The term "Lone Wolf" might sound appealing, but it was just a fancy way of saying that a person was isolated because they didn't fit in anywhere. She had been painfully aware of this, ever since she was a child.
Young girl: "Shit! They won’t give up, fuck them!"
The foul-mouthed words were uttered by a clear-eyed young girl, despite her rough language. Her red eyes and golden hair were a rare combination, untainted by the stagnant air and dust of the slums. Her elegant face and features were also the cause of the rift between her and everyone else.
The young girl herself, however, was not moved in any way by what others thought of her. On the contrary, it was her appearance that was currently causing her to have problems.
Man: "Damn it! Where the hell did that brat go? We gotta find her!"
A middle-aged man with a peculiarly odd cropped hairdo ran around holding his nose. His face was covered in blood, and he had a crisp shoe print on his face, one that matched the young girl's shoe.
The man with the bleeding nose was accompanied by about ten or so companions, who listened to his instructions as they laid siege to the area, making sure to block off any possible escape route in order to corner her.
Young girl: "That's what I’d expect from a bunch of damn kidnappers. Oh, shit, I fucked up!"
The young girl clicked her tongue as she stared at the area surrounded by people, through the gap in the alleyway into which she had squeezed her small body into. She looked around carefully, but none of the paths appeared to lead out of the winding alleys.
Man: "――There she is! She's getting away....... baahf."
Young girl: "Shut the fuck up, you useless bastard!"
The moment she was spotted, the girl jumped up and greeted the man in the face with a kick. The man, who appeared to be twice the size of the small girl, had his eyes roll back, then fainted as she began sprinting back with a side glance.
Behind her, the man who’d had his friend kicked in the face was chasing after her in a frenzy.
Young girl: "They won’t stop! Oh, crap! Rom-jii's gonna be pissed!"
With a slightly unsteady voice, the young girl – Felt – ran like the wind through the dirty alleyways, repeatedly hopping along nimbly at a swift pace.
As an orphan, the impoverished slums of the royal capital of Lugunica had been Felt's home since before she had formed memories. However, she had never been sentimental about them. Moreover, everyone else living in the slums would probably agree with her.
That comfortable way of thinking would only emerge within those who lived in comfort. The people who lived in the slums were all just trying their utmost to survive to see the following day.
Of course, Felt was no different. Like other orphans of her age living in the slums, from the moment she was to stand on her own (the age when she could not receive handouts anymore), Felt had to use that cleverness and dexterity of hers to make her living by stealing.
She did not get along well with the other orphans who opted to live in close-knit groups. She was especially disliked by other girls, so she naturally chose to be alone, tired of socializing. The only exception was her single family member.
In spite of his tough face, Felt's family was very compassionate, and they acted as Felt's guardian out of their own volition. However, it was Felt's petty pride not to take advantage of their kindness.
Her family would earn a living by fencing goods stolen in back alleys for money. Even though they were family, they wanted to be fair when it came to dealing with stolen goods.
It was also an important tradition, even if Felt was aware that it was dirty pride. ――It was a very important ritual for Felt, who had always stubbornly declared herself as a self-sufficient individual, but nothing was more shameful than causing her only family trouble. So…
Felt: "This time, I gotta figure it out by myself."
Concealing her breathing atop the roof she had jumped onto, the lonesome Felt hardened her resolve. Glancing down, she saw the group of men still running around, searching for her. The vindictiveness of these people was hardcore. Just escaping was not enough to solve her problems.
The people chasing Felt around were a gang of kidnappers from the underworld of the royal Capital. They were rumored to be new to the city, but their unrestrained misbehavior was beyond belief.
Felt: "Maybe I’m just a little rusty. I should’ve just ditched them."
Remembering how she had gotten into trouble, Felt pursed her lips and lamented her own ineptitude.
The alleyway where Felt was currently hunkered down in, was not her usual homeground.
The slums, as they were more-or-less known, were scattered throughout the lower districts of the vast Royal Capital in three different locations.
Felt lived in an area connected to the commercial district, and this area, mainly lined with warehouses, was not considered part of her turf.
The reason why she was being chased by the thugs in such a place, was because she had happened to see their dirty business while keeping an eye out for the day’s score. Normally Felt would have ditched the mere sighting as their own bad luck, but this time her eyes had been drawn to the person being kidnapped.
The combination of the withered old man, who looked like a dead tree, and a little girl being forcefully taken away from his arms ignited a fire in Felt, and she jumped into the air, then kicking the thug in the face as hard as she could.
After that, Felt had been able to get the young child and old man out of their captivity, but the thugs who had taken notice of Felt's appearance were now chasing after her. That was how the cookie crumbled.
Felt: "I ain’t that familiar with this area either. They’ve got cornering down to a fine art too."
While annoyed by their orderly insidiousness, Felt was likewise aware of the bad turn of events.
Although Felt was confident in her skills, her true pride was in her skillful legwork, but even then she wasn't conceited enough to think she could take down ten or so men. Besides, the more time she took, the more men would get involved, and the worse the situation would become.
At the very least, if she could get back to her own home turf, she would be able to make some moves.
Felt: "Woah, what the fu…?"
The moment she took a gentle peekdownward, a piece of wood passed right by her head. The sound of the weapon dicing the wind sent a shiver down her spine, and then she heard a loud shout from below.
Man: "You idiot! Don't hit her in the face! If you leave a scar, we'll never be able to sell her!"
The man with the bloody nose, covering his face with a white cloth to cease the bleeding, scolded the men.
Felt was completely oblivious to the fact that her face was a great asset to them, but if it was enough to have them announce their handicap then it would be worth it.
Felt: "Hey, over here!"
Felt hopped, stomping on the head of the man leading the climb up the ladder, flipping over the whole group behind him.
She stepped on the heads of the men staring at her with wide eyes, and broke through the encirclement with the graceful movements of a gymnast.
Man: "What? S-she's too nimble! Don't let her get away, don't let her get away!"
Felt: "Catch her but don’t mess her up, right? That's a mistake of yours even I can understand, heh!"
She somersaulted over the head of the last one and landed at the feet of the man with the bloody nose dissing her. Felt dodged his outstretched arm, then ducked into his chest and swung her proportionally long legs up in one motion.
Her foot felt the sensation of digging into flesh, and the man with a bloody nose took serious damage to the groin.
Felt did not hesitate to headbutt the face of the man with the nosebleed, as he collapsed with a cry of pain.
The top of Felt's head crushed the nose of the bleeding man through the cloth, and he reeled back, bleeding and frothing white foam from his mouth.
Felt: "Eat shit! That's what happens when you think I'm just a kid and let down your guard!"
At the sight of the upended head, the thugs stalled for a moment before giving chase. In the meantime, Felt stuck out her tongue and then accelerated again, hurling her body into the wind.
Upon breaking out of the enclosed area and into an unfamiliar area of the slums, she finally stopped to confirm her escape.
Felt: "After all that, did I need to finish him off?"
One little girl had caused them so much pain. Even considering her reputation, she would probably need to lie low. Were that the case, then her last plan had been a miscalculation.
Felt: "Well, that's all fine though. I'm just really tired, seriously."
Folding her hands behind her head, Felt sighed as she blended in with the crowded streets. Reaching into the pockets of an unsuspecting passerby to earn a few extra coins, as expected, she concentrated entirely on this.
Felt: "I guess I really am starting to get rusty now."
Felt's shoulders slumped as she returned to her home turf after pocketing a few more coins.
Just when she thought she had enough money in her pocket and the balance for the day was probably leaning towards being in the black, this had occurred.
It was not surprising that she was feeling disappointed and discouraged.
Man: "You gave me a hard time. But yeah, you went a little overboard this time, girl."
The one possessing such a lowly smile, was a proud-looking man with a bloodied nose, borrowing his subordinate’s shoulder.
The increased number of bandages covering his face, and the fact his knees were wobbly, displayed the severity of the damage dealt to him.
Felt: "If you're that ragged, I won't say anything bad about it, just go home and sleep."
Man: "Who’d just shut up and take it after being so humiliated? Don't make me laugh! If I don't hear a cheeky brat begging for their life, I won't be able to quell my anger!"
Felt: "You don’t shut up over just a crushed nose and balls, dude..."
Man: "This pain’s too much for you to understand, you bratty little bitch!"
The man with the bloody nose hurled that out, his eyes bloodshot, upon hearing Felt's nonchalant reply. The thugs around him nodded their heads in agreement, their faces slightly pale. These people are acting so dramatic, she thought.
Felt was puzzled by the prowess of the thugs who had set up a net in the slums around her home turf, having underestimated her own violence. Where did he find out about her?
Man: "You look like you're thinking. Let me tell you in plain words:...... You seem to be hated by your own kind, don't you? They just talked so much about you."
Felt: "...... I feel like you guys are the ones talking too much."
These are the kind of people, once they got the upper hand, they enjoyed disclosing the reason why. And it was a fact that the content of the explanation was often trivial and simple.
The answer now was simple too: Felt had been sold out in exchange for some pocket change by the people who hated her. This was why socializing was such a hassle, and why she was only able to have a single person she could trust.
Man: "Whoa! Don't do anything funny, okay? I'm telling you, I got my whole crew surronding this. It’s so extravagant just for one kid, you might even cry, don't you think?"
Felt: "Well you’re really just moving me to tears, aren't you? Don't you think it's pathetic that you're getting all up in arms against a kid?"
Man: "It's a hundred times better than having your face smashed and just letting it slide!"
A ragtag group of men stepped forward, and began an attempt to block the escape route behind Felt. In front of her were the people she had utilized as a springboard in the alleyway, earlier. And the same group was well-placed in the many alleys visible from her location, peppered here and there.
There was no way out. The amount of work that had gone into this was unbelievable. They must be serious.
Man: "I'm not going to injure you, but you better be ready for other kinds of payback, kid."
Felt: "Are you guys as new in Royal Capital as they say? I'm just curious."
The man with the bloodied nose frowned at Felt's words, as if he had expected Felt to show some fear.
Taking his attitude as an answer, Felt just nodded and said, "All right, all right.".
Felt: "Well, here's my advice. From now on, you'd better understand the rules of the Capital before you do anything. That is, if there’s a next time."
Before the man could speak, Felt pulled something from her pocket and put it in her mouth. It was something she had plucked from one of the people in the crowd before returning to her home turf.
Man: "A guard, calling whistle......?"
Instead of saying, "Correct", Felt blew into it, and a high-pitched sound echoed through the alleyway. The sound made the thugs cover their ears, but the surprise was followed by a confident attitude.
Man: "Y-you scared the hell out of me. What’s whistling one or two times going to...…"
The man with the bloodied nose spoke for the people around him. However, his expression quickly became marked by urgency. They could hear it. They heard the heavy thud of matching military boots coming down the alley one after another.
Man: "What? How did they get here so fast?"
Felt: "You newcomers may not know this, but in the Royal Capital, the guards regularly patrol the lower districts. Of course, those of us who live here know the schedule."
Today was the day that Felt's own slums were to be patrolled by the guards. Henceforth, Felt had gone out of her way to find her prey, and she thought of it as a trump card.
Although she was not sure that the thugs would come after her, she had borrowed a whistle from a guard who looked vulnerable.
Felt: "Kyaaaa! Kidnappeeeers! Stoooop, they’re gonna kidnap meeeee!"
Felt let out a powerful, more soft voice to motivate the guards. The man with the bloodied nose turned around in a panic, but, by then, Felt's slender body had escaped the perimeter. The man watched and shouted as Felt bounced, kicking against the roof, his nose bleeding again in excitement.
Man: “You… Little shit!!”
Felt: "Don't let that little shit beat you in a battle of wits then. There's no way you can beat me in underhandedness, idiot."
The head of the group let out an incomprehensible scream, but just then, the patrol of guards, having arrived in the alley, clashed with the thugs.
The head of the group of guards, a man clad in full body armor, was particularly powerful, and it was a pleasure to witness him blow away the thugs one after another like the leaves of a tree.
With that, the newcomers to the underworld of the Royal Capital were wiped out before their names could be remembered.