“This is Argoe at Alpha. Ready.”
“Kalina situation in Beta. Prepared.”
The voices stream from the receiver I’ve placed into my ear as each and every unit finds their position on the map. From my vantage point in the candy store that had been gently and willingly commandeered from its elderly owner, I’m able to oversee the entire operation from Vestil’s side. Behind a counter with binoculars in both of our hands, we keep lookout while talking together.
Flat and calm with a few lanterns lining the way, Milky Street would seem to be the place anyone would least expect to be the location for any questionable transactions. And yet it seems that’s the exact train of thought the criminals had boarded as well.
“Another shady meeting on this street. Gladly nobody has caught on yet, but does it really grind my gears that these people keep screwing around in this place.” Vestil groans to herself. “I mean, a good percentage of the elderly shopkeeps and civilians come here. Then during the day it’s them and their grandchildren. Leave it to these cretins to turn it all upside down the first chance they get.”
Rather than be clad in her red uniform, both her and her men are instead dressed in pitch black suits with matching armor. Since I’ve always worn my black uniform, I’d only had need to change my dress shirt and tie to blend into the night.
“So this is where you’ve been finding those trouble characters? I’d once gone here with Solus long ago. Otherwise I sometimes come this way during my patrols. The folks and store owners are always pleasant. I know it’d break Solus’ heart to see that this is how some are beginning to make use of it.”
“I’m feeling pretty heartbroken myself. I could only imagine how he’d be taking this if he saw it himself. I’m sure that soon enough they’ll leave this place alone and find another corner to crawl to. There are plenty of other situations that happen at night but as long as we clean up the place street by street, it’ll be better.”
“I can say amen to that.” I say to her and tap my fist against hers. “So this is my first sting. It’s pretty close to how I’d imagined it would be. You’ve already done a few of these now, haven’t you?”
“Yeah, about a dozen so far. Everyone has gotten the hang of it. There’s a few reasons why our squadron is tasked with this sort of thing. One of them being the fact that it’s a little more rare that Loveless would be involved with much of anything, so we’re often retooled to handle stings and raids. We’re all specially trained for combat and detention so it’s best we’d put our skills to good use and not let them rot away. Tax payers do like to see their money being put to use after all.”
“All men have been accounted for. Preparations have been completed.” The voice of Vestil’s second in command, Argoe, cracks through the piece.
“Affirmative. Now let’s get this game started.” Vestil radios back and then returns to conversing with me. “Man. My squadron is amazing. Couldn’t have asked for any better. I’d even wager to say they’re some of the best knights we’ve got in this kingdom.”
“Sounding like a proud father over there.” I chuckle. “It’s the first time I’ve met most of them. I remember seeing Kalina few times since she’d approached you while we were speaking before.”
“Let me tell you that she was pretty surprised you’d ended up becoming the Celestial Knight. Just said that I know some interesting characters. That is after she’d handed me my earnings from our little bet.”
“Bet?” I place down the binoculars to glance to her.
“Yeah. I knew you’d be the Celestial Knight so I’d gotten myself a few earnings. It was mostly to tease them but the cash wasn’t bad either. I owe you one. How about I take you out for a treat tomorrow and make good on that now that I’ve remembered?”
The time carries on while we chat and receive updates from the squadron until we’re brought to high alert from one report.
“Miras confirmed on the approach. Currently making his way through Alpha section.”
Both Vestil and I turn our binoculars to spot our target at the start of Milky Street. He wears a hat and black suit, giving him an appearance similar to a business man on the road home after a day of work. Anything but what I’d had in mind for a drug dealing criminal. His face is rather youthful but a scar on his chin stands out among his features.
Attentive and carrying their way behind his heels come walking four imposing men dressed to match Miras. Though they appear to be empty handed, it’s doubtless that they would more than likely be carrying some manner of hidden weapons on their persons.
“Affirmative. Keep an eye on him and prepare the decoy.”
“Sir. I have pressing news.” Another voice cracks from the earpiece and before he can even finish his report, I’ve already captured what he means to report.
It’s an enigmatic looking character dressed in a black hooded jacket with their hands in their pockets. The way their mannerisms and the way they carry themselves immediately reveals to me their identity.
“The decoy has not been deployed but a civilian is approaching from Omega section. Repeat, civilian on the scene.” Reports her knight.
“Civilian?” Vestil picks up with surprise stands up from her seat. “How did they enter the scene? Where is our Omega lookout?”
“Sir, it seems that this particular civilian had employed a sort of cloaking magic. My reader has detected that their spell had been deactivated upon entry into Omega.”
“What shall we do, sir? Should we apprehend her?”
“Hold off for now. It seems that our surprise guest just so happens to be approaching our decoy’s position. Now what could this mean? Whatever it is, it seems that we may have to arrest them as well if they happen to be a conspirator.”
Judgment comes to a still perfectly at the decoy’s assigned point of contact. She glances about the area and observes Miras as he and his men approach her. They begin talking.
“We don’t have our decoy’s microphone to capture their conversation. I want ears on that meeting right now.”
“Yes, sir. Point audio has been amplified via parabolic and given feed directly to channel D.”
I hurriedly tune my second device to channel D and listen in with Vestil.
“-him to look like you.” Judgment’s tough voice speaks as she looks Miras up and down.
“So I don’t look the part to you? But aside from that, you’re just where you’re meant to be. I’d heard from my men that someone was looking for a little bit of Retro to see another side to the city. Looks like a university student is our client this time. Never been to those classes myself, but it seems we’ve been having a few more of those kids getting interested lately. Word must be floating around campus somehow.”
“You could say that. I’d heard you have the best stuff around. Unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You willing to back that up?”
“You’d better believe. This is the best there is. I guarantee it. Have some and you’ll be seeing stars and live to tell the tale.”
“Sounds impressive enough. What are the damages?”
“Isn’t much. Just a couple of bronze should do the trick for a nice sample.”
“Then that’s what I’m in for.”
“Judgment, what are you doing?” My heart is in my throat while I continue watching the scene unfold.
I catch a shimmering off at the corner of my eyes. I swing my sights and slowly trail my eyes across the building to our shoulder. When I see its second floor window, my tense heart begins to run ice cold.
A man clad in pitch black stands in the shadows of a neighboring building. He holds a crossbow with a silver bolt resting, ready to be nocked. His focus is trained keenly on Judgment who is ignorant of their presence.
As their aim steadies and their preparations come together, he grabs the bolt and slowly slides it back. Before I can properly announce my discovery, I’m already dashing to the store’s entrance to thrust open the door.
“Kh-Khiron! What are you doing?”
“There’s little time to explain. A sniper has their sights trained on the civilian with the second story window of B7 as their vantage point. There’s no time to wait.” I rush my words to Vestil and leave the store behind in a sprint.
“All units cover the Celestial Knight! There’s a sniper trained on the civilian. Their position is situated at the second floor, B7!” I hear her notify her knights through ear piece.
I take cover beneath the sniper as I close the distance to Judgment. Shadow by shadow, I obscure myself until I’m directly across the road from her, ready to act. Though Judgment doesn’t show it for both of our sake, she’s already noticed me. She’s irritated and sends me a subtle glance.
“All units, prepare to engage! Sniper is ready to take the shot. Celestial Knight, act now!” Warns Vestil.
I make dart out from my cover. Miras and his men are thrown to surprise when I tackle Judgment and hear the whistling of the bolt cutting the air by my ear. We come crashing down to the dust of the earth.
“Now what the hell is this?” Miras speaks with annoyance.
“That’s a good question.” Judgment answers from beneath me, leering from Miras and then the bolt buried deep in the wall. “It seems like you were trying to kill me. That’s very underhanded of you.”
“When I’d heard goody two shoes herself was coming to foil our operation, I’d made sure to hire another hand so we could finally do away with our saboteur. But now it looks like you’re outnumbered and in the perfect position for the slaughter. Even with your cute hero here to help you.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.”
I take hold of Judgment and tuck into a roll as a second bolt plants itself where her head had rested a fraction of a second prior. The thunderous footfalls of the squadron fills the night air. Miras commands his men to cover for him as he takes off into a sprint and attempts to break through the incoming wall of knights. He earns himself an amazing hook to the neck so rattling my own neck begins to hurt just witnessing it. The rest of his cronies fall like flies one by one.
Off to the side, Vestil sprints full speed into the building of B7 and kicks down the door. A couple of her men have her back running after her. Before long the man in the window is grasped from behind and wrestled while his next bolt flies into the roof of the building across from his position.
“H-Hey! Get off already!” Judgment croaks in pain.
I peer down to see her flinching in pain. Having been in my knight’s mindset, I’d become a little too roughly protective. My palm presses against her harder than than I’d realized. I’m hasty with my apology before raising off of her. She sits and grips her arm while taking a deep breath before looking me dead in my eyes.
“I’d… been too reckless this time. That was a slip. It looks like I’d gotten lucky this time. Thanks, hero.”
In the clamor that fills the street, I help Judgment to stand. Her first instinct is to make a hasty escape from the scene herself, but I reach out and catch her by the hand.
“Let me go! I have to get out of here before-”
“It’s okay, these knights are with me. I’ll make sure that you’re excluded from this mess, but I’ll need you to talk with my friend.”
“Are you really telling me to-”
“Trust me.” I speak to her calmly. “I promise on my name as the Celestial Knight.”
Though she begins with apprehension plain to see in her eyes, she slowly lets go of her tension. Looking at me straight with the razor edge of a dagger, she gives me one warning.
“Fine. But I’d better be let free after we’re done with our talk. If not, then I suppose your word is useless and this kingdom truly is lost.”