Rain poured its stinging benediction across the city, splashing around Dandy’s exposed ankles in painful puddles. He ignored it, focusing on the voices that were echoing up the stairs.
“I don’t like this place, Miss Lynne! It’s wet and cold and the ground stings my paws! It’s like the worst b…bath ever!”
“I tried to carry you,” another voice pointed out, in practical tones. “You wiggled until I put you down.”
“I couldn’t sniff things! Or fight monsters!” The strange voice sounded sulky.
“Nooot much to be done then, baby,” another voice chimed in. “S’one or the other.”
Dandy readied himself. This was his last chance to redeem himself, to be brought back to Beauty’s side, and if his information from others in Zozo was to be believed, this had to be the chancellor of Doma, the matron of Tzen’s defunct royal family, their Esper bird, and a pirate king, all persons of interest to the Empire.
He stepped forward as they entered the flight of stairs below him, and bowed ostentatiously as he nasally intoned, “Welcome, my dear guests, to the end of your trip. I have a little “assignment,” you see—” Irritably he straightened as rain dripped down his neck, sending a shower of dirty, stinging water over the shortest member of the group who were all staring irritably up the stairs at him.
“Yeouch! That hurt!” the little dog yapped, and bounded right up the stairs at him, barking ferociously in his rage. The dog opened his mouth and without hesitation bit Dandy hard on his ankle.
Dandy yelped too, springing backward, and fell out the window, no wiser for his brief encounter than he’d been. A hook hanging from nearby scaffolding caught him by his pants and carried him away and up to a different building. The sound of his faint nasal swearing was quickly muffled by the rain.
“Missile!” scolded Lynne. “What got into you?!”
“I don’t know, Miss Lynne!” The little dog’s eyes were bright and unrepentant, his nose still wiggling fiercely. “But I saw his face and I didn’t like it! And he said welcome first so I didn’t want to say it back, and… and… he looked like a bad man! And I don’t like this place!!”
Lynne looked at the others and shrugged helplessly. “Well. He looked like he was from the Empire anyway.”
Alma shrugged back. “Then we go onward. He clearly wasn’t worth our time, and thank you, Missile for clearing the obstruction?”
“Our little warrior,” added Cabanela, scratching Missile’s ears affectionately before the four of them turned to the door at the top of the building, and what lay inside.