Jasmine Sonyea lay upon her sofa, reading a novel. It was a decent novel, although the mythology was growing somewhat tiresome. Intermittently, Sonyea nibbled her fingers. She had many nervous habits which, when she grew conscious of them, she reprimanded herself for. Biting her nails was one such habit. Sometimes, a few strands of her black hair would fall over her lips, spilling into her mouth. When it did, then she nibbled it, as well.
From time to time, she also caught herself stroking the back of her neck in thought, or, if her arms were positioned in a certain way, she sometimes gently blew air over her forearm. She was a little embarrassed about all of her strange personal habits, but her mind and body were only fully connected when she set her focus upon something. Otherwise, she seldom even realized that she was behaving in a compulsive manner. Yet, when she did put her mind to something, then it consumed her thoughts, which, she supposed, probably only caused her to produce even more unconscious idiosyncrasies.
It was the seventh day of Puishishatatai, or the twenty-seventh month of the year. Well, it was no longer actually day. It was night, yet that did not truly matter, not in the Black Winter, when the Wilds were covered with darkness. Day or night, Rusili Bya did not show its face.
Jasmine Sonyea kept track of dates, whereas most of her peers did not. She did this partly due to being a little concerned with keeping records, but mostly because she liked to observe how long it took to get paid. When five days had passed since she had killed someone for pay, if the pay had still not arrived, then she grew nervous. After seven days, she grew angry.
Three days had passed since Xofish had fallen, though Jasmine was not terribly worried. Robert Deliniaeia was by no means a nice man, nor was he someone that Jasmine would have wanted to associate with on a personal level, but if nothing else, he had a certain kind of honesty in his business dealings. She did not know very much about how the Bank operated, though she had heard whispers that Robert was a cheat.
Be that as it may, the man always paid Jasmine well, and in an expedient manner. She really did not care about any of his other dealings. In fact, when the subject of Robert's supposed deceits arose, Jasmine kept her lips tightly closed. A stray word in the Wilds could easily be death.
If she even made a jest about a powerful man such as Robert Deliniaeia, there were some who may conceivably have taken the jest as truth, and those people may have passed on her words in a hushed whisper, thereby making her a corpse at worst or a suspect at best. She did not wish to be either.
Her eyes lifted, and her vision moved across the floor, scanning the shadows beneath the door. Pay was usually delivered there, with its only indication being a sudden sound, as of something swiftly sliding over the wooden flooring. Robert had many servants to do his bidding, and rarely had Sonyea ever personally conversed with the man.
He was a sometimes employer, never a friend. His pay came in the form of notes, which Sonyea could deposit for coins whenever she wished. There was no chance of fraud, given that Robert Deliniaeia owned the Bank. That was another quality which made the man a secure employer; his notes were made by he himself, so none of his servants could think to steal Sonyea's pay for themselves. Jasmine liked this, as she found lackeys to be less than trustworthy, for the most part.
She reached over, lifted a pencil from the coffee table, and listed a name upon her notebook. Reading a complex novel with so much elegant mythology was giving her much knowledge, yet she was having difficulty remembering all of the names, so she made a record of them.
Her notebook was a listing of many different names and facts that dealt with many diverse subjects. She kept records of everything, even things which she scarcely cared about. Her writing and her notebook was the most tangible representation of her mind. She wrote all over the pages, as well as up and down their sides.
Her handwriting was wretched, so she never feared that anyone else might invade her personal territory. She kept it to herself, a storage center of privacy.
There came a sudden sound at the door, and Jasmine Sonyea began to smile. Yet, her smile faltered before it had fully formed.
What she had heard was not paper sliding beneath a door. Rather, it was footfalls.
In one practiced movement, she dropped everything from her fingers and flipped a knife into her hand, kicking it upwards from its prior resting place at her ankle. The door to her apartment was almost directly across from the sofa, though there was a slight angle to the path that separated them. She calculated the angle, but not in terms of mathematical knowledge.
Jasmine Sonyea knew nothing about math. However, she understood instincts, and so she calculated the angle in a visual manner, realizing what amount of force and precision it would take to strike a target in the doorway. Her breathing stilled. She was considering calling out, but sometimes, that was not a wise idea. If she alerted the person to her presence, and if he or she was a talented individual, then she might be endangering herself.
Though, it might not be an individual. It could always be a group of people, with one person leading. Sonyea stiffened her posture.
"Are you in there?" a voice called. The voice was curious, and not at all antagonistic. More importantly, it was a voice that Jasmine instantly recognized.
"I'm here," she answered, not raising her voice too greatly in reply. Slowly, she twisted her knife, and lowered it, returning the item to its proper location.
Most assassins that Sonyea knew of wore knives attached to their boots, and usually also a knife or two at small, sliding metal devices that one attached to the wrists. At most times, Sonyea wore four knives and two daggers on her person, but sometimes, she only wore two knives, and sometimes she wore knives at her hips instead of daggers. Occasionally, she also wore a sword, but she had never been overly talented with swordplay. The sword was only for usage if all else failed, as it had with Xofish.
Jasmine Sonyea arose off of her sofa and strode to the door, walking with an easy sway to her hips which belied her true lack of confidence. She had a very flexible and fluid body. She had been told before that her motions reminded people of the way that dancers moved. She supposed that this was a big assist in her profession, but she supposed that her paranoia was a far bigger assist.
She turned the knob, and the door opened with a slight creak of protest. Beyond it, there stood Ky-Que-Ytal, a lazy smile spread across his face. The man was dressed in a black sweater, black pants, and a black duster for the winter. "I considered knocking, but I was uncertain as to whether or not assassins knock."
Jasmine smiled. "Sometimes, they do, though they rather tend to favour breaking in through my windows. Ah, the money that I've spent on repairing my apartment!" She leaned forward, embracing Ky. It was not in her nature to trust someone enough to touch them in such a close manner, especially not when they were clothed, and therefore possibly laden with weapons, but Ky-Que-Ytal was her best friend. She trusted him as much as she could trust anyone, though, sadly, her trust did have its limits. All the same, Ky-Que-Ytal was more dear to her than anyone else that she knew.
Ky-Que-Ytal broke the embrace, and Jasmine stepped aside, inviting him into her apartment. "I thought you might have been out," he remarked as he casually glanced around her mostly bare apartment. He turned one side of his face to Jasmine, flashing a half-smile in her direction. "I suppose I should have known better, though. Reading, I take it? Or, were you writing?"
"Reading. I've nothing to write." She closed the door and hastily locked it. In the Wild Lands, locks did little, yet Sonyea was nonetheless offered some meager comfort by the clicking of the tiny device. "Are you just paying me visit, or does something in particular bring you here?"
"Both." Ky-Que-Ytal sat down upon the sofa and removed his duster. Before he did so, he lifted his eyes, silently asking Jasmine for permission.
She nodded only slightly, then walked over to sit beside him. She extended her legs, lifting one over the other and placing her hands upon her knee.
Jasmine looked at Ky, and smiled shyly. She hated the way that her tongue tied when she attempted to speak to others, especially when the others were people whom she saw as friends.
Sonyea had always found it strange that some people had such glamorous opinions of assassins, thinking them to always be so comfortable with their surroundings. If Sonyea had fit into society and not been so awkward around others, then she might have had a different occupation. As it was, her esteem issues made her dreadfully shy and nervous, sometimes even more so around people whose opinion she greatly valued.
"I heard about your most recent assassination," Ky said, apparently trying to make casual conversation.
Jasmine shuffled, looking down as she laughed a little uncomfortably. "Oh? What did you hear? That I botched everything?"
"I heard that there was quite a struggle. As to your botching the assassination, do not worry. The man was killed, was he not?"
"He was, though with some difficulty."
"Ah, but the job got done, and besides, Skylt needs to have some challenges in his life. He's the sort of man who loves that, because he'll relish the opportunity to boast of his accomplishments to his friends, especially if those accomplishments were not so easily won."
Jasmine looked up. "You've a way of making situations sound so much more flattering than they truly were, Ky."
He laughed, quickly running his fingers through his hair in a gesture not so unlike one of Sonyea's own. Ky was not exactly a showman, but he tended to gesture often. His body and face were alive with many frequent movements, causing everything he said to seem very important.
Ky-Que-Ytal had a welcoming demeanor, and he was attractive, with a complexion that reminded Sonyea of peaches, as well as vibrant pine green eyes. He had hair that was orange at its lighter tints and bronzed red at its darkest shades. In the summer, his skin tanned, becoming ruddy. Overall, the man had remarkably nice skin for a Wild Lander. It was very smooth and had a healthy look to it, one which Ky attributed to his drinking water regularly instead of wine or beer.
"I'm not making the situation better than it was, Jasmine. You were hired to kill a man. You did so. You completed your job. That's the core of the matter."
"So you believe that everything else which transpired was extraneous, then?" Jasmine met his eyes, all the while maintaining her timid smile.
"I don't think that details matter, not really. I'm certain that you'll dwell upon them all the same, though." He regarded her warmly. "You're a perfectionist."
"In my opinion, it's a matter of either being a perfectionist, or being dead."
Ky-Que-Ytal shrugged elegantly. "True enough, I suppose. It makes you talented at what you do, I'm certain, but I hate to see you become so hard on yourself."
"Ky, I think that this is the least of my worries, in my profession. However, I appreciate your compassion. Speaking of professions, how are you doing these days?" She slightly inclined her head, and her smile faded to form an expression of contemplation.
"As well as can be expected. I can't complain." Ky raised his hands, slowly removing his black gloves. "The outfit that I'm wearing is new. I just purchased it. A whiil shipment was recently received by some customers up in the north. Priyt is profiting. I'm profiting. Life is good."
"You were with the shipment, I take it?"
"I went along as damage control, yes. Priyt likes to have me around in case any unforeseen problems arise." His tone held no arrogance within it, though Ky's accomplishments and experience were fairly well-known among the denizens of Perol.
Jasmine had always admired Ky-Que-Ytal's humility and practicality, to that end. She had met him some years earlier, when Boss Priyt had hired her to help oversee one of his drug shipments. As with Ky, she had been damage control.
Normally, she did not befriend too many of those who accompanied her on her various missions. She made acquaintances out of some of them, such as Skylt Blio, but that was usually as far as it went. Some gang members, it was true, were professionals like herself. They did they work, and then they went home and lived their lives in whatever manner they wished. Many more there were, however, who defined their lives by their professions.
From what Sonyea knew of Urih-teliean, she had discerned that many in those lands deemed all Wildsborn to be crude, wretched, and otherwise base. Because the Wilds were so poor, and because they were mostly run by gangs and superstition, this stereotype often proved to be true.
There were many such as Skylt, people who associated with gangs, had malicious dispositions, and were generally prone to being foul and callous. Jasmine did not blame people for being this way, as it was a rather typical side effect of gang life. However, for her own purposes, she did not wish to intimately associate with such people. Her job was her means of earning money, but nothing else. She did not define her personality, nor the essence of her being, as an assassin.
Ky-Que-Ytal had much the same attitude toward being a high-ranking gang member. To satisfy Boss Priyt's expectations, he helped coordinate trades, and, when necessary, he fought, and killed. However, he saw this as his job, but not his personal life. In his personal life, he was a kindly enough man with a charming demeanor. He was intelligent, witty, and amiable.
From time to time, Jasmine had speculated on the prospect of having a relationship with Ky, but nice though he was, she had to admit to herself that she was put off by his profession in the sense that she wanted to date someone whose career was not so similar to her own.
It was not that she judged anyone negatively for their occupation, but simply that she wanted a spouse who was a little more settled, just as she wished to be a little more settled before opting to seriously date anyone. Secondly, Ky-Que-Ytal never spoke of his private life in so far as relationships went. Jasmine understood, and she doubted that he was asexual, but he probably simply did not have time for relationships, something that she knew all too well.
Certain rumours claimed that Ky was gay, though Jasmine had never heard him say either way, and she had never seen him with anyone in what seemed to be an amorous fashion. Perhaps he was asexual.
Well, no, though. She was not asexual. She simply had other priorities in her life.
"As much as I enjoy conversing with you--and, believe me, a woman such as yourself is refreshing in my line of work--I did not come here for the sole purpose of visiting you. I came on business, and I have very good news," said Ky-Que-Ytal. His expression turned serious.
A part of her felt ecstatic at that, though the news was as yet untold. Jasmine hid her feelings behind a simple mask of calmness. "What would that be?"
"Well, earlier tonight, Boss Priyt called me into my office. He began by telling me that I am a seasoned veteran when it comes to strategy and knowing what to do in difficult situations. At first, I was understandably nervous. To me, that sounded like the beginning of asking me to participate in some immense undertaking. However, he must have seen the worry upon my face, because he then assured me that he did not wish for my assistance, only my advice. He informed me of the fact that someone in power needs an assassin, and he asked me which assassin should be hired for the job."
Ky-Que-Ytal paused, allowing his words to sink in. "Of course, I gave your name. Personally, I trust you. You're a skilled woman, but perhaps more importantly, you're a trustworthy woman. I told Priyt that from what I had seen of you, you do not seem to be the type who would choose betrayal."
"Thank you, Ky," Jasmine said, rubbing her lips together as she mulled over this information. So far, it was not much in the way of specifics, but Sonyea had a feeling that it was a situation pregnant with complexity. Many questions entered her mind as she mulled over Ky's words. The first, of course, was, "Who is Priyt wishing for me to kill, or is this another instance of damage control?"
"Priyt isn't wishing for you to kill anyone. Priyt spoke to me about the matter because he wanted my advice, and he wanted me to give a name, but he's not the one who wants to hire you."
"Well, obviously, that brings me to my next logical question." The corners of her lips grew tight. "Who wants to hire me?"
Jasmine was usually one to disguise her surprise at any kind of revelation, but at that moment, she knew that she immediately failed to do so. Her pale blue eyes grew wide. "Oazno Amck? Truly?" she managed. She was almost stunned into utter silence, as her ponderings grew more varied. She sat back, clasping her hands together within her lap. "Why would Oazno Amck need my help?" she asked, bewildered. "The greatest of all gang lords should have no use for one such as I am."
"I think you're underestimating yourself. Robert Deliniaeia hires you, and he's not exactly what I would call an obscure fellow."
"Robert hires many people, but not in a preferential sense. If you want the truth," Jasmine hesitated. She hated voicing her misgivings, mostly because of a certain fear that sound would give them life. "I have always suspected that Robert simply hired me for minor tasks, when others were unavailable. Now, Ky, do not rebuke me by saying that I simply have low self-esteem, because I will defend myself by reminding you that there are many assassins in the Wilds, and few are very well-known. Fewer are deemed remarkable."
"Jasmine, of those assassins who are known, many of them are simply fools who shall soon likely find themselves murdered."
Jasmine stared at him, startled. "Why would you say that? That seems a strange response."
"Does it?" Ky-Que-Ytal grinned deviously. "Well, when you think about it, assassination is the one business in which fame is not altogether a good thing. Consider, Miss Sonyea. Do you want everyone to know your name?"
"No, no, you have a point. However, I had thought that any truly famous assassin would be talented enough to handle the fallout of their deeds."
"Some are, I am certain. Others are simply braggarts. Really, though, what I'm trying to say is that you don't need to judge your capabilities based on your fame, or your lack thereof, because you have never really wanted your name to be known in the first place, therefore your popularity is a silly standard by which to measure your worth. Now, as to Oazno Amck, he has his servants, just as all gang lords do. Why you think yourself beneath aiding him, I am uncertain."
"You raise an entirely new misgiving within me. As you said, Oazno Amck has his servants. Why doesn't he hire them? As I asked earlier, am I to simply assassinate someone, or am I being hired as damage control?"
"Priyt never gave me the specifics of the matter, but, from what I gathered, I think that this is for a specific assassination. That's what my instincts are telling me. Now, Priyt was very--well, how do I say this? He was very tight-lipped on the matter."
"Aren't gang lords always tight-lipped?"
Ky-Que-Ytal shifted. "To some extent, yes, but Priyt trusts me about as much as he trusts anyone, which of course is not infinitely, but he generally does give me a fairly decent overview of the situation when he inquires as to my advice. This time, he did not. He apologized profusely in his dry, stoic manner, telling me that he did not wish for it to seem that he distrusted me, but that this matter was only fully Oazno Amck's affair. Now, he did not say this, not in so many words, but my impression was that Priyt was unsure of how much of this situation he was at the liberty of disclosing."
"Would I be wrong in thinking that this sounds rather--" Sonyea scratched the back of her neck, feeling a slight flush upon her cheeks. "--important? Excuse me if I seem to be overestimating what you're telling me, as I'm not familiar with every aspect of gang life."
Ky-Que-Ytal looked her directly in the eyes. He appeared to be somehow intrigued. "Personally, I would advise that you reserve judgment until you know more. I'm not going to jump to any conclusions, because as I told you, Priyt did not really give me very much to go by. It might be big. I don't know. I will say, however, that with Oazno Amck, things are rarely small."
"That makes sense. I'm still quite confused, but I suppose that Priyt--or Amck--intends to tell me more if he accepts your advice of selecting me, and if I in turn accept the mission." She lowered her eyes. "It's difficult not to wonder, but at the same time, I know what you mean about jumping to conclusions. I certainly don't want to get my hopes up and get disappointed, and I certainly don't want to lower my expectations only to be unprepared and absolutely shocked by whatever I am told. There are so many questions in my mind right now, and you can't answer of them, can you?"
"I don't imagine so, but you could give me a try, and you'll find out."
"All right. Here's a question that I know you to be capable of answering. In your own opinion, do you think that Priyt will heed your mentioning of my name for this mission? Also, do you think that Amck will accept me, if Priyt suggests me to him?"
"As to the first, I know that Priyt will at least consider you. He values my counsel. He considers everything that I say to him. He may ultimately decide against passing your name along to Amck, but you can rest assured that the matter shall be sufficiently considered beforehand. As to whether or not Oazno Amck shall hire you, I cannot say. I do not know the man. Logically, however, I don't see why he would ask Priyt for a recommendation, then turn down whoever Priyt recommended. If you are accepted, then I expect that you shall be interviewed and evaluated accordingly."
Ky-Que-Ytal added with a soft smile, "I think the better question you have to ask now, Miss Sonyea, is shall you accept or not? You need to think about that."
"So I do." She uncrossed her legs, so that both of her feet rested upon the ground. "I don't know. It's hard to say, especially when I know so little of what I'm wanted for, and when I'm hearing everything by way of someone who has learned it by way of someone else who himself is not in charge, no offense to either you or Priyt. I could always use more money, of course, but, well, I did just assassinate Xofish, and I sometimes do enjoy a bit of respite between my assassinations."
"I understand. I feel the same way, after a fairly strenuous mission. Were you paid well for that work?"
"I will be, but the pay hasn't arrived yet. You know Robert, though. He always pays, and well. I have other misgivings about this mission. I have never worked for Oazno Amck before. He has other servants. Why would want to hire an assassin, someone not of his gang?"
Ky-Que-Ytal shrugged once more. "Sometimes a professional touch is appreciated. Gang members are usually picked up as street urchins. They may develop various skills, but they are seldom trained as apprentices for one specific skill. Freelance assassins and mercenaries have their own worth. More finesse for a single job. It's why my instincts are telling me that Oazno Amck wants you for a specific kill, as opposed to help for drug transportation. I mean, the covert natural of it all. Why would Priyt go out of his way to ask me for a certain name? Anyone can do menial work."
"That makes sense, yes. I guess what I'm really afraid of is, what if Oazno Amck wants someone disposable for the job? He may be the sort of man who hires people outside of his gang so as to be able to easily rid himself of them afterwards."
Ky seemed taken aback by that. His dark green eyes blinked in apparent surprise. "Well, perhaps. I do not know Oazno Amck, as I've said. There is always the chance of that, and it's not to be overlooked, but most gang lords do have their own sort of honour, and they will treat those that they hire reasonably well, as long as those underlings prove to be trustworthy enough."
He touched his hair. "Gang lords have to be ruthless in their own ways, of course, but usually only in dealing with their enemies. A man would have a difficult time attaining such power, were he needlessly brutal. No one would follow him. In fact, they would tear him down. Priyt has spoken to me of this before. A leader must be firm, unyielding, but not senselessly cruel to those who serve him."
"I hope that Oazno Amck shares Priyt's beliefs."
"Why wouldn't he?" Amck is the lord of all gang lords. I wouldn't even be surprised if Priyt had garnered those beliefs from Amck himself."
Jasmine Sonyea could not resist a smile at that. "Ky, you're ridiculously talented at convincing me to do things. You should be a merchant, not a gang member."
"Oh, they're not so unlike one another. You know, though, funny thing, Priyt says the same of me. He says that with my oratory skills, and my reasoning capabilities, I should be a merchant, as I could advertise my goods effectively."
"Not interested. Too much competition. Too few customers in these poor lands. Too much risk of people simply not wanting to buy my goods. That's the thing about being in a gang. Yes, you could lose your life on a number of missions, but the flip side is that if do live to see the end of the mission, then you'll definitely get paid, and usually pretty well. When it comes to offering goods, you're gambling on whether there's a demand for what you've got or not."
"Well, I think you could sell anything. You've certainly done a fine job of selling me on the idea of accepting this mission, although I can't say that I don't still have plenty of concerns."
Ky-Que-Ytal looked down at his hands, smiling gently. "I would expect no less. An assassin without concerns is a fool indeed."
"Hopefully, if this is big, it won't be so big as to make me famous. As you've said, fame can kill an assassin more quickly than a blade can. Also, I hope that it's not so big that I cannot handle it. What if you've overestimated me?"
"I don't think that I have. You commended me for my persuasion skills, and I am now commending you for your attention to details. You have all of the qualities that are needed in an assassin, Jasmine. You are humble, thoughtful, quiet, and maybe most importantly, careful. If you think that you cannot handle a task of great import, then it is probably only because you have not yet been offered such a task."
She inhaled deeply. "Yes, there's that, and if I don't start performing more important assassinations, then how can I ever sufficiently increase my retirement pay? As with any job, I need to move up a ladder of sorts. Yes, the more I think about this, the more inclined I am to accept the proposal, if Amck decides to hire me."
"I'm not certain whether to commend you or not, but I will say that I hope that everything works out for you. I have faith in you."
"Thank you, Ky, and thank you for dropping my name to Priyt. I honestly think that was a very nice thing of you to do. I appreciate that you think highly of my capabilities. I'll put more thought into this situation, and I too hope that everything works out well, of course."
Ky-Que-Ytal arose, placing his gloves back onto his hands. "As nice as it has been to speak with you again, I must be leaving," he said, almost apologetically. "To be honest, I have something of a prior arrangement with someone tonight."
Jasmine did not attempt to conceal her pleasure at that. "A date, or is this business?" She thought that the matter might potentially be a little too personal to pry into, but Ky had mentioned the fact of his meeting with someone, and Ky had never been one to begrudge someone for questioning a subject that he himself broached.
"Possibly a date, though it may yet be too early to say. I try not to date people in the business, so let's hope that it's not business." He winked at her. "Now, I've wished you luck, so wish me luck, would you? I need it. I'm a dry well here."
"Modesty, when about a falsehood, does not become a man, Ky," Jasmine teased. "At any rate, I do wish you luck. I hope that your would be date ends with whatever you want it to end with, whether that's sex or just an appointment for a second date."
Ky-Que-Ytal put his hands into the pockets of his duster after he had again placed it over himself. "I hope so, yes. Good evening to you."
He walked to the door, unlocked it, and stepped out, pausing to wave a brief goodbye. Once he had exited, Jasmine quickly arose and locked the door once more. Then, she returned to the sofa. There were many thoughts occupying her mind at that time. A number of those thoughts were worries, as well as possibilities for what this mission might entail.
Because she knew that she would get no answers until she received further contact about this matter, Jasmine decided that there was no point in paying so much mind to things that may or may not have been. To turn her mind elsewhere, she lifted her book once more, and began to read. However, she could not quite convince the small smirk of joy to leave her lips.