To say she was panicking was an understatement. She was plain hysterical. The moment she realized what had happened she tried calling her mother to no avail. She wasn’t answering, leaving Lisa to deal with everything by herself. She didn’t even know what he looked like. It was quite possible that her mother had already met the mysterious tenant, but that didn’t help if she couldn’t ask her mother about him. Asking Kali would be plain humiliating considering she hadn’t thought to ask before signing the documents. It was these thoughts that kept her up at night as she went to inspect the properties to ensure they were still in good condition. She didn’t want to give them another reason to have an even lower opinion of her.
It had been, after all, some time since people had live in the properties that they were interested in and she actually didn’t know what they looked like. Upon entry, she noted they seemed to be in good condition. There was a little dust, but nothing like a little cleaning wouldn’t fix. Her weekends consisted of wiping down the hard floors and counters to vacuuming the carpets when she wasn’t doing homework or applying for another job. The monotony was only interrupted when Kali stopped by to visit - he had apparently taken her offer and occasionally stayed for meals; thank goodness she learned to cook from her mom - or when one of the current residents came looking for her mother. In fact, it hadn’t taken long for everyone to find out that the current landlord wouldn’t be available which was the reason for her current predicament.
Holding a bucket of murky water in one hand and a sponge in the other, she found that her way was being blocked by a familiar face. “Zemud, I’m a little busy right now.”
“I can see that you piece of shit.” She winced at the crude language. “Where the hell is your mom?”
“She isn’t here right now.”
She tried to sidestep him, but he simply threw his flaming, brown arm out to block her way. “So that shitty rumor was true? Your mom bailed on you? Your mom must really think you’re worthless.” She forced herself not to react and kept trying to find a way around him. “Don’t ignore me trash. Don’t think you’re high and mighty. You’re nothing.”
It was clear he wasn’t going to let her pass. Her eyes darted around, looking for a way out. In her mind, she went through what little she remembered about the rights of landlords and tenants - she knew should have looked it up the moment her mom put her in charge - in hopes of finding a way without any legal trouble.
When it was clear she wasn’t paying attention, the other teen took a step closer, making her step back. Her back collided with something that she knew wasn’t the wall, but before she could look, gloved hands rested on her shoulders.
“Is there something wrong?”
“Who the hell are you?” Flames flickered to life around his form as flaming red eyes peered angrily underneath red hair at the intruder. All his senses were telling him to be wary of the stranger, but, at the same time, he didn’t take kindly to someone interfering in his affairs.
“I would suggest you kindly back away.”
Smoke curled around his mouth. “Or what?”
“Or you might find yourself washed up.”
A bucket of water - she instantly realized it was her bucket of water; how he got it without her noticing was a mystery - was held by a tendril of shadows above them. It swayed back and forth causing Zemud to scowl at the threat. Not wanting a fight to break out, she tried to break free of Kali’s grip, but he held firm, refusing to let her go. His eyes, however, were focused not on her, but on the boy in front of him. He had just arrived, hoping to have a bit of lunch with Miss Taylor - her cooking was delightful - only to find her being harassed by a hooligan. Taking note of the horns and flames, he deduced that the unwanted guest was either a breed of dragon or perhaps someone from a distant world. Either way, he was not amused.
Zemud, on the other hand, had two choices: continue for the sake of his pride or retreat as his instincts demanded. He didn’t like the way the older man - who the hell did he think he was and where did he come from - had his hands on Lime. No one was allowed to touch her without his expressed permission. He found her first and only he could hurt her. However, he knew that the man was more than he could handle at the moment, not that he was weak or anything. Not only that, but he wasn’t risking getting in trouble with his parents or the police because of the shit.
“This isn’t over Lime.”
Turning around, he was enveloped in smoke and vanished. She let out a sigh of relief as Kali released his grip on her. That had turned out better than expected. For a second, she had been worried that they would start fighting. She wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but she didn’t want to know. She made a side note to not let them meet again.
“Are you alright?”
She gave him a weak smile as she accepted the bucket from him. “I’m fine. Thank you. I’m so sorry that you had to see that.”
“I believe you should report him to the police.”
Report Zemud to the police? That would totally turn out great.
“Well, you see, that might be a problem. He’s a resident here.”
“And you haven’t evicted him yet?” His tone betrayed exactly how he felt about the situation.
“He’s a minor and his parents are actually one of our best tenants. They don’t cause trouble or anything and...”
“Well, they’re my mother’s friends.”
She wished she could crawl away somewhere where no one could find her. Instead, she chose to lead them back to her apartment. Excusing herself, she left Kali in her living room so she could put everything away and take a quick shower. It was surprising how much quickly she trusted him considering she was allowing him into her apartment. Then again he was polite and hadn’t given her any reason to mistrust him. Besides, there wasn’t a restroom in her mom’s apartment which was weird considering there was a kitchen. The fact there was no food in there except for snacks was another reason. It wouldn’t make sense to make him wait for her in the office especially since there were important documents there.
Upon exiting the shower, she found him inspecting a book she had left on the table. It was one she recognized and wished she had put away: a guide to being a landlord. She was quick to close it shut and place it on the nearby bookshelf. “Kali, is there anything in particular you would like for lunch?”
“Anything you make would be fine.”
She inspected her fridge and spotted a good amount of lettuce. “Would salad do?”
“I don’t mind.”
She went right to work by taking out a head of lettuce and washing it in the sink. Kali soon joined her and was helping her cut some chicken despite her attempts to have him wait as he was a guest. With some tomatoes, cheese, and croutons, they had a simple salad before them. It then became a Caesar salad once the dressing was added. Each took their own plate and drinks, water, to the table. She quickly cleared the clutter which he watched with amusement as she looked for a place to put them. It winded up on the floor. They ate in silence, basking in the peace and quiet.
“So, how close are you to him?” Startled, she looked up in mid bite. “The one from earlier?”
“Zemud? Our parents are just friends. That’s all.”
“Is he by chance a dragon?”
She stifled a snort. “You’re not the first to think so, but no. He’s an Ifrit.”
This earned raised eyebrows. She didn’t blame him. She had thought Zemud was a dragon too given how territorial he acted and the fact he looked like one; however, he lacked the scales and tail of one - that could have been caused by genetics though - and, since neither parent was part dragon, it wasn’t possible. In fact, no one who commented on Zemud’s race ever got it right the first time.
“I still think it’s prudent that he is dealt with. Such disgraceful behavior shouldn’t be allowed to continue.”
“It’s fine. I will speak with his parents later.”
Not that it seemed to help. All previous encounters always resulted in property damage from the parents trying to discipline their son. It was actually quite impressive considering it was mostly the mother doing the disciplining despite being human with a measly fire breathing power. It was quite terrifying to see her in action. They, of course, paid for the damages, but such destruction tended to scare off prospective tenants.
“I noticed he called you Lime earlier.”
“Oh, heh, it’s a nickname.”
They both knew it wasn’t something as simple as that. An awkward silence settled as they munched on the remains of their lunch.
“Have I ever told you the origin of my name?”
“Origin?” He had only told her that it was indeed his first name and not his last name like her mom thought. She never did find out where she heard it from. “Oh. Your name seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place it.”
“You see, it has to do with where I’m from. Back in India, my family is Hindu-”
“Kali is the name of a Hindu goddess!”
Realizing what she had just done, she slapped her hands across her mouth. She hadn’t meant to interrupt, but the moment he mentioned Hindu, she had remembered a show she had watched that mentioned the goddess. He must think she was being rude.
Kali watched in amusement as she attempted to disappear and merge with the floor. He hadn’t been offended by her outburst, but had been decently surprised that she had even had an idea. Briefly, he wondered where she had heard it from.
“That’s correct. I’m surprised you know of her.”
She gave a weak smile. “Yes, er, well, why are you named after a Hindu goddess?”
“Kali is a name for both genders and my parents thought it fitting considering my powers manifested at birth.”
Lisa perked up at that statement. That was unusual. Most powers that manifest at birth were usually ones that were physical like having animal characteristics or enhanced senses. Powers like being able to manipulate shadows would show up later unless he was a nonhuman. He seemed human and she hadn’t dared to ask what species he was without fear of offending him - the only ones she could think of having to do with shadows were shades and enenras; both were beings made of shadow.
“I suppose they were shocked.”
“Terrified actually. They claimed Kali herself had descended in mortal form.”
This time she couldn’t stop herself from chuckling. There had been a lot of claims from people saying they were gods incarnate. No one had managed to prove themselves. Not only that, but she couldn’t imagine being terrified of him. From what she knew of Kali, she was the bloodthirsty goddess of destruction who held herself above all else. Kali had not once acted angry or violent except for the confrontation with Zemud and even then, he had remained calm and polite.
The rest of the conversation turned to the plans being made on the properties. Several of the ones that had been picked used to be stores that had closed down and her mom had decided to take them up thinking people would want to set up shop. There had been no interested parties until now. Kali mentioned that he planned to open up a bar to her surprise. When she asked why a bar, he merely stated he was well suited for the occupation. Without any knowledge on bars, she accepted this. When he offered to give her a free drink upon opening, however, she was quick to decline his offer to due to age.
That, unfortunately, led to the awkward question of how old she actually was; she had managed to avoid that line of question during the past visits. Attempts to deflect it by stating she was younger than 21 did not help whatsoever. In the end, she caved in and admitted she was shy of 18. The look on his face could only be described as utter shock. When he finally composed himself, it felt as if something had changed. He seemed far more distant and uncomfortable. The only reason she could think of was that he had been treating her as an adult before and now that he knew she wasn't, he was trying to treat her as a child.
Lunch quickly ended and dishes were brought to the sink. It was as she washing the dishes that she came to a revelation. “You made a joke.”
“Earlier with Zemud, you made a joke.”
It took him a moment to understand what she was talking about and when he did, he immediately turned away to cough into his hand. “That wasn’t a joke.”
“I’m pretty sure it was. Weren’t your exact words ‘Or you might find yourself washed up.’ while holding my bucket of water that I used for cleaning?”
Kali had his body fully turned away to keep her from seeing his mortified expression. He had indeed remember saying those words and was regretting for falling so low. It hadn’t been his intention to make a joke. He had simply wanted to make a point to the arrogant brat and made a poor choice of words. It wasn’t even a good one. If he turned around, he would see her confused, but earnest face. She hadn’t expected him to have a sense of humor, but it was nice to know that he wasn’t always stoic.
Clearing his throat, he said, “I must be going. Thank you for the wonderful meal.”
“It was nothing. I hope to see you again soon.” Just as he was leaving, she remembered something. “Oh, and let your boss know that they properties should be ready soon and I would like to know when he would like to move in.”
Her mysterious tenant had managed to avoid meeting her, not that she was trying hard to meet him. All that she had learned about him was from Kali who simply stated he was a dependable and respectable man. He had made no mention of anything else like his species and she didn’t know how to ask without being offensive. The way Kali seemed to lose track of the present with his expression bordering on worship made her wary. She wasn’t sure how he would react if she made any remark about him whether it was positive or negative so she never pushed.
“I will let him know.” He slipped a hand into one of his pockets to pull out the card. “Just in case you aren’t able to reach him on the number that was provided.”
Accepting the card, she glanced at the fancy lettering.
At least she could put a name on her mysterious tenant. Now if only she could find out what he looked like.