Jest sat outside the room watching the entrance to the large apartment. There was something off about this place but he couldn't quite figure it out. A heavy footstep here and there, more people than usual, a few new cars across the street, all meaningless to the average person, in a game of death all things are important. These weren't your average street thugs, if you screwed up then you're dead, no questions asked. Still, he couldn't put his finger on it.
Shiki was out again in the room behind him and Martha had left as usual, just after 11:00pm. It was dark in the room, with a cool breeze coming in from the open doors behind him that lead out to a small terrace. The city's noise below was nothing more or less than normal. That's the one thing that had never changed through his long life, the massive human capacity for making useless racket.
Jest heard the soft sound of cloth moving across skin. Soon, the gentle padding of feet crossing the dark wooden floor came to his ears. He almost chuckled at the pathetic attempt at keeping the door from squeaking as Shiki came out of her bedroom for the first time. She used to be so much quieter, he thought. The footsteps continued their soft padding towards him and stopped just behind the couch that he was sitting on.
A hand reached and slowly Shiki felt her way to the front of it. She took a seat opposite Jest. They sat there and looked at each other for a long while, trying to discern something from the way the other sat or moved. It was a comfortable silence that seemed to last forever until finally, Shiki asked the inevitable.
"Who are you?" she asked, quietly. It was almost like she expected him to bite her in half for the simple question.
"I am someone who you once knew," he answered.
His voice was warm and familiar. It sounds crazy, but she felt like she had a deep connection with him. She could not find any reason not to believe every word he said. This level of trust wasn't something that she was used to, especially considering that he was a virtually a complete stranger.
"Before we do this I need you to understand something, once you start on this journey there is no coming back. The person you are now will all but cease to exist. Your current conscious will be nothing more than one in a sea of thousands, all of which are different lives you have lived. I cannot make you any promises as to what you will find but I can tell you one thing. You will not be the same," Jest said.
Shiki only hesitated for a moment. She had to do this, it wasn't an option. It felt like a thousand separate entities were driving her to this decision. This wasn't something that she was going to pass by so easily. She reached up slowly, for the second time. This time there was no one else there, no one to interrupt, but sadly she couldn't have been more wrong.
Jest heard the very familiar sound of a guns safety being switched off. Instinctively, he lunged forward, taking Shiki by surprise and launching both of them out from in front of the door. Light began to pour in with the rhythmic pounding of a gun hurling bullets into it. The landing wasn't the nicest ever, but Shiki wouldn't complain, right now at least.
The door flew in as someone from outside kicked it in. The light from the hall was now flowing into the room, lighting up everything. The first man to enter immediately saw Shiki where she lay on the floor. Unfortunately, he forgot to look both ways before crossing the street. Jest, God knows how, was standing on the opposite side of the door, and drove his dagger easily into the man's back. His scream coming out as nothing more than watery gurgle as blood filled his lungs.
Shiki decided to take full advantage of this wonderful moment. She rolled towards the wall and emptied the contents of her stomach. Hey, it happens, especially when you're watching as someone is brutally slaughtered.
Jest, however, had more important things to worry about. As he pushed the dying man to the side the barrel of a standard, black Uzi came into view. He shoved the first assailant forward. The other man grunted and desperately pushed his dying comrade to the side. He was just in time to catch Jest's knee hitting his stomach. Bones crunched under the impact. Bending over, he then caught Jest's fist which easily splattered his nose across his face. Jest finally let up and took a step back. The bait worked perfectly.
As expected the second thug lifted the gun toward Jest. At this close range, it took only a millisecond for him to react. The hired gun cried out in pain as fire erupted all along his arm. He pulled it back out of instinct. With a wince he realized that his forearm was facing several directions at once and it sure as hell wasn't natural. That's when he noticed the true problem. His gun was gone. He looked up; opening his mouth to curse but it only came out as a gag. His attempt at speaking had only made an opening for his merciless opponent to shove the dull black Uzi into his mouth.
Jest started to giggle madly. His insanity always returned with death. It was indefinable. Part of him was in complete disgust at the acts he committed while the other laughed openly as his opponents head vaporized into a fine red mist. His mirth was abruptly stolen though. A third man, who Jest hadn't cared enough about to notice, connected his fist with Jests face.
The blow made him stagger a step back. He wasn't worried in the least, however. From that single hit he could already tell this man had no formal training. He dropped the gun and turned to his newest victim. The man swung wildly like an animal trying to work it's was out from the hunters trap. Jest ducked below the first two swings before making his own move. He went in low, wrapped his arms around the man's waist and lifted for all he was worth. The mercenary grunted in surprise but then from the pain as he fell head first over Jest's back and onto the solid wood floor.
Jest turned around to face his opponent. He noticed something strange as his madness gradually receded into a dull whine compared to its usual roar. He could fell wind on his face. He reached up and felt the spot. The punch he had taken had shattered part of the stark white wood. He looked down at the man who lay on the ground below him. He then reached for his knife that was embedded in the first man's back. Pulling it out, he pushed it gently against the downed man's neck.
"Stop," commanded a voice, "I thought that we had solved this matter but I am obviously wrong."
Jest dropped his knife. He looked over to the source of the voice and dropped his blade. The person who stood in front of him was no longer Shiki, not by a long shot. She stood with the regal appearance that had always come so naturally to her. Memories from long ago were flowing rapidly through her mind, the faces of many people and places flashing across her thoughts.
Camelot, with its massive stone walls, Galahad, with his forever blond hair, Lancelot's stern face and her friend, Guinevere's wise words of advice, It was all back. Just the way it should be. Only one thing was there with her though. It was a face that she knew well and one that no other had trusted. Jest took the remains of his mask off. He knelt in the pool of blood that surrounded him. His arm was across his chest with his fist placed against his left shoulder, his eyes staring directly at her feet. Everything was as it should be.
Arturia, his friend and his king, was back.