Saturday, January 16, 2021

Page 2947

And indeed, the stranger did not answer him. Instead, he merely returned a smile.

A very striking smile. It had a warmness to it that was difficult to describe. Cisco had never seen the like before. What an odd feeling.

The stranger looked between Cisco and Koh for a moment. "What is your name, cedo?" he asked.

Cisco didn't quite feel like answering that. "What's yours?"

"Heh. You remind me of someone, cedo."

He wasn't sure what to make of that, so he said nothing.

The stranger turned toward Dunstan and stepped closer. "In any case, I came to meet with Damian. If he does not wish to reveal himself, then that is a problem." He raised a hand toward the other young man. "Would you mind assisting me?"

Dunstan's thick, furrowed brow suggested that he would mind. But he, too, chose to say nothing.

"I won't hurt you," said the stranger. "I ask for but a trifle. A moment of your time, only." His hand moved closer.

Cisco was intensely uncomfortable all of a sudden. Like the whole world was abruptly turning upside down or inside out, like everything was no longer as it should be, like he should speak up. Intervene. Anything.

Yet his whole body hardly seemed to be listening to him. And thoughts arose in his mind as if from nowhere, both for and against that nebulous feeling.

Something was wrong. Everything was fine. Do something. Relax. This horned guy was creepy as hell. He seemed kinda nice, actually.

Dunstan was just sitting there, too. And the reapers weren't saying anything, either. Surely, if this situation was so odd or disturbing, then one of them would do something, no?

It would all be over soon.

There was nothing to worry about.

The stranger's hand stopped, mere inches away from Dunstan's face.

Damian Rofal was standing there, gripping the stranger's wrist.

"Ah. There you are, old friend."

Friday, January 15, 2021

Page 2946

It wasn't entirely clear who the stranger was talking to, but Cisco could only suspect Damian. Was this guy implying the old man was already present but invisible or something?

Hmm. That... might explain a few things, actually.

Regardless, no answer arrived, leaving only uncomfortable silence behind.

"Koh can smell you, you know," said the stranger. "He never forgets a scent."

Ah, was that the name of the wolf? How interes--

Wait a minute. Koh?

Cisco had heard that before. Of course he had. "Did you just say Koh?" he asked, eyeing the beast anew.

The stranger regarded him for a moment, looking rather uninterested in him or his question, but then the man paused and tilted his head at him. "Why, yes, cedo, I did. Do you perhaps recognize his name? Or has he simply piqued your curiosity?"

At the insistence of his mother, Cisco had memorized the names of the most famous Vanguardians and Abolishers in the world. Oftentimes, that had made for tedious study, but the name Koh was one that had been easier to remember. Because it supposedly belonged to a giant, wolf-like monster.

At first, he'd thought that was super cool. He loved dogs, so he'd been keen to learn more. But when he'd discovered that Koh was also known as the Man-Eater of Melmoore and the Silver Devil of Dante, Cisco's enthusiasm had quickly been replaced with dismay--especially as he continued to learn more about him.

This wolf was, among many other things, a prominent member of Abolish.

Which meant that this one-horned guy was almost certainly the same.

Hmph. Fine. He wasn't about to let something like a name make him lose composure.

"...What does Abolish want with Damian?" said Cisco. He didn't expect this weirdo to actually answer that question, but the real purpose of it was to let everyone else at the table know who they were talking to. Maybe the reapers already knew, but judging from the expression on Dunstan's face, he didn't.

Page 2945

Cisco's fascination with the animal consumed his attention even while the conversation among the others continued. It wasn't his fault, though. Honestly, he'd always wanted a dog, and this specimen right here was one of the most incredible creatures he'd ever laid eyes upon. A part of him wanted to ask the horned guy if he could have him--along with any number of other questions.

'So who are you two, anyway?' Reza was saying. 'And what brings you here?'

"Oh, we are just a couple of travelers," said the horned man. "We are searching for someone. A man named Damian. Would you happen to know where he is?"

'Y'know, I had a feeling you might be looking for him,' said Reza. 'Are you old friends of his?'

"Yes. You could say that."

'I see, I see. Well, he has a tendency to just disappear. We're not sure when he'll be back. He kinda just shows up whenever he wants.'

The stranger's gaze lingered on Rezamaar for a moment, then shifted to the wolf. The pair seemed to share a silent exchange, and then the stranger said, "That is interesting. So you have no idea where he is right now, then?"

'Nope,' said Reza, still perfectly casual. 'He seriously just disappears. It's kinda spooky, actually. But hey, if you'd like to leave a message for him, I'd be happy to deliver it for you whenever he shows back up.'

"That is kind of you, but what I have to say is something that must be said in person."

'Mm, I see. Sounds important. Hope it's nothing too serious. Y'know, with all the craziness going on in the world, right now, I find myself becoming something of a worrywart. Which goes against my better nature, by the way.'

"Oh, I'm sure that's not true."

Reza paused. 'Which part?'

The stranger gave her a look but didn't answer. Instead, he said something entirely different and unexpected, no longer addressing the reaper, seemingly. "Please, show yourself. We did not come here for a fight, but if you keep hiding for much longer, I'm going to start thinking that you intend to ambush us."

Cisco was paying full attention now, as was Dunstan, who'd finally raised his head off the table.