B1 — 14. Bonding

Rachel took a deep breath, nerves calming.  Scarlet is affected by blood corruption, but she isn’t expelling a dangerous aura.  She’s definitely different; I get the feeling she would have killed the kids if I hadn’t intervened, but she wouldn’t kill them without being provoked.

Her focus didn’t leave Scarlet as Greg whispered, “We need—need to get the people out of here.”

Scarlet’s head shifted toward them with a pleasant smile; it was impossible to tell where she was looking with her eyes completely red.  “No need, Greg. We will be departing shortly.”

“You—know my name?”  Greg’s voice quivered.

Smile turning sympathetic, Scarlet chuckled.  “Rachel, here, told me. She’s been following your conversations for some time; she’s quite the spy.  We simply came to prevent all of you from committing suicide in Miami Beach or becoming subject to much worse fates.  Some wise advice, it is not very intelligent to attack someone you just met … they may take offense.”

Maria rubbed behind her neck as Thomas moaned, stirring inside the restaurant.  “You still plan on helping me get my brother back?”

“Of course,” Scarlet said with a modest smile.  “I’d love nothing more than to slaughter the fools that encroached on our time.  Blood corruption does not mean I am a complete maniac or different person; I may be a monster, but I am a monster with human experience.”  Her white fangs glistened in the faint lights around the district.

“You’re going to help us win this war then?”  Maria asked slowly.

The teens started trembling at the word.  “War?” Laura muttered.

Scarlet’s smile darkened.  “Indeed, what war? The word war gives the impression the opponent has a fighting chance.  I do not do wars—I reap; can the harvest refuse the reaper’s scythe?”  So, this is what Scarlet was scared of … and I awoke this reaper within her.  I made a mistake; Scarlet was fine drinking a little expired blood, but all of those expired bags at once caused this corruption.  Is this an alternate personality, or another being entirely? She mentioned a demon and the reaper; not necessarily connected, but they could be one and the same.

“Alright,” Rachel looked back at Greg and Laura.  “Are you going to go to Miami Beach?” They shook their heads, ashen-faced.  “Well, we accomplished that.” Turning back to Scarlet, she frowned. “Will this corruption expire like the personality effects of the other blood bags?”

“That is an excellent question,” Scarlet nodded.

When she didn’t elaborate, Rachel sighed.  “Right, well, there is something that’s bugging me a little.  What do you mean the three of us, Scarlet included, know so little about what we are and what we can do?  That implies you have an idea about the subject and that you are separate from Scarlet.”

Maria was paying close attention to the conversation, horn still blazing light as Scarlet folded her arms and cocked her head.  “Do you think you’d ask those questions if you were still human?”

Rachel’s eyes narrowed slightly.  Turning the question around on me while still making it relevant.  Would I think like this a few days ago … no, I don’t think I would, but she must know the answer to that, which means she posed the question for me to self-reflect.  It would be the same for her; The Oscillation changed the way she thinks and behaves, but that doesn’t give me an answer for both my questions. I still have my human experiences; the same is true for her.  Is there something I’m missing? I guess I can fish for a bit more information.

Cracking her neck, Rachel hummed thoughtfully.  “Are you the demon Scarlet mentioned to Richard?  The one sleeping in the ocean.”

Scarlet laughed with mild amusement.  “No—I am not The Reaper of Blood; I am merely a corrupted Scarlet, her, but not her.  Think of me as the personality affix of corrupted blood—releasing all of Scarlet’s darker urges.  I am the monster within Scarlet’s heart.”

“I see,” Maria muttered.  “That’s why you aren’t trying to kill us.”

The kids slowly began crawling together, grouping behind the rail guard further down the hall.  “Are they going to fight?” Thomas muttered, massaging his shoulders.

“I don’t think so,” Greg replied.  “They seem to be friends.”

“Indeed, you are not enemies or seen as such by Scarlet; Scarlet is desperately seeking someone to connect to, and she’s connected to both of you.  Therefore, those that attack you attack her, and are enemies to be reaped.”

A tingle ran down Rachel’s spine.  “Then—you’re saying this Reaper of Blood is not Scarlet, but something possessing her?  It’s real.”

Scarlet’s chuckle was low.  “That is the real question.”

“Alright,” Maria said stretching out a little as she walked up to join Rachel.  “So, not even you know about this mysterious demon reaper thing, but you said you knew something about our abilities.  It could be helpful to learn a little more about our abilities before rescuing my brother.”

“Hmm,” Scarlet’s head shifted toward her, red eyes glowing in the faint light.  “You are fine with my explanation and corruption? I was mildly frightened that you would reject me.”

Maria huffed.  “We all got a monster in us; if you’re Scarlet’s monster, then the girl’s a saint.  You seem pretty mellow and collected.”

Rachel’s brow furrowed as she shifted to get Maria in sight.  “We all have a monster within us?”

“That’s humanity,” Maria shrugged.

“Says the embodiment of purity,” Scarlet chuckled, hand moving to her lips for a moment.

Maria grinned.  “Purely honest, but I can’t deny that I have changed.  Not really bad, but I just can’t lie, it actually sucks.”  She muttered. “If I choose to respond then I’ll say it how it is.”

“Look at us sharing our feelings while I’m corrupted,” Scarlet giggled.  “When it comes to your abilities; what should I say? Maria, Unicorns are said to be untameable, wild, powerful, you have Solar Empowerment while Rachel has Lunar Empowerment.”

“Wait, I gain power from the sun?”  Maria frowned. “Debería haber estado tomando el sol hoy…”

“Rachel can utilize the energy gained from the moon for different purposes, the same for you, Maria, but I am unsure in what ways.  All Mythickin have the beginning stages of True Sight; poor David. These are things I have learned from The Reaper of Blood; it is fragmented, make of that what you will.  Scarlet tries her best to ignore the bits of information gleaned from her sleeping mutters. One thing is for sure; the three of you have only scratched the surface of your abilities.”

Stretching out, Rachel nodded.  “I feel a lot more comfortable about your corrupted state, but the third person is kind of off-putting.  You at least have a degree of control; so, this is the darkest Scarlet can get then—she really does sound like a saint.”

“You know, I would have killed those kids—it would not be pretty.  You can accept that?”

Rachel shrugged.  “Well, if at your darkest you’d kill someone that attacked you, but wouldn’t kill indiscriminately—then, yeah.  I can prevent something like that from happening because you’re still in control. I just hope your corruption runs out.”

Maria hummed.  “You might be able to dilute the corruption to the point I can purify it.”

“Oh,” Scarlet smirked.  “Are you telling me to drink our enemies blood?”

“I don’t see why not,” Maria said with a straight face.  “You said it yourself, you’re a reaper. If they’re going to die anyway, why not make use of them.”

Rachel folded her arms.  “I can’t believe I can hear that and not be repulsed—but I mostly agree.  The only concern I have would be waking The Reaper of Blood.”

“That could happen, but I want to try real blood—hot, emotional, live.”  She licked her lips.

Maria put her hands on her hips with a huff.  “Well, think about it Rachel; this is Scarlet’s dark side, and she wants to drink live blood … that’s her dark desire.”  She chuckled. “Not much we can do to stop her, and I’d rather not try turning a Corrupted Scarlet into an enemy. Not like I feel bad for them either, joder a esos wey.”

Scratching behind her left ear, Rachel nodded.  “I follow. Fine, I’m game, but we may have to fight Scarlet if she turns into some crazed monster.”

Scarlet’s grin turned dark.  “I would say, do your best; I have no love for The Reaper of Blood.  If she takes over my body—beat the crap out of me if that is what it takes to get me back.”

“Well, that settles that,” Rachel said with a grin.  She heard the kids leaving, muttering about how crazy they were.  “Let’s go; the Military set up a forward base at Airlines Arena. They’re discussing different means to launch their next strike…”  She paused as Mateo spoke her name, her ear twitching slightly as she repositioned it.

“Rachel, I know you can hear me.  Look—I get it, you want to go help Maria’s brother and frankly … you must have been planning this from the start.  I’d like to help, but the Lieutenant Colonel over the operation is shutting that down. I had to report your probable action to him, and he’s pissed.  Just know, they’re keeping an eye out for you—the only way this turns out in your favor is if you take them down without any civilian casualties. Cameron has a buddy that was taken prisoner too, if you could rescue some of the SEALs, then it would go a long way with the Military.”

“Oh,” Scarlet hummed.  “Caught onto some juicy information?”

Mateo sighed.  “Honestly, I wish I could join you three and take them out, but orders are orders.  I’ve seen how strong you are first hand; however, don’t go biting off more than you can chew—you have guts, but don’t go sacrificing yourselves, you hear.  You all have your whole life ahead of you.”

Rachel sighed.  “Mateo just gave us a heads up; he had to report us.”

“Maldita sea,” Maria tsked.

“He wants to help but was ordered to standby.  His superior doesn’t like us getting involved, and the troops around the area are keeping an eye out for us.  Mateo says, he respects our strength and gave us a tip to help out some Navy SEALs that were captured; one of the members is friends with Cameron, and it would help our reputation with the Military.”

“Plan on humoring that request?”  Scarlet moved to sit on an outside chair, crossing her legs.

“I wouldn’t say humoring,” Rachel frowned.  “It’s a solid request and with a great possible reward.  If we get any civilians killed though, that would cause our reputation with the Military to sink.”

“Eso será pan comido,” Maria smiled.  “I can heal anyone that gets hurt, and Scarlet’s the perfect assassin.  If there are any big obstacles or thugs, then you can tear them apart.” She looked at Rachel with confidence.

Scarlet nodded with a slight smirk.  “I have a few ideas I would like to put into motion; this will be a perfect testing ground.”

Rachel grinned.  “Right, Ms. the Seattle incident was amateur work.”

Maria seemed impressed as she studied Scarlet.  “She wasn’t lying.”

“Of course not,” Scarlet folded her fingers atop her lap.  “Why lie about the truth; the Seattle incident was messy, unrefined, and only functioned well due to mass panic.  Once the Military organized he was forced to go underground; laughable, he only proved himself a coward.”

“What would you have done?”  Maria asked. That’s a good question.  What would the dark side of Scarlet do?

Scarlet frowned as she tilted her head.  “Planned. His ability is to control individuals; from the information I have, they are more zombie-like, unresponsive and dull.  They can go into a rage and cause disorder, but there was no end goal, it was simply anarchy. He could have used that ability in a number of different ways to infiltrate high-security Military bases, viral facilities to release an epidemic, obtain missile launch codes, and a plethora of other options.  He created havoc, showed himself as this grand figure to the media, claiming godhood before running the moment things turned south for him.”

“He really did sound like an idiot,” Rachel sighed.

“No,” Maria huffed.  “Scarlet just has an evil mind!  Freaking viral outbreak? Seriously, that’s what you’d do?”

Scarlet grinned wickedly.  “Depended on my goal; that is what I am saying, he had no endgame other than he was the superior race, bow down mere mortals—laughable, a cartoonish villain.  He could have used the ability in a much more efficient manner to achieve his goals, even his superior race bit. It did take a bit of time for us to adapt mentally to our Mythickin change, perhaps he is wiser now.”  Scarlet shrugged.

Maria hummed.  “Okay, you’re a bit darker than I first thought.  What’s your endgame?”

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Scarlet smiled innocently.  “Friendship; you know I am being truthful.  My deepest desire is, of course, to rid myself of The Reaper of Blood, whatever she may be, split personality, which is my primary fear, or a separate demonic entity.  Either case, I want her gone—you know, it feels so liberating being corrupted; I have no fear of expressing myself, even if I can rationalize that I should be fearful revealing such flaws within myself.  I suppose friendship requires displaying our flaws and trusting our friends will accept us, scars and all.” She chuckled.

Rachel folded her arms.  “Really? That’s interesting … I did not expect to have this kind of conversation with you, Scarlet.  I suspect when you become uncorrupted, you’re going to be extremely embarrassed about what you just said.  In that light, when all this business is finished, why don’t we all sit down and really have a talk about our feelings—how we’ve changed.  I think it’ll help me, at least. I have my own concerns.”

“I’m game,” Maria nodded.  “Let’s get Felix back first—those SEALs too … heck, we take out all of Marcus’ gang, and everyone will be safe.”

Taking a deep breath while stretching, Rachel groaned.  “Man, my muscles keep twitching … they want to be worked!  Usually, I had to pump myself up to work out, but now I have to hold myself back from just rushing over and punching someone … I really do feel like a violent person now.”

“Me too!”  Scarlet nodded with interest.

“Tch,” Maria shook her head.  “I don’t feel that way.”

Rachel and Scarlet giggled.  “I suspect that is the odd part.”  Scarlet winked.

“Hey!  I’m…” She trailed off for a moment.  “¡Malditos unicornios! I can’t lie … fine, I was pretty violent before I changed…”

They laughed again before Rachel stretched out her arms.  “Alright, we can use the back side of the Bayside Marketplace to get on the bridge, but,” she turned to Scarlet, “can you use your shadows to teleport us past the Military roadblock on the bridge or boat patrols?  If we can be stealthy, I’d rather not be seen by them.”

Scarlet shook her head with a sad expression.  “I am afraid the corruption does not allow me to use shadow skills.  However, if you are willing to go through my blood portal, then we can.”

Maria shuddered.  “¡Eso es jodidamente espeluznante como una mierda!”

“I’m fine with that,” Rachel said.  “Maria?”

She breathed a heavy sigh, clearly disturbed by Scarlet’s proposal.  “You serious, liebre blanca? Just watching that earlier creeped me out!”  She groaned, closing her eyes. “Fine,” she breathed through her teeth. “Lo haré por Félix…”

“Okay, we’ll talk about their operation when we get into Miami Beach.”  Rachel stretched out her arms, “Let’s go!”

They followed Rachel’s lead to the supermarket; they shifted to the bayside and alleyways when they neared the bridge to escape the Military patrols.  Scarlet wasn’t nearly as fast as them but was able to keep up through her portals. They reached the docks, hiding in a docking bay as Military patrolled the area.  They were easily able to see through the night to Dodge Island as the Coast Guard moved up and down the coast. Rachel watched a few boats; men squinting into the night, looking for any life.  “Well, this is rather inconvenient—I can’t believe I didn’t think about this…”

“What?”  Maria’s brow furrowed as she looked past her.

“Hey, don’t lean out!”  Rachel pulled her back.

“What’s the deal?”

Scarlet giggled.  “You are a spotlight, my dear.”

“Exactly,” Rachel sighed.  “We both are, but you’re like a literal spotlight with your horn.”

“Not like I enjoy glowing all the time,” Maria grumbled.

“Do you need it active now that we aren’t running?”  Rachel pressed.

Maria looked at the water with a deep frown.  “No…”

Rachel’s frowned.  “It sounds like you don’t want to put it away?”

Maria huffed.  “What, you think I enjoy this thing?  Culpa del chupador de sangre! Her corruption is making it stay out, not like I can put it away on command…”

“Oh, how fascinating,” Scarlet stared at her horn.  “I was unaware of such a detail.”

“You seriously can’t put it away?”

“No—it comes out when I’m using my abilities; when I heal it comes out or when we ran … I sense corruption, it’s going to show…”

“Well, that’s rather inconvenient, but I guess it’s not like I can turn my glow off either.”

“Yeah—so, quit blaming me for standing out!”

Scarlet chuckled.  “You cannot deny the glow, Maria.  It may be as bright as daylight for us, but it is the middle of the night.”

“What do you want…”  Her eyes widened, “No, I am not wearing a bag over my head!”

Rachel’s eyes widened.  “Crap! A guard on the docks noticed our light—Scarlet, can you get us to the island?”

Blood detached from Scarlet’s body to form into a portal.  “Easily; out of sight, I assume.” Rachel didn’t hesitate; jumping into the blood, she felt the liquid slide across every inch of her body.  It was the strangest feeling; liquid that touched her but didn’t leave her wet. She landed in what seemed to be a large storage facility. Maria appeared from the hovering portal a few moments later, followed by Scarlet.

Maria was muttering in a frightened tone as she hugged herself.  “Nunca más … por favor, nunca más!”

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Scarlet chuckled at her mutters.  “Is it really that bad?”

Rachel shivered.  “It’s just … odd feeling.”

“Odd?  It felt—violating!”  Maria choked. “It touched—everywhere…”  She watched the blood return to Scarlet’s body in horror.  “It just—back into your body … shadows, I like the shadows a lot better.”

“I agree,” Scarlet shrugged.  “I would if I could; purify me and I can use shadows.”

“Joder … necesito un poco de luz solar…”  Maria stammered.

Rubbing her shoulders, Rachel took a deep breath.  “Well, we’ll have to do it at least one more time.”

Maria shook her head.  “I’d rather be seen!”

“Where did that bad Spanish chick go?”  Scarlet poked Maria’s back, making her jump and shrink back against the wall.

“Hey!  No tengo miedo de mucho, pero eso, ¡eso no está bien!”

Scarlet smirked.  “You are a beacon shining in the dark, and there are a plethora of soldiers around the area.  Do you want to teleport us?”

“Eh,” Maria moaned.  “I—do we really need to do it again?”

Rachel hummed, ears scanning sound.  “Can you get us to Miami Beach with one jump, Scarlet?”

Her left hand rose, knuckle pressing against her crimson lips.  “Hmm, I could, but I’d be teleporting blind; I can only see a mile away.  How far away is Miami Beach?”

“About two and a half miles,” Rachel leaned against the wall with a frown.

Scarlet looked through the wall with a thoughtful expression.  “If you tell me what direction to go then I could go an exact distance.  I’d be blind, but you could tell me how far away it is.”

Rachel scratched her temple.  “I’m not that accurate. I can tell a general distance, but not exact.  I can hear a lot of people two and a half miles away in that direction,” she pointed.  “It’s a massive hotel; a lot of the people that fled the streets are taking shelter there.”

“That will do,” Scarlet studied the direction she’d pointed out.  “We might be a little off. I will teleport us on ground level; we will not end up in a pillar or anything, but we could smack face first into one though.”  She chuckled.

“Worth the risk!”  Maria stated, trying to work herself up.  “Just one more time … one more time.”

Blood flowed out of Scarlet’s skin to create the portal.  “After you,” she giggled at Maria’s nervous twitches; poking her back once.  “We are on a time crunch, remember?”

“I hate you!”  Maria seethed as she shut her eyes, tensed, and jumped through.

Scarlet shook with silent laughter as Rachel grimaced.  “It really is an uncomfortable feeling…” Rachel muttered before hopping through.

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