Chapter: 3, part 2
Claimer: Ours, not yours.
Warnings: The warnings on part 1 cover the entire chapter. :D;
Niles smiled back as he stood, following his superior out the door. He was a bit nervous at the prospect of having to fight again, but he knew he would be safe so long as he was with the Lieutenant. Together, they left the headquarters on foot, Niles following his superior closely. It was a bit of a walk, and the wind was brisk and biting, but when Niles hung close enough to Lt. Hirlea, he felt safe and warm, and it didn't feel like long at all.
When they arrived at their destination, Niles looked around. They stood in an empty lot, isolated from any major road or building, and were surrounded by boarded-up and decrepit old houses and buildings. Niles shivered slightly, and moved a little closer to his superior. "D-do you see anything, sir?"
Lt. Hirlea seemed about to answer, but suddenly tensed. Niles looked around to see at least 20 men approaching from all around them, looking none too happy. Niles felt a bubble of worry build up inside him, and looked back up to his superior quickly. "S-sir?"
Dragomir’s face hardened and he stepped quickly in front of Niles. “Good morning, gentlemen.” Dragomir said. His language and emphasis was polite enough to either insinuate rudeness or designate caution. The men didn’t reply and Dragomir tensed, waiting for one to reach for a weapon. The situation did not look too good, and if these men were who the Colonel had been referring to when he delivered the assignment, the Colonel obviously did not have accurate information; it would certainly not be easy to handle all of these men. “If you’d state your business, please. We’re on an errand.” He kept his voice low and passive as he tried to asses how many they were up against. A man in front smirked dangerously, taking a step forward with a cruel and vicious laugh.
“Oh are you?” He said mockingly, taking another step. Dragomir jerked slightly, itching to draw his blade, but he knew he could not initiate the anything. Instead he clenched his fists tightly and narrowed his eyes. “You see,” the man continued. He seemed to be taunting them. “We have a little job to do our selves.” The other men in the group laughed too, and took a step forward in unison, closing in. There was no way this wouldn’t end in blood, Dragomir was sure of it now. The men’s intentions were obvious in the faint and murderous glitter in their eyes. As if to confirm his conclusion, the first man who’d spoken spread his legs in to a fighting stance and reached for his blade.
In a fast and powerful burst forward, Dragomir drew his sword and lunged and the man, landing a perfect strike on his chest, the thin blade sliding easily though the man’s ribs before he could manage a preme. He died easily, with out so much as a yell or scream. The other men were thoroughly taken aback and Dragomir ceased their moment of chaos dart back to Niles.
“Run!” Dragomir yelled, grabbing Niles roughly by the arm and dashing through a gap in their ranks. The Colonel had assumed correctly that Dragomir knew the area well; he knew exactly where to go. They ran full speed to a building on the far side of the area and close to the ally which opened back up onto the main street. Niles would be safe if he could get there before any one saw him. Dragomir kicked the door down and it fell in easily on rotting hinges. They ducked down under the level of the boarded up windows and Dragomir turned to Niles quickly. He knew he could take them all, but not if he was worrying about Niles. It was imperative to Dragomir that Niles escaped. “You have to get back to headquarters and get backup.” Dragomir said lowly. He could hear the men approaching. “I’ll distract them, and you can get out the back door in the kitchen.” Dragomir didn’t give Niles time to protest. He got up quickly and strode out the door with an air of confidence. This would work. He could take them.
Niles nodded numbly as his superior turned his back and walked away, his heart pounding and his voice lost with worry. He watched until Lt. Hirlea disappeared from view, then, on weak knees, turned back to the abandoned house before him. He had to find the kitchen and use that door...then turn and go to the main road...right? His mind reeled and his heart raced as he stumbled through the house, finally finding what appeared to have once been a kitchen. Fumbling through the cobwebs and dust, he managed his way to a door and managed to get through by throwing his weight against it and turning the handle. Now...which way to go? His mind was blank, and on top of his own worries, he couldn't help but think of the danger Lt. Hirlea was in. he had to hurry back to headquarters, but...which way? He finally made a guess and ran out into the dark alleyway full force.
He was part of the way down when he saw the light at the end of the passage-the main road! He was almost there! His heart jumped with joy, but too soon. In the light that was the end of the alley suddenly there were three forms, three distinct human outlines. They were backlit, but Niles didn't fail to make out the sinister looks on their faces. They were more of the Berceuse Malheureuse men, Niles was sure of it, and he didn't know what to do but run.
He turned and ran the only other way possible, back down the dark alley, away from what seemed to be his only way for escape. But surely, when he reached the other end of the alley, it would just take him back to the place where Lt. Hirlea was, surely everything would be fine. But Niles' hopes were dashed when the end of the alley came in sight - a dead end. Back up against the wall, Niles turned to face his pursuers, trying to hide his fear. However, when he saw the expression, the wicked grins on the men's faces, there was nothing he could do, but squeeze his eyes shut and brace himself. Before anything, he heard a voice, which sent chills down his spine, say, "Well, what do we have here?" And then came the impact.
Dragomir ducked between two abandoned houses, taking cover in the dark shade they provided. Nile’s should be out by now, and the thought gave him hope. These guys were nothing to be worried about, and even if he couldn’t get all of them, Niles was getting backup.
Dragomir fingered the pistol that hung at his belt as he waited patiently for the men to come into view. He’d already taken out two more on a mad dash from the house he’d left Niles in to a decoy down the road, and he knew that more men would be coming after him soon. He planed to wait a bit and catch them off guard; the only item which remained in debate was weather or not he wanted to use his pistol right off the bat. If he used it now, he could take out six men outright. That could make a difference, depending on how many came at him. Otherwise, he’d save it and use it as a last resort. That seemed the better plan, but if more then four of them attacked at once, the last resort would come into play pretty quickly.
Dragomir heard steps and tensed, grasping the hilt of his sheathed rapier as he twitched with the adrenalin that pumped through his veins. A man was barking orders to spread out. Good. He could pick them off one by one. Someone was coming closer to his hiding place and it was only a minute before a short man passed in front of him, unknowingly. Acting quickly, Dragomir took a small dagger from a holster on his hip, speeding forward and sliding the blade deep in to the man’s back as he clasped a firm hand over his victim’s mouth to muffle the scream. Pocketing the dragger, Dragomir stepped over the body cautiously looking around. He’d learned to fight dirty during his days dealing with the Berceuse Malheureuse, and he always carried extra weapons. Sportsmanship meant as little to him as manners in the long run. He did what he had to in order to survive. He didn’t have time to follow petty rules.
Fists fell like rain on Niles, punch after punch marred his face, his body. The pain was dulled by the continuity of the whole thing, but it was still there, still a constant reminder of his failure. He tried to flail, to do anything to fight back, but he was only grabbed by the collar and slammed back against the wall with some force. He choked, coughing up blood and whimpering piteously. One of the men laughed, and another elbowed his way to the front, saying he wanted a turn. Tears were running down his bloodied cheeks, but Niles didn't even notice. He was a failure, he had let Lt. Hirlea down. Now they were both going to die, they were both going to die here, and it was his fault...
And then, all of a sudden, it stopped. Everything stopped, and Niles could breathe again and he looked up. Standing above him, wiping the blood off his rapier stood Major General Algernon Mauvais.
Niles gaped in disbelief for a few moments before he struggled to bow. "Sir!" There was a sharp pain in his ribs, but he kept his head lowered, waiting for his superior to say he could rise. Nothing was said, however, and Niles started, surprised, when he felt a hand run over his cheek. He looked up slowly to see the General kneeling beside him, a sympathetic look on his face. "You poor child," the General murmured. His voice was gentle, melodic. "Come, let's get you fixed up, all right?"
Niles was confused. "...Sir?"
General Mauvais smiled. "Come home with me. I'll get you fixed up, all right?"
Three men had witnessed Dragomir’s most recent slaughter, (an elegant execution of four, preformed out in the open precisely with the intention of drawing more attention,) and were coming at him, swords drawn. Dragomir drew his own blade, walking quickly to meet the man closest. He looked as though he were about to fleche, so Dragomir opted to stay put, a smirk spreading across his lips. His opponent seemed surprised, but only sped his charge. Dragomir caught the man’s blade with his own, slowing his impact by applying force to the man’s sword with the strong forte of his own. The opponent’s blade slid off and to the side in a perfect froissement, effectively deflecting the attack. Stunned, he tried for a redoublement, but Dragomir cut him off, his remise landing with deadly accuracy. The other attackers were advancing now, moving cautiously together. Dragomir too advanced slowly towards them offering a presentation of his blade neither of them could refuse.
The man to his left was first to accept his generous offer, lunging forward with a simple attack to his inner arm. He was too slow however, and Dragomir’s counter attack hit him sharply on the wrist without warning. The blade clattered to the ground as the man let out a howl of pain. His partner stepped in front of the injured man, intercepting Dragomir’s finishing strike. Dragomir disengaged, changing the line of action and redirecting it to where he saw fit. The man was taken off guard by his passive movement, and thought for a moment that he had control. With a quick second intention followed by a counter-riposte, Dragomir landed a solid touch in the man’s neck, ending his life instantly. The blood gushed from the wound dreadfully, but Dragomir did not flinch away from the sight. He was used to it.
By this time, the other had gotten to his feet, switching his grip to his left hand. Dragomir laughed mercilessly as he saw a look of horror sweep over his opponent’s features upon seeing the body of his comrade. Deciding to play a bit with this man, Dragomir moved forward slowly, pressing the other’s blade lightly to the side. The man seemed skittish; he’d lost all confidence after switching hands and seeing the carnage, and Dragomir didn’t blame him. With a quick take six, Dragomir disarmed him and finished him off with a stab in the gut. With any luck, the rest of the men would come out now and Dragomir could finish it quickly. Thus far, they hadn’t been much of a challenge, and Dragomir was so worked up, he was craving a good struggle against someone of equal measure.
Niles sat, silent, in the passenger's seat of the Major General's automobile. His superior had helped him to his feet and braced him, helping him walk out to the main road. Now, he sat in the driver's seat, driving them into a much nicer part of town. Every now and then, he glanced over to Niles with a concerned look on his face and smile, or asked if he was doing all right. Niles always responded formally, with a "Yes, sir," or "Thank you, sir"; he was still rather stunned at it all.
They soon arrived at a small estate, and the General parked the automobile. "Stay put," he instructed Niles, "I'll take care of you." He then proceeded to come around to the passenger's side and, opening the door, put an arm around Niles' shoulders and lifted him out of the car. Once Niles was on his feet, the arm moved to brace him around his waist, helping him inside.
Once in the house, the General led Niles to a side room and onto a sofa. Niles was hesitant. "A-are you sure, Sir? I-I don't want to ruin your furniture..."
The General looked at him and laughed lightly. "What's a piece of furniture? You need care right now, so lay there and don't move. I'll be right back." With that, he hurried out of the room.
Niles was not left waiting for long. The Major General soon returned with a bowl of warm water, bandages, and some clothes. Kneeling beside the sofa, he took one of the clothes and began dabbing it along Niles' face, wiping away the blood and dirt and tears. "There, that should feel better. The bruising ought to go down soon." He then began to unbutton Niles' uniform jacket, slowly, carefully.
"S-sir?!" Niles asked, startled.
The General looked up at him with an expression that overflowed with innocence. "I need to see what damage they did to you, so I can fix it. Is that all right?" His voice was soft, sweet, charming, and Niles nodded slowly, blushing.
The General nodded softly and finished with the buttons, then lifted up his blouse. He then began with the cloth again, soothing the injuries with the warm water. "You're lucky," he informed Niles gravely. "Nothing seems to be broken. Just a few small injuries that need bandaging." He proceeded to bandage Niles' abdomen with tender, careful hands.
Having finished, the General sat back on his knees and smiled softly at his patient. Niles couldn't help but blush again under his gaze, and even more so when that caressing hand returned to his cheek. "Dear, sweet, delicate child," he murmured. "You're safe now."
Dragomir ran as fast as he could between the rows of decrepit buildings, desperately trying to find cover. After his last display, his adversaries had finally stopped underestimating him, and were taking aim with rifles from the rooftops. He’d allowed himself to get too cocky, and was now paying the price. Dashing around a corner, he found himself face to face with three sneering men. It was apparently a trap. Dragomir looked over his shoulder quickly to see two more of them coming up from behind him. Things were definitely not looking too good for him right now. He wrapped his fingers around the pommel of his blade, but he knew that there would be too little time for even a prime if his adversaries chose to come at him now. They knew it too, and laughed at his predicament.
“You’ve been a lot more work then we’d expected.” One of them growled.
“But now we’ve finally gotcha!” Another jeered, raising his sword and putting it level to Dragomir’s neck. If he didn’t act quickly, this would be the end. Dragomir looked directly down the line of the sword and into the man’s eyes, smirking steadily. He could make no mistakes now; everything had to be executed precisely.
Sliding his lead foot forward carefully, he gained a little bit of ground. The man holding him at sword point was surprised by his daring and immediately panicked, lunging forward in an attempt to catch Dragomir on the point of the sword before he could do anything. However, that was exactly the reaction Dragomir had been hoping for. He grabbed the foible of the blade with his left hand, wincing dreadfully as the sword cut into the palm of his hand and yanked the man forward by his rapier, landing a solid uppercut to the man’s chin as he stumbled forward. Startled, he dropped his weapon, falling back into the other two men behind him. His distraction established, Dragomir reached for his pistol and fired two quick shots at the men behind him. One shot landed on a man’s left shoulder, and the other missed its target completely. The stricken man fell back against a wall, screaming with pain and dropping his sword to clutch pathetically at his oozing wound. The other started forward quickly, ignoring his comrade’s plight. Dragomir lifted his pistol again for another shot, but the firearm slipped from his bloody grasp and clattered to the ground. Panicked, Dragomir struggled to draw his rapier with his right hand. His left was bleeding too profusely to allow him any proper grip. He managed to pull up the blade in time for to parry the attack with a horribly sloppy prime and no time for a repost. It took two yanks to unsheathe his sword and finally engage his opponent’s blade. By that time, the three men behind him were coming up fast, and he had little time to think. Dragomir slipped his wounded hand up into his sleeve, parrying his opponent with a quick five. He hoped his sleeve would soak up enough blood for him to fight Florentine with his dagger for parrying. It would be his only shot against four men at once.
Sweeping extravagantly upward with his blade, the man with whom he was currently dueling, lost his grip on his blade. Dragomir spun, taking advantage of his distraction to defend himself from the remaining two assailants. He landed a kick on one man, and he stumbled backwards, temporarily out of Dragomir’s way. The other two launched a simultaneous strike downwards on Dragomir’s blade, and all he could manage was a parry eight upwards to deflect their blades. He arm shook painfully with the strain on his injury; he would be forced to disengage quickly. Not until after he’d taken advantage of their locked blades, however. He lashed forward with his dagger at the man on his right. Startled he jumped back, his spot only being replaced by the other man who Dragomir had kicked back. The struggle continued with the man on the right, and Dragomir disengaged at the last moment possible before his strength would have failed.
Looking over his shoulder quickly, he saw the remaining man behind him advancing forward. Dragomir preformed a quick nine, parrying over his shoulder, leaving him with only a dagger for the parry in front. The nine completed, he swept his blade over his head for a deadly cut to an advisory’s shoulder. The sword sunk deep into his neck, killing him effectively.
One down. Dragomir thought to himself, panting slightly from the effort. With only three left, things would be a bit easier. Jerking back around, he threw his dagger. The knife spun at a deadly speed towards its target and hit him square in the forehead. He collapsed with out a sound as blood gushed from the orifices of his face.
Dragomir was now down a parry weapon, but he didn’t care. He had to get this over with quickly before the wound on his right arm opened again. He engaged both opponents’ swords immediately, relieved to no longer have anyone coming at him from behind. The blade’s conversation was convoluted, but it was all he could do to keep their attacks at bay. Finally managing a sweeping take six, he disarmed one of them and sent his sword clashing against the side of a building. The other man who’d held his blade in place by stiff arming it was over committed to his en guard, and it was easy for Dragomir to snake past his stance and land a hit to his chest. He felt the sword slid in between the ribs, and smirked at his success, kicking the dead weight to slide his sword out and flicking the blood away. He wanted to finish with a clean blade.
He turned to face his final adversary, glad to at last have a simple one-on-one. They engaged fiercely; Dragomir’s arm was considerably weakened, and he’d lost a lot of his speed. The man knew he had the advantage, and pressed forward forcefully. Dragomir tried for another take six, but the man had learned his lesson and disengaged stealthily, launching a remise. Dragomir only had foot work to fall back on, so he shuffled back quickly to avoid the assault. His heal connected with a body and he stumbled backwards over it. This retreat severely inhibited, he could not compensate and lost the distance quickly; his opponent’s getting dangerously close to a touch. Concentrating all of his strength, Dragomir planed to know the defending sword aside and go in for the final kill. Their blades connected, each one attempting to over power the other, but in the crucial moment, Dragomir felt the sinews pulling apart and his old wound tearing open again. He lost the struggle for control and fell helplessly to the ground. He was pinned, and there would be no recovery.
Staring up horrified into the eyes of his opponent, Dragomir prepared to receive the strike. He found that all he could think about, in that final moment, was that he’d been able to by Niles time to escape. Somehow, that seemed like enough to him. The man raised his blade for the hit, and Dragomir unconsciously leaned away, his bloody left hand sliding back along the dirt. It connected with something familiar, and Dragomir recognized it as his pistol. He let out a low laugh and the man standing above him paused. He paused just long enough for Dragomir to lift the gun and fire it directly into his temple at pointblank range, flinching back and raising a hand to his face to avoid the gore that went flying.
Dragomir got to his feet slowly. Seconds before, he’d been prepared to die thinking only that he was glade to have helped Niles get away. But now he was alive, and he had the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that something was not alright. By this time, Niles should have returned with backup. Dragomir had to get back to headquarters, and he had to find Niles, at all coasts.
Niles had fallen into sort of a dazed, dreamlike state under the care of the Major General. He now lay, stretched out on the couch, with his head resting in the lap of the other man, who was gently stroking his hair. Something felt too sugary, saccharine, almost, but he couldn't put his finger on it, and his mind felt too foggy to think about it, anyway.
He didn't know how long it was before the General spoke again. "Poor, sweet child. It's such a crime that you have no one to depend on, no one who cares for you..."
Niles looked up at him from his somewhat awkward position, trying to process what he was saying. It was the truth, no one did care for him; his eyes dulled with sadness and he nodded slightly. Why did his head feel so cloudy?
Wait. Someone did care for him! "There is someone..." he replied softly, not moving his head. That made him feel dizzy.
"Oh?" The General's voice was soft, gentle. "...I'm sorry to hear that." He sounded almost remorseful, as if whatever it was his fault.
"Mn?" Niles couldn't manage a full word. His brain seemed to be inhibited...why was everything so cloudy?
"...it's easy for someone to say he cares for you, but, surely, had this person really been affectionate towards you...would he not have been there for you when you were hurt?" General Mauvais wore a grave expression, and Niles' heart couldn't help but fall.
"...but he...he said..."
"The world is full of ill-intentioned people," the General replied solemnly. "Most probably, he was...I hate to say it, but he was most probably using you."
Dragomir ran full speed down the hall skidding to a stop at the door to the office. He threw it open roughly and burst inside. “Where’s Niles?” he demanded sharply, desperately looking around the room.
“Corporal Christian?” Major Delancy asked, blinking. “Wasn’t he with you?” Her voice was calm, but as she looked over him and her eyes fell to his blood-soaked sleeve and bleeding hand a note of panic crept into her voice. “Lt. Hirlea, what’s going on?”
“He’s not here?” Dragomir asked his voice hard and cold.
“No. We haven’t seen him.” The Major said firmly. “Lieutenant, what happened?”
“Damn it!” Dragomir swore. “I’m going to look for him.” He said, turning on his heel and bursting out of the office.
“Lieutenant! Wait! Your arm!” Major Delancy called after him as he disappeared down the hall. Something had obviously happened, but there was no stopping Dragomir now. His face was set firmly with determination and concern.
Dragomir received many strange looks as he ran down the street. His left hand had stopped bleeding, but the blood had not yet dried and clung to his hand like sticky red syrup. The cuts were deep, and they stung painfully as air rushed over the open surfaces as he ran, but Dragomir didn’t care. He could ignore it. He had to find Niles, at all coasts.
He’d slipped his limp right arm into his half unbuttoned jacket, utilizing the garment as a sling. He hoped to reduce damage to his reopened wound as he ran, but he knew there wasn’t much he could do for it now. The blood had completely soaked through his sleeve and was now running down his arm and soaking into his blouse. It would have been an uncomfortable feeling had he not been completely absorbed by thoughts of a different nature.
Something had happened to Niles. That was all that he could think about. Something terrible. All because Dragomir had sent him away. If only he had told Niles to stay back; Dragomir could have protected him. He could have defended the Corporal himself. It was stupid to assume he’d gotten all of them. How many had he killed? Ten? Fifteen? It didn’t matter. There had been many more to start with. Dragomir had completely let Niles down. He’d sent him away and he hadn’t been able to protect him. He had to find Niles now; he’d never forgive himself if something had happened.
Dragomir had reached the alley that led into the abandoned east side of town. He slowed his pace, alert to any movement around him. He was panting uncontrollably, and he couldn’t seem to catch his breath. His emotions were running haywire, and seemed completely beyond his control. He’d let Niles down. He’d failed him. He’d failed him after saying that he’d be there. After he’d promised to protect him.
A wrenching sob overtook his body, and he fell shacking against the wall. He was crying, and the salt stung the open wound on his hand as the tears mixed with blood. His heart ached and his breath was coming in ragged gasps between the sobs. He slid down the wall and pulled his knees up to his chest. What was he going to do? What could he ever do to make up for this? For abandoning Niles?
He laughed pathetically at himself, coughing slightly as he buried his face in his hands, smearing the blood over his features. He was in love. He loved Niles.