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She can look at him and see the rich clothes, the polished manners. He is a gentleman. A lord of men and warriors. He is a warrior himself. Here in this shady bar, among cutthroats and thieves, he sits with an ease as though these are his people. Or he's one of them. Like he belongs here.

He can fit in both worlds.

She can see the lowlifes eyeing them. For the first time in a long time, there's someone in the room more intimidating than her. For the first time in a lifetime, she's jealous. Maybe she should start hauling a sword around too.


"Back off."

"You're injured. You need a healer."

"I'll throw some dirt on it."

"You're joking."


"That's a second degree burn."

"I'll throw a little more dirt than usual then."

"It could get infected."

"Did anyone ever tell you that you nag like an old woman?"


"What are you – oof. Put me down!"

"Keep struggling and I'll drop you on your head."

"If anyone I know sees this, I'll let Nyla eat you."


It didn't really matter what the target was. Jun always found what she was after. That whole disaster with Creepy Uncle Fatso and Angry Lord didn't count. This situation wasn't anywhere near as high profile as all that. It led to some common thief with common impulses and an unusual decision to make.

He could run left down the alley and straight towards the scary woman with the wicked whip and giant, slobbering, toothy monster; it looked hungry, and she was obviously crazy. To the right stood a man a head taller than him with a gleaming sword; he looked very much like he knew how to use it. Guy with a sword or whip lady with the foaming-mouth beast.

This made no sense. This wasn't even fair! All this fuss over a stupid boomerang?


It was not a hard stretch to say that he had never met a woman like Jun. He'd never met a man like her for that matter. She was rough. Hard in her manner, her voice. Yet it was…pleasing; it suited her.

He'd seen her take down a man twice her size without mussing a hair. She could outdrink him, much to his chagrin. She cursed like a sailor at any given moment. She coddled that shirshu like a proud mother and scolded it like one too. That was…endearing in a way.

When he looked at her, he saw an independent, smart, capable woman with a mysterious tattoo who had a fondness for saki and gold. She had a mean streak, a narrow good side, and held a grudge like a wolverine-cougar.

He could not tell for anything just what she saw when she looked at him. He didn't know why he cared.




"You're staring."

"And? Are you going to talk to me about manners?"

"If you're going to start being creepy and trying to hit on me, I'm outta here."

"The tattoos. Is there any significance to them or are they merely decoration?"

She arched a brow, "What do you think?"

"You don't seem the type to cause yourself unnecessary pain, especially for appearance's sake. My guess, it holds some sentimentality for you personally. Maybe your people. Perhaps some kind of rite of passage."

She stared. Then she scoffed, "Must you over-complicate everything? I like snakes. Subject closed."

It was a long moment of silence, broken only by the crackle of fire and the growling snore of her beast.

"Now you're staring."

"You got ink?"

"…none that you will see."

"Oh, really?"

"Let me put it this way. Only my wife will ever see it."

To Be Continued...