This is a thinly veiled off-shoot of [http://rp.eliteskills.com/r.php?r=22610 Noir Fabula]. May or may not be canon, but who knows what will happen in ten thousand years.
[size16 |SBI:09:03 Welcome to the Black Parade|]
Food and fingers flung into the blood soaked air. The hedonistic audience reached their climax and expelled a frenzy of ruthless applause. They rose to their feet, Eidos fell limp to the ground while the victor basked in infamy. Jackie Simms who made it a point to kill only when necessary snapped the neck of her own coda in tandem with Eidos Schwinn's.
This fire deep down in her chest raged and resonated with the bloodthirsty fans. Jackie caught herself panting but not because it took effort to murder her opponent. The adrenaline pumped through her so rapidly that the animalistic crowd’s cries were drowned. This was not her usual method of letting loose yet she was strangely okay with the results.
Eidos did not have a family nor did he have friends, just associates, but during this moment in the arena Jackie had not given it a thought. Her poisonous vices removed what morals she was raised with in Last. Getting trashed, winning fights, and screwing passable men topped her list of priorities; everything else was dead last with her fallen foe.
Cruel Jackie stopped her triumph to look Antezario straight in the eye and smirk devilishly. Grief simmered in his stomach like bad seafood and ratty Antezario smirked no longer. She had won on two fronts. Or so she thought in the moment.
After collecting her money from the box office located in the front of the building, Jackie stepped out to a crowd of fans who were ready to celebrate. They locked arms with their hero as if they were friends from the beginning and trailed to the local bars where the endless drinking began. Drink after drink poured, Jackie Simms was obliged to down each shot glass and pint thrown at her. It did matter what drink she had in hand; they all went down as smooth as water.
Mirrored plates with various substances in pill and potion forms settled in the middle of the bar. Her new friends encouraged her that she’d return to her place soon enough, but the night was far too young to retire. She observed the options set on top of the the bar. Blue diamonds, pink elixirs, white lines, yellow parchment. The sky was the limit with this company. Jackie partook in the euphoric lines and the true fight started.
Way past her limits and a few lines in, Jackie's head spun in circles through a night of victory, bright lights, and laughter. It took the likes of six men to toss her into the air, but she would not know because her head spun on a swivel. Euphoric Jackie bobbled from tavern to bar, from one end of the street to another. One blink she was in front of the Outland Bar, the next blink at Chunky’s.
A splash of color filled her eyelids every time she closed her sullen eyes. Elaborate light shows that moved faster than what she could comprehend plagued her at one point in the night which caused her to be slightly nauseous, but nevertheless she persisted. Her adamant fervor round her to consume more. Without limits, she was unstoppable. Without limits, she was self-destructive.
Jackie could not remember where she went or where she was nor who she was with. Men from the island and tourists wanted to be her, wanted to be with her. She'd lock lips with young and old alike, light and dark skinned, tall, short, fat, skinny. Even a few women snuck in a peck, one even went as far as to eat Jackie’s face off. The warrior tried all sorts of flavors, yet she could not pick one to be satisfied with.
The fighter was empress of trash and she got trashed. At the end of the night, Jackie stumbled onto the realization that nobody hung out with her for the sake of companionship but out of association with a champion. The mighty She-Bear made them feel important, that maybe one day they’ll step into the arena and maybe pull off a fraction of her prowess. They were vampiric losers seething to leech off her success.
She still had to return to her desolate shack of a shelter and do it all over again to make ends meet. The lethargic brawler quickly realized in this business that no victory was going to make her blow up and become a superstar. The money she made went to her searches across the Blue, the gym rental space, and the gross amount of food she consumed. No matter how much she won, no one cared for the She-Bear. No one could ever love such a slovenly beast.
Her last bar stop was a lonesome one to the Tipsy Tea Lantern where her favorite bartender Harkess was nowhere to be found behind the usual line. The night came to a sudden halt with a half beaten frown wiped across Jackie's clammy face. A few more lackluster drinks climbed down her throat right before she decided to give up on getting lucky. Digested to a slight degree with herself, she swung her upper torso off the bar and back out into the streets like a rag doll.
Jackie reached her beloved estate but only when the night slithered to a stop. Stumbling and stammering in the same dirt patch for a few minutes, the She-Bear leaned across the rickety white picket fence with a dumb smile smeared across her broad profile. Her shallow breaths sobered up some before coming to the front door of her shack. That's when she realized all her mistakes tonight snowballed into one big bitchslap.
The air crackled as strong Jackie flew across the alleyway and back into a rickety fence. As soon as the smoke cleared the long barrel of the shotgun, the attacker and his employer stepped out of the wheezing She-Bear's cave. The man with the shotgun had not yet introduced himself, but the second was very apparent.
"Silly She-Bear. You moon people aren't the only ones with guns." Antezario Vespuccin's wide grin and bulging eyes glowed in the eerie white moonlight. He had now changed for this occasion in a blood red suit with a cover decorated with all sorts of pheasant feathers.
Jackie hyperventilated on the spot. Her entire chest was embedded by tiny studs. She had to keep it together, keep herself from this awful feeling of vomiting. Her chest felt warm and immediately she thought she might have been bleeding. In the midst of the night, she locked eyes with the gunner and wanted to wipe him out.
"Don't worry, you're not gonna die. It's rock salt." The shooter said in his gravely voice as he opened up his shotgun and dispelled the empty plastic cartridge. In contrast with his boss, this fellow wore a pilot's cap with goggles, a tattered vest loaded with ammunition and clips, and khaki coveralls. Jackie made note that he'd be the first to die amongst whoever else was underneath the wing of the mad foreigner.
"Yeah," Jackie lifted her head and sputtered, "I can taste it."
The madman covered in feathers tasted the saccharine prick of revenge. Antezario walked over to Jackie's head to be face to face, upside down. "Stings a little, no?"
"Boss believes that you got rather greedy when he visited you earlier tonight. You're a glutton, Simms. He gave you a simple compromise that you should have taken when it was presented to, but you chose to be difficult and deny such a gracious offer. You're an unholy woman to behold, an embellishment on humanity's record." He must have been the right hand man to the lunatic because Jackie could understand him. "Now you better prepare to work twice as hard now that Eidos is gone."
"How do you figure that?"
She laid there with such fury in her eyes. The heavy breathing had calmed down to brisk nose flares and intense staring. It hurt to move and even uttering a single sound pinched Jackie's bosom. Antezario rubbed his ratty face and then fiendishly smirked. Jackie's erupted through the injury.
"I'll kill you both or die trying!"
If she had magical aptitude, Jackie from Guten Nocht would spew fire and smoke from her mouth and melt mountains. Rivers would dry up and the earth scorched by such fervor. The bones of the madman and his executioner would turn into the greyest if ash.
Antezario lapped up the fire within her eyes so much a squeal escaped his mouth.
“The circlet, Raf."
The lackey removed from his satchel a thin golden strand headpiece. The craftsmanship on the circlet was stunning but the upkeep was mediocre, even considered less than stellar. Embossed were a few green and red gems, yet the horns had dents and significant bends which might have been prevented if this subservient man had stowed the circlet better.
Raf handed gaudy Vespuccin the circlet. With great honor, the strange man crowned downed Jackie and sang.
An unbearable migraine shot through Jackie's head as if the circlet itself was constricting her head. She swore that the metal shifted like boa snakes tightening their grip on prey as Antezario chanted some more. Eyes felt like they were going to pop out and blood vessels were on the edge of bursting.
Jackie's closest experience to this kind of anguish was when she was first learning how to become an aircraft pilot. She remembered the simulation apparatus being very real and responsive, especially with altitude changes and exceeding maximum height. On a very visceral level, the simulator would deprive Jackie of oxygen thus causing her to turn red then briefly blue.
Antezario had to rub the victory in Jackie's face. After all, this was all simple payback for killing his prized warrior. Perching his behind on her broad chest, he playfully slapped her in the face and grinned. He smelt of pure stank, more armpit and ass than anything.
"You, She-Bear, are mine."
She would remember his face for years to come. That face was destined to cave in by her very own fists if not by a swift yet powerful stomp. Vengeance brewed through the numbing pain. Jackie Simms was going to undo Antezario Vespuccin. Every fiber would be torn from his skeleton, every cell obliterated from the Blue. She vowed this as she writhed in uncontrollable pain.
"Disobey any order from me and wishing, you will learn faster. Try running away, your head will erupt painfully. Be wise not anger me." Pressing his fingers together, he uttered, "Shiné."
Antezario went on a fruitful rampage that repeatedly stung Jackie in the head. It wasn't a full minute until the mad man had knocked out the ursine creature. She had succumb to the intensity of the cursed circlet and had not woken up until the next sunrise.
Chained inside a cage, Jackie found herself in a suspenseful daze and surrounded by a ragtag group of vagrants of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Moving by hovercraft , such elegant posing models wore fruity wardrobe and some wore white makeup with exuberant characteristics on their faces. Feathers protruded from the hats and the purple vests glimmered in the early morning. She'd only heard about these nightmares in the stories the older people used to tell to pacify their children. It's where all the awful people ran to; this unspeakable prediction freaked out Jackie.
[i 'The circus.']
Lips remained sealed until further noticed. Not only did she have to watch what she said around the ringleader, she had to make sure that the "carnies" didn't rip her apart and defile her body. Not many things scared Jackie Simms, but a fate met with these freaks was a fate worse than death. Frank had said that "carnie" was short for "carnivore" which was quickly mistaken as a synonym for "cannibal". Until the cart stopped, she pretended to be asleep until she could find a viable route to escape.
The high hum of the hovercraft came to a halt as it ascended a ridged ramp. The vehicle scaled the inner walls until its cushion successfully deflated on the main deck of what appeared to be a gargantuan open faced airship. Red and white stripes were painted alongside the steel edges and the wings were old fashion oars protruding through the ships chocks.
Jackie's steel cage opened. Four men each took a chain attached to a limb and walked out the bewildered beast. Up closer they were gruff looking men dressed in flamboyant costumes and some of the worst makeup ever seen in the Blue. She could easily wrangle control from them, but then the ringleader and his pit boss approached her with welcoming arms. That trademarked smirk of Antezario glowed in the midst of all her misery. The repugnant glint his teeth had cast repulsed her; his ugly was the worst of powers and yet he approached her with such vile finesse.
"Welcome to the Black Parade," said the man she would eventually respected the most out of the this crew. His name was Raf Gedemonde, the secret lover of the late Eidos Schwinn. Straight laced and apathetic to the world, he plainly put out, "This is your new home until the boss decides to use you as bait or works you to death. Whatever comes first usually.”
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 10d 10h 48m 14s
[size16 |SBI:09:02 Queen of the Ring|]
Jackie Simms smashed clay disks in midair with nothing but bandages wrapped around her fists. She traded in her years of agility to become a bruiser. The years of alcoholism and the low key use of drugs had tampered with what she used to be for sluggishness and slow reaction. Meteor hammers and big knuckles have cracked her across the face plenty of times, but Jackie remained in the fights long after her opponents were down.
Of course, the She-Bear always threw in a few backhand springs when she wasn't recovering from a night's worth of binge drinking. In the ring, she knew how to entertain and command the crowd. Suspense riled up the blood flow and living on the edge beaded up the sweat. Sometimes the matches would last five minutes, but sometimes would go on longer than an hour. She'd take a few punches to stir up the emotions, but for the most part she'd deliver the final blow.
For Jackie, it was another ordinary day in the ring, and she never thought too much into her fights. Rumors circulated that her next opponent was a convict under the command of a wealthy aristocrat who sought to bring up the greatest fighter on this side of the Blue. This did not matter to dull Jackie, for her opposites in the ring all fell the same.
Then again, Jackie wanted to be the best and perhaps the aristocrat could help her travel the Blue in a more efficient manner. A win-win situation she thought. Just show up and perform, best the next best guy and call it cash. Cold hard cash.
Her elegant stance waded into the years and the more fiendish ursine gesture. Her height never intimidated, but bulk had offset her opponents. Jackie was stockier than ever due to the strict diet of meat, the starchiest potatoes, and rice she had put herself on. The voracious woman consumed the average calorie intake of five strong men and felt no shame or remorse before, during, or after meals.
The tourists often mistook her as man and the women were utterly repulsed by her sloven lifestyle as if her mere presence peeled back their skin. By no means was she living a grand life either. Aside from spending the majority of her money on food, Jackie was poor. Bathing was a treat unless she was spending the night at a hookup's hotel. Jackie snuck quick showers with garden hoses in the back of convenience stores.
Life was anything but perfect, but the brute to behold pinched every coin she got her hands on in order to pay for her airfares to and from the island. She refused to admit it but the drugs and alcohol were digging into her savings as of lately.
Jackie scratched and clawed for any outlet that she could latch onto: excessive drinking, sex, fighting, binge eating, the bimonthly visits to the opium dens. Three years ago, she had a smile that killed with gentle warmth, but now she had a list of problems to fix. Eventually, of course.
The gymnasium housed Jackie for most of her days. She'd hop into the grind without stretching and have a trainer hurl rocks at her by magic. They curved, even screamed when soaring through the air, for her, and Jackie had to learn to pick her fights. Most times she obliterated them with a good punch or two, on rare occasions she dodged, but more often then not blocks the size of stepping stools pounded into her sides.
The cruel eyed healers patched her up quickly so she could be torn down again. Stitches, sutures, bandages; she was up again. More magic went into repairing fractured bones and restoring minced fingers. The pain kept Jackie moving. Her injuries reminded her that she was indeed alive and not in a state of perpetual limbo.
Bleeding and limping around the island were her best friends. Her ex-boyfriend: ruptured organs. Jackie avoided making any real conversation on Galupsos and squatted in an abandoned hut a few streets away from the arena by herself. She'd go through days without making eye contact with anyone on the island nor speak anything but low growls. After all, she'd have to protect herself from her sole self-proclaimed weakness: companionship.
With the match tonight, Jackie kept the intensity on low. Sweating off the meat and only suffering from a few nicks and scrapes, she retired early back to her dimly lit shack and focused on the goal ahead.
[i 'Gonna go in there and take the prize. Fame, notoriety, perhaps an actual sponsor. Let's go for a hat trick.']
Slapping herself awake with what little water she had in her washing basin, she amped up the pep talk with grunts and and shouts. She observed the outline of her thick nude body in the dark and paused very briefly to realize that she no longer just a woman but a beast with huge fangs and terrifying claws.
Jackie thought Werebear would have been fitting as a stage name, but the few people she consoled with at the bar shot down the idea.
[i 'Werebear ain't a care bear.']
After downing a gallon a water, Jackie napped for a few hours before heading back to the Hap Shui arena. She tossed on black compression shorts and a green tank top. She wrapped a red cloth to contain her thinning black mess she called hair. Jackie embraced her so-called disfigurations despite collecting a hoard of one night stands. She honestly believed that men only slept with her as a task on their bucket list or perhaps they secretly desired to be with a man without the extra extremity. It didn't matter in the end, the sexual encounters mitigated her inner pains.
Jackie entered through the backdoors of the shady establishment and headed towards her personal locker room allotted by the managers. She sat on the bench in front of a handful of lockers and started pep talking herself again.
[i 'We won't be defeated.']
Over and over again, she chanted to herself until she felt the presence of a figure looking over her beefy torso. His cold blue eyes ran chills down her spine and immediately she looked back up at the man she would eventually know as Antezario Vespuccin.
"Hullo there." The last syllables lingered in the air. "Please allow to introduce myself."
"No need," with a stern face she stated, "you were just about to see yourself out."
Zesty and vibrant is how she would describe his wardrobe. Horrendous oranges clashed with deep purples on his top hat with a plethora of badges pinned to the suede chimney. Multicolored sequins lined his collar and traced down to his coat tails. Crudely stitched in pinstripes lined the deep azure fabric of both coat and slacks, but what set Jackie off were the yellow feathered loafers with the inch high heels. An atrocity in motion, this stranger with the stranger accent smelt of deceit.
"I am Antezario Vespuccin." He bowed most elegantly and smirked. "I come today to you because I have the best interest for you. See, my eyes have been enchanted by you since my airship docked on this amusement park."
The common tongue wasn't his first language and Jackie had to make sense of the rambling.
"I don't see how you can help me if you can't speak normal."
She grew rather indecent with strangers who didn’t offer anything worth her time and her patience was like a block of wood being whittled down.
"Ah, money, it speaks!" The spark of enthusiasm jumped off his tongue. "Right?"
"Enough to move out of that commode that is called home," Antezario clapped his hands and laughed. His charming grin revealed a few golden teeth and maybe a side of sinisterly ugly.
Jackie perked up. Money was nice, but it was the stalking she was not okay with. She prodded some more.
"Under what conditions, Antezario?"
"The match you will throw!" He cheered as if she had already agreed to his condition. "Winning my combatant does, submitting is what you do."
"Fuck no," she angrily snapped. "Your sorry excuse for a champion wins by beating me fair and square. Pay me what you're paying him and more when the ref announces me the winner."
"Pride is an ugly monster, She-Bear."
"Scram if you don't like what I got to tell you," she shrugged.
The moment presented itself but her greed got the best of her. Scruffy faced Antezario smirked as he slowly backed out of the dressing room.
[i 'A weasel. A weasel with money no less. What luck.']
The ovular ring's floor was bare dirt surrounded by high walls. Behind the chain linked fence were hundreds of seats for the bloodthirsty audience. Two narrow entrances fed the ring its combatants and an hour later Jackie was in the ring in one corner facing her opposite. He didn't look different from any of the small fry she was familiar with, rather generic.
The referee for the match walked through Jackie's entrance with great gusto. A crowd pleaser, he rose his hands and the audience roared and cheered for their champions.
"In this corner at five feet and two inches, weighing in at one-hundo eighty pounds with a 57-3 record, it's the mightiest, the greatest She-Bear in action!"
Jackie amped up the crowd by lifting her hands into the air and yelling. The gladiator thrived in this culture; it was now her way of living.
"And in this corner, we have a raging stallion at five foot ten at two-hundo forty pounds with a clean record on the island, it's the prince with the most, Eidos Schwinn from Valbaigna! Let's hear it for the newcomer!"
Eidos Schwinn from Valbaigna. His golden grey facial hair shimmered in the dingy arena's poor lighting. Buzz cut and scarred, Eidos seemed like another punk from Jackie's good old days on Guten Nocht.
Jackie looked him in the eyes and smirked. "Let's have a good clean match."
"Heh, clean." He pulled out a bayonet from the scabbard attached to the ankle of his boot. With a low grumbly voice, he sneered back at his opponent. "Look, I have no problems taking you down just because you're a woman."
"I'm not just any woman. I am She-Bear."
The match immediately opened up with Jackie flying towards her opponent who ducked and anticipated her foolishness. The tip of the bayonet stuck into the ground and shot up fist sized rocks into a vulnerable Jackie. The sharp edges dug into her skin while Eidos followed up with close quarters combat. Off to a bad start, Jackie dodged what fist and knife jabs directed her way. The blade was only able to make a few superficial wounds.
Backing away, Jackie and Eidos circumnavigated the arena's perimeter until both went in for the grapple. He had height and weight over her, but she was able to remain grounded and still retained some agility over her foe. Quickly, she outmaneuvered Eidos and swung behind him for a quick suplex across the dirt floor. The toss landed him feet away as he skidded on his face and got the first hand experience of what Galupsian dirt tasted like.
Jackie scrambled back to her feet to charge forth and into Eidos with a strong knee to the jaw. Bone striking bone crackled like an evening thunderstorm. The challenger fell back with drool spilling fro the side of his mouth, but Eidos refused to lose. Grunting the pain away, he entwined his arms barely around the barrel bodied She-Bear and threw her to the ground.
The audience roared and lost their minds from the turn of events. The audacious referee peeped his flat nose between the combatants as they struggled for control of the dirt floor. With the sharpened edge in hand, Eidos played for keeps with the point aimed for the beautiful glow in her eyes. Jackie's felt the fire in the fibers of her muscles, her very own soul, as she struggled across the line of life and death.
Face to face and sweat mixing with sweat, Jackie headbutted Eidos in the face once, twice, three times before his grip loosened. She knocked the bayonet from his hand and wrapped her legs around his torso and right arm. If she had to, she'd rip his arm right out of the socket. She's done it and continued her savagery.
Eidos came prepared with another knife on his belt. With his free hand he pulled it out of its holster and jammed it into her calf and Jackie's hold unwound. Blood dripped onto the earth as they scurried away for a brief tactical retreat. The heavy panting drowned out the crowd and all Jackie saw was her opponent in the same condition. They wobbled in place and readied themselves for the clash that would decide the victor.
Without a moment's notice, they charged towards the center of the stage with great weight in their burning muscles. Eidos lunged into Jackie's gut and smashed her into the wall. Crack after crack of fist to the face, she was taking an precedented pummel. Blood oozed from her skull but she threw up fists to minimize the barrage's destruction. It seemed all over until he let up and exposed himself for the wrong flash in time.
[b Crack!] One devastating punch to the jaw was all she needed in the fight. The audience gasped and swore the earth beneath her buckled as she launched into the air. Jackie pushed him away and with the adrenaline surging through her body, she tore the knife in her calf. Blinded by blood and the rage of war, she punched him back with the knife in hand. Step by step, Eidos lost ground and brain cells as she churned up an unbreakable storm of jabs and hooks. Nothing could break the tide. Eidos threw a single punch in retaliation, but Jackie swooped underneath his long reach and stuck the knife in the pit.
At last, the match was done when he stumbled to his feet, but then the She-Bear spotted Antezario Vespuccin in the crowd with his patchy facial hair and grotesque smile. Jackie had a simply remedy for that problem.
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 32d 8h 41m 1s
[size24 [b ARC 9: When She-Bears Fly]]
[size16 |SBI:09:01 Distant|]
The inhabitants of the Galupsos swore that their island floated across the Blue. The only fact that could stem from this absurd idea was the fact that the island was the inhabited by Bating descended men and women in the midst of Varsylian domain. Legends say that mere men steered the ship for decades to escape a long forgotten tyrant. Of course, Galupsos attracted tourists from the large continent and made a profit on its tall tales in the long run.
Galupsos hosted many attractions: get away resorts, gambling which was prominent with people from Bating, gargantuan water parks, nonstop drinking, nonstop eating, nonstop partying. The island brought foreign cuisine to salivating mouths and leisure was said to be an all time high for all persons involved. The weather remained warm year round and the rain showers were pleasant to stroll through if one didn’t mind getting a little wet. Transportation was among the best of all the Blue with buses, personal vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians each having their own lane. This getaway suited those who had to escape from all the pains of the real world back on the mainlands. Quite the fantasy life anyone had seen.
Lately though, tourism died down significantly from Varsylgard because of the disarray happening at the capital. Prince Chelon had died in his sleep and all the lords and princes scrambled for the throne once he took his finale breath. Young he was, yet he had many enemies waiting for the right moment to nix such a clueless figurehead. Old houses with strong ties to the Varsylgard parliament divided into multiple fronts and the armies multiplied. The extent of who was fighting remained a mystery to the outside world as Varsylgard’s iron curtains concealed the truth for years to come. Wicked Chelon’s untimely death unfortunately marked the end of the era.
That was none of the Galupsians business though. They bowed down to no prince or foreign ice queen; money spoke the most to the vendors and business owners. The local government allowed the islanders to conduct business however deemed fit. This gave leeway for the risky business owners to rule their parts of the neighborhood without repercussions.
For the adventurous, they could order escorts from the Veena district or even become prostitute themselves if they so wished. There were a lot of cases where foreigners would sell their bodies for the experience just as long as they didn't bring back diseases or a frantic mistress. The island allowed sexually deprived Varsylian men to cheat on their wives with whores laced in silk with the plush lips, some even took up young muscled men to fulfill a forbidden fantasy.
Down in the pits of Hap Shui district was where the rowdy rumbled and rested. Bar fights occurred every other night up and down the strip, but the tourists and islanders alike reveled in the widely advertised underground fights. If a brawl broke out in the middle of the street, men and women clustered to cheer and gamble for the pugnacious drunks.
Champions came far and wide to throw down in the ring for all reasons, whether it be for fame, fortune, or just the sport. The matches often turned into bloodsport where the crowd roared and rampaged. The fury, guts, and grit fulfilled the dark deep twisted fantasies of the foreigners.
At a measly 5'2" and 180 lbs., the longest standing champion fought viciously but always left her opponent intact. Locals called her the She-Bear, many of her lovers called her Mama, and the enemies were far too unconscious to say anything. With a 57-3 record under her belt, Jackie Simms was a glowing attraction. She suffered heavy losses in the arena, but always bounced back from the brutal beatings. Harder, faster, better, stronger. This was the new Jackie.
The new Jackie though wasn't so new as much as she was changed though. She hopped from one bar to another just to numb her pains away. She detested the bitter taste of beer because it reminded her so much of home and her family yet she pounded tall mugs of ale. Inebriated from the first drink, Jackie drank until the next morning where she usually woke up in a stranger's bed or front lawn without the slightest clue as how she got there.
For three long years she perfected her brand, her presence to the native Galupsians and tourists. She received stares yet she walked with her chin above the clouds. She was "the baddest bitch in the game" and Jackie Simms was unstoppable in and out of the ring. She took what she wanted and she wanted it all without having to lift a finger. There was no need to bat an eye to charm men; her presence in the same room commanded attention.
Stumbling through the doors and flushed in the face, Jackie slid into her usual spot and got to business by rapidly gulping down four shots of the spiciest liquor on the bottom shelf. She glanced up at the mirrored shelves and saw a fragmented reflection of herself in the different colored bottles and mirror. Disgusted, she called out to the bartender.
"Hit me." She looked around to make sure no one was around to start trouble. The patrons took things too literally around these parts. "With another, hot shot."
"You're at four already. I think it's time for you to quit. Two's your usual limit."
He had small green eyes and black wavy medium length hair. Harkess was her bartender of choice at the Tipsy Tea Lantern, her bar of choice. His voice was soft like freshly done laundry, and Jackie wafted the faint spell of persimmon dabbed on his collarbone.
"I'm feeling real sad tonight, Harkess." She blubbered and winked, "Let a woman live a little."
The bartender tapped his finger on the bar and looked her straight in the bruised eyes. Jackie scrapped and she was mighty good at it, but she didn't leave without getting her fair share of licks to the face.
"On one condition."
"Sure, hit me first, hun," she sang. She giggled and reveled in the stench of alcohol and hard work.
Harkess poured her another spicy shot reluctantly.
"You've been coming to this same run down bar on this party island for three years now and nobody has the slightest clue on who you are. People start to worry when they don't familiarize themselves with new neighbors.”
Could she be considered a local? A resident? An extended tourist? Jackie thought of herself as transparent and not one to keep secrets, but apparently her lack of broadcasting worried the island. What else could be said about her besides her passion for a fight?
"And your point?" She shifted as downed her drink. Jackie mischievously threw out, "I'm bad news, hun. The baddest."
"I'm well aware of what you can do, I've been to some of your matches. Brilliant even." He moved to some drinking glasses that required his attention. "Give me the scoop. I only know you by stage name."
"This going to be published anywhere?" she half jested.
"Nah," he winked, "unless you want to be published."
"First name Jackie. Last name Simms. I was a wanderer who wandered with bodies now estranged. We were Anchovi." She spoke into her empty shot glass and sighed.
"Anchovi? You mean the little fishes that taste awful? That’s a weird name to go by. It’s kinda ironic.”
"No. Anchovi." Pronouncing it the right way, Jackie had forgotten the origins of the crew's name. She had forgotten a lot in her recent drinking binge. "We were something, but we weren’t small fry.”
"Ah, another brave soul. We get ourselves plenty of sailors who turn into pugilists around these parts."
"Hah, sailors can't compare to me, Hark. I'm the best pilot from Guten Nocht, hands down. Even the most strong armed can’t do what I can do.”
Jackie reminisced the days where she flew aircrafts with single seats, days before she joined Frank and the rest of the Last gang whose names were long forgotten. It had seemed that she forgot her previously life prior to making the descent into the Blue which caused her to frown more into the empty shot glass. Reverence settled in her gut.
"I had the fastest airship ever seen in the Blue and the Fighter had mighty fine character unseen in these parts.”
"That's still a place, that Guten Nocht? I heard it was trashed."
Jackie avoided the news and rumors about Guten Nocht as any information regarding the floating continent was seldom and sparse. She tried not thinking about it for the longest time after being separated from the rest of the crew because it would only drive her to drink herself into submission. They should have never left, they shouldn’t have left [i her] behind.
"Haven't been back ever since we embarked. Who knows what's of it now." The regret settled in and everyone's face from the past suddenly popped up: Doc, Sheriff Dempsi, the mayor of Last, and the woman that her best friend cherished. All these these people she had surrounded herself with brought back a small bit of joy in an otherwise joyless paradise. "And it was everything but trash. That's my city--well Last is--but still, now I'm sure I wouldn't have left if I knew my life led me down this road."
"You can't regret your life decisions, especially here in the Blue. You have a better life now."
He did not convince her.
"Hardly." Jackie sank into her seat and rested her chin on the wooden counter. She stared at the slim figure and sulked, "My crew is gone and their faces have been scratched out of mind. I used to love but now I live out the rest of these days in drunken solitude.”
"Surely you've picked up quite a few lovers."
"I got an icebox where my heart used to be." Hapless sex couldn't fulfill what she had lost three years ago. "I'm empty and incapable of loving at this time. Maybe for the rest of my life. My crew and my ship were my loves and there will never be another to replace it. I loved each and every one of them like brothers and sisters, and no man could ever fill this gaping void.”
[i ‘How poetic.’]
"Keep that love you have for your crew strong, Jackie Simms. They're alive, you guys are just on a temporary break.”
The optimistic view was appreciated, but could not halt a reckless woman.
"If they are, I don't have the means to find them. I've taken airship to and from this island to other lands and I haven't picked up a single clue in three years." She desired to have the Fighter back. Jackie loathed being on a ship, especially the smaller ones which rocked too much. She had followed in the same steps of the vast majority of people who believed that the Blue was an unforgiving place. "I've been to the Gilded Lily four times in the past six months and not a trace or lead to any of them. I avoided the fleet out there in case they were looking to apprehend me for further interrogation.”
"That's where the whole big incident happened right, the one with the giant monster lady with the giant breasts?”
Apparently news had traveled the Blue. Tidbits of information flowed with the various currents and what few daring ships, but with such a humongous event such as the monstress’ assault on the Gilded Lily, surely the rest of the Blue would have heard of it by now.
"Why not stay there?" Harkess was concerned with her wellbeing though he actively participated in her downfall.
"Because it pains to me to walk through the the Lily and think that we almost had it all. I fell in love with a righteous man whose ideals didn't match mine. He turned out to be someone else entirely, a complete jerk I might say. If we didn't get tangled up with him, Anchovi would be standing here right now. Or settled down somewhere peacefully.”
[i Mahoraga Genji]. Jackie knew that said righteous man was responsible for Anchovi's breakup, that whatever hit the Fa Mulandi was conspired by a vengeful monk. She wondered how he got the last strike on Anchovi; how did he enact his plans in his confinement?
"Sounds like a heartbreaker himself."
[i 'Oh, you don't even know.']
Jackie slumped back up to her elbows and sulked some more. "It doesn't matter anymore. Frankie's dead. Sweet Rhys is dead. Euey's dead."
Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.
"You don't know that." The beautiful bartender shrugged, "The Blue works in the strangest ways, Jackie. Now, I'm not one for stories from the Blue."
"But you are."
"But I am. The Creator has his way of uniting peoples together. There are gods and goddesses in the midst of exotic jungles and majestic beasts who encircle the waters. You'd be surprised who you meet."
"Hm, maybe I'm in the presence of a god," the lazy drunkard yawned.
"Could be." The genial smile killed her. Kind as always, Harkess drove it home with a message. Jackie hadn't been paying attention to his nightly sermons but she obliged him anyways. "It's always good to practice xenia. Be kind to family, friends, and strangers alike."
Both their ancestors came from Bating yet they were worlds away from that land neither of them had lain witness. Sobering up quite quickly, she could feel kinetic energy flicker off of him and through the lacquered bar. Something was truly electrify about the bartender and it wasn’t his physical appeal.
The two went on about their travels and how they got where they were. With him, he grew up on Galupsos, tried leaving, but sailing the Blue always took him back home. Some forces like electromagnetism wound around Harkess and the island and strung them together. The waters worked against him and the series of unforeseen events turned the ship’s around despite Harkess’ wishes. Jackie believed it to be a curse because he was unable to leave the island as he pleased.
For her, she was fished off the coast of the island by a few dauntless fishermen. She'd work for them for a season until she found her calling in the arena. Ever since that day three years ago, she decided that Galupsos was home base. This island was a blessing in disguise or at least that was what she brainwashed herself to believe. Jackie didn’t mind the clumps of blood or the torn flesh dangling from her fists; she only cared that she was alive to see another drunken day.
Closing time came around, yet the conversation continued through the morning at his place where they would lay for a spell. Harkess found the woman who appeared to be chewed and spit up by giants appealing, in some way, in some fashion. Maybe it was her flickering soul that enticed him closer. Perhaps it was her charming personality that snatched him up like a starving flytrap. He treated her like a goddess regardless of her gruff demeanor. A true diamond in the rough.
Jackie had no regrets, only a short list of constructive criticism.
[i 'Did I just shag a god? I've had better. Got a cute ass though.']
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 34d 11h 50m 14s
Rows upon rows of cells breathed in the megacity Dha Khammoune. All sealed behind thick plexiglass, convicts from all over the Uchi-soto League wallowed in sterile misery. A sink, a toilet, and a cot: these were all the items given to the morally wicked and criminally insane, the monks and the masters at arms. The Palm of Heaven were scattered throughout the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of cells. There and then, the young lady of Tsukimoto pulled up a chair next to a cell and spoke solemnly.
Her voice, rather low and secretive, wistfully sighed, “I have nowhere to go.”
Hayao’s voice, muffled by the thick plexiglass, sarcastically replied, “I can't go anywhere.”
Stripped of native garments, the now shaven, both the head and the face, Hayao of Soga sat on his cloth to wait out the rest of his life. The Fleet Authority administered him a contrasting red one piece suit to the spotless and heavy reflecting hulls of the Dha Khammoune. All of the inmates were stripped of body hair and their individuality for these itchy jumpsuits. Now, they were nothing but another cell number to the impenetrable mobile fortress.
“Well, there's one thing we can agree upon: we can never go back home, not to Soga, not to mom and dad. Ever.” Sullen eyes matched with sullen eyes. It’s been a long time since either of them spoke to their parents. The long for home was nothing but an empty daydream. Machiko reported to her brother of the news. “Hae Suun plans for yours and Amaro’s execution, but of course, the Fleet are looking for a bilateral approach. The admiral wants to see you two hang on his terms. Also, the lack of an emperor also factors in keeping you alive.”
Yes, even in the wake of victory and capture of one of the biggest terrorists, Tsukimoto’s infrastructure was at the brink of a collapse. The diet gushed into chaos. They vigorously argued the weeks after Akio’s death about a successor, and not more than five at a time agreed on a worthy emperor. They either feared that they were ill-suited or not legitimate enough to ascend to the throne. Ancient familial ties roused up and geared against the wicked unknown. The Order withdrew deeper into the shadows as a political movement. Rather than be seen as an enemy of the state, Hae Suun and her sisters agreed on letting the diet take the brunt of the backlash. Hayao’s actions only delayed his demise, if only a smidgen in time, but confinement between these four walls implored an excruciating eternity.
“The Order will probably torture me until they find the heir.” He usually stroked his scraggly black beard as a way to comfort himself. His face hadn’t been this smooth in a very long time, not since he left Tsukimoto the first time.
“Or until you give in.” Morbid she was. A fool she was not. The sisters would tear him apart fiber by fiber and then wipe every living cell and dust particle of his from the face of the Blue. That was a guarantee.
Hayao’s eyes sank into dry hands but then he pulled himself back up.
“I regret nothing.”
“Same.” Getting banished by the Order of the Camellia took a great weight off her shoulders, even though she still had strong feelings for her sisters.
“So you're gonna stick with those idiots.”
“That's my plan.” She couldn’t express how smitten she was, especially not in front of her brother she so happened to capture. Meeting Anchovi was the best thing that could have happened to her, but she refused to gloat in front of Hayao. Instead, she took this moment to be sappy and briefly reminisce on the good memories of her childhood. “Say, if you could write anything to mom and dad, what would you want to tell them?”
“Well, that's a random question.” He quizzically side-eyed Machiko, suspicious of her motive, but ultimately answered, “I'd tell them that I died fighting for a cause I truly believed in and I fought with them in mind. I fought for their freedom and I fought for what they would have thought was right.”
She sat for a while and entertained Hayao for only a few more minutes before the brig’s guards patrolled through the everlasting corridor.
“I’m sorry,” were her last words to her brother.
“I’m sorry that I got caught,” the swallow chirped.
Fleet Authority returned Anchovi and their friends back to the chipped up Lily to be rejoined with the Fighter. Despite their salty grunge against Anchovi, the Fleet allowed them to leave without a caveat. Supposedly, they even began to fear the crew and their sheer willpower and destructive force. Some of the officers swear that Anchovi could withstand their firearms and even swallow up explosions. Admiral Sidurathay abandoned them without another word. The Fleet left without any remarks, threats, or asides. Delighted, Oe and Frank reveled in his disgust and disappointment.
Naturally, individuals such as Jackie, Tony, and Duster scaled a rather lengthy rope ladder up to the Fighter. The elevators bridging the upper and lower halves of the Lily remained untouched since the last time. However, the land below benefitted. The metal shacks which were left behind as a parting gift remained firmly in the ground, and the fields were once again turned for crops. Though it was on a smaller scale prior to the attack, the farmers whose workforce was cut significantly by death, disease, and the constant clearing of the birdcage’s rubbish raised patches of lush greens and watery fields of rice.
Oe and Frank stayed back and watched the rest scattered throughout the Lily. She gladly served alongside the man from Guten Nocht, and since she had lain eyes on him back in Varsylgard, wanted to see him thrive. What was to become of Anchovi? Oe never trusted the likes of Machiko of Soga and swore she was an agent of the Palm. She sought to dispatch the nefarious little girl but ended up being wrong about her character. Oe desired to know Frank’s thoughts about the future and prodded a little bit more.
Oe threw out, “So you’re taking on a new crew member?”
“No one wants nothing to do with her. That Order ain’t even recognizin’ her as Machiko, n’ she up n’ turned in her brother. What luck, right?” Frank had always been hesitant on the petite ninja, but all this time she was just another unnamed member of Anchovi. Lonely and deserving of a home, Machiko was born a wanderer. She belonged to the crew, and it bothered not Frank, nor Rhys, nor any of the others. “It’s another mouth to feed, but she can carry her weight, we’ve seen. It’ll be nice to fill all the empty rooms in the Fighter for once. Nice ole’ snug family.”
“As long as you’re okay with it.”
“Y’know, there’s always room for you too,” Frank suggested to Oe. “Ya ain’t gotta play all mysterious. Eu trusts you n’ that’s all we need to trust ya. Helped our skivvies more than once now.”
He smiled through black and bruising, and a smile streaked across Oe’s brown face. She enjoyed the liveliness and camaraderie amongst Anchovi, especially the strange talk of Frank Dietz. The things he had said, both unintelligible and profound, perked her ears. Oe reserved her comments, for she did not want to impede on his long tirades about nothing and everything at once. Joining Anchovi would be utterly irresponsible as the lone wanderer had not completed her mission, and she never saw herself much of a team player until last week. The two strolled through the recovering village until a brief shadow eclipsed over them.
“There goes the Magnuze,” Oe observed.
“Good, that man can be trouble elsewhere.”
Frank wasn’t the biggest fan of Harvey, and Tony found it quite strange that the return back to the Gilded Lily involved him secluding himself in a corner when he could have easily left on the Magnuze. The no-nonsense fellow had to drown out Rhys’ saccharine comments concerning the malicious merchant. The magician must have charmed the young boy, but then the most absurd compliments came from Tony’s mouth. Frank cringed at “good guy” Harvey P. Lansit, the man behind all the controversy in this part of the Blue and the next.
“Will you be staying in the Gilded Lily?”
“Yeah, I figure that we can stick ‘round awhile before we set out for the next journey. Stock up on some good stories to read n’ help out them farmers. Those pushovers upstairs ain’t nothing. They ain’t able to lift up a damn fork if their lives depended on it.”
The natives on this plane need not the assistance or advice of Frank and his crew but rather the other way around. He could restart his entire life here on the Lily if he had enough land to farm, but then realized he had gotten himself into deeper trouble. Somewhere out there, the Palm’s associates still flew the Blue. They would more than likely harass Harvey, but on the off chance, Frank believed they were vengeful individuals who would track him and Anchovi down.
“We still have the Templar to worry about, ‘specially after they din’t show up to the party.”
That’s what Oe feared. Jailing the Palm of Heaven was just the beginning of both their troubles. She feared that their influence had spread throughout the various parts of the Blue and was ignorant to said influence’s magnitude. Maybe the puppeteer and his minuscule crew was all that were of the Templar, or perhaps he was one in a hundred. She and Frank shared the same suspicion.
Eudoxia found Oe and Frank wasting the rest of their afternoon on a rock reminiscing their latest adventure. She had hoped that her teacher was being pleasant and not flirting with grisly Frank. Oe comfortably relaxed on top of the boulder and keenly listened to Frank. Eudoxia enjoyed his presence, but her Maestra could do better. Eudoxia perched herself next to Oe and Frank acknowledged her presence. Oe petted Eudoxia’s black frizz and was ecstatic to see her student in lively spirits.
“We’ll be heading out tomorrow for Nubai. Are you not excited?”
Frank raised his brow. “Well ain’t this some news. You’re finally leavin’ us.”
Awkward silence. Eudoxia was not sure how to articulate.
“No. No, actually,” The princess, now clothed in a vibrant yellow dress, turned to Oe and delivered the bad news. “Maestra, I wanted to talk to you about this.”
They had just found Rhys. She could not be torn from him again, at least, not this soon. Anchovi was too close to splitting up, especially after Jackie’s short lived revelation. Her miraculously intelligent professor filled her with wisdom, but this crew had too much heart to pass up. She blossomed into womanhood as a result of their companionship, and she feared that she’d lose more experience if she left with Oe Madu.
“Anchovi needs me a little bit longer.”
“Is that so? The other is still strong in you.”
The other referring to her draconian side.
“I went with my answer knowing this. I don’t think I’ll ever figure out my other side, nor do I think anyone else will.” How many people in the Blue knew how it felt to be a dragon? Eudoxia guessed not many. “I also realized how much I’ve learned since you’ve been gone.”
“What audacity you have, my princess!” Oe blatantly joked. Frank caught himself staring at her pearly grin.
“This won’t be the last time we see each other, Maestra, that I can promise you.”
“We’ll hafta visit ya.” Frank screened the sky beyond the giant iron bars. The Gilded Lily will never be his home, not as long as there’s other lands to step foot on.“Y’know, just as long as we can rest our feet without a worry.”
“Nubai Katar has the finest citizens one can find in its Blue. Trouble can’t find the doormat to our kingdom.”
Oe found herself right most of the time. Very few people make it to the last wonder within the Blue. Surrounded by vast desert on all sides, the kingdom of Nubai Katar remained untouched by outside influence and continued its advancements in technology, medicine, and magic. Gilded Lily was a far second, but she greatly appreciated its enduring and diligent members of society. Perhaps one day Anchovi will make a life for themselves in her land.
They pondered into the evening and the clouds slowly rolled across the horizon. Longing to be reunited with his bed, Frank led the rest of Anchovi up loose rope ladder. Questions rolled through his head. What was for dinner? Were the chickens still alive from all the neglect these past few months? Was everything the same as it was before he left? The company consisted of Frank, Oe, Eudoxia, Rhys, and Machiko when Jackie came sprinting in their direction.
“Frank!” she screamed.
Worried by the sweating mess rocketing his way, he meekly let out, “What?”
“Someone hijacked the Fighter! We gotta get those fuckers!”
Frank’s heart started to race. They just got back home, but the rollercoaster of an adventure had not made a complete stop.
“Take the Fa Mulandi,” Oe immediately pointed in the direction of her small ship. The Fighter was all they had, and they had to save her from some petty thief.
Rhys and Machiko urgently sprinted for the ship with Jackie quickly trailing behind them. From a distance, Duster and already exhausted Tony caught up and surpassed idle Frank and Eudoxia.
“It’s never boring with you guys, isn’t it,” Oe jested.
Eudoxia dryly chuckled a little bit before taking off, “Never for one moment.”
“I’ll wait for you guys here. Get back safely.” Oe nodded the two of them off with Frank returning the gesture.
In full force, all hands of the crew rushed to the snug open faced Fa Mulandi. Within seconds, the airship took to the skies and jetted into the setting horizon with furious Jackie at the wheel. Her pride and joy was on the line, and she refused to let strangers get away so easily. She dozed off for thirty minutes, which gave the burglars enough time to knock out the mechanic and solve the Fighter’s configuration. Ridiculed, she pushed the Nubai airship to its limits. Its sharp knife-like head speared through the wind like acute shears cutting across silk fabric. The engines resoundingly roared and the propellers spun hotly.
Duster tended to the disoriented mechanic with some assistance from Machiko. Collapsing on the deck, Tony insisted that he would partake in the inevitable beating of these dirty thieves, but Machiko restrained and consoled him. The world around him spun and the flight churned his insides. He probably should have stayed behind, but they were too far from the Lily at this point. While the doctor administered his healing hands, Machiko kept Tony in her lap and reminded him about all the novels they were to discuss once they got back onto the Fighter.
Eudoxia and Frank flanked Jackie and focused on the Fighter which was not far out of their reach. Despite Eudoxia’s shaky relationship with the pilot, she had to set that difference aside in order to recover the Fighter. She desired to transform and enter the Fighter in midair, but that option felt rather risky for her, her crewmates, and the Fighter. Frank hesitated on shooting at the Fighter with his spellgun. These three feared that they would run out of fuel before they even closed the distance.
Something swifter than the Fa Mulandi crept behind, and an ominous current tickled the space behind Rhys’ ears. While the rest were occupied with the brigands soaring away with the Fighter, Rhys walked back to the butt of the ship and caught glimpse of the active cloud pursuing Anchovi. A bare chested figure with fiery golden eyes rode on top of this rich tuft of condensation. The image of the gargantuan man with the grey beard etched into Rhys’ mind. Not knowing who exactly this robust man was and what he wanted, Rhys safely assumed he was no friend of Anchovi nor would he be in the years to come.
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 231d 23h 36m 9s
[size16 #Anchovi’s Triumph#]
Reaching behind his ear, the dejected Mahoraga Genji pulled the adamantium toothpick which grew into a shoulder high staff. He had dealt the final blow to the white demoness who plagued his beloved Gilded Lily; he would have no problem killing a more compact black dragon princess and the black skinned witch. Eudoxia caught wind of the burly monk and spewed a fiery stream. With nothing but elegance and graceful determination, Mahoraga strode throughout the temple without a single gray hair singed. The Master, unlike Princess Dragon, toyed with his prey and wound up the fortitude of his staff. With one quick swipe, the adamantine rod effortlessly cleared half of the remaining beams and swept Eudoxia into a wall.
“Woman or beast, your deceit shall not conquer Mahoraga Genji!” he guffawed with a hearty breath.
Retracting the magical weapon, he prepared for the killing blow, but Oe Madu’s presence and sword interrupted the monk. Fighting on behalf of her student, Oe pressed her foe and stepped up to the crazed monk’s dexterity. With one hand she constantly interfered with the rod’s trajectory and with the other she conjured lightning. Quickly, she infused the dangerous element with her sword. The loud crackling danced up the blade and back down to the hilt. The spellblade whipped the shimmering steel back and forth, and with each strike of the sword a jolt surged from one body to the other.
With hair frazzled in every direction, panting Mahoraga backed off. Poised Oe played to the weapon’s weakness. Every time he went to strike the spell fencer, the tip of her blade redirected the unbreakable staff. At a disadvantage, the observant giant tossed aside his weapon and moved in with empty hands. As Oe pointed her blade and shouted at Mahoraga, her sword discharged an electrifying beam. The magic dispelled from her sword and only grazed his thick shoulder and eviscerated more of the wooden structure. Wincing at the minor discomfort, Mahoraga’s steel skin absorbed a glancing slash. The tip of Oe’s blade cringed at the unimaginable flesh, and in return the laughing monk latched onto Oe and threw her across the room with his magnificent strength.
Machiko moved in and tried to dig her sickle into his back, but her efforts were fruitless. The sharp edge curled at first glance. Displeased yet managing to keep his laughing fit up, Mahoraga snatched the small frame by the leg and launched her into a recovering Oe. He quickly recovered his staff and aimed it for the two girls like a rifle.
“Two birds with one st--”
The half-dead, half-blind Frank sat up from an early grave and fired off his revolver in rapid succession, each bullet compounding at the base of Mahoraga’s temple. Six bullets, each crushing into his steely forehead like crushed tin cans, knocked the monk off his feet and sent him caving into the wooden flooring.
He sat there, bleeding out of his head, and then and there Jackie loomed over him. She did not expect such a potent concussive blast from Oe, and she certainly did not anticipate the ruthless quick slinging from Frank. Bruised, she closed in on Frank and prepared to sock him out of this existence. Frank, half smiling, made what he thought was his final argument as Mahoraga withstood six bullets to the head.
“Jackie, I ain’t carin’ that my face is all fucked up, I forgive you. But don't you excuse his jackassery for kindness. No one gits to play judge, jury, n’ executioner.” At that point, Frank and Jackie turned to Mahoraga who was moaning over a monstrous headache. He pried the bullet stumps from his forehead which made Frank wet his pants a little. Sitting there, he tried to reason with the blind Jackie. “Do you really think euthenizin’ them ‘weak’ peoples is ethical? Cause if ya do, I'll do it. I'll plug you right between the brows before I do him in. Or at least die tryin’. The fucker can shrug off bullets, for Maker’s sake. He doesn't git to decide who lives and dies, Jackie, that's fucked up. He's gonna level out countries for some crazy ass idea.”
“Frank, how daft can you be? The Master searches for paradise!” She held back from killing Frank and allowed him to get to his feet. Not until he explain himself.
“Ask him ‘bout Roz Suprema and South Island. I bet he ain’t tell you ‘bout the weapons he’s been pilin’ up there.”
“Is this true?”
Wiggling off the brain rattling migraine, Mahoraga used his staff as a crutch and went further into his warped philosophy. “One of our goals is to alleviate suffering found throughout the Blue. There is some weight behind this poor man’s words, but when the meek and unfortunate suffer, I cannot but help sympathize. Why let suffering persist any longer throughout the Blue when we can end it through peaceful ascension? We will carry on the torch for those who cannot walk any longer; it s the duty of the Palm.”
Then, reality broke. [i Peaceful ascension.] Torn Jackie refused to believe the spoken word. She fell for a warmonger who recited enchanting poetry. Truly, Mahoraga was just a fabrication. The man who stood before her was a deceiver with ulterior motives. The Palm of Heaven, these people, killed innocent people. They trampled the weak and assimilated what willing strong men and women they came across. Perturbed by the pious monk, the fool shook her head in disbelief. She should have known when Hayao, a murderer and traitor to Tsukimoto, was revealed to be part of the Palm’s ranks.
“I...I can't let you do that.”
“My disciple, you’ve repented for your endless greed and gluttony, atoned for senseless violence and manslaughter, yet you dare turn an eye to the altruistic alternative. For shame.” Mahoraga frowned and felt a fragment of his being breaking off. He loved this woman, both as a comrade and a consort, but a pious man he was. Bound by duty, he fretfully responded to her negation. “Is this how you become undone?”
“Not undone, just readjusting my moral compass.”
She turned her back from Frank and bravely stood against the Master. Mahoraga pulled up his staff and clutched his heart.
“No, I've yet to begin to demonstrate my potential.”
The adamantium staff shot through the space, but nimble Jackie deflected the flashing pole upwards and filled the space. Tracing along the pole’s trajectory, the betrayed fought with reigniting passion. With one punch, Jackie painstakingly disarmed the staff from his grip. Suspended by his disbelief, Mahoraga staggered back at the daunting feat. Her fists blistered and bled with each crack to his face; his enduring body tanked the hits and merely pinched. She was one of his better students and she insisted on fighting with her bare hands. Jackie knew well that her efforts made minimal progress, but she knew that she could deter his advancement.
Her former master fought back with his own martial arts, but for every kick there was a dodge and for every punch there was a worthy counter. They exchanged blows and throws, but the newer lithe version of Jackie kept up with Mahoraga’s ability and magic. She ducked and swiveled at his glowing palms which was certain death. Even a good punch to the face was certain death for her. Now that she knew the truth, she had realized the error of her ways and earnestly fought for redemption.
As Jackie and the nefarious monk leaped throughout the temple, Frank loaded six more bullets into his revolver and aimed carefully for Mahoraga’s head once more, but then lowered his weapon. He never gave up on Jackie’s benevolent nature. Misguided, yes. Malicious, never. She fought a losing game, and now he stood there helplessly. He scanned the room looking for a miracle and then he looked to his holsters. Pulling out the antique spellgun, Frank finally had the solution.
Jackie, who was bruised badly and numb in the arms, slowly backed off. Any minute now, Mahoraga would sink the staff through her head and murder the rest of them. Lo and behold, Mahoraga, equally exhausted, initially aimed his staff for Jackie but spotted Frank’s trinket. She caught sight of his intentions and immediately intercepted the expanding pole. At the risk of permanently losing her hand, she gave one last punch to the inexorable cudgel and shifted its path elsewhere. Frank beneath beneath the weapon and shot one last grin before pulling the spellgun’s trigger. The burst incinerated a hole through Mahoraga’s chest.
The gargantuan man wore nothing on his face but shock. He stammered forward with one hand over the conflagrant hole which exposed bone and heart. By the third step, he fell forward to his end. Jackie, holding a crippled hand inwards, looked at the pulpy Frank and sighed.
“I can't help myself but wonder what good he would have made in the Blue. Ambitious but his execution was morally broken.”
Without giving Frank enough time to make a witty remark, she turned the other direction and headed out.
“Where ya goin’?” He shook his head. She stopped and allowed his words to pervade her space. “I ain't done with ya.”
“I don't pull punches,” she trailed on, “And I didn’t.”
Jackie could have killed him in a flash and with a few hits. What kept her from murdering him with the first strike?.
Jackie heard the hammer to the revolver click back. She knew what she did was wrong, and Frank, as well as the rest of Anchovi, had the right to get even with such a despicable being. “Well, you shouldn't either. Pull that trigger and bury this traitor.”
“Pffft, you ain't deservin’ a burial. Not yet, punk.”
[b BANG!] Jackie’s eyes grew, but not a bullet penetrated her body. She looked down at her feet.
“Yes, Miss Jackie Simms?”
“Why?” she wanted to know why she was still alive. Why was she still going despite her betrayal?
“I need someone to pilot the damn Fighter. She ain't gonna fly herself.”
“Fuck you,” she threw out.
“Eh, bein’ honest wit cha. I’d only miss you a l’il.” He’d miss her a lot. Frank could not deny his affection for his sister-at-arms. He’d feel just as empty hearted as the dead Mahoraga. Figuratively, of course. “As much as you think that you’ve wronged us, we wouldn’t have gotten this far without you. I did not spare you just as a payment for your hard work though. Rhys misses you, and his happiness is my utmost importance.”
It was hers too before she met the leader of the Palm. Jackie let down Rhys and she was afraid to confront him after all this.
“It can’t this easy, Frankie. I have to atone for my wrongs.”
“Ya did,” Frank pointed at Mahoraga’s body. “The asshole is dead thanks to you and you saved hundreds, maybe even thousands of people as a result. You saved me. Machiko gets her happy ending and Anchovi lives to see another day. The Fighter is gonna have its fair share of awkward occurrences but that’s always been the least of your problems, Jackie.”
Oe. Eudoxia. Frank. Rhys. Machiko. Jackie. Duster. Tony. Harvey. The next couple of days, the nine of them had time to fully recover from the latest adventure before they sat before Admiral Sidurathay and the authoritative members of the Fleet. They sat in a conference room in the Dha Khammoune and said very little to each other. As the Admiral and his posse filed in, Anchovi and their allies smugly smiled. Especially Harvey, of course.
“First and foremost, congratulations on both fronts of this mission. Though some of the objectives were not fully met to the Fleet’s standards and your methods were quite unorthodox, we were thoroughly pleased that this Palm of Heaven had been captured.”
Admiral Sidurathay could not express how livid he was freely, for he did not want to break his cool in front of his lieutenants. On the opposite side of the table, the end chairs took joy to his subtle defeat.
Oe clarified, “Well, as many that could be captured. We’re not sure the exact number of members within the organization nor their whereabouts. The only known associates that were closely tied with Mahoraga Genji were Gua Fa Jing, Hayao of Soga, Amaro Goji, and Chichiraiden as well as the remaining few dozen monks.”
She suffered a few bruised ribs, but she made it out of the fray with the least scrapes. Many of the monks either fled by ship off Prok’mai or committed suicide through medicine. The Fleet, whose forces were rather uncannily vulnerable on land, arrested thirty seven monks of the hundreds of bodies tagged and identified. Many came from Prok’mai as well as the rest of the Damphrukian archipelago but there were men and women from Tsukimoto and the Bihon region as well. The one mystery that puzzled them all though was their leader.
“And you’re telling me that Mahoraga Genji’s body vanished?” One of the senior lieutenants asked.
“Look, we all left the temple. You didn’t tell to watch dead bodies,” Eudoxia snapped. Constantly battling her random fits of rage, she held her tongue from attacking the inept Fleet any further. She promised Oe she wouldn’t roast Sidurathay and the knuckleheads. At least, not without legitimate reasoning.
“Yeah, din’t you have yer forces surround the island? A dead body ain’t gonna git up by itself and walk out unnoticed.” Exchanging the flushed hue for mauve lumps, Frank’s face struggled to get better. He carried the brunt of the pain for Anchovi.
Harvey agreed to remain with Anchovi until everyone was allowed to leave. His strange attitude shockingly swept Anchovi’s impressions. He mocked the Fleet further. “Get those investigators back here to inquire the prisoners. They were great.”
Sidurathay sneered. Where was a firing squad?
“Ah, and Antonine Maxwell. Your mission was to secure and keep the Roz Suprema intact, yet its ruins reside at the bottom of South Island’s harbor. You have any comments on that?”
“Admiral, would you believe it or not, these Palm fellows had the ship rigged for detonation. I figure they must have known that the Fleet would have eventually gotten their hands on their weapon of mass destruction.” Tony shook his head in false disappointment. [i Oh well.] He was glad to be sitting down again. He could not wait to get back to the Fighter.
The merchant laid the sarcasm on thick. “You’re sore out of luck, admiral. The most beautiful Roz Surpema would have been a great asset to your Fleet Authority. Alas, let’s not dwell on what could have happened and let’s look forward to the future.”
Another lieutenant spoke out of line. “Surely the blueprints were retrieved.”
“Nope,” Rhys simply yet contently added.
The Fleet stirred in the midst of Anchovi’s resistance.
“Look, the person that we were looking for wasn’t there either, so there’s a good chance that Kal Seraf is still out there with the knowledge for magitech weaponry.” Tony gave them some glimmer of hope for a new toy.He envisioned the Blue permanently free of the Templar. The ideal situation included a severe crippling of the Fleet as well.
“And for her, the girl who claims she’s Machiko of Soga.”
Sidurathay ordered the officer guarding the door to open it. Stepping into the conference room, a chill and a captain of the Order entered. Behind the captain wearing the black trenchcoat, sister Nami followed nearby. Jackie smirked and Machiko jetted to her feet.
“Captain Hae Suun.”
The gleeful tone was there, but something queer the small girl off put Hae Suun.
“This girl resembles the late Machiko, but she’s not the sister to Hayao.” She shook her head, but then politely nodded to not-Machiko. “I must congratulate you regardlessly.”
“I am Machiko!” the small girl exclaimed.
Appalled by the sudden outburst, the stoic and callous captain curled her lips, “I don’t know how a girl from Tsukimoto made it this far to this archipelago, but this girl should learn to hold her tongue to authority and mind her manners to the Order of the Camellia. Who are your parents?”
“Isao and Miyu of Soga, captain.”
[i ‘I wonder how mom and dad are doing. They’d be proud of me, kinda. I guess.’]
“How dare you play such an ill hoax. Their only son is a murderer convicted for the death of the late Emperor Akio, and their daughter was a disgrace to familial and civic duty.”
“Hey, you frigid hag,” Jackie garnered the attention of her rival from Tsukimoto with a lively voice and her pointing. The two had profound respect for the other’s abilities, but it was a feud only settled by a serious beatdown. “If she looks like Machiko, speaks like Machiko, and says she’s Machiko, she’s more than likely Machiko. If she’s not, then we have a serious problem at hand.”
“Yeah, you don’t want to be known as the people who collect twelve year old girls,” Harvey jested.
“I know who you are Anchovi and what you’ve done, but I can say with certainty that this girl is no Machiko.” She bit her tongue at the end; it was Anchovi who first arrived at the capital. As for the pretender at hand, she offered her best response, “She’s a revenant if anything. The late emperor’s aide confirmed Machiko’s death and no one has the power to come back from the dead. No one.”
Duster muttered, “She doesn’t even know the half of it.”
“I’ll be back tomorrow, Admiral Sidurathay.” Hae Suun lacked the patience to deal with Anchovi’s brash mouth. She’d rather be in Tsukimoto in order to resolve booming conflicts.
The admiral saluted the captain, “We’ll discuss legal matters of the Tsukimotoan. Take care.”
As Hae Suun, her subordinate, the wave of winter left the conference room, Sidurathay returned his attention to Anchovi.
“As for you nine.”
“Yes?” Frank rolled his eyes.
With great disdain, Sidurathay sighed, “We’ll allow you to return you to the Gilded Lily and from there you can go on with your mishaps.”
The meeting was adjourned, and Fleet Authority’s leadership filed out. For a few seconds of silence,, the nine of them just looked at each other. Rhys was the first to break the quiet and laughed for no reason which ultimately caused a ruckus throughout the other eight.
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 238d 2h 17m 40s
[size16 #Palm Strike#]
Eudoxia wanted a piece of Jackie who she thought of as an older sister. The traitor had abandoned Rhys Illumina to die in the living labyrinth which resided within the Gilded Lily. She whom Eudoxia had trusted the most became blind by power behind a man and an idea. The draconian princess cried out, “Traitor!”
[i ‘Not now, Eudoxia. Keep it cool.’]
Oe examined the opposition in front of her. Her best bet was to single out Mahoraga, but his lackies were dead set on stopping the away team. Machiko would more than likely pursue her brother, given that she might only have one more chance to reel him back onto Tsukimoto shores. Frank and Eudoxia would tussle with unarmed Jackie, and that gave the wise woman a two-for-one deal with the famed swordsman of Tsukimoto and Mahoraga’s bodyguard. Seemed like an easy task to Oe.
“I din’t expect this to happen.” Frank wrapped his hand around the revolver’s grip. He never thought he’d have to pull the trigger on Jackie, his first and best of friends. “Never in my thirty something years of life did I ever think I’d run across this day and be like, ‘Jackie Simms, I’m gonna hafta put ya down like a good ole’ hen. Always been my equal, heck, sometimes a superior much needed to keep me on mah heels. I think without you, we’d be a few people too short on the Fighter. But now I realize somethin’: you and Rhys are the only things I have to remember Last. I ain’t got much now, but if it has to come to this, then at least I still got Rhys.”
Jackie squeezed her fingers into a tightly wound fist. He should have never opened his mouth or else the fight would have gone smoother. She was now bound by her duty to the Palm of Heaven. Uphold the sayings passed down to her by Mahoraga and the monks, adhere to the strict laws, and trounce any opposition set before her.
It was her, who turned her eye away from the radiant boy, who struck first. With half the vast room set between Frank and Jackie, she advanced in what appeared to be a few long strides, but it was Frank who drew his revolver and pointed its polished barrel at the swift Simms. Unarmed Jackie zigzagged towards Frank and slammed his hand upwards with her palm. Immediately, she snagged him in by the shirt and growled. Dismayed by his performance, she snapped.
“Stop hesitating, Frank. If you’re gonna do the deed, plug a bullet in me already!”
At this range, Frank could not recognize a washed Jackie. Beneath the sweat and grime there was a woman gifted with handsome charms. His face twinged red; he knew that she knew that he was quite the sharpshooter who would have easily thrown her back to an early grave, but it had to be her. Frank shot a few rounds into the air to unnerve the Palm and her eagle clutch. When that failed, he threw in an elbow to her face, but Jackie had unprecedented reflexes. She guided the elbow away from her body with an open hand and then kicked him back. Staggering, Frank stumbled back and tried to aim for her breast, but she clipped the silver revolver out of his hands and away from his range.
His demise was at hand.
“You’re killing him!” Eudoxia screamed.
Punch after punch, Jackie’s rage enveloped. Frank scooted back as much as he could, but he could not escape the winding tempest. She socked him in the gut and he lost his breath in the moment. Blacking out, Frank went death and the taste of iron flooded his mouth. The ringing persisted and his body wailed all over. His head spun thrice without a moment’s notice as if he was reliving the nightmare of the playground merry-go-round. Once Jackie got onto Frank, his vision went murky black for the duration of her fistful tirade. He might be dying, he might be dying.
Eudoxia slung herself towards the massacre and grazed her enemy’s shoulder with her sharp blade. Jackie pulled away the bloody pool of flesh and phlegm and gazed at the adamant woman dressed in a black shawl.
“You killed him! You beast!” she cried out.
Oe and Machiko stood back, mortified at the mess lying on the floor. Frank’s body didn’t move and his blood continued to fan in all directions. The two women felt Eudoxia’s seething rage from afar and so could the Palm. Without knowing the full potential of the Dalmenian, they braced for the worst.
“I must fulfill my duty to protect my people and their rights. That includes former companions.”
Blood dripped from Jackie’s rough fists and her hawkish eyes waited for the prim madam to fault. Yes, even the Dalmenian princess who was once thought of as a younger sister was not exempt from the fury of the Palm of Heaven’s newest acolyte. This time, Jackie played a passive role and allowed Eudoxia to break the idle silence. The swift footing of the sword kept the brawler on her thick toes. Every swipe and poke had one purpose: tire out the opposition and go for the throat. Eudoxia pushed and pushed, both the sword and the boiling red buried deep in her bosom. Such passion pressed her forward. Energy unbound, Eudoxia thought she had Jackie but fell quickly to a sleight.
Eudoxia lunged forward with the intent of killing Jackie who was purposely playing sluggishly. Jackie stepped into the attack thus closing the gap and tripped Eudoxia to her knees. With the advantage, Jackie went for the decisive blow to skull’s posterior. Acting urgent in response and having her doubts about her student and her ability to control the other side, Oe jumped in the way of Jackie’s coup de gras and single handedly snatched the flying fist with finesse.
“You may tout your strength,” Oe’s beam paralyzed Jackie. Oe’s free hand surged with magic and with one unexpected palm strike to the solar plexus, she jettisoned Jackie across the room and behind the rest of Mahoraga’s clan. Jackie’s face thudded against the wood flooring and her body skidded for a meter or two. “But you will never walk softly as long as I’m around.”
Ignoring the downed soldier of the Palm, Chichiraiden, Goji, and Hayao stepped forward and towards a recovering Eudoxia, but the the assassin from Nubai Katar halted them with great gusto in her breath.
“I’ll take the likes of you three on all by myself before you lay a hand on her!”
Mahoraga smirked in the background. She entertained the blissful monk, and perhaps she needed some convincing to join the enlightened Palm. A smile glimmered from his fuzzy face and the only time he moved his feet was to sidestep one of Machiko’s stray throwing knives. Anchovi’s ninja lent a hand to Oe and broke Hayao from the herd. Her knives chirped in midair, but were quickly intercepted by Hayao’s straight edge.
Oe took her sword out and engaged the skilled swordsman from Tsukimoto. At first, locked steel with the sword from the red scabbard. Their briefly met before Goji broke off. He keenly observed how Oe was able to best Jackie. Not sure if it was purely psychological warfare or a burst of magic, the sharp eyed Amaro Goji of Tsukimoto paid attention to her feet and hands instead. From his peripheral, he saw a white grin.
“You’re not the only one with tricks, my friend,” he muttered with great disdain. Withdrawing the red scabbard sword in exchange for the blue scabbard katana, he assumed a squatted stance.
Taking caution of the other, they danced in a circle and waited for the next beat. Focusing on her hands alone this time, the patient ronin closed the distance to strike. Oe was just a tad too slow and the shining edge cut into her forearm. A violent scream, not hers but rather his sword, escaped. The katana diffused a faint cyan aura and left not a scratch on Oe.
“A weapon enchantment of some sort,” Oe remarked. A few drips of blood stained the wood, but she remained intact. She felt slightly wobbling throughout her entire body, but she maintained mastery of her body. She listened to her surroundings for a quick check in: Eudoxia was slowly getting back up, Chichiraiden was pacing in place, the Soga siblings’ metal was clashing, Frank was still incapacitated.
“Yes, these swords are one of a kind, kindly gifted to me by the best blacksmith of the Blue.” Goji boisterously raved about the two swords at his side and allowed both of them out of the scabbard. Essentially the airhead broadcasted the entirety of his technique. “I'll let them introduce themselves to you: the Mana Masher and the Maneater!”
On the other side of the temple, Machiko had just thrown her twentieth dagger. Relentless and ready to pin Hayao down with all the fight she could muster, she held her tanto in front of her and anticipated the swallow’s tricks.
“How much shit do you have stored?” Hayao panted and propped himself up against a log pillar.
Where did all this unbound energy come from? Her sporadic movements, all akin to dances, paired finely with fluttering knives sharp accuracy. Hayao might have been the older brother by a significant amount of time, but he was no extraordinary fighter compared to the borderline demonic Machiko of Soga.
Making more stilettos appear from thick smoke, she grinned and homed on the fearful voice of Hayao. “Enough to make sure I don’t make the same mistake twice. Enough to make sure I can level this entire complex down. Enough to make sure that you’re brought back to Soga!”
One stiletto whizzed through the air and obviously passed Hayao. The elder sibling jumped out of his hiding spot and was not prepared for her surprise attack. Hayao planted his feet right in front of a smoke grenade which engulfed body and sight. Immediately, he pushed through the smoke fast enough to dodge the younger sibling’s barrage of knives. He avoided breathing in the smoke but his sight was partially obscured which gave Machiko the advantage to summon her next weapon, a massively long meteor hammer.
Its spiny head punctured the crackling floor with its weight alone. Quickly, Machiko ran springy cord’s length and began the wondrously perilous wind. Slow she was, but the turns gradually grew in strength and speed. The cord stretched and the spikes were whistling in the twister. Hayao ducked and fled away from the human tornado and waited for Machiko to succumb to the dizziness. He was quite wrong though. After successfully getting the meteor hammer up to her preferred speed, she stopped her revolutions yet moved the hammer around her body by its handle. The flail shredded the whatever poor pillars got in her way.
Splintering in midair, the chunks of wood flew everywhere and Hayao panicked in the midst of unfiltered power. He noticed after each strike how the iron hammer slowed drastically. The rogue slowly drew Machiko towards a long wall and bravely---foolishly even--dropped to the floor on his belly. The heavy head sank into the wall, just enough leverage between drywall and wooden beams to keep Machiko stuck. With his chokuto brandished and ready for a kill, Hayao confidently approached the struggling Machiko.
The girl though was like her brother: intelligent and just as brave. Machiko lined her sights just as her brother blocked her sight of the hammer. A red button rested on one end of the hammer’s handle, and so she fiendishly clicked it. [b Click.] The hammer’s head rocketed its thorns in all directions and caught Hayao off guard. These large spikes ejected more into the wall than it did anywhere else, but the few that managed to propel into open space lodged themselves into the runaway’s back back and thighs. Without an apt response, he collapsed underneath the pain and curled into himself.
Knowing that she would have to outsmart the astute Hayao, Machiko had to use a perfect contraption. She swiped his blade away, cuffed his left wrist to his right ankle, and so rashly taunted, “Sucker!”
As Machiko scolded her brother, Oe tackled on Goji and Chichiraiden simultaneously. Between the three swords shared by these two members of the Palm of Heaven, Oe had her hands tied, especially once she figured out the full effects of each of these weapons. The Mana Masher, as Goji noted, had successfully drained and hampered her magic limits. She had geared herself up for a devastating firestorm, but her current state allowed mere flickering embers. His second blade, the Maneater, carved into her skin and sapped up her life and restored any scrapes Goji accrued by Oe’s sword. Avoiding the third and last magic imbued blade, Chichiraiden’s twisting blade spun like a drill and sought to bore holes in anyone who got in its path.
Oe tested her magic between the bouts, but the flames seldom changed, but then the fierce combatant had no reason to summon flames. While Oe parried and shrugged the devastating blows from the opposition, the black magnetic cloud of crackling lightning and thunder enveloped Eudoxia once more. From human flesh to the stony scaled armor, Eudoxia’s other emerged. Her wings and tales thrashed but the fiery breath streamed for Oe and the opposition. Chichiraiden managed to fall to the floor, but preoccupied Goji and partially Oe felt the glowing wrath.
Oe watched Goji catch on fire, but could not stomach his writhing suffering. Struggling back to her feet, she limped over to Goji rolling back and forth and picked up the Mana Masher. Immediately,the glow flowed from the hilt of the sword and back into her manastream. With one wave of her hand, a sand storm emerged from her clothing and consumed Goji and flame alike. Sighing heavily, the teacher turned to her draconian student to calm her raging storm.
Instead, she found Chichiraiden brashly attacking the dragon. The fight was over before she even knew what to think of it. With one great slap of her tail, Eudoxia’s scales scraped through Chichiraiden’s veil and into her smooth flesh. The tail flung her across the room and the unconscious ragdoll crashed into a wooden pillar.
Oe hummed in attempts to sooth Eudoxia and her other. Still unsure on how to bring Eudoxia back in control, she tried to hush the dragon and lost focus of everyone else in the temple.
“What a sham,” the monk noted as he removed the upper portion of his saffron robes from his bulging body. He observed his disciples, each downed by under the radar individuals. Disappointed, he allowed himself to finally enter the fray. “I guess I’ll leave these unforgiving lands empty handed.”
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 240d 2h 6m 58s
Dressed in the best saffron, two women of the same size and stature sat back to back, reciting what the monks have taught them. In an open space in an undisclosed temple, they allowed their bodies to be at peace on the ornate wood floors and their minds to be released with the scent of sandalwood incense.
The first one, whose gravelly voice rumbled, recited, “War is immoral.”
The second woman, whose voice more stern than the first yet carried a stronger hint of femininity, then counteracted the first, “You must fulfill your duty to fight a just war.”
“Executing blood ties and companions is abhorrent.”
“You must fulfill your duty to protect your people and their rights.”
“Violence contradicts my coda.”
“You must set aside your feelings and earthly tethers.”
“Actions aforementioned are reprehensible.”
“A far greater sin it is to neglect your duties.”
Their meditation had transcended the hours into days into weeks. They sat, dined, and coexisted with the monk commune of Prok’mai. The past two months proved to be rewarding to lost souls, especially Jackie Simms’. Yes, the ex-pilot of the Fighter had boarded the Magnuze at the downfall of the Gilded Lily and did not her back, yet she remained deeply conflicted. Surely, everything would play out just as Mahoraga Genji had told her and Chichiraiden assured. Her entire time she felt useless in the search for the young Illumina and especially during the sea monster’s attack. As a result, she sought to become powerful in a more productive way.
Once she boarded the Magnuze, Jackie’s first priority was to dispose of the magician and his tyranny, but much to her surprise Harvey Lansit was nowhere to be found. Chichiraiden found the owner of the Magnuze to be an arrogant whore and was rather pleased that he was nowhere to be found. How Harvey and her newfangled master were connected was a mystery but Jackie went along with Mahoraga’s instructions. Surely, he was going to lead her to enlightenment.
When she got to the island of Prok’mai, the possibility of who she could become was endless. These were the people that her master preached about. The fields were tended by the monks, the food was prepared by the monks, the packages were assembled by the monks, and the sailboats were manned by the monks. Missionaries with one goal in mind: seek the righteous scattered throughout the Blue and assemble them in one place. The rapport between the different peoples breathed verisimilitude. Nothing about their operation felt fake nor tiring. The endeavor was great, but the mind, body, and soul handled it with serenity.
The neophyte desired to jump into the middle of the production, but her experienced companion told her that she first needed to be inducted properly into the culture. The monks tested her mentally and physically. Her reading became exceptional within weeks. Jackie devoured any oration and sewed the philosophy into her mind. Though she believed that she was at her physical peak, the conditioning and meditation transcended the typical fighting style of Jackie into something rather refined and refreshing. Becoming swift and fluid, every time she moved, she experienced large soothing drops of rain percolating her exposed skin. Tingling, the tiny hairs rose with each sparring session.
This was who Jackie was meant to be. She even managed to grow closer to Chichiraiden as result and saw her more of a sisterly figure. The devout follower of Mahoraga spilled her vulnerabilities onto Jackie’s lap and together they laughed and cried profusely together. In the mornings, they would go down a hundred moss covered steps in the humid jungle to fetch buckets of water. During the long afternoons, they cooked the thick soups prepared with rich spices, and Chichiraiden continually jested at Jackie’s abhorrent cooking ability. In the late evenings, they traveled to a few towns to bathe the elderly. At the end of their long day, they’d bathe finally, lay on the straw mats, and look at the stars.
After the first month, the congregation accepted Jackie for her remarkable dedication and work ethic. The blissful Mahoraga Genji seldom made appearances at the temple as he was busy with work back on the Gilded Lily and the surrounding islands. What brought the giant of a man into Jackie’s bright-eyed spotlight was his egalitarian philosophy. This entire time, she thought that the wise-cracking Mahoraga was the leader of the band, but in truth he respected everyone’s opinion on any given subject and followed the collective group’s final decision. He had spoken with Jackie and explained that this was not a movement he started but one started by the people.
The hefty spirit could never wrong nor wrong her. To err was not in his vocabulary, especially when the saffron robe commune traveled the dangerous seas in order to do good in an otherwise unfit world. Jackie had seen bits of this world and convinced herself that there were only a few good men and women in a Blue filled with hate, despair, and treachery. These governing bodies punished the poor, and the wicked continued to climb to the highest points. She believed that the man she admired was going to revolutionize the Blue for the better.
“I ain't never thought you'd be here.”
A rather notably hoarse voice opened Jackie’s eyes.
Frank stood in the open meditation space with Machiko, Oe, and Eudoxia looking inwards. Seemingly they managed to waltz into the abbey without resistance. The Fleet Authority soldiers haphazardly planned their invasion of Prok’mai and decided to go for a surprise from behind. Frank loathed the moist air and had the hardest time breathing. Now that he had Jackie in his sights, his skin and blood sizzled. She was alive this entire time, more so cavorting with the monk.
“I don't see why I wouldn't be.” Frank shook his hands at his side. Outraged, he burst out, “Did you even try lookin’ for us? What about Rhys?”
At this point, Jackie and Chichiraiden got to their feet and addressed Frank properly. Chichiraiden, disgusted by such an ill-looking scrawny man, scoffed. On the other side of the room, Eudoxia was impressed with Jackie’s transformation and “promotion”. The monks trimmed down her waist and her long black hair was pulled back in a long black braided ponytail. Somehow, they transformed her into a “real” woman from the chunky donkey she used to be. The saffron get-up was also notable too. Eudoxia wanted to nab a set or two and incorporate it into her gothic style.
“Did you find him?” Jackie asked with enthusiasm. She felt Chichiraiden’s grave stare from the side thus the tightening of her stance.
“No,” Frank then pointed at Machiko and exclaimed, “but the new girl and Tony did. Tony!”
Furious he was, Oe tried to pacify his ire but the scruffy man from Guten Nocht was inconsolable.
“Now you've joined a commune of broken eggs. What about Anchovi?”
“I prayed for you for the longest time. I lost sleep thinking that you were dead and that I did nothing in retaliation. Selfish I was but I couldn't wallow forever. Mahoraga told me that the Gilded Lily was lost.”
Jackie felt awful more than ever, but she had to defend her current lifestyle. She was ready to let go of Anchovi for good, but then Frank and his entourage showed up. Mourning would have not brought them back, but then she realized that it was fate that brought them back to her. This was the universe testing her faith in Mahoraga and the people.
“That man!” he shouted.
Oe stepped forward and pressed her fingertips to Frank’s chest. Remaining placid, she simply stated, “You follow a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“Silence your tongue, you ungrateful wench! The Master is at work. Mahoraga tells nothing but truth.” Unable to stand in the mere presence of blasphemy, Chichiraiden stepped in front of Jackie and pointed at the heathen Oe. No one insulted the Master. No one.
“Haha! What a reunion!”
At that moment, everyone in the meditation room turned to the lively spirit of Mahoraga Genji. Flanked by Hayao of Soga and another man born of Tsukimoto origins, he graced the presence of Jackie, Chichiraiden, and Anchovi equally. His hearty chuckle assuaged the tensed Chichiraiden but immediately exacerbated Machiko’s growling temper.
“I thought you said you killed off your sister,” the other man from Tsukimoto wistfully sounded. Unlike the rugged Hayao, his face was clean shaven and hair neatly pulled back into a ponytail. At both sides of his pair of black hakama resided a katana.
“Treachery, no less from the Order of Tsubaki.”
“Says the man responsible for the death of the emperor!” She thought about driving a spike right at the apex of his head, but restrained her anger from getting the best of her. Machiko’s mission was to secure the Magnuze first, and then rightfully bring her brother to justice. She turned an eye to the stranger and immediately recognized the sharp face. “Amaro Goji. Aren’t you a prized swordsman?”
The man snapped out of his daydream and paid attention to the fiery ghost. “Huh? Are you a fan of mine?”
Truly disappointed at such behavior of the celebrity, she snarled the narcolepsy out of Goji.
“No. Not only are you clearly a traitor to the Tsukimoto empire by association, but you’re also a coward runaway who abandoned his country.”
“Man, your spite is what’s keeping you alive,” he lazily replied. “You know as well as I do that that the emperor was just a plaything to your Tsubaki cult. That bitch Hae Suun would have nixed Akio if your bro didn’t. You truly thought you were doing good, but you and your sisters did not trust the people and allow them to lead lives free of a peeping government. That’s not my flow, little sister.”
“My, my. I can see that we’re quite lively today!” Mahoraga clapped, “We’re not here to cause any trouble, my friends. The flames are not needed. What is it that you truly desire?”
“The Magnuze needs to be returned to its rightful owner: Harvey Lansit.”
Well, Fleet Authority would confiscate the ship and do whatever they wanted with Lansit. Frank sought answers or something awful to happen at this point. Jackie, Mahoraga, Hayao. A precarious alliance to say the least comprised of bandits, murderers, and traitors.
“Where is our friend Harvey?”
“Hopefully destroying that giant ole’ gun you got goin’ on South Island.”
There and then did Frank witness a break in the hearty man’s facade. What quaint content expression quickly twitched into a frown and then dissatisfaction.
“So you’re workin’ with the Templar, ain’t cha.”
“Well, Harvey Lansit is more or less not a liaison between the Blues.” Mahoraga clarified. The dramatic break followed through with the saffron monk demonstrating the use of his cunning voice. “If I’m gonna be honest--and I’ll be honest--he’s more of a means to move things around, for you see, the Templar and us are one in the same.”
Jackie froze in her stance. That she was not aware of. The ravenous Templar stormed the Magnuze and nearly plunged the Fighter and Rhys into the Blue. How could the puppeteer and his legion of automatons be apart of this movement? Mahoraga moved to the forefront and middle of the meditation room, and she stared at his magnificent stance. The man she admired and loved was in no way malignant. He selflessly served others and embraced the divergent beauties of strength, grace, and intelligence.
Eudoxia kept an eye on each of the five opposing individuals. She then queried Mahoraga, “So I gotta ask you a question, oh holy one: are you human or one of Kal Seraf’s robots?”
“Ohohoho! Dear princess, I’m more human than you can imagine. I see that you are indeed the same crew Seraf struggled with. You’ll notice the difference in our philosophies, but you’ll realize we’re all fighting for the same endgame. We learn from each other’s mistakes, and I don’t intend to repeat his mistake of underestimating strangers.” The Master of the Prok’mai abbey scanned the opposing four and chuckled. He then picked out the sore thumb of the bunch: Oe Madu. “I’m sure you get this all the time, but you don’t exactly fit in this part of the Blue. You’re a long way from home, and you’re definitely not the tourist type.”
“I’m sure you’re familiar with Ewan the Cat.”
The mere mention of the name sank Mahoraga’s fractured smile and expelled what little joy he had in his step. Now it was personal.
“When you’re as famous as Harvey P. Lansit, people from all parts of the Blue flock to witness ‘greatness’ no matter how overt or covert you may be about it, and when you have an indispensable piece in your long scheme of things such as Harvey P. Lansit, you tend to want to keep that piece. You’ll then pit a less experienced assassin against a well versed one.” Oe sensed how livid Mahoraga was at this point and topped it off with, “I can assure you that there’s more than nine ways to skin a cat and that your poor Ewan put up somewhat of a fight before I punched his clock in for good.”
“Seems like you have beef,” Eudoxia tacked on.
“I got a whole heifer and a calf,” Mahoraga nervously chuckled. He remembered the day Ewan’s head returned to him, all neatly packaged and wot not.
Restraining himself from bashing in the black skinned witch’s skull with his adamantium rod, he folded his hands in and stepped back. He would not fight with such animosity. Fate had taken its course, and he would not succumb to act out in revenge. Revenge was not part of his goal. Instead, it was Goji, Hayao, and Chichiraiden that moved in front of their master and drew out their weapons. Jackie froze with empty hands. Was this really going to happen? As a response, Anchovi followed suit and geared up for the brawl.
“You must detach yourself from such earthly tethers and be empty like the open Palm of Heaven,” Mahoraga asserted. “Sever your bonds.”
Without hesitation and a thought of her previous family, Jackie Simms raised her fists against Anchovi.
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 243d 1h 17m 57s
[size16 #Magicannon Breakup Story#]
Frank and Tony shared a grave sigh at the bow of the Dha Khammoune. Hundreds of men geared up the dozens or so airships on top of the gigantic carrier for the upcoming war within the Damphruk archipelago. The destroyer ships which the flagship dwarfed spearheaded the Blue in two flanks. One headed for South Island, the southernmost piece of land within the Fleet Authority’s jurisdiction, the other for Prok’mai whose abbey secured the crew of the magnificent Magnuze.
“Are you ready for this?”
Frank shielded his face from the glaring sun with his floppy hat. He fought the past couple of months with the admiral and his men about the plan, but the Admiral Sidurathay vowed that a two front assault would catch the enemy off guard. The naval power did very little land reconnaissance during the two month preparation, and sent spies throughout the isles for brief skirmishes. Sidurathay and his league of lieutenants feared guerrilla warfare. They valued the rank and file members of the naval force but gave the soldiers very little credit. Armed with high tech armor, arms, and advance training on land, sea, and sky, the Fleet Authority had the means to take over neighboring countries if the Admiral so chose.
“I hope so.” Tony sighed again. Glad that Frank tore him away from the stacks of papers and intel, he relaxed on the edge of the bow and let his feet dangle over the foamy Blue. He observed every detail of the dual-headed plan like a giant mathematical equation. Every variable was accounted for to the point where the mechanic solved complex calculus equations for stress relief. “Here's to hoping that the past two months didn't go to waste.”
“Keep Rhys alive and get him back safely. The three of you really.”
Frank turned around and watched the rest of Anchovi and friends. Duster loomed over the young Illumina who was endlessly chatting to the likes of Machiko, Eudoxia, and Oe. Gruff Frank entrusted the remaining original members of Anchovi with the mechanic who garnered his attention and respect. He feared that he might lose his Rhys once more, but it was Tony who was there when Rhys was recovered. Behind the group though was the slouchy magician, a glaring variable to the likes of the two men.
Frank sneered, “Him? Not so much.”
Tony slumped and rested his chin in his hands. He sat there, perplexed and unsure how to address another glaring problem.
“The admiral has decided against an aggressive campaign, as per my request...strangely.” Yes, Admiral Sidurathay agreed to Tony’s conditions without resistance. He did promise that the farmers of the Gilded Lily would be taken care of. Perchance the leader of the armed forces extended this way of thought to the rest of the islands, but in the back of Tony’s mind, he doubted good will was a trait of the admiral and his men. “We’re not even sure how close the magicannon is close to completion, but I’m certain that the Khammoune will be its first target. I think we have a better chance of staying alive if we’re up close and personal.”
“Just the way Anchovi likes it, heh.”
“Naturally,” Tony rolled his eyes.
Down the ship, the rest of Anchovi entertained each other with silly songs, but the dreading Harvey had different intentions. He pulled the tiny girl from Tsukimoto aside and squinted to her level.
“Miss…” Really, he didn’t know any of their names except for Tony’s, but now he was at the mercy of the crew and the Fleet. He trailed off nicely, but he had not the slightest clue what Hayao’s sister was called.
The girl simply nodded and dryly stated, “Machiko of Soga.”
Machiko of Soga had not forgiven the magician for her brother’s escape. She thought about sinking the magician’s wand into his thick skull and calling it even. In fact, the wand was the subject of their brief interaction.
“Miss Machiko, I do believe that you have something of mine.”
Harvey P. Lansit was practically begging a child for an extended piece of himself. He got sad just thinking about the wand: the most important part of his body. Without the fountain pen, he lacked the means of channeling his magic. Dare he think it, Harvey was just as pathetic as the Varsylian mass and inferior to the likes of these plebs!
Machiko debated with herself for a few seconds. Despite loathing the man, she needed him to further her hunt for her runaway brother. The pen poofed into her hands and she hesitantly handed the weighty pen to Harvey. [i ‘Fine.] Immediately regretting it, everything that could possibly happen from here on out flooded her head. If he wanted, Harvey could flood the Khammoune, destroy the airships, or even set ablaze the people.
But he didn’t. In fact, he simply nodded thanks to Machiko and parted in a different direction.
“And you’re confident that this uncanny crew will make it back alive?” Oe asked Eudoxia as she watched the two foreigners interact. The student and teacher moved away from the other couples and pondered the true potential of Anchovi and its ‘allies’.
Eudoxia, thoroughly pleased with the transformed man, spoke out, “This is a different Tony we’re seeing; he’s more confident about himself this time around. Maestra, we should focus on the mission ahead of us. We’re not sure what we’ll run into on the Magnuze.”
Dusk had settled finally and in half a day’s span, the operation would begin. Frank, Machiko, Eudoxia, and Oe all traveled to one airship. Tony led the likes of Rhys, Duster, and the conniving Harvey to an opposite airship. Harvey got special privileges and slept in a locked room by himself which pleased him greatly. Soldiers stood vigilantly outside his door, but it was not enough. Cloaked from the human eye, Duster remained by their side to make sure the merchant of death remained silent. The mastermind and his apprentice, Tony and Rhys, headed straight to bed and once they closed their eyes, they fell into a pleasant dream.
Tony woke up at the crack of dawn and heard the propellers and turbines at work. Humming throughout the walls of the airship, the living and breathing engine whispered sweet nothings into the mechanic’s ears. He stretched out of his bunk and immediately made his way up to the quarterdeck. The sun’s rosy tips peeped from the horizon on the left and embraced his rich skin with a warm hug. Never much of a night owl, Tony thrived in the sun’s domain and stretched in the midst of the brisk air. There was work to be done and plans to be revisited. Of course, such a glorious day did not exist without Harvey’s lingering breath.
Approaching the mechanic from behind, the magician with the shifty mustache tossed out a question. “What do you think they’ll do with us once we’ve secured their new toy?”
Tony’s mouth ran dry; he wished he had gotten a glass of water before dealing with Harvey’s bullshit. Of course, Tony wondered what exactly what Harvey was getting at. “New toy?”
“Well, they didn’t give us specific instructions to destroy Roz Suprema outright. Don’t you find that at least a little concerning?”
[i ‘Dammit. I hate when you’re right.’]
Touché. Harvey brought up a valid point, and reaffirmed Tony’s suspicion of Fleet Authority. There was not much the four of them could do against a hundred men and their air and sea crafts. Anchovi was more or less there to take the fall with Harvey tied at the sinking ship’s bowsprit.
“There is some truth to this, Antonine,” Duster suddenly appeared between the two figures. “I fear we’re just another pawn in another game of checkers.”
“Chess,” Rhys interjected from behind. The boy had woken up shortly after Tony.
“Hm?” Duster tilted his head.
“Pawns are usually played in chess, Duster.”
“Well, it looks like it’s four against the world.”
Harvey dug his fists into his love handles and guffawed into the air’s gentle brush. As much as Tony wanted to whip him across the face with his wrench, the haughty millionaire spoke truths. These were the same truths that Tony wanted to be outright lies.
Approaching South Island just before noon, the few airships sank closer to the misty Blue. Barely skidding above the warm sea, the airships shot for discretion. The few sailing ships started to encircle the island to avoid the clashing rocks prodding the northern coastline. Tony could see the sight of the magicannon sitting on a high bluff. Not all the trees on South Island could hide the Roz Suprema’s main barrel. It must have been Harvey’s latest living sexual innuendo.
The site baffled Tony. Harvey claimed that it was a mobile weapon capable of leveling several islands effortlessly, but it was currently being constructed in the heartland of South Island. Not even the Magnuze had the fortitude to lift such a monstrosity from its cradle. The mechanic prepared for rapid fire engagement. The sea support routed any opposition from the southern side while the airships planned to hit hard on the northern front.
The airships prepared for the descent for South Island. The gears cranked and the turbines blasted the sand beaches. The soldiers pointed their rifles inland as the ships claimed their footing. The stairs unfolded and soldiers by the dozen flooded the beach. Tony and his daunting crew followed behind closely with their eyes transfixed on the destination. Now all he had to do is break from the ranks and eradicate the Roz Suprema from the face of the Blue.
Squads of ten to twenty scaled the bluff without opposition while a group of forty remained on the beach to secure an apt and secure exit. This kind of green was unseen to the likes of Anchovi. Tsukimoto was lush, but it lacked the myriad of green seen throughout the brief stint of South Island. Tony’s crew scaled the bluff as well, but decided to move onto a path clear of tangling ivy. The winding staircase zipped up the bluff and the poorly armed guards were quickly subdued by the Fleet’s hi-tech rifles. The sentry forcefully shoved the shabby natives to the ground without mercy and humiliated them with degrading slurs.
Tony caught a glimpse of such ill action, yet did nothing to address the unneeded violence of the workers. His lungs breathed in the muggy air. The stifling environment pressed him to move forward and to ignore the misdeeds. The guilt sat in the back of his mind: these people were casualties caught between the Fleet’s iron rule and Harvey’s nefarious plans. They sought opportunity but for the wrong man. The Fleet’s brutal police cracked down and cuffed anyone outside of a uniform. Anchovi kept together in tight formation and pressed ahead the Fleet until they reached the summit of Roz Suprema.
With the exception of the oddball Duster, they panted hot air and poured sweat from the pores. The cannon of the Suprema lingered over their heads and bluff’s slope. As tight as the clearing was, the Suprema, which was twice the size of a Fleet’s destroyer ship yet still dwarfed by the Dha Khammoune, surrounded itself working equipment painted yellow and Lansit technology. At first it seemed like a clash between nature and the human world, but Tony felt a bond between the conflicting ideas. Then he snapped out of the romantic thought and realized that the Roz Suprema had no place in the Blue to thrive.
The hull of the ship barely floated over a sliding ditch that dropped down the southern side of the island. So that was it. The cannon would slide straight into the Blue and start its tyrannical run. Over Tony’s dead body it would.
A tall and robust woman half-dressed in an apron called out from a scaffold straddling the Suprema. She held a smithing hammer in her rough black gloves and her biceps bulged. The headband kept her long black hair out of her fiercely hard-nosed face. The blacksmith heavily reminded Rhys of the late Jackie Simms, only taller, with longer legs, and a less sultry voice.
“Who is she?” Tony turned to Harvey for further disclosure. She did not belong to the likes of these lands, her skin was less of a red pigment and more of a tan complexion.
The magician trembled at her mere presence and wished that they had not encountered such a magnificent woman. Holding her in high regard, Harvey muttered, “You might be the designer, but she is the builder. She is the mother of steel.”
She scaled down the scaffold and stood her ground with hammer in firm hands.
“I am Gua Fa Jing.”
[i Templar scum.] Tony, severely underestimating the sole opposition, dismissed her entrance. “Well, I’m not into introductions.”
“Neither am I.”
Duster stepped forth with sword in hand.
“What?” Harvey and Tony spat out simultaneously.
The alien was committing suicide. Duster against [i her]? Well, if she somehow won and smashed the Lucavi into pieces, Harvey knew he’d still have components for a second Roz Suprema.
“We must act swift, Antonine. Go.”
Tony, Rhys, and Harvey slowly avoided the woman firm in her stance, but not without a sample of her power. She struck the ground with her hammer and a jolt of hot lightning surged for the three men. Quick to react, Duster erected a wall of white steel to intercept her attack.
“I’m unfamiliar with your kind, beast.”
“I prefer the term Lucavi.”
While Duster faced against the ominous Fa Jing, the remainder of Anchovi infiltrated the hull of Roz Suprema. From there, Harvey led the group towards the reactor based on an old set of blueprints he managed to memorize. For the most part, the ship was switched up here and there, but traversing the ship provided some difficulty. Very little lighting was provided for the workers and the scaffolding inside was worse than outside. The walkways and stairs leading to the upper floors swiveled like a snake by a toe’s touch.The goody two-shoes held his tongue back from making snide and condescending remarks to the cheap entrepreneur. These conditions boiled his blood.
Without the aid of the Harvey, Tony reached the reactor. The machine that powered all the magitech within the Roz Suprema took up a hefty portion of the ship and probably the majority of Tony’s explosive charges. A crystalline pylon situated itself smack dab in the middle of the machine. Golden bands crossed the pylon with shards of Lucavi metal facing inward. The control console for the magitech reactor was directly attached to the crystal’s platform by a plethora of tubes and cold pipes dressed in blue lighting.
“Ah, what a sham.” Harvey died a little inside. “This was supposed to be the greatest thing I’ve done; it was going to be a legacy that not even my children could surpass.”
“Whether it fell into the hands of you or the Fleet, a weapon like this needs to be destroyed. Crafted by sinister hands for nefarious intents, I cannot stand idly and let something like this breathe on the necks of the commonwealth. People have died not knowing what this machine does and more people will perish.”
“Boo, you’re such a pathetic bore. Spare me the poetry, Maxwell.”
Tony and Rhys divvied up the charges and planted them around the inactive reactor. Even with the two months, the Templar and the builders were unable to mobilize the Suprema. Maybe Harvey and the Templar needed Tony’s assistance for this project. Tony cracked a small smile that no one espied; he felt important for once.
Harvey called it. A group of eight Fleet members lined up with their barrels pointing towards the reactor and the perpetrators. Tony and Rhys shot their hands up in quick defeat and the magician’s nose twitched. Just as the pompous fool anticipated, a quick backstab and Fleet Authority would have their hands on a new weapon in their already unstoppable arsenal.
“Tony, what are we gonna do?” Rhys squeaked.
“Do what you must. In five minutes, you’ll set those charges off, with or without me.”
Harvey stepped forward and pulled out his wand in quick defiance. Shocked, Tony’s mouth dropped and nothing short of a wisp of air let out. Was Harvey, a Lansit no less, willing to sacrifice himself? No one back home would believe this story.
With a tap of his foot, Harvey disappeared from the Fleet’s sights and left Anchovi exposed. The soldiers cautiously searched high and low for the devious magician. From above, they heard Harvey’s foot landing on an iron beam and thus they sounded off their guns. Bullets ricocheted and chaos tampered with their minds. Now they were overly cautious and easily flustered. Harvey reappeared several times in midair and rained balls of fire on the troops from various angles and directions. Static crackled within the reactor room and tickled ears and nose ridges. Trained militiamen panicked in the midst of confusion.
While the fiery drizzle bounced off the incombustible armor, Tony and Rhys fled the reactor without looking back. One foolish officer tried to stop the newly branded fugitives, but Rhys slid between the soldier’s legs and continued his escape on a light foot. For a brief second, the soldier looked over his shoulder and hesitated on chasing after the boy, which gave Tony the chance to shoulder check him into a steel beam.
5. The minutes counted down. 4. Maybe Harvey would make it out. 3. If Tony and Rhys made it out without a scratch, then the magician would have no problem. 2. Unless it was all a ruse. Was it a ruse? Was Harvey working with Fleet Authority the entire time? 2 and a half. The couple of renegades waited in the surrounding jungle for signs of Harvey popping out, then they would detonate the entire place to kingdom come. 1.
Tony’s stomach churned.
[i ‘Man, why do I feel this way?’]
Click! [b BOOM!]
[i ‘What did I just do?’]
Fiery wrath erupted from the metal shell. The Roz Suprema wailed and her metallic voice screeched. A grey billow of flustering smoke swallowed the sky. Split into two pieces, the front piece of the magicannon fell forward on its nose at first and then slid back into the back half. Its weight pushed the burning reactor and the supporting cranes down the sliding ditch. The magitech components exploded several more times on its descent towards the Blue.
“That’s probably the single, most selfless thing he’s ever done.”
Rhys complied. Maybe there was some good in Harvey yet.
A voice in the distant green hollered, “I’m not dead yet!”
Tony scrambled and groaned. Hopeless wishing it appeared.
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 245d 23h 55m 9s
One against many, the lone sword stuck through the sea of guns like a shining obelisk in the radiant distance. Oe Madu of Nubai Katar challenged the authority of the Fleet, and not once did she blink a doubt in her own prowess. Not cocky but rather sure of her ability, the oddity on this side of the world challenged the military on their own turf.
“A witch! And her familiar!” Doterev jumped to the front of the firing squad and stole one of the rigid rifles. Aiming between Oe’s eyes, he angrily panted.
Jumping in front of the rifle, Frank exclaimed, “Ay! We’re not here to fight each other. ‘Member we gotta bigger problem at hand.”
He further explained that the nude lady was part of their crew and had been afflicted with a disease. Much to their chagrin, they wondered what kind of malady warranted such an unsightly transformation and where she contracted it. That was one thing that the Maestra wished she knew. No one should live with such a heavy burden on their shoulders. Tony managed to round up the Fleet’s leadership back into Harvey’s holding cell. He worked with such urgency that alerted the admiral. This magitech weapon worried the mechanic so much that he rarely slept throughout the long windy nights.
The Sarak traveled half the day to the floating headquarters of the Fleet Authority, Dha Khammoune. The unimaginable size of the airship carrier baffled the likes of Machiko and Rhys who remained on the Sarak’s deck. Dozens of ships similar in size of the Sarak were parked on the front end of the carrier. Near the middle of the carrier were Howlitzer class aircrafts. Individuals piloted these machines, whose designs were tweaked over the centuries by many different countries. Towards the back end of the Dha Khammoune sat the control tower.
Anchovi and the other guests filed into the Fleet’s five thousand staffed individuals. Pilots, captains, medics, mechanics, a well staffed house and essentially a sailing city, the Dha Khammoune seldom sought port because it was well equipped for the worst of times and more. The Sarak landed and the medics were the first to greet Anchovi and their blacked out Dalmenian. Oe remained near Eudoxia’s side at all costs and made sure that the transition from cot to stretcher went smoothly. Harvey was escorted by the admiral, his entourage, and Tony to the brig for the night. The scribes escorted the likes of Frank, Rhys, and Machiko elsewhere and deep into the carrier for the sake of clearing space and eliminating one less problem for the Fleet.
Successfully delaying Oe’s persistence, the medical team stored Eudoxia in the infirmary for the night. Rather, they stuck her in a room by herself with a couple of armed soldiers guarding her. The head doctor ordered for the room to be quarantined from the rest of the ship, including Anchovi. Of course, confidence alone brought Oe before Eudoxia’s locked doors. She moved her braids to the back and casual insisted with the junior officers that she be allowed to pass. The couple of sailors whispered to each other and commented how well defined her arms were. They even went as far as to criticize how “man-shouldered” she was.
“Men, we’re not here to discuss my physique and how threatened you are by its mere presence. By the looks of this ship, there are very few if no women on deck, so of course you’ve probably forgotten what a real woman looks like. I don’t want to embarrass you and then you later on have to explain to your admiral why you were disgraced by a foreigner.”
Oe nudged through the couple of soldiers who shouldered her back. Opening the door to the bare infirmary room, she saw Eudoxia resting beneath soft mint blankets in the back. The medical equipment impressed Oe, but she pressed that the doctors of Nubai Katar were far more advanced. The machines were less clunky and boxy and more sleek and circular. A low hum buzzed from the machines and sterile lights. Oe approached Eudoxia’s bed and sat beside her student. She was not sure what her first words would be to the princess once she woke up. How could she affirm that her transformation would not happen again or that she would survive the next uncontrollable throng of rage.
Catching Oe by surprise, the princess, whose eyes were shut and conscious barely awake, weakly worded, “Oe, I’m scared.”
The blistering heat vanished from her body and instead Eudoxia felt the winds of winter rattle her bones. Eudoxia tried opening her eyes, but a great weight troubled her eyelids. Bedridden, she feared that the black scales would pop up again and fire would singe the cool air.
“It’ll be alright, princess,” Oe stroked the princess’s frazzled hair. Useless. Oe had not a solid plan to solve Eudoxia’s current predicament. She held her young apprentice by the hand and prayed for good health. She had prayed that Eudoxia never live another day as the black dragon.
“Let me go, I don’t want to hurt you.” Crying softly into her shoulder and the pillow, Eudoxia allowed the horrid visions of Oe’s death to invade her mind. The vivid imagination soured her stomach and her throat ran dry. A stream of tear trickled down her pale cheek and into the flat pillow.
Oe smiled and assured Eudoxia, “Not once did you graze me while you were transformed.”
In fact, Eudoxia transformed as a result of Oe’s fall. The teacher thought that maybe this was not a disease worth treating. Heck, disease was the incorrect word for it perhaps. The two sat in silence for a while. Eudoxia wanted to erase the past and the entirety of this facade. She’d trade it back for the glamor and closed walls she once knew. The life she once knew disintegrated into the flames of the black dragon. Everything before this life appeared to be a lie. Was Helvetia her real mother? What about her father? What truths could she hold on to? Meanwhile, Oe was learning to accept the truth behind the Eudoxia.
She breathed in and then calmly exhaled, “Eudoxia, you have a real gift.”
“No, my teacher, if you understood, this is nothing less of a hex,” Eudoxia groveled.
Oe let a narrow smirk escape from her lips and teeth once she heard a typically dramatic response from Eudoxia. At least she knew that she wasn’t dying from the metamorphosis. “Whether you see this as a blessing or a curse, it does not shape or form you. A great power resides in you, and it’s up to you, Eudoxia, to decide what you want to do with it.”
“You want me to transform? The guards said you were crazy, but I didn’t think you were this crazy.”
“After we all get out of this dilemma, let me take you back to Nubai Katar.”
That promise got Eudoxia to open her watery eyes.
“Really? You’ll take me to where you’re from?”
“Of course, I’ll show you my city clad in gold. You will know the names of my family and where we came from. We’ll soar through the Full Quarter by airship and you’ll be amazed by all the life that thrives in such an otherwise place. My princess, it’s unlike any place you’ve been. There, we will resume our training.”
Eudoxia heard tidbits of the far off land of Nubai Katar. Of course, the younger version of her dismissed it largely as mythology. Nothing could ever flourish in such a harsh and unforgiving environment. Helvetia actively despised Maestra Oe and swore that the foreigner was just another Kaf with a slew of tall tales to tell.
“What if I can’t control it? What if I turn again?” She feared that the fever would come back and all Hel would break loose. Eudoxia broke sweat just thinking about it.
“It’ll be a learning experience for us both, Eudoxia. You’re not in this alone, and you never will be.”
Oe reassured the princess that no harm would come to either of them. Eudoxia highly doubted the wise woman, and instead relied on her human intuition. She looked down at her own hands and saw the sharp talons that would rip her teacher into shreds. She convinced herself that a fire was building in her lungs and the air around her skin was sharp enough to cut through bone and flesh. Surely, Eudoxia thought she had pissed off the wrong woman with vanity alone. That or her obscene language.
Oe left the room once Eudoxia fell back asleep, and Rhys was the next to sneak in. Slipping through the door during the change of the guard, he slowly slinked across the room and sat in the chair next to his friend. He truly did miss Eudoxia, but it wasn’t the first priority on his mind. Today’s excitement quickly caught up to him and before he knew what was happening he slowly dozed off next to the princess. His head slumped onto the bed and his mouth rested on her arm.
For a few hours, the two competitively snored until one loud snort--undetermined as whose it was--woke Eudoxia. She looked to her left and saw a bushy tuft of blond sitting on her arm. Immediately, she grinned and ruffled Rhys’ soft head. The boy jolted out of his skin and then slowly pried his wet face from her forearm.
Rhys nodded and took a while to wake up fully. Yawning and stretching out his arms, he looked down to his pocket and saw the searing dagger’s hilt sticking out. Pulling it out, he placed it in Eudoxia’s lap.
“Brought this back for you, just as you wished.”
She was relieved that he kept his word. The dagger was one of a kind, but Rhys was irreplaceable.
“I’m glad that you’re alright, Rhys.” She missed her little brother so much that she lured him in and wrapped Rhys in her feeble arms. “I don’t know what I would have done if we never found you.”
“I don't think we'll ever be apart. Our connection is too strong to be completely severed.” Rhys pulled away and stated with the utmost and bizarre confidence.“We’ll go through Hel and back and we'll make it out together.”
“That's mystical, Rhys. Have you been reading?”
“It's what I did to pass the time while I was chained up.” Granted, a good portion of a stack was philosophy tied in with some countries of the Uchi-soto League.
“Who found you?”
“Tony and Machiko.”
“Not Frank and Jackie?”
No one had mentioned Jackie since the Gilded Lily. Frank and Rhys had presumed the worst fate had happened to her since she did not show during the civilian roundup. Frank avoided answering any of Rhys’ questions pertaining to the pilot and instead deflected them all on the monster’s attack. He did not want to confess to the young boy that his older sister was too wrapped up in a guy and his philosophy. Frank wanted Jackie to die with dignity.
The door opened, and this time Frank strolled in. Fuzzy faced and just as grumpy as ever, he squinted at Rhys.
“Git out boy, time for yer bedtime.”
Without another word, Rhys scrammed and went back to his temporary quarters.
Frank poured the princess a tall glass of water and handed it to her. Parched, Eudoxia thanked the eternally frumpy man and drank.
“Decided to check up on you. They have us on the other side of this floatin’ city. I’m hopin’ we get you back on our side.”
Dha Khammoune squeezed thousands of sailors in a labyrinth of gangways and packed barracks. The bunks stacked three high, and the few who were too tall suffered bruised foreheads and crowns. They’d bump their heads trying to move through the lilliputian doorways or if they were caught off guard, they’d jump straight out of bed and into the bunk above. Tony deemed the design unfathomable for tall people like him, whereas even Frank complained how he nearly scraped his head.
“I don’t like none of these people, Eu. They’re runnin’ scared.”
Frank had the suspicion that Anchovi was on a rather short rope with Fleet Authority. The link between them and Harvey, Eudoxia’s scaly appearance, and the willingness to help the Fleet were all red flags to the higher ups. Frank figured they were being watched closely somehow.
“They should be, Frank. I don’t know when will be the next time I transform or what will happen. I don't want to hurt anyone. I need to get out of here.” The walls slowly closed in on her and the cool air stifled.
Frank exacerbated her anxiety with his uncouth tongue. “I’ve run across a few scientist types back on Nocht. If there’s somethin’ you gotta know about these folks, know this: they’ll cut you up and find out everythin’ about you. No questions asked. They wanna know what makes them scared of you. That’s science. They’re the kind of kid that snatches the boogieman from out in the distance n’ then dissect ‘em. Guts, blood, n’ all.”
The Fleet disgusted him more than Ximena back on Guten Nocht. At the very least, she was a giant cyborg wish less human characteristics than the Fleet’s lot. Frank avoided any direct eye contact with the officers onboard the Dha Khammoune. The members of Anchovi and their associated acts were essentially prisoners on the floating carrier. What was keeping Anchovi alive was probably the mutual fear of a weapon of an entirely different scale and to an extent, Tony’s mouth.
“If at any point you feel like all the douchebags, assholes, scumbags, jerk offs, whatever are gangin’ up on you, run. I got a plan: run away as fast as you can. And take Rhys far, far away from here.”
Eudoxia had enough.
“Running away. No more running, Frank. I’m tired, we’re all tired. If and when we have to face these guys, I’m gonna fight, but until then, we’re gonna tackle whatever is on our platter.” Eudoxia sat up in bed and took another swig of the glass of refreshing water. “I'm going to help you; I’m not gonna be another burden.”
“Huh?” Frank scratched his beard and belted, “Like Hel you are, girlie.”
“I'm not staying on this ship.”
Oe reentered the room in the midst of a blooming argument, this time with a ceramic cup of boiling brown liquid.
Facing Frank, she stated, “Hm, didn't expect you to be here.”
“Oe, please convince Frank that I can be of some help.”
Frank looked back at Oe and thought she would have sided with him.
Oe shrugged, “Well she can.”
“Magistra will teach me how to control this! She believes that I can do more.”
“You know that I know that this is all fuckin’ ridiculous, right?” Frank gave in to the two. “Two months n’ two days. That's all the prep time their givin’ us cause y’know, politics and precision. The admiral and his cabinet are workin’ on scenarios and the best way to approach both objectives simultaneously.”
Eudoxia sneered, “Sounds like they're giving us enough time to be reckless.”
“Indeed,” Oe nodded as she took a gulp of her coffee.
Two months. Two days. Plenty of time.
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 249d 55m 29s
[size16 #The Fleet Authority, pt. 2#]
His mischievous eyes wandered around the room and his peppered mustache twirled. Harvey sat with brittle hands shackled together. His ten digits, aflame all alike, tapped on top of the cold steel. [i tck, tck, tck.] Essentially a heifer to the Fleet Authority, Harvey spent the next couple of days in a chamber of solitude. His rations included two measly meals and a carton of water per day with seldom interaction. The armed soldiers strayed away from his cell in order to keep their sanity. This magician was not to be trusted.
A nice fillet. No, perhaps a platter of seafood. His mother’s chef’s Sudranese cooking? He pondered at his options, if any were presented to him really. What would be Harvey P. Lansit’s supposed last meal? How would he go? Would they be cruel enough to have his aging parents present at his execution? Surely, they’d forget to invite his sister Seville: she was largely forgettable, at least in Harvey’s mind, and she would revel at his funeral. Unaware of Tony’s bargain, these thoughts ran through Harvey’s fatalistic mind. The fact that no one particularly cared for Harvey bothered him none.
The first person to see Harvey today sternly marched into the holding cell with a stone cold face. Following behind the stalwart mechanic, the two interrogators lugged bulky boxes filled with packed binders. A small fire lit within Harvey, yet Tony did not the sediments.
Without a pause in his step, Tony plotted into the chair opposite of Harvey and sneered. Harvey should have expected the frigid response. [i No one] cared for the merchant.
“Shut up, Lansit,” Tony shuffled through the boxes and pulled a stack of papers. “We’re here to help you out.”
Harvey snidely retorted, “Sorry, I don’t think that’s what they’re trying to do.”
“This seems like a waste of time,” the senior officer muttered to his colleague.
“Tell me what’s happening on South Island.”
“Like I told them, construction.”
“What are you building?”
Tony sighed and looked up from the throng of documents to a blissfully ignorant captive. Harvey’s smug grin crept from behind the graying facial hair. Tony’s words bore him, but Harvey was thrilled by his presence.
“Why do you care?”
Tony returned to his papers and shuffled around some more. Looking the same direction as Harvey unnerved him.
“Because if I know you, and I have a certain degree of knowing you well Lansit, it isn’t good. You require me, your ‘best pair of hands’, and the boy. What do you need to be fixed? And what do you want with Rhys?”
“The boy is up for grabs; my associates would not disclose that information to me.” That asinine fool. Harvey skirted around giving names and instead focused more on Tony. “It’s not what needs to be fixed, my bright Antonine. No, you were going to be key in the designing phase. You know, I feel awfully betrayed by you. Besides the fact that you have plebeian taste, you have one more fault.”
Plebeian taste probably referred to the likes of Frank and Jackie. How could someone with such reputation be associated with riff-raff? Harvey Lansit should be the first and foremost priority for Mr. Maxwell. The same went for the rest of the men employed underneath the Lansit name. [i Lansit, Lansit, Lansit.]
“Which would be?” Officer Doterev inserted himself into the conversation. Previously preoccupying his time with the same wooden toothpick, the investigator decided to entertain the bored magician. The senior officer was the only reason why Doterev did not violently and brutally knock around the foul mouthed fool.
“His crippling self-doubt. Especially in the creative department. I don’t know if he’s just lazy or maybe showing a spark of creativity frightens him.”
Harvey taunted to dear ears.Tony continued his deep research into Harvey’s wondrously crushing portfolio. He’d rather not indulge the captive any further, but find a way to save his own hide as well as bring the Templar down. If he wanted to thrive during these dim times, Tony had to move past the petty chatter. He had to convince the investigators that the allotted time was well worth it. Harvey could not and would not perish while the Templar were still roaming the Blue.
The loudmouth acknowledged the drowning out of his droll blather and slowly retreated back to inner thoughts. Harvey eyes and tone shifted in the moment. “I will help. Under certain conditions.”
Tony’s head shot up. [i ‘What the living Hel did he just say?’]
Senior officer Paryantham took a seat next to Tony and pulled out a notepad. This investigation had truly taken a drastic turn. “Do tell, Mr. Lansit, we’re listening.”
He was nervous, and aside from Tony, the investigators could not tell. Harvey stated his demands, “Immunity from any current and future charges relating to the latest debacle, no interference from the Fleet Authority while I’m within the league, and the swift annihilation of the Templar. Also, upon securing the Magnuze--”
“Wait, where is the Magnuze?” Legitimately shocked to hear such a separation, Tony rubbed his chin nervously. Wherever the merchant of death traveled, the Magnuze was not far off. Harvey without the majestic Magnuze seldom happened.
“Prok’mai, a few islands northeast of South Island.” Harvey rubbed his inflamed hands. He tried curling his hands into fists but the stinging surge kept his palms wide open. Harvey slammed his fingers on the table and swore, “As I was saying, upon securing the Magnuze, I want Fleet Authority to do a thorough investigation of my crew. Make sure every individual is accounted for on that ship and not a damn automaton in sight.”
Robots. Tony was not too keen on Kal Seraf and his hoard of androids. Their blank expressions painted on human faces, their rigid crawl, the clicking of joints and jams. Automatons and the art behind them were lost centuries ago with the likes of detailed records and the spirit of magic. Varsylgard was one out of countless regions of the Blue that declined into a perpetual dark age. Science, music, art, magick, architecture, even society lowered their heavy head for a long slumber.
“Bingo. I want that ship cleansed of any cold Varsylian filth before I step foot on it.” Sharing the same disdain for Kal Seraf as Tony, Harvey sucked his teeth.
“We’re gonna need a lot of your men, officers. The leader of the Templar is a machinist, a puppeteer whose limits are unbound.”
The officers huddled together for a chat. Harvey’s demands developed to be more troublesome than they had anticipated. Immunity and the complete dismantlement of a foreign terrorist group? The Fleet Authority was throwing more on the line than the merchant of death, and somehow Doterev and Paryantham were supposed to accept these risky conditions. Harvey would walk out of this entire footing unscathed.
“I’m not asking for a lot in exchange for a wealth of information, do we have a deal?”
The look of disappointment smeared across the Fleet officers’ faces and Tony shook his head. Harvey was in no condition to play hardball with the an entire combat team. Finally, the senior officer spoke.
“We’ll draft up a contract in a few days with Admiral Sidurathay.”
The meeting was quickly adjourned. The officers escorted Tony who somehow felt a breeze of failure brush against his cheek. [i ‘Outrageous. What was I thinking? Harvey cooperating?’]
The investigators transported the remainder of Anchovi, Machiko, Harvey, and Oe out of the makeshift headquarters, which was fated to reside in the Gilded Lily permanently, for an entirely different scene. Tony’s eyes shifted constantly as he bear witness to the state of the lower dome. The Fleet Authority, most diligent in their efforts, erected metal shacks by the dozen throughout the lush green farmland. The natives though were less pleased than what Tony foresaw. The bleak and dirty mass of stringy bodies glowered and tracked the gleaming caravan and their chosen few. Tony cracked a small smile, but their fierce frowns drowned out any room for satisfaction.
They reached the edge of the ruins and faced a docked airship. Open faced, the airship harkened back to a rustic design but with updated materials. Certainly more efficient than relying solely on magic, the Fleet Authority’s galleon was well equipped with large propellers and apt landing feet. Four moving turbines clung onto the silvery hull. The [i Sarak] stood taller than Anchovi’s radiant beauty and possessed a crew numbered in the dozens. Standing on top of the main entry port, a few good men dressed in navy blue cloth--not armor--met with the rag tag group at the bottom.
“Men,” the shortest of three addressed Tony first and then nodded at the following crowd. The senior officer and officer immediately saluted and stood rigid before the admiral. His navy blue suit was adorned with red and gold bars. Golden anchor lapel pins clasped his uniform together. Sharp was one way to describe the admiral, and sharp from head to toe he was.
“You must be the admiral.” Tony heard the two officers gulp nervously in front of him. Prompted with very little information on the admiral and even the Fleet Authority’s customs, the Varsylian mechanic nervously stood in place and made a weak attempt at nodding. “Excuse my informalities.”
“I am Admiral Sidurathay of the Fleet Authority. This is senior lieutenant Paknahm and his junior lieutenant Trung, both of the Sarak,” he acridly wearied. The higher officers remained silent and acknowledged Tony. The admiral was in better shape than the younger officers, but his face drooped as if he was struck with ailments. “I understand that you are Antonine Maxwell. Who are these people?”
“They’re with me, part of Anchovi.”
Frank held Rhys close to his pant leg and the others stood not far behind the rest. Oe did not give the attention the men thought they so deserved but instead scanned the iron bars to the gargantuan birdcage. [i She was nowhere to be found.]
The admiral insisted, “my men are well equipped. There's no need for third parties.”
Frank interjected abruptly. “Sir, we ain't humanitarians. Your people are more suited for that kind of stuff. We got true grit and we will put it to the test. Patience and heavy work ain’t our kind of deal. Fighters we are, well, most of us.”
The admiral nodded.
“Will these people be okay? Am I reassured that once we leave the Gilded Lily that these people will be taken care of?”
Tony looked back to the metal shacks perfectly lined up in rows. He had not formed a relationship with a single person person in the Gilded Lily, but he sympathized with the farmers the most. The intellectuals, for the most part, were hopeless selfish dreamers who only sought to fill their minds with oafish philosophy.
“The Fleet Authority’s main priority is to secure order to the Damphruk archipelago. A few frigates will remain here and alleviate the aftermath of the monster attack, but it’s up to the people to rebuild their sanctuary.”
Soon, the group boarded the Sarak. Tony, Harvey, Frank, the admiral, and the officers immediately dropped below deck and into the lieutenant’s quarters. The room was well spaced out with chairs surrounding a comfortable sized table. With every individual taking a seat, the real conversation began.
“Where in Prok’mai is the Magnuze?” Requested the aged admiral.
“Port Manju. Your people lack the resources for an actual airport,” Harvey miffed.
Doterev snidely remarked, “Maybe you can invest your time on building up Damphruk rather than destroy it.”
“Sounds promising, but there's not much profit in that.” Always turning a profit, that devious Lansit.
With a firm “hey”, Tony garnered the attention of the boisterous merchant and the Fleet.
“I'm just kidding.” [i Not really.] “Anyways, my crew is staying at that abbey with a bunch of monks.”
“Frank, you think you can handle securing the Magnuze?”
“Gimme Oe and Machiko and it's a deal. Ain’t no monks gonna be stopping us.”
“Of course, our men will be assisting you.”
“Of course, admiral.”
Harvey peeped, “I should probably go as well. It’s my ship after all.”
“No, you're staying with me the entire time, and we're gonna dismantle whatever is on South Island,” Tony asserted. Helping out the region get rid of a pest was going to clean his conscious. He deeply desired to sever whatever bonds the Maxwell name had with the Lansit. On the other hand, Harvey was not to be trusted on his own. Tony wanted to make sure that Harvey was of some use during this entire mission.
“You realize that they will be armed, right?”
“We have a Duster,” Tony quipped.
“A what?” The admiral asked.
Hiding from the shadows the entire time, the Lucavi brought himself to light and revealed his true form to the Fleet. The officers jumped at the moment and pulled out their firearms. A couple of pistols, held eye level and towards Duster’s head, shot up.
Tony jumped up and distanced Duster from the armed men. “Hold your fire!”
“Where did that thing come from?”
“I've always been here, silently watching from the corner.”
“You think he’s gonna stop what South Island has in store? I seriously doubt he could take a direct hit from the lanky man’s spellgun.” Chained up, Harvey tossed his hands up and guffawed. “The [i Roz Suprema] was built in mind to wipe out islands. At the same time, I might add. I’m taking magitech to an entirely different level.”
“You bastard,” Doterev murmured.
Paryantham trembled. “Tell us everything that you know.”
“Well, she’s named after my lovely mother whose twat bore such a block headed baby.” There and then, Harvey glared over at Tony. Resentful, just as ever. “Thousands of bodies are working on its construction right now, both Lansit aligned and the combined hands of the archipelago.”
There was never a moment of peace with Harvey, with any of the members of the Lansit clan. Arrogance ran through their blood, and patronizing was a family tradition.
“Tell me something, Admiral, if your job is to keep order within Damphruk, how could you be so blind to the sudden traffic to South Island?”
“It’s none of the Authority’s business to interfere in civilian matters. We believe that the same isolation we have for foreigners applies to our peoples as well.”
Annoyed by Harvey’s sudden stubbornness, Tony scratched his head. “How far along is this weapon?”
“Give or take a few months. Production hadn’t picked up until a month ago when the plans were altered significantly to include a few important parts.” Harvey switched over to Frank and Duster and thanked them in advance. “In fact, it it wasn’t for that skirmish you people had with me, I don’t think I would have found the perfect piece to the Roz Suprema.”
Harvey pointed towards Duster.
“What you all fail to realize is that the alien’s composition attracts vast amounts of mana. Work around the strange properties and attach a few transistors, and bam, you’ve got yourself an unstoppable tour de force! This ‘Duster’ is made out of material that draws in mana significantly. I’m a genius. I know.”
“You’re criminally insane.”
[b Knock, knock.] The door opened and the junior lieutenant jabbed his head inside the room.
“Sir, there’s something happening on top. It’s very important.”
The admiral calmly removed himself from his chair, and his entourage scaled back to the deck of the ship. Lo and behold, what they witnessed. Rhys stood on the opposite side of the quarterdeck while Oe in long flowing dress slowly addressed the looming situation. Once, no twice around, the spiny dragon covered in glimmering black dust soared around the Sarak. [i Eudoxia.] Oe called for the Fleet to stand down while she tamed the uncanny beast.
“Eudoxia!” She called out, “Your Maestra Oe Madu speaks. Show me a form of you that I recognize!”
The dragon honed onto the captivatingly familiar voice. The claws scraped across the quarterdeck and the leathery black wings fluttered until the dragon safely landed. Oe cautiously approached the scaly ex-princess and graced her muzzle with her soothing hands. Such heat akin to a desert radiated from the magnetic cloud, but the teacher’s touch pacified her worries. Eudoxia’s fearsome appearance shrank into the hot cloud and returned to a pale appearance.
Fleet Authority stormed around Oe and Eudoxia with guns drawn on the two of them. They feared the worst: a witch and her unfathomable familiar.
Oe brandished her sword and swore, “You will not harm this girl or by the gods and goddesses, I will strike you down.”
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 255d 8h 26m 5s
[size16 #The Fleet Authority#]
Before any of them knew what was happening, men in clanking armor and gruff voices stormed the Gilded Lily. From above and below, the lights shone on the hundreds of bodies rappelling down the birdcage. The steel cables traced the thick girders. Grappling hooks sank their teeth into the cage’s loamy earth and men sprouted from below like weeds.The soldiers, unlike anyone that Anchovi has seen before, carried large metallic rifles. After four long exposed days, saviors from above came to aid Anchovi and the rest of the once-enticing paradigm. Of course, whoever heard of saviors pointing their rifles at the saved?
The end of these strangers’ barrels locked on to the harmless civilians. Men with large riot shields herded the people away from the edge and towards the middle of the cuckoo’s cage. Tony tried to fight back with bare fists, but was quickly subdued by the well equipped legion. They smashed their plastic blast proof shields against his face and knocked him back into the frightened herd. Machiko took Rhys by the shirt and immediately headed towards the elevators, the only part of this broken dome that had a solid footing. Harvey and Oe moved with the crowd’s pace, and both sets of eyes kept an intense game of tag interesting.
The worst was yet to happen to the Gilded Lily. None of the farmers had an idea who these people were, but these soldiers decked in well-polished armor and chainmail assured that everything was going according to plan. A squadron of these knights paraded around the elevator plaza with charcoal, marking areas of their future camp. The people begged to know what was going on in the midst of the night, but the militant men kept the crowd’s voices at a low whisper. Not much was relayed between the two groups, and this fact drove the Maxwell mad.
The people could not distinguish one soldier from another. The helmets partially obscured the faces; the mouth was the only part of their body that was exposed. In the brief glimpses of spotlight and lamp lights, Rhys could tell that they were a groomed lot of adult men, and until she spoke, there was apparently a woman in their ranks.
“I need all women to stand over here!” she commanded. With a potent strike from her index finger, she instructed the men to stand on the other side of the plaza. “The faster that you move, the easier this process will be. Once you reach your designated spot, wait for further command from an authorized personnel.”
Reluctantly, Oe stepped to the same side as Machiko, the seemingly untrustworthy agent of Tsukimoto. She cared very little for the little girl’s presence. Oe could not believe that her parents would allow her to move so freely for such a dangerous cause. Of course, the agent of Nubai Katar had very little reason to trust a known terrorist’s sister. The whole jovial smile was a ruse crafted and taught to the young girl, surely. Oe observed from behind and noticed that the girl’s eyes searched through the crowds for the light headed boy from Guten Nocht. What was up with her sick obsession with Rhys Illumina?
Tony kept Rhys in front of his sights and snagged the feeble Harvey by the forearm. He had to keep the boy close, but the snake closer. If he wanted to make it out to the end, Tony realized how hot headed and foolish he was. Harvey elbowed a few older men back and insisted that the peasants keep their hands off his outfit. He would mutter a few words here and there, and Rhys swore heard death chants.
Word got around that this group was called the Fleet Authority. Harvey had not heard a single thing about this organization, and Tony’s brief interviews with locals yielded very little information. Once everyone was sorted into their respective groups, a pair of men would go through the crowd and escort a couple of people at a time to a disclosed area. The process was so awfully tedious and arduous that the camp was successfully and fully erected first by the break of dawn. The governing body provided cots and blankets in addition to the unappetizing ration packets and boxed water. Everything in their sight was procured, and everyone within reach was accounted for.
Harvey was the first amongst his peers to be interrogated, but he never returned like the Gilded Lily citizens. Then it was, Tony, then Machiko, Oe, and finally Rhys. The basics were asked of them: name, age, origin, health history, and so on. Once they received that information, the most bizarre thing happened: they were pulled aside. Granted, all of them were strangers to the Gilded Lily and the entirety of the Damphruk archipelago. Oe, Machiko, Rhys, and Tony were all taken to a sparse part of the Fleet Authority’s makeshift camp. There, they reconvened with one familiar face. Harvey’s, and a dirty faced Frank Dietz.
Frank perked up and teared a bit once he saw Rhys. “Kid!”
He squeezed the boy tightly into his chest and refused to let go. Rhys returned the hug with gasps for air and accepted Frank’s pure bliss. Frank, who had an easy time catching the Fleet’s attention, looked beyond Rhys’ shoulders and nodded to show extreme gratitude towards Tony and even Machiko.
“Excuse me,” a calmer voice called out to the yard of a few dozen bodies, “I am Officer Doterev, and I will be co-leading in the investigations today. Many, if not all of you, have no clue as to what is happening right now, but be assured that cooperation is the utmost importance. We are not here to punish you; we’re here to administer justice to those who rightfully deserve it.”
[i Frank Dietz!]
Frank was the first to step in the brightly illuminated box with Officer Doterev and Senior Officer Paryantham. Their skins were shades of red clay, and once they removed their helmets, their hair were shades of bright platinum blond. Doterev had a sharper face as if an artist sculpted his jawline into the letter V. Paryantham had high cheekbones and thin eyebrows that made him looked constantly surprised. The two insisted on getting information from the red nosed outlaw, but they got more information than what they really wanted.
“Lemme tell you somethin’--oh Hel, my sister always said that I couldn’t keep a secret for too long--[i mayonnaise]. That’s the secret of keepin’ your hair so shiny. Of course, I feel like I’m preachin’ to the choir. Is that really both y’all’s natural hair color? It’s a beaut. Before she died of sickness, I ‘member how radiant her ruddy blond hair ran. I was mighty fine jealous of Elle and all the things she had that I did not. She’d curse me and tell me that my hairline start recedin’ before I’d have children. And guess what, she ain’t too far off. I guess this rust bucket is gettin’ rustier. I always thought I’d be a good uncle to her children, just never happened.”
“Ahem…” The senior officer sat back in his chair and rubbed his chin. Maybe it was a cultural disconnection, but Paryantham had not the slightest clue on approaching Frank’s banter. “I do enjoy anecdotes, Mr. Dietz, but that doesn’t quite answer the question I asked.”
“Oh, you don’t say?” Frank scratched his head. The sudden stroke of amnesia led him elsewhere. “Can you repeat the question?”
Officer Doterev leaned out of his chair and left only a few inches between his face and Frank’s. Short-tempered. “Where did you get the gun?”
“Sir, I told you I got it in Guten Nocht. Ya know which one that is?”
Frank yawned and tried stretching his arms out. Doterev stirred in his seat and forcefully asked him to lower his hands. Stripped of his arms, the man with the slow drawl refused to cooperate with these men. When Fleet Authority stormed the tower, they were fortunate enough that Frank was exhausted from the skirmish with the sea monster. He swore he could have displaced their torsos with one searing shot from the spellgun. At anytime during this interrogation, the invisible Lucavi could have popped out from behind the officers and decapitate.
“Mr. Dietz, please don’t play my associate as a fool,” Paryantham insisted. “Guten Nocht is a desolate wasteland.”
“Have you been up there lately?”
“We’re the ones asking the questions,” Doterev snarled. He sat back down and crossed his arms.
“Well then, stay ignint. If you choose not to believe in a floatin’ island, that’s all on you. If you ain’t havin’ the fact that giant spider ladies and creatures shades whiter than me exist, that’s all on you. I ain’t gonna argue with y’all. Don’t waste my time.”
The three of them sat in silence for the remainder of the interrogation.
[i Machiko! Machiko of Soga!]
“I'm part of the Order of the Camellia,” the prepubescent girl nodded happily. Machiko added on, “Or rather, I was.”
She forgot about the part where she died and Anchovi made off with her body.
“Our liaison from Tsukimoto is here with us.” The senior officer, who was more active than his fellow investigator yet seemingly less physically fit, promptly opened the door to a special guest. “Please sit.”
The sister was definitely from Tsukimoto: silky black hair, expressionless face, almond eyes, the traveling cloak, same short stature. She was an exemplary example of what a sister of the Camellia should be. She was an intel officer, well, more of an intel officer than most other girls. She sat down in Paryantham’s chair and observed the disgustingly gleeful Machiko and pulled her head back. The intel officer remained silent for a few minutes, but Machiko could not help but burst out in excitement.
“Sister Nami, she's a few years my senior.”
Repulsed by the girl’s demeanor, Doterev rolled his eyes and pointed to Sister Nami. “Is she familiar to you?”
“She's definitely of Tsukimoto origin, but I've never seen her face. I've seen a plethora of faces in my line of work, but hers it none too familiar.” Nami shook her head. Her name was on the tip of her tongue, but something peculiar in the air obfuscated her scrambling thoughts. Troubled, she asked, “Who are you?”
“Machiko of Soga.”
The small child smiled. The enclosed trailer and the awfully silvery lights might have frightened the other members of her party, but she was trained in all sorts of environments to combat interrogation. The constant flickering of the fluorescent lights had no effect on the stalwart eyes. The lack of windows caused Machiko to entertain herself with the investigators and the special guest appearance.
Nami disapprovingly shook her head. “No. You might have her face, but you don’t have her warmth.”
[i ‘What? I’m the warmest person here!’]
Shocked, Machiko insisted that Nami, the intelligence officer, was, without a doubt, incorrect. Machiko knew that she was Machiko, from the beginning to the here and now. “But I am her.”
“Her aura is unfamiliar to me. If she was Machiko or Soga, I'd feel a warm presence. Like summer.”
Apparently, Sister Nami had more interactions with Machiko than what Machiko initially remembered. Machiko fought against the bold accusations, and Nami, without an ounce of emotion spilt, rebuked this strange Tsukimotoan’s claims. Machiko’s smile broke in that moment and her voice, starting at an assertive lull, ramped up into fiery clamor.
“If I’m not Machiko, then where is she?”
“She’s gone,” Nami simply replied.
[i Rhys Illumina!]
Rhys watched as the well sealed door shut behind him. Where was Frank or Jackie when he needed them the most? He tried to muster up what strength he had, but he was well exhausted. These officers were not going to hold back in the slightest.
“What happened during your stay at the Gilded Lily?” Doterev hid his mouth behind his gloved hands and hawkishly glared the boy down. He waited for Rhys to crack in his story.
Rhys rubbed his bicep and looked down at the cold steel table. “I'm not sure how I got here, but I remember being carried by a giant black bird from Tsukimoto. We soared across the Blue and at one point I fell unconscious. I was terrified yet seemingly okay at the same time. The next thing I remember is that I was chained down in a dark room. It was circular and it had little holes where people stared at me.”
“How many?” Paryantham asked. The senior officer was more sympathetic towards the kid and urged his partner to tone down the act.
“At least two people, but Hayao of Soga insisted on a third, a mole. Maybe a member of the Order.”
Paryantham looked at Doterev who was ready to pounce at the young boy. They had recently gotten word of Hayao’s treachery overseas. The possibility of there being accomplices and a mole within the Order of the Camellia baffled the senior officer. His subordinate was preoccupied with Rhys’ breakdown and he started to rattle of more questions. Quickly, Paryantham cut Doterev off and excused Rhys for the next interview.
“Do tell what a Katari is doing in our Blue?” Doterev was quite surprised that a Katari, as they were called in the Damphruk archipelago, made it this far on her own, much less be a woman. The exotic skin and the tales intrigued him, almost in erotic fashion.
Complacent, Oe was well composed for the inevitable hard questions but settled for Doterev’s attempt at playing bad cop. “I don’t have to disclose any information to the likes of two petty officers. The Fleet Authority, the Order of Tsubaki, Upper Bihon’s Interpuli; I’m not affiliated with the agreement between the Uchi-soto League’s law enforcements. I reserve my right to speak at this time.”
[i Mister Harvey P. Lansit!]
Senior Officer Paryantham pricked his papers several times with his ink pen. Something was deeply troubling him.
“What does the P stand for?”
“A lot of things,” the snide magician pointed out. His hands were still inflamed and maimed. He had limped his way into the interrogation trailer without the help of either officer. Noting what the two men looked like, Harvey vowed to make them and the rest of the Fleet Authority suffer.
Doterev backhanded the Sudranese prince in the face and snapped. Unlike the other suspects and witnesses in question, Harvey was a special case. A case in which Doterev and the rest of Fleet Authority would take very seriously.
Harvey listed all the possibilities to his middle name in such a lunatic manner. He sang, “Power. Perseverance. Perspective. Pride. Prosperity. [i Prince.]”
Then, Doterev sang on, “Pinhead. Prick. [i Predator.]”
Frustrated with the both of them, the senior officer got out of his chair and paced throughout the rectangular prison. The middle name was not that important to the paperwork, but Paryantham required a certain degree of cooperation from the terrorist in question. He pulled out a dagger from its holster and showed off its luster to the Harvey.
“Please, Mr. Lansit. Make this easier for us. All of us.”
“Prakash. Harvey Prakash Lansit.”
Paryantham placed a finger on an inch-thick compilation of papers on the table. “See this folder? It's what we have on you.”
“Quite small,” Harvey jested.
“Let me reiterate myself, this folder is what we have on you during your brief involvement in the Gilded Lily. To be precise, it’s a week’s worth of intel on you.”
“The Uchi-soto League does provide immunity to refugees from far off Blues, but there’s an extent to our charity. Mr. Lansit, you’re aware that you not only have one bounty from the Varsylian Empire, established by the ruling prince Chelon and the regent queen Helvetia, but another from the Dalmenian Empire.” Paryantham circled the shackled Harvey. “We also do not condone terrorism within our jurisdiction, which evidence does point that you’re apart of. Especially within our waters.”
The roles had reversed. Doterev used more of his words while Paryantham threatened with ominous teetering. “What we're trying to say is that we've been awfully kind, almost naive to the point.”
“Why would the Dalmenian empire feel the need to place a bounty on your head? They've knowingly ousted the dowager Helvetia from their lands and as far as we know, she's alive and well. Their respect for the old queen has dwindled throughout the years, and they would not shed a single in the wake of her death.”
Cryptic, Harvey boasted to the two officers, “I've done plenty of dealings with the Dalmenians, I'll admit. They're a fierce race, tempered like their steel. Why they would want to keep me in custody is currently unknown to me. Perhaps I’m that popular. My people tell me I'm popular.”
Unable to withstand the smug look and the magician’s petty tricks, Doterev commanded, “Tell us what's happening on South Island.”
“Construction,” Harvey shrugged. The sly got slick. He taunted the toughness of Fleet Authority. “Why don’t you go check it out yourself?”
“Hold him in isolation and get the next guy in here.”
[i Antonine Maxwell!]
“Hm?” Tony’s eyes sank to the floor. He could not be bothered with more harassment from this death camp.
“How long have you known Mr. Lansit?”
“A little over two years. I worked with Harvey Lansit as a lead mechanic and sometimes an engineer.”
Doterev combed through his patch of radiant blond hair. “What’s the difference between the two?”
“Well they ain’t the same thing if he listed it twice.”
There must have been no one else for the interrogating job, or perhaps Fleet Authority was not that bright. Maybe it was their own ruse to soften up their suspect.
“Mechanics just uphold the machinery. Engineers do the designing and constructing.”
“What do you know about the construction site at South Island?” Doterev asked. He flipped through Tony’s profile and noticed that the mechanic did not hail from Nubai Katar like a previous suspect but rather Varsylgard.
Tony sighed. Somehow his past would link him to the illicit activities of the merchant of death. “Investigators, how well do you know Harvey Lansit and the Lansit corporation? Surely those files that you’re looking at right now detail the hundreds of men employed underneath the Lansit family. You know how many airships are in his fleet? A little over five dozen in active duty. How about the number of projects scattered throughout the Blue? Go on, I’m waiting.”
“Is this a trick question?”
“Oh no, I don’t know the answer.” The investigators fell back in their chairs, yet Tony did not let up. “The Lansit family is extremely busy, much less do I look like the person who would know what’s happening on this side of the Blue? I’m just a mechanic, an occasional engineer. We seldom get a hearing on where we’re going and what we’re doing in the sky. And if you haven’t noticed, I’m rolling with a different crew these days.”
“Why is that?”
“Freedom.” His stomach rumbled. The picky mechanic refused to consume the gelatinous hydration tubes and sticky clumps of carbs. “Yeah, the pay is crap. 8% of all jobs? I’m the one keeping the ship up. Let’s not forget to mention that we’ve picked up an additional body from Tsukimoto.”
“The girl who claims to be Machiko of Soga.”
“Yeah, her. That’s gonna drop my 8 to 7.”
“Then why again are you with Anchovi?”
“At the end of the day, I know that these people will have my back. Lansit would sell his own sister to pirates for a sterce.” As much as he loathed Seville and how she would do the same to her own flesh and blood, Tony thought the Lansit son was far worse than the Lansit daughter. He swallowed his pride and noted, “As much as I really want to admit, I owe Frank and Jackie. They’re good people just looking for a way in the Blue. I’ve decided to lend my help to Anchovi as a way to pursue my dreams.”
Scribbling down on the papers in front of him, Doterev looked into Tony’s weary eyes and tossed out, “Then you have no problem with us killing off Harvey P. Lansit?”
“There’s nothing more satisfying than to see Lansit face the guillotine. However, Harvey P. Lansit needs to stay alive a little bit longer.”
“He’s a pawn in a bigger scheme. He’s the mediator between the Templar, a terrorist group found within Varsylgard airspace, and a local unknown cell.”
Paryantham perked up. “He didn’t tell us this valuable information.”
“You’d be surprise how well Lansit can keep himself composed. The man is scared for his life. Putting down our only lead will do us all great injustice.”
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 262d 15h 2m 10s
She thundered into the vast Blue. Frigid stone, marble, and glass alike tumbled in a grandiose exodus. A plunk, a crash, a splash all riddled the rocky waves of Damphruk’s Gilded Lily. What was once hailed as a paradise, a place perfect enough for Anchovi and the modern day intellectuals, crumbled at the scylla’s wretched grip. The entire keep quaked in fear and screams bounced through the halls. Not even the magic imbued in the sacred shining tower was enough to stave off the malicious entity. If anything, the mass of limbs was enamored with the Gilded Lily’s power; its mystic ways and collection of knowledge and bodies enticed her.
The rocky walls shook hysterically and the rushing air piped through the open spaces. Machiko led the way up the life saving passageway, but Tony had informed the other two about the water line slowly catching up from behind. She was no fool; she could smell the tangy froth of the Blue. It stung their nostrils, but Machiko had to push through the displeasure. Drips of dust sprinkled on their heads. The walls behind walls clattered and jangled like hollow shrine bells, a rather unusual noise for large sediment blocks. It was as if the Gilded Lily was slowly dying and had just decided to give up on life. It wept for its inevitable death, it howled for the bleeding to stop.
The sea stopped its steady climb and leveled out once Machiko saw a draft and bright light peek out of a flowing tapestry from a distance. Rhys and Tony barely kept up with her steady pace, yet even Machiko’s fiery legs yearned for rest. The violently fearful screams made her wonder if it was safer inside or outside these cryptic passageways. The tower’s low roar shook its innards; the moment was looking awfully bleak for Anchovi. The bones ached an aria, and their flesh burned from acid. The long haul. The final stretch. Inch by inch. Drop by drop of sweat. Anchovi threw themselves beyond the tapestry, across the finish line, and into the dimly lit staircase.
The stifling air from the hidden passageway sucked back in and the tower sewed itself shut once more. Machiko and Tony returned to the beginning of the journey and found themselves in the dregs of the Gilded Lily. The air was damp and cold, but they knew that once they climbed a few more stories, they would be back in the large dome surrounded by tepid fog. The echoing shrieks petered out as Machiko slowly yet surely pressed on. They were going to get back to the Fighter; that she promised herself. How long it would take was the real dilemma.
Machiko was the first to lay eyes on what had become of the giant glass dome. Evening was setting in and the colossal stained pieces of glass ceased to exist. The once muggy dome regressed into exposed wilderness. They white fog managed to to obscure much of the flora and the crowded slums The warm waters that irrigated the fields ran frigid, and those very same vast fields were littered with giant shards of glass and rock. The marble from stories way above managed to plummet all the way down and through the dome where they sank in the gluttonous mud.
“We’re gonna get back to Frank and Jackie.”
Tony held tightly to Rhys’ hand. He subconsciously kept the boy close; perhaps his reasoning was the sight that shocked him or maybe he wanted to prove to Frank he was worth keeping around. All this destruction, caused by some wicked monster of the Blue. His heart sank for the strangers who had shown him hospitality in such a brief time. These people did not deserve it. Clearly, the people who were working the fields and supporting the rest of the Gilded Lily had not made a nemesis from depths unknown. Wherever Anchovi went, trouble ensued.
What really surprised the mechanic though was how intact the elevator system was. Surely, something rather large would have severed the only connection between the upper and lower halves of the tower, yet here were the very few ventricles in what appeared mint condition. Though, Tony took a harder glance into the dimming birdcage. People were shouting at others for help and what few torches his eye caught scurried across the broken fields.
Knowing that he would regret it later, Tony sighed, “It’ll just take a while, that’s all.”
This did not shock neither young girl or the young boy. Machiko held back a childish grin. She admired the tall dark man’s decision alongside his excellent choice of reading material. Though Rhys had no clue what was going on or where exactly he was, he knew that the mechanic had made the better decision. A whiff of determination stormed Tony, and he might have had to attributed it to his family and the unfathomable Varsylgard. None of the higher ups plowed or tended the myriad of terraces which fed the million, but instead the intellectuals diminished in deep thought and never really used the acquired knowledge to amount to a bigger scheme.
Tony took the lead and led the group into the night. He followed the distant calls. He jumped over small trickles and glided through the thick brush in his weighty boots. Not even the blisters, sweat, or chill of the night had any authority against his drive. Tony was the first to arrive on the scene with Machiko and Rhys to follow minutes after. A small group of people gathered around a pile of rotten wood and slick tarp. The farmers pried away, piece by piece, the pest infested wood, but Tony sought to speed up their process a tad bit. Rolling up the sleeves to his grimy blue jumpsuit, the mechanic muscled up and lifted thick pillars by himself.
Even Rhys and Machiko joined in as soon as they could. The villagers who were just as exhausted and more frightened than Anchovi fought through their struggles and the pains in order to save the lives of a few more. The sun had finally disappeared from the horizon and night successfully fell on the disastrous plane. What few lamplights which stood after the attack dotted the dirt paths and illuminated the smudged faces of the survivors. Blood and dirt, this was not too far from these people’s average day. It fueled Tony help out others, but his knees collapsed into the mud.
“Whoa, you don’t want to exhaust yourself.”
Machiko placed her hand on his shoulder and looked towards the ominous ceiling. A few farmhands and Rhys laid out a wide bed of straw for the night. While a couple of elderly tended to the the wounds of the group, others pulled together what scruples of food they found nearby. The worst has happened, and the objected working later into the night. Their world had been turned upside down, yet they remained level headed through it all. A couple of children wailed for their relatives that were either displaced or crushed, Rhys wasn’t so sure. Machiko passed up on the sac of water and continued to eye the winged black beast hanging from steel beams. She was the only figure transfixed on its glowing nostrils.
Anchovi gave thanks to the natives’ hospitality. The men of the group insisted that they recuperate for the rest of the night and continue their endeavors later on tomorrow. Tony could not argue back with them as his body submitted to their will. So there was Anchovi sleeping in their cage and below the starlit sky. The circle of heads dozed off one by one. Tony’s racing mind eventually succumbed to the heavy eyes, thus he dreamed a good dream for once.
The following morning Anchovi trekked off into new distances. Their job in the dome was not yet finished. The sore mechanic was the last to wake but always the first to lend a hand. From salvages heaps to clearing off the roads, they spent the next couple of days selflessly laboring for food and water. In the midst of learning the lifestyles of the countless faces, Tony caught wind of an unfamiliar aspect to himself. He’d work on giant ships with dozens of other mechanics but never know them truly. These so called “privileged” members of Damphruk inspired him to do good on their accord. Essentially, they played the parts of indentured servants.
Anchovi ran into at least three hundred people within the next three days, a rather underwhelming figure, but understandable. The Gilded Lily shook hourly and the aftermath voided their progress. By the fourth day, Anchovi’s blistering hands and sunburnt skin ran into the Maestra Oe. What was once pristine flowing pieces of cloth were now etched with mud and torn by the elements. The older woman easily survived on what she could find in the lower dome, but her mission differed greatly from Tony’s.
Rhys embraced the stony woman. Oe was not able to reciprocate the young boy, for she was riveted by the same dragon as Machiko. In the back of her mind, she was relieved that he was safe and not maimed by the very strange occurrence. The women kept their noses high and made sure that reptilian creature that was once Eudoxia did not strike.
Oe shrugged. “I tried going up, but the elevators were shut down from the top.”
“Maybe because of [i that],” Machiko made apparent to the rest of Anchovi.
Tony jumped out of skin at once and saw the dragon circling from above. Surely dragons were just a myth. If he had been more selfish, he would have noticed the winged eyesore.
Oe removed her gaze at spiny dragon and homed in on the girl from Tsukimoto. [i What did she want?] The lone wanderer then corrected the young girl, “[i Her]. That dragon is a she and she won’t listen, and she won’t come down.”
She placed the blame for Eudoxia’s transformation on herself. If Oe had been a better teacher and had taught Eudoxia how to control magic properly, then girl from Dalme would have never transformed. She had a knack for abandoning places and people prematurely. Looking at the blond haired boy, Oe knew that she could not do it with him. There were too many factors playing against her and Rhys. Machiko’s motives were still unclear and the hungry dragon could choose anyone next for her meal. Oe accompanied the man and the boy of Anchovi as well as the Tsukimoto spy.
While the cowards above them continued to keep the elevators shut, Anchovi offered their help to the victims of catastrophe. Of course, there was one job that Tony might have actively hesitated on. Somehow no one catered to the voice near the outside of the broken dome. It was an older man shouting for help; his leg had been pinned down by broken earth. The ground below him split, tripped him up, and resealed itself with a chunk of stone. This man or rather monster, hollered for hands. [i His hands.]
“Fuck my life!” Harvey screamed towards the direction of four shaded figures. The wreckage did wonders for the magician’s figure. He was down a few pounds and his face looked less plump than before. He cried for their assistance and the chance to have food once again. “Help me!”
Oe illuminated the scene with a flare, and mouths from both sides dropped. Everyone present despised that man, and in return Harvey wanted to kill the lot of them for abandoning him at his worst time. Harvey cursed a cloud, and if that cloud could rain, it’d storm. He raged, but it quickly died with his energy.
“I don’t think so.” Machiko nodded. She perked up and noticed that his hands had been sliced up. She did not resist the chance to taunt the man who assisted in her brother’s escape. “Oooh, looks like you’re gonna be doing a lot less swishing and flicking.”
The philanthropist detested the fallen man. Tony had wished the giant pale monster dragged his insufferable ass to the bottom of the Blue. He then snarled, “We ought to leave you for her.”
“No, please!” Tears started to roll down the man’s dusty face. “I’ve been pinned here for almost three days. That beast has been picking off people, and she’ll come for me next.”
Harvey saw it with his own two eyes. The dragon hauled random pickings and devoured their bodies in midair. For brief stints, the pinned down merchant became rather pious and prayed to the Maker.
“Not even.” Rolling her eyes, Oe insulted the torn magician while he was still down. “She might have fancied you, Harvey, but I doubt that she’ll want to spoil her appetite on such a lowly morsel now.”
Not one of them dared to budge for Harvey.
“Eu-Eudoxia? That slimy serpent is Eudoxia?”
“Technically, she’s a dragon.” Oe informed the fool.
“Serpents and dragons aren’t slimy either. Their scales are rather dry. I read it in a book.”
In fact, it was in one of the books Hayao picked out to entertain the Illumina. Rhys was able to pick up ideas slowly, and the part about the dragons kept him entertained for a while. Having been informed about the black dragon and who she really was, Rhys focused on Eudoxia more than the astonished Harvey.
The group debated whether or not they should pry Harvey free from his bindings. It was less of a debate and more of a conversation on finding excuses for saving him. Machiko found the magician’s wand not far from the site and observed its fine craftsmanship. It was heavier than she had expected, but it would make a superb throwing weapon.
On the fourth night after the monster’s attack, Tony, Rhys, Machiko, and Oe made up their minds and somehow came to the conclusion that Harvey was worth saving. Rhys and Machiko pulled Harvey out while Tony and Oe jimmied the boulder up and away with a wooden plank. Unarmed, Harvey submitted to the vengeful crowd and vowed that he would make his inevitable escape.
He thought that before the bright lights stormed the Gilded Lily. From below, industrial spotlights caught the five on the edge of the dome and a hoarse voice over a loudspeaker commanded.
[b “Hands up!”]
“Who are you?”
[b “Don’t speak unless I’ve spoken to you directly, boy. We’re gonna save you.”]
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 271d 1h 38m 11s
[size20 #ARC 8: Blue Veins#]
[size16 #The Emissary, pt. 2#]
The lady--no--something inhuman raged! The bone rattling fever swept the body and psyche of Eudoxia and transmuted them into something rather wicked. A gruesome storm gathered around the wilting woman; black magnetic clouds cycloned. Though the humidity escaped through the broken bird cage dome, Eudoxia’s body steamed and simmered so much that the unconscious Oe woke up. The radiation singed her braided hair and dark shoulders, thus bringing her to attention to the spectacle. Even the white silky costume evaporated in the strange tempest.
“Princess!” Oe screamed. “Come to be!”
She was no princess; Eudoxia of Dalme ceased to be a princess then and now. Instead, a pair of leathery black wings stretched out of the simmering dust cloud. Like a rose blooming, the wings flourished and stretched into the space surrounding. Oe had a rather difficult time making out what was happening in the midst of the shimmering particles but decided to look on. The gleaming flakes of gold and silver danced in the black smoke like disturbed silt in a swirling holding puddle, a rather stark contrast to the fresh green grass and wispy white tufts of fog. Though she had her back to sea of lively prongs which terrorized the citizens, Oe became rather cautious of the burgeoning rumble instead.
The woman from Nubai Katar held her sword in both hands with a firm grip as she approached the dark spot, and not even the loud gravelly roars constrained her strides. Surely she had faced worse. Instead, a rather scaly claw met Oe halfway. Studded with rocky charcoal skin, the built limb acutely dug into the loamy earth, not as a threat but as a conscious warning for those outside the black storm. Oe stood her ground and allowed the remnants of the claw to reveal herself. A stream of flame erupted into the air and the scaly head and mouth from which those flames came from jutted from the dark cloud. Draconic in nature, the beast shook her neck and screeched from her stretch.
The torrid breath blew back Oe’s draping garments, yet the woman walked up to the dragon’s snout as a result in her bizarre binding connection. The sable spined dragon nudged her robust snout into Oe’s velvety embrace. The teacher thus spoke, “What has become of you, my Eudoxia?”
Eudoxia, or rather the black dragon, could not respond in the same tongue as the woman who was awfully calm about the spectacle. Instead, the glittering beast removed herself from human touch and roared vehemently. Oe allowed the fiery reptile to her own devices. The same fire that lit Eudoxia now coursed beneath the charcoal colored scales. What was once a fever now fueled her flight; the wings lifted the newfangled form into the air. At first, the flying was flimsy, but she soon got a hold of firmly stabilizing in midair.
The black beast had no former self to rely on, no memories worth returning to. Perhaps an infant or maybe an amnesiac, the thorny dragon flew in the birdcage and eventually weaved in and out of it. She sensed the great danger looming from above and her animalistic drive sent the roaring dragon in the sea monster’s direction. Glass and stone fell on her back, but this dragon, like many dragons in tall tales and stories, was resilient and simply shrugged off the loose debris. Where she soared, a cloud of shimmering black followed too.
Black on white, the dragon flew straight for the pale monster and latched the flesh shredding nails rather deep into the blubber. [b BAAAOR!] The tall sea giantess wailed at the incessantly annoying pinching of the relatively small reptile. The nails kneaded the fat like a baker to her dough, but even the purple oozing from the pearly flesh sizzled a dragon’s natural armor.
A round of noodle arms swatted the dragon back into the promised keep, but a great sense of determination kept the majestic long necked lizard from quitting. She shook off the attack And the dragon ran off the platform and soared back into the sky. Furious, her mouth spewed a fiery missile that scorched the glistening back of the monster. The heat was so intense that it flayed and continued to flay the area for minutes. Pressed by the severity of the burn, the emissary of the Blue had to scoop up some of the sea water to quench its lingering effect.
Hundreds of feet above the dueling dragon, Frank ran a whole lap around the library before he ran back into the large white tentacle. The marble floor and columns collapsed underneath the sea mistress’ careening limb. Many of the books the scholars cherished were forever lost to the violent Blue. The tyrant from down below thrashed and sought revenge against the ruddy marksman and swore to devour him at first sight. Frank took a few shots with a revolver here and there, but the smaller arms outnumbered his bullets severely. If only, if only he was closer to the Fighter would he have enough ammunition against a fraction of assault. Luckily for him, he had something--rather someone--better.
Like the Fighter’s initial gracing of the Blue, a shimmering figure of silver gently descended into the tower and presented himself to Frank Dietz. Duster’s body fluttered like bedroom linens blowing from a clothesline. As his leg latched onto the side of the tower, gravity returned to his body and grounded the Lucavi. He observed the bouts of inferno from down below, but sensed that this particular part of the Gilded Lily needed some tender care. Duster felt so repulsed by the churning of the bruised suction cups that he shot a few solid planks of Lucavi steel into the meaty tendril.
Frank scratched his nose by the confusion. “Huh, ain’t you supposed to be back on the Fighter?”
Taking up another black orb from his stomach, Duster slashed away at the growing bush of tentacles. The monster born of Guten Nocht design birthed more of her arms from the slimy surface of her body. Its rate of cellular growth concerned the ship’s doctor. Duster had never seen something so remarkable on this planet, and he knew that they had to put it to rest. “I have taken liberty in order to ensure the crew’s safety. I much appreciate your gratitude.”
“Uh...thanks, I guess,” Frank shrugged. Since when did Duster require any thanks? Frank had to be thankful for the good alien’s proactive approach in such dire times.
Duster hacked and slashed through the piling mess, but the progress was very minimal. He had noticed Frank’s giant beam from above and now the hole bored through the giantess’ chest. The monster flailed her limbs, but the perceptive medic of Anchovi noticed that her wounds were slowly closing up. The purple blood gushed everywhere and her stumps ceased bleeding minutes after, but Frank’s caster shot was significant enough to keep an available opening.
Duster retreated a bit from the edge of the floor and looked back at Frank who was now popping bullets into the monster’s milky chest. He immediately called back his three Lucavi orbs as he analyzed possible weak spots.
“There...” Duster pointed at the middle of her left breast. He scanned further and decided for the space between the torso and the main left prong. “And there. Can you make your marks with that spellgun?”
Frank slipped in front of Duster and observed where the fingers were pointing. He shrugged.
“With ease,” Frank remarked with the utmost confidence. Pulling out the rustic spellgun, he smirked and murmured in a low voice, “Pfft, when did you become so bossy?”
“Since our lives depended on it, sir,” quipped the stone faced fellow.
Frank and Duster ran for the brink of the Gilded Lily. The gunner’s aim was impeccable and his timing was more than efficient. As soon as Frank fired the first shell, the second came out in rapid order. The first shot cleaned a decent size out of the left teat, and the following shell--which the trail lasted significantly shorter than the first--drilled a fiery hole through the chest and out of the bleeding tentacle. Frank’s knees dropped onto the broken marble and suddenly become short of breath.
The spellgun dropped next to him in the midst of the monster’s shrill. She winced in pain, but Frank was not able to revel in his accomplishments. His head spun and the tiniest noises rang between the ears. He had never used three cartridges in a row, but now Frank questioned the ethics behind the magitech weaponry that he used sparingly. Apparently, it allowed him to use the powerful magic sealed within the casing, but at the price of his stamina. Drained, nauseous Frank left the rest to the surging confidence found in Duster.
Duster heaved over the tower’s boundaries and clung tightly onto the monster’s chest with sickle shaped arms. The three orbs circled him until he stood on her shoulders. From there, fearless Duster scattered his weapons away and directly into the seeping and gaping holes. Traversing through the hoard of tentacles, those tricky extensions of the Lucavi buried into her raw flesh and settled comfortably on his command. His mouth hole positioned into an uncanny grin, and the crafty Duster strided on his dagger-like feet across one shoulder to the other end and dodged what limp noodles she sent along his path.
Mustering the surging power throughout the hollow body, Duster clapped his hands together and set the marvelous plan in motion. From the inside of the giant porcelain monster with frizzy blond hair, the Lucavi organs budded into tiny crystals. Slowly expanding in all directions and branching out in a snowflake pattern, the three sites stunted any sudden self-repairs or flesh growth. The alien steel cleaved the flesh during the expansion process as well as pierced multiple veins and arteries. She bled and she moaned, and the agony persisted to the point where the scylla’s right arm wrapped the left and savagely tore it off. The silvery pine tree structure lodged in the joint plunged into the Blue with the severed arm, but not before Duster could call back all three of his perilous orbs.
Inspired by the loud and vibrant bursts of fire from above, Harvey unleashed a volley of fireballs on the monster’s lower half, but noted how ineffective his magic was against the filmy body. He hovered from place to place in order to avoid the climbing tendrils. She lasted hours above the sea levels and her putrid stench was making Harvey, the first among others, sick. The nausea slowed down his reaction time, but Harvey pusher his limits. He was able to fly around the monster’s amputated arm and soar above the big splash. Successfully avoiding sporadic showers of flesh from above, the sickened merchant perched on the base of the lower dome.
Harvey closed his eyes which caused him to experience a brief moment of tranquility. After all this commotion, all Harvey wanted to do is soak in a nice soothingly warm bath. He dreamed of his golden claw foot soaking tub and all the soaps in the little floral box on the floor. [i Mmmm.] As if he was already in the tub, he felt the thin paper pasted on the outside of the box. It was the same box he received from his sister decades ago. Maybe lavender oat? Honey and milk? Perhaps the subtle scent of fresh melon. Harvey was going through all the soaps in that box. He came to the Gilded Lily at the wrong time. Surely none of this was on the itinerary. Today was just all one bad dream. He was going to wake up and bathe away all his problems.
Opening his eyes, the soggy magician whose fancy suit was forever ruined by the brine and toxic blood lifted up his pen indignantly. He gathered magic at the apex of the wand and stroke the air with violent cursive. The gargantuan steel beams around him were at his mercy: they divided into smaller segments, twisted into large screws, and sharpened their edges. Harvey possessed at least a hundred missiles at hand and he intended on using each and every piece of metal against the foul beast. One by one, the floating makeshift shanks tunneled into the monster’s flesh. With ease, they plunged into the meat and the rows of them spiraled upwards until the ferocious magician ran out of ammo.
Harvey’s artful display was soon used by the last combatant to join the fray: Mahoraga Genji. From one miraculous jump from the Gilded Lily, the robust monk scaled the monster’s side by means of the twisted girders.
“Hahah! Let’s have some fun!” He joyously belted.
The monster’s body reacted to Harvey’s attack and the leaping fool. Her skin tried to pry out of the steel, but her power was waning due to the combined efforts of the tower’s defense. The fleshy suckers formed way too slow for the buff monk who was way too light on his feet. At first he climbed in height one girder at a time, but his leaps then skipped every other girder, and then every two girders, and then the rest once he gained enough momentum. Mahoraga demonstrated what very few people knew as cloud running. Essentially leaping in the sky, the monk constantly circled the sea monster.
Not a single hair on his balding head was touched. So agile and graceful, Mahoraga ran circles above her head while he sought ideas on how to send this demon back to the bottom of the Blue. Finally, he reached behind his ears and pulled out a black stick half the size of a toothpick. Upon his command, the minuscule trinket expanded into a five foot pole that fit perfectly into the monk’s sturdy hands.
“What unrighteousness has set her eyes on the Lily!” Mahoraga called out. He was not completely sure if the demon understood his tongue but the bold monk voiced. “A foul sea hag has surely sent a demon to cauterize the benevolence of the awaken people of Damphruk. I pray for your peace, but I must settle you before you cause casualty anymore.”
He squinted his eyes and spoke a quick prayer. Deep inside, the demon disgusted Mahoraga than anyone else. Something about the exposed breasts and indefinite wails troubled Mahoraga’s soul. Her mutated flesh was not natural and her fruitless efforts to destroy the Gilded Lily off put the saffron robed monk. There was more on his mind than he really cared to admit and he tried not to strike out of anger.
But he did. Mahoraga quickly ascended higher towards the heavens. The pole, whose ends were beautifully decorated with ornate gold trimmings, expanded further into what was virtually a second, miniature, Gilded Lily. The astonishingly potent Mahoraga sent the pole down effortlessly. No one was sure how high the bashful monk had gone up, but the sharp whistling of the pole lasted a whole fifteen seconds. The brief appearance of the large black stump crashed into the pale demon’s skull and killed her on contact instantly. One last groan slipped between the woman’s multiple rows of teeth and the once bloodshot eyes dulled into a milky cream color.
Dealing the final blow to the monstrous woman, Mahoraga cheered yet lacked the attention to realize her devastating descent and effects. The innumerable tentacles, including the remaining prominent limb, had wound themselves around many columns and walls. As she slowly sank back into the Blue for good, her arms tore away much of the Gilded Lily’s facade on one side. Large pallets of stone tumbled from above and avalanched. The tower’s infrastructure from above chipped away more as it tumbled and sunk into the exposed lower dome. The people panicked and fled in all directions, many of which got violently crushed by fallen debris.
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 277d 21h 34m 52s
[size16 #The Emissary#]
A warm rush of the Blue surged through the sunken bottom floor of the Gilded Lily. The salty tang tickled Tony’s nose, and Rhys quivered at the other-worldly flesh poking out of the water. The tentacle whose suction cups breathed as heavily as Varsylian delivery boys twisted and writhed in the bright blue sky. Its pointy limb speared upwards as if it was ready to claim this tower.
Harvey, who was just as astonished as his three adversaries were, took one loud step back in the rising water. Kidnapping the boy of interest and [i his] mechanic was of no importance now. Survival. Of course, any good Lansit knew how to survive, with or without magic, with or without help. Their lineage, one of the few people to honor and build from their past, built itself on survival and trade. What was once a house of egalitarianism and fair commerce was now capitalistic gains and dominance. Charms won many men and women over throughout the millennia, but somehow charms were not going to save him from this peril.
Machiko’s elders had told her about the monsters of the Deep Blue. They say that a world serpent swam throughout the Blue chasing her own tail. Supposedly, the tail was her long lost lover. Another story detailed three warring goddesses, the eldest of which the Order was founded upon. The middle goddess was selfish and betrayed her people. The youngest was ill tempered and wreaked havoc wherever her feet touched. Some of Machiko’s sisters insisted on a fourth, rather obscure, goddess with a name so foreign. The story that spanned across many nations, though, was the Sierdr, the godlike figure who collected the Blue’s drifting bodies and swore an eternal war against the living. Somehow though, Machiko had a gut feeling that this monster was none of the above.
It all started with one giant tentacle inching its way towards the glowing ruby eye of the Gilded Lily, and the worst quickly followed. At first, it was only a handful but then smaller white feelers surfaced to the top. Drenched in mucus, the breathing limbs slithered and shimmied along the Gilded Lily and crept so erratically for the utterly frightened, usually smug, magician. Extremely pliable, they twisted in a painfully erotic manner and they hypnotized the fearful crowd with curdling dances. Anchovi’s voices fell silent and just watched as the cluster slowly closed in on the lone sap.
In one quick draw, Harvey lifted up his wand and seared through a few tangling limbs before the onslaught quickly subdued him. The limbs squeezed tightly around his wide torso and jerked at his legs. Harvey let out a loud yelp and struggled to cleave through the wild white fleshy bush with the tip of his pen. Igniting such a flame, the fountain pen evaporated bits of tentacle like a flame to hair. He dropped directly into the shallow pool and splashed away from the ever growing peril. The fall drenched his entire body and he quaked with fear and shivered.
“Any help would be appreciated, my friends,” Harvey spoke from the side of his mouth.
He was going to make it alive, hopefully with the help of Anchovi. He thought wrong.
“We’re not your friends!”
Tony’s voice echoed from a place unknown. Harvey turned around only to watch Anchovi disappear with an ever so vanishing staircase. Not even the accomplished magician had a clue to summon secret passageways, but the likes of a broken Kaf, a mysterious Krem, and a prepubescent Mezze had the best luck working for them. Harvey sluggishly ran for the closing exit, but he fell way too short. He cursed the Gilded Lily and the cryptic values associated with it. The secretive passages were very selective and they functioned without a master. Harvey could not rely on his charms this time in order to escape.
The severed flagella tossed around while the remaining mass wound up for a counterattack. Rich purple fluid gushed from the wounded whips and sizzled as it touched the rising tide. Harvey feared drowning; he felt that such a painful death was unfit for a person of high standard.
Harvey spoke to himself in such a lowly voice, “Oh fuck me.”
Tightening the grip around his wand, he planned his escape carefully. He looked past the mass of bubbling rubber arms. If he was going to live, Harvey figured he had to take a huge leap of faith. The tentacles coiled vigorously and sprung for the the soggy magician, but merely latched onto his vapor trail. Harvey vanished out of sight and out of mind out of the Gilded Lily, only to reappear above the monstrous attacker in a wet cloud. The part of the sea he teleported with him rained upon and signaled the mass to a falling body.
Harvey was more accomplished than this, but dread snagged at his heart and mind. He tried to levitate in midair, but flustered thoughts inhibited his masterful work. He quickly dropped down and towards the giant briar patch of tentacles. He looked out to the Blue and the pearly trunk. It was rising faster than ever to the point where Harvey locked eyes with the creature herself. Wild blond hair barely clung to her nape. Her bloodshot eyes pierced his soul and the gnashing fangs petrified his stomach. Harvey plunged to his death and there the monstrous woman with enormous pale teats rose. Her plump whips ascended before her while the smaller flagella thrashed wildly.
“What monster is this?” He asked himself. Just as he was supposed to hit water, Harvey teleported to a higher plane in sight. He materialized right above a flagpole and clung to his life by stomach and chin.
[i ‘Not now, not ever. I don’t want to die here…Not to that beast.’]
Thousands of feet above the struggling magician, the Lucavi suddenly became interested in the vile of the Blue. Whoever or whatever she was, the monster tossed and turned her flailing limbs and shook paradise. [i Paradise for how long exactly?] Duster and his culture were self-absorbed higher beings who, quite frankly, lacked the understanding of humanity and the natural world. Who could blame the Lucavi though? Outside the livestock, Guten Nocht lacked the necessary flora and fauna to amuse the aliens.
The Fighter sat on the platform, and Duster stood vigil while the rest of the crew was struggling against the chthonic oddity. It was true what Tony had said, even Duster the Lucavi grew so tired of the mechanic that he turned transparent for a bit for some solitude. During the peaceful meditation, the horned alien tingled with such sensation, yet he never picked up on good vibrations. In the back of his head, Duster’s sharp instincts became aware of the danger yet he did nothing. What could he do? And would anyone believe such an otherworldly fellow?
Duster could not take all the credit for himself. Hastily regurgitating the fragment of the Xyianthis, the Lucavi observed the black piece and questioned it with an ominous stare. If Duster were to go down with the rest of the tower, the Blue would have no virtual recollection of Guten Nocht. Speaking to such artifact was not an option to distract him from dismay, but as a way to pass time. His antenna sensed the abhorrent monster the same way it realized the Xyianthis was more than a rock from future’s past.
“Is she somehow related to you?”
[b BAORRR.] She screamed. What she was screaming about or for was still a mystery to the stone faced Duster. The talons attached to her limbs scraped against the impenetrable glass and iron wrought braces. Her nails dug furiously into the Gilded Lily, and Duster pondered the possible relationship between two unlikely beings.
The Xyianthis blinked a few times. [i “...”]
“Cruel engineering constructed her, but by which master is currently unknown. She is most certainly of Nocht design and perhaps there is still more to the Blue than what I have currently observed. It is possible that this tenacious creature has been sent by the Dormaviri ensign Ximena, but perhaps I place very little trust in the habitants of the Blue. Maybe there are phenomena beyond this stretch of the Blue.”
Without consulted his quiet friend, Duster swallowed back up the black ball and regurgitated the other solid black masses in his hallow stomach.
“Of course, I would have no more of these convoluted thoughts if I sat idly and allowed the problem to persist and raze the Gilded Lily. I place no importance or concern for this [i paradise] or its people.”
Fearless Duster stepped towards the edge and took a heavy glance at the rising sea mistress. She screamed. What she was screaming about or for was still a mystery to the stone faced Duster, but he could not be fussed. It was her or him, and he chose himself. In grand Lucavi manner, Duster stepped over the edge and dropped like a heavy stone. The black orbs, three in counting, encircled the gleaming dagger and sprayed the monstress with thick alien metal shards. The acute points punctured the rubbery flesh right before Duster plunged his sharpened feet into her alabaster shoulder.
Quick enough to detach himself from the pale giantess, the empowered Lucavi careened to her face with larger blades continuously and meticulously carving into her meaty neck. A glistening purple oozed from her gaping wounds. Its texture clung to the Lucavi steel and annoyingly stung parts of Duster. Pestilent and poisonous, her blood could eat through human flesh and bone easily, yet she was pitted against a great adversary. Despite his success, Duster’s skill ran short against the hoard of whips sprouting from her clavicle. The orbs revved up into unstoppable buzzsaws that ripped through a dense white forest, but her fortitude overwhelmed his destructive force.
The Lucavi lightened his body weight and floated into the air away from the writing sea monster. From afar he noticed the magnitude of the problem and made note that she was simply too much to handle alone. Her serpentine lower half continued to rise from the salty Blue. The foreign enemy wrapped the girthy trunks around the lower glass dome and lifted herself higher.
“Y’all need to flee from here. Forget about the books!” shouted Frank.
[i Forget about the books.] That statement left a rather dry feeling in the back of Frank’s throat. Many of the scholars fled from the floor to parts unknown while he continually warned the rest of them to flee. If he knew that such a foreign force was going to invade today, Frank would have gotten some sleep yesterday. Dark bags weighed his eyes down and the lack of proper nutrition had him beat. The loss of Rhys chewed at him and his endless search for his younger brother worsened the tarnished body and mind of Frank Dietz. No one else but Rhys had been a concern to the wearisome traveler. Frank had to fulfill his promise to [i her] and to Rhys.
Bumping into the outlaw of Guten Nocht, one man in a pristine robe exclaimed, “They are the key to our future!”
“You ain’t gonna have a future if yer dead. Now scram!”
The floor and the winding library wall shook. Books fell to the marble floor in droves, yet the panicking keepers of this library struggled to get to their knees. They ducked and covered the back of their heads with their sweaty soft palms. Wife huddled next to husband, brother next to sister. The brash banging of the tentacles against the stone walls and marble columns sent the citizens of the Gilded Lily into submission, and their loud ululations filled the empty spaces between attacks. Frank expected no more from the people; he internalized his own fear and might have wetted his pants.
As Frank approached the marble columns holding up the above floor, a glow caught his eyes. The high noon’s rays reflected off her dazzling torso, and before his eyes could properly adjust to her radiance, Frank was only able to see her ruddy eyes and black pupils. The monster was going straight for the lighthouse sitting on top of the Gilded Lily, but it was Frank’s obscene tongue that hooked her.
“The heck is wrong with you? Them tits be floppin’ errwhere n’ there’s children runnin’ ‘round.”
Amidst all the commotion the giant disfigured mermaiden was causing, she finely tuned in to Frank’s words and paused in her destruction. In fact, the frazzled hair giantess climbed down the Gilded Lily and met with the knee knocking Frank Dietz. With what little lips the giant figure had, she peeled them back and allowed the rows of salient teeth to gleam in his presence. Her breath reeked of carrion and over ripened fruit. Repugnant to the core, she carefully shoved her claws into the tower for her offender.
Frank jumped back and his lanky hugged the bookcase wall tightly.
“Okay, maybe I shouldn’t enrage the big lady.”
The sharp nails screeched across the checkered marble floor in its desperate search. She salivated for blood, his blood. Frank could not outpace her for long. Her arms could easily reach halfway into the tower and still have enough grasp with her tall beryl-tinged fingers.
“Hey, let’s start all over,” Frank coyly said before pulling out his spellgun. Loading one shell into the chamber, he righteously howled, “Let’s kiss and make up!”
A beam of searing laser rippled through the long hall, singeing the floating pages between him and the enraged sea monster, and bore a minuscule hole through her pale breast. The intense energy caused the blue grey skin to bubble up on the surface and created great discomfort for the faint monster. With one shot alone, the demon from the Deep Blue fell away and down the Gilded Tower. Her brief tumble caused her grip to tear support beams and stone away from paradise, but Frank’s sucker punch only fueled her inner fires.
“What was that?” Eudoxia asked from the inside of the muggy dome. She had tried to keep her own fervor from resurfacing, but the distractions and trembles from the outside stirred her innards. [i ‘Not now dammit.’]
“I can’t be sure.” Eudoxia’s mentor looked above and around, yet saw nothing out of the ordinary. The reverberation from the glass and the iron ribcage worsened. “This fog makes it impossible to see what’s happening.”
Eudoxia and Oe settled down in a cottage that was rented out to them for the past few moments. It was the mentor Oe that first noticed the short stints of tremors, yet she did very little to bring attention to them. Her weary student Eudoxia tried to rest her eyes, but the raging fever insisted on keeping her awake. Oe hummed sweet Dalmenian songs to relieve the ailing princess in addition to tending to the unfathomable heat. Oe feared that her student would die from a unstoppable fever, thus deciding against moving Eudoxia out of the large “birdcage.” It was only mere moments that Eudoxia forced herself out of bed and walked through the cottage door.
The strong willed woman struggled to her feet and leaned on her sheathed sword to stand tall. Oe regretted encouraging her. She was clearly in no shape to be moving and the perils outside were still unknown to many.
[b Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!] The harsh banging on the glass echoed gratingly until the monster landed her decisive blow to the dome. The robust tendrils shattered through the top of the doom ripped away what iron beams they could get their suction cups on. The thick tendrils slammed down on the frame repeatedly like a hefty mallet. In an hour the sauna’s humidity profusely leaked out and the true terror began. The citizens of the lower levels now knew of the dangers of the outside world. All of a sudden they forgot about their crops and the lack of paved ways, and now the monster whose firm squeeze around the Gilded Lily kept her nearby invoked mass panic.
It was worse once the low hanging clouds scattered and dissipated. Appendages, hundreds of them, leaked between the tight space the glass shell and the solid foundation. The villagers fled and cried out for help, but no one but the two women were available. The reality of this place, of paradise, was that there were only intellects and farmers. Swords and slings were seldom carried in the Gilded Lily, and no one had thought that there might have been some truth to the myths of the Deep Blue.
Oe nodded at her student and brandished her sword. With the ceiling completely visible, the older woman scrunched up her forehead and observed the huge nude figure tearing the upper floors of the keep apart. “Looks like you’ll have a chance to study my technique at closer look. I want you to stay back and watch.”
“Just as long as you stick around, Maestra.”
Oe grinned at Eudoxia and effortlessly zipped across the horizon. The mud beneath her shoes hardened to clay and the wet air surrounding her skin evaporated. Ignited, the gifted Oe demonstrated her pure swordsmanship. The blade arced in midair and beautifully cleaved through flesh and blood. Nimble on her feet, she cleared a path without the use of magic. In the midst of all the destruction and fallen debris, Oe moved elegantly throughout the lush green fields. She rolled, she dodged, she flipped out of the fallen rocks’ path. Not a glint of glass grazed her nor did the monster’s arms ever lay a hand on her vibrant skin.
[i ‘Not now…’]
Eudoxia’s body failed to move an inch. Her memory harkened to the blue skinned demon, the Rakhosen, but even that monster paled in comparison to the sea banshee. Astonished by its mere size, the feverish Eudoxia locked in place. Her joints did not move nor could she speak out to Oe who was dominating the field. Why did this beast come to the Gilded Lily? Eudoxia could not help but think that the pale woman was sharing the same chills as she was. The violent howls rang in the frizzy haired lady’s ears. The shrieks scoured the meadows and shook the blades of grass.
“I can’t control it…”
She felt as if she was going to burst through her own skin while simultaneously calcifying into a statue. The unfathomable torrent of tears and sweat brought Eudoxia to her hands and knees. Her weak bellow to Oe tapered into a dying roar. In her last breaths and dimmed vision, Eudoxia caught sight of her teacher turning back to her only to be struck down.
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 281d 21h 44m 4s
[size16 #The Decision#]
Tremblings. Jackie Simms had no idea how this would pan out. Her mouth froze over every time she tried to rehearse her speech and the floor beneath her shook strangely.
With both of her hands balled up into tight fists, Jackie Simms approached the stalwart Mahoraga Genji and the sentry Chichiraiden. Upon hours of meditating in the palatial water gardens, she had decided on what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. The water garden allowed the monks to succumb to the surging waterfalls and the shallow pools. The flora brushed against human skin and laced it with sweet suckle dew. By no means was it a vacation for the troubled traveler; she fought back and forth with herself on the question, “am I worthy?” until she allowed the warm waters to lull her unconscious.
Mahoraga turned around and greeted his newfangled student with a warming squeeze. He was convinced he could tell a lot about a person just from their embrace. Jackie’s undeniable scent and firm touch brought promising mirth tingling into his fingertips and toes. The monk looked down past his chest and smiled a great grin at her. The jealous Chichiraiden restrained herself from making any notable faces.
She knew that she could confide in Mahoraga and face no judgment. The answer would not make her any less of a person, and she could count on Mahoraga to support her.
“I don’t want to continue a meaningless life.” Jackie spoke with such confidence without a hint of hesitance. Despite her stance, the faces of Anchovi flashed in her mind. [i Frankie. Rhys-e-sweets. The Doc. Euey. Tony. Toni. Tone…]
“Oh, and what meaning will you bring to your life?”
Jackie felt his warm breath of orange peels and cinnamon hit her face. She became entranced in his magic and musk, but there was indeed a deeper connection between the two.
“I want power. Before you try to stop me, Mahoraga, I speak not of the power behind my fists.” Jackie desired to atone for her violent past. Time would eventually catch up to her and the only thing she would be able to feel is regret. With passionate conviction at her heels, the fire in her stomach lit, “I want what you offer, I want a place I can call home. The Gilded Lily brought inner peace to me, something that I was unfamiliar with for the longest time. Its citizens prosper and they will continue to prosper. You, the most faithful of all the monks, Mahoraga Genji, will revolutionize the Blue with your brilliant mind. I tire from my endless and empty travels. I’m tired of the heartbreak. I’m tired of watching people I love get hurt. Help me get stronger, Mahoraga, I want to work towards an end. Under your tutelage, I can fully understand your plans to further this society. I am half. Make me whole. ”
She bowed at his feet, which caused some trouble for the burly man in saffron. Jackie, noticing his uncomfortable stance, realized how deeply ingrained her religion was. Mahoraga was her superior, but he did looked at his students as fellow peers and refused to look at himself more than human. Humble in spirit, he joined Jackie on the ground and sat on his calves.
“Child, there’s no reason to be down here. Be proud yet humble, be strong yet resilient, walk tall yet soft. Rise.”
A heartbreaker at his finest. Mahoraga’s wisdom transcended centuries of knowledge yet he somehow preserved his physical form. Peak shape with a most handsome face hiding behind white clouds of hair. He could easily be Jackie’s father, but it was the genuine smile and hearty laugh that drew her to him. Forever young: he had to be if he wanted to be so ambitious. She wanted what he had. Jackie’s youth decayed ever since they’ve landed in the Blue. She remembered how she was the fun one, but then all the responsibility got piled on her back and she fought through and through.
Mahoraga was a leader most admirable. He carried the burden of the Gilded Lily on his back, yet he refused to let the minor setbacks and endless arguments from the various councils bring down his positive outlook. He worked for the youth, the unfortunate, and the women. Wherever there was injustice, he was close behind. Honestly, Mahoraga saw a lot of himself in Jackie Simms and desperately wanted to keep her mind sound and sharp. Like a knife, she had to be sharpened and taken care of.
The next test began.
The two got back to their feet and that was when the philosopher, almost condescendingly, commanded, “You can pull firearms on the unarmed, but I want to know the full potential of this inner warrior. Demonstrate what discipline you possess.”
“What?” Jackie was confused, but she did not exactly expect Mahoraga to be all open arms about her decision. She knew that the mentor was accepting of all answers, but that did not guarantee that he would not prod further.
The woman so modestly dressed in light blue, Chichiraiden, decided to speak for Mahoraga.
“Engaging in combat is a last resort, but the martial arts display more than meaningless destruction. Discipline, integrity, a code. You will face peoples out there who may not agree with you, but you’ll also face people who will actively try to harm you. Our core foundation is rooted in pacifist philosophy, but we also have a profound respect for ourselves and refuse to submit to the ugly mistruths and violences presented throughout the Blue. If and when we are faced with the aggressive uncompromisable, we shall rightfully defend ourselves.”
She was highly respected in the community and the right hand of Mahoraga. Sometimes, both Jackie and Mahoraga felt as if she obeyed the monk’s philosophy stricter than the monk himself. Perhaps it was her serious demeanor and her rigid poise. She walked the halls with authority, and like her mentor, she rarely slept. Her glowing red skin, an anomaly for the people of the tower as well as the rest of Damphruk, warded any nearby conflict. Once people saw the clay statue approach, they disbanded whatever scuffle they were in and submitted. If it was not for the teacher’s constant interjections, the citizens would have thought the hard-nosed Chichiraiden was running the show.
Jackie was unsure how to approach Chichiraiden. The woman was brilliant, but she kept her distance from everyone, including her gleeful leader. In any given time, she was always an arm’s length away and seldom did she receive the cordial hugs everyone else was accustomed to. The bulky prospect yearned for a friendship, but Chichiraiden’s words and actions popped any thought balloon that dared to come her direction.
“I will test her skill, sir,” Chichiraiden received a nod from the delighted Mahoraga. “If she is not ready to join us, I will bear the brunt of what ill will she may harbor.”
Not expecting the guard to be so proactive for a fight, Jackie scratched the back of her head and smirked. She was not going to try to convince herself otherwise: she was itching for a romp.
“What weapon do you prefer?”
There was not a selection for Jackie to choose from, but it did not matter.
“I yield no blade, just my fists.”
Aside from the occasional firearm, Jackie did not actively use swords or any of that complicated junk most likely to come out of Machiko’s arsenal. She had always admired the legend of the lone brawler who exiled herself to Sudra to find herself. By somehow joining Mahoraga’s cause, she would be one step closer to that [i truth.]
“Very well,” Chichiraiden nodded, “it’ll be an early defeat.”
The bizarre sword she pulled out puzzled Jackie. Calling it an interesting design was an understatement. Essentially, the warped blade resembled a giant drill bit attached to a red hilt. She certainly was not going to be cutting into Jackie anytime soon with such a poor choice of design. Maybe Chichiraiden used it more as a bludgeon instead.
The tattered boots worn by Jackie planted themselves firmly on the slick marble flooring and the bulging muscles of the mighty arms readied themselves for a pounce. Jackie played no one’s fool this time. The childlike smile on Mahoraga’s face admonished her opponent’s own tenacity. There was a reason why Chichiraiden was sentry of the Gilded Lily and the monk’s closest confidant. The women circled with eyes most intense. What seemed to be a simple exhibition match felt like a bout for keeps.
Jackie quickly closed the gap between the two and tossed a few jabs. The slippered sentry easily dodged the strike and struck up some intense footwork. Chichiraiden, whose eyes gleamed brightly, drew circles into the checkered marble flooring and shuffled and twirled to and from the tiptoeing prospect. Both of them were top notch fighters with an insatiable drive to win, and for the longest time neither managed to land a glancing blow. Jackie’s fists scraped past the guard’s cheek and shoulders a couple of times, and Chichiraiden’s twisting blade skidded across the pilot’s bicep.
The match ended after a constant ten minutes of nonstop attacking and evading. Mahoraga had seen enough to solidify his decision. Jackie was an apt fighter whose fortitude might surpass the right hand woman of the philosopher. He appreciated the athleticism and sportsmanship between the two adversaries. Chichiraiden had put her blade away and bowed whereas Jackie tried to go in for a handshake but was awkwardly rejected.
“Are you prepared to leave Frank behind? Will you cease your search for the boy Rhys? Cut all ends to that man?” “Knowing what you know now, are you willing to let them go their own path and sever all ties?” It seemed as if the questions were not over for Jackie. The furious brows of Mahoraga needed an absolute answer.
The sentry thus spoke, “They are weak and will only hamper your growth, Jackie.”
Jackie was not sure how to handle her statement. On the good side, it seemed as if the agile sword wielder was starting to warm up to Jackie. The opposite side of the spectrum inferred that Anchovi had to be behind her if she wanted to roll with Mahoraga and his troupe of poet-warriors. None of the other members of Anchovi were equipped to do the same job as Mahoraga nor did they truly understand his genius. She skipped the part where she would try to convince Anchovi to follow Mahoraga. Jackie obsessed over this man’s ideals.
The sigh of relief shortly lived because of the next thing that came out of the humble man’s mouth.
“Great, we’ll get you shipped out to Prok’mai. The Magnuze should come early tomorrow morning.”
The taste in her mouth had gone awfully sour and her stomach gurgled with disgust. Without trying to sound too alarmed to the two of them, Jackie dumbed down a bit and asked, “Excuse me, the Magnuze?”
This could not be happening. Not now. Maybe all this was a dream sequence or perhaps Jackie had misheard Mahoraga. The Magnuze? The same ship owned by Harvey P. Lansit, that no good rat that owes the rest of Anchovi? Surely this was another test plotted by the monk. She had to remain free of bias.
“Why yes. I suppose you must’ve heard of the Magnuze, seeing that you’ve been to all the same places,” stated Mahoraga.
“I guess so.” Her voice trailed off towards the end and without the assured confidence she usually had. Jackie wondered how much her teach knew about Harvey and his shady dealings. She panicked internally.
“Have you been in it? I haven’t, but I hear it’s absolutely stunning.” Okay, Mahoraga had to be egging it on at this point. He was far too enthusiastic about it.
The back of Jackie’s throat ran awfully dry at this point. Her dry and hoarse voice cracked, “No, can’t say I have, teacher.”
The cheery man was about to speak, but an invisible force quickly interrupted. He covered his forehead and keeled over as if someone dug and twisted a burning knife in his iron gut.
“I sense trouble.”
“Huh?” Jackie got nervous.
“The pain, I can hear someone writhing in pain,” the wise giant shook his head of the pain and returned to his erect stance. With great urgency he spoke, “Excuse me, Jackie, Chichiraiden. I must attend to matters. Until we meet again, be well.”
He left without their farewells.
“What does he mean?”
“Mahoraga Genji is an empath among other things. He must have sensed that something was awfully wrong somewhere in the Gilded LIly and he’s going to investigate. He’s more in tuned with the Blue than anybody else I know.” Chichiraiden started to head in the opposite direction away from Jackie when she randomly added, “You ought to thank me.”
“I spared you face. The master would have wiped you across the floor and you would have ended up with a bruised ego.”
“Hm.” Jackie was wrong about her warming up to her. Instead of creating conflict, Jackie prodded a little bit more into the Magnuze situation. “Say Chichiraiden, what do you know about the owner of the Magnuze?”
“He’s an awful man beyond redemption, but he and Mahoraga have been working closely together. The man is seriously beyond repair. Don’t worry. If you’re lucky, you won’t have to meet with the ‘man’.”
“We might become best of compatriots yet,” Jackie smiled. At least they agreed on one thing: Harvey was undesirable. “Thank you.”
The sentry’s eyes widened at the sincere gratitude, but it was the quake throughout the Gilded Lily that snapped her back into place. The tower quivered and cried, and the books launched from the shelves. The lighting from above violently chimed. The screams and shouts rang throughout the spiral tower as an unknown force crept from the bottom of the Blue.
HEAD ES DOODLE PETSUCHOS / Finnigan
/ 1y 291d 5m 51s
All posts are either in parody or to be taken as literature. This is a roleplay site. Sexual content is forbidden.