The Story Of Who
EIGHTEEN HOURS TO ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
The sound of constant hearty conversation filled the streets of Central. Compared to the dullness of the Block it truly looked like paradise. It was jarring for me, as used as I was sneaking out, to stand in the midst of it all wearing something other than red or black. Beside me, X stood, an arm wrapped around my waist as I took in the flashy cars, silver trains and the numerous service receivers that towered between the golden shields of the high rise buildings looming over us.
Massive fireworks exploded in the cloudless sky, decorating the night in flashes of rainbow light. It was still before sunrise but the capital city was alive with sound.
It was only here that Râini lasted a week and then some because it overlapped with his birthday. Foreigners flocked to the city to watch it all unfold and most importantly, to see the Emperor parade himself in front of crowds of people—to be part of the lucky throng who got to touch his hand and be "blessed".
The natives, of course, knew better. And by extension, so did I. The conversation and speedy transportation? Various influential organizations sending orders through their back-room, messenger boys; hitmen carrying those missions out.
The buildings and receivers formed a massive energy gathering formation that powered the planet sized shield protecting Centaur from the stray missiles that became "fireworks" when they collided with the force field.
The planet itself was surrounded by constant warfare—the Resistance's rebel force which refused to die. It was only at the capital, where the attacks were most concentrated, that you were able to see the slightest hint of the chaos. It had been so easy for me to forget that we were still and war when my only focus had been getting out.
It was hard to imagine Centaur no longer existing. It was the beast that devoured the others, not the other way around.
"It's overwhelming, isn't it?" X asked.
"I think... we are the only ones standing still."
"No need to rush, Nikolai and Lazlo are still scoping the area."
I was too, scanning over a sea of cool blue hues for something different and finding nothing worrying.
The citizens here were carefree and self-indulgent. They couldn't care any less about the increasing frequency of "stray" missiles, nor the fact that the warring planets had cutting edge missile guiding technology and top class experts in ballistics. If they didn't care about being torched to pieces, I didn't either.
X definitely wasn't worried about that. He pulled me close as though he was afraid of being swept away by the bustling crowd but other than that, he paid me no mind.
He was too busy making his calculations and speculating, because this very spot on which we stood was where the emperor was going to lose his life and opposite us was Central's most expensive restaurant—rumored to be the emperor's favorite dining spot.
In contrast to all the chaos up in space, the atmosphere of Centaur was annoyingly calm. Though bandits shot civilian ships down from airspace at least a dozen times every other day, no complaint was ever filed against the perpetrators—not even by those who had been shot down, because deep down everyone was a criminal.
Central was "the city that never sleeps" or as the locals like to call it, "the crime capital". I could understand why Owen chose to live here and why the emperor had to die here. This was the only place we would be able to get away with it.
Everyone who lived here was eager to waste currency and very cheerful about flaunting their stolen wealth despite the fact this "paradise" was home to several more dangerous criminals.
In this city, you never knew what might happen to you—if the guy you bumped into on the street was a murderer or not.
It was the perfect place to kill a king.
SIXTEEN HOURS TO ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
If I looked into the mirror, I knew what I would see: a young lady in a black pencil skirt and an extremely bright blue floral print blouse—that would have been gaudy on anyone but her. An amber ribbon snaked her waist while her face framed with curls of ginger-red hair—very recently dyed. Most importantly were the pair of thick and dark glasses that hid her eyes from view.
The shadow cast by a snow white parasol shielded her milky skin from the harsh glare of the sun.
I had never looked so different and I enjoyed the care X had put into the outfit. In just two hours he had managed to transform me into the emperor's type. And if he truly was a fan of me like the rumors claimed, I still shared enough similarities with myself to pique his interest.
Unfortunately, this particular disguise wasn't meant for his eyes.
"I'm in position," I mumbled under my breath, waiting for the sensor on the glasses to pick it up.
"Get ready to look distressed," X replied softly.
I wasn't used to the way his voice tickled my ears but I knew better than to comment on it. I cautiously slipped tendrils of my awareness in the psyches of the people around me to get a feel for how good my acting was.
Through their ears, I picked up heightened footfalls behind me. My would-be assailants were too scattered for me to pinpoint but I took that as my cue to start running.
The deeper I got into the crowd the easier it was to pick them out. There were five of them, all men, casually dressed in loose dark shirts and slacks. They were inconspicuous, barely noticeable in the sea of people, but they were the only ones who matched my pace.
I turned into an alley X had marked as my destination and turned my back to the dead end in preparation for a fight. Of course, the dead end was just a projection.
The emperor's most favored servant used this route to get to the Quilicon, the restaurant I and X had been scoping. It was rumored that he had recently gone out of favor and was looking for a way to get into the emperor's good graces—and apparently, the good emperor was looking for women to sate him appetites.
So far, the servant hadn't succeeded in wining his favor back. I was hear to help him.
I closed the umbrella and pointed it at the men once the closed in on me. They grinned when they saw me standing still; the sleaziness of their thoughts made my stomach churn in disgust. I wished I could just break into their minds and bring them to their knees.
They spread themselves out around me so that I was caught in the middle of their ring. I made sure to keep all of them within my line of sight, and the wall behind me.
If I could, I would find a way to get back at X for hiring such ugly men to beat me up.
"That doesn't look like your distressed," he complained softly.
I rolled my eyes and made my hands tremble so much that the umbrella dropped to the ground.
"Heyo. Pretty lady~"
"Your skin looks so soft. Hehe. I'm going to enjoy this."
"That's no way to talk to a lady, Lorenzo."
"Hey, pretty girl. If you pay us double what we were paid to do you in, we'll make it fun for you too."
I stumbled back and fixed an horrified expression on my face. "N-No. Get a-away from me, you pigs."
"Overdramatic, but better." He hummed in approval. "The target will be on you in thirty seconds."
That was my cue to scream at the top of my lungs.
One of the men rushed me in an attempt to cover my mouth. I raised my knee between his legs and a mix of momentum and pain brought his down.
"You whore!" he growled, as though the word was supposed to be an insult.
"Nikolai and Lazlo are in position," X said.
That was my cue to get a little bruised.
The men spread out even further as the man I kicked stood up. It seemed that he was the leader and they had decided to let him handle me on his own as a way to win back his honor.
He slammed me into the wall and pain exploded along my spine. I let out piercing scream that matched my annoyance at not being able to kill him right now. The emperor loved sensitive women.
The thug slapped me. The force was enough to send the sunglasses off my face. He pressed the tip of his knife into my cheek, hard enough to draw blood. "Make one more sound and I'll cut up this pretty face of yours so much that no one would recognize your corpse."
I quietened my cries to appropriate whimpers.
"Get away from her, you scoundrel!" It was a new voice, one belonging to someone that had arrived with reinforcements.
I pushed my attacker away from me and like a statue, he toppled over and began to bleed. I crouched to floor and went in search of my glasses, I managed to put it on just as a hand touched my shoulder.
I flinched and curled in on my self until a soothing voice said, "It's alright."
I looked up, into the eyes of my "savior". "Thank you, Sir. If it wasn't for you..."
He used a handkerchief to wipe away the blood on my face. "Just look what they did to you. Let me take a proper look."
He took off my glasses and I heard him gasp. I could already see the cogwheels turning in his head. "You must be new here."
"Yes. My home planet was overcome by rebel forces and destroyed. I came here in search of opportunities."
In his mind, he was that opportunity.
"I won't both you anymore now, Sir." I turned to leave.
"No," he grabbed me by the arm, with enough force to leave a bruise, "you will not."
"You cannot walk around in your state. Who is to say that this won't happen again?" he asked, as the imperial guards beat up the thugs in the background. "I can't save you twice, and you need medical attention."
"What will you have me do?"
"You will come with me."
"This is the opportunity you've been waiting for."
"Don't call me Sir. My name is William, personal servant of His Majesty."
I tried to look appropriately awed.