Plachor was about what Julius expected, while also not at all what he thought it would be.
For one thing, darklander architecture was fucking weird. According to Seona, it was “gothic”, which apparently meant a ton of clustered structures and intricate designs on every single building. Also lots of spikes and spires springing up all over buildings–which seemed to have a three-story minimum going on–that had a constant, oppressive feeling to them, like the red stone and dark windows were all about to start leaking blood at any second.
It also reminded him a little of the cities in Rosiava. The large, walled city had that same ‘planned out’ quality where all the roads were weirdly straight and the buildings seemed built to match each other in general shape and style. For a moment, Julius wondered if an outworlder had some influence here too, or if it was just a coincidence.
“So…what now?” Broken out of his thoughts, he looked over at Seona as she gave him a questioning look. “Are you going to look around for some work or something?”
“…Hm. Not sure, really.” Julius sighed to himself as he got off of Siegard and looked around the square they’d stopped in, a fountain covered in statues of nude devils in its center. He didn’t have much of a plan, and it didn’t help that Claire hadn’t contacted him yet. “Might try going to the church itself to see if I can get a room so I don’t have to worry about a place to stay.”
“Huh. Well, if that doesn’t work I can lend you some money,” offered Seona as she got off Siegard too. Once she did, her familiar quickly disappeared into a puddle as she sent him away with a small gesture.
“Oh, no need to do that. You already helped me out enough.”
“And what’s a bit more help?” she asked, beaming again.
“…Hm.” He didn’t really want to take advantage of her kindness. Especially since, while it was thanks to her that he got there safely, it was clear that her crap sense of direction would make things difficult for the dullahan when she was on her own. “Well, we’ll deal with it when it happens. For now, let’s just get to the church.”
“Onward!” Keeping an even pace with the demon, the two walked through the city. Oddly enough, despite the oppressive feeling he originally got from the city when he first entered, Julius was starting to feel comfortable. It was almost like the feeling Butcher gave him after he started feeling more comfortable with using her power. Protective instead of oppressive.
Speaking of, he should try to see if anyone at the church would be able to help him control those powers. Even if he had fully accepted Marrow into his heart or whatever, he didn’t want to just go around using blood magic without knowing how to control it. Especially given that, according to Seona, he’d almost bled out just making sure that the chimera’s poison didn’t kill him. That, and he hadn’t even noticed that Seona had, in fact, been helping him since they landed at the bottom of that hill, since she was the reason the chimera had turned away from him in the first place.
Oh, and she impaled it with her scythe. That was also pretty helpful.
Before he could continue his thoughts, some rather enchanting music caught his attention. A nice little song being played out on a guitar. Something about said music was oddly familiar–not the melody itself, but more like the specific sound of the guitar–but before he could piece it together, a familiar voice spoke up behind him.
“Bonjour, my good sir! I don’t suppose you would grace this traveling bard with some of your time~.” Blinking, Julius slowly turned around and stared at Cyrus Gerrish, his former bardic teammate, while a stunned look spread across the musician’s face. “J-Jules?!”
“…Did you just try to hit on me?” he asked, staring at his old friend, who was looking…decent enough. Cyrus’s fiery orange hair had grown out down to his shoulders and was slightly swept to the side, and he seemed a lot more solid and muscular than before, though his skin was as light as ever. He was also wearing sunglasses over his sky-blue eyes, which was new, and a white, v-neck shirt under his open, black coat, which was not. The crimson archtop guitar in his hands was definitely new though, and Julius raised an eyebrow as Cyrus moved it to his back with its strap so it was out of the way.
“…Well…I mean…hang-ups aside, you are relatively attractive.” Well now he was more annoyed.
“Jules? Is that a nickname for you?” Oh, right. Seona was still there.
“Hm? Oh, my my, and may I ask the name of such a lovely mademoiselle that my friend is with~?” Grinning, Cyrus began to put on the charm, leaning forward with an upturned hand, until Julius put his hand on the bard’s chest to stop him from approaching Seona.
“Look, can you not do your whole thing right now?” he asked. Definitely didn’t plead, he wasn’t at that point. Yet.
“…Oh, I see!” What. “Well well, I wish you would have told me you found someone you wish to spend your life with~.” What. “Though if I may, I must say Plachor doesn’t seem like the best place to travel with your lover.”
“W-What!? L-Lovers!? Since when are we that!?” Huh. Seona blushed purple. Funny that.
“Right. Well Cyrus it was nice knowing you, but.” Grabbing his sword, Julius began to draw the blade.
“W-Wait, wait a moment! It was just a jest, a jest! Joking!” Waving his hands, the panicked bard backed away from Julius, before chuckling a little nervously and clearing his throat. “W-Well, I see the years have done little for your sense of humor, my serious friend! Ah ha…ha…”
“U-Um…a-are you sure you two are friends?” Seona asked, still looking a little flustered.
“Oh certainly! Do not let our friendly ribbings distress you, ma chérie~!” Cyrus grinned, wrapping an arm around Julius’s waist and pulling him close, much to his immediate annoyance. He didn’t struggle though, well-used to the bard’s antics even after his absence. “It’s simply a small game we play! I joke, he threatens, I run, he pursues! Merely jests and jokes among friends!”
“He’s an idiot, but a well-meaning one,” Julius conceded.
“Meaning the very most well of them all!”
“That doesn’t even work as a sentence.”
Seona made a little ‘o’ with her mouth as she dropped one fist into her palm, apparently realizing something. “You’re a comedy duo!” Or she was getting the situation completely wrong. That was also an option. “You’re the serious one and he’s the funny one! The straight and the comic!”
“Oh, I like her~. And not just for her quite exotic looks-GH! A-Ah, th-the elbow w-wasn’t n-necessary…” Julius was very sure it was.
Cyrus rubbed his stomach, trying to grin again as he straightened. “R-Regardless, it’s very good to meet you Miss…?”
“Ah, Seona! My name’s Seona,” she replied, smiling back at them.
“Ah, a lovely name for a lovely–Alright, alright, stopping! No elbows, please.”
“Oh, so you can learn,” Julius deadpanned. Which immediately earned a giggle from Seona. Hm.
“That I can! And I have learned a great many things in my time in the Dark Lands! So come, let’s share stories! I know a fantastic bar we can go to with quite the lovely servers! I don’t think any of them are outright Luxurians, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they all have very lusty lineages~,” Cyrus said, grinning as he casually pulled Julius along while Seona followed behind them, apparently content to come along for the ride.
Julius sighed again, but…well, a drink did sound nice. And sure, maybe it would be good to catch up with Cyrus. After all, he didn’t even know why the bard was even in the Dark Lands to begin with.
And soon enough, the three of them were seated around a circular table in the middle of a very different bar than Julius had been expecting. Though to be clear, The Dripping Pearl wasn’t an outright brothel. Apparently Cyrus was just modest enough to avoid taking them right to one of those.
Modest didn’t really describe anything about the bar though. The shorts and tops the waiters and waitresses were wearing definitely weren’t.
At least Seona didn’t seem to mind. Or really notice, considering she was busy looking through the menu.
“Now then, my good friend, you would care to tell me why you of all people are in Plachor, a city dedicated to Marrow?” Well, at least the bard had a good enough memory to remember what was up with Julius.
“Hm? Oh, well isn’t he a warlock of hers?” Seona asked, tilting her head curiously, as she tended to do.
“Huh? Wait, is she serious, Jules?”
“…Yes, it was a recent thing, but I have accepted her.”
“Well… I’m sure you had your reasons, but it does come as a surprise…” Letting out a sigh, Cyrus leaned against the table, watching Julius with an annoyingly skeptical look.
“Since we’re on the subject, why are you here?” he asked, maybe with a little too much heat in his voice.
“Oh, you know how it is.” Thankfully, Cyrus didn’t seem to mind. Or notice. “Someone like me cannot stay in one place for long. The music I have must be shared throughout the world~!”
“…So you kept getting chased out of places?”
“…Not for the most part.” Hm. “I am simply a man with a true wanderlust!” And a whole lot more lusts.
“Sure. So, how have things been with the traveling bard job?” That was probably a safe enough subject for public conversation.
“Quite well! My fame and infamy alike have certainly spread through many lands!” So, what, did he get kicked out of places in advance now? “And I have learned a great deal in my time as well! Culture, romance, literature, inspirations for many compositions! As well as some utterly fantastique melodies from the beautiful people of these lands! Par exemple, did you know those delightful Luxurians have a grand bardic tradition of their own?”
Of course Cyrus would go to Lust Demons for music tips. Of course. “Well, at least you’re having fun, I guess.” He sighed, leaned back a little and glanced around. Hm. The place was looking emptier than when they came in. Rush was over, maybe? “…So, have you heard any interesting rumors? Maybe about what’s going on near the borders?”
“Oh certainly! There are a great deal of fascinating rumors coming from that area in particular, and not merely tales of how the invasion goes! It goes well, by the by, as apparently Valondrac’s policies of integration and positive treatment, as well as minimizing fatalities, has apparently worked quite well with the disaffected citizens of Nalorivan settlements. But I have a far more compelling rumor in store yet!” Cyrus grinned, leaning forward and whispering conspiratorially. “The word is that the Dragon Lord of Ebkai is pregnant with the child of some secret dalliance~.”
Huh. Arancoda was preg-…. “What.”
Cyrus blinked, raising an eyebrow at Julius. “Er, are you alright? Your voice was oddly hoarse there-”
“Cy. Cyrus. What did you just say.” Fuck, he couldn’t keep the nervous tone out of his voice.
“…About…?” And then it visibly clicked in Cyrus’s head. “…Nooooooo. Noooooooo, really? You??”
“Gods aside, it is!” Auuugh, no, he was full on grinning now. “You had sex with a dragon? You, of all people, got a Great Dragon pregnant!? I haven’t even charmed a normal dragon, much less an outright Lord!”
Julius didn’t know which was more painful. The amusement or the disbelief. “It…I might not-”
“Non non non, my friend! You need to tell me this! Be honest! How did this happen? You’re the ‘more responsible’ one here, how did you, again, of all people, manage to impregnate a Great Dragon without even knowing of her resulting pregnancy?”
“I really don’t need to hear this from you, ‘of all people’,” Julius mocked, trying to ignore how hot his face felt. Ugh, he probably looked like a tomato right now…
“Moi? Julius, mon frere, I don’t know if you realize, but despite my promiscuity, I am the pure example of sexual responsibility!”
Julius just stared at Cyrus for a second, genuinely baffled at the absolutely brazen lies coming from his mouth, when the door to the bar was suddenly kicked straight off its hinges.
“FOUND YOU, ASSHOLE!” Before he could turn to look at who yelled, Julius felt an arm go around him as Seona pushed him and Cyrus down to the floor. The moment his back hit the ground, the table they were at burst into splinters when several chains pierced it from below.
Tumbling backwards and to his feet in a crouched position, Julius drew his sword and looked at the furious figure standing at the doorway, trying to see what he could figure out about her.
Which wasn’t much. The woman–he was pretty sure she was a woman based on her voice–was wearing a dark, hooded coat that covered most of her head and all of her torso and a black, cloth face-mask like the one Seona gave Julius. So all he could really see was that she had light skin and unnaturally bright green eyes.
Black pants and boots completed the woman’s ensemble, and then Julius had to run as the woman raised a black-gloved hand and a ton of black chains burst from her palm, twisting through the air as they tried to grab at–Wait, shit, Cyrus??
Yup, the chains were definitely going after Cyrus and were currently being blocked by Seona expertly twirling her scythe in front of the barrage, its blade cutting straight through the probably demonic metal while its long handle deflected the rest. And now Cyrus was grinning and playing his guitar again in tune to the fight and fuck, Julius was going to have to save his dumbass friend from whatever the fuck this was.
“Let’s go!” he shouted, sprinting by and grabbing Cyrus by the arm as he dragged him–no, probably a shit idea to jump through the windows, maybe there was a back?–through the bar and into its backrooms. “Seona, cover us!”
“Will do!” she replied surprisingly cheerfully, actually bobbing her head along to the music–wait, Cyrus had stopped playing, where was the music coming from? Ugh, didn’t matter, running now.
“So what the hell was that?” Julius asked as he pulled Cyrus into the–currently also completely empty–kitchen back behind the bar.
“Oh, I have no idea in the slightest,” Cyrus replied as he finished getting his guitar back on his back and promptly crouched down behind the kitchen’s counters. Julius sighed and crouched down beside his friend, frowning at him as the bard shrugged. “This is entirely new to me. Not having women after me, no, but having one trying to kill me?” He paused, thinking. “…Well, perhaps not that new.”
“So what, is she a jilted lover?”
“Non non, I doubt it. I make it a point to avoid sleeping with those half my age and she was certainly in her early twenties there, at most.”
“…It’s weird that you could tell that. Weird enough that you immediately lost whatever respect you could’ve gained from your ‘rule’.”
“Eh. C’est la vie.”
Julius sighed, grimacing at the crashes echoing out from the main room of the tavern. “Maybe she’s just a bounty hunter then? You’ve probably pissed off enough people to earn one.” That was probably it, but… “That, or she’s one of your kids and she’s pissed that her dad left.”
Cyrus actually snorted, smirking at him. “Oh Jules Jules Jules, you have such a low opinion of me! Ah, it would almost hurt if I didn’t know you were like this with everyone.” He chuckled, glancing over the counter as he pulled his guitar off his back again and started playing a low tune, apparently to the beat of the fight. “For your info though, I am far more careful than you give me credit for~. Despite my promiscuity, I always ensure I use protection, and so I can say with confidence that no child of mine yet exists in this world~.”
“…” Oh gods, he was serious. “…C…Cyrus…no.”
“Cyrus you have seventeen kids.”
One of the strings on his guitar broke. “……Hm?”
“You have seventeen children, CYRUS. How do you not know you have SEVENTEEN KIDS!?” Julius hissed.
“…Eh…Eh? This…” Cyrus laughed nervously, staring back at him with a weird smile. “…This is…another joke, right? You’re not…You’re actually…No, no, that doesn’t make sense, I couldn’t even–”
“I personally know THREE OF THEM!”
He flinched, blinking. “I…Uh…No, no, like I said, that doesn’t make…L-Look, look, I-” Cyrus fumbled a little as he set his guitar down and stood up, fumbling with his belt–
“CYRUS I DO NOT NEED TO SEE YOUR DICK RIGHT NOW!”
“Not that! This!” Scowling, Cyrus showed Julius his…Okay, what?
“…Why the fuck do you have a tattoo above your crotch?”
“Because it’s protection! Magical protection! And it’s more a marking than an actual tattoo, I think. There weren’t any needles involved-”
“I don’t need the specifics, how the fuck is a ‘marking’ supposed to act as protection for sex?”
“With magic! Mystical magics from the Sun Lands!” Cyrus pulled his pants up and crouched down again, scowling. “It’s the same kind of magic emperor’s used to avoid impregnating their concubines!”
“Oh don’t give me that look! I had it fully explained to me by the master seal-artist Yong Caifu of Elejiro!”
“…Who the fuck is that supposed to be?”
“A master seal-artist! Listen as I speak!” Cyrus huffed, gesturing at his crotch again. “Look, as long as I have this on, I am incapable of impregnating anyone!”
“With magic! It just…neutralizes the sperm! So I can…Just…” He trailed off, staring at Julius’s completely incredulous face. “…Ah…um…”
“…How long ago did you get this done?”
“…Ehhh…when, ah…When I was eighteen? It…made sense?” He grinned awkwardly, then went ridiculously pale in seconds. “…Oh gods it never worked.”
“…” Julius let out a low sigh, then put his hand on Cyrus’s shoulder, trying to be sympathetic. “It’s…well, not okay, this is immensely fucked up and I can’t believe you fell for a con like that, but…you were young. People make mistakes.”
“…I spent thirty gold on a useless tattoo.”
“Cyrus you fucking moron.” Well, he tried.
And that was about when Seona crashed straight through the wall in a burst of blue and green flames, her headless body crashing against the counter they were hiding behind.
“GYAAAAAH!” Cyrus screamed, scrambling backward and staring with wide eyes at Seona’s-
“It’s okay, she can detach her head,” Julius immediately spoke up, trying to head off the panic before he–Wait.
He glanced at the hole in the wall where he could vaguely hear some more panicked exclamations. “-FUCK, SHIT, I wasn’t trying to–I didn’t mean–GYAH! WHY ARE YOU ALIVE?!”
…Yup, that was definitely one of Cyrus’s kids.
Julius got up and looked through the hole–that was a lot of fire. There was a lot of broken glass, which was on fire, and a lot of broken furniture, which was also on fire. The bar was on fire. Shit.
“G-GET OFF ME! HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS!?” Stepping through the hole in the wall, Julius found Seona’s head biting down on the assailant’s arm while her long red hair–undone from its ponytail–wrapped around the attacker’s arm to keep her close. Which was weird as hell, but apparently effective. Impressively stubborn too, he could admit.
Sighing, Julius walked over and pointed his sword at the cloaked figure. “So, you want to talk this out, or get back to fighting? If you choose the former, I’ll let you hit Cyrus.”
“W-Wait! Don’t I get a say in this!?” came the immediate protest from the wall-hole.
“…” The assailant looked at Julius, then at Seona, then to Cyrus, and then back at Julius, visibly weighing her options while still wincing in pain. “…Two punches.”
Ignoring Cyrus, Julius stabbed his sword into the floor, walked over, and grabbed the sides of Seona’s head.
“You can let go now.” Several seconds passed as Seona continued to bite down on the attacker’s arm, their eyes locked together in awkward pain and fierce determination, before she let go, her hair unwrapping from her.
“You need to wash your coat.”
As her head continued to stare unblinking at Cyrus’s kid, Seona’s body soon arrived and reattached her head, then huffed as she frowned at Julius.
“I would have won that fight.” Grumbling to herself, Seona walked over to one of the only remaining chairs in the room. The currently burning room. Which, ah, maybe they should be leaving–
“U-Um…” Looking over at the noise, Julius found a surprising sight: a completely nervous looking Cyrus. “…S-So, you’re looking for m-me?”
And immediately, she rushed over and punched him in the gut, and then in the face as he doubled over.
“Gyeeeeehhhhaaah…I deserved that.”
“Yes, you fucking did, you asshole,” the young woman growled, yanking him up and glaring right into his eyes. Well, glaring up. Not too much, she was about Julius’s height so about an inch shorter than Cyrus.
“So, not to interrupt this reunion, but we should probably leave. Cause like, fire and all.” As he said this Julius could see some broken bottles of alcohol catching fire, quickly causing more of the room to burn
“Eh?…Oh…Oh fuck.” Holding onto Cyrus’ collar, the attacker pulled the bard out of the Bar while Julius rushed over and grabbed the still grumbling Seona then dragged her out too.
Once they were all outside, Julius could see the customers and workers that’d previously been in the building earlier just standing around outside, some idly watching the growing blaze while others rushed off to find whatever fire-marshal equivalent the Dark Lands had. He could also see the attacker bowing to who he assumed was the visibly distressed owner of said place as she rapidly apologized for the damages.
“I didn’t know one of them would set fire to the bar! I’ll pay for whatever what I gave you doesn’t cover!”
Or more specifically, the extent of the damages, since it seemed like she’d bribed the owner to empty the place. Well, at least that explained why everyone disappeared all of a sudden.
Walking away from the crowd, Julius waited with Seona for her and Cyrus to come over so he could figure out just what exactly was going on.
“…Does he really have seventeen kids?” Seona asked, rubbing at her neck with both hands. Maybe checking to make sure her head was attached properly?
“Well counting her that’s eighteen that I know of,” Julius replied, looking back to the growing blue-green blaze. Hm. Could call it the “Blazing Pearl” now.
“I honestly don’t know.” Well, hm. “…Probably the way most people would get a lot of unclaimed children in a twenty-five year period.”
“Yup,” he agreed as Cyrus and his daughter started heading over to them, the attacker clearly irritated while Cyrus was looking at her like he’d never seen another human being before and was fumbling for ways to relate.
“That’s another ten fucking platinum I’ve lost today just to find your stupid ass,” the attacker grumbled under her breath, glaring at Cyrus again as she came to a stop and crossed her arms over her chest.
“…Er…pardon? I…I didn’t intend…” Okay, better step in before Cyrus does something like apologizing for her existence.
“So, hi,” Julius greeted, raising a hand to catch her attention, “Julius Goldforge, this idiot’s friend and guy who wants to know why you attacked both of us.”
“Ah, all three of us,” he conceded, earning a happy nod from Seona.
“Why don’t you ask him?” the woman snarled back, inclining her head towards Cyrus.
“I did. He has no idea what’s going on and genuinely thought he didn’t have any children until today.”
That got her to blink. “He what? How did…” Her eyes narrowed again, and she pulled her hood off and her mask down, showing off her pale face and fiery orange hair, much like her father’s, though hers was shaved down at the sides and back and short up top. She also had a few piercings, one dark stud on her nose, and two in her earlobes. Hm. Something about her looked familiar. Not just in regards to Cyrus, but– “Bullshit.”
She turned towards Cyrus, glaring right at him again, her hands balled into fists at her sides. “Tell me you don’t recognize who I am.”
Cyrus looked like he’d seen the abyss itself. His face was the whitest he’d ever been, and his mouth trembled as he spoke. “L…L-Lovalde?”
Julius very casually shoved the girl out of the way and grabbed Cyrus by the shoulders, staring directly into his eyes. “Cyrus. Cyrus. Cyrus. Did you just say Lovalde?”
“Hey! I was-” The girl–who was apparently related to fucking Lovalde, of all people–flinched back at the look in Julius’s eyes. “…I-I’ll…let you finish.”
“Thank you.” Julius turned his gaze back to Cyrus, then let out a low sigh and took a new breath to steady himself. “Cyrus. Why did you just say Lovalde when you met your bastard daughter?”
“…Sooo….this is…a, uh…” Cyrus chuckled a little, unconsciously licking his dry lips. “Iiiiii….might have, about, uh…see, twenty-three years ago, I was…in the Sun Lands. Because travel! And I was doing my usual thing of playing music at a bar and getting free drinks and board for it when, um…While I was on break, I saw a woman with…well, to be blunt, a fantastic body-” Out of the corner of his eye, Julius noticed the younger Lovalde cringe. “-who I thought it might be fun to spend a night with! And, er…”
“…What, was she disguised?”
“…No. Um…may be better if she were…” he admitted, then grinned again, trying to be reassuring even while he looked like he chomped into a rotting lemon. “She…wasn’t. At all. It, um…was Valita Lovalde. And I recognized her. She did look different though! She, er…Her hair had gone white, and her skin was lavender! Er, a pale purple, some sort of shade like that, and she didn’t have her tattoos either so…I, er, suppose I didn’t recognize her at first? I did recognize her after though! Ah, not after the sex! More…during the conversation.
“I…well, I wanted to charm an exotic-looking woman so I thought I would be charming and get her some drinks, which I did have to buy because the free drinks thing didn’t cover guests, but my point is that I didn’t realize it was her until we’d talked for a while and she was surprisingly witty and fun! I didn’t think she would be, but she was smart and I…well, I just…”
“…Cyrus, did she slip anything into your drinks?” Julius asked, completely serious.
“What? No, of course not, I checked that. I also make it a policy not to become overly intoxicated with any interested partner. We both need to be fully in control of our mental faculties and capable of making sound judgments before any naughty business.”
“Hm. So you were in your right mind when you asked a mass-murdering psychopath who tried to help other mass-murdering psychopaths conquer our homes through a campaign of horrible monsters and, again, lots of murder?”
“…I talked with her, Jules. We…” He sighed, sinking a little in Julius’s grasp as he searched for the right words. “…She didn’t seem like a psychopath. She told me how she regretted working with Irascagan and how she didn’t want anything more to do with conquest. She just wanted to retire somewhere quiet and live her life. She swore to me that she wouldn’t join up with another Demon Lord or try to strike out on her own. She swore she wouldn’t experiment on people again, the kind of oath one can’t break without consequence.” He frowned, looking serious again. “I used ‘hear no lies’. I checked. I wasn’t being a complete idiot about it.”
“…But you still had sex with her and then didn’t tell anyone about it?”
“…I did.” Cyrus sighed. “…I’m…I don’t have any excuse. I should have told you, someone, I met her, but in the moment, I just had an attractive woman wearing barely anything in front of me and…well, as you can probably tell, I have shit standards.”
“You didn’t have anything to do with her after that?” Cyrus’s daughter abruptly asked. She was still glaring at Cyrus, but she seemed calmer. Still tense though.
“No. No, I didn’t. I didn’t see her at all after that. I fell asleep with a woman I saw die, and in the morning, she was gone as though she was never there.” He grimaced. “In some way, I think I thought, in the moment, that it just…wasn’t real. Some old ghost, maybe.”
“Sure. What did my mother name me?”
Cyrus blinked. “…Uh…I, um…Catherine?”
“…Wow, that was way off.” She actually laughed a little and visibly relaxed. “My name’s Mira.” Huh. Strangely similar to Maria. Weird coincidence.
“Oh.” Cyrus glanced at Julius for help and found none, though Julius did let go of him. “…Ah, that’s a pretty name?”
“Thanks, I picked it myself.” She smiled a bit wider. “So…can we start again here? You really don’t seem to be involved with the bitch anymore, so…I dunno, it might be nice to have a parental figure that isn’t a complete dick?”
Cyrus stared at her. When he spoke next, his voice was choked with emotion, “O-Okay.”
“Hm. Well Cyrus, I’m glad this worked out well for you,” Julius said, clapping a hand on his friend’s back with a calm smile. “I do have one thing to say though.”
And Cyrus went right back to nervous. “Uh…w-what?”
Julius smiled wider. “Congratulations, you win. Fucking a dead woman definitely beats fucking a dragon.”
He could see the moment his words clicked in Cyrus’s head and then for the first time in a very long time, Julius was punched straight in the face by one of his friends.