Apart from the fallen balcony, the building had managed to stay together well enough for the day’s work until it was considered finished. Without further incidence, I’d been able to depart once the attending crew had boarded up the building and left. Tomorrow, it seems, would be the start of the condemnation.
Two thoughts hang on my mind. The first being my pondering the proceedings of Juna’s testing. Two hours had passed since we’d parted ways and with how tests are administered, there’s likely an entire hour more to bide by until she’s finished.
The second thought keeping a firm grasp on my mind is about that woman I’d met by what could only be described as a fateful encounter. How close she’d come to a single platinum coin becoming the cause for fallen health or worse. And yet she’d ended up fortunate enough to have gotten away with even more than she’d had before she’d found herself in peril.
From all that I’d come to know I’d deduce that she’s likely employed by either a wealthy family or a housing business as a maid. Given her career it’s unlikely we’d be seeing each other again for quite some time if ever again. So her mysterious character will prove to remain mysterious. That understanding is enough to make me heave a sigh from my heart.
“I suppose that’s a non issue when I already have so much to be concerned with.”
Though I’d become so lost to my own thoughts, a strange sight at once thrusts me back to full attention.
Among the bustling crowds stands one who hides themselves against the corner of a building. Their pocketed hands lends to a cool stance. Their motions and movements are exceedingly fine and minute but I can tell that their eyes search from person to person over the traffic passing by in droves. Despite that they intend to blur themselves into the backdrop of the bustling street they can’t hide from my own trained eyes.
Though I’m never eager to describe any citizen in such a way, they come off as suspect. They’re dressed with a black jacket that has its sleeves rolled up to beneath the elbow and its hood covering their head. Their deeper blue dress shirt is left unbuttoned at its top for a flair of style.
All the rest of their body from the neck and even to their hands is covered with a black suit of an unorthodox make. Their boots barely stand out against the dark black which covers their legs. A final, distinguished characteristic is the set of headphones that they wear on their shoulders.
I minimize myself and continue watching over them. A dozen minutes of waiting for the uneventful to make its way to intrigue. As a woman and a group of men begin into the alleyway the hooded individual stands beside, they silently trace their way behind their heels.
So I choose to add to their number and carry on my way as a third party.
✩ ✩ ✩
The hooded person stands at the dead end the alleyway had lead to. They’d boldly and willingly taken that place upon revealing themselves to their company. Their conversation with the group carries a tension which grows with every word exchanged.
“So you’re the one that I’ve been hearing about. That troublesome brat that keeps rearing their head into our business.” The woman among the men speaks sharply to the hooded person.
“You’ve met your nuisance.” They respond calmly and yet with a tone of cutting sarcasm.
I stand back and watch the scene unfold all the while ready to enter the fray the moment civility fails. Though I’d most usually be quick to deescalate such a situation, something inside of me tells me that I’d best listen to their conversation first.
“Bringing you in is going to be worth a pretty penny. So kind of you to trap yourself like the rat you are for our convenience.”
“I’m comfortable where I am and I have no intentions to be taken away to your brood of vipers. I’m here to set a record straight and I won’t be leaving anywhere until that’s been achieved.”
They haven’t even a microscopic fragment of worry prickling them. Still standing with their hands pocketed and stance relaxed as if the conversation is as casual as that shared with a harmless passerby on the street.
“Set a record straight?” The woman laughs a haughty laugh. “And what record do you have? What business has caused you to be such a thorn in the side?”
“Where could I even begin? There’s too much to even put into words. I’m here to bring a little justice to the trash that festers in the darker corners of this kingdom. To shine a little light in the places where others are too cowardly to acknowledge or even approach.”
“Look at you. It seems someone has read a little too much fiction and let those fantasies go to their heads. So you’d like to believe you’re after justice? I’ll play along with your cute little game. What do you expect to do with us bad people?” She mocks.
“I’d like to hear a few names and places where I could step deeper into the shadows to pull your faces up for others to see.” They peer up and I can almost barely see their eyes from beneath their hood. “Non negotiable. I’ll hear it and I’ll have all of you put down like rabid mutts.”
“I see. So you have some superficial knowledge of another side to this kingdom. That’s no place for a commoner to be playing around. But you’ve already stepped to deep with how you’d laid hands on a colleague of mine. I can’t just let you walk away now that you’ve shown yourself.”
“I’ll walk away. But I wonder if all of you will be able to stand after you’ve had your crimes taken out on your bodies.”
The hooded person at last stands up straight although they let their hands remain pocketed. The woman leading the rabble of men gives a slanted grin and motions to her right hand with a sway of the neck.
Unable to stomach any more as it’s doubtlessly coming down to violence, I step out and let my presence be known.
“Excuse me. It seems that there’s an issue between both yourselves and the kingdom if I’ve heard your conversation correctly.”
All eyes turn to me. The expressions are mixed from irritated to well humored.
“So you’d finally decided to come out from skulking, knight.” The hooded person defies the odds to be the first to speak to me. “I’d wondered if you were too afraid or just stupid.”
“So you’d seen me.”
“I’d known you were there since we were in the streets. You’re not that great at hiding yourself. But what else could be expected of a clumsy, faltering lot like the knighthood?” Their tone takes on a pointedly bitter note.
“Knight, eh? No needs for ya here. We’s just a couple of friends makin’ with the small talk. Now scram before we get a little bit of red on ya.” A ruffian speaks while attempting to increase their stature to intimidate me.
“I must say that it seems our friend is a bit sharper than I’d given them credit for. I hadn’t noticed you there. But now that you’re out in the open, I suppose that does make you a part of this situation we’ve all entered into. Unlike what my little pet here had said; you won’t be leaving here so simply.”
“I’d rather none of this ends in violence, but I suppose if you’d leave me no choice, I’ll have to take all of you in myself.” I say with a sigh, disappointed at the approaching altercation.
“Aye, aye. My mistake, lady. You’s right. We can’t let a knight or some bratty kid caught up in the strings just walk free-like. I’ll get this party a ruckus-going starting with them!”
The brusque and built ruffian swings their fist with an explosive might to the hooded one. A loud clap sounds as the impact is made and yet…
“Wh-What the bleedin’…?!”
His fist had stopped squarely in the palm of their target.
Peering up to them, at last their eyes come into view to show a blue of the keener morning skies. Within their calm pools is an unexpectedly fierce raging flame. The man begins to flinch as they crush their fingers down on his fist with an audible grit from their intense grip.
“Ack! Puny gnat! Thinkin’ you can just-!”
Their words are smashed to bits as their prey turned aggressor’s fist crushes their cheek and sends their face into the rough surface of the brick wall. With the force of their swing, the hood that had obscured their face falls.
Platinum blonde hair falling into spikes and ending at the length of their shoulders. A single braid is tied to their right and the accessory which binds it forms a small halo around the lock. Their face is youthful and a shockingly pleasant sight. The face of a woman with a single scar running across their left cheek, standing out against their mid toned skin.
She slides herself into a readied posture and beckons her opponents to come and test their mettle against her. The woman serving as her opposition grits her teeth and orders her posse.
A duo comes in full steam. A fist from one and kick like a piston from another. They sweep through the air as if they’d been aiming for an illusion. And in reply both of their faces are swatted with the swing of her leg which snaps like a whip. She’d made good work to bat their senses away. During their moment stuttered and stunned, she slams her heel into the stomach of the left and then spins into an incredible jumping kick which comes cutting against the right’s neck like the strike of a scimitar. Both are rendered completely neutral.
“I’d like to see you survive thi-!”
Another henchman comes running at her but his knee is checked brutally with a kick. His attempted attack is rejected to uselessness as he falls and quivers in pain while holding himself. His wrathful opponent withholds mercy and raises her leg high into the air to bring it down as an axe to split his head. His nose and consciousness are crushed against the stone of the alleyway with a tremendous thud.
“Wh-What the hell are you?!” The last remaining henchman standing between us and their leader screams.
He shakes with trepidation for his oncoming demise who now rests her sole against the back of his comrade’s head. Her eyes read loud and clear that he would be the next target for her all consuming ire. He snaps his eyes away and spots me. With a grin, I can tell what he’s thinking: that he’ll find an easier match with me and might be able to make it out of here without arrest.
He sprints towards me, having not learned his lesson paid by his fallen friends’ sacrifices. His fist swings by my ear as I tilt my head out of the way. My arms fly around his and I throw his entire body onto the ground. His back meets the earth with a thump and the wind is ejected from his lungs. Immediately out cold.
“Damn it! You’re all surely worth your paycheck.” The woman spits.
The vigilante begins to walk towards her, undaunted without a doubt in her step. Her eyes are fixed on her with all of the cold and lethal sheen of a razor’s edge. Like a raptor to its meal.
“Now you’re a knight and you’re a lady. You wouldn’t want to hit a woman, would you? Isn’t that against your policies and chivalry?” She speaks to either of us.
Her more pressing foe comes too close to simply be ignored. A crooked smile splits her lips. A knife slides from her sleeve and its steel sweeps through wind with a whistle as it misses its desired victim. The next moment it falls from her fingers with a clatter as a knee slams full force into her xiphoid. She sputters with all of the elegance of a whaling mule and doubles over. It’s lights out when an elbow greets the back of her head.
She’s left prone on the floor to match the rest of her troubled entourage.
“A criminal is a criminal. Whether they’re man or woman, of a race or by a creed, a trespass is a trespass. Justice is blind.”
The vigilante with dawn blue eyes shakes the dust off of her jacket and replaces her hood. In perfect silence, she begins on her way past me with hands returned to her pockets.
“You’re just going to leave?”
“I’d originally planned to tie them up so they could be found and made an example of. Since you’d followed us here, I’m sure you can get your worker ants to do that job for me.”
“I’m not entirely sure what all of this has been about but I can tell that these people are a part of some form of organized crime. If you’ve dealt with them before I’m sure we’d be able to help you sort out this situation and deal with whatever ring this may be. You should stay to speak a record. I-”
“Not interested.” She says to me coolly while failing to miss a single step on her way.
“Not interested? You’re now technically a part of a criminal investigation. And after all of that fighting and how these people have been left, you’re not really allowed to simply-”
“You’re naive, aren’t you?” She at last plants her heels and looks back to me, piercing me through with her brilliant, ghostly blue eyes. “Or perhaps you’re just as dense as the rest of your kind. Either way, you don’t seem to have a clue what it is you’ve stumbled upon or who those people are. Or just what they represent.”
“I could know so I could better do my job protecting this kingdom and its people if you’d grant me the time to explain and give your testimony.”
Her eyes skip away as she begins to watch the nonchalant citizens that walk to and fro before the alleyway in the distance. Unaware as to the intense altercation that had taken place only a few moments prior.
“You’re really not joking, are you? At this rate you’d better duck out while you still can. Make sure you keep yourself and those involved with you protected from getting involved any further than you already have. A knight like you would likely end up no more than food for beasts.”
Her small quip spoken, she places her headphones around her ears and returns to minding her own way.
“To think that the Celestial Knight wouldn’t even know this much. I suppose some happy-go-lucky optimist like him would probably be blind to what knights really are. It’s best you’d just do your job and carry on with your day. Forget any of this ever happened.” Then she mutters to herself. “If only he didn’t show up so I could interrogate these goons properly.”
I double check my arm to confirm that I had in fact removed the band.
“Wait! How did you know that I’m-”
“I’ve seen your face, knight. And before you come chasing after me, allow me to remind you that leaving injured and unconscious citizens unattended isn’t very knightly. Take care of them and leave real justice to me.”
I’m begrudged to admit that she’d hit the nail on the head. Although I’d wish to speak with her further, the body count of these ruffians by her hands alone would be dishonorable to overlook. And even if they are criminals they’re still citizens all the same.
I’m left only a single option: to watch her go on her way without the power to keep her nor the backup to assist me. With how threatening of a challenger she is, it’d be more of a struggle than it’s worth. And the mere though of anyone dying or winding up debilitated on my watch brings my chest to an acute sting.
She leaves the alleyway behind so casually it’s as if everything I’d been witness to was simply a delusion and trick of my mind. That the citizens are completely oblivious is a testament to the peace reigning over Celestia.
✩ ✩ ✩
It was a small spot of fortune that a kingdom knight had just so happened to have passed by the alleyway after only a few moments of waiting. I’d finished monitoring the ruffians’ conditions to find them to be stable without any permanent injury besides a couple concussions and perhaps some sore points.
Without Juna by my side I hadn’t been left many choices than to hope that a knight could assist the situation. With a quick call in from their communicator, back up was confirmed to be on its way. After I’d given my own telling of the heated events that had lead to the messy scene, I was let free to be on my way.
The time left until the results of Juna’s testing would be given comes too close for comfort. So I take to running through the streets. And while I rush to the kingdom knight’s quarters, I keep an eye out for a hooded woman wandering around.
Regrettably, that person is nowhere to be found.
“Something that I don’t know? A situation that I shouldn’t get myself involved with?”
I ponder deeply what that battle scene I’d stumbled upon truly meant for this kingdom. And I wonder if the citizens are truly safe. But I reaffirm my vow that no matter what I’d be making sure that they will be even at the cost of my own blood.