Act I - Chapter 6: The Assault of the Assassins' Guild

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A magician and a gunman. I knew we currently dealt with at least two people, but I couldn't discern any more in the darkness. I slowly felt through the murky water to quickly find my gun, and tried to give off no sound as to give away my position.

I caught ear of footsteps splashing towards me. A reflection of metal briefly glimmered in the dim light. The whisper of steel cutting the air approached me. I touched my gun in the water, tangled in greenery; I grabbed it and slung it out to meet the object's trajectory. A clashing of metal sounded with a sharp ring and abrupt momentum; I knew I deflected a sword strike. I immediately dropped beneath two more glimmers of follow-up strikes and the breath of my aggressor. I threw myself into a roll, tumbling further into the coliseum to create distance.

I brought myself to an abrupt pause as to not be traced. Footsteps appeared to diverge in virtually every direction, rebounding off the walls, thoroughly confounding my senses. I slowed my breathing to bring me to a sharp focus, and I attempted to split each sound down to its unique details. The weighted and lumbering splashes could only belong to Hise; so I allowed all other sounds to create a graph of the positions of our adversaries in my mind: one set of steps to the left, one set to the right, and one at the far end of the room—three people.

A shadow crossed a patch of light in the distance. When I let it seize my attention, one large splash erupted behind me; someone hung from the greenery and climbed to me without being traced. I caught a shimmer of refracted light as I turned: the swordsman. I deflected two strikes of light again, and ducked into the third, caught the bottom of the hilt of his swords against my back, and threw myself into my aggressor's sternum. I managed to throw him off balance, leaving an opening, but the shout in response brought me to halt: familiar and female. Such specific curvature on the swords swings, awkward and foreign to this half of the world. I knew this woman.

I discharged a shot at her, only able to trace her by the light reflecting off of both of her weapons. She leapt into the air, disappearing to nothing in the darkness. The time I'd spent fighting her allowed two other sets of footsteps to close in on me, one from the right, and one from left. I breathed in and broke forward. I ran, managed to step on my hat, made a u-turn to pick it up, and changed my trajectory for the center of the coliseum, hoping irrationality would confuse my aggressors. It didn't; two footsteps converged on me as I approached the center. I dove towards the slower ones, praying for the initiative. I grabbed this person by the arm and backed her against a pillar.

That's when I realized I had grabbed Hise's maid. I'd forgotten to factor in her footsteps.

She held the blue stone and visibly shivered in fear. The second set of steps approached me from behind. A flash of light, a gunshot. Another flash of light, a bolt. The bolt of lightning split open a hole in the ceiling and sunlight rolled across the coliseum. My eyes slowly adjusted to reveal a white pistol seated between them. Behind this gun: a familiar set of humored eyes.

"Ranx," I said.

The Scent of Charlotte, expensive fine wine imported from the far northeastern end of the Spirit's Continent where the towns were known for their elevated drinks, Ranx always stank of it beneath his sharp-fit suit and cap, long brown hair, and soft complexion a poor fit for the expression of ennui he wore, his constant stubble a better match. Wine helped keep Ranx's aim straight, and it managed to null his edge, the thirst for power he'd almost seemed born with—a desire to outdo and ascend wherever there remained room to outdo and ascend—his tempered drive found him promoted to leadership of my sect, a natural, though you could never convince anyone of that.

By the luck of instinct, I'd managed to point my gun at him before the light died. With both of us even, I had room to come to my feet and position the maid behind me.

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