"...So you do have feelings for him?" Buckler hides a chuckle behind his tiny paw, perching not far from an awakening figure's head. The thick air crushes down as the defeated werewolf regains his conscience. His index finger twitches, with its claw reflecting the light.
Margaret sits not far from the duo with her hands on her knees, fidgeting with a blushing countenance. "Well, he is related to the leader of all melani. I don't think he wants anything to do with humans—"
"Okay I'm going to stop you right there," Buckler bursts out laughing, interrupting the girl. "Aky ran all the way here just to save his human friend, that should tell you how much he cares."
"But," Margaret's hands clench into fists, pressing against her knee caps. "He'll think I'm too young."
Buckler taps the ground with his cane and leans on it. "Well, as a fellow dimension magic user I can't argue with that. It's not exactly our fault for being stuck with the way we look when we evoked our powers for the first time."
"Plus, I sense your actual age is around Aky's, so I don't think there—"
Five claws tower over the talking ferret as they close around him. Buckler gasps as he is raised into the air, with Adusti holding him in his hand. "A talking mouse?"
"I'm a ferret for Void's sake, put me down." Buckler shakes his head as he objects by poking the werewolf's black nose with his cane.
"Margaret, what happened? What is this thing? A friend of yours?" Adusti obeys as he crouches and releases the ferret carefully.
Margaret gapes at the blue werebeast with words slowly slipping from her lips. "You—you don't remember anything?"
"W—what am I suppose to remember?" Adusti scratches his head, then frowns at the strange sensation when his claws run through his mane. The beast realizes something is wrong as he looks down at his own body. Gasping with terror, Adusti stumbles back as he falls on his hips and tail. "Ow! Wh—what the hell happened to me?! What am I?! Am I dead?! What is going—"
Buckler swings his cane in a circle as if the hand of a clock, the shadow of a magic circle emerges beneath the werebeast and freezes him in place. "Ugh, this is going to take a long time to explain. Marg, he doesn't have any memories after his contract ring took over. He may not even recall being down in the subway depending on how much the contract magic affected him. I'm gonna hit the road before this gets too complicated, send him home, or something. Remember, my master was never here."
Sighing, as well, Margaret cancels Buckler's regional time-stop spell and soothes the startled werebeast before she begins to explain the situation.
The blazing sun above finally withers into emitting an orange aura. Threads of red and yellow rays intertwine as they nurture the fatigued daylight and the lurking nightfall. Edges of every visible shape are laced with a variety of gold and scarlet, casting irregular shadows puzzling together.
"Lysis!" Sirhan discovers his subordinate sitting alone on a swing in the middle of an empty playground. The Arabic man catches his breath, it appears he was searching fanatically for the silver-haired teenager.
"Leave me alone," groans the discontent teen, twisting his head away to avoid eye contact. "If you want me to say 'sorry', you ain't getting one."
A grin breaks through Sirhan's tired face, instead of an angry demand. "You sure are giving me just as much trouble as your sister did."
Suddenly, thick cones of freezing ice bursts from the ground beneath Lysis's feet. With the strange light from the sun, it appears as if frozen water is set on fire. A harsh glare assaults Sirhan's smile. "Don't talk about my sister like that, you were the one who killed her!"
"She died trying to protect you, I killed her because it was her wish." Sirhan corrects as he stays clear of the burning ice spikes. "You were there when it happened."
Fissures form on the ice spikes as they crumble into shredded crystals. The teen refuses to consider Sirhan's words. "You couldn't save her, you were weak."
"I am only human, and so was she. We fought against the Imperator of all melani, we did our best."
"And it wasn't enough, it wasn't good enough." Lysis finishes with a sneer, still keeps his head turned away. The tips of his shoes tap on the surface of a large water puddle, produced by the melting ice.
Sirhan shakes his head. "But you are alive, isn't that good enough?"
"What good is it when I'm the reason my only sister is dead? If you won't help me, that arch-melane will." Lysis mumbles, his voice trails off oddly.
The Arabic man retorts with a shout. "No! He'll use you like a tool then—"
"I can't protect anything if I sit around and do nothing. If you won't give me what I need, I'm gonna find someone who will." Lysis matches Sirhan's raised voice, staring into his superior's eyes.
"So—you saw it—this morning?" Marionette contains his surprise, but his stammering speech proves otherwise. The usually fluent gentleman is raising a suspicious eyebrow. Pawing the sofa without using his claws, the red and brown jaguar questions the white she-wolf.
Splendor sits properly, but her nose points to the ground and she turns her cheeks away. "Y—yea, I told him the name of the Imperator and he jumped out of bed—so—so I saw everything."
Blinking impassively now, the corner of the large cat's lips curls up. "Well, what do you think? Master Akane possesses a portion of wolf's blood, he is technically your closest kin—"
"I just think it was cute." Splendor blushes even more, but smiling naively.
The jaguar rolls his eyes up and attempts to picture what Splendor saw, but he comes to a dead halt and shakes his head clear of thoughts. "Anyway, I usually clean up around here. I'm the senior specter here, and the master's rule stipulates such."
"We can move on from here?" Splendor tilts her head as her scarlet eyes meet her colleague's ones. "I mean I don't even remember how did I get here."
Nodding, the jaguar leans back on the sofa as if a human, lifting one of his paws as if gesturing. "When the time is right, the master will give you instructions. He will also help you remember what turned you from a melane into a specter melane."
Splendor nods in confirmation, but the sheer curiosity growing within her are pouring from her idling eyes. Marionette cracks something similar to a grin with a softening gaze. "And they say curiosity killed the cat."
"You aren't as humorless as Buckler makes you seem, Marionette." The she-wolf chuckles, whipping her tail left and right, but avoiding any cushions.
"'Mary' is fine." The jaguar tightens his scarf, tending to the expensive wool with care. "Master Akane gave me that nickname when he took me in."
Splendor stretches as she stands on her fours and walks over to the jaguar. The lack of distance puts Mary in an awkward retreat, his speech becomes inconsistent. "He's always thinking about us, and treats us like his family. He hates his brother, though, you know."
"You think of him more than just a master." Splendor flashes her teeth in a smile, with her dark nose an inch away from her companion's.
The red and brown jaguar instantly twists his head away from Splendor with his front paws treading in place. The she-wolf watches the elder specter's paws lift and fall in sequence, then extends her head to investigate. She observes the flustered jaguar's blush as he speaks. "I—uh—have dishes to wash. You can watch some television if you want, uh—well—let me know if you need anything."
With that, Mary leaps off the sofa and travels in a semi-straight line to the kitchen. Splendor's ears fold down while she tilts her head, her paw extends to pet the strange, enclosed tail of Mary's. It resembles a red, lengthy, and narrow cabbage made of fur.
Upon contact, the confined tail blooms as if a rose from its contracted state. Countless, half-visible threads weave an enormous web floating in air while dusting the ceiling.
"Ah," Splendor withdraws her paw and gawks at the gleaming gossamer.
Recalling the scattered threads, Mary lowers his head toward the ground in embarrassment. "Sorry you had to see that, it's strange isn't it? While we specter melani resemble animals, we aren't complete replications. Buckler's wings and my tail are examples. These are the source of our power and ability."
"I think it's adorable." Splendor hides her chuckle behind her lifted front leg.
An amiable smile breaks through the jaguar's blushing expression. "Buckler's going to tease you if you come off too nice."
"It's what family does, right?"
"If he ends himself, that smirk of yours won't be hanging on much longer." The mistress that follows Tuli shakes her head in disapproval. The room's size cannot be determined due to an overwhelming mist's presence.
A set of lethal teeth flashes as a reply lurks among the crawling fog. "Worry not, I have quite an intriguing development for him."
"Tempering fate is not as simple as you make it seem." A pair of heels click sharply. An echo bounces randomly.
Perching before a door leading into an enormous mansion, Sidus's fingers clench the envelop his brother gave him. A frown clouds his expression, with his legs no lighter than two immobile anchors. His eyes glare at a small button next to the door frame, it appears to be the doorbell. However, the arch-melani refuses to lift his twitching hands to disturb the mansion's residents.
Suddenly, the front door swings open. A thin woman in her mid-forties grins at the visitor. "It's been quite a long time, the 'Vicious Scarlet'."
"Please, call me Sidus, Mrs. Isamu." Akane bows his head slightly, holding his hands crossed near his abdomen. A shameful look flash across the magician's visage before he turns his head away. "I'm here to apologize, I promised to keep Adusti out of the world of magic and void. But before I could find him, he—"
Leaning against the door frame, the Adusti's mother sighs as her hand releases the handle. "I remember when you and Adusti were inseparable friends. No matter where Adusti ventured, you were always there with him. Even when he moved away, you called him almost every day until—well, your incident."
"It was unfortunate." Akane forces a smile, but it appears so poorly forged, that one side of his lips refuse to lift.
"Do you want to come in?" The woman speaks softly, as if afraid of Sidus for some odd reason.
Raising a hand, the magician holds up the envelop and withdraws the letter within. Upon flattening the folded slip of paper, a line of words written in blood instead of typed letters in black ink from above devours the setting sun's light and reflects it.
Horror expands the pupils of the woman's eyes, her fingers twitch in addition.
It reads: "Kill off the rest of Isamu's family, if you don't do it, I will."
Carefully folding the paper back up, Sidus blinks sluggishly as his right foot retreats a step. "This was a list given to me by the Imperator, I trust you know the weight of his orders. Even if I am his sibling, he won't consider a word I say."
The dying sun watches patiently of the two's conversation, as if expecting something strange to transpire. However, silence digs its claws into the wooden floor and drags itself painfully toward its destination.
"I remember when you come over, I'd always make that strawberry pie you love. Oh, what a saturated red it was, and the smile your cheeks always carried." A nostalgic, relaxing, yet regretful smirk spreads across the woman's lips.
"Mrs. Isamu, I want to help, but—"
Shaking her head, Adusti's mother moans. "I knew this day would come. Magic is something foreign to humans, something that should not be a part of us. I want to curse my own ancestors, my bloodline for having these powers. But Adusti is my pride and joy, I just can't imagine—if anything happen to him—I—"
"I will protect him," Sidus grasps Mrs. Isamu's hand and clenches it. His ruby eyes glisten in the ceasing dust. "That's a promise. The moment I put on the contract ring was the moment I accepted that responsibility."
Tears dwell at the corner of Mrs. Isamu's eyes, hesitant to fall. "You should have visited more often, Sid. All the pictures you took with Isamu is still in his room. I left it the way it was when he left for college. Look after them, will you?"
"I won't forget, Mrs. Isamu," a bitter smile laces Sidus' face. "Adusti is an irreplaceable part of my life, and I will protect him even if it means giving my own."
"The only good thing happened to this family is probably you, Sidus. You are like my second son—"
A spear-like object instantly penetrates Mrs. Isamu's slim abdomen. Torn intestines shoot out from her back as if shrapnel from a shotgun. Blood pours from her punctured body as if a bucket tilted over. Her legs twitch while drenched in red, collapsing as if lifeless, mutilated doll.
Jerking around instantly, Sidus spots no other than his own brother with a twisted, wolfish grin. The weapon used appears to be a torn "Stop" Sign with a sharp edge. Tuli Izanagi winks at his speechless sibling. "Bull's eye."
"What the hell—" A soft whisper escapes Sidus' trembling lips as he clenches his fists. A shout follows. "What the hell is wrong with you?!"
"Oy, keep your voice down. What if people see me in this form? I prefer to keep us werewolves as a work of fiction." The Imperator narrows his eyes into lines, approaching Sidus who is splattered by blood and guts.
"Don't associate yourself with me!" Sidus grits his teeth in anger. He swings his arm aside, summoning his staff into his hands.
Rolling his eyes, Tuli ignores the threat as he runs his claws through his scarlet mane. "Give me a break, what are you going to do? Tickle me to death? You don't stand a chance against me without phasing into what you really are. But you won't do that now, would you?"
"Don't test me!" By the end of the short retort, a growl explodes from Sidus' throat, his flesh begins to darken. However, the effect quickly reverses once he notices it.
"See? You don't have the guts." Tuli holds up his hands as if a scale. His ears twist into an odd direction, following a presence far from him, but approaching. "Ah, it's my honorable guest, I won't spoil the fun for you."
A red mist escapes Tuli's muzzle like a visible breath. It ravels and conceals the scarlet werebeast within and dissipates with him.
Sidus squints at an enlarging figure. However, the moment he identifies it, a great shock courses through his veins. His staff snaps into two heavy pistols and ignite as jets. The escape method is secured, yet Sidus finds himself unable to move. It is not a spell, not magic, not anything foreign but his own mind breaking down. I need to leave, I have to leave, I must leave at once!
No matter how much Sidus screams in his head, his physical body refuses to respond. Visible beads of sweat roll down his forehead with every footstep his ears register.
"You are—." The figure stands several feet away from the blood-stained magician. Dark blue mane bristles in the breeze as a pair of emerald green eyes stare into a set of unstable crimson red ones.
Gradually turning his head, Sidus glares at a very familiar visage. As if a possessed, Akane trembling irises refuse to relax.
"Si—Sidus? Sidus Akane?" Adusti cries out in joy, running toward his long-lost friend with open arms. However, his steps come to a dead halt upon the carcass of a female human entering his peripheral vision. Every ounce of saturated joy instantly reduces to a negative value.
Sidus remains standing, glaring at his friend without a single word.
"Mo—Mom? Mom?!" Adusti roars, shrieking on the top of his lungs as he rush over to the remains of his mother. "Ah—ah—ahh—ahhh!"
"Why?! Why, why, why?!" Tears burst from his eyes and rush down his cheeks as if a great flood. Sidus remains idle, with his eyes focused on the exact spot where Adusti once stood. Eventually, Akane snaps out of it ans removes his coat. He quickly walks over to the remains of Mrs. Isamu and attempts to cover her horrific carcass.
What Sidus fails to expect is a straight punch in the guts by his best friend. Adusti turns and drills his fist into Akane's stomach, tears sprinkle down and mix with blood. The sheer force of the strike sends Sidus flying through the door and sliding across the lawn on his back.
"Why did you do it, why?!" With a cracked voice, Adusti chases after Sidus and wraps his hands around the brown-haired arch-melane's throat. There is no longer humanity remaining in Adusti, the only sentiment present are rage and hatred. With fingers tightening, Sidus' eyes begin roll upward. In terms of physical strength, Sidus is painfully-lacking when compared with Adusti.
I probably deserve this anyway, if I die here, maybe he will forgive me. Sidus prepares to end his struggling, yet a powerful force rams into his mind. Perhaps it was a punch, but it results in no physical pain. What am I saying? I promised Mrs. Isamu to keep Adusti safe. If I die here, then who will protect him? I can't—I can't let go, not yet.
The rings on the two struggling figures spark at the same time, igniting a large explosion of energy as it sends Adusti flying into the mansion. Before the dust cloud completely settles, a glowing object twinkles as a flurry of flashing cards storm after Adusti.
Panting heavily, Sidus falls to one of his knees as he holds up one hand to keep a book-like object suspending in the air. A dark figure shoots through the debris of the mansion and aims directly at Sidus. The thick of mane of the dark blue werewolf is the last image Sidus sees before feeling a tearing on his chest. However, Akane reacts quickly and summon a series of levitating rocks by launching several arcane cards at the ground. The earth attempts to arrest the retreating werewolf, but fail to surpass Adusti's inhuman speed.
It appears the two parties both acquired each other's ability. This place a heavy stress on both party for that they are being drained of energy and actively depleting energy, as well.
"I'll kill you, I'll kill you!" The werewolf roars as it attempts a second assault.
Akane winces in pain. This is bad, if we don't stop, we'll both die from over-exhaustion.