IV : Arden

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Arden Vera leaned against the wall, rubbing his eyes rapidly. Despite the tears streaming down his face, he smiled faintly. Canbar had tricked him; he was not expecting there to be more gas in that container. But the boy had left so hurriedly he didn't even bother to check the contents of the brown bag. Even though Arden would never know the ingredients of those drugs, or what plant they were based on, at least the Vices would go down. They weren't dangerous, just a nuisance.

Once his vision cleared, Arden went down the alley and took a left turn, walking against the current. He got some weird looks, but most of the people that spotted him turned around and sped up the other way. He didn't know how to feel about people avoiding him; proud or ashamed? He decided to feel nothing, say nothing, like he always did. He found apathy to be quite convenient in most situations.

A faded sign came into view. The Three Cups. Bad food, loud music, weird looking drunken travelers on a pit stop; everything locals could ever dream of. In Sevin, it felt as if nobody cared or even knew a war was happening beyond the borders. Even worse, they didn't seem to be aware of the fact that Frya was one of Seyal's allies, also known as the losing side. Those people were paying taxes and every day Sevin became a little bit poorer. The Three Cup's patrons didn't give a care in the world, and he was usually reluctant to admit that the real leader of the Black Spades was one of them.

Arden pushed open the front door, instantly being attacked by the heavy smell of booze and venison. He placed a sleeve over his nose and carefully advanced inside. Men and women surrounded tables full of plates and cups, eating hurriedly as if food would go extinct the following day. Not much conversation happened near the door, where foreigners would usually sit. The back, however, reserved for the locals, made Arden want to pierce his eardrums. People were screaming at each other, roaring with laughter, slapping the tables with their cups. And the loudest of them all; Bryn Vera.

"Arden, my dear nephew. Come sit with us!"

Arden sighed and wondered how a drunkard could be so alert. "I don't have time for this. I need to talk to you." He glanced at the multiple other people sitting with Bryn. "Alone."

"You spoil all the fun!" Bryn pushed herself up, stumbling towards Arden. He grabbed her arm and dragged her towards the entrance. "What? We're leaving already?" Despite her complaints, they were soon out of the tavern.

"I wanted to get information out of that fool, Canbar. Well, I failed. But I used your device." A slow-burning fuse surrounded by a metal shell to prevent the quenching of the flame, specifically made for the Vices. What a nice gift.

Bryn brought a finger to her chin, tapping it lightly. After a minute or two, her face lit up. "The bomb! Did it work?"

"I don't know." He said, looking at the clocktower towering over the town. "You said it would explode around ten minutes after. It's been about five."

"Great! Should we go watch the show?"

"No." Despite his actions, Arden was in no mood to see people get injured, possibly even die. If the drug was indeed flammable, the Vices would have a hard time surviving that one. "Let's go back home." He reconsidered. "I mean back to the headquarters."

In spite of his attempts, Bryn was already grinning like an idiot. "Let's go home," she said happily.

When his parents got tired of him, Arden was sent to his aunt. He doubted they knew she was part of a gang, but then again, they wouldn't care. Bryn taught him to be a proper thief, shoot a gun, wield a knife, steal from people; basic survival skills. That was the life she had planned for him; the only life he had ever known.

A sudden bang brought him back to reality. He looked up from the ground. The night sky had lit up, painted in red and black. The breeze brought an unpleasant smell to his nose. People around him started laughing, thinking it was some kind of failed attempt at carnival fireworks. He knew better. But even so, a small bomb couldn't cause that big of an explosion. He managed to answer his own question in a few seconds, his eyes wide in realization.

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