“Hey! You! Get back here!” a plump, middle-aged man wearing an apron yells as you sprint down the street. His words only make you run faster, but as you speed up, you can hear his steps starting to slow until finally, he comes to a complete stop. A string of curses race after you, but his vulgar language doesn’t faze you. All you care about is not getting caught, so when your eye catches an indent in the wall of buildings, and after one final glance back to make sure the man isn’t following you, you slink from the desolate streets into an abandoned alleyway. Sliding your back against the wall, you gulp in some much needed air before you set the stolen bag down, sifting hastily through its contents.
Much to your disappointment, all you pull out are two loaves of bread. You’d been hoping to get your hands on some meat; it’s been a while since you had any, and besides, bread was easy to get - it was meat that people guarded with their lives. Sighing, you tear off a piece of the loaf, and pop it into your mouth. Stale, as always. Just like this damned city.
Just as you finish the unsatisfying meal, you hear nearby murmurs, and your muscles instinctively stiffen. One of the speakers shift, and you hear the faint clicking of a rifle. Crap. Military men. A cold sweat breaks across your forehead when you hear a faint murmur of your name, and you look around, desperately trying to find an alternate exit. There is none. Your eyes return to your only exit, its dim light reminiscent of your chances of making it out of this alive. You grit your teeth. You had to chance it.
You dash out, startling the three men, and run as fast as you can down the empty street. One of the soldiers shout for you to stop, but the other two have already prepared their guns. Three bullets miss you completely, but a fourth digs its way into your calf. You stumble but trudge on, hoping that the darkening sky will blanket you from their view. The sound of their footsteps reaches your ears, but before you catch sight of them, you hear the cracking of knuckles against jaw, and a low grunt.
You send a silent “thank you” to your savior, but turn the corner into another alleyway. This one was in worse condition than the previous, but as you push aside some rubble, you discover an opening of some sort. Curious, you brush away some more debris and peer inside to find a lead into the sewer system. You crawl through the opening, careful to not apply pressure on your wounded leg, and settle yourself against of a slab of stone that had jut out from the ground.
You rip the cloth of your pant leg open and probe around until you poke the wound, hissing when a stab of pain echoes throughout your entire being. You’d never been taught how to treat wounds before, and were clueless as to what to do. However, you knew you had to start by getting the bullet out. Braving it, you were just about to dig your fingers into the broken skin when you hear rubble clattering against the rocks. You impulsively scramble back and push yourself as far back as you can into the wall of rock you were leaning against, as though if you pushed hard enough, you could phase right through it.
If they’re the soldiers from earlier, I’m as good as dead.
You shut your eyes, waiting for the worst to happen, when a feminine voice speaks up.
“Huh? Who are you?”
You open your eyes to see a ginger-haired girl staring at you with wide eyes, her mouth gaping as she takes you in.
You don’t respond; your heart is beating furiously, and all you can do in that moment is stare her down. Slowly, you rise from where you are seated, balancing all your weight on your good leg. All the while, the stranger observes you with curious yet wary eyes.
Who is she? Are they trying to lure me out?
“I said, ‘Who are you?’” she repeats, though not cruelly, as she takes a step towards you. You shoot her a glare, a silent warning to tell her to stay in place.
“It’s rude to ignore others’ questions, you know,” she pouts, crossing her arms, as she pauses. “I don’t know who you are, but I can tell that you’re not an enemy. You’d be wise to extend that same courtesy to me.”
You choose to stay silent, and try to step away from her as she moves towards you again. However, your foot catches rubble, and, coupled with the bullet-wound, you stumble. She catches you before you fall though, and helps you straighten. You notice her gaze flitting to your injured leg, and wince when she lets out a low whistle.
“That’s a pretty bad wound you got there,” she muses. “Did you get it from those soldiers outside?”
You stiffen and push away from her.
“Is this a trap?” you snarl, trying your best to sound intimidating. She doesn’t miss the quaver in your voice, though, and instead cocks her head at you curiously.
“I told you earlier, I’m not the enemy. Trust me.”
You aren’t given a chance to speak when more noises comes from a part of the room that you can’t see. Your body starts to shake, and the girl immediately takes notice. Whoever’s advancing doesn’t come any closer at the motion of her hand, but it doesn’t prevent them from speaking.
“Oi, who’d you bring home, runt?”
“Tch,” she grits her teeth, glaring at the speaker, who you note is male. “I didn’t bring her here, Farlan. I found her here when I came back.”
“Is that so?” a third voice speaks up, and at the sound of their voice, you immediately tense. Unlike the “friendly” vibe that emanated from the first two, the third had a disinterested, almost cold timbre. It intimidated you, and left you feeling paralyzed and afraid. Your heart drummed against your chest when the girl’s companions came up to flank her on either side, giving you a clear view of them, and them, you.
The taller male, whose relaxed facial features suggested that he was “Farlan,” had pale, chestnut hair and curious hazel eyes. He wore a simple long-sleeved white button-up, with white pants that dipped into dark, knee-high boots.
The other male wore essentially the same thing as his male companion, despite the darker contrast in pant color. He had black hair that slightly framed his narrowed, steel-like eyes.
“How did you find this place?” the shorter male spoke, tone dripping acid. You involuntarily shiver, shrinking back into the wall of rock. His eyes bore into your own, and as much as you wanted to look away, you couldn’t bring yourself to. “Tch, irritating brat, answer me when I ask you a fucking question.”
“Easy, Levi. You’re scaring the poor girl,” Farlan chided, stepping in front of you to shield you from his companion’s view. The man dubbed Levi shot the taller male a dirty look, silently questioning why he was defending you, an outsider.
“She shouldn’t be here. She could be working for them for all we know,” Levi sneers, glaring at you again. “Either way, we have to relocate again. Let’s go.”
He turns on his heel to walk away, pausing only when the girl spoke out.
“What about her?” she points at you. “We’re not just going to leave her behind, are we, Brother?”
Levi glances over his shoulder, eyes trained on you once more. You watch him expectantly, almost pleadingly, and stiffen when he expels a long sigh.
“Brat, what’s your name?” his voice is rough, almost filled with regret.
“It’s [First],” you respond automatically. Levi nods.
“Sit down. As soon as I remove the bullet, we leave.”