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The Gunman of Xu-Yan Province

Chapter 1

Xianghua Oasis Pub, Keyloa-Xi Desert City, Xu-Yan Province

“So what brings you around this time? Got a job in the city?” asked my friendly neighborhood bartender.

“Gods, I hope not, I’m just here to drop a payload I picked up.” I took a swig of my root beer and enjoyed the cold beverage sooth my neck. It was a bit more watery then I liked, but I’d live.

The bartender looked around to see if I had dropped anything at the front of the door, then around to see if I had anything strapped to my back. After a while he gave up. “Where’s the payload?”

“In my pocket,” I replied, “it’s small cargo.”

The confused look on his face went away in an instant. “Oooh, precious gems?”

“Gem, singular, a very wealthy client’s stolen wedding necklace.”
“Nice. Is it who I think it is?” The bartender was definitely trying to get me to say something I wasn’t going to say. I was only having root beer, not real beer, I was not going to spill any beans on a soda.
“I think you should just get me another.” I placed the glass mug down on the countertop. “Stop asking so many questions about my job, if an inquisitor gets a hand on you they’ll definitely pry something outta you.”
“Well now why would they do that? I’m just a bartender; I hardly know who you are.”
I chuckled at his response. “Good answer,” I said, remembering he is a better liar than most.
A few moments later I heard a rustle outside; the heightening of voices and clashing of armor against wood. “Oh my…” I remember thinking something along the lines of ‘they found me quicker than they normally do’, and that I wish they didn’t because the band on stage was starting to play ‘Hey Annie, are you Okay?’ When the first guard marched in, however, I knew I wasn’t going to hear that song.
The guard started looking around. I thought if I made the rookie move of trying to slip out through the side door it might throw them off. I don’t know why I thought that, I onlymade it halfway to the door before I heard, “STOP!!!”
My hand was on the sword strapped to my back before the first guard even started to move toward the door. The guard outside swung his halberd at me, which I avoided by simply stopping. I knicked his forearm with a quick stab and ran into the market plaza.
Running into the merchant square of a town is a double-edged sword; it can heavily impede the progress of those chasing you, and it can heavily impede you. Trying to wade through the thick crowds of people is comparable to trying to wade through molasses, in that it’s the only thing I could compare it to.
I was in luck, because I found numerous holes and gaps in the crowd and was able to slide through them. The Military Police had set guards up on top of the buildings, however, but they couldn’t shoot their bows in lieu of saving the lives of their citizens, which in turn would save face to the public. Not that Waleya was that concerned with it to begin with, but it was standard P.R. to not kill your people. Speaking of which, it has just occurred to me that I never really explained how I got to where I was in my life. I’ll have to remember to explain that later, I’m getting to the good part of my chase escapade.
I managed to reach the end of the market square. Unfortunately, the Military Police Commander was switched the week before I returned to Keyloa-Xi, and he was smarter than the last guy. I had a bit of a problem with that, but it was about time, I could run circles around his guards. The new Commander apparently had thought of putting guards at the end of the market square before I got there. I searched for anything I could do to get out. Silently I started thinking to myself, ‘Anyone I can use, anyone I can use…’ and then I saw a man in a long black coat with a collar that covered his face and a top hat. ‘Bingo.’ I took my sword, then took one of my pistols with my free hand, wrapped my sword hand around the man’s neck, and pointed the gun at the guards. “Nobody move! Nobody move!”
The guards froze and the man I had taken hostage did exactly what I thought he would do. “Nobody move!” I repeated as I slowly inched me and my ‘hostage’ into a nearby apartment. I closed the door and locked it, holstering my pistol afterwards. “I gotta stop these open city chases.”
I released my hostage and he removed his hat. “No kidding, the new guard Commander is going to kick you over if you keep doing that.” He shook his ash blonde hair and cracked his neck. “Good to know you’re back in town, Zak.” His name is Jarrod Broadside, my most reliable informant and best friend. If you need to know anything, and I mean anything, he’ll get it for you-if, of course, the price is right. I get a discount.
“Yeah, just dropping off the Carlyle Daughter’s wedding necklace. A band of pirates took it during a raid, and the wedding is this Friday.” I sheathed my sword and looked for any kind of doorway out, I had to move quick if I didn’t want the guards to move in. “I’m due to drop it off in a few hours.”
Jarrod gave a curtsy nod and a quick grin. Jarrod’s a pretty easy guy to read, since I’ve known him a long time: the nod is a simple note of understanding, that he got my job. The grin is what worried me, and with good reason. “The Bethesdan Band has a job for you when you’re done with the one you got” he said.
Anytime he brings a job to me it’s either a blessing or a curse. “What’s B.B. want with me? Aha, a secret door!”
“They wouldn’t tell me and they didn’t write anything down. This is a strictly word-of-mouth job.” You know, there are times when I wish he was psychic.
“I don’t like word-of-mouth jobs; most of them are too much trouble. You coming with or are you playing distraction?” I said indicating the secret door I had found.
“Nah, I’ll stay here. And you love word-of-mouth jobs; they bring in lots of money. If my estimates are right, you need that money.”
I gave him a glare. “I hate that you’re a math genius. You distract them, I’m gone, cool?”
“Like we’ve done twenty times before. Get going, I know the real reason you wanna go to the Carlyle’s.” Jarrod put back on his top hat and made for the door as I swept through the corridor.
I appeared at the roof of the building we were in right as Jarrod came out and I managed to overhear the hilarious scene that followed. Jarrod came out all chill and said “Uh, guys, he’s gone.” The guards shrieked in disbelief. “WHAT!?”
I laughed as quietly as I could and started to hop from rooftop to rooftop toward the Carlyle estate.

I reached the rooftop I was looking for close to sundown. I could jump from this rooftop to the exact window I needed if it was open. It was. I ran from the far end of the roof, put my best foot down, and pushed myself into the air. I landed just inside the window, and the face I expected to see there awaited me. “Yo,” was about all I could say.
Lauren Carlyle was there, glowing in the setting sun shining through the windows that made up the wall of the room. “Hello, Zakari.” She was notably happy to see me and offered a hug that I accepted. Upon releasing she asked, “You have my sister’s wedding necklace?”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out the lavender blue box wrapped in suede. “I’m not letting your baby sister’s wedding get ruined.” I gave her a smile.
She took the box, opened it, and noticed all the pearls were present, and the metal chain was still connected. “Oh Zakari, thank you, you have no idea what you’ve done for us.”
I tried to supress my smile. Looking too happy was just a little creepy on me. “You’re welcome.”
She put the box down. “I really cant thank you enough.”
My smile faded to a grin. “I should go.”
Her face took on a sad puppy look. “What? Can’t you stay?”
I said “Sorry, I got another job to check up on” and her sad puppy look became a bit more firm, understanding that I couldn’t stick around despite how much she wanted me to. She had feelings for me, and I kinda liked her but I wasn’t sure about it at the time. Realizing she wasn’t going to be able to convince me to stay, she gave up. “Fine. Kiss me before you go?”
‘Eh, what could it hurt?’ I thought as I closed my eyes and leaned in. After I broke contact I gave her a small, reassuring grin and said, “See you later,” before jumping out the window. On the way down I began to contemplate between eating dinner first or getting the job first. Decisions, decisions.





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