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Collab Post - Jackson, Yulia & Beau
Central District
Pascal, Gavril, Milo, Jackson
Money makes the world go round huh? Yeah he understood that sentiment, money really greased the wheel of action and loosened lips. Still he shuttered as he heard the voice coming closer. Even if this woman was calling the gameshow shady he had to say she wasn’t exactly making a case for why she wasn’t. Then there were her claims that the other girl was a serpent of all things.

“How’d ya know? You in bed with the serpents too-”

He heard the other calling out for him to sing and he couldn’t exactly say that he was wrong. Even if it were just a taste of pain it’d be a good warning for the woman. He started humming lowly listening to the footsteps once they were close he started belting out the first song that came to his head.

“If you hate your enemies, enemies shine
If you're not a friend of me, enter the light~”

Upon hearing the song, Pascal started following the trail it made away from its source. The tingling in his hands and feet were back. As he approached, it became more of a discomfort than a tickle. Getting even closer caused him to wince as parts of his body started to throb with a dull pain.

“Guy really wasn’t kidding…” he muttered. As he continued his approach, he braced for how the pain may intensify next. Would it feel like being stabbed repeatedly all over? Or perhaps it would just be a more constant hurt.

The narrow, blackened halls of the maze had already been made with noise in mind. Bereft of their sight, after all, how else were the contestants supposed to navigate beyond blindly groping about? So, as Jackson’s Potential flared within his lung, his voice tore through the hall like a tidal wave of pure force.

Splinters of wood were shaved from the walls, and the foundation of the maze shook. All things before the blonde trembled, and then, one of them laughed.

“Hah! You don’t fuck around, do you?” The woman scoffed, and then light flooded the hall. A flashbang. Suffocating black was replaced with blinding white, searing his senses in the manner that only magnesium could.

The flashbang also caught the other blond off guard. He blinked and stumbled a bit, crashing into one of the walls as his vision turned completely white. The sudden loud sound also left his ears ringing for a moment. What about the one who dropped the stun grenade though? Was that just a diversion tactic, or a means of escape?

The light that tore through the walls burnt his eyes causing a searing pain. He stumbled back with a shout cutting off his song as he felt the solid wall hit his back. He let himself slide down the wall until he reached a sitting position letting his eyes adjust once more to the return of the darkness.

“FUCK. You piece of shit”

He forced himself back up keeping a hand on the wall. He didn’t really get a great view of the place in the flashbang and he still felt the occasional spots of white fill his peripherals like a cruel reminder that he didn’t know how long he’d suffer its aftermath. Even his hearing was affected as he heard a ringing fill his ears that he tried to put out of his mind. At least the frags itself didn’t mean shit to his HP skin.


“Dude’s a bit mean, isn’t it?” A sneer, masked by black and white. Cold steel pressed against Jackson’s throat. “Now keep that pretty voice to yourself, or I’ll open your throat like a wallet.”

The voice was close now, and hot, heavy breaths lapped against Jackson’s face. He could hear the woman shifting her weight, and then stumbling on her feet. Her blade, for a moment, fell away from his throat, and she swore under her breath.

Even though Jackson had stopped singing, the hall still shook.

A wretched, heavy sound of splintering wood filled the hall, and light spilled in from a fat crack which now ran up the wall. It was faint, but the mystery woman was now visible. A pair of red-brown eyes were cast upward, distracted by the sudden wave of destruction, though her knife was still held towards Jackson’s head.

“What the fuck?” She grimaced. “This ain’t you, is it?”


Jackson took the distraction to shove all of his weight into trying to elbow the woman off of him. The knife wasn’t his biggest concern here and a few scratches we’ren’t going to stop him from trying to put distance in. Unfortunately with the shaking of the ground and cracking of the wall it was all leading to one potential outcome, being buried in rubble.

Once the woman was off him he took a look down the hall at all he could see with the light available. He knew there was at least one woman either knocked out or dead here, there was the other dude who was or was not an HP, Makoto in his last room, Flo somewhere in here… How many others would be trapped if this place came down?

“Hey! Save the aggression for later. Right now we need to expect this place is coming down and get the hell out of here. Who knows who else will be caught up in it.”

Boom. As if it had came at Jackson’s beck and call, another shock ran through the bleak maze. From both above and below. Ripped loose by the earth’s violent rumbling, another of the show’s challenge rooms dropped from above, crashing through the ceiling, and turning the surrounding walls to splinters.

Light flooded the maze, and then the entire structure keeled over. The twisting corridors became channels for falling rubble, which tumbled down from above in gussets of metal and plywood. Robbed of his footing, Pascal plummeted down from the mirror maze, and crashed into Jackson and the woman, sending them tumbling down the hall.

The woman swore under her breath, and in their collective moment of freefall, made a decision. A hand clasped around both the Dragon and Tiger’s back, and a foot rested on the Serpent’s, and then the lot of them vanished.

Unconsciousness took Jackson. For a precious set of minutes, he swam in blackness. Not that of the maze, but of his own mind, until he awoke to the scent of blood and sand.

The explosion knocked him out. That much he understood as he was once more experiencing the blinding bright light. He was going to have the world’s worst headache, minimum, when this was all done. He’d definitely need a trip to a check up.

“Took ya long enough.” The woman sneered. Above the two of them a blazing, wrathful sun hung, finally exposing her freckled features. A pair of brown eyes loomed over Jackson, a derelict gas station reflected within them. “Lucky I ain’t cleared to kill any of you today. Would’ve been reeeaalll easy to just let you drop, blondie.”


He shoot up at the words into a sitting position scanning the area for the others. He had registered just enough to realize they were likely okay but that couldn’t be said of anyone else still in there. Not that he was really planning to feel bad about that, he’d barely made it out himself.

“What’da mean? What the heck are you doing here? Who are you?”



A darkened, man-shaped figure emerged from out of the gas station’s gloom. Filling the doorway, he cast eerie shadows against the peeling wallpaper, his jet-black hair, carelessly tousled, his narrow, piercing eyes glinting with a predatory gleam. The curve of his lips held the promise of sweet deceit and treachery, a living embodiment of fear and seduction, an enigma wrapped in beauty and terror.

"Hey, Freckles. Job done? Who's this?" Beau's voice, a smoky baritone, slithered like a serpent through the dusty, barren air. He leaned against the worn threshold, crossing his arms over his chest, his head curiously tilted.

“Mmm? Some straggler. I was in the middle of finding out more, but things’ve really gone to shit out there. The whole place is coming down.” ‘Freckles’ sighed, and gave Beau an exasperated look. “And ‘yer interrupting, by the way. I’m in the middle of the process.”

She turned her attention back to Jackson, and then offered him a hand. “Speakin’ of. Get up. If that wasn’t you or your friends, then I think we’ve got bigger problems for the time being.”

“The fuck, why the hell would it be us? Did you miss where we were inside the place as it came down?”

He gave a sigh as he forced himself up off the ground. He had no idea where they were which meant this unknown woman was currently carrying all the power in this situation. On the off chance knocking her out didn’t free him then he’d be stuck here with an irate woman who probably would be willing to off him.

“Listen, whatever you guys are planning, I want no part in it. Thanks for the save, now can you just send me back? Assuming that wasn’t a completely shitty grab for views then like you said there’s bigger problems and I got people to check on.”

His mind flashed back to the last year when several groups of Dragons were found brutally murdered in central. It wasn’t necessarily similar but it had felt like there was a noose closing in with every suspicious dealing going on.

“Sass doesn’t suit you, blondie. Don’t act like this city isn’t full of the sort of psycho that’d collapse a building and then make a game out of getting out alive.” The woman sighed. She hated when anyone within the gangs pretended like they were a reasonable person. She knew from experience that they were nowhere close.

“And I’d say you’ve got bigger problems than checking up on your friends…” She huffed. “...But I’ve got bigger problems than you now, too.” She gave Jackson a dark look, and her eyes said more than words could’ve. Call it a silver lining, but as far as she was concerned, that earthquake was his saviour. A seismic hero without a cape that’d snatched him from her clutches, and that annoyed her more than she let on.

But she still wasn’t petty enough to interrogate him when there was clearly so much larger a fish afoot.

Around the group, the world suddenly rippled. The rolling sands bent like waves, and the phantasmal gas station melted away like wax. One moment, they were within an arid stretch of nowhere, and the next the sun had vanished from above them, replaced by a tattered array of the studio’s few surviving lights.

“Now scamper off.” The woman shot him a glare. “I already let that other blonde off the hook, though I suppose you never actually got to catch a look at him.”

He let out a tch before doing exactly that. It wasn’t like he wanted to listen but seriously he had no reason to stick around at this point. He took out his phone and immediately began typing up a message to Nona-me.

"Hey Nonnie, how much for a special delivery and a request?"

Her response was almost instant, he glanced it over and wrote back quickly hoping to get some more information before booking it.

"That'll depend! ^w^ What, when, and where?"

"Food, my house, hopefully check up on ma. 'Cause when I get back I sure as hell ain't gonna wanna cook. The earthquake reaching east or is everything good over there?"

He didn’t waste any time moving forwards trying to get a glance at the damages and throw himself further into the fray looking for anyone still trapped. The ground still shook and who knew when it planned to let up. His phone made its chime once more and he quickly drafted up a response.

"It's only sorta wobbly down there, but I'd say it's reached us! Doesn't seem too bad though ^w^ Is it bad over there?"

"awful just had to speedrun not getting squashed like a pancake gtg though keys in the fifth plant like usual extra cash in the kitchen ask ma take whatever."

He heard the distant sounds of chaos from the building he was just in and weighted how much leaving them and making his way home would bother him in the end. Pocketing his phone he already knew what he was going to do, he only hoped he wouldn’t wind up with a damn concussion from it.

“Fucking shit… seriously. Ughh I hate giving a shit…”

With that he started to rush past the crew racing back inside to help.

Beau watched as Jackson raced back towards the chaos, a smirk playing on his lips. He enjoyed the unpredictability of the world around him, and as it crumbled, he felt an odd sense of excitement. He turned to Yulia, who was still visibly annoyed by the unexpected turn of events.

"Hey, Freckles, lighten up," he said, nonchalantly waving a smartphone in her face. The caller I.D. read 'Techno.' "Z's calling us in. We've got work to do."

Beau glanced back at the destruction. He couldn't help but be intrigued by the strange man who had just run back into the wreckage. What drove someone to do such a thing? Was it loyalty, bravery, or just plain stupidity?

“Don’t we always? If knew the Queen Bitch of the ‘winning side’ was such a damn workhorse, I would’ve told you to eat shit.” Yulia grumbled, recalling the night that’d sent her down the convoluted path to being on the ‘right’ side of the law. “At least Weiss was too busy geling up his hair to give a shit about what anyone else was doing.”

It’d been like this ever since she’d taken her partner up on his offer. Maybe if she’d been a bit less drunk, and a lot less fed up with everything, she’d be in the position of one of the contestants. On a list, and stalked from the shadows, but she wasn’t. She was the watcher. A pair of eyes for some great, unknowable beast, and one that paid well at that.

“Shit. What does she want, then? Another wild goose chase? Or does it have something to do with all…” She took a moment to gesture to the wreckage surrounding them. “...this?”

Beau’s smile spread, his voice saccharine sweet. “Guess. ~”

Phoenixes Arc 3: Scene 1 [Follow the Lightning]
South District
Ryoma, Noa, Hitoshi

Wordlessly, Ryoma brought up his guard once more in order to continue their fight. Staring at Emiel's glowing form from over the top of his fists, Ryoma's transformation continued to engulf his body until it was completely the grayish metallic hue from before. The Phoenix on his back in contrast against its new canvas seemed to radiate with power, as the flames surrounding it seemed likely to actually catch fire. In a similar fashion to Emiel, his body began to be outlined by a subtle red aura that emanated from Ryoma like a faint thin smoke. However, unlike the Oranjese Lieutenant across from him, this had little to do with Ryoma's Potential. It was something far more commonplace between experienced fighters.


Suddenly, Ryoma's upper body began to weave back and forth in a rhythmic fashion. Setting a rhythm for himself, his eyes never left Emiel's form. And then all at once, he seemed to mix his weaving and a dash to cross the distance between them in an instant. Without a sound, he was immediately upon Emiel. Both arms opening up with blinding attacks, Ryoma left nothing in reserve for a defensive.

A savage uppercut, unleashed by his right hand, sliced the air as it aimed to connect with Emiel's jaw. Nearly simultaneously, his left hand delivered a sharp left hook that was aimed towards Emiel's right temple. It was a move executed with such speed and precision that suggested it had been practiced a thousand, if not ten thousand times. Coincidently, it was a full feint like the one Emiel had given him moments ago.

But Emiel had become faster, as he weaved through the faint with an empowered haste and flipped backwards entirely from Ryoma. His feet planted into the ground with a powerful smash, cracking the concrete underneath as he tensed up before launching himself at Ryoma with a ferocious speed that made the air sing. Ryoma himself was able to put his guard up as Emiel’s foot collided with him directly and sent him flying backwards from the sheer power on display. Ryoma found himself airborne for a few moments as he flew directly into a small office area that once housed the management of the place.

Colliding with abandoned desks and other office material, Ryoma tumbled inside for a bit before coming to a still. He got up quickly but already found that Emiel was rushing through the hole in the wall that he had made and advanced towards Ryoma with his power. Another flying kick sped towards Ryoma, but the Phoenix was more prepared this time as he grabbed onto Emiel leg after a quick sidestep and used the lieutenant’s momentum against him: swinging him about and sending him careening into a wall nearby.

The force was great enough to nearly break it, but instead left the metal warped as Emiel let out a pained cry from the impact. Ryoma however was not done yet as he moved to strike, with Emiel dodging and leaving Ryoma to punch the metal wall. Coming around Ryoma’s side, Emiel delivered a flurry of quick strikes to the man’s side while dodging another of the man’s attack as Ryoma turned and swung out again.

At the moment, Emiel wielded a speed advantage and was wary of allowing his opponent to find an opening to use against him. But he also knew he was on a timer… if he couldn’t beat Ryoma soon, then he stood no chance. This pressure made Emiel all the more unpredictable than before as he switched tactics. Ryoma swung again, only for Emiel to lean back and get to the floor on all fours.

The lieutenant delivered a sharp kick to Ryoma’s belly from below, before switching his pose quickly and used his other foot to push away Ryoma with a solid strike to the man’s side. Emiel pressed the offensive afterwards as he delivered a flying kick once more, striking Ryoma’s guard and sending him sliding back a few feet. Emiel grew more frustrated as he found it difficult to find any opening through the man’s guard, especially considering his potentiality on full display now.

But an idea popped into his head, which brought Emiel rushing forward with a flurry with fist strikes that tested and probed at Ryoma’s defenses with the sheer amount he sent his way. He intentionally then created an opening as bait, which Ryoma took in the moment with an uppercut. Had it landed, it would have been devastating as a counterattack, but Emiel was more than ready as he flipped backwards again but this time used his momentum to deliver an upwards kick of his own that struck Ryoma square on his jaw.

If he had been speaking, the kick no doubt would have claimed Ryoma's tongue. However, instead of severing that delicate piece of flesh, the kick sent Ryoma's lower jaw slamming into his skull. Launched up and off the floor by the sheer force of the blow, Ryoma remained in the air a moment as his brain solidly rattled against the back of his skull. The world blacked out for that second or two, before quickly reappearing as Ryoma's body hit the floor. His head slamming against the concrete beneath.

A familiar warm sensation began running down his jaw before the sharp taste of iron in his throat let him know he was bleeding. From where specifically, he couldn't tell and it ultimately didn't much matter. Clearly recalling the events mere moments ago, the deft kick had been a clean one and he had fully fallen for the faint. After a few seconds on the floor, a stifled yet oddly satisfied laugh escaped his lips, before he raised himself back up to his feet. Spitting blood from his mouth, Ryoma wiped what remained on his face across his forearm.

Giving a thoughtful, yet approving nod of his head towards Emiel, Ryoma raised his stubborn guard once more. Behind it, a smile creeped across Ryoma's face. Emiel's sudden transformation wasn't merely a front, there was now a true divide in speed and power between them. Ryoma could no longer be said to be the one dominating the fight. While normally concerning for one's opponent, it seemed to have the opposite effect for Ryoma. The shift in power had his heart excited.

How long had it been? Since he had faced a superior opponent? More times than not it was the Phoenix heads, and their inner circle, who got the opportunities to fight the toughest opponents. And rightly so given the positions they held.

However, being at a disadvantage now reminded Ryoma of his younger years, when being on the bottom of the power totem was the norm. It had been some time since he had felt the need to be stronger, or the very least to best a strong opponent. There was still room for him to grow and tough battles to be fought. This thought instilled renewed vigor into Ryoma, as he wordlessly left a crater in his wake as he dashed forward to meet Emiel's next pressing attack.

In the interest of time, none could be wasted on words. Ryoma had fought others with similar Potential to Emiel's that allowed for extraordinary feats of power and speed. The only catch, more often than not, was there was some form of limit attached to these abilities. In spite of his eagerness, Ryoma could read far enough into Emiel's aggressive stance and series of attacks to suspect that limited might be fast approaching.

As another flying kick collided with Ryoma's guard, the compounded energy from their simultaneous advances deflected into the surrounding area. Sending office desks and chairs into the air and crashing across the room. A tornado of dusty torn papers scattered into the air as another mass flurry of powerful blows rained against Ryoma. From their sheer volume alone, a few managed to hit their marks despite his guard.

The shrewd thing to do would have been to stay on the defensive and wait for Emiel's Potential to run its course. After all, normally there would be little point to extending yourself and exerting beyond your capacity in the fact of an overwhelming enemy. Although, that meant becoming a human punching bag and discarding any real possibility of a counterattack.

Ryoma had no intentions of doing such or of missing out.

In defiance of the staggering volume of blows sent his way, Ryoma continued pressing the offensive. Giving chase after Emiel, he continued to launch tight punches at the man only for him to nimbly evade them with ease. The sound of Ryoma's fists repeatedly missing their mark and colliding against the steel walls of the warehouse resounded throughout the building. Imprinting an array of dents all across the room as the fight dragged on, every time Ryoma managed to corner Emiel, the elusive man would defy his grip.

Ultimately, this seemed to do little to deter The Gentle Fist's pursuit. After all, no self respecting boxer would get far if he simply let his opponent always escape him. It was a dogged test of Ryoma's stamina and durability against Emiel's superior speed and power. As Ryoma's Potential reached the zenith of its final stages, he began blocking less and less. While Emiel's whirlwind of attacks and powerful kicks continued to land and leave their mark, they couldn't put an effective end to the Phoenix.

Being sent flying across the room time and time again, the handful of times Ryoma was knocked to the floor, the bull-headed Phoenix would never stay down long. Each time he would rise and come back looking for more. It would become abundantly clear that defeating the man wasn't the same as defeating a ferocious beast such as a lion. Where decisively winning the first head on confrontation decided the fight.

There was also still one more alarming or frustrating detail, depending on his opponent. The smile adorning Ryoma's face was a permanent feature now, that no manner of blow or beaten state could remove. As if the more the fight dragged on the more enjoyment he was getting out of it. Still yet, he maintained that persistently tight guard. Not going so far as indulging Emiel in taking as many free clean and strong strikes as he wanted.

This slow, persistent, and yet methodical method of fighting is what had earned Ryoma's reputation as "The Gentle Fist". And to be avoided unless you were committed to total and absolute victory. Diving at Emiel once more, and opening presented itself after a series of strikes. Regardless of if it was a genuine opening or yet another fake, Ryoma pressed into it with his full feint combo from before. Launching a savage uppercut, quickly followed up by a swift left hook.

Unlike before, Emiel’s limit was becoming more and more apparent as time progressed as Ryoma’s knuckles scraped by the lieutenant’s skin. He could *feel* the force of the impact had it landed properly. And worse still for him, was that Ryoma had taken such solid hits and just kept on coming. It was an endurance test that Emiel would not be able to overcome, not unless he went all in.

Not like he had a choice, considering the situation at large. His earlier wounds only grew worse as his broken ribs caused Emiel to spit out some blood from his mouth as he backed off from Ryoma to try to earn some breathing room. But he would not receive such a luxury as Ryoma pushed forward again, this time managing to punch Emiel straight in the jaw and sending him flying out of the office area and back into the warehouse proper again.

The Oranjese lieutenant tumbled across the concrete as the warehouse showed signs of instability, thanks to Noa’s chaotic battle in the near distance. Emiel struggled to get up for a moment, as he sputtered and clambered to his knees before standing up. He saw Ryoma across from his again, and returned a bloodied grin before pulling out a tooth that the Phoenix had dislocated from his jaw.

One final chance. One final shot is what he had left in the tank… though he knew he would probably not succeed. Still, Emiel roared out as his aura grew intensely into an ethereal inferno that engulfed him. “THIS IS WHAT I HAVE LEFT!” he shouted with a prideful fury, “THE LAST OF MY ENERGY!”

The force of summoning his reserves sent shockwaves and gusts of air blowing towards Ryoma, who remained still and prepared for the coming finale. Emiel felt his world turn to nothing but bright colors and streaks as it consumed him entirely, with one focus on his mind: strike at Ryoma with EVERYTHING. A heartbeat echoed in his mind as he found renewed meaning in his life again, before yelling aloud and launching himself at the Phoenix. The ground had a crater left behind where he once stood, as he had moved with such intensity and speed that it left a partial afterimage behind.

Emiel threw a kick out when he neared Ryoma, arcing from above with full intentions to strike Ryoma with his shin, foot, and knee simultaneously. But Ryoma also responded with a yell of his own and a powerful punch straight into Emiel’s leg as a counter. The collision created a powerful shockwave that blew away the fragments of what few windows remained in the building, as well as the various trash and litter that pocketed the ground underneath them.

Both Ryoma’s hand and Emiel’s leg spurted out blood as bone and muscle shattered from the blow. Ryoma staggered back in pain as he gripped at his hand, while Emiel tumbled back to the ground and collapsed on his back for good. He was still alive… but he was done for now.


Phoenixes Arc 3: Scene 1 [Follow the Lightning]
South District
Ryoma, Noa, Hitoshi

As Noa was sent to a new location she couldn’t get any angrier than she was already now, as her back crashed into a metal support beam. When she looked at herself, she was able to see her dress had been torn a bit, and that blood was now coating her body. Though she was more concerned with her outfit than her wounds, she screamed aloud “You bastereds ruined my fucking dress!!!”. Looking at the beam, then looking towards the Oranjese goons that were a fair distance in front of them. Noa went on to grab the beam, tearing it out, of the ground before throwing it towards the Oranjese goons, then marched towards another in order to do that process again, she kept doing the same process until either the place started to crumble down or the goons that were in her sight were turning into puddles of blood.

One of the poles that Noa had ripped out of the ground flew towards the Oranjese she was fighting, with the molten fisted man punching it directly to melt it at the impact area and send its requisite pieces flying apart. But he was not quick enough to block the second as it collided with him and sent him flying backwards with a panicked yell. But the panic grew among the others as Noa’s streak of destruction caused the very foundation of the building to start to collapse. Sheets of metal fell from above and the metal walls groaned from the now additional stresses placed upon them.

The clawed Oranjese man that had struck at Noa dodged one of Noa’s flying pillars but also had to contend with the falling debris from above as the warehouse’s fragility came into full effect. The man with the molten fists struggled to get up at first as he was pinned by the heavy steel that was now atop him. He placed his hands on the metal itself to start to melt it, while the goon that opened voids moved in to try to help his comrade quickly. However, this proved to be a mistake as it left the clawed man by himself to face Noa.

Noa leaped onto the man without any hesitation and knocked how to the ground again with her hands around his neck, leading him to choke as she crushed down on his windpipe. He struggled in vain to get her off, and instead resorted to stabbing his claws into her ribs. But Noa, through her endless rage, ignored this as he increased the pressure further and further until and audible snap was heard and the man went limp as his eyes rolled into the back of his head.

Meanwhile with Tyr, he flinched as another wound appeared on his body, but he was now aware of the two opponents he had to face off with, one using the distance and one occupying him in close combat. He decided to use the closer man to his advantage and focus entirely on him. Tyr made sure to keep a closed distance between them and their melee fighting opponent , making it so that the risk of friendly fire increased. He put himself at an angle between their two opponents to make it so that the needle guy would be guaranteed to hit his ally if Tyr dodged. But Tyr wanted to keep up the pressure not wanting to give their opponents time to think about the situation they were in. Despite the mans armor he knew that he would still feel the hits he was gonna be taking along with the fact that there were most definitely a few chinks in the armor he was wearing. Tyrs focus soon went to those areas as he jabbed, thrusted and slashed at the man with precisional strikes.

Positioning himself so close made it difficult for the armored man’s ally to aid him, and greatly reduced the projectiles sent Tyr’s way. Although occasionally as they continued to fight, with Tyr slicing at the man’s armor to find a weak point, a projectile made its way over to him that he deftly blocked. Every strike that Tyr delivered fed more into the man’s defenses that had been plastered onto him. As the man threw another punch that missed past Tyr’s head, he saw his opening: a part of the armor had been rudimentarily affixed across the man’s side, which in turn left a gap.

Tyr swung about, rotating his entire body as he repositioned himself to the man’s exposed side and thrusted, digging his blade deep into the man as he yelled out in pain. Blood splattered from his mouth as he desperately gripped at the sword, trying to push Tyr out of him but it was too late. The wound that had been given was mortal and would kill him soon enough. Instead, he yelled out and delivered a punch directly to the blade itself. The impact doubled, then tripled in intensity which caused the blade to not just bend, but fractured completely where he had struck.

But soon thereafter, the man fell down onto his back and squirmed for a bit as he bled out and began to die. This left Tyr just by himself and his final opponent, who now yelled out in panic as he released a flurry of projectiles at Tyr to avenge his fallen comrade. But by now, his attacks had become predictable enough that Tyr didn’t even need his danger sense to dodge them. He swiftly dashed left and right, making himself difficult to catch until, at last, he closed the distance between them and jabbed his broken blade straight into the man’s chest, piercing his heart. The man coughed out blood as he gripped onto Tyr, looking into his eyes as the light faded from his body, until he collapsed dead.


HITOSHI vs Oranjese Boss [PART 2]
Phoenixes Arc 3: Scene 1 [Follow the Lightning]
South District
Ryoma, Noa, Hitoshi

On the bosses’ approach, he prepared to pummel ruthlessly into Hitoshi but staggered when the warehouse began to show signs of structural failure. This provided Hitoshi an opening as he scrambled back to his feet and picked up an iron bar of his own and swung at the boss. The steel collided with the man’s exterior shell, cracking away at his defenses as it peeled away some of the metal he had merged onto himself.

This only confirmed to Hitoshi in his mind that he simply needed to break the man’s defenses without the need of his own fists. And so he swung again, and again, thudding against the boss’ metal shell and taking out chunks of his defenses. One of Hitoshi’s weaponized strikes struck the Boss directly in the face, tearing off a chunk of metal from his face and causing him to yell out in anger.

But when Hitoshi struck out again with his metal pipe, the Boss caught it deftly in his hand and snarled before delivering a kick straight into Hitoshi’s gut. The Phoenix staggered back as he clutched at where he had been hit, before being punched straight in the face. This blow sent Hitoshi straight to the pavement on his side, before he was rolled on his back with the Boss sitting atop him and began to choke Hitoshi with a brutal gasp.

Hitoshi clawed as the Boss to try to find an opening for air as his windpipe was closed down on. He could feel the edges of his vision start to go black as the Boss’ furious eyes stared him down. A part of his face revealed the normal skin underneath his metallic defenses… which Hitoshi realized was his chance. He jabbed a finger straight into the Boss’ exposed and pushed down hard.

The man’s scream was unimaginably painful as his jellied orb was squeezed on, until he no logner could bear it as he pushed himself off Hitoshi and clutched at his eye. “YOU FUCK!!! I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU-” he shouted before a piece of the roof fell atop him, burying him in metal and steel. Hitoshi gasped for air as he clutched at his throat, having come near death to such an extent. That was more than enough excitement for one day for him as he staggered to his feet and narrowly dodged a falling piece of sheet metal from above. “H-holy shit! We gotta get outta here!” he shouted to the other Phoenixes, who had finished up cleaning their fights.

Stros Stros Peckinou Peckinou
Tigers Arc 3: Scene 3 [The Faceless Fox]
North District

A sarcastic “Ooh~” could be heard from Scarlett as she fearlessly glared up at the black hellhound with a triumphant smirk on her face.

Ha! Never seen somethin’ like this before. Wouldn’t a Tiger be more fittin’, kid??” Her smirk quickly turned into a grin– her excitement becoming more and more apparent by the second. Slowly, the palm of her hand made that same whirr-noise, as a bore large enough to fit a twelve-gauge shotgun opened up within it.

Say…” She started, lifting her hand with her palm now facing the golden set of eyes that glared at her through the hazy black fog around them.

Why don’t we test how loyal your fuckin’ doggy is, kid?!

BOOM! A loud bang rang throughout the bar as sharp, burning-hot pellets exploded out of her hand, headed straight for Dante’s body.

The first thing that got to him was the muzzle flash— the hand flash, rather.

He spurred into motion; eyebrows pinched as his head jerked away from the light. He gritted his teeth— palms to the head and forearms pressed together in front of his face— ready to catch the full brunt of it with his body if need be.

It was a sharp feeling, tightening his abdomen like he were bracing up for a sledgehammer to drop on his gut. His head dropped forward and his body followed, a hand coming down to clench at his core, expecting that warm, wet feeling of blood drenching his dress shirt. There was nothing. — “…Fuck,

Didn’t take away from the scare factor at all.

His head kept dipping forward until he felt his forehead press against something, tips of matted, messy fur grazed his skin. His eyes shifted up at her. Cold, dark beyond measure. Too dark for him to see through, even with his glow-in-the-dark eyes.

Yeah, yeah, yeah,” — She started — "Whining, whining, complaining, complaining— quit it will ya?. Not my fault you’re this slow. Thought y’had that under control.” — Cerb’s voice echoed in his mind, as condescending as always.

The wolf had fresh, steaming bullet holes all around her frame; the dark matter struggling to bind itself back together. She stood bipedal with both legs bending at an uncomfortable angle, hunched over and barely scraping the ceiling— like a monster from one of those old slashers

Whaddaya say we kill the rest of these chumps and leave only the redhead breathing? She’s funny, I like her~” — Her snout stretched and deformed to allow that deranged grin of hers to grow larger.

Dante merely exchanged a brief look. Grunting, raising his chin up at the wolf. Extra dead behind the eyes.

You’re so mean,” — She whines and complains in a shaky, high-pitched girly voice.

Slowly, she came back down on her four legs — “On your mark then.

He sighed; rolling up his sleeves to the elbows; silencing his mind; stifling a complaint; wondering if the whole ordeal was even in his paygrade by that point.

Not that it really mattered — “Go.

The hound lunged into a blur of motion, a straight b-line in Scarlett’s direction, looking to snatch by the jaws the first set of legs she’d bump into, wrapping her claws around the next.

The attack was successful, and Scarlett was now completely immobilized, trapped in the relentless lockjaw of the dark beast. A grunt of pain pushed out from between gritted teeth, but instead of an expression of pain, she boasted an even greater smile as she bled into the gnashing teeth and razor-sharp claws.

Following the attack, Scarlett was missing a pinky finger. It popped off like the tail of a lizard, and the instant it made contact with the ground, the entire bar was filled with a sudden, bright flash of white. It was a flashbang.

Conditioned to react to the concussive blast, Scarlett was quick to recover, immediately aiming her hand forward and firing another shotgun-like blast in front of her.
The light had flooded the room, and Dante only had moments of conscious to register the look that had crossed into Scarlett's face. It was as if someone were holding film strips in front of his face, bleeding and blurring together; there was a bang that followed a pause, then a ringing, soon enough the world seemed to melt from his eyes. No— it was as if his very eyeballs were liquefying from all the light.

It sure as hell felt like it.

Another bang, one he didn’t quite catch by ear alone, he felt it racketing his body and searing through. He had to grit a scream silent once the kick of the blast rocked him off balance, immediately falling on both knees. Then there was darkness. An impenetrable darkness..

For a moment the thought crossed his mind, am I dead?

No. He wouldn’t be feeling the pain tearing his body apart if he was. It’d take more than that to put him down.

So for now, he’d listen. In absolute darkness. His raspy breathing, choking out a gurgle of blood. The low grunting of the circle of men who’d also gotten the flash. Incessant ringing, resonant, booming on his ear. Something rasping, hitting the creaky floorboards beneath him.

It was his own, bloodied up hand trembling at his side. Knuckles grazing splinters, almost pealing against them. His own body felt adjacent; it whined and ached without his permission.

He couldn’t feel shit above the waist.

In that small beat to pick himself back up, there wasn’t even a semblance of self-preservation, no fear of death— he just hoped that the envelope with the money was still intact.

” — He’d worry about that later. Right now, the only thing on his mind was willing his legs to move.

He winced; the light was starting to come back into his eyes. His body was minced meat neck-down, but at least it was healing.

You’re leakin’, Dante… Move.” — The voice of a woman came to his ears. Low, deceptively calm.

He caught a few glimpses before everything went dark, he only had the notion that Scarlett was still standing right in front of him, that the wolf still had her in a lock.

She was still there beside Scarlett, over half of the dark figure looking like a knot of strings hanging on a steaming skeleton. Only an arm left, barely held together by a few strands wrapped on Scarlett’s leg— but holding on nonetheless.

What remained of the claw broke whatever had latched itself onto Scarlett. Reforming. Digits bunching up together and curving like a meat hook.

Being gentle was off the table by that point.

The tar-like limb threw back and snapped forward with a whiplash, cutting and snapping at the wind with such force that you could hear the swish of empty air breaking at it. She aimed right above the knees, full-force. It was meant to cut right through.

If the cut landed or not, Dante took the chance to rush at Scarlett. Only guided by that annoying mop of red hair of hers jutting out from the blur. He prepped up a heavy right, looking to check her in the nose. On the trot, he’d sidestep into her, snap a backhand to the same spot. Try to rattle her senses even more, get her off the ground with a kick.

His body was still a raging sore. There was no telling if it’d move the way he wanted.

A sharp, immense pain overtook Scarlett’s senses for a brief moment, and her focus immediately shifted to catch a glimpse of what remained of that damned mutt’s filthy paw slicing through her leg…

…However, just like last time, she was somehow able to smile in the face of danger.

The world moved in slow-motion for Scarlett. This wasn’t the first time the battle-scarred woman had a limb cut off. She would only have a split second after the majority of her leg had been severed off to perform her counterattack. Once the lightning fast, scythe-like claw had finished cutting through, she lost her balance immediately. While she fell, time seemed to speed back up.

I saw that. So it’s light that bursts ‘yer bubble, hah?

The cocky grin on the redhead’s face warned that despite the damages, she likely felt that she was in no particular danger at all.

That’s why you took out the neon sign. That’s why ‘yer little puppy looks like a hot fuckin’ mess right now. I get it…!!

Blood and adrenaline rapidly swarmed throughout her body, numbing the immense pain that came with having one’s leg cut off. She made sure to look Dante directly in his gleaming eyes as the now detached leg suddenly began to glow during its descent to the hard floor beneath them. Surely a flashbang the size of an adult human leg would be enough to fully take that fucking beast out, right?

Before she could see the final outcome of the explosion, her vision was overtaken by an oncoming fist– moving towards her face at missile speeds.

A powerful blow to her face completely knocked her vision away for a moment. Then another. Finally, one more.

And, though she managed to remain conscious throughout the viscous combination she’d just been hit with, as soon as she opened her eyes…


… She was hit with a blinding burst of white.


Scarlett’s eyes had finally opened when she felt something… wet. The sudden uncomfortable sensation caused her to shoot up from the ground, to see that it was only one of her fellow bargoers pouring a bucket of water over her to bring her back to the realm of the living.

Her vision, still hazy, slowly stabilized itself until she was able to see everything around her clearly. Several Serpents were laid out on the ground– yet none seemed to be wounded in any particular way. The ones that were standing were perpetually rubbing their eyes and blinking rapidly. Despite their almost drowsy behavior– and, of course, the poor state of the bar itself– everybody seemed to be okay.

However, to the woman’s utmost disappointment, her leg was back– and her thrill-inducing prey was nowhere to be seen. Nor was the envelope he had been so enthralled by. She had been out for too long.

Still weak, she used the countertop of the bar to raise herself to her feet, and hastily poured herself a drink.

Looks like… I took you all out, huh…?

The Serpents who were conscious all seemed to unanimously shoot an annoyed grimace in her direction. They were clearly displeased with being seen as nothing more than collateral in Scarlett’s desired victory.

I get it, I get it. I fucked up…

A few more seconds of silent animosity passed, before she took a nip of her beverage, and raised her glass in the air for all to see. Despite the glares, she shot a boastful, beaming smile at them all.

...So the next 5 rounds’re on me!

More silence, and then, suddenly, an uproar of cheers flooded the Venom House. Despite their loss, the viper-pit had been reunited…

…And the Faceless Fox’s cell phone rang once again.


Haze- Haze-
dragons arc 3: scene 1 [securing the future]
east district, tech expo
sophia, jesper, kasumi, “jane”, amari
securing the future
When Sophia stepped in front of Amari, she froze, and her teeth bared angrily. Although it took a second for her to register who had just approached, when she did the rage she felt began to melt away. With a soft whine, Amari leaned into Sophia's touch and while it did little to help the pain, it was comforting and she could feel her mind beginning to clear. Her gaze followed the winged woman as she sat down in the only chair left in the room.

"Victory drink, anyone?"

As much as Amari wanted to respond, they couldn't. They were still trying to will themself to become human again, but when that was unsuccessful they trudged over to Sophia and sat beside her. With a small huff, Amari gently rested their head on the tall woman's lap, eyes closing. They could feel their body relaxing as they listened to Sophia's laughter and let out a content sigh.

After what felt like forever Amari's body finally shrank, limbs returning to normal and fur vanishing. Her clothes weren't too damaged, thankfully, but every movement was excruciatingly painful; her entire body ached as though she'd been hit by a train. Even something as simple as opening her eyes was too much for her, so she stayed completely still with her head resting lightly on Sophia's lap.

Amari tried to speak, but the effort it took made her nauseous, so she waited until it passed to try again. It took a couple of tries but eventually, she forced the question out.

“Hey Soph, can we go home?"

Securing the Future
East District, Tech Expo, Private Meeting Room
Jesper, Amari, Sophie, Kasumi, "Jane"
Securing the Future
Everything, from the pooling blood to the gargantuan wolf that Amari became, played out in hyper speed. It hadn't yet settled in that it was over; that their attacker, who what felt like moments ago pressed a knife to his neck, lay motionless. He didn't remember the last time Amari unleashed her full form, but it was just as intimidating as he recalled.

"Jesper!" Before the boy even realized it, a pair of arms wrapped around him in a warm embrace. Sophia Albrecht, having stepped over the rubble of the wall, buried her face in his shoulder. Two venue security guards followed a distance behind. Jesper didn't realize how much he shook until she got to him.

"I-I'm okay..." he muttered, though his hand instinctively reached for his neck.

Sophia took a breath, rising. Quickly putting on a more composed demeanor, she turned to where Amari rested on the avian butler. "Thank you, all of you. Amari, Sophie, hiring you two was the best decision I ever made. You two are dismissed for today if you need to rest... we'll all have to stay here to 'clean up.'" And to where Kasumi stood over the executed (at which Sophia tried to avert her eyes from). "Kasumi... I'm glad you've stuck with Jesper up to now."

Jesper nodded. He held the same sentiment.

Wordlessly, his mother by his side, the heir walked away.

It was a universal agreement that the Expo was over at this point. The guests had evacuated, and the once lively venue was coming under security enforcement. Finally, the event was coming to a close...

"There's another thing, Jesper."


"It's nothing bad, but... I think it's better if you see for yourself."

Before he could ask again, a faint voice emanated from the room. "Where's Reyner?"

Jesper froze. That voice.

"He ran to his car and drove off the moment things escalated. He's safe."

"And people wonder why he isn't the heir. No Albrecht—no son of mine—runs away so quickly like that. People don't want cowards leading them, they want warriors."

With the help of his mother, he made his way to the door. Even then, he thought he was imagining it; he was gone for so long, and now... As Jesper pushed it open, the ever familiar figure of his father stood. "Dad—?"

"What did you say to her?"
Lars snapped his wide, twitching gaze at him. He stomped over, towering over his son in an instant. "What did you tell that Phoenix bitch?!"

Sophia stepped between them, but Lars' bloodshot eyes remained burned in Jesper's own. They exchanged words with each other; blurry words in raised tones. With the promise of comfort turned into a bed of nails, he realized he was shaking more than before.

Jesper duck his head down. "I didn't tell her anything... S-She didn't have time to—"

"See? That's all you needed to tell me."

A new silence permeated the room; a language only his parents could speak. They walked into a separate room, leaving their son sat frozen with only a blank expression.


"Weren't you worried at all? That's our son! Someone put a knife to his throat!"

"And he'll go through worse in the future!"
Lars said. "Of course I was worried! I would've gone out there if the security had let us, but the fact is that he's safe now, so the next thing we need to worry about is if he revealed anything!"

"She's dead! The threat is over, and her partner is unconscious on the ground! I saw her brains splattered across the floor! Why does it matter?"

"Jesper is the heir to Albrecht Industries, he's 21 now. When he inherits it all, how long can the company survive with a loose-lipped leader? He should know that they wouldn't want him dead, that's how these people work!"

She bit her tongue. You would know about using fear to get what you want...

Lars sighed. "I'm sorry, Sophia. I know I'm the last person right now who has the right to get mad. But... everyday I worried if this family stayed afloat, and words can't describe how proud I am that you took up the mantle I so abruptly left empty." Her heart eased a little. She hated how he always did this. "If nothing about me has changed, then remember what I said back then: everything I do, I do out of love for our family. I've fought so hard to keep us above and beyond, and I don't want to lose everything we worked for. Not the company, not you, not our sons."

Sophia nodded gently, averting eyes. "I understand... I'm sorry..."

Lars exhaled a small breath. "Great. I'll be at the manor. There's a lot to get done."

He's leaving already...? Before Sophia could say anything else, when she looked over to him, she only saw his back side go through an exit. She forced her fists to unclench themselves.

Only she re-entered the room, finding her son exactly where he was earlier.

Sophia took Jesper's hand, sitting beside him. In the bout of silence, when he finally stopped shaking as much, she began. "He's been gone for two years, and we don't know the things he's been through. I'm sure he's tired and weary and... is going through a lot. He means well." But the way she spoke, it was as though she was trying to convince herself, too.

"He hasn't changed at all..."

"What was that?"

Though they all survived today... Jesper couldn't help the feeling gluing him to the seat. The feeling that things were going to change so, so much.


angel doe angel doe @azenmannumber2 @FabulousTrash
Securing the Future
Corvo's Apartment
Securing the Future
The door to her apartment creaked open as quietly as can be. Darkness pervaded the room, save for the TV on muffled volume. Romero darted at her, rising up to her face. A few rough pats and "Good boy's" to calm him, and she sent the doverman away. Corvo finally let go of the breath she'd held from the East; she was safe. Rest would have to come later, though—her job was not finished yet.

Fiddling with a burner phone, she dialed a number: Chikage's. It went to voice mail.

"Mission failed." Corvo grabbed a bottle of wine from a shelf. The aromatic scent of grape trickled out. "And as I've heard, their very Kings disrupted the peace efforts for us, so in essence, it was a fruitless endeavor."

Pouring herself a cup, she went to the television. The heir to Albrecht Industries—the boy she had her hands on—Jesper Albrecht was on. Beside him was the missing father, alive and well... She turned the volume up just a bit. Lars spoke on as if he never went missing, condemning the Phoenixes for the attack.

"I was unable to get Jesper to confess on tape, but I've learned about the people by his side. There's one person with a technomancer Potentiality who messed up the plan. I wrote a file on her, which I'll hand to you when I get the chance. I also gathered some archived recordings of Guardian's discrete testings a year prior to their debut. Maybe you could find something interesting in them. I certainly have... Be seeing you, my tesoro," she ended on a teasing note.

The scene replayed in her mind, over and over. At one point while reviewing the tapes, she thought it would've been a hail mary of a lead; that her husband's last moments weren't even in the array of drone surveillance runs. Part of her hoped it wasn't. But, in the corner of the last file, her impulse was not for naught.

The creaking of a wheelchair made Corvo tense up. "Mamma...?"

In an instant, she was kneeling in the hall in front of her son, hand on his thigh just above his amputated legs. "You should be in bed..."

"I couldn't sleep... You were working all day, today, and I missed you, and, and..."
Despite being hidden by the darkness, she could tell how saddened he was. She knew she was part to blame—that she should leave the past behind and focus on what she still had.

"Silvio..." There's so much I wish to say. That I know who took your father away from us. That her name is Odessa Vidal. The fact I died to learn that... and how I will keep dying if it means your happiness. And that soon... I will make sure she never destroys another family again. "I'm sorry... Mamma will help you to bed, okay? Tomorrow I can get you cannoli from your favorite bakery; we'll eat it together."


She kissed his forehead, making the boy giggle. "Come on, I'll read you whatever you want."

And off to bed they went.

Doctor Llamabean Doctor Llamabean
Last edited:
Tigers Arc 3: Scene 3 [The Faceless Fox]
South District

Calico Agency… never heard of that. Gunboat thought to himself as the girl introduced herself to him. His eyes remained fixed onto her. The way she was carrying herself, the hungry look in her eyes, that grin stitched on her face– the excitement was practically oozing off of her. He could tell that this fight wouldn’t end well.

Gunboat Hidayat, of the Scarlet Phoenixes…” He replied, opting to do the right thing and return her introduction before things got too ugly. “The pleasure’s all mi–

He wouldn’t have enough time to finish speaking, as one of the expensive tables in the club was now flying at him at a dangerous speed. Smart girl. He mused, raising his blade to split it directly in half. Hopefully, his contractor wouldn’t be deducting damage costs from his paycheck. He’d never mentioned that in the agreement, after all.

Now, where was she coming from? It wasn’t the first time he’d had a table thrown at him– and it probably wouldn’t be the last. Above? Below? Left? Right? Or–


...Of course.

While he gave little to no facial reaction to the fist that had oh-so-rudely planted itself into his solar plexus, Gunboat couldn’t help but let out a pained grunt as he braced his core, casting his blade aside and using the now-freed hand to drive a fist directly for Ji-Young’s throat.

However, before he managed to make contact, the loud, blaring ‘fweeee!!’ of a whistle forced him to come to a complete stop, his fist merely centimeters away from the girl’s neck.

Out came Anthony, a cocky grin on his face– sarcastically clapping his hands. His bartender stood closely behind him, her unwavering smile now coming off as more eerie and unsettling rather than warm and inviting.

Calico, huh?” He called from the balcony Ji-Young had leapt off of only minutes prior. “Interestin’. All it took was some adrenaline ‘ta get you to reveal who you really are, huh?

His grin grew even wider, slanting his maniacal, calculating eyes upwards while he continued to speak. “Gunboat, you did well. Very well. Now, get her outta here.”

The dark-haired man nodded his head in subservience, relaxing his body while keeping his eyes locked onto Ji-Young.

...Looks like we both got what we wanted.

Then, without wasting another second, the entire club went black. An immeasurable amount of iron sand flooded the surrounding area, and Ji-Young’s vision had returned to her as quickly as it had turned black. However, instead of being on the teakwood flooring of the expensive club, she now found herself on the concrete outside of it, with the doors quickly shutting behind her.

She had been kicked out by security.

Back inside of Club Celestia, Anthony Carbone was laughing even louder than he had been at the beginning of this whole conflict. “I got a lead! I finally got a fuckin’ lead!” He boasted, using one of the many bar countertops to hold him upright while he guffawed. “Finally! It’s time I figure out who this ‘Inari’ fuck really is and put an end to his bullshit! I can’t wait ‘ta put a bullet right between that freak’s fuckin’ eyes!

Finally, he calmed down. While his bartender poured him a drink, the blue-eyed man’s attention shifted to his ‘employee’. As stoic and nonchalant as ever, Gunboat looked back at the man.

Good work, my friend. I’ll definitely be usin’ ‘yer services again.” He declared, placing a hand on the taller man’s shoulder. “‘Yer pay’s already been wired ‘ta the account you provided us with. And you can keep that envelope as a bonus– Not like that extortionist bastard’ll be needin’ it! HA!

Suddenly, Gunboat’s expression changed ever-so-slightly. “Right. The envelope…” He replied, patting his pocket twice with a stern nod. “...Thank you.

Only, the only thing in said pocket was a ball of lint, and some left-over iron sand from his fight.

Guess the girls aren’t getting incredi-passes this year…

As soon as Akira finished wrapping up his call with Dante, his phone rang once again. He looked at the number displayed on the screen with a pleased smirk.

Pea-brained idiots. Dumbasses. Dipshits… He thought to himself, a black shadow casting itself over his dark eyes. When will the people in this city learn that I’m always ten steps ahead of them…?

With a sigh, he tapped his phone, and lifted it to his ear.

Oh, well. That’s what makes this whole thing fun, after all!

"...Hello, Ji-Young! How did it go?"


YumenoTsukishiro YumenoTsukishiro
Azure Dragons Arc 3: Scene 3 [Ripples of Stardust]
Zhànzhēng Resort, East District
Hiram, Kazue, Ottilie, Mirza, Omar
Zhànzhēng Resort | Outside​

A warm breeze ushered a soft repose to the turbulent shift in circumstances.

“One of you?”

Hiram, who had been floored earlier, had still failed to get up after the sudden strike. It was true the attack had proved impressive, but there was little reason to believe he couldn’t stand back up, let alone fail to exhibit any strain. His body had ceased movement entirely, save for the faint lifting that signaled a persisting breath. Beyond that, the rookie dragon was left with his face to the floor with not so much as a twitching of a finger.

Then, as if ghost possessed, a thin membrane pulled off the seemingly unconscious individual until it crystallized into the upright form of a person—Hiram himself. This fresh fake, extended out their limbs and straightened out the nooks with audible crackling until the form became truly faultless. With an unhindered kick, they sent the body of the original tumbling to the feet of Otillie, so that she might see the new absence of facial features upon her friend’s face.

“We’ll be ALL of you.”

The Hifumi look alike tugged at their immobilized feet, before falling to the floor with a hideous snap. Then, the Hiram look alike leaned over, grabbed them, and forcefully yanked them upward as to gruesomely separate their fellow fake’s body from their newly broken ankles. When they were set back on the ground, their misshapen limbs had already twisted back into two functioning feet.

It had all sounded authentic enough, but lacked the necessary gore for any regular human.

One lunged towards Hiram’s inert form, only to freeze mid-movement. Their animate torso remained suspended while the rest of their body pulled like a dog against a leash. Its ‘heart’ may have been stopped, but the efforts of their limbs certainly hadn’t.

“They don’t bleed and a lack of pulse doesn’t seem to slow them down. Any other ideas?”

The second rushed Arisa, but it too was met with an untimely suspension. Without pause, the gyaru’s hands had struck the necessary pose to lock the entirety of the figure in place, refusing them even the ability to sneer or jape.

This was short-lived, however, as a newly detached limb had been hurled in her direction by the first. Though held back at its core, the doppelganger's arms were free to dismantle the other to utilize as an improvised weapon, and produced a fleeting opening.

Rather than continue its earlier strike, it swiveled around towards Otillie. But instead of being inhibited like the previous look alike, it was met with a strike to its dome. Plastic from top to bottom, the toy katana was unexpectedly enough to knock the assailant’s head clean off. The top glided into the air, yet the body did not cease their assault, and primed digits jettisoned towards the rookie’s neck.

Grizzly contact had been made, only bodily harm had failed to be delivered.

“Well aren't you lot quite the nuisances.”

The false Hiram’s gaze was locked towards Kazue’s interference.

“Let’s see how long you can keep it up.”

The dangling body pushed against the frozen atoms at its core until a ghastly hole at its center granted them freedom. At the bat of an eye, the cavity and the arm were glossed over with fresh form and their charge began anew. The entire encounter might as well have been reset, save for the ailing dragons getting no such reprieve. Without the efforts of the lone veteran, the outcome might have already been decided, but that only stalled the situation’s resolution.

“Get away from them.”

Mirza stood from a distance, clearly having been in a hurry from his quiet panting. The doppelgangers turned at the noise to see him set down the body and satchel he had been holding gently on the ground, keeping with him one slip of paper.

“I won’t let you hurt anyone else.”

Tearing the paper apart between his fingers, an ornate sword appeared in his hands, which he gripped firmly, poised to strike as he walked closer to the impostors.

”I will give you a chance now to surrender, and undo the damage you’ve done.”

“Surrender?” The enemy sneered. “Surely you don’t think your presence here makes any difference?”

Hifumi’s look-alike charged at the Veteran, swinging a fist towards their face. Their approach was intercepted by a raised foot that kicked firmly against their torso, flooring them, though they gave no reaction to the attack. Instantly, they moved to get back up again, only to be met with another foot to the face, bashing in their nose.

“Fix what you did to him,” Mirza moved his foot to press onto the doppelgangers hand with enough pressure to crack bone, his eyes drifted up towards the other doppelganger, Hiram’s, ”to them.”

The crushed nose warped unnaturally, reforming back to its perfect shape, Mirza realizing that he would have to use more force. He thought back to the advice he had been given.

“I don’t really know much about that Sham, but I’m not convinced the effects are permanent. Most things tend to loosen up after giving them a good beat down. I doubt that clown and his potential are any different.”

Worry ran through him, not only for the wellbeing of his fellow Dragons but for the circumstances of the fight. It wasn’t how he liked to do things, in public, unmasked, but he had little choice. He stabbed his sword down through their neck, expecting blood, and perhaps some resistance, but finding neither as it slipped through to the ground beneath with ease. Raising it back up, partially detaching the head, he then followed up by stepping back off the body and slashing at the arms that reached out for him. As it happened before, the limbs once again reformed themselves, but Mirza had already brought his attention over to the second doppelganger, dodging a lunge and slicing through the passing body.

“I’m sorry for not being here sooner, please go attend to them.” Mirza called out to the Dragons that were still standing as he took turns keeping each of the look-alikes at bay. Though they were relentless, undoing everything Mirza did to them, he persisted just as much. As long as they were focused on him they couldn’t harm anyone else.


Mirza caught one of them with a well-timed strike as they tried to rise from the floor, and at that moment, the first signs of residual damage could be seen as cracks formed on Hifumi’s stolen face. And then, the Hiram lookalike almost seemed to deflate into nothing before him. The Dragon took a step back from the doppelgangers, unsure if they had now passed the point where he could show them any mercy.

The warm ocean breeze had been swallowed up by a lingering trepidation, and the noisy fright of the resort grounds had gone silent. Even the blue of the sky above seemed to wane with slivers of gray in the face of a mounting unease. There wasn’t a single drop of conviction left in Sham’s fissured face, with equal uncertainty splattered across it.

Before all else, a new voice shattered the muted atmosphere.

“You’ve lost.”

Absent just moments prior, a figure clad in black was now standing just between the two opponents. Their garbs were bleak and taut while they stood straight with shoulders slack. There was no sand, dirt, or grime on their person, and their attention was concentrated entirely on the kneeling individual. No care was put into the vulnerability of their back nor those behind it.


“Secure your lips, Oswald.” The words were spoken softly. “Not only have you insulted my own denomination, but you would impose your inflated ego upon another?”

They lowered their face to hover just above the one they were lecturing.

“You interfere with another’s plans, jeopardize the welfare of a lead, and despite your pitiful flailing, you still ebb into folly.” They turned to the guarded Azure Dragons. “This entire time you bothered with inconsequential fledglings, while your entire scheme was unraveled by its tail.”

“Do you not hear it?” They asked. “The panic you failed to create yourself has already subsided, and the story you desperately wished to weave has become undone with a simple contract. Your negligence allowed a conference that should never have happened.”

They grabbed the shivering man by the head, lifting his face to their own.

“Have you forgotten your origin?” They glowered. “Have you become so impudent you would mistake this power as your own?”

Their grip on the fringes of Sham’s head tightened.

“You have been absolved of your role, and will return that which you’ve been given.”


All that was left was screaming as his face was rent from his thrashing body. This time, though, torrents of crimson and sinew were torn from the tender red below. Dangling and dripping until the shape of the lifted object reflected the sun’s rays. It was a face, but wipe away the human rind and you would be left with the undeniable arc of a mask.

“I have no interest in a struggle here, Dragons.” They pivoted, allowing Sham’s body to crumple to the ground. “Your victory here is assured, as well as your image.”

Indeed, the stolen faces quickly made their return to their respective bodies.

“I have recovered what I came for. Further conflict will not benefit either of us, wouldn’t you agree?”

Mirza looked up and down at the individual, relaxing as he realized that he would be no threat to them. He nodded, at peace again, but still curious.

“Thank you, but I don’t think this is over, is it? We have matters to attend to now,” he gestured back at his fellow Dragons, “but I’m sure our paths will cross again.” Straightfaced, he continued to stare at them.

“Naturally.” They hummed, as their form was whisked away like a light mist.

Despite the lingering questions that permeated the air, the day had been won. The two comatose rookies were beginning to stir from the nightmare unknown to either, while the many panicked protestors were freed from fright and collected by the astute operations of Omar Ayad. Vans full of paramedics and guards quickly enwrapped the entire building in an elaborate lie to maintain order as well as the Veteran’s own personal agenda.

Unaware of the reality that transpired here, the East District would recognize the events as a terrible accident. Harm had been reduced to a minimum, and none could question the continued benevolence of the Azure Dragons.

Today’s wave had been quelled, but however small, a ripple extends far.
Azure Dragons Arc 3: Scene 3 [Ripples of Stardust]
East District

For Hifumi, the trip back was full of shame and dejection.

No matter how hard he bit at his lip, or peacefully brushed the fur of the fox in hand, the growing gloom would not escape his thoughts. After all this time, he had come face to face with those he had sought for these last several years. It was an encounter that had been a long time coming, yet his carelessness had allowed himself to be compromised. Without the prowess of the other Azure Dragons, there was no telling where he would have been otherwise.

But that was the least of the strain on his heart.

Every moment since waking up, the rookie had been replaying the events that transpired.

Events on the boat.

Having chosen to wait for the tardy dragons no longer, Mirza and Hifumi had set foot in the resort on their own until they had been quietly apprehended by an unknown enemy. When the rookie had awoken, he found himself separated from his ally on a sea-born vessel. Just steps ahead, was a woman he did not recognize. Someone free of the shielding of a mask, with pained eyes that shone dangerously. Yet her worn colors declared her allegiance, and rank, evidently.

The memory shifted.

“Allow me to offer you the only kindness I can.” She pined, placing a small object in the rookie’s bound hands. “What may seem like betrayals are just loyalties pulled at the seams.”

“I hope you’ll be able to forgive them.”

At the time, Hifumi hadn’t gotten the chance to look at what he had been gifted. Even though he had wished to reject it, the following events made him instinctually seal it away—out of sight, and out of reach.

Now though, he couldn’t stop looking at it.

He had a difficult decision to make.
Phoenixes Arc 3: Scene 1 [Follow the Lightning]
South District
Ryoma, Noa, Hitoshi

The entire warehouse began to fall apart as chunks of the roof barraged the ground floor in various areas, and the remaining pillars crumpled under the stress of having to burden all the weight by themselves. Steel and glass fell down upon the Phoenixes, and the remaining Oranjese, which made the situation all the more clear to everyone in their right mind. Hitoshi hobbled as quickly as he could to a nearby opening that had been created as part of the wall of the warehouse fell down completely.

“OVER HERE!!” Hitoshi yelled to his friends. “QUICKLY!”

As unimaginable pain coursed through Ryoma's hand, still yet he forced it to take the shape of a fist. Raising his guard, he readied himself as he waited for Emiel to rise. Only to soon realize that their fight had finally reached its conclusion as Emiel remained on the ground. It was understandable given the damage they had both just suffered. With his own hand being shattered, he was certain Emiel's leg in return had suffered a similar fate. Though oddly, a part of him still secretly hoped the Oranjese fighter would rise to fight again.

Lowering his guard, Ryoma looked over the bodies of the dead Oranjese as the warehouse began to all but collapse around them. Coming back to his senses, he realized that the battle had been won. At the sound of Hitoshi's voice from across the room, his eyes drifted to his old friend. Content to see him no longer bound and beaten, he then redirected his gaze to his fallen opponent.

Emiel could barely move as he watched the roof above start to bend and give away, but he did let out a chuckle. “Aha… hah… that was… the greatest fight of my life… I think.” he managed to get out, breathing in heavily despite the pain. His leg was a mess, and he felt the mountain of pain crawling over him. And yet, the lieutenant didn’t care as he lifted his head up weakly to face Ryoma. “...you really are strong. I never stood a chance.”

Noas Tattoo of Aggression was still active, as the warehouse fell around her, she didn’t care she kept strangling the dead Oranjese corpse until their neck was completely deformed. Tyr meanwhile was a bit worse for wear, but he knew that he would have to get Noa out of here. The only practical way to get her out in her current state was to lure her out, so he took his now destroyed blade and threw it to Noa letting it bounce off harmlessly against her. But it did grab her attention as she looked over toward Tyr, anger clearly etched on her face. Noa tossed the corpse off the side and charged towards Tyr leaving a small crater in the ground she was once standing in Tyr quickly dodged and made moves to go outside. Noa quickly followed them out as well, when they were out Tyr focused mostly on dodging Noas attacks, until her Tattoo of aggression wore off. Though his movements were a bit slower than before, likely due to all the wounds he accumulated during the fight with the smaller gang, it was nerve wracking, and he knew if Noa was able to land one hit on him, he would likely be done with.

The two Oranjese that Noa had been fighting as well were now also in the danger zone of being crushed by the warehouse collapse. And so, the void opening one surrounded the two of them and disappeared from sight as the opening dissipated. They had made their escape, and were unlikely to ever be seen again.

Ryoma clicked his tongue at this. Watching the Oranjese disappear from the warehouse, he had thought they might have enough loyalty to at least not leave their own behind. Though, he understood keenly the thin line one normally walked when they depended on others. It was one of the reasons he had always been willing to help anyone in the Phoenixes with anything. Ryoma's eyes drifted to Hitoshi once more as he continued to call out to him, before he turned back to Emiel.

"Hmph... don't sell yourself short. You shattered my hand just now... not just anyone could do that."

Ryoma spoke genuine words of praise as his gaze lingered on his broken hand. Lowering it, he continued.

"You fought honorably... Now. Come on. You don't deserve to die in a place like this... Can you stand?"

Walking over to his defeated opponent, a patch of sheet metal soon after came loose from the ceiling. Crashing down to the floor where Ryoma once stood, he lacked any sense of haste, even as the metallic pigment of his skin was beginning to fade. Signaling that his own Potential had finally reached its limit as well.

Emiel looked at Ryoma with a confused look, as he had not expected any help of any kind. But he was not one to be prideful enough to reject it as he laughed and slowly sat upwards. “My leg is fucked… so I can’t walk even if I wanted to.” Emiel commented as he looked at his bloodied and brutalized limb. It was visible that his bones were not the way they were supposed to be down there as the skin began to take a reddish-purple hue from the internal wounds. “Tsk… I’ll be lucky if I can walk again with it.”

His face had also started to swell and take on a purplish hue from where he had been struck by Ryoma just moments ago, which compounded the pain he felt from his leg and his other wounds. “I deserve a lot of things… bad things, to happen to me. The longer this gang shit goes… the more you start to… lose your way.” Another piece of the roof fell nearby, kicking up dust, dirt and scrap into the air. “But you? …I can tell you still got it… lucky bastard.”

"Heh... Well, having a mentor helps. ... Come on. This is gonna hurt like hell."

There was truth to Emiel's words. The injury he had sustained wasn't everyday, and there would be serious rehabilitation needed. It was possible that his fighting prowess would be forever altered. Though, it still remained to be seen whether his fighting spirit would suffer similar injuries. While bones could be shattered and limbs lost, they hardly counted for one's will to fight. He would need to see the next day in order to find out what the future held.With this in mind, Ryoma said nothing in response to the matter.

Instead, crouching low in front of Emiel, Ryoma grabbed hold of the man's off arm and slung it around his back. Giving very little prompting other than what had been given, he then lifted the man up and onto his shoulder. Pausing a second at Emiel's initial grunts in pain, Ryoma then encouraged him to start to hobble on the good leg he had left. The two of them slowly then began making their way towards Hitoshi and the others. Before what remained of the warehouse above joined what was now on the floor.

Emiel hobbled along with Ryoma’s support, much to Hitoshi’s surprise before they all bounded out of the building, following Tyr and Noa with the former avoiding the uncoordinated and mindless attacks of the latter. In the moments that passed, the warehouse completely collapsed behind them as the structure failed completely. The walls caved in under themselves as the roof fell down altogether, all of which kicked up dust and dirt in the air with loud crashes and bangs.

Emiel let out a hiss of pain as he tumbled to the ground again on his side before rolling up on his back to view the sky above. To him, it almost seemed liberationary to see the outside in this context… it made him rethink the very basic things of the world he had often taken for granted. The sky being blue, or the clouds floating above, or even the sun shining.

Hitoshi looked back at the collapsed warehouse, observing for a few moments before sighing and sitting on the ground. He was banged up pretty badly himself, but aside from that he was still ready and able. He did grip at his side as he groaned before looking over to Emiel with a frown, then to Ryoma: “...I’m guessing you got a reason for pulling him out?”

Ryoma let out a chuckle. More so laughing to himself than at anything that Hitoshi had said. Shortly thereafter, he simply shook his head in response.

"No... Nothing like that..."

Looking in the distance for a moment as if trying to find the words there to express the motivations for his actions. Ryoma then turned briefly to look at Emiel as he lay injured on the ground. There were a dozen different things that could be said as to why he had saved the enemy Lieutenant. The chief being that the man after everything, had shown himself to be honorable in their fight. And that after having thrown everything he had at Ryoma and losing fairly. To then die at the hand of falling debris, because Ryoma was unwilling and not unable to help him, would be dishonorable.

Ryoma had wanted to state this clearly, but felt he knew what the reply would be.

"Like hell!"

He imagined Hitoshi exclaiming, before stating the obvious crimes against the Oranjese Lieutenant, that his path in life had amounted and thus merited his death. But, that ignored the harsh fact that they were all in no better positions. Nearly every Phoenix had the blood of someone on their hands. Some in particular more so than others at that. Though, from his long time spent as a Phoenix, Ryoma had noted the gradual shift towards it being treated as more customary instead of simply "necessary". And all the more problems that had arisen from that practice since then.

Mixed with the bag of other personal justifications he had, made the question seem to Ryoma all the more unanswerable. More accurately, that there would be no answer deemed "right". After a short pause, and with Hitoshi's face beginning to shift from confusion to more disbelief. Ryoma shook his head once more, before continuing. Attempting to put it all into a manner that was relatable to his old friend.

"Everyone could use a second chance at life Hitoshi. You ought to understand that."

Everyone could use a second chance.
It wasn't that the lieutenant deserved it. It was regardless of whether he needed it, wanted it, or would inevitably use it. At the end of everything and at one point or another, everyone could use a second chance extended to them by another. For better or for worse.

Hitoshi stared at Ryoma for a moment before sinking his head between his own legs out of shame. “I put you all through so much bullshit. My own mess caused all this. I’m… I’m sorry.” he managed to get out, “You guys had no reason to look after me… and yet you did. Why?” He looked up again, with moistened eyes, towards Ryoma and then to Noa, who had by now been freed from the effects of the tattoo she was under as it dissipated.

"Do you even need to ask?..."

"How many times have we been through this song and dance before Hitoshi?... It's just like always."
Ryoma answered. Recalling the years before.

"But... you picked a hell of a time to go running off. The city is in a mess right now... Everyone... is off fighting..." Ryoma's voice trailed off as he thought back to the messages stored on his phone. While it was true that this wasn't the first time a rescue mission had been launched after Hitoshi, or any Phoenix for that matter. The timing really couldn't have been worse. Though, ultimately there was no helping it.

"You owe Anya a drink, you know… When we get back... You'll have to tell everyone about your crazy adventures last night. I'm sure they'll get a kick out of it."

Hitoshi looked away in shame when it was brought up what was exactly happening in the city. “It’s not just *that* I owe…” the older Phoenix spoke in self-hatred.

Emiel groaned as he sat upright, breathing in heavily before speaking: “At least… you have better comrades than I had. They stick by you to the end…”

Hitoshi looked at Emiel with both a look of annoyance and confusion, but shoved his own personal gripes aside as he himself sighed and looked away. “Why are you pretending that what you helped do didn’t happen?”

“I’m not.”
Emiel replied bluntly, “Helping torture someone isn’t something that leaves the mind easy. I ain’t about that stuff.”

A dry laugh escaped from Hitoshi’s mouth as he looked up to the sky from where he was seated, before wiping his eyes with his hand. “And you did so much to stop it. Your shithead boss beating the shit out of me with a pipe for… I don’t even know what.”

“You made fun of him at a bar during an impromptu stand up routine.”

Hitoshi’s gaze twirled back around to Emiel in shock: “...what?”

“He’s a petty, vindictive, sadistic *shithead*, as you described him. Dragged me and the crew across the damn city we were supposed to be *vacationing* in because his *feelings* got hurt.”

Hitoshi didn’t know how to respond to that at the moment, at such an absurd reason to have gone after him in the first place, and instead looked off to the distance where the smoke and fires rose from the city at large. It all hit him like a train at that moment… the Phoenixes were out there, while he was here in his own spiral of destruction and self-pity. Dragging people into his own problems when they were needed elsewhere… or just into danger because of his own selfish, destructive tendencies. “Oh fuck… fuck… I-I need to… I can’t go on like this.” he sputtered out, his eyes tearing up again as the guilt flooded his mind.

“I’m such a fuckup… I gotta apologize to Lyric… and everyone else.” Hitoshi continued, “For not being there when I was needed…”

“You’ll get your chance to. C’mon, lets get out of here-” Ryoma began to say until the metals of the collapsed warehouse began to shift. Everyone shifted to observe this sudden disturbance as a bloodied and dirtied figure arose from the ruins. Emiel’s Boss, with metal impaling his body at several points, pointed a gun straight at his own lieutenant with a hateful look in his eyes. “You… if you did your fucking job… fucking die you usless fuck…” he spat out with blood as a defiant, final words as he pulled the trigger.

The first few shots missed wildly, giving testament to just how incompetent the man was in general, and hit the concrete around Emiel and the Phoenixes. The lieutenant himself stared down his boss with a hateful look of his own, intent on not going down cowering as he gritted his teeth. He was ready to greet death, but Ryoma got in the way much to his shock. He wanted to yell out ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?’ to the Phoenix, as he seemed fully intent on sacrificing his self-preservation for someone like him.

A bullet ripped through Ryoma’s knee, then shoulder, and then his waist. Blood spurted out as the projectiles ripped through flesh and bone; time seemed to slow for Emiel, Noa, Tyr and Hitoshi as they watched with shock in the moment. For Emiel especially he could only sit and watch pathetically as a man, who he had only ever met today, fought with, quarreled with, and nearly died against, went out of his way to shield him. Why? He could only think to himself with regards to the man’s nature.

Emiel’s Boss collapsed and died finally, letting out a death rattle as the darkness took hold of him. Atop a heap of collapsed steel, in an unimportant part of a ruined city, an unimportant and hated man finally passed from the world unceremoniously. Ryoma however, collapsed onto his side as he clutched at his side from the wounds he had just received. Hitoshi rushed over to his side, panicking: “FUCK!! Don’t die… don’t die on me!” he yelled as he put pressure onto Ryoma’s knee, as that was the gun wound that was bleeding the most.

Another victim of the problems he had created. Hitoshi fully realized that this was only going to continue happening. It wasn’t just himself he was killing… but the people he called friends. The people that trusted him. They would get dragged down with him into the abyss. Things *have* to change.

“CALL FOR HELP!” Hitoshi shouted at Noa, who quickly brought up her phone. She knew someone, and if they acted fast then Ryoma would be fine. He’d live. He HAD to live.

“Stay with me, stay with me!!”

Emiel watched with his mouth agape, still frozen in shock from what had transpired until he shook his head and growled. Dragging his mangled leg, he brought himself over to Ryoma and began to apply his own pressure to Ryoma’s shoulder wound. He would at least help try to repay an insurmountable debt he had now incurred. “You better not fuckin’ die. Not after all that.” Emiel muttered, “You’ll be fine…”

He then moved to take off his belt and handed it over to Hitoshi to use as a makeshift tourniquet for Ryoma’s leg. Wordlessly, Hitoshi grabbed it and applied it with as much strength as he could while tying it. They could stop the bleeding, but Ryoma’s own future prospects to be able to fight were questionable at best.

For a few moments, Ryoma said nothing. He simply stared at where the lifeless body of the Oranjese's Boss now stood. Before suddenly, he began softly chuckling to himself. Quickly regretting his decision, he tensed as a cough racked his body with pain. Nevertheless, the stubborn laugh returned albeit a bit midler. It might have seemed that he had finally lost his mind. That was, until he finally spoke.

"Heh... You know... I was just thinking... Yesterday... I should retire... Haha.. *cough* *cough*"

Beginning to breath a bit heavily, both due in part to the extended fight moments before and the injuries he had just sustained. In spite of the immediate threat he faced, Ryoma's composure showed no signs of cracking. In between breaths, he looked from Hitoshi to Emiel half expectantly before asking nonchalantly.

"Anyone... got a cigarette?... I could use one... about now. *cough*"


  • 「 — 」
    The Next Wave
    The television screen flickered to life, casting a soft glow across the dimly lit room. With a burst of color and sound, the familiar New Oasis News logo appeared, accompanied by a triumphant news jingle. The image quickly transitioned to the poised and professional news anchor, Jennifer Lawson, as she prepared to deliver the latest updates to the residents of New Oasis.

    “Good evening, everyone. We bring you the latest updates on the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that rocked New Oasis. Central District, the city narrowly avoided a catastrophe, thanks in large part to the heroic efforts of our local Police Department and first responders.”

    After a pause, her tone darkened with urgency and concern.

    “However, we have breaking news from Lower Central today. A terrifying outbreak has been reported, with multiple eyewitness accounts of what appears to be chimeric transformations affecting the local population. Many once-human individuals have been falling ill, and after just a few days, are awakening with chimeric Potentials. These transformed individuals are displaying erratic and highly dangerous behavior. We go now live to reporter Mark Thompson, on the scene. What can you tell us, Mark?”

    The screen smoothly transitioned to field reporter Mark Thompson, who stood on location in lower Central District. Behind him, the chaotic scene of lower Central District was visible, with emergency vehicles flashing their lights, and first responders attending to affected individuals. Behind them, the district's normally bustling streets appeared eerily quiet and desolate, cordoned off by law enforcement, as the city grappled with the unfolding crisis.

    “Thanks Jen. I'm here in lower Central District, where the situation has taken a chilling turn. The entire area is on high alert as authorities are trying to get a grip on this mysterious outbreak. Panic has begun to spread, as...”

    The camera, focused, found movement on the periphery. In the background, a pair of beady, glowing yellow eyes emerged from the gloom. Mark stopped short, adjusting his ear piece to ensure he was hearing it right.

    “Wait… What's that behind me? It seems like... Oh no! Get off me, get off me!”

    A guttural scream pierced the silence. The camera convulsed violently, shaking as if possessed by an unseen force, while Mark's panicked cries echoed through the gloom.

    As abruptly as it had started, it ended. The camera's violent shaking abruptly ceased, the force of its tumultuous convulsions sending it plummeting to the ground. The lens, now smeared with the grime of the shattered pavement, stared straight ahead, catching a glimpse of Mark Thompson's broken, bloody body, his lifeless eyes staring off at nothing.

    The feed cut out. After a moment, the broadcast in the news room resumed.

    “We've… We just lost contact with Mark. We… apologize for the disturbing images you've just witnessed. We're currently working to gather more information on this developing situation. Please stay tuned to our channel for continuous updates and advisories. Stay safe, New Oasis.”
Lower Central District
The descendants, the dwellers, and the faithful
Today is July 12th, 2022. Also known as the day the world ended. I know what you're thinking. Another day, another dollar. What's one cataclysm to a city rife with end-of-days events, gutters clogged with doomsdays come and gone?

To you, you naysayers... I say, “Come and see.”

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Meirin Azuza
Lower Central District
The descendants, the dwellers, the faithful, Meirin

July 12th. On this day, Meirin had been meeting up with the one person she’d never thought would call her again, her ex, when his flat screen tv suddenly came to life with some starting news. It was like watching one of those horror movies Elias liked to watch, back when they were dating.

“Golly-geez, what is the world coming to~?”

Right. Her sister’s suitor was here as well.

“People are dying, Lu. This is no laughing matter.”

“Who’s laughing? I’m not laughing,”
The sunglass-wearing weirdo held his hands up in a surrendering manner. Meirin rolled her eyes as Elias stepped out from the kitchen with a tray of snacks, her ex’s skin noticeably tanner than she remembered. Lu’s skin as well. It didn’t take a genius to guess where they’d spent the summer. St. Steinburg’s departure, a project of some big-named corporations, had been “newsworthy” as well.

“Central’s property values have definitely hit rock bottom now,” Yumin Entertainment’s heir observed casually. “I mean, the earthquake is one thing, but I can’t imagine people wanting to live in, or even near, an epidemic zone…”

Meirin crushed her can of juice. “Seriously? Property values? Is your head screwed on straight?”

“Calm down, Meirin. It was just a comment.”

“An insensitive, unnecessary one,”
Meirin retorted, eyes flashing. More than ever, the reasons for their break-up was becoming clearer. “We’ve got to help.”


“By beating up the ones responsible!”

Elias pinched the bridge of his nose. “We don’t know the source of these chimeric mutations, we don’t know the strength of these so-called chimeras, and you want to…what? Punch out the chimeras? What if touching one of those things turns you into a chimera? There’s too much we don’t know…”

“What am I supposed to do then!?”

“Wait. The police are investigating it. That’s their job.”

“The police are weaklings! They’ll just die!”

“Not as much as you think, Mei…”

“Eli’s got a point, Meimei. The Local Police Department and first responders saved this city from an earthquake~ They’ve surely got this new outbreak in the baaag~”

Meirin looked between the two boys disbelievingly. Then she shook her head and sighed. “Fine. Just sit here enjoying your snacks. I’ll do this myself.”

She didn’t expect civilians to be much help anyway. Nor did she intend to call Dragons for back up. They had a point. She was taking a big risk by intending to enter an unknown chimera-infected area. Who knows how much Lower-Central has changed? How many potential mutants were out there? Still…it was just something she had to do. Leave it to the police? Even before being the Sleeping Giant, an Azure Dragon gang member, Meirin was a citizen of New Oasis.

She was Meirin Azuza.

And if she had the power to do something, she did it.

Power without responsibility was just empty chaos. Leaving the chimeras alone solved nothing. At best, they stayed in the Lower District. At worst, they started spreading to the other Districts. To the East...

As she turned, she felt Elias grab her wrist. “What–?” A flood of memories entered her. A mine, The grants, And a few other tidbits… “Wha-?”

“Sort through them at your own time,”

Lu threw something at her, which she instinctively caught with her other hand. An earbud.

“Can’t let my future sister-in-law go off on her own~Put that in your ear. I’ll keep an eye on your surroundings and support you from a distance.”

Meirin nodded, doing as told.

“We,” Elias corrected, slipping a car key in her hand before letting go. “Stay safe. Take the car to conserve energy. Who knows how long you’ll be there. ”

Meirin smiled before dashing off, out the penthouse and down to the building’s garage. Finding Elias’s car took a bit longer than expected, but once she did, she recognized it right away. The same fancy car he’d driven around the East District when he’d lived there. Had it been any other car, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to drive it.

“Let’s see, the key goes in here..”

After several minutes of fiddling, the sleek blue sports car wove out the parking garage, through the west district, and crossed the bridge towards lower central.


Meirin’s earbud came to life. “Meirin, do you read me? Zach will guide you to a safe area where there aren’t too many chimeras to start. Once you get there, park the car where it isn’t visible and scan the area before jumping in.”

“Naaah, she should just ram that baby right through a group of them! VROOOOM~”

“Can’t you be serious for once in your life–”

“Shut up, guys, I’m trying to drive!”
Meirin couldn’t remember if the speed limit was 30 or 20 mph in a residential area, but she thought it better to be safe than sorry. Grip tightening on the wheel, the girl–who was more used to running through the streets with her bare feet–cautiously drove through a tunnel and into the lower district with all the skill of a student driver getting used to a car again.

Frankly, she couldn’t even remember if she had renewed her license.

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The Shanty Town
Lower Central District
Hector, Yong-Yut, Hide
As the southern-most maw of the Lower Central District creaked open, the party of Phoenixes was greeted by a patchwork of twisted metal and makeshift shelters; a labyrinthine sprawl of salvaged raw materials and reclaimed detritus sprawled out before them, teetering shacks cobbled together with cloth and scrap. A chill wind whistled through the gaps in the disorganized row of shacks, as the scent of decay assaulted the senses.

The destruction of the quake had left the unhomed little recourse but to congregate here, for better or worse... Though, by the time the Phoenixes arrived, the Shanty Town appeared all but abandoned. The air was silent, saved for the occasional flapping of a tarp in the wind.

The Docks
Lower Central District
Charlie, Hitoshi
The pair of Phoenixes' footsteps echoed on the cracked cobblestone as they, too, entered Lower Central District. Greeting them was the creak of shipping containers like aged bones, and the lapping of the tepid, oil-slick waters against the water-stained pier. The derelict warehouses loomed over them. Somewhere far overhead a seagull's melancholic cry rang out, below the sky of steel and stone that marked the base of Upper Central. The stagnant air was rife with the stench of brine.

Amid the wreckage, hardened dockworkers persisted. Natural disaster or no, the flow of trade never stopped, and so the work continued. As the Phoenixes tread further, the echoes of dockside labor faded, drowned by a sobering silence, punctuated only by the ominous lapping of the polluted water against the wreckage-strewn shore.

The Coliseum
Lower Central District
Eleanore, Leaf, Noa
As the latest group of Phoenixes dispatched to investigate the disturbance wound their way deeper into the heart of Lower Central, the silhouette of a once-majestic structure emerged from out of the gloom. The stone facade, cracked and worn, stood sentinel against the horrors that stalked the dilapidated district.

Within the safety of its high walls, remants of what once was flickered to life. Life flickered. The echoing cheers and triumphant roars of yesteryear's contests have been replaced by the hum of survival - the murmur of negotiations, the clatter of cooking pots, the crackle of campfires. The once-vibrant field was now a sprawl of tents and makeshift shelters, while the concourses thrummed with the energy of vendors peddling their scant belongings.

A figure in the distance ducked inside of a makeshift medical tent before crouching beside a prone body, pitcher of fresh water in hand.

The Rail Yard
Lower Central District
Tri, Naomi, Peyton
Stepping into the northern reaches of Lower Central District, the trio of Serpents found themselves amidst a sprawling labyrinth of steel and iron - the remnant of a rail yard devastated in the wake of the quake. The deafening churn of locomotives and the sharp, rhythmic clatter of railcars had long since fallen silent, replaced by the muted chatter of scrappers and looters taking their fill of the discarded refuse. Snaking tracks crisscrossed the landscape, leading to ruined husks of locomotives and carriages, some having turned into makeshift hovels. Here, the cast-offs of the city found new life in the hands of those with little left.

The Towers
Lower Central District
Areith, Deirest
The Serpents' trek towards the heart of Lower Central District lead them to an eerie skyline of skeletal giants - towers that had been built in the lower level of the city, out of some misplaced ambition to elevate the under-city above even the heights of Upper Central. Once, these monoliths had stood tall and resplendent, teeming with businesses and high-end residents that did rival the world above. The earthquake tore up their foundations like the roots of a great tree, and left behind a haunting tableau of ruin and despair, their shattered glass windows gaping like a thousand vacant eyes watching over the city in disarray.

The Park
Lower Central District
As the lone Serpent treked ever farther southward into Lower Central District, the urban decay gradually gave way to a desolate expanse of green and brown - the remains of a once-vibrant city park. Once a verdant oasis amidst a jungle of concrete and steel, the park now bore the cruel scars of the earthquake's wrath. Fallen trees and uprooted shrubs littered the landscape, the fractured earth weaving through it like a web of inky blackness, spun from the spinnerets of some eldritch spider-creature.

The once-gurgling fountain still stood, now cracked and silent, the surface of its stagnant waters covered with fallen leaves.

Shantytown, Lower Central
Hector, Hide, Yong-Yut

It was a sight unlike what he had seen on the news. No emergency services, no news crew, no nothin’. That’s exactly what he wanted, but Hector had to admit, the silence was unnerving. Peeling back some loosely attached metal sheets with clawed hands, he peered into one of the many ramshackle structures that lined their path. A few meager possessions were strewn across an air mattress, but nobody to claim them. He turned away with a shake of his head. He wasn’t here to loot. It was a sorry enough site just to pass through, the rotten core of their old empire.

“Looks like the people here already up an’ left, or they’re… Well, that’s what we’re gonna find out, ain’t it.”

Hector was here against all advice, but what choice did he have? Maybe this was all some big joke, after all, he didn’t have much info to go off of. There was the more important chance of this being something much bigger, and he didn’t know how worried he had to be about it. That’s why he brought a party together so quickly. Taking initiative like a leader should, right?


He nodded to the bespectacled man. Thinking of the right people for the job, Hide might’ve seemed a wild choice, but Hector had no doubt that he was needed. One of the people that had been with him through thick and thin, despite their frequent conflicts, he knew Hide wasn’t going anywhere. And thinking practically about the situation, there wasn’t much better power to have in your arsenal than a man who can create obsession, and therefore distraction.


With a growing look of concern, Hector turned his head to Yong-Yut, nodding at her as well. Though he held his friends’ words in high regard, never in a million years would he admit he needed advice. His word was truest of all, why would he ever second guess it? But he had sat down for many talks with the one who was once so cold to him and considered that perhaps she was the closest thing he had to an adviser. Of course, Boltius was his right-hand man, but he wasn’t here today. Perhaps some of the growing fear in the pit of Hector’s stomach was due to his absence, but he had his own business to attend to. Yong-Yut's level-headedness was needed, anyway.

”We’d get nowhere sniffing around each inch of this shithole,” pointing a claw ahead, he led the march forward. ”We keep goin’ till we see what others have seen.”

Hector took a long sniff of the muggy air, unable to tell if it was indicative of their problem, or if it was just like that nowadays. It made him mad, in a way, that Lower had fallen into such disarray. The New Golden Age of The Phoenixes will be upon us soon… Those words drove him forward.

“Why don’t one of you uh…” Without looking back, he waved a hand at the others, “Check your phone? See if anyone’s given an update.”


He flinched at the sound of falling metal, hand hovering in the air, which was now still and silent again. A couple of poles of one structure had fell, that’s all it seemed to be. A tarp roof slid down, unsupported, sending to the floor a cascade of murky water that had been collecting from above. Hector slithered through gaps between the buildings, straying from the established path.

The Museum
Lower Central District
The lone Serpent's journey southward led him to a remnant of a once grand establishment - the Lower Central Museum, as he traversed its crumbling edifice. In the aftermath of the earthquake, with much of the lower city in ruin, it was within these halls, under the shade of fractured marble columns and shattered stained-glass windows, that the city's homeless had found a refuge, their makeshift homes set amidst echoes of a grander past.

Factory Row
Lower Central District
Lorette, Hiachi, Missy
The Tigers left their posh den in the West, arriving in the Factory District of Lower Central. Hollowed out factories, with their skeletal frames and broken windows, stretched out across the horizon. Amidst the ruined machinery and dilapidated assembly lines, people shuffled by here and there.

There was precious little time to take in the scenery, however, for among the smoke-blackened edifices, a flicker of movement catches the Tigers' attention. A diminutive figure darts through the shadows, as elusive as a wisp in the wind, barely discernible, appearing and disappearing in the false-twilight, hunting or perhaps hiding - it was hard to tell.

The Docks
Lower Central District
Charlie, Hitoshi

What happens when everything crumbles around you? When the earth beneath your feet swallows you whole?

It continued to move along. It rotates the axis continuously. The sun will rise, the moon will set. The rain will fall and grass will grow. The cycle continues, undisturbed. It voids all reliability for your fate, and demands you give everything you have back into the circle when you fall.

The world operated on these rules, this understanding of how the world continues to progress forward. No matter the disaster, the system must continue, such was the fate of the interconnected modern world. Fall, dust yourself off, and prepare to fall again. You have a family to feed, you have a dream you want to realize, so you work. An enterprise across the world has made their demands, and they needed to be fulfilled, if you wouldn’t do it, someone else would.

The workers did not walk, they shambled. They relied solely on the strength of their will to support their feeble knees. The concaving ground beneath their feet had become nothing more than a crack in the sidewalk. The occasional piece of stone or glass that came from the sky and slammed against the ground, only feet away from crushing one of their skulls into gray matter and bits didn’t deter them.

Towering high above, the colossal cranes held steadfast, bearing the weight of countless tons of cargo. A ceaseless flow of goods moved in and out, guided skillfully by vigilant workers below, ensuring the safety of every precious item in transit.

Even in this dreary atmosphere, something seemed off. A feeling of dread that spanned deeper than the stench of rotting will from those who had been worked to the bone. An ominous tension, the feeling that made the sweat drip off their backs, a cold sweat of primal fear, that chilled the straining muscles of labor.

In silence, they maintained a humble posture, refraining from exchanging words and instead relying on discrete gestures and solemn nods. Their gaze intentionally averted from the vastness of the sea. They feared looking across the dark horizon, as if the void would look back, and swallow them whole. Instead of looking at the daunting sea, their gaze shifted to more secure places: the peeling paint on towering tankers, the corroding sheet metal of the warehouses nearby, or anywhere else that provided solace. Anywhere but the sea.

Dead fish had floated to the surface, insects swarming above the corpses. As we moved further from the shore, the pollution became increasingly infinite. A thick layer of dark oil covered the water's surface, stretching out towards the horizon. It was as though the oil had permeated the very sky itself, turning it a deep, impenetrable black. Among this darkness, there were no stars. There was only a single light. Bright blue, vibrant, brighter than any distant star. It stood suspended over the sea, radiating like a beacon and capturing everyone's gaze, yet strangely overlooked as if it existed in an invisible realm.


Shanty Town, Lower Central District
Hector, Hide, YY
OUTBREAK - The Shanty Town
Eugh. It smelled terrible over here.

The scarf around Yong-Yut’s neck shuffled up over her nose as she tried, in vain, to wave away the smell. It was reminiscent of death, however with an unfamiliar, unsettling undertone. Her arms made their way around each other, squeezing herself into a hug.

Silver, woeful eyes darted across the makeshift shacks that lined their path. She couldn’t help but empathize with the empty village. Shelters made by unprofessional, shaky hands, only to be abandoned. There were no people, no remains. It was hard to tell what had really gone on here, aside from what she already knew. It pulled to drag Yong-Yut’s spirits down even farther than they already were.

She stalked behind Hide and Hector, stepping carefully through the remains of the desolate street. With the only sound in the area being the trio’s footsteps, the near-silence was deafening.

Hector’s voice easily cut through the lack of noise. She looked towards him from the corner of her eye.

Yong-Yut came to respect Hector over the half a year she had decided to tolerate him. She didn’t always think him the sharpest tool in the shed, but he must be doing something right. They also felt a bit grateful for him for the past month and a half. Of course she had to come along. Even if she wasn’t obligated to, what with him being the Queen and all, she felt it was the least she could do.

As for Hide... She tolerated Hide.

Her arms dropped at the mention of her alias, moving to shove her hands in her pockets. She glanced the way Hector pointed, nodding as he asked something of her and Hide. She simply grasped at her phone, slowly slipping it out of her pocket—

And dropping it, startled by the sudden noise. Her gaze bounced around as she attempted to find the source of the sound. A soft curse was muttered under her breath once she figured out it was just benign.

She picked up the phone off the ground and looked through the messages, shaking her head. “Nothing yet,” she mumbled, putting it back in her pocket.

Her pace picked up speed to join the other two, slowing again once she got close enough to not get lost between the buildings.

“So, we’re looking for some weird Chimeric-looking characters? Like the one on the news,” she nodded to herself. “This place is so quiet. We probably should’ve heard one by now if they were here.” With a gesture forward, she asked, “so why are we going through alleyways when we could’ve just gotten to the next area through the main street?”

WhiskeyMarten WhiskeyMarten Caffeine_Obsessed Caffeine_Obsessed
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