This chapter is for Cat of the World who was the third reviewer I needed! Huzzah to Cat!
Edit from last chapter: yes, PirateTree, I did mean Infiltrate. BUT! Asta and Abel could also infuriate them in disguise too!
You guys should already know who I own and who I don't. To review though: Abel, Asthe, Kampfer, Endre, Georgioni and the guards in INRI are not mine. Mar, Sain, Brian and the spoken of June are.
And There was Much Rolling
While the Saint Mark Plaza, with its palazzo and basilica, was considered the face of Venice, the canals were the heart of the city. Beneath the surface, Venice was a city of consumption and greed, and Rialto Bridge was the center of that dark underworld.
Underneath the large arching bridge that spanned the Grand Canal, several shops, clubs, restaurants, casinos and houses of pleasure lined up-one after another. Gaudy lights lit up the strip at night.
A tall man in a "tactician" mask gracefully disembarked from his gondola. His neatly-tailored charcoal suit and hip-length black cape contrasted sharply with his white mask.
The Tactician descended a marble staircase that led to a darkened study beneath the seedy street. There, he saw a young boy who casually had his head propped up on a rosewood desk.
He was a very handsome boy. Even in the dim light, his face seemed to glow like an angel's. He looked ten or eleven years old, but his brassy-colored eyes betrayed a thousand year's worth of evil.
"Would you like a drink?" the boy offered.
"I restrict my consumption of wine on business trips," the Tactician replied.
"That's too bad. Then again, I suppose you Terran cannot appreciate the taste of this delicious drink," the boy ventured, his words honeyed and his meaning full of venom.
The boy-Endre Kourza, Count of Zagrev- curled his upper lip, revealing his fangs. He lifted the decanter off the desk, poured a think red drink, and downed it in one gulp. "Venetian. Good quality." The count laughed.
The Tactician guessed, "The appraiser's daughter?"
"She said she wanted to go back to her family. So I arranged a family reunion of sorts," the count joked.
Giggling, the count covered his mouth with his delicate hands.
The long-haired Tactician reacted indifferently. He shrugged, staying all business. "Count, will you please refrain from drawing any undue attention? Last night, a visitor from your country arrived and a group of detectives have come from Albion. Do you know a young lady by the name of Astharoshe? Or the Private Investigator Company called Got a Hunch?"
"Astharoshe?" Endre raised an eyebrow. "Astharoshe Asran? That little girl?" He opened his mouth to continue but paused at the second set of details. "Got a Hunch? They have a branch in the Empire…" He chewed his bottom lip. "They… they are a problem."
Mar woke up lying on her back, a warm body on each side of her. She tried to shift slightly to dislodge Sain's head from under her chin so she could looked down at what should be Brian's head on her stomach. For a moment she couldn't move, the suite had gray washed walls, bars blocked the window...
And there was a shadow in the corner.
The second Mar's body decided it was going to cooperate with her, she lurched to sitting upright, sending the other two sprawling. They reacted quickly, Brian rolling off the bed and under it before tossing Vera (where it was hiding) to Sain. Sain had it cocked and ready for firing before Mar was fully awake.
"This is why I don't sleep on my back." Mar wheezed. "Sleep Paralysis people!"
When you sleep, your body locks up so when you dream of running, your body doesn't actually run (into a wall or off your bed). For people suffering from Sleep Paralysis, their mind wakes up and becomes mostly conscious but their body is still locked. Sometimes the person feels that there is another person in the room. Another presence.
Which is how the legends of Succubus and Incubus came to be. Men with Sleep Paralysis thought they slept with a Succubus while women thought it was an Incubus. The Succubus and Incubus were really the same demon, taking from the man and impregnating the woman.
Or at least, that's what people believed. Mar never saw demons. The humans in her memory were scary enough.
"Sorry Mar." Brian rolled out from under the bed and sat on it. Brian was more of a pacifist than Abel was partly because of philosophy but mostly because hurting people hurt him.
Whereas Sain who would happily kill anything that disturbed Mar. Mar would be the same, but since Sain was already disturbed…
"It's too early." Sain grumbled before curling around Vera, still cocked.
"Sain be careful please. There are people above us." Mar got off the bed, rolling her shoulder. They had checked the dam that separated Venice's lagoon from the ocean and came home in the afternoon, only having to run from the Venetian cops once. Shower… yes, a shower sounds lovely.
"And an Abel massage." Sain purred in her ear. Mar shuddered and pushed her away.
"Ooo! Can I get an Abel massage?" Brian teased from the bed. Mar gave them both a one finger salute before shutting the bathroom door. Mar was never a morning person, especially after waking up like that.
The two outside remained silent until the shower started.
"So… Abel…" Brian leaned backward until he was horizontal on the bed with his legs still crossed.
Sain blinked at him. "My name is Sain. I thought you knew this."
"No, no, no." Brian shook his head before lightly pushing Sain. "You tease, you know what I mean."
"That you approve? Or disapprove."
Brian chewed his bottom lip as he mulled over the thoughts and feelings in his head. When you grow up with a lot of girls, you tend to realize that they don't think the way boys do and if you want them to know what's going on with you, you need to be specific.
He rolled over onto his side away from Sain and stared at the wall.
"I think I'm jealous."
"What?" Sain moved until she was spooning him, her head on his neck.
"Well, you have Hugue and Mar is… what are she and Abel doing?"
"Being complicated. I have the feeling that's what he does best. And Mar is letting him."
Brian groaned. When you became Mar's friend, she had a habit of just supporting you with all your character flaws and some people would have just walked all over her if Sain hadn't given them what for.
"Besides," Sain continued, "You have June."
Brian groaned again but this time like he was physically hurt. "June is…" He shuddered. "She lives in a hole in the ground! She hates sunlight-!"
"I did tell you that you smell like swamp when you're out in the sun too long, right?"
He opened his mouth to respond but then she started laughing hysterically.
"Nice punch Abel!"
The bathroom door opened. "What about Abel?"
Abel looked down at his clenched fist, bewildered. "Did I just do that?" he asked innocently.
Asthe and Abel had successfully infiltrated the casino INRI, she in a sweetheart mask, he in a doctor's. After finding Foscarina's boyfriend, Georgioni Russo, he denied ever really being her boyfriend and accused her of being, well, loose. Of course, the words he used one would not say in front of their mother.
It was a good thing that Abel punched him then, because if he hadn't, Asthe would have and she hit a lot harder.
Unfortunately, that was the match to light the bar fight.
Security guards grabbed Abel. One of them locked Abel's arm behind his back. Another kicked him in the stomach. Abel clenched the muscles there in preparation for the attack.
The groan didn't come from the Priest. The guard that had kicked Abel got poked in the throat with a long, elegant finger. He covered his neck in agony.
Asthe smiled. "I like this."
Asthe's dress was perfect for fighting. The high seams in her skirt kept her legs unrestricted enough to kick a man in the face. So she did. Repeatedly. She made a mental note to thank Sain for her choice in dress, but not footwear. The heels on her feet were killing her.
'But…' Her thoughts trailed off as she took note of the damage the shoes were doing to the unsuspecting guards. "If only there were more comfortable." She mused aloud. They would really take off in the Empire.
"We need to go now." Sain said suddenly. Brian looked at her as he walked out of the bathroom, still pulling on his 'Pluto: revolve in Peace' t-shirt. The things Mar could find.
"Now?" He asked, searching for his shoes. Mar tossed them to him, one at a time as she came upon them.
"Yes now. Now, now, now, now! If you don't understand that, which language should I say it in? We need to go right now or people will die!"
I hope this doesn't feel choppy to anyone. I'm trying to keep everything concise and no pack so much unnecessary things in.
As for Sleep Paralysis, I suffer from this. It only lasts for a few seconds and only happens when I sleep on my back. And for a long time I thought the room in my house was haunted because I would make up and not be able to move or see and then realize I've stuck my own fingers in my mouth to try to get some sound out of myself. I'm not sure that Mar's version conveys how scary it can be, but I tried.
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State of the next chapter: Not yet written but I get out of class early today... Should be done by Monday, promise!