The One and Only (12.3) – The Circus Freak

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PART 3

“This Jester is hilarious! What other tricks do you have? Show me!”

He was being invited to do his best. This man, too used to being on top of the world, seemed to think the Circus Freak was an entertaining experience.

No, the king was going to be an entertaining experience, not him. Hugo did the foot trick again but the king liked it. He did a handstand and then spun around, leaving his hand as it was, hearing the delectable whimpers of his watchers which were, alas, drowned out by the king’s laughter.

In fact, the people weren’t getting to the king, but rather the other way around. Trick by trick, more people joined the king. The king was relaxing them, or at the very least, motivating them to pretend they saw the humor in it all.

His mood worsened more and more. That over-inflated fun-loving laughter drilling into the Circus Freak’s ear drums like a growing headache. He became angrier and angrier, but in the middle of all his movements and tricks, it was hard to tell how angry his smirking was turning.

He didn’t have to be experiencing that humiliation, he didn’t have to be in that party in the first place. He could take off and go steal the thing he was there for at any time, but the experience was too uncanny. He had never not been scary, he had never been truly hilarious unless he meant to be funny, and he didn’t.

He needed the people to feel unsafe and uneasy, to fear his unpredictability and what he was capable of. The king had countered that. It was his fault. If the Circus Freak could get to him…

“And now for this!”

He jumped onto the table, landing with feet in-between two platters. He cartwheeled on, then flipping and spinning, he performed acrobatics masterfully, never touching a dish, a platter or drink.   

“Ooooh!” They clapped, amazed. He didn’t care he was helping them feel at ease again, he wanted to get in the king’s face.

He front-flipped in the air to land at the edge of the table, intending to sit down right in front of the king. Nearly on his lap.

He felt something push him off the air, however. It completely sent him back and made him lose control of his flipping and balance. He landed on the hardwood table, on top of a half-eaten platter, he felt the food squashed by his back as it rebounded. He tumbled and rolled across the table making a huge mess and giving everyone even more pronounced entertainment.

He opened his eyes to the sound of a roar of laughter. Of mocking giggling. A man to his side had saved a flask of wine and was drinking while snickering, a woman to his other side was balking her make-up off at the Circus Freak’s silly antics. He saw the king sitting back down again, laughing at him while clapping his hands.

“The jester thought to take my lap!”

“It’s not such a simple thing, taking my husband’s lap,” said the woman sitting at his left.

Hugo’s eyes grew dark, darker than his make-up. He grinned dangerously, not even pretending to be smiling. It was hungry, a large hungry grin.

“STOP LAUGHING!”

He kicked the man who had saved a flask, silencing the entire table before he even landed on the ground. Which he did, the chair toppled back due to the force of the man’s reaction to the kick, he was unconscious before he hit the ground.

The Circus Freak stood up, shoulders arched in challenge.

I am not funny, his stance clearly said, I am unknown.

It was his last resort and the one that had never failed. To make it clear to everyone that they were not safe. Not by a long shot.

The king’s laughter died down, but in no way worried by the new development. It just relaxed, as if to take a pause to breathe properly.

“Haa…what’s the matter, jester?” He filled a flask half-way with mead. “I thought laughter was the true salary for your passion.”

“I do not live for your amusement,” Hugo growled.

“What do you leave for then?” He paused, taking a sip of his drink. The King smiled knowingly and added, “Circus Freak?”

He knew who he was.

For the first time, the Circus Freak deigned to analyze the king properly. He was the warrior, no doubt, seeing as he was wearing chain mail under his informal clothing right then and he had a sword and shield at each his side, ready to use. A sturdy beard covered half his face, it was as blonde as his head of hair, curly and cut enough so not to cover his eyes while still being allowed to stretched down to the base of his neck. He looked younger than he was, probably, and the blonde was near white, so much so he probably had gray hairs posing as blonde.

He looked unworried, a feeling of power and safety that was contagious, it made everyone feel safe. The whole table now watched the exchange, while the rest of the enormous hall carried on with the noise of the party, not having noticed any of what was transpiring. 

“Tell me, Jester,” he took another sip of drink, his back relaxing against his chair. “What have you come to steal?”

“Your safety,” he replied without hesitation, “your comfort. Your ego and self-righteousness.”

“You do not even know me,” the King pointed out.

“I’ve met kings,” he said with his huge grin, unimpressed. He arched forward further, taking a position that betrayed a clear intention to lunge at any moment.

“None like me, apparently, or you would think better of trying to disturb me with your little antics. And what are you doing? You leer at me as if to attack? You have no weapons, nothing but the silly guile of a thief who knows nothing besides how to avoid conflict.”

“Unlike you! Such a big warrior, riiight?” His voice was mocking. “Fought in big boy wars, sliced off some big boy arms and slashed open some big boy throats. Dismemberment and decapitation! Pain and suffering, you’ve seen it all, you’ve done it all! There’s nothing I can show that will be new to such a big mighty hardened warrior.”

The King chuckled and shrugged, leaning a drink towards him.

“Pretty much.”  

“Been there, done that,” he said with a huge grin, obviously finding the claim to be…false. But it didn’t affect the King.

“You got it.”

The Circus Freak laughed.

“I’m gonna slap ya twice in the face, oh righteous of right, and then I’m gonna find your room and steal your diary.”

The king’s face darkened, the amusement suddenly and abruptly lost to him.

“Jester…”

“And then the SHADOW CONCLAVE!” He stood upright and opened his arms in declaration. “It will make you fight the beasts!”

“The what?” Someone said. “The shadow conclave?”

“Think better of your threats, clown. As insulted as you are by my laughter, I promise you don’t want to see me frown.”

The Circus Freak laughed. Now it was him laughing at the King.

“That was a great rhyme, oh king!”

The noblest of nobles opened his eyes in the realization that he had indeed rhymed. Flustered, his face turned serious, his upper lip taking the recognizable m-shape that angry man liked to make when they wanted to be intimidating.

“Whatever this shadow conclave is, they thought wrong to trust in you, Freak. GUARDS! ARREST HIM!”

The order boomed out of his voice. It was a new tone of voice, a new volume. With it, the entire hall became aware of the commotion and silence hit and settled even to the mice that were scampering about.

The Circus Freak couldn’t be happier. He had done it, everyone was flustered, and worried. He was back in charge.

He cackled.

“So you don’t know what the Shadow Conclave is either, eh? Guess we’re more alike than I thought.”

“SEIZE THAT JESTER, I SAID!”

The Circus Freak dove forward. He flipped his way across the table, dodging the one or two swords that were unsheathed in time to try and slash at him.

“You insult me!”

He caught a glance of the king standing up, sword and shield brandished. The shield rammed against him with full force, bouncing him back. He actually lost tabs on his sight because of that, as well as hearing and touch and even smell.

They came back with the sensation of falling, instants before landing on the ground. He had tumbled all the way across the massive dinner table, falling at the intersection with the other two, which diagonally spread away from the kings’.

He stood up surrounded by the two tables and licked blood off his busted lip, smiling expectantly as five or six warriors climbed over the tables to advance on him.

“You have made a grave error!” One of them shouted.

He laughed in response.

The first warrior advanced towards him, thrusting at his belly. He spun and the blade performed a thin cut on his clothes, hardly even drawing a drop of blood. The spin continued, pushing the sword a tad aside before leading his fist to the man’s temple.

His eyes rolled back into the dream state while he fell down.

The Circus Freak lifted one of his legs as well as his arm, holding a fighting stance which made the King squint his eyes in analysis.

The warriors were sluggish. They were unprepared for battle in both body and equipment. They had some weapons here and there, but they were not armored, they had no helmets, and some of their weapons were simply the eating utensils.

In the silence of expectation, brought upon by the befuddlement of one of their own having been knocked out with one swift movement…the Circus Freak started a common circus song.

“Lalala…” It had immediate effect, goading another man to leap at him.

This was all, of course, while the sober armored knights – that were there actually ready to fight someone else, armored and armed – were making their way through the crowd of watchers and over the tables.

He shoved his left foot in the man’s face, startling him. He cleaved at the foot, but it moved out of his way and lunged through the other side. During the two seconds in which the man was disoriented, Circus Freak shuffled his supporting foot and balanced the weight of his body in a pull and push movement so as to deliver a good deal of force to his thrusting kick that sunk into the man’s stomach.

He switched feet and leaned forward to bring his fist down on the man’s head – he had bent over his stomach – another sword meanwhile slashing over his back while his substitute kicking foot had connected its heel with that attacker’s groins.

“Aahhoww!”

The Circus Freak laughed and stood up. Another warrior, holding a knife and a fork, came at him. It was hilarious. He dodged the thrusts and the swipes, parrying them with one-handed smacks, until he used a dodge to swipe the woman’s feet off balance. He used that opening to jab at her nose.

“Augh!” She grabbed at her nose, but he relentlessly used that opening to grab on to her hair and pull her head down to meet a rising knee.

“Wooooo!”

The properly armored knights, three of them, had finally made their way into the ring.

“You fight like an oriental.”

The Circus Freak looked over to the king inquisitively.

“Fight? I’m not fighting.”

“Martial arts. Right? You’re practiced but it won’t save you this day.”

“I dunno what you’re blabbering about, you haven’t seen me fighting,” he grinned, “I’m just dancing.”

He was trying to be creepy, but in a way, he was simply relaying what he had been told. It was true that whatever that was, he had learned in the lands of the Orient. A country he couldn’t spell, from people he could barely understand. He had seen some interesting feats he had never thought to perform before, like lifting your whole body on one finger, or sleeping on nails, or doing a handstand on nails – they were really obsessed with being comfortable on nails for some reason. They really liked getting nailed.

Hugo chuckled.

He started emulating every exercise he saw them do. Eventually, he was caught, and they sought to eject him, but pacifists can never get anything done if other people don’t want them to. And they were pacifists, with all their feats of strength, none of them was a warrior or in any way looked for fights.

No, they couldn’t get rid of him. Instead, they hated him, which was fine by him, he continued learning anyways.

The point was that they had told him that his movements held no meaning. He copied their form, but not their spiritual mumbo jumbo, or their breathing and nervous control and philosophies and whatnot, so while he might move like them, the moves would never carry the force they should.

In essence, he would never really be executing the martial art, he would just be dancing.

Of course, that very accurate reference to his joke was lost on everyone who heard it in that room, but why would he care? Who makes jokes for other people’s sake, anyways?

His body flowed like a liquid, shaping itself to avoid the thrusts and swings of his attackers, until an opportunity arose to do it while diving for the main dinner table that led straight to the king who, of course, had not moved an inch from his chair, other than to sit back down.

His dinner throne.

The Circus Freak landed with his remaining hand on the ground and pushed into a perfect land on the table’s ledge with his left foot. He stepped off that and ran across the table, licking his lips in excitement.

“Stop him!”

“Stop the clown!”

The king said nothing. He but watched in stoic appreciation while standing up, planning to again use his shield it seemed. That suited Hugo just fine.

This time, he didn’t use acrobatics to get to the king. Instead, he danced. No cartwheels and flips, just moving the limbs out of the way, flowing an ever-continuous movement through the obstacles pushed into his way. Like swords, an arrow, plates of food, even yells.

“By the gods!”

“STOP HIM!”

The king’s facial features became evident once again, the proximity becoming ideal.

The shield pushed against the Circus Freak, but this time, he stepped around. He slapped the side of the shield in one abrupt and incisive slap, which force he used to spin his body around the shield and out of the table.

The king was a tall man, taller than Hugo by an entire bust, which worked out to his advantage. The Circus Freak finished the spin with his arm outstretched, long enough to slap the king on his face.

He landed in an agile twirl, sniveling uncontrollably as his spin slowed to a stop, facing the entire hall to bask on his achievement.

At last, he had caused the silence of a crowd duly freaked out.

He bowed.

“It has been an honor!”

The king turned, pushing his heavy chair out of the way as if it was a toy.

“I WILL HAVE YOUR HEAD!” The smaller throne bent over and fell over like the heavy chair it was, thundering a pretty appropriate exclamation point to the king’s decree.

“I’d give it to you but I think it’s clear I’m not fully in its possession either,” he laughed.

“RAAAHHH”

The king raged, embarrassed. The soldiers raged, insulted for their lord. Everyone else balked, appalled at the lack of respect.

The Circus Freak did what he always ended up doing, he ran away like a mad man and cackled like an animal.

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