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A Light Amid The Darkness

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Geist was glad the whole situation with Providence and trying not to let the world get destroyed was over. He was glad that the Crystal Orthodoxy, the Duchy of Eternia, and what remained of the Grantz Empire was slowly coming back to peaceful terms with each other. He was glad that he was still alive, as well as his son Revenant, and even the rest of his allies and friends he’d made in the Empire. Peace was always a good thing, and rarely did Geist feel like he experienced that.

But ever since the end of all that happened with Providence, Geist was tired. Tired of not having any privacy, of being alone. The Empire wasn’t the same since Denys died, and virtually disbanded ever since his self-sacrifice to send the Ba’al to the end of time. Janne and Nikolai went on their way back to working with the Orthodoxy, and same with all of Geist’s former teammates. It was nice to see their familiar faces in Gathelatio and Eternia, but it didn’t feel the same as old times.

Yew Geneolgia and Magnolia Arch were making wedding plans, Tiz and Agnes already got married as is, Edea Lee and Yew were working with Agnes, Braev Lee, and other nations in Luxendarc to establish further peace as is. Even Kamiizumi had adopted Minette Napkatti, officially, as his daughter. Everyone had something to do with their lives.

Geist wasn’t sure what his thing to do was, though at least he had his son occupied for the time being. He’d enrolled Revenant in Al-Khampis’ Academy (especially after he and his son got a huge financial compensation because of all that happened in the past, from the Orthodoxy itself, and it was more than enough to pay for Rev’s education and boarding–it didn’t hurt that Norzen already knew Minette as is prior to her and Rev being enrolled at Al-Khampis, either). Technically, the boy would be a young adult, if it wasn’t for his soul permanently in the state of a young child when he died, but Geist knew that Kamiizumi was enrolling Minette there, so the Exorcist figured he might as well as do the same for Rev. It would be good for his son to be there with a friend and former teammate from the Grantz Empire, to have a handy familiar face, all while both of them navigated the new world ahead of them.

Before Revenant left for his studies, at least Geist could spend the time he had with his son. He first spent time, after the final confrontation with the evil god Providence, to just recover and spend time with his own son, as well as fellow teammates. But as people drifted or got busy with new things, Geist wasn’t sure what to do. The days felt endless, and had less meaning.

Now that Revenant wasn’t present by his side, given the boy’s studies, it made things even harder.

Because of everything that happened, there was also the additional struggle of people asking him to perform exorcisms, due to his status as an Exorcist. He couldn’t remember how many requests he had to turn down, but he was tired of doing them. Tired of dealing with demons.

So, one night, he had the idea of taking a break. A literal one. He had the money, so he could go out of Luxendarc. Maybe, he decided, he needed to see the world, too. Rev was off doing that in his own way, with his studies, and Geist knew it would be a good way to distract himself, so why not do it?

He gave Nobutsuna Kamiizumi a week’s notice before leaving. Given that Nobutsuna adopted Minette, and the fact that Minette was also at Al-Khampis with Rev, Geist figured it made sense to trust the man with looking after his own small house. The Swordmaster agreed to take any letters meant for Geist, check in on the mail. Geist’s plan was to just be…not-present in Luxendarc, at least for two weeks. The wedding of Magnolia and Yew would be in a month from now, so that gave Geist more than enough time to be back for said wedding and pick up Rev to come to the wedding, too.

Geist had decided to go by ship to get to a new place, outside of Luxendarc. The trip took three days, but Geist didn’t mind. Now that Luxendarc was mostly at peace, there were other nations that wanted to go there for tourism and trade, so there were plenty more ships than in previous years.

The last time Geist went on a ship, he knew it didn’t end well. This time, things would be different – or so he hoped.

Geist soon found himself in a new town, in a new place entirely. He needed a new change of clothes for the occasion. As the Exoricist, he couldn’t just show up anywhere in bloody clothing without getting stares or being accused of criminal activity, so he had no choice but to get new clothes prior to leaving for the trip. He settled for something plain and normal, but still close to his own style – a black trenchcoat with inner pockets, red pants (he never liked jeans), low-heeled black boots and gloves. The shirt he had on was just a plain, button-up shirt.

He also now had a nifty cellphone with him. He hadn’t bothered with the new technology at first, when joining the Empire, but he needed it now to keep in touch and receive emails and texts from Nobutsuna, as well as Rev and some of his former allies. Geist figured it wouldn’t hurt to keep in touch, just in case of an emergency, and he managed to learn the basics of it pretty quick before arriving in the new town.

He wandered the streets after checking into the cheap hotel he booked beforehand, pretending to have purpose and a destination, but he grew weary of just wandering around. Also, he was getting hungry, and he was tired from travelling. He needed a good cup of coffee, and some time to just unwind and take things in.

That was when he turned the corner and saw a peculiar place.

What sort of building called itself A Cat’s Paw, after all? Intrigued, and also smelling coffee brewing from within, he entered through the front doors. The soft ringing of a bell echoed as he made his way past the doorway, just in time to see a young man with olive-brown skin approach him with a friendly smile and lanky limbs.

“Welcome to A Cat’s Paw!” The man greeted him.

“Er, thanks.” Geist managed, swallowing. Socializing with people, even before all the trauma with the Great Plague and so on, had never been easy for him. It still wasn’t easy, now. “I was just wondering if you had coffee?”

The other man nodded. “Oh, yes. Please, have a seat. I’ll get Finley to take your order.”

Geist took a seat at one of the nearby tables in the dining area. As far as he could see, just from looking around, there was a specific area meant for the cats, given that was where their play structures were. The tables, where he was sitting at, was where people could sit and eat. He also noticed stairs leading up, probably for further seating for customers. Maybe even an office, too, but he wasn’t completely sure.

“Excuse me, sir?” He turned his head to see a young woman approaching his table, offering him a menu. She had a green shirt-dress of sorts, with patterned leggings and casual but fashionable-looking sneakers. He also noticed the phone she had in her free hand, as he took the menu from her. “Hi, I’m Finley.

“Uh…” Geist looked down at the menu briefly, then up at her, “Just coffee. Black. And a banana muffin, please.”

“Will do!” Finley left Geist’s sight, and Geist took the time to get settled, taking a breath.

There weren’t many customers in this café, as there were not many sitting at the tables. There were some that were casually chatting with their friends, or maybe staring at the various cats, but otherwise the place was pretty calm. It was nice, knowing there weren’t too many people in here.

Finley came back pretty quickly with the coffee and banana muffin, and Geist thanked her for it. He figured he’d have to pay at the end of eating, though, and so he took his time, drinking the coffee, taking a few bites of his muffin inbetween.

He watched the other people and cats in the café, silent as he consumed his order. The cats were peacefully playing on the various structures meant for them, and the other customers were just peacefully doing their own thing.

Geist wasn’t really sure what to maek of this place. Was it just a normal café, except for cats? He had a feeling he should tell Kamiizumi about this place. Maybe he could take Minette out here, if they had the chance to go travelling sometime.

He heard the ‘click’ of a camera, and he turned to see Finley taking a few photos of her own cup of coffee on a nearby table with her phone, trying to take photos at different angles.

“What are you doing?” Geist couldn’t help but ask. Did a lot of people take photos at this place? And why the coffee, if not the cats?

She looked up at him, blinking. “Oh, sorry about that. Just taking a couple pics for social media. I’d move to another table, but this cup is gonna spill if I do.” Peering a bit closer at the table, Geist noticed that the cream at the top of the cup resembled a foamy impression of a cat. Finley smiled, looking down at the cat, and then up at Geist. “I’m in charge of social media, so I gotta get the word out.”

“I see.” He paused, before he shrugged, looking towards his own coffee. “Don’t mind me, then.”

“You aren’t from around here, are you?” He blinked, turning towards her. Her head tilted to the side, her attention on him. “I mean, I haven’t seen you around until today.”

“I am new here.” He admitted, shrugging once. “I’m just taking a break from…back home.” Best not to mention that he was an Exorcist that just got out of a life-and-death situation in Luxendarc, involving an evil god and so on. “Travelled all the way here and figured I’d take a peek in this place.”

“Cool!” She beamed. “Well, I already introduced myself, I’m Finley. And you are…?”

“I’m Geist.” Geist supplied. He figured it wasn’t worth telling her his last name, just in case anyone recognized him outside Luxendarc. And that phone of hers made him weary. He didn’t want her taking selfies with him, after all.

“Geist, huh? That’s a cool name.” Finley nodded a bit. “What does it mean? Ghost?”

“Actually, yes.” He managed, a soft chuckle leaving him at that.

“Oh, cool!”

He didn’t know much about this place. And now that he had her attention, why not use the opportunity to ask her, especially since she worked here? “Could you tell me more about this café?”

“Oh, sure!” She grinned, pointing to the cats playing in the structures. “That’s the cat area. My boss, Graves, picks up any strays he finds and brings them here to take care of, until someone comes by to adopt them. The pictures by that area are all the adopted cats so far. And of course,” Her gaze looked towards Geist again, chuckling softly, “You’re in the dining area, but I’m sure you guessed that already. The upstairs floor also is an area where customers can eat and drink, too.”

“And the third floor?” The Exorcist inquired.

“That’s my boss’ office. That’s all.” Finley shrugged at that, and Geist simply nodded. That made sense, he supposed. Someone had to do all the administrative work of this place somewhere. Given how everyone else that worked here either attended to the cats, the dining area or the kitchen, Geist guessed that Graves probably did most of the admin work upstairs. Made sense. He’d have less distractions that way. But it also meant he probably had a lot of trust in his employees to get the job done, in the meantime.

Before Geist could ask any other questions, he heard the bell at the front doors rang. Geist noticed Finley entire form tense, especially in her shoulders. Her jaw clenched, before a brief sigh left her as she shook her head.

“You gotta be kidding me,” Geist heard Finley mutter under her breath, before she raised her voice enough to look the stranger in the eye, approaching them. “Excuse me? I’m going to have to ask you to leave immediately.”

“What are you gonna do? Sic your white knight on me like the last time?” The man challenged. Geist knew that he couldn’t just sit at his table and watch. He had to do something, and he did.

Getting up from where he sat at the table, he marched over to the two. He didn’t know the whole situation, but clearly this man had to be trouble, especially given how Finley initially reacted to his arrival.

“You heard the lady.” Geist snapped at the other man, looking him in the eye. “Leave. Now.”

“You gonna make me, buddy?” The man started, but Geist narrowed his gaze, crossing his arms in front of his chest as he stared the other man down. He saw the younger man pale immediately under his hood, but he still relented in dishing out insults. “What you gonna do, beat me six ways to Sunday? I’ll give this café a horrible rating if you do!”

“I don’t even work here, so you’d be wasting your time giving a rating for no reason.” The Exorcist pointed out immediately. “And if you have a problem with me and her asking you to leave, I will make you leave. Permanently.”

Geist knew what he meant by saying ‘permanently.’ The other man seemed to get the hint, though, a hiss leaving him before he turned on his heel and stormed out of the café. The Exorcist relaxed his gaze, swallowing as he looked towards Finley.

“Y-you…” Finley paused, staring at him, before she managed, “You didn’t have to do that.”

“I couldn’t just stand there and let you get harassed.” Geist muttered, shaking his head. “Sorry about that.”

“That guy shouldn’t even be here. I’m sorry you were involved in it.” Finley managed, shaking her head quickly. “You know what? Let me make it up to you. Your order’s on the house.”

“No, you don’t need to.” Geist quickly shoved a few bills out of his own pockets, before offering them to Finley. “I’ll just take my leave.”

Even if he wasn’t looking around, at this point, he could feel the few other people in the café staring at him. The urge to kill that man from earlier resonated deep in his head, and he knew he needed some air. He couldn’t stay here. Not like this. Not now.

“Are you sure?” Finley asked. Geist simply nodded, turning on his heel to leave the café. He then paused, taking out one more bill.

“Keep the change,” Geist blurted out, stuffing an extra twenty-dollar bill into Finley’s hand. “For your trouble.” He immediately straight-up left the café after that. The last thing he wanted was to bring more attention. Maybe it was best if he avoided the place, from hereon. After all, he did quite loudly deal with a harasser.

And, at least he got his coffee. That, he could guarantee.

“Are you okay, Finley?”

Ever since the strange man from earlier left the café, Landry volunteered to cover the rest of Finley’s shift, while Finley and one of her other fellow co-workers, Avery, went upstairs to calm down and refresh a bit from the harsh encounter.

“Yeah.” Finley took a deep breath, forcing herself to slowly breathe. “I’m okay. Kinda. I can’t shake off that vibe about that guy, though.”

“You mean the harasser dude?” Avery’s nose scrunched up as they looked her in the eyes. “Yeah, I know what you mean. I think Reese is calling the police now about how that guy breached his restraining order.”

Finley knew she had her haters online, but this one had actually went all the way to the café to publicly harass her at work. Avery and Mason had, thankfully, chased him off at the time when he first came, but there were two more repeat offences that eventually forced the café to give the man a restraining order. Hopefully, after this report, that man would just never come back. Finley hoped that man never came back.

But there was the other man, from earlier. The odd customer, who stood up and threatened the life of her harasser. She knew what he meant when he said he’d ‘permanently’ get rid of the other. Was he seriously going to kill him?

“I mean by the customer who stood up for me.” Finley answered, looking Avery in the eye.

“That guy in the trenchcoat, red pants and black boots?” Avery asked. They frowned a little bit. “I don’t think I’ve seen him before.”

Finley nodded. “Yeah. He mentioned his name was Geist, and he was from out of town.”

“What kind of vibes did you pick up from him before the whole confrontation happened? Was it like…” Avery’s voice lowered as they finished, “Nacht?”

Finley shook her head quickly. Even if she sensed life-and-death vibes from Geist, it was nothing like Nacht. “Not like him. He apologized and rushed off after he defended me. He even overpaid me! I think he was embarrassed that he brought all that attention to himself.” She couldn’t help but wonder if the man had some form of social anxiety, likes Hayes. It wouldn’t be surprising, given his skittish behaviour. “I think he meant well, though. He was mostly pretty calm before that guy arrived.”

“Huh…” Avery frowned softly at that. Avery had been on Cat Detail when the harasser arrived earlier, so Finley knew they couldn’t just immediately change to their human form right in front of the public. They sighed, then took another sip of their coffee. “Well, I doubt that guy will come back again. Both of them, I mean.”

“I feel almost bad for him.” Finley managed, swallowing. He looked so mortified earlier, just because he defended me. And sure, he did give the guy a death threat, but I don’t think he was actually serious…right?

“Can’t do anything about it now.” Avery squeezed Finley’s free hand in their own, offering her a smile. “How about we play some Bl@st Zone after work to cheer you up?”

Finley couldn’t help but smile, before leaning in to give them a kiss. “You just read my mind, cutie. Let’s do this.”

A night of playing Bl@st Zone together at the café, after closing time, did lift Finley’s spirits. How could it not? It was always her favourite game, and nowadays, she and Avery were working on cosplay outfits based off it, too! (She had yet to persuade the rest of her coworkers to participate. Reese wasn’t interested, and Hayes was too embarrassed about cosplaying in public, given that it meant dealing with more people, and then there was the issue of Landry fitting properly given his height. At least Mason seemed like she’d do it, at least once. Same went for Graves.)

However, she couldn’t shake off the feeling that maybe, just maybe, she’d see that guy again.

Little did she realize that she would be right about that.