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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“How do you deduce that?” Aiden exclaimed. “She lied to you about being with
Armin!”
“Yep, and that means she‟s still single, so I‟ve got a chance.” Aiden shook his head
in silent disbelief at Colt‟s single- mindedness.
“So I guess this is goodbye,” the young explorer told him, feeling strange about this
rude, offensive man who had somehow, over the course of the past month, become one of
his friends.
“Don‟t start crying, Aiden, you‟ll look weak in front of the women.”
“I wasn‟t…”
“I‟m just joking, mate,” Colt grinned, offering Aiden his hand, which the young man
grasped. “You‟ve done alright, kid. If you‟re ever in the area, stop by and we‟ll have a
beer together.”
“Wait… did I hear a compliment?” Aiden asked in fake surprise. “You all heard that,
right?”
“Bah, don‟t make a big deal of it,” Colt growled.
“You know something Dante?” Aiden said, “You‟re all right.”
“Yes, I might even miss making clever remarks about your smell,” Nellise added
wistfully, calm once more. “Take care of yourself, Dante. I‟ve never embraced anyone
while wearing armour before, so I‟ll spare you the pain.”
“I appreciate that,” Colt grunted. “You got anything to say to me, Sy? You look like
you do, but you‟re keeping quiet.”
“I‟m not burdened by armour,” she replied softly, coming forward to embrace Colt
fondly, the big man‟s bulk all but obscuring the tiny girl in the process.
“I‟ll pass on the hug,” Pacian said to Colt, dryly. “Unless you really can‟t help
yourself.”
“None of that for you,” Colt growled at him. “I think I‟ve gotten to know you pretty
well, these past few weeks, and I don‟t like what I see.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Pacian replied defensively.
“You‟re a hard man, Pace. You‟ve killed more than one man in cold blood right in
front of my eyes. Maybe that‟s what the situation demanded, and maybe it ain‟t, but to
me, you‟re almost as bad as the bastards we fought.”
“I can‟t believe I‟m hearing this,” the blond rogue remarked, looking around at the
others in disbelief. “I killed murderers and traitors, I did it really well, and I‟m not
apologising for it.” Colt leaned in close, and the next words he spoke were barely above a
whisper.
“The others may not see who you really are, but you‟re not fooling me. If I hear that
you‟ve hurt Nellise in any way, I‟ll hunt ya down, and I‟ll kill ya myself.”
“I would never hurt her,” Pacian growled back in a harsh whisper, “but if it came to
it, one way or another, you‟re welcome to try.”
“Enough bluster, we can hear you, you know,” Criosa interrupted, her arms crossed,
a stern expression on her face that Aiden thought was surprisingly cute.
“We‟re done here,” Colt replied, as if nothing had happened. “I hope your trip to the
capital is smooth, but at this time of year, I think you might be regretting the decision to
go by sea. Farewell.”
They waved goodbye to the big ranger as he headed over to a nearby damaged
house, and set about assisting a small group of people pulling valuables out of the
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