A light gust of wind chills Valen's bruised and bloodied knuckle. His other hand raises his former guard in the air. He releases his grip on their collar, and they fall to the ground with a battered and unrecognizable face. Wrapping his raw and discolored fingers with his handkerchief, he nudges the lifeless body with his foot. Once satisfied, he flicks his head to the side. A guard springs to the immobilized former gang member and drags them away.
The mist looms low in the frigid air and obscures the glimmer of the stars. Valen captures a distant, towering mass gliding through the vast, pitch-black sky. Pale hair extends down the lower back of the beast’s slender, translucent body. A creature reminding him of the beauty of the world.
How majestic, he admires.
Sauntering forward, his remaining bodyguards follow behind. He hums a dramatic rhythm to distract himself, wishing to forget the recent betrayal. His locs swish with his hands, immersing in the music. His lean body sways in his form-fitting suit, accented with elegant, forest-green garments. His movements strengthen until he carelessly spins toward his underboss, at the storage lot entrance. Dressed in identical green accents, she shakes the dormancy from her digitigrade legs from waiting idly for him to finish releasing his anger.
Valen and Orya, the heads of the Drukai crime organization.
“You’re restless today,” Orya points out with a worried brow.
“She’s nipping at my feet again,” Valen sings, matching the song tempo. “How so?” he rhetorically asks, jerking his shoulders to the beat.
She starts, “well, look–”
A boisterous laugh from a well-lit alleyway interrupts her, pulling Valen’s attention to layers of whirring hover cars and interminable chattering. He takes a deep breath in the thick, distinct tar stench of busy city streets that bombard his nostrils, freeing the compact tension from his muscles. Illuminated by orange lanterns, the cozy passage bustles with life. Customers packing between two rows of short, wide homes—some throwing casual curses at one another within their leisurely conversations and others shoving by to other stalls. A merchant sets their bowl ablaze, inviting more to view. Another tosses spices and seasonings into their metal pots, spinning gracefully around their booth. Their audiences vocally admire their performances.
“You’re ignoring me.” Orya crosses her arms, both decorated in simple white armband tattoos.
“I’ve done no such thi–” Valen lies, eyes closing.
“Find him while he’s still wounded!” an unknown voice roars on the far side of the alley. His eyes snap open. His guards unholster their pistols and snap them in the direction of the sudden noise. Many necks shift to the voice, their conversations trickling down into whispers.
Advancing, he rolls his eyes. “Oh, put those away.” His men obey, standing down.
A burly person with conspicuously neon green eyes slides down a bonnet roof, landing into a roll. A bright red lasso darts through the fog, wrapping around the male’s neck and stopping him from sprinting away. The man, controlling the rope, overpowers the struggling male, pulling him closer. He locks his arms around Green eyes, shouting, “Got ’im, boss!”
Green eyes slams his head into his captor’s face. The man drops his lasso, his vision blurring as a sharp, shooting pain pulsates from his nose to his watery eyes. “You wench!” he cries out, cupping his nose, covered in dark red blood.
Green eyes kicks off the dazed man’s chest, catapulting him away from the scene. He spins on his heels, taking off into the foggy darkness. Several men dressed in crimson-red outfits squeeze out of the crowd. They scan the nearby area for Green eyes, finding nothing, until one of them sniffs deep and points the rest toward the scent, following in pursuit.
“Shadow them,” Valen orders, mouth twisting into a cruel smirk. Excitement rises in his chest. “Perhaps, we’ve found entertainment for the night.” Valen strolls behind, singing “Orya.”
“Get us there, please!”
She places her hand on Valen’s shoulder; his handkerchief slips off his fingers as a dark glow outlines their bodies. They shrink into an orb of black smoke. The sphere zips across a line of sparsely placed lanterns, carving curves down the street. They appear as themselves in a cloud of black mist before Green eyes, Orya slamming the butt of her rifle to the ground. Green eyes cranks his head to them, piercing them with his eyes, prepared for an attack.
“Gratitude Orya.” Valen holds out his arms, then places his hands on the back of his head. “Need some assistance?” Valen asks, creeping closer.
Green eyes puffs out his chest, huffing twice. His pointy ears flick at the sharp echo of his pursuer’s feet smacking against the pavement. He need not waste time, his eyes darting around. Around him stood a long line of tall buildings to his left, Valen and Orya in front, and an alley to his right. He pivots on his heels, dashing towards the narrow slit between two brick buildings. He hops across the walls. He leaps onto a low balcony, hoisting himself onto a thin metal corner. Glancing back, Valen and Orya stand their ground until, face to face with the men in Crimson.
“Valen!” Red choker shouts. “Delightful surprise seeing you,” he mumbles, sarcastically fluttering his eyes. “Let us skip dramatic pleasantries.” He drops his gentle demeanor, his smile falling with it. “Where is he?”
“Oh, you’ve certainly improved,” Valen enunciates, nearing. “Followed in my footsteps, I see. Really found your footing within Crimson. Proud of you, DJune,” Valen bellows, wrapping an arm around DJune’s shoulders.
“Tell me where he went off to,” DJune spat, pushing Valen away. “You’re insufferable.”
“And you’re jealous.” Valen’s mouth curls into a smile, a false one waning against gravity’s weight. “I thought our fling ended months ago.”
DJune grunts, gritting his teeth. “I’m tired of your pestering, predictable antics.” Staring into Valen’s eyes, he raises his arms. “Teach them a lesson,” he orders, lowering them.
Orya steps in front of Valen as men in Crimson charge. She kicks the butt of her rifle, striking the closest male’s chin. He stumbles into others behind him. She swings her rifle, bashing another guy’s head with the barrel. A crimson-colored thread slices through the air, heading towards Orya’s neck. Valen slides back. She steps aside, the thread grazing her skin. She secures her gun onto a strap across her chest and tosses it around her shoulder. She flicks her head back up.
“Help me the fuck out!” Orya commands. She dodges another strike from the thread, wrapping her arm around it.
The string rips through her skin as she pulls towards herself. She grunts in pain. Distracting herself, she yanks, revealing the male on the other end. She kicks off a man’s back and flips on another’s shoulders. She elbows him in the head several times.
Valen cackles. “Can’t let me enjoy the show a little longer?” He steps closer to the action, tauntingly gesturing to the crimson men.
As the man falls, Orya pushes off and punches another in the jaw, knocking them unconscious. Valen leaps, knee raised. His opponent dodges, catching Valen by his leg. He swings Valen into another who locks his arms around Valen’s waist. Valen elbows his captor in the side, steps around, and shields himself with his body from an incoming charge.
The lone street lantern flickers. Orya wraps the thread around someone’s neck, kicking him behind herself, driving her fist into the thread manipulator’s face. He drops. DJune springs from behind. He wraps his hand around the thread, releasing his dagger from the sheath.
Green eyes drops to the ground, landing with another roll. Orya’s arm swings at another man. DJune pulls the thread back, thwarting her blow. Green eyes dashes forward, DJune’s knife plunging into the side of his torso. He howls, voice gurgling from thousands of sharp stabbing sensations spreading out from the puncture. DJune enjoys Green eyes’ pain, resting his chin on Green eyes’ shoulder.
Orya turns. “Val, the boy!” Orya calls out, grabbing her gun off her back.
Green eyes maintains his grip on DJune’s arm to avoid the blade inserting deeper. Wide-eyed, Valen’s blood boils beneath his skin. Valen’s guards arrive in several hovervans, leaping into action and handling the few Crimson men left standing. Valen stalks toward the two as Orya aims her rifle at DJune’s head.
“Release him!” Orya orders, closing an eye for a better aim.
DJune vigorously wiggles the knife, licking his bottom lip and indulging Green eyes’ cries of agony. Orya hovers her finger over the trigger.
“Alright. Alright.” He releases his grip on the handle. Green eyes falls over.
Valen tackles DJune to the ground. “You. Tried. Hurting. Her!” Valen growls between punches, compressing his legs around DJune’s neck.
Orya catches Green eyes, shouting, “Murdok!” Her blood soaking the male’s tattered rags, charred at the edges.
Valen punched until DJune’s face smeared with blood.
Orya hands Green eyes over to a large, older man with a protruding belly. Murdok encases Green eyes in a transparent blue coating, hovering the male’s body meters off the ground. Valen stands and dangles DJune in the air with a handful of his black hair. He shoves DJune off to someone else, trudging over to Orya, who receives a medical kit from another guard.
“Did he hurt you?” Valen asks, wearing a solemn face, eyebrows furrowed. His eyes scan her entirely.
Orya wraps a thick bandage around her forearm. “No.” Her eyes follow Murdok with the boy. “They ran in front of the blade for me.” Orya shrugs in Green eyes’ direction, securing the wrapping around her arm with a metal clip.
Valen’s eyebrows raise. “I hadn’t noticed. Did Murdok–”
“Yes!” Orya shifts Valen’s face towards his guard who lifted Green eyes into a vehicle.
“Could you see where?” Valen hastily asks, climbing into a van. “Anywhere vital?”
“Unable to tell. Everything happened fast,” she answers, dwelling on the worst, climbing in last. “They were too far to view clearly until my gun was out.” She covers the nick on her neck with a piece of cloth, slouching in her seat.
Valen clenches his jaw. “I will not burden you with any more questions. I’ll wait until we arrive back home.”
DJune yanks at the chain attached to a metal bolt in the room’s center. Valen picks his head up from the sudden sound, jaw remaining clenched. They stare unwaveringly at each other in DJune’s small, dimly lit cell. A chamber furnished with a table between two dark wooden chairs. Silence lingers above their heads. A wave of erupting anger burns within Valen, and he balls his fists to soothe his rage. It failed to help. All his efforts to soothe himself only expanded his fury to his fingertips. He upturns the tiny table to a back corner which DJune barely dodges. Valen pulls the chair nearest to the door closer to DJune, taking a seat. He rests his elbows on his thighs and his chin on his thumbs.
“I’ll ask you two questions then we’ll never see each other again,” Valen vows. “Sit!”
“Fuck your questions. Look at my face!” DJune’s words slur from his swollen lip and broken teeth. One of his eyes swelled shut and his cheeks were inflamed. He jerks his metal shackles fastened to his wrists.
Valen rose from his chair. He steps closer, the room’s yellow light casting a sharp shadow across his face. “I said sit down!” He hurls DJune into the wooden chair, the legs screeching against the floor from the male’s weight.
Wheezing and coughing, DJune slumps in his chair. “Don’t put your hands on me!” he orders breathily.
“You have no authority here!” Valen slams his fist into DJune’s abdomen. “See how that feels? Now, answer my questions before I lose my patience. I’m exhausted from your attitude.” He sighs. “First, who is the boy you were after?”
DJune silently argues with himself whether to answer until Valen stands back up. “Alright. Alright!”
Valen sits once more. “Who. Is. He?”
“That streetwalker! They call him Don. A name befitting for someone like him. Sells himself off to anyone willing to pay. Does whatever they tell him to do. Trust me, anything. Why? Want him? We roughed him up for you. Although, he may not be useful now,” DJune taunts, stifled by the searing pain in his abdomen.
“Your loose mouth never matched that cute face of yours.” Valen cracks his knuckle, then pauses. “Although, I’m glad you revealed your darkened underbelly to me early and I cannot be plagued with your rather idiotic antics and tantrums.”
“Come on! Let’s not pretend you’re molded of gold. You are only one chip of paint away from being like me,” DJune retorts, jerking in his seat. “For helping someone out, you created more damage for the sloven than you fixed. Now, let me free!”
Valen clenches his jaw. “You dare blame me, fool!” He shouts, gritting his teeth. “Now, why were you after him?”
“You inquire too much! I answered your question already! Who is he to you?” DJune stands. “Your rentboy? Your lover? Wait.” DJune despised the bitter taste on his tongue. He continued, “could never be your lover, seeming as though you lack the ability to commit!”
Valen grabs a handful of DJune’s hair, pulling his head back. “I’ll say this for the last time before I snap. Answer. My. Fucking. Question!” After a few seconds of DJune’s aggressive squirming and irritating silence, Valen slides his metal knuckles from his pocket onto his fingers. He jams his fist into DJune’s side. “I won’t wait any longer!”
“Alright,” DJune cracks. “That wench attempted to have his way with one of my closest guards. Then, that filthy rat stole from her. Thus, stealing from me. Me! You must understand my offense, right?”
Valen drops DJune, disgust permeating his throat, DJune sagging back in his chair.
After minutes of palpable silence, only filling with the jingle of DJune’s chains when he shifted in his seat from discomfort, Valen speaks, “I trusted you.” Closing his eyes, he repeats, “I really trusted you. And you tried taking away the person closest to me. And–”
“My mistake,” DJune tauntingly whines, shrugging. “Look at what you’ve done to my face! We were fighting. Shit happens. Honestly, I think we’re even,” he retorts.
“Shit happens? Even?” Valen repeats through his gritted teeth. “I still cared about you. I truly still, I still loved you. However, along that street, as you rushed towards Orya, you murdered the last of my feelings for you and I wished I took your life right there.”
DJune’s demeanor wanes, swallowing hard. “How could you say that?” his voice cracked, hot tears trailing down his cheeks. “You, you don’t mean that, right? Right?”
“You crossed the line last night. I’ll never forgive you for what you tried to do. To her,” Valen promised, tears welling in his eyes. “Orya? I’m finished with him. Take him away, please.”
A few seconds later, Orya enters.
“You don’t mean that. Right? Tell me.” DJune steps closer to the blurry silhouette of Valen from the stream of tears blurring his vision. “Please, tell me you don’t mean that!”
Orya unlocks DJune’s shackles from the chains attached to the floor.
“Look, apologies. Do not throw me away like this. I made a mistake. Apologies Orya. I mean it. Orya, please, convince him to take it back,” DJune begs, dropping to his knees.
Orya softly snorts, struggling to tame her stewing anger. “Val, I think that’s enough bloodshed for today. Fresh air may help you calm down,” she ignores, hoisting his petite body over her broad shoulder. “We’ll speak later about the other boy,” she mentions, exiting the room.
He hums in agreement. Slouching back in one of the chairs, he heaves a long groan. His fury boils his blood once more, his skin crawls, and he balls his fists. Nothing alleviated his temper. His mind blanks as his knees buckle, falling under the weight of reality. He bashes his skull against the floor until his head throbs relentlessly. He lies on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. Falling unconscious, his mind flashes from memories of when he and DJune were close to the brawl the night before.