Chapter 1: New Girl in Town
With a grunt of frustration, Amity Blight slammed down the box of supplies that'd been packed up with her family's move. Blowing a strand of hair free from her face, she scanned the surroundings with a bitter glower. It wasn't fair, but then again, story of her life. It hadn't been FAIR of her parents to make her break contact with Willow, but it still happened! But this? This was different. Ever since that stupid stupid war her family had been in debt. The infrastructure of the Isles were almost gutted by the Human Military forces, and wasn't that a shock, humans having sophisticated civilizations, and advanced weaponry! It had taken everyone by surprise. And then, FUCKING Belos, the one responsible for the whole mess, had to up and disappear! Needless to say, many people, including herself, suddenly found themselves a LOT more willing to question his policies and methods, even if his die-hard supporters still caused trouble now and again. And she thanked the Titan everyday her parents weren't STUPID enough to buy the bull that coward had fed everyone for decades.
"Amity, darling, I know you enjoy your introspection, but we could well and truly use your assistance in the unloading!" Her mother called out. As Amity gave a half-hearted glare, she marveled at how all the chaos had changed her mother. Whereas before she held herself with a haughty self-assurance, arrogance really, her hair prim in neat in it's bun, it now lay as a tangled mess, her shoulders stooped, bags built up under her eyes. In other words, she was a mess. Still, she held onto a confident smirk that bellied the difficulties they'd been facing. At least Amity didn't have to wear that stupid necklace anymore.
"Yeah, yeah, keep your pants on!" Amity snarked, rolling her eyes. Not all the changes had necessarily been bad; her parents, ever since their company had started fumbling under the strain of the Post-War Isles, had become... not humble, but they didn't push as much. It probably helped that the foreign Military forces had made their "home security and personal defense" products look like jokes, and had nearly crashed their main source of income. Sighing, Amity pushed herself away from the table and moved out to the Moving Van, as humans called it, resigning herself to manual labor. For some completely unknown reason, humans didn't like witches and many had refused to be hired by her family for their move; they'd been lucky to find a house at all, and the company they hired to move their stuff refused to unload it all! Grabbing a box of clothing, which was surprisingly heavy for being loaded with clothing, she marched forward, only to pitch forward in a trip.
"Whoa there sis!" "Easy does it!"
Before she could painfully and awkwardly crash against the ground, Amity abruptly jerked in place, her siblings having caught her before she crashed, with Ed smoothly pulling the box into his own arms as they stood her up. Flushing in embarrassment, Amity quickly patted herself down. She flushed deeper as her siblings chuckled, amused at her reaction. "Knock it off! Oh, and thanks for the save."
"Anytime little sis." Emira grinned, fondly ruffling Amity's hair, much to her annoyance. "We'd do anything for our precious baby sister!"
"And if we didn't help, dad would make us clean the Abomination Vats." Ed added with a sheepish grin, awkwardly rubbing his head.
Amity sighed, but could work up the nerve to be angry with them. "Fine, just cut it out with the laughing, okay?" She said archly, prompting a brief flinch from the twins; weird, but easy to shrug off as them feeling guilty for laughing at her near fall and embarrassed reaction.
"Now now, settle down children, and help unpack!" Odalia called over, struggling to carry her own box, carefully labeled to be dishware and tea sets. It wasn't surprising, considering how much tea she ingested a day. She was practically addicted, in Amity's opinion. "Your father is bringing over his Abominations to help with the unloading, and the sooner we complete the unpacking the sooner we can get everyone settled."
Shrugging, the three siblings moved to aid their mother in the work.
With a pained groan, Amity collapsed to the makeshift cot that served as her bed. Every bone in her body ached! After nearly five straight hours of unloading and unpacking, even with her dad's abominations helping, they had finally finished. Scowling as much as she could, Amity panned her eyes around the manor her parents had purchased. Apparently, it had been abandoned for years, with squatters coming and going as they pleased for the better part of three decades. She was grudgingly impressed at how well it had been built, as her eyes couldn't spot a single sign of weakness or damage, not that that meant much. Of course, it was apparently up to code, so she felt at least safe enough to sleep here. 'Well, at least tomorrow, I can begin my brand new start.' She mused to herself, smiling in content.
"What do you mean nobody will take our products?" Odalia shouted, her composure having been shot in an instant. It was a disaster in the making. Staring her down impassively, was a truly massive wall of a man. Gilbert Dohovan was the head of the local Merchant's coalition, an important figure in the town, and someone Odalia DESPERATELY needed in her corner, or at least not in her opponent's. And he had just said...
"I'm afraid it's true." He stated gravely, eyes glowing with something almost like pity. "Your people are like nothing the world has seen before, and while in many ways Witch and Demon society are as advanced as our own, in far more they are woefully behind; you stand before the difficulties of being foreigners attempting to set yourselves up as a new faction within the local ecosystem, and it is already moving to lock you out. Personally, I am indifferent to you and yours and would gladly trade with Blight Industries, if you got off the ground of course. But as it stands..." He trailed off, looking slightly off into the distance, the implication clear.
This was not good. No, this was beyond that. They had come here, taken everything they had, everything they could offer, liquidated all their non-personal assets, all in the name of establishing themselves anew. It would be an uphill battle, challenging the greater flow against change that all societies suffered from to some extent, particularly with their rocky introduction to the Human Realm, or Earth as they called it. But to completely shut out!? It would doom them! Without people being willing to trade and deal with them as a corporate entity, they would be running purely off of their savings, and they'd already spent a precipitously large amount of those funds already. Odalia was panicking, and she knew it. But if she could only-
"Is there anything we could do to enable trade?" Her other half, her silent watcher, the one person who gave a DAMN about her in the world ever since she and her first love had their... falling out, spoke up. While Odalia was well aware she hadn't adapted well to the harsh changes in their family's circumstances, her dear Alador had most definitely suffered the worst. After his beloved Abominations, the embodiment of his creativity and dedication, had been so thoroughly trounced by the humans' weaponry and tactics, he'd thrown himself into his projects with the obsessive dedication of only the most psychotic of madmen. His clothing was torn, stained, and covered in patches from his haphazard repairs of the damages his experiments and projects caused. He regularly forgot to eat, and barely had enough sleep to function, his body thinner and frailer than it had been in years. To be blunt, he looked like a mad scientist who'd become homeless.
"Anything at all?" He repeated, his voice far steadier and focused than Odalia felt he had any right to be. But then again, he'd always been the rational one between the two of them, the one to reign in her schemes and calmly breakdown the odds to show her when her current plan was a TERRIBLE one. Odalia had to admit to herself, she was every bit as curious as to what could possibly be done as she felt he was. Trust he husband to think objectively rather than react on pure emotion.
Gilbert gave a smirk, pleased with her husband's choice of words. "I was wondering when you would ask that." He said, calmly sliding a folder across the table. "This has all the information you'll need to overcome this obstacle. But be warned, if you pursue this course of action, you will be entering a part of human society that many have allowed themselves to believe is long since passed." He stated gravely, eyes narrowed in emphasis.
Idly nodding along to his words, Odalia and Alador opened the folder, calmly flipping through the various sheets and documents within. As the details came together, Odalia felt her eyes narrow, and her heart pump in nervousness. If they truly undertook this course of action... there was no going back. Trading glances with her husband, they both nodded, turning back to Mr. Dohovan. "I believe we will undertake this course of action, and we thank you for bringing this opportunity to our attention. Truly, this is a wondrous gift, and we will do our very best to ensure our discretion on your own part in our obtaining of this knowledge."
"Hmph, see that you do." Gilbert stated, walking off the property, his guards stalking away after him. As he vanished, the overwhelming pressure of authority, rivaling even that cursed Belos, vanished.
Odalia sighed in relief, slumping in her seat. "Oh thank the Titan he's gone!" She cried, almost weeping in relief at the disappearance of the suffocating pressure the man had exerted. Meanwhile, her mind raced at the implications of the documents they'd received. This was a game changer, and when it eventually trickled back to Witch Society, the Boiling Isles would be rocked to its core.
"Indeed, his pressure was most distracting." Alador commented. Confused, Odalia glanced over, only to deadpan at the sight of her husband tinkering with a new form of Mini-Abomination, apparently having done so the entire meeting. "However, the implications of these... Kengan Matches was it? They cannot be ignored. All out brawls to settle disputes of financial work and mercantile practices, with death being an accepted result outside of genuine murder, it is something we will most definitely need to invest in, if our family wishes to survive the cruelty of this world."
"I couldn't agree more, dear." Odalia replied, her mind already mapping out the fastest route to the registry they'd need to visit tomorrow, the Yamashita Trading Company. "I couldn't agree more."
With a jaw cracking yawn, a young woman pulled herself out of bed, tossing on her favored outfit as she ambled down the stairs. With a flick of the wrist, she popped the collar of her Yamashita Trading Company jacket, a mark of her employment. As she traced her way down to the living room, she smoothly reapplied her hand wraps, fingers flexing in anticipation of today's brawl.
"Hija, don't forget, we're having our new guests moving in today!" Her mother called out. She idly noted the way she worryingly stared at the wrappings on her hands... as well as the barely visible scars peaking out from them. She snorted in amusement; trust her mom to worry about something so silly.
"Don't worry Mama, I'll be back before you know it!" Luz Noceda, professional underground fighter, and local agent of the Yamashita Trading Company, called back with a smirk. She glanced down at her hands, knuckles cracking audibly. Oh yeah, she just knew today was gonna be fun!
Chapter 2: Membership 1
Odalia does her level best to get her family the deal they need, and Luz is restless to get to work (In more ways than one!)
Hello all, for everyone who likes this story, the major action should be starting next chapter. Thank you all for reading, and have a wonderful day!!
Amity sighed, already bored with the trip she found herself on. For some reason that only the Titan knew, her parents had decided to drag her along on their trip downtown, despite promising her the day to herself so she could familiarize herself with their knew location. Ugh, she couldn't BELIEVE that she'd managed to not see this coming! What was that little pearl of wisdom her mother was always spouting, a Blight always upholds their end of the deal? So much for that. Still, at least this walk was giving her a chance to look over the town and get a grasp at the local businesses and neighborhoods, useful information for when she finally DID manage to get into town on her own!
"Not that I'm complaining or anything," She said as sarcastically as she could. "But what's this meeting about anyway?"
She honestly had no expectation of her parents answering, so Amity was understandably shocked when her mother spoke up. "We are going to establish relations with a local business that will, hopefully, help smooth over some of the... ill tidings existing between ourselves and the local businesses. Apparently, they are not comfortable with allowing a new business with an interest in expansion to set up shop." The clipped, honest tone Odalia spoke with, harshly contrasting her bombastic and hammy sales persona, drew a raised eyebrow from Amity.
"To add clarification, if only so you'll understand the depth of the severity of this situation, our family is being locked out by the mercantile community. No one is willing to trade with us, sell us supplies, or hire out to us their workers." Alador added bluntly, each addendum ratcheting Amity's alarm higher. Even just one of those restrictions and obstacles would spell unbelievable harm to any attempt to do serious business here, or anywhere, and they were dealing with all of them, and who knows how many more!?
"Welp, we're screwed." Amity summarized. The twin sighs from her parents, rather than being the crushing echoes of defeat she expected, were instead the annoyed ones she received when she leapt to conclusions. She always hated that sigh. She groaned. "Ugh, fine, what am I missing from this picture?"
Odalia pursed her lips, visibly wanting to reprimand her daughter for her rudeness, but ultimately relented. "This company is one that we have been informed serves as a way of opening doors within communities and organizations of all types, all over the world. If we can secure their cooperation, we will have a chance at survival." She stated, glaring off into the distance, visualizing all those she'd fought against, financially, over the years to get their family where they were... before everything that happened, did. "I have made too many sacrifices to let our family business die here. If a gamble is what is needed, than I will take it."
Amity arched an eyebrow at the uncharacteristic level of passion in her mother's voice, but ultimately chose to say nothing. For all that the relationship between her and Odalia was... strained, she didn't really hate the woman, despised maybe but not hate, and she knew not to press on the subject. If mother dearest ever wanted to share, it would be on her own terms, and not ones Amity forced on her.
With a frantic scream, Luz catapulted across the city. Light as a feather, she gently touched down on the ground... only to rocket into the air not a second later, a harsh crack ripping through the air as she flew by. She REALLY hoped that she was getting better at using the Pulse, but for now, she had to contend herself with crushed concrete, damaged and fallen trees, scattered wildlife, and pissed-off suburbians wanting to tear a strip off of her, in one or two cases literally at that!
"Damn it Noceda, I just had this driveway repaved not three weeks ago!" An outraged voice yelled out behind her.
"Sorry, Mr. Feducci!" She called back. And she really was sorry, but if she didn't do this, she'd be late. And being late was UnAcCePtAbLe. Call her crazy, but just the thought of not getting to work on time, if not even earlier, sent a blistering panicked rage through her. Hmm... something to talk about with her therapist during their next appointment. Huffing, she cleared away the thoughts. She didn't have time to focus on that right now.
As the sight of her destination came into view, a beaming grin stretched across her face. Or... it was what she considered to be a beaming grin. Other people? They had other words for the expression that crossed her face. Sure enough, a younger pair of employees paled at the sight of her face, scurrying off into the distance. Not that Luz noticed.
No. All Luz had eyes for was the sight of her employment, the Yamashita Trading Company, Gravesfield Branch. This brilliant white and blue structure acted as the center of organization and distribution for the ultimate mercantile asset, in Luz's mind at least. Through Yamashita, companies could settle even the most horrifying of disputes without issue and possessing full resolution after the fact; maybe not everyone walked away happy, but no one had EVER questioned the results, and that in itself spoke more than words could ever hope to.
Strolling through the lobby, Luz idly marveled once more at the interior. Climbing support columns, intricately engraved with imagery associated with Ancient Sports and Competitions of all cultures, stood in stark relief from the rest of the lobby. Various plates adorned the walls, depicting the numerous affiliated companies and enterprises of Yamashita, along with the assets gained and lost through the special service of Yamashita. Luz, deftly ignoring the frantic and worried whispers all about her, strolled up to the front desk. Once there, she rang it. And rang it. And rang it again. And maybe just one more-!
"Enough with the ringing already, I heard you the first time!" Shouted a tan, blond girl rising up to slap Luz's hand away from the service bell. The girl huffed, leaning forward even as she blew the pink-dyed strand of hair she had out of her face. The girl, woman almost, then proceeded to put on the fakest, blandest smile Luz had ever seen on anyone other than the sleazier company heads she came across during her work.
The grin held for all of ten seconds before dropping into flat annoyance. "Oh my god, what do you want Luz?" She demanded.
Luz shrugged. "What, can't a tricky gal like me come and see how her sweet ex-girlfriend is doing? Eh, Clara?" She winked, finding an unhealthy amount of joy at the growl of frustration Clara gave in response. Flirting aside, Luz genuinely did consider Clara to be one of her extremely few friends, not to mention her ex. While Clara's demand to know why she was at the agency was... a little hurtful, she'd admit, it wasn't like she hadn't caused some painful grief to her former bae over the years.
"You NEVER come over to see how I'm doing." Clara bluntly replied. Luz gave a heavily exaggerated gasp of shock, before sheepishly giggling. As much as she didn't like it to be, it was ultimately true that Luz largely did her own thing, often without any kind of serious thought, and as much as she considered Clara a friend, Luz personally hadn't done a whole lot to show it. Some of her forlorn attitude must of shown on her face, because Clara gave her a sympathetic look, changing the conversation. "So, what are you doing here? Did you get called in?"
"Uh, no." Luz sheepishly admitted, nervously glancing around at the guards hovering nearby. She wasn't technically supposed to be in the building unless she had been called in, or was officially on the clock. Since she was neither, they were obligated to escort her out, by whatever means deemed necessary. "I just- I heard word that a new business was coming to town, and was hoping to throw my hat into the ring, to see if they'd give me a shot, you know?"
Clara nodded in sympathy. Luz's love for her work was famous, or rather, infamous, throughout the local branches. Still, she thought she could throw the girl a small bone. "Well, I think you'll be happy to hear that the new business has no prior connection to the Association, and is actually trying to join up today!" She shot her ex a coy grin, feeling a warm glow at the beaming, goofy smile she got in return. "And as a result, they'll need a representative. And wouldn't you know it, we've only got one available!"
"Yeah!" Luz giggled, an undercurrent of... something bubbling beneath. "Me!"
Odalia Blight was many things, had become many things, over the course of her life. She'd been a devoted daughter to her overbearing and manipulative parents, may they rot with the worms. She'd been the diligent student, always eager to please her instructors, all the better to extort the best concessions and benefits out of them. She'd been the loving girlfriend, both to her wild-hearted first who made her feel so alive, and to her sweet and somber Alador, who gave her a center, and a warm embrace. She been the proud Elitist, snobbing it up with the biggest and most influential of the Isles' upper citizenry, always needing to watch her back around them, lest they manipulator her into their puppet, even as she strove to do the same to them. She'd been the wild showman, hamming it up for the feckless fools who fell over themselves to take her family's products, no matter how pointless, after a little routine and a silly showcase to razzle and dazzle. But the one thing she'd never, EVER, seen herself becoming... was a beggar.
"Sir, I know this must be quite irregular," She began.
"Kaz, please." The now named Kaz interjected, forcing Odalia to use all of her Willpower to scream bloody murder. No matter what she tried, this "Kaz" just kept giving them the runaround, ducking and dodging questions, asking pointed ones of his own to get her fumbling, blithely bringing up the most inane of topics to derail the flow of conversation. Everything she tried to take control and get something, ANYTHING, out of this man had failed miserably.
"Kaz, please!" She pleaded, hating the feeling of helplessness currently flowing through her. She hated begging, hated pleading, hated having to leave the lives and futures of those dear to her up to others... but she had no other choice. It wasn't as if she could leverage her spells against him, her magic was struggling enough as it was without antagonizing the one man who could help her family through a poorly considered prank. The one upside to this mess was that Alador and Amity were required to wait outside. She couldn't bare the thought of her beloved husband and little Mittens saw her so low. "My family has a history of successful business ventures! We've patented countless products, nearly controlled one of the most lucrative markets on the Isles! If this is a matter of wealth, anything we did could be used to turn a profit to pay you back!"
"Profit?" The man known as Kaz, a scrawny, unshaven fellow with a angular head and face, large glasses framing his appearance, tilted his head, a mixture of confusion and amusement on his features. "You think this is a matter of profit?"
"W-Well, yes! What else could it be?" She pleaded/demanded, some of her temper finally starting to leak through.
Kaz sighed, shaking his head in disappointment. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Blight, but you seem to be radically misinterpreting your situation, and the circumstances of this event. Yamashita is one of the most profitable, most influential companies in the world! Our reach is global, our influence connecting vastly different cultures in the pursuit of financial and mercantile success! Profit? What would we need of profit?" He tsked slowly, a sad note to his voice. "I am truly sorry, Mrs. Blight, but if this is the extent of your possible contributions to the Association, I cannot in good conscience grant this membership." He finished, holding up the necessary forms for Odalia to see. They were right there, so very close, but so very far away.
"Oh, did you hear! That sneaky little brat Odalia ratted Calamity Clawthorne to the Principal!" "Seriously!? I thought they were dating!" "Hah! Goes to show you how much Awful Odie will go to get perks for herself!" 'That's not true.'
"I must say, Odalia, it is so... nice, to see you among high society!" "Truly, it is wonderful! No longer having to roll around with the commoners and slum-brats like that Clawthorne Heathen." 'Don't say those things about her.'
"It is impressive, you know, being able to twist a little hellion into your little attack pet, and then ditching her for someone with more... influence!" "I know! Such an impressive skill to supplement your talents that would otherwise be... ahem, lacking!" ""HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!"" 'Worthless Bitches.'
"I. Have spent my whole LIFE, climbing my way up." Odalia bit out, tears of burning frustration making tracks down her face. "I have worked, slaved, driven myself into the ground, all for the sake of my family, my family's business, and then that FOOL Belos cost me EVERYTHING I had ever worked for!! We were struggling, desperate, our industry drying up in the wake of the destruction crippling trust in my beloved's inventions. I cam to this land, hoping for a new start, a New Life, for my family! And what do I find? Callousness. Cruelty. Self-centered cowards who skulk around in the shadows, snipping and nipping at the new girl on the block, fighting over the right to humiliate me, like a pack of children hazing the new girl at school! I AM ODALIA BLIGHT!! MATRIARCH OF THE BLIGHT FAMILY!!! AND I WILL NOT SIT DOWN AND GIVE UP FOR THE SAKE OF COWARDLY LITTLE RATS WHO DON'T EVEN HAVE THE BALLS TO FACE ME AS AN ADULT!!!!!!"
"And that's all I needed to hear." Kaz calmly stated, easily filling out the form with the kind of fluidity that spoke of significant practice and understanding.
"Uh, what?" Odalia bluntly muttered, floored by the sheer nonchalance of the man she'd just done her very best to tear down into a quivering worm shaking off her words and getting to work like it was nothing.
"Hmm? Oh, you're wondering why I changed my mind!" Kaz seemed to realize, snapping his fingers in emphasis. "Well, to put it rather bluntly, the Association already has enough gluttons feasting on the profits being a part of it grants them. We are in dire need of new blood, new innovations, new ambitions. You proved you had them in spades, Mrs. Blight, and I dearly look forward to where those ambitions take you in the future."
Still reeling, Odalia calmly took the paper and wooden tablet that signified her status as a member of the Association, slipping both into her bag. Shaking herself out of her thoughts, Odalia recalled something. "Oh! Before I forget..." With that said, she began to furiously whisper into the attentive man's ears, his calm expression shifted into a mixture of dumb-founded shock, and genuine delight!
Before further words could be shared, a loud crash drew the attention of the two to the waiting area just outside, where Amity and Alador were waiting! In a flash, she cleared the distance between herself and the door, kicking it down in a surprising act of fury. Just as she opened her mouth to demand answers, Odalia froze at the sight before her. Amity, her beloved daughter and the singularly most competent of her three darlings, pressed against the floor, her shirt riding up, cheeks flushed, as her knees and legs locked with those of the caramel skinned girl in front of her. Hovering over her, chocolate hair ruffling in the wind, jacket slowly sliding off of her shoulders to the floor, leaving her sports bra-clad chest to the world. Any thoughts of finding out just WHAT had happened instantly vanished from Odalia's mind. And as the spectral phantoms so crucial to her brand of magic manifested, she knew just one thing clearly; Amity was too young to be dating!!!
Chapter 3: The Trouble With Luz
The Blights get an info dump, and Luz shows WHY she's listed as being crazy in the tags.
Alright, before anything else, this chapter is NOT one that I am happy with. I will probably go back and redo it at a later time, but this follows what I wanted up until the final fight. I will EVENTUALLY go back and change the fight.
Whether the fight is changed or not, the same Trigger Warnings should apply: Gore, Violence, Bloodshed, Murder.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Almost bouncing with giddiness, Luz vaulted up the stairs, willfully heedless of the shouts and shrieks of the building-goers occupying the stairwell. Luz was many things... mindful of others usually wasn't one of them, especially when she was in a rush. Still, she'd probably have to go make some apology baskets for all those folks later, good thing she snagged their info when she could! Real time saver, right there. Snorting a bit at the internal joke at her "open secret," Luz acrobatically flipped and bounced upwards, barely touching the walls before she used the weight and momentum of her impact to catapult herself forward and upward. It was basically her own bastardized form of Parkour, only really useful in any situation due to her own impatience.
As she cleared the final step, she smoothly tucked into a roll, cancelling as much of the force of her leaps as she could before breaking into a sprint for the director's office. Was this reckless, poorly-though-out, and most likely some level of stupid and/or insane? Oh, most definitely, but it was this kind of pulse driving madness that Luz so often CRAVED!!! Growling in anticipation, Luz pulled herself into another crouch, preparing to spring herself through the double doors and make a badass Action Movie Entrance to introduce herself to her latest employers! Heck, maybe if she got lucky, they'd let her stay on after the first time! Oh, she could almost cry at the beautiful thought.
However, that joyous dream was quickly burst by the uncaring bubble of bland reality. Or not so bland, in this case, seeing as how, instead of dramatically crashing through the doors like an absolute badass, who was also totally cute, she crashed INTO a girl about her age in a gothic dress with green-dyed hair. Man, if this wasn't horribly embarrassing, she'd try and ask for this cutie's number! After all, you can never have too much love in your life! At least that's what Great-Grandpa told her when she told him she liked girls! He really liked going on and on about how amazing that was, and how she should have all the love in the world or something. To be honest, G-G-Pa was always pretty weird, but he was extra weird after that. Still, his advice was smooth, and now she had two phone's worth of girls to call!! And she had called at least 90% of them! What was she talking about again?
"Could you please get off!" A frustrated feminine voice choked out from beneath Luz. Remembering the collision that had occurred just moments ago, Luz glanced down, flushing at the sight beneath her. To be blunt, she was staring into the face of a GODDESS, because that was the only thing that could describe the beauty before her. Fine-sculpted cheeks with delicate muscles framing the face, delicate lashes with an arch that gave them an imperial intensity, dainty lips pursed in an annoyed pout that just made Luz want to squeal, all brought together by the molten gold eyes burning a whole through Luz's heart!! Or, in layman's terms, OO BABY THAT IS WHAT I LIKE!!! Yup, Luz was officially crushing.
"Oh, I am so sorry!" She cried, desperately trying to untangle herself from the other girl, only for their legs to lock together. "I swear, this was totally an accident! Not that I wouldn't like being having a cute girl in my arms, but not like this!!"
"Quit babbling and help me!" The girl growled, struggling against Luz's deceptively heavy form, a perk of her well-developed musculature. As the two struggled, both girls flushed after their respective hands pushed against the other's... chest. The two shrieked, with the girl whipping her head back and forth before laying eyes on her father, only to groan as he was apparently studying the odd cracks in the wall (Luz winced, knowing from bitter experience that that was coming out of her funds). Suddenly, the double doors burst open from within (They swung both ways), an irate woman with green hair marching out. Apparently, Luz and the lady's daughter had been making just a bit too much noise. Also, their position was incredibly compromising, if the large lamp now being used as a bludgeon against Luz's skull was any indication.
Rolling her eyes, Luz smoothly ducked around the woman's wild swings, snagged the lamp from her hands... and snapped the thing in two with a chop of her wrist. Narrowing her eyes, Luz blurred into striking range, just about to crush the stranger's windpipe-
-When the words of the man who had taken the role of "Father" in her life shouted at the top of his lungs. In a split second, Luz froze, arm less than a millimetre away from piercing the woman's throat. In a flash, Luz abandoned her Attack Position Twelve (Patent Pending), slamming her fist into the ground before the great one, head bowed in deference for the one who had helped to give her wings again. "Lord Yamashita! Forgive my impertinence! In my enthusiasm, I reacted... strongly to the woman's attempt to attack me, but as she is your guest I have doubtlessly erred. Please, let this wretched soul offer you a penance for her sins, so that she may flourish once more!" Luz cried dramatically, the Blights staring at her in gobsmacked confusion.
"Yes Luz, you did bad. Don't do it again." Yamashita dully scolded Luz with the dull tone of someone who'd done it so often he couldn't even tell why he still bothered. Not that Luz noticed, as she was currently gushing tears of relief as she frantically bowed her head in gratitude. Coincidentally, the floor would gain an oddly face shaped indent afterwards for weeks to come, until they had it removed and replaced. Yamashita did his best not to sigh. Luz, for all the time he had known the unusual girl, had certainly never shied away from her more... unnerving quirks, even when in the company of strangers. Such as, for instance, her almost zealotic devotion to him and the Company. To be frank, Kazuo found it profoundly unnerving, but when he took in everything the girl had been through before reuniting with her mother... it was more than understandable. Of course, that was only the tip of the Iceburg. "Ehem. I believe you all would like some explanations, right?"
"Yeah, like what the hell is going on, and who this person is!?" Exclaimed the youngest of the Blights, their daughter Amity he recalled. Such a sour girl, but she had a sweet center underneath her spite and bitterness. She just needed some genuine kindness. Plus, when reviewing their old company's records, particularly after the Confrontation... he had made his decision on this matter. He gave the young lady his kindest smile, only to receive a suspicious glare in response. Tough crowd.
"Hmm, well that will require a bit of a story." He began, motioning them to surround the desk in his office. Technically it was the branch head's office, but they always insisted he use it whenever he did his checkups; he could've relegated it to one of his friends associated with the company, but getting his own hands-on take of the situation was always refreshing. Plus, he had to make sure Luz didn't get up to any... mischief when left to her own devices. "To simplify a long, complicated story, Yamashita Trading is a front company." He stated bluntly, idly noting the way the Blights rocked back in shock. "Specifically, Yamashita is the front company for the Kengan Association." At this, he noted the look of alarmed confusion on young Amity's face, compared to the settled calculation of the parents. Hmm, seems someone did a little more than point the Blights in the right direction.
He gave a soft smile. "The Kengan Association is a group dedicated to allowing mercantile interests to develop without excessive conflict or... unsavory methods being drawn in. Whenever Companies end up having conflicting interests, they can settle the decision through the Association in a Kengan Match."
Amity growled, raising a hand. "Um, I'm still a little lost, but what's a Kengan Match?"
Yamashita opened his mouth to answer, only to be cut off by Luz zooming into Amity's space, fists tightly wrapped in the other girl's shirt, mouth stretched into an almost manic, but definitely childlike, grin. "Kengan Matches are the ULTIMATE test of martial ability!" She declared, easily hoisting Amity off her feet in a fit of excitement. "In the Kengan Matches, two fighters enter, and the only way the fight will end is if they surrender, or if one of the contestants can no longer fight, up to and including DEATH!" With her mini-rant finished, Luz carefully set herself back down, face still split in a manic grin, eyes glinting with childish excitement.
"Indeed." Yamashita nodded. "My company's job is to gather the fighters through which companies may use as their proxies for the fight. The specifics have changed, but in this instance, companies may adopt a fighter who is without any active contracts to serve as their standard representative. This is largely meant to foster a reliable partnership, and for newer generation fighters to obtain some of the security of being a Corporate Fighter, those under the personal employ of a member of the Association."
"While all this is interesting," Odalia cautiously broached, a feeling of warning welling up inside. "How does this affect us? While my husband and I are aware that having a competitor in these Matches will boost our success and unlock and open the doors that have been made shut to us." She nervously grasped her husband's hand with her own, biting her lip even as Alador absentmindedly traced soothing circles upon her hand, even as he contemplated the information given in greater depth himself.
"Simple. We only have one free fighter here." He replied, pointing to a cheerfully grinning Luz. If any of the Blights had been drinking something at that moment, it would've been the perfect example of a group spit-take. Odalia spluttered, gobsmacked, uncomprehending of the slip of a girl before her being someone who willfully engaged in Death Matches. Alador's mind scrambled to calculate and analyze the new data, to rationalize and compartmentalize it; it was shocking, true, but it was also a new resource that could be exploited for their family's security and sanctity. Amity... Amity remembered the fluid movements Luz had displayed earlier, the odd weight her body held, as if she was made of metals, and most importantly, the ruthless motion to-to kill Odalia. While her parents weren't sure what to think... Amity was absolutely sure of one simple fact; Luz was someone to be wary of.
Luz blushed, rubbing the back of her head in embarrassment at the attention she was getting. Usually, people made a point of looking at her as little as possible, and they usually were sweating uncontrollably the entire time when they DID dare to look at her. Having people other than her mom or Mr. Yamashita looking at her, and not being afraid or disgusted by her? It was... nice. "Yeah, I tend to blow through handlers pretty fast." Her gaze turns downcast. "Everyone who's ever picked me has always ended up dropping me, leaving me alone. Everyone else ends up getting selected, from the most trained and skilled of fighters, to the brashest and wildest of dumb rookies, but never me." She turned a sad gaze towards the Blights. "Hope you all are disappointed in getting a defective weapon like me."
Odalia and Amity stood next to each other, uncomprehending. Then, in the first and potentially last, time in the entirety of their lives, Amity and Odalia both delivered double head chops to Luz's head, provoking a whine from the fighter. Alador might've contributed, but he was a tad bit distracted attempting to get a better analysis of Luz's crash marks along the walls; the implications of human capability that they represented were staggering! If he could find a way to incorporate such qualities into his Abominations...
"Now listen, Human." Odalia barked as she lightly tugged on Luz's left cheek. "Just because you haven't retained employment consistently, you are now an associate of the Blights. That means you are one of a select few. As one of those select few, you have a duty to give your all at all times. I do not CARE how many passed you by in favor of another; whether you are weak, or you are strong, you shall become a worthy weapon of the Blight Family, and we will accept nothing less than your very best!"
"And while I don't care about that, I refuse to hear even a single word of you referring to yourself as broken in my presence!" Amity shouted, tugging the opposite cheek. "If you were really broken, you wouldn't be able to laugh, or joke, or tell lame pick-up lines! You wouldn't be able to self-deprecate or feel sorry for yourself! So shut up with all this talk about being broken, or we will have problems Missie!"
"Pfft!" All present turned their heads in surprise, only to see the head of the Yamashita Trading Company, Kazuo Yamashita himself, stifling chuckles and wiping away tears. "I think it's time you all had your first experience with the Kengan Matches." He said, eyes watering.
As they wandered deep into the bowels of the so-called Trading Company's branch building, Odalia desperately resisted the urge to bite her nails. Not only would it be low-class, but it would reveal her nerves to that INSUFFERABLE Kazuo! He put on a good act, true, but you had to get up pretty early to pull the blood-wool over the eyes of the Isles' premiere businesswoman, and former paramour of the Wildest Witch the Isles had seen in recent memory. His bumbling, wise grandfather routine may have sucked in the human, who she was now finally recalling had been mere moments away from killing her prior, and it may have partially worked on her sweet Mittens, bless her naivety, but she and Alador? Oh, they could smell the stench coming off of him from a mile.
While it wasn't quite so easy to discern at first, the way he had drawn her vulnerabilities, her pains and insecurities kicking and screaming to the surface before he would agree to even CONSIDER allowing them to join, all a clever ploy to gain insight into her mentality, to see what buttons could be pushed to manipulate her, and what ones to avoid to provoke her. All well and good, but luckily she had her dear Alador by her side; his mind was as analytical and logical as a living mind could be, being utterly unphased by anything short of new opportunities for his research and experiments. With him by her side, no attempt to manipulate her would survive contact with her wall of logic ever at her side.
But on the topic of that WRETCH again, he had blown any attempt to conceal his true devious nature when the human girl fell over herself to prostrate in appeasement before him, something she'd only seen the most zealotic of Belos' little troopers do. While Odalia would rather commit bloody murder than EVER admit it, she felt some measure of connection with the human. After all, the girl reminded her far too much of both "Her" and Amity for her not to see it. Hmm... who knows? Maybe she could seize control of Yamashita Trading and take the girl into her family's staff, away from the wretches and riff-raff that would seek to abuse her skills for their own ends. She should be using those skills for the honor and glory of the Blight Family, damn it!
"Here we are!" Kazuo's gratingly cheerful voice called out. Odalia fought back a scowl as she saw him ushering them into some kind of viewing box for the event, but she wasn't fooled, recognizing the condescending smirk underneath that so-called tender smile! She so wanted to grab the human away from him, before he decided to use his dastardly hold over her to order their deaths, but held her nerves still. "I'm afraid that this is where you all must part ways from Miss Noceda," Who? Oh, that must be the human girl's name. "As she descends into the depths of the arena. If any of you have any questions in regards to the proceedings, feel free to ask me." Oh you'd LIKE them to do that, wouldn't you, Yamashita!? Still, she forced herself to remain calm, situating herself in her seat. Whatever the outcome, she would not be rattled.
Luz's teeth chattered. Not from cold, or nerves. No, Luz's teeth chattered... from anticipation. The Blight Girl, Amity, had said she wasn't broken. It almost brought a tear to Luz's eye. That idea was so naive, it was laughable, yet also one of the most touching things any had ever said about her. When she was at home, when she was with Mama, Luz could relax, and pretend she was normal. That nothing had happened. That she wasn't tainted, stained. Yet all she needed to remind herself of her taint was the fear and loathing that followed her everywhere she went within the bounds of the Association. She was an untouchable. Something unclean and unwanted by the world. And it was only when she got to fight. To RiP aNd TeAr until it was done. It was only then, that she felt truly herself, the only time she got to be that girl from before. And all it cost was the pain and fear of those who opposed her.
This fight was unusual by the Associations standards, a fairly recent product. This form of match pitted two fighters against each other, for the pursuit of handling debt. If one fighter won, all their company's debt would be transferred to the the loser's. And of course, the reciprocal was also true. Now, some may be wondering how the Blights had enough debt (Minimum: 500,000,000,000), to justify this practice. In truth, the answer was simple. The Blight's didn't have enough money to join the association, and get all the requisitioned materials for their factories to began early production, so Mr. Yamashita, being the noble soul that he was, offered them a colossal loan to get settled and started! He wasn't even charging them interest, and their was no set date for when they'd have to pay it all off! Truly heartwarming!
There was an announcer over seeing this all, but Luz tuned him out. She wasn't here for the money. She bounced on her the soles of her feet. She wasn't here for fame. She sent a few practice attacks, grimly noting the state of her hands once again. Stupid crazy-hard conditioning, preventing her from fighting. As her opponent stepped forward, Luz's mind BLAZED with information.
Fighting Style: Street Boxing
Favorite Food: Raw Peppers
This and much, much more came zooming through her mind. Each little detail built up the appropriate image in her head like him, but she though she'd be pretty good at it. With a roar, Luz rushed forward, somersaulting her way through the flames materialized shells all around them. As Donny roared, sending a heavy jab to get her to flicker back, Luz grinned savagely. Pulling her hand back, and violently torquing her wrist, she slammed her arm forward, watching in glee as his flesh warped into a spiral at the point of impact. He'd be lucky if he ever used that arm again!!! As Donny screwed up his vision, Luz Blinked forward, relishing the look of shocked horror in his gaze at her sudden appearance. With a shout, he pulled back to attack again, only to be once more aborted by Luz's barrage. When he attempted to run, she slammed into his heel until it became a bloody mess. When he attempted to punch her, she slipped in and sent savage jabs into his organs, preferably between the ribs.
"Hold still, you Fucking Wetback!" He screamed. Luz felt her eye twitch at the slur. No more Miss Nice Maniac. Technically, what she was about to do was against the rules. But then again, as her most savage grin stretched across her face, eyes unfocused and feral, she had always felt that rules were meant to be a bit more... flexible than that. As the fool slammed his elbow down in a vain attempt to splatter open her skull, Luz made her move.
She Blinked into his personal space, arm already contorted to it's maximum, but unlike the traditional Rakshasa's Palm, which was, as named, a Palm strike, her variant was made of meaner stuff. Her fingers, lethal weapons she'd brutalized over and over again until they could serve as knives, took on the brutal torque of her next blow, and with one spring like kick, she sent her violently twisting Claws carving into his heart. Luz licked her lips as the blood gushed around her, fighting the urge to scream in joy at his roars of agony, the blood still pumping as her talons held the rents in his heart shut. Well, she couldn't have that, now could she?
With a deft flick of her wrist, and some clever footwork, Luz Noceda, Mad Fox of Gravesfield and one of only two known Wielders of the Kouei Style of Martial Arts, ripped his heart clean from his body. It was a horrific thing she'd done. It, and much much more had transformed her into a pariah. But that's what she deserved. She who had no value as herself found limitless value in others, even the most evil and twisted of souls. It was in this sense of being without value, that she clung to the value of others. If her current master or mistress ordered her to kill herself, she would do it, for the value they held was so much greater than hers, in her mind at least. In all honesty, this fight had been a disappointment. Donny was an idiot and a racist who had just barely slipped through the cracks and only had any wins to his name due to his size and ruthlessness. And while she wasn't one to boast, but for Luz, while she may not be big, there was no one more ruthless than she.
I did say that Luz was crazy in the tags. Again, I am not happy with the way that Luz's combat debut for this fic turned out, and will be trying to go back and change it later, but I will leave it here as a placeholder. Thank you.
Chapter 4: Luz is Troubled
Yamashita gives his incite into the wonderful mess that is Luz Noceda's psyche, and plans are starting to form for the future.
Luz jerkily marched out of the arena, the bloody hunk of muscle that used to be her opponent's heart still clenched firmly in her fist, chuckling all the while. Suddenly, she misstepped, pitching forward. She didn't care, she just kept on chuckling. Before she could slam into the hard concrete floor, her free arm lashed out, her fingers forcibly punching into the stone to support her body weight. It would've been somewhat comical, if you didn't think about the implications of a fourteen year old girl with fingers strong enough to punch through concrete. She just kept on laughing, and laughing, and laughing!!! And then came the tears. The bitter, salty, hate-filled tears that served only as a testament to how much of a monster she was, how much of a broken little doll she was, dancing on her strings for whatever kindly puppeteer decided they wanted to play with her.
With a grunt of effort, Luz forced herself along, her face falling into sullen disdain. What was the point of a valueless life like hers, anyway? As she mulled over her regular existential problem, much more moodily than usual, something peculiar caught her eye. Turning to yell at the frail little girl that had somehow snuck into the arena, Luz paused as she finally got a good look at the 'frail little girl' she had spotted. She'd seen her reflection in a mirror, still cradling the ruined heart. Transfixed, Luz slowly stalked up to the mirror, shaky fingers slowly tracing her reflection's face. Tears weld up in her eyes once more as the realization of what she was seeing represented; she was weak. A scared, broken, ugly thing that carries the ruined vessel of life. She was something... that was not supposed to exist, as defined by the truth of the world. A freak. With a scream of despair, Luz slammed her forehead as hard against the mirror as she could, shattering it, utterly uncaring of the glass and metallic shards now lodged in her forehead.
As she walked back up, Luz hiccuped. Then she choked. And then... she giggled. She broke into a deep, heavy laugh that reverberated with every fiber of her being. It wasn't a happy laugh. It was the laugh of someone so broken, the only thing that kept them from shattering entirely, was to laugh with all their heart and soul. When Luz entered the arena, such a description as to who and what she is are flawlessly accurate, a testament to how much she has allowed herself to become inhuman in her brokenness. Still, maybe someone would heal this shattered heart? Who knows, really?
Amity's lip curled. It was all she could do to hold in her lunch, and, if the sounds she was hearing were accurate, her father had already lost his. What they had just seen, was an act of ruthless brutality unlike anything else. Violence was no stranger to the Boiling Isles, one could almost say they were TOO used to violence and death in their daily lives. But what they had witnessed was violence directed, honed, and then allowed to explode into a horrific tapestry of pain. But to Amity Blight, underneath all that horror and pain, that fight, if it could be called one, was one of the most beautiful scenes she'd ever witnessed.
She whirled on Yamashita, grabbing him by the collar to slam him against the nearby wall, guards instantly moving to subdue only to be discretely called off by a hasty gesture from Kazuo. She refused to play games with this man, not now.
"Just what in the TITAN'S WRATH was that shit!?" She snarled, grip pulsing in time with her temper. She wrung him again, expectant. "Well!?"
Yamashita merely gave her his best tired look, gesturing to his throat. Upon realizing that she'd been constricting him WAY too much, Amity flushed and dropped him. "Sorry."
"Oh none of that, I would've done something similar in your position. In fact, I have done so before! Several times!" Kazuo stated, easily waving off his near strangulation, much to Amity's incredulity. He gave off a soft smile. "Now, I'll do my best to add some clarity to this situation, but some parts of the story are simply not mine to tell. I hope you'll understand that."
The Blights ruminated on his response, before nodding. Curtly from Odalia. Absentmindedly from Alador. Grudgingly from Amity. All of them were willing to accept that even if Kazuo knew everything, he wouldn't tell them parts due to not having the right to do so.
Kazuo paused, awkwardly rubbing his chin, considering just what he COULD share, and what he could NOT. "Well, to start with, as you've just seen, Luz is highly unstable, mentally speaking. Her mind is like a kaleidoscope, forming into myriad fantastic shapes, yet non conceal the fact that they are made of shattered, scattered pieces. Due to this shattered nature, Luz's mind is highly flexible to the new, different, and unexplained, allowing her to adapt to anything near instantly, at least in terms of mental processing." Odalia was frantically taking notes; her nature as an Oracle meant the mind had a deep connection to her magic and her work, rivaled only by Illusionists. Alador was also taking notes, though his were more on how to create an intelligent core for an Abomination and using this "Kaleido-Frame" as he mused it, as a corner piece of it. Amity just glowered. She had a good feeling that HOW Luz's mind became that way was part of the things he wouldn't share.
Kazuo continued. "Luz was trained by one of the most dangerous and ruthless fighters in the world, Setsuna Kiryu, a man who brutally murdered his own teacher in the art of fighting once he had taken his techniques for himself. The exact reasons as to why are unknown to all but the two of them, but Luz said that Setsuna often called him and her as 'kindred spirits.' What this means, I have no idea, but my working theory is what I'll talk about next." All leaned in closer. "Luz possesses no sense of personal value, quite literally putting everyone else, even the most twisted and despicable of murderers, above herself as an individual. Whenever she has had Sponsors before, such as what you will be, her devotion to them and their desires has bordered on fanaticism, committing blatantly illegal acts in the name of their wants and desires. She's even attempted to kill herself a few times because of he Sponsors shouting at her in a fit of rage. Luckily she was always stopped before it could go too far." An unknown knot of tension eased in the chests of the three witches.
"Luz utterly despises her madness within the arena, seeing it as proof that she is but an animal pretending she is a human, a fraud wearing the skin of a woman's child. However, that madness plays a key part of Luz's mental health. Every so often, Luz's kaleidoscopic stability will start to falter. To recover it, she has to fight; fighting gives her focus, clarity, pushing her mind to do it's job to the best of it's ability. While the act of killing is ultimately unnecessary, fighting in all shapes and forms helps hold her mind together. Truly, her existence is one of reckless pain." He finished, staring into the ground morosely. The Blights reeled from it all. Odalia was wary of the girl, but could respect her understanding that just because it is necessary does not make it right, treating the inhumane actions she performs within the arena with the gravitas they deserve. Alador was utterly captivated by Luz's mind and body; her mind could provide new fields of research for the development of his Abominations, and the nature of her body and fighting techniques could open up new avenues of Abomination design! Amity... Amity was just silent. Until she wasn't.
With a howl of rage, Amity violently flipped over the nearest desk, documents and supplies scattering. The act of petty outrage may have soothed some of Amity's fury, but she wouldn't deny that she was in a lot of pain for forcing her body to do what it could not actually do. Aw well, the price she paid for her peace of mind, eh? Still, she plopped herself back down in her seat, keeping her ears trained for the sound of anyone marching up and/or entering. Eventually, her diligence paid off. While her parents spent some time muttering over the particulars of their business with Mr. Yamashita, Amity's ears picked up on the distinct sound of crying and laughing intermingled. While at first weirded out by the odd mix of sounds, the recollection of Mr. Yamashita's mentioning of Luz's mental state and the fights, she quickly figured out what was going on.
As Luz awkwardly stumbled into the room, the last thing she expected was to be captured in Amity's embrace. She tried to struggle, she tried to scream, to get the Princess away from the unclean filth that was her body. Her struggles would go unnoticed, her cries and pleading unanswered. And, eventually, she succumbed to Amity's grasp, silently weeping away like the broken thing she was in the arms of the third person to ever show her unconditional kindness and empathy outside her dating life. Was it, perhaps, not wrong for Luz to be more than just a tool? She didn't know. All Luz did know, was that she'd dropped the ruined heart of her foe, and was tenderly returning Amity's embrace. Neither of them would speak of that moment for months and weeks to come afterwards, and only due to their parents triggering their memories.
Chapter 5: Prelude to Pain
Luz gives some better detail about what happened, some mild foreshadowing is given, and a revelation in the waiting for when it bursts into the opening for the story.
Here's hoping you all liked it, because I am EXHAUSTED!! Now, this is where things can start picking up a little bit of speed.
"Welp, that was easy!" Luz cheered, her tears vanishing as her personality and emotions did a seeming one-eighty, leaving her audience dumbfounded, Amity especially. Hadn't she just been a weeping wreck not even a minute ago!? The Blights turned to Mr. Yamashita, eyes widened in questioning.
"I did say that Luz's mind is unstable, didn't I?" He replied, chuckling sheepishly (Sinisterly to Odalia).
Luz pouted, arms crossed over her chest with a huff, the trophy she'd taken lying forgotten by the door. "Sir, please don't tell people about my issues!" She whined.
Kazuo raised his arm placatingly. "Don't worry, Miss Noceda, I didn't tell them anything confidential." He gave her a soft smile at her fragile look. "Your privacy is still secure."
In the eyes of the Blights, a previously hidden tension drained out of Luz before their eyes. "Thank you." Luz muttered softly, eyes damp.
Shaking it off, Luz lightly slapped her cheeks, before turning a beaming grin to the Blights. "Welp, you've seen it! I'm a certified psycho, and one of the best fighters in the area. My name is Luz Noceda, age 14. My Win/Loss Record for the Kengan Matches currently stand at 15 Wins, and 6 Losses. If you still want me to stick around, I'll do everything I can to serve you all to the best of my abilities. I understand if you'd prefer to dump me, though." She rattled off, never once dropping that chipper, sweet, peppy tone of voice, nor that blissful, silly grin she had. All of the Blights felt uncomfortable at the sight of it, how she seemed totally unphased by it all.
"I am curious at how quickly you defeated your adversary. I am also wondering who he was." Alador stated, drawing all eyes towards him. Amity felt grateful for him taking everyone's minds off the unsettling topic of Luz's response to what had occurred.
Luz blinked, tilting her head in confusion, before bringing her fist to her palm in realization. "OH!" She exclaimed, eyes alight. "Did Mr. Yamashita not tell you?" At the chorus of shaken heads, and a suspicious look at the man in question from Odalia, Luz shook her head in fond exasperation. "Honestly, sir. Well, the reason he wasn't announced was because you didn't need to know it."
At the looks of blank confusion she received, she elaborated. "This match is what's known as a Scrubbing. By entering, companies wager their debts; whoever wins transfers their debt to the loser, though neither can wager more debt than the other already has. It's considered low-brow by most of the Association's members, but is also considered an acceptable aspect of the culture of Kengan Matches as a whole, being a way for companies struggling in hard times to stay afloat, as well as a way to inflict heavy damage to a rival company or an up-and-coming newer member." She paused, waiting for her words to sink in; by the widening eyes, and rapidly paling faces, her words had had the desired impact.
Amity nearly grew faint at the implication, of companies using their expenses as weapons against each other, something capable of toppling even the most powerful of corporations if used at the right time, before a thought struck her. Turning to Mr. Yamashita, she asked one simple but crucial question. "Luz said this 'Scrub' was a way to deal with debt. Since when did we have debt, that Humanity would recognize that is?"
She almost scoffed as her parents eyes shot open in horrified realization. Kazuo merely gave a sheepish chuckle. At their glares, he hastily waved it off. "Oh, it's nothing much. You simply didn't have enough funds to cover joining the Association, so I merely took the liberty of offering you all a loan to cover the costs and expenses. I then proceeded to arrange for a Scrubbing to occur in order to give you all an effective way of eliminating that debt. After all, none of the fighters who can give Luz a viable fight would have anything to do with one!" Chills went up the Blights' spines, none more so than Odalia.
'He arranged a match to determine the status of our debt before we had officially joined.' Alador mused gravely.
'He backed us into a corner, and we were totally left in the dark!' Amity growled in the sanctity of her mind.
'That conniving bastard... he's essentially painted us as his puppets for all the world to see!!' Odalia raged. Internally, all now visualized a scene of a far more menacing and sneaky looking Kazuo hovering above them, arms outstretched with puppet strings leading from his fingers down to a puppet version of Luz's berserker state, maneuvering it before puppet versions of the Blights.
'I really hoped I had made the right call. While Barstoff Publishing is one of the shadier companies in the area, they are well-versed in deftly handling large amounts of debt, clearing even self-destructive amounts in almost record speed. While Donny's passing is unfortunate, he's had numerous incidents over the years that made such a situation, facing off against a ruthless foe far beyond him in skill, an inevitability. I had hoped Luz wouldn't resort to it, but I can only accept that what is done is done.' Kazuo mused, utterly oblivious to the now raging paranoia of the Witches before him.
Kazuo clapped his hands. "Now then, Luz, would you like to continue your explanation?"
"Absolutely, sir!" Luz beamed. "Basically, the guy I was fighting, Donny, is a fighter specializing in Boxing, a form of combat that primarily uses punches at it's core. He's... not good at it, or at least, he Wasn't good at it, but he was able to make up for it by using cheap shots and playing dirty in the arena." While the Blights were a bit curious on the specifics, with Amity dedicating herself to researching it later, they didn't wish to interrupt. "He was also fairly strong, all things considered. But, in the end, I am both a far better fighter, in terms of skill, speed, technique, and ruthlessness. Frankly, the second he saw me, he should have surrendered. Plus, he was a huge prick, so I don't feel as guilty as usual over killing him." Luz finished, awkwardly shrugging.
"Be that as it may, you certainly proved your worth." Odalia mused, a mix of rueful satisfaction forming on her face. While she LOATHED the girl's connection with Yamashita, she couldn't deny the usefulness of her brutality and skill. And if Yamashita's claims to her loyalty were true... then her family had just gained a very powerful ally. At Luz's look of surprise, Odalia scoffed. "Come now dear, as... uncomfortable as that scene was, we Witches are more used to violence as a whole than most humans. Something as mild as homicidal tendencies is a trifle in the end."
Luz blinked, slowly scanning the Blights. "OOOOooohhhhhhhh! Right! I totally forgot you guys were Witches! My bad." She chuckled sheepishly, lightly rubbing her head. The action drew Amity's eyes to Luz's hands.
"What in the Titan!?" She shouted, before scurrying over to get a better look, in spite of Luz's protests. Scrunching up her nose, she peered close, finally noting that the hands were bleeding directly, and that the fingers and joints were out of alignment. Luz had been actively damaging her hand while she'd been fighting. She leveled a flat loot at Luz. "We are getting you to a Healer." And with that said, the young woman dragged the squirming fighter along, on a mission for health and safety!
"Ugh, young people." Odalia groaned.
"Oh, let them have their fun. Growing closer now will serve them well later down the line." Yamashita chuckled. Odalia couldn't find it in herself to disagree; as frustrating as this all was, having Amity grow close to a loyal and powerful warrior would only be a benefit, of that she was sure. No need to chase the girls away from each other, like she'd done with all the hangers on attempting to use Amity's connections over the years. Yamashita paused, furrowing his brow. "So, when do you intend to tell your daughter that you made her head of the Company?"
Luz chuckled as Amity growled to herself, fussing with Luz's bandages. "I still think it's so stupid how human healing works, but it'll do." Amity bit out, flushing slightly at the playful smirk Luz gave her. "The weirdest part was how nonchalant she was about it, and the fact that she recognized you so easily."
At that, Luz had to fight back a bark of laughter. Going off of the puffed out cheeks on Amity's face, she'd failed. "Sorry, but when you've got as violent a reputation as I do, especially in a relatively small place like this, it makes sense when your coworkers have to recognize you. The fact that she recognizes me so easily is just as easy to explain," She gestured to the bandages. "I have to see her for stuff like this after every fight."
Amity blinked at that, now taking the time to go-over Luz's appearance. Underneath the nice, if worn, clothing, she was littered with pale lines and slight nicks, with the edges of much larger ones peaking out from her shirt. The scars tracing Luz's hands and wrists were the most extensive, something she hadn't seen properly before under all the blood. "What the heck? How?"
Ah, the refreshing confusion of someone utterly new to something, how Luz would relish this memory! Welp, time to explain. "Well basically, my body isn't properly adapted to my fighting style." Luz began, slowly tracing out her own physical status in her mind's eye. "While I can dish out some serious pain and damage, until my body can grow enough to exploit my fighting style to it's fullest, I'm basically guaranteed to do some level of harm. It's another reason why I get passed off so often; Sponsors are leery of using a fighter who's constantly needing to rest and heal up after a match, no matter how one-sided." Finished with her info-dump, Luz gave a sheepish shrug. The situation sucked, especially when her recovering kept her from fighting, but it was what it was, after all.
Amity pursed her lips, but ultimately said nothing. Instead, she chose to change the subject. "Well, what's fighting like for you? You did mention earlier having an impressive sounding win record."
Luz grinned bashfully, scratching her face in embarrassment over mentioning her record. "Yeah, I guess I did." After giving a small chuckle, she sobered up, scanning the area. "While I'll gladly admit that I'm a cut above most of the fighters here in Gravesfield and the surrounding areas, the vast majority of fighters here are pretty orthodox, sticking to tried and true strategies and standardized tactics. It makes my fights a LOT easier, especially as few of them have any sort of adaptability." And of those few who did have flexibility... she carefully kept her features schooled, even as her fists clenched in anticipation of the next time she exchanged blows with them.
"Still, if at any time I feel I need to, I've got a wildcard up my sleeve." She said, lightly tapping her temple in emphasis.
"Mind clarifying that vague statement?" Amity asked wryly, admittedly amused by the laughable attempt at being cryptic by the admittedly cryptic and mysterious girl.
Luz chuckled, accepting the ribbing with good humor. "Well basically, my teacher gifted to me a last-resort technique to fight with." She threw a few quick jabs into the air, lightly testing the feeling in her hands; it was painful, but not debilitating, so she felt confident doing a quick breakdown. "And by last-resort, I mean it. It's the type of thing I'm only supposed to use in a situation where I will genuinely die if I don't, or if I'm already going to die and having nothing left to lose. Since I'm unlikely to really care enough at all ever for the first reason, I'll most likely end up using it for the second."
The sheer casualness with which Luz mentioned her mortality sent a chill up Amity's spine, as if she was being watched by someone. Still, part of that explanation...
"What do you mean by 'unlikely?'" She questioned.
"Oh it's pretty simple. I just don't see any value in my own life at all." Luz bluntly replied. "I genuinely find no meaningful value or care for my life and body; the only thing I even remotely care for, other than my Mama, friends, and fantasy, is fighting. Part of why I go out of my way to fight is because I want to find something of value to build my life around and up from. I just want to be human again."
The sheer... empty indifference in Luz's words were, without a doubt, frightening to hear for Amity. But honestly? The passion she heard underneath, the subtle hints of self-scorn, of wistful desire, of childish excitement... there was only one thing she could say. "I guess I'm helping you with that."
Both Amity and Luz stood dumbfounded. Luz was frozen from the sheer shock at what Amity was saying, the sheer insanity of it reminding her of something she herself would do. But for Amity... she was frozen in fright. She'd just promised to aid a crazy killer in finding a purpose in life!! Was she mental!? With a soft sigh, Amity sadly conceded that she probably was.
"Well," Luz said, voice tight with emotions even as it maintained that soft ease of casual incidents. "I'm glad. I hope your prepared to walk through hell with me."
Amity gave a scoff, having pushed her panic into the deepest, darkest hole it could be. "Please, as if Hell wouldn't be an upgrade from how dull the world is." She finished, shooting Luz a proud smirk.
Seeing Amity's declaration for what it was, Luz had only one thing to say. "You are definitely coming to my house to meet my family." And with her piece said, Luz strolled off into town... and utterly confused as to why she hadn't asked Amity for times to meet up and hang. And on another note... what had happened to her house!?!
Chapter 6: Home Beat Home
Luz stumbles across some 'uninvited' guests. Lilith and Eda hash out their differences (also they have now arrived, surprise!), and are attacked by a 'mysterious killer.' And Camila is one wrong word away from bustin' out La Chancla!!
Whew! This took longer than I thought it would!! This is gonna include a relatively brief battle scene, which I hope you all enjoy! Thank you all for reading, and have a great day!!!
Not much really phased Luz Noceda these days. Her mind just didn't let her feel shock for very long, if at all in some cases. But then again, she'd never seen her house decked out in Owl Decals and surrounded by explosion craters scattered about. Forcing herself to relax, Luz let her mind process the information at hand. Her mother was expecting her home. Her mother was also expecting guests. Luz had a reputation as a ruthless and unstable underground fighter. The likeliest conclusion? One of her adversaries had come to her home under the guise of renting one of their spare rooms, and had led an attack to draw her out. The odds were likely that enemies were waiting within to ambush her.
'Well,' Luz mused, her blood starting to pulse, her easy-going grin widening and stretching, pulling harshly at the corners of her face as the blood vessels in her eyes grew more prominent. In short, she looked insane. 'There funeral.'
With a scoff, Eda Clawthorne, once the most powerful Witch on the Boiling Isles, especially after that fraud Belos ran with his tail between his legs, was annoyed. Why you ask? Because her goody-two-shoes sister, Lilith, was currently staring her down, awkwardly shuffling from foot to foot. Eda could almost snort at the embarrassing sight. As much as she didn't want to admit it, Eda was perfectly willing to own up to her overreaction from before. How was she supposed to know Lilith got sacked and was on the run!? "So, we've got about an hour before the lady of the house gets back. As much as it pains me to admit it, I'm not gonna be able to clean all this up," She paused to gesture to the large amount of strewn wreckage scattered about the area. "Before she gets back."
"I concur." Lilith said somberly, doing her best to avoid meeting Eda's eyes. She bit her lip, conflicted. With Belos gone, her one hope of curing Eda had disappeared with him, and without his presence... she was quickly set upon as a scapegoat for the conflict, being his alleged second in command. It especially stung with how even her own operatives turned against her. Still, she allowed herself some small pleasure in knowing that the Golden Guard and Kikimora were in just as much trouble as she was. Spinning up a spell, she levitated as much of the smaller debris as she could, carefully reallocating them to their proper places within the home, covering up the damage as best she could and collecting the pieces too small to reassemble. A glow shined out of the corner of her eye; turning to it, Lilith barely held in the flinch as her sister casually manipulated the same spell as she with far greater force and control than she herself. Even when she should've been weakened under the strain of the curse, she was still so much more capable than Lilith. 'Even now, you outshine me, dear sister.' She mused gravely.
"I must admit to being curious as to your presence here, sister." Lilith said, proving that yes, she was capable of massive understatement. When she had seen Eda, her wild, free, crafty sister, staring at her from across the human woman's property, Lilith would admit she had lost her head, taking off into a head-long sprint towards her sister. It was understandable in her mind, she had been on the run for the better part of three years, only to run into someone she'd thought still on the Isles, or worse, dead! Of course, considering their history, the fact that Eda paled at the sight of her and instantly moved to attack made much more sense. Needless to say, Edalyn beat her like a drum. "I'd have thought you'd rather stay on the Isles, using the loss of Belos and our integration into the Human Realm to increase your business."
Eda snorted. "Clearly you have no idea how business works, sis." She took a moment to laugh at Lilith's affronted squawk before continuing. "My business is dependent on the fact that Human Realm Goods are supposed to be RARE. Now that we're a part of it, rarity goes way down, and I can't make a living." She carefully left out the fact that she only left because her home had been destroyed in the conflict between the human realm forces and Belos' most fanatical fighters, who for some reason blamed HER for his disappearance rather than accept he'd abandoned them like a coward. She was lucky that she, King, and Hooty had managed to escape with what they had.
"I see. Well, at least here you aren't a criminal." Lilith said casually, oblivious to Eda's nervous sweating at her words. Eda wasn't gonna mention that she had gotten sucked into the Human Criminal Underworld, she'd never let her hear the end of it!! "Personally, I was by all accounts exiled."
Eda felt her thoughts stutter to a stop. "Come again?"
Lilith merely gave her sister a sad, bitter smile. "When you've dedicated your life to someone with power, and their actions cause harm to befall the people, you tend to end up on a relatively short list of people who are going to suffer painfully for the sins of another. Or, to put it another way, I was blamed for the conflict and chaos that befell the Isles since Belos wasn't around to target, and was forced to run for my life. I'm honestly quite lucky to be alive."
Eda snorted. "Typical. Well, at least you survived, right?" She hedged, the caution inside her shifting into relief at the chuckle of agreement she received from Lilith. "And either way... at least now you've got another chance. Your free now. No rules, no responsibilities, no obligations. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do anymore. You've gotten a new beginning, and not a lot of people manage to get those." She stated, a soft smile on her face.
Lilith smiled in thought, an image of a younger, red-haired version of herself laughing with a younger Edalyn, both so happy to be together. "Yes. A new beginning."
Eda smirked, about to speak up, only to catch something appearing behind Lilith. Without saying a word, her face pale with horror, she jumped in front of Lilith, shoving her to the side... just in time to catch a twisting strike to the throat, the violent torquing force of the blow ripping her head clean from her shoulders. The attacker didn't even hesitate, instantly moving to sweep Eda's body out from under it's feet, transitioning into a leaping kick to springboard off Eda's body's spine.
"HHHIIIIIIII!!" The attacker shrieked, ripping through the air all the while. With a roar, they reared back their hand, primed to crack Lilith's skull open. Just barely reacting in time, Lilith called up a barrier, allowing relief to filter in as it absorbed the blow. The relief didn't last, as their attacker swooped down and briefly vanished, reappearing still outside the barrier, but to the side of Lilith where the barrier was weaker, fist reared back to strike. With a shout, a rain of blows rippling against the surface, odd spiral patterns blossoming at the sight of each strike. Growling in irritation, Lilith twirled her staff, calling up a lightning bolt to launch, but just before she could cast, her foe flickered out of view again. Frantically glancing back and forth, Lilith couldn't hold back the shriek of pain as a crushing jab shattered part of her rib cage.
"LILITH!" Lilith barely had time to feel relief at her sister's scream, ducking out of the way of the next blow, this one aimed for her heart, a wet cough surging forth. At the sight of her attacker rapidly dodging the blitz of flame blasts and physical swings of Eda's staff, Lilith didn't fight the smirk that crawled up her face. With a shout, she jumped back in, twirling up a barrier near Eda's side, allowing it to absorb the trio of twisting blows that would've ripped apart Eda's ribs, lungs, and stomach had she not caught it before the barrier dropped. Seizing the opening, Eda slammed the butt of her staff into their opponent's side, forcing them away.
This proved to be a mistake. Before either sister could respond, their foe zipped in between them, slamming their twisting strikes into both sister's simultaneously, one driving into Eda's hip, the other into Lilith's shoulder. While Eda managed to brace herself against the pain, instantly moving to block the followup strike to her throat, Lilith was left vulnerable for a brief second, a brutal kick slamming into her jaw, her head ringing from the force and pressure. As her feet toppled out form under her, Lilith felt a surge of indignation burn through her. 'Like hell!'
With a roar, Lilith lashed out with her staff, hooking it around their enemy's leg and dragging them down with her. This should end it!! Grinning fiercely, Lilith pulled her staff loose, pulling it back to strike, only to switch to a block as the enemy launched a reversed strike her way. What made it even more jarring was that they hadn't even looked in her direction before attacking, not bothering to see where the attack would land other than 'on their enemy.' Forcing herself to move her head, she paled at what she saw; Eda, staff primed to crush their attackers skull, while their enemy planned to launch another twisting blow right at Eda's Diaphragm, the force of which would most likely inflict horrific damage upon Eda's lungs and heart.
And yet... Lilith couldn't bare to look away. She couldn't move in time to stop it. One or both of them would end up dead from this last exchange. Just as the lethal collision was about to happen, a blur of brown whipped through the air, coiling around their attacker, and yanking them away.
"I'll Take That!! Hoot Hoot!" Wait a minute... was that Edalyn's House Demon?
"Ugh! Hooty! What are you-! Wait a minute, if your back... than that means!" Eda started, paling as the implications slammed into her.
"Indeed, I got done early." The warm, sweet voice of the Human Woman Eda and Lilith were attempting to room with had taken on a chilling tone. For reasons that didn't fully make sense to either of them, they now felt far less safe then when they were actively being attacked with the intent to kill. Slowly turning to look at the woman who held their fate in her hands, both froze in place at the mask of serene politeness, a mask that did nothing to hide the unyielding fury in her eyes. "Now, would one of you two mind telling me just WHY you were trying to kill my daughter? And why she was trying to kill you?"
The response of the sisters was immediate and identical. "THAT PSYCHO IS YOUR DAUGHTER!?!?!?!?"
"Weh!" King grunted, plugging his ears at the noise.
Chapter 7: Story Time 1
Camila shares a sad little story with the Sisters. Expect themes of adult fear, parental guilt, etc.
Big warning right now, for those familiar with Kengan Ashura and it's sequel, the following chapter will have a big red-flag for those who can spot it. If you think you've seen it, and recognize it for what it is, let me know in the comments!
Camila calmly sipped her tea, savoring the flavor. With a gentle tap to her cup, Hooty eagerly moved to refill it. For all that he was an odd and somewhat annoying demon, he was a gentle soul. And his tea tasted like a dream to boot! She slid her gaze over the rim of her cup, taking a somewhat unnecessary amount of pleasure at watching her tenants-to-be squirm. She was fairly sure she knew what had happened, but getting their side of the story, as well as seeing HOW they presented it, would help make her decision as to whether she'd keep them as her tenants. "So. I see you've met Luz."
"No kidding." Eda snarked, only for her sister, Lilith, to elbow her as a form of scolding. "What? We were both thinking it!"
"That may be so, but it was still rude." Lilith pointed out. Camila smirked. Dealing with these two would be entertaining.
Eda waved her sister off. "Okay, so we met your kid. Who apparently is some kind of super assassin who tried to kill us. Got an explanation for that?" She asked, her casual tone contrasted by the severe look in her eyes.
"Well, I'm not so sure. Do you have an explanation for our potential tenant, Hija?" Camila 'asked' her daughter lightly, prompting the girl to quit pouting and give a nervous flinch. Oh yes, Camila was building up a clearer and clearer image as they spoke. "Well?"
Luz chuckled nervously, the same chuckle she gave when she was caught opening a gift early, or had skipped a chore to start her training early. "Well, the thing is, I had just come back from the office, got a new Sponsor by the way, and found the house and yard all torn up. So, I got worried. Then, I took a moment to calm down, and think things through." At that moment, Luz's nervousness slipped away, switching into analysis as she became invested in her explanation. "First off; I've made a lot of enemies, many of whom would have no problem shelling out the money to pay for an assassin or gang to cause you and I trouble. Second; we were supposed to meet after I got back, but you were nowhere to be found. Third; we were expecting guests today. In the end, based on those points, I hedged my bets on the idea that you'd been kidnapped by someone looking to hurt me, or worse, and they were setting up an ambush inside, so I responded before they could."
With her daughter's report finished, Camila couldn't help but admire her clinical breakdown of events. While she did not own up to being wrong or in the wrong, that was to be expected; Luz did not really think much in terms of right and wrong when the safety and health of those she cared for was at stake, something that Camila was both grateful for, and worried about. Still, Camila couldn't find any major flaws in her daughter's logic, even if she disapproved of the result. "Well, I'm glad this was all settled. I hope you learned your lesson about jumping to conclusions. Even if you had good reason, you didn't stop to consider the possibility of being wrong, did you?"
Luz chuckled, sheepishly rubbing her shoulder. "Yeah, I jumped the gun. I'll try and work on it in my next matches." She turned to the sisters, a nervous grin on her face. "So, are we cool after the whole 'me trying to brutally murder you' thing?" Camila resisted the urge to sigh; her daughter, bless her heart, could be so painfully oblivious some times. Case in point-
"What in the Titan's name is wrong with your hands!?" Eda shouted, hers and Lilith's eyes being glued to the ruined mess that were Luz's fingers and thumbs. Admittedly, if Camila hadn't grown so desensitized to her daughter waltzing into the house, fingers broken and coated in scratches and rips, she'd most likely be far more distressed than either of the two witches, whose obvious concern was winning them both some points for staying.
-Her daughter, and Camila herself admittedly, had forgotten about the girl's hands in all the hubbub. But yikes, that looked bad. All of her fingers showed signs of swelling, clear breakage present underneath the skin, rips and tears opened all across her hands and parts of her wrists. By Camila's best guess, Luz had gotten into a fight before arriving, at which point she'd gotten into a fight with the sisters. "Mija, please go get the medical supplies."
Luz chuckled sheepishly. "Si, Mami." And with that, she scooted out of her seat, bounding off in the direction of the kitchen, and from there to the supply cabinet.
The sisters both turned back to Camila, rocking back at the intense stare she was sending them. They couldn't move, not even to blink, the pressure was so great. Thankfully, Camila's intense stare fell away into a gentle grin, causing both sisters to sag in relief. "I'm assuming you both wish for an explanation?" She said, a tone of gentle teasing in her voice.
"No dip, lady." Eda bluntly replied, deftly ignoring the elbow Lilith jabbed into her ribs in response.
"Edalyn!" She hissed.
Camila merely waved it off, amused at the blunt statement. "Think nothing of it. Tell you what, I tell you Luz's story, as much as I can, in exchange for you two telling me yours. Deal?" She arched an eyebrow, drawing a flush from both sisters. Oh, maybe she'd get to have some fun with these two after all!
The two sisters paused, exchanging a brief silent conversation, though going by the expressions it was more Lilith trying, and failing, to plead with an increasingly amused Eda. Speaking of the Wild Witch... "Okay, we'll do it." Eda declared, flashing a daring smirk, her golden fang glinting. Lilith merely groaned, cupping her face with her hands in response.
Camila smirked. "Perfect." Pulling herself back, she gazed upwards, lost in the throws of the past. "It all started when Luz was just five. Do to... certain circumstances, I ended up affiliated with the Kengan Matches, free-for-all fighting matches designed to help mercantile groups settle their conflicts of interest, acting as part of the local medical staff. Which was ironic, considering I'm a veterinarian." She brushed aside the confused looks of the sisters, continuing. "I had been called in to help with a particularly difficult patient, and didn't have time to find someone to watch Luz, so I reluctantly took her along with me. "I left her in the care of the guards, expecting them to keep a good enough eye on her. By their accounts, she escaped them not even 30 seconds later." The dry delivery of this statement drew a bark of laughter from Eda, and a muffled chuckle from Lilith; both were well acquainted with incompetent security forces and guards.
"And then, my darling, chaotic daughter managed to work her way over to the current fight. At the tender age of Five, she witnessed two grown men beat each other nearly two death using only their fists, feet, and power. And she liked it." Camila's tone took on a somber note, an air of defeat settling around her. "After that day, she was fascinated with fighting, with combat in general really, and became obsessed with researching fighting styles and noteworthy fighters. She even managed to cultivate information on the Kengan Matches, how, I do not know nor do I want to know, but I tolerated it. While her introduction into the underworld of fighting wasn't one I wished for her, especially at such a tender age, I had already resigned myself to her becoming entangled with it.
"She started coming home some days with more bumps and bruises than usual. I was concerned, but she brushed it aside, saying she was just having fun! I knew in my heart she had managed to convince someone to teach her to fight, but I couldn't work up the nerve to confront her. I thought, maybe it would be good for her, to have a new outlet for all her energy." She chuckled bitterly. "If I had known what would happen, I would have locked up the house until I had made sure she wasn't going to keep learning, and that she'd keep her word. The next thing I knew, at age seven, my baby girl vanished.
"I thought I had driven her away." Camila confessed, voice choked with tears. "I thought I hadn't been supportive enough, not EXCITING enough, that I hadn't been good enough a mother to her. For three months, that was my hell. All alone in my home, wandering around, utterly lifeless, desperately wanting the joyous ring of my daughter's voice to echo all around me, only to be met with silence. And then, she was returned to me! No, she didn't return herself, she had to be returned to me, because when they found her... she had been broken." Camila hissed, hate and pain burning in her gaze, even as tears gushed down her cheeks. "She could barely speak, she constantly attacked any living thing that approached her, every human emotion and impulse that made her my sweet Luz had been torn away, and all that was left was the animal instincts that dwell within us all. I can still remember the nights, I would wake up to her screams, coming into her room to comfort her, only to stare in shock at the gouges she had carved into the walls with her fingers in an effort to flee!
"I didn't know what to do." Camila confessed, an air of complete defeat coating her. "In my desperation, I reached out to the Kengan Association, hoping and praying for someone, ANYONE, who could help her. A week after my attempt to reach out, two men showed up on my doorstep; they were fighters from the Kengan Association, both known for their skills in combat, but also for their histories with their own mental health. They entered my daughter's room, and she attacked them. The larger of the two caught her attack... and pulled her into a hug, holding her in place no matter how much she struggled, screamed, scratched, and bit at him. Until, finally, she broke down in tears, the first tears she'd shed since coming home." Camila gave a teary grin of melancholic relief; joy that someone had helped her daughter, but sorrow that she couldn't do it herself. "They took her in for a month, helping her to rebuild herself, and when she returned, she was my Luz again! Yet, at the same time, she wasn't.
"Every so often, she relapsed into that feral state, and it was only after she had finished attacking, being attacked, FIGHTING something did she regain herself." Camila internally swore, for the five-hundredth, eighty-seventh time, that if she ever met the monster who had inflicted such horror on her daughter, that she would kill them, and that it would be SLOW. "The other man who had helped take her in, the skinnier one, offered to train her, to help focus her aggressive impulses. She progressed at an astounding rate, mastering the core of his favored martial art style in only a year. After that, she entered the Kengan Matches, the undisputed youngest fighter in the organization's history. She didn't fight often, due to her age... but when she did fight, she won. And she won a LOT, considering the average number of fights she was permitted to enter per year.
"In just five years, she has amassed a win/loss record of 15 to 6, and is feared throughout all the local fighting scenes." The smile Camila gave was an odd mix of proud and bitter. "And she's never shown any signs of stopping ever since. Her injuries are the result of her fighting. For all that she is an incredible fighter, particularly for her age, Luz is far too young for the level of force and aggression she competes at; her body quite literally hasn't developed to match her skill, so she regularly harms herself just by attacking! But Luz loves fighting far too much to quit, no matter what her Sponsors say, no matter what the doctors say! ...No matter what I say." Camila bowed her head, silent tears dripping down her face onto the table set beneath her. Forcing herself to pull together, Camila raised her head, a stern look on her face, despite the thick layer of tears. "And that is my story, the story of my pain, and the pain of my family. What about yours?"
Camila was prepared for anything, that was what she told herself. Any response, from pity, to blame, to blunt apathy. What she didn't expect, however, was being tackled by two sobbing witches, a bawling little demon, and a wailing bird tube, burying her under a layer of tears, snot and cuddles. It was, admittedly, not the strangest thing that near-complete strangers had done around her.
Chapter 8: Story Time 2
The sisters share some intel about what's been going on in their lives, and Camila reveals a shocking surprise! Also, we peak back in on the Blights for a moment.
Welp, I am proud to say that I loved this chapter, and I hope you all do too! Most combat chapters, if they aren't a direct continuation of a fight from the previous, will typically have one or two breather chapters between them, officially starting now. Let me know what you all think in the comments!
With a shuddering breath, Luz slammed the door on her tears as hard as she could, still tucked behind the door of the living room, enraptured by her mother's words. The knowledge of just how much her mother had been hurting, how much she'd been blaming herself even as Luz did the same... it was sobering. She could never hate her mother. All her mother had been doing was trying her best to help in a situation so far beyond her that it was almost laughable that she was even trying... and she still insisted on trying. Not a day went by that Luz didn't spend at least ten seconds to mentally kick herself for ending up in that hell, and of the damage everything that led up to it and immediately after had dealt to her family.
Steeling her nerves, Luz tentatively peeked around the corner, a sad smile creeping up at the sight she saw. Her mother, a look of baffled panic on her face, desperately trying to pry a sobbing Bird Tube off of her, even as the little skull-headed dog clambered up her leg. The Witch Sisters, who she was very much looking forward to having stay at their place, were caught between dabbing away their tears and laughing at her Mama's predicament. In all honesty, Luz burned with the desire to go over and join them, to be apart of her Mami's joy, but she held herself back. There was time to rebuild things later; for now, her Mama was focusing on learning about their guests. To be honest, Luz didn't get it, they were clearly trustworthy! Or maybe just stupid, seeing as neither of them went to attack her openings during the spar from before, despite the multiple instances of her leaving her vitals unprotected. Still, better to focus. She carefully ignored the stinging in her hands and wrists.
Eda had no clue what kind of cusses the feisty lady (who had just managed to remind Eda that yes, she was capable of genuine empathy) was using against Hooty and King, but considering they weren't giving any ground in their efforts to comfort the woman. Though, Eda was considering it herself too, albeit nowhere near as over-the-top as those goofballs were being. "So, I'm guessing by the colorful language that you're officially sick of our smothering?"
Camila shot her a tired look, carefully prying a squirming King's claws off of her leg while lightly jabbing Hooty in the eyes, causing him to release her with a yelp. "What was your first clue?" She pouted at the laugh that elicited from Eda and Lilith, but ultimately smirked, accepting the ridiculousness of the once somber situation. "In all honesty, I am grateful for your sympathy, but now is not the time." Her eyes hardened. "If you wish to convince me of your good will, you must offer your own story in turn. BOTH of you."
Eda and Lilith exchanged glances, silently trading words.
'How do you want to do this?'
'It would be best if we presented our situation from a chronological standpoint.'
'So I go first?'
'Indeed. Good luck.'
With their decision made, Eda sighed, sinking deep into her seat. "Well, I won't say anything about what's been going on with Miss Prissy over here," She said, easily ignoring her sister's squawk of outrage, "But for me, I was just an ordinary conwoman, taking whatever Human Realm junk I could find and selling it to suckers who had no clue what it was or what any of it did. Of course, for a loft of it neither did I, but I made a living off of it, along with my potions. Then, Ol' Bonehead up and brought the whole fucking Isles over to your Realm!" She shouted, arms shooting into the air, her brow furrowed in frustration. She waved off the look of concern Camila sent her way, though she didn't fight the effort to cuddle her that Hooty and King put up. "But enough of my issues with my old government. When the whole War thing happened, and Bonehead up and vanished on us, some of his crazier followers got it into their heads that I was responsible." Even now Eda laughed at the thought, however bitter a laugh it was.
"If I could've done ANYTHING to Bonehead, I probably would've done it way before then. When they came after me, the idiots ended up drawing your Realm's forces right to me; my place was completely trashed, and I barely made it out alive with Hooty and King," She jabbed a thumb in the direction of the two demons, with King waving as he dug into a plate of cookies, while Hooty was visibly shaking with the desire to hug Camila again, "and went on the run. I managed to get onto the mainland and have been bouncing from place to place ever since. I've had a few run-ins with the law, nothing serious, and have made some contacts with the underworld around these parts."
Lilith cut in. "Wait a minute, you said that you- never- you never actually said that you haven't been involved in crimes, did you?" She trailed off, before giving her rhetorical question, naked exhaustion coating her voice.
Eda smirked. "What do you think?" Eda couldn't hold in the laugh as Lilith screamed wordlessly into the throw-pillow Camila passed her.
As her chuckles died down, Eda continued, her voice sobered. "It was tough. Crime is different around here. Back home, while we had ruthlessness plenty, crimes were usually petty stuff, stealing and the like, with most deaths coming from escalation after the fact, not from the crime itself. It helps that the laws back home were a hodgepodge mess." She casually added, once again ignoring Lilith's noise of protest. "Don't deny it Lily, they made it an arrestable offense for WALKING ON GRASS! Anyway, I had to get involved in some seriously shady stuff to survive and keep food on the table." Eda admitted, a far off look in her eyes. "I never crossed the worst lines, nothing like sexual slavery or trafficking, and I never killed anyone in any way except self-defense, but I still did some seriously bad things. I gave drugs to a kid who should've been in college or holding down a job; I committed robberies on rival gangs and left town as war descended on the streets. Anything and everything, I did it all to keep my little family safe. Some times I wonder how I can sleep at night, and other times I'm just glad I've managed to stay alive. After awhile, though, my luck ran out. I got caught by some guards when I was trying to rob some company, and got dragged off to their boss. I honestly thought he was gonna have me killed, what with the shady stuff I found in his records, but he decided he would refer my case to some 'Association.'
"Now that I got your story, I'm betting that this Kengan group wants to recruit me, and is using you to make sure they can keep an eye on me. Plus, this is an honestly nice place, and I would be genuinely grateful for them putting me up here with Hooty and King." Eda admitted, getting matching squeals from her demon charges, ruffling their heads affectionately, before smirking. "So, that's my story at least. You okay with hosting a wanted felon as a favor to the corporate underground?"
"Oh, I knew the Association was responsible for you finding my place from the beginning." Camila stated bluntly, causing Eda to comically fall back in her seat. "My guest rooms are kept open expressly for the purpose of hosting people of interest for the Association, one of the services I offer them as a favor for them helping aid my Luz. But I am grateful for your honesty, and I'm certain that the Association will find someone of your skills to be of use."
Lilith paled as the implications hit her like a train. She cupped her face in her hands. "Oh Titan, I've been working for the Association!"
Eda whirled on her sister, eyes wide with interest. "Oh? Mama wants to hear this!"
A chesire grin sporting Camila pulled up next to her. "As do I."
"Don't forget us! Hoot Hoot!" Hooty and King clambered up next to them, just as eager for the tales to be told.
Lilith sighed. "I suppose now is the ideal time to contribute my addition to this tale." Leaning back, Lilith paused to gather her thoughts. "It all started shortly after the war had ended. Our economy was in ruins, with many of our major businesses baring the brunt of the strain; we had to heavily borrow funds from the human nations willing to trade with us, which immediately went into buying up as many goods and materials as we could to help offset the strain on our own agriculture and industrial divisions. When things started to finally look like they had reached a point of stabilizing, whispers started cropping up, People were understandingly upset with the state of things, saying that none of the chaos would've occurred had it not been for Belos. The discord spread, climbing up society until even the major covens were baying for blood." Lilith stated flatly, eyes drawn to the distance as the faces of people she had respected, trusted even, hunted her like an animal, driving her into the street. It had taken over a month to recover full use of her left arm.
"In the end, myself, as head of the Emperor's Coven, and two other high-ranking individuals in the Emperor's favor were driven from the Isles. I had personally never gotten along with either of them, splitting off to head out on my own; I genuinely have no idea what occurred to them after that, but I doubt they died." Lilith recited, the words coming to her as easy as water as she was drawn into her memories. "Without any proper identification or citizenship, I was forced to take odd jobs and tasks to make ends meet and put food on my plate. I was routinely passed around from city to city, town to town, taking on whatever work my current employer needed." She grimaced. "Looking back, I can only conclude I had been scouted by the Association, and that their member companies were using me to complete extra-legal operations that they needed completed but would otherwise run afoul of the law."
"HA! Prissy little Lily's a criminal!" Eda crowed, reveling in the revelation of her sister's flaws. "Welcome to my level!!"
"What I did and what you've done are completely separate things!!" Lilith shrieked, a vibrant blush staining her cheeks. "And on that note, I can only conclude that the information that lead me here came from the Association, the same as Edalyn. Would that be correct, Miss Noceda?"
Camila smirked, already impressed with the cunning and dedicated minds presented before her. Both had been completely truthful, even when it may have served Eda better to omit some of the things she had been pushed into doing out of desperation, but both had also carefully avoided key specifics or overt details into their travels and experiences. She appreciated that kind of cunning, after all she'd been through within the Association. "Indeed. I've honestly been preparing for your arrival since last Fall. Whether either of you meant to or not, you've both made waves with the, shall we say, shadier aspects of the Kengan Association, garnering reputations as problem solvers and and wildcards capable of making even the most wild of schemes become viable. Frankly, I have no doubts in my mind that, no matter what happens, the two of you will be forever enmeshed within the world of Kengan and Underground Fighting from this day forth."
Camila clapped her hands, standing straight up. "I've made my decision. The two of you will be staying here, along with your little companions," She added, giving a squirming King scritches, Hooty eagerly cuddling up against her. "Not that there was ever any doubt. So I say, welcome, Ms. and Ms. Clawthorne, to your new home. May you both find happiness here." And with her piece said, Camila gave the two sisters a soft smile... and drew them into a crushing Bear Hug.
"OOOHHH I can't wait for the two of you to move in fully, it's like your already part of the family!" She gushed, fiercely rubbing her cheeks against the faces of the sisters.
"Do you think it's too late to run?" Eda choked out, only half-joking.
"Yes sister, I do believe it is." Lilith wheezed, nonetheless relaxing into the embrace. It'd been a long time since she'd been held by a mother of any kind, after all.
"Your King demands cuddles as well!" King shouted, leaping onto Eda's back.
"Whoa, I am not missing a group hug!" Luz cheered, rushing into the room before glomping onto Lilith.
"GROUP HUG WITH HOOTY!! HOOT HOOT!" Hooty shrieked, pulling everyone into the center of his coils. Surprisingly, no one complained.
With a dead gaze, Amity mindlessly filed out ANOTHER set of paperwork; for some reason, her parents were adamant about her contributing to the family business. Well, they'd always wanted her to do that, but never had they wanted her to help in an administrative capacity!! As she signed off the form with a flourish, she sent a baleful gaze out the window, eyes burning with jealousy at the Twins' antics. THEY didn't have to file mountains of paperwork, Oh no! That was all Amity!!
"And don't forget these!" A way too chipper voice called out, gleefully slamming another stack onto the table. Apparently, with her family's business being introduced into the Association, even the most hardcore opponents to their inclusion in the local businesses had flooded them with contracts and deals. Contracts and deals that Amity had to painstakingly comb over to make sure they could both fill out the requirements, and make sure they weren't screwed over. At the sight of yet another addition to her most hated foe's forces, Amity turned a miserable glare towards her parent's newest secretary... who just so happened to share her face.
"Remind me again, Clara, but why did the Association insist on you joining us?" She bit out, even as her human doppelganger mulled it over in their head.
"Well, it might have something to do with the fact that 'Can keep Luz Noceda from doing stupid things' is literally on my resume." Clara concluded. As Amity ran it through her head, she tiredly admitted that it was the most logical outcome. Well, that or everyone (outside Clara and the Blights) was just playing dumb at not seeing the disturbing resemblance that the two girl's shared and this had been set up as a disturbing and unusual joke at their collective expense. At least Clara was competent, or this would've been too much.
Before Amity could add to the conversation, she was cut off by the sound of her scroll's ringtone. Which was weird, since nobody had called her on it since she was 12. "Huh, I got a text."
"Really?" Clara asked, leaning uncomfortably close. "Whose it from?"
Groaning in annoyance, Amity lightly pushed away the smirking human. "From the looks of it, it's my... friend from back home, Boscha." Amity stated, eyes widening as she processed that statement. "I haven't heard from her in a year! Why is she contacting me now?"
"Well, you could always read it and find out?" Clara drawled, arching an eyebrow at the witch.
Rolling her eyes, Amity nonetheless proceeded to do just that.
Boscha: Hey Blight, long time no see. Cant tok long, but gonna stop by your nu place in tu weekz. See ya then!
Amity read it again. And read it again. And read it one more time, just to be sure. She then proceeded to due to completely sensible thing... and pitch back in her seat, losing consciousness.
"Miss Blight! I'm not trained to deal with fainting spells!" Clara cried.
Chapter 9: Moving On Up
Luz and Amity have a little chat on the way to a mysterious someone. Emira and Edric get in way over their heads, and honestly a lot faster than they thought they would. Eda and Lilith make their way to gainful employment!! ...Even if that employment is with a shadowy cabal of Mercantile interests and Blood Sport.
I hope you all enjoy this chapter, because it was a surprisingly hard one to puzzle out what I wanted to do with it. Here's hoping you all get to enjoy some new material, and a slight taste at things to come!
"So, your guests are going to work for the Association?" Amity asked, still nursing her headache from the news of Boscha's upcoming visit. Clara's pestering afterwards was NOT helping, so having Luz to talk with was a breath of fresh air, especially after having her parents questioning her over Boscha's sudden contact as well.
"Yeah, it honestly caught me by surprise! I'm honestly embarrassed at how quickly I went in for the kill," Luz bashfully admitted, oblivious to the chill that went up Amity's spine at her words. "I mean, Mama said there was nothing wrong with my logic and reasoning, but I do need to work on jumping the gun a bit more."
"Mm... I see." Amity said. She really didn't see, but if it meant Luz didn't do something crazy or stupid in the future, it was probably a good thing. Hopefully. "So, what exactly are we doing today? You did kind of drag me out of my house, not that I mind."
"Oh! Right, duh! I never told you where we were going!" Luz groaned, pressing her palm against her forehead. Turning to Amity, she have a little wink. "We're gonna go see one of my friends!"
"You have friends?" It slipped out before Amity could stop it, but she instantly spotted the moment the words hit, the way Luz's smile shrunk just a hair, the way she tensed up, how fragile she suddenly felt. "W-Wait, I didn't mean-!"
"It's okay!" Luz interjected, though her tone made it clear it was NOT okay. "I... I get it." She sighed, letting the tension bleed out. "I was always the weirdo, growing up. I had no ability to calm down or interact with anyone in anyway other than at my own level, and I usually didn't notice or care if they couldn't keep up or handle my energy. I'm honestly not much better now... but fighting gave me a way to connect with other people, an outlet for my energy I never thought I could have!" She gazed into the sky, face alight with joy. Amity couldn't deny that she looked... peaceful, staring up into the sky like that. "When I started fighting, I finally managed to find people who could handle my quirks. I made friends! Yeah, what we do is dangerous, but it's what we all love. So yes, Amity, we are gonna go meet one of my friends!"
Amity stared, slightly befuddled by how passionate Luz was. But... it wasn't like she hadn't wished for people who would accept her for herself as well. "Yeah, Luz. I think I'd like that." She said, smiling softly.
Luz beamed. "Wonderful! Oh, and what's this I heard about you fainting last night?"
Amity's wail of embarrassment echoed up and down the streets.
Edric Blight was not having a fun day. Neither, he imagined, was his twin. Considering he was being pressed rather harshly against a wall by a pair of thugs with matching leers, a knife pressed against his neck just shy of cutting it open, he wisely decided against twirling up an illusion, especially as, even if it worked, these creeps would slice him open on accident when whatever he conjured distracted them. Not fun, no thank you!
"Well well! Looky what we gots here?" The first thug, who Edric was guessing was the leader, based on him being bigger and having slightly better looking rags, crowed, deftly pulling out the funds he was planning to use to impress someone lucky enough to catch his eye today. Or buy something cool, he hadn't decided yet. "Rich boy's got some cash! Whatsa matter, Rich Boy? Got anymore moolah to donate to poor folks like us?"
"Uh, nope, don't think so! T-That's all I got, honest to Titan!" Edric nervously chuckled. Fuck, these guys were seriously bad news. Where the hell was everyone!? He got nabbed in broad daylight for Titan's sake! By a road with plenty of people on it! And also...
"Did you seriously just let these idiots mug you!?" His twin sister, the other half of his life and the one person he never wanted to be apart from, Emira Blight, just called him out. Seriously, did she have to make him look bad in front of the guys who were going to hurt them!? Oh, and she'd called them idiots, which they really didn't like, if the pulsing veins on their foreheads were anything to go off of. "I mean come on! They aren't that tough."
Craning his head as much as his delicate situation would allow, he was dumbfounded to see his sister sitting on the collapsed forms of the thugs sent to subdue her. Okay, so maybe Edric was just a wimp then. He could live with that. "Well, I'm sorry, we can't all be as devious and dangerous as you, sis!"
"What a you morons standin' around for? Kill the bitch!" The lead thug growled, prompting the two mooks next to him to rush Emira. Edric shouted in worry... only to feel like a moron as the two slid through his sister's illusion, slamming hard against the wall. Emira appeared in a flash, sending a quick kick to justice in between each of the thugs' legs. Edric would've winced in sympathy, but considering how many times his sister had used that when creeps tried to get fresh with her, he just shot her a discrete thumbs up. "What you doin', asshole?"
Apparently, Edric's covert gesture had been seen by his captor, if they he reeled back his fist to slug him across the jaw was any indicator.
And there came the pain. DAMN IT!
"Man, gotta do everything myself." The last thug growled, pulling out... some kind of metal pipe with a hilt? What? "Eat lead, ya fuckin' bitch!"
Edric couldn't move. He couldn't breathe. All he could do was stare as the rich red blood oozed it's way out of his sister's shoulder. Then the panic hit. "EEEEMMMMIIIIRRRRRAAAAAAA!!"
"BASTARD!" Before Edric could do something VERY VERY STUPID, he was saved the effort of exacting revenge as a hulking figure shot down the alley, elbow reared back to strike. Edric's captor fumbled with his weapon, which Edric now thought looked like a miniature, one-handed version of those blaster weapons the humans had used during the invasion. Before he could launch another shot, the stranger howled, slamming his elbow into the thug's wrist, forcing him to release the weapon with a cry. The elbow suddenly ripped upwards, clipping the chin, before a fist flew into the thug's guts. While Edric was now worrying about the knifepressingwaytoocloseWAYTOOCLOSE, he was spared further panic by his savior ripping the thug's arm back away from his throat, and slapping the knife off to the side. The conflict ended as decisively as it began, with a harsh elbow to the temple sending the thug into dreamland.
Edric gazed up at his savior, only for the words to die in his throat as he was forced to look up, and up... and UP. The man towering over him at what Edric guessed was around 6 feet 5 inches, was a rippling wave of muscle, his shoulders almost scraping the sides of the alley. His coal-black eyes stared down impassively, as if he was a statue of some ancient guardian Deity. Warm brown skin was crisscrossed with scars, all types of injuries from stabs, to slashes, to claws and fangs being represented. His hair was neatly combed back, utterly immaculate in spite of the rapid rush of violent movement. What was most noteworthy about his appearance, however, was that he was dressed in a sweater vest and jeans, wearing loafers.
"Hey kid, you okay?" His savior asked, voice as deep as the oceans and as smooth as syrup. Okay, Edric was now sure that, if he hadn't already figured out that he was attracted to guys most of the time, this man would've confirmed it for him beyond all doubts. Realizing the man was waiting for a response, Edric gave a jerky nod. If anyone ever asked if he was captivated by the brilliant smile his answer got, or by the smooth motions of the man's rippling muscles, Edric would be hard pressed to decide between playing it off with a denial or cheering his affirmative to the heavens. "Excellent! Now, let's get you and your sis over there somewhere safe!"
"That would be appreciated, thank you!" Emira's voice croaked out from her position on the ground. Oh yeah, she got hurt! Wow, Edric must be really out of it if he had seriously spaced out on his sister all but bleeding out in front of him! As his savior moved to his sister's side, tearing off part of her dress to fashion into a bandage, Edric was now feeling the oddest surge of jealousy at his sister's position. Ah well, something to think about when he gushed about the man to his little sis later!!
"I can't believe I have to tie down my hair! Do you know how much work it takes to get this due like this?" Eda complained, awkwardly scratching at the semi-smooth ponytail her hair had been forcibly bound in. It was an insult, she realized, a rejection of her fashion sense! Well, she'd get back at Lily and Cam later, maybe sneaking something into the food...? As a sudden chill passed up Eda's spine, along with an imminent feeling of doom coming from the house, she decided that maybe the hair wasn't so bad, and that she definitely would NOT be trying to get revenge over it, nope, not at all!
"Sister, we are trying to make a good first impression. While your usual outfit is admittedly stylish, considering your lifestyle and earnings, it is not appropriate for a meeting, especially not with a group as influential as the Kengan Association." Lilith bluntly noted, utterly immaculate in the business suit Camila had gifted her, along with a brief demand not to ask where she obtained it. Lilith really, REALLY didn't want to think about the implications of that request.
"Hmph, you're just saying that because you think you'll be able to cozy up to these guys better if they like me." Eda bitterly claimed, ignoring the look of shock Lilith sent her way.
"Is that really what you-? No matter, I won't entertain your assumptions. I merely wanted you to make a good impression, in the hopes that they would find a job you'd enjoy while fitting to your skills." Lilith brushed aside her shock, favoring an honest answer in this instance. Whether her sister accepted it or not... she tried to push down the hurt and disappointment at how readily her sister was to believe the worst of her motives. 'It's not like she doesn't have reason... even if she doesn't know the half of it.' Lilith mused bitterly.
"Ugh, fine! I'll stay on my best behavior..." Eda conceded, only to add something in at Lilith's look of shocked delight. "For NOW. If I think this isn't working out for me, I will raise hell like never before until they let me loose. I refuse to be chained by someone who won't do right be me, not now, and not EVER."
Lilith reluctantly conceded the point. If the chaos that descended upon the Isles after Belos' disappearance had taught her anything, it was that, while her sister may have been the most blatant and independent about her discontent with the system, she was far from the only one. And without the fear of Belos' retribution lingering over their heads, the malcontents retaliated with all they had. Hopefully, that fear wouldn't come to fruition here.
Casting her gaze forward, Lilith's eyes brightened at the sight of their destination. "Sister, I believe we are almost there!"
Eda gave a feral grin. "About damn time!"
With the ease of long experience and familiarity, both Witches calmly prodded their staffs into descending, leaping down into a crouch as they neared the ground. They had made it; the regional branch of the Kengan Association, and hopefully their new employers, Yamashita Trading Company.
Chapter 10: Down Town~!!
Emira has a chat with her savior, and Edric does what Edric does! Eda and Lilith are preparing themselves for anything, and encounter someone odd. Luz shows to Amity a hint as to how dangerous she is, beyond her fighting abilities.
Hello all, I am so glad I got this chapter out so quickly! I hope you all enjoy it, as I had a BLAST working on it!! Also, this doubles as a quick disclaimer: This should be considered something of an entry-level fic for Kengan Ashura, and the Kenganverse as a whole, as it involves a LOT of info regarding Martial Arts and fighting, with only a small amount of fictional liberties taken as a whole. I don't know enough about Martial Arts to make a truly great fic, but I'm gonna try my best. If anyone reading this who knows about Martial Arts and fighting spots any inconsistencies or errors in what's depicted, please let me know. Thank you.
Edric watched with nervous eyes as his sister grit her teeth against the pain of having the slug of metal slowly pulled from her arm, a clean bandage and some kind of liquid set next to her to clean up the mess. While Edric really, REALLY didn't want to criticize the guy who had saved his hide, he would freely admit to being skeptical about this sort of healing. While recovering from injuries was nothing new to the Isles, particularly bad ones like broken bones and sprains, this particular way of healing was a complete unknown.
"You know, it's a bit difficult to keep my hands steady to get this slug out with you pacing like that." The twins' savior said lightly, though Edric clearly caught the slight flash of concerned warning; he was basically telling Edric to calm down or get out before he made a mistake. Not wanting to do the second option, Edric took the deepest breaths he could, released them slowly, and forced himself to sink back into his chair. Though he still found the muffled curses and yells from Emira... distracting, to put it lightly. "There ya go. Just let me handle this, I'm almost done."
"Thanks, 'cause let me tell you, this hurts like a BITCH!" Emira's attempt at a joke was cut short by the bolt of pain as the piece of metal lodged into her arm was finally ripped free. "FUCK! That hurts, yeah that hurts." She hissed.
"Sorry Miss, but I'm gonna need you to bite this cloth real quick." Their rescuer said apologetically, holding a clean handkerchief near her mouth. Puzzled, but having a slight inkling of what was about to happen, Emira acquiesced, chomping down and bracing herself. She wasn't quite successful, as the surge of burning pain still managed to tear a scream from her throat, gag or no gag. Another surge of pain came as her rescuer smeared some kind of gel over and INTO her wound, almost feeling like she'd been hit by... whatever that weapon thing was, all over again! Luckily, her internals finally were kicking in, dulling the pain to manageable levels, just as the new bandage, a proper one this time, was applied to her arm. "Sorry about that Miss, I had to clean out the wound to prevent as much risk of infection as I could, and I applied a sealing balm to help speed up your recovery a bit. This is a good bandage, so along with the balm, you shouldn't need to really change them out for a bit, at least 12 hours. I'd recommend getting it replaced after that point, or if you take a shower, though."
"T-Thanks, I mean it." Emira said, forcing a smile onto her face, though with the aches she was still feeling, it probably looked like a grimace. She turned her head to call out to her brother, only to pause and deadpan. Her brother, the brave gallant soul that he was... was passed out in his seat, foaming at the mouth. "Wow. He didn't even make it to the end, did he?"
"No he did not." Her savior said wryly. He gave her an appraising look, taking note of her stance and bearing. It was a look Emira knew well, having had to deal with it whenever her family mingled with other so-called 'High Society' Folks; although, this time it lacked any hint of malice or calculation, just genuine interest and curiosity. "Your brother is a bit of an odd fellow; brave one minute, passing out the next. And constantly roaming to stare at any animals that catch his eye."
Emira sighed. "Yeah, he's an idiot, but he's my idiot. I may wish he'd stop being so clingy, but I'm not gonna deny that he cares about me."
The large man, who Emira now realized she was essentially alone with in his house, gave an approving grin. "Well said. I've seen plenty of people disregard those around them, because they over-emphasize the negative qualities they have, and ignored the positive. I've even seen it occur between siblings, as much as I wish I hadn't." His gaze grew sad, before shaking it off, sticking a hand out. "But that's the past. I believe we never introduced ourselves properly. Hi, my name's Brady Reeds. What's yours?"
Emira stared up at this large, scratch that, HUGE man... who was currently sticking his hand out for a shake like some kind of little kid introducing himself to a classmate. She snorted at the thought, grasping his much, much larger hand in her own. "It's nice to meet you Brady, my name's Emira Blight."
Eyes widening, Lilith moved to stop the very, VERY stupid thing she was about to do.
It was too late. Lilith groaned, dragging her palm down her face as her sister stood in the threshold of the building, having just kicked open the doors with all her might, and looking far too smug about it.
"Sister, we were trying to make a GOOD first impression." Lilith moaned, already bracing herself for the inevitable headache that was coming for her with a vengeance.
"First impression, schmirst impression, what I'm about is kicking tail and taking names, if they've got a problem with that than they can talk to the staff!" Eda declared, twirling her staff defiantly. Lilith cocked her head; while she was fully willing to believe her sister would do something dramatic for the purpose of showing off, this level of recklessness was... genuinely out of character. Slowing down, Lilith carefully took notice of the gaps peering into the building from behind her sister. Or, to be more specific, she took note of the numerous overturned desks, seats, and smashed vases and scattered papers. As well as the painfully clear lack of people.
Catching on to what her sister was doing, Lilith shifted her posture, making herself seem smaller and more skittish. "S-Sister, this is most improper! What if we are rejected by the Association for this behavior, or worse!? FINED!?!?" Lilith... wasn't the best at being hammy, but she could give it a good try.
"Bah! You worry too much! If someone tries to give us grief, I'll just kick their asses with a little magic!" Eda faux-bragged, discretely panning her gaze around the room. Shadows flickered in the corner, so they weren't alone, not that she didn't already know that. Thinking she'd need to add a little more incentive to bring out the pests, she called out again. "If any of these little bitches think they can take me on, I'd like to see them try! One hit, that's all I'd need."
"But sister! Even you can't say-!" Lilith forced herself to stammer, shuddering backward into a position where she could maneuver effectively. While it may look as if she was cowering, this spot would give her as ideal a place as any to attempt to aid her sister in the event of a confrontation.
"Well now~, what do we have here?" A sinister voice hissed. Whipping their gazes forward, the two sisters felt their eyes widen at the sight of the man before them. Tall, willowy, with an eerie grin and baggy eyes, both could swear they saw madness dancing in his vision. Almost as if he was cutting them apart with his gaze, analyzing each and every part of them with only his vision. "Ah~, Witches! I must admit, I haven't had the chance to dissect any of your kind yet. Would you mind," He flexed his wrists, long white blades shooting out of his palms, "letting me experiment on you? Just a little?"
"-And I swear, I have NEVER seen someone bend their body like that, not before, or ever since! It was INSANE!!" Luz crowed, eagerly regaling Amity with her vast knowledge of all things Kengan.
"It really does sound that way." Amity said with awe. The idea of a man, human or witch, naturally possessing such a flexible body as to weaponize his joints and neck, and even use his arm as a literal living whip!? It was almost frightening to consider, and Amity was honestly unnerved at the knowledge that he was a "medical student" before becoming a killer, which was apparently analogous to Healing on the Isles. If any Healing Witches learned what could be done with some clever applications of their knowledge if they wanted to commit a LOT of harm instead of heal...
Shaking off the morbid thoughts, she asked a question. "So his opponent actually modified himself into a literal living weapon?"
Luz eagerly nodded, unconcerned with her sudden lapse. "Yeah! It was super gruesome, I mean seriously, having blades inserted into his body that he could release at will!? Totally hardcore! If it didn't interfere way too much with my Martial Arts, I honestly thought about getting something like that myself!" She crowed, already lost in the fantasy of shaking an enemy's hand... only for a blade to spring out and lop off their limbs and slice through their throat.
Amity grinned shakily, deciding to side-step that comment for later. "It sounds like the Kengan Matches attract some interesting individuals, don't they?"
Luz nodded, a strangely serious grin on her face. "You know it. Even those people are who are fighters and killers for profit respect the sanctity of the Matches..." She paused, grimacing as a few 'exceptions' flitted through her mind. "Or at least most of them do."
Amity paused, a feeling of disquiet coming off of her friend(?). "Are you-"
"ALRIGHT! HAND OVER THE CASH BITCHES!!" A course voice yelled. A feeling of intense rage filling the both of them, Luz and Amity turned their gaze to the soon-to-be dead man. A ratty looking thug, awkwardly swaying on his feet, either because of beer or drugs Luz couldn't tell, a knife clutched in his fist. Sneering at their unconcerned stares, the punk spot a gob of something foul between the gaps of his teeth, an intense odor coming off of him. "I SAID HAND IT OVER!" He yelled again, recklessly waving his blade.
"Why you..." Amity growled, stepping forward to summon her Abomination, only to be smoothly pushed back by a disturbingly calm Luz.
Luz turned her impassive gaze to Amity over her shoulders, and Amity would deny to the day she died that she felt shivers at the sight of it. "Don't worry, I've got this."
The dirty-looking man turned an incredulous look at the deceptively deadly Afro-Latina. "You've got this? I GOT A FUCKING GUN YA DUMB BROAD!"
"Yeah, I know." Luz said casually, already breaking down the man's stance and appearance in her head. From what she could see, her first guess of him being on drugs or drunk was off the mark, it looked more like he was nursing a concussion. The man's stance was weak, she could easily snap his legs with a single strike if she wanted to. His clothes looked both way too nice, and horribly filthy, as if he'd either stolen them off of someone wealthy he'd killed/robbed, or they were his and he'd just never CLEANED them. As they seemed to be a perfect fit, it was likely the latter option. And that greatly narrowed down the list of suspects. "But it's not like you've got any clue how to actually use it, Byron Ronalds."
The now named Byron jolted, eyes brightening with shock at her knowing his name. "WHO THE FUCK TOLD YOU THAT NAME!?" He screamed, making Luz grimace at the volume. She narrowed her eyes at his hands, briefly resisting the urge to roll them. With a light torquing of her wrist, she shot her fist forward, launching the gun clean out of his grip, slamming the heavily mangled hunk of metal into the wall. A simplistic application of Rakshasa's Rebuke, but easy for dealing with armed opponents and simple thugs without needless injury. "BITCH!! YOU FUCKED UP MY HAND!!"
Emphasis on 'needless.' Byron pitifully cradled his limply dangling hand, her blow having snapped his wrist and forcibly rotating the joints and bones out of place, even as they shattered from the force. He'd likely never use it again without reconstructive surgery. Still, she couldn't resist the urge to rub the tiniest bit of salt in the wound. "Well, you could've afforded to have that fixed at one time." His head shot up. Oh yeah, she knew who he was.
"Byron Ronalds, at this point in time would be age 24. Graduated among the top ten of his class, and was the apple of his parent's eyes. The son of the locally affluent Ronalds family, Byron had access to virtually anything his heart desired, and as the third born child was under no responsibilities or expectations beyond his parents wishing him to live a full life." Luz recited, easily recalling the minute details off the top of her head. "Alas, it wasn't meant to be. At the age of 15, you'd developed a habit of recreational drug use and had turned to dealing to support your habit. All reports from medical facilities pointed to you having no addiction, merely partaking because you wanted to, nothing more. Began stealing from your parents at age 17, used the funds not for drugs, but to hire prostitutes. After graduation, you quickly fell into the Russian Originating Gang, Salut, where you gained a reputation for being duplicitous and selfish. Over the past four years, you have routinely reached out to your parents for 'help,' which they gladly provided, only to run off with the funds to buy more drugs and hire prostitutes. After one too many bad deals, Salut dropped you into one of their subsidiary gangs, shuffling you further and further down the ladder as you hit lower and lower depths."
Luz paused, taking the time to watch the weaselly wretch of a man squirm before her, embarrassed rage, but no regret, coloring his face. That clinched it. Luz sighed. "Normally, I feel bad for hit the lows you have, as many of them are products of their environment, not that it condones their actions. But you? You had it all; a life without wanting for anything, parents who loved you and went out of their way to clear their schedules to spend TIME with you, lots of friends who hoped to see where you would go in life... and you threw it all away, because you wanted to party and live life like a gangster."
The man, Byron, staggered to his feet, face flush red with fury and humiliation, eyes bloodshot. Glaring as hard as he could at the look of naked contempt on Luz's face, he rushed her with a scream. "DON'T YOU DARE MOCK ME YOU LITTLE WHORE!!!!!!"
"Pitiful." Luz said flatly. With almost bored ease, she caught his fist in a technique of her own creation, the Rakshasa's Scales. To put it simply, she used the rotation and torque of the Rakshasa techniques to create a blocking technique that both deflected an enemy's blow, but also dislocated their wrists and fingers; she'd been told the pain was excruciating. The fact that the Scales also happened to create a harsh gap in her opponent's guard was just a fun bonus, one she capitalized on with a swift uppercut. As Byron's head rocked back, she could only stare in contempt as he slowly fell to the ground, out like a light. "Well, that was about seven minutes killed."
"Wow." Amity said plainly, mind feeling overloaded from the brief, but visceral, confrontation. She carefully stepped around the broken form of their would-be attacker, hastily moving to catch up to a rapidly moving Luz. "Wait a minute!"
"Hmm?" Luz hummed, idly glancing towards Amity as she dialed up the number she was told to call if she brutalized someone publicly. "Yeah, Ams?"
"How'd you know so much about that guy?" Amity inquired, burning with the desire to know.
"Easy, I researched him and memorized everything I found." Luz stated as easily as talking about the weather.
Amity blinked, cocking her head. And then she shouted. "EEEEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHHH?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?"
Chapter 11: Thinking About Fighting
Luz gives Amity a look into her world view, and the sisters fight for their lives...
Hello all, once again, I am here wishing that you all enjoy this fic, and please feel free to comment below! I REALLY like comments, and replying to them. Welp, on with the fic!
"Okay, hold up, you have GOT to explain that!" Amity shouted, frantically scrambling to keep pace with Luz's long loping strides. In her haste, she pitched forward slightly, only to be caught by the arm by Luz, who hadn't even turned to look at her. "I can get researching someone, even memorizing that information, but recalling it all, just like that? For some random guy who you may not have ever met!?"
"Yeah, I guess you do need some context." Luz casually replied, chuckling slightly at how flustered Amity was over the whole situation.
She turned slightly, a slight smile on her features. "I guess it ties into my mental state, sort of at least."
"Your... mental state?" Amity was puzzled. She knew that Luz's mind wasn't 'normal,' even by the broader standards of Witches, but she wasn't getting it.
Seeing Amity's confusion, Luz elaborated. "Yeah, the doctors aren't sure if it's something I could always do and just didn't know that I could, or a side-effect of my mind shattering, but in simple terms, I can instantly memorize anything I want, from information, to taste, to scents and sounds. All I have to do is tell myself 'I don't want to forget this,' and I have it engraved into my brain for good. The reason I knew about that guy was because I practiced with it by researching every person in town and memorizing any details I found interesting." Luz cocked her head, glancing upwards slightly. "I could probably tell you every dirty secret or personal shame of everyone in town, as well as the majority of the influential people in the surrounding area. It's a neat trick, but unless I'm trying to prove a point on punks like Byron, it's pretty much useless in a fight. It's a party trick basically."
"That is... incredible." Amity breathed. The idea of someone, ANYONE, with that kind of skill was almost mind-boggling to consider. And Luz just thought of it as a Party Trick!? "Luz, that is seriously one of the most amazing things I've ever heard of! If you wanted to, that skill could make you a master of nearly any kind of skill or profession!" She all-but-shouted, hands thrown up in emphasis.
"*Snrk*, Not really." Luz rebutted, a wry grin on her face. "I call it a party trick because it is one; it sounds a LOT more impressive and useful than it really is. I can perfectly memorize and recall anything I want, but the qualifier is that I have to genuinely find it interesting, or important. I might by able to brute force it to help with my schoolwork, but I'm not holding my breath. And even if I did use it to skip steps on learning some kind of profession, it doesn't give me any hands-on experience on how to put the things I've memorized into practice. Embarrassing facts and secrets are one thing, but trying to put a skill I only know in theory is something else entirely."
Amity visibly deflated at the news. "Oh, I guess I jumped to conclusions a little, didn't I?" She replied, wincing at her over-enthusiasm.
Luz just gave a shrug in response. "Nah, not really. Everyone tends to get the wrong idea the first time they here about it. To be honest, if I'm feeling a little mischievous, I actually tell some of my scummier opponents about it, just to psyche 'em out. Only the REALLY weaselly ones though, I'm not gonna try and pull a cheap trick on a serious fighter."
A thought came to Amity in that moment at that. "Hey, Luz."
"What is fighting to you, exactly?" Amity asked. She gave a slight raising gesture, curiosity covering her features. "I mean, I know part of why your mind works the way it does now means that you NEED to fight, at least some of the time, but what does fighting itself mean to you?"
Luz paused, thinking it over. Mulling the thought, she idly rubbed her chin. Suddenly, she stopped moving, bringing Amity up short behind her. Turning to the daughter of her current Sponsors, Luz gave her honest answer.
"You know, no one has ever asked me that before. Sure, people have asked me what I felt when I fight, both before and after, even a few times I was in the middle of a fight even, but no one has EVER asked me what fighting means to me." She said, eyes alight with an intensity that sent shivers up Amity's spine. Luz tilted her head up, a faraway look on her face. "But if I had to put it into words... to me, fighting is life."
"Life?" Amity questioned.
Luz nodded. "Yeah. Not that fighting is all I think about or all I can imagine, but fighting itself is, to me, a representation of life itself. From the moment we come into existence, we struggle against forces set against us, all to carve out our place in the world. We place ourselves in the line of fire to hold onto what we desire and possess. We struggle and battle to get everything we need to live just another day, whether it's in the ring, on the streets, or in an office. No matter where we are, who we are, or what we believe, all living beings, at every moment of their lives, are constantly in a state of battle. If we don't fight, if we don't put in the work and effort to live and strike back against everything that tries to drag us into oblivion, than we aren't even alive at all. The only beings in existence that don't fight, are those already dead."
Amity stared, reeling at the sheer, unwavering conviction in Luz's words. Luz completely and utterly believed what she was saying, and how it influenced her view of the world, and the simple truth of it... was humbling to the young Witch. "Wow, Luz. That was incredibly profound." She praised.
Luz blushed at her words, idly scratching her shoulder. "I mean, it's not that groundbreaking. I'm sure other people have thought of life and fighting like that before, and they probably did a way better job at explaining it, you know? I mean, I'm just some crazy girl, not even 15 yet, who gets into super intense fights and has maybe sorta killed a few people, and I just-"
Any further rambling on Luz's part were cut off by a harsh Clap from Amity jarring her back into focus. Blinking at the shorter girl, she felt heat rush to her cheeks at the luck of wry amusement on Amity's fate.
"Better?" Amity asked dryly.
Luz sheepishly nodded.
"Good." Amity said curtly, breathing deep. "Luz, we haven't known each other wrong, but listen good. As long as I'm your Sponsor, NEVER call yourself 'just some crazy girl' or any variant of it ever again. You are brilliant, a capable fighter, and are filled with energy and passion. Who cares if someone else has had the same philosophy as you, or if someone said it better or not? You are the first person I've ever heard something like that from, and you are the one I care to listen to." She stepped in close, her stern features shifting into concern as she placed a hand gently on Luz's shoulder. "I think you don't give yourself anywhere near as much credit. Please don't talk about yourself like that when your with me, okay? Because I don't believe that you are anything less than incredible."
Luz paused, eyes growing misty. "Aw, Amity! That's so sweet!" She gushed, instantly bringing the girl into a tight hug. Amity naturally flushed in embarrassment, but she decided not to fight it, considering the flow of the conversation prior.
Deciding the hug at been long enough, Amity cleared her throat. "So, why did we stop here again?" She asked, gesturing to their surroundings as best she could.
Luz blinked, before slapping her forehead with a groan. "Aw jeez, I totally forgot." Pulling away from the young Witch, Luz proudly gestured to the building behind her. "We have arrived at our destination!!" She declared.
Peering up, Amity grew puzzled. They were at a bookstore. "Does this fighter you know come here a lot or something?" She inquired.
Luz giggled. "No, they don't come here, they work here! Come on, let me show you."
With that said, she instantly pulled a startled Amity along into the store. "W-Wait a minute, Luz!!"
Heedless of any other patrons, Luz cheerfully called out. "HEY KATYA! I MADE A NEW FRIEND!!!"
As the words of the creepy figure before them registered, Eda and Lilith moved, just barely dodging the swords that slammed into their positions, the man humming at their agility. With a scowl from Eda, and a feigned look of fright from Lilith, the two moved to opposite locations, intending to force him to prioritize one of them over the other.
"Oh, that's certainly some nice reflexes you two have, especially given your age and apparent lack of serious exercise in the name of stamina and flexibility. Now I'm really looking forward to dissecting you two." He chuckled, swords glinting slightly in the dim lighting. "Hopefully, you'll prove more interesting than the others in this building."
"Others?" Eda growled, instantly taking in the ransacked space around them in a new light. "Do you mean to tell me you attacked the people working here!? For some sick experiments!?!?"
"Why, I do believe that question is self-answering." The man said, a creepy smile on his face, even as he leveled each of his swords at one of the two sisters. "They didn't provide me with much entertainment. Please, try not to disappoint me, alright?"
"Y-Your insane." Lilith breathed, not even having to fake her horror. The very implication that this man had slaughtered the workers of this establishment for his sick experiments spoke volumes all their own. "Do you have any idea what you've done!? What your actions have caused?!?"
"Hmm?" The man murmured, a curious look on his face. "I think that would be self-evident. But it appears I've put too much stock into your intelligence." He sighed. "Aw well, at least your bodies should provide some entertainment later."
"Like hell!" Eda shouted, twirling up a fireball. Launching it, she was unsurprised to see the madman dodge, moving to stab her with those freaky swords he had lodged into his flesh. Smirking, she smoothly ducked under his swing, reeling a fist back to drive into his crotch. As a pale image moved in the corner of her eye, she just barely avoided the second blade swinging into her skull, sliding back to avoid another barrage of slashes. Seeing as he wasn't slowing down, she drew Owlbert near her, using his staff to deflect his swings as best she could. Catching sight of her sister twirling up a large spell behind her attacker, Eda smirked, slamming her staff into the man's gut. As he sprawled backwards, she jumped clear, just as Lilith unleashed bolts of lightning onto the man.
"Well, that was interesting." The man smiled, utterly unfazed by the smoke wafting off of his body. The sisters were stunned. How could he shake off a bolt of lightning!? He was human... wasn't he? Oblivious to the Witches turmoil, the man aimed his palms at the nearby wall, slamming his hands into them, causing the blades protruding from his hands to slide back in. "I believe that I'll switch to hand-to-hand at this stage."
Lilith blinked, an action she immediately regretted. With a bold of pain, she doubled over, stumbling at the strike to her torso the man had delivered. As she staggered, he quickly delivered another barrage of jabs, each one accompanied by either a jolt of agony or a chilling numbness spreading through the surrounding area of the strike. Reeling, Lilith swung blindly with her staff, clumsily twirling a spell with her off hand. She felt a grim satisfaction at the strike connecting, before her spell, a construct of a giant hand, slammed the man back towards her sister, who had a collection of fireballs prepped and ready.
"Eat Flame, sucka!" Eda yelled, gleefully launching her spells at the madman. He merely scoffed, smoothly weaving his way around the fireballs, before driving a jab just above her heart. As a deep, chilling numbness instantly bloomed across her chest, Eda collapsed with a gasp, struggling for air. Her attacker reared back his arm, a clicking sound echoing from his forearm. Glancing out of the corner of his eye, he dodged the furious swing delivered by Lilith, who swiftly moved to cover her sister's downed form. Although, Lilith wasn't sure for how much longer she could last, as the man's dodging of her sister's fireballs meant she'd had to tank a few of them herself, resulting in some frustrating burns.
Forcing her hands to be keep from shaking, Lilith advanced on their attacker, rapidly twirling her staff, each twirl generating a bolt of energy to attack with. With a smirk, she sent them forth, only to bite back a curse as he smoothly deflected nearby items into the paths of her spells, using the cover they provided to close the distance with her. Glancing down, she saw he wasn't attempting to call out those swords of his, and decided to tank the strikes. While the barrage was painful, she shrugged it off, preparing to lash downwards with an overhead swing of her staff. She never got the chance.
"GRK!" Lilith choked out, her attacker having caught her with a brutal jab to the throat. Stumbling back, she barely registered as he slapped her staff from her hands, kicking her feet out from under her. Shakily, she brought her hands up, attempting to guard from his retaliation. As the man grinned, rearing a fist back to launch what was doubtlessly his finishing blow, both were caught off by a shot behind them.
"BACK OFF!" Eda screamed, a unstably flickering orb clutched in her fist, a pained expression painting her features, sweat pouring down her face as she held as tightly to the spell as she could. Seeing that she had the man's attention, she gave a grim smirk. "Good, now that I've got your attention, I think this is the point where you stand. Down."
"Oh? And what gave you the impression you had the advantage in this scenario." The man mused, more to himself than them, but still slightly directed at Eda herself.
Eda chuckled. "Simple." She hefted the spell in her grasp awkwardly. "This spell will blow this whole place sky-high. You kill me, it goes off. You kill my sister, I SET it off. The only way you get out of this alive is if you stand down, and let us bring you in. Capiche?"
"And if I said I didn't care if I died or not?" The man replied, that same creepy grin stretched across his face as from the beginning.
"Then I let this go off either way, and you can't hurt anyone else ever again." Eda replied grimly, hands slowly drifting away from the sphere, which began flickering even more wildly than before...
"I don't think that will be necessary." An unassuming voice sounded out. Instantly, the lights flicked on, workers pouring out from the doors and hallways. Eda and Lilith watched, bewildered, as their attacker easily slid away from Lily's body, slinking off to the side. Both sisters noted how several instances of money changed hands among the onlookers, even as the apparent source of the voice strode forward. The man was short, seedy looking, with a soft, disheveled air that spoke of hard work and poor hygiene, but with a gentle feel to it that spoke of someone who worked so hard because he cared, and decided his hygiene was merely a necessary sacrifice because of it. The man smiled, glasses flashing. "With that little display, I believe it's safe to say that you two passed your audition. As head of Yamashita Trading Company, I think it isn't wrong of me to welcome the two of you, to the Kengan Association."
Chapter 12: Preparations for a Confrontation!
Amity is introduced to Luz's friend. Ed and Em's savior has an agenda.
And again, I arrive with another chapter!! I hope you all like it, because it's setting up the main conflict for the arc!
Note: The Arc will be named after it concludes.
Amity winced at the chorus of shushes, even as Luz cheerfully laughed it off. Seriously, didn't ANYTHING faze her outside of fighting? Amity opened her mouth to give what she hoped was a heartfelt and influential scolding to Luz-
"Luz! Stop yelling in the store, I've told you a hundred times now!"
-Only to deflate as someone beat her to the punch. Tilting her head in the direction of the shout, Amity's eyes widened as another Witch strolled over to them, a look of exhausted resignation on her face, though Amity could see the teasing hints of a smile at the corners of her lips. Steadying herself, Amity carefully appraised the Witch on her approach. She was on the tall side, willowy, with coppery brown skin and hazel eyes, prominent fangs poking out from her upper lips, an unusual but not unheard of condition among some Witches back home. What drew Amity's eyes the most, however, was the tight, corded muscles of her arms. The same kind of musculature found on Luz's own arms, albeit not in the same configuration.
"Katya!" Luz cheered, arms raised in greeting of the other Witch. "Sorry about barging in like this, but I just made a new friend who, get this, is the daughter of my new Sponsors."
Katya hummed, slowly stalking closer. "Oh?"
Luz nodded, oblivious to the change in atmosphere. "Yeah! She's really witty, and she's got a great head on her shoulders!"
"Wow, she sounds pretty cool!" Katya laughed, arm raised back above her head.
Amity tensed. "Uh... Luz?" She broached.
"It is cool, I mean, seriously! I don't make a lot of friends my own age, or at all really, so it's super great to meet someone who just accepts me like that!" Luz gushed. She opened her mouth to continue... only to be chopped atop the skull. Freezing up, Luz slowly tilted her head upwards, ultimately meeting Katya's unimpressed stare, and the annoyed glares of the other patrons behind her. "I'm in trouble, aren't I?"
Katya shrugged, already moving to exit the building, tugging Luz along all the while. "Only a little. You coming, Blight?"
Amity jolted, moving to follow. "Coming!"
As Katya dragged Luz along, with the appropriate level of indignant whining at being Witch-handled (handled by a Witch), she easily called to Amity over her shoulder, aiming for the alleyway. "I'm not sure how or why the Blight Family is here in Gravesfield, but since you're with Luz, we're cool. She's got pretty good judgement when it comes to people. But make sure not to cross me, okay?"
Cowed, Amity lightly nodded, recognizing the statement for what it was; not a threat, or a bluff, but an unshakable fact of reprisal. "Understood."
Easily overhearing them, Luz rolled her eyes. "Wow, Katya, melodramatic much? You sure you haven't been reading to many Mafia Novels?"
Freezing up, Katya abruptly released the quirky human, sending her sprawling, with Katya's face flushing in embarrassment. "Luz, you promised not to tell anyone about that!" Katya whined, cupping her face. Amity wisely resisted the urge to laugh at the situation.
Luz cringed, realizing her blunder, even as she scrambled to her feet. "Gah! I am SOSOSOSOSO sorry! Please don't be mad, please!!"
Katya awkwardly waved it off, her flush fading somewhat at Luz's clear panic. "I-It's fine, just please be more careful, alright?"
At this point, Amity felt the need to interject. Raising her hand, she spoke up. "Um, I don't mean to be rude, but could one of you two tell me what's happening?"
Startled, the two fighters exchanged glances, before giggling at the situation. They'd gotten sucked into their rhythm almost immediately, leaving Amity out to dry. Choking on her laughs, Luz did her best to explain. "S-Sorry, Amity! We just don't get a chance to talk all that often, so I guess we got carried away. Amity, this is my friend, and former opponent in the Kengan Matches, Katya."
Katya nodded, a small smile crossing her features. "Hey, like she said, the name's Katya. I moved here, oh, about 3 years ago, right when things were starting to settle down on the Isles, and have been doing my best to make a living ever since. Most of the time that means working here," She jerked a thumb at the bookstore behind her, "to make ends meet between matches. I got to say, I never expected to see a Blight so far from the Isles."
Amity bashfully rubbed her shoulder. "It's a... recent experience. My parents are hoping to reestablish our business among Humanity, a way to recover from the damage to our reputation from the War."
"Hmm... Yeah, I can see that. A lot of the big names were going under back then." Katya replied, her wary gaze relaxing somewhat. "Damn shame too, a lot of people lost their jobs, but what can you do? It didn't help that a lot of those businesses racked up some serious grievances with their workers. Surprisingly, your family wasn't one of them."
Amity rolled her eyes, smirking. "It's kind of hard to anger employees when their all Abominations." Her eyes flashed, refocusing on the conversation. "Luz said you were a fighter. I don't have any problems believing that, considering the development of your arms, but can I ask why?"
At that, Katya grew embarrassed again, sheepishly rubbing her arm. "Well, when I came over here, I didn't realize that they had some... pretty strict laws on arriving and staying here. I managed to avoid getting into trouble mostly by luck, just keeping my head down and doing my best to be helpful. Eventually, though, I got into a fight with some thugs who didn't like the way I looked." Luz scowled at that, something Amity took note of for later, before resuming her focus on Katya. "Apparently, my fight got the attention of some of the folks in the Association. They promised to help smooth my situation over, in exchange for fighting. I was... hesitant at first, but eventually," Katya's eyes snapped open, a bright flame burning within, "I grew to love it. The challenge, the energy, the frustration of defeat and the passion of victory. It's like I rediscovered fanfiction all over again!!"
Amity was taken aback. That kind of passion wasn't what she'd been expecting. She knew that Luz was really, REALLY into fighting, even with her circumstances, but she hadn't expected to meet someone else with that kind of fire so soon. "I... see."
Katya chuckled. "It's fine if you don't get it. Not everyone has the kind of fire at fighting that people like Luz and I do. We do what we love, and we love what we do. Right Luz?"
Luz beamed, flipping double-thumbs-up. "Right on the money!" Relaxing her grin, she turned to Amity. "And to add on to all that, Katya is one of the best fighters around here. Heck, one of my losses in the arena is because of her!" She declared, thumping a fist lightly against Katya's gut, getting a playful swing in response.
Amity giggled at the by-play, all the while calculating the information that this girl was capable of beating Luz, who by all accounts had an AMAZING Win/Loss Record. She was broken from her musings by an artificial ringing sound going off. Glancing up, she saw Katya pull out a phone, those weird non-magic scroll things, and read something off of it, her face falling slightly. "Dang, guess I can't hang out anymore. Got work to do for the Association."
Amity cocked her head at that. "Really? What for?"
Katya shrugged, resignedly, unbuttoning her outer shirt, revealing a well-formed tank top underneath, and also exposing more of her muscled torso to Amity's suddenly VERY attentive gaze. "They need me for a Initiation Match. Man, I HATE those!"
"Hey, we all have to do our part if we want to keep fighting." Luz lightly chastened. "It not be the most interesting task we have to help with, but it's still our job."
Yeah, Amity was getting a little frustrated at being so locked out of the loop. "Um, hi, I'm still new to the whole Kengan Association thing, but what are you two talking about?"
"One of the things fighters have to do, in addition to fighting, is help vet new fighters before they can sign on. This usually means getting dragged out to challenge some cocky idiot to see if they can keep up with the kind of chaos the matches bring to the table. For fighters like me or Luz, that usually means having to hold back so the examiners can get a detailed read of the fighter to be. It's SUPER DULL!" Katya groaned, even as Luz patted her back in sympathy.
"Aw, don't worry, me and Amity will go with you. Who knows, maybe we can help make it interesting!" Luz said, trying to cheer Katya up. If the light chuckle this got from the other fighter was any indication, it was working. "So, who are you testing, anyway?"
"Some guy called Brady Reeds. Apparently, he's made a name for himself in some other nearby underground matches, and made enough noise for the Association to come calling." Katya replied.
"Brady Reeds?" Luz echoed, tilting her head. "Weird. I've got info on every other underground promotion and establishment in the area, and I haven't heard of anyone by that name being in any of them." For some reason, this sent a feeling of unease up Amity's spine, even as Luz shrugged it off. "Oh well. I never claimed to be perfect. But still..."
"...I wonder what his motivation is?"
"Okay now, you two stay out of trouble, you here?" Brady cheerfully called, waving off the two young Witches he had found in his care. His buried worries eased some at the promises they called back as they made their way out the door. It was tough, seeing people that young in such a situation was always a struggle. Well, not that he had much room to talk, seeing as he was 17. Thank god for fake IDs and falsified personal documents, they made setting up a life on his own so much easier.
Humming to himself, Brady smoothly strolled into his home, passing the entry way, walking past the living room, walking into one of the hallways leading into the back of the house, ignoring the cracked wall coated with the imprints of hundreds of punches embedded into the stone and concrete. Walking into his thinking room, he idly scanned the body of work before him, taking a moment to breathe it all in.
"Yeah, every fighter's got a motivation. It could be money..."
Brady brushed aside the stack of documents detailing the hefty returns on his investments, inherited from his father. He pulled down one of the clippings, a marking of his dad's obituary, about how he had disappeared, only to be found on the edge of town much later, brutally beaten to death, and already having started to seriously decompose. He resisted the urge to crush the paper, and all the reminders it brought back. Of the whispers that had followed him. About the rumors that his dad had gotten involved in organized crime and paid the price. He sighed, taking a swig of his soda. Not something a serious fighter should be having anytime other than before a match or competition, but it was his guilty pleasure.
"...it could be fame..."
Brady scoffed at the awards lining the walls, each one a reminder of the effort he had to put in to escape the stigma that had surrounded him and his family ever since his dad's mysterious past and circumstances. Pulling out his laptop, he pulled up the images of numerous sites, mined from the dark web, detailing strange, sealed mass graves all around the world. He bit back a curse. Turning his eyes back to the web, he engraved as much of it as possible into his memory.
"...but whatever it is, it has to be something that he believes he can't get through any other reliable means than through underground fighting."
Brady traced his finger across the web. He deftly followed the printed images of the sealed burial sites. He smoothly traced past the reports of numerous missing men, many of whom were of an age, or younger, than his father, all of whom were gone for similar amounts of time, only to be later reported dead. He flew past it all, taking all the details in, before his finger smacked onto the image in the center: that of young girl, of African and Hispanic descent, her face violently circled on the article detailing her disappearance and miraculous return.
"Luz Noceda..." He breathed, turning to the stone wall to his right. "I know, in my heart, that you have the answers I seek. And whether you are willing to tell me or not, is inconsequential. I will get my answers. Whether you are alive afterwards will be up to you." And with that, he roared, fist slamming into the wall like a rocket. Breathing deep, he calmly walked out, the image of his fist stamped into the solid stone of his wall.
Chapter 13: Eave of Confrontation
Eda has a little chat with Mr. Yamashita. We get a look into Katya's history with Luz. Here's hoping you enjoy!
With a scowl stretched across her face, Eda slammed a hand against the desk of the man before her, Kazuo Yamashita. Who was also, apparently, her new boss. And wasn't that thought enough to make her want to take a long shower, WORKING for someone, ugh! Still, at least this way she had something, and she was prepared to break away at any moment things went a way she wasn't comfortable with.
"Okay, can you give me and Lily here an explanation? You've been giving us the runaround ever since our tussle with tall, pale, and psycho over there." Eda barked, jerking her thumb at said psycho, who was STILL staring at the two of them like they were prime steaks he couldn't wait to take a bit out of. The fact that he had shoved a bunch of photos in Lily's face of dead kids and told her about failing to save them, and how addictive the despair he felt was, she wasn't gonna be trusting that guy in like, EVER. Forcing her mind off the topic of the crazy man, who was apparently both a Doctor, what humans called their healers, as well as an assassin, she resumed glaring at the unassuming man sitting across from her.
Kazuo Yamashita calmly sipped the cup of tea in his hands. The level look he aimed at Eda was surprisingly strong, enough so that she flinched back. "Miss Clawthorne, or should I call you... Marylin? Or was it Anais? Or could it be Luisa? You've certainly built up a resume within the underworld. Such a long list of schemes, crimes, and cons you've been involved with, both since the arrival of the Isles upon Earth... and before."
Eda reeled back. The Association knew about her from way back then!? Flicking her gaze backwards, she was reluctantly relieved to see that her sister was still preoccupied by that creep. Sighing, she turned back. "Yeah, I've been around the block for a while. What does that have to do with all of this?"
"Oh absolutely nothing." Yamashita admitted, taking another sip of his tea, much to Eda's frustration. "It was merely an observation. As I'm sure you and your sister have noted, the Association has quite a good deal of influence, both within the underworld and everyday life. As such, we've accrued quite a large number of enemies. That little scene earlier was merely to test you and your sister in regards to your values and attitudes. Had either of you tried to flee the building, allowing a vicious and brutal foe to run loose and enact horrific harm upon others in order to save your own skin..."
Eda rolled her eyes. "We would've been killed?" She remarked dryly.
Eda's eyes flew open. She slowly tilted her head, forcing herself to try and process what she had heard. "Come again?"
"I said that you are exactly right." Yamashita repeated gravely, eyes staring off into the distance, a directionless glare upon his face. "While the Association is far from a morally clean organization, we do have standards. Someone who would allow a brutal maniac to run free to save their own skin would be unacceptable to join in any capacity, particularly a maniac who had just slaughtered some of our members, even it was all staged in this instance. While such cowardice would've merely disqualified you and your sister from joining, the fact that you would be knowledgeable of the organization would've made you a security risk, one that the hardline members of the Association would be unable to stand seeing run free. If you had failed the test, you and your sister would've been either killed or worse. Normally, our screening measures would've stopped a situation from reaching this point, allowing us to gain your measure without resorting to such theatrics, but you and your sister's statuses as Witches complicates things." Suddenly, his glare shifted into a pleased smile. "Although, I must say that I was impressed with your ability to put your own life at stake, for the sake of defeating a deadly foe threatening yourself, your sister, and the populace at large. Such selflessness is quite commendable."
"Ugh!" Eda groaned, feeling embarrassed at the reminder at her *shudder* heroics. "Please don't bring that up. I get it, me and my sis passed your little test. But what does that mean for us? Just what is it are we going to be doing for you and the Association?" Eda was bracing herself, mentally preparing to take off at whatever she may here. She had escaped the chains of one tyrant, she was perfectly capable of doing so again.
Yamashita merely waved her concerns aside. "Don't worry, it won't be anything... too outlandish." His gaze sharpened. "Your jobs will be fairly simple, if not necessarily easy. The two of you will act as Scouts for potential fighters that can be drawn to the Association, as well as eyes and ears for odd circumstances and events that may affect the Association's interests. In short, the two of you will be spies." After he finished, he calmly pulled out a flask from his desk, wordlessly passing it over to Eda.
Wordlessly, Eda took the flask, inspecting it, before taking a hard swig. Without blinking, she quickly drained it, none the worse for wear. "Okay, I think I can handle that. Not sure about Lily," She gestured to her sister, still frantically trying to back away from the mad physician turned assassin, "But as long as you and the bosses don't try and get me to do anything icky, we'll have no problems." She finished, giving Yamashita a weary smirk.
Yamashita returned her smirk with a soft smile. "I believe we won't have any problems satisfying that request. And on that note," He rummaged in his desk, pulling out a slip of paper, "Here is your first assignment."
Eda took the paper, quickly skimming over the information. From what she could tell, they were going to oversee a potential recruitment of a new fighter for the Association; their presence was mostly to get a feel for the responsibilities they would have to take on in the future, as well as ensure nothing untoward happened to the examiner. "Got it. Come on, Lils, we're on the clock!"
"Eh? Already-? Oh, never mind, coming Sister!" Lilith replied, extricating herself from the attentions of the doctor, speed-walking after Eda. She had missed much of the conversation between her sister and their new employer, but she was perfectly willing to trust that her sister wouldn't allow them to be implicated in anything... unfortunate. Not that Lilith deserved such kindness. Still, ANYTHING would be better than interacting with that madman.
Upon exiting the building, the employees within waving them off as they resumed their work, both sisters pulled out their staffs, hopped on, and took to the skies.
Strolling down the road of the town she proudly called home, Katya was mentally warming up for the confrontation she was about to undergo. Admittedly, she wasn't expecting much; there was a severe lack of serious fighting and martial arts organizations in the area, making most local finders largely self-trained, which admittedly included herself. Still, there was always the chance this would be different, and the prospect was exciting. Only three people could seriously test her in this sector of the Association's efforts, and one of them...
Katya snuck a glance at the eagerly gushing Afro-Latina babbling to the Youngest Blight next to her, and even took a second to process the amazing absurdity of the thought. 'It's honestly kind of funny. When I first got into fighting, it was just something to do to make ends meet. I wasn't really invested in it. But gradually, as I kept going, kept honing my skills and refining my tactics, I grew to love it. I loved the rush, the thrill of the fight. And then...
...I met her.'
A slightly younger Katya stepped into the selected location for the fight. She'd been promised that it would be one of the fiercest fights of her life, like nothing she'd experienced before. Katya wasn't fully sure if she was excited or worried at the thought, and honestly didn't care. Whatever happened here, would change everything, she felt it in her bile sack. She wasn't shy to admit it, but the basking roars and chattering of the crowd was intoxicating, validating in a way that even her Bard training had difficulty comparing to.
Still, she thought it was reasonable to be confused at the odd quiet that permeated the crowd. Instead of witty banter, quick bets, and fast deals and networking, all she heard was odd mutters, questions, and frantic whispers. This wasn't a crowd that was excited-
"Oh! You must be my opponent!"
-this was crowd that was afraid. Turning to the source of the voice, Katya was mildly surprised to see a girl standing before her, young enough to still be in the middle of her school years. "Uh, are you... really the person I'm fighting?" Katya asked.
The girl cheerfully grinned. "Yup, that's me! Luz Noceda! Around here, they call me the Mad Fox!" She stated, lightly bouncing on her feet, throwing some exaggerated swings and punches in a playful manner.
Katya chuckled at the girl's antics. Still, her instincts hadn't relaxed in the slightest, so whoever this girl was, she wasn't helpless. Seeing this, Katya shifted into her favored stance, one that would allow her to strike and grapple with equal measure, while also keeping her footwork loose. It formed the core of her fighting style, and it wasn't one that could be dismissed once put into action. "Alright, I'm game. The name's Katya. Folks've been calling me The Percussionist. Not really a name I asked for, but I think you'll understand how I got it."
"Well aright! It's not everyday I get someone who's willing to banter." Luz laughed, shifting into her own stance, one that emphasized her ability to move and strike fast and hard. Katya wasn't concerned... at first. But as the innocent smile on Luz's face melted into one of murderous glee, all calm in Katya's body suddenly found itself lost in a have of fear. "I hope you'll be fun to play with."
What happened next was something that couldn't be accurately called a fight. It wasn't a challenge in which two or more sides put their power to the test to see which would prevail. What happened was, instead, the desperate actions of a city-dweller trying to fend off a wild animal. It was the blind panic and desperation of an unyielding desire to LIVE in the face of the merciless unknown. If someone watched a recording of that fight, they would see a woman and a girl doing their best to beat each other into the ground. But if you asked anyone else who saw that fight personally, or even Katya herself, what they saw wasn't two people. What they saw was Katya desperately forcing back the fangs of a rabid fox.
Katya won that fight, by virtue of a knockout blow, but it was ultimately she who was hospitalized. Thirteen broken bones; both leg's immobilized, her rib cage a mess of cracks and fractures, one eye swollen almost beyond saving, her shoulder dislocated, and the palms of her hands broken from her desperate attempt at life. It was that day that made Katya beg and plead the Association for the same plea so many had made before her: Never have me fight Luz Noceda again. Never let me face that MoNsTeR again!!
'Who knew that girl would go on to become one of my best friends?' Katya mused, deftly breaking the hand of a particularly bold, or particularly stupid,pickpocket. 'She just showed up in my hospital room one day, my doctor and nurse shakily pleading for her not to hurt anyone irreparably, and started chatting away. It was like she hadn't beaten me to a bloody pulp, just two friends hanging out while one was in recovery. I was polite with her, mostly because she was still absolutely terrifying to me, but I didn't really consider her my friend. I was confused at why she wanted to spend time with me.
'And then she rattled off all the things she'd learned about me in preparation for her arrival. I REALLY don't want to know how she learned my address, my phone number, my favorite restaurants and foods, or my... bedroom preferences. Yeah, not gonna think about that, AT ALL. It was unnerving, and yet another reason as to WHY she was so scary. Even after I got released, she still kept showing up. Popping up from behind trees and bushes while I was in the street. Showing up at my workplace to "hang out like good friends do." She just kept intruding in my life. By all rights, I should've been furious with her. But, somehow, this crazy, quirky, wild girl managed to worm her way into my heart.'
"-and we are totally starting an Azura Book Club! No arguments!" Luz shouted, arms wrapped tight around a mock-struggling Amity.
"Okay, okay! We can have a book club! As long as we can keep it a secret from my Siblings, I'm all for it!" Amity laughed, nudging Luz's shoulder with her own.
Seeing Luz so at ease, something she was never fully able to do usually, brought a broad smile to Katya's face. "Hey, if you guys need a place for your Book Club, I can help you set something up at my store?" She offered, laughing at the matching starry-eyed smiles she received. Yeah, Katya's life was weird. But honestly, what was wrong with weird? It was way better than being ordinary.
Slinging an arm around each girl's shoulder, Katya walked them into the sight of the test: Iron Will Body-Building and Gymnasium.
Chapter 14: Fighters, to the Gates!
Odalia and Alador finally reappear! Amity gets some useful local trivia! Who is Brady Reeds!?
"While our company is certainly intrigued by your proposal, I'm afraid we are currently mired in prior commitments. Nonetheless, we shall give your proposal all due consideration at our earliest convenience." Odalia calmly stated, before calmly and quickly ending her conversation with the company on the other line. A Construction Firm was interested in using Abominations as support for their labor forces; at first, Odalia had been confused, and a tad worried, until she remembered that Human Construction was completely magic free, thus the inclusion of Abominations in their work would've been fine even on the Isles. Then she paused again as she remembered that the taboos against Mixing Magic were rapidly coming undone in the wake of Belos' Disaster, as the more spiteful among the Isles' upper echelons referred to the arrival in the Humans' Realm and the proceeding war immediately afterwards.
Sighing deeply at the changes that had wracked their lives, Odalia turned to her husband, currently arms deep in his latest project; a specialized unit that was designed to record, adapt to, and integrate data and experiences as it worked, simulating a living being's mind. "Alador, have you seen the twins? They've been gone for a while now."
She wasn't overly worried, her children were incredibly capable after all! But.. even she couldn't help but feel concerned. For all that her she believed in her children's capabilities, she was well aware that they were in a strange land with different rules. As much as it pained her to admit it, anything could happen.
Eventually, Alador extricated himself from the bits of his work. Without any care for the mess he was making, Alador leaned against the nearby desk, rubbing his chin in thought. "I believe they said they were going to explore the town, in order to 'find entertainment befitting a Blight,' if I recall their excuse right."
At that, Odalia had to resist the urge to drive her forehead against the nearby wall. THAT particular excuse meant they were scouting for areas to conduct their pranks. She wished they wouldn't, but ultimately no one was harmed due to their antics, and they were experts at covering their tracks, so she couldn't complain. After all... they weren't the only people in her life to be passionate about mischief.
"Oh Titan, please give me strength!" Odalia could still find their antics exhausting, of course. Alador moved over to give her a pat on the shoulder, a touching gesture, and one she appreciated, even with the Abomination Goo now staining her blouse.
"Well, I feel that the two of you will be pleased to learn that your wayward Twins have made it home, safe and sound." As the voice of the human look-alike of their daughter echoed through the air, both Elder Blights turned to her. In all honesty, Odalia found the girl, Clara she recalled, to be something of an enigma. She was simultaneously both honest and manipulative, able to present the aspects of her personality best suited to interacting with each individual, a skill that normally would have Odalia chomping at the metaphorical bit to understand for her own use. At the intense focus on her husband's face, she was reassured that Alador had caught the hidden cunning of their new 'employee' as well. Ignoring, but far from oblivious to, the thoughts of the Blights, Clara continued. "From the report they gave me, they apparently had a fun day about the town, have scouted several locations to obtain pranking supplies and to conduct larger scale pranks, until they were pulled off the streets by some local thugs. Edric was ultimately unharmed, discounting a moment of him fainting, while Emira suffered a gunshot wound to the arm. They were ultimately rescued by a man that has a high chance of being inducted as a fighter by the Association, one Brady Reeds. They are a bit shaken, Edric more so of the two, but are ultimately fine. Emira will require to take it easy on her arm, and she may have some difficulties lifting objects, but she'll recover without worry."
You could here a pin drop in the room. Alador stared off into the distance, variables, predictions, and more blurring through his mind as he forced himself to process the situation through logic. Harm through calculated risk or deliberate effort to improve, along with potentially steeper consequences, were a fact of life, but this? This was something... upsetting, to the normally calm man. Yes... it seems he would have to accelerate one of his projects, and possibly dust off one he had shelved in the past for emergencies. It wouldn't do to allow his children to come to harm and not take measures to prevent it from happening again.
Meanwhile, his wife was forcing herself to not hyper-ventilate, to approach this calmly, to not MARCHOUTTHEREANDEVISCERATETHESOULSOFTHOSEWORTHELESSLITTLE!!!!!!! Deep breaths, Odalia, deep breaths. With a shuddering sigh, Odalia managed to steel her nerves, leveling a critical glare upon her assistant. She needed answers, NOW. "Elaborate. Please."
Clara gave a cool smile. "While the possibility this was an attack arranged by possible enemies from within the Association isn't zero, it's highly unlikely. When I cross-compared the information the Twins gave me on the appearances of their attackers against known gangs and hoodlums in town, I found a match; a no-name group of punks that specialize in jumping tourists with the intent of robbing them for all possible valuables, with a keen eye for effective marks. Luckily, I've already notified the Association. They'll be sending someone to have a 'chat' with them about just who it was they attacked, and what will happen if they are so foolish a second time."
Odalia managed to school her features enough at that news so that, rather than a feral grin, she merely smirked in satisfaction. Oh yes, having a force at their backs willing to inform the rabble exactly WHY challenging them was foolish would be so useful in the future. "Excellent work. When this 'chat' takes place, I would like details, if you would, Clara?"
Clara gave a shallow bow, a confident smile on her face. "It would be my pleasure, Ma'am."
"So, Edalyn, just where are we heading?" Lilith asked, casually leaning against the body of her staff, unbothered by the wind whipping about her.
"Eh, someplace called Iron Will Body Gym, or something like that." Eda shrugged. "This shouldn't be too hard; just got to show up, keep our eyes peeled for anything freaky, and make sure the examiners don't get messed with. After that, it's back home with Cammy, King, Hooty, and the kid."
Lilith rolled her eyes with a scoff, but didn't fight the smile that graced her features. "Oh honestly, Edalyn." She sighed. Suddenly, a thought came to her, one that had been wiggling at the back of her mind ever since her and her sister's... incident at the house. "Edalyn." She began, tone heavy.
"Yeah?" Eda replied, tone light and casual, but the feeling of worry still coating every word.
"How is it? The curse."
Eda surprisingly felt the knot of fear, the worry that Lilith would ask her about what she'd had to do since leaving, ease at that. Scratching her forehead, she answered frankly. "Honest talk? It's been dormant."
Lilith whirled on her at those words, eyes wide with shock. Eda couldn't help but laugh at her expression. "Yeah! That was my reaction was when I noticed!!" Her laughter subsiding, Eda grew quiet, staring out across the horizon. "But it's true. Ever since this all started, the Owl Beast has been... sleeping, for lack of a better word. It's just been curled up inside, never budging, never reacting, no more draining my magic or trying to yank and pull at me for control. If I weren't so freaked out as to WHY it's gone dormant, I'd be screaming from the rooftop over it."
"Edalyn, that's wonderful news!" Lilith cheered, though Eda could still here the notes of shock and worry in her voice. It was understandable, really, seeing as how her curse had caused no end of trouble for years. But now? For the first time in forever, Eda felt like she could actually breathe again.
That didn't stop her from slugging Lilith in the arm when she pulled close, though. "Don't get all sappy on me, sis."
"Edalyn!" Lilith whined. They continued to bicker back and forth until they reached the gym, laughing and exchanging verbal jabs all the while.
Amity bounced on her heels, uncertain as to if she should actually BE here, in this gym. She wasn't a fighter, or a member of the Association, she didn't even know anything substantial about the Association and it's practices beyond the nature of the Matches! Just what was she doing here, in a gym where two fighters were about to duke it to see if one of them had what it takes to join? She didn't know. Although... she couldn't deny it. Seeing the fights, the way the violence made her pulse pound...
the memory of Luz ripping that man's heart out...
Watching Luz eagerly soak in every detail of the gym, it brought a smile to her face. "Hey Luz, do you have any information about this place? You seemed to recognize it before."
"I'd be happy to!" Luz replied, her face still set in a beaming grin. "This gym was actually founded by a retired Kengan Fighter, Tyrone "The Minotaur" Wilson. He's a pretty... intense guy, and a good fighter all around for his generation, but he's out of town on business."
After a beat, she continued. "His measurements are-"
"Okay, I don't need you to go that deep into detail!" Amity frantically cut her off, a flush rising to her cheeks, even as Luz tilted her head in confusion. Katya just laughed at the scene, reminded of her own experience of Luz Noceda's personal brand of TMI. Trying to divert attention away from her outburst, Amity turned to Katya. "So, Katya, what's your fighting style like? I mean, I know that Luz's style is based on assassination," Luz perked up at that, not having realized Amity knew that, "but what's yours?"
Katya tilted her head, a strange smile on her face. "Your a bit weird, you know that?"
"I-I-I'm S-sorry!" Amity stammered, flush returning, only for Katya to frantically shake her head, trying to placate the girl.
"No, no! I didn't mean it like that!" Katya interjected. Breathing deep, and releasing with a sigh, she did her best to clarify. "What I meant is that, even among more... combat-inclined Witches, you've got a deeper pull to fighting than most. It's honestly pretty cool. When I said you're weird, I meant it as a compliment."
"Oh. Sorry for overreacting like that." Amity replied, still blushing, even as Luz pulled her close.
Katya brushed it aside. "Nah, I should've worded that better. But as for your question about my fighting style, it's honestly something I worked out myself based on my old Bard Training."
"Really?" Amity inquired, slightly baffled at the idea of Bard training being used for hand-to-hand combat. "How does that work?"
"Better than you'd think!" Katya replied, a wide smile on her face. Holding out her hands to an imaginary opponent, she rapidly popped off a series of imaginary blows, just barely slow enough to make out the individual motions and shapes of the strikes. If Amity's eyes weren't mistaken... it looked a lot like Katya's strikes were mimicking the movements used for percussion instruments. Slaps and palm strikes for bare-handed instruments, closed fists and knuckle strikes for percussion instruments that used mallets and hammers, even finger work and jabs like she was playing the world's most violent piano. It was as bizarre as it was enthralling. As Katya finished her set, she leveled a proud gaze Amity's way. "That, along with my old breathing exercises footwork, plus some grappling to keep myself close to my opponent, are what earned me my fighter's title as 'the Percussionist.'"
"If those attacks are even half as effective as they seemed, you earned it." Amity admitted, genuinely impressed and awed at the ingenuity of the fighter before her.
"Yep, Katya's something special! She's one of only four exotic fighters out here, including yours truly!" Luz added in, enjoying the by-play between her two friends.
"Exotic?" Amity echoed, still feeling hungry for more information.
Luz nodded the affirmative. "Exotic. It's basically the catch-all term for fighters that use some seriously unique or unusual styles of fighting in the Matches, or to identify fighters with high levels of training and technique. For a place like Gravesfield, where the vast majority of the Association's fighters in place either amateurs, self-taught, or are going off of training for combat sports they got in school, that leaves a pretty wide net for people who qualify as Exotic Fighters. But we've only got the four; myself, Katya, Dillon, and Wade. Oh BOY is Wade a good example of an Exotic fighter." Luz finished, a chagrined look on her face at the thought of Wade's fighting style, and just how utterly bizarre it was for most people who didn't understand it's roots to wrap their heads around.
"Wade! Yeah, if anyone in Gravesfield deserves the right to call themselves an Exotic Fighter, it's definitely him." Katya groaned, phantom pains flaring up from her previous matches against him.
"Is he really that good?" Amity asked.
"Well, let's put it this way. He's the only local fighter with a zero-loss record with more than seven matches to their name." Katya added, voice as dry as the desert as she hinted at Wade's skill.
Amity winced. If he was really that good, she was both worried and excited at the thought of seeing one of his matches.
Glancing up, Luz pulled them to a stop, pointing at the sign above the door. "Here we are! Room 13, you ready Katya?"
Katya gave her a ferocious smile, blood pumping at the thought of a good fight. "I was born ready."
And with that, the three pushed through the doors.
Chapter 15: Drums and Tigers
Katya and Brady square off, and more questions are brought to light.
Hello all! I honestly wanted to get this out a bit earlier, but eh, what can you do? I am genuinely in love with how this chapter turned out, so I hope you all love reading it as much as I loved writing it!
Sitting within the Gym that was going to serve as the site of his test, Brady meditated to himself, focusing his center. At least, that's how it looked like from the outside. Within his mind, he was engaged in a harsh round of image training, mentally sparring against the fighters he had crossed in his life that could actually give him a workout. That isn't to say he wasn't aware of his surroundings. He was completely aware of the Examiners arriving to review his performance in the match. He noticed the entry of the two women who gave off the same kind of aura as those two Witches he'd saved from those hoodlums earlier. And he certainly noticed the arrival of his opponent and her entourage; interestingly, his opponent was another Witch herself, as was one of her companions. But the last one...
It was all Brady could do not to shoot up in panic. Understandable, really, from his perspective. It's not everyday you meet someone who's aura is essentially killing intent in the shape of a person. Slowing his suddenly rushing heartbeat, he calmly opened his eyes. It still surprised him to learn that, rather than taking place in the main gym, or even in the official fighting ring the place had for those who practiced boxing or other forms of Martial Arts, the fight was going to take place in an emptied out office, most likely where the employees handled the non-muscle related work. He even got a good look at the first group of Witches who had arrived; from the feel of their auras, he guessed they were in case things got... messy, but their appearances puzzled him. More specifically, the one on the left, her aura felt younger than her grayed hair would indicate, and if he didn't know any better, he thought he could see hints of a SECOND aura within her. Though he had to admit, the way the two were bickering was funny.
A blade driven through his throat.
Forcing himself to keep calm, Brady shook off the bolt of Killing Intent that had just smothered him briefly. Turning to face the source... Brady instantly felt a familiar rage build up within him. What else was he supposed to feel, really, when the source of his search, Luz Noceda, was standing not five FUCKING feet away from him! The only thing staying his hand? The naked aura of madness and death that surrounded her like a cloud. 'And this girl's not even a legal adult yet! How the fuck did she get her aura like this so young!? ...Does it... does it have something to do with dad? No, don't think about it right now. I just got to keep from making a scene.'
"Wow, that's some sweet KI you got going on there." Luz chirped, tilting her head at Brady. It was only then that Brady realized he had been pushing out a subtle aura of Killing Intent himself upon seeing her, and if the warning looks he was getting from the Examiners was any indicator, they'd noticed it. He was a little surprised that none of the Witches had; surely they had some familiarity with the more spiritual aspects of life, what with their magic and all? Wait, no, he can't make assumptions, that's rude.
Taking a deep breath, and plastering on what he hoped was a convincing grin, Brady replied to the wiry maniac standing before him. "Uh, thanks, I guess. Didn't mean to let it loose, just got a hit of yours... and lost myself a little." Okay, maybe that was too honest. Killers of the level that had Lethal Intent fused into their auras usually didn't like being identified...
He was honestly surprised by the bashful laugh his response got. "Heh, sorry about that. I kinda forgot about that. I'm still getting the hang of keeping it under wraps. Most people who can feel it around here are used to it by now."
That got his attention like a radar. "What do you mean 'people who can feel it?' Killing Intent is basically infused into all livings things! It's not the kind of thing you can really NOT notice if it's present."
Luz grinned mischievously. "That's what I thought too. Until I met Katya." She said, jerking her thumb in the direction of Brady's apparent opponent, who was currently going through some light warm-ups. Oh, so she wasn't taking him seriously yet. Well, here's hoping he could change her mind. Ending the train of thought, he turned back to the surreal conversation he was having. "Apparently, Witches can't detect Killing Intent AT ALL. I'm not sure as to why, but my going theory is that the Boiling Isles, Witch-kind's ancestral home, is just so dangerous that Witches are saturated in Killing Intent from birth, and they just get immunized to it."
Brady sucked in a breath at that. "Yikes, that's gonna be rough as integration builds up." And it would be. If anything, he was probably underselling how hard things would get. Killing Intent detection was one of the premiere methods of humanity in detecting danger, with the only way to NOT feel it coming being from things like long-distance attacks from things like Snipers, or Elite Assassins who learned to mask their KI. If Witches couldn't feel Killing Intent, that made them a LOT more vulnerable among humanity.
"Yeah, it'll probably cause some headaches, but it's not like we can do anything about it." She sighed. Brady reluctantly agreed; the problem was already deeply entrenched into them, and while it may not be an issue for Witches that are born away from the Isles, it'll still be a big issue for quite some time.
"Mr. Reeds! If you would please take your position! Miss Noceda, if you would kindly step to the side!" The main referee called out. Luz flushed, with Brady himself coughing in embarrassment. Apparently they had gotten far more sucked into their conversation than they'd thought.
"Yikes, gotta go! Good luck with your match!" Luz called out, jogging to the sidelines. Brady chuckled at the sight of the other Witch who had accompanied her and his opponent chewing the dangerous girl out. Sighing, he made his way over to his opponent, Katya he recalled, and took his stance. He didn't miss the way both of the Referees zeroed in on him as he took his position. Looks like they were familiar with it, though he wasn't sure why it garnered that response.
Katya tensed and relaxed her muscles, keeping herself ready to move at a moment's notice. She smirked as her opponent got into position. "I see you've met Luz."
He sheepishly laughed. "Yeah, she's certainly an experience."
"Trust me, you haven't seen a fraction of what she's capable of." Katya assured him. Though, she felt her nerves stand on end at the chuckle he gave.
"Oh, I most certainly believe that." Brady dryly replied.
"Fighters! You are gathered here to determine if this man," The referee gestured to Brady, "possesses the skills needed to represent the interests of the Kengan Association's members! For this purpose, one of our premiere fighters," Katya smirked, "has been chosen to test his capabilities. The fight will continue until one side is unable to continue, a surrender is declared, or if we, the referees, call a halt to the match! Weapons are prohibited! All else is allowed!" Brady swallowed; these rules were much different from his prior experience with underground fights, more extreme. He steeled himself; he wouldn't falter now.
"Fighters, are you ready!?" At the twin shouts of affirmative from Katya and Brady, the referees nodded, the one on the center swinging both arms down. "BEGIN!!"
Scowling in concentration, Katya exploded across the floor, palm reared back to crush into Brady's jaw. As her fist rammed forward, her eyes widened in shock as Brady's arm shot out, applying pressure to her arm. Her balance was shot, her aim thrown off from that soft touch; Brady smirked at her consternation, ramming a heavy strike into her abdomen. Katya gasped, immense pain radiating from the blow, far more than what even his impressive build should've been able to deliver from such a strike. Gritting her teeth, Katya leapt to the side, launching a trio of knuckle strikes against Brady's ribs. She smirked at his grunt of pain, only to yelp as pain surged through her hand. Stepping out of his strike range, Katya hissed, getting a good look at her fingers; blood was streaking down her knuckles, her fingers pointing at slight angles from their usual positions.
Glancing up, Katya's eyes widened at the sight of Brady, looming over her, arm reared back to deliver another blow. Cussing, Katya ducked as quick as she could, switching to her Piano Method; in a blur of movement, her fingers danced across his torso in a barrage of precision strikes to the muscles in nerves. She snorted at the way he gasped from her little love taps; the strikes would throw him off at any moment. Of course, still managed to send her sprawling with a clipped strike across her jaw. She hastily adjusted her footwork, barely keeping her balance. She dimly noted the yelp coming from Amity behind her, launching herself forward again to get into battle range. She stifled a grin as Brady gasped, doubling over. Her Piano Method didn't do much actual damage, but the side-effects it resulted in were far more deadly in a battle; disrupting the nerves created a sensation of your body disappearing from under you, not only seriously interfering with an attackers ability move their limbs, but could even interfere with their senses. It was a devious attack, and one she usually didn't use due to the risk of her getting a beating up close. She was honestly lucky she'd been able to hit him with it!
Regardless, he was going to recover any moment, so she quickly moved to her ready position. Her wariness was proven correct, as not even a moment later, Brady exploded off the ground, rushing her with a barrage of blows. Eyes widening, Katya desperately ducked and weaved, managing to regulate the blows to only glancing off of her; still painful, but not debilitating. Unfortunately, she missed Brady's smirk, or his follow up move. Before she could so much as scream, Brady grabbed her, and tossed her aside with a twisting throw. Katya's eyes widened, feeling her body go limp against her will, smashing against the wall with a painful crunch. In a burst of motion, Brady instantly cleared the distance, ramming another blow home, this time into Katya's hip. She couldn't hold back the scream as she felt the bone give. As she saw Brady's eyes widen in shock, the guy must've been unused to dealing these types of injuries, she unleashed a staccato of knuckle strikes and fist blows against his arms and shoulders, the muscles and bones shuddering under her strikes. As he howled, she dropped to the ground, fighting back another scream as her weight fell onto her damaged hip, she cupped her hands together, she rammed them into his torso with a brutal swing, wincing as she felt the unusually tight and strong muscles yielding under her blow.
She snarled, pulling her arms back for her finisher... only to freeze, meeting Brady's merciless gaze, and feeling his fingers pinching around her carotid and wind-pipe. She hadn't even noticed him moving, let alone him going for her throat. The message was clear; if she moved in anyway, her throat would be crushed. He probably wouldn't do it, but she had effectively lost, and she wasn't a low enough fighter to test him on it and keep things going. She sighed.
Turning to the Refs, she called out. "I surrender!"
"Match Over! Winner, Brady Reeds!" They called out. Brady instantly relaxed, pulling away. She snorted; if this had been an official match, this would've gone way differently. Aw well, that's what happens when she underestimates a new guy.
"Hey, that was a good match!" She called out to him, eyes focusing on his response. "What kind of style was that? Seemed kind of like a mix to me."
"Oh?" He replied, a tilt to his head as he looked back at her. "It's called the Niko Style."
Niko Style, eh? She'd remember that.
"You were right!"
"Yes, but I wish I wasn't. How did he learn it?"
"We may need to report this..."
As Eda finished eavesdropping on the Refs, who were apparently going to be reporting something odd so Eda and Lily didn't have to, she turned to her sister. "So Lils, what'd you think?"
She snorted at the look of intense concentration on her face. Only Lily could be that critical of a slug-fest, even one as admittedly advanced as that one had looked like. Nonetheless, Lilith turned to Eda to reply. "I believe that this fight will give us an effective baseline to establish the nature of the competitions we will encounter in our future endeavors. While the rules will doubtlessly differ from competition to competition, particularly when we scout out fighters from more official forms of competition, this gave us an effect baseline to determine what fighters we should look for."
"Well look at you Lils, getting invested in a brutal, underground blood sport! Didn't know you had it in ya!" Eda teased, lightly nudging Lilith in the ribs.
Lilith scoffed fondly, batting Eda's arm away. "Really, Edalyn, as... unscrupulous as this job of ours may be, it's still a combat sport, and I was captain of the Grudgby team. I'm hardly unfamiliar with the principle."
"Yeah, but I was the Star Player!" Eda interjected, setting the two off in playful bickering as they left, Lilith to make their official reports, Eda to break out the celebratory Apple Blood she'd managed to keep during her fleeing from the Isles!
"Katya!" Amity cried, moving to support the Bard-turned-Fighter. She quickly caught the other Witch under her arm, breaking her fall before she could collapse. "We need to get you to a healer, immediately!"
Katya chuckled, waving Amity's concern off, much to her befuddlement. "Don't worry about it, it's an occupational hazard. The Association has great medical staff for just this kind of crap."
Amity wasn't entirely sure what 'medical' was, but rolled with it. "Alright, but we at least have to get you somewhere secure! Even if they can get you all better, we still need to get you off your feet! Right Luz?"
At the lack of response, both Katya and Amity traded concerned looks, glancing over at their friend. "Luz?"
When Luz turned to them, Amity barely held in a yelp. Luz's expression was murderous, eyes wild, veins and arteries bulging slightly against the skin, the only difference from her typical feral look being the lack of anything resembling a smile. Suddenly, the strange pressure coming off her vanished, her face shifting back into it's normal expression, though still bereft of a smile. "Eh? Sorry, Amity's right, we need to get you somewhere you can rest, Katya."
"Okay..." Katya dragged out, eyes squinting in suspicion. "Are you sure you're alright, Luz? You looked kind of freaked out."
"Really?" Luz asked, genuine confusion coloring her features.
"Yeah, you looked like you were going to kill someone." Amity chimed in, having shifted her position to take more weight off of Katya's legs and hip.
"Oh." Luz stated, glancing back in the direction Brady had gone. "Sorry. That guys moves... brought up some bad memories."
Neither of the two had anything they felt they could say to that, and merely settled with trading concerned glances again.
Chapter 16: The Calm Before the Storm
Brady is informed that he's stepped into something way over his head. Yamashita reviews the information he has, and prepares for an upcoming event with potentially far reaching ramifications. Camila has a little moment with the Demons and Eda. Luz remembers.
Okay, I hope you all are ready for this chapter, because I KNOW that I am stoked beyond words to hear what you all think!
When Brady exited the Gym, it took all he had not to collapse to the ground with a groan. Damn, that girl had hit HARD!! Gritting his teeth, he carefully applied pressure to the spots where she struck, wincing at the feeling of movement from a few; by his guess, he'd probably need to tape up his ribs, at the least, along with a bandage for his left hand. "Note to self: Practice Adamantine Kata more over the weekend... and maybe try and convince Sensei to head over here for some more lessons ahead of schedule." He muttered to himself, wincing at the latter part. As much as he was grateful towards Sensei for giving him the skills he needed to survive the fighting underground, Sensei was... difficult, at the best of times. But as the saying goes, needs must when the Devil drives.
Sighing, he gathered up his stuff from the locker he had commandeered before the match, pulling out his spare clothing. After dabbing off some of the blood from his wounds, jaw, and nose, he smoothly changed his clothing, slid on his favorite jacket, and made for the exit. Whistling to himself, he was understandable startled when one of the referees stopped him outside the door. "Uh, can I help you?"
"Help me? Boy, you're the one who needs help." The ref gruffly retorted, pushing Brady back against the wall. To Brady's shock, his body backpedaled from the blow easily. How strong was this guy? He was built like a reed! The ref smirked at his dumbfounded expression. "Heh, the Association doesn't trust just ANYONE to handle the selection of their fighters, boy. Now listen up!"
Brady instinctively stood at attention at the man's bark, sweating nervously. "Look sir, I really don't know what this is about, so can I...?" He asked, trying to sidle around the surprisingly intimidating older man. He groaned internally as the man merely shook his head, gruffly pushing him back fully into the other man's line of sight. "Thought not."
"Huh, so you aren't just a dumb pup. That makes things easier." He grunted, slowly scanning Brady's tense form. "I'm only telling you this because as a courtesy, and it's probably gonna get me a reprimand from some of the higher ups. You," He began, roughly shoving a finger against Brady's chest, much to his annoyance, "are currently one of only a handful of practitioners of the Niko Style in the entire world. I don't know who taught you, but you comin' out and joining the Association just put a Bullseye on your back. So keep your nose clean, or Hell is gonna rain down on you, especially if the Ashura or the Old Fang catch wind of what you can do. Don't forget it."
His piece said, the mysterious old man stalked away, grumbling all the while. With the awkward encounter over, Brady let loose a sigh of relief, instantly moving towards the road, mentally calculating how much of his time this had eaten up. "Well, that was... uncomfortable. But at least I got some info out of that whole mess. And I definitely need to talk with Sensei about this. But still... who the fuck is the Ashura?"
Yamashita sighed, carefully reviewing the information that the Sisters had delivered in their report before heading back home. While their skills in this particular line of work were a bit shaky, they were already showing signs of refinement into effective agents, and would only continue to improve. The elder sister, and wasn't that a surprise to learn, Lilith, was familiar with beurocratic work and operating as part of a chain of command and had experience with filing paperwork and delivering reports, though the rust on her skills showed her lack of practice, nothing that time couldn't fix; her lack of subtlety was another matter, but could be eased by the skills of her sister. And was that a loaded statement there.
The apparently younger of the sisters, Edalyn, or Eda as she preferred to be called, was a skilled and canny conwoman, with years of experience operating outside the law, and while her records of before the arrival of the Isles were reasonably benign, the lengths she had been pushed afterwards... it honestly saddened him that he wasn't sickened by what she was forced to do to survive. Her difficulties with laws and authority, along with any kind of overarching force operating above her, would make things difficult at times, but her sister would hopefully ease any issues. Truly, the two were a frightening duo when working in concert.
The information they provided on young Mr. Reeds was worrying, but not overly so. Unfortunately, he was well aware that not all within the Association would see it as such; while Yamashita doubted he was a student of the Other Tokita Niko, he was certain others would disagree, and that could result in... problems, to put it lightly. Sighing, he did his best to kneed away the emerging headache, reminding himself that all he could do was to observe the situation and try to mitigate the fallout if things took a turn for the worse. Clicking his tongue, he mentally counted down the call that he should be receiving in three, two, and...
Now. Shaking his head, he calmly picked up his phone, answering. "Well, Miss Vestiban, how has your stay been, working for the Blight Family?"
"Eh, nothing to complain about yet." Clara Vestiban, low-ranking intelligence officer, former Kengan Fighter, and currently a secretary, answered from the other end. He still felt guilty over the duplicity, but Clara was one of his most trusted employees over here in America, regardless of her youth, and while no longer an active fighter, was still a canny opponent, having joined shortly after Miss Noceda did, even if she didn't stick around. Her cunning was incredible, her patience unmatched; Yamashita fully believed that she could successfully infiltrate any organization for years on end if required. "From what I can tell, they are severely business oriented, even by the Association's standards; if they can't find a way for themselves and their family to profit from something, they won't bother. Their scruples when it comes to business appear to be... flexible, but not worryingly so. They do seem to genuinely care for their kids, but I'm feeling some hints of tension that remind me of some of the messier corporate families out there."
Yamashita winced; he had been afraid of that. Even when the parents genuinely loved and wished the best for their children, those in the corporate game often lost track of the impact their actions had on their children, pushing them into career and lifestyle paths that ultimately resulted in resentment and heartache. Hopefully this wasn't unsalvageable, but that was a topic for another day. "Do you think they'll have any issues with the upcoming Tournament?"
"No." Clara swiftly replied, absolute sureness coating her voice. "By all rights, the Blights are hardcore survival-driven opportunists. They won't have any issue with it in the slightest, they may even contribute on our end, but they will jump ship if things turn in the other direction, but only WHEN it happens in truth, not a moment before." While not the best information, it was certainly useful, and could help with predicting them in the future; knowing someone is capable of breaking rank and changing sides is always useful, but the guarantee that it will not occur until one side or another definitively lose was a godsend.
"Hmm... well, that's not too worrying. Are they working on any projects I should be aware of?" He instantly realized it for the mistake it was as soon as he said it.
"Sir." Clara's icy tone came out. "While I may be your spy, THEY are my employers. I will not breach my confidentiality like that, and you know it." It was an unsettling reprimand, but a helpful reminder of one of Clara's most intriguing quirks; her professionalism was on another level, allowing her to compartmentalize disparate rolls and operate as a spy, whilst also being a loyal employee for whomever she was spying on.
"Eh heh heh, my apologies Miss Vestiban, a mere slip of the tongue, nothing more." He reassured her. He REALLY didn't want to get on her bad side; he still vividly remembered what she had done to those poor fools who tried to cop a feel on her last month!!
"Oh, alright then!" Clara chirped, murderously cold tone instantly disappearing. "I'll call you back when the first of the arrivals show up. Bye!"
"Good-b-!" Yamashita began, only to hear nothing but dial tone. She had hung up on him. Again. "Why does she keep doing that?"
Humming to herself, Camila Noceda merrily scrubbed the dishes she had used to prepare dinner, King and Hooty clambering to help her on either side. The two had been delightful, in their own ways. For all that King was a tyrant in the making, he was a cheerful and vibrant little fellow, instantly moving to aid her when she gave him a mini-lecture on royal responsibility and the duties of those with power. While he had groaned a bit, he still aided her with the laser-guided focus of a child invested in their passion. He wasn't contributing much, merely using the cloth she had provided to dry the dishes she handed him, but it still helped. As the dishes were washed and dried, Hooty frantically moved to get them all back in their proper drawers and cabinets. He had been an eager help ever since she added some posable arms and legs to that miniature bird-house that served as his current body, giving him a freedom of movement that he had difficulties mimicking with his prehensile form.
"Got another batch, Hooty!" King called, tossing several plates and bowls into the air. Camila rolled her eyes, having already gotten used to this little bit of theatrics.
"Hoot hoot! I'm on it, good buddy!" Hooty cheerfully shrieked, newly gained arms working in conjunction with his tube body to easily snag the delicate pieces from the air, swiftly placing them in their appropriate locations. She'd also gotten used to that rather quickly as well. After a few more rounds of this, they were finished, the two demons cheering in celebration at their victory.
"Now now, you two. Settle down, please!" Camila faux-pleaded, grinning at their antics. It reminded her so much of when Luz was little, before... what had happened.
"Miss Camila, we finished helping you out with all the chores! As your King, I demand you honor our bargain!" King shouted, stamping his foot in emphasis.
"Yeah yeah, Please! Hoot hoot!" Hooty cheered, squishing himself against King, much to his chagrin.
"Of course, you two. Here, you've earned these." Camila replied, setting down a platter, and pulling away the top to reveal...
"COOKIES!!!" The demons shouted, diving for the plate. Laughing at the silliness of it all, Camila walked back into the living room, shaking her head at the antics of the two troublemakers behind her.
"Well, you certainly handled those two better than I ever did." Sighing in fond exasperation, Camila turned to Eda, sitting on the couch while nursing a bottle of that beverage she had smuggled into the country with her, Apple Blood she called it. Camila had to admit, that took cojones.
"Compared to how Luz was when she was little, trust me, that was nothing." Camila dryly remarked, getting a bark of laughter from the Witch.
"HAH! I can see it." Eda replied, taking a long swig. Idly swishing the bottle, she added something that instantly set off alarm bells in Camila's mind. "Ya know, when the kid said she was heading to bed early, I kind of thought it might have had something to do with that fight from earlier."
"Fight?" Camila echoed, moving to scoot next to Eda. "What fight?" She demanded, leaning in close.
Blinking in surprise at how close Camila was, Eda lightly pushed her back. "First, personal space. Second, she was there when Lils and I got sent to check out that recruitment fight for the Association, our first assignment. Odd thing was, she was pretty cool with the challenger, until the fight started and she saw his moves. Gotta say, didn't think a kid could make a killing face like that, at least not that young."
Camila groaned in misery, already fearing the worst. "Luz is already well acquainted with death. My biggest concern is how some fighter managed to rattle her." Leaning back, Camila pondered the issue, only to come up blank. Slamming a throw-pillow over her face, she screamed into it. "Forget it! I'll deal with the fallout of this tomorrow, otherwise I'll never get any sleep tonight."
Eda shrugged; this wasn't strictly her problem, but she couldn't deny that it would be scummy to leave the woman alone. "Wanna watch bad TV with me? Lily's off reading some of those books you had lying around."
Camila gave a tired smile. "That would be lovely."
A darkened room, deep below ground and far from civilization. The room was filled with men from all walks of life, idly milling about, warily gazing upon each other. Footsteps echoing on stone drew their eyes to the front of the room, which also served as the only major source of light for them all. A man crossed the threshold, grinning like a mad tiger, eyes scanning over the assorted fighters. "Well now! You all must be wondering what your all doing here, right?"
At the echoing noises of affirmation resounded around the room, the man gave a booming laugh. "Well, to give you all some answers, that requires a bit of history. Ya see, way back in the day, they had this thing called a Gu ritual, where they'd cram a bunch of poisonous bugs together, let 'em eat each other, and whatever one was left had the concentrated poison of 'em all. So, I thought, what would happen if we tried somethin' like that, but replaced 'bugs' with 'humans?'"
As they all tensed up, the man snapped his fingers at the crowd. "And that's where you all come in! You all are gonna be locked down here for, oh say, three months, and your all gonna kill each other. You kinda have to, seeing as there's only enough food and water for a single person to actually make it for three months. Those fancy arm bands you all got passed before coming here are what'll help us know which, if any, of you makes it. But hey! If any of ya are feeling squeamish, we got a solution!"
With a cheerful hum, the man brutally hurled a small form into the chamber, which bounced off the floor with a sickening crack. "That there kid'll be good practice for any of you who got any problems with brutally murdering your fellow man. We don't really care if she lives or dies, ya see. Welp, these doors are gonna seal after I leave, so get to sacrificing, okay!?" And with a jaunty wave, the man smoothly exited the chamber, the doors swiftly sealing behind him before any of the fighters could react.
"M-mami? What's going on?" The small child whimpered, pitifully cradling their aching head as they came too. As the little girl fully awoke, she stared with terrified eyes at the murderous gazes glaring at her from all angles... along with a few OTHER gazes that a child should worry about.
You could have heard a pin drop. The stalemate was broken when one of the prisoners rushed her with a roar. The girl screamed. And all hell broke loose.
"NO!" Luz screamed, shooting up in bed. As cold sweat ran down her body, she jerkily patted herself down, before finally staring down at her hands, an image of much smaller hands, coated in blood, flashed before her eyes. "You're not there anymore. You're not there."
She gazed out her window, and couldn't quite convince herself the pricks of light in the distance weren't eyes tracking her every movement. "You're safe. You're home. He can't hurt you anymore."
Chapter 17: New Players
A Week has come and gone, and changes are afoot. Amity and Luz have a lesson together. Boscha has arrived in town, and sees something truly bizarre! Gus and Bria make their first appearances!
"Oof!" Amity gasped, painfully crashing into the wall, albeit not hard enough to injure. Groaning, she pulled herself loose, even as Luz walked over to correct her stance. This training was NOTHING like what the research she'd done implied! Where was the repetition? Where was the slow walkthrough on her movements? Why had she agreed to this again?
"That was great, Ams!" Luz beamed, cheerfully shifting Amity's limbs into the correct posture, some of the uncomfortable tension relaxing as her body adapted to the more effective position. "Sorry for the rough treatment, but your really getting better at tracking my movements!"
Oh right, Luz asked her if she wanted to learn how to defend herself, and she'd instantly agreed after the girl brought out the puppy-dog eyes. Sighing, Amity allowed a grin to form on her face, feeling nowhere near as forced as it did the first few times she'd put one on around Luz during training. "Thanks. Are you sure this 'Joo-doe' stuff will help? So far, it's mostly me just getting flipped on my back and slammed into walls." Amity admitted.
"I'm positive." Luz affirmed, a serious look on her face. "This isn't strictly Judo proper, more like a style based on it that I puzzled out on my own, but the basic premise is the same." Luz pursed her lips, idly tracing Amity's form up and down; the young Witch had to fight the urge to cover herself with her hands at the attention. "I just can't figure out what I'm missing." Luz admitted with a sigh, smoothly dragging Amity along into the center of the room.
"Your balance is good, your reactions are excellent, and your certainly strong enough to pull off the moves," Luz noted, counting each point off on her fingers, before throwing her hands up in exasperation. "Your doing great! I just can't figure out why you haven't managed to pull off a single throw! I'm even slowing down for you to do it, for Pete's sake!"
Amity cocked her head, slightly concerned with how worked up Luz was getting over this. Although, if the points Luz had made were legitimate, it really was a headscratcher, unless... snapping her fingers, she called out. "Luz!"
"Yeah, Amity?" Luz replied, frustration dissipating at breakneck speed. Amity was still unnerved how easily Luz could just shift around her emotions like that.
Shaking it off, Amity closed her eyes, breathing deep. With practiced ease, she twirled her finger, a violet ring forming along the path she marked.
"Abomination, Rise." She intoned, opening her eyes with a smirk as the hulking figure of goop pulled itself up from the portal on the floor. If anyone ever said that she preened at the sight of Luz gawking at her creation, eagerly scrambling around it to see every nook and cranny, they were a lying liar that she'd be needing to track down and 'correct their misunderstanding.' "Impressed?"
"Very!" Luz eagerly answered, eyes shining in delight. "This is magic. YOU JUST DID MAGIC!!" She shouted, wildly gesticulating towards the Abomination. Suddenly, she paused, a thoughtful look forming. "But... why did you? This," She gestured more sedately towards the Abomination as an indication, "is cool and all, but it doesn't really have anything to do with your problem."
"Well, I was thinking about what it was that could be interfering with my reflexes, what could possibly be keeping me from responding in time to your attacks. And then, it hit me. I'm an Abomination Witch; even when we fight at close range, we typically have some amount of Abomination Material to work with." Amity explained, gesturing to her creation, it's limbs shifting into various forms and weaponry, before settling in the shape of articulate hands. "My issue is that I'm still thinking like an Abomination Witch, and my actions are following the assumption that I have an Abomination present to defend me or fight alongside me."
"Okay... I'm following this so far." Luz stated, nodding along with Amity's words.
Amity returned her nod with one of her own, pleased that the other girl was following her train of thought. "My best guess is that I won't be able to properly get myself to move until I manage to overcome my thought process; if I keep treating this as if I have an Abomination on hand, I most likely won't be able to learn the skills you've been showing me." Amity bashfully admitted.
"Alright, I think I get that. So, what's your solution?" Luz inquired, leaning against the wall.
Smirking, Amity decided now was the best time to put her theory into action. "Abomination, Sync!"
Luz wasn't entirely sure what was about to happen when Amity gave her order... but seeing the girl's eyes roll up in their sockets as she pitched forward DEFINITELY wasn't it. With a yelp, she leapt forward, looking to catch her, only for the now significantly more slender arm of the Abomination to catch her instead.
"Don't worry, I've got it." Amity's voice echoed from the Abomination. Peering up, Luz was both amazed and slightly unnerved at seeing Amity's features molded upon the Abomination, which had flawlessly adapted to her appearance and dimensions. The Amity-Abomination smirked at her staring. "Yeah, it's cool, right?"
"Super cool." Luz easily admitted, reaching out to poke the mass of goo. Amity lightly swatted her hand away. "How are you doing that?"
Amity preened, puffing out her chest in pride at her accomplishment. "Well, since my problem was that I couldn't get my head away from the idea of fighting with an Abomination, I decided to trick myself. By establishing a link with the pseudo-consciousness of my Abomination, I can use it's senses as my own, perfect for recon. This," She started, gesturing to her form. "Is just taking it a step further. It's honestly an imitation of a much higher level of Abomination magic, seeing as I'm still limited to the range of motion of my actual body, but it's still an excellent way to avoid injury, and my strength and durability are both much higher."
"Okay, this is MASSIVELY awesome." Luz stated, still ogling the Amity shaped body of goo that Amity's mind was inhabiting. "So your trying to trick your mind into overcoming your block by blurring the boundary between you and your Abomination?" She guessed.
Amity nodded, impressed that Luz had figured it out so quickly. "Yep. It's also a way to keep me from getting hurt worse while practicing if it takes longer than expected to get my mental block down." She admitted.
"Well, no time like the present! And hey, maybe we can get you up to where we can impress your friend tomorrow!" Luz beamed.
Amity groaned. "I told you, Luz, Boscha is not my friend. She's just someone my parents made me hang out with."
Luz cocked her head. "But she sent you all these text messages saying how much she missed you?" She replied, holding up Amity's scroll, which Luz had SOMEHOW unlocked!!!
What proceeded was a hodgepodge of hastily dodged attacks, taunts, laughter, and lots and lots of bruises. But, in the end, Luz managed to at least partially undermine some of Amity's mental block.
Grumbling to herself, Boscha had to admit it... she was totally lost. Typical, the ONE TIME she needed the micro-geek's knowledge of all things human, which had skyrocketed into being actually reliable after the merge and he got genuine intel, he was off geeking it up with the Two-Faced Bitch he called a girlfriend. Ugh, whatever, the sooner she found where the Blights were at, the sooner she could catch up with Amity. They... really needed to talk, especially with how things had changed. Sighing, Boscha resigned herself to strolling the streets until she got lucky. IF she got lucky.
Boscha carefully took note of the varied shops and businesses around her; having a good lay of the land was essential, no matter where you were. And, as her stomach growled, they could provide some good grub later when she got properly hungry and not just a case of the munchies. Walking along, she easily ignored the many, MANY stares she received, probably as a result of her third eye, deftly ducking and dodging her way through the crowd without so much as a glance. She completely ignored the muttering building up behind her, even as she caught a young boy's ice cream cone before it could hit the ground, passing it back to him a single smooth motion, all without taking a look.
To be honest... Boscha was on edge. Sure, she could put up a pretty convincing air of nonchalance, but all the while, her hands were tensing and relaxing, flames sparking and sputtering around her fists; she smirked internally at the reminder of her special skill, one she'd painstakingly honed in combat. Suddenly, her ears pricked up at a commotion up ahead. Interest peaked, Boscha smoothly waded forward, allowing herself to relax into the crowd and flow with it. Effortlessly gliding to the front of the crowd, Boscha turned her gaze forward, getting a peak at what all the fuss was about. She then blinked. And blinked again. And then harshly slapped herself across the face for good measure.
Standing before her, in the center of a gaggle of giggling children, was a woman, decked out in full-body, form-fitting armor that looked like it was made from plastic and spandex, bright red with a fire and tiger motif, wildly posing this way and that. Boscha already felt a headache coming on. 'The hell is this?'
"And that, glorious children, is why it is SO VERY IMPORTANT!! To eat your proper amount of fruits and vegetables! For Justice!" The woman cried, fist raised dramatically, even as an explosion of red colored smoke went off behind her.
"""FOR JUSTICE""" The children echoed, doing their best to mimic the pose.
"Excellent! And always remember, while one person can be wrong, together..." The woman began, slowly pulling herself inward in preparation for another pose.
""""WE HAVE THE ANSWER!!!"""" She and the children cried, all striking a pose that looked like a tiger pawing at a bird. Suddenly, the woman cocked her head, as if listening to something.
"Alas! It is time for me to go!" The really, REALLY weird woman cried, again posing dramatically, arm draped over the visor of her full-face helmet, even as the little kids whined for her to stay and 'do more awesome, fighting stuff!' The woman merely shook her head, lightly patting the most visibly upset child's head placatingly. "Do not fret. For as long as true justice, and love for your fellows burns within your heart, I, CRIMSON TIGRESS, am always with you! But now," She pulled out a grappling hook, firing it off in the distance, where it apparently anchored against something, "I must bid you farewell!"
As the woman, Scarlet Lioness or whatever her name was, zipped off into the distance, Boscha slowly ground her hands against her temples in frustration of the bizarre sight she'd witnessed. As the crowd dissipated, the parents of the children quickly wrangling them to go home, the kids eagerly gabbing about the mysterious woman all the while, Boscha let out a tired huff. 'Well, there's a minute of my life I'm not getting back.'
She was cut off by the sound of her Scroll picking up a call. Glancing at it, she paled at the number, quickly answering. "H-Hey babe!! How're things?" She stuttered out, hoping her nervousness didn't come across. Apparently, she hadn't done a very good job, if the blistering tirade coming from the other end was any indicator. "Me? Lost!? Nah! Just enjoying the sights, hoping to, I dunno, maybe track down Ams before everything goes down." She tried, forcing a laugh.
All was silent from the other end, only for a soft reply to come through. Feeling some of her resolve crumble, Boscha replied. "No. I haven't forgotten. I just... I just wanted to try and make things right, you know? To ease some of the hurt."
A quick plea resounded out, one that Boscha did her best to soothe away. "Don't worry, I'm on my way. No more getting side-tracked, I promise!" Boscha assured. Glancing about in confusion, Boscha bit her lip, and decided to bite the bullet. "But... maybe give me a reminder of where I'm supposed to be?" She managed. At the raucous laugh came across the line, she sighed fondly, dutifully following the directions to the letter.
"BRIA!! Can you believe how incredible this is!? We. Are here! In the Human Realm!!"
Bria Duvious, aspiring Construction Witch, fondly smiled at her boyfriend's antics. He was as much of a fanboy about Humanity as it was possible to be, something she knew all to well. Putting on a look of faux-concentration, one finger pressed against her lips, she replied. "Well gee! It's almost as if the Isles got magically fused with the Human Realm or something!" She teased, eyes sparkling at her boyfriend's pouty expression.
"Briiiiaaaa! You know that's not what I meant." Augustus Porter groaned, arms thrown up at his girlfriend's mischievous antics.
"Ah, I'm just teasing." Bria replied, lightly bumping his hip with her own. "I know what you mean; this place is a lot cooler than I imagined." She admitted, eyes soaking in the tall buildings and unfamiliar architecture, the brilliant feats of engineering done without any form of magic filling her with awe.
"Yeah. It's everything I dreamed of." Gus admitted, a soft smile on his face. Bria admirably resisted the urge to pick him up and snuggle him over it; as fun as it was, he always got sulky when she did that.
"And some day, we're gonna live here." Bria reminded him, softly mussing with his hair, which he accepted with a laugh. "I'm gonna make sure of it."
At that, Gus's smile slipped, before forcing itself back up. "Yup! You've got this!"
Bria groaned. "Gus... you know why I have to do this."
Gus bit his lip, looking down at his feet. His nails dug into his palms. "I do. I just... I really wished you didn't."
"I know how you feel, but please... this is one of the things I love." Bria softly pleaded, not wanting him to try and oppose this, not when they were already so close.
"I know." He sighed, eyes closed in resignation, only to open in weary acceptance. "Just... promise me you'll be okay."
"Hehe, that's easy!" Bria giggled, getting down on one knee. "I, Bria Duvious, do solemnly swear to return from this trial of sound body and mind. Do you, Augustus Porter, accept my august oath?"
Playing up the hamminess, Gus replied in kind. "I, Augustus Porter, do accept thine oath. May the Titan's blessing shine down upon thee in thine quest!"
The two stared, relaxing into each other's gazes, before locking arms. "Now, with that out of the way, let's go meet up with the others." Gus suggested, a pleading look on his face.
Bria laughed. "Sure, whatever you want." Gus never noticed the way she tensed her hand around a rock she had snagged, putting only the lightest of pressure on it, but when she released it, the stone broke into dust and pebbles near instantly. With the subtle test of her skill complete, Bria reaffirmed her vow to come back this healthy and able, and no human, or that Three-Eyed Tramp, would get in her way.
Unbeknownst to Bria, a silent figure in a hoody watched her leave, hands tucked into his loose pockets. In a blur, all the leaves on the nearest branch of the tree next to the figure split in half, falling to the ground. The figure walked off, a tired sigh escaping their lips.
Chapter 18: Challengers Approaching 1
Boscha meets up with the others, and they all gain some surprising information as to the circumstances of their arrival in the States!
Standing outside the rendezvous point, Boscha sucked in a breath, and pushed open the doors, bracing for the inevitable. As expected, a vine whipped her legs out from under her and dangled her in the air, her gaze level with the irritated expressions of her two girlfriends, and no, she was NOT a two-timer!! Utterly unconcerned with her precarious position, Boscha casually raked her gaze up and down her two loves' forms, whistling in appreciation. As Skara and Willow blushed at her antics, Boscha did nothing to hide her smirk. "So, did you two miss me?"
"Yes." Willow bluntly replied, allowing her vine to relax its hold on Boscha, who plummeted to the ground. She folded her arms over her chest, eyebrow raised in appraisal. "We did."
"Boscha, babe, why do you do stuff like this?" Skara moaned, cupping her face in her hands. "You KNOW the kind of trouble you get into when you go somewhere new alone!"
"In my defense!" Boscha interjected, finger raised in emphasis. "They are usually assholes and totally deserve it."
"True, but that's beside the point." Willow pointed out, looking completely unimpressed with Boscha's nonchalant attitude. She huffed, a migraine already forming. "You never even try to listen, and when all's said and done, we have to shell out some of our funds to get you back in shape." Boscha winced at the very true accusation, but Willow wasn't done. "This is genuinely the first time EVER that you've managed to avoid getting into some kind of incident! Believe me, I'm glad you managed to not get into a fight with anyone, and I'm relieved you're unhurt, but it's exhausting to realize that this is the only time you've managed it."
"Willow," Skara began in a warning tone, eyes narrowed at the way their mutual girlfriend was acting.
"No, she's right." Boscha sighed, cutting off her little Marching Girl before she or Willow could say anything to each other that they'd regret later. "My temper... isn't good. I know it, you know it, ALL of Bonesburough knows it, and it's caused me nothing but trouble ever since The Isles moved to Earth. The two of you have been telling me for ages to get some help for it, and I blew you guys off. I'm sorry." She finished, eye's downcast. She was caught off guard by Skara bonking her on the head. "OW! Hey!"
"That's for pitying yourself." Skara stated matter of factly. Willow then proceeded to bonking Boscha herself.
"That's for acting stupid." Willow added. Boscha braced herself for more humiliation... only to be caught off guard as her girlfriends trapped her in a tight hug, softly kissing a cheek each. Willow smiled softly. "And that's for owning up to your mistakes, and treating us with respect."
"We just want you to be with us for as long as possible." Skara commented, softly rubbing her cheek against Boscha's, before cupping the triclops' face in her hand. "And while we wish you didn't get into fights so often, we'd never begrudge you for it. We just worry is all. If you think that fighting is something you need to do, we'll support you; just promise us you'll do your best to come home."
Boscha didn't even try to fight the wide smile that broke across her face, finally reciprocating the hug. "What did I do to deserve you two?"
"Hmm... I dunno. What did you do?" A faux-innocent voice replied behind them. While Skara and Willow merely rolled their eyes, Boscha had to physically force herself to keep calm. Rigidly turning around, she stared blankly into the cheekily grinning face of her rival, and all around pain in her butt, Bria Duvious. She knew that Bria was coming along, the two-faced bitch was never far from her geeky boyfriend, but it still made her blood boil. Bria affected a look of mock-concern. "Ooo, careful there Boscha! Wouldn't want to pop a blood vessel, now would you? Not with the big match coming up!"
"Bria!" Boscha forced out, teeth already starting to grind against each other in frustration. "And here I thought you were still playing around in the sandbox! What, got bored smashing sandcastles?"
"Oh, I don't know about that!" Bria laughed harshly, eyes staring daggers. "And what about you? Still playing with matches? That's a safety hazard, right?"
Before Boscha could add her retort to the rapidly escalating argument, Gus Porter, Willow's good friend and Bria's boyfriend, only the Titan knew why, finally interjected. "Okay! Maybe let's get up to see Mr. Yamashita and see what this is all about, right? Huh? Doesn't that sound better than fighting in the lobby? Please?" He pleaded, desperate to get the tension to defuse.
"Oh, of course Gussy!" Bria cooed, grappling him into a squeezing hug, one that probably didn't help his circulation if his struggling was any indicator.
"Yeah, as entertaining as seeing Bria and Boscha fight would be, we really are on business here." Willow added, genuinely pouting at the missed opportunity of her girlfriend and Bria throw down. Ah well, better luck next time! With that said, the group headed upstairs, lightning flashing between the rivals all the while, much to the weariness of the others.
Riding up the elevator, which Gus just could NOT stop gushing over, much to Boscha's annoyance, they finally arrived at the top floor. Standing before them, sitting at his desk with a slender woman beside him, was Kazuo Yamashita himself. To Boscha, the guy didn't look like much, an odd mix of plain and seedy to her... and then his gaze rose up. It was like lightning had struck, a jolt of attention surging up Boscha's spine, and she was sure that Bria felt it too, even if the others didn't. It was indescribable, a sensation of observation and analysis that went beyond words. If it weren't for the lack of any sort of feeling of lechery, Boscha probably would've felt naked. And then, as Yamashita's face shifted into a smile, the pressure vanished. It was all Boscha could do not to sag in relief.
"Well come on then, come and sit! You all must have had a long trip, and it wouldn't do to allow yourselves to go without rest." The man called out, gesturing for the chairs scattered before him. Trading puzzled looks, the Witches acquiesced, carefully taking their seats. "Now then, you all must be wondering what this is all about, right? Please, feel free to ask me anything."
None of the Witches were sure they wanted to go first. When they had been told to come here, and provided all the means necessary for the trip, they'd been suspicious, but none could find it in themselves to voice those suspicions at the moment. It was as if their throats had been sealed shut. Finally, Boscha decided to bite the bullet. "Why?"
"Why... what? Why bring you all to the States? Why is the Association holding resources needed for the Isles' recovery hostage?" Kazuo guessed, a blank look on his face, giving nothing away. At Boscha's hesitant nod, he gave a sad smile. "To the second, the Boiling Isles is in a unique position. In the grand scheme of things, the Isles and it's inhabitants are utterly insignificant," for all that it was frustrating to admit, none of the Witches could deny that claim, not with what had happened during the War, and how utterly the Isles' forces were outclassed, "but the Isles possesses one resource that is currently utterly unique to it, one that companies, businesses, and organizations of all types all across the globe would give their own families to possess."
Gus instantly made the connection, leaning forward to answer. "Magic." He stated, voice grave as it could be. The others blinked, but ultimately agreed; it was the most likely conclusion.
"Indeed. Your rather quick on the uptake." Yamashita complimented, a discerning look in his eyes. He leaned back, contemplative. "But yes. The magic of the Isles, and of Witch-kind, is a resource that many are eager to obtain. Including the Association. Some wish to have your home bought out, bringing it in its entirety under the control of the Association; others wish to allow the Isles to develop into an economic entity of its own, and do business in the more civilized sense. But none wish for the Isles to be left alone. To help end this argument, an agreement was reached; officials and agents would be dispatched to the Isles to gain the measure of your people, as businessmen and women, and as fighters. If favorable reports were returned, the next phase would move forward." At this, Kazuo stood up, staring out his window with a look of intense concentration on his face, before whirling upon the young Witches, "The Boiling Isles Integration Tournament! A fighting competition where the best fighters of the Isles, one for each of the Covens that act as your governing system, will be matched against nine fighters of the Association's choosing. In a best-of-five contest of skill, the fate of the Isles, whether they will remain independent or folded into the Association's aegis as its subordinates, will be decided!"
You could here a pin drop, it was so quiet. The young Witches felt their eyes widen in horror. A fighting tournament that would effectively decide the fate of the Isles as a whole!? It was Bria who found her voice. "Okay... as terrifying as that is, what does that have to do with us, in particular?" She asked, gesturing to the group.
Kazuo tilted his head in confusion. "Why, I thought it was obvious. You, Miss Duvious, and Miss Tripell," He gestured to Boscha, who promptly snapped to attention, "have been determined as the fighters representing the Construction and Potions Covens."
"What?!?" Boscha cried, slamming her hands on Yamashita's desk in shock. "Since when!?"
"Since the two of you began entering the Kengan Matches being held on the Isles, both against the fighters gathered to act on the Association's behalf, and those representing more local interests, you both have consistently held your own against fighters much larger, faster, and more durable than you, and have come out victorious more often than not. If fighters can be found to take your places from those still on the Isles, meaning those who can defeat the two of you at the level of skill you currently possess, than you will be let off the hook. But as it stands, the two of you represent the nine best fighters your people can put forward. Frankly, the Association is not giving you two any choice." Yamashita replied, a look of unyielding steel in his eyes. The two named Witches gulped in unison, both suddenly kicking themselves for becoming so invested in the fights held so frequently back home.
Willow gripped the armrests of her chair in a death-grip, eyes glowing bright green with the intensity of her outrage. Gnashing her teeth together in frustration, the only thing holding her back being the placating arm Skara had laying across her shoulder, she bit out, "Are you telling me, that either Boscha fights against opponents liable to KILL her, or the Isles are going to be strongarmed into becoming the Association's slave-state in all but name!?"
Yamashita nodded his head in sorrow. "I'm afraid so. Either Boscha and Bria, along with whomever else is chosen, fight in the Tournament, or the Isles will forfeit by default, and the Association will do everything in its considerable power to bring your home to heel."
Gus bit his lip, mind frantically whirling for a solution, even as the rest began wildly shouting in a panic over the horrible situation, before a thought struck him.
"You said that some of the members of the Association want the Isles to be left alone, and that the rest of the fighters for our side haven't been chosen yet." Gus pointed out, eyes narrowed shrewdly. "But you never said why we had to be here to learn about it. IF we had to be here at all."
At the very good point he made sank into the others' heads, they all became very still as the implications sank in, even as Yamashita began clapping wildly, a gleeful smile on his face. "Yes, YES! Very good, Mr. Porter, very good indeed!" Yamashita laughed, head thrown back in delight at the young boy's cleverness. Wiping a mirthful tear from his eye, Yamashita began to explain. "You are correct. If this had merely been a case of informing you all of about the situation, none of you needed to come here, and certainly not before the rest of the fighters had even been selected! No, you are all here for one very important reason; Training!"
Boscha cocked her head, a mixture of intrigue and confusion bubbling inside her. "Training?" She echoed.
Yamashita nodded, face now much more sober. "Indeed. I've reviewed the data on your prior matches, and, to be blunt, as the two of you are now, you'd stand no chance at all against any but the weakest fighters the Association could possibly send." He replied bluntly. Holding a hand up to dissuade any protests, he continued. "I do not mean this as an insult, merely as a fact. All the research the Association has done into the Isles has revealed a culture woefully removed from Martial Arts and physical combat. What few close-range methods of fighting, divested of magic, that your people possess, are more based on weaponry, and even they are severely lacking in terms of proper discipline and technique. As such, it was deemed necessary to bring you the two of you here, so that you may gain the skills that could give you the edge you need to win, as well as experience against the types of fighting that may come against you during the tournament."
"Okay, I guess that makes sense." Skara tentatively admitted, even as Bria and Boscha both struggled not to snap at the man before them, incensed at the slight against their skills in the ring. "But what about me, Willow, and Gus? Why are we here?"
Yamashita merely smiled at the young girl. "Are you saying that the three of you wouldn't be concerned about the status of your significant others?"
None of the three could deny that it; if Bria, for Gus, or Boscha, for Skara and Willow, just disappeared, even if they learned what it was about, they would never be able to keep themselves from panicking with worry. Seeing the looks of acceptance over the situation, however reluctant it may have been, Yamashita clapped his hands. "Good! Now, if that's settled, I've taken the liberty of arranging some matches for Bria and Boscha, to give them a look at the level they should expect in the tournament." He passed over a pair of envelopes marked with their names, which they picked up. "Inside, you'll find the name of your opponent, the date of the match, as well as the time and location. Now please, have a good day, and a limousine will be waiting outside to return you all to your hotel and your chaperons."
As the young Witches, literal CHILDREN, piled out of his American Office, Kazuo Yamashita slumped into his seat in exhaustion, already weary of what was to come. The sad truth was, even with all the training they and the other chosen fighters were likely to get, the Isles was almost certain to be demolished in the tournament. This act was, to Yamashita at least, more a cruel temptation of hope, rather than a legitimate chance at victory. But what could he do? Mr. Nogi had already made his decision clear on the matter! Oh, how he wished those children luck; they'd need all the help they could get.
"I must say, that was handled rather well, Mr. Yamashita." Kaede Akiyama, Yamashita's assistant and longtime friend, replied, gently leaning against the wall, even as she diligently worked her way through her papers. She gave her boss a sympathetic look, just as understanding of the situation as he, and felt nothing but empathy for her boss's sorrow.
"Thank you, Ms. Akiyama." Yamashita sighed, wishing he still had his flask to dull some of the ache he felt over this farce of a tournament. "I only hope the girls aren't crushed by the wall they will encounter in their matches."
"Wall, sir?" Kaede inquired.
Yamashita nodded grimly. "Indeed. As much as it pains me to admit it, they need to understand the level of skill and ability they will have to contend with if they wish to have even a prayer of victory. If they cannot overcome the wall that is each of their respective opponents, than they would be better off forfeiting here and now." He sullenly handed her copies of the fighters he had picked for them to battle; she would understand perfectly after reading them.
As her eyes skimmed the documents she'd been handed, Kaede's eyes widened in alarm. Whirling on her boss, she exclaimed, "Sir! Are you certain of this!? If they let their guards down for even an instant, these fighters would do so much more than merely defeat them, they would destroy them!"
"I am aware." Kazuo answered. "And that's why they NEED to face them."
Biting her lip in concern, Kaede glanced at the top-most paper in concern, as well as the fighter it depicted: Wade the Quick-Draw.
Chapter 19: Old Friends, Old Enemies, Old Frenemies?
A short little fluff scene with our main OT3 among the Witchlings, before Skara and Boscha have a run-in with an old... friend(?).
Warning: Amity is going to be acting in a way that calls back to her earliest appearances in canon. Be warned.
First thing in the morning, and where did Boscha find herself? Stuck as the designated bag-carrier for her girls. Now she knew why guys always looked grumpy when they had to do this, these bags were HEAVY!! Sighing, she pushed her frustration aside, instead focusing on the treat Skara was holding towards her face so she could eat it. This ice cream stuff was Soooo~ good! And yet another indicator that the Boiling Isles were far more behind than she'd like to admit.
"You've got a little dab on your nose!" Skara giggled, wiping off the offending smudge with her finger, giving it a tender lick. If anyone told Boscha she was blushing at that moment, she would loudly and proudly agree... before punching them into the ground. She had standards after all.
"Thanks babe." Boscha replied, a warm grin on her face, prompting a blushing laugh from the beautiful bard.
"You two have got to be the most lovey-dovey pair in the world," Willow sighed, shaking her head fondly. Boscha and Skara merely sent her matching raised eyebrows. Willow flushed. "What?"
"And what does that make you, exactly, Miss 'If I can't have either of you, I'll just date you both!'?" Boscha retorted, a teasing smirk on her face.
Skara leaned in close, her breath hot on a now vibrantly blushing Willow's face, tracing a hand down her cheek. "Yeah, it's almost like your saying you don't like spending time with us!" She faux-whined, a cute pout on her face.
At that, Willow's admittedly low tolerance for teasing from her girls broke. "Wow, would you look at the time! I gotta go see Gus about a thing! Yup, about a thing! Okay, buh-bye, see you in an hour!" She babbled, taking off like a bullet.
The girls exchanged matching smirks, a single thought shared between them. 'Too easy.'
"Titan, she's gonna be so mad later!" Skara chuckled sheepishly.
"Yeah," Boscha hummed. "We should probably go get her some new seed packets, out of our pocket. That'll help, even if she'll still thump us one each."
As the two walked in comfortable silence, Skara lightly cuddling against the arm of her three-eyed everything, Boscha wryly asked, "If you're gonna be so close, why don't you carry some of these bags."
"Nope!" Skara chirped, her grin gaining a note of smug. "You lost the round of rock-paper-scissors, so you had to do whatever I, the winner, demanded. And I demanded that you carry all of our bags during shopping!"
"I still think you cheated," Boscha griped, only to frantically back-pedal at Skara's watery pout. "N-NOt that that's a bad thing!! I absolutely love carrying your bags, can't get enough! I'll do it all the time, any time, you bet!"
"I'll be holding you to that then." Skara chirped, tears instantly drying up as she grinned mischievously.
Boscha gawked, before shaking her head in fond exasperation. "Cheeky little minx. And I still can't get enough of it."
"Hey, when you got it, you flaunt it!" Skara smirked, cocking her hips, much to Boscha's frustration, as she suddenly found herself with a harsh case of dry mouth. Growing serious, Skara asked, "Are you okay? Really okay? This Tournament sounds like it's going to be a pretty big deal."
Boscha snorted, still ticked over the slight to her skills. "It'll be fine." She dismissed. "But if it really bothers you that much, just wait to see my next match against this guy in three days! ...What was his name again?"
Skara rolled her eyes fondly. "It was Adam Dudley. And I'm not so sure I share your confidence." She confessed. "I looked at his stats. He's won a LOT of fights, and even got a place in the last Tournament the Association held, and considering how many fighters they've got on record, that's a pretty big achievement."
Boscha felt a tug at her heart at Skara's worry. Snorting to herself, she lightly nudged the other girl in the ribs, prompting a squeal of surprise from her. "Hey, it'll be okay! Worst thing I can do is lose, and that'll just mean I've gotta train more. Everything'll work out, just you wait and see."
Skara gave her girlfriend a watery smile. "When did you get so sappy?"
"Dunno." Boscha admitted. "Probably sometime after my family lost it all and I had to scrounge off the streets. Would probably still be doing that if it wasn't for Willow." And Boscha knew damn well she hadn't deserved that kindness.
"She really is too good for us." Skara agreed, a sad smile on her face.
"Yeah," Boscha chuckled, reminiscing at those early days when she was a deluded little twit. Her face grew somber. "And that's why I CAN'T lose. I won't ever let her down, not now, not ever."
"Well, at least I'll be right there, cheering you- Oh!" Skara began, only to shout in surprise as she collided with someone.
"OW! Watch where you're going, nitwit!"
"SORRY SORRY SORRY!!" Skara rambled, scrambling to her feet, eyes screwed shut in panic. While her family's loss in status hadn't been as severe as Boscha's, she'd still learned some harsh lessons about respect... including what could happen if you made someone angry in the streets.
"Hey! Don't go calling my girlfriend-!" Boscha started, only to pull up short at who she saw. Gawking, she lightly pinched Skara's side, prompting the girl to open her eyes with a yelp. Any complaint she may have had died on her lips at who she saw. There, irritably dusting herself off, was the source of Boscha's search the other day, Amity Blight herself. "Amity?"
"Uh, next time, watch it, you little-!" Amity began, only for her eyes to widen at the sight of the two Witches. Boscha could just barely make out her mumbling 'oh, no' right before a squealing Skara trapped her in a glomp. "Oof! Hey!"
"AMITY!! I CANNOT BELIEVE WE FOUND YOU SO FAST!!!" Skara squealed, twirling Amity around without a care in the world. Amity merely limply dangled, a look of indifference coating her features. "We missed you, like, so much!!"
"Uh huh." Amity stated blandly. "So, what do you want?"
Pausing in shock, Skara backed off. This wasn't what she'd been expecting. Shock, joy, sorrow, ... maybe some anger, but not this- this sheer indifference. "What are you saying? Is it really so weird for friends to want to see each other again when their in town?"
"Skara..." Boscha began, only to be cut off.
"Friends?" Amity echoed, an eyebrow arched in bewilderment. "We weren't friends."
Boscha felt a yawning pit open in her stomach. This. This was what she'd been fearing, and the look of stunned confusion on Skara's face made it hurt all the worse.
Skara's lip quivered. "But... we hang out, like all the time! We- we, we went shopping together!"
"Yeah... and?" Amity drawled, face already back into it's previous blank stare of indifference. "So we hung out. That doesn't make us friends. At best, that just makes us kids who did stuff together because we had similar interests."
"Y-yeah, like friends! Friends do that!" Skara rambled, even as Boscha tried to pull her back. Meanwhile, Boscha was already trying to prepare herself. For what, she didn't know, but she just knew this wasn't going to end well.
Amity snorted, a look of disbelief in her face. "Sorry to say, but I've never considered the two of you my friends. I only hung out with you guys because my parents said so. And now, if you'll excuse me..." She began, already turning to move. She wasn't quite quick enough, as Skara clamped down on her arm like a vice.
"That can't be true!!" Skara shouted, eyes wild with desperation. "I mean, maybe we weren't the closest, but we still-!" Anything Skara intended to say next was cut off as she suddenly found herself airborne, before slamming painfully against the hard ground, staring up into Amity's icy glare.
"Do. Not. Touch me. Like that. Again." Amity growled, utterly unconcerned with the tears forming in Skara's eyes. Lightly pressing her foot against Skara's shoulder, she added, "Let me make this clear. You are not my friend. You never have been. The day you two lost it all was one of the best day's of my life, because it meant I no longer had to waste another day dealing with either of you." She finished, utterly uncaring as Skara started openly weeping, silent sobs choking out.
At that, any attempt on Boscha's part to reign in her temper failed. As raging fury flooded her veins, she released her grip on the bags, flames bursting to life across her palms. Without a word, she cartwheeled forward, and slammed her full weight into Amity's back, feet first. As she smoothly rotated back onto her feet, she barked out. "Don't you EVER talk to my girlfriend like that!!"
To Boscha's slight surprise, Amity didn't slam painfully into the ground, and instead merely flipped around landing on her feet in a crouch, eyes narrowed. "Why am I not surprised an airhead like her ended up with a brute like you."
As Boscha pulled Skara to her feet, she lightly pulled the girl close, feeling her shiver as she whimpered at Amity's words. "I told you, don't talk to her like that!" Boscha hissed, tightening her hands into fists, trying to snuff out the flames. She couldn't afford to rampage, not here! Amity merely scoffed. "Ugh, I don't have time for this. Just... go do whatever you came here to do. I really don't care. Just leave me alone."
"Fine." Boscha snarled, doing her best to comfort Skara's sobbing. "Can't believe I didn't realize what a bitch you were."
Amity merely gave her a brittle smile, eyes staring daggers. "Takes one to know one!" She mocked. "See you around, superstar!!"
With that, Amity sauntered off, unconcerned with the burned bridges behind her, or the heartache she'd dealt. Skara just sobbed into Boscha's shirt some more, forcing herself to speak with words. "W-Why w-would-d she s-say that!? I-I just want-ted to talk!"
"I dunno babe, I just don't know." Boscha cooed, internally panicking over what she could do to ease her girlfriend's pain, before an idea came to her. "Hey! Why don't we call Willow, and see what she's up to? Listening to her gush over something always cheers you up."
"Yeah," Skara tearfully mumbled, still pressed deep into Boscha's embrace. "It does." As Boscha pulled out her scroll, dialing up Willow with the ease of long practice, Skara piped up again. "Can we... not tell her? About Amity?"
Boscha turned to Skara, eyes inscrutable, before slowly nodding. "Yeah. We can do that. Oh! She's picking up."
At that, Skara leaned in close, face visibly brightening at the prospect of hearing her girlfriend's voice after her brief ordeal. With only the slightest of echoes, Willow's voice called out from the Scroll. "Hey guys! I was just about to call! I'm gonna text you a location, get over here quick!"
Exchanging glances, the two girlfriends shrugged in acceptance. It wasn't quite what they'd planned, but it should help keep their minds off of... what'd happened.
"'Kay, sure! We'll be there." Boscha replied, with Skara piping up as well.
"Can you tell us what's going on?"
"Oh, nothing much." Willow coyly drawled. "Just watching Bria get her butt handed to her in a spar."
As Sara watched a wide, silly grin spread out across Boscha's face, moments before she burst out in uproarious laughter, she had only one thing to say. "We're on our way."
Chapter 20: A Peak Behind the Curtain
Lilith and Eda undergo their mission. Boscha gets a hint that things won't be as easy as she's expecting with her match.
Warning: First section contains non-explicit depictions of sexual slavery and death. You have been warned.
Taking a deep breath, Lilith braced herself. Without a word, she leapt from behind the corner she was using as cover, launching lightning bolts at the gangsters in the room. While her eyes widened briefly at the barrage of bullets sent her way, she smirked as they harmlessly clattered off of her shield. Being a specialist in barriers certainly had its perks, especially considering her considerable talent in Lightning Spells. Case in point, she unleashed another barrage of bolts, sending the remaining thugs screaming to the floor. Humming to herself, she strolled into the center of the rooms, dismissing the moaning bodies surrounding her, a ball of flame coiled in her fist.
Spotting the pile of drugs sat on the table, she had interrupted them in the middle of transport-prep after all, she gently lobbed her fire-ball at the mass, grinning as it all went up in flames. Probably not the safest form of drug disposal, but this particular den of roaches was quickly achieving some semblance of infamy for their... lack of standards. She froze at the sound of a gun-safety disengaging behind her head, a sound she'd made sure to familiarize herself during their brief training period and her own experiences. "Don't move, or I'll blow your Fuckin' brains out, bitch."
Lilith rolled her eyes. Clearly she was dealing with a moron. "Honestly, what next? I suppose you'll want me to raise my hands where you can see them?" She mocked, doing just that.
"I said NOT TO FUCKIN-!!" Whatever the punk was going to say next cut off, courtesy of Lilith's Staff rocketing down the hall and clocking him across the skull, Lilith smoothly dodging the discharge of his gun, his grip having tightened upon being struck. With that done, Lilith calmly exited the room, twirling up a series of barriers behind her to keep the fools from dying from the flames and smoke of her little bonfire; she was contemptful of them, not murderous! Speaking of murderous...
Lilith calmly ducked underneath the flying form of another goon, this one in an... unfortunate state of lacking clothing. Turning her head in the direction he had came from, and ignoring the sickly crunch from his landing behind her, Lilith strolled down the path of carnage, wrinkling her nose at the putrid reek. Gliding past the increasingly mangled forms of the gangsters stationed here, Lilith marveled at the level of carnage Edalyn could reek when sufficiently provoked, silently cussing at all the times in the past she missed the obvious fact Edalyn had been going easy on her. Still... she couldn't help the surge of vindictive glee she felt at seeing this pack of scum suffer.
Reaching the end of the hall, she was unsurprised to find Edalyn finishing off the last of their foes. What did surprise her, though, was the sight of Edalyn using a rather brutal arm-bar against the thug in her grasp, murderous rage coating her features.
"Yeah... not so fun when you're the one getting choked, huh? IS IT!?" Eda shrieked, tightening her grip further, even as her captive's struggles started to reach a fever pitch, culminating in a rather unsettling cracking noise. Panting heavily, Eda slowly raised her gaze, fury still burning in her eyes, although it diminished slightly at the sight of her sister. "Oh, hey Lils."
"Hello Edalyn." Lilith managed, somehow keeping her tone even in spite of the rather... visceral display. Slowly pointing at the still body at Eda's feet, Lilith felt the need to voice the question on her mind. "Was that... necessary?"
It wasn't an accusation. Fortunately, Eda recognized this.
"We were told these fucks forced needles in kids to get them hooked, and dragged girls off the streets to warm the beds of sleazy creeps." Eda stated, voice dead, lifelessly gesturing to the empty doorway behind her. Lilith tentatively walked over, peering inside. She barely caught the surge of bile coming up her throat before it could leave, stumbling backwards. "We weren't told that they meant 'girls' literally."
Screwing up her nerves, Lilith forced herself to look again. It wasn't any prettier the second time. Girls in various states of undress were scattered about, with the biggest of them chained to beds; the youngest were in literal cages. None could be older than sixteen, at MOST. Two in particular stood out to her, a young girl with wild bushy hair and a fierce glare staring at her, calmly comforting a sobbing black haired girl. Rage built up in her heart, but she did her best to tamp it down, calmly walking back out. Turning to Eda, she said what was on both of their minds. "We are going to call for backup to clear this... filth out of here. And we are going to torch this place to the ground."
Eda gave a feral smirk. "Sis, you read my mind." She glanced down at the assorted mix of bodies around her, some alive, some... less so, she felt the need to add, "So what are we gonna do with these creeps?"
Lilith scoffed, the disdain she held in her gaze upon seeing them having fully shifted to disgust. "Leave them. I have a fire going, and..." She quickly cast a barrier blocking any potential harm from fire or smoke to reach the girls, all while providing them with clean air, "the girls won't have to worry about it getting to them if it spreads."
Eda leveled a genuinely impressed look her sister's way. "Damn, sis! Look at you, being all ruthless. It's like you never left the coven!" She joked.
Lilith scoffed again, but didn't hide her smirk. "I have little tolerance for scum who prey upon children. They are lucky I'm even leaving them this small chance at survival."
"No arguments here sis," Eda replied, already dialing up the clean-up crews to help. "No arguments at all."
And with that, after ensuring none of the surviving gangsters made any attempt to escape and that the crews arrived on time, they headed out, already wanting to be done with this whole mess. Lilith wondered if Camila would be willing to listen to her thoughts on all of this?
Eagerly rushing down the street, smoothly ducking and weaving around the people on the side-walk, Boscha BARELY kept herself going slow enough for Skara to follow. And she was the one carrying the bags!! Skidding to a stop outside of the destination Willow had given them, some kind of Fighting Club or something, Boscha impatiently bounced on her feet, barely resisting the urge to barge in to wait for her girl. "Come ON, Skar!! Bria's in there! And getting her ass kicked!"
Finally managing to catch up with her significantly more athletic girlfriend, Skara crawled to a stop next to her, panting hard as she balefully glared up at the completely unphased face of her beloved triclops. "All of my hatred."
Boscha rolled her eyes at the dramatic statement. "Come on babe, it was just six miles!"
"All. Of my Hatred. All of it." Skara reiterated, wobbly pulling herself to her feet. Stumbling, she reluctantly (gratefully) took the arm Boscha offered, laden with bags as it was. Peering at the admittedly imposing building, Skara was curious. "Just how did Willow get in here? I mean, she did say this was a club, and last I knew, we haven't been here long enough for her to get membership."
Walking forward, Boscha calmly gestured to the sign hanging from the door. 'Free Day: General Access to Facilities and equipment for all, one day only. Warning; Any behavior deemed excessively disruptive can and will serve as grounds for immediate ejection from the premises.'
Skara rolled her eyes. "Okay, point taken."
Walking in, both Witches marveled at the multitude of large, muscled men and women around them, quite a few working up a sweat on the equipment, though Boscha could easily spot those merely attempting to use the equipment during the Free Day promotion, with those individuals in question often having less defined bodies than the rest, as well as marginally less appropriate clothing, from too heavy to too loose, and more.
Peering ahead, Skara beamed. "I think I see them!"
Boscha grinned. "Oh-hoho, this is gonna be good!"
Skara elbowed her in the side, drawing an annoyed whine from her girlfriend. "Behave. I don't want us kicked out of here, okay?"
"Yeah," Boscha grumbled. "I got it."
Skara pecked her on the cheek, unknowingly drawing a squee from the some of the more romantic Club-goers around them. "Thank you."
Making their way further in, and also realizing the building was MUCH bigger than they'd assumed from the outside and that they were heading for the center of it, Boscha took stock of the numerous rings and cages scattered about, presumably for Club-members to fight. The assumption was aided by the gear scattered about, and, oh yeah, the numerous men and women slugging it out inside the occupied fighting spots. Boscha whistled to herself, impressed by some of the moves she saw on display; nothing she couldn't handle, but these people clearly practiced, and did it often.
Skara's eyes roamed the room, before landing on a stand of complimentary water bottles next to a fountain. Offering a quick excuse to her girlfriend, she scurried over to the stack, pulling one down and rapidly filling it. She then proceeded to take a few much needed swigs of the life-giving liquid, gasping in relief as some of the burning sensation in her chest abated. "Never leaving home without this thing." She vowed.
Jogging her way past the rings, Skara idly scanned for Boscha, spotting her heading towards the biggest ring, smack dab in the center. Easily picking out the recognizable forms of Augustus and her sweet Willow, Skara marched in that direction herself, carefully taking swigs as needed to keep herself from panting again. She was mindful not to chug it, not after that lecture a few months back Boscha had given her and Willow about proper hydration.
Joining Boscha at Ring-side, whilst also giving a relieved hug to Willow, she joined the group in gawking at the fight currently in progress. She had to say, for all that she didn't know as much about fighting as Boscha or Willow, she was impressed.
Boscha bit her lip. The fight, if you could call it that, was definitely not going in Bria's favor. For all that she dunked on her rival, she was very aware of how dangerous she was. When she'd heard that Bria was getting her butt handed to her, she'd been prepared to see Bria losing, but this? She hadn't been expecting a slaughter.
With a growl, Bria, face set in a serious, if frustrated, expression, sweat pouring down her forehead and chest, lunged forward, aiming a palm strike low. It was one of her favored moves; knock her opponent's feet out, if they had feet that is, make sure they couldn't get back up, and launch a combination across the joints and face, aiming to disable and injure equally. Instead, her opponent stepped into the strike, sweeping Bria's feet out from under her, a palm driving the other Witch's face into the arena beneath them.
The other girl jumped back, a grip maintained on Bria's shoulder to pull her up, a twisting punch driven into her gut. Bria gasped briefly, before shifting her face to the side, narrowly avoiding a brutal uppercut to the chin, merely dealing with a clipping blow across her jaw; still painful, Boscha knew, but less risky than having the chin take a direct strike. She smirked, an image matched by Bria herself. Her opponent had left her side wide open.
Not one to waste an opening, Bria launched another palm strike, this time aiming for her opponent's ribs. It never landed. Boscha's eyes widened, barely able to process what had just occurred. She forced her mind to replay the attack in her head.
Bria launched her attack. Instead of connecting, the opponent spun on her heel, torquing herself away from her previous position, while also harshly wrenching Bria's shoulder and arm into an unnatural position. Bria's eyes had screwed up, presumably about to scream, when the opponent released her hold, unleashing a flurry of twisting punches, connecting across Bria's back and shoulders before slamming her knuckles into Bria's collar, using her own weight to drive Bria down into the mat. Bria crashed, going still, save for her pants of exertion. She was totally spent.
"What... the HELL was that." She managed, still trying to wrap her head around the beatdown she'd just witnessed. By all accounts, pulling off those maneuvers on Bria, especially the way they'd been executed, should have twisted the girl's joints and bones beyond their limits, but she was as fresh as a fucking daisy!
"That's what we've been trying to figure out since this started." Willow admitted sheepishly. "Ever since these matches started, they've basically all ended the same way; Bria slammed into the mat, and Luz looking as ready to go as she started."
"Luz?" Skara absentmindedly echoed, still caught up in processing the sight she'd unintentionally born witness too.
"Yeah, Luz." Gus replied, pointing to the girl who'd just so recently beaten Bria like a drum. "We met her in town and hit it off! Apparently, she's a local. One thing led to another, Bria mentioned she fights, Luz offered to spar, and here we are!" He finished gesturing to the room around them, before dropping his arms in befuddlement. "Although, I will admit that I hadn't considered the idea of Bria losing. Especially not that bad."
"Eh, what can I say? I've got a reputation for surprising people." The new girl, Luz, remarked, strolling up with a still-gasping Bria slung over her shoulders. Luz gave the girl a concerned look. "Ya might want to get her to take it easy for the next few days. I kinda had trouble holding back there at the end."
"R...Re.... Rematch." Bria panted, a look of brutally exhausted defiance on her face. Suddenly, she groaned, almost pitching down to the ground. "...Eventually."
As Gus frantically worried over his girlfriend, Willow and the new girl by his side, Boscha turned a concerned glance Skara's way. "Okay, so maybe I DO need to look up this Adam guy."
"You think?" Skara deadpanned.