The dead end that was chosen by the dragon perfectly fit the occasion. Despite the good weather and shining sun, two shops shielded it from the sun and invited twilight in broad daylight. As the dragon walked into the alley, filled with anticipation for the upcoming fight, even more dense clouds of darkness welled up from the ground, shrouding the entire alley with a chilly breeze and dark spots.
Nisha passed by various miscellaneous items, such as broken crates which held items the shops had delivered, various scraps of spoiled foodstuffs, a ragged coat from the crowd, likely hiding the figure of a beggar or something of the sort underneath, and even a broken dagger, cast aside by someone who had dealt with other people in this place in the distant past.
Grinning like a child who just got a bunch of candy, the elven girl stopped in front of the wall that signalled a dead end, turning around and waiting for her pursuers to show their faces.
While she hadn’t had any issues with her vision, both her innate nightvision from being born as a beast, as well as her [Spirit Sight] covering any blind spot, the thieves weren’t that lucky.
Scanning them one by one as the various thugs gave up the pretense of silently following her and accepting the invitation for a showdown, the dragon suddenly picked up a detail which only widened the feral grin on her face. An unexpected element was hidden amongst the crowd, yet it would only serve to make the confrontation even more exhilarating for her.
All in all, they really underestimated her. Bringing aura fighters that were mainly on the second level and only a few of the third level, they really ought to be wondering how she was able to effortlessly take the purses of middle to high second level thieves. At least they should have estimated that this troublesome girl was at the high end of the third level, or even the breaking through into the fourth.
Well, I should be breaking through to the third aura level soon, but if I tell them that, I might give them a shock so large that their hearts might stop.
While the festival in the harbor was still on going, her very own festival started to coagulate as well. So far, she liked this situation far more than everything at the festival.
Okay, maybe not the fish on a stick, but besides that, this is so much more fun.
Contrary to her exhilaration, the members of the thief guild currently didn’t feel anything remotely close to having a good time. Their ranks were made up from two different groups: the pickpockets entered first and didn’t mind the darkness as much, their rage surpassed their fear. They finally managed to corner the little girl that had embarrassed them over and over again! How often did they return to their hideout after a big haul, only to notice that their purses, that had been filled with shiny coins, had been replaced with pebbles.
After exchanging their experiences and recounting the appearances of their victims, they managed to narrow it down to an elven girl, even younger than their youngest thief, who had bested them all.
Their lithe builds were clearly focused on agility and speed to reach perfection in their trade. However their thin frames also hid some power. Being at the second rank wasn’t just for show.
Glancing around, they entered one by one, walking down the alleyway, spreading out in front of Nisha while glaring at her.
The second group of thugs entered directly afterwards, grouping up to block the entrance and seal her escape route.
With muscular bodies and brutish looks, these guys were from the protection money business and usually accompanied.a ringleader when he collected fees. This time, they moved as a favor for a related branch, who hadn’t told them much besides the need for brawns when they made their request.
Nervously moving as a single group due to the unnatural darkness and coldness inhabiting the passage - only the two fighters, who were at the third rank, were able to fight off any creeping fears - their huge bodies slowly advancing. Originally, one or two wanted to trample the ragged cloak lying halfway down the alley and whoever was under it, however the oppressive dark air got to them. Even if it was only a beggar, they didn’t want to antagonize anything else in this abyss and evaded the figure on the ground with a slight arc.
Of course the dragon turned maiden didn’t idle while they cut off her path. Having long since retrieved one of her [Taurith Short Swords], her figure only added to the air of oppression, beaming her feral smile at the thieves leader, a thin and sickly looking pickpocket. He was among the oldest in their trade, and had long since established a reputation among the other branches, which had contributed enough to gather the aid of the protection business without too much details.
Scowling angrily at the reason for his recent misfortune - he had tried time and time again to make up for his shame of being toyed with by attempting to pickpocket Nisha every time he spotted her in a crowd - the thief stepped forward after the formation was complete and he was sure that his target wouldn’t be able to escape.
“Look who we have here! The petty thief who doesn’t abide by the rules! And you even prepared a weapon. Do you think you can stand up to us? Today we will pay you back for all the losses we suffered by your hand.”
Truthfully, Sergio, which was the name of the unfortunate thief, didn’t feel too good about the current scenario either. To move such a number of followers, he had to had call in a lot of favors, which would have been much more useful once he retired from being a pickpocket and wanted to seek a future in another branch of the thieves guild - however, Nisha simply provoked him too often! No matter what happened, he needed her to attack now and teach her a harsh lesson, otherwise he wouldn't be able to sleep peacefully in the future. As long as nobody questioned the events that were about to take place, he still had a chance to recover these favors in the future.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t dealing with a normal thief. How could he have known he had stepped on the scales of a sleeping dragon?”
“You’re calling me a thief? That’s funny. What exactly do you think I did that allows you to call me a thief?”
Especially coming from people like you…”
Nisha truly didn’t believe herself to be a thief. Every time she used her dexterous hands to slip a pouch out of a pocket, it had been taken from her first. In her heart, the dragon carried no guilt at all. The money they had lost was just compensation for trying to take from her and even that could be considered a light sentence since she left them off without further punishment.
“You lying imp! No matter what lies you spout to cover up your deeds, the thieves guild will punish you for breaking the rules, so that you will never have a chance to disrespect us again!”
Raising his sword to rush at his hated enemy and stop her from speaking any further, Sergio lashed out with his full strength, fully intending to bury the truth with her.
Due to his sudden rush, his companions were late to react, leaving the first clash solely to the two adversaries.
Not hiding her wild grin anymore, Nisha roused her dark aura, activating the [Shadow Clad] skill on her sword and stepped forward to intercept the blow from Sergio, who had drawn his own short sword which he had prepared beforehand.
With a loud ring, the two blades met in the dark alley, signalling the beginning of the hostilities.
However, the result went against the expectations of every person present.
Usually, a rank represented a certain level or amount of strength, be it mana or aura. Then, there were classifications such as early, middle, late, and peak to further subdivide these classifications. Yet reality didn’t prove to be quite that simple. As an example, it was common knowledge in Ator that monsters exceeded the strength of humans of the same rank. This did not only apply to humans and monsters, but in other cases, elves and dwarfs, whether female or male.
While men usually wielded greater strength compared to others at the same rank, women held the advantage in speed and dexterity for humans. A human male, at the peak of an aura rank, could go even with a female at the early stages of the next, despite the absolute barrier separating ranks. Similarly, he would helplessly fall behind in agility, even if they were at the same rank.
Sergio, who put all of his strength into the sword strike, dumbly stared at Nisha who returned the same amount of strength as he did with a single hand.
This astonishing display stopped the remaining thugs dead in their tracks. Common knowledge defied to this degree, combined with the eerie atmosphere, threatened them more than weapons ever could. All the while, the [Shadow Clad] [Taurith Short Sword] steadily corroded the iron sword where they came into contact.
“What the hell is going on? Who are you really? To hide your true strength to this degree... which city’s thieves guild do you belong to? Answer me, fiend!”
With a single blow, the dragon had managed to turn the one sided massacre into a stalemate. Neither of the thugs accompanying the pickpockets had any desire to get injured for something which had been promised to them to be an easy mission. Meanwhile, none of the cutpurses had higher strength than Sergio, which forced them all to stop dead in their tracks.
Annoyed with their change in attitude, Nisha exerted another sliver of her current strength, throwing her opponent back into his own ranks and shattering the regular iron sword in his hands. The dark aura had already devoured it.
“Thief, thief, thief … you just decided that on your own! I’m tired of you slandering me!
I can promise you, aside from you guys, I’ve never stolen a single copper from anyone!
Don’t tell me you’re allowed to steal my stuff, but when I return the favor I’m suddenly in the wrong? You really have some thick skin if you believe that.
And look at you. Ganging up on a single girl. Some fine thugs you are.”
The smile on her face was nowhere to be seen anymore. Instead of a hunt, the dragon encountered some whiny humans that blamed her for the things that had gone wrong in their lives.
They are responsible for their own fates, and yet it’s me they’re blaming? I didn’t even initiate any ill bearing towards the thieves. They always came for me first.
Losing interest in the whole encounter, the presence of the strongest aura, apart from her own, in the dead end might prove useful now.
“If you don’t have anything else to say, I think it’s my turn to ask you a question. Does your guild know you took an entire group of thugs to bully a single girl? And if this were to get out, what would happen to your reputation?”
Poking at a sore spot, there was an immediate reaction to Nisha’s words. While the borrowed helpers from the protection branch started murmuring, the pickpockets glanced anxiously at Sergio, who gnashed his teeth in frustration.
“Whatever happens in this place will stay in this place. Look how many of us there are! Once we’re done with you, no one will be able to speak of it.
Let’s go, brothers!”
Fighting hard to gain control of the situation, Sergio the pickpocket urged all of his men to attack, breaking the current impasse.
Regaining her smirk, this time less feral, Nisha couldn’t help but chuckle.
“No one will know? I’m afraid, you’re wrong. How about you show yourself?”
Whipping around, each and everyone currently present faced the entrance of the alleyway, fearful of who happened to sneak up on them.
However … no one stood there.
“You …! Bluffing won’t help you now! Today you won’t escape retribution.”
Someone in the crowd got angry from getting tricked and prepared to rush at the elven girl.
Not deterred at all. Nisha continued to grin.
“Unwilling to show yourself? Then let me assist you then.”
Reaching out with her dark aura, she shredded the cover of the hidden figure, who simply gasped in exasperation of being forced into action.
The thugs on the other hand all let out shocked sounds, clearly not expecting this person to be present.