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About respect
Enzo peered across the table, through dim restaurant lighting to study the face of the woman with whom he shared drinks. She had the hardness of of a tragic life lining her features, which were otherwise lovely. Her high cheekbones cut like the edges of knives she carried in her boots. Strands of ash blonde hair were smoothed tight into a ponytail, pulling the skin of her brow taut. She held the cup of coffee firmly as though she intended to drink it like a shot of liquor. Enzo understood. Caffeine and adrenaline were sometimes an Atharim's greatest drug, but his mentor cautioned against stimulants. They made the mind itch and the skin crawl, he said. Corrado urged patience and study. Nothing less could track the call of a dreyken's song.

"Corrado Sabbatini was the Atharim's greatest living expert in the hunt for dreyken. Yet for the vastness of his knowledge, there remains so much unknown about their kind."
Enzo's pride for his mentor's life work was immense but as one of his pupils, he inherited a burden he was unworthy to bear.

Zuzanka tightened her jaw, disappointed. "So you cannot help me. Is this what you say?"
And Enzo's heart dropped into his stomach.

"No. I will do what I can. Se il vous plaƮt, tell me of your findings thus far."
He said as he took a drink of ice water. Zuzanka took a nervous look around the room. The light was dim, the booths high-walled, and the conversations quiet. "Don't worry. If one was in here, I'd know."

Her eyes narrowed. "They are not all street-stalkers."

He shrugged, "This is true. Some are incredibly wealthy and well-connected. The monsters of the tunels are easy to dispatch. The ones with brawny assistantes at their command are the ones to respect."
She scoffed, but Enzo cut her off with a look, "Oui, I say 'respect.' If you are to live through this mission, you must respect them."

She sniffed and crossed her arms, "Like Corrado?"
And with her snide remark, a pang cut through Enzo's chest.

He replied softly, "You do not know how he died. Please do not speculate on what you do not know."
Silence stretched between them like shadows.

Her hand laid across his, pulling his gaze upward. "I am sorry. I am short because I am frustrated. I will do as you say. Even respect the creatures that killed my sister."
A squeeze and she released his hand. He was glad of the freedom, but the sudden absence of warmth made his skin feel all the cooler. He took another sip of water. "Let's get started then."


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