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Dance of Dragons

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~*~

 

“Eh? Where is she?” Ukyo asked, straightening up and blinking as he watched the samurai step down from the doorway without a bloodied beauty in tow.  Hyugo grunted, and observed as his peer turned towards the building, and leaped from the sidewalk up to the low roof, taking off over it and vanishing from sight behind the building.

“She must have ran,” Hyugo concluded, shrugging.  Ukyo sighed moodily.

“This is why I should have been the one to go greet her, of course she’d run away from such an unfriendly grouch!”  Hyugo wisely did not offer comment.

 

~*~

 

Mira had to admit, she was pretty scared.  Yuto had immediately led her out the hidden side door and rushed down the grimy alleyway, leading her towards the Lizard’s Trail.  It was one of the most common hidden pathways amongst thieves, messengers, smugglers, and the unusual traveler preferring to avoid the crowded streets for one reason or another, though it was well hidden knowledge from normal city folk.

“That man, I’ve seen him before.  He’s the Lord’s pet, him showing up is bad news, I tell you.  I dunno what he wants exactly but I’d bet it ain’t good, ‘specially if that cryptic look of his meant he’s here for you.  You get mixed up in something you shouldn’ta again, Mira?” he demanded, casting a steely gaze over his shoulder as they ran side by side.  There was a bite to his voice that made her heart skip a beat in guilt, even though she knew she hadn’t broken her promise. The situation was as unexpected as a cat giving birth to a bird.

“I’ve kept my oath, Yuto!  I don’t know why they’d have an interest in me anymore, that’s all long in the past.  What about Kaite?”

“Don’t worry about him, he’ll direct ‘em towards your grandpa--”

“He’d better not!  Ojiisan has had enough to do with me, I’ve already told you that.”  Yuto only snorted in reply as they rounded a corner and slipped through a narrow gap between two buildings, pipelines and rusted metal siding decorating the crowded alley they now quickly stepped through.  Being so wide, Yuto had to sidestep whilst Mira’s smaller frame let her simply walk normally as she led the way.

“There are many people who might wish to claim your life, squirt, but I’ll be damned if--”  Yuto stopped mid-step, reaching a hand out to grab Mira’s shoulder as he hauled her close to speak in her ear.  “He’s following us. Go to your guild, stay two nights. We’ll meet at the old pipe tower at dawn.” His voice was quiet and serious, making Mira shudder.

“I don’t want to go back there,” she said quietly.  “There’ll be people there, I said I was done with that life.”

“It looks like it wasn’t done with you.  Now scram, I’ll draw the trail off. Don’t worry, little punk like that ain’t gonna slow me down.”

The wide hand pressed against her back and shoved her forward, and she spared a single glance over her shoulder before taking off on quiet feet.  Her heart was pounding as she wove through the dimly lit corridor, that soon branched out into wide intersections of other buildings’ alleyways. A rat once scurried across her path, and it was a good minute before she found what she sought; a broken ground-level window pane with a green lizard in flaking paint above it on the old brick siding.  The building was long since abandoned, and wedged between and underneath several towering metal apartment complexes. She slipped quietly through the entrance into the basement, finding herself in an empty brick room with damp cement flooring. It was littered with gutter filth and trash, and altogether unpleasant on the feet.

Fingers searched from the corner of the left hand side, counting bricks until she found the crack in the mortar, then raised her hand up five bricks and continued searching along the seam, hunting for the spot.  Just as she indented the right brick, she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up on end. She barely had time to dart into the opened maw of the revealed doorway before fingers grazed her neck and elicited a startled gasp.  The brick doorway slammed shut behind as she ran blindly, heart pounding, not daring to risk a look over her shoulder. She knew this path well, and in another several yards there would be a turn, which would lead into an old electrical line tunnel hung with broken light fixtures.

Her ears only now took note of the light tap of running footsteps behind her, far softer than the rapid pat-pat-patt, pat-pat-patt, of her bare feet.  She leaned forward into the run and stretched her stride out, arms pumping at her sides. Just a little bit more, just a little bit more, and then there’d be light, and she could fight with better advantage.  The faint flicker of light could be glimpsed just ahead.

The turn came and she skidded across the slick grime coating the floor, her arm slamming against the smooth curve of the concrete tunnel’s wall before launching herself sideways and turning, stumbling once before catching her stride again.  She’d barely straightened herself before a startled shout and a warm body slammed against her side, someone having just jogged out from a side pass. They tumbled and fell, Mira squashed painfully underneath someone as she struggled to get back up.  Adrenaline made her body feel jumpy and electrified.

“What the-- The fuck are you doing back here?” a startled voice demanded, and Mira felt rough hands grip the collar of her shirt to haul her up and slam her back against the wall.  “You lookin like you seen a ghost, but I figure that’s so, eh, Windspeaker?” It took her vision a minute to adjust and focus on the face pressed close to hers, and for her rattled mind to place the familiar grating voice of another man.  Yellow eyes were set into a gaunt face framed in oily black hair, and his thin frame served as a hanger for surprisingly nice deep gray tunic and trousers. She tried to turn her head to the side to look at the corner she’d just turned, expecting any second for her pursuer to intervene.  Her view was fully blocked by her current captor’s face.

“Let me go, Bullet,” she coughed, risking another frantic look to her right at the turn as he adjusted his hold on her.  To her relief and confusion, there was no one there. “I’m in a hurry, and trust me, you don’t wanna get caught up in it.”  She looked back to see the warring expressions flicking across his sharp gaze. He was angry, relieved, and confused. Perhaps - a bit afraid, too.

She decided he was mostly angry, though.

“I don’t think so, we got unfinished business, yeah?  Keh, you don’t look so good without your makeup on, squeakers.  Whatcha doing running around with a face like that, eh? Eh? How abouts I bring you on back to-- OUCH! You fucking bitch--!”

His grip loosened with a well placed knee to the groin, but Mira had expected his tolerance.  As he grappled for a better hold, she squirmed into position to kick off from the wall and send them tumbling to the ground.  A vicious scuffle took place, until it ended quickly with his arm twisted painfully behind his back and Mira’s knee digging into his spine.  She fisted her hand in his hair and slammed his head down, hard enough to hopefully knock him out.

As her luck would have it, it didn’t, though he was thoroughly abused to be too slow in getting back up as she bolted.  Bullet rolled himself up just in time to watch a blur of red and black leap over his head, and give chase. He cursed after her and slammed a fist down on the ground, giving up on the thought of joining the pursuit as he spat out blood from biting his tongue.

“We ain’t finished with ya yet, two-faced traitor!” he hollered hoarsely, voice echoing down the tunnel after her.

 

“Buggar off!” Mira called, both in reply to Bullet and as a half-hearted order to the man pursuing her.  She was terrified at the speed with which this chase was progressing. Her strongest skill was her ability to outrun and outmaneuver her opponents, but the man behind her seemed to follow her casually.  He kept the same amount of space between them, never faltering in step or stride, cleaning dodging the few times she had knocked something off the wall back at him. She wouldn’t be able to make it to her former guild’s corridor with him right on her tail, at the risk of an outsider being privy to its location.  She could at least take comfort, Mira thought, in that he must have completely ignored Yuto to chase her. There was no way Yuto would have been killed so quickly.

“Whatever it is you think I did, I swear I didn’t!” she hollered, leaning her weight to skid again across the smooth floor as her hand slapped against a pipe.  The momentum carried her sharply around the turn into a side pass, and she barreled on down it. “I finished all my baggage!” Well, mostly.

Mira could feel the way her heart pounded, just a beat too quickly, just a bit too strong.  Panic clawed at the edges of her sanity, sinking its talons into her bloodstream and dosing her with another burst of adrenaline.

‘No, please, please, anytime but now, oh, god, please not now!’ she begged in her mind, shutting her eyes for one brief moment and praying for the fuzzy tingling in her fingertips to go away.  She knew it had to be partially because she was out of shape compared to her prime, but also because she’d missed her meal at work due to scrubbing the floors.

In short, if she didn’t get a break soon, her body was going to throw a fit and send her into unconsciousness.  Which would be very bad right now. She counted to ten, feeling a miserable desperation when the tingling feeling in her fingers only became more noticeable and her breath suddenly labored, like she couldn’t breathe enough air.  Her head pounded from a steadily growing pressure.

New plan made, Mira suddenly spun around and pivoted on her feet, skidding across the ground as she prepared to pounce at her opponent.  His scarlet gaze was unreadable as she made her attack, aiming to duck under his guard.

In the span of a heartbeat he had her pinned down against the ground at an awkward angle with both wrists clenched in once vice-like hand.  His knee was pressed into her stomach, enough to make her choke in pain and spasm, until he released the pressure. It was a clear enough warning; she was beaten, and if she didn’t struggle, he wouldn’t press down again.

Between ragged breaths and tears, she snarled out a demand.

“Let - me - go!” she rasped, shuddering.  Fear squeezed her chest in painful breaths as her attacker observed her expression with disturbing indifference.  She drew her lips back into a snarl and bared teeth at him, her only violent means of expression as her body otherwise fell lax.  Tiny pointed canines gave her a hint of a feral look.

“Windspeaker?” he questioned.  Mira was more startled than she should have been by the calm, deep murmur of his words.  She disliked the pleasant sound it had all the more due to her current predicament. Enemies were not supposed to have soothing voices.

“Yeah, congrats, you caught me,” she bit out.  In her head, she was nervously chanting for herself to relax, to calm, to rest, to recoup - if she could just bring down her heartrate and beat away at the fog trying to drag her mind askew, she could come up with the means to retaliate and get out of his hold.  A plan was already forming in her mind, even though it was interrupted by one terrifying split second of black vision. She opened her eyes and found her head resting against the dirty floor, body completely lax.

If she could just get free and subdue him long enough so she could get a good running start, if she could make it down the rest of the short hallway remaining, if she could make the turn again, and if she could just pop the latch and slip inside the new tunnel, if she could fend off the lightheadedness just long enough, and if she could close it before he got there...

That was a lot of ifs.

“So I have,” he conceded.  When he made no further effort to speak nor move, Mira felt an indignant sort of impatience.

“And?” she prompted, fixing him with her best of hateful glares.  There was a small pause, the perfect space in which a person might have spoken, except he only seemed to mentally consider his reply without bothering to share them with her aloud.  She watched the subtle flex of his jaw muscle, the tiny shift in his eyelids, before he was standing and hauling her up. As soon as she was straightened, Mira slammed her weight down on his arm that held her wrists together, and --

Found herself falling flat on her back in a startled gasp as he simply dropped her.  She had been expecting him to move for a better grip, to contain her, continue his control, that Mira was taken aback and caught by surprise.  Her mind further reeled when he simply stood watching her scoot back away from him, pushing herself up with the help of the wall. The slight crouch in his stance, however, told her he was prepared to move without hesitation.  The sudden change in elevation made her head swim, and she relied on the wall to support her balance more than she dared admit, even to herself.

She felt like a mouse, caged by a bored feline.

“Well?  What the hell do you want?” she bit out.  “I don’t read minds, you have to speak,” she continued.  Her throat felt dry as she swallowed nervously, distinctly aware of his assessing gaze as it swept slowly down and back up her figure.  It certainly wasn’t that he wanted; she told herself that he didn’t seem the type.

“I wish you’d have run faster,” he said seriously.  Mira took a shaky breath.

“Why, disappointed?” she snapped.  She could go left, or right - right was the safest bet, it led her towards the latched door, but he was also just slightly closer to that side, and with his speed, that so acutely narrowed her chances of getting past...

He held up a hand, and made a gesture for her to follow as he subtly angled his torso towards the direction they’d come.  Mira recoiled.

“Why the fuck should I follow you?” she demanded.  The steady red-eyed gaze dared her to defy him.

Mira did.