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Back in the states

Kurama kicked one of the last invading half-demons in the chest, sending him off to Kurama's side. He took a glance to Anue. "How you holding up back there, cutie?" he asked with a smirk. Anue was simply watching Kurama clean up his bit of a mess. "Really banged the old place up a little more than I'd hoped. Hopefully they can get the club fixed up at least," Kurama sighed, scratching the back of his head. He walked over to the human girl, wiping the blood from his regenerating wounds. He lifted his head to hear the music was still playing, causing him to smile. "Well, at least I kept them out of the important parts."


"Kurama...?" Anue said, looking to the man who looked back to her with the same smile he always wore. "Do you think I'll see Heru again? He...he said he's going to k-"


"Yeah, I know. Trust me, he likes the idea as much as I do. He's just got more to protect now. If anything, he'll go after Hunters and Exorcists and the like. He won't just attack innocent people, kiddo," Kurama chuckled.


"I'm not a kid. I had this conversation with Heru already, and don't you dare say 'You're a kid to me' like he did, got it?" Anue said, pointing a warning finger at the half-demon. "And what do you mean? How is that protecting me?"


Kurama shook his head with a smile. "Heru's got this 'pack mentality' as I like to call it. As long as you're a part of his 'pack' he'll do just about anything for ya within reason. He considers most of the members of V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. the pack he belongs to, but there are definitely some exceptions..."


"But what about you? Won't you find trouble going against them by guarding me and not attacking humans?" Anue asked with a bit of worry.


"What? I just did attack humans. All of those half-demons were half-human too. And Xavier knows I'll tell him just that. Whether or not he actually punishes me will be up to him. Especially since I don't need an amulet to teleport. I can destroy the thing at any time," Kurama shrugged. "And I don't have any family out there. My older brother killed my old man and my ma," he added, heading out of the club. "Thinking that's the last of 'em for now. You comin', pretty lady?" he asked with a smirk.


Anue followed him out the door, seemingly oblivious to his last comment. "Your brother killed his own parents?" she asked, looking up to him.


"Yeah, killed my ma for 'stealing his father away' from him and his mother and killed my dad because my dad would have killed him if he didn't. What can ya do though?" Kurama said with a sigh, shrugging.


"How come you always act so happy?" Anue asked curiously. "Is your brother still alive then? How long have you known Heru? Wh-"


"Easy on the questions, Anue. Geeeze... Anyway, what's the point of being upset if it won't change anything? Besides, wearing a smile draws more of the ladies, so smiling is just what I do. Yeah, my big bro's still alive unfortunately. I've got no intention of hunting him down unless he causes trouble though. As for Heru...I think I've lost track of how long we've known each other. Long enough for me to think of him as my younger brother, though."


"Younger? The way you two acted together, it was hard to tell who would be the younger of the two of you..." Anue thought aloud.


"H-hey! What's that supposed to mean?" Kurama said with a pout.




"You sure you want to go here of all places? They're doing a lot of moving out right now and I'm not sure if you're up for dealing with these Guards," Etna said, looking at Heru skeptically.


"Yeah. Positive. Especially since they're foolish enough to go into Hell. Better to kill them off now before they find themselves suffering in the inferno," Heru said, staring down at the front of the building where many Iron Guards were flooding out of. Heru immediately drew out his carbine, aiming directly behind them all of a sudden. He stared as a figure was standing behind them, raising an eyebrow. "Oh, it's you, reaper... What brings you here, Scythe? Malik or Xavier ask you to come put me down like a sick dog?"


"No such thing, Heru. It looks like you two might need some help here," Scythe said, watching Heru stow his rifle. "Why would I after all?"


"Oh, I don't know. You did help organize the Valkyries back in the day from what I understand. Figured you'd be coming to put a stop to my 'resistance' or some bullshit like that," Heru replied, not pulling his eyes away from the half-reaper. "Whether you intend to help or not, I'm going to comply. I'm going to protect my family, even if it goes against what I believe in," Heru said, clenching his fist. "I wasn't given the freedom to help half-demons and those like me just to be ordered to kill humans who haven't done anything. But I have no problem striking at the ones who caused all of this to begin with," he said, pulling his carbine back off of his back. He emptied the gun of its ammunition, reloading it with a strange set of bullets. They were each etched with demonic writing, none of them the same. "Now either stand with me or stay out of my way. It's up to you," Heru said then looked to Etna. "Looks like they're sending out the end of this batch. The guards won't all be piloted already. Take out the pilots, then deal with any piloted Guards," Heru stowed his rifle again after he finished loading it.


"Alright, Heru. Don't mind me if I deviate a little bit though," Etna said with a smirk. "Guess since you didn't change clothes, you don't intend to stay in this form for long huh?" Heru just looked back at her with a nod, before descending from his high ground in his lupine form. He moved without making much of a sound. Etna glanced back to Scythe. "Coming, then?" she asked before following Herutama's lead.



OOC: I'd post more but my wrist is killing me. Just wanted to post what I had in mind while it was still in mind.

Edited by Kayin Cloud

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Scythe materialized in a small wooded area outside of a town, well more of a UWG base then anything. The pull of death had brought him here and already there were a handful of souls immediately caught in his pull. Suddenly he heard the faint click of a rifle and turned to meet the bearer. A half vultivor name Herutama Reikon and a half satan spawn who called herself Etna Rhodes.



"Oh, it's you, reaper... What brings you here, Scythe? Malik or Xavier ask you to come put me down like a sick dog?"


"No such thing, Heru. It looks like you two might need some help here," Scythe said, watching Heru stow his rifle. "Why would I after all?" He noticed Herutama's clothes were ragged meaning the beast had come out recently.


"Oh, I don't know. You did help organize the Valkyries back in the day from what I understand. Figured you'd be coming to put a stop to my 'resistance' or some bullshit like that," Herutama replied, not pulling his eyes away from the half-reaper. "Whether you intend to help or not, I'm going to comply. I'm going to protect my family, even if it goes against what I believe in," Herutama said, clenching his fist. "I wasn't given the freedom to help half-demons and those like me just to be ordered to kill humans who haven't done anything. But I have no problem striking at the ones who caused all of this to begin with," he said, pulling his carbine back off of his back. He emptied the gun of its ammunition, reloading it with a strange set of bullets. They were each etched with demonic writing, none of them the same. "Now either stand with me or stay out of my way. It's up to you," Herutama said then looked to Etna. "Looks like they're sending out the end of this batch. The guards won't all be piloted already. Take out the pilots, then deal with any piloted Guards," Herutama stowed his rifle again after he finished loading it.


Scythe watched them as they surveyed the base. A good number of souls would be needing to be collected after this. Maybe Herutama or Etna might fall too. Either way it didn't matter a soul was a soul though different souls provided him with different uses. Human souls especially those in the UWG were great little spheres of information. Codes, whereabouts, numbers it was all there depending on how high that person was. Half demons and demons were about experience and power. Though at times we wondered what an angel's would be like. They did have to exist, if demons were true their enemies would have to be as well.


"Alright, Heru. Don't mind me if I deviate a little bit though," Etna said with a smirk. "Guess since you didn't change clothes, you don't intend to stay in this form for long huh?" Heru just looked back at her with a nod, before descending from his high ground in his lupine form. He moved without making much of a sound. Etna glanced back to Scythe. "Coming, then?" she asked before following Herutama's lead.


Scythe watched them go. "Coming where?"


On point they both stopped looking at him then to each other then back to him before Etna answered. "To help fight of course"


Scythe shook his head from side to side. "I am here to provide assistance with collecting souls.....not to fight."


Etna cocked her hips to one side tapping her foot. "Just look at all the Iron Guard!"


Scythe looked over her shoulder to the base. "...and?"


She slapped a hand to her head as Herutama just growled. "I don't get you Scythe" Suddenly she froze as Scythe touched her then touched Herutama who snapped his jaws a few seconds after Scythe removed his fingers but he was well clear. "Damn't Scythe warn me next time." Etna shook off the effects though it still felt like the first time he had read her.


Scythe tilted his head as everything new that had happened in their lives raced through his head. "Anue?


Herutama suddenly let out a low and menacing growl as his body tensed.


"She is...pack...though human...but yet...does not look like a normal human...interesting" Scythe appeared totally oblivious to the state Herutama was getting worked up him until Etna spoke.


"You going to kill her Scythe?"


"Why" He tiled his head again confused at her question. "As of now she is of no interest to me."


His statement made Enta shake her head and Herutama relax. "Your one confusing person Scythe"


Scythe shrugged. "Less confusing in bed...at least according to Laira."


"You slept with the bartender? How come she didn't kill you?"


Scythe shrugged again. "Succubi have a hard time killing other succubi or incubi through that matter. I have..... harvested enough souls to know"


"And here I always though you were a virgin" She turned to Herutama. "Shall we do this before I get a headache trying to figure him out."


Scythe watched them move out then focused his vision on the building picking out a good spot to watch while being unnoticed and still have the entire area to have under his pull. The next second he was on top of the building in the shadow of one of the angled roofs but still able to see over the grounds and the milling soldiers anxious for the song of Death to play. He sat down and crossed his legs his mind and body processing souls on a slow scale leaving his senses free to watch the coming events play out.


Age eighty seven....male.....half vultivore.....canomorph....Russian Sambo....knife in vest.....depth perception...range...snub nosed .44 magnum......father jin killed younger sister.....Ekaterina.....ran away from home....Russian mother....Liliya...father Japanese....Anue....with ....Kurama Saguro


His thoughts paused briefly as he recounted everything from the last time he had touched Kurama. 


Half Seiakki....93.....male....Japanese American....mother Alcina.....brother Kazan killed mother and father.....


His mind filtered through everything he knew before he came to Etna's. This was a soul he always loved reading.


OOC: was not planning on posting right away so soon but Kayin brought me in so had to acknowledge other wise it would have been just plain rude lol



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Beneath Paris


Slade slammed into the hard floor of the Metro Station, retching in a feeble attempt to rid himself of the overwhelming rush of nausea that swept over him when the dark stranger had teleported him back home. His vision was blurred, and he coughed until he could no longer catch his breath, writhing on the floor in pain and discomfort.


"Please stop that," the stranger requested in a dry, mocking tone, "You're just embarrassing yourself now."


The stranger peered into the darkness of the Metro Station, spotting another prone figure lying on the floor and walking over to her.


"Your little friend is unconscious," he said matter-of-factly, "You may wish to tend to this before she...dies."


A wave of concern replaced the nausea rushing through Slade's body as he saw Layla's body lying in a crumpled heap on the floor. He hauled himself to his feet and shuffled over to her and, noticing her chest still rising and falling with her steady breathing, the concern was in turn replaced by relief. He lowered himself to the floor beside her, cradled her head in his lap and checked her pulse, and her pupils: everything seemed to be ok, and he took the opportunity to take a look around the hideout.


There were oddly-shaped scorch-marks covering the floor around Layla's prone form, around a dozen spindly yet vaguely humanoid silhouettes burned onto the floor tiles and connected by smears of foul-smelling black ichor that Slade oddly recognised immediately. Most worryingly, there was a large pile of ash a few feet from Layla which reeked of the pungent stench of Hellfire, which indicated that a demon had been there.


After making sure that Layla's head was adequately supported, Slade got to his feet once more, turned on his heel and grabbed the stranger by the scruff of his neck, easily lifting the figure's slight form off the ground.


"Who are you, and why did my father send you?" Slade snarled, feeling the Purefire begin to pump through his veins, "Why was he so desperate for me to get out of that prison cell?"


With a roll of his eyes, the stranger disintegrated into the same crystalline powder he had turned the UWG soldier into back in the cell, falling through Slade's fingers and skittering to the floor. A split second later, the powder reformed behind Slade, and he turned to face the stranger as he reassembled himself.


"Your father has taken an interest in the girl," the figure said, gesturing over to Layla, "He wishes you to train her to fight, and to control her rather erratic abilities. As impressive as he considers you, I doubt you could do that from within a prison cell. Therefore, I was sent to bring you back here and allow you to commence her training immediately."


"And that's it? He doesn't want anything from me in return?" asked Slade suspiciously.


"Her training will be recompense enough," the stranger replied calmly, "See that you commence immediately." He nodded at Layla's prone form, and she gasped back into consciousness, blinking her eyes to adjust to the light. Slade ran over to her and helped her to her feet.


"Who's this ugly dude?" she muttered, gesturing towards the stranger, who smiled the thinnest, tiniest of smiles.


"My name is Samael," he replied, "And I believe you will be seeing me again, Layla Monroe."


With the final word, Samael crumbled into that black crystalline ash and dissipated into the air, leaving as mysteriously as he had arrived.


"Well that was f*cking weird," said Layla, rubbing her head, "Who am I kidding? This whole week's been pretty weird."


"I think it's probably going to get weirder," murmured Slade, staring at the spot Samael had occupied until a moment earlier, "What happened here?"


"Some creepy spindly dudes attacked me, came crawling out of the tunnel," she replied, gesturing to the open mouth of the Metro tunnel, "I took care of them, no problems, but then this jerk-off Exorcist gets me from behind - you really need to update your hideout security, by the way, people are just walking in and out of this place - and then...then I don't really remember what happened."


"This is bad," said Slade, "He sent Husks after you..."


"Husks! That was it."


"But he must have sent a demon here as well. My guess is that the pile of ash over there used to be the...'jerk-off Exorcist' you mentioned."


"So what happened to him?"


"Something incinerated him using Hellfire. And not just Hellfire, but Purefire," said Slade, crouching down at the pile of ash and taking some between his thumb and forefinger, "That means something from the real depths of Inferno was here. And it means we really do need to start your training as soon as possible."




"Training," said Slade with a nod, "You need to learn how to defend yourself against stuff like this. Sure, you could handle a dozen Husks without too many problems, but if there was a full-fledged demon in here...well, let's just say you need to learn how to fight."


"I already know how to fight," said Layla defiantly, "I've been fighting most of my adult life."


"You know how to handle street brawls and skirmishes with half-demons and lesser demons, sure," replied Slade, taking his torn, bloodied jacket off and revealing the black tank top underneath, "But when something bigger comes your way, how are you going to fight it? Especially when you don't have complete control of your abilities."


"So you're going to train me to take out the Big Bads of the world?" Layla asked, and Slade nodded.


"Cool," said Layla, "Where do we start?"

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Etna slid down the side of the building, her sharp nails leaving trails in her wake, her fangs were barred in a feral grin as she followed Heru. As she reached the edge of the roof she planted her feet on the side and pushed off, with a large cloud of dust she landed heavily in the middle of the Iron Guards. She stood with one hand on her hips, the other relaxed by her side as they seemed to stunned to move for a moment.

"A half demon? Why is she here?"
Etna smirked more as Heru landed next to her with a dull thud, his muscular lupine form coiled, ready for a fight. Etna looked around them, many of the guard were young and she felt her stomach twist slightly. 

"Herutama..they're so young...are you sure you-"
"I'll do my job Etna."
She nodded slowly, both of them moved at once, slicing through the guard with ease as they moved through to the center of the base concentrated on taking out the building. Etna sprinted behind the man turned wolf, her eyes never letting him out of sight as they moved in sync with each other.

"Herutama I think we should take the next left."
"No, the smell is coming from the right, we'll move in that direction."

She nodded, trusting his nose more then her sense of direction, as they turned the next corner they both came to a stop as a large mechanical guard stood in front of them, Etna crouched down slightly, her form tensing as both her hands came to life with her hell fire, the neon green Heru's growls grew louder as a deep voice echoed through the hall.

"Give your selves up, or be destroyed."

Etna snorted slightly.

"You better not be holding your breath."
Heru rolled his eyes as they moved a little to the left, a large laser suddenly fired at Etna's feet making her jump back with a hiss her eye flashing as she let a ball of her hell fire loose towards the machine. She braced her self as the large arm swung down and caught her in the middle slamming her against the wall. Coughing Etna tasted blood in her mouth and gagged, baring he teeth she hissed more and pushed against the metal arm, but with no luck. The other swung around, grabbing her by her head it swung around throwing her against the other wall, blood stained the wall as her lip busted. She hit the floor hard, coughing as she sat up slowly, her eyes glowing in anger as she hissed, her teeth now stained red. 


Anue huffed another sigh as she pushed the food on the small plate in front of her around, Kurama arched an eye brow in her direction.
"Something bothering you sweetheart?"
"I'm worried about Heru..."
He nodded slowly.
"That makes two of us love."
She sighed again and pushed the plate away before letting her forehead thump against the table.
"Easy there, you're gonna either hurt your self or the table, I told Herutama I wouldn't let you get hurt."
"I'm fine. Just worried that Etna woman is gonna make him do something horrible..."
"Etna? Etna Rhodes? Pretty lady with long red hair?"
"Yeah...you know her?"
"Heh, yeah I know her, and trust me, she won't make Herutama do anything nasty unless he wants to."
Anue shook her head, either ignoring, or completely missing the innuendo Kurama let loose. 

"She seemed so...unstable..."
"No more unstable then the rest of us sweetheart."
"But she didn't seem to care about killing humans, she even tried to kill me..."
"I doubt she would have, mainly if you were with Heru at the time, she probably did it to get a rise out of him. She's like that when it comes to Herutama. I think she fancies him or something."
"What do you mean fancies him?"
"You know, likes, has a crush, has an eye out for him, wants to jump his bones...or be his bone. Get it now?"
"She likes him?"
"That, or she has a death wish by getting him wound up all the time. Either way I don't think it's a bad idea, she is easy on the eyes and he could use- Where are you going?"

"To find Heru...I don't think he's safe..."
"You got a plane ticket to Britan then sugar? Cause I don't and I'm not taking you there just to get mauled by wolf man."
Anue turned to Kurama and let her eyes soften slightly as she walked over to him, she placed her hand softly to his chest closing the space between them, her voice soft as she spoke.

"Please Kurama...I'm so worried about him."
His eye brows arched before he gave her a flat look.
"Flashy. But, no."
"Oh c'mon!"
"No way girl! He'd kill both of us just for putting our selves in danger like that! And I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to die. Mainly by my best friend."
Anue flopped down in the same chair she had been sitting in with a huff as she rested her chin in her palm. Kurama shook his head.

"Look, he'll be fine. And he'll come back for you when it's safe enough. Just relax and try not to do anything stupid."
"I'll take that as an ok?"
"Take it how ever you want."
"Alright then. So what do you wanna do til he gets back?"
She shook her head and went back to playing with the food on the small plate in front of her. Her mind else where.

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Bane looked around as the convoy sped through the landscape, dust kicking up and leaving a sprawling trail of sand and dirt in their wake. Bouncing lightly with each small rock or obstruction encountered, but the masked Exorcist was not interested in the bumps in the road. Holding the rectangular prison in his large hand, he rolled it around a bit as he waited patiently for its resident to speak once more.


â??You can ignore me all you want Phantom; your punishment will come in time.â? No response came from the box, and the mercenary was satisfied with that for now. The hummer bounced more, reaching one of the â??no humanâ?? zones, rolling over larger rocks, metal objects and even left over skeletons. The convoy itself had been waiting for Baneâ??s return only a couple miles from the location of where his trap had been laid. The convoy being eight vehicles strong, mixture of â??confiscatedâ?? UWG hummers and Ferret tanks, modified to the best of their abilities and resources. It was enough to deter any raiders, mainly the small gangs but also the larger ones, and even patrolling UWG Iron Guards would deviate from crossing them if it was possible. Much more time passed as the sun set in the west, the night growing dark for only a few moments before the light of the fires reached the eyes of the humans still travelling the darkness.


â??This is futile human.â? Bane didnâ??t bother to look at the box.


â??Ah yes, you speak. I was wondering when you would grace us with your words.â?


â??There is nothing you can conceivably do to me that would truly hurt me; you will just have to kill me.â?


â??This would be true, for the uneducated masses. But for us, it is just a matter of when rather than a matter of if. You will learn the meaning of pain, and once you have understood what it feels like to suffer to the brink, and you have seen your people burn and fade from this world,â? Bane looked to the box then, his eyes seeing the swirling energy within the box and could feel the force staring back at him, â??Then you have my permission to die.â? Bane kept his gaze on the box for a few more moments before turning away once more to look ahead. He stood up from his seat, poking his head out of the gunnerâ??s port. Gesturing to the other vehicles, they all formed a single file line as they approached an abandoned factory. The walls had been clearly rebuilt recently, the cement crisp and new though it was ignored as they passed through the steel gates, before closing up behind the convoy.  Climbing out of the hummer, Bane made his way through the yard where the vehicles parked for inspection before a large rolling door was pulled up to allow them to crawl into the complex one at a time.  Bane took a different path through the building, passing dozens of guards who patrolled the inside of the complex. All of them wielding automatic weapons, varying degrees of quality with some being of being makeshift parts, others were Exorcist quality and fewer were of UWG standard. As men patrolled the complex, Bane made his way through the halls, ignoring everything else around him as he came to a chamber with a set of massive rings.


â??Activate the rings.â? The switch was flipped, several buttons clicked and the rings began to spin. Slowly at first, but quickly picked up speed and energy began to jump between the rings as they passed one another and spun faster and faster until finally they were almost invisible with the speed they rotated. The energy around the rings spun with it and created a soft glowing orb that held fast. Bane approached the rings while pulling out the box containing Revenant, placing the box in a mechanism that locked into place with a loud clank. The box opened then, Revenant flowing out and appearing in the glowing orb and taking his chance as soon as possible to pass out of the orb. However, he was met with a solid resistance as he was repelled back into prison. Revenant tried his best to crash into the energy, exerting as much force to press through the field but finding himself unable to do anything but float in his new jail.


â??You cannot escape; it was built just for you Revenant.â? The Phantom looked to the human, the face forming in his ghostly shape to express some sort of emotions and speak to the mortal.


â??Is this all part of your plan, human?â? Bane crossed his arms and held his ground.


â??Of course, but only the first step.â? Bane gestured with his fingers over his shoulder, two soldiers coming forward and pushing a third man along with them as Bane turned away from the Phantom.


â??Do your work Doctor, he wonâ??t wait for long.â? With a shove, one of the soldiers pushed the man forward and Revenant could see him more clearly.


â??Dr. Krass? Youâ??re alive!â? Revenant expressed some sort of shock, though it was hollow in sound and feeling. The doctor did his best not to look at Revenant in the â??eyesâ??, but Revenant knew who it was without actually looking into his demon slated eyes. The only feature that gave him away as one of the half breeds, and he was still very much alive.


â??Doctor! Why didnâ??t you return to V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E? We could use your mind more than ever; things are in a disappointing state.â? Krass kept quite as he worked on his equipment, doing his best not to look to Revenant. A sense of anger and frustration built in Revenant, though it was slight and would hardly affect normal souls; Revenant was hardly accustomed to this feeling and reacted violently.


â??Look at me dammit!â? He roared as he smashed into the walls of his prison, the Doctor finally looking up and Revenant saw it clear as day on his face, could see all of the wear and the finest detail that revealed what it was the Doctor was experiencing. He saw fear, fear of something greater coming to this world.


â??Doctor, you canâ??t be afraid. Especially not of this human, he is nothing.â? Krass stared into the chamber for several moments, showing his nervousness as he gripped the keyboard in front of him.


â??You are a fool Revenant, he is more than that and thinking like that is what got you caught here. Iâ??m sorry, Shadow of War.â? Krass clicked a few keays on his keyboard and sent a powerful charge through the orb, this caused Revenants body to freeze for a moment before he let out a deafening scream as his body seemed to pull apart and some evaporated into thin air. Bane sat not far off in the room, leaning forward as he watched the Doctor work for several minutes with his gaze unwavering.

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Above Paris


"This is a waste of time," mumbled Layla as she held the string of her new bow back, shakily aiming the arrow at the makeshift targets Slade had set up on the rooftop opposite them, "Why do I have to learn archery?"


"Archery teaches you everything you need to know about combat and control," replied Slade, pacing on the rooftop behind Layla, watching her carefully, "It requires strength, balance, poise and most importantly patience. Now concentrate on the targets and fire."


Layla rolled her eyes and loosed the arrow, watching it sail over the gap between buildings and slam into the wall six feet behind the targets. She lowered her bow and cursed under her breath as she failed at Slade's challenge once again.


"This is pointless," she muttered.


"You lost concentration," said Slade, hearing Layla's protest and choosing to ignore it, "Clear your mind and adjust for wind, and try again." He handed her another arrow, which she snatched out his hand, nocked and fired in a single movement. It whistled through the air, glanced off the edge of one of the targets and skittering across the rooftop.


"Stop rushing," said Slade, handing Layla another arrow, "Be patient, take a deep breath and fire on the exhale." Layla nodded, clearly frustrated by how difficult she was finding this task, and took the arrow. She nocked it and pulled the bowstring back, making sure to keep her arm straight as she did. She aimed at the target, adjusted for the direction of the wind and inhaled as Slade had suggested.


After a moment, she simultaneously exhaled and loosed the arrow. It soared across the gap between the two buildings and hit the target directly, the arrowhead piercing through the front of the target and right out the back with a crunch which was audible even from the opposite building.


Layla punched the air and a wide grin broke out across her face as she watched her arrow hit the target. She turned to Slade, who simply nodded and handed her another arrow.


"Good," he said, "Now do it again."




Beneath Paris


Slade easily avoided the flurry of blows Layla launched at him, blocking some with his forearms and simply moving out of the way of others. As she swung a powerful punch at him, he dropped to the ground and swept her legs out from under her with a swift, almost fluid movement, and she hit the ground with a thud, the impact knocking the wind out of her.


"Your attacks are too obvious," said Slade, helping her back to her feet, "Too obvious and too slow. You need to be less predictable when you attack - I dropped you to the floor, but a half-demon or even a well-trained Exorcist wouldn't miss an opportunity to kill you outright."


"I know, I know," replied Layla, trying to get her breath back, "I'm just tired..."


"A UWG soldier wouldn't care," said Slade, "A half-demon or an Exorcist wouldn't hesitate to take you out just because you were tired. You could be sick, or dying, and you would get no sympathy from one of the dozens of groups of people out there trying to kill you. It doesn't matter what-"


His speech was cut short by a sudden impact in the centre of his chest, and a flash of icy-blue light, the combination of which hurled him across the hideout and smashing through one of the shelving units set up against the wall. He crumpled to the ground, and felt his lip which appeared to be bleeding.


"How's that for predictable?" said Layla, standing over Slade. He looked up slowly at her, and saw her skin glowing a gentle blue, a faint plume of purple smoke rising from the hand she had just struck him in the chest with, and a smirk on her face.


"We need to talk about your abilities," groaned Slade, pulling himself to his feet.




Outside Paris


"Are you sure this place is safe?" asked Layla, looking around the clearing Slade had brought her to.


"Absolutely," he replied, placing down objects which looked like large fluorescent glow-sticks every few metres in a wide circle around them, "These torches are specifically designed to repel demons. And the UWG rarely venture this far outside the barriers. At worst, we might get interrupted by some Exorcists, but that's what this is for." He tapped the bow he had slung on his back, but Layla didn't feel reassured. In fact, she had a distinct uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach, but she knew what Slade was doing here was important, so she pushed the feeling to one side and ignored it.


"So," said Slade, taking a seat on a log in the rough centre of the clearing and gesturing for Layla to take a seat opposite him, "I want you to tell me all about your ability. It's only with the knowledge of what it's done that we can start working on controlling it."


"Ok," said Layla, taking a seat opposite Slade, "But if I'm going to tell you this stuff, I need to know more about you. You've taken it upon yourself to train me and look after me, but I don't know anything about you. I need to trust you, so for every question you ask me, I get to ask you one."


"Layla, we don't have time for this," said Slade, waving his hand dismissively.


"If you want to know about my ability, we absolutely have time for this," replied Layla, "Question for question, those are my terms. If you don't like them then we should just go now and not waste our time at all." She got to her feet in a silent threat, but Slade stopped her.


"Fine," he said, "Question for question."


"Good," said Layla, sitting back down, "You go first."


"When did your ability first manifest?"


"Well, I grew up on a commune in Brazil. It was pretty safe and kind of sheltered most of the time, but when I was seven they introduced a man to the community who seemed friendly, but he turned out to be some kind of anti-demon fanatic. He attacked a bunch of people in the commune, and came for me afterwards. So I hid, but he found me and I knew he was about to attack me, so I just curled up and wished he would stop. And...well, he did. He just collapsed, like he was totally paralyzed or something. I didn't understand it at the time, but now I realise it was the first time my ability manifested itself."


"So you just...wished for him to stop? That's it?"


"Nope, that's another question. Not before I get some answers out of you."


"Fine, ask me."


"Who was the person I heard you talking to the first night I spent at your hideout? The...what was it...'unpleasant acquaintance'?" Slade swallowed and looked down at his hands, shifting them nervously.


"That was a demon," he said, "A very powerful and dangerous demon by the name of Belial. He's one of seven demons called the Nephelim, and he's...well, in layman's terms I suppose you could call him my father."


"Your...father? Wow, most half-demons don't even know which demon spawned them, let alone have them over for coffee."


"Well he's always tried to be a little bit too involved in my life. But it's my turn: to you knowledge, have you ever exhibited any kind of control over your ability? Even if it's just a vague feeling that you were more in control than usual."


"Do you mean before I kicked your ass back at the hideout?"


"Yes, Layla," replied Slade with a chuckle, "Before that."


"I remember back in...it must have been around 2220...I was helping with a recovery effort in Northern Columbia after some half-demon went out of control and leveled damn near an entire city. There was a family trapped inside the wreckage of an apartment block and nobody could get them out. I stayed with them through the night, talking to them and trying to make sure they were alright and then, just as the rubble started shifting and looked like it was going to crush them, the whole thing turned into dust under my fingers. They managed to get out, and it was the first time I felt...I felt like I could control this stuff, I guess. It comes and goes, and it feels like I'm taking one step forwards and two steps back."


"Every half-demon has the same problems," said Slade, reaching over and touching Layla's arm, "We all have problems controlling our abilities sometimes - I think yours are just more...expansive than most others. It'll take time, but you'll get there. It's your turn."


"What is it that Belial wants from you? You said it was something 'precious', but you never specified. So, what does he want from you?"


"He wants...he wants my soul," replied Slade after a moment's pause, "I don't know why he wants it, but he's been trying to get it ever since I was born."


"Your soul? That's messed up."


"Yeah, and he's getting closer. Every time..." he was cut short by something slamming into his chest, knocking him backwards to the ground.


"Slade!" shouted Layla, rushing to his side, but she was also cut short by something slamming into her back and knocking her to the floor with a heavy impact. She managed to roll over in time to see a man dressed entirely in black combat fatigues covered by dull silver armour seemingly appear from thin air, followed by three more behind him.


"What the hell?" she groaned as more people blinked into existence around the pair of them.


"Sandmen," snarled Slade, jumping to his feet.

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Scythe listened to the carnage below as Etna and Herutama rained hell on the UWG. He was almost so zoned out that he missed the sound of voices behind him. He turned over his shoulder seeing three women and two men in UWG uniforms ushering a small pack of about ten half demon kids. Suddenly he felt the pull, not a strong one but one of those kids was defiantly half reaper. His eyes laid on one who was wearing a pair of thick black gloves. 


Too keep him from reading


The child stopping when he sensed Scythe's influence and turned towards him standing stock still for a second before pointing and screaming as one of the males just started to bring the chopper on the roof to life. 


Scythe stared at the kid as the other male and two females trained standard issue pistols on him but he made no sudden moves. He watched as the other woman began herding the kids onto the mechanical bird when suddenly Xavier's order at the beginning rang in his head. 


Kill all UWG and humans.


He teleported causing shots to be fired then stop as they tried to find him not realizing he was on the helicopter which now was completely warmed up, blades spinning in a blur. His chains shot out snaking their way through the children, several on one chain. Screams filled the inside of the helicopter as he slid the door close and the three UWG on the outside tried to slide it back open but couldn't with Scythe holding it. The man in the pilot seat went to pull out his pistol but stopped as he saw the scythe blade emerge from his chest before going limp. Absorbing all but the child half reaper who was wrapped in one of his chains he grabbed the joystick and titled it causing the chopper to rotate. 


One of the woman didn't see the rear rotors coming her way and soon their was a spray of pink mist and two arms fell to the ground followed by a body missing from the shoulders up. 


He teleported back outside finishing off the last two and watched as the helicopter slid off the roof towards the ground, the sound of its crash coming seconds later. 


I wonder if they were in the way


He stared at the reaper child before slicing his scythe blade through the neck aiming it so he was not covered in a shower of blood. The moment the kid died he fell to his knees a strong pain erupting in his chest. Normally it was alot more painful but the half reaper must not of absorbed that many souls. Either way power was power. After a few seconds he climbed back to his feet getting his balance back before opening the door that the UWG had emerged from. 


The moment he opened it he came face to face with another uniformed man and what appeared to be his wife and roughly four month old baby in her arms. He didn't seem to be carrying any weapons and the two of them froze upon seeing him silhouetted in the doorway. 


Kill all UWG and humans


As soon as the thought finished the hallway had a brand new splash of red paint with the man's blood the woman on her knees covering her child. His scythe blade curled around up behind him like a scorpion wavering a few seconds as she screamed and cried before striking down killing them both in one blow. An order was an order and he followed Xavier's orders until something replaced that.


He continued down the hallways cutting down all that he saw, his chains rounding corners in front of him and returning bringing back either dead or screaming victims all which found their place in his collection. Soon the presence of souls began to thin meaning the base was becoming emptier and emptier. He was about to round a corner but jumped back when he caught movement. A giant telltale tan metal glove punched right where his head had been and soon the entire Iron Guard suit was taking up the hallway. Scythe slowly walked back noticing the Guard was missing its weapons. He found his back against the wall with the Iron Guard standing in front of him raising its fist. 


He pushed himself backwards his body passing through the wall like a ghost as the fist came down.


The Iron Guard smashed through the wall and into the next room looking around before the screech of metal and the flashing of lights went off in its helmet indicating there had been a breach in the torso section though its alarms fell on dead ears. Within seconds the Iron Guard's soul, a half incubus was his. It was not a secret that the UWG brainwashed half demons from birth and used them for Iron Guards. 


He stood there looking around, the flow of souls to him had diminished greatly and where now coming one here and there instead of in waves though none of them had been Etna's or Herutama's. He teleported back to the woods wondering where to go next. Brittany had been good and probably plenty of souls there still to collect. He wondered in that half oni, Junko her name had been was one of them. He had after all left her alone with no telling what was roaming those streets. 


He sat down on a rock pondering his next move. There would be souls to collect everywhere but he preferred not to run into another reaper, he actually would rather have a full reaper over a half reaper due to the fact half reapers were so very different from their full reaper kin. He tapped a finger to his chin then decided to reach out to Revenant but was went with a weird feeling. He was there then not there then back again.


So Junko or Revenant?

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After Scythe vanished, Junko ushered the rest of the UWG workers to their homes and out of harm's way. She then returned to the plant and the Iron Guard's lifeless body and looked solemnly down at it. She reached to removed the helmet from the Guard's head, but as soon as her fingers touched the body, the soldier, armor and all, crumbled into a pile of ashes.
â??Damn it...â? Junko groaned, hanging her head. She had wanted to work with the Iron Guard to continue saving lives, and when they had done all they could, then she would have worried about the woman's true intentions. Even if she didn't intend  to keep her word, and even though the woman had belonged to the UWG... to die so unceremoniously, after saving so many innocent lives... Junko took her hand from the remains and touched the spot on her chest where Scythe had â??readâ? her.
â??It's like being trapped in a den of wolves,â? Junko spoke quietly, staring off at the carnage consuming France. Everywhere she went there seemed to be danger. General Vela's devotion to eradicating his enemies. Malik's dedication to lashing out at the world. Xavier's incessant scheming. And now the reappearance of Scythe, a figure without any cause or reason beside his biological imperative to collect souls and become more powerful. And what did she have to rely on? A demonic club? Murderous allies? A brother who has countless times attempted to imprison her? Junko closed her eyes and exhaled heavily, defeat slowly creeping over her body.
â??Auuuuuuuuuuuwwwwww,â? a ghostly wail emitted from her amulet. Junko scoffed bitterly. Malik was apparently satisfied with the level of destruction he had caused, as that wail was the signal for V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. members to â??wrap up whatever they were doingâ? and return to Nidhogg so that Malik could prepare his next move. It was never enough for him. Even though he had just claimed hundreds, probably thousands of lives, he was already thinking about the next batch of humans he could kill. He would never stop, not until every last human was dead and buried, and he had made a throne from their bones. What sickened her the most, though, was not Malik's unwavering rage, but her blind allegiance to him.
When she first joined V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. she would do whatever he asked of her; she was lost and upset, and he offered her a way to vent that frustration. After a few years she began to feel guilt and remorse over her actions, limiting her rage to only members of the UWG, who she blamed for everything, for her anger and for Osamu...no, Ogre's, actions. But had all of those Iron Guards deserved death? She killed many in self-defense, but many more she killed for pleasure, a pleasure which inevitably left her feeling cold and empty. And finally, watching the ashes of another person she had condemned float off into the wind, Junko finally admitted to herself what she had always known. 
The entirety of the UWG hadn't tortured her, only the scientists she had killed long ago. The UWG  may have broken Ogre, but he was the one who continued his path of violence. And the same was true of her; instead of looking to the future, instead of trying to find a new purpose in life, she had used the past as an excuse to absolve Ogre of his actions and to justify carrying out her and Malik's vendettas. If Junko had chosen a different life, maybe she could have spared that Guard, and so many other Guards' lives. Maybe she could have stood for something, like that half-demon Sladeâ??who she had mocked for prancing around asâ??the Shroudâ? but who secretly she had always admiredâ??did. Maybe... maybe she still could stand for something.
Suddenly overcome with fiery conviction, Junko took off her amulet and tossed it to the ground. She stood over it for a second, and then smashed it into pieces with her Kanabo. She was done with V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. She had allowed her anger and frustration to rule her for too long, and because of that she had been blinded to reality, and had committed horrible actions. From then on, she would find her own way, a way to redeem herself. And her first goal was to find Ogre and--
A large object struck Junko across the face and sent her spiraling into the body of the deceased Cerberus, which was decaying at a much slower rate due to its size. Junko hopped off the body and stared with new resolve at the vengeful form of Rhea, C floating just behind her. No Perseus... Junko thought with surprise.
â??How dare you,â? Rhea spat, pointing at the sizzling space where Junko's amulet had been destroyed. â??It wasn't enough to betray me and Percy? You had to betray our ******* family as well?â? Rhea screamed. Her body was shaking violently, and her eyes were practically bulging out of her skull. Her skin shifted between stone and flesh forms haphazardly. She was completely claimed by madness.
â??You didn't find Perseus,â? Junko noted, ignoring Rhea's cries. Rhea's nostrils flared and she charged Junko.
â??Don't you dare talk about him, you *****! It was your brother who took him!â? she growled, grabbing Junko by her collar. â??Ogre was supposed to bring Perseus back to this base but he never did. He ******* kidnapped him!â? Junko's eyes widened with shock. Ogre wasn't working for the UWG any longer? Where could he have gone? Rhea angrily lifted Junko up and tossed her back at the Cerberus corpse. Junko, quickly reoriented herself and landed skillfully on the balls of her feet right in front of the monster. She stood up, unfazed, and stared down Rhea.
â??If my brother has Perseus, than I'll get him back,â? Junko announced. Rhea, who had been preparing to hurl more profanities at Junko, froze abruptly, her face contorted with bemusement.
â??You? Why the hell would I trust you?! When we thought Percy was in our grasp you aban--â?
â??If Perseus had been at that base, I know you two would have found him,â? Junko interrupted, tired of listening to Rhea accuse her. â??I made a promise to you that we would find Perseus, and I intend to keep that promise, whether you come along with me or not.â? Junko walked up the stunned Rhea and offered the woman her hand.
â??Well?â? Junko asked. Rhea gazed warily at Junko's hand, her anger replaced with confusion and reluctant hope.
â??What makes you think you can find them?â? Rhea questioned cautiously. Junko looked into Rhea's eyes and responded without hesitation.
â??Because I intend to find and kill Ogre. I have spent my whole life trying to bring him home, believing naively that I could save him even as he murdered and captured hundreds of half-demons. I won't stand for that any longer. But that means,â? she continued, sternly eyeing both Rhea and C, â??that if we work together, I won't tolerate either of you killing for pleasure. Understand?â? Rhea nodded in agreement, and C clapped his hands together.
â??Does that mean we're going to work as a team agai--â? A thick, black rope with a sickle on the end wrapped around  C's body, cutting him off mid-sentence. The rope wrapped around his body from the bottom up, leaving only his neck and head exposed. In one quick motion, the sickle whipped around and sliced C's spectral throat. Instead of drawing blood, however, energy leaked out, directly into the tip of the blade. Once C had been completely drained, the rope and blade emanated a bright blue light momentarily, then returned to its previous state and began retracting. Junko clenched her Kanabo tightly as not one, but two reapers stepped forward and revealed themselves. 
They were an unusual duo; the one on the right had shoulder-length, straight silver hair, yellow eyes, and was glowing faintly, his body â??charging upâ? from cannibalizing C's life force. He held a katana in one hand, and in the other he carried what appeared to be an urn. He grinned contently at his urn and then strapped it into a pouch at his side. The other one sported long, dark red hair down to his lower back and red eyes, and he looked infinitely less amused compared to his comrade. He did not carry a weapon, but judging from the length and sharpness of his nails, Junko could tell he was a hand to hand fighter. Like the other, he also possessed an odd miscellaneous object: a red crow with onyx eyes sat perfectly still on his shoulder.
â??Hmph,â? red reaper grunted as silver reaper stopped glowing, â??Normally I don't care to cross you, Atanos, but that soul was mine to take.â? â??Atanosâ? responded flippantly.
â??You know I don't care to entertain your misguided 'claims' to souls, Mort. I arrived first; the soul is mine. But if you truly feel so bent out of shape about it,â? Atanos looked from Mort to Junko and Rhea and flashed a sharp, toothy smile, â??these two half demons ought to make excellent snacks.â? Mort glanced over at the two half-demons and sighed.
â??I don't know...â? he grumbled, obviously uninterested. â??The soul of the wraith boy was the only thing that interested me. No offense, ladiesâ? he called over to Junko and Rhea. Atanos placed his free arm around Mort's shoulder and laughed.
â??Come now, don't be so forlorn! There will be plenty more wraiths and phantoms to feed on. For now, let's enjoy ourselves,â? Atanos reasoned. Mort rolled his eyes and pushed Atanos away.
â??If you promise to stop touching me, I suppose we can harvest them. Sorry again, ladies. I promise this is my final decision, though,â? he said politely, and then aimed his blade at Rhea. Junko scowled and her knuckles went white from tension. As powerful as she and Rhea were, fighting against two half-reapers was potentially suicidal. But there wasn't any way out of it. Once a reaper had you in his sight, it only ended in one way: death.
Junko charged Atanos, hoping to get take him by surprise. The half-reaper deflected her blow and pushed her back, and then attempted to slash through her midsection. Junko pulled in her Kanabo and managed to stop the blade right as the tip sunk into her abdomen. Atanos smiled and applied pressure to his weapon, forcing Junko to wince in pain.
â??I've never fought against a half-Oni before,â? he admitted, his eyes flickering back and forth between her horns. â??But I have always wondered if your Kanabos were strong enough to stand against our deathscythes. I suppose I'll know the answer today, huh?â? Junko responded by headbutting Atanos and swinging her horn into the side of his head. He ducked out of the way fast enough to avoid being impaled through the face, but the barbs of her horns still caught his cheek. He reeled back and smiled, revealing an unmarred visage. Undeterred, Junko charged him again, only for a figure to swoop in and attack Atanos first.
â??Good job holding out for so long,â? the newly-returned Scythe said over his shoulder to Junko. Junko leapt over him and attempted to smash her club into Atanos' skull, but the half-reaper jumped away from the pair. Junko eyed Scythe with irritation.
â??Don't patronize me,â? she retorted. â??I was doing fine.â? Scythe turned away from her and placed his weapon on his shoulder.
â??You were.â? Without another word he dashed toward Atanos and engaged him in conflict. Junko turned her attention to Rhea, who was currently on the defensive as Mort slashed madly at her body. Junko readied her weapon at her side and sprinted to Rhea's aid. A second before Mort dug his claws into Rhea's skin, Junko clubbed Mort in the stomach, causing him to double over. Rhea followed Junko's strike by grabbing the back of Mort's shirt and tossing him into a nearby building. She then turned to Junko and nodded
â??Good swing,â? Rhea said appreciatively. She pointed to the clashing Atanos and Scythe and stared at Junko, incredulous.
â??Is that Scythe? He's not going to kill us after her kills that half-reaper, is he?â? Rhea questioned. Junko shook her head.
â??No. He's... on our side. At least for right now,â? Junko assured her partner. â??But let's worry about our half-reaper right now,â? she finished, watching as Mort dug himself out of the rubble of the nearby building. He wiped away a trickle of blood oozing from a head gash and frowned.
â??That's no fair,â? he stated, pointing his bloody hand at Junko's Kanabo. â??I have no weapon. She has no weapon. This is a hand-to-hand brawl. If you insist on using it, then go join Atanos and the boy with the big sword.â? Junko glared at Mort for a moment, and then tossed her Kanabo aside.
â??Ready?â? she challenged, cracking her knuckles.
OOC: Don't worry about answering the call back quite yet, half-demons. Malik isn't urging anyone to return to Nidhogg, he's just asking that they finish their last murder or two, destroy their last building, and then head back on home for supper.
Edited by Orcus

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Outside Paris


Slade and Layla stood back to back in the centre of a wide circle of Sandmen, their lightweight tactical armour glinting in the moonlight and their weapons tracing laser dots over the heads and bodies of their targets.


"Drop your weapon, demonspawn," said one of the Sandmen, his voice distorted and crackling through the mouthpiece of his helmet, "And surrender the girl to us, or we will shoot to kill."


"Why do they want me so badly?" asked Layla in hushed tones, slowly reaching to her belt and wrapping her fingers around the hilt of the knife hidden away there.


"There's time to figure that out later, but these are Sandmen - the UWG's black-ops specialists. If we don't do something quickly, they'll kill me and take you without a second thought."


"We'd better do something then," replied Layla with a slight grin, whipping the knife from her belt in a lightning-quick motion and slamming the weapon hilt-deep into the nearest Sandman's neck, ignoring the gushing torrent of blood that issued forth as she tucked herself into his body, using it as a shield from the other soldiers as they opened fire.


Slade, without so much as a moment's pause, nocked and loosed an arrow directly between the eyes of the lead Sandman, then slammed a boot into his chest and knocked him backwards into another soldier. He ducked the swinging arm-blade of a third Sandman and stabbed an arrow through his opponent's armour and deep into the soft flesh of his chest before yanking the shaft back out, nocking it and firing it into the hand of a Sandman who had just de-cloaked in front of him.


Layla grabbed the arm of the dead Sandman she was using as a shield, popped the arm-blade and shoved it into the stomach of an oncoming soldier, then lithely flipped over her incapacitated attacker and sliced the already blood-soaked knife blade across the soldier's throat.


The pair of half-demons ducked and weaved their way through the crowd of Sandmen, dodging arm-blades and Soulfire bullets as they whizzed past, leaving a trail of blood and bodies across the clearing as they went.


"I don't know what you were worried about," said Layla breathlessly as she got closer to Slade, "These guys aren't so tough!"


"True," replied Slade, "They could try a little hard-" he was cut off as a lone Sandman, this one clad from head to toe in black armour, de-cloaked from behind Slade and sliced his arm-blade across the half-demon's back. Slade howled in pain and dropped to his knees, but the Sandman grabbed him in a tight headlock and dragged him back to his feet before he could collapse completely.


"Stop this foolish attempt at self-preservation, Ms Monroe," the Sandman said in clipped tones through his mask, "Or I will be forced to make you watch as Mr Bennett here dies a slow and painful death."


"Don't...listen to him...Layla..." gasped Slade through the impressive chokehold.


"A noble sentiment, Slade," replied the Sandman, "But I think we both know that Layla won't allow you to come to harm." On the last word of the sentence, the Sandman sent an electrical pulse through his gauntlets, causing Slade to convulse in pain.


"Too much harm, at any rate," the Sandman said, "Now drop your weapons, Ms Monroe, and surrender yourself to us."


"Get away from him," said Layla, her voice low but her face etched with rage, "Or you might make me do something I'll regret..."


"We have extensive intel on you, Ms Monroe," scoffed the Sandman, "We know you don't have full control over your abilities, and anything you do to hurt us will likely result in Mr Bennett's death as well. Once again, we reach an impasse - the best thing you can do for yourself and Slade is to surrender and come with us."


"I said..." responded Layla, ignoring the Sandman's threats, "GET AWAY FROM HIM!"


A pulse of pale blue light washed over the clearing, a shockwave of pure energy centred on Layla. As the light hit the Sandman, he blinked out of existence in an instant, and the other Sandmen left in the clearing were met with a similar fate, Layla's abilities leaving only their weapons which clattered to the ground as the men and women holding them vanished. Slade dropped to his knees, gasping at the air to catch his breath, and Layla herself crumpled to the ground, exhausted from the exertion but still conscious.


"That was helpful," she said woozily, gradually pulling herself up to a seated position and looking over to Slade, who was searching the ground around the dropped weapons for something. He eventually found what he was looking for, a small pressurized canister with a long nozzle, which he reached around and sprayed across his back. A line of sickly yellow foam squirted across the wound caused by the Sandman's arm-blade, and it gradually hardened into a makeshift bandage to stem the blood loss from the wound.


"Are you ok?" asked Layla as Slade grimaced, but he nodded anyway and lowered himself down onto the ground, where he sat a few feet away from Layla.


"That was...impressive," he said, his tone solemn and concerned, "You're getting more control over your abilities already."


"I was under the impression that was a good thing," replied Layla, sensing the hesitance in Slade's voice.


"It is, it's very good," said Slade, "But the more control you gain, the more people are going to be coming after you. I wish I could offer you a normal life, but things are only going to get more difficult from here."


"Psht," scoffed Layla, "Normal's boring. This is much more fun!" Slade couldn't help but crack a grin at Layla's unstoppable optimism, even in the face of all these things happening to her. He hauled himself to his feet and offered a hand to Layla, who took it and allowed him to pull her to her feet.


"We should get back to the hideout," he said, grabbing his bow from the ground, "We've probably trained enough for one day." He began to walk to the edge of the clearing when something hit him, hard, in the back. He stumbled forward a few steps, then nocked an arrow and spun around to face his attacker.


But he was met by Layla, rolling a rock around in her hand, just like the one she had just thrown at Slade's back.


"You're not wimping out on me already, are you old man?" she asked with a smirk, and Slade smiled back.






Belial's cloak billowed out behind him in the hot winds of Inferno as he marched along the bridge which connected his own personal tower to the central column of the Nephelim's home. Everything around him, from the bridge underfoot to the walls of the keep ahead of him was crafted from dark red, almost maroon stone bricks, and the whole area was constantly illuminated by the river of Purefire which flowed around the stronghold.


The huge circular door ahead of him split in two diagonally, sliding open and allowing him access to a place no creature other than a Nephelim had ever set foot: the Inner Sanctum of the Fallen.


It was a vast chamber, the ceiling so far up that it was concealed in inky-black shadows, and in the centre of the floor was a huge circular table with seven seats placed around it: seven seats for the Seven Nephelim. A few of the seats were already occupied, by Leviathan's slender form sitting upright and alert, and the louche form of Astaroth the Slothful, his dark blue armour dull and lustreless compared to the almost glowing green of Leviathan's.


"My Lords," Belial said with a nod, taking his seat next to Leviathan.


"My Lord Belial," replied Leviathan with a smile, and Astaroth said nothing but offered a lazy wave of the hand in response.


"Why does she call us together like this?" boomed a new voice from the far side of the room, and a well-built figure resplendent in shimmering gold armour stormed in, "What could be so important to bring us away from our work?"


"It may have slipped your notice, Mammon," snarled Belial, getting to his feet, "But our home is under attack from the humans. What reason could be more important to convene the Seven in one place?"


"But we cannot abandon our duties, Belial," said a large, stocky figure who stomped in behind Mammon, his armour a sickly green, far from the rich colour of Leviathan's armour, "What could she possibly have to gain from calling us here together?"


"An excellent question from my most voluptuous brother," replied another new voice as a lithe, youthful man in deep purple, almost obsidian-like armour slipped into his chair, "Do you have an answer for Beelzebub, or are you just trying to pick a fight, Belial?"


"Do not think you know me so well, Asmodeus," growled Belial, "I understand the severity of this situation, unlike most of you. The humans are threatening the stability of our realm itself: if they are allowed to continue their rampage unchecked, they will cause untold damage to this dimension and render our adherence to our ancient duty useless."


"Belial is correct," said a calm voice that seemed to wash over the room, "The invading human forces are indeed disrupting the stability of Inferno, and they threaten to undo the work we have done over the past millennia."


Lucifer seemingly glided into the room, her ragged cloak flapping in the hot air as she did, and the other Nephelim took their seats around the table.


"The instinctive reaction to this situation would be to take up arms and fight the oncoming hordes," she said, looking around the room as she took her own seat, "But this is an instinct we must not give in to, brothers. We must stand firm, observe the chaos and attend to our duties as we always must, lest He be unleashed upon all realms."


"That's it? We must attend to our duties as always?" asked Mammon, the anger clear in his voice, "Forgive me, Lady Lucifer, but this information could have been passed to us without gathering us here."


"Agreed," Astaroth said sluggishly, waving his hand towards Mammon.


"Of course that is not the sole reason I gathered you here, Mammon," replied Lucifer, gesturing for Mammon to calm himself, "Do not mistake my unwillingness to engage in direct combat with the humans for a desire to ignore the threat they pose. I am merely suggesting a more defensive stance to protect us from the advancing armies of humanity while continuing to carry out our duties."


"You cannot be suggesting we carry out the Ritual, my lady? It is far too dangerous an action to take," said Beelzebub, leaning forward in his chair.


"I disagree," said Asmodeus smoothly, leaning forward in his own chair as well, "Desperate times call for desperate measures, and this one is about as desperate as they come."


"I stand with Asmodeus," said Leviathan, piping up for the first time, "We need a defense the Storm Guard cannot penetrate. I'd be very surprised if they could pass through a wall of Purefire without incurring considerable, irreparable damage."


"And what say the rest of you?" asked Lucifer, looking around the chamber at her brothers, "We cannot complete the Ritual without our combined strength."


Lucifer's request was met with a murmur of approval from around the chamber, some of the Nephelim offering their services more willingly than others, but all of them eventually offering them.


"Excellent," Lucifer said, "Then we shall carry out the Ritual forthwith. We shall raise the Lethe itself."

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Heru let out an enraged snarl as Etna was slammed to the floor, lunging himself in almost a blur at the Iron Guard and striking in a flurry at the shoulder joint of the Guard with all of his limbs until it just about came off of the guard. When that time came, Heru clamped his jaws down hard on the Guard's arm, tearing it off before receiving fire. He used the severed arm to deflect the blast from its cannon, releasing it after the blast connected before repeating the process on the Guard's other arm. As the cannon primed to fire, Etna had hurled the neon green flame into the barrel, causing the cannon to explode and making it easier for Heru to rip its other arm off before jamming this one through its chest. The Guard collapsed and Heru let out a low growl. "More company down the hall..." he grumbled. His eyes moved to Etna before he moved to help her to her feet. "Can you stand?"


"Yeah, I can manage from here. Let's get a move on so they don't get the jump on us again, Heru," Etna replied with a grin, wiping the blood from her chin. "I won't stand for being caught off guard a second time," she added, clenching her fists.


With a nod, Heru took the leading charge, making no sound despite his speed. Much to his instinct's accuracy, he rounded a corner and immediately pounced on the back of an Iron Guard, drawing his revolver and blasting four of the six rounds into the Guard's back, two of them travelling through the front and the Guard collapsing. "Made these armor piercing rounds just for you bastards," he said to himself, leaping off of the Guard's back to fire the last two rounds into the cameras of its companions. With little lapse in time, Etna loosed her hellfire on both Guards, leaving them vulnerable to be finished. Heru stowed his revolver and drew his carbine simultaneously, firing one round into the chest of one Guard's pilot and firing a second into the other pilot's head. He stowed his carbine again, loading his revolver with his quick loader before turning the cylinder and pressing it back into place.



"The answer's still no, chickadee. When the coast is clear, I'm sure he'll let me know, alright?" Kurama said, shaking his head at Anue. "I've got no inclination of getting in his way when he's actually 'hunting'...." Kurama shuddered.


"What do you mean, Kurama?" Anue pouted a bit. "You mean he's hunted humans before?"


"Well, not exactly per se...erm... He's been sent to take down a squad of Iron Guards to free a bunch of half-demon kids. Exorcists and Hunters too. But he's never gone after any innocents, like those who aren't involved in our being hunted down," Kurama said, scratching the back of his head. "I guess that's the right way to put it..."


"I guess that makes sense since he didn't kill me..." Anue said, looking as if she were in thought now.


"Yeah, and since you're in the same boat as us with other humans, he probably sees you as one of us. I can't say I disagree. Humans look at you and see what they see when they see us, but they tend to forget that we're human too. And I think it makes us forget that we are sometimes. It's hard to remember when we're generally put down like animals on sight. Hell, my old man was a demon and my ma was human, they loved each other despite their not being the same species. Demons were humans once, they just found themselves condemned to become demons after living their life and... Er... sorry, Anue. I'm rambling," Kurama chuckled.


"No, it's okay, really. Just wish more people saw it the same way you did," Anue smiled. "But we're just a few people. Can't just change the minds of everyone overnight."


"Yeah, ain't that the truth..." Kurama smiled.



Heru and Etna had made quite a mess of the place. Despite all of the blood the pair shed, despite his remorse, he knew he couldn't risk backing down. He was in enemy territory, and if he was going to kill humans, this is how he had wanted it to be. He was startled by the sound of his amulet as well as Etna's. He exhaled as it was nothing unusual, but it was the call of retreat. The time of his contract to kill needlessly was over, but something bothered him still... "Scythe..."


"Huh? What about him, Heru?"


"He's left...which unnerves me just a little..."


"...You wanna go after him? I'm personally not sure that it's in our best interest."


"No, it's not. But he could be endangering innocent humans for all we know. Or even half-demons for all we know. We ought to track him down..."


Etna shuddered. "Heru, if you're really sure about that, I'll come with you. I'd hate to be the one to find your corpse if he killed you."


Heru shook his head, reverting to his human form, clothing tattered. "I think that's one of the sweetest things you've ever said, Etna," he chuckled before the two teleported with their amulets in hopes of finding him.


OOC: S'all I got for now. Dead at work and nothing to do, but I do need to get closing procedures started at least.

Edited by Kayin Cloud

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Scythe stared down the reaper. "You are not half"


Atanos just smiled. "My my always observant" He held up his urn which pulsed with light. "And you are half reaper....Scythe if I am correct?"


Scythe lunged forward bringing his right fist for Atanos face who dropped bringing his palm for Scythe's midsection. Scythe brought his left around grabbing Atanos' arm right at the wrist stopping the palm and twisted sending his momentum off to the right causing Atanos to spring forward in a airel his arm rotating in Scythe's hold. The moment his foot touched the ground he pivoted bringing his right foot backwards aiming for Scythe's head. Scythe used his right arm to block the leg then wrapped it using his hold on Atanos wrist and calf to twist and bring Atanos back first into the ground. The moment he hit the other reaper rolled backwards lessening the effect and forcing Scythe to let go or be but off balance. He was back on his feet in seconds smiling.


"Well well seems you are a strong one" A smile grew across his face.


"Your falling" As always Scythe's was void of emotion.


"Being Fallen is so much better" He lunged his sword now in hand striking for Scythe's neck to turned left letting the sword pass by then ducked as Atanos twisted his wrist and brought it sweeping outwards trying to remove his head. He went for an elbow to the stomach but Atanos deftly placed his free hand on Scythe's arm and used it to flip himself over spinning in the air for a kick that Scythe fell onto his chest to miss before rolling and torquing his body to lash out with his left foot. Atanos let Scythe's foot catch him on the inside of his thigh turning as he did so the kick would more turn him instead of impact. Both Scythe and Atanos were back on their feet in seconds eyeing each other again.


They clashed over and over dealing blows and countering their opponents but never connecting with Scythe staying just barely out of the sword's path each time.

After several more bouts Atanos finally pointed his deathscythe katana to the ground and grabbed the base of it pulling a thick rope with a scythe blade on the end from the katana's base. "Lets make this more interesting."


They lunged again but this time Atanos struck with the rope while they were breaking and the scythe blade scored a shallow mark on Scythe's face. "Look's like one point to me"


Scythe just shrugged as he sprang forward. Atanos immediatly had him more dodging then attacking using both the sword and scythe rope to keep Scythe dodging.


Atanos swung the sword to the side hard cutting a deep gash in the side of a building as Scythe teleported out of harm's way and a few feet behind Atanos who threw the scythe blade at him then flicked it when Scythe went to dodge making the blade change direction and score another hit across his left arm. "There is two. I guess I am going to have to slowly cut you apart."


He sprang for Scythe swinging the sword madly and getting another few scratches on Scythe. He went to duck under the sword but was met by a knee colliding into his jaw followed by the backside of Atanos fist as he spun backwards dealing a massive backhand to Scythe's temple sending him crashing into another building the impact causing the wall to crater and cracks to spiderweb out. 


Scythe blinked a few times as Atanos teleported a couple steps away from him and lifted his chin with his sword.


"I don't see why they all say half reapers are better then pure blooded ones, I mean just...." Atanos was cut off as suddenly a spear tipped chain shot from the ground skewering his wrist then open making it impossible to get his hand back off. In pain he dropped the sword and screamed. "What the hell?" He went to try to cut it with his scythe rope when another shot out catching the other wrist in the same spot followed by two more into his ankles, the spear tips opening becoming more like grappling hooks.


Scythe calmly stepped out of the hole in the wall brushing himself off as he did, the four chains tearing up earth as the rest of the links came out of the ground and wall.


Atanos snarled in fury. "You used the cover of the wall to let these out so I wouldn't see"


Scythe nodded. "Correct" He watched Atanos struggle and try to teleport away but the chains held him in place. 


"And here all this time I thought that sword on your back was your deathscythe" Blood poured from his wounds as he continued to struggle.


Scythe watched impassively the futile attempts before the chains began stretching away from each other causing Atanos to scream. Soon came the popping of joints followed by the sounds of flesh and muscle slowly tearing. This carried on for almost a minute though the moment Anatos died Scythe fell to his knees his body in ten times more pain then when he had absorbed the half reaper child. 


Unable to move he coughed up blood on his hands and knees as fire coursed through his veins and mind. He could feel changes in his body as it absorbed Anatos into him. Suddenly his side exploded in pain as a shin connected with his ribs sending him crashing into a car then fall flat onto his face on the ground. Scythe managed to get his body propped up enough to see the Anatos' partner Mort standing before him.


Mort leaned down grabbing Scythe's face and forcing it upwards. "Thank you for killing that pest. I was not strong enough but seeing as how you took him down and now your helpless with taking him in I get his power and yours the moment I kill you. Farewell" With that he pulled his free arm back forming a knife with his hand then brought it down lighting fast though before it pierced through his face Junko slammed into him causing the nails to only graze his cheek.


"DAMN'T NO!" Scythe screamed out as he saw Mort twist his body back handing Junko into the street. Anger replacing pain Scythe shot his right arm out the chains lashing around Mort who was too focused on Junko.


"What the..." He words left him as he was hoisted in the air and slammed to the ground hard with Scythe on him in an instant slamming his fists over and over into his face.


"You bastard damn you damn you damn you!" He cursed as facial bones broke and flesh split until finally Scythe's right arm punched straight through Mort's head and into the ground. A brief second of sanity passed over Scythe. "Fuck me" Pain racked his body again as Mort's essence flew into him.


Junko pulled herself up and waited by till Scythe was finished with the seizure like episode and was slowly getting to his feet when she noticed something off. On his right arm now was a transparent green metal like cuff with a chain on it. "What is that?" She followed the chain links realizing they were attached to a similar cuff on her wrist. "Why are we connected by a chain Scythe?'


Rhea looked between them puzzled. "I don't see a chain"


Scythe's voice was shallow as he was still somewhat panting. "Only you...me.....reapers...and wraiths..... can see the ....chain." He took a deep breath before continuing. "You saved my life....now I am in you debt.....reaper law.....I am in a sense.....your slave until i repay it"


Junko grew confused. "Slave?"


Scythe's eyes narrowed. "Send me to get you coffee....you die" Suddenly pain racked him the moment he thought of killing Junko. "Damn't" 


"Your kind are confusing" Junko pulled on the chain but wouldn't budge. "So how far does it stretch?"


"As far as you will it. The moment you will it to be short..." He was cut off has he was suddenly dragged across the ground to Junko's feet face first.


Junko stared at him as he lay their silently when a muffled voice reached her ears. 




"Sorry about that." She closed her eyes and the chain became slack letting Scythe stand up.


"Now listen closely to the rest of the rules. This will not break until I save your life......Your orders....I must follow to the letter. I can not kill or harm you. Whenever you call my name I will answer....I feel everything you do though you do not sense me. If you die I die though it does not work in reverse." He held out his right hand as Rotfire appeared in his palm. "Here you are tired and its making me tired."


Junko placed her hand in Scythe's and called the Rotfire to her as Rhea walked around Scythe eyeing him up and down. 


"So you have to do what she says"


Scythe's eyes flashed dangerously though he was back in control of himself and his emotions though Junko's were resonating in his head. "You I can kill though"


Rhea wisely backed up her eyes wide. "Sorry"


Scythe pondered to himself. Xavier is going to be extremely upset once he senses that my contract with him as ended.


Junko rubbed her head feeling refreshed from the Rotfire but strained at the turn of events. "Alright...first no killing people you know are innocent. Second help us find Perseus"


Scythe narrowed his eyes. "You do realize that no one is completely innocent so that first one is no good. The second one would be best fulfilled by UWG bases and letting me take their souls."


Junko scratched her head. "Third destroy your amulet" She watched as Scythe did without hesitation. "Good now we can began"

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Half way through the teleport Etna felt her instincts tug at her, she frowned and canceled the amulet winding up back at the base. She could hear the men and women trying to get things back together but she knew the damage her and Heru had done was extensive and wouldn't easily be repaired. Grabbing a hat she pulled it over the small horns on her head and walked out of the base onto the air field. It was empty, eerie feeling and she knew she didn't want to find what was there. She continued to walk across the pavement til it hit her, the smell was thick and heavy, metallic and she knew before she came around the helicopter that the carnage was going to be devastating, what she did see she didn't expect.  She could see the blades had been twisted and bent, the door sliced open and she knew who it must have been. The sound of harsh breathing caught her attention and she turned, almost feeling her stomach betray her. The woman was barely holding onto her life, in fact Etna couldn't figure out how she was still speaking, but her whispers were harsh and came out over and over. As Etna stood there the woman's words sunk in.


Etna took a step or two closer to piece the woman's words together, chills ran through her as she was able to see her injuries more clearly. She had been sliced cleanly in half, her entrails and blood spilt on the pavement and Etna could see she didn't have much longer, her face was pale and the dimness of her eyes said it all. Her words on the other hand had Etna's heart beating in her ears.

"...spare the children...."

Etna spun around, the blood on the ground was thick, sticky and everywhere, Etna could see many bodies of children laying about, their eyes wide, mouth agape in fear and panic. She felt her stomach twist as she spotted a little girl closer to the helicopter, her yellow hair spread around her like a halo. It was then Etna could make out someone repeating the word 'no' over and over like a mantra...she then realized that it was her self. Anger slowly seeped in past the shock and horror of the scene, she could feel the warmth of it spread through her body, the green fire sprouting from her skin to cover her in an eerie glow. She could hear the sizzle of her tears against the fire as she stared at the scene closer, Her fangs barred she grasped the amulet hard zoning in on the location of the man she was looking for, she could feel Heru there as well. No doubt checking on everyone else and she felt the pull allowing it to take her where she wanted to go. 

She came into view, many quick to get out of her way as she stalked through crowds, she spotted him then, that black look on his face enraging her more as her pace picked up, she passed Heru who called out to her, she ignored it. Letting out a hiss she lunged and grabbed the man by the collar, ignoring the side effects of doing such.

"You heartless son of a-"

Scythe looked up at her, his face emotionless, even as she picked him up and slammed him against a brick wall that was half way broken down.

"How could you!? They were your own! Barely old enough to fight! How could you kill them!?"

His answer enraged her more.

"I had my orders."

She growled, picked him up again and threw him to the ground before pinning him down, pulling her arm back she readied a green blast in her hand til she felt a strong arm wrap around her middle. Heru pulled her back with a heave asking her what was wrong with her.

"He killed them! That base had a hiding place for children like us! They must have been tying to evacuate them, and he killed them! He killed all of them!"

Heru looked at Scythe before he pulled Etna away from the half reaper and pulled her with him, she felt the pull of the amulet again and realized Heru had taken her to a small, shabby looking pub, or something along those lines. She pushed away from him and snapped the amulet from her belt loop, her fire engulfed it, destroying it effectively. 

"I want no more part in this! I've killed humans that's true, but to kill innocent children...children Heru! They had nothing to do with this!"

She picked up a table the threw it across the room, her scream echoing in the empty room as she covered her face with her hands, flinching slightly as she felt arms wrap around her shoulders. She didn't pull away from him, merely let the silent tears fall knowing Heru could easily smell them.


Anue jumped upstairs as her and Kurama heard the scream in the room below them.

"K-Kurama...what was that?"
"I dunno sweetheart, why don't you stay here and let me find out."
She nodded and watched as he left the room, following a moment later silently til she saw him coming back up the stairs, a solemn look gracing his features. 

"Back up to the room, trust me..."

She looked past him to see the red haired woman, shaking slightly and Heru trying his best to awkwardly comfort her.

"What's going-"

"Just leave it be Anue."
Kurama grabbed her arm gently and led her back up the stairs.

"Is everything-"
"Sometimes, being what we are, it comes back to haunt us. Mainly when we don't expect it to."
Anue nodded slowly in understanding as she say back across from Kurama.

"H-have you ever...?"

"Done anything I regret? Haven't we all?"
Anue thought back to the people she too had kill, mainly to stay alive and dropped her gaze.

"We all feel that way about something in out lives Anue. Whether your full human, or half. It's that part of us...that makes us human..."
Anue understood and remained quiet, feeling that what ever had happened somehow effect all three of the half demons in the building. Resting her chin on her crossed arms she leaned on the table and took a deep breath feeling somewhat out of place. 

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By the ancient rite of the Seven Nephelim, in Defiance of the Great Beast we call Destroyer, the Well shall be activated and the Ritual shall be completed...
The words rang in Belial's ears as he ascended the great spiral staircase that extended from his cavernous chamber, and he found himself murmuring them over and over as he moved swiftly upwards. His heart pounded in his chest, as it had been doing since Lucifer had dismissed them from the Meeting Chamber some time ago.
The Ritual was a risky move on Lucifer's part: she knew it would divert a considerable amount of energy away from its intended purpose, and in doing so could risk the stability of the entire realm. But she, like Belial, also knew that it was their best chance of withstanding a full-frontal assault from the Storm Guard, and in lieu of a retaliatory strike against the humans, it was their only option for their continued survival. Belial knew that her decision wasn't made lightly, and as much as he sometimes disagreed with her methods, he knew that her role in maintaining balance was difficult at the best of times, and near-impossible at the worst.
It was only unfortunate that this time was the very worst he had ever faced as part of the Council of Seven.
The entirety of the vast realm stretched out in all directions around Belial as he emerged from the staircase, and it was only from here that he bore witness to the devastation the humans were already laying down across Inferno.
He watched as the second tallest mountain of Cocytus crumbled under the sustained weapon fire of the metal beasts, as a bastardized form of Purefire spewed from the cannons of a Storm Guard and blasted great expanses of Acheron to sickly, milky-coloured glass, and as thousands, if not tens of thousands of demons of all races and from all regions of Inferno were vaporized, or crushed underfoot, or set ablaze in eternal flame.
He watched as a Storm Guard swung a vast, razor-sharp blade through the air and sliced the very wings from a dragon, as Families of Jinn combined into swirling clouds of living smog, only to be pulled into the engines of the great mechanical creatures and absorbed along with the energy in the very atmosphere, and as the leader of the Storm Guard gradually turned his attention, and his glowing eyes, to the stronghold of the Nephelim, an obvious target protruding from the landscape.
And when he could watch the destruction of his realm no more, he turned his attention to the towers to his left and right. He saw his brothers emerge, one by one, from their own wings of the stronghold, each standing atop their own personal tower, their armour blazing in the dark light and their cloaks flapping in the hot winds of war and turmoil. When he was satisfied that each Nephelim had taken his place, Belial turned his attention to the stronghold's central keep, watching as Lucifer emerged from the shadows and took her place on the simple stone altar at the stronghold's exact centre. His Lady gave him the slightest of nods, and without a moment's pause he felt the Ritual begin.
A surging rush of energy began to build at the base of the tower he stood upon, and he closed his eyes to better react to it. He felt power begin to crackle and buzz in his fingertips, and as he murmured a few words in a language long-since forgotten by man, he smiled as the two sources of energy connected.
In the blink of an eye, he became part of the energy of the Lethe and the surrounding region of Inferno, and the energy of the realm became a part of him. He was connected to every boulder, every pebble and every tiny, insignificant creature within the wide circle of the Lethe, and to his brothers as well. Their thoughts swirled through his head, and his through theirs, until they became a pulsing torrent of energy and consciousness, seemingly forever connected.
And then, when the combined energy of the Nephelim and the region reached a crescendo, the power of the Lethe itself connected, and Belial felt the river far below them swirling, shifting far more than it naturally would, and the Fallen were finally reconnected to the energy which created them.
The air around the stronghold fizzed and crackled with pure power, and the river began rushing in a wide circle around the building. Belial opened his eyes and saw streams of multi-coloured, coruscating flame pouring from his own hands, joining with the energy of his brothers as the Purefire which ran through their veins and across the bed of the Lethe created a blazing, coruscating wreath of fire and energy and power around the stronghold.
But it wasn't enough, and this was only the beginning of the Ritual.
As the ring of Purefire spun faster and burned hotter and brighter, Lucifer felt the raw power of Inferno itself building beneath her. Wind whipped at her hair and her ragged cloak as she attempted to connect with power which did not belong to her, nor should it belong to any creature in Hell or Earth, the tips of her outstretched fingers already aching with the abundance of power her body was preparing to connect with.
She squeezed her eyes shut, and reached deep down into the central keep of the stronghold, through the ground beneath it and far below into a place where no creature should ever set foot, and felt a source of nothing more nor less than pure energy. Energy that created the Earth, that forged Paradiso from nothing and carved Inferno from the fire and stone, energy that the Nephelim had been bound since the beginning of time itself to maintain.
The Well of Souls.
"I call...upon the power..." Lucifer gasped as she reached out, feeling tendrils of energy touch her throbbing fingertips, "I...command the power...of the Well of Souls..."
As she uttered the final spoken syllable of the Ritual, she howled as a torrent of unfiltered, unadulterated energy blasted into her body from the swirling pool of light far beneath her, lifting her off her feet as it threatened to tear the very fabric of her being asunder. She cried out in agony and ecstasy as white light poured forth from her eyes and mouth in snaking tendrils that lashed out and connected with each of the six Nephelim in the circle around her, and the fire and rage of the Lethe itself.
Belial's unearthly voice boomed across the realm, mingling with the cries and howls of his brothers, as the very energy of creation poured into his body and collided with the power of the Lethe. He craned his head downwards and watched as the river of Purefire boiled and swirled, the flames gradually rising from the riverbed.
The Purefire gained speed, and blazed around the stronghold in a wide spiral, a blazing wreath of fire and energy.
But the explosive display of power from the Nephelim had caught the attention of the Storm Guard, and the lead creature hurtled towards the stronghold in an attempt to either block the ever-increasing wall of Purefire, or to evade it and launch an attack on the stronghold itself. Light and flame blasted from every digit of the mechanical beast, but its weapons soon found the Purefire of the Lethe itself to be near-impenetrable.
In a last-ditch attempt to interrupt the Ritual, the Storm Guard swung its vast hand towards the stronghold, weaving in between streams of Purefire and energy.
The Seven Nephelim howled as energy poured into them and from them, and back into them and from them once again, and the spiralling flames grew higher and wider until they had formed a solid wall of ever-changing, ever-shifting, coruscating Purefire surrounding the stronghold, slicing the enormous hand of the Storm Guard off at the wrist. A bizarre mechanical howl emanated from the metal creature as it was denied access to the stronghold, and denied use of its right hand, and the tiniest of smiles crept through the intense pleasure-pain, agony-ecstasy feeling rushing through Belial's body.
So the creatures do bleed after all...
But the Ritual was still not finished: Lucifer drew more power from the Well of Souls and poured it through her own body and those of her brothers. Energy crackled in the air, and blasted from the Nephelim into the Lethe until the river had risen and flowed together above the highest point of the stronghold to form a solid, impenetrable dome of dark, powerful energy.
Only when she was sure that the dome had become complete did Lucifer let go of all the energy within her, allowing the Well of Souls to return to its natural state in a single resonating shockwave that took all of her brothers off their feet.
Belial groaned as he pushed himself to his knees with his weakened, trembling arms. Deep purple smoke rose gently from his body as the final vestiges of power flowed out of him into the atmosphere.
"The Ritual...has been completed..." gasped Lucifer, her voice still resonating within each of her brother's heads, a side-effect of the complex Ritual they had just undertaken, "The Lethe has risen...the Nephelim...are defended..."
Belial looked over to the central tower and saw his sister on the brink of collapse, engulfed in a cloud of the same sickly purple smoke that was still rising from his armour.
Now...he thought, I want to look at that hand...
A gentle breeze wafted across the empty, barren desert, a rare reprieve from the sun's glaring, roasting rays in this part of the world. The desert bordered on an expanse of Heartfire that no human had been near since just after the portal had opened, but this region at least was as safe as a barren desert could be.
In a sudden rush of energy, a single man in black combat fatigues covered in dented, battered armour plates appeared from nowhere, and immediately dropped to his knees, retching and heaving until there was nothing but air left in his body. He panted and gasped, drawing desperately on his training to quell the nausea that was currently incapacitating him, but this was not something that training could have prepared him for.
Two moments ago, he had been holding a wanted fugitive and dangerous half-demon by the name of Slade Bennett in a headlock, threatening his safety in an attempt to persuade Layla Monroe, another half-demon his superiors had shown a surprising interest in, to come quietly with him. In the moment that had immediately followed, every atom in his body had been torn asunder, effectively destroying his physical form, and sent through space to recombine here, in the middle of an arid desert miles from his home, his base, and his superiors.
"What the f*ck...?" he murmured, spinning on his heel to survey his surroundings, kicking up clouds of dust as he did so, "Hello?" His calls went unanswered, and panic began to rise like bile in his gut as he realised the vast majority of his equipment had been left in a clearing just outside Paris, including his water bottle.
"Help me!" he cried out, "Help-"
His second cry was cut short as a deafening crack rang out across the desert, and a heavy impact shredded the flesh and muscle in his shoulder and sent him tumbling to the ground. He gasped in pain, but his training kicked in and he quickly tore off a strip of his sleeve to stem the already-heavy blood flow: he put pressure on what he now realised was a bullet-wound, and tore off another strip of his sleeve in an attempt to create a makeshift tourniquet.
"I'm not sure you'll have much luck with that," said a voice from in front of the soldier, and he looked up to see the silhouette of a male figure swaggering towards him, "If the blood loss doesn't get you, chances are the neurotoxin the bullet was laced with will drive you insane and make you tear the skin off your own face. And if that doesn't get you then dehydration definitely will."
"Who are you?" stammered the fallen soldier, squinting to better make out his attacker, "How did you find me here?" The stranger barked out a brief laugh at the second question, then knelt down over the wounded soldier: he wore a faded, dark red leather jacket with what appeared to be a bullet-proof vest underneath, and some kind of old-fashioned gas mask covered his face and muffled his words somewhat.
"That's gratitude for you," the stranger scoffed, "First he wants someone to rescue him, now he's trying to interrogate us!"
"Us?" said the soldier, attempting to scramble a few feet away from the man, "There's more than one of you?"
"Of course not," smirked the stranger, his words dripping with sarcasm, "I came out into the middle of the f*cking desert all by myself to find one little lost Sandman. Obviously there's more than one of us, only rookies like you turn up to a place like this all on their lonesome."
"W...what do you want?"
"Now there's a smart question, finally," said the stranger with a grin, "A smart question with a very simple answer..."
He whipped a knife from his belt and slammed the blade into the soldier's thigh, causing him to howl in sheer agony.
"Where...is Slade Bennett?"
ooc: Just thought I'd try and jump-start this bad boy!

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A hand rested on Anue's shoulder suddenly. "Hey, Anue. You holding up okay?" Heru asked, standing beside her at the table. Etna followed him out quietly, still trying to regain herself. Heru's expression was blank and he looked to Kurama who returned the gaze with a smile. "Not really in the mood for a perverted comment, Kurama," Herutama said flatly. Kurama sighed, hanging his head.


Anue glanced up to Heru, shaking her head. "As okay as I can be, I guess. What about you two?"


"Likewise," Heru shrugged. "Job's been done. But I don't think we're going to be welcome nor willing to return to V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. anytime soon. Today was and is literally hell...Just don't know where to go from here, ya know?" he shook his head, glancing back toward Etna.


"Well, you know damned well I'm not going back to that wretched place. I'd rather die than have to see that again," Etna growled, eyes narrowing.


"I hear ya there, Etna," Kurama said with a nod. "What about you, Heru? You gonna go back?" Herutama remained silent on the question, eyes lowered to the hardwood floor. Anue looked up to him, receiving no response that way either. Kurama raised an eyebrow slightly. "Heru...?"


Etna put a hand to the vulvitorr's back. "Heru, you in there?"


Heru jumped at her touch, breathing sharpening for a moment before he remembered where he was. "Y-yeah, what's up...?"


The other three looked to each other then back to Heru again with concern. "Are you gonna go back to V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. Heru?" Kurama asked again.


"I uh...I'm not sure..." Heru said, looking as if his ears were pinned back.


"Not sure?!" Etna asked, turning him around. "After what happened today, you're not sure?!" she exclaimed further, clutching his shoulders. "They're not your family! Family doesn't make you go and kill innocent people on a genocide mission! That damned pack mentality of yours makes you a goddamned idiot, you know that?"


Heru's eyes narrowed, turning black. "Look, Etna. I know what happened today, and not everyone in V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. is like that. And that is why I'm not sure. I know not everyone in V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. participated in that attack. And the same thing that they have coming, we have coming since Kurama didn't participate and I've taken a human in as my family. But I know when I'm being manipulated. More importantly, I know who belongs in my pack and who doesn't. I'm not going back to that organization, but I'll sure as hell help any others who feel the same way we do. So it's not a clear as day answer to give."


Kurama nodded to himself. "Definitely one of those 'grey area' deals, I'd say," he said aloud. "All I know is I'm not going back. And I'm not going to keep you from going back if you decide to. I'll even make sure to keep an eye on Miss Anue for ya," Kurama grinned, looking Anue's way. She stared back blankly, his meaning going over her head.


Heru sighed, looking from Kurama to Anue before his gaze settled back on Etna who was borderline glaring at him. "It really doesn't matter how you look at me Etna. Right now all I can say is I'm not leaving you guys any time soon. But that's all I can give you for now. Alright?"


Etna huffed, crossing her arms beneath her chest. "Fine. But you'd better not go back."


Heru stared blankly. "Really...?"


Kurama burst into laughter at the two. "I don't think you're winning this one buddy," he said, clapping his friend on the shoulder. "Then again, I don't remember you ever winning one with any woman. Especially not Etna," he smirked.




"Yes, dear?"


"Shut up..." Heru said, shaking his head and walking away from him.


Kurama just chuckled to himself, leaning on the table that Anue was seated at. "You know you love me," he smiled a wide smile. Heru muttered a string of curses, taking a seat and leaning back in it with his arms crossed over his chest. "You know, I can hear you over there, mister."


"Shut your face, dammit!" Heru growled, only causing Kurama to laugh more.

Edited by Kayin Cloud

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Xavier's immaculate shoes clicked on the metal floors of the Nidhogg as he strode through the halls towards Malik's chamber. He struggled to keep a broad smile from breaking across his face even though he was aware that he was in for a tongue-lashing from V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E.'s fearless leader, and he nodded to several half-demons he encountered on his way through the crowded halls of the speeding train.


A moment later, he arrived at the heavy door of Malik's private chambers, and he stopped to straighten his tie before raising his hand and rapping his knuckles smartly on the door three times. The sound boomed through the halls, and a few seconds later he was invited in with a cold:




The door creaked open in front of him, hauled out of the frame by a hulking half-orc that Xavier knew as Kilgarrah, who subtly registered Xavier as he entered the expansive room. Several half-demons of various physical shapes and sizes that constituted Malik's personal retinue were scattered around the room, some reclining on chairs, others standing to attention, observing Xavier warily as he walked across the room to Mailk's chair.


The leader of V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. sat reclined on a large, high-backed iron chair that looked conveniently close to a throne, and gestured Xavier over with a long finger. Xavier had to physically stop himself from rolling his eyes at the needless display of grandeur, but somehow he managed as he strolled across the room towards Malik.


"Is this really necessary, Malik?" asked Xavier, "Unlike you, I'm rather busy preparing for the inevitable retaliatory strike from Vela and his forces."


"You met with representatives from Wrought Iron," stated Malik coldly, "You consorted with allies of our enemies, and you did so behind my back."


"As much as I enjoy it when you tell me things I already know, I have no time for this."


"So you don't even attempt to deny it?"


"Why would I deny it? The meeting took place on this very train, I had no doubt that you would find out."


"I always had my doubts about you, Xavier," said Malik, offering his lieutenant eye contact for the first time in this encounter, "But I never believed you would openly betray me like this."


"I hold no allegiance to you, Malik!" snapped Xavier, causing Malik's group of bodyguards to flinch, gradually reaching for their weapons, "You claim to hold the survival of our kind in highest priority, but you care more for lashing out against the humans than for the safety of the half-demons who are supposedly under your protection! I did what I did to protect the people on this train, which is more than I can say for your last futile attack on humanity!"


"The humans threaten to destroy us, Xavier!" boomed Malik, rising from his chair, "The attacks I launch aim to strike our oppressors at their very core, to wipe out any chance of retaliation. Everything I do is for the safety and security of the people on this train!"


"That's your argument?" scoffed Xavier, "That the best defence is a good offence? It didn't seem like that's what you had in mind when you were sending out half-demons as little more than suicide bombers to attack UWG facilities! Facilities, I should add, that housed no technology or developments that posed a significant threat to our race. You send men and women to their deaths, yet we are no closer to winning this war, and you dare to question my methods?"


"You are not the leader of this organisation, Xavier!" exclaimed Malik, "I am!" The two men stared each other down, hearts pounding and chests heaving as Malik exploited his authority. After a moment, Xavier caught Malik's eye, and found the words he needed.


"Perhaps you shouldn't be any more."


The room was stunned into silence as Xavier turned on his heel and strode from the chamber, a wolfish smile spreading across his face as the door was closed behind him. He had sown the seeds of doubt into the minds of Malik's closest supporters, and now all he needed to do was wait.


The pieces are in place. Soon the King will fall.




Above Paris


Layla felt her heart pounding in her chest as she ran at full-speed across the rooftops, leaping over gaps and rolling with the heavier landings. The recurve bow she had customized as her own over the past several days felt comfortable on her back, and she enjoyed the familiar weight of the knives strapped to her legs. But the equipment she was carrying wasn't the only thing that had changed over the course of her training with Slade: she felt more physically powerful, her muscles coiled like springs ready to unleash their strength, and her focus and concentration were greater than they had ever been. Not only that, but she felt more in control of her power than ever, and it allowed her to do perform some rather impressive feats.


She ran to the edge of the tallest building around and swan-dived off, feeling the wind rush about her as she plummeted to the ground head-first. With a modicum of concentration, she willed herself to move, and felt a strange tingling sensation rush through her body as she teleported, her atoms scattering and re-forming, this time facing upwards, allowing her to fling her body high into the air.


At the highest point of the leap, she leaned backwards into a lazy but graceful backflip, and landed solidly on her feet on the roof of the building opposite the one she had dived off. A grin crept across her face as she kept running, her newfound control allowing her some much-needed peace: she hadn't experienced one of her regular nightmares in what felt like weeks, and the concern she had bottled up about her power hurting someone had begun to fade away.


An arrow slammed into the wall beside her head, and as she glanced quickly at the shaft, she saw a scrap of paper dangling from it. Smiling, she read it aloud to herself.


"Stay focused, kid," she mumbled, before shaking her head a little, "Damn it, Slade..."


She started off again at a run, quickly dropping into a slide and dropping through a hole in the roof of the building. As she landed several floors below, a number of wooden training dolls sprung up from the floor in a close circle around her. Without hesitation, she landed a solid kick to the chest of the doll directly in front of her, smashing the wood to pieces and sending the remainder of the dummy skittering across the floor. In the same motion, she drew the two knives strapped to her thighs and sliced them through the air, and the dummies, on either side of her, before slamming the knife in her left hand into the nearest dummy's chest.


As she turned around to dispatch the final dummy, she felt the cool blade of a sword at her throat, and she looked into the eyes of her attacker.


"You forgot to watch your back," said Slade from the depths of his hood, "Rookie mistake, kid."


"There's a couple of things you forgot to watch too, old man," replied Layla with a smirk, gesturing her head downwards. Slade slowly broke his gaze from her eyes and followed her gesture down, until it became clear that she was holding the jagged edge of a Bowie knife a fraction of an inch from his crotch.


"Ah," he said.


"Ah is right," replied Layla, "Now do you wanna take that sword away from my neck before I actually cut your fellas off?"


Slade obliged, sheathing his sword and taking down his hood.


"You did good, Layla," he said with a smile, "I'm proud of you."


"Thanks Slade," she replied, returning his smile, "Couldn't have done it without my wise, old mentor."


"Less of the old, please," said Slade.


"Sorry," said Layla, "I suppose you've still got a couple of good years in you!"


"The way your training's going, you should hope it's more than just a couple..." Slade murmured, trying to hide the smirk on his face as he walked away.


"I heard that!" shouted Layla, running after him.

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â??As sound as your plan is,â? Junko stated, watching Scytheâ??s amulet fizzle on the ground. â??Iâ??m not keen on the idea of massacring hundreds of UWG employees just so that you can have a personal buffet of souls.â? Rhea chuckled, earning another look from a displeased Scythe. Junko grinned slightly, but then regained her composure and motioned for Rhea to back off.

â??No more senseless slaughtering,â? she reemphasized. â??Besides, storming our way through base after base until we find information about Ogre is going to alert someone to what weâ??re doing. We need to be a direct with this as possible.â?

â??I absolutely agree, my dear sister,â? a voice chimed in from behind. The trio spun around to face the newcomer, and Junko gasped.

â??Howâ?¦Ogre?â? A tall man with green hair stepped forward, his arms opened in embrace. He was dressed in a peculiar assortment of clothing; his long green and white jacket and orange pants were covered in a series of chains and buckles, and his boots appeared to be nothing but assorted belts. He walked up to the stunned Junko and wrapped his arms around her.

â??Sister,â? he said with a wide smile. â??Iâ??ve missed you.â? Before she could react, Rhea grabbed Ogreâ??s collar and tossed him aside.

â??Iâ??m so ******* tired of people popping up out of nowhere!â? Rhea screamed, chasing after Ogre. Junko blinked slowly, her senses still beside her. Ogre. Here. She expected the search to take days, maybe weeks. Andâ?¦ here he is... In her absentminded state she tightened the link between Scythe and her, tugging him in her direction.

â??Umâ?¦ Junkoâ?¦â? Scythe murmured. Junko looked blankly at the chain, her thoughts preoccupied. I know what I have to doâ?¦ But I thought I would have more timeâ?¦ Ogreâ?¦ Scythe was almost on top of Junko now, and no amount of struggling was helping. Junko shifted her gaze back to her brother, and watched as Rhea furiously swung her fists at him.

â??Whereâ??s Percy?!â? Junko could hear Rhea yelling repeatedly. But Ogre was paying her no mind; even as Rheaâ??s rained blows down on him, his eyes were trained on Junko. He was waiting for her to engage him. Junko smirked darkly, her confusing replaced with dark amusement. She had hoped for years that she would see him smile again, to see Osamuâ??s face peak through the veil. Or what she imagined his smiling face to look like. Osamu had never smiled in their childhood.

â??My life is nothing more than people jumping out of hiding places and life revelations. Joy.â? She said sourly, before releasing her grip on Scythe, who tumbled over. She ignored him and leapt into battle alongside Rhea.

â??Sister! How nice of you to join us,â? Ogre quipped with a smile. Junko sneered, swinging her fist at his jaw. He ducked down into a ball, whereupon Rhea kicked wildly at his face, but again Ogre deftly avoided the blow by leaning backward and rolling away. Mid-roll he pressed his palms against the ground beneath him and launched himself onto his feet.

â??Well now that weâ??re all paying attention,â? he said, placing his hands playfully on his hips, â??we can get down to business.â? Rhea angrily stepped forward and jabbed a finger at him.

â??Where the hell is Percy?â? She repeated like a broken record. Ogre smiled.

â??Heâ??s in good hands, my dear.â? He said with a wink, which enraged Rhea. She took a step toward him, but Junko grabbed the girlâ??s shoulder and stopped her.

â??Why are you here, Ogre?â? Junko questioned coldly, glaring at her brother. Without missing a beat, Ogre pointed at Scythe.

â??Iâ??m here for him,â? he said plainly. â??Or at least I was. Seeing as you two have become so close, though, I think maybe youâ??re the one I ought to be talking to.â? As he was speaking his eyes glanced over the area between Scythe and Junko where the invisible soul chain resided. Scythe raised an eyebrow.

â??Itâ??s impossible for you to know that,â? he declared. Orge snickered at Scytheâ??s surprise and then disappeared completely. Rhea and Junko started back in surprise, when he suddenly reappeared in the space between Junko and Scythe, a scythe readied at his side.

â??I used to admire half-reapers,â? he admitted, wagging his scythe around the soul chain. It harmlessly phased through the chain several times before Scythe grabbed a hold of the weapon.

â??Enough. How did you know that Junko and I were linked?â? Scythe demanded. Ogre matched gazes with Scythe but didnâ??t back down.

â??The way you just warp around from place to placeâ?¦,â? he continued, ignoring Scytheâ??s question, â??How you get stronger by simply killing othersâ?¦ What an exciting life, huh? Well once I got some new powers of my own and killed a handful of you half-reapers I realized most werenâ??t so great. Especially not when theyâ??re rescued, huh?â? Ogre leaned in as he mocked Scythe. Scytheâ??s eyes flashed momentarily with rage and in one swift motion he attempted to cut through Ogre. The blade struck against Ogreâ??s skull, but didnâ??t pierce the skin. Ogre smiled.

â??Oh, but you are much stronger than all of them,â? Ogre exclaimed flamboyantly, unfazed by the sword pressed against his skull. â??But maybe not strong enough yetâ?¦â? He disappeared again, this time reappearing atop a nearby building.

â??Your pet is a bit bony, sis! Try feeding him some more bones. I hear they have some nice big ones down in Australiaâ?¦ Maybe we can talk a bit more there. Now if you donâ??t mind, I have other important folks to visit. Ta ta!â? he yelled, punctuating his sentence with a bow. As soon as he had said Australia, however, Junko had given Scythe a mental command to subdue Ogre, and so as Ogre rose from his bow, Scytheâ??s body collided violently with Ogreâ??s. The two became a mess of limbs and then disappeared altogether.

â??Damn it!â? Junko yelled as the two vanished from sight. She immediately attempted to tighten the soul chain, but nothing happened. She could still feel Scythe on the other end of the chain, but somethingâ??most likely Ogreâ??s newfound powersâ??was disrupting her pull. It was probably better this way, though. Just because they were bound to one another didnâ??t mean they needed to travel together at all times. Junko was sure Scythe would find her in due time anyway. Rhea sighed and kicked the ground.

â??What the hell do we do now?â? She growled at no one in particular. Junko frowned and massaged her forehead.

â??We hi-jack a plane and fly to Australia,â? she mumbled. Rhea furrowed her eyebrows and turned to her companion.

â??Iâ??m sorry, what the hell?â? She asked incredulously. Junko dragged her hand down her face and scoffed.

â??Well do you have a better ******* plan? You wanna stand around and twiddling our thumbs while Percy stays firmly in those â??safe handsâ?? Ogre was talking about?â? She retorted. Rhea opened her mouth to argue but caught herself and decided against it. Rhea grimaced.

â??Yah, thatâ??s what I thoughtâ?¦â? She said, trudging away from the battlefield.


UWG Base Britain

General Vela stood over the ravaged remains of a former UWG base. Limbs and shrapnel and fire littered the surrounding area, and the air was thick with death. He had been in the air for only a few hours, and the terrorists had wasted no time. He had expected their assault, having discovered the plans for the operation long ago, but he had not expected it to be so noisy, so unorganized, so amateurish, and despite his own countermeasures, so effective. He had ensured that none of the valuable tech had been discovered or eliminated, sure, but the reports of lowered morale amongst the people were already coming in. The terrorists had waltzed into his home and threatened his family, and now his family was looking to him for answers. For revenge.

And he was ready to give them what they desired.

â??Contact every available Storm and Iron Guard, instruct them to reconvene at Base 0,â? Vela ordered a nearby subordinate, who immediately ran off to fulfill the command. Base 0 had been established roughly one hundred years ago in once was New York in the United States of America. Only personnel with highest clearance were aware of the base, as Vela didnâ??t want to risk discovery of the base by V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. spies. But the time for secrecy was long past. He was going to tighten the chain around his enemies, conquer the floating monument to anarchy that they lived aboard, and end resistance to his perfect, safeguarded world once and for all.

â??Contact WroughtIron as well,â? he continued to another subordinate, as he began walking through the wreckage toward his personal quarters below ground. â??The damage caused by the terrorist attacks has incapacitated a number of our shields. We will need their assistance in rebuildâ??â? General Vela collapsed on one knee and began coughing violently. His subordinate sprinted to his aid, but Vela swatted him away.

â??You have your orders,â? Vela commanded, before retreating into the base elevator. As the car dropped down the shaft he stared down as the blood sprayed across his hand and exhaled.

â??Hmph,â? he grunted as the elevator came to a halt. He staggered down the hallway to his room and forcefully threw open the door. No more than four steps into his room he collapsed onto the bathroom countertop and panted heavily.

â??Things arenâ??t look so good, General,â? a raspy voice whispered from behind Vela. Vela begrudgingly looked up into the mirror and stared at the gnarled and twisted reflection of a figure behind himâ??a figure with whom he has well acquainted.

â??You do not belong here, psychopomp,â? Vela spat, refusing to call the creature by its real name. In truth, it was a psychopompâ??his psychopomp, come to retrieve his soul. The creature laid a grotesque hand on Velaâ??s shoulder.

â??Don't send me away. You have struggled enough, my son. Allow me toâ??â?

Vela did not allow the figure to finish his sentence. Having recovered his strength through sheer force of will, he spun on his heel, grabbed the creatureâ??s robes and slammed it against the wall.

â??I will not suffer you today, reaper. Not when the victory I have so tirelessly struggled for is so close at hand. No, I will not die today. Nor tomorrow. Nor a hundred years from now. I will not rest until this world has obtained her dues, until my people live in a golden age of peace. So strike me with blades, plague me with disease, you foul, wretched monster. You will not claim me. Now begone!â? And with a mighty toss the spirit was flung from Velaâ??s presence back to whatever hole it had slithered from. Vela nodded his head triumphantly and straightened himself out. He marched over to a nearby communicator and called to the hangar.

â??Arrange a transport shuttle to Base 0,â? he directed. He then tossed aside the communicator and walked over to a keypad on his wall. He entered in a twelve digit code and the wall creaked, revealing itself to be two interconnected panels. The panels slid open, and securely fastened against the wall was a customized Iron Guard suit. Vela entered another six digit code into a panel next to the suit, which loosened the restraints on the armor. Wordlessly Vela suited up, prepared to crush his enemies underfoot.

â? â? â? 

OOC: General Vela is about to lead an all out assault on the Nidhogg. But what is his ultimate goal? Aboard the Nidhogg the pieces of Xavier's plans are falling together just as planned, and he's about to make a powerplay, But for we, the rpers, a personal journey is about to begin--one of revenge, of discovery and of loss.

P.S. General Vela's Iron Guard suit looks like this: suit. It's the second one from the left.

Edited by Orcus

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"People of V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E.!" Malik's amplified voice boomed around the densely-packed meeting hall that occupied a single long carriage of the train, "We are a group divided, and this cannot continue!"


Xavier's betrayal had been rumbling around his thoughts ever since their confrontation some days ago, the fact that a man he had believed to be a trusted lieutenant was in fact a traitor and a threat to the organisation they had built together burning inside his very soul. A public forum wherein he could reveal this betrayal would right the wrongs committed against him, he thought, so he had arranged a meeting, invited every member of V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E. with any kind of influence upon the organisation, and here he would level his charges against Xavier.


"A member of this organisation, a member of my inner circle no less, has raised questions about my leadership. These doubts threaten to tear apart that which we have worked so hard, for so long to achieve!"


"And shall the accused be forbidden from speaking in his own defence?" asked a crisp, clear voice from the other end of the room, cutting through the noise of the crowd and holding its own against the electronic amplification Malik's was going through, "Or has this organisation become a dictatorship underneath our very noses?"


The crowd turned and parted as a small group of half-demons strode across the room, led by Xavier who had eschewed his usual businesslike outfit for a knee-length black jacket with red trim and a bulletproof vest of red and black. His retinue surrounded him, flanking him on all sides to part the crowd as he approached Malik's podium.


"Is it not enough that you betray me in private, now you do so in public?" hissed Malik, leaning away from the microphones to speak directly to Xavier.


"Do be quiet, Malik," replied Xavier witheringly, before taking his place at the podium and turning to the crowd of half-demons in front of him.


"My friends," he said with a warm smile, "Our beloved leader believes me a traitor to the cause, simply because I met with representative of the human organisation WroughtIron."


There was a murmur of discontent from some portions of the crowd, and Malik couldn't help but smile at his new opponent's rocky start. But Xavier hushed the crowd with a calm gesture of his hand, and continued.


"He believes I am a traitor for setting up valuable trade opportunities with a powerful weapons tech company, to provide us with weapons and security to assist us in this ceaseless war, simply because they are humans. The same humans he sent countless thousands of half-demons out to fight under the Ragnarok initiative, and the pretense of destroying equipment and facilities which provided the United World Government with a tactical advantage. But do you know, do any of you know what was housed in those facilities?"


A murmur went out across the crowd, and Malik took a step towards the podium, rage burning in his eyes.


"Nothing," Xavier continued, the word cutting through the crowd like a razor-blade, "Those facilities were empty, and we lost so many lives to destroying them. Malik sent them, your brothers and sisters, your fathers and mothers, out to die. For nothing."


Xavier held back a smile as he heard a number of gasps among the crowd, and a rumble of anger and confusion followed them.


"Malik was correct when he claimed that we are a group divided. But it is not my so-called treachery which divides us. It is his senseless conflict, his genocidal, bigoted hatred of humanity which is tearing us apart, and we must not stand for it any longer! Everything I have done, I have done to protect every man, woman and child on this train and out there in the wider world. That is a claim Malik cannot make, when so many of his actions have damaged, and nearly destroyed this organisation and every single person associated with it."


A number of cries began to go out across the room, feet began stamping and fists were raised in the air.


"Peace cannot be attained through force alone. To end this war, we must begin to understand humanity, to learn how to coexist. In the name of peace, and sanity, we must dismiss Malik as leader of V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E., for his actions will destroy us all!"


A cheer of rage and passion exploded through the meeting room at Xavier's final words, and Xavier felt a rush of energy flow through his body. He smiled, and turned to Malik, who simply stared into his opponent's eyes, his mouth curled into a silent snarl.


"And you wonder why I always wrote your speeches for you, old friend," Xavier said coldly as he walked past his former leader, chants of his name ringing in his ears. Malik saw his opportunity and ran to the podium, to jeers and boos blasting forth from the crowd, and grabbed the microphone.


"Don't listen to him," he cried, trying to force down the desperation in his voice, "He is spilling poison in your ears, no more than-"


His cries were cut off as a deafening explosion rocked the train, hurling the passengers in the meeting room to the far side of the carriage, knocking Malik off his feet. A second rocked the train the other way, and tore a hole in the metal hull of the Nidhogg, allowing a jagged beam of sunlight to pour into the carriage.


A beam which was immediately blocked out by the body of a customized Iron Guard suit, clawing its way inside the train.


"Half-demons of V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E.," the Iron Guard boomed through the speakers mounted on the helmet, a distorted but all-too familiar voice, "This train is now under the control of the United World Government. You will stand down, or you will be subdued."




Beneath Paris


"You did good today," said Slade, wiping the sweat from his brow with one forearm and tossing Layla a bottle of water with the other, "Even gave me a run for my money!"


"Well, I learnt from the best," replied Layla, twisting the cap off the bottle and taking a gulp of the cool liquid, "So, do you think I'm ready to go out on patrol with you yet?"


"Not yet," said Slade hesitantly, "Soon, but not yet."


"Why not? I'm training harder than you ever expected, and I'm doing better than you ever thought I could, you said it the other day. I've even got my ability under control."


"Oh yeah? What about that?" he gestured over to the corner of the hideout, where the walls were covered in scorchmarks, and chunks of wood were embedded into them.


"I totally meant to do that," replied Layla with a shrug, "That training dummy had it coming."


Slade laughed, and shook his head, replacing the training swords they had been practicing with onto their hooks on the wall. He took a swig of his own water, then turned to Layla, his mouth open as he readied himself to speak.


But he was cut off by a loud, blaring alarm exploding into noisy life.


"Oh sh*t," he muttered, grabbing his bow off the wall and immediately nocking an arrow on the string.


"What is it?" asked Layla, drawing her knives and holding them in a readied stance.


"Proximity alarm," replied Slade, "I had an old friend set it up for me, it can even detect when a teleporter is incoming."


"Why's it going off now? I don't see anything or anyone," murmured Layla, scanning across the hideout.


"Because a teleporter was incoming," said a voice from behind them. The pair of half-demons spun around, Slade aiming his bow and Layla tightening her grip on the knives in her hand. They were greeted by the sight of a tall, muscular man with striking green hair sat in one of Slade's chairs, his feet up on the work surface and an open bag of protein nibs in his hand.


"What's with Dr Bondage?" asked Layla with a smirk, observing the intruder's odd outfit.


"Do I know you?" asked Slade, readying the arrow to fire at the intruder, "And be aware, I will shoot this arrow through your f*cking eye if I don't like the answer."


"I would expect nothing less from the big bad Shroud," said the man, getting to his feet and lacing his words with sarcasm as he did so, "And no, you don't know me. But I know you. Actually, the man I work for knows you, and he's very interested in this one." He pointed a long finger at Layla, who shrugged.


"Everyone's interested in me, dude," she said, "I'm the most interesting girl in the whole godforsaken wasteland."


"I like this one," the man said with a chilling grin, "She's got some fire. This will all work much smoother if you just come with me, girl."


"I don't think that's happening," replied Slade, loosing the arrow into the space the man had been standing a fraction of a second earlier. The arrow slammed into the wall, and the man reappeared behind Layla, grabbing her around the neck with a surprisingly strong grip. Layla gasped a little, and Slade felt his anger rising as he saw Layla in danger, Purefire beginning to spill from his eyes and the markings on his body.


"Ooh, Purefire," said the attacker, "Nice trick. But I've got a better one." He raised his hand, and a gout of white-hot, sulfuric Purefire rushed forth from it, burning through the air towards Slade, who managed to duck out of the way at the very last second.


The only problem was, the Purefire slammed into the wall behind him and set it ablaze, the sickly white flames spreading around the room quicker than natural fire could, and hotter than anything the mortal world could conjure.


"Whoops," said the attacker sarcastically, a grin on his face, "Looks like you might need to redecorate. Actually, that's probably not a huge concern, because you'll undoubtedly be dead in a few minutes."


Slade cursed as the Purefire burned through his possessions, and his home, as if they were nothing. But he had more immediate concerns, and raised his bow once more, loosing a Purefire-infused arrow at the intruder's head.


And the intruder caught it.


"This is all very tiresome," the intruder said, pretending to stifle a yawn, as he snapped the arrow in half like a twig, "And I should be getting back. With her, of course."


"Who the hell are you?" asked Slade shakily, knowing that he wouldn't like the answer. But he had nothing more to say, knowing that he couldn't defeat this opponent single-handedly.


"Telling you would make things more interesting, I suppose," said the intruder, tightening his grip on Layla as she began to struggle against him, "But then again, I do like to maintain an air of mystery. So maybe you should ask my sister, I think you know her."


"Who is she?" asked Slade, staring through the rapidly-growing flames.


"Her name is Junko," the man replied, "She'll be ever so pleased to see you. Now, me and this pretty young thing had better be off. Say goodbye, Layla."


"I'll find you, Layla," said Slade, addressing his final few words before the acrid smoke infiltrated his lungs entirely to her, "And I will kill the son of a ***** who took you."


"No you won't!" replied the man jauntily, before disappearing and taking Layla with him. Slade rushed forward, trying to cry out but his burning lungs prevented him from doing so. He paused for a moment, composing himself, and then grabbed his jacket and the few supplies the Purefire had not yet consumed, including several knives which he wrapped in his jacket. He swung himself onto the nearest ladder and clambered up it as fast as his legs and arms could carry him. Flames licked around him, and the smoke had filled his lungs, but he finally beat them and burst into the fresh air, gasping and panting as his hideout, his home, burned away beneath him.


He coughed, his body desperately trying to force fresh air into his lungs, and staggered to his feet, a single word burned into his mind.



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Kurama woke up as the sun came up, seeing that the others had fallen asleep where they found room. At least he saw Etna and Anue. Kurama blinked, wondering where "Blue" had gone to. "Well, that can't be good. He did say he wasn't quite done with the folks in V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E., but I didn't expect him to go back in the middle of the night," he said to himself, keeping his tone down so as not to wake the ladies. Luckily this pub was already closed down for years now, long enough for Kurama to have learned the place's layout like the back of his hands. He made his way down to the bathroom, straightening himself out in the mirror in front of him. "Alright, now how can I find Heru with out using an amulet...I can do locations, not so much people unless I know where they are. Huh....what day is it anyway?" Kurama asked himself, pulling a cell phone from his pocket and checking the date. "Hm. Guess I lost track. I'll let him have his peace and whip some breakfast up for our beautiful house guests," he said to himself with a smile, making way toward the kitchen. Kurama pulled an apron on from the countertop, going into his stock of food since he "convinced" the mayor to leave the utilities going on in this pub in exchange for its protection a few years back. Though in these times with the crazyness going on with the assault on Inferno and the Ragnarok aftermath, Kurama couldn't help but worry about his old friend...



Connecticut, United States


"С Ð?нем Рождения, сесÑ?Ñ?енка. Я скÑ?Ñ?аÑ? по Ñ?ебе еÑ?еâ??â??. Ð?ак поживаеÑ? маÑ?Ñ?? Я надеÑ?сÑ?, Ñ?Ñ?о Ñ? нее все Ñ?оÑ?оÑ?о.(Happy birthday, baby sister. I miss you still. How is mother faring? I hope she is doing well.) Anyway...just...stopping to see you. I'll be sure to visit you again in a few months....There's... just a lot going on right now. I just hate the fact that father made it so I'll never see you again," Heru's eyes watered a bit. "I'm not crying, Kat. I promise. Just...something in my eye or somethin..." he said, wiping his eyes. "Я лÑ?блÑ? Ñ?ебя, Ð?каÑ?еÑ?ина. Ð?еÑ?егиÑ?е себя. Okay?(I love you, Ekaterina. You take care. Okay?)" He laid a handful of Lotus flowers that he stopped to gather before he arrived. "Your and mama's favorite..." He said, turning away and closing his vest, zipping it up. A bullet rang out, grazing his shoulder enough to keep it from hitting his sister's grave marker. His eyes darkened as he stared at the singe mark on his arm, looking to see the source of it. Only he wasn't expecting to see what he saw, face losing its color. "No...it can't be you..."


"I'm afraid it can, hellspawn," came from a man who was unmistakenly Jin, his father. But he looked almost the same way he did when Heru left the night of Ekaterina's death.


"But...how...you're..." Heru couldn't grasp his words until his father's appearance dawned on him and then Heru started laughing softly before his laughter suddenly grew loud and maniacal. "Serves you right, you piece of shit! You became exactly what you grew to hate when you looked at me. A demon."


"Shut your mouth, hellspawn!" Jin shouted, taking another shot at Heru with his rifle but having no luck landing a shot this time as Heru closed the gap on his once-human father. He stole the rifle from his hand before slugging his father across the face. Jin slammed into the ground, his body digging into the dirt. "You-" his words were cut off as Herutama's boot landed on his throat, dark eyes staring down at the man.


"You shut your mouth, Jin... You were never my father. Not by name, not by blood, not by love. You never had the right to act like it either. I was pretty sure you'd never wanted to see me again, so explain before I re-end your life you worthless, trash," Heru growled, showing fang as he lessened pressure on Jin's throat enough to talk.


"It's none of your goddamned business, but I wanted to finish what I started and get rid of you. That bullet was meant for you. Not your sister! This is all your f-urg!" Jin was interrupted by Heru's weight again which was enough to press him further into the dirt.


"Don't you dare blame this on me! Anata wa sudeni anata no tsumi no tame ni haratte iru. Anata wa, anata to onaji fune ni notte watashi o nage aete shimasen!(You're already paying for your sins. Don't you dare throw me in the same boat as you!)" Heru roared, stomping his foot down harder before rearing back and drawing his revolver. He had a bead on his father, right between the eyes. Jin looked up to him, obviously scared for his life. "Kyō wa shinai...(Not today...) Not on the day the best thing happened to me eighty five years ago..." Heru raised his foot, leaving Jin enough time to get to his feet. "Just go. Go before I change my mind, J-" Heru was knocked senseless by a mighty blow, careening into a nearby grave marker and crashing through it. Heru looked up with a dazed expression, seeing exactly what his father had become. A demon standing at twelve feet, massive in build with two wings sprouting from his back, with a sword in one hand and a cat-o-nine tails in the other and horns sprouting out of the sides of his head was now staring down at the half-demon who was half his size. "You've gotta be kidding me...of all demons, you become a Balor...?"


"It didn't take much for me to prove my strength and resolve to come back to take care of unfinished business as well as deal with some of these UWG pests who keep making a mess back in Inferno. Vela surely has a pair on him to challenge hell itself," Jin spoke as flames flicked across his breath while he spoke.


"So you pick today of all days...why? Don't you still care for Kat?"


"I do. But I know that you never stopped caring for her either. And I knew where and when to find you, Herutama. And with this newfound power...I'll end you. Hell, I'm feeling generous...how about I bury you next to your sister when I'm done?!" the balor laughed with a dark and booming laugh.


Heru stood slowly, shaking off the punch from Jin's giant fist. The hell did I do this morning to deserve this...?

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Etna woke with a start, a small shriek coming from her throat which woke Anue next to her.

"W-what's wrong?"
Anue let out a yawn as she stretched, then rubbed her eyes rather childishly.

Etna on the other had had risen from her spot on the floor, her hair disheveled and sticking up at odd ends, she looked around and felt her heart stop. Looking down at Anue, who looked worse then she did, her white hair tossed everywhere looking as if it were alive. Etna watched as the human girl yawned once more before she flopped back down onto the floor with a soft thud. Etna took the opportunity to rush from the room and downstairs where she could smell Kurama cooking. 

"Kurama, Heru-:"

"Yeah I know. Give him some space today..."
"I know what day it is just as much as you do...but something doesn't feel right...I had a dream, a dream about Heru-"

"Whoa, don't need to know."
"Not like that you sick minded lout. Heru was in trouble...he was fighting something...something massive."
"And you really think it was real?"
"I don't know, but he's not here and something could have happened to him..."
"Look, he's a big boy, he doesn't been a collar or a leash, or a babysitter for that matter."
"I don't want to do any of those things! I want to keep him safe!"

Kurama turned and looked at her, his eyes narrowed as she frowned back at him.

"You want to keep him safe? For who, you or him?"

Etna hissed slightly.

"Don't act like you know me Kurama..."
"I'm not, but I do know him. And I know this much, your barking up the wrong tree. His pack mentality would never let him fall for anyone. So I would get any kind of ideas you have out of your head."
Etna hissed again, this time louder as she felt her hand become hot with her hell fire, Kurama shook his head and turned his back on her.

"Look princess, you wanna get your heart broken be my guest. But I'm telling you he's never-"
"I don't care about that Kurama. I don't care if he never looks at me the way I want him to, or thinks of me that way. I've always been one of his few friends and if I can stay that way it'll be enough for me. Now do you know where he is or not?"
"i don't. He never told me where he goes on this day."
Etna felt her heart sink.

"Me either...do you know where he lived before he joined?"
"Uh...I think up North somewhere...Connecticut maybe. I wouldn't take my word for it though I mean it's been so long I can't-"

He turned and noticed he was talking to an empty kitchen.

"She's gone."

Aune stumbled down the stairs at this point, her wild white hair tumbling this way and that as she moved, she rubbed her eyes and looked around sighing.

"Just us again I take it?"

Kurama placed a plate of eggs on the bar for her and smiled.

"Looks like it little lady."
"Oh joy..."

Anue hopped into a stool and began to eat slowly, her eyes still droopy and her movements sleep hazed. 

"Any ketchup?"

A bottle was produced in front of her, giving a small thanks she squeeze some onto her scrambled eggs and began to eat again, it wasn't until a mug of coffee was set in front of her did her mood brighten. Taking a deep drink of it she sighed as the caffeine began to make it's way through her system, her eyes becoming more clear as her demeanor didn't seem to dark.

"Where did they go this time?"
"I don't know."

Anue studied Kurama's back for a few moments before she nodded.

"Your lying."

He looked over his shoulder at her, she shrugged and set the coffee down, stretching her arms above her head she pulled her hair back into a messy bun and sighed.

"So are you keeping me locked away in here again or can we go outside and do something?"
"Like what?"
"I don't know, your the one who apparently lives here. You tell me."

She gave him a smile as he refilled her coffee and shook his head.

"Heru'd kill me if I took you out you know that."
"Yeah, well he's not here. And frankly I'm bored of looking at the same 4 walls now. The attack is over yes?"
"Yeah from what I heard."
"Alright then. There's nothing keeping us in this dusty old building is there? I'd like to see the sky again before I die ya know?"

"You haven't been inside that long."

Anue pouted slightly.

"Feels like it."
Kurama shook his head and leaned on the counter looking at her for a moment before putting his hands up in defeat.

"I can never say no to a beautiful woman."

"We're going outside?"
He nodded slowly.
"Finish your food first and we'll go from there."
Anue smiled brightly and continued eating her food.

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Beneath Paris


"We've got nothing," the voice reverberated inside his head as it came through the receiver plugged deep inside his ear, "There's no sign of him anywhere."


The man shone his flashlight into the darkness of the Metro Station, the beam of light doing little more than illuminating a thick fog of dirt and ash in front of him. His breath surrounded him, the noise filling the gas mask he had strapped onto his head as he surveyed the scene, and the acrid stench of brimstone permeated everything, even filtering through the mouthpiece of his mask. He held back a cough, and shifted some of the still-warm ash on the floor with his boot.


"Whoever took this place out really did their homework," crackled another voice inside his ear, "Blasted the whole station with Purefire...there's nothing left."


"Which means that he could be down here as well," replied the first voice, "Kincaid, we could be looking at Bennett's grave here."


"No," the man responded, shaking his head even though nobody could see him, "There's no way this took him out. He's too good for that, he's too...prepared. He's out there somewhere, I can feel it in my gut."


"Yeah, and your gut's never steered us wrong before, has it?" muttered the first voice dismissively.


"Remember Laos?" added the second voice, "I've no idea how we escaped UWG custody that time."


"Alright, can we stop questioning my leadership for just a second?" Kincaid replied with an unseen grin, "Look, there's nothing left here. We should move out, see if we can track down any leads on Bennett's whereabouts."


He turned on his heel and jumped onto the rope his team mates had dropped down into the Metro Station, clambering up with with lithe speed, bursting out into the fresh air in a cloud of ash and grime. He planted his feet on the dusty ground, then tore his gas mask off and threw it to the ground, coughing what little ash had infiltrated his protective mask out of his throat as he did.


"Anything down there?" asked the large, heavily-muscled and tattooed man standing next to him, patting him on the back as he doubled over coughing. Kincaid shook his head, still forcing air and dust out of his lungs and throat, until the tattooed man handed him a bottle of water. He took a great swig, savouring the feeling of the cool liquid cleaning his throat as he swallowed, then handed the bottle back.


"The whole place has been slagged," he said, "He's moved on, we just have to find out where."


A moment later, a slender female form emerged from the hatch that led down to the Metro Station, yanking her gas mask off the second she hit clean air and allowing her long, jet black hair to tumble out from beneath the mask. She leapt out of the hatch gracefully, and unlike her leader she felt no need to stop and clear her throat, choosing instead to march straight over to her pack and pick up her gear.


"Which means we have to follow our fearless leader's hunch," she said as she pulled on a dark green leather jacket, and fixed a long, heavy-looking sword onto her back with a series of straps.


"Really?" asked the tattooed man, "What about Laos?"


"Yeah, we've been over that Titus," said Kincaid, grabbing his own jacket, this one a faded red number, and strapping a pair of holsters to his hips as a third figure emerged in a reptilian, almost snakelike manner from the hatch.


"Are we talking about Laos?" the figure asked, removing his gas mask with a webbed hand and revealing a pale blue, lizard-like face with bulbous eyes, "God only knows how we got out of that one."


"Garrick, we are not talking about Laos! Can you guys just let that one go?" yelled Kincaid, "We weren't even in that prison for long! Please can we move on?"


"So, no Slade," said the dark-haired woman, "What's our next move, Kincaid?" Kincaid looked at her, rubbing his temples with the tips of his fingers.


"Honestly, Aurora?" he replied, "I have no idea..."




Brittany, France


"The thing is, Karl," said the flamboyantly-dressed man as he paced around a pale, sweaty man sitting in a battered old chair under a single, swinging lightbulb, "I'm a man with a singular talent. A...unique ability, some might say. Which means that there ain't no-one else out there who can do what I can do. Which means when people need to make use of my talent, I can charge them whatever I choose. And if that person accepts my terms, and then doesn't follow through on them...bad things can happen. You get me, Karl?"


"Of...of course, Mr Lazarus," stammered Karl, his face contorted in pain and fear, "I...I'm really sorry..."


"Well that's all well and good, but the problem is that sorry don't exactly cut it in this situation, Karl," replied Mr Lazarus, "Which means I have to cut every single credit of what you owe me out of that sweaty block of budget meat you call a body. Well, I say have to...really, I'm going to get a very large Ripper demon with a very large set of knives to come out and cut my money out of you. And let me tell you..."


He moved in close, so his lips were almost touching Karl's ear.


"...he won't be as gentle as I would be."


"I swear...I swear I can get the money by next week," stammered Karl through a flood of tears, "Please, Mr Lazarus...just give me more time..."


"But the deal wasn't for next week, Karl!" shouted Mr Lazarus, leaping onto the table in front of Karl, "The deal was for yesterday, Karl! And you didn't have the money yesterday, Karl! So I'm going to tear your guts out, Karl!" He threw his head back with a manic howl of laughter, then leapt off the table and rapped his ruby-topped walking stick on the only door of the room.


"Razor, you can come in now!" he shouted, his grin widening as he heard Karl's desperate sobs, "Karl is ready for you now!"


There was no response from the other side of the door, and Mr Lazarus' grin gradually drooped into a scowl. He yanked the door open, calling for his associate, and was greeted with the sight of Razor, a hulking beast covered in deadly-looking spikes and blades, slumped in a chair with three long, black arrows protruding from his chest.


"What the..." he snarled, turning back to the room only to be faced with an arrowhead hovering a few inches away from his nose, and an angry, hooded half-demon reeking of brimstone on the end of it.


"Your blade-man was very rude to me, Lazarus," snarled the half-demon, "I think I improved his manners."


"Mr Bennett," said Lazarus, holding his hands up in a gesture of peace, "I wasn't expecting you. Perhaps you should have made an appointment, then we could have avoided this...unpleasantness..." he waved his hand towards Razor's body.


"You know how it is, busy busy," growled Slade, never wavering as he threatened Lazarus, "But I need you. In private." He jerked his head towards Karl, who was still sobbing quietly in his chair. Lazarus scowled, but soon relented.


"It's your lucky day, Karl," he said, exasperated, "Mr Bennett has given you an extra week to find me the money. I would advise making a start on picking it up now!" He roared the final word, and Karl leapt up from the chair and scuttled out of the room, mumbling his thanks to both Slade and Mr Lazarus.


"Now," said Lazarus, moving gradually around Slade until he could reach his own chair, a plush armchair which looked too clean for this dirty backroom, "What can I do for my favourite vigilante?"


"I need you to find someone for me," snarled Slade, never lowering his weapons, "And I need you to do it quickly."


"You've come to the right place, of course," said Lazarus, resting his fingers on the top of his cane, "But there's a small matter of my payment."


"I leave and you remain un-perforated," growled Slade, "That's all the payment you're getting from me."


"You drive such a hard bargain, Mr Bennett," replied Lazarus with a sly smile, "But it's worth it. You are never boring, I can say that much for you. Who's the lucky half-demon you so desperately want to find?"


"Her name's Junko," Slade replied, keeping his aim on Lazarus, "She's with V.I.O.L.E.N.C.E., but it looks like she's destroyed her amulet."


"Ah, Junko," said Lazarus, "I remember her. Used to pay me quite a few visits looking for that wayward brother of hers. Never could find him, of course, the wily little devil always had some way of blocking my talents."


"I don't need a family history, Lazarus," said Slade, "I just need you to find her."


"Very well," said Lazarus, sarcasm dripping from his words, "You know, I work much better when I'm not under immediate threat of horrible violence..." He gestured to Slade's bow, but Slade shook his head.


 "You know who you're talking to, right?" replied Slade, "I may need your help, but I'm not an idiot."


"You know me far too well, Slade," charmed Lazarus, "Give me a moment, and I'll find her for you."


Slade kept his weapons trained on Lazarus, even as the latter's eyes misted over, turning from their usual orange to a pale, milky white. His head jerked from left to right, as if he was trying to find Junko hidden somewhere in this very room, and his lips moved gently as he mumbled something unintelligible in a language that was likely long-dead. He remained this way for a few moments, head jerking and lips moving, until he snapped out of his trance with a sharp intake of breath.


"She's in the skies," Lazarus said, his voice croaky, his tone less confident than before, "Somewhere over the Indian Ocean. Looks like your girl's heading to Australia..."


"Australia?" asked Slade incredulously, "Lazarus, I have no time for your games. I've already lost a friend and a home today, you do not want to mess with me right now!"


"No games..." gasped Lazarus, slumping back in his chair, "Junko, along with another half-demon, are headed for Australia..."


"But Australia's a dead continent. There's nothing there, why would they be going to Australia?"


"How do you know there's nothing there?" Lazarus replied, clearing his throat, "Because people have told you there's nothing there. What better place to hide something?"


"F*ck," snapped Slade, "I need to get there before her."


"You know as well as I do there's only one way to do that," said Lazarus, gradually gaining his composure, "And you know as well as I do that you'll never resort to that."


"I have to," snarled Slade, pulling the string back on his bow a little further, "I've got no other choice."


"Oh my..." said Lazarus, genuine shock on his face, "You're really going to do it..."


"Yes," said Slade, finally lowering his bow, "I'm going into Inferno."

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"So what do you wanna do on our date?" Kurama asked Anue with a chuckle, hands shoved in his pockets with his button down shirt only halfway buttoned up. He looked ahead on the sidewalk as Anue walked alongside him. There wasn't a whole lot left to do in this town. Despite him making it a personal point to protect it, he couldn't save all of it of course. He glanced down to the young woman with a smile. "I'd say we could hit the bar but it's a little early in the day for that," he shrugged, still smiling.


Anue shook her head, looking to the presently black-haired man. "I'm not sure....are there any amusement parks?" she asked, looking hopeful.


Kurama shook his head, shrugging. "Not in this town, I'm afraid..." replied the half-demon, looking up in thought. Anue sounded deflated as she let out a sigh in response to his answer. "Geeze, lady. You tend to forget, I'm a half-demon... One who can teleport...You know? Freely? At-will? Just as long it's somewhere I've been," he said, glancing to her with an eyebrow raised. "So we're going to an amusement park then, okay?"


Anue smiled brightly and nodded excitedly. "Alright, let's get going then!" she shouted, grabbing Kurama by one of his arms. "Work your magic, mister!"


Kurama stared blankly. "It's not m- whatever. Just hang on, goofball," he said, the two disappearing from sight.


Connecticut, United States


Heru avoided Jin's onslaught as best as he could, unable to get any openings with the flurry of attacks and so little room to fight back with the demon's extensive range. He hadn't even had the chance to shift yet for fear that he might be caught off guard in the midst of his transformation. Despite the short span of time it took for him to shift, he wasn't going to chance it. However, there was no way he was going to take Jin on like this without turning the tide somehow. It hit him quickly. So quickly he didn't realize it until he was knocked off of his feet by the Balor's whip. As Jin aimed to plunge his sword into Heru's chest, Heru turned enough for the blade to strike the knife in his vest. In the moment it struck, Herutama became the Vulvitorr he needed to be for this fight, knocking Jin off balance with a quick sweep and lunging for him like a wolf on its prey only to meet air. Unfortunately the impact of the knife against his chest knocked some of the wind out of him or he probably would have landed his attack. Heru had to catch his breath briefly as he watched Jin take to the air, lashing a blazing whip down at Heru. Heru caught the whip in his fangs despite the burning, pulling the Balor down to his level and landing a solid fist to Jin's face. The Balor crashed into the ground, catching himself before Heru could get a head-start in on him. "You're wasting your time, boy. You don't stand a snowball's chance in hell against me!"


"I'm not your 'boy' anymore, Jin. I never WAS!!" Heru snarled as he charged toward the Balor, parrying his sword with his claws alone until he was inside Jin's range. He leapt up and let loose a flurry of blows, each landing into Jin's midsection, every attack increasing in ferocity before he could feel heat gathering where his blows were landing. He quickly kicked off of Jin's chest before the Balor's body exploded with hellfire. Heru landed carefully, bracing himself for the heat to reach him, but luck was on his side as he escaped the range of the flames just barely. He let out a huff through his nostrils, staring up at Jin with mild irritation. "Fancy."


"Isn't it though?" Jin grinned widely, flames wreathing his sword. "It makes it much easier to cut through flesh this way," Jin laughed as he charged for Heru again but was caught by a ball of neon green hellfire and sent sideways by the sudden impact. "What the...?"


Heru's eyes widened as they headed to the source of the fire. As if he didn't already expect it, he saw a heavily breathing redhead with flame still surrounding her hand and hatred in her bright yellow eyes. "What in the nine hells are you doing here? You're gonna get yourself killed!" Heru said, sounding more concerned than upset.


"I came to rescue your fuzzy hide, Heru," Etna responded, watching as Jin got back to his feet, looking rather pissed himself. "And don't ask how I found you. I just did what I had to do. I had a nightmare about you and when you were go-"


"I get it, Etna. Let's deal with him so you don't have to relive that nightmare, alright?" Heru cut her off since there was a lot more important things to worry about. Considering the demon that stood before the two of them.


"How touching, Herutama. Is this your mate or something like that? Being a wolf-like beast and all. She must be a half-blood just like you. It will be my pleasure to rid this world of both of you then!" he shouted, hellfire spewing from his gaping maw toward the two half-demons.

Edited by Kayin Cloud

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"Are you sure about this, Slade?" asked Lazarus, genuine concern showing through in his usually cold, indifferent voice, "The second you get in there, Belial will be looking for you."


"He won't need to," replied Slade, setting up a rough circle on the floor of Lazarus' basement, pushing just a touch of the Purefire that ran through his veins into the lines, "I'm going to knock on his front door."






Belial stood over the Storm Guard's severed hand, watching as demons of all shapes and sizes flocked over it, some examining it, others attempting to salvage parts of it for scrap, some simply taking their anger and rage out on the now-inanimate object lying before them.


"The beasts ravage our realm, they kill thousands of our kind, and we take a single hand in return," murmured Leviathan, standing next to Belial, "Hardly seems fair, does it?"


"It is just the beginning, brother," replied Belial, "Soon, the time will come when we shall fight back, and then the beasts will be repaid in kind."


"You sound so certain. How do you intend to convince Lucifer her methods are wrong?"


"Her eyes will be opened before long," said Belial coldly, never moving his gaze from the Storm Guard's hand, and Leviathan took it as a cue to stop asking questions. Instead, he placed his hand on his brother's shoulder and walked away, back into the fortress to continue his duties.


"My Lord Belial has a calling," said a rasping, hissing voice from behind the Nephelim. He turned his head and saw a skeletal Husk approaching him, spindly arms and legs in a blur.


"There is no calling more important than my duties here, Husk," replied Belial.


"Apologies, my lord," croaked the Husk, bowing his gnarled head, "But...the calling comes from your son."




"You might want to stand back," said Slade, settling into a seated position in the centre of his now-complete circle, and Lazarus took a single step back from the outer edge of the circle. Slade nodded, closed his eyes and slowed his breathing and his pulse along with it. He felt the lines of the circle crackling with energy, and the Purefire he had breathed into it began to blaze with scarlet light.


"Are you sure this will work?" asked Lazarus, but his question would go unanswered. Slade felt a tug in the centre of his chest as he, or at least part of him, was dragged into the depths of Inferno.


He opened his eyes and saw the deep red brick all around him, the scarlet light illuminating the room with an infernal glow and the heat rushing across his face.


"I seek Belial the Hateful!" he shouted into the cavernous chamber, and heard his own voice reverberating back towards him.


"This is a surprise," said Belial, "This is the last place I expected to see you, son."


The Nephelim strode across the room, his cloak flowing behind him as he moved around Slade, who followed his father around.


"You must be truly desperate to come to me for help," said Belial, locking eyes with his son.


"And how do you know I'm here for your help?"


"Why else would you be here? Certainly not to offer your soul to me, you have made it abundantly clear that you are far too attached to that particular object." Belial turned on his heel and strode towards his desk with the final word.


"That's where you're wrong," said Slade, and Belial stopped in his tracks. After a moment, he turned back to his son, a slightly bemused grin visible beneath his helmet.


"You've come to...to offer me your soul?"


"The whole thing, yours to do what you want with."


"Why the change of heart? Why now?"


"Because you have something I need, and I know my soul is the only thing you will accept in return."


"So you do need my help?"




"And would I be mad to assume that this is about the girl?" Slade grimaced at Belial referring to Layla, an expression not missed by the Nephelim, who quickly hid a wolfish smile from his son.


"It is about Layla," said Slade, "She's been taken, and I need to get to her. Quickly."


"So you seek passage through Inferno? This is what you offer your soul for?"


"Not exactly," replied Slade, "I need something else you have."


"And what might that be?" asked Belial. Slade sighed, turning away from his father for a moment, running his hands through his hair nervously.


"Power," he replied finally, "The man who took her was more powerful than I could have imagined. He destroyed my home with no effort at all, and I can only imagine how powerful the man who employs him is. So that's what I need: power."


"Power is...a fluid concept," replied Belial, taking a seat at his desk, "Particularly down here. You may have to be more specific if you really want my help."


"I need the power to defeat the people who are after Layla. I need more power than I have, but more than that, I need control. Control over the abilities I've had all my life, control enough to direct it at the right people."


"I see," said Belial, "All this, in return for your soul? What kind of saviour do you believe you would be without your soul, Slade? It's all that's kept you from joining me in the past, who knows what you will do without it."


"That's why I wish to bargain with you."


"Bargaining, now? I'm not sure you're in a strong enough position to be able to do that, Slade."


"You give me the power to save Layla from all those who wish her harm. You give me the ability to protect her, and once she is safe and protected, and will remain that way for the rest of her long, happy life," said Slade, his gaze never wavering from his father's face, "Then you can have my soul, and I will stand by you as a Lord of Inferno. I will kill and rampage for you, I will be your personal attack dog, from now until the end of time itself. These are my terms, accept them if you will."


"You would sacrifice yourself in this way, all for this girl?" asked Belial, getting to his feet and walking towards his son.


"I believe Layla has the power to change things, and the strength to do it for the better. So yes, I choose to sacrifice myself to save her. If not to you, then I will find someone else who will accept my terms."


"My son," sighed Belial, placing his hands on his son's shoulders, "After all these years, you've finally found a way to make your old man happy."

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Etna Screamed as she unsheathed her gold katana and swung, the blade coming to life with her green flame in an instant as she swung at Jin, the fire cauterizing the gash instantly as he roared in pain. She twisted in mid air and landed with her left knee on the grass next to Heru.

"Are you alright Herutama?"
He looked down at her with a huff and back at Jin.

"I'm in for a good lecture after this aren't I?"

He nodded once before launching into an attack, Etna following a second later, she weaved between the Balor's attacks, lashing out with her blade, she matched her attacks with Heru's, flinching as she heard the wolf growl as the Balor's sword grazed his shoulder. She smelt the blood from his wound and growled in frustration.

"Can we really do this on our own?"
"If we time it right...yes. We can. And I plan on ending this bastard here and now. I won't let him leave here alive."
Etna nodded and took a deep breath, her eyes closing in concentration as she summoned the maximum amount of her hell fire she could manage, her skin felt hot and she grit her teeth as pain radiated through her arm. Heru looked towards her, his ears pinned back.

"What are you doing? Trying to kill your self? You've never brought that much out at once."

She nodded, looking at him and meeting his eyes, her's were glowing a bright yellow as she gave him a wicked smile, sprinting forward she passed Heru swiftly, her katana wreathed in her green flames, charging Jin she dropped down into the grass and slid between Jin's legs, her katana slashing out to the left and right severing tendons in his legs. The screech that followed made Heru cringe, the wolf quickly changed his action and lunged forward, his jaws locking around the wrist of the hand that held the evil looking whip, with a gut wrenching sound Etna watched as he swung his body in an arch, his teeth acting like a razor saw as he severed the hand completely, he dropped to the ground and lunged forward yet again and Etna frowned as the massive beast moved faster than she expected.

"Heru watch out!"

Dashing forward she connected her shoulder with his knocking him on his back as Jin's sword hand came down slamming into her, with a grunt she rolled a few times in the grass; she could feel blood fill her mouth as her bottom lip split, she held in the scream she felt surging forward as she continued to roll til she finally came to a stop. Grunting she got to her feet and watched as Heru fought the beast, pushing her self to her feet she began slowly til she was sprinting back towards the fight, her blade glowing green again as she sprinted forward, dipping low she lept at Jin her body lifting in to the air til she could look him in the eye and with a wicked smile she slashed her katana across his eyes and smiled as he wailed, his hand coming up to his eyes.

"You stupid bitch! You've blinded me!"
She laughed lightly.

"That's the plan."

She landed lightly and pooled her green fire in to her palm, with the last bit of energy she had left she launched the large blast at Jin's chest watching as he toppled over onto his back with a crash.

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With a fanged grin, Herutama took advantage of the downed and blinded Balor, leaping from the spot he stood before pinning the remaining arm of the Balor with his jaws. "Thish ish for Kat!!" he shouted as he tore Jin's sword arm off from the elbow down and drove his own blade into his chest. The blade anchored the massive writing body into the ground as Jin screamed in agony. Heru wiped his mouth and spat the demon's blood on the ground. He panted heavily but a grin stuck to his face. "I've been waiting for this day too, but I was expecting you to come after me as a human, Jin. The day you came after me would have been the day I'd kill you in self-defense. But this...this is going to be payback..." his eyes narrowed as he spoke as he could see the edge of Jin's blade edging toward his waist instead of his heart. "Sorry, can't have that..." Heru drew out his revolver, firing three rounds into each of the Balor's legs before tearing them clean off from the hip.


"GYAAAAAAAAAAAH!!" Jin let out a blood-curdling scream as he flailed his handless arms against the ground, trying to free himself of his own weapon. "H-Herutama, p-please stop this!"


"You're begging me for your life...? Do you think you deserve mercy? What about Kat? She deserved mercy...but you killed her out of your hatred for me and put me to blame. You were a demon before you died...so you'll die as one, Jin!!" Herutama shouted, slugging Jin's face hard enough to bury his head into the ground without removing him from his sword.


"Ungh...P-ple...please...s-spare m-me..." Jin grunted, fighting to lift his head out of the ground before he was caught with the same impact from Heru's head this time.


"I'm going to treat you to my own personal hell. Then I'll think about sparing you, you heartless piece of ****..." Heru's eyes narrowed as his claws dug into both of Jin's shoulders as he thrust them clear through the scale and muscle. For almost an hour, Heru did everything while leaving the demon within an inch of his life. Heru panted heavily before looking up at his sister's grave and then to Etna who seemed to be concerned for him. He closed his eyes before returning to his human form. "Fine..." his eyes rested sadly on Ekaterina's grave marker as he approached and placed his hands on top of it. "For you...I'll let him live... I know killing him isn't what you'd want. I'm sorry, Kat...deeply and truly..." Heru reached over and snatched the sword from Jin's chest and looked down to the Balor. "You're a strong Demon. But you've always been a demon. ...But you were also my sister's father. I'll let you live, but I swear this upon Kat's and mother's graves. If you pursue, look for, or attack any of my pack...I'll kill you in one shot. Got it?"


Jin nodded weakly as Etna looked to Heru. "You sure you really want to leave that to chance?"


"Yeah...if he comes after me...or even you again...he'll regret it in hell..." Heru replied, looking to Etna before giving her a nod. He gritted his teeth as he forcibly removed the deeply driven sword from the demon's chest. Within a few minutes, he gathered all of Jin's limbs, looking to the demon. "...Be careful of demon hunters while you recover. Play dead if they show up...otherwise you'll be in a very lopsided fight..." Jin remained silent as his head turned toward Heru. "What?" Heru said flatly. "Do you want put out of your misery, old man? Not gonna happen."


"Why..." Jin spoke weakly. "Why spare me..."


"...Demon or not, you've got a second chance. Don't **** it up," Heru said, gathering his things and cleaning up his sister's grave marker. He started walking away, Etna following soon after. Don't make me regret this, you bastard...

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Etna followed slowly at first, looking over her shoulder every now and then to make sure Jin wasn't trying to follow...not that he could. She has watched in silence as Heru tore away at him, hearing what little she did about the past she could tell he deserved it. So lost in he own thoughts she didn't realize Heru had been talking to her; blinking she looked up at his back.

"Huh? I'm sorry Heru, I didn't hear you..."
"Apparently. I said, what in the hells did you think you were doing? You realize you could have been killed back there?"
She narrowed her eyes and placed a delicate hand on her him as she glared at him.

"Your one to talk mister. What would have done if I hadn't come along?"
"I'd have handled it."
"Oh I could see how well you were handling it Herutama...and it wasn't well."

He turned, his mouth open to retort but she heard it die in his throat as she threw her arms around his waist and buried her face in his chest effectively hugging him.

"I was scared...I was so scared something had happened to you Heru. I'm just glad your alright. You are alright aren't you?"
She felt him nod slowly and sighed.

"Good...I don't know what I'd do if something happened to you."

She blinked and pulled away swiftly, stepping around him she walked ahead with her face down cast.

"You know, you and Kurama are the only friends I have. If I lost either of you it'd really suck."

She could feel her cheeks burn as she heard him follow behind her, his footsteps sluggish like her's, the spent energy of the fight making them weary.

"We should probably get back. Who know what Kurama did to keep the human busy."

She took a deep breath and halted for a moment looking over her shoulder at him, giving him a small warm smile she waited for him to catch up to her before placing her hand on his shoulder.

"I'm glad your alright Heru."



Anue rushed around the crowded area, her smile large as she looked from one stand to another; looking back at Kurama she giggled slightly at the sight of him carrying a large stuffed blue wolf.

"I should name it Heru. See what he says."
"He'd kill you. You know that?"
Anue giggled again before gasping and grabbing onto Kurama's arm pulling him to a cotton candy stand.

"Don't you think your hyped enough without sugar?"
She stuck out her bottom lip slightly and nodded, a small pout on her face and just before the half demon could cave he saw her eyes light up once again; her small hand wrapped around his upper arm as she drug him away from the stand over to a line in front of a rollercoaster.

"Can we ride this one Kurama? I've never been on one before."

"Are you sure? It's kinda scary for a first timer."
She looked back at him, bouncing slightly on her toes with excitement.

He held up his hand with a smile and shook his head in defeat.

"Alright alright. But we'll take the express lane, c'mon."

"You really think I'd come to a place like this just to wait in line?"
He flourished a small pass to the lady by the carriages who nodded and let them take whatever seat on the ride they wanted.

"What was that?"
"It's like a VIP kind of thing. I can get on the ride first, as many times as I want."

"That's awesome."
She beamed a large smile and him and blinked as the restraint came down over her hand latching her into the ride tightly.

"Hold on Anue."
She felt her stomach drop a few moments later as the ride began, her scream soon turning into a squeal of delight as the wind rushed past her face and through her hair. Her hand found Kurama's and clutched it tightly.

"Best. Day. Ever!"

All to soon they were pulling back into the ride station, the excited chatter of the passengers echoing in the enclosure.
"Can we do it again?"
"Wouldn't you rather try another one?"
Her eyes lit up once more as she clutched the stuffed animal to her chest.

"There are more? Like that?"
"Some are better, some are worse."

"I wanna ride them all!"
Before Kurama could say anything else she raced from the station in search of her next thrill.

"Whoa whoa!...and she's gone...great."

Putting his hands in his pockets he followed a leisurely pace. 

Edited by K.G

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