9 👣 The Exclusives

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Raiden's mouth is left agape like a doorway as the perfume-man's struggles intensify.

"L-Let go of me!" The man wriggles his neck out of the woman's applying pressure. Her fingers press on his vocal cords, choking his sentences. "I'm a friend! I come for the souls!"

The woman's eyes widen momentarily, a thoughtful frown on her face, and retrieves her grip. The man's feet collide with the jagged surface below, and he collapses on his bent knees, soothing his coughing throat with pats.

"I was never told that her colleagues here are so rude!" He spits to the ground, glaring with intense eyes as he fixes his spiked hem's collar. His gray hem's wet with his sweat, and his uncombed silver ponytail is now undone.

"What are you talking about?" The woman removes her sack's bundle and reveals a curvy knife, its steel glinting like silver fireflies, and tucks it to the holster on her gypsy trousers.

Seems that intimidation fits her perfectly, like a pointy armor on her authentic skin.

Backing up with his back on the ground, the man's lips tremble. His face a flurry of blushes. "Please don't hurt me. I mean no harm."

"You've been spying on us with your binoculars since our arrival. And you mean no harm?" She grabs the feathers off her jingling hat. "I've watched you too."

This man doesn't seem like he can dissect a toad without fainting. Is the woman serious about his spying activities?

"I-I'm sorry. It wasn't to harm you two, I swear. I'm here to meet someone. She told me I can only approach after assuring that I'm alone—"

"This 'she' goes by the name Ece, does she not?"

"Maybe." There's brief stress after his sentence as if elongating his time. "She's a young oriental girl. I need her help now. Where is she?"

Another boulder skydives from above, lurching on Raiden's cracked trust. His sister won't deal with this man's circle—the exclusives, amongst the city's officials and conglomerates. Not after what his kind has done to their house.

Has Ece forgotten who has confiscated their assets besides the banks, the thugs, and the policemen?

"What help do you need?"

"My grandmother is sick. The same illness my grandfather had two days ago. It couldn't be...that the dark plague from him infected my grandmother, right?"

The memories and explanations within Raiden's head scramble like ants during an ambush. Tayana's darkened features dawn on him. Ece's onyx zooms in and out within his vision. Their betrayal together stabs their mark deeper into his skin.

"It's unlikely."

"How can you tell? Are you that girl's apprentice or mentor? I need her ability, please. Tell her I need—"

"First, tell me what she has done to your grandfather."

"S-She healed him. Known about her from a sick...healed friend. Had that dark aura clouding her. An onyx in hand. Told me to find her here." With slippery and unstable fingers reaching into his breast pocket, he fishes a palm-sized card.

The words 'Oniksas Abyss' stands out with its black paint smudging over the glossy surface of the card. 'Near the city's northern border'.

"Aren't you two her colleagues? Please let her know that—"

"We're just a couple of strangers at the wrong place and time."

"But my grandmother will die without her!" Horror takes over his confusion, and it seeps deep into his bones. "I'll do anything to save her. Money—"

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