Magic makes a gunman's life hell: mages shoot flaming boulders from clouds and make the sky rain spears of fire that pierce like knives—honestly, I had no idea what magic really could and couldn't do, but that was the frustrating part: attempting to shoot a bullet at someone and having no idea what conjuration of elements might get in the way; firearms are simple: bullets come out, explosives come out, the danger is always going to come from a barrel, but magic—will it be the wind this time that puts my sniper shot off course? Will they make ground below me suddenly give out when I think I've lined up the perfect shot?
As a gunman I was typically paired with a with ma trained assassin to mitigate these frustrations, Nevra usually assigned as my partner. Sure she always had a condescending tone, would constantly give you 'the stare', was virtually always picking on you, but prior to her being a direct adversary, I didn't need to watch my back. I really could count on her. She would really be there for me, colder to the rest of the world that she ever was to me. It was weird to have her at the other end of the barrel of my gun, but I could stumble through thoughts like that forever—I tried to not let myself not fall too far in; there was no time to miss—what I guess might've been friendship and—the camaraderie I'd been born into.
Ali was not without his own issues with mages apparently. Treasure hunter-to-mage interaction was a different beast. You weren't as likely to get crushed by some flaming sky boulder falling through the clouds; most of the pain could be felt in your wallet, your starving empty pocket.
"Magic people aren't cheap, Assassin Man. Sometimes, they're where half your treasure sales go," said Ali, as he stood on the metal balcony of a second story shop he led me to. He leaned over the railing, gazing to the ground, playfully swinging around by his abs, but also seemingly pushed down by the weight of his interactions with mages. "You got a magic barrier atop the mountain of eons that can only be moved by ma, or a sacred door at the center of the Forgotten Rinterra Gardens, or you need the Rose Winds redirected at the very center of the Ether Ocean to guide a ship to the tail end of the Wandering Islands—like, everything in this world takes magic, but not all of us can use it, and the mage people, they know this and, man, they charge you for it. Unless you're rolling in gold, you'll probably have to skip a few meals to get their help—but, if you're good at making friends—" he said, rotating around the bar in a circle and then looking up to me. "I'm pretty good at making friends, yeah? It might just be a favor instead."
Ali dismounted the bar and rotated around to the door to the shop we stood outside of, a map store. He lifted one foot, and reeled back as if he prepared a kick, but then paused, and gently nudged the door open with his toes to the glistening sound of delicate entry bells hanging from the top of the door.
"A mage just left, Ali," said the map shop dealer.
The owner of Tilan's most profitable map shop was a mysterious, bejeweled old man draped in faux-prestigious robes, wearing a crown that must have been gifted to him by a caravan of traveling performers—he did not fit the aesthetic of the town. The inside of his map shop was draped in silk and satin where the maps did not paper the walls. It was absent the soot and smoke of the rest of the town, as was his smile, missing a few natural teeth that he instead filled in with gold and polished silver. This old character named Yalu had set up shop here for decades, and the legends of treasures of our greater sculpture tucked away in the mountain hills behind Tilan—true or not—made selling maps and information on the state of treasure here very valuable business. Which felt strange when I thought about it, we hadn't encountered any other treasure hunters since we'd set off on this journey, and they were never of interest to the guild, but in order to keep those teeth polished amid his wrinkles, they must've been out there—I guessed they stayed off the radar like us. Also, apparently, staying on top of the treasure hunter news meant keeping tabs on the location of Ali Alhaven:
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Ali So Far: The Goddess PrisonFantasy
Vinny is an assassin hunted by his own guild. Ali is a treasure hunter after the greatest treasure in the entire world. Lise is one of the most powerful mages on the planet. All three of them are headed the same direction: to the Goddess Prison, to...