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Death's Blood Ch. Five: Loyalties

Five: Loyalties

 

 

            (This was a rare sight. Clement came home one Spring night, looking more tired than normal, but wearing a grin. It wasn’t just Sunday night, when we got to have real meat and decent broth, but there seemed to be more coin leftover than normal. I would know because I have seen them stash coins to save for the rent. This time, we might have been able to cover the rent with a pound leftover.

(Dinner on Sunday night was like fine dining compared to the rest of week. I just heard my mother and Clement talk with each other about their workday. I just knew that there was something that they didn’t tell me, but I didn’t bite. What had Clement so happy that day was his business, not mine.

(Eventually, Clement asked me, “What about you, Love? What were yehr up ta t-day?”

(I just hummed a single syllable. I didn’t want to tell them about that day of me stalking people just to get my mind off the pup next door. I had my own stash as well, still. A big festival was to apparently commence before long, but that did nothing to ease me about my mother and Clement’s strictness.)

 

            I have established the chapel as my real hideout. It gives me a sense of peace, being away from such miserable atmosphere. I know that my raven friend likes to lurk where there is death. Given the stench of it, I have wondered if feasting on corpses would make him fat. Just being with him in the chapel is enough for now. A night has past since my arrival in the borough. In the middle of the day, I await someone that I have contacted, and the one person to enter the one construct that has been repaired over the years in this neighbourhood is not some priest. I get a whiff of his scent upon him entering through the large doorway, the knockers on the wooden panels long since taken and have never been replaced, and he smells of soot and paper as well as his own musk.

This contact is a hulking brown bear, his nose fuming, and he is clad in a ragged tailcoat that he might be too big for. I step out from the corner where I’ve been standing, and surprise him, saying, “I’m glad we got to meet.”

The bear turns around, now looking angry, seeing me in my blue suit, complete with my mask. The bear is shirtless under his coat. He speaks, “You call me station and only say yeh want-a see me in the one good building here. It is simply for the desperate need of ‘elp I don’ point me gun at yeh… Vigilante…”

I continue the conversation as if ignoring that comment with venom in his voice. “I’ve bin told yer officers are too shallow ter ‘elp a place such as this.”

He snorts, “To put it mildly.”

“And what if I bring in criminals that are wanted by the police?”

“There be quite a selection o’ wanted criminals spread throughout Highcond. There are warrants for arrests, but not all are met. That’s why we introduce bounty hunts. As we much prefer those specific criminals to stand trial and be issued a sentence, you will get a bigger reward if yeh bring them in alive.”

I admit, “Turning someone over alive is not me style, but fer your sake, I’ll do that.” I then inquire, “What would be the reward fer bringin’ your police three drug-dealing rats?”

The bear leans forward, to meet my level as he hulks over me, and answers, “If I am correct about the rats to which you refer, you will be given two hundred twenty pounds each, if they are brought in alive and with no fatal wound.”

I hold out a hand, saying, “Where’re me manners? I am Lady Death.”

The bear snorts a laugh, knowing that it’s not my real name. He accepts the handshake, “Lieutenant Payton Wickerson.” His grip is gentle, probably out of worry that he might break my hand. Upon letting go, he continues, “There is more to worry about, as well.”

I ask, “Such as?”

Wickerson explains, “There have been stories that are, unfortunately, true, about the worst kind of kills. See, carnivores are more desperate than herbivores when living in a place of such poverty. So, other mammals follow that natural instinct. You will find a few that have eaten more than others. Another stench tha-ull make yer skin crawl is that of those to eat their own kind. If yeh come across them, they are beyond ‘elp.”

Scowling, I respond, “I will remain as vigilant as you know I am.”

Wickerson states, “Me station is in the southeast corner of the borough, among the pub Thorn and Ivy, and a small marketplace. If yeh visit that pub, don’ order their beer; trust me.” He then stands up straight. He is right to think that our conversation is over. “You kin beh on me t-wait fer you.”

I nod. “Until then, Lieutenant.” He walks past me. As I watch him exit, the three-legged raven perches on my shoulder, and I just sense him staring at me intently.

-----

 

            Having gone over the notes, I rely on the guidance of the raven. I have scaled a house that seems to have just been moulded hours ago as its roof of mud is still wet. Even treading lightly isn’t enough. I could be heavy enough to make the rooftop give way. Even with what speed I use to run along the rooftops and leap to the next, I remain sceptic that I might even break a hole in one of those made of decaying wood. It is barely lunch time when I follow Michi to where one of my targets frequents.

Upon seeing the rat that has been nearest to the chapel, I can’t believe my eyes at how short he is. I keep my distance still, standing behind and looking over the peak of a wooden roof with much of its other side gone, cloth in its place. This rat has dark-grey fur like I know them to have, and he is clad in a work shirt and trousers, and he apparently has two stags to accompany him. Those stags, clad in ragged work clothes, their green jackets having a few popped seams, are my real challenge.

I hear one of the merchants, a rabbit, complain, “Iggy, I’ve kittens t-feed.”

The rat retorts, “Then let ‘em eat what you have here.” The stags look at that rabbit sternly before following their boss to another stand, where he takes a few other items—probably much riper than they should be when eaten—and I see each stag put a hand on one hip. I whisper, “Michi. To me.”

He can hear me from maybe a kilometre away, as demonstrated—I’ve lost count of occurrences at some point—being by my side a second away. I wait for the rat and his company to head to an opening between two shacks before I dash and leap to another house with a lower roof, and then to one of those shacks. Upon landing, I quickly lay myself flat, knowing that they hear the thud. I listen for their footsteps, the tapping of the claws on the rat’s feet and pounding of the four hooves against the hard dirt. I then whisper, “Michi.” I pause before I give him a command: “Kougeki nizumi.”

I hear the wings flapping, followed by cawing and the rat shouting, “What the fuck? Get away, load-a fuckin’ muck!” While the rat yells insults at the raven, I stand up, my left Khopesh drawn. I jump down from the shack’s roof, landing on the stag farther from it, forcing him to the ground. He barely has time to react as I slash his throat, and then I swiftly turn around, wresting the other stag’s outstretched arm aside, so I can kick him in the abdomen. I draw my other Khopesh, with which I slash upwards along his chest. With my left, I slash across his abdomen, and he falls coughing blood.

I bend over, so I can swiftly turn the rat around, to grab his throat. Lifting him from the ground as he chokes and looks upon me with horror, I tell him coldly, “Unlike cats, I do not toy with my prey.” Whatever he tries to say, he has no chance to, as the lack of oxygen suddenly causes him to pass out.

I find an idle horse-drawn cart nearby, and I take that chance. Before completing the assignment, I hastily strip the rat, and use his sleeves to tie his hands behind his back. Then, I lay him in the cart along with his belongings. Finding the station cannot be difficult, especially when I have the aid of Michi.

 

“Impressive”, Wickerson comments upon finding the rat named Iggy brought in, naked and humiliated. I need only knee him in the back, to make him move. He’s then brought in another carriage, this one being made of wood, with holes bored in the back.

I inquire, “What happens with him now?”

Wickerson answers joyously, “There be a judge and Crown Attorney wai-in fer prosecution. Knowing that he’s guilty of selling illegal wares, he will be in prison.” Another officer in a uniform—blue tunic buttoned up and black pants—this mammal being a terrier, hands me a stack of notes. Wickerson continues, “That’s your pay fer bringin’ ‘im in.” I accept the stack and put it in my inner breast pocket. “I can assure you, Vigilante, that kind of bloke, which deserves t-be imprisoned, will stay in prison fer the duration of ‘is sentence.” If only…

-----

 

            After having lunch, in the form of a stuffed-egg sandwich and half of a pint of dreadful ale, I head back out for the next target in range. Referring to the notes, Michi reading over my shoulder, caws and starts flapping his wings, and I instantly take the reins of the same cart that I have “borrowed”, following the unique raven to my next destination. Where I head is no better than the marketplace. Upon finding what kind of place this specific rat frequents, I think, Oh, bugger.

He is inside a henhouse, and whether it’s my keen hearing or the thin walls, I can hear squeaking—in pleasure! He’s fucking another rat at the moment, and I just barge in through the front door. There he is thrusting inside another rat, both of them naked, but I can make out the anguished expression on his “whore”. In addition, he has a knife’s edge pressed against the back of her neck. All the more reason to bring him in. This rat pulls out of his victim—

But he is not fast enough to get his gun, assuming that it could wound me. I grab his throat, telling him, “I know you work for Jade Crown. And you will miss her drug order.” He passes out before I lift him from the floor of singed wood. I perform a short toss and I then hold him with the same hand by the chest. Eyeing the other rat, who is still distraught, I tell her, “If you testify at his trial, I can protect you.”

She barely whispers through her sobs, “Thank you.”

 

“Nate, right?” the police lieutenant says. “You’ve a lot to answer for, carrier.” A cat in uniform escorts the rat to the back room, the temporary cells.

As the same officer from before presents me another stack, I ask, “When does his trial happen?”

Wickerson answers, “Given the few that we send to court, tomorrow at the earliest.” He then switches to asking, “Why the curiosity?”

I respond stiffly, “Crime-ridden borough.”

To which Wickerson remarks, “All boroughs of Highcond are crime-ridden. We just ‘ave too few loyal lawr enforcers in this one.”

“Then I can be a temporary solution.”

-----

 

            Last but not least: the rat named Casey. Where Michi guides me is to a barren place of houses that have been rebuilt. I wonder if anyone desperate actually lives in the places without the roofs or most of the walls. I hear sobbing and grunting almost everywhere in this area. What I have of this Casey is that he harasses those who borrow from him, down to giving beatings to those who don’t even owe him money. That otter has made a list of those who have been whipped or gnawed at by Casey or his other friends. Remembering that list, I catch glimpses of a selection of rabbits and the occasional otter with some kind of scar on them, and I assume that those were the ones to have been the unfortunate victims. And they’re only among many to watch me in fear because of my size, my posture, and my eyes.

Unlike the other two, this one is dapper by comparison. I see other rats in suspenders over white work shirts watch in satisfaction as the rat dressed in a chic grey jacket, black slacks, white business shirt, and tan tie—Casey—and he has a leather strip in hand, whipping a naked rabbit, whose fur is the colour of dead grass, tied to an improvised pillar that was once a corner of a house.

I approach them head-on with a sprint. In a sudden halt, I extend my arm, my fist landing squarely in the rat’s snout. Upon Casey falling down, the four others pick up their improvised weapons—hammers and wooden planks—and come to me. I am prepared for this. I quickly draw my Khopeshes and drop to one knee. I slash upwards the chests of the first two in range and then sweep one leg to trip the third rat. The fourth rat, I catch his arms with my Khopeshes and slash them. His cry in agony is cut short by me thrusting my left Khopesh in his abdomen. The rat that I tripped recovers in time—for he meets me from behind. I swiftly turn around—but it’s too late, for his plank hits my head. It does no real damage to me, but I make him wish he walked away in his last seconds of living, by slashing his throat, and he stumbles aside, choking.

I stand up again, to cut the rope that has bound the rabbit, who thanks me many times before he dashes whilst limping. Casey regains his consciousness, but at the worst time. With my Khopeshes, I cut up his suit and all fabric except his tie falls to the ground. I manage to pin him to the ground so I can sheath my Khopeshes, and then I lift him by a leg. Eyeing the leather strap, I pick it up as well, out of curiosity, and I see that it hasn’t been improvised like other weapons.

 

The sun is still up and it quickly becomes a subject of conversation, the wolf calling herself Death bringing wanted criminals to their station alive. Humiliated, but alive. Whilst an officer takes Casey to greet his partners, Wickerson comments, “Impressive, Death. You fulfilled your promise.” The money is not out of greed.

I ask the bear, “Wha-ull ‘appen now that I brought in three of the most wanted rats in Sputure?”

“It will make our job in the borough a li-ul easier, fer one”, he answers. “For the favour, I don’t throw you in prison, Vigilante, but I cannot endorse you to everyone.”

“Does the station have a phone?”

“Aye, but it don’ work well”, he stated matter-of-factly. “So, whatever calls yeh make will need be fast.”

“Would there need be a price fer what information I ask of you in the future?”

The bear sighs, creating a light wind from his nostrils, before he answers, “Nay. If yer questions be about other wanted blokes, I’ll gladly inform yeh.”

“Then this is farewell for now.” I bow before exiting the station, to head back to the chapel.

-----

 

            With some of the money that I have earned over the day, I manage to buy the best meat in another rundown marketplace, practically buying the rest of the daily stock hung up by the vendor. It is the same case with the root vegetables that I buy, the notes of quid thrilling the merchants. I have my dinner at the inn, where I celebrate the first half of the victory.

By the time I am finished, Michi comes in, having managed to make it through the hole broken in the window. I ask, “Did the rats taste terrible to you?” He caws and nothing more. He still paces around the room. I’ve had to eat on a tray on the bed, the tray now being empty. I then ask, “Would you try a stoat in this borough?” I see him cock his head at that.

My attention then turns to the money. I have a plan, but it’s something to cost me. Part of that plan involves the guilty pleasure, but it means finding someone begging for help.

 

(Over just weeks of having my wall down in front of Gaston, I got to know him to be very nice, but overly humble. He had been speaking to me as if he had no one else to talk to. The wolf pup listened to me talk about the times I picked pockets and lifted the occasional item from stores.

(Upon the conclusion of the story I told him of the latest time I stole from some bystander, Gaston sounded a short hum as if he had no comment, but thought that I expected one. There was an awkward pause as we walked before he spoke up, “See, I don’t steal. I tried to many times, only to fail.”

(I said, “I may make it sound easy from all the times I’ve done it, but what you should think about is whether you kin outrun whom you’ve yer eye on.”

(“I run and ‘ide a lot”, Gaston replied. “I jus’… I tire too quickly from running…” I turned to him. The pup looked as if he was ashamed in front of me. Words couldn’t have convinced him that he needn’t have tried to impress me, simply so we would still be friends. I had an idea why, for I heard the occasional yelp at night.

(I asked, “Do you ever get enough to eat?”

(“Of course not”, he answered bluntly. “If me father and I weren’t so poor, we would be outta this town.” He had me there.

(I had to ask. “What about your mother?”

(With his sadness now obvious, Gaston said lowly, his head hanging, “She died… My father said that… she died, robbed by someone more desperate than we are fer jus’ some more money.” That made me afraid. I had already been afraid for years of my mother being attacked and killed by the scum of Sputure. As we walked in silence, I wondered if one day I would kill someone, demanding their money if not lifting it.

(Those thoughts were interrupted when I entered the house. I saw my mother already home, writing something in a book, which I’d seen her do on numerous occasions. She would write for hours at a time after dinner. This time, she wrote whatever she wanted to before dinner. I then turned as I set down my bag, to the window. I looked at the wall of that ruined house, listening for the barks and the whines.)

-----

 

            I head to the place that I need to go to. I know where it is upon hearing the raven caw. This brothel, this place of oppression, The Dented Shield. The name is writ in dark-red paint that had been chipping from a canvas on a wooden board. The rest of the building is of bricks, but the structure looks crooked. I determine up close that the bricks are unevenly spaced and almost all are not laid straight.

Inside, the floor and the walls are covered with wooden planks that, though old, do not look at all unsound. Everyone in the dining area, sitting at wooden tables or the bar, look at me curiously before returning to their business. A lady—probably the treasurer—a deer, clad in a dark-purple pinstripe dress with long sleeves and the collar closed, asks, “What can I ‘elp yeh with, Miss?”

I answer nonchalantly, “I would like a session with one o’ yer girls. The youngest one of yours.”

The doe looks at me with astonishment. “Really?” That’s all that she asks. I lock my gaze with hers, and she steps back, feeling threatened. As quickly, she straightens herself and answers, “As you wish. Wait here, please.”

About half of a minute later, as if the universe knows me, the girl that I see the doe escort to me is a cat: ashy grey with black spots, her left eye green and her right eye blue. A cat to remind me of the lady to whom I have pledged loyalty and a cat to empathise with. I admit to the ashy cat, “I like you already. What’s the regular price?”

The cat answers, “Fifty quid.”

I respond, “Sold.”

 

It is made clear that this cat is new to a female having her for a session as a prostitute. She feels awkward when we are in her apartment, which doesn’t look as appealing as the dining chamber. The wooden boards of the walls have the sign of rot and the bed doesn’t seem stable enough to hold the both of us. She suddenly gets scared, seeing me undress, but reluctantly does the same with me. I take in the details of her small and fragile body, and some kind of mark on her arm catches my attention. However, I take in her shape and her curves. She is beautiful to me, and I hate to see such beauty go to waste. Giving her a tender look, I ask lowly, “May I kiss you?” Still afraid, she nods, and I slowly lock muzzles with her. I can feel her shake as we do, but that tension lessens and she places her arms around me. We go slow, so the cat can match my pace. I pull back, to caress her body, taking every bit in with my hands, especially with her humble breasts.

I lead her to the bed, and nudge her to lay down. I keep up with the foreplay, giving her whole body a sensual massage, and I hear pleasured moans escape her muzzle. She ends up returning the favour, trying to mimic what I do, caressing my fur until she gropes my breasts and continues to cup them and toy with them. As she does that, we kiss again, this one being much more passionate. I then move to lick her clitoris, driving her to arch her back as she moans in pleasure. I lap my tongue on and then in her, pleasuring her further. Before long, I have us in a scissor position, and I grind against her until we both have reached our climaxes.

 

“Keep this”, I tell the cat, which is much more than they charge, after ending our naked embrace. “Do not let even the treasurer have it.”

She asks, “What are you really here for?” She notes my sudden change in attitude.

I ask back, pointing, “What does the mark on your arm mean?”

“This?” She holds out her right arm, showing some kind of text character. “It’s from a crest.”

I comment, “I saw it outside, next to the place’s name.”

“That’s the house that funds the brothel. I am but one of countless girls made whores with this burnt in me.”

I remove my eyepatch, revealing my violet eye. “I came to help. You deserve a chance t-live a meaningful life.” I lean in, to whisper to the cat, “I came t-kill yer boss, Crown.”

She hisses, forcing me to stand up straight instantly, “Are yeh daft? Crown will not go down easily. And say you do kill ‘er. Where do I go then?”

I explain, “I kin get you and the others out. If there is any opium here, I will blow it up inside here. Destroy this place. I kin ensure you to make it to somewhere safe and where you kin ‘ave better work and get off their poison, assuming it’s been used on you.” I proceed to get dressed. When I have my pants on, I tell the cat, “I will come back fer you tonight.” I button up my shirt and jacket, and remember to put my eyepatch on.

-----

 

            I have finished my analysis. As the hostess has no concealed weapon under that dress of hers, she is no fighter, but there is still a chance that she can use a gun. I have questioned the barwoman about the drug cache to know that the shipment has arrived this day. However, the news has spread rapidly of Crown’s dealers being in custody. I was at their trials. The kitchen staff don’t give a damn what happens to their boss, let alone the brothel. There are other young ladies selling themselves to strangers, who will, of course, be in the middle of their clients’ sessions. The place has only four guards, all of which carry guns. One of them is Crown’s personal bodyguard.

 

I find my way back with the help of Michi, and his caw upon reaching the brothel, I can tell, spooks a few of the residents I pass by. This time, subtlety is off the table. Crown is pissed, as the barwoman informed me that she harassed the ladies at every given chance. I make myself seem to burst in from the front door of the brothel. I look around the dining room, and spot two of the guards, an otter and another stoat, both of them clad in business suits with ties. I don’t see the third guard or the bodyguard. I spot the barwoman, a grey rabbit in a ragged gown, wink, telling me that she knows. Everyone, including the guards and the hostess, stares at me. I speak up, “To all those who do not work here, I will say this only once: leave if you want to live.”

I hear the clicking of a pistol, which is pointed almost straight up to my ribs. It’s the otter threatening me, looking stern. He replies, “It is you who should leave. I know why you’re ‘ere, she-wolf, and you won’ ‘ave it.”

I lift my leg swiftly, disorienting the otter enough to drop his pistol. As quickly, I bend toward him, to pick him up, and then I hurl him with one hand toward the stoat. The thrown otter successfully knocks him down. I hear a voice say, “Let’s not get involved.” I hear a few voices comment after, but only a few of those tables empty. I approach the two small predators, drawing my Khopeshes.

The otter scrambles to get off his friend, who fumbles with his own gun—but he’s too late to draw it as I stamp his arm to the filthy floor and I thrust my Khopeshes to them almost simultaneously, and they go limp. Turning back, I see that I have convinced the rest of onlookers to leave, for I spot the last few head out the front door. Then, I see another figure come out from the kitchen, accompanying the same doe in the business dress. I sheath my Khopeshes as I watch this man, a greyhound, approach, acting confident in his ragged suit. I go to pick up the limp otter, and I am right that this guard has a gun as well. I toss the body to the dog as a distraction, and the disorientation works, but it works for only a second. He still draws his pistol—a small one at that—and I drop myself backwards the very second his pistol fires. I stand up straight again, and grab his shoulders to headbutt him. That stuns him for enough time for me to draw my left Khopesh, and I make quick work slashing his throat with it. I pick up a wine bottle before heading past the bar, in the hall, where I see a stag awaiting me, and he, too has a gun, but I hope to disorient him by hurling the bottle, which I do, and it gives me the moment that I need, dashing to him.

The stag, clad in a black suit, a white shirt, and a wide red tie—his fur is the colour of a branch without bark—does draw his gun, a short-barrelled revolver, but I grab his arm in time. I am given a big challenge now, fighting a stag. He has me with my back pressed against him. I expect him to use his antlers to stab me with the position we are in. I elbow his chest, to no avail. With the trick of twisting his thumb, I manage to wrest the gun out of his hand, and I let the blasted thing fall to the floor. With great effort, I wrest his arms off of me, so I can turn around. I draw my Khopeshes—

But the stag rams to me, still hoping to impale with his literal pride. As I have no time to draw the blades again, I let go of the hilts before I kneel and brace, just barely stopping the decorative bones from penetrating my flesh. With another great effort, I lift myself. At the same time I jump up, the stag stands up straight before I can stamp his muzzle. He then draws a cleaver from his belt. His first attack, I block, drawing my left Khopesh in time. I draw my other, and begin my assault on the deer. I perform a basic chain of slashes, and the stag backs away from each, clearly having no experience with swords. His arms are raised, but I realise too late that the guard is a feint, as he stops the blades, which I thrust to his midsection. I manage to deflect his attacks with his cleaver, but I wound him with my right Khopesh, cutting his forearm. I kick him in the midsection before I swing my left Khopesh up his chest, cutting the fabric and drawing blood. He cries out from the pain. With the same blade, I swing downward, opening another wound in his chest, and then I use my right Khopesh to slash across, making him lose his balance as well as his grip of his cleaver. He desperately turns around, to dash for his gun. I slash with both blades along his back in a scissor movement, and then the back of his neck in a reverse-scissor movement. He falls facedown, panting. I sheathe my Khopeshes to pick up his gun, but I use it to club his antlers, and manage to break them both off. I put the antlers in my inner breast pocket as I approach the door of the office, which I kick open.

 

There I see the stoat, barely a metre tall, clad in a disturbingly bright fuchsia business suit, a white shirt, and a sky-blue tie. The taupe-furred stoat jumps at me, and I duck before she can land on me. I turn around to her, and she draws a butcher knife. Crown tries and fails to even poke my legs as I draw my left Khopesh again, and she rants, “I should-a known it was you! The one who turned me dealers to the fuzz! The one who’s been meddling in me affairs! And now the one to turn me girls against me! No one interrupts my operations and gets away with it! You bitches are all the same, want-n revenge an’ killin’ nobodies! That getup o’ yers don’ ‘ide that yeh’re some scared li-ul bitch sold over a debt!” She has more to say, but I kneel down to slash at her, and she bleeds profusely.

I tell her coldly, “I don’ care if Jade Crown is not your real name. You will not be worth remembering.” I slash at her again, this time the throat, and she falls over, the life leaving her eyes. I stand up and sheathe my blades before I rummage through papers in the drawers of Crown’s desk. Among the letters that I find, I keep the ones sent from Giffard himself and those from one of the connections that Jack mentioned, Samuels. Those letters, I fold up and pocket, as I have the combination to the vault in the corner, which stands out among the plank-covered walls. I use Crown’s leather bag to hold all the large coins and notes that I drag from the shelves almost altogether. Still, my work is not done.

 

Out in the dining room, I see that the grey rabbit has gobsmacking stacks of boxes professionally aligned, more than enough boxes to cause an explosion. She states as I see her tow more boxes with a rope, “You should have the opium spread out, if y-want a fire.” I set the leather bag on the bar counter.

I inform her, “That’s from Crown’s safe. She’s dead.”

I note the rabbit’s hesitation, but not for long, as I head up the stairs, and barge into the first apartment. I tell the canine that I see fucking another canine, much younger than him, “Get out. Let ‘er keep yer money. Don’ even get yer clothes. Jus’ go.” That canine proves to be either a coward, or one not knowing how to handle a weapon, which I determine is not in any pockets of his discarded pants or coat. Together, the prostitutes and I force all the other patrons to leave without a thread and their weapons.

I get worried when realising that the cat from earlier is not among the escaping sex slaves. I become even more so, when I do find her—

On a bed, naked, beaten up, barely breathing, the small cuts on her, untreated. I rub her shoulder, and almost immediately she wakes. Already knowing that it’s me, she shoots herself up, to wrap her arms around me, weeping… I let her get it out, but urgency overcomes me almost immediately, for I push her away, to look at her eyes, and I tell her patiently, “Listen: I know that you need to recover, but I need you out of ‘ere. Crown is dead now. I plan to destroy this place, as well. I want you as far away from this place as possible right away.” She points to her nightstand, to tell me something. I tug at the knob of its door—to no avail. That’s when I notice that the hinge is melted. I push the rotting wooden box away from the wall, to note a loose board, which I yank away, and there it is, the pouch of hers that I’d filled with a hundred fifty pounds. I hand it to her as she scrambles to gather what means something to her. She has already put on her one good dress.

The cat tells me as we head to the dining room, “I don’ wanna get out of Sputure without you.”

I hand her a folded page, telling her, “This is the route that I recommend. There is a sanctuary of sorts, for people in your position. If you insist, I can escort you to the station, but that’s it.”

The cat accepts the page and says, “I’m Holly, by the way. What’s your name?”

“You know my name: Lady Death.”

Holly wipes her eyes and dashes out the door, joining the prostitutes staying together. While the rabbit begins her aid in pouring the opium over the floor, starting from the hall, I bring the body of Crown, which is now naked, to one of the apartments to toss out the glassless window. I howl, “For you!”

The rabbit then waits on me whilst I pour the opium over the floor of the kitchen and leave its door open. Together, the rabbit and I spread the drug over the rest of the dining room. The rabbit has the bag of the stoat’s money when we do so.

As I have made sure, I am the last one out. I light a match that I am given and toss it to the opium-soaked floor, and it all seems to burst in flames at once. The fire brought to life roars and crackles. There are then explosions to follow, breaking holes in the corners of the building. Another place of oppression destroyed. I also have a can of the opium in my right breast pocket for later.

-----

 

            “Where will you go now that The Dented Shield is uninhabitable?” Holly asks me as we’re at the station, many looking at us curiously.

I answer, “My business is far from complete, my next order of which is in the borough Ashcrown.”

She looks at me, ready to cry again, and responds, “Please, don’t leave me. I need you.”

I place my hands on her shoulders and say, “Be strong. I know you are. There are people who can help you at the sanctuary. Jus’ let them know that the wolf with violet eye sent you, and wants you to get better.”

Holly looks down, and I instinctively follow her eyes, to her forearm, which has been bandaged. “There are others with this crest”, she whispers.

I cup her chin. I whisper back, “Believe in yourself.” I kiss the top of her head, and she fights back the tears before heading in the open door of the train car. From looking around, there is no shifty figure following her. Furthermore, I would have heard a warning of that as well. I watch the train begin and then accelerate. I watch it go along its track until it’s out of my sight.



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