Trixie bounded up the side of the wall faster than she had ever been able to do so before in her life. In small part, she was trying to put as much distance between herself and the yard as possible, but she was mostly just showing off. She smiled to herself as she imagined Emerick struggling up the side behind her. For all his bravado, he was still just a rich boy, it's not as though he'd actually have any experience climbing walls.
"You better pick up the pace if you don't want to lose," He called from ahead of her. She froze a moment, trying to comprehend how he was in front of her. Only moments before, he was still on the ground staring at her ass.
"What are you?" She wondered aloud.
"A badass, if you must know," He said with a wink. So saying he resumed climbing, and she was left to scramble after him. She pressed herself pretty hard, she had no intentions of losing to a privileged play boy, even if he was insufferably charming and infuriatingly handsome.
Their little race was over in moments, but it felt like ages as she pushed herself up. Trixie had to have beaten some kind of personal record, but despite her efforts, Emerick was still waiting at the top with a smug smile when she arrived.
"Oh shut up," She snapped, huffing and puffing as she dragged herself over the edge into the broken window.
"I didn't say anything," He said, hands up in surrender. Sure, no words came out of his mouth, but his expression said plenty.
"Don't care," She grumbled. "Shut up anyway." She stormed off into the hallway a few steps, then—remembering where she was and who might be lurking—started treading more cautiously.
Shaking his head, no doubt laughing at her inwardly, Emerick began following her. She had expected him to be loud and clumsy, unpracticed at navigating the rubble and ruin she'd lived in her whole life, but his movements were eerily quiet. If it weren't for the fact she could feel his gaze on her, she would've never known he was behind her, which was somewhat perturbing.
Sticking to Renna's territory as she navigated the halls towards the shaft that would take them to the ground floor, they were able to move quickly and without incident most of the way. Things were going surprisingly well, and for a moment Trixie actually believed they might make it to the first floor without running into any trouble. That was, until she found herself slammed to the ground.
"It was a mistake for you to come here!" A strange voice hissed. She struggled to maneuver herself out from under the stranger, but as suddenly as she had been jumped, the weight was lifted from her. Rolling to better see what had happened, she was just in time to witness Emerick slamming the boy against the wall by his throat. All of that charming, easy-going demeanor was gone, replaced by a feral bloodlust as he snarled at the foolish kid.
"Emerick?" She called uncertainly. She saw his eyes shift to regard her, but otherwise he didn't move.
"What should I do with him?" He growled, eyes flicking back to the boy in hands. At a guess, she assumed he was close to fourteen or fifteen. The tattoo on the back of his hand indicated he worked under Saw. Since no one else was present, she assumed he was acting on his own, hoping to please his boss. Probably new to the gang, or he would've never bothered. Saw preferred to do his own dirty work.
She wasn't sure how to answer. She had been surrounded by death her whole life, several of her close friends having perished during their time in the institute. She had witnessed some of the gangs almost literally tear each other apart, witnessed the gruesome carnage spread as the instructors made examples of 'willful brats,' witnessed all sorts of violence, illness, and tragedy in her time. She had probably witnessed more than any child should have to, her and every other orphan forced to be there.
She didn't enjoy it, but she was so used to the lifestyle, the thought of his death didn't trouble her. She didn't have a desire to kill him, per say, but she didn't really care to save him either. The brutal fact of life there was that if she didn't kill him, he would likely try to kill her again later, except he would most likely be smarter about his next attack in some sense.
Before she could give Emerick her answer, someone new bowled into the side of him, causing him to drop the kid when he turned to face the newcomer. For a brief moment, she worried over his safety. Only a moment though. Just as she started moving to help, Emerick managed to dispatch his assaulter in a series of blows so fast and precise it took her a moment to process what had happened. Her head was still reeling at what she had just witnessed as he pinned the second aggressor to the ground by the throat.
"Wait!" a familiar voice called hoarsely as Emerick whipped a dagger out of one of his boots which he was preparing to plunge into his opponent's chest. "Wait, wait, wait!"
"Renna?" Trixie gasped. Hearing her, Emerick paused, but didn't move off the larger lizard man. Apparently he intended to wait to act one way or another until he was given confirmation if his opponent was friend or foe.
"Hey Trix," He laughed nervously, eyes never leaving Emerick or the blade glistening in the lamp light. "Interesting friend you got here. He is with you right?"
"Yeah," She replied.
"Care to introduce us?" Emerick asked with a growl. She could tell by his expression he wasn't convinced he shouldn't kill Renna just yet.
"Emerick, this is Renna. Renna, Emerick," She gestured between them. "Emerick, could you let him up please? He's something of a friend."
"Is he?" The more laid-back and playful quality of his voice began to return as his eyes wandered the lizard man beneath him. "Another client I take it?"
"Yes," Trixie nodded. She couldn't be sure, but she thought she caught a hint of jealousy flash through his eyes. It was gone as soon as it appeared though. "Please," she added.
"Sorry about that," Emerick moved away, then extended his hand to help Renna up. "But in all fairness, you did attack me first."
"If I had realized you were with Trixie, I would've left well enough alone," Renna replied with a sheepish smile. "Sorry, I mistook you for an enemy gang. It's been a little tense on my turf lately. We've managed to keep the peace so far, but you know how it is."
"Indeed," Emerick replied. He considered him for a moment, then added, "Why don't you leave this place?"
"Got nowhere else to go," Renna replied. "None of us do, really. Some get lucky, find masters that are willing to overlook their mixed blood because of their talent, but that's rare. Most either wind up dead and dumped in the yard, or live out the rest of their miserable lives in sweatshops, factories, or enslaved."
"Dumped?" Emerick asked incredulously. "What do you mean, dumped? Are they not at least given proper funerals?"
Trixie tensed as painful memories resurfaced. Her small fists clinging to the ratty clothe of an older goblin boy eyes glistening with fever. Hands pulling her back and dragging him away. The light leaving his eyes as he was tossed onto a pile of bodies…
"Have you met these people?" Renna snorted. "You think they'd put forth the effort to set up a funeral pyre? Offer us lowly half-bloods any sort of courtesy or consideration, even in death? Yeah right."
Emerick considered him a moment, unsure what to say. Trixie wondered what he could be thinking. Distracted by the thought, she allowed it to guide her away from her childhood traumas and the reasons why she hated letting people get too close.
"I'll warn you as a courtesy," Emerick said, as though coming to a decision. "Get your people, and get out of here. I doubt this place will see sunset tomorrow." After a moment, he added, "It was a pleasure meeting you."
For a moment, they simply stared at each other, hands firmly clasped. Neither spoke, but Trixie could tell there was some sort of agreement made between them as Renna bowed his head submissively, stepped back, and promptly started walking away without so much as a good bye.
"Sorry to cause you so much trouble," Emerick finally spoke to Trixie, causing her to jump. "If you could get me to the room the instructors use for an office, I think I can manage on my own from there. I know you have other business to see to this morning."
"Right," She nodded. Numbly, she resumed their progress through the second floor corridors until they reached the shaft that would lead them downward.
They descended silently, neither in the mood for a second spirited competition. Each was lost in their own thoughts, and Trixie's mind in particular was swirling with questions. Part of her wanted to ask what his words to Renna meant, but she could guess well enough on her own. He was there on an official inspection. It was a no brainer that the building was condemnable, and probably should've been torn down ages ago. She still couldn't face that reality however, not yet at least. There was too much uncertainty involved.
"Here we are," She said a while later, stopping in front of the room the instructors used as an office. "The rooms on either side are also frequently used. Most of the classrooms are in this larger hall, as the ones in the side halls are more dangerous to reach and use."
"Where would you like to meet me later?" Emerick asked. "I'll wait until then to hear your decision, but if it's not too much trouble, I'd like to know when I can see you again."
"My orphanage is just two blocks west of here," She replied with a sigh. "It's across from a fairly frequented brothel. I believe it's called 'Easy Street' or something to that effect. I'll be there at sunset."
She couldn't fathom why she was telling him this, for all she knew he could be a super stalker, or worse, a slaver. One good night wasn't enough to prove to her he was a good guy, especially considering the unexpected side she'd seen of him that morning. Still, she couldn't help herself.
"Until then," He smiled softly. To her shock, he took her hand and left a kiss on the back of it, then bowed. Before she could question him about it, or justify the late meeting time, he disappeared into the room she had identified as the main office.