The paladin listened to everyone's words in the game. It was something difficult to guess, and probably there wasn't much he could add.
If I have to be honest, Miss Leora, I guess you have Time powers, as well this is not your first time in a plane - The man said, thinking deeply about Loveline's trues and lie - In Miss Cromwell's case... I guess you can't recall every single day of your life since you were a kid... but I guess you have a Dragon Toy and you had to stop your sister from doing something on impulse - Probably he was wrong but he found his own answers pretty logic, still, he didn't knew them a lot to guess their actions in the past. So... It's my turn - He took a breath, thinking on what could be a nice truth and a difficult lie. After a few seconds the man added - I have problems with technology. I have an owl on my briefcase and... I make a disaster when I cook
The man let go a little chuckle, he only hoped to don't get in trouble after bringing Maitheas with him but he hadn't anyone to take care of the owl if he traveled. After the plane landed and they were inside Arlon Haven, the structure was so flashy and still elegant, it remained him of those days in the Kingdom and something made him feel nostalgic again. After receiving his key, he went to the elevator with the rest.
Once everyone was done checking in, they took the elevators to one of the upper floors. Arthur led them a bit into the hallway until everyone was near their rooms.
"Alright guys, we're here. Take these." He handed everyone a map and a black card with blue lines in the pattern of a wolf head staring at them. "Since you guys are my premium guests, you can use those to pay for anything you want. You can see the souvenir shop on the map. You can also find the dinning room, the games room, the rental place for skis, snowboards and everything else you like, the gym, sauna and pool, the medical facility if you need it, the children's corner, and if you need to talk to me just go to the top floor and call for me. And don't stand in the center of the hallway when you do. You guys can have some fun, just try not to tire yourselves out too much for tonight.
The room was spacious, with wooden walls and a pleasing fragrance. Through the windows opposite the entrance, one could see the snow covered hills and forest, and even the village they landed in was visible in the distance. The chilly weather outside was offset by the warmth coming from a fireplace between two cupboards which were next to two comfy-looking beds. It wasn't a real fireplace of course, but a heater behind a "3D" fire projected on a screen, with the soothing sounds of crackling fire played over hidden speakers. Opposite the fireplace was a door leading to the bathroom, although the only special thing about that was a high-tech toilet like you would find in Japan. In the center of the rooms was a round table with sofas on either side of it. Finally, there was a closet where people could put away their luggage.
"You can use the 'fireplace' as a TV. You can't watch it from bed, unless you sleep on the sofa. But who watches TV nowadays anyway?" Loveline said.
Down in the workplace, the manager looked at Jennifer for a bit. "No, that won't be necessary. You need some rest, miss Slate. I'll show you to your room."
He took her up a few floors and gave her the keys to a room. The room itself was far less impressive than the ones the special guests had, but it was still not a terrible place to live. It was warm, decently sized and with a comfy bed. You could even watch TV from the bed. It also had a closet where Jennifer could put away her stuff, and at least the toilet was high-tech here as well.
"Come on, I'm more reliable than that!" Cosmina accepted the card and waved back and forth impatiently on the elevator ride up. She wanted to see the room! Marceline just leaned on the wall, eye on Ron, who was at the far opposite corner. She had just recognized him as that guy who was dating Huntsman back during that double date she had with Chase. She wondered if she was still with him. She certainly didn't trust him if he was. Everybody shoved out when the elevator reached the top, Cosmina skipping down to her room and checking it out quickly.
"Come on, let's change so we can go down to the pool! Where's Marceline? We should let her come along." Cosmina looked out the door to see Marceline walking back after tossing her suitcase unceremoniously onto the bed. "Maybe after I eat." She gave a noncommittal wave. "Aw... okay then." Cosmina frowned for a second, but put a smile on looking up at Haruko again. "Come on, the pool's gotta be great with how fancy this place is!"
Marceline got into the elevator, scowling when the green haired man from the plane stepped in beside her. He noticed her expression and flipped her off without a second thought. He seemed surprised when she grinned. "Heheheh. You're a bigger dick than I thought. Guess you have to be pretty bad to date Huntsman." Ron looked at Marceline in confusion. She knew him? It took him a second to recognize the woman. They had only briefly met, but her odd face was quite memorable. "Don't talk about that prick. I kicked him to the curb the night we met." Ron sneered and crossed his arms across his chest, leaning on the elevator wall.
"Really? Good for you! I dumped Chase too. As long as we're both heading to the same place, we can get a table together. We'll have a toast to dumping pieces of shit." Marceline smiled, her wide mouth curling up towards her ears. "...it can't hurt. No alcohol for me though." "Me neither, but I'm sure there's plenty of soda. Come on, we'll complain about our crappy exes, it'll be fun." Marceline lead the way to the dining hall, sniffing the air for the sweet scent of food. Jenifer couldn't argue with he boss's assessment. She was sore all over from sitting down all day and her neck felt like it was going to split in half from how stiff it was. She was sure she looked it too. Her clothes were crumpled, she didn't have any makeup, and her long tails of hair were frayed at the end. "Thank you, sir. I will be ready for duty in the morning." She gratefully followed him, keeping up her act, one foot carefully placed in front of the other without a misstep.
She dropped it the moment the door was closed behind her. Her feet dragged as she made her way to the bathroom mirror. The situation was as bad as she feared, tiredness in her eyes and more irritatingly, tiny whiskers beginning to grow on her chin. Being a lycanthrope made her naturally hairier. She wasn't going to grow a full beard, but she would have to shave in the morning. She sighed and turned away. That was future Jenifer's problem. She stepped out of the bathroom, inspecting her room, giving it a good sniff for good measure. It was nicer than any place she'd stayed in since leaving her home. Everything was clean, the pillows were exquisitely soft, and when she checked, the shower actually ran hot water. Future Jenifer would get a reward for putting up with shaving.
Jenifer considered going out and checking out the hotel, but she didn't have the means for any of it. She barely had enough to pay rent when she got home until her paycheck, so an expensive fancy hotel restaurant was out of the question. She didn't bring a swimsuit. It was too dark for skiing already, if she could even afford it. She wasn't a guest anyway. She was an employee. She could relax, but it wouldn't be on the hotel's terms. She had a King Arthur translation collection begging for her time. But that time wouldn't come tonight. Jenifer stripped and crawled into bed, tapping the light to turn it off. She was snoring immediately, carried off by Wolfsbane and the knowledge that tonight, she could not transform.
Haruko thanked Arthur and the others as she, Kate and Cosmina entered their room. The accommodations were about what she expected Arthur would give them; a spacious room with plenty windows to overlook the snowy landscape, but nothing gaudy that would show off too much of his wealth. It was a sentiment Haruko could appreciate; she didn't particularly like to show off her wealth either, though her wallet was vastly smaller than Arthur's. Kate placed her bag onto the bed on the right side of the room, frowning when she realized the situation. "Hey...there are only two beds here. Dibs on this one!" Kate declared, looking at Cosmina. Haruko shook her head. "We can sort out the bed situation later, you two. Do you want to swim too, Kate?" The seamstress asked. Kate pondered the question for a moment. "Hm...not really. I want go to snowboarding! Who goes to a snow resort and wants to go to some pool first?" She asked.
This became a small problem for Haruko. She couldn't in good mind let a 14-year-old snowboard by herself...but also couldn't leave Cosmina alone to swim by herself. She knew that Cosmina hated the cold, since she didn't have an internal body temperature like the rest of them, being a doll. "How about we compromise? We'll go swimming now, and after dinner I'll take you out on the starting hill?" Haruko suggested. Kate nodded her head in affirmation. "Sure! I'm sure it'll already be dark out when we go...ooooo..." Kate loved the idea of learning to snowboard in the dark. Haruko had seen that there were plenty of lights on the starting hill, so there was no worries there. "Then it's settled! Get your swimming stuff on, and we can go check the pool out." Haruko stated as she set her bag down onto the other bed, opening it up to look for her own swimwear. Kate debated if she wanted to join them or not...she didn't really feel like swimming. Might just lay on a chair by the pool and play a game on her phone.
Vladimir was amazed by the rooms, they were incredible spacious. He walked inside of his, noticing that there was another bed as well. Probably he'll have a roomate. Putting the briefcase in the bed he proceeded to get rid of his coat, scarf and hat. After that he took his phone to notify his friends that he arrived safe to his "vacation" if he could call it like that. It was pretty suspicious how expensive yet wonderful hotel would give a vacation raffle, still, he was glad that normal people couldn't have the posibility of winning the trip like he did. He sighed at the idea of returning to battle, he felt rusty, a bit insecure about his own abilities. It was a long time since he fought or trained. However his thoughts were interrupted at the moment his briefcase opened in a rampage, letting out all his clothes and papers.
Oh no... - The man mumbled as his owl pet started flying all around the room. His hands were shaking by his own nerves trying to cast his own magic to calm down the animal, but his own stress wouldn't let him do that - Maitheas, calm down, come here! - He tried to order as low has he could, he didn't wanted to make a scene.
After checking in Leora quickly goes to her room and unpacks. The entire time she is putting away clothes she couldn't help but think her room is too large. So much so that it made her feel a bit uneasy. She isn't really use to the "Rich life." Once she finishes unpacking, she exits the room in a hurry. Happy to be out and about. She decides it would be fun to learn how to snowboard, and asks one of the nearby receptionists in the lobby room to help her get the proper gear and a trainer before she heads out to the bunny hill.
Marceline and Ron went through the same tunnel as Jeniffer and ended up in the dinning room. There were orange walls and wooden panels covering their lower halves. Fresh flowers hung off the walls and lamps hung off the ceiling, combining with sounds of acoustic guitar to give the restaurant a pleasant mood. There was even a stage by one of the walls for bands that would be invited for evening entertainment, although it was currently empty so the guitar must be coming from concealed speakers. One of the more interesting aspects was a sign saying "dessert bar" above a door.
It wasn't meal time yet, but there were some people who had the same idea as the hidden worlders. Still, there were plenty of free tables. As soon as Marcy and Ron sat down at one of the circular tables a waiter materialized next to them.
"Welcome. Here are your menus. Feel free to peruse them at your leisure. I'll take your order when you're ready." He disappeared almost as quickly as he appeared. Under the hotel there was a room filled with screens surrounded by various magical symbols, with consoles filled with arcane buttons and lights, combinations of magic and technology that screamed hidden world, all operated by people in black suits some of which were doing complicated busy work while others sat around plain tables, playing poker and chatting about their families.
"It seems there's some sort of commotion in one of Mr. Cromwell's personal guests' room," one of the busy men in black said, staring at one of the screens.
"An assault? Before Arty even started anything?" asked a blond woman wearing a black suit like everyone else, only sticking out because of a yellow tie in a sea of black.
"No, miss Cygnus. There are traces of magic use, but it doesn't match up with patterns indicating an attack. Without Mr. Cromwell's order we cannot look directly inside the room, but it doesn't appear to be too serious. We'll send someone to check it out."
"That won't be necessary. I'll check it out myself."
"Miss Cygnus, are you sure?"
"Yeah, yeah. If this is a personal guest of that idiot mage, I should meet them myself. What's the room number?"
In just under 15 seconds, Valery Cygnus appeared in front of Vladimir's door.
"Sir, is everything OK in there? We've received reports of a commotion?" She asked while knocking on the door. The receptionist was very happy to help Leora, even more than she was trained to appear when interacting with guests. She directed her to one of the halls leading to the rightmost building. The walls of the hall were covered in scenes showing snowy hills with trees interspersed and people on skis, sleds and snowboards going around them.
Soon she reached a booth next to a glass door. The booth was painted blue, like the walls surrounding it, and behind it stood a man who smiled as soon as he saw Leora. Next to the booth was a blackboard listing all equipment that could be rented here including snowboards, skis, sleds and snowmobiles. They also offered skiing clothes for those who didn't have any. The bottom of the blackboard listed private lessons and group lessons although the latter were only available at specific times and wouldn't be happening today since the guests arrived relatively late in the day. All the services were given at an affordable price, although Leora didn't need to worry about money at all with the card Arthur gave to everyone.
"Hello madam. How may I help you today?" The man behind the counter said. Haruko, Cosmina and Kate went to the same building as Leora, only through a different tunnel. Theirs had waves, whales, dolphins and other sea creatures on the walls. They arrived in a smaller lobby staffed by three people. There were four exits, one of which showed the pool where some people were already swimming, two for the changing rooms, and the final one connected to the rest of the building. One of the staffers gestured to the leftmost passage.
"Welcome. This way towards the women's changing area. From there you can enter the hallway leading to the pool. The rules of the pool are posted at the entrance, so please try to stick to them. Have a pleasant stay."
The pool's rules were the standard fare. Don't run around the edges of the pool (which everyone followed), don't jump into the pool from non-specified areas (which no one followed), and some other health and safety protocols for a safe stay that would keep the hotel liability-free. Past the entrance, the Miyatas entered a whole different world accentuated by the smell of chlorine and fresh tropical flowers, and the gentle sounds of waves. They found themselves in a gigantic room with blue and white walls emulating a summer sky. The floors were covered in artificial grass and tropical trees were everywhere. The ceiling was covered in LEDs that emulated the shining summer sun and if the girls stayed long enough they'd see the lights changed to reflect the time of day. There were two oval pools in this gigantic room. One small and shallow for little kids and the other larger than an olympic pool. In fact, the pool was separated into five parts, the central one a rectangle with the dimensions of an olympic pool, the others separating the rounded edges from the rectangle with walls slightly jutting out of the water. Every 10 meters the walls had openings for people who wanted to move into or out of the rectangle without having to hop the wall. Around the pools Kate could find a seat if she wanted or she could climb a set of stairs leading to the balcony with chairs if she wanted to spectate from above.
Inside the pool itself, there were a bunch of people. One man was swimming like a professional athlete training for finals inside the rectagle. Another man was leisurely lying on the water with eyes closed in one of the corner sections, lost in his own imagination or his dreams. A couple was sitting on the edge of the pool, talking about something probably not meant for a stranger's ears until one of them splashed the other and they started a splash war. Even a family of four seemed to be at the pool, the mother and younger son waiting in a shallow edge section and talking while the father and teenage son were having a race in the rectangle.
"Thanks." Marceline took the menus, Ron mumbling something that might also have been a thanks. Marceline flipped through and glanced at her dining companion. "So... how did it happen, anyway? You and Huntsman? No offense, but I would think if you ended up with him, it would be impossible for him to do anything to drive you away." She lowered her menu to eye him. Ron hid behind his menu to hide a glare. "He made it all about the sex." Ron shrugged. "Apparently I didn't live up to his expectations." He shifted in his seat. His face was hard as granite.
Marceline raised her one eyebrow. It was certainly in character for the guy, but she wasn't sure she believed Ron. It seemed too one-sided. "Well, you certainly don't look like you'd be great." Marceline chuckled, but her well of laughter dried up when she looked up at Ron's face. He was glaring like she had just punched him. With a swift movement, she hopped out of his seat and walked across the room, taking a seat as far away from her as he could get. She stared at him for a few seconds before looking back at her menu. Whoops...
"Me first!" Cosmina grabbed her swimsuit and ran into the bathroom. A minute later, she emerged, showing off the suit, of her own design of course. It was a one-piece in deep blue, marked with tiny monsters like those on old maps of the world. "Try yours on too! Come on!" She grabbed Kate's shoulders and bounced up and down. "I made it all special for you, you'll look so cool!" She insisted.
Down at the pool, Cosmina instantly sprang into the water and let the air out of her lungs to sink. Click. She saw everything. She didn't need to breath and she could see with her eyes closed. Who could enjoy the pool more than her? Cosmina walked along the deepest point in the pool, scanning everything with sonar. She smiled at the weight moving through water gave her, her plodding steps. She was Godzilla! She vibrated her horns to make an eerie roar, audible only to anybody with their head underwater.
The man was a hurricane of nervousness and axiety, the owl won't come back to him no matter how much he tried to call and his magic wasn't working as well, he knew it was all fault of his own emotions as well the lack of training. No matter his face went as white as snow in the moment he noticed the room was all quiet again... Maitheas left the room, as Vladimir panicked again. What a bad owner he was! He was going to be kicked out of the Resort despite it wouldn't be a bad idea after how he couldn't even take care of a single owl!!
He went after his pet, running in the corridors as he followed the hooting it wasn't time until he arrived at the pool ignoring everything the man jumped, in middle air he made a pentagram, white with a lot of celtic symbols, he stepped with one leg to impulse himself and then...
He got him! Finally catched that nasty owl but his happines was now replaced with a strong impact of cold water, he fell in the pool with owl, clothes and all.
Both Haruko and Kate admired the creatures along the walls, Haruko pointing toward a particular whale. "Hey Kate, any idea what kind of whale that is?" She asked. Kate looked at the strange creature and tried to make out the details. "Hm...almost looks like a beluga whale with that body shape...but the head and colors are off..." Kate observed. The head had a strange protrusion that looked like a dolphin mouth, and the body was more grey than a beluga's white color. "No idea. What is it?" Kate asked, looking at her mother, who was now shorter than herself by around 4 inches. "Well...it's a beaked whale! They live deep in the ocean at about...1,000 meters." She stated, Kate having no idea what that would be in feet. "Huh, cool." Kate said as she made her way into the changing room, Haruko close behind.
Kate was the first one out, swatting Cosmina away from her shoulders. "Hey, I'm wearing it! See!" Kate motioned to her body. The suit was a black two-piece with a small array of colorful flowers along the right side of the top and bottom. Rolling her eyes, Kate made her way toward the pool and made her way up the stairs to take a seat on a comfortable chair overlooking the pool from the balcony. "Alright, time to beat my high score...!" Kate said to herself as she pulled out her phone and booted up a game about crushing candies in a game reminiscent of Bejeweled.
Meanwhile, Haruko watched Cosmina walk into the water and shook her head slightly. It was scary to see your child walk into a pool like that...but she also knew that Cosmina couldn't drown. Her own suit was a simple pink color with a black outline along the outside. "I suppose I should relax while they have fun." Haruko states to herself, grabbing an inflatable chair and placing it along the lazy river that circled the area and jumping on top, placing her hands behind her head and letting the current guide her along the path.
Glancing over the list on the blackboard, her eyes immediately focus in on the private lessons section on the board. With a gleeful reaction she looks back at the man and with a smile and says, "Hi there! I would like to learn how to snowboard. Also, I'm kinda new at this. So if I need to change clothes, do I have to go back to the hotel?" she asked as she reaches into her pocket to pull out Arthur's card to hand it to the man. "By the way, do you have any recommendations for the trainer. Ideally I would like to work with someone who is patient, since I'm not really known to be a fast learner," she finished with a silly giggle. "Though I promise I will try my best."
One of the guests sitting alone at a table behind Marceline saw Ron leave in a huff and got up. Full of swagger he walked around Marceline and turned his head with mouth open, about to say a witty pick-up line. But as soon as he saw Marceline's features, he turned his head and kept walking. "Hm, where is that toilet," he looked around awkwardly, rubbing his chin. "Oh well, I guess I'll hold it," he said and went back to his seat careful not to look at Marcy again.
While she waited for the man to answer, an owl flew right past Valery. While she looked at it flying away in confusion, the man staying in the room ran out after it. He didn't even seem to notice her, let alone acknowledge her. She followed him as he went down the stairs, through the hallway between buildings, past the incredibly confused staff and into the pool. She watched in horror as he made a magic stepping stone in the air and caught the owl.
At the same time as Victor was jumping in the air, Cosmina produced her roar. The athlete, the father/son duo and the sleeping man got startled and looked around in a panic. Those who weren't swimming looked at them in confusion. Distracted by the roar, neither of the groups noticed the strange man stepping on a glowing symbol in mid-air. The father and the athlete looked underwater to see what sort of monster produced that noise, but all they saw was an amused little girl. They had no idea how the girl made that sound, but it made more sense than there being an actual monster in the pool. The athlete shook his head in displeasure at the girl's poor upbringing, while the father told his son what he saw and they both shrugged their shoulders at the strange event.
Right after, their attention was drawn to a bizarre, fully-clothed man holding an owl jumping into the pool with a large splash, quickly followed by a woman in a suit whom they weren't able to hear muttering "Idiot" right before jumping in and pulling the man out.
"Sir, are you alright? I'll escort you to your room so you can get a change of clothes and put away your bird." "Of course not, miss," the man answered Leora while taking the black card. "We have changing rooms right over there." He pointed at a nearby door. Leora then questioned him about good personal trainers.
"I will make sure you get our best man, don't you worry." He gave her back the card and sent her off on her way.
Several hours later
The guests went about their business, enjoying the resort's facilities all throughout the day. And then the sun started setting. Men in suits went up to Arthur's VIPs and told them Mr. Cromwell asked for them, reminding them they were supposed to meet up at the top floor and that the boss warned them not to stand in the center of the room. All they had to do was call out when they were all ready.
"Marceline! Time me!" Cosmina called from the side of the pool. Marceline rolled her oversized orb and raised her phone. "Uh... I don't think I have a stopwatch on this thing." She scrolled through the barren apps. "Use mine!" Cosmina pointed to her own phone, lying on the table Kate and Haruko were eating at. Marceline reluctantly pried herself off the seat, swiping a fry from Kate on her way. She opened it and a stray thumb brushed the cloud. Old photos appeared, not from this phone but further back.
Marceline saw the inside of not just the kaspa but their old house in the woods. Pictures of the forest, leaves, trees. The aimless photos of a child. They grew in skill and focus when she instinctively swiped her thumb to scroll. Two pictures stood out, and they couldn't draw more different reactions from Marceline. One was of Marika calm, knitting by Yuu's side. Yuu smiled down at her. Marceline had never seen Yuu smile. She saw fury when she was caught stealing Cosmina's belongings to sell. Disgust and disappointment was even more familiar, when she would come home with ripped panties and bloodshot eyes. But mostly, she remembered a stern look of warning whenever she wasn't doing anything wrong.
"I know you will fail. Do not do it now." That look said. But Marika and Cosmina got a smile! A look of love! Marceline drew back her arm to throw the phone into the pool, but the other picture slid into view from her grip on the screen. Herself, smiling with a Wii remote in her hands. She remembered this. Cosmina had shown her Mario Kart and played with her all night. The next day, Marceline waited for Cosmina to leave and stole the system. She couldn't even remember how much money she had gotten or what drug she had used with what she got. She only remembered the look of betrayal on Cosmina's face. Even the tortures Marika had inflicted on her didn't stand out so much as that. Just a hurt little girl who couldn't understand why her big sister would hurt her like that.
She looked up at the Cosmina who stood on the edge of the pool, looking confused at why she wasn't taking time yet. Marceline itched. Everything was telling her to use her card and drown herself in booze so she didn't half to think about this. That was always the start of it. The pain. Before she could stand, the men in suits came. "Sorry Cosmina, we have to find out whatever this is." Marceline stood, looking ill.
Marceline stepped up to the elevator and felt even worse when she saw who was already in it. "Fuck you. Get your own elevator." Ron said, blocking the entrance. "...yeah, fine." She let the door close and hit the button again. It was a long, miserable ride even if it wasn't that many floors. She didn't even look at the numbers, just mashing the top floor and close door buttons until she made it. The moment she stepped out, next to Ron stepping from the elevator right beside her, both said "Ready."
I'm deeply sorry for what happened! - The man inmediatly apologized towards the woman, the owl by other hand tried to hide behind her - Maitheas shouldn't be behaving this bad, I told him to don't cause trouble and still! - The man was red, trying to explain her what happened - And don't try to hide behind her Maitheas! You are a stranger for her!
The owl hooed in protest as it tried to get dry. The man snapped his hand and from the ground, wind came drying him completely and his pet as well - I'll keep him in his cage so he can't cause more trouble... and you won't be having any mices this month, that should teach you... - He finished to his pet, who flew to his head and bited Vladimir's ear - O-Ow! I won't spoil you anymore!
After the incident, the man went again to his room, leaving Maitheas in it's cage would teach the bird to obey his master, he didn't knew why it acted that way. Despite having his clothes completely dry, the man decided to change clothes. Wearing a black suit, with a blue tie he made his way to the top floor.
While Cosmina continued to terrorize the waters of the pool, Haruko and Kate sat at their table and ate the food they'd ordered. Kate glared at Marceline when she snatched a fry from her plate, but turned back toward it when Marceline looked like she was trying to do something. "Do you need help over there, Marceline?" Haruko asked, taking another bite out of the fish sandwich in front of herself. When the men in suits came, Haruko called out to Cosmina. "Sorry Cosmina, looks like we'll have to come back later! Come on, you two." She said, grabbing their tray and beginning to walk back to their room. Kate finished her fries on the way back to the room, the trio changing back into their normal clothing and taking the elevator to the desired floor.
Once they arrived, Kate elbowed Cosmina in the side slightly. "So...any idea what this is about? Some kind of private performance?" She asked, Haruko politely standing to the side to let more people step out of the elevators.
The top floor was slightly different from the rest in that it appeared much smaller than the rest of the hotel, just a large box with five walls and a fancy plush carpet. The two elevators the group came out of were in one wall, flanked by stairs leading down on either side. The remaining walls each had a large door on it with a beast painted on. The door to the east had a blue dragon, to the south a red bird, to the west a white tiger, and to the north a black turtle. And the ceiling was adorned with a black circle in the center and a blue wolf's head drawn in a manner similar to the pattern on the cards Arthur gave everyone.
When the party said they were ready, the circle started descending. Love and Hael stood in the center, holding each other by the hand with their other hand outstretched towards the sky while leaning away from each other like a balancing act.
"Welcome!" Loveline shouted. Hazel's lips trembled like she was trying to say something too, but she couldn't.
"Just step on and we'll start dealing with the important things!" Love chimed in.
The elevator took them up to a room far larger and better furnished than the ones they got. Two TVs, multiple gaming consoles and three computers in a room with several couches and armchairs. It wasn't like the rooms they got weren't good, but this was a true presidential suite. And this was just a living room with doors presumably leading to several other rooms.
The girls lead the group through one of the doors into what appeared to be a conference room with a long table and chairs around it. Arthur was seated on one end and the table was covered by a map of the town below. A war map.
"Alright. Sit down. I'll explain things." Arthur's tone was more serious than it ever was. "This town is plagued by a criminal organization that we are going to shut down. They deal in drugs, murder and child prostitution." Arthur's jade eyes seemed to glow brighter for a second after he said that. "Tomorrow, we are storming their headquarters. Tonight, we're stopping a convoy carrying children kidnapped from nearby settlements. Here's the plan..."
Snowflakes floated gently to the snow-covered streets of the quaint little town. Arthur knelt atop a rooftop overlooking the streets, a cold wind blowing snow into his raven hair. He stared into a black butterfly showing in its wings a column of 2 jeeps, one on either end, 4 cars, and 3 vans in the center making its way through town, fast approaching the spot where the group was lying in ambush. Arthur pushed some snow off the roof. This was a signal for the team, hiding in the alleys between buildings, to get into position.
"When the convoy reaches the ambush, I'll start by dropping a pillar on the jeep leading the column." A shard of ice appeared above a black block on the war map, one at the end of a column of blocks. "That's your sign to act. Haruko, I want knives hitting the wheels of the jeep in the back. Use explosives if you need to. Marceline, you will use your strength to flip over the cars in the back so they can't retreat and can be used as a barricade to stop the vans from retreating. If you need pain to grow strong enough for that, I'll punch you until you're ready. Alternatively, pull the drivers out of their seats before they can reverse. You choose which method suits you, but I will not accept any of them escaping unharmed." Three black blocks on the map representing the end of the column were encased in ice. "Ronald, your job is similar to Marceline's. You didn't explain your nanobots, but I'm sure you can find a way to disable the cars. Or you can armor up and let them smack into you until the cars stop running. Again, your choice and if you need help tell me now." Two black blocks representing the cars in the front also froze over. "Vladimir. You have the second most important job. As an experienced paladin, I'm sure you're capable of facing these men. I want you to get to these three vans and start hurting the men in them as soon as they get out. You must not let them get to the back of the van or they will be able to enter the back and hurt the kids. If any of them have guns, they are your priority or they can shoot up the van and hurt the kids. And whatever you do, whatever ANY of you do, do not, I repeat, DO NOT let the vans get damaged or we risk hurting the kids. Understand?"
Arthur paused to take a sip of tea Hazel provided everyone when the meeting started. at the same time, three white blocks in the center of the column were surrounded by ice. "Good. Loveline knows her task. She will provide support to anyone in need of it, either with illusions or by getting involved in the fight. Hazel will stay here and use her butterflies to give us an overview of the situation." Black butterflies appeared on the table, one in front of each person. "We will wear these like masks to hide our identities. Don't worry, they won't obstruct your view and will provide a birds-eye view of the battlefield in the top right corner. Like a minimap in a video game." Arthur now turned toward Cosmina and Kate. "You two are still young. If you want to participate and only if Haruko allows it, you can help. Your task would the same as Vladimir's. Hurt the men in the vans, hurt anyone approaching the vans, and do not let the vans get damaged in the meantime. Otherwise, you can stay here with Haze to watch the fight. Finally, Leora. You have the most important job. You will stay out of the fight and afterward you will use Compassion to calm the kids. Alright, everyone, that's about it. Oh, wait, one more thing..."
The column moved at a steady pace, a practiced pace born of experience. While the convoy had a lot of cars, with every car having 4 or five men inside (aside from the vans which only had 2), it was arguably lightly defended. They never faced any issues. The town was quiet. Most people weren't aware of the events transpiring in the dead of night. Those that were were either scared, were paid enough to feign being scared, or were smart enough to feign being scared. And just like every night, nothing happened. Until a massive pillar of ice crashed into the leading jeep. The column, shocked by the unexpected event and lacking practice with such events, started breaking, tires digging into the snow until they were all stopped. For one second everything was quiet.
"...Those creatures don't deserve any mercy. But if you decide to not kill them, I'll understand. That is all. Any questions?"
Marceline was bundled up in ski gear over the self-heating coat Haruko gave her. She was still freezing. One butterfly peaked through a gap between her scarf and hat, out into the street. She stewed with irritation at Arthur. Did he really have to pretend this was just a vacation? She hadn't brought along any of her tools. She had to borrow hairpins from Cosmina and hot peppers from the kitchen.
Beside her, Ron was practically boiling over with rage. He had thought he had lucked into a comfortable vacation where he could gorge himself, enjoy a few day's rest, and not worry about Flipside. Put on the spot, it was hard to say no to rescuing trafficked children. Given his own history, could he really say no? He'd take out his rage on people who deserved it. That would feel good.
The cars came into view and the two flattened themselves on the walls nearly invisible to the street. "You ready?" Marceline whispered. "Of course I am, shut up." Ron flexed armored fingers. "That's the spirit." Marceline giggled, but jumped when the sound of Arthur's ice pillar coming down rang out. Marceline couldn't even say anything before Ron was gone, shot up into the air on his jets. Arthur's plan was terrible. Getting hit by cars? Even in his armor that wasn't his idea of a good time. He had a much simpler plan. He angled himself at one of the cars and the jets on his back fired at full power. He erupted downwards foot first right for its hood with power that would easily shatter everything in front of the windshield.
Marceline saw his meteor kick and ran out to join him. She could just as easily smash apart the nice parts of the car, but she had other plans. She wasn't strong enough to flip the cars, at least not with any finesse. She'd risk hitting the vans or a building now. Instead she charged for one of the cars in the back and jumped for the driver's side. Her gloved hands, two layers making her grip uncertain, grabbed for the door. Easily she would yank it off and attempt to grab the driver. Her hands would tighten when they found a limb, easily enough to crush a regular human's bones beyond recovery.
Vladimir nodded at Arthur’s plan. He only wished to have more comfortable clothes; a suit wasn’t the best attire to such missions.
The ex-paladin teleported near the van, he was 10 meters above in the air. Wind coming from the ground made his fall slower as he summoned a pentagram full of Celtic and Enochian Symbols, he modified some of them and the pentagram began to spin, splitting into three that covered the vehicles like plotter.
The pentagram will protect the vans from the damage, as he finally descended from the sky. The Driaochta took a stick, it was originally a spear but Vladimir decided to take it since he didn’t need it for the mission. As the men approached, the man began to teleport from side to side, with his weapon he aimed at the back of the knees and the ribs. For as long he didn’t kill anybody he’ll do anything to immobilize them. Bullets were shot from the guns as Vladimir summoned another pentagram this one made the bullets change their direction and went towards their owners. The bullets fell in the arms and torsos, avoiding vital parts such as the stomach, liver and heart.
With the base of the wooden stick, the “middle aged man” made another air stream, turning it into a small hurricane that took the men, tossing them towards the walls and the streets, all of it while preventing the vans from getting damaged despite of already being protected.
My strength… has made you cry – The man finished as he listened to the groans and pain from the kidnappers. As a man that had been raised in a kingdom where kids were considered a treasure, he couldn’t tolerate the disgusting and harmful intentions of living creatures. His weapon disappeared in white flames as he went closer to the vans, he’ll wait for Leora’s move as he protected the vans
Haruko stood at the edge of the path, also stewing at the situation they found themselves in. If he had just asked her to help out, she would have said yes! But this trick only served to make her trust him less! Kate knew she couldn’t do much in this mission, and Haruko made it clear she didn’t want Cosmina joining them as well. She held out 2 small, recently-sharpened knives in her right hand, ready to strike the vehicle.
“Nope, no questions here.” Haruko said at Arthur’s question, rolling her eyes when the jeep passed by. She then tossed her two knives at the right side tires, aiming to make it swerve off the road. Once that was accomplished, Haruko would rush out with her mask on and attempt to toss a knife with a small rocket charge at the end to launch itself through the jeep’s window and into the back seat, where it would be set off. It wasn’t powerful enough to be fatal...but the concussive force would certainly rattle the people inside.
Ron slammed into one of the cars at the front, smashing the hood and everything below it, and sending the body of the car spinning forward. It landed roof first onto the roof of the other car. With only slight enhancements, two occupants of the first car died instantly. The other three were hurt but managed to crawl out with a mix of M4s and AK47 The bottom car's occupants faired far better, all five getting out with minor scratches and more automatic rifles.
All 8 rifles were pointed at Ron. "Die, insect!" one yelled and 3 rifles fired at the nano-cyborg. The remaining 5 fell to the ground when Arthur joined with fight with bloodstained swords, along with the decapitated bodies of their holders. In the meantime, Marceline managed to rip off one of the back cars' doors and crushed one of the driver's arms. While he screamed, he grabbed his handgun and aimed at Marceline's head. His allies rushed out of the car with rifles in hand to help him out.
The occupants of the other hind car, the one Marcy ignored, managed to regain their senses and started backing out to get away from the ambush. Their lives were more important than the wares they were helping transport. But their car was stopped when a scythe cut through their engine. Before they could recover from that interruption, they were all either shot in the head by magic bullets or cut in two by the very same scythe. Loveline shouldered her gem form's scythe and looked around for who else could use assistance. Haruko's knives burst the tires and the jeep skidded across the ice-covered road until it pilled snow brought it to a stop. Her knife sailed through the window and embedded itself into the seat where it exploded. The shockwave rattled the brains of everyone inside and pushed the people in the back seat forward, knocking them unconscious when their heads struck the front seats. The two people at the front staggered out and with shaky hands and blurry visions sprayed and prayed with their rifles pointed vaguely in Haruko's direction.The people in the vans realized they were trapped and hurried out. Vladimir immobilized two almost instantly with his teleporting strikes. The returning bullets struck one of the men in the arm and leg, knocking him down, alive but bleeding. The last gun-totting man hid behind one of the vans which were now thankfully bulletproof because of Vlad's pentagram. That didn't stop him from being taken away by the driaochta's hurricane and hurled into a wall, knocking him out instantly. Vladimir incapacitated his mooks faster than anyone else, but this also meant he came face to face with the toughest obstacle yet.
The people in the middle van didn't have firearms. They weren't wearing the gang's standard issue uniform. The first walked out of the van with almost robotic movements, jerky and unnatural as if he wasn't used to his own body. He was scantily dressed, his green hair falling over his bare shoulders, short shorts revealing toned legs of an athlete, and a small tube top revealing both his stomach and a tattoo of a snowflake on his chest with a light blue gem embedded in the middle. Yet the cold didn't bother him at all. In fact, his first words were: "Ice is nice." He scanned the environment with mechanic movements of the neck before his eyes laned on Vladimir. "Ice is nice," he repeated.
The second, a redhead, was dressed more sensibly for the weather. She was wearing thick ski pants and a jumper with a warm, puffy jacket over it. Yet the jacket was unzipped and the jumper's collar was cut low enough to hide her tattoo but reveal a light green gem embedded in her chest. >>"Oh my, an ambush?"<< she said in French. >>"All this time without any interruptions and we get ambushed when I'm on duty? OH HOW WONDERFUL! I get to use this blessed gift finally! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Snowflakes started dancing around her, carried by the wind that seemed to respond to her maniacal laughter.
Arthur and Loveline recognize what was going on almost instantly. Haruko too would be able to recognize it, she saw a gem like that mere months ago in a Californian park, only it was orange. It would surely stick in her memory because that was the first time Yamiko appeared.
Seeing their attention was aimed squarely at Vlad right now, Loveline shouted. "Watch out! They're-"
Loveline didn't finish her warning when a strong blast of wind shot out from the redhead, clearing the space between her and Vlad of any snow, coming at him with enough power to embed him into the wall.
"Ice is nice. Ice is nice. Ice is nice!" The green-haired man chanted as the snow at his feet rose up and compacted itself into sharp, pointy spikes. They too flew at the Driaochta, ready to pin him to that wall permanently.