The sun outside of the saloon was hot. It was breezy today, and sand kept being stirred up to fly into the eyes of unsuspecting people.
The shorter gangster was already walking ahead, looking for a place to put the corpse. He spotted an alleyway and gestured. “Come over here.”
Jonathan wouldn’t forget the experience of walking down a street with a corpse over one shoulder. A bloody trail was left behind him. He felt sorry for Paige and her staff having to clean up the mess.
The taller gangster was a few steps behind the transmigrator, stepping around the blood.
The three entered the alleyway.
“Put it down,” the shorter one ordered.
Jonathan complied without fuss, as he had the whole time. The transmigrator had given up on the idea of keeping his identity secret. There was absolutely no way the two weren’t suspicious of him already. As he put the body down, he commented, “I already know who you are.” Jonathan looked at his hands and wiped the blood off on his pants. He really needed to change clothes.
The taller one scoffed. “And who are we?”
“Hello, Emlyn and Millan.” The transmigrator turned around to see their expressions. He faced both a pistol and a spear of ice pointed at him. “It’s been a while since we last ran into each other.”
“Roscoe?” Millan whispered.
Emlyn lowered his pistol and laughed. He laughed long and hard. “What, you decided to run this time? Is that why?”
“Yes,” Jonathan simply responded. He smiled and suggested, “Let’s trade questions. Why are two imperial princes involved with a gang?”
“Maskiff is incredibly corrupt. If we want to control the country, a criminal organization is the most efficient way,” Millan explained. He crouched down. The prince pulled off the bandana to confirm the target’s identity, then started searching the cadaver.
“Which is why we created Moiety.” Emlyn’s lips twitched. He had holstered his pistol, but he still had his hand on his sword. “So, why are the dead walking around like the living in Maskiff? What are you here for?”
Jonathan could see why they wanted this section of the empire. Maskiff was one of the two places in the continent that were able to reliably mine for crystallized mana. “I’m leaving. I don’t see the throne worth fighting for, but I wish the two of you luck.”
Millan looked over in confusion. Suspicion and bitterness mixed together in his voice, “Aren’t you afraid we’ll betray you?”
“I don’t think you will.” Jonathan smiled as he logically pointed out, “There’s no reason to.”
“People don’t always act reasonably,” Millan muttered rebelliously.
“Now, aren’t you afraid I’ll betray you?” Jonathan replied. He glanced between the two princes, judging their reactions.
Emlyn leaned against the alleyway and shrugged. “If you did, you’d only put yourself in danger.”
“It’d be a dumb thing to do,” Millan agreed.
“Exactly. Besides, you don’t know where I’m going, you don’t know how to find me, and having another prince around is just competition.” Jonathan waved a hand dismissively. “There’s no reason to sell me out and make yet another enemy.”
“I think we were allies, at least for a while,” Emlyn cautiously said. “I’m not sure if that changed from your perspective.”
“It hasn’t.” Jonathan paused. He purposefully hesitated repeatedly, but the other two princes waited for him to speak. “I might have had some sort of head injury from the night we went hunting. I can’t remember some things.”
The two princes tensed.
Emlyn had been staring at Jonathan. His eyes widened for a moment. “That would explain why you were so confused at breakfast that morning.”
“Which is why, do you mind explaining what actually happened the night before?” Jonathan noted that the conversation had long veered from being a trade. He might as well try to get some answers.
“The night of the hunt, you suddenly joined us. We’re not sure why.”
“You never said.” Millan rolled his eyes and commented under his breath, “It was probably because of your stupid rivalry; You and Emlyn always have to outdo each other.” He said that like he had never done the same with Emlyn . . . but he definitely had.
“Going back to what happened, we set out. Somehow we were separated from our escorts and the knights, then assassins showed up. We stuck together and managed to get out alive.”
“Except Roscoe got a scar across his throat and Emlyn sprained his ankle,” Millan spilled. The prince didn’t sound happy about the injuries, but actually rather petulant. He had escaped without injury as his two older brothers protected him with their swordsmanship. Elemental magic required a bit of time to cast accurately.
A lot of things made sense to Jonathan now. He didn’t think the two were lying. Everything they said fit with what he knew. He sighed and decided he should explain a bit more of his side of the story. There was a chance that Emlyn and Millan would get targeted with the same tactic, after all. “Clementine, my fiancé, what has she been up to?”
“She’s set to be engaged to me, as compensation.”
Jonathan had a terrible track record with romantic relationships. He honestly wasn’t sure if Clementine trying to kill him was a better ending than his previous one, before he came to this world. “Be careful,” he advised. “She tried to poison me. Clementine is working for Consort Lorelei.”
“How’d you fake your death?” Millan questioned. “It’s easy enough to set a fire. An accomplice or two is needed for the rest of the preparations, right?”
“I did it with her help.”
The two princes stared at Jonathan for how nonchalantly he said that. He had enlisted his would-be poisoner to fake his death.
“Nothing,” Emlyn and Millan muttered.
“Anything else we need to talk about before I get back on the road?”
Millan traded a look with Emlyn. “What weapons do you have?”
“Not much,” Jonathan admitted. He had Liam’s dagger and that was the only thing that qualified. Once he got out of Maskiff, he wanted to look into getting a broadsword, perhaps an anti-magic one. He had been a rather good épée fencer.
Millan pulled a crystal from his pouch and tossed it over. “We have plenty.” He gnawed on his lower lip, unsure. “Don’t waste it.”
“Have fun,” Emlyn said. “Don’t die for real, although that would be dreadfully ironic.”
Jonathan caught the crystal. “Thanks. Will do.” He wasn’t entirely sure what to say back, but settled on, “Good luck with your criminal empire.” The transmigrator walked out of the alleyway and back into the bar.
“Jonathan!” Chester greeted. “There you are. Are you okay?” He grabbed his friend by the shoulders and did a quick check over for injuries.
“I’m fine. I need to wash my clothes when we can. Preferably before we leave town tomorrow.”
“Um, Mr. Jonathan.” Ciley was still there. She seemed to have waited for him to come back.
“Thank you.” Ciley held a fist to her chest, a sign of gratitude and loyalty.
The reveal of who is leading the local mafia. A bit surprising, right? Well, each district has their own benefactors and factions. It’s just that the imperial families factions usually end up on top.
Have you ever eaten gnocchi?