Jeanne and Babylonia were dating.
That was a truth obvious to anyone but them.
At this point they have been living together for a few weeks and Babylonia has been regularly helping out with Jeanne’s store, while learning her way around the city.
Of course, it struck everyone as odd how those two came to be an item. Or even to know each other. Vampires are still a rare sight in the city, considering the living conditions are less than optimal for nocturnal creatures who are very sensitive to the sun.
As Babylonia told me, when she first arrived in the city, she and Jeanne were old acquaintances. Though that begged the question of how far back they went exactly. Vampires and witches alike had an impossibly long lifespan. So, their perception of “old” may also differ. And, on top of that, vampires didn’t exactly have the best relationship with humans. Even after the treaty from around a decade ago.
So, one day, when Jeanne invited us for dinner – calling it Jeanne’s Tasteria, because of course she would have us taste-test new dishes she created – I decided to finally breach the topic.
“So, how’d you two meet?” I asked, like a parent their child and partner. At least in this world the reply couldn’t be an awkward “through a dating app”, right?
Though, in a fashion reminiscent of just that, Jeanne seemed to choke on her black tea.
“Oh, come on, you two,” Zenia chimed in. “You have to admit, your relationship is unique in a lot of ways.”
Crimson had also been invited and was seated at the head of the table, in between us two pairs. He just looked back and forth between us, a bit irritated.
“Well ...” Jeanne replied. If you could call it a reply. She gave her vampire girlfriend a quick side-glance.
“It was a whole thing,” Babylonia replied on the other hand, without explaining anything at all.
“How long have you known each other?” I asked them.
“Maybe ... 20 years or something?” Babylonia answered and looked at Jeanne quizzically.
“Something like that,” she muttered.
“That’s not too long ago,” Crimson chimed in, to which Babylonia nodded.
“Coming from someone who took a nap for a millennium, that must be true,” I teased him.
“I wonder though, how ... did it happen?” Zenia asked. “Human-vampire relations really weren’t the best at the time. And, no offense Babylonia, but nocturnal creatures usually keep to themselves, don’t they?”
“That is true,” Babylonia replied. “Though, we didn’t meet in any conventional way. It was ... more of a chance meeting.”
“Accidental meeting would be more fitting ...” Jeanne said with a wry grin.
“That is true ...”
And so, the both of them told us the story of how they met.
When Jeanne arrived at the desert library, she was awestruck at the sheer amount of knowledge bundled in one place. And it was all accessible to the public!
If they were able to … access it, that is.
Of course, coming from a human city on the other end of the continent, one had to take on quite the journey to even reach the desert edge. So, unless you were familiar with the desert or were capable of flight you were unlikely to ever set foot in this library.
It wasn’t even Jeanne’s first visit to the library. But every time she returned, it seemed to become all the grander.
As Jeanne pondered this, she became increasingly aware of her privilege. Thus, she took a dignified first step into the library. As dignified as her outfit made possible at least.
Instead of covering her entire body in loose linen to shield it from the sun, she opted for her witch-hat with the broadest brim imaginable. Her arms and legs were exposed below a cheongsam-style dress.
She didn’t plan on spending any time in the actual desert, after all. In fact, she flew the entire way there.
The library was comprised of a main building in the center of it all, called the Citadel. It was constructed of well-polished sandstone, in a generally light color. The main building towered over her, many times her size, housing at least ten floors.
Strewn around the Citadel were sets of smaller buildings, some of them consisting of but a single floor. These smaller buildings were all at a lower level than the Citadel and from above, where she stood, Jeanne could see people bustling about, or just relaxing in the shadows of a building.
A figure descended from the stairs to the Citadel.
“Raju!” Jeanne exclaimed.
“Jeanne!” Raju exclaimed. “Beautiful as all those years ago.”
“Why thank you. You...have matured.”
“How very nice and considerate of you,” he replied in a sarcastic tone, scratching his gray beard. Last Jeanne had seen Raju the Bookkeeper, was a few decades ago. He, a mortal human, had aged considerably since then.
Raju halted in front of Jeanne. Despite standing two steps above her on the stairs he still could not match her height.
“Shall we?” he asked her, holding out a hand.
“Naturally,” she replied, taking his hand and ascending the stairs to the citadel.