Author's Note: Here's the first chapter! For some insane reason, I decided to write out the Portuguese conversations instead of just using italics and underlining. I also incorporated as much Brazilian slang I could find from the Internet. If you speak Portuguese/are from Brazil and spy something wrong, please PM me to let me know. And I also inserted some British slang, too. Boy, is this chapter a long one…

Warning: Fem!Allen Walker; PokerPair; Rated M for future smut and swearing; Likely bungling of the Portuguese language; Probable OOC-ness; Modern AU with supernatural elements; A author writing by the seat of her pants

Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to -Man; I wish I did, but I just don't.


Boto Cor de Rosa

Chapter 1: Primeira Noite

-xXx-

Mercury eyes blinked at the only adult in the small house. "Mana?" a young girl's voice called out.

"Hmm?" The older man paused in repairing his stage costume to look at her. "What is it, Ellen?"

"Do fairies really look like this?" Ellen asked as she held up a large picture book, her index finger pointing at the watercolor painting on the right page. The image took up most of the page, with the fairy standing on a toadstool to reinforce her small size. Delicate butterfly wings and leaf-woven clothes added to the creature's air of fragility.

Mana rubbed his chin before he answered his daughter. "Well, some of them do."

"Some of them?" Ellen repeated, her head tilting to the side as reddish-brown bangs fell across her eyes.

Mana set aside his work to join Ellen on the couch. "Yes. Their appearances can wildly vary," he said as he sat down next to her. "Some look just like the one in your book, while others could be mistaken for a child just like yourself. Then there are ones that look quite uncanny. What they all have in common, however, is the ability to perform magic."

"Magic?" she asked with doubt clearly evident in her voice. "You mean like the stuff you do at your shows?"

"Oh no, nothing like that. What they do is cast illusions and glamours, or even grant wishes. You have to be careful with the latter, though: they can take advantage of poor wording." Mana paused, then looked up to the ceiling as his mind traveled down a less pleasant path. "Honestly, fairies – also known as fae or the fair folk – can be quite capricious when dealing with humans. If a fairy is insulted or slighted, regardless of whether the person intended it, then they will retaliate. And that can range from pranks to fairy kidnappings."

"What is a fairy kidnapping?"

Mana hesitated, then sighed and said, "It's a term people used in the past for when they found someone who… died for no apparent reason."

Ellen's eyes grew wide at that. She was no stranger to how cruel people could be. And her past experiences before meeting Mana had jaded her towards the concept of magical creatures. She shouldn't be feeling shock at the supposed actions of something that didn't even exist. And yet…

"But, she looks so… harmless," the little girl quietly mumbled, her gaze fixed on the picture.

Mana patted Ellen's head in a comforting manner. "She does," he agreed, "but appearances can be deceiving."

-x-

White eyelashes quietly twitched as Ellen began the transition from deep sleep to awakening. Moments later her eyes fluttered opened and she slowly rose up to a sitting position. She turned her head towards the alarm clock which now read 14:46. Wanting to confirm what she saw, Ellen retrieved the local phone she had purchased specifically for this trip. It had a prepaid SIM card (courtesy of Manaus International Airport) already loaded, so the local time was displayed on the screen. Again she saw 14:46.

'I was asleep for eight hours,' the young woman mused as she stifled a yawn. She still felt tired, but it was better compared to before she had her nap.

Ellen rose from the bed and moved over to where she left her suitcase. She grabbed it, along with the carry-on bag she had placed in front of the wall mirror earlier, and began to unpack her belongings. After securing her more valuable items and documents in the safe, she moved onto hanging up her clothes in the closet and placing toiletries in the bathroom. The empty suitcase was then promptly stored out of the way under the bed.

Next she pulled out her laptop and charger from her carry-on, making a note to ask the front desk for the Wi-Fi password. As she retrieved the coat worn for the London-Chicago flight, she noticed a slightly crumpled packet of papers at the bottom. When Ellen took it out and looked at the front page, she realized it was her itinerary. But there were still things to do before she could go out, so she set it aside and called the front desk.

With Internet connectivity resolved for her laptop and both phones, Ellen opened the clock app on her personal phone to check the time in London. As London was five hours ahead of Manaus, it was now 6:53 PM back home.

"Well, I should be able to Skype call Lenalee at this hour," Ellen decided as she opened up the program on the laptop. The call rang for a few moments before going through, and the screen promptly displayed video feed of a young Chinese woman with her hair done up in pigtails.

"Hello, Lenalee," Ellen greeted her friend with a smile.

"Ellen!" Lenalee Lee happily cried out when she saw her. "It's good to see you're alright. How were the flights?"

The younger woman couldn't help but wince. "They were draining, Lenalee. The worst one was the flight between Miami and Manaus due to the wailing infant I was sat by."

Lenalee's purple eyes grew wide in concern. "Oh Ellen, that's terrible! Were you able to get any sleep at all?"

"Not during my flights. However," the English woman quickly amended to curtail her friend's worry, "I did go to sleep after reaching my room. About eight hours worth."

"That's good," the Chinese woman sighed out with relief. Then she excitedly asked, "So what is Manaus like? What have you seen of it so far?"

Ellen turned her silver gaze up to the ceiling as she contemplated how to answer Lenalee. "Not much, I'm afraid. The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel did go through the Amazon rain forest, so I was able to take some pictures of the view. But when it reached the city proper, I decided to prearrange what I would need for check-in at the hotel. So I spent more time looking through my bag than the window."

"Surely you must have seen something interesting," Lenalee pressed.

"Well, the taxi did pass by quite a few restaurants..."

Lenalee stifled a giggle at Ellen's response. "Nice to know your stomach will be full during your holiday, then. But seriously, what else?"

Ellen grinned back at her. "I also passed by the Arena da Amazônia. Do you think Daisya would want a souvenir from there?"

"Isn't that one of the stadiums Brazil built for the 2014 World Cup?" Now Lenalee wasn't the world's biggest football fan, but even she got caught up in the excitement surrounding that World Cup. It led to her reading several news articles pertaining to the tournament; needless to say, her enthusiasm went down accordingly. "I don't know, Ellen… He is passionate about football, but he also disapproves of how FIFA treats the countries hosting its events."

"That's true," Ellen sighed as she ran a hand through her chin-length hair. "I'll have to think of something else for him, then. It's a good thing the hotel is located in a shopping center. Ah, speaking of souvenirs; what do you want, Lenalee?"

Lenalee absently twirled a green lock of hair as she gave the matter thought. "Brazil is famous for dances like the samba and lambada. Maybe a pair of dancing shoes, or a book about a more obscure style?"

Ellen smiled and said, "I shouldn't have expected anything else from a dancer." Unlike Ellen who had completed sixth form college, Lenalee was currently working on a dance degree at the University of Roehampton. Ellen had no doubt in her mind that her friend would be a big star some day. Last time she attended one of Lenalee's performances she heard at least ten different people gushing about her friend.

Lenalee shook her head with a smile. "Just remember to have fun, Ellen. You're on holiday in Brazil! Don't get too caught up in finding gifts for us back home."

"Alright, Lenalee," Ellen acquiesced with a sheepish grin. "Is everything alright back home, by the way?"

"Everything's fine here. Komui is visiting Jerry right now, so he won't be back for a couple more hours."

"What about Timcanpy? He hasn't been giving you trouble, has he?"

Lenalee laughed and responded, "Not at all. He's been such a sweetheart, though I think he misses you already. Here, let me show you."

The screen tilted and wobbled, indicating that Lenalee had grabbed her laptop and was now standing up. After a close-up of her walking somewhere for several seconds, the laptop was obviously turned around to reveal a sleeping Golden Retriever. The aging dog's head was pillowed by a familiar black and red jacket.

"Awww..." Ellen quietly cooed as she watched her beloved dog. While she would rather he be awake so that she could talk to him, the sight was just too cute to ruin.

"I know, right?" Lenalee gushed back once she and the laptop were back in her room. "He wouldn't sit still until we showed him your jacket. Then he took it to the other room and promptly fell asleep. Komui and I took a bunch of photos; we'll email them later tonight."

"That would be great. And thanks again for looking after him while I'm in Manaus. I would have brought him along if the hotel accepted pets..."

Lenalee smiled back, amused by how much Ellen loved her pet. "I'm sure he understands, Ellen. And just think about how happy he'll be when you return!"

Ellen couldn't help but giggle at that image. Lenalee really was a great friend. She made a mental note to find something really special for her, as thanks for looking after Timcanpy. And Komui for the holiday itself. Maybe something for Jerry, too? He was always so happy when Ellen came into his restaurant for lunch. And he never complained about the amount of food she would order...

'That's right, I could get a Brazilian cookbook for him while I'm here. If I can find one in English, that is. Or I could just talk to the locals and write up the recipes myself.' Then the white haired woman felt guilty for disregarding Lenalee's advice immediately after it was given. And all while the other woman was still talking to her! She returned her attention back to Lenalee, who luckily hadn't noticed.

"… Lavi had to go over to his grandfather's earlier; I think because Bookman's reference/historical document collection needed reorganizing. He complained quite a bit when I called him earlier."

Ellen couldn't help but laugh. "Poor Lavi. That collection could rival what was stored in the Library of Alexandria. Was he anywhere near done when you called?"

"Judging by the muttered curses and Bookman's reprimands, not at all," Lenalee grinned. "Johnny and the other Research guys are working on some project, but that isn't new. I ran into Timothy and Emilia earlier at the market; Marie and Miranda are out looking at wedding venues with Krory and Eliade's help; Daisya is probably dragging Chaoji with him around the local pubs; and Kanda is using the weekend as an excuse to meditate alone instead of visiting Tiedoll."

Ellen let out a disbelieving snort. "Since when does Bakanda need an excuse to sulk alone?"

Lenalee shook her head and sighed, "Ellen..."

"Sorry, Lenalee. I'll try to hold my tongue." Ellen knew that Lenalee disliked seeing two of her friends clash repeatedly. It's not like Ellen enjoyed fighting with Kanda… Well, actually yes; yes, she slightly did. But that was because Kanda was so irritating and arrogant all the time, the arsehole. It just made Ellen want to wipe that infuriating look off his face; the one he got whenever he thought her too naive about some issue. And don't get her started on how he refused to call by her first name. What did he call her, instead? Moyashi. What does that mean, you may ask? Beansprout. Bloody beansprout. Why that? Was it a dig at her height? Sure, Ellen was shorter than Kanda, with the latter being 181 cm tall. But she was 169 cm tall; well above the average height for women in England, and even a bit taller than Lenalee. So why? Why?! Oooh, that narky berk-

"Ellen!"

"Huh?" She snapped out of her mental rant and looked back at the screen, cringing when she saw Lenalee glaring back at her. But before the other woman could start her scolding-

GROWL!

- Ellen's stomach let itself be heard.

Now Lenalee blinked in confusion. "Ellen, when was the last time you ate?"

"Over ten hours ago, when the last in-flight meal was served..."

"You didn't grab anything from the airport before you left?"

Ellen helplessly shrugged her shoulders as an embarrassed flush painted her pale cheeks. "The last flight was delayed back in Miami, so I had to hurry through customs and baggage reclaim in order to make check-in. And the meal itself wasn't that filling for me."

"Well, we can't let you starve down there," Lenalee demurred, concern overriding chagrin. "Why don't you go out and eat now? We can always talk later."

Ellen looked back to check the time and saw that fifteen minutes had passed since she called Lenalee. "I'll do that after I take a shower. I really need to wash off nearly a day's worth of air travel."

"How long do you think you'll be out for?"

"That depends on how close the nearest restaurant is… Could you let the others know I arrived safely?"

"Of course, Ellen. Do you also want me to call them about souvenirs, too?" Lenalee asked.

"Just Kanda. You're one of the few people on Earth that can reach him on the first try."

The older woman shook her head and laughed at that true statement. "I'll talk to you later, Ellen. And remember what I said."

"Bye, Lenalee. Talk to you later," Ellen bid her goodbye as the call ended.

Wasting no time, Ellen stood up from the writing desk and quickly grabbed a change of clothes as she walked to the bathroom. After a fifteen-minute shower that felt absolutely glorious to her tired muscles, she stepped out of the shower stall to dry off.

As she dried her hair in front of the sink mirror, Ellen contemplated the scar on the left side of her face. Its color was a vivid red, contrasting greatly with her white hair and silver eyes. It first took shape as an upside down star situated on her forehead; then a line dropped down from the furthest point to cut through her eyebrow and travel down her upper eyelid to the lash line. Next it was perpendicularly crossed by another line on her cheekbone, and soon after shot off to the right before curving back in and ending at the jawline.

The scar itself brought forward mixed feelings in Ellen. While it brought to mind the worst day in her life, there were also painfully-precious words attached to it. They were the reason why that while she hid the upper part of the scar behind her bangs, she did no such thing to the lower half.

There was another part of her body that carried emotional baggage, as well. But the few positive memories associated with it didn't balance out the vast majority of negative ones. So when Ellen finally left her room to go eat, her outfit included long sleeves and a left handed glove.

-x-

Ellen looked down at her phone in disbelief. Google Maps was open, showing her exact location. The problem was that…

"How did I end up here?"

… Her bad sense of direction had struck again. But let's go back in time to get some context.

Thanks to the receptionist's helpful directions, Ellen was able to eat an affordable meal at a steakhouse within the Millennium shopping center. The waitstaff, along with other customers, seemed bemused by the amount of dishes she ordered; the belief that a girl with such a willowy figure couldn't possibly eat all of that food written all over their faces. That doubt was soon converted into shock and awe once Ellen was done eating. Her table was covered by stacks of spotless dishes with no visible evidence that food had even touched their surfaces. And barely a half hour had passed between the first plates arriving and Ellen putting aside the last one while dabbing at her mouth with a napkin.

She paid for her meal – leaving the aforementioned gobsmacked spectators in her wake – and went back to the hotel to look at the itinerary. It wasn't a schedule to be strictly adhered to, per se; more like a list of several of Manaus' sights that appealed most to her, paired with recommended times and days to visit. Link was slightly miffed by this approach, but acquiesced when Ellen pointed out that she was the one who would use it and not him.

Ellen flipped through the papers as she tried to decide where to go. It was now past three in the afternoon and she wanted to briefly explore the city before calling her other friends. She finally decided to go visit the Mercado Adolpho Lisboa, one of the city's largest open air markets. After some trial and error, she eventually reached the market before it closed.

The main building was quite distinct among its neighbors; red walls with yellow trimming that highlighted architectural features she couldn't name but still admired. A green iron bar side structure stood next door, looking like a beautifully constructed birdcage from the 19th century. Ellen however focused solely on the main building, leaving the other for another visit. The interior was supported by the same iron that made up the birdcage, with brick housed stalls overflowing with goods for sale. She spent the rest of the market's hours browsing through the stalls, trying out dishes like tacacá, and speaking with the vendors. One woman was especially talkative, gushing about how her eldest son guided tourists around the Amazon river for a small fee.

That greatly interested Ellen, as she really wanted to tour the wilderness but hadn't booked with any tour company online before arriving. Traveling with Cross when she was younger had taught her to be very careful with money. And while the Black Order had prepared a special credit card for her to use during her holiday, old habits made her loathe using it frivolously. Ellen asked the woman to clarify how her son ran his side business and determined by the end that it was worth checking out. She left the market with a full belly and the man's work number.

The sun was starting to set when Ellen walked back onto the street. 'Now what do I do?' she wondered. It was too late to make calls back home or visit other tourist attractions, and she didn't feel like spending the rest of her waking hours cooped up in her hotel room. So she settled on wandering Manaus on foot.

And that's how she wound up in the neighborhood of Cidade de Deus, several hours later.

'Fucking hell,' she couldn't help but think as she looked around. The streetlight above her head wasn't very bright, but still managed to complete its task of illuminating the area. In front of Ellen was a green strip of trees and bushes, stubbornly clinging on in defiance of the urban landscape. Behind her was the beginnings of a residential area; though that phrase was by no means an indication of the neighborhood's age. It didn't appear to be a particularly rich one: black algae, chipped sidewalks, litter, tin metal roofs and walls alternating between exposed brick and painted concrete all indicated that the residents were using their money for purposes other than home maintenance. Sounds produced by native fauna intertwined with sertanejo songs and telenovelas drifting from the houses, creating an atmosphere that combined the natural with the man made, yet still kept a uniquely Brazilian flavor.

Ellen went over her options in her mind. Calling an Uber was out because she already had some uncomfortable experiences in the past. A taxi would be safer, but also more expensive. Several websites warned that the city's bus system was very hard for tourists to use. She went back to her phone to try to find a police station, as they might be able to take her back. The closest one was at least a twenty-five minute walk away. But that brought up another problem: she would need someone to escort her there, so that she wouldn't get lost… again.

Before she could decide what to do, Ellen felt that someone was watching her. When she turned her head to the right she noticed a young boy standing nearby. He looked to be about ten or eleven years old, had dark blond hair and blue-grey eyes, and wore a white face mask that clashed oddly with his T-shirt and shorts. In his hands was a plastic grocery bag, indicating that he must have been on an errand before he stopped to look at her.

The boy startled when he realized that she was staring back, and turned around as if to go back on his way.

"Espera! (Wait!)" Ellen cried out in Portuguese. This was a risky move; maybe even a stupid one. But it might be her only way to get back to her hotel!

He stopped and turned back, surprise shining through his eyes as he looked at her.

"Com licença, você fala inglês? (Excuse me, do you speak English?)" she asked, trying to gauge how well they could communicate with each other. She didn't know if Brazilian schoolchildren learned second languages at his age, but it wouldn't hurt to ask.

The boy shook his head shyly. If he did know another language, it wasn't English. So now she'll have to rely solely on Portuguese.

'I hope your lessons were good enough, Lavi.'

"Eu preciso ir para a delegacia de polícia. Você conhece alguém que pode me levar até lá? (I need to go to the police station. Do you know someone who can take me there?)"

The young boy seemed to think on her request; Ellen tried not to appear too desperate for his answer. Finally, he nodded his head and said, "Eu tenho amigos que podem. (I have friends who can.)"

"Isso seria bom, (That would be great,)" Ellen replied with a wide smile that temporarily stunned the younger boy. She gestured with one hand to the bag he was holding. "Você precisa de ajuda? (Do you need help?)"

The boy shook his head, both to convey he didn't need help and to alleviate the hot blush on his cheeks. "Estou bem, senhorita…? (I can handle it, Miss…?)"

"Ah, que grosseira de mim! Meu nome é Ellen Walker. Prazer em conhecê-lo, (Oh, how rude of me! My name is Ellen Walker. It's nice to meet you,)" she introduced herself and extended her right hand for a handshake.

The boy shifted his bag to one hand so he could grasp Ellen's hand. "Meu nome é Eeez. Prazer em conhecê-la também. (I'm Eeez. It's nice to meet you, too.)"

"Então, onde estão seus amigos? (So where are your friends at?)" Ellen asked as they walked down the street.

Eeez pointed to a small one-story house farther down the street. It favored plain brick for its walls and sheet metal for its roof. A more robust looking concrete wall surrounded the property, though the black algae that called its surface home distracted the eye. Access to the home within was granted by a delicate looking black iron gate, currently kept shut against intruders. And a warm yellow glow flowed over the walls, proof that at least one person was home.

"Eles estão tendo um jogo de pôquer esta noite, (They're having a poker game tonight,)" he explained when the two reached the gate, his free hand searching for the keys in his pocket. "Mas deve terminar em breve. Pelo menos um deles pode levá-la para a delegacia. (But it should be finished soon. At least one of them can take you to the police station.)"

"Pôquer? (Poker?)" Now that sounded interesting…

Eeez inserted the key into the door's lock and nodded. "Sim, eles são todos muito bons. Especialmente Tyki; ele raramente perde. (Yeah, they're all pretty good. Especially Tyki; he rarely loses.)"

"Isso é impressionante… (That's quite impressive...)" Ellen whispered to herself as a familiar itch began working up her spine. It was neither the time nor the place for her to scratch it, but still…

She was pulled from her thoughts when Eeez pushed the door open, and she followed him inside up to the house's wooden door. This time Eeez didn't bother with keys; he just grabbed the doorknob and it opened up.

"Tyki! Momo! Clark! Estou de volta da loja! (Tyki! Momo! Clark! I'm back from the store!)" he called out to the house's inhabitants.

"Estamos na sala de estar, Eeez! (We're in the living room, Eeez!)" A masculine voice answered back.

Eeez turned back to Ellen and said, "Por favor entre. Ah, você pode deixar seus sapatos. (Please, come in. Ah, you can leave your shoes on.)"

"Você tem certeza? (Are you sure?)" she asked as she looked down at her dirty sneakers she was just about to take off. She had been walking all day…

Eeez nodded as he closed the door behind them. "Dessa forma, você será capaz de sair mais rápido. (That way you'll be able to leave quicker.)"

"Bem, se você diz… (Well, if you say so...)"

Ellen glanced around while she followed Eeez into the home. The interior was compact, as was expected of a house in a poor neighborhood. But the yellow wall paint and light fixtures illustrated that whoever owned the house was better off than others.

They left the hallway, passed through the kitchen and entered the living room. Well, it wasn't just a living room. Necessity made sure that the room had multiple functions. At the far end of the room was furniture typically found in a living room; sofas and a small TV set. In one corner was a makeshift bed with a wall clock hanging above it. And there was a round table near the kitchen entrance, presumably so it could serve as a dining table. But now it was used for another purpose. At the table sat three men, playing cards clutched in their hands. Two of the men had their backs to Ellen, so the most she could say was one had brown hair, the other had a beanie, and both wore T-shirts and shorts. The third man was facing the kitchen entrance and thus she could fully take in his appearance.

He was an odd looking fellow. Wavy, dark purple hair was arranged in a short messy style and topped by a straw hat. Black eyeglasses with thick, blue-tinted lenses obscured his eyes; she couldn't even tell what shape they were, let alone the color. A lit cigarette rested between his lips, its smoke lazily wandering around the room. Skin shaded umber glowed under the lights. And completing his scruffy look were well-worn clothing like his friends' and facial stubble.

The man with glasses looked up with a grin when Eeez and Ellen walked into the room, presumably to greet the boy. But whatever greeting he had on his lips died once he caught sight of Ellen. A confused look on his face, he turned his head towards Eeez and asked, "Quem é, Eeez? (Who's this, Eeez?)"

"Ela nome é Ellen Walker, (Her name is Ellen Walker,)" Eeez said as he walked over to the table. He put the bag on top and opened it up, revealing crisps and other snacks she couldn't immediately identify. "Ela está perdida e precisa de alguém para levá-la à delegacia. (She's lost and needs someone to take her to the police station.)"

"Prazer em conhecê-los, (It's nice to meet you all,)" Ellen said with a slightly nervous smile. "Os senhores falam inglês? (Do you speak English?)"

"More or less," the man with glasses replied in English, the previous grin back on his face. "I'm Tyki. It's nice to meet you too, menina."

'Did he just call me girl?'

The other men, having turned around when Tyki asked Eeez about Ellen, began to introduce themselves as well. She learned that the man with brown hair was Clark, and the other with the beanie was Momo.

"Um de vocês pode levá-la até lá depois que o jogo terminar? (Can one of you take her there after your game is finished?)" Eeez asked the men as he pulled up a stool and sat by Tyki.

"Claro, Eeez, (Sure thing, Eeez,)" Momo answered with a grin.

Clark looked at the far wall to check the time. "A gente tem jogado por um tempo. Por que não fazemos isso em rodada do último? (We have been playing for a while. Why don't we make this round the last one?)" he suggested.

"Soa como um plano, (Sounds like a plan,)" Tyki agreed. He turned back to Ellen, who was trying to follow the conversation. "We're playing one last round. After that we'll show you the way to the station."

She let out a sigh of relief, the tension born from her situation flowing out of her bones. "Thank you so much. I really appreciate that."

Tyki let out a warm chuckle that sounded quite lovely to her ears. "It's nothing, menina. Why don't you sit down and rest for a while?"

Ellen smiled and grabbed one of the remaining chairs before making her way to the table. Clark and Momo shifted their chairs to make room for her, leaving her to sit across from Tyki.

"So why do you need someone to take you to the station?" Momo asked her as he looked at his cards, trying to make conversation. "Don't you have a map or phone that can show you the way? Or an app like Uber?"

Ellen looked down in embarrassment, feeling her pale cheeks burn. "I do have a smart phone. But unless someone is there to guide me, I'll just end up getting more lost than I currently am. As for Uber… well, I've had bad luck with them in the past."

"How did you get lost in the first place?" Clark asked as he pulled out a small red bag labeled 'Emília Pipocas Açucuardas' from the snack pile.

"I wanted to walk around the city before returning to my hotel." Ellen shrugged her shoulders in a helpless manner. "I just arrived this morning, so I don't know my way around yet."

"Then it's no wonder you got lost," Tyki commented as he discarded two cards and drew their replacements. "And judging by your accent, you're a tourist from abroad, right?"

"Yes, I am."

Eeez tugged on Tyki's shirt, wanting to know what the adults in the room were talking about. The older man chuckled at his younger friend, then obliged him by translating what was just said.

"De onde você é? (Where are you from?)" the boy asked, now more aware of Ellen's situation.

"Eu sou da Inglaterra, (I'm from England,)" she replied with a smile for him.

Eeez's eyes grew wide as he processed her answer. "Inglaterra? Não é realmente frio lá? (England? Isn't it really cold there?)" He rubbed his arms as if to ward off a non-existent chill.

Ellen let out a soft laugh. "Comparado a aqui, o clima é muito mais frio na Inglaterra. (Compared to here, the weather is much cooler in England.)"

"Isso explica a roupa, então. (That explains the outfit, then.)" Clark mumbled as he looked at her shirt, paying particular attention to the long sleeves. Tyki and Momo both noticed how uncomfortable this made her, and so the latter kicked Clark in the shin.

Ellen tried to ignore the following bickering between the two men, though she still unconsciously rubbed her left arm.

"Sorry about Clark," Tyki whispered as he leaned over the table, trying to make himself heard over the neighboring argument. "He sometimes puts his foot in his mouth."

"Yeah, sorry." The man in question apologized after his argument with Momo was done.

Ellen shook her head and said, "It's okay. Long sleeves are unusual here, anyway."

"Tudo bem, gente, (Alright, guys,)" Tyki announced, grabbing the attention of everyone at the table, "a gente brinca o tempo suficiente. Vamos ver quem é o vencedor! (We've messed around long enough. Let's see who's the winner!)"

All three men laid out their cards at the same time. Clark had the weakest hand; just a two pair. Momo was better off with a three of a kind. But Tyki had a full house, making him the winner.

"Como você faz isso, Tyki?Esta é a sua décima mão vencedora hoje à noite? (How do you do it, Tyki? This is, what, your tenth winning hand tonight?)" Clark asked as he skeptically eyed the cards.

A cheeky grin stretched across Tyki's face, nearly displacing his cigarette. "É apenas sorte, meu amigo. (It's just skill, my friend.)"

Momo snorted at that. "Sim, e eu sou o rei do carnaval. (Yeah, and I'm the king of Carnival.)"

Ellen hid a growing smile behind her right hand. Their bants reminded her of the ones she and her friends would share back in England. Though Kanda didn't banter, per se; he was more of a blunt sarcasm type of guy.

Since the game was now over, Tyki began to gather up the cards to put them away. Ellen couldn't help but sigh at that. She hadn't played a game of poker in quite a while. The only people back home that would willingly play against her were those facing her for the first time. And her job at the Black Order payed both for her upkeep and Cross' debts, so pure monetary necessity no longer fueled her search for games.

As Ellen was lost in her thoughts, she didn't notice Tyki looking at her with a raised eyebrow. Eeez tugged on the older man's shirt so that the other would bend down for him to whisper into his ear. Tyki chuckled when Eeez finished, then he turned back towards her.

"Did you want to play?"

The young woman looked at him with surprise. "Excuse me?"

"You looked like you wanted to join in. And Eeez mentioned you were interested by the fact we were playing tonight while you two talked earlier," he elaborated while he started shuffling the cards in his hands.

"Oh! Well, yes I did," she admitted, running her right hand through her hair. "But since I really do need to get to the police station, I didn't say anything."

"Hmm, well it's not in my nature to disappoint a lady," Tyki commented as rubbed his jaw, seemingly oblivious to Ellen's responding blush. "Ei Clark, Momo; que tal mais uma rodada com ela neste momento? (Hey Clark, Momo; how about one more round with her this time?)"

Momo raised an eyebrow at Tyki's request. "Você tem certeza? Se chegar mais tarde, ela terá que ficar lá durante a noite. (If it gets any later, she'll have to stay there overnight.)"

"Venha, não vai demorar tanto tempo. Especialmente desde que a gente pula em apostar hoje à noite. E é por uma boa causa. (Come on, it won't take that long. Especially since we skipped on betting tonight. And it's for a good cause.)"

"Ajudando você a paquerar com ela? (Helping you flirt with her?)"

"Eu ia dizer 'dando a um turista uma lembrança positiva de Manaus'. (I was going to say 'giving a tourist a positive memory of Manaus'.)"

Both Clark and Momo snorted at Tyki's justification, but they soon agreed to his proposal.

Tyki turned back to Ellen and held up the deck of cards. "Are you up for a round of poker, menina?"

Ellen stared at him for just a moment before a big smile blossomed on her face; joyful like delphinium, sweet as honeysuckle.

And sharp as a thistle.

- x -

"Call!" Ellen shouted out as she revealed her hand. Laid out on the table were the Spade royal family: King, Queen and Jack; combined with the Ace and Ten of Spades, she now had a…

"R-royal straight flush?!"

The three men stared with baffled expressions at her serene one, then they huddled up in conversation.

"O que está acontecendo? Eu pensei que você estivesse contando cartas, Tyki! (What's going on? I thought you were counting cards, Tyki!)" Clark hissed in an agitated manner.

"Eu acho que estamos sendo jogados… (I guess we're getting played...)" Tyki whispered back, just as baffled.

"Ela não é novata, (She isn't some novice,)" Momo stated the obvious as he watched the young woman casually shuffle the cards from the corner of his eye. "Ela é uma especialista! (She's an expert!)"

Ellen kept up the cherubic smile on her face. The same smile that saw her win several hands. That witnessed the growing sense of shock and disbelief carried by her opponents. And that observed how the men went from not taking her seriously to using all of their cheating skills to win. A rather sensible plan for them, but what they didn't realize was that Ellen would never lose a poker game.

Never.

"One more round!" The men demanded, determination burning in their eyes.

"If you insist," Ellen demurred as she dealt out cards.

Needless to say, she won that round too.

"Droga! (Damnit!)"

And thus they gave up, no longer willing to challenge her winning streak.

"Deus, isso foi brutal, (God, that was brutal,)" Clark moaned as he rubbed his temples. "Ela ganhou sete rodadas seguidas… (She won seven rounds in a row...)"

"Poderia ter sido pior, (It could have been worse,)" Momo pointed out in an attempt to raise his friend's spirits. "A gente não aposta nada, então também não perde nada. Caso contrário, não estaríamos usando nada além da nossa calcinha agora. (We didn't bet anything, so we also didn't lose anything. Otherwise we'd be wearing nothing but our boxers right now.)"

Tyki leaned back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling. He seemed to be in deep thought; perhaps he was trying to figure out exactly how she kept winning?

Eeez, who had been watching his friends repeatedly lose to the young woman, turned his head and glanced at the clock. He gasped when he realized what time it was. "Gente, já passou da meia noite! (Guys, it's past midnight!)"

All the adults in the room looked over to the clock. Eeez was right: the small hand was pointed directly at the number twelve, while the big hand was stuck between the numbers four and five.

"Porra, (Shit,)" Tyki sighed as he scratched his cheek. "Isso não é bom. (That's not good.)"

"Deveríamos ter parado de jogar várias rodadas atrás, (We should have stopped playing several hands ago,)" Clark muttered out loud as he shook his head.

"What is the problem?" Ellen asked the men.

Momo turned around to look at her. "You noticed that this neighborhood, Cidade de Deus, looks pretty rough, right?" He continued with his explanation once she nodded, "The police have their hands full trying to keep crime down at this time of night. And what really hampers them is the fact that they're under-staffed. Odds are you'll have to stay there overnight."

Ellen inwardly groaned as she heard this. She knew her recent string of good luck had to end. It always did. But couldn't it have held out until she returned to England?

Tyki stared at her despondent face for a moment before asking, "Hey, menina, just where is your hotel at anyway?"

"It's in Chapada, why?"

Clark and Momo stared at her in disbelief, with Eeez joining in once he was brought into the loop. Cidade de Deus was in the North Zone of Manaus. Chapada, on the other hand, was in the South-Central Zone. There was approximately 16 kilometers worth of travel between the two, and Ellen managed to cover all that on her first day? By walking?!

Tyki nodded to himself, as if coming to a decision. "How about I take you there?"

She was surprised by his offer. "You mean escort me back to my hotel?"

"Yup. I can borrow a motorcycle, so we'll get there faster than walking."

Ellen looked down at the floor as she considered her options. A motorcycle ride was more appealing than staying overnight at a police station, but there were three problems with that. One: while Tyki seemed to be a nice guy, he was still a stranger. Two: she was a tourist in a foreign country, and thus was more vulnerable than she would be back home. And three: she, a young woman, would be alone with a man, who to reiterate is a stranger, for the entire ride. It's quite obvious how accepting it could turn out to be a wrong move.

Before she could open her mouth to refuse his offer, Ellen felt a tug on her shirt. She turned her head and saw Eeez next to her.

"Fique tranquilo, (Don't worry,)" he tried to reassure her, guileless eyes staring up, "Tyki conhece o caminho pela cidade. Ele vai chegar lá em nenhum momento. (Tyki knows his way around the city. He'll get you there in no time.)"

Ellen faltered at seeing the sincere faith he had in his friend. Her eyes flickered over to Tyki, who had stood up and put out his cigarette while Eeez had been speaking. Their gazes met, and Tyki gave her a reassuring grin.

Ellen frowned for a moment, then sighed in resignation. "You'll take me straight to my hotel? No detours?"

"Well, I don't exactly have control over traffic," he elaborated in a slightly cheeky manner. "But I do know which roads to take to cut down on travel time."

She discretely rolled her eyes at that, but stood up from her chair. "Alright, then. Let's go," she said as she started to walk towards him.

"Great," Tyki said to her before he turned to his friends. "Eu vejo vocês em alguns dias. (I'll see you guys in a couple of days.)"

"Você tem algo mais planejado? (You got something else planned?)" Clark asked.

"Sim, uma coisa de família. (Yeah, a family thing.)"

"Então não há como ajudar, (Then there's no helping it,)" Momo shrugged. "Trazer de volta o habitual para nós, Tyki. (Bring back the usual for us, Tyki.)"

"Claro." He walked over to Eeez and ruffled the boy's hair, "É melhor ir para a cama logo, Eeez. (You better go to bed soon, Eeez.)"

The boy nodded his head, then looked up at Tyki with a question in his eyes. The older man chuckled and said, "Fique tranquilo, você vai conseguir algo também. (Don't worry, you'll get something as well.)" Though Eeez's face was covered by his mask, Ellen could tell he was smiling by how his eyes curved up like gentle arches. Tyki then walked back over to Ellen.

"You good to go?" he asked her.

"Yes." She then turned to address Clark and Momo, "Foi um prazer conhece-los. Obrigada pelo jogo de pôquer. (It was a pleasure meeting you. Thank you for the poker game.)"

"Bem, você certamente nos deu um desafio! (Well, you certainly gave us a challenge!)" Momo laughed.

"Sim, um desafio impossível- Ow, Momo! (Yeah, an impossible one- Ow, Momo!)"

'I guess he's still a bit sore over that...'

"E obrigada também, (And thank you, too,)" Ellen said to Eeez, taking great care with her pronunciation. "Se você não tivesse me ajudado, eu ainda estaria perdido agora. (If you hadn't helped me, I would still be lost by now.)"

Eeez ducked his head when he saw the gentle smile on her face. "Não era nada, na verdade, (It was nothing, really,)" he shyly mumbled.

Tyki grinned in amusement at how Eeez was acting, but didn't say anything so as not to embarrass him. "Come on menina, we need to get going," he reminded her. Finally, after giving final farewells, Tyki and Ellen departed.

- x -

"There's a guy at the end of street with a motorcycle. He lets me borrow it from time to time," Tyki explained as they started to walk down the street.

"But at this time of night? And during the weekend?" Ellen pressed.

"Don't worry," Tyki grinned in response. "Unlike other people, this guy normally stays home most days; particularly if he's working on a painting."

"If you say so..." She sighed. He noticed the uncertain tone in her voice.

"Having second thoughts, menina?" he correctly guessed, bringing her to a halt.

Ellen couldn't help but look down and bite her lip. "Well, yes," she confessed. "I don't want to sound rude, but I don't know you. And since I'm a tourist in an unfamiliar city..."

"That's a good way to get yourself killed, right?"

She nodded and looked back up to him. "I'm grateful for you taking the time to assist me, really. But I can't help but be cautious."

"Hey, I understand," Tyki reassured her. "That's a smart move, considering you're on vacation." He rubbed his chin in thought, then started to rummage through his pockets. "Where did I put that-? Ah, here it is!" He finally pulled something out, then handed it to Ellen. She looked at the object, curiously; then she looked at him, incredulously.

"Did you just give me a butterfly knife?"

"Oh, you recognize the type?" Tyki asked with a grin.

"That's not the point, here. Why do you have a butterfly knife? And why give it to me?"

"For protection, obviously. Like Momo said, this is a rough area. And as for the second question… well, now you know I'm weaponless and less of a threat to you."

Ellen actually felt quite touched at that display of thoughtfulness. But she fixed a neutral expression on her face and asked, "And if you're lying about all that?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "Then you'll have a weapon to fend me off. Though I do ask you don't stab me in the crotch."

She stared at him, then helplessly let out a snort of laughter. "I don't think the aggressor has the luxury of telling their target where to stab during a fight."

"True, but still I rather you not do that. I want to keep that area intact, if you know what I mean."

Ellen shook her head in amusement as she pocketed the knife. "You and every other man on Earth."

Tyki just grinned at her quip and the two continued walking, the atmosphere between them more relaxed than before. They soon arrived at the house of Tyki's friend, an even smaller dwelling surrounded by a low wooden fence. The lights were also on, and out of an open window flowed loud brega music. Next to the house was a small shed.

"Stay here," Tyki told Ellen as he hopped the fence. Seeing a white eyebrow raised in response, he elaborated. "Eshi can be a bit temperamental while he's working on his art. Plus, he can be a bit… much when it comes to cute girls."

"What do you mean by that?"

Tyki gave her a sly grin. "He'll try very hard to get into your pants." He then chuckled at her stunned, blushing face and walked over to the porch.

"Ei Eshi, abra! Sou eu, Tyki! (Hey Eshi, open up! It's me, Tyki!)" he shouted as he knocked on the door.

"A porta está destrancada! (The door's unlocked!)" The homeowner shouted back.

Tyki opened the door and then went inside. After about fifteen minutes, he came back out with a helmet, walked over to the shed, and then brought out a black Honda motorcycle.

"You ever been on a motorcycle?" he asked as he walked the motorcycle towards the gate. "Here's your helmet, by the way."

"No," Ellen answered as she took it from him so he could open up the gate. "I've used bicycles and mopeds, but I've never been the passenger."

"It's not much different," Tyki said as he mounted the vehicle and started its engine up once they were on the street. "Just remember to keep your feet on the pegs at all times, wrap your arms around my waist and lean with me while we're moving."

"Wait, where is your helmet?"

"Eshi only has one, so you're the one who gets it."

Ellen raised an eyebrow in concern and asked, "But aren't you the one driving?"

"I'll be fine," Tyki grinned at her doubt. "I've ridden this bike lots of times and haven't crashed once."

"That doesn't guarantee anything, you know."

"Maybe, maybe not. Still, I think you'll be needing that helmet more than me. Plus I would have to take off my hat."

"…And that's important?" she sighed under her breath, mystified over his silly reasoning. Nevertheless, after securing her helmet upon her head, she walked over and mounted the bike as well. Ellen couldn't help but blush when she put her arms around him. He had kept close to her while they had been walking earlier, but now his body heat radiated through her. And she noticed how the defined muscles of his front pressed onto her arms as he breathed. Clearly he was more fit than his shirt let on.

"Is there anything else?" Ellen asked to distract herself.

"Well, I certainly don't mind how close you are to me," Tyki cheekily pointed out, chuckling when she shot him an unimpressed look through her visor. "Try to keep your head at a distance from mine, though. I won't be able to hear you over the motorcycle while we're driving, so talking is best saved for when we're slowing down or stopping. Hey, you're not a backseat driver are you?" When she shook her head no, he grinned, "Good, that's one less thing to worry about. And just relax; you're in good hands."

A small smile spread on Ellen's face. "Confident, are we?"

"What can I say? It's my default setting." Tyki revved up the bike. "Are you ready?"

"As I'll ever be."

"Alright, then. Here we go!"

Tyki shifted into first gear, then let go of the clutch while he pulled on the throttle. Ellen involuntarily let out a gasp once the motorcycle moved forward. The cool wind caressed their bodies as they surged down the street, though Tyki's hat somehow managed to hold on. At first Ellen kept her eyes closed, the speed they were moving at discouraging her from doing anything more than clutching Tyki's waist and leaning onto his back. But slowly she gathered enough courage to pull back slightly. Once her head was no longer pressed against his shoulder, she opened her silver eyes and took in the scenery.

At first the other houses of the neighborhood appeared to move past her gaze, with trees and grass a natural constant. Then they were gradually accompanied by businesses. Small businesses, certainly; ones that looked identical to residences save for their signs in Portuguese. Vacant lots, parking lots and other gated areas joined in. Power lines served as simple arches regardless of how the motorcycle turned with the road. The houses themselves soon improved in appearance, with tiled roofs and smooth painted concrete becoming more frequent. However, homes like Eeez's still showed up; black algae was still prominent; and even the nicer looking concrete walls had smatterings of graffiti tattooed on. All reminders to Ellen that they were still in a poor neighborhood.

In many ways she was reminded of when she and Cross lived in India five years ago. The worn buildings, the tropical greenery, the warm, humid air – but there was something different about this Brazilian setting. It wasn't just the obvious: that she was in another country and on another continent. It was right on the tip of her tongue…

"You okay back there, menina?"

Ellen blinked, then looked up at Tyki. They were now stopped at a four-way intersection, and he was now looking at her with curiosity.

"Oh, yes I'm fine," she said, feeling a bit silly about taking so long to answer him.

"That's good. I thought you were going to crush my ribs, given how hard you were squeezing me earlier," he teased.

Ellen felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment, then turned her head to the left with a huff.

"Aw, don't pout menina."

"I'm not pouting," she firmly denied, though Tyki's grin showed how persuasive she was. "I was merely thinking."

"Oh?" His voice was full of bemusement. "About what, exactly?"

"That Cidade de Deus reminds me of a place I visited while living in India," she truthfully stated.

Tyki's face now showed surprise. "You lived in India?"

"It was only for six months, but yes," she confirmed.

"Huh. Where else-"

Honk!

Both Tyki and Ellen turned their heads to check out the source of the noise. Behind them was a long line of cars, and the drivers did not seem happy with the two.

"Ei, vocês! Pare de segurar o tráfego! (Hey, you two! Quit holding up traffic!)" Yelled one very irate man as he leaned out of his car window.

"Nós estamos indo, estamos indo! Mantenha suas calças! (We're going, we're going! Keep your pants on!)" Tyki yelled back to the man. He revved up the motorcycle and said to Ellen, "Hold on tight, menina." He felt her tighten her grip in response. Then they turned the corner and were traveling once again.

Ellen observed how their surroundings transitioned into professional-looking businesses with eye-catching advertisements. The road underneath widened as the motorcycle cruised the street and weaved through traffic, maneuvering between cars, buses and much larger lorry trucks like a corgi around livestock. And once again the contrasting looks of beautiful architecture, bright colors and poor materials played out with the houses lining the streets.

They had traveled several meters after clearing a round-about when Tyki heard something; a gurgling sound that had risen above the noise of the motorcycle's engine. Confused, he pulled over to the side of the road and turned to Ellen.

"Did you hear that?" he asked.

"Hear what?"

"A gurgling noise, like water rushing down a pipe or something."

"Oh… we did pass some restaurants. Perhaps it came from that?"

"Maybe," Tyki said as he finished inspecting the motorcycle. Finding nothing wrong with it, he switched gears and continued down the road. After several minutes of hearing only the normal sounds of the street, he assumed that Ellen had been right. But as they cleared three-fourths of Avenida Timbiras, that gurgling noise popped up once again. And there were no nearby sources of running water that could explain it. Once again he pulled over, this time in between an open-air restaurant and a bus stop, and killed the engine.

"Isso é estranho, (This is just weird,)" he muttered as he inspected the motorcycle once again. "Eu sei que esta é uma moto mais velha, mas Eshi cuida bem disso. Então, o que está causando esse barulho? (I know this is an older bike, but Eshi takes good care of it. So what's causing that noise?)"

Tyki was caught off guard when he heard it yet again. Whatever was causing the noise must be close, like right behind… wait a minute…

He turned to look at Ellen, but she wasn't looking back. She was too busy trying to bury her head in her now free hands.

- x -

"I'm really sorry about this..." Ellen mumbled as she nibbled on a chocolate treat. The motorcycle was now fully parked on the sidewalk, it's kickstand-induced stability letting both Tyki and her rest against it. He was taking the opportunity to smoke, while she ate while cradling the motorcycle helmet with her left arm.

Tyki just waved his free hand in dismissal. "Don't apologize. When you're hungry, you're hungry." He took a drag from his cigarette, exhaled the smoke and glanced at her, "It's a good thing I swiped a packet of Lollo before we left, huh?"

"Yes..." she responded as they watched passing traffic. The young woman felt great mortification about this situation. While Ellen wasn't ashamed by her large appetite, she also didn't appreciate how it made itself known.

They lapsed into silence after that. Ellen focused on her snack while Tyki enjoyed his cigarette. Then he asked her, "So, what do you think of Manaus?"

She momentarily paused chewing when she heard the question, then swallowed to answer. "I don't think I can properly answer that since I've been here for barely one day."

"Your first impression, then."

Ellen hummed as she looked up to the night sky, contemplating what to say. "The city is busier than I expected. There were many times during my earlier walk that a car nearly ran me over."

Tyki chuckled when he heard that. "Didn't you Google life in Manaus before you came down here, menina?"

"I did, but I thought that the claims made about how bad traffic could be only pertained to driving, not walking. Obviously, I was wrong."

"Alright, so the local traffic failed to impress you. Anything else?"

"Well, it is rather warm," she admitted as she discretely tugged on her shirt to create a breeze. "I've been to humid areas before, but this is quite different. Though I think that may be because I'm now accustomed to English weather, which isn't exactly known for being warm all year round."

"I'll take your word for it, since I've never been there," Tyki said as he flicked cigarette ashes to the side.

Ellen looked at him with a curious light in her eyes. "Have you ever traveled outside of Brazil before?" she asked.

"I've been to Peru a few times, but overall I've stayed within the country."

"I see," she said with a smile. "Would it be presumptuous of me to assume you speak Spanish as well as English and Portuguese?"

Tyki grinned and replied, "¿Qué piensas, chica?"

"That you're a cheeky man with hidden talents."

"Ah, stereotypical British dry wit. Still, I'll take half a compliment over none," he joked, earning a soft laugh and shake of the head. "That's better."

"Huh?" Ellen looked at him with confusion. "What do you mean?"

"You're laughing now," he elaborated with a smile. "It suits you better than frowning."

Once again she felt her cheeks grow warm at his words. She sheepishly turned her head to the side and said, "Oh, well… thank you." The young woman resumed eating, trying to ignore the amusement that was surely floating off of Tyki. She heard loud laughter to her left, but assumed it was coming from the restaurant patrons and ignored it as well. But just as she finished and put the empty wrapper in her pocket, someone called out to her.

"Ei, gata! (Hey there, babe!)"

Ellen and Tyki both turned to the left and saw three men standing about a meter from them. Well, the word 'standing' was a bit too generous; the man in the center was the most stable, but even he swayed a bit. Whether that was due to supporting the weight of his friends or previous drinking wasn't clear, but it was obvious that all three had been partying.

"Por que você não vem conosco? (Why don't you come with us?)" he slurred as he looked Ellen up and down, his lust clearly evident in his voice. "A gente vai te mostrar um bom momento. (We'll show you a good time.)" His friends laughed as they too leered at her, and she could feel her annoyance grow with each second.

"Ei, (Hey now,)" Tyki called out, getting the man's attention. Ellen wouldn't be surprised if he was just now noticing Tyki was there. "Eu não quero estragar a sua noite, mas ela não está interessada. Vocês devem apenas seguir em frente. (I don't want to ruin your night, but she's not interested. You guys should just move on.)"

"Eu não estava falando com você, cara, (I wasn't talking to you, man,)" the drunk dismissively responded as he walked towards them, leaving his friends to support one another. "Agora pare de ficar no caminho e deixe que ela decida. (Now quit getting in the way and let her decide.)" He stopped short of Ellen and began to take in Tyki's very casual appearance. Then an arrogant sneer twisted his otherwise attractive face. "Não é como isso seria difícil. (Not like it would be hard.)"

Ellen felt her eyes narrow. While she didn't fully understand every word this clearly horrible man just said, she understood enough. And his tone, along with how quiet Tyki became, helped reinforce her assumption. "Me desculpe, mas devo recusar. (I'm sorry, but I must refuse.)"

The man blinked at first, taken aback by the cold tone of her voice. Then he laughed like she had just told an amusing joke. "Não jogue duro para conseguir, (Aw, don't play hard to get,)" he crooned as he reached out to touch her. But his fingertips had barely brushed her left shoulder when she grabbed his arm with her right hand.

"Senhor, eu disse que não vou com vocês, (Sir, I said that I wasn't going with you,)" she reiterated, silver eyes looking straight at him. The helmet was now positioned to reinforce space between them.

The drunk, realizing that she wasn't as meek as she appeared, now grew annoyed at her consistent refusal. He made to grab her again but she swiftly kicked him in the shin.

"Ooof!" her attacker cried out in pain. Before he could recover, Ellen pushed him away from her. She hoped he would now take the hint and leave, but that hope proved to be misplaced. After stumbling for a few seconds, the drunk managed to stand up and pulled out a pocket knife.

"Ei!" Tyki shouted, moving to put himself in-between Ellen and the drunk. But the other man didn't listen and charged at her. Ellen ducked out of reach, grabbed his arm once more, and used the man's momentum to ensure her raised knee hit its target.

And she knew that she had made contact once the drunk's angered expression transformed into pain, and a high-pitched scream ripped out of his mouth. His fist slackened and the knife fell to the sidewalk, at which point it was promptly kicked into the bush by Tyki.

She let him go and he immediately fell to the ground, moaning as he curled into a fetal position.

'Thank you, Cross, for all of those self-defense classes.'

"S-sua puta! (Y-you bitch!)" the man cursed in between gasps of pain.

"Eu lhe disse várias vezes que não queria it com vocês, (I told you over and over that I didn't want to go with you,)" Ellen calmly replied as she picked up the helmet she was forced to discard once he attacked again. "Você escolheu não ouvir, e em vez disso tentou usar a força física. Eu simplesmente respondi. (You chose not to listen, and instead tried to use physical force. I simply responded.)" Her eyes then flickered over to his shocked companions. "Por que vocêsnão pegam seu amigo e vão para casa? (Why don't you take your friend and go home?)" she addressed them, her tone polite but firm. "Vocês devem ter coisas para fazer de manhã. (You all must have things to do in the morning.)"

The other men blinked at first, not fully comprehending what she had just said. Once everything did click, they carefully made their way over. And after securing the downed man's arms over their shoulders, all three made quick progress in the opposite direction.

Ellen sighed in relief as she watched them go. It was rather fortunate that the man's friends didn't decide to attack her. She could have held them off, but such a fight would have drawn attention that she wouldn't have appreciated right now.

"Well, that was unexpected."

She startled at that bemused statement and turned around to see Tyki standing right behind her. She noticed that his cigarette was lying on the sidewalk, still glowing on one end.

He turned his head from where the men had fled to look at her. "Now I'll have to insist you don't stab me in the crotch," he teased, calling back to his earlier statement.

Ellen gave him a wry smile, "So that means you actually were planning on attacking me?"

"No. But even if I was, those plans went straight down the toilet. I think he broke the sound barrier with that wail."

Ellen couldn't help but giggle at that. Tyki grinned at her reaction and said, "We should probably get going." The two got back onto the motorcycle. Tyki had just restarted the engine when he turned his head back towards her.

"Hey, I just realized something."

"What?" Ellen asked as she readjusted the helmet's chin strap.

"You never told me which hotel you're staying at, menina."

Ellen blinked, then facepalmed at her foolishness. "You're right," she sighed. "Do you know the Manaus Hoteis Millennium?"

"Yeah, it's located in the Millennium shopping center. One of the more pricier hotels, too."

She shrugged her shoulders, or as much as she could without readjusting her grip around his waist. "Well, that's where I'm staying."

"Alright then," Tyki chuckled as he shifted gears. "Next stop: Manaus Hoteis Millennium!" And with the pull and push of the clutch and throttle, they rejoined traffic and were back on their way.

- x -

Finally, after a long drive, Tyki and Ellen arrived at her hotel. Once the motorcycle came to a full stop, he dropped the kickstand and gazed up at the tall building. With an impressed whistle he asked, "Do the rooms look as good as the outside?"

"I'm certainly not complaining about mine," Ellen answered as she dismounted the motorcycle and stepped onto the sidewalk. She walked over to Tyki and pulled out his butterfly knife.

"I believe you'll be needing this," she remarked as she handed it, along with the helmet, back to him.

He grinned as he pocketed the knife. "Definitely more than you, huh?"

She shrugged and gave him a smile. "It was a nice gesture, regardless. Obrigada, Tyki, por tanto sua ajuda e pelo jogo de pôquer mais cedo. (Thank you, Tyki, for both your help and the poker game earlier)."

Surprise shone on Tyki's face when Ellen used his name. Then that surprise gave way to amusement – and something else. "De nada, (You're welcome,) menina." His friendly baritone voice now interlaced with a purr that made the pit of her stomach grow tight and her cheeks flare red.

Ellen waved goodbye and turned away, hoping that the air conditioner unit in her room was fully functional. But she had barely taken a step before Tyki called out to her.

"Hey, menina; catch!"

She turned back just in time to catch whatever he had thrown at her. In her hands was a bound deck of checker-backed cards; the same deck they had used earlier in the day. She looked at Tyki, confused by his action.

He simply grinned as he removed the kickstand and shifted gears once more. His hat was now displaced by the helmet and tucked away in the motorcycle's side bag. "Let's play another game before you leave Brazil."

"You want another game with me?"

"Of course, though maybe somewhere besides Cidade de Deus," he replied. "See you later, menina!"

With that said, Tyki drove off into the night after giving her one last smile.

Ellen stood in place for a moment, letting all that just happened fully register in her mind. She looked down at the cards in her hands before she felt a small smile grow on her face. Finally she turned away from the street and walked toward the entrance doors.

'I would like that as well.'

- xXx -


Cultural notes:

14:46 – Military time for 2:46 PM.

Making phone calls in Brazil – This was quite complicated finding info about. For example, you use the following formula to make long distance calls in Brazil:

0 + Carrier code + Area code + Phone number

The carrier code is the code that belong to the telephone company you're using (Tim, Convergia, etc.). The area code is comprised of two digits; Manaus' is 92. If you're looking to make international calls, you might want to look into WhatsApp or Skype. If not, buy a Brazilian SIM card once you get there; and don't use your personal phone unless you're looking to get robbed.

FIFA – The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (International Federation of Association Football). Basically they are the international body governing football and organizers of events like the World Cup. Recently had a lot of scandals involving their ethics (or lack thereof); watch 'Last Week Tonight' segments about them on Youtube for details.

Football – Also known as soccer, or one of Brazil's religions. I'm using the word football in the story proper for two reasons. One: Ellen is British and is in Brazil, so naturally she would use that term for the sport. Two: I want to minimize any complaints non-US readers would have for me using the word soccer. I'll still be using the word soccer in these cultural notes, however. So complaints will still come in.

World Cup – An international soccer competition between the men's teams of FIFA members. Held every four years since 1930 (though not 1942 and 1946 because of WWII). Has been criticized over how the competition gives it host countries short-term benefits and long-term problems (much like the Olympics, actually…).

Samba – Definitely one of Brazil's most famous dance styles/music genres. The music originated from Rio de Janeiro during the early 20th century. The various samba dances (Wikipedia lists at least seven) grew from the dances performed by African slaves brought to Brazil over the centuries; former slaves migrating from Bahia brought samba to Rio, where it incorporated other dances like the polka and maxixe (Brazilian tango) and eventually led to the samba schools we see perform during Carnival. I'm trying not to drown you guys with info here, so go to Wikipedia to learn more; or Youtube to actually see/hear for yourself.

Lambada – A partner dance that comes from Para, Brazil; and was very popular in the Philippines and other countries during the 1980s. Has adopted aspects from other dances like the maxixe, salsa and merengue. Characterized by side steps and pronounced hip movements. Also has a song and several films named for/made about it.

Sixth form college – In many ways similar to community colleges in the United States, as students typically study for two years. Depending on what year they're in, the students will have to take either AS or A-level examinations (which are pretty much like high school diplomas in the US). Found from England to Malaysia.

University of Roehampton – Actual university in London that offers dance degrees.

Narky – British slang for someone who's moody or bad-tempered.

Berk – British slang for 'idiot'.

Mercado Adolpho Lisboa – AKA the Mercado Municipal. It was built between 1880 and 1883, and was based on Paris' Les Halles marketplace. Nearly all of the material used had to be imported from Europe. The second structure is known as "Iron market" (according to Wikipedia).

Tacacá – A soup made with tucupi (yellow sauce made from wild manioc/cassava) broth, jambu (variety of paracress), dried shrimps and yellow peppers. Served hot in a cuia (gourd bowl).

Cidade de Deus – One of Manaus' shadier neighborhoods. Started around 1990 after a group of landless migrant families settled. Was recognized as a neighborhood in 2010. Note: I googled 'manaus cidade de deus' and got an article from that claimed Cidade de Deus is Manaus' 10th largest favela (slum). Though when I took a closer look, the article claimed it was located in the East Zone, not the North Zone. So either the journalist made a mistake, or Manaus has two areas called 'Cidade de Deus'.

Sertanejo – Also known as Música sertaneja. Most played music genre on Brazilian radio since the 1990s. Originated from the Brazilian countryside during the 1920s, and was influenced by country music and fandango. Traditional instruments include the accordion and guitar. Most sertanejo artists are in sibling duos with one providing the backup vocals. Notable sertanejo artists: Gusttavo Lima; Luan Santana; Sérgio Reis; Chitãozinho & Xororó; Michel Teló.

Brazilian telenovelas – The most popular program type on Brazilian TV since the 1970s. Early telenovelas were modeled after Latin American ones, but have become much more sophisticated over the years. PortuguesePod101 recommends watching them to boost learning Portuguese.

Emília Pipocas Açucuardas – Similar to Puffcorn in appearance. Chosen mostly because of the silly picture of a corncob on the package.

Bants – British slang for banter.

Brega – Genre of Brazilian popular music that, while not having its own unique music rhythm, is widely characterized by its focus on romantic topics with dramatic exaggeration. Most of its greatest singers, like Reginaldo Rossi and Falcão, come from the Northern and Northeastern regions of Brazil. Can also be used to define something as tacky or unfashionable (ouch).

Lollo – A chocolate treat made by Nestle. Learned about them from a Youtube video on SnackCrate's channel; one of the taste testers said it reminded them of a 3 Musketeer's bar.

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And that's the end of the first chapter. Some of you may have realized I used Tyki's Noah coloring from -Man Hallow for this story. I do have a story reason, but I also think he looks hot like that. Since a lot of people don't like them, I'm trying not to create too many OCs. Recommend any obscure characters from the first anime so that won't happen, please. And please review; it makes me so happy to hear what you think!