The Shadow

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Leopold

Caeli

As soon as we returned to the hotel for the night, I could immediately feel that something was wrong. Even though it was after midnight, it still seemed far too quiet for the area. This hotel was well known for wealthier people to come and spend the night with lovers, or prostitutes… and yet there was no one in sight. There were maybe three cars in the car park, the rest of the people must have been driven away by something.

“No detours, we go straight to our room,” I said as I turned the engine, I looked towards Syrus who breathed like he was going to argue with me. One pointed look later, and we were getting out of the car. “Once we get to our room, we lock the door and prepare for an intruder, got it?” I asked, my eyes moving far too quickly as I looked at every shadow, every crevice that someone could hide in.

“Got it.” He replied. I nodded as I scanned the hallways, checking for any form of movement, looking in the reflection of the black marble feature walls in case anyone was following us. So far, there hadn’t been another wandering soul in the building aside from us. It didn’t ease any of my anxieties.

We reached out double room, and I locked the door behind us, my gut feeling was steadily getting worse by the second as I looked around the room.

“Don’t move, leave the statue in the bag,” I told Syrus as I crept through the room, checking any and all hiding places. Where would I go if I was hiding in a room, waiting to kill someone? I checked under the bed, inside the bathroom, wardrobe, and vents before I checked that the window was locked as it had been when I left. “Clear,” I stated, Syrus walked towards me then with a concerned look on his face, mixed with confusion. I walked over to my bag and grabbed out a handgun which I handed over to him, I took out a pair of daggers for myself and held them ready. Whatever was going to happen had to happen soon, I knew that if I was after someone, I wouldn’t grant them the luxury of getting comfortable before I attacked.

“Caeli-”

“Shut up for two minutes.” I snapped, he seemed taken aback by my tone and harshness, but I hoped he realised it was because of the situation. And maybe a little touch of pent up annoyance at him. “Use that gun as a last resort, keep the backpack on and don’t let them get the statue,” I whispered as I moved to stand in the middle of the room, he smartly walked towards the bathroom. “I would tell you to run, but they might have backup that could catch and kill you in seconds. We stick together, but I’ll deal with them.” I told him, he nodded in response.

We stood still for a few moments, the only sounds that reached my ears were Syrus’ unsteady breaths and the echo of my own, calm, heartbeat. At that moment, I knew my brain had flicked the switch, that it had just turned off all emotion. I felt only clarity and emptiness as I stood there, I was patient for whoever was going to come for us. In these situations it was a default that I couldn’t stop, to switch off my emotions and change into a stone-cold killer, what I was meant to be, with a focus on killing enemies like the Temple and protecting what was mine, like that statue. And Syrus.

“Caeli, what if no one comes? What if nothing happens?”

“Someone is coming, I’m never wrong about these kinds of situations, Syrus,” I answered bluntly, as soon as I finished talking I heard footsteps in the hallway. One set. I looked to Syrus as if to tell him I told you so but quickly realised something else. If there was only one set of footsteps, then only one person was coming to deal with me… idiots.

The door rattled as that person tried to walk in…

I walked out from between the beds and looked at the door, still cautious that an accomplice may try to get in through the window, I spun my daggers around my fingers and gripped them again loosely in my hands. My body relaxed but was ready for movement as I stood on the balls of my feet. The door was then kicked down, but before I could see who had just broken, they threw a smoke bomb into the room which filled the room with choking darkness.

“Get down!” I shouted to Syrus, I heard him move but stayed focused on the footsteps that came from the other person who calmly walked into our room. The smoke cleared slowly into the hallway, because of the light from it I could see a silhouette with a hood in the door.

They moved quickly to attack me, but I moved faster.

I was the first to make contact, my dagger hit their arm and tore through the fabric of the cloak, drawing blood. They either didn’t feel it or just didn’t care. Either way, they retaliated quickly by swinging their own handheld weapon towards my head, which I promptly ducked under.

With my new, low vantage point, I pushed my body into theirs hard, which threw them into a wall. With my right hand, I held a blade to their throat, my left held my other dagger against their ribs. It was a male, I could tell from the grunt they made when they hit the wall.

“Move, you die,” I said simply, even though I still couldn’t see them properly because of how heavy the smoke in the room still was. “Syrus, open the window,” I instructed, adding a bit of pressure to my blades against their body. I heard the window open and the smoke slowly cleared from the room, but they angled their head down, their oversized hood covering the top half of their face.

“Look me in the eyes, I have questions for you,” I told the assassin. I took in the hood’s shape, the tapered point, the colour of the material and the detailing around its edge. It all pointed to the Temple.

“I will not answer…” they trailed off, a Spanish accent accompanying the words. I knew that voice, but if he was the one they had sent after me, I was even more offended than before.

“If you know what’s good for you, you will,” I replied, pushing my daggers closer to his body, the one against his ribs cut through the material of his cloak, so the blade was closer to his skin. The one against his neck was already drawing blood. “Look me in the eyes, you Spanish coward.” I hissed at him, the words made him look me in the eyes. I had guessed right, it was him.

“Why the fuck would they send you?” I asked rhetorically. I knew why. They thought he would have the edge over me. Even though I knew this idiot was a sub-par assassin, I made sure I didn’t let my daggers move even a millimetre away from him. “A fucking trainee… is this a test for you? Is that why you’re here?” I asked, the answer I knew was coming was going to sting. That much was for sure.

“Caeli, I… yes.” He answered to which I shook my head.

“I can’t believe that they sent a trainee after me, they should know they would have to do better than that,” I said, he held his hands up and dropped his daggers to the ground. “If you think that dropping your weapons will give you some le-way with me… you’re wrong, Leopold.”

“Ah, so no nickname then?” The assassin asked me, I smirked.

“You did always enjoy it when I called you Leo, so no,” I told him, my smirk immediately dropped with anger clear in my eyes.

“How the hell do you know this guy?” Syrus asked, and I risked a two-second glance over to him. He looked utterly defeated, I knew everyone, and he knew no one.

“While Sinclair was in Australia, working with Ashford and bumping into your sister… I got bored. So, I went to the Temple to do some training. Leopold was another trainee who had just started, so we were being trained together. Once I had heard about Vince working with Ashford, I took my leave. It’s safe to say that the Temple wasn’t happy about it, but Leopold stayed with them. Still in training? How slow are you?” I directed the last question at Leopold, who tilted his head to the side. Trying to play cute… what a disgusting tactic.

“I think I’m doing rather well actually, to have a test now and against you. They must think I have some kind of chance…” He responded.

“Or maybe they’re just trying to get rid of you,” I said, watching as a trickle of blood ran down his throat. Such a strange feeling arose at seeing him again, at seeing that blood trail down a part of his body I was familiar with. “Why are you here? Why do the Temple want to stop me from finding whatever this statue leads to?”

“You know I cannot answer that question for you,” Leopold replied, I sighed.

“Fine then, I’ll take it from you,” I stated, but he didn’t seem the least bit worried as another drop of blood ran down his skin. Why wasn’t he concerned?

“He’s too calm…” Syrus pointed out the same fact I was just rolling around in my mind, but I had become distracted by something else. A chain that was hanging around Leopold’s neck, the pendant hidden in his cloak. I looked into his dark eyes, but doing so brought a feeling of warmth to my body, the memory of his fingers touching my skin flooded my senses and threatened to distract me from the situation at hand.

I had to stop my mind from wandering.

“They sent you because of our history, didn’t they?” I asked in a whisper, it was the suspicion I had from the moment I knew it was him.

“Admit it, we did have a lot of fun.” He told me with a smirk.

“I’m afraid to break it to you, but they can’t use you against me. We were nowhere close enough for me to think twice about killing you.” I whispered, Leopold looked to Syrus before he looked back to me.

“And what about him? An American idiot? I thought you were better than that, Caeli.” He told him, I shook my head in disgust.

“Just because I work with him doesn’t mean we’re a thing. Just because we have a shared past, shared a bed a few times, doesn’t mean that we were either. Besides, you should know that I was using you to get more information and that having emotions in this line of work is not a good idea. Anyway, better to have an American idiot working for me than a two-crossing, Spanish piece of shit.” I told him, which he immediately took offence to.

He pushed both of my arms away from his body and pushed me away from him altogether. I had one second to breathe, to think about how to get the necklace from Leopold and push down my emotions once more. I needed that necklace as it was a token. If he wouldn’t tell me who the Temple was working for, then that necklace would.

Keep him distracted, dagger to the throat then cut through that fragile chain and take it. Easy.

He lunged at me with a third knife he had kept hidden in his cloak, but I felt the blade hit my arm, just scratching my skin. What a way to piss me off. I swung up at him with my left, he blocked with his forearm against mine, but he didn’t account for my right which quickly sliced through his skin from the bottom of his ribcage on his left side to his right shoulder. I kept moving with my momentum and turned, my right forearm against his as I used my left hand to drive a blade into his left thigh while my back was towards him. I was in a precarious position and had to get out of it fast, so I dropped into a forwards roll and landed on one knee with the other leg ready to stand.

Surely all of that would have pissed him off enough to get him to lose focus on the bloody necklace he wore.

I wasn’t aware of where Syrus was at the moment, but I wasn’t too worried. Leopold’s focus was on me and me alone, Syrus wasn’t a threat like me, and all three of us knew it. I then stood up slowly, beckoning for Leopold to try to take me down once more.

And try, he did.

He lunged at me again, a little less calculated with his actions than the first time as he didn’t keep his weight balanced, and his step was far too wide. I took a quick step to counteract his movement, ending up next to him before I kicked him in the knee which forced him to the ground, I then hit him in the head hard enough to throw his body all the way down against the floor. I moved to hold his arms with my knees and my blade against his throat, cutting through the chain as he struggled to come to grips with what had just happened and the probable concussion he had when his head hit the floor.

“If you give me one reason I shouldn’t kill you, I’ll let you live,” I told him while I looked into his eyes. He was so focused on me that he didn’t notice as the necklace fell from his neck and I took it into my hand, bunching the chain into my fist and around the handle of my dagger. I hid it from him, and he wouldn’t notice until he was alone and Syrus and I would be long gone.

“I can still be of use to you,” Leopold whispered, it made me laugh.

“Oh, do tell,” I told him, slightly curious as to what bullshit story he would spin for me.

“I can work for you on the inside, get you that audience with the Priest that you’ve wanted for years.” He told me, and I couldn’t stop myself from rolling my eyes.

“Leopold-”

“I can make sure I’m part of the group that ends up being tasked to go after you.”

“I swear to God, Leo if you are lying to me right now-”

“What you can do to me won’t be any worse than what the Temple will do if they find out I’m working for you.” He told me, and he had a reasonably valid point.

“If you double-cross me, Leo, I will kill you without hesitation,” I warned him one last time, he smirked once more, and it made me question whether I could trust him.

“I know.”

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