Chapter 1: Crossed Paths
Clara never got along with curfews. She thinks it’s ridiculous how other people’s time is controlled by someone else and see it as a complete waste of energy. Unless you’re a child, then yes, the curfew would be good. But for adults? Completely ridiculous. And that’s the reason why she was hidden amongst the shadows of the London’s buildings, stalking three men that had just left a local pub.
“This is the start of how it all ends…” words escaped her lips as she walked across the roof of a nearby building, watching the trio walked off into a nearby alley. The cold air threatened to remove the hood that covered her head with each step she took.
“They used to shout my name…” she muttered, fire of mixed emotions grew inside her heart. The silver pendant that hung from her neck shone every step she took as she followed the man.
Clara looked down to see the men walking towards a woman who seemed to be rushing somewhere. She heard one of the men taunt the lady as the said stopped in her track, her figure shook with fear.
“Now they’re whispering…”
The other two men grabbed hold of the woman as their leader stepped forward and started to harass her. The poor lass screamed in terror.
“I’m speeding up.” words followed her as she skillfully slid down the water pipe and landed behind the lady without a sound.
“And this is the,” she sung out as she plunges a small knife into each of their spines, earning a satisfying crack. The two men fell to the ground as the lady squatted, clearly confused and shocked.
“Red,” she stepped towards the main man. He stumbled back and took out his gun.
“Orange,” she continued confidently towards him as the man shouted to stay back, pulling the trigger.
“Yellow flicker beats,” she quickly kneeled and dispatched two longer knives from the side of her boots, sending them flying towards the man’s throat before he could even pull his trigger.
“Sparking up my heart…” she sang loudly as she got up and turned around to face the lady, who was still on the ground. Clara walked towards her and offered her a hand, which the lady slowly took.
“I hope your evening will turn for the better after this event. Would you like me to escort you home?” she smiled at the woman. The lass could only nod her head slowly, still shaken from what had happened.
“Give me a moment.” Clara turned around and walked towards the dead leader. She bent down and picked out the bloodied knives from the man’s throat, making him bleed even more. She closed her eyes that were covered by a black mask and looked up at the night sky, saying “Two out of ten… Mark Gillian, you’re welcome.” Wiping the blood off with the hem of her garment and slid them back into their place, she asked the lady,
“What’s your name, lass?”
“M-Marie…” the trembling woman replied.
“Marie….huh. Pretty name. Lead the way, dear.” Clara walked towards Marie and picked the knives that were on the other corpses. She wiped them clean and slid them back into their individual compartment on her olive green corset. Marie nodded and walked deeper into the alley. Clara followed close behind her, feeling content that she had finished her job for the night. She stared at the back of the other female’s head, her mind reminiscing the memories of back when everything was fine. Where she was with other people who are like her;
Even though she promised not to hurt anyone and anything in the past, everything changed when—
“WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?!” a male voice shouted not far where the battle took place.
She quickly whirled her head towards the direction where they came from and saw flashes of lights against the buildings. Marie now stood dead in her track.
“There’s a track! They went this way!!” Clara heard a different voice shout and followed by heavy footsteps.
“Marie, run home, now!” she commanded as she took two knives that were just used for previous murder. Marie gladly followed the command and ran as quickly as she could out of the view. After making sure the other had disappeared out of sight, she hid in the shadow of a small gap between two buildings. Four more men came running and stopped where her footsteps ended, which was a few meters away from her. Crouching, she stayed still.
“The footstep ended here… the guy must be close.” One of them said, shining a flash of light inside a dumpster.
“Come out, you piece of shit!”
Crouching, she got ready with two sharp knives across her chest, one in each hand. She knew they will shine a flashlight on her spot soon and she will be ready.
One of the men pointed his light towards her.
Clara quickly lunged forward and stabbed the man on his sides, crossing her knives across his stomach, cutting it open before he could even finish his words. The three men reacted quickly and started shooting at their direction but Clara hunched down and used the dying man’s body as a shield, blood smearing across her cheek. She walked forward towards one man and threw the corpse at him after clicking her right heel, activating a hidden blade that slid out of the toe of her boot. Before the man could toss the body aside, she repeatedly kicked his sides using her bladed boot, earning screams with each kick. Knives went flying towards the man’s leg and she swiftly ducked, grabbed the two knives, and easily sliced the meat off his leg.
One of the two leftover men charged at the half-masked woman but she easily dodged him with a twist of her body. The other man pointed his gun and pulled the trigger, only to miss as Clara had crouched and abruptly removed the knives that were hidden in each of her boots, throwing them at his direction, aimed at his heart which it successfully hit. The man fell backward with a thud. Just as Clara got up and turn her body to face the remaining man, he had gained his distance towards her and tackled her towards her ground.
She yelped pain as the man straddled her torso. Ringing sound was all she could hear and her vision blurred as the man repeatedly struck her face. With each hard blow, her consciousness was slipping away and at that moment, she knew it might as well be the end for her. Before the attacker could give her another blow, she saw his fist dropped quickly and felt the crushing weight on her stomach disappear. As darkness slowly consumed her mind, she saw a cloaked figure standing above her, a strange smile on their feature.
Darkness took over her.
“Clara! Help us!”
“It burns!! Help us, please!”
The brown haired woman screamed and jolted awake as the sudden throb of pain struck her left shoulder and face, making her gasp in pain. She withered back down and her body shook with electric pain that seared through the two regions. Closing her eyes, she brought her hand up and traced the bumps on her face, light stinging sensation following her fingertips. She heard a door creaked open and footstep approaching her. Starting to panic, she scooted away from the sound.
“W-who’s there?! Leave me alone!” she yelped. Unable to open her eyes due to the pain, she scooted too far and fell off the bed.
Before her back could hit the cold hard ground, she felt a pair of leather hands caught her waist and brought her back up onto the bed. Still being unable to see, her body shook with dread. Clara felt another weight pushing down on the bed in front of her and she dared not to move.
“You can be assured that I mean no harm.” A male voice spoke just in front of her. Still not trusting the voice, she sat still.
A hand lightly traced the bandages that were wrapped around her shoulder and she responded with a hurt filled moan, flinching away. She heard the man hummed approvingly and moved his gloved hand towards her chin, grabbing hold of it and moving her face from one side to another.
“Who are you?” she heard him say.
“Me? No, who are you?” Clara finally had the courage to speak.
She heard him chuckle and got up from the bed, leaving, only to come back again. The sound of a cotton pad being dabbed with water reached her ear and she started to back away. “Hey, hey, no, what is that?” she questioned worryingly.
He sat back down, this time closer to her, and said, “No fret, it is only a medicine that will help with your... injuries. You took quite a beating in such a short amount of time. It is a miracle that you only took three days to wake up from a broken shoulder and battered face.”
The man can clearly see the surprised look on her face and it amuses him.
“What?! Three days!? Are you serious?”
“Very.” He gently dabbed the soaked cotton on her face. The sensation made her hiss and fidget in place, but she decided to trust her healer.
“Give it a few minutes, it should numb the sting. Also, you have not answered my question.” She heard him put the bottle aside.
“So have you, nice stranger.” She replied.
“Hm… You may call me V.”
“May? Is that not your actual name?” she tilted her head. The pain on her face was slowly going away and she blinked her eyes open to see her savior. The only sight she saw was a man masked by Guy Fawkes, accompanied with a long bob cut hair. He was wearing all black, every inch of him covered with clothing. The man was staring right at her and she can see that through his mask.
“You…I know you…” she muttered quietly.
“Oh? How so?” he tilted his head, confused. After all, he was still preparing for his big plan. Nothing has started yet.
“Words on the street, you know. Rumors and such… wow… I never expected you were real…” Clara reached out with her right hand to touch his mask. V stiffened visibly and grabbed her hand, lowering them, away from his face. Clara sensed his discomfort and retracted her hand.
“Sorry… Oh, right! My name is Claramond Burr. Clara for short.” She offered her hand to shake, which he did.
“Thank you for saving me. I would’ve died without you. I’ll be out of your hair as soon as possible.” She looked around, wondering how the massive amount of books were stacked like in an impossible shape.
“It’s quite alright. After what I saw you did for that woman, I couldn’t help but wonder. A lot of questions rests in my mind but that can wait. You may stay as long as you like, at least stay until you are fully healed.” V got up and looked down at Clara’s brilliant green eyes.
“Rest, for now, and we shall talk once more afterwards. I will leave the door open so you may reach out to me if you need to, but I advise otherwise.” He turned around and started to walk away.
“Wait, how do I know where to find you?” she called out to him. He stopped at the door.
“Simply call my name and I shall be there. Good evening, Mrs. Burr and welcome to my humble abode, the Shadow Gallery.” V turned to face her, bowed gracefully and continued his journey out of the room.
“Thanks for saving me again!” Clara called out once more before slowly laying down on the soft mattress with a smile on her face, letting sleep consume her.
Clara woke to the savoury smell of meat being sizzled on a pan. She slowly opened her sore eyes, still stinging less but still vivid, and recalled what happened. Saving Marie, getting beaten up, being rescued by V.
That’s right, she was saved by the rising terrorist. She calmly got up and sat on the bed with her feet touching the cold stone floor. Taking a good look at the room she's in, she saw books towering up until the ceiling, stacked in a marvellous form all around her. She quietly got up from the bed and inspected herself using a nearby mirror. Clara saw that she was wearing a different shirt; her olive green corset gone and her black long sleeve, hooded shirt changed with a simple short white one. Her mask on the end of the bed and her hair was tied into a loose pony tail. She then slowly shuffled out of the room and saw a magnificent sight before her. A room filled with beauties; a majestic grand piano in the middle, a jukebox at one corner and various blacklisted graceful pieces. From controversial renaissance art to beautiful statues carved as if by god himself, all were there. If Clara’s face wasn’t hurting as much, her jaw would’ve hit the ground. She walked towards the centre of the room and with her eyes starting to throb even more, she closed them and let her uninjured arm feel her unfamiliar surroundings.
Unaware of how much area the grand piano took, Clara bumped her wounded arm against the edge of the instrument, moving the broken bone slightly which made her cursed out loud and swiftly withered to the ground. But before she could feel the cold marble against her warm tan skin, the familiar clothed arm gently caught her. For a split second she panicked but quickly realised it was only the masked man. Through the stinging sensation of her face, she gave him a timid, shy smile. V could only wonder how someone so graceful in fighting can be so clumsy at the same time.
“Are you aright, Mrs Burr?” he helped her up. Steadying herself whilst using his shoulder as support, she could only mumble a noise out and nod her head. V saw what the problem was.
“Does your face still ache?” he let go of her. She nodded back in return, flashing another smile. “Stay put,” he settled her down on the piano chair before walking off to fetch the numbing solution. This time, doubling the dosage. The lady did take a beating after all; a black eye, a busted lip, bruised skin and nose. The man felt pretty bad for her. V walked back to where she was and saw her pressing random keys using her right hand while her head slightly swayed slightly side to side.
What a strange lass…
“Here we are,” he already had the medicine ready when he stopped in front of her. Using one free hand, he took hold of her chin and gently applied the liquid on her skin using a clean cotton pad. Clara could only squirm in slight discomfort and grip the edge of the chair around to ease off the stinging feeling. Once done, he put the items aside and helped her up, this time leading her towards the kitchen. Clara felt the pain going away quicker this time and opened one of her eye to see V leading her towards a table that had a bowl of soup ready on one side. He made her sit in front of the dish and he himself sat before her.
She pointed at the soup and then at herself, which he responded with a nod. Clara took the spoon and scooped some of the liquid into her mouth and seeing how her eye sparkled in delight, it seemed that she loved it (which was to V’s relief).
“Have you eaten before?” she managed to mutter out.
“Why yes, of course, I do need some sort of energy to resort to survive after all. But have I eaten before you as in recently? Yes, I have. Based on your pleased expression, the dish is up to your standards?” he tilted his head, in need of confirmation.
“Of course! This is delicious! Thank you for the meal…” she was nearly halfway through the soup.
“The pleasure is mine. Do tell, how can such a lady have the talent of such cruelty? Never have I ever seen blades such as yours around, except for mine of course, especially after they have been banned since long ago,” he was curious about her. Very curious. While she slept, he took it for himself to find out who this mysterious ‘Claramond Burr’ was and came up with zero information. Such beauty combined with deadly skills that he also possessed was rare, unnatural even. V looked at the enigmatic woman and saw her nervously shuffling her feet in her seat.
Feeling better physically, she replied, her eyes never meeting his hidden ones,
“Is that what you want? The truth…?”
“I would not have asked if it was not what I seek,” he leant forward in interest.
“I’m not sure if it’s a good table conversation…”
“Then what is a good table conversation for us then?”
“What’s hidden behind that grin is a good one,” she replied, her eyes finally meeting his. The tone of her voice changed as if more confidence has embedded itself in them. V knows where this is going.
“What lies behind this everlasting grin is something that will change the course of history. An idea. A vision. A concept that will free our country from the grips of injustice that has gone too far. I am most certain that you will see what I mean as time unravels itself. And you, my dear?” even with the mask, Clara could tell he was grinning.
Heck, he saved my arse…
“Blackwell Rose Orphanage,” she simply stated. V stared at her with interest through his mask and she can feel it. “I gather you don’t know what it is?” she continued.
“An orphanage. But what for is its purpose in our topic?” he inquired.
“That’s where I come from…”
“No, I was the main caretaker of two hundred and thirty-eight gifted children,” Clara’s voice shook slightly when mentioning the word ‘children’. V’s memory seemed to be pulling him on to something.
“Blackwell Rose Orphanage for gifted talents just a few miles on the outskirts of London. It was burnt down a few years ago. Reports said it was an accident which none of its inhabitants survived. But I did. You know what I think?” the memories from the back of her head threatened to make her cry again.
“What they told to the masses was fabricated.”
“I saw!” she raised her voice, her fist slammed onto the table which surprises V himself. Before he could react, she continued.
“From my window, I saw what those men did. They stood there, smiling, unsympathetic as ever as my children burn. Children! They had locked our rooms, each of them! None of us could get out, they were all trapped… We were all trapped… My room… My room was fire proof. I had renovated it to suit my experiments so that any explosion or fire can be contained inside the room… I also had a fireproof suit with it… I had to put it on… I had to live to pay back what they did to those children…” tears were running down her face now, dripping onto her pants. No matter how bad it stung her eyes, she let them flow. V could feel her wrath, sadness, despair and other negative emotions radiating off her.
“I could hear them screaming in pain… I heard their agony for hours as I hid in the corner of my room, unable to do anything… I tried to break the door open, I really did. But silly me had to reinforce it with steel years ago and so it was futile…” sobs choked her words and V couldn’t help but getting up from his seat to comfort the poor woman. He stood next to her and pulled her close, letting her head rests on his stomach. He had a feeling this was a pent up emotion Clara had buried deep inside. Guilt was starting to rise out of him.
“The thing keeping me safe was preventing me from saving my children… I could hear them screaming for me, screaming how much it hurts and how they were slowly choked and roast to death… Their screams slowly died out one by one and by morning, my sanity was gone. I stood amongst the rubbles and charred bodies of my children. Extraordinary roses with such inexplicable talents wasted… gone in one night because WE WERE DIFFERENT!” she shouted before breaking down completely, hanging on to V as tight as she could.
“They haven’t had their chances in life yet, V… it wasn’t fair… all those young brilliant kids had their lives robbed because they could think outside the box! Is craving for knowledge illegal? Why should they pay with their lives?” Clara was only able to mutter things out now, her voice sore from the raw emotion she felt as she tried to hold her sobs down. V could only hold her close, the only way he knew how to deal with these situations based on the books he had read. She had vividly shown him how she felt on the night the tragedy happened and it disturbed him more that he thought.
Seeing as the crying lass wouldn’t stop soon, he thought sending her off to bed would be best.
“My dear, a heavy burden shall be lifted off your shoulder. Although the tragedy that struck you made what you had become, it shall be avenged. But for now, you to rest. Come, I will escort you back to bed,” he gently patted her right shoulder. Even though she did not stop crying, Clara nodded slightly and got up, only to have her legs gave out on her from the grief that was affecting her. She fell to the ground but was caught by V, who then had to carry her back to his room. Laying her head against his chest, her sobs gradually decreased.
Once arrived at the dim room, he gently lowered her onto the bed. Clara had stopped crying but her tears were still idly leaking its way out of her eyes, accompanied by an occasional hiccup. Seeing her this way somehow made him feel despair, something he thought was gone since years ago. She was beaten both physically and emotionally and he wished she didn’t have to experience that. Larkhill changed V completely, so different from what he used to be, which he doesn’t remember anymore, he had the benefit of leaving vast emotions except for wrath behind. But this woman; aside from being unable to forget what happened, she had to keep it for herself. He realised she brought out the hidden emotions within him. Despair was the first and with her around, he was sure it wouldn’t be the last.
He grabbed a few tissue and gently dabbed her tears away. Her hiccups died down and so did the tears. Slowly, V could see that Clara had drifted off to sleep and when he was just about to get up, he felt a light tug on the hem of his shirt. He looked down to see Clara fluttering her sore eyelids, trying to open them.
“Stay… please…” she said.
And so he did. With a soft hush directed at her, he sat next to her sleeping form.
Such a fragile being and yet she defied her orchestrated fate…
Clara laid her hand on top of his gloved ones and finally fell into slumber. After the storm, her sleeping expression gave a sense of calm into the atmosphere and V sat there in comfortable silence, just watching the woman who might change everything.
I actually have the 3rd chapter ready but not sure if i should post it or not since it.... unusual and maybe a bit ooc? I dont know haha. Thank you for reading the story! A review is always warmly welcome!