When someone loses all capacity for restraint, they become truly terrifying.
A sudden, high-pitched ringing descended on them from all sides and sent the forest of metal clothing racks, fallen and standing all the same, into a harsh symphony of jangling and rattling. Some of them vibrated to the point of skittering across the floor before toppling over.
The beast could sense them. Three warm bodies.
Bolts that were relied on by the building’s structural skeleton to hold them together quivered in their sockets. Pipes that ribbed the inner hollows of the walls hummed and shivered, shaking loose debris out of cracks carved by the earthquake not so long ago.
Change clattered within the stomach of a cash register. It made its way across the counter and dropped off the edge, drawer snapping open. Pennies, quarters, and dimes were propelled across the floor by a vibration of their own. Anything metal, ferrous or non-ferrous, was affected by the phenomenon.
It was unlike the raw intensity of an earthquake that stole one’s balance and threw spires of earth to the sky. Rather, a numbing frequency. Sickening.
All at once, after many seconds, not quite a minute, the ringing ceased and everything stilled.
It didn’t take long for something to happen–almost immediately, she could hear the cries of scared citizens. Gosh, what drama queens! If they were that scared, they should just stay silent. Her thought was immediately granted, as the crying sounds cut off entirely, replaced instead by a loud clank. Clank. Clank. Naomi turned her head quizzically, peering down the railyard to where the noise was coming from. The sound echoed, and built, and Naomi felt herself standing on her tip-toes, desperate to get a better look–when all fell silent.
Tri tilted his head and his megaphone. This somehow felt familiar. What was it? He wanted to scratch his chin, but that wasn’t a noir move. He kept a placid look, hanging loose with one hand in his pocket instead.
Her lower lip pushed out in a pout. Was that it? A scary noise, and then nothing else? Naomi deflated, before noticing the tentacle. Her jaw dropped open as it grabbed onto a piece of metal, bending it like it was no stronger than aluminum foil. Naomi felt a chill run down her neck as she heard the laughter–unhinged, manic. A woman hung from the tentacle, more tentacles pouring out of her back. In an abstract sense, it was a really cool chimeric ability.
Oh, right. Tri realized. This was like in horror movies. Making all the noises all scary, then pausing before the big reveal. “I should write this down,” he muttered.
But Naomi was way more focused on the direction the woman was looking. Straight at Tri. Naomi was moving before the woman even lunged–she pushed Tri behind her, extending her height to make sure that Tri was fully hidden behind her. It was a hack job, and gave her eerily long limbs reminiscent of Takaonna–but at the very least, whatever attack the woman was launching would hit her and not Tri.
Tri blinked. Well. He didn’t expect Naomi to do that. He expected Peyton, which was why he brought Peyton along. But this wasn’t bad.
“Do it,” he said faintly. Tristan was more than happy to comply.
Do it? What did that mean? Naomi tilted her head quizzically, but didn't take her eyes off of the chimera. You never took your eyes off your enemy, after all. Her question was quickly answered by Tristan:
“YEAAAA!” Hot lead guzzled out of the submachine gun, aimed squarely at the Tentacle Woman. The bullets were not anti-HP rounds, but it did not matter. It looked and sounded so fucking cool. Oh, it also gave Tri room to use his Potential.
Tri raised a finger gun at the Tentacle Woman. He said calmly, “Bang.”
A white glow exploded into a large sphere that enveloped the Chimeric completely.
Naomi was dumbfounded by the sudden cacophony of noise and bright light–for a moment she just stood rigid, her eyes wide as her brain caught up on what just happened. Tristan used that giant gun he was giddy over, and Tri used his Purification powers. Naomi had been inside that bright light more times than she could count. Sometimes it felt amazing, when she was really bad. Sometimes it was disorienting. But why was he using it on the chimera? Naomi didn't have a full understanding of how Tri's powers worked–mostly just how he used it on her. And as far as Naomi knew, drugs were not the source of this crazy.
Tri’s Potential Purification was unassuming for a Serpent. It lacked destructive capability or subterfuge. It certainly wasn’t as showy as the Yuudai’s wild shift. However, it served as an excellent support for Tri’s chemical arsenal, provided by Paris.
What few knew, however, was how exaggerated Tri had developed the Potential. He could cover an area of 5 meter radius in an instant. He could create the field without himself as the center. His activation had almost no delay. He could manipulate the Purification Field to 1 mm precision. He needed no trigger but his will. Tri could control his Potential better than his limbs.
…What’s the finger gun for if Tri needed no trigger? Obviously, it’s cooler that way.
The glow was a test. The Chimerics appeared out of nowhere and spread fast. If they appeared from a disease… Well, then this fight was as good as over.
((ooc: I keep deleting /colors and none of them are the /color at the end of the post)) ((outfit)) ((Reptile))
A scowl smeared across the scarred man's face, his nose scrunching up in distaste. He knew his living situation was shitty- perhaps not as much as before- but this place was seriously a dump. He let out a low chuckle, his eyes narrowing in on the rusting metal. He wasn't all too bothered about the smell. Hell, he smelled worse shit than this junkyard. Though he had to admit, this came close. Like many of these people who Hide assumed used to be living here, he was sure if he wasn't in the Phoenixes this little trash land would have been where he himself would have ended up after the hurricane. Luckily for him however, he didn't end up like one of these duds, so he didn't have to worry.
Hide kicked a stray can that was in his path, the clink of it bouncing away pulling a grin to his lips. Suddenly he jumped, startled at the sound of something falling and his comrade in a slight panic. Once he realized what it was however, he burst into a fit of laughter, mocking Hector all the while by ooh-ing and ahh-ing, cowering in on himself and over dramatically shivering. How could he pass up an opportunity like that? Hide scoffed with a smirk on his face, muttering under his breath as he finally finished his charade, "Scaredy-cat."
Seriously though, the heterochromic eyed man had to question why there was no one in sight. For a while, Hide knew what it was like to have no home. Not a proper one anyway. People like that didn't just leave or abandon their territory. Something here was fishy, and it wasn't just the smell.
He glanced towards the grey-eyed Phoenix from the corner of his eye, an unimpressed frown on his face. He turned his gaze ahead once more, a small derisive quirk to his lips. "Sounds ta' me like you don't know the art of stealth. Subtly y'know?" He cackled, his grin spreading. "Ah, but of course... What more could I expect from someone who wears pink to a mission..." Yong-Yut had been a thorn in his side since the beginning. How was it that fate could bring the most milquetoast, annoying, stuck up loser on his path? Hide clicked his tongue, the simple thought of the other bringing ire to his mood.
Tri's idea was definitely better than manually searching. More intimidating, cooler, more efficient. It had all the hallmarks of a great Serpent idea. Peyton was about to join in with Naomi and Tri's shouts before the crazed chimeric showed herself. She was as green as Peyton was yellow, and from her back were four monstrous tentacles.
The appendages reminded Peyton of Damian's octopus tentacles that sprouted from his back. Peyton had experienced being on the receiving end of Damian's octopus appendages and almost died from the attack. They were dangerous, and Peyton hoped this chimeric's tentacles were inferior. Well, Damian's looked more natural, so Damian's were already superior, but Peyton was primarily worried about combat-wise.
"Woah! We can turn you into takoyaki!" Peyton said. As Tri, Tristan, and Naomi got in their battle positions, Peyton took his rifle and gave his bayonet a thorough licking with his tongue. The act may have looked suggestive, but it was the only way that Peyton could make good use of the paralyzing capabilities of his saliva.
Then, Peyton hoisted his rifle up to his shoulder and aimed it at the woman. Unlike Tristan's machine gun, Peyton's rifle was made to be anti-HP. In return for being a pain in the ass to reload, it had extremely destructive capability. When he was a Dragon, the bullets often caused extreme damage to the structures that he was fighting in, causing the higher-ups many headaches. Peyton fired at the chimeric, the gunshot like a cannon. Mirroring Tristan's excitement, Peyton shouted, "Bam bam!"
And then he was off. Peyton ran in a bayonet charge at the woman from his position near the second train. He hoped he didn't get there in time to run into Tri's purification field. While most Serpents saw it as unharmful and even beneficial sometimes, Peyton definitely saw it as more of a danger.
Hector kept his arm hovering for a moment as the dust settled from the collapsed shelter, and the only thing audible was the taunting at his side as Hide made unsubtle jabs at himself and Yong-Yut. With a swift turn he lunged forward for Hide's collar, grabbing it for a moment, but letting go soon afterwards.
He was supposed to be avoiding stress right now. So much for that. He stepped back, dropping his hand down by his side.
"None of that. I brought you both with me because I trust you. Let's be professional."
Looking back at the main street, he considered that Yong-Yut had a point. It would be far easier to navigate, and if these things were to attack, they wouldn't have as much of a home advantage. If only they knew the area and exactly where they were looking, but it's not like they could hire a tour guide.
"I wouldn't be suggesting this if I didn't think we're strong enough, but how about we split up. Cover more ground. If there is any trouble, we can back each other up, but I'm sure we've all faced much tougher before."
The task seemed daunting whether he was alone or not, into the unknown with a bunch of chimerics running around doing Lord knows what. But then, would it have been so daunting a year ago?
"I don't know what signs we're looking for. They could be making noise, they could be dead, they could be in any corner of this damn place. You can go along the main street, Yong-Yut. I'll carry on here, and Hide can take the other side of the road." Hector gestured to the similar structures down the opposing alleyway. "If he ain't too scared, that is. We won't spend long before moving on if we don't find anyone."
Silver eyes narrowed at the white-and-black-haired Phoenix. The hell’s his problem? It’s not like he didn’t jump, too. Rolling her eyes, she overtook him on the alley’s path. “Right, stealth. Subtlety. Coming from the guy laughing his ass off so loud that anyone in a thirty-mile radius could hear.”
Yong-Yut was coming to know Hide as a huge hypocrite and a nuisance, to boot. So, when Hector brought up the idea of splitting up, she had to… well, pause.
Who knew what those things were capable of? They’re completely unknown foes. More importantly, what if one of them (Hide) had gotten lost in the short time, or out of earshot or cellular range? She was cynical, at best, and downright unwilling, at worst.
Unfortunately, it was incredibly difficult for her to form a sentence to explain all her worries. Going over the pros and cons, she cut her losses. It’s not like anything’s here. So, with a cross of her arms and a sigh, she shrugged. “If you think it best. Let’s not go too far. Remember where you came from… Landmarks and such. Yadda yadda.”
She looked for the next exit out of the backstreet and quickly left the other two with a simple wave.
She stepped out onto the main street. Her footsteps echoed.
Without the accompaniment of her fellow Phoenixes, it was unsettling. An uncomfortable hum rang through the street, followed by steps walking down it.
She stuck close to the buildings to the side she came out of to keep the distance between herself and Hector small. It’s the little things that keep you safe. That’s what she hoped, anyway.
Ottilie sat in the shadows of a half-crumbled balcony in the New Oasis Opera House, or what remained of it at least. Traces of the opulence that once was could still be seen amidst the rubble. Plush velvet seats hidden under the thick layer of dust, a massive ornate crystal chandelier lying on the ground in disrepair under the collapsed domed roof, and marble pillars with web-like cracks running through them. Ottilie noticed none of it. Instead, her attention was fixed on the woman standing alone on the stage exposed to the street, framed by torn curtains and half-suspended stage lights like a halo of destruction, her voice cutting through the night as she spoke to a rolling camera.
It was admirable seeing Ms. Lawson persevere in spite of the risks in doing so. The dragon rookie guessed she too had something to fight for be it self-serving or for the public.
There's Hydrogen and Helium
Then Lithium, Beryllium
Boron, Carbon everywhere
Nitrogen all through the air
Ottilie startled in her seat as a familiar cheerful tune suddenly started playing. Muttering her apologies to the rest of the group she quickly rummaged through her backpack and extracted the offending item. Her phone. Swiping the answer button, she pressed the phone to her ear.
"OTTILLIE JAMES YI HAN." Her mother's voice came screaming angrily through the speaker so loud that she was sure any of the dragon members nearby would be able to hear it as clearly as she had. "IT'S 9 PM. WHERE IN THE HEAVENS ARE YOU? WHY HAVEN'T YOU RESPONDED TO ANY OF MY MESSAGES?"
Ottilie glanced around wide-eyed, trying to figure out what exactly she could tell her mother.
"OTTILIE? CAN YOU HEAR ME? ARE YOU OKAY?" Her voice had switched from angry to panicked now in a flash.
"Mom? Yeah, I can hear you. I was hanging out with Javi and we lost track of time."
There was a pause and she could almost hear the gears in her mother's head shifting. "Javi? Oh. O-okay then." Like fitting the right key into a lock, the words clicked into place and her mother calmed. It was a little manipulative of Ottilie, but she knew her mother's worries for her were largely split between her personal safety and her lacking social life. "I saw the news about the attacks and got worried."
"I'm sorry for worrying you." And she genuinely was sorry which was saying a lot for a girl who very often had a difficult time understanding the emotions of others.
"I'm sorry for yelling. Just come home as soon as possible. And stay out of Central. It's dangerous there."
"I will." As to which statement that answer was for, she left it ambiguous. "I love you."
Hanging up, Ottilie stared at the now darkened screen for a moment. There were few times when Ottilie questioned whether the path she was on in the pursuit of excellence and science was worth it. This was one of those times. When she first joined the Dragons it was mostly to quell the feelings of ennui and the urge to see how far she could push herself. Arguably, the past few months have been an interesting time, allowing her to use her potentiality in new ways she wouldn't quite have had the chance to do so were she cooped up in her lab. That said, she hated hiding the truth her mother.
On stage, Jennifer Lawson was still doing what she did best, unaware of the group watching her. "We should hurry. I can't stay long." Ottilie said to the rest of the dragons present.
He’d been in his office when the news broadcasting turned grisly. Leaving his papers, he poured a glass of rum as Mark Thompson’s mutilated corpse was aired for all to see; though, he didn’t look at the screen. He didn’t need to.
The alcohol bit his tongue and ran claws down his throat.
Chikage licked his lips and inhaled deeply, letting his eyes find the ceremonial plaque congratulating him as Captain framed upon the wall.
It mocked him.
The glass he held shattered in his fist; rum, ice, and glittering shards rained down to wet his shoes and litter the floor about them. He relaxed his arm, but the fist at his side did not loosen. Blood seeped from between his fingers, mixing with the rum below, drawing swirls.
He hadn’t realized when, but his face had tightened into a contorted mess of disgust and rage.
Thirty minutes later, when he arrived at City Hall in Lower Central for a briefing of the situation, he was the pure image of calm and collected. He wore his Summer uniform, long-sleeved despite the Summer aspect, and red-accented despite the distinct gold that represented the CDPD.
He entered the building and swept his eyes over the scene, spotting one Officer Richard Stern, and promptly approached him.
“Officer.” Chikage bowed his head in greeting. “Stern, correct?” They’d met before. “I was told to meet you here.”
— —The majority of the front, right half of Chikage's body is badly scarred from burns, stopping halfway up his neck, covering his arm's entirety, ending at his shin. For this reason, he wears a black, leather glove always covering his right hand, and usually wears long-sleeved, concealing clothes. Reference (X)
— —What he's wearing: (Click) Captain's Summer Uniform + Watch on his left wrist; Only the right hand is gloved
— —POST RECAP: Chikage arrives at City Hall in Lower Central.
Not a single muscle moved on Hitoshi's face as he watched the workers suddenly change in their demeanour and behaviours, turning from drones of workers into a flock of unified, silent voices that brayed through gestures and hand signals. The gears in his mind turned as he parsed this information, while also seeing Charlie attempt to calm them down to no avail. They weren't aggressive, yet they were also blocking their way. What would even work in this situation? What could possibly defuse this? As he thought about it, a more flamboyant part of Hitoshi chimed in with its own suggestion: Sire, perhaps what they need is some drama. Words alone won't sway them, but performance will.
"Perhaps, my dear Charlie, what they need is another language. Behold." Hitoshi spoke, walking forward without issuing the commands himself. Another part of him decided that this part was already the best course of action.
He approached closer to the huddled masses of mute labourers, who only grew more intense in their fervent denial of entry to the two of them, before stopping in his tracks. He slowly turned his torso around, as if to create anticipation for an explosion of emotion. Which he then did. Swinging around and contorting into an impossibly low position, Hitoshi's voice then boomed like thunder kami:
"I AM HITOSHI YAMAKAWA, THE ROCK BOTTOM DRAGON OF SANKAI. HEAR ME! WE COME TO FACE THE FOE IN HIS DASTARDLY LAIR! WE WILL SMITE THY ENEMIES AND FREE YOU FROM YOUR BONDAGE!"
Under our skin, we are all the same. Red blood and soft flesh alike to nourish different fronts. And though the facades be skin deep, the layers of beliefs and personalities oft sound no deeper than the dull daily concerns. Turn it all upside down, we are all the same. Fears, copes, all but slightly varied manifestation of the same core. The great architectures humans erect are much like their builders; grand theaters, sturdy ramparts, ruined shacks, all lay as ashen rubbles at the day’s end.
Dig too deep, understand too well, and soon enough even joys lose all their precious flavors.
A faint clink rang in the air, lurking under hurried mutters and distant inexplicable sounds of disaster, then vibrated back upon Xuexia ears, providing a clear thread through chaos, an anchor to sanity. She clung precariously on the edge of sanity. Panic underpinned all this feigned composure around her. The metallic base note of fear invaded her nostrils, tried as she might to hinge her senses on the faint sound of her making. Once more, she tapped the tips of her twin sai together. Louder it came, overriding even the top notes of mindless fixation. So satisfied, she opened her eyes and gave a faint smile to one of her companions, whose phone call just ended.
“You shouldn’t lie,” she said with her mind absent, following the wandering patterns of Ottile’s thoughts. She could not read the specifics, but felt it all the same. In times like those, wandering thoughts distract - a bane to those on a dire mission. A boon to Xuexia who must needs preserve her sanity. “Mothers have a right to worries, you know. Especially when they are warranted.”
Her legs unfolded, Xuexia got up. She clung onto that distraction while wending her way across the rubble towards the reporting crew. It was a pretty sight enough, to be sure, of supposed human’s perseverance in the face of advancing perils. Or so she thought, for she did not attempt to dig deep, she never strove to understand. For surely, all this calmness, kept up by single mindedness bent on their task at hand to suppress the underlying fears, would as soon be vanquished the moment a real threat approached. To those people, their sense of danger trigger a little later than their more swift-foot colleagues, but beneath it all everyone is the same. They would run, they would scream, they would trample on their likes to escape the eventual appearance of danger. But when you teeter this side of the edge, such things seem pretty enough. And beauty is precious exactly because it’s fragile and fleeting, crumbling easily to a strong enough breeze. Admire it while you can, and waste no time to detest people’s ugly side once it’s revealed. It’s healthier that way. And Xuexia admires the beauty of human nature in her own way.
At any rate, her weapons were concealed just long enough to get within the cameraman’s strike range. The reporter’s change in expression caused the man to shift his attention to the stranger approaching from behind. But by then the sai had been whipped from its sheath under her cloak - now resting on the camera’s flank, guiding it away from her face as the man instinctively turned around.
“Now friends, I mean no harm,” she gave her winning smile, as innocent as it could appear on a stranger bearing arms, “call us curious passers-by. A bunch of crisis hobbyists, if you may. I just want to know if you have any curious footage in there. You two out of anyone should understand how riveting all this is. I’m just asking for sneakshow is all. Who knows, we may even let you come along with our sightseeing round.”
To be sure, anyone with a phone would have seen all the stuff they’d been filming live already, provided they’d been sticking their nose at the screen all this time. But Xuexia was betting on the chance that may have observed something of use, a certain pattern in the mutated creatures’ movements or behaviors, perhaps.
Hide had to scoff. Professional? Yeah right. Professional was fucking boring. And boring wasn't in Hide's dictionary. Hide clicked his tongue, his bespectacled eyes drifting to where the queen directed him. He muttered, clearly annoyed as he crossed his arms, "Splitting up is the quickest way to die in a horror movie..." It wasn't like Hide was opposed to splitting off from either of them, but those weird... freaks were out there. If any situation were to be a horror movie, it would most definitely be this.
The monochrome haired man could only throw a glare at Yong-Yut, having no chance at a rebuttal. Why was she so damn annoying?! The one thing he could do was give them the bird while her back was turned, and that's exactly what he did. Screw the twerp.
With a huff, he vetoed a goodbye. Instead, he simply chose to shove his hands in his pockets, trudging on over to the road, half heartedly making his way to the alleyway. Why did he have to get this shit location? It seemed like a rat might pop out at any time and bite his ankles. Or flies or- or god forbid- roaches climb into his hair and infest him with their disgusting diseases. He supposed he should be grateful it wasn't as bad as the sewer-like slums of the north. Fucking snakes. In all honesty, Hide wasn't paying too much care to actually inspect the area. If those fucking monsters were going to come get him, they'd have to show themselves first! He cackled, the sharp sound reverberating In the quiet alleyway.
The slight deja vu Meirin felt as she traversed the streets of Lower Central was strange. Except for the rare occasion where a Dragon job took her there, she didn’t really have much reason to visit Lower Central and couldn’t say she remembered much of the District’s lower layout - even without an earthquake making things worse. Certainly not areas she’s never seen before. And yet, some of the–broken– buildings that Meirin shouldn’t recognize felt familiar to her. She knew that if she turned left, and continued to the lower city’s perimeter, she’d find the pillar that “crushed” Lyric, former king of the Scarlet Phoenixes. She knew that if she continued straight she’d soon pass Heavenly Beast Plaza, beneath which is a supposedly collapsed quarry…
Meirin rubbed her head, the other hand still bracing the wheel. “...Why were you in a mine with Passeri Park?”
There were others there, but she didn’t really recognize them. A mute girl. A plain looking boy…
Since Elias didn’t reply right away, she assumed he hadn’t heard her through the communication device and was about to repeat the question when his crisp timbre sounded in her ear. “Spelunking with friends. Why do you ask?”
“Just curious…” Though she really shouldn’t be. They were 7 years past being in each other’s business and she wouldn’t even pretend to understand the things rich people did for fun. It just didn’t seem the sort of thing Elias Yumin–or the one she had known 7 years ago–would find fun…
“I showed you the memory to get your opinion, Mei. Do you know anything about the cult? About the sort of things the ‘high priestess’ was talking about?”
“I had no idea such a crazy group existed...” Sacrificing NPs to bring back a god? Meirin tutted. The Grants, descendants of the city’s founder, were the ones that ought to care about the city most. All of the city - NPs and HPs included. “Nor that the mayor’s wife is involved with such insanity, but I think I know about the god she’s talking about. A sleeping deity that gave the world potential? Sounds like one of the stories scribbled in Wuyang Temple’s sutras…”
“Tell me about it,”
Normally such an attitude would’ve pissed Meirin off, but she wasn’t in the mood to argue with her ex. Besides, after seeing for herself what he’d been through, she supposed he had a right to know. “A long, long, long time ago–this is world-creation-story-type long by the way–monsters ruled this land; Spiritual beasts the size of behemoths, and with powers you can’t even imagine, they were referred to as Heavenly Beasts because they were pretty much gods themselves. Wild, uncontrollable forces of nature that did whatever they wanted, that is. People lived in fear for a very, very long time until, one day, a savior arrived from another world. Said Savior bestowed the power of potentials to his chosen disciples–one of which is Jing Wuyang–and together they journeyed to subdue the Heavenly Beasts, all of which swore fealty to the savior once defeated. The savior ruled peacefully with his heavenly beasts until the day they all went to sleep.”
“Why did they go to sleep?”
“Why did Eve eat the forbidden fruit?”Meirin retorted before shrugging, both hands on the wheel as she turned into theater street. “Beats me. In the nicer version of the story, the savior–or the Sleeper as Grant calls em–wanted to let people rule themselves, promising to wake again only when humanity would need them once more. In doing so, the god would continue to be a source of power for his people without directly interfering with their lives. He gave humans the potential to run their own lives, do whatever they want to do, whether it be good or evil. ”
“What’s the darker version?”
“Humanity, led by Jing Wuyang, betrayed him.”
Meirin rolled her eyes. “In some versions, he was a she as well. Theology isn’t a topic I particularly care for,” Mostly because listening to old monks go back and forth about the things they couldn’t possibly know bored her to tears. Legends were legends. The past was the past–especially a potentially fictional past. Meirin tended to focus on the here and now, so it didn’t really matter to her which story was more accurate or where potentiality came from. It was here now and she’d lived with it all her life. “But most that follow the temple’s teachings seem to agree that his sleeping form maintains the potentiality of the world. That’s why he’s sometimes referred to as the sleeping god or the god of potentials. I can only assume that’s the god Grant was talking about, though I know nothing about the Stewards, or a tomb beneath the earth, so it could be an entirely different god all together...”
“Which version do you believe to be truest?”
“I’d hate to interrupt storytime, but you’re close enough that you should be able to see Jennifer Lawson any minute now, Meimei.”
Just as Lu said, the news anchor standing outside a strangely crowded opera house soon came into sight as Meirin drove up the entertainment boulevard. Dragons as well–or at least a few she recognized as fellow gang members. Otter. Jespie. Kanna. Why were they here? Did the higher ups order them to protect the civilians? Investigate the so-called Chimera Crisis? Catch a show?
Meirin only knew why she was here.
Thus far, the blue sports car that moved eastward from the west hadn’t encountered very many chimeras, but that might be attributed to Lu’s guidance. Or chimeras just didn’t find Elias’s vehicle interesting enough. Whichever the case, Meirin had focused most of her attention on driving and found herself gradually getting the hang of it again.
Parking the vehicle to the side of the road, next to the theater, Meirin popped her head out to call to the the group of Dragons. “Hey guys! What’s up? Didn’t expect to see ya’ll here!”
She didn’t expect to see people living in Lower Central central still putting on shows and going to performances in the midst of a “chimeric crisis” either, but people do as they did regardless of the risks involved. Risks that included turning into a freakish HP chimera, being eaten by a freakish HP chimera, etc, etc.
You’d think staying indoors would be common sense.
“Don’t forget Jennifer’s autograph. I want it addressed ‘to her devoted fan, Zachery Locke’~” Meirin sighed as Lu’s voice buzzed in her ear.
"Quickest way to die if you can't fight for yourself." Hector rolled his eyes as Hide left so abruptly. Maybe taking him along wasn't the best idea, but he still had faith that he'd prove his worth if it came to it.
"Don't worry, Yong-Yut. We'll be careful" He reassured her as he nodded, rather than return the wave as she left on her path. Though he sensed her concern, he brushed it off. She was always a lot more thoughtful, Hector knew that, but believed it to be to her detriment. He much preferred to just do, and after watching YY and Hide go on their way, he retreated further into the narrow pathways of the Shanty Town.
Hector heard the footsteps become fainter as he strayed from the party, though he made sure to not go so far as to not be able to call to them if need be. Leading with his clawed hand, he sliced through cloth and wire, peering into anything he could quickly get to. The sight of a desolate hovel became increasingly familiar.
As he said, he didn't waste time dawdling in any one place, constantly striding forward, becoming more energetic in his moves. It seemed like he was using the mission away from his own turf to relieve some anger, his frenzied slashes driving through planks that covered windows, and scraping off of the metal posts to make a sickening sound.
Maybe it was a good thing if the threat had been contained, and there were no more of these chimerics spreading around, but he was sure he'd have heard more news by now. And he was sure he'd have heard at least one person.
He couldn't go home without anything to show for it. He just couldn't. He couldn't afford to waste time anymore.
Officer Richard Stern snapped to swift attention as Chikage arrived, his crisp uniform popping with the pace of the movement. His heels clicked together as his hand met his forehead, a textbook salute. In the meantime, Jayce rounded a corner and completed their triumvirate.
"Captain. Thank you for coming." Stern said with a sense of urgency, turning slightly to give Jayce a curt nod. "I'm prepared to brief you on the situation that's unfolded so far as we understand it, but..." His eyes turned downward. He licked his lips, as if gathering himself before saying what came next. "I have seen what it is like out there. Any delay to react on the part of the police could prove... Catastrophic." His posture shifted, standing tall. Officer Stern clapped his hands together behind the small of his back and straightened like an arrow, his voice crisp and professional, even if the hints of anxiety, hints of fear, still managed to seep through. "If it is acceptable to the both of you, I will brief you en route to the site. I've taken the liberty of having a cruiser prepped for me."
Javi winced when Ottilie floated his name to the voice over the phone, feeling a pang of guilt in his chest. The conversation made him think about his own mother, what she was doing right now, and whether she was worried about him... Probably, he concluded without having to give it much thought. Zhu was right. 'Moms worry. It's what they do. Some more than others', Javi thought about the long nights spent when Silva was in hospital. Whether it had been the first time, or the umpteenth time, didn't matter. Their mother never stopped worrying.
But this wasn't about him right now. The most he could do was make sure that Ottilie's mom was worried for nothing. As Javi worked it all out in his mind, the yellow, diminutive creature seated in his lap looked up at him and trilled inquisitively, sensing his unease. He laid a comforting hand on the entity's crested forehead.
"Yo, I dunno 'bout y'all, but I haven't seen any monsters roamin' around... Sooo, can we, like, get outta here..? Not gonna lie, this place gives me the creeps, low-key."
He piped up as Ottilie hung up and asked the team to hurry, as Zhu walked away. He watched her out of the corner of one eye as she sauntered nonchalantly over to the news crew—or what was left of it— and ohmygodshepulledabladeonthem—!? Without thinking, Javi sprung up from his seat and speed-walked his way over to the blossoming Situation™. Hoisting Rocco up to latch onto his shoulder. As the creature wrestled for balance, his master hurried toward the burgeoning kitchen fire that was Gangsters Interacting With Normal People™. 'This wasn't the plan! Was it?? Did they even have a plan!?'
"Uh, hey! Big fan, uh." He chimed in brightly. Addressing Jennifer first, he placed both hands over his chest before raising them up by his sides in a 'we come in peace' kind of way. Rocco stood perched on Javi's shoulder and mirrored his gestures to a 'T' with his flippers. "What my buddy here's tryna say is, we're here to help! So, uh..." He realized now that his stump speech would be a lot more believable if his companion hadn't, and was not currently, holding a man at knifepoint. 'Saipoint? Whatever.'
"You help us, we help you kinda beat. Or not! But, just in case— We're chill, uh, yeah?" He half-asked Jennifer, half-pleaded with Zhu. As he did, Rocco's head turned a full one hundred and eighty degrees around, eyes telescoping in on the car that had just pulled up, and the head that was peeking out of it. Javi didn't look, was too afraid to look away from the stand-off at hand in-case it turned from something bad to something worse while his back was turned.
To her credit, Jennifer Lawson was nothing if not a consummate professional. In her past life as a War Correspondent, she had learned well how to operate in hostile locations, and how to deal with hostile threats to her person. Unfortunately for Jennifer, Gregory... Something (she'd never bothered to learn his surname) did not possess her depth and breadth of experience, nor her wherewithal to know how best to respond when faced with threats of bodily harm. Luckily, he was facing away from the Dragons, so they couldn't see the absolutely pathetic face he was making, as the feeling of the cold steel chilled his blood.
After a long, breathless pause, Jennifer answered finally. And definitively.
"I wish." She said.
"We have been down here for 2 hours and still! Nothing." She sounded almost... Miffed by the prospect that she may not run afoul of a pack of bloodthirsty monsters. "Not that it mattered to my crew, mind. One burst pipe was all it took to send them scrambling back up the hill. Tsk." Truly, investigative journalism was a forgotten art. It was up to people like Jennifer to teach the next generation what it meant to report the news, up close and personal.
"So, unfortunately for the both of us, I don't have any details to share at present."
As Meirin's car idled nearby, and the remainder of the Dragons circled, a glint of inspiration lit a fire in Jennifer's eye.
"But... Here's my counter: you let me come along with you lot, keep me safe, help me land this scoop, and I'll be sure that, come this time tomorrow, the city will be singing the Azure Dragons' praises."
In the dim light of Lower Central, Jennifer's eyes glinted behind her glasses. "Oh, please. Of course I know you lot. Data leaks, and all that. Terrible thing that it was, it did give some of your ranks a certain... Shall we say, 'brand' recognition. It's all over certain internet forums.
No, this is perfect. Perfect for you, and perfect for me." She said, turning to Kanna. Poor Gregory was so confused.
Her eyes narrowed, as she observed the reporter that stood before her, processing her request.
The Dragons had come to Lower Central to figure out what exactly was going on. With these mutations running rampart throughout all of Lower Central, it was in the best interest of everyone, Kanna assumed, to contain it before it spread out to the rest of the districts. No doubt the police department and other gangs were somewhere in the area as well, investigating the places closet to their homes. But what she couldn't be sure of was how they planned on solving the problem.
To be honest, Kanna wasn't sure how to handle it either. Its not like these creatures were spawning from somewhere. It was an infection, transforming ordinary people into unpredictable and destructive chimerics. Killing them wasn't an option, or the very last resort if it came to it.
She'd cross that bridge when it came to it. Right now, it seemed the decision to bring along the news crew with them had fallen on her. But along with it, came the risk of having a constant public eye on them. Her eyebrow raised slightly as Jennifer mentioned the data leak that occurred months ago. It wasn't much of a surprise to hear people were still talking about it. That also explained why she pinned the decision on Kanna.
Kanna reached over towards Zhu, pushing the hand holding her weapon away from the cameraman as she replied.
"Fine. But on two conditions. You will not broadcast our actions live, only record. And that footage will be inspected before you can take it home. I'm sure you're aware of what I'm capable of, if you try anything."
The Jack reached for her phone, speed-dialing a certain number.
"Keep an eye on the NON broadcast. If you see any of us on it, take it down. Keep me updated on any developments from around the area."
Kanna hung up without waiting for a reply on the other end. She already know they understood what to do. The Jack pocketed her phone before addressing the others.
"We'll head in deeper on foot. Any civilians we find, we'll bring them back here. And keep your distance from those... monsters. We dont know how the infection spreads."
With that, Kanna lead the group deeper into Lower Central. Her hand reached for her staff, unclipping it from her waist.
“This was one of our big attractions back in the day— a real Amestrian gem— wasn’t it? Brought in all the tourists.”— It was getting dark. He had to tip-toe his weight on blankets of rubble, shifting under his feet— threatening the balance of the cheap, thrift store rubber on his sneakers. They’d threaten back, threaten to slip and make him fall flat on his ass.
26 would push back up on every threat, every time one leg sunk into the mess left from the quake. He’d straighten up, groan, hiss — “Rich people shit…” — He’d wanted to see this place for a while now, dive into the innards, back in the other place. Not like this, though. Definitely not like this. Now it was just an endless drawl of vacant space. Dark corners, looming corners. A dry, dusty scent that got into the back of his throat. Cracks hammered and drawn on the pavement like trails of lightning snapping in all directions.
The streets were only overcome with whatever remained of the dry, shriveled husk of lower central.
Withered. That went long ways to describe how it looked now.
“Back in the day?” — The man beside him matched him in enthusiasm; in looks too. Stumbling over the same stones, grumbling the same curses under his breath — “You mean back in your day?”
The wind blew rough kisses down the road, they’d feel sharp once they’d break on his face. He’d duck the edge of a few, move along. 26 gave Leaf a knowing smile, not bothering to turn around and look at him. He could tell when he was making a face, from ear alone.
Leaf’d had this serious look to him ever since everything had popped off on the news earlier today. It’d only gotten worse since he’d gotten the call from the phoenixes. Neither of them had wanted to come here and ‘investigate’ the situation. Decision was a luxury; you were made a victim of circumstance when you were a part of something as big as the four gangs of New Oasis.
You wrung your hands together and twist yourself. Maybe into the shape you need. Leaf was twisting, he knew that much. Just like him, back in the day — “Yeah, guess so.”
The corners of his mouth lowered, the cheap cig tipped and bowed with them, he huffed a sigh. Took a pull. Let go. The cloud of smoke hung and carried off into the dry, stale air. He turned back to look at Leaf — "What’s on your mind? You’ve been quiet for a while.”— 26’s tongue steered the butt of the cig inside his mouth, pointing the smoking end of it towards the other two phoenixes ahead of them — “We’re far enough away from ‘em to talk for a bit, if you want.”
They shared a glance, a long while — “I'm just...” — Leaf looked off into the shape of the towering coliseum, hands dug in his pockets. He had an idle fuzz in his eye. Static, like he was just moving and breathing for the sake of doing so— "I don't know, really... Tired, I guess."
26 followed his gaze, eyes moving up to a bird that looked to be fighting for dear life. It was a terrible day for her as well, he figured— "Hm." — He chuckled-- "You think birds'd chill out if they ever learned how to spark up?"— He pulled in smoke again. Then, not sparing a glance— "Don’t think about it too much. Just put a pin on everything you see. We might be coming back to it.”
Throw a line, and look for when it sinks. That’s what he’d been taught.
Only difference from back in the day is that neither of them had to look for their people once they went to ground now. He’d been off-screen a while back in his timeline; now he had a handful of brothers and sisters to look after. He had to move, too.
They were nearing the coliseum. If decision was luxury; indecision must’ve been poison. No time for those type of worries now.
He looked down on his hand clammed shut on the hilt of his sword as they entered, avoiding the gaze of those unfortunate enough to be finding themselves there for shelter. He felt the rough weaves of silk. He never took the time to slow down and push a thumb through the texture; the wind was hushed as he did now. The shift from the emptiness outside was loud, harsh.
He had a sharp sense set for danger, came in handy when he'd nail it down with his you-never-really-know mindset, but there were curve-balls thrown his way everyone once and then. He didn't know why people did things, why the sun came up, why the grass waved and moved with the wind— and he most certainly didn’t know why he felt so uneased now. Just moving an idle hand through the wrappings on his katana.
In a sense, he never left that dojo, never stopped being a dragon. Same way he hadn’t put down the sword yet. He was yet to let down the weight, settle in. It just didn't feel right to do so. And it was situations like these that proved how right he was to never put off the edge.
Desperate people needed a sword, the dragons from his time had told him that — “I’ll be hanging back with Noa, then… Put your detective cap on, might need it.” — He took one last huff, flicked a spray of ash to the floor before putting out the cigarette — “Time to go to work…”
Leaf took a huff much the same, like it’d be the last time he would ever have fresh, clean, stress-free air for a while — “Don’t go doing nothin’ stupid.” — 26 turned and started walking towards the celeste haired woman, a hand coming out of his pocket for a dismissive wave — “Yeah, yeah…”
Leaf ruffled his hair back, slicked it out of his face — “I’ll call you once it gets stupid.”
“Hm. You know me so well, kid…”— The red-haired man watched with a smirk as the other’s hand went to dig the cheap-brand pack of cigarettes out of his pant pocket. 26 stood beside Noa and her bodyguard with a lazy posture to him, one hand drummed on the hilt of his katana while the other tried to discretely light up another cigarette.
After one or two flicks of the lighter in his hand, 26 finally looked up — "What’s the situation?”
Leaf turned to Eleanore, his eyes struggling to a dazed focus as he only trailed behind the woman. She looked to have fully busied herself, droning in on the surroundings like she were sweeping them, scanning them — “Anything?” — He asked, plainly— in an attempt to match the professional aura Eleanore exuded, maybe.
There were a handful of reasons why Eleanore was happy to finally be stepping foot into the aged coliseum, all of which roosted at home in her head while she traced her hand across the wall of the entrance way. It wasn’t that she was scared of what was out there. Eleanore was certain that anything out there couldn’t stand up to her, be it one of the beasts visualized on the television or any HP trying to take advantage of the chaos. Perhaps that was overconfidence, but you had to have a healthy amount of confidence to come out here and act like she would. Trying to divine whether that confidence in yourself was justified or a weakness was frivolous. No, it was just more... serene here.
One reason was seeing other people. Both Noa and Leaf had brought… company for themselves. Eleanore wasn’t going to complain about that. A Phoenix confident enough to call themselves a bodyguard for another of their brethren was hardly one to scorn, and the recruit seemed to have been doing just fine keeping themselves company. It had simply made a small part of Eleanore feel out of place, being alone… alone, here. The smell of maintained campfires and the noises of life, as feeble and unaligned as it may be, finally be reached helped that sense fade. It was a conscious decision to look alone here, not one out of her control.
Another was, understandably, the walls. Eleanore pulled one final sweep around with her phone, the beam it was providing struggling to shine through the lighting already provided by those in the coliseum, before flicking off the flashlight and with a motion previously reserved to cowboys holstering her phone back into her pocket. Moving out of the twisting and broken roads of New Oasis into a place like this would dampen any luck an ambush would have. Much harder to get the first strike. And if something did try… there’s the populace here. At least they’d get a warning.
Boots clicked to a refined halt after walking a few feet inside, Eleanore scanning over people with a critical eye for a moment in a way that made some of the survivors feel judged on how they were surviving. It was ample contrast to Noa’s personable approach to them, and one that didn’t provide Eleanore with much information. Not many of them seemed wounded beyond slight scraps and bruises, so anyone unfortunate enough to have actually been hit but lucky enough to have survived must be elsewhere here. A medical set up, perhaps? Some volunteering doctor, good samaritan, or hospital looter who’d in a time of crisis stepped up to the call to be on call here. She'd hope for it.
That'd be lucky. A medical report, or at least a victim speaking on how they attack, that’d give her something to work off of. They might as well be cryptids for the information she had on the chimeras now. That’s another good thing about reaching this place. It’s hard to gather much more than stress and theories from wandering broken streets and seeing devastation. If there was any kind of expert or eyewitness, they’d be here. Eleanore brought up her hand and coughed into it, as her eyes broke from the occupants to the little slum that had popped up here. What seemed… more established than a mere camping tent? Although even that would have high real estate value here.
Leaf had caught up by then. One of them. The other had gone forwards, which was good. It’d take as many boots on the ground to get a clear picture from a panicked rabble such as this, and it’d make sure they remember who’d helped them in a time of need. Eleanore spun her shovel off her shoulder and, with both hands now free, dug it into the gravel in front of her to lean on, a support to stabilize her examination as if she had suddenly became a coin operated telescope that could view with such clarity that the minor bumps and shivers of human life were an inconvenience to her. It was about two seconds after Leaf asked that she began to answer.
”Walls are stable enough. Makes this place a handful of funnels rather than giving them free reign to enter.”
She gave a short nod behind her, not to the Leaf but at the entrance the Phoenixes had come through, finally breaking her concentration on the environment to some extent.
”Best to fan out. Find anyone who’s had closer experience with the things so we know what we’re dealing with, see the lay of the land.”
Eleanore looked down here, seeming to be judging whether or not she should strap her beloved shovel behind her back to be treated the same as her shotgun. It must’ve had a convincing argument to remain untethered, because Eleanore simply plucked it out of the ground and held it like a suitcase when she started walking forward again, raising her voice enough to catch the rest of the group, veteran, bodyguard, and doppleganger all, in the radius.
”Going to look for someone with something concrete. Stay on your guard, if we’re dealing with predators...”
Then we’re walking further into a hapless henhouse. No reason to say that part, so she just trails off and lets it dissipate. Everyone knows it, Phoenix and citizen both, but like a magic spell or a scottish play, it’ll only cause the panic among the powerless after it’s said aloud. She took a quick glance back at Leaf, her intentions and opinions clearly stated and whatever that might happen next not weighing much on her mind.
”Either stick with yourself or come with me. Don’t go in any direction alone.”
Then, in a manner that could only be described as at least a bit hypocritical, Eleanore began walking off alone further into coliseum, looking each residence and vendor up and down with each step.
"Did what?" A fresh coat hung over Deirest's shoulders, but it was already soaked with blood. Her body was coated with countless ragged cuts, blood flowed freely, staining whatever she wore red.
"Don't worry, Sister Superior, 'Kay here is helping me find myself." She was her friend. A helper. A trembling hand joined with hers. Cadence trembled under the holy woman's gaze, and cringed when Deirest tossed her coat aside, landing in a heap of other bloodied rags.
"This isn't the one, though... Didn't I tell you that I'm not a red?" She already had enough of that. On the inside.
"But-!" Cadence moved to protest, but was quickly hushed when one of Deirest's bloody digits pressed down on her lips.
"Ssssshhhh... It's okay, okay? Bring me something fresh this time. Like a..." Like what? The words were escaping her. Leaking and seeping out of the cuts that covered her body. "Do you remember, Sister? They were sweet, and they grew into balls..."
"That..." Doesn't make any sense. The words caught in Cadence's throat. As well as other words, like 'Leave!', and 'Help!'. "...Don't worry about it, Miss! F-fresh and sweet, right? I'll be right on it!" But she decided against them. Her experience in customer service had taught her how to read people, and it had taken her only a quick glimpse into both her savior's, and the holy woman's eyes to judge that they were not the type with whom such pleas would find purchase. It was best for her to just comply.
"See how helpful she is?" Deirest sloppily smiled as the store clerk shuffled off into the sea of clothing. "What about you? Who helped you find that?" She gestured to Aerith's robes. Those were her, right down to the bones. Maybe if she could find something that fit her so fully, then she'd be whole again.
So the thought went. And went and went and went, until she'd gone and went all the way to this dingy little mall. It was still tumbling along in her head, going and wenting on its merry way, at least until the ringing.
Deirest's blood curdled. Both inside and out. Her cuts felt as if they shuddered in rhythm with the alien sound, burning hot and cold at once. Her expression soured, and the tumbling thought that had brought her here was muted, drowned out by the cacophonous clattering of metal. She could feel it in her skin, her bones, and even her teeth. It filled her with something awful.
"Whaa..." The bloody woman stumbled drunkenly. "Who was that?" Her fingers flexed, and her muscles tightened. There was a throat that they needed to wring. She bumped into Aerith as she blundered towards the door.
"Come out, come out..." Trembling with malice, Deirest's voice echoed through the empty mall. "I wanna show you how to scream even better..."
Head tilted up to the ceiling that had obscured Lower Central from the sky, Ottilie tuned out the conversation happening between her colleagues and Jennifer Lawson. "Crazy." She murmured absentmindedly under her breath although who or what she was referring to was unclear. She had found something new to hyperfocus her attention on. Carefully studying the channel-like cracks in the ceiling, she traced them with her eyes, pausing each time she came to a spot where a chunk had fallen in, allowing cool beams of moonlight to shine through. In a more peaceful world where she wasn't at risk of getting attacked on every street corner, she imagined herself lying on a forest floor staring up at the canopy of crown shy trees. Hidden beneath the smoke and blood-tinted air she could make out the smell of petrichor. Rain was coming and that was only going to make it harder for them to track anything.
Her thoughts wandered as they usually did, splitting off into numerous adjacent topics simultaneously forming some sort of insane mind map that no one else could see. To the others, she probably looked like she was simply zoning out.
"Margays." Ottilie suddenly announced. She turned to the others eyes wide with inspiration. "Margays." She repeated once more, this time with vigor. "We must be like the Margays."
It took a moment for the rookie to realize she was probably making no sense to anyone. "Margays often try to mimic the sounds of their prey to catch their attention and lure them into a trap. Running around in the dark with strange monsters stalking about not knowing what to expect probably isn't the smartest move. But if we were to draw them out into the open then perhaps we'd stand a better chance?"
While Charlie made an attempt to engage with the workers, genuinely seeking to understand the underlying issue behind their peculiar behavior, they remained unresponsive, refusing to communicate verbally. Instead, they continuously tried to gesture to the man to keep his voice down. As he raised it, loudly preaching his goals, they only seemed more and more distressed, they paused for a minute, as if waiting for some sort of sound, an indication.
The light still sat above the surface of the water, unmoving.
When they focused their attention back on the Phoenixes, they looked relieved for a moment, but it was a relief that was short-lived. Their relief manifested into terror, as in an extremely ridiculous stance, this total stranger rose his voice loudly, as if he was shouting to the heavens. His greeting and declaration rang across the whole shipyard, and everyone in the docks froze, looking right at him, as if time had frozen.
“YOU FUCKING IDIOT!”
An enraged shout came from one of the workers, who immediately charged forward and grabbed Hitosh by the collar, hoisting him back to his feet. His nails dug into the fabric as he pulled the man up to yell right into his face.
“Do you have any idea what you just did!?” He snapped, before turning to look at Charlie with the same furious glare, “We didn’t ask for your help! We needed you to get lost, because--”
“IT’S COMING BACK!”
Startled by a distant cry, the man hastily released Hitoshi, his gaze snapping towards the water. His eyes widened in terror as fear consumed him. Swirling shrieks of horror erupted in the vicinity, causing the workers to hastily abandon their posts, frantically seeking refuge in the warehouses dotting the docks, all with terrified thoughts of escaping whatever was coming.
“Shit! EVERYONE, DON'T LOOK AT THE SEA! MOVE!” He ordered, before quickly running past Hitoshi and Charlie and joining the swarm of workers evacuating the scene.
What was causing them to run away in such terror?
Lower Central District
The sounds of the waves had grown louder, crashing against the docks with more intensity, cracking as loud as thunder.
The light drew nearer, transforming from a mere glimmer on the horizon into a brilliant celestial body ascending gracefully into the heavens. Its radiant beams effortlessly enveloped the surroundings, bathing everything in an ethereal glow. Everything faded to white; all that was left was the void. Shadows danced around, indistinct, but at the same time, familiar.
Can you feel its warmth?
The warmth of the sun across your skin?
The love of a mother and father that you wish to experience again?
A special kind of warmth that cannot be obtained through wealth or the care of maids.
A warmth that you can’t find on streets, petty crimes can’t compare.
The warmth of the person you love with all your heart?
You can see their faces. You can remember their voices.
Look deeper, just keep staring. The memories you had forgotten, the feelings you’ve forgotten, they’re all so close. Just keep peering deeper.
All you need is the light, let it burn away your shadows.
An explosion of flames, and smoke of burning flesh flew through the air. The frenzied cries of the starving crows as they tried to fly away from the blast, they maneuvered out of the way, Those unfortunate enough to be caught in the attack crashed into the ground, a mess of singed feathers, beaks hanging open in post mortem as smoke billowed out from their mouths and from the gaps behind their eyes.
As the fire slowly fizzled out, and only left behind the charred corpses, so did the murder descend. They dropped upon the ground, swarming the bodies. Their sharpened beaks dug through the crisped outside to consume the red insides, swallowing it into the gullets. The fallen did not go to waste, but only turned into sustenance. The sounds of flesh being ripped and swallowed slowly changed, as more and more crows dropped down to form into a mass of wings and feathers, the wet sounds of meat were replaced by the cracking of bone, the sounds of joints and limbs snapping in and out of place.
Then from seemingly nothingness, an arm sprouted out from the pile of plumage, sharpened black talons raking across the ground, screeching across the tiles. Another hand followed shortly after, bracing against the ground, pushing itself up, as feathers combined and melted together to form a torso that led down to legs that stood up right. A mess of beaks formed its head, and its wings sprouted out from its back as it hunched forward, they flapped in the air, sending stray debris through the air. Caws and cries came from every part of its body, a network of crows that had combined together to make one being, a man of crows.
With a charge forward,its fingers tenses as its talons gleamed in the moonlight, sharpening before delivering a slash that cut through stone with its momentum.
Everything in its way was split into tatters, a nearby wall was its target, the wall beginning to crumble as the floor above shook, losing its support, stray pebbles began to fall to the ground, cracks beginning to form in the ceiling.
The monster was going to cause the whole area to collapse, just to force its prey into the open, a display of intelligence.
At this rate, Sang-cheol was going to find himself caved in, if he didn’t act quickly.
"Serves you right, damned animals." Sang-Cheol muttered as he watched the ashes of his endeavors. The avians had croaked their last caw. Straightening his outfit, he looked over to the child. "Get up, we don't have time to dawdle." Looking over to the child he was shielding, he pulled up the kid. Why did he even bring the kid in the first place? He should have kicked him out of the car when he first popped out of no where.
Unfortunately for the scientist, the world wasn't going to wait for him. Despite the incineration of the crows, the screeching continued but it was not of crows. Whipping his head from his hiding spot just in time to spot a figure emerging from the dead remains. Reborn from the ashes came a monster. The reason for his being here. Something within Sang-Cheol sparked as he stared at his new specimen.
He marveled at its apparent strength. No doubt having the strength to beat down an HP. Each of its punches sending shockwaves through the crumbling walls. Not to mention it's previous ability. Was the monster able to manifest itself as a bunch of crows? It was a unique ability, a point of research that Sang-Cheol wanted to dissect.
Grabbing one of potential enhancers, he stabbed it into his neck. "Stay here, I have a monster to catch." Coming out of his hiding place, Sang-Cheol maniacally as he opened his hands. Fire, much stronger from before, manifested in his hands. If he had any qualms in restraining himself, they clearly weren't there anymore. "Survive this, if you would." Pointing his hands forward towards the beast, a torrent of flame released.
Would it burn? Would it breath in the smoke? It had a capacity of rational thinking, therefore it had the capacity to be effected by the flames. Sang-Cheol wanted to find the secrets of this monster.
Bullets whizzed through the air, spraying wildly as the chimeric woman slithered through the air, tentacles writhing, each acting independently of the others, even as they moved in concert. From falling slack to snapping taut as they found fresh purchase, crumpling steel and stone alike, the clawed tendrils swung the limp, cackling body—tethering them together like the marionette at the end of their strings—to and fro to through the hail of gunfire, all the while closing in on their target. Just a little closer, and—!
A blast from the small Serpent's unassuming rifle hit the woman square in her chest. If she'd still been a normal human, the slag would've ripped her body in half. The blast sent her hurdling backward head-over-feet as the tendrils scrambled to stabilize. Black smoke plumed from the body as it hung there, still and momentarily quiet. Until,
"... Hah.HaHa. HaHaHAHAHAHAHA!"
The woman's haggard laughter rose up from the smoldering smoke as her four tentacles braced against the surrounding train cars before they launched the woman, and them along behind her, forward like a catapult. This time her course was set, not for Tri, but for the dimunitive little morsel and his handheld cannon of a rifle. Their clash—with one articulating tentacle wrapping around a restrained bayonet mere inches from the woman's chest—unleashed a shockwave that rattled the bones of the abandoned railyard to its core.
With one tentacle battling Peyton for control of the rifle and two more bracing her body against the ground, the woman was left free use of her fourth and final weapon to its fullest. With a wicked gleam, her eyes widened with delight as the alien appendage snaked its way toward her opponent's neck, its sharp, clawed edges snapping hungrily as it drew nearer.
However, before either side could prevail, a flash of white enveloped the woman in an opaque sphere, bringing the confontration to a decisive conclusion. As the miasma passed over her, obscuring her briefly from view, the laughter swiftly faded. The tentacles receded into themselves, into her, as the white fog lifted to reveal the woman's form, now prone on the ground, her head down in the gravel, buried beneath crossed arms, apparently unconscious.
But not for long.
Before anyone had the chance to blink, the woman was sitting up. She was squinting at her hand, or perhaps past it, where a single clawed tentacle hovered, awaiting her next command expectantly.
She repeated. Another blink and she was standing. At last, she took notice of the triad of Serpents standing before her. "Oh! Hello there," she reached out to the nearest for a warm, friendly handshake. "Doctor Miriam Kendall at your ser— Oh! Would you look at that, ha-ha!" In her haste to shake the nearest hand offered her, the doctor, now apparently cleared of the malaise affecting her mind, had failed to notice that one of her newly-sprouted tentacles had mirrored her gesture.