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Knives

When I came in, Rami was standing at the board that we'd set up to function as a table. On the board was arranged a meager pile of vegetables, probably swiped from one of the stalls on Market Way, two blocks over. When Rami heard me, she stopped cutting the vegetables and whipped around, still holding her dull knife, which was clothed in potato skins, and covered the distance between herself and me in quick, large strides.

"When," she demanded, slapping the flat of the knife into her palm, "were you planning on telling me that you'd become an assassin?"

I tried not to seem uneasy. "I wasn't, really."

"Oh? And why not?"

I fought back a sudden urge to roll my eyes. "Because you'd get like this."

"Well, in Trionnen's name, of course I'd get like this!" Rami momentarily forgot she was holding a knife and threw her arms up in the air, sending potato peels flying. I was glad that we didn't own anything, because that meant there was nothing for her to hit. "Shadow-on-shadow violence is how I got here. It's probably how Hom got here, too." She gestured vaguely toward the recently-adopted toddler sleeping on a mat in the corner. "And there will be more like him until we all stop killing one another!"

"We wouldn't be able to feed the three of us on what two smugglers make, and, if we tried, we'd wind up working so much that no one would ever be home with Hom. Assassins make way more than smugglers. With me getting paid more, we won't have to work as hard, and we can afford to raise him well. I mean, well for a Shadow."

"Like a killer would know anything about raising a child."

"Rami! I'm not a killer by choice."

"We would have come up with something, Garo."

"I did come up with something!"

"You're just perpetuating the problems that got us here in the first place!"

"What got me here in the first place was the Nobles' unwillingness to build safe tenements and my parent's inability to afford a better place to live. I'm solving our money issue, and that's what got me here."

"You're adding to the chaos. This area ought to be safe!"

"I didn't have a Trionnen-cursed choice!"

Rami sighed. "You did, Garo. You know I can steal whatever we need, even if you can't."

I deflated, too, and pulled something out of the pouch at my waist. It was a small vial filled with liquid and stopped with cork. I handed it to Rami. "For Hom's infection. I've been worried about him."

"Apothecaries are well-guarded . . ." she said, drawing out her words and sounding doubtful.

"I bought it," I told her, nodding. "I've got my first job tonight. They paid 25 on agreement and there's 75 more on completion."

"Silver?"

"Gold."

Rami sucked in a breath and raised the vial to the level of her eyes. She looked from the vial, to me, to Hom, and back to me. Finally, she uncorked the vial.



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