Guest Rendezvous chapter by Weiila
Hiryuu was not pleased.
What stood before him was a stinking, green, bubbling mess filled with crawling tentacles on the verge of dissolving.
And he couldn't even blame Jiharn for this one since the "trusty" assistant had been curled up on the sofa with a Pokémon plushy the whole morning.
Evil genius was no problem at all, Hiryuu could do evil overlord with his elbow in compare to this.
How could one possibly fail in noodle cooking?
But as he looked at the spice shelf and saw the strange white powder in a small jar looking just like the salt jar but adorned with a big red X, Hiryuu experienced a vague suspicion.
Well, this kitchen failure could easily fill his evil deeds quota for the day at least. And the noodles would probably gladly marry Fae's infamous bacon any day of the week.
That thought cheered him up a bit, but soon Hiryuu turned back to the matter at hand.
Abomination in a pot.
This called for the Evil Handbook©.
Making sure that Jiharn still slept like a baby Hiryuu tiptoed to the library (evil library) and got the book in question.
Jiharn was still asleep when his boss returned, safe from the kitchen demon. To be on the safe side Hiryuu slapped the noodles with a big spoon to keep them unconscious while he conducted his research.
In his edition of the book Alchemy was a main chapter, thus it took him a while to work his way through all the versions of failed experiments until he found one that fit his situation. "Unknown horrors created by pureth accident". The page read as follows:
Lo, when thee hast given birtheth to an unspeakableth horror that thou cannoth handleth, thy next course of actioneth is as follows:
1. Dost it moveth, then thou must ally with thy nemesis to defeatheth it. Backstabbeth him/them afterwards.
2. If 'tis liquidiq, poureth it into the sewers of thy nemesis' hometown. Chaos willeth ensue withouteth doubt.
Hiryuu suspiciously peered at the pot.
Technically it was liquid.
Partly, at least.
And it hadn't moved.
Gloves, a full body suit and two long sticks later the noodles were crawling into the unspeakable(th) sewers of Rendezvous.
Hiryuu flushed the (evil) toilet three times just to make sure. Then he went to order pizza.
While waiting for the delivery he went up to the highest tower in his lair, sat down in his favorite chair, opened the window, leaned against the frame of fresh air and sighed of contentment.
A smile crept onto his lips as the winds carried the cries from downtown.
This was even better than looking forwards to the date.
"Fae! Oh come on! We had to find you, we thought you were dead! Faetan!"
Merlin's voice had gone from good to shrill, to hoarse, to unrecognizable. His knuckles were blistered from all the knocking and around his feet were piles of thrown boots and kitchen artifacts from the neighboring houses. He didn't seem to notice any of this. Then again, he wasn't noticing anything at all, really. To most of the town's dismay and lost sleep.
The nearest neighbors had run out of things to throw at him and his friends had almost given up. However, as the valiant heroes they were, they wouldn't back off no matter what!
At least... not unless this went on for another week. Then they would start considering it.
"Gvies it up, Melr," Lunaris repeated, mustering as much compassion as he could still maintain (which had been of a weird sort most of the time anyway, of course), "shl'el forgives yuo after teh... ehm..."
Still, even the great
Apparently Merlin hadn't listened this time either, as he kept knocking and calling just as trancy as ever.
"I think he's really lost it," Zero concernedly said, wincing slightly as he watched the haughty green-hair.
"He lost it weeks ago," Macc pointed out with a sigh, "now I don't know."
The blue reploid reached out and experimentally put his hand on a purple cloaked shoulder.
"Merl," Macc gently said, "this isn't the right way to get Fae to forgive you, or even talk to ya again. You should get her a present or something..."
Knock, knock, knock, knock...
Macc's voiced trailed off. Again.
"I'm sorry Fae!" the last remains of Merlin's voice claimed.
"Okay, this is, once and for all, not working," Zero grimly said, "we'll have to bring in the heavy artillery."
He noticed a sparkle in Lunaris' eyes and realized the poor pick of words.
"No!" the blond reploid quickly corrected himself to Lun's disappointment, "I mean... whisper, whisper..."
"That's inhumane!" Macc protested after hearing the short explanation.
"There is no other choice, I fear," Zero courtly nodded and spun on his heel, "let's go!"
Inside of the sieged house, Tannin's eyes almost teared up from watching the blond pony tail rush away down the street with Lun and Macc closely trailing behind.
The red-hair turned around and glared at the other occupant of the house, who was peacefully sitting in the sofa with a trusty sketching pad and earplugs.
"How much longer are you going to keep him like this?" Tannin demanded.
She waited for a moment, then marched over and ripped out one of the plugs, repeating her question.
Faetan put the pen down and tilted her head as she listened to the never ending calls (squeaks) and knocks.
"Oh... not much longer," she finally said with a sunny smile.
"That's what you said last week!" Tannin whined, "Ze- eh, the guys aren't getting in here, we're not getting out... not that there's much to do anyway right now..."
"You could always jump out of a window and join Val's plotting for killing Tenchimaru's mum," Faetan smiled.
She nabbed the earplug, refastened it and went back to the drawing. Tannin had noted that lately all the art-pieces had involved pianos with fangs, and this one was no exception.
It was starting to creep the warrior woman out too. A lot.
She sighed and went back to the window.
Her eyebrows twitched as she saw what came down the street.
An enormous weight rested on the allied shoulders of Lun, Macc and Zero, seemingly not affecting them the slightest.
Almost mechanically Tannin waved at the sofa.
"What?" Faetan smiled, removing an earplug again.
"I... think you'll want to see this..."
Faetan stood and hopped over to the side of her comrade.
Her eyebrows twitched.
"They're not gonna...?" Tannin begun, but fell silent as she clearly saw that they would.
On Zero's count of three the small group raised their burdens onto their hands, stretched their arms, and threw.
The black oak piano went *clonk!* on Merlin's skull, neatly broke in two pieces and joined the rest of the trash around the man's boots.
Knock, knock, knock, knock...
Merlin was unaffected.
As the mandatory sweat drops faded away, Tannin turned to Fae.
"This is BAD!" the red-hair grimly concluded.
And finally, at long last, Faetan nodded.
Then she felt the smell.
Down on the street, Lun and the reploids fought to keep the universe intact.
"That's impossible!" Zero whispered.
Lun was at loss of words for the first time in his entire life.
And Macc was about to say something. But then he felt the smell.
It was a fleeting, alluring scent that snaked through the air like a rainbow dragon.
"Whaz that?" Lun wondered, curiously sniffing and for a short while forgetting about Merlin.
Macc's eyes shot wide open, filled with swirly colors as his mask moved with his enormous, happy grin. Had he sported a mustache, it would doubtlessly have curled up.
"Leeemooons..." he cooed.
"Uh...?" Zero rather nervously asked, his hand tensely twitching above the hilt of his beam saber.
The blue reploid didn't hear. He trotted down the street with his arms hanging and face held up as if he was carried along by the smell alone.
"Macc! Cosme back!" Lunaris demanded, pointing at the ground repeatedly.
The door opened and Tannin ducked out below Merlin's robotic knocking, working her way past all the rubble.
"What's going on here?" she asked.
"Dunno," Zero concernedly said, absentmindedly shifting his feet on the sewer lock he was standing on, "but we definitely shouldn't just stand... now what?"
The reploid’s rant was cut off as Faetan came through the door in mid air, planted her hands on Merlin's stiff shoulders, spun over him, landed on the pavement and rushed after Macc in a cloud of dust while shouting an addictive warcry.
"Holy canonns!" Lunaris exclaimed and sidestepped Merlin to avoid being turned into silver jam for standing in the way.
The three remaining heroes exchanged glances for a moment and then zoomed after the settling dust.
In the chaos nobody noticed the greenish, snakelike thing that had crawled out of the sewer and coiled up around Zero's left boot.
A warm, welcoming and yellow mist hung around a small, homey cottage on the outskirts of Rendezvous.
Macc and Faetan hung on the neat stair with the dreamy looks of those who have seen Heaven, Merl haplessly standing behind the lady.
Well, at least he was silent now.
The sign above the door read "For healing please enter on the back side". And in smaller text “Kidnappers, please take a number. If you can find one that is”.
"I think thinsg are startling to maek sense nwo," Lunaris sagely spoke as he, Zero and Tannin jogged up on the small lawn.
The door opened just as the three newest people skidded to a halt. A thin face encircled by thick brown hair tied up in a resolute bundle peeked out.
"You know, I'm starting to worry that this place is becoming a flytrap for warriors," Weiila said with a chuckle, absentmindedly scratching the ears of the tiger striped cat hanging over her shoulder, "come on in."
As she opened the door Faetan and Macc zipped in, Merlin close after.
"What are you doing?" Tannin suspiciously asked, stepping up to the door.
The healer rolled her eyes with a tired smile.
"Cleaning up after a moment of lacking better judgment," she explained and turned while a happy "Ooooh..." trickled out from the inner cottage. It sounded a lot like Macc.
"What about it?" Zero wondered.
The kitchen was, lightly said, loaded. That there was a table in its middle was only theoretical since it was buried in more bakery creations than should be virtually possible. Sunlight shone in from the big window behind the table, dancing over the baker’s masterpiece. Every single shelf carried some sort of container varying between baskets to pots.
Every shelf was open, cakes and muffins sharing shelves with plates, spices and cups. Only one door was closed, a thin wood colored double door in the far off corner to the left of the warriors’ entrance. It looked suspiciously much like something used for cleaning artifacts.
Anyway, back to the story.
984 waved slightly at the new visitors from the middle of a cake, while Charlemagne wasn't fully visible behind all his treats. He had assembled a vast collection before the table area before him.
Macc and Fae were just getting started.
"I sent Charlemagne shopping for me," Weiila explained with a sigh, "I've got lemon curd, lemon muffins, lemon juice, lemon..."
"Dooonuuuts!" Faetan sang with her mouth full.
"Yes. And lemon jam, marmalade, bread, sauce, and..."
"Try the lemon roasted beef," came a new, strong voice from the back room.
Upon hearing that familiar tone Zero and Lun snapped up from watching Macc in maskless euphoria and spun towards the source.
There were two doors in the kitchen, one leading to the mediocre entrance hall and another one seemingly going into a living room if the distant form of an armchair spoke true. The rest of the furniture got hidden from sight as the owner of the last speaker stepped into view.
“Hey…” Zero began, a grin of recognition filling up his face.
“Yo,” the entering giant grinned back, lowering the piece of beef that he had been gnawing on.
The sheath of a broadsword lightly thumped against the man’s ring mail as he took the few steps needed to reach the gang by the table. Darkly brown, wild hair crawled around the hilt of the weapon and pointed in all possible directions except for where the green bandana kept it under control.
“Sin!” Lunaris cheerfully smirked.
“And here I was just returning to town and starting to think about looking for you guys,” the swordsman said and offered his cleaner hand in a bone crushing greeting.
“Great to see you, man. So did you defeat the Examina beast?” Zero asked while grabbing the hand leaving Lun’s grip.
The reploid’s tone, however, showed little doubt in the answer.
Sinistral’s smirk spoke for itself, but he didn’t keep the brief story hidden.
“Was a pain but I beat it to a bloody pulp,” he simplified the tale and lightly patted his right shoulder-plate with his left wrist not to get lemon sauce on the metal, “the cretin bit my arm though, so I looked up a healer when I got back.”
He motioned at Weiila with the piece of beef.
“Got free lunch with the healing too, thanks again.”
“You’re welcome, I need to get rid of it all anyway,” she said with a half glare at the happily chomping Charlemagne, “I never want to see another lemon for as long as I live…”
Tannin interfered in the friendly reunion by tapping the shoulders of Lunaris and Zero simultaneously, regarding the newly arrived warrior with her usual suspicion of men. Though, she was prepared to enter an introduction with an open mind since she had learnt that the gang of hers and Fae’s friends were men and not men.
(I dare you to figure out that logic. Consider it a look inside the female mind.)
The red-haired furie-at-will nodded over the tapped shoulders and spoke out one of the most diplomatic opening phrases the world had ever seen.
“Who’s the sinner?”
“Haw!” the swordsman snickered in approval.
“Sinistral, we just call him Sin,” Zero explained, “Sin, this here’s Tannin.”
Once again the human tower of broadsword wielder offered his hand, which the ah… lady… accepted after a moment of consideration. Besides the fact of the slight softening in her pure hatred for males, she had no intention to turn down anything offered by Zero.
You take what you can get, after all.
“Suppose it’s nice to see some new faces around here,” Sin said while crushing Tannin’s hand a little less than his old time pals’, “speaking of nothing though, what the spam is up with Merlin?”
The eyes of the still – somewhat – sane turned to at the green-haired fellow. He was still silent, watching the completely ignorant Faetan as if all air had left him once he could see her again. It was not a pretty sight. Now that he wasn’t desperately shouting at deaf ears and knocking on a door any longer he appeared haggard and pale; the natural exhaust creeping up to him now that he wasn’t fighting it in the same way as before.
Weiila made a few quick and mysterious motions in the air, the cat on her shoulder meowing softly in mild protest at the sudden movement.
“Sorry sweetie,” she absentmindedly said while her eyes briefly flashed with a green light.
Then she cleared her throat and stated in a more professional voice:
“Lack of sleep, blood sugar levels screaming for mercy, low on vitamins, bone exposed on right hand’s knuckles. I’d smack a morgue note on him if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s breathing. I thought you got him to calm down after all the screaming stopped, guys?”
At the last sentence, she looked over the standing troop questioningly.
“He didn’t stop screaming, his voice just broke after a while. I guess you didn’t hear it since the wind is going towards town from here,” the reploid said and frowned at his depressed friend, “we’ve tried everything.”
The healer waved her hand before the empty eyes experimentally. No reaction. She pursed her mouth.
“Well, as I told you two weeks ago there are limits to what white magic can do,” she said, “and if he doesn’t snap out of this soon and get a little food down his throat, then some of you will have to go on a quest for mystical items so that I can perform a resurrection.”
Silence fell over the room, as long as you didn’t count the chomping of course. Of all the eating people, 984 was the only one who wasn’t too hypnotized to keep from concernedly look up.
“Hes’ gnona dies, you mena?” Lunaris asked, his eyes thinning.
“I’m afraid so, if we don’t do something about this…”
Weiila put her hand on Merlin’s shoulder and gently shook, with little hope however.
“Merlin, wake up. Wake. Up.”
“We’ve tried that already,” Zero said, with concern scratching his helmet, “even threw a piano on him a few minutes ago. Didn’t help either.”
Weiila, the cat and 984 blinked.
“You guys sure are great friends,” the last one of the three said, though the joke was half-hearted due to the matter at hand.
“Oh, come on!”
Sin made his way past Zero and his crew, and the healer took a step backwards just in case as a massive hand landed on a slumping shoulder.
“Hey, Merlin!” Sinistral called, “MERLIN!”
To little surprise, there was no reaction from the faltering man. Clenching his jaw tightly, Sin stepped back and slowly crossed his arms.
“I’ll be damned if I just watch him drop dead,” the swordsman snarled.
“Smae here,” Lunaris grimly said, “btu wev’e tired evrythnig we cloud thnik of…”
Sin’s brow furrowed, which was a very impressive sight. It was not within Tannin’s awareness, but even she who didn’t know the man that well got the feeling that people tended to duck for cover whenever he frowned like that. It sort of amazed her that Merlin’s cloak didn’t catch fire.
And there went another male human up on her list of possibly tolerateable men.
“Sin?” Zero said in a low voice, his eyes narrowing.
“This,” the swordmaster spoke, “calls for the ultimate torture.”
The lemon cake fell from 984’s hand onto the floor and Macc choked on his lemon muffin while Zero and Lun’s eyes shot wide open in shock. The cat meowed worriedly, straightening up to nuzzle Weiila’s pale cheek as all blood rushed away from her face.
Tannin watched all this with raised eyebrows.
Silence fell over the cottage, filling the kitchen with the chilling winds of fear of what was being planned under the unruly, brown hair. Nobody moved, unable to in the thick atmosphere.
Then Sin looked around as he noticed the lack of sound.
A dark eyebrow went up.
A second later it twitched in a brief dance with its brother as he came to the realization.
“I said ultimate torture, not ultimate horror, people,” he said, smiling wryly.
The reaction could be described as a collective “Phew!”.
“Yuo scrade me threr fro a snecond,” Lunaris said, releasing the deep breath he had been holding.
The swordmaster even grimaced briefly, glancing at Zero.
“Thought I’d go that far?” the dark-haired one commented with mild amusement.
“Not really, but your choice of words got me for a sec, man,” the reploid said, shaking his head so that his hair swished over his entire back, “though I know you wouldn’t.”
“Of course not, there is nothing that validates that creature.”
“What are you talking about?” Tannin demanded, the mysterious chatter getting on her nerves very quickly.
She felt like there was a collective joke that she wasn’t aware of, though “joke” really didn’t seem to be the proper word judging from the reactions.
“Will explain in a minute,” Sinistral assured without looking at her, “I’ll just see if I can fix Merlin first.”
“Now that you mention it, why didn’t I think of that?” Zero sighed, smacking his own forehead.
“Getting rusty, are we?”
Sin chuckled a little before stepping up just beside Merlin. The swordsman breathed in calmly, bent forwards, and bellowed straight into an ear sticking out of a green bush of hair:
Wood isn’t dented easily, but right then it was pretty dang close that the ceiling got a buckle.
“Merliiin!” said character howled as he landed again.
He looked up and blinked at the grinning face before him.
“Hey,” the more muscular figure said with satisfaction, thumping the purple-cloaked back so that its bearer almost fell flat on his face, “you back with us now?”
The discussion paused briefly as Merlin glanced around.
“Where’s ‘here’?” he finally asked, slightly disoriented.
“You’re at my house,” Weiila briskly informed, grabbing Merlin’s arm, “and you’re sitting down on this here chair and eating this here fish and lemon soup before even attempting to even think again, got it?”
“Wha?” Merlin tried to protest as he was thrown onto a free chair, but a hot plate was pushed into his hands.
“Just do what mommy says, now,” 984 teased, serving himself a new slice of cake.
While he did himself this favor, the tip of his right boot absentmindedly slipped below the hem of the dark carpet upon which the table stood. His other boot just as absentmindedly shoved the dropped piece of cake below the fabric, then he resumed a non-suspicious stance again. What could he say, he just didn’t like cleaning. Who’d blame him?
The owner of the house was too busy with spreading healing light from her fingertips onto Merlin’s severely beaten knuckles to notice the little sneaker.
“Once we’ve gotten you back in shape we’ll work on the Faetan issue,” Weiila promised with a kind but very resolute smile.
Merlin found it wise not to argue, and in any case he felt like he had been running ten laps around Rendezvous in a row. With iron shoes. And stone leggings.
“Heya Sin,” Macc said, slightly wheezing due to his choking earlier, “and thanks for waking Merlin up, we were getting really miffed.”
“Trust me, it was a true pleasure,” the swordsman nodded, grinning.
“Yeah, I bet it was…” the un-tranced one grumbled at his soup.
He had to use his left hand to eat for the moment, since Weiila was working on his right one. And he still couldn’t remember how he had ended up at the healer’s house anyway…
His thoughts were ripped apart by Tannin’s voice.
“Okay, so what was that ‘ultimate horror’ you guys were chattering about?” she asked.
The spoon went *cnirk* and got an interesting new shape while Sin barely managed to stop himself from dropping his lunch and Macc started coughing again.
“Are you trying to kill me or something?” the blue-clad reploid wheezed between the fits, Zero starting to thump his back in order to help.
Macc regained control after a few moments and thoughtfully regarded the half-eaten muffin that almost had been his demise twice already.
“Though, it wouldn’t have been a very horrible death, really,” he mused, “tasty, at least…”
A red boot started tapping the floor, drawing the attention of all but Faetan and Charlemagne back to Tannin, and from her impatient scowl back to her query.
“The ultimate horror…” Zero slowly said, closing his eyes with a tight expression as he tried to find the will to share the terrifying memories that he and many of his friends were doomed to bear for the rest of their lives.
Lunaris shuddered and sat down on the last chair – just beside Merlin – for a nerve-calming muffin before he attempted lift the torment off Zero’s shoulders.
“It befroe you and Fae cmae,” the gunner grimly said, “a drak time…”
His voice trailed off and he clenched his teeth, the muffin crumbling in his grip.
“A time when a madness swept over Rendezvous,” Weiila murmured in a low voice, staring at the floor, “a demon haunted the land…”
She fell silent and her hand went up to stroke the cat’s fur as she tried to calm herself. As the healer gave up, Merlin figured it was his turn on the story chain. It wasn’t easy however, his brain silently screamed in fear at the memories. He forced himself to remain calm though, for his friends’ sake.
“The demon spread his evil powers wherever he went,” Merlin darkly said, “those with a weak mind turned insane when touched by it, the lucky simply died. All warriors of Rendezvous tried to fight it with all means possible…”
He couldn’t go on and fell silent. It was too painful to recall the horrors of that time.
“Even Hiryuu and Jiharn helped,” Zero acknowledged and glanced at Tannin’s blink, “so you see, it was really that bad.”
“What did they gain from it?” the red-hair asked in disbelief, trying to grasp the concept of something horrible enough to create such alliances.
“Nothing but freedom, like all of us,” the object of her daydreams replied.
“So… what happened?” she curiously went on, fascinated.
“Me, Merlin and Zero managed to trap the demon,” Sin spoke with grim pride, “it was one of the hardest battles of my life, and we nearly lost. In the end we were victorious however.”
He leaned against the wall, just beside the window. Glancing up at the ceiling he continued the story.
“We couldn’t kill him though, he was too powerful. So, we used a demon sealing rite that Merl knew, which split the little bastard in three pieces which we locked up inside our own minds.”
Weiila let go of Merlin’s almost healed hand and leaped backwards with a shocked yelp, as if the touch had burnt her. The cat miraculously managed to stay on her shoulder, meowing worriedly however.
“You… have… that thing… inside your heads?” she gasped, fighting to get back on her feet.
“The dummy rite?” 984 said with a cringe, “you dudes are crazy moffos! If you had called me I could have dropped him in a pit!”
“We had to do something,” Merlin grimly said without looking anyone in the eyes, “and no, sending him into any kind of dimensional warp or similar would have been risking his return.”
“And you’re saying that that isn’t?”
“Relax,” Zero said though he didn’t seem very calm for the moment himself, “there is no way that anyone of us will allow him to escape, and he’s too weakened when chopped up to do anything himself. As long as none of us summon him nothing can go wrong.”
“You know,” somebody said, “I’ve read the book of ‘Things that Heroes and Warriors Shouldn’t Say’, and that phrase was in it.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it, there was no ominous lightning,” Macc said, trying to calm both himself and everyone else, “you’re being a tad superstitious.”
He paused and glanced around, trying to figure out who it was who had spoken. He could have sworn it had come from Weiila’s direction, but the voice had been male.
The healer tried to smile, straightening up.
“Well, let’s not talk about it anymore, it gives me the creeps,” she announced and waved at the table, “dig in everyone.”
That suggestion was something that Macc had nothing against, and everyone else was more than happy to think of anything but the eerie subject.
Tannin wouldn’t let anything suspicious slide however.
“Who said that about the book?” she demanded, her gaze running over the room.
“Book?” Weiila said, a little too innocently.
“Dooonuts…” Faetan complained, somberly staring at the empty plate before her.
All the delicious circles were gone… gone… world fading into the darkness of despair…
Weiila’s hand shot out, grabbed a donut-covered plate from the other end of the table and quickly handed it to Merlin. After a confused blink at the healer he caught on and swiftly placed the new load before the pinning female.
Faetan brightly smiled, turning a face with tightly closed eyes at Merlin for a moment.
“Thanks, you blind date arranging dimwit!” she happily said and went back to eating.
Merlin’s shoulders sagged.
“What the hell did you do to her?” Sin asked with a raised eyebrow.
He eyed feasting Fae.
“Who is she, anyway?”
“She’s Faetan, came here while you were gone,” Merlin grunted, “and I’d rather not talk about it. Zero.”
He added the last without turning around, obviously using his neck to see the reploid open his smirking mouth.
Zero paused, thought it over, shrugged and grabbed a cookie. Faetan was too busy with her donuts to notice that his plan to avoid eating her bacon was a sham. And as for Merlin’s situation, Sin could always be informed later on…
Absentmindedly he lightly rubbed his left ankle against his right one. His lower leg was tickling a bit, but not enough to really bother him.
“I’ll get you another spoon…” Weiila helpfully said while heading for the oven.
The bowl of soup happily bubbled on the heat, but the healer wasn’t really aiming for it. She opened a drawer and picked out another piece of eating item, flinging it at Merlin. It bounced on his head before landing in his grip, though it had been a user friendly throw. Looking closer at the spoon he noticed an inscription on its hilt.
“The Für Elize collection”
Grimacing he put it down and stared intently at the non-piano themed but severely crooked spoon in his other hand, trying to will it into regaining its past shape.
“There is no spoon…” he murmured through his teeth.
Meanwhile, Tannin had grabbed a muffin as well, but was still in the process of trying to figure out whom had spoken about the book of “Things that Heroes…”.
Weiila knelt before a low cupboard beside the oven. Pulling the door open she revealed a small ice cavern, and the cat slid backwards off her shoulder as she reached into the cold. It stayed safely out of reach for the chilling streams, but twisted its tail excitedly as its former bearer returned with a metal ball in two pieces that were held together with metal clips.
“Ice cream bomb, anyone?” she brightly said.
To avoid being run over, Tannin had to duck and cover from Lunaris. She slipped on a dropped piece of pie and swept down on one knee somewhat gracefully. This brought her almost face to face with the cat.
She could have sworn he looked amused. But he swiftly turned and hopped back up on Weiila’s safe shoulder before Tannin could Glare Suspiciously. Then the warrior woman was distracted by the bowl of warmly yellow lemon ice cream that was practically shoved into her face.
The group finally settled around the table, though those who hadn’t nabbed a chair earlier had to accept just standing around and not sitting.
They got about five minutes of peace before things started going royally to hell.
Merlin had just finished the soup and was chewing on a piece of bread to get even more energy back, slowly starting to feel better. But as he still felt a little dizzy he wasn’t really participating in the small talk about weapons of mass destruction, evil twins and daisies, only listening. This was probably the reason why he heard the strange sound first of all.
The noise was so faint that it was almost inaudible, and it could have been going on for quite a while without anybody noticing. But as it was, Merlin did fairly quickly. Listening for a few moments he couldn’t really tell where it was coming from or what it was, but thought it sounded kind of like…
“Hey Weiila, do you have a dog?” he rhetorically asked.
Before the healer could reply, the cat did by hissing violently in protest.
“Alright then,” Merlin nodded, “but what is that sound?”
The discussion halted as everybody – apart from Charle and Fae – listened in an attempt to figure out what the heck Merlin was going on about.
Sounded like a scratching, coming from the entrance.
“Might be a costumer,” Weiila said with a slight frown and headed out of the kitchen.
She opened the main door and came face to face with an elbow rapping at the wood. This was since the rest of the arm and both hands of the owner were occupied.
A mop of blond hair peeked up behind what looked like a black-burned practice doll.
“Hey Wei,” a female voice grunted, “little help here?”
“Is that you, Val?” Weiila said, standing up on her tiptoes trying to look past the crispy burden.
As good as everyone in the kitchen sucked in their breaths and turned their full attention towards the entering Valkyrie. This was simply a safety precaution to avoid trouble later. She hadn’t been around for long, but had become well-known – mainly due to Tenchimaru’s screams of horror.
Speaking of which, that practice doll thing looked pretty familiar…
Val walked up to the area between shelves and table, and unceremoniously dumped her armload on the floor with a sigh of relief.
“Who’s that?” Weiila inquired, closely following the warrioress.
“Tenchimaru,” Val replied, wiping off her hands, “dammit, he gets heavy after a while…”
“Uh… what did yuo dos to hmi?” Lunaris wondered, blinking at the slightly smoking body while the only healer in the room sat down on her knees to examine the patient.
Thoughtfully muttering to herself Weiila lifted a charred eyelid, checking on a swirly eye.
“I didn’t do anything!” Valkyrie declared and crossed her arms with a scoff, “he was hit by a lightning bolt out of the blue and… oooh, cookies…”
“Out of the blue?” Merlin thoughtfully asked, frowning as he tried to figure out why alarming bells were dancing samba in the back of his head.
“Yeah, funny that,” the blond woman nodded while taking a sweet bite out of the cookie in her hand, “he was flying, and there wasn’t a cloud on the sky. And the bolt seemed so surprised at hitting something so quickly that it forgot to crack or something.”
“Hey,” Macc slowly began, “doesn’t lightning only come out like that when somebody says… something… invoking… bad…”
His voice trailed off and the lemon scone with lemon jam fell out of his hand. Luckily, everyone else had been holding their stuff above the table, except for Sin who slowly lowered his hand with the beef, narrowing his eyes.
He was just too cool to drop that darn beef.
Silence fell over the room. Again.
Though Charlemagne kept munching. This time Fae did notice something as she had grown unavoidably full, and curiously put her latest half donut down to look around at her friends.
“Uhm, Val?” Weiila said in a bit of a high-pitched voice, “when did this happen?”
“Oh, about ten minutes ago…”
Val frowned at the frozen faces around the table.
“What?” she said.
“Ominous thunder if I ever heard of one…” Sin said through clenched teeth.
“Serves me right for challenging fate,” Zero growled, his eyes darting around the room, “be on guard everyone!”
One could have heard a needle fall. Well, almost, since the silence wasn’t complete.
“What’s going on?” Faetan finally asked, puzzled.
“Not srue, but is nos good!” Lunaris growled, reaching for his mini pistols.
Glances suspiciously shot in all directions, searching for anything even remotely suspicious.
Ironically enough, the least alert one was the one who first spotted the problem. Tenchimaru’s head dizzily rolled aside and an unfocused eye opened.
“… pretty lights…” he mumbled before passing out again.
As one person the assemble drew an imaginary line from the half-breed’s line of vision, and dived beneath the table.
“Zero! Your leg!” Tannin shouted.
“Aw crap?” the reploid hesitantly said, reaching for the glowing, snakelike thing that was curled up around his left thigh.
This turned out being a bad idea, for upon realizing that it was discovered the mutated noodle cast aside all attempts to hide and simply aimed for the throat. It flashed brightly, sending a magic spark into Zero’s skin that sent him stumbling backwards with a surprised yelp.
“What the hell is that?” Sin snarled, fingers twitching as they wanted to reach for his sword by reflex.
“Is eatning into him!” Lunaris warned in alarm.
He aimed his set of mini weaponry, but Tannin’s grip almost broke his right wrist.
“Not like that, you’ll blow his leg off!” she hissed.
Lunaris blinked. Of pain.
“Oh… right. Sorries.”
“Zero, what’s it doing?!” Merlin demanded, rushing to his feet but unsure about what to do.
“Uh…” the blond reploid began, staggering towards the living room as if trying to get as far away from his friends as possible.
He didn’t get far. With a sharp intake of breath he straightened up like a poker, eyes shooting wide open as the pupils exploded to completely take over.
“This can’t be good…” Faetan winced, involuntarily reaching for her sword.
That comment was proven awfully right a second later, as Zero’s shocked expression fell into a blank one.
“New commands acknowledged,” a deep, emotionless voice announced from the reploid’s lips, “loading data…”
“Zero!” a choir of friends shouted in alarm, stumbling steps trying to bring reaching hands to the infected one.
He sidestepped all attempts, a bit clumsy for Zero but quick enough.
“Interference not tolerated,” the voice announced, “threats aimed at the host body will be elim…”
Sin grabbed a rigid arm.
“Really sorry about this, Z, Weiila,” the swordsman honestly said.
He swung around, narrowly missed knocking Merlin and Macc unconscious, and flung Zero through the window. In a storm of shattered glass and wood, the reploid spun over in the air and landed on his feet with his back turned at the cottage.
“More space to fight,” Sin explained to the blinking people on the floor, “I have a bad fee…”
He froze as the distorted voice spoke again.
“Phase one of releasing demon initiated. Loading…”
“Zero!” Merlin bellowed, to no avail.
Sin tackled the remains of the wall, successfully breaking through with everyone else – who was conscious – just a step behind.
The possessed reploid glanced around.
“Initiating evasive maneuver,” he declared.
And with that he took the first long leap towards the forest covering this side of Rendezvous’ surroundings. Zero’s ponytail teasingly floated through the air behind him, painting an elusive, golden rainbow.
“Get back here with that reploid, you damn worm!” Sin roared, setting off after his possessed friend.
“Stop, what do you think you are planning to do with him!?” Tannin shouted, rushing after.
“I still don’t understand what’s going on here…” Faetan grumbled, but seeing as a friend was in trouble she followed as well.
Of course, the others weren’t just going to stand there and watch.
“Come on!” Merlin called, but almost got strangled by his own choice of clothing as Macc grabbed the flapping, purple cloak.
“Oh no, you don’t!” the blue reploid warned, “you’re staying here!”
“With all this as proof, Tenchimaru was obviously hit by ominous lightning because Zero was saying that the demon would never return,” Weiila quickly explained, also grabbing the cloak, “you’re not going anywhere near the two other pieces of that thing right now!”
“No buts!” 984 intervened adding his grip of the cloak to the collection, “are you going to risk our sanity?”
Before Merlin could think of an answer, all of them had to duck due to Val leaping over their heads with a huge grin almost splitting her skull.
“Hey!” Lunaris shouted after her, absentmindedly grabbing Merlin’s cloak, “wlel be ritgh threre, dno’t do anyting stup…”
“I’m not gonna do anything!” Val grinned over her shoulder, “I’m just gonna watch this fight!”
Five hands met the owners’ foreheads as the Norse mythology character disappeared behind the trees. The cat sagged on Weiila’s shoulder with a meow that sounded like a groan.
“Wonderful,” 984 grunted.
He straightened up.
“Now what do we do?”
“Somebody will have to stay here and guard Merlin,” Macc concluded, deaf to the protests from the green-hair, “should Zero get away from Sin and come back here there will be trouble, we have to keep them apart.”
“Do I look like a maiden in distress?” Merlin ironically tried, “look, I appreciate that you try to protect me but this is ridiculous!”
“I’m staying, Tenchimaru needs to be healed,” Weiila said, “and I know I have some anti confusion and curse charms that might help Zero. But I wouldn’t be able to fight him on my own, especially not if I have to heal that giant piece of charcoal.”
“Alright. Lun, no offense but your weapons will do more harm than good right now, we’ll need to catch Zero, not blow him up. I’ll try to catch up with them.”
For a moment Lun looked like he was going to start pouting, but eventually he nodded with a sigh.
“Guesses yuo’re right…”
“I’ll stay too, then, that should be enough,” 984 nodded, “but what do we do with Merlin?”
“First of all I would like you to let go of my cloak!” the green-hair chimed in, reaching for the clip holding the cloth around his neck.
“As you wish,” Macc said, grabbing Merlin’s arm instead.
“Get him back inside,” Weiila instructed, clenching her jaw as she bent down to pick up the remains of two vine plants from the remains of their broken pots.
Blocking out the objections, the reploids and the psychopath dragged the struggling Merlin back through the hole in the wall.
“I’m really sorry about this, Merlin,” the healer said in a low voice, tossing the flowers onto the floor on either side of the protesting man, “we know that you mean well, but we can’t take any risks with the demon and you know that.”
“I know! But I can’t just… what are you doing?”
Merlin’s protests were cut off in surprise as he watched Weiila close her eyes and raise her hands before her chest, the fingers twisting. The movement drew an image of…
… Growing plants.
The thin vines rooted in the floor and shot upwards, gaining length and thickness by the commands of Weiila’s motions. With his arms held tightly by well-meaning friends, Merlin couldn’t get away from the green ropes that snaked around his wrists.
“You can let him go now,” Weiila said and opened her eyes, looking away to avoid meeting the prisoner’s glare however.
“Okay, I’ll be off,” Macc said, stepping outside with a glance over his shoulder, “sorry Merl, and good luck everyone.”
“The smae to yuo,” Lunaris sighed.
He and 984 backed off while the blue reploid levitated up from ground and soared towards the forest. Merlin was quite naturally trying to tear himself free from the vines, quickly finding that they were too tough and well rooted to budge.
“Oh come on!” he loudly complained, glaring at his friends, “this is humiliating!”
“Is for yuor own godo,” Lunaris sadly pointed out, “nad everonse else’s too.”
Merlin considered using magic to break free for a few moments while Weiila asked 984 to get a big red box from the living room. This idea was however discarded as he tried to gather his mind for a small blast, but his still exhausted brain spun over itself with the attempt. He had to sit down on a nearby chair that Lun helpfully pushed closer to him.
After a few seconds the purple clad reploid returned with the promised box, putting it down on another one of the chairs. 984 curiously peered down at the mess of amulets, necklaces and armbands inside.
It kinda looked like an anthill to him.
“Just a moment,” Weiila muttered, a waterfall of healing stars falling from her hands to TD’s charred form.
She didn’t have time to fully heal him for the moment, but he needed a little help in order to stay alive for another twenty minutes. The cat slid off her shoulder again as she worked on that, seemingly aware of the fact that working her magic exhausted the healer. It tiptoed over to the mess by the ex-wall, looking up at Merlin’s pale face.
The green-haired demon holder threw a frustrated glance at the animal. He could have sworn it was smirking in amusement, which didn’t make him feel anymore comfortable.
“Alright,” Weiila grunted, stumbling over to the box, “now lets find those charms…”
“If Sin and Zero fights, what do you think will happen?” 984 worriedly asked Lunaris and Merlin.
“Zero is faster than Sin,” Merlin muttered and leaned his cheek on a fist, “in a duel with their own weapons, Sin can’t win without a lucky break. The worm thing didn’t seem to have very good control though, so the chances are on our side.”
“If they catchs him, taht is,” Lunaris added, throwing a longing look towards the might-be battle scenery.
“That’s still pretty fair,” Weiila said, trying to be optimistic as she started to dig around in the box, “we can always hope. Let’s see now… poison, no.”
A necklace with a pendant shaped like a snake was flung over her shoulder.
“… Deathward, nope…”
An ankh made a flight. There was a weak groan.
“Sorry, Tenchimaru… blindspells… homesickness, cold… alligators…”
While Weiila was finding defenses for everything even just theoretically harmful, the others were not having an easier time.
Macc didn’t have any trouble finding his friends, simply following the distant shouting. He arrived to the group of ladies and swordsmen to find that they had managed to catch up with and pretty much surround Zero on one of the main roads going through the forest. At least, Faetan and Val were guarding both directions of the road, ready to dive at an attempt to escape. This didn’t solve all the problems though.
Sinistral was not pleased.
As Merlin had pointed out, his broadsword wasn’t meant to duel with something as virtually weightless and easy to use as a beam sword. Broadswords are generally not meant for dueling at all, but slicing things from head to toe.
On the other hand, Merlin had also been correct about the worm not having very good control. Zero’s movements were mechanical and graceless, and he didn’t seem to know how to properly handle the beam sword either.
These pros of Sin’s were however conned by the fact that Tannin was hanging on his back and screaming bloody murder.
“Will you stop waving your damn toothpick around for a second and think of a better plan you jerk?!”
“I could if you’d *beep*ing leave me alone for that second!” Sin snarled back, changing his hold of the massive hilt of his sword to parry another clumsy blow from Zero’s weapon of choice.
A normal sword would have been neatly cut off by the beam, but Sinistral’s blade was made of mithril steel, a magical metal that was made to handle a lot of pressure. It wouldn’t be able to keep up forever though, already turning reddish at some spots because of the intense heat.
“Holy lemons,” Macc mumbled, his eyes wide as he stared at the crazy scene while landing in the grass beside the road in order to block off another escape route.
He weakly waved at Faetan, she returning the gesture. Her confused look showed that there still hadn’t been time for full explanations.
“… Petrifaction, no… jazz? Huh… mute…”
Sin clenched his jaw, trying to block out the shouts of the red-haired banshee. Glaring at his opponent his teeth almost crushed each other.
A dead smirk had plastered itself onto Zero’s face, eerie enough even without the emotionless, completely black eyes that accompanied it.
“Will somebody tell me what’s going on already?” Faetan scowled at the world in general.
“There’s some sort of wormsnake thing possessing him!” Macc called, waving his hands helplessly.
He wanted to help, but there was no way he’d place himself between a pissed off Sin, said person’s broadsword and an armed and crazed Zero. There were limits to what the heroism codex covered, things that however were written down in the codex of idiots.
“Figures. Hey you!” Faetan shouted, “whatever you are, get out of Zero!”
Val didn’t say anything, she was cheering the battle on. And of course, the possessor didn’t care one bit about Fae’s demands as he was busy trying to fight Sinistral.
“… mothers-in-law… food poison… hey 984, put this on Charle so that he doesn’t get a stomach ache after all that eating. Nightmares… fever…”
“Tannin!” Macc yelled, “get off Sin’s back, he knows what he’s doing!”
“Like hell!” she snarled.
A vein popped on Sin’s forehead, far more terrifying than the sparkles flaring towards the ground from where the beam- and broadsword connected.
Sin leaped backwards, causing Zero to stumble a few steps forwards as the pressure disappeared.
“Hey!” Tannin shouted as a hand grabbed her collar and ripped her from the chain mail.
She was sent spinning over and then through the air, barely managing to plant her feet on the worm’s stolen shoulders and leap onwards to the safe ground. But that powerful hit brought Zero completely off balance and he fell towards the road.
“Get him!” Sin roared, planting his sword in the ground even as he charged.
Admittedly rather blindly, the four other warriors obeyed, in their exasperation forgetting the laws of comedy.
“Evade,” the possessor voice said.
Skulls went crash.
“Ohhh… tell me we didn’t fall for that…” Faetan groaned, stumbling backwards and rubbing her aching head.
“I didn’t,” Macc absentmindedly announced, straightening up and squinting towards the blue sky.
“Where did he go?” Sin growled while massaging his forehead furiously.
“Up there somewhere, I lost sight of him…”
The swordsman spun around at Tannin’s warning and used his wrist to parry the hands reaching for his neck.
“Bad try,” he honestly said.
“Assimilate,” the possessor replied.
If Sin had been equipped with fangs, this would have been an excellent time to flash them. But as it was, his smirk worked pretty well too. Self-preservation kicked in for the spectators and they scurried out of the immediate surrounding not to be in the way.
“Bring it,” Sinistral spoke.
“… Frogs… chibization… curses! Yes! Now for the confusion…”
Zero swiped out his right hand, but Sin swiftly bent backwards to avoid it. He returned the favor with an uppercut which the possessor narrowly evaded by leaping back a few steps.
“Come on now…” Sin said, tauntingly waving at himself.
He snarled as the possessor brandished the beam saber’s hilt however, seemingly about to call out the blade again. Sin’s own sword was just behind Zero, standing up with its sharp tip buried in the ground.
That’s not good…
However, despite all logic the possessor didn’t use the apparent upper hand. Instead it threw the empty hilt over Zero’s shoulder like a piece of trash. The paradox of that scene was painful enough to kill, but luckily all the people in the area were trained warriors and could handle extremes. Even if it was borderline.
Sin’s eyes narrowed as the reploid moved his feet into a defensive stance, the smirk not changing the slightest. Something was planned under that golden helmet.
“Be careful!” Macc warned, obviously thinking the same.
Nodding, Sin stood still and awaited his enemy’s next move. He had been into enough battles to know that when there was something fishy going on it was better not to charge.
Meanwhile Tannin scooped up the thrown hilt from the ground, securing it between her belt and waist with her teeth tightly clamped.
It turned out that the possessor was an impatient one as it didn’t stand still for long before attacking. Sin sidestepped it and tried a leg sweep while it was turning around, but Zero’s stolen body jumped over the attack and dived for the swordsman. Rolling out of the way Sinistral got back up and evaded the pounce at the edge of the road.
Zero narrowly avoided running into a tree and instead used the trunk as a spring board to shoot back at his enemy. At this approach, Sin stood with crossed arms until the last possible second, when his fist shot forwards. The possessor’s fingers stopped dead an inch from the green bandana due to the balled hand planted square on its controlled forehead.
“Zero would never fall for that,” Sin scoffed while the reploid stumbled backwards, “give it up, worm.”
Then he scornfully ducked.
“Why is that thing obsessed with his head?” Faetan wondered from her vantage point, back on guarding the road.
“He wants something that Sin has,” Tannin said with a frustrated shrug, “some demon or whatever.”
“Don’t talk so lightly about it!” Macc shuddered, “you have no idea what we’re dealing with!”
“I don’t see how anything can be that scary, you didn’t act like this even about Moogoon!” the red-hair called back, frowning, “what is that thing?”
Macc bit his lower lip behind his mask.
“You can’t imagine the horror,” he growled, “it’s something… something far worse than even Dark Macc, trust me on this.”
“But that… has to be impossible!” Faetan gasped in pure shock at the very idea, “you know him, Macc!”
The blue reploid gave her a pained glance.
“And I know that the demon is even worse!” he darkly said.
Faetan wasn’t one to normally gulp, but right then it felt very appropriate. All too well knowing the evil of the one called Dark Macc, her mind refused to grip the thought of something that was even worse.
Sin had spent the whole discussion simply ducking and sidestepping, looking for an opening to strike. He was growing even more frustrated however as he noted that the possessor was moving less mechanical second by second. It was obvious that the worm thing was gaining better control as the moments went past; time was running out. A completely controlled Zero would be a very dangerous threat.
He ducked again, feeling the wind as the possessor’s hands swept just above his hair. The blade of his sword reflected the sunlight temptingly, but it would only slow him down in a fist fight, and risk Zero’s life even more.
As he was already close to the ground, Sin tried another leg sweep and managed to hit this time. The possessor stumbled, but his flailing hand slammed into Sinistral’s chest and almost sent him to the ground on his back. Again he managed to roll however, but when he got up the possessor had regained its balance and sent a high kick at the swordsman’s face. Sin narrowly bent his neck backwards, being greeted by a fist as he tried to straighten up. But this time he didn’t try to duck.
The punch almost broke his nose and the pain blinded him for a moment, but despite this his hands shot upwards and grabbed the reploid’s wrist in an iron grip. With a growl he spun around and swung the possessed body over his shoulder and into the ground on its back. He acted again before the worm could regain control over the pain and dizziness.
A knee in the stomach hurts. Especially when dropped from the height that Sin jumped, and considering the swordsman’s weight, it really hurt.
A human would have lost his consciousness, but Zero was a reploid. He went “ACK!” and the blackness of his eyes swirled into itself, reverting back into his normal pupils.
“What the AOL, Sin!?” Zero rasped, blinking against the dancing stars that filled his vision.
Behind the fireworks he could vaguely see the shadow of his friend move around, finally settling above him. He furiously blinked.
And the stars faded.
He suddenly wished they hadn’t, because the view that he got was not very pleasant.
“What are you doing?!” Zero coughed, trying to bend his neck through the ground to get vital systems away from the metal edge.
“I’m serious Zero,” Sinistral growled without yielding an inch, “no sudden movements!”
Though he had briefly wiped the blood from his nose, there was still a streak left above his upper lip. Seeing Sin with a bloodied face and rage sparkling in his eyes, on top of that having to see this via the entire length of his broadsword, was not a nice experience. Zero’s brain very kindly told his body to lay still and shut up, calmly waiting for an explanation.
He was rather relieved to see some other familiar faces showing up within his line of vision.
“Are you back with us now?” Macc worriedly said, looking down at the confused reploid.
Zero glared at the masked one as if he had asked if the one on the ground was feeling well.
“What in Lamerland are you talking about?” the blond warrior snarled.
“You don’t remember?”
Even Sinistral winced slightly, but only slightly as he was busy holding his sword at Zero’s throat.
“All I remember right now is Sin trying to kill me!”
“It’s for your own good,” the swordsman grimly said through his teeth.
Glares like the one Zero used is normally reserved for a tap dancing Hades with two laser guns, but an exception was made.
“And don’t think that I’m very fond of this either!” Sin added when facing that look, “but you’re not moving a finger before Weiila gets here and cleans out your head.”
“Will. Somebody. Explain. What. Is. Going. On?” Zero very slowly said, weighing every vocal on his tongue.
“Something that looked like a long, thin snake ate into your leg and took control over you in Wei’s kitchen,” Tannin quickly said, “don’t you remember that?”
The blank look spoke volumes.
“Okay then, what’s the last thing you remember?” Faetan tried.
Val had begun to grow bored by now. As a bird landed on the road and started picking at a thin stream of ants toddling over the sand she turned her attention to that instead of the warriors.
“Birdie…” the valkyrie smiled.
“I remember Weiila’s kitchen, then TD and…”
“It starts going blank there,” he muttered.
“Yeah, you were completely gone,” Tannin assured and held up the empty hilt of the beam sword, “look, the worm thing even made you throw away your sword.”
The reploid blinked at the item in the woman’s hand. Then his head thumped against the ground as all tension left him.
“I have dishonored my warrior code…” he whispered, empty eyes watching the sky.
‘Ooopsie!’ Tannin furiously thought.
“No you haven’t!” she resolutely said aloud, mind racing as she tried to patch things up, “that just… uh… shows that though you were possessed, you still could fight it enough to try to stop the worm from hurting your friends!”
‘Damn, I’m good!’ she triumphantly thought as life sparkled back into the sad eyes.
Val started chasing the bird as it took off. Soon she had disappeared among the trees.
“Really Zero, just stay cool,” Macc tried to smile, “Weiila will get here and exorcise you and stuff…”
‘I hope…’ he silently added, since when considering it, exorcism didn’t sound like a nice business.
“Exactly,” Sin said with his eyes locked on Zero, “somebody go get her.”
“I’ll go,” Faetan said, “you guys keep an eye on things, you know better what we’re dealing with.”
“But I can…” Macc begun.
She was already gone.
“… Fly. Oh well…”
“She sure was in a hurry,” Tannin said with a glance at her friend’s direction.
“I guess the idea of something worse than Dark Macc makes her jittery,” Macc nodded with understanding.
“What, am I worse than him?” Zero said, clearly hurt through the confusion.
“No, no,” the blue reploid said, “not you, the demon in your head.”
“What about it?” he worriedly asked.
“Seems like the possessor wanted to free it,” Tannin said, pursing her mouth.
“Hey, didn’t it say something about starting to release the demon?”
By now, silence had gotten a lot of practice in falling and did so rather gracefully this time. The only sound was a lonely cricket chirping from out of nowhere.
“Uh, Zero… is it… moving?” Macc asked in a high pitched voice after a few moments.
“I’ll… check…” Zero hoarsely said, his eyes very slowly widening, “uh-oh… uh-oh…”
That just couldn’t be a good sign.
“What’s it doing?!” Sin growled.
“Holy… agh…” the reploid replied, his face constricting into a grimace.
His fingers dug into the stone hard, dried mud of the road and his body turned rigid again.
“Wait!” Macc and Tannin shrieked at the same time, grabbing Sin’s arms to stop him from doing anything hasty that probably could have been a good thing in the very long run.
In reality it hadn’t been needed, for even though Sin acted tough he wasn’t about to really cut off Zero’s head unless truly necessary.
It was starting to feel tempting however as the blackness refilled the shocked eyes like a thick oil and the pained expression was replaced by the smirk again.
But it was a different snicker this time, it wasn’t an emotionless one but looked very sincere. A calm, taunting smile, not the plastered one from earlier.
“Don’t move, worm,” Sin spoke, hardly moving his lips at all.
The hands slid off his arms, hesitantly.
“I will have you know that I am not a worm, Sinistral,” the distorted voice said.
“You can talk?” Tannin scowled.
“I can talk very well even, all I needed was to work a little more on my grip of my host.”
It slowly withdrew its fingers from the holes in the ground.
“Oh, don’t look at me like that. I’m calm, aren’t I?”
“Whatever you say,” Sin said, as unmoving as ever.
“I say, aren’t you starting to get stiff by now, standing like that?”
“Not particularly, no.”
Faetan dashed through Weiila’s garden and tore the door open.
Then she remembered that the wall was smashed, and going around the cottage had been rather unnecessary.
“Faetan?” came Merlin’s voice from the kitchen, burning with hope.
Raising her eyebrows Fae gasped her way inside. She couldn’t remember when she last had run like that. Still, Merl’s voice sounded strange enough to pique her curiousity.
She entered the kitchen to find Lunaris, Weiila and 984 on the floor, digging in a heap of necklaces, brooches and other accessories. Fae was about to ask, but adding the heap’s placement to the utter lack of Tenchimaru in sight, she reached the conclusion herself.
Charlemagne was still in the same place as before, munching as happily as ever. And Merlin was on a chair across the table from the red-eyed reploid, with his arms sourly crossed and green ropes going from the floor to his wrists. He stood up as Faetan entered however, hope shining around him like an aura.
“Uh…” Fae reported, still trying to catch her breath.
“Did they get him?” Merlin urgently asked, freedom almost within sight.
“Sin got – pant – Zero – wheeze – down,” the messenger tried again, “we…”
Weiila got to her feet and held out her hand to Faetan. In her palm two necklaces rested, one pendant shaped like a silver star and the other like a bronze swirl, neither much bigger than two thumbnails.
“I have to heal TD or it’ll get messy,” the healer quickly explained, “these charms should help Zero. Can you make it?”
“Will do,” Faetan nodded, jocularly saluted and grabbed the necklaces.
A stream of healing light followed her as she hurried towards the smashed wall, filling her with new energy that sent her almost flying past Merlin.
Sighing deeply, the prisoner sat down on the chair to wait. Again.
Back on the road, the tension was rising towards unbearable. None of the sides had said anything nor moved for almost two minutes, the seconds snailing past.
“Where is Faetan?” Tannin finally exploded, unable to take it anymore.
The sudden sound almost caused the two standing men to jump, which in Sin’s case would have been very bad for Zero and his possessor.
“She and Weiila will be here any moment, I’m sure,” Macc nervously said, clenching his teeth.
“Yesss…” the distorted voice hissed.
“That’s a rel… what?” the blue reploid began but changed.
“Thisss isss very good…”
The look on Zero’s face was downright terrifying in its dark triumph. Alarms went off in Sin’s head and his grip of the sword hilt clenched.
“I warn you, again,” he snarled, “you move, I kill.”
Zero’s lips coldly smirked.
“I do not have to move, Sinistral.”
Sin only needed one single second to drive the edge of his sword downwards and bury the metal in the road through Zero’s defenseless throat.
But, he never got that second.
Zero’s eyes flashed in a blinding red light that spread out like an explosion over the small area. In fact, it was an explosion, a magical one so forceful that it threw everyone backwards with surprised shouts.
Well, almost everyone. Actually, only two people and a sword that was torn out of the owner’s hands by the force of the attack.
“Sin!” Macc roared even as he landed, the broadsword crashing on the ground beside him.
“What the hell!?” Tannin shouted, leaping back onto her feet.
The light had formed a halfway transparent, giant bubble, sparkling with so much power that everything inside of it became shadowy and blurred.
But not nearly blurred enough.
The reddish, Sinistral-shaped shadow stood frozen in midair inside the bubble, bent forwards as if he was about to attack the reploid on the ground.
Untouched by the magic that bound the swordsman, Zero’s form stood up in a single fluid movement.
“Damn!” Macc yelled, throwing himself at the bubble.
This proved to be a bad idea since the magic power sent him flying backwards again and he sprawled on the ground with thin red lightning bolts crawling over his body. Getting up on shaky arms, he stared at the horrifying scenery being displayed before his helpless eyes.
“Stop!” he croaked as he saw Zero’s body spread its arms and bend its head backwards.
Tannin snarled, drawing her sword to slice at the bubble. It was not any better idea than the one that Macc had had. She crashed beside him, trying to get back on her feet.
Another, fainter shadow rose from Zero’s chest, too distorted by the bubble to be clearly seen. But to Tannin’s narrowed eyes it appeared at least vaguely human.
Sinistral couldn’t move, but not even the magical wall could obscure the desperate twitching of his hands.
With a sigh Weiila leaned backwards on one hand, rubbing her forehead with the other. The cat purred in a strangely worried tone, stroking itself at her back.
“You okays?” Lunaris asked, frowning.
“Yes, healing just draws a lot of…”
The scream cut her off, causing every one of them except Charle to snap up in shock. Even TD opened his burnt eyes briefly.
Though distant, the scream rang out over Rendezvous like a doomsday horn.
Faetan stopped in mid step.
In his lair, Hiryuu frowned and arose from his chair. Halfway down the stair he met a pale Jiharn.
X froze, the scream stirring a horror so great that it even reached through his reprogramming.
Hades’ pen broke.
Dark Macc looked up, eyebrows rising above the glowing eyes.
A darkness was on its way towards revival, greater than anything ever seen before.
“Mazrim!” Merlin croaked, his voice not strong enough to fully push through the horror growing in his chest.
The young sage stood straight in the middle of the rubble after the wall incident, hands folded in the sleeves of his robe. No sign of the Virtual Boy. Merlin’s fear only grew, though the others weren’t familiar with the stranger something about the green-haired man’s stance fueling their fright as well.
“The demon now works together with the possessor,” Mazrim grimly said, watching thin air as he spoke, “and he has regained two pieces of himself. He will hunt the last one down until it is found, upon which he will be complete and summoned by the possessor to once again roam this land and spread his madness.”
The room stood in shock, paralyzed as a Mazrim spoke his prophecy.
“Is there nothing we can do to stop him?” Merlin hoarsely asked.
Mazrim pursed his lips, thoughtfully staring ahead as if listening to something.
“The demon’s riddle…” he finally said, slowly, “one who has not yet known his darkness can answer it. This is the only way to weaken the beast, before that he cannot fall to swords, nor magic or bullets.”
He paused for a moment.
“Oh, and the two collected pieces are on their way here right now.”
Glances were exchanged. Very briefly.
Three people and a cat dove for Merlin to tear his bounds apart.
“984, you go warn the townsp…! Oh crap!”
Merlin’s organizing orders were cut short by a hole in the roof. Or more precisely, what came through it.
984 managed to duck and the cat was too close to the floor already, but Lunaris and Weiila were flung backwards into the far off corner of the room by a powerful sweep from Zero’s arms.
“Good afternoon,” the distorted voice smirked at the two groaning heaps on the floor.
He turned around.
“And aren’t you a helpful bunch?” he added, grinning.
The vines stretched as Merlin ducked, but they allowed far too little space for him to get away. With a swift movement Zero’s stolen hand shot forwards.
“Hurk!” Merlin protested, trying to kick at his friend’s stomach.
“Behold the ultimate horror!” the eerie voice bellowed in triumph.
The free hand rose above the blond hair, fingers bending like claws.
He got claws alright.
The cat leaped straight at the smirking face, hissing wildly and tearing up skin wherever it could. It wasn’t very effective as Zero’s healing systems kicked in, surely upgraded by the demon power as they worked so quickly, but the pure force in the attack was enough to send the reploid stumbling backwards. Merlin broke free and landed on the floor together with the cat.
Both 984 and Merlin could have sworn that the tiny paw that quickly slashed at the vines suddenly looked more like a tiger’s than a cat’s. And how could so short claws cut off those green ropes, anyway?
But there was no time to wonder as the possessor snarled in rage. Without a single clear thought in his mind, 984 grabbed Merlin’s arm and kicked his jets to life. The two escapees swept up from the floor and zoomed outside, gaining height and speed quickly.
“You’re not getting away!”
The possessor got up and was about to take on the hunt when a quick series of red hot projectiles slammed into the armor on his back, and also the back itself.
Irritated, he turned around while the wounds spat out the bullets and closed themselves though the holes in the armor remained.
“Uh-ohs…” Lunaris eeped.
Weiila desperately lunged forwards while Zero was still turning, throwing a necklace that miraculously managed to make its way over the helmet and down around the throat of the reploid.
“The power of chokers compels you?” she more prayed than demanded as she quickly stumbled backwards, the cat bouncing to her and Lunaris’ side.
The possessor looked down at the silver star; a spare anti curse charm that had been found during the quest for the anti confusion charm.
“Cute,” the body-thief said, gripping the medallion with his thumb and pointing finger to hold it up for closer inspection.
He looked up at the small group in the corner by the cleaning wardrobe; Lunaris desperately working on reloading though he knew it was rather pointless, Weiila only seeming to press herself against the wall and the cat hissing dangerously on the floor.
“I appreciate the kind thought,” the possessor smirked and tore off the thin chain with a swift pull, “I prefer the skull motif however…”
A thin hand slipped into the dusky storage area of the wardrobe, fingers blindly fumbling while the owner fought not to let any suspicious movements show.
“What do you want, anyway?” Weiila croaked.
“I was born only to cause mayhem,” the possessor gladly informed, slowly advancing towards the three cornered peeps, “that is all.”
TD was of no help, sleeping like the piece of charcoal he was. And not even an earthquake could have budged Charlemagne, it seemed.
“The dmeon will doble-cross you!” Lunaris tried, catching on to the bandwagon of Win Time.
His fingers refused to obey him, brain too near panic to control his shaking hand. The bullet clip slipped from his grip, clattering on the floor.
“It matters not,” the reploid said.
He still advanced, but very slowly.
“Once the demon is free, my work is complete.”
“Who sent you?” Weiila harshly questioned, “Dark Macc?”
“I answer to no one,” the possessor smirked, halting Zero’s body a few feet from the corner and its prisoners, “now, prepare yourselves!”
Zero’s arms spread out. Breaths were sucked in, the cat whimpered and tried to mold itself against the wall beside Lunaris’ right foot.
Thin fingers grasped a leathery hilt in the darkness.
Weiila briefly closed her eyes.
“Codex of healers, forgive me…” she murmured.
‘Pecluriar last words…’ Lunaris thought.
Then he noticed the dark stream that fell out of the wardrobe, pooling and crawling around Weiila’s feet.
His eyes bulged.
“Are you planning something, healer?” the possessor asked in amusement.
Weiila looked up, a strange sparkle flashing in her gaze.
She flung her arm forwards, and even the possessor’s eyes bulged half a second before the lash hit him square across the chest, tearing up tight black cloth and artificial skin. He stumbled backwards, suddenly moving much more mechanical again. With more space offered, Weiila drew her hand back for a second attack. Once again the leather rope cut through the kitchen.
A wrist went up and caught the lash, causing the weapon to coil itself around the arm. A quick rip tore the hilt out of Weiila’s hand.
“Pain killers!” she cursed, stumbling back into the wall again.
“Kinky, I must say…” the possessor said while freeing his wrist to examine the weapon briefly.
“You haev… a whip?!” Lun managed to almost squeak.
“I had a whip… paralyzing effect…” the healer corrected, gulping as the reploid threw the long item aside.
The wound on his chest had already healed.
“Surprising, but nothing more,” he coldly grinned, “now…”
The blackness off his eyes glistened, an evil red glow filling the abyss of the reploid’s gaze.
Charlemagne burped, leaning back on his chair with a content sigh.
“Man, I’m full!”
He looked up.
“Hey guys, what’s going on?”
“Run!” Lunaris, Weiila and the mysterious “book voice” shouted.
“Whut? Hey Z, what’s cookin’?”
Charle jumped when Zero’s face turned at him, the hungry red glow seemingly reaching out to devour the startled reploid.
But as Hiryuu’s creation moved, a silvery chain hanging around his neck sparkled in the sunlight. The pendant hanging in it was extraordinary detailed, looking like a small, smiling child who patted his own stomach.
The possessor hissed, raising its stolen hand to shield its face like a vampire seeing a cross.
“You are more clever than I thought, I see!” it snarled, “but no necklace will save you from the demon!”
And with that he left, leaving yet another hole in the roof.
For several seconds, all the people in the kitchen could do was to blink stupidly at the Zeroless spot.
Finally, Charlemagne carefully took the pendant between two fingers and raised it to look.
“Why was he afraid of this?” he wondered.
“The anti food poison amulet?” Weiila blankly said, “what on earth…”
Lunaris held up his hand, holding the retrieved bullet clip.
“No mattre,” he grimly said, “now we know smoething that can stpo him, we have to fnid Merlin befroe Zero does!”
“What’s going on?” Charle asked, confused.
“Zero is possessed by something and trying to summon a demon, if he gets Merlin we’re doomed,” Weiila quickly summed up, hurrying across the floor to pick up her whip with the cat and Lunaris just behind her, “come on, we have to go…”
Faetan came rushing up the garden, closely followed by Tannin, who was stumbling under the weight of Sinistral’s sword. Macc trailed behind, stumbling under the weight of Sinistral himself. With a grunt he dumped his burden on the floor, carefully leaning the warrior against one of the table’s legs.
Empty, glassy eyes stared at nothing, wide with horror. Weiila threw the whip aside and dove to the floor beside Sin.
“Is… he…?” Lunaris whispered.
The answer was a weak groan from Sin’s lips upon the healer’s careful touch. Held breaths were released in relief.
“Can you fix him?” Macc worriedly asked.
Weiila nodded with clenched teeth, ignoring the fact that with all this healing she’d certainly render herself bedridden. Provided she and everyone else survived until the evening, that was.
“Yes, but it’ll take a while… what happened?”
“The thing in Zero used the demon on Sin, it ripped his piece out of him and then used itself against him, it was horrid!” Macc shuddered, balling his hands into shaking fists.
“I don’t get it,” Tannin said, setting the giant sword in the grass, “what’s so horrible about-”
“DON’T!” Macc, Lunaris, Weiila and the mysterious voice screamed.
“The demon can’t harm you the first time you’re hit by his powers,” the healer said in a slightly calmer voice, “his powers is in the haunting, never giving your soul a moment’s rest, capturing it with…”
She violently shuddered, the cat hopping into her lap with a whimpered meow. But she caught herself quickly as her gaze shot at Macc.
“And you! You heard him again!” she croaked.
The blue reploid quickly shook his head.
“I covered my ears and looked away…”
His head dropped.
“Sin couldn’t, though…”
“Listne!” Lunaris quickly said, waving with his hands – which included also waving with mini pistols, which meant he got the attention at once, “we don’t haev time fro this! Zero is hutning Merl and 984! We heav to find them!”
“Yes, but how?” the mysterious voice asked, “they could be anywhere by now, there’s no time for a search party!”
“I know how!”
Depending on their placement, everybody – save TD and Sin – either snapped up or spun around at the voice from the garden.
“You!” Charlemagne bristled.
“Get lost!” Faetan snarled while Tannin reached for her sword.
“There’s no time for fighting now!” Hiryuu growled, holding up what appeared to be a compass with three shivering needles, all pointing in pretty much the same direction which was towards the man’s right shoulder, “this is attuned to the demon’s evil and can trace him!”
“Gret, let’s go!” Lunaris called, leaping out in the garden to join the evil overlord wannabe and his assistant.
“Uhh?” Tannin, Faetan and Charlemagne blinked.
“This is far beyond bickering, we have to trust him!” Macc yelled as he followed Lun, “come on!”
“What in all hells is that thing?!” Tannin snarled.
“No time, all three pieces are heading for the harbor!” Hiryuu snapped, “are you coming or not?”
“No way!” Charlemagne pouted.
“Listen!” Weiila growled, getting to her feet, “everyone, we have to work together! The anti food poison charm that Charle has scared Zero off when he was here, if we can get it on him he might be cured! Otherwise…”
“Smoe robde dude said taht one who hasn’t yet knonw the demno cloud solve his riddle!” Lun rabbled, “you hav to cmoe!”
“But that thing makes no sense!” Jiharn piped up, nervously jumping from foot to foot.
“I’m not going with him!” Charle resolutely said, crossing his arms and pouting.
Hiryuu coldly glared at his “son”.
“Whatever!” he snapped and spun around with his dark cloak flourishing dramatically, “we don’t have time for this!”
Together with Jiharn, Lun and Macc he ran off, though the psychopath and reploid glanced apologetically over their shoulders.
Seeing their friends run off with the enemy, Tannin and Faetan exchanged worried glances.
“Go!” Weiila harshly said, “you have a chance to win, they don’t! I need to heal Sin, but I’ll be there as soon as possible!”
She turned to Charle, who pouted even more.
“No!” he whined.
Weiila bit her lower lip and swallowed all pride she had, just like Lun and Macc just had done. The humiliation that she faced was on a completely different level, however.
“If you go, I’ll… I’ll…”
“I’ll do that lemon pizza you wanted.”
Charlemagne’s grin almost split his skull.
“Wohoo! Wait, daddy!” he yelled, bouncing out of the kitchen to follow the distant troop.
Left were three women, a cat and two unconscious men.
“Lemon… pizza?” Faetan shuddered.
“There will be a time in everyone’s life when they have to turn down all morals for the sake of the world. Or something.”
Weiila sat down beside Sin again, looking up at Tannin and Fae.
“And if you want to see the sun rise tomorrow,” the healer grimly said, “you will help fighting. Trust me!”
The partners in crime exchanged glances and gave up. They turned around and sprinted out onto the lawn, rushing after Charle’s back that was disappearing behind a distant hill.
Releasing a slow breath, Weiila tried to focus her will again in order to start healing Sinistral. She looked down as she felt a furry weight in her lap again.
“What a fabulous time to be under a spell!” the cat hissed with a bitter meow.
“But you got Merlin free at least,” Weiila murmured, absentmindedly scratching the furry little ears.
“If I only could transform, I’d…”
“Probably get my sorry ass kicked too, but…”
“I’m sorry, StarStorm.”
“Not your fault, hon, we’ll figure it out soon enough…”
He sighed. Then he tried to grin a little, though the situation and his cute face left little room for it.
“By the way, I like the whip.”
“Oh shush!” she snorted, reaching out for Sin’s clammy temples.
There was a faint glistening in his dead eyes as Weiila’s fingertips began to glow in a gentle, turquoise light.
His mind had turned itself into a tight not, trying to save itself from the horror that the demon induced in every being it met. Carefully, Weiila sent her healing powers in thin streams into the knot, trying to make it straighten out.
“Sh…” Sin wheezed after a moment, “sh… shut… sh… up…”
“Yes…” Weiila mumbled, trying to maintain a calming voice, “we’re working on it…”
Meanwhile, Merlin and 984 were having a hard time. They were currently on the ground, running along the sandy cobblestones of the harbor after there had been some problems with the reploid’s jetpack. Specifically, the problem had been caused by another reploid and his fist. The two had barely managed not to crash, but it had been rough. And Merlin’s heavily worn body was not really in the shape for running like a mad chicken.
The possessor wasn’t gaining on ‘em per say, it had them right where it wanted them as it kept sweeping up in front of the refugees to force them into changing direction again and again.
“Man, this guy is worse than a rabid fangirl!” 984 snarled as he ripped Merlin with him in a violent turn for the sixth time.
The green-hair just groaned, fully focused on forcing his burning legs to keep obeying him.
Some merchants and sailors watched the hunt from their duties but made no attempts to help. Rendezvous faced enough crazy things to teach the people living in the area when to just stay out of the way. Or enjoy a free show.
Zero hovered before the stumbling man and the reploid, his arms casually folded across his chest and a patient snicker on his lips.
Merlin’s legs decided to go against the rest of the body, brain and world’s heated wishes right there and then, and he fell down on one knee with a desperate groan.
“Merl! Come on man, don’t give up!” 984 hissed.
“He is lost,” the possessor grinned, floating closer.
Its arms unfolded, ready to reach out.
984 pressed his hands against each other, narrowing his eyes.
“Heed my call, oh pits!” he snarled, spreading the palms with the fingertips still meeting its brothers.
A dark rift opened in the ground below the possessor, lightning bolts crossing its growing, circular shape. Sand and stones poured out of the world and into another, unknown dimension, one they would have to accept as their new home.
Zero, however, simply floated above the trap with an amused smirk.
“Eep!” 984 gulped, grabbing Merlin’s shoulder in an attempt to drag him away while the pit closed with an embarrassed *glup*.
“This tires me,” the possessor said.
Another voice spoke then, using the same lips. A voice much deeper and more evil than the possessor ever could hope to be.
The skin of 984 and Merlin crawled, every single hair on their bodies rising up in terror. The latter’s legs, finally getting the full picture, decided that perhaps it would be good to work after all. Merl stumbled to his feet and swayed, trying to resentfully and bravely glare at the two monsters inhabiting Zero’s poor brain.
It was however hard to glare at something that he could hardly see for all the dancing stars.
He did catch the fact that Zero’s arms spread however, and that was a little more than he wanted to know. In the next second, 984’s powerful shove sent him stumbling backwards and a stream of light flared from the purple reploid’s hand into the exhausted man. New strength flowed into Merlin’s body and the stars melted. He blinked, grimacing as he realized what had happened.
984 was crumbling, violently stumbling before Zero.
“My energy…” he rasped, “run, Merlin!”
“You are all so sickeningly cute,” the demon’s voice smirked, ripping the air into shreds with his words alone.
The various other people on the dock had grown even more curious and about twenty sailors, merchants and other workers had assembled – on a safe distance – to watch more closely. Their eyes bulged however as they saw what arose from the blond reploid’s chest.
984 lost his balance and fell to the ground, powerlessly staring up at the abomination above him.
The spectators started to flee, screaming in horror. Only a few made it.
Merlin stumbled away, pressing his hands against his ears and pinching his eyes tightly shut.
Sin was just straightening up a little, still heavily leaning against the table. Despite her growing fatigue Weiila sent one more shower of healing stars over the warrior before leaning back against the non-broken wall.
“Goddamn it…” Sinistral bitterly growled.
“You survived a direct confrontation,” Weiila murmured while rubbing her forehead, “that…”
“He wasn’t really trying!”
Sin punched the floor – for him it was weakly. The plank cracked.
“He was just playing, didn’t want me to die yet!” he snarled, “blast that thing! I should have been more careful!”
The screams tore through the air.
“Oh no! No!” Weiila gasped, fighting her way to her feet.
She stumbled and fell flat on her stomach into the grass and the wall rubble, due to Sin’s grip of her ankle.
“I don’t think so,” he bitterly murmured.
The cat leaped onto Weiila’s back to show his standpoint. The weak stream of adrenaline wasn’t strong enough to sustain her for more than a few seconds in any case. Gritting her teeth she got up in a sitting position, somberly looking towards the port.
Hiryuu and his – stretching the word to the limit – strange troop reached the harbor, passing several random, screaming men along the way. It was not a pretty sight that greeted them.
Motionless bodies littered the cobblestones of the silent port, the wind blowing sand over them like the first steps to create their graves.
“984!” Charlemagne shouted, pointing at a purple heap on the ground.
As he heard the steps, the reploid slowly opened an exhausted eye. Always a relief.
“Where is Merlin?!” Faetan shouted.
“Raaannn…” the reploid whispered before the eye closed and he passed out again.
However, it seemed that he was not dead, just knocked out. With a reploid’s lack of breathing it was hard to tell though.
“Come on, this way!” Hiryuu snarled, glaring at the compass.
They thundered across the land part of the place, reaching the border of one of the longer docks. A big merchant ship was on both sides of the pier; their sails dangling, forgotten.
A group of sailors came running down the planks, screaming as if an army of devils were after them.
“He’s coming back! The demon!!”
There wasn’t any need to even exchange glances. The warriors just dove onto the dock and sprinted along it as fast as they could while the hardy men of the sea disappeared towards town.
A tumbleweed of green hair weakly shivered in the ocean wind above a pale face covered with cold sweat.
Merlin laid on the edge of the dock, sprawled like a thrown rag doll.
Faetan tackled Lunaris to get past him, tearing Merlin’s shoulders from the wood in an attempt to shake him awake.
Then the universe creaked as Hiryuu shoved her aside, slamming his hand onto the damp forehead.
“It’s gone!” the evil genius hissed.
It wasn’t much of a surprise, but for a second it seemed as if even the waves froze in horror.
“Hiryuu…” Macc finally, slowly said, “being an evil dude and all… if you were Zero, where would you be right now?”
“Behind you,” Hiryuu replied in a very strange voice.
They slowly turned around.
Zero’s hand coolly waved, his feet floating a few inches above the dock’s planks.
“Zero! Fight it!” Tannin desperately shouted.
The possessor smiled, almost peacefully.
“My work will soon be over,” it gently said, “it has been a pleasure, my dear loosers.”
And with that it zoomed backwards, Zero’s blond hair flaring over his shoulders to wave teasingly at the heroes that dashed after him. They were very quickly realizing that stopping the demon’s revival was becoming impossible, but they couldn’t give up until the last drop of blood was shed.
Well, at least almost all of them felt that way.
“We’re gonna die, boss!” Jiharn squeaked, hugging Hiryuu’s leg.
This caused the blue-hair to stumble and fall, dragging his assistant with him. Charlemagne stumbled over his uncle Jiharn, and Faetan fell over Charle as she dumped Merlin in favor for helping the still awake people.
Zero’s boots touched down on the cobblestones, and his lips coldly smirked at the pursuers.
The possessor spread its arms and fingers wide.
Lunaris crashed into Tannin, who had crashed into Macc.
“Zero!!” the blue reploid roared in despair.
“You can be happy, knowing that I will release him to see what he has caused!” the possessor cruelly laughed as it bent Zero’s head backwards.
The stolen reploid’s body glowed for a second before the dreaded red light covered it, flowing from the flaming eyes.
“NO!!” all the “oldies” screamed – except for Lun of course, who screamed “NOS!!”
With a deafening roar the red light shot up from Zero’s body like a snaking dragon, black lightning bolts triumphantly dancing along the thick trunk. Another sound was vaguely heard behind the roaring of power; it took a moment for those who listened in terror to understand that it was Zero screaming.
The spectators stood frozen in horror as the pillar bent, flowing down towards the ground and forming a sickly red, glowing pool of light before its own source.
Screams were heard from all over Rendezvous as the people felt the all too well known evil approach; the air itself shivered in fear.
It seemed to go on forever, but finally, after an eternity, the covering glow flooded away from Zero, who stumbled backwards and fell to the ground as soon as he was freed.
Eyes wide with fear watched the pillar disappear completely into the pool, which immediately flashed dangerously.
It moved, starting to form itself into a solid shape.
“Jiharn!” Hiryuu snarled, forcefully pulling himself free from the petrifaction, “you and the others get out of here!”
“But boss…” Jiharn protested in shock, close to tears.
“Go!” his master shouted, getting to his feet with his cloak bellowing around him like a dark cloud.
“Go where?” Faetan briskly pointed out, looking at the ocean.
All air left Hiryuu for a moment.
“You’ll think of something,” he finally muttered, sprinting towards the solid ground.
Fae’s snap was cut off by Lunaris’ alarming cry.
The pool had completed its transformation and had taken a humanoid shape.
And all light seeped into the creature.
The deep, frightening voice called to the skies, making heaven itself tremble.
Fiery red hair colored like the flames of hell cut sharply against the sickly greenish suit that the demon wore. The sun fled over the buttons of the shirt, the rays from heaven fearfully running across the nameplate adorning the demon’s left chest-half and the short message below.
He stretched triumphantly, looking around as he heard a movement.
Zero groaned, trying to raise himself up on his shaking arms. He tried to recoil as a hand wearing a painfully white glove grabbed his chin, ripping his head upwards. His eyes bulged, face turning gray as ashes as he stared into the demon’s smirking face.
“Zero!” Tannin shrieked, but Lun grabbed her arm as she lunged.
“He’s gnoe!” the psychopath snarled, “you musts run!”
Tannin spun around to break Lunaris’ neck with her bare hands, but was completely taken aback as she saw tears forming in the crazy eyes.
She snapped back, trying to tear herself free as the demon spoke again.
“Ah, the reploid…”
Zero was flung backwards, crashing in the sand with a weak groan. He stared up at the monstrum that towered above him, too drained of strength to move.
“Ironic that you would help to bring me back to life, isn’t it?” the demon said.
He cruelly smirked at the reploid’s violent cringe.
“Allow me to return the favor…”
Zero croaked a weak protest, heavy fingers fumbling for his ears.
“ZERO!!” Tannin roared.
The demon spread his arms.
“Cover your ears!” Macc hollered, doing so himself already.
The unholy fire in the demon’s eyes grew to consume the helpless reploid on the ground.
“The ultimate horror!”
“Nooo…” Zero slurred, pinching his eyes closed.
But the demon hadn’t changed a bit, only finding pleasure in the pathetic plea for mercy as he always had done, marveling at the feast of terror that laid by his feet.
He spoke, and the words flowed around him like a poisonous mist.
“And that is precisely the reason why the car is off limits to passengers!”
As all the porcelain and glass in Weiila’s kitchen shivered by the scream, Sin’s head dropped.
“He got him…” the sword master resentfully murmured.
The cat sadly purred, curling up in the healer’s lap as her shaking hands clenched.
The demon nastily grinned at the twitching heap before him. Zero’s eyes had rolled inwards and he had lost consciousness. Of course, the tormentor had expected this since the reploid had escaped the insanity before. And just as with that meddling swordsman the worst was yet to come; the abomination had no plans of letting any of his nemesis’s die that quickly.
They deserved, shall we say… better.
The last victim wouldn’t go anywhere anytime soon, but just to make sure the demon snapped his gloved fingers. The sand rolled aside in panic as thin chains crawled up through the ground and slammed themselves over Zero’s wrists and ankles.
They looked eerily much like small railway tracks.
“Don’t move, Tony!”
He coldly smiled.
“Or else what?” he wondered, sounding rather curious.
“We aming at you!”
Tony calmly turned around, raising his hands in a mocked surrender.
“FIRE!” Lun roared, setting off all his mini pistols and the foldable bazooka mounted onto his shoulder.
“Megid!” Macc shouted, releasing a massive fire beam from his hands.
“I’m going to hell for this!” Hiryuu snarled, hurling a set of vials with strangely colored liquids inside at the demon.
The explosion from the bazooka blast whipped up a cloud of smoke around Tony, which only got worse when Macc’s Megid disappeared into it and Hiryuu’s experiment exploded with purple flames upon touching something solid.
Nothing but the cloud was seen, what was inside perfectly shrouded.
The people on the dock exchanged glances.
Charlemagne threw Merlin’s still form over his shoulder.
Slowly the dust settled, revealing an unscathed Tony.
“… is precisely… hmm?”
The fiery eyes narrowed at the empty dock.
“Hide and seek, eh?” Tony called, eying the two silent ships.
Under the merciless boots the grains of sand turned into tiny icicles, forced to carry the horror as they had no way of defending themselves. When he reached the wood of the dock, the demon briefly turned around and snapped his fingers again. A black, vaguely glowing fence shot up from the ground just before the first plank. A sign was hanging on it, clattering for a few moments after the movements ceased. It read:
Entry forbidden except for personnel of Filgaia railways!
Chuckling to himself, Tony continued up the ship, towards the defenseless gangways.
“Okay… the situation is, according to my informed analyze,” Hiryuu muttered while pressing his back against a crater, which according to the note on it was filled with spikes, “we are all going to die. Or insane. Whatever comes first.”
“I still don’t see what’s so bad about that thing he says…” Tannin grunted, trying to ignore the chill in the back of her head as she thought about the seemingly innocent phrase.
She was trying to spy at the moving shadow on the landing stage, between the crates and over the railing. Together with Macc, Lun and Hiryuu she had rushed – or rather, been dragged – onto the ship on the right side of the dock, and now they were hiding as far back on the deck as possible, behind the cargo that the panicking sailors had left when they fled.
“It’s not bad now,” Macc grimly whispered, “but when you’ve heard it a few times you’ll start to crack.”
“We’re traped like rast…” Lun muttered with a low growl, with a curious screwdriver trying to modify something on his bazooka.
Macc blinked at the psychopath, then quickly glanced around.
“Rast? Where?” he questioned, hopeful.
“Sorries, missayning,” Lunaris apologetically said, shaking his head.
Tannin was too occupied with wondering how Faetan was doing to care about what the heck the two fairly sane men were talking about.
On the other ship, Faetan was ducking behind a barrel and worrying about the others. Though, when she thought it over she realized that she should be more worried about herself. After all, she was stuck with Charlemagne, Jiharn and a comatose Merlin.
“My instincts are telling me that we’re in deep trouble this time,” she announced in a neutral voice, in her tense state forgetting whom she was talking to.
Jiharn, who had been hugging his knees already, fell over onto the deck in a fetal position.
“I don’t want the boss to die alone!” he sobbed, pressing his hands against his head.
“He’s not alone, Lun, Tan and Maccy are with him!” Charle nervously said while leaning Merlin’s motionless form against another one of the several barrels that were used as this ship’s hiding place.
Jiharn looked up with tears flooding from his eyes.
“I’m so sorry that you’ll be loosing your mum, your one true love and yourself on the same day, Faetan!” he empathetically whined.
Fae ignored the babbling moron and peeked over the circular containers, pressing her hair downwards to be harder to spot.
Her jaw nearly broke.
“He’s going onto the other ship!” she hissed.
“Boss!” Jiharn squeaked, his blind dashed stopped by Fae’s iron grip of his arm.
“Stay here!” she snarled, “you’d just get yourself killed!”
She briefly glanced towards the green back that was moving up the opposite gangway.
“Tell me!” she hissed at the terrified sidekick, “why do people drop like flies because of his punch line?”
Jiharn flinched, his tear swollen eyes wildly shifting. Finally he gulped, after a mere moment though it felt like years.
“It’s the demon curse,” he whispered in a shivering voice, “the mysterious riddle that nobody can solve…”
Charle raised his hand and waved it like a second grader who knew how to spell to Mississippi. But also one who knew that the teacher had a shot gun reserved for those who forgot a letter.
“Didn’t Lunny say that somebody said that somebody who hadn’t known the demon before could answer the riddle?” the white-haired reploid urgently mumbled.
The words were hardly even breaths. Merlin’s left eye cracked open as the weak whisper slipped between his lips.
“Mazrim?” Faetan nodded, hopefully.
“Alright, you just lay low and try to recover…”
Fae waved at the green-hair, who’s head rolled back a little without a single protest. She narrowed her eyes at Tony, who was advancing over the other deck. He wasn’t rushing, taking his time to pose as a monster from a thriller movie.
Charle poked at the more dead than alive addition to their troop.
“Hey Merlimerl!” he hissed, “how could you and Sin and Zero beat that thing before?”
A black iris peeked out below a nearly closed eyelid.
“Earplugs and blinds…” Merlin murmured before tumbling back into the dream world.
Faetan blinked and reached for her pockets, only to realize that she had dropped her plugs back in her living room at the start of the chapter.
All thoughts shattered as she heard Tony’s voice again, and she and the two awake companions straightened up in fear for their friends. Quite understandably so, too.
“There you are!” Tony grinned.
“Run!” Lunaris roared, his call being flanked by a quick series of explosions.
Macc tore Tannin and Hiryuu with him as he dashed towards the stem of the ship.
“Macc, you jerk!” the woman of the three snarled, over her shoulder seeing the bazooka being slapped off Lunaris’ shoulder by a gloved hand.
“When a friend makes a sacrifice like that, the worst thing you can do is to not honor it!” the blue reploid bitterly growled through his teeth.
“I fully agree!” Hiryuu stated.
“I don’t care what you think!” Tannin snapped at the scientist before Macc dragged both of them down behind the helm.
Lunaris’ lips crawled back from his teeth as he backed, disarmed before the demon. He cringed when a hand covered with white cloth grabbed his golden collar and ripped him from the ground.
The psychopath desperately grabbed the suited wrist while Tony cruelly smirked.
“And that is precisely the reason…”
Seconds later Lun loosely hung in the demon’s grip, only the feeble twitching of his hands signaling that he was still alive. The silvery head had fallen to the side, his eyes wide open and glassy.
“I’ll finish you off later,” Tony concluded, dumping Lunaris on the deck.
Another finger-snap called upon four more railway chains to make sure the last victim wouldn’t get away either.
“Next!” the demon called.
Ducking in the back of the command bridge but with nothing but Macc and Hiryuu to hide behind, Tannin was seriously starting to feel chilly about the demon curse. Every time she heard it, her confusion grew towards something dark that she couldn’t, nor wanted to grasp.
She was also fighting a sudden compulsion to yell “Oh my god, he killed Lunaris!”. But the author won’t let her, anyway.
“It starts with irritation, irritation becomes frustration, frustration becomes hopelessness, hopelessness becomes helplessness, and helplessness leads to your doom,” Hiryuu darkly murmured as if he could read Tannin’s thoughts, “he will get you too, my dear psycho.”
“I’m reaching that conclusion,” she muttered back, “and if you ever call me ‘dear’ again I’ll hand feed you to that… oh crap.”
She added the last when a shadow fell over the three refugees. Unwillingly, they looked up.
“Hello there!” Tony smiled.
Three backs crashed into the railing of the ship. Below them the waves invitingly caressed the bottom of the big boat. The dock was no safe haven; it was on the opposite side of where Macc and co were being cornered.
“Are you ready for the eternal darkness of insanity?” Tony asked.
“Well, this maniac here kinda already knows about all that,” Tannin growled, nudging Hiryuu with her elbow.
Beads of sweat crawled down the man’s forehead as the flaming eyes turned to him.
“Ah yes…” Tony thoughtfully said, “I hear that you played quite an important part in my last fall, Hiryuu.”
“No, no! Really, no! Just evil rumors, I…”
Hiryuu’s back was perfectly molded after the railing as Tony’s eyes narrowed.
“I can’t say that it matters.”
Tony spread his arms.
“Before you plunge us into the most horrible torment imaginable,” Macc quickly said, struggling to win seconds, “just out of curiosity, what car are you talking about?”
The only thing that stopped Faetan from committing suicide by rushing to her friends’ aid was Charle’s hands grabbing her shoulders.
“It matters not, Macc Maverick,” Tony said, shaking his head, “all you have to know is…”
Hiryuu grabbed an arm in each hand.
“That this is precisely the reason why I must go to extremes!” he shouted.
He leaped surprisingly high above the deck, even more surprisingly tearing both Tannin and Macc with him.
“You die!” the red-hair shrieked as the three of them plunged towards the water.
Hiryuu’s hand left her shirt a second before the ice-cold impact. Not because he wanted to, but because his arms were forcefully pressed against his sides. By the same small train tracks that bound Macc and Tannin.
Three pairs of feet kicked the air mere inches above the waves, inches that rapidly increased in amount by the wave of Tony’s hand.
“You were saying?” he smirked as the catch was brought up to face him again.
“Hiryuu, this would be a good time to launch a series of pathetic pleas,” Macc urgently suggested.
The evil genius glared.
“Why don’t you do it?” he snapped.
“I don’t have your kind of excellent training.”
“Why you… eep!”
Hiryuu was cut off by Tony’s movements and the opening of the demonic mouth.
The lost warriors and the evil lord wannabe tried to brace themselves against the horror that couldn’t be fought back by any human soul.
“… is precisely…”
Merlin’s voice lashed through the air, causing all who was still awake to snap their heads at him. He stood openly on the left ship’s deck, his cloak heavily flapping around his shaking body in the ocean breeze. To say that he looked ready for battle would be the worst lie spoken since the last election. More like a ghost with his pale face and darkened eyes, on the verge of collapsing.
But valiantly standing up to protect the captives.
“And goddamn stupid!” Faetan growled, smacking Charle over the head for not guarding the green-hair better.
“Hey, you incompetent ticket holder! It’s me you want!” Merlin shouted, trying his best not to sway.
Tony grinned from ear to ear, dropping his three prisoners on the deck.
“Saved by Merlin. This is depressing…” Hiryuu snarled, banging his forehead into the planks as he landed.
“Merlin, Merlin, why the hell are you so Merlin?!” Faetan growled, rushing out of hiding towards the green-hair while Tony levitated up from the other ship.
She tackled the self-proclaimed sacrifice, sending both of them crashing into the wall of the ship’s bridge. Chains caught empty air and fell to the planks as their game got out of the way.
“You know, the idea was kinda that you guys would get a chance to get away,” Merlin slurred, rubbing his spinning head.
“You’re crazy!” Faetan snarled.
“Hey! You guys okay?”
Merlin groaned as he saw Charlemagne come jogging across the deck, Jiharn hesitantly trailing behind.
“You were supposed to hide!” the man with the cloak sighed.
“Oh,” he said, embarrassed.
“Look at it from the bright side,” Tony said as he landed just behind the sidekick and the reploid, “it’s a lot more efficient this way.”
“Yikes!” Jiharn squeaked, diving in behind Merlin and Faetan.
Charle settled for curling up beside the two who already had been decked.
“I see you two haven’t met me before,” Tony said and smirked at the tense lady and reploid, “well, that only offers us the pleasure of learning to know each other. Oh, and of course…”
Tony clenched his fist and swept it at the small group, not aiming to hit anyone. As the demon spread is fingers in the middle of the movement Merlin’s head was slammed against the wall behind him. The surprised groan was the last sound that left his lips before his body turned rigid, eyes wide open and staring at nothing.
“What did you do?!” Faetan yelled, trying to shake Merlin’s shoulder only to find that he was petrified.
“I paralyzed him,” Tony merrily informed, “but don’t worry, he’s still fully aware of everything though he can’t move. I thought that getting to see his friends falling before his very eyes was a suitable payback after all the trouble he caused me before.”
“You bastard!” Fae growled, baring her teeth in rage.
“Why thank you.”
Tony performed a mocking bow before straightening up and spreading his arms.
“Now, let me teach you about the horrors of repetition.”
Jiharn’s fingers were about to be buried in his hears and he was desperately humming “Yellow Lemon tree”.
“Stop it you heartless monster!” Macc shouted from afar, in vain of course.
“And that is precisely the reason why the car is off limits to passengers!” Tony smirked.
Faetan clamped her teeth, pinching her eyes shut as she felt a thick taste of bile rising in her throat. She had already heard the curse a couple of times and had begun to feel the pain, but it was much more worse when Tony’s dark aura was mere feet from her. The words spread the evil air that surrounded him, forcing his power through the ears into the helpless brain.
‘Well,’ she ruefully thought as mental lightning bolts tore through her brain, ‘at least now I won’t have to go on that damn date…’
It was a small comfort.
Jiharn had already fainted, and on her left side Charlemagne was trembling as he fought Tony’s attempts to shred his soul.
Through the pain Faetan was amazed as she noticed a shaking fist rise up beside her, an artificial finger rising from the agonizingly clenched lump of bones, muscles and skin.
“And that is precisely the reason why the car is off limits to passengers!” Tony spoke once more.
Faetan felt a scream rising in her chest, if she let it go she would be lost forever…
Charlemagne’s voice was more of a croaking, but nonetheless filled with a quite matter-of-factly tone.
“Dude, we’re on a boat.”
The smirk on Tony’s lips shattered and his eyes widened as if he had received a blow. His gloved hands lashed upwards, slamming into his seething hair.
“Wha… what?! No!” he snarled, stumbling backwards.
Faetan and Charle rather stupidly watched the demon falter and scream.
“Uhm… what did I do?” the reploid asked thin air in confusion.
“The answer to the riddle! You have broken the demon curse!” Mazrim’s voice rung out over the harbor.
The young sage appeared in the air several feet above the demon’s head, the ocean wind sending his brown robes flaring around him as he raised his hands towards the heavens in a grateful pose.
The winds also freed his Mazfro, which kinda killed the dramatic effect.
“You call that an answer and a riddle?!” Tannin shouted from the other side of the dock.
Macc nudged her arm with his shoulder as good as he could.
“You know Tan, I wouldn’t challenge fate in this situation…” the blue reploid brightly said, his eyes practically sparkling due to the relief.
“Uh… huh…” the woman muttered, edging away from the starry eyes as they reminded her far too much of cute little monsters.
Meanwhile, Mazrim was still being dramatic about Tony’s humiliating state.
“Arise, warriors of the land!” the sage called, reaching for the sky with his fingers spread wide while the demon twitched on the deck where he had fallen, “cleanse the world of the darkness!”
With a tingling sound the railway chains fell apart. Tannin barely got to her feet before everything around her turned blurry with a plopping sound and she found herself standing beside Charlemagne, who also was working on getting up. On the other side of Tony stood Macc and Hiryuu, blinking in disorientation after the teleportation spell. On their sides laid Zero, 984 and Lunaris, all three of them slowly beginning to move while groaning.
“Just a few more minutes, boss…” Jiharn yawned and stretched a little as his boss used his boot to poke the assistant in the stomach.
“No, I don’t think so, Jiharn,” Hiryuu slowly said, a smirk growing on his lips as his gaze nailed itself onto Tony’s spasming body, “I think you should get up right now.”
Lun and the two dazed reploids were getting up in sitting positions, rubbing their heads in confusion. But as they saw what the others saw, their puzzlement gave away for other emotions.
“Urgh…” Merlin grunted, cracking his neck and accepting Fae’s offered hand.
“Are you okay?” she questioned, leaving Tony out of the equation for a moment.
“Yeah, I’m… fine… fine…”
Merlin stood, his eyes narrowing.
“Uh… are you sure?” Faetan questioned, wondering if this was a good time to start backing away.
“Yes, I’m sure, Fae, don’t worry about me,” Merlin assured, the evil grin almost splitting his skull as he regarded Tony.
“What the hell?” Sinistral blinked, looking around at the assembled crew on the ship as the teleportation dumped him beside Zero.
Weiila looked no less confused, standing with the cat back on her shoulder beside Charle. The charred form of TD crashed on Lun’s right, only groaning a little. Obviously there were limits to what Mazrim could heal in such a short time too.
“Hey Wei, lookie at what I did!” Charlemagne proudly said, motioning at the demon.
Weiila saw and Weiila blinked. The cat saw and the cat blinked.
Sinistral saw and Sinistral grinned from ear to ear.
Tony looked up and Tony saw.
“Well, crap…” he muttered through the violent grimace.
“You guys?” SpoonyBard said in confusion, “what’s going o… oooh!”
Sin reached down and grabbed Tony’s collar, ripping the demon from the deck.
“I’m going to hurt you,” the swordsman dearly promised.
“I had a hunch…” the demon winced.
There was a strange, buzzing sound.
Despite the enjoyable scene, a few people looked up. Hands mechanically reached out and touched shoulders, making others look up. Grins and smirks died instantly.
“Uh, Sin…” Merlin hoarsely said and tapped the swordsman’s shoulder.
“What now?” Sinistral growled.
He noticed the silence and looked around. This made him notice the staring eyes and the growing sweatdrops.
He looked up.
“About time I got some screentime!” X grinned, squinting his eyes down along his buster arm.
Mazrim set off a mass-teleport in panic one second before the ship went up in flames and a mushroom-shaped cloud rose towards the sky. The flying reploid cackled for a moment until he threw a glance at the harbor and saw the assembled people standing there, Sin still holding Tony’s collar in a tight grip.
X’s eyes darkened.
“Spoilsports!” he shouted, sweeping down towards the ground with his arms crossed.
“Don’t be so selfish!” Charlemagne pouted.
“We’re sharing this one or else!” Sin snarled, waving his hands as he did so in order to put even more emphasis on his words.
Tony’s flailing legs almost rendered several of the bystanders unconscious.
The blue-haired, golden clad reploid pouted a bit. Until Sinistral showed that he was actually aware of the shrieking demon’s flapping by simply connecting Tony’s spine with X’s head.
Hiryuu slowly crossed his arms.
“He’s not going to be happy when he gets back up, you know,” he commented.
Sin’s “Whatever…” was drowned in Zero’s hissing voice.
And with that he tore the demon’s collar into his grip. Tony gulped.
“Ahh, that was a fun fight!” 984 happily sighed, leaning back in his sun chair and sipping lemonade.
The sun merrily shone from a clear blue sky above Weiila’s garden, washing over the people relaxing – and TD still lying down like the charcoal he was though the healer assured that he’d wake up in a few hours – in the grass a few steps away from the rubble after the wall. Cleaning could be done later, after all. Right now it was time for savoring the taste of victory, among other tastes.
“I wouldn’t call it a ‘fight’ per say,” Macc shrugged through the bits of lemon cheesecake, “but nevertheless very fun indeed.”
“Amen to that!”
Glasses were lifted in a toast. At least, all except Zero joined in the cheers. The blond reploid was gloomily slumping in his portable chair, staring at his glass of lemonade. As Tannin noticed this she reflected over the fact that he had not once grinned even during the killing of Tony.
Figures, he couldn’t be happy with the full knowledge of what he had done. The worm thing might have been burned out of his systems when Tony was summoned, but there was still the heavy conscience.
Hmm, how was that “cheering up” gag again?
Zero automatically caught the round cookie being tossed at him between two fingers, then dully glancing at it.
“Lighten up,” Tannin tried, “it wasn’t like you could do much about it, and in any case it lead to that Tony was defeated once and for all. No harm done, right?”
The reploid glanced at her and attempted to smile a bit. It went easier than last time he had tried, at least. Inside of his mind he replayed the recording of Tony’s screaming, which helped quite a bit.
“And that third… uh… thing you did to him,” Macc joined into the quest to make Zero feel better, “that was really, really evil.”
The blond reploid frowned a little, trying to remember. Some things were kinda hazy due to his blind rage back there.
“Was that after the first or second time Wei and the robed fellow revived him so we could kill him all over again?” he finally wondered.
“Second, definitely second…” Macc nodded.
“Wickded!” Lun grinned.
Zero smiled a bit.
“Good points, thanks,” he murmured, absentmindedly making sure Faetan was looking the other way before he popped the cookie into his mouth.
But he needn’t worry about the crazed cook discovering his dark secret about being able to eat, she was caught in her own thoughts.
“All good and well,” she said a few moments later, out of the blue.
Her eyes darkened in the next moment as she threw a glance sideward.
“However, now I still have that blasted date ahead of me,” she growled, “thanks to one who shant be named…”
Merlin forcefully gulped his mouthful of lemon tea, getting a somewhat blank look.
“Don’t you dare start that again!!” most of the garden’s inhabitants shrieked.
The green-hair coughed and looked around almost in surprise. Meeting Faetan’s eyes he wisely decided to try a somewhat safer subject.
“Anyway,” he began, thinking as quickly as he could, “what do you think Hiryuu will do with Tony’s remains?”
“If you ask lil’ ol’ me, I don’t think that’s something we should think about,” Charlemagne said from the blanket he was sitting on.
Due to his mouth being filled with a pizza nobody else was planning to touch, his mouth was a bit muffled. But Sin wasn’t going to pass down such an interesting subject.
“Well,” the swordsman said, swallowing his piece of lemon bread with lemon curd (CURSE YOU AND YOUR SHOPPING, CHARLEMAGNE!! *pant, wheeze*), “since he said he wouldn’t try to revive him…”
“I’d like to see him manage that…” Spoony grinned.
“… That excludes all experiments,” Sinistral finished, “then what remains?”
Tannin looked around, thoughtfully.
“Might just be me,” she slowly said, “but I have this strange feeling that the sudden lack of a healer and cat might have something to do with it.”
There was another one of those silences that we all have come to know and love.
Sighing, the warriors put their treats aside and got ready for a rescue mission.
“No, this does not count as a kidnapping, your droid thing told me that you needed help so I followed it.”
“Are you an expert on kidnapping, perhaps?” Hiryuu coldly asked.
Weiila placed the jug of lemonade in Jiharn’s hopeful hands, leaving the assistant squealing in joy. He ran off to find a glass.
“Haven’t you seen the sign on my door?” she asked, keeping a firm grip of the cat’s fur to stop him from sliding off her shoulder, “I’m just about the only real kidnap material around these joints, with all these warrior women. No, I’m not giving you tips. Star, stay!”
The cat seemed to pout, but the white mage was adamant. Having him wander around Hiryuu’s lab sounded a little too kamikaze for her tastes, there could be cat eating dust monsters for all they knew. And if he broke anything, she was in the paying position. Not a pleasant thought.
“Anyway,” she quickly said, “what’s the problem?”
For a moment Hiryuu looked like he was going to protest, but finally shrugged. That truth serum he’d been working on was still in progress, he could always try later… yesss…
He was brought out of the reverie by Weiila’s hand waving before his eyes.
“Ah, yes…” he murmured without blinking, “I wanted to feed my rabid cacti snails, but they only want cooked food, and last time I was in the kitchen things didn’t really… go well.”
Perhaps he needed help right then, but he wasn’t about to tell anyone his suspicions about the “mysterious worm thing that infected Zero”. Tony’s defeat was one thing, but Hiryuu wasn’t crazed enough not to realize what the townspeople would do if they found the reason for the mess.
Weiila and the cat looked at him, somewhat puzzled.
“Sure, what are you…” the healer began.
Hiryuu brightly smiled and nodded.
Smiling just as bright, Weiila pushed her sleeves upwards. They fell back immediately since they were rather wide, but the effect was there at least.
“So,” she merrily said, “you want him cooked, fried, roasted, deep-fried, baked?”
“Considering his situation,” Hiryuu said, “I believe mashed is the only option, sadly.”
“Will do. Demon meatballs ordered!”
“This way, please,” the mad scientist said, showing the humming healer the way through his lab.
The cat raised its head so that its small, fanged mouth came closer to Weiila’s ear.
“Ya know,” StarStorm grinned in a low voice, “one could almost consider him as acceptable right now. Almost at least.”
Chuckling cruelly despite herself, Weiila scratched her currently cursed friend’s ears.
And lo, the demon Tony never again haunted the fair lands of Rendezvous.
Except for in the occasional inside jokes, of course.
If anyone didn’t understand what the crap this was about, here’s an explanation:
Around Christmas 2002, RPGC was offered to hold a contest. The winners would be rewarded by one out of five free copies of Wild ARMs 3.
We decided to have a caption contest. In the beginning of the game, Tony the train attendant tries to stop Virginia Maxwell from going into a closed train car. The contest pic showed the situation where Virginia is standing before Tony and he has spread his arms to hold her back, saying “And that is precisely the reason why the car is off limits to passengers!”. The point of the contest was to think of something witty that Virginia had said to call upon this phrase, or a funny answer to the question.
After having read and reread that accursed phrase around 1000 times (no, really. With all the voting, part-, quarter-, semifinals and finals it turned out that way) together with better or worse suggestions, the staff really did think that “And that is precisely…” was the ultimate horror.
The man behind the name Charlemagne was one of the five winners, with the simple phrase which he placed upon Virginia’s lips:
“Dude, we’re on a boat.”
So, there you have it. :)
I choose Zero, Merlin and Sinistral as the demon sealers since they are the administrators of the message board, though I just as well could have used all the patient people making those hundreds of polls. But, that would have meant a lot of hunting for poor, possessed Zero…
… no, the fact that I was one of the poll slaves has nothing to do with it…
Also note that some of those who "already knew" the demon are/were in fact not staff at the time, though all people who were around at the time suffered as much as the staffers did due to all our whining.