A standoff had begun. On one side of the crowd-enclosed clearing stood Don the Don, his stomach bleeding and gray suit stained a morbid color as a result. He was breathing heavily, not from pain or exhaustion, but from frustration. His fists were clenched and he continuously glared at the man on the opposite side of the clearing, who stared back, but not as menacingly; a bow was held at this other man's side. The crowd, or what was left of it, all joined in on the staring, some of them nervously sweating and others gulping due to the extreme tension in the air. Even the musclehead and sword collector were motionless. All were waiting for one or the other to make a move.

With his arms raised in the air and his legs together, the Don then threw his arms downward while yelling, from between his fingers appearing sharp triangular knives; the display warranted gasps from the crowd. His arms formed an x-shape in front of him as he hunched his back and bent his knees. It wasn't long after that he burst into a full-throttle run towards the man across from him.

"Whoa!" Murto exclaimed while leaping backwards just out of the reach of the charging man who had swung his fist downwards, the knives of which would have cut Murto's chest had he not retracted his torso midair. "Yikes!" Another leap backwards let him escape a brutal uppercut. Now that he had escaped both blows, he decided to put more distance between himself and the angry Don. He raised his bow and readied an arrow.

"Not so fast!"

"Why not?" Murto asked without giving his attention to Crunk who had made the demand. "I didn't want to waste anymore time."

Crunk stomped his foot. "Quit mocking the boss!" He then shook his head and gritted his teeth, tightening his biceps and increasing the force on his poor captive, of which Murto just took notice of. "If you don't want this chump to die, you'll be a good kid and surrender!"

Frowning, Murto lowered his bow and plucked the arrow from its string, letting it fall to the pavement with a small click. He had no words for the situation, but his throat rumbled in irritation.

The Don cackled loudly, interrupted by sudden coughing; his hand went to his stomach and he grunted before turning to his subordinate. "Good work, Crunk."

Being held in a chokehold from behind by Crunk's large arms was Arie. The sword collector squirmed in the hold, not fully being suffocated but enough that it was causing his face to flush; his hands pulled futilely at his assailant's arms.

"Now you stand still or else he'll snap that boy's neck!" the Don warned as he darted towards Murto for a second time. The archer obeyed, his eyes locked not on the approaching threat but on the squirming sword collector. Their gazes met—his calm eyes and his pained, one open eye—and something began to stir within the sword collector.

There was a feeling in his gut, a sort of fear, but not for himself; his teeth gritted and he gasped in frustration at himself. This guy he barely knew was about to die so that he, Arie, could live. Presumably it would only be for a few more minutes, but he pushed that thought away. The point was that the archer could certainly get out of this whole situation if he just ignored this musclehead's threat. Strong emotions were stirring within him, ones of hatred towards himself that began to overwhelm his conscience. His hands moved swiftly and almost automatically from the large arms to his own side. A quick scraping sound followed by a pained cry, and then Arie found himself staggering forward.

Murto ginned. Not a moment too soon he ducked, the Don's horizontal fisted swing missing its target; he then snatched his arrow from the ground and plowed into the Don's legs, rising to his feet as he did, causing the suited man to get swept from his feet and fall face-first into the ground. For good measure, he followed through with his action from earlier and shot the arrow into the Don's back. Satisfied, he faced the sword collector and flashed another grin. "Good job!"

"Wh-What are you talking a-about?!" Arie was trembling fiercely, which earned him some laughs from the archer. He was holding his sword with both hands in front of him, its tip pointed to the sky. He'd just cut that man! "Oh no, is he hurt?!" With genuine concern he turned, but then screamed.

"You little punk~!" Crunk roared and everyone in the vicinity clamped their hands over their ears. He was bleeding from his arm due to a large gash in his triceps of which the opposite hand was clutching. Wide, bloodshot eyes glared hatefully at the sword collector.

"I'm sorry I'm sorry oh gosh I'm so, so sorry please forgive me~!" Without a moment's notice while pleading, Arie raced down the street for his life.

"Get back here you twerp!" And Crunk was in hot pursuit.

"Whoa! Look at them go! They're so fast!" Murto held a hand to his brow as the two men disappeared into the horizon, clouds of dust kicked up dissipating from their trail. After flashing a grin for the third time, he chased after them in a jog.

The crowd remained silent for quite a while. Glances were exchanged, some confused, some shocked, some grateful, some worried, and some varying combinations of the lot or all of them. One brave boy finally stepped out from the crowd, causing whispers to spread throughout. The boy knelt and prodded the Don with a finger, pondering aloud, "Is he dead?" After receiving no answer from either the crowd or the Don, the boy stood and kicked the body. "I think he's dead."

"Don't do that!" A man suddenly rushed from the crowd and pulled the boy away. "That-That's disrespectful!" he chastised before bowing to the body on the ground. "I'm so sorry, Mister Don, sir! He didn't mean anything rude by it!"

The boy scratched his head. "Daddy, why are you talking to a dead guy?"

Whispers turned to murmurs and soon after to conversation. "Is the Don really dead?"

"Does that mean we're free?"

"I can't believe it. It feels like a dream…"

"That man made it look so easy."

"Yeah, no kidding. Who knew the Don was actually such a pushover?"

"What's going to happen now?"

"We get our lives back, that's what!"

"No more gangs!"

"No more payments!"

"To hell with that~!"

The entire crowd gasped in horror at the shout that came from none other than the Don, who heaved while standing slightly hunched, his arm fully extended to the side after having been used to knock down the father and son who had ridiculed him. "Where did that bastard go?!" He eyed the crowd menacingly, scanning for the person who would be giving him the answer. No such person ever stepped forward. He turned, glaring while snatching the boy who had kicked him. With his knives to the boy's cheek, he shouted, "Answer me~!"

The father shot out a shaky finger down the road, "Th-That way, Don, sir!" and then proceeded to bow and plead, "Please don't hurt my son!"

A single snigger was heard from the Don before he tossed the boy to the ground whom landed on his rear. Without another word he turned around and walked out of the crowd, the arrow still in his back.


Arie ran as fast as he could, buzzing past everything and taking sharp turns down side-streets or thin alleyways, yet always coming back out to the main street.

The musclehead in pursuit was beyond words for the speed this man was exhibiting. Huffing and stopping momentarily with his hands on his knees, he did something he rarely did—put his brain to use. A sly expression crossed his face and he pounded his fist into his palm in brilliance. He then ran straight down the main street.

While running randomly, Arie never bothered to look behind him to see if he was still being chased. He'd run until his legs quit working, he concluded. He buzzed down another side-street, through an alleyway branching from it and into another side-street, and back out to the main street; suddenly he was staring at the blue sky and counting pretty stars above him.

Crunk's eyes snapped shut as he burst into cachinnation, a stiff arm with a balled first held out. "What a bloke! Ran right into me!" He relished in his laughter, but when he finally opened his eyes he panicked, "What~?" an interjected growl and then, while looking side-to-side, "Where'd he go?!" Frustrated, the musclehead scanned the alleyway. There were a few objects that one could hide in or around; surely this coward would be doing one of the two. He stormed down it, jutting his head aggressively behind each object and lifting the lids of any crates or barrels. He had come up with nothing and reached the final barrel, kicking it out of frustration for a failed search; the result was a yelp as it flew through the air, top sliding off and contents—one sword collector—falling out onto his stomach. Crunk fist-pumped. "Found you!"

Shakily, Arie got to his feet, but remained kneeling. As the musclehead drew near to grab him by the collar, he turned around and began swinging his sword madly, hitting the large man many times in random places of his body. There was yelling, and grunting, and confusion coming from the musclehead as he took the beating. "Take that and that and that and that!" Arie shouted before giving a wild battle-cry.

"What are you doing?! Stop that!" Crunk held his arms out in front of him defensively, taking each blow while backing up slowly. Frustration built up and he grabbed the sword by the blade—which happened to still be sheathed. "It's still sheathed, you know."

There was a pause in which neither of them moved. "I know," Arie stated. "I don't want to hurt you more."

Crunk shouted into the other man's face, "Don't mock me~!" His other hand grasped the sheathed blade as well.

"That's not what I—" Arie was interrupted as the sword began to be violently shaken in the air, him along with it as he still held the hilt. He screamed, but still somehow managed to get out the rest of his statement between it, "—Meant! I-I meant if-if I did try to attack, I—" Interruption struck again; Crunk had broadened his shaking, causing the sword to angle higher and its owner to be thrown into the air as it was unintentionally slid from its sheath. While falling to the ground, the tip of the sword cut down the center of the musclehead. A thud and clank were heard as Arie hit the ground, followed shortly by an even louder thud.

He laid there for quite a while, his hand grasping the hilt of the blade. When the pain of the rough landing subsided, he let his eyes open and pushed himself off the ground, letting himself fall back onto his rear. He screamed. "Are you all right?!"

On the ground before him lay a motionless Crunk on his back, arms and legs spread fully, bleeding from a cut that went from the tip of his forehead, down between his eyes, all the way down his center (quite literally) to his pelvis.

"I'm so sorry! Please don't be dead! Say something~!"

To be continued.