The sky was dimly lit as the sun had yet to rise. Leona took one more look back at the mansion, taking in the sight of it in all it's entirety. She wasn't sure how long she'd be gone, but she couldn't bear to stay any longer. "I hope father doesn't get too furious when he reads my letter..." Leona sighed after a long pause. She gently pulled the reigns, turning her horse around to begin making her way down the lengthy dirt road ahead.
The sun barely hovered above the horizon as she made it to the center of town. The shops were bustling as people lined the stone clad streets. "I didn't anticipate it being so lively already…" She groaned, taking in the sight before her as she maneuvered her way through the crowds.
There wasn't a quiet spot around, with many clattering about in their daily lives; conversations, bartering, and shouting of sales lined the main roads. But despite all the commotion, one voice stood out distinctly.
"Get out of here! We don't want your kind in here!" A grungy voice shouted, loud enough for anyone in the vicinity to hear.
"Goodness… People these days." Leona grumbled to herself as she tried paying no mind to the busyness around her.
Her horse halted abruptly, a man suddenly thrown in its path.
That same grungy voice echoed again, followed by the slam of a door.
Leona could only assume it was the recipient of the shouting from just a moment ago who laid in front of her horse. The townspeople around glanced at the momentary event, but didn't pay much mind. They simply began whispering among themselves as they went on with their tasks.
She leaned over, peeking around her horse to get a better look at this stranger. She strained to see his face without much luck; a filthy cloak and hood covered most of his body, only revealing his bare feet. The man had yet to move an inch, laying there as if a soldier defeated in battle.
Her brows furrowed a bit, she couldn't help but feel sorry for the man. "I wonder why they were so rude to him..? Doesn't anyone have any compassion around here?!-" She began protesting in her head, but quickly came back to reality as the man suddenly arose, facing the door he'd been thrown out of. He stood still, his head cast down to the ground.
After a moment he swiftly turned away from the establishment, and began making his way through the crowds.
Leona let out a small gasp, she'd seen underneath his cloak for only a moment as he turned, "A tail?!" She'd heard stories about the wolf people, but they were so rare around Woodrow, she'd only ever seen one in her life so far. Normally they wouldn't transform around so many people… So why had he?
Leona, already headed in the same direction as this mysterious man, impulsively decided to follow close behind him. "Perhaps he is just looking for work?" She began mulling over in her head, wondering of his circumstances. But depending on what they were, she indeed had a job to offer him.
Leona continued to follow him through the busy streets, never straying far behind. She tried to appear aloof as she followed him down every turn he took, but she had no such skills in the practice of stealth.
They turned down several roads as they made their way through town, walking straight through the crowds that swarmed around. But the man suddenly stopped dead in his tracks.
"Crap!" Leona quickly pulled back on the reins. She almost ran him down, surprised at his sudden halt. "Was I following too closely?"
The man stood in the middle of the street frozen in place, as everyone around them continued on. And just as abruptly as he stopped, he carried on his way. "What was that about?" Still engrossed by the man, Leona tried to follow a little farther behind this time. "I don't think I was cut out for this kind of life…" She snickered to herself, lost in her own thoughts.
Turning yet again down a different path; this one seemed to be deserted, a small alley not many people used. Leona hesitated for a moment, but decided to continue on. She thought perhaps she should finally approach the man with her inquiries.
She decided to jump off her horse and strike a conversation with the man. After all, she had her trusty little dagger with her. A gift she received from her father long ago, who told her to use it in case of emergencies. What could go wrong? She strutted up behind the man with her horse in tow, incredibly sure of herself and her little hidden dagger.
Dark green fabric flashed by her eyes without even a moment to blink…
…Only to be left with golden eyes peering straight through her.
"Why are you following me?!" The man roared after swiftly turning on his toes.
She was met with claws inches away from her throat, as canines bared in her face. The hood of his cloak had fallen, revealing his disgruntled, ashen grey colored hair… but also his unmistakable ears.
Leona's face turned white as her heart beat quickened, she could only focus on the fangs in front of her. She winced as his nostrils flared, the heat of his heavy breath hitting her cheeks. Their faces were inches apart, but she couldn't bear to look him in the eye, It was far too frightening.
She swallowed, "O-Oh.. Y-you noticed that, huh?" Struggling to get her words out, she kept her gaze at the ground. "I..I didn't mean anything by it.. I was just curious-"
"Curious?!" his claws inched closer to her throat as he yelled in her face. She flinched at his sudden burst of anger, "Ok maybe that was the wrong choice of words.."
"I- I just meant-" She spit her words out feverishly, still avoiding his menacing eyes.
His temper only appeared to worsen, "All you humans are the same… Tell me why I shouldn't kill you right now!?"
"Is he serious?" Leona asked herself, trying to stay calm as her posture stiffened from the reality setting in. She thought of grabbing her dagger, but he would surely end her life if she dared move.
Still inches from her face, the man kept his position. It was hard for her to think straight with him breathing down her neck, literally.
His eyes narrowed as he sized her up from top to bottom. The man examined her closely, her flashy pink dress, her well groomed chestnut horse whose coat gleamed; He scowled at her. "You're a noble, aren't you?" The disdain obviously heard in his voice.
Leona was unsure of how she should answer in that moment, if she said yes, would that give him more reason to kill her? But what would he do if she lied?
She decided it best to avoid the question altogether. "I just.. I was thinking of offering you a job. That’s all, I swear!" she pleaded as she put her hands up in defeat. She finally looked him in the eyes, in hopes it would show him her sincerity.
"Oh?" A sneer came across his face as he lowered his arm and straightened his posture.
"That was too close…" Leona dropped her arms and let out a visible sigh of relief as his murderous intent subsided.
"Haah…" The man exposed a small smirk, amused by her obvious unease. "And exactly what kind of job would someone like you have to offer me?" He crossed his arms, asking with obvious cynicism.
Leona found herself peeved by his pretend interest, and it showed on her face. She cleared her throat, "I… Was wondering if I could hire you.."
She muttered reluctantly, debating if it was still a good idea.
"…To be my body guard"
Her face winced with her last statement, she knew he would surely find it ludicrous at this point.
His face was deadpan. Surely for Leona it felt like an eternity went by waiting for whatever reaction he was to have. Perhaps he might even try to kill her again. "Am I stupid?! why did I still ask after what just happened-"
"Are you stupid?" Her thoughts were cut off. His tone almost gave a hint of pity, like he felt sorry for how stupid she was.
"Excuse me?!" She quickly snapped back with her hand on her chest. It's true she had just asked herself if she was stupid, but hearing it aloud from someone else's mouth still felt insulting somehow.
"So tell me something..." He shifted his weight, "Have you been going around asking any ole' person out here to be your bodyguard?" He couldn't believe how naïve this girl was being, but if she was of nobility, could he really be surprised? He thought surely she must be some spoiled rich kid with no grip on reality.
"Uh.." She hesitated, taken aback by his upfront questioning. Leona originally hadn't planned on hiring anyone to do anything, but then she ran into him... And if he was a wolf, then she knew he was stronger than the average man. And if he really did need the money, all the better, right? But could she really just be upfront with her reason for following him? How would he react if she said it was because he was a wolf? She didn't want a repeat of just a moment ago. She knew most wolves didn't trust humans to begin with, but his distrust seemed to be much greater than most.
He looked at her with scrutiny, "And why exactly do you need a bodyguard?" His eyes full of speculation, "Why would a noble go wandering around town looking for someone out on the street?" He leaned his face in close with his last statement, arms still crossed.
"Is it important why?" Leona retorted, avoiding his leering gaze. Could she tell him she had just run away from home?
His eyes narrowed on her, he realized she wasn't just going to come out and give her reasoning. It's true that he needed the money… but would it be worth it? Who knows what she was up to. He examined her outward appearance once more; that pink frilly dress and matching hat, gloves that looked like they'd never touched anything in their life… "She looks pretty high maintenance." He crinkled his nose, his snap judgement written all over his face. "Ok Lady.." He leaned back, "Say I do accept the job… how much money are we talking here?"
Her face went blank, realizing she hadn't thought that far ahead yet. "Well… How does two silver pieces a day sound?"
The man almost choked at her words before catching himself, when was the last time he'd ever made that much money?
"Would I at least know where we're headed? For all I know I could be following you into a volcano." He chided.
Leona scoffed, crossing her arms in defiance, "If you must know… I am headed to Lupin Island."
His face became stiff, where had he heard that name before? "Ah…it was then…" His eyes cast down, that name resurged an old memory he'd almost forgotten. "It's a small chance she could be there… but what if…?"
Leona cocked her head, curious about his sudden outwardly change. "So… considering accepting the proposition?" She fidgeted, tapping her fingers together. She knew she didn't have much time to squander before leaving town.
A large exhale left his nostrils, "Should I…?" He closed his eyes as he mulled it over.
After a brief moment he shot his gaze at her,
"Why should I trust you? How do I know you have the money? What if you use me and then just run off without paying?" He quickly spouted off.
Leona's eyes narrowed, her mouth slightly agape, "Man this guy is skeptical."
She raised her chin, placing her hands on her hips, "And how do I know you won't just take my money and run?" She protested.
"Touché." The man muttered, still suspicious of this random lady who had the nerve to just follow him into an empty alley.
At this point they were deadlock, stuck in a staring contest.
Leona knew she needed to break the tension, "How about we sign a contract?" She proposed as she clapped her hands together, "Would that make you feel better?"
His posture straightened. "Wow she really wants to do this.." He was taken aback by her frank attitude; her looks certainly didn't match her behavior. "…But what if I do more harm than good for her..? What if I-"
His thoughts were cut off by the sound of approaching footsteps, several of them. The two of them were in a fairly deserted place, and had been in this alley by themselves until now.
Leona saw the mans face slowly turn from that of deliberation to concern.
"What is it? Why are you making that face?" She sighed, "Look, if you don't want to take the job, don't worry-"
"There's a group of people approaching." He cut her off, stating matter-of -fact. His gaze was off in the distance as he concentrated on what he was hearing, his ears flickering about.
A moment passed as she raised her brow "Ok? It is morning after all, it's a rather busy time of day…" She stated, trying to make sense of his paranoia.
Immediately things clicked in her head, her face went from confusion to realization. "Oh no." She uttered under her breathe.
Leona swiftly whirled around and jumped back on her horse, "I can't wait any longer, I have to go!"
"Wait, what's going on?!" The man threw his hands up in confusion.
There was no time to explain things.
"Will you accept my offer or not?!" She pressed him again for an answer, stretching out her hand.
He could hear the foot steps getting closer, he didn't have time to think it over. It was now or never.
"There she is!" A voice could be heard shouting across the alley as a group of men rounded the corner.
He glanced back and forth several times between her and the approaching group of men. After struggling for so long, could he really just let an opportunity like this walk away from him?
"Ugh! Damnit!" He furiously rubbed his head in frustration.
Looking at her outstretched hand, his eyes trailed up to hers.
In that brief moment it was as if time had paused.
Her face was unwavering, he could see her feelings were resolute.
So he grabbed her hand.