1. Rachel Park (Our Lunar Hare!)
Recap: Well, we’ve got a small fracture happening with our resistance and some decided to split ways after Rachel and party defended Grace. Still, we got the two gun gals, Benedict, the Mythickin Pixie, and Grace, the Legend of Calamity Jane, on our side now!
Isabel and Al took off, Al more or less doing it to support her, yet isn’t all that hateful to our girls, and the rest are staying to support their province.
Grace let us in on some dude named the Devil of Camagüey … What could this warlord be like? Well, let’s deal with these two big groups coming! Oh, and of course, we had to tease Scarlet a bit! Big sisters be like that sometimes >.> heh.
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Rachel led her make-shift group out of the prison, hearing the sounds of mourning from the people that knew Máximo. On the other hand, people watching the American Flag raining down en masse had conflicting responses. Still, they couldn’t deny the supplies, and relief was settling in with some people mumbling about how the U.S. was actually doing something good for a change. She tuned all of that out once making sure the transition was functioning smoothly.
There were some questionable mumbles in English that she’d heard after a few groups learned of Máximo’s death and the split in leadership, but once they saw the number of U.S. troops moving through the streets, that was stamped out.
Exiting the building, Fiona’s light green aura enclosed all seven of them, carrying them into the air. Isabel, Edelira, and Grace gasped, hands flailing as Fiona lifted them off the ground.
“W-Woah! Woah!” Grace giggled, holding onto her cowboy hat with a big grin on her face. “I’m floating in the air! This is wild!”
Edelira squeaked something in Spanish before crying out, “H-help! I-I’m … everyone’s floating?!”
Fiona snickered, spinning Isabel in circles which made her brooding scowl disappear; she was likely still blaming herself for Máximo’s death. “Hey! I … I feel fifty pounds lighter?! Is this what it feels like to fly, Ben?”
Benedict rubbed his chin, floating beside Fiona. “Well … Probably not how it feels to me, but who can say? You have amazing powers, Fiona!”
“Thanks,” she mused. “The only person I haven’t been able to float is Selvaria … Sadly, she just weighs too much.”
Grace gave her a wink while fascinating her hat’s strap under her chin. “Well, go makin’ me feel special and skinny, why don’t ya? Eh … I’m guessin’ ya can’t lift Jim?”
Rachel hovered beside a grinning Scarlet, arms folded as something important popped into her speeding mind, but she kept her silence for the women to finish adapting. One of the two groups they were going to confront was beginning to draw her attention, too; most of the conversations were in Spanish, but one event, in particular, drew Rachel’s notice … There was something odd at play here.
Fiona sucked on the corner of her bottom lip, making a soft sound as she appraised Grace’s bright blue eyes. “Hmm … Jim is your horse … No, I don’t think I can lift that much, but we can try.”
Nia obviously had to be a part of the one-way conversation, too; she liked feeling a part of the group. “Yeah, but he can run on water, Fiona! He’s gotta be super light!”
Mhm … It’s probably a Skill that allows it; the horse isn’t actually getting lighter.
“Humph … Don’t go absently shooting down my ideas when you’re not really even listening!”
I totally am. What do you mean? Rachel evenly replied, still focused on key figures in the distant group.
“Nuh-uh! You’re making my head hurt with all the wiggle-wobbly talk … there’s too much stuff … Focus on our friends! Not the stupid, not important people.”
Ouch, way to dismiss their existence.
“Wha … I didn’t mean it like … You’re trying to distract me!”
Is it working?
“Yes! I can’t focus on all that stuff … Oh, Fiona’s trying to lift the horse! Watch! Watch!”
“You’re not watching!”
I can see 120-degrees in full focus, Nia; you know I can see it.
“But you’re not REALLY looking, and pfft, 120? Ha! That’s nothin’! I’ve got 360 you blind hairy hare!”
Hairy hare … You know all you are is hair.
Nia gasped. “You did not!”
I’m just saying.
“I’m not hair! I’m Denier! Magical, super magical amazing…”
“Nuh-huh! Oh, she’s trying to do it! C’mon, Fiona! Lift that big horse!”
… You know the saying about being ‘as big as a horse’ is there for a reason.
“Rude! Jim’s not fat!”
The question is…
“Don’t! Don’t you dare say Nia is fat!”
I wasn’t going to say that. Rachel mused.
“No! You just … You little rabbity hare! You made me say it!”
I’m just saying … I wasn’t going to say it. Rachel smiled, letting the easily swayed girl carry it on while passively watching Fiona sigh and shake her head, telling Grace it was a no-go.
“Boooo! Wait, if I’m fat, then that means you’re fat, fat butt! Ha! The Abyss prevails!”
Mhm. Mhm. Lunar Abyss prevails.
“No! No! Dark Abyss prevails!”
Right … so, you’re saying Nia is fat because she has to cover my fat butt?
“I’m not the one that … No I’m not fat—wait, yeah … no … yeah! Ha! I win!!”
Mirroring Selvaria’s hyper-emotionless cheer, Rachel gave an imaginary punch into the air. Wooh, Nia wins.
“Mua-ha-ha-ha … WAIT! You set this whole thing up! I was distracted!”
I’m still watching and listening … No big deal, Ms. 360.
“Hmm … Okay, Lunar Abyss … Okay … The Dark Leader will give you a pass this time, but we need to talk about respecting the authority of the leader.”
Who’s the master?
“Who’s the leader?!”
A temporary truce to deal with the fodder and big boss?
“… You drive a hard bargain, but I must feed! To the enemy, Lunar Abyss! Darkness awaits…”
In a second.
Fiona was about to take off when Rachel cleared her throat. “Hold on,” Rachel smiled at Grace as the Fairy slowed them to another stop fifty feet above the ground.
“What’s up?” Scarlet asked, hands behind her back as she casually glanced around the night, prison spotlights brightening the sky to watch the next wave of supplies rolling in.
“Fiona … Grace is levitating with us.”
Her comment drew a confused look from everyone, but Fiona and Scarlet soon caught on.
“Is … that bad?” Grace slowly mumbled, vision darting between them.
Fiona’s lips parted, and she gave her a thumbs up. “It means, you see us as friendly—well, at least neutral! You don’t see us as enemies!”
Scarlet giggled. “Actually, better lie detector than Maria.”
“Well,” Rachel smirked, “I mean, it’s not really a ‘lie detector,’ but you’re not wrong about determining if someone’s on our side.”
Grace’s mouth was open, mind working on trying and piecing together their conversation while Edelira and Isabel were utterly lost. Benedict seemed to catch on, though.
The brown-haired girl’s querying eyes slowly rose into a pleasant surprise. “So … Oh … Oh! So you’re not suspicious of me anymore? I’m … not being held at bloodpoint?” she asked, looking at Scarlet. “No more, heh, squeezing Grace until milk comes out?”
Scarlet’s hand smacked her forehead. “Geez … Never gonna let that go, are you?”
“Nope!” she laughed, and even Edelira and Isabel’s expressions lightened a bit at her jokes. “I grew up on a farm, Ma’am, and milkin’ is the norm.”
“Eh…” Scarlet hissed, glancing away. “What kind of farm … Know what, never mind.”
Grace gave her a toothy wink, “A Milk Farm! What else? He-he-he-he. By the way, did you know you can sell breast milk for, like … literal bank?! Crazy, there was this one gal back in Arizona I knew … Oh, he-he…”
“Ahem,” Rachel cut her off, causing her jaw to snap shut and pull her fingers across it in a zipping motion.
Edelira’s head tilted toward her sister. “… Americans are weird.”
“I know … Shouldn’t we go?” Isabel returned, but her laughter was forced, not as into it as she probably would have been, had a significant weight not been on her conscience.
“I’ve told you before, I’m so down,” Benedict laughed.
Rachel took a breath between the discussion, ears twitching a little, and a bit surprised, Scarlet caught the action.
“Hey … Something up, Rachel?”
Everyone settled down, their focus moving to her.
Rachel’s mouth tightened. “I think one group is being used as human shields or decoys, and the other is the real threat.”
“Scums,” Fiona instantly growled, and Rachel couldn’t disagree after their experience in Miami Beach. “Can’t villains come up with anything better?”
“If it ain’t broke, right?” Benedict’s laughter slowly strained from Scarlet and Fiona’s critical looks. “… Yeah, it’s horrible. Eh, what’s the plan, Rachel?”
“Hmm…” Her glowing pink-eclipse eyes moved to the Pixy, causing him to stiffen.
“Oh, the Rachel special! Give him the Abyss Stare! He-he-he! Make him squirm as my threads pull him into the deep!”
“… Do you have a sleep or a trance-like dust or powder?”
“… Yeah, that … totally would work…”
Combine Fiona’s wind with a little special sleep dust, and what do you get…
“The Wind of a Million Angel-Demon Wings of the Sleeping Abyss!”
That … is quite the name.
“Hm-Hm-Hmm! I know; aren’t I the best namer!”
Fiona’s hand shot to her mouth. “Woah, actually, that would be so useful, and I could trap them in a wind prison to cycle it inside!”
Rachel nodded with a slight smirk. “The Wind of a Million Angel-Demon Wings of the Sleeping Abyss, according to Nia.”
Scarlet hid her laughter; Rachel gave her a dull look, wanting to say, ‘You know this is your fault,’ causing Nia to chime in.
“Yeah! The Crimson Cheeks of the Red Blood Sucker that Consumes the Pumping Deeps is to blame!”
Rachel’s eyes narrowed, her lower lip pulling in a bit. I … Nia, that could be taken in many ways that … I don’t think you mean.
“He-he-he! Nia’s the best multi-meaninger word crafter in the universe! Praise The Leader!”
Yeah … Okay. Rachel gave her an internal chuckle and slow clap. I can’t say I would ever think of that title for Scarlet … or tell her.
Isabel pulled into herself, passively nodding. Her sister folded her arms, worried eyes studying her sister. “That would be a…” The wind picked up and blew her hair around her face. “Mmgh-mmgh-hmm…” She grunted in annoyance, trying to tame it.
“Oh, sorry,” Fiona whispered, creating a shield around them as every other girl beside Grace did the same.
On the other hand, Benedict’s expression slowly fell as everyone commented on his supposed powers. “… I … don’t really have that.”
Scarlet waved her hand. “No problem; you probably have a bunch of saved points since you haven’t been really using them—I assume, heh … eh-he-he-he. Do you?”
“Points?” He looked at his hand, forehead furrowing. “I … don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve just got this powder stuff that confuses people and makes them kind of hallucinate.”
Fiona floated around to give him an encouraging smile, the first she’d given the Pixy, which seemed to have an effect. “Just do what I say—in your mind, ask for something you want, and if it’s possible, then you’ll get it.”
Edelira giggled softly. “You … You can’t be serious? Just ask my mind for something, and it will give it to me? Did you hear that, Izzy … Izzy?”
Isabel jolted a little. “Hmm? Oh, yeah, Edel … What’s up?”
“It wasn’t our fault,” Edelira whispered. “Are you still upset about…”
“No! No, heh—you know me,” she scoffed, brushing back her hair before swapping to Spanish for a short back and forth with her sister. Edelira’s worried eyes didn’t appear convinced by her twin’s words.
They both fell quiet as Benedict’s mouth opened in disbelief, running his fingers through the side of his head. “No way … Will that work with … with anything?”
“Not quite,” Scarlet chuckled.
Rachel motioned to get their attention. “We need to hurry. What did you gain?”
“Uh … How do I explain … It tells me everything?!” he mumbled in utter shock. “Woah … this is awesome!”
“Just like a video game!” Scarlet grinned.
Edelira nudged her sister as Fiona floated them together, noticing her concern. “Heh, did you hear that, Izzy? Video games … We don’t really have many of those in Cuba; am I right?”
“Yeah … yeah … No, we’ve never seen one. So, umm … yeah, you have some kind of new power, Ben?”
“Yo, check it!” He rubbed his hands together, flying close to Isabel and flicking his arms in her direction, causing a burst of sparkling pink dust in her face.
“W-What … Hey! I … I…” Isabel snapped out of her melancholy mood in an instant before her eyes drooped a bit, and her muscles loosened. “Huh … uh … hmm…”
“Ben, what did you do?!” Edelira gasped. “Izzy?! Izzy!”
“She’s fine!” Ben giggled, the twin’s shaking motions waking Isabel.
The woman twitched, blinking rapidly before holding her head; her eyes darted left and right as if just waking from a deep sleep. “What … What’s going on … I … I was … Ben … Did you just throw some…”
She swapped to Spanish with the other two for a few words before giving him a dirty look. He returned a sheepish grin, turning back to Rachel. “I can create dust that will make them turn into zombies! Well, kind of … basically, their mind checks out, and they freeze where they are—standing, they’ll still be standing, and the like … going to sit, they’ll trip and fall on their back or something … I guess?”
Rachel’s eyes narrowed. “How long will it last?”
“Umm … five minutes if it’s not reapplied, but it cuts in half every time.”
Scarlet popped her tongue. “Stupid diminishing returns.”
“It’ll work … Fiona, let’s go—Benedict, Fiona’s going to trap them, you spray, and Scarlet, you know what to do when the time’s about to run out.”
The sharp-toothed girl gave her a salute. “Setup time, ladies and gentlemen! We’re getting good at it.”
Fiona gradually increased their speed, following Rachel’s fingers on where to go.
“You can do two barriers, Fiona?”
“What do you take me for, some weak newbie?” she asked with a smirk.
“Three?” Rachel pressed with a small smile as Nia mirrored her responses.
Fiona’s glowing green eyes looked ahead. “Ah … he-he-he, so, umm … they’re going to be in a tighter group. Right? I mean, we have limited sugar and all…”
Scarlet pointed at the small carrying bag she’d taken out of one of the packs. “Nope! I got you covered, Sister!”
“Eh-he-he … great.”
“Two?” Rachel asked, hands folded under her chest with a smirk as they streaked across the sky, glowing bound hair weaving behind her.
“Two … geez, someone decided to go on a Legend’s Quest without me,” she mumbled, eyeing Gisele and her Rabbit Gang. “I don’t have cool outfits and didn’t get insane experience.”
“Sorry!” Scarlet said, frowning as she adjusted her white shorts and loosening her belt a bit. “You know, I swear I get a bit thinner when my blood leaves my body.”
Nia gasped. “Did she call herself fat?!”
Rachel hummed, eyeing Scarlet’s figure. “Maybe … Nia says you’ve got a fat butt.”
“Wha … No, I didn’t! I didn’t! I didn’t! I DIDN’T!”
Are you saying she doesn’t have a shapely butt? Oh, I’ll tell her.
“Y-You can’t do me like this! I can’t even defend myself! Meanie! Meanie rabbit!”
“She said what?!” Scarlet asked, and Fiona snickered while manipulating the levitation to allow her to look behind herself as they flew. “I mean … I don’t think it’s as big as yours, but … I did wear her…”
“Oh! My! Goodness! She actually thinks it’s true! What have you done, Lunar Abyss!”
Pulled Scarlet Abyss further into your snare, she innocently returned. She won’t stop thinking about you now. Think about it!
“No! You didn’t … mmh … Why is it suddenly so hard to read your emotions?”
Win-win for both of us!
“Wait a minute, are … are you setting all this up so you can tell me you don’t have a fat butt when I call you that … oh my, gosh, it’s to throw it over to Scarlet! You devious little hare, Lunar Abyss … I LOVE IT! He-he-he-he!”
Scarlet blushed a little, her blue irises shooting to an amused Benedict, but Grace was holding her stomach with silent laughter at the banter. Edelira and Isabel were passively following the conversation.
Fiona lifted an eyebrow. “Mmh … I don’t know, Nia … Sure, Scarlet does have a nice caboose but … heh, but she doesn’t have that Irish butt … My sister would kill me for saying that,” she laughed.
“Irish butt?” Grace asked. “Hold on, heh, are you talkin’ about that one saying … ‘At least the gal doesn’t have an Irish butt’ because … heh, I’ve never really thought about it.”
Scarlet seemed to be a little embarrassed by having Benedict there as they casually talked about her rear-end, but it was a part of her charm, and his size seemed to help her treat the Pixy a bit differently than most boys since she kept it going. “Eh … What’s that mean?”
Fiona puffed out a sigh, yet a smile moved her cheeks while shifting course a little in Rachel’s motioned direction. “Well, you see … Irish girls are known to have—ahem, small back-sides, and I was one of the few with a decent trunk, but my sister…” She scratched her neck, forcing a laugh. “Yeah, she didn’t really enjoy that saying, but maybe that’s changed now.”
Rachel nodded. “Yeah, her new Cheetah body has a nice shape.”
“Yeah! We’re all looking good! Everyone in the Secret Society of Denier has … oh, what’s the word I learned from Scarlet … dummy-thick bods!”
“What?” Everyone looked at Rachel in confusion, but she turned her eyes to Scarlet. “Dummy-thick bods?”
Scarlet’s cheeks flamed. “S-She did not just say that!”
“She learned it from you.”
“No-ho-ho-ho … I’m sorry, Nia!” Scarlet cried, burying her face in her hands.
Edelira seemed to have had enough. “W-What are you talking about? Aren’t we going into battle?”
Nia snickered. “Pfft! Battle? Good one!”
Fiona shrugged, watching the rabbit blobs spin in circles with Gisele doing some kind of strange mid-air bird dance. “Meh … Rachel doesn’t seem concerned about them … I like the moves Gisele—oh, Jessy showed you a video of some birds doing it. Nice!”
Grace clapped. “Yeah! Very showy; you’ll get all the boy birds … she’s a girl, right? Wait … do girl birds do dances?”
“I don’t know,” Fiona mumbled, thoughtfully scratching her head. “Yeah, she’s a girl, and she can understand English and Korean since those are the languages Rachel knows.”
Before Rachel could comment on how her bird knew Korean, Isabel cleared her throat. “Umm … You’ve told Ben what you want him to do, but … What about us?”
“Nothin’, I assumed,” Grace replied. “Rachel seems like she’s the planner of the outfit—I’m just glad I didn’t get squeezed into juice!” She wiped her brow. “Heh, I had a few close calls there, eh, Scarlet?”
“Stop it,” Scarlet groaned, trying to calm her burning cheeks. “Yeah, we’ve got it, Isabel—pretty easy swoop and stun strat.”
“Speaking of which,” Rachel pointed at a wide paved road. “They’re coming up—the left side of the road first; we’ll separate them once they’re stunned.”
Scarlet took a long breath before smiling. “I’ve got a new thing I wanted to try!”
Fiona held a hand to her sly smirk. “Oh, no, I’m a little scared. Where did this inspiration come from?”
“Anime,” Rachel instantly replied.
“Even Nia’s saying anime is always the answer.”
“There’s manga, too…” Scarlet grumbled.
Grace hummed, seeming to look right at their target three miles away on the winding dark road; Fiona was already making their descent, moving in from the left side. “Huh. Honestly, I have never seen an anime.”
Scarlet pulled back her hair as they dipped toward the ground. “No way!”
“We’ve seen this new one … What’s the U.S. name … Spirit Eater?” Benedict stated, pointing at the twins. “They loved the whole thing!”
Fiona’s eyes snapped to the Pixy. “New … Even I know that’s like … super old … Did it just get here? Oh, here, put a bunch of dust in here…”
Benedict flew a bit to the left, able to move through the air without Fiona’s magical aid. A rush of invisible wind generating into a vortex that sucked in anything that touched, which naturally had the Pixy skittish.
“Oh, really?” he asked, hesitating for a moment before filling the space with his powder; the globe became visible as pink sparkles condensed into a thick sphere of dust. “I mean, it’s hard to tell sometimes since it’s hard to get—mostly the stuff that gets sold in back streets or passed around between friends since it’s gotta be downloaded and transferred from the internet.”
“Is it that bad?” Fiona muttered, correcting their course to skim across the canopy of the jungle, still following Rachel’s pointed finger. “Oh, and the second sphere—just makes it an easy tag-and-drop.”
He sighed. “Yeah … The internet’s super slow, and it’s tough to get access to that kind of stuff around our small city.”
“Sad … Okay, here we go! Eh … What are those?!” Scarlet’s red halo irises appeared as they dove on the group.
They were cruising at such a high speed that both groups had no clue what hit them; Fiona’s Wind Prison expanded to its maximum width to pull the first group of twenty-five and the next of twelve.
Rachel touched down in the middle of the pitch-black night road as snarls and shouts were heard, but moments later, their muscles loosened, and their eyes glazed. Only two from the group of twelve managed to resist the dust, yet Scarlet was on point, blood shooting into the prison to wrap around both of their necks, bind their wrists and legs, pulling them into the air.
Scarlet landed beside her, digging around in her backpack as the two men’s eyes bulged, floating a foot off the ground while choking. “Hmm … Where did I stick that gum … I’ve been craving something to chew, and … Do I have bad breath … I thought about it on the way over—by the way, these things aren’t normal dogs—overgrown mutated wolfhounds with rabbis?” she mumbled in question. “We’ve gotta be talking Relica crap here—oh, I found it! Want one?”
Isabel and Edelira touched down with Benedict, staring at the attacking force coming to destroy their home.
“Did my dust … Did it really do all that?” Benedict asked in shock. “It was … so quick? It’s usually so hard to get over them to spread it.”
Smug grin on point, Fiona folded her arms across her tiny bust. “Fu-fu-fu … stick with me, kid, and I’ll show you how it’s done!”
Rachel walked to the outside of the wind barrier, still tinted with pink sparkles. The wolfman and five wolf-dogs were standing around the group of women and children; a single female Moose Beastkin with most of her left antlers and right ear were broken and torn.
Isabel and Edelira looked somewhat lost as they rubbed their arms, spinning around to examine if there was anything they could do. Grace summoned Jim to pet him; Hayan, Rose, Coral, and Gisele getting closer to see who the new guy was.
“Hey! Seems your pets have taken a shine to ol’ Jim! Eh, they won’t try to eat him. Right?”
Gisele gave an indignant squawk, but the Rabbit Gang’s expressions turned sinister while glancing at Rachel.
“Heh … no, they won’t. Coral, Rose, Hayan, go into Fiona’s prison and guard those twelve.”
“My dust!” Benedict blurted. “It—It’s not cleared out…”
Her little blobs gave him a jagged grin and hopped inside, spinning a bit in the air from the swift current; their ears and tails disappeared while pulling in, and when they landed, reappeared, turning triumphantly as if completing a challenge.
“Yeah … they’re good,” Rachel absently replied, keeping her focus on the beasts. “The wolves weren’t with them at first … They came later, but I somehow missed it. There must be some kind of teleporter that got them close when I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Talk about mutant dogs, huh?” Scarlet mumbled, staying at the center of the road to not be too far from her blood; she eased up on the choking and instead filled their mouths with the liquid, causing their chests to convulse as they hacked. “I mean, teleporting mutants … they look like this … Do you think Relica’s involved?”
“Relica? No way!” Fiona’s nose creased. “Is that witch causing us trouble again?”
Rachel slowly shook her head. “I don’t think this is her—it’s not her style.”
“Mmh … I guess it isn’t really flashy enough,” Scarlet agreed. “We know she has some kind of stake here, though; she’ll show up eventually, and…”
“Hold up,” Fiona’s voice dropped a bit, watching the two men struggle in their bonds, one creating bright blue swords of light in the air that Scarlet’s blood absently eviscerated during construction. “You’re … You don’t think your Mom’s here?”
A shiver ran down Scarlet’s spine as she hugged herself; the short delay allowed one of the swords to form, but it was instantly trapped and torn apart again. “I … I don’t know. I’d rather not think about it—these wolves, though—or are they dogs?”
“I could try talking to them?” Fiona pointed out.
Isabel walked over to them in a daze. “It … It can’t be this easy.”
“Hmm?” Fiona giggled. “This … This is nothing compared to the things we normally do—a few days ago, Rachel, my sister, and I were fighting alien mist monsters with thousands of tentacles and eldritch powers.”
Scarlet’s eyes narrowed. “Rachel … You didn’t tell me about that.”
“Well, I wasn’t about to tell Mom,” she mumbled. “Anyway, yes, we need answers, and…”
“Already on it!” Scarlet chimed, turning and skipping over to the opposite shield where the two men were practically pissing themselves upon seeing her hollow black eyes and red halo pupils center on them. “Hello, boys! We have a few questions.”
Rachel followed after her, scanning the jungle for any more surprises, but nothing was jumping out at her. I suppose these three groups would have probably been enough to handle most of the fighting force they were up against, but … something’s off.
Grace walked over with Jim, Gisele perched on his saddle. “Oh! Well, eh, he-he-he … interrogation time … Umm … You guys know there are like twelve more of those wolves lurking a few hundred meters away?”
Rachel’s ears stiffened, scanning the jungle for the slightest sounds and filtering through everything she could to find anything similar. “What? No … I didn’t know that … I can’t hear them. Where?”
Grace adjusted her hat. “Eh … well, I can’t be certain now that we’ve landed, but when we were up in the air, I spotted a few skulking around small clearings. Umm … somewhere in … that direction … there … I think about eighty meters … that way?” she mumbled.
Her void eyes filtered out the trees, looking for the wolf-hounds. “Uh … Wow … Rachel … there’s nineteen … twenty-one of them within the mile, and umm … they’re looking this way.”
Rachel’s nose twisted with frustration, but she took a calming breath, letting the sliver of a moon ease her discomfort. “What is up with the creatures bypassing my hearing lately,” she grumbled. “It’s my highest skill.”
Scarlet’s arms crossed under her bust. “I … think I have an answer—they’re like shadows right now; they don’t have flesh and blood, but these ones by the people do.”
“Creepy,” Grace whispered. “Ghost wolves, huh … Just another day? What’s the play against shadow wolves?” she asked, spotting the gum partially exposed in Scarlet’s front right pocket. “Oh, sweet! Pass me some gum!”
“Sure,” Scarlet absently tossed the pack to her. “Uh … I can handle them—you know how good I am at covering short teleport attacks, but that would leave these guys.”
Edelira released a low sound. “Mmh … What do you plan to do with them?”
“Answers,” Rachel stated, no longer comfortable after discovering enemies she couldn’t hear coming. “Don’t bother with them right now, Scarlet; just keep an eye out for their movements—they’ll likely attack soon enough.”
“Are we dealing with a werewolf?” Fiona asked. “Shadow werewolf … that turns other dogs and people into … werewolves … Okay, I don’t know, it sounds weird, but we’ve seen stranger things … Relica’s human mutants, for one.”
Scarlet released the gag on the men.
Yago, the middle-aged man to the left, coughed and vomited across his front. “Blegh … ack…” he spat. “W-Who are you … What do you want?”
“Hmm?” Grace stuck her stick of gum in her mouth. “Didn’t Rachel already tell you? Answers, bud. What are ya doin’ here with all these people. Don’t be wantin’ a hard piece of blood bein’ shoved up your butt now, do we? I mean, some people have that fetish, ya know—heh, gotta ask.”
Scarlet gave her a look that said, ‘I do not want to stick my blood up some dude’s butt!’
It seemed to be a good threat, though, because Rachel heard his cheeks reflexively tighten. “Woah! Woah! I—I don’t speak English much…”
Edelira dryly spoke in Spanish, causing him to stutter.
“Eh … heh, uh … well…”
The second man was younger and suddenly began shouting in Spanish … until Isabel mumbled, “Is he talking tongues to you, too, or is this some kind of crazy English I don’t know?”
Scarlet’s blood sharped into a dagger while darting into his mouth and causing the boy’s entire body to freeze. “Hmm … A spell, huh? A Magus Champion, are you? Will it work if I cut your tongue into strips? I know someone good that can patch it back up so we can start over again!”
The elder’s face darkened with a smirk, but there was real fear in his voice. “Heh … he-he-he … We may die, but ‘The Beast’ will have you!”
“Know English, after all?” Rachel asked, pressing her gum against her cheek for a moment. “I’m going to make this very clear. No, no … I’m talking right now,” she said, hushing him. “You will say yes, or no or I don’t understand, at which, one of these two ladies will ask in Spanish. Now … Who is the attacker and who is the shield.”
He cut off as arcs of electricity crackled around his head before falling to the earth; his hair stood on end a little from the charged energy. Sparks danced around Fiona’s yellow and green aura. “Have you ever felt a million volts of electricity blacken your hand?”
It was a lie, but again, an adequate showing that he believed.
“I … Okay!”
Tears were falling out of the boy’s eyes as he tried to shake his head.
Scarlet removed the knife. “Got something to add?”
His chest puffed up and down as he hesitantly spoke in Spanish to Edelira.
“Eh … he says their families are held hostage—they cannot talk, or a fate worse than death will befall them.”
Rachel’s head turned to the opposite group. “… Reapply the dust, Benedict.”
“Oh? Is there someone that can turn people into things like that?” Grace held her hands behind her back, casually chewing her gum while her blue eyes shifted between the two areas.
Isabel repeated the question, and the answer came shortly after. “Woah … He says they have no choice … Camagüey is a living nightmare—he’s seen hundreds of skeletons hanging from the houses of those that defy the Demon … He can’t let that happen to his family…”
The boy was sobbing, and the elderly man was mirroring him; Rachel couldn’t detect any jumps that might indicate a lie from their bodies. Both of them coughed as Benedict reapplied his dazzling pink dust.
“What should we do?” Fiona asked, concerned green eyes turning to her. “That sounds even worse than Miami Beach.”
Several shadowy wolves jumped out of the foliage, rushing them, and in that second, they materialized into flesh and blood; Rachel turned to confront them when seven rapid shots lit up the night, and one after the other. All the wolves tumbled to a dead stop, red light shining out of their skulls as black blood leaked out.
She slowly turned to see Grace chewing her gum, hands moving away from her smoking revolver to end on her left hip, gun back in its holster. “Huh … I was expecting some…”
The girl trailed off as the men started to yell something, and the wolves twitched—it only happened once, and then they were still. Silence ensued, and after ten seconds, the men started to mumble.
Edelira rubbed her neck uncomfortably. “They’re wondering … why they’re not coming back to life.”
“Ah, well—I mean, ya really have to ask?” Grace giggled, posture relaxing again. “My bullets aren’t just for show! Got a bunch from this gunsmith I knew back in the States before comin’—he said he was the Legend of Eliphalet Remington, if ya believe it, ha-ha! Was in some company I know and said if I’m goin’ outta country, I should bring some decent ammo! Gonna have to thank him when I get back—good fella with a heart, heh, but I think he was takin’ in by my pretty blue eyes!”
The information instantly caught Rachel’s notice, but she filed it away. “Interesting … Ask them if they know who will cause trouble and who are prisoners.”
Yago answered immediately. “I will show you, but … please, please, save my family … stop the carnage!” he cried.
“Okay … I’m letting you go,” Scarlet tentatively said.
Rachel’s jaw locked in agitation as twelve more wolf-dogs shot out of the brush from different angles, mind accelerating. However, Grace was on point, and now that the cowgirl was in view, she watched her take out her .44 Magnum revolver, swing at lightning speeds, and fire before spinning the chamber while taking aim at the next group with her bullets somehow reloading.
Red streaks shot through the air, hitting them a second after turning to flesh and blood, and before they could take three steps, all of them were lying limp on the ground, twitching once before going still. The loud sounds could have woken the dead, though, and Benedict had to hastily reapply his dust again.
“Persistent buggers, eh?” Grace mumbled. “Didn’t think I’d need more than a few dozen of these bullets—shoot; I’m runnin’ low on the mid-grade stuff,” she sighed.
“Mid-grade?” Fiona asked, covering her ears as she shot.
Yago was shakily stumbling to each one of the captors, pointing them out for Scarlet to separate with her blood. Edelira and Isabel spoke with the boy, whose name Rachel hadn’t heard.
Rachel wanted the whole thing to be finished to get some answers on what was making these shadow-wolf creatures that could bypass her hearing; she suspected this person called ‘The Beast,’ but that was just a guess.
Grace shrugged. “The high-grade bullets are … eh … let’s just say not friendly to my gun—gonna figure out how to make them have less kick because it makes my revolver inoperable for like twenty-four hours and, well … that’s a long time when you need a gun!”
“Yeah, I can see that—uh, that was awesome, by the way,” Fiona mumbled, condensing the prison around the group that Yago pointed out. “So … All of those others are good?” she asked, pointing at the group of women and children.
Yago shook his head, his body still trembling. “Umm … I know two of them were kind of … Well, not friendly with them, but … I don’t know about that one.”
Grace’s cheeks blushed a little at Fiona’s comments. “Stop it! You’re just butterin’ me up; it was nothin’!”
“Just point them out,” Scarlet sighed, giving the cowgirl a rueful shake of her head. “Oh, and you two keep an eye on those other ones, just in case,” she ordered, pointing at Isabel and Edelira; it was the first time Rachel saw the girl start giving out commands.
“I’m so proud of her!” Nia cried. “She’s becoming a big boss! Oh, but not as big as Nia! Mua-ha-ha-ha! I am the Leader of…”
The Secret Society of Denier; I know.
“You gotta let me finish! Humph…”
Nia went into sulk mode, which made Rachel at least a little less on edge. Still, she had a bad gut feeling with the information they had.
She motioned for Benedict to come to her as Edelira transformed into her gun, Isabel grabbing her sister out of the air to have at the ready.
“Eh … Yeah, Rachel?”
“Hmm … can you talk to that guy and figure out exactly what’s happening in Camagüey? I need to know if he has information on what Mythickin or Legendkin is running the show because … this seems like mass slaughter on a scale we haven’t seen yet if he’s already this advanced in his abilities.”
He swallowed at her grave tone and moved to talk to the young man, huddling on the ground and quivering while trying to wash his mouth out with his fingers, likely experiencing some after-effects of Scarlet’s blood.
After putting Benedict on info gathering, Rachel moved to help Fiona and Scarlet with the second group; it wouldn’t be long before the dust lost its effect. “Grace … good job,” Rachel said with a welcoming smile. “You might be a good fit after all; keep a perimeter.”
She popped another stick of gum in her mouth with a bright grin before giving her a salute. “On it, Boss! Uh … by the way … heh, I really, ‘really’ need a drink soon.”
Rachel waved her hand. “I understand it’s mandatory like Scarlet and blood or Fiona and sugar; we’ll get you some.”
“Thanks, Boss! Yeah … on the perimeter! Nothin’s gettin’ past me, Boss!”
Tail still stiff and ears shifting left and right, Rachel raised her fist as acknowledgment, trying to find anything she might have missed. Her paranoid mind searched for trouble since something had already been proven to be indetectable to her hearing.
These shadow wolves aren’t some run-of-the-mill pups … they’re as big as wolves. The issue is if this is only the base ability and just fodder—resurrecting soundless shadow wolves … that can’t be it.
“How’re things going?” Rachel asked, meeting up with Scarlet, Fiona, and Yago.
Scarlet scratched her temple, glancing around at the throng. “I cut the wolves apart … It seems they can’t come back if there’s too much damage. I guess you heard Yago say those two women were kind of distant from the others, being allowed to hang back every once in a while to talk—so, I have them in the unknown prison—wolf-dude is totally going to the others.”
“Mhm…” Rachel mumbled. Two individuals caught her attention immediately. A small Beastkin little girl that resembled a guinea pig, the tall moose-lady she’d seen, standing beside the girl, and a small boy holding the girl’s hand. “None of them are strong enough to counter Benedict’s dust … at least their resistances aren’t that high, and they don’t appear to have any defensive abilities.”
“Eh…” Scarlet’s eyes creased. “I mean, Glass Cannon is a thing, too … look at Fiona.”
“I have high resistances!”
“Yeah, but a spider could take you out—literally.”
Fiona shivered, hugging herself. “Ugh … don’t remind me!”
The group slowly began to snap out of their daze, stumbling around and falling over; it must have been bizarre, blinking, and suddenly all your captors were either cut to ribbons or locked in a tight pink dust-filled circular sphere.
Rachel’s ears darted left as she turned to face Benedict, rushing over to her.
“Hey! Hey! Umm … so, he said there is this big scary blue-skinned demon that’s giving all the orders … he said something about … what was the name … Abezethibou, and the wolves … eh, how would I translate it,” he groaned, “it’s so … mmh…”
“Take your time,” Fiona urged. “I have no clue what an Abezethibou is, though…”
“Umm … Okay,” he took a few deep breaths, looking at the waking crowd as Scarlet went between them, assuring them they were alright now. “The streets are … they’re full of skeletons because … well, they don’t leave anything but the bones behind, and everything’s sealed off by this massive barrier. Only those that have the right credentials can go out.”
“Insane,” Fiona mumbled, looking at Rachel. “A barrier that blocks an entire city? I’m the Fairy with the magical stuff here, and that’s uber impossible for me.”
“Continue,” Rachel said, eyes narrowing at the news.
“Right … Umm … there are these hounds that patrol the streets, and … and they’re controlled by wolf people that look like … well, that guy,” he said with a shiver, watching Fiona float the struggling manbeast to the opposite prison.
“D-Death will find you … The Beast comes for your heart!” he snarled. “I will feast on your…”
“And you’re done,” Scarlet mumbled, filling his sharp-toothed mouth with her blood. “… It’s always murder rampage with people like you … geez, chill.”
“Seems like a nice fella,” Grace chuckled, waving him off. “Hi … Bye!”
“The Beast?” Rachel asked.
Benedict cleared his throat. “Eh … my tongue is getting twisted trying to say it … umm … The Beast of G … Gévaudan?”
Fiona’s muscles tightened at the name. “Gévaudan … France Myth Gévaudan? An unknown monster that killed over five hundred people, Gévaudan?”
He simply shook his head. “I … I don’t know … maybe?”
“Ho-boy,” Fiona hissed, pulling back her hair. “Yeah … I’ve heard a few things about that from a Mythology stream I did from some of my French fans … pretty scary stuff … and the myths are all over the place. I mean, I guess if he can create copies or … whatever those things are, it explains why multiple people claim to have killed it.”
Rachel hummed. “Scarlet, you have the radio.”
“Eh … Yeah, one sec … just need to put him with the rest—are they talking in there?”
A long sigh shot through Rachel’s lips. “Yeah, but I can’t understand a word they’re saying, and the wind’s too loud for anyone else to listen in.”
“I can change the velocity,” Fiona offered. “I’m just saying, the Beast of Gévaudan sounded like a pretty scary tale from what my chat was saying—I mean, they get a kick out of scaring me sometimes, too, so … that might play a role.”
Scarlet shoved the wolfman into the wind prison and returned to hand her the radio, glaring at her hovering blood. “You have no idea how much slobber that dude generates—it’s got a venom in it, too—nasty stuff.”
Grace walked over, hands held behind her neck. “So, eh … we dealin’ with the French Werewolf or somethin’?”
“Something like that,” Fiona mumbled, but she went quiet to listen to Rachel contact Tom.
Waiting for several seconds, when he didn’t respond to the ping, she said, “Tom, I need some info on two myths. Are you there?”
There was a small pause before Maria’s voice came on. “Chica with a horn on call, long ears … eh, the dude’s off handlin’ somethin’ with the Clayman.”
Figuring it was her nickname for Clay, Rachel pressed on. “Can you look up the myth of Gévaudan and search Abezethibou?”
“Woah! Woah! Woah! Chica, what kind of gangster ya think I am? I ain’t know how to spell no … Abezgatheros or whatever, and what was that first thing Geneva Convention or somethin’?
“No … Okay, I’ll spell it out. Are you ready?”
Fiona was shaking with silent laughter as they slowly, very slowly, went letter by letter of what Rachel assumed was how the names were spelled.
“Eh … heh, ya got it wrong on both, chica! Fail! Google, for the win!”
“Maria?” Tom’s voice came on.
“They be havin’ myth problems down there—yo, you still bleedin’? Heh, should have brought me! All I’m sayin’!”
“What’s happening, Rachel?” Tom asked, taking over the call.
Rachel rolled her eyes; Maria was obviously very bored and feeling a bit left out. “I need those two names looked up; they seem to be running the outfit in Camagüey.”
“Hmm … I have them. Let me skim the information…”
While they waited, Scarlet and Fiona further narrowed down the victims and perpetrators, using levitate to figure out who needed more convincing or was hiding something.
The moose lady and the two kids appeared to be related somehow. The woman volunteered to join the children to try and protect them; however, there was a price to pay for her admission into the hostage group … breaking off her own horn and ripping part of her ear off.
Fiona and Scarlet were sickened by the information. It sounded like some horrible game the Warlord’s people played amongst themselves to see if she’d actually do it, which the lady did to not be separated from the kids, and the female antagonist to the situation kept the woman’s body parts as a souvenir of the moment.
Tom cleared his throat. “… You’re sure those are the names?”
Benedict, Grace, and Yago were the only ones close to hear, but Scarlet and Fiona’s enhanced hearing might have been able to pick it up. “Abezethibou is a demon and fallen angel that’s described in Jewish demonology. He’s a follower of Beelzebub and lost a wing on his fall from heaven—ancient texts say he was the one that hardened the heart of Pharaoh in the bible, convincing him to go after the Israelites … which God sent a flaming tornado to halt their path.”
He paused for a moment. “Rachel … This sounds like an enormous mythological figure. God imprisoned him in a pillar of water for his deeds. Beelzebub supposedly claimed he would break free of the prison when the demon returns to Earth.”
“Lovely,” Rachel mumbled. “The Beast of Gévaudan?”
“It’s … all over the place, but one description had The Beast having reddish-brown fur with dark ridged stripes down his back. He resembled a wolf or hyena … at the size of a horse, yet appeared to be some kind of dog or several other animals. It’s said that he’s killed over five hundred people … He sounds like a shape-shifter, to be honest.”
“I see … look more into it and find me some weaknesses. You should send some people here to collect these people. We’re going to scope it out before morning, lay low, and go in at night to take them out.”
“Sounds like a plan, and it will give us time to get more information; the relief effort is going well … we’re making progress, Rachel.”
“Slowly, but surely,” she mumbled. “Out.”
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