Blam! The sound of Peyton’s anti-HP rifle resounded. The quiet night sounds of the railyard were torn apart by gunfire, Tristan gleefully lighting up the octopus woman with his machine gun. But despite all that, the woman kept going. It was always astounding to Naomi how durable an HP’s body was. She hadn’t realized when she was younger just how overall durable she was. She always attributed her lack of severe injuries to a cushy lifestyle. But here was this woman, being torn apart by bullets and yet somehow still charging forward.
Naomi’s eyes went to Peyton. The fool was going in for a death march–charging the octopus lady with his bayonet. Naomi wasn’t going to stop him–he was an adult, capable of making his own decisions. But the resounding laughter the woman gave off as some of the smoke cleared made her blood run cold. She launched herself forward, her attention directed towards Peyton, who probably proved himself to be a more dangerous threat with that small missile launched at her. Again, Naomi stood still, protecting Tri behind her. That was totally the reason, and not because she was scared or something.
The two HPs collided, a sudden shockwave making Naomi stumble on her feet. Man, it was a good thing she wasn’t high at the moment. That probably would have knocked her straight off her feet, down into the cesspit below. The woman’s tentacle wrapped around Peyton’s gun, stopping him from stabbing her. Naomi watched with horror as she realized the fourth tentacle was poised to strike–she was about to shout a warning at Peyton, when she heard Tri’s bang behind her.
As suddenly as it had started, it was over. When the light faded, the woman was unconscious on the ground. The tentacles were limp at her side. Naomi whistled, impressed. ”That’s our King!” she cheered, her body shrinking back down to its normal proportions. She had wanted to add that who knew it would work so well–but she didn’t think Tri would appreciate the doubt.
Her cheering didn’t last for too long, however. "How... Fascinating..!" a voice called out from below. A voice that was definitely not Peyton’s. Naomi’s head whipped back down towards the trainyard, her arm keeping a protective stance over Tri. The woman was very much conscious, but she didn’t seem…hostile? No, as Naomi watched her, she realized that the woman was astounded. Her hand was outstretched in front of her, her gaze trained on the tentacle that mimicked its movement.
The woman rose to her feet, where she seemed to realize for the first time that she had an audience. Naomi’s face twisted into a sneer as she looked down her nose at the woman. It was a look she had perfected long before she had even become Naomi–and she was good at it. It told someone that you thought of them as less than the dirt beneath your shoe. Her guard wasn’t down yet–for all she knew, this could be a clever ruse. She somewhat doubted it, based off of how manic the woman had been before, but it was better to be safe than sorry. And Naomi did not want the woman to think she had an ally in the three serpents in front of her.
The woman extended her hand towards the group, and Naomi curled her upper lip in response, before turning her head haughtily away. Inside, she was bursting at the seams with curiosity about this Doctor Miriam Kendall. Was she pretending now? Was this who she really was? Did she know nothing about the tentacles that she had previously so deftly wielded in her attempt to murder Peyton? What was she a doctor of? What was ailing her that Tri had been able to purify away? Was she still a threat?
None of these inner thoughts showed on Naomi’s face. Instead, it was only disgust. ”You’re awfully friendly for someone who just tried to murder us,” she hissed. She wasn’t going to let her guard down easy. Naomi glanced back to Tri, a wordless question asked in her gaze. What’s the next step?
You continue to smile, your rage flows out through us, a forgotten entity. A warmth spreads through the signals of happiness that changes your thoughts, but doesn’t affect your face.
“Helping you find yourself?” You reiterate the savior’s, clasping our hands together as you lean in closer to the fearful woman, “Oh joyus! You’ve been selected, then?” You asked. You smiled with knowledge, an understanding of the savior's attentions and, by parallel, His.
“Dokimion. This is your test.” You explained, reaching forward, our hand going to cup the woman’s cheek, our thumb smearing away a small stain of dirt that had found its way on the woman’s face.
“Whether you pass or fail, he shall guide you to salvation,” you preach, letting the terrified woman go and standing back up straight, our red eyes shifting focus to look once again upon His chosen. Stains of red decorated her, the scent of iron growing all too cloying within the atmosphere as the most precious blood dripped freely. She was baptizing the ground below her, purifying it, filling the surroundings with His love with the blood of her sins.
It was an act, a ritual to cleanse the destruction, let the blood seep through the cracks of the cement to the destroyed roots of metal and be born anew through her life. You’re moved, tears threaten to flow from our eyes at her boundless selflessness. You once again find yourself in prayer, gratitude flowing from your lips at being so gifted to be able to witness something so wonderful.
Even amidst your worship, we did not tune out the world. When the savior questioned you, all our attention shifted to her wholeheartedly, we processed her words, blinking with a smile.
“Grapes?” You responded, uncertain if that was the answer. You could recall the first feast that happened only days ago. Grapes were one of the many things on the table, one of the many things she gorged herself on.
Fresh and sweet, that is what she wanted. But, was it the sweetness of a tart grape, or something else? You wondered, what exactly did your savior truly want? It was lost, even on you, but you knew it would hold purpose, just as it had always done.
She would be guided to what she desired, just as He had guided you to what you needed. The robes she wore were not your choice, but your destiny. They were here, on you, because that’s where they needed to be.
Your savior didn't need to be told such matters. She was already well aware of your purpose, of your part to play in all this, so instead you looked at her, a silent smile, enjoying following behind as a disciple, setting upon the precipice of calamity.
Then, the ringing. A high-pitched crescendo that caused us to scrunch in disgust. Our breath hitched, our teeth ground together, our gums bled. As your eyes tightly shut, ours sprang open, revealing narrow slits within our neck. Suddenly, our bloodshot whites intensely surveyed the environment, filled with eager anticipation, bracing ourselves for what lay ahead.
Metals clattered against the floor, structures shook, the surroundings trembled. The brewing discord rattled bones as they did the hollow clothing racks. Despite this, nothing was visible, nothing alarmed the senses.
When the vibration stopped, your eyes opened once again, but ours did not close. Danger, we sensed it. Eyes continued to dart around, more and more sprouting out from slits in our flesh, examining every angle.
You were broken out of your focus by a slight bump into your side, in unison all our eyes focused on the one responsible. Your savior, she stumbled along forward, searching for the source of the sound, moving with assurance. She was guiding you, and you would follow.
What she decided was His decree. Was this a cry of salvation, or a scream of damnation?
Among the group of wearied citizens, a frail-looking elderly woman, her silver hair bundled into a haphazard bun, shuffled forward. Her eyes, dulled with age but still sharp with the alertness of someone who'd seen much of the world, regarded Noa with a mix of curiosity and caution. Behind her, a young mother, clutching her toddler close, eyed the two men nervously, especially at the sight of the katana sheathed by the one man's side. The young ones, unaware of the gravity of their surroundings, huddled close, eyes darting between strangers and their guardians. "We appreciate your offer," the elderly woman began in a voice that wavered slightly from exhaustion. "We've been hiding from the chaos outside. Ever since the attacks started, down here's been a warzone. We've already lost our homes and many of us, our families, to the earthquake. And now this—" Her voice warbled and she grew quiet, glancing warily at 26.
"But who are you all? Are you here to help or just bring more trouble?" There was a defensive edge to her voice, a protective instinct towards the group she had found herself charged to her care.
The man who'd been stooped over a body of an injured civilian stood tall as the Phoenix woman approached. He'd done all he could to mend the wounds the hellish creatures had inflicted on their bodies. It was still beyond him to cure their minds of the sight of so much blood. He dusted off his hands and turned
"Ah, you came." He said, strange for the fact that he'd never seen this woman before. Had he? "I was beginning to wonder... If anyone was going to do anything about this." He gestured to the sad scene sprawled out around them, as the watchful horrors lurked just outside the ring of torchlight. His mind seemed to go out from behind his eyes, wandering far afield... After a thoughtful pause, he focused again on the here and now. His bearing returned in force. Powerful. Regal, even. Sorely out of place amidst this sorry place.
"I'm sure you have questions. I'll answer what I can, but I'm afraid I'll have something to ask of you in return."
Charlie could feel it, he was close to cracking down what exactly was happening with the workers. They were clearly unable to speak, or else they would've by now, and they also seemed to block the view towards the water. Just what was causing such behavior among the people? Charlie wanted to ask, but he was then interrupted by his senior. The rookie was...at a loss for words, to say the least. Between his suddenly use of old amestrian, the sudden flexing of his title, or the seemingly impossible pose he was striking, he wasn't sure what he should be focusing on "A-Aniki, I don't think that they wou-"
Then, snap! The men panicked, one of them even having enough of the veteran's antics, Charlie tried to ask what was happening. The men looked as if they were having their very lives threatened. Soon they scattered like cockroaches on the presence of a fearsome giant, a serenade of splashes from thick boots landing on shallow puddles around the dock. To his left, Charlie finally saw the azure body of water, adorned at a distance by an unnatural radiance. The rookie spread his legs, taking on a battle-ready position as the light approached them. "I Don't have a good feeling about this..."
No further explanation was needed, he could feel it in his heart, beating profusely like a ceremonial drum. Something big was approaching, something ominous, its alien nature unlike anything the rookie had seen until that point in time. He reached for the nylon case hanging from behind his back, his fingers gently pinching on the zipper puller.
But alas, no matter how much he attemped to prepare against the light, it was all futile, as the orb rose above the sea level high up into the air, manifesting an ourburst of pure alabaster radiance. Charlie's eyes seeked refugee behind his forearms, his eyelids closing shut as the brightness assaulted him. In a naive thought, he believed it would be safe to open them once again, as seemingly no real harm had come to him in the last several seconds.
Like a clueless rat, the boy had fallen into a dangerous trap.
What came next was but a blur, a visual experience beyond human comprehension. First, it was nothing but pure, absolute white. So pristine and clear, Charlie found himself unable to turn his gaze away from it. Unclear words made his ears tingle, they weren't truly coherent, but in a way, he felt like he understood them completely. Consciousness started to partially slip away, mind and body's natural tether growing ever so weaker.
There was a vision, a mirage of a day long past, yet feeling as real as if one stood in the present time. Charlie found himself in a large and familiar room, the walls adorned with a pattern of diagonal navy-blue and ivory stripes, the wooden flooring was barnished and polished, almost completely free from signs of weathering or damage, then fancy white furniture laid around, a fluffy bed that could invite even the most stubborn of insomniacs to the realm of dreams. Everything about this place, it made the phoenix feel...Safe, in a way he might as well erase from his memory altogether.
"Just look at you, little man, so big and handsome already"
A single, large hand landed on Charlie's head, gently rustling his short cerulean locks. The boy got startled, a high-pitched gasp coming out of his small mouth as he turned around coming into sight with the person. His pupils contracted, his body turned stiff, a knot formed on his throat, while the little kid appeared unchanged on the outside, his heart throbbed with immeasurable pain.
With trembling lips, the child opened his mouth, metaphorical tears welling up on his eyes as his voice pierced the silence of the environment. "You think ill be as big as you, father?" He replied, laying his hands atop the one patting him. "Oh I'm sure you'll be even taller, also will you just call me dad already?" The man whined playfully, his sad puppy eyes sparkling lively.
The child smiled, happy to share this special moment with his father. Albeit something was out of place, he could feel it within his chest, something was screaming and kicking, expressions of pain and rage coming from within. But why? He was happy now, and safe, there was no point in feeling any other way.
"Now now, Rico, don't go making demands of him on his special day"
The child felt a cold chill down his spine, a voice that tore through the decayed threads that sutured old wounds. He looked forward again, seeing a new friendly face across the tea table, resting her chin on her overlapped hands.
The screaming inside of the boy's chest grew louder, almost as if alien words attempted to crawl their way out of his throat. But he was just overjoyed to see his mother, she was so busy this time of year, yet, she took her time to free her schedule. Charlie looked at the small cake in front of him seven little candles lit up, their flames reflecting onto the hazel irises of his large, glassy eyes.
He blew on the candles, followed by a pair of cheers from his parents, the two of them oh so proud of their special little boy. His mother, ever so attentive and caring, then lifted up another item, a large black case. "Happy birthday, Charles" She let out, sliding the case until it was comfortably in front of her son. "Sheesh, can't you let the kid have his cake for a minute, Amelia?" Remarked his dad, smiling as he cross his arms. "I'm sure he will like this more than some cake" Well, mother always knew best. Charlie looked at the case with innocent wonder, the shape of it seemed somehow familiar, but he couldn't quite nail it down. He enthusiastically pulled on the zipper, splitting it wide open.
Now, its content was something the child was able to tell what it was. With a gleeful expression, he gently lifted the violin, its large, almost bulky size perhaps being a bit much for the small boy's frame. "Did you really need to get him such a big one?" Rico scratched his chin in doubt. "I'm not getting him anything but top of the line, besides, he'll grow into it before you know it"
Charlie was immensely happy. His parents had took the time of day to be with him today, and not only that, even at his young age, he was able to tell just how special of a gift this was. "Mother! Father! Thank you so much!" The two smiled back at their child, satisfied with the little one's reaction. Curious about its parts and quirks, the boy explored the intrument with his hands, eventually a single fingertip tracing along the length of one of the strings. He gave it a little tug, surprised by the pressure for which it was held in place, and then released.
The sound echoed and bounced around the room, a high pitched note and pierced straight into his mind, it was a strong sensation, overwhelming pain suddenly slipping his consciousness away.
Charlie opened his eyes in a tunnel of light, prismatic gleams dancing through its seemingly endless path. He floated in place, or maybe he was moving forward? Backwards, perhaps? Before he could make sense of his current whereabouts, the rookie was assaulted by visions of days past, forcing their way into his retinas, whether he liked it or not. He saw good memories, bad memories, joyous memories, painful memories.
A picnic with his family, laughing and smiling as the sun bathed them with gentle light. A distressed Rico lashing out with venomous yet honest words at a dismissive and apathetic Amelia. A family trip, cruising beaches and climbing mountains with jovial enthusiasm. A darkened figure leaving through the front door, after giving his child an eerily prolonged hug. Those were but a few of the many, many memories that Charlie found himself forced to relive in agonizing detail. The good times reminded him of the good he had, and the bad times made him covet what was lost with renovated desire.
What was the point? Why was he among filthy criminals? He wasn't made for it, he was good person, a kind soul that didn't belong, like a domesticated dog foolishly attempting to join in on a pack of wild wolves. The Phoenixes had given him nothing but pain, when he had a true family waiting for him to return. Charlie just needed to change, to become a better son, he could change his mask for a new one, maybe his mother could accept him back, maybe his father could return.
He had to return, and walk back to where his roots lied.
Tears streamed down Charlie's cheeks as he stared intently at the dazzling light, utterly tranced by its otherwordly effect. With trembling legs, he took a step forward. "I'm so sorry, Mother! I was so wrong...You were right, you're always right" He moved forward, ever so slowly approaching the deep waters beyond the edge of the docks. "I can change! I can improve, we can even look for him again!". He felt a great sense of resistance within his body, an iota of reason desperately yanking away at him, slowly losing the battle over the control of his psyque. "Please..."
Only a dozen or so steps away before falling into water's merciless embrace.
Hitoshi was confused at first when anger welled up from the workers, and it was visibly plastered on his face as the head honcho of the bunch grabbed him by the collar . "Hey now, I'm here to help-" Hitoshi managed to get out until he and his peers started to panic at the approach of *something*. And, just as quickly, they scampered away to safety as fast as they could to leave the two Phoenixes on the docks. "Something's got 'em spooked." he commented, until he noticed that Charlie was watching something on approach from the water. His gaze fell onto the entity in their presence, feeling uneasy as he got into a defensive stance.
It was then that the light shot up into the air to illuminate in its deadly, manipulative glow. Hitoshi's eyes trailed its movement up into the air and... nothing happened. He blinked once. Then twice. Then shook his head, confused for a moment before laughing. "Hahaha, wow! Must be some kind of light show! The workers were afraid of this?" he said aloud with a laugh, and turned to Charlie. But his laugh quickly turned into a look of deep concern as he saw Charlie shuffling towards the water like a zombie. And, to boot, he was... crying? He was crying!
"Wha... Charlie?" Hitoshi sputtered out, "Are you alright?"
The words fell on deaf ears as he took another step towards the water. Hitoshi blinked again in confusion, and now in fear as he now realized a terrible truth. Charlie was being lured in like a fish on a hook.
"Charlie!" Hitoshi then shouted, grabbing the young Phoenix by the shoulder and shaking him vigorously. Trying desperately to break him out of this malicious stupor, Hitoshi shouted again: "Snap out of it! Listen to me!"
The Phoenix flock dispersed three ways. A tactic or a gamble?
Their steps traveled farther than they knew, and reached the beast in its cove, stirring it more.
The deeper into the labyrinth each of them ventured, webs along the ground and walls became visible, thicker as they went. With each step, the sticky silk clung to the feet, gathering like cotton candy around a parchment cone.
The Phoenix Queen’s question went without response. He checked hovels for signs of life and found only a lack thereof. For threats, too, and still nothing.
Beyond a certain point, webs coated the town a textured white as if winter had spawned in the blink of an eye. Stretched from one shack to the next, they draped like curtains in alleyways, a hindrance despite possessing a unique beauty.
As he passed by the window of one particular dwelling, somewhat obscured by the screen of webbing, something squirmed within. A cocoon nestled in a far corner from the dwelling’s entrance.
The heterochromatic-eyed Phoenix came upon the same scene on his own path. White webs thick within the alleyway that led him to the yet unknown.
He cackled but there was nothing funny.
Something behind him skittered, a sound not unlike leaves disturbed by the wind.
Elsewhere, on the main street, the Phoenix with the side-cut carried themselves close to the lineup of crude shelters until their field-of-view, too, was covered in white.
The farther they traveled, the more clear the sound became… Weak sobs from an alleyway up ahead.
‘We’ll be careful’, Hector said, but he was being anything but. Noisily he stomped further down, leaving destruction in his wake. Of course, he quickly noticed the blanket of web that enveloped the scenery more and more the further he went. At first, he kicked the air, trying to pry the web off of his boots, but realising how fruitless it was, he stopped trying, and soon it coated his feet and the bottom of his trouser legs.
He continued to swipe and tear down everything, eager to find a single thing to make this adventure worthwhile. It was obvious that they were on track, y’know, because of the webs, but the town seemed dead as ever. Hector was sure Hide and Yong-Yut found similar, but nobody was calling him, so he assumed their leads were like his. His clawed hands soon became wrapped with sticky web, and he transitioned them into one machete-like blade and continued to attack his surroundings.
Soon, he passed a building like the others, and as he had with the others, he cut through what was in his way to peer inside. Amid the web, he almost missed the mass in the corner. Gritting his teeth, he walked to it without any care, stepping over the most matted pieces of web on the ground.
If only the others were here to see this, but Hector didn’t call for them. Whatever this was, it was big, but not necessarily more noteworthy than the web they’d already been wading through. He took out his phone, snapping a photo, and shining a torch onto the cocoon before returning the device to his pocket. Impatiently, he ran his blade through the cocoon’s shell. No better way to see what was squirming within. He readied a claw with his other hand.
The Tiger Triad waded slowly through the desolate dregs of the once-prosperous neighborhood that, in its heyday, saw millions of amestriyen flow like rivers through its streets in an afternoon. Now only dust and silence remained. And the sallow, sunken faces of those who time left behind.
As they walked, the trio's footsteps echoed through the empty streets, reverberating off the walls of the abandoned shops and residences. Derelict buildings with shattered windows loomed on either side, their façades displaying peeling signs and fresh graffiti - some nostalgic, some defiant, all telling the story of a place and people now almost forgotten.
It was the perfect spot for an ambush.
Without warning, a flurry of movement erupted from the shadows. Figures, cloaked in tattered garments, emerged from every corner, alleyway, and open doorway. Before the Tigers could react, they were surrounded. A makeshift circle of menace tightened around them.
Only these were no monsters.
Children of varying ages, the oldest no more than sixteen, stared warily at Lorette, Hiachi, and Missy. Their clothes were dusty, their faces smeared with dirt and sweat, but their eyes burned. A challenge. A threat. Just try something, they said.
Yet beneath their bravado, the sharp-eyed Tigress could sniff out an old, familiar stench: fear.
At Elias’s behest, and following Lu’s instructions, Meirin found a better location–within opera house perimeters–to park her ex’s vehicle. Shifting some signs and props around, she “hid” the luxury sports car to the best of her abilities before dusting her hands, her gaze darting to the group of departing Dragons. Certainly, she’d intended to investigate on her own when she first saw news of Lower Central, not wanting to trouble her gang with trivial matters, but she also saw no reason to not follow them upon encountering them either; The more minds looking into the situation, the merrier.
Besides, they were her friends.
If there was anyone worth protecting from Chimeras, besides her sister, Eternal Night Palace, and innocent civilians, it was her fellow gang members.
You’ll find gloves in the glovebox, Mei. Please take them if you intend on punching anything in Lower Central.
Certainly, but also because the source of these mutations have yet to be identified. I’d have told you to bring proper PPE to Lower Central if you hadn’t run off so fast.
Meirin rolled her eyes, but nonetheless snatched up the hand-wears, slipping them over her fingers, before dashing to catch up with the other Dragons and follow Kanna’s order of investigating on foot. Who knows? Perhaps she’d missed some things while being too focused on the wheels…which was very likely, to be honest.
“Gotta be honest with you Ottie, I have no idea what a Margay even is...” Meirin replied to Ottilie’s suggestion, gloved hands clasped behind her back as the barefoot girl walked, eyes wandering her surroundings curiously. “From context clues alone, I’d guess a predator of some sort…bird, maybe? Sounds like it.”
Lu’s sharp laughter in Meirin's ear answered her inquiry. Face turning bright red, Meirin shook her head, her voice rising slightly to sound above the laughter in her ear. “Whichever the case, I get the gist of what you’re saying Otter, but we don’t even know what these so-called HP-Chimera thingies eat, let alone consider to be prey, so luring them anywhere is not gonna be easy. Kanna’s got the better idea, I think. Find civilians…” Meirin shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe they’ll be drawn to human flesh…but the more people we can get out of Lower Central, the less mutants we’ll have to deal with…”
Theater street really was a sad sight. Once vibrant and lively, Lower Central’s entertainment sector now looked no better than certain areas of the North District. At least the North District still had power. And walkable, undamaged streets. Meirin had thought the Yeye Home had it bad in terms of government support, but Lower Central hands down had it beat; It gave new meaning to living off-the-grid. In fact, the contrast between Upper Central and Lower Central was so startling that Meirin wouldn’t be surprised if Lower Central became an entirely different District altogether…
Yet, there were still humans that lived down there, either by choice or lack of escape means.
They adapted the best they could in the months following the “quake”. Continued to put on plays. Tried to be happy.
Would these dwellers actually leave if given the choice? Was the potential to turn into potential-chimera thingies better than continuing to live potential-less in a potential dominated city? Meirin would like to think that it wasn’t. She would like to think that people were smart enough to make better choices for themselves. However, the Azure Dragon veteran had also seen enough idiots to know that people didn’t always make the best choices - be it for themselves or for others.
Eyes drawn to where a small group seemed to be gathered around a puppet show at a corner of the street, Meirin’s gaze couldn’t hide her curiosity. “I mean, I’ll try to talk to ‘em, maybe drag them back to the opera house for safety, but since we’re in theater street, couldn’t hurt to see what sort of shows they’re putting on, yeah? Gotta be good if they're willing to risk their lives for it.”
Lu’s cough sounded in her ear.
Meirin’s eyes darted back to Jennifer Lawson. “Ah, I almost forgot! My friend’s a big fan,”
Reaching into the folds of her shaolin-esque qipao, Meirin pulled out a napkin and pen. “Can I get an autograph for him? ‘To Zachery Locke, the idiot that will never, ever, ever, marry Jun Azuza’, if you please. Worded exactly like that.”
Ignoring Lu’s protests, Meirin studied the news anchor she’d seen on TV a couple of times. Was she a fan? Not even close. However, Meirin couldn’t deny that if Lawson hadn’t braved the ‘Chimera Crisis’ to report on its horrors, Meirin wouldn’t be in Lower Central today. She also believed people had a right to know about truths going on in Lower Central, about lives of the people living there…whatever said truth might be.
Of course, given how easily Lawson had offered ‘improved Dragon image’ for protection, Meirin thought Kanna smart for not entirely trusting the reporter as well. Truthseekers were to be respected. Money-seekers, less so.
Tri blinked and blanked when the woman crumpled down like that. He didn't expect that to work. He was looking forward to clicking his tongue and said something along the line of 'careful, this one has some gas going'. Then the others would defeat the spider monster and he could come up to the body and gave it a nudge with the tip of his boot while sparking up another cigarette.
Still, it wasn't like he didn't know what his Purification working meant. Purification wasn't a healing or regeneration potential. It was a decontaminant. External influence, once purified, would disappear without a trace. Be it diseases or lodged items causing inflammation, anything classified as an abnormal influence on the body, would be purified.
That included the effect of some Potentials.
Tri ran a hand through his hair with a troubled look - something he thought very noir detective. "Peyton, all intact?" He inquired for banter. Banters were the lifeblood of detective novels, at least according to the conclusion Tri drew, so it was necessary. Detectives should be able to show concern, especially to those closer. Still, the scene had to move, so Tri put a hand into his pocket without waiting for an answer and approached the suddenly friendly Doctor Miriam. A bit weird, but noirs needed colorful characters, so he liked her. Tristan was all muscles, Peyton the lethal nimble streetwise one, Naomi the office-ly diplomatic type and he was the ordinary detective doing his best.
"No need to be hostile; you know what my Potential working means." Tri gave Naomi a side glance that was just a glance. He liked Naomi. She understood coolness like Tristan, but way cooler than Tristan ever could. Besides, she bounced back him great and he liked that. She helped him becoming cool.
Tri met Miriam's hand with a firm handshake. "Tri. King of Serpents," Wait, the purification. "and Deacon of North."
Tri hummed. If he knew his Purification would work, he would have prepared a Holy Book. Then he could be an exorcist. The chance for that didn't come often. He glanced at Tristan. Was he religious?
"...Uh, I ain't shaking the tentacle, Boss." Tristan hugged his machine gun and scooted back with a weirded look.
"So, what got to you, Doctor?" Tri asked Miriam with his business voice. "Ghost? Disease... Or Potential?"
People really were into his rifle, weren't they? Peyton almost felt jealous that it was what made him so dangerous, and also a little proud. Everyone always thought disarming him quickly would be the solution to defeating him. They weren't wrong.
Fortunately, that also meant that Peyton was ready for such an attack. But it didn't change the fact that the woman had a height advantage, limb quantity advantage, and strength advantage. Peyton barely managed to stop the brunt of her leap, his sneakers burning rubber as they struggled for traction on the train station tiles.
The small Serpent growled and bared his teeth as he pushed back against the attack. The disease that flowed in his veins roared with life, lending Peyton the strength to fend for himself. If he could only push his rifle a few inches further, he could pierce the chimeric's chest and end the battle for good. And when Peyton spotted the tentacle coming at his throat, he leaned in with all his strength.
Thankfully, that was when Tri's purification hit. For a moment, Peyton felt a spike of fear, the momentary instant of weakness causing him to pause in his attack and get shoved a few steps backward. But after checking himself, Peyton realized that Tri had excluded Peyton from the purification. Peyton's Potential stemmed from a disease, and so it wouldn't be excluded from the effects of Tri's Potential. And whenever he was purified, he would feel awful. Guilt would wrack him as he thought about the path of destruction he had wrought. He didn't want to feel guilty today.
Peyton checked himself over and responded to Tri's words of concern with a blasé thumbs up-- an unintentional and instinctual attempt to match Tri's noir fad, "All good here! Thanks for the save, uncle!"
In a mere moment, Peyton's feral demeanor was under control. He brushed some of the dust off of his hoodie and wiped his mouth with a sleeve. His snarl was replaced by an easy grin.
"C'mon, Naomi, lighten up! It's perfectly okay to talk with people after a fight! I met some of my best friends that way!" Peyton said. He was kinda jealous of Miriam. If only Naomi's sneer was directed at Peyton. Unlike Tristan, Peyton had no qualms about shaking a tentacle, so he reached out to grasp it with a firm handshake, being careful to avoid the pointy bits, "My name's Peyton, nice to meet you!"
It wasn't that Peyton was fearless. It was that he was stupid.
"Yeah, do you remember how you got these cool appendages?" Peyton asked, backing up Tri's query. It wasn't as if Peyton was concerned about stopping the spread of the malady, but he would be lying if he didn't admit he held a bit of interest in the sudden appearance of the potentials, especially since they were somewhat similar to his own.
Xuexia cocked her head, giving the other Dragons an amused look. “Is that how you conduct business around these parts? Beating around the bush? There is a time and business for everything, you know. This is a warzone. Even this civilian gets the fact.”
So she gave the reporter an amicable look. The woman was not as perfectly composed as she would like to think. And Xuexia could see even without her additional sense the hints of fear, the tenor of tension in Jennifer’s held breaths. Though awfully brave for a non-combatant, she was still made of flesh and blood and nerves, all of which susceptible to threats. And no such creature is immune to terror, only more or less resistant.
“You heard the boss lady, don’t do anything stupid, ‘mkay? And nothing misleading either. For a moment there, I really thought you were threatening to reveal our information to the world! Silly, innit?” Xuexia smiled.
Just then, her body jolted. A spark of electricity ran through her body, and when it died, its vestige tugged insistently at her mind.
Again, Xuexia cocked her head as the fellow Dragon explained her line of thought. “Are they some stingray variant or what?” Once more the spark of inspiration ignited in her, this time her own. “Ms. Reporter, wanna volunteer some desperate call of a prey?” She tapped her lips with the sai’s tip. “I’d be more than happy to lend you a hand.”
The first beam caught the massive beast straight in the chest, causing it to stumble backward, a smoking hole evident in its monstrous form. The second zipped past its left shoulder, narrowly missing and creating an explosion upon contact with the ruined park landscape behind. The third, however, was intercepted by two lesser shadowfiends, who threw themselves into the line of fire, vaporizing instantly.
The lupine monster roared in rage, and the chorus rang louder in response even as the Serpent's blazing blade cut swathes through the horde with each sweep. The lesser beasts stood no chance as she danced through their ranks, their forms melting into wisps of ether.
But the leader, the massive wolf-creature, was different. It moved with an intelligence and cunning that betrayed its monstrous exterior. It avoided Kisara's slashing blade, using its size to bowl over one of the few trees that remained standing. Taking the trunk in its jaws, it flung the old oak toward its adversary like a spear as the shadows pooled behind and beneath her, the forms of the fallen reconstituting themselves as inky-black tar pits that snapped and clung hungrily to any part of her within reach.
At Stern’s salute, Chikage nodded, at the same time noticing Detective Sexton, or Jayce, approaching in his peripheral vision. He listened to Stern speak with a noticeable air of impatience, marked by the wrinkle between his brows and tightness of his jaw.
Every nerve in his body was trying to convince him there was something he could do to solve the situation that very second, to spur him on impulse, but he knew better.
“The sooner, the better,” said the Captain in response to Stern’s final words. Toward Jayce, his ruby-red eyes shifted, a quick inspection from top to bottom.
“Detective.” He addressed him with a nod, somewhat pleased to be partnering with, perhaps, one of his more tolerable subordinates.
They had a long night ahead of them.
— —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 prepares for the debriefing from Officer Stern.
(Interacting w/ Officer Richard Stern, Jayce)
(Mentioned no one) Elenion AuraSlav
As soon as he could, Guardian went off on his own. He wanted to cover more ground, and being confined to a persistently playing theater wasn’t his ideal way to spend the day. The Dragons wanted to investigate, what with the earthquake and the mysterious monsters that killed a reporter live on TV. And if the Dragons wanted to know, so did Albrecht Industries—hence Guardian’s presence.
"Two tangos, left flank," Guardian said to nobody. Gunshots rang off a few meters away, and two zombies dropped dead. One of the four drones he piloted hovered near, snapping pictures of the cadavers to be uploaded back home. Two points.
Of course, Guardian needed more to do than just looking around at things. The monsters rising from wherever provided just the right amount of fun—at last, his training in all those FPS games will pay off! As he tracked one monster's strafing with his drone, it fell before it even made 10 steps.
Floating through the dark streets, Guardian hummed to himself, letting his mind free. And as it was, a loud scuffle caught his attention. It came from the park, and Guardian hovered over to see more...
As the tree trunk flew through the air, a rapid firing of bullets objected to its existence. Hundreds of splinters chipped off of it, and the tree shrank mid-air. By the time it reached Kisara, it was a mere woodchip.
"Cheers, love! The cavalry's here!" Guardian had no idea who this pink HP even was; it just looked like fun! A sentiment clearly expressed by the wide grin on his face as the four gun drones flew around him. He raised a hand into the sky. "Fire at will!" Guardian pointed his arm at the wolf-creature, and all the drones spent their ammo.
From the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of who he was looking for and more. He recognized Chikage's face, but the face of the other officer was a blank canvas to him. It didn't really matter, he didn't need to know him to understand why he was there. He gave a nod to Chikage, briefly speaking. "Captain." He wasn't a man of many words nor did he have much to say to Chikage. He just wanted to find out the game plan and Officer Stern's words gave him an inkling of one. "Delay no longer then." Jayce wasn't in the mood for trivial conversation.
Taking a ride and partnering with Chikage did have some upsides. Chikage was probably one of the only people Jayce respected within the agency. He was skeptical of many of his fellow compatriots. He knew that corruption and a simple lack of discipline was rampant within the organization. He wasn't surprised, just disappointed. It was hard to do what was right when you had someone breaking all the patches you fixed.
He slipped a cigarette out of the carton in his front jacket pocket, letting it dangle from his lips. Jayce turned his back to the two men, stepping away. He was prepared for what was to come. Cleaning up the streets was his favorite part of the job, though he found it to be less satisfactory at every passing day. Maybe things would get better but from how it currently looked, he had little hope for improvement. With a sigh, he started taking his first few steps toward the exit. If they were in haste they better get moving then.
Javi gulped but didn't protest. The Jack had given her orders. For better or worse, they all had to obey.
The Dragons delved further into Central's depths, where the shadows hung heavier, and the streets grew darker. Even in the brighest of days, Javi didn't imagine much natural light reached down here.
Flinching when Ottilie spoke suddenly, Javi turned to her blinking as he slowly wrapped his head around what she was suggesting. He wanted to elbow her. He wanted to clap a hand over her mouth. He wished he had the coordination to do both at once.
Settling for a vague ¡Silencio! gesture of cutting his fingers across his own throat, hoping that his widening eyes and increasingly set jaw got the message across that they should Not Do That and Please Don't Say It Again before her idea gained any traction.
That was a horrible plan!
Best case scenario, they didn't find anything and could go home. That plan fell apart the moment they started making bird sounds or whatever. Still... It wasn't like their current plan was big brain or anything. Even so, Javi breathed a sigh of relief when Meirin chimed in with a sensible alternative—to do as Kanna said and focus on saving civilians—even if her words left a vivid image of flesh-eating zombie HPs running amok through his imagination.
When Meirin mentioned the puppet show happening nearby, Javi did his best to quell the flutter of nerves in his stomach.
"Huh? Oh, y... Yeah." Javi acquiesced, even if the idea of standing around watching a creepy puppet show in a creepy place like this wasn't exactly the vibe he was feeling right about now. Still, Meirin was strong, right? It'd be fiiiiine... Right?
Lower Central District
Kanna, Javi, Jesper, Meirin, Ottilie, Zhu
"Deal," Jennifer said almost immediately, in a voice that seemed to suggest that she was more than amenable to the terms the Dragon Jack laid out.
"Ab-so-lutely," Jennifer cooed, plucking the pen and napkin from Meirn's outstretched hands before turning to Ottilie as she wrote out the message as dictated. "By the way, I thought it was a fine idea. If nothing else, it'd make for excellent T.V. Which reminds me!— Here you go, sweetie," she handed the napkin and pen back and snapped for Gregory's attention. "You. Over there. Stand over there. No. Right there— no, fuck, man—There. Where I'm pointing. Good boy."
Turning at last with a whirl toward Zhu, Jennifer smiled sweetly. "Not exactly, dear. But thank you so much for volunteering." She winked, then took her place in the 1-hour evening news special report she was intricately constructing in her head.
From there, her attention turned inward. She counted herself in silently from five before, microphone in hand, head down until the moment before the camera started to roll. She slipped into her on-screen persona like a well-worn suit: reporter extraordinaire.
"This is Jennifer Lawson with New Oasis News, coming to you from the depths of Lower Central itself..." She continued without prompting, off the cuff, as she led Gregory forward, directing him to capture footage of the sorry state of the under city. With some clever footwork, she'd ambled herself alongside Zhu, the eye of the camera following her like it was a hungry dog and her suit was lined with bacon.
"I have with me now a young, brave soul who is on a mission to help the poor people who call this ravaged district home. Tell the world, what is it like for those unfortunate enough to be caught up in this senseless tragedy." Dipping the microphone in Zhu's direction, Jennifer looked at her with wide, concerned eyes. They were glistening, as if she were on the verge of tears.
The sound of her companions faded as the group parted ways. She could not hear Hector through the wall of buildings, and it was safe to say she couldn’t hear Hide either.
Her steps were slow, thoughtful. Her eyes scanned over the shacks. As she went further from the others, her back slouched and her arms rose to meet her torso. As though they were a particularly stealthy t-rex, they stalked through the village.
She marched on, one foot after another, until she couldn’t anymore. Her gaze made its way down to the street, then to her leg, and then to the sticky silk between the sole of her foot and the dirty pathway.
Yong-Yut visibly cringed, pulling her foot up and out of the web with enough effort.
They looked up to see the majority of the path being covered with the same substance. With a groan, she stood up straight.
The scarf around her neck slithered down her body until it wrapped itself around her calves. Splitting in half, each part extended downward, pushing the rest of her body upward.
She stumbled— forward, and backward, holding her hands out on either side. She took a few steps in every direction, until she regained her balance on her makeshift stilts.
Eventually, she continued forward.
“Hm?” she murmured, looking into the distance. The soft sound of weeping came to them, as well as a feeling of confusion. They went on, getting closer to the sound as well as closer to the side of the alley until they lightly hit the wall. Inching ever nearer to the sound, she tried to get quieter.
"Why, wouldn't you be friendly to the people who so heroically rescued your mind from the clutches of interfering, otherworldly forces?!"
On 'otherworldly', both her and her tentacles made rather extravagant wiggling gestures. The gesture finally ceased, at least for one of her limbs, when a hand found hers. She shook it vigorously.
"A pleasure. Let me tell you. It is an absolute pleasure!"
When her tentacle was grasped, she let out a little squeak of surprise. Apparently, she was still getting used to all of the new sensations that came with the sudden proliferation of four fresh limbs. "Aww, aren't you a sweet-heart! My apologies for the whole 'trying-to-kill-you' thing." She let out a little half-laugh, half-snork. This woman had the bearing of someone who didn't get out of the lab much, if at all.
"An excellent question! Two! Two excellent questions. The answer to both is: I have no idea. I'm afraid my memory is still a teensy bit hazy, specifically of the events the directly preceded my brief spat of insanity, which, if I haven't mentioned enough already, thank you for clearing that all up... But, hm. Hm..."
When the shaking had ceased, Miriam collected her wayward limbs. She splayed her fingers in front of her nose as the tendrils flattened comfortably against her backside. Her brow furrowed.
"Ah-ha! I recall now. I am the Director of Potentiality Research at New Oasis University! I heard about the outbreak of a strange new Potential-related illness on the news and it stoked my intellectual curiosity. I came down here to investigate, and..."
She trailed off, making a little shrugging motion as she gestured to her tentacles. That was the last thing she remembered.
"Oh, hold on a tic. I remember... I remember which way I went in. Perhaps I can pick up the trail from there. And you all! You're welcome to tag along. If you don't mind lending me a... Hand?"
On 'hand', Miriam splayed all ten of her fingers and unraveled all four of her tentacles, whose claws quivered with delight at the truly awful pun.
A short while later, Miriam arrived at the opposite end of the Train Yard, recognizing it as the region of Lower Central where she'd lost her memories. Perhaps she had been on to something down here?
The journey into the belly of the beast carried on in relative silence. Officer Stern sat in the front passenger's side of the NOPD cruiser, hands folded neatly in his lap. They passed below the twilight of the Upper City's skyline as they made their descent.
"We are here. This is the edge of our perimeter." Stern unfastened his seatbelt and threw open the cruiser door, nodding curtly to the officers who flanked either side of the cordoned off roadway.
A blast of cool, damp air rushed into the vehicle, carrying with it the unmistakable scent of iron and rain. Puddles reflected the red-and-blue lights of the patrol cruisers, painting a strobe of colors across the asphalt. The dim light of the street lamps threw long, uneven shadows, making the figures scurrying about appear distorted and menacing.
Beyond the makeshift barricade, Stern eyed the immediate problem. A structure, previously a three-story building, now lay partially in ruins across the road, impeding their journey deeper into Lower Central. Smoke still seeped from its scorched facade, and the occasional crackle and pop from unseen fires were faintly audible. The remnants of what might have been windows now stared out like hollow, vacant eyes.
Stern's eyes flicked to the crowd of civilians gathered on the near side of the police barricade. They whispered to each other in hushed tones, their eyes darting around, trying to piece together the story from what little they could see beyond the police tape. A mother clutched her child close, her face pale and tear-streaked, while a young man angrily shouted at a police officer, demanding answers.
Several emergency response vehicles were parked haphazardly around as paramedics attended to those injured in the collapse while firefighters conversed amongst themselves, pointing towards certain sections of the demolished structure.
Taking a deep breath, Stern gestured to the scene. "As you can see, Captain, Detective, it's a mess. Initial reports suggest an explosion, but the cause is yet to be determined. We've evacuated the surrounding area, but with the structural integrity in question, there's a risk of further collapse... With the road blocked, we cannot advance in force." In his voice, there lingered an unspoken question: do we press forward with a small team, or wait and assist with the situation here?
Stern knew better than to give his assessment. This was Chikage's call. Although he hoped to impress upon the Captain that time, as ever, was of the essence.
As his mind raced, Stern's gaze turned upward, towards the small glimpses of sky between the interlaced concrete and steel lattice that formed Upper Central's underbelly, where dark clouds gathered ominously, signaling an impending storm.
"And it looks like we'll be racing against the weather too."
As Charlie shambled towards the water, his emotions overflowed, bursting from his face. He screamed for the past to come to him, for the world to forgive him and tape over all the old corrupted film.
His sins would be forgiven. His pains and wrongdoings would be washed away.
In the bottom of the sea, only his blood would float to the surface.
Hitoshi’s hand reached out to stop him before he dipped into the abyss himself. But it was already too late. He had drawn too close to the night, beckoned too far into the darkness, away from the safety of the shore.
The water splashed, the surface tension being torn open, allowing a vacuum of air to flood in, a short-lived gap before the waves concave into each other, just to be ripped apart once again as something rose from within the swirling tide, and with it so did the vibrant light.
The shifting glow caused the phoenixes’ shadows to distort, their shapes stretching across the dock behind as it rose high above in the air. Pupils drawn to the light soon peered through the radiance to look at what rested below it, propping in the sky.
Lower Central District
The murky water clung to its darkened flesh, dripping back into the ocean like rain, its airways cleared to breathe oxygen, its jagged teeth separating with threads of saliva connecting its jaw. Its breath condensed in the air as it acclimated to the atmosphere. A serrated fin ran down its back, its scales a sickly color of bruise purple, tinges of red traced along its vascular veins that pulsed underneath its thin layer of cartilage.
It towered over them both, a twenty-foot-tall monster that had terrified the dock, waiting for prey to come to its light so they could swallow them whole.
Bioluminescence fizzled to life within its pores, flecking it with spots of neon green, pupils gaining an otherworldly glow before quickly flickering out, obscuring it once again in the darkness.
Another resounding splash and their finned hands rose from underneath the water, webbed together fingers that ended in sharpened claws, spiked fins decorating their arms, bristling and crackling as their muscles tensed.
“So…hungry…” Its voice came out hoarse, barely audible. It was begging, pleading, starving, carving.
Its fingers coiled into its pams, hesitation, uncertainty, a desire to resist, to not give in to base instincts. To not let them take control, the remnants of sensibility in a mind that struggled for cognizance.
Its nose breathed in, it could smell their sweat, it could hear the blood pumping in their veins over the waves crashing into the seawall. It wanted to feel the crunch of their bones on its teeth, indulge in the marrow, and feel its tongue dig through their entrails.
Resistance cracked, and eyes narrowed, fingers spread wide, prepared to make its catch.
Flying towards the Phoenixes, its open hands sought their bodies to clench their grip around whatever limb it could grab and pull them into the ocean, where it would feast. It encroached on them from the darkness like the heads of a hydra with sharp fangs, blocking the moon from above.
If they did not move, they would be pulled into the abyss.
Their reactions were strange. They seemed to respond together, as one. The bodies willingly threw themselves into her line of fire, the chaff served to slow her approach towards their leader. They moved with no sense of preservation at all. These weren’t beings marching together as a group; they were exactly what the ringing chorus claimed- they were the many that were one. She was being pit against an army of one mind, and that mind belonged to the large one.
The beast’s prodigious size did not stop it from moving faster than what she anticipated. Each slice she made against it went wide, and it was all she could do to realign herself to catch other leaping shadows with a blast from her hand. She had to press on the offensive. She simply couldn’t give it time to catch its breath. She’d burn up before it did if she continued to swing around aimlessly.
Her foot caught on something. No, that wasn’t accurate. It was better to say that something caught her foot. She glanced down. The shadows. The fallen creatures had become a pool of black beneath her, clinging onto her boots. She tried to pull against their clawing grasps, only to realise a moment too late, that the leader had taken an uprooted tree, and flung it towards her.
She hissed, and steadied her arm with her other hand. The blade of light blazed brighter, as she stood ready to meet the attack head on. She wasn’t yet the strongest in New Oasis, but she was strong. She would win. She must win.
The tree never reached her. Sharp, repetitious retorts of firearms accompanied the sight of the giant javelin being torn to shreds. Drones circled around the area, having been the source of the machine gun fire. They lingered for a while, and a voice spoke up, far too cheerful for her liking. She recognised the quote, and she was further incensed. She didn’t like any of this at all. This was an unwanted interruption.
She swiped at her feet, the blade gouging through the shadows and the ground beneath her, just enough for her to pry herself free. “Leave off! This one’s MINE!”
She lowered herself to the ground, and, with a blast of energy from her feet, she sent herself spearing forwards straight at the leader, in time with the machine gun fire.
An explosive inferno flew through the air like the combustion of a star, its glow basking the surroundings in vibrant orange.
It displayed Sang-Cheol’s power but caused numerous heads of the crow amalgamation to shift towards his direction. Their beady eyes reflected the swirling fire coming towards them, the relative location of their target established.
And so its wings flexed, shooting forward to shoot off a gust of wind that pushed its body backward up in the air, the moon reflecting off the sheen of its glossy feathers as it soared within the enclosed space, loose feathers fell towards the ground, burning to ash within the flames.
Sang-Cheol’s blaze made contact with a nearby wall it combusted, a swirling pyre flowing into the air, basking the surroundings in flames. Sparks rose to make contact with the tapestries and banners above, lighting them ablaze.
Soon, the intensity of the whole area had increased tenfold, the temperature rising as glowing ashes flew through the air, the heat melting the paint off canvases, burning pottery black as their century-old paint was charred.
The chimeric dropped from its position in the sky, boots slamming on top of the metal globe held by the struggling Atlas below. Its clawed talons reached down to scrape across its reflective sheen, leaving marks on an unfortunate continent.
Its heads all changed to snap in one direction, caws and cries of animalistic anger, the hatred of being put in a life-or-death situation for the first time.
It wouldn’t let itself die.
With a mighty flap of its wings, the crow rose back up into the air, twirling around mid-flight to charge back into the world that rested upon Atlas’ back, slamming into it with the full force of a black blur and with its momentum and strength--
Atlas’ hands snapped clean off from their wrists, and the world they had labored so hard to hold upright toppled from their grip; using his broad back as a ramp, it rolled down his spine, picking up momentum. The giant metal globe slammed against the ground, the building shaking as the tiled floor cracked beneath its weight.
And then it began to roll, picking up speed; it smashed through columns, crushing rubble in its way, shattering glass. It came right towards Sang-Cheol, destroying everything in its path, the weight of the world attempting to crush him.
Would he run deeper into the museum, the uncertain darkness where the globe couldn’t reach him, or push the giant boulder out of his way like a disgruntled Sisyphus? He’d have to make his choice quick.
Hiachi woke up on the morning of July 12th thinking that the worst she would have to deal with would be being forced to eat lunch with Missy; which clearly wasn’t worth complaining about, considering Missy was paying on her own dime. But that morning hadn’t been one of perspective—it had just been one of premature dread. She hadn’t felt like it.
Perhaps this scenario was similar to the morning, then. Hiachi was being forced to do something she didn’t feel like doing. She tried to ignore the glaring difference between the two—at worst, one would leave her mildly annoyed. The other could leave her dead.
From the second all screens started broadcasting the wreckage in Lower Central to the journey to the abandoned factory, Hiachi had managed to convince herself that this wasn’t so bad. She was doing a job that would get her paid. She was doing a job that didn’t necessarily have to involve combat. She was doing a job that would be over and done within twenty-four hours.
But then Lorette casually handed her suicide pills, and Hiachi was forced to contend with what she was dealing with.
She had seen it. In the horrific broadcast that ended in the slaughter of a news reporter, in the distance on the road as she looked for answers, in the shadows of houses and hospitals and alleys.
They said it was people turning into monsters, and Hiachi was hard-pressed to agree. The erratic behavior and inhuman appearance lended to a nightmarish, guttural instinct: one of fear. But Hiachi knew the science behind it. Chimeric potentials weren’t dangerous. The people who held them weren’t even dangerous, it was often matters of survival and panic that caused harm. These were just normal people, afraid that they had been turned into something else. Changed biology. Who wouldn’t be hysteric?
Or perhaps they really were monsters, and Hiachi was about to choke down every single thought of empathy she ever had. It was up to fate.
Hiachi opened the metal case, resting the bottom on the ledge of her hip. There was another pistol, similar in design to the one she already had. Then there was a shotgun with a lightweight barrel, ammo for both, and—best of all—a silencer that could be put on the end of either model. Considering her troubles with loud gunshots in the past, this was arguably the best object in the case.
Hiachi prodded at her sleeves. It was really hot outside, despite the cloudiness. Like
Her gaze turned unfocused as she pondered. There were people outside and inside the factory, huddled in crude encampments. She couldn’t be trigger-happy if every movement had a ninety-nine percent chance of being a person, and not one of the chimeric mutants. That, and she knew the history behind most factories in Lower Central. They were made from old, poisonous dust and glass from the golden age of monopolies and false hope. People were advised not to mess with them, since any disruption could release any amount of toxic metals, minerals, and microglass into the air. She could only assume that they weren’t there to play heroics, since their presence could only bring danger.
Hiachi guessed it was about money, because it was always about money. She was always about money, and so was Lorette, for what she had seen. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Probably…
“What do you want me to do?” Hiachi asked. No hesitation behind her voice—only exasperation.
As she awaited her answer, she quickly glanced at her surprise guest. Hopefully, Lorette hadn’t minded that Hiachi brought Missy along. What was she supposed to do, leave her to fend for herself? That may have been what Hiachi really wanted to do, but it would have been mean to abandon her after she had been so adamant about apologizing. Even if Hiachi didn’t want her to. Even if the last thing Hiachi wanted to do was remember that charity gala.
Noa listened intently as the woman began to tell their story, the Earthquake affected a lot of people both in Lower Central and in the South, though she was a bit grateful that her company's business somehow remained mostly untouched. With all these events going on it seemed like Lower Central couldn't get a break, and she couldn't help but feel determined to help the people within Lower Central with at least this problem. She gave a solemn nod as the woman spoke until she asked about who they were and if they were there to cause more trouble for them, in which Noas Eyes widened in response. She quickly shook her head before speaking "No, no, no, we are here to help you guys not cause problems for you, that is all." Noa thought about giving their Phoenix affiliations for a moment, but eventually decided to settle on her alias "I'm Poena and my compatriot behind me is Tyr, though I guess some people call me Vali." She had all but muttered out the last part, but either way, it was two aliases that were affiliated with the Phoenix, and it wouldn't take much thought to connect those two names to a gang. Though Noa had quite a good reputation when it came to helping NPs especially when it came to getting revenge, Tyrs reputation was more associated with their connections to Poena along with typical Phoenix things like Bodyguarding and Assassinations though those were usually done for Noa. Noa then looked towards her other compatriots who were doing their own thing and said "My other friends can speak for themselves if you wish to ask them, but my only goal is to help you guys deal with this little, pest problem." She said that last part as she glanced away from the woman and towards the exit of the place with a look that hinted at annoyance and disgust, but disappeared as quickly as it came as she turned back to the woman
Their bodyguard Tyr meanwhile kept to Noas side as she further began to question the woman "We understand you've been through a lot as of lately we just wanted to help you guys, but to do that we need to figure out how we can best help, while I know I can't solve all your problems I hope I can at least help you solve this one." She then clasped her hands together giving an apologetic nod.