Rachel and Scarlet walked back to the foyer; Maria was sitting in an armchair, legs crossed, and the bodies seemed to have been moved. Coral straightened as they entered, shifting nervously on the couch. “Is everything—are you alright?”
Scarlet breathed deeply. “No—not really, but that can wait. Rachel helped me calm down a bit … the Fairy Mythickin seems to be in trouble.”
Maria hummed with pursed lips. “So, you going to teleport her here?”
“Which direction is she in?” Scarlet turned toward Rachel.
“She’s—across the street, to the northeast; it’s a supermarket, and she’s in the basement.” Rachel’s ears twitched as she listened to Marcus.
“Diago! Where’s my dad? He isn’t picking up over the radio.”
“In the spa … I think…”
“Umm—no, I’m pretty sure he is…”
“Go get him! We need to figure out where that brat went and what the freak is going on!” He pressed the radio. “Hey, Daran, you found anything?”
She heard Daran respond several buildings away, still on the hunt. “No, I’ve checked at least a dozen buildings, and they’re not around here. You sure you saw some red liquid swallow the couch?”
Rachel sighed as she focused on the Fairy again. “You little insect … I don’t care about your stupid rat-friend or fox-friend, or whatever friend you have! Just…”
Maria stretched her arms out, yawning. “Anything interesting going on, or are you just spacing out?”
“You could say that…” Rachel frowned as she shifted her weight. Her focus altered as Scarlet breathed a small sigh; she was starting toward the supermarket, eyes vampiric. “What’s up?”
“Well, I could transport the Fairy here, but that guy’s holding the cage they’re keeping her in right now.”
“Who cares,” Maria huffed, scratching her temple. “Grab him, and Rachel will knock him out.”
“Hmm,” Scarlet ran a hand through her hair. “We don’t know if he has any abilities; isn’t that dangerous?”
“Ack,” Maria’s head leaned back. “We should have questioned those guys further,” she muttered.
Rachel moved beside Scarlet; she stretched, muscles itching to be used. “Don’t worry about abilities; I’m pretty sure we can handle any of them if they’re alone. Though—maybe I’m just being reckless and want to fight.”
“Alright…” Scarlet’s red halo-like irises glowed as blood separated from her body to form the portal. “Here he comes.”
Rachel heard two screams as the man fell into the blood; he dropped through the air as he appeared before them, legs buckling as he struck the ground. A glass case, caging the Fairy, slipped from his grip, smashing against the floor; she screamed as glass shattered around her.
Accelerating, Rachel made it two steps before she felt the glue in her left shoe snap, throwing off her balance. Crap! I thought they’d last a lot longer than this!
She tried to recover, but tripped, stumbling across the floor until ultimately smashing into the wall with a grunt; the sheet wall buckled under the force, making her slam into the bricks behind it.
“Wha—Rachel?” Scarlet muttered.
Maria quickly rose to her feet, but after a moment’s hesitation burst into laughter. “Ar-are you serious? Did—did you just—just face plant the wall?”
“Ouch—ack—uhk,” the Fairy groaned. “What the flip?”
“Uah,” Rachel muttered, pushing herself up a little. “Seriously, c’mon, Maria…”
“What the … who the heck are you people?” The man stumbled to his feet. “Blood just … that feeling … wait?”
“You okay?” Scarlet asked tentatively.
Dislodging herself from the sheet wall, Rachel dusted herself off. “Ack, yeah—I’m fine.” Eyes returning to the scene, she saw the Fairy was wearing tight jeans and a red shirt that looked like they were meant for dolls. She was cut a little on her right arm, cheek, and there was a gash in her pants. She was curled into a ball with glass all around her, wounds seeping light blue blood.
Maria shook her head with an amused grin as her brilliant white horn appeared. “Here, I’ll fix you up.” A glow surrounded the Fairy, and her wounds mended, scabs turning to dust.
The Unicorn’s head tilted up to give Rachel an incredulous look as the gangster began looking between them in bewilderment, trying to assess the situation. “Not a scratch? I’m impressed; wish we recorded that, though. I’d love to show it to the block … the strong Liebre Lunar, shoe breakin’ in two, then flying off to faceplant into the wall,” she chuckled.
“Hey,” Scarlet frowned. “She could have been hurt…” The Fairy looked confused as she stared around, but the man seemed to understand the situation as he caught sight of Rachel.
“You’re the bunny-girl that messed up Marcus!”
“Tch,” Maria huffed. “Na, that wouldn’t hurt the chica de acero; she’s made of tougher stuff. It was funny as heck, though.” She turned to the man as he rose to his feet. “Aye, chupadora de pollas! Chill, sit tight, ‘ite? We got business ta’handle.”
[i.e. steel girl; sucker!]
He stiffened as Scarlet shifted to stare at him, eyes still void black with glowing red halos. Scurrying back against the front reception desk, he stammered between words. “Frikin’—crap—mother … a flippin’ Vampire—Devil? Marcus didn’t say anything about … that blood…”
Sighing, Rachel finished doing her best to brush the dust off her clothes; she could see the bottom half of her shoe lying on the ground across the room, the other half still on her feet. “I didn’t expect the shoes to break so soon … that’s unfortunate.”
“Who are you people?” the Fairy asked with an Irish accent. Everyone’s attention shot to her as she began glowing white, wings appearing at her back as she rose into the air. “You guys healed me too?” She checked her cuts with interest. “I think … oh, no…”
Rachel’s eyes widened as the Fairy’s wings faded and vanished. This time, she accelerated a bit slower, watching the tiny girl fall in slow-motion as her expression sagged with fatigue.
Before she hit the marble floor, Rachel managed to catch her, taking care not to squeeze too tightly. “Hey, are you okay?”
“Uh, not really,” her tone was weak. “I—I need sugar.”
Scarlet hummed with concern as she looked around the first floor. “Oh, do Fairies get powerful by eating sugar?”
“That’s what the thing in my head said will help…” The Fairy muttered, lying in Rachel’s open palm.
Maria, however, didn’t take her silver eyes off the gangster as he continued to stare at Scarlet with fearful uncertainty, folding her arms underneath her chest while glaring at him.
“What’s your name?” Rachel asked, moving to the couch to gently set her on the armrest.
“It’s Fiona,” she looked up at Scarlet; she seemed to be studying a blank wall. “Are you really a Vampire?”
Scarlet’s lips turned into a grimace. “Unfortunately … I think I found some sugar in the kitchen. Give me a second.” Shadows enveloped her.
The man muttered a curse.
Maria tilted her head toward a seat. “Go ahead.” He didn’t move as his focus shifted from Coral to Rachel.
Rachel removed her shoes, tossing them to the side while keeping the man in sight. “You heard her.”
“Yeah, you deaf?” Maria took a threatening step forward.
“Hey,” he backed up a little. “That’s … so, you were the one that took Marcus’ plaything … and somehow got your brother back, Maria. To think you had a Vampire working with you … that changes the game a—”
The gangster seemed to bite his tongue as Scarlet emerged from the shadows with a large bag of sugar in her hands. “Oh, anything I miss?”
“He’s being rather chatty,” Maria huffed. “You just need to shut up until we get to you. ¿Entender?”
He swallowed, eyes returning to Scarlet. “Huh, he seems rather calm?” She moved to give Fiona some sugar, opening the bag. She scooped out a handful and dropped it beside her.
Fiona picked up a small fist full and dropped it into her mouth; her body tensed, tears falling down her cheeks. “This is—this can’t be sugar…”
A little concerned, Scarlet flipped the bag around. “It says sugar?”
“No, it’s just—it doesn’t taste like sugar … it’s not sweet. I can’t even describe the taste; it’s just … amazing.” She began scarfing down the small pile beside her.
Maria’s gaze shifted to her. “What, have you not eaten anything since you…”
Rachel’s muscles tensed as black smoke surrounded the man; she dashed forward, getting ready to perform a roundhouse kick to disperse the smog. He was waiting for Maria to turn her head away. Is he trying to escape?
Maria’s eyes snapped open with concern, and Rachel made it to the edge of the gas before a solid wall of wind slammed against her, making her grunt. What in the…
She winced as she was thrown back, bare feet sliding across the smooth floor as she regained her balance. “What…”
“Wait!” Maria shouted.
Catching sight of Fiona’s outstretched hands, Rachel straightened, wide field of vision taking in the scene.
Fiona’s ethereal wings had reformed out of light, reflecting the multi-hued greens of her hair, fingernails, and eyes while floating above Coral as she yelled, “The gas is poisonous!”
Rachel watched with bated breath as the currents of wind escalated, wrapping around the smoke and containing it into a ball. Wind magic?
Fiona shifted to look at Rachel. “Seriously, though, how fast can you move? It felt like I was throwing back a moving truck or something!” She lowered back to the couch to eat more sugar, multi-hued eyebrows creased with concern.
“Wow!” Scarlet’s eyes returned to normal as she dashed to the edge of the invisible cyclone; she had to pull back her long black hair as it was gently pulled toward the force. “This is so cool! Can you use wind magic or something? Can I touch it?”
Swallowing another mouthful of sugar, Fiona glanced up at her before clearing her throat. “No, please don’t!” she said in a thickening Irish accent. “It’s called Wind Prison, and it sucks anything from the outside in.”
“Word,” Maria muttered with a modest nod. A grin split her full lips, and she walked over to the counter, picking up a sharpened pencil. “Could we chuck things in at him? Poke him full of holes?”
“Eh,” Fiona’s plump lips creased. “You could…”
“Perfect!” Maria tossed the pencil at the shell, and shortly after, he shouted, “Son of a bitch! The frik’s wrong with…”
He cut off as Fiona’s pretty face twisted with rage, and she rose into the air, shouting, “You’re a monster! I watched this guy kill people with that smoke; he’s a psychopath!”
“That right,” Maria growled, nose twisted as tossed in another pencil.
“D-Dang it! It’s in my leg … Argh!”
Adjusting her clothes, Rachel cracked her neck before rotating her shoulders. “Thanks, Fiona. I guess I jumped the gun…” she trailed off as Fiona’s green aura mixed with a bright red tint.
Her hand lifted, and an inferno the size of a bonfire appeared above her, causing a burst of hot air to radiate throughout the room. “Where’s Erica?” Fiona shouted. “Tell me where she is, or we’ll see if that gas can combust!”
Coral sank into the couch, staring at the blazing fire above her as Fiona flew toward the trapped ball of smoke.
“Dang!” Maria muttered, holding up her hands as she moved closer to the enraged Fairy. “Hey, hey, chill, chill, Hada! We’ll find out where your friend is, but calm down a bit—maldita; we don’t need to blow everyone to high heaven!”
[i.e. Fairy; dang it]
Her features were twisted with fury as the fire intensified. “I’ll turn you to ashes if any of your guys hurt her!”
Rachel moved around to stand beside Fiona and the man. “Hey, it’s okay, Fiona. Scarlet can find her and bring her here if we can figure out where she is.”
“He killed three children—in front of me! He forced me to—to watch them vomit and choke and cry … just to prove a point and tested his gas … over and over! Men, women … so many people…”
Maria’s nose twitched as she turned to glare at the smog. “Este hijo de puta mató a los niños?”
[i.e. This son of a bitch killed children?]
Scarlet’s cheer fell as her eyes glowed red, blood seeping out of her skin. “He killed children? He doesn’t deserve to live, then!”
“Woah,” Maria moved to stand on the opposite side of Fiona, giving Scarlet a glance. “Hey! I get ya … I do, but he can’t tell us anything if you kill him.”
Fiona’s small frame was trembling, but her red glow faded with the fire. “You can help me?” she sniffed, turning to Maria and Scarlet with tears gathering in her eyes. “We just went out to get me some clothes, and—and they jumped me … I don’t know what happened to Erica, but I’m sure they took her.”
“Maria’s right,” Rachel said, walking over to pat Scarlet on the shoulder.
“Yeah,” Scarlet’s blood returned to her body, eyes shifting back to black with the red glow. “We’ll get her back.” Her halo irises moved to penetrate the smog. “I have something planned for him—a child killer, and he liked it … I sense…” her tone faded with a seething growl.
“Here,” Maria’s horn radiated light, making everyone shield their eyes.
When the light faded, the smoke was gone, and the man was sitting on his butt in the center, face ashen as he clutched at his leg; a pencil was jammed down to the eraser’s end, blood and a small line of red blood dripped out. “What—you…” he whined, his voice pained and slightly distorted past the invisible barrier between them.
Maria smirked. “Purified the poison; I’m starting to run low on energy, though…”
“Where’s Erica?” Fiona demanded.
“Look, I don’t…” Everyone stiffened as Scarlet appeared behind him from shadows, blood snaking around his body within seconds. Crying out, tears fell down his face as he screamed, “What the…”
Scarlet grabbed his shoulder, making him stiffen. “Child killers equal crap … don’t utter a single lie—we’ll know if you do.”
His chest heaved as he choked, only able to talk and breathe. “Wha—what kind of—of heroes are you?” His throat began to bulge as Scarlet’s blood flowed up to move through his hair, slowly cycling across his body.
Rachel stepped forward as Fiona dropped Wind Prison. “Who said we were heroes? I don’t think of myself as a hero; any of you?” Fiona and Maria shook their heads, expressions hard.
“Nope,” Scarlet whispered in his ear. “We’re no heroes.”
His voice started to crack. “Where’s—what did you do to Tony and Pete? They were…”
“What do you think?” Rachel asked, staring at him in the eyes.
“I could take you over to them if you want, but they don’t look like they used to.” Maria offered.
The man swallowed nervously. “Okay, okay, I get it … what does your friend look like?”
“Hey!” Maria growled, horn flaring. “He’s excreting poison from his skin!”
Scarlet chuckled as the dark liquid seeped through her blood and dropped to the ground. “You think that’ll affect me?”
She licked her black lips. “I can choose what mixes with my blood; all you’re doing is making a fool out of yourself. Pathetic.” He began to hyperventilate as the red liquid slowly crept into his gaping mouth, inching further into his body.
He began to choke as she moved to whisper in his ear, crimson sliding up to his eyes. “I don’t have body heat; is my breath cold?” she giggled, tone lush. “Feel those micro-cuts digging into your throat? That’s my blood burrowing into your body. Try something like that again, then we’ll go behind the eyes next, and that will only be the beginning.”
Her blood flowed back up his throat, exiting with spit and vomit; the excess easily separated from her blood to drop across his shirt front. “What—crap—what does she—she look like? Freak! What does she look like?” he shouted.
“Holy cow,” Fiona muttered. “You guys really are scary—umm, Erica turned into a Fox Beastkin. She has black hair, and her fox tail and ears are black with white tips. She’s wearing a business suit—last time I saw her at least…”
“Yeah—yeah, she, she was sent to Marcus … he was—was pretty interested in all those Beastkin—no, no, I didn’t—I didn’t have anything to do with it!” he pleaded.
“That’s a lie,” Maria snarled.
“No…” he cut off as Scarlet clicked her tongue.
“He…” Everyone shifted to look at Coral; her jaw snapped shut as she shrank back.
“What happened?” Rachel encouraged.
Clearing her throat, she looked down at the floor. “He—He chose which ones Marcus would—would like best…”
Scarlet took a deep breath as she shifted to his other ear. “You’re not helping me quell these emotions in the air. Do you fathom the hate, fear, and disgust flowing around the area? It pulls out my darker emotions.” He gasped as she let him breathe again. “They gather around me and push for action; it’s rather uncomfortable.”
“Really?” Rachel’s brow furrowed. “Can you convert them, like the blood?”
She shook her head. “It’s not a part of me; it just presses against me. So, where is Erica? One last chance,” she whispered.
“I—I kept the fox in the supermarket—in the freezer with a few others.”
“The freezer!” Fiona’s fists balled up.
“They have fur! I didn’t think it would be bad!”
Scarlet shifted to look through the walls. “Freezer … I see them.” Her blood moved to create a large portal a few feet above the ground; the man still paralyzed by her touch. Several girls fell through the blood with short screams as they dropped to the floor; each of them were different types of Beastkin.
“Erica!” Fiona darted to a black-haired woman, latching onto her throat. “You’re so cold…”
“What—Fiona? What’s with that … it felt like I was being touched everywhere…” she gasped, hugging her shoulders.
“See!” Maria glared at Scarlet. “What did I say?”
“C’mon,” Scarlet muttered. “That was corrupted me…”
“Vampire?” A blonde-haired girl with raccoon ears and a tail squeaked.
The blood floating above them swirled back around the man’s body as Scarlet let go of his back. “See!” he gasped. “They aren’t cold—right?”
“He’s…” Erica recoiled as she caught sight of the man.
Scarlet shuddered. “This—isn’t fair! What did you do to make all of them—hate, disgust, fear … was it the kids, more? Deep breaths—deep breaths.”
Rachel frowned. “Is it the joy? The negative emotions?”
“Yes! His blood skyrocketing through his heart with the fear of what he’s done to cause these emotions; the desire for punishment, pain, despair, hate, disgust, so many negative feelings prodding me.”
“You feel other people’s emotions?” Fiona asked, releasing Erica’s throat.
“Fiona, you know these—them?” Erica tucked her lower lip under nervously.
Scarlet scratched her temple with a light giggle. “Oh—I feel emotions, alright … it feels like my blood’s boiling, my skin itches everywhere, and my teeth ache … it makes me want to consume, but I locked that away! Why’s it back?” She grit her teeth. “Ugh—my corrupted state unlocked it to feel more.” She took a deep breath. “Okay, there, that’s a lot better.”
“You still don’t know everything you did in your corrupted state?” Maria moved to examine the girls.
“I’m … kind of blocking some of it out,” she muttered.
Rachel shook her head. “Don’t push yourself, Scarlet. If you don’t want to do something, then don’t.”
“That’s the problem … I want to.” She took another deep breath. “The Reaper of Blood said something … before I drowned … I guess I’d rather not talk about that. I do, I really do want to feed on emotion—drown in it … there is real power in emotion … life. I just hate how negative emotion smells, tastes, feels … it’s intoxicating.” She looked over at Rachel, standing with her arms folded. “Mind if I release some tension … there’s something I really feel like I need to address.”
“I’m not your master,” Rachel smiled. “If I feel you’re going too far, then I’ll step in, but I feel no sympathy for these guys. That is likely a part of my change too, but they are scum.”
A brown-haired woman with bird wings for arms and talons for feet began crying. “There are other girls, children … the men … they killed so many men … my husband.”
“I’m sorry,” Scarlet said, eyes downcast. The silence stretched as a few of the women began crying.
Rachel felt oddly detached, but her head told her it wasn’t right. “Scarlet, do what you need to do.”
Relief passed across her features. “I’ll be back.” A dark grin spread across her lips as the man gasped, dropping through the blood spreading across the ground; she vanished in shadows as the blood seemed to fold into itself until it disappeared. Rachel listened to the new voices that appeared in the supermarket.
“Please, please, Scarlet—you can have all of them…”
A man shouted. “Wait—what the heck? Harris, what the…”
Scarlet chuckled, causing them to go silent as she began walking around the room; she began to sing a haunting lullaby. “I have a tale that time has lost, sins of judgment born of blood. She took a name from the one profaned; the chosen—know the dark but let it rest. Come down to the red sea, swim with me. Ah-ooh, ooh…”
Rachel frowned as she watched the women collect themselves; Maria was explaining to the group what they were planning, but Rachel continued listening to Scarlet. This is the influence that emotion has on her? It sounds like she’s reciting a haunting song.
“Hey, we have hostages … what the frik is that?” he screamed, scooting back with several other men that repeated his cry. Rachel’s vision moved to examine blood portals that opened, and several children and two more women dropped out of it with shrieks.
“Born of graves and left below, painted ashes, painted snow; when the dark awakens, fires of your last hopes are burning low. Blood of gods and blood of men, meet in union to ascend; fate has chosen, and your fading light is at its end…”
“No! Put away your guns!” Harris screamed, but there were several shots as they unloaded clips, but Scarlet just continued her soft song.
“You rise, I fall. I stand, you crawl. You twist, I turn. You sit and stay, I don’t obey. Life’s breath flickers with the candlelight, lost souls in the twilight.” Rachel shivered as a malevolent aura passed over her, and all the men around Scarlet dropped to the ground; only Scarlet’s voice continued. “Fear not the dark, the monsters within; brace for the feast of humanity’s end. Ah-ooh, ooh.”
“What is that?” Fiona shivered, looking in Scarlet’s direction. The other women seemed to stiffen as they looked that way.
“That’s a lot more powerful than before—her fear aura,” Maria muttered.
Rachel cracked her neck, bound hair shifting. “I think there’s something going on a little deeper with Scarlet right now. The way she was acting—I think it might have something to do with The Reaper of Blood. She’s singing a pretty creepy song.” She continued to listen to Scarlet’s soft lullaby as she moved to where Harris had fallen.
“It’s a long way down to the place I found, lurking silhouette waiting below—a dark sun, hollowed by the fade; that debt you live to repay—you see the blackness stare, promising to spare the chosen.
“Born of graves and left below, painted ashes, painted snow; when the dark awakens, fires of your last hopes are burning low—your souls will char; flicker to and fro—afraid to linger and to go; trapped in blood until my scythe has come to take you home. Ah-ooh, ooh.
“A pact embraced, a road unsought; a black heart’s redemption borne by brigand’s blood. A blight upon the light, a terror for the night, she became the bringer of twilight. Vengeance is her only ward; beware the blood-red rose’s thorn, for it will end with Scarlet.
“With flowers and my love, both never to come back, her wrath is known within the black; the tide, it stole away her grace, but the depths, they would not claim her. I could not foresee this thing happening to you; I am exposed, I am undone, no more colors, it all turns black. Ah-ooh, ooh.
“Alone with this vision, alone with this sound, alone in my dreams, maybe I will fade away and not have to face the facts. The darkest night, the brightest day; history tainted, the cycle hovering above gravity’s lure. My love will laugh with me before the morning comes, for the blinding light will never return.
“Born of graves, left below, no time for rest, nowhere to go—a storm was loosed with tear-stained eyes—come down to the red sea, swimming with me. Ah-ooh, ooh.
“A wretch bound to the harvest, born of the shadows, between light and dark. Oh, oh, oh, ooh … who will save you now? Incinerate our shackles.
“The Maiden of Death will tend to her fields, and eternity will fall into silence … Heaven or Hades … where do you land in the red sea? Ah-ooh, ooh…” Her voice died as silence permeated the scene; after several seconds, the insidious aura faded.
“I think she’s done,” Rachel’s brow furrowed. “I have no clue what she did to them, but…” Everyone’s attention shifted to Scarlet as she appeared from the shadows to slump into an armchair. Rachel was the first to speak. “What was that song about?”
Scarlet swallowed, looking down at the floor with a black hollow stare. “The Reaper of Blood sings it in her sleep sometimes—it just kind of came out as I appeared … I don’t know how much influence she has over me, but in my corrupted state, she was able to get a little bit more control than I thought. I hope I was able to starve her of power again by releasing all of that.”
“Reaper of Blood?” Fiona whispered.