Crosswinds: Gryphon Down

“Tell me where the gryphon is. Now!” she shouted out. Her breath started to grow heavy. Each swing, each thrust dug into heavy flesh… it took a toll on Juliette that wasn’t exclusively physical.

Once the deed was done, Lucky walked over to Juliette, handing her a piece of paper. “There. The name and address of the family we sold the gryphon to,” he said. “They have a fondness for taking care of exotic animals. So, your gryphon’s probably alive.”

Juliette took the paper, blankly glancing at it. Her hands creased and crumpled it, her trembling threatened to tear it, but she had already burned its contents into her head: the address and directions to a noble family’s mansion, in the richer part of the city.

So that’s where you are, Charlie. Just wait a little longer.

“Anyway, that was a pretty good job, sport,” Lucky said. “If you’re in need of a job, you know where to find me. And of course, if anyone asks, we don’t know each other.”

She watched as Lucky’s associates set fire to the infirmary. They dragged An’s corpse out the back, painting a trail of blood. Juliette felt sick watching Lucky and the others work. That’s strange… I’ve seen this plenty of times at the front lines, and yet this case is…

“…the look in her eyes…” Juliette muttered. “When we met her… did you…”

“Yes. It was like…” Areum hesitated. “How do I say it… she wasn’t afraid of death itself, but she was afraid of what she’d lose, I guess.”

“And you decided you couldn’t kill me… after seeing that in me.”

“Yes. I did.”

Juliette stayed silent, blankly watching the infirmary collapse in a blaze of fire. It felt wrong to change the topic to Charlie… or to say anything at all, for that matter.

Nothing… Nothing about this is right. But I can’t take it back now.

“I… I know where we’ll go next.” She crumpled the piece of paper, tossing it into the flames. “I don’t know if that’s where Charlie is, but it’s a good bet.”

“I see.” Juliette could tell that Areum was feeling the same way. “Should we go, then?”

“Yes.”

The two left Lucky and his men to their own devices, leaving a woman dead and an infirmary building in flames. They spent the rest of the day finding the way to the noble family’s manor. As usual, the two stayed close together, so as to not get lost within the crowds of people walking through the streets of Gymalg G’mai. Oddly enough, the city didn’t seem so gloomy anymore, just… irritating. And dull. Nothing seemed surprising to Juliette anymore. She wondered if this meant she had just been sucked into the city’s depressing atmosphere, becoming one of its empty inhabitants.

“…why are you helping me?” Juliette asked Areum.

“I already told you, didn’t I?”

“You didn’t answer my question back then,” she said. “We’re already this far in. Why would you still want to keep secrets?”

Areum sighed. The usually stoic and composed ‘mar seemed beaten and worn down, and Juliette could tell that he wasn’t in the mood for conversation. “Why do you want to know?” he said. “And why would you agree to my help, knowing I wasn’t telling you the full story?”

Juliette was silent.

“…I don’t know.” She said, “I just want to talk to someone after…”

Areum let out a huff. “I don’t know… I just…” he stammered. “I just thought that maybe… if I were able to help you reunite with your gryphon, maybe I could… live with myself. That’s why I helped you as much as I did. I thought maybe this one good deed could wash away everything I’ve done up until this point.”

“So, that’s why…” she said. “How do you feel, then?”

The akor’mar closed his eyes, breathing a sigh. “I don’t know,” he said. “…I don’t know.”

As the sun set, the two could see the mansion Lucky’s directions had indicated. A large, three-story mansion, with a front and back yard with a lot of nature and foliage, presumably to house the exotic animals they kept. Juliette and Areum walked up as close as they could to the house, arriving at the front gate.

Juliette took a deep breath. “Well… this is it,” she said, turning to Areum. “You’ve led me to my gryphon, so you’ve upheld the end of your deal.”

“But…” He had a blank look on his face. “They said they didn’t know if this was the house for sure.”

“You’ve done enough,” she said. “I’ll handle it from here.”

Areum huffed. “Juliette…”

“I… never thanked you,” Juliette continued. “For all you’ve done for me. It may not matter to you, but to me, at least… I think you’re a good person.”

Areum looked at her, an expression of gratitude written all over him. “You…” He closed his eyes. “If this war ends… and we’re both still alive by then… Let’s meet again,” he said.

Left to her own thoughts, Juliette found herself oddly calm. The weight of her actions up to this point, coming to terms with the fact she deserved to die for what she had done — it all cleared her mind. 

Is this what it feels like to lose sight of yourself?

…it doesn’t matter.

Whatever it took, even if it meant killing everyone inside this house, she would get Charlie back, without fail.

She drew her blade, and Juliette entered the house.

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