p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt;"Picking away hardened demon blood was becoming a nightly ritual./span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt;"It was embedded, once again, in his torn shirt like thick paint and although he knew his efforts were in vain he did it regardless as he walked up the street toward a small backpacker's hostel. Passers-by didn't pay him much attention, and if they did they were, like most mortals in big cities, adept at ignoring what would otherwise be considered strange. /span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt;"Because despite the late hour, King Street was still busy. The City of Melbourne rarely slept, at least in the heart of it, and even on the edges of the city's heart where he now walked there were still people milling about, either returning from a bar or in search of a late-night meal. He, however, was in search of a bed./span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt;"Approaching the hostel's door, he glanced at the heavily tinted front window with a sign above it that flashed em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"Zed's Hostel: No Vacancy./em There were never any vacancies, of course, but the owner of the hostel didn't want some idiot backpacker wandering through the door looking for a room, and so thought it prudent to warn them away. /span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt;"This hostel, after all, was only for a select few people who had put a lot of effort into making the owner actually trust them. /span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt;"He turned the doorknob and stepped inside to the front reception, which opened to a communal lounge with bookshelves, couches and a television mounted on the wall. There was even a vending machine, but the lounge itself was empty, and the reception desk wasn't manned. /span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt;"His tired body growing heavier by the second, he let out a weary sigh and made his way toward the staircase beside the vending machine. /span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt;"'Kael.'/span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt;"He stopped at the call of his name and turned to find an older man standing at the archway which joined the communal lounge to the kitchen. He had a five o'clock shadow and slightly greying dark hair, and though he was older and had crow's feet at the corner of his eyes his gaze was as sharp as ever – just like his canine fangs, when they wanted to be. /span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt;"'Zed,' Kael replied in greeting. 'The rusalka is dead. What it was doing all the way here in the Yarra River, we'll never know.'/span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt;"'Nor do we care,' added Zed. 'I'll arrange for payment and get you your share this afternoon.'/span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"Kael waved his hand at him in acknowledgment and began heading upstairs, but was stopped again by Zed's sharp 'em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"Oi!/em'/span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"'What?' Kael called back impatiently. 'I'm tired, Zed.'/span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"'I don't doubt that, but I want you to know that if you're up for it tonight I've got another bounty for you,' Zed responded, leaning against the edge of the archway./span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"Kael could've declined, but then Zed would have given the bounty to someone else. 'What is it?' he asked./span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"'Wraiths.'/span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"Kael's brow lifted in surprise. 'Who the hell ordered a bounty on em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"wraiths/em?'/span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"'The Immortals,' Zed replied, his expression turning sour at the mention of the God-loving, self-proclaimed superior race. 'Guess these wraiths pissed off the wrong people. You accepting it or not?'/span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"'I suppose. Where are they?'/span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"Zed scoffed. 'No idea.' He turned back into the kitchen. 'You're the bounty hunter; it's your job to find them, not mine.'/span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"Kael would've rolled his eyes, but he was too intrigued by the idea of a bounty being placed on a group of wraiths, considering they were nothing more than demonic messengers./span/p
p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; mso-add-space: auto; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.2pt; line-height: normal;"span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"Whatever the reason, at least Kael knew it wouldn't be as troublesome as dealing with the rusalka./span/p