"Eye of newt..." A solitary iron lantern is placed upon a wooden shelf, illuminating the dark room. "Bristleskin bark, winged serpent scales, essence of nightbloom..." A dark figure skulks the chamber; stopping to light several melted candles along the walls of this vacant space. A dopey-looking young man with a poufy head of black hair sits in a chair as he watches the silhouette pacing back and forth. "Umm, why are we here exac-" His question is swiftly interrupted. "Crush to mix in a mortar, and boil in water for at least six hours. Then, add a pinch of salt and finely strain through a sieve powdered with gold dust..." Nervous, the dopey boy gulps.
"This will do perfectly in curing your affliction."
Stopping in front of the dopey boy, a young man with messy white hair—possessing a sinister grin—holds aloft a flask full of a noxious purple liquid. His name is Mugen: better known as the infamous 'Demon Healer' of the Wrensong company. The dopey boy looks at the bubbling concoction with visible doubt. "Errmm... It's just a bit of back pain. Surely, there are other ways to bring about relief?"
Mugen laughs incredulously at the response. "Do you want 'relief' or do you want to be cured?! Trust me: I'm a doctor..."
"I'm starting to think coming to this guy was a bad idea. Damn it, I should've heeded the warnings," poufy-head murmurs to himself. "Listen, I think I'm just going to go-" Without any hesitation, Mugen shoves the flask into the guy's mouth and forces the medicine down his throat; gleefully smiling as he does so. The poor lad's eyes are wet with tears. Once every last drop is drunk, Mugen removes the flask and takes a step back. The involuntary patient coughs profusely as they attempt to regain some semblance of breath.
"Now comes the interesting part." Mugen leans himself against a wall and crosses his arms. The boy's muscles begin to undulate wildly. "ARRRGGHHH! WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME?!" In what looks to be an excruciating process: the dopey young man from before is metamorphosized into a muscular, glowing being with a magnificent set of antlers growing from the top of their head. Because of the rapid increase in muscle density, his clothes are completely torn to shreds. "Fascinating! I wonder if the bioluminescence is a consequence of using unrefined gold dust?"
"Doctor... Is this the result of that medicine...? My back pain is completely gone. And I feel so much... Power..." The transformed man looks at his hands and notes the presence of a new potent flow of mana coursing through his body.
"Hahaha, do you understand now? The miracle that is medicine?" Mugen rubs and cracks the back of his neck.
"I do see it. Thank you, Doctor. The other day, a student of Ursaclaw called me 'Broccoli Head' because of my hair. It's one of the things I hate being called most..." Mugen's grin disappears from his face. "At the time, I couldn't retaliate because he outclassed me, but now... I can crush him like the insect that he is. I felt the same about you when you forced that disgusting swill down my throat. However, seeing as you're the one who bestowed upon me this great gift, I will let my animosity go. Goodbye, Doct-" Mugen appears from behind him and stabs a syringe into his neck; injecting the transformed student with some kind of yellow drug. Immediately, the student keels over, falling flat on his face. "W-What did you do to me?! I can't move!"
Mugen stands over him; the same sketchy smirk from before once again present. "A paralytic—synthesized from manticore venom." He makes his way toward the door. "The unintended effects of the backpain medicine and the paralytic should disappear in about a day or two. Make sure someone waters you, Broccoli Head. Later."
"T-T-T-This is the broom closet! What if no one comes in here?! H-Hey, you can't just leave me like this! D-Demon! You're a demon!" But his protest would fall on deaf ears as Mugen had already left the room.
Waltzing down the hall of Nox Astella, the student population makes sure to give Mugen a wide berth owing to his notoriety. They all seem to gather to the side and give him as little eye contact as possible. Mugen doesn't seem to care or notice however; simply humming a tune as he went about his day. Some time later, he arrives at a shack at the base of a gargantuan black-bark tree: the Shadow Continent's famous Nachttree. Inside, he approaches a pair of obsidian doors and parts his hair, revealing his right eye. A magic crest forms upon his iris and breaks the invisible seal keeping the doors closed. After a stint of staircase traveling, Mugen finally reaches his destination: Songbird's Cage—the base of operations for his company here within Academy Town.
It's not accurate to say that the people down below look like ants from all the way up here. At this height, one can barely make out the geographical features at ground level. Due to the presence of spatial magic, however, the time it takes to travel the length of the tree is but mere minutes. From up on her perch of a tall branch, Melancholy—Wrensong's house familiar—waves to Mugen as he passes by. She soon continues her gazing at the inky skies in blissful silence; allowing her mind to wander without care.
Within the common room, the familiars—Ramiosa, Guy, and Agito—are gathered around a coffee table playing Shamba: a popular card game of the region. It would seem that Ramiosa is losing—horribly. Gritting her fangs with rage, she abruptly stands up from the couch and tosses her cards onto the table. "I tire of these stupid elf games!"
Guy shoots her a vacant look. "This game was invented by a primalkin scholar in 522..."
"Give it up, Guy. You can't expect this musclehead to count beyond five, let alone have the brain power to know history." Agito shrugs.
"I'm gonna go hit something really hard!" Ramiosa declares before storming off. When she sees Mugen walking through the door, she stops in front of him. "Master Mugen." The healer looks up at her. "Please do me the honor of becoming my wife*!"
Mugen flashes his signature grin and points at her. "Nope."
"Ahhh! You're so cruel! I can hardly take it! Please, deny me more!" Blushing, Ramiosa holds herself and shivers with anticipation. Mugen walks by her as the rest ignores her strange behavior.
"Welcome home, Mugen." Guy greets him with a pleasant smile as Agito gives him a casual wave.
"So... Where are my dearest house mates?" Mugen asks with a plotting expression. *In Ramiosa's tribe, the title of wife belongs to the physically weaker of the wedded pair.
The sound of machines ticking and metal on metal was a common thing to be coming from Aomine's room. Sure there were machines that he could work with down in Nox but there were also people there. And people were incredibly loud and obtrusive most of the time. The mechanic couldn't think whenever he was in a place like that. That is why over the months he had turned his own room into his private workshop. Function over form made perfect sense to the male and so his bed was now pushed over to one corner out of the way. The desk in his room had papers scattered all over it. Blueprints for things he'd started and forgotten about or just given up on. There was hardly any free space left in the room. Machines of various size and use were littered along all the walls. It had taken Aomine months to get everything he needed up here.
The current project that he was working on was, to his knowledge, the first fully functioning combat bot. Other people had familiars, Aomine would have something that he built with his own hands. The construction had consumed his life for the better part of three weeks so far. He would only come out of his room to eat or for a mission. All other times he was locked away tinkering with the construct. Thankfully however, it was nearly done. The excitement was getting to him and he was moving even faster. double checking everything he needed to. The mechanic hummed a tune he'd learned from his mother as he made some final touches to the fists of the robot. This was actually the third version of this creation and he'd learned so much since the first try. Truth be told Aomine wasn't approved for all of the metal that he'd been using. He'd just been sneaking it from other departments. The wouldn't miss it. They didn't need it as much as he did anyway.
"Alright just gotta make sure these joints are greased up..." It was a bad habit of Aomine's to mumble to himself while working. Just another reason why he preferred to be in private while he worked. When he used to work downstairs with the other mechanics they would always poke fun at him for talking to himself. Well maybe if they talked to themselves too they would actually be able to make something useful. "While I'm at it might as well double check that the gasoline line doesn't have any holes in it. Don't want to burn my eyebrows off for the third time..." At some point it had seemed like a good idea to add a flamethrower to the robot but Aomine had known nothing about it. Many second degree burns later he was nearly an expert.
Minutes later Aomine was just adding the final touches to the eye of the robot. He wiped the sweat on the forehead away with the back of his hands, smearing oil on his skin in the process. At this point the male didn't even notice anymore. It was not unusual for the mechanic to be covered in grease or oil from head to toe when he was enthralled in his work. "Aaaaaaand done!" The mechanic stepped back and admired his work with a big grin on his face. "I can't believe it. It's finally done." With this creation he might even be able to avoid going on missions. He could just send the robot in to fight for him. His grin only grew bigger at the idea as he ran over to the flip switch to turn the robot on.
The robot's battery was self charging but to start it for the first time Aomine was going to need a LOT of power. The machine the robot was on was currently hooked right into the main power source of the entire Songbird's Cage. If that wasn't enough well...He would cross that bridge when he got there. Aomine's hand rest on the switch as he reflected on everything for just a moment. "Welp here we go!"
The switch was flipped with a satisfying 'clunk' and in that moment all of the lights in the entire building flickered out. To everyone else it would have seemed like a power surge. Arcing electricity sprouted around the robot as all the power was funneled into it. After what felt like forever the eye of the robot lit up blue. Aomine couldn't believe it and began screaming in joy. "It's alive! I did it! I can't believe it!" Aomine was so caught up in the moment he did not hear the ticking noise coming from the robot. The mechanic stopped jumping for joy when he noticed that the robot's head had gone slack and the eye had dimmed.
"Wha-" he noticed the pop and ducked just in time for a screw to fly out from the robot and through where his head used to be and stick itself into the wall. Thick black smoke began pouring out of the robot's neck and screws and other pieces of internals from the robots were now flying everywhere like small bullets. "Oh no is this how I die!?" The mechanic screamed as he was now in the fetal position on the floor clutching his hat over his eyes. Aomine thought it couldn't get any worse. He was wrong.
The explosion was incredibly loud. It shook the walls of Songbird's Cage and would have likely been able to be heard all the way down to Nox Astella. Black smoke was pouring out from under the door of Aomine's room into the halls of the Wrensong Residence. The sound of a fire extinguisher could be heard immediately after the explosion along with a lot of cursing. Just a few seconds after the door to Aomine's room was thrown open and out emerged the mechanic himself.
The mechanic was covered in ash, soot, and oil from hat to boots. Everything was pitch black including his face and hands and when he coughed black smoke came from his mouth. Aomine walked away from his room where black smoke was still billowing out from and plopped himself down on the couch in the common area. The familiars that were already in the room were staring at him but Aomine just shrugged. "I would rather not talk about it."
"What are you going to do about that demon!" The man that spoke wore an agitated expression, brown hair haphazardly blown back as the small group behind him echoed his sentiment. "I went to him a week ago to try and fix my shoulder, and he ended up turning my arms into rubber! I had to have someone feed and bathe me for two days! Two days!" More accounts of Mugen's "treatments" were shouted out at the purple haired girl as she held a polite smile. They were stood at the base of the Nachttree, Elizabeth with her back to the door as she faced the crowd. "I'm sorry to hear about your experiences with our resident healer. But your shoulder was healed correct?"
The man seemed taken aback by the woman's response, perhaps expecting her to apologize or deflect the blame. "Y-yeah it was fixed, but-" The woman held out a single finger to the man's lips, shushing him while maintaining her smile. "Your shoulder was healed, regardless of any side-effects that you may have experienced. Would you have preferred for the treatment not to work?" The group that been so vocal a few seconds ago were now silent, unsure of how to answer the question. If they said yes than it would raise the problem of why they didn't want it to work. But if they said no than they had no reason to complain. "W-whatever, just keep that freak away from us! Let's go." The man turned and stomped away, the rest of the group following soon after while throwing half-hearted jabs at Mugen.
Elizabeth Farkes, co-founder of Wrensong, wished that that group would be the last she had to meet with for the day. Unfortunately, the group from before was shoved aside by an even angrier looking group as the leader glared daggers at her. Unlike the first group however it seemed like this one had a bone to pick with someone other than Mugen. "Where is he! Where is that thieving grease-ball!?" Judging from how they were all dressed in thick overalls smudged with grease and other liquids, she assumed that they were talking about Amoine. "He is currently busy at the moment, but I can pass along a message if you'd like." Before the man could speak, a deafening explosion fell upon them from far above the building. Not even flinching, Elizabeth added "Or not. I do hope he's okay, he's been cooped up in his room for months. If it goes on for much longer I may have to drag him outside just so he doesn't forget what the sun looks like."
The group of mechanics were still shocked, trying to process the large explosion that seemed to not even register to the woman in front of them. The leader of the group recovered first, shaking his head "I hope that explosion wiped him off the face of the earth as far as I'm concerned. That jerk has been swiping metal from all of us for the past three months! How are we supposed to get anything done when we're missing our materials!" The mechanics behind him were slowly coming around, heads nodding as the leader jabbed a gloved finger into her shoulder.
Elizabeth's smile became more strained, eyes narrowing as she made a mental note to herself. "While I am sure that you are angry, I'm afraid that I have the utmost faith in my squad members. For all of their quirks they would never steal from a fellow student. Perhaps you merely misplaced the materials, or-" The mechanic interrupted her, repeatedly jabbing his finger in her shoulder as he shouted, "Misplaced! Where do you get off insinuating that we'd be so incompetent to misplace materials! I should march up there and give every single member of your little group a beating! The entire school would probably thank me for taking care of that creepy little demon you keep up there!" The jabs became much harder, a dull pain beginning to form in the spot where he was jabbing as she gritted her teeth behind her smile.
The parade of insults continued for a while, the man more than happy to offload all of his anger and complaints onto someone who seemed like they wouldn't fight back. Eventually he seemed to run out of things to say as his hands found their way to his sides, the group behind him shuffling their feet as they waited to see what would happen next. "If that is all Sir," Elizabeth's hand slowly drifted to her side, the thick and heavy tome hanging from a metal chain connected to her hip jingled threateningly "Than unless you have any proof that my squad member committed these thefts than I am going to have to ask you to leave. And if you continue to spout such baseless accusations than you will find that I am more than willing to defend their honor on their behalf." The mechanic looked like he was about to argue, but thought better of it as he turned to walk away. "This isn't over, not by a longshot." With their leader walking away the group followed, although thankfully not vowing the same thing as their leader.
Elizabeth held her smile, waiting for yet another group to round the corner with some sort of complaint about the conduct of her group. When no such group came the smile finally fell from her face as she rubbed the bridge of her nose with her free hand. There were always students who had complaints with their group, and it was one of her duties as co-founder to try and smooth things over with them. Not that it seemed to work most of the time, but she couldn't just ignore them and pretend that they didn't exist. All that would do is tank their perception of Wrensong even more. So if it meant standing pretty and letting students insult her to her face, well it was really a small price to pay.
Turning to the door, the soft rustle of clothing revealed the magical crest and slight bruising of the shoulder itself. The barrier sealing the doors closed was broken, allowing for her to open the black doors and enter into their base of operations. The doors themselves sealed quickly after she entered, the seal once again forming in order to keep anyone not authorized out of the area. The walk up to the common area was a short but silent affair, another useful bit of magic that she couldn't imagine having to go without. Elizabeth sighed as she put on a smile, passing by the house familiar Melancholy. "Good morning Melancholy." She offered the familiar a polite wave as she ascended, the familiar doing the same before returning to it's business.
Entering into the common area, she was greeted by the sight of Agito sitting at a table with Guy, while Ramiosa was lost in her own world as she held herself in her tree trunk arms. Mugen had already arrived beforehand, probably the source of Ramiosa's shivering if she had to guess. On one of the couches however was Aomine, or at least she assumed as much, given that every single feature of their face was absolutely covered by a thick black substance. "Ahh, the couch!" Elizabeth quickly darted down the hall, vanishing from sight for a few seconds, before returning with a large towel from the washroom. "Aomine, you're going to stain the couch! Hurry and wipe that stuff off." The towel was thrown over the man, covering him and already beginning to stain.
Having completely forgotten about the confrontations at the base of the tree, Elizabeth sat in one of the chairs with an exaggerated sigh. Turning, she faced Mugen and their assorted familiars "Good morning Mugen, Guy, Ramiosa and Agito. How is everyone today?"
When the explosion rocked the Wren's base of operations, the familiars in the common room immediately readied themselves for action. Was this an attack on Songbird's Cage? Whatever it was, Ramiosa quickly became excited. She clashes her fists together, psyching herself up. "Finally! Something action-y's happening around here!" Unfortunately, her simple aim of getting into a fight is swiftly shattered as their resident mechanic—greased from head to toe in all sorts of grime—mopes into the room and resigns himself to the couch. Guy has a concerned look on his face but Aomine tells them all he prefers not to explain the situation.
"Well Aomine, are you at least uninjured?" Guy kneels down and visually examines their sooty artificer.
Agito crosses his arms as he floats himself in the air. "You're really dirtying up the couch there, Ao." Like summoner, like familiar: Wrensong's captain, Elizabeth, saunters through the door and instantly takes note of the state of the couch. She dashes away for a brief second only to return with towel in hand; chastising Aomine about him staining their furniture. She then proceeds to greet the others in the room.
"Captain!" Ramiosa excitedly greets her with a salute. If you couldn't tell already: the captain happens to be one of Ramiosa's favorite people and one that she highly admires.
"Welcome home.""Welcome home." Guy and Agito say in unison. They're acting like well-behaved children.
Melancholy pokes her head into the room to check out the commotion. Noticing Aomine, she runs over to him with a worried expression. She takes his hand in hers—unbothered by the filth—and gazes at him with unease; wondering if there is anything she can do to help.
"Quit smothering the poor guy." A voice that hadn't spoken up in a while comes from the background in front of them. Mugen ambles toward the lot with a flask of yellow liquid in hand; each step producing an increasingly ominous air around him. Guy and Agito are quick to slide out of frame; each looking unnerved. That familiar grin again..."Who knows what sort of nasty chemicals are ravaging your skin this very instant. That needs to be dealt with immediately. I've been meaning to test this industrial-strength cleanser that I've formulated a few weeks ago. Hold still, got it?" His shadow looms high over poor Aomine. Melcol cocks her head to the side, not really grasping the situation.
Suddenly, the door bursts open again and in walks Yang Iago—the Wren's House Advisor. A stroke of fortune, perhaps, for Aomine: Yang inadvertently interrupts the Demon Healer before he has the opportunity to dump the contents of the flask onto the lad. His expression conveys tolerant annoyance. "I'm not even going to ask..." He walks toward the group, stopping somewhere between Elizabeth and the others gathered around the couch. "I don't know exactly what you've done but there's a mob gathered at the base of the tree with weapons looking for you, Aomine. It seems to be a mix of mechanics and some other students. I'm not one for conflict resolution, but I don't suppose they're here for a conversation. Take care of it. Now." His stern, commanding words penetrate through the lot of them like spears.
Mugen laughs. "What did you do, Aomine? Actually, let's go find out, shall we?"
As expected, Lichen had awoken with the rising sun. Still air and soft earth reminded her what part of the grounds she had taken as a bed, and the wary eyes of a grey-haired alumni peering at her from a window told her it was roughly too late to avoid clashing with the campus' other early risers. Her companion's delayed rise was hastened by a gentle nudge with her knee, as the slow crawl of red and orange stripes up her arms emerged as a subconscious show of their shared agitation.
Her experimentation with new routes around the campus had lead the pair to a number of odd places, so she'd begun relying on landmarks to find their way back. Luckily, the most reliable one was the consistent march of a group of disgruntled students towards the tree, only ever led by the most foolhardy leaders who were sure this time they would be able to get something out of airing their grievances to whichever member they could find first.
In the case of a group of grease-covered mechanics, Lichen figured anyone but her could offer a better solution to their problems. She climbed upon ... and snuck into the closest foliage, her sweeping gaze the same one that had prevented countless interactions with those who didn't want to begin their morning dealing with a patrolling member of Wrynsong mounted upon what could only be described as some strange albino panther.
The sputtering of the visibly most hesitant member of the group she had been stalking behind however, "B-boss, why don't I go and grab us some breakfast while you guys handle that...uhh...thieving punk." presented her an opportunity she couldn't hesitate to take. ... already striding away as Lichen began to mentally recount the number of eating places within walking distance, peeking back to see which direction the cowardly man had rushed to.
The student-affiliated Bacon & Bearclaws was the last place she expected to have to follow him, but the place had ample cover for her 'plan' and she figured any Ursaclaw who saw her would either not care enough to report what they witnessed, or embellish the event to a satisfactory degree.
In a blitz, silent paws impacting the paved ground paced themselves to allow Lichen to hoist the basket-carrying man onto the back of ... in a disturbingly practiced motion. She hesitated a moment to ensure no good food had been dropped—disqualifying the cottage cheese danishes on the ground—and used her left arm to secure her passenger by the overalls as they sprinted towards the Nachttree. The initial pair continued on with little concern, without the slightest pause as the local fauna were sent into an uproar by the sound of the explosion and their third continued to shout silently while scarfing down the last of his interrupted meal.
By the time they had reached the destination, the extended line of questions Lichen had planned for the man were immediately forgotten. The lingering shift of vibrant oranges and greens across her sneering face showing her fury and excitement upon seeing the armed crowd at the base of her tower, before dismounting with a pull of the captive to the ground. As they had closed enough distance to be visible to the crowd, standing somewhere between ten to fifteen feet away, Lichen positioned herself grapple the chest and collarbone of the bakery-goer from behind, scanning until she caught the gaze of those with matching outfits. "Once more, your group's interest is in the junk of our metal thief, correct?" the incriminating word was thankfully silenced leaving only a slight chance to catch what was mouthed; though Lichen hardly waited for a response before speaking again with far more conviction "Then your audience is with me, your leader will approach with words or blades, and I will respond in turn. The rest of you will wait patiently fo-"
Her proclamation interrupted, of course, by the arrival of her comrades.