Part 3:

And that Thing was Crime

Kajulan wandered through the street aimlessly. And dizzy. She didn’t know why she was dizzy, but she was. You didn’t enter her line of work to make friends, but it was still upsetting for Rudim to just leave like that. And now she wasn’t even sure if Rudim considered her a friend, which made her sad.

Kajulan stopped, crouching on the side of the road and trying to catch her bearings. The city had wide streets, built to accommodate great wagons that no longer graced them, but right now they felt kind of claustrophobic and suffocating. She grabbed her arms and began to rub them. It was still cold, even though it should have begun to warm up at least a week ago. That made her angry. She slammed her fist down on the brick road, which only resulted in hurting her hand.

As she began to nurse the mild wound, Kajulan wondered if maybe it was better that she brought her anger down upon something more constructive, like a person. She briefly thought about the wannabe mercenary from earlier, but decided against it. He seemed dangerous, in a brutish sort of way, and she was pretty sure she would die.

Kajulan continued to stew, and was so busy doing so that she almost didn’t notice the yilgez man who had just passed her. She didn’t get a good look at him, but something about him had instilled that feeling in her that she somehow knew him. She hopped up and ran over, tapping him on the shoulder. The young man turned to face her.

“Hello?” he said briskly, although in a way more confused than rude. Kajulan continued to look him up and down, trying to figure out who he was. He was a bit taller than her, and quite a bit broader, and his face had a certain youthful roundness to it that somehow broke through the otherwise sharp nature of his yilgez features.

“Do I know you?” asked the young man.

“I’m still trying to figure that out,” replied Kajulan. She abruptly grabbed his chin and used it to forcibly turn his head. She was lucky he wasn’t of a violent disposition. If someone had done the same to her, she probably would’ve snapped their fingers, but Tekole took it like a champ.

“Tekole!” Kajulan exclaimed, snapping her fingers. “That’s it!” The man simply continued to stare at her. “That is your name, isn’t it?”

“Y-yes,” answered the man. “But I don’t know you.”

“Oh, come on,” said Kajulan. She cocked her head and spread her arms. “I recognized you. Now you need to recognize me!”

Tekole leaned in to observe her, getting awkwardly close in the process. As if anything could be awkward after she shook his head like a lever.

A look of conceited discontent came across her face. “It’s Kajulan, Tekole.”

Tekole leaped back, as if in shock. “Kajulan? You’re really Kajulan?”

Now Kajulan was a little taken aback. She had no idea she had been so popular in her youth.

“In the flesh,” she replied, doing a little curtsy. Tekole continued to stand their flabbergasted, while Kajulan stared aloofly into the distance, contemplating what this meant for her sense of self-conceptualization.

“Kajulan, we all thought you were dead.”

She jerked back to face him. “What? Why?”

Tekole’s shoulders hunched, taking an explanatory posture. “You ran away. And when you didn’t come back, everybody was saying it was probably because you died.”

Kajulan’s index finger shot up. “Alright, first of all, I didn’t run away. We were wards of the state, not prisoners. I just grew up. And second of all.” She stopped in thought. “. . . I’m not dead.”

Tekole slowly nodded. “That’s good.”

“Thank you. I think so too.”

A moment passed in silence.

“Well . . . goodbye.”

Tekole began to leave, but Kajulan shot her arm out, catching him. “Wait wait wait wait wait. We’ve just been reunited after years of not seeing each other. You can’t just leave.”

“We never really talked at all.”

Tekole went to leave again, but Kajulan stepped in front of him, blocking him completely. “But we did live under the same roof. Surely that counts for something.”

Tekole nodded in agreement, but tried to leave again regardless, this time successfully sidestepping Kajulan. He only managed to get a few steps away before Kajulan came up with something else.

“Don’t you want to know what I’ve been doing since I left?”

Tekole stopped and turned around, and Kajulan ran the short distance back over to him. “Alright,” she began. “So obviously I left, “ran away,” as you put it. But I had to. I mean, I was sick of it there. Keep your hair up, stay inside, eat, sleep, repeat. And for what? So we could be filtered into some failing scroll mill? I think not!”

“I work in a scroll mill.”

Kajulan stopped for a moment, but ultimately decided not to directly respond to his interjection. “I decided there was something better for me out there. Something more exciting. And that thing was crime.”

Tekole’s eyes widened. “Kajulan, you can’t commit crime! That’s against the law!”

“I can, and I do,” replied Kajulan, embarrassingly smug about her acts of petty civil disobedience.

“But Kajulan, you could get thrown in jail!”

Kajulan waved her hand dismissively. “Pfft. By who? The town guard is practically nonexistent, and the Satrap sure as hell doesn’t care. I’m more likely to be left butchered in the street by some noble’s personal bodyguard than arrested.”

“That doesn’t sound better!”

Kajulan shrugged. “It’s a matter of perspective, I guess. But I don’t mind the danger. In fact, I’ve had a few close calls already.” She pointed to two gashes, one in her lip and one below her eyelid. “See these? Got them from some lady who said I was moving in on her turf. Thought she was unarmed. She wasn’t.”

Tekole responded in turn, sliding his left shoulder out of his collar and revealing the remains of a burn. “I got this when one of those scroll-things we make exploded. Big ball of fire. It wasn’t even supposed to involve fire.”

Kajulan grinned wildly, and slid her right shoulder from her shirt, the remains of a long cut running accross it. “Saw a man who was just standing there on the side of the road, fat coin-purse loosely hanging from his belt. He had a sword hanging from it too, but I was sure that if I got in and out quickly I could outrun him. Turns out I was right; I could outrun him, but I couldn’t outrun the length of his sword.”

“Ouch,” said Tekole.

“That’s what I said too!”

Tekole rolled his left sleeve up to his elbow, revealing several nasty gashes along his arm. “We were doing something with copper wire. I still don’t really understand it. But the wire got wrapped around my arm as we were spinning it with this rod thing. Older guy who works there said I was lucky. Said that someone got their whole arm ripped off in a similar accident.”

Kajulan reached out to poke the wound, but Tekole recoiled.

“Well, I’ve been shot!” Kajulan exclaimed proudly. She rolled her shirt and vest up above her stomach, revealing a mostly healed puncture wound in her side. “Little asshole was a better shot than I gave him credit for.”

Tekole put his hands up. “Alright, you win.”

He chuckled lightly, and Kajulan shoved him playfully. “Hey, it sounds like you’ve had some bad ones too.”

Tekole looked down. “Yeah, I guess so.”

Kajulan glanced away, a thought entering her mind. “You know Tekole, something’s come up recently. Something that could involve a pretty big score, if you’re interested.”

Tekole shook his head. “I don’t think so. Too dangerous.”

Kajulan clasped her forehead. “Tekole, you said you were in an explosion! How much more dangerous could this be?!” She shoved him again, this time a little more roughly. “Come on, live a little. I’ve been doing this for years, and I’m not dead!”

Tekole looked away in thought, before turning back towards her and nodding. “You’re right. You aren’t dead. Alright, I’ll do it!”

Kajulan beamed and clasped her hands together. “Excellent!” She reached around Tekole, putting an arm on his uninjured shoulder. “Now, let me tell you what I’m thinking.”