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The masterpiece

Chapter Text

The sun was sinking behind the hills, flooding the land in a warm blaze. Catlan had set out to track down her latest bounty, leaving the city and her friends behind as she made her way to a tavern called the Poison Apple. As the tavern was solely for criminals, it was a last resort to visit it. Catlan had been there only once before in the past when, much like this bounty, she had nothing to go on and no leads to follow. Luckily for her, one of the criminals had been outside - using the wall as a urinal - completely drunk and unaware of who she was, so Catlan pretended to be a regular at the tavern. The man thought nothing of it and through slurred words, offered up critical information that led her to where she needed to be. She slipped away with what she needed and not a wink of conflict.
The sky above was growing darker as the sun creeped away, leaving the light inside the building to spill from the windows and illuminate the path as Catlan neared the entrance. Unfortunately, there weren't any drunks outside this time that she could interrogate away from prying eyes and riled criminals. She didn't expect to have the same luck as she did before and accepted that she'd just have to go in this time.
How no one in the city appeared to have any information on Tai Lung continued to confuse Catlan, though. She'd gone out and questioned people after she spoke to Go Go earlier that day - as she usually did with her bounties - but other than a few saying they merely recognised the name, nobody could tell her anything about him. It frustrated Catlan as it left her without a shred of information to work from, which forced her to the Poison Apple.
Catlan thought about Tai Lung's flyer and realised she couldn't recall seeing others except for the one she had. She tried to remember where she'd picked it up in the first place but she couldn't, so assumed she must have just grabbed it in passing as she often did with flyers.
It was very strange: a high profile criminal with a large reward attached to his head, yet his flyers weren't plastered around the city like other criminals and Catlan couldn't extract any information from anyone beyond recognising the name.
As she entered the tavern, Catlan felt her presence unwelcomed. She had her hood up, yet people and creatures peered at her with recognition. She assumed most would be familiar with her face considering she was a local bounty hunter and no doubt had run-ins with a number of the taverns regulars.
"Tell me what you know," Catlan said as she leaned against the counter of the bar. Her eyes followed the barmaid from under her hood. "I need to know if he's been here. Has he ever passed through? Does he come here often?"
The woman turned with a glare that darted between Catlan and the flyer presented by her. "And why would I help you? You aren't welcome here."
Catlan was taken aback by the deep, booming voice that came out of the woman as well as the bold, striking make-up she sported. Brushing it aside, she became aware of a growing silence spreading throughout the tavern. Catlan knew she had to be careful; a hooded figure asking questions at the bar wasn't the most subtle approach, but she had nothing to go on and the best place for intel on criminals and villains was a place they frequent. Without any leads, the fastest - but perhaps not the wisest - route was heading straight into the belly of the beast. Catlan had surely been in stickier situations than this, anyway. If she needed to get out, she'd figure it out somehow.
With that, a hand smacked onto her shoulder. She inhaled deeply before turning to find a tall, blonde man before her. It was none other than "Prince Charming." She'd never met the pompous wannabe before, but she'd heard all about him. Ever since the death of his mother, the Fairy Godmother, it became common knowledge that he affiliated himself with a certain group in Far Far Away with whom he schemed with. Nobody outside of his band of criminals took him seriously, however, and took no notice of him. His bounty was fairly low and Catlan had no interest in him. Other hunters seemed to ignore him as well, perhaps due to pity for the fake Prince whose mother had died.
"We don't like people asking questions around here," Prince Charming said softly, his obnoxious accent prominent. "Especially people like you."
The sound of a pin dropping would equate to the clash of thunder in the tavern at that moment, and all eyes had found Catlan. Her hood was yanked down and with her gaze focused on Charming, she could make out a figure dressed in purple to her left. She tensed up, prepared for any incoming blows. But nobody moved.
"I just want information," Catlan said firmly, her eyes still locked with Charmings. "Help me out and I'll ignore the bounties that are placed on some of your buddies here. Harm me and you'll regret it."
Charming laughed and the rest of the tavern erupted with him.
"Look around you," Prince Charming smirked at the small woman as his blue eyes sparked with amusement. "You aren't exactly in the position to be dictating things, now are you? You've made a big mistake coming here."
"Give me what you know in regards to this criminal," Catlan held up the flyer. "I won't ask again."
The purple figure beside her slammed her against the bar and held a sharp, golden hook to her face where his right hand should have been.
"I think we've made ourselves clear," the man said in a gruff voice, edging the hook closer to her eye. He was a low profile criminal but Catlan knew Captain Hook had become the right hand man of Charming. She'd seen his flyers but he wasn't a very desirable bounty the last time she checked.
"As have I," Catlan shifted her gaze back to Charming. Her fingers feathered the hilt of a dagger strapped to her belt. If it came down to it, she'd use it, though she'd rather avoid bloodshed. "So let me go, give up any information you have and I'll be on my way."
"What a fool," a nearby tree snorted, reaching for a tankard on the table before him. Catlan found she could never quite get used to talking trees, even though she'd seen her fair share. The Fairytale Province was full of magical and mysterious things but for whatever reason, talking trees still felt absurd to her.
"Hit the bitch, already!" A shrill voice called out from the onlooking crowd. Another voice piped up in agreement, triggering everyone in the tavern to start shouting and slamming their fists and glasses on the tables, eager to see some action. Soon, the entire building was vibrating.
"Okay, fine," Catlan sighed as she saw a smirk edge onto Charming's lips. She grabbed the hook inches from her face and lodged it into the wooden top of the counter behind her before slamming the man's face down next to it. Knocking a fist into Charmings face, she proceeded to swipe her foot under his own, causing him to topple to the floor.
Time to go, Catlan thought, darting forward as she jumped between the two men and made her way to the door, rapidly dodging hits from different angles and deflecting others.
"Get her!" Charming screeched as he pulled himself up, his hand reaching for his eye.
How she thought this could end any other way, Catlan didn't know. It was pure stupidity, but what choice did she have? Nobody in the city appeared to know of her bounty and her best chance at finding a lead was the hope that one of the criminals in the tavern would give him up. She would pay a limited amount of gold if she had to - especially considering the size of Tai Lung's reward. Still, going there was dangerous and evidently worked against her.
Catlan used the environment to her advantage as she went, grabbing stools and launching them at those nearest as she kicked and flipped a couple of tables. She reached the exit, kicked the door open and flew from the building. She dashed to the side and jumped onto a barrel before pulling herself up onto the roof. Panting with adrenaline, she threw herself down and sunk against the tiles and peered over as criminals flooded out from the tavern, yelling in rage as they looked frantically for the direction she'd gone in.
The sun was long gone, leaving the stars scattered across the sky and the moon peeking out from behind a cloud to brighten the surroundings. Eventually, the criminals below retreated back inside, though a few of them remained out and headed down the path away from the tavern, glancing around them and squinting into the trees for any movement.
"That was quite the show," a voice said.
Catlan swiped the dagger from her belt and pushed herself up in a position of defence. Her eyes landed on a small creature perched on the edge of the chimney - a cat. He had light, ginger fur and wore a pair of leather boots with a sword fastened to a belt slung around his waist. A hat was perched on his head accompanied by a yellow feather springing from its side.
Catlan stared at him. How did this cat even see anything that went on in the tavern from there? And what was a cat doing here in the first place?
"So, you're on a hunt," he raised a little glass to his lips, licking what Catlan assumed to be milk. He had a strange accent, one she'd never heard before. She wondered how he was aware of her business but desperate for leads, she decided to brush it aside for now.
"Yes," Catlan admitted as she lowered her dagger cautiously. "Do you know of Tai Lung?"
The cat put the glass down next to him and turned to look at her. His bright, green eyes gleamed and his whiskers tweaked upwards as he smiled.
"Indeed I do."