Chapter 1:

A Prince, a Minstrel and a Rabbit Walk Into a Bar

The Helpful Assassin and His Bunny Girl Erase Human Evils

“One more round for everyone! On me!”Bookmark here

The tavern was as rowdy as ever, especially with the return of the prince in town. As was the case with every other royal, every night was marked by heavy drinking and various other debaucheries. No one cared about those, though; they’d all be forgotten by daylight. Bookmark here

The star of the show was the young heir to the local baron’s fortune, a boy no younger than twenty with an appetite for every vice imaginable. His throne was a bejeweled bar stool, resting above two thick spears lodged in the wall, from where he reigned over the entire room. With a pint of ale in his left and a cigar in the right, and the tavern’s succubus right between, his jurisdiction was absolute.Bookmark here

Right next to him, his right hand man, the barkeep, was tiredly wiping off his sweat. Serving an entire mob of thirsty warriors, bounty hunters and general drunkards wasn’t an easy task, but his four hands helped in a pinch. That, and his ability to fill and carry 12 jugs at once, made his place the most popular for group drinking. Coincidentally, it was also the number one spot for noise complaints, property damage and rioting, all in a night’s work.Bookmark here

The atmosphere was rowdy and joyful, brutes armwrestling on one table, a friendly, knives-on-the table match of poker going on on another table, and everyone talking in anything but inside voices.Bookmark here

“You heard about the lord? Another assassination attempt last week!”Bookmark here

“Attempt?! Psht, hahaha! That wee lad that was just stopped at the gate with a dagger? He probably wanted to scrape some rust off the fences!”Bookmark here

“But the lord’s increased security again around his estate. Wait...what day is it? Monday? God damnit! I was supposed to be on duty!”Bookmark here

These were the kinds of conversations people had in the privacy of the tavern. After all, the best way to hide is in plain sight, and the best place to talk is in deafening noise. The attempt on the lord’s life was the talk of the town lately and for good reason. It’s not every day that such an important figure is almost killed, that’s more of a weekly occurrence. Not to say everyone was concerned about that. The lord’s son seemed to be the least concerned about this.Bookmark here

“Where’s the entertainment you hired?” the Prince asked, taking the last swig of his ale.Bookmark here

“It’ your lap, sire,” the barkeep replied, topping his drink once again.Bookmark here

“No, not that! Although next time, remember that more is more. I’m talking about the music!”Bookmark here

Just as he finished that sentence, as if on cue, an unfamiliar figure came into the doorframe. The lute in his hand suggested he was the minstrel, however nothing about his allure would clue you about that. His very presence silenced the unruly crowd, as his ice-blue eyes scouted the room, slicing every single patron of the bar into tiny pieces. Instead of the pleasant warmth an entertainer was supposed to give off, he spread an uneasy cold across the room, as his bored, somewhat dissatisfied expression came into the light of the tavern. Bookmark here

He was young, probably just old enough to hold his ale, slim and frail-looking. He wasn’t the kind of guy you’d give a second glance to, a weakling by all means. But something in his posture gave off a very tense feeling, as if he was ready to leap at a moment’s notice. He stiffly walked across the bar, stung by a hundred eyes that followed his every move with drunken contempt, as he settled on a small, empty chair in the corner. Without any warning, he loudly strummed his lute as an alert and vivacious tone cut the silence.Bookmark here

Within seconds, all the pressure was gone in the air and a round of cheers erupted, as business resumed as usual. With the addition of a background noise, the conversations became even louder and more unintelligible, as the pile of empty pints grew bigger. With the appearance of the minstrel, the poor barkeep’s job became even harder.Bookmark here

People began partaking in the classic tradition of drinking games, encouraged by the lively cadence of the tunes. Glass shards started filling the floor as the brutes, unaware of their own strength anymore, smacked them on the hard wooden tables as soon as they were emptied. Others began tapping them on the counter, providing a set of improvised drums to go with the music. Among all the joyful rowdiness, only one person was bored.Bookmark here

“Is this the best you can find?”Bookmark here

“My apologies...sire,” the bartender huffed as he put a new, full keg on the shelf. “A friend recommended him to me. He’s working just for a place to spend the night and free food., so I...”Bookmark here

“What can I expect from a beggar...This won’t cut it,” the prince mumbled, as he groggily shoved the succubus off his leg and got down from his throne. Downing another pint, he quickly scanned the room. Bookmark here

The bartender sighed profoundly, as he understood what was about to happen. He stashed away all empty pints and emptied the counter as best as he could in anticipation of what was about to happen. The prince was a man with noble blood, blood that tended to run quite hot in his veins. Therefore, whenever he went out to drink, he made it a habit to find the biggest brute in the bar and start a fight with him.Bookmark here

He slowly stalked towards the entrance, where a bare-chested man with tattooed arms just finished his tenth pint to add to the pile. Judging by his frown as well as the few chips in front of him, he wasn’t on a winning streak, and his temper was starting to slowly fly off the hook. Without a doubt, he was a perfect victim for the prince’s mischief. Grabbing a pint from a nearby passed out patron, the prince conveniently lost his grip and spilled the strong-smelling alcohol on the head of the brute.Bookmark here

“What the hell?! What’dya think you’re doing, squirt?”Bookmark here

“Oi, you just got up and bumped into my drink! I paid good money for this pint, you muppet!”Bookmark here

“Huh?! You just spill’d it on me on purpose,” the brute replied annoyed as he pushed himself up and away from the table. He was one head taller than the prince, but what he lacked in stature, his highness more than made up for in moxie and guts.Bookmark here

“Oh, my bad. When I saw you, I just thought your bald head was an ashtray,” he retorted as he put out his cigar on the warrior’s forehead. To that, he bellowed in pain as he swung at the prince. Quick on his feet, the prince stepped backwards, causing the brute to stumble right into his elbow.Bookmark here

“Hngh…” he mumbled, dazed. Quickly recollecting himself, he grabbed the chair he was sitting on and swung him at the heir. Not expecting that, he took the full blow, falling backwards onto a table filled with pints. Enraged, the brute continued his attack, taking his knife out of the table it was planted in and charged at the fallen prince.Bookmark here

However, the young heir wasn’t new to bar fights. Taking another pint, he threw it at the brute’s chest, quickly following that up with a desperate kick. Hitting his mark, he was propelled off the table, with the brute being pushed back. Right now, they were sitting with just a ravaged table to separate them and four angry pairs of eyes glaring at them. Bookmark here

The minstrel struck a power chord. With a powerful knee, the warrior flipped the table onto the prince, but that was probably exactly what he had in plan. Driven by the adrenaline, the young heir found a new strength within him, as he caught the table by the edge and raised it above his head. Dumbfounded, the brute forgot to think or to move, as the hard wood crashed down onto his head. Seeing as his opponent was on the ground, the prince taunted:Bookmark here

“Is that all you got, you two-ton cow?”Bookmark here

‘You little brat!” the two-ton cow bellowed as he lunged at his opponent’s feet. Caught by surprise, the prince couldn’t react in time and found himself locked into place. With a strong pull, the prince was swept off the floor and found himself onto the brute’s shoulders. Raising the heir above his head, the brute turned once to show the entire tavern his might and then slammed the prince to the ground. A pained groan escaped his throat alongside a couple droplets of blood.Bookmark here

“That’s whatcha get for not holding your ale betta’, you skinny prick!” the brute growled as he leaned to spit on the prince. However, he made the mistake of resting his food on the young heir’s chest. Feeling the weight on his lungs, he immediately grabbed the warrior’s worn off boot and used it as a lever to knock the brute off his feet. Both fighters soon got up at the same time, facing off, for once, in an actual stand-off. The minstrel took note of that charged atmosphereBookmark here

The broken table between them, a ring of patrons formed around them, as the ones caught in the middle suddenly wanted to be on the sidelines. For a second they just glared at one another, the brute with unmasked contempt and anger, with the prince shooting him a gaze filled with cunning and joy. After all, a bar fight was what he came here for. The minstrel quickly changed his tune to a slow, yet accelerating tune.Bookmark here

Not willing to wait anymore, the brute charged at the prince, but now warmed up and ready, the young heir wasn’t even fazed. He quickly sidestepped out of the way of his strong arms, grabbing one of them as he dodged. In one quick motion, he spun the warrior around, letting him feel the strength of his own momentum, as he sent him barrelling towards the counter. Ralf swiftly ducked under it, as the brute flew over him, landing face first into the kegs, then collapsing to the ground, motionless and defeated.Bookmark here

“Young master, please!”Bookmark here

“I’ll pay you for all the damages tomorrow! Right now, another round for everyone!”Bookmark here

As soon as his thirst for fighting was quenched, the prince wanted the spoils. Dusting himself off and rearranging his jaw, he spat the remaining blood in his mouth and grabbed another unguarded pint off a nearby table. His eyes, although a bit shaky from the fight, darted across the room in search for a new beauty. Unlucky for him, bars and women don’t usually mix up without a bit of money being involved, so his luck was out.Bookmark here

Just as he was about to collapse on his throne again, his luck was about to turn around. With all the post-brawl commotion, a new figure had entered the room, unnoticed by anyone. Based on the small, dainty stature and the gentle, quiet steps it took, it became apparent to him that the cloak moving ghastly to the minstrel’s corner was a girl.Bookmark here

She took a seat next to the disengaged entertainer and he quickly nodded in return. One sheepish glance towards the entrance was enough to reveal her hooded face to the heated prince. Her face was white as a ghost’s, the only spot of colour being her slightly pink lips and her pale yellow eyes. She bore an uneasy expression on her face, as she breathed in short, sharp and quiet gasps, continuously looking around the room. A scared, shy girl was a perfect reward for the battle he both won and started.Bookmark here

“Heya there, girl! Care for a pint?” the prince slid next to the girl, having snatched another unguarded jug. The girl winced quietly and scurried towards the wall.Bookmark here

“N-no, I’m fine,” she whispered, as she dug her face in her cloak.Bookmark here

“Come on, don’t be afraid! I own this tavern, so you can drink as much as you want!”Bookmark here

“T-thank you, but I...I don’t w-want anything! P-please leave me a-a-alone!” she glued herself to the wall, as the prince took more of an assertive stance.Bookmark here

“Oh, playing hard to get, are you? You’re beautiful, you know that? Come on, show the world your face!” he said as he grabbed her cloak. The minstrel sitting right across from them slowed his tune, as his eyes impaled the daring prince.Bookmark here

“N-no! Don’t touch that!” she yelled in an unbecomingly sharp voice, causing the bard to barely strum his lute anymore. Following suit, the commotion in the bar died down as well.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, I’m sure no one will mind looking at free eye candy!” he shouted as he lifted her and shoved her over him and shoved her towards the middle of the bar. With her frail constitution, the girl immediately fell to the ground with a soft thud.Bookmark here

Her hood came off as well revealing her long hair, as white as fresh snow, as well as two, shoulder-length lop rabbit ears that involuntarily twitched at every sound around her. Quickly hopping back to her feet, the girl covered herself again and tried to run, but the prince was quick to grab her.Bookmark here

“Oh, a Lapin! What’s a girl like you doing so far from home?”Bookmark here

“P-please let go of me…” she pleaded silently, as the minstrel’s chords barely strummed.Bookmark here

“But how could I? You’ll just run least a kiss goodbye?”Bookmark here

“Oi!”Bookmark here

A foreign voice echoed throughout the bar, causing all the attention to land on the source. The minstrel’s tone was strict and determined, although not backed by his wimpy pitch. However, he still retained the same detached attitude, as he mindlessly strummed his lute whilst leering at the prince.Bookmark here

“Leave the girl alone.”Bookmark here

“My, my...What a noble beggar we have here!” the heir mockingly exclaimed. “Sure thing, here!” he continued, as he shoved the scared bunny girl towards him. Without even flinching, the minstrel kicked the chair he was resting his feet on to catch her, all the while still playing the same three minor chords.Bookmark here

“Nice catch,” the prince snided as he approached the minstrel. The girl quickly got up and hid behind the entertainer’s chair, both of them keeping their eyes fixed on the impending threat. With his taste for beauty not satisfied, and still in need for fun, the young heir could only supplement his wishes in one way. Bookmark here

With a quick smirk as a warning, the prince lunged at the minstrel with a left hook, hoping for a quick sucker punch to end it all. What he didn’t expect, however, was the minstrel jumping from his seat and slamming his lute down, catching his hand and sending his attack to a painful end within the table. In a flash, the musician dashed past the young heir, grabbed his right arm and swung him over his shoulder, sending him crashing towards the ground.Bookmark here

The impact was sudden and powerful, and with the prince not having recovered from his last fight, it was the first and last hit he’d take for the night. After countless pints, cigars and hard blows, he finally passed out. With the bard’s lute in shambles, no more songs filled the bar, not that they needed any. After they’ve seen the prince pummel a man twice his size then getting knocked out in one swift movement, they’ve had their share of entertainment.Bookmark here

“I’ll be heading in for now, where’s my room?”Bookmark here

“I...Umm, yes! Right this way, up the stairs, at the end of the hallway.”Bookmark here

Nodding friendly to the barkeep, the minstrel disappeared behind the bar, the only remnants of his presence being the broken lute that rested next to the groaning prince. Shakingly, the girl got up from his chair and approached the flustered barkeep.Bookmark here

“ you have any more...r-rooms?”Bookmark here

Ana Fowl
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