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  1. Earlier

    The Bronx. 42 square miles of land. An urban community often associated with crime and decay, never really managing to rid itself of the reputation it gained in the 60’s and 70’s. 20 years after the decline of livable housing and the increase in arson cases, The Bronx had went through significant redevelopment and the quality of life there had improved. Yet The Bronx was no without it’s problems. Gangs were still prevalent in low income areas, and of the various Hispanic gangs, the Latin Kings and Latin Queens were the most prevalent. Violence and corruptions still stained the borough like an sickness. There was only so much the police were capable of, and The Avengers were too busy fighting aliens and killer robots to actually look out for the little guy. New York had it’s own share of superheroes to deal with the every day crimes. Spiderman, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Power Man and Power Girl. Still, none of them were handling The Bronx. It seemed that despite wealth returning there, with new housing and businesses being built, the danger was still present. Someone had to do something about it. That someone was Flare. Flare liked to be up high, to see over the city from the rooftops. As far as hero outfits went, her ensemble wasn’t quite as striking as Daredevil’s or Spiderman’s. She wore a simple slate grey hoodie with the hood up, with dark lycra sport leggings, and black athletic sneakers. Her elbows, knees and shins were covered by black, hard-plastic protective pads. Under her hood she had a tanned, smooth complexion, and wore a pair of visor-like sunglasses to hide her eyes. A fringe of dark brown hair fell across her forehead, with the ends dyed in flashes of purple. Tonight was something of a special night for Flare. On any given night she would do her ‘rounds’, making her way through the streets, quite literally looking for trouble. Generally she was used to interceding in gang fights, muggings and assaults. On more rare occasions she might discover a burglary taking place. Tonight, however, she was on to something much bigger. Over the last few evenings she had listened in on conversations between members of the Latin Kings. She had discovered that the Latin Kings were to receive a large shipment of goods; most likely drugs or guns, as part of an ongoing relationship they had with another gang operating elsewhere. Bringing drugs or guns into her town could cause no end of trouble. With a large shipment of weapons the Latin Kings could settle old scores with rival gangs and increase their hold on The Bronx. With Drugs they could bleed the town of the little wealth and prosperity it was gathering, and ruin people’s lives in the process. Flare wasn’t about to let that happen. Unlike most of the people in this town, she could actually do something about it. She stood at the edge of a flat rooftop of a collection of large warehouse buildings down by the East River. It was dark and even from her heightened vantage point she could see little to no signs of life. So she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and then she flared her hearing. Well, that was a vague term for what she was doing anyway. Flare could heighten her senses individually with an effort of will. However, even the sense people considered to be hearing, was a collection of different senses. She could flare her sense of volume, although she avoided it often as it just made everything louder. Any sound engineer will tell you that the human ear is the most sophisticated microphone. If that was the case, then Flare’s power worked kind of like the sliding controls on an audio mixing board. To make everything louder, that was like a master volume control, and it was never very helpful in her opinion. So she had learned to adjust pitch and tone, in order to shut off some sounds and hone in on others. It took her a few moments of mental adjustment, but eventually she began to hear something going on. The sounds were coming from the shipping containers outside the warehouse by the river itself. There was the sound of someone taking a draw on a cigarette, followed by a very slight cough. Two sets of footsteps were moving between the containers. Then in the warehouse itself she could heard muffled noises of people talking. She allowed her hearing to return to normal, and then she was on the move. She dropped down from the roof, gripping on to a metal pipe on the corner of the building and using it to slide down to the ground. She moved quietly, sticking to the shadows created by the large shipping containers. She moved carefully between them, towards the sound of the first two people she had heard. As she moved she flared her sight, specifically her ability to take in light. Suddenly the dark night’s colours began to fade a little, but the shadows became dimmer and the lights brighter. Now all that had been murky and hard to see where clearer and more distinct. She saw shadows moving between two containers and knew she was close to her first targets. With a short hop Flare nimbly climbed atop the container and crept slowly across it. She cautiously looked over it’s edge to see two men dressed in typical gang banger garb, all tattoos, denim and bandanas. Definitely Latin Kings. Both men were carrying pistols and were pacing calmly, peering out of either side of the container, looking for anyone nearby. Clearly they hadn’t spotted her. To take them both out she needed to get her timing right. One mistake and they’d yell, or even fire off a shot. She waited until the smoker had moved to one end of the container to look around. When he took another drag of his cigarette she dropped down behind him and swept a kick at the back of his leg, sending him falling back towards her, she bobbed back out of the way of his fall, but when his back his the ground she followed up by striking him in the chest, causing him to choke and cough. By the time the other gang banger turned around Flare was already sprinting between the containers towards him. He lifted his pistol to shoot and was opening his mouth to yell, but she was already on him. She confidently grabbed his gun hang with her right and pushed it aside, pointing the gun away from her, while her left fist came in with a hook to his jaw, then she moved back along his arms and pulled the gun from it, and turned the pistol on it’s owner. The man held his jaw in pain but immediately froze when he saw the gun pointed at him. However she didn’t hold him hostage for long, before he could even begin attempting to bargain, she had clubbed him with the grip of the gun and he fell to the ground, out cold. Flare calmly dismantled the pistol and dropped it on the floor. She began to slow her breathing, taking long and considerate breaths, actively trying to calm the rush of adrenaline flowing through her, filling her with excitement. In and out she breathed, and slowly she began to calm down. She moved back through the containers and towards the warehouse. She ducked down behind a car to get across the open gap, and then pressed herself against the wall of the building. She flared her hearing once more. “-you do not need to worry how we are shipping this in. All you need to know is we can manage regular supplies of what you need.” Said a man’s voice. He sounded well-spoken and confident.” “I ain’t questionin’ your ability to bring the goods, Saito. I just want to know how you’re shipping all this in without alerting the feds. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill brand heroin…and we’re not talking a small amount here either.” Said another man, with a hispanic accent. “Perhaps you should just focus on the money you’re going to make with this investment.” The well-spoken man, Saito replied. Flare cursed silently. It was drugs after all. She allowed her hearing to fade back to normal and began to make her move. She climbed up the fire escape ladders at the side of the building that lead to the second floor balcony of the warehouse. She opened the door quietly and stepped inside, looking around to see if there were any guards posted along the upper balcony. She could see no one, but she flared her hearing to double check. Her expression became a frown. Aside from the two men talking, there was no other sound in the warehouse. There was nobody there. That was just too unlikely. Normally a meeting like this would have gangs posting thugs all around the place to make sure there were no cops nearby. She moved quietly along the balcony, ducking behind boxes in case either of the two men spotted her. When she found a spot with a good vantage she looked out on the two men. Saito was likely the middle aged Japanese man with short black hair, and wearing a business suit. The other man was dressed in black jeans and a white vest, his arms covered in tattoos, with tan skin and dark hair, and a stubbled beard. Next to them a container had been opened up, and a bag of some sort of powder was sitting between them on a table. She examined the container that had stored the cocaine. It was full of the stuff. Then she noted the brand outside of the containers, some sort of corporate logo. Then she noticed the logo on another container in the warehouse, then another, and another. There were at least 10 containers in the warehouse with that logo. Did they all carry hundreds of pounds of heroin? She had to take out both of these men, and keep them apprehended until the police arrived. She flared her hearing again, and as she attuned her hearing, she heard the smallest of movements from behind her. She turned just in time to see and then dodge away as a long blade stabbed into the wood of the crate she had been behind. She turned and faced what she quickly realized was an honest to goodness, real life ninja. Dressed entirely in red and black cloth gear that concealed all but his eyes, the ninja was quick to react and was already advancing for a second strike. He swung his sword at her and she used her hand to block it sideways and advanced inward, so the blade was behind her. Then she brought her fingers in tight, with her knuckles flat, like a tiger’s paw. Her deflecting arm wrapped around the ninja’s oustretched arm and held it in place while she jabbed him twice at the point where his arm met his torso. The man made an odd strained noise, but Flare moved her arm around the back of his head, and as she gripped him tightly she raised her knee into his stomach hard, then hooked her leg around his and swept it out from under him, laying him out flat of the ground. The noise of the ninja crashing had alerted Saito and the Latin King leader. They both had stopped talking and had turned her way. Flare went to advance on them, but as she ran someone hit her hard from the side. Then another swept her legs out from under her and she hit the ground of the metal balcony hard. She winced in pain but tried to get up, only to have someone kick her hard in the side and she barked out a short cry of pain. As she looked up she saw more ninja’s dressed in red and black surrounding her. There must have been at least 11 of them, 12 including the one she had taken out. They had been here all along, watching her, and waiting to strike. Ninja, the real deal, martial artists that could stand so still, and be so quiet, that she had not detected them even with her superior hearing. She struggled as they grabbed hold of her, and dragged her down to the lower floor. Then they pulled her hood down to reveal short, pixie-cut her, longest at her fringe which was dyed purple. They took off her sunglasses as well, revealing her defiant, amber eyes. “One of yours?” Saito asked to the Latin King Leader. “Why because she’s Hispanic?” Came the reply, “Nah this is just some punk trying to play hero.” “Well, she didn’t have any trouble with your men apparently.” Saito said, and he looked at Flare and smiled at her. “You seem like you have a lot of potential, it’s a shame you had to go and waste it like this.” Saito motioned to the ninja, and suddenly she was being forced on to her knees, and someone held her head down, then she felt a blade resting on the back of her neck. Tears welled up in her eyes. She was terrified. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. How could she have been so stupid. So weak. And now she was going to die. Her mind fled to her family, her two parents, and her younger brother. She was never going to see them again, and for what? She couldn’t even manage this, how could she have ever thought she could be a hero? All she had accomplished now, was to get herself killed. The tears finally fell from her eyes and tapped softly on the ground beneath her. Then, quite suddenly, all of the lights in the warehouse went out. “What the f-“ She heard the Latin Kings Leader say, but then there was a noise like a blunt object hitting him, and then something heavy hitting the ground. Suddenly there was a lot of scuffling in the dark, the sounds of metal scraping and blows being struck. Then the grip on her was released and somebody hauled her to her feet. She flared her vision and almost all colour disappeared, but she could make out grainy images in the total darkness. Someone was fighting with the ninja, someone had saved her. She saw Saito fighting diligently with his men, and apparently he was an incredibly skilled fighter himself. Then there was a flash of flight that momentarily dazzled her vision, and she allowed her enhanced vision to fade once more. The light, she realized, was a glowing yellow orb that seemed to flicker and pulse like a flame. As her eyes adjusted she realized that it was coming closer, and that it wasn’t an orb at all. It was a fist. Illuminated by the light of the Iron Fist, was the dragon-like tattoo on the hero’s chest, as he advanced on Saito and hit him with a single, powerful strike that sent the man crashing back across the room and slamming against the wall. “If you can walk you better run.” A voice came from behind her, as a masked man approached having dealt with the rest of the ninja, who were in a heap on the floor behind him. “Police will no doubt be here soon.” The man, she noted, didn’t look right at her but instead seemed to be only looking vaguely in her direction. Flare nodded and moved with both of the men towards an exit door and back outside. In the light of the moon and the streetlights she realized that she was running next to a man dressed in green trousers, with a bare chest and a yellow bandana across his face, was definitely the man she knew as The Legendary Iron Fist. The other, dressed in a bulky, red armour, with an armoured, red mask, complete with red eyes, and a pair of devil horns; he was Daredevil. “How did you…” She began to ask. “I have good ears, a bit like yourself.” Daredevil said to her, “Although The Hand have become particularly capable at moving silently. Yet they still cannot hear as well as you, so you should have used that fully to your advantage.” “That’s why you turned off the lights.” Flare said, getting it. “If no one can see then the one who can hear better will succeed.” “Something like that.” Daredevil replied. “That’s a nice chat you two are having.” Iron Fist said from ahead of them, “But we need to get out of here before the police arrive.” “Right.” Daredevil nodded. “Go home kid. And think twice before you go trying to play hero again, all right?” “I…” She went to say more but before she could the two heroes ran off and left her alone again. She cursed silently and then stormed off alone. She ran down the road hurriedly, but as she ran across the road the police cars came rolling around the corner. They screeched to a halt and before she could hide they had stepped out of the car, their guns pointed at her, screaming at her to get her hand on her head. She thought about how best to take them out before escaping, but then she thought better of it. It was one thing to hurt bad people, but these were just officers doing their job. With a heavy sigh, she raised her hands in the air and calmly waited as the officers surrounded her. --- --- --- --- A few hours later she had been booked and locked up in a questioning room. Police had began questioning her but she remained silent. They asked for her name but she didn’t respond, then they began asking what she had been doing at the scene, and started warning her of the trouble she was in. Eventually she was beginning to feel the strain of it all. She was scared. She was going to get in trouble with the police, and be branded a criminal. Her parents were going to found out what she did. “I…” She went to speak, to spill the beans and admit everything to them. “I’m Isa-“ The door to the room opened and a man in a suit walked in, he had blonde hair and hid his eyes behind a pair of crimson tinted sunglasses. He moved with a delicate care, and she noticed he was holding a blind man’s cane. “Fellas, you know the drill.” The man said, “Her lawyer is here, so it’s time for you to go.” “Lawyer? She hasn’t even had her phone call yet, we don’t even know her na-“ “Isabella Vasquez.” She said, cutting them off, “And if that guy says he’s my lawyer then he’s my lawyer.” “Matt Murdock.” The lawyer said, “Now, gentleman, can we have some privacy please?” “Damn it!” The other officer cursed and the pair grumbled at each other as they collected themselves and left the room, closing the door behind them. Matt gave Isabella a warm smile and then made his way to the table and sat himself down opposite her. “Nice to meet you, miss Vasquez.” “Izzy.” She said to him, “That’s what most people call me.” “Izzy…well it looks like you’ve been busy.” He put some paperwork down in front of him, “Fleeing the scene of a crime, 18 men found beaten to unconsciousness, 12 shipping crates filled with heroin, illegal guns scattered everywhere, that’s quite a busy night.” “Look I’m not explaining myself to you, you aren’t even my real lawyer.” Izzy said, frowning, “They don’t have anything on me, or they’d have booked me with something, right?” “Oh I think they thought you were a Latin Queen, part of the gang.” Matt said, “But I’ve managed to talk them down from that, you’d be amazed how quickly the government backs down when you throw the term ‘racial profiling’ around a bit. You still have a few minor charges but your bail has been posted via a donation from the Rand Corporation.” “Uh…what?” Izzy said, frowning further still. “Why the hell is Rand Corporation bailing me out?” “I think, officially, it’s a PR stunt to do with community outreach, youth rehabilitation, something like that.” Matt smirked a little, “As part of that same program you have been offered a paid scholarship by the Stark Institute. I understand you are currently enrolled at Columbia, Biology major?” “How do you know that?” Izzy asked suspiciously. “I did a little research, and I have some resources that the police don’t. You’re Isabella Vasquez, 18 years old, star of your high school track team, currently enrolled at Columbia under a fees only athletics scholarship, with a major in biology. You also practice regularly at Ahmad’s Krav Maga Training, and even teach other students sometimes.” “If you did your research properly, then you’d know I’m not looking for hand outs.” Izzy replied coldly. “Izzy, the Stark Institute scholarship will allow you to continue to focus on your studies without the need to do track, and it’s a full ride scholarship complete with boarding at a specialized campus with food allowances, transport allowances, clothing, and finances to support yourself and your family.” “I like track.” Izzy said, folding her arms. “Look I don’t want none of Starks hand outs. I earned this scholarship, I earned my place in Columbia. I worked…really, really hard to get in there. I didn’t go looking for hand outs.” “I understand.” Matt said with a nod, and he was smiling at her. “There’s another angle to this, though. You see…you’ve been under Stark’s radar for a while. Didn’t you wonder why Daredevil was all the way over in The Bronx just when you needed help last night?” Izzy tensed at that. Mat knew what had happened last night. “…Stark’s been watching…me?” She asked, her voice trembling. “He makes a point of keeping an eye on future potential. People who have…abilities.” Matt opened a folder in the pile in front of the and showed her a sheet of paper. Izzy picked it up and read it. “Avengers Initiative?” Izzy asked. “Tony Stark’s plan for the future. To train young, talented individuals to become to heroes of the future. The scholarship will allow you to do what you have always been doing; training your body and your mind, to become as strong as you can be. You’ve worked hard to be a hero-“ “Damn hard.” Izzy interrupted. “Right.” Matt nodded, “And people have noticed. This isn’t a hand out, Izzy. But it’s your choice if you take it.” Izzy thought about it. What Matt had said was true. Since Izzy had began to notice her powers, her first thought had been how to use them to protect people. She had been training her whole life to protect people. She had been fighting, and running, and climbing every chance she had got, and as she grew older she had structured her life around this goal. Her daily routine, the subjects she learned, her fitness, her diet, all of it had been to be a hero, and now someone was offering to help her. “Where do I sign?” She asked, with a slight smirk. “HAHA! YES!” a muffled voice cried from the opposite side of the door leading out of the interrogation room. Then the door opened and Tony Stark, dressed in an impeccable business suit, with his characteristic goatee, and a pair of shades on, poked his head into the room. “Eat it, Murdoc! I told you she’d go for it, you owe me five bucks!” Then he winked at Izzy, “Welcome to the team, Vasquez. Later.” He closed the door and left her alone again with Matt, who looked a little embarrassed.
  3. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    Oh the love he felt. The deep searing pains of love. Steal was laying on the floor of the punishment room, welts bruises and abrasions marking him in colourful patterns. He gagged a bit as he inhaled sharply and tried to shift himself into something resembling a comfortable position. As if such a thing was even slightly possible. His father hadn't waited any time at all to start the new dance, or rather the old dance that he had gotten used to NOT feeling. His father was sitting off to the side watching him, his brows furrowed and his eyes glinting darkly. He seemed almost bored with the things he had done, and one would believe it if not for the fact he did it so often. "So, ready to tell me about who you were living with?" He walked over and grabbed Steal's shortened hair and smirked. "Heh, who-ever it was managed to get you to cut your hair like a boy at least. No more girly long hair." He dropped Steal's head before speaking in a falsetto. "But I like it dad, please don't cut it.. If it wasn't for your mother it would have been gone long ago." He crouched near Steal, one hand dropped loosely between his own legs as he peered at his struggling son. "So, tell me about what has been going on, you all queer now? That is it isn't it, I was right you are just a pretty fag boy.." The words were spit with such acidic distaste that Steal cringed from each like another slap. If his father only knew, no, his father had known was that why he was locked here? No, there was more, even he knew that, but, it was enough wasn't it. Just that was a good reason to ensure that Steal never left the house again. No matter what was said he was not going to speak out, not going to taint his memories of Yusai but letting this man darken them. He would take those with him in his heart and protect them. "Not saying anything... y' can kill me but.. wont say a thing.." This of course only made his father more angry. "You may be 20 but you are under my roof again, and like it or not you are going to tell me what you want. I did not raise you to be running off and living with other men." Other men? Something about that clicked in his mind and he couldn't stop himself. "Y' wanted t' fuck me all this time didn't you daddy?" The older man flinched and glared down darker. "What did you say?" He didn't give Steal a chance to answer before kicking him in the face, causing Steal to cry out in agony and roll away. "How DARE you say that to me." Struck a nerve... the pervert wanted me all this time.. Without saying or doing more the other man left the room, locking Steal in, leaving him panting on the floor. If it wasn't for the pain, Steal likely would have been laughing, as it was a dry sound came from his throat, followed by a sob. The pain. He would at least get some time to rest, a little sleep before the sadist came in for round two. Steal closed his eyes and pictured Yusai, wishing he was there instead of here, wishing there was a way to see him. *** At the hotel Steal had been dragged to before being taken home, housekeeping uncovered a strange heap of clothing, with a phone number and address on the back of a shirt. This was a first. Curiousity led the lady to dial the number of Otto's bar to find out what was going on. This could have been one of those weird scavenger hunt or geo-casheing things. Either way it was obvious that someone wanted her to call this number, or go to the address and calling was all she could do while on shift. The clothing wasn't cheap either, though it did seem to be small, almost a teen's size.

    OOC: Private RP between Kyo and me. HEROES "Zoe King if you don't get your butt in gear you're gonna be late for highschool!" That was mom. The clock read 8:40am. The alarm had been ringing for a while longer than that. Zoe leaned over and turned it off. Silence, at last. Zoe let out a sigh and fell back onto her bed, knocking some comics to the ground in the process. Though it didn't matter much. Clothes, comics and general mess covered most of her floor and shelves. Her walls were covered in posters of heroes. Men and women she'd grown up watching save the world time and again. To say she was a fan, was more than a slight understatement. They amazed her. Ant-Man. Captain America. Ms. Marvel. Black Panther. Spider-Man. Wasp. Iron Man. Each poster reminded her of the incredible feats that the Avengers had accomplished. She even had their action figures. Well, most of them, anyway. Her kid sister, Ruby, had gnawed Hulk's head off, then fallen in love with the headless Hulk, so that was in her sister's room, but still. "Zoe if you're not downstairs in 5 minutes you'll wish you were dead!" She sat bolt upright and blew a few strands of her shoulder-length black hair out of her green eyes. It was time for school. As she crept down the stairs, she saw her mom was putting breakfast on the table. Ruby was sat, focused on the toast soldier she was dunking in her runny egg. Zoe was almost at the bottom of the stairs, and her mom was none-the-wiser. Her foot touched the second to last step, and it let loose a loud creak. "Good, you're up!" Her mom beamed, "Toast on the table. Go, go!" "Stupid step." Zoe muttered, then darted into the kitchen and grabbed a slice of toast. "Morning, mom." "Not for much longer it's not." Her mother retorted. Zoe looked at her watch, it was 8:47am. What was she on about? "I won't be late, mom. I promise." Zoe said, stuffing toast in her face. She finished up, gave her sister a kiss on the cheek and started to leave. Something wet struck her in the back. "Eugh!" She wriggled in discomfort at the wet patch that was soaking through her plain red shirt. She didn't need to look to know what was on her back. She figured it out based on her sister's delighted laughter. A drowned soldier. "Oh, for goodness sake..." Her mother chided her sister, then turned on her, "Go change and be quick, you've got 10 minutes to get to school!" "I'll change on the way, mom! I've got a spare shirt in my bag, i'll see you later!" Zoe was quick to leave before her mother could reply. Closing the front door behind her, she took a moment to appreciate the lively vibe of the street she'd grown up on in Queens. Kids were leaving for school, dog-walkers were out in force and an ice cream van drove slowly by as it was a hot, hot day. New York was a big place, but anywhere you wanted to go, a yellow taxi could get you there. Though, she preferred walking. Darting into the first quiet alley she saw, she changed out of her soiled red t-shirt into a black Pink Floyd top then pulled a red leather jacket out of her bag and a pair of biker goggles. Putting them both on, she let the goggles rest on the top of her head for a moment as she stretched, flexing her muscles. Bag zipped shut, check. Got your homework, check. She glanced at her watch again, it now said 8:57am. "Uh-oh!" Zoe quickly pulled the goggles over her eyes and grinned, "Maximum effort." As she ran forwards, Zoe's speed exploded. She was a red blur. Zoe was out of the alley and shooting through the streets of Queens at the speed of lightning. Dashing through the early morning traffic, she made a beeline through the blocks towards Queens Metropolitan High School. Mid-step she glanced at her watch. 8:58am. Good, she was making excellent time. It never took her more than a minute to get to school. She spotted a coffee shop and came to a stop, the world was still moving at a snail's pace for her. She saw two people who had bumped into each other and were slowly, very slowly, beginning to fall in front of the entrance. Shooting forwards, she grabbed the man and gently moved him back a step then put his flying coffee back in his hand. She darted to the other man and took the open newspaper from his hands - likely the reason they'd knocked into each other in the first place - folded it, and put it under his arm. Then she moved him out of the way and shot into the coffee shop. In a flash, she'd made herself a coffee and grabbed two doughnuts, leaving the correct change behind. The girl behind the counter was mid-blow on her bubblegum, the large pink bubble obscuring most of her face. Zoe grinned, leaned forwards and shoved a finger through it. The bubble perforated and began it's - at least to her - excruciatingly slow deflation. Zoe dashed back outside, put a doughnut in the newspaper man's hand, nodded to herself with satisfaction and shot on. The bubblegum bubble burst. The change rattled on the counter. The two men stared at each other in confusion. And everyone went about their day. She was almost at her school. 8:59am. Time was on her side. But that wasn't enough. As she ran, she shot around a corner and came across another scene unfolding. But this one was a little more serious. Two men, their faces obscured by balaclavas, were mid-robbery of a convenience store. One of them had his hand on the door handle of his car, while the other was turning back as the store owner ran out after them. He had his gun aimed at the store owner, and he'd pulled the trigger already. Zoe watched as a mushroom cloud blew out of the pistol and a bullet slowly cut through the air, directly on target. She was late, there was no time, but she'd have to make time. First, she ran to the man at the getaway car and looked him up and down. He wasn't holding a gun. She grabbed the hand he'd placed on the car door handle and swiftly pulled it up and away and gently pushed it into his cheek, "Boop!" She added, cheerily. Then she dashed over to the gunman and gently pulled the gun out of his hands, then gave him a little flick on the forehead. She started to run on, and then she realised she'd forgotten something. She turned and dashed over to the bullet, noting it was already halfway towards it's target and plucked it from the air. She threw the gun and fired bullet into the open window of a cop car that was driving towards the scene and shot on to school. The getaway driver knocked himself unconscious, the gunman flipped backwards over himself and hit the ground forcefully and the store owner blinked in surprise and felt over his chest. He'd heard the gun fire, but no bullet? Sirens. A few seconds later, the cops arrived. "I'm the boss, i'm the boss, i'm the boss..." Zoe chanted, trying to reassure herself. She was going to be on time this time. She flew through the last few streets, up the steps to her school, through the main double doors, and down the corridors, dashing past the last couple of students filing into their classrooms. One more corner and she was there. She came to an abrupt stop and put her hand on the handle, then tapped herself on the head. "Hello!" Zoe chided herself, pulling the goggles off and pocketing them, she stepped into a classroom full of seated students and a very angry looking teacher. "Uh..." "You're late, Ms. King!" The woman snapped. "Oooof course I am..." Dropping her shoulders in defeat, Zoe slumped into her chair to the background noise of the teacher explaining why, for the third time this week, she had detention. But that was alright, she told herself, at least she'd made a difference. She took a bite of her doughnut and delved into her textbook. School had been a drag. It consisted of a number of subjects that bored her, then she ate in the cafeteria by herself. She'd had a best friend, Amy. But then Amy moved to Colorado last summer, so here she was. Eating lunch by herself as usual. After lunch, a few more lessons and then the bell. What a relief! She was glad to be out of there. As usual, it didn't take her long to get home. But as she unlocked the front door and stepped into the entryway, her mother walked out to greet her. She had lipstick on. Her single mom. Lipstick? "Hi honey, come in, come in! You've got a guest!" Her mother had a wide smile plastered on her face. "Okay..." Zoe muttered, closing the door behind her. She walked through into the living room and then she saw him. Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man. One of the founding members of the Avengers and one of her biggest heroes. She stared for a moment, her mouth moving but unable to speak. Tony Stark stood up and smirked. "Got a sec?" He asked, raising an eyebrow curiously. That was the last thing she remembered. "Honey...?" Zoe heard her mother speaking, asking if she was alright. She opened her eyes to see her mother standing over her. "It's fine, happens all the time." Tony added, "I'll wait in her room?" He started up the stairs. No! Zoe screamed in her head, panic spreading through her. She got to her feet and as her mother disappeared back into the living room, and used her superhuman speed to shoot up the stairs, carefully squeezing past Tony Stark - that was Iron Man - she reminded herself. Then rushed into her bedroom and like a whirlwind, she ran around picking up clothes, throwing them into the closet, shoving comics and mess under her bed and within a couple of seconds her room was sparkling clean. Then Tony walked in and whistled. "Well, look at this, huh?" He nodded at her walls and she frowned and turned to look at them. It was only then that it dawned on her that her room was covered in the memorabilia of superheroes and now one was in her room. He walked over to the far wall and glanced at each of the posters in turn. "No," He said, pointing at the poster of Thor, "No," He said, pointing at Captain America. He did this to a half-dozen superheroes in the Avengers. "No. Nope. No. No." Then he came upon a poster of Iron Man, "Yes. Obviously." "W-wh-do-you-I-If-you-wh--" Her words mushed as she tried to speak. "Right." Tony frowned at her, "Y'know honestly I had a couple of drinks with breakfast so I don't know if that was you or me..." He turned his attention to the figures she'd neatly placed on her shelves. "W-what are you doing.. h-here...?" Zoe managed after she collected herself. "Hey, look, he's got his little hammer and everything," Tony picked up her Thor figurine and started mimicking him, "I am vehemently opposed to manscaping!" "M-Mr. Stark?" Zoe asked again. A mixture of panic and wonder settling over her. "Hello? Right, yes, sure." Tony placed the Thor figurine back and then turned to face her, "I know you're a superhero --Don't faint!" He added quickly, as Zoe went pale. "B-but... how--I..." Zoe stuttered, then walked over to her bed and sat down. "Well it's sort of obvious, really, you're just..." Tony pulled out a phone-like device and held it up, it began projecting a series of videos that looked as though they'd been taken by satellite or something. She could see her house! Then she saw a red blur leave her house and then it came back. Then it left her house. Then it returned. And so on, over and over. Zoe was stunned into silence. "I can't explain any better, really. I don't have any art supplies and I left my puppets at home, so if you could just--" "Oh..." "--there it is." Tony smirked, pointing at her, "Hey, don't worry about it, kid. What's your secret identity? You've got one right? Like Speedy, or Lightning, or The Fla--" "--No, I don't. I haven't thought of a good name, I mean, i've been really busy and--" "--sure sure, school, teens, drama, angst, armed robbery-- that's great." Tony shrugged, "But don't you want to be better?" "W-what are you...?" Zoe couldn't think, she could barely talk. "The Avengers are always looking for new recruits." He said simply, shoving the device back into his pocket. "You're a little rough around the edges, but--" "Hey!" Zoe growled, coming to her senses, "What do you mean, 'rough around the edges'?!" "And you fainted. That was fun." Tony added, reaching into his jacket he pulled out a small folder. "Please don't tell anyone about that..." Zoe muttered, her cheeks turning pink, "Wait..." It finally dawned on her what he'd said, "The Avengers?" "Sure just... give that a read." He placed the folder beside her on the bed. "And, when you've decided, pack your things, you'll be moving in with our other recruits." He started to leave and then flicked the collar of her red leather jacket, "Red. Nice." Then he walked out, leaving her sat on her bed in an empty room. The room that Tony Stark had been in just moments before but even now, as she still heard him walking down the stairs and apologising to her mother for going - and her repeated attempts to keep him from going - she still, even now, couldn't believe she'd just been talking to him. Zoe looked down at the folder he'd placed at her side. It was plain brown, with nothing on it but three words, 'The Avengers Initiative'.
  5. WOW, nice drawing. That inspired me a lot. طراحی وب سایت
  6. Hallows

    As the evening wore on, James offered the group to stay for the night. There was no good getting everything ready to fight ghosts in the dark, with half the group greatly fatigued from recent events. Plus, Violet thought to herself, it was nice staying in a home, with friends. Slowly but surely, each person excused themselves and went to bed. James and Jinx vanished first, then Meredith, Rachel and Vincent. Violet sat on the sofa in the living room, stretched and then finally walked up to her room and closed the bedroom door behind her. Violet shed her human outer shell, and as it disappeared she lifted into the air and floated over the top of her bed, crossing her legs as she sat hovering inches above the bed-sheets. "Can't sleep... but I can meditate..." She muttered to herself. Al had seen the darkness in her long before she ever had. While Vincent was given a full education, much of her magical training focused on controlling her inner-self. Clearly, she hadn't mastered that. But she was trying. Violet placed her hands together and took a deep breath, placing them on her lap. She closed her eyes, and let her mind wander. A starry void, crossing through space, picking up speed. Stars turn to streaks of light. Then suddenly Violet's surrounded by orbs of light. Reaching out to one, she managed to graze it with her fingertips, and it giggled and danced away. Violet was strangely drawn to them. She reached out again, but this time one of the orbs flew straight through her chest. Violet's eyes shot open. She was breathing rapidly and for a moment, she couldn't stop. It was only upon reminding herself that she didn't require air to live that she calmed down. Strange as it sounds. The room was as quiet as she'd left it, but she still felt uneasy in what she'd seen. For a moment, it was as though there was something else there as well. Or maybe multiple things. The entire experience, whatever it had been, had made her feel as though there were a lot of eyes upon her, and not all of them were friendly. A few minutes passed as she sat hovering above the bed, when she heard a distant noise coming from downstairs. She looked over at the clock. 3am. Who was up at this time? Everyone else needed sleep. She remained in her energy form, as she was with friends and was tired from maintaining a human shell. As she reached the door to the living room she saw a blueish light coming from within, opening the door, she saw Vincent sat on the sofa, watching TV, with a glass of whisky. "You're up late." Violet said quietly, floating over to the sofa. She lowered herself into it beside him and sat there in silence, watching what was on TV. It was an old spaghetti western or something like that. Cowboys were shooting guns at each other in a laughably bad cardboard-looking 'town'. "And you're watching garbage..." "I haven't watched TV in about 5 years." Vincent said, "Al used to like these though." "They're so silly..." Violet muttered, pulling her legs up onto the sofa and crossing them. "I miss Al..." "Of course you do, you're his favourite." Vincent said, rolling his eyes. He took a sip of his whisky. "The old fart may be the best damn wizard I've ever met but he was always softer on you. A bit of that old school sexism I suppose." "I think he knew what I was before I did. I'm pretty sure that's why you were always given combat training and 1 on 1 magic lessons, and I was given meditations, mantras, chakras, self-reflection and self-control. Much good that did for me." Violet sighed, leaning back on the sofa. "You made a mistake, Vi." Vincent replied, "That's human. You're not the only one in the world who fucked up and hurt someone. You're not even the first one in the family, for that matter." "She's just a kid though. What if I hadn't stopped? I was so close to killing her, Vince." Violet pulled her legs up and hugged her knees, "Half my power comes from my emotions, but when I access them, I can't control them. How's that for fucked up? Plus, all the little ghost orbs that have been floatin' around lately have really started to piss me off." "Well you didn't kill her... Which already makes you better than me, besides my emotions affect my magic too so..." He trailed off, his expression going quizzical, "Ghost orbs?" "Yeah, y'know..." Violet laughed nervously at Vincent's confusion, "The little... orbs... y'know what I mean, Vincent." Violet growled with annoyance, her eyes locked on the spaghetti western. "Don't they just show up on camera?" Vincent asked, and gave a little shrug. "I've never seen orbs...actually that'd be so much more pleasant than the fucked up shit I see with the third eye." He stopped to smile a little, "Rachel she...she's tougher than she looks. Man she looked like a fucking amazon when I saw her back at the bar." "I like her white hair even if she doesn't..." Violet added quietly, then she looked over at her brother, "I'm goin' to hell when all this is over, Vince. I'll never do enough to square away my wrongdoings. Vael will see to that. I won't be strong enough, and..." Violet's eyes scrunched up as though she wanted to cry. "Hey..." Vincent put his hand on his sister's, "You're not her. And besides... Pretty sure the devil wouldn't know how to handle you." "Thanks Vince... that means a lot coming from you..." Violet tried to smile, and she saw a happiness in her brother's face, but she couldn't stop her peripheral vision from taking in the third person on the sofa. Sat on the other side of Vincent, a man in a brown trench coat with a square jaw and slicked-back blonde hair. He grinned at her, his eyes were so sharply in contrast. From the white of his eyes to the black of his pupil. Then he began to warp and stretch, taking up more and more of the room. His eyes seemed to fill the entire space, as his pupils shrank further and further until two tiny black dots were stranded in a sea of white, ever staring at her, unblinking. "I'll be alright..." She added, forcing a smile and turning to gaze at the television once more. "Hey, who's--" Rachel opened the door, rubbing her eyes. She saw Vincent and Violet sat on the sofa watching TV and groaned, "Ugh, can't you lower the volume a little, oh--" She saw the spaghetti western on TV and immediately walked over, considered the sofa for a moment but decided she didn't want to be sat by Violet. Instead, she sat on the floor and was content to watch TV quietly. "Aww..." Vincent said as he smiled warmly at Rachel sitting in the floor, then he turned to Violet, "You know I'm glad we got a pet." "Ssh! Quiet!" Rachel growled, "It's not like I get to watch TV every day, let me enjoy this!" Violet smirked at her and then shrugged at Vincent. Rachel had earned that much. It wasn't much, but any happiness, however fleeting, was worth pursuing. The three of them sat watching TV, Vincent and Rachel might have dozed off during the night, but when the early morning light shone in, they were all up and raring to go. Stretching to relieve the discomfort of being sat on a sofa all night, Violet stood up and went to walk away when something grabbed her by the wrist. She looked back, and once again, she saw the blonde-haired man with the scary eyes staring back at her with a grin, his hand wrapped around her arm like a vice. "Y'can say g'bye t'yer girlfriend on the way down..." "--Violet?" Rachel asked again, shaking her arm. Violet blinked and realised she was looking at Rachel. "What?" Violet asked, frowning. Rachel scowled at her. "You're not even listening! Vincent said it's time to go. Come on!" Rachel stormed off and Violet stood there in quiet disbelief for a moment. She had seen him all too often and it was becoming more and more frequent now. She could no longer ignore him and what's more she could hear him now. She knew who he was, but she couldn't bring herself to say his name. Maybe denying his existence was enough? "Alright so tell me class, what are the advantages of a little daytime ghost hunting?" Vincent asked as Violet entered the kitchen where everyone had gathered. When no one answered he answered for them, "No ghosts!" He said with a grin, "Ghosts can't come out in the light of day, something about the boundary between the mortal realm and the void being stronger at this time. means we can try and find these bastards while their spooky army is out of commission." "Hooray." Rachel said with a neutral tone of mock enthusiasm. "You know I swear when we decided to take you in you told me you wanted to smoke some bad guys, did I mishear you or something?" Vincent asked with a frown. "I want to kill monsters, not chase ghosts around like Scooby-Doo." Rachel retorted, picking up her tools and tying the bracelet around her wrist, "If you say we're hunting ghosts, fine. I don't care. That's part of my education? Then let's go." Violet sighed, "You don't have to like me, or listen to me, but you do have to listen to Vincent." Rachel scowled at her and Violet scowled right back, sticking her tongue out, "Like it or not, you have to listen to him, he'll save your life one day... I mean, a separate occasion, you know what I meant..." "We're after the assholes who stirred up the ghosts." Vincent explained, "People who want to ritually sacrifice large groups of innocent people in order to gain more power for themselves. Is that not monstrous enough for you?" "Can we go now?" Rachel asked, raising an eyebrow. "She's quite feisty." James piped up at last, prompting Jinx to add her piece. "If you don't all leave soon, I may just transport you to a pocket dimension and forget about you." Then Jinx waved with a smile, "Okay now, have fun out there!" "Right..." Violet shook her head at the familiar. "First we have to figure out where we're going." Vincent said, and then he held his hand up, pointing his finger out like a gun, and pointed it at Meredith, before making a clicking sound with his teeth. "So where to Mystic Meg?" "Uh..." Meredith looked around nervously. "How should I know?" "Well you foresaw all this right?" Vincent asked. "Yeah but my scrambled prescient dreams don't exactly come with google maps coordinates." Meredith replied with a frown. "It would be really useful," Violet replied, still in her cosmic birthday suit. Her hair waved around as though it had a life of it's own, or was suspended in water. She concentrated on herself and reformed her human outer shell, and her hair became human and the both striking yet familiar shade of blue. "Ugh, sometimes that's like pulling on a wet coat..." "Gross..." Rachel muttered loudly under her breath. Meredith huffed a little and then folded her arms, closing her eyes in concentration. She waited a moment in silence before her shoulder relaxed a little and she spoke again. "...there was...a lot of's more like a feeling. Aggression...thirst for blood...lights flashing...a...a cage?" "Uh...I'm not liking the sound of that." Vincent said with a raised brow. "...a battle..." Meredith continued, "It's a battle...they're watching and cheering. All that's so powerful..." She visibly shivered. "I can feel it..." Violet's voice echoed, Rachel looked over at her and the Hallow's eyes were glowing white. "The battle..." "Double gross. Vincent!" Rachel yelled, "I think your sister is getting a lady boner for all this fighting!" Violet snapped out of it and scowled, "What?!" She pointed at Rachel and considered issuing a threat, but thought better of it and instead crossed her arms and walked over to a nearby stool and sat upon it in silence, content now to no longer be part of the conversation. "T-mobile stadium, it's on the strip." Vincent said with a frankness in his tone. He held up his phone with a webpage open. "UFC match tonight between Domino Reeves and Clyde Walsh. Big room full of people feeling the same emotion. Tapping emotion is a little different, nobody is going to get hurt...but if you sacrifice lives the power becomes yours permanently. So this is the warm up, so he can stir up ghosts again and kill another crowd of people later." "So he's going to get the crowd worked up until they start killing each other?" Rachel asked. "Another possibility." Vincent said with a nod. "...In a place where fortunes are made and lost, the dead will rise to lay slaughter to the greedy, and the Sphinx will be the guardian of their tombs." Meredith said, her tone much more grave. "Wait, what?" Vincent asked, "I thought you said it was the fight?" "A fight, yes." Meredith said, as if she was in a trance, "There will be a great battle. A storm is brewing. The dead shall rise and....and...." She stammered and tears fell from her closed eyes, then she gasped and her eyes opened in shock. "Wh-what happened!?" She asked. "Super." Violet muttered, "I love a good prophecy. Because they always work out so well." "You've experienced prophecies before?" Rachel asked. Violet was taken aback for a moment, it was the first time since their scuffle that Rachel had asked her a direct question. Violet considered her for a moment, smiled and then nodded in confirmation. "What were they like?" Rachel asked again, genuinely interested. "Al told me a few." Violet replied, "To begin with, I would die and be born anew. Tick. I would become an agent of chaos. Tick. And there's one that hasn't happened yet, but I super love that one, so give it time, eh?" Violet mumbled off the last couple of words and Rachel frowned in frustration. "Well what's the one that hasn't come true?" Rachel pushed. "Uh, well, that I would destroy the world." Violet replied. The room was quiet for a few seconds. "'A' world, remember?" James chimed in. "What?" Violet frowned at him. "Al said, 'A' world. Not 'the' world." James smiled. "Hooray. I'm so relieved. That made me feel sooo much better, James. Thank you." "You're welcome." James replied, missing Violet's obvious sarcasm. "Wait--" Violet thought about what Meredith had said. "Tombs and Sphinxes, it makes me think of Egypt. But then you talk about fortunes made and lost... it's got to be that casino here, right? Y'know the one with the big Sphinx? What's it called..." "The Luxor Casino." Rachel provided the information. "Right!" Violet cheered excitedly, clapping her hands together. "Are you okay?" Vincent asked, as he put his hand on Meredith's shoulder. "Uh...y-yeah I think so." Meredith said, but she didn't look fine. "So it doesn't matter where we go...people are going to die." "...or we split up." Vincent suggested. "We barely survived together last time." Meredith said in protest. "Hey...Violet's an agent of chaos, remember?" Vincent said with a smirk. "We're prepared this time." He turned to Violet, "Right?" "I dunno. Maybe?" Violet shrugged and offered a consolation smile, "Agent of chaos, remember?" But she seemed to sober up at the same time. "Well... I suppose I have to remove doubt... Still, chaos, etc..." Violet muttered and walked outside. Rachel frowned but wanted to see what Violet was talking about and so followed her outside, then Vincent and everyone else followed suite. Violet walked out onto the main road of the cul de sac and lifted off from the ground. "Violet! What if someone sees you!" James called out. "It matters not!" She called back, commanding and authoritative. In an instant, she shed her human shell and just as quickly she flew up and hovered between the suspended power cables. "I don't think this is a good idea, Vi." James called out, shielding his eyes from the early morning sun. "No!" Violet called back, "Possibly not!" And with that she grabbed a power cable with each hand and sparks exploded and cracked. Several of the party dove for the ground as the power feeding into Violet spat out in little arcs of electricity. One hit a car and blew out the windows, setting the alarm off. Another stuck a nearby roof, charring the tiles. Violet glowed so brightly that it was difficult to look directly at her. Then all the power in the street went out. Seconds passed until the silence was broken by Rachel as she held her phone up. "So, yeah, power just went out across half of Las Vegas for several minutes... Car crashes, downed hospital equipment... Chaos..." "But I am no longer starving..." Violet replied, her voice echoing as she lowered to the ground and cloaked herself in her human shell. "And so, I will not lose control..." "Super." Jinx snarled, "Now will all of you leave!" "Yeah for once I think I agree with the demon." Vincent said with a smirk, "Alright, youngest sibling gets the first pick." He said and indicated to Meredith and then Rachel, "Pick a sidekick and a venue, I'll take the sloppy seconds." "Then I will--" Violet stepped forwards but as she did so Rachel scoffed and walked up to Vincent. "As if!" Rachel growled, crossing her arms in defiance. "Alright." Violet nodded, "That's fine, I am happy to accompany Meredith, if you'll have me?" "Uh..." Meredith looked a little hesitant, "I suppose." "Take the fight at the stadium." Vincent suggested, "At least the threats there will be physical, so you should be safe enough." "The ghosts weren't the ones who hurt me last time." Meredith said. "Yeah well you lured us there thinking I'd die to save the rest of the people in the room." Vincent said with a dark scowl, "Nobody is perfect. Now get in the fucking car before it's dark out again."
  7. Hallows

    The hours passed by and Vincent and Rachel busied themselves with preparations. The kitchen had lost the Christmassy smell of cinnamon and in it’s place was an amalgum of exotic, overpowering smells. Jinx had, at one point, wordlessly came in to take whatever the hell it was she had been baking out of the oven and then retreated once more. Vincent, for his part, didn’t pay her any notice. He already liked her better than James, but that wasn’t to say he liked her much at all. His general disdain for demons wasn’t something he could shrug off, but at least Jinx wasn’t quite so annoying as James. While he continued to guide Rachel through making the correct potions, he had went out to the car and came back with a few supplies. He was in the middle of, apparently, making some sort of friendship bracelet with several dull threads. “How’s the consistency?” He asked Rachel as he tied off the bracelet and placed it in a circle of salt he had marked out on the counter. He flexed his fingers towards it and there was a gentle thrum of energy as he closed the circle around the accessory. "The...consistency...?" Rachel stared into the pot and stirred it's contents. "I dunno... Lumpy." Vincent leaned over and examined the contents. “Keep stirring.” He said, “Let me know when it sort of gets like cookie dough.” He didn’t require a lot of concentration for the enchantment he was working. Honestly it was the kind of thing he could do in his sleep at this point, but it’s importance meant he wasn’t prepared to let Rachel try her hand at it. She was doing a fairly good job with the potions though, despite not seeming very enthused. She’d had a rough night, something he knew a little about. She might not appreciate it now, but he knew that busywork was great during these times. Vincent was just starting to think about how hungry he was, and was contemplating ordering take out when Meredith popped her head into the kitchen, she looked tired and more than a little nervous. “Can I have duck pancakes?” She asked "Uh…how-“ He cut himself off, “Nevermind.” He caught Rachel’s eye, “What about you, grasshoppa? Want some grub?” He asked in a mildly offensive oriental accent. "Yeah. Fine." Rachel muttered, her eyes locked on the pot. "Are we ordering out because I could really destroy some egg rolls right now--" James walked into the kitchen, quickly flanked by Violet. "--not over! I was speaking to you!!" Violet growled as she chased after James. "What do you want me to say? I sensed your heightened emotional state, I turned up, I saved the day." "I don't need you to rescue me!" Violet walked over to the concoction Vincent was brewing and glanced inside, "Faster." She added. Rachel begrudgingly started stirring faster. "It's my job. Remember? You summoned me. Now I'm stuck here. Even if I want to live my own life, I can't stop myself from interfering with yours. That's what you asked for when you summoned me, so..." "There are too many people in here." Jinx chimed in, her tone a mixture of neutral apathy and yet disdain. "All of you. Get out of my kitchen." She started with shoving James out, "And I'm making food and you're going to order in?" Her eyes flashed from yellow to red, "That's so thoughtless." “Well you’ve been walking around with a stick up your ass and shit under your nose since we got here so I didn’t dare assume you might feed us.” Vincent said, rolling his eyes. He made a final flourish with his hand and there was a pop and hiss, as the small bracelet in the circle seemed to smoke, the fibers burning as ancient runes were etched into the material. He inspected his work for a moment, before finally breaking the circle of salt with his finger and removing the bracelet. He handed it to Rachel. “Here, this is for you.” He said. "Dude-- friendship bracelet...?" Rachel took the bracelet between her thumb and forefinger and held it at arms length as though it might be diseased. Violet left the kitchen willingly as she was still mid-conversation with James. "Now go sit down like normal, grateful, well-adjusted people, and I'll put food out for you." Jinx crossed her arms with impatient expectation. Somebody said something to her in the next room. "Nobody's having egg rolls!" She yelled back. Then looked back to Vincent and Rachel. “It’s a dead man’s talisman.” Vincent said, “I know it looks like shit but that’s made from fibers of burial clothing. Do you know how hard it is to get corpse threads? I mean it’s not like grave robbing is legal.” He shoved Rachel out of the way gently and began finishing up the potion, noting Jinx’s penetrating stare. He also noticed Rachel’s look of disgust. “Look, that thing will 100 percent protect you from possession, and any ghost that tries to phase through you like earlier will burn up and fade back to the Void.” He turned off the gas to the hob and picked up the pot, stirring the contents out into an awaiting beaker. It looked like a glass full of thick, wet mud, and smelled like something far worse. “And this is well let you see them.” He said, pointing to the mud, “And that will let you hurt them.” He said, pointing to several jars of what looked like grainy dust. "Okay! Fine. Enough already." Rachel slipped the bracelet on and walked through into the main living room. James had cleared some space at the table and everyone was settling in. Vincent rolled his eyes and began clearing up. “Ungrateful little snot…” He muttered as he put the pots and empty beakers into the sink. A foggy memory of his old mentor making similar mutterings caused him to smirk. After he had cleared up he made his way in to the living room again and sat down with a heavy sigh. “Hey Jimbo!” He said to James, “You got anything to drink?” he asked, “Also can I smoke in here or…?” He thumbed to the door leading outside. "Sure. Drinks in the cabinet over there. And you can smoke in here." James nodded as he picked up his knife and fork. "No he can't!" Jinx called through from the kitchen as Rachel took a seat at the table. "It's fine." James reassured Vincent, though he couldn't help but notice that James did so under his breath. A few minutes later Jinx walked in holding a large Pyrex dish full of homemade lasagne. She put the dish down and as she passed Vincent she pulled the barely-lit cigarette from his mouth. "Hah!" Violet laughed as she reached for the serving spoon but dropped it immediately when Jinx hissed at her. A few minutes later, Jinx had served everyone a portion and sat down herself. There was silence, stillness. Then Jinx ate her first bite and everyone cautiously followed suite. Then everyone was back to talking amongst themselves once more. “Now here was me thinking you were a sorry excuse for a wizard, Vi” Vincent said as he sat back down from his trip to the cabinet with a small, tulip-shaped glass only barely filled with amber liquid. “And until this day I thought I was right, but it appears I was mistaken. All those years ago when you summoned a familiar, you could have got yourself a dog familiar, and then I’d be sitting here with a miller light like a college frat dudebro. But…” He tipped the glass at James, “Cats apparently have a taste for the finer things.” He took a sip of the whisky and let it swirl in his mouth, before swallowing and relishing the delicious warmth that spread through him. Then he poked at the lasagne with a fork. “That’s a lot of cheese…” He said foolishly, “Is your game to slowly kill us via myocardial infarction?” "It's hard milk." James mumbled between mouthfuls, as he hungrily devoured his plate. "Maybe." Jinx replied directly to Vincent, raising a brow with a conspiratorial inflection. "Thank you, Jinx!" Rachel added, eating the food unreservedly. "Protection from otherworldly forces... Nothing." Violet smirked, "Cooked pasta though..." Rachel shot her an angry glare but it seemed regret was a fleeting emotion for Violet. The chatter was cut short by cutlery hitting a plate. Everyone turned to Meredith, who was staring back at them with an incredulous look. “Look…I’ve tried to go with this but…are you all insane!?” “Ugh, I wish.” Vincent replied. “We just got attacked by ghosts! Then she-“ Meredith pointed at Violet for emphasis, “nearly killed me and Rachel, and now we’re in a house eating lasagne cooked by demons!? This is…it’s nuts! How are you all okay with this!?” "It's fun, isn't it?!" James smiled as he finished licking his plate clean. "Get used to it." Rachel grumbled, pushing food around her plate. Violet had long-since finished her lasagne and perked up at Meredith's frustration, "Everyone has to live, Meredith. Humans, demons, cosmic entities. We're all just trying to get through life. Don't get hung up on it." “Yeah, except we’re going to die. Soon. Or did you forget?” Meredith said, “Also its 3am and you’re all sitting eating dinner like this is a normal thing to do! It’s not normal…” Her voice broke a little and she shut her eyes to stop the tears but they formed anyway, “I thought…I thought at least if I died, if I could save everyone else in the process but…” She took a deep breath, “This is too much. I can’t act normal and pretend nothing is wrong. I…I don’t want to die.” "Shut... Up!" Violet snapped. "We're all thinking the same thing, but most of us need to recharge. Joking and pressing buttons helps to make you feel normal. We can't just sit here thinking about what's coming." "She has a point." James added quietly, "Bit harsh though... She's scary." "Can I just eat in peace?" Rachel piped up. Meredith didn’t respond, instead she bit her lip, and then she pushed back her chair and stormed off from the table. A moment later the front door to the house opened and then slammed shut again. “When did I become the well-adjusted one?” Vincent asked with a sigh. He stood up from the table and as he passed by Jinx he snatched the cigarette she had taken from him and headed for the door. “You know you could be nicer to her, if only because her visions are about the only thing that will stop us from meeting the reaper anytime soon. Hell I already met the bitch, and damn if she wasn’t smokin’ hot.” "Uh-huh." Violet grumbled. "I was being nice." She turned around to face Vincent and smirked, "Oh can I have a drag?!" Violet asked excitedly, then she inhaled rapidly. Vincent's cigarette alighted in his hand and burned through to the filter, leaving an ashen corpse. Then she exhaled a large smoke cloud that quickly formed into a skull before dispersing. As the smoke cleared, Violet's expression wasn't gleeful defiance, as Vincent had come to expect, but profound confusion. The confusion spread and warped into a nervous panic. "Vincent...?" She asked, raising her tone. Vincent scowled at her and then retrieved a fresh cigarette from his carton. “You’re so childish…” He grumbled as he stepped out of the house. --- --- --- --- When he got outside Vincent spotted Meredith stalking off down the path. He sighed and lit his cigarette and began a slow stroll after her. “Yo!” He called, and she stopped and turned to him. Her face reddened and she toyed with continuing to storm off, but in the end she waited for Vincent to reach her. “Sorry about them, well not the demons, I don’t give a shit about them. Violet and I, and Rachel to a much lesser extent, have been facing imminent danger on and off our whole lives. You really have to forgive a little dysfunction.” “Dysfunction?” Meredith replied with a raised brow. “You people are crazy, and I should know, I’ve been called crazy my whole life.” “Yeah no surprises there.” Vincent said as he took a drag, a moment later his nostrils flared and smoke plumed out of them, “All mortals are just a little bit magic, just a tiny bit-“ he indicated by holding up his finger and thumb, “Most of them have just enough ability to sense real magic. Generally they don’t react very well. It’s easier to believe you’re crazy than that you can actually see the future.” “…It would be easier if I was crazy.” Meredith grumbled. “That’s what I said earlier!” Vincent said with a shrug, “Look I know you’ve had it rough, but you’re not the only one. My mentor…well he was a real hard ass. Imagine spending all morning and afternoon at high school, and when the other kids go home to watch tv, do drugs and have sex with each other like teenagers should be doing, you’re going to the magical school of hard knocks for night classes.” “Wow…you’ve really been doing this for that long?” Meredith asked. “I mean…I knew there were others like me but…you guys are on another level.” “Yeah, well…I had the benefit of training.” Vincent explained. Thinking about his childhood was bringing back some old, buried feelings of anxiety. “…it was tough. Necessary though.” “You think? You should let a kid be a kid if you ask me.” Meredith replied. “Evidence to the contrary.” Vincent said, thumbing at his chest. “I ran away from home at 16. Used the very spells he taught me to cover my tracks. Minor transmogrification to make me look older, turning plain paper into cash, fake I.D. It was stupidly easy.” “Don’t you think you did that because you never got to live though?” Meredith asked “Maybe, but it doesn’t matter.” Vincent said, “I thought my teacher was just being a crusty old fart. I was wrong. He taught me how to do magic the hard way, because taking the easy way doesn’t end well.” “What? So you commited a few crimes, played bad boy for a bit. You don’t seem to be suffering too much for it.” Her smirk changed to a mixture of shock and guilt as she noticed Vincent’s reaction. He held his hand over his heart almost like a strange impulse, and his grip tensed. Thinking about the coldness there only brought it surging to the forefront of his mind. It was a small thing, but it was something that would never fade. A cold, greasy pool of energy within him, one just like the magic that had been used to enthrall the ghosts earlier. “What I do is difficult, and it has a lot of rules.” Vincent said slowly, carefully, his gaze fixed on something far off in the distance. “I don’t have to follow those rules though. For a time I didn’t.” “I don’t think a little counterfeiting and fraud makes you Lord Voldemort.” Meredith said with a raised brow. “I killed someone.” Vincent said, and there was a hard coldness to his voice, “And I don’t mean a bad guy, not that it matters.” “You…you’re a hunter. You’ve killed lot’s of things, right?” “Lot’s of things, yes.” Vincent took another draw of his cigarette and his hand was shaking, “The thing about supernatural creatures is…they don’t have souls. It doesn’t always mean they are bad, or that they can’t think and feel. It’s just a rule. Humans have souls…they have mortality, and true free will. Our magic is different…it’s not as strong as that of a god or immortal fay queen or whatever else, but what we can do, we do with absolute freedom…and absolute consequence.” He turned and looked at Meredith, staring deep in to her eyes. “When you kill a mortal with magic, it leaves a kind of…stain.” He rubbed at the spot on his chest where his heart was again, “Magic comes from the energies of life, and using it to take a life is just…it feels wrong.” He took his hand from his chest and held it up between them, and with his will he lit the ends of each of his fingers on fire, but he didn’t feel any pain. “It turns out that us Hallows…we have an unusual talent for magic. I can do so much with relative ease, I have a well of power within me that’s a lot higher than most. Enough to impress the wrong kind of people. I met people I thought were just like me, who understood me better than my teacher or my sister ever could. And then one day even my own vast well wasn’t enough…and I took a life, sacrificed an innocent person, and from them I took power. That cold, disgusting power…I can feel it there all the time, a constant reminder.” “I…” Meredith looked stunned, her mouth moved but no words came out. “I don’t advertise that information, but I don’t hide it either.” Vincent said with a resoluteness about him. “The people we are up against. They’ve tasted that same dark power, and clearly they like it enough to want more. So even if I do die, I will stop them.” The words surprised Vincent. He had spent years avoiding this life, the life he had been practically groomed for. Yet now, suddenly, he felt this righteous need to join the cause. “What happened?” Meredith asked, “I mean…you said you went dark but…you’re not now, right?” “I was saved.” Vincent said with a smirk. “By your teacher?” Meredith asked. “By God.” Vincent said, “Sort of ironic really since I’m a filthy pagan warlock.” “God? You mean…?” “He sent a man to save me.” Vincent said, “And then that man brought me home. And then Al tore me a new one. I thought he’d been hard on me before…” “Sounds like a real piece of work.” Meredith said. “That man is more of a father to me than my own ever was.” Vincent said with a slight anger to his tone. “No one has ever had me so figured out, no one has ever helped me quite like him.” “Not even Violet?” Meredith asked. “She’s my younger sister, I’m supposed to help her out. That’s just the way of things. Although I suppose this time she’s the one helping me. I brought them along on this detour.” “…and I brought you.” Meredith said. “…so I’ll stick with you…until the end.” Vincent smirked and took a last draw of his cigarette before flicking it away. He took a scrap of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Meredith. “What’s that?” She asked as she opened it. “My phone number.” Vincent said with a smirk. “Y’know I wonder what would happen if I never gave you it? Like your vision of the future doesn’t come to pass so how did you get the number because I never give you it and suddenly it’s a paradox, so does the world unravel and we all cease to exist?” “Um…” Meredith looked a little panicked. “Damn I already gave you my number though…guess we’ll never know.”
  8. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    Logan gathered all the information he could, and took meticulous notes. At the end of his investigation, he turned to the small group of worried individuals, and assured them that he would be in touch as soon as possible with updates on his findings. However, his assurance did little to ease the worry that Steal's friends were all feeling. He was glumly thanked for his time. He was fussing with the sleeves of his coat and preparing to leave the club when a tall, blonde, one-eyed gentleman--Yusai--approached him, extending his hand with an item and telling Logan to take it, if he needed. "It was found outside in the alleyway," Yusai explained, "It's something Steal would never go without. I don't know if it'll help, but..." Logan paused, one arm sleeved, and took the bracelet from Yusai's hands. "Thanks, I'll check it for prints," Was all Logan could think to say, although he knew that the item was sentimental, and the gentleman handing it to him did so with some reluctance. With his business there officially complete for the night, Logan sleeved his other arm, and exited the club. The night ended with tense quiet, with everyone parting ways after Otto closed the club. Nobody bothered saying "goodnight" to one another, perhaps because they all knew they were harboring worry and the gesture would feel hollow. Yusai had exited the building with an angry stride, his brows knotted, jaw tense, and lips pinched together in a fine line. The frustration in his expression was immediately betrayed by the tremble of his hands as he fussed with his keys to unlock his car. Yusai didn’t even remember the drive home. It was as if he had just blinked and suddenly he was standing alone in his apartment, numbly aware of his surroundings. If it weren’t for the beckoning yowl of the cat, Yusai might not have moved away from the entryway at all. Prince bobbed up to his legs and began his usual ritual of circling around Yusai’s ankles, which Yusai took as a gesture to trip him up until Steal would intervene by picking Prince up and out of the way, gently chastising him for his misbehavior. Only Steal wasn’t here tonight. Yusai didn’t know where he was and thinking about it made him sick to his stomach. Not knowing if Steal was safe made him feel even worse. Every awful and negative possibility just swirled in his brain and pulled his deep into a whirlpool of misery and it seemed hopeless to try and pull himself out of it. He walked to his bedroom and sat at the foot of the mattress, doing so out of habit because he’d then start peeling off his shoes. But instead he just sat and stared ahead of him, mind racing and stomach sinking. The clock behind him beamed “1:45 a.m.” The night felt impossibly long. Prince bounded in and hopped up onto the bed, sniffing around where Steal had been sleeping and perhaps wondered where his night companion was. He trilled curiously a few times, came up beside Yusai and wormed his way onto his lap where he trilled some more. Yusai looked down at him, briefly snapped out of his worried daze. He pet Prince, a gesture the cat welcomed (as he always did) and returned with double affection. He stood on his rear legs and propped his paws against Yusai’s chest, then pressed his forehead against Yusai’s chin. Yusai simply sighed and rather than tease and antagonize the cat in return (as he usually did) he wrapped his arms around the feline and cuddled him. “Oi… He’ll be back… I promise, Prince.” Yusai mumbled, pressing his chin against the cat’s head first, then kissing it. He then lay down on the bed, Prince squirming a little to free himself from Yusai’s grip, and scuttled to Steal’s bed spot. Yusai looked up-side-down at him, and turned over. Prince plopped himself down and curled into a half-ball, similar to how Steal would sometimes, and yawned. Something about watching the cat get comfy tugged at Yusai, and he crawled up onto the bed fully, positioned himself against Prince’s back, and cuddled with him until he eventually fell asleep. ** Yusai was awoken by a strange tickling sensation on his rear-end. Groggily he reached beyond himself and pat at his butt, bleakly realizing that the sensation was his phone vibrating with a call. He stuffed his hand into his pocket, yanked it out, and with his eye half-slit open, he tried to read the caller ID. It was a number he didn’t recognize. He answered anyway. “H… Hello?” He stammered heavily, followed by a waking groan. “Mister Perupe—This is the detective. Logan. Did I call you at a bad time?” Yusai immediately jolted and was alert. “Oi, no sir! Did you find anything? What were you able to find out?” He was quick to pour out questions although it was obvious that even though he was awake, he was not fully cognizant yet. “Well, it’s kind of a long and funny story,” Logan began, he himself not being able to articulate a sentence right. If Yusai could read his tone better, he would’ve guessed that Logan had stayed up as late as he had and was tired this morning, too. “I won’t bore you with too many details, but, I’ve actually run into this kid and well, long story short, I think I know where he might be. Can you meet with me so I can give you some details? I’ll be down at The Coffee Corner in an hour.” ** Yusai had hurried down to the café, donning the clothes he had fallen asleep in the previous night with his jacket half-zippered over everything, and his blonde, unkempt hair lazily hidden under a well-worn and goofy beanie that read “G’DAY” that Steal had gotten him as a little joke two years ago, all despite having an hour to get ready. When he entered, his eye had keenly spotted detective Logan, who was seated at a table sipping from a coffee mug and gently leafing through some papers in front of him. Yusai approached and greeted the man. “Mister Perupe‘,” Logan responded, pulling out a chair beside him. “Thanks for coming down on short notice, I didn’t want to keep you waiting if I didn’t have to.” “No no, thank you for um,” Yusai shifted into the seat ran his hand over his head, yanking off the beanie for a moment to scratch through his hair before sloppily shirking the garment back on. “For uh, you know. Doing your stuff and giving me an update so quickly. What’d you find out?” Logan picked through his papers and yanked out one of the sheets that had some sporatic notes written all over it. “Let me tell you a short story—A few weeks ago, I happened to be coming out of this shop and saw a car doing some bizarre circles around the area. I don’t think I need to tell you how bizarre a phenomena like this is in this particular part of Brooklyn…” Logan said, his steely eyes shooting up at Yusai in a knowing fashion, to which the Aussie nodded in response. “… Anyhow,” he continued, “It just happened that I took note of the plates on this car, and well… When you mentioned Steven’s last name, Masters? It rang some bells. I did some research, and found out that he’s the Master’s son—of Master Banking. If you’ll look over some of those notes, I was able to find out some other things…” Logan pushed his small stack of papers over to Yusai, who looked down at them curiously but confused. The detective began explaining some details—Steal, son of Allan and Lauren Masters, reportedly a sickly child that was kept out of the public eye for most of his life. Not many other details about his upbringing otherwise. Allan and Lauren, however, had some unscrupulous histories—Lauren having been tried in court for embezzlement, and Allan having quite an extensive criminal history for “domestic disputes” that were settled in uncertain terms. None of these details particularly mattered to Yusai, but he listened with anticipation, waiting to hear how this tied to Steal’s whereabouts. “I have a suspicion he might be with his parents,” Logan said while he ran his hand over his dull, brown stubble. “Going by a few police reports from before he turned 18, they’ve been trying to keep him under house arrest for whatever reason. I suspect they’ve been keeping an eye on him from a distance and finally made a move to bring him back home after he came up on the news last month.” Yusai’s wide, tired eye spoke little of his bafflement in hearing all of this. He wasn’t sure how to absorb this information but it brought him a slight comfort to think he was somewhere safe—relatively—versus being alone out on the streets somewhere. But what now? He pondered. He knew Steal’s relationship with his family wasn’t the greatest but this was a complicated matter to tackle. It wasn’t as if he could approach Steals parents and ask for his roommate back… Or could he? “So, what… What can I do? Do I call the police and file a missing persons report or…” Yusai’s question trailed. He wasn’t even sure what to ask but he knew he wanted—needed—to do something. Logan sighed into a low hum, apparently thinking to himself as well. “Well… Like I said, this is just a suspicion. I could be entirely wrong about his whereabouts for the time being, but what I can do is give the Master’s estate a scout. It’s about an hour up north from the city, a little near Albany. I can—“ “Can I come with you?” Yusai interrupted. Logan was taken aback by the question but in examining the Aussie’s face, he could see that he was desperate for answers. “I… Suppose you could,” Logan responded after a moments pause. “Although I don’t want to take up any of your time.” Yusai shook his head. “S’not taking up my time at all. If you’ll let me go with you, I’d appreciate it. I just… Need to know where he is.” Yusai said, and his tone suggested more than just concern; there was a tenderness there that Logan picked up on but put aside mentally for the time being. “Alright then. Let me gather some things and I’ll lead the way.” Logan stated, and they both stood from their chairs and proceeded along their way. However, just as Yusai was leaving the café, a familiar face bumped into him at the exit, and suddenly he was bewildered and cross at once; It was Lance, looking as anxious and tired as Yusai. Lance looked at Yusai pleadingly, his expression already asking the question that left his mouth seconds later: “Did you find anything out about Steal?” Yusai couldn’t lie to him, but he answered in a strained fashion and was eager to be away from this guy and on his way to Steal’s place. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that after explaining his potential whereabouts, Lance had asked to tag along. All of Yusai wanted to say “HELL NO” in response but the words never came out. And before he knew it, the three of them had set out toward the Masters estate.
  9. Hallows

    She stirred a clear drink using an olive on a cocktail stick. Counter-clockwise. Nothing seemed to move in the room but her. Then she looked over at Vincent, and smiled. He stood up, and slowly moved through the room. He could have been moving through treacle for how long it seemed to take him to reach the bar. Yet everything else was frozen. As Vincent reached the bar, she took a pale hand, touched a glass and moved it closer to the edge of the bar, implying he should take it. The glass was full of an amber liquid. Vincent silently eyed the girl, and then the glass with suspicion. For now his suffering was gone, and he felt, well, he felt strange. It was as if there was a pressure around his body like he was being wrapped in saran wrap. However it wasn't unpleasant, especially compared to the feeling of choking on an ice cold ghost paw. He resisted his morbid urge to turn back to where he had been a moment ago, but something told him he wouldn't like what he'd see. Instead he picked up the glass and sniffed it's contents. "Single malt..." He whispered, and then he shot a glance at the woman and put the glass down without drinking. "Who are you?" He asked with a frown. "You know who I am." She picked up her glass, took a sip and then put it back in it's place. "That's not the question you want to ask." "A lot of gods of death to choose from there..." Vincent replied, "Not a lot of them look like you, Maybe I'd have a better idea if you had a cloak and carried a sickle or something." "Maybe, Vincent." She replied, a wry smile on her face as she reached for the olive in her glass, "Maybe..." She continued, pulling the olive from the toothpick, "... I just like to dress up." Her eyes were wild with excitement as she teased him. She dropped the bare toothpick back in her glass and sighed. "So, let's cut the shit." Vincent said, and he leant one arm against the bar, "Either your some trickster being here to offer me a shady bargain, or you are death, the actual, literal personification of the end of all things, in which case I'm fucked. So, which is it?" She smirked, picked up her glass and toasted him, then finished it's contents. Then the glass vanished in her hand and she looked back across the room. "Why don't you look over there?" She suggested, while Vincent's eyes seemed glued to anything mundane on the counter. "Because I think I have enough nightmare fuel in my brain already, thanks." Vincent said, "I don't want to add seeing my own corpse to that list." "Why are mortals so afraid of their own mortality. You were given this exquisite gift and you're terrified of it!" She sat there musing to herself, "Would you trust Death?" "As a concept or...?" He asked but quickly followed with his honest answer, "People who think Death is a deceiver are the people who do this," He gestured around the room at the suspended ghosts. "What possible need could Death have for lies?" "Honest to a fault." She smirked with a sadness to it, then she let out another sigh and nodded to the room, "You are dying, Vincent. Your sister will soon be dead. Rachel will soon be dead. Everyone comes to me, in the end." She stood up from the bar, as the patrons slowly began to reanimate as though time was taking back control. "Dying? So I'm not... dead." He turned, finally, to the scene. His body lay on the floor, still choking, his face going red. Violet was already springing in to action, Rachel looked panicked, and Meredith petrified. "...that's a bit risky, isn't it?" He asked, "I'm not dead yet, so stop talking like it's a done thing." "But it is..." She replied, "You are just alive at this moment." She could see the anger, frustration and urgency on Vincent's face and it seemed to amuse her. "If you come with me, I will take you on..." She took a step back, and offered him her hand with a welcoming smile. "Stay here, and there will be pain..." Vincent actually chuckled at her. "Maybe I take it back. After all, a faerie can tell no lies, but they're the most deceptive assholes going. You can jog on, lady. You know what pain means? That I'm alive." A smile spread across her face. She loved his defiance. And it took so little to stoke it. She raised her hand to the room with an implied, 'Well go on then?' and watched as the entire room snapped back into time. Chaos ruled. Violet and Rachel were fighting for their lives in a losing battle. A ghost flew through Violet's back and she gasped and collapsed to the floor. Vincent's pain washed back over him like a forest fire. Nerve endings fired like pistons all over his body, the cold, throbbing burn that coursed through his body from the ghost's touch. He reached for that pain, and he clung to it tightly. He welcomed it inside and then he harnessed it so that he could point it wherever he wanted. The ghost recoiled as Vincent, his third eye open, sent his will crashing into it, into each and every ghost in the room. He could not hurt them physically, but he wasn't trying to. These ghosts were breaking all the rules right now, which meant that some slimy sorcerer was enthralling them and asserting his will with a ritual. The ghosts were essentially puppets, and so Vincent just followed the strings. Channelled through the ghosts he reached out with his mind and delivered the psychic equivalent of a backhand to the one who controlled them. He felt a sudden sensation of shock, then realisation, and then anger. It had been enough to break the perpetrator's concentration and shatter the spell. Suddenly the ghosts wailed in what was either pain or perhaps relief, and they surged upwards through walls, flying off into the night with howls and shrieks. Vincent sat up as he was released and began coughing and gasping for air, each cold breath felt like he was inhaling knives. Slowly, Violet lifted her head. She felt dizzy, almost drunk. Glowing orbs dashed in and out of her vision. Instinctively, she swatted at them and they disappeared. Pulling herself to her feet took a great deal of effort. Her limbs felt heavy. She rattled across the ground and collapsed beside Vincent. "I thought i'd lost you..." Violet muttered, leaning over and trying to regain herself. "Me?... Nah." Vincent rasped between gasps of breath. He slowly got to his feet and looked around the room. Other people were crying and gasping for breath, but no one appeared to have any serious injuries beyond that. "I can't... breathe..." Rachel pressed herself up against the underside of a table. Violet heard her rattling muted voice throughout the chaos and somehow, she found the strength to stand back up and walk over to the young girl. Sitting down beside her, Violet put one hand on her shoulder and reassured her. "It's alright. It's over now." Violet took a deep breath and let it out - a curious calming mechanism as she didn't technically need to breathe in order to exist. But, she wasn't about to get bogged down in the existential thoughts of a cosmic energy being. Instead, she did what came naturally to her. She got angry. Real angry. The realisation that they had been brought here, that it was a trap and that Meredith, who now stood before them, had to have had a hand in it, drove Violet over the edge. She stood, but this time, her fatigue was gone. Lights flickered out in the bar as she lifted from the ground, her human form was blasted away in an instant and she floated before Meredith with a rage burning in her heart like she couldn't control. "I-I--" Meredith tried to speak. "Just dont--" Violet held her hands up and from them exploded a beam of magical energy that struck Meredith in the chest and set her flying back, smashing through tables and knocking chairs asunder until she came to a rest at the edge of the bar. The white of Violet's eyes shone brightly through the twilight of the bar as more and more lights snuffed out. "I don't feel very good..." Rachel muttered, "I feel like..." Realisation dawned on Rachel's face and she glanced at Violet before scrambling across the floor to Vincent, "Does Violet even have control of her powers?! I feel like something is consuming me from the inside out!!" She grabbed hold of Vincent's arm, "Vincent!" "Most of the time..." Vincent admitted, and then he fumbled on the floor for his cane. The screaming started as the other patrons got a look at Violet. "Violet!" Vincent yelled over the screaming, " need to calm down." "Don't tell me to calm down!" Violet growled back at her brother, her eyes still fixed on Meredith. "You nearly killed my brother!!" She roared, then held out one hand and directed her essence into Meredith. The girl choked as she tried to get back up and collapsed back to the floor with a surprised look etched on her face. The surprise turned to horror, and she began to age. Her hair turned white, and her skin began to grey. "Stop it!" Vincent roared back at her. His grip tightened around his cane. "No..." Violet snarled. Meredith coiled in on her stomach, groaning as the life was drawn from her. "Stop it, Violet!!" Rachel yelled at the top of her lungs. No reaction. She had to stop her. Rachel grabbed the nearest object - an empty bottle of wine - and threw it with all her force, "Stop it!!" She yelled again, watching as the bottle arced through the air, then finally, it struck Violet in the back and shattered, disintegrating into nothing. "I said... NO!!" Violet screamed as she reflexively turned on her attacker and fired a deadly blast. Pain... not death... The voice seemed to linger in Vincent's mind while the blast of solid energy arced through the air. Rachel recoiled as the blast struck her, but the attack was cut short. Violet was knocked to the ground by something enormous. It was as black as night, as large as a tiger, but as svelte as a cheetah. The creature growled and it was like rumbling thunder. It's ears pricked at the tiniest motion of sound and while still stood over Violet, its ferocious eyes focused on Vincent and the cane in his hands. "What the fuck are you looking at, kitty cat?" Vincent taunted, and kept his staff pointed threateningly. "Get the fuck away from my sister." The creature considered Vincent for a short while then he arched up and sat down on his hind quarters, his tail swishing back and forth in irritation. "Now... Put. That. Away." It was not a request. The creature waited, watching Vincent with suspicion. "Nah, I'm good." Vincent replied, a daring glint in his eyes. His gaze turned back to Violet, "Get up!" He snapped at her, "Fix her. Now." "I-I..." Violet pulled herself up and looked around. The chaos and destruction she had left in her wake had been immense. Broken glass scattered everywhere, chairs and tables broken and overturned, the patrons scattered and the bar cast in green and red twilight by the one remaining light of a neon beer sign. "W-What did I...?" "Fix her." The creature repeated Vincent's words. "W-what...?" Violet muttered, but she took heed of their demands and while still in a fog, she sat beside Meredith and placed a hand on her shoulder. She had drawn the essence from her body and now she had to return it. It was a painful experience. Not unlike setting yourself on fire. She was a being that fed on energy. She did not return it. Violet squirmed in pain as the last of Meredith's energy was returned and the girl brightened up, her hair and skin returned to normal, though she looked fatigued. "Now her." The creature nodded at Rachel and Violet's face dropped. She saw Rachel doubled over in pain, clutching the centre of her torso. A hole had been blown in her clothes and Violet could clearly see Rachel's burnt, smoking midriff. The girl was in agony. Violet darted to the young girl and helped her sit upright, then she began to channel her essence into the wound but as soon as she started, she knew she couldn't take it back. Not entirely. The wound healed, but so too did it scar. When Violet had finished, she saw the scar was almost like a sunflower. White petals dashing out in every direction with a darker centre mass of damaged tissue. She looked up and saw that Rachel's hair had turned as white as snow. Then, as the pain subsided, Rachel roused herself and the moment she saw Violet she recoiled and scrambled to her feet. "What just happened?!" Rachel screeched, fleeing to Vincent's side and clinging onto him. Violet stood up and sighed, her eyes wandering over everything a second time. "We need to go." Vincent said after a long silence. There were conversations to be had, but right now there were witnesses, and he could hear sirens blaring in the distance. He turned to the creature. "You're a little big to fit in the car so..." The creature took Vincent's words to heart. Upon standing, it leapt at Vincent, and while arcing through the air it landed not as a creature but as a man. He was tall, thin as a rake, with tan skin, yellow eyes and short, thick black hair slicked back out of his face. "I agree." He replied, then as he turned back something grabbed hold of him and he smirked. "Violet..." He looked down and saw a tuft of blue hair while she clutched onto him, and by the time she let go, he saw she was human once more. At least, on the surface. "We do have to go though. Now." He patted her on the shoulder and then encouraged her to go. Then he grabbed Meredith and Rachel and helped them both outside. Vincent, Rachel, Meredith, Violet and the strange man all piled into Violet's car. However, it was the stranger in the driver's seat. "You can hide at my place." He said, and started the car. Before they knew it, they were driving down the road. They heard sirens in the distance. So much had happened that the passengers sat in silence, trying to come to terms with everything. It wasn't until the man pulled into a short driveway that they were roused from their thoughts. Violet saw a small house, on the corner of a cul-de-sac. It seemed inviting. The front door opened and a woman stood in the doorway. The stranger got out of the car and slammed shut the door behind him. He said something to her, and she got angry. Their conversation was muffled but Violet got the impression that something this stranger had done had upset this woman. "Come on," He said, opening the passenger door for Violet, "Everyone inside." "Violet... Who the hell is this guy?" Vincent asked. "Just do it, Vincent. You should trust him more than you trust me, honestly." Violet got out of the car and walked up the driveway. The woman stood in the doorway nodded a few times then turned to the man that had brought them here. She pointed at him with a threatening finger. "So help me, if they blow up the house, especially the purple one, I dont--" She marched back inside. "S-Sorry..." He scratched his head in nervous embarrassment, but then disappeared inside. Violet followed. Meredith hesitated but did the same. Rachel gave Vincent a look along the lines of 'are we really doing this?' and then stepped inside. A few moments passed and the man walked back outside. "Are you coming?" He asked Vincent. Vincent only looked at the man with a soft scowl and then he pushed past him and went inside. "Excellent." The man purred and then closed the door behind them. Inside, it was chaos. A different kind of chaos. Organised chaos. Every table, every space, every wall had been covered and decorated with dozens of objects, hangings, trinkets, and other strange things. The house felt cosy. It was a home, decorated with possessions. A spicy smell wafted down from the kitchen. "Alright!" The man said loudly, calling attention to himself. Everyone in the room focused on him. "I don't like to mince words so here it is - I'm a demon, technically. A familiar, precisely. Sometimes people call me 'James' and that is what I prefer to go by. I am not that kind of demon. I will not offer you things in return for your soul, please don't ask. I met Violet when she was 12, she summoned me - thank you Violet - and now, technically, I am bound to serve her as she wishes..." He paused for a breath, then some other information occurred to him, "The woman that shares this space with me is Jinx. She is also a familiar. We consider you our guests and our friends, so--" "Huh!" A scoff echoed from the kitchen. "So... please. Take a seat." James nodded at the sofas and chairs scattered around the large living room. "...great." Vincent said enthusiastically, "Do you have an alchemy cupboard?" "... ehm..." James hesitated, "... in the kitchen." "Oh, good." Vincent snapped his fingers a couple of times in quick succession. "Come on Padawan let's go make some dead man's talismans and some other fun little ghost weapons." "He means me." Rachel muttered, upon seeing James' confused face. Rachel followed Vincent into the kitchen. The smell was incredible. Something was baking in the oven and it smelled like cinnamon. She realised then that she was virtually starving. Nearly being turned into a cosmic energy being's lunch will do that to you. "Oh by all means--" Jinx muttered, walking back and forth between her stations, "Just barge in, help yourself, see if I care..." Jinx was as tall as James and she was just as attractive. She had a buxom, hourglass figure. She dressed in red, wearing a slim-fitting red dress with a protective white apron over the top of it. She had long, flowing red locks that framed her face and her eyes were yellow and cat-like, the same as James. "Yeah that was pretty much the plan..." Vincent said absentmindedly as he started rummaging through the kitchen drawers, "So the thing about ghosts..." He began talking to Rachel, "Is that they can be really troublesome if you're not prepared for them, which resulted in that shit show back there. I genuinely wasn't expecting ghosts to descend and start murdering hipsters, it's not their usual mode of operation." Rachel nodded in silence, Vincent seemed content with busywork, but she wasn't. "C-Can we..." Rachel began, brushing a strand of white hair out of her face, "Can we talk about Violet?" "Sure." Vincent said as he tossed a jar of odd looking, brown, clumpy stuff, and then started looking for other things, "But you're going to help me while we do. There's no down time on the job, you'll have to learn that sooner or later." "I want no part of this--" Jinx muttered, then tore her apron off and left the kitchen. James watched her walk out and ascend the stairs to the second floor, so he walked into the kitchen to see what was up. Vincent and Rachel were organising items across the counter. James deliberately coughed and cleared his throat as he walked over to them. "Violet is more dangerous than anything i've come across. She almost killed Meredith, who I think was just in a bad situation she couldn't get out of, and she nearly killed me, and look what she did--" She pointed at her hair, and then the scar on her midriff still on show from her tattered clothes. "She has no control, Vincent. She can't--" She trailed off. "And what would you have me do?" Vincent asked while he lit the hob and placed a pot over it. "I don't know!" Rachel bit back with frustration, "But she's been hunting all this time, right? You haven't. So, what about all the times you weren't there to stop her. But she kept hunting, right? Don't you feel responsible for her? She has this incredible power but no control over it or her emotions." Rachel shoved a number of ingredients towards Vincent without care for what they were or if he even wanted them. "Violet... is like the sea." James interjected. Rachel paused and looked at him expectantly. "Well... she is often calm. Mostly calm. Sometimes turbulent. Sometimes a storm. But storms are important too, so you must become a pilot and sail through stormy seas, for it is only through hardship that you find the buried treasure." Rachel blinked, "I'm sorry, you had me for a moment there but then something about... tr--" "--Treasure, yes." James nodded quickly, "Sorry, right. I like pirates? Swashbuckling. The three musketeers. Blackbeard. Honour among comrades, one for all, all for one, on a journey across the seven seas. Human history is full of such examples. I love it. I really need a sword, don't you think?" He paused then realisation dawned on his face, "Right. Sorry. Right. I have a short memory... what were we talking about?" "Violet?" Rachel replied, holding her face in her hands. "I'm surrounded by maniacs..." "Honestly what is it with supernaturals and flowery similes?" Vincent asked. "Violet's a person, and she's quite fucked up. So she hurt you, she could have killed you. You did that to us earlier when you damn near cremated us." "Oh I see..." James looked at Rachel. "That was completely different!" Rachel growled, shoving a glass jar across the counter until it slid into Vincent's waiting hand. "It was, but it had a similar result, and results are what matter." Vincent poured water into the pot to boil and then started pouring out the ingredients and measuring what he needed. "You could have died... but you're not dead. Trust me that's the important thing here, I had a somewhat similar experience tonight." Rachel frowned at Vincent. He liked to talk about how supernaturals use flowery simile yet he was quick to speak in what seemed like riddles. But it was true enough. What had happened, happened. There was no turning back. Nobody was dead. But how long could Violet keep a clean sheet?
  10. Hallows

    Vincent was laying down on a tired looking old bench at the side of the road. All around him was nothing but dry, rocky desert and the sky above was clear as a bell, and the heat was blazing down on him. Apart from the road, the only signs of civilization nearby was the gas station off the side of the road just down from the old bench. The Impala sat at one of the pumps, Violet inside paying for gas. Vincent was wearing a sleeveless, black shirt with a white batman logo on the front, and a pair of navy blue jeans, his usual black boots, and his pentacle necklace around his neck, and had his mirror-lensed aviators on. It had been a little shy of 2 days since they had left Lafayette, and the majority of that time had been spent hauling ass across the country, stopping only to eat, refuel and rest overnight. Vincent had spent the time filling in Rachel about some of the basics about magic, and about hunters. He suspected little of it had really settled in to the girl’s mind, but he wasn’t too surprised. He had been taught about magic since he was a child, and there really was quite a lot to it. “God damn jelly beans!” He cursed at his new phone, which was currently held in his hand playing a brightly coloured games involving matching up different coloured jelly beans. The game made a little descending jingle and went to a game over screen and Vincent sighed, sitting up on the bench and pocketing the phone. He took out his cigarettes instead, and lit one, taking a deep drag. Sitting cross legged on the floor by the bench was Rachel, who was staring at an unlit candle with a great deal of intensity. Vincent exhaled and allowed himself a little smirk as he watched her. “Be careful.” He said with a jovial tone, “You keep tensing up like that sooner or later you’re gonna squeeze something out…let’s hope it’s a little magic and not poop.” "Do you always talk about poo?" Rachel asked, trying to concentrate. "No, he doesn't," Violet interjected, "Just some of the time." She smirked and jabbed Vincent in the shoulder, "Ready to go?" Vincent took another draw of his cigarette. They were in Schurz, Nevada, only a short drive away from the border to California, where they would cross the sea on a boat to Hawaii. “Well…” He said as he turned his attention back to Rachael, “I was kinda hoping she’d hurry up and light the candle.” He said to Violet, then to Rachel he added, “Come on, kid. It’s a freaking billion degrees out here, you’ve got plenty of thermal winds and ambient heat to call upon, we’re in a desert.” "How am I supposed to pull heat out of the air?" Rachel asked, scrunching up her eyes in concentration. “With your will.” Vincent said simply, “That is what magic is…to impose your will on your environment. Fire is usually the easiest for people to learn. You need to let your will extend, so you can feel the forces working around you. Then you focus on your emotions, and your own interpretations, and you need to channel them into what you desire. It takes focus.” focus.” "Fine! Geez." Rachel let out a short little sigh. She could hear Violet walking over to stand beside her brother, could feel their eyes on her, she knew what she needed to do. Rachel focused on the candle, channeling her will into the air, focusing her mind on the creation of fire. A few moments passed, and it seemed as though she would be unable to light the candle but then a wisp of smoke appeared at the tip of the wick and in seconds it was lit. "Hey nice job." Violet smiled with satisfaction. Then a few seconds later the flame wobbled and started to go out. "Uh--" Violet barely opened her mouth when the flame on the candle exploded in size. Roaring up and spreading across the courtyard. Vincent scrambled over the back of the bench and tripped, rolling across the floor, before quickly getting back to his feet. “F-fucking hell!” He spat, his sunglasses askew on his face. His heart still racing he closed his eyes and held his hands up, feeling outwards with his will. He began a quiet chanting, but it was not magical incantations, but rather a string of whispered profanities. The spell worked quickly, as the fire began to move quite unnaturally, coiling through the air towards Vincent and coalescing in between his hands, until it sat in between his palms, a glowing sphere of fire. “Alright.” He said with a quiet, trembling tone, clearly trying to contain himself. “You lost focus…but maybe I should have expected that. Evocation is probably the easiest magic to produce, but the elements are quite difficult to control.” He pressed his hands together slowly as he spoke, and slowly the orb began to dim and decrease in size. “When you call fire you bring in the heat from around you, and as a result the air cools. If you do it enough you can freeze things, and that’s how you get ice magic. However, if you draw in the heat you have to put it somewhere…you have to set the boundaries of that. Instead you let the environment take advantage of the ignition you created. Now you’ve let that heat back in to the air, and you’ve created more heat by letting the fire spread.” Vincent eventually brought his hands in enough that he clapped them together, and the tiny flame was snuffed out. “Focus is crucial. Think of what could have happened if you did that inside a building full of people. You could kill people that you’ve went in to save. You can make a situation so much worse with magic if you lose your focus.” "Focus. Got it." Rachel's cheeks blushed red. "Yeah. Focus. And don't set everyone on fire. That's like... Number 2." Violet smirked, blowing out an ember on Vincent's shoulder. “No harm done on this occasion, but I think we need to look at enchanting you a focus.” Vincent indicated back to the car and they started walking. “My cane is enchanted for elemental evocation. The runes and enchantments are designed to streamline elemental magic so I can focus on being a little more precise. Enchantment is a little more complicated, and it’ll take some time though.” "What's your focus?" Rachel asked, looking to Violet. "Ehm..." Violet chuckled and then looked to her brother for assistance with that one. “She cheats.” Vincent said with a smirk, “Seriously, Violet’s got her own set of rules. FTor now let’s leave fire calling alone until you get some more control. When we get to a motel I’ll show you some thaumaturgy, that’s my kind of ma-“ He paused as a loud ringing came from his pocket. He frowned and took out his phone, looking at the number on the screen. He had only just got the thing, and Violet was the only one who had his number. He answered it. “Hello?” The voice on the other end asked. It was a woman, she sounded out of breath. “Hi.” Vincent replied, “Uh…who is this?” “Oh…god.” The woman’s voice was trembling, she sounded like she might have been crying, “Uh…my name is, well, you don’t know who I am. I-I I don’t know you either, actually, well, I mean I will but-“ “Lady, what are you talking about? How did you get this number?” Vincent asked. “ gave it to me, or you will soon…” The voice said. Vincent’s eyes widened behind his sunglasses. “…A prescient.” He said finally, his voice quiet. “What did you see?” “Uh…a lot.” The woman replied, “It’s…it’s confusing, okay. All I know is you’re going to give me this phone number. I’ve seen it happen, and then…” She paused and her breath shuddered, “There’s too many paths, and most of them lead to the same thing. We…” She sniffed and let out a little cry, “We die.” “Uh…well what if we just stay away from each other?” Vincent asked. “Then other people will die…a lot of other people.” Vincent was silent for a long moment, then he cursed silently. “Shit!...god damn it, where then? Where do we meet?” Vincent asked “I’m in Las Vegas.” The girl said. “I-I’m Meredith, by the way. Meredith Palmer.” “Vincent-“ “Hallow, I know.” Meredith interrupted. “Look…there’s a bar called Henley’s that’s just off the strip. It’s quiet, can you meet me there?” “That’s like 5 hours drive.” Vincent sighed loudly. “…You’ll make it before last call.” Meredith replied. “Fine…fine!” Vincent said, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers, as he closed his eyes in frustration. “Fine…you better not be fucking with me.” “I’m not, I promise.” Meredith said, she sounded desperate. “Alright…later I guess.” Vincent said, and then he hung up the phone. He took a deep breath and then quickly sighed it out, scratching the back of his head as he turned his gaze to Violet. “Uh…we need to make a detour.” He said. "Mm-hm. Mm-hm. A detour huh? But that's sooo unreasonable." Violet flashed a wicked grin then got into her car. "Well let's get on with it then you two I don't have forever. Well, I do. But by that point I'll just be watching dying stars explode and it all happen all over again and I'd really rather just, y'know, get some chicken and see that psychic." “If I’m walking toward my likely death, my last meal is not going to be chicken.” Vincent said as he got in the car. As they drove Vincent repeated his conversation with Meredith, and there was a period of silence in the drive when he mentioned that going to meet Meredith was likely to result in both of their deaths. “I mean…she said most of the paths lead to death, so that means we could live, right?” "I have a terrible sense of direction." Violet muttered under her breath. "I have GPS so..." Rachel held her phone up and then looked at the screen, "Oh, no. No nevermind. No signal. We gonna die y'all!" Rachel threw herself back into her seat and huffed. “You know what I meant.” Vincent said with a frown, “This could be really serious…but she said a lot of people would die if we don’t go.” He sighed in frustration, “It could be a trap…sounds ideal for a trap, but then how did she get my number?” "I don't know what you expect me to say, Vince. But I'll tell you this... I'm not in the mood for Death. Not today. Maybe someday. We'll see." Violet growled to herself. Rachel looked up from her phone just long enough to show confusion at Violet's statement then returned to texting. They drove the rest of the way in relative silence. By the time they had finally reached Las Vegas it had gone dark. They had swapped endless dirt and roads for neon lights, busy streets and the huge and varied hotels and casinos of the famous city. As they drove down the main strip Vincent couldn’t help but hang his head out the window, taking it in. “This place really is something.” Violet leaned back in her chair, took a deep breath and as she let it out, her eyes turned white with a brilliant luminescence. "Hundreds of thousands of people. A man sobs in his room. His daughter doesn't love him any more. He drinks. A woman ties a rubber hose around her arm. Checking for veins, she says this is the last time. For real this time. A banker parks and forgets to pay his meter. A homeless man feeds the meter from his meager change. When the banker returns, he takes no notice of the kindness given him from one with so little. But the man without a house, keeps a tidy home. He asks for no thanks or applause." Her eyes quickly returned to normal and Violet coughed, very aware of herself for a moment, "Y-yeah, sure. Sounds like an interesting city." "Sounded sad..." Rachel muttered. “Creepy more like.” Vincent said with an uncomfortable shrug. Eventually they pulled off the strip and down a couple of blocks until they found a place to park. Across the street there was a quiet little bar with a sign that read: Henley’s. “That’s the place.” Vincent said as they got out of the car. He got out his cane and jacket, and put his jacket on. He opened up the trunk and took out his pistol and strap. “I’m not taking any chances.” "I thought we didn't need guns!?" Rachel barked, pointing at the pistol. “Sometimes a gun is the better option,” Vincent replied, “Especially if your enemy is mortal.” Violet leaned on Rachel's shoulder and whispered, "Never... question... uncle!" Rachel shrugged her off and grumbled, following the two Wizards inside. “Oh, right…give me your I.D.” Vincent said, and clicked his fingers at Rachel when she didn’t comply immediately. "Alright, geez!" Rachel reached for her I.D. but the moment she had it in her hands, it was in Vincent's. “Good.” He said as he examined the card. Then he ran his hand over it and some of the writing had changed. He handed it back to Rachel. “There, now you’re 21.” He said. "I don't feel any older..." Rachel muttered. "Hah!" Violet snorted and then walked inside. “That’s just in case someone cards you, don’t go actually buying beer now, you’re still a minor.” Vincent said as they arrived outside the bar. He pushed the door open and stepped inside. Henley’s bar was one of those hipster bars that were built in shabby run-down buildings where the rent was cheap, but the interior was clean and didn’t smell weird, unless you included the stench of gentrification. The Hardest Button To Button by The White Stripes was playing on a retro styled jukebox that had an tablet screen for selecting songs off of a music streaming service. The floors were a smooth brickwork tile job, the bar was clean and well stocked, and the seating area had that odd mismatch of furniture that some bars utilized if they wanted to appear alternative and bohemian. “Ugh, they better not have cocktails…” Vincent grumbled as he walked forward, looking around at the patrons. "It's okay, Vince." Violet replied, looking around. "I'll drink the 40% alcohol that tastes great. You can drink your piss-flavoured, weak wheat juice." “No single malt, Vi?” Vincent said with mock astonishment, “Al taught you better than that. Crusty old hillbilly would take you over his knee if he heard that nonsense coming out of your mouth.” "Vince, I've seen stars implode, I've met life on other worlds, travelled through multiple dimensions and tasted cosmic essence..." Violet took a breath, "... and I know, for a fact, that long island ice tea is the best drink in the universe." “Tequila, vodka, rum, triple sec, gin and coke…” Vincent counted on his fingers, “Pretty sure that’s six drinks, Vi.” "If you don't understand symbiosis then I can't talk to you about cocktails, Vincent." Violet took one long look around the room and sighed, "I hate this place. It makes me want to drink strange over-priced coffee and munch on my own farts. I'm-- help--" Violet fainted into Vincent's arms and then gripped onto him, "Vince, I'm... One of them!" Violet mock-choked, took a deep breath, and in a strangely snotty way, she added, "Hey, I'm Daffodil, your bartender, "Would you like to try our continental wine sniffing course?" “You’re too far gone for help.” Vincent said dryly and shoved his sister off of him. He scanned the room for Meredith, having no idea what she looked like, however he spotted her easily enough. In the corner, sat alone at a booth table, was a girl in her early twenties, slim and dressed in denim jeans, converse sneakers and a red checkered shirt. She had a long mane of tightly curled, red hair and a black beanie hat that took up relatively small real estate on her head compared to her hair. Her blue eyes were staring at Vincent behind thick-rimmed, black glasses, like a dear caught in the headlights. “Guess we should go say hi.” Vincent said as he nodded his head toward Meredith. He struggled to swallow, his throat dry. He felt completely on edge, his senses were tense and skittish, something he often felt when forces were at work, like when a storm begins to gather. “I think I need a drink first…” He said, licking his dry lips. "Get a drink, if you want..." Violet walked towards Meredith and after a moment's hesitation, Rachel followed. Violet could see the essence of all living things. As she walked towards Meredith she saw the gently crackling flames of the other patrons. But the one essence that shone through the darkness more than any other, was Meredith's. It was like she had less control over her own power, at the benefit of intermittent power spikes. She was a sap-filled, spitting flame of chaos. She was beautiful. "Hey, I'm--" Violet started to introduce herself but Meredith joined her mid-sentence. "--I'm V-Violet." Meredith finished her thought, albeit with a slight stutter. And she did it every time Violet opened her mouth and spoke. "Fascinating." They both said, then Violet smirked and turned back to Rachel and Vincent. "That's cool, right?" She added, though Meredith had said it behind her at the same time. "..." Vincent hesitated to say anything at all, cautious that Meredith would only mimicking him. "Don't spe-" "-speak... Oh" Meredith stopped herself and blushed. "I'm sorry it's a bad habit. I just tend to know what people say before they say it, so I either say what they say, or sometimes I answer their question before they ask it, and then I get embarrassed and I talk a lot, just rambling on and on and on and-" "Yeah." Vincent interrupted. He sat down in a chair and leaned on the table with his arms, "So you mostly see just brief moments in the future?" "Mostly." Meredith said with a nervous nod, "Sometimes it's much further in the future, but it gets confusing... Hard to make sense of what's happening, what's real and what's not, like living through multiple versions of an event." "The further into the future you see the more variables there are, so the future is less certain." Vincent explained, "Plus your knowledge of your future can make you act, which changes it, and then you see that future, and you do something else and it changes again, and again." "Y-yeah..." Meredith said, a sadness crept across her face and she bit her lower lip. "Don't you have any friends?" Rachel asked, taking a step forwards. Violet pointed at Meredith, "Well go on then, this is your thing." She virtually threatened Vincent with an angry look. Vincent responded with a thin smile that veiled his clenched teeth. “Well…” Meredith began cautiously, “It happened just before I called you. It…” She took in a sharp breath and seemed to puzzle for a moment, “…there were a lot of places that we met, different things happened from then on…it branched out in thousands of directions…and the images I kept saying over and over was…” She swallowed nervously. “So you chose the safest path for us?” Vincent asked. Meredith visibly tensed. “I...I’m sorry.” She whimpered, tears welling in her eyes. “Why are you sorry?” Vincent asked. He was getting a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Please understand…these people will die if we aren’t here.” Meredith began to cry. “Oh for…” Vincent stood up from his chair and turned around the face the rest of the room and felt around with his senses. He came in to contact with a dark, cold magic that felt all kinds of wrong. Just touching at it with his will felt maddening and he swiftly retreated his tendrils of power and shivered. The room had become deathly cold. “Rachel…” Vincent said hesitantly, “…I need you to not panic, things are going to happen…you’re not going to see.” “What’s going on?” Rachel asked worriedly. “…Ghosts.” Vincent said as he began to focus his will. He concentrated on a well of power that was stored in the centre point of his forehead just above his brow. He took a deep breath, hesitating, before finally muttering a curse and opening the point of power up. The word changed in an instant around Vincent as he opened up his third eye. He could see true image of everything within the room. A woman who he had noticed before to be quite beautiful, became horribly angular, twisted and quite terrifying to look at. He turned to Rachel, and in her place stood a brilliant, glowing aura, with a cold, dark centre that festered like a wound. He dared not look at Violet, certain that the image would destroy his ability to fight, either through terror or awe. The cold energy surged and ghostly hands began to phase through the walls, a fact that only Vincent and Violet could see. "I'm content to go now." Violet muttered, taking a step back as she prepared for what was coming. "Why should I want to panic?! It's just ghosts!" Rachel seemed a little unhinged. “They aren’t after us…they can’t be.” Vincent said and he held out his cane in challenge. The ghosts, for their part, seemed not even to notice they were there. Instead the shades began to move among the other patrons, and they began to stand behind their chairs and wait. A ghost moved to Vincent, her face gaunt and emotionless. Vincent instinctively gathered his will and pushed it out to blast the ghost back, but it did not react to the kinetic force. It just kept coming, until it was almost on him. “I’m so sorry…” Meredith said tearfully once more, and then she gasped as another Ghost rose up through the floor and table and sunk it’s arm in to her throat. She began to choke, unable to breath, and she clutched at her neck. Suddenly each of the ghosts plunged their hands into the necks of each of the patrons, and they all began choking as well. Vincent was no exception, unable to work a spell in time that could effect the spirit mere inches from him, and he flinched as she jabbed her hand into his throat. Suddenly Vincent’s body went numb with biting cold. He couldn’t think, he couldn’t breath. He felt a tremendous pressure building in his head, and his vision swam. He could hear himself choking, but it sounded far away. At some point he ended up on the floor, but he couldn’t remember falling. There was a slow, rhythmic thumping that were becoming further and further apart. His vision blurred, and he found himself drawn to a figure standing across the bar. The woman had dark hair and the palest white skin. She wasn’t suffering like everyone else in the room. The girl just looked at him, and smiled warmly.
  11. Hallows

    "No i'm exactly like the Phoenix Force." Violet corrected her brother, grinning to herself at the comparison. "So, what do you think we should do with you...?" She asked, her tone neutral while she studied the girl. Rachel was tall and slim but generally unremarkable. She had long blonde hair that she'd tied into a ponytail and mouse-like features. The most striking thing about her was the eyes. She had bright green eyes. How'd she not noticed that before? "What do you mean?" Rachel asked nervously. Violet looked at her brother and shrugged. "You're just cutting your teeth, kid" Vincent said to Rachel, "You can't just go around with this cowboy justice crap. There are laws. There's a code." He gave her a somewhat serious frown. "Not to mention your lack of diligence, you acted based on circumstantial evidence. So the question is do we put a stop to your journey right now...or don't we?" "I know I started out of revenge, but i'm not a bad person. I kept hunting because knowing what I know, what else can I do? People are in danger from..." Rachel paused, glancing at Violet, "From some creatures. I'm just trying to even the odds." Violet could remember what it was like to be a new hunter. The idea she was making a difference, fighting back the darkness, saving lives. "I think she should come with us." Violet spoke directly to her brother. "Room for one more?" Vincent raised an eyebrow. "With us? We're going to go find dad, not show the rookie around." Vincent shook his head, "Besides, mortal hunters either have an edge, like me and you, or they have been trained from birth, generation to generation. She'll get herself killed." "Exactly. She's going to do this whether we're here or not. She's just a child--" "--hey!!" Rachel growled, standing up in defiance. "I'm 17!" "Y'see?" Violet jerked her head at Rachel, "The girl is pretty much a smudge without us, and its not like you cant teach magic." "Oh I can teach, but can she learn?" Vincent asked, looking at Rachel expectantly. "Ever made something disappear? Moved something with your mind? Ever been really mad, and then strange things happen?" "Is that a Harry Potter quote?" Rachel asked, frowning in disbelief. Violet's eyes lit up with amusement, "Oh yes, we can work with this." Violet stood up, "I'm gonna go see how Lucas is doing. Why don't you two stay and talk it over. I'm no good at teaching, so if anyone's going to be your teacher, it's going to be my brother. Have fun with that." Violet turned and walked off before either of them could voice their objections. Lucas had been moved from the emergency room into a quiet ward by himself. When Violet entered, she noted a police officer stood in the corner, talking to a nurse and another sat at her desk, filling out a large stack of forms. None of them were paying her any attention. A white film spread over the top of her shoulders, coating her arms and top half, and then descending and levelling out at her knees where it coalesced into a doctor's coat. A moment later, a clipboard was in her hand and she marched towards the bed with purposeful confidence. "Evening, officer." Violet quickly glanced at her clipboard, made a 'hmm' noise - seemed the right thing to do - and then put it to one side and picked up Lucas' chart at the end of his bed. The police officer looked her up and down then took a step back. "Yes, yes. Gunshot wound, so the hospital automatically called the cops." "Right..." The officer muttered. "But it's not necessary, officer. The boy accidentally misfired his gun on a hunting trip." "Does he have--" "--here's his license." Violet reached over and picked up her clipboard, then pulled a blank sheet of paper from it and handed it to the officer with an expectant look. The man stared at the blank page for several minutes, his eyes darting back and forth over the blank page until he sighed and nodded. "Alright. Everything seems in order. Thanks, Doc. You just saved me a load of paperwork." The officer smiled and left and after excusing the nurse, Violet went and sat beside Lucas. He seemed asleep, but she knew better. Too many nights spent awake, listening to mom and dad argue. "Oi, kid, I know you're faking." Violet leaned over and punched Lucas in the arm, and the boy gasped in pain as he reflexively tensed. Lucas' eyes shot wide open and stared at Violet with a burning rage, "Good, you're up. We need to talk." Vincent rolled his eyes and then sat forward in his chair, pressing his fingers together. He took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts, and then he looked at Rachel. "My sister has a tendency to jump the gun a bit. Before we even begin to discuss if you have any talent, we should probably find out if you want to. So, do you?" "Talent?" Rachel asked, the frown lines on her face deepened. "Magical talent!" Vincent said, waggling his fingers at her. "It's true that anyone can learn magic, like Violet implied, but some people have a lot more power than others that they can harness to work forces. Luckily, there's a few ways we can test yours. But, my question was do you want to?" "If it will help me to be a better hunter." Rachel replied, "Yes, please, I need to know." Vincent's eyes narrowed. "Magic is not just a tool for you to use, it's a pursuit... It's a way of life. If you want a weapon, stick to a gun." The frustration on Rachel's face was clear, "It's just like you said, i'm not a creature with powers, or a wizard with magic, I don't even come from a generational hunting family with information and connections to fall back on. I'm just learning. Anyone can shoot a gun - teach me magic." "Better." Vincent said either a nod, "Now, what's your full name?" "Why?" Rachel asked, crossing her arms. "Because I want to find out if you have even a bit of talent, and to do that I need your full name, given freely from your own lips." Vincent explained, as if he'd given a perfectly reasonable explanation. Violet walked back into the waiting room, clocked both Rachel and Vincent and nodded to her brother as she sat back down. "Lucas is going to be fine," She said, "We talked, he's not going to mention what happened. He has enough to be getting on with - track team, grades, girls. He just wants to put it all behind him, so that's that." Violet looked over at Rachel who seemed perturbed. "What did you say?" Violet asked Vincent, her eyes narrowing. "Rachel Moon." Rachel replied, ignoring Violet but inwardly she was extremely thankful for Lucas' discretion. "Rachel... Moon." Vincent said back, he spoke slowly, pronouncing each syllable carefully, and he worked his will into the words. Suddenly the chair Rachel was sat on began to shake and vibrate. Rachel gripped onto the edges of her chair, as she knew, it wasn't her chair that was shaking... it was her. Her entire body was vibrating, and she could feel a pull on her body as though an invisible force was trying to draw her towards Vincent. "Hm, well that was a fairly strong reaction." Vincent said with a thoughtful expression, "But you've been exposed to the Supernatural world and you haven't hidden from that revelation, so I suppose hidden potential could be likely." "Cool..." Rachel muttered, looking at her hands with new perspective. "As long as you can help, you can stay." Violet interjected, "So can we go now? I'm famished." "Yes, let's bounce!" Vincent said as he got to his feet. He turned to Rachel, "Oh and, from now on don't tell people your full name like that. A good wizard could use it to invade your mind, make you kill your loved ones, or kill you or something." "Yeah, like, you're basically Vincent's plaything now. He could ask you to turn your body inside out and you could probably do it." Violet laughed and looked over to see all the colour in Rachel's face had drained away. She hurried to add, "Oh but he wouldn't! Obviously..." "Probably best not to tempt me though." Vincent said. "Alright. Enough wind-up. First lesson, Rachel Moon..." Violet stood up, glanced down either end of the corridor, and seeing nobody she turned back to face them both, "Do as he says, not as I do--" Then without warning, the three of them vanished with a loud bang - the sound of air rushing to fill a void. A moment later, the trio were sat in the Impala. Vincent looked flustered, but Rachel was gasping for air and gripping onto the dash. "What the hell was that?!" Rachel yelled, suppressing a scream. "Translocation. Teleportation. Inter-dimensional shift. Call it what you like." Violet muttered, reaching for the seatbelt. "Seatbelt?" Rachel asked, laughing at the idea that a powerful wizard and cosmic energy being, that had the power to teleport people and shoot energy beams, was lecturing her on the importance of road safety. However, at the no-nonsense expression on Violet's face, Rachel buckled up in the back and sighed. "So where are we going?" Rachel asked. "Violet Lake." Violet answered, with a smirk. "Violet... Lake...?" Rachel wasn't sure she'd heard right. "Yes, Violet Lake, and no I don't think that's a coincidence. It's a lake in Hawaii, and this picture--" Violet pulled the photo from her doctor's coat which then vanished, "Our dad's there, i'm sure of it. If we're quick, we might be able to catch him before he has to leave." Violet showed the photo to Rachel who studied it for a few seconds. "But, why is your dad so important? Why do we need to find him...?" Rachel asked, handing the photo back. "Because he has some explaining to do." Vincent said simply. "So i'm leaving my friends, my education and everything else behind, so that you can... what...? Get an apology?" Rachel looked to Violet. "I dunno." Violet shrugged, "I just want to find my dad. Vince is the one with the chip on his shoulder." "I wish I had parents to be mad at..." Rachel muttered, "You shouldn't let the wrongs in your past cloud your relationship with your dad." "Smart kid." Violet said, speaking to Vincent. She flashed him a lop-sided grin and turned the key, bringing the Impala to life. Moments later, they were on the road once again. Only now they had a new charge. Violet took her eyes off the road for a moment to check her rear-view mirror. For a moment, Rachel's face was obscured by a bright light but before she could really focus on it, Violet blinked and the light was gone. "You okay?" Rachel asked, noticing Violet staring at her. "Sure..." Violet replied, putting her eyes back on the road. It was going to be a long drive.
  12. Hallows

    “Careful with that gun…” Vincent said as he held his hand up between him and the newcomer, Rachael. His protection charms dangled around his wrist as he projected his will outwards, forming a solid shield of kinetic energy. “Who the hell are you?” He asked. Rachel frowned at the man and yelled back, "Who the hell're you?!" With an incredulous tone. "Look!" Violet snapped, "I'm not in the mood to play 'Who the fuck am I'! Why did you shoot him, Rachel?" "You couldn't understand..." Rachel smirked bitterly and shook her head. “Funny, that’s usually my line.” Vincent said as he paced slowly forward, towards Lucas’ body in between them. “How about you try me, hm?” "They're monsters!" Rachel shouted, leveling the gun at them. "They turn blue and change people into them, I've seen it!" “Oh…geez.” Vincent said with a sigh, “Looks like we got ourselves a rookie, Vi.” He said with a smirk, although he still kept his barrier raised and ready. “First of all; monster is a very generic term, sort of discriminatory when you think about it. Secondly, I’m not buying this story that a Nymph in fuckin’ Lafayette of all places, has the kind of mystical mojo it takes to do that.” Amber spoke, but when she did, all personality, weakness, or naivety vanished. When she spoke, it was as though there were power in the very words themselves, they echoed like a ripple in a pond, "The lakes were sick. The rivers were dying. We had to stop that. I had to stop that. Not just for us, but for the humans, too." "Mmm... Yep." Vincent said with a wince, "Should have seen that one...all right." With a thrust of his palm Vincent sent his barrier forward and up, the force knocking the gun from Rachel's hand. He walked quickly toward her, and she seemed to visibly recoil. With a pulling motion he brought a gust of wind out from under Rachel and knocked her to her backside. She froze as Vincent stopped above her and placed the end of his cane down with a loud tap. There was a resonating hum of power as he sent out his will down the cane’s length, and it’s carved runes glowed softly. Rachel tried to get up, but found that she had been rooted to the spot, almost as if she had been welded to the floor. “Stay still.” He said with a smirk and rolled his eyes, before turning away from her. “Okay then.” He said finally, “That’s the trigger happy teenager dealt with, now…” He turned his gaze toward Amber, “…Let’s have a chat, you and I.” Amber's lip curled into a snarl. "I will not subject myself to your questioning!" Amber roared and raised her arms, the skin across her body turning blue as she pulled water from the ground, from the machines, from every inch of the factory. The first jet of water she fired at Vincent coalesced into an icy spear as it hurtled towards him. It narrowly missed but as Amber prepared to fire again, Violet had to step in. "Stop!" She yelled, running between Vincent and Amber. But it was too late. The spear of ice struck her in the stomach and she doubled over. First, there was pain. But the pain dissipated quickly as a dizzying sensation of rage began to spread through her. Amber readied another ice missile, but Violet stood back up distracting her for just a moment. "No..." Violet hissed. Throwing her arms up, a bright purple energy fired from her hands, and hit Amber like a truck. The nymph flew across the floor and landed with a thud. Before she could right herself Violet was stood over her. Violet's face was partially her own, while a section of it around one eye was peeling away like burning tinder. Beneath her skin, purple energy dancing around a brilliantly dazzling all-white eye. The hair above her forehead in that area had turned to a light pink and seemed to dance and sway as though she were underwater. Amber raised her hands, in defence. But Violet ignored the girl, raising her arms once more. This time she seemed to draw the very energy from Amber, who immediately collapsed as though she were fatigued. The blue of her skin began to turn pale and her skin became cracked. "Stop..." Amber groaned. The spike of ice forcibly ejected from Violet's stomach, leaving behind the same solid dark purple energy that was burning through her face and still she continued to feed on the life force of the nymph. “Oh for crying out loud…” Vincent said with a sigh, looking down at his shoes and the bottom part of his jeans which were now soaked from the torrent of water that had rushed around them. He felt a strange weight pulling at him, a sensation he was familiar with, it was normally something he felt in the shower. The water rolled away around him, running across the floor. As it reached Rachel she gasped as she was suddenly able to move again. Running water grounds out mortal magic. “Well, my magic’s out…” Vincent said as he turned back to Violet and Amber, and then his eyes widened and he cursed, “Violet!” He snapped loudly. Violet jumped as though she'd just been grabbed and she relented. Amber gasped as colour slowly began to return to her face. "I... I-I'm sorry... I..." Violet bent over to comfort Amber but the nymph recoiled in horror. Violet's face and the hole in her shirt quickly returned to normal. Her eye darkened and shifted until it was a natural-looking human eye. Her 'skin' re-covered her face and her hair turned blue and fell flat once more. Violet glanced at Vincent but couldn't hold his gaze. Vincent wanted to say something to Violet, but now wasn’t the time. He pulled his pistol from his holster and turned, pointing it at Rachel who was attempting to flee. “Ah! Ah!” He called and Rachel froze when she saw the gun. “Now just you sit tight while the adults talk.” Vincent said and he turned back to Amber, “Ready to talk now?” "W-what would you ask of me?" Amber asked. She seemed weakened, tired, but no lasting damage had been done. Violet slunk off to Rachel and sat on top of the girl so she couldn't escape. Rachel wanted to shout and scream and bite but having just witnessed one of what she thought had been human, turn into a life-sucking creature, she was content to remain quiet for the moment. “Well first I wanted to know how you managed to amass so much power…but I get it now.” He smirked, “You’ve created a cause for people to have faith in, to pay tribute to, and to provide offerings. Your environmental activism is how you draw your power. Fundraising faith to fuel your mystical powers. Just a guess, but am I in the right ballpark?” "You are not unintelligent." Amber smirked before trying to get her breath back. "I thought they were a myth..." Amber muttered, her eyes darting at Violet before refocusing on him. “Hah!” Vincent laughed, “Hey Vi, the myth just called you a myth!” Violet looked like she wasn't in the mood. Her top lip curled back and she crossed her arms with an air of 'and that's all I have to say about that'. “So,” Vincent continued, “You’ve been turning mortals into Naiads, which takes a serious amount of mojo, maybe the charity worship wasn’t enough? So you turn to older methods. Human sacrifice is a good way to wield serious power, wouldn’t you say?” "If power is required to save this world, then I will take it, human." Amber curled the last word out of her mouth as though she was spitting a fly out. "This world will persist, long after you are gone." “Oh yeah, absolutely.” Vincent agreed with a nod, then he shrugged and cocked his head. “Although, you should see some of the stuff these humans are doing. It might take them 200 years but that’s a drop in the bucket for you. What are you going to do when they have machines that clean rivers, and maintain forests, machines that produce clean air. Nobody is going to put their faith in you lot any more.” "Then I will 'retire'." Amber retorted. “You might retire sooner rather than later if you don’t explain what’s going on.” Vincent said, and as he was talking he went over to check on Lucas, and was surprised when he felt his wrist and found a pulse. “Vi…he’s alive.” He said to his sister, “He needs a hospital.” "That's going to be an awkward conversation." Violet replied, looking at Lucas. "I've done nothing wrong." Amber stood up shakily, "When I need more nymphs, there are already many waiting in line to serve. This girl..." She looked at Rachel with disdain, "... Is not who we thought. She is bitter and selfish, like all humans." “The accords state that if you murder humans then they have sacred right to hunt and kill you.” Vincent said testily. “And those kids are minors, the human law states that they are not mature enough to make their own decisions about their life. Not that the accords have anything to say about that.” His nostrils flared visibly at the admission, “Rachel is going to be a murderer if Lucas dies, and then she’ll be a problem for the police. Unless Lucas killed those girls, in which case she has the right. I don’t think he did though, did he?” "Nobody killed those girls." Amber replied, rather matter-of-fact. And as though waiting for a sign, women began to appear. From around corners, behind pillars and stepping out from behind machinery. There were more than a dozen and several of them looked familiar. They were the girls who had been murdered. Though it seemed this was not the case, despite the bodies. “…They weren’t murdered, they were the girls you turned.” Vincent shook his head in annoyance, “You…created corpses to hide the disappearances. Are you stupid? How could you not know this would send hunters on your trail?” "I don't see why they should." Amber replied with a non-plussed expression. "Amber, you know that the bodies were gored to death. That's not exactly common fare." Violet spoke up at last and Amber stared at her in disbelief. "Don't speak to me--" Amber finished her statement with a high-pitched screech that sounded like a mixture between a kettle boiling and a metal nail tearing down a blackboard. Everyone recoiled from the noise. It seemed to summon up images of long-forgotten worlds, dying suns, and a dark void. “Bleugh.” Vincent said with a shudder, and looked at Violet, “I mean…your people have a lovely language.” He gave her a false grin. "I can assure you, of all of us here, I would like not to hear that again." Violet looked at Amber, "So use it again, and I'll finish what I started." Amber found it impossible to hide the anger on her face, however, she remained calm. “So…no one is dead. You haven’t broke the laws that apply to you, so we hold no claim.” Vincent continued, “Which stinks of shit. You…are taking advantage of these kids.” His voice became tense, almost a growl. Well, actually my sister is under no such obligation. Vincent turned to Violet, “Fancy abusing your power?” "Come on, Vince. Let's go." Violet stood up and helped Rachel to her feet, "You've got a lot to learn, kid." She pushed Rachel into walking, "Best hope he doesn't croak." As Violet made to leave, Lucas lifted off the floor, floating into the air and following her. "Come on." She repeated to her brother, "There's nothing to do here." “You’re lucky she’s the less morally bankrupt of the two of us.” Vincent said with a scowl, “…Just be careful. Give me just one reason to smite you, and you’ll be finding out what it’s like to be a greasy stain on the floor.” He turned and walked away from Amber and her Nymphs, walking quickly to catch up with Violet. --- --- --- --- It was reaching 11pm by the time Vincent, Violet and Rachel sat in the waiting room of the local A&E section of the hospital. The waiting room was old and dingy, and was rocking a multitude of odd smells. The three were almost entirely alone, except for a sleeping homeless man with a dirty beard and long, greying hair who was sat at the other end of the room, and an old Hispanic nurse working the reception desk. “Nasty wound.” Vincent said as he leaned back in his chair, “Fun fact of the day: Satyr don’t have heightened regenerative abilities.” "I don't care..." Rachel muttered. She kept her eyes focused on the glossy white and grey marbled floor. "Things aren't black and white, kid." Violet sighed and looked around before picking up one of the magazines on the table beside her and opening to a random page. “So why’d you shoot him?” Vincent asked. Rachel puzzled him. She had a bad attitude, and was pretty confrontational and self-assured, not unlike how he was when he was a teenager. Still, she seemed to have her hostility pretty focused in one direction, and there had to be a reason for that. "It's none of your damn business." Rachel growled. "Seems pretty straightforward to me. Boy problems. You were into him, he wasn't into you, angst, drama, Twilight, etc." Violet muttered with a half-grin. "That's not it at all!" Rachel snapped. She sat there in silence for a little while longer. Violet went back to her magazine until a few minutes later, Rachel spoke once again. "A few years ago we were attacked. My mum and dad were killed, and I barely escaped with my life. Vampires, as I later learned. First I tried hunting vampires, then I found out there was a whole world of--" She paused as a nurse walked past, then went on, "A world of monsters. People were being gored, and when I found out Lucas was a satyr, and had a connection with the girls, I figured it had to be him and even if it wasn't it was one less monster." “A whole world of monsters, fairies, demons, gods, both big G and little G varieties, ghosts, dragons and eldritch horrors.” Vincent said, “Oh and I’m a wizard.” He added, “And my sister is a cosmic energy thing.” Rachel frowned at him about the last one. “It’s like...y’know in the X-men when Jean Grey becomes the Phoenix…well she’s like the Ph-“ Vincent caught the way Violet was looking at him and cut off, “-nothing…uh she’s nothing like the Phoenix force, that’d be dumb, huh?” Vincent suddenly became very fascinated with the ceiling and fell silent.
  13. Hallows

    When Violet arrived, she didn't look happy. Winding down her window, she glanced at the toy from the seat of her car, "So, let's bust some heads!" She called out. Opening the passenger side door for her brother, he got in and she returned to the traffic. "Pfft, boring." She muttered, then she angled her rear-view mirror so she could see her hair. Cars beeped their horns all around them, as they slowly lurched forwards through the traffic. Violet took a hand and brushed it through the left-hand side of her hair. The hair that was there fell out and disappeared, leaving her with one side of her head shaved. "That's a bit more interesting." She muttered as an afterthought, "So who d'you think did it?" "The Satyr kid seems likely, at least the murders were designed to look like a Satyr did it." Vincent said as he held the eager little hot wheels car in his hand, the wheels still whirring furiously, "At worst he's our killer, and at best he's a douchebag who goes through girls like a fat guy hitting the buffet. Still, we don't execute supes for being douchebags." "No, but we always have room to reconsider-- Seriously?!" As a row of cars managed to breach with the flash of a green traffic light, it quickly switched back to red and they came to a halt once more. "Traffic jams really stress me out, man..." Violet snarled and kicked back into her seat, then sighed and pushed the frustration to the back of her mind. It was like opening an ancient music box. As the lid opened, a harmonious music played, a little ballerina in black dancing by herself and then the tense, angry, inquisitive emotions tumbled into the music box. It closed. It locked. Then a car beeped it's horn directly behind them and Violet opened her eyes. "Yeah, yeah..." She growled, and she moved the car forwards until they had to come to a stop once again. "That Amber girl keeps popping up in this. Did you ever get to speak with her again?" Vincent asked. He had picked his grimoire out from the back seat and was flicking through it studiously. "Oh, right..." Violet smirked and took her hands off the wheel. She pulled her legs up, placing them on the dash and reclined. Her lips moved silently and then the car seemed to growl to life, the wheel turned back and forth, and then the car accelerated a little to fill the gap ahead of them. "That's better." Violet sighed and then thought about her brother's question. "'Amber'," She said it with air quotations, "Leader of a group of eco-nerds focused on river preservation. Amber's a nymph. So is Jessica. This girl Rachel isn't but for some reason Amber seems taken with her, and while I think there's probably more nymphs in that group than those two, I think there are a number of human girls too." "Well according to his pop, she spread a lot of lies about Lucas and generally stirred things up. Apparently it resulted in an argument between Amber's dad and him." Vincent stopped and mouthed along a little as he read, then continued talking, "He implied Amber was jealous because Lucas wouldn't pay her any attention." "Highschool." Violet muttered, shaking her head. "Kids never learn. They think they're the smartest thing on the planet, but all teens are are a bunch of hormones donkin' into each other and fumbling through life." She crossed her arms and blew at one of her blue bangs. "Highschool was dumb. It was just you, an' me an' then one summer I met D, but it was all messed up and we hardly learned anything." "It wasn't that was an escape." Vincent said, "School feels like a break next to what we had to learn." "If you say so, Vince." Violet licked the inside of her teeth and let out another long sigh, "Look, d'you mind?" Violet pointed at the traffic lights, "Are you gonna give me a lecture about magic if I move us along? We've got somewhere to be, y'know?" "If you can do it subtly... then sure." Vincent said with a shrug. "Our turn!" Violet called, focusing on the lights. She whispered something beneath her breath and the opposing lights switched from green to red. Cars came to a screeching halt. A moment later their lights turned from red to green. "Ugh, at last!" Violet let her shoulders relax as she realised she'd been tensing them, and they drove on. After a few minutes, Violet glanced over at the whirring toy car. "So, how much longer y'think?" She asked with a raised eyebrow before refocusing her attention on the road. "I don't know." Vincent said, and he held the little car aloft, its wheels whirring furiously against the air. "Could be trying to get to Alaska for all I know. It should take us straight to Lucas, wherever that is." It took them a while, driving around Lafayette, but eventually they came to a halt as Vincent's little toy car seemed to tire, and by now, it was obvious where they'd been taken. Just on the outskirts of Lafayette, there was a bottled water factory. It had been tucked away, hidden by the trees, but it was right there in front of them now. Petros Water branded in huge letters along the side of the building. "Right. Water nymphs, bottled water factory, makes sense. Why not..." Violet mumbled as she got out of the car. "Why's the Satyr kid here though?" Vincent asked as he opened the door to the car. He went to the back seat and took out his cane and his gun and strap. "Let's play it safe. This is the Nymphs home turf, their magic will be strong here." "Oh you don't say," Violet teased sarcastically, then walked on through the car park and up to the main doors. Before she could reach them however, the door opened and a speaker system activated with a quiet squeal. "I guess they know we're here." "Honoured guests," The voice belonged to a young woman, it was sultry and confident and held not an ounce of worry, "I am Jennifer Petros, CEO of Petros Water. Welcome to our Indiana factory. Here, we source only the best spring water from across Indiana. In the following--" "Automated nonsense." Violet shook her head and walked into the factory. It was quite dark in the first room, but from what she could see it looked dishevelled, as though it had been long-since abandoned, but she could also hear machinery running in the distance. They pressed on. For a few minutes, they walked in silence, until they saw someone fiddling with a console. "Hey!" Violet called out. But when the person heard her, they ran. "Catch him Vincent!" Violet yelled, reflexively running after the person as they'd already turned the corner. Vincent sprinted after Violet and brandished his cane as they turned the corner. He focused his will into the cane and pointed it at the runner, and then he summoned a gust of wind that crashed down the hall, condensing and moving flat across the floor as he commanded it, before it finally swept under the runner and sent him tumbling on to his back. "What the hell, man!" Yelled a girlish voice. Violet blinked, glancing at Vincent before cornering their fallen runner against the wall. "Alright no--hey!" Violet growled, seeing Amber's face beneath the hoody she wore. "What are you doing, Amber?" "Don't ask me that, you're on my property, Violet! That's my question to ask of you." Amber retorted, standing there with a wrench in-hand. "We were just out for a walk and uh..." Vincent cast his gaze around the room once, "Well geez...we really must have got lost." Amber noticed the man for the first time, "Who's the weird geezer with the stick?" She asked, raising an eyebrow. Violet rolled her head over to Vincent and smirked. "I hate teenagers..." Vincent grumbled. "Ditto. I'm 2,349 years old." Amber replied. Violet's mouth hung open for a moment, "Well... alright. Uh...?" Violet turned to look to Vincent. She was stumped by this revelation in truth, and furthermore she didn't know what to do with the fact that Amber offered it so willingly when she'd been so difficult with her before. "So what?" Vincent shrugged, "Unlucky for you I don't respect my elders, so why don't you tell us what you're doing?" "I've been tending to the rivers, streams and water in Lafayette for hundreds of years. I'm a Queen. I can feel the connection between all the water nymphs in this place, but slowly, over the years, they've been dying, disappearing. So... I needed to fix that." Amber stood up, then brushed down her clothes. "But, how?" Violet asked, "And why is Lucas here?" Amber's face blanched and she held her hand up, "I'm sorry, did you say Lucas is here?" "Well if you trust the intuition of a toy car then..." Vincent inclined his head slightly in mock consideration, "...yes, pretty sure he is." "Amber, how were you going to fix the dwindling Nymphs?" Violet steered the conversation back onto her. "Oh, well..." Amber shrugged, "I was changing some of the girls into Nymphs, of course. Not all of them, mind. Just the ones with real talent, the smart ones, the pretty ones, the ones that know how to get things done." "You can't just take girls and turn them into something they're not." Violet growled, personally offended. This wasn't a far cry off what her aunt had wanted to do to her. To turn her into someone she wasn't. She was outraged, but had to learn more. This wasn't the whole story. "I can!" Amber replied simply, "They want to become something else. Rachel told me herself. I didn't even offer it to her, she just sort of knew." "There isn't a teenager alive that doesn't want to be something else, you moron." Vincent said, "So what about the dead girls, Amber? Didn't like it when they slept with the enemy?" "What? What are you talking about?!" Amber yelled, getting angry. Her face flashed with blue, becoming transparent for a moment. "Slept with the enemy? What enemy?!" "Careful, Vince--" Violet warned, her face tensing. "Uh-oh, is that your glamour failing?" Vincent said mockingly, "You should probably do something about that." He pointed his cane towards her. "Quite a lot of Lucas' girlfriends seemed to have died recently, friends of yours. You spread a lot of rumours about Lucas, care to explain?" "Lucas is my ex, but he's not a killer! So what, I spread some rumours about him, I was mad alright? That doesn't make me a killer either." Amber tried to calm down, the flash of blue transparency vanished and she was a normal-looking girl once more. "If he's your ex, why's he here?" Violet asked. "We still hang out sometimes! It's complicated, alright." Amber retorted, slightly embarrassed. "Right. Highschool." Violet repeated, turning to Vincent, "I don't know what to do with this. I'd normally kick down a door and smoke everything inside. But this doesn't seem that open and shut." And as if on queue, Lucas appeared at the other end of the corridor. "Hey..." Violet turned to face the boy who stood in the doorway, blocking the light behind him. He took a couple of steps towards them, Violet tensed, then a noise ricocheted through the corridor. A ringing that deafened her. Lucas collapsed. Behind him, stood Rachel. She was holding a gun in one hand, and concealed something else in the other. "I finally found it..." Rachel smirked with a look of relief and satisfaction. "I knew I would..."
  14. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Konohamaru’s Theme] “I just don’t see why we have to walk…” Omi complained. She was trailing a little behind Sora and Kiyoko, a pack slung over her shoulder full of travel gear. “What’s wrong with a walk, Kiryuin san?” Hakirama asked, turning his head back to look at the troupe behind him. He gestured outwards with his hand, “It’s a lovely view.” Omi cast her eyes around. They were in a roaming grassland through wide valleys, with thick forest lands in most directions that went off the path. “Yeah, whatever.” Omi said with a shrug, “But we’re just walking the safe path like all the other travelers. I thought the whole point of being a ninja was to move quickly and out of detection?” “We haven’t even reached the first part of our objective yet. Who, exactly, are we supposed to be hiding from?” “Well…” Omi scratched her head and looked around sheepishly, “bad guys, I guess.” Sora chuckled, covering his mouth with a hand, "Oh, Omi-chan, always ready for a fight!" "There could be bad guys, right?" Kiyoko asked their sensei in an inquisitive and somewhat hopeful tone. “Well…” Hakirama was thoughtful for a moment, “…The client probably just wants a bit of protection from bandits. However we should have little to no trouble with your average thugs, if that even happens.” He smiled, “This will probably just be a pleasant trip…which is why we should enjoy it.” “Enjoy how?” Omi shrugging her shoulders, “There’s only so many times I can be awed by a tree.” “Long journeys can be a time for conversation. You all are comrades, but you don’t really know each other. How about we talk about ourselves?” “Hi I’m Omi and our sensei is the worst.” Omi said, smirking. Hakirama’s eyes narrowed toward Omi. “Let’s start with favourite food.” Hakirama said, “Mine is Nattō.” “Eugh, too sticky!” Omi scoffed, putting her arms up in a cross in front of her. “Sashimi is where it’s at.” "Soy beans and raw fish?" Sora considered both of those. A shiver ran through him. "I would think a nice hamburger, and a tall milkshake would be pleasant." "Where would you get a hamburger around here?" Kiyoko asked, frowning in disbelief. Sora's eyes widened in shock and he grabbed Kiyoko's shoulder. "I will show you when we get back!" Sora clapped his hands together in excitement, "Yes! A hamburger banquet for when we return." “I’ll take mine rare.” Omi said with a toothy grin. “And what’s your favourite food, Hyūga san?” Hakirama asked "Whatever's fine." Kiyoko shrugged off the question, focusing on the path ahead of them. "I guess anything." “Are you for real?” Omi asked with a soft chuckle, “C’mon, Yoko! You must have a favourite?” "Well, I don't." Kiyoko replied irritably. She kicked a stone off the path and into a bush, "My mom sometimes makes Purin after my training sessions. I eat that a lot, I guess. So... maybe that's my favourite?" Melancholy seemed to grip Kiyoko as she fought with something. A memory, or a feeling. Then she pressed on, walking ahead of the small group. "I think," Sora began, speaking quietly to Omi, "That Kiyoko-chan does not have favourites..." “Uh…huh.” Omi said, raising her brow. She smirked and eyed Hakirama, “Good idea, sensei, just look how connected we all are now.” “….Shut up.” Hakirama said with a frown. "Mutually-assured survival. That is a kind of connection." Sora added with a reassuring smile. "I can still hear you all talking back there, y'know, i'm hardly a few feet ahead of you!" Kiyoko called back over her shoulder. “So? Nobody asked you to stomp off because you’re triggered about dinner or whatever.” Omi rolled her eyes. "I didn't stomp off!" Kiyoko called back angrily, "I just... I don't have a favourite!" She growled, adding, "And anyway, I'm out in front so that--" Before she could finish her sentence, Kiyoko stopped and froze, bringing the group to a halt a couple of feet behind her. Sora looked on ahead but couldn't see anything. "What is it, Kiyoko-chan, do you--?" Sora asked, stepping forwards and going to put his hand on her shoulder. "Don't touch me!!" Kiyoko barked, a bead of sweat trickled down her forehead. "I stepped on something, and it clicked..." What little colour existed in Sora's face, quickly vanished. He looked down, and sure enough, there was a small, flat, metal device, lodged in the ground, mostly obscured by the dirt. “S-sensei?!" Sora looked to Hakirama. [Glued State] “Don’t…move.” Hakirama said slowly and calmly. He walked around Kiyoko carefully, before squatting down and examining the pressure plate she was standing on. “…A trap?” Omi asked nervously. “Hmm…” Hakirama stared intently at the device. He took a deep breath in, and let out a long sigh. “An old booby trap from the war, most likely. It’s definitely the craftsmanship of a ninja village…” He looked around the area cautiously. “It’s a wonder it’s been untouched for so long…” “You can fix this, right, sensei?” Omi asked. “Hmm…probably…” There was a momentary glint of optimism in his eyes, but then they became dull again, “Yes…probably not.” "Ah." Sora muttered bluntly. "Oooh, good..." Kiyoko added sarcastically, sweat pouring from her. She felt like her whole body was vibrating. The more she tried to remain still, the more her body rebelled. "Well, could you maybe find a way, before i'm a smudge on those trees over there." Hakirama felt across the ground, searching for a rope net, but instead he found a hidden wire across the ground from the device. “We’ll have to disarm the trap.” Hakirama said, “It’s the only way.” “No sweat.” Omi said and she knelt down, pulling a set of pick tools from her pouch, “Let’s see what’s inside this baby!” She scrambled over to the device with a mad, wolfish grin. However as she got near she caught sight of Hakirama’s face and she recoiled in fear. Hakirama was staring at her with gruesome, haunting expression, his eyes wide and maniacal, his forehead wrinkled, and his lips puckered like a fish. “Wh-what the hell!?” She stammered. “Do not test me, Kiryuin san…”Hakirama replied darkly, with dark shadows looming around him. “Touch that plate and you’ll have my frowny face burned into your retinas for the remainder of your short life.” In the background, as Hakirama and Omi stalked around the device and talked out ways of disarming it, Sora was building a small fire. Then he placed a pot on top of it, and began assembling ingredients from his pouch. "What are you doing?!" Kiyoko asked nervously, her eyes trying to dart down to where her foot was lodged atop the trap. "I need to see what you're doing okay, don't blow me up! Look, I really need you to not explode me, okay? I've got a bunch of plans and I really don't feel like exploding today..." "Yer okay, Kiyoko-chan!" Sora called, waving his spoon at her, before going back to his preparation. A few minutes passed and he walked over with a bowl. "Here, this'll make ya feel better." He held up a spoon with something she couldn't quite see. It was a creamy off-white colour with a brown topping. "No, no I really don't feel like food right now..." Kiyoko growled through closed lips as a spoon was pushed towards her. "Sensei!!" She yelled. “What are you up to?” Hakirama asked, his eyes narrowing at Sora. "I-I made Purin, sensei. Yeh can reassure a friend with somethin' they love." Sora replied, then lifted the spoon to his lips and swallowed it's contents with a smile. "It's good..." “Why do you have baking materials?” Omi asked, but her question was ignored. “How about you save the dessert as a reward for solving this problem, hm?” Hakirama suggested as he stood up. He looked to his three students one after the other. Then he nodded as if something had just occurred to him. “I just solved it.” He said nonchalantly, “Hm…sort of anti climactic…” [It’s the Training] “What do you mean you solved it!?” Omi demanded, screwing her face up. “He mean’s he solved it, idiot.” A second Hakirama said as he emerged from the nearby wood. “Well…we did.” The wood clone turned to the real Hakirama and nodded. “Yo.” “Yo.” Hakirama said with brief wave. The sound of multiple sensei's behind her forced a confused scowl onto Kiyoko's face. "Hey, whats happening back there?!" “Wood clones.” Omi said with a sigh, “He tricked us again.” “I didn’t trick you, I just took action, which is what you all should have been doing.” Hakirama said “Instead of making pudding…” The clone said, eyeing Sora disapprovingly. “So I’ve decided to turn this into a teaching moment.” Hakirama said, and then he sat himself down on the ground and plucked out a pack of playing cards from his jacket. “Oh cool.” His clone said and sat down next to him. Hakirama began dealing hands to his clone and himself. "Excuse me?!" Kiyoko yelled angrily, balling up her fists and dropping her mask of nobility for a moment, "Get me off this damn thing!!" "What kind of game, sensei?" Sora asked, kneeling down and studying the cards. “A game for winners, which you are not.” Hakirama said. “Your team mate is in mortal peril. You should probably go do something about that.” “But you said you figured it out!” Omi protested. “I did…so I’ll sit here and play cards with myself until you figure it out.” Hakirama said frankly. “Could be here for a while.” His clone added. "I'm going to kill you, sensei!" Kiyoko yelled up ahead. "Omi-chan, I think it'd be best if I sent some o' my ants t'check it out." Sora nodded confidently to Omi."They'll never find the body!!" Kiyoko added, letting loose a pent-up snarl. She stood there frozen and blinking out at the path up ahead. Then noticed an old man walking up towards her carrying a large box. "A-Ah, hey!" She called out. "Oh, hello!" The man called back. "Stop! Stop!!" Kiyoko yelled, "Don't come any closer." "Look i'll not bother you, but i've got things to do!" The man replied haughtily, and then strolled past Kiyoko, then past the others, and on his way. Kiyoko watched in silence, then turned her head to one side, showing all the colour had drained from her face. "Please get me off this now..." She said meekly. “Can’t hurt to try.” Omi said with a nod. She thought about how she could contribute, but came up short. “Uh…I think I missed the trap disarming class.” “Shocking.” Hakirama’s clone said sarcastically. “Y’know I think his clone is ruder somehow…” Omi said to Sora. Sora smirked before turning to face Kiyoko. He held his arms up, letting his sleeves drop back and then he slammed his palms into the ground, and suddenly ants were rising from tiny holes all over the ground, most of them concentrated at the trigger of the trap mechanism. Then they dispersed, flying into the air and as Sora stood back up, they vanished into his sleeves. "Alright, I believe there's a series o' pipes surroundin' the trap, an' they're full o' somethin' like a gas or a flammable liquid, I believe. She's stood on a pressure pad, so maybe replacing her, weight for weight, with something else in the exact same moment then maybe we could get away to a safe distance. “Maybe sensei could-“ “Nope.” Hakirama said flatly. “Fine!” Omi scoffed, “If I can find a lake or a pond I can make a water clone. I uh…” She scratched the back of her head, “I need to know your weight, Yoko.” Kiyoko shook her head in disbelief, "I-I've no idea!" She frowned. "Ah--" Sora nodded with a smile but then his grin turned to panic as he looked to Omi. “Don’t look at me!” Omi snapped, folding her arms. “If I make a clone to match her weight I need to use just the right amount of water.” "Hm..." Sora remained sitting in quiet thought, ignoring the calls and threats from Kiyoko. "I have an idea..." Sora looked up to Omi, "What if we increased the pressure?" “So I just need to make a water clone heavier than Yoko, huh?” Omi asked with a smirk. “Give me a minute, I’m gonna go find a river…” She stalked off, but returned after a short time with a water clone of herself in tow. As they drew closer it became clear that the water clone of Omi looked a little unusual. The clone bounced a little as it walked, and while it had Omi’s features, it looked like a version of her where she had eaten a thousand hamburgers in the last hour. “This should be heavy enough.” Omi said, then she smirked, “Just needs the finishing touch…” “TRANSFORM!” The fat water clone cried, and then with a puff of smoke, it was now a fat clone of Kiyoko. "Why are you laughing, Sora?!" Kiyoko yelled out and Sora stopped abruptly. "Kiyoko-chan, Omi is goin' t'place a water clone on the pad, once its stepped onto the pad, ye should get off it, okay?" "I'm not happy!!" Kiyoko barked back, but silently accepted her fate. “e’scuse me!” The fat Kiyoko said as she popped her chubby foot on the plate next to Kiyoko’s. “Alright take it slow, Yoko.” Omi said. Slowly, carefully, Kiyoko raised one foot and let it touch onto the ground beside the plate, then slowly, very slowly, she lifted her other foot. The moment it lifted, she virtually teleported beside Omi and grabbed her, "We have to go, come on!" Sora stood up quickly, awaiting instruction from Hakirama. “Go fish!” Hakirama’s clone cried. “Again?” Hakirama frowned. “Yo, sensei, we need to run!” Omi yelled urgently “Oh?” Hakirama turned his head slightly, “Why’s that?” “Because once my water clone disappears the trap’s going to explode.” “Oh right…” Hakirama said before turning to his clone again, “Didn’t I say? I’m pretty certain it’s defective.” "Morning!" A woman greeted the small group, smirking at them gathered around the piece of metal on the ground, "Oh, guys, don't worry about that thing, it's a relic from the war, just don't trip over it, okay?!" She waved to them with a smile and walked on. Kiyoko took a deep breath and clenched her fists. Her face started to turn red, but eventually it evened out and she stood there waiting. "Alright, can we go now?" Kiyoko spoke through gritted teeth. There was a thump as Omi flopped to the ground, roaring with laughter, occasionally pausing for breath and to point feebly at Kiyoko before buckling over in uncontrolled laughter again. Even Hakirama managed a soft chuckle as he dispersed his clone and got ready to resume their walk. As they walked Omi was still tittering a half hour later.
  15. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Kikyou] "Aaah..." Sora sighed, relaxing his shoulders and leaning back. He studied the contents of his tea cup as Kiyoko leaned over the table and grabbed a sweet bun and started munching. Omi seemed uncharacteristically quiet, and Hakirama was content with the silence that tea and snacks had brought him. The group sat around a large table as the sun was setting. The tea shop owner lit the lanterns outside, nodding to Hakirama with a smile as he went. "Bun?" Kiyoko asked, holding the tray out to Omi. Kiyoko's expression was neutral, as though there was nothing to the gesture but being polite. But it was more than that, Sora smiled at the pair of them and took another sip of tea. "Hm?" Omi said distractedly, "Oh... No thanks." Kiyoko looked down at the tray and shrugged, putting it back on the table. Sora cleared his throat, "Mm, Omi-chan? Are ya alright?" "Nothing I haven't experienced before..." She grumbled, her expression becoming slightly hostile. "Just get it over with already..." "Get what over with?" Sora asked in an inquisitive tone, he punctuated his question with a sip of tea, "Don't ya like tea?" "I don't." Omi replied flatly, "But I meant... Just make your decision already. I know what's gonna happen." She leaned back and folded her arms, her expression defiant. "It's not like I care." "Oh..." Sora was taken aback, his gaze wandered to Hakirama and then back to Omi. "Well, Omi-chan..." Sora put his tea cup down and cleared his throat, "Ya helped us fight Makoto, when we thought we were in real trouble, ne?" He held his palm to his mouth and chuckled, "... sorry." He shook his head, "I didn't need t'question yer loyalty, or ability. So, I can support ya, Omi-chan." Omi's expression faltered for a moment, her features softening. When she realised, she quickly fixed herself with a scowl and pushed her chin out. "Well... I wouldn't have been able to do anything if it wasn't for you and your bugs." Sora gave her a thankful nod and then silence permeated the room. It didn't matter that the chatter of the customers around them, the music playing or the bustle of the owner and his staff kept the tea shop loud enough. For them, there was silence. "Ah-hm!" Sora cleared his throat deliberately, nudging Kiyoko who glared at him in response. "Fine." Kiyoko put her half-eaten bun down and shook her head, "I can't support you." "Tch!" was all Omi could say, and her scowl worsened. Her eyes, however, looked wounded, and lonely. "... Fine by me, Yoko-hime." She said bitterly. "I can't support someone that has nothing they care about." Kiyoko replied hastily, picking up her tea cup again, "Do you care about anything? Anything at all?" She asked, frowning in disbelief. "What do you care about, Sora?" Kiyoko asked, turning to face the young boy. "Oh..." Sora hesitated but then smiled and answered, "My family. I love my mother an' father. An' I love my ants... an' I want t'catalogue all the insects in our world." "I want to be Hokage." Kiyoko replied to him, facing Omi, "I love my mother. I love my father. I love my two stupid brothers and I love Konoha. I even love Uncle Makoto, and the rest of my strange family. But most of all, I want to be Hokage. That's what I care about. That's what drives me. What about you, huh?!" Kiyoko picked up a sweet bun and threw it at Omi with the speed of a deadly kunai. "...Drives, huh?" Omi asked as she caught the bun in her hand, and crushed it, dropping the crumbs to the table. "...I dont have friends, and I don't have a family. All I have is being a Ninja. I want to be... a legendary ninja." Kiyoko looked at Sora and he shrugged. Her gaze wandered to Hakirama, but it was as expressionless as a face could be. The truth was, there were a million ways of defining a person's drive, or what they care about. Without something to drive them, they were worthless in Kiyoko's eyes. A drive to be someone, to do something, or to attain something they had previously found unattainable, is what makes a person. Until now, Omi had been little more than a void filled with sarcasm and bad social skills. "Good enough." Kiyoko said at last, nodding to herself, "Yeah, i'll support you, Omi-san." "Eh?" Omi gasped, suddenly surprised as she stared at Kiyoko. "Oh well that's good." Hakirama said, finally showing signs of mild interest, "It would have been awkward if you had decided not to support Kiryuin san. I'd already decided she was staying, besides... I dont have the authority to exile her from the village even if I wanted to." "EH!?" Omi almost coughed, her face a broiling picture of shock and legitimate rage. Sora chuckled at the revelation, but Kiyoko looked equally outraged. The tea cup she'd been holding shattered into dust under the pressure of her grip, but she sat in silence, staring at Hakirama as though doing so for long enough would bore a hole through his head. "Cheer up Hyūga-san, you've all managed to earn my mild approval. I now estimate you all stand a small chance of not being total failures." He said with a grin. "Today you've shown you can put your personal differences aside and work as a team. I guess I can trust you with your own lives... but can I trust you with the lives of others?" Sora put his hand up, "Sensei... ya already have." Then he looked to either side of himself, clocking both Kiyoko and Omi, then looked back at Hakirama and smiled, "That's not a question any one o' us three need t'answer." He put his hand back down and Kiyoko couldn't help but smirk at the boy's observation. "I guess we'll have to see tomorrow then... Report to the Hokage's office at dawn." Hakirama stood up as he spoke. "Our next mission is a C rank, bodyguard mission." "No!" Sora exclaimed, Kiyoko watched in shock as Sora's eyes widened in surprise for the first time since meeting him. She hadn't thought him capable of pulling that kind of face. She almost laughed if not for Sora's genuine shock. "Oh no!" Sora said again, panicking and holding onto the table. "Do you need to poop or something?" Omi asked, raising her brow. Sora leapt out of his chair and bolted for the door. "I think he might--" Kiyoko started as she took a sip of tea. "KATSU!!" Sora yelled at the top of his lungs as he ran out. A jet of tea sprayed from Kiyoko's mouth, covering Omi and Hakirama. [Beautiful Green Wild Beast] Sora shot through Konoha as fast as his legs would carry him. People darted aside as his speed kicked dust up behind him, and the wind that followed blew through the streets of Konoha, knocking fruit from stalls, tearing things from citizen's hands and removing more than a single wig. An old lady up ahead finally finished putting the final touches on her new stall. She took a step back and sighed, sweat beading on her forehead. At last it was done. Then she heard it. A terrible rumbling approaching. She turned and saw the young fox-faced boy coming at her like an arrow from a bow. Her eyes darted to her stall and she screamed in pained agony knowing what was coming. She threw her hands out, commanding him to stop. "No! No not my--!!" But it was fine. Sora missed the stall entirely, colliding with her instead. The old woman screamed as she held on for dear life. Everything was passing her in a blur. Her old fingers could barely hold on, but she had to, for what would happen if she let go? She screamed for the boy to stop, but it seemed he could barely hear her above the sound of the roaring wind. "Sorry, treasured senior-sama!" Sora yelled back over his shoulder, "Can't stop! Dog in peril!!" The old lady gasped, but then her shock turned to determination and that was that. She'd committed herself. The dog had to be saved! So she continued flapping behind the boy, holding on with white knuckles as his speed seemed to bring them into another dimension. Or, perhaps more likely, her cataracts didn't afford her much in the way of details at mach speed. At last! The river was up ahead. It was the place he'd last seen Katsu. "I'm comin, Katsu!" Sora roared with passion, but saw an enormous fence ahead of him, blocking his way to the river. Buildings on either side. There was no time, he had to scale them. As he threw his arms up, the old lady cheered. "That's it m'boy! CLIMB!!" She cackled but then shrieked in horror as bugs exploded from inside his sleeves and she reflexively let go. Of course, immediately regretting that decision. Sora directed his bugs ahead of him in a wave and they quickly formed in a pool, as he approached he leapt into the air and landed in the pool, braced himself and started to leap once more, but this time the ants carried him up and over the fence until he was able to leap the final stretch and land on the other side. Moments later he heard a muffled, 'Oof!' as the old lady hit the fence on the other side and finally came to a stop. [Konohamaru's Theme] "Katsu!!" Sora exclaimed as he ran up to the little dog with the squishy face. At last, he stopped just in front of the dog and bent down, "Katsu, i'm so super 'specially sorry, how can I ever make it up to ya?!" Large wobbly tears threatened to stream in the corners of Sora's eyes as he stared in expectation at Katsu. The little dog looked as though it hadn't moved more than a few inches since being left. It slowly looked up at Sora, then blinked each eye independently. Truthfully, it was really more like a couple of winks punctuated with little squeaks as it's eyelids moved. Then it stood up and walked over to Sora and after a moment's consideration, Katsu leapt up onto Sora's shoulder and collapsed, so that his legs were hanging over either side of his shoulder. "Katsu!!!" Sora's lip began to wobble, and then a strange noise permeated the air. It sounded like a snare drum was tumbling down a flight of stairs. "Euch..." Sora's lips curled as he held his nose at Katsu's horrendous butt trumpet. Sora's expression returned to normal, "Ya disgust me, little dog." But Katsu took it in his stride, and licked Sora on the nose, and that single, solitary act seemed to smooth things over. [Chichi to Haha] "Mum, dad...?" Kiyoko walked up to the family dining table the following morning. She was dressed, ready to go and stood before her mother, Hidemi, her father, Shiro and her two young brothers, Aki and Taki. The two boys were fighting amongst themselves while trying to shovel in toast and jam. Shiro was reading a newspaper to himself while Hidemi was delicately and expertly breaking up the fight between her siblings. "Hmm?" Shiro looked up from his paper and upon seeing Kiyoko, laid it to rest on the table. "Oh, good morning, Yoko-chan." "Darling?" Hidemi caught Shiro's attention and nodded at the two boys, then as Shiro turned his attention to breaking up their fight, Hidemi focused on her daughter, "Morning, Kiyoko-chan, are you ready for your big day?" Kiyoko swallowed nervously. She could see the look of unquestioning happiness on her mother's face. She didn't want to disappoint her. And - though Shiro would have said it would have been nice - she didn't need a sharingan to notice her father's keen gaze on her as well, despite his involvement as pacifier for the twins. "I-I... think so." Kiyoko smiled and then shrugged, "No... m-maybe not." "That's very honest of you, Yoko-chan." Shiro replied, nodding solemnly, "I wasn't ready for my--" "Dad, please don't call me that." Kiyoko asked, her tone pleading. Her father had called her that for as long as she could remember, and it didn't matter how often she asked him not to, he still did it. Hidemi reminded him with a scowl, and Shiro held his hands up defensively with a chuckle. It didn't help now, that Omi was calling her that as well. "Sorry, sorry," Shiro nodded and then continued, "But, I wasn't ready for my first mission either. Let's just say I--" "Your father threw up." Hidemi interrupted. Shiro's face went pale as though he might go for round two right then and there. "H-Hidemi!" Shiro growled. "Aaaaall over the Hokage." Hidemi smirked as she noticed that Shiro was coping poorly with breaking up the two boys, so quick as a flash she kicked one of their chairs just enough so that it slid a few inches out of reach of one another and then wobbled, settled and the fight was over. "I was scarred." Kiyoko couldn't help but laugh, then found herself choking on it as she looked to her father, only to see Shiro's mortified face. "A-Anyway, i've got to go..." Kiyoko turned and made for the front door. "Good luck, Yoko-chan!" Shiro called, as Kiyoko left. Hidemi jabbed him in the ribs and he winced and apologised. [Hokage] Walking into the Hokage's office was a surreal experience. It hadn't been the first time she'd seen it. The academy had taken her on a trip here once, to learn about how the village functions in it's day to day. It wouldn't even be the first time she'd seen the Hokage, as she had seen her on multiple occasions. But this was different. She couldn't let it show, however. She had to remain professional. This was her first real mission. She looked over to her teammate's, Sora and Omi, and suppressed a reaction as she noticed that Sora was sweating profusely and she couldn't describe the expression on Omi's face, but it didn't look pleasant. Just then, the door opened and closed behind them and the Hokage walked in, swept around the side of her desk, and sat. "All present and accounted for I see", the Hokage said, shooting Omi a glance in particular, "Are you all prepared to be briefed?" "Yes, Hokage-sama." Hakirama said with a respectful bow of his head. "The sooner we're done, the better." Omi said, folding her arms. "Y-Yes, Hokage-sama." Sora nodded fervently. "We're ready." Kiyoko added confidently, "What's our mission?" "Escort mission." The Hokage began to explain, "You will travel to Ryukyu Port, a busy trade port. You will meet with a merchant who has special cargo. You will board the ship and protect the merchant, his crew, and his cargo at all costs, until he reaches his destination in the Land of Water." "Hokage-sama?" Kiyoko stepped forwards, "What is the merchant's special cargo?" "Not our concern. The merchant paid for C rank ninja, which means it is nothing important enough to warrant any real risk. At most you'll just be protecting against bandits." "These kinds of missions are fairly common, Hyūga-san." Hakirama explained. "Anyone travelling with something valuable enough to involve dangerous ninja or assassins would pay for higher ranked ninja." So that was it. That was her first mission. Kiyoko nodded and thanked the Hokage, and the team left with what must have no doubt been a number of conflicting thoughts and emotions. But that didn't matter. For Kiyoko, this was her first big step towards becoming the Hokage. A dream she had held for as long as she could remember.
  16. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    tsumetaki-tsuchi] “Whoa…” Omi said as she walked with Hakirama and Sora through the garden outside of the Uchiha clan’s dojo inside their compound. They walked a path of flat stones placed in a line toward the main building. The fenced off garden was brimming with green plant life with beautiful red colored flowering. A tree stood tall to their right, it’s branches shading a rectangular patch of sand, with a sparse amount of stones placed very carefully around the sand. Someone had drawn swirls and lines in the sand, in a flowing form through the rocks. Up ahead the dojo building was lit with warm lanterns. They stepped up the steps and into the wooden building. Inside the dojo consisted of a simple, large open space for training in. However the matts on the floor were well made, and the sparse equipment looked to be of good craftsmanship. The walls were decorated by various depictions of the fan-like symbol of the Uchiha clan, and in each corner of the room stood dark metallic sculptures of tengu warriors with long beak-like noses. “…Whoa.” Omi said again. A door on the other side slid open and Kiyoko walked in, closing the sliding door behind her. She didn't notice them until Omi spoke. "Oh, what are you...?" Kiyoko frowned, looking at her team, "You shouldn't be here--" "I invited them." Makoto interrupted, startling the young Genin from behind as he walked past them and into the dojo. "I thought your teammates could join you in our training session this evening." "Oh..." Kiyoko nodded, but looked less than enthused. “Oh, I don’t think you three have had nearly enough stress to form a close bond.” Hakirama said, “It is very kind of Makoto san to provide an opportunity for hardship for all of you.” “How the hell is training going to help us get along?” Omi asked, raising her brow. “The times that test us are the most defining”, Hakirama replied. “Besides, you were all too happy to fight each other earlier, maybe burning some energy is exactly what you need.” “I don’t see how kicking Yoko’s butt is going to get her to like me.” Omi said, looking unconvinced. A few moments later she yelped and clutched her nose, which throbbed from another nose flicking from Hakirama. “How about you listen to Makoto san and follow his instructions.” Hakirama suggested firmly, smiling. “Fine…” Omi grumbled, still rubbing her nose. "Your sensei speaks from a place of knowledge. You'd do best to listen to him, Omi-chan." Makoto walked into the centre of the dojo and turned to face the Genin. "However," He added, his tone now quite serious, "I never said you were to fight my niece." Makoto stretched, cracking his shoulders and cricking his neck before he rolled the sleeves up of his kimono, "Can I ask, Hakirama-sama, for non-interference? Training such as this needs to be seen to it's conclusion." “My team’s safety comes first.” Hakirama replied, but sat himself down on the floor by the wall. “If I decide to intervene then I will.” “Wait…we’ve got to fight him?” Omi asked, thumbing at Makoto. “How’s that fair?” Makoto stared at Hakirama in silence for a few moments, then smirked, "That... will not happen." It seemed unclear whether he meant that their safety would not be in question, or that he would not allow Hakirama to intervene. "And Omi-chan... it isn't. That is the nature of this world." "Uncle, this isn't--" Kiyoko started, but cut herself short as Makoto charged her. "H-Hey!" Kiyoko leapt back to bridge a gap between them, but he was too fast. He closed it in an instant and threw a punch directly at her face. Kiyoko leaned back, turning into a backflip as her hands touched the mat, and she kicked with all her force, knocking her Uncle's arm up and then as her feet touched the mat, she darted forwards, kicking twice. The first kick struck Makoto in the shoulder, and the second he blocked with his forearm, grabbed her leg and threw her across the room, past Sora and Omi. Makoto then whirled around, formed seals in a flash, took a deep breath, and then a jet of flame spewed from between his lips. "Omi-chan!" Sora shoved Omi as hard as he could, knocking her out of the way, as the flames engulfed him. Kiyoko pulled herself up just as she saw the flames surround Sora. "No!!" Kiyoko yelled, "Sensei?!" She whirled around to look at Hakirama. [The Raising Fighting Spirit] The flames petered out, dispersing until only smoke and a charred body remained. It's ragged black cloth covering the static form on the ground. Kiyoko watched in stunned silence until she heard a strange noise. A grinding, hissing, clicking noise, and then the ragged black cloth dispersed, and Sora stood up, untouched. "What?!" Kiyoko mouthed. "What was that?" "That'd be my clan's technique." Sora replied. Then held his finger up and a tiny black mass began to form as if from nowhere. "The Bakuhatsu Ari." His eyes lingered on his finger for a moment, before looking to Kiyoko and Omi, "Exploding Ants." “Whoa… tough bunch of ants.” Omi said with a smirk. "Thank ye, Omi-Chan." Sora beamed, "Each member o' the Sakai clan are born with 'em. They're a part of us. We give them chakra, they give us a miniature army, full o' all kinda tricks. Plus, they're really useful in medicine and tracking." “Lucky.” Hakirama said, his eyes darkening as he spoke. “Be careful with my students, Makoto san.” “Tsh! Give me a break!” Omi said with a toothed grin. She raised her fists up in front of her and faced Makoto. “C’mon old man, I wanna check you out!” Omi went at a sprint towards Makoto and the pair clashed. She circled him, testing him with quick punches and kicks that he dodged and blocked with a steady grace. Makoto grew tired of her teasing and began to strike back. Omi weaved and dodged his precise swings with the speed and acrobatics of a dancer. Finally she jumped up for a kick, and Makoto drew his arm in to block her. Omi brought her feet forward and pushed off of his arm, sailing up towards the ceiling of the dojo, and she hurled a barrage of shuriken back down towards him. With a quick inhalation, Makoto released his chakra with his breath and blew the shuriken directly back towards Omi, peppering her with her own projectiles. Sora and Kiyoko were quick to react. Kiyoko charged her uncle, leaping into the air to strike him in the back, but he was all too fast. He turned instantly and knocked her aside and then leapt out of the way as a small black cloud flew beneath him. Makoto quickly engulfed the tiny ants in flame, then landed as Kiyoko raised herself back up using the wall as support. "This is too much, uncle." Kiyoko took a deep breath and started walking towards him. "We're obviously no match, you've proved your point.""I've barely begun." Makoto replied, then his eyes focused on Omi as she landed. In an instant, he was behind her. He grabbed her by the back of her neck, and lifted her into the air, "This isn't a game. You are in combat with a powerful enemy. Yet, you stand there explaining your abilities to one another. Asking for clemency when it becomes too difficult. Where do you think you are right now...?" He frowned, and then squeezed harder, choking Omi. She tried to gasp for air, but Makoto’s grip was too tight, and panic gripped her. [GAMA] Unable to draw breath, Omi felt herself getting weaker. Her hands desperately clawed at Makoto’s grip, but with every second she only grew weaker. She felt her vision beginning to swim. Something was beating inside her, it felt so loud to her, like someone hammering right next to her ear. Something boiled inside of her, something primal that was desperate to get out and wreak havoc. Then, suddenly, she gasped as Makoto’s grip was broken and she had fell to the floor. Hakirama stood in front of her, a Kunai in his hand that was slicked with blood, and Makoto’s arm had a small gash on it. “…That’s enough.” Hakirama said with a quiet anger to his voice. "I wholly disagree." Makoto replied with a sad smile. Kiyoko audibly gasped as she watched her uncle's one working eye flash a bright crimson red, circle by three tomoe. This was the Uchiha clan's eye technique. The Sharingan. This was not something that ever needed to be used against an ally. It had the ability to allow it's user to mimic the movement and abilities of anything it witnessed. It could see chakra, see through the illusions of a genjutsu, and was considered one of the most powerful techniques in the shinobi world. Her uncle now stood before her sensei, with a figurative sword unsheathed. "Uncle!" Kiyoko yelled. "You will be quiet." Makoto barked back at her, and then he leaned towards Hakirama. His lean deepened until it almost looked as though he was going to fall over, but then he burst forwards, tearing up the mats behind him as he crossed the dojo in a split-second. Hakirama was just as fast, raising his fists in response, but his movements were clear to Makoto's sharingan eye. He darted between Hakirama's thrusting fist and blocked his kick with one hand and with his other, he thrust his palm forwards as if he was going to smack Hakirama in the chest. But at the last moment, a blade shoved it's way out of the skin of his palm and impaled Hakirama. Makoto pulled his hand back, forcing the blade in deeper until he was able to grab hold of the emerging handle and yank it from his own arm. "Lesson over." He muttered, then shoved the blade through Hakirama's chest until the handle struck his chest. Makoto took a step back, and as Hakirama fell, he kicked him so hard in the gut, that their sensei flew across the dojo and smashed into the far wall, leaving a cracked stone indentation before collapsing to the ground. [Orochimaru ~Fight~] "Now then..." Makoto turned back to face the three genin. "Where were we?" His red eye beating down on them. Kiyoko was speechless. She kept staring at Hakirama's corpse, expecting him to get up. But he wasn't going to get up. Not from that. Eventually, the reality of her situation penetrated her fear, surprise and confusion and she immediately lowered her gaze, "Don't look him in the eye!" She called out to her teammates, "He'll trap you in a genjutsu you can't escape from!" "Kiyoko-chan?" Sora questioned. "DO IT!!" Kiyoko shouted, her eyes wet with tears she refused to allow. Sora nodded, reaching into his kimono and pulling out a pair of goggles. "Should be wearin' these things anyway, daylight's so strong..." Sora pulled the goggles on, and glanced at Makoto. He raised his arms, and black clouds formed around them, a mass of flying ants. "Ah well, looks like we've gotta get real serious now, i'll do what I can fer sensei, if we're still alive..." "Enough talking..." Kiyoko snarled, her face screwing up. Kiyoko and Sora charged Makoto from different angles. At the last instant, Sora's ants flew around the side of Makoto, forcing him away from Omi. He leapt away, blowing fire from his lips as any stray ants came within reach. Then Sora chased after him, spreading his ants thin and wide, so that Makoto was unable to penetrate the insect wall. Kiyoko dashed over to Omi and helped her up. "Are you alright?!" She asked frantically, checking the girl's neck. “He…!” Omi choked as she stared at Hakirama’s lifeless body on the other side of the room. She shivered in fear, then her eyes turned to Kiyoko, seeming only now to notice her. Then, finally, her gaze fell to Makoto, gritting her teeth in a vicious snarl. “…I’ll…I’ll kill him!” She yelled with a sudden burst of energy as she got to her feet. “I’ll…tear his….” She breathed in and out slowly, unable to speak. "Centre yourself." Kiyoko cautioned, "I feel the same way, but we can't allow ourselves... we can't let fear and anger control us." She wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. Makoto tested the wall of insects for signs of weakness using his fire techniques. Every few seconds the room was cast in a brilliant orange glow and a flash of heat as Makoto destroyed more ants. "We're only going to have one chance, when Sora's wall fails, he'll... we have to work together... Omi-san?" Kiyoko raised her arm aloft and held out her fist to Omi. Omi stared at Kiyoko for a moment, and then at her offered fist. Then she nodded and bopped Kiyoko’s fist with her own, giving a single nod as she did. “Alright then, Yoko, you know his weak points, I’ll keep him distracted.” She retrieved a kunai from her belt and placed it in her mouth, before resting shuriken in the gaps between her fingers. “Shhora, don’ schwoo thish up, eh!?” "Enough!" Makoto yelled over the sound of their chatter. For a moment, there was silence punctuated only by the background hum of Sora's insects. Then a flame spread out from the back of the room, engulfing the entire wall. Before Sora could replenish the breaches, a gust of wind blew so fiercely that he was knocked to the ground. He reached out, a black mass of ants swarming from his hand and attaching themselves to the ground so that he wasn't thrown away. While at the back of the room Kiyoko and Omi stood fast, being buffeted by Makoto's gust. "Stop it, uncle!" Kiyoko yelled, and to her great surprise, Makoto stopped his assault. As she walked past Omi, she whispered, "Follow my lead." And walked towards Sora, as she did, she touched him on the shoulder and leaned in, "You've done enough." She said aloud, whispering something immediately afterwards before continuing on to her uncle. Makoto had never seemed taller to her than he did now. He towered over her, his presence and that sharingan, staring her down. "If you can't defeat an old man, then how are you going to become a ninja worth her salt, hm?!" Makoto closed his fist like a vice and held it before her, "You're not strong enough. You're not fast enough. You're not smart enough. At this rate, you never will be. It's better I save you the agony of torture at the hands of our enemies." "It's not my fault!" Kiyoko yelled at him in indignation, "You've trained me my whole life, my parents trained me, the Hyūga trained me! It's not my fault, it's yours! And yours!" Kiyoko's angry gaze turned to Sora, "And yours!" She focused on Omi, marching back to her as Sora began to object. "Kiyoko-chan, i've worked very hard to--" Sora began. "You're a disgrace!" Kiyoko snapped, getting right into Omi's face. "I'm not surprised your parents left you here!" “Watch your mouth, Yoko hime!” Yoko snarled at her, “Don’t think I won’t kick your ass!” "You couldn't if you tried!" Kiyoko bit back, shoving the girl forcefully. Makoto watched in disbelief, confused at the sudden in-fighting of the team that had stood against him just moments before. Sora walked over to join the girls, raising his hands and urging them to calm down. "You're no better!" "Oro?" Sora pursed his lips in surprise. "Bugs?!" Kiyoko growled, "Really?! That's the best thing you can do!?" Sora hesitated, holding his finger up for a moment as though he was going to argue the point, "W-well," He chuckled nervously, "K-Kiyoko-chan..." Kiyoko pushed him. Hard. Sora stumbled back and held his hands out to her, "There's no need for all y'all t'get mad, we have more pressing ma--" Sora was cut short. Kiyoko lashed out. Her punch hit him square in the jaw, and he collapsed to the floor. Sora's lips curled back in anger and he vaulted backwards onto his feet, and without missing a beat, sent a volley of insects flying towards Kiyoko. At the last second, Kiyoko dove to the ground, and the black mass struck Omi instead. Knocking her to the ground. There was a horrible wet squelch as the insects collided with her. "I've had about enough out of you!" Makoto growled irritably, raising his hands together to perform a jutsu. “The feeling’s mutual!” Omi replied as she crawled to her feet, soaking wet and covered in Sora’s ants. She made a bee-line for Makoto, hurling her shuriken at him. Makoto leapt back and dodged expertly, his hands still moving to make the seals. Omi took a shuriken from her belt and threw it forward. Makoto dodged to the side and let it fly past him, and just as he was about to finish he saw Omi’s grin, and sensed the incoming danger. [Breakdown] He abandoned his seals and turned just as Omi came at him with a swinging kick. He dodged and cut through her with a kunai, but her body simply reformed from the injury. Then another Omi swept a kick under him and he jumped to avoid, flipping backwards only to find another Omi waiting for him when he landed. Suddenly the three Omi’s rushed him together, each one attacking him with rapid strikes, all of which he dodged and deflected with unimaginable speed. Makoto finally grabbed and threw one of the Omi’s into another, and the two smashed together and disappeared along the floor in a puddle, before quickly resuming their form. “You can see right?” One of the Omi’s said to him. “Those eyes can see water clones, but I’m close enough now.” Omi grinned, her hands already forming the final seal she needed. She was close enough to Makoto now, and her chakra infused water was all around him in the form of her clones. With a final thrust out with her palm, her clones melted into water and swirled around Makoto, mixing and writhing into one swirling ball of water. It was dense, highly pressured water, stopping the target from moving on the inside. “Suiton: Water Prison Jutsu.” Omi said with a satisfied grin. “Doesn’t matter if you know how to copy it, good luck forming seals in there.” [Isami Aru Monotachi] "Yes!!" Kiyoko cheered, whistling as Sora chuckled, a smile spreading across his face once more, as he rubbed his sore jaw. "I can't believe we stopped him..." "Mm," Sora nodded, approaching Omi and patting her on the shoulder, "Well done, Omi-chan." Kiyoko turned to look at the body of their Jounin leader still lying in a crumpled heap in the corner. She had to take a deep breath to steady herself before speaking. "Alright... i'm going to inform--" Kiyoko stopped speaking as she heard a muted clapping noise. Makoto - still trapped in the ball of pressurised water which should have prevented him from doing little more than blink or breathe - was clapping. Then he stood, and the watery prison was forced to shift into an oblong shape to accommodate his standing position. "Very good." Makoto said, his voice distorted from within the prison, "There's just one thing..." He reached into his kimono and pulled out a kunai. The three genin watched in disbelief as he moved with little restriction from within the prison. "Think fast!" He said suddenly, throwing the kunai. The bladed projectile weapon breached the water prison as though there was nothing there at all. The projectile flew directly at Omi, and she was forced to dive aside to save herself. The prison of water fell apart with Omi no longer maintaining the seal, but as she opened her eyes, ready to deal with the threat Makoto posed once more, she was unable to move. Something nudged her and she looked over to see Kiyoko and Sora bound on either side of her. "O-oro?" Sora looked around, confused. "So fast..." Kiyoko muttered in disbelief, staring down at her bonds. Then she looked over and saw her uncle was wringing out his kimono. "I really wish you hadn't used a water technique of all things, my daughter-in-law made this for me..." Makoto grumbled, patting himself down. "Oh, your friends look rather confused, Kiyoko-chan, perhaps you would explain what happened to them for me, while I warm up?" Makoto smiled politely and then walked over to a small fire that remained from his use of fire jutsu. Holding his hands out to warm himself, he listened with a smile on his lips as Kiyoko explained that the sharingan's genjutsu could be so convincing that he had actually tricked Omi into breaking the seal on the water prison by dodging a kunai that didn't exist. Both Sora and herself had been unable to stop Omi, as moments before, he had trapped them both in their own private genjutsu. So, this was it. They'd lost. They'd lost the battle, their teacher, and now their lives. "We had 'im..." Sora sighed with a dejected look on his face. "We never had him... it was just a matter of time." Kiyoko looked to the ground. “Are you kidding!?” Omi scoffed, “Did you forget he killed Hakirama!?” “I’d prefer if you referred to me as ‘Senju Sensei’, or at least just ‘Sensei’, we’re not that close you know?” The voice came from the doorway of the Dojo. All three students turned round and gaped. Hakirama stood in the doorway, very much alive and entirely unharmed. “Yo.” He said with a short wave. [Konohamaru’s Theme] “B-but…you…” Omi turned back to the corpse on the floor in disbelief. Then she let out a high pitched scream as the corpse slowly sat up and turned it’s head toward her. “Zombie!!” She screamed. "N-No thank you." Sora added, shoving them onto their side. Then, between Omi and Sora, the two started worming the trio along the ground, trying to get away from zombie-Hakirama, while Kiyoko struggled on top of them, staring at the ceiling in confusion. "Hey!" Kiyoko growled, "What's happening?!" Their slinking along the floor was brought to a stop as Hakirama put his foot on them lightly. “You know…I’d hoped to get some smart students…” He said with a smirk. The zombie stepped closer until it was standing next to Hakirama. Then the Jounin placed his hand on his doppelganger’s shoulder, and it’s skin slowly began to turn brown, and then became hard like wood. Slowly the clone of wood began to turn more organic looking, like a tree branch, as it was slowly sucked back into Hakirama’s palm. “Eww….gross!” Omi said, and she made a retching face. “Mokuton is the Kekkai Genkai of the Senju clean. It is not gross.” Hakirama said with a scowl of annoyance. “It kinda is.” Omi said, huffing. "It's unpleasant, sensei-sama." Sora added, as the ropes binding them snapped suddenly and fell loose. Then a black mass formed around the ropes and disappeared into Sora's top. "An' I know unpleasant." The boy smirked as he stood back up, rubbing his wrists from the tight bindings. "You're all speaking like this is fine! This isn't fine!" Kiyoko growled angrily, marching up to Hakirama and jabbing him in the chest with her finger, "What kind of training is this, huh?! Do you think this is alright? Did you think you were being clever?!" Hakirama nervously tried to laugh it off but delicately pointed at Makoto. "You!" Kiyoko snarled, turning on her uncle, flames erupted in her eyes. Makoto looked up from warming his hands with a genuine look of surprise on his face. "Hm? --gah!!" Makoto yelped, as Kiyoko grabbed him by the collar of his kimono and threw him with all her force. Outside, the dojo, was peaceful. Quiet, tranquil, the sound of cicadas calling. An elderly Uchiha clan member raked sand into a pleasing pattern, and just as he was making his final stroke the roof of the dojo exploded and he leapt out of his skin in fright, sending sand flying everywhere. The old man scanned for the source of the sound, and saw a man flying through the sky, screaming, as he became a blip on the horizon. Patting down her hands, Kiyoko turned back to look at the rest of the team, "Well?!" She snarled, looking at Hakirama. “…Scary.” Hakirama said with a haunted expression on his face. “Guy got what he deserved if you ask me.” Omi muttered. “Kiyoko san, perhaps you should calm down. Don’t you think you’ve learned something from this?” Hakirama asked. [Friend] Doubt wormed its way into Kiyoko's thoughts and a frown replaced her anger, "I've learnt I can... somewhat..." She crossed her arms across her chest and licked the inside of her cheek as she nonchalantly tried to validate Sora and Omi's abilities, "... rely on... you guys..." "Yes!" Sora cheered, grinning from ear to ear. He walked up to Kiyoko and hugged her, but was quickly pushed away. "Don't push it, bug-boy." Kiyoko muttered, but a smile lingered in the corner of her lips all the same. Sucking in air like she was trying to draw in a noodle, Kiyoko finally sighed and walked over to Omi. The two girls looked at one another for a moment, then Kiyoko playfully thumped Omi on the shoulder. “I guess you’re not so bad yourself, Yoko hime.” Omi said with a sly grin. She turned to Sora. “Seriously though, I’ll put up with your creepy crawlies any time if they’re always that helpful. Using them to gather water like that…I’d never have even thought of it.” "They've many useful abilities, Omi-chan!" Sora got quite animated at Omi's fledgling interest, "It's not just obvious things like trackin' an' combat, but they have extremely powerful anti-toxin - didja know a single ant can lift over a hundred times it's own weight? Ants live longer than any other insect, an' if every animal was the same size they would be the fastest animal on the planet!" He just kept going, even as Kiyoko's eyes glazed over, "Didja know one ant species has the most powerful venom in the world? An' my ants are asexual, they don't need any males an' can jus' clone themselves, which I can increase by feedin' large amounts of chakra--" Sora grabbed Omi and Kiyoko around the shoulders and started to walk them out of the dojo, "Didja know ants can do more'n swim, they can survive up to 24 hours underwater! There's lots o' things that--" "--help us..." Kiyoko mumbled to Hakirama as they were dragged away. “Ah, to be a Genin again, there’s no feeling quite like when you start to form bonds with your team…” Hakirama went to follow them out of the dojo, “…and the inevitable discovery that they are just the worst.” He chuckled as he walked out in to the evening with his team.
  17. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Bad Situation] Despite his cheery exterior, beads of sweat glistened on Sora's face. He watched in silence as Kiyoko slowly turned to face them. She was drenched from head to toe. Long dark blue hair, sopping wet with river water, scattered over her face. Her pupils were pinpricks as she snapped the litter picker she'd been holding in two. "Oi... slacker..." Kiyoko's voice was deeper, her tone was authoritative. "Come here..." "Slacker!?" Omi snarled, but then she recoiled slightly, and then with a huff she stayed silent and stomped towards Kiyoko. "...I said sorry, alright?" "Yeah, I heard you!" Kiyoko growled. As Omi stood before her, Kiyoko held out her hand, "Give me that. Now." She added, nodding at the litter picker Omi had left behind. "Fine..." Omi rolled her eyes as she went back to the litter picker and bent down to retrieve it. "I wasn't the one who broke your one but whatever..." She stood up and offered the litter picker Kiyoko. "Yeah, yeah." Kiyoko muttered, snatching the litter picker out of Omi's hand. "About that--" She turned the litter picker around, grabbed it with both hands, then snapped Omi's picker in two, throwing it at the girl's feet. Omi's right eye raised up, her expression perplexed. She folded her arms across her chest and cocked her head slightly to the side. "Uh... as long as you're.... happy?" "Hm!" Kiyoko smirked and mimicked Omi by folding her arms across her chest. [Daylight of Konoha] Her smirk, turned into a little grin and Kiyoko nodded, "Yeah. Good job. Using Jutsu to clear all this trash makes a lot more sense than using these stupid things." "Kiyoko-chan?" Sora raised an eyebrow, "You're making more of a mess..." Kiyoko looked from Sora to the ground in front of her, it was scattered with the splintered corpses of the litter pickers. "Ah... r-right." She muttered, leaning down and starting to pick up the pieces. Sora's smirk widened and he shuffled over, adding his litter picker to her bag of trash. "Uh....right..." Omi said hesitantly, nervously scratching at her arm. "Well... get back to work then." Kiyoko raised her eyebrow with a look of expectation, then turned and walked off. Sora cleared his throat and turned to Omi, "She's a funny one, hm? I know all about her, but she keeps surprisin' me." "Funny? She's down right whacked o-" Omi cut her sentence off and frowned at herself, "I-I mean... not like... not in a bad way but..." She trailed off. "That's a start, Omi-chan." Sora patted her on the shoulder and then bent down to start adding more trash to his bag, "So, where are ya from, Omi-chan?" "Uh, hello, orphan?" Omi said with a roll of her eyes. "I don't exactly know my family tree very well." "Mm..." Sora nodded to himself, "What's it feel like t'be an orphan? I bet it's lonely, ne?" Omi stared at him for a moment, her eyes squinting in annoyance. Then she turned away from Sora, her fingers clenched at her side. "Yeah." She said simply as she stalked away from him. "Omi-chan!" Sora called after her as she left, "Ya don't have t'be!" "Yo, all of you!" Hakirama called over to them. Omi turned to where the Jounin was standing waving them over, and she walked towards him without responding to Sora. He waited until they had all arrived before continuing. "Looks like you're almost done. That's 500 ryō for each of you." "500?" Omi almost coughed. "But... that's barely enough to get the Beef Ramen in the village!" "We've been working for hours and all we get is 500 ryō?" Kiyoko grumbled in disbelief. "Hm," Sora started patting down his pockets, as he and Kiyoko joined Omi and Hakirama. "What did you expect? You're picking up garbage... spoilers; it does not pay well." Hakirama put his hands on his hips, "Why do you think I wasn't participating? I don't need 500 ryō that badly..." "Sensei?" Sora raised his hand, "Shouldn't we do somethin' more fittin' to our abilities as shinobi? Logically, that this mission is only worth a maximum of 2000 ryō, it's a job any ol' guy could do. We may not do high-rank missions. But we should be doin' somethin' more appropriate, ne?" Sora cocked his head to one side expectantly. "You mean C-rank missions like bodyguarding and escort missions?" Hakirama suggested. "That's an excellent idea, sensei." Sora replied. Meanwhile, Kiyoko and Omi had started to watch the exchange between the two boys. "If we were t'get a mission like that, we could make a significant contribution to the village--" And without missing a beat, "--and our wallets." Kiyoko raised her eyebrows in surprise at Sora's sly conversation with their Jounin leader, then turned in expectation of Hakirama's almost guaranteed put-down. "Sadly, I was hesitant enough about trusting you three with people's garbage, let alone their lives." Hakirama replied flatly. "However, you didn't screw this up, so who knows? Maybe we can move you up to dog walking soon." Omi let out a long whistling noise that dropped down in pitch, before she ended it with a fart noise. "Are you really that earnest? I thought it was an act at first..." "Hm?" Sora glanced at Omi, before returning his focus to Hakirama, "Sensei, I feel urged to tell ya there's more than a 95% chance o' Kiyoko-chan an' Omi-chan findin' a way to do a much higher rank mission. They'd be doin' it without'cha. Plus, as their medical nin, i'd be honour-bound t'go with 'em. So, it might be best t'do somethin' that'll satisfy their ambition, under ya supervision." Leaning in to Omi, Kiyoko muttered under her breath, "He's dead." "Persistence, a good quality in a ninja..." Hakirama said with a smirk. He walked past Sora and with lightning reflexes he flicked him on the nose before walking off, urging them to follow him. "However, while I appreciate your tenacity, I would appreciate your respect of my judgement more." He added. "Well now, look at the time. I think we should have some dinner. You said the Beef Ramen was around 500 ryō, right Kiryuin-san?" "Damn it..." Omi whined, following Hakirama in a defeated huff. [Paradise] The sun was beginning to disappear along the horizon. Casting a slight orange glow upon Konohagakure. Kiyoko, Omi, Sora and Hakirama sat in a local open-air ramen shop, enjoying the simple pleasure of a hot meal. "Aaaah..." Kiyoko sighed as she finished the last mouthful of ramen broth. "That's so tasty, I could eat a second--" A long slurping noise interrupted her. Sora placed his bowl down with a contented look on his face. Then placed the bowl atop the other five he'd already consumed. "Eh?!" Kiyoko gasped, her eye twitching violently before she quickly regained her composure. "Hm?" Sora turned to look at Kiyoko and then chuckled, "Oh, my mother says I have a quick metabolism." "That doesn't last forever y'know." Omi said with a mouthful of noodles. She made a final slurp and gasped in appreciation. "If you keep eating like that you'll have a fat ass when you reach the other side of 25." Sora smirked with a knowing look on his face. "Yes, sensei." He replied. Kiyoko leaned back on her stool and stretched, then something caught her eye and she leaned forwards so quickly that she almost fell over the top of the ramen chef's counter. She covered the side of her face with a hand, and leaned down onto the counter. "Uh, what are you looking at?" Omi asked, craning her neck over to see. Quick as lightning, Kiyoko shot out her free arm, and shoved Omi forwards, back towards the counter. "Don't." Kiyoko urged Omi, her expression had genuine need to it. "Just--" "Evenin', Chief!" Sora called, raising his hand. All the colour drained from Kiyoko's face. A man dressed in a black kimono walked over. On the back of his kimono was the red and white paper fan symbol of the Uchiha clan. The man was tall, broad-shouldered, with a scruffy mop of raven-like hair. He had three long scars on his face. One that went diagonally across his forehead, through his nose and down his cheek. The other two scratched down the right side of his forehead in vertical lines, passing through his right eye, in which he was blind, and down through the diagonal scar. He had a touch of grey in his beard and smoked a pipe. "Good evening." Makoto Uchiha replied, nodding to the boy. Makoto was the Chief of Police in Konohagakure. And, as Kiyoko was currently whispering to Omi, he was her uncle. He glanced across Sora and Omi, his eye lingering on Kiyoko for a moment before turning to Hakirama. "Evening, Hakirama-san. I see you've students." Makoto took a long drag on his pipe and blew the smoke up into the air. "Had to happen sometime I suppose." Hakirama replied with his usual, dull expression. He eyed them from where he was sat next to them at the bar. He waited a moment, and then his eyes narrowed. "It's impolite to not introduce yourself, you know..." "Oh..." Omi replied, and then she waved half-heartedly at Makoto, "Yo, big chief. I'm Omi." Hakirama made a weird choking noise, before suddenly coughing all over his food. "The orphan," Makoto seemed to allude to something with his tone, "Yes. I hope you're listening to your sensei, Hakirama is a wise shinobi, and you would do best to heed his advice." "My name is Sora Sakai, Chief." Sora offered a slight bow, "Son of--" "--Koji Sakai. Yes, I know him. And I know you, Sora-kun." Makoto turned his attention to Kiyoko and for a few moments he just studied her in silence. "Sit up straight, niece." "Yes, uncle." Kiyoko did as she was told, but her expression seemed resigned. "Project your voice, or nobody will take notice." Makoto added. "Yes, uncle." Kiyoko repeated, this time focused in both tone and volume. She put her chopsticks down on her bowl and stood to leave but before she did so, she hesitated and turned back to face her uncle and bowed, then hurriedly left Sora, Omi and Hakirama alone with the chief of police. "I expect you'll all be chuunin before long, under Hakirama-san's tutelage." Makoto nodded to them, and started to leave. "Yeah, if the exam has a section on how to get garbage water out of your sandals... I might just become the freakin' Hokage!" Omi said with a soft chuckle. "Apologies, this one seems to have misplaced her manners at some point." Hakirama said to Makoto. "You give me too much credit, Uchiha-san. I'm already beginning to think teaching isn't my calling..." "Stress is bad for the skin." Makoto replied simply, "It will turn your hair grey, Hakirama-san, if you let it." He paused and turned back to face the group, "Should you wish it, however, you are more than welcome to assign your team to my care. Kiyoko already balances her missions with you, alongside training from the Hyūga clan, as well as my own instruction. I'm sure she would welcome the free time that combining my lessons with her missions would allow. Failing that," He turned his attention to Omi and Sora, "Should you wish to train alongside your teammate, you are welcome to join us in her next session tonight." And with that, Makoto left. "Sensei?" Sora raised his hand until Hakirama glanced at him, and then pointed at his teacher's head, "You have a grey hair now..."
  18. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Sasuke’s Theme] The pair were interrupted by the sound of footsteps in the grass behind them. The man approaching was dressed in the standard dark blue trousers and jacket associated with Konoha ninja, with a tool pouch strapped to his right leg, blue sandals on his feet, and a green flak jacket over his chest. The man walked at a leisurely pace with his hands in his pockets. His hair was a dark brown, shaggy hair that was trimmed shorter at the sides, but stood almost on end at the top, the ends flopping only a little to the left. His face was framed by a metal happuri style forehead protector with Konoha’s leaf symbol branded at the top. The man stopped as he drew close to the two Genin, and his red eyes lazily moved from one to the other. He sniffed once and scratched at his nose, before holding his hand up beside his head with an empty palm out. “Good morning, my name is Hakirama Senju. I will be your Jounin leader. I am very excited to be working with you both.” He had introduced himself with perfect politeness, but had done so without even a hint of enthusiasm, and his eyes were still half closed and bored-looking. Eventually he turned his head and looked around a bit further. “Hmm…Kiryuin san is late. That is, unfortunately, not unexpected. So that means you two are Sakai san and Hyuga san.” He shrugged and gave them both a half-hearted salute. “Nice to meet you both. I’m sure you’ll both do your best.” "Yo!" Sora gave a casual salute, "Nice ta see ya, Teach. The Senju are an interestin' Clan. Honored t'have ya." "Where's the other one?" Kiyoko added, ignoring Hakirama's introduction. She crossed her arms and asked, "Who's this Omitsune anyway? I don't remember anyone called that at the Academy." “Kiryuin san?” Hakirama asked. “Well, truth be told she was expelled from the academy, and is only being conditionally allowed the rank of Genin and to be part of this team due to her mother taking advantage of her position.” Hakirama sniffed again and wrinkled his nose. “Kiryuin san is the daughter of the Sandaime Hokage.” “Adoptive!” another voice yelled. [Lee Dash Lee A branch of the old tree shook as a slender form dropped from it, grabbing the branch on the way down and swinging once, before letting go and dropping to the ground. Omi was dressed in black sandals with fish net stockings covering the length of her legs, with a very short pair of black shorts on, with a single blue stripe at either side, and a tool pouch attached to a belt, positioned at the base of her back. Fish net covered her otherwise exposed midriff, and she had on a sleeveless, short jacket that barely covered her flat chest. Her arms were bare apart from white bandages wrapped around her hands and wrists. She had also chosen to wear her Konoha forehead protector around her neck, tied loosely. “Hm, you were actually pretty well hidden…” Hakirama said, for the first time showing a hint of surprise. “Well yeah, I’m a delinquent, not a scrub.” Omi replied. She turned her attention toward her new comrades, and folded her arms across her chest, raisied her head and pointed her chin out. “Sup.” "Ahoy hoy, Omitsune-chan!" Sora raised his arm in a half-wave, then went back to stroking Katsu. "Nice ta meet'cha." "You're late." Kiyoko added, "And a drop out. Do you think you should really be on this team?" “It’s just Omi, and if you ‘chan’ me again I’ll bite your nose off.” Omi said with a smirk. Then she turned her attention to Kiyoko, and her eyes flashed with a mix of anger and challenge. “You wanna go, Yoko? If I kick your ass that means I get to embarrass two clans for the price of one, right?” She grinned widely, revealing her pointed teeth. "Now, now," Sora chuckled, raising his hands defensively, "You can try, drop-out." Kiyoko retorted. "Aaah haha," Sora stepped in-between them, "Please, don't be fightin', girls. We're all a team now, yeah?" “I didn’t drop out, I got kicked out!” Omi snarled, “Because I kept beating punks like you in to paste. Don’t cry when it’s over, Yoko!” Omi suddenly made a beeline for Yoko, and the girl seemed to respond in kind. As they closed the gap towards each other, both raising their fists to strike, a figure streaked in between them. [Fake] There was a long moment of silence. The grass blew beneath their feet. Hakirama stood in between the two genin, his hands gripped firmly around each of their wrists. His unimpressed, bored expression remained as he let out a sigh. “Hyūga san, Kiryuin san, this is no w-“ Omi’s other fist came flying towards his face. In an instant Hakirama had let go of Kiyoko and pushed her away with a palm press to her chest, then his free arm came up and casually slapped the blow away. He released his grip on Omi’s wrist and she immediately snarled and leapt at Hakirama with a sweeping kick. The Jounin ducked with leisurely grace, and his hands came up and grabbed her leg, swinging her around and tossing her back to the ground quite gently. The ease at which he had done so made Omi’s blood boil. She’d make him flinch, she had to now. In an instant, she had reached in to her tool pouch and retrieved three shuriken. As her hands moved to throw them at Hakirama, she froze as he was suddenly inches from her. He snatched the shuriken from her hands with a single motion, and then threw a punch that stopped just inches from her face. Omi’s eyes were wide with terror. She couldn’t do anything against this guy, he could kill her with barely a breath. “Ow!” she cried as Hakirama flicked her hard across the nose with his finger, before releasing her. She clutched her nose in her hands, and her pale skin began to burn a hot pink. “What the hell!?” “We will not be fighting each other outside of organized sparring matches.” Hakirama replied simply. “Until you are capable of preventing me from doing so, I will decide when and who you fight, and I will not tolerate violence towards your team mates.” He turned his attention back to Kiyoko. “I’m sure you understand, Hyūga san?” "I understand perfectly. But when she loses her temper again, will we be in the field? Maybe in a delicate situation? In a battle?" Kiyoko then turned from Hakirama, to Omitsune, "A team is a chain. You're a weak link. I can't trust you." She paused, and as if as an after thought, she then looked to Sora, "Or you." “Bite me, Yoko-hime!” Omi snapped bitterly, “Like I need your approval!” [Confrontment] “Well…” Hakirama said with a pause to sigh audibly. “Now that introductions are over, it’s time to have an appraisal. I believe in being honest with my team, and so here it is…” He pointed at Sora first. “You, so far, are the only one I’m convinced might make a half decent ninja given time.” His finger moved to Kiyoko. “You seem to be carrying all the worst traits of the two most obnoxious clans in this village. You’re correct, a team is a chain, but you fail to see where your link is. The first thing you did when meeting your comrade was cast doubt as to her being allowed on this team. Not only did you show lack of faith in your comrade, but also in your leader. If you do not trust my decisions, then you are also a weak link.” Omi let out a snort of laughter, but then she caught her breath in fear as Hakirama’s ever-judging index finger fell upon her, and his eyes narrowed when he looked at her, his brow furrowing with annoyance. “Omitsune Kiryuin – the girl who has had each of her tutors give up on her, even the Academy cannot handle you. So much so that the Hokage herself applied pressure to me in order to ensure your place on this team. However, I am not one of her dogs. You are here because I decided to give you a chance, one that you are quickly using up. Out of all the members on this team, you impress me the least.” “Like I ca-“ Omi started but she was cut off. “You should care!” Hakirama snapped, his eyes suddenly fierce, “Every person in this village, be they ninja or not, works hard to preserve what we have. You, so far, are nothing but a drain on this village. If I cannot change that, then you will have no more opportunities ahead of you.” “Yeah, whatever.” Omi rolled her eyes. “I’ve heard this one a thousand times.” “Then hear this; you have until the end of this day to gain the support of your comrades, If either one of them will not support you by tomorrow, then you will be banished from the village.” Omi went to speak, but she paused, her lip quivering, and then she bit down on it and her head sank to the floor. Kiyoko remained silent, listening to Hakirama. When he was finished, she walked over to the table and sat on one of the chairs. Leaning back, she crossed her arms and sighed, "I can accept my mistakes. But not trusting you does not mean i've made a mistake. I don't know you. You might be a Jounin, so you've been given a title that says you're skilled, so what? There are lots of Jounin, and they die every day. Trust is earned, not expected. But..." She glanced at Omi, an expression flashed across her face, if only for a moment. Doubt? But in what? "Pff..." "Give me a reason to support you, Omi-chan." Sora gave her a polite bow just with his head. “I’m sure she will have plenty of opportunity to do so on your first mission.” Hakirama said nonchalantly. “Originally I was going to put you through a traditional bell test, but this mission came up quite suddenly and requires immediate attention.” Omi stood in silence, her stomach churning at the news. A mission? How was she going to be able to prove herself in that sort of situation? What if she screwed up? What would the cost be? "Are you up to it?" Kiyoko asked. Sora made a startled noise, interrupting the conversation as heads turned. Katsu, the little squishy-faced dog, leapt out of Sora's arms and landed on the ground, then waddled over to Omi and sat at her feet. He opened his mouth and started panting - a sound akin to an out-of-breath senior - quietly, with a content look upon his stunted face. "Omi-chan, Katsu supports you! Now you've just myself, and Kiyoko-chan to convince! Yatta!" Sora clapped his hands and beamed at her. "Ah--!" Then Katsu quietly lifted his leg, and emptied his bladder onto her boot. Sora's face drooped, yet somehow he maintained a modicum of cheer despite his mortified eyes, "Ah, sorry...." Omi’s knuckles cracked audibly as her fists clenched in an otherwise quiet rage. Her teeth grinded as she fought to keep herself from snarling. “Don’t…worry about it.” She said finally, her right eye twitching madly as she stared at the incontinent pug with a murderous gaze. “Yo, sensei…what’s our mission?” She asked to keep her mind off her anger. “Well I’m glad you asked…” Hakirama said with a smirk. --- --- --- --- [Fooling Mode] “This sucks!” Omi declared as she jabbed a metal litter picker into the river she was currently standing knee deep in. She pulled the litter picker back up to reveal a sludgy old sandal, and she wretched in disgust, before tossing it into the pile of junk on the bank. “What did you expect?” Hakirama asked from the deck chair he was sitting on near the bank, “Genin ninja are only qualified to participate in D-rank or C-rank missions. Get used to manual labour, you’re going to be doing it routinely for quite a while.” “This isn’t what being a ninja is about!” Omi scoffed, frowning. However, she continued with the work begrudgingly. She had to admit that Hakirama’s threat was serious enough that she had been forced to comply with it. Even though, deep down, all she really wanted was to set his hair on fire and see what he looked like bald. "Hard work is an essential trait of a good ninja, Omi-chan!" Sora waded past her and stopped at a spot that he seemed happy with, "If ya work hard at working hard, y'all will fight fer longer, hit harder an' learn more." Sora held the litter picker an inch above the water and then began jabbing. The flurry of strikes was so fast that he was forced to stop after a couple of seconds because his entire picker had been skewered with trash. Sora grinned at Omi, then dumped all the trash into his bag, pausing to stare at Kiyoko. She was staring at the water, picker in hand, doing nothing. Just... staring. Omi considered Sora’s words. It hadn’t occurred to her to use ninja skills to get the work done. Sora had used his speed and reflexes from Taijutsu to maximize his performance. Perhaps if she could impress them then they’d consider keeping her on the team. With a wolfish grin she tossed her litter picker and trash bag aside, and clapped her hands together. She performed five hand seals; tiger, snake, rat, snake, tiger. She released her chakra and thrust her hands forward. The water of the river suddenly rushed back up the way it came, chaotically flying up into the shape of a wall, the excess water arcing down and around them. “There…now we can see better.” She said with a satisfied smirk. She turned round to see what Sora thought, and then her heart sank like a stone. Kiyoko had been caught in the backlash of her ninjutsu, and was now standing and staring in the same position, only now she was drenched from head to toe in river water. “S-sorry…” Omi managed to squeak.
  19. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Rainy Day] The morning sun was enshrouded by dark clouds. Rain fell in heavy sheets. In the distance, the sound of thunder followed the occasional flash of lightning. The weather was miserable, yes, but it didn't dampen people's spirits. Stores and market stalls opened as usual, though the stall owners set canopies out to encourage people to browse their wares while escaping the rain. A small crowd of people began to gather, eager to get their daily essentials and run back home through the rain. Two children were playing in the puddles rapidly forming in the dirt streets, while a shaggy black dog darted down the street. Kiyoko Hyūga let her bedroom curtain fall back in place, drenching her room in shadow once more. She'd had enough of watching the morning markets outside her house. After all, she couldn't be wasting time. Not today. Today was the day she became a Genin. She had worked hard in the Academy, and was considered a star pupil, in spite of her 'failings' as some would call them. She was the child of Hidemi Hyūga and Shiro Uchiha. Kiyoko was tall for her age, slender of frame, with long dark blue hair that fell down past her shoulders save for her fringe which was cut short, just above her eyebrows. Her eyes were dark, unlike those of her mother, Hidemi, who had the instantly recognisable white eyes of a Byakugan inheritor. While she shared her father's eyes, and her mother's hair, she had inherited neither of their clan's eye techniques. Both the Byakugan and Sharingan remained well out of reach for her. However, she had not allowed that to stop her climb to the top of her Academy class. "Kiyoko-chan!" Her mother called from downstairs. Kiyoko checked herself one last time in the mirror. She was wearing a white kimono with black trim, long sleeves that covered her hands while at rest and a pair of black form-fitting shorts. Her legs were bandaged, with a single tool pouch strapped to her left leg, and her Konoha forehead protector tied around her waist in place of a belt. "Kiyoko-chan you're going to be late for practice!" Hidemi called again. "I'm coming, mom!" Kiyoko called back, sighing. It was good enough. She took a deep breath, walked to her bedroom door, put her hand on the knob, and twisted it. As she opened the door, however, she felt a presence. Something was coming right at her. She had to move. [Bad Situation] A body came crashing through her bedroom door, blasting it open as she darted out of the way. "Wh--hey!!" Kiyoko growled, turning to see the assailant charging back at her, forcing her out of her room. The attacker was small, but fast. He raised a fist and threw a punch, Kiyoko dodged it expertly, leaping back onto the landing, but as she reached the railing, she felt a pair of hands grab her by the ankles. "Gotcha!!" A wily voice yelled. "Now, Aki, now!!" Kiyoko glanced behind her and saw a young boy, dangling over the side of the landing, holding onto her. He had short black hair and the featureless white eyes of the Byakugan. His name was Taki, one of her younger brothers. The other, who was rapidly approaching her now, was Aki, a boy with dark eyes and long dark blue hair. "I've got her this time!" Aki roared, "CHIDORI!!" As his right arm sparked with electricity and he leapt through the air, leading with his electrified arm outstretched. Kiyoko smirked, leaned back, and grabbed onto the railing. Then with all her strength, she yanked her legs up, pulling Taki up from the edge and throwing him forwards in her place. Taki squeeled as he was thrown into his brother. Kiyoko back-flipped onto the top of the landing's banister, as Aki's chidori struck Taki and they collapsed in a heap. [Kakashi's Theme] "Well..." Kiyoko hopped down from the banister and walked over to her two younger brothers who remained on the floor. Aki had a glazed-over expression on his face. Clearly the amount of chakra it required to form even the smallest amount of electricity had taken it's toll on him. As for Taki, his hair had frizzed out in every direction from taking a bolt of electricity, and his right leg was twitching. "... good morning." "Don't say good morning like you're a good sister!" Aki grumbled. "You're a monster!!" Taki added. "Am I?" Kiyoko raised an eyebrow, looking at her two brothers. "You never play with us!" Aki groaned with a sigh. She leaned down, grabbing each of them by the scruff of the neck and hoisting them up. "Well maybe i'd be nicer if you weren't trying to knock me out every day." "Well how else are we supposed to get stronger?!" Taki asked with a huff. Putting them back on their feet, Kiyoko took a step back and examined each of them, a smirk escaping the corner of her lips as she looked at Taki's frazzled hair. "What?" Taki frowned, looking to Aki. His brother noticed his hair at that point, and burst out laughing. "Alright, well i'm late now, I hope you're happy... later." Kiyoko turned and started down the stairs. On her back, unknown to her, was a small white piece of paper. On the paper, was a message. It read, quite simply, 'Hit me, i'm stupid'. Kiyoko vanished downstairs while Aki and Taki turned to face one another, and shared a fist bump. "Success!" They cheered, in unison. [Morning] Meanwhile, in another part of Konoha, a young boy dressed in a blue hoodie was perched at a wooden feather-board fence. He was crouched in front of a hole just large enough for a small animal to get through. On the other side, he could hear a quiet whining. He took a step back and assessed the fence with a thin-lipped smile. His eyes were narrow, and his grin wide. If you were to describe him, you might call him 'fox-faced'. He had short, scruffy blonde hair and pale skin. His name, was Sora Sakai. The whining increased in volume and urgency. "Right, right, i'm comin'..." Sora replied calmly. Looking to the top of the fence, Sora leapt high into the air, grabbing onto the top of the fence, and using it to flip over to the other side. He landed in a small abandoned lot. For a moment, his eyes didn't detect the source of the whining, but then he saw it in the far right-hand corner, shrouded by a small bush. A little, cream-coloured squishy-faced dog. He couldn't remember the name of the breed. A bug? It was something like that. Bug made sense, it was tiny. As he approached the little animal, it recoiled in fear. "Now, now, i'm jus' here ta help ya, look--" Sora reached into his blue hoodie and pulled out a small cereal bar. He unwrapped it, took a large bite and then knelt down, holding it out for the dog to smell. It took immediate interest in him. The sound of rustling wrappers was obviously familiar. This had to be someone's pet. "Come on now, I ain't gonna harm ya!" Sora tore off a small piece of the cereal bar and laid it on the ground, "There ya are." Then he sat in silence and waited. It took a couple of minutes, but eventually, the little dog stood and cautiously approached him. It was walking strangely. There was something wrong with it's front-right paw. It tried not to put any weight on it, there was clearly something wrong. As the dog approached and put its head down to eat, Sora gently laid his hand on the ground beside it. Once the dog was finished eating, it looked over and smelled his hand, then gave it a lick. "Good doggie," His grin widened and he gently picked the dog up and put it on his lap, where it seemed quite happy. He raised the dog's right leg, careful not to touch the dog's paw. Up close, he could see what the problem was. He just had to use his medical ninjutsu. He took the dog's paw between his hands, and activated his chakra, extending its reach through his palms and engulfing the dog's paw. The dog had a small fracture. After a few minutes work, he released the dog's paw and sighed with contentment. "There, all better." Sora patted the dog on the head, and then put it on the ground. The dog cautiously tried to walk back to his lap, but then realised it was able to put weight on it's paw without pain, and then quickly grew in excitement. It made little yappy barks and leapt up, trying to lick his face. Sora laughed, "Now, now, I--" Suddenly, the dog stopped. It's lips pulled back in a snarl. "Ya gonna bite me, little dog?" Sora asked. But then a figure leapt over the fence and landed a few feet away. Sora was short, and very slender. There wasn't much muscle to him at all. So to say that this other boy was the complete opposite of him would not be an exaggeration. This boy was tall, broad-shouldered and was significantly well-built. Really, he didn't look anything like Sora's age, but he knew this kid was, because they were in the same class. "Hey!" The boy snarled, "What are you doin' with my dog, Sakai?!" "Oh this is yer dog, Taichi?" Sora asked, standing up to face him. "Give him back or i'm going to beat you." Taichi started towards Sora, intent on retrieving his animal. "No, I think he's happier with me, aint'cha?" Sora asked, and virtually on cue, the dog barked, wagging it's tail. Taichi grabbed Sora by the arm and used his other to ball up his hand into a fist, presenting it to Sora as a clearly-defined threat. Sora tried to gently pull his arm back, but Taichi held onto it firmly. The two boys stared one another down. Taichi's face almost red with rage, while Sora remained apparently unaffected by the boy's threats. The same smile remained on his face as it had done throughout the entire exchange. "Ya should be lettin' go a'my arm, now." Sora suggested, pulling a second time. "Gimme my dog!!" Taichi yelled, then brought back his balled-up fist, and threw a punch. Sora moved so quickly, that Taichi wasn't quite sure what had happened. The smaller boy managed to duck under his punch, twist around and sweep out his legs from under him. He collapsed to the floor as Sora reactivated his chakra, channelling it to his hand as he had done before, except this time, it formed a soft point in glowing energy. "Hey!!" Taichi yelled, in a mixture of anger and shock at seeing what Sora was about to do, "Don't--" Sora jabbed Taichi in the knee with the tip of his hand and then quickly leapt back and deactivated his chakra. Taichi roared and tried to get up but found his right leg was completely numb from the knee down. He couldn't stand on it, he couldn't move it. It was as useful as dead wood. "Give it a few days, it'll heal, okay?" Sora said with a smile, and then held his arms out to the dog. It barked again and happily leapt up into Sora's waiting arms where the boy cradled him, studying the little, cream-coloured pup. "I'll call ya Katsu. Come on, Katsu, time to meet the others!" Katsu barked and Sora leapt back over the fence onto the street once more, leaving Taichi to lick his wounds. [Naruto's Daily Life] The rain was finally letting up. She had that to be thankful for at least. Kiyoko stepped out from under the canopy of a ramen shop, thanking the owner for the food before stepping back out onto the street. A few drops were still falling, but it had mostly cleared. Puddles were everywhere, and kids had started splashing around in them. Kiyoko was focused, however. She had to reach the meeting point just outside of the village. She had been told there would be a large, old, dead tree with a table and three chairs laid out beside it. Three chairs, for three Genin. Strange. She was a Genin now. Passing the academy and becoming a Genin was a big step for her. Something brushed her shoulder and it drew her from her thoughts. "Oh, sorry sorry, wasn't lookin' where I was goin'." Said a boy with short blonde hair. "It's fine." Kiyoko replied, noting the dog in his arms. "Name's Katsu," The boy said, "The dog... My name's Sora Sakai." "Okay?" Kiyoko frowned, taking a step away from the strange boy as they continued to walk towards the Northern gate. A few seconds passed and then Kiyoko felt a sharp pain in her right shoulder. She recoiled, clutching it as she saw Sora withdrawing his fist. "Ouch! What's wrong with you, I should--!!" Then she realised. Kiyoko reached over her shoulder and plucked the note off her back, "Mhmm..." She growled, bunching up the paper into a little ball. Just then, she noticed Sora was still watching her with a smile on his face. Kiyoko grit her teeth and tensed up, but thought better of getting into a fight with this kid. She was just about to meet her Jounin teacher, and the rest of her Genin squad. She couldn't be picking fights with every idiot she came across. She was better than that. She threw the paper ball over her shoulder, which soared through the air and landed in a nearby bin. "OoooOOooo!!" Sora clapped. She frowned. Kiyoko couldn't tell if the boy was being obnoxious, or genuine. In fact, she couldn't read him at all. For someone who seemed to show his emotions so openly on his face, he was without a doubt, the definition of an enigma. She didn't like him. She couldn't say why. She just didn't. He was creepy. "Cereal bar?" Sora offered, holding one up to her as they passed through the North gate. "No." She replied. Sora shrugged his shoulders and resumed eating. Around a minute after she'd set out, Kiyoko looked over at Sora and Katsu. They were still walking beside her. They couldn't possibly... was Sora one of her Genin teammates? So who was the third and why weren't they here? Then her eyes darted down to Katsu. The little dog looked her dead in the eye, and let loose a little squeaky fart. "No. There's no way!" Kiyoko burst out as she saw the old, dead tree and the table with three chairs ahead of her. "What's that, Kiyoko-chan?" Sora asked. "How do you know my name?!" Kiyoko challenged him, putting her hands on her waist, "What's your game, huh? And what's the dog about?!" "Yer Kiyoko Hyūga. Daughter of an Uchiha an' a Hyūga. But, ya don't really have any special abilities..." "Wha--" Kiyoko tried to interrupt. "--an' i'm Sora Sakai. I'm gonna be ya medical nin. Then there's Omitsune Kiryuin. She's the third." "She's late. Later than we were, and..." Kiyoko paused, glancing around, "Come to think of it, our teacher isn't here either..."
  20. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    While Yusai was giving the insanely accurate measurements on Steal, the boy himself was huddled in a corner, holding onto his bruised face and watching a few drips of blood strike his robe. It was nothing new really, this was just his father's usual way of handling him. Amusing that he had forgot something like this. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He shifted a bit, waiting for his father and mother to start talking. really more like quite but heated arguing. Selfish, his father called him selfish, but he had no idea just what he had actually gave up. His freedom, his happiness... He sniffled a bit then got to his feet, and stumbled to the bathroom, he had to leave a message, he had to find a way to get himself free again. Insane really when all he had wanted was to let Yusai free. He wrote carefully with a strange pencil he found (eyeliner?) on the back of the material of his hidden shirt. His carefully written letters were a note giving Otto's bar's number and the address of his parent's estate. It was all he could do. He then closed his eyes tight sat on the edge of the bathtub and waited. It wouldn't be long before he was dragged out of bathroom and stuffed into the limo his father would have to drive home in There was no way they would slum it. He gave a small smirk then turned his head when the door opened looking at his father who promptly dragged him out of the room. **** It was about an hour later before they arrived back to the manor, and he was dragged to the secure lock up cell. AKA his room. It was terrible. The computer was the same, the windows were barred and his bed was pretty much the only thing there. The computer didn't seem to be hooked up, it was more of a prop to make him think that he had something in there. It was a bad joke really. None of the staff had the chance to see him and very likely none of them wouldn't even know he was there ever. He sighed weakly and sat down on the bed, wishing he could be anyone but there. In the hall he could hear his mother talking about proper security and how it would have to be beefed up outside. The whole situation was ironic really., He had no idea things would be like this. He had figured his going home would be a bit different, that maybe he would even be given some form of freedom. His parents still didn't acknowledge that he was their kid. He was just a bad publicity risk. He wondered why the heck his parents had wanted kids anyway. One thung had not changed at all though, his hidden gloves, bandages and pocket knife was still under one of the base boards. He slid the familiar gloves on, and settled on his bed again, looking out the window at the darkening sky. **** The investigation into finding Steal was a slow going process, or at least it seemed like one to the staff working with Otto. How in the world could they have lost Yusai's friend? The bracelet had been located and given to Yusai who seemed devastated to have seen it. For the detective that has been phoned though things were even stranger. He had been spending hours researching information on not only the missing young man but the family and he didn't like the scorpion nest he had found. How could a family that prominent have been hiding their son for so long. Other than a few publicity stills there was nothing there, no sports stories, academics, public interests, nothing. It was like their son was a puppet brought out to dance once in a blue moon. Only in the last couple of years had anything appeared. Logan leaned back in his chair and sighed not noticing another member of the agency walking in humming, At least not until he started crowing about closing his case and returning a missing heir to his family. It was all Logan could do to keep himself from throwing a pen at the other man.
  21. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    While Yusai was giving the insanely accurate measurements on Steal, the boy himself was huddled in a corner, holding onto his bruised face and watching a few drips of blood strike his robe. It was nothing new really, this was just his father's usual way of handling him. Amusing that he had forgot something like this. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He shifted a bit, waiting for his father and mother to start talking. really more like quite but heated arguing. Selfish, his father called him selfish, but he had no idea just what he had actually gave up. His freedom, his happiness... He sniffled a bit then got to his feet, and stumbled to the bathroom, he had to leave a message, he had to find a way to get himself free again. Insane really when all he had wanted was to let Yusai free. He wrote carefully with a strange pencil he found (eyeliner?) on the back of the material of his hidden shirt. His carefully written letters were a note giving Otto's bar's number and the address of his parent's estate. It was all he could do. He then closed his eyes tight sat on the edge of the bathtub and waited. It wouldn't be long before he was dragged out of bathroom and stuffed into the limo his father would have to drive home in There was no way they would slum it. He gave a small smirk then turned his head when the door opened looking at his father who promptly dragged him out of the room. **** It was about an hour later before they arrived back to the manor, and he was dragged to the secure lock up cell. AKA his room. It was terrible. The computer was the same, the windows were barred and his bed was pretty much the only thing there. The computer didn't seem to be hooked up, it was more of a prop to make him think that he had something in there. It was a bad joke really. None of the staff had the chance to see him and very likely none of them wouldn't even know he was there ever. He sighed weakly and sat down on the bed, wishing he could be anyone but there. In the hall he could hear his mother talking about proper security and how it would have to be beefed up outside. The whole situation was ironic really., He had no idea things would be like this. He had figured his going home would be a bit different, that maybe he would even be given some form of freedom. His parents still didn't acknowledge that he was their kid. He was just a bad publicity risk. He wondered why the heck his parents had wanted kids anyway. **** The investigation into finding Steal was a slow going process, or at least it seemed like one to the staff working with Otto. How in the world could they have lost Yusai's friend? The bracelet had been located and given to Yusai who seemed devastated to have seen it.
  22. Once, not so long ago, the world was a place of discord and danger. During this long and violent period the countries of the world were uniformly small, and constantly battled each other for control of land and power. So as not to risk their own lives, and that of their citizenry, the countries enlisted the aid of mercantile shinobi clans to fight their battles for them. Shinobi at this time were loyal only to their own clan, and of course to whoever offered them the highest bid. This period was known as the Warring States Period. Of all the clans that participated in this bloody period, in what would one day be called the Land of Fire, three shinobi clans stood out from the rest. The Senju clan were renowned for their balanced skill in all the shinobi arts. The Uchiha Clan were famed for their battle prowess and their unique and mysterious Dojutsu, the Sharingan. The Hyūga clan were known for their uncontested Taijutsu skills, as well as their own secret Dojutsu, the Byakugan. The three clans, being the most powerful, also naturally became bitter rivals. They lost many lives in fierce battles with each other, as well as fights with other clans and other countries. In the end the bloodshed began to take its toll on the world, the strain was tearing every clan apart and collapse of the world became almost inevitable. The Hyūga clan and the Uchiha clan’s feud was becoming so fierce that they ran the risk of destroying each other completely. At this time, the leader of the Senju, Samanosuke, came to both clans with an offer. Samanosuke revealed that his clan had been working to pledge itself with the Daimyo of the country, to swear loyalty to one country in exchange for ensured survival of their clan, and rights for their people. Samanosuke plead for the two rivals to set aside their difficulties and join as one. However, both sides agreed that this was impossible. Samanosuke did not give up, however. The Uchiha were narrowly ahead of the Hyūga in their ongoing feud, and so the Senju made an offer privately to the leader of the Hyūga clan, Hyouin . Reluctantly, with the real risk of losing his clan before him, Hyouin agreed to ally with the Senju. With the two clans fighting together, even the mighty Uchiha stood no chance against them. In the ultimate battle, Hyouin and the Uchiha leader, Retsu faced off against one another, but ultimately Hyouin was the victor. The Hyūga leader went to end the life of his rival, but Samanosuke stepped in and saved Retsu’s life. The result was a three-way fight between the great shinobi leaders. However, in the end, Samanosuke stood victorious over the others. Hyūga Hyouin and Uchiha Retsu both understood Samanosuke actions, and his desire for their clans to be strong and prosperous together. Reluctantly they agreed to ally with the Senju, and swear their allegiance to the Land of Fire. That is the story of how the Warring States Period ended, and how the first Shinobi Hidden Village was born. To this day it still stands, deep within the heart of the Land of Fire, the village hidden in the leaves, Konohagakure. While the clans remained autonomous within the village, it became clear that one true leader would need to speak for all of them. Naturally Hyouin, Retsu and Samanosuke all thought that thy should lead. This dispute went on for a long time, as no decision could be made. However, the Uchiha and the Hyūga were secretive, and distrustful of outsiders. The Senju, on the other hand, went to work at forming new relationships with other smaller clans. In the end, when the discussion of leadership again came to a head, Senju Samanosuke had amassed a large following, and with all the other clans loyal to him, his leadership could no longer be contested. Samanosuke made arrangements with the Daimyo of the Land of Fire, and it was agreed that the Daimyo would have final say upon the leadership of Konohagakure, but that he would heed the advice of village elders and faction leaders. With that settled Samanosuke became the first Hokage, and brought Konohagakure into an age of prosperity. Yet like all men, Samanosuke eventually passed away. In his place came his son, Mifune. Mifune carried on his father’s vision, but he was young and did not carry the same respect that his father had earned by bringing peace to the clans. His relationships with the other hidden villages that were forming became unstable, and the threat of war loomed. Eventually there came a time known as the Great Shinobi War, when the five largest and most powerful villages went to war with each other. During this time Mifune lost his life in a battle with ninja from the Iwagakure and the Tsuchikage. Without leadership Konoha was thrown in to turmoil. The two oldest and most renowned clans, the Uchiha and the Hyūga, once again began to bicker over who should become the next Hokage. When a member of the Hyūga clan was eventually chosen as a candidate, it was though that much needed stability would come to Konoha during it’s time of need. However, the candidate was murdered in the night by an unknown assassin. The Hyūga clan were immediately grief stricken and outraged, and they allowed old wounds to open. They blamed the Uchiha Clan for the assassination, sparking outrage which resulted in a war between the two clans, and Konoha fell into chaos. As the two strongest clans of Konoha warred with each other, Kirigakure saw opportunity. It sent its greatest warriors to lay waste to Konoha; The Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist. [Different Sky] Rain pattered pitifully in the miserable darkness. Smoke billowed from dwindling fires, illuminating the wreckage and devastation. Homes were reduced to rubble and charred wood. Roads and paths were upturned and blocked off. Bridges over the canals had collapsed, and makeshift barricades had been crafted through main streets. The backdrop of the village in ruin was a large mountain, with two proud faces carved in to the stone. Konoha was crumbling under the weight of its own arrogant pride. Blood dripped from the tip of a long, silvery blade that resembled a large needle. The petite, tall woman hid her face behind a white, featureless mask with only the symbol Kirigakure etched in to it. Her hair was dark blonde and fanned out behind her mask in a giant, frizzy main. She was dressed in dark, tight fitting clothing, and stared at her bloody weapon with a quiet sense of thrilled excitement. “Well this has been fun.” She said with a deep, lustful tone. “Hell yeah!” Said the figure behind her, a man with a large broadsword held over his shoulder. He was dressed in similar garb, but his frame was leaner and more muscular. He had three small horizontal, perfectly uniform scars on his left cheek, and his eyes were bright blue, his hair short and jet black. “Been a while since all seven of us hung out!” He added, chuckling heartily. “We’ve never ‘hung out’ ever, Kazue.” The masked woman replied. “Yeah, I know.” Kazue replied, “But that’s what everyone thinks, right? That we’re all a bunch of comrades, right?” “Is that so?” The masked woman replied, sounding amused. “I assumed they would realize the truth; that no two-bit blade wielding shinobi can match even one of us, let alone all seven. Although, this mission almost fulfilled itself. I could have handled this myself, no need to call in the rest of you butchers.” “Says the lady who stitches corpses together like a kebab, eh Yashiko?” Kazue replied, rolling his eyes. “Anyway, you say that but I doubt even you could have handled this on your own. If the Uchiha and Hyūga weren’t busy fighting each other, we’d have our hands full.” “If the Uchiha and Hyūga weren’t fighting each other we wouldn’t be here, idiot.” Yashiko replied. She suddenly whirled on the spot, and moved with unnatural speed as she heard noises coming towards them. She was already brandishing her needle-like sword to strike when another figure emerged from around the corner. “Don’t shit your pants, Yashiko.” The man said with a smirk. He was carrying a peculiar sword on his back with a long handle and a large, curved edge blade that looked like an over-sized cleaver. He was older than Yashiko and Kazue, perhaps in his 40’s. He had greying hair that was likely once black, that was long and slicked back. His face was covered in scar tissue from a variety of small nicks and cuts, and his dark eyes were relaxed, almost appearing bored. “Oh, it’s you Tanabe sama” Yashiko replied, her voice suddenly taking on a respectful air. “I thought you were a clumsy leaf ninja running to their grave.” “Better I announce myself early than accidentally sneak up on you.” Tanabe replied. “Wouldn’t want to get myself cut, hm?” “Y-yes, Tanabe sama.” Yashiko said, her voice wavering. “Where are the others?” Tanabe asked “Geko and Shinji are thinning Konoha’s reserves. Kagutsuchi is leading a strike on the Uchiha stronghold while they are distracted fighting the Hyūga. Saya is leading a force to strike the Hyūga as well.” “Good.” Tanabe replied, “And you two?” He inquired, his eyebrow raising. “Cleaning up the dregs.” Kazue replied for her. “Kagutsuchi said the new recruits don’t get the fun jobs.” “Hmph, he’s right. You two are nothing compared to your predecessors.” Tanabe said. “You should have more faith.” Yashiko replied, her tone defiant. “They say the young are in their prime, so we hold the advantage.” “True.” Tanabe said with a nod. “But youth is always overconfident. It lacks the wisdom and foresight that comes with age and experience.” Yashiko frowned at that statement behind her mask. It didn’t sound like Tanabe. What’s more, hadn’t he received a cut on his cheek the last time she had saw him. Where was the blood? She tensed suddenly as the realization came to her. [Cave] Tanabe barely had the chance to react as Yashiko suddenly lunged forward, plunging her needle through his chest, spinning around him and yanking the thin blade from his other side, a thin wire trailing behind it. She brought it back through his neck, causing him to cry out and gurgle in pain, then she yanked the needle out fiercely, and pulled away from him, the wire cutting through his flesh and causing him to let out a final, blood curdling scream of agony, before his eyes rolled back in his head, and Tanabe fell to the floor. Yashiko smirked behind her mask. “Not so wise now, old man.” She said with a satisfied chuckle. “Damn leaf thought he could get the drop on me with a transformation jutsu, hm Kazue?” She turned to her partner. She paused. Kazue was just standing there, looking back at her. He hadn’t reacted to the fight at all. He was just standing there with his sword over his shoulder, grinning like a damn idiot. Yashiko felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up as a creeping realization began to dawn on her. She looked around at the ruined buildings, and the empty streets. Nothing was moving, nothing at all. She looked up at the clouds which no longer moved slowly in the sky, and at the frozen droplets of rain. Then she saw it, the giant eyeball hovering in the sky above her. That piercing eye stared at her, seeing right in to her soul. A crimson eye, with three tomoe swirling in synchronized harmony around the pupil. “Sharingan!” She gasped. [Reverse Situation] “Yashiko!” Kazue’s scream finally penetrated her hearing as the genjutsu wore off. Yashiko suddenly realized they were surrounded by ninja, all dressed in black, each wearing white masks fashioned after animals. Kazue was busy trying to fend off five ninja, who were expertly maneuvering around him, each taking turns demanding the skilled swordsman’s attention, tiring him out. “Took you long enough.” The ninja in front of her said. The man was wearing a mask that looked like a hawk. He was an anonymous member over the elite shinobi force known as ANBU. Yet his eyes betrayed his identity as a member of the Uchiha clan. “I’ve got all I need from you now, though.” “Damn Uchiha!” Yashiko spat, preparing herself for a fight. “Shouldn’t you be off fighting against your own allies?” “Hmph, unlike you I’m not very chatty.” The hawk-masked man replied. Then they were moving around each other in a blur. Yashiko’s needle and wire thread twinkled in the moonlight as the pair countered each other over and over, dodging and blocking until finally they separated and slid back across the dirt. The hawk-faced ANBU’s hands moved in a blur, and suddenly a huge ball of fire came surging towards Yashiko. She dived to the left and narrowly avoided the flames, but felt the heat burn her up her right side. Hissing in frustration she made a bee-line for the Uchiha, counting on her incredible speed to catch him off guard. “I can see!” The Uchiha said as he spun to face her, ducking to avoid the deadly strike of her needle. Then Yashiko brought her knee up to his chest, taking the wind from him. The ninja doubled back and she lunged forward, driving her needle through his chest. He whined in pain, but then he looked at her with those unnerving, confident eyes. Then the ninja exploded into a flock of black ravens and disappeared in to the sky. Yashiko shivered in dismay, and then gasped as she felt a kunai blade slice across her exposed neck. “Falling for the same trick twice…I guess I was right about the young.” The Uchiha said from behind her, as Yashiko felt her life quickly slipping from her. She tried to open her mouth to curse him, but all she could do was let out a final gasp, and then her world went black. --- --- --- Hyouhaku] Two corpses lay on the ground, with two legendary swords stuck in the ground next to them. As the ANBU began to sweep the area and prepare for the next fight, another ninja descended from the rooftops and landed with a soft tap. The woman was dressed in a black poncho that covered her entire body, except for her platform-heeled sandals. Unlike the ninja around her she did not wear a mask. She had jet black hair styled in a short pixie cut. She wore a black eyepatch over her right eye, and heavy burn scars could be seen on the skin around it. Despite her grizzled appearance, the woman wore bright red lipstick, and had a distinct, black beauty mark on her cheek. “Taka.” She said with a calm but projected voice. The hawk-faced ANBU came to her without a word. “Report.” She said more quietly as he drew closer. The man relayed the information he had taken from Yashiko, and the woman nodded in understanding. “Trying to collapse the Uchiha and Hyūga in one fell swoop. Konoha’s two strongest clans…how does that make you feel, Taka?” “I…” The man hesitated. “...ROOT do not have feelings on such matters, Asuna sama.” “Correct.” Asuna replied, her eyes narrowing on her subordinate. “We do what is necessary to ensure Konoha’s survival.” She cast her eyes on her surroundings. “Needless to say, we haven’t been doing a very good job. That changed with this success, well done Taka.” “My team deserve all the credit.” Taka said with a slight bow. “Nonsense. Do not deprive yourself credit where it is due.” Asuna replied. She could see the tension in the young man’s posture, the nervous twitch in his eyes. He was such a terrible liar, at least to her. “Do not worry, Taka.” Asuna said finally, a wry smirk forming on her lips. “Kuma’s team is already en route to support the reserves. Your team is tasked with subverting the strike on the Hyūga stronghold, and ensure that no harm comes of our friends.” “The…Hyūga…do you think that’s wise?” Taka asked hesitantly, “Surely I sh-“ “Surely, considering your lineage, a favour from you to the Hyūga clan will go a long way, hm?” “Asuna sama…” Taka replied “Don’t worry, I’ll be ensuring the Uchiha clan are also taken care of.” Asuna said with another smirk. “I will deal with that personally.” This seemed to considerably relieve Taka’s tension. He nodded in agreement. “Thank you, Asuna sama!” He said gratefully. “Thank me by doing your job.” Asuna said, and she motioned for him to leave. He did so without question, and quickly began barking orders and rallying the other ANBU. In moments, they were gone without a trace, leaving behind Asuna, who looked off in the other direction. “Hmm…Kagutsuchi…not a slouch like the three we’ve already taken out, this should be interesting.” And then with a flicker, Asuna disappeared into the night. --- --- --- 13 years later [Kakashi’s Theme] “-and so Asuna defeated Kagutsuchi and he fled back to Kirigakure, along with 3 other members of the Seven Swordsmen. However three died that night at the hands of Konoha’s finest special ops ninja. The Uchiha clan and Hyūga clan were both rescued from their sneak attacks, but the struggle didn’t end there. Only through the debt they owed Asuna and her ROOT, and the surprise birth of a child born of both and Uchiha and a Hyūga, ultimately led to peace among the clans once more. Asuna led Konoha to victory and ended the Great Shinobi War, and that is how she became Hokage.” “Uhuh…” Came a rather bored reply. The teacher, a young man with spectacles and short blonde hair, looked defeated as he stared forlorn at his bored student. The young girl was as pale as a ghost, and had wild, ash white hair that was spiky and unruly, except where she had shaved it bear on the left side of her head. She had three black piercings in her exposed ear, and her bored-looking eyes were a striking blue, almost white. “Omitsune chan- “Her teacher went to say but she cut him off with an annoyed frown. “Omi!” She snapped, “It’s just Omi, got it? Omi. Not Omitsune. Not san, not chan, not kun. Just Omi.” “Er…right.” Her teacher said. “Look, were you listening to what I said. It didn’t look like you were?” “Yeah, kinda, I mean I’ve heard it before.” Omi shrugged, not looking at the teacher. “Everyone knows this story. How mom saved the village and became Hokage. Who gives a crap?” “I do, very much.” The teacher said. “Your mother has tried three tutors before me, and you’ve been expelled from the academy. If you don’t apply yourself how do you expect to get along in this world?” “I already told her to let me join ROOT.” Omi said defiantly. “Don’t need friends to be a top-secret assassin. No name, no identity, no nothing. The village would be happier without me anyway.” The teacher was silent for a moment, but he certainly made no attempt to argue with her. That was nothing new though, she’d already chased off two tutors, not to mention her entire class. She’d noticed that no adult every corrected her when she said that she wasn’t wanted. “Your mother is the Hokage, and she has tasked me with your continued education.” The teacher said, pushing his glasses up his nose. “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior from a child.” “Call her my mother again and I’ll jam this pencil up your nose.” Omi replied threateningly, picking up the pencil in front of her on the desk, and gesturing it at him as she cracked a grin and revealed a row pointed teeth. She watched as the teacher tensed up upon seeing her smile. “I-I..I will not be threatened, young lady.” The teacher snapped back, forcing some confidence back to himself, “If you give me any more back talk your mother-“ The chair scraped loudly against the floor as Omi came out of it like a bullet from a gun. The teacher’s screaming could be heard all the way down the hall. --- --- --- [Survival Examination] Omi sat in a chair in the Hokage’s office, her arms folded in resolute defiance, her chin pushed out and her face pulled to an incredibly exaggerated frown of annoyance. Gentle rings of wavy smoke drifted around the room. The placard on the desk read: Kiryuin Asuna – Hokage. The woman herself was sat behind the desk, quietly reading over some paperwork and smoking from a small pipe. Her was shoulder length and wild, with streaks of grey running through it. “Are you even going to talk to me?” Omi asked impatiently. Asuna looked up with her one good eye and gaze Omi a murderous glare. Omi returned it with childish petulance. Asuna’s eye twitched in annoyance. Clearly, she was a woman used to striking fear and respect from those around her. Not from her daughter, however. “There are no more tutors in Konoha who will have you.” Asuna said finally, and went back to going over her paperwork. “You’ve left me no choice…” “Finally…you’re going to send me to ROOT, like I’ve been asking?” Omi asked. “Hah!” Asuna seemed genuinely amused. “ROOT is a special branch of ANBU specifically for the most focused, loyal and dedicated ninja in Konoha. You are not fit to clean their boots, you insolent little brat.” “Tch! Who even gives a crap about all that stuff?” Omi scoffed, “Just ask my ex-tutor how good I am at inflicting pain.” “Jamming a pencil up some poindexter’s nose does not a shinobi make.” Asuna replied, although she was struggling to conceal her amusement. “You know…when Samanosuke became the first Hokage, his son was so dedicated to his father that he worked night and day to uphold the honor of his family name.” “What a loser…” Omi replied, rolling her eyes. “Yes…yes you are.” Asuna said, shaking her head. “Like I said you’ve left me no choice. I’m sending you in to the field.” “ANBU!?” Omi gasped excitedly, jumping out of her chair. “A supervised genin squad…” Asuna said, her eyes narrowing in disbelief. “Conditionally, I might add.” “Genin!?” Omi yelled, slumping back in to her chair. “I have to hang with the scrubs!?” “Newsflash, kid, you’re not even at the level of a scrub. You got expelled. I am seriously abusing my powers as Hokage on this one.” “Gee, what a swell parent you are.” Omi said sarcastically, rolling her eyes. “I wonder if my real mom would do that for me.” “Your real mom is dead, kid.” Asuna replied coldly. “And your dad. So, you’re stuck with me, and I’m stuck with you. Unless you screw this up, that is.” “What do you mean?” Omi asked, frowning. “You’ve got 1 more chance to make something of yourself.” Asuna said, puffing on her pipe. “Report to your Jounin leader tomorrow for a test. If you pass, you’re a genin. If you fail…then I’m disowning you. No more house, no more food, no more clothes.” “What!?” Omi snarled. “You can’t do that!” “Of course I can.” Asuna said with a smirk, “I’m not your mom, remember?”
  23. Project Guardian

    Heavy black boots thudded against the floor as the man approached. His boots were knee height, crafted from strong leather. He wore dark trousers and a sandy coloured cloak over his body that looked like an odd fusion of a kimono and a poncho, with a wide sleeve over his right arm. His left arm was bare, revealing lean muscle, and the man wore a strange black gauntlet, with long strands of metallic wire, and metal coverings over each of his fingers, slightly pointed to appear like claws. His skin was a light tan, and his hair was a greyish white, tied back in a high ponytail. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of thick, black goggles that seemed to extend out quite far from his face, and they quietly whirred and clicked as he approached. His right arm moved from under the wide sleeve and he held up a long-barrelled rifle with a scope. "Hm..." He said with a calm, contemplative voice, "Can you say 'hello world' for me?" "I have a gun, stay back!" Ai growled, pushing herself back along the floor. She dared not take her eyes off the stranger. She raised the gun back at the man a second time, threatening to shoot him though she knew the gun was empty. "Mine is bigger..." The man replied with a hint of a smirk, although his obscured eyes hid any true expression. He flexed the fingers of his left hand in odd, careful gestures as he watched her. More whirring and humming sounded from his goggles. "Mine is also charged..." He added although he didn't move to point the rifle at her, resting it on his shoulder instead, but his finger rested along the edge of where the trigger was. "C-Charged...?" Ai glanced at the gun in her hand and back at the stranger. Pursing her lips, she lowered the gun. Then, out of nowhere, she threw it at the man and ran into the back of the lab. There had to be something in here she could use against him. As she ran there was a click, followed by a humming noise, and then there was a sudden burst of green light that shot past her and crashed into a nearby shelf, the contents shattering violently and spraying across the room. “That was a warning shot.” The man called to her. “Next one goes through the back of your head unless you play nice…” Ai froze. Without turning back to face him, she called out, "What do you want?!" She asked as she scanned the room for something to use as a weapon. Anything. “Oh, lot’s of things.” The man replied. “What I came to get, however,…is not what I expected.” He paused in consideration, his hollow gaze watching her eerily. “Disappointing, I think…I don’t think I want you…or do I?” He shook his head slightly, “No, no, you’re much too old for her, don’t be a creep. Besides…she’s one of them” He spoke as if he was talking to someone else, but there was no one. “Would he go that far? That Nakamura…” "Touch me I'll kick you so hard you'll swallow your plums!" Ai whirled around, raising her fists as though she was going to fight him. Fist fight a guy with a rifle. Smart. The man’s eyebrows raised distinctly at her threat, and then he cocked his head slightly. He raised his left hand with the peculiar gauntlet, and swiped his fingers through the air a few times, followed by a series of rhythmic tapping motions, like someone playing frets on a guitar. “You…don’t know, do you?” He asked finally. "Know what? That message? Blue something?!" Ai held her fists up yet she wavered, she found herself trying to glance around the room, looking for something she'd missed while trying to keep her attention on the strange creep. The man seemed mildly taken aback by this, but he did not respond immediately. After a while he lowered his rifle to his side, and pulled the goggles up from his eyes, resting them on his forehead. His eyes were a dark brown, and still peered at her studiously, but his overall expression looked far less disturbing after the reveal. “You might want to take a look at yourself, I think.” He suggested. He looked around for a moment, and then gestured to his right, where there was a mess of broken glass shards on a table. "Eh?!" Careful of the man's deceit, Ai shuffled across the room and positioned herself so she could keep the man's body in view while she looked down at her reflection. She saw a face staring back at her. This woman's skin was flawless, free of any acne Ai had always struggled with, she didn't even have the little scar she'd gotten when Takashi accidentally hit her in the lip with a baseball he'd struck just moments before. Her lip had swollen right up, and she'd needed several stitches to sew it closed, but you could still see the scar. But now? Now it was gone. "I had a..." Ai traced her hand over her lip, then her gaze was drawn to her eyes. They were no longer the deep shade of brown she was accustomed to seeing. They were a bright blue, an immediately obvious and unnatural colour for her ancestry. "What...?" She leaned in, forgetting the presence of the stranger. As her confusion deepened with the studying of her face, she drew her lips back and gasped. Her teeth had never been perfect, but at least they were straight, flat and, well... human. The teeth she had now didn't resemble the teeth of a person at all. They looked like they would belong on a shark, or some horrible sci-fi monster. Each tooth was broad, pointed like a fang, and serrated, yet they locked together when she closed her mouth. Pursing her lips together to hide them, she glanced back up at the stranger. "What did you do to me?!" Ai barked, looking around the lab. "Where's my dad?!" “Dad…?” The man cocked his head slightly in confusion. Understanding washed over him in a moment, and he let out a heavy sigh. His gaze fell and he scratched the back of his head before rubbing at the back of his neck. “There is no easy way to say this…how bothersome.” He said finally, and he locked eyes with the scared girl. He stared at her without blinking, a seriousness about him. “The man you think is your father, Doctor Nakamura Satoshi; An unparalleled genius in the fields of biosynthetic chemistry, robotics, and cybernetics…” He paused, and gestured to the aged skeleton on the floor. “…It has been approximately 200 years since the Blue invaded Earth, I cannot imagine he lasted more than a decade after. I…am sorry for your loss.” "W-What?!" Ai stuttered, her eyes darting to the skeleton. She saw a name badge. It read, 'Dr. S Nakamura'. "T-that can't be... I was... I was just..." Ai looked back at the pod she had fallen out of, "W-why was I..." She trailed off, staring at the skeleton. The man turned his back to her, his expression torn between awkwardness and resigned frustration. He pinched the bridge of his nose, his eyes closed as he thought about his words carefully. “That pod is a testing chamber for running diagnostics and simulations. When I arrived the machine was set to run continuously until someone manually overrode it. That someone was me, just a few moments before you awoke.” He turned back to face her. “The world you think you know…it was a simulation. Time within simulations isn’t particularly relevant, you could have conceivably lived over a million lifetime cycles, each one different, each one shaping you. However…it appears as if Nakamura went the other way…he lengthened the cycle. It seems he wanted you to have a single, ordinary life…in the world that no longer exists.” "I-I can't..." Ai felt the need to cry, she knew she would, but being sat there, on the cold, dusty floor of the lab, she couldn't do as much as shed a single tear. So many questions ran rampant in her mind. So many emotions. She was terrified, and confused. In shock, disbelief and she wanted to lash out. Was her father really dead? Could she have been in a simulation? And why? This was her father's lab, would he have really put her in a simulation? What possible reason could he have to do something like that to her? If he was truly dead, would she ever have those answers? "I can't believe it..." Ai said finally. She shuffled across the floor on her hands and knees and slumped down beside the skeleton. She looked at his name badge again. A wave of disbelief washed over her, and she found herself checking over every inch of the skeleton. Anyone can put a name badge on a load of old bones. That's what she told herself. But then she saw it, hiding in his lab coat pocket. Ai reached out and pulled a long, half-smoked cigar. She didn't know the brand, but she recognized the smell immediately. He had a habit of starting them, then stamping them out, only to put them in his pocket for later. It used to drive her mother up the wall. So, this really was her dad. Did that mean... 200 years had passed? And one other thing stood out to her. "200 years... since..." Ai's face screwed up once more, she almost laughed, "Since what invaded?" “The Blue.” The man replied ominously. The name itself didn’t seem the type to strike terror into the hearts of men, but when he said it his tone carried a fearful respect. “Records of when they first struck are slim. It is believed they had surveilled our planet quite extensively on their long journey through dark space. They use organic matter as a sort of bio-fuel to sustain them, but all research suggests they are a technologically based life form, or some sort of bio-synthetic beyond our understanding. They are ruthless, powerful beings who do not hold a scrap of compassion towards humanity…” The man paused as a chirping noise sounded in the small device he had in his ear. He waited, counting the seconds. 5 seconds…10 seconds…15 seconds…18 seconds… Chirp-chirp. “…and they are coming here.” He said finally, through gritted teeth. "Well then we've got to get out of here!" Ai snapped, standing up. Even now, she found it difficult to believe. But as time passed, and she found herself better able to concentrate, it was difficult to argue with this man. The signs of wear and age on the room, the amount of dust on the consoles and floor, the fact that her father's remains were only a skeleton and not a corpse. Her father was dead... she still couldn't process that. But she could hear commotion from outside. "What do we do?!" She asked him, terrified at the idea that creatures from another world were going to tear through the door at any moment and eat them. “We have time, but only a little.” The man explained, as he pulled down his strange goggles again. He made his way over to the pod where Ai had came from and began examining it, feeling around for something. “It must be around here somewhere…” He said as he fumbled around the back of the machine. “Online servers would have been destroyed by this point, surely. Nakamura would have a local drive…where is it!?” He thumped the machine with his fist in frustration. “All that data…we can’t leave it behind for the Blue. 200 years of simulations…on Nakamura’s secret weapon. But where…where would he store the-“ He cut himself off. He whirled around to face Ai and stared at her, before finally sighing. “It can’t be helped.” He said with a resigned sigh. He reached for the clips on the shoulder of his cloak and unclipped them. Then he flung the cloak from himself with a flourish, and it whirled through the air like a phantom and wrapped itself around Ai’ body, covering her almost naked form. From underneath the cloak, 5 small, black orbs surfaced and moved through the air, back towards their master, spinning around his head before attaching themselves to the strap fastened across his chest. There was a space for one more orb, but it was nowhere to be seen. “Nakamura kun, my name is Kyounosuke Masahiro, but everyone calls me Kyouma!” He declared with a sudden pep and authority to his tone. “I am the mad scientist who walks the lonely path of genius! You are the unwitting secret weapon of the Doctor Nakamura, the last hope of standing up against The Blue! Begrudgingly…I accept responsibility. I will be your foster parent!” "You're a mental case..." Ai muttered. A terrible crash came from somewhere outside. It shook the entire room, as though something enormous was tearing through the walls themselves. "What's happening?!" Ai yelled over the terrible screeching as metal beams and blocks of stone were thrown aside as though they weighed nothing. “Stay close to me!” Kyouma ordered as he gripped his rifle and made for the door of the laboratory. He swung the door open and ascended up the stairs which opened out on to a mess of rubble and metal scrap. He gestured for Ai to follow as he navigated through the tight crawl space he had clearly found his way in from. All the while distant sounds of crunching steel screeched through the air. The ground shook as rubble fell, old ventilation pipes hissed as they expelled gas. It appeared as if they were in a vast, dark warehouse full of wreckage. However, as they moved out into the clearer sections there was a slight breeze. Shifts in the darkness revealed tiny rays of moonlight in the polluted smog that blanketed the sky. Kyouma ducked down behind a large shattered wall and pressed his back against it. He put his finger to his mouth, ordering silence, and he waited. Something writhed in the darkness. Heavy crunching sounded so close by, and so suddenly that Kyouma’s breath caught in surprise. An eerie, alien noise echoed through the night. The repetitive clicking noise sounded like it came from something synthetic, but it’s musical tones gave it an almost organic quality, almost like birdsong. Carefully, Kyouma’s fingers moved with their characteristic gestures. One of the black orbs on his belt detached silently and flew off into the night. The motion caught the attention of the creature nearby, and it rounded on them. Something scraped along the wall above their heads, and the stone began to crumble. A bassy thumping beat reverberated in the distance. Whatever it was caught the attention of the creature, and it stalked off in the direction of the noise, crashing through rubble and debris without a care. Judging by the noise, the creature was large and powerful. Kyouma let his breath finally sigh out. He stepped out from behind the wall and looked around carefully. “We should move while the coast is clear.” He whispered, and he turned and gave Ai a reassuring nod. Meanwhile a dark, metallic, tendril coiled around his leg and suddenly dragged him off into the air, disappearing into the dark fog, and the sound of tearing and rending followed.
  24. Project Guardian

    OOC: Private RP, gave it an 'NC-17' for violence, gore and dark themes. Project Guardian Breakfast was always a rushed affair in the Nakamura household. Ai always woke up late, so her father, Satoshi, always had to pick up her slack. Today was no different. She woke with a start, after realising she'd reset her alarm more than a dozen times. It was 8:43am and she had less than 20 minutes to get to school on time. She heard the pop of the toaster ejecting delicious, crispy toast as she fumbled down the stairs, trying to slip-on her other shoe. "You're late!" Her father growled, but he smiled against his temper as she darted past him, kissing him on the cheek as she grabbed a slice of toast. His toast. He rolled his eyes and tried to grab the second slice, but she snatched it from the toaster as she was swallowing down the last piece of the first slice. "OI!!" He made a sour face. "I'm late!" She rationalised, and he found himself unable to argue. She grinned and grabbed her backpack. "I'm working late tonight, so--" "--'kay, bye!!" Ai waved goodbye to her father as she rushed out the front door and immediately collided with a young boy who crumpled to the ground as though hit by a truck. "Ah, geez!" The short brown-haired boy stared up at the raven-haired girl and scowled, "Ai, you could be a little more careful!" "Sorry." She helped the boy to his feet, grinning at him. It took him a moment, but he returned the grin himself. "Come on, we're going to be late, Takashi!" "I wouldn't be late if you didn't run into me every morning, i'm gonna start walking down a different street." He grumbled, shoving his hands into his pockets. Ai grabbed his arm, pulling his hand out and started to run, "Come on!" She yelled, as they sped up and Takashi was virtually pulled along the street. Ai sat on a park bench. School had been a pain. Yes, she was late. It didn't help that the school had an outdated punishment system thanks to the old-school headmaster. Both Takashi and herself spent two hours stood in front of the main gate, holding a bucket of water in each hand, with the sign, 'I am a truant' around their necks. She stretched her shoulders and relaxed them as best she could. "I can't believe we were out there for so long, d'you think they forgot us?" Ai asked, brushing her scruffy hair out of her dark brown eyes. "Takashi?" She looked over, expecting to see her friend. But he wasn't there. She looked around for a moment, but realised he must have gone for snacks or something. Ai got up from the bench and walked over to sit in the shade of a nearby tree. She blinked, and for a moment, she saw a boy standing on the other side of the school fence, staring at her. Then he was gone, just as quickly. Ai frowned, but before the thought could permeate, she saw a can of drink appear in her periphery and she looked over to see Takashi standing there, waiting. "Did you hear me?" He asked, sighing, "Come on, i'm waiting!" She took the can of iced green tea, thanking him as he sat down beside her. "There, that's better." Takashi sighed, enjoying the relief from the hot summer's afternoon sun. "Did you see a boy over there?" Ai asked. "A boy with white hair?" "White hair?" Takashi repeated her question in disbelief, "What a poser... where?" "Right over there." She pointed at the fence. "Well... he's gone now!" Takashi took a sip of his drink. "Well, anyway, I--" "Hmm?" Ai looked over, but her friend was gone. Ai stood bolt upright and looked around, "Takashi?!" She called out, there was no response. She walked around the diameter of the tree, assuming he was hiding from her, but he was nowhere to be seen. He was just... gone. "Like the boy with the white hair..." She muttered. There was a flash of red light. Ai stumbled as she hit the last step on her staircase, "Hey!!" She yelped, and fell forwards, grabbing onto the railing to stop herself from falling flat on her face. She collapsed in a heap and looked around. What just happened? Had she been talking to someone? She remained seated on the step for a few minutes until her father came running past, a piece of toast hanging from his lips. "Come on, Ai! It's 8:45am, you're going to be late!" Her father marched past her, "I'll see you later, okay? I'm going to be working late tonight, so--" "--kay... bye..." Ai muttered, watching as her father ran out the door, closing it behind him. She heard a distant voice, "Morning Takashi!" "Oh!!" Ai exclaimed. She leapt to her feet and ran for the front door, forgetting her backpack entirely. She grabbed the door handle, twisted it open and stepped out into-- Another flash of red light. Ai felt something strange between her toes. She looked down, and saw she was stood in sand. She was on a beach. She recognised it immediately. It was the beach near Okinawa that her father had taken her many times before. They went scuba-diving here. But wasn't she in her house a moment ago? And it was morning, but now the sun was... Ai looked up, shielding her eyes from the full force of the sun. But the sun wasn't a brilliant white-yellow. It was red. Red light thrummed in front of her eyes. She blinked. Something wasn't right. Where was she? She felt something cold touching her skin. She felt cold. She felt like she was standing, but at an angle, as if she was going to be poured out of something. Where was she? She found herself asking again. Ai tried to open her eyes and focus, but it was difficult. A brilliant red light grew in intensity, and quickly dimmed every few seconds. She tried to focus past the light in front of her, and saw that the world ahead of her was distorted, as if by glass. She saw computer monitors, tech equipment, a number of desks with various lab tools scattered around. It almost looked like... Yes. She was in her father's lab. But she was never allowed in her father's lab. Not since she was a little girl and she wandered in from the main lobby, ignoring his instruction to remain in the lobby. She had to get out. If he found her here, she'd be in trouble. That was why she was having weird thoughts about the beach and getting ready, she must have come in, gotten curious about something bubbling away, taken a whiff and passed out. There was no telling what was in here, she thought to herself. She reached out and pressed her palm against the glass. A distant voice belonging to a woman Ai didn't recognise echoed in the coldness of the lab. "Structural integrity is at 11%. Simulation disengaged. Bay door opening. Play Dr. Nakamura message #06." "Hello Ai, I expect you have questions, and I will answer all of them shortly..." Ai felt pressure on her back as she stepped forwards, but the pressure was relieved as she stepped onto the cold lab floor. She took a few deep breaths and coughed, her lungs felt raw. She looked down at herself and realised she was naked. For a moment, panic spread through her, then she realised, she wasn't naked, she was wearing some kind of flesh coloured body suit. Like the kind some Olympic athletes wear. It was stupid. She wanted rid of it, but until she could find her own clothes, she was stuck with it. "...Ai, if I succeeded in imparting to you all my hopes and dreams..." Looking up, Ai searched for the sound of her father's voice, quickly realising it was coming from the speakers in the corners of the room. Everything was so confusing, she found herself stood in silence, listening to her father's message. At first, it seemed like he'd left her a voice message no different from those he often left on their home phone, telling her he wouldn't be home in time for dinner. It sounded dire, because he was going to disappoint her. Again. But no, this was different. "... don't know what they are. We call them the 'Blue'. Life from another galaxy, but not what we were expecting, to say the least. They are voracious. They feed on organic life. In essence... us. I think we are their ultimate goal. I don't know how far they travelled to get here, but it must have taken thousands of years. There was probably a lot more of them when they set off, but they cannibalised themselves until they arrived on Earth, and began repopulating as they consumed the human population--" "What?!" Ai gasped in disbelief. What the hell was he talking about?! "--haven't done enough. I tried to create the perfect defence against the Blue, but it's failed. I've failed... they're coming..." Ai heard a rumbling in the message, then it cut short and was replaced by the woman's voice over the speakers a second time. "Play Dr. Nakamura message #07." "They're coming!" A terrible screech as metal was being wrenched. Ai clutched at her ears, and relaxed as the noise waned. "I've no time, i'm setting the tests to run automatically, dammit why are they always so prompt!" She heard a muffled laugh that warped into a cough, "No time. No time! Come on, hurry up!" She heard the woman's voice again, but this time, it was a part of the message. "Download at 68%..." Terrible, wrenching, screeching noises. "NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE HER!!" Ai recoiled at the sound of her father screaming at the top of his lungs, and then suddenly he was cut short. She heard crunching, and the sound of water dripping, and then heavy footsteps. Finally, silence. Ai was so engrossed with the message, staring at the speaker in one corner, that she hadn't taken any notice of her surroundings. "Message ends." The voice cut the clip off, and there was silence once more. Ai turned and looked back at where she'd stepped out of, it was some kind of escape pod. Long, thick black cables fell in loose bundles, tipped with metal spears that looked like they were made to go in something. Then she felt something. She didn't know how she knew. But she knew she wasn't alone. She found herself focusing on that sensation, and it was then she heard the faintest sound of breathing. Whirling around, Ai saw a figure cloaked in shadow at the far end of the room. Screaming, Ai leapt back. Then suddenly, she was falling. She'd tripped over something. She collapsed to the ground and saw she'd tripped over a small pile of bones. A skull stared back at her, and she screamed again. Then her eyes focused on something else. She saw a gun. Instinctively she reached for it, grabbed it, pointed the weapon at the man, and pulled the trigger multiple times. Nothing happened. She heard a faint whirr as the gun attempted to fire and failed, then a tinny voice called out from the gun. "Cells: Empty." Completely defenceless, Ai looked back at the intruder, and waited in shocked silence.
  25. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    ((sorry for keeping you waiting ive been so busyyyyyyyy)) Logan was in the middle of processing the last of some paperwork for the night when he heard his cellphone vibrate on the corner of his desk. He was tired and already a little out-of-it, but he was even more confused to hear his phone ring so late and on a weekend as well. He picked it up, not recognizing the number on the screen, and answered hesitantly. "Hello, Logan Austin's office," He said, the line automatic even when he wasn't answeing phone calls from complete strangers. He heard some noise on the other end of the phone and then a gruff, thick, but clear voice speak from the other end. "Yeah, hi. My name's Otto Lombardi. I don't know if this is a service you cover or whatever but your name came up on a search for local private investigators. Do you do missing persons searches?" Otto was straight to the point, so much so that it caught Logan off gaurd. "I, uh... Hold on a minute, you caught me in the middle of something here," Logan grumbled. He had to take a moment to put aside some files he had been sorting and then pull out some fresh sheets to jot down information from this potential new client on the line. While he did this, he asked, "Did you already contact the police?" "Yeah, we did," Otto responded, "They said they wouldn't conduct a search unless the person has been missing for 48 hours." Logan nodded at this, but needed more information. "I take it the person in question hasn't been missing that long. Tell me. Do you have reasonable suspicion that there's been some... Ill-intent on this individual? And I take it you've attempted contact with this person to find their location?" "Yes, yes," Were Otto's replies. "He's not anywhere that he would usually... Or UNusually be. He's not answering his cellphone, either. I dunno about ill-intent or whatever, but it's really unusual for this kid to just up and disappear without saying a word to anyone about his whereabouts." Blank sheets finally in front of him, Logan was finally organized to take down some proper info. "Tell me more about the missing person, if you would." He requested, pen-tip readied on the paper in front of him. "Name, age, description..." As he trailed off, he heard some scuffling on the other end of the line and then another voice with--what he presumed was--an english accent began talking. "His name's Steal. Er, Stephen, actually. Stephen Masters," "How old is he?" "He'll be turning 21 in another month. Uh, 20, sorry mate. I mean, he's 20. He's about 170 centimenters tall, maybe a bit bigger--" "You'll have to give me that in 'American' measurements, sir," Logan interrupted, too tired to do the math himself. "Ah, right. Uh, I suppose that's five... foot... Seven? Oi, get the bloody calculator out of me face," Yusai grunted. He cleared his throat and continued, "Sorry. Yeah, he's 5'7, probably no more than fifty-eight kilos wet--ah, that's 130 pounds--has short, silver hair, real vibrant blue eyes, and he's got two red moles on the back of his neck that look like a vampire bit 'im." Logan finished jotting down these details (and was a little surprised at how in-depth the description was), feeling a strange sense of deja-vu as he looked over some of the descriptors of this person. A young man with silver hair, huh? Stephen Masters... Something about the name seemed familiar, too. "All right. Can you tell me a little bit about the circumstances surrounding his disappearance?" Logan asked, skimming his wrist down to another portion of the page. "When did you notice his absence?" There was a pause on the other end, and the sound of thinking through the mouth. Yusai then hesitently explained that Steal must've disappeared just after his show, which was at 9. "Okay," Logan went on, "Did he seem agitated before his disappearance? Did you notice any change in his mood tonight, or prior to?” He heard some long, drawn-out “umms” and “uhhhs”. To clear the obvious confusion he was hearing, Logan continued, “I just want to rule out any possibility of suicide. It’ll rule out some well-known spots for the initial investigation.” Yusai paused on this question, trying to remember Steal’s mood that night. He had been sullen, withdrawn, and quiet up until his show. He sang a very meloncholy song that had even made his own heart sink. Steal was prone to down moods, and if he was making an honest observation, he couldn’t say that Steal was someone he ever considered “bubbly” or “energetic”. And, Yusai remembered Steals suicidal tendencies when he had initially taken him in... But was Steal still that person? He’d like to think that he wasn’t. He couldn’t say for certain. “A... A little, I ‘spose. He um... He’s been a little down lately,” Yusai admitted, his voice becoming low and soft. There were some sounds of more scribbling and then a faint “tap” as Logan finished the last of his notes and set down his pen. He had the pertinent inormation he needed for now. And even though it was late, and it was a weekend, his time was money and he figured if he was going to be up anyway, he may as well do some work. “I’ll come down to investigate the premises tonight. Keep everything in tact, I’ll be down shortly.” Logan instructed, and with that, he was already slipping on his coat and fishing for his keys in his pocket. ** “Allan, that’s enough, for Godssake. You know he bruises ike a peach,” Was the only plea to Steal’s father that his mother made in the boys defense. Her tone was not one that suggested pity, at least not outwardly, but more fatigued and annoyed “Besides, he’s already had a bloody nose and... God, do you see the scar on his head?” Allan looked down at his son, who was on the floor on all fours with his head lowered. He had taken Steal by the collar and given him a firm jostle before pushing him aside in frustration. All the past grievances and irritations with his son had come to surface when he laid eyes on him again, and unable—unwilling—to control his anger, Allan lashed out quickly and fiercely. As was his way. “Get up,” Allan commanded, ignoring his wife’s interjection. “From what I’ve had to hear from outside sources, you’ve spent enough times on your knees. Get up.” Steal feebly made an effort to get up on his feet, but the effort wasn’t fast enough, wasn’t good enough, for Allan. With a hissing intake of breath, the man bent down and grabbed Steal by a tuft of hair from the crown of his head and pulled upwards. Steal wailed and shot upright immeadiately but clumsily. Alan took a moment to examine his son’s expression, his demeanour, and it was not with eyes of compassion he laid on his child, but one of utter contempt. God, what a pitiful creature he was. “Do you have any idea what sort of reputation you’re giving me?” Allan asked in a low tone, his eyes hardening. “The sorts of things your mother and I have to listen to from those snakes on Wall Street? Do you have any CLUE?” He had his hands around the collar of Steal’s robe again, holding the boys gaze. “No... Of course you don’t. You’re oblivious. You’re selfish. It’s never mattered to you how your mother and I stay afload in this economy so long as you were out and about, gallavanting around with your low-life friends.... Leaving us to clean up after you. Leaving ME with a tainted name—a potentially tainted business—because YOU can’t keep it together!” Here he shook Steal violently until he was sick of holding him, and then let him go, not giving a care as his son tumbled on his ass to the ground. “Laura, call our damned valet and have him come pick us up as soon as possible. We’re going home tonight and putting this child in lock-up until he developes some sense.”
  26. The future is ours.. isn't it?

    Steal was so woozy, he wasn't all that sure what was happening. He knew he was being taken somewhere. The guy that had been saying he was only looking for his missing cat was now taking him somewhere. When they stopped he felt like he was still moving for a while. It was as if the car was still forcing him into motion even though he was being pulled out of it. "Wh...?" he stammered a bit and felt like he was about to be sick. Finally he found his feet and blinked owlishly around. It was still a time before he realized just where he was. He noticed then who was with him. His mother, no wonder he was there, this was the kind of thing she would plan for, to take him away from any hope of happiness. Neither of his parents wanted him as anything more than a trophy. Sit, shut up, and let others see you. Nothing more nothing less. He let her drag him into the hotel, walking like a zombie. She didn't even need to physically pull him, he just followed like a lost puppy. Well, he had planned to head there on his own, now that he was here though, he regretted everything. His happiness would be gone forever. Steal walked into the suite and looked at the food on the trade and the glasses that had been set out. The thought of anything made him feel physically ill. He groaned and headed into the bathroom, not really listening to what she had to say. He didn't want to throw away his clothing, he didn't want to loose anything. Closing the bathroom door, he sat down on the toilet and closed his eyes, fighting back a series of sobs. He didn't want to do any of this but it was too late. Stowing away his clothing under the sink to perhaps be found by someone. Finally he stepped out of the room and walked into the main suite sitting down politely but with little expression on his face. Rather than seeming to mind though his mother was actually happier this way. To her he was being the way he should. Dressed in a preppy suit, hair brushed nicely. "Your hair.. it is butchered. The long hair showed your breeding." Soon enough he would be seeing his father though, and then the punishment would start. *** They had looked all over the building for some sign of what had happened to lose Steal and it was only when one of Otto's staff went out for a smoke break that the bracelet was found. He ran inside with it and took it right to Otto. The bracelet was engraved on the back with a notation that it was from Yusai for Steal's 20th. "Shit..." Otto paled a bit and ran over to Yusai with the bracelet. The meaning behind it being there was obvious. There was no way Steal would have left it willingly. He had been taken somewhere against his will. Calling the cops and telling them he had been taken wasn't going to work. They had to figure out where he was now. "Yusai, I am so sorry..." Otto rubbed his hands over his eyes and closed them tight. "Shit... what are we going to do now?" *** Steal watched with a fairly bland look on his face as his father finally walked into the room. The man walked over and grabbed him by the face lifting him that way to his feet. He glared at the young man. "Seems we didn't treat you good enough? You were not getting everything you could want? Well, you have a lot to learn." He dropped Steal back down, watching as his son folded his hands and silently sat in place. Sneering he walked back across the room. "Living with a strange man, going to bars every day.. bringing shame on our family, this is not how we taught you." The elder man paced back and forth. "We will be taking you home and you will start going through training again. I will not have you being like this. We are going to set you up in a different room and start you back into proper behaviour." The words could only mean one thing to him. He would be beaten mercilessly for a while until he repented for all he had done. Still deep inside he would hold onto what and who he was. Maybe some day he would see his friends again. Why had he ever wanted to go back with these people. Oh, for Yusai, this was all for Yusai. ((so sorry.. TnT))
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