“This place holds a lot of memories.” Her fingers ran along the edge of the doorframe, where the old wood sat upon creaky hinges. Dust came up as she flicked them off with some casual disregard, and began to clean out the grime from under a nail, “Pretty much all of them terrible,” she said turning round to face the other Rough Riders. Down below, on the ground level, they were trying to sort whose stuff went where in the back of her van. Hers was the largest car they had, and took the lion’s share of the belongings they hadn’t already shipped across the empire to their new home. Other than a roll of the eyes, there wasn’t much of a response to her. They were busy. And the ones who weren’t, like Miru, weren’t exactly ones to talk. She let out a sigh, huffing softly as she closed the door to the place one last time. The creak behind her resonating well. As always, it meant she didn’t have to deal with the city any more. Just today, it meant that a lot more permanently than normal. Miyako walked over to the stairwell to go down to the first floor and make sure that everyone could get their shit sorted, but stopped at the top of the stairs. “So, Mimi,” came the voice. Haughty. Self important. Bought from the coffers of someone with just enough money to make this place liveable. Someone with just enough money that they could pick on people like them. “You’re really leaving? The Diamond won’t be the same without you.” Miyako turned to the voice. To the head bitch. Her skin was the trendiest exact shade of tan. Her hair dyed blonde. Her eyes the only real feature on her face, but they were hidden behind sunglasses that Miyako knew weren’t the name brand they pretended they were. She didn’t give her two words, just shifted her posture to convey her annoyance. “Not even going to say bye? My, wouldn’t want your manners so poor. May convince the wrong people that the 14th are right.” Miyako didn’t bother restraining the sneering snarl spreading to her face at that comment. “What do you want, Courtney?” “I’m just seeing you off,” she said putting her hands up in a gesture of near surrender, “No need to sound so peeved with me. We’ve been flatmates for years, I’m going to miss you.” Miyako didn’t respond. “But you know what the real shame is? We never traded numbers. I won’t be able to call you to talk or find you on-” her lips curled into a grin, “Oh you don’t do social media, that’s right. But hey, here.” Courtney shoved her hand out, in it between her fingers was a small card. “If you’re ever back in town, or just want to talk, give it a call.” The card remained in the space between them, before Miyako took it and put it into a pocket of her hoodie. “Whatever. We need to get going. Bye,” she didn’t bother to see what Courtney did as she went down the stairs and joined the only people who made the Diamond worth it. The Riders. Some had taken to looking up at the exchange, but she didn’t pay them any mind. They were already back to their shit by now. They had a few things to do before they could finish leaving. Giving keys back to the landlord, making a forlorn attempt at getting back any sort of deposit, and then they were going out towards the walls, and then into the Marches, and she could hardly wait. Eventually everyone would get into the couple of cars, and they’d depart. From the apartment, Courtney and her mutts- her friends- watched and waved the group off. Immediately exiting, they had to stop at a light, and Miyako could distinctly hear them calling out. ‘You’ll be back’. ‘See you soon’. Would they? She hoped not. If it weren’t for the Landlord, Courtney, Kyle, Horace, Tito, Cynthia, Bart, and that little annoying yappy dog would have been the worst part of the place. The Landlord never fixed their shit. Bart was loud, rude, obsessed with MOBAs. She heard more than a handful of slurs shouted into his mic, enough to make her never want to speak with him. Cynthia shouldn’t have been in the group, but became a bully to avoid being a victim for her weight. One could have pitied her if she hadn’t become so mean. Tito was a father but not a dad, with a streak that would make Rake green with envy. He creeped on everyone, even those too young to. Horace held the others back, turning harassment into a game. Disguised under rules only he knew, like a malicious jester with a solemn face. Kyle didn’t say much. He spoke with his hands more than his words. Everyone at the Diamond knows he has connections with the police to keep him out of jail. And then there was Courtney. The Queen Bitch. Each name, each person, sat in Miyako’s memory as she sat at that light. And when the light turned green, she drove away, leaving the place, those memories, those people all behind. And passing through the CRIT checkpoint at the Palisade, and seeing the marches again? She was content to never think of them again. Five Hours Later The drive had been agony. Her butt hurt. Her head hurt. Her stomach growled. The town was called Hillview. It had no walls. It had no skyscrapers. A single CRIT outpost stood near the fire department- and even that appeared to be more of just a watch tower. There was a historic library, or dubious historic value, but it did have something historical to it. In the middle of downtown Hillview was a pizzeria, one of many mom and pop shops that still proliferated the hamlet. But unlike the others, this one was special. Fat Aunt Sally’s Pizza had an arcade. Video game cabinets from decades ago, with classic games still running in them. Claw machine games sat beside light gun shooters, and little machines for one to put a coin in, twist a crank, and get special marbles, or toys, stickers, or candy. The pizza? Nothing to write home about. This place was pure dumb atmosphere, and was connected to a gas station. If it had a hotel, and if it were later, it’d likely have been an ideal place to stop. But they couldn’t stop now, it was barely lunch, and they had so much further to go. What they could do, was use the restroom, stretch their legs, have a slice of mediocre pizza, maybe take some pictures of the true relics of Hillview, and then they had to get going. So the Rough Riders had a table, or rather two pushed together for them, sat around it, and unwound as a waitress, an older woman with grey hair pulled back in a bun and light skin, took their orders before offering the arcade to kill time while the pizza was ‘made fresh from scratch’. The line came out somewhere between rehearsed and filled with a grandmother’s love. The latter was probably why she had the job here. Or maybe she was related to Fat Aunt Sally. Miyako didn’t really pay attention to if the lady said that, or if her nametag said she was Sally herself- though she was hardly fat enough to have the nickname. Regardless, it just wasn’t that important. Then again, would anything be all that important? It’s not like they would ever be powerful like the nobles, or the magi.