"Did anyone ask for some pizza? 'Cuz I got plenty of it right here. Just don't bother asking where I got it from.... you won't like to know it,"
Clair said in an—obviously forced—ominous voice as she made it back to the camp with her newest loot. She did in fact had a mountain of pizza boxes with her that wouldn't be out of place in the lair of a certain group of ninja turtles. All kinds of flavor and fresh out of the oven. Where she got them from was anyone's guess, but free food is free food after all. As the others came closer to their base, the thief flashed a beaming grin at them. Even in the depths of the Abyss such a sunny face could melt the coldest of hearts. As expected of a charming foxy girl like her.
And the coldest heart among them had no issue ignoring any lingering tension, popping up the top most box and pulling it out onto a silver platter fresh from the Gates of Tartarus. Liking her lips at the New York style circle of fluffy, tearable dough with a layer of cheese that ran with rivers of oil yet to saturate. As the platter floated before her, she pulled free a slice and drank in the granduer of cheese stretching itself like spider's silk, a fateful tug working in her favor and seeing more kept on the liberated wedge then did fall to the platter.
Kanbaru turned a curious eye to Clair before sinking her teeth into the tip of the slice, an exultant 'weeee' working lowly in the back of her throat. "I don't know where you got this, but I will pay you almost anything for a weekly delivery."
It wasn't long before others started to converge to the smell of food, fresh and hot. Riku returned with Katie not far behind, no doubt curious of the strange foods that were alien to her world. Katie for her part silently took a box of her own and stepped away to a corner to eat by herself, but not too far away. She did pass a look at Clair, wondering indeed where she got the food but she somehow felt she'd get the answer soon anyway.
Akiko was next up, appearing from... somewhere. The where she was from wasn't important, what was moreso was where she was now. She carefully stepped over to the pizza box supply and offered a nod to Clair, one of respect and appreciation. She could gaze to see where the pizza was from, but she'd let it hang in the air now. She stepped over to her own corner of the area and pried open the box, nods at the pizza for a second before closing the box and looking over towards Runa. Her gaze from before didn't crack any codes, but maybe she could try it again..."Ah sweet, haven't had this shit in ages!"
It's a bit strange in retrospect, after such a tense situation Ami had no issues with just showing up to mooch off the food someone else had found. But for Ami it was rather standard, the flickering flame of a girl at the height of her adolescence saw no contradictions in how she behaved. Sometimes she was pissed off, other times she wasn't, like a flame burning the fuel of its own grudges. But that was besides the point really, the real point was that she was absolutely going to dig in to this feast with gusto and praise!
Or such was the plan at least, until she noticed that thing in the corner.
It had been here ever since Clair had arrived, how nobody else had noticed it was impossible to explain yet it was here nonetheless. It was seemingly invisible to any means of magical detection, it was unseen, unheard, without scent, the only reason Ami had noticed it was how the scent of pizza had moved with it. It was carrying a single slice of pizza with it, feasting on their treasures like the vermin it was. The Black Knight raises a single hand and clenches her fist, a black flame banishes any shadows within a dozen yards and it is revealed to all.A rat.
The rat freezes in the middle of stuffing a slice of pizza into its mouth, eyes wide as it stares at everyone who's now surely staring at it. It is difficult to describe the look of this thing as its eyes scan from left to right slowly, gauging the mood of the room before speaking. It doesn't look tense in any way, but it's most certainly not relaxed either in the presence of such adventurers who were almost certainly all stronger than it. It was about the size of a child, but such a estimation felt flawed based on how it carried itself, like it was crouching at all times, or perhaps standing on its tippy toes to make itself look bigger? Its form was lithe, without gender, like the darkness it had been hiding in until its home had been consumed by flame.
But what was the most strange about all of this? It was simply that it wasn't trying to run. Instead it simply swallows the mouthful of cheese and bread it had been so shamelessly consuming, and it speaks. "I see I see! Rafiq was not expecting to be spotted so soon before their dramatic entrance, but surprise is the spice of our squallid lives is it not?"
Imagine if you would, a merchant in the heart of the Middle East. Now adjust your perception of this merchant, picture that instead of selling you carpets and spices, they are instead peddling snake oil and fool's gold. But adjust that perception just a tad more, because in the midst of all the garbage, there lies a hint of value in it all. That is the essence of this vermin's voice, a slippery lie based on the truth. But if this description doesn't help you in the slightest, picture the merchant from Resident Evil 4, but more androgynous.
Kanbaru managed a tepid blink in the direction of the rat, finding her feathers ruffled by meating a merchant more disingenuine then herself, but the prospect of cheese and tomato sauce kept her chewing while Refiq introduced himself in a backhanded manner. Perhaps it was her frustration with everyone else ignoring the sanctity of a pizza pirate, as it became clear with the addition of Rafiq that every corner of the room was playing host to a brooding loner except one. Setting down her crust for later she whirled upon the unclaimed corner and snapped, a karaoke machine falling from a golden portal. People we are not brooding in the dark eating pizza while glaring at each other! That is NOT a Pizza Party and I will fight whoever says otherwise. Even Ami knows this is about being social and consuming enough dairy and carbs to make us feel three dress sizes bigger.
Leveling an accusing finger at the one she loathed most, the darned kitty Akiko doing what she usually did and scheming from the background. Not tonight, she was! "Get up here, Akiko, or I swear to god I will pick a song for you and tape the microphone to your hands!""..."
Akiko glared at Kanbaru for a brief moment before she scoffed and smiled. "I'll come and sing something after a little. Give me a few minutes first to eat and relax, bluey, and I promise I'll give everyone quite the performance.." "Hey Katie! Look at this! I have no idea what it is but it smells nice!"
Riku took a seat at the table after nabbing two slices for herself. She'd lift the slice up and watch the warm sauce soaked cheese drip loosely from the end of the pizza. The strange food amazed her. Coming from a medieval land, the closest she had to something like this was a large pie. Taking a bite of the delicious buffet of carbs made her tastebuds bounce with joy, and also singed slightly from the heat."Katie! You have to try this! It's delicious! Oh wow who made this! I could kiss them! This is wonderful!"
The princess shut her eyes and smiled brightly, lost in the pepperoni bliss and happily licking her lips."Oh...um. Do I need to pay for this?"
She'd give a passing glance to Claire."What's mine is yours. Free of charge,"
Clair replied when Riku asked her about payment. "Of course, I'm not opposed to a favor or two to make up for my effort, if you know what I mean,"
She added with a knwonign grin in her lips.
Runa’s return to the fort would remain completely unnoticed at first - thanks to all the ruckus from before as well as all the noise and action delivered by the arrival of Clair and her massive food package - which was quickly distributed among everybody present. The demon stretched a little after the walk she had with Thomas and concentrated her senses on that aroma filling out the inside of the fort - the aroma so strong it made the demon forget where they were at for a moment or two. Runa was indeed attracted by that smell, and what was even more peculiar to her - is the shape of these things some of the travellers called “pizza”. She stepped quietly, observing over the feasting adventurers before she announced her presence with her voice being as calm as usual, as well as a soft smile was shaped on her lips. ”Most peculiar indeed. Never saw a food like it.”
, Runa said as she carefully approached the pizza pile and took a slice from one of the boxes, testing it slowly with a light nibble, before joyfully eating the whole slice: “It is indeed quite tasty. Never tried anything like it.”
Runa picked up another box - or maybe a few, or maybe one of the boxes disappeared from the view in a strange accident as it was transported elsewhere, for someone else to feast upon it; in any case the demon took the pizza with her and sat slightly aside in the corner, beside Katie, enjoying her meal now."It's pizza,"
Katie told Riku softly but flatly. She figured the food would be alien to at least a few of the individuals traveling with them; judging from the princess and Runa's reaction, it was certianly the case. Despite the gusto for food and karaoke and memory probing, Katie chose to eat her slice mildly in some efforts for peace. It was the sole reason she specifically sat away from the others, only for Riku to drag the crowd to her anyway. "If you like it that much, I can teach you how to make it. One day,"
she said to Riku casually, eyes catching the flair of deathly intent flickering off Ami. Oh, she was no stranger to the rat's presence but the thing was pathetic enough to ignore entirely. "Torch it if it tries to sell us car insurance,"
she said to Ami. Only a handful of people around them would understand the dry joke anyway.
Kanbaru scowled around another slice of pizza, chewing with rising aggression as the scheming kitten delayed her turn humiliating herself before the kaoaoke machine in order to enjoy the dinner. Even worse, despite all of the room's corners having already been claimed, the out-of-phase demon woman managed to find a fifth to eat hers in some measure of peace. Because no one here could seem to trust each other enough to expose their backs while eating.
That left the whale with her last, best choice of singer and thrust a microphone at her natural enemy. ""Katie, please, save this party and put those idol genes to work. Sing, please!""I don't do that kind of thing,"
Katie told Kanbaru with a deadpan look at the microphone.
Once he returned to the camp with Runa, Thomas' curosity was only piqued more by the scent of whatever food they'd smelled getting stronger and stronger until he finally laid eyes upon its physical form. The boy almost let out an audible "Oh", of understated surprise when he got a good look at the pizza, or whatever it was called. Whatever it was though, it was the stuff he'd seen Leyna "give" Clair on the previous floor. Remembering the healing properties it had granted back then, and not realising that the same didn't apply to this, in comparison, rather mundane pie, Thomas hastily grabbed himself a slice. So hastily in fact, that he almost didn't notice the new company the group had... noticed.
After a few moments of confused staring, a grumble from the boy's stomach prompted him to find somewhere to sit and eat before something, or someone, else showed up out of the blue with a desire to take more than just their food. With a quick scan around showing him that a fair few in the group were more than comfortable eating in isolation, Thomas made his way to Riku. "Hey, mind if I sit here?"
Thomas asked, also giving Katie a quick glance, a water droplet falling from his nose onto the slice of pizza he was holding as he spoke. His eyes were drawn to it and then winced slightly, as if he remembered something. That something being that he was still sort of drenched from all the rain earlier after killing that Eater of Dreams thing. "Sorry I'm soaked, it was raining and- well, it's a long story." "No, I suppose not."
Katie was far too used to people getting in her personal space by this point, especially when she didn't ask for it. She made an attempt at a pointed glare as Thomas sat on her other end, placing her square between himself and Riku. Between being against the drenched boy, Riku trying to shove pizza in her face, and Kanbaru also shoving a mic in her face, her expression was turning dour again. She thumbed the Bastion card in her pocket, wishing all these people could be less noisy with their rummagings. "Rough day, huh,"
she noted as Thomas tried to explain why he looked like a wet dog; not that this was any concern of hers anyway."Hey I remember you! Come sit down!"
Riku would wave at Thomas, vaguely recalling him from earlier when Nephy attacked. He had been pretty brave back then as far as she recalled."I don't mind! I'm a little wet myself. I was fighting some crazy huge beast in the depths down deeper in the swamps. It was pretty crazy stuff. I kicked it's ass though. Totally."
Riku realized she didn't have much proof of her victory, she hoped her word was enough. Katie was there too as a witness! She'd turn her attention back to her, noting the Kanbaru nearby but electing to ignore her for the moment."I'll sing with you, Katie! We can do a duet! I've done those at parties before! No idea what that uh...stick thing you have there is. But I'm willing to try new stuff out."
The easily excitable princess got up to her feet, nudging at Katie. "You too, Thomas!"
She'd wink over at the boy. Then glance over to Kanbaru. It'd be rude not to invite her, despite their history and all."And you too. Whale face.""Why don't we have a sing off, then? A musical battle of wits. I warn you , though, I'm quite good at that, y'know,"
Claire chimed in as she joined the line up the karaoke, following Riku's general invitation for other challengers.
Katie said nothing in the matter of the beast Riku fought. She chose instead to finish her pizza slice, the toppings lost on her. It could have been cheese or it could have been mushrooms; she was lost in her own thoughts, only nodding along to the conversation. That much changed when she noticed Riku mention her again, swallowing and sighing from the nudges. "You don't know how a microphone works,"
she pointed out, knowing Riku knew she'd have no idea how she knew anyway. Sometimes Katie just said things that made no sense as far as anyone else could tell. "Neither do you,"
she repeated with a look at Thomas. In the end Katie took the mic solely for herself, snatching it away from Kanbaru before the other two thought to do something foolish like swallow it whole. Getting up was probably for the best anyway with all of them crowding her."Rafiq thinks this girl does not know much about how our damp little hole works. The ones sitting in the corner, they are smart to not offer their backs. One can never know what is creeping up behind them here..."
The rat rubs its greasy little hands together as it speaks, though it notably goes against its own advice as it steps into the middle of the room to grab everyone's attention. Well, most of everyone's attention. "Rafiq hates to interrupt this merry little gathering, however Rafiq feels there is something important that needs be addressed amongst you that has gone ignored for a bit too long."
Its eyes dart over to Runa and Akiko, but not for long before it moves its attention back to everyone. "Rafiq wished to warn you of the guide you have taken on in our humble little hole. You are all being played for fools following her, you would do well to find a new prisoner to follow if you wish to escape from this prison."
Its eyes narrow with amusement after saying this, or perhaps it is more akin to anticipation as it waits for them to ask the obvious questions.
As it turned out, the time for merriment and "team bonding" as Kanbaru put it couldn't proceed further; not when the intrusive rat demanded to be the center of attention. The fact Ami didn't just torch the thing out of its misery was proof it had some value, Katie reasoned. And to its credit, it wasn't selling car insurance. Pocketing the microphone in her jacket pocket, she turned a stare over to the rodent in the center of their camp. "That's awfully considerate of you stranger. But this is the Abyss. You're either lying through those teeth or spying the best ways to steal our food. So imagine if the first guide is a bust; what makes you a better option?"
In this place there was no one to trust, least of all a literal greasy rat. Katie flicked a glance at Ami, uncaring what she decided to do if the rat had nothing else to offer but vague superstitions. It was her call. "Oh, nice! And thanks.
Thomas offered a slight smile towards the two before sitting down and taking a big bite from the pizza. And immediately the taste overwhelmed him. His mouth was alive with a divine cheesy taste, his tongue licking grease off his lips only for his enamoured taste buds to fire off again. Having lived on a farm for his whole life at this point his mouth was long-since used to simple food, simple tastes. And, though it looked simple, this pizza stuff tasted anything but that to the boy. He was a little disappointed when ingesting the pizza didn't heal any of his wounds whatsoever, but maybe he was just doing it wrong. Perhaps he needed to be given it in the same way Leyna di-"Huh?"
Thomas asked through a mouthful of pizza, a slight blush across his cheeks the only indication as to what his interrupted thoughts were about. It quickly faded though, his skin going pale if anything when he realised what Riku was trying to pull him into. "Sing?"
He blurted out, almost choking on a bit of pizza. Maybe eating almost a whole slice in just a few bites hadn't been the best idea. "I've never really... well, I don't think it's a good idea-"
Before Thomas could finish his fumbling excuse, Katie interrupted with her display of the microphone, though to Thomas' knowledge it was... well he had no idea what it was. What caught his attention more than anything though, was the fact that Riku was also oblivious as to whatever this object was. And before as well, it seemed as though Riku was the only other person that was eating pizza for the first time, apart from Runa perhaps. Her excitement and fascination made that much obvious. The boy looked past Katie to the other girl, his face picturing thoughtfulness and curiosity. In fact, it looked like he was about to ask Riku something, before his attention was brought back again to Rafiq.
There was a sleazy demeanour to this rat, Thomas thought. To its grease-covered hands, the uncomfortable mannerisms in its speech and, more to the point, what it was actually saying. His face remained neutral but there was an unamused look in his eyes. Eyes which were fixed on Rafiq's, by contrast, wholly amused countenance; only breaking that look to give a couple of glances to Katie as she spoke."The corner security schtick doesn't mean anything when almost everyone here can punch through these walls. Or just phase through them."
Kanbaru says with a chilly look sent towards the bipedal rodent who'd sidetracked her efforts to get the group to bond outside their mutual love of violence. Seeing the microphone stashed away left her deflated, forced to concede the oppressive Abyss would never be graced with horrendous singing. "If the pizza wasn't good I'd call this a wash, so you get to stay un-drowned for now, Ratfic.""Ah, but the corner offers more security then to sit with your back to the world! But Rafiq digresses, to each their own position in space and time."
The rat nods in a sagelike manner as it finally wipes its hands off on its pants and moves towards Katie, more than willing to answer any doubts she may have. "You are smart to question the generosity of a stranger girl, your friends would do well to learn from you. That demon could just be leading you to her own friends, all ready to kill you and rob you of everything you own!"
Rafiq motions wildly with its arms to accentuate the seriousness of this situation, eyes wide with a feigned worry before returning back to their narrow grin. "But yes, you are right. Well, mostly right. Rafiq has never told a lie in their lives, Rafiq is the most honest merchant this side of the Abyss. But you are right, Rafiq was spying for the best ways to steal your food! And look!"
They point to one of the now empty pizza boxes, scurrying over to it and showing off the lack of pizza within. "Rafiq has stolen your food! The danger has come and gone and you all barely even noticed! Huzzah!"
The rat claps twice and hops onto the stack of boxes with a little backflip, now putting itself at more or less eye level with everyone before it continues speaking."Rafiq shall now sell their position and trade, listen closely! In this damp hovel we call the Abyss, Rafiq is the foremost merchant and seller to all living here! Anything your heart desires, Rafiq can find it for you, guide you to it, or get someone who can get it for you, guaranteed! And Rafiq has been watching you for a bit now, it is rare for us to find new travellers within the Abyss! Rafiq's guess is that you desire a way out of this little hole, is Rafiq correct?"”Oh it is you, rat”
, Runa spoke back to the guest appearing, the guest who was not invited and probably knew quite well about that. Runa remained calm and distant, her voice remained in similar, though the choice of wording and lack of calling Rafiq by name was an easy enough of a marker about her opinion on the sudden appearance of the merchant: “I don’t remember ever inviting you here, though as any rat you always find your way. Enjoy the leftovers.
”, she continued as she shifted on place a little and changed her position in order for her occasional flicker to split into several fragments of her presence, who would lean around in a fragment of a second to the ears of whoever was around her at that moment to whisper one simple line: “Do not trust the rat
Further accusations coming from Rafiq, were met by a demon with a little reaction, Runa only grabbed the next piece of the pizza to joyfully eat and chew through the specific blend of tastes mixed together - an emotion of joy quite rare indeed to be a witness for the demon to express. She only reacted to the merchant only when Rafiq decided to propose the wares: “Once again you want to sell your rat potions to beings who do not share the same ratness with yourself, only to claim that this ones are certainly nice, always forgetting to mention that tiny detail of your potions are made of toxins your existence is defined by. Do not ruin this food with your mixtures, rat.
”, Runa said, listening to Rafiq’s words a little more, one more chuckle to appear, “You are quite persistent on transgressing the offerings of kindness I provide to anyone who visits this fort, yourself included. An offering of hospitality which you tend to abuse in your favor all the time. You are indeed in luck to find yourself amidst our guests who do not seek to hunt you down on sight. Do not to test that luck of yours though.
”, Runa concluded and lost her interest in Rafiq once again, turning her glance instead to that intriguing device of an artifact Kanbaru attempted to offer to everyone around before Katie snuck it away.
Demon’s natural curiosity only lead to her to tilt her head and gaze upon the intriguing tool laying so far in Katie’s possession - seeing as it was yet to remain out of reach, Runa would stand up and wander around the fort, stepping past Riku and Thomas - who were too quite eager to test that device out - and proceeded towards Kanbaru - whose idea it originally was. The demon looked over the woman, flickering motions of her presence somewhat resonated around the room, in the walls - all for the demon to observe the looming presence of JSTR somewhere over Kanbaru - a thing radiating energies alien - and in so raising the utmost curiosity.
“You kind are the most peculiar indeed, bringing in things in this forbidden place no one ever witnessed. I must share my gratitude for that. You indeed brought some life in here, even though it attracted some pests as well
”"Pests seem to follow behind us regardless of where we go. Between the many places we've been there's always some sort of thing that follows."
Akiko stood, finishing a slice of pizza from the box she snagged earlier. Good, the shady dealer here didn't mess with her stuff, not that... oh, it was a rat. They better be grateful that she was a pacifist or else this may get ugly pretty quick. Still, she stepped over to where the rest of the group was situated and standing over them, but she specifically leaned down over Kanbaru and placed her hands on the deflated whale. A flash of her eyes revealed what she needed to see. "Katie stashed the microphone? Lame, was actually excited to sing for once. You wouldn't happen to have any backups for duets, would you bluey?"
As far as anyone could tell, Akiko was being genuine with her tones and body language. Plus, she raised her hand to seemingly frame the nearby karaoke machine, seemingly intrigued by it."Ah, so the demon awakens! Do not worry, Rafiq has already partaken of their fair share of food, their belly is almost as full as their heart!"
The rat chortles as Runa makes her hostility known, waving off her accusations with the same ease that she could wave off theirs. "You are so harsh, how could one be so cruel to a mere rat? It's so petty, so pointless! Rafiq simply wishes to peddle their wares and services just as you do, do not think yourself above them simply because you have managed to cheat death with the lives of your friends."
A moment of silence left for everyone to process that statement, before they would look to everyone with raised eyebrows."Oh, did you fail to mention such a detail to your new cohorts? How you sacrificed the last fools to follow you in order to evade the spirit of death?"
Rafiq clicks their tongue disapprovingly, crossing their arms over their chest and shaking their head as a disappointed parent would. "Naughty demon, so naughty. You are all lucky Rafiq is here to educate you, Rafiq would not be surprised if this demon was simply preparing to sacrifice you as well."
Ami throughout all of this had been shockingly quiet as she kept her fire pointed directly at the rat, obviously as distrustful of such a miscreant as anyone else here was. But that statement was an interesting one, enough so for the blonde to look over to Runa with an inquisitive gaze. "Is that so?"
Throughout this entire encounter, she had never once detected a lie from the rat. Now whether this meant it was extraordinarily good at lying or that it was telling the truth was still up for debate, but Ami had a keen nose for lies.
Something that Rafiq would pick up on immediately. "Indeed indeed. But it matters not, Rafiq can tell when they are not wanted here."
The rat nods before reaching into its pockets and pulling out a rusty silver compass, dangling from a bronze chain and swaying through the air hypnotically. "Rafiq shall leave you all with a present to help guide your way through the Abyss. Use this when you seek refuge from that which cannot be defeated, it has served Rafiq quite well in their time here. And Rafiq is the weakest creature in this hole, so everything here is something that Rafiq cannot defeat!"
It laughs heartily at its own pitiful nature, before dropping the compass onto the ground before Katie's feet. "Were there any questions you had to ask Rafiq before they leave? Rafiq is in a generous mood today~"
There was something outright disgusting about this creature, and Katie wasn't sure if it was its words or the general feel of the Abyss around them. But every time the rat moved closer to her, it made her skin crawl and the instinctual urge to just kill the pest lay lingering on her finger tips ready to flick her blade. That same instinct conversely told her to wait and hear what the rat had to say as if the decision was fifty and fifty for her. Strange indeed....she regarded Rafiq carefully as he finished his unwanted entrance. "The way I see it, neither of you can be trusted,"
she said, making sure to catch Runa in her glance as well. "This is the Abyss. If you think we're stupid enough to truly trust either of you, then there's no wonder you're still stuck down here. Whether you're right or she's right, it ends the same way; getting rid of the false guide and moving on."
Katie flicked her sight to Ami now, giving her answer on the situation as far as she was concerned. If one proved to be a threat, just eliminate them and move onto the other; it was as simple as that. At least Rafiq seemed to get the message on the matter too, starting to take their leave with a dropped gift. Katie nearly hesitated in picking up the compass, almost expecting some kind of disease to coat it. Whatever, she could just have Ami purge it with fire she supposed. She gingerly snatched the compass and pocketed it as well, saddled with the microphone still in her possession. "If someone gets food poisoning, I know who to blame for it. Get lost,"
she told the rat flatly.
Away from her was Kanbaru and the shrouded JSTR that observed the situation at hand. It was amusing and boring all at once, but what weren't those things was the demon approaching them. The JSTR acknowledged Runa in its own way, a smirk creeping on its visage as it turned Kanbaru's head to face her new friends through the demon and bard.
Internally Kanbaru found herself agreeing with Rafiq, finding the odds of Runa keeping them around just so she could use them to get past bigger and more threatening predators in the Abyss to be near certain. It was certainly what Kanbaru would do, and she held no doubt Akiko would as well given the situation. His attempt to sow dissent between them would have hoped to seen their group shatter under the pressure and be killed amidst in-fighting, leaving him with easy pickings. Or perhaps he simply acted on mercurial whim and treated this encounter as little more then entertainment to liven this dismal prison existence of theirs.
Hands both cold and warm, loving and unfeeling, wrenched upon her head and forcefully turned her to find Akiko and Runa before her. The latter's presence still rubbed her wrong but given the circumstances of blatant treachery, Kanbaru didn't see reason to hold it against her. The pizza party atmosphere was infectious and she grinned broadly to the disjointed pair of demon and cat as she pulled upon the Gates of Tartarus. Upon rays of golden light descended four more microphones in dramatic fashion, descending upon Kanbaru, Akiko, and Clair. The fourth Kanbaru snatched alongside her own before thrusting it into the palms of her parasitic partner. "Never fret, this treasury has enough for all comers, and I'm sharing it with all who desire it. So to those who don't know or just so happen to not make a sound, mouth along and enjoy yourselves.""There's no need for thanks, Runa. As maligned as my lot are, as vicious as we are, I believe we're a force for good. No matter if certain parties disagree."
Her tongue stuck out in Katie's direction as her arms enveloped Akiko and Runa, leading them to the machine cueing up the first track with a kick to the machine's exterior. Cheery, almost festive music
began to come from the speakers and Kanbaru's natural power flaired to bring a light snowfall outside their room's windows. "If you can carry a tune, Queen, I'll have a present for you later, but for now, here we go~!"
Idol music? Like she had seen? Well, if Kanbaru wasn't any more predictible before she certainly was now. Interesting choice, nonetheless, that made Akiko's eyes roll just a little bit before she offered an irritated, yet giving smile. "This music isn't my sort of thing, but I'll give you this round bluey."
The cat let out a sigh knowing full well she was going to embarrass herself in front of all these strangers, and struck a pose behind Kanbaru as the song started up.
There is nothing left to be said on Rafiq's part, no questions left to be asked to the sketchy rodent, no wares sought, all is done. It lightly bows and scurries away into the darkness from whence it came, though whether or not it was truly gone was anyone's guess. Ami at the very least could finally relax as she let her fire burn out, though to say she was tense around something that pitiful was a bit of an overstatement."Don't worry, people, I have just what you need here. You can thank me later for it,"
Clair said as she twirled her new sword around, sprinkling the dark depths of the Abyss with a shower of twinkling stars. When she finished her show, the weapon turned into a microphone to make up for the lack of extra accessories. Right as she did so, a very peculiar song
began playing on the machine. "I guess I'll go first if no one minds, huh?"
With everyone beginning to wind down as much as they could, there was little for Katie to do much anymore. The rat was gone with his ominous musings, she got her card, and everyone else seemed to be getting along just fine. She supposed she didn't expect much from them, not when things were slowly but surely coming back to her anyway. Having lost her appetite pocketing the sleezy compass in her pocket, she turned away from the growing festivities with everyone having someone else to talk to. Her footfalls carried her somewhere across from the camp, not too far but just enough for her to be lost in her own thoughts for now. Finding some cliffed rock formation, a sigh finally escaped as she leaned back on it, hand fingering the microphone still with her. She only now realized she didn't keep her promise of teaching Riku or Thomas how the device worked but that was nothing new to her.
Taking it out, she stared at the thing in thought. No one else was around so....
It would take a while for Ami to notice the missing piece of the party, half an hour of racuous singing and eating passing before the blonde finally noticed that Katie had vanished from her little corner she had established. Ami's exit from the festivities would be much less stealthy then her companion's had been, excusing herself mid-song and rushing out of the dilapidated old pile of rubble to go searching for the girl. It would be another half hour before she was found, an exercise in feeling out the Nether and drawing herself towards the feel that felt most like her wayward partner. And while she was no ninja by any stretch of the imagination, she was a tad quieter as she approached Katie from behind, curious as to what the girl might do when nobody else is watching. Or at least, when nobody else is supposed to be watching.
Katie's back was towards Ami and any other passerbys that decided to intrude on her, though she didn't expect anyone to come looking for her anyway. In her newfound corner away from prying eyes and certainly away from Ami's gaze, she hovered the microphone near her lips slowly."In the shadows the intense light dissolved, I meant to part from the specter that was hiding everywhere. We're all faceless and anonymous, they're all sinners in masks. They should have already died, but I can't pray to God. What I see with these eyes is a fake painted world. In disorder the stimulus arises, I start to run like a valkyrie aiming for Valhalla. No ruler, that instinct is the one to guide me, until it turns to ash."
In hindsight it was probably a song she made up herself or something she'd heard in passing by once or twice. Regardless, she kept it quiet and private to only her ears, unaware of a second pair listening in.
Twas a beautiful song indeed, it would be an absolute sin to interrupt such a voice in the middle of this kind of performance. And while Ami's dress may be stained red, not even she had the audacity to commit a crime in such poor taste. Quietly she watches as Katie sings her song, until slowly it peters off and the girl comes to a halt.
And it is then that the blonde does the first thing that comes to mind, bringing her hands together and slowly clapping as she approaches her friend from behind. "You have a pretty good voice you know. No bullshit, was a nice song. You make it up yourself?"
Ami asks as she walks up to Katie and looks down at her, nodding her head to the side to silently ask her to scoot over so she could sit as well.
Katie tried not to show it, and to anyone else, it was probably impossible to tell in the lowlight the jump in her shoulders from being discovered. "I didn't finish the song,"
she pointed out, voice returning to its normal tone as she stuffed the microphone away. Despite her words, she made no move to scurry Ami away. The demon could do as she pleased, like she usually did; if she wanted to sit beside her, Katie wasn't stopping her, scooting an inch to the side. "I didn't make it. I heard it from somewhere. Probably a show,"
she answered, staring forward. "Ah, I gotcha. Never had an ear for music haha, I was always the type to stop singing just before the song actually ended during karaoke, miss a few verses and look pretty dumb~"
More than once she remembered going to a karaoke club and putting down the mic before the song finished, walking back to her seat even as the lyrics kept on rolling. "Don't let me stop you though, keep going."
Ami crouches down and sits next to Katie, swinging her legs back and forth as she waits for her friend to resume the song. "I'd sing with you, but I don't think I've ever seen that show. Whatever that show might be.""What are you doing here Ami."
The words slipped out before she wanted them to and Katie paused to consider that. "Sorry. That was rude. I just didn't expect to have company when everyone's distracted with other things."
Naturally, Ami plopped herself beside her, Katie widening her eyes a little. "You...actually want me to keep going? Well, alright, but don't complain if the song's too long."
If she was nervous about performing for an audience she didn't show it, though she did hesitate a moment or two to bring the microphone back out. And then..."In disorder, nothing is worth or lasts, open and strain your blinded eyes to see what is there behind the veil. In disorder, a fragile ideal collapses without producing sound and all that's left is thirst and hunger. I am no one, that instinct remains unfulfilled, and evil has already devoured my compatriots. In disorder, the stimulus arises and I start to run like a vakyrie aiming for Valhalla. No ruler, that instinct is the one to guide me. I have not seen the end or the place I will arrive to turn me to ash."
She'd continue on until the entire song was finished.
Ami is more than used to the harsh nature of Katie, but what really surprised her was the apology that came immediately after that snap. Her eyes widen a tad and she blinks quietly, rendered speechless for just a moment before she regains herself. "Don't worry about it. I was just wondering where you ended up going, would've been pretty awkward if you just decided to leave me behind with that bunch of nerds."
She refused to be left behind, not again."Yeah, keep on going."
And with that last bit of affirmation, the song continues on. For a bit she would just listen quietly, then she began kicking her legs to the sound of a song only she could hear. And then she joined in with a light hum, the song she was imagining was probably nothing like the one Katie was singing, but the background sound had a good cohesion even so. The two sounds intertwine and mingle, reaching highs and lows in time with one another until finally the song ends. "Wow."
Wow indeed. Wow indeed...
For a time, there was silence as Katie finished. The silence pervaded only as Katie allowed it and it was finally broken with a, "Thanks."
It was double-layered and knowing Ami probably wouldn't read through it she repeated, "Thanks. About the Bastion card I mean. I wouldn't have gotten it without you and Riku, that's a fact."
She placed the microphone away, back where it belonged when she doubted Ami wanted to sing a tune too. "I....do appreciate it." "Huh?"
The knight was confused by Katie's thanks, so it was a good thing that she clarified for the idiot. "Oh yeah, that. Don't even mention it, that's what friends are for."
Robbing people for things they want and possibly killing them. Friendship. "Eh, you probably could have taken on the bard. She's a real loser honestly, move fast enough and you could have easily beaten her down before Kanbaru could have shown up."
It wasn't even a matter of strength to her, it was simply mentality that decided the victor when it came to Akiko. She didn't have the guts to get into a real fight, she would always try to talk her way out of a situation first. If you aren't going into a fight with everything you've got from the second it starts, there's no chance of winning. "So what's the big deal about this card in particular anyways? I doubt you would want it just because it's strong, you don't seem like the type to care about that. You have enough power without these dumb things.""...so Kanbaru got involved, huh?"
Katie thought back to the conversation she had with the demon at a certain Miso Floor on a snowy rooftop. She was tempted to bring it back up, to ask again who the demon would side with if it came to a fight between her new companion or her former Magical Girl ally. She only refrained from doing so because she figured Ami would give her the same answer she did last time. Instead, the conversation turned to the question of the card and Katie felt her chest lighten up in its mention. "It's a card of my mom,"
she said, straight to the point without dressing or skirting around the matter. "Or, well, a copy of my mom. A copy of a copy...it's complicated. Your sensei maybe mentioned it once.""She got involved enough to stop me from having fun. A real buzzkill of an ending, but the job got done so who can complain?"
She could complain. She could complain about it all day and all night, but that wasn't very fun at all so she wouldn't. Even if she totally could. "Oh yeah, next time we see the bard alone though, we're totally feeding her her own bones ok?"
It was phrased like a question, but the look in Ami's eyes assured Katie that it was definitely a promise."Oh."
Damn. That's heavy, real heavy. The blonde takes a moment to consider this turn of events quietly, after a minute she nods and crosses her arms with a serious look. "Sounds complicated. If sensei did say something about it then I probably tuned it out, I never really got all the complicated stuff they explained. I just beat stuff up until it dies."
This approach never failed Ami, except for when whatever she was trying to beat up was stronger then her. Then it failed. But then again it didn't really fail, since she wasn't actually beating anything up, she was the one getting beat up. So really the tactic never failed after all! Perfect logic."Well I'm glad I got your copy of a copy of a copy of your mom back for you! I can understand not wanting that loser to have something like that, she tried to get sensei's card away from Red and that pissed me the fuck off."
A beat passes, Ami looks towards Katie. "Did you know Red has a card of sensei?""Yeah."
There wasn't much more explanation she could really give regarding the Bastion card but Katie knew that was enough to get the point across to Ami. Explaining it in full detail would have just made the demon's head spin anyway, noted by her conclusion of how to settle situations. Though actually having her sensei as a card was news to her and Katie cast a glance at the other girl. "Two Henry cards at play huh. Last I checked, Kanbaru had one. And Riku has another."
A passing silence sifted over them again, Katie thinking to herself. Then she nodded. "You can be assured. Whichever version of your sensei Riku has, it's nothing to be worried about. She never uses her cards anyway and I'm pretty sure she'd give you it if you asked. You can trust that card with Riku." "Two?"
Two cards of sensei??? She knew about Riku's yeah, but Kanbaru having one too??? That's... well, it could be in worse hands. Both of them could. Red seemed too dumb to be using sensei's card in a way that really mattered and even if she did try using it, from what she knew of the cards they weren't exactly the most cooperative at times. Ami definitely couldn't see sensei just giving up control to a loser like Red, she would have to work her ass off to get his approval. "Nah, she can keep em. Relying on strength that isn't your own is a surefire way to get your ass killed down the line. But she better take good care of that shit, if I find out she's using it to floss her teeth or some shit..."
The demon let the threat hang for a moment, nothing more needed to be said on that matter. "But whatever. I actually wanted to ask, what's the plan from here on out? I don't see you sticking around these guys for that much longer, and I can already feel the lame creeping in as they clump together like a bunch of weeds."
There was some amusement to be had from Ami's reaction but Katie kept that to herself. She wasn't one to talk when she was quite willing to have Akiko murdered to reclaim her mother's card. "You don't need to worry. It's safe in Riku's hands,"
she assured the blonde again. Things were finally coming back to her indeed and it must have been fate Ami moved the conversation to their future movements. "Ordinarily I'd keep on going by myself, but there's something keeping me around the group. Well, a bunch of things. You're a knight, aren't you? Blackened as you are, you probably knew what it felt like once to be burdened with protecting people who don't deserve it, let alone people trying to get themselves killed."
She allowed herself a sigh in Ami's presence, a tinge of true exhaustion crept in her tone. "We can move around freely but I'd like to at least keep an eye on that group, if even from a distance. Some of them need to be monitored and some of them need an eye from away for their own good." "Something huh?"
It was an obvious prod for a little more info, but if Katie didn't feel like expanding on that then Ami had no need to know more. As long as things stayed interesting she wouldn't have any issues with shadowing the group of misfits and weaklings, even if she didn't really have any interest in bailing their asses out of the fire if they got themselves into a mess they couldn't handle. Well, maybe if the mess was particularly interesting to fight. "Mm, I've never been a very good knight hehe. Never could follow a code of chivalry, I followed the aesthetic more than I did the actual behavior."
Real knights had a bit more propriety to them then she ever did, even before she went dark. "Whatever though, if we gotta keep following the losers then that's that. No use complaining about it, just don't expect me to save their weak asses if they bite off more then they can chew. They've got enough numbers that they can take on whatever they need to, if they can't then that's their own stupid fault.""....thanks."
She meant it too. Katie was finding Ami tended to not even question what she had in mind; chalking it off to the demon just realizing she was the best source of entertainment, she was starting to wonder if it was something else. Maybe. "There's really only two people I'm concerned about to be honest. The rest can take care of themselves. But Riku and Thomas are fledgelings thrown in a hurricane. I want to keep an eye on them and make sure they don't do anything stupid. Like getting us trapped on a Floor,"
she explained. Ami had kept to her for this far and long by now that she felt the blackened knight deserved some insight in her thoughts at least. "I also think there's something else going on. Something doesn't feel right and I can't explain why quite yet. Call it a hunch or a premonition with a bad omen, but there's something about that group that rubs me the wrong way."
A pause."I'd like the find out what the cause of that is and get rid of it before it causes more trouble."
Ami nods as she listens to Katie speak, so the important ones were Red and... huh. "Who the hell is Thomas?"
She was a bit slow sure, but she genuinely couldn't remember a thing about some guy named Thomas. She could vaguely remember that there was a guy around sure, but any and all details about him were completely nonexistent. "Can't be that interesting if I can't even remember his face, but sure, Red and Nobody. They better be interesting though."
It was a bit pointless to say that, Ami believed that they were interesting if they were enough to catch the anti social ravenette's attention, but she had an image to maintain. Can't have people go around thinking she would protect just anyone cause someone said they're a little interesting.
As for the rest of it... "There's a lot of things not right about this situation, not the least of which being the fact that there's two different sensei's hanging out with people who aren't me. This Tower is a clusterfuck, but that's what makes it so damn fun~"
The blond smiles, though it doesn't quite reach her eyes as she ponders on the misfits they'd be following for the time. "But yeah, shit's a little fucked. Almost like..."
Almost like there was something else watching them, invisible strings connecting to them with every floor they visit and every card they pick up. But Ami refused to be someone else's puppet. Not in a million years."The only boy out here for miles,"
Katie deadpanned in explaining Thomas. Regardless, Ami got the point and as usual didn't much protest it. Katie raised herself up, getting up from her sitting spot and staring out into the darkened Abyss before them. "It's like someone is meddling in something they're not supposed to. And frankly I want to smoke them out before things get more irritating."
Only hunches and feelings; that's all she had to go off of but this was a start at least. "Come on. If the others think we ditched, they'll send a search party and attract some monster right towards them. Probably."
She didn't doubt the bleeding hearts among them would do just that. She mused on this as she started back in the direction of camp.
With the two other people heading back, the microphone for karaoke was open once again as Akiko took the stage, Castle manifesting behind her to those that could see it. She had a confident smirk on her face as she started to scroll through the machine, turning back to the crowd. "I told Kanbaru earlier that I would sing a song, and I would rather just admit that idol music isn't my sort of thing so instead I figured maybe I'll do my own piece."
She smirked towards the crowd as the music kicked up behind her from the speaker,
and as the song progressed it was clear that Akiko was going all out, even having Hellsword appear behind her to speak up and provide background vocals. Eventually, though, she stepped forward and offered a hand towards the group, specifically towards Kanbaru."Shake my hand."
Castle appeared behind her, both harmonizing in the same intimidation that she had used before when they were alone. "Come on girl, won't you shake a poor sinner's hand?"
Resisting the quiver in her spine that Castle and Akiko's particular dual tone tried to provoke in her, Kanbaru took the cat girl's hand and joined in the song. Though it wasn't the catchy idol music she'd hoped for and adored, Disney was a universal ear worm. Regardless of how fitting it was, it did not distract Kanbaru from how isolated the two were now, two Jester touched without any others participating. Or how Katie and Ami already slipped away and the rat had derailed the party atmosphere back matters of the Abyss. Was the feeling of resentment in her chest how the Jester felt seeing others rebel against their plans, seeking to run off into the darkness while abandoning the tiny flicker of light?
The song wound down and Kanbaru dropped her microphone back into the Gate of Tartarus, her mood curdled like milk but finding her feelings for Akiko less conflicted. "That was a lot of fun. We should do it again sometime."
She lied, casting the jukebox away as she looked for any left over pizza. Best to eat it now before leaving the remains for the Abyss' native scavengers.
Some of the people present have left, some lost themselves in the pizza around them, be it they fell asleep, or they scooted to another place to enjoy their meal and the company of each other. Runa who at the precise moment stepped aside to watch and enjoy the singing show before her simply relaxed and it might appear that it was the calmest moment the demon ever had in her existence - though there was no one to confirm that of course. Despite even the appearance of the rat who brought nothing but trouble and discord, and the fighting to happen both before and after that, it seemed like at least this moment of calm, when the alien meal was introduced to feast upon, with girls singing their souls out, one way or another, managed to bring some glint to appear in demon’s eyes along the usually deep cold blue of her eyes which still remained unreadable.
Was it just the mood in the air to create such an impression or if it was true, was to remain unknown.
Once the storm of fun had died down, the demon applauded the singers with a usual smile shaped on her lips and added a short bow to follow as well.”Bravo! Most amusing it was.”
, she said looking over Kanbaru and Akiko, ”My voice is sadly not very fitting for singing. But I do have an ear good enough to say who puts their passion into singing.
, Runa concluded and snatched more of the pizza remained in the fort and with a box beside her she sat on the floor of the fort, pulling out her notebook and starting to scribble another drawing there - another fragment of time which was both to happen and already happened in the demon’s perception.