"Excuse me?" Asked Ken.
Bastion finished the rest of his ale, slammed the mug down, and stood up from his seat.
"What's a few plucky adventurers like yourselves doing in this tavern here?"
"Bastion, sit down." Said Zander.
"Ah ah ah!" Bastion wagged his finger, "You shush now." He strolled on over to the girls table.
"Let me guess," he said putting his elbows down and cupping his face cutely, "Scrappy young monk eager to prove herself to the world, and a sad little warlock who despises her own patron."
Arturia and Asuna shifted their eyes a bit. "How did you…"
"Seen it all before," said Bastion, "I can spot adventurers a mile away."
He waltzed over to the other table, "And you two. Hmm, let's see." He eyed Anna up and down, "You're a mage who's probably wanted and on the run, aren't you?"
Anna's eyes lazily drifted to Bastion, "Yes."
Bastion crossed his arms and smirked, "Sorcerer I'm guessing."
"Wizard?!" He gasped. "Where's your spellbook? Nowhere to keep it in that raggedy old dress."
"I lost it."
He sighed, "That simply won't do, we'll have to replace it. Can't have you only using cantrips, no no no." He wagged his finger again.
Ken stood up, his seat grinding as it slid back, "Hold on just a minute!"
Bastion held his finger out to Ken, shushing him. His expression turned cold. "And you. You're an Inquisitor."
Ken eyed him. "Ex Inquisitor."
"Once a paladin always a paladin. And I hate paladins."
The two gave each other dagger eyes for a moment, then Bastion quickly spun away back to his usual charming self.
"BUUUT we need the muscle, so I'll let it slide just this once."
"Muscle? What are you talking about?" Asked Ken.
"Bastion!" Zander slammed his fist on the table. "That's enough, we're not doing this."
Bastion gestured behind him at Zander, "Oh, and he's the brooding monster hunter with a dead family. Jack of all trades, if you will."
"Don't make him angry." Bastion giggled.
"Excuse me! What do you mean you'll need muscle?" Asked Ken.
"Isn't it obvious?" Said Bastion surprised, "We're forming an adventuring party. Come on now, try to keep up."
"Bastion! We do NOT need more people! I can handle it myself." Shouted Zander.
Bastion walked over and got right in Zander's face, smiling. "You keep shouting but I don't see you doing anything about it. Come on, wring my neck. Pulverize me. Blast my brains to a million pieces. Do it, I dare you."
Zander clenched his fist.
Bastion spoke, "Hmm? Don't want to murder me in front of those girls? Is that it?"
"Fuck you." Zander sat back down.
Bastion spun back to the group, "I've got a good eye, I'm guessing each of you is in dire need of either money or some favors. Well luck has it that the Duke of Merravale has a bounty placed on the cultist ragamuffins who are mucking about."
He pulled out a crumpled flyer that had been pasted on the side of the building, claiming a hefty reward.
"Plus Zander and I have some personal beef with them, so we all win!" He smiled cheerfully.
Arturia nervously scratched her head, "I don't know… that sounds dangerous. And I'm not a fighter."
Asuna gave her a slap on the back, "Hey! You need money to get to Alphindale right? And these cult guys might have some magic stuff to help you out too. Don't sweat it, I've got your back."
"So can I count you in?" Asked Bastion.
Arturia mumbled, "I don't-"
"Hell yeah!" Asuna pumped her fist.
"Wonderful! And how about you two?" He glanced at Ken and Anna.
"What makes you think the Duke would help us? I'm an oathbreaker, we're both wanted."
"Tsk tsk, I've heard Duke Merravale is a big softy. I'm sure if you impress him with this he could pull some strings. Might even grant you a pardon!"
"A pardon? Pardons for oathbreakers have only ever come from King Aldwin or Archbishop Thræn. Duke Merravale has no authority to grant such a reprieve."
"Oh? Oopsie, I'm not well versed in Sanctum politics." Bastion waved his hand.
"Unsurprising, you both have Zauberian accents. I'll save my questions about that for later."
"Well. Even if he couldn't pardon you… he could pardon her."
They both looked at Anna, she glanced around confused as if she'd zoned out half the conversation.
Ken hesitated, "I…"
"I'll have to think about it."
"I'll give you till tomorrow." Bastion's smug grin never wavered.
"Excuse me…" came Arturia's quiet voice.
"Yes little lady?"
"Well…" she fidgeted with her hands, "You went through all of us. But what about you? Can you introduce yourself?"
"Oh?" Bastion paused for a moment. He chuckled, then laughed throwing his head back. "Where are my manners? Of course!"
He spun in a circle and his cloak flapped around, revealing dozens of assorted potion bottles and knives hanging from the inside and along his belt. He bowed dramatically and met Arturia at eye level, his charming smile took on a sinister glare.
"I am Lord Sebastian Shney the 54th, and I am simply a rat."
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