It's finally here.
Number 10: countless clouds of violet
It has been a while.
I had been busy, these last few weeks; cleaning the city wasn't an easy task.
Why wasn't it like a simple clean-up, I had asked myself at first. The answer to that question as rather simple: because it wasn't a clean-up. It was an infestation.
The gangs had infested the city and rooted deep in its core.
Now, there were several ways to deal with an infestation.
Either you burnt it to the ground, uncaring for whatever might happen...
or you decided to solve the problem at its roots.
And sometimes, sometimes a burning flame was needed to set fire to the infestations hives and let the smoke suffocate it.
This train of thought brought me here.
After I had cleaned the street of some more Merchants, an idea had come to my mind.
Why did I go at this all alone?
I had promptly looked at the available assistance and found both the Empire, and the Protectorate insufficient allies, both for their own reasons.
The Protectorate because they were bound by rules, kept from doing what was needed by the chains of morality, but mostly public opinion.
They could never do what I saw as necessary.
The Empire was a different matter altogether. Because it had so many capes, it was a lot more dangerous than the ABB, at least, when I wanted to take them on all by myself.
Really, the Asians were the only real option.
The rain poured from the sky as if the heavens were sad that this had to happen.
The sky was already dark, and the moon shone through a few gaps in the stormy clouds, barely illuminating the city at all.
I, for one, was standing in front of a casino.
It was the ABB's Lotus casino and Oni Lee, one of Lungs henchmen, had been sent here to be the diplomatic liaison between me and Lung, the ABB's leader.
I had to admit, I was kind of nervous, even though I did not show it; you didn't just agree to talk to the man that was portrayed as an insane suicide bomber, in a den full of thugs loyal only to him and his boss no less.
The doors before me opened and I entered, ready to forge the alliance that would no doubt come in handy in the near future.
"Thank you for meeting me here, Oni Lee"
"Of course, but let us get right to the point," he leaned forward, the candlelight giving his mask an eerie look, "what do you want?"
I leaned backward; my relaxation was to assure him that I wasn't afraid of him.
"I want to propose an alliance, be it temporary or permanently. I want to remove the other gangs from the city"
"And why would a wh-", I cut his train f thought with s subtle use of my power. Stuttering for a moment, he spoke up again, as if nothing had happened. "I see. I suppose Lung would be interested; how do we know you're not with the PRT, though? And why would we need your help? What do you have to offer?"
I smirked a bit; so far, everything went according to plan. "I can provide quick travel for all your goons and assure that nobody escapes the site. If you want to test my claims, I suppose we could lash out at the Merchants first. That is if you're willing to trust me for a while"
He looked thoughtful for a moment – at least, I think he did, he was wearing a mask, after all – and responded, exactly how I had planned it. "Alright, I see your point. I believe Lung would be willing to try out this kind of alliance..."
We both stood from our seats. "I'll take your word for it"
He motioned for me to follow him so he could lead me out the door. "Next Thursday will be the time to strike. I'd say we should be ready at around ten in the evening. Don't be late"
With that, I nodded to him and he went back inside.
That was number one on the list, completely fulfilled.
And... I had the feeling I was being watched. There wasn't anyone on ground level, however, and so I looked up; on top of a building was the best place to observe, anyway.
I looked around for a bit and met the gaze of a blond girl in full costume.
Not sure what gang she belonged to, but I didn't recognize her immediately, so it probably wasn't an important one.
What annoyed me, however, was that she was staring at me, analyzing me, while her teammates ignored me.
The tell-tale signs of a thinker.
Exerting my powers for a bit, I messed with the boundaries of her knowledge and understanding, effectively forcing her thought process to grind to a halt.
She flinched and I grinned, holding my parasol and walking towards the next alleyway.
Always these small fries trying to mettle with the big fish.
Something weird had happened, but I wasn't quite sure what it was.
They had simply appeared in my little 'dimension' and I couldn't remember ever assimilating them...
It made me interested in them.
No one would say that was a good thing.
The night had come and the plan was moving along splendidly.
The ABB was making a move on the Merchants, and the druggies were going down hard.
Apparently, nobody in the Bay's underworld really took the Merchants seriously, but none of the gangs would say no to taking them down, either.
The area was burning, the moon shone above and I felt like Nero, setting fire to a city.
The first plague was about to be removed from the city and I would be one step closer to my goal.
But, of course, the PRT had to crash the party.
Several vans had the area surrounded and the Protectorate's capes were stepping out of one to the north; a few of the Wards – I believed them to be Clockblocker, Shadow Stalker, Vista, and Kid Win, the last apparently not being Kid Win but Gallant – had also come to join the fight.
Meh, wouldn't save them.
I formed a gap before me and stepped in, my personal little dimension between dimensions greeting me warmly, and ripped open space before me to come out before the Protectorate.
Apparently, they were planning on crashing the 'party'. No surprise there.
"I am sorry, but I will not let you interfere with this fight. It is much too important for me"
The assembled capes stared at me and Armsmaster, in a blinding showcase of his social competency, immediately antagonized me. "And what makes you think you could stop us from interfering? Why would this fight even interest you?"
Why would it interest me? To make sure the gangs finally got removed, of course. Something the Protectorate and PRT should have made sure a long time ago. He was just fishing for information, but his attempts at obtaining it were weak and deserved amusement at best.
Seriously, why would you ask someone who wants to stop you from interfering with something 'important' why he was stopping you in the first place? To get more information, sure, but were there really people dumb enough to explain their plans like some Bond villain?
"Now, don't use that old tactic; I won't tell you my thoughts or plans, that would just ruin the surprise... It should be enough for you to know that I am going to stand in your way, should you decide to interfere with the Dragon's fight"
They were silent for the tiniest moment and then Shadow Stalker spoke up.
She was quiet and her words were muttered under her breath, but I could hear them.
"-the Fuck... Hebert?"
And the realization hit me.
That's why nothing was done...
Hm, maybe the Protectorate deserved to be eliminated as well?
Cold detachment really wasn't good for rational thought, at least not in that case.
I thought about taking a break after this.
There was a short word-exchange going on between Miss Militia and Shadow Stalker, but I didn't really care at the moment.
I only started paying attention again when Armsmaster barked at me. "Don't think we'll let you stop us. Out directive is to stop Lung from further escalation and prevent the fire from spreading further. Out of our way!"
I frowned at his choice; I also didn't like having guns trained on me, ut I suppose nobody liked that. "Well, if you really want to go through with this... Be warned, though. Once you decide to fight there is no going back"
Armsmaster – and I would never have pegged a hero as revered as him to be this impulsive – attacked head on... With the flat side of his halberd.
I mean, seriously, if you decided to fight, at least, do so without holding back. Honestly, I never understood why people didn't use their strongest attack first.
As it was, I simply held ut my hand and his halberd stopped dead in its tracks.
Maybe he would start fighting seriously if I mocked him a little? He didn't seem to like having his authority challenged. Probably some kind of inferiority complex. "But since you decided to fight me, at least, stop fooling around, Armsmaster"
I think I nailed the mocking tone because his face – at least the lower half of it – contorted in rage.
"Clock, freeze her!" I heard Miss Militia shout.
Nope, not happening.
I looked eyes with the boy in the clock-themed costume and saw him already moving his hand forwards, the limb somehow moving at extreme speeds and further than it should have.
Hastily creating two gaps, one in front of me and in the trajectory of his hand, and one behind him, I actually managed to get him to freeze himself.
And soon several others engaged me and I had to jump back.
While it might have looked like I had to retreat for a moment, Clockblocker's unavailability was such a huge advantage I simply couldn't waste.
"Alright, now that he's out of the game there's no reason to hold back anymore..."
… I had always wanted to just let loose.
I flexed my power, the feeling pure bliss to me, and ripped open massive gaps in the air, all around us.
I had to hurry a bit, but taking out the capes first was going to make things a lot easier for the ABB.
It was time to play for a bit...
It was tiring, this whole cleansing the city business.
It was tiring but necessary, and the date for the next Invasion, this time, one into Empire territory, was approaching fast.
After the decisive victory, we had when we fought the Merchants, Lung had decided he could trust me for now.
Not the best decision, but he was right, at least for the moment.
I really needed a vacation, though. It was a good thing I could use my gaps to travel around the world as I pleased.
Hawaii? Too close to the states.
Mexico? Same reason.
Somewhere in Europe? France, maybe? Interesting idea, but it didn't quite feel right.
Considering my temporary alliance with the ABB, it might be a good idea to visit one of the Asian countries.
Korea? The tensions there were too high at the moment, so that was out.
China? Good idea, but I didn't want to accidentally meddle with the Yàngbăn, I wanted to take some time for myself, not fight with a cult.
Thailand? A good option. Maybe.
Japan? Something about that idea intrigued me; I decided I'd take a look.
Being able to travel quickly to anywhere in the world had it's perks, really.
I waved my hand and opened a portal; it was time to explore.
Exhausted, I sat down at a fountain, a samurai statue with a sword made of water, and just relaxed.
A girl sat down next to me, her small dog jumping up to sit on her lap.
The girl itself looked weird, at least for American standards, and her pink hair swayed in the slight breeze; she wasn't unattractive, though.
She turned to me with a questioning look and started talking in Japanese.
"Is this your first time here? Pardon me for saying this, but you look like a foreigner", suddenly I was rather glad I had acquired a way to understand other languages, "I understand your exhaustion, tourism tours can be rather stressful"
I turned to her with a slight smile. "I didn't really have a guide to show me around, I prefer exploring things by myself" That, and no guide would follow me across the country to visit twenty-four different cities within eight hours.
"Well, if you'd like, I could show you around a bit", her thoughtful expression turned into a smile.
I thought about it. Yeah, that might be a good idea.
I groaned as I awoke and my head pounded.
Damn, this Sake stuff is strong.
At that moment, I craved water.
A glass full of the delicious liquid was shoved in front of my face.
"Here, I thought you might need it after last night", Yuyuko smiled at me.
I nodded in thanks and took the glass, gulping it's contents down greedily.
"I've prepared some simple breakfast so you won't have to travel with an empty stomach. It should also help against the aches you'll inevitably have"
"Thank you, thank you very much", I stood up and looked around the small house once again. It was neatly organized and there was a surprising amount of books stored in shelves all around the place.
Yuyuko came back into the room with a huge plate.
"Alright then, eat up. I wasn't sure how much you'd eat so I went with the amount I usually do. Come on, don't be shy"
At that moment, as I looked at the sheer amount of food in front of me, I knew that this woman was a total glutton.
And I still envied her for her figure.
"Now that I've shown you around, you'll have to do the same, soon!", her eyes sparkled a bit, "I've always wanted to see America"
I smiled at that. "Sure, but I'm going to be busy for quite some time. I'll visit when I can free some hours, though"
She gave me a quick, friendly hug and I waved her goodbye before stepping into the gap.
Despite all that I've done for him, I felt slightly guilty.
No... scratch that; I felt very guilty.
All the time, I knew that I'd have to confront my father sooner or later, if only to say goodbye.
But I'd never have thought that it would be this difficult...
And because of it's apparent difficulty, I decided to do it all in one swoop. There was simply no getting around it.
I just really hoped he'd seen the note and understood.
And suddenly, I was standing in front of the door to the house. I wasn't ready to do this and I knew it.
I reached forward... and pressed the button for the doorbell.
I heard some frantic steps inside and then the door swung open.
"Taylor! You're alive!"
I was enveloped in a hug.
We hadn't really been close ever since Mom died, so the hug was surprising. Well, maybe I simply wasn't used to being hugged.
As it was, I simply hugged him back.
"Everything is going to be alright, Dad... I'm fine", I tried to sound assuring.
Eventually, he let go.
I took his arm, "Let's get inside"
Oh, how much had I missed my dad's lasagne.
The smell in the kitchen was heavenly, and the atmosphere rather cosy. It was dark and cold outside and warm in the kitchen.
The only thing that was slightly unpleasant was the talk with my dad.
"Please, Taylor, don't do something like that again. I can't live worrying about you all the time", his pleas made me feel guilty.
"Dad... I'm doing this for you. And it's only one last big fight", I tried to be reassuring, "You don't have to worry. I can handle it"
"Taylor... you know that, once you've finished with the Empire, the ABB's there, too", his voice was truly tinged with worry.
I smiled knowingly. "Yes, but they only have two capes... well, three by now"
"So? You're not going up against Lung of all people! I won't let you get hurt"
I'd suspected this might happen. "Dad, I know what I'm doing. I won't fight him directly"
Silenced reigned for a few minutes, each of us eating our share of food.
Finally, Dad sighed. "You really are like your mother, you know. Once she had her mind set on something, I couldn't talk her out of it", he looked regretful, "Alright, fine. Do it, but after that you're staying safe!"
I smiled at him. "I'm glad you understand..."
I found myself anticipating what was about to happen.
I spied through a small gap, floating at about eye-height. The Empire had just surrounded a few of the ABB's thugs and behind me, Lung was getting restless.
I turned around. "Alright, they're almost finished. Lee, Lung, start fighting. It doesn't have to be serious, just enough to let the dragon grow"
The Empire was in for a surprise.
This was actually a last minute change in plans. There were a lot of Empire capes and they would kill Lung too easily if he hadn't already grown as soon as we engaged them.
As I listened to Kaiser's actually quite inspiring speech, I lifted my hand and the ABB behind me got ready.
I opened the gap further and got ready to deliver the ultimate "evil mastermind" act.
"We all know this was not the real invasion; that move was excessively dumb, even for the ABB. A storm is approaching, a storm of an unknown sort, but a storm nonetheless...", Kaiser's words rang through the night.
A storm, huh? I suppose I could work with that.
I stepped out of the gap ad somehow, not a single Empire-Cape had noticed me.
"A storm of fire, perhaps? Burning through the night, it's flames kindled by the moon shining oh so bright", I was so excited for this – a final assault at the gangs of the bay – I was positively giddy, "Come forth, my storm, and do as you please. Feast and burn with vigour, for your fuel, shall be your enemies..."
I swung my arm dramatically and exerted my power. Behind me and surrounding the capes of the Empire, a lot of gaps opened.
"Come forth, and finish this fight!"
Well, that had been surprisingly easy.
While I mostly defended myself, I was quick to strike whenever possible.
The Empire didn't have a chance.
With Lung already amped up a bit, they had no way of dealing with him quickly.
The only cape the Empire had that might have been annoying was Purity and she hadn't even been there.
Sure, one could count Hookwolf as a problem, but honestly? I simply had him swallowed and ripped apart.
So, when the fight was finally over, I decided to progress with the plan.
Lung himself had calmed down; I needed him to be able to talk properly for this.
"So, now that we're done with the gangs... I've got a proposition for you"
Lung looked slightly wary, but never afraid; battle euphoria was a powerful thing.
"My goal is to eventually create a world of peace", I used my arms to emphasize our surroundings, "However, as you can see, this world is far too infested with violence to ever be truly peaceful. It is simply unfit to be the paradise I'm dreaming of", I looked him in the eyes, "I wish to offer you a place in the world I am going to create. I still need to fins a way to do that, but it will come to existence eventually", I held out my hand to him, "So, will you stand with me or against me?"
Lung looked thoughtful.
The food was really good, as expected from a high-class restaurant.
Dad was well-dressed for the occasion and he seemed happy.
I was happy as well, happy to spend some time with my father.
It was also rather amusing to see how he was still looking around in disbelief.
I could understand that, though. I would be weirded out as well if I were in his place.
Once we finished eating, the waitress received the payment and Dad and I got ready to leave.
We moved along the crowded streets of Osaka, my father looking around in wonder and me looking for my friend. Yuyuko had told me that she wanted to give my dad a little tour and I just couldn't say no. She was a very convincing girl.
Then I spotted her and waved. Grabbing Dad's hand, we went over to her and greeted her.
At that moment, I saw something gleam in both of their eyes.
My dad had enjoyed the tour immensely.
Or maybe it was my friends form-fitting clothing he enjoyed that much. I shuddered.
I still found it all rather weird. I mean... Yuyuko was what, twenty-one? The age gap was just way too big.
Anyway, my father had invited her over to return the sightseeing favour and, while I didn't think that sightseeing in a city like Brockton Bay was the best idea ever, I wasn't necessarily against it, either.
We were just going to the bank to lift off some money when it happened.
I had been visiting the restroom, for obvious reasons, and when I returned...
Where these guys serious? Robbing a bank when the Protectorate only had the small gangs to worry about?
Come to think of it... why weren't they there?
I approached a blonde girl in a black and purple bodysuit.
"Hi, would you mind if I took a bit of your time? I don't think you know what you're doing right now", she really didn't.
She tensed visibly and sweat poured down her forehead.
I smiled a little, it wasn't a nice smile. "Good. But first, would you kindly tell your teammates to fuck off?"
"So... let me get this straight, you're all employed by this 'Coil' guy and none of you actually want it?", this story was just a little bit bullshit.
"Ah, no... It's just me that was hired at gunpoint, the others joined willingly", so the blonde was singing because she wanted to save her own skin, huh?
"And you want me to help you getting rid of him?"
"Well, I do. I'm not sure about the others"
I leaned back and took a sip of tea. This was both total bullshit and far too easy.
"Hm... He's a crime boss, right?", the blonde nodded, "In that case I'm taking him down, anyway. Thanks for informing me, though"
She relaxed a little at my more or less friendly tone.
"Since you didn't steal anything I'll let you go for now. I'm not sure about the others, but I can offer you temporary housing at a friends house. It's far enough away that this Coil shouldn't be able to get you"
She looked hopeful at that.
"But only if you're ready to leave behind a life of crime. I will not aid a criminal"
She nodded rapidly.
I was pretty sure I had finally found a way.
The tree's leaves swayed in the wind and the atmosphere was very idyllic overall.
I had finally found the right place.
I stepped through the torii and entered the shrine grounds.
The shrine itself was rather small, but the grounds were very well maintained and everything looked rather beautiful.
There was a young girl of about twelve years of age sweeping the grounds, next to her there was a bright, floating shape she was talking to amiably.
They hadn't noticed me yet, it seemed.
I folded my parasol and thrust the tip to the ground.
The sound echoed through the shrine grounds and I immediately had their attention.
"Minako Hakurei, shrine maiden of the Hakurei shrine, I have come to make you an offer"
A/N: And it's finally done. Took me long enough. Anyway, I want to thank you all for the positive feedback so far. This is the end of the first Arc of this story and the real stuff shall begin soon. The Bay's clear of gangs, Coil will be dealt with and Danny might have a girlfriend. Looks good so far.
Thank you all for staying with this story until now, I hope the next chapters will please you as well.