Never To Be Topped

Suffice it to say, Mr. Horne's answer was nothing short of disappointing, ultimately amounting to, " You'll find out eventually, I guess," Alas, the man was ignorant of the Duke's intentions, it couldn't be helped. That, however, didn't stop the confident hunter from pressing the man until it seemed like he would physically crack. It was all too easy to think I'll of the man as a drunkard on another target, but he had brought up a point that, to be honest, Jack hadn't even gotten to yet.

It was obvious the Duke had brought everyone here by invitation. Sure, they weren't the cream of the crop as far as hunters go, Jack's own presence here was evidence that the Duke wasn't exactly aiming for top-tier, yet it seemed everyone here had experience with dealing with supernatural foes. So just what threat would warrant five of such hunters? Jack hadn't really gotten any farther with that thought than the other hunter it seemed, but the sudden burst of attentiveness was something to note. He couldn't help but wonder if this man too had felt dread in the air...

Soon the two had finally gotten into their coach. Despite his earlier observation of the drunkard's attentiveness, the moment his eyes laid upon the giant-slayer and his stench reached the boy's nose, Jack cursed under his breath for being the only other person in this damn box with the man.

For whatever reason, the steward had insisted that they be separated based on gender, the only excuse for such a thing that came to Jack's young adult mind was that someone might get handsy, otherwise, he saw absolutely no cause for it. And while it may have seemed that the androgynous hunter had just been a woman after all, Jack was convinced that they had simply taken the opportunity to leave him alone with the man and take a much more pleasant ride with the ladies. He would never forgive them for that.

And so ensued the most awkward coach ride of Jack's life. Admittedly, it happened to be the first coach ride of his life as well, but Jack was convinced this would be a ride never to be topped. Jack, feeling nothing but cornered at this point, crossed his arms as the only psychological defense he had available to him and tried his best not to make direct eye contact. He knew, though, that the man was one hell of a talker, and there was only one person capable of listening to what he had to say.

"Huh, kid. Don't you know you're too young for this line of work? You've got your life ahead of you!"

Jack frowned, now trying to refrain from cupping his ears. This early through the ride and the man was already personally attacking him? This was going to be worse than he thought. Jack fully expected more of the same from him, and flashed him a glare thinking, I'll be damned if you're the reason I turn back home, you inebriate tosspot son of a b-

He held up his hands placatively, "Fine, fine... I can see you have your reasons. No need to make this trip an unpleasant one,"

Jack's thoughts stopped in their tracks. Sure, the boy was practically staring swords and there were only so many things such a look could possibly convey, but the accuracy with which the man had responded was nearly startling, like he knew exactly what Jack was thinking. Initially, Jack didn't want anything more than to not have to listen to this guy, but he found his stalwart defenses ever-so-slightly wavering, and realizing that was enough to make him at least hear the hunter out.

"But know this kid, had I any intention to survive this ordeal, I would not have taken up the business of hunting monsters. ...It's a job best suited to cursed souls and the like."

The man peered out of the window, giving Jack just enough time to regain his composure, though not nearly enough time to process what he had said. The boy was used to throwing himself to the wind and going into mental overdrive only in the midst of it, and he always felt beforehand had no other option. But in the back of his mind he couldn't help but think, do I need to do this?

Do I need to do this?

He exhaled, shaking away that thought as the man turned back to him, and this time Jack found himself able to look him in the eyes from the start.

"Anyways, the name's Gaston LeGume! THE Gaston LeGume. The very same one that bested Ragnar the Red in the hills above Fiddler's Green! Oh, what a hunt! Drilled a hole right between his eyes from two hundred yards away with ol' Maxine here! The beast didn't even see it coming," he boasted, patting the heavy barrel of his black powder rifle, which sat next to him with its base plate against the floor.

And there he was again, boasting about his exploits, and surprisingly, Jack kind of found it welcoming, as thinking of how he could have sworn Ragnar the Red and Fiddler's Green were two entirely separate things was infinitely more preferable than where his mind was going just a second ago. He had to admit though, no matter what the dried vomit and faint smell of piss might have suggested, there was definitely more to this man than meets the eye, or the nose.

Jack nodded some, looking down at his feet, then up at the man.

"Gaston, huh? Well, I'm Jackson Spriggs, or I guess just Jack. I-uh, I killed a giant." He said the last part with a shrug, almost feeling an obligation to downplay what he had done. In truth, the reason was simple. He was here because he happened to kill a giant. All there was to it. And what did it really matter anyway? He was just here to do what needed to be done, get his pay, and go home. He wasn't here to put another trophy under his belt. He wasn't like this guy, this Gaston. The guy had obviously taken down more monsters than Jack could count on his fingers.

So why did he feel so uncertain about his own motives? About the way he thought of Gaston? Famous, talented, good-looking, yes, but what went wrong? Why was he now drowning himself in drink, and why did he seem like he had a death wish? And most importantly, why did Jack feel like the two of them might have something in common?

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