Chapter 97:

Chapter 97 - Gunslinger’s Paradise


As chaotic as Wesson’s capitol had looked from afar, it was nothing compared to the experience of walking the Trigger City streets.

Beretta stayed right behind her adult companions, watching a river of people flow around them. They were dressed up in fine, tailored coats, long trousers, and pretty dresses, and they walked as if they were all in a big hurry.

It was overwhelming. She’d never seen a crowd like this–unless she counted the occasional festival along Port Pistola’s waterfront–but that was different, since you could walk off and get some space to yourself anytime you wanted. Here, there was no space. There were people everywhere you looked! Even the stores they passed looked full.

Before she even knew what she was doing, the girl found herself whimpering and tugging on Mimi’s hand.

“What is it, Beretta?” she asked, turning her head to regard her with a cocked brow. “Do you have to go to the bathroom?”


“Well, what then?”

Beretta just whimpered again. She didn’t really know how to describe what she was feeling; she just knew that it was unpleasant and that there didn’t seem to be any way out. Not unless they left, of course, but the last thing she wanted was to be the one who threw off Mimi’s plans.

The older girl sighed and looked to Luca, who was busy plucking fuzz from Sniffer’s coat. “Can you give us a minute?”

“Hmm? Oh. Yeah, sure,” he said absently, stowing his fuzzy gun in its holster. He stepped in front of them and crossed his arms, giving her and Mimi a small pocket of breathing room to talk in.

Beretta managed a watery smile as Mimi knelt down and rubbed her shoulders. “What’s the problem, hmm?” she said softly. “Is it all the people around here? Does it feel like too much?”

She nodded, rubbing at her eyes in an effort to stop them from tearing up. To her surprise, Mimi didn’t bully her about it or tell her to stop.

Instead, she smiled. “It’s okay. I’ve lived here most of my life, so I’m used to it… But I get how it might be scary for a kid.” Mimi looked up from her place on the ground and gave Luca’s thigh a smack. “Hey, Luca. Can you carry her?”

“What? Me?”

“Yes, you,” Mimi said with a scowl. “Just put her up on those big, broad shoulders of yours. My spinal column is far too dainty and delicate to bear the weight of a nine-year-old.”

“I think you just don’t want to do it,” he grumbled.

“...What was that?”


The man squatted down to the sidewalk and waved her over, grunting a little as she clamored onto his back. It was a completely different experience from the piggyback rides Father gave her; Luca wasn’t nearly as tall as he was, and his skinny frame left her with little room to move about. Still, when he rose up to his full height it put her above the roiling mass of people crowding the sidewalk, instantly relieving her of the anxiety she’d been feeling since they left the airshipyard.

“We’re close now,” he said as they made to continue down the boulevard. “I’ll have to stop carrying you once we get to the GGE. In fact, it might be best if we find a spot for you to hang out while I work on getting Mimi through security.”

Just like that, Beretta felt herself tense up again. “Hang out? Why? Where??”

“The workshops are dangerous. Lots of fire, smoke… Pointy tools. No way will they allow a kid back there. Even getting your friend into that part of the building will be a tough sell,” he explained. “It’ll be alright though. As a tracker, I’m allowed access to the GGE’s private consultation rooms. They’re super secure, and hardly anyone ever uses them. It’ll be a great place to catch a breather.”

Beretta couldn’t help but sulk. A whole room to herself did sound nice, but she didn’t like the idea of being separated from Mimi one bit. “Will there be anything fun to do in there?”

Luca and Mimi exchanged a glance. “Well… No,” he admitted, “but I’ll tell you what: I’ll leave Sniffer with you to keep you company! He usually hates being away from me, but I can tell he likes you plenty already. What do you say?”

“Okay!” she exclaimed. The prospect of being left to her own devices in an unfamiliar place still worried her, but with the slobbery, affectionate firearm at her side, at least she wouldn’t feel quite so alone.

Before long they’d arrived at the steps of a grand old building, replete with stylish stonework and intricately-carved reliefs. People filtered in and out between towering columns, some of them clutching weapons unlike any Beretta had seen before. Even as Luca moved to set her down she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the scene. She had never seen so many Gunslingers in one place before, and the sight of it utterly captured her imagination.

“Welcome to the Grand Gun Exchange,” Luca said, plainly amused by her reaction. “We’re the largest supplier of destined weapons this side of Cal Vontra. Most every Gunsmith in Wesson trusts us with their arms, and most every would-be Gunslinger for miles around knows to come here to see if they have what it takes to wield them.”

It sounded almost too good to be true. In Truvelo, there was nothing like that–Gunsmiths were known as consummate travelers, endlessly crafting new works and wandering in search of their destined owners. The idea of a single organization rendering all that guesswork and effort unnecessary was a tough pill to swallow.

“...But how do they know?” Beretta asked. “How does anyone but a Gunsmith know who their weapon belongs to?”

“Nobody does. Not exactly, anyway,” Mimi interjected. “But it has long been known to us Gunsmiths that arcan, even in its raw form, reacts subtly to the presence of mana. When held by a potential wielder, it gives off a subtle, almost imperceptible glow… And when it is properly processed and cleansed of impurities, a hue can be observed within the stone’s core depending on which domain the Gunslinger has an affinity for.”

Luca nodded, waving them on toward the big double doors as he went on: “Every one of our clerks keeps a pearl of pure arcan on-hand to test people with. If the pearl reacts in any way, we have them try out guns from our storeroom until they find their destined weapon.”

Beretta gasped. “That sounds dangerous.”

“Heh. It is, kind of,” Luca confirmed, stepping forward to pull the door open for them. “But have no fear. All the serious testing goes on in the back. Here in the main hall you’re unlikely to be shot, but extremely likely…

“…To be amazed!”

Before she or Mimi could so much as set foot inside the building, a charm of hummingbirds came fluttering out into the open air. Beretta spun about, watching them fly off in wide-eyed wonder, before turning her attention back to the entrance hall and stepping beyond the threshold. The massive, high-ceilinged room was full of people, almost all of whom were standing in line before two unbroken rows of desks. Just as Luca had indicated, those at the front of each line were in the process of being tested by a clerk; they were either filling out forms, holding small, shiny pearls of arcan up for examination, or squeezing the trigger of one weapon after another in an attempt to find their perfect match.

Every now and then, one of them even succeeded. On their way through the hall, Beretta bore witness to one spectacle after another: an elderly woman rapid-firing squares of chocolate into the laminated glass that shielded her clerk; a young man looking up at the ceiling in wonder as the feathers he’d dispensed drifted down around him; a couple performing an energetic waltz as they fired off their newly-acquired weapons simultaneously, causing a mixture of confetti and–strangely enough–baby dill pickles to rain down on everyone around them.

It was incredible. It was magical.

And before she knew it, it was over.

She was ushered behind one of those long rows of desks and into a drab, scarcely-furnished room. Its only notable fixture was a great square table in the middle, standing well apart from the walls. She turned to face Mimi and Luca, intending to complain, but she was taken aback as Sniffer was suddenly thrust into her hands.

“There you go. Be good, okay?” Luca said, smiling down at her from his place by the door.

“B-But I want to stay out there!” she said in a rush.

“Sorry, kid. I can’t risk security escorting you out while we’re gone. Promise we won’t be too too long!”

And with that, the door snapped shut, leaving her with nobody but Sniffer for company. She sighed and slumped down to the floor, scritching behind the dog-gun’s ears while he panted away.

“At least I have you, Sniffer,” she said, though the sentiment did little to cheer her up. Why did adults always get to go off on the real adventures? Why didn’t she ever get to do anything fun?

Why, even now that she was a Gunslinger herself, did she continue to get treated like a baby? She was almost ten!


The sound of the doorknob turning brought her out of her melancholy right away, and for a moment she dared to hope that Mimi and Luca had changed their minds and come back from her.

…But the sound of a cruel and familiar voice issuing from the other side of the door broke her of that delusion in an instant, sending her scuttling beneath the table in a blind panic.

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