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Dusk and Distant Strife

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Argilla sat on the grass and looked pensively at the distant horizon. Out here, the only real light was that of the setting sun and her tent's softly runes. The Rubblebelt lay ahead, already dark in the encroaching dusk and behind her Koornong in the off-season seemed to have decided on an early night as well.

Argilla's tent stood not exactly in the Rubblebelt and not exactly in Koornong, but in the kind infuriating grey area that would drive any Azorius mapmaker completely round the bend. Tomorrow she'd strike out into the wilderness. Tonight she still kind of enjoyed the benefits of what people liked to call 'civilization' for some reason.

Jinana appeared from the gathering dark. If it hadn't been for her hair, which she kept dyed green, and the red paint splashed all over the left leg of her otherwise grey trousers, nobody would have believed the calm woman was a member of the Gruul clans. Argilla still had trouble believing it and they'd been together since... well, since Argilla's ultimately doomed attempt to expand her business into Gruul territory. Turned out, the Gruul were perfectly happy with their own tents, even if they were on the crude side.

Jinana quietly sat down next to Argilla and, much to her surprise, handed her a hot dog.

"We have food in the tent, you know," Argilla said.

"I know," Jinana replied mildly. "But I happened to be in the mood for something unwise."

Argilla sniffed the sausage suspiciously. "Do you know what it's made of?"

"Meat," Jinana replied. "According to the seller, anyway. He even showed me his fancy Azorius certificate testifying that his sausages were all up to code."

"Forged?"

A smile flashed across Jinana's face. "Probably."

Against her better judgement, Argilla bit into her hot dog. It was... surprisingly edible. It didn't taste of anything she could recognise, but she hadn't really expected to to begin with.

Argilla huddled up against Jinana and rested her head on her shoulder. Jinana draped her free arm around Argilla's shoulders.

"What do you think that is?" Argilla remarked idly between bites.

"Hmm?"

Argilla nodded towards the horizon. Something rose up through the distant clouds. Something slender and winged with what seemed like a pair of curved horns that met up again over its head. There were faint, flickering, irregular lights far below it.

She wouldn't have been able to see it back in the city, with the buildings all around, but the Rubblebelt offered some magnificent vistas. Provided one was interested in wild nature dotted here and there with crumbling ruins.

"Looks like some kind of open air Rakdos show, doesn't it?" Argilla said.

"Could be," Jinana said. "Or, possibly, a Simic experiment that got out of hand."

"So a Simic experiment, then."

"Sometimes there are Simic experiments that go perfectly well," Jinana said mildly. "Even if only by accident."

"Well, I'm sure we'll read about in the paper eventually," Argilla said.

"Most likely," said Jinana. Then added, "But that doesn't mean we'll ever actually find out about it."

Argilla tried not to roll her eyes. "You know, some papers actually do report the truth."

"I'm sure some try to," Jinana said calmly.

Argilla was about to argue when a sudden thunderclap startled both of them. What had been the empty darkness of the Rubblebelt stretching out ahead of them was now the mostly empty darkness of the Rubblebelt. A young woman stood a bit away from the tent and looked around wildly. She had slightly messy black hair and wore a red-and-blue dress of a design Argilla had never seen before. Her bare arms were decorated with intricate metalworks that had to be some kind of jewelry because it was hard to imagine what else it might be.

The woman spotted Argilla and Jinana and gave them a charming smile as she walked up that.

"Sorry about all this," she said. She spoke with an accent Argilla couldn't place. "Uhm, I don't suppose you could tell me where I am?"

"The Rubblebelt," said Jinana.

"That's Koornong behind us," said Argilla.

"Ah," said the woman. "Thank you."

Argilla took pity on her. "You're basically on the outskirts of the Sixth District."

The woman's expression didn't change. "I see," she said at last.

The stranger looked around her, probably looking for some clue to tell her were she was or where she should go. Finally, she spotted the strange winged figure in the distance. The expression on her face hardened.

"Sorry, do you happen to know where that is?" she asked, pointing at the silhouette.

"I'd say it's about over in the Tenth District, at a guess," Argilla replied. "You can take a bus there pretty easily. All roads lead to the Tenth District, as they say."

"Not any more," said Jinana, with only a faint hint of satisfaction.

"Thank you," said the woman. "I'll leave you be now. You've been very helpful."

"Good luck," Argilla said.

"So, the Izzet are studying teleportation now," said Jinana, once the woman had gone.

"Seems like it," Argilla agreed. "Making good progress, too."

"Really? She had no idea where she'd ended up," Jinana pointed out.

"Yeah, but she arrived here in one piece," said Argilla. "I'm willing to bet a lot of the earlier test subjects didn't."

"You may be right."

"Did you see that dress she was wearing? Wild. Don't think I've ever seen one like that before."

"I've seen similar ones," Jinana said. "They were worn by people from the 332nd District."

"The... what? I don't even know where that is," said Argilla. "You've been there?"

"No," said Jinana. "But I've met people from there over in the 12th District during the Annual Gruul Bodypainting Competition."

Argilla almost choked on her hot dog. "Bodypainting competition?"

"It's not as exciting as it sounds."

"Still, I think I'd like to see it one day," said Argilla.

"As you wish," Jinana replied.

Argilla finished the last of her hot dog and licked her fingers clean. It had been a pretty good hot dog. Thoroughly OK.

Silence fell, broken only by the hooting, screeching, howling, grunting, and skittering of the countless night creatures roaming the Rubblebelt. It was getting colder, too, but for Argilla this was just another reason to get closer to Jinana. Not that she really needed one.

"Say, Jinana?" Argilla said.

"Hmm?"

"Have you ever heard of Nirvana?"

"I haven't," Jinana said. "What does it mean?"

"I don't know," Argilla admitted. "The thought appeared in my mind."

Jinana kissed Argilla on her head. "Well, let me know when you find out."

"You'll be the first to know," Argilla promised.