The kingdom of Montsen’s glassy construction reflected the sunset at the very same time when Michael would finish sharpening his daggers.
The job was pretty easy: assassinate the only child of the royal family before he drives the kingdom to ruin. Apparently, he was quite the little demon.
Michael’s feet crunched the sand as he approached the palace. It was mostly made of stone and it looked like the typical stone castle that one would find in Mario if video games existed. The darkness of the night creeped forward faster than the Crawling Chaos could ever hope to achieve.
Inside the palace, people went inside the entrance hall to speak to the King and Queen. From what Michael’s heard on the rumor mill, talking to them was straining. They appeared nice, but the passive-aggressive things they said were subtle at best and grating if you were aware of them. Another function of the entrance hall was taking quests and meeting up with people. There were taverns for that sort of thing, but the royal family liked to ‘oversee’ these kinds of things.
So that’s why Michael turned right into some shoddy tavern called the Salty Spitoon. Interesting name, to say the least.
As soon as he stepped in, Michael had to duck out of the way of a thrown beer bottle. He nearly brandished his daggers on reflex, but then realized that would only lead to complications. Getting arrested for a bar fight was never worth it.
“Hiya, Joe. Slow day, isn’t it?” Michael asked the bartender.
“Hi Michael. The displacement spell is embroidered into your cloak,” he murmured.
“There’s no guards, so it’ll be relatively simple. It makes me wonder why you even hired me for that much.” Michael leaned his head against his palm.
“Because I trust you to get the job done, no questions asked, as per usual.”
Michael always had questions, but repeat business was good business. That was a simple fact of life. Not asking questions protected his own skin, too.
“Right. It’ll be done by sunrise,” Michael murmured. He put his hand on a piece of parchment and muttered a spell under his breath.
Quest Details: Make the crown prince disappear.
Reward: 5000 Gold Pieces
Owner: Michael Mell
Do You Accept?
A glowing screen appeared in his mind. He hit the ‘yes’ button.
Basically, 5000 gold pieces could get someone a moderately sized house along with high quality adventuring gear with change to spare. It was a bit higher than expected, but that got no complaints from Michael.
He went into the backroom and grabbed a dark green cloak as black stuck out like a sore thumb, believe it or not. Dark green blended with the forestry much better.
The way the displacement spell worked was that a person could either spend multiple days implanting it into equipment to give it an active ability or they could learn it themselves and use mana to vanish and reappear in different areas proportional to how much mana they use. The bad thing about planting spells like those into equipment was the durability and how far a person could go.
Thankfully, the window to the prince’s room was on the edge of the castle. Honestly, any beginner could probably kill this person, with or without magical help.
“Displacement,” Michael chanted. He imagined himself to be on top of the windowsill and found himself crouching right above it.
The room was dark, but Michael’s eyes were good enough. He stepped into the room and found the floor was carpeted. He wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness. No guards, carpeted floors, and an easy-to-get-to room?
“Oh, hi,” a small voice rang out. Michael’s eyes widened. Shit, the target had to already be awake! But it was around three in the morning, so why?
He decided to charge the prince and press the daggers to his throat. The man gasped and involuntarily shifted back, but Michael pressed them to his throat.
“I’m not going to scream, but just… don’t make it hurt, okay? I didn’t pay five thousand gold to be tortured.”
That made Michael think twice. “What?”
“I’m the one who sent the quest. What, you think if I wanted to live, I would make it this easy to kill me?” He scoffed. It was a bit awkward for Michael to be talking to the person he was supposed to kill… in the dark.
The prince moved to turn on the light. He was definitely pretty, Michael thought. He had curly brown hair that bounced lightly with every movement. He had bright blue eyes that held calm oceans and was incredibly lanky. He wore purple pajamas and looked ready to say goodbye. Almost like a person about to pass away from an inevitable disease.
“Come on. Just kill me already. Slit my throat and do it right. Maybe a stab in the brain will be faster? Whatever, you’re the professional.” He outstretched his arms.
“Why do you want to be killed?” Michael asked despite himself.
“Look, I-” he sighed. “Fine, you want to know my angsty backstory?”
He took Michael’s silence as a ‘yes’.
“Only child, only heir. Mountains of pressure. I wanted to go on adventures, but running away is going to be impossible. I’ve tried escaping to other kingdoms, but the guards caught me and made me swear that I wouldn’t do it again or they would tell my parents. They whip me if I do certain things wrong, like embarrass them in front of other nobles.” He pulled up his shirt and showed off a little bit of his back. Scars littered it. “I never gave two shits about governing this kingdom. One of the members of the royal court can take my place when I’m gone. That way, someone else gets the royal life, I get to be free, and my parents can fuck off. Now, will you please stab me already?”
“I…” Michael hesitated. This should’ve been his easiest job, but it wasn’t. He assumed the prince was some kind of corrupt kid whose arrogance was worse than that blonde bastard's, Joffrey, down south that Michael was once in. But he wasn’t. He was a suicidal kid with the most unhappy life that Michael had ever heard of.
“Do you seriously want me to do it? Fine. You can have the money, but I’ll resent you.” He grabbed the knife. Michael grabbed it back.
“Wait, no, hey,” Michael said.
“Oh my God, are you the worst assassin in history or something?”
“I took this job because I thought you were some fucked up kid. I only kill people who deserve to be killed.”
“Fine, then let me kill myself with your knife!”
“Look, I don’t know your name, but I still don’t want you to die.”
“It’s Jeremy. Okay, then what do you suggest? You want to whisk me away from my abusive household? Run away from the royal guards forever?” He scoffed.
“I’ll get you out of here,” Michael promised. “My name is Michael, and I’m here to complete my quest to make you disappear,” he winked. Jeremy had a blank stare until the realization struck him.
“That was an obvious oversight, but do tell how you’re going to get me out of this Hell hole.” Jeremy stared him down.
“Can you trust me? And bite down on this?” Michael handed him a belt.
Jeremy nodded slowly and bit down on the belt.
And with two swift motions, Michael slashed at him.
Phosphenes. Lots of red, brown, and grey phosphenes. Even with his eyes open, he still couldn’t see much. His chest stung, too.
Soft. Stripes on his chest. Bandages? Probably.
He leaned up, a pained gasp escaping from his lips. He stared at the stone walls, then the lively fireplace, the red sheets, and finally, he noticed just how empty the room was otherwise.
“You’re awake.” A voice came from the corner of the room. Jeremy jumped back and Michael chuckled.
“How did I not see you?” The prince, well, ex-prince murmured.
“I blend in. Part of my job, after all. You feeling okay? I gave you an elixir that I created while you were passed out. You’ll be a bit sore where I slashed at you, but it’ll go away soon. It’s been about a day, and I got the award,” Michael explained.
“Where are we?” He murmured.
“A safe-house on the outskirts of town. I had to teleport a few times using the displacement spell on my cloak, but no one spotted us. It’s currently six in the evening. Around ten hours ago, some sentries were sent out to find you in case you were still alive. They’re not heading towards Murneson, so that’s where we’re going first. This is the room on the bottom of the house, and no one knows you’re here. I made sure of it.”
Jeremy stared at his bloodied pajamas and Michael handed him a tunic, leggings, and a cloak similar to his. "Did faking my death not work?" He asked.
“I think that your parents suspect that you're not dead, but most people are leaning towards that conclusion."
Jeremy muttered a ‘thank you’ and put the clothes over his bandages. It was a bit embarrassing to be in his trousers near a stranger and even weirder to realize that the stranger took off his clothes, but he was also used to guards and parents invading his privacy.
“I can’t believe you actually took me away,” Jeremy chuckled after putting on his clothes. He finally got a good look at Michael. Messy brown hair, brown eyes that he could get lost in forever, thin glasses, dark-ish skin, and the cloak gave him the mysterious vibe that most girls in stories seem to adore. Jeremy already liked him because he legitimately helped him.
“I ain’t a liar. I’m Michael Mell,” he grinned.
“Well, I’m Jeremy Heere. It was once Windsor, but I think a slight identity change might help.”
“Well, Jeremy Heere, I hope you stay here with me!” Michael chirped.
“...Can I change my identity again?”
“You must be hungry. We leave when it’s dark,” Michael said.
“Okay,” Jeremy agreed. He stood up, nearly fell over, and then, Michael steadied him.
“Take it easy. You’re not in a rush.”
“I’m not going to take it easy until I’m sure that I’ll be safe from them. I’m too scared of going back.” For the first time in a long time, tears pooled his eyes. “Ah, shit.”
“Hey, you can cry. I don’t care,” Michael promised. He couldn’t blame him for being scared. If his family was half as bad as Jeremy described, Michael wouldn’t want them to find the two of them, either.
Well, also because Michael would be imprisoned or executed. Likely both.
Jeremy rubbed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. “Sorry. I like emotionally damaging myself by keeping my tears inside. You know how it is.”
“Trust me, I do.”
“I trust you, then.”
The two went into a comfortable silence as Michael led him upstairs. He opened a hidden door and led Jeremy into the kitchen.
“Do you prefer bear meat, fish, or beef?”
“Salmon for dinner, then. Sorry about the quality of the foo-”
“Please stop apologizing,” Jeremy smiled at the taller assassin. “I knew that I wouldn’t have servants and gourmet chefs around whenever I dreamed of running away. I never imagined having a friend, either, but there can be a first time for everything.”
“I kind of expected you to be a bit spoiled, if I’m being honest.”
“That would just be ungrateful. Getting beaten teaches you to be grateful for the good things,” he shrugged.
Michael frowned a little and worked on cooking the fish.
“I have potatoes. You want some?” Michael asked.
“I’ll mash them. I know how to do that much.” Jeremy peeled the potatoes by hand after they were heated with surprising efficiency and started pounding at them with his hammer. It was actually pretty impressive since Michael couldn’t do that with his fingers.
About thirty minutes later, everything was ready and Jeremy wolfed the meal down like he hadn’t been fed in a while.
“It’s so good,” Jeremy beamed.
“How could you say that when you had gourmet chefs?” Michael wondered.
“Everything they made was so rich and I couldn’t enjoy enough of it. Also, they liked to pile on a lot of mixed ingredients in every piece of food, and since I’m a brat, I didn’t like that, yet I never brought it up because I didn’t want to get them fired. My parents were that type of people,” Jeremy sighed.
“I see. Well, it’s pretty dim outside. You want to go now?” Michael asked as he finished up.
“The sooner, the better,” Jeremy promised.
After packing up a few sets of clothes, salted beef, fruit, and a map, Michael was ready to go. Jeremy’s loadout was very similar with the added benefit of having an emerald necklace in his bag.
“It’s a gift from my grandpa who passed. I wear it when I’m sleeping, too,” Jeremy explained with a dreamy smile on his face. He threw his hood over his head and walked outside.
The cicadas and other bugs vibrated with the night sky. Hundreds of stars came out to visit and Jeremy couldn’t remember the last time he was able to just appreciate the sky. Usually, by the end of the day, Jeremy was deep in sleep. Every time he got a chance to look up, it was usually raining or cloudy.
“Thank you, Michael. I’m not sure I’ve said enough. You didn’t have to save me.” Jeremy grabbed his hand and squeezed it.
The assassin decided to be bold and kiss the top of Jeremy’s hood. The runaway prince backed up a bit and cowered away defensively.
“Uh…” Jeremy trailed off.
“Sorry, was that-”
“No, no! It was just… no one’s ever kissed me. Not even platonically,” Jeremy explained. “Actually, do you mind if I…” he leaned up and put his arms around Michael’s neck. Jeremy pressed his lips on Michael’s and he kissed back.
Gay couples weren’t exactly common in any of the kingdoms, but there was no large-scale prejudice against them, either. Not that Jeremy was thinking about that while kissing Michael.
“I thought you were really cute the entire time,” Michael murmured. He rubbed Jeremy’s back and kept the other arm around his waist.
“Yeah. I think you’re also a sweetheart who is sensitive and polite,” Michael flirted. Jeremy let out a few breathy laughs and kissed Michael again.
“I’ve never had a boyfriend before. Is it supposed to be this exciting? My heart is beating really fast and I’ve never been so nervous, yet so free!” His legs were literally shaking.
“I would hope so. C’mon. Once we get far away from this kingdom, we’ll be free to do whatever. My family is pretty far south, so I can take you to meet them if you’d like,” Michael suggested.
“Okay. That sounds good. Let’s do it.” Vigor filled Jeremy’s every step. He was out of Hell and into Earth. It was weird being outside the town, but the thrill of having a new identity, new boyfriend, and new life overcame that.
Michael, on the other hand, was ready for this new adventure. He rarely traveled with anyone else, let alone a lover, so being with Jeremy was definitely exciting. He had a feeling that they would have a great time together.
Oh, and that reminded him.
“Oh, and uh, sorry for almost killing you.”
“Nah, it’s fine. I wanted to die until I met you, and it all worked out!”
Michael realized that maybe a few heart-to-hearts would be needed in the future.