She made it three paces before an arm snaked around her waist and hauled her feet up off the ground, and before she knew it they were grappling against each other. His strength was overwhelming and absolute. She was pinned just as quickly as the last time, only now she struggled with blind desperation and ignored the pain of her twisted arm as he slowly, steadily, and effortlessly applied pressure against it. She kicked, elbowed, squirmed, and tried to bite until yelping in pain as he suddenly jerked her arm as she made to draw her knife, stopping just a twitch away from snapping the elbow. Her body went stiff and she forced herself to go lax, surrendering. Her hands felt numb, and the cold cement at her back wasn’t helping. He relented immediately, and she involuntarily shuddered at the relief of pain and the wash of lingering sensation in her abused arm. Mira hissed under her breath as she felt him pat her down, and removed the single knife tucked inside the fold of her shirt. It was enraging to watch out of the corner of her eye as the black sheath vanished inside his own coat.
The journey back passed in suffocating silence. They passed two other people on the way, one of whom recognized her whilst the other immediately vanished into a side passage before Mira could see who it might have been. The first had stared at her in open shock, looking between her and the intimidating red shadow looming just behind, before booking it. She mentally noted he was a message carrier for the Twin Feather guild on the west end of the city. She didn’t remember his name, but she recalled having borrowed his services a scant few times.
She almost, almost missed her old life. The reminder that it was the very reason she was in this situation now, however, quickly killed off any pleasant nostalgic reminiscing and reminded her coldly why she’d left in the first place.
When they finally approached the flat brick wall, Mira looked to him. She could feign ignorance, though she was fairly certain he’d just bully her into opening the passage. It surprised her, then, when he simply reached up and indented a brick, causing the doorway to rumble and swing sideways. She was caught gaping in surprise, to which he merely grabbed her shoulder and calmly steered her out the entrance before it could slam shut in their faces.
“You know this passage,” Mira accused. He didn’t answer, only walked across the small, dirty room and waited for her at the ground-level window, which sat at eye-level for her. When she placed her hands on the window sill to haul herself up, Mira froze at the sight of a hand pressing against the dirty wood right next to hers, and felt the heat of his body as he trapped her in a living cage of muscle like living iron. Paralyzed, it took her a moment to remember to breath when his voice spoke quiet in her ear, breath skating along her jaw and making her shudder.
“You will do well to not mention this,” he warned. Then, he stepped back, and Mira gasped when strong hands gripped her waist and hauled her easily up to the window ledge. She scrambled the rest of the way out and shied from his form as he followed immediately after. Her head, at least, had stopped pounding, though her breaths still felt shallow and light. Without a word he straightened and began walking, pausing only to stare at her when she hesitated. This time, they took a different passage back, Kyuzo expecting her to follow a dizzying path along the rooftops and observing her technique for maneuvering. She couldn’t jump as high as he, but she was clever enough in finding handholds to make her way up after him. By the time they reached the main street where Kaite’s restaurant was located, Mira was physically exhausted. She had a funny feeling that had been his exact intention. On the plus side, he had kept a surprisingly slow pace, enough for her to keep up without pushing her body past it’s stubborn limits.
Kyuzo at last stood expectantly beside a roof ledge, and watched her drop from it to the ground to land in a clumsy crouch. She scowled at his graceful landing beside her, and muttered curses under her breath as he led the way out of the alley. They stepped out onto the main street, now deserted but for a scant few wanderers and the street sweepers. A glance confirmed that the men she’d helped drag outside were gone, and the warm lights of the restaurant still glowed welcomingly. Worry stung sharply, and the cozy storefront felt all too far away for comfort.
“Did you hurt Kaite-san or Yuto-san?” she asked quietly, not expecting an answer. She looked to him, defeated, miserable, and dreading the answer. The crimson gaze met hers only briefly, but she felt some of the pain leave her heart when he shook his head. Up ahead was a strange looking coach, hovering silently above the ground and decorated sparsely. Despite the somewhat humble appearance, it was clearly made from luxury materials. Mira swallowed as they approached, and unconsciously tipped her chin up, squaring her shoulders. Whatever lay ahead, she would take it in stride.
...as long as it wasn’t caused by the unpredictable man of stone who walked beside her, that was so easily able to catch her off guard and startle her.
The door of the coach slid open, and Mira’s gaze was first greeted by a hawkish looking man hunched in the corner. Narrow, rectangular, yellow glasses perched on his beak-like nose, and cool violet eyes regarded her with disinterest. His gaze became only slightly more expressive when he looked to the man in the red coat.
“Kyuzo-dono.” His voice was quiet and unpleasant, and seemed to carry some hidden question she couldn’t guess for the life of her. Mira decided that she much preferred the man beside her, who looked more like a calm killer - swift and capable, hopefully the kind taking pride in a quick kill which meant little torment for her - than a dirty thug. The man with the hawk nose, purpled lips, and thin black hair turned his gaze to her. She met it evenly, jaw clenched. She did not like this man on a level surpassing that of simple opponents. “I don’t see what the young lord sees in her.” He scoffed lightly, and gestured loosely with a gloved hand. “He’s asleep, get in. If we’re lucky we’ll make it to the palace before he wakes.” The soft rasp of his voice made her skin crawl, and Mira glanced once to the man beside her. At the steady gaze, she grunted and quietly climbed into the back of the coach, swallowing as she took note of the only other figure inside.
He was curled carelessly up on a plush white cushion, pale purple hair splayed out like spilt ink. The white face makeup and garish violent pants made her feel like she was looking at a dressed up, life-sized doll instead of a human being. This effeminate shrimp was the lord’s son?
She quietly sat herself down cross-legged on the far end of the carriage, noting that Kyuzo sat unobtrusively between herself and the sleeping prince. The hawk-faced man reached a hand up to hit a button on the top ledge of the roof, and a moment later the coach smoothly pushed forward. Mira sat with a straight back and hands on her knees, chin up as she regarded her captors with open interest. The hawk-eyed man had challenged her gaze, and seemed amused at her stubborn refusal to look away. In the end, he merely scoffed lightly, and returned to peering out between the blinds.
A glance spared to Kyuzo showed him with his eyes open only the barest sliver, and she quickly looked away when the piercing red irises slid to return her gaze. The hierarchy established was clear; Hyugo didn’t care what she did until it became inconvenient, but Kyuzo had already earned his place as alpha. Mira felt an uncomfortable nostalgic sense of familiarity with being all at once shoved to the bottom of the pecking order.
‘You will do well not to mention this.’ His words echoed in her mind, causing more questions than what Mira wanted to think about. Right now, she just wanted to find out what fate they had in store for her, and how she could forcibly change it to her own liking.