Sang-Cheol was sitting down on a fountain and glaring holes into the pavement as if it had offended him. It was a bright sunny day. The passerby was giving him concerned looks, which not only pissed him over further but made him even more nervous. It was an unusual feeling that Sang-Cheol was unfamiliar with. The word that Sang-Cheol came up with to label that feeling was 'anxiousness.' If possible, Sang-Cheol would have avoided feeling this was, but thanks to fucking Olivine, that was impossible.
His daily life consisted of a routine that he maintained over the past several years after he became head of Lab Icarus. Wake up, eat, work, eat lunch, go back to work, eat, and go home to sleep. Aside from rare activities such as meeting up with Snake to discuss some lab developments or meeting with his therapist, there wasn't much Sang-Cheol did other than work all day. That was until fucking Olivine arranged this little meet-up. It broke the entire routine, and quite frankly, Sang-Cheol didn't know what to do. All of this is because of the Contract of Friendship.
The Contract of Friendship, or whatever his Professor called it, was rarely used since Sang-Cheol was content in minding his business. It was mainly because trying to have friends in the Sable Serpents was generally bad since they were either addicts or some secret psychopath. It also didn't help that Sang-Cheol had an abnormal belief that if he broke the rules of the Contract of Friendship, there would be severe consequences.
As for how the meeting itself would go, the only experience he had was watching random clips online and the time he spent with his Hyung before being sent to jail. Which meant he had practically zero experience.
That is why for this situation, he came in prepared. Before he departed from his lab, he requested the assistance of everyone except for Olivine for apparent reasons. Timothy offered a plan of attack, Gerda advised on what clothes to wear, Aristotle told him how to socialize, and Rebecca... He didn't know what Rebecca did. All she did was perform some ritual before accidentally getting herself stuck on the toilet again. Though, it made him feel better. It was a good thing he asked his workers before meeting up with this person. Sang-Cheol knew that he shouldn't bring a ring to the date since it wasn't like he was proposing. However, what he didn't know was that he wasn't supposed to get a boutique of flowers and wear his typical suit clothing. That greatly shocked him.
As of right now, he was wearing casual clothing with regular glasses for the first time. It felt weird wearing casual clothing to a meet-up, but it would have to do. Aside from that, where was the person he was meeting up with? If Olivine said was right, his name was 'Boltius Beckman.' He thought it was a stupid name; who would name their child Boltius? He would have to remain quiet about it to be 'nice.'
"Where the fuck is he?" Sang-Cheol muttered to himself as he scanned for the man. Albeit, he didn't even know what Boltius Beckman even looked like. It wasn't like the person he was meeting was late; it was that Sang-Cheol had come an hour before the meet-up. Naturally, he expected the man to come either a little early or on time to the meet-up.
The human mind can sometimes be one complicated son of a gun, can't it? Well that sure was the case for poor old Charlie over here, as he blankly stared at the ceiling of his apartment, lost in crestfallen thought.
To put things into perspective, it had been almost two days since the south bridge incident, where phoenixes were hurt and killed and even innocent civilian lives had been affected by it, a horrible event that left an equally horrible memory. And what was this blue haired idiot doing while this was happening? Chasing butterflies and having fun like an absolute buffoon instead of actually helping anyone. He felt useless and like a burden, so much so that he had spent the entirety of the last day sulking in his apartment, crying to himself and generally not having a good time. So today, against all self deprecating odds, he had made up his mind that he would attempt to have some fun and cheer himself up.
Without much energy, Charlie managed to sit up on his bed and reach out for his phone which lied beside his pillow. He scrolled down his list of contacts for any friend that would be down to share some time with him in this lovely, partially-clouded sunday.
Neither Jesper, Chou or Ashley would respond, they were probably busy which it was understandable, Andrew and Billy responded that they already had plans for today, something about a party "with chicks and booze" or something like that, and there was just no way that Ten would be awake anytime soon.
[Afternoon, Streets of Central District]
Even with no friends available, one could definitely still have fun! There were so many things one could do in Central District, so why not go there to just have a blast and wash all the bad thoughts away?
That was the desperate thought process of Charlie as he naively attempted to have a modicum of fun. Unfortunately, it seems like fate has some sort of twisted sense of humor.
-At a bowling alley, he scored an impressive average of 38 points across three games
-At a restaurant, his steak was delayed as well as arriving overcooked (he couldn't bother with complaining at that point)
-At the Theater, who would have thought that the highly anticipated movie "The Hound With a Hundred Marks" would turn out to be the worst movie of the year? And we're not even talking about an endearing so-bad-it's-good, we're talking about the kind of bad that eats away at your soul.
With face looking down and hands in his pockets, Charlie walked down aimlessly around the streets of Central, trying to come across anything fun or interesting that could salvage this ugly, densely-clouded Sunday.
It was at that very moment that rain started to pour down, thousands upon thousands of miniscule droplets hitting the ground or whatever was above it, and the lone Charlie was no exception to that.
"But of course." Was the only thing he uttered in a monotone voice as he continued to walk, calmly letting the rain to continue its merciless attack.
The last thing Hector remembered was the warm hand running through his hair. He nestled comfortably on Boltius's lap in his last moment of consciousness before the two men were completely out. He was completely unaware of the smug voices of his captors around him, the forced ingestion of concoctions that would ensure he didn't regain consciousness before they were ready, and the change in location as he was carried through the facility.
He was roused from his deep sleep to a state of confusion. A burning sensation in his throat was the first thing he felt, the drinks threatening to come back up. Hector used the bit of focus he had on not retching all over the carpet. For all he knew, he was at someone's house. Was it Bolt's? He thinks he can hear his voice. Damn, last night must've been fucked up. But he didn't remember Boltius's home feeling like this. Someone else's place, maybe? He couldn't focus on a single name or face spinning around his mind. His head felt like it was about to burst. He opened his eyes with a groan.
"What's up?" Hector saw Boltius first, and though his initial thought in his inebriated mind was to laugh at how silly he looked chained up, he knew it was bad. "Oh fuck... Lemme..." An attempt to scramble to his feet failed when his ankles tugged against the restraints and he fell back in a useless heap. He quickly became aware of something holding him back. "Ah, fuck."
"It looks like you are both up. Great! All vill become clear soon."
Hector turned his head, up to the thickly accented voice behind him. "You're gonna let us out of this right now, ya hear me?" The man peered down at him, showing no discernible expression through the mask. "I'll give you one chance... One chance before you're fucking dead."
"You think you're the first person zat has ever said zat to me? Do tell me vat your plan is, Moses."
Hector looked down at his restraints. Time for his grand escape. Would he slice through the cuffs with a swift swipe of a blade? Would he force metal out of his joints to brute force his way out? Or maybe he'll take out the man first, fell him with a cut straight to the ankles. "I'll... I'll..." He looked back up at the man, suddenly feeling very nervous. Something was going deeply, horribly wrong. Like the feeling of saying the wrong answer in class, where it seems like every eye is on you, judging you for your errors.
"I'm gonna fucking kill you." Visibly alarmed, he looked over at Boltius. His voice was suddenly a lot quieter. "Bolt..." Too proud to directly ask for help, Hector instead nodded toward the man. Hoping that Bolt would be able to sort the situation out while he tried to figure out his own. His fists clenched and unclenched, yet remained as they were. Using his potential was such a simple process, as natural to him as breathing through years of honing his talent. But something was blocking it out, he couldn't even think of how it was supposed to work.
The man emitted a deep laugh as he paced between the two. "You." A leather shoe, designer, pressed on Boltius's bare chest, "You look strong. Strong Homo Potentialis, right? Vat are you going to do?" Hector watched in silence. He knew he couldn't just stay there doing nothing, but he could barely think straight. Not knowing where he was, who was with him, or why he couldn't work his potential out did nothing but contribute to the muddled state of mind he was trying to come out of. He could only pull helplessly on the restraints.
Aggravation seemed to be a Serpent's most common sensation. He had not been too pleased with recent events on this fine day. It was not every day Brick's lackeys were able to get under his skin- but today, they had.
The clothes he wore currently, scratched up and damaged where the jeans and shirt had once been neat and clean- they were now dirtied, cut-up and stained. And this made him livid. When Castros had said Brick had requested he show up at the usual meet-n-greet for some sort of assignment that he'd be given as the Queen of Serpents was looking for able-bodied idiots for a job, he had presumed that he was going to be given the details.
Apparently not, it'd been a set up- Brick had never been there- and in his place, four fellow Serpents, and Castros being the fifth head of the hydra, fitting considering his scales and pyromantic abilities, was ready to attack with stinging verbal insults once he'd arrived on the scene.
It was not his first time being outnumbered- and he doubted it would be his last.
If you don't end up getting murdered first in your sleep.
The only annoying thing was that Mirage's phantom illusions still seemed to be having some kind of effect.
A brawl was a brawl- and for their efforts in setting up this little gang-bang, he'd given them a thorough whomping. Even then, he hadn't gone unscathed. A fist for a fist was traded- and he got just as much as he had given.
Snorting out thick black smoke from his nostrils as if a dragon lay behind his human form, Orion found his thoughts wandering as to this place. This cesspool called an 'Oasis'.
Such a stupid name. They should rename this place Hell's Utopia or Hell City, better yet. And for once he found himself agreeing with that fading voice in his head.
For the first time in a while, the mask he perfectly wore cracked, revealing eyes of fury that matched the heat that radiated off his skin.
"Why am I still here?" he didn't know- and that was the frustrating thing about all of this. He was more frustrated with himself just as much as he was mad at Castros and his band of idiots. They were fools, but who was the bigger fool than the one that kept themselves locked in a place of misfortune and lacked the will to get out of it in the first place?
He snorted again, and the smog that left his nostrils went up into the air as his brows narrowed. People walking by gave him a wide breadth- civvies no doubt. People that lived under the crushing authority of these Serpents. Much like other parts of Oasis lived under the authority of the other gangs.
Not so different from home, don't you think?
That thought made him stop. Fingers tightened on his sheathed blade.
"They're not the same thing. Not at all." He whispered, muttered to himself. Look at me, arguing with myself.
And why wouldn't you? You're already half mad just like every disgusting little thug that is a part of these filthy little power grubbers within this sham of a anarchist city. Look at where we are? Look at how we live. Face it-- and he could practically see the warped image of himself that Mirage had crafted out of illusion to distract him when the fight began, You wanted to be here not because you feel bad for these people- you just wanted something similar to home.
He grimaced, so caught up in that phantom image, that when he mentally snubbed the whisper in his mind, he also body checked someone roughly.
Blink. The cruel mockery of himself was gone. And he saw he'd just knocked down an unfamiliar face. The anger on his expression, faded to surprise.
He looked around, found that he hadn't even noticed he had been walking into a busier street. Eyes were watching him and the person he'd downed. Civies with nervous looks hastened their walks when he turned to look at them. Looking down, he quickly tried to amend the error. "Sorry I uh was distracted. Here, let me help you." He said offering his hand to the straggly haired fellow.
The sunlight streaming through the thin curtains, and the sound of plates clinking were Hector's signals that it was time to wake up. He hadn't slept for long, his emotions were too strong at the moment. He felt frustrated. Stuck in this room for the past however many months, 10? 11? 1000? He wasted no time getting up and trudging over to the adjoining bathroom.
"You deserve better than this." Hector glared at his slightly blurred self (his glasses lay on his bedside table) in the mirror, at the two dark bags under his eyes, at the cuts across his cheek and lips. He felt like he had been running in circles for the past few months. This goal of his was beginning to take its toll, but he couldn't allow even a single negative thought to cross his mind. It didn't matter how many people rejected his help, how many people refused to see what a valuable asset he would he. He was going to join the Scarlet Phoenixes if it was the last thing he did.
After brushing his teeth and taking a quick shower, the young man was drawn to the kitchen by the scent of bacon that lingered from earlier that morning. It wasn't his kitchen, and he still didn't feel comfortable just walking in like he owned the place. He opened the door slowly, peering in to see who would join him for breakfast today.
"Harriet, what a surprise!"
It was his lucky day. Harriet, not to be confused with her mother, also named Harriet, sat at the table with a cup of coffee, beaming at him. The only one in this building he could enjoy a peaceful morning with.
She tilted her head towards the countertop. There lay a plate of rashers, accompanied by a fried egg. "Breakfast. Don't skip it this time. I know you ain't gonna hurry out of here while I'm around."
Hector looked at the plate, and back at Harriet. It was true, breakfast with her was so rare that he'd be a fool not to savour every moment of it. She was often too busy with school. Breakfast wasn't his style though. The only thing on the breakfast menu back home was cereal. And half the time the cereal box was just an empty husk (the milk was rotten the other half of the time). Still, he picked up the plate, along with a fork that had been left out for him.
"You know I don't have the appetite for this shit, not this early in the morning." Like many 17 year olds with issues, learning manners was often far behind on his list of priorities, but Harriet looked like she was used to it. She knew he was thankful deep down.
"Just eat the bacon, before Mom gets up. She said she wanted a word with you, she was going to talk to you last night but you never showed." She got up out of her chair to circle Hector, singing her warning along to a tune in her head, "I think you might be in trouble~"
"Course I'm in fucking trouble. She's had it out for me lately." "Well, you missed work- Woah, who've you been fighting this time, huh?" "She knows I can't work full time right now, and- HEY!" A gentle hand was placed on his cheek, feeling the wound. "The other guy looks worse." He accompanied his words with a wink. "Yeah, sure, y'know you gotta get a bandage on that before my Mom sees it."
Hector did know that, and the threat of Harriet Sr lecturing him over it was enough motivation to spur him to action. A couple of bandaids later and Hector found himself walking towards the door, ready to leave. "Ahem. You're forgetting something." "Look I don't have the appetite for it." "Then you oughta find the appetite, else you won't have the strength to run around the district all day." Harriet pinched his bony arm, and sighed. "Y'know she'll kill you if you leave my famous bacon and eggs uneaten." "She's already gonna kill me for-" "HECTOR MOSES. THAT YOUR VOICE I CAN HEAR?"
The door swung open, and the room suddenly felt a lot smaller in the presence of Harriet Sr., or Mrs Fontana as he was allowed to call her. "Morning Mrs Fontana." "I thought you were gone for good. Sit down, Moses."
Though he already knew he was in trouble, it finally dawned on him how bad the trouble was. He did what he was told. "You ain't working enough."
Hector opened his mouth to speak, but he was quickly shushed into silence. Harriet Jr watched in the background, sipping her coffee. "I know what you're gonna say already. "I can't work full-time right now". Well that's all well and good, but I think what you mean to say is "I ain't gonna work at all", cause that's what you've been doing!"
Before he could be shushed again, Hector managed to get some words in. "I'm still working on the sponsorship, you know that." "I don't give a fuck what you do all day. Sit in your room all day for all I care. What I know is that I need you to pay the rent somehow." "I'm gonna pay you back-" "Oh you're gonna pay me back, huh? Now, do you have a date for that? I know you don't cos no Phoenix is gonna pay you shit. Which means you're either working behind that bar tonight or you're getting kicked out next week, understand?" "I'm going to pay you back. I'm working shit out. You'll get your money on Friday." Hector hung his head low, looking away from the woman. He knew she was right. He'd barely worked enough to pay one week's rent in the past three weeks. But he knew he just needed time. He'd find someone to sponsor him, and then he'd have enough money to move out altogether. It was just so frustrating.
"Hector." Two hands were placed on his shoulders as Mrs Fontana looked at him concerned. "I know you ain't had much luck in life. You should still be a kid, attending school like my babies. Hanging out at the mall. Not working at this place. Y'know I'd let you off if I could, I know what it's like. But we need your support or we ain't gonna have a place for anyone to stay. We could be renting your room out for a higher rate." "I understand. I'll pay you on Friday."
Hector wasn't a fan of heart-to-heart conversations, just as much as he wasn't a fan of being polite. He stood up quickly, nodding at both women. "I really gotta go. I'll see you at 8?" "8 on the dot."
Harriet Jr gave him a small wave as he exited while her mother crossed her arms, shaking her head. Hector had everything he needed for a successful day of job hunting. He had himself. He hurried down the stairs before another lecture could begin, and let himself out the back exit of the bar he lived above.
This was going to be his day. The cuts along his face hadn't been for nothing, they were going to lead him straight to a Phoenix that would welcome him with open arms. After long days walking around the district, Hector often found that the best information lay in the bars that were abundant in the area. Not the good ones, Hector was never let into the good bars. He meant the ones that sat next to forgotten roads, where only the most barbaric dared to drink. Laughter was loud, but so was the yelling as each night inevitably turned violent.
Hector had heard the chatter of a group of men as they huddled around a table playing cards. In exchange for the last few notes crumpled in his pocket, Hector learned from the bartender that they were regulars. Common thugs, serving a gang that was allegedly on the rise (their words). Not the Phoenixes, to Hector's disappointment. Some other losers. Imitators. Not particularly bright ones either, as they openly divulged details of their plans. Hector didn't catch every word, with how noisy the building was, but he heard two sentences loud and clear.
"An' that Phoenix they're sending? Velvet?" "Oh, she has no idea. Getting rid of her won't be a problem. Some rookie."
The next thing they knew, they were being approached by some lanky teenager as they stood up to leave.
One brief altercation later, Hector found himself being kicked out of the bar, with a bleeding face. He had gotten what he needed though, one of the thugs confirmed the time, the rough place, and the Phoenix's mission before the rest of the group started whaling on him.
Hector has been looking for a way into the Phoenixes for the past few months, taking up a room above a bar in the Nightlife District. He has been so distracted by his goal that he's been neglecting his duties, bar work for the family he lives with. As a result, he's behind on rent and being threatened with eviction. Hector is determined to balance his bar job with his sponsorship goal. It seems like he's ready to continue the job hunt.
He had found out from a group of thugs at a shady bar that rookie Phoenix Velvet was on a mission to extract information from their boss. They have plans to send a few people to ambush Velvet, and Hector sets out to stop them.
A bike shot down a desolate road, slowing as the rain started to form puddles over the potholes. Hector wiped the water from his face as he squinted at a sign. Though a couple of letters had fallen off, it was certainly the place. Falconar Business Park. He had to ask a few people before someone could point him in the right direction. It was near the city limits, and it seemed like nobody had occupied this place in quite some time.
Though if that were true, Hector wouldn't be here right now.
"Plot 4A. Plot 4A"
Unfortunately, Hector didn't have a map for the area. He circled around a few times, peering through the windows of each deserted building he passed. Empty. Empty. Empty. He was pissed off. Was it possible that he had been tricked? No, surely not. Just as he was about to stop cycling, he spotted something sticking out from behind one of the offices, a glint of dark paint. On further inspection, it was a bike, neatly parked by a doorway.
He took a moment to admire the bike, and how beautiful it was. Surely the bike of a Phoenix. They who commanded the district deserve a vehicle of such elegance. Hector dropped his bike against the wall next to it, a rusty old pushbike he had found abandoned on the street. He made a silent vow to get an upgrade with his first Phoenix paycheck, after paying his rent of course.
Hector stepped on a piece of metal on the floor. A large lock, once securing the back entrance of the building, had been broken. He kicked it away as he opened the door. He slammed it shut, and the whole building seemed to rattle. Hector felt no fear in making his presence known, nobody else is supposed to show up for 2 hours anyway, he had plenty of time to help his new friend with whatever they needed and then ride back home together.
Despite appearing abandoned from the outside, this was certainly a place of activity, even if it seemed empty today. As he walked up a staircase in the middle of the building, lights automatically turned on above him. He could hear the hum of machinery not too far away.
As he approached the second floor, he spotted her. Or was it her? Hector couldn't be sure. They stood in front of a locked door at the end of the hallway. Only one way to find out...
"Hello there. Looks like I've been sent to help you out... Velvet?"
Hector approached Yong-Yut with a grin, still dripping wet with rainwater. Outside, a jeep was approaching the estate. It seemed like Hector had made a few miscalculations.
What a wonderful day today has been! For once, Alice had an entire day to herself, unbound by Tiger duties and favors; she was even without her caretaker, who said something about visiting someone (though unbeknownst to her, Janay kept invisible and always around her). So, with his permission, a full district of mystery was set before her. And how fruitful it was!
Today marked the first time she went shopping without supervision (she bought a pretty, red dress!), had a walk without people keeping over her shoulder, enjoyed a less-than-elegant meal that tasted wonderfully unique from the usual foods she knew: a very sloppy looking burger which she only had half of—though she had to pop a few mints after to keep her breath fresh.
It wasn't that Alice ever found the constant company of other Tigers bothersome. Heavens, no! It simply felt... less... constricting? Oh well, no time to dwell on that; what was the purpose of a vacation if thoughts of the times before kept pertaining?
Disregarding the dark grey clouds blotching the sky, the Central District has been a delight to explore! Even walking along the streets proved pleasant to the girl, smiling brightly at each passerby while keeping her every step graceful.
She only stopped as the clouds seemed to grow darker, then... pittering and pattering.
Alice stared up into the sky as the water poured, awestruck. It had occurred only now to her that she had never been out in the rain for more than a minute. Usually by now, someone at her side would be ushering her to a car or shelter, or holding an umbrella for her, much like the one currently at her side. "So it was going to rain!" she gleefully remarked. Before anymore of her outfit could get any wetter, Alice retrieved the umbrella she wisely prepared earlier. She beamed once the water began pelting the umbrella like small pebbles—she liked the noise it made!
It was genuinely fascinating to Alice, watching the city seemingly transform under the rain as the pavements went smooth and shiny, and the people remaining cleared out. "Rain, rain, go away," she sang in a whisper, not totally meaning it, but not knowing any other rain-related hum. "Come again some other day."
But she knew she couldn't stay out forever. Now probably would have been the best time to go back to Janay's meeting spot, so she went and scurried off... if not for a very striking sight: a boy in long blue hair, trudging through with his head down, lacking any protection against the rain—not that he seemed to care all that much. What could he have been... Alice shook her head. I should really get going. Yet she couldn't take her eyes off of him. Something about the boy looked off; not in an unkind or suspicious way, just... sad? Unable to get the sight out of her mind, she moved on her way...
But Charlie may have noticed the rain stop bombarding him suddenly as an umbrella came over his head, followed by a girl's soft voice. "It's not good to be caught in the rain like this. You might get sick!"
Charlie stopped his shameful march in the middle of the sidewalk, staring down at a puddle that had recently formed as the pessimism in his thoughts kept increasing further. His mind rewinded back to the sight of the collapsed bridge, of an nearly fatally injured Vulken, of a lifeless Quetzal and so on all the way back to months ago, where he held the corpse of his employer in his arms. All of them tragic events that maybe he could have stopped if he was just a little better. His negativity kept piling up as the rain continued to land on his head and shoulders...Until suddenly it didn't.
He raised his head and noticed an umbrella above him.
"It's not good to be caught in the rain like this. You might get sick!"
He insinctively looked behind him and noticed a cutely-dressed blonde girl, extending her umbrella as to also cover him. He took a moment to process her words and the situation he was currently in, he had been so focused in his thoughts that it felt like a slap back to reality. He then turned around properly and took his right hand out of his pocket to move the soaked locks on his face aside.
"Uh...yeah, you're right, sorry about that" As silly as it was, his lack of words in mind made his brain default into an apology. He then noticed that due to the girl sharing her umbrella with him, it was barely covering her at all, letting some of the rain hit her as well.
"I, uhh, should probably go for some cover until it clears out, thank you" Despite trying to speak cordially, his tone was as lifeless as a mistreated retail worker.
He quickly moved out of the umbrella and into a nearby closed store which had its front covered with a roof. He gave the kind girl one more glance before staring back at nothing in particular, simply watching the rain fall.
Darius noticed the glare, returning it with an apologetic look. Oh fuck. I've already overstepped a boundary, haven't I? I should apologise. He opened his mouth to say more while Yong-Yut finished her burger but thought better of it. Best to at least give them time to respond first.
Thankfully she did respond. Darius nodded. He felt he could understand what she was going through, though his boss and most of his colleagues could go die for all he cared. It was himself that he wished would take better care of himself, and of course, he was worried about it. He couldn't help that, but he was doing what he could to keep his worst fears from becoming a reality. Then of course he was worried about a special someone outside the gang as well.
And then she asked about his work. The tables have turned now, Darius. Really, he should've already had an answer planned for this. It wasn't like he didn't know what kind of conversation they'd be having. What could he even tell her about work without going into too much detail? He didn't want them to feel threatened, though it wasn't like they were unsheltered from the gang life.
"I'm glad work is going fine... Don't worry about talking about the same stuff, if it's something you wanna discuss then y'know, we can discuss it again." He continued, gesturing as he spoke, "It's normal to worry about that kind of thing, it's a difficult... line of work... to have people you care about in." He picked up his cup, taking a long drink from it. He was aware he had completely dodged her question, but he just needed to think about it.
"As for my work," he said, lowering his voice without realising, "It's... As complicated as it usually is." He held his palm out on the table, showing the near-healed wounds that he was sure they'd probably noticed already. "I told you about my potential, didn't I?" He hoped Yong-Yut could work out the rest from there, but though he didn't think he'd want to talk about it further, he found more words coming out. "I'm worried about how things will be in the future." He drew his hand back, crossing his arms. "I just don't know if I can..." there was a moment of silence while he thought of the right words, "change my path. Feels like I'm too late. You ever feel that way?"
The woman who had been preoccupied with the mirror finally turned around.
“You’re needed up front.”
“...Huh?” Despite the conversation, Mimi continued to tamper with her hair. “What do you mean, I thou—”
“I have to head out early tonight, so it’ll just be you for a while.” They looked to their watch, and turned to the door. “And you really need to quit using so much of our supplies like this. Someone is going to notice.”
“Yeah, yeah, you're right.” She laughed—it was short. "I got a little clumsy, and overslept."
Her excuse went unacknowledged, as her coworker made a hasty exit from the building. Mimi, on the other hand, stood there for several moments before recklessly beginning to put back all the product she was using on herself. This wasn't supposed to happen. Today was supposed to be uneventful. Her head weighed heavy, but she still dragged her feet to the front.
In the moment between entering and exiting the dividing doorway, her posture popped back into lively condition. She practically skipped by the receptionist who 'generously' offered a single finger towards the customer who needed attention: One individual with long pale blue hair. Cute color. Lame clothes.
“Hi hi!” She exclaimed, swinging into view. “If you'll follow me, we can get started right away. ✧”
The bathroom tap trickled as Peyton cupped his hands, catching the cool water. He violently splashed it into his own face, the crisp coldness a pleasant shock. Peyton shook off the excess water and looked up at the mirror. Water dripped down his hair. His yellow eyes swirled in their unnatural way as usual, but it seemed more muted, tame. He swore that he could even see a hint of brown hiding behind the yellow.
Hot days sucked. Back in his initial days as a Serpent, he loved the heat. But after his Potential changed, it was as if he became more sensitive to heat and cold. Unsurprising, considering how diseases didn't survive as well in the heat or cold. Today the heat made Peyton feel more in control of himself than ever but also a slight bit weak.
Thank goodness For Vacancy had air conditioning. Peyton's apartment didn't, so he had to scramble to find somewhere he could live out the day until sundown cooled things. He hadn't a lot of ideas as to where to go. The bookstore was out of the question, as old man Ruozhang had closed up shop as the day was far too much for him. Eternal Night Palace was an option, but risking the possibility of getting hot and bothered to get out of the heat felt contradictory. With finals coincidentally at the same time, the library was also a no-go, with both refuges of the heat and studious students filling the place.
For Vacancy wasn't exactly his last choice, but on a hot day where your appetite wasn't really there and when you didn't really drink alcohol, a bar wasn't exactly high on the choice list. But with the place basically empty, Peyton decided it would be a good place to sit back and read a book over a glass of cola.
Nope. As he opened the bathroom door, the sound of music snaked its way through the cracks. It was a familiar song though, one that Peyton swore he had heard from the car radio or a movie of sorts. It was familiar enough that he could sing along with the lyrics.
"All these places packed with people,
But your face is all I see,
And the music's way too loud,
But your voice won't let me be,
So many pretty girls around
They're distractin' to impress,
But the thought of you alone has got me sweatin'
And I don't know..."
Peyton paused in his singing. His voice was alright aside from the fact that it was a good half an octave above the key that Dyne played. But what made him stop was the fact that he didn't think those were the right lyrics. Something about them was a bit off. Perhaps he didn't know the song as much as he thought he did.
When he returned to his booth, Peyton picked up the book he brought along. But after less than ten seconds of trying to pay attention to his book while there was a song in the background, Peyton gave up. He put the book face down on the table as he sat back.
As Faris passed by, Peyton accepted a snow cone and elected to slather it with grape flavoring. He looked up at Faris and asked, "Heya, uh, why are you staring off into the distance?"
The little fire dancing on his finger received a smiling exclamation. "My, such a lucky thing for my companion to be so hot this cold evening."
She laughed following the double entendre. Oh, Dyne so adore her luck tonight. Not only a ravishing young man, but one with Potential. It meant much, much more room to play later. She draped her blazer, eyes twinkled with playful anticipation. "If you promise not to wander, darling, you can touch as you want."
Dyne took the alternative to nestle near the young man's shoulder, almost putting the arm around her shoulder. The faint scent of sweat and deodorant was pleasant, and the muscle definition she felt through fabric earned a faint smile.
"Lead the way, darling. You're the boss of this street~"
She tilted her head slightly over, letting a pattering giggle accompanied their short yet meaningful walk.
The flashing building brought with it a wave of nostalgia. She hadn't been in such buildings since her modeling days years ago. How she missed them, the line built on excitement, the exhilaration that drowned sweats and stuffy air into the background, the debauchery of drunken bubbles!
Oh, she couldn't wait. Dyne laughed as they parted, a question asked, and she rummaged through her purse for an ID. She had no fear of her blazer falling over; her Potential ensured that would never happened. "The name's Dyne, darling. Boltius is a fine name. But when you're with me..." She smiled with a look that gazed deep into his fiery pupils. "You're only my darling."
Boltius stood at the sink, dressed in an old T-shirt and basketball shorts, and he scrubbed, gently, the frying pan he’d just finished cooking with, rinsed it, dried it with the cloth hanging from the stove’s handle, then put it neatly away.
He gave the counter and stove another wipedown before turning to the bathroom to wash up.
In his refrigerator were two packed meals, tomorrow’s lunch and dinner, still warm.
He thought about the girl—the rookie. What was her name?
Right. He thought about her as he washed his hair; casual thoughts, nothing strange. Thoughts like… her potential, her worth as a member of the Phoenixes, and how fun he thought it might be to fight her. And so he wondered… Would she take him up on such an offer? A fight?
Ain’t no harm in tryin’...
Several minutes later, when he’d finished, Boltius exited his bathroom in only a towel, and approached his closet to find an outfit.
Before he left, he gave the apartment one last glance-over for anything out of place, saw only perfection, and locked up behind himself, twirling his keys on a finger as he made his way to the parking lot for his Denali.
He did find it rather strange, this whole setup with the stranger named Sang-Cheol, but Boltius reasoned that it wouldn't be the craziest thing he'd ever done. He decided to simply call it what it was: a meetup with a friendless weirdo- No... That's harsh... A casual meetup. But also, as a member of the Scarlet Phoenixes who didn't take to precautionary measures to conceal his identity or affiliation, he was somewhat skeptical of the whole situation.
Oh well. He figured he'd cross that bridge if and when he got to it.
Upon arrival at the Plaza, he found a place to park and exited the Denali. As he moved toward the thick of the bustling life, he searched for the face of this Sang-Cheol, vaguely remembering what he looked like. Then, when finally he found him, Boltius stuck his hand up high and gave a relaxed wave. “Yo! Sang-Cheol!...” As he got closer, he offered a small smile, “Damn. You actually remembered this shit.” A snicker escaped him as he looked around the area, taking it all in. “Did I make you wait long, or somethin’?... How long you been here, bro? I’m not late… I think…”
— —What he's wearing (X) + His usual bling/jewelry
— —SCENE DESCRIPTION: Several days ago, before the events of Arc-1 on September 17th, Boltius was approached by a stranger seeking his friendship. This stranger wrote up a contract agreement, which Boltius signed promising he would meet the stranger for a fun day on the town, that day being today.
Like a dog hearing its name called, Sang-Cheol's head perked up and immediately homed in on the source of the voice. Unlike Boltius's friendly smile, Sang-Cheol met him with a withering glare as he scanned Boltius as if the orange-haired man was a specimen from his lab. Around his height, with orange hair, a little younger than himself, and athletic if based on the size of his biceps. A look of surprise was shot at Boltius as Sang-Cheol was shocked at the person in front of him.
'Olivine, where did you find this guy?!'
The man in front of him was healthy. In the North District, he's only seen addicts, the homeless, and Hubert. He wasn't dirty as Bash, nor had a distinct stench of blood like Raphael. The closest person Sang-Cheol could compare him to was probably Kyoden or Mimi. That meant Olivine met him outside of the North District. A minute later, he looked away and sighed before making eye contact with Boltius again. Think, Sang-Cheol, Think! What did Aristotle say to do in a situation where he did something that might displease the other party?
"Sorry about that," Sang-Cheol shot a smile back at Boltius. "I feel a little nervous, that's all." Scratching the back of his bashfully, as Gerda told him to look vulnerable, he got up from his spot on the fountain. "And, of course, I would remember. We sighed a contract after all." Sang-Cheol had to pace himself before he could say anything stupid. "The same for you; I'm happy that you remembered," Sang-Cheol said as he internally cringed. How people could say stuff like this was beyond him.
"As for the time... I've only been here for an hour. Though, that doesn't matter now." Sang-Cheol raised his hands in front of him. "But don't worry, you're not late. I just got here early."
Part one of the plan, 'Try to Get Along,' was successful. Now was time for part two. Timothy gave him instructions on what to do in certain situations. The next should be to hang out in an area and get to know each other. Since they just started meeting each other today, it's essential to find common ground between them and foster that relationship over it. While they didn't have any information on Boltius, other than that he was probably a man, they had a few ideas.
"There's an arcade nearby; we can play some games there." Shit, was he going too fast? They only had just met. "Unless there's something else you'd like to do," Sang-Cheol said quickly and naturally. The sentence itself felt awkward halfway when he was saying it. Internally Sang-Cheol was repeatedly saying 'Fuck' to himself as he awaited Boltius's response.
Night fell over the North District. The windows had gone dark, the good children had gone to bed, the dogs had curled up with their pups. Out in the distance, a small group of people could be heard talking raucously as they stumbled back from a night of drinking.
And out in the back alleys of a pub, Raphael and Peyton were causing bloodshed.
A research team had taken a step too far into the territory of the Serpents, and the lab rat duo had taken up the job of taking them out. Those researchers had just gotten a breakthrough in their Potential research and had been celebrating until the two of them came along.
The blade of Peyton's rifle glinted in the dull orange glow of the streetlights as it slashed through flesh. Blood splattered over Peyton's clothes and his target went down with a gurgle of the throat. A devious look adorned Peyton's usually cute face as he pounced on another scientist who had tried to escape. Wielding his rifle one-handed, Peyton spun it before tossing it over to his other hand to stab the scientist in a dramatic display of killing intent.
Peyton felt alive. The powers that the Serpents had given him felt like electricity in his veins as he let them go wild. He felt more giddy and unhinged, but very much so still himself. He grinned nervously, unsure of whether his brutality was taking things one step too far. Part of him knew that he shouldn't be having so much fun, but once in a while was okay... right?
A researcher took the opportunity to charge up to Peyton and draw a knife, slashing at the short Serpent. With his terrible sense of defense, the knife easily landed its blow, cutting through Peyton's sleeve and piercing his arm. Peyton looked at the researcher in shock, then at his arm, where blood had already seeped out of the wound. With a sweet voice, Peyton looked dead at the scientist, "Oh, come on, that was just mean."
"When you have a knife, you have to use it to stab! Slashes aren't going to hurt anyone," Peyton said. A friendly look was on his face, although it didn't reach his eyes. The scientist backed up with fear in his eyes. Peyton took two steps for every step the man took and grasped his rifle with both hands, "Here, let me show you."
With a stab, the man collapsed to the ground. Peyton took a step back and took a look at himself. Oh no. The yellow parts of his clothes were stained with red. Cuts adorned the fabric, as Peyton hadn't bothered to defend himself in the scuffle. Peyton winced. Now that he wasn't letting himself go wild, it kinda hurt.
"How you holding up, Raph?" Peyton called over his shoulder. He knew that Raphael, being the awful person he was, probably didn't need his help. But Peyton had chosen to tag along regardless. After all, Raphael's awfulness was great. Peyton liked it. It never made for a boring moment. Even in the midst of battle he couldn't help but play a little with his friend, "Aren't you glad you brought me along?"
Osamu let out a swath of smoke into the air of the night, tapping his cigarette against the railing to get rid of some of the ashes. It's been a while since Osamu threw a party and tonight was a good night to do it. He was having a cigarette before everybody arrived, using his time alone to his advantage. I hope there is enough alcohol, many of the Tigers can really empty my stock. He lifted the cigarette back up to his lips, letting out another stream of smoke. He flicked it into the night, turning to go back inside his condo.
He walked his way into the kitchen, retrieving a bottle of whiskey and a shot glass. He couldn't resist a shot before the real fun arrived. He unscrewed the cap, pouring the whiskey into the glass. He took the glass and quickly put the contents into his trap, swallowing the contents. It was smooth and wasn't abrasive. He'd have to hide it from the Tigers because they'd be all over it once they put their eyes on it. He turned his attention to the bluetooth speaker in the kitchen, grabbing his phone to connect to it. You couldn't have a party without any music.
After looking through his playlists, he decided on a mixed playlist that included classics and some newer stuff to keep everybody satisfied. He walked himself into the living room, plopping himself down onto the couch. He felt like he was missing something, but he couldn't quite put it in words. His eyes lit up as he finally remembered, Ah Minato, where is that bastard? He's supposed to be here before the party arrives. Hopefully he's not picking up more alcohol, he should know he can just get it delivered. He looked up at his tall ceiling, stretching his arms.
The urge to grab another drink was too tempting but he wanted to wait till things started to kick off. He looked at his watch, noting that it was still quite early. He knew there were some people who liked to arrive quite early, and he always made sure to anticipate that.
Iskander's laugh boomed as his frame filled the doorway entrance to the 'For Vacancy' Bar. He was followed in by a crowd of cooing women, and some men, all of them appearing to be having a joyous time. They were moons orbiting a planet. The large man's gravity was undeniable.
Though, as soon as he spied her across the way, the crowd of followers that he'd acquired on the short walk over here may as well have not been there at all.
If the man had a tail, it'd be wagging by now as he bounded up to the piano, floorboards creaking beneath his mass. He draped his upper body across the bar, eyes losing themselves in the sight of her. He listened attentively, as his followers either dispersed or lingered, in the off-chance that they might snatch his attention back from the woman who'd stolen it all.
When the song ended, Iskander straightened up and clapped uproariously.
The gentle tug was enough. He hadn't really been going to fall asleep again, anyway... The sign post reading Tales and Tails passed by Markus' window as he sat up straighter, blinking the last vestiges of sleep from his eyes. He looked over at Yong-Yut in the backseat behind him, grumpily muttering about how he was already up.
And then she yawned in his face. Humph, you're the sleepy one, he thought with a half-quirked smile... A smile which promptly morphed into a yawn that forced a tear out of his eye. Damn-it, YY, yawns are contagious, you know?
He was suddenly annoyed for no good reason, crossing his arms in front of his chest as he stared out the window. The city outside was obviously different. Different in a bad way. Why couldn't they have just found somewhere to go closer to home? He didn't like the thought of being far away... His cloudy mood cleared up as quickly as it had arrived, following YY's finger as she pointed out Cuisinaires, her favorite. Markus made a mental note to himself. He would ask her mother if they could stop on the way home on YY's behalf.
When the car stopped, Markus dutifully unbuckled his seat belt and pushed open the backseat door. To Decha's barbs, he said nothing, but he was annoyed by it. Yong-Yut was not misbehaved. And she did not need to be kept in check. Bristling, he held the door open for YY to hop out before he shut it with a bit more force than was strictly necessary.
He stewed on it until they were all sat together in the booth. He stewed as he was handed the menu, stewed as his eyes spied the short stack of blueberry pancakes he'd been thinking of ordering. He didn't stop stewing until he felt YY looking at him. He looked back. She showed him her menu. Markus nodded solemnly. He'd handle that, too. He pointed at the pancakes he was eyeing and nodded again.
When that was settled, the table had a little down time to chat before the server returned and started taking orders. Markus was going to order last, based on the direction that the server had decided to start with. First it'd be YY, then Markus. When Decha finished placing his order, Markus spoke up immediately.
"Chicken tenders." Markus said forcefully as the server turned to take YY's order. "She wants chicken tenders and fries."
Before he could comment on the warm bowl of porridge Isobel had given him, Ezra noticed the host poking at the other Tiger's healed neck. He watched, hoping that her curiosity wouldn't lead her to question the healing process. Unfortunately, she soon turned her attention back to him and began signing. He really should've expected it. Removing serious injuries in an instant wasn't something most people would gloss over.
"Uh, kinda. It's a little hard to explain." His Potential really was complicated, but its nature wasn't the main reason for his somewhat unsatisfactory answer. He'd been told not to divulge too many details about his abilities. Information was extremely valuable, and people knowing more about you could be very dangerous. Spilling secrets wasn't a smart move. Not without proper compensation, at least.
"I can try to give you a better idea during the next meeting." Despite all the warnings he'd received, he still felt it was best to tell Isobel more. She'd need to know what he could do in order to put a plan together for the upcoming mission.
Following their little conversation, he watched Isobel turn to the man he was intentionally keeping out of the loop. After she showed him something on her phone, said man quickly turned around and looked at him. Once again, he was trapped in an uncomfortable staring contest accompanied by silence. The usual thoughts filled his head, and he still questioned what he'd done to be subjected to this. When the Tiger finally opened mouth, only to let out a long yawn, Ezra decided to give up on searching for an explanation. He just couldn't understand this guy.
When his fellow houseguest mentioned debit, credit, and hugs, his confusion remained. "Huh?" Without knowing what Isobel typed on her phone, he was missing some context. He could only assume that they were talking about payment.
"Oh, it's fine. I really wasn't expecting anything when I came here." He originally took Isobel's request for help as an order from a superior, something he wasn't really in a position to decline. There was also his own mission to consider. It never crossed his mind that there'd be something in it for him, especially a paycheck.
"Also, I already have this." Tapping the side of his bowl, Ezra pointed out that he'd already been compensated. He was surprised Isobel even made a portion for him. Still, he appreciated it, and so did his growling stomach. The last time he ate was before driving to the casino yesterday, and a lot had happened since then.
Spoon in hand, Ezra dug into the rice, a bit confident that there wasn't anything strange or dangerous mixed in with the food. However, before taking a bite, he stopped. It wasn't paranoia about being potentially poisoned that made him do so. He just realized something that wasn't terribly important.
This was the first time he'd shared a meal with someone in years. Accustomed to the usual silence and solitude, it felt a little strange to have another person next to him while he ate. Although, strange didn't meant bad. That wasn't to say it was spectacular either, given the circumstances behind the unexpected breakfast. He just wasn't used to it. It really wasn't a big deal. Not at all.
He should've been used to this by now, but he still couldn't shake off the nerves that plagued him whenever he prepared to meet an instructor for the first time. In fact, the usual apprehension had gotten worse each time. That was only natural, in his opinion. All of these so-called tutors were intimidating in their own way, and the newest was always worse than the last. After his most recent experience, he was dreading the thought of the new hire somehow being crazier than an unhinged veteran obsessed with explosives.
Ezra wasn't really sure what to expect this time. Like usual, his father told him what he'd be studying, but there wasn't much info about the woman he'd be learning from. All he knew was that she went by the name Dagger, which was fitting for the purpose of today's lesson.
He was supposed to practice knife combat, but there was another aspect to the training that wasn't very clear. In addition to learning how to fight with a new weapon, he'd learn how to survive in an urban environment. He understood there was a difference between this kind of survival and what he'd been studying until now, but he didn't know how this was supposed to play out. It all depended on Dagger's methods.
Going in blind made him feel more uneasy than usual, but there was something a little comforting about being able to do this from home. Not comforting enough to get rid of the jitters, but still nice. He was usually driven out to some unknown location before being subjected to whatever the experts had in store for him. Then there was the helicopter. Just thinking about it made his stomach hurt.
Feeling a buzz in his pocket, Ezra reached for his phone. The moment had finally come. Having time for one last check, he made sure his bag was packed with everything he needed. When he was satisfied, he looked himself over in the mirror. He was dressed properly, wearing the same lightweight, easy to move‐in-clothing he wore during his training with Paul. Yeah, his attire was fine, but he was still getting used to the body.
After a year of going through an extreme regimine, he'd bulked quite a bit. He was bigger, stronger, faster, and more flexible than he used to be. It was a dramatic change, and sometimes it felt like his body didn't even belong to him. However, he didn't think the benefits of this insanity outweighed the costs. He would've been fine going through life as a twig if it meant he never had to put up with any of this. Although, he had to admit that he liked having abs.
Putting the strap of his duffle bag over his shoulder, Ezra left his room and reactivated the locks. The hall was currently empty, but he knew better than to think he wasn't being watched. The complex had eyes everywhere, and dozens of trained guards were always ready to strike at the first sign of trouble. While it definitely helped him feel safe, he'd pretty much been forced to give up on ever having privacy.
It didn't take him long to arrive at the designated room, but a part of him wished the walk had taken longer. He wanted more time to mentally prepare himself for what was about to happen, but he realized that there would never be enough time for that. He just had to rip the bandage off and get it over with, hoping the pain wouldn't be too bad.
Slowly opening the door, Ezra popped his head in and noticed that the room had been set up to resemble a restaurant of some kind. Multiple tools had been laid out as well, but he quickly looked away from the rubber knives when he noticed the white-haired woman standing by the window. With nobody else around, he assumed that this was Dagger.
Taking in her appearance and the vibe surrounding her, he was immediately reminded of Weaver. His time with the former soldier hadn't exactly been pleasant so far, and the small resemblance was bringing back a few memories he would've liked to stay buried. However, he tried not to let any preconceived judgements affect his attitude. Just like a bandage.
Fully entering the room, Ezra let the door close behind him. With his back straight, he bowed slightly, trying his best to be respectful. "Good evening, ma'am."
Raph took in the sights—and smells—of the South District, taking a deep breath in through his nose. He held it there for a moment, before exhaling the breath as the words, “What an absolute shit-hole." passed through his lips.
And, sure. I know what you're thinking. 'The North District' is no prize, either. And you'd be absolutely right! It's a shit-hole too, but at least it's mine. ~
As he walked, Raph slung one arm behind his head and yanked on it with the other. Then he switched sides, stretching his sleepy muscles. The effort sent a yawn bubbling up in his throat. He at least had the decency to cover his gaping mouth as he squeezed his eyes shut. Why was he so tired? Maybe he hadn't slept well last night. Maybe he hadn't been sleeping well the last few nights. All the booze probably wasn't helping, either...
Maybe he was glad for this latest bout of insomnia. One can't dream if one never closes his eyes. Before taking another step forward, Raph stopped short and slapped himself across the face. Enough of this pity-party, you pathetic loser. ~
... Harsh, but fair enough, I suppose. ~
Raph was right, anyway. This was about the only thing in his life that he felt could be construed as good, even if you had to squint and tilt your head just right to see it. The least he could do was have his head in the game. Not that he thought he'd need it for this. Killing people was as easy as breathing, especially these people. They did this to him. They made hiim this way... Raph's heart fluttered in his chest. He would be forever grateful for their good work... But they still all had to die. ~
As he walked, he kept stretching. Because it felt good. What other reason does a person need to do anything? Clasping his hands together overhead, Raph leaned this way and that, daring the people who shared the sidewalk with him to get in his way, to brush past his shoulder, to get just a little too close.
He dared them. He double dared any of them to try him. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to want to get their faces rearranged today. Shame. ~
And what's more, the number of people he passed quickly began to diminish as Raph drew nearer to his destination. Even the trash that called the South home knew better than to go to places where Bad Things™ happen. And by the looks of this street, lined with dilapidated tenements and ramshackle dwellings, it was most definitely a Bad Place™. Exactly the kind of place where cockroaches would come to hide.
The sight of the rickety warehouse that was his destination came into focus. Raph ran a hand through his hair as a shiver ran down his spine. It was a shiver of anticipation, of excitement. It was also a shiver of fear. This was all so familiar. Once, he'd been the helpless mare, screaming into the darkness in an underground lab. Even if he was strong, now. Even if he was stronger now than he could've ever dreamed, thanks to the work of those wicked men, Raph still couldn't shake the fear that one day, somehow, he'd end up one of their victims yet again.
Before he could get any closer, Raph spied the door to the warehouse creaking open. Raph scampered for cover, sliding behind a nearby parked car, flattening his back up against the cool metal frame as he waited and listened, the beating of his own frenetic heart ringing in his ears. Before long, Raph heard the foot-falls begin to recede, ending with the light tink of a metallic door swinging closed. The man had gone back inside, and he was none the wiser that he, and all of his little friends, were all about to die. ~
Raph smirked to himself, turning to his left as he readied to make his entrance, coming face-to-face with a white-haired boy who'd also taken cover behind the car. Raph's mind hitched, stalling like an engine. The wheels of his brain turned over, and over...
Post Arc 1/Pre Arc 2 — Sometime After September 17th, 2021
Geronimos, Central District
Raph didn't know what he'd been expecting. Something cathartic, maybe. Something grand. He'd been expecting an epiphany. He had to learn to keep his expectations low. And drink less.
After all, August was right. The police were on their way. There was no time for grandiosity. And this was just a stranger. A ship passing in the night... Raph wondered if the whiskey would turn him into a poet one day if he drank enough of it.
Whether it was kindness, pity, or something else that drove August to come back for him, Raph didn't care to know. The truth would hurt either way. So pathetic. At August's command, Raph hurried after him, but soon found that his hurrying would've swiftly left August in the dust if he'd kept up the pace. Settling for a brisk walk, Raph shrugged out of his leather jacket and slung it over his shoulder as he looked down at the scabbed-over soon-to-be scars, one for each arm, and thought how silly all of this was. With one hand apiece, switching his jacket from one to the other, Raph absentmindedly rolled each sleeve of his tee up past his shoulder, for no reason other than a desire that they be seen.
“Really? Where's the fire? It's a lovely night for a walk."
Raph purred in response. Neither of them were taking this as seriously as they ought to. That was a good sign, Raph thought. Maybe you're just my kind of crazy, after all.
Sliding in to the passenger's side seat, Raph made a point to not fasten his seatbelt—ever the rebel—as the Tiger started the engine. Quickly, he came to realize just how superfluous a seatbelt would've been in this situation. Craning his neck to watch the pair of police cruisers pull into Geronimos, Raph made a rude gesture with his hand at them before turning to face forward again, tossing his favorite jacket into the backseat without a second thought. He wondered if he'd remember any of this in the morning.
“Slow down, Tiger. You almost went the speed limit just now."
Raph responded, either missing or flat-out ignoring August's joke—and his request for a destination—as the Serpent started fiddling with the console, ostensibly trying to find the seat warmer. Without looking up from all the knobs and buttons, his eyebrows pinched in concentration as he tried to work out the meanings of all the squiggly-lined symbols, he whispered, as if by accident, as if he'd meant to think it instead of actually say it out loud,
“I'm Raph... By the way."
— —What he's wearing (X) + his jacket has come off & his t-shirt sleeves are rolled up past his shoulders
— —SCENE DESCRIPTION: After an unlikely encounter at a bar called Geronimo's which consisted of August and Raphael clashing with some Albino Tigers, a very drunk Raph finds himself in the front seat of August's car.
Shen liked Mister Kairong. Shen liked most people, really. He liked Ruriko, he liked Shuwei, he liked Mister Kairong. He also liked most things! Morning rain, the smell of flowers, clouds... And tea! Shen quite enjoyed tea, particularly the tea served at Mister Kairong's shop. It was a taste he'd acquired from his mother, they had said. She had been a regular here, when she was Dragon King. When she was alive. Not that Shen would know anything about any of that. She'd died when he was still quite young, so he didn't exactly understand how he could've gotten anything from her, really..
Shen stepped aside to allow Kairong's elderly customer to sidle past. He smiled at her as she left the shop to the sound of tinkling bells. He didn't know her, but she seemed friendly enough! And Mister Kairong seemed to like her. Shen concluded that he would like her, too! Whoever she was... As the door shut behind her, all memory of her face erased itself from Shen's memory. He could pass her on the street tomorrow and be none the wiser.
“Hello, Mister Kairong!” Shen waved as Shuwei returned Kairong's bow, missing the look of disapproval cross his cousin's face that he'd not mimicked the gesture. Shen's attention was drawn by the sound of another voice emerging from the depths of the shop. A woman's voice, motherly and doting. Kairong's wife! Probably. Shen didn't have much memory of her from his days spent under Kairong's tutelage. Maybe because the Dragon King had bid the old Master come to the Palace to train, rather than have Shen come here. Maybe, or maybe she just hadn't left much of an impression during any of their meetings.
But it was not Kairong's wife who came to seat them, but a boy. Shen appraised him with a quizzical look. He looked a bit young to be working in a Tea Shop. Oh! Maybe this was one of Kairong's children! But, he also looked a bit young to be Kairong's child... Maybe a grandchild? But then, why hadn't Shen ever seen him around before?
“Hm...” Shen mused aloud, staring unblinkingly at the boy who would be their waiter as he led them to their table. For three! That wasn't enough. Shen called out to Mister Kairong as the boy waiter stood attentively nearby, “Mister Kairong! Why don't you join us? I do not think we will be able to drink all this tea ourselves. Ha-ha!”
Shuwei, for his part, did his best. That was all he could do these days. These long, arduous days where he longed to reach across this table and throttle the oaf who sat there. For whom every seat seemed to become a throne. Instead, he turned to Ruriko. She intrigued him, even if, in more ways than one, she reminded him of the cousin he loathed..
“Ruriko, do you have a preference?”
Meanwhile, Shen's attentions were diverted once more. He turned his impassive gaze upon the boy—he thought he heard Mrs. Kairong call him Isaiah—as his brain racked itself to try and recall where it thought it had seen that face before. Or... No... Maybe that wasn't it. Maybe that wasn't it at all. No! That wasn't it! This was.
“You!” Shen exclaimed, suddenly smiling. He all but pointed at Isaiah, either uncertain or unwilling for some arcane reason to call the boy by his name. Ignoring Shuwei's audible groan, Shen went on, “Do you like tea? Of course! You work in a tea shop, after all. You join us, too!” Shen waved a hand at the generous space they'd been allotted. “We can all fit!” The way he spoke, it was clear that he was used to his words being heeded. They left little room for disagreement.
But Shuwei did disagree.
"Leave the boy be.” He bristled, turning his eye from Shen to Isaiah, his gaze knowing. Oh, yes. Shuwei knew exactly who this boy was. Son of a traitor. But, to him, even traitors did not deserve this.
Shen pouted a little, but said nothing in response. He simply turned to Isaiah and wondered what he'd do now.
It felt a little weird when the old man addressed Shen and Shuwei as ‘young masters’. Sure, they were both related to the current and previous Dragon Kings but the title was a little too over the top. Plus, it made her sound like she was just their bodyguard following them around — wait, that actually didn’t sound half bad. A capable samurai, tasked with protecting not one but two important members of the gang? Her chest swelled with pride as she snickered to herself at the thought.
Her smile grew wider as she heard Kairong’s wife, “good to see you too, Obaasan!” While they were not blood-related, Kairong’s family certainly felt like a second family to her. Her own grandfather and Kairong had been best friends for…however old those two are. Maybe that’s why the old man tolerated her so much?
Ruriko watched as Obaasan disappeared behind the partition, quickly being replaced by a familiar face. Ah, the most recent traitor to the gang. Or…son of a traitor? Traitor by association? She wasn’t sure how she should feel in regards to Ivan and his son. Isaiah only became known at the trial and Ivan wasn’t that bad. His crimes were for sure but he had helped here and there with her potential, forcing her to think more with her portals. Either way, she didn’t feel the need to be hostile towards him — should she?
She followed quietly to the table he led the trio to, sitting beside Shuwei as she watched Shen invite Kairong to drink tea with them as well. Ruriko could definitely drink all the tea by herself, it would probably take a few restroom breaks in between but she could definitely do it! Then again, she wasn’t sure if her wallet was in it for the challenge so she kept quiet about objecting to Shen’s statement.
Instead, she turned to look at Shuwei when he asked if she had a preference regarding tea. She looked down at the menu Isaiah had placed in front of her, humming out loud in thought. “Probably green tea — can’t really go wrong with that. Oolong tea sounds good too…or maybe black tea…?” Ruriko continued to read over the menu in thought, considering all her options. She was completely focused on choosing the right tea that she jumped slightly out of her seat when Shen suddenly called out, suggesting that Isaiah sit with them as well.
Asking for both the owner and an employee to sit with them did sound a little strange but seeing Shen pout urged Ruriko to say something. “Ojiisan probably works him as much as he makes me train, he’s probably dying to give his feet a break.” She glanced at Isaiah, gesturing to one of the open seats before stopping herself. “Ah, but Obaasan might not like him slacking off either…hmm…”
Ruriko shrugged, giving up her attempt to side with Shen so as to not incur the wrath of Kairong’s wife. “Anyways, Isaiah — what do you recommend for tea?”
Dyne sang in circling lights and a reverie of bliss. Jonathan knelt on her side, mesmerized by the lithe waltz of her fingers. These moments, rare as a cold shine in the breeze of summer, lightened her smile so.
Her smile only widened as Iskander arrived with an entourage. The scowl Jonathan betrayed nor the melancholy Faris sighed from afar stopped her heart from fluttering. It couldn't be helped, darling. How could she not with the presence of a world focusing all on herself? Words flew without meanings but the emotive joy in the steps she made.
A soft decrescendo ended the song to a boisterous applause, Iskander and Jonathan alike, though the latter glared to the former.
"Leave if you aren't here to drink." Jonathan barked with displeasure. He leaned on the table as if to hide her. Really, it was but a show; how difficult was it to just order a drink? But she enjoyed the occasional showed of possessiveness.
"You hear the manager, darling. Order something before he kicked you out." Her giggled pealed with amusement. She tasted her snow cone, just to the tip of her tongue to not ruin her voice so. Strawberry, as she always loved it so.
Yes, but another song shall work. Another to fill the afternoon, the lazing sun. So, she pressed the keys, lustrous as silk in a song smooth as satin,
Peyton's voice rang clear like perfect pearls in clear water. Dyne sang to his lead, a softer echo ringing with joy. Her smile and voice were all Faris could see, and the same rang true for Jonathan who still knelt next to her. Peyton's interruption acted as a brief truce between the two. They wouldn't sing, and only listen.
Loving one who could only love many was a bitter fate. But what could he do? Faris could only laughed inwardly as yet another joined the fray, a man he knew as Iskander entered the bar. He had long accepted it. Compared to when he was but her servant, he much cherished their relationships now.
Unknowingly sedated into a walk to memory lanes, Peyton snapped him back to the present. A rare chuckle parted his lips, "Thinking about when there's less competition."
Faris swerved toward the new women and men; he might as well take their orders if they planned to stay. To leave the island of romance for his post as a bartender. Once he mixed and served several cold drinks, he returned again to Peyton's booth, though he took a seat this time, and his snow cone. He took a wry glance to the scene surrounding Dyne with a shake of his head.
"I hope you aren't in love with her, too," he said half-jokingly.
Charlie stood up as he noticed someone approaching, yet completely froze in place the moment he actually took a good look at the girl.
He suddenly stopped, his brain deciding on second thought to stop that stupid mouth of his and instead analyze the situation more in-depth, rather than coming up with a potentially disasterous conclusion.
The girl standing in front of him bore a stricking resemblance to his former girlfriend, Angelica, down to the hair color and several facial features, so the possibility that it's her was quite high...Yet, wouldn't you think she would've recognized him? Charlie's hair made him easy to pick apart from others after all. Was she perhaps acting professionally by not aknowledging him? But wait...
Enhance image (as in, look more carefully)
The eyes, the eyes were actually a different color, this girl had bright pink eyes, while Angelica had blueish eyes, but not only that, something about this girls mannerisms felt different.
-Conclusion reached: NOT ANGIE-
"S-Sure!" He followed the girl towards the basin chair, resting the back of his neck on the cold ceramic cavity.
"I was thinking about just trimming some split ends and a deep conditioning treatment" Now having reached his conclusion, his loosen up once again, even though inevitably a rush of memories started to flood his mind, for better of for worse (most likely for worse).