Darius nodded, "I've been alright." He looked at his hands, which he'd been wringing together in his usual habit. "Well, it's complicated, y'know. But yeah," he beamed another smile at them, "that's what we're here to talk about!"
He could sense some awkwardness between them. It was to be expected, of course. This was one of their first meetings since the painful therapy session Darius had decided to attend. Of course, things would be awkward. Especially as they shouldn't have been meeting in the first place, with their clashing gang statuses.
He looked back up at Yong-Yut and continued until she met his gaze briefly. He looked away after she did. He didn't want to put any pressure on her. He picked up a ketchup packet and attempted to open it. After a brief struggle, the packet split open down the middle, a blob of ketchup landing on a solitary few fries, with a bit splattering on the table and coating his fingers. Oops. He lacked a lot of finesse and appeared a bit frustrated with himself.
"Sorry, I'll clean it up."
Thankfully he had taken plenty of serviettes and quickly wiped the table and his hands clean. As if he hadn't made enough of a fool of himself yet, he picked up another ketchup packet and tried again. This time he was extra careful, and though his fingers were still a bit slippery, he managed to tear just enough of the packet to allow ketchup to pour onto his fries at a reasonable rate. Much better.
"Is your work going okay?"
He had to start things off somewhere, and of course, he had to start with the dangerous topic. Part of him didn't want to hear anything about the Phoenixes, but he couldn't help but be interested in how other people are handling the whole gang thing. Better than he was, surely. Then he felt worried. Why did I have to start by asking about that? She's going to think I'm just after her gang secrets. Fuck."You don't have to go into details or anything... Unless you want to of course!"
The sky was grey. The sky was always grey, these days. Perhaps the sun itself was loathe to trespass in the Serpents’ domain. Or maybe all of those chemical pollutants that Lab Icarus pumped out in its efforts to purify enough products to meet a rising demand had finally found their way into the ozone layer. Raph didn’t know which was more plausible. Raph also didn’t much care. Cloudy, sunny. What difference did it make in the end? Either way, life would be equally uneventful…
Uneventful… Dull, bland, uninteresting, boring.
If there were any other words to describe that animal-mask wearing freak who’d been tasked to babysit him today, Raph didn’t have the vocabulary to recall them. It was a miracle she hadn’t bored herself to death by now, let alone anyone else. How you became a Serpent is beyond me, Raph thought as he leered acidly at the woman sharing his rusting metal picnic table.
The yard outside Lab Icarus, as well as the surrounding grounds, were dotted with a few dilapidated metal chairs and tables, remnants of whatever organization had constructed the campus which would later become Lab Icarus. Raph imagined droves of pencil-necked pencil-pushers eating bagged lunches at these tables during their approved meal times. He imagined them thinking that any of the work they were doing mattered a wink to anyone. How foolish.
He thought Anna probably would’ve liked them. It was unsettling how easily he could picture her there, wearing that dreadful threadbare white button down, the one that Raph wanted nothing more than to grab by one of the loose threads and pull until it disintegrated into the dust, and chatting about something mundane and ridiculous, like the weather or the economy.
“Shut up, darling." Raph said in response to the nothing Anna had been saying ever since she’d matched the two of them out here under the pretense of standing guard. What a crock of shit. Raph knew when he was being side-lined. By that moron of a Jack, no less. Who was he to tell Raph where he could be, when he could be?
He was nobody. A worm. A grub. A little wriggling parasite that had latched itself onto the one thing that—…
“You know," Raph piped up, interrupting his own train of thought. That was for the best, probably. He’d been doing a pretty bang-up job of ignoring the knowledge that Tri and Caio’s relationship was… Not strictly professional. There was no need to ruin his streak now. “I just remembered where I know you from. The bowling alley ~"
Whether Raph had truly forgotten—or rather, had only just remembered—Anna’s involvement in the debacle at Mach Sling was anyone’s guess. In his defense, that had been quite an eventful day, to the say the very least. At least, he didn’t seem vexed by one memory in particular, of Anna kicking some punk out of Bash’s grasp and interrupting their fight. She probably had Darius to thank for that.
Hector teetered back and forth as the bus moved, his grip loosened on the half-filled cup in his hand but he stayed clinging onto it. He had been lost in conversation with some strangers, and only realised there were no seats left on the bus when Antares boarded and hollered him over from the last one.
"Hector! You made it!" Antares leaned back, his lanky legs stretched out across the floor, with partiers weaving around him. "Come 'n sit with us." Antares attempted to scooch over but just knocked into the scantily clad lady sitting between him and Boltius. The bit of space Antares had managed to create was good enough for Hector though, as he snuggled up next to his man. They shared a sloppy kiss, and Hector decided it was time for another slurred declaration of his love for Antares.
"Y'know Antares I don't say this about a lot of people- BOLTIUS! HEY BOLT! BLITZ!" He leaned across to Boltius, waving madly to attract his attention. "Don't I uh... I don't say this about a lot of people, do I?" Despite not having said anything for his point to make sense, he still paused long enough that it seemed like he was waiting for an answer. Antares appeared enthralled by his words, with more of his own to give in return.
"Hector, you think you wanna get married? When it's the right time and Boltius can come as well. You come live with me."
Hector stared at Antares, a vacant look in his eyes. He wasn't listening at all, focusing instead on the music that was being blasted through the bus's speakers. He couldn't remember who the singer was, and that was bugging him. "Hector~""WHAT?"
Hector never found out what, as the bus lurched to the side, throwing everyone off balance. Most of the people on the bus had enough sense to keep themselves somewhat secure, but Hector was not. He fell off the seat, landing on someone's feet, and spilling his drink all over the floor. The vicinity erupted in cheers, with a few splashing him with their drinks in turn. He erupted into laughter, perhaps unaware that he was now lying on a dirty bus floor. He made no effort to get up, though Antares was staring down at him with some concern. "'s alright, I'm a HP, I'll live" it seemed he did have enough awareness to tell something had happened.
A toned pair of arms reached down, hoisting Hector's thin frame up off the ground. The man who greeted Hector onto the bus was now holding him against the wall, next to the locked doors. He didn't let go. To someone who didn't suspect anything, they may assume they just wanted to keep him stable, a more paranoid person may think he was trying to keep the newly-discovered HP from escaping.
"Woah there, let's be careful now. You look like you've been having a fun night, huh?" "Mhm." "Lemme get you another drink. What's your name, handsome?"
The man took one hand off of Hector's shoulders to gesture at a lady at the front of the bus that Hector couldn't see, who started pouring a drink from unmarked bottles. After an unsuccessful struggle, Hector slumped his head back. Despite being hammered, he should've still had the strength to knock down any NP, which could only mean one thing about the man holding him captive.
"Hector Moses. They call me Pharaoh, though."
"Hector Moses, Hector Moses. I know that name from somewhere. And you're an HP, ain't ya? That's pretty rare. What can you do?"
Hector gave him an unimpressed look. Though his eyes were glazed over, there seemed to be some lucid thoughts running through his mind. A nagging feeling of imminent danger, of distrust. Something was off about this man. "None of your business, unless you're lookin' to fight." He tried to shift his body into a fighting stance but stumbled as the bus turned a corner.
"I'm not looking to fight anyone. Why don't you have a drink, it's free."
A lady appeared behind the man, or perhaps she was always there, with a single cup. Then Hector came to the brilliant (in his head, anyway) realization. This man wasn't drinking anything. Why would he be here if he was just gonna stay sober? Perhaps he could've developed that idea further, had he not immediately accepted the drink that would be his downfall.
"This tastes like shit. What the fuck is it?" "It's fine, don't worry. Everyone else likes it." "I ain't everyone else."
It was true, second rounds of drinks were now being served, as empty cups began to be discarded on the floor. The atmosphere began to change. A little something extra in the drinks was enough to extract all the information required from the group. A few credit cards and identification started to be passed around, as the helpless partiers were easily influenced by their new friends. Anyone who could pose a possible threat was quickly subdued, and nobody seemed to realise what had happened. Soon, the names of everyone on board had been passed around, with even Antares getting himself carried away.
The cup fell from Hector's hand, still with liquid inside, but he didn't seem to notice. He had been set onto the seat Antares had vacated to follow someone who had beckoned him over, and was now chatting away. Most of what he was saying was pure gibberish, but with some leading questions, he had some useful stuff to say with what little thoughts he had left to think. "-I'm the Ace of the Scarlet Phoenixes, yeah? That's who you're talkin' to an' you better not forget it-" "-My body. All metal inside. Haha, it ain't really, unless it is. It comes out of anywhere you want, see-" The man had to ask Hector to stop demonstrating, after a metal pike from his hand almost stabbed him. "-Yeah I gots loads of friends. Like Boltius Beckman. He's right there. He's a Phoenix too. You need a guy to do some killing, we're your guys-"
The bus was far from Central now, but no passenger was aware of that anymore.
Scene: Midnight Breather Location: West District Time: 18 September 2021, 8:20AM | Post-Arc 1 Participants: Doctor Llamabean
August's sneeze arrived like a great proclamation much to the grey feline's alarm and dismay. With a yelp, Aristotle leapt off August's lap and scampered under one of the shelves. As she hoped, the commotion also managed to stir Ezra from his slumber without her having to risk getting a blade stuck in her neck.
Quietly pleased with the success of her efforts, she handed over a warm bowl of congee to each of the boys. While August ate, she took a seat next to him on the floor and began curiously prodding at his neck where the wound had been just hours before. What should have taken weeks of healing, had only taken a second. "You're a healer then?" She asked Ezra in sign. He had apparently also helped save Titus from certain death last night. Suddenly remembering something, she lightly swatted August on the shoulder and brought out her phone to type "You haven't thanked him."
Post-Arc 1/Pre-Arc 2 | September 18th, 2021, 03:10
Top and Top
Caio was very welcome on the balcony, him and his sculpted muscles that Tri didn't have. Six packs were cool and sexy, but sounded like a pain to get. Tri wondered if there was an HP that could give people muscles. He should ask around later.
Tri let out a hum as Caio hit the nail on the head. He was only there to look cool, but he couldn't say that. It wasn't cool. He poked Caio on the stomach, tickling just as the Queen blew the smoke to his face.
"I was thinking of my wife."
Not a lie. He did think of her. A bit. But now he thought about Nadine more. Would she be happy that he followed her advice to keep on living or would she be disappointed that he returned to his old path? He had no idea. As much as he loved Nadine, he couldn't know how she would feel. Not without precedents.
A white glow enveloped Caio, removing all effects of the smoke. Tri gazed at his boyfriend (actually he wasn't sure of this either) and reached the same conclusion. He didn't know how Caio would feel at whatever he did so easily.But bringing up his wife was bad. Probably. Tri poked Caio again, dragging his finger downward from the navel.
"Now I'm thinking about you."
And Tri smiled a right-sided smile, like he saw action movie protagonists did all the time and narrowed his eyes a bit. He thought it looks sexy.
A breeze blew again and Tri shivered.
"...now I want to go in." This wasn't the cool he wanted.
Teal-blue eyes lingered on the door behind the bar counter through which the black-haired snake escaped, then surveyed August’s surroundings in a very blasé manner as he casually buttoned his shirt back up.
They hadn’t trashed the place beyond repair, but it wasn’t the same fanciful setting it had been before the conflict—that’s for sure. Not that August cared. It made no difference to him, so long as he wasn’t the one cleaning it up.
Overturned tables, toppled chairs, shattered glass, cups lying strewn about in the wake of the short lived scuffle. It inspired in him not a single sympathetic thought; no consideration. Instead, he turned his eyes away from it and counted the money in the short Tiger’s wallet, which he’d swiped during the drunken tackle.
Three, five, eight-hundred dollars cash, plus some cards. Business cards, mostly, but two debit cards—one made of a thin metal, black in color, with a company name embossed on the front. But August wasn’t interested in the cards—too much work—so he only pocketed the cash, then aimlessly tossed the wallet away.
He stepped toward the main exit, hands in his pockets, and passed through it into the cool, night air. Standing in place, he could hear the distant sound of police sirens approaching, but kept calm and found where he’d parked his mustang.
In the driver’s seat, he turned on the engine and checked the time on the radio as a yawn stretched his mouth wide. It was late, and the city’s eyes were fluttering shut, soon to sleep.
August pulled out of the parking lot slowly, hit the street, and started in the direction of the West District for home. He was glad to be meeting the bed soon, but… something bothered him.
Would the Serpent be able to elude the authorities in his state? August figured yes, but he wasn’t 100% sure. He didn’t doubt that this was the first time the guy had found himself in a sticky bar-fight; though, it was a first for August. As tiring as it was, he wouldn’t deny that it was entertaining.
He recalled Raphael’s voice and statement on the topic of scars. “Hmph! Mine tell a story.” And it brought him a closed-mouth snicker.
Then he recalled his name and the way it fell from the Serpent’s lips, and August’s eyebrows pinched ever-so-slightly, and he cut into an arbitrary parking lot, turned around, then started back toward Geronimos.
The Serpent knew his name and face, not that his attempts at hiding his face were anything impressive or to the best of his ability. Nonetheless… If shouldering the minor burden of assisting Raphael meant avoiding whatever misfortunes he could later cast upon August should the petty desire arise, then so be it.
He made it back to the bar with little time to spare, seeing the flashing blue-and-red lights dance in the distance—sirens growing louder—and fell forward into a quick jog.
He bounded up, onto the roof, and moved across it until he was staring down into the alley that wrapped around the building. At first, he couldn’t see or discern anything, but when his eyes adjusted, he spotted Raphael and dropped down beside him.
“Mate…” August looked over his shoulder then back at Raph. “I ‘aven’t really got time to pick tha roight words, so ah’m just gonna say it… Um… Ah don’t really think you’re in tha position foh… battlin’ it out with a squad o’ cops, so, ah was jus’ wonderin’ if ya, maybe, wanted toooo… Catch a quick roide with me, an’ ah’ll drop ya off someplace ya’d loike. Uh… We can call it even if ya just… Y’know… pretend ya nevah heard mah name, if… ya even remembah… latah…” Another over-the-shoulder glance as the sirens grew louder.
An increasing nervousness revealed itself in his voice as he raised his volume and clapped his hand, “UHH- Ya can evan droive if ya’d loike! Ha… It’s a noice cah... an' ah'm not... known foh my success in high-speed chases... So... But we can avoid 'at altogethah if ya just...” August gestured behind him and did a small finger-gun dance with a backward shuffle, smiling awkwardly, “Get a move on? An' I mean that in tha noicest way possible.” Clothes Reference
Alice giggled joyfully, listening to Yong-Yut "mess up" the park's name. How silly of her! Alice felt like she should do the right thing and correct her. "No, no, no. Park's name is Passeri, but this park's name is Pasadena! You got them mixed up!" She tapped the side of her head with a wink, as if to display her smarts compared to the older girl.
"And I'm sorry, Yon-Gnyut!" She held her own hands together on her lap, keeping to her spot on the seat for now. "I've never heard a name like that, before!" This was fantastic! Not too far from her usual routes, and this total stranger was here for Alice! She even spoke about the fashion inquiry as if she knew Markus, himself! The King wouldn't be so scary if he was friends with someone like Yon-Gnyut!
"Streetwear!" Alice glanced at her dress. "I don't wear clothing like that! Dresses and my sleepwear are the only things in my wardrobe! Do you think streetwear would look nice on me? I think it makes Markus look scary. Maybe it would make me look scary? Oh! Markus is the Tiger King, by the way! I avoid him because he's scary, but I hear he's a very important person...!"
Alice uttered the last sentence with a squeak, having sacrificed her oxygen to keep up her energy. Even after some time of deep breaths, though, her sparkliness didn't let up. "Still, I'm so happy! You're the first person in 27 days that I've seen not wearing fancy clothing! It's very refreshing!"
Jesper had not emerged from the basement since all of yesterday and into the middle of today. Of course, this was not an unusual sight in the Albrecht mansion. The maids gave up on maintaining the basement on a regular basis a long time ago, and they knew better than to disturb their resident shut-in heir. If there was anything amiss, it was the lack of electronic noise that usually emanated through the door. But it wasn't like the staff saw that as anything suspicious. It wasn't out of the ordinary for Jesper to oversleep once in a while.
Except this time, that was not the case. Jesper was not asleep—nor could sleep at all last night. He huddled underneath the thick blanket of his bed, curled up still. It was sweltering hot; the AC remote was a few steps away from the bed, but Jesper stayed put. He didn't want to move, no matter how suffocating it was inside.
The white-haired Serpent—the one who ran amok in the East District—every second of his presence remained clear as day; every second he spent killing Guardian like...
Just thinking about made Jesper feel sick, digging his nails harder into his clothing; his body still ached from the last Guardian usage. He was safe in the tiny confines of his bed, sitting curled as a ball in the darkness.
Jesper always dealt with his troubles alone—just like his father did. He'd get over this eventually, he hoped...
"You, the embarrassment of the Avara family, want to talk upbringing and background?! You know, I was shocked to learn not too long ago that you're the result of cheating whore and her butler—not that you or your father knew a damn thing about that!"
There went his father again, yelling his lungs out at yet another poor victim. For Jesper, all this meant was a break from the rich mannerisms and haughtiness of the gathering. He slipped out just as the argument fired up, and his dad went fully versed in the opposing lady's secrets with the intent to ruin her here—while his mother helplessly sat and watched with a smirk that only said "here we go again."
Jesper snuck outside of the venue, beyond the guards and into the public just outside. Usually he'd just sit against a wall and start playing games on his phone, but his birthday came around recently, and his father got him a present he'd been dying to try out!
Chuckling smugly, Jesper walked around a hedge and retrieved the box he hid there earlier. It was about as big as his torso, unmarked in cardboard. One glance inside, and he grinned. Heaving with both arms, he barely carried it out and across the pavement; he denied the offered help from passing strangers, heading towards his destination. The destination being an outdoor area of the venue building that he knew wasn't being used for today.
Sitting in the center of an assortment of tables, the white-haired child unboxed his newest toy: a drone. It was a special one, too! Some kind of prototype created by his father, utilizing a more spherical model than other commercially available drones. But all Jesper wanted to do was fly it around!
Using what technical knowledge he knew from his father, Jesper activated the machine and the accompanying controller and set a camera on the drone itself. After linking the camera to his phone, he set the drone on a flat surface and backed away with the controller.
The propellers activated with a buzzing whir, and gently, it took off up to Jesper's height—which wasn't that high up, but towering to children of that size.
"Thank you! Thank you. Thank you all so much for coming. It is truly a privilege to be here, surrounded by like-minded individuals and success. As you all know, I hail from the... lesser-fortunate side of the Gallo family. But it is thanks to the overwhelming support of my friends and family that I have reached this point in my career! It was a difficult, monumental effort to get where I am, but I am proud to announce that I am making my first step into Amestria's bustling casino system, all thanks to your support!"
Roaring applause, and a bow from the young man taking the temporary stage. Among the crowd, one of the ladies started talking to her partner. "Oh, Benedict is daring today. We all know he got his money from taking advantage of the hurricane and the charities in the South. Now he's flaunting it like he's invincible..."
Benedict Gallo. A college peer of Jesper's father, Lars Albrecht. Apparently that constituted an official invitation to the grand opening of the Gallo Grande, Benedict's massive casino building in Upper Central. After starting construction a decade ago, facing numerous financial problems, only now was it finally completed. So why should Jesper care? That's what he's been asking himself since the invitation arrived.
But his father wanted to come; something about this being an "opportunity." That meant Jesper had to go through the grueling process of being prettied up by the maids—and if he had to guess, they went full experimental because of how non-masculine they made him!
Sat at the back, Jesper look to the side where his father sat, legs crossed and unmoving. Lars Albrecht rarely looked amused by anything, and this was not an exception. He did not even clap out of courtesy when the applause erupted, nor did his focus lie on his old college classmate. His gaze lingered on the ceiling, on the corners of the walls and decor.
"Now please," Benedict started again, "enjoy the festivities I have placed around for your enjoyment!"
With that, the crowd steadily dispersed, and the young Gallo vanished from the stage. Slot machines began clinking, and the venue was quickly bustling with noise. The worst kind of atmosphere for someone like—
"Jesper." His father's sudden beckon made the boy jump in his seat. Lars didn't even notice, still observing the architecture. "Hold off Benedict when he comes find us. I'll be busy."
"I-I'm sorry, father?" Lars did not spare another word for his son, leaving his seat to head towards the back of the casino. Jesper watched him disappear in moments... then groaning. His father always did this: putting schemes and plans ahead in priority. It wasn't like he hated his dad for that, but still... "Tina?"
"Yes, young master?" At this point, Jesper's maid was present more than Lars. The young heir rose from his seat, biting his lip to hide the concern within.
Corvo honestly did not plan for this, this once. As much as she liked to tease the no-touch girl, it wasn't like she went out of her way to bother her; it was more of a "they happened to be there" kind of thing. The same applied to here on a walk around Central District.
There was no doubt about it. That was Yong-Yut across the street, leisurely making her way to wherever she usually goes. Corvo was on her way to tend to her secret garden when she spotted the overtly long pigtails. It was such a pleasant surprise, seeing her all alone in the public.
Keeping quiet, the rookie waltzed across the street when no vehicles were barreling down. She walked at a faster pace, catching up to her fellow Phoenix until she was directly behind her. On what assassination missions Corvo went on, there was always a gratifying feeling whenever she landed behind someone entirely without their notice. She felt the very same sensation here. She kept moving until she was just barely touching Yong-Yut, and then—
"WOW!" Corvo clapped her hands together at the same time; her voice and the booming clap, all next to Yong-Yut's ear. If she turned around, she would have seen Corvo unnervingly close and appearing very much delighted. "What a surprise seeing you here, YY!"
August pulled his eyes from the kitchen-space to Isobel, staring blankly down at the bowl of congee in her hands—he was still waking up—as its warm aroma filled him with apathetic delight.
He was still gathering his surroundings—this was definitely Isobel’s apartment—and recalling last night’s events.
Zoned out, now holding the bowl of congee in his two hands, he subconsciously searched for Aristotle with his eyes before sitting back down where he’d been—shortly after, accompanied by Isobel, who placed herself beside him and began signing to the now-woken Ezra.
August paid them no attention and, instead, focused on his food. His throat was itchy and sore, so the warmth of the porridge was soothing, and he welcomed it in large spoonfuls without pause until there came an interrupting disturbance, very light in pressure and quick.
Isobel had swatted his shoulder, and he realized that upon seeking out the source of said disturbance.
He looked at her, saw her typing something on her phone, and took another bite of congee while he waited for her to finish, then read the message with tired eyes.
A dull, “Ah,” in acknowledgement. His eyes slowly shifted to the man on the couch, staring. Then when finally his mouth opened, it wasn’t to speak, but to yawn. A long, jaw-straining yawn that brought tears to his eyes, which he wiped away before asking Ezra, “So, d’ you take debit o’ credit? Ah can do hugs, too.”
Without waiting for an answer, August returned his neutral attention to the food and continued eating. A tickle in his nose threatened him with a sneeze, and sniffling made it worse. He paused the indulgence of his meal, held up a hand as if urging the others to wait, readied to blow...
“Nope. False alahm.” Then, August proceeded to eat once more.
Scene: The concrete that breaks our fall Location: Paragon Hall, West District Time: January 2010 | Pre-Arc 1 Participants:Elenion Aura
The mood of the crowd was electric. A buzz of excitement rapidly filled Paragon Hall, as people filed in by the hundreds. It seemed like everyone in the West had decided to show up today, not just the Tigers. As they moved so did Isobel, her body carried along unwillingly, feet struggling to keep up to avoid getting trampled underfoot. Even in the bitter January cold, she felt the warmth of all the bodies surrounding her pressing in. She could smell them too, an unholy agglomeration of perfumes, body odor, and over-applied cologne.
She didn't want to be here but choices were something of a novelty after she'd joined the Tigers.
Paragon Hall was the largest stadium in the West and had a reputation for hosting the best wrestling matches throughout Amestria, but today would be the most momentous one yet. History was in the making... or so the posters had said. Instead of a ring, the center of the stadium was completely empty. A ten-foot-high plexiglass barrier had been set up all around, supposedly to keep the spectators safe. This was not going to be an ordinary fight. This was a fight between potentials. Trailing the steps bookies could be heard shouting at the top of their voices "KING VS. WEISS. PLACE YOUR BETS NOW."
Roland King and Markus Weiss. Two names that had become quite renowned in the past few months. Anyone who was a Tiger knew the boys had been butting heads since day one and it wouldn't be long before they decided to settle the score once and for all, in a battle to serve as their King's right-hand man. To become Jack. From the VIP boxes above, Magnus, better known as Kingpin, King of the Tigers, could be seen looking down on the world he held in the palm of his hands with an air of superiority and self-satisfaction.
Suddenly, the stadium went dark and the crowd's exuberant chatter diminished into hushed whispers. A spotlight comes on, shining down on a grinning male figure standing in the middle, blonde hair slicked back and wearing a black sequined tuxedo jacket with a silver cape draped over his shoulder. "LADIES AND GENTLEMAN," his deep voice boomed through the stadium's sound system. Every pair of eyes in the room was fixated on him. "ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLEEEEE!"
The entire stadium erupted in a cacophony of cheers and howls and at that moment, Isobel thought she might have lost her hearing too.
“Sorry…” she mumbled. Their eyes moved to the floor, feeling embarrassment as the guy corrected them. It wasn't like them to just forget things like that. Maybe it was the training? On one hand, they probably should’ve paid more attention to whatever sort of training she’d gotten. On the other hand, it was piss-poor training, and they had a hard time understanding it. On the other other hand, she'd been yelled at all day, and that took hold on her mind more than anything else. On the other other other hand, none of this mattered, as they were going to quit, anyway, and never work again. She hoped, anyway. She raised her head back up as the man moved past them and back to the kitchen, watching him leave.
A few streets over, an unsuspicious black car was making its way to the very Burger Knight that held the undercover cops. In the driver's seat? John Johnson, a drug dealer that was unaware of what was waiting for him at his destination.
He felt that he didn’t have to worry about that. Even if the cops caught onto him, he'd just switch things up. Though, unbeknownst to him, it was already too late.
Right now, all he was worried about was getting to his client that was waiting for him in the alley, and getting paid. He trusted himself, and the person waiting in the alley for him. Everything worked out thus far. No need to get worked up about anything, he thought, taking a sip of the drink he'd gotten from the last place he'd visited. I have it all under control~
The man --what was his name? She looked over to his nametag. Luke. Luke had returned to the lobby with the correct broom. They glanced at the broom for a moment, when he placed the bucket on a chair and asked her a question on what she wanted to do. “Ah. No. I’ll… wipe down the… tables.” As they answered, they looked up at his eyes and followed his stare outside. What was he looking at?
They kept their focus on the parking lot, trying to figure out what he was looking at, until they realized they were supposed to be doing something right now. They turned back to the bucket, grabbing it and looking out at the rest of the lobby.
“Uh, thanks. Sorry again.”
They waved at him for some reason, before they went to work clearing the tables. In their head, they thought over the instructions the man had just given her. Seemed like mostly easy things. She hoped she wasn't going to make another stupid mistake again. That'd be embarrassing... scary.
“That works! Chet wanted pancakes, too,” Decha gave a little laugh, making Chet look up from his device in confusion for a moment before he looked back down.
Chailai chipped in, gesturing out the window with one hand. “There’s a Tales and Tails on the other side. Would you four like to go there?” she asked, prompting the teenagers in the car to approve and Yong-Yut to give a thumbs up in the rear-view mirror.
Yong-Yut looked over to Markus, watching him drift to sleep. She raised her hand up to his sleeve and pulled again, trying to get him to keep his eyes open. There wasn’t much time for him to sleep, anyway. They were just about there. We can sleep again after…
She, unhelpfully, yawned in his face, before turning her head to look out his window. They were clearly out of the city and right into a different one, but the funny thing about cities is that they all look at least a little familiar. That’s what she thought, anyway. They were just the same buildings and roads but in different orders. Most of them. She gave a little point towards all the brands she recognized, briefly pointing excitedly at a Cuisinaires as they passed it, until the car pulled into the Tales and Tails parking lot.
“Nong Yong~ Let’s behave, ‘kay?” Decha joked, Chet lightly nudging Yong-Yut while he was unbuckling himself. Yong-Yut furrowed her brow in response, both in confusion by the joke and slight pain from being nudged. Why wouldn’t she behave? She always behaves. Decha ignored the look, gazing up in the rear-view mirror to look at Markus. “Keep her in check while we eat, huh, Mark?” he chuckled.
The group exited the car, went inside, and were guided to a booth by a server. Once sat —Yong-Yut, Markus, and Decha on one side, and Chailai and Chet on the other— and given menus, Yong-Yut stared out the window. Decha and Chailai discussed the menu, commenting on the variety of breakfast options, while Chet gave glances up at the menu as he tried to focus on both his game and the menu. Yong-Yut, however, already knew what she wanted —chicken tenders and fries. She had just assumed someone else would order for her when the server came back. Ah, but maybe she should tell someone what she wanted. She turned her head to Markus, grabbing her menu and pointing to the chicken tenders with a pointed hum. Then, she pointed to his menu as if asking what he was going to get, though she had already figured it'd be some kind of pancake.
“Ah, that’s pretty nice, kid,” Kentaro chuckled awkwardly at Jesper. Ten gave Kentaro two big pats on his back, turning to the others.
“Haha, I’m gl- I’m g- I’m- I’m glad- I’m glad you- I’m glad you two are gonna be- be less lost- be less lost now!” they giggled. “Pret- pretty e- pretty easy to get lost here!”
At Charlie’s second attempt of carrying the conversation, they listened to Kasumi’s answer, and then chipped in with their own. “The East’s r- real- real pretty! But- but I’m from- from- f- from- from- I’m from the- the South, too, actually, like- like you, Charlie! But I- I moved to the North just a coup- coup- coup- co- couple of- y- years ago!”
“A-and, uh,” they looked to Jesper, recalling him quietly questioning their name. “I named my- myself, by the- by the way! It- it means da- da- dark and sh- da- dark and shadowy~ Pretty, isn’t it!” they asked, though their question seemed a lot more like a statement.
“I think more people should- should- I thi- I think more pe- I think more people should- na--me themselves!” At the idea, they began to fantasize about a world where people made up their own names. Given placeholder names at birth, and then given the choice to change it to whatever they want! People all around with completely unique names! People named after brands and items and gods and— hm. People like that already exist, though.
“Ah… the table.. Should be over.. This way now,” Kentaro thought out loud. Ten started to be a little less confident of Kentaro’s ability to lead them through the crowd, but followed him blindly anyway. Not like they could follow him any other way. ’Cause I’m blind! Hehe.
Ten simply pressed themselves into Darius, tightening their hold on him as he sobbed. They silently listened to his qualms.
They didn’t care for crying. They thought it was a waste of energy someone could use to do better things. To be happy.
Of course, that didn’t stop tears from pricking at their eyes when they were angry. That didn’t stop tears from pricking at their eyes when they burned them by staring at the sun. And it surely didn’t stop tears from pricking at their eyes while Darius was sobbing like he was going to die here because he really thought he was going to die here.
Ten had already accepted that Darius was going to die one day, and they’d already planned out his funeral and what they’d do after he was gone —without his knowledge— but something about the man in question actively crying about it while Ten was holding them made them… Well, not exactly feel bad about it. But they felt a sort of pity. Their beloved boyfriend crying about being killed, something that they knew he faced often… it felt.. pitiful. That is, pitiful in the least offensive way possible. They just didn’t understand. But they loved him, and they wanted him to feel better. To stop crying. To get over it. To be happy.
“You- you’re not go- go- gon- gon- gon- gonna- gonna get killed by anyone, Dai- Dairy!” they pressed their face into his back. “And- and yo-u’re not- not- not gonna get k-killed with- with- with- with- without me! Dairy, we can- we can’t just.. You can’t just leave! You- you- you’re- you’re better than that! You’re a.. You’re- you’re a great- a great person. And- and- and I wanna be- be there for you!! Let me- let me be there for you! I don’t.. I don- I don’t want you to jus-jus-jus-jus-just-just die without me!”
They mumbled, “And.. an-an-an-an-an-and you know… from- from- fro- from- from- from what you- you’ve told me.. They- they might try fine- finding you, anyway...”
Yong-Yut watched Darius fumble with the ketchup package, almost holding her hand out to offer their help before it splattered all over the table. She gave an unimpressed blink at him and the ketchup, putting her hand back down to continue eating. “It’s whatever,” she replied to his apology.
Then he asked about “work.”
Her eyelids lowered to a glare towards him. She didn’t expect him to have any malicious intent towards her at the moment, or even her gang, but it didn’t hurt to keep her guard up about it. You can’t really fully trust someone outside your gang about this stuff. Even as he added onto his question, it still felt off.
But she was here to talk about things that were bothering her- that was what both of them were there for. He was inevitably going to talk about his own gang tonight as well. It’s just what their whole thing was. They give each other the space to vent. It was mutual.
She stopped glaring at him, finishing up a bite of her burger.
“‘Work’ is fine. Bit worried about… the boss, and my friends there. Sometimes I wish they’d take better care of themselves. But nothing big to talk about. It’s really just the usual, I’ve talked about it before.” She took another bite, finishing off the burger. They were a little disappointed at how fast they ate it, but at least they had fries. As they pulled out a container of fries, she asked back to him, “Your work, though? Things seem to be interesting for you there. Care to talk about it?” She shoved a solid five fries into her mouth.
Really? The girl was correcting them again, on something they had already corrected her on. And, to make it worse, she made the exact same point they did. And the girl did that one meme to accentuate it... though, probably not on purpose. Jesus. “That’s… yes, that’s what I said. I said the park’s name…” they sighed. They should really just drop it.
“And, that’s.. Still not how you pronounce my name. It’s Yong. Yut. It’s Thalisian.”
The girl brought Yong-Yut’s attention back to what she was wearing, prompting Yong-Yut to think on the styles the girl would look good in. Streetwear… really wasn’t it. “I know who Markus is,” they mumbled under the girl’s one-breath-speech. Though, that last part was relieving to hear for Yong-Yut. She avoids him.
Once the girl finished and began taking a few deep breaths, Yong-Yut replied. “Streetwear from around here probably wouldn’t really fit you. I’m not sure about making you look scary, though. Some kinds of Wakokunese streetwear would look cute on you. There’s a lot of different types.”
“... You're the first person in 27 days that I've seen not wearing fancy clothing! ...”
In 27 days?“That’s about a month… you must see a lot of fancy clothing wearing people, I guess. I don’t really see many people wearing fancy clothing myself. I suppose.. seeing someone that is wearing fancy clothes is a bit refreshing for me.”
That wasn’t necessarily true, she honestly didn’t care to see what other people were wearing. But, I mean, it doesn’t matter either way.
Yong-Yut was already on edge today. It had been horrible, mostly due to her undiagnosed mental illnesses. The question was which one? Yong-Yut wouldn’t know. What she did know, however, was that she did not want to deal with anyone today. No one except her cousins, her best friend, and maybe the friendly cashier at the store she was on her way to.
So, you can imagine her annoyance when she spotted Corvo, resident YY-Annoyer #8, across the street, heading the opposite way. They quickly looked away, trying to ignore her existence. They’d silently hoped that Corvo wouldn’t spot them, but they were sure she did. So then they silently hoped that Corvo wouldn’t head over to them, but they were sure she would. So then they silently hoped that Corvo wouldn’t talk to them for more than 5 seconds… but they were sure they would.
And she was right to be so sure about it, as Corvo went behind Yong-Yut and clapped with a loud shout, causing Yong-Yut to cover their ears. Though they had expected Corvo to go up to them, they hadn’t expected the loud noise. They gave a long-suffering sigh before stepping forward and then turning around to the unnecessarily close Corvo.
“Mhm,” they groaned. They lowered their hands from their ears to their hips, giving Corvo a tired blink. “Did you need something, Corvo? I have somewhere to be.”
…Said somewhere was just a small, cute, family-owned store Yong-Yut was fond of, but Corvo didn’t need to know that.
It was past his bedtime, evident by the wide yawn prying his jaw open as he moved along the sidewalk, and work started at five tomorrow. Five in the morning.
Checking the time on his phone, the light of which, from its screen, illuminated his face, he concluded there wouldn’t be enough time to pre-pack his meals tonight. But thinking on that some more, he remembered… Oh, right, it’s Sunday… which meant only preparing the next morning’s breakfast.
Schedule~ Boltius loved having a routine, but he was, for the most part, understanding and open to some leniency so long as things didn’t get too out of rotation.
He was forgetful by nature, so maintaining a routine was crucial to keeping his mind right, else his life would be complete and utter chaos, his everyday a mosaic of disarray and confusion. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, as his daily customs were one of the few things he knew worked for him.
Stepping to the beat of low-volume hip-hop music playing through the earbuds around his neck, his thumbs scribbled across the keyboard of his phone, pausing briefly as he squinted up at nothing in particular and mouthed the word, “Casserole… C-A-S-S… -erole.”
I bet it’s spelled like one of them fancy words with a silent T…
He typed it out. Castlerole. Sent it. Then stared with a doubtful countenance.
That doesn’t look right… It’s not pronounced CASTLE, bro…
He said the word aloud several times before giving up and putting away his phone, afterward readjusting the cord of his earbuds around his neck, and sparing an empty glance at a passing couple. Their destination was further into the Nightlife District where the Phoenixes had refashioned a club or two, maybe more, since the hurricane, but Bolt was heading for home, toward Lilimare.
He’d lived there his whole life, so far, despite the transition from parent’s house to his own apartment. The idea was to stay as close to his loved ones as possible, given his life choices in regards to the pursuit of vigilance—to join the gang was to know their aim, which meant he could always steer his family to safety should that safety ever be threatened. Granted, that was easier a thought than actuality, as danger came from all sides. With it, a never-ending sense of shaking trepidation.
And so, he drank. He partied. He played around and sought pleasure at every turn. But also, he meditated. He trained. He practiced healthy habits and self-discipline.
Call it a distraction, if you will. Respite from the miscellany of knowing and not knowing—knowing that the poison runs deep, but never knowing how deep, and never knowing how potent. The gang was his double-edged sword.
By a subtle ache in his calves, he wished he’d driven today, but such a thought was one that often came, and still he always chose to walk come a new day. However… Boltius was tired. Finding its way into his pocket, his hand, donned with golden rings on nearly every finger, grabbed for his phone, ready to pull it out until something, or someone, caught his eye in the distance.
Just then, Boltius slowed down, but he didn't stop. Whaaaaaaaaat? Remember that thing about leniency?
Tenebrosity popped the lollipop out of their mouth, lounging on one of the sofas placed into the purple-lighted karaoke room. They looked between their two friends with a smile before sitting themself up. On the sofa to their left sat Darius, a man they’d known for about a year, and who was really cute and awkward~ On the sofa to their right sat Hector, who was… also pretty cute~ In a sort of unhinged way. They’d also known Hector for a while, maybe even a little longer than they’d known Darius. But Ten wasn’t really sure. Time was weird, and Ten didn’t care to pay attention to it.
The room they were sitting in was supposed to hold up to 10 people, so it was a bit big in comparison to the three that were in there. Ten would tell you that they had invited more people and they just couldn’t make it, but whether or not that was the truth was for Ten to know and for you to… not know.
They clapped, breaking the silence that had momentarily filled the room since they had came in. “I’m s-s-so- so- so- s- so- so glad you- you two could- could make it!!” They pointed at Darius with their lollipop. “Hector~ This is Darius! And- and- and Darius” —they pointed at Hector with their empty hand— “this is Hector! I- I- I- I- I me- I met you two at di-di-di-di-d-di-di-different clubs! Isn’t that s-s-s-so-so- so cool!!”
They took a moment to place the lollipop back into their mouth, and then continued, “I bet- I bet you- I bet- I- I- I- I bet you two have sooo much in c- in- in- in c- in- in- in c- in common!”
Ten stood and made their way to the karaoke machine on the other side of the room, leaning on it. “You- you- you know- you know- you know, Hector, D- D- D- D-Da- Darius has- has been telling me alllll about- all about how- how he’s wanted to try karaoke one day! So- so, so- so I was like,” they gestured vaguely, “ ‘I know a guy that- that- that LOVES- that LOVES kar- that- that- that- that LOVES- ugh- that LOVES karaoke!’ …That guy is- is you, by the way, Hector!”
“And anyway, I was- I was like, ‘what if we set up- up- what- what if we go to- to a karaoke club and- and I could invite some- some of my friends and- and it’d be SOOO fun! Right?”
They looked around the mostly empty private room, giggling. “Not many- not- not many- not many people showed- show- show- show- sh- show- showed up, though, hehe. But that- that- that- that- th- that- that’s okay, though!”
“...Any object- obj- objec- objections to me going first?”
Yong-Yut had their head against the window, staring out at the road as they turned onto the street of whom she was told was named Kanna’s garage. She was directed to Kanna by Vulken, and was basically guaranteed that there’d be minimal conversing —”She’s a quiet one, like you… Except a little less quiet.”—and even if they did talk, they’d get along —”She’s lesbian, and ‘yer none-biney, so you’ve got a lot in common already”— and that Duchess would look good as new afterwards —”She’s real good at what she does. You ain't gonna regret it. Promise.” Though she wasn’t entirely sure on Vulken’s opinion on this, since she knew full-well that he tended to over-exaggerate things occasionally.. and was a bit stupid, it would’ve been rude to not take the help. Besides, from what she’d heard about Kanna, they figured it wouldn’t hurt.
They pulled into the driveway of the warehouse-looking place. Yong-Yut was mid-unbuckling her seatbelt when her cousin, Chet, leaned over and wrapped his arms around her. “Ah—” she winced, patting his arm, and when he let go she exited the truck. She popped open the tailgate, hopping onto the bed and picking up the misshapen form of their beloved bike, Duchess, using the fabric from her jacket for support. Tears of anger threatened to prick at their eyes as they remembered what happened to it. Hector.
Yong-Yut already wasn’t fond of Hector, what with how much of an absolute annoyance he’s been to her over the past few years. They didn’t understand why Lyric sponsored him, and they especially didn’t understand why he was so adamant with trying to be their friend. But destroying Duchess was the last straw. Of course, they weren’t going to actively threaten or scream at Hector, but they certainly weren’t going to be nice to him from then on. Not any nicer than she had been to him before the incident, anyway. She loved Duchess, and Hector completely crossed the line with what he did.
She hopped off the bed of the truck, pushing the tailgate back up and looking around for that Kanna girl. They were told now would be a good time to arrive, but they were starting to feel a little anxious about it. They didn’t want to be intruding. Maybe they should’ve never come here. Maybe Kanna wasn’t even here, and they were standing in front of an empty warehouse. Would that be worse or better than being an annoyance? They weren’t sure.
They slowly made their way inside the warehouse, eyes scanning over the building. “H.. Hello?” They would’ve placed Duchess’ ruins down next to one of the… fascinatingly pretty cars to rest their arms, but they didn’t want to without permission. Instead, they continued to awkwardly hold it like a very large tuba. “Sorry if I’m intruding…”
The building itself was massive, but not exactly noticeable. Located within the city of the East, but alongside the outskirts, the warehouse was once used for storage for who knew how long. Over time, it was converted for personal use by Kanna. Since her somewhat recent debut race, she had made a name for herself among the underground racing community and people were challenging her left and right. It quickly became apparent that Kanna would need a place to store and work on her vehicles. She sold some of the vehicles she had to buy the facility out, as well as all the equipment and supplies she needed. With her sister's help, the building was also equipped with high-end security. One half was dedicated parking space for her vehicles, while the other side was the workshop. Multiple car jacks were lined up along the side, with one of them currently occupied.
Kanna lifted a blue canister up, placing it into the engine bay of the car she was currently working on. A newly acquired addition, the person who owned it before lost it to Kanna, but wasn't a good sport about it and sabotaged most of the components so that it couldn't be driven. She had to have it towed back to the garage and since then, spent her free time rebuilding the internals of the vehicle, while at the same time changing and upgrading some of them.
Standing next to Kanna was another girl. Dressed in a plain grey t-shirt and shorts, her brown hair was tied up in a ponytail. Their hand reached up to push the glasses on her face up a bit.
"No, that should be it. Thank you."
The brown-haired girl nodded and began walking off, but paused when her eyes noticed a new face entering the building. She looked back to Kanna, tugging their jacket slightly.
"Looks like someone is here to see you."
Kanna looked up from her work, noticing the newcomer. In their hands was the remains of what looked like a high-speed bike. Kanna immediately noticed how badly damaged the front was.
Most likely a head-on collision, but she looks fine...
The brown-haired girl continued on her way out, giving Yong a small wave before leaving the building. Kanna stepped away from the car and walked over to meet the new face.
"You're not intruding. Let me help."
She reached out with one hand. As soon as it made contact, the weight to the bike immediately disappeared, almost like it was about to float away. Gesturing for Yong to follow, Kanna carried the bike over to the rear corner of the warehouse where there was separate work area. In the middle was a specialized lift. On the top was a flat surface with clamps on it.
Kanna placed Yong's bike upright on the lift, securing the rear wheel to the clamp. She then turned to face Yong, her hands in her jacket pockets as Kanna leaned back.
The two girls threw their heads back laughing at Bolt’s risqué humor, nestling closer to him. One of them fiddled with the gold chain around his neck; the other inspected his earrings.
“I don’t reckon a guy like you’s got a girl, hm?”
Boltius sipped his drink, followed by a satisfied exhale, and he looked at the girl, grinning. “I ‘on’t think that’s how you’re supposed to phrase that.” A laugh bubbled out of him as he shook his head, the girls laughing along.
“No, she means the party-type~ Does your girlfriend appreciate this lifestyle you’ve got?”
“Nah, I ain’t got one.”
“Oh, fun.”—“Oh~?” They said in unison.
“Yeah, no- no, I ain’t-,” Boltius shook his head like a wet dog and took a deep breath; the liquor was potent. “I ain’t had much-... much luck in all tha-”
“In all that, and shit. I’m-”
“I’ve mostly been just layin’ low on the whole-”
“BRO!?” Boltius jerked his head, finally, in Hector’s direction to see the Ace bent forward in his seat and waving wildly for his attention. “What?!” he asked, frustrated.
"Don't I uh... I don't say this about a lot of people, do I?"
Boltius stared bewildered annoyance at his comrade, slack-jawed with a wrinkled nose as he tried to process the question. The two Phoenixes held eye-contact for a while, rocking, jolting, and swaying as the bus traveled.
Then, one of the girls beside Boltius tapped his shoulder and tore his focus away from Hector. “Your name is Boltius?” she asked, and he nodded, taking another enduring sip of his drink, which happened to be the last of it.
Though empty, he held onto the cup.
“Yeah, what’s yours?”
“You want another drink?” the second girl asked, turning Bolt’s head by the chin to face her. Drunkenly and with lidded eyes, he got closer to her, their lips only centimeters apart. “Who’s askin’?”
She snickered and leaned away, pressing her index fingers against his lips. “Me, duh~ I’ll go get you one.” Then she was off—Bolt’s eyes watching her as she weaved through the tight crowd. He made a mental note to ask what she does for a living come her return, but for now…
The bus jolted violently to the side, robbing several inebriated passengers of their balance. At first, Boltius was irritated—he shot a glare toward the front of the bus—but then he saw Hector on the floor being splashed with drinks as people cheered, and it drew from him a hearty laugh.
As Hector was hoisted off the ground by a large man, the girl from before emerged from between two other passengers, squeezing her way through, but Bolt overlooked her with a concerned brow, trying to better see his Ace. Unable to get a good view, he stood to his feet, but someone stepped in his way. “Hect-” The second girl, whom he’d been sitting with, took hold of his wrist and tugged him lightly. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “See something else you like?...”
“Huh? Wh- No, my friend. I was jus-”
“Hey, hey~ Did you miss me?” The voice came from behind him as a drink was suddenly placed in his face. When he reached up to take it, the girl behind him wrapped her arms around him and let them fall until she was hugging his waist, pressing herself against his back. Her chin perched on his shoulder.
“Thanks,” said Bolt, then took a sip of the drink, which was worse than the first one. Like a punch to the face, he flinched his head back and shook it. “Holy shit! That shit’s bad, bro.” And he inspected the cup with a look of revulsion, as if it had personally offended him.
Both of the girls giggled—the one behind him finally moving to his front to shove him down into his seat. “Oh, don’t be a pussy~”
Boltius mumbled back, “I ain’t a pussy,” then willed himself to wake another sip, displaying yet an identical reaction to the initial one. “Uuckgh, it’s just so baaaad, brooo! The fuck is in this shit?”
“Hey, so, you said your name was Boltius?”
Boltius was immediately distracted from the horrid taste in his mouth.
“Uuuh… Yeah, yeah, yeah… Yeah, yeah. Boltius… Boltius Beckman. My bro’s name is Vulken Beckman. He’s really cool; he’s a Scarlet Phoenix like me, and that over there-” Boltius pointed in the direction where he’d last seen Hector, “-is my guy, Hector Moses. He’s the Ace… of the Scarlet Phoenixes… Did I tell you we’re Scarlet Phoenixes?”
Unbeknownst to Boltius, one of the girls—specifically the one who’d gotten him the drink he now wielded—her eyes adopted a rather wicked quality, and she proceeded to ask more questions. “How are you feeling?”
“Me?...” Boltius’ speech slowed as if her voice was a lullaby putting him to sleep. “I… I- I… I feel good… How do you feel?”
“So, if you’re a Scarlet Phoenix, does that mean you’re an HP?”
“Hm?... Uhhh… Hell yeah, I am. I can do this~” Boltius lifted a hand and focused his potential into his fingers, heating them up until they ignited like candles, and the girls clapped excitedly.
“Wooow!! That’s so cool! I’ve never met an HP before. So, do you-”
“So you control fire?”
Bolt shook his head. “Nah, nah… I, uh…” His brain felt fuzzy. “Uh, I get hot… Like, my body gets hot and it just catches on fire on its own… and shit… But I can get cold, too.” He paused for a moment, thinking, then asked, “Hey, how come you ain’t answerin’ my questions, dawg?”
“My-... My name is…” The other girl started. “It’s Opal Chavez… I’m from… I’m from the East District.”
Boltius looked at her and noticed a slight discomfort in her expression.
Word that there were two HPs on board, additionally members of the Scarlet Phoenixes, started to circulate throughout the inner circle of criminal associates. All eyes were on Boltius and Hector now, with a plan to subdue them without stirring them up or arousing suspicion well underway. The bus was traveling through the East District, now, and nearing its outskirts, soon to exit the city altogether. HPs were rare, so they were sure to attract high-paying buyers at the next auction.