To say Khalid was mad was the equivalent of saying that Rokkaku Gouji wasn't very nice.
In fact, Ishaq took one look at his face and decided that it was safe to assume he was going to choke the first thing he got a hold of as soon as the cell door swung open. While his brothers urged him on from the safety of the other end of the room, he was eye-to-eye with the infuriated Pharaoh, a lump forming in his throat as he froze like a dog caught in the headlights of an oncoming tractor-trailer. He may have found power in the name "The Immortals" while on the street, but in the face of his boss, he didn't want to push his luck.
"Come on, Ishaq. It's just the Pharaoh. Don't you think he wants out?"
He swallowed, his hands shaking so violently that the keys almost fell out of his fingers. Khalid was pressed against the bars, dark hair overgrown and unkempt, his clothes tattered and splattered with dried blood from the day he was captured. Two months in Golden Rhino custody, and you could hardly tell the glorious King of Pharaoh Park from a crazy homeless guy dragged out of the back alleys of Highway Zero.
His bedraggled appearance only enhanced how dangerous he looked; he reminded him of a cornered, starving dog. His dark eyes never blinked, focused solely on Ishaq as he trembled and stammered and looked over his shoulder at the others in hopes that maybe they'd man up and save the rookie in distress. When he took too long, a thin arm lashed out from between the bars and snagged him by the wrist, overgrown nails tearing into the bandages wrapped around his arm.
"Open the damn door, Ishaq."
"M-maybe I should tell you good news so you don't kill me, Your Majesty?" the terrified rookie suggested, trying in vain to wriggle free of the Pharaoh. Khalid tightened his grip and snarled.
"I can guess that the good news is that the Golden Rhinos and the Noise Tanks are FUBAR, otherwise you cowards wouldn't be here to get me out. Now, open the damn door, Ishaq."
"Y-y-yes, Your Majesty!" Ishaq squalled, fumbling with the keys as Khalid released his grip. His mind was far too rattled to allow him to figure out which key was which, or even if the right key was in the mess he held. After busting down the door of the Rhinos' abandoned headquarters, which turned out to be a warehouse in Rokkaku-Dai, they had just grabbed the first set of keys that were hanging next to the entrance and hoped it would work.
The most frustrating part was that there were at least twenty keys, and a total of three cells, only one of which with an occupant. Ishaq briefly toyed the idea of the Rhinos having a metric fuck-ton of extras just to mess with anyone dumb enough to plan a prison break, and after a few moments of trial and error with the lock, he looked up to the Pharaoh and whined in a mixture of frustration and terror.
"Come on, Ishaq!" a voice behind him bellowed. "Just 'cause the bulk of the Rhinos packed up and went home doesn't mean some stragglers won't be in behind us."
"Sh-shut up, O-Odji! I-I-I'm doing the best I can!"
"Your best isn't good enough."
"For the love of Osiris, Odji, shut the fuck up and let the kid think!" Khalid roared, slamming against the bars with whatever strength he had left. In the back of the room, a short, rail-thin boy ducked down low and tried to hide his face behind his fedora. Almost like he was contaminated, the last Immortal slowly edged away from him, cautiously approaching Ishaq, who was as still as a statue and fairly certain that his heart had stopped.
"Come on, Ishaq," a gentle, raspy voice coaxed. "Give me the keys."
His face was blank with terror, his movements stiff and zombie-like. Nevertheless, Ishaq rigidly opened his fingers and dropped the ring of keys into the palm of his taller, far more composed comrade. Slowly, he glided to the far wall and slumped to the floor beside Odji, gazing up at Khalid in unmitigated horror.
"Good kid," the calm Immortal sighed as he thumbed through the keys. "Very devoted. He did everything he could for the Golden Rhinos to keep them from shooting you, you know. Even things he thought he wouldn't be able to."
Slowly, Khalid's eyebrow raised. Watching as his underling tried the remaining keys, he cocked his head and drawled, "What kind of things, Sabola?"
Sabola stopped long enough to look up, a flash of concern flickering in his eyes for a split second before he fought it off and replaced it with his typical carefree demeanor. Shrugging, he turned back to his job with the keys and chuckled, "Oh, you know. Stuff."
"You're as bad at telling half-truths as you are at telling whole lies."
Realizing that the last key was a dud, Sabola turned back to Odji and Ishaq, silently bidding them to go fetch the next ring from next to the door. Odji ignored it in hopes that Ishaq would leap into action, but the poor traumatized rookie didn't even seem to notice anything was amiss. Huffing a sigh, Odji pushed himself away from the wall, skates clacking against the cold, concrete ground as he made his way to the entrance.
"It was nothing much," Sabola stated after an awkward pause, his voice cracking. "Just the expected stuff. Like, keeping an eye out for threats. Or, you know, stealing the turf of every gang in Kogane-cho and most of Benten. And, kidnapping! Oh, you know how the Rhinos love to kidnap people."
The silence that answered him was all the answer he needed. He didn't even have to look to know that Khalid was staring daggers at him, because he could feel the hate being beamed straight into the top of his head. Instead of daring to face the Pharaoh, Sabola simply stayed low and silent until he heard Odji return, turning to face him with a jubilant cry of, "Awesome! Now let's get that door open!"
"Kidnapping?" Khalid repeated dumbly. Odji paused at the sound of this, looking incredulously at Sabola and mumbling, "I thought we weren't going to tell him that."
"Kidnapping?" Khalid's voice was high and shrill now, despite his normal baritone. Odji furrowed his brows and glared at Sabola, who only grinned nervously as he lunged forward and grabbed the keys from the shorter Immortal. He turned with a small chuckle, offering a shrug as he plucked a random silver key out of the bunch and started wrestling with the cell lock yet again.
"Well, you know, when highly trained assassins sweep in with robots, steal your leader, and tell you to snatch some people off of the streets or they'll blow you and your Pharaoh into bits so small that Osiris wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of the mess, you tend to listen," he explained slowly. "We may or may not have plucked the GGs off of the street and turned them into the Noise Tanks. It's okay, though. They're safe. They escaped during a chaotic moment, and then laid the smackdown on Rokkaku."
"And you guys just sat there? And did nothing?"
"We let them use Sky Dinosaurian Square to dispose of the Noise Tanks," Ishaq offered in a small, timid voice from his seat on the floor. Odji nodded enthusiastically, adding, "Yeah, we did. Although, after we started slacking in defending Sky Dinosaurian, it did end up..."
As soon as he started talking, he realized he shouldn't have said anything. Ishaq looked up at him with quiet terror, bringing his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around them like a frightened child. Both of the younger Immortals looked to Khalid and, noticing the disapproving look on his face at the mention of an "although," trailed off into nothing. Sabola sighed after the sixth key refused to work, grumbling, "You may as well tell him. He's gonna find out anyway."
"Find out what?" Khalid snarled. "What? Did you give the GGs a chunk of our turf or some shit?"
"No," Odji drawled, turning around to face the opposite direction. "But, uh, we've been challenged, Your Majesty. Our entire territory, from the far edge of the skyscraper district to the market street just off of Highway Zero, has been unceremoniously... t-tagged. After the Noise Tanks' fall, Sky Dinosaurian was th-the first to go."
It wasn't even a question more than a roar of rage, their imprisoned leader kicking the door with such force that Sabola lost his footing and fell flat on his ass. There was a tense moment in which Odji mumbled incoherently and began to edge from the room, Ishaq raising his voice in an effort to speak over the screaming Pharaoh to explain how things really weren't that bad. Sabola watched, bemused, as all of this took place, their argument resonating through the metal rafters.
It was a valiant effort on behalf of Ishaq, the poor guy, who was trying to make everyone see things from a sunny enough perspective that they wouldn't kill one another when the Pharaoh was finally released. Odji, on the other hand, was failing miserably. It was funny how, under the reign of the Noise Tanks, he had been full of piss and vinegar, yet the second Khalid was reintroduced into the equation, the only piss he had was staining his shorts.
Figuratively, of course.
He never understood why Odji feared Khalid, just as he never understood how Ishaq inherited that fear considering how downright kind Khalid was to him. It wasn't as though their Pharaoh was a bad guy. Gruff, maybe, and rightfully irritated considering what he had been through, but Sabola had never known him to be a vicious person.
Seeing that none of them were going to offer any further explanation that would be of merit, instead screaming themselves hoarse in an effort to drown the other two out, he stood up and resumed his quest for the correct key. It wasn't long before Khalid seemed to realize that their "conversation" was going nowhere, and ended up leaning down to ask him for clarification.
"What the hell is going on, Sab?" he demanded.
The Immortal sniffed and replied, "Well, if you wanna know, the Doom Riders challenged us for our turf. There are tags in places I never thought anyone could get to without killing themselves, and we've not been able to properly clean up yet. More pressing matters to attend to, such as you, Your Majesty."
Khalid raised an eyebrow, echoing, "Doom Riders? Who the hell are the Doom Riders?"
"Good question," Ishaq nervously interjected. Odji shrugged, adding, "We have no idea, Your Majesty. They just kind of happened."
"We wouldn't have known their name if not for Professor K," Sabola continued, tapping his ear piece. "I don't think they're from Tokyo-to. They came in with the Noise Tanks to participate in a Death Ball tournament, and never left. And it isn't as though we're singled out, Your Majesty. There isn't an inch of the entire city that they haven't tagged, right down to the most inaccessible parts of the sewers. Weird guys, and that's saying a lot coming from a dude who dresses up like a dead man in suspenders for shits and giggles."
There was a satisfying click as the thirteenth key worked its magic and the door slowly began to swing open. Khalid stood there for a moment in shock, Ishaq waiting for his initial prediction of sudden strangulation to come true. Instead, their Pharaoh merely threw his arms up and let out a triumphant cry before stumbling over his feet and nearly falling flat on his face. He caught himself on the bars of the cell and straightened his posture, looking down at Sabola and snorting, "Well, I guess I can forgive you for being a total failure in my absence, considering that you got me out."
"Our pleasure, Your Majesty."
"Now," he sighed, staggering to Ishaq and snaking an arm around his shoulder, "help me walk. I wasted everything I had beating on that door when you guys told me how stupid you were, so I dunno if I'll have the energy to get outta here without being dragged."