Chapter 68:

Shadows and Saints

Lovely kNight

The streets had been wiped cleaned and left even better than it was found. Vestil’s men return to the precinct with the criminals in custody and preliminary reports having been made via voice recorders. By my own request after having taken my statements, Judgment had been left to myself and Vestil.

The three of us convene in the candy store. The owner had kindly left his business to the three of us so that we could speak together in the still of the calm night. The moon peers into the store to watch our meeting with curiosity. At a pause, sizing each other up, Judgment and Vestil wage their own silent intellectual war.

“I’m really not getting you, Khiron. This person was attempting to purchase drugs from our suspect. Just what is it that’s bringing you to defend them? They should have been hauled off with the other suspects.” Vestil is on edge as she inquires of me.

Judgment has made herself busy hiding her face from Vestil since their first encounter. She tips her head so that her hood covers over her features. Not at all doing herself any favors but to make herself appear even more suspect.

“I apologize. This is all very strange, I know, but you can trust me. I’ve always done what I can in sound mind and this situation isn’t any different.”

“You’re right. I should be giving you time to explain. Perhaps I’ve been a little too hot headed.” She sighs to herself and slackens in her seat.

“First thing would be to make a proper introduction. It’ll be a shock to you, but this person is none other than the vigilante who has been after the Retro ring. The same that had taken out Miss Acher and her minions. I can confirm this beyond a doubt because I’d witnessed it myself.”

“What? You mean to tell me that this is that same person who’s been going after dealers around the kingdom?” Her apprehension is replaced with shock. She sits up as quickly as she’d let her posture slink.

“I’ll have to give my apology now since I’d kept a bit of information secret from you. But it was at their behest and I’d believed that it was the correct choice to be made given the circumstances. They’re doing the best that they can for this kingdom, but if they were exposed, it could spell the end of their work behind the scenes. Who can say what else too. They likely have a bounty on their head by now. And you should know well that they’ve actually been a net benefit for our cause.”

“So you’ve known about this vigilante personally for a time now?”

“More or less. But it’s only been two days. We have an agreement between us that I’ll do what I can on my side while they’ll continue working on their own. I know their methods are a touch unorthodox and even stands on a bit of questionable legal ground, but their heart is in the right place. I can tell.”

“So you mean to ask me to let them go free after tonight?”

“I do. And I’ve promised them that you would understand and agree to that condition.”

“I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here, but I know that you’re not exactly a loose canon. This is probably the most absurd and against the grain thing I’ve ever seen you do. I could probably let it slide, but first I’ll need to talk with them myself.”

“That’s understandable.” I turn my attention to Judgment and make a single request of them. “I know you’re not exactly open to the idea, but please speak with my friend. And if you may; let them see your face. There’s no need to hide your identity from them. You’re in good company.”

She keeps her head low and sits rigid with her arms crossed. But it all melts away with a single, hefty sigh. She’s hesitant at the start as she pulls back her hood and reveals herself to Vestil who, upon witnessing her platinum blonde hair and sky blue eyes, wears a face fraught with surprise.

“The vigilante… is a she?”

“That’s right. When we’d happened to have met again yesterday, I’d been given a name to call her by. She calls herself Judgment.”

“Judgment, huh?” Vestil smiles handsomely towards her new acquaintance. “So Judgment, what are some of your hobbies?”

The cautious and distrusting expression she wears dissolves into a sidelong glance plastered with confusion. First directed towards Vestil and then towards me.

“Now’s… probably not the best time for that.”

“You’re right, you’re right. Apologies.” She coughs and is visibly embarrassed while she taps her knuckles on the counter before getting back to business. “I’ll let you go free, but only if you promise to give me your number. For contact purposes, of course. If Khiron will be working alongside you, then I will be as well. Now please tell me more about yourself and your objectives.”

“I’ll tell you what I can.” She keeps her eyes firm on Vestil’s as she starts. “There’s another side to this kingdom that has more often than not been overlooked by the knighthood. The darker side that runs just beneath the surface. We’ve long suffered with these misdeeds and only now have they begun sprouting up to the public before the commoners. I’ve taken it upon myself to deal with these criminals in the ways that I’m capable.”

“A side that’s overlooked by the knights. I’d hate to admit it, but we’re not perfect and can miss some matters even though we try our best. And I’d think that since you’d happen to be that vigilante, you weren’t exactly looking to purchase drugs.”

“It was my intentions to take out Miras and his men so to interrogate them myself. It was my aims to get them to spill about their suppliers and any other characters I could knock out of the game next. It just so happens that you’d intercepted the meeting. I can’t lie that if it wasn’t for the Celestial Knight’s involvement I’d might have been taken by them. Or worse; killed. So he has my gratitude and the least I could give to him is a moment of faith.”

“Interesting. It seems that you have your own means for discovering leads. It was unexpected someone else would have appeared to confront Miras. It would do the kingdom a great service if you would connect us with whatever contacts you have that have been feeding you this information. You’d happened to have taken out Miss Acher even when we’d been after her for some time.”

“I couldn’t do that. Like the Celestial Knight and I had arranged: I’ll do my part and you will do yours. I have my methods but if I’m to trust you then I would say it’s only fair that you would exercise some trust in me as well.”

“You’re a tough one, aren’t you?” Vestil smiles to herself and leans her chin onto her bridged fingers. “You drive a hard bargain, but I’ll have to do as you say. I trust Khiron with my life and since he’s given his precious faith to you, it looks like I have no other choice but to give what I can as well.”

“Is there anything you’d want for your services? I take it that if you and Khiron are exchanging information, you’d might require something from myself if I’m to ask for your help.”

“That won’t be necessary. If we’re partners then we’re sworn to assist each other. Doing anything to spite that would only hamper our camaraderie.”

“Quite noble of you. Seems you’re quite serious with whatever it is you set your sights on. I’m not impartial to that.”

“You are Vestil, the captain of Loveless Elimination Squadron, Unit Beta. Naturally, dealing with Retro is greatly your concern given what it is your unit was created for. I don’t suppose that you’ve already come to understand just what this situation with Retro more than likely entails.”

Judgment watches Vestil’s features in a placid silence. She sees her brows fall stressed while the thoughts run through her head and challenge her on the inside.

“You truly are well informed. I understand what you’re meaning to say and I have considered it. It’s a troubling thought, but I trust my men.”

“There are many reasons why I have refused to work with the knighthood actively in the past. These suspicions are just one of them. It’s only obvious that there has been a breach in the loyalty to the kingdom. The Celestial Knight had previously spoken of Chamelis and I take it that you yourself are investigating her, are you not?”

“I am. It’s my duty and desire that I could cut out the corruption there is in the knighthood and the judiciary branch. It’s no simple task but I’ve been seeking after it for a good deal of time. Khiron has recently joined as a partner in the matter.”

“Then we have some common ground. You’re the Celestial Knight’s friend and he has spoken a good word for you. I will reiterate: I will work together with you only on the basis that you will trust me and leave me to my methods. If you’re after Chamelis then we’re on the same page.”

“At this point and with all the trouble there could be, I accept your help. We’ll need all the help we can get. It’s a dangerous mess of a situation. After having met you face to face, I’ve gotten a better idea of what you’re all about. This will be our little secret and I expect great things from you. I must admit that it’s true that you can seek justice in ways that neither of us can ourselves as knights.”

“It looks like we have ourselves an agreement then. I’ve only been after the criminals on the streets, but if you two can cleanse the knighthood then we’ve broadened our scope in bringing a better life to Celestia.”

“It’s a deal. I trust that I won’t regret this decision.”

“You have my word that that day will never come.”

The two nod their heads together and affirm their newly forged bond as swords for the same cause.

✩ ✩ ✩

Vestil gave Judgment her approval and let her walk. We’d watched her head off into the darkness of the streets where she’d vanished into the shadows. Yet as she’s gone, Vestil is tense and overcome with a darker expression.

“I’m thinking that she’d managed to strike a nerve. It’s rare you’re ever this lost in thought.”

“I suppose I could tell you the full details in time, but she’d brought a fear of mine to light. Something I’d wondered about myself but wanted to forget and let be.” She twists on her heel and looks me in the eyes with a rare intensity. “It’s possible that one of my own men is involved in these criminal activities.”

“One of your own men? That’s a troubling thought. I hope that would never come to pass. But Vestil, did you notice that sniper’s actions? They were hired to shoot down Judgment but I get the feeling that they just might be a part of Pegacae’s assassination attempt. If not themselves then someone connected to them. Perhaps they could be from the same ring of hitmen.”

“So you’d had that hunch too. They’re going to be taken in for questioning with the others. It shouldn’t be too long until we at least have a trace of an answer towards that end. This case is just too weird. This case is…”

The summer moths and bugs gather around the blue flame of the lantern. They clink and tap the glass mindlessly, filling the air with the sounds of their futile actions. I watch their fruitless efforts and continue to wonder to myself what else could be lying in wait for our investigations.

“Crap!” Vestil crashes my train of thought with a sudden shout. “I forgot to get her number! She was so damn pretty too!”