Brown-Paper-Packages

Charlie had regaled her, ice-cream in hand, of his tomfoolery, shenanigans, and other menacing in his home of Valentine. She learned about his network of back alleys, his crew of mischievous mates, and all the ways to steal mysterious things from the pockets of strangers (or right out of their hands, in Lyen's case). He had a veritable treasure trove of things. Lyen was trying her very best not to let her face betray the dismay building up. She'd accidentally run into the pre-pubescent crime-lord of Valentine.

"And what do your parents think of your trophies?" she asked.

At this point, Charlie's face became grave and he relayed the story of his sickly mother, his struggling father, and their lot as "fatally middle-class" (his father's term) citizens of this city. Anything extra he found that he could hawk or pawn brought in a tidy sum which he attributed to his delivery route; a job entirely made-up but just sensible enough to have him out and about in the city.

He was a clever boy, but Lyen felt a pang of guilt to help him. It wasn't likely that the Captain would want to contribute to help turn things around for him, and it was equally unlikely that any sum of money could save the sick mother and soothe the weary father he mentioned--then again, perhaps the veracity of this story was questionable. Knowing that nothing was exactly as it seemed, Lyen played the part of the concerned stranger. Without any extra coin on hand to offer, the ice-cream would have to suffice.

"Well when you've got yourself an empire, remember me, Lyen Gui, and our pleasant stroll through the carnival," she licked her ice-cream cone, which was pistachio and taro flavored.

"Oh I'm not likely to forget you, and that strange device in your box," Charlie licked his own cookies and cream cone.

It was all she could do not to turn bright red, "Actually, you should forget you ever saw that. And now, dear Charlie, we must say goodbye. Thank you for your stories, and I recommend you find other ways to make some extra money for your family. Some people might not buy you an ice cream cone for stealing their things."

"They do when I let them catch me!"

She ruffled his brown, messy hair, not sure just how much she had been played.

"See you later Lyen!" Charlie said, then raced off toward the bazaar she'd found him in.

Ly raised her hand as the child darted around a corner and out of sight. Suddenly, she noticed that the object in her pouch was still vibrating furiously. Withdrawing it with hesitation, she realized she had no idea how to turn it off, and the manual was lost in a house of mirrors.

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