It bothered her, that that was the first thought that came to mind when she thought of her sister. But it was something that she decided a long time ago that she could not lie about, even to herself.
She hadn't always been as bad... sure, she was a mean kid, but not a devious criminal kid. There were a few people who turned her that way... for one, her husband, the one she kept secret from us, betrayed us for the sake of. That man I spent thirteen years trying to kill... only for him to die before I ever got the chance to spit in his bloody face. But he wasn't the only one... no, if you followed the twisted branches of that family tree, there was someone worse. Cassandra Feluja-Dionne... that old lady had been around for ages, even before Cernilia was its own country. They said she used to run the mob, but she gave it up when she got sick... when Viv met her, things changed... she changed. She started talking criminal empires... her treatment of us got worse. That old lady lit the flames of Anton and Vivace's ambitions...
...and now she wants Alex.
The cool wall of the hot tub stirred Cadenza from her thoughts. She leaned back against the tiles, sinking further down into the warm steamy water, letting the day's bruises and aches melt away, as she wished her worries could. Rain had been away for a few days, training Zach at the boy's request, and she missed him. During those few days, whenever Kate was away spending time with Louis, Cadenza would keep busy training Alessandra. The girl was enthusiastic and insistent, and she learned well and fast. She already knew more spells than the gypsy herself had at that age. But today, she had come eager to learn something else, eager to show her aunt a letter she had received from her grandmother on the other side of her family...
She'd had questions and questions about her mother and grandmother Dionne that she said no one else would answer. Arietta sugarcoated things, Algretta ignored her, and she wanted to come to somebody who'd tell it to her straight, like she knew she could count on her Tia Cadenza to. What was she supposed to tell the girl, that she hated her mother? She'd read over the letter, bit back her curses, and told the girl to go home for the day and show the letter to her father. She would come around the next day to discuss it with both him and her, she promised the girl. First, she needed time to think...
"Dear nieta," it had started. That was a load of camel's crap from the very beginning, Cadenza thought when she read it. If Alex had really been dear to this old hag, the girl never would have spent years wandering alone in the desert without a family.
But anyway, it went on. "How are you? (Like she cared, Cadenza had grumbled.) Your old abuela misses you very much, I haven't seen you since you were a little baby. As one gets older, one gets a little more sentimental... I wish I had visited you more often. It seems like time has slipped through my fingers. Abuela has been ill, but she is feeling much better, and I have finally set aside a little zecca to come and visit you in Rubato. Wouldn't you like that? I will be sure to bring you many nice gifts and photos from Cernilia. You would love it there, I think. I know your home is in Rubato though. Please, mark the weeks until my visit--I am planning to come on the 22nd. It should be a pleasant visit for the both of us.
Beijos y abrazos,
Your abuela Cassandra
Alex was fawning over the letter--the "first letter she'd ever gotten", she kept gushing, clutching the envelope. It made her feel important. But Cadenza hadn't trusted a single bit, down to the little teddy bear stamp on the envelope that was probably meant to show that the old lady liked cute things or something stupid and sweet like that. She kept rereading the letter for hidden clues... some sort of implied meaning, but there wasn't enough yet. She'd have to consider it longer. But for now, she would talk to Monroe, and... wait for the 22nd, maybe.
She hated waiting when she knew bad things were coming.
OoC: Rubatoian to English dictionary for anyone who's reading--
nieta = granddaughter
abuela = grandmother
tia = aunt
zecca = the form of currency used in Rubato
beijos = kisses
abrazos = hugs
Monroe looked at the reports in disbelief. He had been keeping tabs on them using his resources at the Dome, but this was something he couldn't believe. The Quincy crumpled up the report he held tightly and tossed it against the wall. "DAMMIT!" he muttered. The Dionnes had crossed into Rubato, and now it was only a matter of time before they arrived. Before even seeing Alex's letter from Cassandra, the dark clad man knew what this visit was really about.
Even more anger began to flow at breakfast. Making the food had helped the former assassin to calm down and feeding his family always made him feel better, however, the letter Alex seemed to faun over bothered him a little bit. "Alex, you got a letter I see," Monroe said with a smile.
"Aye! That I did, dad! Abuela is coming to visit me!" she said enthusiastically as she thrust the letter into the man's hands. "Read it! I'm really excited," the girl said, almost dancing in her chair.
"They are?" Tracey asked, quirking an eyebrow. Unlike most mornings, the detective seemed to actually be awake. "Well that's-" the woman half said before she yawned, "nice."
Elea looked at Monroe, who had to hold back the physical shaking and twitching of his eye from the shear anger that had filled him to the brink. "Are you okay, dad?" Elea asked, blinking her eyes at him.
Monroe nodded, although it was mostly roboticly, as he continued to read the letter. "I'm fine, Snowflake. Don't worry about me," he said, range built to the point where he almost wanted to blow something up to help him alleviate his pent up rage.
"Dad, you're shaking," Alex said as he handed her back the letter.
"I'll be fine," he told her. "What else did your aunt tell you?" the Quincy asked her, smiling at the young gypsy.
o=)------------ Zachary -----------(=o
He had been gone for one week. Seven days. A quarter of a month, or a fifth depending on what month. Still, guilt and sorrow filled his heart. He had been so wrong about so much... and yet, there was still time. Just like he had been told, even the greatest fools have time to redeem themselves. This was his chance to finally acknowledge that what he had done was wrong.
The Replicator stepped onto the porch of the house and moved towards the door, resting his hand against it and knocking a few times. He had to make things right. He had to change himself. If not, he would end up like Zorlo: dead with everyone cursing his name.
Maybe she should have eaten breakfast, but it didn't seem like there was time. Alex was probably up and had already shown Monroe the letter... the Dionnes might have even been on their way. The 22nd wasn't too far off, just a few days...
They were obviously already prepared well in advance. So if Monroe and her were to stand a chance against whatever they were going to do... and she had plenty of ideas of what they might do, they too needed to catch up and at least be prepared a few days ahead.
As she made her way through the streets to her niece's house, she ran her memories of the Dionnes through her mind once more time. There was... Alejandro Dionne, he would be... Alex's grandpa. Part of the girl's name had come from him... there was no Madrigal influence in her name. Vivace had written out that part of her family by then. The old man had died some time ago, under questionable circumstances. She still remembered the story in the newspapers, with all the vague details, and police officers refusing to comment. She'd always had her doubts about that death.
Then there was Cassandra. The very thought of that woman still made her blood boil. She was said to have magic like Anton's, but was far more experienced, far more advanced... was the face the woman wore now her original one? Cadenza couldn't imagine how many bodies the old hag had stolen over the years...
And wasn't there one more? Algretta had mentioned once... that if they ever fought Anton--what a joke that was, Vivace had never intended to really let the sisters fight him, as much as she pretended to be "after the man who betrayed Pai"--that there was another person who would give them trouble. An older brother. His name escaped her memory right now, but she had recalled stories... stories told in Cernilia, of a man with inhuman strength and the same gray eyes as that bastard Anton. Would this brother be coming too...? She felt there was a pretty good bet that he would.
Cadenza looked up from the sand at her feet, seeing that she'd already walked the route to Alex's house, almost by memory alone. Her stomach gave a small grumble, but she shrugged that off right now... she could eat later. There were things that had to be settled first. Before she could even raise her hand to knock, her niece swung open the door with an excited smile to greet her.
"Tia 'denza, you came, you came! Come in for breakfast, Dad's in the kitchen!"
From the kitchen, there was the sound of someone's knees slamming into the table as Tracey sprang up a little reflexively at the name, grasping her net-gun. "S-sorry, guys," she apologized to Monroe and Elea for knocking over a glass of milk, and sat back down, a little embarrassed. "Old cop instincts die hard."
Cadenza and Alex just exchanged a glance, and a chuckle at the same time, and identified the noise without a doubt, "Tracey." Then the gypsy shook her head at the thought of the over-eager detective and stepped inside out of the glaring heat.
Across town, another house was getting a visitor too. It was a young man who had not graced that doorstep in a little while.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
The sound of the fist rapping against the door was a little difficult for most to pick out from amongst the sounds of Algretta and Galliard's usual hammering and tinkering with gadgets, but Arietta had a trained ear. She put down her sewing on the end table, gave a little sigh, and strode over to answer.
There were only a few people who would brave the Madrigal porch and survive. She didn't bother asking who it was.
"Hola," she said warmly, as the door swung open. And her mouth opened in a gasp when she saw her boyfriend standing there before her, an apologetic look on his face.
Monroe sighed. "Of all... Don't worry about it Tracey, just keep in mind she's our friend now. Friend," he said the word slowly, trying to beat the fact in. "Now then, Cadenza, Alex is excited, so I'm guessing she forgot to tell us something," Monroe said as he looked at Alex with narrow eyes filled with a fake sense of "Why didn't you tell me."
Alex rubbed the back of her head as everyone heard the sound of Cadenza's stomach grumbling. "Come in, get some food," the dark clad man said as he pushed the gypsy a dish of food. The shadow mage looked at it and pushed it away. "Don't worry, Cadenza, it isn't poisoned. I wouldn't do that kind of thing to someone like you. No honor in that."
The gypsy looked at him again before grabbing the plate and starting to eat the food, still cautious, making sure that the food wasn't terrible too. Her eyes looked at him again briefly as she ate his cooking carefully. Tracey watched in awe at this. She hadn't seen the two former enemies so peaceful. Perhaps the only people there that weren't surprised were Elea, who knew little of Monroe and Cadenza's state of affairs, and Alex who had been... somewhat uninformed on them.
"Anyway, I know you want to talk, so follow me after you get done eating," he said, heading into the living room area. For now, he'd bide his time and await Cadenza. Then he would show her his laboratory/library/training room beneath the house.
Zachary looked at the woman as he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her back. "I'm so sorry... I've been so selfish this whole time. I've only been thinking of myself... and not about you. With as much as I told myself I wasn't like Zorlo... I was like him in every way. I left you here to sit and wait for me. What if I died? What if something happened here? I didn't think of these things... and I'm sorry."
It was strange for him. Thinking at that point about how long he had told himself that he had been something that he hoped not to be. It wasn't until he found himself in the wrong that it occurred to him all of the transgressions he had made.
"I know saying I'm sorry doesn't change anything, so I'm going to make a vow to you," he told her, brushing her hair back. She looked into his eyes, her eyes tearing up a little bit. "I'm going to work less hours and leave home less. I want to spend more time with you and get better at being your boyfriend and not just some house moocher," he told her, smiling. "I promise it. Still, there is one more person I need to apologize to. I just hope I see her soon, but for now, why don't we spend some time together?" he asked her, smiling back at her.
"I'm ready to listen now, and do what you need me to do to help you out."
Monroe could... cook. This came as a bit of a surprise--she had never pictured him as... domestic before. But sure enough, that's how he looked, serving up breakfast and walking around comfortably in his house, like he was really at home there. She had always imagined him being more like... a wild dog in a cage, staying in a normal house, but... now, she could almost picturing him wearing some cheesy pink apron and baking sugar cookies.
She laughed a little to herself, deciding to file away that joke for later, and finished up her meal, inspecting the mug of coffee for any strange substances around the rim before she finally accepted that Monroe wasn't out to kill her that way either, and guzzled it down. Tracey watched her like a hawk as she went over and placed the cup in the sink, running a little water to clean it.
"You know, I'm not going to try to rob you guys right in front of you," Cadenza said.
"I know," the redhead shot back a little defensively, and tried to relax. Elea just watched them, a little confused.
The gypsy sighed and followed Alex and Monroe into where they waited in the living room, wondering what the Quincy intended to show her. He seemed like he already knew about the letter, and had something up his sleeve, as he usually did.
"So what's up, Vossler? I think we both know the score. A certain... visitor's coming to town. Visitors, I suspect, if I know anything about that family."
Alex's eyes lit up at the idea of even more guests coming to see her. Both Monroe and Cadenza noticed.
"Maybe we... should tell Alex to wait in the kitchen with Red and her sister until we're ready to talk to her too," the girl's aunt suggested.
He was going to stay at home more? Really...? Arietta couldn't believe it--and already, she was excited for the days to come. Zach was the one thing that made her life more interesting, that rescued her from the humdrum routine of looking after Luminari or cooking for 'gretta and her dad, or just generally trying to keep the house in working order. If she could get to see him more, and even get his help with chores... it'd be such a wonderful change.
"Weeell..." she said, and she gave him a teasing, almost evil smile just to make him worry about what awful chore she was going to give him, "you could start by making lunch, honey."
She pointed him towards where she kept the apron hanging by the kitchen entrance, and giggled.
Monroe sighed and nodded. "Alex, please go into the kitchen with Tracey and Elea. I'll tell you exactly what's going on after I talk to your Tia. She and I have important stuff to discuss."
Alex crossed her arms and seemed disappointed. "No! If you won't tell me, that means I need to worry. If its about my Abuela, then I wanna be here to listen!" she protested, giving him a firm look as she spoke to her father.
"I'll make a deal with you. I'll tell you something interesting if you agree to go into the kitchen. I can tell you most of what your Tia and I are going to talk about."
"Okay, but only if you promise to tell me more later," she said, smiling triumphantly.
"Your uncle is coming with your grandmother to pay you a visit," he told her, smiling slightly.
"Tio Enrico? Really? Yay!" she said, smiling widely as she skipped into the kitchen.
Cadenza looked at the man for a moment with narrow eyes. "How did you know that?" the gypsy asked, keeping a firm tone as she spoke.
Monroe placed his hand onto a candle stick holder mounted to the wall and pulled it, causing a door to the wall in front of them to open. "I'll explain it all down here," he told her, entering into his secret underground lair.
The shadow mage hesitated for a moment, but elected to follow, figuring that he wouldn't try anything too awful. After all, if he wouldn't poison her, what was the worst he could really do. She moved past the door, which slowly sealed itself behind her, and followed the flight of stairs down into the basement level and was shocked at what she saw.
Through one door, a laboratory. Through another, a massive library. Through the third, center door, the laboratory being to the left of the main room past the stairs and the library being to the right, she saw what looked like a desk and work space. "So... you have a secret underground lair. Real creative Monroe," the woman shot unenthusiastically as she followed him into his workspace.
"I don't care what you think," he said, handing her some photographs. "These are photos of Cassandra and Enrico Dionne passing into Rubato this morning. They're headed here, as you know, and I'm guessing it has something to do with the Dionne's family power. Mind explaining to me exactly how their powers work, since Zorlo's notes are a little... skimp... I guess, on that subject?" the Quincy asked.
Zachary smiled at her and nodded. "Of course. I may not know very much about cooking, but I'll do my best," he told her as she led him over to where the aprons were. He placed on an apron and began to do as she asked of him, cutting vegetables, heating up water, and any other number of things. Even if he wasn't the most skilled at anything, he was a fast learner, and before long, he had even made some very basic bits of food for Arietta.
"Your lunch, milady," he said with a smile as he served it to her. Although he was a little scared the food would be rather bland or tasteless, he knew it would take time to learn. Aside from that, though, he started to work on his own food. "I'm sorry I left for so long," he told her, sighing. "However, that trip helped me to find myself and correct my ways of thinking on some things. I'll talk to Master tomorrow and tell him I need to work less so I can spend more time at home. I'm sure he won't mind, since he keeps telling me I need to take it easier," he told her, smiling.
Still, something in the pit of his stomach told him something was wrong. Something was very wrong, but he couldn't tell what. Still, the ice mage pushed that feeling aside and smiled at Arietta. "So, what were you up to while I was gone? And how was home?"
Alex seemed giddy beforehand, but now it was like she was going to bounce off the walls in excitement. She was still holding the letter, and actually started to jump around a bit, but Elea wasn't paying attention to her anymore. Her sight drifted out of focus as Alex began to talk with Tracey.
Something's not ok... Monroe was shaking, and it wasn't due him being cold, either. ...I've seen my real family argue, and father shook sometimes when he was angry... It has to be something about that letter. Then, Cadenza came here and then left into Monroe's lab. Elea had stopped eating her breakfast as she sat there thinking, Definitely, something's wrong... might by about her family... but are they like my own actual family... or is it just her grandmother...?
The ice mage felt a shiver run down her spine, before hearing Hydra speaking in her head, even though it was upstairs in her room. I don't like what I'm sensing nearby... you are right, Monroe's angered by the letter... Over time she'd gained a small connection with Hydra, and actually began to hear her father, Deacon, as well.
Finding out the Hydra actually had her father's spirit, even though it was actually in his own sword kind of frightened her in the beginning, but it helped to calm down the depression she was in -- even though it's still lingering a bit nowadays. Still, I want to help... but I need to know what's going on, but I'm not going to Blitz into his lab in order to find out...
First he was a chef, and now he was a mad scientist with an underground laboratory. Cadenza didn't know what new side of Monroe to expect next--maybe he'd start writing poetry and skipping among daisies? The gods only knew.
"Mind explaining to me exactly how their powers work, since Zorlo's notes are a little... skimp... I guess, on that subject?"
She shook her head, tuning back in from her little amusing mental image in time to hear his question. "Their powers...? Well... you ever see that movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers? The Dionnes always reminded me of that--they copy someone's appearance, and sometimes kill them, just like the movie. But Cassandra's a little different. She doesn't just copy your looks, she copies your powers--and when she does, you're stuck with her old catcher's mitt of a face. She swaps bodies with you, and takes all the powers. The only way to get them back is for her to be killed and for another of those body snatching Dionnes to switch you back using some item that has a trace of your DNA on it."
Monroe started to add these things to the notes he had as he took it all in. The prospect of having his body stolen by an old withered woman clearly unsettled him a bit, from the way he shifted in his chair, a frown on his stern face.
"The old woman... obviously she's here to switch with Alessandra. She's old, the girl's young, she's sick, Alex is healthy. So for Alex's sake, we're gonna have to convince the old puta that one of us is a better target for her body swapping. Brag about your powers--this is the time to act like you've got a big ego, Monroe. Pretend you're actually worth something, ya know? Aside from just being a decent cook."
"I'll have you know that--"
"--yeah yeah, blah blah, deny it however you want. Anyway, as for Enrico, he's said not to have any magic."
"But... what? There has to be something."
The gypsy nodded, "No magic, but he's supposedly got inhuman strength and stamina. I'm guessing he's none too slow, either. He's like a... cómo se dice... ah, juggernaut, you could say."
"Eleeeea, guess what, guess what?"
Alex waved her letter before the other girl's face, bouncing up and down in her chair as Tracey tried to steady her cup of coffee through the tremors of the table.
"My grandma and uncle are coming! And Dad's gonna tell me all about stuff when he and Tia come back! I get to know secrets and have visitors, isn't that cool?"
"Please, stop shaking the table," Tracey pleaded with her after the eighth bounce. The detective seemed to be focusing on something other than her coffee, though--little did either of the girls know, but she regularly planted tiny listening devices, or rather, "bugs", to listen in on things on each of the family members every morning when she hugged them, and right now, she was trying to eavesdrop on Monroe through his. She couldn't help it... she was a curious person by nature. And she loved to know what was going on whenever possible. But right now... all she was getting was static through the earpiece on her goggles.
Oh darn it, did he pick his off again? Aagh, now how am I going to figure out what's really going on with this visiting situation?
OoC: Rubatoian to English dictionary--
puta = b*tch
cómo se dice = how do you say
Monroe flicked a small, disk like object as Cadenza spoke and smiled a little bit. A body snatching hag and her will less son. What better pair could Monroe look to beat the snot out of. "Well, I know all I need to know," he said as he caught the disk and tossed it around his back into his other hand. "Now then, there is one minor thing I need to address. One last party that need be made privy to our bit of business."
Monroe tossed the small device into the air before catching it again and crushing it in his hand. Tracey had a tendency to eavesdrop using the device she had custom made. It did help her prevent Alex and Elea from doing bad things, so she could always be the moral figure. As for Monroe, he had never once been fooled. Unlike some, he kept secrets from Tracey that were in her best interest not to know. Namely, things like this affair.
The Quincy knew that if the detective had a chance to reel in Cassandra and Enrico Dionne, both wanted criminals in Cernilia, and that would draw her, probably recklessly, to go reel the two criminals in. Still, Monroe had learned first hand how hard it was to keep people safe while fighting someone else. No easy task. So, instead, he'd have to find a way to keep Tracey or Alex from getting involved.
As for Elea, the dark clad man already knew what she would try to do. She could know, because he could trust her not to want to get involved. Still, the deep thought that Monroe had put into this had rather stopped him from acting and, for the love of God, Cadenza was saying something.
"Sorry, got lost in thought. You were saying?"
"Now I understand how you put up with red," she murmured in response. "Anyway, you were going to go tell Zachary what's going on. Anyway, how do you even know where he is?" the woman asked, narrowing her eyes at him.
The Quincy tossed the remains of the broken device over his shoulder as he headed upstairs, Cadenza following him, and silently moved upstairs into his room. "Dad! You've got secrets to tell me when you get down!" Alex called up the stairs. He had agreed to tell her what was going on, but there was someone else who could do that.
Monroe headed onto the roof and looked into a small series of cages that housed several pigeons in them. "Carrier pigeons," he said, smiling as he opened a door and reached his hand in, grabbing a rather healthy looking one. "Wotan, carry this to Arietta's house," he told the pigeon as he attached a note to the bird's foot and it flew off. "God speed!" he said, looking at Cadenza.
"Why not just use the phone?" the gypsy asked.
"This is more dramatic," was the only response to her. "Anyway, you need to go explain to Alex what's going on, since this is a feud between your family and the Dionnes. My only business with it is keeping my daughter safe. I'm heading to head them off, so you can tell her what's going on and catch up... when you get the time."
"As for Wotan... he'll reach Zach before the end of the day," the archer commented as he smiled. "Anyway, I know Zach is home because I saw him the day before the last day of his and Rain's training. Rain should be home by now too, so go say hi. Relax. I can take this old lady and her lap dog."
Alex was waiting for her when she got to the kitchen, with big, innocent, expectant hazel eyes. Oh boy, how was she going to explain to the girl that her grandmother was out to steal her youth...? How did you break news like that to an impressionable eight-year old?
...That's just it. You don't. At least, not until the danger is over.
Cadenza gave her a half-hearted smile and began to speak before Alex could even ask her question, "I know you normally expect your Tia 'denza to tell things to you straight, but this time... well, I still will. And the bare, honest truth is: I won't tell you what's going on. I don't care how much you ask, right now, I'll lie. You just can't know."
Her niece began to protest and pout, but the seriousness of her aunt was getting to her. She subsided a little in her complaining, and let the woman go on as the older gypsy placed a supportive, but authoritative hand on each of Alex's shoulders. "All right, escucha me--you're going to go with Red and your sister to my house, to meet Rain when I call you to tell you to. From there, I want you all to go to my pai's house and enter the bunker underneath the basement. The... the passcode is... stupid, but... it's the first letter of each word in the first sentence I ever said... 'Pai, quiero un abrazo agora' ...do you know what that means? Can you remember it?"
"Mhm! It means... uh... 'Daddy, I want a hug now'! Those were your first words...? That's cute, Tia." The girl was about to giggle, but the laughter faded under Cadenza's stern glare.
"...Right. So the passcode is the first letter of each word in that--'PQUAA'."
"Pee-quah, got it." There was another little giggle from Alex at the word "pee" that died away under the glare.
"When you get inside, do not, for any reason, open the door for anyone unless it's Monroe or me. Even then, I want you to ask whichever one of us it is a question that only we would know the answer to. For me... ask what was the day that I adopted Kate. Only I should know that. The answer will be October 20th. For Monroe... I don't know, ask him what your favorite food is or something. With all his cooking, and all your eating, he should know that. Got it?"
"Yeah! I'll remember all of it, I promise!" the girl gave a little salute, enjoying feeling responsible for something big, even if she was still worried and curious about what was going on. Her aunt patted her on the head, and told her to run along as quickly as she could.
Cadenza herself was about to go on her way to catch up with her boyfriend Rain, who she'd missed dearly while he was gone, and then... well then, the problem of the Dionnes would not fade away so easily. Monroe, she knew, was going to need help.
A few hours later, Cadenza showered and left her house, at a sprint. She had called Alex, and the girl and Elea and Tracey were now heading towards the house to meet with Rain and go to the bunker. Things were going according to plan. That was, assuming Monroe hadn't screwed up yet.
Cadenza ran even faster, through the shadows, hoping to catch the Dionnes and the Quincy before anything too major happened.
OoC: Rubatoian to English dictionary--
escucha me = listen to me
pai = dad
quiero = I want
un abrazo = a hug
agora = now
Monroe had arrived to his goal in only a little over thirty minutes. Now, two things came to mind that had to be done: he had to contact Tracey and tell her what was going on, and secondly, he had to stall the Dionnes for as long as he could. The dark clad man flipped open his cell phone and called Tracey.
The sound of a ringer and waiting for someone to answer... well, these things don't sit well in an emergency. Then again, Tracey didn't know this was an emergency... yet. Finally, he heard her pick up the phone and utter, "Hello?"
Monroe smiled at the reply. "Hello. Sorry I rushed off, but we have some urgent business at hand. First off... you cannot... CANNOT tell Alex any of what I'm about to tell you."
Tracey sounded somewhat hesitant at first, but eventually her curiosity, the dark clad man assumed, got the better of her. "Okay, I won't. So, what's going on?"
The Quincy thought for a quick second as he prepared what he was gonna say. "Well, Alex's grandmother and uncle, the Dionnes, are on their way to where I am now. Cassandra, Alex's grandmother, is coming with ambitions of swapping bodies with Alex and letting Alex die while she reaps the rewards of Alex's mixed Dionne and Gypsy heritage. Cadenza's on her way... or will be one day I hope, to assist me in stalling and overcoming them."
"Okay," the detective commented, sounding a little scared at the concept. "Are you sure you don't need any more help?" she asked, sounding slightly worried.
"Hopefully Wotan has arrived with my letter for Zachary, but if not, when you get to the Madrigal house, tell Zachary to meet up with Cadenza and I. 'denza might not need help, but it's always good to have some assistance."
"Okay..." Tracey commented, still sounding unsure and worried.
"Oh, and Tracey, I want to talk to you when we get home... we haven't had much time to communicate recently... but I need to give you some time so you can talk to me, and not just be like this, me talking to you," he said, smiling as he listened on the phone. "I'll talk to you when I get back, Tracey. Bye!" he said, smiling as he hung up his phone.
Heavy footsteps followed the phone being off. The Quincy turned and faced his foes. "So, you're the Dionnes, huh?"
"Very inquisitive, young man," the woman said, her voice old and decrepit. "So, have you come to protect Alex?" she asked, trying to give off that kind, old lady bit.
Monroe chuckled. "I don't understand why you would settle for Alex's body. Mine is ten times better. My powers are more developed, I'm stronger, I age at a forth the speed of normal people, and my body is naturally super humanly strong, fast and agile. Why settle for less when the best is right in front of you?"
"Quite a sales pitch," the old woman cackled. From behind her, Enrico loomed quietly, just a forbidding figure in the shade of a few old Allegre buildings set along the border. "I can see nobody fools you, either, huh...? You know exactly why we're here..."
"...it's plain to see you're here to fix up that old catcher's mitt of a face," another voice broke in then, somewhere behind Enrico. Cassandra didn't turn her back on Monroe, but she did sneer for just a moment, putting the voice together with a name in her mind.
"...You must be a Madrigal woman, right? The one not known for her manners?"
Monroe looked past the two of them, beyond Cassandra's frail old figure, and the bulk of Enrico's muscular upper body, to see Cadenza rising from the man's shadow, her arms crossed. He wanted to say something like "about damn time", but it didn't seem right to show a divided front now in front of their enemies. He bit back the comment for the time being, and nodded to her in acknowledgment. She nodded back.
"Who I am's not important," the gypsy said, staring Cassandra down, "what is, though, is knowing that taking Alex would be a complete waste of your time. I'm being honest here. You're used to having control. A young gypsy's body is not gonna give you that. You're signing yourself up for years of unplanned electrical explosions, a static shock whenever you touch anyone, pains in your chest during storms, being watched over and regulated by a group of anal-as-hell Spirits, and a limit of only maybe three spells max, if you don't want to be hunted by those anal-as-hell Spirits. How's that all sound to ya? Not to mention, if you take this particular gypsy kid, you're going to have the urge to eat enough for an army at all times of the day. That could get a little distracting."
"...That's all true, eh?"
"And this... man, here," she looked again at Monroe with an appraising gray eye, out from under wrinkled lids, "he carries none of those troubles, does he?"
"That's right," Monroe chimed in.
"So... you're offering yourself in exchange for Alessandra, yes?"
"...if that's what it comes to."
A horrible grin spread across Cassandra's lips, like a pox. Cadenza likened it in her mind to how she imagined the grin of a crocodile when it's just spotted its prey.
With those wrinkles, Cassandra didn't look too different from a crocodile, actually.
But the gears were already turning in the old woman's sharp mind, formulating ideas, Yes, I take the man's body, leave him in my old, helpless one. And when he's out of the way, I go on to even take Alessandra... more powers from the both of them, and more youth...
Enrico stood quietly, staring at Cadenza and awaiting orders. This Madrigal, he felt sure, was the sister that was there when it was said that Vivace had died...
"Of course," the Quincy stated as he looked at the old woman, "I'm not about to simply give my body to you and admit defeat. If you want my body, you're gonna have to take it by force," the dark clad man said as he saw something he deemed more than simply a little unnatural. The wall of muscle behind her began to move, charging at the Enhanced human bravely.
However, before Monroe had a chance to strike first, the man was upon him. The much larger man threw a punch fast enough that the archer, despite his highly advanced sense of sight, could barely move to block it. Sand shot up around where the two made contact; the fist of the large man and the forearm of the smaller man had sent a powerful shock wave racing through the ground and air.
If the dark clad man had taken time to be skeptical, he would have dismissed what had just happened as a fluke, but given he had seen it, that meant that whatever had just transpired was very much something real. He wasn't quite sure how, but this man was faster and stronger than the natural human body should have allowed.
His strength and speed were all on par with a super human. Enrico Dionne, Monroe noted, was nothing more than a human in appearance. It was entirely possible, the man noted, that he could have been a cyborg or android or something along those lines. Still... if this man had been one of those things, the sound would have been more the crunching of bone against metal... not bone against bone.
As the two men stood there, complete silence reigned for a second as the giant grabbed Monroe's arm with his other hand and tossed the man like a rag doll. The Quincy's body slammed through a nearby wall and he rolled a few times. "I didn't expect someone like you to be here," he muttered, coughing a bit. "After all, I don't even know what to call you," the dark clad man said as he pushed broken wall debris off himself.
"Although the best suit is a monster, since that's really the only title that suits the kind of strength you have. After all, no normal human is that strong. Not without some kind of magic or genetic enhancement or something. So, what is your secret?" the Enhanced human asked his foe, narrowing his eyes, unable to grasp what he was up against.
The moment the first punch was thrown, Cassandra was on the move.
She was remarkably quick for an old woman--she avoided the blasts of sand that shot up whenever her son punched, and shimmied up an exposed pipe on an old building nearby to look down upon the fight and wait for the right moment. Cadenza was after her, though, slinking up the walls of the building through the shadows as soon as she saw the old hag starting to flee. She greeted her at the top with an orb of magic to the stomach.
"This isn't gonna be two-on-one in your favor, ya wrinkled old puta. That guy down there's taken the fasttrack to my good side and gotten involved with my family. I'm not just here to watch your son use him to dye the sand red."
She cracked her knuckles as if to punctuate that point, before erupting forward, and grabbing Cassandra by her flabby turkey neck. Magic glowed around her hands, as they started to pitch forward onto the roof.
Instantly, the old woman threw her head back and gave a shriek, "Enricooooo!"
And at her call, the juggernaut of a man spun his massive leg in a roundhouse kick, knocking out the bottom stones of the decrepit building like a salvo was going off across the foundation. The structure gave a violent tremor, like an earthquake had struck it, and then started to collapse, sliding off its base and shaking, jarring the two ladies standing atop it and buffeting them all with dust and small stones. He caught Monroe at the end of the kick, who'd just misjudged just how very long the man's legs were and how far they could go, and knocked him back into yet another wall effortlessly as if the crashing building behind them didn't bother him at all.
Wreckage started to rain down in the abandoned street, and Cassandra tried to slip away again in the confusion. But Cadenza didn't lose track of her. This seemed to be the one thing that did make annoyance show on Enrico's broad face.
When the gypsy ran past, he made the decision to turn his back on Monroe, and swing his massive arm instead down upon Cadenza. He never expected what he saw when the dust cleared--that his arm might be caught by the petite woman, not even half his size in width. Her sister had never been this strong... he didn't understand.
He lifted up his arm, with the woman hanging from it, as if to inspect her, but all he got for his troubles was a sudden boot to both of his eyes, charged with shadow magic, retractable daggers piercing his lids. He gave out a cry as Monroe followed this up with a blow to the back, and the giant swatted at both of them with his great arms, his muscles rippling. Neither blow connected, but for a second, he had time to recover, and his eyes to try to heal.
His mother watched on, eyes focused on the gypsy and Quincy with interest.
The giant's eyes opened. A super human healing ability? No, not that. His wounds weren't that serious. After all, it wasn't like she had cut out his eyes. Still, the fact he could open his eyes was a slightly terrifying thing to see. What in the world was this man? Monroe had never seen anything like him.
"Is he the living embodiment of Hercules? No... more like Fosolt. No matter what he is, this guy is... different," the dark clad man stated as he watched the giant man move slowly. It was almost unnatural how his massive body could move so swiftly and gracefully. And yet somehow, it almost made sense how he seemed to fight. After all, his movements were fluid and powerful.
The Quincy slowly forced himself to stand up, dusting rubble off of his slowly becoming tattered clothing. The giant man looked around, watching both the much faster petite woman, and the dark clad man. Under other circumstances, the archer would have rethought his strategy, but in this case, he had an idea. Well, something of an idea.
Long wires extended from the Monroe's fingertips as he looked at the man. The thin, green wires danced around his body for a few moments as he launched his hands forwards at the man, who found himself being distracted by the gypsy.
The juggernaut drew his hand back to strike at the mage who was dancing around his attacks, but luck didn't favor Enrico as much as it seemed it would. The wires suddenly bound his fingers and wrist. Monroe pulled with everything he hand, trying to send the giant teetering back and collapsing.
This, however, did not happen. The monster of a man grasped the strings firmly in with his other hand and pulled quickly, swinging Monroe over his shoulder and slamming the man into the sands. Although the human weapon had been aimed at Cadenza, it hadn't come anywhere near hitting her. However, much to the giant's advantage, he had a weapon of sorts now.
Dragging the strings, along with the man at their end, the monster began to spin the Quincy around quickly, creating a small sand storm around himself as he continued to try to strike at the shadow mage. However, for the archer, he had had enough of being used as a weapon. Quickly disconnecting himself from the strings, his body flew into a nearby building and crashed through hard enough to cause the building to fall on top of him.
Large bits of stone building were quickly displaced as Monroe stood up. His clothing was getting more and more ripped apart with each thing he crashed into, but aside from a few rips, some bruised ribs, a few bruises and cuts, and possibly one or two concussions, he was no worse for the wear. Monroe quickly formed his bow and smiled as he began to fire off arrows at Erinco. Now as his chance to counterattack.
Now was his chance to counterattack. Or so Monroe thought.
But with his focus being entirely on her son now, and Cadenza busy dodging, Cassandra saw her opening. The moment the Quincy strung his bow, and the energy lit up in her old gray eyes, she crept up behind him, placing an almost motherly hand on his shoulder. His face began to go pale, his eyes dimming... the bow disappeared from his hand.
Enrico swatted at Cadenza when she took notice, distracting her by wrecking a few more of the surrounding structures, and trying to engage her in a grapple.
Monroe began to shrink and wrinkle, like a prune in the sun. His features grew softer, more feminine, and his hair lengthened into brittle gray strands. That motherly grip Cassandra had once had on him was now more of an authoritative grasp, a strong hand that covered all of his bony little shoulder.
From the gypsy, there was a small gasp. She'd seen the powers of a Dionne reverting back, Paris returning to his true form back in Sereia, but... never the act of switching the bodies. Normally, seeing Monroe turn into a little old woman would make her laugh until she cried--but when she thought of the repercussions here, of this swap, she was sobered.
Cassandra Dionne, now young and vital, and with Quincy powers, threw aside Monroe's frail body and strode towards her son and Cadenza with a wide smile on her face.
Monroe looked at the wrinkled hands he now could barely see as he tried to keep his footing and not fall over. "Oh, you've gotta be freaking kid-" he half said as what he could only assume was his body kicked him... er... her in the side and sent the formerly male warrior turned elder useless woman into the sands not too far off.
The now powerless former Quincy watched on as the mass of person and the body snatcher fought the gypsy. Where the hell is Zach? If he doesn't get here soon... well, Cadenza will be fine, but I'll kill him when I get my body back. I just need to hope Cadenza doesn't kill me... er... my body in the process.
That was the only hope that Monroe had now. That and wishing this old body didn't fail more than 4Kids One Piece.
o=)------------ Madrigal Residence -----------(=o
Zachary finished cleaning up the dishes and placing them in their proper place as he smiled at Arietta and moved towards her. He was intent on spending more time with her, as he had promised, and try to figure out what it meant to have a working relationship. After all, the ice mage, although not the wisest of men, knew that neither Zorlo nor Monroe had "functional", working relationships. Both had their flaws built into how or who they were dealing with.
Still, despite the fact that the Replicator was the most normal of the three of them, fate wouldn't quite let that be his luck. The sound of something crashing into the door alerted both Arietta and Zachary that something was there. The red haired boy sighed as he moved towards the door to open it.
The sound of a mild knock at the door alerted the ice mage that something was, indeed, trying to get someone's attention. The Replicator opened the door and looked at the pigeon as it pecked him on the forehead. Zachary moved backwards and held his forehead as he tried to snatch the bird out of the air.
Wotan landed on Arietta and let the woman pet him and remove the note from him. "It's got a note," the wind gypsy stated with a smile as Zachary looked at the pigeon.
"That pigeon... Monroe..." the ice mage muttered as he looked at the bird. "He's the only person that uses carrier pigeons instead of just calling." The Replicator sighed as Arietta handed Zachary the letter and eyed his action carefully.
Zachary sighed as he lowered the note. "Tracey, Alex, and a bunch of other people are on their way over. Monroe and Cadenza are fighting with Alex's grandmother and uncle. He's asked me to come and help them... but..."
Arietta sighed and pointed her finger, looking at Zachary sternly. "Get going. You've gotta protest my niece," she ordered him, smirking slightly.
Zachary nodded and bowed as he turned around and leapt clean over the porch and rushed off. A gust of wind blew the note from his hand, but the ice mage ignored it as he rushed onwards. He had a lot of distance to cover and not a lot of time. Well, now he had something to do, but he had to get it done quickly.
There was a person stirring in the alleyway. Cadenza could feel their little Shade moving, peering out somewhere behind the mammoth figure that was Enrico. They made a small, girlish gasp and disappeared away again behind the corner, but while the gypsy watched all this, stricken by the... the familiarity of that shade's shape, Cassandra was just firing up her Quincy's bow, and Enrico's hands were closing in for her again.
The Dionnes' trouble was that they could barely fight in tandem. Cassandra would always be taking on a different body with unknown abilities, and they had trouble coordinating. Cadenza took advantage of this now, and dove underneath the swinging fist, and the lancing arrow, between the two of them, singing a spell under her breath. She rolled, and as their eyes followed her, a flock of dragons from her Revoada das Sombras were hurtling down behind them, crashing into Cassandra and even knocking Enrico's mountainous mass over his feet. Dragons of shadow drilled into them, one after another, embedding them into the face of an old building. The attack went on for minutes.
Confident that they were in check for now, Cadenza turned her attention again to that shade. It was still watching, sort of timidly, from the alley. A small, round, red, and rubbery object fell to the floor and rolled to the woman's feet from its direction. It was a child's toy ball. Was it dropped on accident, or was this a gift...? She couldn't tell, yet.
Enrico was standing once more now, brushing off his wounds, his brow furrowing for the first time in frustration. His footfalls began to leave dents in the pavement as he strode towards Cadenza with purpose, small dim eyes following the red ball as she tossed it up and caught it again and again.
"I think..." she looked up at him, smirking, "that since you don't use that brain of yours to think for yourself, I'll take it. It's kinda useless up there in that forgotten head of yours, isn't it? All you use that skull for is headbutting anyhow."
Up and down went the bouncy ball. Enrico followed the apple-sized object, completely enthralled. His head was feeling tingly... a little dizzy.
"Do you feel that...? The forces on this ball, the sensations... they're being sent to your brain now. Your skull is a dark place, you know, lots of shadows and all, no light gets in there really... not that you'd understand. At the moment, this ball is... you could say this ball is your brain."
Enrico blinked at this conclusion. Cassandra started to walk up to him, but he held her off with a hand. He wanted to understand what was going on.
"You idiot, she's tricking you, don't liste--"
Again, he rose his big hand, holding her off. The ball went up and down, and he nodded his head to follow it.
That's when Cadenza did it. She tossed the ball up again, like every other time, but as it came down, Enrico's eyes following it, she took out a knife, faster than any of their eyes could see--and sliced the rubbery sphere in half.
The two pieces fell sadly to the sandy ground. They did not bounce up again.
Cassandra shouted a curse, not comprehending this gesture, and threw her hands up in the air. "Enough dumb tricks!" She nudged Enrico's shoulder, but there was no resistance. Instead, the giant just fell to the floor, like the ball.
"...I told him. That was his brain. He should have used it. He was warned."
Cadenza looked up, her eyes meeting Cassandra's over the corpse of the woman's son. They both saw then, the extent to which the other was prepared to go. Cassandra would take her granddaughter's body, or at least the girl's beloved father when given the chance, and Cadenza... she'd take the woman's son away, in another manner altogether.
They couldn't have hated each other more.
OoC: I really don't like this post, but I don't have enough online time to write more and try to get better again so... here we are.
Monroe, still a distinctly old woman, had been watching with mild disinterest. The way Cadenza fought was bland to him. The Quincy could only recall Zorlo summing it up in a few words:
"Cadenza can either make a fight very interesting or very boring. No matter which method she chooses, it would be interesting for me since her tricks aren't apt to easily kill me, even from the inside."
The meaning of this had relatively eluded Monroe as to what the green haired man had meant until the moment the giant was dead. If Cadenza wanted to, she wouldn't have to really fight at all. Then again, the fact she had magic made fighting all the easier.
The archer had always resented magic and those who used it. Deep down, he acknowledged that, no matter how much he trained; how many new tricks and skills; or how long he studied it, he would never be quite as powerful as a good mage. There was one simple reason, he had deduced, behind this notion: magic had the power to bend the laws of the natural world, if not downright shatter them.
Still, none of that mattered right now. The hag who had stolen his body was dead. She was just far too stupid to realize it. The dark clad man thought back to the fact he had even gone so far as to call in Zachary. Well, the amateur sorcerer's assistance was no longer required. Still, he'd expedite this fight a little bit.
Monroe felt his feeble body shake for a moment and began to cough painfully into his hand. Removing his hand from his mouth, he could see the red stains of blood from whatever disease this damned woman had. He was going to expire soon if something didn't happen. Such rotten luck and no one to blame but himself for this predicament.
Cassandra Dionne, who now wore Monroe's body like a trench coat, began to find growing frustration in dealing with Cadenza Madrigal. Every punch, kick, or arrow shot had almost no effect it seemed. Monroe would have laughed at the woman and told her that her quest for revenge, even in that body, was doomed to fail. After all, no matter how strong Monroe was, Cadenza was on a completely different level.
Still, a little thing like logic never stops women. No matter how much reason you apply to them, emotion steals the day. It was from this Monroe found the weakest point in a woman: what she cares about. Take that away, and they fly into a blind, anger filled rage and don't stop until something is dead. To his credit, Monroe acknowledged that it wasn't only women who did this, but everyone. It was just that women were more likely than men.
Still, the two women continued their dance of death. The Quincy acknowledged it would be over soon. The body snatcher stepped backwards and drew the bow back. In a burst of light, a great number of arrows erupted from the bow towards the alleyway where the shadow mage was standing for the moment. Still, by the time the arrows arrived, she had gone. Still, someone else was there.
Zachary, much to the misfortune he normally found when coming to help someone, arrived too late to be of use. He looked at the two fighting women, one of which who had been using Monroe's body to fight, and was stalled for a moment. It took a few moments to register that the woman had really stolen his body.
The photon arrows crashed into the stone building, breaking some of the roof off and causing it to begin to cave in. Zachary's eyes widened as he saw a small figure, crawling backwards, scared. Dammit, a bystander! the ice mage thought quietly as he rushed forwards and slid to a stop, spinning around as the ceilings collapsed onto his shoulders and back.
The massive stones began to push him down as he held them up and smiled at the small girl. "Please... run," he told her. "I can only hold this for so long," he commented with a pleasant smile. The Replicator turned his attention back to the women.
Some form of a break had been taken, or perhaps Cadenza was doing her normal bit of dancing around to remind her foe how much weaker they were, and had allowed Cassandra to turn her bow back onto the ice mage.
A series of blasts erupted from the bow and caused larger chunks of the stone buildings to come crashing down. Zachary pressed his teeth together as he was pushed to one knee as the heavy stones continued to push his body down. "Please," he whispered, almost begging, "run!"
Not more than a few seconds after, another wave of rocks from the roof slid down onto the now massive pile amassed on the Replicator's back and brought the house down, almost literally, on the ice mage.