Lone Wolf of the Slums: Felt's Noisy Days
The term ‘Lone wolf’ sounds good, but it’s really just something you call yourself to hide the fact that you don’t fit in with your surroundings and are isolated. The young girl was painfully aware of that from a young age.
“Damn it! They’re being hella persistent. Stop messin’ around with me!”
The one speaking in foul language was a girl who had clear eyes, despite her rough way of speaking. The combination of crimson eyes and blonde hair was rare, and it wasn’t tainted by the stale air and dust of the slum. Her somewhat graceful face and features were also the cause of the rift between the girl and her surroundings.
However, the girl herself was unaffected by what others thought of her. And as we speak, her appearance was causing her problems.
“Damn it! That brat, where did she run off to!? Find her!” a man roared.
The one searching for her while holding his nose was a middle-aged man with a peculiar haircut. He had a bloody nose, and his face had a shoe mark on it that was a perfect match for the girl’s. The man with the nosebleed was accompanied by ten or so companions. They were listening to the orders of the man with the bleeding nose as they boxed her in, making sure to block every escape route and keep her cornered.
“As expected of kidnappers, they are used to doing this. Aah, shit, I messed up!”
She pushed her little body inside an alley and glared at the men surrounding her, then clicked her tongue. She observed her surroundings carefully but none of the paths seemed to lead out of the intricate alleys.
“—She’s there! Don’t let her esc…gah!”
“Shut up, you slowpoke,” the young girl retorted.
The young girl had jumped and delivered a kick to the man’s face the moment she’d been found. The man, who seemed to be around twice the size of the girl, had gotten knocked out cold and crashed to the ground. The young girl ran off, leaving him there.
The men who had lost their companion chased after her frantically.
“You guys really are persistent! Aah, shit! I’ll get scolded by Old Man Rom!” the girl, Felt, yelled in a way that sounded somewhat relaxed for the situation she was in—and ran like the wind through the dirty alleyways, jumping along swiftly.
As an orphan who had nobody to rely on, the royal capital Lugunica’s slums had always been her home for as long as she could remember. However, she’d never felt like the slums was a place she could call home. Moreover, everyone living in the slums felt the same way as her. Only those living a life of comfort could afford to have such thoughts. The people living in the slums were all just trying to survive for the day. Of course, the same could be said of Felt. Like other orphans her age in the slums, Felt had been making a living by stealing with her cunningness and dexterous hands since she became independent (the age when she could no longer get charity from others.) She didn’t get along with the orphans who chose to live together. She was often disliked by the people of her own gender, and, having gotten tired of socializing with others, chose to remain alone. The only exception was her only family. Despite his fierce appearance, he was very compassionate, and enjoyed acting as Felt’s guardian. But what made Felt not want to rely too much on his kindness was her small amount of pride. The one she called family made a living by selling the stuff that had gotten stolen in back alleys. But even though he was in that line of work, he paid a fair price for the stolen goods people brought him. Felt knew that her pride was tainted, but it was an important ritual for her.
—Thus, Felt felt really miserable when she caused him trouble due to her insistence on doing things on her own. So…
“This time too, I’ll solve this on my own.”
Felt solidified her resolve, remaining silent all alone on the rooftop she had jumped to. She glanced down and saw that the men were still running around, searching for her.
The vindictiveness of guys like them is hardcore. Just running away from them isn’t gonna solve things.
The people chasing after Felt were a group of kidnappers that were at the bottom of the barrel in the royal capital’s underworld. It was rumored that they were newcomers there, but the way they did things without restraint was intolerable.
“I might’ve gotten soft. I should’ve just abandoned them.”
Recalling how she’d gotten into this mess, Felt pursed her lips and regretted her mistake. The alleyway she was currently hiding in wasn’t in her home turf. The place known as the Slums was scattered throughout the large royal capital’s lower district, and there were three of them. Felt lived in a place that was connected to the commercial district, but the area she was in now mainly contained warehouses, and thus wasn’t her turf. The reason she was being chased by the thugs was because of what she did when she witnessed them doing their ‘business’ while looking for the day’s source of income. Felt would have just ignored it and let it go by saying that it was too bad for whoever was getting kidnapped since it was just business as usual there, but this time, she was unable to take her eyes off the person being kidnapped. She saw a little girl being ripped from the hands of an old man who looked like a withered tree, which lit a fire in her that made her jump in and kick the face of the leader with everything she had. After that, she managed to help the old man and little girl escape from the encirclement, but the thugs had noticed her and started going after her in a frenzy.
And that’s how things are.
“I’m not familiar with the area around here. And they are good at hunting people down here since it’s their turf.”
While annoyed by their organized criminality, Felt was also aware of how bad the situation was. She was confident that she was strong for her age—or rather, she was confident in her ability to kick her way out of bad situations—but she wasn’t overconfident enough to think she could beat down a dozen men. Besides, the more time she spent on it, the more their numbers would increase, which would only worsen the situation.
As long as I can get back to my turf, I can do something—
“Woah, that was close!?” The moment she quietly peeked over the edge of the building, a sharp piece of wood whizzed by her face. She felt chills run down her spine at the sound of the dangerous object, and right after that, she heard someone cussing from below.
“You idiot! Don’t hit her in the face! We won’t be able to sell her if it leaves a scar!” the Nosebleed Man scolded, his nosebleed stopped now that his face was covered with a white cloth.
I had no idea my facial features were something that would make them happy, but if he’s shouting at them to go easy on me, then there’s something I can do.
“Here goes!” Felt jumped, stomping on the face of the man who had set the ladder up and was climbing up to get her, making the rest of the men fall.
“Gaah!” the man grunted.
She didn’t stop there but continued to step on the heads of the startled men, breaking through the enclosure with the skillfulness of an acrobat.
“Wha!?” the Nosebleed Man exclaimed. “S-She’s too quick! Don’t let her get away!”
“Your orders are to capture me, not beat me up. Even I can easily spot a mistake like that!”
She somersaulted while at the same time landing a kick on the last person, landing near the feet of the Nosebleed Man, who was shouting with spit flying out of his mouth. She dodged the arm that had come flying towards her and moved in on him, then kicked him with her leg, which was rather long for her height. The Nosebleed Man felt her toes plowing into his flesh—his nether regions—which did a lot of damage. He fell to his knees, letting out cries of anguish as Felt headbutted him without hesitation. The top of her head smashed into the tip of his nose, straight through the cloth, crushing it. He fell back as blood flowed from his nose and he foamed at the mouth.
“Serves you right!” Felt yelled. “That’s what happens when you let your guard down because you think your opponent is ‘just some kid’!”
Seeing their leader get taken out so easily, the thugs hesitated to pursue her for a moment. Felt stuck her tongue out while they were hesitating and sped up once again, becoming one with the wind.
Once she had escaped their encirclement and the unfamiliar slum, she felt safe enough to take it easy. “I probably won’t need to deliver the finishing blow after doing all of that, right?”
They got their asses handed to them by a little girl, so I bet they’ll keep quiet for a while since their reputation is important to them. But if that’s the case, then the thing I saved for last will go to waste.
“Well, that’s fine by me. But that seriously tired me out, like for real.”
Crossing her hands behind her head, Felt blended into the crowd and sighed. While doing so, she slipped her hand into the pocket of a naïve passerby who didn’t have their guard up. Given the situation she was in, it was quite impressive how she was still trying to earn a few extra coins.
“I think I might have really gotten soft.”
After earning a lot of coins, she went back to her turf with slumped shoulders. She was just thinking that she’d earned enough today to put her in the positive, but then trouble just had to come knocking on her door. The fact that she couldn’t hide her disappointment and discouragement wasn’t surprising.
“You put us through the wringer, but you done fucked up now, ya damn brat.”
The man with a wicked smile on his face was the Nosebleed Man, who seemed proud of his victory while resting on the shoulders of his subordinates. His face was covered in even more cloth than before and his knees were shaking, which showed just how injured he was.
“I’ll give ya some advice out of the goodness of my heart: if you are that banged up, then just go home and sleep,” Felt told him.
“Don’t make me laugh! Who the hell would run away with their tail between their legs after being humiliated so much? I won’t be satisfied until I hear you beg for your life, you cocky brat!”
“Stop actin’ like such a bitch just because your short nose and balls got crushed…”
“A little whore like you will never be able to understand how painful this is!” the man shouted with red eyes, his spit flying everywhere, after hearing Felt’s unapologetic response. The thugs around him nodded in agreement with somewhat pale faces.
What a bunch of drama queens.
Felt, who didn’t get what the big deal was about her act of violence, was surprised at how tenacious the thugs who’d chased her down and tried to cast a net around her in the part of the slums that belonged to them were.
So, where did they get information about me?
“You seem surprised,” the Nosebleed Man said. “I’ll tell you in simple words… Your own people hate you, don’t they? They talked a lot.”
“…I feel like you guys are the same, talking a lot like that.”
Whenever people like them get the upper hand, they want to give the reason why they got the upper hand away. And it’s also true that the reason behind it is often simple and trivial.
The answer this time was simple too: she was sold out by people who hated her in exchange for a small amount of money.
This is why socializing is a drag and why I only really trust one person.
“Oh! Don’t get any weird ideas, k?” the Nosebleed Man warned. “I’ll tell you beforehand: my companions have this area surrounded. You should be crying tears of happiness since we set up a really extravagant welcome party for you, even if you’re just some brat!”
“Not gonna lie, it’s really making me start to tear up. Don’t you think it’s sad how you’re getting so worked up over a kid?”
“It’s a hundred times better than letting my reputation get dragged through the mud because I let you get away with that shit!”
With a lot of footsteps, the thugs gathered behind Felt to block her escape route. In front of her were the people she had used as steppingstones in the alleyway earlier. Similarly, she could see thugs placed firmly at the multiple alleyways in her sight. There was no escape. The amount of effort they had put into this was unbelievable, and it meant they were serious.
“We aren’t gonna hurt ya, but be prepared to pay us back in other ways, brat.”
“Are the rumors of you guys being new to the royal capital true? I’m just a bit curious.”
“Huh?” The Nosebleed Man frowned since he was expecting her to be scared, but on the contrary, her words showed no sign of fear.
“Alright, alright.” Felt took that as a yes and nodded. “Then I’ll give you some advice. You should learn a little more about the royal capital before doing anything else next time. Well—if there is a next time, that is.”
Before the Nosebleed Man could raise his voice, Felt took something out of her pocket and put it in her mouth. It was something she had stolen from an unsuspecting person in the crowd before she returned to her turf.
“A whistle to call the guards?”
She blew into it instead of answering with ‘correct’, and the high-pitched sound echoed through the back alley. The sound immediately made the thugs cover their ears, but what followed their surprise was a relaxed attitude.
“You…you scared us. What can a mere whistle do…” the Nosebleed Man said on behalf of the calm people around him.
However, his expression was soon tinged with uneasiness. They heard it too. The heavy sound of the ground shaking made by the military boots entering the alleyway one after another.
“Wha!? Why are they here so soon!?”
“You might not know this since you guys are new to town, but the guards regularly patrol the lower districts. Obviously, since I’m a local, I know when and where the patrols will happen, too.”
Today was the day when the guards patrolled the slum that Felt considered her turf. In consequence, Felt took her time after going out to look for easy pickings, and was also considering using the guards as her trump card if anything went awry.
Though I wasn’t 100% sure that the thugs would come after me, I borrowed this whistle from a guard who wasn’t paying attention just in case.
“Eeeek! Kidnappeeers! Stop! I’m getting kidnaaaapped!” Felt screamed as much as she could in a wheedling voice, raising the morale of the guards. The Nosebleed Man quickly turned back, but Felt had already slipped through a crack in their ranks.
The Nosebleed Man glared at Felt, who was jumping from roof to roof, and then let out an agitated scream. “You fucking brat…argh!”
“Don’t lose to a fucking brat in a competition of smarts then. You’ll never beat us when it comes to fighting dirty, dumbass.”
As the boss let out an unintelligible scream, the guards arrived in the alley and collided with the thugs. The guard up front was particularly powerful, and it felt satisfying to see the thugs get blown away like leaves one after another.
—And just like that, the newcomers to the royal capital’s underworld were destroyed before anyone could remember their name.
So, did my final earnings and the effort to get it put me in the positive or the negative? Felt thought as she brushed the dust from her body. Even though she had stolen some purses along with the whistle, there hadn’t been much in them. However, giving the kidnappers a painful experience had given her a sense of pleasure that was worthy of her effort.
Nonetheless, the realist Felt concluded that pleasure was only a temporary thing that didn’t fill one’s belly. Therefore, all I made today was the coins in the purses.
“This isn’t enough to reach my objective at all.”
Felt’s objective—though it was still a far-off goal since she didn’t make much from stealing—was to eventually save enough money to escape from the poverty of the slum. She would be even happier if the only one she considered family was there with her when it happened.
With a renewed determination, Felt started walking towards the building that had come into her view, then halted her steps before she arrived. A huge figure, so huge that it couldn’t be thought of as a human, stood in front of the large building and was waving at her.
“Gosh, stop embarrassing me… Old Man Rom, I’m back!”
And with that, Felt ran towards her family with the biggest smile she’d had all day.