The One and Only (12.4) – The Circus Freak

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PART 4

Someone grabbed him as he was leaving the hall. He reacted by whipping his body as if to backhand the man with his left.

“Lemme go!” The man flinched and released enough, not expecting the left arm to not actually be there. Laughing, the Circus Freak ducked under a tackle and hopped over two more, leaving the hall through the door that was set on the side, discovering it led to the kitchens.

He had three issues to contend with. One, he didn’t know where the king kept the diary, if on his bedroom or wherever he set up an office. Two, he didn’t know where the bedroom was, and third, he didn’t know where he set up an office.

He had some time, however. He didn’t feel tired, and no warrior in armor would have anywhere near the ability to catch him; as long as he didn’t walk into a room without a way out, he should have more than enough time to figure things out.

The whole castle, as it were, went into a frenzy. He kept running around, not necessarily avoiding guards since they were sometimes standing in the way of where he wanted to get to, in which case he had to go through them.

Everyone was getting their first experience with the Circus Freak, he could tell by how surprised they were every time he escaped their grasp. How caught off guard they were by how he made his narrow slips out of their reach.

He jumped and hand-glided using a candelabrum. He toppled furniture over a soldier before running over him. He slid under and in-between the legs of a would-be attacker, causing a loss of balance and fall. He must’ve knocked out or otherwise hit around fifteen people by the time he finally found the king’s room.

How did he know it was the king’s room? It was bigger than the kitchen, beyond vast, more than any one person would ever need a room to be. On top of that, it contained a dented armor and pedestals holding battle trophies: busted helmets, broken weapons, mementos of the battles he had won.

Why the Shadow Conclave wanted a bunch of swordsmen involved and fighting the beasts was beyond Hugo, but that motivation was really far removed from what was constituted as his drive. The king had irritated him more than enough. It was a diary, why would the king care so much? Probably due to the secrets it held. In other words, knowing he had lost control of his secrets would, for sure, freak him out a whole lot. That was what was driving him.

With that thought in mind, and having seen three windows in that room, two of them leading out into nothing but four stories of open air, he felt confident in blocking the way in.

Hugo pushed a big hard-oak closet in front of the already sturdy door, and then pushed the bed into it for good measure. He’d want to move it anyway to see what was below and beneath the sheets.

“He’s in the king’s quarters!”

“Thanks for the confirmation!” He lifted the mattress to check under, but no book was present.

“Push in! Quick!”

Bodies slammed against the door, and accomplished to move the blockage in a noticeable but negligible way.  Still, the Circus Freak felt the need to hurry his search.

He checked everything and everywhere he could think of. By the time they had hacked through the door and pulled half of the closet out through the hole, he had turned the room upside down. He had turned the chairs upside down, the cabinets and even the logs inside the fireplace, as well as whatever frames were in the walls holding paintings. Everything was flipped.

The Circus Freak yelled out in a fit. He looked at the broken down door, or rather at the soldiers doing the breaking, in a rage. “WHERE IS IT?!?!?”

“You must be kidding,” he heard the king’s voice booming from outside, “get out of my way!”

  What was left of the furniture blocking the door bounced back before the mighty blow. The Circus Freak chuckled nervously, his time had run out. If the king retrieved the diary, that would be it, there would be no more finding it.

Another blow sounded out just before the voice of a woman emerged.

“Stop ignoring me! What was he talking about, a diary? You have no diary!”

“Of course, I don’t.”

“Why did he seem to think you did?”

“What do I know of maniacs?! And their thinking?”

The Circus Freak smirked heavily, pensive. He had an idea that just might work.

“FINE! Keep it, your royal highness! I’ve gotten bored, anyway!”

He ran towards one of the windows leading outside. He jumped out, but instead of leaving completely, he instead grabbed the window sill with his arm so to pull his body to turn up in the air. His feet caught cracks in the wall above the window.

That would be harder without his second arm, but his sense of balance came from his body, not his arms. He grabbed onto a crack and lifted himself.

He climbed out of the window’s view while keeping enough distance to continue hearing well enough. He stood to the side and upwards enough that a head sticking out of the window wouldn’t immediately see him, not that they would ever think to look up. Instinctually, they would never think to assume he could climb up a wall while missing an arm.

He stood there and listened attentively.

After the big burst of noise as they stormed in, came the footsteps and yelling.

“I don’t see’im!” He heard a voice calling back from the window.

“Freak like him, he can probably survive the fall. Go! Scour the property for that blasted jester! I want his head on a spike!”

It lit up his chest, seeing the King so flustered. No more had he the mocking easiness with which he had treated Hugo before. He was very angry and that was so funny.

“Look at what he did to the room, that psychopath….leave me!”

The Circus Freak waited there. He heard the footsteps of all the soldiers leaving, and upon that, started slowly climbing back down.

He went sideways until he was above the window and then quietly climbed back down, all the while hearing the king and queen arguing about the diary.

“I fear for what you have to hide from me, my love.”

“I hide nothing,” he responded amiably and at the same time incapable of hiding his impatience, “I tell you, the jester is insane. For all we know, he does not even strike the right king.”

“He seemed to recognize you.”

“He seemed like a harmless clown until I laughed at his antics. He is naught but a troubled maniac, looking to get a rise of us, dear. Nothing but.”

She grumbled, unsatisfied, and he laudably sighed. He could hear because he had his arm flexed just above the top of the window, holding his body upside down against the wall. He was ready to jump inside once again.

“I will see to the guests, husband, or would you rather go yourself?”

“I will go when I have his head,” the king told her disgruntledly, “and not before.”

The Circus Freak listened to footsteps moving away.

“The slap was unruly and embarrassing. We must make amends with the Royalty.”

“Hence my need for that head. I will rest for a second and then rejoin the search. I overexerted myself opening that door.”

“Oh, but how strong you showed yourself to be,” she said in admiration, “I hope to see some of that strength still remaining later on.”

“I always have more strength than I know what to do with.”

“That is why you have me,” she said knowingly, “I know very well what to do with it.”

He chuckled, pleased, and the footsteps grew farther and silent.

She had left.

The Circus Freak counted the seconds, excited beyond words. He heard a shuffling, an abrupt stepping noise heading towards one of the walls.

“Come on come one, he couldn’t have found it…”

The Circus Freak grinned so hard he felt his face would never be normal again.

His mind was one continuous out-of-control laughter.

He heard cranking and a grumble of rock, he trembled in anticipation.

The king sighed from inside with relief.

“It’s still he-” The Circus Freak pushed off the wall with his foot, turning his body while grabbing on to the window sill. His body swung inside into a landing worthy of his lithe agility, and while he thought to interrupt the king, he actually interrupted someone else who was interrupting the king.

A woman had stepped inside and thrown a rope made of a series of perpetually tied handkerchiefs and enveloped the king in it, chest up more specifically.

“Circus Freak!” The familiar voice yelled in surprise and anger. He thought he recognized her, but he couldn’t remember, nor did he have the time to. He stepped inside the King’s reach, taking advantage of his constricted state.

“DON’T YOU DARE!” The king was, at that moment, doing his best to pull his sword out.

The woman spit fire out her mouth – he had to admit that was surprising – which only motivated his snatching movement to become quicker. The book came off the King’s hand, causing him to moan painfully. Whether that was because of feeling the book being stolen, or the flames enveloping the cloth all around him, it was anybody’s guess.

“NO!” She span, her sleeve cutting off the rope of handkerchiefs to give way to flowers. They spat liquid onto the floor around his feet.

“Oh, are you a clowwwnnoooaah!” His feet slipped and made him fall on his butt.

Not wanting to stay out of the altercation, the king ripped opened the cloth around his face, which had been weakened by the flames, and emerged with a face fully angry, slightly sooted and definetly missing eyebrows.

Hugo laughed at him. One could still tell the smoke they had left behind while burning up.

“THIEVES!” He unsheathed his sword at last, his grip that of a butcher. “IN HERE, DAMN YOU ALL!!”

 He stepped to cleave at the Circus Freak instead of at the woman – it seemed the slap was a worse offense than setting him on fire – but alas, he also slipped on the liquid.

“OOF!”

She had meanwhile done some hand movements to conceal whatever she did to produce a hawk.

A bird of prey was now staring around, waiting for an order. The whole scenario was getting more and more ridiculous and she herself really added to it by looking completely out of place, now that he took a moment to notice.

She was dressed like a performer, but not of a circus, of a magic show. She had a cap, black on the outside and bright red on the inside, with a top hat and a sleeveless buttoned vest that went up into a tiny bow-tie collar. Her pants were also dark, as were her shoes. She looked even more out-of-place than Circus Freak, since at least he was a jester in a court.  

Hugo laughed. “What is this??” The Circus Freak kicked the King in the sides with the intent of pushing himself to slide out of the liquid so he could stand up properly. He rolled back and landed with his feet on dry floor. 

He felt a certain lack of attrition still, some liquid on the soles, when the hawk collided with him while grabbing at the book.

“I see you lost an arm meanwhile, you wretch!” Who was she? Where did he know her from?

“I WILL KILL YOU! I WILL-WHAOSHWAAA!” The king fell again.

 He didn’t have his extra arm to punch the bird away, and it was thrashing at his good arm with his beak.

“OW! Quit it, I only have that one arm,” he complained, but he was still laughing. He couldn’t feel any actual pain and the silliness of the situation was too much.

“Just let go of it, damn you!” She was marching towards him, around the liquid. And on that moment, when she lowered her head and looked up at him ravenously, did memory finally emerge to his attention, revealing who the girl was.

“Oh!” He pointed at her with his imaginary arm, his stump still did what it could. “You’re the magnif–” the bird flapped his wings in his face, suddenly becoming a real annoyance.

“I said quit it,” without a hint of hesitation, he clenched his teeth down on its wings.

Blood gushed. The hawk shrieked, letting go. She flinched and winced at the same time.

“Ah!”

He jerked his head harshly and threw the bird away with his mouth. It hit the rising King in the face.

“Ewwgah-wha!” It caused him to slip again. “Oof!”

The make-up had melted somewhat due to his waiting on the wall, he had sweated noticeably. Because of that, a few feathers were stuck to it, just as some bloody bits of the bird were still stuck to his teeth, which he showed by grinning happily.

Her eyes balked, duly frightened.

“You’re the girl I left in the prison!” He nodded proudly. “That’s you, right? ‘Can’t hurt me, myeh myeh, rules and stuff’,” he mocked her sandy voice, “but I bopped you in the head so you’d sleep a bit and I got out. That’s you, right?”

“Yes,” she hissed, shaking her head, using indignation as fuel to brave through the sight of him.

“No rules here,” he alerted her, “I can hurt ya. I can hurt ya really bad.”

She shook her head as if waking herself from a nightmare, and frowned in a challenging way.

“Well so can I, freak!”

She brought up a bottle of water and too a quick jug. She then threw it aside absentmindedly. It obviously hit the king.

“GAWH-whoah!” He slipped and fell again. “DAMNATION!”

Hugo laughed even more.

The room was all broken up to pieces of chaos, the king’s face was singed, his eyebrows burnt off, and the expression of shame and disbelief on him was priceless as he tried to push the hawk aside while managing to knock the bottle aside as well. She was all dressed in black except for the inside of her cape: bright red. And had a top-hat! He was a one-armed clown holding the book in his one good arm while the other did the best it could to point at things or otherwise gesture his amusement and intent. He was wet, tired, sweaty, with raw bird meat in his mouth.

He was so happy right then.

Her cheeks bulged, and her orange eyes flared with murderous intent, her black ponytail swinging side to side in reaction to her own face.

He dove to the side to avoid another fire-spitting.

“Uuuuh! What a fiery woman!”

She growled and spun around to conceal what manner of trick she used to summon a pistol.

She wasn’t a guard or a soldier, however, she didn’t give him a line he could joke about, she just opened fire.

“Whoah!” He hopped to the side and decided better than to keep playing around. There was still much fun to be had in that crazy world, so many more personalities yet to freak out. He wasn’t about to risk his life to see if the situation in that room could get any crazier, he was going to get out on top.

He dove out the window.

“NO!”

The ground rushed at him, but in his case, it was him rushing at the ground. Without fear, without pause, he flipped in mid-air, timing it so he would hit the ground with his feet and while still flipping so he could direct half the force of his fall into a forward movement, the rest being mitigated with a roll across the floor.

A bullet hit the ground next to him, but there was no way she was going to hit him at that distance, especially not at the speed he took off.

“BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME, SWEETCHEEKS!” He yelled out into the sky, knowing she would be enraged by the insult.

“WE WILL FIND YOU, FREAK!” She yelled back. “THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM!”

We?

He cackled as loudly as he could, allowing his happy laughter to fill the night! To steal its way into the nightmares of whoever would listen.     

Lookin’ forward to it, Magnificent Magician.

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