People generally don’t hide things well. More so, when they least want them to be found. Nero often had a harder time finding things that were unintentionally lost, than when a person hid an object with the intention of it staying hidden.
He could not say for sure when finding items became his identifier. What had started as a favor, turned into another favor, then another. Eventually people began to ask for him, plead for him to find things, pay him to find things. He did not care to put a name to the career he had made for himself. He was but a mere ‘finder of things’.
Hidden things, stolen things, lost things.
At first it seemed that finding that which was lost was a quick way to get into someone’s good graces.
But he soon learned that some secrets were better left unfound. And while “not finding” them created enemies, sometimes finding them created greater enemies.
There were cases in which he was able to discern this early on, he could refund a client’s deposit and write a sincere apology to get out ahead of the game. Other cases, he would not discover this until it was too late, and he was caught in between a hard place and someone’s foot.
Specifically, under someone’s foot, as he was now.
He assessed his situation calmly, it never ended well when he panicked. He had the means to protect himself, it was the approach he had to carefully consider.
His client, the (not so gentle)man who had him pinned onto the floor had struck him as a reasonable man… up until he struck him, hard, on the head.
He had hired him to find his missing wife, and Nero did find her, doing the ex-gardener. A find the man did not like.
His frustration and anger was not meant for Nero, the young man understood that. He didn’t know if the man understood it however, and in the present moment Nero was the one facing the man’s misplaced wrath.
Talking to him was out of the question. He had been spurting unintelligible jargon as he smacked Nero around, all but frothing at the mouth.
Coming up with a plan was taking him too long. The man began to kick him and that was not great.
They were out in the country, on the outskirts of the man’s estate. The matter had been a sensitive one after all, and Nero always respected his client’s privacy. So when a wagon pulled over up the road from where they stood, they both looked up with alarmed faces.
“Hey!” a distant voice shouted.
It was enough to knock sense back into Nero’s client. He jerked his head away from the road, an attempt to avoid recognition. The three longest seconds ticked by and the man booked it in the direction of his house. He hadn’t paid Nero for his work yet, but given the circumstances he was willing to forgive and forget.
He pushed himself onto his feet, dusted himself off as best as he could. He wasn’t bleeding, at least not visibly, and hopefully not internally either. .
“Hey! Are you alright?” The voice from before called out again.
Nero looked up to see that the young man from the wagon had exited the vehicle and was standing much closer, a couple of yards away.
He re-cupped his hands around his mouth to shout again, “Do you need me to call for help? The Guard?”
The Guard was not fond of Nero for many reasons. Nothing he had the time to dwell on presently, so he waved the young man away offhandedly, “I’m alright, thank you!”
“Do you need a ride somewhere? A doctor?”
Getting the sense that his ex-client was no longer planning on sending Nero back to town in the wagon he had sent to fetch him in, he considered the offer, “Are you headed for Gaidos?”
Gaidos being the nation of Bevij’s second largest city and the place Nero had lived in his entire life.
“Northern Gaidos, but we can stop by in Central if you want!”
At this point, Nero was feet away from the stranger, who seemed unsuspecting, but he also was wary of his own judgment after that incident. “I’m actually from Northern Gaidos, I can compensate you for the drive.”
The youth, who Nero guessed to be 20, even though he was a tad taller than him, beamed. “Nonsense, I’m headed there anyway. Come along.”
A little naive of him to invite a strange young man into his wagon, but getting into the wagon would make Nero just as naive.
“Are you a local?” Nero asked, boarding the wagon. It was a nicer car, and the young man’s attire was not only nice in quality, it was the latest fashion of formal wear. His hair was also very clean cut.
He signaled the driver to continue, then answered the question, “Ah, no. My parents live nearby, I was just visiting. I’ve heard that Lord Bernard has a temper when it comes to his staff, even beats them at times. So when I saw him attacking you, I thought perhaps you were his staff. But now that I look at you, you are dressed too nice to be the help.”
Not as nice as the young man sitting before him. Nero cleared his throat, “Oh, he hired me to find his wife.”
“The Lady Igness?” He asked bewildered, “Didn’t she leave with the gardener? I don’t even live here and I know that.”
“Yeah, he did not apparently, nor did he take the news well.”
“Clearly,” he looked Nero over once more, “so you’re a private investigator?”
With a wince, he disclosed as much as he felt comfortable sharing, “Not licensed, no. I merely find things. Be they, lost, stolen or hidden.”
Amused with the answer, the boy raised a sharp, dark, brow, “Would you say you’re pretty good at it?”
Nero shrugged and gestured out the wagon window, “under regular circumstances, yes.”
The youth laughed, “I’ll take your word for it. My name’s Azui by the way.”
“That’s an old name, don’t hear it as much nowadays.”
“It’s a family name.”
Azui nodded, then dove into a monologue about old names and his favorites. Nero soon got the impression that the young man had grown up an only child, as he appeared to enjoy listening to himself speak. The finder of things did not mind, he was not much of a talker himself. The youth seemed intelligent in his thoughts. Although he tangented endlessly, working himself around in circles.
When they arrived in Northern Gaidos, he signaled for the driver to pull over.
“Thank you, are you sure you do not want compensation?” Nero asked before departing.
“I will not stand for it, but I will take a business card if you have one.” He winked, a gesture Nero thought curious, “In case I ever need something found.”