Down in the thick of it, Peyton gave a thumbs up that he was all intact, referring to Tri as uncle. Heh, that was cute. Tri was saved as dad on her civilian phone. Handy for when she needed him in an emergency--she could just tell someone to "call dad." He really did just have "adult male relative" vibes to him. But Tri didn't even wait for a response to his question towards Peyton, instead pressing forward with the scene and towards the so-called doctor, telling Naomi that she didn't need to be hostile. Her sneer turned into a frown. She felt like it was perfectly reasonable to be hostile! The woman had attacked them, after all!
She couldn't relax too easily, either. If all the hostility evaporated away, the woman would probably be able to figure out it was an act to begin with. Even if Tri had chosen to trust her, that didn't mean she would always be trustworthy. Naomi wanted her to know that there was at least one person that didn't like her. So she tossed her head at Tri, "Humph," issuing forth from her mouth. Hopefully Tri didn't see it as too disobedient. She was going along with his wishes, and just acting her part. Peyton called out to her, echoing Tri's statement and saying that he had made all his best friends after a fight. Naomi directed a cold gaze towards him, before rolling her eyes. If she had known that her sneer was what he was aiming for, she never would have done even that much. She knew who he was talking about, sort of. Noam ran in the same circles as Peyton.
The doctor responded to Naomi's question, asking her if she wouldn't be friendly to someone who had saved her from "otherworldly clutches." What did that meaaaan? Her curiosity was chomping at the bit, but she only affected a bored expression as she glanced at the woman. It took a lot of effort not to smirk with amusement at the way her tentacle hands mirrored her human hands. Tri shook her actual hand, and Peyton a tentacle. Naomi grabbed a piece of gum from her pocket and popped it into her mouth, chewing on it obnoxiously with her arms crossed. The absolute pinnacle of "I cannot care about this interaction in the slightest." But that was a lie. She was so curious. Peyton and Tri might have been able to notice the curious glint in her eye despite the disinterest, if they looked close enough.
What she had gathered so far: the woman wasn't used to the tentacles. She squeaked with surprise when Peyton touched it, as though it wasn't something she was used to having touched. She didn't have full control over the tentacles, at least not like she had demonstrated before. At the moment, they only seemed to be mirroring her hand movements. And lastly: she was a dork. Naomi gave a smirk at the half-laugh, half-snork the woman made with her apology. But the smirk couldn't be confused with amusement: it was the smirk of someone who realized someone was beneath them. This woman wasn't a threat. Naomi's hands dropped to her side as her body language relaxed fully. She was fairly convinced at this point that Tri's powers had fully removed whatever had been possessing the woman. This was the real her.
She answered Tri and Peyton's questions, an oh-so-helpful "I don't know!" Naomi frowned at this. "Do you have any memories at all? Do you think they could come back?" How awfully convenient for her to just...forget everything. How were they supposed to find everything out?
That was when the Doctor announced something she did remember. Naomi felt a pang in her chest at the words New Oasis University. Her previous alma-matter, when she was still Fumiko. Before she dropped out and killed Fumiko to become Naomi. She almost missed the rest of what the Doctor said from the shock--although her face remained an impassive mask, not betraying the conflicted emotions she felt within. She didn't remember a Doctor Miriam from her time at school. She didn't even have the same face. But there was something so terrifying about being so close to a piece of her old life.
She brushed her anxieties aside, instead focusing on listening to the Doctor speak. She was a spy, she was good at information gathering. She needed to focus. The woman had seen the news and decided that the best course of action was to...go down to central and investigate? "Did you come alone?" Naomi asked, her tone somewhere between aghast and condescending. Even Tri wasn't crazy enough to come down to central alone, and he was powerful. Had this dorky woman accidentally gone on a near suicide mission?
After a moment of thought, she remembered a little bit more. The way she had gone in. Naomi glanced apprehensively at Tri. Sure, they were here to investigate. But if they followed the path that Miriam took, they risked succumbing to the same fate. Which might be alright if it was Naomi, or Peyton, or even Tristan who ended up zombified. But if Tri ended up being the one who became possessed...they would be SOL. Serpent King down. But it wasn't really Naomi's call, here. If Tri decided to forge ahead, Naomi would follow him into hell.
Eleanore came to a stop, taking a brief moment to look over the medic’s shoulder to the victims within her eyesight. If she winced, it was entirely internal, and she was quick to turn her attention back to the man himself. An interesting one to be here for that, with an introduction of no fear or concern. Someone who was well used to having control with the ability to take one’s own time, even here and now in what others could rightfully describe as an apocalypse, even after having treated what surely must be gruesome wounds. That was respectable, enough to not have her interrupt his quiet pause. Almost enough to make the proud Phoenix ignore the demand buried within his statement.
”We are here to do what we can. Fighting off the symptoms and examining the causes are both required.”
She stopped, her body language managing to include the accompanying Leaf and the distant commotion of her comrades soothing the Coliseum's populace in the We.
”Any information you have, from what you’ve seen and what the still living have experienced, would be appreciated. What kind of things are doing this damage, and how they manage it, first. Just do not it this as an agreement to do or answer anything you may want.”
She wasn’t going to fetch some forgotten trinket of sentimental value in a long lost apartment or the like, nor would anyone else along with her for as long as she had some sway. This outbreak was going to be the priority until either it was over, or she was dead. But if it was a related request, or important, or perhaps so minor a question that it meant nothing at all to answer here… leave a good image. That was the secondary goal of being out here. At least to Eleanore. And that image should be one of strength, as well as one that does do right for those who do right for them. Even during situations like this. Especially during situations like this.
26 was wholly concentrated on flicking the lighter in his hand, eyes deep in a focus the likes of an artist absorbed in his work, the cheap cigarette already dangling like a stiff noodle on his lips. He cupped it over his mouth with a silly grin once it’d started sparking. He’d only been conscious of the footsteps drawing near them, but had to flick the cig out of his hand the moment he noticed the kids looking at him.
You don’t smoke in front of the children, they pick up the habit for you once you’re long dead, like it were a curse. Or at least, that’s what they’d told him.
The redhead tipped his head in greeting at the woman, a hand moving to shift the sheathe of his katana behind his back when he noticed the elderly woman looking at it. He felt a fine, sharp crack ripple across his heart hearing the poor woman speak with such tire in her voice— like a cold, iron fist were squeezing it down inside his ribcage.
It didn’t show much on his face, no more than just a downturn heaving on his eyelids — “I understand your worries, ‘ばあさん, but we are by no means here to cause you any trouble. We’re here to help… Even if we don’t look the part.” — He straightened up, giving her an apologetic look at his following words — “We were sent here looking for trouble, sadly. But none with you or your people.”
“We’re trying to find out what’s going on here, figure out how to fix this mess. If there’s any information you could give us, anything about those chimeras roaming the streets, it would be of great help.”
He must’ve taken the wrong sleeping pills last night, no other explanation for why he’d woken up in a horror flick today.
It felt like one of those shlocky splatter films from way back when he was a kid— “One of those freakshow talkies.”, that’s what his old man would’ve called it. Leaf was starting to get anxious every time he went to look over his shoulder, whenever a rat or a stray huff of wind knocked over leftover debris from the quake. Something would jump out at him the moment he’d given up on checking the noises; one of those ghouls or wolfmen from the freakshow talkies, he was sure of it.
Somehow they’d managed to make it through the streets, though. None of those things he’d seen on the news. Not yet.
The city turned into a different animal when the lights went out, moreso today. The very last hints of orange faded on the shade, lights hung long behind the towering shape of the buildings, tearing, blurring— like the world had brought a thumb on it and had smeared it flat across the horizon. Yet some spare flickers of it still washed down on him, throwing wild shadows around him, as if it were trying to claw back around.
As if it knew that tonight was going to be a terrible night.
The gesture wasn’t lost on Leaf, even if his gratitude didn’t show on his face.
He just wasn’t running on enough nerve to be here with whatever was out there roaming the streets, he couldn’t even hope to imagine what these people huddled up on the old Coliseum were feeling.
Thud..! — Eleanore’s shovel speared the ground.
Leaf pocketed his hands, eyes snapping down and back up to her, held a steady gaze as the few seconds of silence settled in. He heard the measure in her words, a confidence he didn’t have, saw it in her gaze. Like she’d been on one too many horror flicks herself, once before. There was this wide breach between people like her and wallflowers like him.
He didn’t know if that would end up being a blessing for him or not, given their situation.
His head tipped over to where she’d gestured to, his body followed, back to the entrance, feeling the heavy air getting caught in his throat the moment she mentioned predators. Something tugged down at his lips, looking on like a deer in headlights at the gloom beyond the lit-up Coliseum, drifting down, brushing down, swallowing the already empty streets.
“That should go for you too, y’know?” — There was no point in saying that outloud, so he didn’t, he just walked. Head tipped down; a reluctant huff fled his lips. He was starting to wonder, just when was it that being so willing and compliant had done him any good?
Not that it mattered.
The redhead traced Eleanore’s step, keeping up with her shadow. There wasn’t much to banter about, not the time nor the place, not much to ask either— their situation was too straightfoward for it. He darted with narrow eyes, focused on the towering walls surrounding them, only ever-so-slightly conscious of that nasty feeling in his gut when he looked at the antique slabs of stone.
That feeling— like they were all chunks of pork holed up in a slaughterhouse. It didn’t look safe at all, not for the people that sought refuge here, at least.
They looked sturdy enough. Stable, according to Eleanore. And, just maybe, he was overthinking things.
“Huh?” — Leaf came to a jerky halt, having to set one foot back not to bump his chest against Eleanore once she’d stopped walking all of a sudden. A sickly smell hit him, the sight wasn’t all that welcoming either— Eleanore might’ve not flinched, but Leaf sure did.
The man in front of them had striking winds around him, staggeringly so, he’d conveyed them even in the few words he spoke. There was a distance between him and Leaf too, go figure.
“You were expecting us…?” — He’d caught onto that first, muttering his thoughts right before Eleanore gave her piece. Maybe he was just overthinking that too.
Leaf crossed his arms over his chest, listening. Couldn’t anchor his eyes good enough on the ground, they immediately went to look horrified at the bodies sprawled just beyond the torchlight.
“Something in return...” — He echoed, eyes drifting off from the horrid sight and over to the stranger — “So I figure you won’t give unless we do.”
He exchanged a weary look between Eleanore and the stranger, head craning back as he let out a deep sigh. Even if she didn’t want to let in and be the guy’s errand runner, he was the one with the info. There wasn’t much they could do but comply if he refused to give it out.
Overthinking wasn’t that much of a virtue, not at all.
“What’s this favor, then? What do you want?” — Leaf spared him the who's and the why's, got straight to the point.
A heavy air swirled from the dark corner of a hole-in-the-wall pub in the Eastern District, resulting in the regulars congregating closer than usual on the opposite end of the bar counter. The occasional nervous glance would find its way toward the blonde man brooding in the corner. Cillian occupied this corner, his expression shadowy and tense. His leather gloved left hand massaged his temple as his gaze went straight through the nearly empty bottle of whiskey he had.
A bead of sweat dropped off the bartender's brow as he knew he'd have to step in soon. It's not that Cillian had drank an unusual amount, but his demeanor was extremely concerning. To make matters worse, he was a member of the Azure Dragons. This put the bartender in a precarious position. Of course Cillian hadn't noticed any of this. Cillian was barely aware of his surroundings at all due to the screams echoing through his mind. He was being accosted by an abnormal amount of premonitions today. Clearly something big was about to happen, but there was never enough detail in these visions to give him anything to work off of. All he could do was sit and let it happen, and it made him sick.
The bartender inched his way in Cillian's direction and put a hand up, opening his mouth as if to say something when one of the other patrons gasped and pointed at the small TV hanging above the bar. This was enough to draw Cillian's attention for a moment, his mind eager to chase anything that didn't involve the death. Unfortunately, when he looked to the TV, he was met with news of the outbreak. Witnessing what happened to the reporter, Mark before the news cut back to Jennifer, Cillian shot up from his barstool, wincing as he clasped his head in his hands. He had bad deja vu about that incident, like he'd been there before.
It was clear to Cillian that this so-called outbreak was likely the cause of his problem. Even if it wasn't, at least he had something to act on now. He threw down some cash for his drink, more than one would expect to come from someone in the Azure Dragons. Then he grabbed his bottle and drained the last bit, stumbling slightly as he did so.
“Keep the change,” he asserted before storming out of the pub. Climbing onto his motorcycle, Cillian slipped on his helmet and kickstarted the engine. After a few revs and adjusting his position on the seat, Cillian took off down the street in the direction of the Lower Central District.
Cillian didn't exactly have a plan going into the situation. After all, he hadn't actually picked up much from the initial newscast. He just felt he needed to be there. Thus The Raven found himself cruising down the earthquake-rattled streets of Lower Central looking for something unusual. The first thing he noticed was the emptiness of the whole place. It seemed the area may have been evacuated, but he still had an uneasy feeling. Turning a corner, this feeling would be confirmed as he entered a park area. Coming to an abrupt halt, Cillian just stared for a moment at the huge crowd of chimeric potentials. He'd never seen such a large gathering before, which was saying something because Cillian was a chimeric potential too. Something felt different about this group, though.
“Fuck it,” he whispered to himself before slipping off his helmet, taming his hair with a quick swipe of the hand, and calling out, “Oi! What's the big idea?! Look, I know potentialities can be... a handful at times, but seriously? Y'all are here swarming in a circle like a bunch of a-holes. What's so interesting over there any...”
Cillian went silent as he caught a glimpse of what looked like a younger girl deep in the middle trying to fight off some of the swarm. His helmet fell from his hands and Cillian flipped down the stand to his bike as he stood and stepped forward, drawing his handgun from the inner pocket of his jacket in one fluid motion. His voice rang out authoritatively as he demanded, "STEP AWAY FROM THE GIRL NOW!"
Xuexia clicked her tongue. In a time frame smaller than the digital camera’s refreshing rate, her face crumbled with intense disgust. It was not the fake tears nor the pretension of mannerism that irked her. Not even the mask of professionalism she wished more than anything to shatter. But the thought of being shown as an animal on display to viewers across the city that arrested her in silent indignation. Only the seeming approval of the Jack of the woman’s action checked Xuexia from downing in an instance the corked bottle in her pocket and beating the reporter senseless. But a sense of duty bound her, and she yielded to the chain of command. The pleasant smile came with ease to her hardened face once the moment passed.
“Well, heroic, hm? I don’t think I’m anything of the sort! But knowing there are people out there stuck in rubble or threatened by these scary monsters I can hardly sit at home and pray, right? So that’s what we do: the right thing. And best we could.”
So gracious she even threw in a “V” for the service.
Charlie was still, despite Hitoshi's efforts, entranced by whatever this thing was. Hitoshi was about to shout some more, but a new development completely changed the atmosphere from concern to shock - as a massive figure emerged from the waters to make itself known. It was like an angler fish, but so much more grotesque, horrifying... and under it all, it seemed to be part human. Hitoshi's mouth was agape as this terror from the deep as it writhed in a grotesque manner and gave delivered uncanny mannerisms that sent a shiver down the veteran's spine.
It was hungry, that much was clear. And it was intent on making both him and Charlie its meal. It was then that Hitoshi's danger instincts kicked in, his mind completely shifted towards the adrenaline and instinct that was so prevalent in his youth. One of the few things he managed to claw back with his current sobriety, and it would serve him well here as he felt himself reacting in the most crucial of moments; to avoid this monster's grasp, he knew there was only one way to pull the both of them out.
Hitoshi flung out his pocket mirror, open as it was, and grabbed Charlie with all his might before lunging towards the mirror itself. The margin for error was so incredibly narrow, and Hitoshi gritted his teeth as the entire event seemed to play out in slow-motion from his perspective. His finger was first to touch the mirror, and in turn his body began to contort as it slowly swallowed him towards safety. Charlie would also join in a similar manner but, unlike Hitoshi with his experience in these matters, he would feel the pain of such contortions rack his body in squeezing through such a small area.
Just barely feeling the breeze of wind with the force coming from the water-monster, both Phoenixes had been dragged into the mirror-realm. The outside world still played out, but they were safe for the time being. However, this presented another issue as the creature's mass had flung Hitoshi's little gateway into the waters below and caused it to sink. Unless they would find another way out, some reflective surface, they were stuck.
"Shit-fuck-shit, Charlie! You okay!?" he asked to the rookie, quickly turning his attention towards the most important thing at the moment. Charlie was, in fact, not as well as he was before. Entering the mirror realm like he did had left his body feeling like it was sore all over - as if he had been exercising so intensely that he managed to reach every nook of his musculature.
Even as Charlie continued walking towards its underwater grave, shouting nonsense to a being that wasn't there, truth was that his mind was still trapped, subjected to kaleidoscope of memories of old, visions of a brighter past, and the brighter today that could've been. Neither the panicking of the workers, the pleads of a panicked Hitoshi, or even the ferocious roar of a creature of fiction managed to snap him out of the trance. It was too strong, too effective, almost as if it was tailor-made for him and him alone.
But then, reality started to creep its way into Charlie's consciousness, ignited by the enveloping feeling of pain throughout his body. It was like the pain one felt after arduously taking off a small ring, just spread throughout his entire being instead. "Ow..." He groaned, his forearms slowly and gently lifting his torso as he laid on the ground. The rookie was in a trance no more, but as a replacement, a myriad of other feelings took its place. Firstly there was the pain that coursed through his whole body, then there was the disorientation, as he had no idea where he was at that split moment, and there was also a strong headache overpowering his thoughts. He placed a hand on his cheek as he sat up, his half-closed eyes looking around his surroundings. It was then that his palm felt off, it was...wet?
He retrieved his hand, noticing the glistening sheen of the tears that coated it. His eyes went wide open, his mind kicking into high gear as he looked to his side, noticing an extremely distressed Hitoshi. "Aniki?! W-What's going on? What happened to me?" He looked down at the damp ground of the docks, trying to battle his confusion. "Why do I hurt...Why do I...feel like this" The last comment directed at the pain, not the one on his body, but the one in his heart. He could only faintly recall having just memories of old in a disturbingly vivid manner. He stared at Hitoshi once again, but this time, his eyes gravitated towards something else, a new, ominous and towering precense in the docks. A humanoid of impossible stature and marine features. "AND WHAT IS THAT?!"
"Right now, I just want you to watch my back and tell me if anything looks suspicious." Lorette said. Hiachi's sharp eyes were better suited to spotting anything unusual. She was also better suited to shooting anything that appeared a little too unusual. Given that a vast number of things fell under that umbrella, Lorette expected there to be a lot of shooting.
It was hard to keep the paranoia from setting in. The dilapidated buildings may have been structurally unsound, but they provided enough cover for anything unfriendly. Lorette held no illusions that anyone residing in the city's lower levels would be willing to help them, especially with unknown dangers just waiting in the shadows for the opportunity to pounce. She idly wondered how many of the area's casualties could be attributed to the quake and how many were victims snatched up by unseen horrors. It was but one of many questions. The things were known to kill on sight, but was it an act of aggression? Predation? Or was it something else entirely?
Any number of answers would be unwelcome, all things considered. But Lorette wanted them. She needed them. Not only to defend her interests, but she'd admittedly had personal reasons for seeking them out. It was why she'd been so adamant about going into Lower herself. No one could obtain the data that she needed but her. She just hoped that the risk would be worth it.
Something scuttling past her peripherals had her on high alert. Lorette stopped short, holding an arm out to keep Hiachi from passing her. The sound of shuffling came from the shadows of the nearest ruined building. Shooting Hiachi a look, Lorette whispered sharply. "Look alive. But don't shoot until I Say so."
She recognized the patter of feet on asphalt and was confident that who or whatever lurked just out of her line of sight was human. The sound of movement surrounded them, and Lorette internally raged at the idea that they'd walked right into an ambush. The people in Lower had always been desperate, but the recent disaster could have only intensified that desperation. She was all but proven right when their assailants swarmed from the shadows. Lorette found herself staring into the faces of children. They were dirty and ragged, their faces wore grim expressions, and their eyes gleamed maliciously. Whether they were acting at the behest of adults or not, Lorette was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and treat each one as if they were a threat to her survival.
"Oh, I am going to Order 66 the fuck out of these damn kids." Was her first thought and, in her opinion, the rational response to being beset by toddlers. As their parents obviously hadn't taken the time to explain the concept to them, Lorette felt completely justified in teaching them the literal definition of stranger danger.
Both parties were locked in a tense standoff, and Lorette was forced to remain on high alert. An attack could come from any direction, and should the squalid gang attempt to rush them, dealing with them would be challenging.
They seemed to be waiting for the Tigers to make the first move, and Lorette studied some of the children individually. The world-weariness lining their young faces could not hide an undeniable truth. They were utterly terrified.
The children's fear presented an opportunity. One that might allow them to escape the encounter unscathed. Lorette knew she had to be careful. Children weren't the most logical people on the planet, and she still hadn't confirmed if someone was pulling their strings.
Lorette's stern gaze set upon what she assumed was the group's oldest. They would likely feel a sense of responsibility for the youngest members. Keeping them safe would be a priority. She decided to skip the pretense. The need for performative manners didn't burden children.
"We're not here to cause trouble." Lorette said to what she assumed was a teenager. They were bigger than the rest, but only by a little. Malnourishment left their growth stunted, and their clothes seemed to have been salvaged from whatever they could get their hands out, leaving them too big for their scrawny frame.
She wasn't lying. Lorette did not want to cause a ruckus big enough to attract the attention of something nastier than a gang of kids. She was there to observe, gather information, and get the hell out.
"I guess you're from around here. We don't want to stick around longer than we need to, so let us be on our way, and you won't see us again." She explained.
"Lots of crazy shit!" Hitoshi said, grabbing Charlie on the shoulders and practically shaking him. "You were walking to the water, some light had you fixed on it... mumbling about things and crying! Then that THING came out!" The veteran pointed towards the monster as it looked around in confusion, wondering where its prey had run off to. "Fuck, fuck fuck... I'm so sorry. I caused this and nearly got you killed." Hitoshi said with gritted teeth, "We gotta kick its ass now. You good?" Hitoshi asked as he got up, looking around.
"We can't stay here. Not for long anyway... gotta find something to exit out of. But also..." the veteran said before turning to Charlie. "But ALSO we need a game plan. How are we gonna send big stinker here back to the waters?" He didn't wait for Charlie to answer as he scanned their surroundings, trying to find anything that would be of use to them in their current situation. "See any mirrors... or reflective surface nearby? One big enough that you can leave safely through?"
Even if by a meager degree, Charlie's tense muscles found some degree of relaxation, the vivid imagery of his memories losing their relevance on his mind. It felt similar to slowly recovering from a stroke of hypotension. As he listened to Hitoshi's part-explanation-part-apology-part-inquiry, he noticed from the corner of his eyes, how in places far into the distance, reality warped and distorted, metal, concrete, wall and stone shift and turned into impossible angles and shapes. That much was able to tell him that they found themselves in Hitoshi's mirror realm, something that perhaps the veteran should have mentioned himself.
"No, it's okay, Aniki" He brought his arm to his face, using his sleeve as a makeshift tissue to wipe his tears off. "Whatever that thing did to me, it was my fault for being so unprepared" His gaze then shifted towards the hulking marine creature, the rookie's knuckles gently grazing his own chin. "I could try to bruteforce my way into pushing it into the water...But I really doubt that's gonna be of any use, it'll just hop back up...We need to think fast, the workers are in danger" He placed a single hand on his raised knee, leveraging himself to stand straight. Hitoshi was right, whatever they wanted to try against that creature, they would first need to find a way back to the regular world.
"There's several cargo containers around, we might be able to find some kind of industrial window or mirror inside...But that might take more time than we can afford..."
The clock was now ticking, and their options narrowed with each passing second.
Ah, finally, things were starting to get warm. The euphoric feeling of seeing his goals fulfilled and the biting cold being eaten away by his flames. More and more, the world was looking a little brighter than before. The refracted light mirrored the manic eyes that hid behind Sang-Cheol's sunglasses.
Though that wasn't enough. The creature had evaded his attacks and disappeared off through the now smoking building. "You aren't going to get away~" Sang-Cheol sing sang outloud. It would have been disappointing if the raven creature had just like that, there so much more to be done in this field research. What was its body composed of? What was its ability? Could its blood cure diseases? What did its blood looks like?
Secrets were meant to be discovered and Sang-Cheol was planning to dissect every last one of them from its corpse.
"Oh?" A tumble and then a rumble. Face with a pale imitation of a world rolling at him, Sang-Cheol grinned. It had some capacity for thought, so it would seem. Utilizing the environment was a key trait to higher intelligence. Herons had been observed using bait to catch fish and now this creature was trying to use metal sphere to squash him. Perhaps it would have been effective, if he wasn't all drug up. He could run away, or maybe he try to put a stop to the incoming disaster.
However drunk from the nectar of knowledge, Sang-Cheol pulled out a stick of dynamite. Lighting it up, Sang-Cheol yelled out loud. "A gift from me to you!" With one throw, Sang-Cheol threw it straight at the boulder. It detonated. The sheer force magnified by his potentiality sent Sang-Cheol flying back through into piles of burning debris. His body had a natural resistance to the flames, so it wouldn't have bothered him in the slightest, and his body was a lot tougher thanks to the steroid.
Oh, that was unfortunate, however. He would need to get that treated after he was done. Pulling out the metal shard that had landed into his side, Sang-Cheol clutched his side as he stood right back up. Where was that feathery fiend?
Tri was a good listener when Miriam was talking. He was content with letting Naomi did the talking. She was good at it and he liked that. The whole competent and serious sidekick fit his cool image. However, the first moment Miriam led them away, he whispered to Tristan, "She reminds me of Peyton."
Tristan twitched. He thought Miriam was a lot like Tri; ditzy, off-the-rocker, but needlessly competent and had a high position in a prestigious organization. Of course, he swallowed his words and nodded. "You're right, Boss."
Tri kept a cool and calm and collected look as he followed Miriam. One hand in his pocket, one gaze that casually went about that looked professional and alert at the same time. He wasn't actually alert, though. More attention was paid to the illusion of being alert, to the cool, hardened detective illusion that would not be out of place in a hardened crime-rampant part of town.
Unfortunately, Tri was not actually a detective. He was the head honcho of one of the most violent criminal groups in New Oasis.
Soon, they approached the other end of the train yard. Tri peered down the area. He saw nothing strange. Yet.
"Peyton, Tristan. Lead the way. Naomi... help the doctor."
Tristan marched onward with a fierce look. He had more courage since he awakened as an HP. Even without having any Potential, the increased durability meant at least he wouldn't die with a look. Following behind, Tri kept his hands in the shape of finger guns. As for Naomi, she could protect and not trust Miriam at the same time.
He wouldn't be afraid of any so-called crazed HPs with his Purification, anyway.
Seeing Cillian's sudden appearance and hearing his forceful command, a portion of the swarm turned their attention to him. Several of the monstrous beings raised their shadowy hackles and hissed, their fangs and claws bared, their heads held low and threatening.
Even now the ground trembled as more of the creatures poured out of the cracks and crevices, bubbling up from some place deeper. Their grotesque forms slithered and crawled out into the half-light of the ruined park, as if the whole of Lower Central had become a breeding ground for these nightmarish beings.
Yet, as they stood ready to converge on Cillian, an even more imposing figure was preparing to emerge from the shadows. Its form was barely recognizable as human. A fluid, shifting mass of darkness shaped like a man.
Kisara, meanwhile, landed a solid blow against the wolf-leader, sending it stumbling backward, ready to face the next blow that never fell. The creatures hesitated. No, waited.
The scene's tumultuous melee paused for a brief moment as the sensation of a dark, chilling wind swept through the park, and an overwhelming malevolence emanated from a clearing among the few remaining trees.
The ground seemed to pulse and shiver, and even the roaring of the monstrous shadowfiends ceased. A swirling mist began to gather at the epicenter of the chaos, forming a dense, inky black portal.
From the shadows, a figure began to emerge—slender and tall, surrounded by a blanket of darkness that seemed to draw in the very light around him. His silhouette was almost incorporeal, but as he came further into focus, features, or a lack thereof, became more discernible. Cloaked in tattered bandages, his face a yawning abyss...
The puppet master of this grim theater.
His voice, a whispering hiss that carried with it the weight of ages, echoed through the open space, "It seem-seems my children have drawn quite the audience."
The lupine shadow monster, the leader of this unholy gathering, immediately lowered its stance in submission. This was the heart of the horde, the singular mind behind the countless drones that acted in unison.
The Raven's instincts screamed to Cillian that this was the focal point of all this chaos, the dark force behind the tragedy unfolding in New Oasis.
The figure spread his emaciated arms wide, the shadows dancing around him like devoted disciples. "Irritating inter-interference... Don't you know I'm bus-busybusy!?"
In a display of his control, the lupine creature, without a command spoken, lunged again towards its adversaries, followed by the hordes of shadowy minions.
Cillian blinked, a look of confusion contorting his expression as he witnessed the animalistic reaction from the swarm. His hair stood on end as creatures bubbled up from the shadowed cracks of the area, as if the earthquake had released some evil trapped deep below. The distance he had set between the swarm to establish communication now seemed wholly insufficient. He wasn't one to get psyched out by such situations, but his instincts made him entirely aware that he was out of position. Words weren't going to get him anywhere here.
Grey-Blue eyes pierced through the darkness as he committed the surroundings to memory. He took a step back, instinctively attempting to create some space until he bumped into his own bike. The situation certainly wasn't ideal, yet the Dragon didn't seem to falter. Despite this, the uneasy feeling Cillian had of the area continued to fester until something did draw a slight reaction from him. A deathly figure seemed to congeal out of nothing, causing Cillian to flinch and snap his gun in in line with this new creature. The figure's very presence threatening to drive away Cillian's sanity. Yet Cillian's mind wasn't one to be so easily manipulated. The tension only seemed to increase his focus.
Cillian was about to attempt a discussion with this being following the cryptic statements. Unfortunately, he didn't get a chance before a portion of the swarm bore down upon him. Two shots rang out from his handgun that he had focused onto the strange figure before his body was practically absorbed by the swarm, the sound of his bike crashing to the ground highlighting the cacophony.
Cillian's vibrant blonde hair darkened at the roots as he was slammed into his own bike, possibly from an oil line bursting. He grimaced as a pair of teeth sank into his shoulder, his teeth barred, revealing a dental structure that seemingly had fangs. Tufts of dislodged black hair flew from the pile of devastation. Then, a pair of eyes opened. No longer. Cillian's grey-blue gaze had disappeared. The brave Dragon seemingly ripped to shreds. Yet the swarm didn't relent. Something was still there.
While this whole onslaught only took a few moments, it would be clear to any witnesses that no human could have survived it. Yet, without warning, a wolf-like creature suddenly yelped as it was sent flying several feet into the air. Another creature resembling a lion went sliding off to the side and crashing into a building. Almost as suddenly as the swarm had pounced, something had forced an area of a few feet clear away from Cillian's bike. The Dragon's body was nowhere to be found, but in his place stood a huge silverback gorilla. Cillian had used his potentiality to shapeshift. Standing at full height, he pounded his chest three times and let out a vicious battle roar.
Hide grimaced, the corner of his upper lip lifting in disgust from the webs beginning to cling to his legs. He kicked, trying to twist his calves out of the webs, but to no avail. So the insomniac tried harder. He twisted his whole body, almost imitating the action of twisting your torso to get that satisfying pop and crack from your spine. When that didn't work, he shouted in outrage- the sound echoing through the alleyway, his thrashing in the webs becoming far more violent. The outburst soon turned into giggles, only intensifying into cackles as he was trapped within the webs.
He couldn't seem to stop laughing as he jerked and writhed, his heart pounding fast in his chest, losing his breath in a panic. Finally, Hide stopped, freezing in place as he heard skittering behind him. He whipped his head around, still panting to see what it was. He could only be hopeful it wasn't a rat... or... should he hope it was only a rat?... He furrowed his brows. It could have been nothing... Maybe just the wind. But... Would wind like that really be in an alleyway like this? The scarred man narrowed his eyes, slowly pulling out his crowbar from his waistband. His heterochromic eyes flit across the area, paranoid for an attack.
He called out cautiously, unsure if maybe one of his companions decided to follow him after all.
"..Hector?... Yong-Yut?... You better not be fucking punking me...."
Hand clasped tightly together, wet, leathery skin mushed together. The cage had caught nothing but air. It felt nothing squirming between its fingers. Its hands slowly unclasped to confirm that fact.
It had yet to earn a meal. It still hungered, a constant screaming within its brain that screamed for food as it would shout for oxygen, a necessity of survival. In finding its breath underwater and on land, its mentality no longer bridged together in veins and cells in the brains that dictated natural functions, feelings of pain, or signals of illness had all their resources put into stimulating the demand of hunger.
It breathed deep, its transformed lungs inflated. The aromas hit its nose, the sounds against its ears. The voices of people. The fear that brought sweat. The running and moving only spread it through the air like pollen in a field of flowers.
A scaly hand gripped the edge of concrete bricks, feeling the cold stone, while the other braced itself against the rusting hull and chipping paint of a ship. The water splashed and sloshed, a leg moving upward, knees bending and straightening as it rose from the water as a swimmer would from a pool.
Its body visibly dripped, the moonlight glossing over its slimy skin. The puddle that formed under it soon turned into a lake as it stood slouched, its massive body keeled over, adjusting to its legs being off the seafloor. Slowly, it rose to stand straight, the faint glow of its bioluminescence as its blood-red eyes looked up at the sky. A 12-foot-tall monstrosity, as intimidating as it was deadly.
It stood on the vacant dock. The workers had all run off in their own direction to save themselves from the monster. They didn’t know how futile it was. Its eyes told it nothing; blurs of colors all melded together in incomprehensible sights. But its nose provided all it needed. Distinct markings of susceptible targets coursed through its olfactory system. The tiniest trickles of nectar hung around in spots of seclusion, barred behind cases of metal, or within the innards of massive ships. They were too small and not worth the effort.
No, its focus needed to only be directed forward.
A giant warehouse, its metal walls, and dome-shaped ceiling had only turned into a perfect can of human sardines, made to be peeled open and feasted upon. Its footsteps wetly slapped against the ground, leaving a trail of moisture behind it as it walked forward, step by step.
Inside the warehouse, the workers sat with bated breath; some kept their eyes closed in terror, and others looked towards the door, unprepared for the inevitable. Heads were kept down, hands gripped onto pipers and wooden beams as weapons in the worst case.
Then they could hear it. The footsteps echoed through the metal, reverberating off the walls. Hearts thumped, and grips tightened. Tears flowed and dripped down faces, and screams were snuffed within throats.
The metal door, their only barrier, rattled. It loudly shook as something slammed against it. A visible dent of a fist pushing its way to the other side shortly followed behind another as the door began to warp under the strength of the chimeric.
Everyone stepped away, people tripped over each other, toppling to the ground. Others ran and tried to find places to hide within the towers of barrels and crates. Some attempted to use others as shields to buy them a few more seconds of survival.
The silence had become overrun with voices, screams, cries, and shouting; all the fish in the barrel could do.
Yet, as they struggled and fought to live, doing whatever they could to extend their pitiful lives, a long moment path and nothing came through the door. In fact, it had gone eerily silent.
Voice simmered down into murmurs, questions, and uncertainty mixed with the gasps of hope.
It all came crashing down.
Shattered glass flew everywhere, raining down upon the workers, a dark shadow cast above them before the ground shook and rattled with the weight of hundreds of pounds making landfall.
Words and cries caught within throats as eyes looked upward, meeting the eyes of a predator. A shadow draped half of its body while the other half was basked in the moonlight from the broken windows.
The beast towered above them, its vile breath condescending in the air as it came from behind the crooked teeth of its jaws, its fingers audibly cracking as the scales that decorated its hands sharpened.
Screaming echoed into the night as the focus panned over to a large, unbroken window shard that had landed on the ground behind the fish monster, reflecting the moon in the sky that orbited above.
A shrill cry of surprise came from the mass of crows in the face of an explosion, the force of the shockwave disrupting its flight as shards of metal and stone flew through the air. A piece of rubble slammed into its wing with a guttural crunch, grossly snapping it. It spiraled through the air, crashing into the ground with a pained squawk from its body as it bounced upon the floor.
The giant metal globe that threatened to squish Sang-Cheol under its weight lost all its momentum, and the shards of it torn apart in the explosion left it without its circular surface. Instead of spinning, it was launched to the side, loudly skidding as the newly formed roughed edges of the exterior gaps scraped into the stone floor. It turned a column into powder underneath its weight, the ground shaking as an upper flow began to collapse, clouds of dust of debris mixing within the thickened smoke of burning history as stone slammed into the floor below, glass cases sliding down the nearly formed holes and shattering.
Among the chaos, the winged monstrosity clambered back up to its feet, the overflowing surrounding smoke making it hard to see or smell anything as the flames began to rage on. It attempted to take back off into the sky for vantage, but its feet barely left the ground before it went lopsided, stumbling. Heads turned to view its broken wing, hanging limply from its back.
With its taloned hand, it reached over, grabbing the base of the wing, and with more brutal snaps, it pried it off its back with a burst of feathers falling to the ground. A large gap was left where the wing was formally connected to its back, and from the opening, dozens of corpses of crows spilled out and thudded against the ground, their beady eyes lifeless.
With its broken wing in hand, it motioned it towards the series of beaks that made up its head, and they began to have at it, tearing its flesh from the bones, swallowing down feathers and bone, returning the useless matter back into energy for the main body.
The main head peered through the smokescreen, with its other heads busy cannibalizing itself. The smell of blood was the only thing that allowed it to sense where the mad scientist was.
Its legs braced, and with a flap of its singular wing, it blew forward, the gust of its charge causing the flames to dance around its body as it glided past the debris all around it, a hand reaching up to grip at a piece of rebar sticking out from the wall just to use it as a way to propel itself forward in a short burst of extra speed.
Its other hand reached forward, and claws gripped Sang-Cheol, clutching his shoulder to keep him from escaping as the momentum knocked them off balance, sending them flying away from the flames and skidding into a nearby hallway. The lack of moonlight embraced the area in thick darkness, but the illumination from the nearby fire gave a faint orange hue that kept a slight bit of visibility.
Together, they skidded across the ground, their bodies scratching against the fibrous red carpet that lined the floor, both left disorganized by their crash into each other.
Surrounding them were the relics of warriors of old, long-forgotten weapons, from rusted to pristine. Spears and swords were lined together in walls or decoratively placed upon racks, and olden guns hung on the walls with their mechanisms still intact.
Suits of armor and decommissioned calvary-like ballistas and cannons surrounded them, separated by ropes or panes of glass.
Both the monster and Sang-Cheol were given enough time to get back to their feet, the avian menace’s heads darting around every direction while the central head focused right in on its target, the hunter after its body.
It was clear that this subject still had no interest in being subdued, but in those enclosed space with no places to fly, it had no choice but to get more crafty.
Peyton met Naomi's cold stare with a warm gaze of his own, fixated on her in an unflinching, yet not overbearing stare. He couldn't help but let a small smile spread across his face as he felt the disapproving vibes of Naomi's eyeroll. It wasn't as intense as a verbal humiliation, and not as adrenaline pumping as a physical punishment, but it was welcome nonetheless. It was a shame that Peyton's addiction made him like a psychic vampire, but the rush of negative emotions being directed at him was incomparable.
"Don't worry! It was a fun fight!" Peyton responded to Miriam, "I get what you're feeling! Sometimes my Potential makes me very stabby too!"
It seemed rather weird that Miriam had to recall that she was working at New Oasis University as a researcher. But then again, sometimes Peyton had to remind himself that he wasn't a Dragon anymore. Besides, introductions were stressful. Peyton still had yet to figure out a way to tell people that they needn't candy words when they were around him.
Tri ordered Peyton to join Tristan in leading the group towards the area that Miriam described, and Peyton obediently shouted, "Yes sir!"
Peyton adopted a relaxed marching position with a few spins and flips of his rifle, and he walked side by side with Tristan deeper into the train yard. Behind them, the silhouette of the car that they arrived in began to get smaller until Peyton couldn't see it anymore.
Peyton's eagerness to listen to Tri was not just due to loyalty. The last time that Peyton and Tri had talked before Peyton rejoined the Serpents was at the Eternal Night Palace, where Peyton had merely exchanged a few sentences, much of which was stained with fighting words. Peyton was grateful that Uncle Tri accepted his return so readily, and so whatever Tri needed to him to do, he would do so with no complaint.
A few minutes and a short walk later, Peyton found himself staring out of the end of the train yard. The unmaintained tracks that extended out into the empty gray landscape was less spindly than within the train yard, although it was still rusted with disuse.
"You sure this is the place?" Peyton asked. No matter how much he stared around, he didn't see anything significant. He furrowed his eyebrows in thought, "Maybe we have to bring some people over here?"
It was a morbid idea, but perhaps if an NP wanted to become a Serpent, then they could use this place as a rite of passage. They did have Tri to purify them afterward.
"You'll forgive me if I end up getting infected and going rampant here and attacking you, right?" Peyton joked to Naomi. It still wasn't known whether or not this chimeric outbreak could affect HPs. If it did, then it might be freeing to be able to finally fight all out.
Just as Charlie feared, no time was wasted by the colossal creature to begin its hunt. A cold chill ran down his spine as the creature approached the warehouse, the last bastion of defense for the helpless workers, now reduced to mere prey for the monster to feast on. With a swing of its massive arm, a fist landed against the tough metal wall of the build, caving it in cleanly. “GET AWAY FROM THERE!”
Shrugging off the great pain throughout his body, Charlie lunged forward, heavy steps skipping through the concrete floor. Using the momentum of his last leap, the rookie thrust his fist forward at the beast. However, contact between the bodies was never made, the boy instead phasing through the hulking body as if he were a ghostly being. His knuckles instead making contact with an unbreakable surface.
Though, rather than feeling any impact it was simply negated as if he had never thrown it in the first place. “DAMMIT!” He growled in frustration. It had been several months since the last time he had been in Hitoshi’s mirror world, his impulsive reaction caused him to completely forget the rules for which the enigmatic realm worked.
Thankfully, the beast’s violent entrance had created ample opportune entry and exit points. Hitoshi quickly darted his gaze towards the various shards laying out, hopefully one inside being large enough for Charlie to squeeze through. The gears began to turn as the veteran turned towards his serious mode, and gave a glance to Charlie: “I’ll distract big ugly here, you hit it!” Hitoshi said, relaying his idea to the rookie.
Charlie nodded “You’re right, but we need to get inside fast…” He stared at the entrance the monster had made through the window way up in the warehouse, it would take a bit for Hitoshi to find a way to safely climb up there. Considering his lack of options, the rookie approached the senior, a hand grabbing onto the back of his suit. “Hold on tight, Aniki!”
The boy’s other arm went right for the back of Hitoshi’s knees, lifting his feet off the ground and holding him in his arms. Kneeling his feet low, energy coursed through Charlie’s body, activating the full power of his Hypercharge.
With a mighty leap, the duo traveled up and through the air, cleanly managing to traverse through the hole in the window. Now getting a clear view of the monster terrorizing the workers from their ephemeral vantage point. Knees bent once again as Charlie’s feet hit the floor with a dry thud. Had this been the normal world, the floor might have cracked and trembled under the over seven-hundred pounds from the two combined phoenixes.
“Let’s go.” He said, letting the senior back on his own two feet.
Hitoshi patted himself off as he was let back onto his feet, before rushing towards the biggest shard of glass near the monster. It was big enough for the rookie to squeeze through without the contortion that Hitoshi was used to, and so the veteran ushered him through quickly back to the material plane.
It was there that, getting through the glass, Charlie was met with the monstrous backside of the creature. And a brief moment later, Hitoshi squeezed out of a shard of glass straight into the line of sight of the beast. “Whooooweee, someone call for a catch of the day?” Hitoshi said aloud, pinching his nose. “Cause it sure smells like it. C’mon you big ugly bastard, you know you just WANT a taste of me!” he then shouted as a taunt, hoping to distract the creature away from the workers inside.
Whether it worked or not, Charlie followed up on Hitoshi’s taunts, jumping up in the air and aiming a haymaker at the monster’s back, to the right of his left shoulderblade.
Jayce didn't say much as the police cruiser descended in to the depths of Lower Central. He wasn't one for conversation, especially during a situation like this. He hated Lower Central, detesting the place as it bred criminals. He stared blankly out the window, studying every object that crossed paths with his gaze. Decay, rot, and corruption were the true rulers of this area. No matter how hard you tried to dislodge it, it would just keep coming back and he was seeing it everywhere.
Upon arrival, Jayce carefully stepped into the streets, slamming the door of the cruiser shut. He took a few steps, slipping his fingers into his pocket to retrieve his carton of cigarettes. There was only one left, causing Jayce to sigh in dismay. The only thing keeping him sane and he ran out of it. After lighting it, he turned towards the other officers, lending his ear to Officer Stern. He studied the partially collapsed building as he intently listened to Stern. For a department that already suffered from a lack of manpower, the obstacle certainly didn't do anything to improve the situation. With some of the reports of what's going on, they'd need a few more bodies than just them.
The threat of a storm didn't sway Jayce. He didn't mind a little rain, at least it would mask the constant smell of trash. "Storm or not, we have a job to do. Criminals don't take rain days unfortunately." A cloud of smoke released itself from his mouth, the detective turning back towards his colleagues. Despite the complications, Jayce was still determined to do his job, even if he had to walk through some rubble. "We mustn't wait too long before we commit to action. Our window of opportunity grows ever smaller." While he wanted them to make a quick decision, a decision made too hastily could have detrimental consequences as well.
This city could never stay together in one piece. If it wasn't for his hatred of HP's, he might have given up on trying the help the citizens. He felt like giving up now, not because of the difficulty of the task but because of the potential to accomplish nothing. Putting criminals behind bars and protecting citizens only went so far. The societal issues that plagued this city kept getting painted over but the paint chipped quickly. Maybe today would be different than the past.
Backing out wasn’t an option with what madness had broken out while she’d been trying to reconcile with Hiachi. God what even was happening in this city anymore? She wanted out. She wanted to go back to when all she had to worry about was if Markus was going to find her useless and she’d need to get a headstart running.
But as she pondered on how likely escape even was she found them quickly surrounded, and by children of all things… Please, please let them just be sizing them up and leave. She didn’t know what outcome was worse, getting her ass beat by children or misjudging the situation and wailing on innocent kids. She palmed the knife in her hand, hidden to all as she used her power to make it invisible and did her best to hold it inconspicuously.
“I don’t wanna die and I don’t wanna fight if I don’t need to. What’s the over-under on us just ditching and letting people better than us deal with this insanity?”
Thank god she was sane. Okay maybe the three of them could make it out of here with minimal issues. She started rummaging in her bag with the hand not currently occupied as she did a double take for anything that might be useful in this instance. She took it upon herself to keep so many odds and ends she could easily palm to make a quick exit with. But it was too bad they probably couldn’t lock-pick their way out of this one.
She found the next best useful thing she had and threw a flashlight to Hiachi.
“Uh if this helps at all go for it? Umm I’ll do my best to cause distractions if it will help?”
"Oh?" Was all Sang-Cheol could do as he saw the black figure of the crow abomination take flight. Before he could do much of anything else, Sang-Cheol's feet kicked off the air as the crow grabbed him. "If you're going to ask me out, you might as well buy me a ring while you're at it!" Sang-Cheol laughed. Man, what was it going to do now? It didn't take long for it to be answered as the both of them immediately met contact with the ground.
The burning friction cut up Sang-Cheol's coat as well as his skin. Blood seeped out from his injuries, but Sang-Cheol didn't care. He needed to learn more about the creature in front of him. If this was all it could do, then he'd be disappointed.
Getting right back up, Sang-Cheol motioned for another use of his potentiality. That was until he grabbed a spear from one of the racks and threw it at the crow. He had already used his flames; how would the monster respond if he started throwing spears? As if he were a revolver, Sang-Cheol quickly unloaded the entire weapons racks of spears as he began throwing them at the monster. It was much easier to do, thanks to the steroid.
With a broken wing, it'd have a harder time moving around. What would it do then if its remaining wing was skewered to the point of being unrecognizable? There was so much more that Sang-Cheol wished to discover.
Loud and obnoxious. A voice pierced through the screams, a new smell among the swarms of people, different from before. It seemed to come out of nowhere; its mysterious appearance was enough to turn the monster’s heads away, only for a moment.
The concept of language seemed alien to the monster; what was once human had disappeared as the beast looked toward Hitoshi with no semblance of recognition in its eyes. Like how an animal would swat away a fly, its webbed hand reached out, prepared to squish him within the palm of its disfigured fins.
It was so focused on removing the aggravating droning of the insect that it didn’t even notice it had become the target of another annoying pest, ready to puncture its flesh.
Charlie’s fist slammed into moistened, scaly fresh with enough impact that the loose skin rippled, stray droplets of water splashing off its skin and onto his face and the rest of his arm; it dug deeper, pushing muscle and tissue out of its way until it reached the solid mass of its bone, bashing against his knuckles like stone.
The angler’s mouth opened, putrid slime spreading through the gaps of its jagged teeth as electricity ran through its nervous system until the momentum finally caught up to the mass of its body, launching him forward into the air with a spin; its body flew over the crowd of workers, casting a massive shadow over them as its body soared overhead in slow motion.
With a deafening crash, the ground shook and vibrated; the lights hanging above shook and twisted as the very foundations rumbled. Dust plumed in the air from the impact site. Shards and splinters flew up into the air as wooden boxes were crushed underneath the weight of the monster’s fall.
The onlookers coughed as the puff of dust and debris wafted over them, fanning around their hands as they tried to look through the cloud of wood chips and soot to see what had happened, their eyes looking full of hope and surprise, had they just been saved? Head turned towards their blue-haired hero, thinking it was over.
A green glint as primal vision burst back to life, followed by sparkles within the dust like fireworks as bioluminescent pockets flowed full of energy. Clawed fins dug into the cement, the ground cracking beneath their talons, hooking them into place before they surged forward. The dust around was blasted away from the force of their velocity, leaving a giant gaping hole behind it. Its outstretched jaw oozed with slime as its wild eyes glared forward with narrowed focus. The pools of natural light within its flesh streamed like neon as it sprawled across the floor with the explosive speed of a bullet, lunging forward and slamming itself into the blue-haired Phoenix.
Charlie’s body flung through the air only for a moment before his skull and spine rattled against the steel door that kept the warehouse closed, but before he could even let gravity pull him back down to earth, the massive angler was already there, its enormous knee raised as it launched itself forward.
Speedlines trailing the impact, the knee slammed into Charlie’s stomach, pushing his body back into the metal as it warped underneath force until it could finally take no more pressure and tore itself open from the hinges.
With a loud clatter, the metal doors slammed against the ground, sending off sparks as the crooked edges dug into the cement as it skidded. While Charlie’s body was shot through the atmosphere, it only stopped when it smashed against a shipping container, knocking it into it with enough force to knock it off balance before it roughly slammed back into the ground, leaving Charlie in his man-sized hole of warped steel.
A wet footstep resounded against the cold stone ground, and condensed breath hung outside the mangled rows of teeth adorned by purplish, veiny flesh.
The giant monstrosity had moved away from the civilians, but Charlie had gained all its attention in response.
A gurgling voice came from its vocal cords, essential words straining to fruition from its distorted mind.
Its hands reached up to grip its head, its hands sinking into its soaked, algae-infested hair.
“Why….are you…hurting me?!”
Its question dripped with confusion and, just as prominently, malice. Frustration, anger, hatred.
Fear and hunger.
“WHY IS IT HURTING ME!?”
It couldn’t understand; it wasn’t able to understand. All it could know now was how to feast. Gorge, consume. Chew and tear.
Its scaly skin sharpened as it screamed, claws honing and extending, its muscles flexed, veins pulsing, bioluminescence growing even brighter. It stopped crying, its foggy eyes looking towards Charlie with no hint of humanity.
A single step forward, and then a charge.
Its claws stretched out as it prepared to break him open and slurp out what was inside.
A monstrous scream was all it could muster in warning.
A swarm of spears, its sharpened edges gleamed off its beady eyes as the pointed tips prepared to skewer right through it like it was fit to roast. Reflexively, its singular wing moved, a desire to fly out of the way dominating its natural reaction, but the feeling of only a distinct movement reminded it that it was no longer an option. With no method to escape, the creature would have no way to avoid being skewered.
Any lesser being would have fallen to such a fate. But this monstrosity was far beyond such fundamental ideals.
Its numerous eyes already spotted its plan for rebuttal before Sang-Cheol’s spears had even left his hands; sharpened beaks pierced through the nearby glass case, shoving the broken shards out of the way to let its mouths reach towards whatever they could grasp at, a row of swords placed perfectly within range.
Like a bunch of crows picking up shiny stones off the ground, gleaming blades adorned the beaks held between at differing angles and positions. Some rightly had the handle, while others grasped onto the edge itself. They left their hands unoccupied, just for the sole purpose of being able to spin their body around in preparation.
It kicked itself off the ground, spinning itself into a swirl, balancing itself right onto the tip of its clawed foot to decrease its friction, allowing it to pick up more and more speed until it became nothing but a spinning blade, a black blur adorned by steel hues.
The spears were deflected before they could even come close to the chimeric’s body, flinging off in every direction, nailing into the ceiling, sliding across the floor, stabbing through glass, embedding into splintered shields.
Even with the spears out of the way, the bladed hurricane didn’t stop; it was disorganized and spun around, its uneven weight dragging it in unexpected directions. Shards of glass and splinters flew through the air as it crashed through a display case, eviscerating it and its history.
The carpet was torn underneath its feet, the walls left with gouges as it spun out of control, columns smashed, the floor above them loudly creaked and shook, the chaos of the battle only breaking down more and more of the museum’s supports.
The death spiral abruptly deviated, coming right towards Sang-Cheol, and would tear him asunder if it wasn’t stopped.
“GET THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY!” Her sharp cry and the electrical sparks that surged forth from her cut through the gorilla’s own warcry.
Blind. Rage. Futility. No one listened to her. No one ever listened to her. She was just some joke. She had always been. Just a pink-haired idiot who didn’t know better. Even as an Ace, she was still invisible to everyone. No, she wasn’t invisible. She was visible, but they just thought she was just another Serpent, if even that. Just another girl, just another regular person who needed help. She didn’t need help. She needed to get stronger, and every time they helped, it was just proving that she was weak. She hated it. She loathed it.
She didn’t care about the display. She didn’t care what the thing said. She didn’t care about the other two that had joined her. She just wanted what stood in her way to die. Just die. Die, die, die, die, die. She crossed her arms, and, with a sound like grinding whetstones, she brought them apart, bringing forth another blade on her second arm. She brandished the blades, and sprinted forwards, straight into the fray. A wild dervish of blades, a danse macabre, her violet blades tore through the little ones, leaving singed and bifurcated bodies in her wake, as she went straight for the larger lupine creature. Nothing else mattered. He was her foe. Everyone else was a distraction. Their puppetmaster was nothing to her. She wished everyone else would just let her fight who she wanted, what she wanted. Just leave her alone, just let her fight. Just let her fight. Just. Let. Her. Fight.
She crossed her blades once more, and as her designated foe approached, she unleashed it, twin slashes, not unlike an X.