Umbra, Chapter 39

Something Aaron never failed to appreciate was how time seemed to fly with good company in tow.

A quick canoe trip and an uneventful week of travel on foot had brought Aaron, Nariko, Valerie, Kiera, and Giolla down the coast of the Pontus Sea, leading them into the country of Var and the port town of Paxton.

The bustling town jutted out of the sea like an amphibian made of stone and mortar, wooden docks lead to cobblestone streets lined with spacious buildings and crowds of merchants and sailors.

Even then, Aaron could see the numerous merchant ships docked all along where the sea and city met, swarming to and away from it and into the endless blue. They carried exotic goods from Terra- spices, pottery, oils, and exotic horns and skins, namely.

But unlike the other cities of the Legion, towering walls surrounded the city at all sides but towards the sea, two watchtowers built into the corners. A single gate was the only legal bar of entry, and stationed legionaries thoroughly inspected everything and everyone.

“Can’t be helped, I guess.” he grumbled, watching a wagon being poked and rummaged through, “They don’t want any monsters getting in or out.”

He peered at the port from behind a distant hill, his monstrous friends sitting in a half-circle within the hill’s shadow.

“Alright, here’s the plan…” Kiera began, “We wait until the night. That’s when I’ll fly Aaron in and drop him off with his last of his legion coin and a jewel or two. He’ll find someone willing to smuggle us to Terra, and it should all be relatively smooth sailing from there.”

Valerie and Nariko looked at Kiera, then between each other, then up at Aaron.

“Yeah, but… who’s gonna protect him?” Valerie asked.

Grumbling as he slid down the hill, Aaron landed before the monsters.

“I can take care of myself, thank you very much.”

“Really, Aaron?” Nariko scoffed, “Because if what Valerie has told me is true, you’ve either been assaulted or abducted nearly every time you’ve stepped in or near a town. Ever since you two met, in fact.”

“N-no! It’s called selective memory. She only remembers the times that’s happened because-”

“Hmm… I’m sorry partner, but I’ll have to agree with Valerie. It’s best if one of us guards you at all times, just in case anyone recognizes you.” Kiera interrupted him, “It’s not the end of the world if we have to move a bit further down the coast if this town is a bust.”

Aaron could only sputter in an attempt to defend himself, but was quickly silenced yet again as Nariko stood up next to him, wrapping an arm around his neck and pulling him closer to her bust.

“I suppose I’ll take on this little mission, then.”

“Hey! How come you get to do it?” Valerie interjected, a puff of smoke and embers launching from the corners of her eyes.

“Because I’m the most human looking one out of three of us, obviously.” the raiju giggled, “I just need to throw on a cloak, strap on some boots, and tuck away my ears and tail. Then I’ll be all set.”

Kiera thoughtfully tapped a finger against her chin, “Hmm… yes, but your human side still looks eastern, and the Legion doesn’t take immigrants under normal circumstances. That might draw unnecessary attention.”

“Yeah. That could be problematic.” Nariko grunted, her ears twitching and tail  slapping the back of her thighs in frustration.

“Excuse me! If I may make a suggestion…”

The gang looked over to Giolla, who approached with a tin full of freshly washed and neatly folded laundry. The maid set the tin down, reaching into the confines of her dress and removing several rolls of clean bandages.

“Just wrap these around your body. If Aaron tells everyone you’re a burn victim, they’ll leave you be.”

Happy arcs of thunder danced around the raiju. She skipped over to the maid, merrily accepting the bandages and hugging them to her chest. Backing away, the maid picked her tin back up and handed it to Kiera.

“Thank you, Giolla. Your flute helped us traverse the river, but your kindness and homeliness kept our spirits high. We’re going to miss you.”

Giolla tried to hide her embarrassment, but the blush on the maid’s face betrayed her.

“I can’t thank you all enough for what you’ve done for me. I’ll never forgot your kindness.”

“Are you sure you don’t want us to come with you? You said your villa was three days away on foot, wasn’t it? It might be safer if one or two of us escorted you.” Kiera offered.

“Thank you, but I’ll have to decline. You have your own mission, and I wouldn’t want to waste any more of your time. Besides, I won’t be traveling on foot…”

Giolla removed her mystic flute from a pocket in her apron, holding it up to her lips and sending a few hearty tweets into the air. A sizable buck came bounding from the wood in response to her call, its cloven hooves kicking up grass and dirt as it skid before her.

“This may be selfish to ask, but might you take me back home as quickly as you can, please?” the maid gingerly asked the creature.

The buck gave a loud snort of confirmation, squatting down and letting the kikimora climb upon his back. Graciously accepting, the kikimora lifted the skirt of her dress and hopped aboard, letting her folded legs lean off to its side. Grabbing hold of its horns, she looked down at the four smiling friends who escorted her a final time, moisture beginning to gather at the corner of her eyes.

“Oh my. I was never any good with farewells…”

“Then save all those tears for your daughter and husband. Don’t make them wait any longer.” Kiera urged her.

The kikimora smiled down at them, and they beamed right back up. Wiping away her tears and sniffling, the maid waved goodbye and let the buck prance away. It darted around the rolling hills and out of sight, but Aaron and the three monster girls rested easy knowing Giolla had a family to return to.

“Alright.” Aaron smirked, clapping his hands together, “Now that Giolla is all settled, we just have to burn time until night hits and we can sneak into the city.”

Aaron turned over to Nariko, shrinking at the perverted grin on her face. The raiju’s fingers skirted along the edges of her kimino, gently tugging the chest open and exposing more of the creamy skin of her breasts.

“Hehehe~ I have a few ideas to pass the time, sweetie~”

Valerie crept up behind the raiju, her sour frown shadowed by the searing flames around her eyes.

“W-wait! If you really want to, we can take turns and-”

The hellhound and raiju were rolling down the hill and wrestling with each other. Stopping himself mid sentence, Aaron took after them raising a clenched fist into the air.

“Gods damn it, one month! One whole month!”


The sun had set long ago. The thin wisps of scent of burning oil mixed with the salty sea breeze and filled the crisp summer air around the watchtower. The guard stationed within yawned rather loudly, rubbing the crust from his foggy eyes and scratching his unshaven chin.

“Damn. Really need to get more sleep for the graveyard shift…” he muttered, tracing his eyes from the vacant city streets. Discarded papers and the occasional rodent scurried along, but there was nary a soul to be seen on the roads.

The only sign of human life below was the tavern in the distant, its window aglow with a golden shimmer. The distant cheers of the drunken sailors were the only thing to break the monotony of the night.

“Damn. I’d kill to be there right now…”

The guard exhaled, letting his spear rest against one of the pillars supporting the roof above his head and stretching out his limbs. Leaning over, he rested a palm against the cool and rough iron of his cannon and stared off to the sea. The ivory lighthouse on the coast stood as a shimmering beacon in the bleak night, and its intense flame mingled with the waxing moonlight on the dark, choppy waves. Instead of looking out for any brewing trouble, the tower guard blankly stared out at the gorgeous display.

Starting to relax, he let his attention wane and body unwind. Leaning more of his weight onto his cannon, he yawned and nearly let his eyes flutter shut.

The sudden rush of wind and dark shadow bursting above brought him from near sleep to full attention in the span of second.

“W-what the?!” he gasped, his hand slipping from his cannon. He stumbled forward, the tip of his boot meeting with his haphazard stack of cannonballs. One of the iron orbs rolled from the top of the messy pyramid, landing right on his foot. The leather of his boots was thick, but did little to stop the forty pounds of metal from crushing his toes.

“MOTHERFUCKER! FUCKITY, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK! SHIIIIIIIT!” the guard swore to the heavens. Grabbing his boot and hopping around the small confines of his tower, he let out enough hollows and curses to make a sailor blush.

“See, Jorge? What the fuck did I tell you about stacking your damned cannonballs?”

Jorge was bent over on the ground, still clutching his foot and huffing in agony. But he managed to crane his neck around enough to watch one of his comrades stroll in from the wall walk into his watch tower.

“I-it wasn’t that, you absolute cunt!”

The fellow guard cocked an eyebrow, “Really, Jorge?”

“Y-yes! Well… not entirely, at least… there was this fuckin’ shadow that flew past me, and-”

“I didn’t see no specter, Jorge. I suggest you stop wasting all your time tossin’ dice during the day and start getting some rest. Maybe you’ll stop dozing off that way.”

Jorge’s racing breath hitched, but the more he thought about it, the more sense it made he was just imagining it. The pain in his foot was searing, and it killed his will to argue back.

“F-fine… sorry… damnit, this hurts like a bitch…”

The fellow guard, helped Jorge back to his feet, handing him his spear to lean on.

“I need to go check the chains at the gatehouse. Fuckin’ doors been acting sticky again. I’ll tell someone to come up and take your shift while you hobbledown at and patch up your little piggies, a’ight?”

Jorge slowly bobbed his head up and down, ‘Right. Right… sorry bout this.”

“Meh, save your sorries for the boss. You’d best think up a damn good excuse why you smashed your foot, Jorge.”

Grumbling to himself, the guard hobbled out of the tower and continued until he hit a staircase, descending into the insides of the wall. Too focused on the pain and humiliation, Jorge never saw the over-sized brown feather dance through the breeze and fly away from city.

Flying opposed to that flowing breeze, the rushing shadow swooped down into an old alleyway a good ways from the docks, setting down the two figures she cradled under each arm.

“Thanks, Kiera.” Aaron breathed out, straightening his iron-gray hair and patting down his wrinkled shirt.

“Hehehe… so, do I look like a mummy, or what?”

Aaron and Kiera glanced over to Nariko. The human’s large cloak hung awkwardly off her frame, which was encased almost entirely with a thick layer of bandages. The only visible sign of her monsterous side were the large bumps under the bandages around her head, which could only have been her folded ears.

“Don’t worry. I won’t let anyone stuff ya into a scarcoughagus.” Aaron joked, gently patting the raiju’s shoulder.

“It’s actually pronounced sarcophagus, partner.” Kiera corrected him.

“Meh, whatever. Just make sure to keep your hood up and tail tucked between your legs, and no one should bother us.”

Kiera and Nariko exchanged a thumbs-up and affirmative nod. Turning her back to them, Kiera flexed out her wings and hopped atop a nearby crate. Her clawed toes clicked against the treated wood as she landed. Turning her head to face them, her chocolate hair whipped over her shoulders.

“I’ll be back same time tomorrow, alright? That should be enough time to secure a lead, if not find us a ride outright.”

“Gotcha.” the human noded, the bandaged raiju beside him nodding along.

The griffon bent her knees, preparing herself to take to the air once again. She lurched forward just a bit, but caught herself and swiveled around at the last moment.

“Aaron, make sure to-”

“Be careful?” Aaron couldn’t help but grin, flattered by her concern, “Don’t worry. I will.”

The small smile on Kiera’s lips failed to conceal the worry in her amber eyes. Still, she managed to tear herself away and take into the cool night air. Unhindered by Aaron and Nariko’s weight, she quickly became little more than a shadowy blur and cloaked herself in the dark sky.

“Hmm… Kiera’s been acting kinda weird lately…” Aaron mused silently enough that Nariko wasn’t able to hear him. And with her tall ears folded down and pressed to her head with bandages, that wasn’t a high bar to pass.

With the griffon gone, Aaron found himself staring at the used crate she was standing on and the lifeless dark cobblestone laying behind it. The droning sound of distant waves and vagrant animals lay served well to unnerve him.

“Fuck.” he swore at nothing or no one in particular, hoping to break the monotony. When the thick and tense ambiance of the night refused to leave, he turned to Nariko.

She was sitting atop a cracked barrel, boredly kicking out her feet. She wagged a finger at Aaron’s chest, “So, sweetie… what’s our first order of business?”

“It’s the middle of the night, so let’s wait until morning before looking for a ship.” he answered her as he approached, slapping his back against the wall behind her before sliding to the ground. Sitting on his bum, he propped an arm against his cocked knee and looked up at the raiju.

“I guess we can just relax in this dirty alley until the sun rises. Lets just hope no bum comes around and tries to slice us up.”

Nariko hummed softly, popping a lemon sucker into her mouth. With the other hand, she waved a strawberry flavor at Aaron.

“No thanks.” the human declined with a slide of his hand.

“Suit yourself. My supply is running low anyway. Let’s pick some more sweets up on the way, alright?”

Aaron popped open his coin purse, seeing only a single gold piece around twenty-five copper coins waiting within. Paxton was his very last stop in the Legion’s empire, and thus his last opportunity to spend their coin.

“Sure. Just make sure you pace yourself, Nariko. We can’t exactly go fishin’ for cookies and pies when we’re on the boat.”

“Hehehe~ I’ve gotcha, I’ve gotcha. So, what are we gonna do to kill time until the morning comes to vanquish this horrible night?”

Aaron thumped his fingers against his propped knee, “I guess we could hit the tavern. Maybe rent out a spare room and catch a few winks before-”

The human stopped himself mid sentence. After a few weeks of knowing Nariko, he had developed a near third-sense when it came to the perverted smile the raiju always threw his way.

“No.” Aaron grunted, dragging himself to his feet and knocking the dust from his backside, “There’s a time and place for that kinda stuff, Nariko. We’re on the last leg of our journey. I’d be pretty pissed down in hell if some drunk legionaries caught us fucking in the middle of town and barbecued us.”

“But it wouldn’t be in the middle of town! We’d be in a room, all to ourselves and-”

“It took us all hours to put those bandages on you. People wouldn’t buy the excuse you’re my burned little sister if they heard us. We need to get plenty of rest tonight if we want to get a move on in the morning…”

Aaron listing off reasons why it would be a bad idea on one hand until he ran out of fingers. He lifted the opposite hand, but he trailed off when he saw the Nariko’s sunken expression under her bandages.

“Bah… I’ll think about it, alright?”

He could already feel the happy static electricity tickle his skin and make his body hair stand on edge.


Coated in grime on both the exterior and interior. Thick, sour air filled with tobacco smoke and the stench of booze. Lighting so dim it barely broke the veil of the bleak night, instead hosting the dancing shadows of it’s rambunctious patrons.

The typical tavern one would find in a port town, and the best one Aaron could sniff out in the scant amount of time he and Nariko had left. But he was well used to that sort of grime, and although she was royalty, the raiju at his side was well adjusted to slovenly quarters due to her time as a slave.

Aaron slowly pushed the double doors open, peering inside. He found just what he had expected; sailors ranging from beer-bellied and burly to lithe and boney. Bearded fishmongers, celebrating the day’s catch and still reeking of the salty sea. A few legionaries clung near the back, shamelessly bearing there grand empire’s flag among the filth.

They seemed far too busy tossing darts, throwing dice and grabbing at an unamused barmaid to take note of the wanted man and disguised monster entering the premises. But Aaron wasn’t fixing to complain about their lack of diligence.

A few sneers and lusty grins were shot Nariko’s way, but were quickly repelled by the layers of white cloth ensnaring her. To them, either a leper or a victim of searing flames. Either way, not something they’d sheath their cocks in.

Nice to see even these bastards have some standards…’ Aaron thought to himself bitterly, already seeing the sneers and disgusted frowns being jabbed his way. His skin was far too thick for their judgement to pierce him, however.

Only he knew the the true beauty hidden under that oversized cloak and facade of bandages, and that filled him with some sense of smug satisfaction.

He walked to the bar, Nariko shuffling close behind. She played her role quite well, keeping her gaze locked on the grimey wooden floor and clinging to the back of his tunic like he was a sturdy oak amidst a hurricane.

Aaron waltzed right up to the proprietress, keeping his back straight and eyes squared forward.

The old woman standing behind the bar seemed an ill match for the rowdy men all around her. She was short and plump, her cute and soft features marred only by her wrinkles. She looked more fit to bake cookies for orphans than to run a sailor’s tavern.

Aaron gingerly dropped his palm against the bar. The proprietress studied him from head-to-toe, giving him a once over with her warm and honey-colored eyes.

“What can I do for you, young man?” she asked, her white curls lightly bouncing as she leaned towards him.

“An ale and a single bed, please.”

He dropped a handful of copper coins on the counter, which were quickly scooped up by the portly woman’s thick fingers.

“So… that little lady clinging to your back…?”

“She’s my… wife, ma’am.”

Aaron’s back was facing her, so he couldn’t so with certainty that Nariko grinned at that. But that small spark of static she just couldn’t hold on to was evidence enough of her amusement. It passed under his tunic and tickled his spine as it rushed up to his brain, stimulating him in all the right places and making him shiver under her gentle touch.

The proprietress didn’t seem to notice the spark, but she certainly cocked a brow at Aaron’s sudden shiver.

“You alright, son?”

“F-fine. Just a bit chilly.”

While she never stopped gazing at him incredulously, the portly old lady nonetheless reached under her side of the counter. She pulled out a bronzed key, tossing it into his awaiting palm.

“Right. You’ve got room four.”

“Thank you.” Aaron mouthed, watching as the woman filled up a pint of ale from a keg waiting behind her. Gratefully accepting the booze, he downed several generous gulps before parting the mug from his lips. Wiping away his mustache of frothy bubbles, he shook the mug towards Nariko.

“No thank you.” she mouthed so gingerly that only he could hear it over the noisy revel of the crowd.

The iron-haired man pursed his lips. Her eyes and grimace told a completely different story than the gentle words. That near-malicious glint in her eyes told him that she’d rather chug molten steel than the watered-down hootch in his hand.

“Hey. Don’t look at me like that… I know I’ve got low standards.” Aaron grumbled, taking another sip and swirling it about in his mouth, “I married you, didn’t I?”

That elicited a few hearty chuckles from the roughnecks seated around them. As Nariko tilted her head down and bore her teeth, Aaron’s fingers squeezed down on the mug’s handle.

Before the guilt could even fully sink in, Nariko’s head snapped back up. She proudly bore her crazed grin at him, making his heart turn to stone and blood freeze into slush.

“Ohohoho~ good one, dear. You can stay and finish your drink… I’ll be waiting in our room~”

Aaron’s shaky hands managed to steady enough to drop the key into her palm. That smile never leaving her face, the raiju turned and departed without another word. Choking down the lump in his throat, Aaron collapsed into the barstool under his ass.

Something told him he was going to regret that little joke.

Even the bar flies around him seemed to release how deep he was in. They nervously glanced in the other direction, not so subtly scooting to further seats.

And so Aaron found himself alone for a short few minutes, nursing his drink. He took another swig, his taste buds screaming out in pain but his belly begging for more warmth.

“Hey, pally? Mind answering a question?”

Aaron choked down another gulp of his ale. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a lithe man in a burlap cloak hop into the seat next to him.

“So, how’s the pussy? Rotten or charred?”

“Tight.” Aaron snarled, already annoyed by the newcomer, “Now piss off, or I’ll jam my boot up your ass.”

“Oi. Now that’s just rude, fella. I’m just tryna ta strike up some conversation.”

Aaron perked up just a bit. He slowly craned his neck until he met the man’s hazel eyes.

“Your accent… you’re from Ohgam, right?”

“Bingo! Get the man a cigar.”

Aaron’s brow furrowed as he took note of the bright green hair that extended down from the newcomer’s scalp to his shoulders.

“I thought everyone from Ohgam was a redhead…”

“Funny story that. Me ma was a native, a bright-eyed little village gal. Pa was some sorta travellin’ spice merchant from Jungtine.”

The newcomer paused for a moment, flicking a copper piece right into the properitess’ apron pocket. Looking shocked for a long moment, she nonetheless went to work as the green-haired man pointed to the keg behind her.

“… you can guess what happens next, can’tcha? The sly cunt knocks her up and skips town, leaving nothin’ for his dear ol’ bastard son but his devilishly good looks.”

Aaron pursed his lips, only parting them to down there last swig of his drink.

“And I should care about your life story why exactly?”

The bastard from Ohgam smirked. The proprietress slid him a frothy mug of ale, which he smoothly caught and began to sip on.

“I don’t expect that at all friend. Maybe I just wanna shoot the shit…”

Aaron thumped his fingers against the counter. The cheesy grin the bastard was firing off rubbed him the wrong way, but he sensed no ill intent. But he felt something was off.

“‘Nother round, please.” grunted Aaron, pushing his empty mug towards the proprietress and leaving a copper piece at its rim.

“Aha! I’m even more charming than I thought!”

Aaron lifted his refilled mug back to his lips, swilling the hootch around in his mouth. He let the burning alcohol slide down his throat, but he stared into the bastard’s eyes unblinking.

“You gonna tell me your name?”

“Some people call me Lazy Lenny. Some others, Looney Lenny. Even more others, Limey Lenny. And on occasion, Limp-Wristed Lenny… though I don’t take a particular shining to that last one.”

Aaron cocked his brow. Deciding to investigate Lenny further, he gulped down another mouthful of his ale and tapped his mug against the counter.

“So… what are ya doin’ here, Lenny? A friend of my old man’s came from Ogham, you know… but he only got in because he smithed weapons for the Legion’s 501st squadron before retiring.”

After swilling another few gulps of his ale, Lenny balanced his mug on a single finger and snorted.

“Well… and keep this little tidbit under wraps, yea…? I obtained my passport through less than legal means…”

Aaron stared quizzically at Lenny as he snorted once again. The bastard flicked the mug’s handle with his free hand, making it spin around on the tip his finger. A single amber droplet flew from the mug, but splashed only against Lenny’s outstretched tongue.

“Right…”

Lenny let his mug fall, but caught it before it hit the counter. The ale wasn’t far behind, spilling back into the cup without so much as wetting the man’s wrist.

“I’ve sailed the ocean blue. Spread me flag under more waves than you can fathom. Some of me old mates call me a landlubber because I’ve started taking on more jobs here on the soil.…”

The green-haired fellow paused for a few short seconds, his hazel eyes never leaving the rippling froth of his drink.

“But I always considered the sea me true home. I suppose that makes us kindred spirits, eh Aaron?”

Aaron felt like a dirty ship rat who foolishly set off a trap. His fingers clenched down on his mug with such force the wood began to creak. With his thoughts racing at hundreds of miles an hour, his eyes quickly darted through the thick smoke and all around the bar.

Thankfully, Lenny was speaking so softly the proprietress standing a few feet away and the sailors seated around them didn’t seem to take notice. Most importantly, the legionaries near the back weren’t alerted to his presence.

Aaron gulped down the hootch in his mouth, noting it tasted significantly more bitter. Without his conspicuous claymore with him, he reached for a throwing knife hidden under his belt.

“Uhp uhp uhp… don’t make a scene now, Aaron. The Legion didn’t put no price on yer head, so I ain’t after yer life.”

The rapid yet steady tapping of Aaron’s boot rang out under the counter. He glanced over to Lenny, managing to wet his dry tongue just enough to choke out a question.

“What? Are my wanted posters up around here already?”

“Nah… me wife keeps me informed with this and that.”

The obnoxiously loud revelarely of the tavern drove away what would’ve been an awkward silence. But that didn’t dilute the thick tension hanging between them that could be cut with a knife.

“Only reason I came to this shithole is for a big job… two, actually. Me wife found ‘em for me. Both in the same bloody place to boot. Lucky, eh?”

Aaron didn’t have anything to say, even if his tongue wasn’t tied into an unbreakable knot.

“Well, there were some choppy waves over the Pontus this year. Shoulda been in this town two weeks ago… I’m already late for me first job. If you’re willing to cough up a bit of coin, I’d be willing to make sure all those wanted posters headed this way find a good home in a fire pit…”

Aaron found some semblance of relief from Lenny’s offer, but was still dangling on the edge of panic. He shook his head to both sides, “No thanks. I’ll be leaving the Legion soon… and I only have a few coppers left to blow. I’m saving the rest for somethin’ else.”

“What? Tryin’ ta find some cunt dumb enough to smuggle yer girls over the Pontus, eh?”

“More or less…”

“Ohohoh! Figure I’d be able ta help ya out with that, eh?”

“I told you… I’ve only got some pocket change left to spend for the ride over there. I don’t think-”

Lenny attended to the last vestiges of his ale, slamming his empty mug on the counter to silence Aaron.

“Don’tcha worry, pally. Ol’ Lenny will give ya a freebie!”

Aaron craned his neck over, grimacing at the impossibly cheeky grin Lenny wore. Still, Aaron couldn’t very well turn down free assistance. Lenny already knew his identity, so he could’ve squealed on him at any time. Although something about the limey fucker still got under his skin, Aaron begrudgingly accepted his offer.

“Tch… fine. But I swear to the gods, if this is some kinda trick-”

“Nah, nah… no tricks. But you’ll owe me one, pally. And believe you me, I take full advantage of me IOUs… but be warned, the last thing you want to owe Limey Lenny is three favours.”

“Trust me… I’ll make sure it won’t come to that.”

“We’ll see, pally. We’ll see.”

Aaron stood from his stool, leaving whatever was left in his mug for the barmaids to water the dying lawn with. Limey Lenny’s grin never left as he watched Aaron depart, and he raised his mug in the iron-haired vagabond’s honor.

“‘Ave a good night now, pally.”

The swordsman left without another word. He brushed past several roughnecks in his way, going from the dim and smokey bar to the dark and slightly-less-smokey quarters. He breathed out with relief, finally out of the limey bastards sight. He wasted no time in stomping over to room four, swinging open the unlocked door and throwing himself inside.

“What a fuckin’ freak…” Aaron huffed, slamming the door to the room shut before he took a few tentative steps forward.

The room was lit rather dimly, no windows to let in the starlight. The only things that assured any sort of visibility were the two ignited oil lanterns hanging on each wall.

The room was sparse. No extensive decorations beyond a mediocre oil painting of the setting sun at the end of the room, and no furnishings but a dinky little dresser and the small, empty bed. Aaron took a step forward, spotting a dark lump on the floor. Squinting through the dark, he realized it was the black cloak he had lent to Nariko.

Suddenly, a loud click made him hop in place. A sweet song came whistling behind it, shaking him to the core.

“You’ve been a naughty boy, sweetie~”

When Lenny whispered his name, Aaron felt like a filthy rat that had dumbly wandered into a trap.

But now, the spring had been triggered, and he failed to avoid the hammer snapping down on his neck. And to top it off, he couldn’t be certain if he was about to experience the bliss of heaven or fall burning into hell.

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