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Orphans of a Dead Nation Chapter 16: The Green Light
Alaina ran as hard as she could. She soon realized it was only her footsteps she heard, only her ragged breath. She stopped, turning around to see behind her, but there was nothing. Only two equidistant crystal lantern polls, each illuminating a small section on the road. The cobbled walkways remained mostly in shadow, and the alleyways – gaps between houses and shops – were darker still. Alaina could feel the sweat bead and drip down her forehead and down her nose.
The city was silent. She heard nothing; saw nothing; felt nothing. The section she was in was desolate.
Alaina licked her lips. Did we separate? Or did they get him?
Not knowing was what bothered her. She did not want to just leave Navari. She only got this far only because he was by her side, but that was that. She had no close attachment to the boy.
Once I reach the platform though, and the shuttle leaves, I’d have won.
Alaina knew she could disappear once she reached Eastern City. The shuttle she was going to go on was something that only the shadiest of ‘legitimate business men’ would ever use, but even so, it was something the people who were chasing her would not have been prepared beforehand to catch her on. It was normal for large organizations to have people waiting at either end of a shuttle platform to capture someone they wished to, but how could they have known Alaina would go to Undercity?
Any case, this was perfect for Alaina. Once she disappeared in Eastern City, they would not be able to find her. She was born in Eastern City. She lived in Eastern City. She knew the ins and outs, and it was quite easy for her to hide and move about until she settled things for a permanent solution.
And more so, she did not speak of her history with Dekaros or the other members. Like everyone, she was tight-lipped about such things. It was an unsaid rule among eastern city dwellers. You keep what can be used against you private.
So, thinking of all this, Alaina had a dilemma. Do I leave him or do I wait? Navari was a great help to her, but that was given that he was alive or not captured by the enemy. He did not know anything that could put her at jeopardy, so she was not worried in regards to her if he was indeed taken. Besides, there was also the chance that he just ran down a different alleyway. Either way, waiting here was putting her at risk. If he was taken, there was nothing she could do.
It was only a brief few seconds that all these thoughts rummaged in Alaina’s mind. A brief few seconds before she made her decision, but it was when she made her decision that she heard something. They’re here? With one quick movement she brought out her dagger, and bolted in the nearby alleyway.
It was dark, and she easily bumped into a metal trashcan, tripping onto the wet paved floor. The stone beneath her was cracked and had weeds. Things she could feel underneath her now scratched up palms. If they don’t know where I ran off to already, they do know now.
She pushed herself up, and ran until there was light up ahead.
Once she dashed onto the next road, she looked up to see the words indented in the metal sign board. Cape C. Street. That meant she was almost there. A few more blocks.
Alaina took a step forward, but she quickly stopped. It was not a conscious effort. It was just… she couldn’t move. And then a sudden pain sparked in her upper chest and back. She looked below to see a slim metal protrusion sticking out of her.
She had been stabbed by a sword.
“So cumbersome,” a voice began behind her. “What’s so special about you, girl? Hmm? To want you alive?”
Alaina grit her teeth. She tried to pull herself from the blade, but it felt like there was a jagged edge on the blade, making it too painful to even continue.
“Don’t even think about it, girl. Move anymore and you will only hurt yourself more.”
And with that, Alaina felt something press against the side of her neck, and darkness swarmed her vision. However, just as her consciousness faded, she could not help but think, they’re after me, not the crossbow?
The leader of the group pulled the sword skillfully from the girl. He quickly caught her as she was falling, and lifted her in his arms.
However, as he turned around and was heading back towards the gate he and his team entered from, he stopped.
“Very skilled, aren’t you, boy?”
The leader narrowed his eyes. The boy he had passed by a few minutes ago was standing before him. Blood dripped down his short sword. It did not take the leader more than a second to realize what happened. The boy’s cool gaze said it all.
The leader took a deep breath in before he slowly put the girl on the ground. He took a quick glance to the west. The lights have stopped. Cursing under his breath, he glared at the boy.
“We will meet again,” and with that, he jumped up, his form easily going up two stories and landing on the roof.
The leader ran off into the night.
Minutes later, the leader soon landed on the pavement of a street. In the center of the street, under the light of a crystal lantern, was a body. It was sliced apart, and mangled. Looking left, there was another. He could only see the legs sticking out from the darkness and blood flowing down the drainage, but it was enough to know for sure. Both dead in a span of minutes. Just how strong was that boy?
Then something landed a distance from him.
The leader scowled, “Undercity’s Dog.”
“I take offense to that name.” The man who appeared spoke. The man was large. He wore only a tunic that bore his arms. Runic symbols were tattooed all over his skin. His face was clean of the markings, but his ears had two crystal jewels in them.
“Where’s the girl?” The large man asked.
“I don’t have her.”
The man laughed. “You used three men to distract me for a few minutes to buy yourselves time, and yet, you still could not manage to detain her? Such failure. That’s not even including the quarrel you fabricated to draw me deep into the west. Do you think I did not notice?”
But as the man said that, the leader noted his eyes roaming across the two bleeding men. His men. “The opposition must be strong.”
“They’re almost to the shuttle. Would you really be into wasting time with me? Your master would remiss if you failed your mission.”
The large man just grinned. “He would be even more remiss if we just allowed the men of others to do what they wish carefree without our permission in our fair city. There are consequences to everything, my friend.”
The leader tightened his grip on his sword.
“I guess this is unavoidable.”
Navari lifted Alaina on his shoulders. He was exhausted. That fight took too much out of him. He slapped Alaina’s face a few times. “Where to now?” But she did not answer. Trudging down the next Alley, he reached another road, and this time he followed it. Alaina’s blood was dripping on the stone. He did not have much time to bandage her. It was best to go straight. He just aimed towards the east like they had done before, and hoped he would run into it eventually.
But why did that man just let Alaina go? Was he scared of me? But Navari shook his head. He knew that was not the case. The man could easily tell how tired he was, and given how much stronger that man was to the two he fought, he knew it would not be long before he was cut down. A few minutes top would decide his fate.
Suddenly a wretched scream rang in the air. Navari looked back.
“That came from where he disappeared to…”
Was there someone else? Undercity’s men? Thinking of how this shutdown was likely due to them, it was highly likely. Undercity would not just shutdown their city, they would send people after us. Of course there was the chance that it was a third or even fourth party.
Navari cursed. Did he let me go to give me a chance to escape with her? Thinking that, it made even more sense. If that man knew he would not be able to leave with Alaina before he was intercepted, he would just leave it to Navari to escape Undercity completely. Once they did, then whoever hired him would probably have more chances to get them than if he was under Undercity’s thumb.
Although that was an idea, Navari could not be sure of it, and it would not matter anyway. Right now, he had Alaina and an opportunity to escape. That was all that mattered, and so, he began to rush even faster. His legs were like jello, but he did not care. If someone was able to kill that man so quickly, Navari would not even be able to last that long against that assailant given his current disposition.
“Alaina wake up! I need the shortest path to get there.”
He heaved Alaina up his shoulder even more, stopping her from sliding off. Ice water splashed as he went from alley to alley, going eastward as best as he could.
As Navari was lost in thought, just as he was going to turn into another alleyway, he froze. The hairs on the back of his nape stood on end. What is that?!
He looked into the darkness in front of him. His eyes could not breach the darkness, but he could feel there was a presence there. His senses were going off like bells. It told him that if he stepped into that alley, he would not be leaving it.
Navari gulped, unconsciously stepping back. And then he had an idea. He put Alaina down slowly, always keeping an eye on darkness before him.
He wiped his hand in Alaina’s blood, ignoring her wince, and wiped it on the wall entering the alleyway. He splattered few drops here and there, and then bandaged her. He took the precious few minutes, before he hoisted her back over his shoulder. She won’t bleed through the stripped cloth for at least a few minutes.
As quickly and silently as he could, Navari continued down the road, and went down another alley, one nearby.
He did not know how that team of three were tracking him and Alaina, but he hoped that whoever killed that man from before did not have the same methods. If they did, his trick would not work, and he would have wasted precious time, but if he did… Maybe whatever put my senses over the edge could distract them for a bit.
It was then that he heard a groan.
“Alaina. You’re awake? Help navigate.”
The girl over his shoulder patted him, and Navari slowed to a stop. Alaina looked up and said, “go left and then straight down. It’s there.”
And her head fell back.
“Alaina? Alaina,” but she did not respond.
Navari kept on going, following her instructions.
Soon, he arrived before a large platform. In front of him was a large arch. There were wooden crates lined every once and awhile on the edges. There were even people!
Most had hoods, and most of them were lifting crates or trolleys, moving cargo to and fro down the grand hall that twisted down a pathway.
On the arch, etched in the stone was written, ‘Shuttle # 34’.
“Alaina,” he breathed. “We made it.”