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The scent of wet earth was heavier than usual in the tiny tattoo parlor. Afternoon sunshine beat through the front window, warming the clay pots and planters, glittering over the various cases and displays hidden between the overgrown plants. I came through the front door to find Saule on her stool manning the counter, her headset slung around her neck as the static of her music issued loudly into the mild quiet of the shop.

"Welcome to Baba Ya—," the witch began before recognizing me. Her nose wrinkled and her small mouth puckered as if she'd tasted something especially bitter. "Oh, break my branch, why are you here again?"

"Hello, Saule," I said, giving a weak wave as she crossed her arms and spun on the stool to effectively ignore my presence. Great. I was barely two steps into the store, and the witch was already being difficult. Today she wore a plaid skirt and a ribbed lavender tank top, chunky bracelets layered past her wrists on both arms with a silver medallion tucked into the neckline of her top. Her attire was a sharp contrast to my white jeans and black shirt.

"I told you before, I'm not supposed to tell you stuff. Don't you listen?" She glanced over her shoulder as if checking that I was still there. I was, and I had moved closer to the counter, not yet ready to give up. "I'm already in trouble with the coven Mistress after that demon took one of our grimoires." Saule's posture stiffened and the indignant blush was leeched from her face. "He's...he's not coming, is he?"

I shook my head and simpered. "No. He doesn't know I'm here." At least I hoped not. If Darius suddenly popped out of thin air, Saule would probably die of a panic attack.

Saule wasn't reassured, but she was relieved. She turned to the counter again and slouched over it with a loud exhale. "Oh, bless my blood. I don't think I could handle that again." With half her face molded to the scratched counter, she continued "I still can't tell you anything. I can't tell humans stuff they aren't supposed to know. It's a rule."

I shrugged as I fiddled with my bangs. "Well, I didn't see a sign on the door that said no humans allowed, so I can be here—or at least I'm guessing I can?"

The witch snorted. "Yeah, because a sign saying 'no humans' would go over real well."

Her sarcasm tugged my lips into another grin. I kind of liked Saule. She was a bit of a coward, but her snarky humor fit well with my jaded mentality. "You know, Pride told me something the other day. He said that as a host to a Sin, I'm subject to the rules and judgments of the syndicates. So, I figured if I can be persecuted and tried by the laws of your society, why can't I be educated about them as well? Seems only fair, doesn't it?"

Saule brightened. Her brown eyes perked up, and she straightened from her slouch to lean on one elbow, her bracelets sliding down her arm with a clatter. She considered me for a long minute as her foot bobbed behind the counter in time with the tinny beat radiated from the headset. Abruptly, her foot stopped and, defeated, the witch gifted me with a sour—but indulgent—grimace. "It's not my society. The laws of the syndicates don't rule the covens, as much as those flash-bang mages wish otherwise. If it'll get rid of you, I'll tell you what you want to know."

Finally. "If it makes you feel better, you could always say I threatened you. I do have a mean-spirited Sin at my beck and call, after all." I was only half-joking. If something were to happen to me, I actually had no idea how I'd contact Darius, and I also had no idea if he would suddenly deign to make an appearance. I was worried he might. My comments about Saule hadn't gone unnoticed this morning.

Saule let out a weak laugh. "Yeah, then I'd have to admit I helped you and that thing in the first place. Thanks, but no thanks. I had to lie to the Mistress and say I lost that grimoire, you know. What did he do with it, anyway?"

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