Camila let out a sigh in response to August's antics. She was mostly used to them so far, such as randomly reminding her of a certain moment from Alduron's wrath or saying things that did not make a lot of sense. Yet his little roleplay game served as a reminder that he could still baffle her with new shenanigans from time to time. undeniably though, smallest of smirks formed from the corner of her mouth when her friend acted as if her and Matsuda were a couple.
As August finished opening a hole on the door, the extremely identifiable stench of gasoline immediatly started to emanate out of it, causing a reaction from the two guys in the group. August quickly tried to come up with an excuse before treading back to the place shortly after, again, this was not the first time she saw him show this kind of behavior. Matsuda on the other hand, walked out of the property. Camila raised an eyebrow a this action, did he forget something in the car, was he going to check for another entrance, or perhaps...Did he also get cold feet?
"Oh for fucks sake, let's check this out"
With no other word, Camila approached the door, looking through the hole in order to check if she could see anything out of the ordinary, unfortunately, the hole was unable to give much visual information into whatever was to the sides or up and down from the door inside. This wasn't such a big problem though, as her eyes and nose were not the only thing that allowed her to get some more environmental feedback. Stretching out, her tail proceeded to go through the hole, starting to go around the spots that the hole could not show. This was done with immense finnese and caution, if the tail was ever to bump with anything, it would have to apply the least force possible, lest she ran the chance of triggering whatever was behind it. She was pretty confident about it though, her unique appendage had become a well-trained tool after serving for delicate work like this for well over a decade now.
Checking below, she bumped against something that felt slightly heavy and large, tracing her tip around it, she was able to make out its overall shape, or rather, shapes. A solid half-dozen of large canisters laid on the ground close to the door, they were dealing with a fairly dangerous amount of gasoline. After some more checking, she bumped into something with an unusual shape located near the top of the door, next to the upper hinge. After tracing for a while, she wasn't quite able to tell its shape. but she did notice something else, something very thin and easily missable.
This sneaky wire traveled through the width of the door, reaching up to something that was easy to make out as a pulley, which then extended down to the door's handle.
She retreated her tail and contemplated her examination for a solid second or two, before turning towards August and Chou.
"Well, guess our target was definitely expecting unfriendly visits after all, I'm almost certain we are in fact dealing with a bomb here. I don't think trying to cut the steel wire would be a good idea, so we should probably try another entrance, that is, unless you guys have ideas."
Just as she finished speaking, her attention was dragged towards Matsuda who was...Tackling a bush? She knew that he was a rookie, but did he really lose his marbles that badly already?.
Hector was aware of Milo saying Bolt's name, but he hadn't time to dwell on it. He knew it was annoying him though, like everything else Milo had done so far. Of course, he'd have to talk to Boltius later on. He couldn't stand to be out of the loop.
For now, he continued his pursuit and felt just a bit cooler. He had now slashed his foe's jacket, and it was only a matter of time before he was ripping through his organs as well. Just a minor inconvenience, he would say to Lyric when he'd explain his lateness at dinner. A detour.
"YOU'RE QUIET NOW, HUH? I BET-" The crows forced him to pause his speech. While Hector wanted to focus on taking out Milo first, the crows were almost impossible to ignore. He took another two out with his hook, sparing Milo a few precious seconds. He shook the carcasses off while Milo leapt back. Naturally, Hector followed. "-I BET YOU WISH YOU'D NEVER SAID ANYTHING TO-" Before Hector could finish his sentence, the explosive trap beneath his feet was set off.
One second, he was so close to finishing the fight, the next second he was lying on the floor several feet away.
The blast had sent him flying, hitting the ground with a loud thud. His clothing was tattered, with his bare skin marked with abrasions. He came to an abrupt halt as he rolled against a wall, and lay still for a moment. Then, with a groan, he rolled onto his front, tilting his head up towards the newly formed crater. He squinted at Milo, shaking off the dazed feeling while adrenaline still flowed through him.
"You fucking moron." He dragged his body up to a kneeling position. His legs stung, still feeling the heat of the explosion. His wrist ached, where the protective metal barrier ended. No, it didn't just ache, it hurt like hell. The metal itself had been bent out of shape as he tumbled across the street upon his descent.
He let the mangled metal drop out from his body, abandoning it as he crawled towards Milo. "ARE YOU READY TO SURRENDER?" Hector peered over at the other Phoenixes, to make sure they were alright. He gave them a triumphant nod like he had already won, as he slowly got to his feet. Hector was no idiot. He knew he was likely injured, but he had a fight to finish, and as long as he could still move he was still in the fight.
"IF YOU AREN'T, THEN GET ON YOUR FEET."
Flashing a cocky grin, he approached Milo, shedding the uncomfortable blazer as he walked. He tossed it aside into the hole. Blood trickled down his face, from his nose, and was carelessly wiped away with a shirt sleeve, Hector refusing to break eye contact with Milo the entire time. Blood streaked across his trousers, along with the new tears.
Hector wasted no time stamping sharply on the foot of Milo, pinning it down firmly. He wasn't just using his own strength, though, letting a metal spike protrude out of his boot. Slowly, he drove it further out, with the intention of impaling Milo's foot through to the concrete below. You could see the pure insanity on Hector's face.
“...Some tend to bite off more than they can chew, though, of course.”
“Doesn’t that make it all the better though? They never know just what they have gotten into until they’re already five feet deep into the water. If you’re too cautious then you forever miss out on the opportunities in front of you.”
She adjusted Adam before placing him back on the floor of the balcony. Letting him start to bob to the music with more freedom before looking down to see what exactly Akira had been looking at so closely.
She saw two figures with clarity, one was more familiar looking than the other but both known to her, sparking curiosity in her. Roger Kessler, the punk that had nearly gotten in her way when she’d been buying August some new limited Figurine. Just how had he managed to get in? Beyond that what did a Saiwa want with the punk.
“Hmm… Now if that isn’t a face that I haven’t seen in a while. Just why is that little bug here?”
She whispered the words more spoke them not wanting to let off her irritation to Adam who had taken to looking between the bars below them.
“Who am I to accuse others of biting off more than they can chew? I do that all the time, don’t I?”
She would have said that was one of Akira’s better points if not for distraction watching the two play as Akira twirled Adam around. She was just about ready to tell him that she would watch Adam as she heard the preplaned crescendo and fall. Oh it was already in play?
She wondered just what had moved that up in the plans.
“Well that’s early… That’s concerning.”
She said the words lowly as she scanned the ballroom below. Just what were they trying to distract from?
“You should hold him too, Angel.”
She turned back to Akira coming to support Adam as she could tell he was beginning to grow anxious to slide into the social scene.
“Of course Darling.”
She leaned her head onto Akira’s shoulders whispering softly aiming for only him to hear as Adam continued to coo over the airshow.
“Guess their little schmoozing efforts went arry somewhere. They’ve gone and moved up the event time. I think Adam and I will go take a little stroll down to the ballroom. I’ve seen a few interesting people I wish to connect with.”
“Mommy go? Ball?”
“Ah! Quite the little easedropper aren’t you. Yes we will go to the ballroom.”
This is getting nowhere if anything all he just did there was make sure the princess lost her last few remaining brain cells she had left, … not that she really had any left to begin with. Instead of giving them an answer she just started talking about the color red then blue then red again but with wings was it some sort of code they went under maybe they could decipher it but without the full context and nothing more to go off of it would likely end up being nothing more than a waste of time and resources. They just needed something they can work with but she's too god damm crazy! He would release his grip from around Red letting Yo step and ask a question of her own which would lead her to start spilling out some more nonsense. Monarch, Monarchy, Ruler, Sovereignty, King, Queen, Jewels, Gems. What do all of these have in common the first five words relate to leadership of some sort but where do Jewels and Gems fit in …. This makes no damm sense. Red would then fall onto the ground after saying that. Making even more of a fool of herself. Lorrin would then grab her by the collar and bring the char back up. He would then hold up one of his hands. “One of you Punch me as hard as you can I'm going to make sure this next blow knocks some actual sense into her.”
It was a mental note now, that the Queen did not in fact enjoy the titles he often used for them. So it was time to probably stop doing that as a whole. After it had been confirmed the crowd ahead was nothing more than a normal situation, he'd turned his attention to the next case of orders- finding and retrieving any Dragons.
And you let him boss you around like a weak little puppet on strings. You--
The disdainful whisper that echoed in his mind at the thought was silenced as quickly as it came. Especially when Delynn was suddenly attacked and then retaliated. While the short interaction had only really gotten a start out of Darius, it had only made Orion draw out his blade, as his skin began to pale once more. At the same time he turned his attention to watch Ten enter that shadow mass-like state. While Ten went off to do their Queen's bidding, and Darius seemed to fluctuate between focusing on his partner, and focusing on his assignment.
Orion couldn't help but eye him from the sidelines. There was a pinch of jealousy there. The aspect of having a loved-one at all in this shitty cesspool that pretended to be a city of stability when all it really was was--
--exhale slowly, inhale deeply.
"I'll watch over her." He said already moving towards Darius and the downed electromaster. "I should be immune to her effects" he said, all at the same time while his form transitioned from sort of walking frost demon to his normal self- albeit with darker hair. "Delynn, right?" His eyes moved from Darius to her. "What's wrong?" He asked her as he knelt down not too far away from her- but far enough to avoid any hit from her limbs at least directly.
Kairong said nothing. He was tired. He was very tired. Why was he still holding onto a life that he had long outgrown? The children, the youths of today, they were supposed to be the ones who were going to forge the path forwards. He drew back on his chair, still maintaining his firm, unwavering posture, not the slightest bit of his appearance betraying his destitute resignation. All of his friends, all of his generation, they were gone, either from this world, or from this place. A few still lingered on, but they were no longer on the chessboard, as it was. He listened quietly to the three men gathered at his table. He knew where Gauthier was coming from. Peace, through war. It was why, a long time ago, Eastern lands waged war within themselves, each faction attempting to wrest control of the country, not for war, but to unite the people. He respected that, but no soldier or commander would endanger the lives of the innocent. They gave their lives for the cause, instead of the lives of the people. Ayed's response was more akin to a strategic one. Even at his age, Kairong was no master of strategies and tactics. He had also lost his touch with violence. All he could offer here, and now, was retrospection. 'What if's and 'Why's. He was old. He longer had the fire. That fire belonged to the children he fostered now. He opened his mouth to speak.
The light jingle behind him indicated a customer had entered, and he paused. A group of schoolgirls entered, and excitedly greeted Karin, who responded in kind. Friends of hers, no doubt. They chatted, while Karin seated them at a table far away from them. He could feel their gazes upon their strange gathering. He caught whispered gossip and light giggling. "It seems they are taken by your looks, young masters," he commented idly, as their whispers faded towards inquiring Karin about their assortment of tea. He restrained himself from assisting. Karin could handle it herself, he thought. It was a learning experience for her. "Returning to the topic at hand," he brushed away the minor distraction.
"I understand, Master Gauthier. To lay low the venomous serpents that line our way to peace and prosperity, a world free of evils, we must wage war on the snakes that slither upon our land. However," he leaned forwards, adjusting his spectacles, "in our crusade, do we put the lives of the common people at risk? We are not the Serpents, who spread chaos across their territory, come what may; we are not the Phoenixes, who, in their desperation to reclaim what hold they have on New Oasis, slaughter for coin and glory, uncaring of whomsoever they are paid to put to the knife; we are not the Tigers, who drain their people dry of money, each and every one of them clawing to climb to ever greater heights, forsaking friend and foe. I believed that the Azure Dragons stood for the people, for the citizens, we give those who have no place a life. Look around," he stretched out a hand towards the window beside them, "though we have a monopoly on night-time establishments, we do not steal from them, we do not abuse them, we give them something- a way out. It is undesirable work, for sure, but they do not live in fear. Many live in respect of the Dragon name, not because we are a threat, but because we are with them, with the people. We are their hope. If we descend to the depths that the other gangs have dug, who will they look up to?"
He bowed his head slightly. "My apologies, young master Shen Yue. I am sure you have a strategy in mind, and I am but an old fool holding on to times long past, but please understand. The people, such as Karin and her friends," he indicated the schoolgirls behind him, "are comfortable here, because we do not stoop to levels of mass destruction and unnecessary loss of lives." He paused for a second, then continued, this time, frost clear in his voice. "I, too, would be very disappointed to see a great leader like yourself fall to the vices of evil."
“Research would do a young heir like you some good, young Albrecht.”
The stranger's remark felt oddly grating; perhaps because it held some truth to it. His mother and mentors would always say to memorize the names and faces of the upper echelon, and Jesper had spent... exactly no time doing that. Another nervous chuckle from the heir. "I figured as much... But it's a bit tiresome, to be honest. What with all the people who... you can tell are bothersome just by their pictures..."
Already, he was running out of things to talk about. This was not great; Jesper could have been texting Ten and Charlie without a care in the world if he stayed put. Nothing good ever came out of leaving the basement... Would it be fine if he just left? No, no. He'd been standing here long enough that it would have been rude to.
Though Jesper didn't exactly hold his head high, he was not letting himself appear small either. He knew better than to let himself appear weak in these parties; that's what his dad always stood by. The Albrecht eyed the sweets again, taking the old man's words into consideration, yet he held his hands still. "By the way, I don't think I caught your name?"
Billie whispered over to Original Jaimme, “Hear that?”
Jaimme nodded, “He is blowing up.”
Their backs pressed up against the brick wall of one of the buildings that made the alley, they were slinking quietly up to the scene. Hopefully, they’d find themselves behind the Serpents and not on the same side as their Captain.
Once at the edge, Billie poked her head out and tried to find Chikage.
Indeed, she confirmed that they were behind Beast and Dreamer. She could see their boss’s raging face.
She quickly waved her arm out before she’d potentially get noticed before slinking back in.
Meanwhile, the two singular emotion Jaimmes had gone a long way around before hearing the shout of pain from a child. They looked at each other.
Anger grabbed Happy by the wrist as they took another turn down the twisting alleyways, trying to get closer so they could help the child.
They could hear the conversations in pieces. Chikage was going to try and negotiate first.
Not wanting to harm the negotiations, the two Jaimmes stopped at the last turn before they would see Dreamer, their backs pressed against a wall as they listened.
Serpents Arc 2: Scene 3 [Tailing the Dragon's Heart]
Platinum Rabbit Entrance, East District
Anna, Tri, Yuto, Kisara, Bash
Tailing The Dragon's Heart
"Y'know, I absolutely hate that I understood most of what just came out of your mouth, Old Man." Paul grimaced as he took the wad of cash from Tri's hand, and quickly rifled through it.
"Job hazard, Paul. I'm like, sixty percent of the way towards needing a therapist from all of the weird shit the clients here ask for." He eyed Anna pointedly. "We should charge the Dragons for damages. Easy money."
Meanwhile, Paul's inspection of the stack and slowed to a crawl. He, clearly, had identified the portion of monopoly money that Tri had folded into the wad, and his brain was churning at the sight. He eyed the fake, childish-looking currency for a few minutes, before splitting the stack with a smirk on his face, and shoving a different half into each pocket.
"Smart as fuck, Steve." From behind his reflective, brand-name set of aviators, he shot Tri a wink. He could've stopped him here and now- Did he really think that he couldn't catch a Moneytrain Shuffle when he saw one?- But the thought of Steve trying to spend of stack of little-baby child money was a whole lot funnier than throwing yet another pair of fetishistic freaks to the Dragons. Shit, for all he knew that mask-freak would've been into it. The Furries always were.
"But yeah, Geezer, we're cool. Just-" Paul stuck his finger out at Tri's shopping cart. "Leave your wonderwagon in here, and-" He snatched a block of cheese from inside it. "I will be taking this for my dinner tonight. Do you have any idea how much cheese costs nowadays?"
"Paul." Steve interjected before either of the Serpents could get a word in. "He's rich. Course he doesn't know what cheese costs nowadays." He then also reached into the cart and snatched up a block of cheese. "Think of this as a tip, Old Man."
Steve and Paul both smirked, cheese in hand, though unbeknownst to Steve, it was for completely different reasons.
Serpents Arc 2: Scene 3 [Tailing the Dragon's Heart]
Platinum Rabbit Balcony, East District
Anna, Tri, Yuto, Kisara, Bash
Tailing The Dragon's Heart
Juzu normally wasn't one to judge. By the heavens, working in a place like this, she really couldn't be if she wanted to keep her sanity in tact. So, she had never really been one to pry into the personal affairs of the clientele, but she really, really, wished that they would stop leaving their possessions littered about their room when they were done.
Ignoring noises was one thing. Ignoring something she had to pick up and hold was something else altogether.
She huffed a long, exhausted sigh. Everything else aside, she supposed she should've been grateful that she only had to be in these rooms after they'd been used. As posh-looking as the Platinum Rabbit was, inside-and-out, it was still a brothel. There were far worse jobs that she could be doing than cleaning up after the important workers. Especially when she considered just how the Dragons brought a healthy share of those workers into their employ.
Juzu had just thrown the last blasphemous object in the room into the trash, when a loud, fat thud came from the veranda of the room below. She jumped slightly, and dropped the bag of trash in her hands onto the bedroom floor in surprise, and then continued with her work.
Investigating disturbances was those idiots in security's job, not hers. Or at least, that's what she figured until she heard people talking out there too.
Big deal, she figured again, it wasn't exactly uncommon for the clients to take their partners out for some 'fresh air' in the middle of a session. She just needed to keep her head down and...
Risk getting fired? Fuck. She sighed again, and made her way over to the balcony. She deserved to get paid more.
When Bash stepped through the door, the sound of a running shower became immediately apparent. The room, which from the outside had seemed properly empty, revealed itself to be anything but. Clothes and emptied bottles of alcohol littered the floor, and the bed was in too much disarray for it to pass as made in even the cheapest, rattiest motels that New Oasis had to offer.
"That you, Alphonse?" A man's voice called out from within the bathroom, and the sound of the water hitting the floor suddenly ceased. "Your timing is stunning! I've just finished freshening up. Just give me a moment to pat myself down!"
There was a clattering from the other side of the door as the man went about his post-shower routine. Despite what he'd said, it took him a few extra precious moments to ready himself. The shower door creaked shut, he hummed a merry tune as he toweled himself down, and then a blow dryer shot on for, frankly, not long enough to dry any head of hair short of a buzz cut.
And then he stuck his head out of the bathroom door, locking his eyes onto Bash.
"...Alphonse?" He repeated the name from earlier, this time a touch of concern in his voice. "It's that you?"
Somewhere amongst the mess, a pair of glasses lay haphazardly abandoned.
At the same moment that the man had popped his head out the door, Juzu craned hers over the edge of her balcony. She'd missed Bash by a hair, but she caught a full eyeful of Kisara, hair, horns and all. Just her luck.
"Who're you supposed to be?" She barked, immediately. "You one of ours?" Juzu reckoned that she had a decent memory, and the girl below her was not ringing a bell. Though, she supposed, it'd be hard to recognize anyone with that cheap-looking cosplay that the girl was wearing.
She couldn't imagine anybody walking around dressed like that if they didn't work at a place like that either. Or, well, she couldn't imagine herself doing it, at least.
Shen was not unfamiliar with the feeling of being lectured.
As a child, he had been at once a prodigious talent and a lousy student, often skirting along by virtue of his innate, inborn gifts rather than any hard-learned lessons. In those days he had much preferred to lay about in the fields, watching the lazy clouds as they roll by overhead, than throw himself whole-heartedly into any scholarly or martial pursuits. And why wouldn't he? After all, even then... Even without sinking hours into training, even without having to really try at all, Shen had been the best. Shen had never lost. At least when it came to fighting... But, perhaps... Perhaps a King cannot just be a fighter. Shen thought that maybe that was the lesson Kairong was attempting to impart upon him today. A King without the wherewithal to pick and choose his battles was no true King… Was that how it was?
“Hm...” Shen mused aloud, taking a sip of his tea as Hadrien and Omar both said their pieces.
The Dragon King knit his brow together as he pondered what his fellow Dragons had to say. Unless he had missed something in their words, Shen thought that they both were offering him contradicting opinions. Omar had even made mention of Dragon King Faa, the Storm King, Shen's predecessor and uncle... And at once, Shen was struck by the notion that he didn’t know which one of them he agreed with. Hadrien and Omar both seemed to be speaking sensibly. To be sure, the incident with the bridge… Shen had taken things a step too far. For any normal person, an act like that would have had consequences, create ripples, change things. And yet, so far—at least, insofar as Shen was aware—nothing in his life had drastically changed since that day. To be sure, Shen was not an ordinary person, but still, only time would tell whether his actions on that day would exact a heavy toll. Perhaps Omar was correct. Had this act put a target on their backs? Were the Azure Dragons at risk of a counter-attack? Shen didn’t know. He had not necessarily thought of the other Gangs as much of a problem until fairly recently. But perhaps he was wrong.
And yet, Hadrien spoke quite convincingly in favor of Shen’s actions, and appeared to be lobbying for more. More fighting. More winning. A King could be a Conqueror, too. Couldn’t he? And did not the sweetest peace come from the knowledge that all one’s enemies were dead? Would not the ultimate safety, the ultimate security—for not only the East, but all of New Oasis—arise from the utter eradication of the other three gangs? The Azure Dragons could do it. They could mete out justice and judgment to all evil-doers the city over, and in the wake of their destruction, create a paradise city-wide for all the virtuous who remained. The Azure Dragons could do it. Shen could do it. That sounded quite heroic, Shen thought. And yet...
Shen’s head was full of static.
It was an unusual enough thing for the Dragon King to deliberate over a decision. For the most part, Shen made his decisions quickly and did not doubt them. Second-guessing was not something he did. And yet now, here in Kairong’s tea shop, with Hadrien’s words entering one ear, and Omar’s entering the other, Shen found that he could not decide which path to take. He could not choose. At a loss, Shen turned finally to Kairong. Except, he couldn't exactly focus on the old sage. There was some disturbance. Some... Sound. Laughter? Shen half-turned over his shoulder to peer curiously at the source, finding a small huddle of girls giggling and chatting. One of them met Shen's unwavering gaze before she quickly looked away.
“Hm...” Turning back to the conversation at hand, Shen felt suddenly uneasy, as though he'd just remembered something important. As he tried to figure out what it was, Kairong started to speak. Shen decided that trying to remember whatever it was that he'd forgotten could wait, affording Kairong his full attention, nodding along in understanding as Kairong spoke. And as he did, following Kairong's lesson as he briefly examined each of the four Gangs and their respective ideologies in kind, Shen recalled what had bothered him.
People. Those girls, the part-timer in Kairong's tea shop. They were people. There was nothing special, or remarkable, or formidable about them. Shen could defeat them all with one finger. And yet... They were still... People? Normal... People?
Admittedly, Shen did not have much experience with normal people. He was son of one former King, nephew of another, and King himself, as well. He was born with a power greater than most would ever know in their entire lives. He had been born into a fantastical world, given fantastical gifts, and enlisted into a fantastical war. And up until now, the thought that normal people might be affected by all of this had never entered Shen's mind.
“Hm... Thank you. You three! I will think on all of this. Now, let us enjoy our tea!”
As he lifted his cup to his lips, Shen knew one thing for certain: he wanted to be a hero.
Glancing through the surveillance, Elias may have also noticed some live footage in the underground parking lot below the mall and extending into Lower Central. An influx of people had appeared waltzing through the garage, but they weren't anyone recognizable. That, or it was the blurriness of the camera itself making them hazy.
The door held surprisingly firm for a dozen kicks, even with Ronald's and Elias' combined effort. Ultimately, though, it was no match for an HP. At the 15th kick, the hinges buckled and snapped. The door flung open, revealing... plumes of transparent and frigid gas, trickling and dissipating into the warmer security room.
Indeed, as Elias saw in Genevieve's memory, a body lay on the table in the center of the room, cold and pale. From the beautiful locks of golden hair, the mole right below her right eye, the sparkly blue eyes that now lay motionless and eerie, the puffy blue dress she loved to wear... it was a genuine corpse. Alice's corpse, at that. However, no discernible injury or any sign of attack could be seen on her.
Against the back of the room, spread out on counters, were files and papers. Some were just pictures of human anatomy—some taken of real cadavers; some pictures of random graves with their address and other miscellaneous information written below; others of Alice herself, standing gleefully and fully in frame, with some pictures taken closer to her face.
A smaller card would have stood out among the piles of papers. It was a proper business card—laminated and all—almost entirely blank white if not for a silhouette of a sewing needle in the upper corner. On its back was a printed phone number.
While off to the side, a metal refrigerator sat humming. If checked inside, the two would find various medical supplies and several cans of soda. Put on the front of the fridge, though, was a yellow sticky note, reading "for details:" then another phone number, hastily written.
Jack's intrusion on the two scored very different reactions from both of them.
The dark-skinned girl tried scurrying away the moment he closed in—only to find he was impeding her way. Her face snarled in disgust, eyeing him up and down. "Whatever you're trying to sell... I don't want it... I'm not interested, either..." She not-so discretely rolled her eyes, hoping he would get the memo that she wanted to be left alone. At her side, she slid the card into her pocket.
The man, though, stepped forward, almost going between the woman and Jack. "Now, now, you can't just assume everybody is no good," he said to her amicably.
She rolled her eyes again. "Can't help it... everyone I've met in upper central has been so weird... Weirder than... 25% of the callers I get..." Still, the shorter woman didn't seem any more comfortable sticking around.
The cozily dressed man looked back at Jack as calm as ever. "As for you, well, it depends. Whaddya need, sir?"
Leave central...? Over this?! Claire, hand trembling, he brought a handkerchief to his head, sheepishly nodding as he took the lead. He tried not to let his jelly-like legs shake too much as he led her outside of the thrift store and through the mall.
The venture was almost uneventful. Almost.
"Calm down, Genny! We all let our own greed get in the way every now and then!" The voice of a chipper, young red-eyed girl neared as Charmy and Claire walked along the stores. She bounced with a taller fashion model who was very clearly exasperated.
"That bastard really dared to try and make me forget. I knew it. I knew he was—"
"Alright, alright." Lana put an index finger over Genevieve's lips, grinning cheerfully. "Things are picking up, anyway. We probably 'oughta keep going, hm?"
Genevieve's fists clenched up, staring daggers into the unaffected Lana. Ultimately, she sighed in defeat. "Fine." With that, and a wave from Lana, she departed in the opposite direction.
Before Lana kept skipping along the path, her eyes landed on the man with long, green hair passing by. And, much to his discontent, she changed course towards him and Charmy. "Claire! You closing up early, today?" Lana landed in front of them, keeping her hands behind her back as her eyes impulsively went up and down his body, to his companion, and back to him.
"Y-Yes... Please, Lana, I-I'm a little busy right now..."
She grinned at that statement, looking at the woman following beside Claire. "My, my, the nerd is busy with a daaaate?"
While Claire stammered and lost his own words, Lana stepped over to Charmy, staring directly into her eyes.
As planned, the two guards let him through. It was a shame he couldn't carry his Mobile, but no plans could be perfect. Tri worried a bit when Paul paused at the money, but everything went smoothly. He was surprised. Anna must have had planted these spies in advance. He winked back at Paul in what he thought was a secretive hint of acknowledgement. Look at them, men in shades communicating through subtle gesture following a tense situation. Tri had decided. He would emulate James Bond.
"My pleasure. Take more if you want." He shoved the guns to Anna and carried Lovemaker 3000 and the magic rod. "Come on, Velvet Meadow. We have to see if they fit his anime aesthetic inside."
Unlike James Bond, however, Tri had to carry his weapons by hands and not strapped secretly to his body. He asked Paris about it, but he said the lab couldn't make anything too complex. Maybe he should ransack a technology firm next time.
Hm. That sounds fun.
Tri and Velvet Meadow (it's a name he remembered from somewhere, but this is actually Anna in a horse mask) soon reached the entrance hall; a spacious round area circled by grand staircases. Tri stride toward the receptionist desk and called for attention.
"Hello. I want to scout a room for my good for nothing son. Can I get a tour of the luxurious rooms? The one with a lot of blings that feels like a place where bad boys get bitches with gubci and praba while wearing golden chains and studs. Or something more royalty. My son is a shallow guy that only cares about appearance."
The jewel should be in that kind of rooms, right? Tri was a genius.
Paris slumped on his chair in exhaustion. Somehow, Tri managed to get into the brothel without a problem. Thank fuck for that. Now all he needed to do was to pray for luck. However, as he admired the pristine white ceiling of his office, he noticed his assistant behaving strangely.
"What is it."
"N-nothing, sir! Our agents just confirmed that Doctoral was let in without an issue, but he has to leave his shopping cart."
"Okay... that's good."
Paris cast the assistant a doubtful glance, but he had more pressing matters, like his ears that hadn't stopped itching for a while.
The assistant trembled in anger as he left the office, but for a reason completely unrelated to Tri's safety.
THAT'S SOLAR SPRINT! THAT GOAT MASK IS SOLAR PRINT YOU IGNORANT BASTARD VELVET MEADOW IS VELVET HOW CAN YOU EVEN MIX THE TWO OF THEM UP LIKE THAT YOU UNCULTURED PIG-
The thing that had caught his attention more than anything for just a brief moment, was Ruriko's reaction to one of his mirage.
He hadn't expected that. The person he had picked, the one they knew as Shuwei had just been a friendly acquaintance to Dante personally. He had known him sparingly between travels in and out if Dragon Territory, though in the brief interactions they had talked often. He had not realized, that Shuwei was someone Ruriko had known from her reactions, the way she watched the mirage and the expressions of dislike though minor to catch for most, were easy to see for him.
He turned his attention away from her observation of the Shuwei Mirage, and instead focused his attention on Meirin and the growingly displeased Reveler.
To say he had expected Meirin's thoughts to really change on him just because a Dragon colleague of hers was being picky, would be a lie. Ruriko was very much the same way. Neither of the two had really been swayed much, that was a good thing. Reveler however spoke of proof, Dante or Callan rather, could not help but exhale softly once the Dragon was done speaking.
He rose a hand, snapped his fingers, and in an instant, every illusion vanished into the air, Shuwei waving goodbye to Ruriko, and the clone illusion that was his real self, merely turned and stepped into a wall before dissipating also.
"Look, I get it" he said to Revie in particular. "Dragons have obvious trust issues fer obvious reasons. Meirin and Ruri here obviously have a trust in me that other Dragons might not be so quick to put in, if its a test of proof yer lookin for then I can only give you the opportunity to watch and observe when the time arises." Was all he simply said. Deciding not to answer her other question about having killed before to open up a bag of worms. Instead his ear twitched, and his eyes looked to Meirin. "Your phone's vibrating sugah, may want to see what that's about."
"Apologies again for my selfishness, but... would you mind accompanying me further?"
He couldn’t get a good read on this woman. Whether it be age, intelligence or mannerism he was just at a loss. It was rare for him, he’d been honing the art of people reading since he started making a living at getting people’s rocks off. Even weirder he couldn’t see why she’d want some strange dude helping her out when she just flashed her card at the guards and they let her through.
“To be honest, I asked you come along because wanted to talk to you a little more..."
Okay. Something he could work with. But why? He could have badgered her on it but she seemed more than willing to open up given some privacy and quiet. So he let her stopping himself from humming acknowledgements knowing that hurting her wasn’t going to get him on her good side. Instead he took to nodding when she looked in his direction showing he was still paying attention.
"So... what is it like in the East? All my friends don't seem to like it there for some reason—well, not that they like any other district."
“Eehhh? Oh. Guess most wouldn’t be much for the East right now with…. Certain developments….. It’s nice though. Natural. Clean. The brothels for the most part get their act cleaned up by Dragons nowadays. It’s certainly better than the other districts have been to me.
He wasn’t a hardcore fanboy of the East like some of the other Dragons were but he couldn’t say he hated it. It had its ups and downs. If shady bedroom deals were the worst of it, well there were worse things to deal with. He heard the girl start to talk about compensation and nearly managed to get out a ‘don’t worry’ before he stumbled on the girls price.
"How does $15,000 sound?"
“W-woah wait a minute. A-alice? Alice what? How rich are you?”
He could feel himself hitting a dilemma. For one he’d done absolutely nothing to deserve compensation. All he did was chase off some creeps, and not even well, then have a conversation with the girl. Despite everything could use the money for he tried to fight off the urge. He had good pay now in ENP, and he had the Dragons…
“N-no. That’s fine Alice you really don’t need to do that. Geez you shouldn’t just throw out those kind of numbers its no wonder you had weirdos stalking you.”
“Keh,” Vulken flashed a cocky smirk at Ashley, keeping his arm around the younger man and speaking with a prideful tone. “Take this tip from an old man-- Do ‘yer best to stay outta the hospital, kid. That shit ain’t fun. Unless the nurses are cute, of course.”
With a grin, he pointed at his chest, the wound beneath his shirt carefully hidden behind a layer of bandages. “‘Course I’m still kickin’. The Dragon King ain’t shit. I coulda got stabbed like that ten more times and been fine–”
Vulken’s boastful declaration was brought to a swift halt by a different King. If Shen Yue was a planet made of steel, Lyric was one made of titanium. Scary.
With spoon in hand, he gulped loudly, before opening his mouth to explain his situation to the blonde.
“But she’s not my ki–”
A flick to the ear caused him to cut his objection short and wince in pain, accompanied by a dramatically exaggerated ‘Ow!’. As soon as she ordered him to taste what she had been cooking, he obediently lifted the spoon to his mouth, revealing a small amount of his pink tongue and pressing it against the top of the spoon. There was nothing on it.
Perhaps he would have realized that earlier, if he weren’t so busy militantly looking his boss in her terrifying eyes for the entire duration of her scolding rant. Idiot.
Amelie, who was still by the entrance whilst everything went down, could only offer a confused gaze as the situation unfolded. Was she in any position to explain who her true father was to a woman regarded as a King, without any initial permission to do so?
She thought not. And so, she continued to stare.
…Also, what was a ‘Fuck’?
Then, the unthinkable happened. The presumed King of the Scarlet Phoenixes, who had quickly made herself known as Lyric, approached her. Everything was happening so quickly. ‘Family’? ‘Pets’? The young girl could do nothing but nod her head with a glitter in her eyes as she listened to the gentle words of the woman crouched before her.
At first, she had felt like she had made a mistake– mindlessly agreeing to being introduced by unknown ‘pets’. But, as the three big cats approached her, Amelie’s fear levels actually went down. She calmly followed Lyric’s strict instructions, remaining still and not daring to touch the potentially deadly animals until they had finished becoming acquainted with her. All she could do was use her eyes to watch Lyric seemingly speak to these exotic animals in some sort of tapping code, before they finally showed their submission by lowering themselves to the ground.
After she was given the okay to move, she lowered her head to get a better look at the animals with a steadfast expression on her face. She lowered herself and slowly extended her arm, thankful that she had somehow managed to prove herself to beasts well-known as hunters and killers. But before she made contact with any of them, she paused, realizing that she hadn’t shown any courtesy towards the King of her late father’s group.
“...Thank you, Miss Lyric…”
Vulken watched on from the sidelines, now standing next to Ashley with crossed arms. He had a stone-cold look in his eyes as he stared, silently examining the child’s reactions to Lyric and Alex’s… creatures. Anyone looking at him would easily be able to tell that he was lost in deep thought.
Tough kid… She acts just like her old man.
His pupils ran over her face once more.
Looks just like ‘im, too…
…Old man. Why’d ya have to go and–
Vulken was ripped out of his monologue by the creeping tone of Corvo’s voice burrowing itself deep into his ear canal. Once again, he jumped at her sudden appearance– seemingly from thin air, as usual– before straightening himself out and shoving his hands into his pockets.
“I didn’t kidnap her, ya fuckin' sneak.” He frowned awkwardly at her unsettling smirk, avoiding eye contact with her by looking off to the side and scratching his head. “...It’s a long story. One that’d probably bore even you. So quit worryin’ about it.”
Then, to add flame to the fire, Ashley butted in with questions of his own.
“‘Course she ain’t mine!” He announced, now looking at Amelie once again as she mingled with the bloodthirsty animals that were at her feet. “I just know– well, I knew her Pops.”
He moved over to taste Lyric’s cooking with Ashley, but continued to watch Amelie. As he looked at her, an image of a familiar face– some of it obscured by an eyepatch– popped into his mind, and he let out a musing ‘heh.’
“I ain’t havin’ kids no time soon. But, A white-haired kid would be pretty neat, huh?”
He would have gone and put his hand on Lyric’s shoulder to praise her further, but he didn’t dare to after taking that flick to the ear. Instead, he raised the spoon to her from a safe distance, shooting a cheesy wink her way.
“Delicious, as usual, babe. I hope you didn’t expect me to say somethin’ other than that.”
Amelie looked up from the cats when the woman she knew as Corvo and a new face– a man with bright blue eyes and black-and-red hair– stepped up to speak to her. She reached out and took the licorice from Corvo without hesitation, opening her mouth to express her gratitude to the woman who, despite what Vulken had said, didn’t seem that bad at all.
When the other man told her not to worry about the cats, she looked back down and resumed petting them, enjoying the last bite of the licorice that she was quick to devour. Most children loved their sweets, after all, and as quiet as she was, Amelie was no exception. “They’re very polite. I like them…”
He introduced himself as Ash, and it reminded Amelie of something. Her notebook! She was quick to pick it up off of the ground next to her and open up a blank page, writing calmly while occasionally looking up at Ash and Lyric between scribbles.
“Did I leave the door open?” Vulken thought back to when they entered the home as Corvo spoke to him. He stood there with his finger on his chin for a few seconds, before suddenly bolting towards the kitchen’s exit.
What a sight to behold. Vulken’s eyes narrowed at Yong-Yut, who was doing exactly what he had been telling her not to do for years– sitting on the floor. But that wasn’t important… yet, at least. What was really important was the fucking beast that sat behind her, lightly panting like he was some sort of tiny and cute little dog.
“...YY.” He sighed, putting his hand on his forehead while looking directly at his best friend. “Get off the floor. And don’t turn around yet.”
Yong-Yut had spent a solid.. minute staring at the comfortable floor, before she heard the paws of a large doberman sauntering up behind her and sitting himself down. She recognized the loudly-panting dog as Romero, Corvo’s dog that she liked to lie about in terms of how aggressive he was. Though, Yong-Yut wasn’t very concerned about the dog biting her or anything like that. She was more concerned with two other things: one, God its panting is so fucking loud, and two, how the hell did it get up here? Did he ask the concierge for directions? And then did he take the elevator? She thought that was funny to imagine.
After a few seconds of listening to Romero pant, her hands made their way up to her ears. She attempted to butt-scoot a little ways away from the dog, starting to believe that coming so early was a terrible idea. They should’ve stopped somewhere. Take a solid hour or two just wandering around town, sightseeing with Amelie. That would’ve been fun.
Yong-Yut’s inner complaints were interrupted, however, by the footsteps of her best friend running into the living room. She slightly lowered her hands, turning her head a bit to see him out of the corner of her eye.
“No, I won’t get off the floor. It’s comfortable. And, I wasn’t planning on turning around anyway. But now I will, just to spite you.”
She scooted herself a little more forward with her hands, and then turned around to face Romero. They wouldn’t dare try petting the dog, but it was cute. You know, if you get past the fact it’s gigantic and threatening and panting like it’s been in the sun and hasn’t had water in 5 days. They stared blankly at it for a moment before they looked up to Vulken. “He’s not a bad dog, Kenny.”But, seriously, would it please stop panting. It was starting to be--not starting to be, it was completely annoying, and it hurt their ears to listen to. It was almost challenging her to get off the floor and go away.
After a moment of increasing aggravation, she finally got up with an almost inaudible "fine" and moved to the other side of the room, hands over her ears again. Whatever.
Hadrien found Omar and Kairong to be quite... unconvincing. Falling to the vices of evil was a concept that Hadrien knew all to well, having lived many of his years out on the streets. The difference was that war was a necessary evil, something you needed to have to accomplish your goals. Peace wasn't an option when your enemies were looking to cut your throat at any moment they could. Times were changing rapidly and ideas needed to change with it. The last thing the Dragons need are people too afraid to take action. While it was their job to protect the people of this district, they would only truly be safe once all the threats to the Dragons were dealt with. As long as the other gangs exist, nobody is safe.
His face had formed a slight frown, his gaze watching over Shen. He seemed to be taking in the information... and then he seemed like he didn't. Was that really the only response he could muster? He was expecting an extravagant response that gave him something in return and yet he got nothing. "You can't be serious." Hadrien said out loud, his demeanor remaining calm, but his face giving a different story. He almost felt like he was the only one present that had a will to fight, and that made him angry. "You're telling me that you blew up a bridge, and you don't even have the will to commit to your actions?" It was becoming harder for Hadrien to hide his anger, but he kept it to a manageable level. While he was treading carefully before with his words, he no longer had the same filter as before.
"For a symbol of power, you sure do make yourself seem weak. No wonder we have to rely on brothels to make ends meet. I was expecting more from you." His eyes showed no weakness as he gazed at Shen, directing his dismay towards him. He didn't regret his words, in fact, he wished he could say it again so he could get it through his thick skull. Maybe he'd say something more than, "Ok". Hadrien shifted his gaze to the teacup in front of him, pushing it to the side, spilling it.
He got up in one swift motion, saying a few words as he left the room, "This tea was awful, coffee is better." He walked out of the shop and into the drizzle that was present outside the shop front. He let out a long sigh, grabbing a cigarette from his pocket and forming a flame at the end of his fingertip. He lit the cigarette, letting the flame die out on his finger. After a long inhale and exhale of smoke, Hadrien finally started to compose himself again. "What a fucking mess." He mumbled to himself, leaning on a wall outside the shop front. He let the cigarette dangle from his lips, occasionally letting out a swath of smoke.
Was he the only one that wanted to fight? They were in a prime position to take on the other gangs and yet, his gang members wanted to stay chained to the East District. He may seem like a war hawk that isn't considering the consequences of war, but that is far from the truth. Death happened every day in this city, something that he was all too familiar with. Was it too much to try and end the cycle this city has been in?
Kanna entered Xavier’s apartment, taking a moment to look around. There wasn’t anything of particular interest, save for the pile of papers on his table. Once Isaiah had entered and the door was shut, Kanna went into the living area.
“Mind if we sit down? We might be here a while.”
Once everyone was seated, Kanna took a moment to observe Xavier. For the most part, she didn’t see anything off about him. But if Xavier got close to the three targets enough to spot and report them, there was a chance that he could’ve talked to him. The Jack and Ace couldn’t afford to take any chances with him.
Kanna reached into her jacket pocket, pulling out a couple of physical photos. They were recovered from the drone cameras in Guardian's network during the events of that night. There was a clear picture of the white-haired man during the brief capture in the alleyway. The couple were harder to make out, but with Kasumi and Jesper’s help, they were able to find frames where they were mostly in view to be recognized. Kanna laid the three pictures out on the table for Xavier to look at.
“You were one of the few that reported seeing these three recently in Central, correct?”
The man took a drag from his cigarette before sitting on the cushy arm of the chair across the two Dragon not-siblings. His eyes glossed over the photos, more heavily inspecting the less clear. After a quick exhale, he nodded, “I’ve seen them around. Mostly—“ he pointed at the white-haired man— “him.”
Looking at the photo, Isaiah recalled what he'd been told about the suspect. He seemed to have a range of abilities, but a new one would only manifest after consuming some sort of meat. Unfortunately, Kanna and the others hadn't been able to recover a sample. Without a proper analysis, they could only make assumptions about the man's Potential. One theory was that eating the meat of an animal would allow him to take on different characteristics, but the feats he displayed led Isaiah to believe otherwise. A far more gruesome conclusion was that the suspect had been consuming the remains of HPs, allowing him to copy their powers. There could have been several victims just like Silence, people who had been butchered and reduced to food for a troublesome vulture.
"When and where did you see him? Do you remember what he was doing? Anything out of the ordinary?" Even something that was only slightly suspicious could be a major lead in this investigation. Xavier was a former Dragon, so he likely had a good sense for the unusual.
The man sat and listened quietly to the onslaught of questions, absorbing every word. There was the small sound of pitter-patters in the room across the apartment. After the questions, Xavier leaned back against the back of the couch he sat weirdly on, but not so far back that he’d just lose balance. “After the Dragons put out the APB, I kept my eyes out for specific individuals that fit those descriptions. The white-haired man was, well, the easiest to find. I followed him around for a little bit the few times I spotted him but I couldn’t hang around long else I risk getting caught.”
He chewed on the inside of his cheek briefly as his head tilted toward the room making noise before continuing. “Saw him meet with a few people, mostly spotted him around west and south side of Central. I don’t know what classifies as out of the ordinary?”
"Have you ever seen him carrying around any meat, normal-looking or otherwise? Spot him around any butchers or similar locations?" In case nothing came to mind, Isaiah offered something specific the smoker could have seen during the encounters. They could potentially identify a source of the presumed cannibal's meals if they were lucky, but he knew that it was a long shot. He just wanted to make use of this opportunity to ask any questions that came to mind.
“Meat?” Xavier’s eyebrow raised up. Running a hand through his hair, he leaned forward with a groan and put out the cigarette out in the ashtray that sat on the table in front of them. “I don’t recall seeing anything like that. But isn’t going to a butcher… normal?”
That was the expected response, but it was better than no answer at all. It was bad to overload someone with too many questions at a time, so he gave Xavier a moment before continuing. "Did you ever see them with company?" Walking around as a group after being identified was risky, but there were several other people they could've met while separated. "Maybe someone from these pictures?" As he spoke, Isaiah withdrew more photographs from his coat pocket and placed them on the table.
The photos he set out showed workers from Paradise Forever. Some were genuine, but others had been altered by his illusions, allowing him to share appearances that could not be captured by a camera. He accounted for Black's Potential and made sure to create one for each of her known appearances. These people were his friends, but he wouldn't refrain from asking about them just because of that. Regardless of his judgments and personal feelings, everyone was a suspect. Leave no stone unturned.
In addition to the brothel workers, there was an image of a giant hand that appeared to be made of water. Only three people had been visible on the bridge, but the liquid limb let the Dragons know that there was another HP involved in the chaos. They still hadn't been able to come up with any information on that person, but Xavier may have seen something similar that could point them in the right direction.
Xavier, while he was leaning forward, looked at the pictures. Were all of these suspects? Or conversation pieces? Well, no matter the reason, as long as the Dragons kept their deal and continued offering protection for his family. Roped back into Dragon business despite trying to get away from it all. If he could release an exasperated sigh without getting in trouble, he would.
“None of these pictures were that man’s company but—“ he pointed at the picture where the male was dressed like a John “— he went to House Vinter, during the stakeout yes, wasn’t alone either. The boys went to roll in but were lost to the fog. Before it rolled in, they spotted maybe four unknown individuals? Not your girls and definitely not these other characters.”
Kanna took a moment to process and organize the information Xavier was giving them.
So he for sure saw white-hair…And the…fiance? He was seen at House Vinter…? But white-hair wasn't with him, Instead it was with others.
There could be a million different possible scenarios. Was House Vinter directly involved with the attack on the East, or just a beneficiary? Kanna was generally aware of who they were. House Vinter was an upper-class family that mainly resided in Central. They were popular among the rest of the wealthy, though Kanna didn’t see them as interesting. Until now.
Her eyebrows furrowed slightly as she thought about her next question. Everything that Xavier had said so far was straight-forward and to the point, so there was no need for any clarification. Kanna glanced up towards the man, speaking up.
“What do you know about House Vinter? Any recent rumors about them or the events from the bridge?”
“House Vinter… they’re certainly old money. They’ve kept themselves quiet, sticking to mostly other rich people. No recent rumors but I can speculate. From what I’ve heard of them, few really are HPs. They haven’t had gang associations purely because they don’t have much to offer. Money? That’s a dime a dozen with the old families. Power? The tables have long since shifted on that. Well… I suppose that’s reason enough to think they might want to put a little hit out. Still you’d think they’d hire goons smart enough not to come trucking back to them openly.”
Kanna glanced over to Isaiah, giving him a look that said the information provided was enough to move on. She looked back to Xavier as she stood up. At the same time, she collected the pictures of the brothel workers, but left the ones of the 3 suspects from the bridge incident.
“Thank you for your time, Xavier. I think what you’ve told us is more than enough to work with. You can keep those photos for your own reference.”
Once Isaiah was ready, Kanna went for the door, opening it. Before shutting it, she spoke up one last time.
“If you hear anything else regarding what we discussed, contact us again immediately.”
With that, the door shut and the pair left the apartment building. Once they were back at the car, Kanna looked over to Isaiah.
“House Vinter is towards the south of Lower Central. I’ve passed by it a few times when I had my races run through Central.”
Kanna got into the driver seat. Once Isaiah was set, she started the car up and drove out of the parking garage, heading to their next destination.
Lucifer would probably keep their re-interpretation of Passeri’s songs grounded. The cover was approaching its finale, if it was accurate to the original song. This probably wouldn’t be the one Lucifer would end on, since it was one of Iroi’s less memorable tracks, so there would probably be one or two more after to close the opening act, totaling maybe about seven minutes. If the line her sister was stuck in did clear out when Passeri took the stage, it would be maybe a minute after that for her to get food. Ayame was a prodigy on several fronts, but navigating crowded spaces was not one of them. Say it took her, oh, four minutes. Kazue would have to hold out for twelve minutes. Probably more. She did not have faith in her sister’s sense of direction. Or her own calculations. Or her own rotten luck…Make it 20 minutes. Better yet, watch her sister somehow never find her—
“On second thought, sick or not, maybe you need something to loosen yourself up after all.”
Kazue, startled out of her thoughts, looked up as the alcoholic next to her handed over a can of beer. As her brain shifted from processing an escape route to figuring out what just happened, the stranger introduced themselves as though it was just a normal day…right, it probably was for them. Kazue’s fear of getting “caught” was irrational and she should relax…maybe have a sip of that beer?
She should panic harder.
The second, even louder intruder into her personal space, another one of her fellow facemask enjoyers (who Kazue had never met in her life), didn’t seem to notice Kazue practically recoiling into the wall in shock.
"...Hey, A. Did you manage to find N or...Nevermind. N. Manage to track him down? I didn't...What're we gonna do if we can't find him? I spent like... SO! MUCH! Hiring him!"
…Kazue had somehow been confused with some person A, who had been tasked with finding another person N, who had been paid handsomely for some kind of job, as well as maybe find someone else. And also this second intruder was an amateur at participating in shady plots. From these observations, Kazue concluded that she should probably leave the stadium. Right now, or sooner. Or she could try to get this other stranger to continue spilling details, but then what?
"Who's this, by the way? Did someone else want in? Can she pay me back for my portion?" The person who hadn’t introduced herself glanced back.
“Who the fuck are you and why should I pay you anything?”
Kazue spoke up, talking to the other mask wearer.
“This isn’t—we’re not talking about that here, right now.”
That definitely could have been worded better. That sounded less like “please lave and don’t come back, you have the wrong person” and more like “we’ll talk later.” Too bad.
Loyalty to the Phoenixes and mixed feelings for his old friend aside, Boltius was getting annoyed.
Bro, stop tellin’ me to shut up… He and Hector were well-known for their bipolar relationship—laughing and having fun one moment, then screaming and fighting the next—so it wouldn’t be odd for Boltius to become abruptly aggressive after cheering his comrade on.
He couldn’t organize his thoughts, right now, nor his emotions, which were becoming more and more erratic as he rifled through them.
Why was Milo here? Why didn’t he call or text back when Nanami…? Why is he claiming to be the next Ace? Wasn’t Milo against the gangs? Why does he keep saying Bolt’s name?
Boltius just wanted answers. He just wanted to sit down and look Milo in the face, and ask. But it wasn’t that easy—not given the current predicament with Hector, who was as fired up as ever, and also pissed.
But also… Bolt wondered if Hector would be understanding.
Looking at Hector, in the blink of an eye, Boltius was suddenly shielding his face from a powerful wind and small chunks of flying asphalt at the sound of a loud boom, almost losing his grip on the casserole he’d hurried to perfection.
“M-” He paused. “HECTOR!!” Boltius shoved the said casserole into Darren’s arms with Hector’s macaroni-and-cheese dish and fell into a jog toward the Ace, but eventually slowed. Hector was back on his feet and approaching Milo, who’d been flung into the metal door of a nearby car.
Boltius glanced between them. The sight of the gash above Milo’s eye pouring blood down his face shook the orange-haired Phoenix with something he couldn’t quite place. Was it fear? Anger? Guilt?
If it was anger; was that anger toward Hector?
If it was guilt, then what for? He knew, but he wouldn’t say it.
“Hector,” Boltius said, not realizing that his feet were carrying him forward.
He raised his voice, “Hector!” Stopping in his tracks momentarily to gawk in annoyed disbelief.
His train of thought was beginning to elude him—all reason dissipating with the clearing smoke from the explosion, and he was sinking into a bubbling pit of unjustified anger, as he so-often did. Usually a result of his being unable to explain himself or understand himself.
Just then, feeling unheard, Bolt moved forward again with a new determination in his step, walking with purpose. “BRO, YOU GOT A FUCKIN’ HEARING PROBLEM!?”
Milo’s head was swimming. A stinging pain shot up his side as he tried to get up. Get up, he tried to command his insubordinate limbs. The shock of the blast was still too recent. As his mind stuttered back to wakefulness, Milo became aware of two things. The first was Hector. He didn’t know why he’d expected that blast to kill him. That was foolish. As the Ace approached, Milo noticed the second thing: Boltius.
"Bolt…" There was something he had to tell him. Something important, but his mind was still a fog. It was only when Milo felt Hector’s boot come down on the top of his shoe, and the sharp pain of something piercing the top of his foot, that he was able to gather enough of himself to shout, "STAY BACK!"
His hand, fingers slick with his own blood, scrawled swiftly across the pavement by his side.
At the command, Boltius jolted to a swift halt, almost shocked. He looked to Milo with, at first, dumbfounded frustration, but all curiosity was quickly lost to rage, and he threw out a hand, gesturing as he yelled, “Wh- Fuck do you mean, STAY BACK?!... YOU STAY BACK, DAWG! YOU AIN’T EVEN SUPPOSED TO FUCKIN’ BE HERE, BRO, SO DON’T GIVE ME THAT BULLSHIT!... WHAT ARE YOU DOIN’!?”
Milo wasn’t listening anymore. He didn’t have any more time to waste. If left to his own devices, Hector was liable to nail his foot to the pavement below, and end his revolution before it had even begun. That could not happen. That would not happen.
As the sharp, pointed end of Hector’s metal foot-blade dug deeper into the meat of Milo’s foot, the little revolutionary revealed what he’d been scribbling on the sidewalk in blood. A thin, crimson-black stick of peculiar construction emerged out of the red splotches on the ground and Milo grabbed hold of it, tossing it in Hector’s face a split second before violently jerking to one side, averting his eyes and clamping his hands down over his ears, blood seeping from the open wound atop his foot.
In the very next moment, the manufactured stun-grenade exploded in an eruption of blinding light and deafening sound.
Passeri slumped over the railing as Fahru turned to leave the room. She was as much of an artiste as any other she'd met. Charming, and thoroughly unique, in both the kindest, and harshest manner possible. Though, she noted, despite the girl's flowery praise and sparkling eyes, her own chest remained perfectly still.
She wasn't sure if that was a relief or a disappointment.
When Minato trawled into the room, very nearly clashing heads with Fahru, Passeri snapped back to attention, rising from her slump with a spirited hop, and flashing the young man a smile.
"Peachy!" Keen. He had that sort of eyes. The kind that saw things. "You know, a potential stalker in the building? It's not anything new under by sun. I was just thinking about this earlier, but I'm really glad they only decided to break into the backstage this time, and not like... My house." Seriously, that one was a PR nightmare. She cleared her throat. "Er, sorry. TMI, right?" She trailed off, leaving a void in the air where her voice ought to be, and scrutinized Minato from her perch-on-high.
"Hey, though, mind doing me a favour?" He better not. She was paying for this, after all. "Or, pardon my french, favours, plural. First off, could you keep an eye on Fahru there? Looking as lovely as she does, the stalker might just throw himself and her if she catches wind of her!" For as severe a possibility as that was, Passeri spoke it with a smile in her eyes. "And... Keep all those eyes of yours out for me, okay? If you see anything really funny, then give me a call!" Or Dagger, if he felt like getting yelled at again.
"Unless I'm like, already on stage. Then you're gonna get the answering machine."
Serpents Arc 2: Scene 2 [Tailing The Dragon's Heart]
Alleyway, East District
Anna, Tri, Bash, Kisara
TAILING THE DRAGON'S HEART
The corners of Yuto’s eyes (minus the middle) crinkled as he lifted a hand to his mouth, covering the huff of giggles escaping him. This was truly the most entertaining thing Yuto had seen all day~ He leant a little closer to the edge to get a better view of the hilarious spectacle his comrades had found themselves in. From this angle, he couldn’t see what was inside- but he definitely saw some woman calling out the pink alien serpent.
Biting his lip, he watched on, not bothering to jump down just yet and enjoy the show. Unfortunately for him however, he lost his balance from leaning too far off the ledge- and Yuto felt himself falling. Letting out a short gasp of surprise, his body hurdled towards the ground. Yuto swung his hands out just in time to stick his palms on the wall, latching himself to it. He only hoped no one noticed him yet…
Planting his bare feet on the wall as well, he stabilized himself, peering over his shoulder. He couldn’t very well go back up now could he? …. Well- he could, but what was the fun in that? Smiling, he unstuck his hands, letting himself fall backwards, putting all of his trust in the hope that his feet wouldn’t become unstuck. Yuto’s arms dangled as he looks for somewhere to land.
Humming, he squinted to the spot just above the door to where Bash was… but then again- All three of Yuto’s eyes trailed up to the newcomer who had spotted… Kisara was it? Closing his eyes, the smile grew on his face. Squinting his eyes open slightly he tilted his head, inspecting the area around the stranger. Nodding to himself, he climbed back up, grunting as he lifted himself back over the ledge.
Brushing dust off of his clothes, he took one last look at his landing spot. Yuto started backing up, the stickiness of his feet making squishing noises all the way. He lifted his arms up, readying himself for a sprint. Wasting not a second more, he bolted right off of the rooftop.
With an agile somersault, he landed just behind the strange woman, tapping her on the shoulder. Leaning forward, he held his arms behind his back, his head tilted and a closed eyed smile on his face. “Hi there peeping Tom!~”
Hide paused at Raphael’s words. Could that really happen? Was that bastard really kidnapped by the same people these snakes were after? It wasn’t… totally ridiculous. But how could Hide be so sure this wasn’t just a trap to kill him instead? Then again- they did say they were busy… if they were so set on killing Hide- surely they would have acted… he didn’t know- differently? They did seem rather in a rush…
Hide furrowed his brows, squinting a glare at them. Just as he opened his mouth to respond- he heard something… large to say the least heading their way. He turned his head to the oncoming splashing sound of liquid being squished underfoot, and his eyes settled on a large figure looming over an orange haired woman. His jaw dropped, nearly imitating a gaping fish out of water. What the hell was that?!
Hide took a step back, his eyes widening in slight horror. His scarred hand reach behind his back, ready to take out his crowbar out of instinctive defense. He yelled at the newcomer, clearly disturbed, “WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!” The white haired man’s eyes darted from one serpent to the other, trying to figure out if they thought this was a normal occurrence or some shit.
Swallowing down a nervous breath, he forced himself to calm down, his arms stiffly making their way back to his sides. Despite everything, his fists were still clenched, ready to run- attack- do something in case that thing decided to make a move towards him.
Jaw tense, he tore his eyes away from the tall figure, taking quick nervous glances to those around him. With a slight nod, he glanced anxiously at the newcomer and her.. rock buddy, before quickly turning to inspect the said building Raphael was talking about. Hide was this close to it the whole time?! Son of a bitch… he didn’t even need their help then! Shit fucking damnit..
Ego bruised, he marched on forward with every intent to just barge in and make an entrance like he always did. Hide did his best to ignore the serpents and their soul- crushing bullying behind him.