Rising up from where he had been sitting, a true giant of a man brushed aside the remnants of the cloak that had somehow hidden his body so far. Although his expression was somewhat annoyed, he also sported a friendly smile, showcasing his confidence.
Clicking his tongue, he easily stepped through the thug’s ranks, disregarding their muscular formation and paying them no heed.
“How’d you find out I was listening in? I’m quite sure I didn’t move at all when you all started pouring in.”
Like rocks crashing together, his voice sounded deep as well, fitting his hulking figure.
Sergio stared at the approaching figure with more than just horror, unable to articulate anything, recognition flickering in his eyes.
Nisha, on the other hand never changed the feral grin that belonging to her. Albeit the glow around her [Taurith Short Swords] slowly faded away, the need for a skill evaporating with all gazes glued on the new arrival.
“You arrived just a short time before I walked down the alley. Your cloak was wet, a good diversion, but the ground below you was as well. If somehow some unrelated beggar just arrived before me to lay down here, he would have moved away as soon as trouble started. You stayed. Apparently, you’re related to these guys.
Would you mind introducing yourself? Asking someone questions without even giving your name first is terribly rude, don’t you think so as well?”
Indeed I won’t tell you I saw through you with my [Spirit Sight]. And even then, there were plenty more hints, like a smell, or the fact that your physique doesn’t fit a beggar at all.
“Fair enough. My name is Alester. I am part of the same branch that those meatheads belong to.”
The muscular thugs winced at the description, but at the same time, no one could deny the words either.
Speaking of appearances, apart from his height, Alester had no features that would set him apart from the masses. An ordinary face, normal hair, normal clothes. If someone pointed him out on the street, no one would bother to give him a second glance after seeing him.
His presence still scared most of the thieves, even from the faction of pickpockets.
“Originally I was just curious to see how things were going here, since no one ordered any large-scale operation that would require this much backup and would have stood by to watch the spectacle, but someone thought she would personally involve me.”
Nisha decided she had no idea who he was talking about or why he gave her, and the ruined remains of the cloak, a pointed stare.
“Since this is more or less an official examination already, let’s get on with it.
Your name was Nisha, right? These members of the thieves guild have accused you of being a foreign element who refuses to abide by the rules established by our guild and operated theft without a permit. What do you have to say about that?”
Boredom in his voice, Alester simply went through the motions after listening to Sergio’s accusations.
“Of course none of that is true. I have never stolen a single copper without good reason or kept any for myself if someone tried to take coins from me. Surely you won’t say that I’m not allowed to retaliate if someone is trying to steal my coin, right?
As for the rules of the thieves guild, I am afraid to say that I have never heard of them and am unsure if I’ve broken any rules, yet at the same time, I can confidently say my conscience is clear. I have never done something to dishonor myself. I am not a foreign element either, I’m living in Thurgau and am not part of any guild, neither the thieves guild here, nor in any other city.”
To rebuke the accusations as fast as possible, Nisha went through the list of points that the pickpocket had brought up as well. Neither did she lie or embellish anything. As far as she was concerned, she was a model citizen! Most guards wouldn’t share that notion if they know how nimble her fingers were, but luckily they didn’t know.
Throughout her account, Alester grew intrigued. He had heard of troubles inside of the pickpocket faction and had even heard a strange rumor about farmers and serfs receiving an unexpected blessing in the form of unexpected coins finding their way into their pockets. Certainly, he dismissed these claims as a folk tale. Now the girl in front of him claimed to be the source of these fables.
“Sergio, no one can argue that I, Alester, am a wrong person. So far, this girl’s story seems to be the truth, albeit somewhat unbelievable.
Let us hear your side as well, so the truth may come out. The guild is ruled by honor, after all.”
The situation’s gravity slowly settled in. Some of the thugs eyed the opening towards the street, calculating their chances of escaping unscathed, but no one wanted to be first one to risk it all if they got caught.
“Go on. I am listening. What do you charge the girl with and what are your reasons for your verdict? Seeing as you already organized the punishment, I am sure your judgment is extremely stable. Explain.”
Keeping his calm demeanor, Alester harshly eyed the thieves. In consideration of their membership, their behavior reflected the whole guild if they acted without substantial reason towards an outsider, which meant his position was at stake as well.
Not that he will able to. Because Sergio was a mean liar, I didn’t do any of the things he said!
“Go on. I am waiting.”
Urging him on, the cutpurse leader could only wrack his brain, trying to figure out a way out of his current predicament. Originally this would have been an easy fix to a thorn in his side and now, a higher ranked, and well-known character from another branch in the guild suddenly showed up. Grasping at any possible retreat, he only muttered a weak excuse.
“But she stole all of our loot. If we allowed any commoner to trample over our pride, how can we still call ourselves the thieves guild?”
It was a weak argument and he knew it. A thief complaining about stealing? He might as well claim she breathed his air. Alester’s mood darkened even further, the insane situation unfolding even further.
Wrinkled brows and blackened eyes, the giant man didn’t fancy the response.
“Wait a moment; I don’t think I quite understood you. First, you accused Nisha of being from a foreign city and that she broke the rules by stealing without coordinating with the guild.
Now you imply that she is just a commoner and can’t be allowed to retaliate.
You over there, please recite the rules for theft between guild members to me. It’s been awhile since I've been a part of your branch.”
Pointing out a random cutpurse, Alester waited for an answer.
Grinding his teeth - the whole affair turned more and more into a farce - the thief complied.
“Thievery between members of the same branch is forbidden. However, without solid proof, there is no way to support the claim of the accuser. The Guild shall not be asked to judge.”
The thief already knew which part Alester was aiming for, even Sergio’s bad premonition aggravated when the colossal leader asked for an iteration of the rules.
Everyone had learned the rules, although they also knew the second hidden meaning of this particular wording.
If you can steal from each other without getting caught and leaving evidence, then you won’t get punished!
“To allow you a little bit of face, since getting robbed by a random commoner is a bit too harsh, let’s assume that Nisha here is a thief for a moment. The incident has already reached a stage where I’ve gotten involved, so present evidence that she’s stolen from you guys now. I’m all ears.”
Waiting for someone to step forward while restraining Sergio with his eyes, Alester dared anyone to present proof for their claims.
Nisha, on the other side, quite liked the particular rule of the thieves guild, as smart as she was, she instantly saw through the hidden meaning as it didn’t make sense in a criminal organization.
“Then I can only consider your silence as the only proof you have.
Nisha, can you present evidence of wrongdoings against you?”
A strange expectation was in Alester’s voice, a tacit challenge to her to see if he misplaced his trust by stepping forward for her.
“Certainly. As you know, these men ganged up on me to rob me and teach me a lesson. I think that should count as evidence since you witnessed it.
And no proper thief would allow my belongings to remain behind when you already gathered so many men to play with poor little me, so don’t think about denying it, okay? You are members of the thieves guild after all, right?”
The last part was directed at Sergio and his friends directly; the dragon had a hard time trying to keep the playfulness out of her voice. Some of the enjoyment from hunting them had returned and right now, she was cornering her opponents, just with words instead of swords and fangs.
Honestly, I enjoy seeing them squirm a tad too much.
Alester, on the other side, also enjoyed the intelligent response. Using the hints he had given her, she slowly cut off their retreat, seeing through his intentions and playing the ball back in his field again.
“True, true. I have to say, not even the brothers in the red light district bring so many guys to play with a single girl. You should learn some restraint.
With myself as a witness, there’s no need for further questioning. Sergio, as the leader, you stay here. The rest of you guys, get out of here and report back to the Day Chief and pay one silver each, that’s your punishment.
Now, as for you, Sergio …”
As the thugs hurried off - the great chief looked out for the members of his branch, giving all of them a light sentence - Sergio couldn’t endure it anymore.
“This is all your fault!”
Afraid of the punishment awaiting him for calling in favors and ambushing someone without concrete proof - forged or not - he finally snapped. The problem wasn’t what he did, but that he got caught.
He knew it and that he was going to face a harsh punishment.
Raising the broken remnants of his short sword, he threw himself at Nisha once more, determined to at least take her down with himself.
The dragon, on the other hand, reacted much more calmly. Sudden assaults by animals, which were driven into a corner, was nothing new to her; she had experienced it while hunting in the forest before.
Sidestepping slightly to dodge the serrated edge, she let her sword dance, flashing in a bright arc as she reacted to his assault.
Like a kite with broken strings, a lifeless figure tumbled to the ground, scarlet blood seeping out from a thin cut on his throat, dying the cobblestones in their color.
Looking aptly impressed with her reaction, Alester kicked the corpse on the ground, making sure he was dead.
“I have to say, Nisha, you are truly a mystery to me. It also seems like I have to apologize again. I didn’t think that he would become so desperate and attempt to gut you. Please don’t let that influence your impression of the thieves guild. We aren’t all as cowardly as he is.”
Ha. As if.
“Don’t think I didn’t notice you producing your dagger earlier and waiting for this situation.
I know you didn’t have any plans for him leaving this alley alive.”
Smiling wryly, the tall criminal showed the hand hidden behind his back, a long, thin blade firmly resting on his palm.
“Impressive. Although I knew you were skilled with your sword, I didn’t think you could notice this as well.
As a form of apology, how about I show you around the guild a bit and introduce your face, I think that should avoid any misunderstandings in the future, and they shouldn’t try to steal your coin anymore.
But are you sure you aren’t a member of any thieves guild? It’s rare to see someone so skilled at cutting others down. You didn’t even flinch nor are you bothered by the stench.”
Prodding her for more information, the elven girl merely shrugged the question off.
“What to do with the body? I haven’t got any idea what to do with it; this is your field of expertise.
And just because I am a bit more skilled than a regular cutpurse doesn’t mean I am one as well. I just dislike getting my stuff taken from me. I’m an ordinary citizen.
Also, the tour of the guild seems like an interesting idea; I guess I’ll tag along.”
The corpse at her feet somewhat contrasted with her assurance to be a regular inhabitant of the city, but Alester wasn’t going to argue.
“Just leave it here, the guard will take care of it and assume it was a failed robbery or something. It doesn’t matter. Let’s go. I’ll show you all the beautiful places.”
“Oh, I bet you will.”