After a fashion, the chatter among their group began to return, but something else cut through it before long.
‘Oh.’ Chergoa abruptly stopped moving, which made everyone else do the same. Her skeletal grin widened, and she looked to Emiliana, then nodded down an adjacent side street.
They all turned in time to see a little girl rush up to Emiliana and hug her.
Hector recognized Ramira Elroy from her photograph, along with Marcos Elroy following not far behind. Asad and Qorvass were there, too, as was an unfamiliar reaper.
Chergoa handled introductions. ‘Garovel, Shenado. Shenado, Garovel.’
‘The brother?’ said Shenado. ‘What an unexpected pleasure.’
‘It is very nice to meet you,’ said Garovel. ‘I was sorry to hear about everything your family has had to endure. Axiolis told me all about it.’
‘I see, thank you,’ said Shenado. ‘Ah, and this is Marcos Elroy. Say hello, Marcos.’
The boy looked exhausted. “H-hello...”
‘Hello there,’ said Garovel. ‘This is Hector Goffe.’
Hector offered him a handshake, and Marcos took it. “It’s, ah... nice to meet you,” said Hector.
Marcos just returned a polite nod. When Dimas offered him a handshake, however, the boy dove in for a hug, instead. “You came back for us,” he mumbled into Dimas’ torso. “You kept your promise...”
Dimas was slow to return the hug, but after a moment, Hector saw the man’s face soften.
Next up for introduction was Ramira, and Hector stiltedly made his way through it. But soon afterward, the adults and the reapers began conversing, and Hector and Ramira were left standing there with nothing to do. He didn’t mind being excluded himself, but he felt a bit bad for Ramira. She didn’t appear to have a reaper of her own, which meant she couldn’t even hear half of what was being said.
After a period of deliberation and brainstorming, Hector knelt down next to her and with effort, forced himself to ask, “...What’s your favorite animal?”
She stared at him with big gray eyes, perhaps wondering what he was getting at. But then she smirked and said, “A trapdoor spider!”
Hector’s expression faltered. “Uh... really? Not, like, a giraffe or something?”
“Psh. Can a giraffe camouflage itself to take its prey by surprise, and then eat them by liquefying their body with its venom? Because a trapdoor spider can.”
“Ah...” Hector had to laugh a little. “Okay, then, tell me what a trapdoor spider looks like...” He materialized a generic spider figurine in the palm of his hand.