The rock zipped past his snout as Ribas Salek approached the understated storefront at the corner of Zonepf and Klerg in the Tavern District of his home city of Vor.
He felt that rough gray stone, about the size of his fist, whoosh a few inches ahead of his black nose, before it slammed into the glass window to his left.
“Sorry!” shouted a gravelly voice from a passing hovercar. “Not aiming for you!” He turned to get a look at the rock thrower, but all Ribas saw was the tip of a whiskered snout disappearing into the back seat before the tinted window shot up.
He didn’t bother getting the vehicle’s identification number. He hadn’t been hurt. He just didn’t care.
Instead, the black-and-gray furred Llivori allowed his attention to shift to the shattered store window. Through it, he saw a pudgy white-and-gray furred Opodian crouched with a plastic bag gripped in one paw while the other collected shards of glass.
“Well, didn’t you pick a perfect neighborhood?” Ribas grunted, taking a step toward the shop. A sign above the door proclaimed it as “Goddess Goods.” It appeared to be an otherwise quaint little grocery, with neatly aligned shelves that seemed well stocked with provisions. A shame the proprietor wasn’t the right kind of people, he thought.
The Opodian sighed, looking out the broken window pane at Ribas. “The price was appealing. I was honestly surprised. Most of the landlords in this district saw me and immediately wanted to triple the rent.”
Ribas bobbed his snout. “Chances are, the landlord here is counting on someone burning the place down with you inside it. Insurance.”
“That’s an awfully cynical thing to suspect,” the Opodian replied. “I prefer to have more faith in people.”
“Yeah, well,” Ribas shrugged, “I’m guessing you haven’t been around many people.” He crossed his arms, then asked, “So, why here? Why not Ope’mot? Isn’t that where you belong? Why come all the way across the globe to open a shop in a city full of heathens who can’t stand your beloved goddess?”
The Opodian echoed the shrug as he resumed gathering broken glass. “We’re not all zealots, you know.”
“I think you’ll find a lot of Llivori are zealously anti-zealot, and they won’t really look past what you are or where you come from,” Ribas said. “They think it’s easier to hate.”
“Do you think it’s easier?”
The Llivori considered the question, but quickly shook his head. “I used to hate your kind a lot. It’s a lot of work, hating so passionately. Almost as much work as loving. Maybe a little more so, really.”
“So, you don’t hate Opodians anymore?”
Ribas felt his whiskers twitch before the faint smile crept over his snout. “Hate? No. I’m a lazy creature by nature. So much easier not to give a damn at all.”
“Yet you stopped to talk to me,” the Opodian noted, getting to his feet with a bag full of broken glass shards. “It seems to me that someone who didn’t care would just keep walking.”
Another shrug from Ribas. “Maybe I just wanted to know if you’d cut me a deal on some fresh glava fruit.”
The Opodian proprietor looked over at the shelves of produce, where boxes of the yellow-brown fruits waited. He then looked back to the Llivori. “My name is Noban. You are my first customer of the day. I will give you twenty percent off, if you like.”
Ribas clacked his fangs together. “Didn’t ask your name. Make it twenty-five percent and I’ll take it.”
“The window will not be cheap to replace,” Noban replied. “I cannot go lower than twenty-two percent.”
Ribas frowned. “Just how many glava do you think I’m planning to buy? Twenty-three percent. Final offer. I could always just go buy fruit from a reputable Llivori grocer.”
“Very well,” Noban said with a smile. “Twenty-three percent discount for my nameless cynical Llivori acquaintance.”
“Ribas Salek,” the Llivori said. “Now I’m cynical, but I also have a name.”
The Opodian’s eyes widened and the smile showed a few more blunt teeth. “Ah, Salek. Yes. I was told to seek you out.”
Ribas tilted his snout, puzzled. “Oh?”
“Jorta sends his regards,” Noban said, dropping the bag full of glass so that he could swiftly draw two sharp, thin-bladed knives. He hurled them into the Llivori’s chest – THUNK! THUNK! – before the shards smashed against the floor again.
Ribas Salek looked down at the blood soaking the front of his tunic, then poked briefly at the white bone handles of the knives jutting from his chest before he toppled backward on the sidewalk.
“You’re right, you know,” Noban said as he stepped through the broken window and knelt beside the bleeding Llivori. “It is so much easier not to give a damn at all.”