Luca's surprised when, on one of many sleepless nights, Spada sits by him with a thick book of fairytales. First off, he didn't take Spada for the reading type (he isn't) or the fairytale type (Again, isn't) but Spada just shoots him a look and opens it up to a story to read by the campfire. The rest of the party's asleep; Spada's supposed to be on guard, but out here in the middle of nowhere, there's nothing to fear except for scorpions between their sheets and the freezing chill of the desert night. Spada doesn't seem to mind the cold as much, though Luca wraps the blanket tighter around him whenever a breeze blows by, and it's quietly until Spada apparently finds the story he's looking for and cracks him a grin.
"Kids go to bed with bedtime stories, right? I never really had that when I was a kid, but you seem the type to sleep when you're read to."
"...hm? Oh, Mother did use to read me stories when I was younger... I don't know if it'll work now-"
"Shh, Luca, you'll spoil the magic. Now, let's see... 'Once upon a time'-"
"Spada, you can read?"
"Why the hell you gotta sound so surprised for? I ain't dumb!"
Luca laughs behind his hand (giggles, even) and shifts closer to Spada, Spada stares at him for a moment, with a little frown, before turning his attention back to the book and starting again.
"Once upon a time..."
...there lived a couple of gamblers. They had all the luck in the world, and never shared it with anythin' or anyone. One day, a witch who was down on her own asked for a bit of spare luck, since these people had plenty of it, and they refused, slamming the door on her face! The witch grew angry and shouted that she'd be back for their first-born son, which she knew they'd have 'cause she's a witch and all and she knows that kinda stuff. So she left and the next day, the gamblin' lady found out she was pregnant and both of 'em were overjoyed because it was pretty damn lucky for them to be havin' kids, especially considerin' both of them were old and wrinkly and-
"You're really gonna interrupt the story? We ain't even gotten started yet!"
"I-I know, but... this doesn't sound like any story I've ever heard."
"So I'm improvisin' a little, so what! C'mon, let me just get through the introduction and everythin'."
"'A little,' huh... Okay."
"Good. Now where was I? Oh, yeah. Both of 'em were old and wrinkly and down right unable to have kids..."
...so it really was pretty damn lucky for them to have a kid. And nine months later, when the new momma popped that sucker out, they named him Luca 'cause he was the light of their life from that point on. But in the middle of the night, the old crone flew by and stole the sleepin' baby from his crib, cacklin' as she went back to her tower. When the new parents woke up, they were devastated, but this story doesn't concern 'em anymore so we don't hear about 'em anymore.
Anyways, the old witch took care of that baby for sixteen long years, and he grew up to be a socially awkward bookworm. He wasn't allowed to go out, so all he could do was look out the window of his room and watch the forest stretch for miles and miles. No matter how much he begged the witch to let him go explore the world like he wanted to, she refused and locked the door with a couple of magic keys she always kept on her person, goin' off to do whatever it is old crones pretendin' to be the moms of fair boys do. Luca sat up in his tower all lonely and shit, bored out of his mind 'cause he only had books ,and-
"Books are a great way to spend your time!"
"A great way to waste your time, you mean. That's what you meant, right?"
"No! I meant-"
"Alright, alright, don't get your panties in a twist. He wasted away his days readin' books 'cause he liked 'em so much, and..."
...he had an amazing collection of 'em. They lined the walls of his room, on bookshelves and in stacks. No matter how many times his 'mother' got on him about cleanin' up his room, he couldn't do it. He'd set to cleanin' and end up pickin' up a book and readin' it for the rest of the day, lost in his own little world. One day, while he was supposed to be cleanin' up his room and was readin' instead, a rock flew in through his window. Distressed by the fact that one, the window was open and two, that someone threw a rock in (not even a small one, man, one about the size of your fist) he peeked over the windowsill and
hold there was a fine-ass knight standin' out there, lookin' up at the window and grinnin' when he caught Luca's eye. Bein' the shy little bookworm he was, Luca ducked out of sight and got another rock thrown in throw his window for his trouble. He didn't know what to do; on one hand, it was totally rude of him to go on ignorin' such a fine-lookin' knight like that but on the other hand, he didn't know what to say to such a good-lookin' man. Still, after a minute of reluctance, he peeked out again and got rewarded with a face full of handsome-as-hell. With a yelp he jumped back, helpfully givin' the knight some space to climb in with, and in the sternest voice he could muster, he demanded,
"W-Who are you a-and why are you in here?"
The knight didn't answer immediately, of course – see, you gotta be cool about these things, Luca, you can't just answer your name right off the bat like you always do. He took his dear sweet time brushin' off al lthe imaginary dust that landed on him when he trampled through all of our dear heroine's books about imaginary worlds, and-
"Spada, you're aware that a heroine is a female hero, right?"
"Yeah, and it's also a gateway drug. Don't do heroin."
"Stop interruptin' the story, Luca! Let's see- right, right, and he didn't answer 'till..."
...his clothes were just as spick and speck clean as they had been when he started brushin' off dust. It was only then he dared to remove his helmet. Luca gasped as striking grey eyes pierced through him (just like how a drill pierces the heavens) and at the awesome green color of his hair, which could only be described as-
"'Embellishment beyond belief.' Please, Spada, can we move on past over-glorifying the knight?"
"Please, Luca, can you go three seconds without interruptin' me?"
"Luca! Geez, you're always so quiet but the second I get you alone you're all vocalizin' everythin'. Anyways..."
...before the story got rudely interrupted by the pretty little princess sittin' over the- ow! Screw you, Luca, I'm sayin' this all for you- the knight's silhouette glowed silver from the sun hitting his back, 'cause he was all in armor. That's how knights dressed, in these old tales anyways. So like I was sayin', this knight was pretty damn handsome and Luca's face got all heated up just lookin' at him. His dumbass blush only got redder when the knight began to speak.
"Hail, fair maiden, or whatever the hell people say these days. You're the chick trapped up in this tower, right?"
"...U-Uh, well, I'm a guy, but yes-"
"Great! See, I heard there was some pretty chick trapped up here all on her lonesome and I thought I could give her a little company -"
"That would be very well and all if I was a girl, but-"
"- so I rode on over and used a grapplin' hook to get up and here I am! You're a little on the tall side for a girl, though, and you don't got a rack to speak of but hey, guess I gotta take what I can get."
Luca deftly grew furious at bein' interrupted, even though he's the one interruptin' stories half the time and hittin' poor storytellers when they're tryin' to help him sleep, and he frowned at the knight.
"I asked your name and all you gave me was your reason for being here, which isn't even valid because I'm a guy, not a girl!"
"Then why're you wearin' a dress?"
"I- Mother wanted me to wear it for her so it isn't so stiff when she goes out with it on tonight."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Your name's Luca, right?"
"...Yes, it is."
"Then this is the place. Geez, wonder who put you up as a chick? Even though you pass as one pretty well."
"Thank... you? I don't know, and I don't really want to know, now if you could please leave before Mother comes home-"
"Who, that mean-spirited, voluptuous, admittedly sexy witch that hangs around the market? Nah, we're gonna bust you outta here. Come on, we'll just slide down here and disappear into the forest. Romantic, huh?"
The knight reached over and grabbed Luca by his stupidly girlish hips and pulled him closer, grinning like a devil. He led him just like that to the window, and down the grappling hook's rope they slid. Below them, a pretty chestnut mare with the nicest red mane Luca had ever gazed upon stood a-waiting for her knight to return. Upon lookin' up and seein' the two of them, though, she stepped neatly to the side and bam! They landed on the ground instead, with Luca on top, 'cause the knight's gentleman enough to take the hit for a pretty girl. The knight flashed him a suggestive look and Luca groaned and got off of the poor, handsome knight, brushing his dress off and looking around. 'So this is what the outside is like,' he thought. To him, it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, though only slightly better than the knight who had rescued him from the tower.
As he gazed, he heard the knight stand up and shake the twigs and leaves from his chainmail. The knight shuffled up beside him and sighed, resting a his hands on his hips.
"Pretty nice, right? It must look different compared to up in that old tower of yours."
"Yeah... It's beautiful. Um, sir, I-"
"No t hanks are necessary. And-" He turned halfway, pulling his gauntlet off before he took Luca's hand in his own, calloused fingers meeting soft, never-worked ones. "- I'm Spada. Spada Belforma. It's nice to meet you, Luca."
"The- The pleasure's mine, Sir Spada-"
"Cut that shit out before you even start it, man. Just Spada, alright?"
"Um... Thank you, Spada."
"Yeah, no problem."
The knight, now deemed with the handsome name of Spada, strode over to his glimmering mare and smacked her flank, laughing. The horse glared at him, idly kicking his leg with her back hoof and he howled in pain, buckling to the ground. Luca laughed and cautiously stepped over to the mare, reaching out and petting her nose.
"There, there, fair mare... What's her name, Spada?"
"Iria. Pretty, ain't she? Fast too. Got her in a little Eastern town a while back, and-"
"I'm a horse?"
"Oh, shit, Iria! You're up?"
"I was asleep, until you two started being loud. What're you doing, anyways?"
"Luca here hasn't been sleepin' well, so I thought I'd try an old trick and read him a story."
"That's not how Rapunzel goes, you know."
"Yeah, so? I'm takin' some artistic liberties with it."
Iria rolls her eyes and settles down beside Luca, holding her hands up to the fire. Luca watches her carefully, smiling, until she catches him staring and he hides his face in the blanket, turning to face Spada little more. And, despite himself (and this awful story), he wants to know more.
"What happened after that?"
"Well, if Little Miss Iria over there ain't gonna interrupt, I'll tell you."
"Hmph! I doubt I could get back to sleep with all the noise you two are making, so I guess I'll stay up and listen to the rest of the story."
"Great! So... What happened next, Spada?"
...the mare snorted and nuzzled his hand appre- ow! Okay, okay, the mare snorted and rolled her eyes, taking a step away from Luca. Luca frowned, hurt by such cold treatment, and hunched forward when Spada suddenly thumped him on the back.
"Don't worry, she acts like that to all the cute guys that try to be nice to her. She'll let us ride her just fine, won't you girl?"
Iria snorted again and flicked her tail, starting off towards a road in the forest; Spada shrugged helplessly and follows, pulling Luca along with the hand not in a rough, metal gauntlet. They headed down the road with surprisingly no interruptions, which definitely went against everything both his books and the witch had said about the outside world – there bein' highwaymen and people willin' to steal everythin' from you at every turn. When they got out of the forest, though, that sure was a sight to see, with a town sprawling down the hill in front of them. Luca gasped at the sight; he had only read of such things and seen them in the pictures of books, and Spada laughed and pulled him down the hill, carefully finding his footing among the rocks as Iria galloped ahead.
"It's even better to be in it. C'mon, hurry up, I gotta show you off."
Luca couldn't stop though; they were running full-force down the hill, momentum helping their way, and it was only by knocking into Spada and being caught by the ravishing young knight that stopped his descent. They were close, mere centimeters apart, and Luca's face flushed as Spada-
"Oh my! It seems I have come at a, ah, inappropriate time... Should I leave?"
"N-No! It isn't like that, Ange! Spada's just telling me a bedtime story! ...I think it was Rapunzel before he got his hands on it..."
"Hey, hey, hey. I'm takin' some liberties with the story to make it more interestin', you didn't complain before the chicks started comin' around."
"Now now, Spada, you must be nicer to Luca. You know how his disposition is."
"Yeah, yeah, I gotcha. Can I continue now?"
"If you don't hurry it up, I'm gonna fall asleep!"
"Says the horse."
"Says the dumbass who's about to learn how to dance real fast."
"- right, right. Where was I before Ange interrupted us?"
"Some dumbass romance scene between you and Luca."
"It ain't a dumbass romance scene!"
"Could've fooled me, with your ravishing knight status being thrown every where!"
"Why I oughta-"
"Finish the story, before you wake up Her and Ricardo with all this yelling?"
"Too late, Angie. This little girl's all up an' runnin' thanks to these two loudmouths."
"Nah, it's cool. I wasn't much in the mood for sleepin' anyways. What're we listenin' ta?"
"Spada's telling a story to help me sleep... but it doesn't look like we're going to get very far in it..."
"Oh, I used ta do the same thing with my little ones. They'd climb all over Momma Her askin' for stories. Should I finish it for ya, Spud?"
"I got it-! Man, all of you crampin' my storytellin'. This was only supposed to be for Luca, and now look!"
"That's because you're so loud..."
"I wouldn't have to be if you didn't interrupt me-"
"I haven't interrupted you at all the last few sections!"
"Oh yeah? What was that, then?"
"Can we get on with it already?"
"No need to screech, Iria! Man, if I didn't already know you were Inanna, I'd be wonderin' if your past life was a bat or somethin'. Now, where was I... Yeah, yeah, right!"
...Luca's face flushed as Spada held him close- damn, Iria, stop it with the rocks, I'm tellin' the story! And no, you can't tell it, I said I would- Spada held him close just like a bro should and steadied hm. There, see? Nothin' raunchy about it.
Luca couldn't help the images that flowed through his mind; after all, it'd been a while since he had human contact outside of the witch, and Spada's touch was excitin' and new. He tried not to let himself get caught up by it though, pushin' the incident and what-ifs to the back of his mind in favor of lookin' around the town square, where they had landed, right through the gates. Iria stood nearby, tail flicking from left to right, waitin' on their sorry asses to move it along, and the two of them joined the dumbass mare. The strange trio trotted along, Spada keepin' an eye on the wanderin' Luca, who wanted to do nothin' but explore the whole place, and keepin' an eye out for an inn. Luca gasped and stopped short of the corner, ducking behind Iria and peering out as the witch crossed their path, beautiful blue hair flowing in the wind. Spada watched her tits for a sec – damn, were they huge – before tuggin' Luca along, shovin' him into the parlor of an inn and hissin' at him to wait there.
'Course Luca, bein' the dumbass he is, headed outside just as soon as Spada left to go stable up his horse. He ducked through the streets, memorizing the names so he could get back to the inn without trouble, though bein' an unlucky dumbass despite his lucky-ass gamblin' parents, he ran straight into trouble. That 'trouble' was named Hermana Larmo, and she was the smallest, toughest gang leader around town. She was nice, though, real nice, 'specially to kids like Luca, all small an' stuff- What, shit, no Hermana, you can't tell the story! I don't care if I was gonna say that anyways, I'm the storyteller here!
Yeah, she was nice to kids like Luca, so she took pity on him and escorted him back to the inn, and they hung out and chatted 'til Spada returned, lookin' thoroughly disheveled and pissed. Rightly so, since that damn horse of his had taken' a big bite outta his hat and he'd gone down to the tailor to put in an order to fix it right up. He had shed all that crappy armor stuff, leavin' him in his chainmail and tunic.
"What, not gonna put on a little show about how delicious and amazingly handsome this knight was without all that bulky armor on him?"
"Shut the hell up, Iria, let me tell the story."
Luca smiled at him and Hermana introduced herself, and they became easy friends, the whole three of 'em. Despite bein' a gang leader, Hermana was as trusty as they came, and Spada gave her the honor of lookin' after Luca while he went to go find the knights aka his dumbass brothers who had told him about the 'beautiful lady up in the tower' in the first place. With a mischievous grin, Hermana took Luca out to see the rest of the town along with her group, a bunch of kids with no home and no family to speak of. They introduced themselves one by one, surprisin'ly polite, and Luca introduced himself back. The girls ooh'd and ahh'd over his choice of fabric, while the gys tried hittin' on him and Hermana nudged them to bed, sayin' they were too young to be thinkin' about stuff like that.
As they were about to return to the inn, though, the witch caught sight of 'em. She cackled behind a delicate hand and summoned an awesome dude named Ricardo Soldato to retrieve her prisoner. She paid him handsomely so he saw no reason not to follow orders, and he followed the pair back t othe inn, where Spada and his six brothers were waitin'. There were cat calls and nudges in his directions but like the badass he was, Spada paid them no attention, knowin' they were just pathetic, two-faced bastards with no lives outside of torturin' their younger brother and makin; sure his life was miserable-
"Oh, my, it sounds as if you've had a tough time and are projecting it into your story. Would you like to tell me about it, Spada?"
"It ain't your business! Can't I go a good while without gettin' interrupted by someone?"
"If you ever need a person to listen, I am always open to listen. Everything confessed to the church stays private between the Church and that confessor."
"Tch, yeah, whatever. Anyways..."
...makin' sure his life was miserable and what not. He knew to play it cool, though; he'd never break a sweat over seein' any of their ugly mugs again, and as soon as they were down tauntin' and teasin' and they left, Spada and Luca said their goodnights and goodbyes to Hermana and headed upstairs to their shared room. Two beds, mind, ain't like he's stayin' somewhere without preparin' first.
Luca awoke in the middle of the night to someone climbin' in the window. 'Course, that badass climbin' in the window was no one but Ricardo himself, and when he saw the hulkin' figure he immediately hid under the covers, yanking them over his head and wishin' it all was a dream. Luca's always had shitty luck, though, and Ricardo found him – and found himself with a sword pointed at his neck and another at his back. Luca couldn't breathe until Ricardo stepped to the side, away from him, with Spada's swords still pointed at him and silently demandin' his credentials. And he told them, tool contract never said he had to be quiet about what was goin' on, after all. Luca frowned in worry when the witch was mentioned, and he thanked Spada for protectin' him.
"But why would Mother go through all that trouble of keeping me in the tower?"
"Dunno, but it sure sounds like she's just bein' overprotective of you. Say, Ricardo, what's her name?"
"—I am the witch, Spada?"
"You're a voluptuous, mean-spirited woman and so is she! It fits you like a glove."
"Hmmm. We will have to see about your punishment but for now, I will let you continue with the story."
"Heheh. Punishment, huh..."
"...don't act like you're looking forward to it..!"
"But what if I am?"
"Then I will simply have to deprive you of something precious. Ricardo knows where you hide your inappropriate novels. I believe we shall start there. We will save you yet, Spada."
"Don't touch 'em, Ange, don't you dare."
"Hey, Spud, story?"
"- Yeah, yeah, the story. Well..."
"Ange, huh? Interestin'. You were just sent here to collect Luca, right?"
"Yeah, well, he's a free man, Ricardo. Boy's gotta grow up out of that tower sometime."
"I won't go back on my contract, Belforma."
"Ain't askin' you to. I just need to take him out for a little longer, alright? Tell that Ange chick that he's in safe hands. Belforma hands, if it makes her feel any better."
"Hey, this is borin'~ Cut to the action! Else this little girl's gonna end up sleepin'!"
"That's the point of a bedtime story, Her, you go to sleep when you're bein' read it."
"Lu doesn't look too sleepy though."
"-Huh? Oh, I'm... I'm tired."
"Look, see? I'm doin' fine. Now, as I was tellin'..."
...it evidently did make it better, because Ange the Witch released Ricardo from his contract, though refused any sort of refund. For a year, Luca was allowed to visit wherever he liked, provided he kept Spada close by – which he did, of course, because bros before hos and all that. At the end of a year, though, they had to say their goodbyes; Luca returned to the tower that had kept him prisoner for sixteen years, but he wasn't alone. Spada would visit every week, climbing through the window in secret to entertain him while the witch was out.
And they lived happily ever after.
"That all, Spud?"
"What an anti-climatic ending..."
"Hmph. I thought you could do better than that, Belforma."
"I liked it, Spada. Thank you."
"You see? The only one stickin' up for me, my best friend right over here."
The sun's breaking over the horizon, though, and day's temperature is already starting to peek from its chilly night. There are some groans, especially at the lack of sleep, but Luca isn't among them; he's content to have shared a night talking and laughing with his friends, and content in getting Spada to read to him – even with all the 'artistic liberties'.