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Chapter 6 - Women

'Welcome to our... Nike?!' Halle gaped at the woman.

'I can't believe you're really working in a run-down place like this now,' Nike replied with a laugh.

She sauntered over to the counter and claimed one of the seats in front of it with the ease of a regular.

Silence permeated the bar, booze forgotten as all eyes drank in the sight of her.

'Good to see you again,' she said to the owner. 'I'm kind of surprised, though. Your customers seem more... well behaved these days.'

The owner laughed. 'Really? We've got Halle to thank for that, then.'

'You know the owner here? Then...um... Were you and Jack, I mean...'

Nike flashed a smile at her. 'He's a former lover of mine, yes.'

Halle was stunned into silence by the response. It wasn't as though she hadn't thought it to be the case; she just hadn't expected Nike to admit the truth so freely.

Nike giggled at the expression on her face. 'That look of surprise is really cute, too... Maybe you should try becoming an actress yourself. I definitely think you've got the potential.'

'Really?' Halle gave a nervous laugh. 'I'm pretty sure I'm not cut out for it...' Her usual confidence deflated under the playful gaze of the older woman. She might have no problem bullying Jack, but Nike was another matter.

She hesitated. Deep down, Halle had a lot that she wanted to ask about Jack and Nike's relationship with one another, but she couldn't bring herself to do so.

As if reading her thoughts, Nike's perfect smile widened.

'I don't mind answering your questions,' she began, 'but it's no fun if I just tell you everything, so why don't we make a little wager? If you win, I'll tell you what you want to know...but if I win, I've got something I want to ask YOU.'

Exactly what someone like Nike would have to ask someone like her, Halle couldn't fathom, but she wasn't the type to back down from a challenge when it came to gambling. She took after her father in that regard.

They decided on cards--a game of blackjack. Nike seemed unconcerned when Halle confessed she was rather good at it.

Despite being a mere fifteen years of age, Halle was nothing short of a genius when it came to gambling. Part of it was due to the incredible amount of effort and dedication she had poured into acquiring her skills, but it was also thanks to her exceptional memory. Her powers of recollection were so great that not even her father nor Jack could compare. That, more than anything, was her greatest weapon.

It also allowed her to be an expert at card counting, an ability that let users almost predict the cards in the next hand by remembering all previous cards used in the game. Blackjack in particular gave card counters a significant advantage, making it a game that Halle had always been especially skilled at.

The game began.

Watching Nike, Halle quickly came to the conclusion that Nike wasn't used to playing blackjack at all. By the end, however, Nike had somehow accumulated more chips than Halle and was clearly the victor.

Halle leaned back in her chair, impressed. '...I can't believe you managed to cheat.'

'Heh. If you can't prove it was cheating, it's not cheating.'

Halle hadn't intended to let her guard down against Nike; she had just misjudged her skill level. The older woman had made use of her own years of experience and acting talents to feign inexperience. It had been a ploy designed to mask her skills and fool Halle into complacency, and Halle had fallen for it utterly.

Nike winked at her. 'I AM an actress by profession, after all.'

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