"Fuck off, old man." Ron growled and shrugged off Ludomir's hand. Ludomir's eyes squeezed shut for a moment, when when they opened there was a fire that took Ron aback. Where was this before!? "Listen up, you two! This is hard enough as is! If you two are going to act like brats, you can leave! Amai, I expect this from you. You'll never change. But Ronald, you're young. You're at the beginning of your life, and let me tell you, it will be a miserable one if you never improve that attitude! Now, are we going to do something about this, or am I calling your boss, Amai?" Ludomir fixed Amai with a stare so icy a frost giant would shiver. "I'll... check if there's any record of similar diseases in the town hall." Ron took a few steps back and took off, leaving Ludomir alone with Amai. "Well, Amai?" Ludomir faced down the incubus without a hint of worry.
“You're threatening me with a good time, geezer.” There was a smarmy smile atop the man’s lips, a look of content with having pushed the cyborg’s buttons. The satisfaction of seeing him gradually lose his cool was enough for the sadistic demon, garnering a sly little snicker to click upon his ivory teeth. “What'll it be? I'm not so sure. Why don't you tell me? Can you go for to toe with this monster?” His gaze meant so very little to the incubus, a timeless creature who thrived in a realm of terror. “Seems you can't even handle a child well on your own, hm? Kids like that need more than words. Give him a good whack next time, I'm sure it'll shape up well.” Again, his creeping laughter emanated from deep within his lithe chest, flicking an eyebrow upwards with his shit-eating grin ever present. “But seeing all this, I do wish to stay. If there's even a chance of you two being torn to pieces by this creature, I want to see it. So I'll play your little ‘Yes Sir, No Sir” game. You'll have no more problems from me.” As his speech ended, his cheeks extended slightly and he released a thick cloud of smoke, aiming directly for Ludomir’s unflinching face. It was a gesture similar to that of blowing one’s cigarette upon another; the intention wasn't to swoon, but to insult.
"No Amai, I don't think I can fight you." Ludomir winced. The smoke stung his eyes. The one that was still real anyway. "I can call your boss though. I spoke to her while you were finding the grave. She's quite ready to punish you. Apparently she's had to before. So the real question here is if you think you can fight her?" Ludomir matched her gaze, even with one watering eye.
There was a faint moment of silence, an enigmatic expression highlighting the man's face. It seemed serious, all too serious, for a face such as Amai's that had only made expressions of amusement or anger. For but a moment longer, his silence extended and his mutter was low, a dangerous growl stuck deep in his chest. "No." Yet a smile broke out, fangs bright upon his dark lips while he tucked his hands back within his tight pockets, his gaze filled with a sweltering, dangerous malice. "Not yet. I hate having dessert so early." Flicking his tongue across his lips at the mere idea of testing his mettle with Eve once more, Amai shouldered roughly by Ludomir, snickering as he did so. "Come now, old man. We've not got much time and you certainly don't either. Even less so for the pathetic humans that live in this town. I'm the muscle, you're the brains, what's next on the agenda to stop the inevitability of this town being wiped clean from the maps?"
"I thought not. Come, we should join Ron." Ludomir's relaxed attitude returned, just how tense his body was only becoming apparent when the tension released. He lead Amai to the town hall, a reasonably sized brick building. Ron stood scowling outside by the entrance. "They wouldn't let me at the records." He grumbled, leaning on an off-white pillar. "I'm sorry, I should have warned you. I've tried it before but you might have noticed they're rather wary of strangers. Amai?" Ludomir gestured towards the big white front doors. "Just don't hurt them."
Inside and down the stairs was a room lined with big steel shelves, stacked high with boxes of files. A brown haired young man was placing another box on the shelf when Amai entered. He looked up and adjusted his glasses when he noticed the oddly dressed incubus. "I told your boyfriend you aren't allowed in here. Get out." He waved in the dismissive fashion possible.
A fist pressed within the palm of his opposite hand, knuckles pressing and audibly cracking as he was finally given some work he could exceed at. Looking upon the wide, white door, Amai’s toothy grin merely showed the vibrant, dangerously tipped ivories that seemed stark in comparison to his dark skin and even darker lips. “Don't hurt them? I'll do my best.~” It was obvious from the smarmy way he had spoken that he would clearly -not- do his best.
Standing within the building, glancing upon the young, audacious man, Amai could only give a Cheshire’s grin. “Terribly sorry. Let me just leave then.” The click of his heels leaving responded, but it was not that of him leaving. Instead, the audible sound of the door being closed could be heard, his sinister chuckle following. “You look like you enjoy reading...say, can you do it in the dark?” Without waiting for a response, his manicured nail flicked upon the light switch and all that illuminated were the thin slits of his eyes growing smaller and smaller as his grin grew ever wider.
The cloying cloud that left his mouth was suffocating and filling the small, dark space, Amai’s loud giggling sounding out. “Now let me look at these records...yeah?”
The archivist practically growled when the lights went out. "That does it, I'm calling the cops!" He yelled before realizing Amai's eyes were glowing. "What the-how!?" He choked on smoke and his vision spun. Instead of a dark skinned man, he saw a pale woman with laughing eyes and long brown hair. "A-Amena? How did you do that!? What's going on!?" He backed up into the shelves. What was in the smoke the crazy man spat out?
“Shh, shh. Hush now.” The voice of chime and serenity spoke out in a feather-light whisper, its gentle tones sounding out right before the man in the dark.
Quietly, as she spun her dreamy words, the glowing eyes within the dark stared upwards into his own; unblinking. “There's no need for questions. No need for fear.”
The sensation of flesh brushed along his bottom lip, capturing the tender flesh that lay there in a gentle press; loving, gentle, full of indiscriminate affection. “All that is needed…,” Amai’s poisoning touch seeped slowly outwards while the glowing vision before him tilted gently towards its side with a narrowing of her eyes, “-Is for you to show me the records. Please, for me?”
The archivist made a tiny yelp when Amena teased him with breath that promised a kiss. He didn't even think she knew him beyond the way all people in a small town vaguely know each other. He just visited that crappy diner on the edge of town to let her wait on him once in a while and try to build the courage to actually say something besides his orders and please and thank you. Then again, this wasn't Amena anyway. This was a strange man who spat smoke and-"Ahahahahaha! Oh, god! This isn't actually happening! How could I be so stupid? I'm dreaming." It didn't feel like a dream, but what other explanation was there? "You can look at whatever you want. Disease records are downstairs. Figures I'd dream about being at work even with the girl of my dreams crawling all over me..." He was just rambling to himself now. Not like dream Amena was listening.
The faintest trace of light that entered the room from the gap of a faraway, closed door, reflected upon the laughing maw that opened. “Lovely, lovely! That's the right attitude to have!”
The sharp shrill of her laughter echoed in the not so spacious room, her hot breath wafting across his breath like a tantalizing, summer afternoon; her burning breath smelled of a cloying, floral scent. “Thank you...darling.”
Inwards, the choking breath grew close and the faintest press of damp, warm flesh met at his cheek; a poisonous kiss. “Now just stand here and look pretty, I won't be long.”
Just like the dream he believed himself to be in, the figure pulled away and danced through the darkness. As it passed between shelves of musty text, lined with dirt and dust, the figure changed in every gap in its passing. The familiar sight of a red haired male stood in place of ‘Amena’, picking his manicured hand along the stacks and their dividers, wondering just what he was looking for...
While Amai didn't know specifically what she was looking for, there were entries that would catch her eye. Peasants started getting a wasting disease in the summer of 1861. They would become pale and listless, develop unexplained cuts on their bodies, then die in a few weeks. They called it vympyr wasting, clearly coming to the accurate conclusion they were being assaulted by the restless dead. The last case of vympyr wasting was in 1898, but there was no indication of why it stopped, not in the records anyway.
The archivist was staring off into space, thinking about what to do in his dream. He could help this fake Amena along, but why? She wasn't real. It was his dream, time to be bold! He didn't see Ron slipping back in while he was approaching Amai. He just grabbed Amai, spun her around, and kissed her on the lips. "Amena... you're gorgeous." He dreamily declared. Ron pretended he was being hung for Amai's sake behind the archivist's back while he glanced at the criminal records. He didn't know about vympyr wasting, but the same time period stood out. A bizarre rash of grave robbery struck the town between 1861 and 1898, all of them resulting in the desiccation of the bodies inside. It was suspected that there were two different perpetrators, as some of the bodies were stabbed in the heart and had crosses left with them, while others had their skulls bashed in. If the names were compared between records, the bodies destroyed matched exactly the victims of vympyr wasting.
While he had initially been thumbing through the many files, some old, some REALLY old, his eyes -did- scan the many entries that had seemed familiar. Though boring work, it seemed he had at least given them some sort of a lead...or at least a hint as to what they were here looking for. His black nail traced over faded text after faded text, even leaving the imprint of his digit in the layers of dust that lay over them with an expression that could, at lightest, be described as 'grumpy'.
However, to the -delight- of the grumpy succubus, a sudden move of rash boldness brought back his poor, bouncing mood! Like a bobber in the sea, he dipped downwards than sprung back up as the not-so-bold man, who foolishly believed he was dreaming, dared to kiss him. Rightfully, what a mistake this was. The succubus's laugh poured from the stinging nettle of his lips, a deep bass that tickled past his lips with every parting of words. "Ah--the love of man. Feeling as such as you do for a stranger--I can feel that loftiness in your heart. Your kind of 'love', simply because of her beauty? Ahh...man is so very fickle, I adore it. What hungry, biased beasts you are..."
The fingers of his left hand rose to brush the tips of his fingers along the archivist's cheek before winding around the soft tufts of dark brown hair that lay just before. "Your heart is so uncertain, why, I'd go so far as to say...You've never even talked to Amena. Am I right? So afraid...of what? Oh, I know, you know she's out of your league?..."
The archivist was taken aback by this turn of events. This dream was oddly therapeutic. "What? No, of course... of course. She's so friendly, and everybody is happy to see her! Nobody even notices me." He was a drab man, that he knew. He worked a boring job, had boring hobbies and dressed in a boring brown suit. "I should quit! And get a track suit!" He declared. He wasn't sure on what he should do about his hobbies. He wondered what Amena's were.
Behind the drab man, Ron did his best to ignore what was going on on the other side of the room. Listening to that idiot and Amai will do worse things to my brain than Flipside's experiments. He decided as he looked for 1898 among the newspapers. Quickly he found what he was looking for. The local lord was blamed for the disease, with accusations he never went out in the daytime, hadn't aged in 30 years, and had babies served as his dinners quite prominent in the months leading up to the end of the sickness. If he was a vampire, why would he also eat babies? These accusations are fucking stupid. Ron internally grumbled and read on.
The lord, the Marquis of Klementavis (it looked like that used to be the name of both this town and the region it lay in), had tried to put a rest to the rumors by calling in a bishop to do an exorcism. Apparently, they discovered a revenant in a grave and the Marquis died fighting it. The attacks stopped, and the town mourned that they had unjustly accused this hero of being the monster that he slew, throwing a massive feast in celebration and remembrance.
Ron shook his head. The truth was obvious. The Marquis was the monster and had simply gone into hiding to get the heat off his tail. The only question was where. He put the newspaper away and searched for burial records. Soon he found them and perused them until he found it. The Marquis was buried in the chapel at his castle in Vivines. Where the heck is that? He wondered. Ludomir might know, and if not, they could find a map. Hopefully it was close.
"A tracksuit." The declaration was spoken with a contempt like no other, it twisted in the mirage's face as if she'd eaten something utterly foul. "You're kidding." The eyes of his beloved 'Amena', a poor girl who likely had never noticed him, just as he said, would size him up from head to toe; she looked upon him like a human did an ant. Would she squash him, or simply watch? "Start with your hair, at -least-. That mop will never get you any interest, not in this world...or the next." With a hand on her hip, her fingers pointedly began to jab from direction to direction at his body, labeling -everything- she saw wrong. "Glasses--get rid of them. Contacts. And ugh...do you ever wash your face? Moisturize, moron. Those clothes and--UGH! Your posture, stand straighter--"
By the time Amena had finished giving the archivist the world's most scathing lesson in attractiveness, she would have looked utterly worn out; boring humans were always the worst to seduce. With a great upheaval of her breath, a haze of the sweetest, sickly pink, her disinterested gaze would look past the man and towards the runt rummaging about; only a single order was given then, "If you love me so much, just go the fuck to sleep." For Amai, he wasn't even worth draining; types like these weren't good on her diet.
Step by step was taken before she'd slink to Ron's side, no longer the shimmering visage of the sweet, unknowing waitress in the archivist's vision...but the cocky, too-tall man with boisterous hair bent at his waist, trying to look over the kid's shoulder. "Tell me you found -something-. I've just lost years of my life over there and I'd rather it be for something worthwhile. I fucking hate small towns..."
The archivist drew more and more back as his crush ruthlessly berated his every choice. "What's wrong with my- contacts, those are expen- but my- but my-" Tears were welling up in his eyes, he was cowering and covering his head like she was raining blows from above. "Sleep? But I'm already... in... a dream..." He fell back against the shelves and slid slowly to the ground, eyes closing. Ron watched with disdain. "Humans are always weak-willed, but that guy's something else." He held up the book for Amai to read. "I've got a location, and hopefully the old man knows where it is." He handed off the book to kneel by the arcivist's side. Gently he placed the slumbering man on his side, his coat bunched up under his head as a pillow.
He lead the way out of Town Hall. Ludomir waited across the street. "How did it go?" He asked as the pair crossed over to his side. "I've got a name and a location! A Marquis of Klementavis who died in 1898, buried in his castle at Vivines. All the signs point to him! You know where that is?" Ron showed Ludomir an old black and white picture he dug out of the archives showing a crumbling castle, not a total ruin but clearly not properly kept up. "...shit!" The old man swearing took Ron aback. "Sorry, I shouldn't have snapped. It's nothing to do with you." Ludomir waved his hands when he saw Ron's face. "It's just that that's over the border in Ustovic. These countries used to both be part of Russia, but after WWI, they were split off, so what was once part of the same territory is now over the northern border."
Ron's eyes narrowed as he thought. "Wait... northern border? This country is right up against the Baltic." He mumbled, feeling very stupid right now. "To the mundanes, yes. Ustovic doesn't officially exist. If you were to walk north without the right techniques, you'd pass right through it and step onto a beach without incident. Come, let's all have dinner. I'd want to go now, but there's no way we're going to get to Vivines before sundown, and we can't travel at night. We'll have to go tomorrow morning." Ludomir opened up his phone for a selection for restaurants in town, quickly finding the only place was an old diner. "Well, that looks charming. I'll explain the situation while we eat." "Robots. You're kidding me." Ron was holding his head in his hands, staring at the cracked plastic that passed for a tablecloth here. "Yes. The communist government bought them from an unknown source and they got so out of control that the Hidden World poulation found the only solution to be quarantine. It's practically its own universe now." Ludomir finally managed to get the attention of the only waiter working.
"Sorry about that! If this is your first time, let me be the first time to welcome you folks to our little town! It's not much, but it's home." Despite being so pale she looked ill, the waitress had beautiful eyes that seemed to smile even in the few moments where she didn't. "Thanks, Amena." Ron quickly buried his face in his menu when he realized his mistake. "How-" "I read your name tag." "O-okay." Amena took their orders and went back to the kitchen before looking down at her chest, confirming to herself that she didn't wear a name tag. Ludomir gave Ron a searching look. "Are you a mind reader?" He earnestly asked, an eyebrow raised. "Not quite." Ron mumbled from behind his menu.
While the two before him had spoken, the other man had slumped so hard in his seat that the crown of his head now rested upon the back of the dinky chair this place offered. "I hate small towns." The whine that came with the baritone voice was unfitting, but every word that followed continued with it regardless, "--No good places to eat, no one -good- to eat. Of course Eve would send me here; eat a few people and suddenly -you're- the bad guy that has to be punished. It's like I'm in a market where all the produce has mold..."
Of course, Amai did not eat--there would be no order from the sour looking man that eyed each and every person in his vicinity; the utter disgust that twisted in those features!! Amai was used to city-life, to high-class living! Restaurants where the floors sparkled like their chandeliers, where even the waitresses looked as if they were actresses and actors. Everyone was always so young, so full of life! To even try and sip on the spoiled wines offered her way would not only be disgusting...but worthless! Everyone here barely had an ounce of life left within them..."I'm fucking starving but there's not even a point...it'd be like eating rats."
The man's heel scuffed loudly across the dirty floors, taking to looking towards the grungy ceiling above as he sulked very openly. "Only the waitress would be worth it and even she looks like she has a foot in the grave. I have -standards- you know...And now robots? Fuckin' Eve...It's like she wants the body count to grow higher; what do I do against robots?"
"With these robots, you avoid them. Nothing we have would be enough to take down even one of them. Not even you, Amai." Ludomir didn't expect Amai to cause trouble, for once in her life. She wouldn't go picking fights with robots. When Amena came back with their meals, he quickly scanned her with experienced eyes. He didn't see any marks that could be left behind by a vampire's feeding. It seemed that if she was sick, it wasn't due to the vampire. "Thank you." Both Ludomir and Ron accepted their meals.
Ron immediately began taking unreasonably large bites from a burger drier than a sand dune, while Ludomir tried to figure out if his taste buds were working while he sipped on tepid soup. "I suppose I can't let you starve. Amai, if you feed on Amena, promise me you won't take any more than you need." His words dripped with disgust, and it wasn't the soup behind the feeling. It wasn't even aimed at Amai. To an extent, she was like the vampire. She couldn't help her nature.
He couldn't rage against her any more than he could rage against the Guinea worm for causing a human such agony, even in the face of personal animosity. But this was like handing somebody water contaminated with Guinea worm eggs and assuring yourself they would survive so it was all well and good. It was sick. Ludomir crossed himself, something he hadn't done in decades. Not since we last met, in fact. He couldn't remember if it had hurt her then. Ron gave Amena a forlorn look back in the kitchen and the goggles he hid under his hood moved on invisible tracks over his eyes. "She's alone here. Works the kitchen and the front. No wonder it takes forever to get any food." He shoved a handful of chalky fries into his mouth, gulping them down with flat soda. "You sure about this, old man?" Ron looked into Ludomir's eyes, his own hidden behind red lenses. "I'm afraid so. Amai is our strongest member. If we run into any trouble, she's our best bet, and we can't have her hungry. But not a drop more than you need! I have your boss on speed-dial." He placed his cellphone on the table, displaying his readiness to use it.
"Not even me? I've taken down creatures that have seen three-hundred times the span of your life--watch who you're talking to." The disgruntled man sneered across at the man, the clicking of his heel grew louder with his impatience and soon, one would wonder why the fiery red-head didn't actually possess a scalp in flames with its sizzling, steeping fury. This place was wearing on Amai's patience, putting a new meaning to the word 'thin'--why did she listen to Eve anyways? She could wipe this pathetic town right off the map, solve the problem of some undead fuck -and- this boring ass village.
A loud snort would leave the man who would tuck his chin inwards, fixing the painfully bright, magenta gaze upon the two discussing him as if he didn't exist. "I'm right here--you're right to be afraid, but at least have the guts to do it to my face. Yeah--I'm stronger than either of you could ever hope to be, but I'm selective. You may enjoy eating back-gutter trash, but I have taste. I ate before I got here, I ate on the way, and I had a nibble or two along a few of the not so gross members of this area. Besides, I don't want whatever she's got. Not that I would, but blood breeds bad blood and I like for my following meals to stay...healthy." At that, the man's leg rose like a limber pillar, the blunt end of a heel breaking right down across the center of the table the moment Ludomir showed his phone, a loud crack of a laugh leaving him as he did so, "You keep threatening me, old man, and you'll find that there's very little I would care about if I'm backed into a 'corner'."
It was a wonder the table withstood, possibly because Amai was -also- threatening the man. But he'd simply let his foot dance from side to side while he dismissively held his hand upwards, a brow raised and a smile that bred disgusting confidence. "I can stop whatever's in our way, threat or not, but I'm here to get the job done. So if you get stuck behind, that's on you; I'm supposed to solve the threat, not babysit."
Ludomir's phone bounced off the table when it was shaken by Amai's foot. He dove for it, managing to catch it before it hit the ground but hitting his head on the way up. "Alright, I understand. Then we're going. I want a good night's sleep." Ludomir put money on the table and led the group into the setting sun.
No sound pierced the darkness that night. It was too cold for insects or birds to be roaming, and there was no nightlife to speak of. Ron slept the night through, but Ludomir woke up periodically. He would look at his phone for news blurbs. Disasters far away. Places he should be helping. There was too much planet and not enough people like him. He sat up and looked at Amai sometimes, knowing the demon only feigned sleep. It made him think of when they last met, so long ago. His thoughts didn't linger on the demon. It was somebody else he thought of. He knew she was out there too, wandering the world. Running into Amai made him wonder who else from his past would show up one day. His eyelids fluttered closed and he rested his head, a rare, fleeting smile sticking to his lips.
Dawn didn't break so much was it barely cracked the clouds hanging over the town in the morning. It was a long, cold drive through heavily fog along roads that hadn't seen a work crew since the Soviet Union fell. Ron and Amai fought over the radio channel until they abruptly lost all signals. A few miles later, the road abruptly stopped being a road, just a few broken up hunks of asphalt. The truck refused to brave the grassy hills and was abandoned. It wasn't long before they stood on the edge of the Baltic Sea.
Fog rolled over sharp rocks and sapphire waves, limiting views to a single strip of shoreline. Shorebirds screamed from far away. "Where is it? Did we miss it?" Ron peered into the fog. "Patience, Ron, patience." Ludomir walked along the shore until he came to an old, disused lighthouse. Ron checked the door, finding it locked. Ludomir's hands suddenly shot straight over his head and he moved in an odd descending wiggle. "Uh... Dr. Malvus, sir...?" Ron stared in confusion. Ludomir sank to his knees, still wiggling, before he stood back up and went to the door. It easily opened. Ron followed, utterly baffled. up the spiral staircase they went to the top, where the old light sat with its glass shattered and the bulb long gone. Ludomir fished a bulb from his pocket, a big blue dish of a light just the right size for the lighthouse. "The security systems are very thorough here. We didn't want regular people wandering back into the place by accident."
He explained as he screwed in the new light. "Is this to light the way? Does this light even run anymore?" Ron asked before the lightbulb clicked into place and blue light flooded the room. He shielded his eyes, wincing through until he saw that the landscape had shifted. Gone were rocks and waves, unless you counted the waves running through the tall grass and the few boulders peaking their heads through it. Vines hung over the lighthouse's windows, obscuring the view of the outdoors. Trees taller than the lighthouse grew up around it and dotted the grass, but something taller still walked through it all.
Each step rumbled the earth, and if one looked closely they could see circular impressions in the ground where the being had stepped thousands of times before. Only patches of rusted metal were clear through the fog, all else obscured, but its shape could be surmised. It was slender and stretched out, not quite put together like a human. Its neck was long and seemed to flex freely of the body. At the end of that neck was a head, flattened and boxy like a school projector. A single giant light glowed on the end. The light started to move towards the lighthouse, crawling the tower to the room they occupied. "Shit! Right here!?" Ludomir dropped to the floor, waving for the others to do the same.
Amai was not one for amusing party tricks this day; the more they spent in the presence of such dull companies, the more they wanted to leave. Across steps that would have wounded human feet to walk in with the heels they toted, round and round til they reached a decrepit top, Amai's joyless, magenta gaze looked across foggy seas with disinterest; once you saw one body of water, you'd seen them all. Her last beach visit in Arata had worn out the appeal very thoroughly.
With Ludomir's attentions, the lighthouse burned to life and the annoyed demon could only wince as the pain struck deep into their corneas; thankfully, such things didn't harm them too deeply. "You fixed a light, good job. Now about what we're supposed to actually be doing..."
As if to eat their words, the demon watched as the landscape before them changed. Much like a slide clicking into place during a slideshow, one moment was ocean and the next was not; enough to even make a timeless creature blink several times to ensure what they saw was true. However, enjoyment and surprise was short-lived, for a behemoth hidden among the mist was quick to turn its attentions their ways.
Unlike those that hid on the floor, Amai reflexively recoiled towards the high ceiling, a sentient fog with two glowing, glaring eyes looking upon those beneath them as they awaited the pillar of worrisome light to disperse. A spotlight in some place like this could never be a good sign!