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Thread: Nature's Kingdom [Original]

  1. #21
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Return From Heaven II

    “What do you mean?” I asked, feeling uneasy. Was she referring to the research I was doing for our paper?

    “Don’t be coy now.” Ashley’s voice was soft making me fidget with my hands. Her eyes shifted from me to Nathan and Tiffany. “I know you three have been curious about us ever since you have learned we are not from this world. However…”Ashley overlooked me. “If you want to know more about Arcadians and Valterians, more about me, all you need to do is ask.”

    My face contorted in confusion. Where was this coming from? Ashley rolled her eyes at my puzzlement.

    “The thread on The Hallowed Eve posted a week or two ago. Asking questions about a dragon girl and nine-tailed fox? Specific descriptions of ‘angels.’ That was you wasn’t it?”

    A hint of fear crept up in my spine as I stared at Ashley, sitting still. I did make a thread on THE’s local board around the time we had learned that Ashley, Terra, and Ms. Frazzle were capes. After what happened to us with them and with Kazuya, after what was revealed, I wanted as much information on the gods as possible. I wanted to know if others had noticed us with Kazuya and the Arcadians from that night. If anybody else knew about Avalon. I even searched for any info regarding the Terra and Sinister Seven but of course, nothing came up.

    “That could have been anyone,” Tiffany argued, taking a glimpse at me before shifting. “How do you know it was Mercy?”

    Ashley glanced at her side-eyed. “I have my sources.”

    “What the hell does that mean?”

    “No, she’s right Tiff. Not sure how you found my username, Ash, but it was probably me,” I said, causing my sister to turn my way in surprise. I still focused on Ashley. “After everything that’s been going on lately, you can’t blame me for wanting to know more. You can be intimating to talk to sometimes.”

    “That’s fair I suppose,” Ashley mused.

    “Mercy, even though Ashley is a spoiled princess, she’s still a big softy at heart,”
    Terra said, teasing. “You should know that by now.”

    Ashley glared at him. “I’ll remind you not to overlook my grace and kindness, Terra.”

    Terra leaned over and put an arm around Tiffany, corralling her in a tight half-hug—forcing her head to rest on his shoulder, much to Tiffany’s annoyance. “I’d never.”

    Tiffany pushed Terra off and broke away from him. “No, don’t even. That joke is terrible and you should feel terrible.”

    I shook my head, knowing what Terra was hinting at.

    “To get back on topic,” Ashley said, quieting the two of them. “Mercy, though you tried to be discrete with your online presence, those in the know can infer things. Those with the power and resources to find you, and me through you. I would prefer it if most don’t know I’m away from Artisans for an extended period time and who knows what Arcadia will do if rumors about their warriors on appearing on Earth start spreading.”

    I nodded, thinking back to Kazuya’s words about the threat of the Arcadian kingdoms.

    “That sources of yours,” Nathan said while judging Ashley with narrowed eyes. “It’s Ms. Frazzle is it?”

    Ashley smiled with amusement. “No. As if I would rely on that witch. You’ll learn Nathan that I have eyes and ears everywhere. From various governments of Avalon and this world to SIGMA.” Ashley placed a hand under her chin and pondered. “Or more accurately, one could say the Forum.”

    Terra smirked. “How does King Arden feel about you fraternizing with an enemy of Valterian government?”

    “It’s irrelevant,” Ashley said unperturbed. “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. I’ll get rid of them once I reclaim the throne from her.”

    Terra hummed to himself, doubtful. Ashley appeared displeased by it.

    “So, I guess the Forum is another gang from Avalon,” Nathan said unsure, his statement almost sounding like a question.

    “Nah, it’s more like a secret society that runs things behind the scenes.”

    Nathan scrunched up his face as he frowned at Terra. “Like one of those fake-ass conspiracy theories?”

    “Oh, it’s very real,” Terra said, still smirking.

    “Indeed,” Ashley agreed. “Anyway, I’d prefer it if you all would take care when using the internet.”

    Tiffany folded her arms. “We were planning on using stuff from that battle you guys were talking about for our English papers. The New York one.”

    “Searching events that everyone is aware of should be fine. I’ll let you know more about my history and powers at a later date. Perhaps I’ll even explain more about the gods.”

    “Kazuya gave us a quick rundown after we met him,” Tiffany said. “What’s the need for all the secrecy?”

    Ashley paused. “Really now? No matter. You will learn the reason for my silence in due time.”

    “Maybe… it has to deal with Nathan?” I asked.

    “Yeah,” Nathan said. “I would like to know if you know anything else special about me.”

    Ashley frowned and stood up, turning away from us. “Not as much as I’d like too.”

    “The hell’s that mean?” asked Nathan.

    Ashley ignored him.

    “Uh, Earth to Ashley.”

    She refused to turn around.

    Ookay.” Tiffany studied the blonde. “So what is the endgame here? You and Ms. Frazzle simply want to protect Nathan?”

    “I don’t know of the intentions of our teacher, “Ashley said, facing Nathan. “But I suspect that she knows more about your hidden potential than she lets on, like my father.”

    “And you?” Tiffany asked.

    “I simply want full control of my abilities and to get them back I must keep watch over Nathan for a full year. Presumably, my father’s seal should wear off by then.”

    “Only a year?” I asked. “Do you plan to return to Avalon... or Valteria?”

    Nathan frowned.

    “That’s a good question, Mercy,” Terra commented. “I’m curious too. Do you intend to lead another rebellion?”

    My brow furrowed at Terra’s question.

    “I’m not too keen on fighting another war against my sister, not right now.” Ashley’s voice was laced with a surprising bitterness. “All I care about is doing what is needed to regain power.”

    Terra nodded, dropping the subject. He turned to Nathan and his best friend looked him in the eyes in turn.

    “Have you manifested any hallowed abilities?” Terra asked him.

    The edges of Nathan’s lips lifted into a reluctant smile. “Yeah. I’m a healer.”

    He lifted a hand and waves of energy pooled around it, a soft tea-greenish aura forming. Pulsating with warmth one moment then coolness the next.

    “I’m not really sure how it could help in a big cape fight, but it’s better than nothing,” Nathan muttered.

    Tiffany fell into a fit of rapid eye blinking, before pausing. “Are you serious?” She glanced at us. “Better than nothing, he says.”

    “What?” Nathan asked.

    Ashley chuckled. “It’s a useful power.”

    I agreed. “It’s important to have healers since there aren’t many. It’s rare powerset.”

    Nathan shrugged. “I guess I was expecting something cool or flashy. Like a warrior or powerhouse power. I’d even take infiltrator type over this.”

    “Healers can fall under the infiltrator class,” Terra said.

    “Really? Still, it feels kind of lame though.”

    “Don’t say that,” I admonished. “It’s freaking awesome. Do you know how much I’d love to have a power like that? How powerful is it?”

    “Not sure. I do know it works wonders for Ms. Frazzle's headaches though.”

    “Mmm…” Tiffany smirked while leaning over her knees, her face and hands resting on the top of them as she peered at Nathan. “Don’t tell me you’ve been feeling up our English teacher—you rascal, you.”

    “Of course,” Nathan drawled in good humor. “I couldn’t resist running my hands up and down her body.” Nathan ran his hands across an invisible body in the air, accentuating some parts of the female form.

    “Ew…” I shivered, trying the purge the image of Nathan groping Ms. Frazzle out of my brain. Nathan could never help himself when it came to taking a joke too far.

    Ashley huffed and scrutinized Nathan, her sour look notable. “Please. Nathan knows better than that.”

    “I bet,” my sister said.

    “Well, I think it’s cool that you have powers,” I said to Nathan. “You should be grateful and more excited that you’re a cape.”

    Nathan mulled over my words, tilting his head from side to side. “I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.”

    The five us talked a little bit more before Ashley led us back to the cafe. Though we spent the majority of our lunch period on the roof, Katherine never showed up to join us.

    oOo

    Tired from soccer practice and homework, Tiffany and I spent the most of night in the living room sprawled out on the couch like the living dead. Our bodies were entangled into a pile of limbs as we watched TV with our parents.

    Mom had the channel on the local news since she was the first to arrive home to take command of the TV, much to the rest of our detriment. Well, it really only bothered Tiffany and me.

    I spent time alternating between the television and scrolling through my iPad. I checked some of my social media accounts, looking and ‘liking’ pictures from my teammates and friends with Tiffany peering over my shoulder like a mischievous little devil, whispering thinly veiled insults and juicy gossip she heard about various girls in our clique.

    Annoyed at her constantly talking in my ear, I switched webpages to read some fan-fiction while checking to see if any new readers commented on my own writing. She stopped soon after that, rolling her eyes at me and sitting on her side of the couch with a thump. I glared at her as she pretty much sat on my legs. She ignored me, playing with her phone. I kicked at her, causing her butt to shift on the seat so I could sit up straight.

    The woman on the news said something about capes, causing me to perk up and view the TV as I adjusted how my back felt against the sofa, my toes touching the floor. A new gang, the Inheritors, had been terrorizing the boardwalk for the past few weeks, finishing off their lucrative crime spree today with the robbing a popular casino called The Scarlet. The reporter continued talking about the increase of cape crime plaguing the boardwalk and waterfront, interviewing victims—civilians and the store owners that were directly affected by cape burglaries and fights.

    With their last stunt, the Inheritors aroused the ire of the racist gang, Albatross, getting to a skirmish with the group of white supremacists capes around the beach. No cape was killed and luckily since people were out of the way, no one else was hurt. The fight was a pretty even matchup since not all of the Albatross capes were involved.

    As the reporter continued to talk over video footage of the cape fight, My twin and I had our eyes glued to the screen, absorbing everything.

    Though they were criminals, the Inheritors were an intriguing group of capes, mostly because they were new on the cape scene and no one knew much about them. The boards of The Hallowed Eve were littered with speculation about Ravensworth’s new costumed crooks; the gang was active since January but they didn’t start any large scale operations until recently. Tons of threads with posters discussing who they are, what their aim was, people theory-crafting about their powers. Others claiming that they were a team that rebranded and moved from a bigger city to a place with less heat. All things considered, most of the information online pointed to the leader of the group of five being their flying pyrokinetic who went by the name Ignite or Ignition.

    On the other hand, almost everything about Albatross was public knowledge except for their secret identities. It was a family gang, one that had hand been around since the nineties. They were stable, able to avoid being taken out by flourishing rivals such as the Spades and Noroi and the local heroes groups—like the Watchkeepers. The fact that they had a high number of capes, maybe about twelve in all, along with manpower of a few thousand gang members, kept them on top of the Ravensworth’s underworld for years. They were led by the enigmatic Swan, a cape that could project metal blades from his skin at high speeds. His powers reminded me of Ashley.

    Mom sighed sounded exhausted. “These gangs are nothing bad news.”

    “The new policies the SIGMA and the Watchkeepers are implementing; the increase of manpower toward the nasty side of the town,” Dad said. “That should hit the operations of the gangs pretty hard, if not take them down.”

    “Can only hope,” Mom said.

    The news program showed a quick interview with the leader of the Watchkeepers, Vitiate as she surveyed the wartorn beach that the Inheritors and Albatross, trampled only a few hours prior. The space warper cape had on silver and blue armor and was positioned in front of the camera, surrounded by some of the teen heroes from NextGen. SIGMA agents and cleaning crew members were in the background removing rubble and taping off wreaked areas of the boardwalk.

    Vitiate gave her spiel about renewing efforts to stop gang violence and our mom switched the channel to the national news when she finished. It seemed like each station was still talking about the ramifications of the invasion by the Avalonian forces. Heroes were still helping with the cleanup.

    Tiffany squealed with glee when her favorite hero, Crow Valentine, appeared on the screen from an aerial view. His dark wings cast a huge shadow below as he flew from wreaked building to building, helping workers move and get rid of debris. Members of the Alliance and the Quixotic Quartet were also seen helping from the helicopter footage.

    Tiffany squeed again once Crow Valentine was back on screen.

    My eyes nearly rolled out of my head. “Your hero crush is way too edgy for his own good,” I said, pointing out the ridiculousness of his wild ‘all-over-the-place’ hair and his outfit: the red leather coat and pants, covered under belts full of weapons with a cape too large to be practical.

    Tiffany scowled at me. “I don’t want to hear that from a girl that gets hot for a guy in an orange fursuit.”

    “Tiffany,” our mom warned, already sensing an argument brewing.

    I could feel my face turn a shade darker, burning as irritation rose deep in my chest. “Stop it. It’s not a fursuit, it’s skin-tight!”

    “Like that’s any better,” Tiffany said, she tilted her head glancing up in dramatic fashion before taking stock of me. “Oh, I forget that you’re into looking at ample butts.”

    Okay, saying that in front of Mom and Dad? Now she was just being obnoxious. I waved her comment off in a frivolous manner. Fine, I can play at that game.

    “Like you’re not?” I asked her.

    Tiffany grin widened but before she could speak our dad cut in.

    “Alright, this conversation is taking a turn for the worst,” he said. “Knock it off, you two.”

    Mom shook her head. “Really.”

    “But seriously, Ems, your favorite hero is so lame,” Tiffany said. “Why not someone cool like Nexus or Lightspeed?” She gave me a pointed look. “What’s with your fixation on foxes?”

    I narrowed my eyes at her as I caught her double meaning, but with our parents her I couldn’t really confront her about it. “Magnificent isn’t lame,” I said, mentioning the name of the fox based cape. “He’s probably the most popular hero in the country.”

    My sister shrugged. “I guess. His costume is good for merchandising since it’s not overly complex. So it doesn’t count because he’s popular with kids by default. That reminds me—are you still talking with Catwhip?”

    “Catwhip?” Mom asked.

    “Tiffany and I exchanged numbers with the Unity triplets when we met them at the mall, remember?” Since my Ipad was connected to my phone, I could read at my text messages on it; I scanned my contacts until I found the Catwhip’s name, Marissa. I swatted at my sister. “She wants to know why you stopped texting her.”

    Tiffany gave an overdramatic sigh. “I have way too many people to keep track of.”

    “Excuses, excuses. Anyway, I talked to her on the phone yesterday. She said something about us meeting with her sisters this weekend. I think she wants us to go to her book club thing.”

    “I really don’t want to spend two hours going over terrible fanfic.”

    I gave Tiffany a light punch to the shoulder. “Do you always have to be so obtuse? We’re reading classical literature.”

    Tiffany frowned. “You know that’s not my thing, but I’ll I go since you’ll drag me there regardless.”

    “Yup. You’re coming whether you like it or not.”

    “When are you going to meet with them?” asked Mom.

    “This Sunday,” I answered. “Around the afternoon. We’re gonna meet them at a bookstore in the Emporium.”

    “Do you need a ride?” Dad asked.

    “Mm-mm, we’ll take the train.”

    Dad’s gaze shifted toward Tiffany. “Your boyfriend going?”

    “We’ll probably meet him there.”

    Our dad’s attention had returned to the TV as he was satisfied with our answer. Somehow, without us noticing, he swiped the remote from the center table like a thief in the night and began to swap through the channels. He paused when Mom told him to stop the on ‘The Golden Wheel’—a game show that our parents would often watch together during the week.

    After our parents retired for the night, we spent a few more hours on the couch relaxing and watching reality TV before going to bed. Sleep was nice and peaceful for once as I didn’t really have any strange dreams. I woke up early in the morning since I felt a bit hot under the covers.

    My throat parched, I slid out of bed almost falling flat on my face, I broke my short tumble with a hand and pushed myself off the floor. I stood up straight with a grunt, still stiff. I yawned and dragged a hand across my face as I attempted to rub the sleep out of my eyes. Mm. It was a poor effort but no one could blame me I was tired and felt like going back to bed. The only thing kept me awake was the feeling that I’d croak if I didn’t get water soon. I scrunched my face with a cough, the nasty feeling of stagnant saliva was stuck in my throat.

    I exited my room in my eyes adjusting to the darkness as I opened the door. I headed downstairs at a slow pace until I reached the hallway leading to the kitchen. Dawdling past the basement door I heard a loud thud. My head cut around to face the door, toward the source of the sound. Nothing happened. I must have been imagining it.

    I entered the kitchen and made a beeline for the fridge. Opening it, I nabbed a bottle of water and started to drink, quenching my greedy thirst. Another thump echoed from the basement, I could hear it from the middle of the room. I frowned, tense as I walked toward the door. Creaking it open, I heard soft muttering of someone that sounded like my sister … and another voice. Terra? My sister giggled. Don’t tell me he snuck inside our house during the middle of the night again.

    The muttering stopped for a moment and my breath hitched. My sister screamed.

    “Wait—stop!”

    “Tiffany!” Saying her name a loud whisper, I ran down the steps in a frantic pace. My jaw dropped as I turned the corner and flicked the light on.

    Kazuya had returned in his pompous golden glory, an aura of strong energy enclosing his form, his imposing tails covering the lower part of my sister’s body as he pressed into her, his hand pinning her wrists to the carpet. He was busy was staring at Tiffany with his open mouth hovering near her neck revealing his fanged teeth as he was in the process of clawing my sister’s shirt off with his other hand, revealing her bare chest.

    He titled his head up and leered at me. “Ah, Mercy, care to join us?”

    I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even talk. I was stunned as Kazuya fixed me with his predatory grin, my arms and legs wobbling like they were made of Return From Heaven II

    “What do you mean?” I asked, feeling uneasy. Was she referring to the research I was doing for our paper?

    “Don’t be coy now.” Ashley’s voice was soft making me fidget with my hands. Her eyes shifted from me to Nathan and Tiffany. “I know you three have been curious about us ever since you have learned we are not from this world. However…”Ashley overlooked me. “If you want to know more about Arcadians and Valterians, more about me, all you need to do is ask.”

    My face contorted in confusion. Where was this coming from? Ashley rolled her eyes at my puzzlement.

    “The thread on The Hallowed Eve posted a week or two ago. Asking questions about a dragon girl and nine-tailed fox? Specific descriptions of ‘angels.’ That was you wasn’t it?”

    A hint of fear crept up my spine as I stared at Ashley, sitting still. I did make a thread on THE’s local board around the time we had learned that Ashley, Terra, and Ms. Frazzle were capes. After what happened to us with them and with Kazuya, after what was revealed, I wanted as much information on the gods as possible. I wanted to know if others had noticed us with Kazuya and the Arcadians from that night. If anybody else knew about Avalon. I even searched for any info regarding the Terra and Sinister Seven but of course, nothing came up.

    “That could have been anyone,” Tiffany argued, taking a glimpse at me before shifting. “How do you know it was Mercy?”

    Ashley glanced at her side-eyed. “I have my sources.”

    “What the hell does that mean?”

    “No, she’s right Tiff. Not sure how you found my username, Ash, but it was probably me,” I said, causing my sister to turn my way in surprise. I still focused on Ashley. “After everything that’s been going on lately, you can’t blame me for wanting to know more. You can be intimating to talk to sometimes.”

    “That’s fair I suppose,” Ashley mused.

    “Mercy, even though Ashley is a spoiled princess, she’s still a big softy at heart,”
    Terra said, teasing. “You should know that by now.”

    Ashley glared at him. “I’ll remind you not to overlook my grace and kindness, Terra.”

    Terra leaned over and put an arm around Tiffany, corralling her in a tight half-hug—forcing her head to rest on his shoulder, much to Tiffany’s annoyance. “I’d never.”

    Tiffany pushed Terra off and broke away from him. “No, don’t even. That joke terrible and you should feel terrible.”

    I shook my head, knowing what Terra was hinting at.

    “To get back on topic,” Ashley said, quieting the two of them. “Mercy, though you tried to be discrete with your online presence, those in the know can infer things. Those with the power and resources to find you, and me through you. I would prefer it if most don’t know I’m away from Artisans for an extended period time and who knows what Arcadia will do if rumors about their warriors on appearing on Earth start spreading.”

    I nodded, thinking back to Kazuya’s words about the threat of the Arcadian kingdoms.

    “That sources of yours,” Nathan said while judging Ashley with narrowed eyes. “It’s Ms. Frazzle is it?”

    Ashley smiled with amusement. “No. As if I would rely on that witch. You’ll learn Nathan that I have eyes and ears everywhere. From various governments of Avalon and this world to SIGMA.” Ashley placed a hand under her chin and pondered. “Or more accurately, one could say the Forum.”

    Terra smirked. “How does King Arden feel about you fraternizing with an enemy of Valterian government?”

    “It’s irrelevant,” Ashley said unperturbed. “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. I’ll get rid of them once I reclaim the throne from her.”

    Terra hummed to himself, doubtful. Ashley appeared displeased by it.

    “So, I guess the Forum is another gang from Avalon,” Nathan said unsure, his statement almost sounding like a question.

    “Nah, it’s more like a secret society that runs things behind the scenes.”

    Nathan scrunched up his face as he frowned at Terra. “Like one of those fake-ass conspiracy theories?”

    “Oh, it’s very real,” Terra said, still smirking.

    “Indeed,” Ashley agreed. “Anyway, I’d prefer it if you all would take care when using the internet.”

    Tiffany folded her arms. “We were planning on using stuff from that battle you guys were talking about for our English papers. The New York one.”

    “Searching events that everyone is aware of should be fine. I’ll let you know more about my history and powers at a later date. Perhaps will I’ll even explain more about the gods.”

    “Kazuya gave us a quick rundown after we met him,” Tiffany said. “What’s the need for all the secrecy?”

    Ashley paused. “Really now? No matter. You will learn the reason for my silence in due time.”

    “Maybe… it has to deal with Nathan?” I asked.

    “Yeah,” Nathan said. “I would like to know if you know anything else special about me.”

    Ashley frowned and stood up, turning away from us. “Not as much as I’d like too.”

    “The hell’s that mean?” asked Nathan.

    Ashley ignored him.

    “Uh, Earth to Ashley.”

    She refused to turn around.

    Ookay.” Tiffany studied the blonde. “So what is the endgame here? You and Ms. Frazzle simply want to protect Nathan?”

    “I don’t know of the intentions of our teacher, “Ashley said, facing Nathan. “But I suspect that she knows more about your hidden potential than she lets on, like my father.”

    “And you?” Tiffany asked.

    “I simply want full control of my abilities and to get them back I must keep watch over Nathan for a full year. Presumably, my father’s seal should wear off by then.”

    “Only a year?” I asked. “Do you plan to return to Valteria?”

    Nathan frowned.

    “That’s a good question, Mercy,” Terra commented. “I’m curious too. Do you intend to lead another rebellion?”

    My brow furrowed at Terra’s question.

    “I’m not too keen on fighting another war against my sister, not right now.” Ashley’s voice was laced with a surprising bitterness. “All I care about is doing what is needed to regain power.”

    Terra nodded, dropping the subject. He turned to Nathan and his best friend looked him in the eyes in turn.

    “Have you manifested any hallowed abilities?” Terra asked him.

    The edges of Nathan’s lips lifted into a reluctant smile. “Yeah. I’m a healer.”

    He lifted a hand and waves of energy pooled around it, a soft tea-greenish aura forming. Pulsating with warmth one moment then coolness the next.

    “I’m not really sure how it could help in a big cape fight, but it’s better than nothing,” Nathan muttered.

    Tiffany fell into a fit of rapid eye blinking, before pausing. “Are you serious?” She glanced at us. “Better than nothing, he says.”

    “What?” Nathan asked.

    Ashley chuckled. “It’s a useful power.”

    I agreed. “It’s important to have healers since there aren’t many. It’s rare powerset.”

    Nathan shrugged. “I guess I was expecting something cool or flashy. Like a warrior or powerhouse power. I’d even take infiltrator type over this.”

    “Healers can fall under the infiltrator class,” Terra said.

    “Really? Still, it feels kind of lame though.”

    “Don’t say that,” I admonished. “It’s freaking awesome. Do you know how much I’d love to have a power like that? How powerful is it?”

    “Not sure. I do know it works wonders for Ms. Frazzle's headaches though.”

    “Mmm…” Tiffany smirked while leaning over her knees, her face and hands resting on the top of them as she peered at Nathan. “Don’t tell me you’ve been feeling up our English teacher—you rascal, you.”

    “Of course,” Nathan drawled in good humor. “I couldn’t resist running my hands up and down her body.” Nathan ran his hands across an invisible body in the air, accentuating some parts of the female form.

    “Ew…” I shivered, trying the purge the image of Nathan groping Ms. Frazzle out of my brain. Nathan could never help himself when it came to taking a joke too far.

    Ashley huffed and scrutinized Nathan, her sour look notable. “Please. Nathan knows better than that.”

    “I bet,” my sister said.

    “Well, I think it’s cool that you have powers,” I said to Nathan. “You should be grateful and more excited that you’re a cape.”

    Nathan mulled over my words, tilting his head from side to side. “I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.”

    The five us talked a little bit more before Ashley led us back to the cafe. Though we spent the majority of our lunch period on the roof, Katherine never showed up to join us.


    oOo

    Tired from soccer practice and homework, Tiffany and I spent the most of night in the living room sprawled out on the couch like the living dead. Our bodies were entangled into a pile of limbs as we watched TV with our parents.

    Mom had the channel on the local news since she was the first to arrive home to take command of the TV, much to the rest of our detriment. Well, it really only bothered Tiffany and me.

    I spent time alternating between the television and scrolling through my iPad. I checked some of my social media accounts, looking and ‘liking’ pictures from my teammates and friends with Tiffany peering over my shoulder like a mischievous little devil, whispering thinly veiled insults and juicy gossip she heard about various girls in our clique.

    Annoyed at her constantly talking in my ear, I switched webpages to read some fan-fiction while checking to see if any new readers commented on my own writing. She stopped soon after that, rolling her eyes at me and sitting on her side of the couch with a thump. I glared at her as she pretty much sat on my legs. She ignored me, playing with her phone. I kicked at her, causing her butt to shift on the seat so I could sit up straight.

    The woman on the news said something about capes, causing me to perk up and view the TV as I adjusted how my back felt against the sofa, my toes touching the floor. A new gang, the Inheritors, had been terrorizing the boardwalk for the past few weeks, finishing off their lucrative crime spree today with the robbing a popular casino called The Scarlet. The reporter continued talking about the increase of cape crime plaguing the boardwalk and waterfront, interviewing victims—civilians and the store owners that were directly affected by cape burglaries and fights.

    With their last stunt, the Inheritors aroused the ire of the racist gang, Albatross, getting to a skirmish with the group of white supremacists capes around the beach. No cape was killed and luckily since people were out of the way, no one else was hurt. The fight was a pretty even matchup since not all of the Albatross capes were involved.

    As the reporter continued to talk over video footage of the cape fight, My twin and I had our eyes glued to the screen, absorbing everything.

    Though they were criminals, the Inheritors were an intriguing group of capes, mostly because they were new on the cape scene and no one knew much about them. The boards of The Hallowed Eve were littered with speculation about Ravensworth’s new costumed crooks; the gang was active since January but they didn’t start any large scale operations until recently. Tons of threads with posters discussing who they are, what their aim was, people theory-crafting about their powers. Others claiming that they were a team that rebranded and moved from a bigger city to a place with less heat. All things considered, most of the information online pointed to the leader of the group of five being their flying pyrokinetic who went by the name Ignite or Ignition.

    On the other hand, almost everything about Albatross was public knowledge except for their secret identities. It was a family gang, one that had hand been around since the nineties. They were stable, able to avoid being taken out by flourishing rivals such as the Spades and Noroi and the local heroes groups—like the Watchkeepers. The fact that they had a high number of capes, maybe about twelve in all, along with manpower of a few thousand gang members, kept them on top of the Ravensworth’s underworld for years. They were led by the enigmatic Swan, a cape that could project metal blades from his skin at high speeds. His powers reminded me of Ashley.

    Mom sighed sounded exhausted. “These gangs are nothing bad news.”

    “The new policies the SIGMA and the Watchkeepers are implementing; the increase of manpower toward the nasty side of the town,” Dad said. “That should hit the operations of the gangs pretty hard, if not take them down.”

    “Can only hope,” Mom said.

    The news program showed a quick interview with the leader of the Watchkeepers, Vitiate as she surveyed the wartorn beach that the Inheritors and Albatross, trampled only a few hours prior. The space warper cape had on silver and blue armor and was positioned in front of the camera, surrounded by some of the teen heroes from NextGen. SIGMA agents and cleaning crew members were in the background removing rubble and taping off wreaked areas of the boardwalk.

    Vitiate gave her spiel about renewing efforts to stop gang violence and our mom switched the channel to the national news when she finished. It seemed like each station was still talking about the ramifications of the invasion by the Avalonian forces. Heroes were still helping with the cleanup.

    Tiffany squealed with glee when her favorite hero, Crow Valentine, appeared on the screen from an aerial view. His dark wings cast a huge shadow below as he flew from wreaked building to building, helping workers move and get rid of debris. Members of the Alliance and the Quixotic Quartet were also seen helping from the helicopter footage.

    Tiffany squeed again once Crow Valentine was back on screen.

    My eyes nearly rolled out of my head. “Your hero crush is way too edgy for his own good,” I said, pointing out the ridiculousness of his wild ‘all-over-the-place’ hair and his outfit: the red leather coat and pants, covered under belts full of weapons with a cape too large to be practical.

    Tiffany scowled at me. “I don’t want to hear that from a girl that gets hot for a guy in an orange fursuit.”

    “Tiffany,” our mom warned, already sensing an argument brewing.

    I could feel my face turn a shade darker, burning as irritation rose deep in my chest. “Stop it. It’s not a fursuit, it’s skin-tight!”

    “Like that’s any better,” Tiffany said, she tilted her head glancing up in dramatic fashion before taking stock of me. “Oh, I forget that you’re into looking at ample butts.”

    Okay, saying that in front of Mom and Dad? Now she was just being obnoxious. I waved her comment off in a frivolous manner. Fine, I can play at that game.

    “Like you’re not?” I asked her.

    Tiffany grin widened but before she could speak our dad cut in.

    “Alright, this conversation is taking a turn for the worst,” he said. “Knock it off, you two.”

    Mom shook her head. “Really.”

    “But seriously, Ems, your favorite hero is so lame,” Tiffany said. “Why not someone cool like Nexus or Lightspeed?” She gave me a pointed look. “What’s with your fixation on foxes?”

    I narrowed my eyes at her as I caught her double meaning, but with our parents her I couldn’t really confront her about it. “Magnificent isn’t lame,” I said, mentioning the name of the fox based cape. “He’s probably the most popular hero in the country.”

    My sister shrugged. “I guess. His costume is good for merchandising since it’s not overly complex. So it doesn’t count because he’s popular with kids by default. That reminds me—are you still talking with Catwhip?”

    “Catwhip?” Mom asked.

    “Tiffany and I exchanged numbers with the Unity triplets when we met them at the mall, remember?” Since my Ipad was connected to my phone, I could read at my text messages on it; I scanned my contacts until I found the Catwhip’s name, Marissa. I swatted at my sister. “She wants to know why you stopped texting her.”

    Tiffany gave an overdramatic sigh. “I have way too many people to keep track of.”

    “Excuses, excuses. Anyway, I talked to her on the phone yesterday. She said something about us meeting with her sisters this weekend. I think she wants us to go to her book club thing.”

    “I really don’t want to spend two hours going over terrible fanfic.”

    I gave Tiffany a light punch to the shoulder. “Do you always have to be so obtuse? We’re reading classical literature.”

    Tiffany frowned. “You know that’s not my thing, but I’ll I go since you’ll drag me there regardless.”

    “Yup. You’re coming whether you like it or not.”

    “When are you going to meet with them?” asked Mom.

    “This Sunday,” I answered. “Around the afternoon. We’re gonna meet them at a bookstore in the Emporium.”

    “Do you need a ride?” Dad asked.

    “Mm-mm, we’ll take the train.”

    Dad’s gaze shifted toward Tiffany. “Your boyfriend going?”

    “We’ll probably meet him there.”

    Our dad’s attention had returned to the TV as he was satisfied with our answer. Somehow, without us noticing, he swiped the remote from the center table like a thief in the night and began to swap through the channels. He paused when Mom told him to stop the on ‘The Golden Wheel’—a game show that our parents would often watch together during the week.

    After our parent retired for the night, we spent a few more hours on the couch relaxing and watching reality TV before going to bed. Sleep was nice and peaceful for once as I didn’t really have any strange dreams. I woke up early in the morning since I felt a bit hot under the covers.

    My throat parched, I slid out of bed almost falling flat on my face, I broke my short tumble with a hand and pushed myself off the floor. I stood up straight with a grunt, still stiff. I yawned and dragged a hand across my face as I attempted to rub the sleep out of my eyes. Mm. It was a poor effort but no one could blame me I was tired and felt like going back to bed. The only thing kept me awake was the feeling that I’d croak if I didn’t get water soon. I scrunched my face with a cough, the nasty feeling of stagnant saliva was stuck in my throat.

    I exited my room in my eyes adjusting to the darkness as I opened the door. I headed downstairs at a slow pace until I reached the hallway leading to the kitchen. Dawdling past the basement door I heard a loud thud. My head cut around to face the door, toward the source of the sound. Nothing happened. I must have been imagining it.

    I entered the kitchen and made a beeline for the fridge. Opening it, I nabbed a bottle of water and started to drink, quenching my greedy thirst. Another thump echoed from the basement, I could hear it from the middle of the room. I frowned, tense as I walked toward the door. Creaking it open, I heard soft muttering of someone that sounded like my sister … and another voice. Terra? My sister giggled. Don’t tell me he snuck inside our house during the middle of the night again.

    The muttering stopped for a moment and my breath hitched. My sister screamed.

    “Wait—stop!”

    “Tiffany!” Saying her name a loud whisper, I ran down the steps in a frantic pace. My jaw dropped as I turned the corner and flicked the light on.

    Kazuya had returned in his pompous golden glory, an aura of strong energy enclosing his form, his imposing tails covering the lower part of my sister’s body as he pressed into her, his hand pinning her wrists to the carpet. He was busy was staring at Tiffany with his open mouth hovering near her neck revealing his fanged teeth as he was in the process of clawing my sister’s shirt off with his other hand, revealing her bare chest.

    He titled his head up and leered at me. “Ah, Mercy, care to join us?”

    I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even talk. I was stunned as Kazuya fixed me with his predatory grin, my arms and legs wobbling like they were made of jelly. I was reminded of the absolute terror, the agonizing fear I’d felt when we first met the sadistic Valterian as he crouched over my twin.

    “Ems…” Tiffany mumbled, her voice off. She leaned her head back, her eyes catching mine. Her expression seemed almost guilty as she wavered. “…this isn’t what it looks like.”

    ---

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    Last edited by Fluxx; December 3rd, 2018 at 09:32 PM.
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  2. #22
    Transcendent Spiritmon Fluxx's Avatar
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    Dec 2014
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    Interlude II - Deborah


    Deborah shivered, awaking from a deep slumber as a firm hand—cool like polished steel, caressed her cheek.


    “Are you awake, Zaccarin?” Shinobu, her mentor, asked.


    Shinobu’s soft voice was calm and sensual, teasing Deborah’s ears. A tingling sensation ran down Deborah’s spine as Shinobu continued to run her hands up her cheek, brushing away some of her braids.


    Deborah grumbled with her eyes still closed, turning her face away from the Valterian shark goddess, curling up into a ball underneath the warm white sheets of their luxurious bed. “Don’t pick at my hair, you know I hate that.”


    “Mmm…” Shinobu hummed while getting closer, her face only inches away from Deborah’s. She ran her fingers down Deborah’s back, seeming unimpeded and unbothered that the bed covers were so tightly bonded to the person of her affection. “You know I can’t help it. How else would I force you to wake, my little Zaccarin?”


    Deborah felt a prick of irritation. “Must you call me by that name? I am awake, alright?”


    Shinobu hummed again and kissed her, Deborah opened her eyes and began to sit up. Shinobu moved without complaint; she sat on the edge of the bed while facing Deborah, smiling.


    “I’m serious,” Deborah said. “Don’t call me that name anymore. I hate it.”


    Pain and bitterness pricked at her heart as she was reminded of her failure to her great-grandmother, Apis. The Legendary God Monster, ancestor to the Canceon royal family.


    Shinobu jumped back into the bed landing right beside Deborah, causing Deborah to squeak in surprise. As Deborah turned to face her, the shark goddess pulled at the sheets. Deborah yelled, the coolness of the air piercing her bare skin. Shinobu chuckled as Deborah wrinkled her face, displeased.


    “It’s too early in the morning to make a face like that, little bee.” Shinobu took hold of Deborah’s hands and played with them, running ambiguous patterns across her palms and arms, her ash-colored skin polishing Deborah’s bronze. “You might as well get over it. As it is what Apis named you, to me, you will always be, Zaccarin.”


    Deborah closed her eyes in exasperation as Shinobu’s hands slithered around her neck. Shinobu urged her to turn around and Deborah did as asked, facing the opposite direction. Shinobu then went to work—massaging Deborah’s neck and shoulders, with a hand combing through her long braids.


    “You can’t help but tear at old wounds,” Deborah muttered, through gasps of pleasure.


    Shinobu huffed while ruffling her hair. “I am a shark after all.”


    “You are way more than that, Sharkblade.”


    Shinobu giggled with short merriment before crawling off the sturdy but comfortable mattress. Deborah watched as Shinobu fixed her elegant kimono, adjusting the chest so that her breasts were not practically falling out like a moment ago. The style of dress was strange to Deborah, the design of thousands of cherry blossoms adorning the perfect silk. But it was striking and beautiful all the same, like Shinobu.


    Shinobu moved to the closest dresser in the room, picking an ornamental hairpin from a small assortment of them on the wooden surface. Shinobu tied her glossy black hair into a bun and then used the hairpin that was covered in flowers and pearls to hold it. Exiting their shared closet, Shinobu slipped on a pair of white tabi before attempting to leave the bedroom.


    “You’re going to that meeting already?”


    Shinobu stopped from opening the door and turned her head. “Better to be too early than too late. I’m going to explore a bit to prepare myself. Meet with a contact and discuss the best way to approach talks with the Assembly.”


    “A contact?” Deborah asked, puzzled. “Why haven’t I heard of this mysterious ‘contact’ before now?”


    Shinobu gave a brief laugh. “Mostly because I wasn’t sure if she would still be here. The Council is truly wise. I must remember to thank Sibyl and Akasha when I see them again.”


    Deborah blinked with surprise as Shinobu mentioned two of ten oracles from the Council of the Wise. Valterian prophets that mastered the art of divination, well-known and highly coveted for the advice and prophecies they provided. Deborah saw them as an inspiration, she hoped she could become part of the Council one day. It seemed Shinobu was able to get in contact with them after all.


    “That would be why they are called that,” Deborah drawled as she uncovered herself from the bedsheets. Her eyes full of pink lace, Deborah pulled back the drapes of the large canopy bed to get a better view of Shinobu. She sat on the edge with one leg on still on the bed while the other dangled, listless.


    Shinobu tutted. “Don’t get smart with me, little bee.” She paused, giving Deborah a pensive glance as if she wanted to say more but the cat caught her tongue.


    Deborah knew there was something Shinobu wanted to say but had trouble verbalizing. Seeing Shinobu linger by the door, Deborah decided to tease it out of her.


    “Why did we come here? Was it not for your lost descendant?


    “Why ask questions you already know the answer of?”


    “Because you’ve been hesitating like you don’t think you can find her. Like you think she has already been captured or killed.”


    Shinobu frowned at that. “I don’t think the oracles would have guided me here if that was the case. Dusk has been cautious when it has come to treading on this planet, even amidst his last fiasco. I’m finally at the cusp of finding the one worthy to pass my power and will onto. I won’t allow Dusk to get his claws on her before me.”


    “But still.”


    “I have been… a bit withdrawn for lack of a better word,” Shinobu admitted. “But that is because I know how much work all of this will be.”


    Deborah nodded, finding out that girl wasn’t the only reason they came to the underwater city known as Oddessy. ” Do you think the Assembly would have Monitors to spare?”


    “Of course. I don’t have the need for many, just a couple to investigate a few key areas here on Earth and on Avalon. The Duskanian Empire. Oceanus.”


    “Oceanus?” Deborah asked, wondering why she Shinobu would mention the isolated Avalonian continent surrounded by many islands.


    “I want to keep a closer eye on Dragoon. I’ve heard there has been some interesting developments there as of late.”


    “Ah,” Deborah said with quick understanding.


    Shinobu talked about him before. The story of a boy that changed into a sea dragon. A man that grown to become king of the of the high seas. He was powerful, backed by a powerful army. Shinobu mentioned how he was strong enough to defeat Kimba and Dusk centuries ago, strong enough to take the arm of a Valterian ruler from the Sky Kingdom.


    “Yes, depending on what is found, I might pay my old friend a visit,” Shinobu said.


    Shinobu met Dragoon once, back when he first started to gain power. Though it was almost seven centuries since they first met, she was fond of the deep-sea terror. Sometimes, she would tell Deborah stories of her first meeting with him—of eating, training, having communion with one another, fighting battles together. How they often fought each other.


    In a way, Deborah felt that Shinobu viewed Dragoon as more than a friend or pupil. Perhaps more like a little brother or son. Deborah wasn’t so sure Dragoon viewed their relationship the same way, however—if he even remembered the shark goddess at all.


    A hint of jealousy pierced her heart as she thought of Shinobu speaking about Dragoon in a wistful tone. The feeling was irrational and she knew that, but she still couldn’t help it. She knew Shinobu still had feelings of love for the sea dragon. But it was a familiar love, a sisterly love. For Deborah, Shinobu had that too… but also something more. Shinobu said as much. Before Deborah, Shinobu hadn’t taken a new lover in eons.


    “What’s wrong?” Shinobu asked.


    Startled, Deborah shook her head. “Nothing. Just thinking about things.”


    Shinobu grinned and walked back to the bed. She stretched out her arms, placing her palms on the mattress while leaning forward with hungry intent, her deep-blue eyes zeroing in on every micro-movement. “What things?”


    “It’s not what you think,” Deborah said, exasperated as Shinobu’s gaze became lecherous. An image of herself walking hand-and-hand with Apis when she was just a child flashed through her mind. When she was brought before Shinbou for the first time, outside of the Canceon hive—the heart of Avalon. Was her intent to groom me to be her plaything from the very beginning? Deborah shuddered with her eyes closed not willing to think about the implications.


    “Oh—fine,” Shinobu said, her voice reluctant.


    Deborah opened her eyes grateful that Shinobu decided not to be pushy and force herself upon her, this time.


    Shinobu’s hands were on her hips as she contemplated. “I should be off.”


    Deborah stepped off the bed carefully to avoid the lace drapes. Standing up straight she fixed her robes, covering up so she wasn’t half-naked. “How can you be so sure that the Assembly will allow you to borrow their Monitors so easily? You need something valuable to force their hand.”


    “I have the most valuable thing of all,” Shinobu said. “Information.”


    “How so?”


    “The Assembly won’t be quick to dismiss what I have learned from the Council of the Wise. Since most of the members of Oddessy’s government hail from a future time, they should be able to confirm the prophecies of Akasha and Sibyl.”


    “More time travel and temporal paradoxes,” Deborah grumbled as she rubbed her temples. Just thinking about the standing contradiction which was this city was enough to give her a headache. “How does this even work?”


    “Who knows?” Shinobu asked. “That knowledge is only beholden to the Elder Gods and Irregulars.”


    Most of the inhabitants of the underwater metropolis came from the future to escape a cataclysmic event in the thirty-first century, they built the city-state from scratch in only a few years. The founders were of the Alliance or Evo-Alliance as they called themselves since they were Alliance members from the future.


    Shinobu moved closer to Deborah, closing the distance between them. She expanded her arms in a hug like motion, waiting as sleeves of her kimono hung in the air. Their bodies almost touching, Deborah took in Shinbou’s watery scent. She enjoyed the subdued nature of it as her lips tickled Shinbous’ neck, grazing a curved line from the side to the edges of her nape. Shinobu enveloped Deborah in a soft but firm embrace.


    “The real reason I woke you was only to tell you that I would be gone,” Shinobu said. “You need rest.”


    Deborah’s lips lifted into a faint smile. “That’s kind of you.”


    Shinobu grinned. “I know you’re tired from last night’s ‘training’ session. It’s been a strenuous week for you, but something tells me you’ve enjoyed it very much.”


    “Mmm.” Deborah tilted her head as she peered at Shinobu with half-lidded eyes in an accusing stare. “I think all be alright as long as I don’t wake up tied to the bed again.”


    Shinobu chuckled. “If you don’t want to sleep you could take a tour of the city. Perhaps the Odyssey strip or shopping districts? I have left money for you on my nightstand.”


    “You can’t help spoiling me can you, Sharkblade?”


    Shinobu kissed her Deborah’s forehead, only moving downward slightly as she was the taller one of the two. “Anything for you Zaccarin.”


    Deborah cringed and flinched away from her. “Anything but calling me by the name I wish to be called by.”


    “The right to call you that name belongs to me and me only,” Shinobu murmured. “Besides, I can’t spoil you too much.”


    “Whatever,” Deborah said breaking away from the hug.


    “Be good,” Shinobu ordered, amused. She exited the bedroom at a slow pace, eyeing Deborah with her peripheral vision, a teasing smile spread across her face.


    Hearing Shinobu walk downstairs to the second floor of the suite, Deborah decided to take a bath and clean her teeth, getting ready for the day. Shinobu was gone by the time she finished. She dressed in one of her finest robes then headed downstairs, taking the time to enjoy the extravagance of the apartment. There was a lot of space, filled with beautiful decor, furnishings, and paintings that attracted the eye. Deborah opened the sliding glass door that led to the balcony, taking a gander at the city of silent towers that reached for the domed heavens—most buildings covered in a large array of neon lights.


    She spent some time roaming the city’s neon blue streets exploring among the populace like Shinobu recommended, somewhat in awe at the marvel that was Odyssey. Not due to how futuristic and technologically advanced the city was but because of the number of races living together in peace. Hallowed and Avalonians, Valterians and Arcadians, Tainted and more. Odyssey was a utopian dream, reminiscent of the mythical city called Atlantis. What was so terrible in the future that drove all these races—some that were constantly at war with one another—to live as a collective?


    Deborah’s evening stroll was cut short as she was contacted by Shinobu; the Valterian shark invited Deborah to a restaurant close by along with her contact. Deborah left the shopping district with haste, anticipating the meeting between the three of them. She caught an ocean-car ride, reaching the designated meeting place within a half-hour.


    Entering the restaurant, she observed and took in the quiet ambiance, the muted colors of blue and orange. It was a decent crowd, most talking in hushed voices. Deborah glanced at the bar but before she could move she was approached by a short Spiritpixie hostess. With her aid, Deborah was soon brought to Shinobu’s table.


    Shinbou’s waved once she caught sight of Deborah. The woman sitting next to her was much more reserved, careful not to be too expressive. She was dressed in thin hooded body armor, tight-fitting, but probably shielded with spirit energy. Her vibrant russet-colored face the only skin Deborah could see.


    “Come, sit.” Shinobu stood up and pulled out the chair that was across from where the hooded woman sat at the table. She motioned toward the woman with a hand. “This is the contact I was talking about. Felicia Khalil, she is a human Monitor and recon-infiltration specialist. She knows everything about this city. ” While glancing at Felicia, Shinobu placed at hand on Deborah’s shoulder. “This is my pupil; I’ve told you about her before. Deborah Canceon. She’s been in my care for the about the last two thousand years.”


    Pretty much my entire life…


    Felicia mouthed the word ‘wow’ before she brought her focus back to Deborah. Deborah favored the woman a nervous smile but before she could sit down, the hooded woman stood up from her chair and extended a hand.


    “It’s an honor to meet the Prophet of IIios,” Felicia said as they shook.


    “You’re well informed,” Deborah said, while the three of them sat at the table.


    Felicia smiled and Deborah tensed, tightness forming around her lower back and legs as Felicia’s hazel eyes bored through her. Though her smile was a simple gesture without enmity behind it, it felt threatening. Considering how it was coming from a woman less than half of her age, the fact was commendable.


    “Sorry,” Felicia said, noticing Deborah’s worry before the Avalonian could school her expression. “Shinobu has told me so much about you. I’ve heard good things.”


    “I wish I could say the same.” Deborah glared at Shinobu who looked impish, she gave Deborah a quick wave in jest.


    “What’s with the attitude, little bee? Should I not speak of things I’m proud of?”


    Deborah shook her head, unable to keep herself angry at Shinobu’s words as pleasant warmth rose in her chest.


    Felicia laughed. “Shinobu didn’t tell me anything bad. Just about how pleased she was that you have been taking huge strides forward in your mastery of the mental arts.”


    “No, I understand. I am not bothered by it.”


    Their conversation paused as a waiter arrived to bring the trio menus. The man introduced himself and placed them on the table, Shinobu snatched the first one from the pile. The three ladies ordered their drinks and the waiter left to fetch them.


    “You know Felicia,” Shinobu said while browsing, “This restaurant seems to be of exquisite taste. You know of the most fantastic places to visit.”


    “Of course,” Felicia said, pleased. “I’d love to give the Shark in the Oceans of Blades a good show—you too Deborah. I pride myself on being an excellent host.” She picked up a menu. “But I don’t think I was invited out to dinner to be a glorified tour guide.”


    “No…” Shinobu agreed. ” For the next seven months, I want you to scout a few areas for me, including Oceanus. There is something that Dragoon is searching for there, I want you to observe him and find out more about it.”


    Felicia tilted the menu down in a deliberate motion, she placed it on the table. “Making a trip to Avalon now would be a hassle for me,” she said, dissatisfied.


    “You’ll be compensated well.”


    “I know,” Felicia, putting her elbows on the table with her hands folded in front of her lips, “That’s why I agreed to this.” she was silent for a moment. “Twenty-eight million. That’s how much it’ll cost. That rate might be in flux, depending on how many agents I need to prepare and how many arms from other Monitors I need to twist. Half up front, a fifty percent deposit with the rest in increments over the next two to four years. All that’s based on when the job is completed and you’re satisfied. Wanna talk about payment plans?”


    “Later,” Shinobu said. “USD or OC?”


    “Odyssey credits—ahhhh—it really doesn’t matter in the long run but you know I prefer digital currency.”


    “OC it is then,” Shinobu said. “There’s something else I would like you personally take a look into though before you go to Avalon.”


    Felicia perked up—skeptical as the waiter returned placing the drinks on a table from a server’s tray. Shinobu took her glass of water and thanked the waiter, telling him something about everyone needing more time to pick their orders. With a smile, the tall man backed away promising to return within the next few minutes.


    “You know that will add to the rate, right?”


    “It’s important. An intriguing series of have been unraveling on this planet ever since Dusk arrived here last month. An enemy of mine was seen being chased by Arcadians. Kazuya of the Valterian Fox Clan.”


    “Woah-Woah—Woah,” Felicia said, her hands up in protest. “You didn’t say you were sending me on a suicide mission!”


    “That’s not it.” Shinobu’s reply was curt. “I kept an eye on him, for a little while. It led me to notice a girl the city he was located in. One that is of the Waverider bloodline.”


    The Waveriders, another Avalonian royal family, the one Shinbou was directly responsible for birthing as she was the direct ancestor to that lineage.


    Deborah was shocked. “You didn’t tell me that you found her.”


    “I’m not sure if she’s the one have been looking for but I trust Akasha’s words.” Shinobu faced Felicia.”That girl is the only lead I have and the Council guided me toward you for a reason. I believe that you can bring me what I desire.”


    “And what is that? Why is this girl so important to you?”


    Something in Shinobu’s eyes shifted, her eyelids closed as she sat in silence. The air around them became fridged, as cool vapor radiated from her pores—causing Deborah and Felicia to freeze with alarm. The moment passed. Shinobu calmed herself as she peered at Felicia.


    “I don’t think that’s something I need to explain to you.”


    Deborah knocked the over her drink and it fell off the table. It hit the ground and shattered, creating a large spill—disturbing other patrons. “S-sorry!” Inwardly, Deborah cursed. Her hand was shaking. “We should call a waiter over here.”


    Shinobu grabbed Deborah’s arm before she could get up to wave someone over. Deborah seized up.


    “Relax. Someone will come.”


    Deborah eyed Shinobu carefully, before sitting and adjusting her seat. She couldn’t understand what caused Shinobu to react that way. After all this time, was Shinobu still hiding things from her?


    Shinbou favored her a smile before glancing at Felicia. “Like I was saying, I want you to bring the girl before me to see if she’s worth being of my blood.”


    Felicia hummed. If she was bothered by Shinobu’s show of spiritual force, she didn’t show it. “Does this girl have a name?” a holographic armband formed around her wrist. She tapped it and five holographic screens jutted into the air, spreading to the middle of the table. “Files?” Felica scanned the pages of data feed that her portal to the Iridescent Mirror gave her—news, current events, and her contacts. People of importance. She moved a floating page from the from the top to the bottom of the group, seeming disinterested in it.


    “I will have a dossier prepared,” Shinobu promised. “And I agree to your terms.”


    Felica waved the screens out of the way so that she could see Shinobu clearly. “Then we have a deal.”


    oOo​


    Deborah yawned as she stretched—leaning back her seat tired from waiting. It was still dark, early in the morning and she wasn’t able to sleep. Deborah studied a specific house on the street, the technology of Felicia’s dimensional spacecraft-turned-van allowing her to see through the metal from inside, like a transparent screen. Created by Tainted and Vivian tech, the ship was able to transform into any almost vehicle imaginable, from land to water and spacefaring.


    The door of the driver’s compartment opened and Felicia who was dressed in a black sleeper slogged outward, hunched to avoid hitting her head on the roof. Without a hood covering half of her face, Felicia’s black hair revealed two buns, both pulling the majority of her hair back. Felicia looked different now—less like an experienced spy and more like a young maiden. She sat in the other seat beside Deborah and cracked open the laptop that lied on the mini-desk in front of them both.


    A ringing tone echoed through the van from an undetectable source. Felicia rolled out a pad from beneath the desk and she pressed something. A window appeared on the transparent screen, Shinobu was on camera.


    She greeted them briefly before asking about their reconnaissance. Deborah began her lengthy report, going over everything she and Felicia learned. The findings on Shinobu’s descendant, findings on Terra Eatos, Audrey Genia, Andros Valki, and Myadin Sagittaria. The hybrid twins and the two other children that once resided in Dusk’s castle before the Bloodstained Festival. Kazuya’s return.


    “Sibyl's children…” Shinobu was thoughtful as she mentioned the twins. “This could turn out to be a problem with that damned nine-tailed-fox close by. I didn’t expect so many interesting faces to be near my treasure.”


    “Orders?” Felicia asked. “I can tell you right now if we end up in a situation where we have to confront him, the job is off.”


    “No, continue as you are. Have you made contact?”


    “I have,” Deborah answered. “She was getting suspicious and nearly found the DSC even though it was cloaked. She’s getting better at sensing vapor, not sure if that has to deal with us or her being in constant contact with beings higher than S-class. Felicia thought it would be best if one of us introduced ourselves, lest she finds our ship.”


    “I see. Good. Keep watch and take care of her well, Deborah,” Shinobu said. “Once I’ve finished business with the Assembly, I will come to join you.”


    “I will,” Deborah said, giving Shinobu a slight bow.


    “That’s my little bee. Be patient a little while longer, do this for me and I promise I’ll take care of the Canceon family. I owe Apis that much.”


    Deborah felt waves of gratitude ebb from her chest. She placed a hand on her heart. “I will,” she repeated.


    Shinobu wished the pair luck and cut off her side of the video call, the window vanished from the screen.


    “So are you ready to meet the Waverider brat again?” Felicia asked, the both of them resuming their observation of the girl’s house.


    “…I’m not so sure, she was adamant about wanting me to meet her new boyfriend.”


    Felicia halted. Then she laughed while leaning back in her seat. “Teenagers.”


    “Agreed.”


    “Why are you so worried though?”


    “Is that how I seem? The girl holds resentment for one of the hybrid twins, I believe that boy was courting one of them.”


    “Wow, you managed to stumble into something worse than teenagers. Teenage drama.”


    “That’s not the worst of it. She still plans revenge, I can see it in her mind.”


    Felicia groaned. “And they’re being protected by Kazuya. Shit. This could be worse than I thought.”


    Deborah agreed, feeling grim.


    “Can’t you rewrite her mind?” Felicia asked. “I’m sure you could learn her true name if you tried hard enough.”


    “No. Shinobu would never accept that. I wouldn’t do that anyway, I don’t like influencing people beyond their will.”


    “You might have to.”


    Deborah frowned as she thought about meeting with Rika Mizushima, the girl Shinbou was searching for. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”


    ---


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