I swear I saw a faint spot of pink appear on his cheeks. “Well, it seems during our fight, Eurynome hit me with a spell to weaken my healing ability and lower my resistance to injury.”


I rotated my hand in the air. The suspense was killing me.

Giguhl inhaled and closed his eyes. Then, on the exhalation, he rushed ahead. “When I threw him, well… I pulled my nut sack.”

I stared at him in shocked silence. A laugh bubbled up in my throat. I didn’t speak, knowing it would escape if I tried. I swallowed and focused on keeping my features schooled into a sympathetic expression.

Faced with silence, Giguhl forged ahead. “Rhea said the official name is a scrotal hernia.”

A snort escaped. Giguhl’s head shot up and his eyes narrowed. I held my breath, but my lips trembled from the effort.

“You said you wouldn’t laugh!” Giguhl crossed his arms and glared.

I shook my head and tried to look innocent.

His voice took on a serious, paternal tone. “Testicle injuries are no laughing matter, Sabina.”

That did it. Laughter exploded from me, so forceful I doubled over with it.

“Hey!”

I didn’t respond. I was too busy holding my sides. On some level, I understood it wasn’t nice to laugh at his injury since he got it trying to save me. But I couldn’t help it.

“You’re an ass,” he declared finally. He crossed his arms indignantly, but his wince ruined the effect.

Realizing he was actually in pain, I struggled to get a hold of myself. I wiped the tears from my eyes and took a deep breath. “Sorry.”

He nodded regally, obviously still offended.

Now I really felt bad. I was so used to Giguhl never taking anything seriously it was easy to forget he had feelings. “What can I do to make it up to you? Do you need an ice pack or something?”

“Nah. Damara brought me ice earlier.” He pursed his black lips and narrowed his eyes, seeing an opportunity. “But there is one thing that might make me feel better.”

I tilted my head. “What?”

“You could agree to let me fight at Vein on a regular basis.”

My mouth fell open. “You’ve got to be joking! How are you going to fight with your… issue?” I nodded vaguely toward his crotch.

He shrugged. “Rhea said I should be back in fighting shape in the next day or so.”

I leaned back, crossing my arms. “I don’t know, G.”

He rushed ahead. “I know you don’t like Slade, but he’s not so bad.”

I held up a hand. “It’s not about Slade.” I paused to judge whether this statement was true, and decided it was. Slade and I had come to an understanding of sorts.

“Then what?”

I shifted uneasily in my chair. Truth was, seeing Giguhl lying in bed injured brought out my protective instincts. I might have laughed at the specific type of injury, but I didn’t like that he was in pain. The impression I got was he’d barely been able to beat Eurynome. If that train hadn’t come, or a dozen other what-ifs, Giguhl might be dead. Sure, he defeated the Defiler demon. But what if the next one was stronger?

“I’m not sure how to say this without injuring your manhood,” I began. Giguhl cringed. “But I don’t want you to fight because I don’t want you to get hurt.”

He opened his mouth to argue, but I held up a hand. “Let me finish. Have you thought about what would happen if you lost? When you beat the Defiler, his handler sent him back to Irkalla, right?”

“Yeah, but that’s different. Those handlers summon demons specifically for the fights. When they lose, the handlers have no use for them anymore, so they’re sent back.”

I narrowed my eyes. “If that’s all, why does the last rule state no mercy?”

“Don’t know. My best guess is they’re sent to the Pit of Despair for punishment.” Seeing my narrowed eyes at that little tidbit, he rushed ahead. “But I’m your minion, so that would never happen.”

I grimaced. “Still, I don’t like it.”

Giguhl rubbed his chin for a moment. “Would you like to have an income?”

I frowned. “What?”

He sat up a little straighter. “Think about it. I can fight, and you can manage me. We’ll be like Rocky and that old dude.”

I rolled my eyes. “The old dude wasn’t his manager, Giguhl. He was his coach.”

“Same difference. Admit it, it makes sense.” I started to shake my head, but he forged ahead. “I get to have some fun, and you get your money problem solved.”

I had to admit to myself that this plan appealed far more than cracking skulls for Slade. Granted, in this scenario Slade was still in the equation, but only indirectly. The truth was, I’d need an income sooner or later. I couldn’t live with Maisie forever doing nothing more productive than taking magic lessons. Eventually, I’d need to get my own place in the city or move on to somewhere else. Both of those options required money.

The other issue here was more complex. If Giguhl wanted to fight and knew the risks, who was I to tell him no? The minion subject was one I avoided dissecting too closely. Giguhl seemed to believe he was my minion or familiar or whatever, which was why he was asking permission. Granted, I usually bossed him around when he needed it. But this fight-club thing had nothing to do with me. Not really. And when it came down to it, I considered Giguhl more a sidekick than a minion. And sidekicks had free will. So as much as I hated it, I couldn’t stop him. “Okay, you have my blessing. But I refuse to take half of your winnings. You’re the one fighting, so you should keep most of the money. You can pay me a cut. Say, twenty percent?”

I could see he wanted to argue, but he’d just won a battle and didn’t want to push it. “Sounds like a deal to me.” He stretched out a claw to shake on it but stopped short as a grimace spread across his face. Taking pity on him, I rose and leaned across the bed to complete the formality.

“Thanks,” he said.

I held his gaze for a moment, my hand clasped in his claw. “I should be the one thanking you.”

The corner of his mouth curled up into a smile. “We’ll call it even.”

I snorted. He’d saved my life and gotten himself injured in the process. I’d just given him permission to potentially get his ass kicked. Hardly a fair trade. But I could tell from the look in his eyes he didn’t want me to wax poetic about his bravery and personal sacrifice. But he did want something. “What is it?” I asked, willing to do almost anything he asked.

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