Chapter 29 ∞ Assault
Mistress Veronika’s physical training was paying off. Although I had the smallest frame in the group, I was consistent with my pace and led everyone through. I could not say the same for Maun and Erenol though, so I decided to take the rear slot to herd them along just in case they were lagging behind. I shot a glance at the map, memorized the turns to take and stuffed it back into my pocket.
I hastily dictated the directions towards where the public terminal was and they obeyed without putting up much of a fight. The men behind us were closing in. They were much faster than anticipated, probably built for a chase like this.
I recalled the routes we could take and decided we would cut corners, urging them to take an alley that would take us right into the main street. Our pursuers had halted when they saw us spear straight into the passage and, for a moment, I thought we had lost them.
What I didn’t expect was to see that they had actually beat us to it. One of the men who were on our tail appeared right up ahead like an unwanted mushroom, blocking our escape and caging us in. Startled, we halted, and I realized just then how big of a mistake it was to actually take this passage at all.
They moved with aggression and their eyes weren’t the kindest either, clearly bearing bad intentions. In an instant, I knew we were in that very unfavorable, cornered position once more. It seemed we kept finding ourselves in situations with limited choices.
One. Two…three. Four. I decided to label them A, B, C, and D in my head.
There were four of them. Two on either side.
My eyes caught a small glint under the light—the shine of a blade being pulled to sight. A subtle threat. I looked around, keeping a hand on the necklace under my clothes. Should the need come to it, I would be summoning over Captain Leiran to come and save us by crushing it with my hand.
And I knew this was the time. So I did. The glass wasn’t easily broken, nevertheless. The shards cut through my clothes and punctured the skin of my hands a little before skidding down my chest. I didn’t want to make a commotion, so I did it as silently as possible. If these men knew that I did something, they might do the unthinkable.
“Evy, we aren’t so lucky today,” I heard Erenol whisper beside me.
We pressed our backs together. Maun was just as panicked as the two of us.
“You did us favor by coming here. Should you have stayed in the center, you at least would’ve been a little safer.” The language I heard wasn’t Veneryali. I didn’t know where it came from because this was the first time I was hearing it, but my ability to decipher languages immediately came through. There were times I really thanked Amber for doing what he did. Then again, if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be in such a difficult position.
All my life’s—this life’s—misfortunes started when I met him.
Though that kind of thinking was just to make me feel better. I needed someone to blame and he was the only person I could really throw all of this at. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, although sometimes I just wanted to crush him into a pulp.
“Did you understand that?” Erenol elbowed me in panic.
“No…unfortunately. I’ve been taught a lot of languages by the mistresses, but definitely not this.”
I didn’t remove my gaze from the men as I shook my head. If I acknowledged that I could, they might not be as loose with their lips.
“Remember, you get the one with the green eyes.”
“What about the other two?”
“Agh. Just get them too. They already know our face.”
I swallowed and leaned close to Erenol, pulling at her sleeve to whisper, “They’re after you.”
“I thought you couldn’t…” she trailed off.
“Doesn’t matter,” I said.
Erenol took my hand and was shocked to find it bleeding. “What happened?”
My communicator lit up gently and rang a soft song in my ear. My mother’s name echoed between the beats which made me sigh.
“’Ey, ‘ey. Someone’s calling that girl. Make sure she doesn’t answer it or it’d be trouble.”
With that, they leapt forward. The man behind me, Man A, made his move first and yanked at my cloak. I felt my air supply briefly cut off as I fell back, but I quickly managed to regain my footing and unclasp my cloak. The fabric gurgled back and slipped off. Peeved by the ruffian that pulled at me, I glared at him as he stumbled back.
I have had thousands of combat exchanges with my Mistress Veronika and I have been mentally preparing myself for the attack. Nevertheless, seeing the blade he had and the fact that he was looming over me with the intent to kill, I felt my body’s instinct take over. I froze for a moment before a cold feeling washed over me that jolted me forward.
I took advantage of my small frame, dashing under the arms of the one armed with the knife. I smelt the stink of his clothes as I brushed past. He didn’t have a stable center of gravity, so I took advantage of that and kicked him where he was weak. I didn’t have a lot of experience with taking down people, but I was thankful Mistress Veronika had hammered enough into me that I knew what to do.
He fell on his ass and the knife came sweeping past my leg. I managed to avoid the hit, albeit a little clumsily, but I was already much too distracted at the time and couldn’t watch out for the pair of hands that caught me from behind. Dirty and rough fingers grappled at my face. The palm was sweaty and the nails carried unpleasant odor. I struggled, but realized my strength was no match for the man behind me.
“You troublesome little…”
My new captor, Man B, pulled back my head and gazed into my eyes. I felt a little short of breath.
“You’re a little pretty one, aren’t you? Such a unique child. If I sell you, you might fetch a hefty price,” Man B said. He picked off the ringing communicator around my ear, threw it against the wall. He then stepped on it when it skidded to a stop on the ground. “’Ey! You don’t think nobody’s going to come looking for this kid, aye?”
The one who I had literally swept off his feet earlier stood, glaring at me as he dusted himself off. “Trash.” A hand came sweeping across my face and a loud smack reverberated across the alley. I felt lightheaded for a few seconds, my ears ringing and my brain feeling like it had been shaken like a milk bottle.
My heart had broken a marathon record at this point. I cranked my eyes to their corners, trying to see what was happening to Erenol and Maun. I could hear her screaming through her muffled mouth. Maun, on the other hand, sat back cowering in the corner, hand covering his head as one of the cackling men prodded him with his foot.
“Tch. Poor girl thinks her father’s name actually means anything at this point. He’s the one who got you here in the first place.”
What exactly did they mean by that? Good dragon, Captain Leiran. Where the hell are you? Was that necklace such a fraud?
Feeling my powerlessness, tears pooled in my eyes.
‘This isn’t the time to be losing hope,’ I heard a familiar voice whisper by my ear. It didn’t belong to any of the men. I was sure. Not even Maun and Erenol.
‘Remember, you’ll be facing stuff much, much worse than this in the future. I hope you’re not the type to wait for a knight-in-shining-armor. Trust me, nothing in this world will be capable of saving you other than yourself.’
I struggled some more against Man B behind me, turning my face against the disgusting odor of his breath wafting down my face.
I held onto the hand he had on my mouth, letting the tears on my palm bleed on his clothes. Seeing the red stain, he seemed momentarily distracted. I used this opportunity to slip my teeth past my lips, clamping down on the disgusting flesh that held me back. I then stepped firmly on his foot and elbowed his side as hard as I could.
Man B behind me let go, yowling.
Man A in front of me sneered. “Quit strugglin’!”
As he moved in with the intent of capturing me, I recognized a familiar opening. I smoothly moved in with the first position of the Movement of the Seven Dragons—cliché as the name was—and broke through the assault with a smack to the rib of my opponent. I then pulled at the arm of the guy before me and extended it past my side so that he was punching his comrade in my stead. To ensure he wouldn’t be getting up for a while, I landed a good blow to his fifth limb—maybe eleventh finger—and left him rolling on the ground in pain.
I didn’t know what happened next, but the adrenalin was pumped through my blood fast enough all my hesitance was thrown out of the window. I raged forward like a bull, the corners of my eyes seeing red. I tackled the other man bullying Maun, Man C, and landed a punch on his face. My knuckles landed on cheekbone and I couldn’t help but wince when they came into contact with the sharp cut of his skill.
“Mothereffindragon,” I whispered. “That freakin’ hurt.”
I landed another one.
And another one.
Seeing my enemy with a bloodied face, I pulled back, stood, and stomped at his stomach, causing the air to eject from his lungs sharply followed by some saliva. I maintained the foot over his chest, pinning him down as I spun around to look for my best friend. Overtime, to make sure my hold over him was firm, I moved my foot to his throat.
The only one left among the men was the one holding Erenol, Man D. I turned to see he was holding a blade around her neck. I knew the situation was dire and I should be treading this slowly. I’ve grown used to seeing people hold up knives over other people’s neck when they’re desperate though, so the fear I was feeling was currently blunted. I squeezed the fist I had used to beat up Man C under me and put a pressure down his throat with my foot, causing him to wheeze. The soft part of the neck was a choking point. Even if he wanted, if he didn’t want me crushing his windpipe, he wouldn’t do anything funny.
“You…step back…you…” Man D, who was holding Erenol, looked at me while bewildered. He tried speaking in Veneryali, but it was either he was not very fluent or was much too speechless to speak properly.
I was a thirteen-year-old girl with a small frame. Even I was amazed how much I’ve already done. Three, large men. I should be red riding hood, but I felt more like the big, bad wolf.
Was the training with Mistress Veronika this formidable? I mean, I didn’t even show such good progress when I started holding the sword. The woman didn’t push me so hard, but her training wasn’t anything to be taken lightly either.
Maybe this had something to do with the Movement of the Seven Dragons? I only learned that stuff this morning. To think its application would be this handy—now, this was something worth learning.
I only needed this stalemate. If I held something over him and he held something over me, neither one of us would be willing to move for a while. I didn’t how much they meant to one another, but I was counting on the fact that they were pretty close.
And my decision was correct.
A large body flew overhead and a figure came from the sky. Captain Leiran, in a flashy entrance, landed behind the man holding Erenol and kicked him down and away. He then grabbed him by the collar and threw him against the wall so hard he had the breath knocked out of his lungs. He skidded and fell before tipping over to his side and falling unconscious.
Leiran regarded me with curious eyes, frowning as he surveyed the scene before him. The two men I had knocked back earlier were still on the ground. One had a broken nose and another had broken…I don’t know. The one under me had both hands around my ankle, looking over to Leiran pleadingly.
“Evyionne,” the captain began. “I’ll take it from here.”
I entrusted everything to him, walking over hurriedly to Erenol and pulling her close. She was sobbing and quaking from fright. On the other hand, there was also Maun. He was regarding me with the widest eyes. His emotions were plastered all over his face. There were no hints of tears, but there was an intensity burning in his gaze as I went over to him.
Poor thing must’ve had the fright of his life. It hadn’t been very long since I found him on our doorstep all bloodied.
“I’m sorry…” I whispered. “I know I promised one thing and another happened. Hehe. It’s probably best if we go home, right?” I pulled him by the shoulder and had him stand back up.
“I’m sorry I came late. You did well holding them back, Evyionne. Veronika’s tutelage is indeed not bad. I’ll bring these men in for questioning,” Leiran said.
Soldiers poured in from all directions.
“Take Her Highness back to the Glass Palace,” the captain continued.
“No,” I interjected. “These men were after Erenol. They talked of something about the Emperor. If you take her back there, she might be in more danger.”
As the men were being apprehended, it seemed they didn’t expect I had understood or known their language at all.
Leiran frowned, then sighed. “Are you sure?”
“Alright…I’ll drop you off to Oblivion first,” he stated. “I might be needing your cooperation later on, though. Nevertheless, we need to have you checked out. Your injuries…well, your mother might never forgive me.”
“Mistress Kora should be able to check us just fine,” I said. “Don’t worry. My mother likes you too much to not forgive you.”
Captain Leiran looked over with a disbelieving gaze.
We boarded the huge dragon of his, Avalon, and made our way back to Oblivion. My mistresses were waiting in the courtyard. As we landed, my mother speared forward to check on me. Her hand alighted on my face, causing the forming bruise to sting. I remembered how hard I was slapped just now. My whole face was numb so I couldn’t feel a thing. No wonder it seemed so thick. Like, literally.
“What happened, Evy?” she asked breathlessly. “I nearly lost my heart worrying…”
“Some guys were after Erenol,” I told her. “I think they were intending to do some kidnapping.”
Panic and fright boarded her face. I think I should’ve gone a little lighter on the words I chose. “This…are you alright? Dragons above,” she whispered. She checked on Erenol as well. “Are you hurt anywhere as well, darling?” she asked, then turned over to Maun to do the same.
“It’s mostly Evy,” Erenol replied. “She took down three of those four guys by herself.”
“She did?” Veronika lurched forward in shock.
“Mm-hmm.” Eren nodded fiercely. “She was so cool. She did a punch, and another one, and another…and then stepped on the guy’s throat and then, uh…I don’t know. I blanked out and then Captain Leiran was there.”
The mistresses all exchanged glances as Veronika’s eyes glinted proudly as she looked at me. “Aha! My little apprentice have made me proud today!” she boasted. “If you’re left with a scar, we should commemorate it as an honorable badge!”
I smiled wryly as I looked over to my adoptive mother’s disapproving gaze, which was directed at Mistress Veronika.
“What do you mean by honor?” Hellenia lashed at her. “I have not allowed a mosquito to land on my daughter. It isn’t alright for her to end up like this! How old is she even to be getting beat up? You are not even…” she trailed off, speechless and exasperated by the Veronika’s declaration.
“Enough of this. Hellenia, take the children back inside please.” Mistress Lamia came forward with a stern look.
“Yes, Lamia,” Hellenia lowered her head a little in deference to the snow lady and herded the three of us back into the House.
“Leiran, may I talk to you?”
The captain could only nod in response. Even he, who usually bore a stern and composed demeanor, seemed to swallow heavily upon seeing the headmistress of the House.