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Wade

Can't Afford a Therapist

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Reed Waterman was many things. Tall, handsome, funny, a little too vain for his own good.

But mostly he was just busy. Really, really busy.

“You know what you need, kid?”

Hakujin was already crowded, with all three numerous seats occupied by the five o’ clock trio. Riku, as always, sat in the middle. Sora and Kaito, also as always, flanked him on the left and right, specifically in that order. It was hard to tell which one of them had asked the question. They were triplets, and so they all sounded the same. Reed had also been too focused on overcooking their noodles, as they all liked their ramen mushy and soggy and, quite honestly, pretty damn disgusting. 

“A vacation?” Reed guessed, wrinkling his nose. “Are you going to surprise me with a ticket to Casper, is that it? Or a weekend spa trip to Chateau Bacre?”

One of them snorted. Probably Kaito. “Fat chance. Who’s going to get us our weekly ramen fix?”

Reed turned off the burners and dumped the noodles into three bowls. The way they sagged and nearly came apart reminded him of overcooked noodles. Nothing in life sagged and nearly came apart like overcooked noodles did.

“Guys, there’s literally ten more ramen shops like thirty feet from here,” he said. 

Sora wagged a finger. “I counted nine, actually.”

“What, seriously?” Reed handed the triplets their bowls. “I thought I was just exaggerating.”

Sora nodded. “There’s Daikaya, Mensho, Kokujin No Otoko-“

“That’s not important,” Riku cut in, leaning against the counter. “What’s important is that you-“ He pointed to Reed with his chopsticks. “-need a wife.”

An abrupt silence fell over the shop. Reed stared at Riku, who stared right back as he began to slurp his thick, wet noodles. 

“To have kids with, you mean," Reed prompted. "Who can work the farm. While I go on vacation.

Riku slurped some more. “I was thinking more about your happiness.”

Reed cocked his head. That was a funny thing to say. 

“That’s a funny thing to say,” he said.

Sora shrugged his square shoulders. The motion of it made an unpleasant crack that spoke wonders of his old age. “Listen, kid. It’s no secret that you’ve got no love for this place. At least, not anymore.” 

Reed frowned and opened his mouth to say something, but Kaito spoke up first. “He’s right, you know. We used to think you did all this work because you liked it. But then we realized you do it to keep yourself busy. Like someone who does gardening because they can’t afford a therapist.”

“Only your thing is farming on weekdays and cooking on weekends,” Riku continued. “It wouldn’t be so weird if you weren’t so muscled and young and obviously some ex-mercenary or something.”

"Or a white guy running a Welander restaurant."

"That too," Riku conceded.

Reed didn’t respond right away. He didn’t really know what to say. “And how does this relate to me needing a wife?”

“Love makes people happy,” Riku answered simply. “And you’re one very unhappy man.” 

Reed considered this with a nod. Even after the five o’ clock trio finished their meal and left, he still found himself thinking about what they said. 

Like someone who does gardening because they can't afford a therapist.

...

"Senile buggers," he muttered. 

@vielle

Edited by Wade

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Iyalon is not nervous. He is not.

Hovering at the doorway of the rather quaint little shop, his knees trembling minutely, he tries his best to pretend he is but another customer, another faceless form in the crowd, and not a knight seeking out the first of the Oathsworn, quietly eavesdropping on the conversation at hand.

Perhaps he succeeds. Perhaps he does not. He cannot deliberate the truth when a figure of legend is standing a few paces from him serving noodles, of all things.

He hears the men call the one behind the counter Reed Waterman, which is, of course, a peculiar puzzle piece to Iyalon; it does not quite fit his image of the man, despite the obvious reasons why he would call himself differently nowadays. The warrior might go by an obscure alias, his features worn and ragged and almost unrecognizable over years and years of hiding, but Iyalon still remembers that face, can only attach one particular title to this man.

A bit difficult not to recall his identity, being a disciple of the Oathsworn and their fame since  Iyalon's years as a gangly adolescent dreaming of martial prowess and acclaim on the battlefield.

As much as Shirin is fond of labeling him a fanatic—a term Iyalon abhores; he is not too far gone—or a devotee—slightly more acceptable, but embarrassing all the same—he thinks his admiration for the Oathsworn has been something every ambitious country boy had experienced at least once in their life. It is not out of the ordinary to revere a hero of old, and even more so to revere a hero who had fought in defense of Ursa Madeum during the reign of the Tyrant King.

The trio passes him on their way out the door, granting him faintly suspicious looks he thinks he does not deserve, before making their way into the sunlight. Iyalon shifts his weight from side to side, then shuffles his way forward into a seat.

“I, erm,” he stammers and immediately berates himself for doing so in front of a legendary swordsman. His sister would never let him live it down. “Noodles for one?” He ends up blurting out, and he figures he would deserve whatever teasing Shirin would bring upon his head with the way he is acting.

He is on a mission, an official directive from his Lady, but Iyalon is not one to pass up the opportunity to eat anything made in the hands of Walter Crowley, first of the Oathsworn, Master of Orenmir. After one meal, he tells himself, he will put forward the reason why he has sought out the man who had gone into hiding, and why he must be called upon once again.

The Oathblade Himei has been unearthed, and with it, the purpose to search for the others and their masters. He thinks that Crowley would like to take part in such an endeavor, for if he does not, then there would be none left to take his place. Iyalon wishes with all his heart that his words will be enough to sway him to take up the helm once more.

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Reed was surprised to have another customer so soon. Even more surprising was the fact that this customer was obviously a tourist. 

“Welcome,” he said, hiding his curiosity behind a smile; curiosity that, very quickly, turned to suspicion the longer he lingered on the man across the counter. He had the dignified bearing of a noble, and the straight-backed, broad-shouldered physique of a soldier. A stark contrast to the majority of Blackburn’s population, who were mainly fishermen by trade and not the most regal bunch by definition. Why some fancy pants was visiting their humble little coastal village, let alone his dinky roadside shop of all places, made Reed wonder whether there was something bigger at work here than blind luck and mere happenstance.

“You sure you don’t want to look at the menu first?” Reed frisbeed one onto the counter, letting it slide to a stop. A quick peak would reveal a humble list of three appetizers, five types of noodles, and, unexpectedly, seventeen different beverages. All of which were alcoholic. 

“I could start you off with a beer while you take a look,” Reed suggested, noting the man’s stammer. Kind of nervous for someone who was just getting ‘noodles for one’. “Or some sake, if that’s more your thing,” he continued. “I serve it hot, cold, lukewarm, whatever you want. S’long as you pay.”

He flashed the man an easy smile, and took a moment to roll up his sleeves when they sagged a little. The simple black shirt wasn’t the most stylish of outfits for a chef, missing any sort of logo, but it was comfortable and let him breathe, which was essential when he was constantly bathed in a mist of broth and vaporized chicken fat. It also looked good on him - or so Yuna had told him. It didn’t really do anything to show off his muscles, but who was he to doubt a pretty girl’s word? 

God, maybe I do need a wife.

Perishing the thought, Reed focused his attention back on his customer. He made sure to keep his tone pleasant and chummy, as if they were already friends. “So what’s another white guy doing in Blackburn?”

Edited by Wade

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He is decidedly not going to make a fool of himself, Iyalon mentally lectures the part of his mind that has elected to gape rather stupidly at Crowley—or Reed, rather; that is the name this man currently answers to, and he shall endeavor not to destroy the facade Crowley has surely built over years for this new identity.

“Well,” he hums as he studies the menu, lips curling at the long list of alcoholic drinks available. He is not exactly surprised, not really, not when he can still recall the first tournament Crowley had entered. The memory still brings a quick smile to his face, on downcast days. “Well,” Iyalon repeats, peering at the rest of the choices as he listens to the suggestions the man provides, “a sake would be nice. I’ve never tried one before.” He internally winces at the words hanging in the air, but it is too late to take them back.

Truth be told, he rather thinks he sticks out like a sore thumb, around these parts. Iyalon may have grown up in a backwater village as a child, but decades of learning the art of war, of encountering nobility, of serving his Lady and her family—he is not the same boy who had left his uncle’s fields behind to drag himself and his sister into a new life, a better life.

Still, Iyalon muses, his fingers twitching nervously, it could have been worse. Had he brought along his sword or even the Oathblade itself to present the weapon to Crowley, things would have probably turned out differently. He mentally assures himself of the weight of the knives hidden in the folds of his dark coat before continuing. “But I think I’ll just have noodles; the men who passed me by seemed to enjoy them. And, um, whichever appetizer you think is best.” He slides the menu back over to Crowley and leans back in his seat, watching with vague fascination as the first of the Oathsworn pulls up his sleeves, presumably to cook him—him!—something that would probably taste amazing.

Shirin will never let him live this down.

“So what’s another white guy doing in Blackburn?”

White guy—? Iyalon resists the urge to raise an eyebrow in confusion and clears his throat, wracking his brain for a possible excuse. “Well, um, I’m visiting my folks here. It’s been a long time since I’ve made it back home.” It is not a lie, strictly speaking; he had it in mind to visit his old hometown if only for the purposes of closure, but he had planned to bring his sister and he mostly certainly had not grown up in Blackburn. Knees bouncing erratically under the counter, Iyalon smiles, shrugs his shoulders in a what can you do gesture. “Anything new around here I should know about?”

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Reed didn’t know which was stranger. The idea that this man - this handsome, sophisticated, very white man - had grown up in some backwater Welander colony on Misral, or the fact that he’d done so having never tasted sake. 

Suffice to say, Reed’s suspicion grew. 

“Drink’s on me, then,” he quipped nonetheless, momentarily dipping below and out of sight. He came back up with a small glass bottle and an even smaller black cup, in which he poured the bottle’s contents before setting both items down on the counter. “Consider it a welcome home gift.” 

Reed’s smile lingered a moment longer, then flattened at the ends as he promptly got to work. Setting the burners alight, pulling out the ingredients, wiping his forehead - it gave him a chance to think about what he wanted to say. The truth was, he didn’t really know much about what happened in Blackburn. He typically kept to his farm during the week. Working it alone ate up more time than was probably healthy, and that, compounded by the fact that he ran a restaurant on weekends, didn’t afford him many opportunities to indulge in local affairs when he wasn’t selling in the market or serving customers at Hakujin.

“Well,” he began, stretching the word. “House Shimazu’s still in charge. We finally have a hospital now. Queso dip is apparently a thing. Just last week, a goat gorilla wandered into the red light district and got plastered like you wouldn’t believe.” Reed’s inane trivia filled the air for a better part of the minute, to the point that his mouth practically moved of its own accord. It was less of a testament to his memory than it was merely him blurting out the first thing that came to mind. “Grass is green. Sky is blue. I need a shower. So no, nothing new. Blackburn’s the same as it was ten years ago, though there’s likely less tetanus around than there was back then.” 

Reed took a moment to breathe. By the end of it, a plate of eight steaming dumplings stared his customer in the face.

“Careful, it’s delicious.”

While the man across the counter took to his chopsticks, Reed moved on to the main order. It didn’t take long for the earlier waft of chicken fat to be replaced by the full-bodied scent of pork-based broth.

“So, your turn. Where’d you go while you were gone?” Reed was looking down at the cutting board in front of him, dicing up a generous pile of green onions. “We don’t get much of a scoop over here, being so far from the mainland. Often all we get is a shipment of month-old newspapers.” For emphasis, he paused to wag an article he’d set aside about an hour ago. On its front was a black and white image of a dark-haired woman (whom Reed had become unreasonably smitten with) standing in front of a teahouse, poised below the words ‘BACK IN BUSINESS’. 

He shrugged in a manner that might’ve been perceived as hopeful. “Wouldn’t mind hearing the word from someone’s who’s actually been around for once.”

Edited by Wade

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Crowley pours him a small glass of sake, and Iyalon smiles gratefully at the offer for it to be a gift. It sends a small shiver of guilt down his spine at the fact that the man had intended it as an amiable homecoming gift when the knight is actually miles and miles away from his real hometown. When all is revealed, he will gratefully pay him for the beverage if need be, but for now, he enjoys the warm caress of the sake as it goes down his throat.

As soon as the man turns his back to start cooking, Iyalon squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, opens them immediately after.

“Well,” Crowley begins, and the knight ends up nodding at the stream of information that does not in any way make him feel anything other than faint curiosity, mostly due to having no ties to Blackburn at all. Despite himself, Iyalon inadvertently snorts at the mention of the goat gorilla, the liquid sloshing around his cup as he jerks his hand away from his mouth.

“Sounds exactly like the slow-moving country life,” he replies, his eyes widening when the plate of dumplings makes its way onto the counter before him. It takes him a moment to wrangle the chopsticks into something usable, but he eventually manages to dig in the food.

At the first bite into the steaming dough, Iyalon makes a noise that is not safe for public spaces, then promptly chokes in embarrassment. The display is not at all beneficial for the stoic facade he is known for. “Sorry, um, it’s great,” he mumbles, schooling his features into something resembling neutrality as he continues eating with restrained gusto.  

“So, your turn. Where’d you go while you were gone?”

Iyalon hums at the question posed, wondering how best to answer it, when Crowley waves the newspaper with an image of The Andelusian High Tea Society’s reopening smack dab on the front page. His faint smile grows at the sight of Dahlia Chamelis, who had once shoved a cup of Althaea Arkansa into his face in exasperation during a ill-fated drunken rant over—well.

That particular brew is known to cause a spark of romantic love. Go figure.

He regrets ever letting her know about elusive fantasies, but only just. She does seem to enjoy teasing him about it whenever he manages to pass by the teahouse.

“I travelled to Corinth and stayed there for a few years, but there isn’t much to say, I think,” Iyalon says, pausing to take a bite out of his dumpling. “I found my way to House Hildebrand, trained to be a knight to serve them.” He snaps his fingers, shifting the subject away to more current news. “Oh, there’s a new noble house the Taen rulers have established; the Singlaces, I believe they were called, with odd foreign machinery at their disposal. Other than that, politics is the same old game the powerful families play.” He spares a mental apology to his Lady before continuing. “There are new businesses, like that one,” he gestures to the newspaper, “and you should someday make the trip out to Andelusia to visit them, yeah? It’ll be worth your while.” He pauses, thinks of what to say next. Better now than later, Iyalon supposes, and he takes a deep breath before continuing.

“I also found a sword, once,” he says, praying it comes out nonchalantly, “which isn’t quite unusual, but I suppose this one is worth paying attention to. Fine craftsmanship, sleek and elegant and noiseless like you wouldn’t believe. Sometimes, I think it’s one of the—” He stops abruptly, stars twinkling in his eyes, and backpedals, “anyway, what am I saying, you probably don’t have much interest in weaponry,” Iyalon shoves an entire dumpling into his mouth to stop himself from babbling.

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The sound of a turning lock crept behind the knight. When he looked back at the door, there was nothing but his own shadow waiting there for him. 

From behind the counter, Reed continued to work, face impassive as he ladled heaps of broth into a bowl. If he had any response to the knight’s commentary, he forfeited it to silence. It felt appropriate, considering how delicate his situation had revealed itself to be. There were a great many things to consider, and not all of them kind. 

“Himei,” he finally said. The word almost tasted foreign on his lips. How long had it been since he’d seen it last? Two years? Three? The idea that it no longer belonged to Thel seemed strange and all too sad. “That’s the sword you found,” he continued, tone firm, shoulders tense. The stare with which he pinned the knight was doggedly glacial compared to his earlier, laid-back smile. “Am I right? Or are we still playing games? I’d hate to be the only one here getting ahead of myself.”

Reed’s gaze remained frozen over, even as he handed the knight his food. His own steady heartbeat came as a surprise to him in the face of memories he would’ve rather forgotten, left buried in the past, but this man had gone through the trouble of coming all the way out here just so he could dig them up.

Why?

Reed cursed inwardly. Whatever the reason, it couldn’t have been a good one. Especially not if it involved an Oathblade, or so this stranger had led him to believe. He’d personally seen to the evils they were capable of, the stories they’d conjured - and always, always, he’d stood at the centre of it all. 

If you really believed that, you wouldn’t have tried to kill Damien. 

Reed bit the inside of his lip, hard. The heat of it barely registered as he fetched another glass from the cupboard below. Taking the bottle of sake, he poured himself a drink, then knocked it back in a single, swift go. This time the cut did sting a little more, and it felt right in a way he couldn’t put into words.

“You said you serve the Hildebrands.” Reed remembered the noble house very well. Good food, pretty women, and surprisingly kind to a fault. “Did you give them the sword? Or did you keep it for yourself?” The implication of both questions was two-tone and fraught with accusation. Reed wanted to know if anyone had successfully completed the bond, or at least sought to do so, likely with his help. He’d been the First after all, uniter of the Oathsworn, the one to gather the original ten. Many people still believed he’d had a say in who had been chosen, and they couldn’t have been more wrong. 

“Either way, you’re going to tell me what it is you plan to do with Himei.” Reed pulled out a whine linen cloth. Working it back and forth across the counter seemed to relax him, but only a little. “History speaks for itself when I say it’s not some toy you should be playing with. If it were up to me, I’d see it buried at the bottom of the ocean along with the rest of the Oathblades.” 

The knight’s shadow flickered knowingly. Reed paid it no mind.

“Another thing I’d like to know: what do you want with me? I hope you understand there’s a point to me being here, even with…” He stopped polishing the counter for a moment, stuck between words. “…things having died down.” Satisfied, he went back to working the linen cloth against the grain of the wood. “I hate to disappoint but I’m not what I used to be. Walter Crowley died at the Break."

He looked the knight in the eyes then.

"As far as anyone's concerned, I intend to keep it that way.”

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Iyalon knows quite well the unearthly powers an Oathsworn possesses. He cannot help looking over his shoulder, however, and is not surprised to see nothing to link to the ominous sound of a lock turned shut, a bolt in the door to bar entry and exit. His chopsticks poke at the last dumpling on his plate, lead it to slide around in a small circle as he waits for the man to answer, a churning feeling making itself known in his gut. This is the mission he has come here for, and he is ready to face Crowley’s wrath or a boot kick out the door, whichever one comes for him.

Still, the anxious, icy fingers gripping his spine cannot be helped, not when Iyalon knows just what Crowley is capable of.

The man turns, echoes the name Himei in the way one dusts off cobwebs from a long-lost trinket, like standing in the doorway of a stranger’s home and being unsure of your welcome. Iyalon winces at the mention of playing games, because this is certainly not a game for him. He stares down at the bowl of noodles, steam rising to waft into his nostrils, and watches Crowley down a glass of sake with cold immediacy.

The icy fingers press themselves deeper into the marrow, grasp and keep and hold.

A string of queries follow, centered around the safety of the Oathblade and the knight’s plans for it. Iyalon opens his mouth, ready to interject—

“If it were up to me, I’d see it buried at the bottom of the ocean along with the rest of the Oathblades.” 

—and stops. Shuts his mouth, his eyebrows furrowing at the words. Surely he had misheard?

Crowley continues, however, and the faint hope blooming in Iyalon’s chest wilts, just a bit. He can understand why he would choose to withdraw, to seclude himself even now in times of peace: tenuous and fragile, but peace all the same.

Everyone knows of the Break.

“I cannot hide something so monumental from my Lady; I hope you understand,” Iyalon says, his lips thinning. He does not know if this will go over well with the man, but if anything, Crowley deserves his honesty now. “However, I can assure you that the sword is safe.” He spins a mouthful of noodles around his chopsticks, swirls them around in the broth. “As for why I am here—my Lady Hildebrand would see the Oathsworn rise once more.” He raises his gaze to catch on those hazel eyes. “You may not want back in to the responsibility, to the title, but if Himei has been uncovered, what of the rest? It is only a matter of time until they all resurface,” Iyalon takes a quick gulp of sake to soothe the sudden dryness in his throat, “and we, for one, would not see them fall into the wrong hands.” He sighs, peers at the man with a pleading look. “You were the First. I implore you to see the blade yourself, at the very least.”

Edited by vielle

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Reed had stopped polishing the counter entirely. He was staring into the shallow depths of his own cup, face pensive.

“It’s funny,” he began, stowing away the linen cloth. “Thinking you can stop the Oathblades from falling into the wrong hands." 

Something softened in the way he stood. He smiled with what could have been amusement or pity. Maybe both.

“See, I used to think I was the good guy. Not perfect, but good.” Reed poured himself another cup. He didn’t reach for it right away. “I mean, of all the people Orenmir could have chosen, it picked me. Me. Do you have any idea who I was before I became the First?” 

He let the question hang in the air, though quite not long enough for the knight to answer. “I used to steal shoes because I was too poor to afford any. I lived in the sewers come wintertime. I even got around to begging on street corners and believe me, I got really good at it.” His fingers rotated the cup this way and that, seemingly unsure of themselves. “And when I got old enough, strong enough, that I didn’t have to be scared of the constables and the gangs anymore, I became this shitty, callous gladiator with nothing to his name, save some paycheck he earned by putting the next guy in the ground.”

Another pregnant silence filled the shop. Reed kept eyeballing his drink.

“So you can imagine it was hard not to feel special when everyone told me I was going to be a hero. Got it in my head that I was chosen for a reason. That, despite my many failings, this all-powerful sword saw something in me.” 

The words left a bitter taste in his mouth. It was enough for him to try to finally wash it away.

“Apparently,” he said mid-sip. “That something doesn’t have anything to do with how good a person you are. Or protecting the kingdom, for that matter. It took me years running Damien’s petty massacres before I stopped telling myself I was doing the right thing.” His throat suddenly felt too tight, like there wasn’t enough air in the room. “But that didn’t mean I stopped. I kept going. People called me a monster - not a hero - and I kept going.

Reed tilted the cup skyward, then set it aside by the sink. 

“As for the other Oathsworn?” he continued, busying himself with the dishes now. “I thought them better than I was. Most of them, anyway. Even if they were killers, just like me.” 

The shrug he gave amounted to little more than a quiet slump of his shoulders. “Turns out, I’m a terrible judge of character. Of those I thought I could trust, only three sided with me at the Break.” Reed didn’t have to say who. The knight was in possession of Himei, after all. “That meant the rest were content with having a tyrant for a king. Or maybe they were just cowards, or never truly saw me as their leader. Either way, my friends betrayed me to save Damien.” 

He didn’t try to hide the hurt from his words. Nothing in the world would scab over that wound.

“And in exchange, I killed them,” he whispered. “I didn’t have to. But I did.”

Underneath the dishwater, his hands balled into fists. 

“After all that, why would I ever come back?” he asked, almost to himself. “The Oathsworn failed. I failed. Why would things be any different this time? What makes your lady think she can control the Oathblades?"

What makes you think hers are the right hands to do so?

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Perhaps he is not prepared for this, the wrong person for this mission, he wonders, as the churning in his gut violently makes itself known.

Iyalon can only sit there and keep his mouth shut, listen with an open mind and willing ears as the First of the Oathsworn unburdens himself, recounts the history of his youth, how the Oathblade had chosen him, the fame and glory that had arisen after, the blood on his hands by the Tyrant King’s command. He had known the fundamentals, the common knowledge that everyone had possessed when it comes to Walter Crowley’s life. He hadn’t known about this.

The glass of sake is suddenly cold against the skin of his palm. Iyalon grips it tightly, pale fingers stark against the smooth surface. He dares not drink in deference to the other man, though his throat is parched and Crowley himself even takes a swig from his own cup.

The conversation then turns towards the other Oathsworn, the first of the chosen ones, and Iyalon is acutely aware that Himei had once been Thel’s weapon. He does not know much about him, save for one prominent fact: Thel and Crowley had been the closest of friends, once.

“And in exchange, I killed them. I didn’t have to. But I did.”

The guilt, the echoes of pain that carves themselves deep into every syllable—it is not something that Iyalon will easily forget. His shoulders hunch forward in empathy; his spine curves downward as if to ward off a blow. Crowley continues, wonders out loud whether the current circumstances could be different, whether he should come back into the spotlight at all. The knight cannot blame him, not when past scars prove that staying in the shadows would be the best option for everyone involved.

"What makes your lady think she can control the Oathblades?"

He looks down at the counter, unable to meet Crowley’s gaze for a moment. “It is not about controlling, I think. It never will be.” It would be like catching the wind with bare hands, Iyalon muses, a task both incomprehensible and unattainable. “My Lady’s only wish is to see that, at the very least, Himei be placed in the hands of someone trusted to take it. Someone worthy of wielding it. The others may yet come into play, but this one is here, now, and it may yet start calling for its new master.” He raises his gaze to the other man’s own, smiles with a courage he does not quite feel. “The past need not repeat itself. Is this not your chance to right the wrongs that have been dealt to you by fate? Could you not help guide the new Oathsworn into a better destiny than those before them?” He sighs, finally takes a sip of long-lukewarm sake, relishes the soothing feeling it trails down his throat. “At least see Himei for yourself, I plead with you.”

Edited by vielle

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If looks could kill, Reed was pretty sure the knight would have left in a body bag. But since looks didn’t kill (it was also worth nothing he didn’t have any body bags on hand), his customer’s discomfort would have to do. 

“Y’know, some people are like clouds,” he said abruptly, taking a certain pleasure in watching the knight squirm. “When they disappear, it’s a beautiful day.”

The smile he wore didn’t quite reach his eyes. His words were about as warm as acid. 

“You’re that fucking cloud.” 

Reed went on to dry his hands. Between the casual ease of his motions and the edge in his tone, it was hard to tell if there was still any tension left in the room. 

But,” he sighed, dramatically, because that was the way to do it. “Since you’re obviously not going to disappear, this is what’s going to happen.” He leaned back against the counter, brought his hands together in the shape of a finger-gun, then pointed at the sake bottle with all the lazy condescension he could muster. “Drink’s on you, mister ‘I’m just visiting my folks here’. And because I don’t appreciate being taken advantage of - and you definitely were taking advantage of me, don’t look at me like that - you’re paying double.”

The gun made a slow arc towards the knight’s bowl. “Then when you’re done with that, you’re going to give me the best tip I’ve ever seen and will ever see.” Finally, the gun traced its way to the man himself, before rocking back in mock-fire with a silent ka-blooey. “And lastly, you’re going to stop giving me those puppy dog eyes. They might work on your lady, but I find you annoying enough that they look more punchable than endearing.” 

A short pause followed. Reed thought about pulling out another sake cup, but he just reached for the whole bottle instead. 

glug

glug 

glug

aaaaaaaaaah

“Can’t believe I’m doing this,” he hissed, soft and low so it looked like he was only moving his lips. The bottle flipped between his nimble fingers, caught so he held it by its neck, and he pointed it admonishingly like he had with the finger-gun, feeling a sort of unexpected, bittersweet relief. 

“I’ll come with you. After that, you leave me alone, alright?”

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33.jpg

 

With the sudden, murderous glare turned Iyalon’s way, it almost feels like he’s overstepped a boundary from which there can be no return, but it rather feels like he has no choice. His Lady had given him this mission, and Iyalon will be damned if he returns empty-handed from the long, arduous journey. There is still that shard of regret lodged in his throat at the thought that the skilled warrior he looks up to may never trust him again, but that had all been on his choice to lie, in hindsight.

“Drink’s on you, mister ‘I’m just visiting my folks here’. And because I don’t appreciate being taken advantage of - and you definitely were taking advantage of me, don’t look at me like that - you’re paying double.”

Iyalon says nothing—saying anything else might lead to a back-alley murder, which is something he would very much like to avoid—and quietly busies himself instead with digging through his coat to place a bag of coins on the bar counter.

“Then when you’re done with that, you’re going to give me the best tip I’ve ever seen and will ever see.”

He pauses for a moment with bated breath, and then wordlessly places another, larger bag of coins, straight out of his own funds. Shirin might just kill him if he ever gets back.

“And lastly, you’re going to stop giving me those puppy dog eyes. They might work on your lady, but I find you annoying enough that they look more punchable than endearing.”

Despite himself, Iyalon’s lips twitch with the urge to smile. He does not particularly know what sort of expression his face dons in these types of circumstances, but Esme calls it puppy-whipped, which is quite frankly embarrassing, and a threat to his stoic reputation.

Crowley reaches for the bottle of sake, and just as Iyalon starts to worry that he has driven the man to simply drink himself to the void in despair for his existence, the bottle comes down, dances over Crowley’s fingers as he points it in the knight’s direction.  

“I’ll come with you. After that, you leave me alone, alright?”

Iyalon does not voice out his opinion that the second Crowley lays his eyes on the Oathblade, he might be persuaded to join their cause. He opts instead to smile faintly, relief settling down on his shoulders like a warm blanket. “Yes, I—yes. I promise you I will, if you wish me to.” He bows low, begins to mentally plan out his return to Ravenel Manor with an Oathsworn in tow. “It will be worth your while, sir.”

 

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Summary: 

Iyalon Izora, Lord Protector of House Hildebrand, visits Blackburn to meet with Walter Crowley about the potential resurgence of the Oathsworn. Iyalon reveals House Hildebrand has come into possession of the Oathblade Himei, and convinces Crowley to come out of hiding and accompany him to Ravenel Manor. 

@vielle @Csl @Ataraxy

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