Material components

Two creatures stood in the dim red-orange glow of the old-style lights casting strange shadows across the nearly-deserted boardwalk.

“Sixteen hundred credits. And a half for the knight’s tax,” the merch-monkey hooted, his fuzzed lips peeled back to show steel teeth. He held up a thin, vaguely glistening envelope, marked F33-NX in faded black script. “Half now and half plus five percent in six days or we’ll take your balls,” he growled, laughing.  The calm light in the half-ape’s eyes shone in strange contrast to the furious greed lining his brow and lips. “Not a token less. Not even for you, magister.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” said the other, looking far more a man than the sales…thing that was driving the bargain. He handed over a small card and said, “Take all of it now. I’m not interested in your loan.”

The shop owner stared at his customer in disdain, but stared harder at the card, then shrugged, and tapped the small piece of plastic against his warped proximity reader.

The machine beeped quietly, whirred, and then a green light popped up, and a small voice announced “Transaction Complete!” in sixteen different dialects at once, the loudest being one the magister remembered from his homeland so many years ago.

The apething handed the card back, as well the a wide, mostly-flat plastifoil envelope, saying, “S’nothing on this to say it was mine, you understand. And the transaction will show as a discrete debit to a youth charity, but if you have anyone dig, it’ll be revealed to be a jaguar-and-prison-rodeo-clown-fetish site with multiple dogchild-trafficking holoporn producers.”

The man nodded, tucked the envelope and card away, and turned without another word, quickly walking away.

“Wait,” the owner called. “What did you want it for? What the fuck do you really plan on painting with it? You know the ashes are Schedule III contraband. And if you’ve got the base paint, they’ll already suspect you. No one buys red anymore. You’ll get caught. Everyone gets caught when the canvas goes up in smoke, or neighbor’s dog explodes, or the housing complex burns down.”

“Not going to paint with it,” the man says over his shoulder. “Gonna write with it.”

“But what the fuck are you gonna do with that?” the shopkeep yelled, resisting the urge to run after the man, to get the answer. When the magister turned, the half-ape quailed briefly, from what he saw in the other man’s eyes.

“I’m not gonna set the neighborhood on fire. I’m gonna set the world on fire.”

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