That same day, as Smoke and Raiden continued observing the Cryomancer's awkward interactions with the female Enenra, it was decided between the Grandmaster and the young woman that they would see each other again later in the week. Having heard this, the Thunder God and Smoke eventually parted ways. As it was, Raiden had business to take care of in Edenia and could not stay for as long as he would have liked. He was liking where the tentative friendship between the woman and Sub-Zero was headed, even if the two mortals didn't know that they would soon end up falling in love with one another.
But before leaving, Raiden remembered something important. Just as the deity was getting ready to teleport to Edenia, he told Smoke that a special someone was waiting for him outside his bedchamber. However, Smoke was unaccustomed to receiving spontaneous visits from outsiders. And he was naturally curious as to who had come to see him at such a late hour. Nobody ever came to see him unless it concerned Sub-Zero, but this situation Raiden brought to his attention was evidently different.
Well, nobody ever visits me so who could it be? Smoke thought to himself as he took a gulp of his beverage before he began to walk along the massive corridors. He wanted to know who was here to see him, and - most importantly - why. Aside from Zeleve, Smoke had no other relatives that he knew of. The ones he could vaguely remember were long dead, having been killed in cold blood shortly before the pagans had captured him so many years ago.
But then, as Smoke had turned a corner in the halls, a dark thought formed in the far back of his mind. Smoke began to worry, albeit mildly, since things were beginning to make sense to him. Someone is here, in the Lin Kuei Palace, waiting to see me. That, for starters, was unusual, and Smoke shook the notion off.
However, he also knew about how there had been several attempts made by Outworld and Netherrealm's forces to capture his cousin. That was when his eyes widened in profound fear. Smoke's originally calm footsteps became more erratic as his long strides gradually became a slow jog, and it wasn't long before those dark thoughts made his slow jog become a full-on sprint. He was now worried for Zeleve, but he could not understand why. And that was what frustrated him immensely, as he had last seen the woman with Sub-Zero not even twenty minutes ago. And although he was very certain that his best friend would not allow any outsiders to lay a harmful hand on Zeleve, Smoke still wanted to be sure that she would be protected.
Smoke began to sweat as he ran even faster, occasionally bumping into unassuming Lin Kuei along the way - most of whom only stared at him in shock. Surely some of them were wondering why he was running so fast when he could just teleport, but Smoke was so far gone in his reverie that he had somehow forgotten about his powers altogether. And just as he sent the Elder Gods a silent prayer, asking that they protect Zeleve as best as possible, a feminine suddenly voice made itself known - but not before a crimson puddle appeared on the marble floor in front of him.
"Tomas, it's nice to see you again and all, but I really think that you should try to calm yourself!"
And that was when Smoke wiped out. Whether or not it was from exhaustion caused by anxiety or having been attacked, it would not be known...
In the Netherrealm...
"Did the potion you injected into the Enenra's drink work?"
Quan Chi patiently waited on an answer. Meanwhile, his dark servant sneered at the dark green mist before them, the scene with Smoke passed out on the marble floor right in front of his bedroom being reflected in an eerie haze. The sorcerer wasn't sure as to why Noob was giving the scene such a nasty glare, but then he caught it; the wraith's pallid eyes were fixated onto the svelte figure of a very familiar woman dressed in scanty red clothing.
He feels envy. How marvelous of this to happen, although I did not expect this either, thought the evil Netherrealm ruler. He smirked in subtle amusement as he continued to watch the undead warrior glare at the foggy reflection with pallid, lifeless eyes.
Of course, since Noob was too busy glaring at the scene with Smoke and the mysterious woman to notice anything else, his master decided to use his dark magic to pry into his thoughts. It only took nanoseconds before Quan Chi discovered that Noob was not envious of the woman herself, but for the blatant concern this woman showed his former friend and ally. What the sorcerer didn't know, however, was that when he ordered Noob to poison Smoke's coffee earlier in the day, the wraith had not even noticed the woman there. But that was because she hadn't even been around at the time. Therefore it was only logical that Noob hadn't even sensed her chi within the vast perimeters of the Lin Kuei stronghold when he was sneaking around, using Saibot as a distraction, to slip the poison into Smoke's drink when he wasn't looking.
But Quan Chi also knew about his former dalliances with this woman, and neither he or Noob had expected her to be there, trying to help Smoke regain consciousness in such a frantic state. The evil lord of the Netherrealm watched in entertained silence as Noob growled in irritation. Just seeing this woman caring for Smoke pissed him off greatly, and it was taking everything that he had to not teleport to the Lin Kuei palace to finish his job and capture Zeleve.
And then... Noob's fists clenched in subdued anger when he watched the woman brush her dark, auburn locks out of her lightly tanned face as she worked to get him into his bedchamber. The graceful swiftness of her movements, and the fine, yet subtle curvature of her strong, pale body, paired with bright gray eyes was an enticing sight, and soon the wraith's urge to kill everyone in the Lin Kuei palace was replaced with an insatiable desire to find this redhead, bring her back to the Netherrealm once more and have his way with her.
"I see you miss having Skarlet as your concubine," Quan Chi finally said with an amused chuckle. He couldn't help but to snidely comment on the matter; he knew Bi-Han wanted nothing more than to teleport back to Arctika to snatch the redhead, bring her back to the Netherrealm and fuck her senseless. Unfortunately, however, it would not have worked in their favor, and it was all because of the simple fact that Skarlet had no interest in joining the Forces of Darkness anymore. A product of Outworld, she now had her own mind and didn't let anyone seeking to partake in evil control her choices. Furthermore, she currently served Edenia and Earthrealm as an expert tracker, and with the Forces of Light on her side, not even a single ounce of black magic was strong enough to enslave her anymore. And the fact that Shang Tsung was nowhere to be found only made it that much more difficult for anyone to influence the Hemomancer. But one thing was certain: Skarlet was always around, even in places where she was least expected. And whenever there was a danger, she'd be around, waiting to intercept anything she can in order to protect her new home. As it was, her job was to report any suspicious activity to the OIA, so that Sonya Blade could deliver the information to Raiden and the Edenian Resistance as necessary.
But while that information about Skarlet's change of allegiance now was an interesting change of events for the Forces of Darkness, it seemed now that she had somehow developed a strange relationship with the male Enenra. Surely, nobody else knew about this. And that is why this discovery came as a surprise to Quan Chi. However, for Noob, it was only more of a reason for him to hate his past even more than he already did. He was slowly beginning to lose focus on his original task to capture Zeleve because of a red-haired distraction.
"Never mind that that putrid excuse for a wench," Noob snarled, sharply turning to face his master with a defiant tone that contrasted his typically apathetic nature. "And, yes, I did manage to poison his drink, as difficult as it was for me to not be seen. Why the hell else do you think he's unconscious on the floor?"
Quan Chi raised a barely visible brow as he eyed Noob with cold, calculating mirth. He knew that this was all getting under Noob's dead, black skin and decided to toy with his minion. After all, he'd been bored in the Netherrealm, and who else was a better target for dark humor than the walking shell once known as Bi-Han?
"Sassing me, are you?" he asked the wraith, who now rolled his lifeless eyes and sighed dismissively. When Noob did not offer any back-talk, Quan Chi continued, "No matter... However, I highly suggest that you consider returning your focus onto your original task before it is too late."
"And if I choose not to?"
Quan Chi sneered at the wraith and stood, slowly walking to him. From afar, Jataaka, Sareena, and Kia watched on in silence as their master approached Noob with a menacing stare. "You have no choice in this matter, I'm afraid. And I do not have any objections in regards to having your tarred face onto a stake. I'm very sure that the Oni would enjoy it in the midst of their infamously violent orgies. They do detest you, after all..."
Noob did not show it, but inwardly he did understand that the sorcerer had the power to put him back to death if he really wanted to. So he kept his pride in check, opting to revert his attention to capturing Zeleve. He decided to apologize, albeit with a bitter grudge that he managed to hide in his deep baritone. "My apologies. I will do as you say."
Quan Chi smiled triumphantly, pleased that he had the upper hand in this discussion. Not that Noob would resist, of course. Being dominant and powerful was something of interest to Noob, sure, but the truth of the matter was that Quan Chi was more superior with the art of rulership. "Excellent. Go back to the Lin Kuei temple and get the girl. I promise you that you'll have Skarlet as your own, although I will not give her to you immediately after."
Noob said nothing more as he vanished in a black, inky hole. He had a job to finish, and as much as he resented this, he would get Quan Chi back later...
Skarlet had finally managed to get Smoke up with her superhuman strength, but it had taken a bit of a toll on her emotional health. Apparently her vaguely there feelings for the male Enenra had never vanished. Just seeing him in a weakened state was hard for her to handle, but she kept strong, although she'd not seen him since the very last Earthrealm invasion so many years ago. They hadn't even had an actual opportunity to get to know one another more since then, even if they did have an attraction thing going on. But right now, as much as Skarlet hated to admit it to herself, she was not here for him. She had arrived to Arctika solely to notify him of an imminent war that Netherrealm's forces were planning on Earthrealm, with the Lin Kuei stronghold being the primary target. For what reason the Lin Kuei were being targeted, she did not know.
But it was her job to inform anyone of any dangers, and that is why she was here. She just hadn't expected to come to a dizzy, delirious man passing out in front of her. Yes, she had seen Smoke sprinting at full speed as a result of hallucinations, but this... She just couldn't understand what the hell had just happened, since it happened so quickly, but whatever it was, it wasn't good. Smoke needed medical assistance as soon as possible.
As the redhead carefully dragged Smoke to his large bed, she looked around the room. Dark colors complimented the Gothic interior design, and the large bay window at the far end of the room allowed the moonlight to shine through, even though it was quite dim. But Skarlet's focus was brought to a sharp clearing of the throat.
And it wasn't even her own voice she heard afterwards. Zeleve had been hiding in her cousin's chamber for a while now, but had been invisible so it wasn't easy for Skarlet to notice her presence. At this point, Zeleve had already learned to hide her chi when she became invisible to superhuman eyes, so knowing that she had succeeded at being undetected until now made her feel proud.
"Well, then. I see that I'm not the only female warrior on these grounds... Who are you?" Zeleve, blunt as always, was not poised to attack. Something about Skarlet told her that she wasn't malicious in nature, but that had yet to be proven. Furthermore, even after she had demanded the other woman's identity, the female Enenra would not hesitate to do so if necessary, and so she held a tiny grenade in her hand, repeatedly tossing it into the air casually as she leaned against the wall.
Skarlet, on the other hand, had heard of Zeleve from her prior dealings with Quan Chi. She knew that the woman perceived her as a threat, and she didn't want to fight the other woman, either. But she also wouldn't mind defending herself if necessary. Thankfully, however, Zeleve completely lowered her guard when she saw how protective Skarlet was with her cousin.
"My name is Skarlet. Please forgive me if I have intruded."
Zeleve eyed the redhead for a brief second, eventually nodding her head in acknowledgement. She'd chosen to dismiss all formalities at this point. "Name's Zeleve. I'm Tomas' cousin and apprentice."
"Pleasure," Skarlet replied. She wasn't the kind to enjoy formalities, either. "You seem more casual than the rest of the Lin Kuei. Why is that?"
It was true; Zeleve strongly defied against using formalities, much to Smoke's dismay. However, she appreciated that there was someone else who understood her staunch dislike for formal speech. "I guess I'm just laid-back and more freedom-loving than the rest. Never really understood the purpose for saying 'Greetings, Grandmaster' and all that jazz." Zeleve then shifted her focus to her unconscious cousin, who now slept soundly in his bed. Walking over to him, she placed a warm hand on his forehead, but quickly removed it when she felt her skin burning upon contact. "Holy shit, his forehead's scathing!What's wrong with him? He looks like he swallowed a loaf of shitty bread combined with poison and he stinks."
Skarlet couldn't help but chuckle despite herself. Already she was beginning to take a liking to this girl. Zeleve was just as saucy and snarky as Tomas, and it made sense that they were related. "I really shouldn't be laughing at that, but you've got quite the blunt demeanor."
Zeleve shrugged dismissively. "Gotta have optimism somewhere, I guess. Seriously, though, what's wrong with him? I may need to get the Grandmaster in here to make sure he's not dying or anything..."
Skarlet nodded. "I take it you have no knowledge in nursing wounds."
"I only know survival skills, actually. Lived in the wilderness as a nomad for a long time before I was brought here a few months ago. I don't know what's wrong with him, so I don't want to take any chances."
Skarlet sighed as she sat down on the chair beside Smoke's bed. Turning to Zeleve, who sat on the bed beside her cousin, Skarlet explained the gist of what she'd seen when Smoke passed out in front of her not even several moments ago. "So, basically, I had been ordered to come here by my boss to inform Tomas about an impending danger. I was hiding as a puddle of blood."
"What?" Zeleve couldn't believe that Skarlet had such a strange ability. Maybe she wasn't the only one with weird powers after all. And to think that she felt like a misfit for so long...
Skarlet noticed the woman's shock at the revelation. "Yeah, I'm made of blood. I can seep through cracks in walls and under doors as a puddle of blood, and I can use my blood as a weapon. I also gain power from the blood of my opponents."
"I see. That's pretty neat. But what happened with Smoke?"
"He was running really fast, and he had this weird look of panic all over his face. Like he'd seen a ghost or something, but he also had a canteen in his grip. I was a puddle on the floor when I noticed him, and as he stepped on me, I naturally felt pain and reverted to my physical human form to stop him. That's when he passed out."
Zeleve sighed. "I think I'm going to go get Sub-Zero... I feel helpless and don't know how to handle this situation."
"I understand, because I feel the same way about him. A shame that he's just a stranger I'll never get to know... All I know is that I just don't want Smoke to get sicker than he already appears to be."
Zeleve's eyes widened as she realized that what Skarlet was telling the truth; Smoke's skin was pale at this point, and his cheeks were sullen and gaunt. But he still breathed, albeit slowly and very, very lightly.
She sighed. "I know I just met you and all, but can you please stay here with him while I get Sub-Zero?"
Skarlet nodded. "Hurry up if you can. I have a feeling that this obvious poisoning is a sign that the forthcoming intrusion of Earthrealm is just beginning to unfold..."
Upon hearing those words, Zeleve teleported out of the room to seek help as fast as she could. Meanwhile, Skarlet went back to nursing the unconscious man as best as she could while she waited on Zeleve to return with Sub-Zero. However, the notion of danger just rang in her mind the entire time, like a broken record she could not fix. All Skarlet could do now is just hope that she could avert the crisis before it even started...
A/N: It's been since August since my last update. I'm sorry! But, yeah... I'm pretty sure none of you saw the whole situation with Skarlet coming. She's an important character, but she's not one of the main ones in this story. You'll see more of her in future chapters, whenever I can get them typed up and posted for you all to read.
Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving/Hanukkah! :)