Spit of Spite 2.5

John Soprano

It was four in the afternoon, a bit of a lull time for me. The lunch rush had passed and the dinner rush had yet to arrive. Missy was off doing a patrol and Dinah was off at "private math tutoring" with Kurt Wynn.

I didn't really need breaks anymore, but it was nice to sit around. I tended the smokers, made sure there was enough wood, took care of the financial side of the business, and poured myself a glass of rye whiskey. Truthfully, I thought it wouldn't be so bad to have a few extra hands around the place. It'd make the restaurant a bit more lively if nothing else.

Just then, one of the many layers of my bounded field sparked into the visible spectrum. It stopped a car from barreling into the outdoor setting area.

"Shit," I cursed. I ran out to see if anyone was injured, only to find that the car was empty.

"Oh, good, you're out," came a smarmy voice from across the street. He wore a fitted, black tux with a red bowtie. A crimson mask and tophat completed the ensemble.

Around him were three capes. One was a hairy, gorilla-like thing with three eyes. Another looked like a football player, with black and red pads that bulked out his frame. The last was a svelte, attractive woman in a black, form-fitting outfit emblazoned with crimson suns.

The four were gathered around an eighteen-wheeler, probably stolen. Driving it was a boy I could only assume was Oliver. Which meant there was a rather dangerous surprise in the truck bed.

'The Travelers,' I thought. They weren't exactly hard to recognize. 'Why the fuck are they here?'

'I assume they traveled,' Shirou snarked. 'Maybe with that truck?'

'I told Fortuna to deal with Coi… FUCK!'

'One of those "should have been more specific" deals?'

'Shut up, Shirou.'

'How dangerous are they?'

'To you or me? Laughable. To everyone else? Very. Arguably a step below an endbringer.'

That wiped the sass from him. He was all business now. 'John…'

'I know. Let me think.'

'Then get the one with the hat talking. He looks like a talker.'

"You know, normal people knock," I said nonchalantly. My mind whirled and spun like a roulette, dozens of weapons coming to the fore. I'd yet to decide what I wanted to do with them, I really wasn't much of a planner, but whatever I chose, I'd have options.

"We tried, but we kept coming back to turn off the stove," Francis said with clear frustration. "A stove we don't have."

"Maybe you should have taken the hint. I'm not a fan of solicitors."

"Sorry, can't take no for an answer. You go back inside and Sundancer here tests just how strong that force field is. Hint: Her name is literal."

For a moment, I was tempted to put up Rho Aias around my store. The seven-layered shield of Ajax required constant magical input, but that was hardly a problem with me. Could Marissa break a Noble Phantasm with her miniature sun? Rho Aias was conceptually strongest against projectile weapons, but I wasn't sure if her sun qualified.

Alas, I'd never know. Me turtling down would just lead to extreme collateral damage. I doubted Francis could snatch me out from my bounded fields, spatial protection was one of the first things I coded into them, but that would just make him more desperate.

And, truth be told, I rather liked most of the Travelers. They weren't monsters. They were just kids dealt a shit hand by the Simurgh.

Francis was a douchebag, but I could respect his devotion to Noelle if nothing else. Luke had been the glue that held them together. He wasn't a naturally violent person, despite his power. Jess was a depressed, lonely girl who tried to live life in spite of her disability. And Marissa, she was their moral compass, a girl with a nuke she desperately didn't want to use. She retired from the cape life the first chance she got.

'I don't want to kill them,' I told Shirou. 'They're… Even when Noelle fully became Echidna, killing her was an act of mercy, not punishment.'

'Then don't,' Shirou urged. 'You're the Third True Magician. You can do things that would make gods weep with envy. Save them.'

'I'm not a hero, Shirou.'

'But they're here now, asking for help. Maybe not politely, but you know why they're here already.'

I could guess. 'They're desperate. They think I can cure Noelle. Or at least want to use my wishcraft to feed her indefinitely.'

'And can you?'

'Fix her? I'm not confident in making a body, but…'

'You have a plan then.'

'I do, but they're still rather rude. A little spanking wouldn't be wrong, I think.'

'This is going to get silly again, isn't it?'

'You know me so well, buddy.'

"How about you come with us, Kingmaker?" Trickster said. "You don't want to know what we can do."

"Oh, I know what you can do already. And that's no way to ask for favors, Francis."

"You-"

I pointed at them all in turn. "Jess. Luke. Oliver. Marissa. Noelle's probably in that truck. I know. I also know your identities mean nothing because you're not native to Earth-Bet."

"You can't just say that!" Marissa gasped. "The unwritten-"

"Why do people keep saying that?" I asked rhetorically. "Seriously, it's John. Why would you expect the one who voluntarily outs himself and rejects any cape activity to give a rat's ass about the unwritten rules, Mars?"

"So you know things. Doesn't matter," Francis said, doing his best to look nonchalant. He ended up looking like a prissy golf caddy at one of those smarmy country clubs instead. "That's just one more reason to take you with us."

"You could have asked, you know. I can't take you back to Aleph, sorry. That's more the Kaleidoscope's thing. I'm the Heaven's Feel."

"What are you talking about?"

"Not important. What is important is that you interrupted my relaxation time. I had a nice glass of rye poured out."

"You think we care? Come with us while we're asking nicely and you might still have a restaurant to come back to."

"See? That's your problem, Francis. You're desperate but skip straight past asking to make threats you can't enforce. And me? I might be a terrible magus, I have this thing called morals,, but I do have some pride. I am the Third Magician. I don't take orders, brat."

"The hard way it is then."

I let them make the first move. It was only fair. I felt something envelop me and then found myself standing where Francis used to be. That was one question answered: Outside my bounded field, his power worked on me, probably because it worked off mass and my body was, at least superficially, something his Shard could understand.

Jess wrapped her hairy arms around me tightly. It wasn't enough to crush a man, but she clearly thought she could keep me from summoning things if she held down my arms. A mistake, but not an unreasonable one; many capes had arbitrary restrictions like that. And, if she was wrong, it wasn't like she was in any danger.

I reinforced my body and pried her arms apart. Grabbing her by the wrists, I hurled her at Luke, making him dive away.

"I don't want to hurt you," Mars cried. Her hands formed a miniature sun, as large as a volleyball, that she slowly moved in my direction. Waves of heat bathed me, threatening to set me alight from proximity alone.

I knew she could move it much faster. Her hesitation made her a horrible combatant, but also my favorite Traveler.

And yet, I knew that there was steel hidden beneath that softness. She was the one who atomized Noelle. When the time came, this was a girl who could take decisive action.

'Kindness is not weakness,' Shirou said, a hint of admiration and sympathy in his voice.

I agreed, and his approval convinced me that what I was about to do was right. I made a note to do something nice for her later. Luke too, the guy could use a break.

"Sweetheart, that's not a sun. This is a sun," I said, laughing. "Burn all creation to smoldering ash. Ryujin-just kidding. Laevatein!"

The golden sword of yet another apocalyptic, angry fire-guy appeared in my hand. I waved it towards Francis and willed the damn thing to shine brighter.

"Gah! Fuck!" I heard Francis cry out, blinded by my glorious firestarter.

The fire of Surtr raged and I had more trouble quelling its heat than actually fighting the Travelers. I didn't need to bring out the "Sun-Like Sword that Becomes a Calamity," but it felt only fair. If anyone asked, Mars started it.

Luke shot a hail of marbles at me, only to curse as I turned his projectiles to dust with a lazy swing of my favorite torch.

With seemingly suicidal intent, I charged Marissa's sun and slashed at it with my sword. Reinforced as I was, I moved faster than she could possibly react.

The sword of the World Ruiner met a Shard's closest approximation of a sun. And, to everyone else's surprise, the sword won. We now had a definitive look at the center of the sun, not that anyone but me could see anything but eye-searing brightness.

No, what the rest of them saw was my sword shining gold, and then promptly bisecting Marissa's conjured sun like it didn't exist. An impossibility for a dozen different reasons, but this was Surtr's sword, the very same prophesied to kill gods and end the Nine Realms. Logic wasn't exactly a factor where the obscenely overpowered giant was concerned.

"E-Eh?" Mars gasped. She looked delighted to find that she hadn't roasted someone alive, but also very, very confused.

I took that confusion for the opportunity it was. It was stupid, but I did just say I'd do something nice for her, and well, her power gave me an idea.

Maybe I was slightly miffed about the whiskey…

I reached out and grasped the young woman on the shoulder. As golden light surrounded her, I began to chant, "Hammered light, woven sunbeams, become the proof of Surya's patronage. Shine, Kavacha, Kundala!"

Once upon a time, a woman named Kunti had a son. His father? Surya, the sun god of Hindu mythology. She begged Surya for proof of the boy's parentage, so that no one would dare mock him. So the sun god bestowed upon his son an armor and an earring forged of his precious domain, light.

Karna would go on to become one of the greatest heroes of Hindu mythology. And yet, though his armor made him nigh on invincible, his greatest feat was not of might or courage, but of nobility and humility.

When Indra came to steal his armor, the king of the gods did so as a brahman, a wiseman and priest. Karna spotted the deceit, but still willingly gave up his most valued treasure, the proof of Surya's blessing, because he said he once swore that he would never deny a brahman. Keeping his word and honoring the gods was more valuable to him than his armor.

I thought it appropriate then, that Marissa take on Karna's legacy. It was a popular saying, that the one who least wants power is the one who is most fit to wield it.

Here was a girl who would happily give up her power. Here was a girl who was kind, but with a core of steel beneath. She had moral fiber. She did not lack courage. In another life, she might have made a splendid hero.

And, one day, when the time came for me to take the armor back, I knew that she would part with it gladly.

I couldn't help but think that Karna would have adored her.

That, and I found it funny.

An armor of resplendent gold and red enveloped her. Rather than roast her to ashes, the heat embraced her like a beloved daughter. Surya's blessing was no joke. Even I would have to pull out the big guns to hurt her now.

"Eh? Aiee!" Marissa yelped in surprise as I knelt down and grabbed her by the ankle.

I swung her around like a club. My new, invincible, sun-blessed club. She would be a true sundancer today. This, I swore upon the Heaven's Feel.

She yelled and conjured a sun in her panic, but I merely smacked her straight into the fiery orb. Kavacha and Kundala protected her. It would be really weird if armor made of the sun couldn't withstand mini-suns.

Then, I smacked her against the ground a few times, just for fun.

"Relax, Mars, you're invincible now. Even Behemoth would have a hard time hurting you in that," I drawled.

"Let me go!"

"Nope. You get to help me give your friends a spanking. That was great whiskey, damnit." I dashed towards Francis before he could recover from my Laevatein-induced flashbang. Then, with Marissa screaming bloody murder in his ears, I proceeded to club him a few times with his teammate. ThenI paused. I slung Mars over my shoulder. "Okay, actually though. Quit screaming unless it hurts because otherwise, I won't know when I should stop."

"Stop using me like a club!"

"Nah. Tell me if you're about to barf. I'd rather you do it over Francis, the prick."

"That's no-Aahhh!"

I cut her off, dashing towards Jess and Luke. With Francis down, there wasn't much they could do to run from me.

Luke fired something at me, but my new Mars-club smacked it out of the air.

"Oh, shit, sorry, Mars!" he yelled, only for me to smack him with her.

I paused just long enough for her to reassure him. "It's oka-Ahh! Will you quit that?"

'Must you traumatize them?' Shirou asked.

'You say that, but I can hear you giggling.'

'Out of disbelief.'

'Sure, keep telling yourself that.'

Then, just when I was about to turn to Jess, the back of their eighteen-wheeler truck burst open.

"Francis!" Noelle cried. She took one look at her downed boyfriend and charged me. "I'm going to kill you!"

"Ah, fuck. Fun's over, I guess," I pouted. I caught Mars in a bridal carry and jumped out into the middle of the street, away from her charge. I still wasn't sure what an evil clone of me could do, it sure as shit couldn't copy the Heaven's Feel, but I wasn't about to find out for the giggles.

"Noelle! Stop!" Mars shouted, trying to calm her down.

"He killed Francis!"

"He didn't!"

I sighed and gently stood her on her feet. She could stop being my weapon, for the moment. Instead, I traced a salvo of black keys and pinned Noelle in place. It wouldn't last, Noelle was ridiculously strong, but I just needed a second.

Then, Laevatein still in my offhand, I sent a scything blade of fire her way. The heat was overwhelming. Even restrained as it was, Laevatein was a sword prophesied to bring about the apocalypse. Noelle was a high-end brute, someone canonically compared to endbringers, but there just wasn't much on Earth-Bet rated to take a hit from Laevatein. That she survived at all was a miracle.

"Wh-What?" she gasped. Almost half her body, vertically split from the waist down, had been seared away. So intense was the flame that she didn't even have the chance to feel the heat before it was over.

The crazy part of it all was that I was fairly sure she could regenerate from this. So long as her corona was undamaged, her power would eventually replenish the lost biomass.

Which meant I had to act now, while she was still in shock.

I blurred forward. Someone yelled something about not touching her, but even had I not known that already, I was moving too fast. I jumped and cleared her lower body until my palm met her face.

Noelle was a reasonably pretty girl with straight, brunette hair and a horrified look on her face. From the pelvis down, she was a monstrosity of flesh comprising countless animal heads and limbs. The flesh was itself colored like a patchwork, sometimes a mottled green or gray and a blistered red at other sections. I couldn't even imagine what being stuck like this would do to a girl.

And she wouldn't be. Not anymore.

My hand met her face and I called upon the primary power of the Heaven's Feel, one I'd never used to date. The Heaven's Feel was, at its most basic, the creation, operation, manipulation, and destruction of souls.

All. Souls.

I grabbed her soul and yanked it from her body, landing behind the freshly made corpse. Her upper half slumped over, functionally dead now that Noelle wasn't home anymore.

"You killed her," Francis glared now having recovered some semblance of sight again. "You bastard. I'm going to-"

"She's not dead, Francis. She's right here," I said, holding up a blue flame. It flickered to and fro, as if confused and looking around. "Noelle Meinhardt has a beautiful soul."

"What?"

"Which means I can get rid of this."

With a flick of my wrist, I loosened a bit more of Laevatein's restraints. A torrent of fire spilled forth, turning the entire, truck-sized body to ashes in the breeze.

"Noelle!"

"I told you, she's right here. Quit your whining."

I looked around. The soul was a delicate thing, every memory I had said so. Without a body, it would pass on. And I had no intention of sustaining Noelle forever so she needed a host.

After a few seconds, I found it. In the back of a car, untouched by our brief "fight," I found a doll that someone had left behind. It was a hello kitty plushie, or maybe it was called something else on Earth-Bet, but it'd do.

The body was a reflection of the soul. It would take on properties in accordance with how Noelle saw herself. At least, to an extent.

I quickly broke the glass and retrieved the doll.

"Welp, I know this isn't perfect, but I don't feel comfortable wishing up corpses for you to inhabit, even if I probably could do that," I told her. I gently pushed the blue flame into the Hello Kitty doll. "So, you're just going to have to sit tight. At least you're cute and don't need to eat anymore, right?"

Beady eyes blinked up at me. The animated doll turned her head, looking out at her downed teammates. Then, she brought her fuzzy, little paws to her face.

"What?"

"Why is anyone even remotely surprised by what I can do anymore? I'm pretty sure I told PHO I can steal souls, remember? Congratulations, sweetheart, you're fucking adorable."

"What the fuck?"

"Oh, right. You all work for me now. Restaurant opens at eleven. Be here tomorrow morning at nine-thirty. Ciao~" I waved as I walked away with a laugh.

Part-timers acquired.

Author's Note

I thought about giving Marissa Galatine, it also has a sun theme, but I have plans for that one.

Poor Noelle. I mean, it trumps being Echidna, right?

Have a two-for-one animal/archeology fact: The story of King Tut's curse began with a mosquito bite.

George Herbert, Fifth Earl of Carnarvon, was the patron of the excavation. He cooperated with a team led by Howard Carter. Though WWI temporarily halted their excavation, in 1922, Carter made the discovery of a lifetime: the undisturbed tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Or, as we know him, King Tut.

Herbert was thrilled and flew out from England to open the tomb. And a year later, only two months after a public unveiling, he was dead. While he was shaving, he cut open a mosquito bite on his cheek. He got a blood infection which developed into pneumonia. It spread to both lungs and that was that.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock fame) was the one who popularized the idea that it was King Tut's curse.

Over the next 24 years, 13 others involved in the excavation also died, Carter included. It made the idea of the curse a popular urban legend, but a) that's a miniscule number of people actually involved in the excavation/transportation/display of King Tut's tomb and b) the average age of death for those on Carter's team was 73.

But it's more fun to think everyone got axed by an inbred mummy.

Something something Pat-re-on.

This chapter has been brought to you by Null and his 27/6/6 Samira.