II : Salo

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Salo Canbar's ears rang furiously as he stepped away from the spirited crowd. Women and men, children and their grandparents all chanted and sang off key as loud as they could, swinging their hands wildly in the air. Salo shook his head, laughing to himself. He wanted to join them, live freely for one night, but the weight in his pocket was too heavy to allow that.

He quickly started down the stone steps leading to a narrow path between two large houses. It was the place him and his client had agreed to meet in; quiet yet still visible. A hooded figure sat against the wall, his fingers picking at a stray thread on his thick wool cloak. Once he caught sight of Salo, he stood up straighter and gave him a sharp nod.

"I've got your bundle, sir." Salo pulled a small brown bag from his coat pocket and held it out. His hand trembled slightly, still not used to deliveries. The man's eyes glimmered in the moonlight. He had either been drinking or crying. Or maybe both. The people of Sevin were unstable enough.

The man pulled down his hood. His silver eyes were entirely visible now, and the rest of his features; square jaw, narrow eyes, and a familiar faint scar above his eyebrow. He took the package from Salo's hands and peeked in it, using his hand to touch the contents. After a minute, he looked up and gave Salo a satisfied smile.

"Wait a minute... Do I know you?" Salo inquired, squinting his eyes to see past the happy facade. His was a common face in Sevin; most people there had pale skin and symmetric faces and scars all over their bodies. But this one was different. He stared at Salo with empty eyes, his grin never faltering, as if challenging him to say his name. Salo would recognize that provocative smug look anywhere, and once he realized his client wasn't the typical Fryan junkie, his whole body recoiled. "Vera?"

Arden Vera's smile disappeared the moment his cover was blown. Not that he was planning otherwise; the boy would have never removed his hood if he really wanted to stay hidden. His hand weighed the bag, his expression changing to a contemplative one. "Tell me, Canbar. What is it that you put in this little bundle that makes it so addictive?"

"You... you know me?" Salo's eyebrows reached his hairline. He wasn't sure whether the fact that the Arden Vera knew who he was made him want to boast or hide in a corner and pray for protection. "Man, that's why you ordered from us?" he laughed, patting Arden's shoulder. "Let's leave this humid hell and go—"

"Don't be flattered. We do our research before we meet someone, as opposed to Blom's Vices. But that is beyond the point." Arden pushed back his coat, revealing an impressive couple of daggers hanging from his waist. Salo stepped back, whipping his hand back to his side. "I have no intention of wasting my precious time analyzing this when you can just tell me what's inside."

Salo's features shifted in a matter of seconds. A terrified grimace replaced his cheerful expression, his heart banging violently against his ribcage. Vera was trying to get information out of him, and judging by the various people moving away because of his gang and its cruelty, it would not end prettily. Then again, how could he betray Lephar Blom? The man who had basically raised him? Salo shrugged, fighting with himself to be as impassive as possible. "I don't make this. I just deliver it."

"Wanna repeat this tied to my electric chair?" Alder pulled out one of his knives from its sheath. A warning shot. Nobody ever messed with the Black Spades, except for some foolish gang leaders that thought a kid fresh out of puberty was harmless. Spoilers; they were wrong.

Salo stepped back, almost tripping over some pebbles behind his foot. He raised his hands and tried his best to stop them from quivering. "Listen, I don't want trouble. I'm just a dealer. I'm not even allowed to talk to the people farming this thing!"

"Right. Which of your two eyes do you treasure the most? Just wondering." Arden caressed the tip of the dagger, eyeing Salo through hooded eyes. Something had changed in his glare, something that resembled a blood-thirsty vampire and not a boy out of his teens.

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