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RPG V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E.

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In the Midst of
V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E.
 
â?  
 
â??--For the foreseeable future, we will have to endure the wormhole connecting our world to the Demons' world. But that does not mean we need endure the demons ravaging our world.â? The image of General Vela on the tv screen looked sternly upon the crowd he was addressing. 
 
â??For far too long we have been on the defensive, watching as demons infested our world like roaches. They scorched our cities, murdered our kin and caused mayhem in our homes. At first, all we could do was hold them at bay. Despite the sorrow and the loss, our scientists worked tirelessly on a means to defend the people. Thanks to their efforts we were able to raise the walls around the UWG, allowing the people to heal and recover. From that moment forward we began reconstruction, then renovation, and now all people of the UWG live lives vastly superior in every way to their forefathers.â? He paused for moment as the crowd cheered him on.
 
â??However we were too content to stop at safe and secure. I admit that this fault was mine alone; I insisted that each and every scientist discontinue work in our arms department until the forcefields were complete. Fortunately, we have since perfected the shields. Unfortunately, the demons still roam our lands. But not any longer. Today, we remove the invaders from our planet, and bring the fight to them. I present to you, the Storm Guard.â? Vela stepped aside form his podium and beckoned to the area behind him. The ground parted and a massive, humanoid figure rose up. What appeared to be a much larger, thinner, more terrifying version of the Iron Guard suits stood behind General Vela, ominously leering at the crowd.
 
â??The new Storm Guard armour is state of the art weaponry, outfitted with defensive technology capable of defending against even the toughest of Behemoth strikes, and enough firepower to tear a dragon in half.  And with these phenomenal powers, the Storm Guard will march on our greatest enemy; the world of Inferno itself!â? The crowd grew hushed, and a series of whispers filtered throughout the crowd. Vela sensed the discomfort in the masses and shifted his attitude.
 
â??I know many citizens are apprehensive about sending our soldiers into Inferno based upon the belief that it is, in fact, the biblical 'Hell'. But I can assure you that Inferno is not Hell, or any otherworldly locale; it is simply another planet from another solar system which, through means currently unavailable to us, has become linked to our own.â? The crowd seemed to accept his explanation and visibly relaxed. Satisfied, Vela returned to his previous point.
 
â??Regardless of the world's origin, we cannot and will not suffer its oppression any longer. Six Storm Guard, along with the regiment of Iron Guard, will venture into the enemy territory, eliminate all surrounding forces, and then over the next several months will begin clearing out the demon hordes. In place of the removed Iron Guard, another ten Storm Guard will patrol the UWG's boundaries. The remaining Iron Guard and every active UWG sanctioned civilian soldier has a new missionâ??in addition to protecting citizens from rampaging demons, they will immediately begin tracking down and eliminating any members of the terrorist cell V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E.--â?
 
â??Horse shit,â? Junko grumbled over the tv before taking a shot of whiskey. The other half-demons in Bacchus' Pubâ??the car of Nidhogg specifically designated as a barâ??laughed in agreement and clinked their glasses together. The bartender, an irresistible succubus named Laira, scoffed at Junko's comment and poured her another whiskey.
 
â??You don't agree with the General's brilliant idea?â? Laira asked, seductively rolling her l's despite lacking any discernible accent. More accurately, she didn't have a natural human accent, rather an amalgamation of all the attractive qualities from every accent on Earth. Likewise, her appearance constantly fluctuated as well, changing every second to reflect the desires of the person viewing her. Junko eyed Laira and shrugged.
 
â??If el general wants to sacrifice his own life, that's his prerogative. And, if he wants to send soldiers after us, goodee for him. But if he sends his soldiers into the wormhole they're all going to die. He thinks it some kind of war. The demons aren't sitting around, drawing on maps, reviewing battle strategies. Well,â? she paused, downing another shot. 
 
â??Most of them aren't,â? she finished, motioning for Laira to fill up another glass. Laira smirked and gave Junko another refill.
 
â??And that ridiculous nonsense he's trying to feed people about Inferno,â? Laira chimed in, taking a swig from the whiskey bottle. Every eye in the bar was fixated on her while she drank, and she knew it; she winked as the liquor poured down her throat. Junko sighed.
 
â??You were saying, Lai?â? She questioned, trying to keep Laira focused. The half-succubus shot a dirty look at Junko, but obliged nonetheless.
 
â??Who does he think he's fooling, telling everyone that Inferno isn't actually Hell?â? Laira continued. â??Did he just close his eyes whenever Wraiths moseyed out of the wormhole?â? Junko chuckled, but truthfully, Laira had brought up the most disconcerting part of the General's speech. She understood why Vela would want people to believe that Inferno wasn't the â??afterlife.â? If the citizens of the UWG thought Inferno housed actual human souls many of them would have moral stipulations with his crusade. Not that public disapproval would stop him; he would have his way no matter what. But with the public behind him, people will actively devote their time to helping him conquer Inferno. And if he ruled over the damned, or worse, eradicated them, what repercussions would that have on the planet.
 
â??However it turns out will be great for us,â? someone growled from behind Junko, placing his hand on her shoulder. Junko shrugged the hand off of her shoulder and took another drink. She didn't feel like swallowing any of Malik's maddening anti-human, anti-demon beliefs. He couldn't care less about the cosmic damage Vela could cause, so long as the â??mortal foes of demonspawnâ? were annihilated. 
 
â??Not today, Malik--â? She had hardly said his name when every amulet in the pub began to wail at high pitch. Everyone save Junko ignored the ghostly wail, precisely because they knew Junkoâ??who had appointed herself the unofficial â??retrieverâ?â??would answer the call. True to form, Junko's eyes narrowed and she slammed her shot glass down on the counter. Without saying another word to her comrades, she grasped her necklace. A swirling vortex consumed her figure, and spit her back out almost instantaneously. She had barely caught her bearings when a torrent of flames overtook her. She recognized the flames instantly as Rotfire, and quickly inhaled the embers off of her body.
 
â??I didn't expect one of you monsters to be along so quickly,â? the robotic voice an Iron Guard member buzzed at her. His suit was larger and clunkier than the other Iron Guard models; little differentiated him from a walking armory.  His visor was locked on Junko, but his right arm was aimed at a crumpled figure under his foot. A series of realizations occurred to Junko in a row. First, she realized that the Iron Guard member was gripping a V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. amulet in his left hand. Then she recognized the figure flattened under the metal boot and a loud roar tore from Junko's throat.
 
â??Get your fucking foot off of her,â? Junko demanded, her skin reddening and her extra horns emerging. The ally currently embedded in the ground was Rhea, a half-golem, and the closest thing Junko had to a partner, friend or lover. She had attached herself to Junko years ago, and although Junko hadn't been particularly warm to her, she never abandoned Junko.
 
â??No, I don't think I will,â? the Iron Guard responded, firing a grenade into Rhea's chest. The girl screamed in agony, but her golem flesh remained intact. Junko grabbed the hilt of her kanabo and readied it.
 
â??Well then, tell me what you think of this.â?
 
â? 
 
OOC: Alrighty everyone, things are in motion! Go about your daily lives, but know that your enemies will be breathing down your neck worse than ever. The Iron Guard are looking to eliminate you. Exorcists seek your head as a trophy. The Storm Guard will attempt to squash any who enter into UWG territory. And who knows what repercussions Vela's actions in Inferno will have upon the world. All that and more lies in wait for you, amidst a sea of V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. 
 
Happy writing!
Edited by Orcus

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"Help me...someone, please help me..."
 
The whispered words were more of a self-serving mantra than a real plea for assistance, because by now the young half-Jinn girl had given up hope of salvation. Her hiding place on a burnt-out factory floor had been compromised, and the Slayers were quickly surrounding her, their weapons and equipment primed and ready to destroy her on sight.
 
"Someone...please help me...please..."
 
Her breathing was heavy and ragged, and tears resembling crystal prisms rolled gently down her cheeks as she repeated these words to herself over and over again.
 
"Where are you, little girl...?" came the taunting voice of a Slayer approaching her, and she had to clamp her own hand over her mouth to stop herself from crying out, "We just wanna play with you a while..."
 
She whimpered softly, and too late she noticed that her skin was emitting a faint blue glow that was not uncommon to the spawn of Jinn, particularly during moments of heightened emotion. She desperately tried to calm herself, but the sight of her own abilities manifesting only served to panic her more, and the glow intensified.
 
"Well, what do we have here?" said the jeering voice of the lead Slayer, spotting the blue glow and dragging the young girl, kicking and screaming, out of her hiding place. He let go of her collar and crouched down over the terrified creature.
 
"Holy hell, wouldja lookit that?" he exclaimed, signalling for the other four Slayers to join him, "Who woulda known a demonspawn could be so damn pretty?"
 
"Please...I haven't done anything wrong..." pleaded the girl, crystalline tears now pouring from her cheeks, her skin glowing bright blue.
 
"Rats ain't done nothin' wrong neither, li'l girl," replied the Slayer, his voice cold as he stood up and drew a large revolver from the holster on his belt, "But when they come to where we live an' start spreadin' disease, we call the exterminator. It ain't your fault, it's just the way you was born."
 
He pulled back the hammer on his revolver and pointed it square at the half-demon girl's head. She howled in anguish and squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the inevitable bullet just like her brother had done so long ago.
 
She waited.
 
And waited.
 
And the bullet never came.
 
Finally, she wrenched her eyes open, only to see the Slayer staring down at his own stomach in disbelief. She followed his eyes down and saw a long, thin object with a wickedly curved head protruding from his belly, the tip coated in blood. A moment later, a second object pierced the Slayer's throat from behind, and he fell to the floor gurgling out his last breath.
 
The rest of the Slayers fanned out, this new development proving a far greater threat than the young girl they had come to the outskirts of the city to exterminate. They aimed their guns into the rafters of the warehouse, straining their eyes to peer into the shadows and fumbling to grab the flashlights from their belts.
 
The girl watched as the Slayer closest to her fell, an arrow directly between her eyes.
 
Then the next, two arrows to the chest.
 
The next was dragged into the shadows, screaming as he went until his cries were cut short.
 
The final Slayer dropped his weapons to the ground and raised his hands in the air.
 
"I give up! I was only in this for the money anyhow, I don't wanna die 'cause of some half-demon bitch!"
 
He looked in front of him as a hooded figure stepped out of the shadows, a recurve bow in his hand and a quiver of arrows on his back. He could make out no discernible features of the figure other than a pair of scarlet eyes glowing from deep within the hood.
 
"The...the Shroud..." gasped the Slayer, "I thought you was just a story..."
 
"Maybe I am," said the figure, his voice coding him as male, "Either way, it doesn't end well for you."
 
With lightning-fast strides, the Shroud covered the distance between himself and the Slayer, and in one swift motion drew a long, thin sword from his hip and thrust it through the Slayer's stomach. His eyes widened, and the Shroud withdrew the blade and stepped back, pulling his hood down to reveal a scarred face, with cropped hair and a scruffy beard.
 
"My name is Slade Bennett," he said, the glow in his eyes dissipating and returning them to almost-blackness, "And I want you to take this knowledge deep into the Inferno with you: I am a demonspawn, and you have just been killed by that which you hate the most."
 
A look of sudden realisation crossed the Slayer's face as he slumped to the floor, wheezing out his final breath. Slade barely spared a glance for the man before striding over to the young girl and crouching down beside her.
 
"You're safe now," he said, placing his hand on her shoulder, "They're not going to hurt you any more."
 
The girl nodded, wiping the tears from her eyes, and wrapped her arms around Slade, pressing her face into his chest as she sobbed. He gently placed his arms around her and held her until the sobbing subsided.
 
"Now, what's your name?" he asked, removing his arms and pulling her gently away from his chest. However, she didn't answer as she had fallen asleep in his arms, presumably exhausted from the trauma of the day. He sighed, and lifted the slight creature in his arms, ready to take her somewhere safe.
 
"The things I do to protect the children..."

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This day did not start out the way she had planned, nope...not one bit. She could hear her heartbeat ringing in her ears as her slight frame moved through the thick brush easily. She had been hoping that it would deter her follower...but no such luck. She cursed under her breath, her pack was starting to become heavy and she could feel her body protesting more and more. Chancing a glance over her shoulder she saw the thick built man crash through more of the underbrush, still hot on her trail.

"Come back and face me demon spawn!"
"Leave me alone old man!" 

She couldn't say she was overly surprised by the fact that this random hunter had mistaken her for a half demon, being born with certain birth defects that had a negative effect on her hair and eye color. Her said snow white hair was billowing behind her now having come out from under her hat during the chase. She ducked a fallen tree and continued her route, trying her hardest to out last him, but she knew it was only a matter of time, and that time was soon. Stopping for a moment she tried to decide which route to take, the sounds of him getting closer urged her forward. She had lost count of how long he had been chasing her, had it been one day or two? 

"What am I doing? Why don't I just put a knife through his face? I could do it...I know I could...Ugh, cause if I did that then I really would be no better then the evil ones out there, and I need my knives, so I can't do that. Even though I know I could...I need to find a really good place to hide that's what I nee-"

Her outspoken thoughts were interrupted as she stumbled into the open, the smell of a smoldering fire hitting her and the bright mid day sun glaring into her eyes. Her eyes quickly scanned the area landing on a man sitting on a stump, his face was hard set as his eyes seemed to lazily look up to meet her's. He showed no indication that her entrance had shocked him, but she could see the rifle butt jutting out from his shoulder as his hand rested on a revolver sitting on his hip. Her eyes lit up as an idea suddenly hit her.

"Mister! Mister please help me!"

This did seem to get his attention as his eye brows met in the middle, in a deep frown, he did not seem happy about this.

"Please please please! PLEASE. There's a hunter after me that thinks I'm a half demon, and I'm really not, though even if I were I'd probably still be running from him cause I don't want any part of this and if you could please please please help me get out of this it would be great!"

She still sat where she had fallen, staring at him; she had never seen anyone with blue hair and it left her extremely curious.

 "He has blue hair...I've never seen a person with blue hair...I wonder why he has blue hair. Oh, what if he dyes it with blueberries or something like that?"

He was now staring at her as if she had multiple head growths or something. It was then the hunter decided to make his entrance. He too stumbled into the campsite, but unlike Anue he regained his footing before he had fallen. She could see the man tense instantly at the sight of the hunter.

"Here you are, you half breed monster!"

"I told you before, I'm not a half demon!"
"I can see your hair and eyes my self you beast, do not take me for a fool!"

"They're birth defects you jerk!"

She dropped to the ground, her hands over her head as a sword whipped above her, aiming to take her head. Skittering forward she rolled onto her back looking at the hunter wide eyed.
Whoa! Your using a sword now?!"
He didn't grace her with an answer this time, only raised the bladed weapon once more, aiming to strike her, it never hit, she looked up to find that the blue haired man had moved, he was standing over her, the hunters wrists gripped tightly with one hand. An inhuman growl emitted from his throat sending small shivers up Anue's back. She watched as he twisted his body gracefully and threw the hunter back into the dense woods he had chased her through; taking the rifle from his back in a fluid movement she watched, entranced as he aimed and pulled the trigger. It had happened so quickly, and so fluidly she wasn't even sure that it had happened; but as he moved past her and began to gather his things with every intention of leaving. 

"W-wait!"

She struggled to her feet and followed as he began to leave, his face set in a hard expression again.

"Hey, Blueberry wait!"

He stopped and looked over his shoulder at her, his eyes showing only the slightest bit of confusion.

"Thanks for that! I really thought I was a goner."
She sighed as she reached his side and began to walk next to him.

"So, all that speed and strength...you must be a half demon then! Are you? Are you really? I bet you are that's so cool!"

He still remained silent, as if pretending she wasn't there would make her go away. 

"I wonder what kind of demon he is...he growled, could he be an animal like one? If he is I wonder what kind. What if he's mean? No silly if he was mean he'd have killed you too so he can't be mean."

She looked up to notice he had fallen behind her and was now staring at her.

"What are you doing back there Mr. Blueberry? Wait was I talking to my self? Sorry about that, I do that way to much. Oh by the way my name is Anue!"

She waited patiently til he finally said something, his voice barely reaching her as he still stared.

"You have deep seated issues...don't you?"

She blinked a few time, then bent over, her arms hugging her stomach as she laughed out loud. 

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â??Speak demon, I do not wish to waste my time further.â? The hollow voice breaking the silence, the metal body standing over the bloodied creature under the boot. The multi horned head gritting sharpened teeth, blood still streaming from wounds on its body and drying on itâ??s face.


â??Never abomination! I will never speak!â? The metal boot pressed down into the body further, the sound of bones creaking before finally snapping and a roaring coming from the demon. It struggled and trashed, always trying to use its arms to tear at the body above him, and instantly remembering they had both been blown off and the wounds cauterized. The legs would try as well, but as both had been broken and twisted so even if this demon regenerated, it would be in worse condition than before.


â??You will tell me all your secrets.â? The metal man felt it welling up inside of him once more, a discharge ready to blow out and burn all around him and he wasnâ??t done yet. Much to his convenience, another demon was coming around from the hit to the head it had received from the metal man before. A twitch, a shaking of the head and snort of steam and fire passing out of the nostrils of itâ??s bull shaped head. The roar came next as it charged him, the centaur legs lifting it back up and carrying it forward with itâ??s head lowered. A hand held out toward the creature, its â??eyesâ?? turning just long enough to see where it was and waiting for the burst to happen. He wasnâ??t sure if it would come in time, but he knew it was coming, if he didnâ??t channel it than the two still alive would be burned away in a wave. Fortunately for the metal man, the burst occurred quickly, the man aiming the blast and launched a straight beam of concentrated Hellfire. The lowered head took the brunt of the head, but the force sheared through the solid mass and lancing out the other side. The demon holding only itâ??s momentum and tumbled to the ground in a heap, rolling around as its heavy mass snapped itâ??s horse legs and the horns on itâ??s head and distorting itâ??s limbs.


â??Another one lost for Hellâ??s Shadow of War, another victory for V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E.â??s Shadow of War.â? He heard a gurgling come from the body beneath him, the demon laughing as it was starting to drown in its own blood.


â??Amused demon?â? He pressed harder and felt the bones break further and some sprouted from the skin, tearing new holes and leaking more blood, the screams echoing in the empty fields before more subdued laughter broke from the demons lips.


â??Yes. You are no Shadow of War, only one holds that title, and only one will hold it for eternity. Lord Hecarim!â? The metal boot pressed harder, the bone piercing skin went up further as the chest compressed further.


â??Lord Hecarim will rule nothing, Revenant shall become the new Shadow of War, for both V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E and the Inferno. None will stand against our order, and you all will bow to Revenant and carry out our will.â?


â??We will never submit to a half-breed like you!â? Revenant could show no emotion, nothing could be seen from the metallic visage of his suit.


â??Then you will all die.â? Raising his boot and slamming it down will all his force crashing into the demonâ??s chest and everything contained within exploding out through any openings available. The blood and gore splashing on the lower half of Revenantâ??s armored body, stepping away from the body he moved through the rest of the corpses of burnt and broken corpses to the still form he had come for in the beginning. The humanoid being laying on the ground, still and lifeless with the eyes open to the ashy sky. He kneeled to the body, reaching to his chest he turned one of the valves and a small amount of the blue energy escaping and rushing into the dead body. The body suddenly twitching to life as the eyes blinked and came back to life, the whole form moving as Revenant hovered over the creature.


â??What happened? Where did those demons go?â?


â??They are dead. I killed them.â? The young man looked up at the metal face, looking around frantically as his now yellow slitted eyes searched for something.


â??How did you kill them all? Who are you? I thought I was dead!â?


â??I am Revenant, you are still dead young one.â? Shock settled into his face, tears trying to come to his eyes but the ducts ceasing to function as it was non-essential to his current state of life.


â??How long will I being like this?â?


â??Not long.â? The hollow voice said with little feeling behind it, his words short and to the point as he needed this demonspawn to get a grip so he could learn anything from him.


â??What is your name child?â?


â??Farin, spawn of Gorc of the Tocrus demons.  V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E member 756B9A.â? Farin swallowed hard as he tried to get a better understanding of what was going on.


â??Very good, why were you out here?â? Farin was stumbling with his words now, blue energy starting to slowly leak out. â??Speak up boy, time is running out.â?


â??We were sent out on intelligence gathering for Lord Malik. Leads on a possible gathering of demon commanders was leaked to us, we were sent to find the leak and determine the validity of the information."


â??Were you successful?â? Revenant kept his focus on the boy, the energy seeping out a quicker pace as he coughed and he started to turn pale white once more.


â??We were, but, Iâ??m having trouble recall what we learned. Please, find my team, they should have the information. They are being.... being-â? The coughing racked his body as he was unable to talk any further with blue energy ejecting itself from his body until he gave one final violent cough, gripping his throat with eyes wide before falling dead once more. The energy finding its way back to Revenant through the open valve, sealing it once more. Lifting the corpse up in his arms, he slung the body over his shoulder, touching the amulet attached to the suit and disappearing instantly. Handing the corpse over to the attending body, he walked his suit over to its containment center, stepping into the locking mechanism and jamming the hands of the suit into the holding containers. A member walked up to the suit, turning both valves and releasing the blue energy as a shield moved over the suit, a wave of hellfire releasing into the container and sending power into the Nidhogg. Revenant snaked through the air until he found his other suit, the valves already open as he slid into the new metal form. The arms releasing as he sealed the valves and removed his HQ armor from its holding port.


â??I will speak with Malik, there is much he needs to hear.â?

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"I see. Very deep-seated issues..." Heru said, shaking his head at the girl's laughter. "Look, kid, I offed the Hunter that was chasing you. Why don't you do yourself a favor and go back to your human kin? I tend to run into demons a lot and you would hardly be a snack for 'em."

"We'll, truthfully I don't have anywhere to go back to because that kind of thing happens a lot because of how I look and- Mr. Blueberry, wait up!" Anue shouted as the half-demon had already started walking away while she seemed distracted with her explanation. "I hope he's not incredibly upset with me," she said aloud to herself as she caught back up, reaching for Heru's hair. "So do you dye your hair or-" she was cut off as the barrel of Heru's revolver pressed against her chin hard enough to shut her mouth.

"Touch me again or call me 'Blueberry' one more goddamned time and I swear I'll end you, kid..." Heru said gruffly as he pulled the gun away and holstered it with a bit of extra force due to his irritation.

"But you wear a lot of blue and I don't know your name so I didn't know what else to call you..." Anue said, rubbing her chin lightly. "So I guess you could tell me your name. Mine is An-"

"Don't care, go the hells away from me, kid. You're driving my patience."

"I'm not a kid though. I'm a grown woman, thank you very much. 25 years young!"

"...I believe that somehow, but you're still a kid to me. And I don't deal with kids unless they're half-demons who need help. Now why can't y-" he stopped his speech as he felt her hands touching his hair again. His eye twitched momentarily as he resisted putting a bullet between her eyes somehow. "Do you not listen or so-"

"So how do you make it this color blue?"

"It's...hairdye... My name is Heru. So if you call me blueberry again and you get shot, you have no excuse."

"Heru...? That's a strange name..."

"Yeah, well it means exactly where my old man came from in my human father's language... Guess he thought it was appropriate," Heru said, pulling ahead of her again only to hear her following him still. "You seriously aren't going to leave me alone are you?"

"Well, you did just save me and you seem really interesting, Heru. Just never been this close to a half-demon before...or at least talked to one... I'm Anue by the way!"

"Good for you. I didn't ask..." Heru said, pressing his gloved palm firmly to his face. "Look, ki-" Heru paused, his dark green eyes narrowing to slits. He raised his revolver firing it off in a stray direction, the sound of its impact resounding. "Either you have more Hunter's after you or I've found the damned exorcist that's been following me. Either way, he's a horrible shot..." Heru pauses to listen, slapping his hand over Anue's mouth as he had a feeling she was going to open it at the wrong time. He heard more than one set of footsteps and they were closing in pretty quickly. He took a whiff of the air, eyes closing. "All human too... Must be a group of Hunters working together..." He stared at Anue. "Keep your head down. I've got work to put in..." Heru said, shoving her into cover.

Heru's eye twitched as he caught scent of something else. "They have a demon with them and they have no idea... Awesome..." He raised his revolver, looking into the wooded area. Best to take out their sniper and get rid of their cover fire. The rest should be easy, but that demon is going to wait until I use my rounds up... Guess I'll save them for the big fish... he thought out a game plan in his head as he picked off the sniper who was taking cover a kilometer off. The hunters pressed forward into range and he held his revolver in his teeth by the barrel.

He took into a wide stance, and as the first Hunter lunged forward with an energized sword, the blade was immediately loosed. Heru grabbed the man by the wrists, twisting the human's body so his back was toward him before pulling him back into a knee which connected with his spine. He yelled out in pain before Heru released his wrists and kicked him into an oncoming hunter. The hunter was able to avoid the body but not the hands that strongly gripped his head and snapped his neck with ease. Three more before that demon shows... Unless he's onto my tactics... he thought and grinned around his revolver. He dropped the gun into his hand and loosed the last four bullets in separate directions. The three remaining humans dropped, he heard a howl of pain which drew his attention to the still standing "human". "Gotcha now..." He stowed the empty magnum and pulled the carbine from his back, refraining from aiming it yet.

"You half-blooded whelp! I'll slaughter you!!" came from the dark as the demon shed its human appearance. Trees toppled over as a hulking figure burst from the woods, lunging for Heru. He found no ground on the half-demon, crashing into another tree. Heru instantly recognized him as a Shadurakul, another canomorph.

Heru's body shifted seemlessly into his demon form(save for the tearing of his clothes, leaving his vest and jeans mostly in tact) as the other canomorph lunged for Heru again, ready to slam a massive fist into its target. Heru dodged the blow and grabbed the evolved Shadow Mastiff's head, pulling into close quarters and slamming a knee into its gut. The Shadurakul staggered from the blow and Heru have him no quarter to recover, slamming both fists up into its chin then hammering them down on the top of its head. The Shadurakul's chin made impact with the dirt, and before he could rise again, Heru dropped his weight down with a knee into the demon's back and bending both of its arms clearly the wrong way as the joints popped from the tension. "Who sent you after me, mutt?!" Heru shouted, applying more pressure.

The Shadurakul grit his teeth at the questioning but, more so, it was all he could do to resist whimpering. "N-no one sent me, half-blood! I was going to deal with those humans until they mentioned seeing a half-demon around these paaarts! Yaaaaaargh!!" the demon yelled as he could feel his spine shifting and his joints coming free from their sockets. "I'm telling the truth, dammit! Let go!"

Heru snarled and grinned his set of razor whites. "As of I'd let you go after learning you were out to kill me..." His eyes shot to Anue. "Look away, kid... This ain't gonna be pretty..."

Minutes later, the sounds of flesh being rent and bones snapping subsided and all that was left was a messy pile of demon. Heru shifted back to his human form, gathering his things. Anue stepped out of cover and Heru felt discomfort, feeling Anue's stare boring into him. "...Creepy kid..." He said, starting to walk away, but he could feel the young woman starting to follow him...again. This is gonna be a long night... Edited by Kayin Cloud

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The metal men always came for her in the darkness.

 

She heard their enormous feet slam into the dry, dusty earth and their poorly-maintained joints squealing as they moved into position surrounding her, blocking out the last remnants of the day's light behind a wall of faceless iron creatures. She curled up in a ball on the hard ground, the pungent smell of oil and cordite filling her nostrils, almost overwhelming her. She felt the heat from their weapons on the back of her neck, and heard metallic clunks and clicks as the metal beasts loaded their guns, ready to obliterate her. It ended the same way every time.

 

It ended with her death.

 

But this time the hooded man descended from the heavens, wreathed in scarlet flames. His blade swiped through the air, cleaving through the metal hides of the Iron Guards, the fire coruscating from his body melting their shells into so much molten slag. Within moments the metal men were gone, scorched from the very earth itself by the hooded man's cleansing fire.

 

She looked to him as he stood, stoic and alone, and leapt to her feet to embrace her saviour. But as she got closer, he turned to face her, his eyes blazing with Hellfire, and with an unearthly howl he spewed flames from deep within his hood, engulfing her in perfect, screaming agony.

 

She awoke with a start, her breathing heavy and ragged, tears streaming down her face.

 

Breathing deeply to calm herself and lower her heartbeat, she looked at her surroundings: the small area was barely lit by a set of dim bulbs hanging from the metal rafters that made up the ceiling. The pale light illuminated the area enough for her to make out water dribbling down the tiled walls and onto the dark slabs of the ground, and she smelt mould and damp all around her. She had been placed on a thin, flimsy mattress in the corner of the room, and an open medical kit lay on the ground next to her, one that had recently been used on her.

 

"I don't have anything to say to you," said a voice from the darkness, echoing around the chamber, "You need to get out and not come back, or I will send you back home myself."

 

"As much as your delusions of power amuse me," replied a different, more confident-sounding voice, "You and I are both well aware that the last time you did that it nearly cost you your life."

 

"What makes you think I wouldn't take the same risk again?"

 

"Because these days you have people who rely on you. You're the self-appointed protector of this city, and I don't believe for a second that you would allow yourself to die in vain and leave them so very vulnerable."

 

"If you dare threaten these people to get to me," said the first voice coldly, "I will send you somewhere that makes your home seem like Paradise."

 

"There's the anger I see in you," hissed the second voice, "Unleash it. Let your rage run free..."

 

"Get out," said the first voice after a beat, now much calmer, "This won't work."

 

"Oh, but it already has," replied the second voice, "I'll be back. You have my word."

 

There was an odd whooshing sound which reverberated around the entire room, and then silence. She peered into the darkness, straining her eyes to try and get a glimpse of what was happening in this odd place, but she could make out only blurry shapes, no distinguishing features.

 

"Hello?" she said, her voice cracking as she did, "Is anyone there?"

 

A man emerged from the shadows, the black tank-top he wore displaying both the tattoos and the scars he bore across his arms and chest. His face was similarly scarred, his eyes almost black, but there was an odd kindness about his face as well, a kindness which both comforted and disturbed the girl.

 

"You're awake," he said, identifying him as the first speaker from the earlier conversation, "You've been asleep for a while. I was wondering whether you were in a coma."

 

"Who are you?" she asked, her tone a mixture of cautious and curious.

 

"My name's Slade," he replied, crouching down at the foot of the mattress, "People around here tend to know me as 'The Shroud', though."

 

"You're the vigilante? The one who kills humans and demonspawn?"

 

"I save anyone who needs it," he replied with a smile, "Doesn't matter if they're human or demonspawn, if they're in trouble then I help them. Are you hungry?"

 

She paused for a moment, then nodded. He stood up and grabbed a pair of silver pouches from a shelf, tossing her one and keeping the other for himself. She picked the pouch up and looked at it warily.

 

"Protein nibs," he said, tearing his own pouch open, "They're military rations, kind of disgusting, but they'll fill you up for a day or two."

 

Hesitating slightly, she pulled her own pouch open and grabbed a handful of the pellets inside, shovelling them into her mouth and enjoying the feeling of eating, even if they tasted odd and leathery.

 

"Careful," Slade chuckled, "Those things are slow-release - you eat too many of them and in a couple of hours you'll feel like shit."

 

"I haven't eaten in three days," she replied through a mouthful, "Right now the feeling of being too full would be like a blessing."

 

"That's one way of looking at it, I suppose," said Slade with a laugh, "So what's your name?"

 

"Layla," the girl said, finally slowing down with the protein nibs, "Are you half-demon? You don't quite seem...human."

 

"Thanks!" exclaimed Slade sarcastically, "But yes, I am a half-demon. Much like yourself...half-Jinn, am I right?" Layla nodded.

 

"I bet you're half...incubus?" she said, eyeing Slade up and down.

 

"I wish," he replied, "Half-incubus would be a walk in the park compared to this."

 

"So what then? Lycanthrope? Shigguroth?"

 

"Worse," he said, and she sensed by his tone that she should change the subject.

 

"So...who were you talking to before? I heard two voices, but you were the only one here."

 

"You heard that?" he asked, and she nodded, "That was...a rather unpleasant acquaintance of mine. He wants something I have, and I'm not exactly prepared to give it up."

 

"Why does he want it so badly?"

 

"Because he thinks it'll allow him to control me, and that's something he's wanted for a long time."

 

"He sounds like a dick," said Layla absent-mindedly, pushing more protein nibs into her mouth. Slade barked out a laugh, and she eventually joined him.

 

"He is a complete dick," he said as the laughter died down, "He'll be back, but he'll never get what he wants."

 

"It's kinda precious then?"

 

"It's probably the most precious thing in my possession, yeah," said Slade with a nod, "So how are you feeling? You've had a pretty tough time of it the past couple of days."

 

"I'm ok, I guess," she replied, "Those Slayers had been chasing me for a while, it's kind of a relief to get them off my back."

 

"So you don't have a problem with how I dealt with them?"

 

"They would have killed you if you'd given them the chance," she said with a shrug, "I'm just glad you didn't."

 

"True," Slade replied with a sigh, before pushing himself up off the ground, "Anyway, I need to head back out there. I picked up some chatter about a contingent of Iron Guards sweeping the outskirts of the city trying to mop up some half-demon resistance forces. You can stay here, just try not to touch anything that looks important, ok?"

 

"So you can fight Iron Guards with just a bow and arrows?" she asked as he grabbed his recurve bow from the wall and his quiver of arrows from the ground below.

 

"It's easy when you know how," he said with a tiny grin. Placing his weapons down for a moment, he grabbed his jacket from the back of a chair and swung it on, flipping the hood up as he went, then picked his weapons back up and hauled himself up a ladder to a manhole cover some twelve feet above the ground.

 

"Stay safe," he said, and she glanced up at him, only to see the hooded man from her nightmare. Her heart started beating faster, and she watched as he made his exit. Then, when she was sure he was gone, she let out a small sob.

 

The hooded man. Her saviour or a harbinger of her doom.

 

Only time would tell.

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â??Not too bright, are you, demonspawn?â? the Iron Guard mocked from behind his cold, onyx mask.
 
â??You come close to me, I pump your friend full of the good stuff. I'm sure she'd love that that--â? his last word melded into a cry of agony as Junko's kanabo connected with the side of his head. Had he been outside of the suit his head would have been cleaved off. But thankfully for him his thick armor coating absorbed most of the blow, and instead he was propelled through a nearby tree. Without a second glance at him Junko dropped her weapon and rushed to Rhea's side.
 
â??Rhea! Get up!â? Junko demanded, shaking her comrade abrasively. Rhea groaned and attempted to shove the girl away.
 
â??Stop, stop. I'm fine,â? Rhea insisted, although her voice was hoarse and tired.  Junko grimaced and gripped Rhea's shoulders forcefully.
 
â??How could you be so careless? How did he get a leg up on you?â? Junko questioned. Rhea's eyes narrowed, and her face contorted into a snarl.
 
â??I couldn't concentrate. Heâ??theyâ??the UWG took Percy!â? she stammered through a mixture of rage and distress. Perseus, called Percy solely by her, was her younger brother, although their dynamic was more akin to a mother and son. She raised Perseus, cared for Perseus, protected Perseus; if Perseus was conscripted for a mission, Rhea was sure to follow along, or forbid him from going entirely. Their relationship was certainly unhealthy, but at least they had one. Few demonspawn could boast the same.
 
â??Calm down. We'll get your brother back. Here,â? Junko said while shoving her amulet into Rhea's hand, â??go back to Nidhogg.â? Rhea opened her mouth to argue, but Junko covered her mouth.
 
â??Please,â? she pleaded, her eyes softening for a moment. â??You need to recover. I'll take care of him, and once I've retrieved your necklace I'll call you back to me. Okay?â? 
 
Rhea grimaced, but relented. She tightened her grasp on the pendant and was whisked back to the HQ, and not a minute to soon. Crashing out from the woods came the previously ejected Iron Guard, his helmet severely dented.
 
â??Home run, hmm?â? he quipped. He stomped over to Junko and surveyed the area.
 
â??Did my previous date run off? And here I thought the night was going well. Pity,â? he stated nonchalantly. Junko smirked, grabbed her kanabo from her side, and propped herself off the ground. The Iron Guard made no motion, but Junko could practically feel the soldier inside flinch as her hands tightened around the hilt.
 
â??It must be the mask,â? Junko reasoned, resting the kanabo on her shoulders. â??Normally she's into half-demons.â? She spat the word â??half-demonâ? venomously. Laughter emerged from the war machine.
 
â??Huh. You catch on quick. What gave it away?â? He punctuated his sentence by pointing his wrist mounted grenade launcher at Junko. A second before the grenade fired, Junko swung her kanabo into the device. The reoriented grenade exploded in the Earth between them and soaked the battlefield in white phosphorous. The force from the grenade knocked Junko off of her feet, and her clothes burst into a torrid of nightmarish flames. She screamed as the fire ate away at her flesh and thick smoke crawled into her insides. For a moment her world was nothing but pain, and then it was simply nothing.
 
â?¦
 
â?¦
 
â??...Ugh!â? she gasped for fresh air as she abruptly and violently regained consciousness. She felt something squeeze around her waist, but for a mere instant; her body was in sensory overload and she could barely distinguish between what she was tasting and what she was feeling. She attempted to stand up and, in doing so, realized that she was not on the groundâ??she was being suspended in the hold of an Iron Guard.
 
â??Awake then?â? the voice from earlier joked condescendingly. Junko responded by thrusting her arms away from her body with as much strength as she could muster, breaking the Guard's hold on her. She hit the groundâ??freshly fallen snowâ??with a thud and rolled away from her captor. A second later she was on her feet, kanabo readied again. This time, however, she was going on the offensive. The Iron Guard was still struggling to regain his footing, so Junko decided to assist him by swinging her weapon into his hunched over chest. With a loud crunch the suit was flipped onto its back, and the pilot groaned  in pain. Wanting to avoid another flaming bath, Junko hammered her kanabo into his right arm, and then, once she was sure the mounted weapon couldn't fire, tossed aside her club and gripped the suit's helmet with both hands.
 
â??I want to see your face, you son of a bitch!â? she roared, severing the metal head from the rest of the robotic body. A pair of frightened, tear-stricken yellow eyes stared up at her. The pilot was surprisingly small for the size of his armor, encompassing less than half the interior of the suit. Although physical appearance for demonspawn was often a misleading indicator of age, the pilot could not have been more than a boy. A half-fury boy, as indicated by his fierce yellow eyes and birdlike features, but a boy nonetheless. Junko felt pity toward him for only a moment, and the boy took advantage of it. The boosters within the hulking feet of the suit emerged and activated, and the he shot out from beneath Junko, tripping her in the process. Her spine connected painfully with the ground, but she didn't allow it to phase her.
 
â??Ah, ah, ah. Not so fast,â? the half-fury stated as Junko pounced back on her feet. In his large, metallic, outstretched hand he held the V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. pendant and was poised to crush it.
 
â??Thought you had me, didn't you?â? he gloated, apparently very pleased with himself. â??But I destroy this, and you're stranded here. The UWG knows I'm here, knows to find me if my pulse stops. You can't beat a whole army by yourself.â? Junko's gaze fluttered back and forth from the pendant to the boy, back to the pendant, and finally, defeated, on the boy again.
 
â??You win,â? she admitted, dropping her weapon. The boy grinned a particularly malevolent, fanged grin.
 
â??I know,â? he said, drawing his hand into his chest and clamping the suit's hand down around the necklace. There was no shatter, however. No pieces of enchanted jewelry littering the ground in front of him. A smile tugged at the corner of Junko's lips.
 
â??Surprise,â? she mumbled, just as a loud wailing noise erupted from the guard's closed fist. What appeared to be a thin, solidified beam of light filtered through the guard's pointer and middle finger and extended out two feet. Like a helicopter blade, the beam spun around in a circle, slicing off  the guard's fingers and lopping of his entire left arm through the middle of the bicep. The guard dropped to his knees and screamed a voiceless scream as half of his right arm dropped limply into the snow. Junko casually walked over to the guard and stood over his kneeling body.
 
â??You said they'll look for you once your pulse stops?â? Junko questioned, but she was uninterested in the answer. The crunch of shattering bones echoed for miles around, followed by terrible, agonized pleas for mercy. It was only when Junko's fists had been completely coated in blood, and her opponent's face was mangled beyond recognition, that she finally granted him his mercy.
 
â??Tell me where Perseus is,â? she ordered. With great effort the boy pried his lips apart and muttered a single sentence.
 
â??Storm...storm guard...base...Brittany...F...France...â? Junko smirked, stood up, and casually gathered her belongings. She carefully placed the pendant around her neck and took a slow, deep breath.
 
â??I hope that there's a body left for your friends to find,â? she snarled, grabbing her club tightly and slamming it down with all of her might on the grenade cartridge on the guards left hand. As the explosion burst forth in a vengeful, furious glory, Junko was snatched safely into the abyss, leaving the guard to writhe in the flames of damnation, alone.

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It had indeed been a long night, Anue not only had to try and keep up with the man, but also keep her curiosity at bay, which at the moment was proving harder then usual. They had finally settled down in a small clearing, hardly worth calling it that and were proceeding to make camp. Anue watched as Heru moved fluidly about doing this or that with practiced precision. Finally she spoke, keep her eyes down at what she was doing she opened her mouth.

"You've been alone for a while...haven't you?"
He didn't answer, the only indication that she had that he heard her words was the slight pause in his actions. 

"I have too...my parents...if you could even call them that, they left me in the woods out side of the city I was born in. They were some of the more well off people in this world now, so their reputation mattered more to them then anything. And I guess people talk a lot when they don't know about something. My birth defects apparently make me look like a half demon, but your the first I've seen so I don't understand that...you look normal enough to me. Besides the blue hair."

She bent the small stick in her hand slightly before going back to sharpening the tip with one of her few knives.

"But I guess some of their neighbors got to talking, saying my mother was abducted or something like that and began to say I was a half demon. I guess the rumors were to much for the snobby jerks and they took me outside the barrier and left me there. I don't remember how old I was...a band of 'gypsies' took me in and raised me. But I suppose they were suspicious of me as well cause when I hit 10 or 11 they began to hint here and there and I just eventually ran away."
She finally looked up, a large smile on her face.

"But I think I've done well for my self."

She met Heru's stare and sighed.

"I know I know...you didn't ask. Just trying to make conversation."
"What makes you think I want conversation?"
"You just seem kinda lonely and withdrawn."
"It's none of your business."

She shrugged and stood with a small stretch.

"Never said it was, did I?"
She grabbed the long walking stick she carried and bent it slightly, slipping a long piece of twine around the end before bending it more and slipping the twine on the other end of the stick as well making a large long bow. Notching the make shift arrow to the twine she pulled a few times and nodded to her self, Heru's voice holding a note of apprehension behind her. 

"What are you doing with that?"
"Hunting."
She walked towards the edge of the camp and sighed stilling her hand she watching carefully and at the first sign of movement she let the small arrow fly, hearing the thump of it hit it's target she walked out of sight and back in a matter of moments, in her hand was a small rabbit, barely enough for one person. Heru watched as she skinned, cleaned and began to ready the small animal for the fire. She could feel his eyes boring into her this time and looked up.

"What?"
"That's all you eat?"
She scoffed.

"Like there's really much around anymore...it's all I can do to find this."
She finished cleaning the rabbit and placed it on a makeshift pit over Heru's fire, once it was done she took it off and chopped it in half looking at Heru.

"Heads or tails?"
He raised an eye brow at her making her frown.
"Heads or tails Heru?"
He looked away frowning himself.

"Doesn't matter."
She shook her head and handed him the leg half before biting down in the shoulder and ripping off a chunk of meat; she watching him as she chewed her own food before swallowing and looking at her half of rabbit.

"So your a lycanthrope type?"
Heru remained silent as he chewed his own food.
"And so was the other demon you killed? I would imagined them to be more demon like..."
She saw his eye brow raise slightly.

"Did you have to rip to piece like that?"
Heru turned on her.
"I told you to look away!"

She shrank back slightly, but not out of fear but from the level of his voice.

"I'm no stranger to violence Heru...I've seen blood and I've seen the rendered bodies of people from demon attacks. It's not something I'm sensitive to."

She tore another piece of meat off the rabbit and chewed it slowly.

"I'm honestly not a child Heru. I'm no where near a kid."
"You are to me."
He blinked as a bone hit him on the side of the head.

"I'm not! I've killed, I've seen killings, I've seen the destruction hell has released on this planet."
"And lemme guess you hate demons."
She shook her head slowly.

"Not at all. How could I hate demons, or half demons when I've been treated like one my whole life? I know what kind of discrimination you go through, I know the hate you face. Having felt that...how I could I hate you? It's only right you hate humans for the way they treat you. As if you have no feelings, or no soul. It's not right."
She met his gaze and saw him staring at her oddly.

"What...?"
"Your a strange one aren't you?"
She shook her head.

"Say that all you want, it's not gonna make it go away. So yes, I guess I'm strange."

Finishing her small meal she threw the bones in the fire and sighed.

"So...when are you gonna leave me behind? In my sleep? While I'm not looking?"
He blinked again this time clear confusion written on his face.
"What are you talking about? I've been trying to leave you behind this whole time, you've been following me. I even told you I had no intention of looking for a friend."

She nodded slowly.

"True...but I know, and you know if you really wanted to you could leave and I'd never even know it. You could leave right now, while I'm looking at you and I wouldn't know which way you'd go. I'm not stupid Heru, you have a stronger body, faster too then I do."
He sighed and shook his head.

"Go to sleep kid."

"Anue. If I can't call you blueberry, you can't call me kid."

She slipped into her sleeping bag and sighed before poking her head out slightly looking at Heru.

"Will you be here in the morning or will I wake up alone?"
"Go to sleep kid."
"Anue."
"Whatever, go to sleep. I'll keep watch."
She smiled slightly before slowly ducking her head back into her sleeping bag.

"Thank you Heru..."

She slipped into a peaceful sleep for the first time in years. 

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Heru was keeping himself busy as night passed along, checking his guns and ammunition. He was relying on his scent and hearing for any intruders so he wouldn't have to worry about any surprises. Once his weapons were clear and prepared, he stowed them away only to begin shadow boxing with the dim light of the moon above him. With a fierce leg forward, he halted with his gaze landing on the resting human he was guarding. What in the hell am I doing? Why am I even bothering watching over her? I mean.... I don't hate humans, but she is ungodly annoying. He let out a sigh, continuing his flurry of strikes into the air with his eyes narrowing. There are only two humans in this world I should even care about...and neither of them know if I'm even alive anymore. Herutama's strikes became more fierce, the air being visibly pushed with each consecutive blow. His teeth sharpened as he bared them, clenched together. "DAMMIT!!" he shouted, slamming his fist forward into a tree and splintering it as he pulled it back at the last second. He could hear Anue jump in her sleep and he tried to catch his breath.

 

"What's going on...?" Anue asked groggily as she sat up, rubbing her eyes. "Did we have visitors or something?" she asked with a yawn.

 

"No k- Anue...Just keeping my muscles loose."

 

"A bit too loose if you ask me," she said, looking up to the sky then to Heru, about to open her mouth to speak.

 

"No, I didn't bail on you. I said I'd keep watch. I'm keeping watch. Go back to sleep," Heru interrupted and then saw her about to reply. "And I'll be here when you wake up. Just rest, alright?" Anue nodded quietly and started getting comfortable in her sleeping bag again. Heru sighed, sitting down and rubbing the bridge of his nose. He grabbed his amulet from his pocket, staring at it. I don't get it... he thought, looking up to the night sky. I just wish I knew what the heck I'm supposed to do about her. I've gotta get back soon to resupply and I'm sure there's work for me to be doing right now. I don't think taking her back with me is the best of ideas... he huffed quietly, looking over to Anue. But the kid's right...she ain't much different than us if what she said is true. And if she's got Hunters after her, it's all the more reason for me to believe it. He shook his head slowly, glancing off to his side toward Anue. Kat, I'm gonna do the right thing here...

 

Heru stood up, gathering his things and getting Anue's things together as well. He hoisted everything on his back, including Anue in her sleeping bag, not caring so much if that woke her up. He held onto his amulet once again. He focused on his return to base, and more importantly on his own quarters. In a flash, the two were gone from the woods and now stood in the barracks of the V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. base. Eyes were drawn on Heru as soon as he arrived...with a human. His gaze shot back, daring the others to speak against his actions, though he had a feeling none of them would. His instinct was more or less right, though he could hear a few of the half-breeds speaking about the matter. Heru looked up to see a friend of his ahead of him with that shit-eating grin of his. Silver-haired male half-demon who isn't fully sure of his heritage, but if Heru would have to guess, he'd call him a half-incubus. "Long time no see, Heru-san! Who's the skinny little lady you've got with ya?" the man asked with the same grin, standing over Heru in height. He only wore a grey undershirt and blue jeans with a white dress shirt draped over his shoulder.

 

"Her name's Anue. Human. Though most humans don't seem to think so. She had a bunch of Hunters after her, accusing her to be a half-blood. Where you off to, Saguro-san?" Heru replied, looking up to his friend with a smirk. "Are you up to your usual business, charming the ladies again, Kurama? Or do you actually have a mission tonight?"

 

"I'm appalled, Herutama. Innocent old me, seducing women?" Kurama asked, feigning a look of innocence before the two had a chuckle. "Nah, tonight I'm on a mission. I'll see ya when I get back. Introduce me to your human friend in the morning, alright?" he said with a wave before teleporting from sight.

 

Heru shook his head. "Ja ne, senpai," he said to thin air as he reached his small quarters, pushing the door open. He set all of their belongings down before setting Anue on his bed, still in her sleeping bag. Heru wasn't too surprised to find her still sleeping, shaking his head. He made a quick gathering of supplies and ammunition, putting his guns up in his rack among the rest of his firearms. His body rested on the floor of his room and he stared at the ceiling. At least I know Kurama's got my back on this business... Hopefully not too many of us will be too against this. Not like it matters, she's under my protection. She's just like the rest of us...but...she's still really annoying... he thought, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Night, kid," he said, dozing off.

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Anue tossed and turned in her sleep, her subconsious gripped in a fearful nightmare, she grit her teeth and growled slightly; a defense mechanism she had picked up over the years, some things coward back at a show of aggression, she grit her teeth more grinding them together. Her muscles tensed and her body shook as the nightmare got worse, her growls turning to whimpers here and there, until finally Heru woke from the noise.

"Kid, what the hell-"

He saw the sleeping bad trembling fiercely and frowned.

"Yo, Kid, you alright?"

Anue whimpered more in her sleep alarming Heru sightly, he stood groggily and stumbled to the side of the bed still half asleep, frowning he gripped her shoulder tight.

"Hey ki-"

An inhuman roar ripped from her throat as she lunged forward, her eyes wild and unfocused as she pressed one of the knives she had strapped around her thigh to Heru's throat. Her eyes looked around wildly, her breathing heavy as she trembled, her skin shining with sweat, her bangs stuck to her forehead as the rest of her hair was sticking up at odd ends; and for sure if Heru hadn't a blade to his throat he might have made fun of her. Her breathing was ragged, almost growls as she tried to gain her bearing and Heru could see her beginning to panic.

"Settle down, your safe."

His voice seemed to register, but her knife neither moved and her breathing didn't seem to settle.

"Your safe, in my quarters at the base I work from, VIOLENCE. Just settle down kid."

Her wide, fearful eyes locked onto him and he could see them settle slightly, the knife leaving his skin as she relaxed more and more by the second.

"How..when?"
"Maybe a few hours ago. I brought you here. Just calm down, what's your problem?"

This seemed to snap her out of whatever had gripped her and she shook her head, sheathing the knife she grinned and put her hand behind her head, her cheeks turning red from shame.

"N-nothing. Just a nightmare."

"Must have been one hell of a nightmare...you pulled a knife and-"
"Yeah that happens from time to time. I'm fine though, no worries. Just old memories haunting me is all I'm sure you know what that's like."
He frowned, obviously not buying it, and Anue could feel her heart beat quicken slightly, she really didn't feel like explaining that at the moment. She looked around, searching for something to change the subject and blinked quickly as she looked at Heru.

"You know...your still half naked. How come you haven't gotten on a full set of clothes if this is where you live?"
This did the trick as he looked down at him self and began to curse quietly, mumbling about 'Kurarma and his damned grin' or this or that. She couldn't make out all of it, but blinked as he vanished into an adjacent room which she could only guess to be his bathroom. She lay back down, huddling down into her sleeping bag, she feigned sleep as Heru came back into the room.

"I know your not sleeping. I can hear your breathing."
She poked her head out.
"You want to explain what that was all about?"

She shook her head, her eyes downcast as she took a deep breath before frowning.

"The world is covered in demons, I had to figure out a way to defend my self."
"Okay, and the growling?"
"Some times a weaker demon would think I was stronger or just more gutsy from just standing my ground and showing dominance."
"Hence the growling?"

She nodded.

"And I can't remember how many times I've killed a hunter that tried to kill me in my sleep, or even a weaker, starving demon...I'm sorry I acted that way towards you Heru. I know you wouldn't hurt me."

He brushed her off and settled back into the chair, crossing his arms and closing his eyes.

"Yeah, well your safe, so go back to sleep."
She nodded slightly before slipping back into her sleeping bag, but sleep was near impossible to come by that any more that night. The nightmare being the worst and most reoccurring one, she shuddered slightly as silence fell in the room. 

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Outside Paris

 
Slade's arm trembled ever so slightly as he held the bowstring back, the muscles quivering a little with the strain of holding his shot. The only sound in his head was his own deep breathing, and he focused his eye on the metal-clad soldiers on the streets below.
 
His vantage point was one he had found several months ago while tracking a group of half-demons who had been slaughtering any innocent humans who wandered outside the city. He was crouched in the floor-to-ceiling window of an abandoned high-rise built long before Frederick Castle had clawed his way out of the Inferno, his bow trained on the leader of the Iron Guard contingent as they patrolled the outskirts of the city.
 
With a long, slow exhale, he felt a tingling heat rush down his fingers and into the arrow, then released the bowstring and watched as the arrow sailed through the air towards the Iron Guard leader. The arrowhead struck the shoulder-joint of the robotic armour, the Iron Guard paying as much attention to it as a man would pay attention to a mosquito bite.
 
A moment later, however, the arrow melted into boiling, molten slag, cutting through the metal armour like hot water through ice. The Iron Guards exploded into motion, the two flanking the leader recoiling as the leader fell to the ground, ejecting himself from the rapidly-melting armour. The soldiers began looking around, searching for their attacker, aiming their weapons into the abandoned buildings to all sides.
 
Slade shuddered as he watched the soldiers panic, blowing a small plume of smoke from between his teeth.
 
"Shouldn't have done that," he groaned, readying a second arrow; this one had a long cord attached to the end of it. He quickly released it, sending the shaft spinning into the wall opposite the high-rise; the cord went taut and Slade leapt onto it, sliding down the cord towards the Iron Guards.
 
He leapt off the cord into a lazy backflip, and felt an odd burning sensation rushing through his body as he fell towards the soldiers.
 
"No, not now!" he howled as a torrent of sulphuric flames engulfed him and spat him back out onto a hard metal floor. He leapt to his feet, his eyes burning with scarlet flames, and looked around to see where he had been transported to.
 
"Greetings, Mr Bennett," said a crisp voice from somewhere in the darkened room, "I hope we didn't catch you at an inappropriate moment."
 
"Any moment V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. catches me is an inappropriate one, Xavier," snarled Slade, "Anyway, I thought our coming here was supposed to be voluntary. Otherwise what are the amulets for?"
 
"Well, I admit that my methods of getting you here were slightly against Malik's protocols, but they were effective nonetheless. Half-demons have all sorts of abilities, you should know that," said the well-dressed man as he stepped out of the shadows, "Naturally we have a few trackers and a couple of teleporters who can help us find those...less willing members of our little organisation."
 
"What am I here for, Xavier?" asked Slade, "And no bullshit."
 
"Straight to the point," Xavier replied, "That's what I've always liked about you, Slade. So, to business: we want you on board."
 
"Pass. Can I go now?"
 
"Not so fast," said Xavier, "You won't know this considering that you spend so little time on board the Nidhogg, but you're something of a legend amongst the younger half-demons on board. Not only are you the child of one of the Seven Nephelim..."
 
"Don't remind me," interrupted Slade.
 
"...but you've also taken it upon yourself to protect the innocent," said Xavier with a withering look, "That kind of thing resonates with the people on board. It's a positive image, and one we wish to utilise."
 
"I have no interest in being your poster-boy, Xavier," said Slade, approaching the well-dressed man, "I do what I do to help people, not for popularity."
 
"You would still be able to help people, of course. But we only ask that you take some of our newer recruits under your wing, teach them the kind of thing you do. It wouldn't change anything."
 
"It would change everything, Xavier," spat Slade, "You'd be surrounding me with innocents. It's too dangerous, for them and for me."
 
"We don't blame you for what happened, Slade. It wasn't your fault."
 
"Of course it was my fault. And it will never happen again!" he roared. Xavier looked Slade up and down, and Slade took a step back and did the same. His tattoos were glowing gently, and he knew without looking that his eyes were doing the same, and he turned away from Xavier, breathing deeply to calm himself down.
 
"See what I mean?" he said quietly, "Even just being here is bringing it on. I'm a timebomb, and being around you people...I just can't..."
 
"Fine," said Xavier, "I understand. But there is another matter I wanted to discuss with you while you're here."
 
"Which is...?"
 
"We understand you have recently come into contact with a young half-Jinn girl," said Xavier, turning to look out of the window of the train car, "We would like you to turn her over to us."
 
"Why?"
 
"We just believe she would be better off under our protection," replied Xavier, turning back to face Slade, "Surely you don't disagree? You were just saying how dangerous you believe yourself to be."
 
"But you're never interested in someone unless they're useful to your cause."
 
"We're dedicated to saving all the half-demons we can..."
 
"I'm not talking about V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E., Xavier. I'm talking about you personally. You couldn't give a shit about protecting or saving half-demons, not unless you believe they could turn the tide in the war. So why is she important?"
 
"We believe...I believe that she has valuable information about the Storm Guard armour that Vela has unveiled."
 
"I said no bullshit," replied Slade, "There's no way she has military intelligence like that. She's just a scared kid, so what's the real reason?"
 
"That's classified."
 
"Fine. Then she stays with me. Can I go now?"
 
"You're free to leave any time. At least give her this," he handed Slade an amulet, "Leave the choice in her hands. It's only fair."
 
"Goodbye, Xavier," said Slade, snatching the amulet out of Xavier's hand and feeling the familiar rush of sulphur and heat as he was transported back to where he had been previously.
 
"Damn half-breed," spat the Iron Guard who stood over Slade as he reappeared outside Paris. The soldier aimed his grenade launcher at Slade, who smelt the gunpowder and felt the heat inches away from his face.
 
"Son of a bitch," growled Slade as the weapon fired.

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â??Explain to me again why, exactly, we're at 'Merlin's tomb'?â? Rhea asked with more than a touch of irritation in her voice. Junko ignored Rhea's comment and returned to running her hands along the large stone in front of herâ??in part, she was continuing her search for a possible secret entrance into a UWG base, but at that point she was largely attempting to keep her hands busy so she wouldn't strangle Rhea. Junko understood Rhea's concern over her brother Perseus all too well, but ever since they had arrived in France she had done nothing but be antagonistic. 
 
Sure, their journey hadn't been exactly fruitful thus far, but the only intel they had at their disposal was a fragmented sentence gurgled out by a dying Iron Guardâ??hardly the most precise information to base a rescue off of. Worse yet, France was one of the three most heavily populated UWG countries, and Brittany had a very respectable population size. Junko's horns and Rhea's black, pupil-less eyes were a bit difficult to conceal from so many eyes, and they had only barely escaped a confrontation with a group of Iron Guard. At least wandering through the â??legendaryâ? Paimpont forest, however unsuccessfully, was proving relatively uneventful. For now.
 
â??Brittany is known for Merlin's tomb,â? Rhea continued irritably. â??Would Vela really put his base right in the center of a tourist attraction? I thought the overgrown, uninhabited Val sans Retour was proof enough that the UWG wasn't that stupid,â? she grumbled, punching and denting a nearby tree. Junko inhaled sharply and balled her fists so tightly her knuckles whitened. She turned, slowly, to face her friend and spoke through pursed lips.
 
â??Rhea,â? Junko stated simply. Rhea snarled and marched up to Junko. Even though she stood three inches shorter than Junko, her confrontational posture made her seem taller.
 
â??Yes?â? she demanded, her body rigid with hostility. Junko spoke calmly, her mouth twisted in a wry smirk.
 
â??We will find Perseus soon. I promise you. But if you don't shut up and get back to searching, there won't be any of Perseus left to find. Or worse, he'll end up like--â? Rhea swung a large, angry rock arm at Junko to shut her up. Junko blocked Rhea's first strike, but a swift second one caught her across the jaw.
 
â??Shut up!â? Rhea yelled, kneeing the hunched over girl in the face. â??Just shut up, Junko! You don't know anything. We're going to find Percy. I won't abandon him like you abandoned your brother!â? Junko punctuated Rhea's sentence for her by punching the woman square in the nose, full force. Rhea howled, clutched her face and staggered back a few feet. Junko could see cracks forming in Rhea's rock-like skin behind her hand. Junko growled and bore her teeth furiously at Rhea. She wanted to rip the girl apart limb from limb and stomp her remains into dust, but she knew her partner wasn't in an impaired state of mind. At least that's what she told herself to calm down.
 
â??Can we get back to work now?â? Junko hissed through her teeth. The lines on Rhea's face began to recede into the point of impact, indicating that her injury was already healing. Rhea straightened herself out and responded to Junko's questioning by charging the girl. Junko braced herself against the attack, but a sudden flash of light stopped both ladies cold. They gazed in surprise as a blue mist swirled together violently in the space between them, rapidly forming a humanoid shape. Junko grabbed her Kanabo reflexively, causing the shape to speak.
 
â??Please don't hit me, sister!â? the voice of a young boy begged. What looked to be a ten-year-old wraith floated, â??fully-formedâ? between the two of them. Long black hair flowed out from his hoodie down to his bare feet, and his bangs covered his eyesâ??or rather they would have, but his ghostly red pupils glowed through his semi-transparent hair. He smiled anxiously at them, like a dog whose family had just returned, or a wolf preparing for its next meal. Junko couldn't decide between the two, but both made her uncomfortable.
 
â??It's been a long time since I've seen any family members!â? he yelled happily prior to swooping onto Junko to give her a hug. Every inch of her body immediately went cold, and she felt a deep sadness well up in her heart. When the boy wraith finally ended his embrace, Junko could not stop herself from weeping.
 
â??Oh my God, I'm so sorry!â? the boy cried honestly. â??I always forget not to do that. Please don't be mad at me, miss Junko!â? The boy â??touchedâ? Junko's shoulder, and the chill drained from her body back into his. Junko gulped down a breath of air, grateful to feel warmth again, although her heart was still terribly frigid.
 
â??How... how do you know my name?â? she questioned shakily, her voice unsteady from the short bout of crying. The boy frowned and placed his fists on his hips.
 
â??I heard you and miss Rhea fighting. You two shouldn't be fighting each other! Especially not when there are people like them to fight,â? the boy reasoned, jabbing a finger at the area behind Rhea and Junko. Emerging from the clearing were two Iron Guard members, weapons readied.
 
Shit, Junko thought, Rhea's yelling must have caught their attention. Junko once more prepared herself to fight; but, just as she raised her fists in front of her face, an odd sensation overtook her. She felt as light as air, as if she no longer had a body. Junko looked at Rhea, who was apparently experiencing a similar experience, and realized that the boy, whose hands were on each of their shoulders, was phasing them. Without warning or explanation, the boy whisked the demonspawn away from the soldiers and into Merlin's Tomb.
 
â??Sorry about that,â? the boy apologized. â??But they can't reach us in here.â? Interestingly enough, the area he had brought them to looked exactly like the kind of the place Iron Guard soldiers would be able to find them. The walls were rusted, the air smelled dank and all manner of rodent scurried about. But there was no mistaking itâ??the derelict structure was definitely a UWG base. An abandoned one, at least. 
 
â??Seems your hunch was right,â? Rhea admitted begrudgingly. Junko smiled and turned back to the wraith child.
 
â??What is your name, boy?â? she inquired. He smiled and held out his hand.
 
â??Cauchemar. That's what they call me, at least. But you can call me C,â? the boy responded. Nightmare, Junko thought, a feeling of dread creeping into her stomach. His name is Nightmare... Junko placed her hand in his nonethelessâ??which was difficult, as it constantly shifted in and out of existence.
 
â??Do you live here, C?â? she asked. C nodded and began floating down a nearby staircase. Junko and Rhea followed closely.
 
â??Yes, ma'am. I've lived here for the past 150 years,â? he stated matter-of-factly. Junko covered her mouth to filter out the stench of blood, rot and mold around her. How could the boy stand to live here, wraith or no?
 
â??Do the UWG still use this base? Are there still UWG members here?â? Rhea questioned naively. Perhaps she hoped that the state of ruin was simply a disguise to deter any travelers who were clever or unlucky enough to phase through Merlin's tomb. 
 
â??There are UWG soldiers here, but they don't use the base,â? he stated without elaborating. Rhea and Junko exchanged uneasy glances.
 
â??If there are soldiers here, C, then you should get behind us. I wouldn't want anything to happen to you,â? Junko said earnestly. C giggled, which surprised the two women. 
 
â??They can't hurt me,â? he declared. When the two continued to stare at him, confused, he giggled again. 
 
â??Here, take a look for yourself,â? he instructed, placing his hand through a broken keypad beside a large steel door. The device roared to life for a moment, energy surging through its long-unused panel. After  few sparks flickered from the panel, the door slid open slowly, revealing a massive, dimly-lit cavernous area. A small stream of some liquid washed over their feet, and a foul wave of stench struck both half-demons immediately. Junko doubled over to vomit, which was more surprising than the smell. She hardly ever vomited. Rhea, thankfully, did not possess bodily fluids to vomit, but she felt horribly nauseous all the same. As the two ladies recovered, C placed his hand into a wall switch which generated another power surge throughout the room. A moment later, the lights in the hall sprang to life, one by one. Junko gasped.
 
â??Oh...my...â?
 
The hall was filled with row after row, cot after cot, bloodied wall after bloodied wall of UWG soldiers. There bodies were mutilated and disfigured in ways Junko hadn't even though possible. The floor of the hall was dyed crimson, and Junko quickly realized what it was that had washed over her feet when the doors opened. But the sight and smell of the thousand damned soldiers wasn't the worst of itâ??both were drowned out by the shallow swell and shrinkâ??the rhythmic breathing-- of the entire room. Most, if not all of the soldiers in this room were still alive, held together by little more than frayed tendons and torn organs. Junko confronted C in disbelief.
 
â??Did you do this?â? She accused. C scrunched his face up, bemused.
 
â??Of course I did. Why are you mad? The UWG are bad. They're our enemy. So I hurt them for hurting our family,â? he said with wicked gleefulness. Junko took a step away, stunned, and heard a sickening crunch from beneath her shoe, followed by a soft wail.
 
â??Help...me...â? a voice whimpered from below. She looked down and stared, horrified, at the soldier whose arm she had just split in two. She screamed despite herself and fell over. What was wrong with her? Why was she in such a state of panic? She scrambled away from the soldier, directly into another pile of half-alive bodies, all demanding the same thing.
 
â??Help... us... Kill... us... Kill... it...â? a chorus of condemned souls chanted. As the chanting continued, C's demeanor changed. His entire being began pulsating light, and his face was distorted with rage. A torrent of wind gathered around his body, spraying blood and flesh all over the walls, as well as Rhea and Junko.
 
â??QUIET!â? the boy bellowed, a powerful surge of plasmic energy erupting from him and washing over the room. The voices immediately fell silent, and C returned to his prior state. Junko watched all of this from the floor, too startled to react. Rhea smiled and walked over to the boy.
 
â??Good job, C,â? she said with hushed admiration, ruffling the boy's hair. C flashed her a big smile.
 
â??Thanks miss Rhea!â? he exclaimed. He turned his attention to Junko and glided over to her. He stopped at her feet and offered his hand to her.
 
â??Awesome, right?!â? he declared. Junko eyed his hand warily and did not respond, instead hoisting herself up to her feet without his help. The cold feeling C had left in her chest had finally vanished, and she could feel her emotions returning to normal. She hadn't even realized until this moment that C's touch had altered her perception, causing all of her senses to become heightened. Once again in control, she intended to keep it that way.
 
â??Sure,â? she responded, taking a step away from C. She walked back over to the soldier she had un-limbed and hoisted him up onto a nearby stretcher. Junko avoided the man's horror-stricken gaze, concerned it might unnerve her again. 
 
â??Tell me where the other base in Brittany is and I'll end your suffering,â? Junko said softly, placing her hands around the man's neck. Tears rolled down the soldier's eyes, but he remained quiet. C moved to above the soldier and looked down at him menacingly.
 
â??If you don't tell my big sis, I'll steal all of your happy memories and bury you under a pile of your friends, where you can spend the rest of your days rotting in misery,â? C threatened. The soldier emitted a horrendous gurgle and prepared to reveal the location of the base, when C interrupted him.
 
â??You know what?â? C realized, a fiendish smile spreading across his face. â??I know how we can all win in this situation.â? Without another word, C plunged his hand into the man's skull. Blue light spilled out of his eyes and mouth and blinded Junko. When her vision had cleared the man lay dead, and C was smiling at her.
 
â??Ready to find Perseus... and 'Ogre'?â? 

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Beneath Paris
 
Either this guy is the ultimate badass, thought Layla as she ran her fingers across the damp walls of the Metro Station, Or else I've shacked up with a half-demon psychopath.
 
She looked across the rows of blades glinting on the walls of Slade's hideout, each one sharp and highly polished in complete contrast to the rest of the cavernous space. She paced around the chamber, past the workstation covered in thin, tough arrows with wickedly-sharp heads of different shapes and sizes, her gaze wandering across the faded maps attached to the walls, covered in pins and strings and small, neat writing.
 
She turned to drift past the training dummies set up in the middle of the floor, each one pockmarked with holes caused by arrowheads and knives, with some of those objects still lodged in the heads and chests of the dummies. She dragged her fingers across these pockmarks, enjoying the contrasting smooth and jagged textures of the dummies, and finding a kind of childlike intrigue creeping into her mind.
 
The brave knight who saved the helpless young girl from the bandits, she thought, and a faint smile drifted across her face, before it crumpled into a frown.
 
Yeah, right, she corrected herself, slamming the base of her palm into the head of the nearest training dummy, throwing the whole object a few feet backwards in a cacophony of noise and echoes, Helpless young girl my ass.
 
Her eye was caught by an odd, roughly-drawn symbol on the wall of the Metro Station, made up of concentric circles and interlocking triangles, surrounded by strange glyphs belonging to a language Layla did not recognise. She looked closer, slowly running her fingers along the lines and attempting to unlock some meaning in the symbol.
 
But her musings were interrupted by a loud, metallic grinding noise coming from several feet above her. She looked up, and a small circle of light appeared in the dark ceiling, a circle which was quickly filled by a human-shaped silhouette. Layla's heart skipped, and she grabbed the nearest blade from the wall closest to her, a short curved knife, holding it behind her back as the figure descended down the ladder.
 
A few feet before he reached the ground, Layla recognised the figure as Slade, grunting and groaning as he lowered himself down the ladder into the hideout.
 
"Slade!" she called, "Are you alright?"
 
He dropped to the floor hard, his legs crumpling underneath him as he landed, his body slumping to the ground.
 
"Slade!" she shouted, running over to him as he gradually lowered his hood, "What happened?"
 
He looked up at her, and she gasped as she saw his face: it was heavily bruised, with a deep cut across the bridge of his nose and another above his left eyebrow, and an odd area of blackened skin around his eyes, almost as if it had been burned or charred. Upon closer examination, his right thigh was also injured and bleeding heavily, and he was breathing deeply and unevenly.
 
"You look like shit!" she gasped as he hauled himself to his feet.
 
"Thanks for that," he groaned in response, limping slowly over to his workstation.
 
"You need to lie down, Slade," she said witheringly, catching up to him easily and placing herself under his arm, directing him over to the mattress she had woken up on a few hours earlier. He reluctantly followed the direction, leaning on her a little and limping over to the mattress, which he lowered himself down onto gradually.
 
"What the hell happened out there?" Layla asked, grabbing the open medical kit beside the mattress and rummaging around in it for something to sterilise his injuries with.
 
"You don't want to know..."
 
---
 
Outside Paris
 
Sparks exploded outwards at the point where Slade's sword blocked the swinging metal fist of the Iron Guard. He ignored the pain shooting through his ribs and the steady trickle of blood running down his face as he held off the Guard's attack.
 
With a monumental effort, he pushed the Guard away, swinging his blade through the soldier's knee-joint and almost completely severing his lower leg. The Guard toppled and hit the ground hard with a screeching crash, but Slade had no time to celebrate his minor victory as a second Iron Guard charged him from behind, throwing him to the ground.
 
He landed hard, but managed to twist it into an awkward roll back to his feet as the Guard fired a concussive grenade at the ground he had occupied a split-second earlier. It detonated immediately, blasting Slade off his feet and back into the wall of the building behind him.
 
A white-hot burst of pain rushed through his right thigh, and as he glanced down through blurred vision he saw that a few scattered pieces of shrapnel had lodged themselves into his leg, which was now oozing blood.
 
"Oh, I'm really going to regret this," he groaned, hauling himself to his feet and trying to block out the shooting pain rushing through what felt like every inch of his body. He stared at the Iron Guard, which was helping his comrade to his feet, and felt a prickling heat rushing through his body: his eyes started blazing with scarlet flames, as did the markings over his chest and arms. The pain from his injuries faded into the background, replaced by a tingling, buzzing sensation caused by the Purefire currently rushing through his body.
 
With a deep breath, he charged at the two remaining Guards with inhuman speed, a chilling howl escaping from his lips as he moved. Within seconds, he reached the first Guard and slammed his fist into the soldier's chest, forcing him backwards.
 
The spot where Slade's fist had connected glowed red-hot, and after a second began melting away the metal shell of the soldier's exoskeleton.
 
But Slade had no time to admire his handiwork, as he spun around to block the gun-arm of the second Iron Guard. With a twist, he grabbed the arm and pulled it off in a shower of sparks and metal debris, spinning on his heel and slamming it into the Guard's body, sending him crashing to the ground.
 
With a single fluid movement, Slade grabbed the recurve bow from his back, nocked an arrow and loosed it into the head of the downed Iron Guard. The Purefire-infused arrow burned through the soldier's head, and both the Iron Guard and the man inside the exoskeleton died with a blood-curdling screech.
 
A faint smile crept across Slade's face, one which quickly turned into a grimace as he dropped to his knees, a flicker of scarlet fire bursting out of his mouth as his eyes and markings faded, and the pain from his injuries came rushing back worse than before.
 
"I knew I'd regret that," he gasped, struggling back to his feet and starting the arduous journey back to his hideout.
 
---
 
Inferno
 
A tiny, glowing sphere of scarlet light rushed down the vein-like tubes that lined the walls of the cavernous building. It moved at blinding speed through rooms that looked as though they had been carved from solid rock, chambers that appeared to have walls made out of flickering green flames, and corridors that seemed to be made of solid, shiny obsidian.
 
It rushed past countless creatures of different shapes, sizes and appearances, from humanoid creatures with horns and hooves, to floating, nebulous creatures made from dust or vapour.
 
Finally, it reached its destination, falling from the opening of the tube into a large, perectly circular pool, like that which lies at the base of a fountain, and was absorbed into the mass of pulsing, constantly shifting matter which filled the pool. A stocky, muscular man wearing armour which appeared to be formed of ever-shifting scarlet fire watched as the sphere dropped, his eyes glinting the same scarlet as his armour within his glowing helmet.
 
There was a loud noise as the doors of the cavernous chamber swung open, one which resonated for far longer than it would in a mortal structure, and a tall, slender figure entered, his own armour of a similar design, but made of a more solid jade-like green material.
 
"My Lord Belial," said the slender figure, nodding as he entered the room.
 
"My Lord Leviathan," replied the stockier man, nodding his own head in response.
 
"Do my eyes deceive me," Leviathan asked, strolling across the chamber to a large structure a mortal may recognise as a desk, "Or was that another fragment of the boy's soul coming through?"
 
"Your eyes have never deceived you when it comes to the souls of our children, Leviathan," replied Belial, following Leviathan over to the desk, "You know that as well as I."
 
"Your child is becoming more reckless," scoffed Leviathan,  scouring what appeared to be banks and banks of television monitors lining the wall of Belial's chamber, "If he's not careful he'll find himself in the company of his father all too soon."
 
The screens glared, each one showing Slade Bennett destroying a contingent of Iron Guards on the outskirts of Paris, unleashing the demonic abilities that would gradually bring his soul back to his father.
 
"I believe he has more hatred to spread before that time comes," Belial replied, moving over to stand next to Leviathan in front of the monitors, "Besides, I can't allow him to join us yet. Not without the girl, anyway."
 
"Ah yes," said Leviathan with what seemed to be a smile beneath his helmet, "The prophesied girl. Seems like an odd coincidence that she ended up in the custody of your son."
 
"Coincidence has nothing to do with it. The two of them have been connected for some time, they just needed to finally encounter one another." Leviathan took a sideways glance at Belial, and chuckled.
 
"Never thought subtlety was your forte, Belial," he said, "But I must say: I'm impressed."
 
"I care little whether you are impressed, Leviathan," growled Belial, moving past his fellow Nephelim, "Our time grows short, and the humans are growing more and more bold by the day. It will not be long before they venture into Inferno and attempt to destroy us on our home turf. I am merely collecting my greatest assets, and I suggest you do the same."
 
He moved to sit down, apparently onto nothing, but multiple tendrils of red flame snaked out of the ground beneath him, forming a large, horned throne which he took a seat on. Leviathan nodded and strode across the floor of the chamber, stopping at the still-open door to turn back to Belial.
 
"Belial, I want you to remember: as much as you want to believe the opposite, Slade did not inherit his father's quick temper. He will take his time with the girl, he will be methodical and he will be patient. If you place all your faith in him, you may lose."
 
"Goodbye, Leviathan," Belial grunted, and Leviathan left, closing the door behind him.
 
Belial drummed the fingers of his gauntlet on the desk, the sound reverberating like a rhythmic war drum. After a few moments, he flicked his hand out, and watched as a gout of red fire blasted from it, gradually coalescing into a spindly, vaguely humanoid figure.
 
"What does the Hateful One desire of the Husks?" the figure hissed through a pointed, beak-like snout.
 
"I have an important assignment for you," Belial growled, "One that involves my son."

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After finally managing to get a few more hours of sleep Anue woke rested and refreshed, wiggling from her sleeping back she stuck her head out and looked around, the room was empty and she stumbled from her bag, hitting the floor in her half sleep. Grunting she growled in annoyance and stumbled back to her feet as she wobbled towards the bathroom. Upon opening the door she saw that she was indeed alone. She slammed the door shut and without hesitation stripped from her dirty clothes; turning the water in the shower as hot as she could get it she stepped in without waiting and sighed as it slowly began to warm til steam filled the room making it nearly impossible to see. She grabbed a washcloth that was sitting on the edge of the tub, drenched it in the stream of water and scrubbed her body til her skin felt almost raw. She stayed under the water for as long as she could stand before getting out and wrenching on her clothes over her damp skin. Shaking out her hair she ran her fingers through it enough to get a majority of the tangles from it before she slipped from the room altogether. She made a point to look around before she moved, even though Heru tolerated her, it didn't mean she was entirely safe within these walls. She could feel the coolness of her hair as it began to dry slightly, her bare feet barely making a sound as she followed her nose, and the smell of food. She slipped through a large set of double doors and into what looked like a lunch room, staying low and close to the wall she sprinted towards the smell of food and peeked over a low wall, seeing small plates of food she reached over and snatched one quickly. Stuffing it into her mouth in one bite she chewed it quickly and swallowed it as best as she could, reaching back over she grabbed a can of whatever it was and stuffed it into her pocket. Hugging the wall she hunched below the tables and sprinted for the doors. She gasped and darted under a table as the double doors opened and a few people cluttered in, one was Heru, he was looking more sour then usual, his frown was deeper then ever as the man leaning on his shoulder laughed out loud.

"Come on man, you mean you just brought her here on a whim? No alternative motives?"
"Only you would think of something like that. She's a human."

"She's kinda cute."
"If you like annoying, frumpy stick figures, yeah I suppose."
"If you think she's so annoying why not just kill her and be done with it?"
"She hasn't done anything wrong Kurama. I won't just kill her because she can't shut up. I just don't know what else to do with her..."
"I'll take her. You know I can put her to good use."

Heru looked over at his friend with a frown.

"I'm sure you could. But I brought her with me therefore she's my responsibility."

"Yeah, I had a feeling you were gonna say that. So, what made you bring her here of all places?"

"I told you, I don't know what made me bring her here. Maybe I thought she'd be safe, but I'm rethinking that thanks to you."
"Well, how about you take me to meet her. You said you would."
"I'll think about it. She's a little more jumpy then I thought she would be."
"Meaning?"
"She had a nightmare and pulled a knife on me when I woke her up."
"Ballsy isn't she?"
"Yeah...look I should go check on her."
"I'll come along."

Anue didn't stay to hear anything else, she slipped under the tables til she was able to get out of the doors and sprint back to Heru's room. Opening the door she threw her self in and leaped across the room onto the bed just as the door opened, Heru stepped in and shut the door behind him. He turned and blinked as Anue frowned up at him.

"What's your problem?"
"You really think I'm that annoying?"
"What are you-"
"I over heard you talking to your friend. Am I really that annoying to you?"
"I've told you over and over you are!"
She grabbed one of her knives and threw it close to his feet.

"Then why the hell did you bring me here, you could have just left me in those woods. I was keeping alive alone before you came along and I can do it again. You hate having me around so much? Send me back!"
"Your throwing this way out of proportion!"

She stood and stalked towards him, her hands on her hips and glared up at him.

"I can tell when I'm not wanted around Heru, And all I hear is how annoying I am and how you don't even know why I'm here. If that's the case, do your self a favor and send. me. back."

She reached back and grabbed her sleeping back as he reaching for the amulet around his neck, Before she could blink she felt her skin prickle as the cold air of outside hit her skin. Sighing she packed her sleeping bag back into her pack and began to trudge through the underbrush putting as much distance between her and the spot Heru had dropped her at. 

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Heru's fist clenched around his amulet, teeth grinding against each other with elongated fangs. "Goddammit, Anue..." He released his amulet, charging after and catching up to the girl with ease, bounding from the trees and landing in front of her. Unfortunately, the impact he made with the ground knocked the girl off balance. His eye twitched and he grabbed her by her shoulder, tugging her back toward him. Anue struggled to break his grasp, but he gave no ground. "Kid, stop already!"

 

"No, I'm nothing but annoying. Leave me alone!" Anue said, still finding no way to break free. "I'm not afraid to kill you if I have t-" she paused, looking at the softened expression on Herutama's face. "Uhm...hey...threatening to kill you over here..."

 

"Look, kid...yeah...you are annoying..."

 

"Not helping. If you're just planning o-"

 

"Just shut up and listen to me okay?!" Heru snapped back, clearing his throat. "When it comes down to it, we're all family. Most of our family just treats us like we're plagued," Heru let out a sigh, looking up. "But you and I, we're family. No matter how annoying or...how abrasive we are to each other, we can't turn our backs on one another, alright?" he said, looking back to Anue. He let her go when he felt Anue stop pulling away. "That's why I won't abandon you, Anue. You finally got your answer okay...? Do with that what you will..." he said, eyes closing.

_____________

Kurama was visiting what was once his hometown which wasn't fortunate enough to get a barrier up, but they handled demons their own ways when they could. He'd caught wind of a demon that had been roaming the area slaying women. It was only whenever they were pregnant however, no matter how far along the mother was. Seems like half of these women didn't even know they were pregnant... Sounds   about was that most of the victims had been here the night before their murder. Guess I'd better put my "make-up" on, he thought, his hair slowly turning black from the roots out. He approached the club, paying his way in as well as two ladies who were coming up behind him, giving them a wink and a smile. He chuckled as the two started talking to each other about him, shaking his head. If only I weren't here on business, ladies...if only...

 

As he received his stamp, he pushed open the second set of doors, a roar of music hitting him in an all too familiar feeling. He smiled as a wave of nostalgia struck him, watching the people in their prime enjoying the time they had despite the demons who found their way to their realm. He could see a set of bouncers already eyeing him as he walked in but acted like he didn't notice the three. Instead he headed for the bar, resting an elbow on it. His gaze set on the female bartender who was working this night and he raised a hand to wave her over. Once she finished with her customer, she walked over to Kurama with a smile, leaning on the bar. "Hey, sweetie, what can I get ya?" the young red-haired woman asked him

 

"Hm...Glass of vodka on the rocks if you would, pretty lady. Please and thank you," Kurama replied, smiling back at her, trying to keep his passive power at bay. With a wink and a nod, the young lady got to work on his drink, which didn't take long. Kurama bowed his head with a smile, placing a twenty-dollar bill on the bar. "All you, sweetheart. I'll be back to see you before the night's over," Kurama winked, stepping away from the bar, taking a swig of his drink. Good, they're still servin' the good stuff. He raised the glass to the bartender, who seemed distracted before she realized she had other orders to fill. Kurama gave a chuckle to himself before he moved his way into the crowd

 

The DJ quickly transitioned the song into a fast-tempo track, causing the club-goers to show a rise in excitement and more of them to head to the dance floor. Kurama closed his eyes, taking another drink before looking over to the bar. Bingo... he thought as he saw a man with a long blonde ponytail, dressed in black slacks, black combat boots, long black coat with the sleeves rolled up, and a half-buttoned grey dress shirt talking to a young woman, the two of them getting a little too touchy-feely. He could easily sense the woman was expecting, although very early. What was more worrysome was the wedding ring on her left hand. His eyes focused on the man's face before they narrowed. Oh...You have GOT to be shittin' me... It would be him of all demons... He finished his drink, setting his glass on the bar right beside the two. "Excuse me," Kurama said as he bumped into the blonde, giving him a bit of room. The blonde's eyes met Kurama's before narrowing to slits.

 

"I'll have to cut our date short, sweetheart," the blonde said to the woman whose eyes saddened as the man and Kurama stepped back from the bar. "You've got some issues upstairs coming around here, Kurama."
 

"Says the man who killed both of my parents, one of them being his own father. But I'm the one who has issues?" Kurama spat, shaking his head. "Come on, Kazan. Let's just get this over with once and for all," he said, disappearing from the club as well as his elder brother, the two appearing a ways outside the club. They both appeared with their silver hair, Kurama's violet eyes staring into the red eyes of his elder brother who stood before him with a sheathed katana. Kurama's eyes narrowed before he grinned a bit. "Now you know I only brought you out here so I could get you away from that cute little misses in there, right? Come on, Kaz. Can't go stealing married mama's away from their husbands."

 

"I can when they're going to birth half-breed abominations like yourself, Kurama. Just like I killed your mother," Kazan growled, eyes narrowing.


"Yeah, I know. You killed, ma, Gods bless her, but what's the point of my being pissed off about it? It's not exactly gonna bring her back. Seriously, find some better material. You're not gonna rile me with that, Kazan. You waited until I was old enough to get what was going on. Not my fault you don't have the mind of a good demon," Kurama shrugged, his staff appearing over his shoulders and held by his right hand. "But because of it, kicking the shit out of you should be that much more gratifying," Kurama smirked, seeing Kazan's irritation grow. Unfortunately, he had little time to react as Kazan closed the gap between them, bringing his blade down against the solid metal pole in his hands. "Touchy, touchy!" Kurama was pushed back by the next blow dealt by Kazan before he was able to get his stance straight. Guess I should really be careful...think I struck a nerve this time...

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Washington D.C., United States of America, Siege of the Storm Guard

The grind of metal joints screeched through the air, and the earth rumbled under the weight of the mechanical monstrosities known as the Storm Guard. The six â??saviours of humanityâ? towered over the army of Iron Guard around their feet as men stand above ants. Never in the history of mankind had a force so mighty gathered in place, striving toward one singular goal. Vela's call to arms had been answered in kind; and despite the overwhelming odds standing in its way, today the UWG army was going to march on Inferno. And although he was not leading the charge, General Vela stood before his troops, before the wormhole and before the world, ready to send his men off.

â??Do not fear, do not falter,â? General Vela ordered to his legion of followers. â??You are humanity's greatest chance at reclaiming its future. All of our hopes rest on your shoulders. Do not fear, do not falter... And leave no enemy alive.â? With that, the General marched aside, and the army of Iron Guard rushed forth into the blazing beyond. An ocean of metal men washed over the flames of hell, and the conflict began immediately. All manner of demons rushed the entrance, claws, fangs, talons, whips and blades at the ready. But the army did not waiver, and the might of Vela's forces was shown full.

â??Activate Rayo 01,â? Vela ordered confidently. The air around the mech Rayo crackled loudly as a surge of energy shot through Rayo 01, the head of the Storm Guard. Steam rose off of its metal panels, and bright white light burst forth from several circular energy discharge valves located in its palms, fingertips, chest and lining the sides of its arms and legs. Rayo 01 took one slow step forward, and then another, and now stood directly in front of the worm hole. The helm of the mechanical beast split three quarters of the way down, creating a nightmarish, smiling visage. A loud roar tore out of the Rayo, startling every person on the battlefield, save a smirking General Vela.

A second later, Rayo 01 sprung into the air and dove right into the horde of demons. Its massive boots crushed dozens of demons underfoot, and dozens more were catapulted aside by the powerful swing of its arms. The Iron Guard members swarmed on the demons wounded by Rayo 01's rampage and quickly dispatched them. Despite this, the flow of demons did not ceaseâ??it only increased. Demons poured in from the skies, out of the earth and from the damned rivers. It seemed as if all of Inferno was spilling forth to counter the human invaders. From outside the wormhole, Vela smiled broadly.

â??Give me your worst, monsters,â? he mumbled under his breath, as he stepped into his personal helicopter. â??It won't be enough. Let's go!â? he commanded his pilot. As the helicopter rose into the air, Rayos 02-06 activated behind, and a chorus of nightmarish screams echoed through Earth and Inferno.



â? 


Nidhogg, Somewhere in southern USA, Malik's Chambers

â??The arrogant bastard is actually doing it... Maybe I should send him a thank you gift,â? Malik quipped with a dark laugh before turning away from the tv screen to his guest. Xavier shrugged simply.

â??His timing is truly auspicious,â? Xavier responded with a fiendish grin, crossing his legs and resting his chin on his knuckles. â??All of... our men are in place, and the General is airborne. We will not have another chance like this, Commander. Now is the time to initiate 'Ragnarok'.â? Malik walked from the tv to his desk, and sat on his dragon bone throne. The polished black bones reflected the flames from the tv screen and washed the entire room in red. Malik snorted smoke and leaned back in his seat.

â??I agree, dear friend. Vela has his sheep convinced that they are safe from us, that his gaudy, mechanical beasts will pave the road for a future ruled by man. Let's show them the truth. Send out the order,â? Malik ordered Xavier. Xavier dutifully stood up, bowed and walked from the room. As soon as the door closed behind him he grumbled under his breath.

â??The fool is every bit as arrogant as the General,â? Xavier murmured. He walked into the car adjacent to Malik's, which was designated as one of Nidhogg's training rooms. Being most frequently used by Malik himself, this room was the most advanced of all the training rooms, with an a.i. that became more clever and more dangerous the longer you survived. Xavier eyed several men scattered amongst the dangerous setting, and each one silently acknowledged his gaze. Xavier stepped onto the connecting platform between that car and the nextâ??a brothel-esque room where half-succubi, half-incubi and other half demons who could heighten sensory perception pleased stressed member of V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. and waited several minutes. One by one the half-demons Xavier had looked upon joined him in the hallway. He greeted the four gathered V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. members with a smile.

â??The Head has just ordered his own decapitation, as I knew he would. Jaime,â? Xavier spoke to the brunette man to his right. â??Send out the Commander's message.â? The demonspawn nodded and ran off into the next car. Xavier turned his attention to the next two, a boy with a thousand eyes scattered all over his body and a raven haired man with black sclera.

â??Stark and Snow,â? Xavier commanded, â??make note of all V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. members who do not answer the call, and report back to me.â? They nodded dutifully and disappeared in a sulphuric smoke. Xavier turned to his last follower, a faceless, genderless half-demon, and placed his hand on its shoulder.

â??And you and I should pay a visit to the engine room.â?



â? â? â? 


Brittany, France, Train

â??I hope we don't run into one of those,â? Junko sighed before burying her face deep in her hands. The Siege of the Storm Guard was playing on every television, and Junko didn't care to watch any longer. Regardless of the damage the Storm Guard caused, they could never clear out all of Inferno. Sooner or later, it would become a massacre. Rhea and C, on the other hand, were sitting on the edge of their seats, soaking in every minute of it.

â??I wonder if they'll pull the cameras away once the demons start tearing apart the humans,â? Rhea wondered aloud. C bounced in his seat with excitement at the prospect.

â??I hope they show it,â? he said gleefully. Junko eyed the two, disgusted, and sighed once more. Why me, she pondered, shifting her gaze to the outside world. Even if it was crawling with UWG, Brittany was lovely, and she found herself oddly longing for a life where she could enjoy the streets and the people without having to hide. The thought made her sick and forlorn, so she scanned the horizon for something to focus on. Her eyes settled eventually on a UWG manufacturing center a couple of blocks away, where men worked tirelessly day in and day out to create new weapons for the UWG. She could hear Malik's voice in her head, raving about his disdain for these buildings, and how one day they would be reduced to rubble.

â??Whoa!â? Rhea yelled in response to something, startling Junko. â??Did you see that?â? She looked to both C and Junko. C nodded furtively in agreement, but Junko continued to stare out the window. Rhea grimaced and smacked her partner on the arm.

â??What's the matter with you? C's ability hasn't gotten to you again, has it?â? she questioned, causing C to chuckle. Matter of fact, Junko had taken great strides to keep it from happening, which was why C was sitting beside Rhea across a table from Junko.

â??Ha. Ha,â? Junko responded dryly without looking from the window. Rhea rolled her eyes and opened her mouth to respond, but a low moaning from both the ladies' pendants shut her up. A second after the moaning began, the lights on the train began flickering wildly, and the televisions clicked on and off. Before Junko could examine anything in the room, however, her phone began vibrating in her pocket. Apprehensively, she drew it out. Malik's name was emblazoned on the screen, with one word underneath it. VALKYRIE. A moment later, a series of massive explosions shook the train from every side, as if the sky and earth were erupting. The force derailed the train entirely, and it went speeding off into the street.

Homes, cars and bodies were leveled as the train expelled the rest of its momentum. The passengers inside of the train all died almost instantly, save for three demonspawn, who were tossed violently from wall to wall. Finally, the front car crashed into a neotankâ??a weaponized spherical tank which, after running out of ammo, used jet propulsion to transform into an unstoppable battering ram. Junko dug herself out of the wreckage and stumbled out into the street. Rhea and C phased out of the rubble beside her.

â??This is it, isn't it!â? Rhea shouted with delight once she was corporeal again. â??This is Ragnarok!â? Junko grimaced, her eyes surveying her surroundings. Ragnarok was Malik's ultimate plan against the UWG. A coordinated set of Rotfire bombings on UWG manufacturers and military bases by V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. spies. In the ensuing confusion, V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. members identified as â??Valkyriesâ? were to sow chaos throughout the cities, murdering any humans in their path. The plan had been met with mixed opinions; many half-demons were of a similar mind as Junko, and opposed unnecessary violence against innocents. What had convinced Malik to go ahead with it?

â??How lucky can we be? Look!â? Rhea said, pointing toward the ocean. Smoke seemed to be rising out of the water, and there was commotion in the street. The UWG base housing Perseus must be there... Rhea grabbed Junko's arm and attempted to drag her toward the base, but Junko wouldn't budge.

â??C'mon, Junko!â? Rhea said angrily. â??I know you got the message as well. We're Valkyries! Let's rain hell down on them, and save Perseus... and Orge!â? Junko pried her hand from Rhea's and took a step back defiantly. She turned away from C and Rhea and looked off in the distance, to the burning manufacturing plant.

â??Innocent people are in there. I have to help them,â? Junko stated. Rhea grabbed Junko's arm again, violently this time.

â??Fuck those humans! You promised me we would save Perseus,â? she roared. Junko spun around and struck Rhea in the chest, sending her flying away. Not wanting to waste another moment, or face Rhea when she got up, Junko unleashed her Oni form and charged toward the plant.



â? â? â? â? â? 


OOC: Members of V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E., Malik has unleashed an all out assault on each and every UWG building and employee across the world, and by extension, has declared war on all of humanity. Are you going to join in on the anti-human massacre, or will you stand against Malik's orders and help your persecutors? Or... will you do nothing at all? Regardless, be careful--humans will not discrimate against friendly and antagonistic half-demons from hereonin.

Edited by Orcus

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Inferno
 
A lone figure looked over the chaos raging in the gateway between Inferno and the mortal realm, her ragged cloak rippling in the hot, burning air. She sighed as she saw horde after horde of demon footsoldiers hurled themselves at the gigantic metal figure ploughing their way into the demons' world, pure white energy beaming from their every extremity.
 
She watched as Orcs, Vampires, Succubi and Wraiths went to their deaths, torn to shreds by the Storm Guards, crushed under their colossal feet and vaporized by the gouts of white energy blasting from their hands and chests. Fury flashed in her eyes for just a moment before she quelled her true feelings and went back to observing events with cold detachment.
 
"The day has finally come," said Belial as he strode out onto the balcony to stand beside the figure, "The humans have declared war on Inferno."
 
"They know not what they have done, my Lord Belial," said the woman, her gaze never wavering from the intruders on their realm, "Our world holds secrets they could never conceive of, and they threaten to unleash them upon their own realm. They are blind, arrogant fools."
 
"Fools, yes," replied Belial, "But well-equipped fools. Their Storm Guards hold power beyond anything we believed them capable of: they have turned our greatest asset into a weakness."
 
"You sensed the Purefire in their cores," replied the woman with a nod, "They are dangerous indeed, but we must not concern ourselves with these matters. If we forget our true duty then devastation is the only thing that will follow."
 
Belial turned to look at the woman with a look of incredulity on his face, his eyes blazing with scarlet flames.
 
"They invade our realm and you propose we do nothing?"
 
"You have twisted my words, Hateful One," said the woman calmly, turning to meet his gaze, her eyes gently flickering with purple fire, "Of course we should defend our walls if the metal beasts choose us as a target."
 
"Then you agree, we should fight the mortals?"
 
"No," replied the woman coldly, "We should not. Our true purpose in this realm is of far greater importance than the petty squabbles of men and demons. We represent the only thing which keeps utter devastation from causing every single realm to crumble."
 
"Your obsessive need to conform to these ancient rules will result in our destruction," growled Belial, "We have the power to stop the mortals, and you would stop us from using it?"
 
"Yes. The power we have been gifted is considerable, but it was given to us for a reason. To use our power in a show of strength against but one of our many opponents would be a perversion of our duties..."
 
"Duties!" interrupted Belial, "Have we not been beholden to our duties for long enough? Is it not time for us to alter the meaning of our own existence? To fight the oncoming hordes and let our duties be damned?"
 
"Silence, Belial!" shouted the woman, her eyes flashing with rage, "I have heard enough! Our duty cannot be neglected or forgotten, and I will not have you question me further on this matter! Do you understand me?"
 
Belial stepped closer to the woman, her smaller stature doing nothing to diminish her obvious power. He looked into her eyes, scarlet meeting purple, and growled under his breath.
 
"I understand," he snarled, "But if the time comes I will not stand idly by and watch the Nephelim fall to the humans or any other threat. I assume we understand each other?"
 
"We do," she replied, the flames in her eyes settling just a little, "Now return to your duties, Belial. I will not hear another word on this."
 
"Very well," said Belial, stepping back and bowing his head, "My Lady Lucifer."
 
He turned on his heel and strode away from his leader, the rage still burning in his chest and visible in his eyes.
 
---
 
Beneath Paris
 
Slade and Layla watched in silence as the small television set showed flickering images of metal giants entering the Underworld, Hellfire meeting steel as humanity waged war against the demons.
 
"I...I can't believe they've finally done it," murmured Layla, "The wormhole has been there for years, I never thought they'd try and go through it."
 
"General Vela believes he is doing what is best for humanity," replied Slade, still healing from the wounds inflicted on him by the cadre of Iron Guards, "But he has no idea what he's bringing down on the world."
 
"What do you mean?"
 
"There are things which dwell in Inferno that are so much worse than anything humanity has encountered. The Storm Guard may be powerful, but I don't believe even they have what it takes to conquer the Underworld."
 
"What kinds of things?" asked Layla, her voice emanating genuine curiosity, turning to look at Slade.
 
"Honestly, Layla," replied Slade, "You don't want to know. These things would haunt your nightmares for the rest of your life, you're better off not knowing."
 
"I've seen my share of bad stuff, Slade," said Layla indignantly, "You don't get to decide what I need to know."
 
"In this case, yes I do," he said, "I know you've been through a lot, but..." He was interrupted by an odd vibrating noise from the other side of the hideout, and hauled himself off the mattress with considerable effort.
 
"Slade, stop," said Layla, getting to her feet, "You'll get internal bleeding if you move around too much."
 
"I know my limits," growled Slade, walking slowly over to where Layla had placed his jacket and pulled his V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. amulet from the inside pocket. It was flashing blue and vibrating, and Slade felt his heart skip a beat as he watched it glow.
 
"What is it?" asked Layla, peering over Slade's shoulder, "That's a funky piece of jewellery, Slade, I didn't think you were the type."
 
"It's an amulet, given to me by a very dangerous man," replied Slade, his blood running cold, "And he's calling me."
 
"So...just ignore him? It's not that difficult," said Layla.
 
"You don't understand," said Slade, dropping the amulet and pulling his jacket back on, "If he's calling me, it means he's got something planned. And I think I might know what that is." He grabbed his bow, swinging it onto his back along with a full quiver of arrows, slipped his sword into his belt and rushed towards a ladder opposite the one he had left by earlier.
 
"Slade, where are you going?" yelled Layla, "If you go out there you'll kill yourself!"
 
She watched as Slade ignored her and swung himself onto the ladder, clambering up it much quicker than a man in his injured state should have been able to. Layla rolled her eyes and ran over to the ladder, clambering up it behind Slade.
 
The ladder was far longer than she had expected, going past where she believed ground level was and extending up through what looked like an abandoned office block. She looked up and saw Slade jump off the ladder at the top, and increased her speed until she was able to hop off at the top and join him staring out over the city.
 
"What is it, Slade? What has this dude got..." her words were cut short as explosions blossomed on the sides of buildings across the cityscape, blasting dozens of large industrial buildings into rubble. Fire and noise swamped the horizon, screaming and crashing filling the air.
 
Layla clapped a hand over her mouth and watched in sheer horror as half the city was levelled. She could only imagine the death and destruction this attack would have caused, and her eyes filled with tears as she looked out over the cityscape.
 
"I never thought he would do it," gasped Slade, looking out over the city, "I knew he was ruthless, but I never believed he would do this."
 
"What's happening, Slade?" asked Layla shakily, "Who did this?"
 
"This is...Ragnarok," murmured Slade in disbelief, "A single, co-ordinated attack on every UWG facility in the world. They've crippled the government in a single blow."
 
"What do we do?" asked Layla, fighting back her tears.
 
"You have to stay here," said Slade, gesturing towards the ladder, "Stay underground, and stay safe. I have to go out there and help...everyone."
 
"You'll die if you go out there!"
 
"And other people will die if I don't go!" barked Slade, "Just go back down, and keep yourself safe!"
 
"I want to help! Let me come out with you, I can help people too!"
 
"No!" shouted Slade, "It's too dangerous, just go back down and let me do this! I won't tell you again!" On the last word, his eyes flashed with red fire, and Layla took a step back, seeing the hooded man from her nightmare.
 
"Fine," she said shakily, and clambered back down onto the ladder, trying to hide her fear from Slade.
 
He took a deep breath as he watched the clearly-terrified girl climb down into the bowels of the earth, regretting letting his anger lash out like that. He turned back to the city, pulling hood up, and leapt from the window of the building into the warzone that was once Paris.

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Anue looked at Heru, skeptical but when he neither moved or put his guard back up she grinned widely and rushed forwards wrapping her arms around his waist and hugging him tightly.

"I knew you weren't such a bad guy!"

She chuckled as she felt him stiffen and pulled away slowly til she stood a foot or two away from him smiling still. Her smile faltered as a high pitched sound began to echo around them; the sound hurt her ears and made her cringe, but Heru looked suddenly worried. His eyes grew distant and she could sense him tense intensely. 

"Heru, you alright?"
"Anue...I have to...I need. There's something..."
"Your stammering Heru...what's wrong? And what's that noise?"
"You can hear it?"
"Well yeah, it's annoying as hell, what is it?"
"Look there's some things you don't-"

She took a step away from him as a growl erupted from his chest, his head tilting to the left so he could glance behind him.

"Hide."
The feminine voice caught her attention, it was sultry, holding laughter to it.

"It's to late Herutama, I've seen her. And who could miss that stench."
Anue looked around Heru to see a woman, she was beautiful; her hair was a deep dark red, her eye flashed yellow and Anue could clearly see two small black horns protruding through her hair. She flashed a smile and Anue could also see fangs set in her teeth. Her body was womanly, supple yet strong and as the woman pinned Anue with her stare, Anue felt goose bumps rise across her skin.

"Heru, who is she?"
"Etna."

The woman walked towards them, her hips swaying with the motion, when she was a few feet away she leaned on a nearby tree.

"Herutama, the signal has gone out. Are you with us?"
"Etna, I don't...I can't..."
"You seem very confused my lupine friend. Do you need help in deciding?"

Anue looked between the two, her voice sounding small and worried.
"Is-is she a half demon too?"
Etna chuckled and came closer to the two of them, her fanged smile twisted.

"I am, but I'm what's called Satan Spawn."
Anue moved behind Heru more.

"Calm down child. My father is not actually Satan. We're higher level demons that can use Hell fire."
Anue frowned and looked at the woman confused.
"I thought all demons could...?"
"Yes, all demons can use it, but the lower level of it is known as Demon Fire, Hell Fire is closer to Satan's power. Many of the Satan Spawn are called that because he uses those demons mostly as his guards and sometime his doubles. Demon Fire is mainly reds, oranges, and yellows. Hell Fire is more unnatural."
With that she held out her hand and a bright neon green flame exploded into her hand making Anue jump and yelp as she gripped the back of Heru's vest hiding her face. Etna laughed loudly.

"She's such a human! Herutama, are you with us? Or should I go back and tell Malik about your pet?"
Anue frowned  and came out from behind the man's back, seeing his shoulders stiffen as she did.

"I'm not a pet, I'm his friend!"

"Oh ho, is that so? Well then, if your his friend, then that means his friend ship to you is holding one of our prized fighters back from the battle."
"Battle? What battle?"
Etna chuckled, the sound coming out as more of a growl then a laugh as she started to creep closer to the two of them.

"We're putting you humans in your place. Though I must say, if any humans ever interested me it would be you with your odd looks. But because your in the way; well I'm sure you know what happens next."

Anue took a step back but before she could think to run or fight she felt the air knocked out of her, a strong, think hand was wrapped around her neck cutting off her air supply, fanged teeth were in her face. The woman was hissing close to her face and Anue could feel her claw like nails digging into the skin of her neck.
"You'll be the first one to die today. Human."

Anue felt tears sting her eyes as she began to get dizzy from lack of oxygen. Cracking her eyes open she looked at Heru. Etna looked back as well.

"I'll make the choice for you Herutama. I'll kill her so your only loyalty will be to Malik, and your family once again."

Anue closed her eyes as Etna pulled her hand back, pointing her sharp nails towards Anue with every intention of gutting the young human.  

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With the threat to Anue's life, Herutama shifted seamlessly, snagging Etna's wrist. "She IS family, Etna. Don't you dare harm her!" Heru growled, prying Etna away from Anue and pinning her to the same tree she was leaning on.

 

"Oh, has someone gotten soft? Or did you forget that it was humans that isolated us? The same ones that isolated you? Like your father for instance?" Etna said with a fanged grin.

 

Heru bared his teeth, staring the demonspawn down. "The same ones that isolated her. They believe she's one of us, and so do I, Etna. I'll protect her like she's family, even if it's from the people I call my family," he said, relaxing and loosening her grip on Etna.

 

"Oh, it seems I've had it all wrong. Maybe it's you that's the pet, Herutama," Etna said, dusting herself off. Heru's eye twitched and his muscles tensed as if he was about to tear into the woman. "Geeze, Heru. Why don't you relax? Gods, you're too easy to mess with..."

 

Heru exhaled, looking over to Anue who was still catching her breath. Heru shifted back to his human appearance, clothes tattered from changing. "Look, Etna, this is serious. I'm not so reserved about other humans, but no matter what you say to me or to Malik, she's one of us. And I'll do what I'd do for any of us, including you, for her. Even if that means facing the dragon myself," he said, looking up to Etna.

 

Etna put her hands at her hips studying Herutama for a moment. "You're serious aren't you, wolfy?" she said with a sigh, shaking her head. "What are we gonna do with you?" Etna walked over to Heru, resting her hand on his cheek.

 

Heru's eyes closed, not sure what to expect from Etna as per usual. He looked up to see her in his face with a smirk. "W-what...?" he asked, blinking.

 

"I'll keep your secret this time, but I suggest you do your job if you don't want the head honchos suspecting something. You're lucky you're cute, Heru. And the girl's interesting enough..." Etna giggled with a grin. "Speaking of work. I'd better get going myself...Ta ta for now, Heru," she winked, teleporting from sight.

 

Heru let out a sigh, clenching his fist. "Anue, you're gonna want to go somewhere safe... Like I told Etna, I'll do anything for family."

 

"Heru, what do you have to do?" Anue asked, finally having had the chance to recover.

 

"I have humans to kill..."

_________

Kurama stared at his older brother, both of them looking worse for wear at this point, neither one of them making a move. Kazan and Kurama both broke their gaze, looking in opposite directions before looking to each other again. "You're lucky, little brother. Seems like I have some other business to attend to," Kazan said, sheathing his katana before it disappeared.

 

"I'm lucky? I was kicking your ass and now you're running away? But I'm the lucky one, eh?" Kurama chuckled, his staff disappearing as well. Before he could say anything, Kazan was already gone. "Tch... Didn't wanna talk to you anyway. But...I guess it's time for that business now, huh?" Kurama scratched the back of his head. "Sorry, Xavier. I got no beef with humans," he shrugged, making his way back to the club. He intended on doing his old job, but this time he'd be throwing demons out of this town instead.

 

Apparently word got out as soon as the words escaped his lips. "Well, ain't that about a bitch?" Kurama let out a sigh, shaking his head. He fortunately had a decent enough time to regenerate, but he had something in mind to help the process along before it was more than just the scouts that had shown up. "Alright, Xavier. I'll accept your challenge," he said before teleporting to the club's bathroom, altering his appearance before doing so. Fortunately he picked an empty stall. He stepped out of the bathroom, tipping the attendant who looked more confused than grateful. Kurama couldn't blame the guy though, but he had pushed through the crowd, the music loud and vibrating the room with bass. He reached the bartender he'd gotten his drink from earlier. He signaled for her attention which he received with a smile. "Hey, told you I'd be back to see you," Kurama said with a grin.

 

"Yeah, yeah, I figured you would. What can I getcha, sweetie?" she asked, smiling sweetly and leaning on the counter toward the black haired Kurama.

 

"Well," Kurama started, leaning toward the redhead, "I was actually hoping you might be able to take a break from work for a bit..." he proposed and his eyes gave a dim glow momentarily.

 

****

Moments later, Kurama stepped out of one of the rooms held above the club, looking and feeling better than he had in a while. The redhead came out behind him, trying to regain her composure and her land-legs. He looked back to her. "I can carry you downstairs if you'd like, Sue," he offered with a smirk.

 

"I can walk just fine, thank you very much," Sue said, shaking her head with a smile. "I'll call you sometime, 'kay?" she winked to the half-demon.

 

"I'll be looking forward to it, sweety. You'd better get back down there before they start missing your pretty face too much though," Kurama said, giving her a light kiss before waving and heading out. "Hope to hear from ya soon!" he said, shutting the exit door behind him. "Looks like the party showed up just in time..." he grinned widely, reverting to his original appearance with his eyes turning more of a red hue. "Well, come on with it if it's gonna be that way..." he said as his staff materialized.

Edited by Kayin Cloud

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"I demand to see Lord Malik, this is vital to our consolidation of power." Standing before the guards in front of Malikâ??s main chamber, Revenant did his best to convey a sense of urgency. It was, however, falling on deaf ears as the guards remained in his path, communicating with one another through telepathic links. Each hand picked by Malik for that exact ability, making sure they were all in sync to keep in constant contact. He was prepared to start pushing through them, or even disembarking from his suit and passing through to Malik unhindered. He could handle an hour or tow outside of his suit before he began to feel the effects of nothing anchoring him, another three days before he started to lose his mind and almost two weeks before his body completely evaporated. He was ready to shed his skin when an all too familiar figure appeared of Xavier made his way out, guards covering him as well as he approached the Phantom.


â??Did you have something to tell us Revenant?â?


â??I did not come to speak to you, iâ??ve come to speak to Malik.â? Xavier turned ever so much to look in the direction Malik was before turning back.


â??He is a very busy man, leading our group and with Ragnarok in effect now he has many pressing matters. You can tell me what you have, and iâ??ll determine if it is worthwhile.â? Revenant shifted his head, trying to convey his irritation and distaste.


â??I am his Shadow of War, my rights dictate that I am allowed access to him in times of war. We are officially at war, with the coming of Ragnarok. Out of my way.â? Revenant pushed forward then, moving Xavier aside and coming to a stout wall of armed bodyguards.


â??Get out of the way brothers, or you may not see the end of this war.â?


â??They will not move, Malik has ordered to be left alone and will not be disturbed. As his Shadow, you are expected to lead the fight, now do your job and lead the army.â? Revenant prepared to strike out, but changed his mind as he shoved passed Xavier. He had no intention of leading these hybrids today, not while his father maintained control of a massive army. It was time to bring him down, to take control of what he had and solidify their power. Walking with a purpose, Revenant returned back to the embarking area, his suit still in itâ??s chamber to defuse the pulses of hellfire. Stepping into its locking position, the suit he occupied locked into itâ??s old home and he pulled the values, releasing himself as his essence snaked and floated its way into the seals and filled the Hellfire. Closing the values, he removed himself from the container, his purpose burning brighter and hotter like the hellfire bubbling within him. Without another word, he touched the stone in his suit and within in moments he vanished, returning to the place he had been before. The Iron Guard bodies still nearby, with Farin laying not far off. He immediately headed off, using the V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E amulet as a signal, catching the S.O.S flickering on and off. Time passed quickly, it was quiet where he was lead, trees started out sparse and ruined buildings but changed as he followed the trail. The buildings gradually waned and the trees began to take over, finally leading him to a clearing where a solitary factory building stood. Unlike the others, that had been broken and run down, this one has seem some work done. The windows mainly boarded up with slots available for weapons to be aimed outward, barbed wire trimmed the edges of the roof and doorways all held plates of metal and rivet bolts.


â??Secure for a small siege maybe, perfect place for meeting or hiding if it is empty.â? Revenant said quietly to himself, the hellfire burst has gone off a few times during his travel, stealth having been lost long ago. He waited for another burst, his hands held forward, waiting for another surge. It took several minutes before the energy came to the surface, surging to life as it rocketed out of his hands and into the side of the building tearing apart the stone work and creating a large enough hole for him to step through. As he walked in, expecting to see the others around here in cages or even have been killed their their amulets left on their corpses. But, what he found was odd to his â??eyesâ??, a piece of wood standing straight up in the room with all the amulets hanging from pegs in the piece of lumber.


â??What in the Nine Hells is this?â?


â??Itâ??s a trap, isnâ??t it obvious?â? Revenant looked over to the voice, seeing a man step out from one of the smaller rooms connected to the area the wooden pole stood.


â??Who are you? A UWG lackey looking for his thrill?â? The masked man moved casually into the room, his boots thudding lightly against the ground as he held onto the straps on his vest. His voice distorted as he spoke.


â??No, they are hardly worth my time. I am here for another reason, you could say I am a mercenary, or call me an Exorcist. Whichever doesnâ??t really matter.â?


â??You are just an ant, where is the team these amulets belong to? Where are the demon commanders?â? Revenant demanded in the best threatening voice he could muster, his own hollow words already sounding ghostly and invoking fear into weaker minds.


â??Ghost voice, a powerful tool against the uninitiated. But we are initiated, in V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E arenâ??t we Revenant?â? The Phantom had to simply stall the human, wait for the energy to charge and then unleash a blast to waste this mortal.


â??Hardly, I donâ??t even know who you are mortal.â? He stood several feet away, the light on him now showing off the intricate mask on his face and the gear he wore. Outfitted differently, he carried no visible weapons and seemed to be unarmed for the most part. Larger in physique than most men he had seen, the cold confidence of this man was off in Revenantâ??s mind. Humans, in his experience with them, were always afraid and the confidence was through battles. But this man, he showed no fear, no amount of uncertainty in his stance or posture even though he was unarmed and held his hands to his chest.


â??Your team is dead, the â??informationâ?? they were given. False, I was wondering how long it would take for someone to fall into the trap. And now it seems, you are the one to die.â?


â??One masked, unnamed man will not bring me down. The Iron Guard were no match, you will prove to be less.â?


â??When this is over, you will know why they call me Bane.â? Revenant didnâ??t hesitate, charging in as his hellfire burst wasnâ??t ready yet. Swinging with his metal fists at the feeble mortal, but his blows met nothing but air as Bane dipped and dodged before striking back with unexpected force. Baneâ??s impacts on the suit were jarring, leaving impacts and dents into the suit that made lights start to go off within the head of the suit. Revenant swung back, making contact this time, a satisfying thud as it impacted his chest but showed to hardly affect the Exorcist as he came back with a flurry of his own hits. Each one hitting like a freight train, denting into the armor further and creating breaches in the suit. Revenant having to try and dodge the best he could, finding it hard to maneuver in the suit, especially with the new reshaping of the suit. Bane swung into the facepiece of the suit, each swing powerful and destructive as he put his skills to use. He breathed in deeply as the numbing agent seeped into his body, giving him just enough to numb any pain in his hands. Revenant wasnâ??t able to fight back after so many hits, the suit having lost much of itâ??s agility, trying to fight back. Bane swung into the midsection, batting away a blow from Revenant before ducking down and hitting him in the knee joint causing Revenant to stumble before Bane stood over him and lashed out with a violent kick to the chest and sending Revenant tumbling in the ground several feet away.


â??Do you see how frail you really are demon? How powerless you really are in our world? Before we are done here, I will break you.â? He walked to the fallen Revenant, slamming a foot into the body and crumpling more metal.


â??You would hardly stand against your father if you canâ??t fight one human. You defeated yourself long ago.â? Revenant was trying to make sense of all the lights flashing as he was reorienting himself, stumbling to stand as the suit was becoming unresponsive. Rising to the maximum height it would allow, he tried to see if the discharge would go off, but found it was difficult to find and even when he did it wasnâ??t near ready to discharge. With that in mind, he did the only thing he could muster, reaching up and disengaging both valves on his chest. Releasing his ethereal body from the suit a sit collapsed to the ground in a solid, useless mass and his energy floating freely.


â??Ah, I was wondering what would break first, youâ??re spirit or your body.â? Gesturing toward the fallen heap as he looked at the ghostly form.

â??Quite impressive, but, I know where this leads and I have a surprise for you.â? Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled a metal box. Perfectly squared off in cube, he pushed on a button on the top that glowed momentarily before it lifted and became a rectangle with a hollow middle that held the two sides together with thin bars in each corner. A smaller shape spun within the center of the rectangle and was consistently moving, until Bane held up toward Revenant. The Phantom creating enough of a face to show he was not sure of the device, but cared little for it as he manifest his Centaur form. The ethereal halberg held firmly in his hands as he raised it over his head and charged forward, swinging the weapon with all his might to kill the foolish human. The moment his weapon came in contact with the device, it flared to life and latched on to the energy. Pulling it in with enormous force, Revenant trying to escape the pull as he used his hooves to plant himself and try to move backwards, but to no avail as it tore him down and pulled him in. It seemed to take hours, but it was mere moments to pull the enormous Phantom into his new prison.

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Paris

 

Slade flung chunks of concrete and metal bigger than himself aside, his muscles burning and the markings on his body blazing as he hauled people out of the smoky, dusty wreckage of so many buildings in the centre of the city. He could see that their fear over being trapped, buried alive was quickly replaced by fear of the strange figure wreathed in crimson fire tearing his way through the rubble, but he had no time to reassure them. Instead he chose to continue his work wordlessly, ignoring the pain tearing through his entire body as he rescued as many survivors of the attack as he could.

 

But a single thought remained in his head, clear as day, through the hard work and the pain and suffering.

 

Xavier.

 

The man who had perpetrated this horrific act, this show of force that had claimed the lives of so many innocent people. The sinister brains to Malik's brute force approach, differing greatly in his methods but no less dangerous: in fact, Slade had often wondered whether Xavier was more dangerous than Malik, the tendrils of his influence spreading far and wide in the half-demon community.

 

Right now, his focus had to be on the people trapped in collapsing buildings, the men and women half-crushed under mountains of heavy rubble: but when this was done, he knew that he must turn his attention to Xavier and the men within V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. who had allowed him to commit this atrocity across the entire globe.

 

"There he is!" shouted a voice from behind Slade, registering in his mind but as nothing more than a far-off noise, a minor addition to the cacophony that was ensuing around him, "He's a half-demon!"

 

Slade bent his knees to grab an enormous slab of metal and concrete in an attempt to hurl it off the car it had half-crushed, but his rescue attempt was cut short by a blunt force slamming into the back of his knee. He dropped to the ground, his knees slamming into the concrete as a grunt of pain escaped his mouth; a grunt which swiftly became a gurgle as he felt immense pressure on his windpipe. His eyes flicked around, and he saw that he was surrounded by UWG soldiers, one of whom was pressing his telescopic baton down on Slade's oesophagus with considerable force. The others levelled their weapons at him, and he smelled the sulphuric stench of manufactured Hellfire in their guns.

 

"You'll pay for what you did to this city, demonspawn," snarled the soldier who was slowly choking Slade, "By the time we're done with you, you'll feel the pain of every person you've killed ten times over."

 

Slade felt his vision go dark, and he collapsed into unconsciousness even as he felt the soldier's batons slamming into his body over and over again...

 

---

 

Beneath Paris

 

Layla's fists slammed into the training dummy over and over again, and she felt herself getting lost in her anger and pain. Tears dribbled from her eyes, mingling with the sweat that was now dripping from what felt like every inch of her skin, but she blinked the stinging fluid out of her eyes and continued her assault on the dummy.

 

Her arms burned with the stress of her frustration-venting session, and with a final hammerblow she tore the dummy's head from its body and sent it flying across the room. She stood, panting and staring at the now-headless dummy, her rage and horror at the events she had just witnessed still coursing through her veins with every beat of her racing heart. She wiped the sweat from her brow and tore the strips of cloth from her hands as she walked over to the bench where Slade worked on his bow and arrows.

 

I don't know why he uses these things, she thought, picking up one of the arrows and watching as the tip glinted in the sickly neon light, Surely a gun would work better.

 

Her thoughts were interrupted by an odd noise from a few feet away, a noise which she had never heard before. It sounded like a cross between an insect's mandibles clicking together and the screech of a bird of prey, but at the same time didn't sound like either. It seemed as though it was coming from every direction, and gradually grew louder and louder until she had to clamp her hands over her ears just so she could hear herself think.

 

For a moment she considered calling out to see if it was Slade returning from the city, but the rational side of her brain kicked in and told her that there was no way it was him. She closed her eyes and attempted to concentrate on the sound, to identify where it was originating from, but it still felt as though it was coming from everywhere. Shifting her feet slowly, Layla began to pace around the hideout, listening for shifts in the volume of the noise, and she quickly realised that it was getting louder the closer she got to the Metro tunnel's entrance.

 

Her feet landed squarely as she dropped off the platform and made her way slowly over to the dark tunnel. She squinted her eyes in a vague attempt to make out the source of the noise in the darkness, but it was no use, so she returned her concentration to the noise. It was loud now, almost deafeningly so, and she knew she had found the location of the sound's source, so she moved gingerly closer to it.

 

In an instant, the tunnel mouth exploded into a flurry of noise and movement as a dozen spindly creatures crawled out, along the walls and ceiling as well as the floor. Their limbs were stick-thin, their skin brown and leathery, and their eyeless heads tapered to a strange beak-like protrusion through which they made the horrendous noise that was filling the hideout.

 

Layla leapt back onto the platform, yanking the curved knife she had stolen from Slade's wall earlier from the back of her trousers, and rushing over to the wall to grab another, this one a straight blade which was more of a short sword than a knife. The creatures rushed towards her, swinging the razor-sharp claws on the ends of their spindly arms at her, and thrusting their beaks towards her as well. She dodged their attacks with surprising fluidity, feeling the weapons as extensions of her own limbs, and feeling the metal slice through the creatures' leathery skin.

 

She cried out as one of the creatures scored a hit, slicing a long, thin gash across her exposed shoulder, and she returned the blow, burying the curved blade up to its hilt in the creature's neck. A torrent of foul-smelling black ichor gushed from the wound as she withdrew the weapon, but she had no time to clean it off, or to retch in disgust as another of the creatures leapt at her.

 

They continued this dance across the floor of the hideout, in a maelstrom of claws, beaks and razor-sharp metal, the creatures occasionally landing a blow on the girl, only to be cut down where they stood. She fought as hard as she could, slicing the creatures limb from limb and slicking the floor with black ichor, and it took no more than a few minutes for her victory to be complete. The creatures lay wounded or dismembered entirely on the floor of the Metro station, and she stood above them, weapons in hand, smeared with the blood of the creatures and her own. She knelt down by the nearest living creature, and held the knife to its neck.

 

"Why are you here? What do you want from me?" she asked, breathless.

 

"There...there are many who have taken an interest in your fate, Layla Monroe..." rasped the creature, "None more so than our Lord..."

 

"Stop speaking in f*cking riddles!" she snarled, pressing the edge of the knife-blade into the skin of the creature's neck, "Tell me who sent you, and what they want with me!"

 

"Our Lord would be most displeased if we were to tell Layla Monroe why we were sent here," the creature screeched, before pushing its head forward and forcing the knife through its own neck, killing itself in a spray of dark gore.

 

"Dammit," snarled Layla, wiping the ichor from her face and standing up. No more than a second after she had made it to her feet, however, a searing pain shot through her shoulder-blade, and she collapsed to the floor, twitching. With a few jerking movements, she rolled onto her side and saw a long, thin cable running from her back to a weapon clasped in the hand of a heavily-scarred man who now stood over her, smirking.

 

"You're a difficult woman to track down, Ms Monroe," said the man, popping the cartridge out of his taser and reaching into the pocket of his combat fatigues for another, "In fact, if these Husks hadn't alerted me to the presence of something important, I doubt I'd ever have found you. You see, Husks are the personal servants of the Nephelim: formed from the flesh and bone of so many long-deceased animals, and given just enough of a mind and soul to follow orders."

 

He popped the new cartridge into his weapon as he knelt down by Layla, who began to feel in control of her limbs once more.

 

"Basically, Husks don't show up in the world unless they're doing something for one of the Nephelim. And if the Nephelim want something on Earth, that usually tells me that it's something important. So I followed them here, and who do I run into but the half-Jinn girl with the power to alter reality. It's almost as if fate wanted me to find you here today."

 

He laughed and ran his fingers across Layla's face, before getting up and looking at his surroundings.

 

"And in league with the Shroud, no less!" he exclaimed after a moment's observation, "Two birds with one stone."

 

Layla struggled as he spoke, writhing on the floor trying to return feeling to her arms and legs. She made it to a seated position, and gradually shifted until her legs were under her, hauling herself slowly to her feet as the soldier peered at the variety of weapons strewn across the room. She raised herself up until she had both feet flat on the floor, as stable as she could manage, behind the man who she now assumed was an Exorcist.

 

"I wouldn't try anything if I was you, Ms Monroe," he said casually, turning around and bringing the taser up to her neck. She snarled, and slammed her hands onto either side of his head, gripping it as tightly as she possibly could.

 

"Don't move," she rasped, "One twitch and I can erase you from existence. Nobody will ever remember you. That's what you get when you try and take down a half-Jinn girl with a power to alter reality."

 

She kept her gaze locked on him, forcing her muscles to stop twitching in an attempt to fool him into believing her bluff. He returned her gaze, looking deep into her eyes and smiling.

 

"You shouldn't try so hard," he smirked, "Your efforts give you away." He raised his weapon, squeezing the trigger and watching as electricity surged through it. She snarled in return, and felt all the rage, fear and frustration of the last few days rush through her, pulsing through her veins and burning through her arms.

 

"I...have had...ENOUGH!" she howled, and every inch of her skin ignited with deep scarlet flames, wreathing her arms and blazing from her eyes and mouth. Her hands, though, burned hotter than the rest of her put together, and the Exorcist let out a deafening, animalistic scream as the Purefire burned through his skin, his muscle and his bone as it they were no more than candlewax. Within seconds, his entire body had been incinerated by the unearthly flames, and what was left of him crumbled into ash in front of Layla, who let out an ethereal cry as the Purefire dissipated into the atmosphere, leaving behind nothing but scraps of charred skin and fabric, and a lingering sulphuric stench.

 

"I had no idea I could do that," gasped Layla in disbelief, before everything went black and she slumped to the floor.

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â??This is not good,â? Junko decided upon reaching the closest burning UWG building to her. Rotfire flames licked the sky and the entire building appeared to be melting, like ice left out under the relentless eye of the sun. She prayed that she would find someone alive in the blazing wreck before her. Well, she did the closest thing to prayer that most half-demons knewâ??she closed her eyes, swore under her breath and rushed into danger. She barreled through the warped wall in front of her, creating a sound somewhere between and splash and a crack. The Rotfire consumed her, danced along her skin and attempted, in vain, to rend the flesh from her bones. She took a deep breath, allowing the thick, poisonous smoke to fill her lungs and empower her. She could feel her demonic features intensifying: her skin turned as black as onyx, the barbs on her four horns sprouted like tree branches, and her musculature doubled. She  knew every person trapped in the building could see her or feel her presence, and they feared her. 
 
â??Move, now!â? she roared, causing the whole building to shake. Those who could manage to move or free themselves from their positions stampeded from the building, all the while steadfastly attempting to avoid looking at Junko. She involuntary chuckled with amusement, and Rotfire smoke expelled from her nostrils and mouth, nearly roasting alive a UWG worker.
 
â??Sorry,â? she apologized, although her voice had become low and beast-like, making it unlikely that the workers had heard anything other than bestial growling. She shifted focus from the fleeing masses to peer through the thick smoke and search for trapped survivors. She noticed, surprisingly, that the building was largely open, empty space. Few items of consequence were on the developing floor: only police-grade armaments. Where were the Iron Guard suits? Intel had suggested that every UWG manufacturer was assigned to create new Iron Guard suits, as to completely replace the existing police forces with Iron Guard. Junko grabbed the arm of a nearby worker and pulled her close.
 
â??What happened here?â? she interrogated. The woman violently attempted to free herself from Junko's clutches.
 
â??Don't make me laugh! You terrorists bombed us!â? she spit scornfully. Junko drew the woman closer, so that their faces were practically touching.
 
â??If I bombed this building, I wouldn't be here saving your ass. So check that tone,â? Junko insisted angrily. â??And that's not what I'm talking about. This is a UWG manufacturing plant. Why were you producing police gear?â? The woman's eyes narrowed and her lips pursed, and she took a moment to think it over. Junko rolled her eyes and shoved the woman toward the door.
 
â??Get to safety,â? she mumbled, and then dove into the flames. Several people were still trapped under the debris, and she was sure one of them would tell her what she wanted to know. She scoured over the first floor but found no living creatures, only awkward empty spacing, as if the original technology housed in this building had been replaced with smaller machinery. She scaled the deteriorating staircase and continued her search upstairs. The second floor was similarly vacant, with only a few riot shields and stun rods scattered about from the workers' frenzy. Junko grabbed a stun rod and examined it.
 
â??Something is wrong here...â?
 
â??Help!â? a man exclaimed from the other end of the building. Junko immediately tossed the weapon aside and charged in the direction of the voice, tearing through thick machinery and metal walls effortlessly. Finally she found the remaining worker, his leg trapped underneath a pile of rubble. Junko swooped over to him, grabbed the pile and prepared to free the man. Before the man could completely dislodge himself, however, Junko had an idea.
 
â??So just as a quick recap,â? Junko began, positioning the rubble so that the man's leg was no longer being crushed, but he was still pinned to the floor, â??you are currently trapped. The only thing preventing you from dying in a slow and painful manner is me. Let's keep all of this in mind when I ask you my next question.â? The man looked desperately from his caged leg to Junko and nodded hastily.
 
â??Good,â? Junko said with a toothy, demonic smile. â??Why was all of the original machinery removed from this plant?â? As opposed to the last employee, who steadfastly refused to divulge such important information to Junko, this man wasted no time in revealing the UWG's secrets.
 
â??About eight months ago, General Vela ordered all of the machinery relating to the Iron Guard troops to be relocated to more secure facilities, while all of the existing plants, like ours, were ordered to handle police- and exorcist-grade weaponry,â? the man sputtered frantically. Eight months ago? Junko thought, startled. That was roughly around the time Malik suggested Operation Ragnarok... General Vela knew this whole time? Even so, how did Xavier's spy network not find out about Vela's countermeasures? And if Xavier did know... just what is he up to? In her confusion, Junko accidentally let the rubble slip, and the man let out a loud howl.
 
â??Sorry!â? she yelled, gripping the pipes and smoldering rocks and tossing them clear across the room. She would have to worry about this troubling news later. Right now, her new UWG best friend needed to be whisked away to safety. She hoisted him up in her arms and smiled at him.
 
â??Brace yourself,â? she commanded, and then leapt through the second story window out into the fresh air. She struck the ground forcefully, causing the earth to crack and splinter. Her body absorbed most of the force of the fall, so the UWG employee emerged unscathed, albeit very shaken. She placed him down and readied herself to find the next plant when the cold steel of a firearm pressed against her neck.
 
â??Don't move, terrorist,â? barked the distorted female voice of an Iron Guard. ****... Junko thought angrily. She slowly raised her hands up, palm open, and attempted to reason with the soldier.
 
â??I'm not a terrorist, and I'm not your enemy--â? A heavy metal fist interrupted her sentence by striking her over the head. She crumpled under the weight of the blow, all of her senses knocked out of sorts.
 
â??I said. Don't. Move. You ******* terrorist,â? the Iron Guard screamed again. Junko remained motionless in an attempt to think up a plan of action. She wasn't interested in fighting against the Iron Guards now, and every second she wasted here another person was devoured by Rotfire. As the Guard aimed her wrist launcher at her, Junko braced herself. The shot never came, however. Junko looked up and much to her surprise, found the man she had just rescued standing between her and a white phosphorous bath.
 
â??She's not a terrorist. She saved everyone in the plant,â? he stammered, attempting to sound confident despite shaking violently. The Iron Guard's arm did not budge.
 
â??Members of the terrorist group V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. do not save people. It must be some sort of trap. Move away from her!â? the Guard ordered, but the man refused to obey. The guard shoved the man out of the way and then turned her sights back on Junk, but Junko had already taken advantage of the distraction to bolt away from the Guard. Thanks for the help buddy. Time to get to the next-- 
 
CRASH.
 
A massive paw stomped down in front of Junko, obscuring her path. Her eyes traveled up the large, furry black leg, over the set of three muscular necks and into six, red glowing eyes. A snarling creature stood over Junko and the UWG employees, and roared into the sky. The Iron Guard released an electronic hiss, which Junko guessed was a gasp.
 
â??She let a ******* Cerberus into the city!â? the Iron Guard screamed. The explosions must have short circuited the forcefields temporarily, Junko realized. The Iron Guard fired a volley of grenades at the Cerberus. The creature barely acknowledged the explosions against its body and swung its massive paw through the building Junko had only just escaped from, showering the group with flaming wooden shards. Junko spun on her heel and ran over to the group of UWG employees who had lingered behind and gathered them all underneath her, using her enlarged state to shield them from the raining debris. Most of the wreckage bounced off of her hardened skin, but a large wooden spike managed to pierce through her right shoulder.
 
â??Raaaagh!â? she growled in anguish. Despite the force of the impact, she remained stalwart in protecting the employees. Once the wooden hail had ceased, she reached to pull out the stake, when the large metal hands of the Iron Guard ripped it out instead. Junko winced and sprung away from the soldier, ready to fight. The Iron Guard tossed aside the shrapnel and pointed at the Cerberus.
 
â??That thing obviously doesn't belong to you. Help me kill it, and I'll turn a blind eye when you 'escape.' Deal?â? the Iron Guard offered. Junko didn't exactly trust the deal, but she recognized the need for assistance. She certainly couldn't kill the thing alone, and leaving the Iron Guard to fight against Cerberus would either result in the Guard's death or the death of thousands of citizens. Junko summoned her Kanabo and grinned.
 
â??Deal.â?
 
â? 
 
â??Well?â? Xavier questioned as he gazed over a large, holographic map of the Earth in his personal quarters. His faceless comrade stepped forward and touched the hologram, causing a series of white dots to appear across the Earth.
 
â??These are the locations of all V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. members across the Earth who are in possession of their amulets,â? the half-demon spoke without a mouth, in a voice that was at once old and young, male and female. It touched the display again, and roughly half of the dots glowed green and the other dots disappeared. Around the borders of the hologram a series of images appeared, depicting scenes of half-demons destroying UWG plants and slaughtering humans. Among the depicted were Etna, Rhea and C.
 
â??Approximately 42% of V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. members answered the call to arms, willingly or no,â? it continued. It touched the screen once more, and the green dots disappeared, replaced with red dots. 
 
â??And the remaining 58% either avoided conflict altogether,â? images of a number of demons, including Heru and Kurama, appeared, â??or rebelled against the command and rushed to the aid of humanity.â? The number of videos was smaller for this group, with only roughly 20 half-demons, not including Junko and Slade, shown assisting humanity. Xavier grinned, satisfied.
 
â??Just as I thought, Jabril...  The members of V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. are beginning to pull away from Malik's rule. Less than half of our recruits obeyed his order, and many of them,â? he said, expanding a number of videos of half-demons simply destroying UWG tech and sparing the humans, â??hold their orders in disdain.â? Jabril nodded.
 
â??The chances of your plan succeeding are approximately 64%,â? Jabril related. Xavier stood up from his desk and placed his hand on Jabril's shoulder.
 
â??This is only the first stage, dear Jabril. Do not forget, after we have finished our move, it is the good General's turn... And his wrath will appear, to most members, as a direct response to Malik's foolishness,â? he stated confidently, standing in front of the screen. He reached out to the projection, and all of the dots appeared black.
 
â??All in good time... All in good time...â? Xavier chanted. A knock at the door distracted him from his musings.
 
â??Enter!â? he commanded. Snow walked through the door and bowed.
 
â??Your requested guests, my lord. Mr and Mrs. Crenshaw,â? Snow announced. A tall, stocky man with short-cropped brown hair stomped into the room dressed like a cross between a gangster and a southern gentleman. At his side was a lovely, elegant, raven-haired woman, whose sharp suit, skirt and overcoat combination made her appear more mafia-esque in comparison to her husband, although her ripped off sleeves added a definitive brawler aura. They both removed their sunglasses, and Mr. Crenshaw removed his hat.
 
â??A pleasure, Xavier,â? the woman spoke with a strong, sultry voice as Xavier took her hand.
 
â??The pleasure is mine, Cora,â? Xavier charmed, kissing Cora's hand. â??I'm glad you and Henry could take time away from WroughtIron to meet with me.â? Henry, whose crystal blue eyes had been surveying the room, turned his attention wholly on Xavier.
 
â??Well normally we don't make deals with terrorists,â? Henry joked with a surprisingly pleasant southern accent. â??But the boss here was interested in your proposal,â? he stated, nodding to Cora. Xavier laughed and gestured toward two seats in front of his desk.
 
â??Well then, please, take a seat. We have much to discuss.â?
 
â? â? â? 
 
OOC: The plot thickens! How does Xavier intend to consolidate power? What is his ultimate goal? Also, I'll be updating the Backstage with information on WroughtIron soon.
OOC2: Whoops, I accidentally wrote Anue not Heru. My apologies!
Edited by Orcus

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Anue shook her head slowly as she looked at Heru's back.

"No, you can't...Heru...you can't want to do this..."

"I have to."

Anue took a step forward only to jump back with a yelp as Etna landed in between them, her face grim and slightly stricken.

"It's to late Herutama. We have to move, now."

Anue watched, feeling a little left out as Heru turned to her, frowning.

"What are you talking about?"
"These damn amulets let them keep an eye on us."
"How do you know that Etna?"
"I have my ways Herutama, you know that. We have to move her some where safe, and quickly. Is there anyone you can trust her with?"

She could see him think for a moment before he sighed and shook his head.
"Yes and no?"
"What is that supposed to mean Herutama?"
"Kurama..."
Etna pinched the bridge of her nose sighing slightly.

"I see...Well we have to move her there and fast."
Heru crossed his arms over his chest and frowned deeper towards the woman.

"Why are you helping me?"
Etna let out a small hiss as she stalked towards him, gripping his shoulder she pulled him nose to nose with her.
"I do things my own way, you know that better then anyone. Now, leash your pet and let's get her out of here. This place is to close to a city and it's going to be nothing but dust in a matter of a few minutes!"

Anue peeked around Etna to see Heru's face, it was pale and he looked ready to be sick.

"H-Heru? Are you really gonna..."
The woman turned and looked at her, her words harsh.
"He doesn't have a choice. None of us really do...we have to make it so he's less worried about you so he's not a target himself. I refuse to let him be killed just because of one human."
Anue nodded slowly looked at Heru she hugged her arms around her thin frame.

"Heru, if you have to kill...then I'd rather you take me somewhere I don't have to see it."
Heru nodded slowly as he walked towards the thing girl, Etna grabbed his wrist tightly.
"I'll be waiting here for you. Make it fast."

 

Anue felt her stomach churn as he took her by the hand, with in seconds she found her self in a small shabby looking club, scream and the sounds of fighting could be heard and Anue felt her self begin to shake in fear. Heru tightened his hand on her's and she pushed her self to his back, hiding effectively behind him. 

"Kurama! Are you here?!"

The wall shattered and there stood the young man, a large smile on his face as a demon hung limply in his hand, as the man's eyes landed on Heru they lit up and he dropped the poor demon to the ground not even caring; this caused Anue to blink in confusion as she watching him walk to Heru and hug him.

"You didn't- wait...why is your girl here?"
"I need you to watch her for me..."
"Herutama...your not going to...are you?"
Anue watched as Heru merely nodded before he snatched Anue from behind his back and pushed her into Kurama's arms.

"Don't let her be harmed Kurama!"
"What am I? Your baby sitter?!"

Before Anue could turn back around Heru was gone leaving her with this strange man.

 

Etna's head snapped up as the sound of foot steps sounded behind her, she grinned, an evil fanged grin as 3 hunters walked up to her.

"Your not supposed to be here foul beast."
"Oh? You think your belong here more then I do? I'd like to see you prove it."

The middle Hunter growled out and a curse and charged towards her, only to feel her hand tap him on the back, he was suddenly consumed in neon green flames, his screams of agony lasting only a few seconds before he lay face first on the ground steaming. Etna lowered her chin slightly, her yellow eyes flashing dangerously as they stood there in shock at the swiftness at which she had killed the man. 

"You bitch!"
"I'd worry less about me now gentlemen, and more about my companion behind you."

The men slowly looked around to see a large wolf like being standing behind them, his frame muscular, Etna felt her grin spread as Heru tore into the remaining 2 men with fevor, her grin growing more sinister as he approached her, an arm gripped in his clawed hand.

"Are you ready now Herutama?"
His voice was a growl more then an actual voice as he lowered his head so his eyes met her's.

"Let's get this done and over with Etna so I can go back to my solitude."
"Your not going back to your pet?"
"She's in better hands with Kurama."
"And you?"
"Are better off on my own."
Etna lifted her hand to his fur covered cheek, her smile softening some.
"I don't think that's true."

With that Heru took off at a long loping stride towards the town, Etna following not far behind him. 

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Inferno

 

Battle raged in the outer reaches of Inferno as the Storm Guard advanced through the demonic realm, cutting a swathe through the hordes of creatures hurling themselves at the metal beasts as if there was no resistance.

 

In the mortal realm, fire and destruction tore apart the defenses of the humans, surely an act of retaliation, or at least an act borne with the illusion of vengeance, for the bold assault on Inferno launched by General Vela. Half-demons and humans alike fought to save those caught in the destruction, but the suspicion and hatred between the two races grew stronger in the ash and dust.

 

A girl burdened with the weight of ancient prophecy lay vulnerable and alone in the catacombs beneath the human city of Paris, having taken the next important step in becoming the symbol of power both sides of the war needed her to be. She was only just beginning to discover the extent of her power, but it was a journey she would not be able to complete on her own.

 

And in a dark room in the centre of the city, a half-demon hung from chains, beaten and sedated and awaiting the next punishment his captors could dream up for him.

 

All of these images flashed on the monitors before Belial, who stood back, coldly observing every significant event that occurred in front of him. They were all connected, every single one of these events, a tangled web of coincidence and pre-determination stretching back hundreds of years and pushing forth into the shadows of an uncertain future.

 

But with Slade's capture and his separation from Layla, Belial felt the strands of this web beginning to untangle: he wouldn't be able to train her, to teach her the discipline needed for her to control her abilities. If she remained unable to control her powers, they would surely run out of control and threaten the existence of every single living thing in both realms.

 

He turned from the monitors and strode over to his desk, plunging an armoured hand into the seemingly-solid surface and removing a small, glowing orb formed of a strange pearlescent material. He grasped it tightly with his hand, and the glow brightened.

 

"I require an audience with the Moirai," he said, feeling his words being pulled into the orb as they left his mouth, the surface of the object flickering as his message was conveyed.

 

"And the Moirai shall obey," a dreamy female voice replied from somewhere within the orb, and Belial loosened his grip on the object, allowing it to float gently out of his hand and into the air, where it hovered for a moment before expanding into a swirling disc of blue-and-white flame. Belial peered through the flame and saw only darkness on the other side, the mists of a corner of Inferno neither he nor any other Nephelim had ever ventured to.

 

With little warning, a wraith-like figure slithered from the portal, a ghostly form wreathed in a cloak of oily grey smoke. The creature floated a few inches off the ground in front of Belial, and a moment later it was joined by two other figures, one short and squat, the other tall and lithe, all of them wrapped in cloaks of thick vapour.

 

"The Hateful One has called the Moirai," said the first creature to emerge from the portal, its voice lilting and ever so slightly mocking, "And the Moirai have answered. What is it Lord Belial requires of us this time?"

 

"He has called the Moirai so many times," the shorter creature said, this one's voice deep and resonant.

 

"Because he fears for the future," screeched the taller one.

 

"Events have altered the future, and I fear it is for the worse," replied Belial, his tone assertive, "Last time I consulted the Moirai, you told me that they were inextricably connected, and they must remain together in order for her to fulfill her destiny."

 

"The Hateful One speaks the truth," replied the leader of the three creatures, "The Fabled Girl and the Shrouded Man must remain one."

 

"Well they have become separated," snarled Belial, watching as the three creatures shrieked, "And I fear the web unravelling as we speak. This is why I come to the Moirai: were I to intervene in events, would it damage the web beyond repair?"

 

"The future is lost to us in the shadows of war, Hateful One," screeched the tall Moirai.

 

"Your interference would likely cloud our vision further," boomed the shorter one.

 

"But we are aware that our words would do little to dissuade you from this," said the leader, "So before our Sight is lost to us, we have one final insight to offer you."

 

"Very well," said Belial, "Speak your truth, Moirai."

 

"There is a man."

 

"A man whose true intentions are known only to himself."

 

"A man with no more nor less in his future than blood, war and destruction."

 

"He stands at the edge of the web."

 

"The fog of war surrounds him like a cloak."

 

"Unless he is stopped..."

 

"Everything will fall."

 

"Everything will fall."

 

"Everything will fall."

 

The Moirai repeated these words, slowly and carefully, as they gradually drifted back into the portal they had emerged from. It closed behind them, and the pearlescent orb dropped to the floor with a heavy thud, leaving Belial alone in his chamber with only the knowledge the Moirai had offered him.

 

He walked slowly to the front of his desk, his boots thudding on the ground and echoing throughout the chamber. He leaned down to pick up the orb, and willed just a touch of his own Purefire into the object.

 

"I call upon Samael," he whispered into the orb, before clenching his fist around the object until it smashed in his hand, leaving only a wisp of black, ash-like powder which he blew into the air. It formed a tendril-like cloud of ashen dust which wound its way from Belial's chamber into the depths of Inferno.

 

Samael shall do the bidding of the Hateful One... a voice replied, seemingly from nowhere, and Belial strode out of his office, dark purpose etched on his face.

 

---

 

Somewhere in Paris

 

"I can't believe we got the f*cker," scoffed the UWG captain, staring at the prone figure on the monitor in front of him, "The Shroud, the guy that's been pestering us for years, and we finally got him. He doesn't look so tough any more."

 

"Well, most people would find it difficult to look tough when they've had enough sedatives pumped into them to kill a bull elephant," replied his second-in-command, transfixed on the man in the cell. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the makeshift holding facility the UWG had set up in the midst of the V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. attack, and almost every soldier present was eager to get a look at one of Paris' most wanted criminals, the vigilante who had caused them so much trouble and pain in the past.

 

"Let's hope he wakes up soon," said the captain, a wicked grin crossing his face, "Bastard gave me a scar on my chest two years ago, I've been waiting for the opportunity to give him one of his own."

 

"You might get your chance sooner rather than later," replied the second-in-command, gesturing towards the monitor, "I think he's waking up."

 

The captain looked back at the monitor and saw the half-demon stirring, groggy and in obvious discomfort as he hung from a set of chains attached to the ceiling. The soldier smiled, and moved to the door of the cell, ready to get his long-festering revenge.

 

---

 

Slade wrenched his eyes open as the door of his cell squeaked open, and he took a moment to take in his surroundings. The room was dark, dingy and poorly-fortified, leading him to assume it was a temporary holding facility set up by the UWG in the wake of the bombings. He was hanging from a pair of long, heavy chains that were securely bolted into the concrete ceiling, and there was a sticky patch underfoot which he could only assume was a drying pool of his own blood.

 

He immediately registered several different options for escaping his situation, but he knew that the sedative coursing through his bloodstream would render him slow enough that none of them would work. Besides, he had no idea what was waiting for him on the other side of the door, and even if he could work it out the chances were that he wouldn't be able to stop them in his current state. So he opted to stay put and try and figure out as much as he could from the man now walking into the room.

 

He was a UWG soldier, that much was obvious from his uniform, but he walked with a cocky swagger that Slade recognised as belonging to someone of a higher rank. He was grinning as he entered the room, telling Slade that he was there for reasons that were more personal than professional, and he wagered that his personal reasons were unlikely to be positive.

 

"The Shroud," the soldier said, his grin widening, "You've caused us all a lot of problems, you know that? You've killed more members of the UWG than most demonspawn out there, and you've always been able to give us the slip. Probably because you don't associate yourself with those morons in V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. like most others do. They just don't seem to get that they're far easier to track in large numbers."

 

"Cut the bullshit," replied Slade groggily, "I'm assuming you're here to do something violent to me, so I'd appreciate it if you just got on with it."

 

"You're damn f*cking right I'm here to do something violent to you," snarled the soldier, positioning himself uncomfortably close to Slade's face, "You shot me with an arrow while I was out on patrol two years ago. The whole time I was lying in my hospital bed recovering from it, the only thing that got me through was thinking about what I would do to you if I ever caught you."

 

"You should probably seek help for that," mumbled Slade, "Makes you seem a bit...obsessive."

 

His snarky comment earned him a swift, hard punch to the kidney, which made him flinch but little else.

 

"I'm going to make you suffer," said the soldier, backing away from Slade, "And then I'm going to turn you over to General Vela, and he won't be as friendly as I am. He will break you, and then he will crucify you in Trafalgar Square as a warning to all the other demonspawn out there. You will become a symbol of the regime you despise so much, a message that your kind will never win."

 

There was a pause as Slade took in everything the soldier had said, then slowly lifted his head to look the man in the eyes.

 

"Can you at least get on with it? Torture would be a gift compared to your monologuing."

 

The soldier snarled and stepped towards Slade, raising his hand and then stopping in his tracks.

 

"What are you waiting for?" groaned Slade, who watched as the man's expression turned from one of vitriolic anger to one of surprise and shock. The soldier looked down at his own chest, and saw a black-gloved hand emerging from his solar plexus, turning the clothes and flesh around it black, a blackness which spread gradually across his body until he was engulfed. A moment later the figure of the guard shattered into dust, crumbling to the ground and dissipating on the wind.

 

In his place was a man in a suit so black it felt as though it was absorbing the ambient light from the room, and yet his skin was so pale it seemed to glow. He turned his cold, black eyes to Slade, and brushed his gloved hand against the shackles which held him in place. They, like the soldier, crumbled into so much crystalline ash, and Slade was released from his bonds.

 

"Let me guess," he said, straightening up and looking at the stranger face-to-face, "My father sent you."

 

"Correct," replied the man, "But introductions must wait. I have been tasked with taking you home."

 

Without another word, the man grabbed Slade by both shoulders, and he felt himself being yanked off his feet by an unknown force.

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"Sir Valkyrie Scythe has just appeared in Brittany, France close to members Junko, Rhea, and C" A man in a suit leaned over the worker monitoring the positions of the major Valkyries.

 

"Good....Xavier will be happy to hear he has shown up. That one has always been hard to track"

 

Brittany, France. Industrial District

 

The Cerberus roared as it toppled buildings and crushed any unfortunate to be in the buildings or in its immediate vicinity. Purple mist rolled out of its three heads, any that breathed it in suffering a somewhat quick but painful death from the poison that carried on its breath. Soon the area was covered with rubble and blood as the Iron Guard and the half onidid their best to fight it back, but the three heads all being focused on the fight kept up, keeping them at bay.

 

From farther south, screams rose as explosions rocked the city where Rhea and C were currently at letting their wrath out on the city's populace. From other parts of the city the sounds of demon screams as they attacked humans echoed throughout. It was like this all over the world. Death was everywhere.

 

It was like music to his ears.

 

Scythe stood on top of a ten story building a block from where the Cerberus was at. In truth he had only killed a few humans so far and had become far more interested in the amount of free floating souls that needed to be collected. He just stood there holding his arm out as its pull brought souls from all over the city floating to it. 

 

It was like the human form of Christmas. A vast power source that he could tap into. He hadn't even come across a single reaper yet, fallen or not. Like him they were probably too busy to really travel all over the place. If another reaper was even remotely close he would know after sensing his pull on the souls clashing with another reapers but as of right now it was free to reach all over the city.

 

He was lucky that he could carry an indefinite amount of souls, sorting through this many already would take days if he didn't want to affect his memories and mental state.

 

I wonder what limits I could reach when this is....

 

His thoughts were interrupted as the Cerberus crashed into the building he was on taking at last a fourth of the bottom floor causing the building to shake and slowly sway forward. He looked down to see that the massive beast had suffered many cuts and gashes but only superficial and nothing life threatening. The half oni girl and the Iron Guard were still alive but defiantly moving slower then before. 

 

As the building began to lean forwards, its structural integrity compromised by the damage the Cerberus had done, he let himself go along with it his left hand removing the large sword on his back as he did. Once he was almost perfectly parallel to the ground he pushed off enough to bring his place to land within reach, the beast's unprotected back. 

 

He slammed his sword straight into its spine and twisted severing its vertebra, rendering its back end useless. The beast let out three ground shaking howls of pain as it collapsed on the ground. He twisted the handle bringing the sword's motor to life, the vibrations causing more damage as well as keeping the regenerating ability that made the Cerberus breed so deadly from being able to fix the wound. 

 

Black blood poured out from the wound soaking his boots as he held on while the beast began trying to shake him off. "Time to disappear" With a practiced jerk of his right arm, the black cloth unwound revealing a glowing blue with black and red stone looking patches throughout it. He pressed his hand to the beast's skin then curled his fingers, the fingers passing through the skin but not cutting it, simply just passing through like a ghost would pass through a wall.

 

He yanked up bringing the front half of the beast's soul out of its body. Tricky thing with removing a soul from something still living was that it still maintained the shape of what it was. Once something had died the soul would become a colored ball depending on what that being was. In Cerberus' case his body had a transparent green hue and was not happy about being separated from its body. It bucked and pulled trying to get back in and become whole again but the reaper's pull had already caught it. 

 

His arm pulsed blue as blue lines streaked from his hand crisscrossing over the beast's soul wrapping it almost like a mummy before it started constricting forcing the soul to become smaller and farther into the arm until it was completely gone. 

 

With the Cerberus no longer a threat he slowly stood pulling his sword out, the vibrations throwing off blood and gore until it was clean before turning the handle back deactivating the motor and sheathing it back on his back. he did a slight hope bringing him landing in front of the dead monster and in view of the half oni and the Iron Guard. The black cloth back covering his right arm from view as he slowly strode forward bloody foot prints being left with each step.

 

The half oni girl swore and tensed as she recognized him. He had become quite familiar with this response as most of VIOLENCE members steered clear of him. He was just as likely to kill them as anyone else and had killed well into the double digits of their own members though no one questioned him about it. According to them, he was just a loose cannon gone bi polar. A psychopath that saw neither friend or foe.

 

Not like he cared though. Being admired or respected by them was not high up on his goals. The Iron Guard's reaction was the normal UWG one. Life the wrist cannon and take aim while yelling insults. Judging by the voice patterns the person inside was female. 

 

Not like it matters. Just would have turned against the half oni the moment Cerberus fell. So on that note.

 

Without a warning four spear tipped chains burst from his right arm. Three from his shoulder and one from his elbow. In a flash they raced towards the Iron Guard, who instead of shooting at Scythe shot at the chains instead. First mistake. The chains wrapped around her arms and legs one each then spread outwards forcing her into a spread eagle position though still continuing to hurl insults. Second mistake. 

 

He slowly brought up his right arm holding his palm at the Iron Guard as another chain shot out, this one with a good sized scythe blade unfolding on it as it traveled. It struck dead center in the chest and passed through cleanly though emerged on the other side covered in blood. Granted Iron Guard armor was strong but then again a Deathscythe was the perfect weapon. If broken it would come back stronger and more durable. If it couldn't pierce or cut something it would become sharper. Always changing, always evolving just like a reaper did himself. Always staying at the top of the food chain. 

 

Suddenly the chains became an eerie transparent blue color. The blood on the scythe blade fell to the ground as the blade was no longer in the corporal realm. the chains wrapped around the wrist and ankles retracted in a second while the bladed one came out a little more slowly dragging the white soul of a human female impaled upon it out of the heap of armor that fell to the ground with nothing to support it. She kicked and screamed all the way even to when Scythe's demon hand closed around the soul's throat. Just like with Cerberus, blue lines crisscrossed the body then she was gone.

 

With that business done he turned to the half oni girl who held her sword tightly.  She was not small by any standard well at least not in this form. He skin was dark as night with a stone texture look about it. Four horns adorned her head with smaller points branching everywhere. By the toned form of her body he could tell she could but up a fight though the Cerberus had defiantly worn her out.

 

"Hi...." 

 

She jumped at the sound of his voice her black knuckles almost looked as if they were turning white. Though the moment his greeting registered she bore a confused look on her face. "Uhhh...hi?"

 

"I am not your enemy half oni"

 

She slightly relaxed though was still obviously tense. "Sorry if I don't believe you. I know who you are....Scythe...The Reaper of VIOLENCE....the only member who has killed a fair share of his own comrades so forgive me if I don't trust you"

 

Scythe shrugged. "I had my reasons.....they were.....weeds that need to be rooted from the garden."

 

"Whatever you say reaper"

 

Scythe took a couple slow steps towards her which she in turned took as many away. "Your soul interests me"

 

"i like it just where it is but I am flattered."

 

"I do not want your soul half oni. But I see by the color that you have not taken a part of Valkyrie. Your bear almost no taint"

 

She half cocked her head to the side though the sword didn't lower. "I am half demon....of course I am tainted"

 

Scythe shook his head slightly from side to side in a small 'no' gesture. "That is not true. Just because you are born half demon does not mean you are tainted. I have learned from birth everyone is pure. It is what they do that decides on how their soul reflects. I can tell you try to save lives."

 

"Well yours must be black as night"

 

With that comment Scythe hung his head though his face and tone still showed no emotion. "I do not have a soul."

 

Now the sword lowered. "What do you mean...you are half human."

 

Scythe took a moment to look around. Different colored souls still drifted towards him, his right arm absorbing them on contact. "Reapers do not have souls as I have learned. We just exist to collect. Though some have fallen and no longer follow their duties as they should we still bear no soul. Even the half reapers like myself do not either. Reaper and human blood do not mix as well like demons and humans. We tend to be....very different."

 

"So no soul, do you even feel?" She froze as she realized Scythe was now directly behind her, his chest pressed to her back as his left hand pressed to the top of her chest right below her throat. For a second she couldn't move then suddenly he was back across from her where he had originally been standing. "What did you just do to me?" Her sword back up

 

"Junko...age 83...female....half oni....6 foot 2 inches....called the she hulk by the bullies of VIOLENCE....hope you taught them a lesson...your sword Kanabo, grappling...your skin protects you greatly...enhanced sense...ability to consume Rotfire and heal yourself, a very handy thing...."

 

"Did you just read my soul?" Her hand was over her chest where he had touched her.

 

Scythe nodded. "Yes....your father...well lets just say you have had a rough life and I commend you on how you have lived."

 

"That's kind of personal stuff you know"

 

Scythe shrugged. "My curse. I read souls....go through their life in fast forward.....I feel every emotion and every pain that you felt....part of being a reaper...your friend Rhea, you two don't really see eye to eye"

 

"Not lately no"

 

"Opposite ends of the spectrum you two.....your searching for her brother...Perseus or Percy as you call him....C...a wraith....one that needs to sleep"

 

"Well we were on our way till everything went to hell" She lowered her sword put her arm was tense in case Scythe tried something else.

 

"Very well then I will be on my way." He turned around walking away from her for a few steps before looking over his shoulder at her. "Junko....."

 

"Yes?"

 

"If you need my assistance do not hesitate to call. I would rather collect ones you have killed then your soul" With that he disappeared into thin air

 

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