The Upholder/C5 Chapter 5
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The Upholder/C5 Chapter 5
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C5 Chapter 5

She waited for him to answer patiently, but all he did was sigh. His arms came up to rest on the table before he locked his gaze on her. Her smile faded as a lump formed in her throat. He was going to speak something important. This just piqued her interest. He was a fascinating individual, and because her new objective was to "befriend" him, she needed to learn everything she could about this strange sorcerer. In the end, if he didn't tell her, she'd just keep bugging him until he told her everything. She couldn't let this go, even if it was none of her concern. Curiosity was a strong and demanding motivator.

"If I tell you, you must pledge not to say anything," he said in a low, menacing tone. "I might get in trouble if news gets out."

"All right," she answered, her voice slightly trembling. She wouldn't tell, at least not on purpose. This was a guy who could execute someone in an instant if he so wanted, and despite his previous tone, she knew if she broke her word, he wouldn't hesitate to eliminate her. His eyes were as steely as their hue suggested. He was serious. She'd only have to be kind and listen.

"...I'm looking for Rexie."

Xyra almost fell out of her chair from the intensity of the shock. Had she heard correctly? Is that what he said? Rexie was another name that almost everyone on the world recognized. Few people would have the confidence to say it so frankly, yet he had done it as if he were ordering a drink.

“You're looking for him?! " She exclaimed, drawing a few suspicious looks from the men around them. If they hadn't been watching suspiciously before, they definitely were now. She began reprimanding herself the second she yelled. Usually, she was more restrained than that, but his response had not been the kind she had anticipated. Thankfully, most of the men in the bar were from outside of the town. Drawing that much attention to herself could have easily brought her in trouble in other cases.

Magnus groaned and wiped his brow, attempting to stave off an imminent headache. He watched as Xyra sunk into her chair, a light flush on her face after such a scene. Fortunately, the most of the bounty hunters resumed their conversation, leaving the two of them alone for the time being. He hoped they would simply leave him alone. Fortunately, apprehending someone on false accusations was unlawful, so as long as he behaved, he would be secure. Only those who had a reward placed on their head might be sentenced to life in prison.

"There's nothing to be excited about," Magnus reassured her, attempting to lighten the mood despite his doubts. That statement was obviously false. "He's just another demon."

"He's not simply a demon," she replied, straightening up again. "You know the rumors: he can use magic and also seems human; how are you beginning to uncover him?"

"I have my own way."

When a waitress walked over with their beverages, Xyra was going to ask another query. She placed them on the table, smiling at Magnus and then glaring at Xyra, forcing the younger woman to recline in her chair. She had a fair idea as to why she was being stared at. She visited the pub enough to become familiar with the customers.

This specific girl enjoyed serving beverages to who were attractive and alone. There was no denying that the sorcerer in her company was attractive. He was definitely the best-looking man in the pub, whether he acknowledged it or not, and the fact that he was now with someone had to be killing her. In some aspects, Xyra found herself happy with this. Even though they hardly knew each other, she found joy in being seen with a man as attractive as him. It kept this flirting wench from receiving what she desired, and for some reason, the thief took delight in this.

Because there was nothing the waitress could do about the situation, she had no option but to leave them alone. She stomped off with one more glance to go and offer beverages to someone worth her attention.

Magnus, who was oblivious of the little interaction between the two women, was relieved to find that Xyra had made a very good decision with her order. This was a drink he could easily consume, with a substantial flavor and a low alcohol content. He seldom had the opportunity to enjoy something so simple. He was instantly pleased that he had accepted the thief's offer, and she wasn't even that horrible company. However, he could do without the inquiries.

"So, do you go out looking for money?" Xyra asked after a moment, finally regaining her poise.

"Sometimes," he said as he sipped his drink. "I'll take the job if the reward is great enough."

"Then why not be a legitimate bounty hunter? If you want money, go after Albus; he's more valuable than any demon."

"I'm afraid I won't be capable of doing it."

He raised his glass and drank almost half of it. He wasn't thirsty, but he didn't want to answer any more questions. He can depart as soon as he finished his drink.

"Why?" she inquired.

"Because I refuse to go looking for an innocent man."

"Innocent?" she shouted, attracting a few more eyes to herself before quieting her voice a little. "How can you claim he's innocent when you've seen his bounty?"

"I am aware of it."

He lifted his glass casually once again, not seeming to be affected by Xyra's yelling at him. He was disinterested in this specific subject. He knew that no matter what he said to her about Albus, she wouldn't change her mind, therefore any attempt to adequately explain his reasoning would be futile. Everyone was aware of the man's image. Albus was a devil, or at least that's what everyone thought he was. In all honesty, there was probably not a single person alive who was aware of his exact charges. He was a wanted man with a large sum of money. That was all that was required of everyone.

"How can you claim he's innocent then?" Xyra wondered, not understanding the notion. Magnus gave her a glance that quickly hushed her.

"Tell me what crime he did," he questioned. "What did he do to deserve such a reward?"

Other than silence, he received no response.

"That's what I assumed; it's senseless to chase a guy when no one knows what he's done; nevertheless, if someone can explain me why he deserves to be executed, I'll hunt him."

As Magnus finished his drink, Xyra remained silent. She didn't have anything further to say in this conversation. She couldn't defend her viewpoint after such an assault. True, she had no idea what Albus had done to attract so much attention. One day, there was a bounty on his head, placed by the same individuals that posted all rewards for corrupt human beings, and with it came a slew of rumors, so no one questioned it. The money enticed all of the devouring bounty hunters who were running out of criminals to arrest.

There was just one concern in tracking down the infamous Albus, and it was a significant one: no one knew what he looked like. The majority of the sightings turned out to be false stories, and those who initiated them were never identified, but people nevertheless went to the areas in case it was genuine. The only information available about Albus was that he was a guy in his thirties or twenties and that he was an incredibly strong sorcerer. Nobody else had gathered anything more than that.

"Thank you for the drink," Magnus remarked, jolting Xyra out of her trance. She hadn't even realized he'd gotten up. "I'd like to stay and speak longer, but I have to get going; I have to get to Dagen by nightfall." He gave her a slight bow and proceeded to leave the pub without saying anything.

Xyra stood there, contemplating Magnus' every action. She needed to make a choice quickly or he'd be gone before she could do anything. She rapidly considered her options. The first option was to stay in town and risk getting battered by street thugs again, not to mention trying to find a job. Her second-best option was to spend some time with Magnus. He has a royal quality about him, and he definitely has a lot of money. Maybe if I could get along with him...

She grinned as the notion of additional money crossed her thoughts. She wanted a quick means to get money, and what better way than to make friends with an obviously wealthy sorcerer? He could even be able to protect her from danger. He certainly knew a thing or two about magic. The choice had been made. She swiftly sprang up and began chasing her fleeing prey.

Xyra dashed into the door as Magnus passed through it. He couldn't even take three more steps before she yelled.

"Wait!" she screamed. He shifted his gaze back to her. She immediately felt apprehensive about asking him to accompany her. Despite this, she persisted. "If it isn't too much bother, I'd like to accompany you."

Magnus thought to himself as he stood there for a time, "Well, this is new." She seemed a bit worried, as if she was hoping he wouldn't turn down her request. He had to agree that he wasn't used to traveling with someone, so the concept was both exciting and troublesome. He had always been by himself. This would undoubtedly need some serious thinking.

"Why?" he questioned. She had to have a reason, preferably one that was pretty reasonable. This was not a choice she would make lightly. What did she hope to achieve by accompanying him? She was already in possession of his money. There has to be something else.

"Well..." she began, trying her brain for a reasonable answer. She couldn't come up with a compelling lie. It was probably better just to be honest with him. She would, however, leave out the bit about collecting more of his money. If she offered him that reason, he'd turn her down right then. "I've lived here for a long time, and I haven't been able to leave because of all the demons between here and the other towns; I want to leave, but I need someone to accompany me, ideally a sorcerer, and you happen to be one."

"...I'm not sure..."

"Please?" she begged, reaching into her pocket and pulling out the tiny bag of money she had freed from him. "I'm ready to pay you."

"But it's my money..."

"Please? I don't want to stay in this town any longer; I won't be coming in your way; take me with you."

Magnus exhaled and ran his fingers through his hair. This was a difficult decision to make. He was not used to having a companion. He seldom, if ever, traveled with someone. He had to acknowledge, though, that he could make use of the conversation. Traveling alone may be quite lonely. Perhaps I should simply give up. It may be interesting. She's not bad company—in fact, she's better than most of the ladies I've met. At the notion, he shivered slightly. He'd wind up chatting to a woman who was more interested in acquiring a room at an inn than in really having a conversation. This girl didn't appear to be as shallow. Aside from that, he enjoyed the concept of having someone to chat to. There were only so many things he could say to himself.

"I think it's okay," he said, smiling at how she reacted. She would have undoubtedly leaped for excitement if there weren't so many people watching right now. Magnus was fully aware of every pair of eyes on the two of them, as well as the stares he was receiving. Is the entire town filled with bounty hunters? I should presumably depart before drawing any more attention to myself.

"Thank you," Xyra said enthusiastically. "I swear I'm not going to slow you down."

"Wait a minute, there's something you need to do first."

"...What?" she inquired, taking a step back. What could he possibly want from her? Her gut churned at the notion of what some hunters might ask for in her circumstance. She was hoping he wasn't one of them.

Magnus smiled as he extended his hand to her.

"Please take my money; I don't intend to function as your paid escort or anything, but since we'll be going together, I'll handle it."

Xyra frowned slightly as she looked down at his outstretched hand. She didn't want to return the money, but the possibility of earning more than that persuaded her to do so. Besides, this was little compared to what he might have asked for. She gave it up reluctantly and watched as he slipped it into one of his cloak pockets. He must have trusted her not to steal it again because he made no effort to protect her from seeing. She had no intention of getting it. She needed to behave now that they were traveling together. He was her only ticket out of here.

Magnus turned aside and resumed walking without saying anything else. Xyra was right behind her.

"By the way," he started, returning his gaze to her. "I never did find out what your name was."

"It's Xyra. What about yours?"

"Please address me as Magnus."

"So...what are you going to do in Dagen?" she inquired.

Magnus' face was tinged with a wicked sneer.

"...I need to talk to a man about certain monsters."

"You're going to hunt demons?"

"Of course, the more I slaughter, the more money I earn," he answered. And the more I kill...the closer I am to locating Rexie.

As they approached the city borders, Xyra said nothing further to him. Magnus' stance and attitude indicated that he was pondering about something. Despite his easygoing and naive appearance, he was allegedly rather serious about hunting. That, though, was very normal. Demons were natural tricksters, exploiting the darkness to lurk and attack when no one anticipated it. Facing a herd without focus was like committing suicide. Hopefully he was as good as he seemed, otherwise they'd be in big danger. After all, only a talented sorcerer could exorcise a demon.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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