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Mind and Body

Fresh off the Boat

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Lloyd's head sunk down, chin nearly hitting his chest. He sat with three other men on the deck of the ship, not 900 feet from the docks as the company he chose erupted in cheering and laughter. Some with him; but mostly, at him. He had failed his attempt to spit a cherry pit into a mug set in the circle of them, and it was time to pay his dues. He stood up on the outsides of his heels from his cross-legged seating and shook his head, a crooked grin dawning his lips. 

 

"Alright, alright. I pay my dues. ~ I'll see you boys at the inn."

 

He turned without looking up and headed to the back of the ship. His bare feet pitter-patted across the wooden deck in a hurried pace, only his gourd and wallet on his left hip and his sword strapped over his right shoulder, and quite a bitter taste on his breath from the swill they could get hold of on board. Without hesitation or second glance, he sprinted towards the railing, and vaulted it. His hands were placed above his head in a spearheaded shape, legs tucked together and extended. He seemed to vanish from the boat without so much as a ripple, though when he hit the ice-cold waters of the open ocean, he suddenly wasn't so amorous in his acceptance of his dues.

 

'See?! Told you he wasn't a pussy!'

'-Aaah, he'll be blue when he gets to the inn'

'Better him than me! HAHAHA~'

 

As he surfaced, he could hear the clamoring on-board from the three fellow drunken gamblers, but he paid their words no mind. He began swimming vigorously for the porter, sighing on his fifth stroke towards the dock. He paid careful mind not to become distracted by the cold water, or what may be in it; his eyes were on the finish, the tall masts and ocean-faring structures that lined the Port City of Izabal.

 

--------

 

Some time later, he had managed to pull himself up onto a loading dock and sprawl out on it's surface, gasping for air and resting his body. Finally, he could rest; the alcohol in his system had helped to repress the cold, and his constant body movement had been a second defense; but ultimately, the swim had taken a toll on him. He would lay here for a moment, regaining his strength, breath, and body temperature underneath a fair sky and bright sun. He groaned slightly as he lay on the sword strapped to his back; his soaked white robes were no cushioning to the cold metallic housing, and in the last movement he'd make for the next while, he'd roll to his right side, curl into a ball and shiver for a couple minutes. He would then stretch out, and take in the sun from his side as best he could, hoping that he'd be able to lift his body soon.

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[Box]Hunter Ryan DuGracep[/box]

 

 

With Rosemary snuggly set in the hostler on his left hip, Hunter kept his position leaning against the outside of the old building. It was a smoky tavern, clean for the most part and oddly pleasant smelling—of good ale, roasting mutton, and freshly spilled human blood. There was an ambiance of positivity, the people within were laughing, talking excitedly, and buying each other drinks. No one went without paying at the Torn Sail, and no one went without a drink. Well, with the exception of Hunter, who had found nothing, or rather anyone, to tickle his fancy.

 

But he was hungry. It had been days since his last meal, back when he was deep in the Ellwood forest not long after meeting with the two High Lords that lusted after his Sire and sister. After giving them news of their whereabouts and an update on their current situations, he had been handsomely paid, but not with what he wanted. What good was money to a direct descendant of the Black Queen? He was filthy rich.

 

Shifting his weight and crossing his arms over his broad chest, he peered out toward the docks where a bit of movement had caught his attention. Blue eyes, deep as the sea, watched as a young man managed to climb out of the cold waters of the bay—just barely. When he fell onto the wooden dock and settled into stillness, Hunter felt a tingle that went beyond mere curiosity. He couldn’t help but wonder why the youth had been in the water in the first place, or why he was lying flat on his back staring up at the stars now. But even from this distance, perhaps a good quarter of a mile, he could smell the fresh blood of the youth rising and swirling just beneath the surface of his skin.

 

“Well, when the dinner bell rings you better not keep ma’ waiting,” he said to no one in particular, not that anyone was even close enough to hear. Pushing off the wall he adjusted his black coat and pulled the thick leather belt around his waist up about a half of an inch. Rosemary’s comfortable weight fell against his leg and followed along with the wide gait of his step. He moved like man with no real direction, but kept his eyes very firmly set upon the young man.

 

When at last he reached the beginning of the dock, where the creaking sound of wood plants rubbing on wood plants met him, he stopped and leaned against a post. There were others around, many warm bodies moving atop the ships that swayed back and forth in the calm waters of the bay. So long as they didn’t come out—so long as he didn’t have to make a scene, everything would be alright.

 

“Evening,” he tipped his hat and smiled a charming and hopefully disarming smile. Hunter was handsome in a very classical sense. His skin was pristine, and sun kissed, which was odd for one of his kind—and his eyes were bright and full of humor. His mouth was slender and sensual, friendly when it turned up at the corners. “I take it you’re not from around here; otherwise you’d know that Izabal’s waters are nowhere near as tempered as the rest of the oceans surrounding Orisia. It’s got to do with the mountains and the bay and trapped swirling tides,” he shrugged, “at least that’s what I’ve been told.”

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That's seven left, you sly cat.

 

He smirked to himself as he lay in his odd-arranged position, sighing in relief as he finally gained his bearings. He seemed to ignore those around him before Hunter approached, his hands even went to meet behind his head, fingers lacing and placed against his blonde hair. He gazed up at the beautiful sky and listened to the ebb and flow of the ocean, as it bobbed the floating structures along it's peaks and crashed against the shores and cliff edges  around them.

 

'evening'

 

If that wasn't the silkiest, friendliest greeting he had ever met from another man. It roused curiosity at least; Atma broke out of his stare into the sky and turned his head to the right, looking over his reclined shoulder and up to the well-dressed man. Atma's eyes could match Hunter's in their cyan luster, though if one looked closer, there would be 'crack' shaped streaks that ran through his from the iris to the pupil. His skin was rather pale, minus his cheeks being slightly flushed and burnt from the boat ride and alcohol he had consumed during it. 

 

'I take it you're not from around here.~'

 

He was built like a boxer, and his physique would become apparent as he rolled forward onto the small of his back, crossed his heels and stood up on the outsides of them; his trapezius supported his robes enough to create mounds that were defined from his shoulders, and where they met his hips and midsection they hung freely. The bottom of the robe only reached to his chiseled mid-calf, and was bound at the waste loosely by a black sash which held up his gourd and wallet. He turned to face Hunter with a warm smile of his own, eyes lulling in the process to half-open slits.

 

"Yeah, I would've wagered something other than an ocean swim had I known."

 

He reached up and scratched the back of his head, looking past Hunter for a moment to the Torn Sail. He could recognize one of the three men he was drinking with on-board on the outside wall, smoking from a tobacco pipe and gazing down at his feet. His vision then panned to the left, and to the right; until now he had not gotten a good look at the beautiful port-city that was Izabal. For a moment he would seem to forget he was in the middle of a conversation; it would be apparent when his attention snapped back to Hunter.

 

"Ah, sorry. I've been at sea for a long while, now. I've been anticipating this day for over a week." His arms would now reach for the sky, and he would stand up on his toes, stretching long and wide. A slight grunt exited at the end of his stretch, and as he resettled, he took a couple steps forward to Hunter and extended his right hand.

 

"I'm Atma. You a gambling type?"

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"I'm Atma. You a gambling type?"

 

Hunter smile, again it was nice and easy but there was a predatory edge to it that was simply impossible to hide. Dipping his chin toward his chest and looking away, out toward the calm of the sea and the reflection of a half-full moon against the black-inky waters, he chewed on his bottom lip thoughtfully. Of course it was all a show, every mannerism, ever breath he pretended to take, every miniscule movement that he made to make himself look all the more human.

 

“Well meet Atma, I am Hunter — Hunter Ryan. As for gambling,” he turned and looked back at the young man, whose attention seemed distant, as if on something else entirely. Hunter didn’t mind. His ego wasn’t wounded, if anything, it was probably better if the young man was at least somewhat distracted. “I reckon that depends entirely upon the bet and my odds of winning.”

 

Pushing off the pole he’d been leaning against, Hunter straightened again and turned to the side. He turned his gaze in the direction where Atma had been looking just moments before and saw the man who had come out of the Tavern. All the cheer was out of him, now that he was sitting out alone in the midnight breeze. Hunter could smell the sweet perfume of his tobacco, and he could see the delicate plums of white smoke dispersing into the night air.

 

“Looks like a bet landed you in some cold water, Atma — you really thinking of gambling again?” He grinned over his shoulder while folding his hands into his pockets. Another disarming move, for he looked as inconspicuous as any of the others loitering about the dock. He even pretended to shiver. “It’s damn cold out tonight,” he lied, feeling nothing at all. “So anyway, what’s your game? What’d you manage to lose at that sent you for a midnight swim?”

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Perched at the tapering apex of a great lighthouse, a large condor surveyed the port town of Izabal, keen golden eyes roaming over the docked ships and glittering ocean. The smell of fresh fish and other varying treasures of the sea could be smelled even from here, high up in the salt=filled air, but it was not an unpleasant smell. Not at all –rather, it stirred an appetite in the condor’s belly, and its talons shifted, scraping along the lighthouse as it grew rather uncomfortable, perched as long as it had been.

 

Alas, it was not here for food.

 

The condor’s massive wings spread, nearly ten feet long from tip to tip, and lifted from the lighthouse with a single beat. The wind up here was glorious, and carried him swiftly over the port with effortless gliding sweeps, and he circled over the town, his shadow an ominous shape gliding crisp and steady over the uneven grounds of the port.

 

The condor had flown here far from the Cold Mountains, leaving its dark stony depths for the Summer Island under no true will of its own. It had been called to Orisia by the twin voices of its kin, and yet they were nowhere to be found, each blocking him out and hiding from him. And so it had found itself wandering aimlessly, until at last it found itself at Izabal, a dingy town if it had ever seen one, and with no purpose and no meaning, it simply looked for anything to do.

 

Banking and turning in a steep dive, the condor pounced on a stray rainbow trout dropped from a barrel, its vicious talons lifting it into the air, light and easy. With a twist of its legs it threw the trout into the air – gulp! – down it went into the condor’s gullet. Tasty. With a croak of satisfaction, the condor flew out closer to sea.

 

Its shadow passed over a boat with three puny beings on it –one of them at least a vampyre… and it was he who caught the condor’s attention.

 

Something about that one.

 

The condor lowered its altitude, head cocking and eyes narrowed in suspicion. 

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As Hunter introduced himself, Atma's attention was realigned with him. Deceptively old, Atma learned over many years that the best way to know someone is to watch them and listen. His mannerisms, the way he carried himself; the little movements, like his shiver, the way he leaned on the support beam, and how his hands slid into his pockets as he changed direction; something was too smooth, too calculated about him. It wasn't alarming in the least, but Atma had made note of it. 

He grinned widely as Hunter had asked about his wager. "Aaah, I bet I could spit a cherry pit into a mug after a bottle and a half of rum, and in quite a rough patch of water. More rough than I had thought; it was three coins or the swim. I chose the swim." Atma slid his own hands into his pockets, winking slyly at Hunter. "Three coins is well worth avoiding a cold ocean dip, but... call me a frugal spender."

 

He sighed audibly , standing up on his toes and stretching his calves; his back flexed in this motion, and in an instant, a charge ran up his spine; literally. A slight audible crackle would sneak out, and if one was paying enough attention, a blue flash might have been noticeable in the dark backdrop of the night-cloaked docks, shooting from the base of his lumbar to the back of his neck. The bird of prey overheard would have had no problem seeing this flash, as from overhead nearly every angle, the streak of electrical current would stand out against his white robe, and weapon slung over it. Atma seemed nonchalant and ignorant of the current's discharge from his body, as he lowered down from his tip-toes and began walking towards the inn; offering shoulder and making sure not to leave Hunter behind, he would stop just past him.

 

"The game is called Two-Up. Ever heard of it?" He chuckled as he offered the game; in reality, three coins was all he had. Two for playing two-up, and one to bet with. A fool's gambler.

Edited by Mind and Body

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Hunter grimaced at the sound of the condor, though he did not lift his stunning blue eyes into the night sky to see the shadow of its wings. He knew exactly what and who the creature was, and he had a feeling he wasn’t about to enjoy this meeting. If anything, the great and venerable High Lord was probably just coming to bitch and moan about Hunter’s meeting with his two brothers—Tweedledum and Tweedledee. It was very difficult not to roll his eyes or make an escape right into the dense forest that surrounded the small port city.

 

“That doesn’t sound like a very fun game,” he told Atma as the young man was walking past him. He struggled to lather on the charm, grinning charmingly as the drenched man stopped to peer at him on his way to the tavern. “I mean, for one thing, the stakes are pretty ridiculous. Believe it or not a dip in the waters here could kill you, and not because of the cold. There are some pretty nasty creatures in these parts. Have you seen a dragon? Have you seen a shark? Imagine if two of those things mated — well, there’s something like that living in this bay. Fucking vicious things that come out at night to feed. Yup, real luck thing that you weren’t gobbled up by one of those.”

 

Though he had not been invited outright, Hunter turned and walked along with Atma, “but I suppose if you’re willing to take the risk, then maybe you don’t really have three coins to spare, which leads me to believe I’ll be the one buying the drinks tonight. It’s not a problem, I was just handsomely rewarded for delivering some important information,” he paused and glanced at the sky, wondering if the condor heard him.

 

Hunter hadn’t missed the sight of light, that odd spark that ran across the surface of Atma’s flesh, but he did not comment on it. More than just see it, he felt it — a sudden rush of energy that stirred the air and pushed outwards for a good distance. This was no ordinary man.

 

Well, it seemed like the night was going to be full of surprises. 

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The electric blue current flashed, and the condor, not expecting such a display, stalled in the air, wings flapping against the strong thermals upon which it rode. Its head cocked again, golden predatory eyes focusing on this strange man with a power it was wholly unfamiliar with. Its eyes flashed to and fro from Atma to Hunter, as if deciding which one was more interesting. It banked.

 

That was one it smelt it, the sharp scent Hunter left behind in the air surrounding him.

 

Croaking, the condor wheeled in the sky and flew off.

 

Simply leaving, however, was not the plan.

 

It alighted in the woods surrounding Izabal like a long, thick wall. Its massive wings folded as its head craned, looking, searching for any wayward eyes that might see it. It found nothing and no one, however; the woods were silent, with only the sounds of the city to disturb the tranquil winds.

 

The wings spread then and curved over the bald head, overlapping, the pinions sweeping against one another.

 

The avian shape within grew in a flash of silver light, thinning and lengthening into a tall, lean figure, until the wings snapped apart and sank into the man’s back, leaving behind Ryzerus Ryan, third High Lord and eldest of the three. He shook his head, clearing it off the fog left behind by his transformation after a long time spent in condor form, and swept back his auburn hair. Elegant hands smoothed down his clothes, all of a gray tone, and then took quick steps to the town.

 

There he quickly found the strange man and the vampyre, and followed them at a safe, innocuous distance.

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Atma's grin only widened as Hunter explained what lurked in the waters, that might've gobbled him up and ended his journey then and there. A tingling ran throughout his forearms, goosebumps rising up at the thought of a dragonshark right underneath him as he flopped along the choppy waters towards the docks. 

 

Maybe that's six, then. Bad puss.

 

He cleared his throat as they approached the inn, looking Hunter's attire over once more. "Well, my coin purse is a little light at the moment; if you don't mind, then I won't refuse your hospitality. In honesty ~" he reached his right hand down to pat his gourd, brushing against his wallet that held the three lonely coins. Their metallic protest could be heard faintly through the leather pouch, which was pressed against the fibrous gourd that held his 'special brew'. "~I usually just drink from my own supply. Frugal spender." He winked at Hunter now as they were within range of the smoke trickling from Atma's fellow sea-farer, the one who had made the wager with him.

 

"Evening, friend." He looked the man over with a devious smile, though the man seemed less enthusiastic than Atma. He nodded and looked away almost in the same motion, puffing away at his pipe. Atma looked back to Hunter and shrugged, moving past the grouch a couple steps, and gripped the handle to the door. He'd pull it open and step parallel with it, holding the door open for his new friend.

 

"So~ if it's not too sensitive, you said you got paid for information? I'm a wealth of information, but none I'd earn coin for. Care to share?"

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"Well, my coin purse is a little light at the moment; if you don't mind, then I won't refuse your hospitality. In honesty ~"

 

Surprise, surprise, Hunter thought as he stepped up onto the short wooden deck that surrounded the building. Still, he only smiled politely when the young man turned to glance at him over his shoulder. “Oh, well what else am I suppose to do with my newly found wealth? Money’s worth very little if you can’t enjoy it with your friends, be they old or new.” He decided at that moment that he was in the mood for blood that held a slight alcohol content. Though the purse full of coins is not what he wanted to be rewarded with by the High Lords, if it could get this poor bastard drunk enough to taste even halfway decent, then Hunter would cut his losses.

 

"~I usually just drink from my own supply. Frugal spender."

 

“You don’t say,” he replied, trying hard as he could to not sound too disparaging, but he could barely keep himself from laughing. Still, he stopped when the man stopped and regarded the stranger whom he spoke to.

 

“Evening, friend,” the stranger barely nodded his head, and in turn Hunter merely looked away, having already lost interest with the elder human.

 

The door to the inn was opened and held and the smell from within hit him like a brick wall. It wasn't unpleasant, it was actually one of the nicer kept places in this little godforsaken shit-hole, but even so - the smell of so many humans together, their sweat, their tears, and their blood...it stirred him.

 

“It’s a little warm,” he complained, still wearing a smile as he stepped through the door and headed straight for the bar.

 

"So~ if it's not too sensitive, you said you got paid for information? I'm a wealth of information, but none I'd earn coin for. Care to share?"

“In this country, information is a form of money, friend. Doesn't matter what it is, somewhere, I can assure you that someone wants it and they’re more than willing to pay. I however,” he said with a devilish grin as he slid onto a tall barstool, “--happen to be related to none other than the Queen of this island, and that makes my brand of information particularly valuable.” Having said this he set down a golden coin, thick and freshly minted, right onto the bar top. “Barkeep? Bring me a bottle of your best wine, and whatever my friend here wants.”

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Everything smelled of fish.

 

It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant smell, but it was getting old. Ryzerus slid a hand over his nose, scowling, tired of the stench mixed with the noxious smell of human sweat and grime. He preferred the scent of roses, flowers, and other fresh, clean vegetation. He preferred the secret gardens hidden deep in the Cold Mountains, where he spent the majority of his questionable life.

 

It was much better there than here, surrounded by equally questionable intelligence.

 

Looking around, he spotted Atma and Hunter, seemingly already good friends enter a bar. Grumbling to himself, he followed, still keeping a safe distance. No use drawing attention to himself now.

 

With fair timing he slipped through the door, the stink of fish replaced by the stink of alcohol. Great. He stared across the bar to where the two men sat, and his hearing caught the order Hunter placed.

 

“Barkeep? Bring me a bottle of your best wine, and whatever my friend here wants.”

 

Enough of this bullshit.

 

Mood completely sour and exhausted of hanging around a shithole like Izabal, Ryzerus stalked over to the counter and slammed three golden coins down on the counter while sweeping the thick, fresh coin Hunter had offered back to the vampyre.

 

“No need,” Ryzerus snapped, a little harshly. “Barkeep, get these two men whatever they want. As for me, get me a glass of water. Clean water, if you’ve got it.” He turned his angry glare on Atma, then Hunter. “I’ve business with one of you.”

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Unlike many may have thought, gold was a rare commodity around these parts...silver, copper, and steel were different matters completely but a gold coin could very well be a quarter part of someones entire year salary. And here was this man, throwing down three as if it were nothing. Hunter couldn’t help but glance around the smoky establishment. Regardless of how kind and calm people may have seen, it was another thing completely to tempt the devil with such a blatant display of wealth.

 

“I’d suggest calming down, friend,” said Hunter with a dangerous edge to his voice while his weight leaned onto the side of the bartop. “And if I am to have whatever I want, then bring me a glass of blood from whatever virgin you might be able to find in these parts.” Again he looked around, a slow smirk crossed his handsome face, “--although that might be a bit difficult to come up with.”

 

The Barkeep stared at the three golden coins set on the bar before him and then at the three men sitting there waiting...he’d never served blood, but the idea of missing out on the golden coins seemed ludicrous. “I’ll see what I can come up with Sir.” He said, before producing a glass cup from under the bar and filling it with a pitcher of iced water that was sitting on the other side of the counter. Then he was gone, leaving the three to their business.

 

“I’ve business with one of you.”

Hunter’s blue eyes nearly rolled in his head, but he managed to contain the temptation. He glanced at his companion, a sad look to him now as he regarded what might have been, “I don’t take it you mean my handsome friend over there?” Again the vampire smirked, his thin lips parting just enough to show his pearly white teeth and the slightest hint of a fang. A wide hand lifted and his fingers combed through is golden hair, “well -- let’s have it. What the fuck is eating you?”

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'-It's a little warm..'

Warm? It was too cold not a couple moments ago. Atma's eyes ran over Hunter once more as the curious acquaintance passed through the doorframe. His eyes squinted even for now, his mind mulling over the statement for a moment. His body passed through as well with the door in his hand, pulling it shut behind him. His eyes left Hunter and scanned the crowded bar area, though his ears were still trained on his new friend. As he let Atma in on the fact he was related to the queen, his eyebrows went aloft.

"The Queen, eh? I don't think I've spoken to royalty in a couple decades.. it's an honor, Sir." He nudged Hunter with his elbow as he sat next to him, a crooked grin adorning his smooth complexions. As Hunter made his order, Atma had begun to scan the wall behind the bartender. His eyes were searching with the least amount of focus; he was looking at the colors, not the labels. His arm lifted and index pointed to a lonely, but full, bottle of clear liquor. The label was green and read simply 'Hard Stuff'. Once he focussed in on the lettering, his eyes widened and his mouth opened slightly. Amazement filled his expression like floodgates fill a dam.

THAT ~" He began, staring down his arm at the bottle of what could only be the best thing he'd ever taste on this island; and slowly, he'd turn his head as Ry had hurriedly rejected Hunter's coin and replaced with his own. As he seemed to be stared down for a moment with a harsh glance form the new man, he heard the words 'whatever they want'. His eyes were still on the new man, but his finger was still pointing to the bottle with his arm extended as far as one could; he snapped his fingers twice, the first seeming normal, and the second cracking like a pseudo lightning bolt - the pitch wouldn't be disturbing, but loud enough that others at the bar were interrupted with their conversation and began to glare down at Atma for a moment, then go back to their conversations. 

"I have business with one of you."

Atma would grin deviously once more, looking Ryzerus over. His clothing seemed foreign, even for this foreign place. He was practically dripping with aura, something that instantly drew Atma to him. As the bartender began to pour from the 'Hard Stuff', Atma reached across the bar, eyes still on Ryzerus, and snagged the bottle by the neck. He began to open his mouth for a wise retort and bring the bottle closer to his chest, but was cut off by Hunter's replies.

As Hunter mentioned blood of a virgin, Atma's left eyebrow lifted at the corner. He began to chuckle for a moment at the joke, but from the severity in Hunter's expression-- and the fact he was related to royalty of the area, Atma stopped himself short of laughter, and was left with a baffled look for the moment. Maybe it was some sort of custom here? This new man had at least one of the two mistaken. A drunkard who had just literally swam into town an hour before, and a member of the royal family of the island? Better drink on this. The bottle was lifted to his lips and the warm liquor slid across his tongue, down the back of his palette and into his asophogus. As he swallowed, his exhale was that of a slight moan of pleasure. Ooh, it had been so long since his last drink! HOURS! Sweet relish of what could only be compared to rubbing alcohol or paint thinner, another swig and the bottle was lowered to his lap as he rotated on his stool to face Ryzerus, leaning back on his free elbow on the bar.

'-- I dont take it you mean my handsome friend over there?'

If Ryzerus were to glance back to the relaxed Atma, he'd get a wink and an air smooch, coupled with a grin matching Hunter's at this point. " -- I'm a cheap date." He added dryly, waiting on Ryzerus to state his business.


 

Edited by Mind and Body

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