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The Nine Circles

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0 · 279 views · located in Tartarus

a character in “White Asphodel”, as played by Nemeseia

Description



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Bael
AGE xxxxxxxxSPECIES Race/Species
xHEIGHT 6'3xx.xWEIGHT x 193 lbs.

STR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
SPD x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAPWR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
INT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACNG x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
WPN x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

The Archdemon Bael, formerly the ruler of the Sixth Circle of Hell and so-called Lord of Greed, is currently the most powerful and important demon trapped on the material plane. Therefore, he's in charge of the demon hierarchy there, and ultimately runs Tartarus City. Of course... there are a few personality flaws that make his a challenging enterprise, including both the one he's named for and a rather vile temper, which together make him, if not short-sighted in the usual sense, like as not to disrupt his own long-term plans with impulsive actions, which he then excuses by simply demanding that his advisors adjust the plans accordingly. He's not very good at listening to them, but does, at least, generally acknowledge the most competent among his legion of underlings. Ultimately, he has ambitious plans to not only reopen the gates to Hell, but to seize power there, something that all this time without direct supervision is giving him an opportunity to prepare for.




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Alastor Zinoviev
AGE xxxx ??xxxxSPECIES Cambion
xHEIGHT 5'11xx.xWEIGHT x 186 lbs.

STR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
SPD x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAPWR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
INT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACNG x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
WPN x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Alastor Zinoviev owns the neighborhood Soleil and Luna live in. A cambion bastard, he constantly tries to proposition one—or both when he can—Nishant sisters to join his brothel. There's a look in their eyes, and the way they just look that he wants. He is a collector of many things, and collecting the otherwordly is something that he enjoys the most, and he wants them for his collection. He is exceedingly cunning, and in his line of work, he has to be. He is the equivalent to what history considered a crime boss, and he gets a sort of perverse enjoyment in tricking people into selling him their souls. He might not be a purebred demon, but he'll be damned if he can't live like one.






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Vincent Rhisiart
AGE xxxxxxxxSPECIES Former Prince
xHEIGHT 6'2xx.xWEIGHT x 187 lbs.

STR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
SPD x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAPWR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
INT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACNG x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
WPN x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Before the war between Heaven and Hell, Vincent was known as the archangel Abaddon. He was the angel of war and destruction, and he did his job well. A little too well, really. Human history is frought with war, and if one peered closely enough, they would see the hand that Vincent played in it. He doesn't speak of his fall, though, or how he became an archdemon, but it happened before the War. He'd earned a reputation for being Lucifer's left-hand, second only to Bael, doing the things that needed a certain kind of violence to them. And quite frankly, Abaddon enjoyed it. He certainly had the skill for it. This all changed, however, after the War. Beaten and bloody, Abaddon was left to fend for himself. Left to die where he'd fallen. He resented his fellows for it, but he knew he was near death's door. It was a group of humans who saved him. Nearly three generations later, Abaddon has since learned to care for the humans, to fight for them in the only way he can. Especially for her, the one human who managed to make him feel love, of all things. He helps her in the only way he can with the Rebellion, however; he's but a shadow of his former self. He can only do so much with the little power he has.






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Éva Devereaux
AGE xxxx 25xxxxSPECIES Human
xHEIGHT 5'3"xx.xWEIGHT x 117 lbs.

STR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
SPD x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAPWR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
INT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACNG x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
WPN x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Éva Devereaux is more commonly known by her nom de guerre: Polaris. The North Star is the guiding light of Tartarus's underground rebellion force. They call themselves the Heralds, but more commonly are just referred to as the Rebellion. A small force of guerrillas and disgruntled citizens, their usual tactics are to disrupt the functioning of life in demon-controlled Tartarus City, in ways maximally inconvenient for the demons and minimally inconvenient for everyone else. Polaris herself is from a long line of rebels; her parents were the leaders of the group before she was. She is as ordinary as humans come, as she likes to say, but the truth is her uncommon intellect and extraordinary talent for mechanics and programming make her formidable. She's a bit of a live wire, honestly: bold and maybe even a little reckless in her plans, she has ambitions to bring down Bael and make Tartarus City a place where anyone can live without fear. Well, anyone but a petty tyrant anyway. Éva would never have picked herself to fall in love, not with her attention so squarely focused, but she found a partner and the love of her life in a demon of all things, and it's well-known among the Rebellion's inner circle that the both of them fight for a world where their love isn't strange or frightening to others.






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Leraje
AGE xxxxxxxxSPECIES Demon
xHEIGHT 5'9"xx.xWEIGHT x 155 lbs.

STR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
SPD x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAPWR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
INT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACNG x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
WPN x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Leraje isn't much to look at, compared to some of his kin. In fact, he's very good at passing for human, and among his fellow demons, doesn't really leave much of an impression. Most know him as the purveyor of poisons, a now-defunct specialty that he has turned into a thriving pharmaceutical development enterprise. While some medicines do come out of his lab, he is personally much more interested in the development of drugs, particularly psychoactive ones, or hallucinogens. He plies this trade for Bael, and also acts as the Demon Prince's left-hand man, as it were. Most overlook him as a mightier demon's crony, and this is how he prefers to be seen. The truth is that he is probably the smartest person in Tartarus, and the architect, to some extent, of most of Bael's plans. It was on Leraje's offhand insights that the current economic and social structure was built. Oddly enough, Leraje cares nothing for any of it, and eschews both rule and recognition. He seems to have occasional academic interest in things, and... that's about it. Next to the temperamental likes of most demons, Leraje is positively cold-blooded, and eels no sense of personal loyalty to anyone. Strangely, he seems to get along well with Lilith of all people. Perhaps the old saying is true and opposites attract?






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Lilith
AGE xxxxxxxxSPECIES Demon
xHEIGHT 5'1xx.xWEIGHT x 114 lbs.

STR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
SPD x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAPWR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
INT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACNG x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
WPN x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

The mother of all demons, a moniker associated with Lilith that couldn't be further from the truth. Lilith might have been one of the first female demons, but she wasn't the mother of them all. On the contrary, Lilith has never had any offspring of her own, but she does tend to be a more motherly sort. At least to those she actually likes. Like Leraje. He's one of her favorite demons mostly because they get along so well, but in reality, Lilith serves as Bael's spy and assassin. She does everything without fail that he commands of her, and her loyalty is one that has never had to be questioned. She believes in Bael's plan to unseal the gates to Hell in order to free Lucifer. Currently she is serving as a bit of a babysitter to Samael, the Fallen whom Bael plans to use. She's not entirely sure why but she does what she's told. Honestly, besides Leraje, she actually enjoys being around Sam, however; Bael has told her not to get too close to him.




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Vesper Kovacs
AGE xxxxxxxxSPECIES ??
xHEIGHT 5'9"xx.xWEIGHT x 152 lbs.

STR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
SPD x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAPWR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
INT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACNG x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
WPN x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Vesper is a local officer at the Tartarus Police Department, and perhaps one of the remaining human ones. Though in reality, Vesper isn't human at all. She isn't even an android, but something else entirely. She is the product of a long line of scientists who were adamant about creating the world's first sentient artificial intelligence. As a result, she is capable of connecting to various networks and accessing their information a lot faster than a typical droid. Vesper, however, wasn't original fashioned for this type of work. She was created a couple of years before the War, and was used as a means of companionship. Her creators wanted her to be a friend to the children they had, and to look after and care for them when they couldn't do it themselves. It was only a decade or so ago that Ves was repurposed to look into the various cambions, demons, and humans who would, perchance, look into the Rebellion. After all, her young mistress is the one thing in the world that she wishes to protect. And she will keep Éva safe for as long as she can. If she were to fail...






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Officer #3284, "Wren"
AGE xxxx ??xxxxSPECIES Android
xHEIGHT 5'10xx.xWEIGHT x 160 lbs.

STR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
SPD x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAPWR x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
INT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACNG x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
WPN x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Officer #3284 is one of the first line of new law enforcement androids recently unveiled to the public. 3284's mission is to keep the peace in Tartarus City. Unlike some of her fellows, built primarily on strong metal frames with no effort to disguise their mechanical nature, 3284 is a 'public relations' model, which means she has been given a human appearance and assigned a human partner, in her case, Officer Vesper Kovacs. She has also been given a "name": in her particular case, Officer Wren Donahue.


So begins...

The Nine Circles's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK



23 Asmodeus
Nishant Residence - Evening - Raining
Lunaria Nishant


Luna stabbed at the cut fruit in front of her, pursing her lips into a fine line. Her interview at the supermarket didn't go quite as she had hoped. The manager decided he wanted to go in a different direction. Apparently the person who had interviewed before her was more qualified. Luna couldn't be angry about that part. She knew she didn't have the experience for that kind of work, but she would have taken anything. Anything that would have helped put more money on the table.

What the manager didn't say was that the person who came in before her was also his niece, or something like that. Luna couldn't remember, exactly, but she did overhear the young woman talking about her position and her uncle. Nepotism at its finest, but she couldn't be upset about it. Well, she could be, but she wasn't going to be. Sighing softly, she ran a hand down her face and grabbed her fruit plate.

“Sol, you in the garage?" she called out. She didn't want to eat all of the fruit, even if it was mostly just a few slices of pineapple and oranges. “Got some of your favorites," she continued. The only good thing that this week was providing, besides the rain, was that Mr. Bailey was able to give her an advance. It wasn't quite what they needed to cover Soleil's costs, but it was something.

"Yeah I'm here. But stop spending your advance." Her voice came out a little gruff, but that was probably just the intervening wall probably.

Entering the garage found Sol at the tiller, counting out the day's profits and cursing under her breath. There'd been whole days without business this month, more than usual, and the days where she did get something it usually turned out to be not much.

“You wound me, sis, thinking I spent my advance on this," Luna stated, feigning a hurt look on her face and placing her free hand over her heart. “I would never," she continued, offering her sister a lopsided grin. “I happened to find these in a Rogenmart shopping basket," which loosely translated to she picked them off of someone. Well, the oranges at least. Those were always easy to filch, especially if they were the smaller mandarins. The pineapple she actually paid for, but if she could procure some lemon juice, she'd be able to save the pineapple for at least a few weeks.

Lemon juice was always a good preservative, but they couldn't always afford it. “Mr. Bailey was able to give me a fifty dollar advance," she stated once she entered the garage. “How much more do we need?"

"After the hundred I paid to keep the water on?" Sol shook her head, her expression slightly pinched. It was only a subtle difference from her usual stoniness, but Luna could detect it easily. "We're still a good sixty short. Or rather, I am. Yours is paid."

“Still?" Luna asked, shaking her head. She shouldn't be surprised, really. They really had to scrape whatever they could just to get by. Who knew when Jeremy would come back to collect? They were nearing the end of the month, and they still weren't able to get enough to cover Soleil's fees. It made Luna feel a little like shit because she couldn't help her sister in the same way Soleil helped her.

“I don't think they'll give us any more time," she spoke softly, taking a seat in one of the empty chairs. “Do... you think we should try pawning or selling something?" she asked. They didn't have much to begin with, and everything they owned wasn't worth a dime, let alone the sixty dollars they were short. Anything of real value belonged to Soleil's toolkit, and she needed that.

Sol expelled a heavy breath—a sigh, though she'd probably deny it. "Don't have anything worth that much," she said, echoing Luna's thoughts. "I don't know what I'm going to do here. Maybe tomorrow I can start... calling regulars. Offer big discounts if they'll get a service done early or something. It'll hurt in the future, but it might get us through this."

It wouldn't make much of a difference either way, Luna thought. What they would be able to pay now, they wouldn't be able to pay then. Fees always crept up, and it was becoming increasingly harder to pay them. Even if Luna's part of it was paid, Soleil's wasn't, and it wasn't fair for her sister to have to shoulder that burden. She didn't blame the Baileys for not being able to provide her with hours or work, but it wasn't enough. It wasn't cutting it, and she needed to do something else.

But at the same time, the Baileys were a reliable source of income. They might not always be able to give Luna an advance, but they always did their best to pay her what she was owed for the work she did. “I'm going to start looking around town for other part time jobs. Maybe... I can find something across town, too." Going that far would be dangerous, she knew, but what else could she do?

They needed money, and they weren't making enough. Before she could say anything further, though, the bell chimed at the front door, and Luna almost let herself think it was a customer. But life wasn't fair to the Nishant sisters. He walked with a sort of arrogant grace, dressed in a black suit worth more than Luna could ever make in a single lifetime. It would likely take her four or five lifetimes if she didn't sell her soul, to be able to afford something like that.

The deep red tie contrasted with his golden hair, and his steely blue eyes narrowed in on Soleil and Luna. The smile that crossed his lips made Luna sick, and she glanced in Soleil's direction. Alastor hardly ever came to collect on something himself. He always sent Jeremy, or one of the others to do his collecting.

“Soleil and Lunaria Nishant," he began, his voice oddly smooth and gentle. It was a farce, Luna knew, and it only made her tense. “Pictures really do not do you justice, for even they cannot properly express the beauty that you exude," he stated, walking a little closer towards them. “Such a rare thing it is to see in humans, nowadays," he added as Luna stepped closer in Soleil's direction.

She could tell that her sister was stiff, wary, alert, but the anxiousness she was probably feeling didn't show an iota on her face. "That's funny," she said flatly, blinking slowly. "Jeremy was just telling me the other day that I needed to smile more. Guess you have weird taste."

Luna didn't like the way he smiled. It was almost predatory, and the amused glint in his eyes didn't seem to be a good thing for them. “Jeremy wouldn't know true beauty if it hit him in the face," he replied smoothly, shrugging his shoulders lightly. Even that looked vaguely elegant, but Luna merely kept her gaze on him.

“To what do we owe the pleasure of you personally showing up," Luna asked, though she probably shouldn't have. The way his gaze turned to her made her stomach flip, and not in a good way. He had that same smile on his face as he lifted a hand and waved in a vague, dismissive manner.

“I came to offer a solution, one that I think you might find very useful for your situation," he stated.

It was pretty easy to tell that Sol already had some idea what this solution might be. She shifted slightly, putting herself a little in front of Luna, and crossed her arms beneath her chest. "My fees are the unpaid ones, so you're talking to me. What is it?"

“It pertains to the both of you, actually," he stated, leaning back against the counter, and mirroring Soleil's stance. His arms crossed over his chest, and his grin turned into a smirk. “Like a white dove and a black raven, it would be a sort of beautiful painting if I could lock you up in a cage," he stated, the smirk on his face turning wicked.

“I promise you'll only be birds locked in a cage for all eyes to see, but you'll belong to me," he continued, and Luna felt like she'd thrown up a little in her mouth. She knew that wouldn't be all they were required to do.

“And if we refuse?" she asked, narrowing her eyes in his direction.

“Both of your fees will increase by an extra fifty dollars. This is, what, the third time you haven't been able to pay? Your fees will increase regardless, but if you accept, they'll increase by only ten dollars, instead of fifty."

Soleil's expression and posture did not change; she made no outward expressions of revulsion, but she didn't exactly look pleased, either. It was as if he'd just made a comment on the weather, except for how stiff she still was. "You have to admit that would be a big change for us," she said dully. "We'd need some time to think about it."

Alastor arched a brow at that, and pushed himself off of the counter. “You have till the end of the month to decide. If you agree, I will waive the remainder of your payment for this month, including your late fees, however; if you do not, full payment will be required, and your fees will increase," he stated. Luna felt her throat tighten at that statement.

“Don't disappoint me my little raven and dove. You'll be the most exquisite sights in the area, I can assure you, you wouldn't want for anything," he stated, winking in their direction before he left. Luna expelled a breath she didn't even know she was holding.

“That's not a lot of time, Sol," Luna stated as she turned towards her sister. They had, at best, five or six days to come up with the remaining balance of what they owed. On top of that, Alastor was going to up their fees. They could barely afford to pay their current fees; how the hell were they supposed to pay an increased fee protection?

When Alastor was gone, the tension finally bled out of Sol's frame; she gripped the counter in front of her and frowned deeply. "One day at a time, Luna. We can't do anything else. Worst case... we'll see what we can do about getting a loan using the house. There's no way in Hell you're ending up doing whatever that slimeball wants. No fucking way."

It didn't matter, though, because in the end, they needed the money. Luna could swallow whatever pride she had to do what she had to. She could. Forcing the thought from her mind, she shook her head, and placed a hand on Soleil's shoulder.

“Same goes to you; you're not working for him, either. We'll... take it one day at a time," because that's all they could do.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


24 Be'elza
Nishant Residence - Evening - Rainy
Soleil Nishant


The garage was mercifully quiet at this time of night. It was past usual business hours, not quite into the full swing of nightlife, not that there was much of that right around here to begin with. Luna had come and gone with dinner a while ago, meaning that Soleil was free to work to her heart's content on her project.

She knew, abstractly, that she was more than a little strange for deriving so much satisfaction from things like this, but... she'd always liked to tinker. To break things down and rebuild them, and then, when she knew how they worked and why, to do it again, but build them better this time. It was maybe the one thing in all the world that didn't make her feel stupid or inadequate. And when she was working like this, she didn't have to think about anything but the work itself, and the work made sense to her, in a way the rest of the world never quite had. She'd learned the rules—never show weakness, keep your back to the wall, trust no one—but that didn't mean she'd ever quite felt that she fit, because frankly she didn't.

But machine parts were logical, and when she was working with them, she could be, too.

The rain was a quiet background soundtrack to her work, white noise that helped her concentrate while she moved delicate parts into their places. She'd have used Samael's equipment for this, but he hadn't requested her back, and she didn't want to go uninvited before she was done, no matter what he said about using his things. Trust no one, after all, even weird fallen angels who let you drive their fancy cars for no reason.

Maybe especially them.

Moving the gooseneck with the large magnifying glass so she could see better, Soleil adjusted the overhead light, which was just a torch that she'd attached to another gooseneck, and picked her tweezers back up. There were more specialized tools, for sure, but these were what she had to work with. She knew she could do it, if she was careful.

The sound of something clattering on the floor filled the noise, and Luna cursed loud enough that Soleil could hear it. Some shuffling around, and a squeaky door opening led to a rather irate-looking Luna re-entering the garage.

“Why is he here right now? The fees have been paid for this month, and it's way too early for him to be here to collect for next month's." It was obvious enough who the he Luna was referring to. Alastor was nearby and headed towards the shop.

God fucking dammit.

That was another of the rules: the world would never, ever leave her alone. Not for a few hours to work on her project, not for a few weeks to not have to worry about Zinoviev and his weird obsession. Closing her eyes for a moment, she released a long, slow breath before cracking them open again.

"I don't know," she said flatly, moving to put the more delicate pieces of her work away in the nearest drawer. She didn't need that fucker's goons breaking anything to make a point. She'd fucking go at them if they tried, and she really didn't want it to come to that. "But I suppose we're about to find out."

Luna pushed a deep sigh through her nose and slumped her shoulders a bit. “Why is he being so persistent? We've already given him our answer," she murmured softly before glancing in the direction of the shop door. The handle turned and the door opened to reveal Alastor, dressed as he always was in a fine black suit with a charcoal grey tie. He was the only one to enter the garage, though.

“My lovely Nishants, how good it is to see you again," he stated, cracking a large smile as if he were trying to seem benign. Luna stepped closer in Soleil's direction as Alastor held up his fingers in a frame like gesture. “Always such a sight when the two of you stand next to each other. It's like night and day in physical form," he continued, dropping his hands to his sides.

"What do you want, Zinoviev?" Soleil asked it flatly. She generally had a policy of trying to be reasonably well-mannered around people who could kill her, but honestly she was pretty sure that would be his last resort. He wanted something else from them, obviously, and he'd come because he thought he had some way to get it. If she had to guess, fee hike. She was already tired of his shit and he hadn't even said what it was yet.

Plus, he made her skin crawl. And not the same way Samael did.

Alastor didn't bother to hide the way his eyes roamed over both Luna and Soleil at the statement, and arched a brow. “What I've always wanted," he stated, crossing his arms over his chest. “Both of you in my employ. From the way you were able to pay both your over-due fees and next month's fees," he began, eyes landing just below Luna's face before he turned back to Soleil, “I'd say you have access to some advanced funds."

“Starting on the first of Victorianus, your fees will be increased to four hundred, each. The month after that will increase again another fifty dollars. Every month after that, will be another fifty dollars. If, however, you decide that you don't want to keep paying an increase..." he drawled out, making it quite obvious as to what he meant. Work for him, and the fees won't increase, but if they didn't, the fees would keep increasing every month.

“You can't be serious," Luna stated, huffing in a manner of disbelief. “We can't afford that and you know it! Now you're just trying to force our hand," she continued as Alastor narrowed his eyes slightly.

“I am a business man, first and foremost, Lunaria. I am an acquirer of fine art, second."

Part of her just wanted to clock him in the jaw. It was an increasingly-large part, as he unraveled the new 'terms' in front of them. It'd be so easy; cambion or not, she knew the first couple would take him by surprise. No one expected Soleil to be a brawler, maybe because of her face.

But she set her jaw instead. Satisfying as it might be to make him feel a touch of the fear and panic he induced in them, it wouldn't last. He was a cambion, and she just a human. She didn't need him fighting back, or more to the point, setting his goons or the cops on them. They'd never manage to scrape it together if one of them was in jail.

Next to that, the fact that his eyes were a palpable, slimy weight barely even registered. She'd never much cared that people looked, because there was no stopping it. She felt like they could just sense that she was some kind of freak of nature, and that had more to do with it than any supposed nice feature, however they talked about it. Luna was pretty. Soleil was just... well, whatever. It didn't matter. It was apparently not enough to stop him wanting her in his sick little birdcage, too, for the set as it were.

Even if he'd only been after her sister, she'd have fought it just as hard.

"Get out of our house," she said dully. "It's after dark and you're trespassing with no witnesses. I might be willing to take a chance on a stand my ground defense. You don't look too much like a demon at first glance, so how would I know any better?"

Alastor made a tsking sound, and shook his head. “Resorting to violence, now? Is that any way to treat a friend?" he stated, unfolding his arms and leveling his gaze with Soleil. “Unfortunately I do not carry my father's, ah, charms, but surely even you aren't that dense," he continued, shaking his head. “It pains me to hear your answer is so set, but it will change. Soon, you will see that what I offer is far more than you will ever get, and you and your sister will live much more fulfilled lives."

With a light wave of his hand, he turned towards the door and exited. Luna expelled a breath and slumped in her spot towards the ground.

“He's never going to give up, is he?" it sounded more like a statement than an actual question. “What are we going to do, Sol? We... we can't afford those increases."

"I don't know, Luna," she admits, crossing her arms and shaking her head. "But he's giving us no choice. We're going to have to do something, and keeping quiet and paying the guy isn't an option anymore." He himself had taken it away, what with the extortionate increases that made it simply impossible.

But now he's really pissed her off, and she's not just going to go quietly to his fucking brothel. She doesn't know what she can do yet, but she has to do something. She didn't spend most of her life scraping and working her ass off for Luna to end up in a situation like that.

This means war, now, even if she doesn't know how to fight one yet.

Luna nodded dejectedly before glancing in Soleil's direction. “In the mean time, I'll see if the Baileys can give me more hours, and... take the train to the other side of town to see about another job," she murmured before standing up from her spot. “Until... something better comes along, we'll just have to figure out what to do about Alastor. It would be convenient if someone could just make him disappear. No one would care if he did."

"You meet anyone who might not mind taking out a cambion, let me know," Soleil replied. "I might be willing to go into debt for that." She was only kind of joking.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


6 Abaddonus
Samael's Manor - Early Afternoon - Clear
Soleil Nishant


"Samael?" Soleil didn't often raise her voice beyond a dull monotone, but it felt weird entering someone else's home without at least announcing her presence. "I'm here." Well... and maybe some small part of her that she didn't want to acknowledge was... looking forward to seeing him?

No, that was too much. It wasn't like they were friends or anything. She was just doing her due diligence so she wasn't skulking around in someone's garage without telling him. It wasn't like she thought herself welcome in the rest of the house or anything.

When there was no immediate response, she shrugged and shed her coat, throwing it over the hook that had appeared in the wall sometime after her third visit. He hadn't mentioned it, and neither would she, but she appreciated not having to put the coat on a workbench. It gave her more room for parts.

The fuel injection build was still where she'd left it; she'd finally be able to put the finishing touches on and install today, if she was lucky. She wasn't, so it might be another day yet, but she was getting close enough to taste it. She knew it was going to work, in part because it had to. She had to make sure hiring her was a worthwhile decision for him. That he wouldn't have a single good reason to take it back. Or even a single bad reason, if she could prevent it.

She needed this job. It was her buffer, between her sister and Zinoviev, until they figured out some way to get him off their backs more permanently. Right now she could absorb the extra costs on her salary alone. She didn't want to have to use the card, but if it came down to that or letting Luna end up with that fucker, there wouldn't be a choice. Hopefully, they'd have a more permanent solution before that became necessary. They had a cushion of several months at the current rate of increase, but she knew better than to bet on things staying as they were if they still didn't fold to that asshole cambion's will.

So this was going to be the best damn fuel injection system there was, and that Phaser was going to run like a dream, or her name wasn't Soleil Nishant.

Rolling up the black sleeves of her shirt, Soleil settled them at her elbows. Her clothes had taken a step up the ladder—well, several, in that she'd actually bought them off the rack this time. Black shirt, pants, vest, even a black silk tie. She figured she shouldn't give anyone an unprofessionalism excuse to fire her, either. It was all still easy enough to move in, and if she got grease on it, well... that was why everything was black. Harder to see, easier to wash. The black half-palm gloves were new, too, but those had an obvious practical purpose.

Frowning a little when Samael did not appear, she caught herself thinking he must be out before she scoffed and shook her head. Or maybe you're not half as interesting as you think you are, stupid. He's got better things to do.

Inwardly chiding herself for even thinking about it, Soleil lifted the hood of the Phaser and got to work.

“I thought I heard something roaming around," a voice called out from the left side of Soleil. It sounded almost as if the person was right next to Soleil, though that might have been an affect of Samael's garage. The person who had spoken was a short woman with dual toned blue hair. The top portion of it was a dark blue, but as it fell, it turned into an almost cyan color. Her skin was bronze in tone, and her eyes were a pale blue.

She was dressed in a crisp black suit with a white dress shirt underneath it finished with a pair of black slacks. The tie she was wearing, though, was a gold color, strangely enough. “Who are you, and why are you in Sammy's garage?" she asked, arching a brow in Soleil's direction. She didn't seem accusatory in her question, but moreso curious. Her eyes widend a bit, though when she took a closer look at Soleil.

“Oh, are you his new pet?"

Demon. If the sense she had for such things gave her a muddy, weird reading around Samael and a subtle twinge around the likes of Zinoviev, it was blaring now. This woman was a demon, and Soleil knew that if she knew anything.

Somehow, it didn't throw off her equilibrium. Instead she only found herself... suspicious? No, not quite. Not quite curious, either, though. Maybe just wary. Was this his girlfriend or something? Did fallen angels even have those? He seemed like he would. People that pretty weren't single, generally speaking, unless they—

Annoyed with herself, she snapped the line of thought short and blinked slightly at the demon. "I'm his mechanic," she said dully, not letting herself feel or show anything at the insulting characterization of pet. Demons didn't think of humans as people. Pretty much everyone knew that, more or less. No point getting wound up about it.

“Huh, I thought he had one of those already," she replied in a nonchalant manner. “Well, mechanic, how'd you come to be his new one? Did Ziegler disappear after screwing up one of his cars?" she asked, making her way closer towards Soleil, stopping only a good three feet away.

“I guess it really doesn't matter if though. What qualifications do you have?" she started. It almost sounded like she was interrogating Soleil, or perhaps interviewing her. “What trade school did you go to to earn your qualifications? And..." she paused glancing almost intensely at Soleil before she continued, “I'd ask who you sold your soul to, but it seems it's still intact. Interesting."

Irritation surged—who was this woman that she thought she had the right to ask all these questions?—but Soleil quashed it. Pulling in a deep, quiet breath, she let the emotion drain out of her, the better to face this with nothing but reason and the kind of obedient response that was probably required of her.

"I don't see how that's any of your business."

Or she could backsass. Goddammit. She really wasn't good at the meekness thing.

The woman only grinned, tilting her head in Soleil's direction as if she'd just witnessed something interesting. “Oh? Is that so?" she stated, the grin stretching on her face. “Where are my manners," she began, standing a little straighter, “I'm Lilith. Samael is my charge, so it's my business to know who he hires for what purposes."

“Not just anyone can be employed by Samael, and he knows this. So, I'll ask again: what are your qualifications, and what trade school did you go to in order to get them?"

My qualifications are: go fuck yourself, I need to keep this job, Sol thought, a touch of bitterness infusing the mental rejoinder.

"Sorry, Lilith, but if you want to know his business, you can ask him. I'm just here to fix the car." Turning away, she picked up the sensor array. This needed to be installed first, so...

“You've never had a job before, have you?" Lilith inquired. “It shows because then you would know this is an interview," she trailed off a bit, peering in Soleil's direction as if she were trying to see what Soleil was doing.

“It's easy to see that you haven't had any experience in trade schools, either. If I had to guess," she continued, glancing so that she was staring at Soleil, now, “you haven't been to a proper school at all." She didn't sound upset or angry about the fact, only slightly more intrigued.

“I guess that's fine, though, considering that you built that fuel injection system from the ground up. Not only is it custom built, it'll completely fix the problem with his Phaser. I see why Sammy was so taken with your ability that he just had to hire you. Hm... alright, then Soleil, you can stay employed with Sammy on one condition." Samael was probably responsible for Lilith knowing Soleil's name, because she hadn't introduced herself to the demon.

“You cannot, by any means, be his friend or lover or close to him in anyway. It's not allowed. Your job is, as you put it, to fix his car. Nothing else. If that seems fair to you, then you can enjoy being employed by him and we can be good friends."

Soleil lifted her head from her work to fix her eyes on the other woman. She neither confirmed nor denied anything Lilith said, because it didn't really matter. She could tell she was convinced by her own logic, even if she'd arrived at the right conclusion for the wrong reason. She wasn't treating this like an 'interview' not because she didn't know what one looked like or because she'd never had a job, but because she didn't recognize Lilith's authority to be giving one. She wasn't her employer, so she got no information about employment terms. That was just business sense.

"Do I look like I'm here to make friends?" she said, rolling her eyes to emphasize the point. "And what are you, his mother? I'm pretty sure the guy can make his own hiring decisions, but thanks for the advice." She'd said Samael was her charge, but that made no fucking sense.

Soleil's statement earned a smirk from Lilith. “You humans are all the same. You say you're not here to make friends, but really, why wouldn't you? Buddy up with some handsome, rich Fallen or Demon who doesn't want your soul in order to take his money. Make him think that you actually like him and want to be his friend so that he'll give you favors and more money. Humans are greedy, greedy creatures. Some are even disgusting."

“As I've said before, Samael is my charge. He is under my watch, so no, he's not allowed to make his own hiring decisions without first answering to me. We do things differently, Soleil, but it seems I don't have to be overly concerned about you. You aren't his type," she replied in a nonchalant fashion. The smirk was still on her face, though.

"Good," Soleil replied, voice utterly devoid of feeling. She left it ambiguous exactly which part of that was supposed to be good, knowing that Lilith was likely to take it as referring to the last bit.

Truthfully, though, she was feeling a little... stung. And maybe a little sad? It was hard to pin down. But the woman's words had made her wonder. They were awfully specific, suggesting that maybe that was something that had happened to Samael before, and that was...

Well she could understand, on some level. People needed to survive, and some of them were driven to desperate measures by it. Sometimes even she felt the temptation to give up, to take the easier road, even if it conflicted with her own sense of who she should be. But she wasn't here to take advantage of anyone's generosity, not that she'd have the faintest clue how to do something like Lilith seemed to be implying. Seduction or anything similar was so far outside her skillset it was laughable to even think of herself trying. She didn't know how to be anyone else. She barely knew how to be herself, whoever or whatever that turned out to be.

But still. If it had happened, that was just... sad.

Lilith, however, just smiled regardless.

“Good. Glad we have that understanding." She didn't seem inclined to say anything more. She was just watching Soleil work.

Well, whatever. Soleil had learned a long time ago how to tune people out when she was working. And the project was way more interesting than talking to some random demon chick anyway. Shaking her head slightly, she got back to work.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Samael Lennox Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK



9 Abaddonus
Samael's Manor - Mid Morning - Chilly
Samael Lennox


Sam, you know I do. Why would you even ask a silly question like that?

He could almost feel the way her breath had ghosted over his ear, warm and soft like she had been. Reluctantly, Samael opened his eyes, removing his arm that he'd used as a barrier to cover them. Of all times to remember just the sound of her voice, why now? He'd done so well forgetting it, and even the way she had looked: sun-colored hair with eyes the color of chestnuts. There was a time when he'd thought nothing else looked more grand, more beautiful than the way her eyes lit up when she was happy about something.

It's not like that, Sam. I just didn't want anything to happen to you!

She'd tried defending it, of course, but had he listened? No, because he didn't want to. He'd seen all he needed to, heard all he needed to, and something uncomfortable clenched in his chest. Sighing heavily, he pulled himself up from his couch. It was likely morning, but he couldn't tell. All of the blinds had been closed, and he didn't want to let any of that light in. Maybe Leraje was in, though? He was a crafty demon, and often more times than Samael could count, had let himself into the manor without so much as being noticed. Samael supposed it was because Leraje didn't like to be noticed. Not that he blamed him, really. It was easier to move, to be forgotten.

At least Leraje wasn't Lilith. Samael couldn't understand how or why they were even paired to begin with. He was almost certain it wasn't by choice, but they at least seemed comfortable with each other. Releasing a heavy sigh, Samael rolled out his shoulders and ran a hand through his loose hair before tying it back with a band. He glanced at the table next to the couch he'd been on, and pursed his lips together, retrieving the glasses there and slipping them on. He'd lost a contact last night which meant that both of his eyes were now his naturally mismatched ones.

But you're the only one I know who has eyes like that, Sam. They're beautiful!

He wasn't so sure about that.

As he headed downstairs, a flicker of a presence made itself known on the periphery of his senses, like a tiny blip on a radar or the smallest noise in a quiet forest. The minuscule flare of aura was likely intentional—Leraje was making him aware of his presence now that he'd begun to move.

Following it brought him to the kitchen, where a young-looking man with square-framed glasses was making himself a bowl of sugary cereal, pouring in a generous amount of milk, most of which would end up down the sink when he was finished, and settling himself at the small kitchen table. Rather than a suit or anything, he wore a shirt with a tan sweater-vest and neat denims that sat close to his slender frame but not right against it. Thin, spidery fingers gripped the spoon; his hair was a slightly disheveled dark shag.

When he glanced up at Samael, though, his grey eyes were sharp enough to cut.

"Samael." Leraje's diction was precise, but he had a detached, disaffected tone, like he was perpetually bored.

“Leraje," Samael replied, mimicking Leraje's tone of voice. It wasn't too hard to do, but getting it just right wasn't worth the extra effort. “You know, you could just live in the basement if you wanted to, or the attic," he stated, making his way towards his fridge. Samael knew they didn't really need to eat quite in the same way as the humans did, but he supposed there was a sort of refinement to it. A taste that he enjoyed beyond understanding.

“It's not like I'd even notice you were there," but Samael knew that was a lie. He would notice if anyone was in his manor. It wasn't their aura, or the sounds they might make, but rather, his home had a lonely feeling to it. He was the only one who occupied it unless Soleil was over to work on the cars. He had missed her the first couple of times. Maybe he should get her a phone? He'd have thought she'd buy one with the card he'd given her, but she hadn't used it, yet.

“What's new in the market?" he decided to ask.

Leraje lifted a spoonful of cereal to his mouth and ate it, the soft crunching sound audible in the quiet of the kitchen. As far as demons went, he was not one of the most intimidating, with an unobtrusive presence and an even more unobtrusive appearance. He worked directly for Bael though, which said something about his competence. Bael tended to go through underlings quickly due to a foul temper, but as far as Samael could tell, Leraje had never been in danger of demotion or dismissal.

At the question, he pointed with his spoon towards a small paper bag on the counter next to him. "Depends," he said in the same tone, apparently having ignored Samael's attempt to mimic it. "Do you want anesthetic, euphoric, or hallucinogenic?"

Samael frowned slightly at the choices. He didn't need anything to numb any pain, and he certainly didn't want a hallucinogenic. He didn't want to take a chance at accidentally seeing her. It would have been better if he could just forget, have his memory wiped completely and have a new slate to work with. That, unfortunately, wasn't how things worked. He pushed a heavy sigh through his nose as he grabbed a few eggs from the drawer.

“Don't you have anything to make memories fuzzy?" he wasn't really in the mood for anything that would make him happy. He just wanted to forget, even if it was temporary.

"Ah, amnesic. I was lumping that with anesthetic, but if you want to get specific, yes." Leraje took another unhurried bite of cereal, setting the spoon down on the napkin lined up next to the bowl and then reaching for the paper bag. "Amnesic, dulling, hm." His eyes narrowed slightly as he peered into it, then quickly withdrew two blister packs of pills. One had several flat-ish, ovular blue ones, and the other had circular white.

"One of each. Should shut off memory function for a while, and the baseline mood is nothing too euphoric. Your senses will be dulled, but no hallucinations. I've calculated both effects to last a couple of hours and end at about the same time, but let me know if that needs adjusting, or if you experience any side effects." He gave the blister packs a deft toss; they landed closer to Samael with a soft rattle.

“Alright, then," Samael replied as he glanced at the packs. “Guess I'll try them after breakfast," he stated, grabbing the packs and shoving them in his pocket for now. He grabbed one of the pans, glanced at it, and then towards the stove. He didn't cook. Usually something was prepared for him ahead of time. What the Hell was he supposed to do with the pan and the eggs? He'd seen it be done before, watched as some of the chefs came and went, but he'd never actually cooked anything on his own.

He knew how to turn the stove on, at least, and so he set it to medium high and placed the pan on one of the burners. He placed the eggs on top, after that, and turned towards Leraje. “That's how they do it, right?" he asked, slightly confused. He wasn't sure it was, but maybe Leraje knew?

"No," Leraje said simply, turning his attention back to his cereal. "You got another human, right? Why not ask her?" His tone was utterly disinterested, still, and he returned his attention to his cereal.

“Because I didn't hire her to be my fucking chef," Samael replied, pursing his lips in Leraje's direction. “You could at least try and be a little helpful. Other than with these, at least," he added, patting the pocket with the packs in them.

“Fine, be unhelpful," he sighed, turning the stove off and grabbing the nearby tablet. He'd just order something from one of the nearby restaurants. He'd get it within a reasonable time, and then he could stop thinking of her. He furrowed his brows deeply. He almost wondered what life would have been like if she had gone with him. If she'd Fallen like she had said she would. Would life be this pathetic? Would they even still be alive?

Samael had fought in the War, of course, but he wondered which side he'd have been on. Would he still have been friends with... he halted his thoughts before they could go any further, deciding that it was best to just ignore the faint twinge in his chest. “Other than bringing these with you, anything else you brought along? News, maybe?" Samael asked, knowing full well that the only news he'd get is if Bael wanted to see him for some reason.

Leraje shrugged, unbothered as always by any of Samael's moods or how he expressed them. He finished off his cereal and stood, dumping the remaining milk down the sink before putting both bowl and spoon into the dishwasher. "Nothing worth bothering about, no. I just came by to see if you'd test the product." It was hardly a question worth asking; Samael always did, and Leraje continued to develop newer and more exotic highs.

"If that one goes well I'll be combining the capsules. Lilith thinks I should call it 'Oblivion.' For the moment it's N-104 and A-12. You can tell me what suits."

Samael snorted softly. Lilith would call it that, however; he would admit that it was fitting. Shrugging his shoulders, he took a seat where Leraje had been and leaned into the chair. “It's fine for a name. She names everything and it still sells like those hot cakes they sell around the corner of Eternity Avenue," he never understood why they would name a street that. It was so... cliché. And honestly it was stupid.

Leraje wrinkled his nose faintly. "Save the judgement on that for after you've tried it. Speaking of..." He bypassed the paper bag and went to a leather messenger one instead, settled on a different, empty chair.

Withdrawing a small box of medical grade gloves, a capped needle, a syringe, and a collection tube, he rolled his sleeves up to his elbows and scrubbed down at the sink before snapping the gloves on. "Your arm, please. I'm collecting befores as well as afters for this one—I'm beginning to think you've tested enough of these that you're no longer a baseline for what other people can expect, even if your resistances should be weaker by default."

“Oh? I do love a good poking," he stated, rolling his eyes a bit. He obliged nonetheless, and rolled up his sleeves, flexing out his left arm a bit. Once he was finished flexing his arm, he moved it in Leraje's direction.

“Ready when you are," he stated, allowing a faint smirk to appear on his lips.

If Leraje caught onto the implication in the words, he gave absolutely no indication of it. He was actually somewhat similar to Soleil in the sense that he rarely allowed much of anything to ruffle his appearance. The difference was, he wasn't positively swimming with emotions under the façade. In fact, it arguably wasn't a façade at all. He just... didn't feel things strongly at all. Most demons didn't, unless it was anger or lust or amusement or something of a darker bent like that. Certainly they were not known for their pure, simple happiness or embarrassment. But Leraje didn't even seem to have those things—it was like he just never felt anything much. An emotional desert, as it were.

He tilted his head slightly at Samael's arm, then confidently slid the needle in, finding a vein without any trouble and drawing a small ampoule's worth of blood before removing the needle. The wound healed over immediately, rendering bandages or anything of the kind moot. Apparently even the needles had to be coated in a very mild dose of poison to blunt the healing factor enough to even take blood in the first place.

"Done," he said flatly, containing the needle in a plastic case and tossing it in Samael's disposal bin for specialized recycling. The ampoule went back into his bag. "You want anything else before I go?"

Samael bit down on his tongue from what he really wanted to say.

Stay a little longer.

“No, I'm good with what I have. I'll make sure to record any changes and let you know what the effects were, if any."

He would be out, hopefully, for a good few hours, maybe the whole day, if he was lucky. Anything to kill what he felt right now. Anything.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK



14 Abaddonus
The Pits - Afternoon - Mild
Vesper Kovacs


Vesper pulled the cruiser into the only available parking spot. It was a few meters away from where her actual destination was, but it wasn't like a small walk was going to make her tired. She could feign fatigue very well; she had to in order to keep up her semi-human appearance, and for the sake of her job, after all. She glanced at the small computer near the middle of the car, and typed a few words into it. Tartarus PD had dispatched both her and Wren to question a couple of sisters about a human who had been killed. Normally, a human's death wouldn't even warrant that kind of thing. Humans died all the time, a fact Vesper was quite aware of.

But this particular death was an exception. The human who had died had sold their soul to a demon, however; that soul had been stolen. Vesper wasn't entirely sure how questioning these human sisters was going to help them find who had stolen the soul, but it wasn't any of her business. She had a job to do, and she was going to do it. She glanced in Wren's direction, checking momentarily that she had her badge and cap before stepping out of the cruiser.

“Is there anything on file for these Nishants?" she asked, glancing towards Wren. Vesper knew there wasn't beyond the typical registration information. The oldest, Soleil Nishant, was a mechanic who worked from home. The youngest, Lunaria Nishant, was employed by Bailey Residential as a part-time secretary. They didn't have any records of any kind, and if anything, Vesper would have guessed that they'd lived mostly incognito. The two were a handful of humans who still had souls that were intact, and in their case, very ripe for most demons to take.

“The business is registered. There are also records of high school attendance for the younger sister, and a driver's license for the elder." Wren, more officially known as Officer #3284 of the new AI Division, pushed sun-blonde hair back from her face, tucking the strand behind her ear, where it remained. Her voice was only barely not toneless, certainly flat; she observed her surroundings with apparent disinterest.

“Beyond that, S. Nishant has recently opened a bank account, where she receives biweekly direct deposit checks from Lennox Enterprises." Demons always had fancy-sounding businesses, even if all they really did was let their money sit in interest-gathering accounts. It was one thing they'd taken from humans and run with.

“Lennox Enterprises?" she questioned. She knew who owned it; Samael wasn't a demon, exactly, but it was slightly interesting that he had a new employee. His last one, Nikolai Ziegler, had been the only one, however; apparently he'd disappeared. His body hadn't turned up, but Vesper wasn't going to make any kinds of probabilities as to whether he was still alive or not. She placed the cap on her head, though, making sure that the dark strands of her hair were tucked underneath it properly.

This was going to be a short visit, if anything. The sisters wouldn't likely be able to give them the information they were seeking, and Vesper was checking all of the data networks almost every ten seconds. “I guess there isn't anything too out of the ordinary with them," she stated, shrugging her shoulders lightly as they pressed on towards the Nishant's residence. It only took them fifteen minutes to reach the home, and Vesper pushed a small sigh through her nose. Glancing in Wren's direction, she lifted her hand and knocked on the door.

It took almost a full minute for the door to open, in which time Wren did... not much at all, actually. Like all of the AI officers, she was hooked into Central's information relay, and was probably using the time to peruse something there. The AI officers seemed to be bereft of feelings like boredom or impatience, in any case.

The door stuck slightly in its frame as it opened; a sharp tug un-stuck it, revealing a visage almost as blank as Wren's, this one framed by hair an even deeper black than Vesper's, and eyes such a blue they were almost violet. They flicked from one woman to the other, and their owner spoke in a dry tone.

"Officers. What could I possibly do for the wonderful TPD?" The blunt sarcasm was obvious.

Vesper knew enough of human emotions to know the sarcasm for what it was. Most, if not all, humans didn't trust the police. She had seen enough through files and current happenings to know why. Still, she had a job to do, and formed a soft smile on her lips to try and put the human at ease. It worked some of the time, but not always.

“I'm officer Kovacs, and this is my partner, officer Donahue. We are here to ask you a few questions about Jax Alby. We were informed that you and your sister knew him to some degree," she stated as formally as she knew how. “Do you and your sister have a few minutes?"

The smile seemed only to sour the woman further, but she sighed and stepped back from the door. As much invitation as they were going to get, clearly. "Luna! It's the cops. They're here about Jax."

“Wait, really?" there was a response from somewhere deeper in the home before another woman appeared. She was the complete opposite of the dark-haired woman. Her eyes were more pale, almost icy blue, and her hair was such a platinum blonde that Vesper would have mistaken it for almost ash blonde. She blinked in Vesper and Wren's direction, though, and arched a brow. Vesper recognized who they were, of course. Soleil and Lunaria's photo IDs had been uploaded into the system when Soleil registered her business, and when Lunaria became employed with the Baileys.

“We will only take a moment of your time," Vesper stated. Humans were such strange creatures, however; there was something faintly different about these two. Vesper had been around enough demons and cambions to be able to detect it in them, but the two women before her were different. She couldn't exactly say why, and it was rare that something like that happened. Perhaps she could get a blood sample from one of them and get it to Éva? It wouldn't work, though. Humans didn't just volunteer things like that.

“Why are you talking to us, though? We barely knew him," Lunaria asked.

“That's why we want to ask you a few questions. Even if you barely knew him, it is possible that you might have seen someone acting strangely around him. He might have also been close enough to you that he might have confided that his soul had been sold to a demon. Perhaps even the name of the demon he'd sold it to," she stated, watching as Lunaria's brows furrowed. Her eyes were slightly wide, though, which meant that they didn't know about that part.

“What do you mean sold his soul? Jax... he didn't mention anything like that to us," Lunaria spoke, glancing towards Soleil.

The other sister shook her head, too. "News to me," she said dully, though she didn't look at all surprised.

“Do you know if he associated with any demons at all?" Wren asked, folding her arms loosely beneath her chest where she stood.

Soleil shrugged. "No clue. Like Luna said, we barely knew the guy. Last thing we heard is that he was found—nothing about any of this soul business, and the only demon that shows his face around here is only half of one."

“Who is that?"

The woman's eyes narrowed. "Alastor Zinoviev. If you people gave a damn about stopping actual crime, he wouldn't be around here either."

Alastor was a cambion Vesper knew all too well. His father, Crowley, owned half of Tartarus PD. Most of the other officers were on his payroll, accepted his bribes, and often were at the head of the department. They didn't have much choice but to leave Alastor alone unless the PD wanted to face Crowley's wrath. Whatever that actually meant, Vesper didn't really know. She knew human emotions well, but there were still some things that she was still learning.

“Alastor Zinoviev has committed no crimes so to speak of. If you have proof of any crime he committed, you can submit it to the department for investigation," Vesper stated, momentarily leaving her voice as blank and void as Wren's.

“Is there anything else you want to ask? We already told you what we know about Jax. We hardly knew him to begin with, so what you're saying is news to us, as well. Sorry we can't be much more help than this," Lunaria stated as she glanced in Wren's direction before returning her gaze to Vesper. The most they could do was look into Alastor, however; if she did, she would have to keep it from almost everyone back at the department. If anyone knew Vesper was looking into him, they would likely tell Crowley. Vesper didn't need that kind of attention, not when she had other things to do.

“If something comes to mind," Vesper began, reaching into her back pocket and pulling one of her cards from it, “you can reach me at this number. It's my direct line so you won't have to ask them to send you to me." Vesper knew enough that they wouldn't call her. None of the humans she gave her card to, did. She offered the card to Soleil.

"Sure. Whatever you say, officer." Likely any chance they might take her even a bit seriously had gone out the window when she'd defended Zinoviev to their faces, but Soleil took the card anyway, setting it down on the counter behind her. "If there's nothing else, I'd like you to leave."

“There is not," Wren replied, literal in the way Vesper was coming to expect from her. “Good day."

“Have a good day," was the only response Vesper could give. She might not have found any useful information about Jax Alby, but she did have something new to relay to Éva.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


16 Abaddonus
Warehouse 284 - Evening - Rainy
Éva Devereaux


Éva leaned back in the rolling office chair, lifting her arms into the air and arching her back until several vertebrae popped into place. Honestly—she shouldn't feel this old at twenty-five, but an entire day in front of a monitor bank could do that to a person, she supposed.

Glancing around, she noted that most of the others had gone home for the day, which was good. The shifties would be in soon to take care of night monitoring, and the evening people would drop in to give reports and all that, but for the most part the warehouse was empty now. There were a few people, like her, who lived nearby, in another converted property, but some of these people had families and jobs to get back to, and it was important that what they did cut into that as little as possible.

With a heavy sigh, she reached for the canister of coffee she kept by her side, frowning when it proved to be empty. "Dammit," she whined, mostly to herself. The frown became a full-on pout for just a second before she sighed again and stood, staggering a little when a wave of dizziness hit her with the abrupt motion.

Wait—had she been at the console for one day, or two?

A hand reached out to help balance her out, it seemed, and was placed on her right shoulder. “You know you shouldn't be at the computer screen for so long. You need to sleep, too," it was Vincent who spoke to her. It was easy to recognize the softness of his voice when he talked. Sometimes it was almost as if he whispered because he didn't want to be too loud, or so he'd told Éva once.

“And drinking so much coffee isn't good for you, either," he continued, moving so that he was in her line of sight. His dark brows were furrowed, and Éva could easily see the concern in his crimson eyes. He always looked concerned for her, it seemed.

And of course it would be him who noticed, really. She liked to call it Vincent's Law, if only to herself: anytime she did something graceless, stupid, or awkward, a ridiculously-attractive demon with the world's prettiest eyes had to be there to witness it. Because that was just how her life worked.

She tipped her head back to make full eye contact, soft blue-green meeting with vivid red, and tried not to lean into his hand on her shoulder. Easier said than done, with her body now reminding her all at once that she'd been living on coffee and determination for... sixty hours or so. "I'm fine," she said, feeling her face heat. Ugh, why did he have to be so... so? She'd known him since she could remember—he'd known her parents and double ugh, he'd watched her being a dumb teenager and everything.

"Honestly between you and Ves it's like having parents again." She didn't consider how the words might sound—she just said them, sure it was probably what he was thinking anyway. The oldest twenty-five year old she knew, and she still couldn't manage functional adulthood. She was Polaris, for God's sake! People called her the Star of Hope.

She didn't want to know what any of them would think if they knew she was just a coffee-addicted IT nut with a bunch of misfits doing legwork for her.

He furrowed his brows deeper, but there was a small tug at the corner of his lips. It was the closest to a smile he had. “You are not fine," he replied softly, moving his hand so that he was supporting her a little better. “You've spent almost three days not sleeping," he continued, letting out a soft sigh.

“You shouldn't be pushing yourself this hard, otherwise you won't be of much help to anyone. And... it would make me worry less about you and your health," he added.

"What if I like making you worry?" she snarked back, unable to look him square in the face when he smiled. "Maybe it makes me feel all special. Warm and fuzzy inside." She drawled the words so they sounded like a joke, though really they were uncomfortably close to a truth she wouldn't let be known.

Scrunching her nose at him, she shuffled over towards the kitchen, hands and feet automatically coordinating to make a fresh batch of coffee in the pot—not that she needed to do much. For a warehouse in the middle of the Pits, the place was well-equipped, mostly by things she'd made herself. She was better with programming than building per se, but most of the things they needed around here were pretty simple in terms of actual mechanics. The console unit was by far the most sophisticated, and they'd stolen most of that for her use.

Once the machine beeped, she turned around, leaning back against the counter and crossing her arms. It made her feel warm inside that he'd bothered to follow, a little tickle in her chest that she knew only deepened the red flush over her features. Right now, though, she couldn't afford to be some moony schoolgirl.

"I've been following the TPD datastream. Doesn't look like they're any closer to us after the train thing. Crowley's starting to pressure the department directly, though—probably because Bael's heard of us now." Ves would no doubt have more to report on that. "I'm more worried about this new police initiative, though... AI? They shouldn't have anything near this advanced. Whoever's responsible did most of the work off-network, for sure. Not even a peep in any of the records we have. I thought it'd be at least another decade before Bael had workable AI prototypes, never mind half a police force."

It was a troubling development, to say the least. Androids would probably be a lot harder to fool than the mix of humans, cambions, and low-echelon demons they'd been up against so far. One wrong move and they might find themselves with their backs to the wall. Vincent could no doubt handle a dozen androids easy, Ves one or two, and Éva herself a couple if she was careful and clever, but most of the Heralds were just ordinary people with day jobs and no special skills or training.

Vincent expelled a heavy sigh through his nose, and folded his arms against his chest. “The only working AI is Vesper, correct?" it was more of a statement than a question. Vincent knew that about Vesper, having basically watched Éva for most of her life. He was quiet for a long moment, as if he were thinking about something before he shook his head lightly.

“There are a few possibilities as to how Bael was able to do that," he began, glancing in Éva's direction and holding her gaze. “Someone could have stumbled upon your family's notes, even if most of them have been destroyed, or," his brows furrowed slightly as if in concern for something. “It's possible that we have a mole in our midst."

“It is unlikely that is the case, Mr. Rhisiart," Vesper's voice cut through, straight and to the point as she usually spoke. She walked towards Éva, though, and stood at her left side. “The probability that any of these humans being a mole is very low. Most of them are as they say they are: normal humans with little to no experience in combat, but they have proven their merit."

“You speak as if humans are not fickle and are incapable of deception," Vincent retorted, but it was light and it seemed he meant nothing by it. “Demons are the same way; it's one of the many things we share in common with them," he continued.

"Hey, Ves," Éva said, a little belatedly. All three of them tended to bypass pleasantries for different reasons, but she was the one who most often remembered them.

The possibility of a mole wasn't a pleasant one, but Éva wasn't stupid. It was a real one. The only people she could trust for sure were the ones right here, and neither of them was human at all. She sighed, running her hands down her face, then back up, pushing a few of the dyed-pink strands away from her eyes. "I'll have to look into it," she said. It felt kind of dirty, tracking her own people like some kind of spy. But if someone was a mole, financial records and the like would tell the story clear enough.

"But for now, I think we should operate on the assumption that freaking Hell Incorporated over there somehow developed this independently. If mom and dad could figure out how to do it, so could someone else, in theory." Her parents had been geniuses, the Da Vincis of an age. But that left plenty of room for Newtons or Leibnizes or Shelleys or Michelangelos.

"Anyway. What's the word?" The coffee machine behind her beeped as she inquired after Vesper's report, and she turned, pouring herself a cup and doctoring it with milk and sugar. She could and did drink it black sometimes, but usually only in the middle of a marathon at the console, when she needed the extra bitterness to help her stay awake.

“Drinking so much coffee is detrimental to your health, Ms. Devereaux," Vesper stated first as she regarded Éva with a flat look. “Tartarus PD has diverted some of its resources towards looking for the demon responsible for taking off with a soul that belonged to Crowley. The human whose soul was stolen kept company with rather interesting humans," she replied. Vincent regarded Vesper with a lightly arched brow. He wasn't very expressive, but there were small subtle changes that could be detected.

“Interesting, how?" he asked. Vesper glanced in his direction for a moment before she shrugged her shoulders. She'd learned how to do that in order to express that she didn't actually know.

“They appear mostly human, but they are not, however; they are not cambions, either," Vesper replied. Vincent tilted his head curiously, and furrowed their brows. “Nor are they demons. I cannot find any records that might help explain it, but it is clear that they different."

“Are you certain?" Vincent asked as Vesper nodded her head.

“As for Bael and the train situation, they are investigating rumors but they are not at all close to finding this location. Bael does know that the rebellion exists, but it is unclear what his next course of action is going to be."

Interesting humans, huh? Éva wasn't totally sure what to make of that—she was a completely normal, garden-variety human herself. Sometimes all of this felt a little too big for her, honestly. "Huh. Maybe I should meet them sometime, then," she mused. She was always looking for good help, and she knew better than most that as much as the heart of this rebellion was human... the more of an edge they could get over the demons at the other side of this, the better.

"But for now anyway... we need to do something else. We're on people's radar now, but Bael's suppressing the news again." She frowned, taking a large gulp of her coffee. "I can't help but think he's up to something. I don't know what, but I feel like he'd be coming down a lot harder on us if he wasn't."

Vincent huffed a soft laugh at the statement. “I don't think we've made him angry enough, yet," he stated, placing his thumb and forefinger at his brows. He rubbed them softly before dropping his hand away and glancing towards Éva. “Blowing up the tracks wasn't sufficient enough to incur his wrath, but if we continue and hit harder, he won't be able to suppress the news for much longer. The one thing about humans is that they talk. Talk is more effective," he continued.

“Bael's plans I would presume would be carefully guarded. I presume anything that is of the utmost importance to him is kept offline, and stored either in physical files, or in journals. You know how easy it is for networks to be hacked nowadays, and Bael has been smart enough thus far," Vesper stated as she closed her eyes for a second.

“Either way, we are no closer to knowing if Bael is planning anything. If he were planning something, it is also possible that he's entirely focused on it, and does not care much for what we are doing. We need to make a bigger commotion, do something big enough to draw his attention away from his planning. It was the one flaw I remember him having," Vincent stated, slightly narrowing his eyes as he glanced towards the floor.

Éva hummed softly. Talk was well and good, and they'd be relying on it, but when the state controlled the news, talk could start to sound how the demons wanted it to sound, no matter what they did. The was pretty sure the government media people could make saving a bunch of orphans sound like a heinous crime if they wanted, and what they did... wasn't exactly saving orphans. There was real danger involved, sometimes for innocent people. Éva did everything she could to minimize that. Of course she did. But Bael didn't care about collateral damage in trying to stop them, not when he could easily blame them for it and further his own cause by doing so.

With another gulp of coffee, she shook her head. "Well, we're okay on supplies for a while. I think it's time to do something flashier than ensuring our own survival." In spite of her concern, she felt a slow smile stretching across her face.

"You know that big statue of himself Bael's having built in the Civic Center? I think I'd like it better in pieces."

There was a soft snorting sound coming from Vincent, almost as if he were trying to suppress a laugh. “Pieces? I think it's something we can manage. It would send the message loud and clear, and Bael is vain enough that it'll work at making him angry," he stated, that same subtle smile appearing on his face.

"That's the idea," she said, her shoulders scrunching a little in delight. It was absolutely the first and most important item on her bucket list to make Vincent laugh. As long as she'd been alive, she hadn't heard the sound—not real laughter, easy and free and genuine in its delight. She got a little close sometimes, like now, and that was a shot of adrenaline more potent than a triple espresso. But it wasn't quite there yet.

She winked, though, and turned her attention temporarily to Ves. "Thanks for the update. Find out what you can about this whole AI police force thing, okay? I want to know as much as I can about them—it can't hurt, and best case I might be able to wrangle a way to shut their bodies down without harming their consciousness, and move them somewhere else."

To Éva, AIs were people. She couldn't think any different, not when Ves had practically raised her.

“Understood, Ms. Devereaux," Vesper replied as she nodded her head. “Do you want me to keep an eye on the other two humans as well? It might prove difficult seeing as they do not trust the PD, but if you want me to, I will do it."

Éva shook her head. "I don't want to spook them. Leave that part to me; I can snoop a lot without them even knowing." Finishing off the cup of coffee, she set the mug down on the counter and cracked her knuckles.

Time for some searching.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Samael Lennox Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


26 Abbadonus
Nishants' House - Afternoon - Light Snow
Soleil Nishant


Soleil hummed quietly to herself. There was something about snow that made the world seem quieter; she didn't really mind it, but she also just... well, she wasn't sure. She thought she might be in a good mood, but she wasn't exactly in-tune with her own emotions, and she knew this about herself. So she didn't spend too long trying to figure it all out or anything.

At the moment, she was actually working on a small speaker system she'd bought from the pawn shop. They was cheap because they weren't working right, but the quality of them wasn't bad. Normally, she'd never have bought something so extraneous, but she had a salary, now, and liked the idea of being able to pipe music into the workshop while she was working on something else. Soleil had never really been able to listen to much music, and consequently, she knew nothing about it.

But she had a phone now, capable of reaching radio stations or streaming services, so... maybe she could learn a bit more. Most likely she'd forget it was on if she got really into something, but she didn't always do that.

Popping the rear panel off one of the speakers, she tilted her head down at the mess of wires inside. "All right, little guy, what's your malfunction?"

It wasn't long before the faint chime of the doorbell could be heard. It wasn't Luna; she was at one of the places she volunteered at, and wouldn't be home until later on in the evening. Whoever it was, didn't announce themselves until they'd entered the garage where Soleil was working. Alastor was dressed a little differently today. His suit was a dark red, dark enough that it could easily have been mistaken for black. His pants were the same color, however; the dress shoes he wore were white. His hair had been tied back into a low tail, but the tie around his neck was the same color as the suit.

“Ah, it seems my little moon is missing. Shame," he stated, his eyes wandering around the garage. “I would have liked for the both of you to be here," he added, smirking slightly when his eyes landed back on Soleil. “I suppose I can settle for the little sun, today. There is something that needs to be addressed since my little sun seems to have acquired a rather affluent benefactor."

Settle for, huh? Well, he wasn't wrong. She wasn't exactly her sister, and she never had been. It was obvious just looking at them—honestly Soleil thought that whatever they were named, the sun and moon thing was just... off. Not on Luna's end, but her own. She wasn't sunlike in any sense, even metaphorical, that she could name. She really didn't understand his compulsion to 'employ' her as well as Luna, but whatever. At least it kept them both in the same boat and didn't give her sister any ideas about sacrificing herself for Soleil's sake.

She blinked at him, putting on her best blank pokerface. "You know you're supposed to wait for someone to answer the door before letting yourself in, right?"

Luna's current absence meant she didn't feel quite as much need to be careful how she spoke, not that she was any good at that in the first place.

Alastor arched a brow in her direction. “Did you forget that I owned this neighborhood?" he retorted, his face smoothing out to something a little more flat than amused. “Technically I do not have to wait for someone to answer the door to a building that belongs to me." He waved a hand in a nonchalant fashion in front of himself, though, before pushing out a small sigh.

“Regardless of the fact, starting next month, your base fee is going up," he stated, perhaps to remind Soleil of the price increase next month. Fifty dollars would put their protection fees at three hundred per person, however; there was a subtle smirk on Alastor's face. “The new price will be five hundred per person. Every month after next will be an added one hundred dollars per person and will continue to increase."

She wanted to remind him that he did not in fact own her house; she'd purchased it from the city herself, and it was her name on the paperwork, regardless of how entitled he felt to it. But she had more pressing issues—namely, the fact that he was clearly extorting her.

"Did it occur to you that perhaps my 'affluent benefactor' might not much care for the fact that you seem to think you own me?" Her voice was still flat, as bored as ever, save the way her eyes narrowed. She didn't want to do this—didn't want to invoke Samael's name. It felt too much like leaning on him for protection, and Soleil Nishant had always, always protected herself. No one had wanted to do it before, even when she was just a child, and so she'd learned to do it herself, and for her sister, too.

But what other choice did she have? She had plenty of pride, maybe. But this situation was just... beyond her ability to handle. Zinoviev was backing her into a corner. And like any animal in the same situation, she was going to use whatever she had at her disposal to get out of it.

“Oh, but I do own you," he stated, a sly smirk appearing on his face. “The fact that you pay me protection fees is proof of that. I might not employ you, but I do own you. The things I could do with the both of you, though, regardless," he trailed off a bit to let the implication sink in.

Prove it, you sick son of a bitch. It wasn't a sense of self-preservation that stopped Soleil from actually speaking the words. She had little enough of that left, apparently. But despite the fact that everything he said disgusted her, she couldn't let her emotions control her reaction. She had to stay coolheaded and rational. So while her jaw tightened and one of her hands curled into a fist under the table, she used the other to remove the plastic card from her pocket.

A deft toss landed it on his side of the table, right side up. "I don't know him very well, but I suspect he'd disagree. Like I do."

His eyes followed the card as she tossed it at him, eyes narrowing slightly as he seemed to read the name on it. There was something momentarily unreadable on his face, something that looked like anger and confusion all in one go, however; he simply glanced back to her.

“And what do you think this is supposed to do?" he asked, picking up the card between his forefinger and thumb. “You think Samael can protect you, is that it?" he continued, the arch in his brow smoothing out.

“Or are you threatening me, Soleil Nishant?" he asked, tossing the card back in her direction. “If that's the case, need I remind you of who I am and what I am capable of? Samael might be protecting you, but that's as far as his protection goes. I know him well enough," he began, his lips pursing into a fine line. “Your sister is at that pathetic excuse of a shelter, is she not? I need only to make a phone call..." he trailed off, his eyes narrowing in Soleil's direction.

"You lay one finger on her and I'll rip off your dick and feed it to you."

Apparently, she had a limit to what she could tolerate. It occurred to Soleil that Luna was probably a moderating influence when she was present, but otherwise just the opposite. "I'm not afraid of you, Zinoviev. I put up with you for her sake. You hurt her even one tiny bit and I won't have a reason to. And I won't need Samael's help. That's a threat."

“Oh, she does have a weakness," Alastor stated, smirking somewhat. “And it also seems she has emotions. Albeit explosive ones, but they are there regardless." If he was at all fazed by her statement, he didn't show it. Instead, he clicked his tongue behind his teeth and shook his head.

“We'll see about that," he stated, narrowing his eyes at Soleil. “You should take my offer, Nishant. For now, enjoy your freedom because you won't have it for very long. Of that, you can be assured."

"And yet I still have it," she replied, still nearly toneless. "Kindly leave my house before I'm too much more tempted to retrieve my shotgun. I wouldn't trust much to my patience. As you can see, I'm a little emotional right now, and we humans are ever so inclined to poor judgement when we get like that."

Get out, get out, get out! She wanted him gone—now.

The smirk grew into a broad grin. “It's what makes humans so interesting," was the only reply he gave. “I will leave, but not because you are so adamant about it. I have things to discuss with a certain someone. In the mean time, do take care of yourself, Nishant. You and your sister are far from done dealing with me." With that, he made his way back towards the front of the building, the chime of the door signaling that he'd left.

As soon as the door closed behind him, Soleil slumped into the stool, picking up the card and staring sightlessly at the front of it. It had been the last resort she didn't even want to use, and it... it hadn't even done anything. She hadn't missed the look that crossed Zinoviev's face—he wasn't any more fond of Samael than Samael seemed to be of him. And yet...

What was she supposed to do now? They'd had time, before. Time to think of something and money to buy that time. But somehow, that fucker had gotten wind of her new job, and now she was back to square one, with no plan for dealing with him. How was she supposed to? She was one human, and even if he was a young, pretty terrible crime boss, he was still a crime boss, and had plenty of people protecting him. Not that she'd actually kill him—Soleil wasn't a good person, but she wasn't a murderer, either. The shotgun was loaded with rock salt, for fucksake.

Leaning down, she pressed her forehead to her workbench. The pressure on her nose helped her hold back the stinging sensation that threatened. She did not cry. Soleil hadn't cried since the day she woke up alone with her sister and no memory of the days before. She'd been nine, maybe ten. She wasn't going to spill her first tears in twenty years over Alastor fucking Zinoviev, even if he was a creep and an asshole. Even if everything in her life that even started to look like it might be going right crashed and burned.

Before she knew it, she'd reached for her phone, pulling up the only number registered in it.

Hey do you

What the hell was she doing? He didn't care about her problems, and she couldn't rely on him to solve them. She was his fucking mechanic, for God's sake.

Soleil went to delete the message, but, unfamiliar with the device's layout, accidentally hit 'send' instead. Shit. Hurriedly, she typed out another.

Never mind.

There was a ding from her phone, not more than a few seconds later, which was enough to alert her that she had a message. Do I what? it read.

It felt, suddenly, like her heart had jumped up into her throat. Dread? No, it didn't seem to be that, but she had no idea what it was instead. Only that it felt a little like the moment before she made a jump she wasn't sure she could clear, something she'd done a lot as a kid, making an escape over rooftops instead of on street level.

Sometimes, she'd almost thought she could fly.

It's nothing.

She paused a moment. He... deserved a better answer than that, right? It was almost a flat out lie, and she didn't lie to people. Just

Now what? She didn't want to complain or seem to be asking for his help. What was he supposed to do anyway? He was already too generous. But some part of her did want to tell him anyway. Maybe if she just... said that?

Don't interpret this as me asking for anything, okay?

She waited after that, hoping maybe for some kind of agreement before she had to figure out how to put it.

You could if you wanted the first message read. What is it that's bothering you? the second message read, coming through five seconds later.

She could if she wanted? The knot in her throat was suddenly hard to swallow past; she sniffed. Idiot. Whether the bigger one was him or her was up for debate.

I was having a good day, fixing this sound system she started, pausing to take a picture of the opened speaker with her phone in case he was interested. Once she'd sent it, she continued. And then Zinoviev showed up. He found out somehow. That I had a new job, that was paying me well. Now he's demanding a credit a month, increasing.

She hesitated. That really did sound like she was asking for something. Shaking her head, she continued. It's so stupid. Like what kind of petty asshole bothers two people in particular this much, you know? I tried what you suggested, but... it didn't change anything.

It was a couple of minutes before he actually responded back. She could see the little dialogue bubble appear, meaning he'd been typing for those couple of minutes, but the first message he sent her was short. He's a prick who doesn't know how to take no for an answer.

Don't pay his fees next month. I'm going to have a talk with Crowley and Alastor.

There was a third message a couple of seconds later.

Oh, and I'm not doing it because you're asking me. I'm doing it of my own volition.

Soleil pulled in a breath—sharp enough to be a gasp, she realized distantly. I don't Deciding that was the wrong way to start that sentence, she went to backspace, but accidentally hit enter again.

Ugh, stupid send button. Hoping that would explain it, she added quickly. I don't know a lot about this, but doesn't Crowley run the police? Please don't stick your neck out because of me.

She paused for a full thirty seconds before scraping together the courage to send the message she'd originally meant to.

I don't want you to get hurt.

Her breath hissed between her teeth as she forced it out. "God, I'm a fucking idiot."

He owns the police, yes. The first message read.

But the police don't answer to just him. I'm not going to get hurt because of some stupid little fucking half-demon and his dad who think they can just... the message seemed like it cut off before he'd finished, but the next message didn't suggest so.

It'll be fine. Don't worry your pretty little head about dear ol' Sam. There was a small image that looked like a smiley face that followed the message.

Absurdly, the weird yellow smiley caused the same expression on her own face; she huffed softly. I mean, I wasn't going to mention the old part, but since you said it, make sure not to pull a muscle or have a stroke or something, okay?

Just for you.

Thanks for thinking of me, Sam.

She figured that served just as well as a bit of banter as an expression of her true sentiments. The fact that it could be the first let her say it, but she found herself hoping he'd understand the real meaning of it, too.

Always.

That one managed to catch her a little off-guard, and she felt, of all things, heat rising to her cheeks. Always like... always thinking of her? No—no, that was stupid. Completely stupid and obviously not what he meant.

"Get a grip, Soleil," she said aloud.

Fine. This was fine. And it seemed like a perfectly good end to the conversation, even if it left her somehow wanting to say something more. Maybe enough to push that message up far enough that she wouldn't be able to read it and remember her embarrassing momentary misinterpretation and the massive ego necessary to have made it. Shit, she was Soleil Nishant. The only people who thought about her with any regularity were her sister and apparently Zinoviev, gross as that was.

Grimacing, she hit the button to darken her phone screen. Maybe she could salvage this speaker system and her day at the same time.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Samael Lennox Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK



Image


1 Victorianus
Crowley's Office - Afternoon - Snow
Samael Lennox


Honestly, Sam didn't really want to be here. Even Crowley's office was as gaudy as Alastor was dressed. The cambion thought he dressed in a suave, attractive way, but Samael would beg to differ. He just looked desperate, and if anything it was just in poor taste. The cambion sat not too far from his father, dressed in what appeared to be a dark emerald suit that just clashed with Alastor's blond hair. Samael did not bother to hide the sneer he gave Alastor, before turning his attention towards Crowley.

“We need to have a talk," he began, eyeing Crowley, “about your boy who doesn't know how to leave people who work for me, alone." Normally, it wouldn't have bothered him, but she had reached out to him. Him. The first actual conversation he'd had that wasn't Leraje wanting updates, or Bael wanting blow up on him, or even Lilith. Soleil had texted him because Alastor was trying to extort her, and by an extension, him.

He wouldn't have cared, really. He didn't need his money, but the fact that Soleil had told Alastor that she worked for him, and Alastor blatantly ignored it wasn't something he could stand for.

“It's within my rights to do what I want in that neighborhood," Al began as Sam gave him a flat look.

“Hush child, the grownups are speaking." That and he didn't like the sound of Alastor's voice. It was annoying.

Crowley himself bore little physical resemblance to his son, save in the structure of their faces. He was one of those who refused to 'debase' himself with a more human form, and so from his ash-colored hair sprouted two thick, sharp black horns, crowning his head in the mocking parody of a halo. His eyes, luminous and red-gold, narrowed slightly, but he showed no other outward signs of displeasure, either with his son or with Samael. He sat behind a desk, fingers laced together in front of his mouth, and tilted his head in a pantomime of consideration, a lock of smooth hair falling forward over the deep navy of his impeccable suit.

“I'm not sure I see the issue, Samael," he said after a moment, tone dull and a touch chilly. “If anything the rule of temporal priority would seem to be on the boy's side. This payment arrangement of theirs was in effect prior to the creature's employ with you, was it not?"

Sam sighed heavily. Of course he would try and make it more in Alastor's favor. Sam wasn't sure what Crowley was thinking, having a child with a human. Not that Sam had anything against humans; they were far more interesting than any angel or demon he'd ever known, but Sam never pegged Crowley as the type to want to even have an offspring, let alone with a human. Still... that was beside the point.

“You know damn well that it's considered null and void if said creature is employed by myself or one of the other higher ups," he replied, speaking of the other remaining demons that weren't quite archdemon status, but still stronger than the more common demon. Crowley was somewhere in the middle. He could be an archdemon if he wanted to, but Sam supposed he had his reasons for not wanting to.

“Doesn't matter," Alastor retorted, a small smirk playing on his lips. “The younger one, if I remember correctly, is most definitely not in your employ. I can do what I like, even upping the fees if only for her sake," he continued, shrugging his shoulders slightly.

Fuck.

He forgot Soleil had a younger sister. He wasn't going to hire her because she wasn't his priority, however; it still meant that Alastor would continue to harrass Soleil.

“What do you want?" he turned his attention to Crowley.

“Want?" Crowley blinked, his features shifting to give him an aspect of mild surprise. Whether it was true or not was hard to say; his emotions were carefully guarded, even in the supernatural sense, unlike his son's. “I wasn't aware we were bargaining." His eyes slid sideways to his offspring, an assessing, measured look to them.

“Have you terms to assert?"

“Oh, he knows what I want," Alastor stated as he smirked in Sam's direction. Honestly, Sam wanted to wipe that stupid look off his face, but he really didn't want to have to deal with Crowley, either. “But I'll settle for one of them," he continued. Sam felt disgusted on Soleil's behalf, mostly because he knew what Alastor would do. He also knew that Soleil would likely leave his employ if something happened to her sister that he could have prevented.

“No. You don't get either of them," he stated as Alastor merely arched a brow at him.

“Is that right? Well if that's the case, then, I suppose I'll just keep harassing them," Alastor retorted as Sam narrowed his eyes at the boy.

“What do you want to keep your idiot offspring in line before he does something stupid?" it was why he was trying to make the offer to Crowley. He, at least, might be willing to put some sense into Alastor. The boy was an idiot, fawning over two particular humans and throwing a hissy fit because he couldn't get either one to submit to him.

Crowley's shoulders shifted in such a way that suggested a sigh, though if he actually did it, the sound was much too quiet to hear. He, at least, clearly recognized there was a problem here. “Alastor, your interest in these humans is becoming unseemly," he chided, still in the same tone of voice. “It is unwise to take disproportionate interest in individuals. While I understand that some of them are vastly more appealing to... look at than others, they are, in the end, all base creatures of the same ilk, and you would do well not to forget it."

Alastor gave his father a flat look, almost as if he were rolling his eyes without actually doing it. “You wouldn't be saying that if you saw them," he replied. “They're not just any humans. There's something about them, something that's... unexplainable. Surely you've noticed it too, Sam," he continued as he turned blue eyes on Sam.

“Can't say that I do," Sam replied with a light shrug of his shoulders, though he was lying through his teeth. He had written it off that maybe the two had demon heritage somewhere down the line that had been mostly washed out by human blood. It was faint, but Sam couldn't quite put his finger on what it was. It was almost familiar, in a way. Like something he'd known a long time ago, but had forgotten the word for it.

“Doesn't change the fact that there is something, and I'm not going to rest until I have them," Alastor replied, narrowing his eyes slightly in his father's direction as Sam dragged a hand down his face. The boy was persistent, Sam would give him that.

Crowley rolled his eyes, subtle enough that probably only Sam caught it. Probably, only he was intended to. “Regardless, it seems neither of you is immune to a rather greater degree of concern for the fate of these humans than is warranted." He narrowed his eyes at Samael. “That she appealed to you to assist her and you bothered to grant the request instead of cutting her loose for the impudence is just as concerning as my son's... proclivities. Perhaps you also enjoy the look of one human more than you should?" It was voiced as idle speculation, but the expression on the demon's face was quite pointed.

“Not so much the look as the skill," Sam replied, pinching the bridge of his nose and pushed a heavy sigh out. He knew Soleil had a particular look about her, something that was dark and attractive to be sure, but it wasn't the reason why he'd been bothered to assist her. He wanted to help her because she'd asked him to help, even if it wasn't directly.

Because she talked to him more than he could say for the others, and... well, he enjoyed it far too much, he supposed. “She's my mechanic, and she's damn good at what she does. I can't have her stressing out over stupid protection fees and I'm not going to let her go because it's an inconvenience. You would understand if you valued skill," which he was almost certain Crowley didn't value anything that wasn't his own life.

“Well then perhaps the thing to do is split the difference." Crowley waved a hand in a dismissive gesture. “Alastor, leave the one in question alone. Samael, you have no business interfering with the boy's designs on the one without a use to you, so don't. Will that do?" His tone suggested it had better. Crowley had a much longer fuse than the likes of Bael, one of the reasons the archdemon had put him in charge of the police, but he didn't have infinite patience, and it seemed he was not fond of his position as intermediary in this dispute.

“A shame," Alastor stated but nodded his head. “I'd have liked the pair, but I suppose I'll settle with the little moon," he continued, a faint smirk appearing on his face. Sam wanted nothing more than to smack the little shit for it, but grit his teeth together and nodded.

“Fine. Leave Soleil alone, and we won't have a problem," Sam stated. He knew Soleil wasn't going to like this. In fact, he was certain of it, but it was the most he could do. For now. He'd have to find a way to get Alastor to back off on both of their accounts. He couldn't tell Soleil about this; not now, at least. Not until he could find a way to get Alastor off of their backs.

“One more thing," he could at least bargain this, “the other one's fees are paid by the one in question. Her fees are not to go up any more than they already have. You get enough out of the other poor bastards you extort. You don't need any more from them," he directed it towards Alastor who seemed to contemplate it.

“Fine, but I get to choose what the amount is," Al replied. Sam had to bite down on his tongue.

“Then it's settled."

For some reason, Sam felt his stomach drop. How was he supposed to tell Soleil that he'd only managed to protect her?

“Good," Crowley said with a short nod. “Then you can both get out of my office. I've wasted enough time on adolescent property disputes for one day."

Sam didn't hesitate, and left. He'll have to put off telling Soleil the news. How long could he do it for, though? A week, two?

Fuck.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


5 Victorianus
Leraje's Residence - Late Night - Heavy Snow
Leraje


Unlike many of his demonic compatriots, Leraje did not make his home in either an ostentatious mansion or a high-rise apartment. Rather, he'd long since purchased a large, brick building, at one long-gone time a textile factory, then repurposed to hold apartments, and now repurposed again to hold an apartment and an extensive laboratory, in which the master of all things poisonous, venomous, and intoxicating now spent the majority of his time at his craft.

He'd been a rather more prominent demon once, in the age of alchemy, when humans had worshiped him for his talents and begged his assistance in the transmutation of base metals to gold, the creation of such miraculous things as the Philosopher's Stone. Few remembered that Leraje himself was the philosopher in question, ever the patron of those who wished to reach for knowledge beyond the lot granted to them by a selfish God.

Some wondered why Eve would have given up Eden for knowledge.

Leraje had never had any trouble understanding her at all, though he was rather more... yes, he supposed he could say he was fond of her predecessor, the woman who had refused to obey a man simply because he was a man and become a demon for her trouble. That streak of independent thought was why he still liked Lilith, even if it faded in her more with every passing year.

The whistling of an alarm broke him from his thoughts, though he was not particularly perturbed by the direction they had taken. It was natural, to linger on the past sometimes. As long as he did not become Samael and allow it to consume him, he did not particularly abhor the tendency in himself.

Checking the computer screen in front of him, he logged the data manually in a paper notebook as well, adjusting a few of the valves to his left. Samael's feedback had indicated the combination of N-104 and A-12 hit hard and fast, but faded too quickly, so he was working on its longevity and metabolization rate. He should consider acquiring other test subjects, however; Samael was developing some resistance that would eventually make him an anomaly and thus a poor test subject.

“You might want to make your locks a little more challenging," Lilith spoke as she appeared, arching a brow in Leraje's direction. “It feels like this set was almost easier than the last one," she continued as she moved to take a seat on one of the empty chairs. She had the box in her hands, the one Leraje had given her that she affectionately called Pandora's Box. She still hadn't figured out how to open it, it seemed, as she stared at it.

"Most people knock," Leraje replied. It was a familiar exchange. He'd actually given Lilith the key to his building—it was just in the box. So she continued to pick his locks to access his home in the interim. It wasn't like he minded, really.

“What are you working on, now? More Oblivion?" she asked, keeping her eyes on the box as she shifted it a bit.

"Yes. It fades too quickly, according to the guinea pig." He sometimes referred to Samael this way to his face—it wasn't an insult, exactly. Just a fact. "So I'm trying to give it a better duration, without strengthening it too much, as it's already where it needs to be in that respect." He took down a few more measurements.

"Bored?" It was his best guess as to why she'd come by at this time of night.

“You could say that," she replied, glancing in his direction for a moment before turning her attention back to the box. “Bael doesn't have anything for me to do at the moment, and the guinea pig is currently moping about something. He wouldn't tell me, but I think it might have something to do with that mechanic he hired," she explained as she pursed her lips at the box.

“Ugh, why is it like this? I swear I wasn't this bad at puzzles before," she murmured. Sighing heavily, she tossed the box to the side and finally glanced properly in Leraje's direction. “Besides, I came to check up on one of my favorite demons. I'm allowed to do that, right?"

He snorted softly. Leraje really couldn't recall a time he'd been anyone's favorite anything. The Legions of Hell favored the monstrous, physically mighty types, not people who dealt in subtleties like poison and, worse, thinking. It was a poor hierarchy with many natural flaws in it, but because Lucifer himself was quite intelligent, it made it easy for him to keep his place atop the pile. Leraje could only assume this was the point.

Of course, now, cut off from the remainder of their kin, the entire thing was much more precarious than most would believe. The smartest of them were all in the middle ranks—easily overridden, therefore, when their illustrious leader had a temper tantrum, as he was prone to do. It was why Leraje was quite certain that these so-called Heralds were going to be more of a problem than Bael thought. Whoever was in charge of them had a functioning brain.

"Clearly I can't stop you, as you have so ably demonstrated in your navigation of my home security."

She huffed lightly, moving her hands to cradle the back of her head. “It's not so much that I can navigate your home security," she began, a faint smirk appearing on her face, “it feels like sometimes you're not even trying to keep me out." She shrugged her shoulders lightly before closing her eyes for a moment.

“You should make it more complex like you do your poisons," she added, picking up the box once more to give it another go, it seemed. “I mean, they wouldn't necessarily mean much if I can get past them, but a challenge would be nice every now and then."

She had of course hit the nail right on the head, but he wasn't going to say as much. Leraje wasn't as a rule a sentimental being, but even demons had their preferences. Attachments, even. Only idiots insisted on trying to remain completely free of those things. It made it all the worse when one caught up with them anyway.

"You want me to make it harder for you to access my building," he repeated in a dull monotone. "You are a strange person."

“Yep," she replied easily enough. “It won't matter once I open this box, but in the mean time, make it more of a challenge to get in. Not so much a challenge like this box, otherwise I'd never get back in, but you know what I mean."

She pulled at the box and twisted, her eyes widening as if she'd figured something out before she furrowed her brows. “And I'm not that strange," she began, glancing back in his direction, “just because I want more of a challenge."

"You could just ask me to build you a lock, without attaching it to my door," he pointed out. Such construction was hardly his specialty, but it wasn't beyond him by any means. Much like the puzzle box itself, though no lock would likely take so long. He'd built that to be an object of beauty as well as intrigue, after all. A lock only had to function in the latter capacity.

Finishing his notes, he shut the book and laid it aside for a while. "Do you want a snack? I stopped by the patisserie on the way back from giving my report. You like the shortcakes, right?"

Her eyes lit up when he mentioned shortcakes, and she nodded her head. “Always and forever," she replied. “And it wouldn't be quite as satisfying. Not everyone can pick a lock like I can, so if I can get into it, it means no one has successfully broken into your house, yet. And that's all that matters." She nodded in a matter-of-fact manner.

"Hm. Well perhaps if I build one that's difficult enough it will provide sufficient motivation to solve the box," he noted, shutting down his equipment and making his way to the downstairs kitchen. He actually had another one upstairs in the apartment proper but he spent so much of his time down here that it was just more practical to have both a kitchen and a bathroom on this floor as well.

Strictly speaking, demos didn't need to eat, but it benefited the maintenance of their human bodies and meant he didn't have to go find some idiot to feed on. Much more expedient for antisocial demons such as himself.

He'd already put the decorated slice of shortcake on its own plate, and set that down on the counter with a fork for Lilith before retrieving his preferred chocolate ganache slice and another.

She'd given him a flat look at his first statement and sighed dramatically. “It's not like I don't want to open it; it's just proving to be a little more difficult than it has a right to be," she stated as she used the fork to take a piece of her shortcake. She chewed it in a thoughtful manner before she turned her attention back towards him.

“But sure, why not? I could use a distraction and a lock box sounds like it'll be fun," she said in a simple manner before taking another bite of her shortcake.

Leraje inclined his head in a vague nod, taking a small bite of his own ganache. It had some strawberry jam between the cake layers—this was the factor that made him prefer the particular bakery in question over the other options in the city. That, and it was close by. He supposed he could do what most demons did and keep servants for that kind of thing, but he had no desire to be around more people than absolutely necessary, for the most part.

"I'll start on it after the new round of Oblivion is done."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Samael Lennox Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

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9 Victorianus
Bael's Office - Late Afternoon - Heavy Snow
Samael Lennox


It wasn't often that Bael summoned Sam.

It wasn't often that Sam had to see Bael.

Sam tried his best to avoid Bael as if he were the second plague, mostly because he really didn't feel like being yelled at for something. Because that's what Bael mostly did. He'd disapprove of something Sam did, yell at him, threaten him, and then Sam would go back home and pretend like nothing ever happened. He wasn't sure what he did, this time at least, to be summoned, but he supposed it might just be the montly visit. Or it would have been if they were in Sam's house and not Bael's office.

“Yes, your evilness?" he stated as he arched a brow in Bael's direction.

Bael, historically devoid of a sense of humor and no different now, scowled at him. “Don't be cute, Samael," he replied, running a tanned hand back through his medium-length white curls. Red eyes narrowed at the Fallen across from him. “What the Hell were you thinking, getting involved in Crowley's business? I have neither the time nor the patience to be hearing about petty disputes between my people."

Ah.

So that's what this was about.

“For starters, it wasn't Crowley's business I was getting involved in," he started, giving Bael a flat look. “It was his idiot son, Alastor. I was simply trying to bargain with Crowley to see if he could see reason. Alastor isn't your people, but he is Crowley's," he expelled a harsh sigh. Why Crowley even bothered to tell Bael about that was beyond Sam.

“As for what I was thinking, I was thinking about my potential employee not being harassed and quiting on me. It's hard to find a decent mechanic, and this one in particular is damn good. Talent is very hard to come by, nowadays." He intentionally didn't give Bael any names. Sam didn't need the demon interogating her, or scaring her off.

“So it was over a human. Of all the idiocy..." Bael's hands formed into fists on the desktop, probably more to do with the fact that Samael was talking back to him than anything. “You couldn't have picked some human from the refuse piles of them not currently someone else's business?" He rolled his eyes. “You should know better than getting attached to any of the pathetic creatures anyway—they're as fickle as anything, and you of all people would know how it feels to be on the wrong end of a fickle woman, wouldn't you?"

Sam felt a little spike of anger in his chest, but he gave Bael a flat look, reaching up with his pinky to scratch the inside of his ear. Sam's history wasn't exactly a secret to Bael, nor anyone else, really. He'd been a fool in love with someone who'd damn near killed him. Both figuratively and literally.

“At least she wasn't human," Sam retorted. Fickle or not, woman or not, Sariel had been an angel. Soleil was just human. “And at least humans are more predictable," he continued, his eyes narrowing slightly in Bael's direction. “It's not like I knew she was Alastor's business," he really hated the way that was phrased, but it was likely the only way to get through to Bael.

“My previous mechanic disappeared; I needed a new one and someone recommended her. Now she's my business, and the little shit knows it," Sam felt his body tense.

It's fine, he only knows a gender, and not a name.

He hadn't meant to slip up like that.

Bael's eyes flashed, a faint brimstone scent flavoring the air. “That little shit is at least half a demon," he said sharply. “Do I need to remind you again where you stand in the hierarchy? Because you are not above him." His eyes narrowed to slits. “You live on my largesse, and you do so because you were, at one point, useful to me, something you have not been for a while. If you are going to be completely pointless, the least you could do is not cause me problems. If Crowley were any less even-keeled, this could have been a full-on legal battle about who has rights to your human. I do not have time for that right now."

Sam would admit that Bael's words did sting a little. “I suppose you've a point, however," Sam started, not bothering to hide the expression on his face. Because I still live on your largesse, any human in my employ is, technically, mine. If you've a problem with that, then I suggest you amend the clauses in which state that a human employed by a demon or other of a higher status is considered theirs until employment is revoked or other. Even if they are someone else's business. In this case, I am a higher status than Alastor. Maybe not Crowley," he didn't really care, “but that little shit is still beneath me."

“That makes her mine, and I can do whatever I see fit with that." In this case it meant keeping Alastor off of her ass, at least. Might not be the younger one, but... well, he was trying.

The twisted expression on Bael's face somehow conveyed triumph, of all things, a glint in his eye that said Sam had stepped into some kind of trap.

“You're putting up an awful lot of fight, for you," he observed, leaning back in his chair. The anger was still there, seething under the surface, but the surface itself was looking quite smug. “Don't tell me she actually means something to you."

Sam sighed in a dramatic manner. Really? That's what Bael got from all of that? That she means something to him?

“Do you just not hear anything that I say?" he asked, not bothering to dignify that question with an answer. Mostly because Sam was almost certain it was true. It'd been a long time since he could say that he found someone's company... enjoyable. She talked to him, and fixed his cars and sometimes explained the process to him. It was the company that meant something to him.

“I'm putting up an awful lot of fight because talent like hers is rare. She fixed a fucking 2442 Yrden with a part that she built from the ground up, and was able to identify the problem by simply taking a look at it. I value skill. Told the same fucking thing to Crowley." Demons valued nothing in a person other than their fighting skills and skills in general. It wasn't an apt thing to compare Soleil's skill to, but it was the only thing demons understood.

“Watch your tongue," Bael snarled, but it didn't quite crack the mood he was in, whatever weird thing it was. Instead he heaved a sigh and gestured at his office door. “Fine, whatever. But leave Crowley's spawn's business alone from now on. You obviously know where and who it is now, so I'd better not hear about any of this again. Get out."

Too fucking bad, because Sam was almost certain Bael would be hearing about it again. Sam smirked a little, though, and gave Bael a mock salute.

“Sure thing, your evilness," he replied as he left Bael's office. The demon hadn't responded to making an amendment about employment. Perhaps he could temporarily use that to his benefit? Something would be coming up this month; it was the last month of the year, after all. Didn't they have those charity things or some shit like that? The smirk on Sam's face widened slightly into a plotting smile.

“This is on you, Bael."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


16 Victorianus
Shelter #309 - Evening - Cold
Soleil Nishant


Soleil frowned at the carrot under her hand. It was turning the fingers of her latex gloves orange, but that wasn't the cause of the frown. Rather... did there have to be so many people here?

She understood, of course, that it was cold and a holiday and people needed to eat. And if people were going to eat, someone needed to make the food. But none of that explained why the someone had to include her, or why she had to be basically shoulder-to-shoulder with the closest two people. It was just... really uncomfortable.

Making her best attempt to ignore it, she diced the carrot, mindful that it was going in the next batch of soup and they were already behind. So small bits for quick cooking, so the carrots didn't delay the whole thing or come out still mostly raw.

Luna was going to owe her for this.

Luna was helping set up small tables around the area. They didn't have a long table for everyone to sit at, and likely it was going to be about four people per table. She didn't seem to mind, though, occasionally fixing a chair that was crooked or setting down a paper plate. She glanced up and smiled in Soleil's direction, making her way to stand in front of her.

“You're a big help, you know that, right?" she stated, grinning slightly as she tilted her head at Soleil. “I'm actually kind of glad you're helping out. I don't think we had enough people and the extra pair of hands was much needed," she continued, glancing slightly to her right and furrowing her brows. “I see a few new faces, but..." she trailed off and shrugged her shoulders.

Soleil resisted the urge to sigh. Charity wasn't exactly her wheelhouse. It wasn't that she thought anyone here deserved their situation, just that she'd always been too busy keeping her head down and trying to keep herself and her sister alive to ever really do much for anyone else. More than that, she hated that there were this many people so close to her. It just... felt uncomfortable. Itchy.

"Yeah, whatever," she said, shaking her head and trying to keep the grumpiness to a minimum, for everyone else's sake. "What else do you need me to do? I'm done with enough carrots to last the rest of the night, probably."

Luna blinked in a thoughtful manner as she glanced around the area. “Well..." she trailed off, perhaps looking for something. “Food is prepped, the tables are mostly set," she listed a few things, seemingly talking to herself. “If you want to take a rest, you're more than welcome to. I think everything is pretty much set up already. All we have to do is wait for the food to finish cooking, and then we can pass it out to everyone."

She leaned a little closer towards Soleil, and held up a hand near her mouth as if she were trying to tell Soleil a secret. “I know how much this is bothering you. You were never one for large crowds," she stated in a sympathetic manner before folding both of her hands in front of her. “I promise I will make this up to you. Whatever you want, your favorite dish, a night to yourself in the house... I really will make this up to you."

This time, Soleil did sigh. If Luna knew how much this bothered her, she wouldn't have asked her to do it in the first place, but she wasn't going to say that.

Resigned to her fate of later playing waitress, she nodded slightly and stepped out into the main room, picking one of the last empty tables and making a beeline for it. Unfortunately she wasn't the only one who'd noticed it, and she arrived at about the same time as two people.

Ordinarily, the woman might have been more noticeable, what with the bright pink hair and all, but Soleil's demon-sense was smacking her in the face, and the source of the sensation was definitely the tall guy lurking in her shadow. Never socially adept, Soleil wasn't exactly sure what to do with this situation, and ended up blinking wordlessly at the odd pair in front of her for several beats too long, without anyone taking a seat.

"Uh." The diminutive woman was the one to break the silence, though it wasn't exactly gracefully either. "If you don't mind sharing, we can just take this side? There's only two of us; looks like the table seats five in a pinch." She smiled, a slightly-crooked expression that seemed genuine to Soleil at least.

She cleared her throat. "Sure, I guess. I just need somewhere to be until the food comes out anyway." They didn't exactly look homeless to her, but apparently the kitchen served poor people of all types, not just the ones actually living on the street. They didn't look like they were made of money, either—the repairs on their clothes were definitely done by hand.

The demon didn't seem to know what to say or do. He just took a seat next to the pink-haired woman, and glanced in Soleil's direction before glancing down at the table as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. There was a slight furrow in his brows, though, as if he'd sensed or seen something he hadn't in a while. It took him another minute before he glanced back in Soleil's direction.

“I'm Vinny," he stated, clearing his throat in an awkward manner.

For some reason, this made the woman smile, a soft thing that somehow made Soleil want to turn away, as if to give them privacy. But it wasn't like it was a particularly intimate thing—it was just a facial expression, and a benign one at that. Only somehow it made Soleil sure there was something between them, and she'd been sitting here for all of thirty seconds. Maybe because she'd never seen anything quite like it before? Smiles like that existed as descriptions in books to her, and nothing real at all.

"Soleil," she said, concealing her awkwardness by talking, or trying to, in as normal a fashion as she could. It was a little easier, now that she knew they were awkward too.

"Nice to meet you, Soleil. I'm Éva." The woman extended her had across the table and Sol took it, holding carefully so as not to hurt her. She wasn't getting any suggestion that Éva was anything sturdier than a normal human.

"So, uh, stop me if this is rude but... what brings you guys out here?" She didn't say it, but a demon was about the last kind of person she'd expected to walk through those doors today. Next thing she knew, there'd be a whole damn angel, never mind that the non-Fallen ones were all dead or locked into some other dimension or whatever it was.

Vinny stared at Soleil for a moment, almost as if he were trying to think of an answer, but in the end, merely shrugged his shoulders. He didn't seem the type to be talkative, and perhaps wasn't unless he had to be. Still, he glanced towards Éva before turning his attention back to Soleil.

“A friend of ours mentioned that they were in need of extra hands today. It was the most logical thing to do," he finally stated as he glanced over Soleil's shoulder. His brows furrowed further, though, when Luna appeared, blinking mildly in Soleil's direction and then towards Éva and Vinny.

“Oh, uh, hi?" she stated, unsure of what was going on, it seemed. Vinny nodded his head in her direction, but didn't say anything immediately. “The food will be done in about another ten or fifteen minutes," she continued, taking a seat on the left side of Soleil. “And I hope you don't mind, but I invited someone else to sit with us," Luna said as she directed it towards Soleil.

“Oh, also, I'm Luna," she introduced herself to Éva and Vinny.

“Vincent, or Vinny. Whichever is your preference," was his reply.

Éva repeated her name as well, offering Luna a handshake also, before glancing around. "Who'd you invite? There's loads of people h—ah." She seemed to come to some kind of realization, and Soleil turned her eyes in the same direction.

If Vinny's demon-ness had hit her like a punch, whatever this guy had going on was more like being bathed in sunlight. Summer was, if rumor was to be believed, a joke now compared to what it had once been, but somehow the guy gave the impression of summer, and she knew it was the real kind, without knowing what the real kind was like.

It was sort of a weird impression to get from a bum the approximate size of a bear, with shaggy red hair and scruff stubbling his chin. She didn't doubt he could get a full-on mountain man beard going if he wanted to, but he was well short of that now. He took the seat at the end of the table, clearing his throat softly. Soleil wasn't sure if she imagined it, but she thought he threw a wary look at Vinny, too. Was that a coincidence, or...

Could he tell?

"Sorry to intrude," he said, voice rumbling lower than Soleil had known voices could go. Any louder and she might be able to feel it through her feet. "Mick. Nice to meet you all."

"Éva, Vinny, Soleil," Éva replied. "Just to cover the bases." When she stuck her hand out towards Mick, he accepted it with a vaguely-perplexed look, clearly taking care not to shake too hard. His hands were probably over double the size of Éva's.

“Soleil is my older sister, the one I told you about," Luna stated in Mick's direction, offering a short smile before turning towards the others. Vinny cleared his throat softly as well, trying not to keep eye contact with Mick for some reason.

“What brings you out here?" Vinny asked, directing Soleil's question towards Luna and herself. Luna grinned lightly as she sat back in her chair.

“I volunteer here," she stated, sighing softly. “On a regular basis, that is, or as regular as I can," she continued, clearing it up a bit, it seemed. Vinny made a vague 'oh' before returning his attention towards the table.

“What about you two? I've never seen you around here before?" Luna asked, tilting her head. “Not that you aren't welcome to be here; everyone who wants or needs something is free to do what they'd like," she said.

"We just dropped by for a visit," Éva said vaguely, lifting her shoulders in a shrug. "You don't have to feed us or anything. We're just kind of new to this part of town and wanted to know what was around, as resources went. We're okay, but we know some people who aren't, so we figured we'd check the place out for them. They're a little shy."

Mick seemed to accept this, nodding slightly. "I know some people like that," he said simply. "If it helps, I can say that the staff here are well-meant, even if some of them are a little nosy." He glanced askance at Luna as he said it, but Soleil interpreted some amount of humor in the implication.

How well did her sister know this guy, exactly?

Luna gave him a flat look, though, that suggested she wasn't amused. “I am not that nosy, alright?" she murmured, pursing her lips together and folding her hands over her chest. Vinny looked like he wanted to roll his eyes slightly, but seemed to refrain from doing so. “But... he's not entirely wrong. Mean well, but sometimes I do get a little in over my head," she added as she rolled her eyes somewhat before smiling a little.

Vinny pushed out a soft gust of air and turned towards Éva. “She gets like that, too," he stated as he laid a hand on her head before dropping it.

She stuck her tongue out at him. Soleil rolled her eyes a bit, but Mick was watching the interaction with something akin to curiosity. For just a moment, something like comprehension flashed across his face, only to be quickly replaced by something more neutral, and a little... sad? She didn't really get it, and wasn't good with feelings in the first place.

"I don't," she said bluntly, her best effort to contribute to the conversation. "No offense, because you seem like cool people, but if you never tell me anything about yourselves, I'll be okay with that."

Éva laughed, apparently genuinely delighted. "Oh but now it seems like you must be great at keeping secrets. No one would think to ask you for them!"

“Even if they did ask her for them, Sol wouldn't say anything. She's very tightlipped," Luna stated in a nonchalant fashion, grinning in Soleil's direction for some reason. “But it's not every day we see a pair like you," she continued, tilting her head slightly in their direction. “Well, not one so open with their affection for each other," she clarified. Vinny blinked slowly at her before turning towards Eva.

“We're not..." he trailed off, still keeping his gaze on Eva. He furrowed his brows softly before shaking his head. “It's not like that, I don't... think," he murmured.

“Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't mean to assume it's just that... well," Luna stated nervously as she rubbed her forearm. “You just seem really close is all." That prompted a small quirk of Vinny's lips as he nodded his head.

“I've known her for a long time," he replied.

Éva cleared her throat, shrugging in what Soleil almost thought was a casual manner. She was fidgeting with her hands, though, and decidedly not looking in Vinny's direction. Her hair fell forward enough to kind of hide it, but her cheeks looked to be turning pink. "He, um—yeah. What he said." She chuckled again, but it was strained.

Mick, perhaps deciding to have mercy, changed the subject, though not before lifting an eyebrow at Luna as if to point out that he was right to call her a little nosy. Soleil couldn't decide if she liked him or not, but she thought with a little time, she might.

"Looks like they're getting ready to serve the food," he noted, before turning to Vinny and Éva. "I appreciate that you don't want to take what you don't absolutely need, but I'm pretty sure there's more than enough to feed everyone here, so I wouldn't feel too bad about it if I were you."

Vinny nodded his head. “It is appreciated," he simply stated as he glanced back towards Éva. Luna, however, glanced at Mick and furrowed her brows. She didn't say anything though, perhaps because the look he gave her might have been a little true.

“A bowl would be... nice."

"Then we'll get you one," Soleil said, surprised at the fact that she'd said it. It wasn't an outrageous thing to say, of course, but... it wasn't really like her, either.

Standing, she gestured to Luna. Maybe if she actually did the thing she wouldn't feel weird about it.

Or maybe she was just always doomed to feel weird around people. That seemed more likely.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Samael Lennox Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

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1 Satanus
Manor - Afternoon - Snow
Samael Lennox


Sometimes Sam wondered if he was finally going crazy.

His home felt strangely empty, which was strange in itself because it was always empty. The only people who visited were Lilith, Leraje, and Soleil when she was working on one of the cars. Today was not one of those days, but he thought that it might have to do with the fact that Soleil and her sister had stayed the night a few days ago.

Even though it was for the purpose of getting them ready for the event, they had stayed.

The night.

At his house.

Now that the event was over, Sam found himself wondering if maybe he should just ask if they wanted to live with him. It would make them both his wards, in a way, and it would mean that they were no longer in Alastor's territory. Which meant that he wouldn't be able to extort them or try and make them sell their souls to him. Or worse, make them his toys. Sam visibly shuddered at the thought before shaking his head.

Even if he did ask, he almost knew Soleil's answer. After all, why should she trust him to not try anything? He wouldn't, of course, unless she wanted him to, but he wasn't that kind of person. He'd just... well, he was beginning to think that he'd made a genuine friend.

“Sam! We're home!" a familiar voice called out, causing Samael to frown slightly.

“No need to yell, Lily," he replied, glancing in the direction of Lilith and Leraje, the former smiling broadly.

Leraje, on the other hand, wore the same emotionless expression he always did, even as he politely removed his coat and shoes in the entryway. There was a small paper bag tucked under one arm, which was probably the obvious, but he'd get to it when he got to it. Pretty much nothing ever bothered that guy, and it meant nothing could make him rush.

"Samael," he greeted mildly, at a much more indoors-appropriate volume than his companion.

It was one of the few things that Sam respected about Leraje, actually. Even if the guy moved at his own pace, did things on his own accord, he was still mindful of where he was. Lilith, on the other hand, walked across the floor, shoes still on and coat still clinging to her. She didn't seem to care much about dragging the snow that was already melting, across the floor.

“To what do I owe the honors of this visit? It's not my monthly's, yet, is it?" Sam asked, clearly joking, however; Lilith rolled her eyes.

“Why can't we just visit? Are you hiding someone in your closet?" Lilith asked, arching a brow at Sam.

“I'm not twelve, Lil."

“Sometimes I wonder about that."

Leraje looked once between them, then pushed his glasses up his nose. "Can we continue this in the kitchen? I'm hungry."

Without waiting for an answer, he headed that way, setting the bag down on the island and making himself a bowl of yogurt and granola. "You have a different brand this time," he noted, reading the ingredients list on the back of Soleil's bag of granola. She'd brought her own at first, insistent that the kind he had bought 'tasted like cardboard.'

"It's better, but cheaper. Unexpected for you." With this observation made, he shook some out into his bowl, stirring it around in the vanilla yogurt and taking a seat at the island.

Sam felt rather pleased with that for some reason. He wasn't entirely sure why, but he nodded anyway. Lilith made a bowl of cereal for herself, though, and took a seat on the opposite side of Leraje. If he hadn't known any better, he'd have thought those two made a strange pair. He'd seen stranger demons coupled together, but... well, these two were just strange in a way he couldn't describe.

“Thought I would try something new," he finally replied as he made his way towards the only open spot near the island. He wasn't hungry like the two of them were, and crossed his arms over his chest.

“So... besides the obvious, why are you here?" he decided to ask again. It wasn't that he wanted them to leave. Quite the opposite, but they did come a little unannounced. Not that they ever announced themselves to begin with when they visited him.

Leraje shrugged. "The bag has a new formula in it. No name yet. Careful with it—it's got a pretty sharp kick. Take too much and even you'll overdose." He lifted his shoulders. "I'm working on developing a waking dream that the dreamer has some control over. Like a version of virtual reality, but infinitely variable based on individual desires. This is the first step in that process."

“I'm not going to start sleep walking, am I?" Sam replied as he arched a brow.

“Oh, you should probably call it something like that. Sleepwalker or maybe dreamcatcher," Lilith interjected before taking a bite from her bowl of cereal.

“You're usually a little more creative in your names."

“Hm, yes, well I've been busy with lock boxes and other things."

"And collecting seedy tabloid publications, today," Leraje remarked, crunching through another bite of granola with utter nonchalance. "She has something to ask you about that. Not sure why she's beating around the bush."

She pointed to her bowl of cereal as if it were answer enough. Samael rolled his eyes, but was confused about the seedy tabloid publications that Leraje was refering to. “Who is she?" Lilith asked, taking another bite of her cereal before reaching into her coat pocket. She produced a photo, tossing it on the table as she took another bite. Sam glanced at it and nearly snorted.

It was obviously Soleil in that picture, but it looked like Lilith didn't recognize her. “She was my date for the event. Why, Lil, jealous that I didn't ask you to be my date?" he stated as she gave him a flat look.

“In your dreams. You're not my type," she replied easily enough.

“Hm, yes, you like the quiet loner types," Sam drawled before rolling his eyes again.

“Who is she, though? I've never seen her before, and I've been just about every where." She seemed a little adamant, now, about knowing who it was.

“I told you, she was my hired date for the night. Lost the contact information, though, so I can't give it to you. Would if I had it."

"Apparently she cleaned out Crowley, Caim, and Malphus at Gehennan hold 'em," Leraje said, tilting his head down at the photo. "You have good taste at least." It was unclear whether this statement followed on the previous one or was made simply because of Soleil's appearance, but to Samael's knowledge, Leraje had never really been swayed by anyone's looks.

"Bael was very displeased, but Crowley seemed rather more circumspect about the matter. According to him, your date didn't quite seem as human as she appeared."

“Wouldn't know anything about that," Sam replied honestly. As far as he knew, Soleil was human. She didn't seem like a demon to him, and he didn't exactly get cambion vibes from her, either. Granted, there was something about the Nishant sisters that he couldn't put his finger on, but it wasn't like it bothered him. If they weren't human, then they weren't human.

But what were they, if not human? Bael, however, could kiss his ass. The demon deserved that display of disrespect, as he would no doubt call it. If he hadn't been such an ass about the whole thing, he might have kept it to a minimum.

“Crowley is more reasonable than Bael to begin with. If he thinks she wasn't quite human, that's on him. Don't really care either way," he added with a light shrug of his shoulders.

“You shouldn't be like that, Sam. Bael's only trying to look out for you, you know," Lilith replied before finishing off the rest of her cereal.

“Like Hell he is," Sam muttered beneath his breath. Bael was likely to have Sam's head on a silver platter, first, rather than look out for him.

Leraje's only response to any of that was a slight upwards quirk of his brow. "Whatever you say." It was sort of ambiguous which one of them he was speaking to, and he didn't clarify. He scooped a bit of yogurt from the bottom of the bowl. "How were the last doses of A—" he darted a brief look at Lilith and sighed quietly. "Oblivion?"

Lilith smiled brightly at the name as Sam rolled his eyes.

“Didn't you receive my update?" he asked, quirking a brow at him. It was obvious enough that he hadn't, and Sam sighed softly. “It's not strong enough," he simply stated. “Still had a bit of memory, and the baseline mood was completely off. I went from really erratic to almost... what did the humans call it, zombie? Brainless, essentially, but not completely. It did, however, convince me I was a fly for a moment. Tried hanging on the side of the wall."

Lilith snorted. “Maybe you just had too many different types of drugs in your system."

"I meant the doses I sent after the last update," Leraje replied mildly. "Did you not get around to trying them yet? That's unusual." He didn't seem to care, as such, but knowing him he was inferring plenty from the fact that Samael's drug habits had changed even a little. He could be wickedly sharp when he wanted to, Leraje. Fortunately, his lack of concern prevented him from doing much with his observations, on the off-chance he even bothered to share them.

“Ah, those," Sam stated as he glanced back towards Leraje. “Haven't had the time to do those, yet," he continued, shrugging his shoulders lightly. Lilith raised an inquisitive brow in his direction.

“Since when has Sam ever not had the time to do drugs?" she asked, causing Samael to frown slightly.

“Since Sam's been too busy," he retorted, aware that he was referring to himself in third person. She huffed slightly, and Sam knew she didn't buy it for a second, however; it wasn't her concern. She wasn't his mother; he didn't have to tell her shit if he didn't want to.

“Well, make sure you take them, eventually. The data on those will help with the pricing and also whether or not they're worth putting on the market."

“Why do you care?" Sam shot back, raising a curious brow. She blinked at him, glanced at Leraje, and shrugged her shoulders.

“I don't. It just makes things easier."

“Whatever you say, Lil."