Not too far away, Milo dropped from a different rooftop, down to a landing just outside the bedroom window of Mr. Harold Wilder. He peered in through the gap between the curtains. The room inside was dark, lit only by a soft red nightlight, an odd choice, Milo thought, for a grown man, and the early morning twilight which seeped in from outside. He adjusted the maroon beanie on his head and tightened his fingerless gloves, before lifting the window just enough that he could fit his slender, agile body through it. He rolled into the room, landing on all fours.
Just like a cat.
Despite what Juno said, Milo was very much a man, or at least he was mostly a man. His features were those of a completely normal twenty-five-year-old man. He had beige-toned skin, tightly coiled natural black hair, beneath the beanie, and piercing gray-blue eyes. Around his neck, he wore what seemed to be a thin red collar with a silver star-shaped pendant which hung just beneath his throat. His royal blue coat dusted the floor like a cloak as he stood and made his way to the ornate dresser where sat several small ceramic boxes full of trinkets. One by one, he opened the boxes until he found what he was looking for: a golden locket in the shape of a heart, attached to a thin chain necklace. He undid the clasp and opened it to find a photo of Mrs. Eveline Wilder, a much younger woman than when he had met her several days earlier, standing next to an older woman, presumably her mother, in front of an old farmhouse.
Much like this trinket, Eveline was no longer Harold’s. Milo was a jack of all trades and had many well-to-do clients who paid him handsomely to do odd jobs, one of which included the procuring of lost, or stolen, goods. Eveline had been recommended Milo’s services from a friend of hers whom she regularly played tennis with, and Milo had agreed to help her. For a fee of course. After all, Harold Wilder was a powerful man. A rich man. A man who ran a multi-million dollar corporation by day and an even more lucrative crime ring by night. Though according to the authorities, there wasn’t enough proof of the latter to press any kind of charges. Milo was putting his life on the line to be in this apartment. If he was caught, Harold would hunt him to the ends of the earth.
“Put it down, and turn around slowly,” said a calm voice behind Milo. Milo froze. He was sure the apartment was empty. He watched Harold leave. Or at least, he thought he did. Despite the request, he did not put the trinket down. He slowly turned to face Harold. Milo grinned at the man, sly and nonchalant.
Never show them your fear.
“I’m sorry, can I help you?” asked Milo, as if it were Harold intruding.
“Help me?” asked Harold. Milo now saw that the man was holding a silver handgun pointed directly at him. Other than this, Harold wasn’t all that threatening. He was a man of average height with light skin and salt and pepper hair. His face was rigid and pointed like that of someone who often had to make cold, calculating decisions. He too wore a coat, the one that Milo had seen him wearing when he left. “You’re in my house!”
Milo looked around. “Wait! This isn’t Barclay’s Center?” He grabbed his chest in mock surprise. “Unbelievable! I knew I shouldn’t have taken directions from that old lady on the corner. I mean, I thought it was weird that she was screaming that JFK Jr. was coming back to save us all. But I figured she was just a little crazy. I figured she could be off her rocker and still know her way around Cobble Hill. Never want to make assumptions, ya know? I swear. Just when you try to give people the benefit of the doubt.”
Harold switched the safety off. “What are you doing in my home?”
“Well I thought I was seeing the Jonas Brothers perform, but apparently—”
Harold cocked the pistol. “I am giving you one more chance before I blow your fucking head off,” snapped Harold. “Now tell me, did she send you? Are you here for Eveline? Because she should know better than to send a two-bit thief into my home. If she thinks she’s even getting a penny of my—”
From under his coat, Milo whipped out a yellow umbrella, swung it upwards, and knocked the gun out of Harold’s hand with a loud ‘THWACK!’ The umbrella remained closed, a silver clasp holding it snug. It was a classic, straight umbrella with a polished handle and hooked end. However, unlike most umbrellas, it had been crafted by a master weaponsmith to have all the durability and design of a well crafted martial weapon. That being said, it was also quite effective at sheltering its user from the rain.
Milo jumped left and kicked off the wall. He spun in the air, landing a second kick across Harold’s face, and sent the man sprawling. Unfortunately, Harold fell right in front of the window which Milo had used to enter the room. The same window he was planning to escape through.
“Shit,” Milo hissed. He turned and lunged for the room’s door, slammed through it, and sped off down a long hallway, fixing the umbrella back onto the clasp on the belt around his waist.
“Get back here you little shit!” yelled Harold from behind him.
Milo pushed on each door he came to, searching frantically for another exit. There was a loud popping noise behind him, and then a chunk of drywall exploded next to his head, signaling that Harold was in the hallway now and firing the gun recklessly as he chased Milo. Milo came out the other end of the hallway to a dining room. A long table surrounded by six chairs, set with a white cloth and flowery centerpiece, filled most of the room. There were cabinets pushed against the walls as well as photos and antiquities hanging from them. But what caught Milo’s attention was the far wall which was covered in tall windows.
He jumped over the table, then smashed one of the windows with his umbrella. The glass shattered, showering the alley below. He pulled himself out the window, grabbed onto the ledge above it, and started pulling himself up.
But he wasn’t fast enough. Harold reached through the shattered window and grabbed Milo’s foot, pulling him down. Milo kicked out but Harold was stronger than him, and soon he found himself being pulled back into the dining room. Shards of broken glass sticking out from the window’s frame dug into his skin. Pain shot through his body and blood seeped from the wounds, soiling his shirt and pants. He scrambled, flailing his arms as he tried to grab onto something, anything, but it was no use.
Harold swung Milo by his ankle, throwing him onto the dining table, which snapped in half. The flower centerpiece crashed to the ground, sending roses careening across the room and shattering the white vase they’d been in. Milo rolled off the broken table, onto the floor. He scrambled to stand up, to get his bearings. In the confusion, one corner of his coat snagged on the broken table and ripped off of him, and his beanie fell to the floor. He finally freed himself from the table’s remains, and as he stood, grabbing his beanie off the floor, Harold gasped in surprise.
Atop Milo’s head, nestled in his thick, tightly coiled black hair, were two pointed gray and black striped cat ears. And if this wasn’t already an unbelievable sight, waving behind him, starting at the base of his spine just above his rear, was a fluffy striped tail which flicked back and forth in frustration.
“What …. are you?” asked Harold, a look of horror filling his face.
“What I am…” replied Milo, “is pissed off.”
Every muscle in his body ached. Blood dripped from his wounds. It had been some time since Milo had found himself in a spot as tight as this and chances were good he wouldn’t make it out alive. Still, if he was going down, he was going down swinging. He took in a deep, strained breath, and prepared for what would most likely be the final fight of his life.
It was at this moment that the star shaped pendant hanging from the red collar around his neck lit up. Milo heard a voice, which sounded very much like his mother’s, whisper in his ear. As the voice spoke, its words magically appeared before him, visible only to him.
Level 1 Unlocked!
New Melee Arte Unlocked!
You channel your inner feline. Movement speed increased by 50%
Reaction speed increased by 100%
Increases natural recovery rate and ability to survive minor wounds
Actions which grant experience towards Level 2
– Channel Cat Like Reflexes in order to build your strength.
– Improve speed, strength and stamina through training.
– Stay alive.
Milo gave a surprised laugh. “Looks like Juno was wrong about fate.” The words disappeared and the whispers ceased, leaving Milo face to face with Harold.
“Whatever you are, I’m sure you can still die,” snarled Harold. He steadied the gun in his hand.
“You’re really gonna kill me, Harold?” asked Milo. “You want that blood on your hands? You want that police investigation? The media attention? The paperwork?”
Harold cackled like a deranged super villain. “You are breaking and entering into my home. And let’s be honest, you’re nobody.” He eyed Milo up and down, taking in the young man. “They’ll care even less with the law on my side and some cash lining their pockets.”
“Wow! Rich and corrupt. Shocking!” quipped Milo, sounding not the least bit shocked.
“So long, cat boy.” The gun fired. The pendant hanging from Milo’s neck glistened as if catching the quickest reflection of light. The words Catlike Reflexes Now Active appeared in Milo’s vision. Before the bullet could hit him, he grabbed the hilt of the umbrella hanging from his waist, swung upwards, and deflected the bullet. It ricocheted into the wall. Harold shot again. To Milo, it was as if the bullets were now moving in slow motion, giving him the time he needed to defend against them. Four more bullets fired only to be blocked one by one by the ultra-dense wood of the umbrella.
“Just die already!” Harold cried. He threw the empty gun to the side and grabbed for a long decorated sword hanging above one of the cabinets on a nearby wall. He pointed the sword at Milo, prepared to duel.
“I received three gold medals for fencing in my time at Duke,” said Harold proudly. Milo got the impression that he relished sharing this very unimportant information with anyone who would listen.
“Fancy,” said Milo. “I used to be a cat.”
“I prefer dogs,” spat Harold.
“I prefer men who don’t cheat on their wives with their secretaries,” said Milo. Harold’s face turned bright red. “Guess we both picked the wrong company today.”
They lunged at each other, Milo with his umbrella and Harold with his sword. The two weapons clashed, swinging and crashing into the chandelier above. Electrical sparks and glass showered the room. Milo twisted the hilt of the umbrella, expanding it to its full size, knocking Harold back.
Harold quickly recovered and leapt back into the fray, grabbing the umbrella, and spinning Milo and the weapon around so that Milo’s back was to the shattered window. Milo closed the umbrella and parried, avoiding a swipe from the sword. Harold’ eyes suddenly filled with a manic glee. Before Milo could understand why, Harold’s free hand whipped out and stabbed a steak knife into Milo’s stomach.
The pain shot through Milo’s whole body as a gasp escaped his lips.
Harold leaned into him and whispered in his ear. “Now get the hell out of my house.” Then he kicked Milo unceremoniously through the window.
Milo fell several stories towards the dark alley below. But just as he was about to slam into the ground, his tail spun, his body twisted, and he landed, crouched on the balls of his feet. He coughed and blood spewed from his mouth, spattering the pavement.
“Are you fucking kidding me!?” screamed Harold from above.
Milo stood, using his umbrella to support his wait, and pointed a middle finger up towards a raging Harold. “Nine lives bitch!” he yelled back. He wasn’t sure if he actually had nine lives, but if he did, this little stunt would certainly use up one of them. What was this, his fourth? Fifth? He’d lost count. He prodded the skin around the knife wound, then gripped the handle of the steak knife and yanked it free in one pull.
“Gah!” he cringed. He could already feel the minor cuts on his arms and legs closing up thanks to his “Licked Wounds” ability. The knife wound would take some extra attention. Luckily, it didn’t seem as though it had cut into anything important. At least he hoped it hadn’t. He was still standing, which was usually a good sign. Harold was still cursing wildly from the window above, but Milo no longer cared.
He turned and began stumbling down the alleyway, using the brick wall to steady himself.
He had a necklace to deliver, a payment to receive, and then it would be time to reward himself with a delicious dinner somewhere, and maybe a visit to Juno to get patched up. She lost her ability to do so magically when they all lost their powers, but she still knew her way around a bandage and a sewing kit.
He was also curious what had triggered the pendant on his collar, his relic, to activate suddenly after being dormant for so long. Had Arthur’s heir actually made it to the apartment? Had they managed to open the backpack? Had anyone else’s relics started working again? Even with all the curiosity spinning through his mind, he reminded himself that some curiosities could kill a cat.
He decided that his questions could definitely wait, at least until after breakfast.
I have SO much to say about Milo but I will try to keep some of it for future chapters. First and foremost, Milo was, at one point, a character in his own story. I had outlined a tale about Milo but felt it didn’t have enough to really make it a full story. This is also true of Juno as well. Eventually I would start to imagine them in a tale with Charlie and it all just seemed to click together. In some ways, Milo is the easiest character for me to write. He’s sharp and sassy and any time I am not sure what he would do, I just watch my cats for a few minutes and it all comes together.
I’m also excited that we get our first action scene in this chapter! Don’t worry, there are plenty more where that came from!
What do you think of Milo’s entrance into the world of Darkmoon Drive? Let me know in the comments!