Hadashi had been sitting in his parents’ booth at the black market for what seemed like a decade, but in reality, it had only been 7 hours. Christmas was always great for the Kei family’s business, “Tree Bombs and the Sort”. They sold anything from exploding evergreens to machetes. This time of year, everybody wanted to kill somebody, and the Keis always had just the thing for the job. Hadashi had been in the booth all day and itching to do anything other than attend to all the yelling customers.
Today had been pretty normal. After his morning chores, he had started his shift. As soon as the market opened, people came flooding in. The customers were your average, run of the mill, villains. There was a lovely couple looking for an exploding evergreen for their pesky neighbor. Then there was a man who wanted to kill his nemesis before the new year and wanted a stylish way to do it. Hadashi saw hundreds of people come in and out, but one man stuck out. He had been in several times, but never bought anything. His father had warned him about the people that hang around. They were usually just thieves that thought they could outsmart cops by stealing from the black market. But sometimes cops or detectives found a way in and were there to gather intel to bring back to their superiors. The cogs in his brain started turning as an idea started to hatch.
“Hey mom!” Hadashi yelled to the back of the shop. “Can Kiara come take over for me for a few minutes?”
“Okay honey,” that was not the answer he was expecting, “but I need her back soon to help your father with the inventory check.”
Hadashi left the booth through the back entrance, as to avoid being seen, and snuck around to the potted bushes that were out front. From here, he could see everybody that went in and came out of the shop without being seen himself.
He waited for a while and his eyelids started to get heavy. The sound of the crowd made his mind started to get fuzzy, and before long, he was swept into a deep sleep.
When he opened his eyes, the lights were off and the full moon shone in from the windows. He looked down at the watch on his wrist and his stomach flipped. 10:15. All the shops closed at 9, and the owners were out by 10. Anybody caught in the black market after closing would be thrown in the black prison where all the other bad guys caught stealing from villains went. He had to get out.
Hadashi slowly rose from his nest in the bush, and crept over to the map on the wall. He knew his way around the front of the market where Tree bombs and the sort was, but his mother had never let him adventure out anywhere else. Day or night, there was always a guard by the front entrance, so he would need to find another way out. The east wing was where all the big shops were, and some of them had security cameras out front, so that wouldn't work either. The west wing had recently exploded and was sealed as to contain the dust, so the only other option was the south wing. The map said there were only two exits in that wing, one by “Devilish Danishes”, and one by “Harold’s Hardcore Hangman Store”. He set off for the south wing, figuring that he would decide on the exit when he got there.
As the south wing grew closer, he started to feel more and more uneasy. What had he forgotten? The front exit was guarded, he had avoided all the cameras, he hadn't left any footprints.
“Hey you!” a man yelled from down the hall
Oh, yeah. The guard roaming around. Hadashi ran around the corner and pushed his body into the first door way. What would his mother think if he got locked up? What would happen to him? He would probably live the rest of his life in prison, getting tattoos and lifting weights. He closed his eyes and waited to be caught. The ever nearing footsteps of the guard made his heart race. He would never graduate school, never have a family, and never get out of the thug life. That's all he had ever wanted. To save the day, be a hero. But he couldn't do that while he was locked up.
Louder and louder. Every step felt like a punch in the gut. Louder, louder, louder. They were right next to him. He sucked in his breath. Then softer, and softer.
“Put your hands up!”
He opened his eyes to see the guard, 20 yards past him, pointing his gun at a man. But not any man, the man that had been loitering at his shop.
“I said put your hands up!” The gun was trembling in his hands and Hadashi detected a slight quiver in his deep voice. His back was to him, but he could sense the terror in his eyes.
“You’re not getting away this time, Pyro!”
Pyro. He had heard that before. Then it clicked. His father had been talking about him at breakfast. He was the one who had blown up the west wing. Rumor has it that he was interrupted before he had gotten what he came for.
The next few seconds happened in slow motion. A sly grin crossed Pyro’s face. He extended his arm, hand in a fist. A blaze of fiery colors burst from his fist. The blaze shot down the hall, hitting its target with an ear ringing boom. Pieces of guard went everywhere. Hadashi screamed. Pyro turned toward him and extended his arm.
Back the way he came. Up a flight of stairs. Hadashi didn't stop till he was at the balcony stores that looked down on the plaza.
“Come out, come out wherever you are little boy. I can smell your fear, but don't worry, it'll all be over soon!”
Hadashi peered over the rail. Pyro was standing in front of the fountain, waiting for his prey. A million thoughts ran across his mind.
“Breathe,” he whispered to himself. “Now, think.”
His hand absentmindedly reached into his pocket to his grandfather's pocket watch. His fingers closed around it and he felt the ticking in his palm. His breath slowed and he began to form an idea. He pulled the watch out and ran his finger over the engraved message, listen to the rhythm. He closed his eyes and listened. He heard the watch ticking and Pyro pacing around the plaza. But one sound stuck out to him, the water flowing from the fountain.
“Pyro!” Hadashi stood in front of the fountain, ready to face the villain.
Pyro turned to him and extended his arm.
“Don’t be discouraged, boy. I have faced foes much older and more powerful than you.” His fist started to glow. Hadashi raised his arms and the fountain water followed. He thrust the wave at Pyro, slamming him into a pillar. His head hit hard and knocked him out, his limp body slid to the floor.
After tying Pyro to the pillar, he found his way to “Harold’s Hardcore Hangman Store” and slipped out the door.
The next morning, Hadashi walked down stairs to the living room where his family was watching the DBMN (Daily Black Market News).
“Last night the villain known as Pyro was captured,” Layla West, the news anchor was saying. “A camera caught a young hero with elemental powers, similar to Pyro’s, vanquishing this monster and then fleeing the scene. We are still unsure where these elementals are coming from, or if they are somehow connected to a hero that saved the city from an earth tremor 50 years ago.”
Hadashi didn't hear the rest, but he already knew enough. Like his grandfather before him, he was a Hero.
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Very interesting concept! So, in this world, murder is ok and only stealing is wrong?