Mirrored from Sythyry.
“I can’t let you back,” said Nummentzartt. “I mean, I can let you in to get your things, what’s left of them after the fire and the Doippmers which sure ain’t leaving much, but you’ll have to find a different apartment to live in.”
Niia snarled, “Well, that’s ridiculous. We’ve been living here for six years now, we’ve paid our rent on time every month, you’ve not had the slightest complaint about us from any of our neighbors. You can’t blame us for some criminals breaking in and destroying the place!”
Nummentzartt’s ears drooped. “No, I can’t blame you, and that’s a fact. I’d give you the second-floor apartment, it’s a bit nicer than your old one was, if it were up to me, and that’s another fact. Same rent, even. But it’s not up to me, and that’s another fact, and the sort of fact that comes in with straw and torches and blugeons.”
“What? You own the building, Nummentzartt!”
“I’m as sorry as a puppy as got into a bag of pepper, Niia. But when they came to burn your place, they stopped by my office first. I’ve still got them bruises. Said they’d be back for me if I didn’t kick you out.”
Niia bristled. “How can they do this? It’s not legal or moral, to beat up an honest landlord, much less to burn a citizen’s apartment!”
“They can do it ’cause they’ve got the government with them, Niia. When the Doippmers came to do their burning, three city guards were standing by and watching and helping hoist the straw. The Minister of the Guard is a Vepri, so the guard’s not going to be telling the Doippmers what they can and can’t do. And what they can do is break my ribs if I rent to scl… you.”
“What kind of justice is this, Nummentzartt?”
Nummentzartt’s ears drooped. “It’s no justice at all, and that’s a fact, Niia. I’m a Vepri myself, ninth generation on their test, and I pays my dues, but even so I’m getting my ribs thumped and my tenants burnt. No justice!”
* * *
After two troublesome days, Chiver came to Niia’s cafe. “I’ve finally found us a place to live.”
Niia set aside her mop. The cafe was still closed, and she did not want to spent from their suddenly-shrunken savings to hire a cleaner. “Chiver, your ears are flat and your tail is tucked. You don’t look at all happy about it.”
“I’m not happy, Niia. I called on every apartment in the nicer quarter, and in the student quarter, and none of them would have us. We’re on a list, you see. But there’s a building on Air-Dyuvel Street, it’s not too bad, the Doippmers said they could rent to us.”
“What! Air-Dyuvel street is nearly all the way across the city from here! And it’s not a safe place to live!”
“It’s the Khtsoyis ghetto, that’s the truth of it. But this apartment’s on the first floor, and the Khtsoyis in the building are in the Gezirk, so there won’t be trouble,” said Chiver.
“We’ll share a building with the criminals to avoid trouble?” Niia was incredulous.
“They don’t tolerate trouble in their own homes,” said Chiver. “And the Doippmers don’t care what happens in Air-Dyuvel street, so we’re safe from them.”
Niia looked at her cleaning supplies. She set the mop against a wall and stomped on it, and the handle splintered under her weight. She threw the filthy water over the tables. Chiver took her hand. “Niia! What are you doing!”
“Wrecking the place so that whoever gets it next, won’t get much. I’m not staying in Choulano another day, Chiver,” said Niia. “It’s not a proper city, if we get beaten and poisoned living here, and then sent to live with the criminals if they’ll have us. Are you coming with me?”
“Leave my family and friends and everyone?” whined Chiver.
Niia stripped off her leather gloves and hugged her partner. “I know it’s hard for a Cani to pick up and go. But it’s not safe to be your friend or family member here, any more. You got beaten mostly because of your uncle, after all.”
“That and antagonising them,” said Chiver.
“Well, do you think you can stay here safely, laying low and not antagonizing anyone, and hoping that the Vepri decide you’ve been punished enough? It’s not like they’re thirty-six ounces of pissed at you and now that you’ve had your dose it’s all goody-good with them. They’re making an example of you, of us, so that other teachers and landlords and restauranteurs won’t resist them.”
Chiver thought about that, rubbing bare patches of skin where his fur was barely starting to grow back. “Where can we go? Sprelna’s Vepri are worse than ours, and I don’t think that Draffmoug or Gurtzmanoy are any better.”
“Leave the whole snake-god-bitten branch. Leave every branch! I’m going to Kismirth.”
“Kismirth. We’ve got some friends there already,” said Chiver.
“And we’re taking that scudbutter Tzantschalffer’s skayak to get there,” said Niia.
Chiver thought for a moment. “Under other circumstances I might have ethical concerns about that. As it is … when do we go?”