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“What are you doing?” The woman asked, as I opened the doors leading out to the balcony and peered down into the backyard.

“I’m thinking. If you’re going to help me, we need to leave Sal’s first. Do you think they’ll let you just walk out of here?” I asked.

“Oh, I should think not.” She responded with a chuckle. “Although the demons mostly do whatever I say, I’m not allowed to leave of my own volition.”

I looked back at her and then shook my head. “Then, we need to both leave this place, and we need to do it without being seen.”

“What about the friend you came here with?”

“Charak will be fine.” I shrugged. “He’ll be done and out of here before they even realize we’re missing.”

“And you plan to leap out that window?” She asked.

“I said I’m thinking.” I frowned, reaching to the side and yanking on a terrace, but it was instantly clear to me it wouldn’t hold any weight. “Perhaps we can tie the bedsheets together and climb down.”

She made a pouty face. “I thought you were going to sweep me off my feet and fight your way out of here?”

“Are you just messing with me?” I turned around, glaring at her angrily for a moment. “I don’t even know your name.”

“My name is Rhea.” She answered simply.

“Fantastic.” I turned away from her. “Well, Rhea, I’m not that kind of demon.”

“Are you any kind of demon?” She asked.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, nothing…” When I looked back at her, she had a somewhat knowing smile.

It uneased me a bit. I had a feeling like this woman was very clever. Since coming to this world, she was the first person who had given me that feeling. Most demons were rather foolish. Even the humans, while smarter than demons, had gone a generation basically without education, not that this world likely had much of that in the first place. Even the likes of Daphne and Alleya didn’t come off as clever, just products of their upbringing. One was worldly, while the other was street smarts, but neither I would call clever.

I could say the same thing about Sal. Sal was a lot of things, but I never found him to be all that clever. This girl, on the other hand, strangely unnerved me. It was like the world was a joke, and only she was in on the punchline. Even the way she was watching me felt half curious, and half-mocking. It was like she was bored and just wanted to watch me struggle for a while.

“You have a better way?” I demanded.

“I wouldn’t want to emasculate you…”  She responded, turning her head away innocently.

“Just tell me what you’re thinking,” I demanded.

“I’m thinking you’re too focused on escaping tonight. For the moment, my position is secure, and you may leave this place at any time unmolested without me. If you wish to acquire my… services, then you should come up with something far less spontaneous.”

I closed my eyes and opened them again. She was probably right. I had drunk several with Charak before coming here. I was frustrated, partially inebriated, and feeling pressured. My decisions were usually made with more thought than that. Here I was trying to jump out the window with some woman I just met like… like… some hero in a fantasy world!

I shut the window closed again. “Perhaps you’re right.”

“I’m allowed out to the market once a week, under guard. That would likely be your best time to acquire me.” She responded.

“Acquire?” I raised an eyebrow.

“Do you honestly believe that we women have true autonomy?” she asked.

I thinned my lips but ignored her question. After a few seconds of silence, I reached out and grabbed my coat, and started heading for the door. For the first time, she seemed a bit surprised.

“W-wait! Where are you going?”

“If you’re not coming today, then there is no reason for me to stay here any longer,” I responded.

She blinked, and then lowered her head. “There might be a reason for you to stay.”

I stopped, looking down at her where she lay in bed. I hadn’t noticed it before, but the way she had placed herself on the bed had a certain allure to it. She was taking advantage of her outfit and positioning to appear as desirable as she could manage.

“You want that?” I asked, partially in disbelief.

“I am paid for, after all. I came into this room with certain… expectations.”

I took my hand away from the doorknob. “I’ve had beautiful women before.”

“I have experience.”

“I’m not particularly easy to please.”

“I’m up for the challenge.”

“I’m slightly drunk.”

She smiled. “I always am.”

I nodded and then began to unbutton my shirt.

It was an hour later when I stepped out the door into the hallway beyond. I carefully checked myself to make sure my clothing wasn’t amiss. The scratches on my back hurt a bit, but that would heal with time.

“So, what will be your plan?” I heard a voice from behind me.

I looked back to see her wearing nothing but lingerie, her hair messy, and her hand upon the doorframe. Even in this position, she managed to make herself appear delectable. It was no wonder that Sal’s Shoppe was doing well. She was very good at selling her sex appeal. If it just came to that, then she would be all talk and no bite, but she also had the skills to back up what she said.

Although I had hired several other girls, deep down, they were different people who were forced into a life of sex to survive. Elizabeth was a mother and a homemaker. Alleya was a princess. Daphne was a street urchin. They might be in the sex trade now, but they were prostitutes by nature. I couldn’t say the same thing about this woman. She gave the feeling that even if everything in the world was great and there was nothing holder her back, she would still choose to work in a brothel.

“When it happens, you’ll know it.”

That was the only response I gave her before turning away and leaving. We were in the hallway now, and I didn’t want to have a conversation where someone could overhear us. Thus, I was very careful with my words, I felt like she had been too. There was a certain twinkle in her eye as if she felt I had passed some kind of test by not immediately gloating about how I was going to rescue her. Then again, I was still in enemy territory and I wasn’t suicidal, so unless I was a complete idiot, I wouldn’t have done that.

I still skulked more than walked the rest of the way out of the brothel. I still had some expectation that someone would suddenly grab me and try to imprison or attack me, but nothing like that happened. The nice thing about brothels this size is that no one asked any questions. Even when it came to demons who didn’t have any shame, it was still preferable to do things incognito, if not through respect, then through apathy.

Despite my best attempt to not be seen, the host who had originally brought me in had returned to the entrance, and as soon as I appeared he seemed to catch me and give me a knowing smile. I didn’t say another word, walking out the front entrance. I wouldn’t feel safe until I was back home in my store. As I walked out the entrance, I was surprised to see a familiar form standing near the gate, looking absently up at the mansion.

“Charak.” I addressed him, but Charak didn’t seem to notice. “Charak!”

“Huh? What? Oh! Devon…”

“Shhhh!” I looked around nervously, but I supposed I was already out of the shop, and with Charak there I was at least confident I could run away.

“Ah… sorry…” He blushed. “What’s going on?”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out.” I hissed at him. “I figured you’d head home once you were done.”

“I… yes…” He gave a firm nod. “I’ll do that. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You too…”

I would have preferred he walked me home, but he seemed to have his head in the clouds for some reason. Maybe he had finally ended up drinking too much. I never really saw how alcohol hit him once he left the shop.

He began to walk off, although I was pretty sure he wasn’t walking in the direction of his house, while I went in another direction. I pulled up my hood and did my best to not be seen as I made my way home through the dark. As I saw the familiar tavern, I finally let out a breath of relief. You could never be too careful. Otherwise, someone could get up behind you and-


Ah… that. I went unconscious.

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