Roy and Miko sat in awkward silence as Pete dutifully produced a wine glass full of red liquid for the ex-paladin. Gingerly, she brought the drink to her lips as Pete scurried out of sight. She took a dainty sip lowering the glass about halfway to the table. "It's…" She said thoughtfully. "It's very good!"
Roy let out a breath that he hadn't realized he had been holding (come to think of it, did he need to breathe here, or was it just habit? He filed the thought away for later testing). "Yeah. I'm not a huge fan of the sweet drinks, but every once in a while they're not too bad."
"I think I could drink this all the time." Miko declared, downing about half her glass in a single gulp. She set it down with a smile, meeting Roy's eyes for the first time in minutes. She quickly looked away again, smile dying as she bit her lip. "What do we do now, Greenhilt?"
Roy sighed. "We try to pretend that we're civilized adults, I guess. How has paradise been treating you?"
Miko seemed taken aback by the question. Her eyes locked with Roy's for an instant and quickly darted away. "Uhm, well enough, I suppose. And you?"
Roy couldn't help but grin. "I… I've been having the greatest time of my life. Err, death. I reunited with my dead mother and younger brother, and I even met the grandfather I never knew in life! Aside from the gnawing concerns about why my party hasn't gotten their acts together and raised me yet, everything has been perfect!" In the middle of his gushing, Roy almost didn't catch the look of pain that contorted Miko's face.
"That's… wonderful for you, Greenhilt." Miko said wistfully. She drained her glass. "Barkeep! Another glass of wine!"
Roy appraised Miko shrewdly. He was beginning to get an inkling that something was very wrong. "Miko, do you mind if I ask you something?"
The armored woman shrugged as Pete ghosted to their table with a fresh glass for her. "You may."
"What are you doing on this side of the mountain?"
Miko froze in mid-swig, nearly choking on her wine. She set down her glass with a cough. "I - I'm here on a mission. I'm looking for evildoers to vanquish."
"Bull." Roy shot back. "Miko, Bluff is cross-class for both of you classes, and despite your high charisma score, you don't have a deceitful bone in your body. You can't get a lie past me."
"I am not lying." Miko declared, staring Roy down. "I am truly on a mission."
"Fine then, you're concealing the truth. How come you can't look for 'evildoers' on your side of the mountain?" Roy pressed, matching Miko's stare with a level gaze of his own.
"Who says I can't?" Miko shot back.
"Indeed." Roy said, leaning forward, the pieces coming together in his head. "Who says you can't? Who is telling you to stay on this side of the mountain?"
Miko's eyes narrowed slightly. "I don't know what you're talking about." She declared with very phony calmness.
"Again, I call bull. Miko, you can't enter your side of the mountain, can you?"
The question seemed to hit Miko with all the force of a punch to the head. She recoiled, gritting her teeth and glaring at Roy. Her jaw worked, trying to formulate some sort of response to Roy's query. "I - you - it -" She bit her lip, tears coming to her eyes.
For a long moment, the two stared at each other in silence. Finally, Miko looked away, a tear spilling free. "Damn you, Greenhilt." She hissed through clenched teeth. "How can you read my like a book?"
Roy relaxed, letting his arms slide off the table, and his posture slouch into a more comfortable position. Instead of feeling elated at his own cleverness, he just felt an odd numbness. "I knew it." He sighed. "Alright, Miko, why don't you tell me what happened?"
Miko took another large gulp of her drink, nearly draining her second glass. She took a steadying breath, apparently fighting down tears. "I don't see how it's any of your concern."
Roy looked into his mug, absently running a finger over the outer rim. "Look, we're trying to be civil here. Believe it or not, sometimes sharing your problems with someone can help take a little bit of the weight off." He glanced up at Miko, who said nothing. "You might as well tell me. It's a big afterlife, so the odds of us running into each other again are pretty low, and I should be getting raised soon anyway. So what happened?"
Miko made a grumbling sound in the back of her throat, draining her glass. "Barkeep! Another!" She called in the direction Pete had last vanished in. She turned back to Roy. "Very well, Greenhilt, I will satisfy your curiousity. When I got here, my entire life was judged by a being of pure law and good known as a Bureaucratic Deva."
"Yeah, same thing happened to me." Roy replied, idly wondering how much of his net wealth he would have spent to listen in on Miko's judgement. Probably a lot more than his own Deva would have liked.
"This being reflected on all of my past accomplishments… and failures. Particularly, in the last few days of my life, I made a few…" She paused, again gnawing her lip. "blunders shall we say. It was not enough to get me 'thrown into the true neutral bin', but it was enough to warrant," she sniffed, wiping the back of her eyes with a gauntlet, clearly in pain. "It was enough to warrant disciplinary action. Th-they said that I couldn't enter my side of the mountain until such time as I had proven myself r-repentant a-and-"
"Miko, that's enough." Roy said, his heart going out to the woman inspite of himself. "You don't have to tell me any-"
"Do you know what it's like, Greenhilt?! To see perfect happiness all around you, yet never experience it yourself?! You can see your parents any time you like! When can I see my parents? When?!" Miko grabbed her third wine glass (when had Pete refilled it, Roy wondered) and took a big, shuddery gulp, slamming it down onto the table before burying her face in her arms and breaking into tears on the tabletop.
Roy couldn't imagine what she must be going through. "I'm really sorry, Miko." He said lamely. "I didn't mean to open up a wound." Against his better judgement, he stood up and brought his chair around to Miko's side of the table. He sat down beside her, wrapping one arm around her shoulders as she cried out her sorrows.
Seconds dragged into minutes as Roy waited patiently for Miko's wracking sobs to die down. Slowly, painfully, the black-haired woman regained her self control. She wasn't objecting to Roy's arm around her shoulders, so Roy decided to leave it there. "I m-miss them so much, G-Greenhilt." She sniffled into the tabletop.
"M-my parents. They d-died when I was very young. I w-wanted to see them again so badly. I wanted th-them to know I was a p-paladin. I wanted them t-to be proud." Miko lamented. "And now? I'll never get to see them! Not for eternity!"
"Miko, you can't say that." Roy said, squeezing her awkwardly for emphasis. He found the entire situation rather surreal. Comforting Miko was like comforting a drunken badger. He wasn't sure whether he was going to get mauled for his troubles. "I'm sure you'll see them again."
"How can you know that, Greenhilt?" Miko asked, her voice low. "How can I change? I don't know how! I'm - I'm me! I've been this way my whole life, and suddenly it was wrong at the end! I've been wandering around looking for evil adventurers to thwart because that's all I know how to do!" She wailed the last, breaking into sobs again.
"Miko, you can't give up hope, not here of all places." Roy declared. "I'm certain you'll be able to find a way back onto your side of the mountain."
"How can you know that?" Miko asked through a veil of tears.
Roy found that he didn't have an answer for her.