"Ah, Sir. What a surprise. It is an honor to meet you." Zéron makes a little bow. "Of course." The vendor leads the Captain and his Reapers through his shop, past shelves of toys and other curios. Although walking inside, he carries a blue umbrella with him. "So many friends you've brought with you today, Sir." They enter a back room, and Zéron settles down at a table in front of the window. Captain Landon sits across from him. The Reapers move in front of the door. "You must excuse my eccentricities." He twirls his umbrella, not seeming to notice. "It once saved my life, you know, so I always keep it by me. A very interesting story, incidentally. Perhaps you would like to hear?" Landon doesn't respond. "No?" Zéron rests the umbrella by himself. "Then let us get to business."
"It has recently come to our attention," Landon begins without preamble, "That you are manufacturing contraband objects."
Landon tosses the mask onto the table. A fox, with an enigmatic smile.
"Ah," Zéron picks it up. "I see."
"You may think that you are outside of our control," Landon begins, "That you can do as you please here."
"Indeed." Zéron places the mask back on the table.
Landon stops like he's not used to being interrupted. He begins again after a moment. "It would be to your advantage to learn your place. You are only a foreigner here. And inevitably your country will be integrated into the Empire. As with the remainder of the Continent."
"And then I will be nothing?" Zéron leans back in his chair. "Ah. What a wonderful – Fairy Tale, I think you call it." Landon's expression hardens. "I am sorry, Sir, did I say something to offend? You must excuse me, my language is not perfect." The vendor's eyes glint. "I am only a foreigner, after all."
Landon rises and walks over to the other side of the table.
"You will come with us." He stands over Zéron. The Reapers raise their weapons.
"Tsk, tsk, guns." Zéron smiles faintly. "How – unseemly, wouldn't you say?"
"If you do not cooperate, you may find those close to you in peril as well."
Zéron contemplates him. "So, you would threaten my family, Sir?" He says softly, almost to himself. They stare each other down for a moment. The Reapers move closer.
With a sudden movement, Zéron kicks over the table. In the split second the Reapers move out of the way, he draws the sword out of the umbrella, and holds it up to Landon's throat.
"Sir, I would not reach for that gun. You will lose. Perhaps your head." He twists Landon's arm away. "It really is a shame. You should have listened to my story."
"What are you all doing?" Landon glares at the Reapers. "Don't just stand there."
"Ah, you think I jest?" Zéron presses the sword into his neck. "It really is sharp, see?" A line of blood. The Reapers freeze. "Yes, yes, stay where you are." He gazes calmly at them. Landon tries to speak again, but coughs instead. "Come. Let us walk this way." Zéron draws him closer to the window. They stand there for a moment, illuminated from behind. "And now, my friends, I must bid you – Adieu." He releases the Captain and vaults out the window with a fluid motion. The glass shatters easily before him, like it's made to break. Landon falls to his knees, coughing and clutching his throat, and a few of the Reapers run over to the window to look out. But, Zéron's long gone.
It's almost as if he's disappeared into the blue.
"So. That is your report."
Landon stands before the General, trying to look dignified. With a scarf of gauze wrapped around his throat. Jules snickers in the background.
Cyrus regards him. Muffled sounds come from Jules. Finally, he gives up and dissolves into laughter. "Aw, let him live, Cy," Jules regains himself for a moment. "This is the best laugh I've had in ages." He looks up at Landon, and breaks into laughter again. "Oh, man. This is just too much."
The General's mouth twitches. "Go." He tells Landon. "Just. Go."
Landon walks past. As soon as he's out of sight Reapers standing at the door look at each other.
"Do you hear that? Is that –"
They listen for a moment.
"No," the other shakes his head. "It can't be."
Note. This is a side story of Goodbye, Blue Sky. Thanks for reading!
Cover image: Kitsune Mask, dokusentia