“I guess we did a little too well.” A way in front of them stood the man Alec had named Alessio. It was impossible to miss the ashy-blonde hair protruding from his head, sticking out every which way. Before they disappeared, Jaycee saw him looking their way. How Alessio picked them out so easily among the crowd sent a shiver down his spine. That guy was anything but ordinary, skills comparable to a certain fan-wielding maniac.
“Kyla, I think he’s looking this way.”
“Really? Do I look okay?”
Seriously? Was now really the time for that?
“We should probably go meet up with Alec.” Sooner rather than later. He had an instinctual feeling that Alessio and his group would need more than just Kyla and him to take Alessio down. The smart move would be to regroup, but next to him, Kyla still wasn’t budging. She reached for the knives at her hip, grip tightening around the handle.
Judging from the soldiers approaching them, they’d have to fight their way through. Those who had been gambling hastily left as the military drew their weapons. The once bustling casino, now devoid of any sign of life, left a strange twinge in his gut. He readied his sword and kept his vision locked on the coming enemies. His sweaty palms hinted at the inner workings of his mind, nerves getting the best of him.
“Alright, Sicarii, I’m counting on you. Don’t forget, we need you to stay alive. Alec will murder me if anything happens to you.” Was that supposed to be some kind of rousing speech? Did she care about him, or what Alec would do to her if Jaycee didn’t survive?
There was no more time to think, however, for soldiers were charging at them, weapons at the ready. A sword came flying at him, and he jumped back in time to avoid the blow. Jaycee rushed the soldier and blocked his downward strike before kicking him in the stomach. He had no time to celebrate, as another one showed up right after. Kyla intercepted, both knives effectively stopping the blade in its tracks. She shoved him back and sidestepped another weapon that thrust past her.
The scene was chaotic. Jaycee pushed through, parrying another sword that came overly close for comfort. The resounding shriek of metal irritated him. It reminded Jaycee of prior incidents that had kept him up at night.
Before him, two soldiers stood in his way, trying their best to stop his progress. He saw an opportunity to escape in the middle of them and slid in between the two. Somewhere behind him, he heard Kyla yelling profanities and taunting them. It wasn’t hard to imagine how ticked off they were, considering they were getting utterly destroyed by a girl half their size. While he was thinking this, an arrow whizzed past his cheek. It happened so quickly, he almost missed it.
Standing not over ten feet away was Alessio, bow out with his feet shoulder-width apart. He lowered his weapon slightly while his other arm reached for another arrow from his quiver. The surrounding air turned frigid. Jaycee heard the clash of weapons from somewhere behind him, though they sounded far away.
“You won’t let us pass, will you?” asked Jaycee.
“You’re under arrest.” Alessio readied his bow. “Back down or I’ll shoot.”
The first one caught him by surprise, but the next one would be a different story. Archers were a common enemy back in his days as an assassin. They were quick, their aim impeccable, but they had their own faults. If he intercepted the arrow, then he’d have an opening to strike. It was risky, and his skills were rusty, but it was the only shot he had. If they wanted to make it out alive, anyway. Kyla had her hands full. The rest fell on his shoulders, another burden to add to the growing list. Another regret if he failed.
“Can’t we talk this out?”
“No. Your kind doesn’t deserve sympathy.” Alessio pulled the string, taking aim.
“Fine. Then answer me this: why are you working with the Fioma military? I thought Sheol hated them. They’ve killed countless of your own men, so why show them kindness?”
“What?” Alessio paused. “I’m not—nevermind. It doesn’t matter. I refuse to let Alec use you to get what he wants, so you have to perish. Sorry.”
He sounded anything but. Talking was clearly out of the question, so with nothing but experience and muscle memory on his side, Jaycee held his sword up. He used it to block as much of his body as possible. As long as he could trace the arrow’s trajectory, he’d survive.
Just when it looked like Alessio was going to shoot, a roaring, ear piercing explosion rocked the ground and unbalanced them, sending them both crashing to the floor. The building shuddered and smoke rapidly filled the room; the lights flickered wildly as they swung back and forth on the ceiling. Dust floated around as tables toppled over and paintings fell. From outside, muffled screams trailed in, barely audible since all Jaycee heard was ringing in his ears.
What the hell just happened? With the meager strength he had left, he shakily stood. A quick glance at arms showed multiple fresh cuts. He’d deal with that later. He scanned the area for Kyla, who was nowhere to be found with what limited visibility he had. The groans of Alessio’s men occupied the silence.
Their leader lay on the ground a few feet from where Jaycee stood. The blast must have flung his bow across the room, and his arrows remained scattered around him.
This was his chance to kill him.
Jaycee eyed his blade, which had escaped his clutch during the eruption. It landed by Alessio, but the man hadn’t tried to grab it or didn’t notice. A heavy cough racked the man’s body, the smoke infiltrating his lungs. Now was his time to strike.
Before he could make a move either way, a firm grip bound his wrist to stop him.