Carpathia III: Episode 23 - Over the Wall
Though Jaze never liked Mitani very much, now he only wished he could get close to him because he was the only one in whom he could confide. The only person with whom he could speak about Toma. He dared not bring up that he had any friends on Yseri to anyone else in Nekramentia. However, getting close enough to Mitani and in a place private enough to have a conversation was next to impossible. Nekramentia was segregated by species most of the time, and the human living quarters were rather far from the nekohuman quarters.
Even when he was able to be alone with Mitani, the conversation inevitably turned to escape. Jaze favored having a detailed plan before making any attempt, including what to do after getting outside. Mitani wanted to get out as soon as possible and take his chances. Little by little, by eavesdropping, Jaze was able to discover that there were at least a few small villages outside the compound, but where and how far away they were he did not know.
Once again, Jaze was outside practicing with his wooden sword with Jump. Of all the younger nekohumans, he was the one with the most natural talent and Mirage always paired him up with Jaze. In practice after practice, Jump would win. However, each time, it took him longer and longer. There were many close calls where Jaze nearly won the fight, but so far, Jump had a 100% victory rate.
Today was, so far, the same. The courtyard, where everyone practiced, was alive with all the species in the compound practicing their swordplay. The nekohumans were tucked into corner number 5, which was smaller than the others, but still big enough move around freely. Jaze and Jump traded blows back and forth for a long time. Jaze was becoming more and more adept at blocking Jump's advances, but he still couldn't penetrate his defenses, until, finally, he gave Jump's sword a very solid hit to send him off balance. With an opening presenting itself, Jaze whacked him over the head with his sword.
Jump kneeled on the ground and clutched the top of his head in his hands. Jaze felt guilty right away.
Jaze: I'm sorry! Are you okay?
Jaze started to kneel and offered a hand to Jump, but as soon as he let his guard down, Jump leapt up and thrust his wooden sword directly into the center of Jaze's chest. Jaze fell backwards and landed hard on his rump.
Jump: Ha! I knew you'd fall for that!
Jaze tried to think of a retort, but everything he thought of made him feel more foolish than he already felt. A comeback after having been duped by a little kid would never have felt right, no matter how clever and biting it was. Luckily, he was rescued by Mirage, who approached them, evidently having seen Jaze's pathetic victory.
Mirage: Okay, okay. That's enough. Jump, you take a break. Chaos, you can practice with me now. I think you're ready.
Jump: Yes sir!
Jaze rubbed his chest, sure that it would soon have a spectacular bruise.
Jaze: Ready for what? Even when I win, I get my ass kicked.
Mirage: And I'm going to teach you not to let that happen. Stand up!
Reluctantly, Jaze grabbed his sword and stood. Facing him, he raised his sword to the ready position. However, before they had a chance to begin, a frantic voice pierced the air.
Voice: STOP HIM!!!
Everyone, including Jaze and Mirage, stopped what they were doing and looked to see what was happening. In the distance, they could see a lone figure making a run down the road towards the gate.
Jaze: What's going on?
Jaze looked at Mirage for an answer. Mirage had a look on his face of utter bewilderment, as someone who knew what was going on but still couldn't believe what his eyes were plainly seeing.
Mirage: An escape? Who the hell tries to make a break for the gate in broad daylight with so many people around? Razor shouldn't have any trouble taking care of this.
Jaze didn't need to wait to find out the answer to that question. He was sure he knew.
Jaze: I can take a wild guess...
Just as Jaze was looking away in exasperation, Mirage poked him in the shoulder.
Mirage: Pestilence is already going after him. Look! This will be fun to watch!
Sure enough, another another figure was chasing after the escapee. He never had a chance. Pestilence closed the gap quickly and tackled him onto the ground. They wrestled for a short time, but Pestilence quickly overpowered him. With his hands clasped firmly around his wrists, he started marching the escapee back towards the compound. Now that his face was turned towards them, he could see clearly that his suspicions were correct. It was Mitani.
Jaze expected him to take Mitani back to the compound, but instead, he turned towards a group of waiting humans and then kicked Mitani towards them. They quickly subdued him, but Pestilence did not leave after he relieved himself of Mitani.
Pestilence: You humans are too slow and stupid! You shouldn't be here if you can't even manage your own!
Razor: Watch your mouth, pussy! We didn't need your help!
Several of the other humans took Mitani away towards the compound. He writhed and struggled every step of the way as though he still had some sort of hope of getting away. In the meantime, Pestilence and the human were close to each other and at least three more humans were starting to surround him. Pestilence stood before them, arguing, with a self-satisfied smirk.
Pestilence: Oh right, because you were doing so well on your own!
Razor: One of our sentries would have gotten him before he got to the gate! You're the one who's the attention-seeking glory hound!
Pestilence:You shouldn't have let him get that far in the first place!
As they continued to argue, Jaze was surprised that Mirage made no move to help. Not that he wanted to help, but that's what he expected. Instead, he just watched with his arms folded across his chest, only moving when Jump came running up behind him. Mirage put his arm out and blocked him from proceeding further.
Jump: But Pestilence is in trouble!
Mirage: He can take care of himself. If we got involved in every one of Pestilence's fights, that's all we'd be doing around here.
Jump didn't push the issue any further. He took a few steps back and watched with everyone else. By this time, most of the people in the courtyard within earshot had stopped what they were doing to watch the unfolding drama. The argument escalated quickly, with Pestilence and the human trading more and more vicious insults until, inevitably, a fight broke out.
Mirage still made no move to help and Jaze was certain that Pestilence would quickly be overpowered by the four humans surrounding him. Pestilence, however, did surprisingly well against such overwhelming odds. The human he was arguing with went down almost immediately with a perfectly executed blow to the head. The other three tried to overpower him, but Pestilence was able to keep them at bay while he focused on one at a time. As Jaze watched, he quickly understood that he shouldn't tangle with Pestilence any more than he already had.
Mirage: Honestly, who was that guy and where did he think he was going to go if he got out?
Jaze: Can't blame him for trying.
Instantaneously, Mirage's head twisted towards Jaze and he glared at him, trembling with rage. Jaze took a step backwards.
Jaze: Uh... Did I say that out loud?
For a split second, Jaze thought about running as well, though he didn't know where he would go. Perhaps, he thought, this was the sort of situation that Mitani had just found himself in earlier. Mirage grabbed him by the collar of the shirt and yanked him away, towards the wall surrounding the courtyard.
Jaze struggled against Mirage with no result. He was always surprised by how strong Mirage was, despite his slim frame. Finally, as they got close to the wall, Mirage threw Jaze up against it and clasped his hand around his throat. The uneven stones of the wall dug uncomfortably into his back as Mirage held him.
Mirage: I will not tolerate insubordination in my ranks!
Jaze: Why not? You let Pestilence get away with it!
Mirage's grip on Jaze's neck tightened.
Mirage: Pestilence is second in command, so he's entitled to some freedom. You are not!
Jaze could feel the blood pumping through him faster and hotter than before. Almost right away after Mirage's last statement, he was fed up with everything. He was fed up with being treated like a slave and being pushed around by people far younger than he. It would be a cheap shot, and Jaze knew he would get into major trouble, but Mirage had to be taught a lesson. He thrust his knee forwards, aiming directly between Mirage's legs.
Mirage, as though waiting for him to do that, reacted instantly. Before Jaze's knee could connect, Mirage swept Jaze's legs and sent him dropping straight down onto the concrete. Jaze landed hard on his rump, and before he had a chance to even consider his next move, Mirage had his hand on his neck again, this time also pressing the blade of his dagger up against it. As they glared at each other, locked in steely gaze, Jaze felt something warm trickle down his neck. He dared not move or speak.
To his surprise, Mirage smiled.
Mirage: Good, Chaos. You have some fight in you after all.
Mirage took the dagger away from Jaze's throat and stood up.
Mirage: Now go get your sword. I'm going to work you until every joint in your body is on fire.
Mirage then simply walked away, leaving Jaze on the ground wondering whether he was just punished or played.
All city pictures from SimCity 4