One of the law enforcement officers ran after him, telling him that he cannot escape. He ignores the officer, making his apparently very successful escape as he clears the alley's gate without getting shot and continues towards and up the back of the lot, over to the next street.
It's pseudo-residential, with buildings that show clear signs of habitation standing right next to small businesses and at least one residential home with a housefront stall. A small sign in front of it advertises it as an electronic shop that does, in fact, do TV repairs.
He ignored it, running down the street towards their neighbor, who happened to have left a small table out, which was perfect to use to jump up off of and onto some corrugated metal roofing. He didn't like the stability of the roof under his feet, so he continued on to the next building, which he only belatedly realized from the parking lot on the opposite side was the Balibago Barangay Hall. He's not sure how he ended up on the rooftop of a city hall by pure accident, but hey, he's got a sizeable lead on the cops because of the gate in the alleyway and the high wall at the back of the lot. Maybe he could use this. Not a lot of better places for stereotypical acts of terrorism, no?
In any case, he first has to stall out the flying guy with red hair. He can hear the wind rippling closer and closer from the guy's Noble Arm behind him, so he sets his hostage down onto his feet, taking care not to accidentally cut him with any of the floating knives pointed at him. He turns to face the guy as he approaches, then remembers that he should avoid looking directly at his strangely, eerily familiar face. Not for the first time today, Jason is glad he decided to wear a mask to work, even if it is hopelessly tacky.
The dancing of the flames within the crackling fire was transfixing. It was perfect for letting his mind wander up and away from the world, away from his inevitable conversation with Deuel. The fire seemed to stretch and bend just like his thoughts, clawing towards the heavens whose twinkling stars grew closer and closer before reaching down to match. It wasn't a particularly unusual sight, though it was unusual that he was seeing it when he had gotten plenty of sleep last night. He took another long drink of his Red Bull as the fingers of the fire and the stars interlocked, forming a fiery gate to hell that seemed to shamble forward, bending and twisting from its position on the campfire and in the heavens. It reached towards him, blurred around him, enveloped him in its warmth, until it had engulfed him completely.
The hallucination then got brighter and brighter, bright enough to sear his eyes, and he shut them, only for the brightness to burn through his thin human eyelids. He blocked out the light with his hands, but it did nothing to shut out the light. This wasn't just a hallucination, though what it could possibly be, he couldn't fathom. Then, all at once, the light was gone, and he blinked his eyes open to find himself in a forest with all of his friends.
“Uh… Is everyone ok? And… what just happened?”
"We are in a forest. With magical creatures."
Deuel seems to assume they've been isekai'd, and while the hallucinogenic fever dream immediately preceding their arrival here does lend credence to his theory, it's not exactly a theory grounded in reality. Then again, what else could it be? Mildly hallucinogenic knockout gas followed by an aborted abduction doesn't explain why they all arrived perfectly alert without any memories of the interim, and he can't think of a better mundane explanation. Already entering the realm of fantasy, spatial dislocation would explain it, but does not necessitate ending up in another world. He supposes Deuel didn't specify that they did, and the man's a bit of a dandy, so he could just be assuming based on the popular trope. In that case, there should be botanical and/or zoological differences to be found to prove the hypothesis, though he's never bothered devoting time to learning about the subtle differences in different arboreal species and there weren't any obviously extraterrestrial insects buzzing about; just some perfectly normal-looking black ants. Perhaps they could find differences in the constellations? He memorized enough of them for navigation (part of his excessive research on wilderness survival) and would be able to tell the difference. Even with no astronomical knowledge, the others might be able to just because they were looking up at them before they arrived, except it's the middle of the day now, and even if it's a fantasy world, it could just as easily be a parallel Earth. For that matter, they are just as likely to have been displaced in time, though seeing as how they're in a forest, the future is less likely than the past, which would match with typical medieval isekai settings. Whether back in time or in another world, it would likely fall on them to bring technological progress back, and until then, they'd have no access to modern conveniences like-
In the entire world, possibly. Different plants means no guarantee of coffee or cocoa or guarana or whatever the fuck and there's no guarantee this world has any replacements. He could try synthesizing caffeine, but he can't remember the chemicals involved, much less the steps. He thinks Theobromine is involved somehow? It's not nearly enough to work off of, and he can't imagine spending weeks, much less months or years raw dogging life without it.
He's got a hand on his forehead, trying to keep from freaking out, because there's still hope - they could just be in another time or place, but then Deuel pulls him out of his thoughts with a question.
"Niles, are you okay? I hope you don't think I'm presuming, but are you worried about your parents?"
No, Deuel. He almost laughs, because his parents were probably the farthest thing from his mind before now. Shame to have wasted their 18 years of investment with a sudden disappearance-
"If so, there's a nonzero chance that time here might be out of sync with time on earth and we can come back at the same time we left. But if not, well, we can just say that we got kidnapped or something when we do come back, and if we all get our stories straight, they'll believe us. Either way, let's both focus on surviving this situation, okay?"
At that, Niles does let out a laugh, though when Deuel gives him a questioning look, he simply shakes his head, saying, "it's nothing."
His parents will assume he left without warning. Will likely find a replacement to pass the company onto - maybe adopt if they really want to keep it in the family, though he's not sure how much they care about that as long as they stay on the company's payroll. He has a month or two before his parents realize he's gone, maybe 3 months given their big business trip in Tokyo, but they will probably seek him out before their next trip given his college plans and his lack of response if they text or call in the interim. He's 18, so by all likelihood they'll assume he just ran away, and since it's within his right to, when they can't find him, they'll probably just give up. They'll probably move on, thinking that he hates them.
That's his time limit.
Soon, a motherfucking talking Ermine arrives to properly introduce them to the situation, seemingly confirming the isekai theory.
"You see, your friend is the Chosen One and you guys have been tasked with serving as his 'adventuring party' to save our world under our leadership!"
He decides to slip away behind the surrounding trees as the others, especially Deuel, are distracted by Deuel's transformation.
He walks away slowly, at first, because he doesn't want to make noise that could draw the attention of the others, but once some distance has been made, he picks up speed until he's running. No, until he's sprinting - as fast and as far away as he can manage.
Adventuring party of the chosen one? What a joke. Him? Right before he's about to step all over the chosen one's feelings? Might as well destroy the whole damn planet now. The overlap between their respective skillsets makes him easily the least useful to Deuel anyway. He's not sure about the others, but Deuel could easily spark a technological revolution with or without him. From a purely practical, cost-benefit analysis standpoint, he's nothing but a detriment, and any clerical, moral or practical support he could offer after the fact pales in comparison to the damage he could do to them all as a group.
A darker thought occur to him - that they're all dancing to the tune of some kind of cosmic narrative, and that his role in the story is either as Deuel's designated love interest or perhaps his tragic motivator. A living, breathing, Death by Origin Story trope, or perhaps it's the I Let Gwen Stacy Die trope. Would depend on how long he actually goes on living, he supposes - a funny thought to have while tumbling down a steep hill after tripping on an exposed wooden tree root.
He doesn't think he's particularly hurt by the time he reaches the bottom, not that he cares to devote much attention to such things, given his swirling thoughts, but he does find himself just laying there, on the ground, covered in dirt and small bruises, thinking. Even within the framework of a narrative, there can be no offscreen happily ever after with him, and he's not willing to take that away from Deuel. It feels selfish to even entertain the idea of getting to that point, because what divine fucking neanderthal thinks they have the providence to use him to manipulate Deuel's love life? Any of their love lives? 'Designated love interests' and any divine being that insists on them can kiss his ass, just the same as anyone who tries to tell him its his fate to die just so Deuel and the others can have some cliché 'You did everything you could', 'I should have been better' bullshit.
It was a pointless mental tangent anyway. At worst, isekai tropes tend to include prophecies, not entire meta narratives. Still, rejecting it clears his head enough to notice an approaching worm of some sort, emerging from the ground near him.
He gets up, trying to avoid letting the slimy blind creature touch him, only to realize that, upon closer inspection, it's not covered in slime. In fact, it seems to be covered in small scales, and, looking more closely, he could see the occasional flick of a forked tongue out of an extremely round face.
He's seen these before - it's a blind snake, though he's never seen one quite as large as this. He extends a hand, gently, to pick the creature up. The differences in this world's fauna kind of pale in comparison to a talking stoat directly stating that they've crossed worlds, in terms of confirmation of their situation, but sue him, it's an novel animal and he's curious.
He feels a gentle surge of sorts when he touches the snake, though he couldn't say what of. It felt like getting zapped, except harmlessly, and the snake doesn't seem spooked, unlike how he might expect an earthen blind snake to be. Soon it's nuzzling into his hand, slithering up and around his palm, and it allows him to lift it up for closer inspection.
It occurs to him that a snake in a fantasy world might be more dangerous than its earthen equivalent, though from its relative diminutiveness, he can't imagine it to pose much of a threat, even if it had venom. (blind snakes don't) It seemed to have the same jaw as a blind snake, which couldn't open absurdly wide like bigger snakes, and was likely indicative of a lack of fangs. Blind snakes wouldn't even be able to penetrate human skin with their teeth, and this one seemed no different. The little thing only got more adorable the closer he looked at it, as it seemed to hide its face shyly - behind his own hand, as he focused his attention on it.
He resumes his walk, snake coiling around his hand, as he idly tries to puzzle out what he felt earlier. The sensation was muted now, but still there, like a beautiful song playing off in the distance. He tries to focus on the music, to reach out to it, and it responds, flowing into and around him, wrapping him up within it until he finds himself standing there, in the middle of the forest, wearing an ornate brown and gold outfit. Distantly, he recognizes that he's just undergone much the same transformation Deuel had, and while it casts doubt on the stoat's claims, it doesn't change that such a transformation is indicative of the fantastical. They were therefore brought here for some type of purpose, perhaps even a prophecy, and he neither had the desire to go along with such things nor thought his presence would benefit the pursuit of such goals anyway. He could perhaps help from the sidelines in the future, if needed, but going back to have that delayed conversation with Deuel is the last thing he wants right now.
Instead, he turns his attention to his new abilities - He can feel the Earth's thrum beneath him, around him, and before he knows it, he finds himself inadvertently sinking into grass-hardened dirt as if it were memory foam. Comfy, but... ugh, dirt.
Then, a thought occurs to him. He stands up straight, and directs his newfound power against his senses. Every speck of dirt, every small stain on his clothes, both old and magically new, lights up like beacons before him, and with a hesitant, tentative thought, he finds himself able to pull the stuff off of him like a god damn psychic. After a little exploratory fooling around, he finds he now has telekinetic control over dirt, stone, and even the metal that makes up his phone. An attempt at technomancy would have to wait until he had something more expendable to work with, but gaining fancy magic powers is nothing short of exhilarating.
He tries to do some minor limit testing - taking the dirt and crushing it together into a sedimentary rock. Shooting the rock at a nearby tree. (and not getting hit by it as it ricochets off) Then he tries to extend his tremor sense outward, only to notice that there's some kind of structure nearby. His friends don't seem to be in range, and it doesn't seem like civilization anyway. Curious, he decides to make his way towards it.
Sullivan's Irish Pub, Balibago, Angeles City - 10/18/2022, 20:50 UTC+8
"I have aerokinesis precise enough to rip off your breath from your lungs. Do not test me."
Highly doubtful considering he hasn't attempted to knock him out with it yet, and even if he tried, his regeneration and blood manipulation can compensate. Jason hasn't bothered testing how long he could do such a thing, but that could be a pretty good avenue of future training.
"You've already killed civilians; by the laws of war..."
Technically speaking, that's an unfair accusation. Attacked them? Sure. Set in motion misunderstandings leading to untimely deaths? Plenty. However, the only instance where he's been directly 'responsible' for the death of a civilian was the woman with the stab wound, at least during his deployment here. He's not even sure she's dead yet. The civilians he killed within the pub can be justified in the eyes of society, if not the law, since he is under duress; he would have stopped at infection had he not taken a bullet to the leg, but since he had been temporarily impaired, his life had been under imminent threat. Killing those people could therefore be considered an act of self-defense, since his choice to do it had been purely utilitarian in nature.
...He still didn't want to deny the accusation. He can't be certain about the woman, since he didn't know whether she has yet succumbed to blood loss, and splitting hairs on killing a civilian versus civilians and the circumstances surrounding qualifiers to such statements wouldn't accomplish anything anyway.
There's a dull thrum in the back of his head when he thinks about what he's done to that woman in particular. He supposes it was rather selfish, using her as a personal litmus test.
Ugh... he's letting his thoughts wander again.
"Do not make your situation any worse; if you surrender now, arrangements can be made in exchange for the survival of the remaining civilians; even more for curing the infection you caused..."
He barks out a laugh. Then he lets go of the man he's been holding hostage, letting his Hemokinesis hold the knife against his throat. "Hand me an empty bottle. Your cheapest drink, if you've got nothing empty."
He ignores the sound of a flare going up outside as the man shakily complies, standing up - within view of the gunman outside, though he can't imagine they'd take the shot through the infected civilians clogging up the pub's entrance, nor risk extraction of the remaining uninfected when the man is currently between the floating knife at his neck and Jason, who happens to be armed with a large ball of stolen blood. The man returns with a mostly empty bottle of San Pellegrino, looking pale as a sheet. He supposes that's to be expected given the bedlam going on at the back of the pub - a cacophony of crying and misdirected violence as they all panic out of their minds.
He takes the bottle, uses a little blood to clean out the insides, removing all of the sparkling water, then discards the liquid in the sink. He takes a bit more blood, fills the bottle up, then turns it into the Panacea.
He creates another two knives to cover all angles, then positions them around his hostage's neck. It takes a bit of concentration to keep them the right distance away to keep from cutting the man as he moves and breathes, but he already has to divert focus to him in order to keep the other infected off, so it's not much worse.
He calls out to the gunman as he tests his mostly healed leg with a stomp against the ground. "Coming out. Attack, and I can't guarantee this hostage's safety." He couldn't even if the gunman didn't attack, and safety was relative to begin with, though he had no intention of harming the man, (at least not meaningfully) and at a certain point, language simply does not play nice with specificity. If he specified he had no intention of harming the man at all, he'd also have to specify for how long, and 'until I escape' probably wouldn't go over well, especially if they took it to mean he wanted to harm the man afterwards. What if he's a particularly ornery hostage with a hidden Noble Arm? People never think their commitments through.
In any case, the gunman didn't feel it prudent to take blind shots through the counter, so he doubted he'd actually risk the hostage even if he had something to say to the contrary. He stood up, finally showing himself from over the counter, and directed the man to stand up with him. He had the man lead the way to make it easier to multitask his concentration, but instead of walking towards the back of the pub near the hysterical infected to go around the counter, the man decided to clamber over it. Fair enough, not even Jason was safe from them, even if none of them could realistically harm him.
They walked out in front of the pub, gently pushing the forlorn looking civilians who had been eyeing the gunman out of the way when his hostage didn't feel confident in doing so. Jason floated the Panacea bottle over beside him.
There, Jason finally came close enough to get a good look at the gunman. He had flown down to get a better angle on the pub, but was still hovering out of reach of the infected. His features were effeminate, and his hair was a nostalgic shade of strawberry red...
He averted his eyes before his ghosts had time to come back and haunt him. Hopefully the mask did a good job of hiding where he was looking. It certainly helped hide whatever face he was making. He mentally shook it off.
"If you wanted the cure, all you had to do was ask." The San Pellegrino bottle filled with Panacea floated on beside him. He really didn't mind giving away the cure; it's not like it could be kept effective for long, and curing the zombies wouldn't constitute a failure state. In fact, it would help hide the inherent time limit of his viruses. The exterior of the bottle just so happened to be covered in a thin layer of the apathy virus, but since it was mostly dried and impossible to discern from the bottle's contents, the gunman didn't need to know that.
He handed the bottle over to the hostage, being sure to keep the virus on the bottle from infecting the man. It would help hide the virus and prove the Panacea was real. "Why don't you demonstrate it? Pick one of the infected and make them drink. Here, I'll remove my protection to make it easier to see the effect-"
All at once, every lonely infected took their eyes off of Amadeo to stare at the man in their midst. He flinched, and Jason let the back of the man's neck touch one of the knives. "You're safe. Relax. They're annoying, but harmless."
The man was soon smothered by the strangers who had started grabbing and holding onto him for dear life. It was better that he didn't make contact with the infected to prove the cure's authenticity, though he wouldn't deny avoiding that was a major factor in his decision to do it this way.
The man, visibly very uncomfortable with all the people and the knives around him, uncapped the bottle and pressed it against the nearest man's lips. "Drink." Jason commanded, since the hostage didn't seem composed enough to give the order himself. The infected man, irrationally trusting the object of his obsession, complied, and, after a few seconds, began to grow confused, not entirely sure why he was hugging the pub's bartender. He backed away from his first hostage, and Jason stepped forward to put an arm around the man. It was an overly friendly gesture - hopefully indicating his lack of intent to harm to the gunman. Technically, all of the infected were his hostages, though it seemed that they weren't recognized as such until they were cured. "Hello, healthy hostage two." He pulled another knife from his back - a butterfly knife, just to play with using his free hand. It felt rude to point it at the new hostage right off the bat, though the knife tricks and his grip on the man's shoulder had him plenty intimidated. He let his protection on hostage 1 come back up, and the lonely infected slowly began peeling themselves off of him, returning their focus to the gunman.
He took the bottle from the first hostage's grip, using his Hemokinesis, lifting it up to the man's lips. "You might want to take a drink yourself." The man wasn't actually infected - he had enough control to do that much, but he was covered in the sweat of the other infected, and he didn't particularly see the point to letting the man become infected when they inevitably parted ways. The Panacea wasn't by any means a permanent cure, though unless he deliberately messed with the virus strains, it could prevent reinfection in cases like these.
The man hesitantly complied, taking a sip, then made a disgusted face. He finally spoke for the first time since he was taken hostage, "Tastes like blood."
A shocking revelation. Who would have thought that blood tasted like blood. "I've been working on that." he comments offhandedly, because he has, even if it hadn't been because of the Panacea. He doesn't look back at the gunman - didn't like his face, but he turned to address him nonetheless. "The bottle contains the cure. It works on the zombies and all of the infected here." There. No room for ambiguity. It should be clear he meant it when he said that all the gunman had to do was ask.
Just then, a riot police squad pulled up, leaving their vehicle only for the attention of all of the lonely infected to turn away from Amadeo and towards them.
"Attention! This is the police! Surrender now, and there will be no further trouble!"
The infected hesitated, but still began drawing towards the newcomers as they erected a shield wall. Unfortunate, how often police seemed to shoot first and ask questions later, though he supposes that trait isn't unique to the police. One of the members held an old Roman shield, too ornate and incongruous to be anything but a Noble Arm. He held it up above him - a barrier perhaps? Not likely a threat, then. He addresses the gunman without taking his eyes off of the riot police. "You mentioned something about killing civilians earlier?" It'd be quite ironic if they began opening fire. He shook his head. "Nevermind. Well, here, you wanted the cure, right?"
Jason takes the bottle from his hostage and uses his considerable strength to throw the bottle up, aiming it over rooftops, at an angle from his escape route so that he could potentially take the gunman captive if things went well but divergent enough that he could avoid the gunman if things didn't. He took off at the same time, not particularly caring if the riot police opened fire considering the crowd of infected he had as cover and the two hostages he was dragging along. He carried the second over one shoulder, letting the butterfly knife float next to his head, while the other felt the gentle press of a knife on the back of his neck until he followed, forced into a route that put him in the way of any incoming bullets or Noble Arm projectiles. Jason ran back towards the alleyway, turning the corner into it, then ran up to the gate and simply jumped it, kicking off the wall and over it. It left him vulnerable to gunfire if anyone had an angle from outside the alleyway, but the gunman should hopefully be busy, and hostage 1 could continue providing cover from the other side of the gate after landing.
The back of the alleyway led to a small square lot, which would let him break line of sight to the alleyway. Upon arrival, he'd pulled the knives around hostage 1's neck away, up, then towards him, releasing his hostage without meaningful harm, as promised. He'd then reposition the knives around hostage 2, reducing the man's struggling, but mainly just to save himself the trouble of making more.
The lot rests at a lower elevation than the street at the back of it, but it wasn't too high for him to leap up and climb over, and from there, he could get try getting lost within the semi-residential backstreets.
Name: Ridley Alvarus Nicknames: King, Varus, brother, boss man, big cheese, his majesty, his royal multitudinousness Age: 21 Appearance: 5'9", brown hair, turquoise eyes, and a prominent pair of facial scars. Perfectly comfortable in formal attire. Prefers button-ups and flannels for casual wear. Nationality: American
Noble Arm Name & Appearance: Hexad Anamnesis, a shapeshifting Noble Arm that changes its appearance and abilities to match its wielder. In this form, it takes the shape of an ornate revolver.
Personal Noble Arm Rank: D (subject to increases based on Noble Arm development, outlined under planned abilities)
Power: E+ (Pawn bullet expansion) Speed: C Range: D Persistence: B- (Queen bullet) Precision: B Potential: C (S)
Noble Arm Type, Element, and Range: Hexad Anamnesis' abilities are broken up across six forms, with four of them only accessible through the King or Pawn's transformation abilities. Theoretically speaking, it is plausible that the Hexad Anamnesis is not one Noble Arm, but six, connected through reality via King Ridley’s Noble Arm. Ridley Alvarus’ Noble Arm is the basis for the presence of his other iterations, and lends itself to a ranged fighting style. The Noble Arm’s abilities are dimensional in nature, possibly tapping into alternate universes, though all six iterations of Ridley insist that there's a chess theme.
Noble Arm Abilities:
Intuitive Operation - In its revolver form, Ridley is capable of rotating and reloading the cylinder, as well as rearranging the bullets within, using nothing but a thought. In essence, it never runs out of ammo unless Ridley wants it to, and will always fire the bullet (or lack thereof) of his choice, without any outwardly visible indication of his manipulation of the bullets. Ridley can load the Hexad Anamnesis with six different types of bullets: Pawn, Bishop, Knight, Rook, Queen, and King bullets.
King Bullets - King bullets behave as perfectly normal bullets, with the added benefit that Ridley can change their properties to mimic those of various types of mundane handgun bullets.
Pawn Bullets - Ridley can cause Pawn bullets to rapidly expand into his Pawn form, Ridley Castillo, complete with all the memories of King Ridley and whatever clothing he was wearing when he last died. Technically speaking, he can do this while the bullet is still mid-flight, though the rapid increase in drag and the soft-bodied projectile generally causes this to be worse than firing a King bullet in all but stopping power. Activating this ability while the Pawn bullet is lodged inside of someone is likely to be devastating. Once summoned, assuming he is not crushed to death by the aftermath of his summon location, (though he will likely emerge from a human victim unharmed) Pawn Ridley is fully autonomous, and does not require King Ridley's Noble Arm to remain manifested in order to persist indefinitely. King Ridley gains all of Pawn Ridley's memories upon Pawn Ridley’s death. While another Ridley is summoned and alive, the Pawn bullet cannot expand into another Pawn Ridley. If another Pawn is summoned after Pawn Ridley is clinically dead, the original will remain braindead even if resuscitated.
Henshin Invoker - When Ridley shoots himself (not Pawn Ridley) with the Pawn, Bishop, Knight, Rook or Queen bullets, they will fail to harm him. Instead, they will phase right into him, and he will transform into the corresponding Ridley iteration in a flash of light, with his personality and the Hexad Anamnesis changing to match. Transformation is apparently instant - if you shoot into the light, it will hit Ridley's new form, though functionally, it takes a few seconds for him to regain his faculties, and leaves him vulnerable in a head to head fight. If Ridley dies while transformed, he will revert to King Ridley in a flash of light, returning to the physical state he was in before transformation. Dying in anything but Pawn form will result in a backlash, locking King Ridley out of transforming for an hour and locking him from using the same form for 24 hours. Penalties are 1.5x higher for dying in Rook form and 3x higher for dying in Queen form. Dying in Pawn form does not result in any penalties, in theory, though it requires much more effort to transform into a Pawn for a minute after transforming back. Transformations can last indefinitely, even while his Noble Arm is unmanifested, and while each form has its own "persistence economy", general strain and fatigue carry over through transformations. Queen bullets will be absorbed without any transformation if Pawn Ridley has already transformed into Queen Ridley. Despite transformations resulting in a change of personality, Ridley’s memories and stream of consciousness is preserved, and they can maybe, possibly, be thought of as the same person.
Currently, the Bishop, Knight, Rook and Queen bullets behave as ordinary bullets when used against anyone other than King Ridley.
Unlocked as the other iterations of Ridley train their abilities, rather than when King Ridley trains his own. Unlocking any one of these would push Ridley’s overall rating to C or higher.
Abilities in gray subject to rework/replacement; WIP
Bishop Bullets - Becomes intangible and causes a healing effect on targets (other than King Ridley) the bullets pass through. Can close most wounds and mend bones with enough shots. Cannot regrow limbs. Raises King Ridley's Power rating to D.
Knight Bullets - Allows Ridley to designate a path for the bullet to travel in, letting it take 90 degree turns as well as teleport mid-flight, up to 1 m/3.3 ft) in any direction. Knight bullets also gain massively increased penetration power. Teleports preserve velocity, (including direction) and turns can only be taken in 90 degree angles. Ridley would initially be limited to doing one or the other with each shot, and would have to train (himself) for the ability to do more. Raises King Ridley's Power rating to B.
Rook Bullets - Allows Ridley to create a flat, invisible shield wherever the bullet lands. Ridley and those he designates are capable of perceiving the shield. The shield is always square and made up of 64 (8x8) smaller square segments. The size of the segments can be modified before creation, with a minimum area of 1 ft² and a maximum area of 74 in²/~1.9 m², for a total shield size ranging from 8 ft² to about 15 m². The shield can overlap with physical objects without damaging them, and Ridley is capable of making specific segments of the shield intangible, essentially toggling them on and off. Generally speaking, he can use Rook Bullets indoors without damaging the plumbing or cutting off the electricity.
Upon creation, the shield will automatically push those that are in the way to either side of the shield, generally according to the way King Ridley prefers. If there isn’t enough space on the preferred side, it will dump them on the other side, unless both sides lack sufficient space, wherein it will put them on the side with the most space when the shield is created. This process can crush people. Resisting this push (and crushing force) is possible, but would necessitate breaking the manifesting segment using nothing but compression force, like fighting against a horizontal hydraulic press. It’s doable with sufficient strength when being crushed (albeit probably more likely to break whatever they’re being pushed against) though the noble arm would have to be quite specialized to deal with the lack of traction when being pushed into empty space.
Segments have somewhat glass-like properties, and while they have considerable durability, sufficient damage will destroy the entire segment. Since they are energy constructs, they will self-repair any minor damage - they need to be broken in one go through overwhelming force. Breaking a segment will leave a gaping hole in the shield until the number of total segments is reduced to 49, 36, 25, 16, 9, 4, or 1, wherein the shield segments will rearrange themselves as necessary as they collapse inward into a smaller square, centered on the original point of creation.
King Ridley can make Rook bullets tangible or intangible. In either case, when shooting someone (other than King Ridley or Rook Ridley), he is capable of erecting the invisible shield just in front of or behind the target. He cannot change tangibility mid-flight. Intangible Rook bullets can pass through the shield freely.
When the first thing a tangible Rook bullet hits is the shield generated by another Rook bullet, the Rook bullet (as well as its velocity) is duplicated along all corresponding segments in the same row and column. This process destroys those segments. When all segments are intact, it will turn one bullet into 15.
Raises King Ridley’s Power rating to B.
Castling - If King Ridley shoots Rook Ridley with a Rook bullet, they will immediately swap places with each other. If Rook Ridley's greater size causes him overlap objects, he will be shunted out of them in the same manner as Knight Ridley's teleports.
Queen Bullets - Causes the first target the bullet touches to self-destruct in a violent but largely self-contained implosion. It is virtually impossible to survive, and leaves nothing but inert dust behind. The effect can apply to objects as well, albeit with a size limit of up to 8 m³. Larger objects (e.g. buildings) will only suffer partial destruction, as if an 8 m³ cube of it was removed, cleanly cut out of the structure. Because the area is centered on the bullet, and Ridley can modify the cube’s orientation, damage can penetrate up to half the solid diagonal of the cube. (6.9 m) It is possible for people and objects caught inside the area of effect to escape and survive if they are not the primary target, so long as they are not pulled into the implosion. (i.e. when they are inside the area of effect, they aren’t pulled in unless parts of the primary target drag them in) King Ridley’s cognition determines what counts as part of the primary target, and thus a Queen bullet to clothes or body armor will generally designate the person wearing it as the target. Although multiple casualties are possible from one shot, only a single person or object can be considered a primary target.
Queen bullets are functionally indestructible, though they can be deflected the same as normal bullets, and will expend their effect on solid (or particularly dense gel) barriers to break them. Once the Queen bullet effect is activated, Ridley is unable to generate additional Queen bullets for 24 hours, and must manually retrieve the Queen bullet he fired to use it again. Unretrieved Queen bullets vanish when Ridley generates another Queen bullet; there can only be one.
Queen bullets cannot be used to destroy souls, and thus can be safely deflected by Noble Arms. It is worth noting that if a Noble Arm is designated as the Queen bullet’s target, the effect fails to activate even if the Queen bullet continues on to hit something else, and since it does not activate, it does not stop King Ridley from generating additional Queen bullets.
Raises King Ridley’s Power rating to A and overall rating to B. Likely won’t be unlocked for a while.
Miscellaneous Abilities: Ridley is a talented Orator, can play the piano well, and is a surprisingly good singer. He knows way more about forensics and hacking than he should considering his foundational knowledge is from Rook Ridley. He's pretty good at chess, though you'd expect him to be better at it given his Noble Arm. In addition to all of the languages of his iterations, he's gone out of his way to learn Mandarin, Russian and Spanish. He is currently learning Hindi, Portuguese and Arabic.
Personality: Ridley Alvarus is a bleeding heart idealist, though you wouldn't know it from first impressions, and certainly not from appearances. Although he's a bit of a control freak and has no qualms about playing dirty for the sake of the greater good, he is compassionate, and thinks that every person has the potential for good within them. Socially, he tends to show a courteous, professional demeanor, and is shockingly out of touch with those in his own age group. As a matter of fact, he is terrible at dealing with emotions, both his own and those of others, and tends to compartmentalize his personal problems, seeking to address them with cold, unfeeling rationality, if at all. Prefers addressing his other iterations with their Chess designations, except for Pawn Ridley, whom he calls his (little) brother/bro.
Likes: Cinnamon Rolls, Tea, instrumental music, classical literature, learning new languages Dislikes: Acting off of insufficient information, child abusers Fears: His own capacity to go too far, to lose sight of where the line is
Bio: Ridley Alvarus is a rich kid who, at 17, had graduated high school and was set to go off to college majoring in political science. His parents both had relatively successful political careers and, at first, he wanted to follow in their footsteps and change his country for the better. It's no secret the U.S. government has its fair share of rot - his own parents were good (but thankfully not great) examples. Ultimately, however, he never attended college. He and his parents were going on vacation in Australia, coinciding with his 18th birthday, when their plane got caught in a storm and struck by lightning. It was forced to crash land in the pacific, though the pilot managed to keep it airborne long enough to reach a desert island. Better to crash on land than water, after all.
Although no one drowned, the landing was not ideal by any means. Only a few passengers died in the crash, but several were injured, including his mother. Ridley received the first and smaller of his two scars during the crash - a piece of shrapnel cut a gash above his left eye, right before his head was slammed against something, either another seat or the roof. He lost consciousness, and was later told by his father that there had been a lot of blood. Combined with the way he passed out, his father had thought that he would end up losing his entire family. It caused his father to manifest his own Noble Arm; some type of sword with yet-unknown powers. He had been keeping it a secret from the other passengers, afraid of becoming a scapegoat for their hysteria. It turned out that his mother's injury wasn't life-threatening, and Ridley got off with nothing but a scar and a concussion. Compared to some of the other passengers, he considers himself lucky.
Ridley gained his Noble Arm either within the crash or while unconscious. He hadn't even noticed it until his father asked him where he got a gun from. To this day, Ridley doesn't know whether it was obtained via Formation or Inheritance.
Agreeing with his father's decision, he also kept his Noble Arm hidden from the other passengers, though unlike his father, who appeared to be content with figuring out the nature of his Noble Arm at a later date, Ridley couldn't pass up the potential opportunity to help get them all off the island. There were injured whose lives were at risk the longer it took for help to arrive, so, when he got the chance, he wandered off, away from the rest of the group, and began muffling the sound of his gunshots by firing underwater on the far end of the island. For the most part, it worked, and he was able to confirm that his gunshots did absolutely nothing special without his input. He could intuit that there were six different bullets, and was able to get a handle on the reloading and bullet shuffling mechanics. However, he could only feel his ability's potential in two of the bullets. The first, he could modify seemingly however he wanted. It had to stick to practical constraints, but rubber bullets, hollow points, and even small armor-piercing bullets were all available. He could even turn it into weirder types; ones that could create a brief flash or a little bit of smoke. They weren't too practical even without the dubious testing conditions he was operating in, but at least the options were available to him.
The second bullet, he knew, could expand. Even without activating the effect, it was obvious to him, just like the Noble Arms' unnecessarily flowery name. He felt he could do it even without firing it from a gun, but he didn't know how much it would expand, nor if he could undo the effect, and he didn't want a giant bullet laying around on the beach for all to see. He decided to do a live test, firing it underwater, into the ocean, and expanding it. He didn't know what to expect, but turning into a drowning child certainly wasn't it.
After bringing the boy to shore and letting him cough up a ton of seawater and half a lung, the boy introduced himself as Ridley Castillo, who was born 9 years after he was and raised in the Philippines by people with the same names as his parents, but different surnames, occupations, and personalities. The boy said they didn't even look like Ridley's parents, and when he asked how the boy knew, the boy said it was because he had gained all of his memories. "All of them?" He asked. "All of them." The boy responded.
While Ridley was still processing that information, the boy's face scrunched up and he made a cupping shape with his hand before moving it up and down.
All of them.
He was suddenly very, very uncomfortable with his new Noble Arm. The boy could tell, and barreled on before it could get too awkward - said he knew he had to be the one to explain, because he knew Ridley didn't know what was going on. That being said, he didn't know what was going on either. From his perspective, his home had been destroyed in a war between China and the ASEAN. He and his parents were going to stay with their family in the states. The names were familiar, but they lived in Florida - not the state Ridley lived in (New York) nor where they were supposed to live in. (Ottawa, Canada) They were set to arrive in time to celebrate his 9th birthday there, but they never made it, going through a similar plane crash over the Pacific, except Ridley Castillo woke up from it here, underwater, with no plane in sight.
It was a lot to digest for the both of them, so they spent most of the day away from the group, just talking to each other about the differences between their worlds. Ridley Castillo seemingly knew everything about him, but he knew nothing about the young Ridley. It was strange, like looking into a distorted mirror - so much was the same, and yet so much was different. It helped that young Ridley knew exactly what those differences were, though he didn't know enough about U.S. history to give too many details. He was able to confirm the current president in his world was different, at least. Meanwhile, he couldn't get over instantly learning how to speak English, and asked if he could skip school since he apparently learned everything the older Ridley had. He knew the younger Ridley could get a GED, but thought to mention how schools are meant to help develop social skills before the younger Ridley pointed out that he learned all of that from older Ridley too, and also that older Ridley had learned basically nothing useful, making way too few friends over the years. He then brought up an ex-girlfriend and started making fun of him for the absolute disaster it ended in (largely his own fault) and he groaned, embarrassed beyond words.
The younger Ridley theorized that they were the same person "from alternate universes or timelines or whatever", and while he found the idea plausible, the older Ridley started seeing him as a younger brother regardless. Sharing the same name was getting old fast and the younger Ridley was in the middle of a tirade about how the older Ridley needed to loosen up, so he told the younger Ridley he'd call him his brother from then on, or "bro" for short. The word "bro" coming out of his mouth was apparently enough to make the younger Ridley burst out laughing. He just sighed and shook his head.
He had been in the middle of Noble Arm testing, so he cut through the giggling by asking the younger Ridley what would happen when he unmanifested his Noble Arm. That got the younger Ridley switching from laughter to panic real fast. He tried to calm the boy down, said he didn't think there'd be any problem keeping his Noble Arm manifested, but the idea that his existence was tied to the older Ridley's Noble Arm finally made the existential dread sink in, and the older Ridley was ill-equipped to handle the younger, alternate universe version of himself crying about potentially never going home, not that his home in the Philippines was even there anymore. All Ridley could do was hug the boy and watch the sun set as he cried it out.
Eventually, the younger Ridley calmed down, reached out towards that sunset, and manifested his own Noble Arm - a gun just like the older Ridley's. It was startling, but the younger Ridley reasoned that, if the older version of him got a Noble Arm from the plane crash, why wouldn't he?
Strangely, it had the same name. It made sense in a way. Self-duplicating Noble Arms weren't unheard of, and he was already making copies of himself in a bizarre way, so why not? Except, when asked, they realized that the cylinder couldn't be opened, and no bullets could be taken out. The gun could be opened up, but only to reveal the artifice: it was a fake. Not a fake Noble Arm, as it turns out, but a fake gun. Specifically, a cap gun; the inside had a roll of caps that could be ignited with the trigger to produce smoke and noise. The younger Ridley needed to know that it was a real Noble Arm, because that would mean he had his own soul, right? The older Ridley didn't have the heart to turn him down, and he agreed to let it be tested underwater, since stealth was still a concern. Perhaps a bigger concern than before, given the implication that he could be responsible for at least one plane crash, in a cosmic sort of way.
Surprisingly, the cap gun functioned underwater without issue, even firing a strange, see-through bullet. The bullet kept disappearing into the sand or ocean however, which was weird, but the older Ridley took it to mean the bullet was harmless. Wanting to know more, he volunteered to let it graze him, but still, nothing happened. Even a direct shot passed did nothing, passing through him harmlessly. He could intuit the functions of his own bullets, but the younger Ridley didn't feel anything going on no matter what he did. The younger Ridley commented that maybe it had been a fake after all. The older Ridley wondered how his Noble Arm was supposed to interact with his summoned copy, and offered the younger Ridley his bullets, but it's not like they could be fired from a cap gun, and the younger Ridley couldn't discern what to do with any of them. Ultimately they decided to call it a day and returned back to the camp around the plane wreckage. It was surprisingly easy to sneak the younger Ridley in, considering the plane had around a hundred passengers in total. He introduced the younger Ridley to his father, saying he was a passenger who had lost his parents, and that they shared a name. His father was nice enough, dubbing him Junior, but it was apparent that anything like adoption was out of the question. He was grateful he didn't need to explain his parents' tics to the younger Ridley, though the rejection of the closest thing he had to parents in this world evidently hurt him. He invited the younger Ridley to sleep in the chair next to him and his dad inside the plane for the night - even after the crash, it was still the best shelter for the majority of the passengers, and his mother had been brought out of the plane and into a small shelter they put together in a day that was currently serving as a medical center.
Days passed. The plane staff estimated two or three days before rescue, which came and went without fanfare. They built more shelters - just enough so no one would have to sleep on the plane, whose interior was still partially exposed to the elements. The plane's supplies began to dwindle, and they started having to ration it out. Some of the other passengers, his father among them, managed to take charge, keeping everyone relatively productive. The survival incompetent were at least tasked with keeping the fires going so that they could extract fresh water from sea water, though demand was far outpacing supply. Ridley and Ridley alleged to be spearfishing during their Noble Arm testing sessions, and while they did sharpen sticks and give it a genuine try, it quickly became clear that the older Ridley's Noble Arm was the only way they'd ever get a fish on a spear. Hydrodynamic bullets certainly helped. Apparently he didn't need to know how it worked to make it. Though, even with the bullets, they usually ended up with only 2-4 each day. There were plenty of guppies, but fish worth eating after taking a bullet? Even modestly sized fish were disappointingly uncommon.
Through their testing, they discovered that the older Ridley couldn't casually create an army of little brothers, and that not even a headshot from the cap gun's imaginary bullet would do anything to the older Ridley. Younger Ridley theorizes that it's some kind of failsafe that exists because of the connection between their Noble Arms, (whatever that connection actually is) and that he probably needs to test it on other people. It didn't even work on the fish, so it might be human-only, which wasn't unusual for a Noble Arm. Older Ridley tries to remind him how bad of an idea that is, and younger Ridley insists that he wasn't actually going to do it. Finding out that a bullet does something when you fire it from a gun and it hits someone is probably not going to be a good thing when you don't mean them harm. All they really could do was focus on surviving. Older Ridley taught younger Ridley how to swim, and the latter had even managed to spear a fish, all on his own.
It happened without any real warning, while they were testing their Noble Arms in slightly deeper water. The younger Ridley let out a yelp, stopped, and began swimming back to shore. The older Ridley followed him back to ask what happened, and, bent down, breathing through clenched teeth, he answered, "stung, I think."
Fighting back his own panic, the older Ridley asked, "by what?" The younger Ridley simply shook his head. "Don't know."
Grimacing, the older Ridley took the spears and helped the younger Ridley up, supporting his weight. They began walking back to camp like that for maybe a minute or less before the younger Ridley almost fell over, letting out a whimper. His breathing was already becoming ragged and his eyes were wet with tears. It became clear, then, that the sting was bad. A stingray or a Jellyfish maybe, and so the older Ridley dropped the spears and picked the younger Ridley up, hurriedly carrying him the rest of the way.
They weren't even in sight of the camp when the older Ridley heard his younger brother's breath hitch, then stop. He went limp in his arms, and a rush of memories not his own flooded into his mind. He could remember growing up in the Philippines, with two familiar yet alien parents, in a quaint house he's never seen before that reminded him of his own. He remembered waking up, drowning, and being pulled ashore by someone with his own face. He remembers crying into his own embrace, realizing that there was a good chance he'd never be able to return home.
Ridley ignored it. He ignored it all. He wouldn't allow himself to feel just yet. They were out of sight of the camp, but definitely not out of hearing range, so he drew his Noble Arm and fired a King bullet at the sea. The gunshot was louder than usual, just like he intended.
He pocketed his Noble Arm, laid the young Ridley out, and began CPR. Chest compressions, thirty in a row, in time to the beat of staying alive. He isn't breathing. Hold his nose and form a seal over his mouth to force the air into his lungs. Thirty more compressions, effectively a substitute heart beat. He feels a rib break under his ministrations and winces. He forces his own breathing to deepen. A broken rib isn't unusual for CPR. Still no beat. He continues. Some other passengers finally, finally arrive. They stand around staring like dumbasses. He doesn't have time to pay them any attention. He shouts for antivenom without taking his eyes off his brother. The sight goes a bit blurry, but he doesn't stop. The chance that specific antivenoms could be found in an airplane medical kit were nil, but maybe they'd have something else that could help. Another breath, another thirty compressions. Another breath, another thirty compressions. Another breath, another thirty compressions.
No one else came forward. Not with drugs, not to help perform CPR, not to ask where the gunshot came from. They just stood by and stared blankly as Ridley slowly unraveled. No one else had come forward - until his father pulled him off, sweating and shaking, after what felt like hours later. His arms ached. His throat was dry. He felt like he was going to pass out, but he still shot his father the most venomous glare he could muster. His father wasn't a doctor. He had no right to declare his brother dead. He's read stories about successful resuscitation after over an hour of CPR, and there's no specific point in time where it's officially futile. Before he could say anything, however, his father put his arms around him, and suddenly he couldn't keep it together, feeling just like the younger Ridley did in his memories.
It was the worst day of his life.
The rest of it went by in a blur. Either out of respect for his loss or fear from the glares his father shot them, nobody approached him to ask about the gunshot, for which he was grateful.
When he woke up the next day, the other survivors avoided him, sending him sheepish looks. It took a while before he realized they buried his brother without him - a small cairn over a small mound where the sand met the tree line. It took him longer still to realize what they had done, when a woman approached him holding his brother's red hoodie, folded up neatly. Her words were, "We're sorry. The others were just so..." She mouthed something. A 'huh-' sound, maybe, from reading her lips, but no sound came out, and she shook her head. She met his gaze and told him, "I didn't." Then she pushed the hoodie into his hands and briskly walked away.
Idly, he remembered that his Noble Arm was still manifested in his pocket. He reached into his pocket with one hand, gripping it tightly. The other held his brother's red hoodie. He stared at it, wondering if it and everything else about him would just disappear if he let his Noble Arm do the same.
The thought of him in pieces in their stomachs made his own turn, so he did it, letting his Noble Arm disappear from his grasp. The hoodie remained, and he didn't know if that was better or worse.
His thoughts became stormy, but he didn't let it show as he grabbed his rations for the day and left.
He went back, passing by the two spears he had left on the sand, but didn't bother picking them up. He was too busy clutching the hoodie to his chest anyway. He returned to the beach where it happened, reached out with one hand, and his Noble Arm materialized within it at his command. He opened the cylinder, pulled out an expanding bullet, and willed it, desperately, to bring him back.
And it worked.
Like it never even happened, like the red hoodie in his arms was a fake, like all the pain he had gone through in the last 24 hours had been completely pointless, he was back. When his knees gave out, he found himself on the receiving end of a hug, and he clutched his brother back, as if he'd disappear if he let go.
Things were different now. He knew how the memory sharing worked - it was like he had lived it himself. Having his life upended by the war was bad enough, but actually dying? It wasn't something he could forget. He could still feel the burning, prickling sensation crawling up his leg. He had put it out of his mind at the time, but he really had all his memories of dying, didn't he?
He was prepared to keep hugging his brother all day long, but eventually the younger Ridley pulled back, saying, "alright, so I know you're still fucked up about it all but we really gotta talk about your Noble Arm."
It was clear now that the younger Ridley was immortal as long as the older was there to bring him back. The older Ridley tried to argue that it might not work that way every time, but it was pointless trying to argue with someone who knew his whole life front to back. He was grasping and the younger Ridley knew it. He just didn't want to think about what the younger Ridley was hinting at, but he eventually had no choice but to acknowledge it when the younger Ridley came out and said it.
"You guys need food."
He just gave the older Ridley an unimpressed look.
The older Ridley continued, "we're getting by off the fish, coconuts, and remaining airplane food. We're not the only ones out fishing every day, you know?"
"Every day everyone gets thinner. Some of the passengers are too lethargic to move anymore. We get more fish meat than the others, mostly because we bring more back, because we're cheating, but the others only get some when it's their turn. Half the injured are already dead, and we still don't know when we'll be rescued."
"Just because we can doesn't mean you should have to!"
"I should have to? Bro, I'm trying to psych you up. I don't know about you but I'm pretty jazzed about being immortal."
"You're not immortal. I'm not immortal, therefore, you're not immortal."
"You know what I mean. Besides, you've got your Noble Arm. Pretty sure a bullet to the head hurts less-"
"Fine, what do you want me to say? I'm hungry and I hate it here. I hate having to go spearfishing every day, eating half a meal and going to bed damp and shivering next to a campfire with a bunch of strangers I've never met. I want a hamburger, and this is unironically the closest I'm gonna get."
He stared at his younger self in horror, who just stared back, unperturbed.
"I know you're still angry about those guys eating the body-"
"-my body, and yeah, it was a lil' rude, but I'm not going to hold it against them when they're all starving to death here."
"What if I want to hold it against them?"
He raised a challenging glare at his younger self. He definitely could.
"...You shouldn't. At least let me eat, dammit."
"Yourself?" He said, incredulous.
"Yeah, bro. I'm arguably the most ethically sourced meat out there. USDA-certified 100% cruelty-free"
"Pretty sure lab meat is more ethical than putting a bullet into a 9-year old. Doesn't sound cruelty-free to me."
"Eh, I've got your memories, I'm basically 18 already."
"Honestly, you should think of me as 27, we've both got 27 years of life in our heads now. Crazy how you get mine too when I die. I'd argue you should be able to drink in America now. You're already legal in the Philippines anyway."
He smirks, but shakes his head, trying to seem serious. "It's okay. Really. It's like blinking and waking up on the other side. I just want you to be fine with it too. You're the one who has to do all the hard work. Corpses don't butcher themselves."
He pinches the bridge of his nose. "I think I'm gonna be sick."
"Not as sick as you'll be on an empty stomach."
"Shut the fuck up you zombie gremlin."
He laughs. Fuck, that laugh. It didn't belong on such a wretched island.
The older Ridley tilts his head back, staring up at the clouds. He knew more about the younger Ridley now. Enough to know that he'd probably get himself killed anyway if he didn't agree. Relatively painless suicide on a desert island was difficult, and if he didn't feel responsible for his younger brother before, he definitely does now that he brought him back from the dead. He can't knowingly let him suffer, and it'd just be self-satisfactory to keep his brother restrained all the time. He'd hate it. Would maybe throw a tantrum - would definitely, before having gained his memories. Might hurt himself just out of spite, with the knowledge that it won't matter if he dies. Fuck, that can't be good for a growing child's mental health. None of this is.
"Fine, but I refuse to eat human meat while there's perfectly good fish here."
After talking out the details, they decided it would be best to keep his Noble Arm abilities secret. Even if the other survivors figure out he owns a gun, they don't need to know where he got the meat from. It'd just make everyone uncomfortable anyway. This also meant the younger Ridley wouldn't be able to return to camp, though he didn't seem to mind spending nights dead.
With a plan sorted out, the younger Ridley reminded him that he'll still need time for butchery, and sent him back to camp for a knife, something to carry the meat back with, and something to help him dig a hole to toss the bones and inedible viscera into. He returned with a steak knife, a tarp, and a piece of metal from the airplane tied to a stick.
When it came time to do the deed, he hesitated. It was a disturbing sight; his gun pressed against his brother's forehead. He was seriously considering calling the whole thing off when his brother grabbed the barrel, holding it steady, and said "you don't have to look, when... it's done."
He looked away, towards the horizon, where a rescue never came, and held his finger against the trigger, still hesitating. Then, he felt his brother press against his index and all too fast, the gunshot rang out, accompanied by the flood of memories that get transferred to him upon his brother's death. The redundant parts were filtered out, either automatically or without much thought, and so he was left with just the span between his brother's first death in this world and his second.
He fell to his knees, spilling the contents of his stomach onto the sand. He had lied. His brother, his younger iteration, had lied.
He said it was okay, that it didn't bother him, but the memories were as vivid as if he had lived them himself, and the fear was undeniably real. Not even a bullet to the frontal lobe was completely devoid of pain, and it had been all his fault. His brother had tricked him, knowing full well that it was a line that, once crossed, he couldn't come back from. The kid genuinely believed he would get used to dying, but there's no way to know if he was right, and now they would be stuck like this. He had already killed his brother when he didn't want to die, just because his brother said it was okay. What's to stop him from doing it again? The mistrust would forever be there, but he couldn't stay mad, because he had lived it, had practically made the decision himself, and he knows he'd do it again - knows he would do the same were the roles were reversed. They really are the same person, which is why he knows they'll find themselves in the same situation, threatening suicide for the greater good, and he knows he'll kill his brother again, because maybe this time, he'll actually have meant it when he says it's okay.
He dry heaves, having already emptied his stomach's meager contents. Then he stands back up and prepares the tarp and the body. If Ridley Alvarus is one thing, it's pragmatic, and he's not about to let his little brother die for nothing. He has to remove all the skin and bone to keep it at least slightly subtle, and the blood ends up getting everywhere.
When they ask him what type of meat he's brought back, he's reminded of something he's read on the internet - supposedly, human flesh tastes like pork. He tells them it's sea pig meat and goes to bed, not giving a single solitary shit how believable it sounds.
When he wakes up, he finds all the meat gone and most of the camp in higher spirits. It feels... wrong.
In addition to his rations and butchering tools, he takes some sticks, douses half of one in sea water, and lights the other end before leaving this time. He has to transfer the fire to another stick when the torch diminishes, wetting the handles as he goes along, but otherwise has no trouble bringing it towards the shore where he buried his brother, most of the stuff wrapped up in the tarp. He finally picks up the spears along the way, bringing them over, and begins setting up a campfire when he gets there, just for himself and his brother to eat fish with.
He doesn't bother trying to be subtle, and shooting fish turns out to be much easier when you don't have to keep the gun underwater while you do it. The island is big, but not that big, and his modifiable bullets can't keep the sound of the gunshot quiet. Doesn't matter. He has four fish within only an hour, a lucky haul, and begins cooking them up for himself and his brother. He hadn't eaten at all yesterday, so he doesn't even bother talking to his brother when the fish are cooked, simply tossing the bullet, expanding it into the younger Ridley, and digging in.
His brother follows suit, and while so much food just for the two of them is a luxury, his brother is frowning as he eats, no doubt from his older brothers' memories. His brother apologizes, and the older Ridley nods in acknowledgement.
After they wash the meal down with the meager water ration split two ways, the older Ridley draws his Noble Arm, walks over, and gives his brother a tight hug. Pointing it as his brother, between the eyebrows. He gently asks, "Are you sure it's okay?"
He answers, "I'm sure."
He doesn't look away when he pulls the trigger himself, this time. Maybe he wanted to make it harder on himself, but it still feels easier the second time.
He hates that it's easier the second time.
The next day feels like a repeat of the previous. The day after that, the same. His brother tries to make light of the situation, talks about how he's really getting used to it, and he knows his brother isn't lying, but that doesn't make him feel better about it.
It's on the fifth day, while they're eating fish, that his father approaches them, blade drawn.
"You need to get away from that child."
He turns to see his father's sword crackling and frowns. "I think this is a misunderstanding."
His father raises his voice. "Oh? Is it a misunderstanding that you've been bringing this child back with your Noble Arm and slaughtering him over and over!?"
The older Ridley inhales sharply, not having a good response. His brother rises in his defense. "Hey, it was my idea, and so far it's been working out great!"
His father spoke in a low tone, a dangerous edge to his voice. "And who made it your idea?"
His father had always been the stubborn type. That was true no matter what world they were in. When he's like this, he won't listen to reason, and he won't believe any convenient explanation. Like everything else, things were different now. He's never been above anger-driven corporal punishment, but he's been too old for a spanking for years now. A Noble Arm between the both of them changes the stakes of "discipline", and he knows from experience he can't trust his father to be the responsible one. He's heard stories of Noble Arm users surviving gunshot wounds to the head. Ironic anecdote, given the circumstances, but having that sword in his head was not something he liked imagining. Definitely not while on a desert island.
"I think having his body eaten the first time was the inspiration."
His father might have misunderstood, but he didn't care. It wasn't important right now. His father came at him, and he would have to answer. He switched to a third bullet type, hoping for some kind of effect against a human target, and fired towards his father's legs. He simply missed from the movements of his father's stride. The man closed the gap and slammed the flat end of the blade into the side of his head, knocking the older Ridley onto the sand and making his head ring like a bell. He stomped down on his son's gun hand, pinning it in place while pointing his sword at his son's throat like some kind of stereotypical manhua villain. He'd laugh if the situation weren't so infuriating.
"Shooting at your own father!? Have you lost your mind!?"
Funny, coming from you. He gingerly reaches up with his free hand to feel the wetness coming from his head. Blood, of course.
Then a gunshot rings out, not from his own Noble Arm, but from his brothers. The noise is almost identical above water. The gun smoke is excessive for a gunshot but nice and flashy. It does nothing but draw his father's attention, which, considering the sword at his throat, the foot on his hand, and his lack of particular gymnastic ability, doesn't help much, but his blood freezes when his father says his next words.
"A Noble Arm of your own, eh, kid?"
"You know, these things really do make for problem children. I don't know what you're trying to pull here kid, but I ain't gonna let it happen."
They don't acknowledge him.
"I usually don't like overstepping my bounds as a parent, but, as I've been told, you've lost yours. Someone needs to teach you some Noble Arm trigger discipline, and out here, it's not going to be the foster care system."
His father looks down at him with a disgusted look. "You're one to talk." He swings his Noble Arm, hitting the older Ridley in the head with the flat end again.
The younger Ridley speaks up. "Stop it!"
His father shakes his head. "Don't worry, kid. I'll make sure you're free at the end of this, no matter what."
The younger Ridley brings his cap gun up again and fires, but the invisible bullets do nothing. His father sighs, kicks the older Ridley's Noble Arm out of his hand, then charges at the younger Ridley, sword raised.
His father clearly hasn't thought Noble Arms through. He dematerializes his Noble Arm and brings it back to his hand, aiming it at his fathers arm and firing just as he's about to swing at the younger Ridley. The bullet finds its mark, his father's arm jerks mid-swing, and suddenly there's a lot of blood.
The older Ridley grits his teeth as the younger Ridley drops to the ground. His father turns back to him and gives him hard look. "What are you upset about? You can bring him back, can't you?"
His blood boils. He aims towards his father's head and shoots, but it's blocked by his father's sword, somehow. He's about to take aim again when, suddenly, memories of dying flash through his mind. He wants to scream, but his father is on him, too fast, and he practically falls backwards to avoid the sharp end of a blade swinging for his head as he raises his own Noble Arm and fires, point-blank.
Blood leaks over him, blinding his left eye. Air stings at the wound that stretches across his face. He's fallen onto his back, with his father on top of him, bleeding profusely from the head.
He shuts both eyes. His father may be obstinate and self-righteous, but he was right about him. Hypocrite that he is, thinking his father was the one who couldn't be trusted to act responsibly.
He grabs the Hexad Anamnesis, probably so named because of its six bullets, and mentally loads an expanding bullet into the chamber. He aims the barrel towards the roof of his mouth. It'll expand right after being fired, hopefully only achieving full expansion after exiting his skull. He can't imagine his brother would appreciate being covered in his gray matter.
He sighs, then pulls the trigger.
Instead of something matching his memories, instead of a repeat of the five bullets he's taken to the head, the bullet goes right into him, and a blinding light erupts, enveloping him.
When the light penetrating his eyelids is no longer blinding, he hazards opening his eyes. The same blue sky he's always seen greets him. His father feels so much heavier, and his clothes, so much softer.
Then he realizes he's wearing the same red hoodie his brother always wore. The same red hoodie he had kept five of, not wanting to bury them with the remains. This made six, and, sitting up, spotting his brother's newest dead body, seven, if he dared.
Suddenly finding himself in his brother's body, scared and confused in a way he doesn't normally allow himself to feel, he pulls himself out from under his father before noticing the man is still breathing. God. He almost killed himself over the guilt of something he didn't do. Fucking Noble Arms. Fucking big Ridley and his big dumb emotional constipation.
Not letting himself stop to cry, he drags his father's body onto the tarp with great difficulty before slowly pulling the man back to camp.
It takes easily thrice as long as the trip usually does, but when he does make it, he leaves his father at the edge of camp, manifests his Noble Arm, and opens fire on the first survivor he sees. They scream, they panic, but just like the fight against his father - older Ridley's father, nothing happens when the bullets pass through, and they don't seem to notice it. Maybe they assume he's missing every shot. Unlike with Ridley's father, he doesn't feel anything. He had finally been on the cusp of understanding his Noble Arm, only to die before any progress could be made. No more.
Eventually some of the survivors realize the lack of a threat he poses and approach him with fishing spears. He nails the first one to do so right in the head and feels his power surge. In what way, he doesn't understand. The man flinches, but when it becomes obvious that nothing happens, lowers his spear. They start talking at him but he tunes them out, not interested in talking. Maybe this is a tantrum. Maybe he's finally lost his shit. He shoots another man and feels some kind of power available to him. It doesn't seem actively usable, so he shoots another person, and it goes away as quick as it came. It's frustrating.
The first man he shot steps forward again and he points his cap gun at him and shoots. No change. He takes aim at another person, and it counts this time. He's close. He's not sure what he's close to, but all he needs is one more shot -
He hears something behind him and spins around, shooting the man as they lunge at him. It does nothing to stop the man, but the man passes right through him as light once more envelops him.
He feels he needs to make a choice, right now, but he doesn't know what each of the choices mean. He takes the first option, and alongside the two lives he remembers living, a third joins them. Seventeen, going on eighteen in time with the plane crash. Probably the same age as the older Ridley. Er... the American Ridley. This one was born and raised in Paris, France. He - no, she, emerges from the flash of light, having to mentally reconcile the sudden acquisition of twenty seven years of memories while dealing with an angry mob of her own making.
She should have her own Noble Arm, just like them, shouldn't she?
She extends a manicured hand and vines of gold alight around a spire of silver. A Halberd huh? Doesn't really fit the pattern, but it does look pretty sick.
She gives it a twirl with one hand, then slams the ground with the butt-end. "You guys ever fight someone with a Noble Arm?"
The crowd looked at each other, probably wondering if any among them would dare to claim they have.
"Yeah, can't say I recommend it."
She turned back towards the spot she left her father at. Er... the American version's world's version of her father at. That guy. Yeah. She walks over to him, simply ignoring the crowd fanned out around her. A couple of confrontational stragglers follow, probably, but she can't be bothered about some spectators.
She's not sure why the other two were having such a rough time of it. Grasping the abilities of one's Noble Arm should be simple. She can feel the man's damaged... uh... existence, for lack of better term. Okay, maybe not that simple, but it doesn't take rocket science to figure out she has healing powers now.
She looks down at the man, wondering just how much she should heal him, lest he wake up and ask annoying questions, when the sound of a boat horn erupts from behind her. She turns to see a rather large ship approaching in the distance, and the survivors who aren't keeping an eye on her are waving and making noise. Huh. Took them long enough.
He points her Halberd at the man at her feet and gives him the best recovery she can without him regaining consciousness. Hopefully she can avoid him on the boat. Based on the memories, the guy can be really annoying. Dad really is the same no matter what universe, huh.
She decides to ride out some of the aftermath. Heal whatever passengers she can from among those left. 'I dunno man, I just got here' works surprisingly well, and she has a bunch of witnesses to keep her from having to explain much else to both the other survivors and the rescue team when the boat arrives. The whole alternate universe thing would be annoying, so she keeps it under wraps, pretending to be just some French, no, British girl. Makes her English fluency less strange. Her dad is American, that's why she has an American accent. Yep, definitely.
Kinda pointless making up a cover story when she's just gonna shove all the work back on the American Ridley. The OG Ridley? Kinda sucks to be seen as an alternate but them's the breaks when another iteration of you is native to the world you're living in. Based on little Ridley's memories, you don't go back when you die, though since little Ridley can apparently become her, she gets in on the functional immortality too, right? Assuming the actual little Ridley can transform into her, and not just American Ridley transformed into little Ridley transformed into French Ridley. Honestly, if American Ridley can become little Ridley, then he should be able to transform into her directly, shouldn't he?
Grasping your own abilities shouldn't be this hard. At the least, it isn't for her, so she knows already that she has the ability to revert. She just has to hold her Noble Arm by the pointy end and pull it towards her. Morbid symbolism, but eh, better than the bullet to the head. Come to think of it, shooting himself in the head and not the body or limbs wasn't even necessary to transform, was it?
She waits until she gets some privacy on the surprisingly spacious ship. Her Americanized mother's going to be waking up soon, and she is absolutely not dealing with that. With a flourish, she stabs the tip of the Noble Arm into herself. It's time to get her little brother back.
As the unnecessary lightshow fades, his face is back to stinging with a fresh, profusely bleeding slash wound. He ignores it, pulling an expanding bullet out of the cylinder and willing it to become his little brother.
Then he hugs him, lets himself feel the emotions he's been pushing aside, lets himself be vulnerable, because things are finally, finally getting better.
Current Goal: End the China-ASEAN war and help those whose lives were negatively affected by it.
Military Rank: Private First Class (Volunteer)
Name: Ridley Castillo Nicknames: (little) Bro(ther), little Ridley, short stuff, shrimp Age: 12 Appearance: 4'11", brown hair, black eyes, never goes outside without a hoodie even in mid-summer heat. Nationality: Filipino
Noble Arm Name & Appearance: Hexad Anamnesis - in this form, it takes on an appearance similar to King Ridley’s revolver, though upon closer inspection, one would notice that the cylinder does not rotate and the hammer cannot be pulled back. Simply put, it’s a cap gun, producing noise and smoke to simulate a real gun, but not firing any physical projectiles. Lacks the orange tip of modern toy guns and could pass as a real gun.
Personal Noble Arm Rank: E
Power: F+ (Conditional effects) Speed: C+ (Conditional effects) Range: D Persistence: C Precision: D Potential: E
Noble Arm Type and Range: Ridley Castillo’s iteration of the Hexad Anamnesis isn’t particularly capable by itself, and is mainly geared towards transforming into his other iterations. However, his method of doing so resembles a ranged fighting style.
Noble Arm Abilities:
Infinite Ammo - Pawn Ridley’s cap gun never runs out of ammo.
Step Counter - Every time Pawn Ridley fires his Hexad Anamnesis, an imaginary (harmless) bullet is shot, discernible to (any iteration of) Ridley but otherwise physically nonexistent. When the bullet hits a living human (clinical death doesn’t count if they’re still moving) that Pawn Ridley identifies as an enemy, (gaming the counter only works if he’s convinced his target intends him real harm) an imaginary counter increments. The counter cannot increment on the same target twice in a row, nor increment by shooting any iteration of Ridley. When Pawn Ridley shoots himself with the imaginary bullet, the counter is reset. Since the bullet is imaginary, Pawn Ridley needs to be aware of any obstruction between himself and the target for it to actually obstruct the bullet. As such, he can fire through bulletproof windows and invisible shields up until he notices a real bullet failing to penetrate them.
Double Move - If the step counter is at 0 and Pawn Ridley lands a headshot against an appropriate target, the Step Counter increments by 2 instead of 1.
En Passant - When the step counter is at exactly 3, Pawn Ridley will automatically parry the next attack made against him that he is unable to dodge, exhibiting involuntary, apparently prescient superhuman reaction speed to accomplish doing so and the ability to deflect or erase any incoming attack using his imaginary bullets. Threats are assessed subconsciously and while it won’t activate from a forceful pat on the back, he cannot deliberately save the effect when he would perceive the end result as an attack. If the attack is physical, the imaginary bullet will cause it to simply stop dead, violating Newton’s 1st law, with the controller/target (if any) not entirely understanding how or why they suddenly stopped. If the attack is energy-based, it will simply halt and likely dissipate harmlessly, as if erased. This ability can only be used once without resetting the step counter, and does not stop anyone from redoing the attack, if possible. Successfully landing a shot on any threat with this ability will increment the step counter, provided the attack's origin is not any iteration of Ridley, nor the last target to have incremented the counter. Repeated use through resetting the step counter will eventually tire Ridley out.
Promotion - When the step counter reaches 6, Pawn Ridley must transform into his Bishop, Knight, Rook or Queen iterations in a flash of light. Transformation into Queen Ridley is not possible if King Ridley has already transformed into Queen Ridley. Unlike King Ridley's Henshin Invoker ability or the Revert ability of his other iterations, Pawn Ridley becomes completely intangible during the flash of light, and will always emerge unscathed after a few seconds. If King Ridley attempts to bypass the cooldown of his own transformation ability through this, he will simply revert to King Ridley. Transformations can last indefinitely. Pawn Ridley does not revert upon death, simply dying, though if King Ridley transforms using this ability, he will revert back to King Ridley upon death, with the same cooldowns as his Henshin Invoker ability. Strain and fatigue carry over between transformations.
Miscellaneous Abilities: Pretty good at acting, skateboarding, and handling animals. He is secretly the one true god of chess, and at least some of that infinite talent transfers over to checkers and other strategy games.
Personality: Ridley Castillo is mature for his age. It'd be stranger if he wasn't, given the shared memories, but he never asked to grow up so fast. As he is, he hesitates to express or indulge his childish side, and tends to feel like he should be able to take care of himself. Because of King Ridley's abilities, he views himself as expendable, and is brave enough to push to be the first sacrifice even when he's scared out of his mind. In general, his demeanor is fairly chill. He tries to make light of his deaths with jokes so people feel less bad about them. It works for himself, at least. Addresses King Ridley as his brother, Bishop Ridley as his sister, Knight by his chess designation, Rook by his surname, and Queen Ridley as just Ridley, since it makes her happy.
Likes: Meat, video games, tabletop games, hoodies Dislikes: Being treated like a child, having to wait around with nothing to do Fears: Torture, drowning, venomous animals, losing his brother
Bio: Ridley was born and raised in the Philippines, and for the most part, his life had been pretty ordinary. Unfortunately, that only lasted until the day China made an attack on the town he called his home. He and his parents evacuated successfully, but when they were finally allowed to return home, they found that their house was destroyed, charred to cinders and marred by gaping holes in the walls. Ridley wasn't even allowed to look at what remained of his room because of the risk of the second story collapsing beneath him. They had packed the essentials, but there was only so much of his life he could fit in one briefcase.
It didn't matter anyway. Soon enough he'd lose even that.
They didn't have a lot of options within the Philippines, so his parents decided to stay with their family - his aunt, who lived in the U.S. They never made it. Their plane got caught in a storm and struck by lightning. It was forced to crash land in the pacific, though he can't remember the details. He remembers bracing himself for a rough landing, then suddenly, he was underwater, too far underwater, unable to tell which way was up. He had no breath in his lungs, and could only thrash, unable to swim, unable to think, unable to breathe, unable to scream.
He barely registered someone dragging him above water and towards the shore, and though he was coughing and spluttering even after he had all four limbs on (relatively) solid ground, finally being able to breathe let him turn his attention to the sudden, disorienting influx of memories of someone else's life. It was a life that bore many superficial resemblances to his own, but had too many differences to count, and was, as far as he could tell, exactly twice as long.
He knew, from the start, that the man - the older version of himself? The older, Caucasian version of himself? He knew that they knew even less than he did, so he decided to start with an introduction. They share a first name, after all.
The older Ridley had gotten to see the plane crash through to its conclusion. They, and now he, were stranded on a desert island, and while surviving it hadn't been easy, help eventually arrived.
The scars left by their time on that island, both physical and mental, were large. It was especially bad for his older brother. His mother - the bizarro American version of his mother, arranged therapy sessions for the both of them. She was nice, just like his mom. Neither he nor his older brother have been on speaking terms with their dad since they got off the island. He's thought of trying to bridge the gap, since their conflict was based on a misunderstanding, but he's not sure explaining it would work on his own version of his father, and he can't deny the American version with a magic sword scares him. His new mom, who seems to adore him, has taken it upon herself to clear things up, though he's not sure if it actually works or not.
He meets the other iterations of Ridley using his older brother's Noble Arm, and they exchange memories with his older brother in the process. Eventually he starts feeling left out, but they have to jump through hoops to use his Promotion ability because his brother forbid him from committing suicide, and he doesn't want to upset his brother.
It's him, Ridley Castillo, that makes the chess connection - "I mean, I was thinking this since we met Park, and after becoming him and gaining that ability, I became sure. Why can he switch places with you and nobody else? Just look at our Noble Arm powers, they perfectly match chess archetypes. Plus, we're basically all expendable unless you die, especially me, just like a King and a Pawn in real chess."
He got a lecture about calling himself and the others expendable afterwards, but his brother had to agree that there was a chess theme. So did the other iterations when they were eventually asked. Queen Ridley hated the theory, but she agreed it was likely true.
Eventually, with a greater grasp on his Noble Arm, his brother decided that he wanted to join the China-ASEAN war, on the side of the ASEAN. He had already consulted with himself while transformed, and none of the others outright rejected the idea, having his memories and no one to argue their misgivings against. It was obvious he was doing it because of the way his younger brother had lost his home, and Pawn Ridley insisted that he didn't have to fight just for his sake, for a country that wasn't even his own. His brother was set to have a successful career in politics in his own country, even only accounting for his own merits. He could make a difference in the world without putting himself at risk. His brother simply shook his head, saying that he wanted to pursue politics to make the world a better place. He likely couldn't become the president before the war was over, and anything less than that wouldn't have any meaningful impact on it. People were out there, dying to protect their homes from others dying in service to their country because some greedy assholes demanded it. He wanted to do something about it, and he couldn't do so as something like the governor of New York.
So, Pawn Ridley demanded to come too.
He had a Noble Arm all his own, even if it may or may not have been an extension of his brother's. Times were desperate enough that child soldiers were on the table, and he was possibly the most qualified child in the world given his (supposed) mental age. He was functionally immortal and made up the majority of his King form's personal power. He was joining the war alongside his brother or neither of them would. That was his ultimatum. Unspoken was the threat that he was willing to wait out the war, dead.
His brother sagged in his chair, let out a long-suffering sigh, and decided to delay his plans to join the war. They had the memories, but not the personal experience nor the muscle memory of actual combat, and Knight and Rook were perfectly capable of training them all. Bishop, who he began thinking of as a big sister, took to it like a fish to water. Queen Ridley, less so, but then, she probably needed it the least considering her Noble Arm, and she could still beat King and Pawn Ridley in hand-to-hand any day. For the two of them, a lot of time was spent on training aim and maneuvering within a firefight. They had to build themselves up from scratch, and the physical conditioning Knight Ridley put them all through was torture.
Around a year after the training started, his brother finally announced that they were going to the Philippines. The sights, away from the war, were nostalgic, but it wasn't home anymore. For as long as he was in this world, his home was with his brother, wherever that took him.
Current Goal: Help his brother accomplish his goals.
Military Rank: Private First Class (Volunteer)
Name: Ridley Destrier Nicknames: Bishop, Dez, (big) sis(ter) Age: 21 Appearance: 5'6", blond hair, violet eyes. Prefers comfortable clothing. Less graceful in heels than any other iteration of Ridley. Nationality: French
Noble Arm Name & Appearance: Hexad Anamnesis - in this form, it takes the shape of an ornate Halberd, with a bright and sparkly golden blade patterned with shiny silver swirl designs. The blade’s edges have the same silver color, and the gold-silver pattern is inverted along the handle, being primarily silver with swirly golden designs.
Personal Noble Arm Rank: C
Power: A Speed: C Range: B- (Reraise) Persistence: B- (Reraise) Precision: B Potential: D
Noble Arm Type and Range: Ridley Destrier’s iteration of the Hexad Anamnesis mainly lends itself towards support, though it can be used on herself to supplement a melee fighting style.
Noble Arm Abilities:
Abilities in gray subject to rework/replacement; WIP
Metaphysical Healing - Ridley is capable of healing pretty much any kind of physical wound or disease, up to and including death, though her ability to do so is inversely proportional to the number of people who know about the damage. Her method of doing so is by tapping into an alternate universe where it didn’t happen, where the wound or disease or malfunctioning serotonin receptors aren’t there, and grafting it onto our reality as if selectively rewriting history or causality. Physical damage reflects onto the metaphysical self, and the more people that know about the damage and the longer it has been around, the more it becomes an inherent fixture of the metaphysical self, and thus beyond her ability to heal. The metaphysical damage acts as a catalyst to this ability, thus she cannot use this ability without someone hurt to heal, she cannot reach for realities with apparent differences beyond the relevant damage, and she cannot use it for anything but healing. Remember kids, removal of stress-induced brain damage is no substitute for therapy.
In practical terms, Ridley's ability to heal is relatively uninhibited. No one looks at a gunshot wound and says "yeah that's just Greg's bullet wound, that's supposed to be there." Unless the wound or illness is highly publicized, she can probably heal it. Even if a lot of people know about the wound/ailment, she can probably do at least a partial rewrite. The wound/ailment as well as the identity of the victim would have to disseminate into the cultural zeitgeist at a rapid pace for the issue to be completely beyond her purview. The main shortcomings of her ability are with trying to heal permanent disabilities and death. As previously stated, her ability to heal is inversely proportional to the number of people who know about the damage, and so is the time limit. Her ability behaves as if "a tree falling in the middle of the woods without anyone around to hear it" is the same as it not having happened at all; death isn't fully "real" until it is discovered by a human, no matter what state the body is in or what prediction humans may have possessed of its inevitable fall, and she could theoretically revive someone years after their death (up to 7) if she is the first to discover the body, if their soul has not yet passed on.
More realistically, she can only guarantee resurrection if she is able to heal the body within 13 hours of their death, if she is the first to uncover the body. In most cases, the victim does not count, but the killer does, and the killer (if any) knowing of the death further cuts the time limit down to 7 hours. If even one other person knows of the death, the time limit takes another nosedive down to 64 minutes. From there the time penalties flatten out, continuing downward at an irregular rate. Two others reduces it to 32 minutes. Three other people reduces it to 26 minutes, then 22 min, 18 min, 14 min, 13 min, 11 min, 9 min, and finally 7 minutes when 10 people not including herself, the victim or the killer know of the death. From there, the time limit no longer decreases. Other iterations of Ridley do not count as separate people for the purpose of the time limit.
Permanent disabilities have longer and more inconsistent time limits. The uncertainty of whether recovery is possible combined with the existence of Noble Arm-based limb regeneration (and thus a perception that such injuries are not permanent) seems to ambiguously lower the number of people who count against the time limits, or perhaps how much they count against it, and the actual time limits are several times longer. She's never seen limbs she couldn't regrow within the same day of receiving the injury, though that may have just been luck.
Ridley requires a body (or what’s left of it) to heal someone. While it theoretically doesn’t matter how small the pieces are, (a speck of dust or strand of hair is situationally enough) she can only heal the "greatest remaining whole" - the core of a being. By default, it is the brain, though in the absence of such, it becomes the heart and then usually the biggest chunk of the body that remains.
Metaphysical Tracking - Ridley is capable of tracking the aforementioned metaphysical core of a being through any individual piece of that person, as long as she is holding the latter and the former is within her range.
Reraise - Ridley can prepare an "undo" to put on someone in advance, automatically reviving them upon death. This requires her Noble Arm to be within melee range of the target laterally, or within √98 m (9.9 m/32.5 ft) directly above their head. When she does so, the effect manifests as a glowing halo that floats just above the target’s head. The halo is semi-tangible, (cannot be moved much, nor used as a weapon) lasts for 64 minutes, and requires a fair bit of effort to make, whether it is used or not. Haloes do not stack, only refresh, and go away after revival. While haloes fully restore physical condition, they do not heal fatigue, Noble Arm strain, or mental trauma, and coming back from death is a bit taxing. This Ability has a cooldown of 90 minutes, and the cooldown increases by 30 minutes if the halo activates.
Revert - By stabbing herself with the tip of the Hexad Anamnesis, Ridley can return to her original King or Pawn form in a flash of light. Doing so does not cause Ridley any harm nor incur a cooldown, though it takes the same amount of time as King Ridley's Henshin Invoker transformation.
Miscellaneous Abilities: Despite previously living a civilian life, she's a natural at close quarters combat, and is regarded as the best at hand-to-hand among all of Ridley's iterations, at least in terms of technique. (Rook Ridley is too swole) She's the best at poker and has the most common sense and emotional intelligence of any of Ridley's iterations by far. She can play the acoustic and bass guitar well, is a talented artist, and is far more athletic than she may appear.
Personality: Flippant, casual, and utterly unflappable. Ridley Destrier tends to have an air about her that loudly proclaims that she does not give a shit. She's quick to offload responsibility and doesn't like putting up with messy situations. When push comes to shove, however, she's not afraid to take charge and deal with things thoroughly. She's realistic, pragmatic, and just a bit sarcastic. Likes to tease people with various nicknames. Refers to Pawn Ridley as her little brother (sometimes) and everyone else by nicknames. Secretly terrible at remembering names, not that she forgot the ones she has years of memories for.
Likes: Ice cream, Chinese food, horror movies Dislikes: Cooking, standing on ceremony Fears: Becoming a wanted criminal or otherwise getting hunted down because of the actions of her other iterations; knowing no peace.
Bio: Ridley Destrier comes from a world with no Noble Arms, or at least, none originating from an occult programming virus. Her world has magic - has always had magic, though few were capable of even rudimentary spellcasting. She was among those that were, and while her magical capacity had never been outstanding, there were few among her peers who could compete with her in technique and control.
She attended Avenir Academy, a prestigious mage school that all but guaranteed future success for its graduates. Those in power had ways of staying in power, and it was no secret that many world leaders had at least rudimentary magical capability. Hell, some consider it an important quality, since those with magic likely have personally verifiable means to defend themselves against magical coercion. Wouldn't want a repeat of World War IV, would we?
Ridley Destrier is the only adult iteration to never have graduated. She's the same age as the others, but Avenir Academy's school year didn't quite line up. Rather, it was during a school trip that their plane was struck by lightning and crashed into the pacific. Half the school trip had already been a success - they first flew to Rio de Janeiro where they would study the impact of large-scale magic beacons, and were going to continue on towards New Zealand for a lesson on the magical application of antipodes, but they never made it. No one believed the sudden appearance of a thunderstorm was a coincidence, but they didn't have time to find out who, if anyone, did it. Now, stuck in another world, she likely never will.
She's given up on going back. Wouldn't want to even if she could. It'd be nice to get some independence from boss man and everyone's favorite shrimp, but her Noble Arm is more powerful and more useful, if a bit narrower in scope, than what she ever had as a mage. Power like that's valuable, and she can't imagine things being harder here in the long run than it would be for her to navigate the political bullshit of her original world. She doesn't even have to actually give up her parents - the ones here are pretty much exactly the same as her own.
Maybe her motives are a bit selfish, running from her personal problems and leaving the people that would miss her in her own world behind, but as long as she does good in this world, it balances out, right?
Current Goal: Make sure her other iterations don't get themselves killed. Find better work-life balance.
Former Civilian Rank: Member of the student council at Avenir Academy, which technically makes her a civilian, though it comes with a considerable level of indirect international sociopolitical influence.
Name: Ridley Miyashiro Nicknames: Knight, Shiro, Naruto, Sasuke, future Hokage, senpai Age: 21 Appearance: 5'8", black hair, dark blue eyes, dark and plain wardrobe, really likes leather/pleather jackets. Nationality: Japanese
Noble Arm Name & Appearance: Hexad Anamnesis - in this form, it takes the form of a straight, single-edged sword with a dark blue sheen. The blunt side is patterned with swirls, and the blade’s edge lights up in a bright electric blue while it is being moved under the effect of his Designate Warpath ability.
Personal Noble Arm Rank: C
Power: A Speed: A Range: E+ (Designate Warpath's planned route) Persistence: A Precision: E Potential: D
Noble Arm Type and Range: Ridley Miyashiro’s iteration of the Hexad Anamnesis lends itself towards a highly mobile melee fighting style
Noble Arm Abilities:
Teleportation - Ridley can teleport precisely √5 m (2.24 m/7.34 ft) in any direction. He is able to do so rapidly and repeatedly, only incurring strain through excessive use. He can change his orientation through teleports, allowing him to redirect momentum, (and thus "fly" by launching himself upwards) though he cannot change the distance of the teleport. Teleporting into solid matter of non-insignificant size (a dustcloud is fine) will immediately shunt him and the object out of each other harmlessly, through the path of least resistance. This happens nigh-instantaneously, and does not appear to apply the force necessary to launch anything.
Designate Warpath - Ridley can designate a path for the Hexad Anamnesis to take, imagining a moving two-dimensional line in front of him for the blade to travel along. Once the path is set, Ridley can execute it, gaining the superhuman speed, agility, reflexes, relevant durability, and just enough of the processing speed required for moving the blade along at speeds comparable to a speeding bullet. While on a warpath, the Hexad Anamnesis can cut through just about anything, and if Ridley has the forethought to plan around it, he can take advantage of the physical enhancements for close-quarters combat. There is no specific range limit to the imagined path, though Ridley must visualize it before execution and remain within range of the Hexad Anamnesis throughout it (e.g. no throwing the Anamnesis more than a few meters away) or he will be unable to carry out the designated path, causing it to abort. Ridley can intuit the exact distance of his teleports and include them in his trajected warpaths, though continued teleportation-based travel at such speeds falls under the excessive levels of overuse needed to eventually tire him out.
Once the trajectory is set, Ridley cannot modify it, and he becomes somewhat helpless to the path he has designated. His control over his body’s positioning throughout the warpath is tenuous at best, he cannot compensate for enemy movements, and his only real recourse towards stopping himself from running into a mid-flight bullet or other hazard is to abort the warpath entirely. Doing this has a short delay, though at such speeds, the damage to himself can be devastating. Naturally, ending the warpath also means losing all of his physical enhancements, though it usually does not preclude him from teleporting away from the incoming danger.
There isn’t a specific minimum length for the warpath, though unlike his ability to reactively teleport, warpaths require conscious thought to set up. A straight line isn’t hard to imagine, but doing so is less than instant.
Revert - By impaling himself with the Hexad Anamnesis, Ridley can return to his original King or Pawn form in a flash of light. Doing so does not cause Ridley any harm nor incur a cooldown, though it takes the same amount of time as King Ridley's Henshin Invoker transformation.
Cutting Through Hesitation - If Ridley is mentally incapacitated (or hindered) while his Noble Arm is manifested, it is possible for him to metaphysically cut through the incapacitation using his Noble Arm. This requires either a swing of his Noble Arm (voluntary or otherwise) or for the Noble Arm to be pressed up against the incapacitation itself. This allows him to “cut” through any doubts he may have, as well as his own sleepiness, the effects of sedatives, hallucinations, illusions, mental compulsions, and stopped time. It does not prevent sleep deprivation and cannot wake him up from non-magical unconsciousness.
Miscellaneous Abilities: Ridley is highly adept at stealth, infiltration, and creating disguises. He can fool a lie detector, fly small planes and helicopters, operate just about any kind of firearm, and has enough medical knowledge to stitch his own wounds up if he needs to. He's a great cook and mechanic, and is the iteration the other Ridleys turn to when they need a rip sewn up. Shockingly good at playing the electric guitar.
Personality: Ridley is polite and stoic. He has a matter-of-fact way of speaking and prefers when things are simple and straightforward. He has a bit of a resting bitch face and doesn't smile much; he looks like he's constantly glaring, though if you were to ask him why, he'd simply state that he isn't. He's not particularly sociable, though he's hard to make angry, and will likely do any favor asked of him, no question. He's the type to do nice things without comment regardless, and it's not hard to get him to participate even when he looks like he'd rather be literally anywhere else. He's a bit of a neat freak, and is liable to clean everything if he is left alone with nothing to do. Refers to the other iterations of Ridley by their full, unabbreviated surnames. Used to call them by their chess designations, but none of his other iterations like it when he calls Pawn Ridley "Pawn", and he doesn't like making an incongruous exception.
Likes: Seafood, candy, water (over other beverages) Dislikes: Bitter things, garish clothing Fears: Ridley Destrier's wrath
Bio: Ridley Miyashiro was born in Japan, but grew up all over the world. He was raised under his mother as a child assassin within an international paramilitary group known as the guild of shadows. It specialized in espionage, assassination, and ninjutsu development. Rather than Noble Arms, the people of Knight Ridley's world could achieve supernatural feats through the control of life energy, typically referred to as ki, though the name differed by country and culture. The practice originated with the martial artists of China, was revolutionized by the ninjas of Japan, and gradually spread across the world. Superhuman feats, breathing fire, walking on water, blending in with the shadows, duplication and substitution techniques - it had become a standard part of warfare.
Ridley's mother headed the guild, and his father was chosen for intangible genetic reasons. They were both talented ninjutsu practitioners, and there was always some kind of attraction between them, but their relationship was never quite like it is for Ridley's other iterations, and they did not live together, much less marry.
As Ridley grew, both in age and capability, he eventually became his mother's right hand, an agent of death. He was a talented ninja, and the guild of shadows grew into something more than just an assassin's guild.
It wasn't actually his mother who founded the circle of demons, though their goal of making the world a better place through subversive means matched his mother's ideals. They had approached the guild of shadows aiming to recruit him, and his mother insisted that she join as well, leveraging the considerable resources at her disposal for an offer they couldn't refuse. Not without setbacks, at least. From there, she partially co-opted the circle of demons, using it much like an elite extension of the guild of shadows, albeit without the for-profit homicide.
It was on a mission for the circle that his plane crashed. He had been flying to Los Angeles on a mission to assassinate the newest U.S. supreme court justice when his plane got caught in a storm, struck by lightning, and was forced to crash land in the pacific. He had opened the emergency door to the plane, but it was a stormy night, with no moonlight to illuminate the sea. He had jumped out, into the endless black abyss and pouring icy rain, only to never land. Instead, he found himself standing in the interior of a boat, still drenched, staring at a kid who was staring back with wide, awe-struck eyes. Those idiots didn't even bother waiting to return to land before they had invited another potential enemy into their midst.
At the time, he was confused, robbed of his ninjutsu entirely and still processing the absolute mess that was the memories of three lives in his head. He think it was justified, given the circumstances, to have pointed his Noble Arm at Castillo, and since they got his memories too, they understood, though none of his other iterations ever let him live it down.
He didn't revert until well after they returned to land, though Castillo had to serve as an intermediary so that the rescue team would let him go and so that he wouldn't cut the rescue team into pieces for holding him captive. Castillo followed him out, trying to figure out what he was doing, but all he wanted was to confirm that he really had crossed worlds. His memories basically did it for him already, but he couldn't trust those just yet. He went to a local internet cafe, downloaded a dark web browser, set up proxies and began to research in earnest, but it didn't take long to know that the guild of shadows, the circle of demons, the hand of god, the nine curses, the brotherhood of blood, the Kodoku clan, the Hōkai no hi - none of them existed in this world. Some groups bore a resemblance, but he was well and truly in a world with no ninjutsu, martials arts without ki, and nothing but OPL and the mysterious magical weaponry known as Noble Arms in their place.
After covering his tracks, he left, letting the nervous boy follow behind him.
There... wasn't any apparent way back to his own world. It was... hard to accept, that his previous missions and all they were leading up to didn't matter anymore, at least for him. When he returned to his parents, finding the hotel the survivors were being lodged at, he came upon them having an animated discussion about the other form of Ridley. His mother doted on him, trying to get his father to make up with his son, and while he wasn't having it after being shot in the head - and healed by him, his mother reminded, except not, his father retorted - maybe, he relented, because that was some other girl who showed up out of nowhere, ostensibly because of Ridley, possibly, but also it was his fault to begin with, he says.
It was... nice. Charmingly domestic. Nothing at all like his own parents. When he walked in - through the balcony, of course, he simply greeted them and introduced himself. "Hello mother. Hello father. I am Ridley."
After a moment of stunned silence, his father drew his blade as he approached, but as a politician who had never seen real battle, it was trivially easy to disarm him and point his Noble Arm at his father's throat. His mother started freaking out - very different from his own mother, until they heard a knock at the door.
Deeming his father no threat, he simply sheathed his Noble Arm and began walking towards it, saying, "I'll get it."
He paid his parents' bafflement no mind, opening the door to reveal Castillo, who was breathing heavily from sprinting over after being left behind. He supposes most kids can't follow someone when they start climbing up the outside of the building. He turned to let the boy in without a word, and he did so, sighing in relief when he saw that Ridley's parents were unharmed.
His father asked what was going on, his mother was shaking like a leaf, and Castillo was crossing his arms and giving him a disappointed look.
"I simply came to inform Mr. and Mrs. Alvarus of the nature of their son's Noble Arm."
Castillo eyed his father's Noble Arm, left embedded into the wall. "And this is informing them?"
Castillo gave him a strange look, and he stared back at him, not understanding why he would ask such a self-evident question.
Then, his mother's soft, shaky voice: "Please, is my son... okay?"
The phrasing pushes one of Alvarus' memories to the front of his mind and his brow twitches involuntarily.
"No. The slash wound on his face has been patched up, but he has not yet recovered from the events that took place on the island."
His mother stopped breathing, and at that, Castillo tried to slap his arm. It would have been mostly ineffective, and he knew the properties of Castillo's Noble Arm were unrelated, though he chose to dodge it anyway. Since Castillo didn't continue, he judged that it wasn't an attack attempt, though Castillo raised an eyebrow, as if his actions were somehow strange in this situation.
"Don't make it sound like he's in a coma or something. He's fine. Fucked up, emotionally, and has been hiding it as if he's trying to hide a dead body, but fine."
His mother let out a choked sob, probably out of relief, but his father simply shot them both a death glare for making Ridley's mother cry. Ridley simply stared back, unperturbed.
Castillo makes a hand gesture indicating that he should get on with the explanation, so he explains Alvarus' ability to summon Castillo, and their apparent shared ability to transform into Destrier. By all likelihood, they shared the ability to transform into four others, including himself, each owning their own version of what may or may not be the same Noble Arm. All of them shared the same first name - Ridley, and the name of their Noble Arm - the Hexad Anamnesis. Alvarus originally theorized that the Hexad Anamnesis' name referenced his six types of bullets, but it was rather obvious by now that, considering the second word in its name, it's referencing their six parallel lives. There weren't too many similarities between their lives, or even their personalities, but they all had similar parents with the same names, and they all ended up in a plane crashing over the Pacific more or less corresponding with their 18th birthday, or 9th, in Castillo's case. None of the other versions of Ridley got to wake up in the wreckage, instead coming out only when Ridley aims his gun at himself.
His mother gasped, and his father, silent, seemed to come to accept the story that his mother had been telling him all along. Except - "How do we know this isn't a load of bull? No offense, but neither of you look anything like our son."
He personally disagreed - it was their eyes. Not the same color, but the same look. The four of them all had it - even Destrier.
Regardless, his father wanted to see proof, and proof he could provide. He drew his blade, ignored their surprise, and gave harakiri a try.
Current Goal: Get Ridley Alvarus into a more substantial position of power so that all iterations of Ridley may better effect change.
Former Civilian Rank:Jōnin Special assassin and heir of the guild of shadows, member of the circle of demons.
Name: Ridley Park Nicknames: Rook, big guy, freight train, 16-wheeler Age: 21 Appearance: 6'2", black hair, brown eyes, and a horrible fashion sense. King Ridley (with agreement from Pawn Ridley) throws out most of the clothes he gets for himself to avoid ending up in them. He finds King Ridley's clothes too uncomfortable though, so most of his wardrobe is bland, picked out by Knight Ridley. Bishop Ridley could do a better job but neither iteration cares enough to do something about it. Doesn’t like long sleeves because of his Noble Arm.
Noble Arm Name & Appearance: Hexad Anamnesis - in this form, it takes the form of a sleek black utility armguard. It utilizes hammerspace to store a number of accessories that can fold up and collapse into the armguard in an implausible manner. When fully collapsed, it appears to be nothing more than an armguard made of Kevlar. It's not even particularly thick. Noble Arm disabling effects can prevent the deployment of its various attachments, but it cannot get rid of attachments that have already been deployed. Accessories include a wrist-mounted crossbow, a hidden spring-loaded push dagger, (above the wrist, underneath the crossbow) detachable throwing knives (above the wrist, on either side of the crossbow and push dagger) a spring-loaded grappling hook and line, (under the wrist) a pair of spring-loaded ballistic knives (on either side of the grappling hook) and a pair of extendable "wings" (on either side of the armguard) that can unfold into an ‘S’-shaped shield, with the armguard making up the middle. The wings can be detached from the armguard and used as blunt throwing weapons. Part of the crossbow can also be attached and united with the wings to form a functioning longbow, with the Noble Arm magically restringing around the longer limbs in the time it takes to combine the pieces.
Personal Noble Arm Rank: B
Power: B Speed: B Range: D+/C- (Castle Walls' lateral range is D and vertical range is C) Persistence: B Precision: B Potential: D
Noble Arm Type and Range: Ridley Miyashiro’s iteration of the Hexad Anamnesis lends itself towards a highly mobile and adaptable style
Noble Arm Abilities:
Magic Trick - Ridley can instantly move the Hexad Anamnesis from one arm to the other by tapping his forearms together.
Hammerspace - Ridley’s armguard has pockets along its length through which hammerspace can be accessed. One of the hammerspace pockets is available for storage, with an internal volume roughly equivalent to Ridley’s entire body. Objects need to fit within the pocket to be stored, and it does not freeze or preserve the contents. Objects stored in Hammerspace can be retrieved even if Rook Ridley dies by transforming into Rook Ridley again. The other pockets hold an unlimited supply of appropriately sized arrows, crossbow bolts, throwing knives, ballistic knives, and replacement grappling hooks. Any time his wrist-mounted crossbow or the wing compartments on either side of the armguard are collapsed without their detachable parts, the removed parts are automatically replaced while out of sight. Other forms of reloading must be done manually.
Castle Walls - Ridley can project an invisible barrier around him made up of 1 m² square segments. Ridley and those he designates are capable of perceiving the segments. The segments connect at an angle, forming a cylinder-like prism around Ridley with a height up to 4.4x higher than the base of the prism’s inradius (getting as close to it using 1 m² segments as possible without going over) before terminating in a roof. He’d have to crouch down to fit in a triangular prism barrier, a square prism would be 2 segments tall, a pentagonal prism 3 segments, a hexagonal and heptagonal prism 4 segments, an octagonal prism 5 segments, and to capture an opponent ten meters away, it’d have to be a 63-sided prism that extended 44 segments upwards)
The maximum size for Ridley’s barrier would be a 308-sided prism extending 215 segments upwards. The circumradius (and thus the maximum distance he can instantly “capture” targets within) is about 49 m. Rook Ridley’s barriers always point straight up, and can extend infinitely downwards while on uneven ground - height is measured from the ground Ridley stands on. The barrier does not extend underground more than necessary, (extends anywhere from 0 to 1 segment below ground, depending on how uneven the surface is) so it is theoretically possible to dig a tunnel underneath Ridley’s barriers, or escape the barrier if it overlaps a tunnel below Rook Ridley’s ground level. (e.g. Sewers, subways) The barrier will extend downward into liquids.
Despite the number of segments, creating large barriers is not particularly more draining on him than creating small ones. Although he cannot resize existing barriers, create multiple barriers at once, or replace segments in existing barriers, he can rather easily discard the existing barrier and create a new, undamaged one of a different size, and it would take less than a full second to do so. If anything, it is the breaking of segments that tires him out, even if he does not replace them. He would fail to keep his Noble Arm manifested well before all 66,221 segments of his largest possible barrier were broken, assuming the segments were destroyed in a timely manner.
Created barriers follow Ridley’s lateral (but not vertical) movements, keeping Ridley the centerpoint of the prism at all times. When pushing up against solid objects that cannot be moved gently, it possesses an elastic quality, where the pushing force will build the closer Ridley gets to the prism’s walls. Larger barriers can therefore exert greater possible force. The barrier can potentially demolish buildings in this manner, since the barrier and the upper end of its elastic force tends to be stronger than reinforced concrete.
The barrier can overlap with physical objects without damaging them, and can be set to include or exclude certain materials, animals, elements, or people from its effects by default. (motionless objects are generally excluded by default) It requires some concentration to designate who or what to add to the blacklist or whitelist, though projectile attacks that don’t come from a Ridley are blacklisted by default. Once designated, it no longer requires conscious thought to keep it that way for the target, and he can designate targets about as fast as he can mentally count, but it can take some time to work through large crowds.
Upon creation, the barrier will automatically push those that are in the way to either side of the shield according to the way Rook Ridley prefers. This process can crush people if there isn’t enough space on the chosen side. Resisting this push (and crushing force) is possible, but would necessitate breaking the manifesting segment using nothing but compression force. It’s doable with sufficient strength when being crushed (albeit probably more likely to break whatever they’re being pushed against) though the noble arm would have to be quite specialized to deal with the lack of traction when being pushed into empty space.
Segments have somewhat glass-like properties, and while they have considerable durability, sufficient damage will destroy the entire segment. Since they are energy constructs, they will self-repair any minor damage; they need to be broken in one go through overwhelming force, rather than through accumulated damage. Breaking a segment will leave a momentary hole in the barrier, during which passage is possible, though the shield segments in that column of the barrier will quickly lower to seal the hole, exerting the same pushing force on anything it comes to overlap. When this happens, the roof will lower as well to rest atop the lowest column, causing all remaining columns to extend past it. Despite its considerable size, the roof is fundamentally just a particularly large segment, and will break about as easily as any other segment. When broken, the roof will not be replaced automatically; a new barrier has to be formed.
Even when all segments in a column are destroyed, the roof will not lower any further when it is 2 segments above the ground or lower.
Castling - Rook Ridley can switch places with King Ridley, teleporting both of them (as well as the barriers from Rook Ridley’s Castle Wall ability) to each other’s location, with no distance limit beyond their ability to separate from each other. Rook Ridley cannot switch places with any other iteration of Ridley. If his greater size causes him overlap objects, he will be shunted out of them in the same manner as Knight Ridley's teleports. This ability has a 90 minute cooldown.
It’s Over, I Have the High Ground - Ridley can create a single loose 1 m² square shield segment parallel to the ground and move it telekinetically. It can only go up and down. Could potentially be made to rotate or move in other directions with extensive training. Would take further training to be able to switch which axis it is able to move along without creating a new one. Will never be able to move diagonally. Acceleration and top speed comparable to your grandmother’s old Toyota.
Revert - By shooting or stabbing himself with the Hexad Anamnesis, (Any attachment is valid) Ridley can return to his original King or Pawn form in a flash of light. Doing so does not cause Ridley any harm nor incur a cooldown, though it takes the same amount of time as King Ridley's Henshin Invoker transformation.
Miscellaneous Abilities: Ridley is an expert in the art of nonlethal takedown, having extensive anatomical knowledge and experience in practical combat applications of it against both baseline and enhanced humans. He's a competent medic, could put most acrobats to shame, is a master of urban parkour and has the aim of an olympic sharpshooter. He has training in hacking and investigative work, although King Ridley has proven more adept in those fields. He's also great on the drums, and is easily the best among his iterations at dancing.
Personality: Ridley is generally warm and friendly. He's a hugger, he likes making people get along, and if he catches you hurting his friends or family he'll seriously consider breaking every bone in your body. Moreso than the other iterations, Ridley Park has stronger emotions, and while he can control them fairly well, he's the most likely to punch a wall out of frustration. He's highly empathic, and can't help but meddle in affairs that don't concern him in pursuit of happy resolutions. Except for Pawn Ridley, which he calls little Ridley, he refers to his other iterations by their abbreviated surnames: Varus, Dez, Shiro and Frieda.
Likes: Cheesy food, (especially pizza) trampolines, rollercoasters, hugs Dislikes: Killing people, gallows humor, pineapple on pizza Fears: Mind control, not being good enough to protect the people he cares about
Bio: Ridley Park lost both of his parents at a young age. They both came home, were shot on their doorstep, and fell into the house, coughing up blood before eventually dying. He was taken in by a Good Samaritan - a man the other iterations of Ridley have never heard of - who happened to see it as it happened. At first it was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, but Ridley's only other family was halfway across the globe and didn't want to take him in. He confided that he didn't want to go into foster care, and the man, perhaps taking pity on him, decided to adopt him, raising him like his own son.
Of course, when his adoptive father came home one night, not long after adoption, bleeding profusely, barely able to stand, he could no longer hide his night job as the Black Dragoon, a famous vigilante - one of the few in the business who did it (and did it well) in spite of not having any powers. It was probably the reason why he had been around on the night his parents were murdered in the first place.
Once the cat was out of the bag, Ridley would not leave it alone. Even after having to patch the man up by googling how to do stitches while he lay unconscious, it wasn't even 24 hours before his father intended to go out again on patrol. Ridley swore, then, that if he left, Ridley wouldn't let him go out there alone. He'd put on a domino mask and follow after him, and when he was told he couldn't if he tried. (an accurate assessment given Black Dragoon's grappling hook and cape glider) He said that he'd wander the city alone then, at night, through dark alleys and gang territory. He was bound to find his father eventually, and he had to, because he might find him bleeding to death just like he had last night.
That shut his father up, at least for a moment. Then his father got angry, but unlike his biological father, Black Dragoon didn't believe in corporal punishment, and he wasn't going to budge. He yelled, said Ridley was being stupid, but ultimately went back to bed with a frustrated grunt.
The same scenario played out the next day, and on the third, the Black Dragoon tried calling his bluff, except he wasn't bluffing. His father lost him almost immediately, and he chased after, in the same direction, but admittedly without any guarantee it was the right one. No matter how far or how fast he went in the same direction, he never caught up, and eventually, he realized that he was being followed. He was still just a child at the time, and given that pretending everything was fine was just shortening the gap between them, he didn't have much options but to try to run. The man was, of course, faster, so he tried to lose him around corners and narrow alleyways. It didn't work, and eventually he found himself at a dead end, facing the man.
The man had a knife, and despite having no fighting experience whatsoever, Ridley raised his fists, not prepared to go down without a fight. He didn't have to, since Black Dragoon had been following him since he disappeared, knocking the man out, tying him up, and sending a message to the police. He said he wanted to show Ridley how dangerous it was, probably thinking it'd scare him enough to keep him at home. It had the opposite effect. He told his father that he wasn't going to lose him too, no matter what. His father argued that he was fine - he was basically fully healed already, and he responded by saying that he'd start following him around even after he was healed. His father let out a strangled noise and went back to yelling. "Do you want to end up like your parents!? Is that what you're trying to do!?"
Ridley stayed silent throughout the lecture wearing a stubborn, unflinching frown.
Eventually his father let out a loud groan, carried Ridley back home via grappling hook, and said that his training would begin tomorrow before going to sleep.
Ridley hadn't actually planned on becoming a vigilante. Didn't really have a goal in mind, when he followed Black Dragoon out. He supposes he was trying to get him to quit, so that he'd stay safe, but he knew he couldn't really ask that of him.
Although the training was actually quite grueling and the diet was even worse, he still insisted he would try to follow Black Dragoon out at night, even if he was too sore to actually make it past the sidewalk in front of their house. His father sighed and agreed to take a break from Vigilante work to focus on his training, but he could only stay away for so long. The days passed by in a blur, but it was maybe only a month before he made his debut as Black Dragoon's sidekick. He still didn't have an alter ego or a costume after his first proposal was rejected with great prejudice, so he just went out in black clothes, wearing a domino mask. Technically speaking, he wasn't allowed to actually participate in the crime fighting yet, just get used to grappling hook-based urban parkour and observe. He watched Black Dragoon stop a mugging, prevent what appeared to be an attempted rape, then scare off some teenagers with spray cans. Nothing bad happened, and they returned home just before midnight. They fell into a routine - school and training during the day, then patrol during the night. He eventually found himself in positions to intervene, either when Black Dragoon was busy or appeared to be distracted. He never was - the man had eyes in the back of his head, but it felt good to be making a tangible difference in people's lives.
Eventually, one night, he messed up - took a bullet to the leg while trying to keep an old lady safe. Black Dragoon disarmed the shooter, probably using a bit more force than necessary, before dragging him back home, rambling on about how it was too soon, that he didn't have enough training, that he wasn't supposed to be participating in the first place, and so on and so forth. He couldn't think of anything to say in his defense.
He was benched from patrol, and while he protested, there wasn't really anything he could do about it on one leg, and he had time to think through what it would mean to ask Black Dragoon not to go out at all. That's why, ultimately, he let his father go out without him. He couldn't spend his entire life following his father around. He still couldn't stand the first night, beside himself with rational and irrational worry.
When his leg finally healed, his father redoubled his training, not letting him rejoin patrols until he was back in shape. Another month passed. When he started insisting on going out again, his father challenged him to a proper spar, then proceeded to wipe the floor with him. He told Ridley that he would let him out again when he could properly defend himself. He continued doing this every time he asked. Looking back on it, he probably wanted Ridley to give up on the vigilante life, perhaps thinking that letting him out at all had been a mistake.
Still, he persisted. another month passed, and he started doing better in their spars. Not even close to winning, but better. They started sparring more often than just for the sake of testing whether he was ready for patrol or not. Eventually, his father told him that he needed a proper hero identity, and that he had to come up with one. This proved perhaps even harder than trying to win a spar, because his first ten or so ideas were immediately shot down. "What are these colors?" "Are you trying to make yourself a target?" "Why is the neckline so low?" "This cape is going to get you killed."
Eventually he settled on calling himself Shadow Guard, or just Shadow for short, since all he's been doing from the start is following Black Dragoon around like his shadow, trying to guard his life. He's since found that he wants to guard others, too, though mainly he chose the name because his father rejected any of the names he came up with that were less edgy.
As for the costume, he kept trying. Capes were out - he gave up on trying to avoid looking like a Black Dragoon ripoff when all his other cape ideas were shot down, either failing spectacularly as a glider or being long enough that they'd drag along the ground. He didn't want to gank his style, so he went with a scarf of ass-kicking. It may not have been the most practical choice possible, but hey, it functioned as a second utility belt, and more options in the field were always useful. His father frowned deeply at his choice of color, but didn't object, nor should he have. There's absolutely nothing conspicuous about periwinkle. To prevent another rejection, he mostly stuck to black with the rest of the costume, slapped on a domino mask and called it done. Surprisingly, it worked. He approved the costume. He later tried to get him to change the scarf color but Ridley wasn't about to let him go back on his approval. Thus, Shadow Guard was born.
They worked a number of cases together, fought a colorful gallery of villains, and eventually joined Sine Avaritia, a global organization of superheroes that unite to handle greater threats to the world and its people. Years went by, and eventually, at 16, his father deemed him competent enough to go on patrols by himself. They split up the city and patrolled separately, radioing in anything big. By 17, he was recognized as a hero in his own right, not just a sidekick.
His plane crash happened not long after graduating high school, on the eve of his 18th birthday. (crime doesn't wait) He was tracking an arms deal back to Cuba when his plane got caught in a storm and struck by lightning. It was forced to crash land in the pacific, but when he braced for impact, in never came. Rather, he was flooded with a deluge of memories, and when he opened his eyes he found himself in an unfamiliar room, standing in front of some kid, who immediately began an honest-to-god poster board presentation explaining the situation.
He admits he was suspicious at first - sleeper agents and mind control was a reoccurring problem for Sine Avaritia, and suddenly gaining a ton of memories that aren't your own is... really rather disconcerting, especially considering how awful a lot of it was.
It was over and done with though. They had safely returned to the states, This world's Ridley and the little Ridley in front of him were being forced into therapy by his... still living, still breathing mother. He has to see her, and he has to do it yesterday, but first, he walks over to the little Ridley and does what he does best: wrap the kid in a big, warm hug. This poor, poor, sputtering child has been through way too much.
Little Ridley goes along with it, but eventually tries to push him away, saying "alright, alright, no more pity hugs." The older Ridley just smiles and asks, rhetorically, "so regular hugs are still on the table?" Then he hugs the kid again, because fuck, he really is everyone's little brother, isn't he?
They eventually go to meet Ridley's mom, and he can't stop himself from crying. She's so nice and gentle, it's a heart-wrenching reminder of what he's lost. He hugs the shit out of her, and then he does the same with Ridley's dad, because fuck his bewilderment, he can't believe he's seeing them again. Little Ridley eventually had to drag him away to do Noble Arm testing before he made Ridley's father too uncomfortable, but they promised they'd be back for dinner.
It was funny. With all the new information and dramatic reunions, he barely processed the situation he was in. There didn't seem to be any way back to his own world, and, by all likelihood, he would never see his adoptive father again. To make matters worse, as far as they could tell, they had no say in whether they would spend their lives as themselves or not, other than taking their shared body hostage. It was... depressing. The only solution to such fears is to become a hypocrite, but as far as he can tell, none of them want that. At least none of the five of them.
little Ridley noticed the downturn of his mood, and asked him if he was okay. Fuck, those words. The memories were intimately his, like he had lived them himself, and he found himself already feeling reluctant to try to return to his own world, and isn't that such a betrayal? After everything his father has done for him?
He pulls little Ridley into his arms again. What can he say? This kid is huggable as hell.
Current Goal: Become the hero this world needs.
Former Civilian Rank: Independent Vigilante, member of Sine Avaritia
Name: Ridley Friedrich Nicknames: Queen, Frieda, Queenie, her highness Age: 21 Appearance: 5’4", blond hair, golden eyes. Shares King Ridley's appreciation for business casual clothing. Nationality: German
Noble Arm Name & Appearance: Although her Noble Arm’s official name is the Hexad Anamnesis, she has taken to calling her version of it “Albion” to distance herself from her other iterations. It’s named after a fictional Rapier from an old myth about vampires, and its name is itself based on the Latin word for white. Fittingly, in Ridley’s Queen form, it takes on the shape of an ornate white Rapier.
Personal Noble Arm Rank: B
Power: A Speed: C- (Slow telekinetic control, Slow projectile arrival at long ranges) Range: A- (Lifespan-based range, rated A for practical application) Persistence: D Precision: D Potential: C
Noble Arm Type and Range: Albion seems to lend itself towards a melee fighting style, at least in theory. In practice, however, she is most effective at a distance.
Noble Arm Abilities:
Abilities in gray subject to rework/replacement; WIP
Shock and Awe - By gathering energy within the palm of her hand, Ridley can create a small, tennis ball-sized sphere of floating light. Its color is customizable, but she prefers making it bright white-yellow, like staring into the sun. The light is capable of ignoring gravity, strong winds, and all but particularly dense gel, passing through them as if they don’t exist. Ridley is capable of physically snuffing out the light as well as telekinetically manipulating the ball of light freely while it is within √98 m (9.9 m/32.5 ft) of her. She can move the ball of light at blistering speeds of about 9.9 kph/6.2 mi per hour with all the agility of a remarkably graceful sea turtle. She can also send it out beyond that, wherein she will lose control of it, but since it behaves as if in a vacuum, it will continue moving in a straight line until it hits something or fizzles out. Ridley can only have one ball of light (in any form) at a time; creating more causes her to lose her grasp on the first, making it fizzle out. Balls of light can last up to 90 minutes while within Ridley’s area of control, but once they leave it, they only have a lifespan of 30 seconds, and thus sending it out telekinetically gives her a maximum range of 82.5 m. Realistically, however, Ridley is better off grabbing the ball of light and throwing it, or better yet, hitting it with her rapier like a baseball bat. Both lead to significant decreases in accuracy, the latter especially, but it allows her to achieve a maximum range of about 708 m/2323 ft. The accuracy at such ranges is laughable, but she can pitch with relatively decent accuracy to reach distances up to 583 m/1914 ft.
The ball will detonate on the first thing it touches besides Ridley and her Noble Arm, causing a continuous but contained explosion, as if in slow-motion. Explosions expand to their maximum size over the course of 8 seconds (it can be avoided fairly easily) and have a blast radius of about 10.5 m. Explosions continue to linger for 64 seconds, immolating everything inside at full speed. Although the blast does not advance fast enough to push much out of it, it is possible for even ordinary humans to survive getting caught within, provided they escape the area of effect swiftly and receive medical attention. A bunker capable of surviving an entire minute of continuous bombing would be able to survive the blast, although temperature control may become an issue. Mainly, it’s there to be loud, flashy, and take up space.
Obliteration - By crushing the ball of light within the palm of her hand, Ridley can condense it down into a tiny sphere of floating light, which has all of the same projectile properties as the original ball. Excluding any Noble Arm and Queen Ridley herself, (they cannot be designated as targets to disarm the ball) the first target the light physically touches will self-destruct in a violent but largely self-contained implosion. It is virtually impossible to survive, and leaves nothing but inert dust behind. The effect can apply to objects as well, albeit with a size limit of up to 21 m³. Larger objects (e.g. buildings) will suffer partial destruction, as if an 21 m³ cube of it was removed, cleanly cut out of the structure. Because the area is centered on the point of contact, and Ridley can modify the cube’s orientation, damage can penetrate up to half the solid diagonal of the cube. (18.2 m) It is possible for people and objects caught inside the area of effect to escape and survive if they are not the primary target, so long as they are not pulled into the implosion. Queen Ridley’s cognition determines what counts as part of the primary target, and thus hitting clothes or body armor will generally designate the person wearing it as the target. Although multiple casualties are possible, only a single person can be considered a primary target, and the sphere of light will disappear after its effect is activated.
Dandelion Grenade - By holding the ball of light within her hand and blowing on it, Ridley can break up a ball of light, scattering numerous small explosions over an area, with blast radii similar to mundane grenades, albeit with less shrapnel fallout. Unlike her Shock and Awe ability, the explosions caused by this do not exhibit unusual properties, other than their inability to detonate while Queen Ridley is within the blast radius. Because blowing them out is required, their speed and thus range is relatively limited. Attempting to grab the small bombs and throw them manually results in them fizzling out harmlessly just outside of her range of control.
Getsuga Tenshou Heaven Cutter - By slashing through the ball of light with her Noble Arm, Ridley can essentially create an explosive sword beam. The sword beam doesn’t need to tear up the ground as it travels, but will likely be made to do so. Sword beams do not have a lifespan, and will travel up to 64 m before dissipating. Getting hit with one is like getting hit by a bomb filled with razor blades that all cut in a single direction.
Blast Wall - By flattening a ball of light between the palms of her hands, or between a hand and her Noble Arm, Ridley can create a semitransparent wall of light which she can expand into a square with an area of up to 74 in²/~1.9 m². The wall will fizzle out when fully leaving her area of control but can otherwise move in the same way as her balls of light. The first attack or object to make contact with the wall of light will cause the wall to violently explode outwards, towards whatever made contact with it. It will fail to do so if Queen Ridley is in the blast zone. The outward explosion can reach up to √98 m (9.9 m/32.5 ft) away, which, of course, means that if the wall is put at the end of her zone of control, the explosion can reach twice that distance from Ridley. Although the offending projectile will be blasted away with great force, it is possible to penetrate the explosion. An ordinary bullet (or salvo of bullets) will be knocked away with great prejudice, though sufficiently powerful Noble Arm projectiles can potentially endure and overpower the blast, making the Blast Wall unreliable as a shield against them.
Decoy - Ridley can create a decoy ball of light, which can be manipulated, colored, crushed, flattened, or blown on in the same manner as a real ball of light, but will never actually explode or cause things to implode. It can be cut in two with her Noble Arm, but no sword beam will emerge. It is significantly easier to make than a real ball of light, and does not count against her one ball of light limit, though she also has a one decoy limit.
Revert - By stabbing herself with the Hexad Anamnesis, Ridley can return to her original King or Pawn form in a flash of light. Doing so does not cause Ridley any harm nor incur a cooldown, though it takes the same amount of time as King Ridley's Henshin Invoker transformation.
Miscellaneous Abilities: Ridley is a talented writer, she's great at playing the violin, and she's an excellent singer. She's pretty good at chess, though she's prone to using high-risk high-reward strategies. She was into baseball and softball well before gaining her Noble Arm, and is probably the only one who can compete with Rook Ridley at darts.
Personality: To some, Ridley Friedrich may come off as cold and distant, she's a bit shy and terrible at expressing herself directly, both verbally and facially. Despite that, she does have her subtle cues once you get to know her, and she tends to get along even with those of a more prickly disposition. She's the type that like to try new things, loves horrendous puns, and could go off about tropes for hours on end. She is the most unhappy with being tied to King Ridley's Noble Arm, and doesn't like being seen as the same person as her other iterations. She acknowledges the practical purpose of nicknames, but she doesn't like how they diminish her identity, and prefers to address all of her other iterations as Ridley, extending them the courtesy that she wants, even if it gets confusing. If she really needs to differentiate, she'll go by Rook's manner of address, since it feels the most sensible to her.
Likes: Cake, poetry, fantasy novels, professional wrestling Dislikes: Not being treated as her own person, utilitarian judgments of her worth Fears: Never being able to come back after a revert
Bio: Ridley Friedrich was born and raised in a world without Noble Arms, without magic, without ninjutsu, without vigilante superheroes, without ki, without aliens, and without eldritch abominations. She had two loving, financially thriving parents, had promising academic prospects, and made several lasting friendships throughout her school years unlike every single other iteration of Ridley. (wow)
Her world wasn't perfect by any means. There were wars and ongoing disputes over certain territories, magic or not. That being said, she definitely never felt the desire to leave her world like some kind of isekai protagonist. Sure, a jaunt through fantasyland sounds like fun, until you realize you'll likely be without most modern comforts even if that world has electricity. If the world you end up in is more realistic than a work of fiction would probably care to detail, then anything vaguely medieval is probably full of people that bathe once a month and throw literal shit out on the streets.
The standard convention was to get hit by truck-kun, but instead, while on a flight to Hawaii for a vacation coinciding with her 18th birthday, their plane got caught in a storm and struck by lightning. It was forced to crash land in the pacific, but the landing never came. Instead, in the blink of an eye, she found herself staring at a small child holding a telescopic pointer stick, using it to gesture at a poster board presentation explaining the sudden influx of memories she was bombarded with. Five lives, only one of which wasn't just as long as her own, if not longer. It was a cumulative 81 years of memories - not perfect memories by any means, but vivid, from a first-person perspective, and just as real as any of her own memories.
This world wasn't medieval, but it had relatively exclusive magic that drove social divides, escalated the stakes of military conflict, and emboldened certain countries into war. It... wasn't a strictly worse world, per se. In fact, it had all of the magic and none of the logistical pains typical of the genre. Still, it wasn't her world. She had no friends here. The man and woman with the same names as her parents had different faces and their personalities weren't quite the same. Also, she was apparently sharing an existential timeshare with, minimum, two others. Two bodies divided by six people meant she'd be getting four months out of every year. Two-thirds of her life, just... not hers, anymore. She didn't have papers - no ID, no citizenship, no high school diploma that she JUST finished earning. She probably won't even be considered a legally distinct entity. Maybe she could fight for it, but what'd be the point? Making their taxes harder?
Hah. Haha. What kind of sick joke is this?
How is she supposed to get a job? Get a relationship? Grow old with someone? "Goodnight dear, see you in two fucking days!?" Is she expected to just be lumped in with the other iterations? "Sorry, but if you marry me, you marry all six of us, including the kid." God, why is one of the iterations a kid!? "Yeah, by the way, if we get together, they'll all eventually know every detail of what we get up to, hope that's not a dealbreaker." She's already shuddering to think about how nothing will be private anymore the moment she transforms back, just like how nothing is for the other five whose lives are laid bare before her.
She finds herself breathing heavily, staring down at the clenched fists in her lap. A rapier - her noble arm, the Hexad Anamnesis, potentially the selfsame Noble Arm responsible for her misfortune, materializes. In her other hand, a gentle sensation of warmth, and when she unclenches her fist, she finds a tiny speck of light floating within.
She raises it up - gently, tentatively, still not used to her new powers, before looking back at the kid's stupid poster board about why she's supposed to be okay with this situation. She wills the ball forward and, ever so gently, it floats across the space between them, past the boy, and into the poster board. The poster crumples into itself before making a strange muffled boom, and then there's nothing but dust littering the table it was set up on.
The boy blinks.
She looks back down at her Rapier for a second, then decides she should probably put it away. She marvels at how she can simply intuit doing so and watch it dematerialize - she can't deny that magic has its novelty, but it didn't exactly make up for the situation, and having power like hers seemed like it had the potential to get her in trouble.
Like it had the potential to cause Ridley Alvarus to see her as dangerous.
She shuddered, then stood up. "I'm sorry, Ridley, but I haven't been listening."
He frowns. No, pouts. He pouts like a kicked puppy.
"The memories alone were... are... a lot. I think I'd like to spend some time alone."
"Oh. Okay. I'll be here, if you want to talk about it?"
She leaves without answering, unable to manage so much as a nod. She slips into Ridley's huge bedroom and collapses into the bed's soft white sheets.
What is she supposed to do with her life now, going forward? There's really nothing she can do, is there? Even if scouring the world for an interdimensional Noble Arm to send her back was on the table, would she have any guarantee the Hexad Anamnesis wouldn't pull her right back the moment Ridley made a mistake? even trying to find something like that would have to go to vote by a council of Ridleys, and one of them - not her - will undoubtedly have the final say.
She looks around her, surrounded by mementos of an unfamiliar life she's lived. It... it wasn't anything like her own room, even disregarding the size and cost.
She eventually cries herself to sleep, not caring about the time of day.
When she wakes up, she finds she can't bring herself to get out of bed. Ridley eventually comes in, trying to wake her up at first and eventually trying to talk to her about how "cool" her Noble Arm is when he realizes she's already awake. It feels awful and fake for him to be so familiar, even though they've just met. She knows he's just trying to take her mind off of the situation, but it's just having the opposite effect.
He leaves pauses in between topics, giving her an opportunity to respond, but she can't think of what to say. He pouts again, sighs, and says he'll be right back. It actually takes him a while to return, and she almost drifts back to sleep in the interim, but he eventually returns, holding a tray of breakfast food whose smell makes her mouth water.
"Bacon and Eggs! I made them myself."
And so, this saintly child hands her breakfast in bed like it's nothing. She finds herself struck dumb with awe. It was maybe the most thoughtful thing that anyone has ever done for her.
She gingerly accepts the tray, laying it on the bed next to her, and gives Ridley what she thinks passes for a smile. "Thank you. It... means a lot."
Then, she began digging in. Airline food was terrible and she was hungry. The bacon was slightly burnt around the edges and the eggs were a little runny, but she wouldn't trade this breakfast for even a meal cooked by the greatest chef in the world. Not even a magic chef in a magic world.
When she was done, she got out of bed, deciding to do the dishes for little Ridley. She was going to need time; just the idea of relinquishing her autonomy and reverting filled her with anxiety, but whether it was fair or not, it was just something she was going to have to live with.
At least she'd have little Ridley with her. Silver linings.
Current Goal: Decouple herself from Ridley Alvarus' Noble Arm, maybe go home to her own reality.
As much as he wanted to keep his anonymity, the far side of the alley was fenced off and didn't visibly lead anywhere he could hide. He could get over the fence, easily, though the voice behind him came from above, and the words 'state your name and purpose' seldom came without a Noble Arm being trained on you. That or just a gun. Against an unknown enemy, he couldn't risk letting them get a good look at him, nor risk being unable to find cover from aerial bombardment. He reached into his jacket, pulling out his mask, and affixed it to his face before turning around.
He had already checked for potential witnesses before attacking that woman, who was, instead of attacking a storefront like he had initially thought, apparently now attacking a bank. What he had failed to do, however, was sweep the skies. Rookie mistake, Jason. He knows, logically, he can't spend his entire life looking over his shoulder for Noble Arm-based boogeymen, but some form of flight is pretty common among combat Noble Arms. Maybe not many within a given group, but at least one? Almost guaranteed.
In any case, he needed to bullshit his way through the flying guy with a rifle trained on him. He had no idea what the guy was talking about, and even if he did, he didn't care for deception. That's been true even before the OPL fucked with his head. That being said, a lie by omission isn't a lie at all. It's not his responsibility to volunteer information to people, and what they do with what he gives them is their own prerogative.
It was rather awkward shouting up at the guy from so far away anyway. It was, amusingly, a genuinely opportune moment to practice his piss-poor sign language skills. He covered his masked mouth with a fist ((the symbol for mute but held against his face the wrong way)) and then did some bullshit swirl of his two index fingers before tapping two fingers on one hand beneath his chin. That definitely meant that he was not going to talk, source: bro trust.
Amadeo just stared at him, looking confused. Jason repeated the totally accurate and not at all made up gesture that was just as likely to be a real sentence in sign language as it was to be the somatic component of an Occult Programming Spell. Amadeo visibly didn't get it, so he tried a few more gestures as he slowly walked out of the alleyway. Amadeo kept his rifle trained on Jason the whole time, and didn't seem to object when he came to a stop on the sidewalk outside the alley.
Reaching a communicative impasse, Amadeo reached into his pocket for a phone, perhaps to look up sign language. That was bad. Potentially worse was the possibility that he was looking up Jason's mask. He hadn't been too high-profile since nobody connected him to his virus' debut until after it had been mostly dealt with, and subsequent infections never made headlines like the first, but the mask was distinctive. The connection between the virus and the man in a plague doctor mask is known, and he wouldn't have a hard time looking him up if he was with Task Force Obsidian, which, based on the volunteer comment, he almost definitely was.
Not giving Amadeo the time, he began making additional gestures towards the nearest busy storefront - Sullivan's Irish Pub. The interior was dimly lit by colorful lights, and despite the mess going on across the street, it was full of patrons, probably not paying much attention from the loud sound of music coming from inside. Jason begins walking towards it, eyes still trained on the man floating distantly up above.
Amadeo shifts his rifle, keeping it on Jason, and Jason stops. He doesn't actually mind getting shot, though it wouldn't be good to let on just how little he would mind it - He does mind, in fact, that it'd put a hole in his clothes, and a headshot would be particularly bad, but best practice is generally to aim for center mass, which ironically isn't likely to slow Jason down too much. Jason continues making gestures he invented on the spot to indicate that he wanted to enter the pub. He even makes a gesture indicating that he's trying to get away from Amadeo, which probably reads as nothing since he can't do sign language to save his life. Amadeo continues giving him confused looks before trying to respond to his made up sign-language.
"Not the Pub. If you want to go somewhere, pick a place without people."
Right. Guess it's time to get to cover.
Jason doesn't acknowledge Amadeo - a nod would be a lie - but he stares up at him, patiently waiting for his attention to flick back to his phone. When it does, he dashes straight towards the pub, and a gunshot rings out as the sensation of a bullet wound hits the back of his right calf. It rips right through his leg, but either misses or ricochets off the bone, because he finds he can still put weight on it. It's unsteady and he's liable to collapse with every step, but it keeps him going long enough to enter into the pub full of aghast patrons and throw himself over the bar counter, leaping up with and sliding over it on his good leg. He generates a few knives in his back, grabs two with one hand and tosses them into the crowd of patrons. When push comes to shove, he finds it much easier, and he's going to need more blood than whatever he can pull out of himself for this. He grabs the man behind the counter as he pulls the third knife out of his back and drags the man down, holding the knife against his throat. It never hurts to have hostages. Sitting on his ass with his back against the counter, one arm draped around the man with his other arm holding the knife, he begins pulling the loose blood he can sense from over the wall of the counter, modifies it with the loneliness virus, and shoots it towards the front of the shop, blindly splattering the first of the patrons to run away - maybe that guy too, if he followed. Afterwards, without waiting for any sort of confirmation of the situation, he switches to the fear virus and shoots it towards the patrons stuck at the back of the pub, including the band who were, up until his entry, singing a song about whether some girl would spend time with him if he told her the world was ending. He pulls the rest of the blood closer to him, ready to splatter the first person he sees peeking over the counter.
He's been in the pub for about three or four seconds, and although he can't see most of it from his angle, it no doubt already looks like a horror show. He saw it as he entered - relatively little standing room between the occupied bar stools on the left and the tiny tables lined up against the wall on the right. A live performance occupied the small stage at the back of the pub, probably a local band that performs for fun. He wonders how bad it looks with all the walls covered in blood.
He's always liked people-watching, even back when he was a civilian. Watching passersby isn't particularly stimulating, but hubs of activity tended to offer revealing windows into the irrationalities of people. It gave him a more reliable measure of what constituted normal behavior, free from the bias of entertainment or the specific quirks of his direly limited social circle.
It's become a more fruitful pastime, as of late. His intuition has since become strange, and behaviors he had originally dismissed as impractical or nonsensical make more sense in the context of social manipulation. He could recite a book on the topic word for word, but he's always struggled to identify how the underlying principles are or could be put into practice.
He stared at the ramen shop from a nearby rooftop. The way that man leans over his ramen, despite having finished eating. The way that woman seems to laugh at every other thing her companion says. The subtlety of simply tilting one's head towards another. The way that woman from earlier begins to stare off into space, like- yeah, that's the first infection within the restaurant. The other patrons scream. Ironic, considering they didn't even notice when one of the other patrons turned outside the restaurant and attacked someone in full view of the windows.
Looks like his people-watching time is over.
He dismounts the rooftop, not bothering with a safe landing. His steps are a little awkward for a few seconds after, but it's nothing he can't walk off. The zombies seem to be proliferating well, though they've always been rather stupid things. If nothing catches their attention, they tend to shamble aimlessly, and while they don't ignore the hustle and bustle of the city, they aren't exactly the running type unless they catch sight of prey.
He decides not to linger with them, walking down and off the street. The zombie virus is, honestly, pretty harmless in the end, but unless ASEAN quickly puts together that the symptoms match some random arms user that has only been active in Ukraine, the damage from the panic they cause tends to be vastly more devastating. After all, it's rare for zombie movies to end because the virus has a shorter lifespan than the common cold or flu. Granted, reinfection is a serious issue, but even without a quarantine, it tends to burn out in a week or two at most. Reinfection often happens before they get the chance to drink anything, so they tend to die of dehydration during the second round.
Still, that left the question of whether he should add more points of infection or leave it as-is. Dropping even a few zombies into a highly populated area is usually enough, but dropping them into different locations massively speeds up the infection rate. Knowing Ai Chen, he doubts she'd care how much collateral got involved. In fact, she might egg him on to cause more, even if it isn't beneficial.
Wouldn't it be, in this case?
Something about the thought is upsetting, though he can't particularly fathom why. He doesn't care for anyone here - probably no one in the country, even. He's unleashing a zombie virus that will have an indeterminate death count, even if it's all indirect deaths, so why does he feel opposed to the idea of spreading it more?
He tamps down on the feeling as he passes by another man. He doesn't particularly need to make a scene to infect him, so he doesn't, withdrawing some blood and guiding it to the man's face without pausing his walk. It only takes moments for the man's spluttering to cut out before, no doubt, being replaced by a thousand-yard stare.
He keeps walking.
His newfound fixation on preserving human life is pointless and detrimental. Life is not precious. Earth has had a chronic overpopulation problem even throughout the rise of Noble Arms. It's that damned OPL code.
It really was incredibly stupid, using normal human brain chemistry as the regeneration template. The idea that it wouldn't matter is laughable to him, now. At least his Noble Arm got it right.
He still hasn't tested his regeneration without his Noble Arm. He should have some degree of it in theory, but he knows that normal people view his thinking as lacking, somehow, and he'd hate to think the same. He'd much rather have an emotional blind spot than a logical one, thank you very much. Hypocrites, the lot of them.
He enters a nearby alleyway and lifts up his jacket and shirt to avoid creating a hole in them, then manifests a simple kitchen knife, feeling the throb of unfelt pain in his back. Reaching back, he pulls it out, letting his clothes drop, and hides the knife under his jacket. He can feel his blood staining the back of his shirt, but the jacket is water-resistant and his regeneration is fast enough to keep the wound from making a mess. Blood clotting is child's play.
He waits by the alley entrance, waiting for another passerby. Eventually, a woman holding a baseball bat does, and he uses his Hemokinesis to pull the knife out from his jacket and launch it at her. Human life isn't precious, and he needs to prove to himself that he believes it; that he can take it when the need arises.
The knife sinks right into her neck, catching her completely unawares, but the wound is pathetically shallow. An exercise in utilization of minimal force, he tries to justify, except he knows he can't lie to himself. He hasn't caused any meaningful damage. Frustration bubbles up within him, and he telekinetically pulls the knife out and jams it into her lower abdomen. It was something he did on the spur of the moment; something to take his anger out on, except why bother pulling the knife away from her neck, then?
It's a waste to kill her, he mentally argues. It's a waste to kill everyone haphazardly too. Human life isn't precious, but it has more use alive than dead. The justification rings hollow to him, but it's an acceptable excuse this time. He has no reason to kill people here. He can more closely examine his self-endangerment later... except there may never be a better time to do so than now. If he fails to pull the metaphorical trigger once, what's to stop it from happening again?
He can feel a headache coming on, already far too late to stop. He decides that if he's going to kill the woman, it's now or never. He reaches out - an unnecessary motion, but a steadying one. He could pull the knife out. The blood loss alone might be enough to do it, eventually, though it wouldn't be enough to clear his doubts, and he's not sure he wouldn't hesitate to stab her again. He instead reaches for the virus, barely accessible through her stab wound, and changes it to the rage variant, something that ensures she'll aggravate her wound and burn out - to death. There. He's done it.
When the headache hits, he finds it easier to keep his gaze locked onto the pavement. It's not painful, per se, but it's probably the closest thing to pain he can still feel, like resting your head on a bed of uneven porous rock. It's an intrusive sort of discomfort that he's become excruciatingly familiar with, since pushing against the resulting mental fatigue is both pointless and sharpens the rock's jagged edges. It's certainly worse than the feeling of the woman slamming the bat into his head.
"American Bastard!" She yells out something he barely registers, and doesn't even bother trying to understand.
He kicks her back as his skull repairs the minor damage she managed to deal and she snarls, brandishing the bat for another home run. Why is she even carrying... doesn't matter. He can still identify an enemy when he sees one. He grabs the bat as it swings at him. He probably sprains his wrist in the process, but he wouldn't care even if he were in his right mind to. He sees flicker of movement in the corner of his eye, and, preparing to take on another assailant, he angles the bat and pushes it back at her, hitting her in the chest and forcing her back, before following it up with another kick, pushing her out of the alleyway and into the street. That should give him the time and space to deal with the new arrival.
He stares them down, arms raised, prepared to fight, and they stare back through slitted green eyes. The staredown drags on and on for what feels like forever, until the loud sound of glass shattering rings out from a ways across the street, and the tabby cat he's been staring down darts away, probably scared off by the noise.
Did he just... get into a standoff with a stray cat?
He clutches at his forehead, not sure whether the lingering discomfort of his headache or his mortification is worse. He glances at the woman with a baseball bat ransacking some storefront before walking away as shouts of alarm begin to ring out. He'd rather not put on the mask and give up the element of surprise just yet, and it's not really his concern what trouble that woman gets into. The rage virus isn't really the infectious type, if only because the behaviors it causes aren't conducive to it, but maybe she'll infect more people by accident, who can say? Ai Chen hasn't said anything about friendly fire, so it's not like a particularly ornery Noble Arms user getting infected should matter. Even if the Philippines gets blown up, he'll probably be fine as long as it isn't vaporized. Probably.
Getting back to camp, first thing's first, he deposits the wood next to the small fire Noah lit and tosses a few sticks onto the blaze without any prompting or permission. Next, he begins to wander off, trying to break line of sight with all of his friends but especially Kieran before digging his cooler out of the sand, retrieving two cans of Red Bull and then burying it again. He creates some distance from the hiding place, remaining out of sight of the others just in case, before cracking one can open and immediately downing half of it in one go.
When he finally comes back up for air, he begins pacing, still mostly obscured from the others by the pre-shore tree line. He needs a plan, a series of steps he can follow in order to achieve his goals, and the first step for that is determining what those goals actually are.
He likes Deuel, that much is undeniable. Though, as a romantic partner, he can't say anyone else comes further out of left field. At least, out of anyone he actually considers a friend. It's... not something he's sure about, at all. Although he's mostly deferred judgment on it because of his age and inexperience, love at first sight isn't something he currently believes to exist, and he can't imagine suddenly losing all of his brain cells at the sight of someone particularly attractive as so described in many a trite love song. As such, it strikes him as impractical to be holding out for some kind of divine revelation relating to his love life at the expense of his current prospects. They say relationships take time to build, don't they?
He's certainly had plenty of time to build a relationship with all five of his friends, but he's never had more than passing flights of fancy about it - mainly with Conner, and only because of the excessively affectionate mannerisms he shows everyone. Did all those years as friends not constitute adequate candidacy for a relationship? Has he been aromantic the whole time or is it just because he never bothered considering it?
Well, no, he's definitely considered it, but he's persistently identified himself as an underlying problem with any projection of hypothetical relationships with himself. He is undeniably pretty fucked in the head, and every scenario he maps out always loops back around to hurting not just his friends but himself in the end.
Him and Conner? Complete opposites. It's a miracle they're even friends. How happy could they be together when he doesn't even like the beach? There's no way Conner would be happy in a relationship with him.
Him and Kieran? Also a disaster in the making. Even now, he can't laugh off a prank because he has too many psychological hang-ups. It doesn't really matter how many apologies or assurances Kieran gives him when being made the butt of a joke always feels like a microcosm of his life.
Him and Ciel? It's like the blind leading the blind, except the one being led, Ciel, just lost his glasses while he's had his eyes scooped out like cannibal ice cream. Their friendship is already like that - Ciel's managed to open up about his insecurities, but what Niles has isn't a fear of judgment, it's quantifiable knowledge of his many inadequacies. Ask anyone - there's no denying he's the biggest wet blanket in their friend group. Their problems will only compound if they got together.
Him and Noah? God, him and Noah. It's so easy to form and hold grudges against the guy when he pushes so many of his buttons without even realizing it. His overreaction to any tiny slight against him is... it... it makes Noah hard to handle, and when he returns the favor, it just seems to piss Noah off, hypocrite that he is. If they got together there's a chance it'd end in blood and he's not sure whose.
Then there's Deuel. What else is there to say about Deuel? He's more distant than Noah or Ciel, similar to Niles in many ways yet utterly superior in others. His tendency to unilaterally compete with Niles has always made him wonder if Deuel secretly hated him; wanted to expose his vapid hairstyle and nonchalant attitude for the empty posturing that it is.
For a brief, heart-clenching moment, a swirling vortex of bubbling pitch seems to blot out the sunset sky; dread washing over him as he considers the possibility that this is a ploy set up by Deuel to manipulate or embarrass him.
No, he shakes his head to himself - no. Besides a less than graceful escape, he hasn't blown the situation up in his own face yet. If anything Deuel left himself more vulnerable with that straight-faced confession.
"But what I feel for you, this yearning, this warmth and fire, it's love."
Niles shudders. The wording - how can he doubt that level of sincerity?
So, Deuel likes him. Maybe it's just a fleeting crush he'll get over with time, but for now, it's going to be something he has to address either way, since, unlike the others, he's likely to continue seeing Deuel throughout college. That could potentially be bad, if things don't work out. He should probably plan that argument out in advance, when Deuel inevitably gets frustrated he's committed so much of his life to being around such an asshole. It's not hard to imagine how - money spent on charity is money that isn't spent on research, development, or expansion. You need to spend money to make money and beyond tax incentives, there will never be a time when he won't be able to argue that he could do more good by reinvesting and helping people with the greater resulting income.
He'll put a pin in rehearsing that argument for now.
As much as he likes Conner's freely given affection - as much as he likes Kieran's comfortable presence, dark humor, and emotional openness - as much as he empathizes with Ciel and admires him for tackling his struggles better than he ever could - as much as it means to him when Noah goes the extra mile to prove how much he cares about him, even when he tells Noah not to - as much as Deuel is perhaps the only person who can go off on a idealistic tangent and not only make him believe that such ideals can be lived up to, but that the person carrying it out, Deuel, actually believes what they're preaching - as much as a selfish, possessive, altogether ugly part of him wouldn't mind a relationship with any one of them, no matter how he hurts them, in the end, he doesn't want that. He doesn't want to hurt any of them.
Backing up a bit, he needed to decide what his goals are in order to form a plan. After careful examination of his feelings, he can say with confidence that a relationship with Deuel or anyone else isn't it. Not... not as the person he is now. Maybe that's not a realistic time frame, but maybe he's too messed up for a proper relationship.
If the goal is to make Deuel happy, he can't see any better way of handling his confession than a rejection.
After spending several more minutes spent pacing, searching for the right wording to use, and coming up with excessively numerous deflections to potential avenues of further inquiry, Niles returned to camp, depositing the empty red bull can into a bag for later recycling as he took a swig of the other one.
The bonfire was starting to flag a bit, and he sat himself down next to it, taking a pile of sticks and tossing them in one by one. It was perhaps bad for the eyes to be staring directly at the fire continuously, but watching the sticks burn was just too cathartic. Perhaps he was adding more wood than strictly necessary, but it's not like they didn't have the sticks to burn.
Niles noticed the arrival of most of the others, though he didn't realize Deuel had arrived until he announced that he had brought gifts for everyone. Before he could even debate when to tell Deuel his decision, Deuel was shoving a bag towards him.
He was at a bit of a loss here. He didn't deserve a gift from the guy right before breaking his heart, but if he had to explain why he couldn't accept a gift before even looking at it, he wouldn't be able to do it casually. "...Thank you."
He gingerly took the bag and lowered it, peering inside. Inside was some sort of plush doll, which he gently pulled out, only to realize it was a doll of Deuel.
A bit of a conceited gift, maybe, but as a token of their friendship, something to remember him by, it's perfect. It's... nice to have proof, that they were once friends... just in case.
Niles stared at the plush, a soft smile on his face below stormy eyes. He didn't want to say he liked it in front of the others, lest they get the wrong idea, especially given what he was about to do, but he did like it. He opted to repeat himself. "Thanks. We should talk, tonight." He can at least keep the matter private, for Deuel's sake. Give him the space to lash out, if it makes him feel better. Plus, no spectators means less variables. Less chance that someone asks something he hadn't planned for.
Well, for all his contingencies, the plan is pretty simple: I think we should stay friends.
The waitress nods, taking back the menu and leaving Jason to his own devices.
The gunmetal jacket Ai Chen had thrown in his face on the flight over is unassuming enough, though infiltration work really isn't his forte. That isn't to say he's feeling much career fulfillment carrying out haphazard acts of terrorism, but he has to admit that his Noble Arm is uniquely suited towards 'lowering morale.'
The mission itself is rather onerous - him against pretty much all of task force: Obsidian. While he hasn't been saddled with taking them all down, besides his extraction, he's mostly been left to handle the whole thing on his own. Can't have him flipping out on any partner, and it's not like they could split up after he begins spreading the virus.
The waitress eventually returns with his bowl of ramen. He shoots her a thank you before breaking apart a pair of chopsticks and digging in. Maybe he should have tried actual filipino food for his first visit, but as a creature of habit, he can't resist going back to his old favorites.
The spice dances mildly on his tongue, and he bites into it hard enough to bleed, willing the regeneration to do its damn job. The scars on his skin and dark circles under his eyes are both its most glaring failures, but his burnt taste receptors from years of drinking coffee before it adequately cools down is perhaps its worst shortcoming. It wouldn't be so bad if he could fix it once and be done with it, like the same haircut he's been sporting since he got his powers, but he either can't help but foil himself with the same bad habits he's always had or his self-image is so intertwined with the damage that he keeps bringing it back without realizing. Either way, he reaches for one of the bottles of chili oil the restaurant leaves on every table and begins pouring on more of it, then takes a bite and smiles at the double-whammy of repaired taste buds and increased heat. It's not like he can feel the painful parts, so the physiological responses to extreme heat have a novelty to them not unlike the deterioration of motor function from alcohol.
Whatever, this should do for the taste test.
He bites into his thumb and pulls a small ball of blood out, hidden from the other customers by his bowl. Modifying blood is his specialty, but the most literal of modifications still elude him. Changing the color of blood to a different shade of red is easy. Blood already changes color based on its level of oxygenation and can range anywhere from a vibrant scarlet to a claret shade of black. While he's managed to keep blood healthy and alive at its more unhealthy shades, nothing really happens when he tries to go for shades of blue or green. Perhaps more frustrating is that, when he tries, he finds that it really isn't that difficult to push the color slightly away from red, towards orange, brown, and especially towards pink. At the extreme end of alteration, the orb of blood looks more like an orb of Pepto Bismol. Something about the image of that wretched indigestion medicine near his ramen makes his stomach turn, so he returns the ball of blood to red before taking another bite.
What he'd really like to accomplish is clear blood, indistinguishable from water, but the opacity on his little ball of blood isn't quite so flexible. When separated into component parts, semitransparent blood plasma should make up more than half of the contents of blood, but even through conscious effort, all he seems to be able to make is this sickly yellow mess that fills him with similar disgust when left next to his food. Does pure blood plasma even still count as blood for his powers? Is the blood plasma he creates even close to pure, or is it some bastardized contaminated mix?
Fuck it, he'll just put the blood in the chili oil.
Next, modifying the blood to have no taste. He begins trying to remove the iron so that the offensive taste of pennies doesn't stand front and center, but try as he might, any satisfyingly inoffensive taste constitutes complete death of the sample. He ends up having to bite into his thumb a few more times before finally giving up on removing the iron, aiming to overpower the taste instead. Luckily, enhancing the inherent meaty flavor leads to a surprisingly pleasant outcome, resembling the miso soup in some ways. Maybe he could slip it into the Miso too. Just gotta make it more of a dark orange-yellow... yeah, that works. Taste test, and- okay, a little bit more tweaking.
By the end, he has something that any chef would crucify him for comparing to miso, but it doesn't particularly change the flavor when added to proper miso broth.
It strikes him, all at once, that perhaps matching the ramen flavors was an unnecessary step to take, but he rather enjoyed the food here, and defending the chef's professional integrity is the least he could do before terrorizing the staff with zombie customers.
Well, no, the least he could do for them would be contaminating all of their supplies and not giving a damn how it affects the ramen. The entire exercise in blood flavoring has been a waste of time, hasn't it?
Jason physically shakes off the gloom. He has to consciously remind himself that further development of his Noble Arm could eventually lead to a breakthrough, no matter how inane the direction seems at first. He finishes off the rest of his ramen before flagging down the waitress for his check.
While he's waiting, he considers how to handle task force: Obsidian after drawing their attention here. Realistically speaking, all he'd need to do is infect one of them with the loneliness virus and his job would be done. Since they seem to be recuperating, it's unlikely that the Ritz hotel becomes an easier target just because some of them are drawn away, and thus it's likely best to just send one of them back as a trojan horse.
Jason takes his lightly flavored blood, keeping it red, and begins modifying the virus within for delayed release. This, he has already mastered, albeit only relatively, since the variance in victim metabolism makes it difficult to nail down a specific time frame before secondary symptoms manifest. A side effect of the greater delay is that the increased heart rate is harder to notice at first, though it stops being beneficial once it starts to kick in, becoming more obvious due to the longer period it's drawn out over. He should also probably keep collateral to a minimum, which in this case means making the virus lose potency if it hasn't infected a body by... let's see, the restaurant closes at midnight? That works.
Mixed in with a lot of broth or the rest of the chili oil, the dosage would be rather low, but direct consumption would still have people turning within several seconds. He decides to shoot for a dosage and potency where secondary symptoms begin to manifest after fifteen minutes or so, hopefully enough time for people to finish their meals and walk out, if only to lessen the trouble for the restaurant owners.
...Which is pretty pointless considering they're likely to get infected sooner or later, whether it be by the broth or their customers. He can feel a light ache at the back of his head at his own wishy washy bullshit and decides to stop thinking about it before the thoughts start to become their own problem.
When the waitress comes back with his check, he pays in cash, leaving a generous tip, before standing and infecting all the chili oil bottles he walks past. His own table was at the end of the restaurant, so it was simple to get all the unoccupied tables, and for the rest he just floated the blood droplets under their table when he passed by and into the chili oil bottles from behind their lines of sight, quietly observing the other customers as he did so to make sure none of them paid enough attention to notice. When he reaches the front of the restaurant, he stops, turning around and walking towards the back of the restaurant, as if forgetting something. It's rather trivial getting into the kitchen, albeit not very far in, and floating over the flavored, colored blood into all of the pots that look like miso.
One of the chefs realizes he shouldn't be there, but doesn't seem to have noticed his sabotage. "Sir, you can't be back here."
Since it's not the waitress, he plays up the clueless foreigner act, apologizing in Russian, not expecting it to be understood, before using a common tourist phrase, letting his accent shine through. "Where is the restroom?"
The woman shakes her head, probably unsure if the foreigner would even understand her words. "No public restroom." She moves forward to drive him out of the kitchen and he lets her, backing off and continuing away from the kitchen once he's out until he passes through the front doors.