"This will be the last time you have to wear them," Barrot said, locking the cuffs around Jostice's wrist.
"No bother," He said, "I've grown used to their weight."
Barrot led him from the chambers at the base of the fort, down dark corridors, and up endless flights of steps where the podium hung out like a sore thumb.
Jostice eyes lept between the aristocrats faces, their own eyes on him, sitting pompous with a look of haughty disdain; a greeting he was much accustomed to. He walked to the edge of the podium where the Mayor stood close enough to be hurled over. Maybe that's what he wants, Jostice thought. For him to lose his head and act out in a bit of rage. Na, that's what I want...
The mayor mocked him standing with great panache. A limp hand against his chest and one on his hip. He was dressed blue as gloom. His mustache oiled and cured while his hair was slicked back and black, and ruffled at the sides. He smirked. His beady black eyes crawling.
"Good of you to join us," he said at last.
Jostice hadn't heard his greetings. He was preoccupied by the woman to the Mayor's right. Young and strong and staring at him with soft eyes. Although dark out, she stood like light. Her scorching hair violet and glowing in the moonlight. Her face freckled black with skin a pale blue. She held her hat in her hands, wanting him to look upon how she'd grown; he was certain of it.
Jostice gave her what she wanted, and made it obvious, looking to the bandana that hid her neck. Then to her chest that pressed more outward and hips that had stretched further, giving her body a woman's frame; much more defined than last he'd seen her; no longer the girl who wore summer gowns or hid timidly at the sight of anything but a horse and her brother, But a woman who stood with authority. Dressed in tight trousers and a tight white button shirt that showed how her muscles had grown from years of riding and detaining men twice her size.
Leslie tried to fight it but her plush lips raised just long enough for him to notice; the warm, shy smile he remembered and yearned for. He nodded.
The mayor pretended not to notice, allowing them their longing moment. He thumbed a ring of gold and ruby on his index finger. It glistened and he waited as his patience thinned.
Barrot stopped a few paces from the pair. "Thank you, Deputy...You're dismissed." The Mayor said, as the deputy glanced at Leslie and Jostice who were now engaged with their eyes. Barrot nodded, spun on a heel and was gone, swearing beneath his breath.
Jostice held the gaze until Leslie blinked away, blushing. He shifted his attention to the man standing over her, reeking of lavender and now fiddling with the gemmed necklace around his neck.
"Am I to your likings?" Jostice raised his iron-locked fists.
Keeblor kept his mouth sealed while his lips curled around his mustache. He rose the coned instrument to his mouth and announced, "We have our winner!"
The podium shook to the crowds cheers and boos.
The Mayor let their voices hang in the air. He tickled his stash while the noise pulsed and faded. "Who is now a free man!" Like a second gust, they erupted louder than they'd been all night, shaking the fort and podium like a small quake.
The aristocrats clung to their embroidered chairs until the crowd found their breath.
It took the mayor another minute before he dug the key out of his lint filled pocket; a simple silver key that shined with the gold of his rings. He grabbed Aces chains and pulled them taut, tugging them in one hand until their eyes met.
Jostice's teeth clenched. A lip raised. His blood boiling. Skin hot.
A click and the chains fell with a clash.
Jostice waited for the rush of liberation to pass throughout his body. It never came... Only the anger that leached onto him, dispersing hate into his blood until his skin felt like he was beneath a prod iron.
"All you have to do is squeeze," the Mayor whispered. Jostice smelt lemon tart on the man's breath. As sour as the man. "And this can all go away..."
He imagined the moment: his hands thrown around the Mayors neck, tightening and squeezing while the fat man's pink skin riped purple. Vessels popped, milky eyes washed red. The Mayor's dead weight held in his hands while his forearms tingled and burned. Shaking him violently until his black soul climbed from his corpse, leaving his body hanging like a ragged doll.
As you wish...
When his urge stemmed to its peak, Jostice felt warm flesh wrap around his purplish-black forearm; his arm was thrown upward, not by his own strength, but by the strength of another. It was a delicate movement that pushed his charred hand towards the sky, there for the world to see.
He wanted to pull away but he caught a glimpse of violet light strands whisking through the air. Caught in the wind. They brushed across his face; his skin tingled, soft as velvet, smelling of the prairie and the fields south of the mountains. Warding away the lavender, he only smelt her.
Leslie held his hand high and the crowd raised their hands with him. Their cheers now a triumphant song.
She dropped his arm as quickly as it had risen. And he found her eyes again. Round as moons. Bright as a sun filled forest. His muscles pinched in his lips. Asking him for one kiss-one bite-one lick. Only a taste of her strawberry, warm flesh. Nothing more. You've earned it...And the crowd would love it, his sickened mind whispered. Look at her... And he did. Her standing there as a fire Goddess. Her face glowing. Skin pale as the moon. Waiting for him to take her from this place and hold her. Squeeze her. Make love to her until the sun rose and their nightmare burned away.
But you promised...
Jostice turned away looking down upon the Mayor's hand wrapped in gold and gems. Holding out a gentleman's jester. "Shake my hand and you can go free," He smirked.
Ace hesitated and swore.
He felt the urge to leave at a horse's gallop but his body wouldn't allow it. His muscles in his arms and hands tightened; his fingers curled into a fist firm as stone. Arms locked like steel. A surge of energy pushed through him and he felt like proposing a duel. Just him and the Mayor. A show the people wouldn't forget. The man was no slouch with a gun neither. None of the aristocrats were. You had to have power of voice and power of hand....That's what the people wanted. Not the timid nor the weak, but the wise and the strong. And though as queer as the Mayor was-he was just that-a man of the people.
Jostice felt his muscles beneath his skin unwind like a noose after a hanging.
He grabbed the man's hand and shook. His pride had been taken long ago. There was nothing else that the Mayor could have...not in that moment. But there was something Jostice took; he made a move, one slick as a magician; quickly sliding he arm back while pinching his fingers around gold. He removed the great ruby ring, making it vanish into his hand then into his pocket. He felt the sudden extra weight inviting it to stay.
Jostice tilted his hat, "much obliged." He turned to leave but it wouldn't be that easy. Nothing ever was...
"I lost good coin because of you, Ace," said a man lounging boredly in his chair. Elbow on the armrest, cheek in his hand. "To my brother, at that..."
His brother snickered beside him, sitting upright and accomplished. "Don't be sore, Drajorik."
The gentlemen were both skinny and pale, dressed dapper with their rounded black hats and velvet trimmed suits. Each with triangular trimmed hair just below their bottom lip: Colonist from Railford, or worse, Ark, Jostice thought.
Drajorik waved a hand looking unamused at the Ace. His lips sunk; an older man, who had more gray in his hair then his sibling. "My brother fails to understand that brain is more powerful than bronze." He skinny nose wrinkled. "Not that you'd understand-"
"As a matter of fact I do. " Jostice stared at the man until he sank further in his chair. "I'm not much of a thinker, but I'd know well enough to bet against myself." He looked to Weebert who seemed a bit more hefty of the two. "Only a fool would've played a hand on me."
"And yet, here I am...My pockets deeper than before." He laughed. The others didn't share his muse.
The drunkest man, who was wrapped from head to toe in furs, with a black beard and black long hair, just as thick, glared on with black eyes. Two large sickle-shaped half spears, made of bone, white as milk, spiraled from his chair while two prodded outward from his armrests. He gruffed and turned away in a fit of rage.
Another man, who himself was hairy and fur covered, and slightly less drunk... but not by much; His face was forged just as rosy. With hair so red it burnt brighter than even Leslie's; appearing black-crimson on this night. He crossed his arms, smugly.
Can't always be a crowd pleaser...
Jostice stood upright glancing between faces all twisted and ugly: to the Cyoakian, a man with leather skin and sharp features, wearing a great war bonnet made of beads, and red and white feathers; then to the Dravodo who guzzled down a bottle filled with golden liquid, as golden as his skin, while a hand resting on a pistol. He looked like a damn fool in the largest brimmed hat Ace had ever did see; Jostice finally drew his attention on the last man. A man stout as he was. Smoking a cigar. Wearing a bush hat, half-brimmed outward while the other half flipped upward. He spun a massive knife on his palm.
Nor the popular one... He laughed. "Glad somebody made a lousy wager." He nodded to Weebert.
"He wasn't the only one," hissed a harsh voice.
Jostice hadn't seen the man sitting behind the brutes gowned in furs...But there he sat. One snake boot crossed over the other. A black hat pulled down over his eyes. There was something about him that made Jostice skin slither.
Leslie must've felt the tension. Who couldn't? It was as strong as the Mayor's the smell of lavender. Her hand clutched his shoulder, "not here," she whispered and pleaded.
She was right...There were too many guns and too many witnesses. Though the man that betrayed him and the man that made him suffer were both just a squeeze away. Jostice looked at the guns Leslie holstered. Handles red as her hair. She wouldn't expect it; him withdrawing her revolvers to do his justice. She'd never forgive him for that though...But who gives a shit? My yearn to squeeze her is not as strong as the ones to squeeze them, he thought.
All you have to do is squeeze...
It couldn't bring Morgan Dale back nor the years he'd lost inside the Duleosseum...the years he'd lost with her...But it'd give him a pleasure his body longed for. One he could only imagine. A drunken euphoria that'd start from his hands and proceed to both his heads; the one above his shoulders and the one below his belt. The pleasure only death by revenge could bring.