The start of Froste’s answer was enough to make Zula perk up a little. She visibly straightened, and found herself watching her guest with renewed interest. It quickly became apparent that they weren’t talking about the sort of progress that she’d been hoping for, that she needed, but Zula tried not to blame them. It had been foolish of her to expect anything so soon, and the path to recovery was never a straight line. The fact that they were feeling better at all, and hadn’t shown any signs of slowing down yet, both seemed like good signs regardless. And…after all the effort the fire mage had put into reviving them, a part of her couldn’t help but feel glad they were doing okay, independent of her whole mess.
As they continued, Zula found herself weirded out by how overwhelmingly polite her guest was, for the second time that day. By how intent they seemed on thanking her, complimenting her, and just…expressing their appreciation for literally everything. She’d never experienced anything quite like it before, and it put Zula on edge for some reason she couldn’t quite name. It almost felt like they were trying to manipulate her, or they were afraid of falling out of her good graces. But could she really blame them, when she had unwittingly made them so dependent on her goodwill?
Zula mulled the possibility over for a few moments, before she realised that it might not be about her at all. They had no real idea how long Froste had been frozen before she had come along and finally set them free. If they were acting like someone from another time, maybe it was just….well, because they were from another time. A fact that was shockingly easy to forget, given how normal they looked right now. Mismatched clothes aside, anyway. They certainly had stars in their eyes as they took everything in, but so did half the tourists she saw.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Froste turned the question back around on her, with their own little flair. The dark humour made Zula snort softly, and a small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “Oh, absolutely. But then, you didn’t set a very high bar to clear. There were times when I considered setting the place on fire just to shake things up a little.” A man in a yellow shirt stepped into her path, holding out a flyer, but Zula brushed past them without a second thought as she continued. “As for your company…jury's still out. Ask me again after we’ve made it back to the apartment.” She was chuckling softly now, laughing at her own riposte. There was no missing her growing smirk either.
When they reached the next intersection, Zula threw only a cursory dance in both directions as she stepped down off the curb. She slowed her pace just enough to let a taxi pass them by, before crossing the street without breaking stride. They were close now, with just one more street to go. As Zula stepped up onto the opposite footpath, her gaze drifted to the rows of shops once more, and another thought popped into her head. “Maybe we should buy some of the shit you need today, since we’re already here. Should probably save it for the walk back, though.” There was no point in carrying all those bags around any longer than they had to. Hopefully she had enough in her savings to cover the essentials. They’d find out soon enough, she supposed.
Halfway down the next street, they finally arrived at their destination. A long and narrow tiled plaza, tucked away between a two-story pub and some sort of trading firm. The entrance was guarded by a phalanx of metal bollards, stalwartly insisting that only foot traffic was allowed. Even from this distance, Zula could see splashes of colour along the walls. She could hear the faint lilt of live music too, just barely, buried beneath the regular sounds of the city. Spurred on by the knowledge that they were so close, drawn by the wonders the plaza promised, Zula picked up the pace. She pushed through the crowd with growing abandon, smiling all the while, and trusting that Froste wouldn’t be far behind.
Then she rounded the last corner, and was struck by a wave of wonderful, vibrant life. An explosion of colour and sounds, as overwhelming as it was brilliant.
Both of the walls that lined the alley were blanketed in graffiti, from one end to the other. So much so that it was impossible to guess what the walls were originally made of. There were no scribbled tags or crude dicks here, either. All of it was art, true art, crafted with real precision and care. There were pop artists rendered in stunning likeness, their music made visual around them. A set of feathered angel wings, painted at such a height that you could stand in front of them for photos, and pretend they were your own. There were movie characters, aliens, moons and trees. Even a few strange, abstract pieces that Zula couldn’t even begin to make sense of. They all blended together into a single mural, with no clear indications as to where one piece ended and the next began. She could even see an artist at work, painting some new creation over an older piece that had already been on display for months.
And that was only the beginning. A handful of people milled about in a small circle, standing around a street performer as they waited for the next show to begin. He looked like a magician to Zula, judging by the bag of goodies that waited near the middle of his little stage, but there’d be no telling until the show actually started. The music seemed louder now, too, and Zula cast her gaze around, searching for the source. After a few moments, she spotted it - a lone musician, sequestered away at the far end of the plaza. She sat on a small stool, strumming idly at the acoustic guitar that laid across her lap. The guitar’s case sat open by her feet, ready for any expressions of appreciation the crowd was willing to give.
It was a smaller crowd than Zula had expected, honestly, but that fact did little to dull her appreciation. She took in the collection of marvels in silence for a moment, a rare, genuine smile softening her features. When she turned back towards Froste, it was for an entirely different reason than before. She loved this place more than she did most people, and was eager to see what they made of it. Was eager to see if they’d be as enraptured by it as she had been, the first time her friends had dragged her here. “So, what do you think? Was this the right choice?”