One hand lifted and started to play with the red blindfold that covered her eyes. In the past, some of her equals had asked her why she insisted on blinding herself, but after all, how could one remain aloof from everything and still be able to see them? See their pitiful faces, see their smiles, see their tears… sight was just a crutch after all.
Her feet felt the smooth touch of a fish that was swimming inside the pier, and with a quick flick of her ankles, it was sent flying into the air. There, another hand grabbed it, and with a quick twist of the head, killed the flopping animal. She threw it over her shoulder, before turning one head in the direction of the skiff. “You may leave,” she said, softly and melodically, but still, it possessed an aura of authority. As the skiff slowly drifted out of sight, she tapped her long fingers on the edge of the pier. Those Itex Lower Class members should have been here as soon as she arrived - but that didn’t matter, Judgement may have disciplined them somewhat.
She was supposed to be meeting three of their younger Masked members here, but it wouldn’t be surprising to her if only two showed up - and smelling of blood too. Judgement had no respect for life, he seemed not to realize how difficult it was to recruit them to their service. It took them weeks to replace them, and this was time they couldn’t waste. But despite his… liking towards removing all of their trustworthy subordinates for minor offenses, he was a helpful ally at the best of times. He listened to orders, at the very least. And unlike that irksome Fool, he could always be found and counted on.
She shot a slight frown at the box to her side. Inside was a tool that would come in handy if Torrings had done something and caused them to have any sort of opposition. It was not a weapon, or anything of that like, those things were so crude in the long run. She ran one hand through her hair, as she flicked another fish upwards, and killed it like the other one.
Maybe the Lower Level Itex should be punished. Her fingers were covered in gore and water, and she really had an itch in her fingers that wanted to destroy something. She placed her hands inside the river to wash them off, and while taking them out, she flicked silver droplets of water off their tips.
But that wouldn’t do in the long run. Itex would end up having to cover up the news of the deaths again, and mind you, they wouldn’t be very happy with her. She should give them a chance to explain why they were late, and then, she would use her impartiality and decide. Yes, that would be the best idea - and once again, she killed a fish and tossed it behind her.
Almost nonchalantly, she wondered why she was the one sitting here, delivering the package. Yes, the package was important and all, but they could have gotten someone who was lower down in the hierarchy. She had better things to do than lag around waiting for a few students to take their time and arrive. The corners of her pink lips curled down in disapproval, but she continued to sit there and wait. If they didn’t arrive in the next minute, there would be an excuse for her next actions… and what fun she would have then.
Kaden arrived at the pier, mask on face, panting slightly from the effort of running here. He had made a slight commotion early on but remembered to put on the mask soon enough. Few people would likely even remember that there was something wrong, that there had been someone dashing madly through the streets only moments before. It was one of the benefits that seemed to come with this strange mask.
Where was the person he was supposed to meet? Was there anyone else here yet? Kaden couldn’t see anyone else with a mask, in fact, there didn’t seem to be anyone around at all. Where were the Chariot and the Tower? Would they arrive soon, or would he have to search for the person he was to meet by himself?
Kaden began walking around the pier, noting that it was completely empty, a rare sight and likely Itex’s work. There was a smell of blood and brine, a fishy smell that seemed dead, over near a pier further down. And sure enough, there were a few fish lying scattered on the pier, pierced through the center by some object, leaving a hole. And at the end of the pier was a girl. Well, a girl with wings and a red blindfold.
It wasn’t too late, right? He was only a few minutes late, anyway. It wasn’t like he hadn’t rushed out as soon as he found out about this appointment. Oh well, it was worth a try, and she did have a black box in her hand, those boxes that Itex seemed to love so much.
“Hello, I’m here to retrieve something. Judgement sent me.”
She sighed wearily, before getting on her feet. Her previous mirth at the idea of being able to remove a few of the complications in her way had darkened upon remembering the mountains of paperwork that she would need to remove. To make matters worse, there were a few True Masks in the mix - how annoying. She would have to regain ownership of those True Masks before the death of its owner, and dealing with the coercion would be such a bother. So was obtaining a few of the unMasked to take their places… logistics were always annoying.
Anyways, all of her underlings were too far away to aid in helping her - and she didn’t want to ruin the perfect silkiness of her one glove. The blindfolded woman frowned, and glanced downwards, annoyed at the feeling of cold, wet flesh touching the rough wood of the pier.
She glanced back upwards, her gaze snapping to the horizon. She could hear someone coming in her direction - a loud someone who must have been in a hurry. “Hello, I’m here to retrieve something. Judgement sent me.”
The voice was young and male. ‘So those Lower Level Itex have finally deigned to show up.’ She narrowed her eyes under her blindfold, deeply irritated, while the veins in her right hand became slightly more noticeable as she made a fist. The winged woman flapped her white feathery wings, churning up the air around her, and rose up a few feet into the air. She always liked to be taller than anyone that she had to deal with - especially when they were little better than the unMasked members of the Itex.
“I was under the impression that there would be more of you arriving here. I vaguely remember Judgement saying there would be three,” she said melodiously. “Was there some kind of trouble perhaps? Did that dear Judgement of mine decide that some of you weren’t worthy to live?” Underneath that voice of silk was a steel - there was a reason why she had risen so high up in the hierarchy. Her nostrils flared when the only thing she could smell was fish, and just the slightest hint of blood. From the fish, of course, not the new little arrival. Which means Judgement might have actually held on to his scythe without painting it? She would have to congratulate him on his growth in self control.
“Please do explain,” she stated again. “I have to know whether or not I have to punish you, of course. As you’re quite a number of minutes late. Exactly three minutes, six seconds, if you were counting.” She always loved being able to tell the time no matter what - it was almost like a gift for her. “As I’m feeling particularly kind at the moment, you have thirteen seconds to get your excuse blurted.” Exactly enough time to blurt out a couple of sentences, especially from those loose lips of students, was it not?
“Please do hurry,” she reminded, allowing these few words to ride on the wind she was beating up. Maybe she had overestimated his speaking capabilities. Maybe instead of thirteen seconds, they would need twenty-three… No. There was no changing the verdict after all. She opened her lips again, hoping the child would realize what was going to happen to him if he didn’t hurry up. “The sweepers have already left for the week - it would be horrible to see that there is a new crimson stain.”
“Nineteen,” she started to count down. “Eighteen…”
The woman turned at Kaden’s voice, and she was flying, wasn’t she? Those were wings on her backs, weren’t they? And they worked? How was that possible? Was it special effects? Wires? Or were they actually real? Kaden still wasn’t used to this new reality that he had been introduced to by this Itex group, but it seemed like these wings were truly what they seemed: wings. Did that mean that these masks really did transform the wearer into someone, something better?
But this woman, still unnamed, was saying something. Kaden figured he should be listening to her; she seemed used to holding a lot of power, and he heard Judgement’s name. He caught the end of the sentence: “...that some of you weren’t worthy to live?”
Was she talking about the Tower and Chariot? So Judgement really was inclined to kill people... maybe it wasn’t a bad idea to be wary of Itex? They seemed to love blood and killing; there were fish on the dock here, presumably killed by this woman. And punctuality seemed to be their trigger. Sadly, that was not Kaden’s strong point.
“Please do explain. I have to know whether or not I have to punish you, of course. As you’re quite a number of minutes late. Exactly three minutes, six seconds, if you were counting. As I’m feeling particularly kind at the moment, you have thirteen seconds to get your excuse blurted.”
Thirteen seconds? Thirteen seconds??? Did she really think that was enough time to explain that everyone else was late and Judgement had only told them moments ago? It was going to be a challenge to say enough fast enough.
“... it would be horrible to see that there is a new crimson stain,” she was finishing as she began counting. “Nineteen, eighteen...” Wait, nineteen? Didn’t she say that Kaden only had thirteen seconds to speak? Oh well, it was time to make use of this extra time.
“Sixteen...” And Kaden began, as fast as possible. “Everyone was late to Brio, including me, though I was the first.” “Thirteen...” “Judgement waited for others to arrive, eating some fruity dessert, and he told us you were here expecting Tower, Chariot, and myself.” “Nine...” “I left upon hearing this and ran here as quickly as possible.” “Seven...” “It was only twelve minutes ago, and I got here as quickly as possible.” “Five...” “I have no idea what happened to the others, but they might arrive soon.” “Three...” “I’m only here as instructed by my superiors.” “One...”
It would be useless to cringe in fear, to show weakness, so Kaden simply stood there, looking straight at this strange woman and waiting for her verdict. There was little else to do except keep those words in his mind. Those ones from his book. Mens amens coepit. The insane mind begins.
Not even slightly short of breath, Asuki slowly jogged towards the pier, knowing it was extremely close by here. And then, voices. One counting, one breathlessly explaining. And with the mention of Judgement, and the voice explaining, she knew it was the contact and the Moon. It seemed this Itex was also a hurrier.
Well, a pity. She'd have to live with them being late, and it wasn't exactly as if they could've got to either Brio or the Pier on time without attracting attention... The idiocy of those that didn't even bother to check their underlings real life schedules..
“Seven...” “It was only twelve minutes ago, and I got here as quickly as possible.” “Five...” “I have no idea what happened to the others, but they might arrive soon.” “Three...” “I’m only here as instructed by my superiors.” “One...”
With eyes of ice, Asuki slowly jogs the rest of the way towards the Moon and the odd... Wait. Was she FLYING?
A moment of paused shock before she regained composure, and then a soft patter as the Chariot's user strode up next to the Moon.
But still, her attention wavered. Listening to those few sentences spill out of the student’s mouth, she had caught a slight pattering of footsteps from another arrival - these soft steps could only belong to the owner of the Chariot. Judgement had said something about the Chariot.. but she couldn’t quite remember what. Once again, there was no more blood to be smelt, but there was still one member missing. But, that didn’t matter, of course.
So, in the end, this pause had been their fault. Not Judgement taking his sweet time in ordering them - as he was quite prone to… not paying attention to his duties as usual. She felt a smirk curl its way across her features, and she folded her white wings with a snap. She remained in the air for a split second, before the lack of support caused her to plummet through the air at a speed that would have injured her, if not broken something, had she hit the ground. Instead of fear, all she could feel was the exhilarating rush of adrenaline. She snapped both feathery wings open at the last second, and felt a burning pain in the small of her back. Her speed decreased, and as she snapped to a halt nearly a few millimeters from impact, landed on the pier lightly.
“Dessert, you say?” she murmured, mostly to herself. “He always did like apricots.” Raising her voice slightly - it was widely known in headquarters that the younger their subordinates were, the louder you had to talk, she continued. “Very well. Then, Itex Members. I fear that I have to fix Judgement’s overlooking of your… guilt.” One gloved hand lifted into the air, and the other tugged at the red ribbon there. “In that case, it has been decided that blame for this lack of punctuality lies solely in yourself.” The ribbon came free from the glove, and she entwined it on her two wrists, before continuing.
“As this is your first offense, and you are still unused to your duties and how you may do them, I see no point in spilling blood through this type of minor offense - for the first time only, of course. There will be no punishment, for the time being.” It was then that she remembered the little box that she was holding in her hand. “You…,” here she paused as she tried to guess who exactly the student in front of her was. He had earlier said something about the ‘Tower, Chariot, and myself.” That meant that he was the..
“Moon, you will be keeping this box for the time being.” It was always safer to put it in the hands of a male. In the case of them opening the box, it would be impossible for someone of that gender to stumble upon the surprise that Itex had spent so much time crafting. “Judgement will tell you when it will be needed. As you very well know, do not open or cause any damage to this package of ours. Bring it to the basement floor of Sagaro Mall this evening, before ten. There will be a car there, which you’ll know by the license plate number - JS-878. The trunk will be unlocked, so place the box inside. The car will be driving off exactly at ten, so please do hurry.”
“You, Chariot, have a different task. You will be searching for a certain mask. A golden half mask with a pattern of alternating black and golden diamonds on one half. Chariot, you will oversee the capture of both the mask and the owner - upon success, you will inform Judgement immediately. To contact him, inform the owner of Brio that you need a reservation for one of the back rooms, and Judgement will find you shortly. I’d suggest that you get all of your masked group of Itex to work towards this goal - it is of supreme importance to the Itex cause.”
She smiled again, before nodding her head slightly. “I do apologize for the amount of work you have to do. Although -,” she stopped talking with a start, before smiling once again. “Any inquiries?”
Kaden just stood there, waiting for the verdict. He hadn’t even noticed Asuki stroll up beside him. Admittedly, she was a quiet person, but Kaden was also focused on saving himself from this woman if need be. She could very well get mad at him, and rightly so.
“Very well. Then, Itex Members. I fear that I have to fix Judgement’s overlooking of your… guilt.” Once again, the words rose to the surface of Kaden’s mind, and he almost spoke them, ready to speak them at even the slightest movement on this strange woman’s part. “In that case, it has been decided that blame for this lack of punctuality lies solely in yourself.” She began untying a ribbon, fumbling with it for some strange reason, and Kaden began to whisper under his breath. “Mens amens...”
And then she said something so surprising that he forgot what he was doing and stopped talking. Not that it mattered anymore. There was no need to figure out what those words would do. If they did anything at all. “There will be no punishment, for the time being.” Why in the world had she suddenly changed her mind again? Was this a habit of hers? It was helping him out now, but it could very well be harmful in the future...
“You, Moon, you will be keeping this box for the time being.” The box? Really? Shouldn’t someone else be keeping it? It wouldn’t be good to be once again blamed for messing up, and Kaden had almost lost this job because of a mistake. They all had almost lost the job. Wouldn’t it be better to have someone more responsible take care of this box, someone who had been with Itex for more than, say, a few weeks? This was only his first mission...
“Judgement will tell you when it will be needed.” Okay, so Kaden would be going back to Brio to await further orders? “As you very well know, do not open or cause any damage to this package of ours.” Of course. He wasn’t stupid... “Bring it to the basement floor of Sagaro Mall this evening, before ten.” Wait, wasn’t Judgement supposed to tell the time? Why did she always change her mind? This could get very confusing very quickly. Hopefully the annoyance wasn’t showing on Kaden’s face. “There will be a car there, which you’ll know by the license plate number - JS-878.” Duly noted. The number was now written in his sketchpad, later to be encoded in a drawing. “The trunk will be unlocked, so place the box inside. The car will be driving off exactly at ten, so please do hurry.” Okay, yet another time, yet again soon. Oh well, he would carry out the task and do it within the time limit. He didn’t want to find out the consequences of not doing so.
The Chariot (he had just noticed she was there) had a different task, and it didn’t seem simple either. Maybe Kaden truly had been given an easier mission? All he needed to do was deliver a box, right? There would be no fights, no difficulties, just time. And it wasn’t like he needed to open the box. In fact, he was directly ordered not to open the box. What could go wrong? It was a perfectly simple mission, and there was almost no way Kaden could mess this up. And in no way did he want to find out how punishments worked in Itex. He figured he wouldn’t be subject to too many of them, one way or another...
“Although-” She stopped and smiled. “Any inquiries?”
Okay, maybe Itex didn’t like question-asking, but how was he to know? It would be better to take the risk than to not know something important. “How long does it take to get to Sagaro Mall, and what’s the shortest route?” If nothing else, he was not going to risk getting there late. And there would likely be no time to waste getting lost. With these people, it was better to be early. “Also, which floor parking will the car be on?” Three floors were a lot to look through, and time was not there to be wasted.
“Dessert, you say? He always did like apricots.” The Chariot snorted from behind. The medium level Itex were really idiots, so far as she had seen. “Very well. Then, Itex Members. I fear that I have to fix Judgement’s overlooking of your… guilt. In that case, it has been decided that blame for this lack of punctuality lies solely in yourself.”
Stoic, Asuki made no comment, merely listening. She could've said so many things about how they couldn't've arrived any earlier, and Itex knew that, but she wouldn't. She'd just do better next time. “As this is your first offense, and you are still unused to your duties and how you may do them, I see no point in spilling blood through this type of minor offense - for the first time only, of course. There will be no punishment, for the time being. You…,”
The speaker trailed off as if searching for something while Asuki tapped her fingers. The itch to wear the Chariot was growing stronger. She'd have to go out there tonight. “Moon, you will be keeping this box for the time being. Judgement will tell you when it will be needed. As you very well know, do not open or cause any damage to this package of ours. Bring it to the basement floor of Sagaro Mall this evening, before ten. There will be a car there, which you’ll know by the license plate number - JS-878. The trunk will be unlocked, so place the box inside. The car will be driving off exactly at ten, so please do hurry.”
Contridicting onceself was a really stupid thing. The respect for her superiors was lessening in the wearer of the Chariot. “You, Chariot, have a different task. You will be searching for a certain mask. A golden half mask with a pattern of alternating black and golden diamonds on one half. Chariot, you will oversee the capture of both the mask and the owner - upon success, you will inform Judgement immediately. To contact him, inform the owner of Brio that you need a reservation for one of the back rooms, and Judgement will find you shortly. I’d suggest that you get all of your masked group of Itex to work towards this goal - it is of supreme importance to the Itex cause.”
“I do apologize for the amount of work you have to do. Although -, Any inquiries?” Gold half with black and gold diamonds. The description was memorized instantly, and Asuki nodded. "One. What information does Itex have on the half gold mask."
She asked bluntly, a simple description was little, and would do virtually nothing for her. "Where has this mask been seen prior to this moment. Has anyone caught a glimpse of the wearer. What abilities is it known to have. How dangerous is it. How fast and strong is it. What's it's observance like." She rattled off the questions, mentally ticking off information required to battle it...
“One. What information does Itex have on the half gold mask. Where has this mask been seen prior to this moment. Has anyone caught a glimpse of the wearer. What abilities it is known to have. How dangerous is it. How fast and strong is it. What’s it’s observance like,” quickly asked the Chariot, rattling off questions as though there was no tomorrow. She nodded slightly, the corners of her mouth twisting upwards. How quaint - how completely focused on physical battle.
“Moon,” she stated suddenly, “do you have any friends or acquaintances?” Untangling the ribbon from her ungloved hand, she allowed the end to trail on the ground, before continuing. “It’s across the river to the left. After you cross the river, it’s about thirty minutes to the left. You’ll be sure to recognize it by the loud noises coming from the crowds of students. That’s where most people - most sane people of your age group - spend their free time after all.” She paused, before continuing with her directions. “To cross the river, take Goatstone Bridge. It’s about ten minutes down the river, and be sure to bring something to pay the toll.” Her voice was wry as she remembered the strange thing that existed on the bridge…
As she was enjoying the mental image, her blindfold slipped a few millimeters down from exactly over her eyes - and she caught a glimpse of two high school-aged children, a boy with rebelliously colored hair and a girl with long black hair. She coughed in annoyance, before one hand reached up to place the blindfold back where it should have been. Her voice slightly tighter than usual, as it wouldn’t do in any way to become more lenient due to a glimpse of the party before her, she continued. “The car will be on the first basement level, Moon. Now, go, and do not tarry.”
Turning her memory towards the Chariot’s questions, she remembered the person that had the Emperor mask, in the past. That man. Of course, it would end up being that man who would end up causing so much trouble for Itex - and in extension of that, herself. When she spoke, her voice was calm, cold, and emotionless - well, as much so as she could make it. “Cenriel Academy - the owner will have some connection with your school. He - it’ll be a he - will turn your attacks against you. High in stamina, agility, and speed. A major tactician.” Despite her best intentions, there were images of that man running through her mind while smirking, frowning, and doing various different activities. But still, she tried to objectify him as much as possible. After all, he was now just a body, wasn’t he? “It’ll be dangerous.” she stated finally. “It has escaped Itex for far too long. Remedy that error, Chariot.”
Chariot. There was something that she had forgotten to do with the Chariot. Something vital… She, then, remembered the little tool that she had hidden somewhere. “Give me your mask,” she ordered. Her expression returning to a frown as she realized that the child may not be so quick to give her mask away - she, herself, didn’t enjoy doing it either. But this child possessed a False mask - a little mask churned out and given to a tool. But still, most were possessive of their masks, no matter how they obtained it. This kid would be much the same. Underneath the blindfold, her eyes narrowed, before she placed one hand in front of her, waiting for the mask. Her voice came out clipped, cold, and annoyed. “Now, Chariot. A gift given by Itex is a gift that Itex can take away. It is not yours, but ours, and it would do for you to remember that. This time - there will be no lasting harm to either you or your precious mask, if you do as I say.”
”You, Moon. Tower. Chariot. There should be a package waiting down by Liron Pier which Itex needs retrieved. However, since you’re all late, you have just about... nine minutes before the appointed time.”
Zensa barely comprehended his orders. He was exhausted, a combination of his hasty run to the cafe and his performance at the park. Another boy dashed out, apparently very eager to be on his assignment. Didn't even have the decency to push his chair in. After pushing his and the other boy's chairs neatly under the table, he trotted out of the cafe. A breeze played around his face, as if to distract him from his goal. He nearly gave in, but the threat of punishment loomed over him like a brooding thunderhead. Any later and the storm might cause some damage. Resigning himself to go as fast as he could, he ground his teeth together and started off at a fast jog.
Several minutes passed while Zensa was dodging the few remaining pedestrians on the street, occasionally bumping into one before continuing with a hasty apology over his shoulder. The pier was nowhere in sight, and it wouldn't get any closer without any assistance. Taking a quick moment to catch his breath against a wall, he considered his options. Continue as he was and risk harsher and harsher punishments, or don the Tower and get to the pier within the next few minutes. It wouldn't have taken a genius to figure out which option he took. But rather than don it in public, Zensa elected to duck into a dark alley.
"Wake us from our passive dream...", he whispered as he donned his mask.
An almost electrical sensation course through his body as the mask revitalized him and bolstered his strength and stamina. He relished the feeling of power in his body and mind, power that he alone was able to command. It was almost intoxicating. But he would have to revel in it another time, now he had to move. Sprinting out of the alleyway, Zensa made it to the pier in the next three minutes. Later, he would probably find it impressive. But that would come later, there was work to be done.
He was very late, even by their standards. He'd have to bear some harsh punishment after all. The thought didn't please Zensa at all, but he would endure if he had to. From the entrance of the pier he muffled sounds of voices. There weren't many, thankfully. He wouldn't have to explain to anyone why a kid such as himself was prowling around the pier wearing a mask like him. That would be difficult, and he'd probably not put up with that.
Following the sound of the voices, Zensa turned a corner and saw two individuals, one the boy from earlier, looking up and talking. One could almost think that they were discussing something in the starry sky, but it would've been hard to miss the woman flying above them. Flying? How can she be flying? What does her mask do? What are it's strengths? Weaknesses? Ally? Enemy? The questions and more came rapid fire from within the recesses of his augmented mind. They would have to wait, for now. The time for investigation would come later. Time to work.
Zensa came out from behind the corner, talking to the trio as he did so. "I was assigned to come here for a package for delivery. I am the Tower. What is the job?"
And that would be something that would bring problems in the future. With almost a weary sigh, she lifted the ribbon in front of her, a three-word phrase dancing at the forefront of her mind. It seemed as though there was nothing else to do but to resort to violence to get what she wanted. She, personally, hated to do this by herself. It was all the more fitting to give her subordinates something to do to cool down their hot heads. Anyways, Death would enjoy it a bit too much.
Her gloved head dropped with the crimson ribbon, falling about a meter and a half, before lifting up into a small, but ornate loop, before her ungloved right hand slipped neatly into the loop. All of this done in a total of a few seconds, as she focused all of her concentration upon a few words. ‘‘Edge…’
It was just then that a series of footsteps appeared on the pier, and she, with a start, lost concentration and the ribbon fell loosely downwards again, without the spell becoming complete. Who could this be? Itex had arranged for the pier to be completely vacant for this period. It couldn’t be some random pedestrian, could it? Her gloved hand once again started to sketch the same design in the air, in preparation for removing any witnesses of this meeting. How annoying.
“I was assigned to come here for a package for delivery. I am the Tower. What is the job?” Ah, good, if he was the Tower, then there would be need to do anything to him. But still... he was late, extremely late. Her eyes narrowed under the blindfold as her bearing became more erect, almost regal. It was disappointing that she had missed his approach from before, but if she needed an excuse, she was preoccupied with recent events dealing with the Chariot.
Perhaps it was that that caused her voice to be so much tighter than usual. “You’re late,” she said, sharply. “That task has been given out already.” Once again, the air lacked the tangy scent of blood, so it must not have Judgement keeping him behind. He was supposed to have gone with the Moon to Sagaro Mall, but getting him to catch up to the Moon would end up being a waste of time. But there had to be a task that she could give him… some way that she could use this new student, the Tower, to the greatest of her ability. “But there is something for you to do, of course, Tower.” She didn’t realize that she would be lucky enough to get a subordinate so quickly to do her dirty work. And what fortunate timing too.
“I want Chariot’s mask. And I want it now,” she said quickly. It was up to the Tower how he wanted to deal with the mess, but she hoped that it wouldn’t be too much of a mess to clean up. Itex had already used one of their connections to claim this pitiful amount of time in which she could speak with them without attracting too much attention. Causing the entire pier to blow up would be so much of a bother to work with. “Whatever way that you want, just don’t make too much of a mess in the process.” Pitting Lower Level Itex against Lower Level Itex was something that was distasteful at best, but she would do whatever was needed to deal with this mess.
Then, of course, if there was too much of an emotional connection between the two, it could end up with them allying against her. But that wasn’t too much of a bother, as she completely believed that even if all of the Lower Itex attempted to take her down, they wouldn’t be able to scratch her. “Don’t damage her too greatly, Tower - Itex still has use for her, and we don’t have the time to wait for her to heal.” Without the healing idiot around, Itex could do little but to entrust her to the care of a doctor.
Zensa swallowed nervously, but maintained his outward composure. If only just. Offending the higher-ups, especially one who was floating in the air and seemed to radiate malice. He was very nearly tempted to flee, and disappear from the city altogether. But he knew it wasn't possible. With the power that Itex wielded, they could track him and make him suffer for the rest of his days. He'd rather have it end quickly and painlessly.
"But there is something for you to do, of course, Tower."
An explosive sigh of relief almost tore itself from his mouth, but he kept it shut and exhaled a long-held breath through his nose. At least he wasn't going to die. Not at this moment anyway. It still left the doubt of what this strange floating woman wanted of him. Not the most pleasant of situations, but at least I'm not dead. "What would you ask of me?"
"I want Chariot's mask. And I want it now. Whatever way that you want, just don't make too much of a mess in the process." Zensa nearly gaped in shock at the request. "Don't damage her to greatly, Tower - Itex still has use for her, and we don't have the time to wait for her to heal.", the woman added, almost as an afterthought. He almost spoke up, but silenced himself. He was already in trouble, no need to aggravate the situation. Orders were orders, and he was a pawn in this grand scheme. No need to mess things up any more than they were.
No time was wasted. "And let Chaos reign supreme.", he whispered to himself. The single eye on the mask shone brightly, if only for a moment. A split-second later, the surrounding shadows seemed to leap onto Zensa. They whirled around him until there was nothing else to be seen of Zensa, and a howling moan came from the whirlwind. A second later the shadows departed. Zensa was gone, and Dek stood in his place. The mask's lone red eye gleamed menacingly. Dek said nothing, only held his hammer with his right hand on the shaft. The eye seemed to shine for a moment again and stayed lit. Dek unleashed the Whispers of Madness. He rested his left hand inside his coat on the hilt of his long knife. He awaited for a reaction from his target.
Liron River Pier
“Now, Chariot. A gift given by Itex is a gift that Itex can take away. It is not yours, but ours, and it would do for you to remember that. This time - there will be no lasting harm to either you or your precious mask, if you do as I say.”
A simple raised eyebrow. That was all that Asuki gave the girl in return. The Mask. She wanted the mask. Why did she want this mask? She'd been given it by a high ranking Itex, from what she understood. Did this girl even have the authority to ask for the mask?
Her fingers slowly danced across the casing in her pocket, her mind weighing up the possibilities. Weighing a decision which could mean a lot to her. She didn't want to lose this mask, but why would they take it away permenantly.
As she was weighing it up in her head, another arrived, and after a brief flurry of orders, the contemptuous girl ordered her colleague to take the mask from her.
That she couldn't stand, there was no way she'd sit by and LET the mask be taken from her. Turning first her head, then her body, towards the new arrival, she stood tall, her fingers trailing across her mask for another moment before it was fished out of her bag.
The small, simple, gold mask was lifted elegantly towards the face, the whispered words almost echoing as Asuki reverantly put on the mask. " And paint the midnight sky with blood."
A blink of time. A blur of movement. Most eyes wouldn't even track what had happened. But the instant that she had said those words, it was like the body had transformed at a rate faster than the eye could see.
Little was changed, as she looked mostly similar to how she had. But the air that was flung up by that brief blur of movement outline her now red eyes perfectly. The sword in her hand, which had certainly not been there prior to that moment, glinted, the heavy frame surprisingly easily held in one hand, as the face of Kiriyu Asuki slowly split into a smile.
There was something otherworldly about the gaze, the lust for battle that reflected in the blood red eyes. Something ... almost alien. Something unlike that you'd find in the eyes of a human. "Caledfwlch." She spoke carefully, the hand trailing down the blade in a caress. "We have visitors." The whispers then began as the other blinked with that one eye. Whispers, invasive, annoying.
The grin faded, the memories rising a moment before The Chariot annoyedly focused, cutting out as much of the mental barrage as possible, Holding the swords forwards angrily, the feet moved only a little, keeping the weight firmly on the front foot. Cutting down manouverability in favour of defense as she warily watched her opponent. "You annoy me." She knew who'd done the whispers as she watched for an attack of substance, distracted just slightly by the sounds.
"You annoy me."
Dek giggled. Softly at first and growing steadily louder until the laughter crescendoed into a maniacal cackling. His entire body shook with his laughter, yet his hands remained right where he had them before: one casually holding the massive hammer in its grip, the other resting on the handle of his long, serrated knife. A moment later the laughter subsided with a breathless sigh. Slowly, carefully, he removed his hand from the handle of the knife and let it hang limply at his side.
"Well now. Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well, oh WELL now. What DO we have here?" Dek cocked his head slightly to the left, allowing the moonlight to play off the blank right half of the mask and casting the left side in a dusky glow. "The Chariot has come out to play now, has she? Such a fierce look on your face! A game face?" He stroked the elongated chin of the mask with his left hand in an imitation of thinking. "Or a murder-face! I'd be happy with either, really. It shows you're ready! Committed! Prepared for any outcome! We're going to have SO much fun tonight! Just you, me, and this lovely referee here. Although.." His voice took on a petulant tone, like that of a spoiled child not getting exactly what they wanted. "I'm bound by my orders to not pound you into ground meat. Or to wreak lots of destruction in this area." His shoulders slumped, but then he resumed his previous motion of stroking the chin of his mask. "I wonder if you'd make a good hamburger? Probably not with bits of wall or nasty, rotten pier wood in it. Another time will come for such thoughts." He waved his hand as one would to stave off a particularly annoying gnat. "Like after I take your precious little mask off of your battered face. Or better yet! What if I used, oh, what was sit called, Caledfwlch or something, to take your mask of? That would be so much FUN to take your own precious mask from you with your own weapon." Behind the mask, Dek was smiling gleefully. His grip on the handle of his weapon tightened. "But...." His voice grew husky and deep. "We'll simply have to see what happens. After I beat you into a quivering, useless, pile. Of. Meat." He enunciated the last words so strongly it seemed as though he was spitting them.
Within a fraction of a second of the 'tuh' sound leaving his mouth, Dek's hand flashed into his coat. In one fluid motion, he drew the serrated knife and threw it into the pier near Chariot. It struck the boards with a dull thunk, before becoming blacker than night. The darkness seemed to intensify around the knife, making it as dark as a cave. Not even the dim city lights could penetrate the inky black area. Without missing a beat, Dek swung his massive weapon twice, each one unleashing Arcs of Chaos in their wake. Both Arcs were vertical, and both were aimed at either side of where Chariot stood. As the Arcs passed through the wood of the pier, the chaos took effect. Some boards rotted away almost instantly, others splintered and sent shards of broken wood spraying into the air. Dek waited, body tense like a coiled spring, for any sign of Chariot's reaction to his attack. Come now, little Chariot. Let us dance., he thought.
The subordinate finally picked up after a ring. “Liron River Pier - we need to cover this up,” she ordered curtly. “You know what to do. Chariot decided that she didn’t want to cooperate with Itex - her and Tower are fighting it out… Yes, it was because of that. Tell him that his little protege needs to learn more obedience… Of course I want it done immediately.”
After a short pause, she gave a murmur of affirmation, before snapping the phone shut and turning her attention back to the battle. It irked her that the girl was still not injured or begging to give up her mask. That was more trouble than it was worth. The modification she wished to do was only for the girl’s benefit and still, she was there, causing more trouble. Would there be someone else that could do the task that they needed to have done? The Tower and Moon were both male - so they were out of the question. The Hermit was far too support-based to do something like this along, and only the Lower Class Itex were sufficient for this task.
Perhaps she could use that one skill of hers to deal with this problem. No, that wouldn’t work. It needed an agreement, and Itex still had very little that they could use to manipulate the girl. The softness of that darned superior of his - he wanted to keep her from as much pain as possible. But as soon as she did something on the shadier side of life, they would be able to control her easily. Most people were all so careful about their own reputations, and were willing to do anything to save them. Itex was lucky that the police turned a blind eye to everything that they wanted to hide, but would work on the side of justice if Itex asked them to.
The Tower was saying something, the speech unnerving her somewhat. It was true that the personality of masks differed between person and person, but this one was taking it too far. It appeared as though it brought madness and complete violence along with it. It was masks like those that made her disgusted, and she wished that she didn’t have to deal with him just now. But - right now, Itex needed ever mask that they could get their hands on. As soon as they finally succeed with their goal, his mask would be the first one that would be removed. Just as she was about to get even further away, as the battle could end up becoming extremely messy, the Tower made his move and did something.
This something resulted in quite a lot of destruction. For all that she knew, he used his weapons and destroyed the pier. Probably on purpose. Shards of wood flew this way and that, but much of the other wood rotted away and fell into Liron River. She grumbled under her breath - hadn’t she told him before to not make a big mess?
“Tower, what did I say?” she called out to him, mindless that she was distracting him in the middle of a battle. “If you’re not going to keep the pier intact, you will be the one that will be rebuilding it tomorrow.” It was unacceptable for him to disobey her commands, just as though she hadn’t said them in the first place. Maybe this was why the Chariot had been rebellious; it seemed as though the newly recruited ones didn’t always have enough fear of Itex. She made a mental note that she would have to do something about this eventually - she knew someone who would be perfectly pleased to do such a thing.
Liron River Pier
"Well now. Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well, oh WELL now. What DO we have here?" Frowning, the Chariot flicked it's sword. "The Chariot has come out to play now, has she? Such a fierce look on your face! A game face? Or a murder-face! I'd be happy with either, really. It shows you're ready! Committed! Prepared for any outcome! We're going to have SO much fun tonight! Just you, me, and this lovely referee here. Although..I'm bound by my orders to not pound you into ground meat. Or to wreak lots of destruction in this area." Rolling her eyes, the Chariot grimaced again as the talking went on and on.
"I wonder if you'd make a good hamburger? Probably not with bits of wall or nasty, rotten pier wood in it. Another time will come for such thoughts. Like after I take your precious little mask off of your battered face. Or better yet! What if I used, oh, what was sit called, Caledfwlch or something, to take your mask of? That would be so much FUN to take your own precious mask from you with your own weapon. But.... We'll simply have to see what happens. After I beat you into a quivering, useless, pile. Of. Meat."
After finally finishing, the waves of power cut either side of her, as the Chariot held very still. "Oh, sorry, we're starting now? Good, I thought you'd never finish speaking." With the boards around her, including the one she was standing on, corrupting extremely fast, The Chariot had to move, and move she did. Springing forwards, over the black knife which held an aura of darkness around it, over the planks falling into the river beneath. Over everything, aiming straight for the opponent.
A wild grin slipped across her face as she sprang forwards, sword casually held in front of her throughout the spring towards the Deus. There wasn't too much time to react, as the Chariot move a lot faster than a normal human would....
The other woman above him was saying something. Something that he should heed if he wanted to avoid further punishment. For all the good it was worth, she might as well have been trying to talk a hurricane out of destroying things. Chariot was the sole object of his focus. The objective of his mission that he was determined to enjoy to the fullest extent. His enjoyment diminished somewhat as she didn't display any reaction to his taunting. She'll be a fun one to toy with. Everyone breaks eventually. They all do. The pier began to disintegrate beneath her feet as she leaped towards him.
"Oh, sorry, we're starting now? Good, I thought you'd never finish speaking."
"Good! I would be severely disappointed if you gave up right now!" The blade in her hand gleamed gleefully in the moonlight, eager for his blood. "Forward! I like that! But not good enough!" He leaped onto the head of his hammer, grabbing the chain on his way up. After he landed on the head of the hammer, he flipped onto a nearby light fixture and pulled the hammer after him. Dek spun the hammer around him in a quick flourish before settling it across his shoulders.
"Come now! You can do better than that! A brutish charge seems so unlike you! Get creative! Be passionate about your fighting! COME AT ME!"
The glittering blade of Caledfwlych flashed through the air where the other had been just a moment before, the body immediately pulling the strike back to wheel towards the Itex opponent, a snarl forming on her lips.
"Come now! You can do better than that! A brutish charge seems so unlike you! Get creative! Be passionate about your fighting! COME AT ME!"
The goading words heated at her... And then the scowl melted away from her face in a grin. Those whispers faded further into the background as The Chariots fullblown confidence in her own ability returned. Who was this youngling to manage to goad a champion at battle into rash decisions? No one that should be able to. She hadn't fought anyone near her level in far too long, it was obvious she had lost something of her prowess.
Loosening the arm muscles, turning her shoulders over, the Chariot grinned wider. "You taunt and rave like a lunatic. And you know words. But how good are you really other than flashy tricks and mere words?" The reply was almost giggling as the eyes widened in anticipation.
"Let's see how you... Ride the Winds." The last words were said with a soft giggle, and then, in a blur of movement, the Chariot attacked once again. This was far less direct, as the first blink was an underpass, cutting the pole beneath the feet of the opponent.
A moment later she darted back again towards wherever the opponent had moved now, sword swinging in an arc as the actual wielder stayed wide. The Chariot was testing her opponent. She wouldn't let herself lose sight of one thing.
Even the best warriors fell if they went into battle blindly. Search your opponent first, see who it was that actually stood before you. Then you could defeat them. Defeat them swiftly and surely.
"You taunt and rave like a lunatic. And you know words. But how good are you really other than flashy tricks and mere words? Let's see how you... Ride the Winds."
Dek bowed gracefully atop the pole. "You honor me madam! I now know that I have done exactly what I wanted! It's a truly marv-"
For the first time since time immemorial, Dek was caught by surprise. The upper half of the pole that he stood on gave way, sending him tumbling forward through empty air. A roll at the last minute saved him from landing face-first into the wooden boards of the pier. However, he didn't have time to stand steadily before he was attacked again by Chariot. He felt the blade slice a shallow wound across his chest, spinning him around only to slam into a nearby wall. The swords arc after it inflicted the would sent a spatter of blood onto the nearby wall and boards. Dek spun around, laughing even harder than he had before.
"This? This is all you can muster? A scratch? Pathetic. Simply pathetic! A kitten could have done more harm to me than that scratch! You don't deserve to call yourself a warrior or fighter or swordswoman or whatever you think you should be called. You are weak. Useless. Inept. A waste of talent. Give up your mask now before you further injure your 'warriors pride' or whatever code you fight by. I might as well put you down sooner rather than later. I have much more interesting business to attend to.
In a split-second flash of motion, Dek spun around with his hammer to swing at Chariot with a two-handed blow. Just before any impact, he infused his hammer with the power of Anarchy Prime, magnifying the power behind the blow and adding chaotic energy to the actual strike.
The massive hammer swinging towards the Chariot caused the masked swordswoman no worries. For all it took was a few steps of dancing backwards. The insults were ignored as the Chariot slowly licked up her blade, the small dribbles of drawn blood trickling down to meet her tongue.
"Rant and rave as you wish, little man." She spat. The way this one kept on talking annoyed the hell out of her. She wanted to show him pain. Pain and pain again. Twicefold in eternity of death. There were many ways to bring pain without actually killing... Drawing back the blade, The Chariot prepared to assault once more...
The next voice that rang out over the Pier was one soft, but commanding. "Stop." Somehow, despite the fact that it was little more than a calm reprimand, the voice carried with power. "This unnecessary fight has gone on long enough."
The man standing at the entrance to the pier was tall for a human, the hooded cloak he was wearing looking both out of place, and somehow mysterious. Other than the fact that it hid his identity. "En, call off your hound. This can be resolved much more peacefully."
The Chariot frowned at the man. She knew who he was. She knew... "Why are you disrupting us." She hisses out as he approaches, the car he got out of sitting well behind. "Calm yourself, Chariot. The whole battle was a misunderstanding. The Tower is not your enemy."
She glared as he spoke, not saying another word, despite the obvious annoyance that painted her features. She glared again at the Tower, before stepping back and disengagin from the battle.
"I see you've learnt little in your attempts to deal with the younger generation." He speaks, humoured, at the floating figure. "So, do let's get this over with. The police will be here before too long, with this ruckus , and I'd rather NOT make a surprise appearance on TV, if you don't mind."
"Stop. This unnecessary fight has gone on long enough."
Dek froze. His muscles clenched before he could swing back again at Chariot with the axe side of his hammer. Slowly, he turned his head to look towards the speaker who was addressing them. Fury boiled in his mind. Adrenaline was pumping though his veins. He didn't want to stop! He very nearly couldn't stop! Bloodlust had taken the reins of his mind and he struggled to control himself from leaping at Chariot and the intervening man. Only the woman floating in the air behind him stayed his hands. He cautiously brought the hammer back to rest in both hands yet he did not release the chaotic energy quite yet.
"En, call off your hound. This can be resolved much more peacefully."
Dek's grip tightened on the shaft of the hammer. Hound? Hound!?, he thought incredulously. I am nobody's dog! My will is my own! My mask is my own! They can take those away from me when I die! His body tensed up as he prepared to leap from where he stood towards Chariot and the man.
"Tower, stop. Or I'll make you. If you continue on with this fight... Itex has its ways of punishment. With our new guest here, I suppose Chariot will behave herself."
Muscles bulged slightly in Dek's neck. He ground his teeth behind his mask. Every instinct called for him to leap at them both and rip them apart. He suppressed those urges, if only barely. If he was to die, he would want to inflict as much chaos as was possible. The furthest way from that would be to die here with nobody around and be dumped into the sea. The woman's threat was far from empty, that he knew. If he continued, dying here was almost assured.
"Very well," he growled. "I will take my leave then. If you have further use of me, it had better be worth my time. I'm going for a stroll along the pier, catch up if there's something I missed."
Dek strode off between buildings, fuming silently. Two sections away, a night guard saw him passing by a shipping company's warehouse. Noticing the massive hammer-axe and the slash across Dek's chest, the guard immediately assumed that Dek was a murderer and followed. At the next block of buildings, Dek disappeared around a corner into a walkway between two warehouses. The guard followed thinking that Dek was going to flee. He failed to notice the long knife stuck in the floor at the entrance of the walkway. In a split-second, inky blackness surrounded the officer. Fear took hold of the officer's heart. "C-c-come out! I know you're there! Put th-the weapon down and come out with your h-hands up!" Dek seemed to materialize out of the blackness in front of the officer. Before he had time to pull the trigger, Dek snatched the officer's pistol out of his hand.
"Not your night, officer. I'm in a foul mood, and you're the exact kind of person I was hoping would be here. If you're religious, make your peace with whatever god you believe in. You're about to meet them."
The man didn't have time to scream. Dek jabbed the officer in the abdomen with the head of the hammer, knocking him back into the wall. The chaos energy in his hammer was immediately transferred into the officer and sprung into effect. Before the officer could retaliate, most of his major organs ruptured. In a violent spasm from his abdominal muscles, the officer spat up blood and dropped to the side. His eyes rolled in his head as his body involuntarily convulsed at the pain. Blood began to leak out from his mouth, nose, and tear ducts. A gurgling noise emanated from the dying man's throat. Within a few agonizing seconds, he was dead. His crimson blood leaked slowly over the boards of the walkway and drained through the gaps between the boards. Dek calmly walked back to where his knife was, snatched it up and sheathed it in one fluid motion.
"My regards, officer. Thanks for making my night better." As he walked away, Dek began to laugh. The sound of his maniacal laughter echoed off the surrounding warehouses while he strode away from his latest kill.
Dek meandered along the pier by the light of the moon. There was a spring to his step of one who was incredibly happy-go-lucky but it seemed disturbing to see a man like Dek walk that way. To any observer who would even think twice about looking at him more than once, he appeared to be a careless man strolling around at night. On a pier. With a massive hammer. And a disturbing mask. You would never have guessed that he had just committed murder in cold blood. Given the opportunity, he would do the same act again and again and again. Luckily for the general populace, no soul was even relatively near Dek at that time.
Dek suddenly froze. He could hear a faint buzzing noise. A light vibration accompanied the buzzing noises which now came in triplets. Reaching into the back pocket of his pants, Dek pulled out a mobile phone. The small screen on the lid displayed a string of numbers that were foreign to him. Behind the mask, an evil gleam shone in his eyes. Another potential victim? Fantastic! And they even came to me instead of me paying them a visit! How delightful! He was about to flip open the phone when something stirred within him. The phone fell to the pier as a pale silvery light shone from behind the mask. ..on't... hurt... -ra... Dek howled in fury as he was being forcibly separated from Zensa's body.
It took a prodigious amount of mental focus to take control of his own arms again. The battle of wills between himself and Dek seemed to drag on for an eternity. With a final burst of will, Zensa forced his arms to reach up and take the mask off. The shadowy clothing that had covered Dek disappeared in wisps of blackness, leaving only Zensa's street clothes behind. The hammer itself seemed to melt into the dark spaces between the boards of the pier. He stooped to pick up his phone, wincing slightly as he felt the gash in his chest twinge. In one motion he flipped the phone open and put it to his ear.
"Hello? This is Zensa, how can I help ya on this fine evening?"