Meirin watched as her sister artfully, yet delicately, applied makeup to her face like a professional, accentuating a beauty that Jun Azuza already had in abundance—at least in Meirin’s eyes. Eternal Night Palace was as bustling as it always was whenever news of a Dragon Inspection came around…though not by way of customers. Signs were put up to show that the pleasure house was closed for the day due to the potential VIP guests. Inside, rooms were cleaned to spotlessness. Chairs straightened. Gardens trimmed. Meirin could practically taste the tension—and mild excitement—in the air as ladies primped themselves and staff workers tried to look their best. Not that she blamed them. For many women worked in the brothel houses of the pleasure district, notice from a Dragon, the rulers of the Eastern District, was a chance ticket to a better life.
Or one to hell…but it was really all just a matter of prospective. After all, Meirin was a Dragon chosen from the Pleasure District and now she and her sister owned/managed one of its brothels. Isaiah, the current Ace of the Dragons, was one as well, or so the rumors went. She’d see him visit the pleasure district from time to time and his friendliness to the workers there—not just in a sexual manner—made him one of Meirin’s favorite amongst her fellow Dragons. Little wonder the Queen chose him as Ace. Meirin would’ve picked him as well. Eyes drifting to curtained window, Meirin thought she recognized Isaiah's car drive into the Pleasure District, but the vehicle disappeared from her line of sight before she could be certain.
Jun put her eyeliner back in its case. “No luck finding the accomplice yet?”
“Nooooo,” Rolling on the bed in Jun’s private room at the top of Eternal Night Palace, Meirin picked up one of the fluffy pillows and hugged it to her chest. “I’m not even sure what we’re looking for to be honest, but I doubt anyone in our establishment is related to the traitor. No one I've talked to seems to know anything at least.” Unless the weasel managed to slip in from right under their noses. Jesper’s nose as well. Someone with potential?
For some reason, the dancer Meirin and her sister hired for one of their wealthier regular customers came to mind. Callen. The amount of horniness she’d felt that day—in the entire room—was not normal. Jun agreed with her. While it would’ve been nice to attribute atmosphere to his amazing dancing skills, Meirin knew herself too well. It was more likely he was using some sort of potential.
But all those who entered Eternal Night Palace were screened for drugs and dangerous substances, so potential was more probable. No surprise given the world they lived in. If Callan had attempted anything malicious with his sexy potential, Meirin would’ve punched his lights out, whether she was turned on or not. Alas, the dancer been simply doing his job in the best way he knew how. Rather, Callan been the one at risk of being attacked, given the way some of the patrons were looking at him that night. Meirin shuddered.
“I’ll keep asking around here, so you should check up on some of the other pleasure houses,”
“Thanks Jun!” Meirin leapt from her bed and threw her arms around her older sister. “I guess I'll ask around The Lovers' Garden next. Or maybe Sinners' Paradise? House of Virtue is a good choice too since Lotus is a regular gossip…after meeting the others at the rendezvous point, of course. Can't keep my fellow Dragons waiting~”
Jun returned her sisters' hug. They might not be blood-related, but they were family. Sisters. If Meirin couldn't leave the darkness she'd been 'invited' into, Jun wouldn't either and vice versa. “Wherever you go, please be careful, Rin. Be subtle with your questions as well. The more accusatory and threatening you sound, the more closed off people will be—especially the ones involved in the incident. There’s an art to extracting accurate information…and the wrong ears hearing about your search could make things more difficult for you…”
“You worry too much, Sis,” Meirin winked. “Many people here know me and I know many people~ I’ve got this in the bag!”
Dashing out of Jun’s room, Meirin exited Eternal Night Palace and strolled down the quiet streets of the pleasure district with gusto, smiling and greeting everyone she made eye contact with like she usually did. Guarded faces. Quiet whispers. The increased cameras and drones certainly helped with security and safety, but it didn’t help lessen the tension. Most who lived in the Pleasure District knew, or at least suspected, that the Sleeping Giant, who guarded Eternal Night Palace, was one of the Azure Dragons. It wasn’t spoken aloud (for fear of death), confirmed to only her closest friends…but most knew. That was how the Pleasure District operated.
They also knew that Meirin did her best to put troublemakers, especially the ones that bothered pleasure house workers, in place. That, even if she was a Dragon, she was also one of them.
Meirin wasn’t ashamed to have received the letter bearing the Dragon sigil. While initially wary, she was proud to be a part of something that kept the peace of her home district, even if there hadn’t been much work since Jesper joined. The Guardian struck more fear in the hearts of the people of the East than Meirin ever did…barring that one time she went gigantic, of course. Certainly some of the things the Azure Dragons did were questionable, maybe a bit too invasive, but it was all for the greater good.
The peace of the East.
Hard to believe that someone from the Pleasure District was involved in an action that harmed the Dragons. Harm the hand that fed and protected them. After all, it was only thanks to the Azure Dragons that brothels houses of the East did so well. Most belonged to them.
Attacking one of the well-dressed staff workers she recognized from behind with a vicious tickle attack, Meirin teased the laughing man. “Why so tense, Sho? Relax~ I’m only going to ask a couple quick questions is all.”
What questions? Meirin wasn’t entirely too sure. Jun wanted her to be subtle…but how did one subtly ask whether they were related to a traitor? Honestly, threats made things quicker, but Meirin didn't have to heart to do so to a friend and she didn't want to damage her relationship with the people living in the Pleasure District.
“Know anything about—oh! Isaiah! Old man Kairong! Over here~!”
Meirin paused in her tickle attack, to wave at the two Dragons from beneath a flowering tree.
A pair of black work boots quietly tapped against the ground with every step the new Ace of the Sable Serpents took. His hands were stuffed deep into the pockets of his prized gray biker jacket, in an attempt to shelter as much of his body from the cold September air. Today had marked the end of Summer, and the beginning of Autumn. And with Autumn, came cold. He couldn't stand being cold. His long, jet black locks were forced backwards with every breeze that hit him, causing him to occasionally grunt in annoyance and burrow himself deeper into his jacket. His growing frustration so early into the job was enough to temporarily remove the fact that he had been in a group from his mind. Behind him were three... characters: A touch-starved freak, the silent robot, and... him.
Sure, those were the names Bash had known them as until now, but he'd have to step it up with this newfound position of his. If he was going to lead these... idiots, he'd have to at least have the consideration to remember their names. And so, he did-- He, Darius, Anna, and Bitch were out and about to handle some very important business. As the quartet combed the streets of the Central District, the boy made sure to keep his amber eyes attentive to the people around them. They had been given specific orders to find new 'employees', and that was exactly what he planned on doing. He'd approach the weak, and if they refused, he'd force them to submit by any means necessary. In his eyes, it was a win/win; he'd get the job done, and he'd be able to get a few licks in.
Just as Bash's irritability level began to lower as his focus drifted away from the temperature outside, the sound of Raphael's horribly annoying voice rang out from behind him. He didn't have any particular problems with the other two, but he just couldn't stand a single thing about his fellow shiny-haired Serpent. For starters-- even though he had taken the lead, and couldn't see the faces of any of his three group members, he could feel the bastard's eyes staring directly at him from behind. As he listened to whatever bullshit the man had to say, he clenched his fists, keeping them hidden inside of his jacket pockets to prevent himself from lashing out. It wouldn't be the first time he attacked the guy.
And, as expected, nothing but bullshit had left Raph's mouth. Bash's abnormally sharp canines revealed themselves for a brief moment as he opened his mouth slightly to perform a long, irked inhale. Thoughts raced through his mind. If you don't wanna fuckin' do it, then why the fuck did you even come?
A loud exhale followed suit. Once it was over, he slowly turned his head to look back at the one who called himself-- what was it... hemo... hemodancer...? The tense expression he shot at him could only serve one possible purpose-- it was a warning. A warning not to piss him off any further than he'd already been, or else there would be unbearable consequences.
"Yeah, that's exactly what we're gonna do." He retorted, directing the statement toward Anna and Darius as well, making sure to shut them down early just in case the two had anything to say. "Gotta problem with that? Not like you'd be able to come up with any fuckin' bright ideas, anyway."
He was in charge here.
"Now, unless anyone else has any more stupid bullshit they wanna let out, get to work. If anyone says no, we beat the shit outta 'em until they say yes. Got it?" He didn't wait for a verbal confirmation from any of them before he opened his mouth to speak again. "Oh, and if 'ya notice anyone from another gang, grab me so I can handle 'em. Make 'yerselves useful so we can go home early."
Cassidy sported a suit that was too expensive for her tastes and moved with a predatory grace not entirely her own, some days it paid to go the extra mile. When Alice, the Tigers very own fairy tale princess, was asked to host a tea party for some notorious high rollers chances were good it was that kind of day. With a bit more flair than strictly necessary Cassidy swung open the doors, light and sound from within washing over her features transforming a measured smile into the a harlequins grin.
“After you dear, lets not dally unnecessarily.” A quick hand gesture had a few more junior gang members move to politely clear a way for them through the semi crowded ground floor. The veil of upbeat music, flashing lights, colorful drinks and heavy smoke in the air only did so much to hide the underlying greed, despair, addiction and mania; better her companion not linger long enough to experience it first hand.
“Say Alicia, do you have a favorite drink besides tea?” Cassidy asked genuinely curious as she gently shepherded the woman toward an elevator; eyeing a particularly colorful concoction on a passing tray with open skepticism. A job was a job but delivering a princess to the top of a tower into the midst of some rather unsavory company left a sour taste in the copycats mouth, one she was hoping to wash down soon.
The top floor was a different affair from the ones below, everyone present exuding an air of importance, power or influence to some degree and yet the volatile mixture of moods remained or was perhaps even more intense. “Do you remember the mar...velous special guest for tonight?” Cassidy corrected herself as the elevator doors clanged shut behind them. Scanning the room for one 'Titus Latken' and spotting the heavy set man in an obviously jovial mood. Good, nobody had seen fit to sink their fangs into the him yet; Cassidy would need a few minutes to pick out the truly skilled card sharks among the crowd. If she was to play it would be with the deck stacked in her favor.
“Now that I think of it, it's been ages since I've witnessed one of your parties! Really must think there's two of me with all the work they pile on...” she sighed, then added, “Boss isn't overworking you, is he?” a hint of concern under the light hearted question as her gaze swept across their current questionable company once more.
Menacing. Menacing. Menacing. Anna, or rather, Deluge leered out at the world from behind her guise of cheap, dollar-store rubber. It was a ritual she'd mastered by this point, the art of self-hypnosis she used to keep herself in the zone while on the job. So long as she kept her body stiff and her stance imposing, she seemed to be able to keep up the illusion of the stone-cold menace that she'd cultivated. That was assuming she managed to keep her mask of the day on, at least.
As far as their tenure with the Serpents was concerned, all of the men that Anna had been assigned to this job with were her seniors, but it certainly didn't feel that way. Two of them were already bickering, and the third of them, while she'd heard nice things through the grapevine, reminded her more of her younger brother than he did a hardened veteran.
Still, she wasn't one to complain. Their dignified Ace, Bash, seemed happy enough to lead them into whatever fresh hell he had in mind, so it was just her job to deal with the consequences. It was the sort of operation that she was well used to running after her last smattering of months under Tri's supervision. Chaos was the Serpents' modus operandi after all, and she had to have been genuinely, truly thick to not have gotten that through her skull by now.
"Gotcha." Anna spoke in as droll a voice as she could, and in affirmation to Bash's instructions. Her voice was slightly muffled by the Queen Qong mask currently draped over her head, which served well to hide the tremble of concern that managed to worm its way into it, despite how much she strained to keep her tone even. She hadn't done much work in Central, not even before she'd become a member of the Serpents, so this was unfamiliar territory for the gorilla-masked woman. Her eyes flicked from street corner to street corner, constantly expecting either one of the rival gangs, or some unfortunate police officer to come strolling into view.
Anna swallowed a mouthful of spit, which she imagined to be infused with her concerns, and steeled herself. Hell or high water, a job was a job, and she'd best see to doing it. Central was bustling with fresh, unaffiliated young faces, how hard could it be to convince one of two of them to throw their life away?
"Hello." Anna approached the first group of rough-looking young people she spotted, hardly a stone's skip from where Bash and Raphael had been bickering, and then started her sales pitch without introduction. "Do any of you kids want superpowers?"
Darius wrung his hands together, feeling each bump and crater that has formed underneath his gloves. It was a nervous habit he had since his youth, and the situation didn't give much reason to stop. He felt the cool air against his arm and wondered why anyone couldn't enjoy this weather.
Summer was agonizing, the sun blaring, turning his gloves into a sauna at times. Autumn was a blessing.
He slowly removed one glove, to expose it to the soothing breeze, flexing each finger out. There wasn't much to flex anyway, with how his hands had been whittled down over the years. Appearing now as a discoloured, scarred mess, barely skin and bone. He couldn't stand to look at it when it first began to deteriorate, but it's who he is now.
He looked to his companions, bringing his exposed hand away from them. It was not even close to the team he would've preferred to be with tonight, and yet this was the group he had to deal with. He didn't have a read on Anna's personality, too distracted by her fashion choices. Monkey masks don't exactly scream serpent, do they? He was wise enough to not make judgments though, at least he wasn't worried about her turning on the group.
He couldn't help but admire Bash, the confident Ace of the Serpents. An embodiment of what outsiders may think of when they hear about the chaotic brutes in the North. For all his strengths, Darius wasn't even sure if Bash would last the day though. A few well-timed jabs at him is all it would take to ruin everyone's evening. That seemed to be Raphael's goal. Why the fuck is he here?
It took all of Darius’s efforts not to roll his eyes when Raphael started talking. You idiot, do your job. Do it and you can leave. You don't have to question it. Please don’t question it.
He stood to attention when his Ace replied, barking out orders for all to follow.
"Got it. Let's get going."
Thank you God.
Fighting may not be his forte, but Darius could talk, he could definitely talk. As long as nobody gets too aggressive, there wouldn't be an issue. He knew his group wouldn't stay civil, but he could enjoy the peace in the meantime. He wriggled his hand back into the glove and got straight to work.
He wandered away from the boys, seeing that Anna had already found some prey. Strength in numbers, strength in numbers. He took a spot next to Anna, listening to her sales pitch. Quick and to the point, not quite his style.
"Potentials can turn any of you kids into a big shot. Fear, respect." He pondered for a moment. What do kids want? What do I want?"Smoking hot babes love guys with potential. It could all be yours, just look at us." Really smooth, Darius.
Inviting them to look may not have been the best call. The group didn't even look stable enough to make a sandwich together, let alone tackle a whole new market. They needed to be serious about this if they wanted to get any work done.
"...We should also start prepping for October early. I want to have a new set for each day of the month, and all of it spooky. If we do it early, then the crew can take more of October off."
"Alright, we can start next week, after the meeting over the new commissions. I trust you didn't forget?"
"You did. Well, all they want to is have you behind the wheel of their fancy new car for a video or two. Shouldn't take long."
"Perfect. Alright, I've got to hang up now, but I'll text you later. Oh! Before I go though, give yourself and everyone a bonus; I loved our last photoshoot. Same as last time."
"I won't complain. Have a good day Dimitri."
The dull light blinked off of the screen situated squarely on the dashboard, as the sounds of his manager's voice gave way to the smooth purr of an all black vehicle moving down the street. On the other side of tinted windows, Dimitri Bellari casually hummed a tune as he slid through traffic. His destination? The North-Eastern bridge, to which one could travel from the southern district to the central district. Idly he pat the weapons sat securely in the passenger seat, smiling wide when the sun glinted off metal just right.
He heard her before he saw her; Dimitri's elevated senses picking up a tune as the traffic surrounding him started to wear thin. "I hope her idea of training wasn't Zumba. Then again, it might be fun all things considered." Dimitri turned off the main road to park In a lot under the shade of a tree, grabbing a coat and letting it drape over his shoulders as the met the cold air with a warm smile. Of course he could have parked a little closer, but who would be that dumb to have their property anywhere near where they knew gang members were going to maybe fight? He wasn't stupid."Oh? Am I first? Wait, do they even drive?"
After a brief check, Dimitri had everything he needed and was making his way down the bridge with a certain pep in his step. His two black gauntlets were nestled under his arm, and alongside his blood vials sat an ornate rapier secured to his belt. It wasn't quite cold enough for him to feel it, but as he spied a figure on the bridge he failed to see how it could be anyone else but Reika. Calling out as he got closer, Dimitri waved his free hand in greeting. "I really was first! Are those two going to be late?" Observing the wounds on Reika briefly -in particular the ones he caused himself earlier that day- Dimitri took up position next to the Queen, albiet not standing boldly on the railing as she was.
"So! 'Training Day'. I'm assuming we don't start until Vulken and Merrit show up?"
Just great. Today was not Hide's day apparently. First he couldn't even get a decent breakfast, then some morons decided to just piss him off more by walking so damn slow in front of him, and third!... He got mud on his shoes. Alright so sue him it wasn't even that bad of a day yet, but with Alex hitting him up for some kinda job, all the negatives were stacking up.
With an overdramatic sigh and a tilt of his head, Hide peered into the windows of the restaurant they were supposed to meet at. It seemed there were more people here than he originally thought. Just add another problem why don'tcha world! Hide rolled his eyes and adjusted his thin golden rimmed glasses, finally making his way inside after he was done mindlessly staring. Once he spotted drinks on the table however- specifically the lemonade- a sly grin slowly formed on his face. Hide disregarded the oversized bird in front of the table, and plunked himself down onto one of the chairs, snatching the lemonade before greeting anyone. He didn't really care who was in front of him at the moment, his attention entirely focused on the drink in his hand. Hide took a big gulp through the straw, and made an exaggerated moan, sliding the drink back onto the table and sitting back.
"Damn I really needed that. Now... why the hell are we here? It better not be cleanup duty again, I'm so fucking sick of that." With that last spiteful comment, Hide took his glasses off and set them on the table, leaning forward to cross his arms on it as well. He didn't really need glasses, his vision was perfectly fine, but he wanted others to think that it was one of his weaknesses, when its not- so he puts up with it. Besides, he kinda liked how they looked on him.
Hide took a moment to actually inspect who he was here with. Alex- of course, he's the one who texted him in the first place. Nina, the idiotic birdbrain who couldn't seem to sit in a chair at the moment. Akane, one of the many people he did not like due to criticizing his loyalty any chance she got. Helva and her... ghost friend. Those things always creeped him out... Were they all the ones who were coming here? Hide hoped so, he didn't really want to work with so many people thinking they could tell him what to do. He would comply anyway, but that didn't mean he would like it.
The roaring engine of a red Dodge Challenger ripped through the streets of the South District as the car sped towards its destination. Inside of the sports vehicle were two individuals: The first was a handsome young man, with shining crimson hair. His golden eyes twinkled with so much-- enthusiasm, regret, strained optimism. And there were even more things hidden beneath the surface of his calm and composed demeanor.
And then there was the idiot driving the car.
Vulken's foot was pressed against the gas pedal, one arm resting on the driver seat window while the other was constantly moving left and right as he violently switched lanes to get to the bridge as soon as possible. If there was anything he wanted to avoid, it was being late, especially when she was involved. As beautiful as the esteemed Queen of the Phoenixes was on the outside, cold, dark freezer that one would call her 'inside' wasn't pretty. Sitting next to him was none other than one of the newest additions to the gang, Merrit Anderson. It had already been three weeks, and Vulken still wasn't too sure why he'd made the decision to sponsor this kid. Was it his Potential? It couldn't be, he knew plenty of people with the ability to burn a building down. It had to be something else, but he just couldn't put his finger on it. He could put his finger on his chin, however, as he pondered the question of why he made the spontaneous decision to take this kid under his wing.
The ride to the bridge was a fairly quiet one, mainly because Vulken couldn't think of anything to talk about at that moment. Mentoring someone was way more awkward than he thought it'd be, which was exactly why he decided that a training session with the disturbed Queen and her... interesting mentee would be a great way for the two to, well, bond. To be fair, it sounded much better on paper.
As they neared the bridge, Vulken stepped harder on the gas, allowing his engine to rev loud enough to announce his arrival, before parking fairly close to the bridge and stepping out of the car, waiting for Merrit to exit before locking the doors. Immediately after getting out of the car, he reached into the pocket of his fur-rimmed jacket, and pulled out a cigarette, along with a golden zippo lighter. If only his Potential allowed him to control flames, right? He quickly lit the cigarette, taking a long drag of it and exhaling before leading the way towards the two other members of this red-haired ensemble. Before they were in earshot of the two, he turned his head back to Merrit, offering him a reassuring smirk. "If you're worried or anything, don't be. You're not the only new one here, after all." He gestured towards Dimitri, who was too busy speaking to Reika to notice. Taking another puff of his cigarette, he added, "Besides, you've got me here. I'll at least make sure you get home alive. Can't say I got the slightest idea of what our lovely Queen's got planned for us, though."
As they approached Reika and Dimitri, Vulken held his cigarette between his teeth to wave at the two. "Yo! Hope we ain't late, or anything." His brass eyes immediately locked onto Reika, and he made sure to get a good, good look at her outfit as she stood atop the bridge's railing. The wounds on her definitely weren't a good sign, and they caused Vulken to shut his eyes as he felt the immediate regret of agreeing to do this. Shit. Nonetheless, he still had some ass-kissing to do. "Lookin' beautiful as ever, Rei. Any chance you're gonna tell us what's in store before we actually start?"
"Cats and rabbits Would reside in fancy little houses
And be dressed in shoes and hats and trousers In a world of my own"
Alice ran off a short distance from her chaperones, leaning into a rectangular pot of lush flowers and grass. A simple decoration for the casino's interior, yet something she could never get enough of. She gently took the leaves, as if handling a delicate creature.
"All the flowers Would have very extra-special powers They would sit and talk to me for hours"
She rose away from the flower bed, running backwards and almost bumping those accompanying her. Alice looked up amid the flashing lights. Stemming from some of the more luxurious slot machines, blue silhouettes of birds dotted the ceiling, running along the surface. She reached up towards the birds, smiling softly.
"There'd be new birds Lots of nice and friendly how-de-do birds Everyone would have a dozen blue birds"
Alice paused, returning to the chaperones' side. She closed her eyes, listening to the slot machines and the cacophony of the usual casinos. Everyone sounded like they were having fun; the machines' sounds were like music to her ears.
"I could listen to a babbling brook And hear a song that I could understand
I keep wishing it could be that way Because my world would be a wonderland!"
It was always a delight to know people were happy; her mother always empathized how important it was to take others' feelings into consideration. That was why Alice was here. People needed her help, and naturally it was her duty! While skipping along her companions towards the elevator, one of them asked her a question. Ms. Cassidy, as Alice remembered. She shot a beaming smile at the woman. "Other than tea? I guess any fruit juice! My mom would squeeze whatever she could buy, back then, and she made it super yummy!"
And into the elevator they went. Elevators were exciting. To Alice, it was an inverse present. For each floor, the wrapping opened up to show them the outside world. It changed with each closing and opening, and the surprise never got old. When they reached the top floor, Alice, giddily cupped her cheeks. At Cassidy's question about the special guest, she didn't need to say much for an answer. "Mhm!" was all.
The top floor was a different air; that much was noticeable. It was really kind of the Tigers to ensure everyone's happiness! With her chaperone's final question, Alice raised a brow. "You're silly, Ms. Cassidy! There's no such thing as overwork when it comes to making people happy!" She hopped out the elevator, taking in the new scene. She twirled around to her crew, eager as ever. "So where do I start?"
When Tri mentioned his intent of hunting human experiments instead of commissioning people like he usually did, Paris bombarded him with advises. Take Anna. Target loners. Wear armors. Be careful with guns and weapons, because Potential doesn't make you invisible. Don't get cocky and just use the damn bioweapons.
The researcher puffed a ring of smoke into the air. He, in the t-shirt he had woken up in with a thin jacket overlaying, had ignored all the advises given. In his other hand was a tattered copy of 'Life and Death through Eastern Martial Art' which he read with devout concentration throughout their trip.
"I say. King."Tri spoke for the first time. He scratched his chin with an even gaze. "Apparently the chop to the neck shown on movies is most likely fatal, so my idea isn't going to work. It's a pain to modulate strength."
He looked at the people they had. King Yuudai, there wasn't much else to say. Tri met him enough to remember his name, reputation, and personality and Potential. The three girls he knew less about, but a short summary by Paris about their power left Tri scratching his chin again. Yup. Modulating strength is definitely going a pain. He threw his cigarette away with a hum. "I have a new idea. We'll flatten the zone and take the surviving ones. That's going to less of a pain."
In a research facility in North District
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE KING IS GOING AS WELL?!"
Paris held his head. He expected some chaos when his Dad, the Jack was going for a random rookie mission, but when Yuudai joined in?
Ugh. He would have to call the cover-up and clean-up crew again, wouldn't he?
”Uuugh, honestly, any softer, and I’d be buying at least seven new boots by tomorrow! Do you know how hard it is to get custom-made stuff that actually fits my aesthetic?” If one would turn their attention away from the two giants of the Sable Serpents to pay attention to the owner of the whinging, they would find Kisara McDowell struggling to lift her boots out of the soil with every step. Her weight did not do any miracles in assisting her from the quicksand that swallowed up her feet with every forward movement she attempted to make. “I mean, I could totally be hanging out with Bash-senpai right about now, but nooooo, here I am, stuck wading through endless, infinite, never-ending amounts of muck!” She didn’t seem to register that the King of Serpents and his Jack were those amongst the audience of her tirade against the filth that clung to her feet. “I mean, the promise of thrashing some lowlifes sounds like a nice hobby and all, but could you at least give me a heads up if we’re going into a trash heap like this?” She gave an exasperated groan as she finally fell in step with Tri. She was no worse for wear, and barely looked a tiny bit exhausted, given how much effort it had looked to be for her to drag herself over to the rest of the group. If anything, most of her expression was solely focused on being disgruntled about the conditions of her surroundings.
Ignoring the fact that she was still sinking ever so slowly and ever so slightly into the earth beneath her, she whipped her phone out from her back pocket in a movement that was only possible for someone who was a pro-selfie fiend, always eager to get a shot at whatever was inspiring her next post on her blog. Instead of a selfie, however, she instead used the darkened screen as a mirror and adjusted her hair nonchalantly. “Like, seriously, boss,” she did not make it clear whether it was Yuudai or Tri she was referring to, “no disrespect, and pardon my French, but what the heck are we doing in this dump?” She didn’t even need to look away from her mobile phone to already know that the whole place needed, at the very least, a massive makeover. Like, several of them, if it was to be considered hospitable and habitable. From the corner of her phone, she could just make out a playground that looked like she had hit it with one of her blasts, and forgot to clean up the ensuing mess. There was really no other word for it. It was a dump. “I don’t think I’ll even get even the slightest bit satisfied punching any of the chump change lying in the gutter here.” She made a retching sound, and looked to double over, but her precarious relationship with the ground made her reconsider. She righted herself, and tried to find more solid ground for her to stand on, somewhere that she didn’t threaten to burrow her way to the South district without even raising a hand. “I think I’ve even lost my appetite for anything that’s thrown my way from this place.” She tucked her phone back into her pocket with just as much skill as she did pulling it out. “Can we just hurry up with this, boss? I’ve got a surprise date with a cute boy somewhere, just waiting for me to pounce on him.” She couldn’t even bring herself to use her normal playful lilt. The whole place was filled with the scent of weakness and, worse still, rank with the stink of hopelessness. She had absolutely no interest in that. An opponent who wouldn’t even fight back was no opponent at all.
The trio of young lads turned in unison away from whatever conversation they'd been having, their three sets of eyes landing simultaneously on the pair of definitely intimidating Serpents who stood before them. The three boys watched, they listened, and they observed Anna and Darius. Evidently unimpressed, their collective countenance darkened. As though they viewed this enterprising offer as some sort of challenge.
"The fuck did you weirdos say to us?"
Said the first boy, a tall, lanky teen with long, dark hair. His posture was hunched as he turned to face the pair, his hands jammed firmly into the pockets of his high school uniform.
"What is with that Gorilla Mask? Did you skip your meds this morning?"
Said the second boy. He was shorter, but no less mean-looking-or-sounding for that matter, with short, tawny brown hair peaking out from beneath a backwards sports cap. He was glaring directly at the gorilla-mask-wearing Anna, either too dumb or too cocky to catch on to her menacing vibes.
"Do you know who we are? You're talkin' to the North-Central Prowlers. Show some damn respect."
The last boy said, with a heaping amount of pride. Apparently they were some sort of schoolyard gang. Obviously created to emulate the Four Gangs of New Oasis, albeit on a much, much smaller scale. If these boys knew who they were dealing with, they might change their tune...
Alas, the latter half of the Serpents' party of raiders had been... delayed.
As Bash spoke, Raph eyed the back of his head, like a viper waiting for its quarry to stray into striking distance. They walked on until they came upon a few groups of people milling around, going about their days, living their worthless lives. Disgusting.
Raphael watched, barely containing his mounting contempt, as Anna and Darius marched off in unison like happy little cogs to do Bash's bidding. Of all the people to be made Ace, Raph couldn't think of a worse outcome. It could've been him. It should've been him.
Just then Raph noticed that Bash was about to follow his little minions and terrorize some hapless civilian. Instead of letting that happen, he decided—in typical Raph fashion—to open his horrid little mouth and let words spill out.
"Say! How long's it been, now, anywho? Three, four months?" Raph didn't specify the it in question, as he shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his leather jacket. He knew Bash knew well what he was referring to. He also knew the exact day and month that he'd heard the news. Bash probably knew that, too. Still, it didn't stop Raph from feigning ignorance, and innocence, despite how grinningly insincere the final product ended up looking. "Let me be, I'm sure, the first to commend you. I bet you didn't think you'd last this long."
Raphael knew this only ended one way... And so his pockets were hiding fists full of blood.
Albino Tiger Penthouse Suite, West District District
Elias, Sonny, Sophia, Markus
Elias had been to many parties in his life—Charity parties, Holiday Parties, Birthday parties, Frat Parties, Movie Premier Parties, etc. They all started to look the same after a while. Still, attending parties was a good opportunity to get know people, build connections, and form partnerships that could add could add to ones’ coffers. Opportunities to show off wealth. After all, wealth invited wealth in the same manner as birds of a feather tended to flock…and exclusive, elite parties drew in exclusive, “elite” people. Elias even recognized a few of them.
Easing himself out from the sea of moving bodies, Elias undid the first few buttons of his dress shirt as he returned to the table where he’d left his blazer. At least the Tiger party didn’t seem to be as boring as all the business parties his father dragged him to. He’d done what he came to do at all gang-related social events—introduced himself as Elijah Anamnesis, shook hands with many Tigers, socialized, danced. Some recognized him as the Heir to the future heir Yumin Entertainment Industry and only son of Nicholas Yumin. Some didn’t. Just as well since Elias also recognized those who recognized him. As for the ones he didn’t know, it was always good to get to know someone who could afford to get into a Tiger party for potential future business relationships.
Very few businesses that got to that level of wealth could proudly say they got to where they were without soiling their hands at least once or twice in their life. All of his life, Elias had been privy to that fact. A simple touch and some quick siffling of memories were all it took to uncover past deeds and blackmail-able material from the people around him. The entertainment industry was especially notorious for possessing many dark secrets behind all the lights and glamor. Therefore, it was no surprise to him that most of the Tigers he encountered joined the gang for their own ends. At the end of the day, it was simply human nature. Purely good people only existed in the movies.
Hence why a ‘veteran’ like Alice in a den of Tigers struck him as more than a little odd.
Raising a flute of sparkling wine at a girl on the dancefloor that motioned for him to call her later, Elias’s violet eyes searched out Ron who was currently trying to impress a group of rich young girls with his ‘moves’. Elias chuckled. Seemed like the person that dragged him to the Tiger party was no longer interested in him so, after cooling himself off with a couple more sips, Elias slipped his navy blazer back on and climbed the marble staircase to where the ‘real’ party was at, nodding politely to the enforcers he passed. Fortunately, they seemed to recognize Elijah Anamnesis despite his being a rookie. Not that it would be a problem if they didn’t, but Elias didn’t fancy having to use his potential on the King’s hired thugs unnecessarily. The more often he used it, the more likely it was to be noticed, especially by those who also possessed abilities beyond what a normal human was capable of. Risked tiring himself out as well. Elias actually had a couple of financial reports to review before his day was done, but it wouldn’t do to attend a party and not greet the host.
Approaching the central table with a lazy smile, Elias addressed King Cold in an amiable manner. “You look bored, Boss.”
‘Boss’ wasn’t exactly an accurate description of their relationship since Weiss wasn’t paying him, and he wasn’t exactly at the level where he could reap any profits from the gang (rather the opposite was true), but it sounded like something a gangster in a movie would say. Elias was proud watcher of many movies.
"Such a shame too! Your parties are as great as always," Thanking the server that refilled his flute with bubbling Champagne, Elijah Anamnesis sat himself in an empty seat beside Weiss, amused by the all the raised brows his action received from some of the Veteran Tigers that didn’t even dare get close to the King of Ice given the aura he sometimes radiated. Violet eyes orbs drifted to the Tiger King’s smartphone. “Though...I wonder if those of us working tonight are having even more fun right now,”
It didn’t take a genius to guess where the next acquisition target was, even if he hadn't obtained the information by peeking into memories here and there(which he had). Their Queen and Ace were in Central, after all. Though what exactly it was in central that Markus Weiss wanted so badly, Elias itched to find out. He didn’t even know what he would do with the information if he did. His curiosity simply compelled him to know. The same curiosity that drove him to pay his way into the Albino Tigers in the first place. There were other reasons of course - entrance into exclusive parties, connections, the thrill...but, his reasons for throwing his lot in with the Albino Tigers was mostly whimsical. Whether or not such investments (by way of annual membership fees that seemed to test his pockets) proved profitable was still to be seen. At the very least, the people around him were entertaining.
Elijah Anamnesis warmly shook hands with another Tiger that joined them.
The last thing Vice expected to be doing today was putting on clown makeup and dismantling a bridge a bolt at a time. The second to last thing he expected to be doing was this. He had made the mistake of bringing some of his nicer clothes which were now more or less unrecognizable. To make matters worse, the cheap gloves here were concerningly thin, and made his hands itch. It was torture.
Now, Vice wasn’t clueless when it came to “the process”, but he wasn’t exactly in the loop either. He had run some general errands for the place before, but this was a little more hands on then expected. Mimicking people and pretending you knew what you were doing just so happened to be his specialty. Except less something he did well, and more so something he did often. Unfortunately that level of fake it till you make it did not apply nearly as well for such precise work. Not that it worked in many other cases...
He had spent a good portion of time simply looking like he was being productive until he finally managed to grasp the general concept at the most rudimentary level. It took a couple burns, maybe a small spill or two, but he had found his groove. He only wished he could be home so he could catch today’s episode of It’s Tough Living in a Fantasy World as a Blind Mouse. He hadn't even set it to record. The idea hadn’t even dawned to him until he was already stuck doing this tedious labor.
“VICE how’s your batch going?”
“AHH,” Vice jumped, briefly fumbling with the instrument in his hands. “Mr. Queen Sir! It’s… getting there. I may be—and by may I mean I am—a smidgen behind, but nothing has resulted in catastrophic failure from what I can tell."
He paused, and looked down at the surface in front of him.
He wasn’t one to pay a whole lot of attention to the general gang situation, but clearly something was up if they were having someone like himself learning these ropes. The Serpents were big. It was hard to imagine them being short-handed.
“Are we really going to be able to make enough like this…? I brought a blanket in case we gotta be here all night but…”
The faint sound of fabric shuffling could be heard where Yong-Yut was standing. The ribbons holding up her hair gently stretched out to the rubble, picking it up and placing it into a bag. Her hands brushed idly through one of her twintails as she scanned the ground for pieces of litter and debris. Their eyes had a dull, bored look to them, but her head swayed subtly as though she was happy to be there despite the monotonous work.
She had been doing this, and varieties of this, for hours. Or, at least, they think. It's not like she has a watch. But, she was beginning to get tired of it nonetheless. She let out a sigh as they lifted their gaze from the ground for a moment, looking around. She landed on Ziz, giving the girl a confused look before shaking her head and turning to where Lyric’s voice was coming from.
“No sign of them. Looking like tonight's going to wrap up quietly.”
They gave a brief nod of acknowledgment to what Lyric had said, returning most of their attention to what they were doing. "I'm glad," she hummed. Though a fight could certainly be interesting, they really weren’t in the mood for one. They let go of their ponytail, pushing some of her hair behind her ear. Grabbing the bag, she took a few steps back, before looking back up at the Phoenix King. "Will we be finishing up for the day soon?"
"Pressure check, temperature check, what else..." Sang-Cheol said as he muttered to himself. He held a clipboard in his hands as he observed the boiler that was currently purifying their batch of drugs. With a flick of a wrist and a point of his finger, fire bloomed out of his index finger. Pointing it towards the bottom of the boiler, he let it lick the metal. It heated up the metal container ever so slightly, and Sang-Cheol could feel the effects of his flames purifying the contents. The stream of fire soon stopped after a few seconds had passed, and Sang-Cheol decided to move on.
Ever since the last batch burned out faster than the paycheque he received, docked pay included, he had to work overtime to make up for the failed batch. That got into Sang-Cheol nerves real fast. If Snake wasn't here, Sang-Cheol would have been found the nearest wall and made it his punching bag for the day. Sadly, because of his workload, he doubted he could do that since he had to use his potentiality. His hand slowly became numb over the day; it was now slowly starting to creep up his arm. Man, he wanted to take a drag out of a shitty cigarette right now. He scratched the back of his head and decided to check on how everyone was doing.
That was Hina's job mainly, but he didn't know where the hell she went. Perhaps she sent a text message, but he wouldn't know. When he had received news about having to up the production, he crushed his phone in his hands. Letting out a sigh, he heard Snake call out his name. Turning his attention towards the Queen, he nodded politely towards him. "I've been doing this for the past five years, so I got used to it," Sang-Cheol responded. "That and I'm getting paid for it, so that's also quite the motivator." Sang-Cheol left out the parts where he would destroy the furniture and walls whenever he felt stressed when he first started out. Snake didn't need to know that, but he would probably know if he checked the pay distribution.
Ignoring the casual display that Snake was making, Sang-Cheol glanced over to the burner. "Say when are the next batch of lab rats coming anyways?" Sang-Cheol asked. Depending on the response, Sang-Cheol would have to use his more potentiality more often. It would make production a little faster at the cost of his hands, much to Sang-Cheol dismay. That and he wanted a punching to take aside after testing the drugs on them.
His eyes narrowed at Vice when Snake brought them up. Looking over, he heard from Vice that his product wasn't a 'little' behind. Without bothering talking to Vice, he pointed his finger towards Vice's burner. A stream of fire lit up the burner in flames. "We're not going to sleep until we fulfill today's quota, and we're not even a quarter through with it," Sang-Cheol coldly said as he moved on to check on the other workers. "If you want to sleep, then you can go sleep in a casket because the only time you'll sleep today is when you're dead." The last thing he needed was to have his pay docked again.
She was already present on the upper level but instead of wringing poor saps for all they were worth, she was taking sips of alcohol in a corner. It was a grievous slight to the servers, but not something they were unfamiliar with. She’d order one thing, take a single sip, and then dispose of it before ordering another. She wasn’t even ordering anything she liked, nor did she have any intention of getting drunk. She was just bored.
Charmy didn’t bother with any of the actual games that were going on either. Between beverages, she would make cheap bets against those nearby. Could she balance a glass on her head for 5 minutes? Could she toss tokens into a perfect stack? Could she guess the next winner of a game?
Her nonsense had gathered a couple of affluent welps who pitched small wads of cash moreso to see the woman do something stupid than as an actual wager. Currently, she was leaning over the back of a chair and playing a very strange, makeshift version of jenga with a tower of tokens balanced on her nose. It was actually going quite poorly, and quickly ended with her flat on the floor.
The sudden thud made her eyes flutter open long enough to catch a glance, all the way across, at the Tigers stepping out from the elevator. A posse consisting of a very particular set of individuals in tow. It also allowed her chair the opportunity to crash down on top of her. That was probably a good sign to start taking things seriously. The target should be plenty marinated by now.
So she set off, poured her unfinished drink in one of the nearby gentlemen’s empty glass, and gave them a pert smile. It was time to meet up with the rest, but she didn’t head over to them. No, instead she leisurely strode up to Titus’ table.
“You must be Mr. Latken!” Charmy exclaimed, clasping her hands together. “Every inch of this place is talking about you right now. I just had to see you for myself!
Her head craned towards the elevator.
“Cassidy!” She shouted, waving excessively. “This is The Mr. Latken! I don’t think he’s lost at all today! He's as good as they say!”
The windows were down. The radio was blasting New Oasis's Top 40 hits of the week. Traffic was quiet. No, traffic was almost quiet. Hector had set off as soon as he got the text, never one to stay idle. He had been doing his cleanup around the district for the past week but the cleanup crew would live without him tonight. There was no way he'd miss the opportunity to take on some punks encroaching on their turf. He desperately needed a change of pace, something exciting, a little bit of action.
"See you in 20" He texted back, swerving around the few cars that dared share their space with him. He tossed the phone to the passenger side, landing with a thud on some trash he had left there. Newspapers, fast food packaging, and his wallet. Wow, who knew Hector had money. Not even Hector knew. He took a glance at it out of the corner of his eye before pulling over. Then, he snatched the wallet, rummaging through it to see what change he had to spare if there was any.
5 Dollars, score!
He changed his course, taking a right turn down a road that led to Amestria's favourite fast-food chain, Burgerland. "Gonna get me some fucking dinner." He cruised through the drive-thru until he reached the speaker.
"Welcome to Burgerland, what can I-" "Cheeseburger."
Hector thought for a moment. Might be nice to get Alex something too, it's important to eat before a mission! "Make that two cheeseburgers... aaaand some fries."
He wasn't sure who would be showing up, or how many, so better play it safe. He can toss a few fries at the others to appease them.
He threw his money at the workers and sped back down the road as soon as he received his food, burger in one hand.
After some dodgy driving, Hector made it to the restaurant in one piece, parking his car on the pavement next to the entrance. He entered with Burgerland bag in hand, to find his team for the evening.
Ohh shit, there's more than I thought. And the selection sure is... exciting.
Alex was there, but the cast with him was somewhat unexpected. He greeted everyone with a warm smile anyway, tossing the second burger to Alex. He ignored the death glares the waiters were giving him as he sat down, munching on some of the fries he had saved for the others. He also sipped the soda he deduced to be his.
"Thought this was a smaller job. Would've brought more burgers. Help yourself to fries." He nudged the box closer to the centre of the table.
Settled in his seat, he was ready for business, resting his elbows on the table, an excited grin forming on his face. "So, you're all here early, that's great! Fill us in on the plan, Alex, and we can get started immediately. I've been waiting to have a little fun. And what better group to work with than you lot."
There were some faces he'd rather see at the table than the ones he got, but he wasn't going to complain. As long as everyone pulls their weight, and show some respect for the leaders at the table, things will be fine. Hector would be fine anyway. Hector Moses is always a winner.
Alice was her usual self, a bottomless well of positivity with the power to turn dull everyday objects into something magical with but a glance. Was it a side effect of her potential or simply her nature? Cassidy pondered for a moment but then decided it really didn't matter either way and allowed her concern to melt away.
If the younger woman was content then it wasn't her intent to sow doubt, “Is that so? Well perhaps we'd all be better off looking at things that way.” she said, taking her eyes off the floor for a moment to watch Alicia twirl about with amusement.
Then a familiar voice cut through the crowd calling her name. When people thought of ganger's they might imagined flashy, muscle headed goons readily inflicting violence to claim their share. That's why most people would get taken again and again, they were blind to the true danger; you didn't see the most fearsome Tigers fangs until it was too late. Yet even among those long toothed veterans Cassidy considered none to be in the same league as Ms. Fortune.
Returning the wave in a more measured manner Cassidy addressed Alice's question, “Its only polite to introduce ourselves, wouldn't you agree?” Before making a beeline toward their mark and fellow Tiger, discarding her eye patch along the way. If Latken held fortuna's favor it was high time they made some of their own luck.
Hiding her caution behind a polite smile she said, “Charmy, I didn't know you'd be here tonight and in such high spirits. Mr. Latken must be quite the gambler indeed. A pleasure to make your acquaintance sir.” extending a hand toward the heavy set man.
“If its not too much trouble would you care to join us for a couple of games? It would be reassuring to have someone of your caliber at the table to ensure everything is run above board. Besides it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity to play with the man of the hour, even this young lady has heard of your fortune.” Cassidy noted with a nod toward her fair haired companion.
Banking on the marks momentary distraction the copycat tried to catch Charmy's eye before glancing conspiratorially at some open seats at one of the tables where cards where being dealt in a typical manner for black jack. Despite their differences she didn't mind deferring to the judgment of one whom held the well earned moniker of Ms. Fortune when it came time to determine their gamble.
Sitting hunched over in the corner of the casino, Ezra let out a long sigh. He'd been waiting on the top floor for about an hour now, keeping an eye out for the other Tigers. While he hadn't spotted them yet, he recognized plenty of other people who seemed to be looking in his direction, making him uncomfortable. They were associates of his father, people with so much money that they didn't know what to do with it except burn it all by gambling. Among them was Titus Latken. He'd never say it to the man's face, but he didn't like him very much. Then again, he didn't know many people who did.
Thankfully, the discomforting stares and hushed words stopped when everyone's attention was captured by a young woman and the small crowd forming around her. His savior turned out to be Charmy, a fellow member of the Albino Tigers. With a tower of coins perfectly balanced on her nose, she didn't really fit the image of a hard-boiled gangster, but Ezra was still a little intimidated by her. The same could be said for everyone else in the gang.
Thanks to Charmy, he no longer had to worry about becoming the subject of gossip, but there was still another problem eating away at him. He still had no idea how he was going to handle the mission he'd been assigned. He and the others were supposed to put an end to Titus' hot streak, but he didn't have much confidence in his ability to take down the big man. Being unsure of himself was normal, but it was a bit different this time. Gambling didn't rely on skill and you only had to be lucky to win it big, which should've leveled the playing field for someone like him. However, games of chance were the worst for him.
It was no secret that he had awful luck. Him being in this situation was proof of that. That weighed on his mind, and he'd been trying to find a way to deal with it since he arrived. He'd even brought his own deck of playing cards, as if fiddling with them would somehow unlock the hidden knowledge needed to win every time. There was always the option of leaving things to the others, but that wasn't very appealing. He didn't want to find out what happened to Tigers who couldn't pull their own weight. Even if the boss didn't decide to cut him loose based on his performance today, he'd still have to worry about his father finding out. He also wasn't sure how good the rest of the team was at gambling.
He'd only been in the gang for a month, so he still didn't know much about the members. That probably went both ways. He introduced himself and told them what he could do, but he wasn't sure if he made a lasting impression. Did they even remember his name? If not, his father wouldn't be happy with him. That's why it was important for him to do well today.
Ezra ran his hands through his hair, cursing his poor luck. Seriously, why did it have to be gambling? No matter which table he sat at, he'd probably end up losing. It felt like the whole deck was stacked against him. "The deck..."
Suddenly, an idea came to mind. Grabbing the deck he brought with him, Ezra looked at a card and scratched its sides. "This could work, right?" As he put the pieces in his head together, he actually started to feel a little confident. With this idea, he could definitely win. The only obstacle was getting Titus to go along with it. The man might be tempted by KnightCorp's assets, so it was worth a shot. He had to show some initiative. He had to have guts if he was going to survive in this place. Fortune favored the bold, after all.
As he nodded and mumbled to himself with a smile on his face, Ezra didn't immediately notice the two women walking out of the elevator. It was only when Charmy called out to them that he lifted his head to see Cassidy and Alice making their way over to Titus' table. They worked fast, already inviting their target to play a game. It seemed like they had a plan of their own.
Seeing that dragged Ezra back to reality and took the wind out of his sails. He quickly put the cards back in his pocket, forgetting about his embarrassing attempt at hyping himself up. Maybe it really was best to leave things to them. Hopefully, there'd still be a way to keep his head off the chopping block.
Sitting in one spot all night would be terrible for him, so Ezra adjusted his tie and walked over to the group of four, trying his best to appear calm. "If it's alright with you, I'd like to join." Hands at his side, he greeted Titus with a smile. "It's a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Latken." It wasn't, but he couldn't say that. The man appeared to be pretty drunk, so he wondered if he even remembered him. Then again, he'd probably be wondering the same thing if Titus was sober.
After greeting Titus, he offered a polite bow to the three women. All of them were his seniors, having much more experience than him. They were mature Tigers, and he didn't even have his stripes yet. Even if he was intimated, he'd show respect and put his trust in them.
I haven’t a very clear idea of how the last two hours and a quarter have passed. It must have been an awfully unremarkable thing, if anything did happen at all. Only that when I came to it was already dark. My feet carried me to this district, it seemed, to these whorehouses. I suspect I have been walking, rather aimlessly – something sort of a recently made habit at that time of the day. And somewhere along my walk, I was, supposedly, told by a brief and methodical message to head for the Pleasure District to investigate rumors of a traitor. Then I went ahead and completely forgot about it. But in the end, I arrived at the rendezvous point early, not of my own accord, mind. I am a rather punctual person. I would never show up early if I’d really put my mind to it.
Had a little chat with Meirin. Girl said she was going to ask around first before the others come. Don’t think I’m going to join her. It bugs me. I know some of the girls. Did some psychoanalyzing on them during my Jungian phase. The outcome was far too remarkable to keep my interest: none of them displayed any breakthrough into the collective unconscious. I know I’d have been delighted if at least one of them had experienced something spiritual, out-of-body, enlightening, etc., etc. But mundanity aside, I was friends with many of them, and above all, I found a bit of sympathy in me for the traitor. I mean if you really think about it, being a traitor is not a very pleasant existence. For someone to be a good little spy, it’s critical to spend a good long time around the people you would soon betray. Then inevitably, between them relationships developed. Could have been smoke breaks during the nights; exchange of commodities; idle chatters--those things that build attachments and burden one’s soul. Any rate, it’s difficult to not have some sort of relations or sentiments for people you have been with in the same boat. And a brothel is the perfect environment for friendships to thrive, you gotta look out for each other, for despite being rivals in business, one knows the biggest threats come from outside. What has been going through their mind, I wonder. Couldn’t be anything pretty. Precisely, just so. To be of a society but unable to immerse yourself into it, but having to keep a distance, and repeatedly tell yourself that “yes, this one, and that one too, could be the cause of your failure, more than likely of death.” And it is a terrible thing to be an enemy of the world, having no one but only a cause perhaps to fight for. I can’t quite imagine it.
Unless, indeed, she had done it for a man.
That gives a romantic spin to it, isn’t it? Imagine: one jaded girl thoroughly disillusioned by the adult world and has come to denounce the beauty of it, only for a charming boy to come along all of a sudden and bring spring to the wasteland of her heart. And now she sees beauty, and she sees hopes, and all the things that are tender. But. The boy has an ulterior motive; he wants something she can give, in exchange for his love, or, rather, his promise. And she is all too eager to offer everything she has; friendships be damned; loyalty’s a ridiculous thing. She knows it is too meager a price to attain love; so readily she makes an enemy out of her only society. For what is the use of something so boring, so hateful—it has nothing on her but smoldering torment! And she would rather have none of
Suddenly, Rev lifted her head from the notebook. She was sitting cross-legged under a tree some distance from the nearest establishment. A rectangular metal case roughly 50 inches in length leaned on the trunk beside her. She had no pulse, no movement, almost. So when she moved it was a startling thing. The platinum shade of hair, the monotony of her attire, all lent an ethereal look to her presence. In contrast, from where she was, the girls perching on the building deck looked oddly like a flock of overly jumpy tropical birds – garish and prone to fly at the slightest scare.
For a while, she looked thoughtfully at each of the girls, lingering longer on one or two. And most of them flinched, perhaps perceiving themselves as preys, and her the hunter. A smile was not entirely sufficient to relax their tensed nerves. But it was polite of her to try.
Again, she buried her nose into the notebook, collecting her mixed thoughts about the coming mission. She knew she would hate to antagonize the traitor if love was indeed their motivation. But on the other hand, life is cruel. And Rev loved and needed nothing more than a heart-wrenching, tragic love story. How she would like to dissect that one’s notion of love—very slowly, very leisurely...
These passing thoughts she put down in her small notebook amounted to an unreadable tangle, strongly resembling doodles of stringy patterns. She wrote in shorthand, being a messy writer to make matters worse.
Meirin, though, seems to be worried sick about the little sex workers. I have a notion that it was something of a sisterly love for those girls with whom she shared a profession. That I can understand. But some people, or rather, I think, as a shared sentiment among many in our organization, that prostitutes are pitiable creatures by nature. I don’t argue that theirs isn’t a fate poorer than most, no, only that people don’t merit sympathy simply by following their lots in life. Is a person, brothel worker or not, who can risk everything they have to chase after the sweet temptation of love not far more worthy of
The noise of someone calling for attention pulled Reveler abruptly, disturbingly, from her writing. She looked over to search for the culprit, found Meirin, and, following the general direction in which the woman’s gaze went, her face instantly lit up. An affectionate smile came on, cracking the thoughtful mask. The heavy-looking metal case was lifted effortlessly to her back, the strap flung over her shoulder, and already it was bouncing merrily to the beat of her strides. These carried her to the men who had just arrived.
“Gramps!” She reached them, and the smile had now broadened into an uncontained grin. Only a stranger would think the distance between those three was too close for comfort. But it was all too proper for a family reunion. She thought of them as such, Isaiah and Kairong, one her brother, the other her parent. "I didn’t expect we all would work on the same mission. Who decided it? I should congratulate him, I should! The best ones for the job.” And she looked from one of them to another. At Kairong, “Do we do it the hard way?” It had been years since she had moved out of his workshop, and for as long had been an independent gangster. Yet he remained her favorite person. Her first subject, even, the first person she had observed closely, and the first constant in her new life as a sorry amnesiac. Only his immutability seemed to never bore her, it pleased her even, to have a solid foundation to return to. “Or the not so hard way?'' She turned to Isaiah. He had changed. Though not too much over the years, she reminded herself, he was the Ace now, a fact she often thought fondly of. It was something he needed, in an overconcerned younger sister’s opinion. For someone who was content to simply drift through life, something exciting, or some responsibilities, or both, would perhaps do him good.
The verbal affirmations from Anna and Darius surprisingly managed to calmed Bash's nerves quite a lot. The fact that they were actually cooperating meant he had two less people to worry about.
He watched on as the gorilla-headed idiot approached a group of three boys, and immediately got to her attempt at convincing them. The other idiot quickly followed suit to provide support, but what they were offering made Bash pinch his nose in frustration. They were supposed to be grabbing people to do their dirty work, not offering them some god damned Potentials! Before he got too upset, a thought popped up in his head, putting his fury to rest. They're probably just using that as a front to convince them to trust us.
He nodded his head in their direction, approving of their approach. Not bad, you two.
But it seemed like the trio of boys had no plans of joining.
At first, it was their mockery of Darius and Anna that caused Bash's eyebrow to twitch. Then, the sudden, rushing breeze of freezing cold air that somehow always managed to bypass his clothing and shake him to the core added onto his fury. But the announcement that the three little shits were current members of whatever the fuck the "North-Central Prowlers" were-- and proud ones, at that-- was what ultimately caused the young Ace to take a bad-intention-filled step forward.
Before he could move up to teach the 'Prowlers' a lesson, a sudden exclamation from behind caused him to pause his gait and open his ears. Sure, Raphael had a big mouth. That was common knowledge within the gang-- most people had already learned how to deal with it after a few months of knowing the guy. In most cases, that simply meant either consciously reminding oneself that the man was purposely trying to provoke them and taking his words with a grain of salt, or flat-out ignoring him altogether.
'Most people', unfortunately, did not include Bash Hirabayashi.
After the taunt ended, one look into the fighter's amber eyes was more than enough to tell what words were currently swarming throughout his mind: Wrath. Rage. Destruction. Fight. Fight. FIGHT.
The strained expression of hatred on the young Serpent's face served as a clear indicator of what he intended on doing next. He ripped his hands out of his pockets, revealing that they had been tightly clenched for quite some time, all while looking his perpetrator straight in the eyes. However, Bash's next action was probably one of the last things Raph -- or any person within a 10-foot radius of him, for that matter-- was expecting.
Without another word, he unclenched his fist and made a violently fast 180-degree turn to face Darius, Anna, and the three boys. Using the momentum from his spin, he immediately grabbed the head of one of the boys-- the largest one out of the three, to be exact. With a grunt, he pushed his arm forward, and forced the boy's head straight through the vending machine.
The sound of broken glass scattering about on the ground, followed by various canned beverages (some of which exploded and sprayed all over the place) seemed to bring everyone back to their senses after witnessing what Bash had just done. He stood there for a moment, grinding the boy's now-bloodied face into the interior of the machine, before pulling his head out and glaring at the other two with a bloodthirsty gaze.
"Oi," He began, still holding onto his victim as he spoke. "I fuckin' hate it when outsider little shits like you make fun a' my gang. Especially outsiders from other gangs. North-Central Prowlers... right?"
Viciousness rang clearly in his tone. "S'okay, though. 'Cause you guys ain't Prowlers no more." He used his free hand to push his thumb into his own chest, grinning triumphantly. "Consider 'yerselves the North-Central Sable Serpents! Which means you were just fuckin' with your fellow Serps, right?" It seemed like he was trying to reassure the two remaining schoolboys that he wouldn't hurt them, but the crazed look in his eyes and the fact that he was holding onto the head of their now unconscious classmate made it quite difficult to believe.
"LISTEN UP, you little BITCHES!" He roared, pointing a finger at the destroyed vending machine. "You two are workin' for us now. You're gonna be at this exact fuckin' spot bright and early tomorrow for your training. Got that?" These punks weren't deserving of attention from anyone-- let alone any member of the gang who's time was actually spent being productive. He'd handle them personally.
His eyes slowly trailed down to the limp body he was holding. "Not this one, though. I ain't done with him yet. I'll let you shits get some experience before he joins you. You'll be training him once he gets outta the hospital. And I'm takin' his school ID, too. If you pussies don't show up tomorrow..." His ice-cold glare pierced their hearts. It was obvious that whatever came out of his mouth next, he 100% meant. "I'll go to 'yer school and put you in wheelchairs for the rest of 'yer fuckin' lives, in front'a all 'yer friends." He paused to inhale, before bidding them one last farewell. "Now GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY SIGHT!!"
Bash didn't wait to see if they left. All he knew was, if they were still standing there by the time he had finished what he planned on doing next, they'd be in big trouble. He turned around once again, to face Raph. But instead of speaking to him, he sent his hand-- and the head of the boy that he was grabbing-- flying towards his face. He was still furious.
Titus peered bleerily out from behing the veritable mountain of chips stacked before him—a sum that, if cashed out, would mean a lot of headaches for a lot of people. He might've been a dullard, and absolutely sloshed at the moment, but he still recognized the sound of his own name passing through the lips of a particularly lovely woman. Beady, black eyes appraised Charmy, as the cogs of his mind wheeled slowly, as if trying to work out whether this was a cocktail waittress, or someone who ought to be taken seriously...
"Mm, yes, yes..! Well, do tell your patrons that I am having, just—hic—a truly wondrous time cleaning you out!"
Latken said with an ugly, self-satisfied smile as he turned his attentions back to the table... Only to have yet another beautiful woman approach him. The fat man blinked, as though his brain was trying to catch up with all these developments happening one after the other. He quickly recovered, however, and took Cassidy's hand in his own, sweaty paw and shook it vivaciously.
"The—hic—pleasure is all mine, madame... Another table, you say? Why, I didn't know you were so keen to further line my pockets, I... Hold on a moment, who is this, eh, heh... Blushing beauty?"
Latken asked with a phlegmy chuckle, leering greedily at Alice beside Cassidy as the shadow of what could conceivably have been a man moved along the back-wall of the penthouse playroom. Titus, for his part, continued leering until the next distraction arrived.
Titus took one look at Ezra and immediately looked away with a huff of disappointment. He only looked again when the boy addressed him by name. A dull spark of recognition, perhaps... Or the facsimile of one. Coward that he was, he didn't want to risk accidentally offending the son of someone of actual import.
"Hngh, yes... Same to you, m'boy. Give your best to your—hic!—parents... Eh, won't you?"
Ezra hadn't offered, but Latken took the boy by the hand anyway and gave it a pithy squeeze and a shake. Evidently both pleased with—and hopelessly unsuspecting of—the entourage that had suddenly materialized around him, Titus downed the remainder of his drink and heaved himself out of his chair with considerable effort, the wood of its legs lurching from the momentum.
"Name your game, ladies, and lead the way! But be—hic!—forewarned. We play for keeps, here. Gyuhuhu!"
Scene: Tigers Arc 1: Scene 3 [The High Life]
Location: Albino Tiger Penthouse Suite, West District
Participants: Elias, Sonny, Sophia, Markus
Pretty colors were a fitting description for the framing Miss Wonder found herself in. Immersed in a sea of flashing colors that meshed together, only broken by the dancing form of one of the numerous guests that simply couldn't pass up the chance to get into a party so exclusive. Without her mask on, she could smell the scent of sweat, cologne and perfume mixing together very thoroughly as bodies writhed and wriggled on that dance floor. The song selection happened to be one of DJ Mal-Tong's finest house bouncers, a clubbing song undoubtedly, but one that went far better when one was tripping balls.
The Party hadn't been going for too long, just long enough for her to get hammered, or at least try to. The stuff they had on the first floor wasn't nearly enough to get her loosey goosey, but she couldn't exactly blame for the liquor for that. She hadn't made for the V.I.P section yet, resolving to engage with the guests straight from the get-go.
Why did she do it?
Miss Wonder wondered about that as well, as even from below she could tell the V.I.P section was furnished far more aesthetically pleasing than they already excessively eye-catching seats, booths and tables running along one side of the dance floor. Or perhaps it was that they could both be considered high end that Miss Wonder found no reason not to begin enjoying herself amid the throngs of their enamored guests?
The selection of drinks on display hadn't been the draw, as even before grabbing her first glass she was aware that it would not compare the premium top-shelf that was gracing the V.I.P section. Despite this, she'd gone through four glasses on her own whilst tying her hardest to fold a paper with a line of Drift on it. Usually dealers folded the straws for their customers, but Miss Wonder was nothing if not eager for certain learning experiences, and folding her own Drift-Lines was one of those specific experiences.
It was harder than it looked, get the shape wrong and you won't be able to get all of it in one snort, bend too much and some of the Drift could get stuck and end up diluting the full effect. Miss Wonder wasn't too worried about having to replace a lost line, but wasting even a smidge of a fine high was enough to bring a tear to a maiden's eye.
Not this particular maiden, but the general idea probably held true.
It was during her third attempt that she'd been approached by one of the guests, who had previously been absolutely breaking himself out there on the dance floor. Miss Wonder has previously been convinced most folks risked injury when pulling splits, but this guys pulled so many in such rapid succession that she almost felt the ache for him. When he approached her, she had considered that he was looking for an excuse to give his aching gooche some rest.
But as he made his request, she found no sign of gooche-related strain anywhere in his expression or his voice.
"You must be pretty bummed with the stuff on offer, friend."she finally halted her unscheduled examination to tilt her head at him "We already have all the additives needed to pump up a party, got our fingers on the plunger and all kinds of wild analogies, you know?"
"Yeah, but can't you make yours whenever you want?" he gestured to her, only for one of his bodyguards to reach over and shake his shoulder
"Sir, I'm not exactly certain this is-"
"Didn't ask for lip, Sim." the man waved him off before grinning at Miss Wonder, "I asked for a trip."
"Meh," Miss Wonder shrugged before rising from her seat and stepping over to him, almost knocking over her drink when she stumbled past the table. Steadying herself on the edge of the man's chair she rose up before leaning over him "Come on, tilt it back."
"Oho, might be gettin' more than a nice buzz tonight, hm?" he asked whilst watching her lean closer "If this was how other folks got blasted then who wouldn't- gah!?!"
Miss Wonder wrapped her lips around his nose before blowing hard. She slammed his mouth closed with one hand as quickly as she could whilst funneling Aetherwave through his nose into his lungs, so fast that he had only just been reaching towards her in a panic before he stopped. Miss Wonder leaned back quickly and tried to pinch his nose shut quickly, but she wound up coughing a bit as she reared back. Sim had quickly ushered nearby onlookers away as Miss Wonder coughed, slight panic evident on his features as his eyes darted from his friend to her.
But Miss Wonder waved up a hand to him and tried to temper his worries, but her coughing seem helpful at getting her point across.
She pulled on her mask, but it was already been to late, her coughing had released some Aetherwave, and already she was feeling its effects.
As something she'd dealt with many times before, she was more resistant to the hallucinogenic she could spew. That didn't stop her from looking up and seeing the flashing lights begin mixing together into an even more confusing smorgasbord of visual stimuli.
"Wait, think I got a little." she murmured as she secured her mask back around her face, smacking her lips as she did so.
Glance towards the man in the seat as his irises dilated and his movements became sluggish, Miss Wonder tilted her head towards him "Evanaire Skin Cream Formula 2." She licked at her lips before turning to Sim "You know that stuff makes for a pretty good butter substitute on most subs, folks can barely tell the difference."
She smacked her lips as Sim carefully approached his friend, "Gives the tongue that terrible white coloration though, maybe if they could fix that they could go into condiments instead of beauty products."
"Hey, Dan?" Sim shook his friend "You okay? Say something?"
"No use pal." Miss Wonder shrugged whilst massaging her eyes "Everyone sees something different, but I gave him one hell of a direct dose."
Sim glared at her, only to feel Dan pawing at him whilst releasing low snickering, "Dan?" he turned to his friend and gave him a shake "Hey come on, bro say something!"
"Dude, the guy asked for a trip." Miss Wonder turned back "Just let him enjoy it-"
She paused upon looking at them, for she could see that Sim's fingers had stretched from his hands like tendrils and coiled themselves around Dan's shoulders. Dan's skin had turned into paper, little pieces floating off and vanishing above him like dust in the wind. Miss Wonder had to rub at her eyes for a moment, taking in their appearances as they continued to slowly degrade. Only after looking towards the dance floor and seeing that those enjoying themselves had transformed into a vast assembly of limbs and bodies that merged together and split apart over and over.
"Shit..." Miss Wonder turned her attention towards the ceiling, which now seemed to stretch miles above them all "Guess that's the trip I'm having now."
Turning away from Dan and Sim and their shifting appearances, Miss Wonder made her way along the side of the immense Amalgam of flesh that now took up most of the lower floor. She figured that it was only because she'd had only a little exposure to her Aetherwave, but if she squinted hard enough she could just barely see through it. The Amalgamation on the dance floor slowly shifted back into the individual party-goers, the ceiling returned from the heavens, and the thousands of stairs she found herself standing before returned to the average set of stairs leading up to the V.I.P section.
But as soon she relaxed her eyes and sank back into Aetherwave's embrace. She couldn't see the rail even though she could feel herself grabbing it, and soon she found herself ascending hundreds of stairs with every step.
"Hey," she gave a brief wave to the immense statues that she figured were security "You guys are doin' great, keep it up and maybe I can bring you some drinks later."
Wondering if she had actually identified the security properly or if she was actually just talking to some intimidating sculptures, Miss Wonder finished her ascent into the white palace that the V.I.P section had turned into. She was mindful of the various statues and regal paraphernalia all over, convinced that it was either furniture or other Albino Tigers. Passing by a a literal white tiger that seemed to be enjoying a nap with an unopened bottle on it, Miss Wonder found the end of the palace, where two figures of import were engaging.
Massaging her eyes as she slowed in her approach she pulled her hands away and squinted enough to force her way back up above Aetherwave's influence. The Palace was wiped away, replaced by hunts of the glamorous V.I.P section that had their King at its focal point. The sounds of the party, which had remained in the back of her head, seemed farther now than ever. Marcus was at a big fancy table on a raised platform that looked less comfy than Miss Wonder would assume, but maybe that was just her preference for bean bags and water beds bleeding in through the holes her dosage of Aetherwave had left in her.
He wasn't alone, however, as sitting right next to him was another Albino Tiger that Miss Wonder was pretty sure was Elias. Hopefully it was Elias, otherwise she might've had more Aetherwave than she thought she had. Since they were grouping up, Miss Wonder figured it'd be a good a place as any to chill at.
She massaged her eyes as she picked up the pace in her approach, making sure she wasn't seeing things wrong. If she walked up there and started talking to Marcus Weiss only to find out she wasn't actually talking to Marcus Weiss then she'd feel pretty bummed, wasn't exactly a friendly mistake to make.
"Hey guys," she said whilst drawing towards the table, and pulling her hands from her eyes to nod in Marcus' direction "Boss-man."
She went for a chair to collapse into, only to find a hand being offered by Elias.
"Oh? Oh hell yeah." she took it immediately and, unprompted, began attempting to do an unrehearsed secret handshake with him that she completely fucked up on every step.
"I'm messing it up aren't I?" she said whilst continuing to fail at her freshly concocted secret handshake "Yep, definitely messing it up"
Eventually she gave up and just gripped his hand before pulling him into a full hug instead, "My bad, brother."
Pulling away after her brief hug, Miss Wonder collapsed into a seat opposite of the two whilst lowering her head so she could wipe at her eyes, "Sorry, I think I'm still tripping." she explained before giving up on explaining and saying "Really awesome party boss man, folks downstairs are going crazy over it. Like really crazy over it, not insane like some kind of forest ritual but crazy like rich kids at a summer festival only fancy dressed or something like that... I think."
"Or like a flock of investors at the exchange going crazy over... wait, that's actually more insane than crazy." she shook her head "I think the point got across... did it?"
Scene: Phoenixes Arc 1: Scene 1 [From the Ashes]
Location: South District: District Streets ==> Phoenix HQ
Participants: Lyric, Ziz, Matteo, Bernardo, Charlie
The hood had been torn off and tossed aside without a care for the magnificent machine inside. An engine left exposed to the elements would've been too much for Bernardo to take, but luckily it seemed the engine was one of the pieces to have been looted in the time since the hurricane had struck. The vehicle he'd pulled over for was a truck of older make than what was typically expected of New Oasis, which almost made it more insulting that its owner hadn't come to collect it after such tragedies.
He sat back and steadied himself, trying to convince himself to give them the benefit of the doubt. Several vehicles had been left ruined and abandoned in the South District in the Hurricane's wake, often due to their owners being victims of the same calamity. He wanted to believe that they had been left due to said owners being injured or indisposed and their next of kin shouldering the blame for their abandonment. They weren't here because of their lack of loyalty, their disrespect for the fine mechanical crafts they so plainly allowed to wither and full apart from the constant strains of the elements.
No... no of course not.
"Hey, Bernardo!" a voice called out, "Hurry up! We gonna be late at this rate."
Bernardo looked back to see the driver of the second truck in their small convoy leaning out of his window. behind him the Phoenixes manning the other two were also waiting for him to pick up the pace and get a move on.
Bernardo had exited the lead truck for this vehicle specifically. Unlike the other poor wrecks that they'd had to pass on their way to the HQ, this one hurt far more due to its vintage nature. A beast such as this could only have been in use during the time of the Storm if it had been carefully maintained and retrofitted over a period of time most lackluster car owners wouldn't dare indulge in.
Pressing a hand against its rusted side alone, Bernardo could feel it: The compassion and care of a mechanic who knew what they were doing, who fought for their machine's extended life with every bolt, wire and coil.
Such an owner wouldn't leave it out to rot under any circumstances, they would have to have been one of the Hurricane's victims in order for such a tragedy to be allowed to happen. They would be either dead or hospitalized, and the blame for letting one of their life's works go to waste would pass to their next of kin. This beast's decline was on their hands, and to allow such a thing while the owner was unable to stop them.
Bernardo paused as a loud smacking sound reached him, and he looked down to realize he'd slammed his gloved fist into the asphalt next to him.
"Are we doing this or not?!?" Another driver, this time from the truck at the head of the convoy, called out
"Yeah yeah," Bernardo stood up and whipped out his phone "Let's get going."
As he did so, he locked his eyes on the nearest street sign. Taking a moment to memorize it, he hopped onto the rare of the front truck before smacking a hand against the rear door. He dialed as the truck soon began moving, holding the phone to his ear as the convoy resumed its movements. As it rang, he watched the poor wreck of a truck disappear behind them as they made their way through the district. Standing on the rear of the truck, Bernardo closed his eyes until a familiar voice picked up.
"Yo Burns is that you?"
"Yeah, listen I need-"
"Thought you was busy tonight? We could've used yo hands over here an hour and a half ago." the voice kept[t going, the flipping of papers audible behind his words "Some crazy bitch was talking about some kinda gas leak in her back seat. Tried telling her that wasn't possible in the model she was driving but she held up Rodriquez for like-"
"Listen to me, Eddy, I am busy but you gotta do something for me, okay?"
"Thought I was already doing something for you?" Eddy snickered "You know, holdin' this whole bitch down while you screw around with that private collection of yours."
"No," Bernardo sighed before closing his eyes again "I need you to get someone to Meyers and Westfield Avenue with a tow and get a beige Marlin Model over to Winny's place."
"Please please, for the love of god tell me this is for a client." Eddy begged
"No," Bernardo stated as his grip on the rear of the truck tightened "its for justice."
"Damn it Burns, you can't just."
"Transportation and storage will come out of my pocket of course."
"You got a tow of your own, damn it." Eddy groaned "Why do we gotta help out whenever you find a-?"
"Eddy, are you turning down my money?" Bernardo feigned surprise "And here I thought I knew you."
"Woah, hang on a second I didn't say anything about that." Eddy was quick to reply
"Then tell Winny I said 'Hi.'" Bernardo stated as Eddy sighed into the receiver.
With their call concluded, Bernardo pocketed his phone before turning and glancing to the top of truck. Raising a hand, he sent his entire forearm flying up to it. Once it had grabbed hold of it, Bernardo pulled himself together, scaling the rear of the truck until he pulled himself atop it and could see the road ahead of them.
More importantly: Phoenix HQ
Bernardo could see activity even before they drew close, and made a motion to the three trucks behind them. The rear truck blew its horn as they approached, signaling the Phoenixes on guard that they were incoming. Once they drew near, the convoy slowed down as they began pulling back. They lined themselves up side to side before the ruins of Phoenix HQ.
Bernardo hopped down and slammed the side of the first truck as the drivers of the vehicles did the same. One by one, the rear doors opened to reveal several more Phoenixes hopping out with some basic loading equipment. Pallets, trolleys, all the stuff your average warehouse would need for moving items around.
What did they specifically need them for?
Bernardo approached Phoenix HQ and stood before it, taking in its appearance with critical eyes. He was more of a mechanical guy than a housing guy, but he didn't need to be well-versed in the world of real estate. Thankfully, when their King had set forth her plan for rebuilding their territory, their was no small number of architectural ingenuity at hand to work out a plan for it. Though it'd take them a while, today was a big day for the effort.
And so these trucks had been acquired for two things, rubble and salvage. So much infrastructure was damaged, but that which could be saved would be reused to its fullest. That was the idea at least, one Bernardo understood plainly. The same thesis worked for cars, as long as parts fit or could be refurbished it was preferable to having to build from the ground up.
It was understandable, but what left Bernardo the most struck was the scale of it. The King's order had been clear, they weren't being subtle about it at all. According to some more veteran members, it was supposed to be some ploy to challenge any rats running amongst them, but Bernardo found such things above his recognition. He had orders, and that's all he needed for now.
That meant getting to it he supposed, for despite being a mechanic by trade there was still plenty he could do regarding buildings way past their prime. Namely, measurements.
He wasn't exactly fully versed in all the architectural ills a wall or floor or roof could incur after a natural disaster over a year ago, but identifying how much wood would be needed or the size of a busted pipe?
He got to it immediately, passing by several other Phoenixes as he began taking stock of the damage. He overheard some veteran members talking about some kind of effort to remove a large safety hazard from the building, apparently the Bar was a lost cause to the more architecturally minded. If they were just going to redo the entire thing then they'd need to start taking stock of replacement costs. After filling out three whole pages in a small notepad with measurements, he coiled his tape measurer and made for the bar.
When he got there, he nearly got beaned in the head by a flying piece of debris. Quickly swerving out of its way, he was about to have words with whoever had thrown it before discovering the source of the concerning sounds of immense pieces of rubble being tossed around.
Another Rookie, but one with capabilities that Bernardo could admit outweighed his own in destructive potential. Case and point, the giant chunks of rubble she was sweeping every which way while she sang a song about sweeping that she seemed focused on. Bernardo stopped himself from calling out to her immediately, taking a moment to back up and ready himself.
Though his interactions with her had been paltry at best, Bernardo had seen and heard enough of her from afar to try and keep it that way. Though his distaste for careless for lazy car owners was palpable, he generally had an inability to tolerate those with stunted understanding of certain topics. Bernardo was fairly aware that he would be an absolutely terrible teacher, or parent, or guardian in general due to his lack of patience in those areas.
Her careless tossing of rubble would make clearing it out much harder for other Phoenixes, as even as he watched Bernardo could see that organization didn't seem to take up a smidgen of space in her head in comparison to the single idea of sweeping. Interacting with her would only lead to aneurysm on his part and extended clean up time for the other Phoenixes. Luckily for him, he'd heard the King herself was heading the effort of dealing with this bar. She would have better luck dealing with Ziz than he would, at least that's what Bernardo hoped as he ever so casually made his way around Ziz's sweeping crusade and tried keeping an eye out for Lyric.
Turns out he didn't have to look far, as she was just on the other side of the pile of rubble that Ziz was laying waste to on the other end of the bar. Lyric was having words with a Phoenix Veteran, Yong-Yut. Though at first Bernardo didn't want to interrupt their discussion, that went out the window as he actually took stock of the Bar they had been clearing.
"Dear god." he spoke in awe as he stepped away from the rapidly declining pile of rubble, looking over the walls and ruined furniture with hesitation. His tape measurer wouldn't even be enough to estimate how much they'd need to replace everything., they'd have to get one of the architects to look this place over once everything had been cleared out. No winder the pile Ziz was clearing out had gotten so big.
Bernardo reached up and pulled his cap off as he looked the bar over, giving a whistle at the amount of damage compared to the other parts of the HQ that he'd seen.
Yong-Yut had just been in the middle of asking Lyric if they'd been done for the day soon, and soon Bernardo had been reminded of what he'd come to report, "I mean, the trucks are here." he spoke up both before scratching at his head "Thought we'd be done once the first floor was cleared up and we could send them rigs packing, but..."
He gestured with his cap around them "I mean, all of this? We might have to bring in a whole 'nother truck for this place alone."
A creak behind him reminded him of the rubble Ziz was scattering around, and he was quick to gesture in her direction with his cap "And I'm not really sure if what's happening over there is gonna speed things up for us."
It was rather usual for the streets around this district to be so calm even in the face of disaster it would never lose its inviting atmosphere. This, of course, is, due to the dragon’s influence in the area stepping out of line and there’s a chance you’ll never be seen again, better to just keep a smile and be on your way any shady business is best to be done away from prying eyes after all. Which is all the more reason to have this area patrolled on a regular bias and with everything going on across town it’s better to have an eye or two in the area to make sure nothing goes unnoticed. Reading a text that he recently received the former green-haired assassin stepped into the street he alone with two others were ordered to watch the area for anything suspicious especially around the bridges. Looking around it seemed like he was the first one here with the other two likely still on their way. As for anything suspicious nothing too out of the ordinary yet it seemed like a normal Friday evening by the looks of things. Lorrin would lean up against a wall doing his best impression of acting like a normal citizen waiting for someone to arrive. Hearing footsteps approaching him he didn’t look up at them as he said. “You currently taken your time getting here seen anything out of the ordinary yet?” His eyes didn’t leave where they were watching.