Arcana X: 3rd Assignment – Cruelty and the Beast Ch.3-2

For the preceding chapters, click here for Arcana X: 3rd Assignment CH.1CH.2 Pt.1CH.2-3, CH.3-1!!

Ecks soon exits onto another street. Scanning the area, he spots a pub on the corner to his upper right. He knows from his past experiences that pubs are the best place to gather information. Ale and liquor are the keys to unlocking secrets. Ecks makes his way over to the pub, discreetly tucking his Red Star Crest badge away. The last thing he wants is someone to know that he is an Arcana Knight. Should that happen, ale and liquor won’t be enough. After entering the pub, he stays by the door for a moment. Just as he expected, the pub is mostly packed with male clientele, all of whom have a professional trade in blacksmithing and iron work. The females that are present are either drinking with the men or serving them. He could approach any of these people to gather more information, but Ecks is looking for one type of person. Slowly scanning the pub, he finds the person he is looking for. A man sat in the back corner of the pub under a poorly lit lamp. He looked disheveled and broken, with scraggly hair and the weight of the world resting on his shoulders. His long face is heavy with sorrow. The scraggly-haired man throws a shot of whiskey down his throat. Ecks approaches him. Whether the man is in the corner of his own will or driven there by the will of another, Ecks is certain of one thing. This man has seen something.

Something disturbing.

The scraggly-haired man does not look up at Ecks when he steps up to his table. Ecks observes him. He looks, even more, haggard close up. The scraggly-haired man stoically fills his shot glass and drains it quickly. The man is clearly down on his luck. He may be in a state of irrationality. Ecks will have to choose his words carefully. If he says the wrong thing, he could be sent on his way. If he says the right thing, he could be sent on his way. With a deep inhale and slow exhale, Ecks speaks to the man. “So, this seat is taken?” he says. The scraggly-haired man responds with another shot of whiskey. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,” he says before sitting down. Ecks takes a moment to look the man over. Now that he is closer, he can see that this man is truly downtrodden. He could be drinking to drown his sorrows. He could be drinking to wash away his guilt. He could be drinking because he knows what is happening, yet no one believes him. It could be any one of those reasons, all of those reasons, or none of those reasons. Again, Ecks considers his options. He figures light conversation would be the best course. “So, I was just passing through t—” He is cut off by the scraggly-haired man when he slams his glass on the table.

“You don’t belong here,” the scraggly-haired man says with a rough voice.

Ecks is wrong. He will be sent on his way regardless. He attempts to speak to the man again, but he is quickly cut off before the words leave his lips.

“I said you don’t belong here,” the scraggly haired reiterated. “Don’t think for a second I don’t know who you are, Arcana X.”

Ecks stares the man down. People who figure out his identity are either bounty hunters or ruffians who want to pick a fight. Tulpaar is not known for housing ruffians who would be quickly driven out. Bounty hunters, on the other hand, are known for hiding amongst the townsfolk until they encounter their target. Pubs and inns are perfect locales.

“Easy. I’m not someone who’s after your head,” the scraggly-haired man says, sensing the tension coming from Ecks. “You don’t exactly blend in.”

“So, you know who I am,” Ecks said.

“The Arcane knight with twin shotguns crossed upon his back to signify his name,” the scraggly-haired man says, quoting what other people have said about Ecks. Then, he drinks another shot of whiskey. “Don’t worry. I’m not gonna rat you out.”

“Appreciate it,” replies Ecks.

“So, what are you doing here in Tulpaar?” With a toss of the glass in his mouth, the scraggly-haired man adds, “And don’t sugar coat it.”

“Alright then. Getting to the point, what do you know about the missing merchant girls?” Ecks asks.

“You heard about that,” says the scraggly-haired man. He refills his glass and empties it quickly.

“Yeah, I was hoping to get a little more info on what exactly is going on in Tulpaar. Hopefully, you can help with that.”

“Un-huh. What makes you think I know any more than anyone else?”

“Well, you’re sitting in a dark corner with a bottle of whiskey and no one to drink with, yet there’s a room full of people less than twenty feet away. And I have yet to run into anybody who actually wants to be alone,” Ecks replies.

The scraggly-haired man lifts his eyes to Ecks. Then he takes a drink. “Think you got me figured out, eh?” he says.

“Almost, if you can answer one more question,” said Ecks.

“And that would be?”

“What happened to your loved one?” Ecks insinuated. The scraggly-haired man paused with the shot glass touching his lips. He is taken aback by the question. So far, the scraggly-haired man has not sent Ecks on his way. Likely because he has said the right thing up to this point. Now, this is the part where Ecks would likely be sent on his way. Most people do not like to be reminded of their sorrow or have someone pry into their business. Ecks has encountered both types of people several times. Sometimes his discreet interrogation ended with a fight. Other times, he was able to get information without incident. It would be more beneficial if the latter happened.

The scraggly-haired man lowers his glass. He gazes at it longingly, gently rolling it back and forth between his fingers. With a heavy sigh, he takes his drink, slowly. “You want to know my story, eh?” he says, rolling the glass in his fingers again.

“If you don’t mind,” Ecks replied. “But if we’re going to do this, only one of us has been properly introduced.”

The scraggly-haired man nods, knowing what the young knight meant. “Myers. Jacoby Myers.”

“Well Jacoby, care to talk about what happened?”

Jacoby drinks more whiskey. “What I got to tell you ain’t for the faint of heart.”

“If it gets me closer to the truth,” Ecks says to him.

Jacoby scoffs lightly. “The truth? I don’t think you can handle it.”

“I’ve heard worse. Give it a shot,” Ecks responded with his usual flare. He then reaches out a hand and takes a shot glass from the tray of a waitress as she passes by them. The young knight slides to glass toward Jacoby who fills it with a slight grin.

Jacoby refills his glass but does not drink right away. The longing gaze returns to his face as he reflects on the terrible events of his tale. “I’ll spare repeating what you know so far,” he starts. “You wanted to know the truth. This is it.”