Shinu held the orb up and stared at it quietly. Ever since he'd acquired the scrying orb, he'd had little idea how to use it. He'd never really placed emphasis or need of the object, but he still was perplexed by it from time to time. The former Master of Darkness rose and placed the orb within his suit jacket pocket, where it seemed to simply vanish.
Shinu wore a gray suit with a black vest and red tie beneath it. He wore a hood over his head, obscuring the upper parts of his face and mildly concealing his grayish colored skin. He wore a pair of black gloves that he adjusted quietly as he walked towards the others. They'd found some... ne'er-do-wells and decided to... punish them. The slosh of jungle land beneath his boots told the other two it was time to stop having fun and end whatever they were doing.
Blood splattered against a nearby tree next to Shinu as a spear of purple-pink energy stuck through the back of one of the men. The man gurgled and bled for a second before Emile stabbed another energy spear through the back of his head. "Wonton murder does make my mornings so much better," the woman stated with a smile.
Emile's hands were covered in what appeared to be scale plated gauntlets with large gems set in the center of the palm and back of the hand. The black scales had a metallic luster, but seemed to be purely alive. The gems were the same color as the spears that Emile had created and seemed to be overflowing with energy.
"So, what took you so long, boss?" the purple-haired woman asked. Her right arm had developed scales that looked strikingly like the ones on her gauntlets. The right side of her face's skin had become warped by the demonic magic that allowed her to control her energy, causing part of her face to become very pale with pink-purple veins. Emile crossed her arms and chuckled. "I guess you've got something?"
Screams of torment continued for another few seconds from a few feet over as a large burst of blood blurted into the sky for a second before coming down. From the darkness, a man wearing a masquerade mask stepped forwards. The mask covered his eyes, making them seem to be a dead, white color. A cloak dark as night flowed around him, covering the black colored matador attire beneath. Luca's long, black hair flowed in the wind for a second as he held his hand up.
Long, shimmering red claws extended from his normal nails and glinted in the sunlight as he licked a bit of blood from them. "Why have you returned?" the assassin asked, unable to hide the strong accent he still had. "Are we finally going to kill that Vossler man. You told me should I aid you, revenge will be mine!"
A spear formed in Emile's hand as she turned to face Luca. "Leos is our first goal!" the lancer stated as a second spear appeared in her other hand. "It was what I was promised."
Shinu sighed and punched the two over the back of their heads. "Shut up, both of you. You'll have your chance for revenge on those two. Right now, though, we need to lure them out of this world. There are too many forces even Zorlo couldn't complain what I stole from his notes."
"So what is the plan then?"
Shinu smirked darkly, revealing a few of the dagger-like teeth in his head. "That's exactly what I wanted to hear," the gray-man stated as he looked at them. "My plan involves using someone who would be an unwilling part of the plan, but she'll do well," the former Master of Darkness stated as he removed a vial of some liquid and dropped it into a nearby blood puddle. Slowly, Selene's face formed and Shinu laughed. "We're going to kidnap this woman. It will lure Zorlo's associates, your enemies, to us. If we're really lucky, it will attract the green-haired man himself. Today could be very good with for us."
With that, queue the evil laugh track!
A strong wind blew through Rubato. There wasn't anything magical or natural about this wind. It made the very sands unsettle at first. A great power began to coalesce and reform itself in these ancient sands. Gale force, green winds began to gather together and form an outline of a body. Slowly, the figure took its true form. Bone, muscle, flesh and clothing formed from the aura that now rushed into this world.
In a powerful flash, the figure's true form was revealed.
Monroe looked up from what he was reading over in the living room and moved over to a window. "He's back..."
Zachary continued to look through the different books that he and Ari had been given for planning their wedding and still couldn't quite decide what he thought looked good. In truth, he didn't really understand any of what most of the stuff was. Still, a powerful feeling drew him towards the window. "ZORLO'S BACK!" Zachary said as he got slightly excited.
As for the man who was forming, he now found himself puking into a small fissure in the sand he'd created to cover it up afterwards. "Okay, boundary jumping is disorienting. Just because I CAN do it, doesn't mean I SHOULD do it yet. Still, it was a good, if not rather trippy, experience. Now then, where is everyone?" Zorlo asked as he scratched the back of his head and stood up, looking around. "I've gotta go and try to set things right."
The blonde angel leaned over the path of sand outside her friend's home and wiped some sweat from her brow, adjusting the floppy sunhat on her head. Working in the garden helped, when she wanted to be alone, helped to give her time to think.
The people had given her such strange looks when she'd bought the flowers, and a few had even laughed behind her back. Her cheeks flushed as she dug deeper into the sand and tried to make the hole remain big enough for the sprouts. Sand was so much more difficult to work with than soil. Perhaps flowers weren't meant to grow here, no matter how hard she tried. Perhaps sometimes things just didn't work out the way you wanted.
Like me. She thought. She'd never imagined, when she'd first been banished to earth and taken refuge in that forest, that she would have met a man with green hair. A man named Zorlo. A man she'd fallen in love with, almost too quickly. They'd been through so much, built up each other, each other's powers, and he'd finally proposed.
But all that had been only a small sample of the trials to come. She'd wanted to settle down, to have children, to be as in love with the man that she wanted to marry as he was with her. And that... was not the truth with Zorlo. He was always gone, lost in his mass of power he could barely understand himself. He had responsibilities; he had decisions to make which affected everyone. Then had come Kichaa.
Oh, Kichaa. A man who went by many names, many lives. Michael, Kichaa, whatever it was he was called, she had truly loved him, and felt, unlike she did with Zorlo, that he truly loved her in return. But again, things turned sour, and Kichaa was lost to the never-unclenching grip of death.
Zorlo had proposed. She had accepted. Why shouldn't she accept? He had always claimed he'd loved her. And she'd felt the same, once. Wasn't that enough?
She firmly pressed another flower down into a hole and broke the roots.
They were married for shorter than she'd ever heard from any other soul. War. War was the reason, brought on in the last place anyone would have thought. They had fought, side by side, but death was not finished toying with her life, and went on to claim Zorlo. Without a word of how much he loved her, he'd gone. She'd never felt so brokenhearted. As months passed, and her children grew inside her, she'd lost more and more of the will to live. Even now, she still was not over her depression. She knew that. But Cadenza, pregnant without a husband of her own, much like Selene, made her realize she had to be just as strong as her best friend had been for her. So she kept her feelings to herself.
Paris... He had been handsome. He looked like a good provider. But who would want her now? Who would want a woman with two children, two babies? She was a woman with no past to speak of, no present life, and no sign of a future. And that didn't look like it was going to change.
LIfe is never easy. Not for mortals, not for gods. Everything is a twisted joke perpetuated from the source of all things. The energy that brought the multiverse into existence. From that power comes existence and life. The only difference between mortals and gods is that gods have less direct control over fate. Never question purpose, Zorlo. Fate is written by the infinite, but the free will of beings is equally as measurable. No matter what you decide, remember that.
Zorlo heard Victus' voice so clearly... so crisply. The God of Life Aura had told him these things in hopes of restoring some faith in the Aura Master's comprehension of things... but it had failed. Any sense of fate or free will had fallen on deaf ears for Zorlo. There could be no great power that cared so long as revenge was not attainable. Still, despite the green-haired man's frustration, he accepted he had one action he had to take. He needed to seek some form of redemption. He also had to face one of the people he felt most betrayed by... and that person wasn't Selene.
As the Aura Master looked up, he could feel it... two sets of eyes had noticed him, if no one else. They would be upon him shortly...
Magic comes, and magic goes. The flow of magic is different from world to world, but some things are still certain. Gods are gods. Even outside of their domain, they are more powerful than mortals. There are also quasi-gods, who have some amount of divinity or something akin to it. These are the powers that true mages seek to gain. But how? What is the secret to this power?
Shinu closed the book as the ancient magic runes around his eyes vanished. "Hmm... that man was right. This magic does allow me to read this encrypted magical writing. The words of his master ring true, though. True power comes not from being a slave, but from being a master. It is such power that must be attained," the dark man stated as he and his servants ceased their movement.
The runes spun out from his pupil and covered his eye as he took note of the powerful barrier before him. "That gypsy woman is as clever as Zorlo believed. If that idiot were here, he'd be able to crack this with enough time, but at this moment, these magics are a bit more advanced than my current capabilities could handle," the former dark lord stated as the runes vanished.
He reached into his suit jacket and removed a small device that looked like a whistle and smiled at it.
Luca stared at the object and smiled twistedly. "The Ghost Sound whistle. A terrifying object, truly," the assassin stated as he extended his claws slightly.
Emile shrugged. "I still think we should just go all in... however, if the boss wants to do things his way, I'd say that's whatever."
Shinu laughed as he looked at Emile, who was now sitting quietly and tinkering with something she'd stolen off one of the men the team had killed. "Well, let me show you why this will work," Shinu stated as he blew the whistle and a sound began to echo out from it.
In the garden, Selene could hear something unusual. It sounded like ZOrlo's voice, attempting to reach out to her. The most peculiar thing was that no one else seemed to notice it. The voice spoke, warm and soothing as it reached her, "Selene... I've returned... and I've returned to seek forgiveness... I shouldn't have left," she heard in an eerie, ghostly whisper.
Luca and Emile watched the house. They were already taking bets on how long this trick would take.
Cadenza sighed at the kitchen window, and looked to her father.
"How long has she been out there...?"
"Today? About an hour, at least... she seems very determined this time."
"But we've told her we've tried with plants here before. I even tried with magic, with help from other people. Nothing worked."
"Perhaps it's not simply the end results she's interested in. Maybe it's... maybe it's the struggle, hija. The effort to make something work despite the odds. Maybe there's something therapeutic about it for her..."
Nothing is ever going to flower here, Selene... I've had that dream. That dream died a long time ago. But you keep going out in that hot sun anyway... how long can you last in the desert? You're used to Heaven, to forests, to green...
She sighed again and turned away from the sight of her friend out there, all alone, trying to garden. The dragons had watched her for a while, but when it became clear that what Selene was planting wasn't all that tasty to eat, they left her alone and went to find some shade to nap in. It was another miserably dry, sweltering day in the desert, and for those not used to it, it could be like an arid hell.
Cadenza was just about to go fetch Selene a bottle of ice cold water from the fridge when she felt the gathering of presences, like the tickling, light, crawling touch of an insect's legs on skin to her senses. Three of them, yes, and from the way the harmonics of her wards were reacting, they did not have the bead of life energy within them that would signal someone native to her world. Are they coming for me...? I can't think of any specific enemies I'd have that would come in a group of three... but then...
She turned back to look at her friend in the backyard. A moment's panic hammered through her heart, like cold lead, and her father could read the tension in her posture, the worry in her eyes.
"Stay inside the house..." she said, infusing the words with her will, "make sure Kate and Selene's children stay inside the house. I'll come back when I'm sure something is okay."
"Hija, what's going--"
"Por favor, Pai... just do that for me... it may be nothing. But I have to be sure."
His daughter left him then to go upstairs, and when she came back, she was pulling a shirt back on over her mythril armor, her mage cloak was draped on her shoulders, and her gunblade was slung on her back.
"Is it that serious...?" Galliard looked at her, a soft frown on his lips, the concern making him look a little closer to his years.
"I'm not sure... but it could be. I don't want to take any chances," was all she offered, before opening the sliding door, and heading outside to her friend.
Selene... I've returned... and I've returned to seek forgiveness... I shouldn't have left...
She looked up, up at the sweltering sun, shading her eyes with a hand and wiping away sweat, working on another plant even if the first flower she'd done already looked droopy. I can still hear him... as clearly as if he were really here... She heard footsteps and looked towards the sound, getting up.
"Cadenza... what's wrong?"
"I feel something..." Her friend gazed off beyond the house, into the distance.
"Something? Is it bad?" Selene tried to read into her own emotions and senses, but found it difficult. Her powers had been muddled, unclear, ever since so much had gone wrong.
"Might be too soon to say, but it's safer to assume yes rather than no... anything nice would have shown itself already and asked for an invite."
"Should I... should I go inside?" she asked her friend, pursing her lips.
"Yes... at least to be safe. The wards are stronger inside the house."
"Alright..." She bent down, gathered the other flowers that had not been planted, and put them in her basket, carrying them as if they were her children inside the home.
Luca's fingers twitched as he listened into the talking. "❤❤❤❤, we've been found. We were a bit too reckless, perhaps," the masked man said as his cloak swirled around him, leaving only his mask revealed for a moment. "We should retreat, Shinu."
The gray-skinned man nodded as he crossed his arms. A circle of magic expanded beneath Shinu as he, Emile and Luca all vanished in a flash. "Perhaps I was too reckless. I'd forgotten bout that woman... FIghting her in this world is suicide. If we're going to deal with these pawns, we need to lure them into a trap," the half-demon stated as his group and he appeared within a dark room with a number of objects upon a table. "After all, everyone knows that the queen is the most deadly piece when trying to slay a king," Shinu stated as Luca and Emile laughed.
From within the Den, only Sakume knew they were there.
A bullet whizzed past Zorlo's face as he shifted slightly. "Well, that's one hell of a greeting," Zorlo stated as he held his arms out as Monroe lowered the massive revolver in his right hand and spun it.
"I'm not greeting you. I'm telling you to get your pretentious green ass out of this world. Me willing, I'll tear you from that throne you so enjoy to look down on us from."
Zorlo chuckled as he crossed his arms and dodged as a blade narrowly missed cutting him again. "Hmm... impressive attack. I see you've refined yourself this time, Zachary," Zorlo stated as he lowered himself and spun his leg in an attempt to trip the ice mage.
Zachary withdrew his spear blade and leapt back, narrowly dodging the kick. "You're going easy on us, I can tell. You don't change," the ice mage stated as he spun his weapon again and began to channel ice magic.
The Aura Master looked at the two who were currently flanking him. "If you two, for any reason, think you're going to win, I'd suggest retreating. I don't WANT to beat the hell out of you two, but I will if you REFUSE to retreat. Consider your next actions quickly. After all, you two don't know what's going wrong while you're here."
MOnroe spun his revolvers and stared at the green-haired man quietly. "I've had enough of you. There's nothing in this world that could possibly piss me off that i couldn't blow up, gut, or break into small pieces easily that's worth me not killing you. Alex and Tracey are safe, 'cuz even if I'm not watching over them, there are others who are equally as powerful alongside me." The technological Quincy gripped his guns as his feet dug into the sand. He had to prepare for this insane battle.
Zachary spun his staff as ice armor formed out of his robe and began to protect him. "I've decided my next step. Now then, let us fight so I can see if its enough to overcome you!" Zachary stated as he charged forward, his spear ready to strike.
Something within the dank den rustled, and out the dark emerged a small girl, appearing to be toddler age, clutching something in one hand. Upon closer inspection, it was revealed to be a hand-stitched ragdoll composed of forestry.
"Daddy?" The girl toddled over, clutching her doll with pretty brownish blonde hair hanging down her back freely.
Shinu waved at his accompanying minions, who left obediently. He rested his hand on top of Triste, his daughter's, head. "What's the matter, dear?"
"What playin?" she asked, leaning over to inspect the figurines of people, among them, Selene, Zorlo, Cadenza, and others.
"I'm not playing anything right now. Do you want to play with the pretty figurines?" he asked his daughter, picking her up and smiling.
"Play!" she exclaimed in response, reaching out and grabbing a figurine in one hand, waving it in the air.
"Triste!" The werewolf approached her daughter, scolding. "I'm sorry, Shinu... did she distract you?"
"Not at all. The morons have their own business to attend to. I figured now would be family time," he told Sakume with a smile as he shifted Triste up and down. "Having fun, sweetie?" he asked his daughter, laughing a bit. He was happy to see someone appreciating the hard work he'd put into sculpting those damned things. Why had he made them again?
"Hi, Daddy," greeted Ricard, coming up to his father fondly.
Shinu swept quickly and picked Ricard up and placed him on the table. "Do you want to play with daddy's figurines as well?" he asked the boy with a smile.
Ricard picked up a figurine he recognized as Shinu, always the most violent and smartest of the group, and started knocking over the other ones with it. "Rawr, rawr, rawr!" he growled playfully.
Shinu laughed and patted Ricard on the head. "Good boy. Now then, where is Vaine? He hasn't said hello yet. Is he all right?" the gray-skinned man asked as he looked at Sakume with some concern.
"Oh he's fine," Sakume responded. "He has a little bit of a fever, but he'll be alright. Vaine, your Daddy is home! Don't you want to say hello?"
The silver-haired toddler wandered forward out of the dark, a little sweaty, but otherwise healthy-looking. "Hi, Daddy," he said, resting his head on his father's knee.
Shinu bent down and picked Vaine up before kissing him on the forehead. "POor Vaine, I"m sorry you're not feeling well. I hope you feel better," he said, nuzzling his son. "If you want to go back to sleep, that's all right. Don't want you getting more sick."
Vaine reached for a figurine and started playing it it, all three children occupied.
"Is the plan going well?" Sakume asked.
Shinu sighed as he held his children. "We had a… set-back. The other moron is finding another suitable servant, but he's characteristically useless… I can't believe how bottom of the barrel I'm having to dig for servants," Shinu muttered as he kissed each of his kids on the head again. "Are you kids having fun?" he asked them, smiling.
The children nodded in response to his question, and Ricard began to playfully scratch and pull at Vaine, the two rolling about in a wrestling tussle.
"Boys, don't hurt each other. And Ricard, don't pick on your brother. He isn't feeling well," Shinu stated firmly as he patted Triste on the head.
"Awww..." Ricard stopped as he was told and wandered back over to the figurines.
"If your brother was feeling better, it would be fine, but you don't want to hurt him or get sick, do you?" Shinu asked firmly, fatherly sounding.
Ricard shook his head.
"So..." Sakume sat down across from her mate. "What's the plan now that the first was set-back?"
The presences receded as soon as Selene was inside. So that was it then. They weren't there for her, but for the angel. The lead feeling in her gut returned, but she shoved it down, and marched back inside the house. The best remedy for her worries was always action. Even with as little as she knew about what was going on, she could take the first step.
When she went back into the kitchen, her pai had left the room, which was just as well. Selene wasn't there either--likely she'd gone back to her own room to return the potted plants there for now. Cadenza settled into one of the chairs by the table and cleared some floorspace. She had to focus if she was going to get this right.
The gypsy closed her eyes and murmured, and a circle of shadow began to form on the floor a few moments later, wide and dim. Inside, three smaller, darker areas appeared after another moment, perfectly alined in the center.
"Shadows," she intoned in a slow, soft, but clear voice, "show me the forms of those who came here. Show me the true shape of their shades."
Under her breath then, she hummed the words to one of her spells, a song that would normally form bodies of shadow to attack a target. But in this case, the energy was instead channeled into the circle, into the three round shadows, until they grew from the floor and began to meld like molten obsidian into spectral figures of hazy, violet energy.
Once the purplish shapes solidified, one dark shade bore a mask that hid his eyes, but when his shade was manipulated with a few gestures to command the spell, it could be slipped away to show a prettyboy's true face. One stared back with the fierce eyes of a scorned, resentful, violent woman. And the third... Gods, really...? He could be Broccoli Head's cousin... Z, what bastard relatives do you have running around out there...?
"Selene...!" she yelled out, pouring enough energy to keep the figures standing there in the circle while she waited, "Can you come over here? I need to see if you can identify some faces for me!"
Shinu sat down and looked at the bored as the pieces placed themselves back to their original positions. "At least THAT part of my plan still works," the dark clad man stated as he looked at his mate. "My goal hasn't changed. I can't defeat that gypsy woman on her turf, and I can't lure Zorlo without that woman. In essence, I have two birds that I need to kill with a single stone... but this stone would have to be planetoid sized to make those two effectively no more," the gray-eyed man stated as he looked at his mate.
"For now, I-' he started saying as an illusory visitor appeared.
"Master," the illusion stated as it adjusted its glasses, "I've found it at last. The one to be a useful piece," the silhouette of a man holding a book stated as it adjusted its glasses.
Shinu nodded. "You have the item, yes? If so, then bind him to it. With that done, we'll have a weapon to fight against that gypsy."
The illusion nodded as it fell apart and vanished from the room.
"Now then, where was I?" Shinu asked as he smiled coyly at Sakume.
On another plane, the illusionary person was flesh and blood. Short, white hair blew in the wind as he clutched a book against his chest. Aside from the plateau he stood upon, a massive crate stood between him and his target. "So, you're the one that man wants to be his pawn. He did save my existence, so I can't say that I'm totally willing to ignore orders. FOr now, I'll play along. I've got plans of my own though, and even Shinu won't stop them from coming to fruition," the magus stated as he adjusted his glasses. "Now its just a matter of time," he stated as he headed into the crater to find its source.
Zorlo backpedaled slightly to avoid a flurry of thrusts and slashed from Zachary. The Aura Master leapt back as the ice mage lowered himself to the ground and spun, throwing a wave of ice spikes forwards through the ground to strike nothing. "Damn," the red-haired youth muttered to himself as he spun his spear and shot off a few ice lances at the air bound Aura Master.
The green-haired man nimbly shifted back and forth to avoid the volley. He kept his gaze focused on the ice lances and spikes, but his ears were ever vigilant for the sound of gunfire. A powerful discharge of electricity made the air thick with static and alerted the fencer of something else.
Zorlo turned slightly as two bullets burst through the left side of his chest at two points, spilling his blood all over the desert sands for a moment. Blood dripped from Zorlo's mouth as he continued to float, spitting up a bit more as he slowly descended towards the ground. "That was... that was..." Zorlo smiled as he stood up and floated back up. "That was exciting. I see you've changed your guns a bit," the green-haired man said as his blood turned into aura and quickly closed up his wounds and rebuilt his destroyed organs.
On the ground, his blood turned into aura that sank into the ground and temporarily caused life to spring up from where it touched before they withered and died.
Monroe opened the chamber of his gun and let the partially melted cases fall from his revolver and quickly reloaded the large gun as the Technological Quincy prepared for his next attack. "God dammit. That's some trick you've got there. Clearly, attacks that would kill a normal person won't kill you... what kind of monster are you?!" Monroe asked, photon energy beginning to flow from his body.
Zachary spun his spear and looked at Monroe. "Monroe, calm down... he was like this before he died... its just more obvious now," the ice mage stated as he clicked the sphere at the end of his staff against the ground and he began chanting.
"What in the world-?" Zorlo asked as he shifted to avoid a pair of bullets from Monroe's double-barreled revolver. "Oh yeah, you," the Aura Master said as he watched the Quincy blur out of sight for a brief second as he began evading quickly against Monroe's flurry of fists and kicks. "I'm not sure what you're doing, Monroe, but at this range, you can't best me," the Aura Master stated as he swept the dark clad man's legs out from under him and elbowed the Technological Quincy in the chest, launching him back into the sand.
"Nice, now try this!" Zachary stated suddenly as a swirling, cold mist formed in front of the ice mage before a barrage of razor sharp blades rushed towards the Aura Master. "We can't lose... I won't let us!"
Selene wandered over to Cadenza, impressed with the magic she saw. "Shadows?"
"Yes... these are the shadows of the people who came near the house. Do you recognize their faces...?"
She studied them for a few moments, lingering on Shinu. "He looks like Zorlo... but not. He doesn't have the kindness... the respect for life."
"But you haven't met him personally..."
"No, not that I recognize," she conceded, frowning softly.
Cadenza looked away and grumbled, waving the shades away, "Mierda... that does nothing for us then. But... just be on the lookout for those three. They may come disgused, but... that's all we've got for now."
"I will. But... why would they want to harm me?" she asked, looking troubled.
"I have no idea... Zorlo had a lot of enemies, Selene. And Michael too... One of them looking like Z can't be a coincidence. You may not still be with him, but they still know he cares for you... They might be looking to hurt him that way."
"Oh Cadenza..." Selene sighed and looked up at the ceiling. "Did I... did I do the right thing?... to Zorlo? What should I do?... I feel... I feel so lost..."
Sakume grinned and shifted so she was in Shinu's lap, running a hand through his hair. "You were saying what an attractive and incredible mate you have..."
"If you're looking for relationship advice, I think you've come to the wrong source," Cadenza said with a wry smile, and after a moment more of study, waved the shades away. They drifted away as if blown by a breeze, disintegrating into so many shreds of energy like fog. "I honestly don't know what to tell you... you tried to follow what you felt... then the world kicked you on your ass again. These kinds of problems..." she waved her hand toward where the circle was fading, "these kinds of things I know. Magic, worry, danger. But love, marriages... gods, that's really where I'm in the dark."
Selene looked at her friend. "Either way, Cadenza... I thank you... for what you've done for me..."
The gypsy only shrugged a shoulder, "I try to do what I can... if you think about it, this entire casa is full of those who were lost before. Avello was an abandoned egg on a mountaintop before I found him... Kate was an orphan, wandering around without a person to care for her... Laurana couldn't remember her family, or where she came from... You might feel alone, but... we do have a ragtag little tribe here," the word made her smile more brightly, "And you have a place here. Anytime."
Shinu nodded sagely. "Yes, yes, that's what I was thinking. What an attractive and intelligent mate I have, and how about-" he paused as the illusionary person reappeared.
"Boss, I've got an update on this guy you made me look for."
"Oh for the love of..." Shinu mumbled as he looked at the illusion. "What the hell could you POSSIBLY need right now?" the wizard asked as he clenched one of his hands very tightly.
"Well... he's kinda... weird?"
Shinu face-palmed. "All right, I'll bite, what do you mean, 'weird'?"
"This guy is kinda... hollow. Like everything that was once important in his life has vanished or something. Are you sure he's what you're looking for."
Shinu laughed out, trying to choke the illusion before he recalled it was an illusion. Coughing and dusting off his clothing, he nodded. "Yes, in fact, that makes this easier. The less will of his own he has, the more powerful the pawn will become. He only needs to be powerful. Use those items I gave you to entrap him and we can do things the EFFECTIVE way."
The illusion nodded and shifted back as the man creating it adjusted his glasses again. "BUt of course. I'll be back momentarily with this person."
With that, the illusion faded.
The dark mage sighed. "Never get a moment of peace, I swear. Its..." Shinu mumbled angrily as he looked at Sakume. "I'm sorry, back to what we were doing... before the idiot brigade returns," Shinu stated as he swept his mate off her feet.
The man adjusted his glasses again as he looked at the man before him. This person was some kind of unusually tall person, that was for certain. He probably stood about six-and-a-half feet tall at maximum height, but perched upon a stone as he was, the broken man was still tall.
"I'm not sure what the boss wants with you... I mean, you're hardly anything but a shell that used to possess a soul. Well, look at the bright side, destroying everything you've ever loved makes your life so much easier," watcher said as he spun around the man, smiling. "It means you can't lose anything else. No one else can take anything from you. All that's left is for you to surrender your will... and that begins... here..." the glasses wearing man stated as he removed a crown and placed it upon the auburn haired man's head and smiled.
"If you're as strong as the boss assesses you are, then you'll be what we need to keep the queen busy while the boss kills the king. I, personally, have no stake in killing these curs. In truth, I don't know a damn one of 'em and ain't none of 'em ever done wrong by me... but orders are orders. And that's how its gotta be for now," the white-haired man said with a smile upon his face as he sat down. Now he'd watch as the magic in that crown made this fight less difficult.
"Just because I can't dodge..." Zorlo stated aura began to swirl around him, "doesn't mean I can't defend myself!" the fencer stated as a powerful surge of aura formed a shield that repelled the ice blades into the ground randomly.
Zachary spun his staff as he shifted and slashed his blade, launching an icy slash at the green-haired man.
Zorlo held his left-index finger out as he slashed with a slightly transformed finger and fired a wave of aura. A powerful clash of the two attacks met for a second before the ice blade fell in snowflakes towards the ground.
The ice mage smiled. "Good enough," he said as he rested the spear against the ground.
A volley of photon arrows began ripping into Zorlo's back and body, scorching and burning at his body with each arrow that struck. Standing on a platform of photon energy, Monroe continued to launch his relentless volley of energy at the Aura Master. "I can't stop... or he can move..." the Technological Quincy stated with a smile.
"Oh really?" Zorlo asked as his head spun around suddenly and his body burst into green wind before reforming on the ground. "That hurt a bit... but defeated... no, just no..." the fencer stated as his body continued smoking. The wounds began to heal and his clothing began to mend as the fencer smiled. "You two learned to work together... and fight against me... how long have I been gone?" Zorlo asked, chuckling.
"I think you're right about our little group... thank you, Cadenza. You've no idea how much it means to me..." She hugged the gypsy, despite knowing how uncomfortable it made her friend feel, and parted a moment after, twiddling her fingers. "I know you don't like that... I'm sorry."
Sakume pursed her lips with a very slight twinge of her lip, proceeding to give some affection to her mate, but parting from him a few moments later, sitting in his lap. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" she asked, her clawed fingers trailing gently along his neck.
"I stopped being sure this was a good idea a while ago, but for now, it's all I've got to keep my busy when I'm not home," Shinu stated with a laugh. "Still, hard as I try, I can't bring myself to accept that this whole event is over. I have to witness an end, if nothing else..." he said, smiling at her. "Anyway, where were we?"
Monroe flew back as the knee struck his chin. Monroe's body slid through the sand as the Technological Quincy attempted to get a grip and stop himself from moving.
Zorlo shifted slightly as Zachary bore down at him with the mage's staff. A flurry of thrusts and stabs met with nothing but cloth or grazing blows as the ice mage attempted to press his advantage. "Take this," the undine stated as he spun around and launched a wall of ice spikes at the fencer in close range.
Zorlo held his left hand out as the flash tore away from it. Revealed beneath was a green, crystalline limb that caught the wall. The Aura Master slid back slightly as he held the wall away, but the shattering of the wall and the scattering of the ice spikes quickly began to cut into the musketeer and tear away at his body.
The green-haired man stumbled back and pulled the ice spikes from himself. The wounds began to heal, although the ice in them slowed that process slightly. "I've gotta be honest, I didn't expect such furious attacks from the two of you. You don't even know why I'm here," Zorlo stated with a smile as a bullet burst on his back.
Monroe held his revolver out and watched as the acid began to erode at Zorlo's flesh. "In fairness, I can't say either of us really care... we're just doing what's natural, Z."
Zachary nodded as he spun his spear and began to channel his magical strength into more specific offenses.
"I guess I'll just have to play more seriously than," the Aura Master stated with a smile. Perhaps they'd actually prove somewhat worth fighting.
"It's okay... I can let that one slide," Cadenza smiled a little, drawing away. "I think I have another idea... if these people are potentially Zorlo's enemies... couldn't Zach maybe recognize them? He was pretty familiar with a lot of the people Z was. And if not him, maybe Vossler might know some of them. Zach's still awful at answering his cell, but if I can't get him, I could ask Ari to get him. You hang on."
She whipped out her cell phone and dialed Zach's number, waiting as it rung.
The phone rang... and it rang... and it kept ringing. The truth of the matter this time was, although Zachary had his phone, it was now covered in sand and being muffled by the shifting desert. It had fallen out of Zachary's pocket at some point in the battle. The ice mage had released from his cloak the thick, metalloid plating of ice he'd sewn into his robe in order to create real armor, but it had made little difference. The armor was now cracked and dented, and the red-haired warrior was laying on the ground, barely conscious. Despite this fact, he still clenched his staff with every once of strength and will he had left, even though the ability to move had faded from him.
Monroe had made it worse for himself. Despite the Technological Quincy's vast array of weapons and tactics, at this point he was utterly overwhelmed by the Aura Master's true power. Consciousness had left the dark-clad man's body minutes ago, yet his body continued to rise to attempt to finish the battle. Each time Monroe attacked, Zorlo knocked him down again with increasingly less and less powerful attacks. All that was left in Monroe's body was the will to fight, even if he had no more strength to do it.
Zorlo spun around and launched an orb of aura that launched Monroe's body into the air for a moment before dropping him back into the sand. With a slight crash, the Quincy lay in the sand, unable to move another step.
The Aura Master sighed as the two finally stopped trying to continue to fight. "I'd forgotten how persistent they are," Zorlo stated as he heard the slight hum of Zachary's ringtone. As he moved the sands with his aura, he moved a bit of his spiritual energy to lift the phone from its resting place. Although the ringing had stopped, the phone did read, "One missed call." With a flip, Zorlo opened Zachary's cellphone and checked who called. "Oh, Cadenza called... its probably important," the Aura Master said with a chuckle as he moved over and placed the cellphone on the unconscious Zachary.
"I'm sure he'll call her back when he wakes up... but what was I doing? I got so caught up fighting those two I totally forgot," Zorlo said as he scratched the back of his head and started walking in a general direction. "I know it had to do with... Hmm..."
"Figures he didn't pick up," Cadenza muttered when the call went to voicemail. But instead of getting a message and a tone, the phone simply cut off. It appeared Zach's voicemail inbox was full, "why does that not surprise me?" she groaned and rolled her eyes, only half talking to Selene. "Guess Vossler might be more reliable. Let's give a try." She chose the man from her contact list, dialed, and waited for an answer.
The phone rung loudly and caused Monroe to shift. Zorlo was nowhere to be seen and the Quincy was still spitting up blood. Moving slightly, the technological genius removed an object from his jacket and tossed it on the ground, causing it to deploy a shield around him as he rolled over, shielded from the sun for now. Monroe pulled his phone from his jacket at the last ring and clicked the button to activate the phone feature of his wrist-computer.
"Vossler... here..." he said painfully as he laid under his barrier, "what do you want, Cadenza?" he asked her, somewhat unhappy about what had just transpired. Somehow, this didn't strike him as a good thing.
"You sound like hell," she said, but didn't give him a chance to reply to that, "but there's worse things going on. Three strangers came to watch my house. They kept their distance but I could sense them, outsiders, not from my world. They came for Selene.
"I've been able to get a hold on their likenesses from their shadows, but I don't recognize any of them. Zorlo's enemies, I thought. Those would be the most likely people to want to do harm to Selene. And I thought maybe you or Zach may be the best people to identify them. Can you get over here and help?" she remembered the pained tone to his voice and added, "Do you need healing? I doubt you'd accept it from me, but heck, if you'll get over here, I'd do what I can."
Monroe cracked his neck as he stood up as the barrier expanded. "I'm fine. Just a bit of light getting my ass kicked. Nothing non-standard," he stated in a clearly sarcastic tone. "I'll pick Zach up and we'll start on our way over there right now. As for healing, I don't need any, but I'm not sure about Zachary," the Quincy stated as he held his hand out and the barrier returned to his hand and deactivated. "WE'll figure it out when he wakes up," Monroe stated as he ended the call and picked Zachary up by the collar of his jacket and started dragging him.
The dark clad man sighed as he started drawing his line in the sand, literally. "Lets go see 'denza, Zach. I'm sure she'll love to hear about this."
Elsewhere, Zorlo had found himself lost again. "Ugh... my head hurts... was it always like this?" the green-haired man asked as he rubbed his eyes and sighed. "My senses are going wild... and I'm not sure why," the Aura Master stated as he thought on the subject. "I just need to get where SElene is... need to work this out..."