”Haaa… Haaa… ” Sweat dripped down every pore of my skin, I felt the fatigue and weakness overcome me once the effect of the potions wore off. There were still time before the sun rose again and I made it back, tired and panting. Tied to my side was a pouch, and with every move I took, there was the sound of coins clinging against each other.
I didn go back home, instead I went back to the familiar tree with an X engraved on it and there, I stored all the money that I got.
I… was somehow successful… but I couldn find it in me to rejoice.
The same way a sharpshooter isn proud of a shot that he knows he completely whiffed but then somehow, like divine intervention, a strong gust of wind blew the arrow right into his intended target. It wasn skill, it wasn even luck, it was bullshit.
I was able to pull it off, not because of anything that I did or planned for, but because of sheer tremendous luck. There were a lot of variables that I never even considered, an unforeseen event and inexplicable interaction. How many stars in the sky had to align for things to pan out the way they did?
Despite getting what I initially came for, in my mind, this operation is very far from a success and should be seen as nothing but a total failure.
* * *
It was a few hours ago, way past midnight. The winds chilled my skinny body down to its very bones as I stood along the bushes behind Vivians mansion. I had the masquerade mask the covered the entirety of my face. Black feathers stuck out from the top of the mask, doing well to cover my bright blonde hair.
A long cloak hid most of my body as to make my emaciated frame a secret, with the exception of one ornament. On my chest, the Almas Brimas necklace was arrogant shown as it hung from my neck.. The dagger was fastened into my clothes, hidden under the robe.
My outfit, however crude and mismatched it may be, had but one purpose- to give off the illusion of wealth.
All of the items that I was using probably cost thousands of shekels, way above the financial capacity of someone like me. A golden masquerade mask adorned with crimson flowers and black feathers, plus the overly lavish looking necklace whose golden plates shone under the moon light and rare jewels imitated the glittering stars hanging from the evening sky.
It didn matter that they weren the real deal and was just counterfeits Although they are pretty damn good imitations, Ill give it that. But it was probably my greatest alibi in case suspicions arise- No beggar would be able to afford these items.
Now why would someone so wealthy would want to steal a couple of silver coins from someone? Well… thats up to them to make up their own conclusions. Whats important is I erased every single characteristics that could be traced back to me- scrawny, poor, and dirty.
From there I could see the tree that Huang used to climb out of the gardens premises. It wasn visible before, so what I was planning to do wasn possible a few years ago. The owner didn take the trees growth into account, or maybe it slipped by her mind. But it had grown throughout the years and its height was just slightly above the wall that used to tower over it.
I drank the Thiefs Wine and in my entire life, I never felt as strong as I did that moment. My entire body was light and fast, like a heavy weight had just been taken off me. The shoes I wore were the ones I bought from Huang, which also had the added benefit of being extremely silent and having a lot of grip.
From then on, I threw the hook rope towards the tree, in hopes that it would be able to fasten itself in one of its branches. That point was arguably the most difficult part of the entire operation that I had in mind. It was my first time doing it and every failure would result in the audible rustle of the tree branches and leaves.
I could remember the pounding of my heart as I would nervously pull the rope after every failure, afraid that the noise would wake up the inhabitants of the town. But thankfully, that fear was for naught as everyone remained fast asleep.
One time… two time… three… four… five.. six. seven… sixteen. I wasn even sure if I had properly kept track of the amount of times I threw the rope in a desperate attempt for it to lock itself into one of the trees strong branches.
But finally, after what felt like an eternity, the hook finally fastened itself to a strong branch. No matter how much I tugged, I couldn pull it back. Satisfied, I held the rope closely with my newfound strength and started walking upwards, perpendicular to the wall.
My arms that would normally struggle to do even a single push-up was lifting my entire body as I pulled myself up with a rope. That moment still felt so surreal to me. The wall, which was around 5 meters high, seemed like an insurmountable road block and yet, there I was scaling it. Something like this should and never would have happened, if it wasn for that chance encounter with Huang during that one fateful evening.
Every step I took, every meter that I rose from the ground, I felt like I was overcoming one impossible task after the other. Ive never felt so thrilled and excited in my entire life, heart pumping wildly as I felt the blood course through my veins.
At one point, I looked down and saw that I was a few meters above ground. The thought that if I were to fall then and there, I wouldve hurt myself badly, made me tremble. It wasn all completely out of fear. Although I felt my knees buckle just a little, I never felt my legs lose strength nor did the smile on my lips ever cease.
Once I was at the top of the wall, I noticed that it was a lot thinner at the top than it was at its base. I couldn stand on it with both feet beside each other, I had to put one forward and the other backward just so that it would have enough space.
But once I looked in front of me, I saw the town from a view Id never seen before. From such a vantage point, I could see the roofs of many familiar homes for the very first time. All my life, I never even thought about what they looked like. I had always been at the ground, gazing at them from below.
But seeing it from up here, I couldn help but thing that it was beautiful, though I don know why.
It was the same dreadful town that had given me nothing but scraps my entire life, and yet it seemed so different now. The moon was shining high in the sky and the streets were dark, all curtains had been shut, and the calming and eerie silence that served as proof that everyone was asleep-everyone but me.
Only one thought ran in my mind… Right now, I was completely alone… and thus completely free. No one to tell me what to do, no rules to stop me. Looking at things from up here, I realized just how small things were, the many walls and fences that separated each household never felt so irrelevant as they did now.
Suddenly, I remembered the history book I was reading earlier. A story of how a great kind had a sudden epiphany the moment he laid eyes upon the waves of the sea constantly smashing against the shores. What exact thoughts went through his mind at that moment, no one would be able to know.
But right now, I felt that I was also at that same exact point. It was something that Ive always been saw all my life but this time it was through the lens of the night and the blankets of silence. Seeing something so mundane and simple as that, and yet it had such a profound impact on my mind.
The small town which had felt so cramped and limited, almost like a prison, suddenly opened up. I felt a realm of possibilities appear in my mind. I already climbed one of the tallest walls of the town… what could those meager fences do to prevent me from breaking into their homes? Walls? Doors? Fences? They were also just slightly more troublesome obstacles. The entire town, whether it was our run-down cabin on edge of the town or the governors most private champers, everything was accessible and open to me, it just depended on how I do it.
It was the combination of the sense of strength that the potion gave me, the realization that I was completely alone and free in the night, and the sense of security and anonymity that the mask and cloak gave me, that made me feel like if I wanted to, I can go to anywhere or any place in this town.
But after some point, I realized I had been getting too ahead of myself. I still have to go back down to the ground. I haven even finished the current task in hand and I was already thinking about such grand things.
I pulled the rest of the rope across the wall and let it hang down from the tree. Then my body, which felt so light, slid down and safely landed into Vivians garden.
Hearing and imagining it was one thing, but seeing it for myself was a different experience altogether. Even under only the gentle, but weak light of the moon, I was left breathless by the beautiful sight as rows of flower, neatly trimmed and arranged, bloomed quietly in the evening. And then, just a few meters away from me was the home of probably the richest person in town.
Finally, I saw for myself the person at the other end of the financial spectrum. I saw what it meant to be living in riches. Everything about it seemed large, sometimes unnecessarily so. A grand staircase lead up to a grand front door, blocking the entrance to a large house supported by large pillars, with large windows scattered across its surface.
However, I had no time to spare admiring it as the clock was continually ticking with every action I took.
I quietly walked up to one of the open windows. I remember thinking at that moment that it it seemed like they hadn learned their lesson about being too reliant on their high walls as they left their house wide open yet again.
However, that thought didn last long.
The moment I stepped foot inside the mansion, I thought of how could I be so foolish as to think a person of this caliber wouldn leave some extra security measures to defend her residence.
After I successfully entered, I started looking for one thing and one thing only- her stash of coins. Stealing anything else, like a vase or any sort of jewelry, is sure to not go unnoticed. I had also learned from Huangs mistake of stealing a large sum of money in one go, as Vivian would sure notice the discrepancies in her money if that was the case.
What I had in mind was taking a certain amount of money, that is negligible from her point of view, but at the same time significant enough for me. After all, someone like her wouldn even notice it if a few hundred shekels were to suddenly disappear from her collection.
But before I could even start rummaging some of her rooms, I was met with two pair of eyes glowing in the dark, quietly moving as they stared right back at me. Just when I thought I had ran into her servants, I felt my blood run cold as terrifying growls echoed throughout the hall.
Instantly, I knew it wasn a human that I was dealing with.
Seeing that I was frozen in place, the two beasts emerged from darkness and their forms fully came into view.
”What the **… ” I murmured quietly under my breath
Evidently, Vivian had actually learned her lesson about leaving her mansion unguarded. Its just that she didn hire armored guards like the governor does, no. Instead, she had guard dogs, but it wasn just any guard dog. They were taller than any dogs than Ive ever seen, way taller than the dogs from the streets who could only reach up to my knees.
One of them started circling me, and I could only gulp as I was made fully aware of the dogs magnificent build. Shining silver fur that shone under the moonlight, and streaks of blue that ran along its head and limbs. These dogs… no, rather wolves, standing in all 4 of its legs, were about the same height as me, a young adult male, with length of about 3-4 meters. Their mouth, large enough to swallow my head whole, continually emitted hostile sounds, growling and snarling as they circled me.
I was there frozen in place, not knowing what to do. Under my cloak, I strongly gripped the handle of my dagger. I still had the potions effect on me, so I wasn completely defenseless. But if they were to start howling in case I hurt them, then it would definitely wake up the residents of this mansion.
Then all of a sudden, their fur started glowing bright and I felt it. These beasts were capable of wielding mana?! I felt the air surrounding us grow colder and colder, and a gust of wind continually blew all around the beasts body. With that, all confidence I had on beating them disappear into nothingness.
”Magical beasts? Were there such a thing? ” I cursed my ignorance and naivete, of ever thinking that this operation was going to be easy.
I based my entire plan, if it was even worth calling it that, on the story that Huang told me 4 years ago. Because nothing changed from the outside appearance of the mansion, I didn even consider the possibility of changes from the inside.
Sweat was already dripping all around my body. In front of a dog, let alone a wolf, you
e not supposed to show any signs of fear and yet, Im sure my face probably looked l shit my pants. I was already prepared for the worst. I was stupid and will pay the price for it, but-
… … Nothing happened.
Ten seconds…Twenty… The two beasts just kept circling me, growling and snarling with every move. But, nothing happened.
”Oh… ” I touched my face and felt the masks cool steel against my skin. ”Was it because of this? ”
Thats right… Despite how terrified I mustve looked, they couldn see it. In their eyes, I just stood calmly stood still. Realizing that my mask was giving me a lot more leeway than I initially thought, I tried to collect myself and think about what I should do.
But before I could think of anything, I inadvertently took a step back and then the wolves suddenly leaped back a few meters away from me. That single step cause me to elicit more reaction from them than the last thirty seconds combined. It was such a huge reaction that I couldn help but take one more step forward and, as if in unison, the wolf in front of me took a step backwards, their growls becoming even more pronounced.
I wasn sure what was happening, but my mind was working to its full capacity and I kept walking forward, not towards the exit of the hall, but to the beast itself. With every step I took, the beast took a step backward until he hit a wall and no longer had anywhere to retreat to.
Once cornered, his every fur stood on edge and started glowing even brighter, and then the gust of wind that was emitted from him became even stronger.
They were still, without a doubt, stronger than me. If they wanted to, they could probably tackle me and I wouldn be strong enough to fight back. But they didn seem to know that. I didn know how or why, but for some reason, I was sure of it, the beasts were terrified of me. Once I realized that, the tables had turned.
I decided that it wouldn be good to corner the beast any further, lest they lash out. Once that happens, they would become aware of the actual difference in our strength and whatever it was that made them afraid of me would then disappear.
Instead, I mustered whatever was left of my courage and tried to give them a sign that I wasn gonna attack them. I knew that dogs could somewhat understand human gestures or language, so I hoped that these magical wolves would be able to do the same. So in order to do that, I held up a finger over my mask and to where my mouth would be, and did a shush motion, telling that I wanted them to be quiet.
Seeing me do something other than walk, I noticed, no matter how slight it was, the trembling of the beast in front of me. Just how terrifying did I look to him, for such a large and powerful magical beast to appear like he had seen a monster?
Thankfully, they seem to have understood what I was saying as their growls simmered down a little bit. Suspicion was still visible in their eyes, but after knowing just how terrified they were of me, I tried to take things a little further. With my index finger, I pointed to the ground and told them-
”Stay… here… ” I gave them a simple command with the deepest voice that I could muster.
Dogs could understand simple commands like that right? I was never good with animals so I wasn quite sure.
But a few seconds after, the pair of wolves quieted down, the glow in their furs and the winds finally ceased. The one that had been standing behind me quickly ran up to the one who was cornered and snuggled with it, as if to comfort each other. They both laid down, huddled together and watched me from the corner of their eyes.
However, I wanted nothing more than to get away from those two as quickly as possible. Faking a confident and slow stride, I walked out of the hallway and left them behind. My heart was still beating wildly from fear and multiple thoughts raced in my head.
Why were they afraid? What would have happened if they weren ? What if Vivian had armored guards instead of these magical beasts? What if instead, she had laid out traps and I carelessly walked into them?
The carelessness and the absolute lack of thought put into my own plans had been forcefully shoved into my face. I don know how I got away from there, but I won question it for now. The beasts might have saw me, but they had now way of telling that to their owners in the future. As of now, this operation still hadn failed.
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