One

A Symbol of Freedom



Era of Prophecies: Year 857

A woman tightened her shoelaces on her worn boots before pushing herself to her feet.


She stared at the skyline of a familiar city. Her legs were minorly scratched beneath her tights, but she didn’t mind. Sure, it was probably a stupid idea to trek through the mountains to get here, but she had accomplished what she meant to and her pursuers were no longer hot on her tail.


According to the money she stored in her boot, she had just enough to rent the hotel room she would need and - she stopped suddenly to count on her fingers. If she’s to believe the distance of the sun, she had a day and several hours before she would pick up Melanie from the airport.


She could go ahead and get the hotel for an extra night - she had scraped enough money for that, but it would run her completely dry. It had been at least four months since she’d slept on a bed if not more, and she couldn’t deny her body loved the idea of actually having a pillow to sleep on. She let out a long breath and pushed the idea from her mind. She couldn’t run herself that low on funds with Melanie coming in.


It was summer anyways, she reminded herself. There was no rain on the wind, so sleeping under the stars for another night wouldn’t kill her, certainly. Besides, that could give her some leniency to visit Skinn and Miram. The woman smiled to herself, pleased with her thought process. She wasn’t sure what Melanie would insist on doing, she would prepare for anything, and that meant sleeping on the street another night to save money.
The woman lived her life by the skin of her teeth - counting days between each meal she had and spending her nights sleeping wherever she found a spot for her small frame. She never felt unlucky though, and often reminded those who asked her that she had it much better than others.


She picked up her bag that held every item she owned in one hand and her violin case in the other before she walked towards her familiar city humming a song under her breath.
Would she be there a day or a week?


She could never tell, it all depended on when the storm would creep up on her and she would need to run again. Something felt different about this visit though, yet she couldn’t put her finger on why. Her friend was getting married and she was meeting up with her to celebrate, yet why did it feel like more than that?


The woman’s eyes caught someone familiar and she smiled. With that smile she tossed aside the strange feeling that there was more to it.
She lived in the moment, and that’s all that mattered.

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Quinn Flanagan leaned against the counter, a drink in hand.


The bar he stood in was classier than usual for him, but he was after classier targets. It had been a while since he last visited Bridgeport and he was out to treat himself. His eyes danced around the room, levelly assessing each potential candidate. He would need to check in with his master soon, but he still had time to relax and he planned to spend every second of it relishing his freedom.


Freedom was everything to him, and he would never give it up again. He never spoke about the time in his life where he wasn’t free. He didn’t need to. He was free now, and the rest was just excess. He would never wear those shackles again. He felt his throat tighten as he remembered the lamp, and his fingers gripped his glass tighter in reflex.


Enslaved to the cruel Goddess of Betrayal by age six. Chained to a Genie Lamp at her command by age sixteen.
He would never go back. No one could ever make him.
He had been enslaved for nearly 1000 years, or at least, that was his estimate as he was passed from one hand to the next; from kings to peasants, from good people to morally questionable people. They all wanted the same things in the end and the years had made Quinn cold and bitter.


Quinn pursed his lips in light reflection, cold and bitter were two of his favorite traits about himself.
After all that time, his saving grace came from a woman who called herself ‘Ma.’ She stumbled upon his lamp and gave him to Majnun, the God of Magic and Madness to free him in exchange for Quinn’s service. Quinn had been working for the powerful God of Insanity ever since.
He took in a tense breath and let it out, downing the rest of his drink directly afterwards. The burn of the alcohol was enough to yank him out of his thoughts and return him to thinking about his night - his freedom.


He placed his glass down gently and pulled himself away from the bar, dusting off his jacket delicately. He had perfected this disguise a long time ago, and it hadn’t failed him at picking up women. He was the master of disguise. He could fool any being with his magic and charm, and tonight it would help him find a nice stress reliever.


Thursday nights seemed like an unusual time to pick up women, yet on the contrary it made them all far more interesting candidates when he did.


His eyes met a group of girls across the way, all a little too tipsy and staring at him while giggling in the way most young girls do when they see someone they’re interested in. As quick and easy as picking out one from a herd that giggly and interested would be, he didn’t think he wanted the headache from their incessant talking - as that’s what women in gaggles like that often did: talk his ear off.


He let his eyes move further around, finding a woman who looked near tears as she leaned away from her drink. Quinn frowned, that would be a little too easy and he really didn’t want to have someone emotionally attached to him after one night.


He pursed his lips again and let his eyes scan the room. Too angry; too scandalous; too much work. He crossed them off his mental list as he looked at every woman in the room. Why was it so difficult to find one decent girl for the night? He might have to lower his standards at this rate, and the thought was almost too depressing for him.
“Looking for someone?”


Quinn turned then to see one of the girls from the herd had broken off in an attempt to be brave. He looked her up and down rather quickly as he assessed her. She wasn’t really his type, but she had guts and he liked that in women. In a heartbeat his charming smile pulled on his lips and he tilted his head slightly. “Not anymore.” He responded smoothly.


The girl giggled and batted her eyelashes, and Quinn tried to decipher how she might be in bed. “I’m Remmy.” She twisted a finger in her hair.


“Remmy? Beautiful name for a beautiful woman.” His voice was gruff and warm. Women tended to like that in men. He started sizing her up in his head. She was around 20, perhaps? Maybe 22 if he’s generous. Legal, at the least. She had a nice smile, but he rarely looked at faces for long. Her body? Definitely gifted. In a mere second he gave her one of his more attractive stares. “I’m Sam.” He gave her a false name to go with his fake appearance.


She giggled again and Quinn struggled to keep his smile on. Her laughter was high and pitchy. It was hard to find a girl with a pretty laugh these days. With as often as he cracked jokes, it felt like he was always running into people with horrifying laughs. He could do one night of this, surely. He’s certainly done worse. “Sam? I love that name!”


Yes, he thought idly, he was sure she did; yet his charisma never wavered. “How lucky for me!” He gave her a bright smile and he could almost see her bending to his charms. “You look like you could use a drink?”
She smiled back at him and nodded. “Only if you’re buying!”


Quinn admired spark. “Of course; only the best for a beautiful lady.” He tapped on the bar and waved at the bartender. “So, what’ll it be?” He quietly started factoring in what she might drink, probably something fruity - yet nothing too strong, she didn’t seem ready for hard liquors yet.
“A Rosé Spritzer.” She said coyly.


Of course, a spritzer. Definitely a light drinker, he noted. He gave the order to the bartender and began chatting up Remmy. It wasn’t a difficult task to get her to start talking - getting her to stop talking would be something else entirely.


They got two more drinks in after and he could tell Remmy had already hit her limit. The gaggle she had come with had already flocked out of the bar and it would be closing time soon. Quinn could feel a light buzz and Remmy was getting more and more attractive as he finished each drink. Her laugh wasn’t even as grating.


Normally he would invite her back to his hotel room after this point, but he decided he wanted to test her bravery. He could play women better than he could play cards, and he was very good at cards. He looked down idly at his pocket watch he pulled from his pocket - his prized possession - as Remmy finished another lengthy and giggly explanation, slightly raising his eyebrows. “Nearly closing time already?” He noted with a slight purse of his lips. “What a shame.” He slowly stood up and reached over to grab Remmy’s hand, placing a delicate kiss on it. “If you’re ever in the neighborhood, we should see each other again, Remmy.”
With that, he took a step away and started his walk, counting each step in his head. One. Two. Three.


“Wait!”
He smiled deviously and the smile shifted back to his charming one. He turned back to look at her. “Everything ok, Remmy?”


“After all of that, aren’t you going to ask me back to your room with you, Sam?” The words slurred together a little and she looked at him expectantly.
Quinn tipped his head. “Forgive me, I just would hate to seem like I was pushing a lady into doing something she didn’t want to.”


“What if she did want to?” Remmy giggled back. Quinn admired the work of the spritzers - she wasn’t drunk enough to be off limits, but it did help break down the walls quite a bit.
“Then perhaps the lady should come with me?” He held his arm out to the side, offering her to take it.


She stood up from her chair and smiled at him widely, walking over and taking his arm. She rested her cheek against his shoulder and giggled. “Lead the way!”

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The warm night air blew against Quinn’s skin and made him feel at ease. He walked properly while Remmy kept pace beside him. He had ultimately tuned out most of her chatter, and thankfully the sound of violin drew Remmy's interest more than talking about whatever absurd thing she had been before.


They were just around the corner from his hotel room for the night when the sound of the violin grew louder - it was a street performer. Quinn had always admired the street performers, especially when they had the talent that this particular one did.


Remmy gasped when her eyes caught the woman performing only a few moments after Quinn.
Quinn listened and found himself pulled into a familiar piece. Was that a waltz? It had been a long time since he had heard something similar. The performer was exceptionally talented. She could even move as she performed, he watched her walk around the edges of the fountain, balancing on one foot occasionally.


Her movements were always smooth and rhythmic to the bow movements. It was a beautiful piece, though he wondered idly what she was doing out on such a quiet night. Certainly she wouldn’t make much money performing tonight.
Remmy was staring at him expectantly and he realized he had missed a question.
“Hmm?” He hummed to her smoothly.


“Who’s that… that creepy man down there? Do you think he’s homeless or something?” Her tipsy self couldn’t stop the twist of disgust that filled her features.


Sure enough, at the base of the fountain rested an older man. His clothes were tattered and his beanie looked worse for wear. He stared forward with a glazed-over look to him until it dawned on him that the man was blind. Slowly the man closed his eyes and took in a long breath. Quinn resisted his own repulsion as they neared the fountain to walk past it.


“Is… that your daughter?” Remmy commented with disapproval, lacking the tact and grace of someone less tipsy - or perhaps this was simply how she always was, Quinn couldn’t tell.
The man chuckled. “Why? She too per-tty to be my daughter?” His grin only spread. The woman playing her violin paid no mind to the conversation, keeping her back turned to them as she walked along the fountain, carefully bowing to the beautiful tune.


Remmy nodded and Quinn internally cringed as she spoke. “Yeah, well, kind of?” There was something particularly sheltered about Remmy that alerted Quinn that she was probably a rich girl not from this neighborhood.


Thankfully the man chuckled in good humor. “S’ok, darling. I’m only ugly on the outside.” He paused before closing his eyes. “Though my insides ern’t much better, I ‘ear.”


Quinn stared at the back of the performer as she rounded the backside of the fountain smoothly and the tempo changed in the song. Quinn looked down and saw the violin box open beside the man and gestured. “That her box?”


“Box?” The man looked confused. “Her violin thing? Shucks. I think so. My sight ain’t what it used to be neither.” He felt beside him and nodded.


Quinn dug into his wallet before throwing the bills he had into the empty case. “It’s not the best night for street performing.” He said as he looked at the woman’s form on the other side of the fountain, something about her intrigued him. It was almost to the point that he had nearly forgotten he had come with anyone else.
She kept her bowing as she walked along either side of the fountain carefully, balancing on top of the fountain’s edge now and she made no sound of response.


“Aye, but my sweet-cheeks is givin’ me a private performance. Count my lucky blessings from the gods.” He tipped his head back towards the sky.


Remmy’s eyes bugged out of her head. “Sweet...cheeks?”
“Das right.” He chuckled. “She’s my favorite, little sweet-thang.” There was an air of sarcasm in the man’s voice that Remmy seemed to not be picking up on. “Right, puddin’?”


The woman stopped her bowing for a short moment as she snorted slightly, an unusual laugh. She gathered her composure and shrugged, again pacing the edge of the fountain. “And you’re my favorite old perv, Joe.” She laughed as she picked up with another song.
He laughed a loud belly laugh.


Remmy had grown visibly distressed and she tugged on Quinn’s arm. “We should get going, Sam.”
Quinn yanked his attention away from the performer and looked at Remmy before nodding. “You two have a good evening.” He tipped his head down slightly.


“Alright alright.” The man - Joe - chuckled. “Gods bless. Have a safe and fantastic evening.”
The woman playing her violin stopped playing with a slight laugh before muttering quietly. “Gods bless?” She snickered. “As if.”
Quinn’s thoughts exactly. He began walking away with Remmy when someone shouted to him.


“Oy! Mister! Hey!”
He turned around and saw the woman staring bug-eyed into her case.
“I think you left too much!”
Quinn shook his head. “I don’t think I did. Take care.” Remmy tugged on him and he turned around, putting a gentle arm around her waist.


There was the sound of the woman cheering. “Thanks, mister! Come’on Joe! We’re eating like kings tonight!”

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Quinn put his arms behind his head and stared at the ceiling. Remmy had fallen asleep on the bed next to him and he wasn’t one for idle cuddling. He slowly threw his legs off the edge of the bed and pulled himself to his feet. It was four in the morning and he had somewhere he needed to be soon.


His master had a nasty habit of summoning him by having him fall through the floor and land solidly in the Madhouse, the home of his strange master. The thing was, Quinn wasn’t a cat, and he rarely - if ever - landed on his feet.


Quinn quietly walked around the room, trying to not think about the mediocre experience he had just a few hours before. It wasn’t the worst he had ever had, but Remmy was certainly one who favored kissing above most things.


Quinn wasn’t big on kissing. At all. It was wet and gross, and he preferred to keep his mouth away from other mouths as much as possible. He had run into a few women who were excellent kissers before, and that had been nice, but in most cases they were just sloppy. Thankfully Remmy had succumbed to the alcohol and exhaustion and didn’t even bother him about cuddling like most women did. It was another thing he just wasn’t big on.


Slowly Quinn picked through Remmy’s purse. A wallet, some lipstick, nothing out of the ordinary for a girl, but why did she have a slight air of magic around her bag? He picked out a charm that had the God of Love’s symbol on it and rolled his eyes. Mortals loved the God of Love and Marriage, Carule. Out of the Pantheon, he was the most beloved and widely known. People prayed to him for safety, for love and affection, for a loyal partner. Quinn nearly gagged thinking about it. The pendant wasn’t enchanted - it was just a regular trinket.


No, there wasn’t anything enchanted in her purse exactly, but inside her wallet. He slowly opened up the snap and flipped through a half a dozen credit cards under a man’s name - likely her father’s. So she was a rich girl, too? He picked through her cards until he found the culprit - her I.D.

He wanted to chuckle. A magically enchanted I.D.? Of course - he thought she seemed younger when she told him she was 25. It must have cost her a fortune to find someone willing to enchant an I.D. for her though. Definitely a rich girl.


With a flick of his wrist he shook the card and the enchantment fell off. He mumbled under his breath as he looked at the I.D. now. “Remesera Hemlock. Poor thing, with a name like that.” Hemlock, the name rang a bell and Quinn pursed his lips slightly before he remembered how he knew the name. Officially a rich girl, then. Hemlock was one of the most prominent names in Bridgeport. He shook his head slightly, his eyes glancing over to the unconscious Remmy. She was sleeping heavily, and he doubted a fire alarm could even wake her at this point. What a lucky break for him, it seems. The Hemlocks had quite a family lineage. Of course, Quinn knew all about it. It was his job to know other people’s business.


His eyes fell down to her birthday and he frowned, turning to glare at her. “18? Really?” He put his head in his hands momentarily. “Never again, Quinn. We are never again risking our hides for Jail-bait.” He pieced her wallet back together and smiled knowingly.


Once her purse was put back together he slowly gathered his clothes from the floor and began dressing.
It was time for him to check in with his master.
In a world practically made of magic, Quinn was thankful that his master was the one holding the reigns. Majnun, the God of Magic and Madness, was completely insane, yet at the same time he was always the smartest person in a room. He lived two steps in front of everyone else and none of the other gods were ever brave enough to challenge him - or stupid, that is. He was a god-killer; he’s killed gods before, and the other gods know he would do it again.


Quinn’s service under him was very different than the slavery he had endured for most of his life. The God of Magic and Madness was… different. He was insane at the best of times and disturbingly sane at the worst. The God of Magic hadn’t had a priest yet, and Quinn was the only one brave enough to endure his ritual.


Stupid enough, Quinn corrected. As anything when dealing with the God of Magic, a person had to be either brave or stupid. Quinn firmly believed he was both.
Quinn had survived the priesthood ritual of the God of Magic and Madness, despite the odds. 48 hours straight in the darkness. 48 hours straight of insanity inflicted upon his mind.
He shivered and scrubbed his arms with his fingernails. He was lucky to make it out in one piece. Every person who tried before him had killed themselves from the madness they endured. Quinn had survived. Now he stood with the title, the power, and most importantly, the freedom.


He was Majnun’s chameleon. The master of disguise. The master manipulator. The puppeteer. He had many names; many faces; many stories.
If anyone asked him, all of them were true.


Quinn waved his hand and opened a portal in the wall. He spared Remesera Hemlock one last glance before watching the ground vanish beneath his feet.

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Quinn slipped through the final round of barriers into the Madhouse and his disguise fell away as he stepped through. He scowled; his master must have changed the last barrier slightly just to annoy him and yank off his disguise.


Normally the barriers never took off his disguises. Quinn sighed and stretched his neck. He was done with that disguise anyways otherwise he would’ve paid more attention to what might endanger it. No one could adapt better to changing environments than he could.


He walked through the familiar doors and ducked immediately as a flying book came barreling for his head. “You’re late!”
His voice could be heard in a distant room and Quinn was already rolling his eyes. “You missed me, you overpowered clown!”


The book swung back around and repeatedly whacked Quinn on the back of the head and neck until Quinn had to scramble to shoo it away. “Did I miss that time?” Dark and maniacal laughter shook the stone building.


Quinn slowly dusted himself off and rolled his shoulder’s back before walking through the changing hallways. “Honey! I’m home!” He sing-songed as he kicked the door to his master’s office down.


His master was facing away from him as he paged through six different books that floated around him. He did not turn to acknowledge Quinn’s presence and instead snapped his fingers which sent Quinn flying forward into the room.


The door Quinn had kicked down slowly picked itself up and reassembled itself before it tilted sideways and floated down the hallway. “Now look what you’ve done, you Djinn-idiot. It took me forever to come to an agreement with that door.” His master grumbled as he waved his hand and another book came rushing over to him and opening.


Quinn crossed his arms and sat facing away on a stack of soggy newspapers. “Sorry to hurt your precious door, oh door-whisperer!”


A dark chuckle came from the god and he shrugged loosely. “You’ll get it back for me later.” His head tilted to look at another of the floating books as he spoke. “How was infiltrating the Legend’s party?”

Quinn pursed his lips; it was a job he had done a few nights back. “It was exactly like every other time I’ve infiltrate their parties. The food was extravagant, the wine was cheap, and the women were…” He sighed. “Off-limits.”


“Twittle twaddle. Sun’s off in the second billard basement.” His master turned suddenly in a move too fast to be human and his eyes skimmed the book opposite from where he once looked. “Go on.” He motioned at Quinn.


Quinn groaned before a thought struck him and he grinned deviously. “Well, Margy was wearing the wrong colors, and that was scandalous. King Henry got a little too tipsy and boasted about the affair he had rather loudly in front of his darling Queen Eliza. Uncle Godsby was hitting on the young maids and oh my, you have no idea the silly-” He felt the wind get knocked out of him as he was thrown across the room.


“Tell me, pest - how much do you value your life?” His master’s voice was menacing and he hadn’t even looked away from his books while he held Quinn pinned to the wall with one hand. His other hand twitched and pages flipped in the book he was looking at.


Quinn flailed against the magic and gasped until his master moved his hand and released him, causing him to slide to the floor. It only took a moment for Quinn to fully recover and shake himself off. “Blah, blah, blah, threats, insanity, muttering… spooky stuff.” He ran his hands through his hair and stretched his muscles. “Thanks for stretching me out, I had a stiff neck from poor positioning last night.”


His master snorted. “I know. You pick poor targets. Ripshade. Selfish doubleback thirsty twaller.” His calculating eyes darted from page to page. “You certainly could’ve picked an older target, you predator.”
“She said she was twenty-five!” Quinn argued.


“And you believed her? Here I thought you were capable of using your big head instead of the little one on the things that matter.” His master’s voice slid up an octave slightly as he pronounced each word.
Quinn smirked. “Joke’s on you, then! Guess you aren’t so all-knowing after all!” He imagined his master’s eyes rolling.


“It appears that way, doesn’t it?” Suddenly Quinn watched his master fluidly throw his hands down, causing all the books to stop exactly where they were and clamour to the ground.


In the time it took him to blink, his master had jumped across the room and threw all the clutter off of his desk before sitting, propping his feet up as he did so.


Quinn picked up a chair that was tipped over and sat reclined in it, meeting his master’s terrifying gaze. “So what’s the next job?”


The god’s lip twitched upward slightly, but there was no amusement on his face. His body moved quickly and launched a pouch at Quinn which bounced off Quinn’s chest and into his lap. “Take that to Carule.”


Quinn examined the pouch and chuckled. “This is for Carule? You should be ashamed, master. There’s not even a cute little heart on it for our dear God of Love.”
There was laughter that came from his master, hollow and dark. “I can rip yours out and put it on there, if you’re so concerned.”


Quinn covered his chest and feigned fear. “Oh no! Please! Don’t do-” He broke down laughing hysterically before wiping away fake tears and slowing his breathing. “Oh please, as if I have one.” Once he calmed down fully he examined the pouch closer. “So what is it?”


His master gave a devious smile and shrugged noncommittally. “The soul of your firstborn child? The most precious gems? Pixie dust? Mermaid’s tears?”


Quinn quickly opened the pouch and sighed dramatically. “Cinnamon?” He grumbled. “You’ve summoned me to deliver… enchanted cinnamon?!”


“Oh, is that really what’s in there? Let me see!” There was absolute insanity in the god’s eyes and he laughed a laughter to match. The laughter cooled and he shook his head and stood fluidly. “Don’t worry, Quinn. I’m sure you’ll find some way to mess up this easy task.” Quinn could feel his master patting his shoulder and he grumbled.


“I’m really, very sure Carule can make his own enchanted cinnamon, you lunatic.” Quinn was not an errand boy of trivial things - unless those trivial things were going to the Goddess of Lust, then he was all about his job as an errand boy.


“Oh? How interesting.” His master slowly kicked a book with his shoe and Quinn could tell he was fishing for a certain response. “Open the pouch again.”


Quinn rolled his eyes and opened the pouch again, only to find a pin inside it. His eyes narrowed. “Cool party trick.” He chuckled as he reached into the pouch to grab the pin. “So you want me to take the fancy pouch to the God of Love, then what?”


His master made an interesting face as he thought about his response. “Then you make me pancakes.” He grinned.
Quinn shook his head quickly. “Not my turn, oh master-mutterer.”
“Then scout the area for artifacts and leaks and for the love of all that is magical could you please check the age of the women you sleep with next time?” The master’s voice was sane and weary - something he didn’t do often anymore. There was once a time when he spent a majority of his conversations maintaining his sanity, but those days ended the day his wife had disappeared. He never recovered.
No one did.


Quinn twisted the pin he found in the bottom of the pouch, it had a symbol of a bird engraved on it. He held it up in the light and twisted it.
“I suppose since you asked so nicely.” Quinn continued admiring the pin.
His master eyed him cautiously. “Your future has that bird all over it, it seems.”
Quinn wiggled his eyebrows proudly. “Birds are symbols of freedom.”


His master waved his hand and new books began to fly off the bookshelves and float around him as he stepped on the previous books that now lay on the floor. His master was never really one for books before, but it was all he ever seemed to do anymore now that his wife was gone. Quinn never cared much to ask what he was looking for, and today was no different. “That bird symbolizes a lot more than freedom.” His master said darkly.


“Oh, and would you like to share your wisdom with your favorite priest?” Quinn looked away from the pin to eye his master skeptically.
The god looked at Quinn seriously and spoke with equal sanity in his voice. “That is a Nightingale; it is a symbol of love… and a symbol of death.”



Quinn wanted to laugh at his master’s superstition, but his master had never been wrong before. Whether he knew it or not, the song of the Nightingale would be etched into his mind for the rest of his life.




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Playlist
"Waltz" by Lindsey Stirling

2 comments:

  1. Majnun is the god of magic? Wooooo, I like his insanity haha. I feel sad for him that his wife died :( I wonder who she could've been, to marry the god of insanity!

    Gosh, Livvielove, you tell us the girl is dead only to show her to us so we can be attached. It's going to be one of those stories right? Where you get us really attached to a couple that we know is going to die?

    Worst part is I'm already attached! I'm doomed.

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    Replies
    1. Hehehe yesss! A proper introduction to my bae, Majnun! Majnun is definitely up there in my favorite character category (probably because he was one of my first I was ever blessed to have mucking up my head *snorts*). Glad to know you like him, as you'll definitely be seeing more of him.

      Hahaha yeaaaa I did do that, didn't I? Hehe, I make no promises about how this story will go though. (wiggles eyebrows mysteriously)

      <3 If it's any consolation I'm painfully attached too!

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