances can be deceiving.
The Demon King was a little slice of heaven in the middle of hades. The back alley bar was the safest place in East-Emerbury — probably all of Emerbury truthfully. Only the crazy, young, stupid, or suicidal would cause trouble in a place owned by a marked, especially one who owned spirits as powerful as DK’s. Which – by Emerbury’s standards – was still a large amount but it reduced the number quite a bit.
It was also one of the best establishments in the city. DK splurged on everything in this place, from the newest hologram projectors to the air filters that made it not horrible when you take your mask off. He even installed a new VR cabinet just last week.
DK saw Niccole and smiled when she entered the bar, his teeth an assembly of jagged, sharp canines. He’s said they were a product of one of his spirits, Niccole thought that he was just telling another one of his lies until she saw them chew through a block of steel like tofu — even the most recent and expensive mods from ModifiCo couldn’t come anywhere near that level of power.
Niccole found her place at the counter, between the old white man who had a mane of grey hair with a beard the same colour and the Asian woman who was more prosthetics than flesh. The latest song from Burning Furies, ‘Live and Learn’, blaring out of the speakers.
“About time you showed up Kitten,” DK said, freeing his hands by sliding a glass of wine down the counter to one of the other patrons, “Couldn’t have my favourite courier miss the big show.”
Niccole just rolled her eyes at her nickname. Back when she was both young(er), stupid, and before DK was well known as a marked she attempted to rob his bar earning her the nickname Kitten because she was a ‘little cat burglar’ as he put it. He let her off and even started helping her find jobs afterwards. You could call him soft but Niccole has seen too much oil and wine spill out of people to ever believe it. Kind with a soft spot for kids? Maybe. But never soft.
“Sorry DK, some of us have lives that aren’t catering to the city’s number one drunkard hangout spot.”
“Yes, yes. Keep on bitching. At least I have a good job, it’s only a matter of time until you get hit riding that fossil of yours all across the city,” He joked, “So, what would you like? Nutmeg or peppermint cause the holidays or do you want something spicier to start the new year?”
“Give me some vampyr.”
“Going with something fancy, eh? Tell you what, I have four jobs for you lined up next week so consider the first glass on the house.”
Niccole narrowed her eyes as the man got a blood bag out from behind the bar and poured it into a glass, the glyph on the back of his hand glowing as the liquid changed from blood to wine. A very impressive spirit – like all transmutation types were – but horrifying when used on a living person. Watching someone’s blood turn into oil and alcohol is not a pleasant experience.
“You rarely, if ever, give me anything for free, what are the jobs?”
“Ouch, Kitten. You wound me," He feigned hurt, "Don’t worry, only one of the jobs has the possibility of being dangerous but I’ll be loaning you glyphs so it will be fine. I just need someone to do it.”
The confirmation earned a long, exasperated sigh. Niccole hated bodyguard jobs, nine times out of ten it was just looking after some rich brats as they explored the city and she had better things to do than play as a glorified babysitter.
“We both feel the same about this type of job but it pays well and you need all the money you can get if you want to get into Geisterjager; the school year starts soon and you are still a few thousand off the entrance fees.” The ‘I also don’t want to do it but the client is too important to turn down.’ went unsaid.
“Don’t remind me,” she said after heaving another sign, “I’m only four thousand away, I can earn that much in two months.”
He just shook his head, “And then what? You can’t keep living in a coffin when you’re going to school, the distance alone would be a big enough problem for you to move, not to mention the lack of space to keep your stuff. You need to get an apartment closer to the school, closer to central at the very least. An actual apartment, not a capsule.”
She just rolled her eyes and started to drink her wine, “That’s 2227’s Niccole’s problem. 2226’s Niccole is going to get drunk and party.”
“Unless you are planning on becoming a hooker or comedian you should get your future planned out, you’re nearly twenty-two and I’m not going to look out for you forever.”
“Somebody has to be the funny one around here.”
That earned her a snort, “Just be sober enough to drive, I have enough people who I need to call cabs for and I don’t want to increase that number too much.”
Niccole left the bar and quickly found a dance partner in a beautiful Italian girl with red hair whose name she didn’t know or ask for. This night would probably be the last in a while that she could let loose before she needed to earn money and prepare for the entrance exams.
As they were dancing and drinking – earning her a glare from DK because she definitely passed the limit to drive – the clock approached twelve.
When DK was busy throwing some people out because they started fighting on a table the countdown began.
“““Three. Two. One. Happy 2227!”””