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Old June 20th, 2019, 04:39 PM #1
scikaiju's Avatar
> scikaiju
Power Ranger
 
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382
scikaiju
Power Ranger
scikaiju's Avatar
 
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382



Rook : Knight of the Double Blade

OP - CFO$ - Catch Your Breath


Walking the streets at night, a young woman in a simple dress paid no attention to her surroundings. Most people ignored her as she past, paying more attention to their phones or conversations than a single person. Not having a destination in mind she just wonder aimlessly. So lost in whatever thoughts that were in her head she didn't even noticed that she left the crowds and lights behind and entered a more run down part of the city, a darker, less populated area.

Now she was aware of some people following her. Quickening her pace she heard them walk faster as well. Before long she was at a full on run, but her followers didn't chase her down. More worried about what was behind her she looked back, and missed the ones suddenly in front of her. They quickly covered he mouth and dragged her into an alley. Forcing her to the back where no one could see they threw her down and hovered over her. “Please,” she practically squeaked, “please don't hurt me.”

“We ain't gonna hurt you,” the apparent leader said, sneering at her trembling form. Licking his lips he told her,” You look almost too good to eat.” That got a sick chuckle out of a couple of those with him. The very sound made her try and squirm further into the wall.

“Please,” she repeated as he traced her cheek with a dirty finger. His very touch made her recoil in disgust. That sneer just grew more menacing and disgusting.

“Who the fuck's that?”, one of them asked. Everyone looked back at the opening.

In a dark overcoat, a man with dirty blond hair calmly walked toward them. Hazel eyes seemingly studying all of those present. Dark pants, a deep blue dress shirt and boots was all he wore. His coat simple adorned by a thin gold pin on his right lapel and some sort of Gothic looking face pin on his left breast. He only said one thing as he got closer, “Leave now.”

The woman tried to move but the leader pushed her back down, “Fuck his shit up!”

The group charged him. The closest to him reared back and swung with all he was worth. The newcomer grabbed his arm and flipped him over his would be attacker shoulder and continued forward. Another came at him low that he easily jumped over it. A third tried to tackle him, he was able grab him to stop his momentum and keep him in place long enough to flip over his back. Turning around briefly he kicked him into the second attack as he tried to get up. Again this new guy made his way toward the back of the alley. Another one was smart enough to come at him with a pipe. Ducking the first few swings he reached into his coat. The attacker took one giant swing at the other man's head trying to cave it in.

There was an audible clang as the pipe met, and bent around, a black, roughly two and a half foot staff with gold inlay wrapped around the ends and in the middle. The would be attacker and couple of the others stared in disbelief at the now twisted weapon. Here the newcomer takes his eyes off the back wall and at the wielder of the pipe. Pulling the staff free he kicked the other man back. The newcomer went to put the staff back when the other man recovered faster and nailed him in the arm with the bent pipe. It hit him in just the right area that the shock went down his arm and caused his hand to open. The staff landed with a huge thud on some garbage and cinder blocks that shocked the others present. Another kick put him down for good this time. The newcomer looked angry with himself momentarily as he looked at the down man then looked back at the back of the alley.

He stared at the rest of them, gauging where they were in front, and where they were in back of him. All it took was him glancing down at the staff for the rest to jump him. They were finally able to force him back as a group and away from his weapon. Taking a few punches he grabbed one and tossed him into the group and created enough space to break free. Positioning himself between the group and their leader and the woman he looked back and forth at them, silently weighing his options. Realizing he only had one. He took most of he group by surprise by running at them. They weren't prepared for his attack as he took them down as fast as he could.

As the last two went down and their leader slack jawed at the sight, the newcomer looked at the down men shaking his head. Finally focusing on the back of the alley he went, “I said leave.”

“Fuck you bitch,” the leader snarled as he charged him. Every punch and kick was blocked or dodged, infuriating him even more. But he was able to get the fight closer to the woman. Figuring if he was trying so hard to save her maybe he could use that to his advantage. Grab her and threaten to kill her or something. When they were close enough, the girl actually stumbled toward them making this even easier, he reached for her. The newcomers moved faster than he thought was possible, grabbed his arms and crossed them against his chest as he slammed him against the brick wall. He looked the newcomer in the eyes as he was held in place, just seeing determination.

That just made him angrier, “You expecting a thank you fuck from this little bitch? That she be grateful and just give it up to the god damn hero?”

“She's not the one I'm saving,” he grunted. In his free appeared a black, demonic eye looking Lighter. He turned just enough to put it in the woman's face and lit it. Transfixed by the blue flame her irises glowed as ancient lettering appeared in her eyes.

A small, tinny male voice said, “And neither one of you are his type.”

Briefly looking annoyed he cut the flame and grabbed the woman. She grabbed him and threw him away from her. Demeanor completely changed now, more confident and looking at the leader as hungrily as he did her and grabbed him around the throat. The newcomer quickly got to his feet and grabbed the woman, broke her grip and forcibly moved her away from the man. He sucked in air as he held his throat as he watched the two of the struggle with the woman eventually being thrown down.

She was suddenly very animalistic in her movements, crouched down and ready to strike. The newcomer got between her and and the other man and took up a fighting stance. She started speaking, but it wasn't in any tongue her now scared to hell would be attacker understood. But the man in the over coat understood her perfectly. “Makai Knight,” She tried to get in a position to get around him but he made sure he was a constant obstacle in any path she tried to take. In a more demonic sounding English she went, “Do you not know what he and his followers intended to do to this body?”

He replied, “I have an idea.”

“Then why protect this scum?”, she snapped. “Let me feed on this filth and those like him. Let me take their darkness away from this city.”

“Human affairs aren't my concern,” he told her. “And how long before you start feeding on those who wouldn't attack you?” She hissed and took a swipe at him even though she was too ar away to make any contact. “I only have one job. Cutting down Horrors and protecting the ones your kind hunts, no matter how disgusting I find them.”

With a roar she came at them and he cut her off with a kick to the gut. Taking the attack to the Horror he tried everything he could to get her away from the man. A few of his group came too, saw what was happening as the two of them fought each other and finally took heed of his warning and ran out of there, dragging who the could along the way. Their leader was still frozen in place having seen and heard thing they didn't. He looked at them then spotted the staff still on the ground, leaning against a cracked cinder clock. Finding his courage he ran for the staff, grabbed the end in the air and headed for the fight. Then he looked like someone took the street out from under his feet an his feet went up and nearly threw his own shoulder out as the staff didn't budge an inch. “Fuck,” he muttered trying to grab at his shoulder and get up at the same time.

The so called Knight kept the horror at bay as long as he could. He made a misstep and she charged in connecting with a swipe to the chest that sent him reeling and went for another. He backed up, soon back flipping out of the way as she gave chase. The other man stumbled out of the way as he came closer, his foot kicking down on the staff as he landed causing it to spin in the air. An awaiting hand grabbing it he swung and clocked the woman in the head snapping it around and making her stumble back a few feet. She brought her head back around and snapped her neck back into place. The Knight seemed unfazed but the would be attacker kept crawling backwards.

He ran into something and looked back. Two people, a woman in a dark coat that went past her waist and a white blouse and tan pants, looked down at him. “Well this is a problem,” she said. The other one, a man in a black and purple double breasted fully buttoned coat. looked on with indifference. Both wore similar black leather bracers on their wrists “You're getting sloppy Carter,” she called out. He grunted in response as he continued the fight.

With his weapon he was able to keep the Horror at bay easier now while trying to wear it down and damage what he could. Without warning he tossed the staff at the Horror. She caught it on instinct and immediately her hand drop to the ground. She looked up realizing how exposed she was at the moment and could only watch as the Knight ran in with a kick to the face. She fell back and he grabbed the staff and smashed it against her legs as she got up. She scrambled out of the way as he swung the staff down at her and faced him as he prepared himself for what was next. Opening her mouth she shout a small spike that he batted away with the staff. She shot another one and had the same results. Inhaling she fired them out of her mouth at a rapid fire pace. The Knight swung the small staff around deflecting what he could and trying to avoid the ones he couldn't. Spinning around he grabbed the other end of the staff and pulled. Both hands deflecting the spikes as what light in the area caught the surface of what he was swinging making look like it was flashing for the briefest of moment. One last spike left her mouth and shot right at him. A metal blade deflected it enough that it just missed the right side of his face and embedded itself into the wall behind him. He repostioned himself for the attack wielding the two half of the staff that now revealed the hidden blades that were inside.

Not taking his eyes off the Horror he called out, “Jules, I need a barrier now.”

“On it,” the blond woman said. Revealing a wide brush with a white bristles, she pulled out some red paper with markings on them. Her companion grabbed her arm and stopped her. She looked back at him, “Reks?”

“Do not take orders from a Knight,” he told her. She pulled away and stared at him.

“It to keep the Horror in,” she informed him. “If you weren't so pig headed.... Just watch the jackass here.”

Turning back to Carter and the Horror, she saw him swing and cut the horror while avoiding it's swipes. He jumped off a trash container high in the air. The horror was ready for him when he landed. Jules already had a different type of paper, gray this time but still marked, in hand. Bringing her brush to it the end glowed a bit as she swiped it toward the horror. The paper formed a long metal spike that embedded itself above the Horror. Carter landed on it and sprung off as the Horror grabbed where she thought he was going to be, Flipping in the air and landing behind the shocked Horror he swung both blades and cut her deep in the back. Recoiling in pain and screeching in response she caught Carter with a savage back hand that sent him flying into the opposing wall.

“Carter!”, Jules called out. Again Reks held her back.. She freed herself one more time as the woman bent backwards, her skin going leathery and black as night. Her arms became another set of legs as a pair of arms with pincers appeared to grow out of her hips. Her neck elongated into a tail as her head became it''s stinger. Mandibles snapped at Carter as he slowly got to his feet, blades in front of him to defend himself. Jules held her brush close, did some small, quick hand moments and fired off a blast of magical energy that struck the Horror in the side.

Angered the Horror angled it's tail toward her and fired of more spikes from it's stinger.

“What are you doing?!”, Reks demanded as he used his brush, similar in design to hers but with a metal ring separating the bristles from the main body of the brush, to use smaller blast to intercept the spikes.

“Taking on a Horror like we were trained to do,” she said as she kept up her attack.

Seeing the opening she gave him Carter ran in and jumped, landing in front of the horror and jamming one of the blades into it's head as he did so. Struggling to hold on to the blade as to struggled to get free he looked up to see the tail ready to strike. Pulling the blade loose in time he jumped out of the way as it struck the ground. Landing near the other three he spun the duel blades in his hand a bit, deflecting more of those spikes, before bringing them together at the other end, forming a double bladed staff that was almost five feet in length. Stabbing and swing as he charged he forced the Horror back then retreated a bit to make some space between them.” Jules.”

She was already prepared with the red paper in her hand, “One barrier coming up.” The bristles glowing again, she placed the the slip of paper in the ground and brought the brush to it, a barrier of energy flashed to life momentarily before fading from view. The only hint that it still existed was part of it flashed when Carter deflected another spike into it. “Be careful. This one isn't going to last that long to begin with,” she reminded him.

He didn't make any sort of movement or sound that he understood, just kept his attention on the Horror in front of him. One who took a small woman to use itself as bait to attract it's prey. Concentrating a bit her brought the staff over his head and spun it. Both ends seemingly cutting a line in the air that formed a circle when he was done and brought the staff down to his right side. The interior of the circle cracked and broke as an otherworldly light shined on top of him. Then, what seemed to be with the slightest nod of his head, plates of metal came down on top of him. Clad in flat red armor, he looked more like a metal wolf with the snarling head and clawed fingers, a silver diamond shaped jewel at his waist, Blue eyes staring defiantly at the Horror in front of him The staff changed as well, the blades growing a little longer and at the base where it met the staff curved bladed like hilts appeared. He swung the staff around with practiced ease, now he was more than just Carter Greystone he was Rook, Knight of the Double Blade.

Slowly he walked forward, using either the staff or his fist to bash away the spikes coming at him, the ground cracking beneath him with each step. Once he was close enough the Horror tried to jam it's tail into him. He caught it with his free hand and swung the bladed staff through the tail severing it from the rest of it's body. The lone man who had no idea what was going on held his ears as the creature cried out in tremendous agony. As it scurried away. The tail disintegrating in his hand he ran at the fleeing beast. Jumping up and off a wall he flew over the Horror and swung the staff. As the blade cut through as he past he landed and the beast appeared to exploded in a fireball before the flames turned into those symbols momentarily before fading completely.

After the armor flew up to whence it came Carter turned around, separated the staff and returned it back to it's original staff stat as Jules removed the paper from the ground removing the barrier. Shooting a glance art her companion she looked at the guy Carter just saved, “So what are we going to do with this one?”

“Drop him at the police station,' was his answer.

“I'll take him,” Reks said. Grabbing him by the arm he hauled him to his feet and dragged him toward the alley's opening. Looking back a bit at the Knight he leaned in and spoke, low enough that only his current companion could hear, “Don't worry, I'm not taking you to the police.”

Oblivious to that conversation Jules told Carter, “They're not going to believe him if Reks doesn't do anything. And if he does they still don't have anything to hold him for.”

“Not my problem.” Turning his head to the left a bit he, “Xypher, are there any more Horrors around?”

The pin on his label spoke in that tinny voice, “No, Scorpina there was the only one.”

“That wasn't it's name,” Jules said with a slight smirk.

“Eh, I like my name better,” the pin said. “Unfortunately me and Carter got here in time to stop her.”

Carter looked a little closer at the pin on his chest, “Unfortunately?”, he said.

“Well he was planning on raping her.”

“And she was planning on eating him,” Carter said.

“Not my problem if she has poor taste in meals... Ow,” he exclaimed as Carter flicked him.

“And he'll probably do it again,” Juels said, mainly to stick up for the Madou pin. “And that one won't be a Horror.”

“I know,” Carter said softly. In his more normal tone of voice he told them, “But human affairs aren't our concern. We protect them all, no matter who they are. No matter how we feel about them.”

“I know,” Jules said but not in a mocking way. “Well we better keep hunting, who knows if there's another Horror around. I'll let you know if I find anything.” Carter nodded. Jules reached out and squeezed his arm and smiled before using her brush to make the metal spike disappear and walking off. Carter watched her a moment before heading back to the street himself.
***

Reks opened a door and gestured for his companion to head on down the staircase in front of him. As he said he didn't take him to the police. But he never said he take him home either. A fact that seemed to go over the other man's head. At least until right now. He started to back up, but simply bringing his Madou brush back into view quickly stopped that. “Go ahead,” Reks said. “It's perfectly safe. They won't be able to find you down here.”

“W... who won't?”, he asked.

Lifting an eyebrow he replied, “Things like that woman.” That was enough to get him down the stair, so fast he almost tripped himself going down them. Closing the door behind him Reks calmly followed hitting a switch near the bottom to light up the nearly bare room. “It's not much but it'll keep you comfortable for a couple of days. The mattress over there on the floor isn't much but it's better than nothing.

“Thanks,' he muttered as he looked around, Outside of the mattress there was a couple of different sized crates in a corner making a makeshift table and chair. “You sure nothing like that bitch will find me here?”

“Positive,' Reks told him. Still he looked around the room again unconvinced. “There are seals in place,” he told the man. “To make sure they can't sense anybody on the inside. Like that barrier my partner put up earlier.” That made his guest a little more at ease with the situation.

“What the fuck was she?”, he asked suddenly. “That wasn't fucking human.”

“She used to be,” Reks said walking toward the crates and sitting on one of the smaller ones. “And I'm sure she might have been a lovely person before the Horror possessed her.”

“Horror?”, he said looking confused. “You guys used that word a lot when the bitch,” he made some motion with his hand trying to find the right word, “turned into whatever the fuck that was.”

“That was it's true form,”m he explained. “That was a Horror, or the name we call then. A creature from a different dimensions that makes it's way into our world, looking for food. Or to take possession of a person so they can move about and hunt more easily.”

“You mean like an alien invasion?”

Reks looked almost amused by his question. “Not quite. No, it's said that they're are born from, and drawn too, the darkness in human hearts. It'll be inside a gate, waiting for the right moment to emerge. Usually when some one is close enough, either with said darkness on their hearts or at their darkest and weakest moments. It very possible that woman was being attacked by a similar group to yours, it just happened to be by a gate.”

He seemed to be understanding things better now, “So it made her a deal, the power to get out of it.”

“In a sense,' Reks told him. “From my understanding that particular Horror tends to hunt down those groups looking for an easy victim.” His guest started to say something, almost like he was going to protest, but Reks didn't give him an opening to do so. “But what the Horror never tells their unwitting victims is that in doing so they are consuming their very soul. That woman was dead the moment she agreed to it.”

“So it was wearing her like a outfit.”

“In a manor of speaking,” Reks said, losing the amused look. “The memory and personalty is still there to keep up the disguise if need be. But the person she was, eaten by the Horror.”

“That is fucked up.”

“No truer statement was ever spoken.”

“So who are you guys then?”

“We are an order that had been protecting the rest of you from for longer than most people can imagine. In secret of course, mostly because we have too for various reason.” Standing up and brandishing his brush he exclaimed, “I am a Makai Priest.” The bristles glowing he pointed the brush at the wall and let lose a small ball of energy that exploded on contact. His guest was stunned to the point his jaw dropped.

Walking over and almost touching the smoking spot on the wall, but was too afraid to. He looked back and forth between Reks and the spot on the wall a couple of times before going, “That was magic.”

“How observant of you,” he said dryly. “We learned ways to challenge the Horrors and hold the back. A few of us can even defeat one.” To anybody else watching he may have seen a little too proud of that particular fact.

That bubble, as they say, burst when they other man asked, “What about the other guy?”

Shooting him a deadly glare that made the other man stumble back he went, “Who?”

“Th... the other guy. The one with the....” he started swinging his arms around in the air like that explained everything. “The one who killed that bitch.”

“She isn't dead,” he said coldly.

And the other man expression changed back to panic just as fast. “You said she was dead.”

“I said the woman it possessed was dead,” Reks said getting close enough the other man backed up some more. “You can not kill a Horror. You can only send it back to the Makai dimension.” Reks backed off a bit to regain his composure. A little calmer he went on, but the disdain was still evident in his voice, “That other one was a Makai Knight. Something we created and they quickly forgotten that fact.”

“Fucker seemed strong,” the other one commented. He quickly backtracked when Reks glared at him again, “I mean that weapon of his was fucking heavy. Almost ripped my shoulder out trying to grab it.”

Chuckling now he understood where he was coming from Reks went on, “That's because his swords and armor are made of soul metal. Unless you are especially trained in their use hey are extremely heavy, and dangerous to touch. Practically burning those who aren't properly prepared to wield them.”

“But I ain't burnt,” he said looking at his hands then showing them to reks.

“The casing around them protected you. The bare metal itself.... that would have been a different story.” The other man gulped and stared at his hand. “Now somewhere in that addled brain of yours you have to be wonder why am I telling you all of this. Because secret societies are supposed to be secret after all.”

“Not really,” he said starting to look nervous again.

“Of course you are,” Reks put an arm around his shoulders and guided him across the room. “You see I think you can be of use to our cause.”

“H... how?”

“Oh I'm sure we can find some place for you.” They stopped by a section of wall as Reks backed away a bit. “From an informant of sorts to,” he studied the other man a bit. “Perhaps a Makai Priest like myself, if you have the right, shall we say, talent for it.”

“Seriously?”, he asked looking more interested than confused now.

“Oh yes, we are a very open order for a secret society. We are all considered equal.” A little darkly he muttered, “More or less.” Shaking himself out of it he turned his attention back toward his guest. “But that is neither hear nor there. In fact we can begin right now if you'd like with a simple test. A test of courage.” Touching part of the wall beside him a door sized panel opened up. Nothing but complete darkness could be seen on the other side. “Unless of course if your courage is failing you at this particular moment we can wait a bit.

“Naw,” he said puffing out his chest a bit before walking through, “I not afraid of shit.” The door closed behind him. “Hey!” he banged on the door but it wouldn't budge. As his eyes adjusted tot he dark he realized there was a bit of light coming in from outside. Not a lot but just enough to curb the stifling feeling of being in complete darkness. Staying where he was he looked around a bit and say a shape close by, practically hanging against the wall. Figuring this was part of the test he slowly edged toward it. “Hey,” he whispered. He said it again a little louder, “Hey.” Starting to reach out a hand he felt goosebumps forming on his arm right before the form moved. In what light there was he saw a black demonic face came at him.

On the other said of the doorway Reks listened to him scream, almost in concert with another, demonic sounding scream. Within a few moments both screams stopped and he started smiling to himself. “As if a low life like you deserved anything else.” Turning to leave he saw that he wasn't alone anymore. Seeing this newcomer was angry he looked worried for the briefest of moments before putting up his usual expression. “Just feeding the pet,” he said as he walked past. “You should know how important that is.”

The other one said nothing, just clenched a fist tightly, trying to control the anger that was building.

***
Horrors always hunted at night, that was a fact that was never questioned. It was why they often possessed human in order to walk around during the day. Picking out potential targets to keep track of, to pounce on when the time was right. It was near dawn now so any Horror still in the city would have started to go back to whatever hole they, or in those cases, their “host” bodies had. As such Carter knew the hunt was over for now and he needed to rest before it began all over again.

In a small wooden area outside the main city he walked the well worn path. His destination was a two story house that would fit a larger size of family comfortably based on appearances and would seem better placed in one of the better neighborhoods than the middle of this area. Lantern like lights illuminated his way as he got closer. He didn't even slow down or question as he saw Jules lounging on the steps leading up to the front door. She gave him a friendly wave and smile. His response, “Why are you here?”

Moving just enough to give him room to walk up those steps she said, “I know Reks is going to be a tool later when I see him. I want to avoid it as long as possible. Which does mean I don't really have a place to stay tonight since he decided he's crashing at my place.” She looked up at him and smiled again as she battered her eyelashes. After a moment Carter just nodded his head toward the door and she quickly got up and joined him. “Thank you kind sir.”

“Like he ever turns you down when you ask,” Xypher said as Carter opened the door

“I am being polite,” she told the pin. “It would just be rude just to walk in when you two aren't here.”

Letting her go in first Carter said, “You're welcome to be here any time.'

“I know,” she smiled. “But like I said, it be rude.” Being familiar with the place as she was she flipped the switches that turned on the lights. and continued on inside. Jules removed her coat and laid over a nearby chair as they continued on. In the main room of the floor Carter took a right to a door that lead to a small study with several bookcases built into the walls, all of them loaded with old books and various other things. Heading over to the desk he removed Xypher from his place on his chest and slid him onto a display on the desk. “Knowing you there's no food prepared.”

“I'm sure there's something,” Carter said as he removed his coat and placed it on a hanger on the wall.

“Well if you had a servant like a proper titled Knight,” she started to say. When she looked at him he was staring at a small table by the chair she was standing by. At a small red envelope that was on it to be precise. “It never stops being creepy how it just shows up like that.”

“It was there when we entered the room,” Xypher told her. “I saw it when Carter put me here. Those Watchdog messengers can get in just about anywhere.”

“It's a little late for orders,” Carter said as he picked it up with one hand and reached into his pants pocket with the other. Holding the envelope by the one corner he used the blue flame of his Madou lighter to ignite another. Letting go as the flame quickly consumed the envelope the ashes grew and formed letter of the ancient Makai language in the air.

As both of them were trained to understand the words they read the orders the message contained. “The Watchdogs want to see you about tonight,” Jules finally said.

Carter finished it as the letters disappeared, “Because I came into conflict with the civilians earlier.”

“Word traveled pretty fast,” they looked back at Xypher,” I haven't even sent a report in yet.”

“I'm pretty sure I know who did,” Jules said, looking half angry and half disappointed.

Carter said, “He's doing his job.”

“And I'm sure if you were a Makai Priest Reks would have been a little kinder in his report,” Jules shot back. “I don't understand why he's like that. Particularly lately.”

Xypher commented, “He seems to be the same pain in the neck to me.” Carter shot the pin a look, “And you can't flick me from over there so I'm safe for the moment.”

Jules gave the pin a sly grin, “He could walk over there just as easily.”

“Don't give him any ideas,” Xypher protested.

“Unfortunately that attitude isn't only confined to Reks,” Carter said as he left the den. Jules followed as he continued, “I've met some Knights who have the same attitude toward Priests.”

“That's fine, I'll just hang out in here,” Xypher called out.

Jules told him, “We'll be right back.” She lost a bit of the smile though, “But sometimes I wonder if that what happened with Reks. Meeting some of those Knights you mentioned I mean. He wasn't like this when we were training.”

“Maybe it was always there and it just now starting t come out,” Carter offered.

Jules studied him a bit as they entered the kitchen. “I'm trying to decide if you actually think that's true or if you're saying that because you have a bit of a problem with Reks. too”

“You know him better than I do,” Carter said as he started rummaging around to see what he had. “I just see the man I've dealt with.”

“Well in my eyes he wasn't always like this,” Jules said as she gave him a hand, being familiar with his kitchen as well. “It wasn't after we started going out into the field that he started to change. Maybe he did met some of those Knights and never told me.”

“Maybe he did,” Carter conceded. “You always seemed to be a good judge of somebody's character. And like I said you known him better.”

“Then why am I usually hanging out with you?”, Jules shot back. The smile saying it was a joke. Carter just shrugged in response. After a bit they both had something to eat. Although Jules forced him to keep her promise to Xypher as they ate in the den. Sitting on opposite ends of the same couch hey spoke about little thing as they ate, potential dens where Horrors might be located, rumors of anything that may pertain to their particular line of work. Nothing really important, just things to pass the time while they finished.

“Well that was good,” Jules said as she put her plate down on the coffee table in front of them. “I think I'm going to call it a night. I'll see you later Carter.” She gave his hand a light squeeze as she stood up. Carter rose as well and walked her to the den's doorway. He stood there as he watched her walk up the stairs and enter the room he usually slept in.

Back on the desk Xypher went, “So, just you and me again tonight?” Carter looked back at the pin but said nothing. He glanced back up to the room Jules entered before turning back into the den.

***
The next morning Jules came down the stairs and found Carter on a couch in the main room. Well at least it was bigger than the one in the den. In what became sort of a tradition she quietly walked into the den and removed the cover off the stand Xypher was on. Blank eyes seemed to blink a bit as they readjusted to the sudden brightness. “I guess you want me to tell Carter you said goodbye again?”

“If you would please,” she said softly then started to leave like usual. But she caught sight of Carter sleeping. “Xypher,do you think he'll ever get the hint and join me up there?”

“Oh I'm sure he already got the hint,” the pin told her. “But he's too proper a Knight.”

“I know he is,” she said as she walked back to the desk. She bent over a bit to get eye level with the pin. “It's one of the things that makes Carter Carter. You know, all this time and I still don't even know why he takes a couch. He does have a couple guest rooms up there, I used to stay in one until I made my way into his.”

“He wants to be the first line of defense,” the pin told her. “As he figures it any attack would come from the lower level and not the top floor.” She looked back at the sleeping Makai Knight and smiled. That would explain all the barriers he had her put on the windows on the second floor. “Although if you really wanted him up there with you could just ask.”

“It's not quite that simple Xypher,”

“Anybody ever tell you that you humans make things more complicated than they need to be?”, the pin shot back. “You ask, he either says yes or no. Simple.”

She knelt down a bit, 'You're probably right. But if I have to be honest, whatever is between me and Carter, I think it's part of the reason why Reks is acting the way he is. He has a problem with Makai Knights in general, but Carter just sets him off for some reason. If me and Carter....” she sighed. “I need to get things straighten out between me and Reks first.”

The pin snorted, “Way too complicated.”

Jules smiled, then looked back at Carter. “Xypher, can you do me a favor? If I know Reks he's probably going to be at that meeting with the Watchdogs too. And I know how he's going to try and spin it. Just back Carter up.”

“For you, anything.” Jules lightly rubbed the top of the pin and stood up. Entering the main room she quietly walked over to the couch. Reaching out a hand she carefully brushed a few stray hairs out of his face, trying not to wake him. Retrieving her coat from the chair she put it the night before she left his house and headed home.

***
Later that day, after his usual morning workout Carter stood in front of the Watchdogs, the beings who gave him and the other Makai Knights and Priests their orders. Several columns circled a brightly lit area. But that light barely gave the slightest hint to what was in the darkness beyond them. Standing in the middle of the area he locked up at two balconies on his left and right. On the left one stood a woman, the right an older man. Both wore white robes. The woman had a necklace of pale colored seashells around her neck. The man had a wreath of white leaves circling around his head. Between them, right on the floor in front of him was a statue of a demonic looking dog with an open mouth.

As Jules had predicted, Reks was there and was already giving his version of the events from the previous night. Both Watchdogs looked bored and uninterested as he spoke. Audible to only Carter Xypher gave out a small grunt. Not being privy to his and Jules conversation from earlier he looked down briefly trying to decipher what that meant. But only briefly as he knew the Watchdogs would notice.

Also because Reks decided to point a finger right at him at that moment. “That's when I saw this man viciously attack the very people he was to 'protect'.”

Above them the female Watchdog spoke, expression not changing at all. “Is this true Rook?

Still looking bored as well the male added, “If true it would be a heinous breach of duty and protocol. How do you answer?”

Ignoring the look Reks was giving him Carter stepped forward a bit. “His version is not completely true.”

Here the female tilted her head a bit, but her expression didn't change, “So what Makai Priest Reks is saying is partially true?”

“Let the Knight answer Illumnia,” the male said.

She responded, “I am merely asking for calcification Nisoka. With charges such as these nothing must left to interpretation.”

“Agreed,” the male said after a bit. “Knight, continue.”

Carter nodded, “I discovered the Horror I was tracking had already found some potential prey. I ordered them to leave. They decided to to attack me.”

Here the male expression change to a more curious one, but still with a hint of that previous boredom. “Why would they attack you Knight?”

“My only assumption at the time was they thought I was trying to save the woman the Horror had already devoured..”

“He drew his weapon,” Rek spoke up.

“In self defense!”, the pin on his coat snapped.

“Xypher,” Carter hissed.

Both Watchdogs stopped looking bored. They showed nothing, which was more worrisome than anything. Carter could never get a good tell on either of them as it was.. “Is this true Knight?”, Nisoka demanded.

Carter glanced over at Reks. His smugness was the only thing worse than the blank looks on the Watchdogs. “I was attacked with a pipe. I acted on instinct to block the assault. But I never used the Swords of Rook on my assailants.”

“You still should have found another way,” Nisoka scolded.

Illimina added, “As a protector of these humans you must be mindful of the difference between you and the ones you protect.”

Carter chaffed a bit but said, “Yes sirs. I will do better in the future.

“But Carter was telling the truth,” Xypher spoke up/ “He was attacked and had to defend himself.”

Illumina started to say something but Nisoka raised a hand, boredom returning to both their faces. “Let the Madou pin speak, it can be entertaining on occasion.” The female Watchdog nodded in acquiesce.. “Continue.”

“My pleasure,” Xypher said. “They group Carter was trying to save attacked him like I said. The Priest here didn't even make himself known until Carter engaged the Horror. If that one didn't hit Carter on the arm with the pipe he never would have known Carter drew it to protect himself.”

Glaring at the pin Reks said, “I know what I saw.”

“And I was in the middle of it,” Xypher shot back.

Nostrils flaring a bit Reks went on, “Why should we care about your opinion jewelry?”

“I'd care about it over the guy arguing with the 'jewelry' you son of....” Carter put a hand over the pin. His muffled protest could just be heard. Reks raised his brush fully prepared to retaliate for the cut off insult.

“Enough!”, both Watchdogs ordered. Carter lowered his hand as Reks kept his Brush as the ready. Although their unwavering gaze on him made him slowly lower it.

Illumina spoke first, “Makai Priest Reks where were the Swords of Rook when you and Makai Priest Jules arrived?”

He answered readily, “They were out like I said.”

Nosika spoke next, “Were they in Rook's hands.”

He was a little more reluctant to answer this time, “No, they were on the ground.”

“Were the blades drawn?” Reks looked away in disgust. The watchdogs started at him until he answered with an angry shake of his head. “It appears you own testimony backs up Rook's claims in this particular event.”

Looking almost sick Reks said, “Apparently it does.” He walked away from the scene. Stopping right at the edge of lighted area he turned smartly, “With your leave.” Then he entered the darkness before permission was given.

“Rook,” Illumina spoke. If either of them were insulted by Rek's actions as usual they didn't show it. “While we do not condone your actions of the previous night we do understand that there were special circumstances involved.”

Nisoka spoke next, “But we will not remind you again to take care if a similar situation happens in the future. Nor will we be as lenient.”

Bowing Carter replied, “I understand.”

“Now,' Illumina said, “step forward and cleanse your blade of the Horror's foul darkness.” Without a word Carter stepped forward, drawing his weapon. Separating it he placed both blades into the mouth of the dog statue before him. There was a hissing sound as as the stone eyes seemed to glow. With a stream of smoke a small metallic looking feather blade appeared at the base of the statue.

Retrieving his blades and recombining them a small, hooded person appeared from the darkness. No one said a word as it reached out and gingerly took the blade with a gnarly, weathered hand. The blade disappearing inside the sleeve of it's robes the figure quickly returned to the darkness. Stepping back to his original spot Carter faced each watchdog and bowed before turning to leave.

“A moment longer Rook,” Nisoka said. Turning back around he was surprised to see Illumina gone leaving the two of them. “There is a task we wish to assign to you. As Illumina is in need of rest I can easily relay the order.”

Walking back to his previous spot Carter went, “What is the task you wish me to do?”

“There is a disease in our ranks,” he said. “One that causes a rift between Makai Priests and Knights.”

Confused at this information Carter said, “I thought the Golden Knight in Japan took care of that situation a couple of years ago.”

“Yes he did,” Nisoka readily agreed. “However he only removed the primary source of the conflict. Symptoms still exist after the fact. One could argue they existed before Sigma made it worse. Now we fear someone here is trying to cause those rifts to grow again.”

“Oh boy,” Xypher muttered.

“Do you have an idea who?”, Carter asked.

Slowly shaking his head Nisoka replied, “We do not at this time. Which is why we place the burden of this task upon your shoulders. While it would safe to assume another Makai Priest is behind this a Knight could just as easily be attempting to fan the flames. Find out who it is and stop them. But do not trust any one in this task and suspect everyone.”

That last bit rubbed Carter the wrong way, “With all due respect, it's possible that sort of thinking is what helped create those rifts in the first place.”

“I due believe the Watchdog misspoke,” A new voice said. Carter turned around to see an older man walk out of the shadows. Wearing loose dark clothing, the dark red highlight of his jacket being the only bit of color, and a turban like wrap around his head he smiled warmly at Carter The wrinkles around his eyes the the gray of his beard was the only give away of his age.

Carter bowed in greeting and in respect, “Makai Priest Vincent.” He didn't return the bow. Instead he took the younger man's hand and shook it.

“If I may be so bold,” he briefly glanced up at the Watchdog, “I believe he meant to say be careful of who you trust.”

“If you so wish,” Nisoka said.

Carter only just caught the smallest hint of a smirk on the older man's face. “I will brief Carter on what is going on.” Nisoka nodded and walked to the interior of the balcony. “Come my boy,” Vincent said as he guided him toward the exit, “Let's talk in the open and not a stuffing room like this one.”

***
In the city, on a side street hardly any one used a section of a wall started to glow slightly. Taking a outline of a large door the wall opened, curling inwards from the middle. Emerging from the interior darkness Carter and Vincent walked out and the wall returned to normal as they walked away. Hitting the sidewalk nobody paid them much attention. Still they tried not to draw any extra attention to themselves as they spoke, “Do you think somebody is trying to cause a rift in the order again?”, Carter asked him.

“It's a possibility,” the older man mused. “The watchdogs seem to think so. However,” he trailed off a bit, looking for the right words. “While I haven't had the honor of meeting other Watchdogs, those two seem rather linear in their thinking. If something appears to be the case then that has to be the situation.'

Carter looked at him with a unsure expression, “You think it could be something else?”

“It could be, a feint to distract us from their true goal,” Vincent said with a slight nod. “Or they could be right and someone is trying to cause trouble once again. The information I've seen could sway either way. I will be willing to to share said information of course.”

“And I would be grateful, “Carter told him.”In keeping our options open can you think of any one who might be taking up Sigma's cause?”

Vincent didn't say anything right away as he thought it over. “In all honestly, I'm not really sure. Not a whole lot of questions were asked after the previous events. Those Priests who joined Sigma's cause were quietly welcomed back into the order. It could be any of them. Or it could be none of the and a new player is on the field.”

Xypher spoke up, “Well that narrowed things down.” Vincent gave the pin a amused look.

“Well there aren't a lot of factors to narrow things down or eliminate any one just yet,' The Priest explained. “For example, Carter do you trust me?”

The young Makai Knight didn't even hesitate, “Without question.”

Stopping to face him Vincent asked, “But should you?' Carter just stared at him. “This is a slippery slop we find ourselves on. If we start accusing or hassling innocent individuals wildly we'll be causing those same rifts we were trying to stop.” He started walking down the sidewalk again with Carter quickly in tow.

“But if we do nothing,” Carter argued, “if there is someone doing just that, he'll have free reign before we can stop him.”

“As I said, it a slippery slop,” Vincent told him. “It would be the same as wonder if stopping him was an act of justice or vengeance.”

This time Carter stopped. Vincent went ahead a couple of feet before he noticed. “If he was stopped what would be the difference?”

“It could decide which slop a man fell down,” Vincent told him. “A vengeful man, would take a small amount of pleasure in stopping the one behind it. Be almost glad he was the one who cut him down. That is a path that leads to darkness. Now,” he continued walking again, “a man of justice, even if he felt the person deserved to be cut down, would not enjoy it. Again a fine line one is never sure which side he is one in the heat of the moment. So carter, after all of this, do you still think you can trust me.”

This time he didn't answer right away, taking a couple of extra moments to think it over. Something the older was happy to see. Finally he looked at him and said, “Jules trust you, and I trust her.”

Chuckling a bit Vincent told him, “Who am I to argue when my character reference is my own student. You two do seem to be a little close to each other. If I was her father I'd be asking what your intentions were.”

“Jules is,” Carter searched for the right word, “special.”

“That she is,” he quickly agreed. “I would still be asking your intentions though.”

“She is my friend and ally,” Carter told him.

“Pity,” Vincent said, confusing the younger man a bit. “I was hoping there would be a slightly deeper and more interesting answer there.”

“I mean I care for Jules,” Carter said. “as a friend. I mean.”

“He means,” Xypher spoke up, “he's too proper a Knight to do anything.” Carter flicked him annoyance. “You know it's true.”

“There's nothing wrong with being a proper knight Xypher,” Vincent said. “It's one of the qualities that spoke to me when we choose Carter to take on the mantle of Rook. But,” he said with an amused look, “do take it from a more experienced gentleman, they won't wait forever. That's a lesson I learned the hard way.” Carter said nothing, but he did nod in understanding.

The older man pointed out a small cafe that he visited rather frequently. Gesturing at one of the empty tables they sat down. A waitress was soon there. “Will that be the usual for you?”

“Yes please,' Vincent told her with an easy smile.

“And your new friend here?”, she asked looking at Carter.

“Whatever he's having,” he said since he wasn't familiar with the menu as Vincent obviously was. The waitress said she'd be right back.

Vincent looked around at the others enjoying their food. “Hopefully you'll learn to sit back a bit and reacquaint yourself with the population we're trying to protect. The previous Rook was a bit too hard headed in that aspect. You have to be unmovable as stone....”

“in order to be a proper protector,” Carter finished for him. It was a saying he quickly became familiar with in a short time. Vincent nodded

“I never could convince him you didn't have to alienate yourself from humanity in general. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that there are good in people. Especially when we deal with the results of their inner darkness on a regular basis.” Their order, which turned out to be some sort of thick soup, quickly arrived. Apparently a perk when you're a regular customer. Taking a spoon and stirring the soup in front of him a bit he said, “Speaking of Rooks, have you seen him lately?”

Carter came just short of playing with his bowl, looking a bit ashamed, “No.” Vincent said nothing, he just waited for him to continue. “I never felt that I would be welcomed back.”

“Now where did you get a fool idea like that?”, Vincent asked him. Taking a napkin he reached over and shined up the slim gold pin on the right side of his coat, “He made you part of his when you took on the Rook title. Why would you think you wouldn't be welcomed.'

“His middle daughter still calls me the usurper,” Carter informed him. “And I'm not exactly sure how his oldest daughter thinks about me. The only one who didn't seemed to tolerate me was his youngest.”

Vincent understood where he was coming from. “Well you were a very, very rare example of a title changing hands. A bit natural I suppose, especially since Rook had been part of that line for as long as anyone can remember. But I know you are doing a fine job upholding this particular legacy,” he assured him. “And I'm sure he feels the same way.

“I hope I am,” Carter told him. “some days I'm not too sure. I mean last night...”

“Trust me son,” Vincent said, a glint in his eye, “I've seen him in similar situations. You went easier on them than he did. Now eat your soup before it gets cold. It's not quite as good then. And no crackers. Use the bread to soak up the soup.”

***
Night was starting to fall and those of the Makai order that actively hunted Horrors begun to do so. Jules, foe example, had just finished marking a potential gate for Carter or another Knight to check out if they came across it. And she'd probably would tell Carter about it as soon as she saw him. Honestly she would have told another Knight if she came across one but more than likely it was going to be Carter. But right now she walked the streets just watching those around her. Mainly she as looking for any signs of a Horror that might have taken over a human. But partially she was looking at how happy everybody seemed to be, remembering Vincent's words about remembering the there was good in humanity too.

Not that she thought humanity was inherently evil, no far from it. But like every one else she knew she realized how easy it was for them to fall. And their order was just as vulnerable too so it's not like they had some sort of special immunity.

“Jules,” a voice called out. She looked around, knowing it was one of their order. She found him soon enough, and it was another Makai Priest. She recognized the man with the white shirt and vest with the various magical trinkets on it and the black headband. But only because he and Reks teamed up a lot . As it was she had to think a moment to even remember his name.

“Terrance,” she said cordially. Reks didn't have a lot of friends, and she really didn't care for most of them. Like this one. Only because he was about as smug as Reks was. And it was bad enough she had to deal with it with her partner, wasn't no way in hell she was going to be around for a double dose.

“Reks said you ditched him tonight,” he said. Not a hello, not a how are you. Just straight to that.

“Have to had plans to begin with in order to considered ditched,” she told him as she kept walking. A small part of her hoped he get the hint. But Jules knew that wasn't going to be the case.

Terrance followed her just like she thought, “Reks thought you did.”

“Well he thought wrong,” she shot back. “We're not tied at the hip you know. I can go out all by my lonesome.”

“Going to see your Knight,” he spat.

Jules stopped, mainly to suppress the urge to punch him in the face. Again it was bad enough to get this from Reks. “I didn't have plans to no. But if I happened to come across him I'd a least say hello like a civilized person.

“He's an emotionless prick,” Terrance told her. Word for that was Reks' favorite argument to use against Carter and she was pretty sure where Terrance got that from. .Jules forced her fist down before facing him.

“He has emotions,” she told him as calmly as she could. “But like every Knight out there he has to keep them under control. If you and Reks paid any sort of attention while we were learning you'd know that.”

“Look,” he said, obviously trying to back track and think of something else. “I know Reks can be trying. especially lately,” he had a look on his face that she could figure out. But it was gone as soon as fast as it appeared. “But he's a good man.”

“So is William,” she told mentioning another Priest in the area. “And James and Hector. I heard good thing about a guy named Zach a few towns away. There are a lot of good men out there. And probably a few good women if I swung that way..”

“You and Reks have known each other since training,” Terrance kept going. “Even before Vincent took both of you on.”

“And that doesn't mean anything if only one person feels that way,” she shot back. It wasn't Reks but maybe it was time to get this started somewhere. “I don't know when you decided to become Reks' wingman or what ever the term in no for what your doing is now. But I have never seen Reks in that way. And I'm not going to start now you and him want me too.”

“But you feel that way about Greystone don't you?”, he demanded while getting in her face. If he expected her to back down he as in for one hell of a disappointment.

“Carter is my friend,” she told him, getting close enough the he took a step back. “A friend I care about deeply. If something else happens between him and me that's between him and me and no one else. As of right now I don't care you or Reks or anybody else thinks about it. Am I clear.”

“Perfectly,” he spat before leaving.

“Oh this is a bad sign for tonight,” Jules muttered after he was gone.

“Help me,” a different voice called out. Jules looked around.. The voice called for help again, it was coming from the alley next to her.

“A really bad sign,” she muttered. Hand wrapping around her brush just in case she entered the alley trying to find whomever called out.

***
Not that far away Carter stood in front of an old, abandoned grandfather clock that someone threw out. He studied it for a long time before looking around to see if anybody was around. Seeing that it was only him on the street for the moment he reached int his coat and pulled out the staff. Separating it into two swords he pointed one at the clock. Studying more closely as he slowly hovered the point over the surface . Finding what he was looking for he jammed the blade into the clock. But it didn't penetrate the wood, instead it entered some sort of energy wave. The gate this particular Horroer would have used to trap a human. Removing the blade a dark glob floated in the air in front of him.

“Good eye as usual Carter,” Xypher told him.

“Are you trying get back in my good graces after almost getting me in trouble with the Watchdogs earlier?”, he asked. Before the pin could answer he slashed though the globe, once with one blade than the other. It quickly dissipated.

“I swear I keep hearing a tiny scream when you do that,” Xypher said. “An no I'm not trying to get back in your good graces. Probably. Okay maybe a little.”

He looked down at the pin with a light smile, “It's fine. What happened had to come out no matter what. Better to get it out then instead of them finding out later.”

“I've heard what happens when they find things out after the fact,” the pin went on. “It's not pretty according to rumor.” Carter was positive that if it could the pin would have shivered a bit just for effect.

“Help!” Carter turned around to see a shirtless man run at him. Being prepared for an attack he was stunned a bit when the person quickly got behind him and tried to hide. “You gotta help me man,” he said in a quivery voice. “Some crazy bitch is trying to kill me.”

Before he could inquire about this “crazy bitch” in order to see if it could have been a Horror he heard another set of footfalls coming toward him. Looking up he saw Jules come up short with her brush in hand. She looked at him briefly before returning her attention to the quaking man behind Not saying anything Carter reached into a pocket and pulled out his Madou lighter. Holding in front of the man's face he ignited the flame. Transfixed his eyes gave him away as a Horror. “Makai Knight,”he spat after the flame went away, quickly growing angry than afraid and tried to grab him. Carter was faster grabbing his wrists and throwing him down a side street.

The Horror scrambled to his feet and hissed at the two of them before running away. Jules looked at him. Carter stepped back and with a arm gestured for her her to chase after him. She shot him an annoyed look before racing after him.

“You didn't sense that one Carter?” Xypher asked as he started after them. “I got him about a mile away.”

“Just making sure,” he said. Hearing a battle he quickened his pace a bit until he found them. The only light was a barrel that was on fire he say Jules fight the Horror. After va bit the man crossed his arms and screamed, transforming into hid true Horror form. Jet black leathery skin, two horns on his head and a small set of wings on it's back as well as a pointed tail. Jules was undeterred as she attacked him again.

While this was happening Carter leaned against the wall and watched her fight. “Um, Carter,” Xypher started to say. He held a finger in front of the pin to keep it quiet.

Jules kept the Horror at a distance with various kicks. Much like her mentor and Reks her style was more fluid, almost dance like. Every so often she get in a backhand. That just seemed to infuriate the Horror more and more. It went on for a overhead strike. Jules easily blocked it. The horror looked down to see her brush againt it;s stomach. She didn't even smile when it looked back at her and unleashed an energy blast that knocked it back. She ran in with a jumping kick the horror easily dodged. When she turned around it's hand was around her throat in the next instant. Here Carter started to react but she got her brush in between them and closed her eyes. A bright light was emitted from the brush momentarily that blinded the Horror and it let her go to clutch at it eyes.

She kicked it back then backed flip out of the way. Near the flaming barrel she stood up straight and held the brush close to her body. A couple of quick gestures with her hand she placed herself in a fighting stance with the brush behind her. The flames in the barrel seemed to flow toward the brush. Once in contact she she brought the brush back around and spun doing a pirouette. The flames spiraling around her as she did so.. Stopping with her hands above her head gripping the brush, her feet together and facing the horror. With a shout she brought the brush down released the fireball that was attached to the tip at it. The Horror couldn't react in time as the fireball hit it. Screams of agony were silenced quickly Horror disappeared inside the fire.

Cracking her neck Jules looked down at her brush, it was smoking a little. In a panic she started blowing on it and shaking it. “Damn it it hasn't done that in months. How does Vincent to this all the time and not have his brush look singed.”

“I didn't think spirit animal pelt could catch fire,” Carter said from the wall, a bit of teasing in his voice. She shot him an annoyed look as the smoke finally stopped. “Come to think of it I've never seen Reks do that spell.”

Xypher spoke up before she did, “That would require you to hang around him more than you do now.”

“Reks doesn't do this particular spell,” Jules informed the two of them. “Each time he does it he nearly sets himself on fire. Vincent says he lets his emotions overwhelm him bit when he does it.” She looked back ar her brush apparently answering her previous question seeing how aggravated she still was after that meeting with Terrance. Still she shot him another annoyed look, “And a gentleman would have helped a lady.”

Getting off the wall and walking toward her Carter said, “I knew you had this one.”

“Oh, because it was a low level Horror and beneath your notice,” she said in annoyance before walking away.

Now Carter was confused buy this change in attitude, “No because I knew you were good enough to take it. Did I make you angry somewhere because I'm not sure where this is coming from.”

She stopped and looked up at the sky before blowing out a breath. “No, I was already riled up before you came along.” She looked back at carter and gave him a small smile, “Sorry I was taking it out on you.”

“Already forgotten.” He walked up to her. Hr tilted his head a bit to examine her neck. That annoyed her but she tried not to let it show too much. He still saw it. “I know you can take care of yourself I'm just checking.”

“That's sweet and you better remember that first part,” she told him. “Oh I marked a potential gate before I ran into that one. It's in that direction I think,” she pointed where she thought they came from.

“I'll check it out,” He told her. Debating to himself for a couple of moments while Jules watched him he said, “Can I ask you a favor?”

“Depends on what you had in mind,” she told him.

“The Watchdogs gave me an assignment,” he explained. “They think someone might be planning to cause trouble between the Knights and Priests again.” Jules let out an exasperated sound. “It's nothing concrete but if you hear anything let me know.”

“Oh I could probably direct you to a couple of people right now,” she told him. “But it would be more with how much they're annoying me at the moment than anything else. I'll keep an ear and eye open. But if I do find something you're going to owe me.”

“Fair enough,” he readily agreed.

“Carter,” Xtpher said getting their attention. “It took me a second but I'm still getting a small Horror presence.” Both of the looked around and saw nothing right away. Reaching into her coat Jules pulled out a small palm sized disk and ran her brush over it. Magical energies reacted as several green rings appeared in the air. A red pointer spun slightly until it stopped in a particular direction. They both looked to see a dumpster in the spot.

Surrounding the dumpster Carter drew his swords as Jules grabbed hold of the lid's lip. Carter nodded once and she lifted as fast as she could. Both of hem looked into it and saw nothing. “I got a reading,” Jules said as Carter started using the tip of a sword to move the garbage around. “It has to be here.”

Still finding nothing Carter looked at the wall in front of them. “It might be inside the building. Come on let's find away in.”

As they hurried to find a way into the building they missed it. Behind the dumpster, almost completely hidden was a faint spot on the wall. A spot that pulsated slightly like it was alive.


ED- Shaman's Harvest – Broken Dreams
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Old June 24th, 2019, 06:10 PM #2
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Rook: Knight of the Double Blade


OP – CFO$ - Catch Your Breath


A man grunted as he fell to the ground. The overhead light and the sweat on his body making him seem to glisten as he panted hard. Looking over at the man who knocked him down, the much younger man, he tried not to look as annoyed as he felt over the fact he wasn't even breathing that hard. Not nearly as hard as he was. He remembered being that young and making it look so easy. With another grunt he hauled himself back up to his feet and faced his opponent, the crowd around them egging him on, they weren't done with the violence just yet.

“Come on old man,” the younger one said. “just back down already. No shame in admitting defeat to the better man.”

At that moment he felt all of his fifty plus years and then some. There was part of his brain that was down right pleading with him to listen and throw in the towel. That part had been getting louder and louder over the years. As always he pushed it aside, he didn't get to where he was at now because he admitted defeat. “When the better man comes along I might think about it.” A good section of the crowd cheered. His opponent shot them a nasty look, no it was a disgusted look. Almost like he was offended that they were cheering for him and not the young buck. At least that was what he was telling himself.

“Sick fucks,” the younger man muttered. “Alright Grandpa, it's your funeral.” The older man charged at him trying to catch him off guard. The younger man wasn't fazed at all as he easily pushed him to the side. Damn it when did he get so slow and sloppy? Going at him again the younger man took advantage of the opening in his defenses, the one he'd been taking advantage of all night, and pounded him again. He felt his legs start to wobble but forced himself to stay upright. A right cross made his vision go blurry but he fought through it. He was practically dead on his feet, he knew it. His younger opponent knew it, the crowd knew it. His much younger girl knew it as well as she watched from the crowd. That pissed him off more than anything. Damn it he wasn't going to lose to this bastard. This much younger and in much better shape bastard. But the blow to finish him off didn't come like he expected. No the other guy just stood there looking at him with pity etched all over his face.

“Come on you fucking prick!”, he bellowed, almost losing what breath he had left in doing so.

“Dude this shit ain't even worth it anymore,” he said. Looking at the crowd he asked, “One of you get a doctor or something.”

There was a couple of laughs coming from the crowd. Breathing harder than he had ever had in his life he grabbed the younger man. With what was left of his strength he tossed him to the ground. Keeping a hold of an arm he wrapped his legs around it as he fell backwards to the concrete. With every fiber of his being that was still functional he reared back on the arm and pulled. He heard the younger man cry out as his arm was being bent in an unnatural direction. The crowd cheered him on. The scream became louder as he felt the younger man arm finally break under the pressure. Some of those cheers quieted as the crowd realized what just happened.

Letting go he laid there waiting for his body to stop screaming at him and for his heart to stop feeling like it was about to burst out of his chest as the younger man rolled away clutching at his arm. Slowly, painfully he got to his feet. He looked at the younger man then at the crowd. “You heard him,” he got out between heavy breaths, “get a doctor.” Stumbling more than walking away the crowd parted for him. Convincing himself it was out of respect for his skills and not the abhorrence he was seeing he went to his car. Behind him a couple of the younger man's friends rushed to his aid. God it never used to be this hard before.

“Yo Tony,” his girl came up to him. He expected her to be proud of him, to be impressed that he was still the man in this underground fight ring. When they first got together a couple of years ago she was. Lately she wasn't as impressed, in fact right now she looked down right bored. Staying back a bit she just looked at him as he grabbed his shirt off the hood. Finally saying, “You alright?”

He felt like he was about to drop dead if anybody breathed on him hard. “Never better,” he said while trying to get his breath under control. “Had the little shit exactly where I wanted him the entire time.”

“Uh huh,” she stated. “You never had to break an arm to win before either.”

“Got to remind the young bucks who the man still is every so often.” And he still was too, for thirty years now nobody had been able to stop him. In fact he was insulted when those challenges started happening more frequently the past decade or so. The little fucks think just because he was older that he still wasn't the ass kicking machine he had always been.

That part of his head that was telling him to quit earlier started up again. Telling him that he was older and his useless pride was the only thing keeping him going well past the time he should have quit. Again he ignored it. That punk got lucky this time, caught him on an off day. That was happening more frequently now that voice spoke up again. Shut up. He was one of the lucky ones, found what he was good at early on in life and stuck to it. Too violent to make it as a professional fighter they told him, to out of control, to willing to hurt the other man. Well fuck them all he was the god damned king around here and nobody was going to take it from him.

“Go get my money,” he ordered his girl. She looked pissed but still did as he said. Yeah he was about done with her any way. He'll get a a couple of more fucks out of her then drop her like trash for some one better, someone who appreciated who he was. Like she used to, or he thought she did.

From where he was he watched her go to the guy taking the bets. Instead of just getting his money they started talking. Fine, whatever, butter the bastard up to make sure he gave her his full cut. Last time wasn't the first time somebody tried to short him of his proper winnings when he sent somebody else to collect it. Then he saw her smiles and him smile back. Not in the friendly way, no she smiled liked she did when she first started talking to him. Do little things he recognized that she did to show she was interested. Things she stopped doing at him he soon came to realize.

“Fucking bitch,” he muttered as he got off the car. He took exactly one step forward when a strange pain in his chest stopped him in his tracks. Apparently none of the crowd that was still dispersing even seemed to noticed as he stumbled to the side, hidden from sight by a van. Fighter instincts kicked in as he refused to let his legs give out on him. He leaned a heavy hand on the van as his other one clutched at his chest. No, he was not that weak he wasn't going to go down like this here or ever. He was the toughest mother fucker in this garage and he wasn't going out like an old worn out bastard. Eventually the pain passed and still nobody came to check on him. He wouldn't be surprised if the bitch and the fucker with the money started making out right then and there. He'll show both of them that he was still the fucking king around here.

“Think you're pretty tough don't you?”

His head snapped around. “Who said that?”

“I've seen it a million times,” the mysterious voice continued. “Big man, rule the streets with the fist. A dime a dozen really.”

“Come out of hiding and say that to my face you bastard.” He looked all around, under cars, inside any open window he could find. So far this voice that was pissing him off didn't have a body. But once he found it.

“But the they get older,” the voice went on, it's choice of words making him pause for a moment.. “The body starts to give out before they're ready. Either from years of abuse the man put it through or was too weak to begin with and he didn't notice before it was too late. Seen it a million times.”

His curiosity won out over the voice he usually ignored that was telling him to run. “And what does that fairy tale have to do with me?”

The voice laughed, “It's only a fairy tale if it isn't true. And right now I'm looking at a man who's denying the truth right before me.” Bastard made a mistake, he let him know that he was close by. But where the fuck was he hiding? “But,” it went on, “what if I told you I can make it like you were young again?”

“That's not possible,” he said.

“I didn't say I'd make you younger, I just said it would be like you were young again. Think about it, the knowledge you have now with the skills you had back then. You wouldn't just be king of this puny event.”

“I'd could be the king of the city,” he said. Temptation overrode his common sense as that pain in his chest returned. What the hell, what did he have to lose. “So what to I got to do?”

“Just turn around.”

He whipped around but still didn't see anybody there. What kind of game was this fucker playing. Then he looked down. Up against the wall was an abandoned, dirty baby doll. It was so out of place he almost felt compelled to take a step toward it to pick it up. Then it's plastic eyes seem to glow and before he could react some sort of ring opened up and he thought he say some... thing inside it before these weird things came at him, going into his mouth, eyes and ears. He tried to scream but nothing came out. Although it seemed like an eternity it was over less than a minute after it started.

Oblivious to what just happened his girl and the bookie were still talking. “Just leave his ass already,” he told her. “You know he's going to kick it one of these days and your not going to get a damn thing.”

“Tony's got some life in him still,” she said, more or less automatically. Too bad she still had to admit to herself that the thing that made her attracted to him to begin faded away a long time ago, way faster than his body. Still she tried to defend him, “He just needs to lay of the fights for a couple of weeks and get his stamina back up.”

“Love to show you how much stamina you're actually missing,” he said. She smiled in a away she probably shouldn't have had. But Tony wasn't just losing it in the fight circle. He was starting to lack in other areas too.

“Maybe you can show me when I'm bored eventually.” he smiled at her in a way that said he understood completely, and was looking forward to it. Then a hand gripped his shoulder. Before she could react he was wrenched off his feet and sent flying backwards into the van Tony's car was parked by. It took her a second to realize that it was Tony who just did that. So dumbstruck all she could do was stare like the few that remained. Then he looked at her. A small spike of fear ran up her spin but there something about his eyes. There was a confidence, a hunger that originally attracted her to him that had been missing for a while. “T... Tony.”

“He was bothering you,” he said in a cocky tone she almost forgot he was capable of. In return that old spark she had for him seemingly came back to life.

“Nothing I couldn't handle baby but I'm glad you did,” she smiled seductively at him. He gave her one that was just as hungry as the look in his eyes as she rubbed her hands over his chest. “Can I do anything special for you since you won daddy?”

“I want you now,” he said. She started for the car but he stopped her. “No, Here.”

“In front of everybody?” She quickly removed her top exposing herself to those who remained, “I like this new side of you.”

Tony looked her over, licking his lips. A hand reached out and started fondling her, “You look,” that hand went for her throat and held tight, his eyes glowed in a way that froze her in place, “delicious.” Grabbing her leg with his other hand he picked her up over his head. Finding her voice she screamed for all she was worth. Those that were still stunned by the previous act of violence were struck even more so at the sight. A few found the will to run when Tony flexed and seemingly broke the woman in half. Those that stayed were transfixed by the horrible realization that instead of bleeding buckets she seemed to break down and fall into his open mouth. She didn't stop screaming until her mouth was gone.

Swallowing Tony looked around at who was left. The bookie, the punk he just beat and his friends and a few others. They all stood transfixed by the sight of him. “Buffet time.”

***
Hours later, outside that same garage a blond haired woman with leather bracers stood and waited. Jules paced back and forth a bit by one of the entrances just waiting. It wasn't that long ago that somebody came running out of there and nearly ran her over. Just based on how scared he looked and what she could get from his babbling told her all she needed to know, there was a Horror in there somewhere. And from what few bits she could get before he ran off like his life depended on it, and to be honest it probably did, this sounded like a powerful one. And she wasn't so proud in her abilities to fight Horrors directly to realize that this one might be a bit out of her league. So she contacted the person she figured was closest, Vincent. Fortunately her guess was right and he was nearby, So why was he taking so long to get here?

“Jules!” She looked around and saw the familiar turban he wore since she was a little girl. Still didn't stop her from being annoyed at him being so late to her call.

“What took you so long.?”, she asked.

“Since we don't exactly know what's we're dealing with. Outside of an extremely frightened man's ramblings that is,' he added when she was about to say something. “I figured it would be best if I called for some extra help.” She was about to ask who when she looked behind him. Hurrying up was a blond haired man in a dark trench coat. With a bit of a Twinkle in his eye Vincent asked, “I hope you don't mind the person I decided to ask?”

“Do I look like Reks?”, she told him. “Carter,” she greeted him in a friendly way. He nodded in response and looked up at the garage. “Xypher,” she said to the Madou pin on the left side of his coat.

“Hey Jules,” he replied in it's tinny voice.

Barely taking his eyes off the multi-level garage Carter went, “Vincent didn't give much in the way of details. Any idea on what's in there?”

She shock her head in the negative. “All I know that it's strong and hungry. I haven't seen any one else come out but it's a big place. Plenty of places to leave and I'm only one person.”

“Plenty of places to hide as well I would imagine,” Vincent commented. As he studied the building.

“I'm sure you did what you could,” Carter told her. “And I got here as fast as I could.” Nobody was saying it but they all had the same worry right then. It had already feasted and gotten out. “Xypher.”

“I'm not detecting anything,” the pin replied. “Not even a trace.”

“It's very possible that it's not strong enough to be detectable from this particular range,” Vincent offered. Jules looked at the older man she'd known for years. He didn't really seem to believe it either.

“We're still going inside to check,” Carter told them. As he started inside the two Makai Priests wielded their Madou brushes and followed him in. Looking around and not seeing any immediate signs of a struggle they headed further in. Jules pointed out the nearest staircase heading to an upper level. With the slightest nod of agreement Carter headed in that direction. Then he stopped after a few yards, head tilted to the side a bit. Both Priest took up a loose defensive position although neither saw anything in their immediate view. Without warning Carter lunged in between two vehicle. Coming back into view he had a man by the shirt and slammed him into the side of a truck

“Don't hurt me!”, he begged, everything about him said he was scared out of his wits. Unmoved by the display in front of him Carter held his Lighter between them and flick the blue flame to life. Whomever this man was his eyes didn't react, he wasn't the Horror they were looking for.

Carter let him go and took a step back but his gaze held the man in place and demanded, “What are you running from?”

Slightly oblivious that he was scaring the man even more Vincent came foreword and gently stepped between them. “If I may have a moment or two with the gentleman?” Realizing his current approach wasn't working Carter backed off. Turning to the scared man and gracing him with a warm smile Vincent said, “Forgive my young friend. He get's rather... testy shall we say when he's on the job.”

“In other words dial it back in these situations,” Jules muttered to the Makai Knight.

Xypher responded, “I'm pretty sure the dial's broken.” Around the time the scared man was looking for the new voice Carter reached up and flicked the pin. “Ow”

“Quiet,” Carter hissed through his teeth. Jules was pretty sure if the pin was capable of it he would be looking at her for some sympathy. While she was generally against him flicking the pin Xypher kind of deserved that one talking in front of the uninitiated like that.

Helping the frighten man sit on the concrete Vincent knelt down and waited for him to calm down a bit. Even though it wasn't necessary Jules reached out and grabbed Carter's sleeve to keep him place. He obviously wanted to hunt this Horror down, at least to her, but this was their best shot on getting any information.“Now my friend, what exactly happened to get you in such a state?”

“The old man Tony,” he said in a quick breath. “He just... I don't know what the fuck happened. He just barely won his fight. Then he... Oh God that couldn't have happened.”

Gripping him firmly by the shoulder Vincent waited until he looked at him. “I know it's hard to process but what you saw really did happened. We need to know what this Tony did.”

“His girl man,” he started. “I swear to God he picked her up like it was nothing and snapped her in two. Then she just poured into his mouth. Oh God It's even sounds crazier saying it out loud.” The three members of the Makai Order just looked at each other.

“All right my friend, we're almost done here,” Vincent started. “Where in this building did this happen. It's important that we know.”

“The fourth level,” he said. “I ran down here as soon as that shit started happening.”

Without waiting Carter and Jules ran for the stairs leaving Vincent with the scared man. Racing up the stairs they burst through the doors at the fourth level, Carter having the black staff with the gold inlay in hand while the bristles on Jules' brush glowing ready to attack. The carefully walked foreword noticing that a few of the cars were parked in such a way that you could see something was going on here. Both hands on the staff, prepared to pull and reveal the blades inside he entered the loose “ring” stopping at the center and looked around. “Xypher?”

“A horror was here alright,” the pin replied. “But it's long gone now.” Uttering a silent curse Carter replaced the staff into his coat. Not seeing Jules immediately he looked around until he saw her squatting down and looking at a beat up doll against the wall. “I think that's the Gate it used to get into this world. I can feel the negative energy coming from it.” Jules lowered her head and sighed heavily.

This was outside her usual behavior in these situations. Soften his stance a bit Carter but a hand on her shoulder and went, “Jules?”

“I'm fine,”she answered. “It's just... I know how gates are made. But every time I see one attached to something like this... I start getting angry at whatever life threw at it's owner to get that much negative energy built up enough to form a gate.” She stood up and with a quick flash of magic set the doll on fire. “No one deserves that sort of life.” She glanced at Carter then back at the doll. “Yes I know that was pointless since the gate was already used. And no it didn't make me feel any better.”

“It just makes you human,” Carter told her. She looked at him. Anybody else she might have thought that was condescending. In her mood she might have even have accused him of it too. But she knew this particular Makai Knight a little too well.

She smiled at him, “Foibles and all.” Walking away from the doll she looked around the garage. “I think I've been around humanity's darkness a little too long. I think I'll stop by that restaurant Vincent loves later. Remind myself of humanity's goodness as he likes to say.”

Looking around a bit himself Carter asked, “Want some company?”

Admittedly that took her a bit by surprise, normally she would be the one to ask him along. Generally he would decline. But if he was reaching out, trying to advanced whatever they had right now who was she to argue. “I think I'd like...”

“Ahem,” Both of them looked behind them to see Vincent standing there looking a bit chagrined. “Now normally I wouldn't interrupt like this but weren't you going to the Temple of Rook tomorrow Carter? To purify your armor?”

Jules looked at Carter, not looking for a confirmation. She knew Vincent wouldn't make a lie about that. All Knights had to purify their armor every so often. If the negative energy absorbed from fighting and sealing Horrors became too much they would start attracting Horrors themselves or start affecting them and their devices. The knight remained stoic, Xypher on the other hand, “It's not like he has to go tomorrow or be there all day.”

“No,” Jules said. “Purifying his armor is more important. He should do it as soon as possible. Besides don't you have a friend up there? You can say hi.”

“Believe me,” Vincent added, “I wouldn't have called him to join us if I didn't think we might have needed his skills.”

“It's fine,” Jules told him. Actually it wasn't but she wasn't going to throw a tantrum like a child because she isn't getting what she wants. Being a responsible adult really blew sometimes. “Maybe we can do the restaurant some other time.”

“I'd like that,” he told her. Then his gaze hardened as he went all business as he looked at Vincent. “What about the guy we found?”

“Sleeping comfortably,” the older Makai Priest answered. “He shouldn't remember anything when he does awaken. I was able to get a little more about the Horror's initial victim before then though. Mainly a full name, Tony McKay. A life long underground fighter, the champ, for lack of a better proper word, for a long time apparently. I'm going to see if my usual sources can come up with anything on this McKay, where he lived and the like. Try to narrow down on where the Horror might strike next. I'll do some research into the Horror myself, see exactly who we're dealing with. I'll get you that information as soon as I can.”

“That would be much appreciated,” Carter told him. “I'll look around here for a bit longer. Try and see if I can get a clue on where he went. “ Before leaving he hesitated for a moment. “An extra set of eyes would be useful.”

She didn't have to look at Vincent to know he was grinning at them. Still she didn't hesitate in answering, “Lead on Mr. Makai Knight.”

***
It was near dawn when Terrance made his way back to the, well hide out was a tad cliche but it fit what they were using it for. Making his way down to the basement he found Reks already down there working on something at the makeshift table. He stopped suddenly when he thought he heard a scream. It ended rather quickly but it was a scream never the less. Looking annoyed he said point blank, “Feeding the pet again?”

“Just keeping it's strength up,” he said, never taking his eyes off of working he on whatever it was. The idea he never seemed unnerved by the fact he just basically sacrificed some other poor soul to the Horror they had trapped in there was upsetting Terrance more and more each time he'd done it. Almost like he was reading his thoughts Reks said, “I caught that one robbing an elderly couple, pretty sure he was racist too based on some of the derogatory things he was saying to them.” Holding up the thing to inspect it from a different angle he added, “So no one to lose any sleep over.”

“It still goes against everything we were trained for,' Terrance argued. “We protect the regular human. We're not supposed to feed them to the Horrors. Much less getting involved in their affairs and act like judge, jury and executioner.”

Seemingly satisfied with the work he had down he finally looked at the other man. “A necessary evil that had to go long with the plan. We don't know if a Horror can die of starvation and at this stage of the plan we don't need to find out.” he walked over to the wall and put a hand on the secret opening. The Horror locked on the other side seemed to sense him and they could hear it start to scream at him through the wall. “It took us months to track and capture one of them. We lost a man in doing so and can't trust any one else to replace her in fear they'll report what we're doing.” Talking his hand off the wall he walked away and looked at him. “We need to keep this one fed just long enough to enact the plan. After the Knights are gone I'll dispose of it myself.”

Terrance was with him about getting rid of the Makai Knights, there was no question in that. It was the one thing that drew them closer as friends once they realized that had that in common. But still he had his doubts. “I still don't understand how doing whatever the hell we're doing with that is supposed to get rid of the Knights.”

“Just trust the plan Terrance,” Reks told him. “I have faith in it and the man who thought it up. It will work. We just need to have a little faith.”

Terrance might have had a little more faith in things if they were doing the exact opposite of what they were trained to do by feeding the damn thing. Still he trusted Reks with his life so he let it go for now. But, “There still one more thing we haven't really discussed about the plan.”

Having started to equip the device he was working to his wrist he glanced back at him. “And what would that be?”

“What's going to happen after the Knights are gone.”

Reks was confused by the question. “We'll protect humanity,” he said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. In a way it was, once the Knights were gone they would have to be the ones to protect the regular humans. Still there were certain facts Terrance didn't think he was considering at the moment.

“As much as it leaves a sour taste in my mouth to admit but our predecessors created the Makai Knights because there were Horrors too powerful for them to defeat.” Reks looked dismissive of the idea as he went back to attaching the device to his wrist. “Even now there's are a relative handful of Makai Priests who can defeat and seal Horrors on their own. And no offense my friend, but you and I are not one of them. So how exactly are we going to accomplish what they couldn't?”

“Our predecessors,” Reks began as he made a few final adjustments to the device now firmly clamped to his wrist, “may have seen a wall they couldn't over come with those more powerful Horrors. Some may have even called the cowards, other smart in their ability to realize their own short coming. I on the other hand have a different interpretation.” With a quick flick of his arm a bar extended out. Terrance watched as the end unfolded into a circular blade that started spinning very rapidly as soon as it connected to the other end. He silently marveled as after a few test swings the blade increased in size with one. Stopping when it reached a radius of about a foot and a half Reks finished his thought, “They lacked the proper imagination.”

Clearly impressed with what he was seeing Terrance said, “That is truly some of you best design work. But have you really thought all this threw because I'm seeing a flaw just looking at that blade spin.”

“What do you see?”, Reks said in a challenging way.

“It's what I potentially see,” he corrected him. “And that is horror blood infecting everything around it as soon as you start cutting.” Reks slowly turn his arm, and therefore the blade, like he was contemplating it. Without a word he held his brush near the base of the extended arm. A quick flash and Terrance stepped back as the spinning edges of the blade burst into a blaze of green fire. “Madou fire,” Terrance said as it dawned on him.

Grinning Reks said, “The knights aren't the only one with access to it. They can use it as an a offensive weapon, why not us? Not only should the flame burn the Horror it should also take care of the Horror blood before it can become a danger.” That grin turning into an arrogant smirk he looked at Terrance over the wheel of green fire, “Do you see any other potential flaws in my design?”

“I submit to your superior imagination,” Terrance told him. Satisfied the flame disappeared and the blade shrunk back down to it's original size before undoing itself and retracting back into the device. “I know that couldn't have been a recent idea. How long have you been holding on to that one?”

“Since Vincent first took on me and Jules,” he answered. “He told me it wasn't practical and that I should forget about it. In hindsight he might have been correct about my original idea. But I never let it go, I knew it was plausible I knew I could, and did, perfect it. Those relative handfuls as you put it soon won't be the only ones who can defeat Horrors.”

“The Makai Knights days are truly over then,” Terrance said, starting to believe in it again. Reks looked over the device again, checking various things. He may have been confident in his design but even he wasn't fool enough to believe there still wasn't any tweaks to be made. While his back was turned Terrance glanced over to the wall that had the hidden room, and the Horror inside it. How did that thing play into the over all plan?

***
In a deep forest area well outside the city was a structure that was mostly obscured by the foliage. But in the middle of sea a vines a white marble door stood defiant of the life around it. It slowly opened up as Carter walked out. He looked back as it closed and sealed itself. The Temple of Rook, which housed all of those who have held the Title of the Double Bladed Knight and his eventual resting place as well. He glanced down at the thin gold pin on his right label. He may have been accepted into the previous Rook's family but part of him still felt like he didn't belong in there. Even the spirits of the previous Rooks felt his inner turmoil, but they neither confirmed or denied his thoughts on the matter.

Walking forward he slowed his usual stride as he reached a particular spot. A spot where the previous title holder finally deemed him worthy of it after all his training. As always when he came here he stopped in this very spot and mulled over it. He was already a trained Makai Knight when he was ordered to report to the previous one, to be his successor. “Seems like forever ago doesn't it?”, Xypher spoke up, breaking him out of the memory.

“Sometimes,” Carter agreed. “And sometimes it feels like yesterday.”

The pin chuckled, “That too. But that's life as they say. You have to face it looking foreword and taking it one step at a time. I know you humans like to dwell on the past a little too much. I've been attached to a couple of Rooks that seemed to live in the past.”

“They also say those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it,” Carter countered.

“And in general that's true,” Xypher said. “But there's remembering the past and living in it like I said.”

“Where am I on that particular scale?”

“You're just remembering it at this point,” the pin told him. “But even just remembering the past can overwhelm you if you're not careful. Especially if you start wonder what might have been if particular decisions were made differently. Especially where those orders that sent you to us are concerned.”

Carter just smiled sadly, he had thought about that on occasion. “You seem to know me pretty well in the short time we've been together.”

“Eh, you always get like this after we visit the temple,” Xypher told him. “Or we run into his two oldest daughters.”

“Just the middle one,” Carter corrected him. Taking one last glance at that particular spot he headed off, back toward the Makai Path that would take him back to the city.

After a bit Xypher spoke back up, “Hey Carter, do you mind if I asked you a question? Do you feel any different after going through the purification process?”

“In what way?”

“I don't know, I guess coming out of it feeling a little purer or something.”

“You asked that of all the Rooks?”, Carter asked him with a slight smirk.

“I've tried,” Xypher said. “The closet I've ever gotten to an answer was the old man telling me not to waste his time with pointless questions.” His smirk grew a little bigger, that sounded like him alright.

“To answer you're question no, I don't feel any different after. The process cleanses the armor of negative energy and any I happened to absorb but I don't feel any different.” Xypher grunted in understanding as the continued walking. He got to part of the path that branched off into two directions. The one to the left would take him to the opening of the Makai Path. However his gaze went off to the one leading to the right.

“Why are we stopping?”, Xypher asked.

“Besides don't you have a friend up there? You can say hi.” Those words came to him as he continued to look down the path.

Eventually he told Xypher, “Something Jules suggested last night.”

“Right,” Xypher said as he began to understand, “Morgan and his family lives up here as well. You're actually going to stop in and say hi like she said? You should, you don't have that many friends as it is.” He looked down at the pin, debating if that was a flickable statement or not. “I mean you're rarely up here and the last time you two met up you seemed pretty close.”

“I guess it wouldn't hurt, to touch base,” Carter said after a bit. “He goes into the city as well, I can let him know about that Horror we missed last night.” Mind made up he took the right path.

“And you can just say hi,” Xypher added. “No need to add any unnecessary reasoning for it. Like I told Jules, you humans make things more complicated than they need to be. Oh, have I mentioned how much I like her? She's a good influence on you.”

***
“Hey man,” a rough looking character said to somebody inside the door he was by. “Some guy says he wants a meeting with the boss.”

“Anybody important?”, came the response.

“Don't think so,” he looked at the guy wanting the meeting. “Just some old dude, what was your name again?”

“Tony,” he said with a grin, “Tony McKay.”

“Boss don't know anybody by that name send him away.”

“You heard the man Gramps,” the door man said. “you ain't seeing anybody today or ever.” Tony just grinned and grabbed the man by the throat before slamming him into the wall behind him.

***
It didn't seem long before he started seeing landmarks that were familiar as he spotted them. Carter paused for a moment, an instinct honed from fighting Horrors told him he was being watched. It was still mid afternoon and he knew Horrors generally tracked down their prey at night. Still it didn't mean one couldn't be tracking a potential target, or that it could be something equally as dangerous. Keeping a closer eye on his surroundings After about ten minutes of this he stopped and and looked to his left. “Stop this game and come out now.”

A bush started to rustle and he focused in on that, but he didn't react right away. In the next instant his wtalker stormed out screaming and got right into his path. Before him was a child, a boy who couldn't be older than eight. Coming up to his waist, if that, he held a wooden stick shaped like a sword and tried to look threatening. The lack of reaction on Carter's part seemed to make him angrier and confused at the same time. “Go away Stranger!,” he ordered. “I, the Great Leonard, protect this forest!”

“These forest protectors are getting smaller all the time,”Xypher quipped.

“How did you talk without moving your mouth?” The Great Leonard said softly. Then he threw up his sword and ran down the path yelling, “HORROR!” Carter, picked up the wooden sword and followed him looking further down the path to see a small cabin in the middle of a field. A woman came out quickly followed by another boy, older than the “Great One”. The youth looked ready to fight as the woman looked concerned but ready to defend herself. Than a man who was obviously the boy's father came out, sheathed sword in hand. As the small one ran to the woman and tried to hid behind her skirt. All of them wore plain and simple clothes, not rags as one migh expect from the house but nothing those on the streets would wear either.

The man came out and walked a few steps in front of the others. Carter continued to walk toward him, tossing him the toy sword once he was close enough. “Sorry for the unannounced visit Morgan. If I knew this area was protected I would have sent word.”

“That's ain't his real voice!,” Leonard called out.

“It's daytime stupid,” the older one chided him.

“Nathaniel,” his mother quickly said. “My apologies for our two sons Carter,” she said to him. “They have forgotten their manners from the look of things.”

“Which would make them my sons,” Morgan said with some amusement. Holding out his hand the clasp each other around the forearms in greeting. “What are you doing out around these part Carter.”

“Purifying myself at the temple,” he said as the headed for the house. Morgan nodded in understanding. “Lyndsy,” Carter said as they got close. He held out a hand for her but she hugged him much to the shock of their two sons.

She pulled back and looked him over, “Well no Horror gotten to you from the look of things.”

“But that's not his real voice,” Leonard insisted. “I heard it! His mouth didn't even move.”

“You heard me oh Leonard the Great.” His eyes went wide as he looked at Carter, too scared to move. Carter held the left lapel if his coat so Leonard could see the pin on it clearly. He nearly jumped out of his skin when the eyes blink. “I'm not that scary now, jeez.”

“And it's The Great Leonard,” he said in a small protest.

“Pfft, same thing.” Carter flicked him. “I hate it when you do that, seriously.” The older boy, Nathaniel got up real close to the pin in stared at him. “Do you mind,” Xypher protested, “I can smell what you had for breakfast.”

He backed up a bit, realization dawning on him, “You're a Makai Knight.”

Leonard look back and forth between his brother and Carter, “Like Daddy?”

“Yes like your father,” Morgan told them. “Boys, this is Carter Greystone, or Knight of the Double Blade Rook.”

“You're a titled knight,” Nathaniel said with a bit of awe that wasn't there before. “I bet you live in a huge house with servants and everything.”

Xypher snorted, “Boy do you got the wrong Makai Knight.” Carter gave the pin a slight grimice.

“But you have a title...”, he protested. “My father doesn't even have a title and look at where we live.”

Carter looked at him, “Just because I have a title doesn't mean your father's a lesser Makai Knight than I am. We both have the same job.”

“But you always had the good life,” Nathaniel continued.

“That's enough,” Lyndsy told him sternly. “I'm sorry for my oldest. He's at the point where he wants a better station in life. There's nothing wrong with our life here.” Nathaniel said nothing, but it was obvious to everybody he still didn't think it was fair. Carter looked around their home. This could have been him if things turned out differently.

“No I haven't always had it good,” Carter said out loud but not really meaning too. The boys looked at him with some confusion. He looked Nathaniel right in the eyes, “My father was like yours, fate had a different calling for me than directly following his footsteps.”

“You're the fake,” Nathaniel blurted out after studying him for a bit. Both of his parents started to scold him but he kept going. “Other Knights have visited and I've heard then talk. The fake titled knight who was just given it out of nowhere. The one who didn't deserve it...”

“That's enough Nathaniel!”, Morgan ordered. He opened his mouth again but was cut off, “I said enough!”

Realizing he should let this go and not fan these particular flames anymore Carter still wanted this boy to understand. “I wasn't just given this,” he began. “The previous Rook didn't just hand me what he had. He made me earn the right to take Rook from him every step of the way.”

“I knew the previous Rook,” Morgan added. “Trust me son he didn't just hand anything to anybody. Carter more than earned the right to bear the title of The Double Bladed Knight.”

“I'm still surprised he hung around to do it,” Xypher said.

“He's still a fake,' Nathaniel insisted. His mother started to pull him back while his father pinched his nose and mumbled something. Unconcerned of his parent obvious disapproval of his current attitude he kept on. “No fake can beat a truly trained Makai Knight. I beat I can even beat you.

“Now you listen...' Morgan began but Carter put a hand on his arm. He looked at him and one look from Carter was all it took for him to nod and back away. Looking at the defiant young man, and remembering when he had that particular mindset once he first hit the teens.

“Let's test that theory,” he said, much to the shock of of the two boys. His mother not so much but she still seen to be taken a back a bit. Taking the staff out of it'd holder he took off his coat and handed it to Morgan.

“Can I not be upside down please,” Xypher called out. Looking around the area near the house he found a couple of rocks that were the same height that where close enough to set the staff on top of them. Walking forward a bit he waited. Nathaniel was still dumbstruck, only moving when his mother gave him a slight push. He walked until he was a few yards in front of Carter.

“We'll keep this simple,” Carter began. “You try to grab the Rook Sword. I'll try and stop you from doing so. Do you understand?”

“Of course I do. What do you think I am, stupid?” Morgan sighed loudly.

Carter said nothing, which made the young man even angrier and charged at him. With little effort he stepped to the side enough to grab the kid and throw him back. Getting back to his feet Nathaniel went at him again and again the same results. Again he got back up but didn't charge this time, Morgan looking a bit proud that his son could figure out that his strategy wasn't working. This time he tried to attacking him like a regular fight throwing punches and kicks. All of which were easily blocked or deflected given his age and current skill level, which made the young man even angrier, just where he wanted him. Changing his defensive a bit he slowly backed up, not much just enough for the younger man to charge in harder. Then he hurled himself past Carter as he took a step to the right, hand outstretched for the staff. His eyes only left his prize when Carter jumped over him, twisting in the air as he grabbed the staff right before Nathaniel could even touch it and yank it out of reach before his feet touched the ground.

Nathaniel landed hard, looked up and made one last grab at the staff as Carter lifted it out of reach. Turning to make one more go at it it was stopped abruptly as Carter put a foot on his chest, pushing him down and pinning him there. “I like your determination,' he said evenly, “but I win.” Removing his foot he walked back toward Morgan as Lyndsy stopped Leonard from making fun of his older brother before he had a chance to.

“I almost had it,' Nathaniel called out. “I got by you!”

“He let you,” Morgan informed him. After the expected protest from the young man he went on. “I was watching both of you. He gave you that opening to win and you fell for his trap. He was just a superior opponent son, there's no shame in losing to one in a sparring math.”

Retrieving his coat Carter put it on letting the father handle the son in this situation. Then the kid, who was still sitting on the ground, called out, “He cheated!”

“Nathaniel!”, Morgan barked. Carter turned to face the young man and held up a hand, letting Morgan know to let him take this one. He walked toward him and looked at him. He stared back all with all the defiance of youth.

“How?”, Carter simply asked. When no answer was immediately forthcoming he went, “You said I cheated. How did I cheat? I do deserve a chance to defend myself form that sort of accusation.”

Nathaniel got up and got in Carter's face as best as he could. “You grabbed the staff!”

“And?”, he asked looking for some further detail.

“You said...”, then he faltered.

“”I said,” Carter finished for him, “that you were to grab the staff and I'd would try and stop you. At no point did I say I wouldn't grab it myself to accomplish my goal.”

“But you never said....”

“Do you think a Horror is going to tell you exactly what he's going to do?”, Carter demanded. “Do you think it's going to give you a chance to point that out?” He looked away but he still looked angry. “Titled or not, a Makai Knight knows he has to pay attention, fight on what he see and on his instinct. Your father is not a titled Knight but he knew my what plan ended up being just by watching me, like I knew you were going to fall for by the way you were acting during that test.” Nathaniel ran back into the house, again his mother kept his younger brother from going after him ot make fun of him. To her and Morgan he said, “I'm sorry I've angered him.”

“Don't be,” Lyndsy told him, “he needed the reality check.”

“And since I've been trying to give it to him for the past couple of months, he obviously wasn't listening to his old man,” Morgan added.

“Still I think me being here is going to aggravate him for a while,” Carter said.”

“You don't have to leave,” Morgan told him.

“I know,” Carter looked back at the house trying to see if Nathaniel was any where near the doorway. “He'll probably cool down faster if I'm not around.”

“Not that boy,” Lyndsy said.

“Unfortunately,” Morgan agreed. Trying to change the mood a bit he told Carter, “But you are always welcomed her despite what my son currently thinks.”

“I appreciate that,” and he meant it. “Before I go there's a new Horror out there, likes to break people in two before devouring them.” Leonard stepped a bit closer to his mother upon hearing that.

“Sound like a nasty one,” Morgan said. “I'll keep an eye out when I'm on patrol. Anything else I should know about?”

Carter glanced back at Lyndsy, who was a Makai Priestess in her own right. “I have an assignment from the Watchdogs. They think somebody might be taking up where Sigma left off.” Morgan grimaced and held his wife close as she walked up to them. Most of that particular action might have primarily taken place in Japan but it's effects were felt worldwide. “Let me know if you see anything strange.”

“In our line of work,” Morgan said, just to try and lighten the mood. “If I see anything I'll let you know.”

“That would be appreciated as well,” saying their goodbyes Carter headed back toward the path. Once they were out of sight Xypher snorted a bit in an amused way. “What?”

“What you did with the kid,” he answered. “I seem to recall the old man doing the same thing to teach you a similar lesson.” Carter said nothing in response, but his lip curled up a bit as he thought about it again. It was an effective way to get the point across after all.

***
“Now,” Tony said as he sat down and put his feet up on the desk ion the room. It's previous occupant was kneeling in the floor battered and bloody, his guards sporting various broken limbs around the room. All ripe for the picking but it wasn't feeding time yet. “I like this area, particularly that park across the way. It seems to draw me in for some reason. Therefore I think it's high times these particular streets had a new king, wouldn't you agree?”

The man spat some blood onto the floor, “Go to hell you fuck.”

Tony started to grin as his eyes started to glow causing the other man to lose control of his bodily functions, “I was hoping you would make this a little harder.”

***
Jules crossed the street, giving a friendly wave to a car that let her do so. She had grown up in this particular city and knew it inside and out. Which made he job as a Makai Priestess a lot easier. She knew a couple of Priests that would wander from city to city from her own experience or from what Vincent had told her over the years. While she knew they had some specialized skill that required them to do so but with the near constant moving they had to do she often wondered if they found any time to make even the tiniest connection with anybody. Granted the couple she knew of seemed friendly enough but they also seemed a bit lonely, at least to her. She guessed she was too much of a stay in one place type of person to see it as anything else.

Thoughts for another time as she quickly came up to her destination, an old odd and ends store. Makai Knights may have their needs taken care of by the Watchdogs and the Senate, and the Priests as well, but a few of them had “day jobs”. Little places like this, partially so they could work on, or get, the various items their Order needed to hunt Horrors. It was also the ideal place to hear some idle gossip form the patrons about anything weird going on that might require their attention. Entering the nearly empty store she looked over at the counter and waved. The woman behind it smiled and waved back with one hand as she pressed a hidden button under that counter with the other. Walking toward the back Jules looked around and put a hand on a bare piece of wall and pushed revealing a hidden staircase leading down. The secret door closing behind her she took the flight down and found herself in Vincent's workshop. A familiar sight of her teacher hunched over his work station greeted her as she turned the corner. A quick raising of his hand was the only indication that he knew she was here. “How are you doing Vincent?”, the need of formality had long since disappeared between them as they were so close.

“As well as can be expected my dear child,” he said raising up a bit to stretch his back in his chair. “Never get old Jules, it's not worth it.” Whatever he was working he covered with a small cloth. “It's a surprise I don't want you to spoil it,” he said seeing her reaction.

“It's nowhere near my birthday,” she told him.

“I never said it was for you either,” he said with a slight twinkle in his eye.

“Then this should be interesting then,” she said as she took the offered seat next to him, “Have you found out anything about this McKay guy yet?”

“My sources are still looking,” he said as he massaged his hand. One glance as the tiny tools he was currently using explained the need to do so. “There are a couple in the city so far, it's trying to pin down the right one that's the tricky part. However,” picking through the various tools and objects on his work station he found a old worn book that he was looking for. Opening it to a marked page he handed it to her, “I may have discovered the name of that Horror we missed last night.”

“Hurklor,” Jules said out loud as she read the passage. “Well based on what you were able to get out that guy last night this might be it.”

“It seems to be a particularly nasty one as well,” Vincent commented as he took back the book. “You may want to get word to Carter. If you just happen to run into him that is, it is a rather large city after all.” She just nodded in response as she really didn't have anything to say about it. But her mentor just studied her for a moment. “Jules, I know it;' been a long time since you've been my pupil, but hopefully you won't mind a little unsolicited advice.”

“I would always take advice from you Vincent, you know that.” He smiled in a way that seemed a bit sad to her for some reason. Then again she was pretty sure she'd notice if something was really off with him so she let it go for the moment.

“First of all I feel I should be honest and say I have had a small discussion with Carter about the two of you.” Or maybe he was afraid she was going to become an old maid at her young age or some other thing. “He's very fond of you you know.”

“I'm pretty fond of him too,” she said.

“Oh I know,” he said with a slight chuckle, “I'm very aware of that. While I wont say exactly what we talked about because that will be up to him on if he decides to follow it or not. I just want to say there is nothing wrong with you making the first move either.”

“Okay,” she got out because she wasn't sure what else to say to that. There was no way she was going to mention that she had been staying over at his house on occasion. Granted she was upstairs and he was downstairs, but she wasn't sure how Vincent would react to that particular bit of news. And she was pretty sure Carter wouldn't mention that to Vincent either. Or for his sake he better not have mentioned it.

“I'm just saying that sometimes, if you know what you want in life, you should just go for it,” he continued.

“I understand what you;re saying Vincent, I really do,” she told him. “But I'm in a really weird place with Reks right now because of my feelings for Carter. I need to get that....”

“Don't worry about Reks,” Vincent told her. “If you and Reks were a couple then that would be a different story. But any problem you have with him will sort itself out. Another bit of advice my dear, don't worry about what other people are going to think. You'll lose more than one chance at something special that way.” Turning back to his workstation he said, “Now I would hazard a guess that Carter might be back from the Temple by now, and that cafe is still open, if you happen to run across him that is.”

“I'll keep that in mind,” Jules said as she got off the chair. Given in to an urge she hugged Vincent while he say in the chair, “Thanks for the advice, I'll think it over.” He patted her arm before she let go and made her way out. Maybe she would swing by that cafe after all. And if she saw Carter on the way there, well she did have some information for him after all.

***
“Are you sure about this?”, Xypher said as Carter walked town the street. Night had fallen not so long ago, which meant any Horrors in the area would be on the hunt as well.

“Fairly sure,” he told the pin as he looked around for anything out of the ordinary. “Based on what Jules told me this Horror doesn't just look for victims it looks for those with a particular mindset. A big fish looking for a bigger pond. This McKay person was the top guy in his fight ring. The next logical step would be to go after something go after someone with a little more power in the city.”

“You do realize that could be just about anything,” Xypher commented. “He could be looking for another fight ring to dominate.”

“That's not in this Horror's nature,” he said. “And you were there when she told us.”

“I know that. But why are we out here in this particular area? He could be just about anywhere.”

“Because this area is one of the closest areas to that garage,” Carter quieted down just long enough to pass by a couple going in the opposite direction. “Some small time hoods and gangbangers, a logical step up from a fight ring.”

The pin was quiet for a moment, “All right, I'll give you that one. And I can see why you suggested the two of you to split up to over more ground. But aren't you worried about Jules?”

“She's more than capable of taking care of herself,” Carter said. “Those hoods shouldn't be a problem if they decide to give her any trouble.”

“And if she runs into the Horror?”

Now it was Carter turn to be quiet for a bit. “As I said, she can take care of herself so so there's no need to worry.”

“Try telling that to someone not directly placed over your heart. Ow.” he uttered after a quick flick. Walking around a bit he noticed something was off, at least to him. Even if this person in charge on this street was small time criminal by most standards there should be some guards walking the street by his estimations. So far he hadn't seen any one that looked like they were paying closer attention to the others on the street than the usual passerby. Did he get the wrong street?

“Carter!”, somebody called out. He looked around to see Morgan wave at him before jogging over. “What are you doing out here in this part of town? Did you get orders too?”

“What orders?”. He asked.

“I'm pretty sure they were about that Horror you were telling me about earlier,” Morgan said. “They even suggested I seek some aid in taking it down. Since you're here and you knew about it first, would you care to join me? It's supposed to be in this area.”

“Don't you even say anything,” Xypher told Carter. “Not about joining you Morgan, but about him being right.”

“Do we have anything more specific than 'in the area'?”, Carter asked him as they started down the street. Everything said this Horror was dangerous, more so than usual. Anything they could get to track it down faster the better.

“I did a little recon earlier,” Morgan answered him. “There's supposed to be a hideout the local crime guys uses close by. Apparently it's been pratically abandoned most of the day. A few people on the street have been avoiding it saying they saw a bunch of guys run out after an older man forced his way in.” An older man, McKay was supposed to be an older man.

Once they were closes enough Morgan pointed out the suspected building. “Carter,” Xypher called out. “I'm detecting a Horror alright. But it's not coming from that building.”

“Where is it coming from?”, he demanded.

“That park over there.”

Holding the quote unquote made man up against a tree Tony looked around. “I don't know what it is about this park that's just drawing me to it,” he said as the other man clawed at his hand and wrist in an attempt to get away. Tony didn't even register his attempt to escape. “I mean I've been in this city all my life and not once even looked at a place like this longer than I had too. Must be the new me.” Finally looking at the former “king” of this particular street Tony let go long enough to grab him by both arms an pull. Tearing him apart the man quickly dissolved and was devoured in seconds. Using a thumb to wipe the corner of his mouth Tony walked away. “Maybe I'll rule the whole city from here.” He didn't go far, just to a lamp post, as he saw two individuals in his way. One in something a step above rags the other outfit covered by a long coat. Both of them stuck some kind of lighter in his face, each of which emitted a blue flame. His eyes acted on their own immediately as they gave him away as a Horror. Angry he tried to grab both of them, the one in the coat spun out of the way as the other backed up.

Tony looked at each of them as they took on a fighting stance he wasn't familiar with. But yet he knew exactly who they were. “Makai Knights. I was hoping to run into at least one of you.” In one motion he ripped his jacket and shirt in half as he tore them off his body. “Time to be king of a whole new area.”

“Not while I'm around,” Carter went at him, with Morgan quickly following suit as they attacked him. He got a pretty quick bead as Carter realized that McKay was basically a brawler and the Horror that took him over didn't seem to be more than that either. But what he liked in skill compared to Carter and Morgan, the strength from the Horror more than made up for it. McKay was more than holding his own as they tried to strike him from any angle they could manage. Morgan upped his attack in order to get his attention in order to give Carter a better chance. McKay quickly batted Morgan away and swung back at Carter. Ducking under the blow as he ran forward Carter jumped up and off the lamp post, twisting his body around with a kick to McKay's head. The blow staggered him back, but not much.

Rubbing his jaw a bit he stared down the Makai Knight, “I was hoping you Knights would but up this type of a fight. It makes you taste so much better after the juices flow through you.” Morgan ran in clipping McKay at the leg. Carter jumped up and over McKay grabbing him by the arm and used the Horror's unbalanced state and and his own body weight to throw him to the ground. Both Knights came in and kicked him in head as he tried to get up. His head snapped back but Morgan didn't see his hand shoot out and grab him by the ankle until he was feeling the pressure around it. The Knight went flying before Carter could stop him. Moving with a speed that could have only come from the Horror he got his feet and grabbed Carter and threw him into nearby tree. Running at him full force Carter barely had time to realize a bone like jagged spike grew out of McKay's forearm. Moving his head just enough that the spiked missed him Carter got a leg between them and pushed him back with all he had. He looked down at his chest then wiped off any imaginary dirt as he looked straight at Carter, “You are starting to piss me off.”

“No you don't!”, Morgan cried as he tried to catch off guard with a rush, Grabbing him around the neck as he jumped at him he tried to flip the Horror to the ground. McKay bent slightly but he held his position on sheer power alone. Getting a good grip on the Knight hanging off of him he threw him to the ground. Raising the arm with the extended spike up he swung it down like a club. A black staff intercepted it as he looked Carter in the eyes. Grabbing Morgan by the shirt he quickly puled him back as he blocked another blow from that spike. Using his extended reach Carter started striking McKay anywhere he could around his leg and knees trying to topple him at the same time blocking or dodging that spike. Mckay was growing angrier by the second, and more dangerous as he apparently knew how to channel that anger. While jumping over a low swing with that spike he realized too late he left himself open as his other arm battered him to the side. One more time he blocked that spike, but he was off balanced and the blow sent him to a knew. Another spike emerged from his left forearm and McKay had a sick look in his eyes as he could taste victory.

His confusion quickly turned into rage as he realized the killing blow was stopped by a sword wielded by Morgan. Seeing the Horror's eyes was off of him Carter gripped the other end of the staff with his free hand and pulled it in half, using the motion to use one of the hidden blades to cut into McKay's leg. Roaring more in anger than pain he took his eyes off of Morgan long enough for him to knock on of his arm spikes down to the ground. Getting his feet under him Carter jumped off McKay's leg and jammed his knee into the Horror's chin knocking his head back. Staggered he could barely put up any defense as both Makai Knights came at him with their blades, almost striking him at will with their combined attack. Finally getting a hold on the shabby one he knocked him into the other one. Stepping back more spikes grew from his knees as he hunched over a bit before rearing back and screaming at the knight sky. His skin burst apart as his mass seemed to increase very quickly, a spiked fin growing down his back as two fang like teeth reached up from his upper lip. It slapped his arms a bit before squaring off against the Knights.

Carter didn't even react to the change as he went after the Horror again. His blades flashing s he swung them around trying to keep the Horror form impaling him with the spikes Morgan ran in from the side and sliced him behind the leg. It reacted giving Carter a window to knock a spike away and stab it in the gut with the same blade. Quickly getting out of it's reach Morgan came up again aiming the point of his sword at his head. Hurklor blocked as Carter jumped on it's back and jammed the points of both blades into a shoulder. The Horror thrashed around trying to reach for him but Carter held on tight, only jumping off as Morgan jammed the point of his sword into a leg. Pulling the sword out and backing away before it could try to reach for him he joined up with Carter as they faced down the Horror. Joining the other end of his sword together to form the double bladed staff Carter held it over his head and spun it before bringing it down to his right side. Morgan raised his sword into the air and with a quick flick of his wrist cut a smaller circle in the sky. Bringing the sword down he held his other hand behind the blade in front of him. Both portals opened as plain, bronze wolf style armor covered Morgan and Carter soon donned the red armor of Rook.

Both sides ran at the other, Rook jabbing and swinging his weapon where he could as the other Makai Knight used more pin strike attacks to wear the Horror down even further. Still the Horror wasn't going down easy as he was able to hit the knight with one of his spikes as he bashed Rook away with the other. “Wait for my signal,” Carter grunted, not even seeing the other Knight nod in response as he ran at the Horror one more time. Swing his sword back and forth to deflect the spikes he waited for any opening he could see. Then he saw it. Hurklor brought down a spike with all the force it had. This time Rook let him using the armor to brace him this time around.. With a quick moment he held onto the the arm with one hand has he brought the double balded sword inbetween them. Bracing one end of the sword on the Horror's shoulder he was able to use what confusion and surprise he had at the moment to bend the Horror's arm around it. Locking him into that position he put a foot right behind the spike from the horror's knew and jumped up shouting, “Now!” The leverage from the staff as he jumped up and over the Horror caused it's arm to lift up exposing it's side. Morgan ran in yelling as the Horror freed it's arm, but not soon enough the Knight cut him deep. Landing behind him Rook brought the other end of his sword around and slashed him in the back. The Horror stood there for a moment before exploding in a fireball that quickly dissipated.

Armors returning from where they came from Carter separated his sword before sheathing both end and Morgan did the same.”Another one sealed away,” he told Carter.

“For now,” he said. The one sad truth about fighting Horrors, you could never truly defeat them. You just sent them back to their home dimension for a bit until they were strong enough to try it again. Still he looked at Morgan and told him, “I'm grateful for the help.”

“I'm pretty sure you saved me more than once,” Morgan said. “Something I'm sure Lyndsy will be more than grateful for too.”

“Carter,” Xypher called out, “I'm still sensing a Horror.” Carter and Morgan went back to back fully prepared to face what was coming. “It's behind you!” Both spun around, both of their blades partially drawn. Both Knights looked at the other in confusion.

Then Morgan glanced down. Carter did the same seeing whatever it was grabbed his attention. Slowly Morgan said, “Is that...”

***
In the chamber of the Watchdogs both Knights lowered a slab of park sidewalk to the floor. Standing Carter looked at them and said, “Horror Blood.” With their usual bored expression the looked upon the slab with a dark stain on it. A stain that pulsated every so often.

“It would appear to be,” the female named Illumina said. “Obviously from the Horror the two of you defeated tonight.”

“I respectfully disagree,” Carter told them.

“And what is your opinion of how it came to be there,?” The male called Nisoka asked.

Carter looked over at Morgan who nodded. Looking up at the Watchdogs he said, “Someone planted it there to attract Horrors to that location.” Both Watchdogs looked at each other at that statement, apparently communicating silently with each other. Witnessing this it was almost more unnerving then their usual uninterested expression.

Finally looking back at the two of them Illumina asked, “What proof do you have to back up your claim?”

“The fact that it's too concentrated a sample for one spot,” he said. “And there was no other splatter in the area the Horror was defeated in.”

“I can back that up,” Morgan spoke up. “We searched the area and didn't find any other source of contamination.”

“This is troubling news indeed,” Nisoka stated. Looking at Morgan he continued, “Knight, we task you with finding out who did this.”

“With all due respect,” Carter spoke up, “I feel this is part of the assignment you originally gave me.”

“Explain why you feel this way?”, the male Watchdog asked.

“Because those of us in the order are the only ones who know how their blood will affect the Horrors,” he said. “Only those who can get close enough and survive can collect it. It has to be some one in the order itself doing this.”

“And yet,” the female one said, “while you're statement is true, we do not see how this situation applies to your original assignment.”

Carter had already talked this over with Morgan as they traveled here. During that conversation he remembered something Vincent had told him earlier. “A feint,” he said, “to distract us. To keep our focus on an increase of Horror activity in certain areas while they are free to do what ever they're planning in others.”

The watchdogs communicated with each other silently one more time. Morgan spoke up, “I agree with Carter assessment of the situation. If someone is trying to exploit any rifts between the Knights and Priests again it would be best to attract our attention elsewhere.”

After a few more moments of silence the Watchdogs turned their attention back toward them. Nisoka was the one who spoke, “We also agree with this assessment. Rook, we add this to your previous assignment. Do so after you have cleansed your blades.”

“I will fulfill this added duty,” Carter said with a bow.

:”I will aid him in any way that I can,” Morgan added, bowing as well. Both Watchdogs retreated back to their space behind the balconies.

Alone Carter turn toward Morgan, “Tell anybody you can trust with this.” Carter didn't want to specify a Makai Priest or Knights in that statement. What Sigma did in Japan exposed cracks between the two sects. But both sides had to remember that they were part of the same Order. And a united front had to be the best way to confront those that would try to divide them again.

“I'll have Lyndsy spread the word as well,” Morgan told him. “The more eyes we have on this the better. We'll try to keep a handle on any increased Horror activity to free you up to look for the ones behind this.”

“I would appreciate that,” Carter told him. As Morgan went to cleans his blade Carter looked down at Xtpher, “We need to find Jules, I need her to look into something for me.”

“You're thinking about that false reading me and her got the other night. You think somebody planted Horror blood there too?”

“I have to be sure,” he said. “The more we find the more we can see where it's not being spread.”

“It's a pretty big city Carter,” Xypher reminded him. “Whomever behind this may get their plan up and running before we can eliminate anything.”

“Then we better hurry,” Carter said.


ED – Shaman's Harvest – Broken Dreams
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Old July 1st, 2019, 09:55 AM #3
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OP – CFO$ - Catch Your Breath


The streets were alive as various firetrucks, squad cars and ambulances came to a stop at a hotel that had been set on fire. People behind the safety lines just stared in wonder at the blaze that started to consume the upper floors of the building. Various police officers were trying hard to keep the herd of people back while at the same time usher those evacuating the hotel either past the line or toward the awaiting ambulance for those that needed them. A few words were picked up here and there among the crowd. Some about an arsonist setting the blaze some swearing they saw some guy fighting what looked like a monster while the fire was raging on the upper floors. A few officers took note of the potential arsonist just in case, but completely ignored the man versus creature part completely, putting it to down to hysteria from the fire. Although a couple did privately wonder what kind of flames were up there to make people think it was some sort of monster.

On one of the trucks a man jumped out the door and started giving orders almost faster than his feet hit the ground. “Get those hoses out! Ryder get some men ready to hit inside as soon as possible. You,” he pointed at what looked like the person in charge of this particular establishment, “is everybody out?”

“I.. I..,” he was borderline panicking. If it was anything but this type of situation he would have gave the guy more of a chance to calm down. Hell he was probably just the night manager who just had to deal with the occasional drunk or rowdy guest. But right now seconds counted.

“Is anybody still on the upper floors?”, he demanded with a little more authority.

That seemed to at least snap him out his personal fright zone. “I.. I.. don't know. I think so. The fire alarms are more or less automatic. We started pounding on doors on the lower levels as soon as they went off. We couldn't even reach the upper floors because of everybody rushing down the stairs.”

“Thank you,” he said, and meant it. Any information they could get right now was pretty much vital. “Ryder, get ready to get those men in now! We might still have people up there.”

“On it!”, he replied. “Davidson, Stevens, Anderson, Brennen. Scott!” Before he could say anything else an explosion from the upper floor made everyone around the building duck. Those beyond the line started to run away as bits of glass and debris rained down on them. While a few of the officers were silently glad the crowd started to disburse they knew those running away in a panic would cause them a bigger mess.

For the chief the lessening crowd was the least of his worries at the moment. “Ryder get those men up there now! Everybody get those hoses up there as well. All cranes I want water on full force!” Despite not being done barking out orders be stopped when he noticed one of his men staring out into space. Even on a light day this would be a bad thing but this man was one of the more dependable ones under him. Even making sure others were concentrating on their tasks and nothing else. “Rhodes!”

His man what startled as he turned back turned toward him. “Sorry! But there was a secondary explosion.”

“Where?”, he demanded looking at the inferno above them and in the general area just in case. “I'm not seeing anything different.”

“It was in the air,” Rhodes told him as he pointed at a particularly empty patch of night time sky.. “A smaller explosion after the bigger from from the building. I've never seen anything like that before.”

Of all the time to start cracking the Chief thought as he stared at him man. He'd worry about it later there was a major fire going on right above them. They had to take care of this now before it started spreading to the other buildings. “It was probably a gas bubble or something. But right now I need you here and not up there, got it?” His man nodded that he understood. But he glanced back just briefly, not completely convinced of the Chief's theory.

Hell he was probably imagining it in the excitement.

If one was able to rewind that particular scenario, right before the explosion and look at it from a higher angle, one would have saw something that would have surprised them completely. Crashing through a window flew out the creature some of the patrons of the hotel saw in their flight to safety just moment earlier. It's dark skin almost making it blend in to those on the ground who happened to look up. To some it's demonic appearance would make it look at home in the flames. But this was no demon, to a select few this was a thing known as a Horror. And in some situations that demon label would be close enough.

As it's black leathery wings flapped to keep it in the air it turned it's horned head back toward the building. Seeing the top floor explode it tried to calculate if it was at a safe enough distance from the flames. Seeing the fire spew almost upwards form the explosion it thought it was safe. Then a red shape flew out of the flames as the fire ball reached it's peak. It cried out in shock as the form came at him. Staring into the sharp blue eyes of the wolf style helmet it could do nothing. A yell came from the object as it swung one end of a double bladed sword through the Horror as it kept going.

A relatively small explosion compared to the one from the building happen where the Horror used to be as Rook landed on top of a nearby building. With a small upward nod of his head the armor around flew up and back into the circular portal that appeared above him which vanished almost as soon as it appeared. Carter staggered a bit as he started coughing up what felt like a lung. On his chest the Gothic looking face pin spoke up, “Carter are you all right?”

“I'm fine,” he said through the fit. Once he stopped he continued, “I inhaled a little too much smoke in there.”

“You should have summoned the armor sooner,” Xypher told him. “The armor could have screened out most of it.”

:No,” he said as he walked over toward the edge and looked down at the crowd below. “I think people saw me fight the Horror. I don't think the Watchdogs would have been all of that understanding if they saw me in armor.”

“You got a point there,” the pin conceded to his way of thinking. Having been the companion of a couple of Rook title bearers he understood the need to keep what they did secret. And these particular Watchdogs were particularly strict about keeping what they did a secret. Most Watchdogs were as far as Xypher knew. After a bit he had to ask the Rook he was currently bonded to, “Why are we still hanging around here then?”

“Was it possible some of the Horror 's blood hit the crowd down there?”. He ended up answering.

“Doubtful,” Xypher answered after thinking it over. “We were pretty high up when you defeated the Horror. I know their blood can spread after they're defeated but I'm certain there's a low chance of it reaching the crowd below before evaporating.”

Carter grunted, “But there's still a chance.”

“Yes,” Xypher sighed, realized he left that particular door open just a bit, “I suppose there is. Am I correct in assuming you want to head down there and make sure?” Carter turned around and unconnected the staff while he headed for the fire escape. “I'm taking that for a yes just so you know.”

Taking longer than he wanted Carter hit the street level and started intermingling with the crowd. Walking slowly as he made his way through, just to give the Madou pin enough time to see if any of the souls were unlucky enough to potentially get hit with the any of the Horror's blood. Because if they did, then he had one job to do in that situation. And being in a crowd was going to make it that much harder to accomplish. Getting close to the area where he estimated the Horror was sealed above he stopped and looked around. People were started to spread out a bit, giving him a little more room to maneuver, on the off chance he had to make a quick get away if somebody was splashed with Horror blood. If they were still around that was. Eyeing the crowd he looked around, hoping no one here was affected. “Carter,” the pin spoke up, just loud enough that he could hear him. “I'm sensing something to your left.”

Turning his head in that direction he saw a lone firefighter taking a moment to himself. So far he was by himself. From where Carter was he had a clear shot at the man if the need arose. “Are you sure it's him?”

“I'm getting the sensation from where he's at,” Xypher replied, “”I'm almost positive.”

“That man's life is potentially on the line,” Carter hissed. “Almost is not going to work in this situation.”

The firefighter taking the break took off his helmet to wipe his brow. Putting it down on a side rail on one of the trucks he walked over a few yards to a tub filled with water and dunked his head. Pulling it back out he wiped the water from his eye. That did nothing to cool him off but it refreshed him enough for the moment. He looked up at the blaze above them, other said that they were getting it under control. It still looked the same to him. Or maybe he had been doing the firefighter gig for too long and was just getting tired. Maybe it was time to take that desk job they keep offering him. Thoughts for later he was still on this particular job. Turning around he stopped, totally surprised by what he saw. He looked around at the rest of them standing there, “Who's the wise ass that took my helmet?”

Walking into an alley before anyone could point him out Carter walked down it and made a couple of turns before he was sure enough nobody was following him. Looking at the fire fighter's helmet in his hand he asked, “Are you sure this was where that reading was coming from?”

“Positive?”, Xypher told him. “That sensation stayed the same as that man moved away from us. The Horror's blood hit the helmet in your hand. That guy is not going to know just exactly how lucky he was.” Carter grunted in agreement. Despite being part of his job Carter had yet to come face to face with a human who had been contaminated with Horror Blood, and was not eager to cut that poor person down if they were as Makai Law dictated. The Rook before him held a similar sentiment, and was told that other Knights felt the same way.

“We'll take this to the Watchdogs and let them deal with it.” Carter looked back to the general direction to that hotel. Before he found the Horror he had found something else. Walking the hallways of the upper floor because this particular Horror wasn't leaving thee building his attention was drown to a rather large spot on a wall. A spot made from Horror blood, pulsating just slightly but for whomever came down the hall to see. “I'll report what we found while we're there. Whomever is leaving the blood is either getting bolder or getting sloppier.”

***
Elsewhere in the city Jules walked down a particular street hoping it was the right one. The one real problem with hunting Horrors was that you really didn't have a defined patrol route most of the time., particularly in a city this big. Makai Priests had it a bit easier then the Knights of their order as there were generally more Priests in any given location. Carter and most other Knights she knew pretty much had a particular section of the city assigned to them, or directed to one temporarily if orders from the Watchdogs came down, and just walked that section until they found their target and eliminating and gates as the find them.. Her and her fellow priest where able to section out things a little bit more to give themselves smaller location to search. But small was relative when you were just a single person.

A store front catching her eyes she lowered her pace a bit. It definitely looked familiar. But how many times had she passed this place and not given it a second look. But she kept her eyes a little more open as she continued down the sidewalk. Then she spotted a few more things that looked familiar and stopped to look down a particular alley, She was pretty sure that was the same clock from the other day. Entering the alley she reached into a pocket and pulled out a small round dish like object. In her left hand. In her right she caused the bristles of her brush to glow slightly as she waved it over the dish. A series of rings appeared as she tried to keep an eye on them as well as her surroundings. Realizing that she was entering the same area that she fought an Horror the previous night she stopped. That faint blip that at the time they thought was indicating a Horror was still there, and it was still coming from the location as that dumpster.

“Now let's see if that particular hunch of his was right,” she muttered to herself, pocketing the dish. Madou Brush still in hand she walked over and examined the dumpster as best she could. Lifting the lid still didn't reveal anything out of the ordinary right away, but she kept looking for a few more minutes. Although the previous contents had already been picked up, “At least I don't have to go dumpster diving tonight.” Continuing her search on the outside she briefly wondered if she should have brought somebody along to help her move this thing out of the way. Which more than likely would have meant Carter. Not that she needed a man to do the heavy lifting but because this was still on a need to know basis and as far as she knew only herself, Carter, his friend, Morgan, Vincent and the Watchdogs knew about the object of her search.

And it would have been nice to hang out with Carter, if only for a little bit. Even if it was work related.

Her musing stopped when she thought she saw something on the brick wall behind the dumpster. Almost obscured by it. With a small wave of her hand over them them the bristles of her brush glowed a little brighter, giving her enough light to see the small, slightly pulsating patch of Horror blood. “No wonder we couldn't find the source the other night,” she said to herself. Standing up and backing up slightly she did some quick hand motion and fired a small ball of flame at the spot, like Vincent had instructed her to. While the wall was a bit scorched the magical flame quickly eliminated the patch of blood.

“Yer out a luck.” She spun around Brush at the ready. Only to be greeted by some vagrant walk toward a pile of trash in a corner. “Trash man already got da goods. Should have dropped by yesterday.” Trying not to startle the newcomer she pulled the dish back out and reactivated the search spell. This poor soul wasn't giving off a ready so she relaxed a little bit.

“I'll try and keep that in mind,” Jules told him. “I'm probably trespassing in your space so I'll just leave you in peace.”

“Trust me little missy yer welcome anytime,” he wiggled his eyebrows and grinned. And it was pretty obvious where his mind was with that particular comment.

Faking a smile as she backed away she told him, “I'll keep that in mind.” Then she walked a little faster to get out of that alley.

“I think yer friends are in the other direction if yer heading right.”

“What friends?”, she asked, probably more curious than she should be at the moment.

“Couple o guys with fancy paint brushes like da one you got there.” He gestured in a vague direction that wold have taken her to the left if she choose to take it. “Getting a tad fancy with the street artwork.”

She glanced back at her brush with a slight smirk, “In a way you could say that.”

“Too bad,' he mumbled as he got settle onto the pile,”kinda liked how creative you kids could get with those paint cans. Pity the city keeps washing 'em off. Must have some fun using that brush then.”

“Something like that,” Jules told him. “And thanks, I'll see if I can catch up with them.” He mumbled something unintelligible as he apparently nodded off. Still a couple of guys with “fancy paint brushes” as he put it? More than likely some Makai Preists. Could be they were tracking a Horror. She looked back at where the spot used to be, could be they were doing something else. Like planting more Horror blood.

And suddenly she understood what Carter said Vincent told him about that slippery slope. It was way to easy to think the worse in this situation. Still it didn't hurt to check it out and see if she could find them. If they were after a Horror then she could lend a hand. If they were doing something else then she had a direction to send Carter in.

***
A man in a plain tee shirt and some jans ran as fast as he could down an abandoned street. Pausing just enough to look around in a panic he turned to his right and head down what looked like a possible escape route. Nearly tripping over his own feet he found himself in an open courtyard. He fell on his ass when he saw the only other person, a man in a dark double breasted coat with a weird looking brush in his hand. And an even stranger contraption on his wrist. The man looked at him with disdain. “You can't run from your destiny,” the man known as Reks told him.

Trying to get back to his feet and run in the other direction at the same time he stopped to see the other man that was after him. The one with the strange trinkets on his vest. Who also looked at him with an equal amount of disdain the other had. Scrambling to his feet he looked the area. Soon he realized it was just the two of them after him. The panic quickly went away as it turned to a soft chuckle that turned into a full on belly laugh. “What's so funny,” Terrance demanded.

“I don't believe it, I was running from a pair of Makai Priests,” he answered as he got himself under control, much to the dismay of the other two. More annoyance than dismay on Reks' part of the situation. Noticing that made the man want to start laughing all over again. “I though I was in trouble there for a moment.”

Gritting his teeth and tightening the grip on his brush Reks grunted, “Do not look down on Makai Priests.”

“Reks don't!”, Terrance called out but it was already too late. Reks charged the man, Brush glowing brightly, intending to smash it into the man's face. He caught the attempted blow easily wrapping his hand around Reks' wrist. An unnatural strength kept him there.

He looked at the Makai Priest's eyes, savoring the anger he was seeing in them. “Oh I am so looking down on you.” With little effort he slung Reks to the side. “I don't usually do angry,” he told him. “It makes you taste funny. Almost spoiled.” Terrance came at the man wanting to give his friend an opening to recover. He found the man gripping his throat as soon as he got close. “Now determination, now that adds a little kick to your flavor. Most Horrors don't care fore it mind you. It is a acquired taste after all.” Reks came at him came making him let go of Terrance. The two regrouped a bit to face the Horror together.

“Don't let him get to you,” Terrance Told Reks. An angry glare was the only response he got in return. “He's trying to get you angry, sloppy.,” he continued. “You need to calm down, center yourself.”

On some level Reks knew his compatriot was right. He was letting this Horror get under his skin. Yet it was so tempting just to pound that Horror's smug face in. Especially now as it stood there, just waiting on them to make a move. As tempting as that thought was he forced himself to find a center and concentrate on it, to calm the anger wanting to rage inside of him. That was how people of his ordered died. He would have to control his emotions.

Once the thought hit him that he would basically have to think like one of those blasted Makai Knights he was immediately filled with a sickening sensation. But it did the trick quickly enough that he made the barest of head turns to look at Terrance. He nodded in understanding as the both of them charged the Horror. Attacking from two different angles they tried to keep the creature off guard. And for a few moments they did so as it was obviously on the defensive. They backed up it against a trash can and caused it to trip over it. As one they charged their individual brushes and went to slam them on top of it.

The Horror got his arms up to block the duel strike. With some effort he pushed their arms away then rolled backwards to try and get to a standing position to just block another duel strike attempt. Now that it was on it's feet he kicked Reks away. Temporarily facing Terrance one on one the Horror broke through his attack once he looked at what happened to his partner. Reks came in with a flying kick that knocked the Horror back again and stood between it and Terrance. The Horror looked at them and grinned, “Looks like you have a bit more fight than I gave you credit for.” Eyes going pale Reks and Terrance got ready for what was coming next, “Now the fun can really begin.” The Horror crossed it's arms while hunching over a bit. Rearing back and swinging his arms out it looked at the night sky as an unearthly scream came from it's throat. The skin on it seemingly ripping away in an instant as the black leathery skin of the winged, horned Horror emerged from it's disguise. Pointed tail swishing behind it the Horror rose up a hand and mockingly waved the two Makai Priest on.

Now realizing that antagonizing was one of it's tricks Reks waited until Terrance was clear headed again before attacking once more. Both fully aware at how much more dangerous the Horror could be now that it's true form was revealed. It was ready for the duel strike as it's own became more animalistic. And Reks and Terrance both knew they would have to work harder to try to keep one step ahead of the monster before them. Or at least the Horror thought that what they were trying to do. Both of them quickly backed away, so fast the creature thought they were attempting to run away, not that it would have done either of them any good.

But then Reks shouted, “Now!” Terrance reached up and pulled two of the trinkets off his coat. Waving the brush over them so the glowed he tossed them so they landed on either side of the Horror. Looking at the seemingly discarded trinkets it didn't react fast enough as the glow became a small, bright flash. A greenish circle made of symbols appeared at it's feet. Then lines made of those symbols reached up and grabbed the Horror around the wrist, ankles and neck holding it in place.

Both Makai Priests watched the Horror. Terrance in slight amazement, and a little pride, that his binding spell was working so well. Reks just looked on smugly. Still struggling to break it's bonds the Horror looked directly at him and screamed. Feeling that he was in total control Reks walked up to it, well withing reach if it's hands were free. “I told you your destiny was at hand.” Holding out an arm he looked the creature right in the eyes as the shaft from the device on his wrist extended and unfolded into a saw blade that quickly grew in size. Bringing his Brush to it a green Makai fire blazed on the edge of the blade as it started spinning. But he didn't strike at it right away, instead he started taunting the Horror. He wanted to see fear shine in those unholy eyes.

Behind him Terrance was wonder what the hell he was doing. “Reks do it.” He got a little more nervous as the symbol lines started to blink in and out. The Horror was starting to break the binding spell. “Reks now! Before it breaks free!”

“Go back to you unholy pit monster,” Reks said coldly as he brought the spinning blade up and down. The Horror reared it's head back and screamed as the device dug into it's shoulder. Behind him Terrance couldn't see the sick grin form on Reks' face as he saw the pain his creation was causing the Horror. Couldn't see him savor it, tasting the victory right before him. Then it all went wrong. Breaking the binding spell the Horror lashed out, knocking Reks to the ground. Terrance tried to grab a couple of more trinkets but the Horror was already on him before he could touch one. After a brief struggle his brush went flying and he landed hard to the ground. But the Horror didn't kill him despite being the easier of the two at the moment. Instead it turned back toward Reks who was still staring in disbelief at the still spinning saw. The Horror smiled tasting the brokenness of his spirit from where it was.

It's meal was interrupted as new person ran onto the courtyard and kicked the Horror away. Taking up a defensive stance Jules tried to position herself between it and her fellow Priests as best as she could. Grinning at the newcomer sensing more easy prey. With another scream it charged at Jules who ran on at the same time. The creature quickly realized something different with this one as it attacks seemed crisper and more precise with her attacks than the other two, despite her style seeming to be more dance like than the other two. The fluidity of her movements allowed her to get in reach to attack then quickly get out of it's grasp before the Horror could do anything.

Jules realized how strong this particular Horror was pretty much right away and made sure she wasn't in place long enough for it to do anything. Although there were a couple of close calls as she felt it get a grip on her every so often. But she quickly broke it's grasp as soon as she felt it. When she could she tried to steal a glance toward Terrance and Reks, since she wouldn't personally complain at this particular moment if they decided to try and help. From what she could get out of those quick glimpses Terrance was slowly coming to while Reks just stayed on the ground staring at the thing on his arm. Right now one would have been a bigger help than the other. So she was pretty much on her own at this particular moment. Throwing a few kicks in she cartwheeled away to create some space. Holding out her right arm she shot a magical blast at a trash can and ignited the contents. Concentrating she started to draw the flame in to the glowing tip of her brush. Pirouetting the flames spiraled around her as she brought her hands over her head. As soon as the flames collected in to a ball shape connected to the tip of her brush she brought her right arm down with a shout and blasted the Horror with it. The spell was powerful enough that the Horror exploded on the spot.

Remembering what happened the last time she used this particular spell Jules looked at her Madou Brush. She smiled slightly, not even singed.

The moment of self congratulations over she turned toward her fellow Priests, “You guys alright?”

“I have been better,” Terrance grunted as he finally got to his feet.

She looked over at Reks who finally sat up, which eased her mind a bit, but he was still staring at the saw blade attached to his arm. Terrance was the first to go to him to make sure if he was hurt in some way. All he could get out of them was, “That should have worked.”

“I still don't understand what's going on,” Jules started to say before she got a real good look at the device on his wrist. Something about sparked a long forgotten memory. “Wait, isn't that the saw blade idea you came up with when we were younger?”

Reks seemed to finally realized she was there as he seemed surprised to see her. That surprised turned to something else as she said, “You remembered.”

Yeah that almost love lorn look wasn't making her feel queasy at all. “I remember Vincent thought he talked you out of it.” Once again his expression changed. Dejection maybe, perhaps some betrayal. So much so even Terrance adjusted himself a bit to get between them a little more.

“It will work,” he said almost defiantly. Then he looked back at it as it decreased in size and retracted itself back to the device. “It should have work. I worked out everything.” Getting to his feet he took the device of and examined it as he walked away. “I've tweaked the designed for past couple of decades. Thought of everything to improve it. It should have worked.”

“Or maybe Vincent was right when you first showed it to him,” Jules countered, “and it's not something to take on a Horror with.”. He snapped his head toward her. Yup that was definitely betrayal on his features. “Look Reks I understand, really I do. You want to be out there hunting down Horrors I get it. But Vincent taught us both Reks, he knew what our individual strengths were. You can fight Horrors but your true talents lie in creating things like that,' she gestured toward the device on his forearm. “But he also tried to show you there are even limitation to what even you can do.” She took a step toward him hoping she was getting through to him. “I know you're capable of creating some amazing things, like those Gōryū things they started using in Japan. But you have to know when a bad idea is a bad idea and let it go.”

He was quiet for a long time, just looking at his creation. “Maybe you're right Jules. Maybe this was a folly. But,” he said looking at her, “I followed my strengths. Like you follow yours. Maybe I can even think of something to help with your fire draw attack. I know you been working on some sort of flint device of your own. I can help with that, I already have something in mind. Where you can spark a flame with a snap of your figures.”

“That would've be pretty helpful in a few cases,” she said giving him an sincere smile.

“That's why we'd make a good team,” he said. “We do make a good team. Ever since we were younger and learning under Vincent. We're the perfect partners,” He reached out and took her hand. “In every way possible.” He opened his heart to her in the only way he could. Which was why he was so shocked when she pulled her hand away while looking slightly upset. “Jules?”

Looking over at Terrance she told him, “I wish you told him what I told you the other night.”

Terrance walked away as Reks looked back and forth between them. “Tell me what? I don't understand. Jules I love...”

“Reks,” she said, probably a bit sharper than what she wanted. But she had to get him to stop right there. “I don't, not in that way.” The heartbreak he was feeling was evident and it upset her that she was hurting him like this. But it had to be done, for both of their sakes. “You're going to make somebody really happy one day. And I'll be happy for you when it happens. I love you like a brother and that's as far as my feelings go for you.” He turned away from her and lower his head. “I'm sorry Reks, I really am. And I'm sorry it had to go down this way.”

“I think,” Terrance finally spoke up, “I think it's be better if you left now.” Both of them looked over at Reks, both expecting him to say something. Nothing came from him.

Realizing just how bad she actually hurt him Jules nodded, “Maybe I better.” She started to reach out to him as she past, to touch his shoulder, but she thought better of it and kept on walking. Once far enough away she wiped a small tear from her eye. That sucked more than she thought it was going to. But, again, it had to be done.

“It's that damn Knight,” Reks finally muttered through his teeth, visibly shaking he was so angry at the thought.”

“Reks,” Terrance told him, “I hate the Knights as much as you do. But I'm telling you, friend to friend, Greystone is not at fault here.” That look of betrayal returned as Reks faced him. “She just doesn't feel the same way for you that you feel for her, even I see that.”

“If I just told her what was going on,” Reks said suddenly. “Get her to understand what we're doing.”

“And we were specifically told not to include her for a reason,” he countered. “Even if she didn't have feelings for Greystone there is no way she would get behind this. You have to know that.”

Looking at nothing in particular in the distance for a long time Reks finally said, “No she wouldn't. Jules doesn't see things the same way that we do.” Terrance looked at him, a bit worried at how calm he seems now. It was almost eerie compared to the anger that was bubbling just below the surface just a few moments ago. “She'll be one of the Priests on the attack once our goals become clear. But she'll see, they will all see what we're doing is right.” Reks glanced at device on his forearm one last time, “Especially when I get this to work.”

***
“The search has been going rather slowly,” Vincent said as he spoke to the Watchdogs situated above him in their usual balconies. With their usual bored expression it was nearly impossible to read what they were thinking as he delivered this bit of news. Even for as long as he had been dealing with them Vincent could never claim any sort of accuracy in that respect. It was one of the main reasons why the Rook before Carter detested dealing with them face to face. And if he had to be completely honest he wasn't particularly found of these moments himself. “Carter,” he continued, “Morgan, Jules and myself are doing what we can to search the city. However given we are only a small group we are at a bit of a disadvantage. As it is we're discovering these spots of Horror Blood more by blind luck than anything else”

“That is completely understandable,” the female Watchdog said. “But given the nature of the possible division of our ranks we must keep this particular circle as small as possible.”

“I understand and agree,” Vincent told her. “As I told Carter we are on a bit of a slipper slope. One wrong decision, or trusting the wrong individual, could sends us down the way to a war we just barely avoided couple of years prior.”

“We are aware of that as well,” The female said. “However we do not currently have a way to make the search any easier.”

“Perhaps there is something Illuminia,” the male Watchdog suddenly woke up.

“Nisoka,” the female cut in. her expression did not change as she looked at him, but there was no denying the warning tone in her voice. While rare Vincent had witness exchanges like this before, where one knew what the other was thinking and was angry about the thought that occurred. It had been rumored for a long time that these two might have possibly shared a single mind. And when these particular moments happened it was a rather easy rumor to believe. “We do not discuss that situation Makai Priest Alexander created.”

Tilting his head a bit in confusion Vincent, went “I know Alexander and I'm currently unaware of any 'situation' he might have caused.”

the male Watchdog looked down at him, “Situation may be the wrong word to use. Perhaps project would be a more accurate term one like yourself would use.” If one wasn't use to these particular Watchdogs them they might take the way Nisoka said that as a mild insult. Knowing these Watchdogs for as long as he had it was still easy to take it as a mild insult.

Fortunately Vincent had been alive long enough to know when and where to pick particular battles. For a relatively minor slip of the tongue this was not one of those times. “It probably would be if I was aware of what this particular project was about.”

“It goes against every thing we have been told to protect against,” Illuminia said with a bit of a huff.

“It may be,” Nisoka told her, “but I have already sent a message to Rook.”

“My esteem Watchdogs,” Vincent said with some respect. “While I'm sure Carter would be very grateful of any help in his current assignment, in fact I'm positive of it. However it does seem like you're keeping something from the rest of us. Something that we might want to know about.”

“It is a secret folly that we allowed to happen,” Nisoka answered, “that we nor any other of the Watchdogs or the Senate pictured could happen. Despite our better judgment we agreed to house the project here in this city since the seeds of it's creation began here. Alexander was very persuasive in his argument in allowing this project to happen. Illuminia and myself have both agreed to not mention this to any other Knight or Priest in the order.”

“And yet I'm vaguely aware of it now,” Vincent replied with a bit of mirth.

Nisoka and Illuminia looked at each other again in silent communication. After a bit she nodded and retreated back into her balcony. Nisoka told him, “We will leave it up to Rook to divulge what he has seen. Or the person he chooses to go with him.”

“Well if she any where near I'm fairly sure I know who he's going to pick,” Vincent said with a warm knowing smile, mainly to himself. They had seem to be getting closer lately and he couldn't be happier for them. “Then I will honor your decision on the matter, and Carter's later if he decided to or not to let me in on the secret.” With a bow he made his leave and exited into the darkness of the lighted area.

***
Carter stood in the middle of a barely lit room, staff in hand. Past some pillars his coat was hanging from a hook but still giving Xypher a full view of the proceedings. He started swing the staff around, attack and blocking imaginary opponents, incorporating the various kicks, punched and movements of the fighting styles he learned under as he did so. In the middle of his routine he paused just long enough to hold the staff up a bit, both hands on it. Waiting a moment longer he pulled it apart to reveal the hidden blades and struck at something. Spark flew as it went past as he already intercepted another on with the other blade. Again he went into a routine of strikes and movements as he went after the objects coming at him.

Near to where his coat was hung a door opened just enough as Jules came in and silently closed it behind her. Walking over to the coat she spoke to Xypher, “Doing his morning workout I see.”

“You ever know him to miss it?”, the pin asked. “Is anything going on?”

“No just stopping by to say hello.” And maybe wanting to see a friendly face, or two if you wanted to count the Madou pin, after what had to go down with Reks the night before. The two watched on in silence as Carter continued his work out. Finally connecting the two swords into the double bladed staff Carter continued deflecting what was coming after him.

Eventually things slowed down enough that Carter stood there as four giant axes slowed down enough to be seen in the dim lighting. Standing there until they came to a complete stop Carter broke the weapon in his hands back into two swords before putting them back together to for it's original staff form. Here he finally acknowledged her presence as the axes came to a stop and retracted back into the ceiling. And she didn't mind waiting in this particular situation. Makai Knights generally trained with things that could kill them if they weren't completely focused on them. “Jules.”

She walked forward with a smile, “I hope you don't mind that I let myself in.”

“I said you were always welcomed here,” he reminded her.

“Although you did say you generally ask before coming in first,” Xypher reminded her. “It would be rude after all I believe your words were.”

“I can come over there and flick you myself,” Jules told the pin.

“Carter don't let her,” the pin pleaded.

“Hmph,” Jules grunted. “I would ask you if you wanted to spar a bit but you already had your workout. And I don't want to embarrass you after being all tired and such,” she said, mainly in a teasing way. Carter just grunted, although there was the slightest hint of a smirk there as he walked over to his coat and put it on. “Since we're down here have you even decided on what you're going to do with that empty room over there?” she pointed to a set of doors on the left side of the training area. “I mean you have a half sized room in there and you're doing nothing with it.”

“I'll think of something,” Carter told as he held the door out open for her. “Did that hunch turn out?”

“There was a spot of Horror blood alright,” she answered. “I took care of it. But we're no closer to figuring out who's placing it.”

Taking a flight of stairs that would take them to the main house above them Carter said, “I spotted another one, inside a building and in plain sight. I'm not sure if whomever behind this is is getting sloppy or trying to plant false trails to distract us.”

“One thing at a time Carter,” she said. Opening the door that was basically a secret panel they entered what was essentially a side room that was used for storage. And waiting for them was a small hooded individual. Without a word Carter stepped forward and it removed a gnarly, weathered hand from it's sleeve, fingers clutching a red envelope. Holding out his hand until Carter took it he put his hand back into the sleeve of his other arm, turned and walked out of the room.

Behind him Jules commented, “I still say it creepy how they do that.”

Still saying nothing Carter held the envelope in his left hand as he retrieved his Madou lighter with his right and lit the corner. The envelope quickly burned and reformed into a message hanging in the air in front of him in the Makai Language. Reading it Carter said, “The Watchdogs may have something that will help with our search. I'm allowed to bring a person I can trust.”

Having read the message for herself Jules commented, “That better be somebody really close by Mr. Makai Knight. Besides I know where that location is,” she added as the message faded away.”

“So do I,” he informed her. He looked back at her, with a look she never seen on him before, before looking away. Was that apprehension? From Carter of all people? “And if I'm not mistaken that cafe Vincent like is not that far off route.” He looked back at her again, “We never did make it there the other day. I sort of ran off after you told me about that Horror we were after.”

Again she was a little surprised that he made that offer. Not that she was totally against it.”Then we'll have something to do afterwards then. As long as nothing major happens along the way. I better not jinx it, it'll be night in a few hours and we don't know how long this is going to take.”

***
They arrived at the location soon enough. Jules was the first to point it out their apparent destination. It seemed like a regular knick knack store from appearances. Then Xypher spoke up, “Wait a second Carter. I'm sensing a barrier around the building.” He and Jules looked at each other, both with a similar question going through their minds. What was here that a barrier had to be erected around it. Being more proficient of the two in these sort of things Jules took the lead at this point as they crossed the street. She watched regular people pass in front of it and go in and out of it as they approached.

“Looks like it's not designed to keep everybody out,” she commented. As they got closer Jules looked over the front of the building, trying to find the tell tale signs of the cause of the barrier. “There,” she didn't point at it but looked up enough that Carter did as well. He found it soon enough, a paper seal stuck to upper corner of the building. “It looks like somebody from the Order put it up.” She looked at Carter, “To keep any Horrors out?”

“It's a possibility,” he said. Xypher confirmed where he edge of the barrier was. Holding out a hand Carter felt nothing. Although he did get a few strange looks from those passing him by. Then he took step foreword not feeling anything pushing against him. “Xypher?”

“We're inside the barrier,” the pin replied as Jules joined them. “And I'm not sensing anything from inside the building. So I have no idea what's being protected in there.”

“Unless it's to keep something in and not out,” Carter said, mainly thinking out loud. “But why would the Watchdogs send us here if that was the case. And how can it help us with the current matter?”

“I'm sure there's a reason,” Jules said. Smirking a bit she went, “You ever notice what we do tends to make us paranoid all the time?” When Carter didn't respond she lost the smile, “Right, I forgot Makai Knights don't have a funny bone in these situations.”

“When did Carter ever have one to begin with? Ow,” the pin cried out after a flick.

With not a while lot of options, they headed for the main door. A small, pleasant sounding bell chimed as they opened the door. A bored looking teenager barely glanced at them before returning to whatever it was she was reading. Sticking together they wondered the store looking for any signs of whatever oi was they were supposed to be looking for. Once again Jules spotted it first, a small sign near the back written in the Makai language of all things. Basically it translated to “Around the corner.” Carter looked back to the teenage girl, realized they couldn't see her from this location which meat she probably couldn't see them. That corner lead to the door to the back room from the look of things but it couldn't be that simple. He looked around then saw another sign written in Makai. “Open here.”

Feeling around the sign he felt a small switch with his fingertips and pressed it. After a small click it look like the wall moved in a bit. Making sure the cashier still couldn't see them Carter gave it a small push. The hidden door swung open easy enough, it didn't even make a sound. “That some top craftsmanship right there, there should at least be a creak if we didn't make this door.” Jules muttered as they went through the door. It closed without a sound as well that left them in retaliative darkness, except for a faint light at the end of the hallway they were now in. Cautiously they walked toward it they turned a corner and enter a larger room.

In the middle what looked like a set of mechanical vines twisting around each other took up most of the room. Various glowing symbols slowly traveled up it. Around the room were various monitors on the walls and a couple of tables with various looking things on them. Some thing that you would see out in the regular human world. Then there were some things that would look right at home in their world.. At the base of the mechanical vines was a regular looking desktop. And and almost normal looking computer. Almost normal looking because some of those mechanical vines seem to sprout out and grew into the tower and monitor. And in the chair in front of it was a lone man in very regular looking clothes. Without looking at them he raised up a hand and went, “Yo.”

“Um...hello,” Jules said for them. “We were sent by the...”

“Yeah, yeah sent by the Watchdogs,” he interrupted them. “They're the only ones who know about this place. Outside of my man Alex. And whoever he had help make this beautiful set up.”

Jules walked around the room a bit looking over the thing in the middle of the room. She pretty much knew this had to be a Makai Priest creation on sight. Still a bit of verbal confirmation was nice. “Alex? You mean Alexander? I've heard Vincent and a few other Priest mention him.”

“They don't really shorten names in your guy's clique do they?”, this person said. “But yeah him. Help me set up here with the little store front after my beauty here was done.” Suddenly he spun around in his chair startling Jules a bit. “Oh my God where is my head? You may call me K-Byte,” he held his arms out in a pose mainly seen on an old pro wrestler, “Rider of the digital waves.” Carter remained stone faced while Jules just cocked an eyebrow. Dismayed by their lack of reaction he lowered his arms. “Hey, you guys have your cool ass titles I have mine.”

“Well then... um,” Jules said as she continued looking around the room, particular at mixed collection of item from both their and the regular world and how he was dressed, “K-Byte...you're not exactly part of the Makai Order are you?”

“Not officially,” he conceded. “But your Order has more than a few, what's a good word here, outside contractors like myself helping you guys out. A couple of us even formed an online members only group. It was started by this one lady in Japan. Her family have been tending the bodies of fallen Knights over there for a couple of generations. Well not all knight, the ones not like you,' he said pointing at Carter, “without the fancy ass title. “ He then looked Carter over with an amused smile on his face. “Blew my mind when I got word they were sending The Double Bladed Knight over. Big fan by the way.” Turning back to the computer he did something with the mouse and keyboard. When he was finished he pointed toward one of the screens littered across the wall with both hand and made a clicking sound with his tongue. In an instant there was a video of Carter taking on a couple of Horrors in some sort of lobby. “Personal favorite fight moment by the way.”

Carter easily remembered this particular moment. It was from six months ago though. He looked back over at this K-byte, who was still enthralled over the footage being played, with a bit more suspicion. Seeing this Jules figured to interject before Carter did. “Why do you have this footage?” Carter probably would have asked him the same question, just not as nicely, or as hands off, as she did.

“Because you guys have a hard time keeping secret in this modern camera filled world,” he explained. “Even back before all of that there were rumors and stories of Knights and Horrors. But with modern technology curious and talented people, like myself, can find the occasional image or video and share the hell out of it to like minded curious and talented people. Or to just people in general.”

Figuring out the rest of the story Jules said, “But you got caught.”

“Even the best have a sloppy moment here and there,” was all he said. “Alex tracked me down one night. And instead of zapping or whatever it is you do to the ol' memory pan” he tapped his own head, “had the best idea ever. Since it didn't involve getting my noggin scrambled that is.”

Jules asked, “And this idea was?”

“That I use my particular set of skills to make sure that proof of you guys don't get out.”

“We have people for that,” Jules informed him.

K-byte attitude didn't change a bit at this piece of information. “I'm sure you do. And I'm sure they are very, very good at it. But I'm also pretty sure your people don't know where all the digital cracks are that things can slip through. I, on the other hand, do know where they are. And more importantly I know how to use those cracks to find proof of all you Knights, Priests and Horrors and make them,” for empathizes K-Byte wiggled his fingers as he moved his hands to the side, “magically go away.”

“And how exactly do you do that?”, Jules went.

“I use a really specialized type of search engine, co-developed my me and Alex of course.” He went back to his computer and started doing something again. “I'm sure you guys don't know what a search engine is.” He looked back up at her, “Well you might but not tall, silent and dreamy over there.”

“I know what search engine is,” Carter finally spoke. Also clearly annoyed at this particular moment.

“Right city Makai people,” Ky-byte muttered “It's probably the country ones I'm thinking about.” He did a double take over at Carter, more specifically something on his chest, and rose from his chair to get a better look. “Is that one of those talking do-dads? I always wanted to see one live.” Without thinking of any personal space issues he reached out with a hand.”

“Do not touch me,” Xypher ordered. K-Byte almost laughed with pure joy. “I'm pretty sure I know where that hand has been. And I'm not a do-dad I'm a pin. Moron.”

“That is so cool,” K-byte said. Then he held up a device in his other hand, “Say cheese.” Carter flinched back a bit being caught off guard. The device made a small click. The K-Byte went back to his chair setting the device down as he started working the keyboard again. Here Carter noticed there was a wire connecting the device he used to the computer. “As I was saying, specialized search engine. I can use it to look up key words that would connect to you guys. Or use Alex genius input and search by image.” Pushing back from the computer he held his arms out wide. All the screens changed to images of Carter from various angles. Jules payed a bit more attention when she noticed she was in them too. “All of these are from the past half hour. From various and different types sources. Thanks to Alex's magical mumbo jumbo I searched them all in less than a second looking for any and all images of you. Beautiful ain't it?”

Walking up to one of the screens Carter just stared at it, now fully aware on exactly why the Watchdogs sent him here. “Have you been told about the situation?”

“The Horror blood thing or the Japan issue redo?”, he asked. Having what Sigma tried to do just mentioned so causally, like it wouldn't have devastated their order, like that irked the Knight a bit but he said nothing. “Yeah I was brought up to speed and given what you guys know.” Pressing a few more keys he snapped his fingers before making the double hand pointing gesture again, this time toward the ceiling. A magical projection of the city appeared in the air with various dots in certain locations. “Another on of Alex's tricks he put in.”

“Why didn't you put the images on the screen up there like that?”, Jules asked.

“I like to mix it up,” was his response. “I'm sure you guessed the dots point out where all you guys found blood. It's not much so far but it gives us an idea on where they been.”

“Are you sure it's more than one one person?”, Carter asked noticing how he phrased that statement.

K-Byte humphed, “I didn't think I had to tell the two of you it's a big city. You actually think one guy, or gal,” he said looking at Jules, “could do all that by their lonesome? And there's bound to be more. And the more you find the more we can see where they been. Or haven't been more importantly, if they're not that smart that is.”

“You think they might have marked an area they're actually hiding at”, Jules asked him.

“If they're spreading out Horror blood it's a good bet they expected you guys to find it sooner or later and try exactly this,' he said pointing at the map. “Hell when I was looking around for info about you guys I used to leave false trails all the time. Then I got cute and left one leading to a server I actually used positive nobody would think I'd be that careless.” He offered a weak smile at Jules, “You could say I'm going by experience with that particular assumption.”

Sighing as she looked up at the map Jules crossed her arms and said, “Then how are we supposed to narrow things down with something like as an option?”

“Like Is said before, sloppy mistakes. You Makai Order guys can't all that infallible? You're human like the rest of us.” He glanced at Carter, “Unless you all act like a humanoid robot?”

Ignoring the comment Carter went, “Have you searched the area to see who left the blood?”

“Yup and so far nada,” K-Byte answered. “As you said you have guys doing this do and I'm sure they told you to try to not where to be. And these guys are doing their damnedest to not be in any area where there might be a camera. But there's more than one type of camera. Phones, hand held,” he started to count them off on his finger, “web cams, go pros. You can't shake a stick in the city without being caught somewhere. Unfortunately,” he pointed at Carter, “you lost our best chance of of catching one of them when you let that hotel catch on fire. All that information was lost when their servers got destroyed. They weren't even on a cloud system they were so behind the times.”

Jules got defensive for Carter, “You try fighting a Horror and see how much damage you could prevent.”

“Okay okay,” he said backing off with his hands in the air. “But I can still be of help.” Getting out if the chair he waved for them to follow him to one table in particular. Grabbing two silver, marble sized balls and handed one to each of them. “Not one of Alex's toys but one of the guys who helped him. Their magical communicators that connect to the system here. And to each other. All you have to do is give them a rub to activate 'em and either say my name or yours. Every time you find a spot, contact me and I'll add your location to the map up there. Also I can contact you in case I find out something that you might be interested in.”

“That would be pretty helpful,” Jules said examining the silver ball. She lowered it to look at Carter, “Why would the Watchdogs keep this a secret?”

“Would you admit you had an outsider helping if you were in charge?”, Xypher asked her.

“Alex already said I'd be the dirty little secret so it's all good in the hood,” K-Byte told them. “Besides Alex also said some of you get a pit prickly when us norms stumble into your territory. And uh, considering what you guys can do, I'll stay off the magical radar as much as possible thank you.”

Looking back at the way they came in Carter asked, “And the girl out front?”

“My niece,” he said. “We're both kinda the black sheeps of the family so we tend to get along. But she doesn't know anything about all of this. She doesn't even pay that much attention on who leaves and enters. Unless you look like Brad Pitt. Or was it Angelina Jolie? Eh, either way she swings she doesn't bother anybody. Or scare them away more importantly.”

Not seeing or thinking of anything else to ask Jules told him good-bye as Carter turned to leave. Although on the way out she did purchase a small item, a small plastic cat. When Carter looked at her once they hit the street her only explanation was, “I didn't want to walk out of there with nothing as long as we were there. Who knows what the girl thinks we were doing in the back. Besides it's sort of cute.” Carter grunted and continued on. “Are we still on for the cafe or are plans going to change again?”

Carter stopped almost causing her to walk into him. All he said was, “You were right.”

“Well generally I am,” Jules said as she walked in front of him. “But what am I right about this time?”

“I am getting a bit paranoid,” he explained, “because of this this assignment. The Watchdogs sent us here and I got suspicious the moment Xypher said he sensed that barrier.” Jules knew that was only natural, considering what happened before, and told him so. Carter only response was, “How much do you remember of what happened when Sigma's message really started to pick up followers?”

It was a strange question but she answered anyway, “I know it nearly ruined everything until it got out what Sigma plan for keeping the Horrors out of this world pertained. Honestly I'm going on heresy and rumor here, Vincent tried to keep me and Reks shielded from the most of it.”

“I wasn't that lucky,” Carter told her. “A few months before I was chosen to take the Rook mantle, I had a friend, a close friend who was a Makai Priest. He had just graduated. I considered him a brother. One day, once Sigma's crusade started to really gain steam, he attacked me.” Jules sucked in a little breath but said nothing. “Fully intending to kill me, just because I was a Makai Knight. And I had no clue there was an issue between us, not until Sigma. Once I heard the Watchdogs think somebody might be taking it up his cause again, I thought back to that moment. And felt a need to stop it before that happened to someone else. No matter where it came from. Now I'm wondering which slop I'm starting to go down because of it.”

“I'm sorry you had to go through that,” she said rubbing his arm. And wondering if Reks did suffer something similar to explain his hatred of Makai Knights. But unlike Reks, “But you never lost your faith in the order of Makai Priests. You knew not all of us thought Sigma was right. Otherwise you wouldn't have let me in on what was going on.” She started rubbing his arm up to his shoulder and back, trying to comfort anything brewing inside of him. “If you want I can come by tonight after we're done patrolling, and I mean that's a fairly old wound you just opened up. I'm sure your experiencing those feelings all over again. And maybe we can finally share that bed of yours, just so you don't have to be alone tonight.” Carter looked at her, face unreadable, and went to leave. She stopped him by grabbing his arm and getting in front of him. “All right I'll admit that was a bit too soon after what you just told me. But it looks like today the day I have to have a certain conversation with most of the men in my life.”

Taking him by the hands she began, “Now don't get mad at Xypher. But he told me why you take the couch while I'm sleeping in your bed.” He grimaced and looked down at the pin. Luckily for Xypher she had a good grip on both of his hands. “Now it's completely honorable, kind of sweet, and totally you. And I don't want you to feel like I'm pushing you into anything you don't want to do. Or that I do this with every man I know that having some issues. We don't have to do anything but sleep if you want. But I don't think you realizing one thing with the way you're thinking about the situation. If somebody does attack us, I don't want somebody to fight for me.” Reaching up she cupped his cheek with her hand and caressed it a bit as she looked him in the eyes, “I want somebody to fight with me. Side by side, to show them exactly why that was the single worst mistake they have ever made.”

“Jules,” he started.

“Sh,” she said to quiet him. “Don't say anything just yet. Just think it over. Maybe over dinner at that cafe if we ever make it there.” She offered him a smile. He nodded a bit, but she realized he didn't exactly let go of her hand as they continued down the street. Toward that very cafe.

***
Nearby, watching them from an alley was Reks. He turned away, leaning against the brick wall behind him like it was the only thing that could keep him up. Fist clenching in anger he stormed away in another direction. “That damn Knight.”

The next night Carter was walking through the park having gotten word from the Watchdogs that something Horror related was nearby. A rumor K-Byte confirmed when Jules decided to test out the silver balls he had given them. She would have been her with him as partners, that much was decided upon the night before. However Vincent wanted to see her suddenly, to discuss the placement of these spots of Horror blood. Both of them deciding that was equally important considering the situation she headed off to Vincent's while he headed here. “So you and Jules,” Xypher said suddenly, mainly because he was excited about the prospect, maybe a little more then the two of them. “It's about time.” Carter grunted. “Come on aren't you a little bit nervous about it. I mean you still seem pretty tightly wound though. Wait, let me guess, you just slept like she suggested?” Carter grunted again, with a bit more of a warning undertone to it. “I can tell, even the old man was a bit looser after he and his late wife...”

“If you do not drop this,” Carter told him sternly, “right now, I will flick you every hour on the hour for the next week.”

“Yeah you guys definitely didn't do anything last night,”Xypher said under his breath, not that he could breath.

Before could do anything he stopped, tilting his head just a bit as he listened to his surroundings. Before long he was surrounded by six grungy looking individuals. “Took a wrong turn bitch,” one of them said. “You're in our territory now. We don't like strangers in out territory.” Slowly spinning around to look at each one he took out his Madou Lighter. Flicking it to life he brought the blue flame to a bush next to him and ignited it. The blue blaze lighted the area for a moment before quickly dying out. But it was on long enough for five sets of their eyes to react, revealing themselves as Horrors. The sixth, the previous speaker, saw it too and slowly backed away from the scene. “What the fuck?”

Not paying any attention to the lone human he still told him one thing, “Run now.” He didn't need to be told twice as he did just that. One of the Horrors started to go after him. That was the one Carter targeted first, grabbing by the collar and pulling him back before unleashing a kick at one coming at him from behind. The others jumped in and tried to smother him.

“That was our snack!”, one of the cried out as Carter fought them off and tried to get out of the center of this particular group. But the numbers held him in place increasing their their attack the moment he concentrated on side in particular. Getting battered around he was able to get enough space to reach into his coat. Slamming the but of the staff into one of the Horror's stomach he whipped it around into the knee of another. Two temporarily down, and the others recognizing the increased range of his reach as they held back to regroup, he tried to keep all of them in sight while gripping the staff in both hands.

The other two recovering and getting to their feet quicker than he anticipated he waited for them to make the first move. The Horrors didn't disappoint as they quickly shed their human disguise as he was now surrounded by five very demonic looking individuals. Gripping the staff a little tighter he didn't have to wait long for them to make their move. As soon as they did he pulled the staff apart and started slashing with the duel blades hidden inside. Attacking and blocking where he could Carter was just barely able to stay a step ahead of them. The Horrors didn't panic just yet as they were certain their numbers would give them the superior advantage and they would soon wear him down enough to defeat and devour him. Carter realized this as well but refused to let fear into his mind and cloud his judgment and reflexes. Then he found his moment, he swiped at one Horror's head to get it to back off a bit he jumped just high enough to slam the point of his knee right under the jaw of another. A couple of swings and kicks to create some more space he connected the other ends of the staff together and spun the double bladed staff over his head. With a nod red armor rained down upon him covering him as he continued his attack, Swinging his blades and stabbing them through before they could react.

The Horrors started to stumble back a bit as the armor returned to whence it came. Swing the swords around until they were in position he reconnected them into the staff. Then one by one the horror exploded leaving him all alone in the park once more. He looked around, tried to sense if there was another Horror, perhaps a stronger one who was leading this particular pack, nearby. So far there was nothing that he could detect. “Xy...”

He barely had a chance to speak when the pin shouted, “Carter look out!” He didn't have a chance to discover what Xypher saw as a blast of magical energy hit him and knocked him to the ground and caused him to drop the staff. “Carter are you all right?”, he heard Xypher say but he was too stunned and in pain to respond. Clutching at his chest as he writhed on the ground once he was able to move his eyes focused enough to see his assailant. With a sinister grin on his face and his Madou Brush till leveled at him Reks came forward.

'The sheer arrogance of a Makai Knight,” he said,a hint of a chuckle edging his voice. “Trying to look so majestic and aloof. Even when they think nobody is watching. It's sickening.”

Propping himself up, although a bit painfully, Carter look at him, “What are you do doing Reks?”?

“I thought that would be obvious,” he said. Then he attacked again with with another blast from his brush. Pushing past the pain Carter rolled out of the way. Getting to a knee he blocked a strike at his head with the still glowing brush. A quick shot to the gut with his other arm caused the Priest to stumble back enough that Carter was able to get to his feet. Reks moved quickly and positioned himself between the Knight and his weapon. The Knight went at and tried to keep the Madou brush from coming into play as the bother attacked each other. Punches, swings and kicks flew between them as each man tried to get the better of the other. While not as a proficient fighter like Carter or Jules, Reks was more than holding his own. So much so they blocked each other and stood there at a stalemate with their limbs struggling against the other. Reks looked at him and sneered, “The reign of the Makai Knights is over!”

Carter stared at him, for had heard something like that before. Years ago, from the person he considered a brother. “It was you,” he said. “You're the one trying to reignite the rifts between Priests and Knights.” A new determination filling him he pushed Reks away. As he told Jules he would not allow those rifts to be exploited again. Catching the Priest off guard with the intensity of his attack Carter quickly broke through his attempts at defense and connected with a series of punches and kicks that knocked Reks to the ground. Grabbing him by the coat Carter hauled him back up. “I won't allow you to damage our Order more then already has been.”

“It's been damaged already,” Reks spat at the ground. “By the arrogance of Knights. And the Priest who allow you to run free. Who forgot that we created you! Myself and the others,” he said while that grin started to form again, “we will remind the rest that you are our dogs. Like my new pet for the last day.” He held his Madou Brush, that he was able to keep a grip on, out but it wasn't pointed at Carter. It was pointed at a heavier forested area of the park. It glew as a magical ring of symbols swirled around the base of the bristles. Then he heard the footsteps. Carter looked in that direction and let go of Reks as it emerged.

It was a huge metallic looking creature, almost twice the size that he was. But this was no Horror, it would have made this easier if it was. The animalistic, but still wolf like appearance, of the head and eyes seemed to focus on the Knight as it roared as it's tail lashed back and forth behind it.. “How did he make him turn into a Lost Soul Beast?”, Xypher asked. This was happened when a Makai Knight stayed in his armor for too long, why they were aware of a mystical type of timer that started the moment they donned their armor. Acting more animal like than man as it slowly came toward them Reks just laughed at the stunned expression on Carter's face. Kicking the Knight away as he scrambled to his feet he kept his brush up. The pulsing of the tip of the brush almost in time with the Beast's movements “Reks is controlling him? That's not possible.”

“Wonder about it later,” Carter grunted as the Beast charged at him. Jumping on top at and outstretched arm reaching for him The Knight ran up and and tried to jump off it's shoulder. The tail lashed out and caught him in the side, practically throwing him into the ground. Landing hard he still rolled out of the way as the beast tried to pounce on him. This close he tried to look the other Knight in the deranged, armored eyes. Trying to see who was the one wielding this armor. He was able to, and that revelation shook him to the core. “Morgan?” The beast screamed again and tried to bite his head off. The Knight did everything he could to dodge the beast's attempt to get at him. In the background Reks' laugh grew a little more maniacal the longer this kept going.

Finally he heard from Xypher, for whom he was trying to buy some time, “I got it! On the top of his head. There's a seal spell attached to the top of his head. That's how he's controlling him.” He looked up to catch a glimpse of the red paper on top of his head.

“Hang on Morgan,” Carter grunted. The longer his friend was trapped in this state the more the soul metal that protected them was eating him away. Jumping out of the way of a few mire strikes of those claw like hand Carter started to run and like he thought Morgan was hot on his heels. Feeling him about to pounce again Carter cut to the left and jumped up. Kicking off a nearby tree he flipped in the air and landed on his shoulder. Ducking another angry lash of his tail he held on as best he could as Morgan started to thrash around. Despite his training touching the soul metal would his bare flesh would affect him as well so he kept that to a minimum. Just long enough to get a good look at the red piece of paper attached to Morgan's head and lunge fore it. Reks realized what was happening after Carter got a hold of the paper and ripped it off. Still once last buck from Morgan caught him with a shoulder that knocked him to the ground. “Morgan!,” he called out as the still simmering beast turned around. “Morgan listen to me. You still have your humanity locked in there. I'll help you deactivate your armor. But you need to try and quell the anger you're feeling right now.”

Morgan's head whipped around, he was confused but still ready to fight. Then he focused on Reks who stood stock still. In the angry haze in his mind something seemed to have clicked as his eyes was locked on the Priest and nothing else as a low growl came from him. It soon turned to a scream as Morgan charged at him causing to Reks snap out of whatever he was in and run for his life. “Morgan no!.” Looking around Carter located his staff and ran for, scooping it up on the go then tried to catch up with Morgan and Reks, before his friend ripped the Makai Priests to shreds. Fortunately Reks stopped running in a straight line, instead he started zig zagging. Morgan was just a step behind him but with each lunge he was getting closer despite the tactic. But then Morgan launched himself and Reks cut quickly to the right. Morgan crashed and tumbled, shaking his head a bit as he righted himself and relocated his target. Carter ran past the fleeing Priest and right at the charging Beast before him. Once again he jumped off one of the massive arms, Twisted in the air and landed on top of his shoulder. Knowing he didn't have time to get his balance Carter got the staff under Morgan's chin, gripping both ends of it he pulled back with everything he had.

The Beast bucked with the sudden pressure but Carter held firm. “Calm down Morgan,” he grunted through his teeth as his friend fought him. He only let go when he felt the beast start to fall to the side. Carter jumped off as Morgan tumbled on the ground and focused his attention on him now. Carter didn't back away or run, he had to get his friend out of that armor. “Morgan listen to me!” The Beast swiped at him with a speed he wasn't expecting knocking him tot the ground. Dazed he still tried to get back up. Then he felt a giant claw like hind wrap around him his waist and squeezed as he picked him up. Struggling to breath as Morgan brought him closer to his face Carter separated the staff and drove both points between the armor plating on the giant hand. His head reared back as he howled from the pain and the pressure stopped. Carter, hanging on to both swords as the Beast thrashed around finally freed himself. Removing both sword he connected them into the double bladed staff before jumping off with a back flip. Before he land he spun the staff, as soon as he hit the ground the Rook armor covered him and he ran toward the Beast.

Now almost on equal footing he engaged his friend. But he had started with a small disadvantage. Summoning the armor earlier against the pack of Horrors had used up a bit of that mystical timer. It hadn't reset yet so had to accomplish this in less time than he would have normally have. His eyes locked onto on the Beast's underside. Something that wasn't there when the armor had it's normal appearance when Morgan summonsed it.“Xypher that jewel on his waist.”

“That's the weak spot,' the pin confirmed. Now with a target in sight Rook came at his friend more aggressively than he had before. Morgan sensing the new challenge responded in kind as he tried to get a hold of or claw and rip him to pieces. Getting knocked to the ground Rook used the momentum of the blow to to roll back to his feet and went at his friend once more. “Carter you're running out of time!”, Xypher told him, but he was already aware of it. Getting close he swung his blade up, catching Morgan under the chin. With his head up Rook was able to get underneath him. Morgan sensing his prey was right where wanted him rose up enough to Bring his hands down for a crushing blow. Not fully realizing that move gave his prey the opening he needed. With a yell he jammed one of the point of the double blade into the jewel. With more force and the weight of the Beast coming down he was able to get in in further. There was a breaking sound as the jewel cracked.

The Rook armor flew off of Carter as he removed the point from what was left of the jewel. The beast seemed to shrink a bit as a giant portal appeared above him as segments quickly removed themselves and flew up into it revealing Morgan. He collapsed on the ground before Carter could catch him. Turning him over he was stunned by how pale he was now, and how cold to the touch, breath frighteningly shallow. “Morgan?,” he shook him. :Morgan.” His eyes open, almost appearing lost before they seemed to focus on him. He tried to speak. “Save your strength,” Carter told him. “Just hang on.” He needed help for his friend but in trying to to panic he was also currently lost at the moment on how to summon it.

Still Morgan struggled to get out, “Lyn..., Lyn...” Then his head dropped and hung in a way that didn't seem right.

“Morgan?”, part of Carter's mind was refusing to believe what he was seeing. “Morgan,” he shook him again. “Morgan!”

“He said he had him for a day,” Xypher told him when the reality of the situation finally set in. “He was locked in there too long. I'm sorry Carter.”

Sadness wanted to over take him but he held it at bay. Instead he concentrated on what Morgan was trying to say. “Lyn? Lyn. Lyn.” His features slackened as it occurred to him, “Lyndsy. No.” Leaving the body he ran with all he had left. “Where's the closest opening to the temple?!”

“A half a mile to your left.” He immediately changed directions as Xypher went, “You don't think Reks...” Xypher couldn't finish the thought. Getting close Carter slowed down long enough for Xypher to open it to reveal the Makai Path that lead to the Temple of Rook. Going full speed the other side opened as he raced out of there. Not breaking stride as he took a hard left at the intersection that led to Morgan and Lyndsy's home. He came close to the spot where he met their youngest and stopped. Their home wasn't that far off he should have seen some sort of light from here. Continuing on he found it and came to a dead stop, the area looked like it had been attacked, scorched marks everywhere and broken windows and pieces of equipment.

Carter looked around until he found a form lying on the ground. “Lyndsy!” he called out ran over, but stopped short. She was already dead. But what about the...? “Nathaniel!”, Carter called out as he continued searching the property. “Leonard! It's me Carter! You can come out!” Going behind the house he stopped as he knees nearly gave out on him.

“Oh no,” Xypher muttered. Carter walked up to the two prone forms, the larger one looking like he was trying to shield the little one. He checked both for any signs of life and lowered his head.

Picking it back up angry eyes looked down the path he just came from. “Reks,” he growled as he stood. Without another look he marched, a fierce determination in his step, back down the path that would lead back to the city.


ED – Shaman's Harvest – Broken Dreams
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Old July 7th, 2019, 06:23 PM #4
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There was no way this could have happened. Not like she heard it, it just wasn't possible. As much as an ass Reks had been lately even he wouldn't have stooped to something this low. Jules had to believe that as she hurried down the wooded path. Because she didn't know what she would do if it was true. She'd known Reks since they were children learning under Vincent, the man behind here trying to keep up. No, there had to have been a mistake made some where, something misspoken, misheard. There had to be something nobody wasn't seeing. Maybe Carter.... no. Even with the issues the two of them had Jules was sure he wouldn't accuse him of this if he wasn't sure.

Having never been up this way before, figuring if Carter wanted her up here he would have invited her. Of course, that was before they decided to become something more official, partnership wise. Still knowing he had a friend up here didn't mean she knew where he lived, and honestly she thought they see him on this path when they received the message. But Vincent was close to the previous holder of the Rook title and had been up this way a couple of times. Upon seeing a path leading to another direction she slowed down just long enough to look back at him. As soon as he acknowledge it was the right one she ran at full speed down it. Avoiding the lower hanging branches She soon found the place. And Carter sitting one one of two rock, facing away from the house, head lowered and hands clasped behind his neck.

She almost called out to him, then she spotted something else that made her stop in her tracks. Close by, near the house was another body lying on the ground, a sheet covering this person.... dear God... part of the story was at least true.

“Carter!”, Jules finally called out as she was able to move her body again, He barely acknowledged her when she did so. “Carter...,” she began when she got close enough, then faltered. What could she possibly say to him? After he caught up she looked back at Vincent, who seemed equally as lost for words as he surveyed the area. “Carter I'm so sorry,” she was eventually able to say as she started to rub his shoulder gently. It sounded hollow, even to her but she felt she had to say something seeing him like this.

Jules felt a bit better about when Vincent walked up and put a hand on his other shoulder and said, “As am I Carter. Nobody should have to witness any thing like this,” he added with a sad hitch in his voice. Walking closer toward the house he looked things over. “They were caught by surprise, barely had a chance to react and put up a fight to defend themselves.” Jules looked around and try to see the scene as her former mentor was seeing things. It was still a random mess to her but she deferred to his greater experience in these matters. Still she had to know for certain and she made her way closer to the house. Almost to the corner leading to the back Vincent called out.,”Jules! Wait!” While she looked back at the mention of her name she kept going. Once past the corner Jules caught sight of another sheet on the ground, Looking at it fully she realized it was covering another set of bodies.

The children.

Hand immediately going to her mouth she muttered “Oh my God,” and ran back toward the others. Carter was the first to reach her, putting his pain to the side momentarily to comfort her as Jules wrapped her arms around him.”Who could have done something like this?”

Vincent's only response was, “I wish I could tell you.”

Carter's reaction on the other hand was a more demanding, “Who else knew about this place?” When neither of them responded right away he repeated, “Who else knew about this place. It was just you and me Vincent. Who else knew they were here?”

“Carter,” Vincent said calmly, “I know you're still upset but lashing out at us isn't going to help anything or carch whoever did this.”

“He's right Carter,” Jules spoke up.”You want to yell at somebody go right ahead. But we are going to need a calmer head to figure this out.” He didn't say anything in response but he still looked angry, which was understandable given the situation. “And at least one other family knew they lived here. Now I'm not accusing The previous Rook or any of his daughters,” she quickly added when Carter sharply turned his gaze toward her.

“I'd certainly say they wouldn't,” Vincent added with some certainty. “Granted he only tolerated the fact Morgan and his family was this close to the tower. But if he wanted them gone he would have went to the Watchdogs or to Morgan directly. No this wouldn't have been an option, especially after you earned the armor.

“But maybe somebody they knew,” she offered.” Xypher, do you know of....” she trailed off when she looked at the left side of Carter's coat and saw the usual space the gothic looking Madou pin occupied was now bare. “Where's Xypher?”

He looked in a general direction deeper into the forest before sitting back down on the rock and wouldn't look at them. Finally he said, “He refused to open the path back to the city.”

“Oh Carter,” Jules said as it dawned on her exactly what he did. She went to look for the pin when Vincent stopped her.

“Stay with him,” he told her, “I'll go look for Xypher.” Pulling out a disc and his brush he activated the magical radar before going in the direction Carter indicated. Both Priests hoped this wasn't going to be a long search. Again she didn't know what to say so she sat on the rock next to his and waited to see if he was going to say anything.

Finally he did, “Their oldest, Nathiel, hated the fact his family line didn't have a title. I understood where he was coming from because I felt the same when I was his age. I triede to help him understand that it didn't matter if his father had a title or not, we were still Makai Knights. Even if that title wasn't my birthright to begin with. Their youngest though I was a Horror when Xypher said something after he confronted us on the path here.” Jules had to smile a bit after he shared that memory with her. It also made her hate whomever did this even more, shortening the lives of those boys like that. This entire family deserved better than this fate.

Before long Vincent returned looking into his open hand. It wasn't long before a familiar tinny voice could be heard. “Then when we got back here he tore me off and flung me into the woods.” Vincent grunted and nodded in understanding as the Pin kept talking. “A squirrel almost took me before I scared it off. A squirrel! Do you have any idea how humiliating that would have been?”
“Oh I'm sure it would have been,” Vincent told the pin as he held it out to Carter. The Knight and pin stared at each other.

Xypher finally broke the silence, “Are you doing better now?”

Glancing back toward the scene behind him he told Xypher, “Not really.”

“I figured as much,”the pin said. “Your emotional state is the only reason why I'm not calling this a breach of our contract.”

“Xypher,” Jules quickly snapped at the pin. Now was not the time for this.

“He's right,” Carter spoke up, voice sounding hollow.

“I don't mean to sound so uncaring,” the pin went on. “but this exactly why I didn't open the path. One of us had to be level headed enough to realize this is exactly the state Reks wanted you in. Think about it Carter, no matter what they did to him Morgan could have sent away his armor before it started to currupt him. The fact he was in the Lost Soul Beast state meant he wasn't thinking clearly when it happened. Like you were when we found them. And I didn't want him to do it to you too.”

Dropping his head Carter went,“I realize that now. I'm sorry Xypher.”

“Like I said,” the pin went as Carter relucantly reached out for him, “emotional state.” Once returned to his proper place he blinked a few times before saying, “That's better.”

“So,” Jules felt her voice start to crack, “Reks did do this?”

“He was controlling Morgan and said he was doing so for at least a day and he attacked Carter right before that,” the pin answered. “I'm sorry Jules but he was involved in this act.”

She walked away muttering, “I still can't believe it.”

“Give her time to comprehend this,” Vincent told the younger man. “But we need to figure out our next plan of action.”

“We have to tell the Watchdogs,” Carter told him. “We finally know somebody who's behind this now. And we are going to need help finding him.”

Rejoining them Jules added,” He's right Vincent. Reks knows Carter's going to be after him now and that we'll likely be helping to track him down. And he'll be smart enough to stay away from any of the huants we know about. And it's been said a lot recently but this is a big city.”

“Of course,” Vincent said, “both of you are right. It's just...”

I know Vincent,” Jules said. “Believe me I know.” They gave Carter a few more moments as he went to each body and paid them one last moment of silent respect before all three of them went down the path back.


-----
After reporting what he knew to the Watchdogs Carter and the others stood silently as they looked at each other doing whatever they did when they did this. Right now neither He or Jules cared, both of them wished they change that dammed bore expression they usually wore to something more appropriate for the situation, Sorrow that Morgan and his family was dead or outraged that one of there own did this, anything. Eventually the female spoke up, “So Makai Preist Reks was involved in this heinous act,”

Vincent spole up for the three of them, “We know he was involved. The exacy extent of his culpability in this crime is currently unknown.”

“As his teacher,” the female began,” we are aware that you wish to not think the worst of the situation.” If Vincent was ruffled by this Carter and Jules didn't see it. “However even by your own admission he was part of this attack.”

The male spoke up again, “While we can not read yor minds your thoughts are very clear on your young faces. You think us uncaring of the situation, and nothing could be further from the truth. Both Illumnia and myself are horrified and disgusted that this has happened. But we will express or sorrow in our own way and privately.”

“Of course watchdogs,” Carter stepped forward a bit and said,” We meant no disrespect, but I was close to this family. Their loss stings.”

“Very well spoken”, the female replied, “Almost beyond your years. As Nisoka said we are not uncaring but certain details must still be attended to. Namely Makai Priest Reks and his turn to darkness.” Jules stiffened up at these words but she couldn't deny the truth behind them. “Rook your mission is to do whatever is necessary to bring him to justice.”

Jules stiffened a little more but didn't say anything as Carter looked up at them, “I understand.” She understood too, they basically just signed Reks' death warrant. Carter glanced over at her and Vincent before returning his gaze to the Watchdogs. Without another word he stepped forward and put his swords into the wolf statue in front of him to purify them. After that was done the three of them took their leave.

Exiting through the secret door that lead to an alley it closed behind them. Jules kept on walking as Carter and Vincent stopped for a moment. Vincent was going to let her go, figuring she need some time to come to grip with everything that happened. Carter, on the other hand, “Jules wait.” She did stop but she didn't turn to look at him. Walking toward her he continued, “I'm going to try to bring Reks in alive,” Hearing that she turned her head to look at him. “Because I want answers, I want to know why. as bad as you do. But if he fights back I will defend myself.”

“I know you will,” she eventually said. “And if he puts you in that situation I wouldn't want you to hold back. And Xypher's right he would do to you what he did to Morgan, and I don't want to see that happen either.” Finally she turned around and joined them. “So where do we start? I don't think I have to repeat that Reks knows you're looking for him.”

“Although they didn't say to, “Vincent said,” I think we should get some others to help look for him. And to cover ourselves I'm going to get their opinion of it first. He turned to face the brick wall behind him, “You two go get started on getting those extra eyes for this.”

“We will,”Jules told him as the wall turned inward revealing the hidden door they waited until he walked through and it closed before going toward the street, looking at him she asked “So where to we start? We're still not sure who all in this with Reks.”

“The way he said things implied there was more thn him,” he answered, “So outside of some other Knights I'm not sure who.” Then he got a look in on his face as he reached into a pocket. He pulled out a small silver sphere and looked it over.

“You're calling on K-byte?”, she asked, the hacker they met recently that was recruited into the order after he found out about it.

“Getting one guy with a lot of eyes on the city would be a lot faster then getting a lot of people,” Xypher spoke up. “This did work when you tried it last night?”

Jules nodded, “Perfectly.” She motioned for him to rub it when he just kept l staring at it.

Still looking bit unsure Carter rubbed the sphere with his thumb and said,”K-byte.”

The sphere twinkled briefly before a voice came from it, “Carter? Gotta admit man, I'm a little surprised you actually used this to call me. I'm guessing you got another spot for me to add to the catalog.”

“Not exactly,” Carter answered. “I need your help looking for somebody.”

-----
There was nothing as hard as walking around trying not to be noticed Terrance thought while doing just that. As part of the Makai Order it was something they had to do on a regular basis. Fortunately the regular humans around then didn't pay them any extra attention as they walked around in broad daylight. The order learned long ago that they had a tendency to over look things they couldn't exactly understand or think it was something else entirely. Such as an outrageous bit of fashion sense. That was a good thing considering how he and some of the other Makai Priests dressed.

But when he happened across someone else in the order that was a different story as he was trying not to act guilty. And not look like he was trying act like nothing was wrong too. Granted he didn't know every Priest or Knight in the city. But after what happened acting like he was oblivious to anything wrong was nerve wracking to say the least.

Suddenly realizing he gotten into the habit of looking around before entering his destination while he was going it he felt even more noticeable out on the open street. Hurrying on inside he quickly turned and faced the door to make sure nobody was following.

“You're just drawing attention to yourself now.”

Terrance yelped and nearly jumped out of his skin at the sudden voice. Pointing his brush at the voice it took him a moment to realize it was Reks and calm down. “Don't do that!”

“Anything?”, he asked as headed for the secret opening in the wall.

“I went to the usual spots,” he answered. “So far nobody is even talking about you or the family that we killed.”

“We didn't kill them,” he said while walking down the hidden stairs.

Terrance was right behind him, “Maybe but we were there. Our hands aren't exactly spotless here.” Reks gave no indication that he agreed, he just kept on walking. It was infuriating enough that Terrance finally had enough to grab him by the shoulder and forcibly make the other man face him. “That family is dead! That wasn't suppose to be part of the plan.”

Reks slapped his hand away, “You don't think I'm aware of that?!” And Terrance saw enough of his hand as it went by as it went by to realize he was wearing that saw device he developed/ Backing up a bit he tightened his grip on his brush, just in case. Still he tried to relax a bit as he saw Reks take a few deep breaths to calm himself. Either way he stayed on guard. “We don't know the whole plan.” he tried to say calmly, no matter how forced it looked. “But sacrifices have to be made in order to reach the end goal.”

“Is that what he told you?”, Terrance demanded. “Or is that what you told yourself in order to sleep last night.” Reks anger visibly raised up again. Enough so that he was positive Reks would have hit him. And he probably wanted to. He didn't though, he just walked away. And Terrance made sure he didn't go near the hidden room that led to their “pet” Horror.

Instead Reks went to the opposite side of the room. “We have to trust in the plan,” he eventually said, “We both knew this wouldn't be bloodless. I didn't think the children had to die either.” For the first time in a while Terrance thought he was at least acting like the man he had first met and became friends with. That feeling didn't last long, “But they would have been witnesses. No matter how distasteful we find it, sacrifices have to be made.“

Pacing the room he looked worried about something. Actually it was a little unsettling to see how much he unattached himself emotionally, for the most part, from that sickening situation. “The idea that apparently nobody seems to know that Knight and his family are dead is what's concerning me at the moment. Even if thr Watchdogs ordered Greystone to not talk about the specifics we are not above idle gossip. The others would be wondering why he was looking for me.”

“Maybe Greystone didn't report it.” hr offered. “It's even possible he was killed last night.”

Reks seemed to think it over for a moment. “No, even if that other Knight was lost in a berserker's rage Greystone wouldn't have died so easily. Even if he did somebody would have seen that Knight rampaging across town and investigated. No Greystone's alive. And he would have reported it. Told some one, like... Jules.”

Even if he didn't realize it Terrance heard the slight hitch in his voice as he said her name. He was still sure he could get her to love him, even after she rebuke him the other night. “It's a possibility, but something you had to have realized would happen if he survived.”

“I'm aware,” he said darkly. “It doesn't matter though. I knew she be on the side to stop us once our goal became known. She doesn't matter in the over all plan.” Although Terrance didn't say anything it was obvious to anybody watching that he didn't believe it.

----
Jules and Xypher were both unusually quiet as they headed toward their destination. Still she was keeping up with his faster than usual pace as they headed toward the knick knack shop that K-Byte owned. Once they were across the street he stopped, “I know this is hard on you,” he said after a moment, “On both you and Vincent. I just wanted you to know I'm glad you're by my side and that I meant what I said about trying to bring Reks alive,”

“I know you did,” she said after a bit.”I”m pretty sure you're not the revenge type of person, otherwise I wouldn't be here. I'd be out there trying to bring him in before you found him.Besides,” she added with a slight grin, “somebody other than Xypher has to watch your back.”

“And I'm happy about that,” the pin spoke up..”I can't even see back there to begin with.” Xypher waited a couple of beats as they crossed the street, “I half way expected to get flicked there.”

“I wouldn't push your luck,” Jules commented as they reached the building. He entered first and found K-Byte leaning against the counter talking with his niece,

“Carter,” greeted them,” Jules.” To her it looked like his eyes shifted down to Xypher before nodding his head slightly. He might not be part of their order, but at least he knew to not point out the talking jewelry. Or at least he was smart enough to figure doing so might make him look a little nuts. “I'm going to talk with these two in my other office,” he said suddenly. “Buzz me if you need anything,” Carter and Jules both exchanged glances as the niece gave him a thumbs up before returning to the magazine behind the counter. Motioning them to follow him they headed for the hidden room in the back.

Once they entered and the door was closed Jules finally felt comfortable to say, “I thought your niece wasn't part of the entire operation,”

“She's not,” he replied as he started down the hallway that lead to the special computer set up a Makai Priest had set up for him. “She is however smart enough to realize something is going on back here since my office is on the floor above and those stairs are near the front door. And even she had to wonder why I was spending most of the day in the restroom. I told her I had a side job going and while it wasn't exactly illegal the less she knew about it the better. It was pretty muched dropped after that. I respect her privacy and she respects mine, it's why we work so well together.” then he stopped and quickly turned around to hug Carter. “I'm so sorry about your frirnd man.”

While Jules could imagine the look on Carter's face, just by how stiff he was standing, Xypher's voice was muffled as he said something. It sounded something like, “If I could breath air I'd be smothering right a about now.”

Carter still didn't relax as the other man finally let go. Oblivious to the discomfort he just caused he went on, “Remember when I said this little online group I'm in was started by the woman in Japan who's family took care of the fallen untitled Knights? There one close to here too, just outside the city. I already messenged him. He'll take care of the family for you. Don't worry about it.”

“Thank you,” Carter managed to say before continuing on toward the room.

“Stoic,” K-Byte said as he followed, “Isn't he?”

“Knights generally are,”Jules answered.

Once in the computer room K-Byte took his usual spot in front of the enhanced computer and started typing away, “So one of you guys did this huh? I'm surprised but I guess there's some bad apples in every group.”

“How is this going to work?”, Carter asked. “The person we're looking for is named Reks...”

“Times like this I wished it was that simple,” K-Byte said. “Unfortunately your bosses made it very clear to Alex that they didn't want any names being stored in my system here. And I doubt the name Reks is like Smith in your guy's world so he should have been pretty easy to find.”

Carter looked confused, “But you have images of us on here.”

“True,” he conceded, “but that's it. Granted I have basic labels like Makai Knight, Makai Priest. The most specific thing I have is your title and I'm still afraid that's going to be found out. Best I can do is look for images for you two and hope he's been caught on film interacting with the two of you and go from there. So the big question is when was the last time did either of you seen him?” He quickly added, “Before last night. That was the first thing I checked and there were no cameras any where near that park. There was by this one entrance but that's because of the coffee shop that there and he didn't go in that way. Granted I'm just assuming a knight in his armor would have been noticeable.”

“It would have been,” Carter commented without going into any further detail. K-Byte may be helping but some things you didn't just share. The last time I saw him was the day I originally got this assignment. By the Watchdog's....,” he trailed off as K-byte slowly shook his head. Of course they wouldn't want any of the entrances known to an outsider. Although Carter got the feeling that if he wanted to K-Byte could probably narrow down the entrance locations general areas.

So he looked at Jules. “The night before last I ran into him,” she said. “He was with another Priest named Terrance. They were hunting a Horror.” Again looking at her Jules read the unasked question on his face. While K-Byte turned back to his computer and started typing away. “He had a new device he was testing out.”

“I didn't think he was that good to be actively hunting down Horrors,” Xypher commented as various video still appeared on the screen on the wall.

“He's not,” Jules answered as those images soon featured her on the streets. “He wants to be though but the combat arts were never his strong suit. Wait,” she called out when something caught her eye. “Can you go back a couple of images?” K-Byte was doing that before she was even finished speaking. “There, that was from a few days ago, that's the Terrance I was talking about.”

“I got a good lock on his face,” K-byte announced. “Now to add his image to the search and hopefully... I got something.” He quickly pulled it up on the screen,

“That's Reks,” she answered. “Or at least his back.” K-Byte was already at work goining through the various camera angles in that area.

“I think this one is the best I can do,” he announced before pulling up the new image. In it was Terrance and Reks running down the street. “I saw the guy they were running after, I'm just guessing he was that Horror you mentioned.”

“Now that you have his image can you track him?”, Carter asked.

“As in where's he's been? Yes easily,” he answered. “If you're asking in real time that one's a little tougher. Only because,” he quickly added when Carter looked at him sharply, “this isn't instantineous. I mean I'm hooked into every camera and connected server in the city. And it is really big, digitally speaking. As fast as my set up is there's still going to be a slight delay. A very, very small delay mind you but enough of one that I could lose sight of him before you even got there. Especially if you're on the other side of the city than he is. But as I said I can see where he's been. Figure out where some of his favorite spots to hangout are and give you those locations. Particularly since now I have a second face to add to the search.”

“It's better than nothing I suppose,” Jules said.

“I suppose,” Carter grunted, “Thank you for the help K-Byte.”

“No problem, just doing my bit to help.”

“Why are you so talkative all of the sudden?”, Xypher asked. Then after a quick flick, “Ow. Still doesn't answer my question.”

“Are they always like that?”, K-Byte asked Jules who hung back a bit as Carter headed for the door.

“More or less,” she answered before saying good-bye and leaving herself.

-----
"I really should have set up a meeting time and place with those two,” Vincent commented to himself as he wiped his mouth with the provided napkin.”I'm getting a little too old for all this walking around.” His server came up to him seeing that he was done and he quietly thanked her for the meal and paid for his usual soup. Streaching his back out a bit as he stood he chuckled a bit to himself, yes he was getting too old for this but he could still put up a fight if need be. He'd be feeling it the next day but he still could. All the life in him hasn't left him yet after all.

Although more and more he caught himself looking around more at the pieces of humanity around him. He had been preaching for years that they had to remind themselves that there was still good in the hearts of the ones the protect. Granted some days it was easier to remember that than others. So he learned to see it in simple things that most choose to ignore. Like the mother with nothing but love in her expression as her baby smiled at her. Then there were the moments that quickly reminded him that darkness would always inhabit humantiies heart. Nothing out right, but out of the corner of his eye down an alley he spotted the pair he was looking for. Jules and Carter were studying an old box fan. Going to join them he called out, “Found a gate I presume.”

Carter plunged one of his blades into it's shadow, “It was.” Pulling it out the three of them watch as a small dark orb float into the air. Almost as soon as he saw it Carter swung his blades through it to finish it off.

“Seriously,” Xypher spoke up, “nobody else hears that little scream when he does that?”

“You are more attuned to that than we are my little friend,” Vincent told the pin.

With some noticable apprehension Jules asked, “What did the Watchdogs have to say?”

“They agreed that the rest of the order in the area should be informed,” he told her. His heart broke a little at how sad she looked at the news. “But only for the death of Morgan and his family. They still want to keep his apparent plan to agitate the rifts between the Knights and Priests once again quiet for the moment.”

“Why?, Carter demanded. “They deserve to know why Morgan and his family died.”

“Normally I'd agree with you,” Vincent said to try and calm the younger man down. These deaths were still hitting him hard. “But this time I think it best to do what the Watchdogs say and err on the side of caution. You remember what it was like when Sigma first started. Knights were pointing fingers at Priests, often with no proof. If it went on any longer I'm afraid it would have become a whitch hunt and tear the order apart, Even between Knights as the ones would take up swords to defend their loved ones.”

“I didn't know it was that bad,” Jules commented. She didn't show it but Vincent could tell how much the idea was troubling her.

Times like this he was unsure if he should have kept as much as he did from her when it was happening. Finally he replied,”Not quite that bad, but it was heading there. I can't speak for the rest of the world but around this particular city some Knights just started assuming the worst about the Makai Priests and roughed them up a bit. They didn't even think that doing so may drive more Priests to rally behind Sigma's cause than if they did nothing.”

“That sounds horrible,” Jules told him.

All of the sudden Carter asked, “Is that what happened to Reks?” Vincent was the only one who looked surprised by the question. “Jules said he wasn't like this when they were training under you.”

He sighed a bit before responding, “If it did he didn't share it with me. Honestly this attitude took me by surprise as well. I don't recall him having these thoughts back then either.”

Carter looked over at Jules as a new resolve seem to come over him. “Then we have to find him first, before somebody else does then. Because we still need answers and the wrong Knight might not willing to get them out of him.”

It took Vincent a moment to remember a small conversation the two of them had when he was first assigned this mission. “The difference between justice and vengence, yes you are quite right.”

“We'll find him first,” Carter told Jules. “And we'll get those answers.” She nodded as she had a new look of determination as well. After a quick acknowledgement the two of the hurried off to do just that. Vincent couldn't help but smile, he knew those two were right for each other. His smile faltered a little, now if only this situation didn't entertain the possibility to tear them apart.

-----
Reks paced the alley waiting for Terrance to show back up. He should have been inside hiding for who knew if Greystone would wonder by and spot him. And with that bastards luck that's exactly how it would happen too. But he was feeling too confined down there and needed some air and stretch his legs. He told himself it was to clear his head but in reality he wanted the chance to see that damned Knight coming and not be taken by surprise. Beside it was dark enough outside that he should be hidden enough to spot him before he was located. The only benefit he saw in the dark colors those in the order usually wore. Although at the moment he wished he had some sort of hood to cover his head, or at least a turbin like his old mentor. Something to blend in even more.

His pacing was interrupted by the sounds of running, coming straight at him. In the brief instant he heard it he thought the Knight had located him but he knew better. No matter how angry he was Greystone wouldn't just blindly charge at him like this and give away his location. No, this was somebody else. And the drawing of a sword was the only indication an attack was coming right at him. Barely dodging a swing from said weapon he set eyes on his attacker. Another Makai Knight from the looks of it. Taking up an offensive stance he said, “I Found you murderer. Prepare to pay for your crimes.”

And word must have finally gotten out about what happened to that Knight. It took Greystone long enough to do so. Still Reks looked around a best as he could in case this Knight wasn't alone, so far nobody that he could immediately see. Getting his brush out he parried another strike. But he left himself open to kick to the stomach that sent him back into the alley wall. Then he held very still as the Knight held his blade at his throat. Instead of finishing the job and cut him down the Knight just kept him there. “Just tell me one thing you bastard. Why, why did you do it?”

Interesting, this Knight knew of his crime but not the why. Given the few extra moments of life Reks realized this must have come from above Greystone. There was no way he wouldn't tell the details of his crime. Whatever his reaction was to this new bit of information it was enough to confuse the Knight. Enough for Reks to get his beush between them and blast him away. As his opponent lay on the ground Rek's other hand started rubbing his throat. The other man's blade didn't touch it, but it was just the idea that caused this particular reaction. “Why?”, Reks taunted him as he slowly sat up. “He was a Makai Knight. That's reason enough.” The renewed confusion in his face was enough to convince Reks that his hunch was right.

A confusion that quickly turned to rage, “You monster!” Another blast kept the Knight down. He gasped in pain as Reks kept his brush pointed at him.Again Reks was caught off guard as the Knight kicked his foot out and forced him back. Giving him enough room to get back on his feet and back ready to attack. Although Reks was ready for it the attack never came. The Knight was suddenly bound by a magical spell. A quick look at the ground showed him a couple of silver trinkets, the source of the spell and a clue to the Priest who cast it identity.

“Normally I'd complain,” he began,” about you talkng you sweet timre But for once Terrance I'm glad you arrived when you did.”

“You're lucky I arrived at all,” he shot back. Apparently in no mode for any sort of remark from the look of things. “Obviously you know word finally got out.” Both of them looked at the Knioght as he struggled to get free. “So what do we do now? Erase his memory?”

“Any other situation and I might say yes,” He said after a moment. “But the spell has been known to fail, especially if they come across something with a strong emotional connection. Or so I've been told. No we're going to have to do something else with this one.”

Terrance seemed to get a little nervous when he glanced at the device on his wrist,” What exactyl?”

“Nothing like what you're imaging.” Then he smiled in a way that made the other man even more nervous, “At least not yet.”

“Here?', he practically squeaked.

“No, not here,” Reks said sounding annoyed. Then he reached into his jacket and pulled out a slip of red paper with various magical markings. Bringing his brucsh to it he activated the spell and slapped it on the Knights head, He struggled for a bit before slightly glazed eyes that stared stright ahead that showed that the spell had won in the end. “Hmm,” Reks grunted. “He didn't fight as long as the other Knight. Must not as been as outrage as the other one. Keep that in mind for the future.”

He nodded at Terrance to end the spell, but he couldn't move. Controlling them was one thing but... “Are you sure we to do this?”

“Would you rather I let him go?”, he taunted. “Having him know my last known location is just the same as killing him here, The order would search this area looking for clues to where I went and they may discover our little secret in the process.” Terrance still looked unconvinced, “Let's not forget this one knows you're involved now and you would have to go into hiding. Either way you had to realize this was going to be necessary in order to get rid of the Knights. They didn't exactly bow down to Sigma's demands the last time.”

“I know,I know,” he said. “I was hoping the plan would have taken care of them with as little bloodshed as possible,”

“Maybe it will,” Reks commented as he made the Knight rise to his feet. “But the plan hasn't been activated yet. And there's the small matter of me being the center of a city wide search. We has to be adaptable at this stage, you know he said that.”

“Yes he did,” Terrance said, sounding a bit defeated.”

“Don't worry it'll be over soon.” His Madou Brush pulsed as the Knight started moving. “Keep an eye out in case somebody else shows up.” He made the Knight lead the way as Terrance took up the rear, still not liking this. After a bit they found themselves at an side way into the subway system below the city. Motioning for Terrance to open the door the trio made their way down.

Reks made them follow a path that took them block away from where they were. Up until they hit a four way intersection then he made Terrance stay where he was as he made the Knightgo a few feet down one of the corridors then said, “Drop your sword there.” It hit with a loud clang as the Knight did so. Then he rejoined them as Reks lead them down a different corridor. After another block they reached the underground tracks. “Now let's see how much will he actually has,”Reks said after a few moments. The reason for the wait was soon evident as a rumbling could be heard in the background, and it was getting closer. With little effort he made the Knight lay down on the ground with his neck resting on the track in front of him. He backed up still with his brush pointed at the Knight. Terrance froze for a second as he realized he made the other man face the oncoming train.

Any cry was of pain or outrage was cut off by the rumbling of the train as it past by. Did the person at the controls even realize there was a person there? It didn't even seem to try and slow down. While his companion was mortified Reks just smirked, “They do want to face death head on.”

“You sick bastard,” Terrance finally got out.

“Maybe,” he said before turning away and going back the way they came. “But this way it should be a day or two before somebody notices the body since the operator shouldn't have realize he hit something and report it. And that will give us a small cushion, at least until somebody realizes that Knight is missing. The only down side they're probably aware he was hunting me down and won't just assume he was killed by a Horror.”

“How can you be be so nonchalant about this? You just killed a man!”

“Because this is war,”, he answered coolly “Even if the others think it ended in Japan two years ago, it's still a war. And you win by getting ride of the opposition.” Reks kept on walking,”By any means necessary if need be.”

-----
Consciuosness returning after getting some sleep Jules refused to open her eyes, not just yet. Instead she reached over to the other side of the bed, she opened them here when she realized the person she was expecting to find wasn't there. In fact that side was cold, for a bit from the feel of it. Sitting up she tried to get out of the fog of sleep that still wanted her to stay still and looked around the bedroom. Still alone as far as she could tell. Stretching she listened for sounds of anyone else close by, she commented to herself, “And I thought I was good at leaving the place without being noticed,” when she still couldn't detect any other signs of life.

Getting up and dressed she went looking for Carter. Heading down the stairs. Seeing her coat where she left it she was admittedly a bit confused to see Carter's coat right by hers. So he didn't leave suddenly. Waking up a little more she realized he must have been doing his exercises. Or quite possibly in the den, considering the door was open. They definitely needed to learn the others morning routines if this was going to keep up. A quick peek in the doorway showed Carter wasn't in there but Xypher was on his stand, although he was facing one of the windows instead of the door like he usually did. “Morning Xypher,” she greeted the pin as she entered the room.

“Morning Jules,” he responded. “He didn't leave a message in case you were wondering.” Obviously a shot at her not quite so old habit when she usually spent the night here. Fourtunately for the pin she wasn't quite the flicker Carter was in these situation. Instead she walked over to the window he was facing.

Seeing Carter out there on the lawn doing his usual practicing outside she smiled a bit, “In a way he did.” Watching the Makai Knight for a bit she realized it wasn't his usual practice as he did some imaginary blocks with his blades she'd never seen before or was familiar with. “What is he doing exactly?”

“He's trying to figure out the best way to defend against that saw weapon you told him about.” She nodded in understanding. She should have told him about it as soon as she found out Reks was involved in this mess. But the news came so fast it was hard to think straight about the man she'd known for years. And Morgan and his family showed no sign of it being used on them so part of her was hoping he finally listen and gave up on it. Another part realized it was just wishful thinking on her part and more than likely he was still trying to improve it. Either way Carter, not to mention anyone in the Order hunting Reks, had to know about it.

“I'm going to head out there,” she told the pin. “You wanna come?”

“No,” Xypher answered. “I had enough of the outdoors and it's inhabitants the other day for the time being.”

“Suit yourself,” she said as him as she headed for the front door. Taking in a deep breath of the morning air, which she swore didn't have the scent the city usually did, she went down the stairs and headed around the corner to where he was. Hanging back a bit she watched him defend against and attack the opponent in his mind, although she was certain she knew who that opponent was. Although Jules was certain Carter was already aware of her presence, which was confirmed when he pause just long enough to acknowledge her with a nod, that was the most she wanted to disturb him at the moment. Not that that he was so in his own head that she might get hit accidentally. However with what they did he couldn't afford to have an off day. Neither could she for that matter. In their profession not being at their peak could be fatal. So Jules waited until he was finished before getting closer as indicated by him combining the blades back together to form the staff. “”Beautiful out this morning, isn't it?”, she asked.

“It is,” he answered while taking in the view for himself. Morning small talk, another thing both of them were going to have to get used to. Still Carter tried, “Sleep well? I usually don't get the chance to ask.”

A small smile started to cross her lips, “Either me or Xypher is finally starting to rub off on you. I'm just not sure who it is at the moment,” considering that was the second shot this morning at how she used to do things she was leaning toward the pin. “But I slept like a baby.” Which was strangely true considering what was going on. “How about you?”

“Fine. Honestly I never thought it would be with somebody sleeping next to me.” Jules sort of glanced at him as they headed back toward the house. He was just full of surprises lately. And lucky for the Pin who was still in the house because Jules could only imagin what would have came out of his mouth after hearing that.

“I would say that it must mean it was meant to be but I don't want to push our luck.” Instead of the front door he lead her to a side patio, From the look of things he expected her to join him this morning as a small table was already set up.for a quick breakfast. She was happy for the moment before she realized the muffins on the table was one of her favorites. And considering this was the first time she'd ever seen them here at all caused a question to burn itself in her mind. Granted it was one she had before but never asked it out of respect for his privacy. But if she was going to be be here more often she just had to know, “Okay, who exactly is helping you keep this place up? This house is better kept and stocked than it should be considering what we do.And no offence, I never took you for the homemaker type.” She noticed the look on his face and stopped talking. Carter was looking at something behind her, with some intent that wasn't there before, and that made her turn and look as well. A lone man was walking up the path toward the house, based on how he was dressed it was clear he was part of the order. He had to be, the path entrance wasn't exactly open to regular. uninvited humans.

Carter stood as the guy got closer. The way his hand was hovering by the staff said he wasn't expecting anybody this morning. “I'm guessing that's not him.”

“No it isn't,” he said as he walked forward to meet the stranger. “Can I help you?”

“Pardon the interruption Double Bladed Knight,” he said in return. “But I came with some news you may want to hear.” he stopped and looked over Carter's shoulder at her. “Has she been here all night?”
Jules wasn't sure about Carter but that rankled her a bit. “I'm only asking because a Knight went missing and she is one of Reks' known associates.”

“Who disappeared?”

“I'm not sure you know him, I barely did,” he answered. “When we were given the assignment last night we all agreed to to meet up later and compare notes of our serarch. He was the only one who didn't show up. A few that did know him asked around and he hasn't been seen since we were summoned to the Watchdogs. Naturally people are assuming...”, he trailed off, but he didn't have to finish that thought. More than likely both of them were thinking the same thing.

Still this newcomer kept looking at her. Finally having enough of it she snapped, “Yes I was him all night.” This particular Knight pissed her off even more when he looked over to Carter for confirmation of this. Now she didn't her exactly how Carter responded but she saw enough of his face that he was annoyed by it as well.

This particular Knight at least had the brains to realize when to back off, “I meant no disrespect, really. But we were told to scrutinize everything. I was just doing what I was told.”

Carter sharply asked, “Was there anything else?”

“No, just that.” Carter turned his back to him and walked away. Jules just waved a quick good-bye before the Knight finally left by himself. Catching up with Carter she crossed her arms, “I wonder how he be acting with me if he knew what Reks was trying to do.” Carterv just grunted as they kept walking. “Was it as bad as that? When Sigma was starting up?”

“I'm afraid so. After my friend attacked me I knew it took a bit before I stopped wondering if a Makai Priest I ran across was going to do the same. Some Knights were worse, like Vincent said, We didn't even have the destruction seal placed on us like the Japanese Knights did.”

“You make it sound worse than how Vincent described it,” Jules commented. Obviously that statement confused him a bit because he looked over at her. “Okay, the Japanese Knights had that seal placed on them by Sigma. So naturally they want to do anything to get rid of it, but what was the excuse over here?”

“I honestly don't know,” he answered. “Sometimes I wish I did, other times I don't want to know the answer. Either way we have to hurry and locate Reks before anybody else does. After lasr night, if it's true.”

“Nobody is going to want to get answers out of him,” she finished the thought for him. “And everything he knows about what's going on goes with him,” Realizing they were heading back to the house she said,” it's a pity. I was hoping to spar a bit before we headed out.” Again he looked at her in confusion. “If we're going to be partners we should know how each other moves a little better.”

Carter surprised her again by smiling a little, “Consider it a trail run to see what we have to work on.”

“I swear that was almost a joke, “ she said, not really trying to stop herself from smiling herself. She was just glad for the distraction from what was going on.

-----
Entering the door of the knick knack shop K-Byte's niece looked up from behind the counter. Seeing it was Carter and Jules she went back to her magazine. “He's waiting on you in the back,” she told them. Carter said nothing as he was heading that way as soon as he walked through the door. Jules gave her a small nod in greeting, not that she saw it with her head down and all, before going in the same direction.

“We should probably learn her name,” she commented as they reached the secret door. When Carter didn't respond as he hit the hidden trigger to open it she added, “I mean we've been here enough the past few days we should know it, just to be polite if nothing else.” Both of them entered the door. It closed behind them with her saying, “Just me then? Okay.”

“He's in one of his moods,”Xypher commented. “You're not going to get an answer,,, Ow.”

“Hey amigos,” K-Byte said with a wave as he sat in his usual chair. Not even bothering to turn around to do so. When he did he pointed right at Carter, “Since I'm prettry sure this one doesn't do social call I'm guessing this is business.”

“A Makai Knight went missing last night,” Carter told him. K-Byte had enough sense to quickly turn back around and get to work pulling up everything he had on their target so far. Carter went on, “We need to find Reks now.”

“And I would love to grant that wish,” the hacker told him. :”Unfortunately you comrade's being rather camera shy lately.” Putting up several images on the screen he added, “The most recent image I found was this one from the other day. Both of them were taken a bit a back from what they were seeing. Especially since their heads were at the bottom of the image.

Getting a sick feeling in her dut Jules asked, “When and where was this image taken?”

Turning back around he answered, “Almost right after you left here the first time. Right down the street here, by this one little cafe.” That was what she was afraid of.

“That's when we decided to officially become partners,” she whispered, “Is this what finally pushed him over the edge?”

“No,” Carter said firmly. “Reks was already went over that edge the moment he decided to restart were Sigma left off. This was going to happen sooner or later.” She knew Carter believed that but at the moment she had a hard time believing it totally. To K-Byte he asked, “Have you at least narrowed down where he might be hidding?”

“In the loosest definition of the term yes,”he typed in a few commands and put the projection of the map of the city over their heads again. “After tracking his image for the past couple of months and cross referencing it with where that Terrance guy has been in the same time period I got two possible locations.” He leaned back in his chair as all of them looked where the majority of the markers seemed to be concentrating. “If we knew who else was in this little party of theirs I could narrow it down to just the one location, probably. I mean you have to consider their secret meet up spot and hidey hole has to be in an out of the way location.”

“Which of those two fit that description?”, Carter asked him.

“Unfortuantely both of them do,” K-Byte answered. He put both locations on the screen. “Ones an old strip mall that hasn't been used in years. The other is a park that hardly anyone visit at night anymore. Well except for these two, and the occasional set of lovers looking to get a little outdoor nookie when they think nobody's watching,”

“I knew you were a pervert,” Xypher suddenly said. Carter quickly flicked him. “That's it! I instituting a no flicking policy on the next Makai knight I make a contract with.”

“I dnn't watch thank you very much,” K-Byte told him. “I got some decency after all.”

“When was the last time he visited either of these sites?”, Jules asked, trying to get things back on track.

He checked the records on his screen, “Reks visited the park last and Terrance the mall, both last week.”

“How close are they to each other?”, she went on,

He gestured to the image above them, “As you can see they're only a couple of blocks apart. So if they're not on opposite ends of the city if that's what you were worried about.”

Jules asked Carter, “What do you think? They may not be there now but we could hit both sites in one night to look for any clues easy enough.”

”We should split up and check both sites,” he answered after a bit. “It'll be faster that way and we need to find him fast, before the others do. If either of us spot him we can call the other to hurry over to that location.”

“And I can help from my end,” K-Byte told them. “As I said, there's a small delay but I can at least tell you if either of them are in the area.”

“Well I think that sounds like a plan,” Jules said. “And you better call me if you see him.”

“I will,” Carter assured her. “Thank you K-Byte.” The man gave a small salute as he turned back around while Carter turned and headed for the door, Jules close behind him.

“Could have sworn they were already a thing before then,” he said to himself after he was alone. “They seemed close enough when I met them the first time.”

-----
They arrived in the general area by late afternoon before splitting up to go do their designated locations. Fortunately it was still day light so the chance of running into a Horror was slim since they didn't need the added delay. Jules had the park in view when she started slowing down here pace. It looked like their hacker friend was correcr in one thing as she didn't see anybody at first glance, Silently deciding to do this in a couple of waves she did a quick look around the area, just to see if anything looked out of place. Nothing did, naturally. What did she expect?

Walking to roughly the center of the park she turned her head. Just surveying the area a bit more closely. “Alright,” she muttered, “if I was secretly planning to split the order where would I met up?” She spotted a couple of areas that could have been the answer to that question soon enough. Picking one at random she started toward what looked like an equipment barn at one time.

“What are you doing here?”

Jules stopped in her tracks, recognizing the voice almost at once. Slowly she turned around to face the source. “Reks,” she said almost casusally, “fancy meeting you here.” She studied him real fast, trying to gauge his reaction. The first thing she spotted was his brush in his hand. And the device strapped to his wrist. He was still using it, But his arm wasn't up right away so neither were currently pointed at her. Maybe she could talk him down, get him to com in willingly. Maybe prove that small voice in her head saying there's been a huge mistake made about him right. “There's been a lot of rumors going around.”

“Oh I'm sure they're more than just rumors at this point,” he said with a slight smirk on his face. One that made her feel sick to her stomach. More so that his brush raised a bit, toward her. “What exactly have you heard?”

“Nothing good,” she told him,” trying to look as non threatening as possible. “Just a lot of crazy stories at this point.”

“I'm sure,” he sneered, “they didn't sound that crazy coming out of Greystone. Did they?!”

Jules held her ground. “I saw the bodies of that family.” Like she hoped that caused him to stop what he was doing. The look on his face almost made her think it wasn't true, at least his involvement in it. Either way it was something she could use to buy herself some time. “Tell me your side of things Reks. I don't wan't to believe what's being said.” Slowly her hand went for her pocket. If she could just activate the sphere and contact Carter.

She spotted another brush pointed at her head out of the corner of her eye. “You better keep those hands were we can see them, Terrance told her.” That smirk returned to Reks' face once this happened and he pointed his brush at her as well. Damn it, he distracted her while she was trying to distract him.

“It didn't have to be this way Jules,” he told as he came closer. “If you understood what we're trying to do.”

“Anything that involves killing innocent people....”

“The Knights are not innocent!” he exploded at her.

“What about their families?”, she shot back. That stopped him. “What about the children?” Terrance's brush wavered at that. She saw her chance and quickly kicked Terrance away before pushing Reks back. Holding her brush out she tried to keep it pointed at both of them. “I suggest both of you stand down now.”

Of course neither of them did that as the both faced off against her. There was no chance for her to call Carter now, not unless K-Byte had eyes on the situation. If it came down to a straight one on one she was the better fighter by a wide margarinr. But two on one, against two other magic users? The odds of one of them landing a lucky shot was definitely more in their favor than her's. Unless she could take one down right away.

All three of them were caught off guard by the arrival of a newcomer landing between the.m Jules recognized him after a brief moment, “Vincent.” He held his brush down as he faced the other two but they didn't rush him, in fact the backed up a little.

“I heard everything,” he announced. Jules relaxed a bit. Not because the odds were even now but Vincent would make sure Reks came in alive as well. “Reks,” he said sounding disappointed in his former pupil. “There was a reason why I said to don't try and recruit her.”

“Wait...what?”, she sputtered while realizing what he just said. He spun and pointed his brush at her. It pulsed before she could make sense of what was going on. She was sent flying back and hit the ground hard. Barely moving she realized Vincent was standing over her. He blasted her again and everything went black.

-----
Coming up to the abandon mall Carter looked it over before finding an entrance he could use. “So why did you split up with Jules?”, Xypher asked. “An extra set of eyes would be great seeing how big this place is.”

“Because I imagine it's also has several areas inside perfect for an ambush,” he answered.

“Trying to protect Jules again?”, he asked. “After that whole 'I want someone to fight with me not for me,' speech she gave you?”

“No,” he responded, “at least not completely.”He stopped trying to figure out the best way to say this. “Despite what she says I can tell this whole thing with Reks is still bothering her. She may...hesitate if she saw him in there.”

“You really don't think she'd let him go do you?”

“No. Of course not,” he said quickly shooting that idea down. He added with a sigh, “But I do know it's easy to let down your guard a bit when confronted by some one you thought you could trust.”

“Like what happened to you with your former Makai Priest friend,” Xypher said in understanding. Carter just grunted. “Then Jules won't here about this from me.” Carter looked down at the pin on his label and smiled slightly. He might be a pain at times but he was usually good to his word.

Continuing on toward the supposedly empty building he found a way in soon enough. One that was apparently used often despite the condition of the place. Walking a few feet inside Xypher said in a warning tone, “Carter.”

“I sense it,” he replied as he slowly pulled his staff out of his coat. The feeling of darkness in here was almost palatable. “Any idea how many we're dealing with?”

“There's too much Miasma in the area,” the pin answered. “I'm getting it all over the place, it's pretty much masking anything else in here Why didn't I sense it before we came in?”

“One thing at a time,”Carter said as he cautiously went deeper into the old mall. Senses alert and trying to be as quiet as possible he pulled the staff apart. Blades in both hands he approached a corner and saw nothing, but that really didn,t mean anything given the circumstanses. No, he did see something on a secondary glance, something on the floor. Slowly he made his way to the thing. The closer he got the more he realized it wasn't a “thing” as much as a drawing of circle some sort. The Makai symbols sirrounding it was the only thing that told him somebody in the order did this.

Kneeling down to get a better look at it he spoke to Xypher, “Do you recognize this?”

“I'm pretty sure this is an entrapment seal,” he answered. “Makai Priests use to use this to trap Horrors back in the day.”

“How far is 'back in the day'?”, he asked. He hadn't seen anything like this that he could recall.

“Something like centuries,” the pin answered. “They stopped being used after the Makai Knights were formed., or around that time.” he added, “My knowledge of this sort of thing is pretty limited. Depending on how many of these there are in here it could be why I didn't detect anything outside.”

“It's that powerful?”

“Like I said my knowledge is limited but I think that was one of the main reasons Makai Priests stopped using it. It blocked detection of Horrors in some cases as well as capturing them.” Carter looked down at it, if this was a magical seal. He broke the line of the circle with one of his blades. “Now I'm detecting a Horror, just the one so far.”

Nodding Carter walked past the seal and deeper into the mall. Even if he was trying to find Reks he had to cut down that Horror before it got out and consumed somebody on the outside. Especially since he broke the seal to begin with.

In a part of the mall covered in shadows he got his blades ready. Behind him a lone demonic looking Horror emerged from the floor and quietly followed him. Hungry for it's next meal, so much so it risked going after such a dangerous pray instead of leaving since it's prison was now broken. Carter was seemingly unaware of it's presence which made it grow more confident. Suddenly Carter spun his Blades around and stepped backwards as he stabbed back, both blades impaling the Horror in it's gut. It screamed in pain at the sudden attack. Stepping forward Carter pulled outwards, cutting the beast even more as his blades freed themselves. Spinning around Carter sliced through the Horror again. One final jab finally ended things as it fell backwards and exploded.

Reforming the staff he looked around for any more incoming. “I'm not sensing anything.. wait,”Xypher spoke up. “There's something close.”

“I see it.” In one of the old stores, on the back wall. A huge spot of Horror blood pulsated. Entering the store he approached the spot. Retrieving his Madou lighter he ignited it on the wall. In moments he stepped back and watched the blue flame quickly consume the blood. “Can you sense anything else?”

“Okay that cleared up most of it,” the pin answered. “I'm not currently detecting anything else. We might be clear.”

Without a word he turned and headed for the door he entered. Reaching into a pocket he pulled out the small spear and rubbed it with his thumb, “K-Byte.”

The reply came quick,”I'm here man.”

“There was no sign of Reks at this location. But I did discover some Horror blood so mark it on the map.”

“And done.”

“I already took care of one Horror here and the spot but I'm not ready to say this area is clear just yet. If you have a way to contact Alexander let him now about this location so the Order can do a more thorogh check.”

“He's going to want to know why,” K-Byte said, “but I'll think of something. Everything is still hush, hush I'm guessing.”

That was one way of putting it. Granted having him contact another Makai Priest was a bit risky since they still didn't know who was involved in this mess. But Carter reasoned K-Byte would have already been taken off the board by now if Alexander was in league with Reks. “Have you heard anything from Jules?”

“Not yet,” there was something in his voice that made Carter pause. “Okay that's not right.”

“What is it?”

“That whole area just came back online.” He explained further, “The city cameras I mean. That area went dark for a few minutes.”

Not waiting for a further explanation Carter took off at a sprint for that park. Pushing past people and jumping over what ever was in his path. He reached the park but was trying to ignore the feeling he was too late. That was hard to do since he immedately couldn't see anybody. Looking around his heart felt like it stopped as he found Jules' brush on the ground. Trying not to think the worst he held the sphere in his hand. He wanted to call her but was afraid doing so might give this communicator away. It could be the only way to find her at this rate. “K-Byte can you track Jules through her sphere?”

“If she activates it yeah.”

“But she has to activate it first,” he reapeated bitterly. That figured, nothing could be that easy.

“Look, I'll see what I can do on my end,” Ky byte told him hearing the tone. “But I'm not promising anything. Come on in so you'll know as soon as I do. I'll start working on it while you do.”

“Right,” he said as he headed out. Reks and who ever was with him had better hope she wasn't hurt.

-----
When she came to Jules found herself bound to the floor somehow. Granted it wasn't the most dignified way of waking up but it could have been worse. Much worse as she remembered why she was knocked out to begin with. Yeah for a brief moment there she thought that was going to be it. And by her mentor, and she thought friend, Jules kept herself calm, getting angry wasn't going to get her out of this. First thing first, why was she stuck? Head still able to move she looked around as best as she could. It looked like some sort of spell was holding her down. If she had her Madou Brush she probably could have broken it easily. Which meant one of them was smart enough to take it away from her. In fact she realized her coat was off her entirely. In way that was good because that meant they didn't physically search her,

It was also bad because all the equipment she carried was in there, Not that she could move her arms all that much. So at the moment that meant her only option was to sit back and wait until somebody freed her. She couldn't help herself, “Well this sucks.”

“You're awake,” Reks said as he came into view. “Good, I was afraid Vincent hit you with too powerful of a blast,” he started to reach out to touch her cheek. Thank God she was still able to turn her head because she did so as fast as she could to avoid contact with him. Fortunately he pulled his hand away and didn't press the issue. “It didn't have to come to this,” he said walking away.

“You're trying to split the Order,” she shot back. “How did you think it was going to go?”

“I'm trying to get things back to the way they're supposed to be,” he told her. We were the original protectors, not the Knights. And we can be again, once they are gone.”

“And what about the really powerful Horrors?,” she shot back. “The reason why the Makai Knights were created?”

“They lacked conviction,” he told her. And the idea he seemed to believe what he just said scared her just a bit. “They gave up too easily. Too willing to hand the power over to someone else.”

“What happened to you?”, she asked. “What happened to cause you to think like this?”

“Sigma happened,” was his answer. “He showed us that we didn't need the Knights. That we could do the job ourselves.”

“Sigma's plan involved using people to power a device to do that,” she reminded him. “It's why the Priest that were with him turned against him to begin with. Please don't tell me you're going to take up that part of his plan too?”

He looked offended she would even think that. That made a small part of her happy at least, he hadn't completely gone off the deep end yet. “Of course not. Everyone involved should have felt betrayed by his ultimate plan. But they gave up too quickly when it was over. None of them truly had the conviction to keep going.”

“No,” she said suddenly, “That can't be just that. Something else must have happened. You ran into the wrong crowd, something. You weren't like this when we were younger.”

“Because I didn't know it was possible when we were younger, not until Sigma. You'll see we were right in the end. They'll all see we were right.”

“Do you really think others are going to willingly join in after how things with Sigma ended?,” she asked him.

“After we're done they won't have a choice,” he told her. “Once the Knights are gone for good, Just a footnote in our history that's best to be forgotten.” Then he looked at her in a way that frightened her a little. “But it's not all of the Knights you're worried about, is it? It's him, Greystone! You slept with him, haven't you?” When she didn't answer he grabbed her by the chin and shouted, “Didn't you?!”

“Even if I did,” she said through her teeth,”It wouldn't be any business of yours.” She knew that would enrage him as it looked like he was mad enough to hit her.

But Terrance quickly interjected and pulled him back, “Reks calm down. He said to not harm her remember?” That 'he' had to be Vincent. Was he the one in charge of all this? If he was why was he trying to do everything he could to help her and Carter? Okay that one was obvious, to throw them off the scent, and he did a good job there. But why would he want to restart the the conflict between Priests and Knight? It made no sense. Vincent was opposed as anybody to what Sigma was doing, at least as far as she could recall. “She's trying to anger you, just back away for now.”

“Terrance is quite right,” Vincent said as he entered the room. Reks backed away a little more willingly but he was still furious. “Like I told you, she wouldn't understand what we're trying to accomplish.” He turned to Terrance, “Would you please take him to the other room and help him calm down?”

“Right,” he replied, pulling a reluctant Res behind him.

Jules stared at him. Somethings puzzle pieces starting to fit together, “You tried to stop me from going behind the house.” He sighed and nodded hid head, seemingly bracing himself for what was coming. You knew the kids wre going to be back there. I thought by the way you were describing things you were speculating on what happen. But you were confessing.”

“At least you didn't say I was bragging,” he attempted to joke. He had enough sense to realize how unfunny it was. “I am upset with myself, although I don't suppose that help any.”

“Why?”, she asked. Although she wasn't sure how bad she wanted an answer.

“Because, I didn't need to have my involvement known just yet,” was his answers. He sat there with a far off look on his face, reliving the final moments of Morgan's wife and children. “I didn't want it to be known now. But circumstance forced me to reveal myself when I did,”

“But to pick up were Sigma left off. You made it sound like a terrible time, Why would you bring that about again?”

“Not everything is quite what it seems,” he told her. Before he could elaborate Reks and Terrance came back in. “What is it?”

“I searched her jacket like you asked,” he answered. I didn't find her brush but I found this,” he held out the sphere. He was also rubbing it just a bit.

“Carter!”, she called out. Everyone looked at her and missed it twinkle. She had to cover for the outburst. “Is going to find me. He's going to find this place and kick your asses.”

Reks snarled, “He can try.”

Vincent on the other hand just looked back between her and the sphere in Terrance's hand. Then he seemed to understand what just happened.

But he didn't destroy the sphere like she thought he would. “Carter is rather tenacious,” he said instead. “I wouldn't be surprised if he was on his way right now,” he gave her a knowing wink but still didn't reveal what she just did. “We should be ready just in case.”

“There's no way he knows were we are “Reks protested. Terrance quickly agreed with that.

“And under estimating a Makai Knight is never a smart idea. The plan is almost ready, I've already placed the devices in the designated location. But we can't let our guard down, not just yet. I'll finish up the final preparations, I need you and Terrance to stall him for as long as possible while I complete them.”

Reks nodded, “Of course Vincent. We'll hold him back. Won't we Terrance?” The other man looked relucant to respond in any way, but eventually he nodded his head. Death to the Knights.” Reks didn't seem surprised the his old teacher didn't repeat it. Instead he reached around and patted him on the back by his neck. For a brief instant Jules thought she saw a piece of paper in Vincent's hand before he did so, but it there was nothing there when he pulled it away.

Soon they left her alone. Jules struggled against her bonds even more once they did, but the spell barely let her budge. Jules really didn't want to fall into the whole damsel in distress cliché, but right now she had no choice but to wait and hope Carter would be able to use that quick burst to find where she was.

-----
Back in the secret room at the knick knack shop K-Byte was hard at work trying to locate Jules' location. Carter was leaning against a wall trying not to fidget. After a bit K-Byte turned around to look at him. The silence was killing him personally. “Just wanted to say thanks and all for not hovering over my shoulder or pacing a hole in the floor. But I can feel the wave of frustration over her.” Carter still didn't respond to him. “Shut up and keep working, got it,” he mumbled as he went back to the computer.

After a few moments Xypher spoke to Carter, “It's more than just frustration. Something is on your mind so what is it?”

To this Carter responded, “Just how common is the knowledge about that entrapment seal?”

“”Like I told you,” the pin answered, “Makai Priest stopped using it centuries ago. So I doubt it's a common spell learned today. I only know about it.because A Rook I used to be contracted to asked a Makai Priest he knew to look into it.And it took him a couple of weeks to find something.”

“This Terrance was coming out of that mall,” Carter said, thinking outl oud. “So someone aligned with Reks and him has to know about it. Jules told us that Terrance had a binding spell at his disposal, Do you think it could be him?”

“It's possible, there could be some similarity in the spells depending on how he performs it. But the thing that I can't figure out is why are they trapping a Horror to begin with? I'm pretty sure the one you dispatched had been there a while. Smart enough to avoid triggering the seals but not to get out.”

“Maybe they weren't trying to trap that horror. Terrance could have gone in to make sure it didn't get out.”

“There are more efficient ways to keep a Horror in one location,” Xypher pointed out. “It's baffling to me.”

“Then I'll make sure one of them stays coscious long enough so you can ask,”Carter told him.

“Jules has been a good influence on you,” Xypher said with a slight snort.

“Carter!”, Jules voice cam from his sphere. As he pulled it out K-Byte started typing faster on his computer.

“Come on,”the hacker mumbled, “Keep the line open for as long as possible.” She seemed to comply as she kept talking.

“That's Reks,”Carter said as he responded to what she said. Then a third voice spoke up and Carter paid even more attention to the conversation that was being played out over the sphere.

“That sounded like Vincent,”Xypher said. Carter wanted to tell him that he was wrong, but he known the the man for a long time, from his time as Makai Knight traniee.That was him, he didn't need anybody else to confirm it.

“Do you have a location yet?”, He asked K-Byte. His response was to point up at the city map now floating above them. A single glowing dot focused Carter 's attention whose location that he quickly memorized. “I'm coming Jules,” he muttered at that dot. “Thank you K-Byte.”

“Just go get her,” he said, “you can thank me later.” Nodding Carter turned and headed for the door. One way or another he was getting answers from somebody tonight.

-----
Arriving at the location marked on the map Carter was greeted by an old boarded up warehouse of some sort. He should have thought to ask K-Byte which floor her signal was coming from. Same plan as usual then, the moment he faced some resistance meant he was close. Figuring the way in wasn't something as obvious as the front door, he made his way down a side alley. A short search revealed an unlocked door with a stairway leading down. Making his way down he retrieved the staff from his coat, senses open for any sign of an assault.

Reaching the bottom he found another room with nobody in sight. Going in a little deeper he found another set of stairs leading up to the main floor. Again he tried to see any sign of a trap as he made his way up. Still he didn't see anything right away. Xypher got his attention, “When were done here we should head back down, I thought I sensed a Horror down there. But it was faint so I can't be sure.” Carter looked back in the direction they came from. Another Horror and these guys. What was going on?

“Maybe that's were they're storing the Horror Blood,” he mused. He made a mental note to recheck that area just to be sure, any collection of Horror blood was a bad thing. Locating a bigger open space on the floor he found her, “Jules.” She was bound to the floor by some sort of spell, more than likely the one she mentioned Terrance used.

He got about half way from reaching her when she started to call out something and someone dropped in front of him that forced him back a few steps. Reks. “So you did find us,” he sneered. Carter held his staff in front of him while trying to keep an eye out for Vincent or Terrance. “I guess the traitor told you about this,” Reks held out his arm and activated the saw device, he started smiling as he brought the spinning blade up closer to his face.

Carter stared him down,“The only traitor I see is you.” Reks yelled and came at with a swing Carter easily dodged. Jumping out of the way of a back swing he tried to gauge how far it extended the his reach. Reks refused to give him the chance as he started swing widly. So wild he had to deflect a few that were getting a little too close to connecting with the staff .But he was able to slowly get the battle away from Jules Despite his current anger even Carter suspected that Reks didn't want to harm her by accident.

A kick to the stomach knocked him backwords and Carter fought to stay on his feet. Sensing the opening Reks went in for the kill. Carter blocked the attack in time by getting the staff up in time. Another kick by the Priest knocked him back again breaking the deadlock. “She may have told you about this little toy,”Reks told him, “But I doubt she knew about this.” Flexing his wrist a bit the saw blade started to expand, It was almpst tripled in size by the time it stopped. Carter stopped trying to figure out the arch of the thing since it could change size apparently. The Priest took advantage of his temporary confusion and charged at him again.

Despite it's size Reks swung it at him just as easily as before. The larger size also allowed him to knock the staff out of the way every time Carter tried to block with it. Carter found himself backed up against a pille\ar, Reks drew his arm back then punched it forward aiming the edge of the saw at his neck. Dropping to a knee it barely flew over his head and cut into the pillar. Carter got in a shot to the gut of his own as he punched Reks while he was freeing the spinning blade. With the free moment he created Carter pulled the staff apart, he was going to need the option of another weapon the rate this was going.

He had a slightly easier time deflecting the saw with a sword blade in each hand. Still didn't stop Reks from trying to kick him away like he had been, although knowing it was coming helped Carter stay a slight step ahead of that particular tactic. Still he was primarily on defense at this point.He had to get on the offensive somehow if he was going to end this.He briefly considered summoning the armor but everyt ime he made enough space to even connect the staff together in it's double bladed formation Reks quickly stepped up his attack to keep that from happening. That told Carter he wasn't sure how it would do against soul metal armor.

And it was a theory Reks wasn't in a hurry to let him test as he stepped up his attacks, continously driving him back.and keeping him from finding his footing, Apparently sensing now was the time Reks brought the saw up and then down in a chopping motion. On instinct only Carter brought both blades up to keep it from sinking into his head. The Priest tried to force the saw down even further but Carter held his ground. Locked in another apparent deadlock they stared at each other, Reks sneered, “You think she'll be grateful? She won't be, she is a traitor to her sect. She doesn't matter to anyone.”

Carter knew what he was doing, he was trying to get under his skin. In this case, it was working. Almost growling he told him while looking him dead in the eyes, “She matters to me!” With a shout he forced the saw away from his head and kicked Reks in the chest, Swinging his swords he tried chipping away at it. Finally he caught it in a way that caused the piece attaching it to his wrist to break. One last hit sent it flying up. Both of them looked up and tracked it in the air. It took Carter a moment to realize it was heading toward jules. Running toward her he did his best to swat it away with the blades when it got close enough.He altered the path enough that it landed to the left of her.

They looked at each other in the brief moment they had, then Carter fell forward after getting blasted in the back, “Carter!”

“Took you long enough,” Reks grunted as Terrance came forward, brush pointed at Carter.

“Had to make sure he didn't see me coming,” he answered. “It was the first clear opening I saw.”

“It doesn't matter,” Reks said retrieving his brush and came closer as well. “Let's finish him off and get rid of the body. Maybe we'll leave him by the other one if the body hasn't been found yet.” Terrance made a bit of a disgusted sound as they approached. Carter struggled to move and noticed a small trinket on the floor. Seeing another one on Jules' other side forming a magical circle. Quickly he got one of the blades on the inside and knocked the trinket out of position.While it didn't disrupt the circle like he thought it would, it did weaken it enough that Jules was able to break free of it. Jumping into the action as soon as she was on her feet

Reks intercepted her and the two of them started fighting. Terrance tried to get involved but Carter recovered enough to cut him off. Two sets of fights occurred next to each other, the two renegade Priests realized they were at the disadvantage but kept on any way while Carter and Jules pressed their attacks in hope of finishing this quickly. During their conflict Reks energized his brush after Jules kept deflecting and blocking his physical attacks, causing a small explosion every time the bristles came into contact with something. The first one off a table was enough to distract Carter long enough for Terrance to get a decent shot in. He pressed his attack until Carter was able to start defending himself better. He backed up a bit and tossed one of his blades at him. Terrance caught the handle on instinct alone, not realizing what the plan was until the weight of te soul metal caused him to bend down as the sword went to the floor. With the free moment he retrieved a Madou brush from his pocket and threw it in the direction of the other battle, “Jules!”

She caught it and block Reks' brush. Terrance freed his hand in time to be met with a punch to the face. As he staggered back Carter retrieved the fallen blade and reconnected them into the staff. Reks and Jules continued their battle She kicked him in the side then tried to knock the brush out of his hand but he held onto it tight. On the otherside Terrance was getting rocked by Carter. Suddenly Carter saw Jules turn toward them, a grey piece of paper in her free hand. “Move!,” she ordered. He obliged by stepping to the side as she brought her brush toward the slip and brushed swiped it in Terrance's direction. The paper flew out of her hand and formed a metal spike that went through one of the sides of his vest and impaled in the wall , temporarily pinning him there. “He's yours,” she suddenly spoke up. Jules rolled backwards away from Reks as Carter back flipped over her.

“Come on Knight!”, Reks challenged him. Carter obliged by turning around and sweeping the staff low catching him in the knee. Terrance freed himself and was caught by a roundhouse kick by Jules that knocked him out. Reks tried to use his brush like before but he was easily stopped by Carter and the staff. Frustrated after a shot to his side connected he spat, The time of your order is over!” Carter grabbed him by the collar of his coat and threw him across the room.

After he crashed into the wall Carter just told him, “Shut up. Jules.” She waved her hand and brush around a bit then pointed it at Reks who was suddenly wrapped in a binding spell of her own. Now both of them relaxed a bit, at least this part was over. Then another group of Makai Priest and Knights came running into the room. Carter and Jules stood next to each other ready for another round.

A Priest stepped forward with a hand raised, but obviously holding something in the other, “Whoa we're friendly. . Then he opened the hand for them revealing a small, familiar looking sphere. Carter and Jules looked at each other as he continued, “We have a similar companion.”

Jules looked at him and asked, “Alexander?”

He nodded in response, “He contacted me and suggested I round up a group and help out here.” Looking around he shrugged and added, “Looks like we' were late or he was wrong.”

“Let's just call it faishonably late,” Jules told him. “And I'm glad to see you at least.”

“Although I'm wishing he contacted you a bit sooner,” Carter added. Jules elbowed him in the side.

Alexander smirked, “But what the hell is going on? K-Byte just said you needed a hand, but he didn't say what with what.”

“Traitors!,” Reks shouted at the newcomers. “The time of the Knights is over! Our time is coming, the sooner you realize that the better we'll all be in the long run.”

“This nonsense again,” one of the other Priest said as he put a spell on his mouth to quiet them. It still didn't stop Reks from mumbling loudly trying to speak any way. “I thought that was done with.”

“Not with everybody it seems,” another said as he hauled Terrance to his feet and tied his hands together.

Alexander looked back at them, “I can see why K-Byte didn't say anything now, this could have been a bigger mess than what it was. I was really hoping Sigma's whole ordeal was over after Japan.”

“We all did,” Carter said. “But the cracks are still there People like them just try to exploit them when they can.” Alexandar nodded as the group took custody of Reks and Terrance. “But they're not the only ones, there's at least one other, and maybe more. We need to find out before what they're planning is enacted.”

Jules looked at him, “You did hear Vincent then.”

“I did,” he told her.

“Vincent?”, Alaxander looked at the both of them. “I can't believe it.”

“Neither can I,” Jules told him as Reks and Terrance was taken away. “We have to find him at least, he's the one starting whatever the plan is.”

Elsewhere Vincent looked out over the city then at his own Madou brush. With a heavy sigh he simply said, “I”m sorry Reks,” and activated a spell with a heavy heart.

Back at the hideout while Reks was being taken to the door. He suddenly tilted his head back and tried to shout in pain before he dropped to the floor. “What the hell?”, Alaxander cried out as all of the crowded around the fallen Reks.

A Knight looked him over then at the rest of them, “He's dead.”

“What?”, Alexander said as he knelt down and exaimed the body himself. A quick examination revealed a small mark on the back of his neck. Jules gasped a bit as she remembered that piece of paper in she saw in Vincent's hand earlier. That was the spot he patted Reks on then. She suddenly felt a pair of arms around her. Struggling to get free before realizing it was Carter she leaned into him for the support. “Vincent did this,” she said. “he killed him.”

“I'm sorry,” he told her. “Somebody check him,” he added nodding at Terrance. He eagerly accepted the check as he didn't want to die in the same manner. Jules felt Carter's hand explore the back of her neck as well. While she was positive Vincent didn't put that spell on her she was grateful for the check none the less. Satisfied nothing was there and she was safe he walked over to Terrance, who was apparently clear as well. “Where's Vincent?”, he demanded.

“Somewhere you can't get to him in time,” was his answer. And that was all he was going to say from the look of things.

“Downstairs,”Xypher spoke up. “Were I sensed whatever it was. We might find a clue there.” Carter was already heading for the stairs before the pin finished speaking. Jules and the others followed him down. Reaching the room Carter asked him where it was. “Give me a moment, maybe turn around a bit. It was pretty weak like I said.Stop! There, behind that wall.”

Alexander and a couple of other Priests studied the wall Xypher pointed out. “I'm not seeing anything. A way to get in, nothing.”

“Are you looking for a spell or something?”, Xypher asked. They said they were. “When was the last time I mentioned you humans over think things?” Everybody looked at the pin. “Would you use magic to hide something from other magic users?”

“No,” Carter mumbled as he and Jules joined in. she found a spot on the wall, where it looked like it was touched repeatedly. Pressing the spot a panel slide open. A Priest started to walk in but the Horror trapped within tried to jump out at him. Alexander and Jules pulled him back as Carter went in and stabbed it with both blades. In it's weaken state it succumbed easily and blew up. Once Xypher gave the all clear they entered the small room. “I think that explain all those seals we found.”

“I think so to,” Xypher replied. “They wanted to catch a Horror. And they did, but for what I still don't know.”

“It was to get rid of you Knights,” Terrance finally decided to speak up. “I'm not sure how but that what Reks said the plan was. I never knew how it was supposed to work, I still don't.”

Jules and Alexander examened some tubes on the wall where the Horror was. Looking at each needle on the end she muttered, “Were they siphoning it's blood?” They followed the tubes to yet another secret room and found vials of Horror blood inside. As well as a cube like device. She looked at a piece next to it, and flashed back to Vincent trying to cover something similar a few days back when she visited him. Now that she got a closer look at it and the cubed shape device. She had an idea what it was now She looked over to Alexander to confirmed he saw what she did. “This is a spraying device,” she announced to the group. “Iit looks like the vial of Horror blood goes in here and connected to this.”

“Look here,”Alexander said as he studied another table. “Maps of the city. I'm just guessing here but I think theses marks here,” he gestured at the various Xs dotting the maps, “are where these devices are supposed to be placed.”

Looking over his shoulder Jules commented,” And these are office buildings. I use to pass by them when I started patrolling by myself. Assuming these are all buildings.”

“Those devices were going to spray the Horror blood into the air,” Alexander finished for her. “The wind patterns would cause it to cover a extremely wide area. Thousands would be hit by it.”

Carter looked horrified as he thought about the scale of what they were talking about, and he wasn't the only one, “We would have to cut all those people down, that's if a Horror didn't get them first. There's no way we could cover that sort of massacre up.”

Everyone in the room looked at Terrance, who look like he was about to lose his lunch,”N... no. You're wrong. You have to be.The plan was to get rid of the Knights, not infect innocent people with Horror blood. I wouldn't have agreed to this if that was the plan.”

“We all would have had to disappear,” Carter commented. He looked at Jules and Alexander, “Vincent is the activating these devices. He wouldn't do it one by one.”

“No he wouldn't,” Jules agreed turning back to the maps. “Especially now that he knows we'd be looking for him. There has to be a master device that controls the others.” Studying the maps she pointed at one location then looked over at Alexander to see if he agreed, he did. “Here, he would have to be somewhere tall enough for the widest possible coverage for the signal.”

“You guys go,” Alexander told them. “I'll stay here and study the device here. Maybe I can figure out a way to block his signal. It's a long shot but we can't let these things go off.”

“Ill,” Carter began then caught the look Jules was giving him, “we'll confront Vincent. The rest of you cover those other locations. Disable them if we can't stop him.”

“If we're not already too late,” one of the Knights commented.

“Let's not start thinking like that,” Alexander told the group. “This device here, while not loaded is fully functional. It hasn't activated yet so we still have time. Time we're wasting standing around and looking at each other. Get going.” Jules and Carter headed for the other stairway while the rtest tried to look at the map to see where the other devices were located. All praying that they had more time than what they feared.

-----
On they way to Vincent's location Carter contacted K-Byte. There were no cameras on the roof, but he had eyes on the building in question, and a few others since Alexander had called him as well. So they were basically going in blind, at least Alexander hadn't called saying the devices had activated yet. Finding the building unlocked they rushed inside and quickly found a set of stairs heading up. Several long minutes later Carter busted the doorway to the roof wide open.

Both of the scanned the roof until they spotted him standing by another of those device, a vaia in his hand. Looking back at them he said, “The device is armed,” he informed them. “All I have to do is insert this vial. And I've been standing here hesitant the entire time. Funny how you lose some of your resolve once the moment arrives, isn't it? Particularly when the scope of your action finally hits you?”

Both of them hoped that meant the mam they both admired wasn't completely off the deep end yet. Although was quick to realize he wasn't stepping away from the device. “Why?”, he asked. Why do it at all? You had to have realized what would happen if you go through with it. What we'd be forced to do.”

“I fully realized it the moment the idea planted itself in my head,” he answered. He turned back to look out over the city and sighed to himself, “All those people, all that darkness in their hearts. Could you imagine how much easier things would be if they learned to control that darkness? How much of a harder time the Horrors would have to enter our world.”

“It would expose our world and make them afraid of us,” Carter interjected.

“At first,” he conceded. “But I'm sure they would realize that very fear is what leaving them open to the Horrors and learn to control all the dark aspects of humanity.”

“Or it could be Salem all over again,” Jules finally spoke up.

He looked sharply at her, like he was shocked she would even mention it. Finally he went, “Perhaps, But I like to think Humanity hass grown a little sense then. Eventually reason would rule out in the end, eventually.” He didn't sound all that convinced of his own statements.”

“And how long would it take for reason to win out?”, Carter asked him. “We deal with creatures from another dimension. Creature that look like they come from their nightmares.”

“I'm not saying it would be immediate,” he told them. “It would take some time of course, humanity very nature is to be afraid of the unknown after all. Particularly if they let us help then guide them.”

“You're the one,” Jules said, “who's always saying that we have to remind ourselves there is good in humanity as well. What happen there?”

In another confusing reaction Vincent almost seemed proud she asked him that. “Yes I do say that, and I still believe it. But it occurred to me that they needed to be reminded of it too, Have it grow to the point where we won't be needed. Admittedly as dreams go, this one of mine is rather broken. But even broken dreams desevre the chance to flourish and grow sometimes.”

“What about Reks?”, she demanded. “What was his part in all of this? Why did you kill him?”

“That was an example of me cleaning up my own mess,” he said, answering her second question first. “I tried my hardest to make sure the blood of the innocent only stained my hands. However Reks was a little more determined than I thought he would be to get his dirty as well. Feeding victims to the Horror we captured, no matter how he tried to validate it for example.” He looked over at Carter with the saddest expression, “As Jules already surmised I was the one who killed Morgan's family. So if you must hate anyone, let it be me.”

“And this nonsense about reigniting the rifts between Knights and Priests?”, he asked, barely able to control his anger over the situation.

“A distraction,” he simply answered, “To keep you from discovering the true goal. I told you as much when you first received the assignment. I did tell you the truth though, when I said when Reks' attitude toward Sigma became known to me. It was surprising and I have no idea where it came from. But it did give me an opportunity that I was lacking at the time to jump start this endeavor.

“So you just used him,” Jules spat at him in total disgust. “Like some pawn in this sick plan of yours.”

“Yes, well I guess there really no other way to describe it is there?”, Vincent attempted a small smile that faded quickly. “Despite how he felt there's no doubt in my mind that if he knew my true plan He'd be right here beside the two of you trying to stop me.” He looked at the vial in his hand, giving the two of them another brief glimpse of hope that he was coming to his senses. “Once, I insert this there won't be a countdown. It'll activate immediately, So the two of you may want to head inside before I do.”

“You'll be covered with it as well,” Carter pointed out. “If it's as immediate as you say you won't be able to get to cover.”

“I don't think he planned to,” Xypher finally spoke up.

“That is quite right,”Vincent confirmed the pin's thoughts. “I thought it was a fitting penance to the deaths I have caused and the chaos that's about to happen. It would be much more appropriate than anything the Watchdogs or Senate would have handed down. So I did think everything through you see.”

“Not everything,” Carter told him as he and Jules each took a fighting stance.

Vincent took one as well, he wasn't going to just surrender from the look of things. “I knew there would be resistance,” he said. “Actually I'm glad it ended up being the two of you believe it or not. I doubt any one else would have let me get that off my chest, or give any others the opportunity to find the other devices,” here he did smirk right before he ran at them.

Carter was ready for it, blocking his initial strike. Despite being older Vincent was holding his own deflecting his counterattacks with ease, even more so once Jules joined in. Having trained her made it possible to guess what she was going to do at least. Carter was the other story, having known him since he was just a trainee, before he became associated with the previous Rook, so he had a few different techniques he had melded together from over the years, but there was at least enough of one he was able to try and predicte what he was going to do as well. But it wasn't easy in either case.

Given the basics of the Makai fighting arts he wasn't surprised at how well they were melding together. Given the time to learn how the other moved in combat he two of them would make a most magnificent duo. If given time., time he couldn't give either of them, since one of them is going to realize he was still clutching the vial. And they weren't going to just let him to carry out his plan, so he had to end this budding partnership. Grabbing his Madou brush he aimed a strike at Jules, if something happened to her Carter may get angry enough to make a mistake.

Jules was caught by surprised, seemingly frozen by the tactic. It didn't connect as Carter quickly put the staff in it's way. A determined look on his face said he knew what the intent was. Pushing him away it looked like he was ready to draw the blades but hesitated in the moment. An opening Vincent gladly took advantage of. Getting between the two he altered his initial plan a bit. Both of them were taken off guard by this particular tactic and were easily separated by him. With a little more room he forced Jules back and knocked Carter to the ground. Holding up his brush he faced her and did a quick motion to fire off a magical blast. Carter forced himself to his feet while he was doing so and quickly got between the two of them, taking the blast. Vincent kept the magical attack up forcing the Makai Knight to the edge of the roof. “No!”, Jules called out as she realized what was happening. A heavy heart and one last blast knocked him off completely. Jules reached out to him vain, “CARTER!”

Falling he ignored the pain from the blasts and was able to get enough contact with the building to kick off and flip around enough to face the building. Seperating the staff he plunged both blades into it. Creating duel grooves as he continued his downward plunge. His foot hit a flag pole, causing a sudden halt to his decent. Keeping the blades in the wall he was able to get his other foot on the pole and looked around quickly. Outside of a few other flagpoles to his left and right he wasn't seeing an immediate way out of this situation. “How are we getting out of this one?”, Xypher asked, sounding a bit afraid.

“I'm working on it,” Carter said. Looking down he figured if he summoned the armor at the right time he could survive the drop. The problem with that was that was going the wrong direction. He had to go up.

Jules had Vincent on the retreat after he blasted Carter off the roof. But every time she was close to finishing it he was able to foil her attempt. If he was playing with her that was making her angrier. Part of her realized that might have been what she wanted. But at the moment it was hard to listen to that part of her head. The rage was so great at one point she charged right at him. He sidestepped the attempted attack easy ily enough. And she stopped herself ust in time. But in the brief moment she looked over the edge she saw Carter sticking to the side of the building somehow, he wasn't dead. The sight of him was able to calm her rage enough that she was able to think a little easier. A plan quickly formed, she just needed to be able to pull it off.

Facing Vincent again she went at him, but a bit more under control than she had been. Something that seemed to catch her former mentor off guard. That part was right he wanted her angry, this realization gave that part of her a stronger voice in her thoughts. Keeping her movements as flueid as they have been when she wasn't fighting on a emotional level she knocked him back, far enough that she was able to reach into her coat and pull out several slips of silver paper. Channeling her magic through the brush she touched the bristles to them, turn around quickly and swiped the end over them. The papers flew out of her hand, forming metal spikes in the air. Usually she let them fly off this time she kept the brush pointed at them. They went so far before Jules swung her arm down causing the spikes to reverse direction and fly a downwards angle. Below Carter looked up as the spikes embedded themselves into the building above him.

Studying where they landed Carter bounced on the flagpole a bit, just to see how much flex it had. Adjusting his positioning a bit he bounced a little harder. Getting to the point where he felt he had to do it Carter pulled the blades from the building and jumped up to the closest spike. A second before he landed on it he located the next closest one and jumped for that one as soon as he landed on the first one and repeated the process.

Back on the roof Jules kept Vincent busy while hoping Carter was able to figure out her intent. Suddenly he mentor backed away. And produced a small flame from some sort of device from up his sleeve, one she'd never knew existed before now. Bringing his brush to it he quickly pulled it away, the flame following the brush, He spun around with a fire trail following the path of the brush. Holding it over his head, Vincent planted his feet then brought the brush down, pointing it directly at her. Jules saw it coming and quickly lowered herself out of the way by doing a split as the fire flew over her head. Behind her Carter came into view, reacting in time to knock the magical blast out of the way with one blade and tossing the other. Vincent dodged the apparent attack on instinct alone before he realized exactly how far it was away from him. He watched it sail pass and pierce the device behind him.

Looking at it spark he heard Carter land on the roof behind him. Vincent knew that it was over, still it didn't stop him from suddenly running toward the stairway entrance. Startled for a brief moment the two of them gave chase, with Carter going to retrieve his other blade first before altering his course to follow. Vincent raced down the stairs as fast as he could, only occasionally firing off a magical blast in their direction to try to slow them down, if even for a second. The chase continued the entire length of the stair well until Vincent barged through the door leading to the main lobby. A few moments later Carter rammed the door open with a shoulder stopping only long enough to locate the fleeing Makai Priest. Jules spotted the still closing door first, “There,” and lead the way after him. Once outside Vincent ran toward a slightly wooded area near the building, which might have given him the opportunity to escape fully if he tried.

If he tried that is. Vincent didn't go very far before he stopped, looking up at the night sky through the trees. Carter and Jules both stopped wary for a trap of any kind. Vincent kept looking at the night sky. Finally he said, “When I was younger you could see so much in the night sky, before I relocated to the city. I always was a bit disappointed in that.”

“Vincent,”Jules said taking a cautious step forward. “It's over, just stop fighting and come with us.”

Looking over at her and smiling he went on. “There's so much I should have taught you but didn't because I was afraid it might currupt you. So much forgotten magic and spells that's going to die with me.”

“Nobody said anything about dying,” Carter quickly interjected.

He's right,” Jules quickly agreed. “Nobody else needs to die over this.”

“While I appreciate the optimism,” Vincent told them, “I already came to terms over it once I set down this particular path.” With a thumb he popped the top of the vial and jerked his hand up. Both of them backed up as a huge drop of Horror blood flew up into the air. Vincent stayed where he was watching as it reached the apex of it's acent before falling back toward the Earth. Carter and Jules looked on horrified as the drop hit him in the forefead. The splotch stayed there for a moment before absorbing into his skin. After it was gone he rubbed the spot as he looked at them.

“Why?”, Jules was able to choke out.

“Like I said, it's a more fitting punishment than what anyone else could come up with.” Looking sad he added, “Although I do wish it wasn't the two of you. Outside of the extra hurt it'll cause, nobody else is likely to hesitate. Although,” he mumbled looking thoughtful, “maybe if I gave the proper incentive.”

“You know the law,” Carter told him. “What other incentive do you think we need.”

“And yet I can hear the hesitation in your voice, imaginary or not.” With that he brought his brush up the the remaining bit of Horror blood in the vial and cast a quick, old spell before spilling the contents on the ground in front of him. The ground started to shake as something started to emerge A huge rock like Horror made it's way free. “It's bigger than I was expecting. I can see why it was never used much now. A hint for the future Jules. Make sure you studying everything about a spell before using it for the first time. Of course I'm pretty sure I already taught you that lesson now that I think about it. I should listen to myself more it seems.”

“Xypher?”, Carter went as the monstrosity continued to free itself.

I got no idea what he did,” the pin answered. “This is totally new to me.”

At least twenty feet tall The rock like Horror pulled a leg out of the ground. It looked briefly down at Vincent before turning it's gaze toward the two of them. Carter was already on the attack, charging the creature the moment it turned toward them. Jules started attacking as well trying to get it's attention long enough to give Carter a bigger opening. Jumping up he landed on it's forearm and started slicing away, he was only able to knock off small chunks, maybe some dime size at a time. Carter had to jump off as it reached for him with it's other hand. Vincent held back watching the fight, waiting.

The Horror tried to smash Jules with an open palm but she had already gotten out of the way. But it gave Carter a chance to jump on top of it's shoulder and try to plunge his blades into it's head. It shook him off as soon as the tips of the soul metal slid away when they made contact. Rolling to his feet as soon as he hit the ground he looked up in time to see it raise a fist to try and smash him. Several spikes suddenly embedded in it's face stopped that attempt. While it clawed at it's face to get the spikes out Carter connected the blades to form the double bladed staff and spin it over his head.

From the glowing circle above him red armor flew down and covered him and he took on a fighting stance for a renewed attack. Jumping at the rock creature he was quickly batted away out of the air. Quickly getting to his feet he ran at the creature again. The Creature made a movement with it's arms and the ground started to shake again. Boulder size protusion came out of the ground, one even knocking Rook to the ground as one came up under his foot suddenly. Rolling out of the way as a foot tried to stomp him he came up with his Madou Lighter in his other hand. He had to activate Blazing Armament, it was his only chance that he could see. But before he could ignite it Vincent blasted it out of his hand. Rook took his eyes from where it landed to the rock creature to see what it was going to do.

Jules on the other hand saw exactly where it landed and ran for it, while trying to keep an eye on both the creature and Vincent. Rook ran in at the creature swing his sword at it's shin, much like before he barely did any damage. Vincent saw where Jules was heading and sent a blast her way. She dropped down and slid, grabbing the lighter along the way and running off in a different direction. Rook jumped up over a grab attempt and made a huge gash in it's face. Landing on one of the boulders he started to jump off again but something was holding him in place, looking down he saw he was sinking into it, No matter how hard he tried he kept sinking, in fact he seemed to be sinking in faster the harder he struggled. Jules saw what was happening and blasted the stone, but to no avail. Looking at the lighter in her hand she ignited it. The blue flame danced briefly as she brought her brush to the brush to it. Instead of using it like she usually would she aimed the flame toward Rook, or at leeast his head and sword since that was the only parts of him still showing as he continued sinking.

She mumbled, “Please let this work,” before firing off the Madou flame. It hit the blade of the sword as it sunk fully into the stone. After a few tense moments the boulder started to vibrate a bit. Then it violently erupted as Rook shot up in a blue flame. Bringing the doubled bladed sword over his head. With a grunt he swung with all he had, the creature got it's hand in the way to try and stop him. The flaming blade cut through it easily. The creature recoiled and made some sort of sound that might have been a scream if it was organic. Running at it again Rook leaped at it low slicing through a thigh as he passed. Outside of the gash now in it's leg it hardly seemed affected at all. Forming a new plan he ran at the creature again, but just stopping short. He stayed in one place long enough for it to get a bead on him. It started to grab at him again and he jumped up enough to launch himself off it's arm. He swung the staff in the air making an arc of blue flame in the air. The he swung with the other end to make a big curving x. Shouting and using the momentum of the swing to spin around and punch the center of the X. It flew at the creature and the flame went through it. Halting in it's movments then it and the surrounding boulders started to crumble, Rook landed on the ground amogst the falling debris and saw Vincent and charged.

Vincent saw this and ran away but Rook kept up his pursuit. In one last bid to stall him Vincent turned and fired one last blast. Rook jumped over it easily. Armor flying off of him and back into the circle that reappeared above him Carter flew toward him with his sword pulled back to strike. Once he was close enough he plunged the tip of the blade forward. Vincent gasped as the blade pierced him. The two of them stood there for a moment, the burning of the soul metal the only thing telling Vincent he was still alive. He looked down, if the survival instinct all living creatures had didn't kick in at the last second that would have pierced his heart, a kill shot if there ever was one. Vincent looked Carter in the eyes with the moments he had left, there was no joy in them, just sadness. Despite the situation Vincent started to smile, “A man... man of.... justice.”

“Damn you,” Carter whispered before pulling his sword out and swinging it around, cutting him down and ending his life. He looked over to see Jules with a hand to her mouth. Without a word he pulled the sword apart and reformed the staff, replacing it to the holder in his coat. Taking a moment to look at the fallen Priest he headed over to her. Together they left the area.

-----
They were inside his home when she finally said anything, “Why didn't he just surrender? Why mark himself with Horror blood?”

He took her coatand hung it over a chair before answering, “I wish I knew. But he was prepared to end it this way, it didn't matter if we agreed with it or not.” She said nothing so he didn't push it. Carter went into his den and put Xypher on his stand before returning to her. Jules was already on the steps leading to the second floor but wasn't past the second one.

He started to join her when she spoke up, “Carter I know this is usually counter to what I usually want you to do, but...”

Putting a hand on her shoulder he said, “I'll stay down here.” she gripped that hand looking grateful before heading up without another word. Carter watched her enter his bedroom before finally removing his jacket.

-----
The next morning Carter woke up on the couch in the hallway. Strecthing out some of the kinks he headed toward the den automatically without looking around.”Carter,” he heard the pin call out from it's spot. “Jules hasn't walk by yet,” hearing this he looked at the chair that where put her coat, it was still there.” He looked up at the stairs as the pin went on, “I'm pretty sure she's still up there.” Not wasting a moment he hurried up the steps and headed for his bedroom door. He knocked on it lightly before testing the dsoorknob. The door swung opening and he saw her all balled up in the bed.

He started to close the door when he heard her say, “Carter.” She was looking at him. He came in and knelt down beside the bed.

“How are you feeling?”, he asked, realizing how dumb that question was as soon as he said it.

“What's going to happen now?”, she asked him.

He reached out to rub her cheek, he was thankful she didn't pull away. He told her, “I don't know.” he smiled at her softly, But we'll figure it out together.” There was a loud knock at the front door, surprising both of them. Although at the moment Carter was more annoyed than anything. “I'll go check it out,” he told her.

She didn't argue as he left the room. The knocking continued, harder this time, as he made his way down the stairs. Glancing over at his staff he made sure it was in reach before opening the door and was greeted by the sight of two Makai Priests, who he was almost sure arrived with Alexander the night before. Sill he glanced at his staff before going, “Can I help you?”

The gruffer looking of the two barged past him saying, We've come for the suspect.”

“What suspect?”, he demanded. The gruffer one went further into his home before Carter reached out and pulled him back, “Answer some questions before wandering a man's home.”

The other one quickly interjected himself, “Our apologies Double Bladed Knight, but the Watchdogs want to question Jules about what she knew about Vincent's plans.”

“That doesn't mean she's a suspect,”Carter informed them.

“Doesn't mean she's not either,” the gruff one countered.

The other one interjected again, “Don't mind Walter here he has a guilty until proven innocent mentality. They just want to see if she remembered hearing or seeing something to give any sort of indication of how long he'd been planning what he was.”

“I'm not sure what I know but whatever I can do to help,” Jules said as she walked down the stairs. Walter looked like he was going to go up there to meet her, if Carter wasn't standing in his way and the other one was holding him back. She ignored those two and focused her attention on Carter, “We both had to know this was going to happen on some level. It's better to do it now and get it out of the way, right.” Carter handed her her jacket. She gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “Just a small bump on the road to figuring things out right?” Looking at the other two Priest she said, “Let's go.” they both parted to let her pass, although Walter gave her a hard shove toward the door when she did. His partner protested but Walter found himself slammed to the wall with a serious looking Carter pinning him against it.

Walter started to protest but Carter cut him off, “I know what condition she's in as of right now. If I find out she doesn't arrive to wherever you're taking in her in this condition there will be nowhere you can hide.”

Walter tried to look defiant but was faultering under the look the Makai Knight was giving him. He did get out a “Are you threatening me Knight?”

Leaning forward a bit more Carter answered, “I'm promising.”

Jules protested for the Priest, “Carter, don't.”

His partner said, “Nothing is going to happen to her. You have my word.” Carter glanced over at him before finally letting the other one off the wall. Walter looked like he was going to say something but the other one stopped him, “Stop it before you make things worse.” To Carter he repeated, “You have my word.” Jules looked at him one last time before heading out with the other two in tow. Carter stood in the doorway and watched them go down the path.

-----
Standing in the middle of the street Carter looked around for any sign of a Horror. In the six months since Vincent tried to reveal their world in the absolute worst way possible, things had more or less returned to normal in the Order. While Vincent, Reks and Terrance were the only ones in that particular group a few others tried to take up splitting the order. Half a year and they still didn't know what really happened, half a year since he'd last seen her. The Watchdog did reveal that they did summon her for questioning they wouldn't reveal exactly where she was or for how long. So he just waited, for six months. Apparently her sphere being delivered to Alexander who gave it back to K-Byte.

He stopped sensing someone behind him. He looked and felt his heart skip a beat. Jules looked at him with a slight smile and waved. “Long time,” she said.

“Yes it has,” he agreed as he stepped closer to her.

“You couldn't call?” Xypher went. “Do you have any idea how worried he got?” Jules stepped in and gave the pin a light tap on the forehead before he could flick it. Xypher grunted, “I'll take that from what I usually get from him.”

“The questioning didn't take that long,” she looked down at the street, “I needed to figure some things out first before I saw you again.”

“Have you?” Carter asked.

“I wouldn't be here if I didn't,” she told him. “And I better say it now before I lose my nerve.” That statement concerned him even while she looked at himand took hold of his hands. “Marry me,” she ended up saying. Caught off guard Carter couldn't say anything. Jules didn't take his silence as a rejection. “Granted it's probably better not to follow any advice Vincent gave me but he did tell me if I knew what I wanted I should grab it before it got away from me. And I want you in my life, forever.” She looked down again then back at him,”Well Carter, will you marry me?”

Carter knew his answer, he just couldn't get his voice to work. Before he could his head turned at a scream that sounded close. “I'm sensing a Horror,” Xypher said as he ran off.

“That Horror has lousy timing,” Jules said as she raced after him. Going down the various side allys they found what theyt were looking for. A Horror stalking a young woman. It snarled right before Carter nailed it with a jumping kick to the back. The young woman didn't need any other incentive to run for her life out of thereas Carter backed it off with the staff. She bumped into Jules who quickly directed her in the right direction, “That way, go!” Once she was gone Jules put a red slip of paper on the ground and ran her brush over it activating the spell. “Barrier's up, it's not getting out this way.”

Carter stepped away from the Horror and stood straight, “Makai Priestess Jules.” she was caught offguard by his sudden use of her formal title. “If I defeat this Horror,” He turned his head to look at her, “the answer is yes.” It took a moment but she started grinning when she got what he meant. Facing the Horror he separated the staff and ran in jumping at the Horror.


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ED – Shaman Harvest – Broken Dreams
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Old July 13th, 2019, 08:41 PM #5
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scikaiju
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382



A/N - okay this story is seperate from the mini I just posted. I could have made a separate thrlike I did with movies for Fusion and DekaOps for it but I didn't want to press my luck. Considering It's going to be awhile before I get a proper like seeries for Rook and co. so I'll keep them in one thread for no. So please enjoy the following story. Makai Gaiden: Rook - The Bride of Sorrow
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A panic stricken man was trying to run for his life. But everywhere he looked things looked like giant tarot cards, even the floor and ceiling. Every time he thought he might have found a way out one of those cards slid down and he slammed into it. Before too long his eyes started playing tricks on him,making it look like the room was shifting in certain areas. Almost it was trying to draw him in. Then it looked like the wall were starting to close in on him. With fear quickly taking over he realized that it was. He squatted and covered his head, squeezing his eyes as tight as they could get. “This can't be happening,” he said over and over.

“Oh but it is,” a male voice told him. He looked up and saw who it belonged to and shouted in terror.

As the echoes of the shout died down the space faded to look like a multi story loft, one that looked like a soul hasn't lived in it for years but a loft none the less. Which suited it's current occupants just fine. One the ground level, sitting on the floor was a woman dressed primarily in a white dress, something similar one would see in a ballet or ballroom but a little more ragged, with her dark hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, sat on the floor lazily flipping tarot style cards over on an old beat up coffee table. Above her relaxing and balancing on a thin wooden guard rail, was her male companion. Dressed in a dark blue suit with a black shirt he stared at the ceiling. “Be glad you didn't get to him first,” he told her while picking at his teeth with a fingernail. “I'm pretty sure he was mostly gristle and really stringy.” Stretching, although it looked like an impossible task to any one watching, at least without falling off in either direction. He added, “He was deeply disappointing. I wouldn't even feed a dog the scrapes. If I left any.”

The woman continued to silently flip over the cards.one by one. Until something grabbed her attention. “Maybe this one would be better suited to your tastes,” He looked down as she lifted up the card she just revealed. “Another Makai Knight.”

“I hope this one's more entertaining than the last two,” he scoffed. “An old man and you're old boy friend. I was almost too embarassed to take a trophy the two of them where so pathetic.” Swinging around so he was sitting with his legs dangling he asked, “Is he close by? Maybe we could scout him out.”

“He's not in this part of the city,” she informed him while flipping over even more cards, “On an assignment. There's a fight.”

“Of course there is,” he said as, almost sounding bored of it all he resumed his previous position. “When isn't there one.”

She continued as if he said nothing. “He gets marked.” One last card made her pause and tilted her head a bit, “He's the son of the one from before.”

“Now that is interesting,” he commented returning to a seated position. “Looking to avenge dear old daddy. It'll be a diversion at any rate.”

***
In a sparsely inhabited part of the city stood a house. Nothing about it seemed out of place to any other dwelling in the city. Anyone passing by on the street wouldn't pay it any extra attention, which was how the owner of this particular establishment preferred it. Some of their usual guests didn't want to be stared at or talked about as they entered or exited. In fact you had to be part of a very specific circle of individuals, or know where to look or who to talk to, to even know this particular place existed. It wasn't a secret society as most would think of it, the modern world knew people like this existed, now more than ever. But it was still frowned upon in some circles.

Despite knowing this a young couple walked up the walk to the front door. The female of the two, a blond haired woman. Knocked on the door. It opened to let her and her also blond male companion enter. The door quickly closed behind them. Inside they found a relatively normal looking living room, outside of how some of the women lounging around or walking across to a different room were dressed. With some soft music playing in the background a new woman appeared behind what was probably a kitchen counter, based on what the couple could see behind her. “Greetings,” she addressed the couple and beckoned them closer. “I take it this is your first visit to this type of establishment?”

The young female again took the lead, almost pulling her companion with her. “Ah, yes. You're website said you accepted walk-ins.”

“Yes we do,” she answered. “Fortunately for you this seems to be a slow night.” At this the male started glancing at the other people in the room, particularly the doorman who let them in. “I'm sorry my manners are just atrocious right now. Welcome to The Dungeon, I'm Lady Daphne, owner and operator of this particular endeavor of pleasure. Now are the two of you looking for anything in particular this evening?”

The woman looked around nervously, as if she was suddenly unsure if this was a good idea after all. Lady Daphne, being used to this, just smiled in a reassuring way, waiting for them to be a bit more comfortable with the situation. “You see, I recently found out my fiance here,” she gestured to her companion, “has a particular set of interests.And I thought, before we got married I'd treat him a bit and let him indulge this particular fantasy of his.”

“Wonderful,” Lady Daphne exclaimed. “You're fiance is lucky to have somebody as open minded as you. Not a lot of future wives, or husbands for that matter, would be.” Turning to the male she asked, “So what are we into? Just so I can set you up with the appropriate employee to give you a wonderful first experience. Maybe your fiance would like to join you in the session.”

“Oh no,” the female quickly said. “I respect what he's into. But I don'y want to join in.”

“Perfectly understandable my dear,” the head of this particular household told her. “Stepping outside your comfort zone is always hard at first. Even if it's in our comfort zone and you're in a group of like minded individuals, can be hard for the first time.” She adressed this to more the male sensing some trepidation from him since he kept looking around.

Realizing he was being spoken to he said. “It doesn't make it less nerve wreaking.”

“Now honey, “ the woman said. “Relax and enjoy yourself. Just not too much.”

He grunted and glanced around the room again. His eyes seemingly going back to one of the women in the room in particular. A small, thin looking woman who glanced back every so often. “Honestly I'm not really sure. I've had these needs for a while now, I'm just not sure how to enact on them,”

The woman he kept eyeing stepped forward, an act that made Lady Daphne nervous for some reason. She smiled sweetly and said, “I don't mean to overstep my bounds my Lady but I couldn't help but overhear and it sounds like he may need a more experience hand to lead him on this particular journey.”

“Yes,” Lady Daphne slowly said. The two women just looked at each other intently, the young couple unaware of what was transpiring in front of them. Eventually Lady Daphne back down from the private conflict. “Again my manners, I may have to have a session with one of our tops before too long to set myself straight. This young lady here is Persephone, she's one of our top switches.”

“Pardon me,” the female spoke up,” but 'switches'?”

Lady Daphne smiled again, but it wasn't as bright this time, “Basically it means she can act as either a top or a bottom. And she's right, she would be the perfect person to help your fiance here to explore this fantasy of his. How long of a session would you like for tonight?” A quick conference between the two helped finalized the details. Persephone took the man, who declined to remove his long coat for the moment, and led him to another room.

Looking a bit more nervous than before, the woman watched them go down a hallway. Turning back to Lady Daphne she went, “”I know you website said nothing sexual goes down here but is that really true?”

“Of course it is my dear,” Lady Daphne assured her as she stepped around the counter and pointed out some chairs she could sit in, making sure to make eye contact with the other women in the room to get them to back down a bit, something the young woman seemed to miss. Lady Daphne continued with the regular spiel she went to in these situation, “Despite what some people think, or want you to believe, we're not hookers with whips. Now try to relax, would you like something to drink?”

***
Persephone lead him to a room, that looked like a school room of some sort. Walking in a little further he looked around a bit before turning to her with a confused look on his face. “It's a popular fantasy.” she informed him as she closed the door. “The naughty student and the stern teacher.” She came a little closer as he continued to examine the room in detail, “Or any variation there of. If it's not yours we can make do with what's available at hand, room jumping is frowned upon by Lady Daphne, even on a dead night like tonight. So what is your wish, you hidden desire?”, she put a hand on his shoulder.

Now the man stopped wondering around, something about him changed a bit. She wasn't afraid of it. It wouldn't be the first time a client tried to act tougher than he usually was with her. Eventually he said, “Let's start with something simple.” Turning a bit to face her he held out a hand, holding something that looked like a lighter of some sort. “Look at this,” igniting it a blue flame came to life, flickering in the air. She stared at it, transfixed for the moment. Her pupils went pale as strange ancient letters floated in them.

***
In the living room Jules tried to continue as if she didn't notice every other woman in the room was trying to look like they weren't looking at her, particular Lady Daphne who was taking up position behind her. Leaving the offered drink untouched for the moment, she was positive a little something extra was added to it. So she leafed through one of the pamphlets on the table beside her. Trying to be at least conversational she didn't look up while saying, “You offer couple classes? I saw it on the site but I still don't believe it.”

“Yes,” Lady Daphne replied. “I've found it's a good way for the couples involved to get a better understanding of each other. Especially when one doesn't have the particular set of desires of the other. We have one starting in a few weeks if you and your fiance would like to sign up.”

“Maybe after I look into this particular lifestyle a little more. I'm still not sure about it.” She looked up and saw the other women still trying to look like they weren't looking in their direction. She added, “Joining in on it I mean, no offense.”

Before anyone could respond something that sounded like a crash made everybody look at the hallway. Lady Daphne looked at the doorman and motioned for him to investigate. Before he got too far her fiance was sent flying back into the living room. Getting to his feet and pushing the doorman away he looked back down the hall. A second later Persephone came charging at him. Spinning in place his foot came around and caught her in the head, knocking her to the side. The other women present started screaming at the seen and almost trampled over each other trying to get away.

Persephone knelt on the ground, snarling at him. Then she grabbed the doorman and hurled him at her opponent. He caught the man, tried and succeeded in not falling back from the added weight then tossed the doorman aside. Persephone gave a unearthly scream at him before changing direction and breaking down the front door to get away. He didn't hesitate to chase after her,

Still sitting in the chair Jules lowered her head and started rubbing the bridge of her nose, “Damn it Carter.” This was a mess she was probably going to have to clean up for him. This had better not become a regular habit with him after they were married. Realizing she had to say something since Lady Daphne was still there she thought fast. “I.. uh... guess he liked it a little rougher than I originally thought.” Then she felt an arm around her neck and struggled to free herself as she was pulled off the chair.

***
Chasing the horror possessed woman down the street Carter dodged or jumped over any obstscle she threw in his way. This Horror was faster than the body it possessed looked considering the shoes she was wearing. She turned a corner down a side street that a sign claimed was a dead end, and the horror probably knew the area better than he did. Still he charged forward, not even thinking about slowing down as he took the same corner and kept going.

Once down this particular street he did slow down a bit, suirrounded by the brick walls of the other buildings and no apparent way out beside the way he just came he discovered he was alone. Looking up at the roofs he didn't see her, and there was no place that he could see that she could hide. Carter was about to ask the pin on the left side of his coat if he could still detect it. Then he heard a scream from above and a tinny male voice cried out, “Carter move!” Quickly getting out of the way he turned around when he heard her hit the ground. She looked at him and snarled before pouncing at him. Carter was ready catching her and throwing her into one of the walls. She crashed hard against it and he went on the attack

She staggered against his punches. Somehow she started fighting back, first blocking his strikes then connecting with some of her own. On the defense Carter did his best to minimize the damage she could cause. The horror was also stronger than the woman looked as well. She grabbed at him so he ducked and ran passed her. Jumping up he planted a foot on the wall a behind her and kicked off, spinning around with a roundhouse kick that landed with a solid crack against her head. The woman went to the ground but was still moving. Carter took that moment to reach inside his coat and pulled out a black staff with gold looking inlay at the ends and the middle. Raising it up he tried to smash it down on the woman's head but she had already moved so all he got was the pavement under his feet.

She got up and Carter pressed his attack, striking with the staff almost at will. Then she grabbed the other end of the staff mid swing, and with a grunt swung him around and let go. Landing with a bone shaking thud. Carter rolled with the momentum of the impact to get to an unsteady knee. That shook him up more than he wanted to reveal at that particular moment. The woman tilted her head back and screamed as the horror revealed it's true self. Black leather like wrappings covered her entire body, it's eyes and mouth replaced by a closed zipper looking thing. The horror came at him again. He block the first swipe at his head with the staff. Then it reached in with the other hand and grabbed him by the shirt and threw him with all she had into the other wall.

Trying to regain his senses as fast as he could Carter gripped the other end of the staff and pulled, revealing the hidden blades that were inside. In response the Horror's wrapping seemed to come undone as a whip like object uncoiled from her forearms. She snapped them a bit before moving in his direction. Carter did his best to avoid the whips, the only real protection he had outside of his blades was the magical seal on his coat but that didn't cover everything, as proven when a end got through his defenses and hit his cheek, snapping his head around. His hand went to it on instinct he pulled it away to see some blood on the back of his fingers. The Horror seemed to enjoy the damaged she caused by the way she was moving. Ignoring the stinging feeling on his cheek he twirled the dual blades in his hands for a bit before resetting into a new defensive stance.

The Horror started moving her arms around again snapping those whips at him. Thinking he had her attack figured out he ran into the whips swinging his blades to deflrct what he could, A quick snap kick knocked the Horrors head back since it wasn't expecting his sudden aggression. A few slashes from his blades caused her to retreat a bit. With the extra space she altered her strategy and started attacking with her legs as well. Carter found himself back on the defense thanks to the added limbs, then she started jumping around, trying yo attack him from different angles. The attacks were coming at him so fast he could barely keep up. Then the her foot caught the side of his head knocking him around. Momentarily stunned he felt one of those whip wrap around tightly around his throat. Instead of struggling his first instinct was to to try and cut it with one of the blades. The Horror was expecting this as the other one wrapped itself around one of his wrists as he tried to get the blade into position.

Feeling her trying to pull him back towards her he put up a fight to stay where he was. Feeling the whips tighten the more he fought against them he twirled the blades again until he had a reverse grip on them. With some effort he was able to connect them into the double bladed staff. Realizing what he was thinking of the Horror pulled tighter. With one last pull against her Carter held his weapon out in front of him and spun it once, cutting a circle of light in front of him. Then he jumped backwards using the Horror's own pull to get a bit more distance. Flipping over it he quickly aimed and hurled the double bladed staff like a javelin through the circle. He landed behind the Horror as it pierced the ground on the other side, already in it's transformed state. The interior of the circle began glowing once it pierced the it. Still kneeling Carter slightly nodded his head. Red pieces of armor flew out of the circle hitting the Horror as they passed and covered Carter. The blows caused her to release the whips grip on him to try and protect herself. She looked back to see a the unblinking blue eyes of a wolf like helmet stare back at her. A slight growl seemed to fill the air briefly before he charged forward.

Slowing down a bit as he got closer to bat the whips away he continued toward the Horror who started to back. She looked back to double check where the staff was and he saw his chance grabbing the closest arm and pulled her in to land a solid knee to her gut. Stumbling back she waved an arm wildly . Getting his left arm up it wrapped around his wrist again, but this times he reached out with his right to get a grip on the whip and pulled. A quick scramble allowed the Horror to reposition herself in order to stop from being pulled forward. They struggled in a deadly game of tug of war before the Horror jumped at him. Stumbling back from the sudden lack of tension he was caught with a knee to the face as she past. On the ground she started whipping him again, sparks flying off the armor. She kept wailing away trying to keep him down more than trying to hurt him. Again Carter grabbed one of the whips and pulled her forward, giving him the opportunity to get to his feet.

Seeing her getting ready to pull again, he gave her a taste of her own medicine by letting go. She took a few unsteady steps back as he charged, connecting with a straight elbow strike to the head. Dazed the Horror didn't have any chance to protect herself as he started throwing punches, knees and kicks at her. Grabbing her by the neck he ran toward the bladed staff still in the ground. Once close enough he grunted and swung her over head, making sure she was impaled on the other end. Stepping back the Horror exploded as it hung there, now sealed inside the blade for the moment.

Pulling the staff free the armor returned to the circle that appeared above him momentarily. Hand going to his still bleeding cheek he just looked at the blood before seperating the weapon and returning it to it's staff form. On his chest the Gothic looking pin spoke up, “That was the only Horror I detected back there, it should be clean, more or less. Who knows what goes on in those rooms,” it added when Carter looked down at it.

“Not our business Xypher,” he told him.

“But how didn't anyone else back there not know what was going on?”, he went on. “Someone had to have notice that clients were disappearing from back there. Maybe even the other workers.”

“The Horror had help,” Carter mused, thinking it over. “Somebody, or the... entire... group...,” he trailed off as a thought occurred to him, “Jules.” Without another word he ran out of there and back to the house.

Reaching it he stopped in what was left of the doorway and looked inside fearing the worst. But there she was sitting cross legged on the counter, examining a riding crop in her hands. She looked up seeing him and smiled, “Hi honey.”

Carter lowered his head as he leaned against the door jam. Forcing himself to calm down he looked back up before entering the room, “What happened?”

“The madam or what ever you'd call here was in league with the Horror. After the two of you left after putting on the impromptu show she went after me saying 'we killed her, we killed them all', that sort of thing. After all the other ladies ran for the hills I was able to knock her out and put her in,” she pointed the crop at another door in the room, “the toy room I think they call it. I thought about tying her up but I figured she might enjoy it when she came to.” Jules then saw the wound on his cheek. She hopped off the counter and walked toward him. Reaching inside her coat she retrieved a handkerchief that she started dabbing against his wound, making him wince a little from the renewed stinging sensation. “I swear I don't know what you did before I came into your life. Are you okay?”

“I'm fine, it's just a scratch,” he told her. “I'm pretty sure it already stopped bleeding.”

“Uh-huh,” she commented as she pulled the handkerchief away and looked at the small bits of his blood staining it. “I don't think it's going to leave a scar so nothing majorly or magically medical is going to be needed.” She continued to dab at the wound. “So how long did it take for you to come rushing to my rescue?

“I knew you could handle anything here. So there was no need to worry,” he said.

“Lair,” Xypher quipped. Carter quickly flicked him in response.

Still Jules smiled at her future husband,”Nice try, but I do appreciate the thought. Just remember the...”

“Handle everything part,” he finished for her. Jules finally stopped messing with the wound, satisfied it wasn't going to bleed any more. “We better report this to the Watchdogs, and let them know some witnesses got away.”

She frowned, “That's going to be a fun conversation. We better let K-Byte know as well, just so he can keep a look out for any online talk about this one and he can inform Alexander who can track them down.” Nodding and with nothing else to do here Carter headed for the door to leave. Jules was right behind him, still playing with the crop, swinging it around and the like. Suddenly Carter turned around and took it from her. He look at it then at her before throwing it so it landed behind the counter before leaving.

More upset that he thought he could just do that more than anything Jules protested, “I wasn't going to use it.” Clasping her hands behind her back as she followed him out she softly added, “Much.”

***
Waking up the next Morning Jules sat up and stretched. Looking over at the window she guessed it was still morning, then she looked at Carter who was still sleeping next to her. The way he described the fight with the Horror she figured he needed the rest and tried to not wake him as she got out of bed. Taking a quick shower and getting dressed she re-entered the bedroom and looked him. Knowing Carter he'd probably be up soon any way, she thought she had his morning routine somewhat down at this point, at least when he generally tended to wake up. As often as they been sharing the same bed for these past few months she had better.

Deciding that she was going to surprise him by making breakfast before his usual work out Jules quietly exited the room and headed down stairs. Maybe say good morning to Xypher as well, seeing how she sort of missed talking to the pin. Granted before now she usually left a small message for Carter with him before she left for her own place she still liked talking to him. And maybe check to make sure he was okay with how things were going between her and Carter. At least that was the plan before she spotted some guy she never seen before look likr he was tidying up the front hallway. Well dressed and maybe in his fifties if she had to guess, he paid her no attention at first.

Moving down a couple of steps he finally looked up and noticed her. “Good Morning Miss, I do believe the name is Jules. It's a pleasure to finally met you after all this time.” He approached her with an extended hand.

Not sure what else to do she took it, but she was still confused about who this guy was and what he was going here. A quick glance at the front door behind didn't show any sign he broke in. “It's a...um... pleasure to met you as well. Who are you exactly?”

He looked surprised, “What am I thinking? I should introduce myself to the future lady of the house.” Letting go of her hand he stood a little straighter and pulled on his vest to adjust it a bit, “I am Mason, I'm the servant for Rook.”

Here she thoughr she had him, “Carter doesn't have a servant.”

He sighed more than stiffen like she thought he would, “Yes I should have figured he wouldn't have mention me. As I said I'm the servant for Rook, as in who currently holds the title, which at the moment is Carter.” He went on with what he was doing before she interrupted.

She followed him, still a bit suspicious of the guy, “Then how come I've never seen you before now?”

“Well it is a rather long story,” Mason told her. By her expression she made it clear she wasn't going any where, “As I'm sure you've surmised I was serving the previous Rook when Carter took on the title. However he made clear his discomfort of having some one like myself around.” She nodded, that did sound like the Carter she knew. “So he told me to keep serving the previous Rook and his family, which I am doing. But it didn't feel right, like I was foregoing my commitment to Rook. So after a talk with him and the previous title holder Carter agreed that I could come in two to three days a week to make sure everything is in it's place and his cupboards are fully stocked.”

Now some things she noticed before were making a bit more sense. “You're the reason why some of the things I like have been around here now.”

He confirmed her theory with a simple, “Yes.” He suddenly looked pleased about something, “In fact that was the first time he specifically requested that I pick up anything. So I realized right away how much you meant to him.”

Despite herself Jules smiled at this bit of news, she knew he was a bit of a softie deep down. “Carter told me a little about the previous Rook and his family. I get the feeling the two oldest daughters wouldn't exactly be happy with this situation.”

Mason sighed again, “That would be true of Nancy, Mr. Eric's middle child. She always seems a bit upset when I return from making sure things were all right here, even refusing to speak to me depending on her mood. His oldest, Silvia, wasn't happy either but she has gotten over it, knowing I'm just doing the job I was assigned.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Lillian, the youngest daughter, surprised both Mr. Eric and myself when she stated her displeasure in the arrangement.”

“Really?”, Jules asked, a bit surprised ast this new. Did Carter know about this? “Carter has been under the impression that she was the only one of the three who actually liked him.”

“And she is,” Mason quickly said. “It was more of the forced change of her usual routine that upset her more than anything, she is a bit of a creature of habit,” he added with a slight smile. “But like Silvia she has gotten over it. A little quicker than her older sister I might add.”

He opened the door to the den and they both went inside. Jules excused herself past him and went to the desk and removed the cover from Xypher's stand. “Morning Xypher,” she chimed.

“Morning Jules,” he replied. “I see you finally met Mason.” Okay she got the confirmation that he was at least who he said he was that she was looking for.

“Yes I have, you or Carter could have told me about him before now.” , she tapped the pin on the head, Mason seemed amused by the gesture,

Mason walked over to the desk and start looking through various piles of paper that was on it, “Before I forget Makai Priest Alexander stopped by to deliver a message,” this perked her interest. “Ah here it is, a K-Byte?”, he looked to her for confirmation of the name. When she nodded he continued, “Well he requests yours and Carter's presence before your upcoming nuptials.”

“I'll try to convince Carter to go,” she said taking the message in hand. “I assume you know how hard that can be at times.”

Again Mason just nodded with an amused look, “Now if you will excuse me Miss, I'll start breakfast for the two of you.”

“But I was..,” he was already out of the room before she could finish her thought.

“Let him,” Xypher told her. “Mason enjoys cooking for others. The old man always said his cooking was the best. Never in front of his wife though”

Blowing out a breath she tried to take this new bit of information in. And she was going to have to ask Carter why he never told her about Mason to begin with. At least interrogate the pin a little harder.

***
Carter reconnected the staff as he watched the four ax like blades retracted back to the ceiling. He was a bit off today, at least he thought so. And he knew the reason, Jules found out about Mason. And it wasn't the idea she was mad at him for keeping him a secret. But the slight disappointment in her face bothered him. Really there was no real reason to hid his existence from her, he just hated the idea of somebody waiting on him hand and foot. And honestly he should have mention ed she might meet him sooner rather than later. She left after a bit, saying she had something to do and that she'd be back later. Carter had no reason to not believe her, but something was still nagging him in the back of his mind. “I still have a lot to learn about being part of a couple, don't I?”, he looked over to his coat hanging on the wall.

“You said it, I didn't,” Xypher responded. “I know this is still pretty new to you, but even the old man had a simpler time once he married his wife.”

“Guess I'm a bit too much like my father,” he mused. Another thing that was bothering him today. He sent an invitation for him and his mother to attend his and Jules' ceremony weeks ago. So far nothing, not even anything saying they wouldn't be attending. He looked at the staff in his hands, maybe taking on the title of Rook bothered him more than Carter thought. One problem at a time he told himself, deal with the relatively smaller one first. “Can you think of anything else Jules might be in the dark about?”

“Not unless you're hiding something from me too,” he told him. “Just give her a bit of time. She was getting curious at how well kept the place was if you recall.” He did but said nothing as he walked over and retrieved his coat, putting it on He figured he do some gate hunting beforer nightfall, hopefully run into Jules along the way so they could talk things out. Carter opened the door that led to main building above and saw her standing there, along with a rather big steamer trunk and another Makai Priest.

“Oh, hi Carter,” she said noticing him. And realized he was staring at the trunk. “Okay, I should have asked first, but.” She glanced at the other priest who got the hint and excused himself for the moment. “But since I'm going to officially move in after we're married I figured I should start bringing more of my things over to save time later.”

“Makes sense,” he told her and it did. “But why bring it down here?”

“All right here's were I should have asked first.” she moved past him and into the training room. “This trunk contains a lot of my equipment and books. I figured since you have this whole room you're not really using,” crossing the room she opened a side door revealing another room empty except for a layer of dust on the floor. “That I can use it as a workshop. I'll keep my books and equipment in here so it doesn't get in the way.”

Carterr looked at the room for a second before going, “It might be a bit crowded if you want to use the space for a workshop. Especially if you put in a work bench.” She looked a bit disappointed before he added, “We can keep the books in the den upstairs at least.”

Realizing what he was saying Jules quickly hugged him around the waist saying, “Best future husband ever.” Then she hurried off leaving Carter to briefly wonder why Mason hasn't touched this particular room at all since he made it clear just his bedroom was off limits.

“She really had to twist your arm there didn't she,” Xypher commented after a couple of seconds, with a bit of humor in his voice.

Carter look in the room again, before closing the door, “I had to be keeping it empty for a reason.” Xypher couldn't see the slight smirk on his face as he said that.

***
Once upstairs they entered the den. Jules kept talking plans for the room. “Now I'm going to have to go through both our book collections, I'm sure there's going to be doubles somewhere. I can keep any duplicates I have downstairs in my new workshop.”

“We can go through them,” he told her. “You don't have to do it all by yourself.” He stopped talking when she saw her look at the desk. Then he noticed what she was looking at, a red envelope singling the Watchdogs had an assignment for him.

Jules looked particularly unhappy at this, “They do know we're getting married soon, don't they?”, she asked. “I don't want them wearieng you out before then.”

“What have you two been doing in the bedroom then?”, Xypher asked her. Carter quickly flicked him, “Ow! I'm just asking.”

“Thank you,” Jules said as Carter approached the desk. Taking the envelope in one hand and his Madou lighter in the other he ignited a corner with the blue flame.

Letting go as it was completely consumed the ashes of the envelope rearranged themselves to form a message in the Makai language that hung in the air. Just long enough for him to read it.“A team of two Horrors have appeared. Go home to get details on the two,” Carter said out loud

“Go home?”, Jules repeated. “Something here has these details?” She looked at the books on the selves, “That go through is going to take longer than I thought.”

“I don't think they meant here exactly,” Carter said, not looking particularly happy. There was only one other home that they could be talking about. Although he wasn't sure what could be there either.
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Old July 13th, 2019, 08:42 PM #6
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The wooded path they walked on was perfectly peaceful, particularly with the sounds of a nearby brook in the back ground. While Carter was bombarded by memories of growing up here next to him Jules took everything in. “It's lovely out here,” she commented. She stopped seeing a rope tied to a tree that wasn't that far off. “I never took you for the swinging from the tree type.” He stopped and quickly located it and snorted a bit. He remembered that particular tree being bigger for some reason, then he started back down the path. “A little far from the house, isn't?”, Jules asked as she rejoined him.

“I put it there,” he told her. “Father thought that sort of thing was frivolous and not necessary to my training. I'm pretty sure he knew about it. As you saw I didn't really do that good a job at hiding it.”

“Maybe he wasn't as against it you thought he was,” she offered. Saying nothing in response she added, “I mean he had plenty of time to take it down since then.” still he said nothing, mainly because he never really considered that. “So,” she said breaking the short silence, “you and you dad haven't spoken since you took up being Rook?”

“No,” he answered softly.

“Have you tried?”

“Of course I tried,” he snapped at her. “I've haven't heard a word from him. Not one. Not even if he's coming to the wedding.”

Xypher choose then to speak up, “Carter calm down. You don't have to take it out on Jules.”

“I'm not,” he began. Then he looked up at Jules and immediately felt like a jackass. “Sorry,” he told her, “It's just.”

“It's a sore spot,” she said for him.”I get it, I really do. So I'm not going to kick your ass for it this time. But next time,” she pointed a finger at him before breaking out in a small smile they walked the path a bit more before she said, “I have to admit, I never thought you could get that upset about anything. Yes there was that whole thing with Morgan and his family.” His anger flared briefly, but not at her this time. Just the idea all four lives was cut short like that, especially the kids. He could see the anger rise in her too a bit seeing her former teacher was the culprit.

Getting herself out of that particular mood she told, “If nothing else I get to meet my future in-laws. I hope you appreciate that I'm fighting the urge to ask if you think'll like me.”

“They're going to love you,” he told her anyway. And since they were on the topic of the wedding, “Are you're parents planning on coming.”

“Mom is,” she said. “Dad's not sure he can get away in time, Having a regular job ever since they stepped away from things is really taking up his time.” He nodded, knowing that occasionally a Makai Priest would retire from the order after a certain age. But while officially they're supposed to cut all ties once they entered the outside world some connection were still kept.

“Carter!”, a new voice called out. Both of them looked up to see an older woman with light brown hair further up the path waving at them. Once he waved back she jogged toward them. “Come here, she said once she was close enough to engulf him in a big ol' hug that he returned. She held him at arms length after she stepped back, “Let me get a good look at you. Yup. You're a full fledged Knight all right.” A finger started examing his cheek, the one that took the whip hit the night before, “And about as careful as one too it seems.” Turning toward Jules she went, “And is this who I think it is?”

“Mom.” he said, “this is Jules.”

“It's a pleasure to meet you,” Jules told her, extending a hand. Instead she was pulled into another big hug. And Jules was finding it a little hard to breath at the moment from the look of it. Carter tried to get his mother to realize this.

When she finally let go she said, “So you're the one trying to make an honest man out of my boy.”

“I'm going to try Mrs. Greystone,” she said in jest. His mother gave her a smile realizing it. Taking both their hands she led them to the house which was now in view. Carter mind went into overdrive as memories of growing up flashed through his mind. The single story house didn't look like it changed a bit since he had been gone,

“Now let's stop it with this whole 'Mrs. Greystone' nonsense dear. You make me sound like a grandmother and I'm not ready to be one of those just yet, you hear me Carter. If you don't feel comfortable calling me 'mom', at least call me Judith.”

:Ah.. alright Judith,” Jules said in response. She looked over at Carter when she let go of their hands .and walked forward toward the house.

“Paul!”. She yelled, “Paul! They're here!” from behind the house came an older gentleman, who Carter obviously got his hair color from not to mention some of his looks. Behind him came another male, based on his dress Carter could tell he was another Makai Knight, maybe still a trainee based on his clothing and how young he looked, maybe a couple of years young than he and Jules. But mainly from how far he stayed behind his father, Carter remembered having to do the same back when he was training under him.

Trying not to show the trepidation he was feeling Carter walked forward to his Father. The two of then just stared at each other for a moment before Carter reluctantly put out a hand and said, “Father.” The other man looked at the offered hand then at him.

“Carter,” he said without taking his hand then walked to his wife and past her leaving Carter fighting to keep his disapointment from show. Turning to follow he saw his mother and Jules looking at him, both knew him well enough to see it. Jules mouthed the word “wow” while his mother shook her head.

“Uh.. hi,” the other man, who stayed behind, said. “I'm Marcus,” he offered a tentative hand of his own. Looking to see where his father went Carter took the offered hand. Which caused a great wave of relief to wash over him, seeing how he visibly relaxed. Continuing he said, “I've been training under you father for the past few months. I guess I been chosen to take over for him as a Makai Knight.”

“Good to meet you Marcus,” Carter said. But he was confused about something, “You're still in training?”

“You look old enough to be a full fledged Knight to me,” Jules added. He started looking embarrassed about his situation. In all honesty Carter might have been too if he was in his shoes

“It's Paul dear,” his mother cut in, and again Marcus looked a bit relieved. “But he's bring stubborn and saying he's not ready to take it yet.”

Looking at Marcus he asked, “The sword?” the other man nodded, and now he understood. Although Jules seemed a bit confused by what he was talking about. He would have to remember to explain it to her later.

“I keep thinking there's a trick to it but he says there isn't one,” Marcus went on.

“That's because there isn't a trick,” his father said sharply coming up behind the group. Jules and Marcus jumped a little. Being used to this particular habit Carter and his mother barely reacted outside of looking at him. “It's just a sword like any other. And you didn't introduced me to her.”

“You walked off before I could,” Carter shot back. Paul didn't look impressed by it, or shocked for that matter, he just looked his son over once. “Any way, this is Jules, my fiance,” Jules held out a hand that his father apparently completely ignored, making her to take a couple of steps back. Which raised Carter's ire a bit. Apparently sensing it his mother stepped between them. Finally his father took the offered hand for a quick shake and let go.

Then out of the blue, “And I'm Xypher. You could say I'm Carter's original partner.”

Paul took a good look at the pin on the left side of his coat, “Saddled with one of those things I see.” He turned away, heading back to the house, “Watchdogs sent you here for a reason, let's see why.” His mother looked at Jules apologetically before heading back herself.

“Bad enough someone called me a do-dad, now someone else is calling me a thing,” Xypher complained as he, Jules and Marcus followed them.

***
Back at the loft the male was walking the wooden rail like a tight rope. He whined, “How much longer. I want to meet sonny boy before he gets too boring to entertain me.

Below having moved to a old sofa the woman read the cards in front of her, “Soon Sean, soon. They do need to find us first. They have to learn about the old 'us' before then.”

“He better not take too long Lucille,” he said. Then he stopped and looked down at her,“Hold it a tick. 'They'? He's not alone?”

Slowly shaking her head she told him, “No. Not only is Marcus coming along for the ride but he has a Makai Priest for a partner.” she read something else in the cards that she didn't share with him. This Priest was more than just a partner to the Knight. This bit of information made her want to end this person and partnership personally.

***
At some point since he left his parents, more than likely his mother, had installed a swing bench on the front porch of the house. She and Marcus, who was carrying his father's sword for him, currently occupied the bench while Jules took an old stool to sit on. Carter, who was trying to figure out why the sight of Marcus holding that sword was bothering him, stood by her as they all looked across the porch at his father. “What did the Watchdogs tell you exactly?” Short and to the point just like he remembered.

So Carter kept his response short as well, “Only that details on the Horrors would be here, nothing else.” Not that he had much more than that to begin with.

Paul readjusted his stance a bit as he crossed his arms and lowered his head and grunted, “Cryptic bastards as always.” Then he added, “I don't see why they had to send for you.” Jules sucked in a breath as Carter entire body stiffened up a bit.

“Paul,” his mother quickly snapped at him. He looked up at them like he didn't know he said anything wrong.

Jules turned in her seat so she was looking at her and Marcus. “So do either of you have any idea why we were sent here first?”

Looking right at Paul, almost daring him to stop her, she said. “About two nights ago, Paul and Marcus caught word of these two Horrors and went to investigate. They came back in worse shape than they left, particularly your father. But that's something I've seen before, so I wasn't that concerned at first.”

Jules leaned in a bit closer, “So what happened that night?”

“I knew them,” Marcus spoke up. Paul shot him a look Carter didn't recognize on him before. “Or I used to,” he corrected himself. “They were students at the same training school that I went to.”

“Do these two have a name?”, Carter asked.

He nodded, “Sean Lastings and Lucille Trevor. Sean was my best friend. Lucille, she could have been somebody special, she … was special. I mean it just never worked out.”

Curious at his wording Jules went, “Define special.”

He was reluctant to answer but Judith urged him on, “Go ahead dear, tell them what you told me. They need to know.”

He took in a deep breath before saying, “She was a Makai Guide, or she tried to be any way.”

“Whoa,” Jules said suddenly, “There's some of those still around?” Not familiar with this term Carter looked at her for clarification. She obliged but she was still stunned at this bit of news. “Essentially they're a Makai Priest who can read the fates. But for some reason it became a lost art.”

“It's pretty much an dead art based on what I understood,” Judith chimed in. “The order didn't see any reason to keep it around based on my findings.”

Marcus went on, “She never really planed on being one to begin with. She discovered she had a gift for it by accident, after messing around with an old deck of cards she found one day. She claimed she saw something as a joke and it came true. We were a little freaked out at the time but we convinced ourselves it was just a coincidence. Then it happen again and again. The teachers there were encouraging her to develop this particular gift up until she started revealing some secrets they didn't want known. Then they forced her to stop it and took away the cards.”

“What happened then?”, Jules asked.

“Sean and me found the deck they took and secretly gave it back to her,” he answered. “We helped her practice when everyone was supposed to be a sleep. She got pretty good at it, but she had a limit to her abilities.”

Carter spoke up, “What sort of limit are we talking about?”

“It's hard to explain, at least that's what she always said. “The further in the future she tried to look the more variables that came into play that could change it. So she only looked a day or two ahead at most.”

“Imagine what she could do if they didn't try to stop her,” Jules commented. “Any idea what happened to her after you guys left the school?”

“We kept in touch off and on,” he answered. “Last I spoke to her she was in it deep with a Makai Knight she met, they were even talking about a marriage ceremony at some point.” She and Carter silently exchanged looks but said nothing, but both were worried about how this particular tale was going to end. Marcus added, “Then I got word that it ended messily. She caught him cheating on her with another Makai Priest. He apparently even struck her when she confronted him about it.”

“And there it started,” Jules muttered to herself. Carter understood what she meant, the moment darkness entered her heart and left her open to a being possessed by a Horror.

“What about Sean?”, Carter asked him. “Did you hear anything about him after you all left.”

“No,” he said dropping his head a bit. “He cut off all contact with everybody he knew after he got kicked out of the school. He was caught selling artifacts on the black market and fighting those outside of the Order for money. He was really angry when they did. I figured that was the cause of his eventual fall.”

“That wold be my guess too,” Carter told him. His father nodded in agreement, He was going to say something else when he took a good look at the sword in the other man's hands, finally understanding what was bothering him. He grabbed it before Marcus could react. He examed it, even pulling it out of it's sheath a bit. Something was wrong here. Looking at his father he went, “Where's your sword?”

Stiffening up a bit he told him, “It's in your hands.”

“No it's not,” he stated plainly. “It been altered to look like it but it's not the one I grew up around. What happened to it?”

“I told you he'd notice,” Judith mumbled a little too loud.

“Sean took it,” Marcus said over Paul's souring expression. “When we confronted them they locked us in some sort of tarot card like environment and pretty much batted us around. After a bit he stopped and said we weren't worth the trouble to even eat. Paul still went at him but Sean knocked him away and walked off with the sword.”

“Enough!”, Paul barked at him and walked away, obviously embarrassed over this being revealed. Carter watched him go before motioning for Jules to follow him to the other side of the porch.

Just loud enough for him to hear she said, “You want me to contact K-Byte?”

“The first chance you get,” he said. “If Sean got kicked out of the Order then he had to start having some sort of trail he can track down.” Stepping away he spoke to Marcus, “Come with me,” he said.

“Where?”, he asked getting up.

“I figured we could spar for a bit,” he said. “I want to see how good the man they picked to take over for my father is.” Carter realized how ironic that statement was considering how he was chosen to become the current Rook. Marcus seemed to accept this and followed him off the porch and to the practice yard. “Besides if you impress me, maybe I'll teach you.”

“Teach me what?”, he asked.

Carter looked around for his father before saying, “The trick to using the sword. Your going to need to know it once we get it back.” Marcus looked at him in disbelief.

***
Standing alone in the living room Jules looked at the silver orb in her hand. A voice came from it saying, “I'll get right on that Jules.”

Satisfied with the response Jules said, again making sure she wasn't being overheard, “Thanks K-Byte. Me and Carter will be over later to see what you found.” The orb flashed briefly indicating the hacker ended the communication link. Pocketing the orb she went to the room Carter's mother went into. It felt weird sneaking around like this but her and Carter both agreed that the fewer people who knew about the hacker the safer he would be. He was lucky someone a little more open minded had found him when he got caught. And while she considered him a friend at this point, he's also been more than helpful since the Watchdogs told Carter about him. Mainly letting them know about potential Horror activity when he found rumors online. Or helping them find locations like that club from last night.

Entering the side room Jules was surprised that it was empty. She was sure this was the door she entered. “Judith?”, she called out.”

“Out here dear,” came the response. It still took a bit of searching to find another door that lead to the outside. Jules walked onto another porch of sorts that wasn't visible from the front of the house. Judith was sitting in a rocking chair looking out at something. Following her gaze she saw Carter and Marcus sparing with wooden training swords. “Have a seat,” she said motioning to the chair next to her. She did so as the older woman continued,” I had Paul build this for me before Carter was born. Just so I could make sure any child we had was going to be alright during the training he was going to put him through. But they do seem to go out of there way to get themselves hurt though, don't they?”, she said with a bit of a grin, and tapping her cheek. Indicating the mark Carter currently had.

“I thought you were going to blame me for it for a moment there,” Jules told her.

She took her hand and patted it, “Jules dear, not only did I marry a Knight, my father and brother were ones too. I learned a long time ago that the word 'careful' isn't in there vocabulary.” Letting go she added, “Not often enough anyway. So blaming you didn't enter my mind. That's a lie, it briefly crossed it the moment I saw it. But then I remembered that he's a Knight.There's been times Paul pretty much came crawling through the door he was in such bad shape.” Leaning back into her chair she sighed, “You'll learn what I'm talking about soon enough I suppose, especially when you become a mother.” Then her mood changed again as she looked at her with a smirk, “But not too soon now.”

She smiled back, “I understand Judith.”

She nodded as she rocked back and forth. Then she said, “I have to be honest with you dear, I did do some checking on you after I found out you and Carter became engaged.” Jules wasn't exactly sure where this was heading so she waited for her to continue. Didn't mean she wasn't worried about what she might have heard. “You're trained to fight Horrors,” she said after a bit. “Believe it or not I'm glad that you are. It means he's not out there by himself every night now.”

“I try to hold my own,” she told her. “It's not easy some times.”

“I'm sure,” Judith said. “Actually part of me is a little jealous. Makai Priest weren't usually trained to fight when I was growing up. We were taught to support the Knights, not fight with them. There were days I wished I was able to fight outside of self defense. Particularly on the nights Paul barely made it home.” She left that hanging in the air for a bit.

“Look at me,” she then said, “talking about my wants when I should be getting to know you better. So how did you met Carter?”

“My old mentor introduced us,” she answered her. “They were meeting up about a small assignment he was just given by the Watchdogs. I just happen to be there.”

“And this was after Carter was given the Rook mantle?”, she asked.

“Yes, he had it for about a year I want to say. But he was definitely Rook at that point.” She gestured toward the two sparing Knights, “In fact this the first time I've ever seen Carter use a single sword in any sort of situation.” Judith seemed to understand this. And Jules knew what she wanted to ask but wasn't sure how to bring it up without causing an issue with her future mother-in-law. Figuring it was best to come right out and ask it than beating around the bush.she was still cautious as she asked, “What did you and Paul think of Carter being chosen to replace another Makai Knight.”

“Why do you ask?”, Judith said looking at her.

“Because Carter seems to think his Father is upset with him for it. And they way he was acting toward him earlier it's hard to disagree with him.”

Judith sighed again, “I wish I could too. Paul practically had to push him to accept. So I have no idea what happened to cause this rift between them.” Jules relaxed a bit just finding out she saw it as well. “Part of me wants to say it's just Paul being Paul but after earlier I have no idea. I guess that means we have to bang their heads together until they work it out,” she said with a mischievous grin that Jules shared.

***
After using the Rook sword for the past couple of years Carter had to admit it felt strange going back to a single sword. But he was trained from a young age with a single sword, so he got back into the rhythm of it fairly quickly. And he had to admit Marcus was pretty good himself, especially when he realized how rusty Carter was a first. He went in right away, trying to make sure Carter didn't have a chance to get use to it again.

This went on for a while and Carter silently approved at how quick Marcus was adapting his own strategy as it went alomg. While he could see his father's influence in his style there was bits that he wasn't familiar with, more than likely from whomever taught him originally. He was seeing the same in Carter he was sure. But Carter had learned to meld all he had learned to come up with something thast was his own and after a bit started using that to finally gain an advantage over Marcus, ending the duel by knocking his practice sword away then placing the edge of his at Marcus' neck. He yielded in defeat and Carter removed the weapon accepting the win. They both bowed to each other. “You're good,” he told him.

Knowing how his father was a bit stingy with the complements Carter wasn't shocked that he seemed more than a bit pleased at hearing it. “Thank you sir,” he responded pretty much automatically. With a raised eyebrow Carter walked over and put his practice sword down, then he picked up the sword his father tried to fool him with. Marcus perked up when he did so. “I'm surprised you said there was a trick to using it. Paul seems pretty insistent that there isn't.”

Grunting Carter told him, “That's because in his mind there isn't one.” Examining the handle he briefly wondered why he didn't see right away that this wasn't the family sword. “You either see how to use it or you don't. But he forgets that nobody else thinks like he does, not even his own son,” he added a bit darkly. Shaking that mood off he turned toward Marcus while drawing the blade. “Be honest, the first time you wielded the sword what did you notice?”

Marcus was reluctant to answer but he said, “That it felt like the balance was off some how, like it was heavier at the tip of the blade but that's not possible.”

“Well,” Carter started, “It feels like the balance is off because it is.” He held the sword in such a way that it was balancing on his thumb with a slight wobble. “My,” he took a second to think about it, Great, great grandfather had it done. We're not sure who he went to or how they did it but it's heavier at the tip of the blade by the time they were finished. Everybody assumes it was a Makai Priest but nobody can detect what was done, Mom couldn't even find a hint of a spell every time she tried.”

“So what's the trick?”, he asked. Carter heard the small bit of frustration in his voice, and having shared it growing up didn't want to call him on it.

“Again be honest,” he said instead. “You try to compensate for the weight, don't you?” Carter just looked at him, waiting. Eventually he nodded. “I made the same mistake. And I'm sure my father did too. But the trick is you have to use the added weight,” he started swinging the sword around to highlight his point. “I'm sure you watched him use it, how fluid he was in his motions, keeping the blade moving past where most of us are trained to stop it.” Continuously swinging the blade around in a circular path he went, “It's something so simple it never occurs to you until somebody points it out.”

Marcus seemingly understood what he was saying so Carter stopped what he was doing and handed him the sword. Taking it Marcus tried to swing it around like Carter had done. “When did he tell you how to properly use it?”

Crossing his arms he answered, “He didn't, I was going through the books in his den one time he was out and found my great grandfather's journals that he hidden away. He described how to use the sword in them in great detail, more than the basics I just told you.There's a hidden panel behind the jade horse in the den, it is still there isn't it?”

“It is, on the west wall,” Marcus told him.

Carter looked amused at this bit of news, “So he did move it after I left.”

“Carter!,” Jules called out. He looked over and saw her coming toward them. From where he was it looked important. Excusing himself he jogged toward her to meet in the middle. “K-Byte just got back in touch with me,” she said without prompting. “He thinks he found something, I told him we head over right away.”

He nodded, then looked over at Marcus and waved him over. “We might need him since he knows what to expect. We'll keep him away from K-Byte as best we can but anything he knows could help him refine his search.”

“All right but if he starts asking questions you're answering them,” Jules told him. Once he joined them Carter told him to follow them. Seeing his mother at her usual spot on the porch he waved at her as he passed. She waved back but didn't look happy, knowing they were going after the Horrors that defeated her husband.

***
Hanging upside down from the railing by wrapping his legs around one of the banisters Sean whined,”When?

Lucille flipped over one more card and studied it for a couple of long seconds. Then she started collecting the cards and rearranging them in a stack, “Soon.” Sean excirtdly clapped his hands before letting go of the banister. Flipping over before hitting the floor and landing on his feet. “Follow me,” she told him.

“Anywhere my lovely,” he told her as he readjusted his jacket before going out the door. “The stars should be absolutely gorgeous tonight.”

***
In the city Carter and Jules walked toward the knick knack shop that housed their Hacker friend. Marcus was keeping up behind them, although he would call out that they should be going to a different part of the city. But they ignored him which caused him to hurry in order to keep up. When the shop was in view, their companion finally shouted, “Hey! Hold it!” They both stopped and turned to face him, and he almost fell backwards it was so sudden.

To Carter she said, “Took him long enough.” He nodded and grunted in agreement.

Frustrated over the apparent test they put him under Marcus told them, “We found them in another part of the city. We should be headed there not doing,” he gestured in the general direction of the shop, “ whatever this is. Why are we even going this way?”

“And what are the odds they're still going to be where two Knights last saw them?”, Jules asked him. When it look like he didn't have an answer she continued. “We have a plan. You just have to trust us on this.”Not even waiting for him to respond they turned back toward the shop and continued toward it.It took a couple of seconds but Marcus eventually followed suit. At the door she said, “I thought we agreed that you were going to handle the questions.”

“Then don't jump in before I can respond,” Carter told her, although he did open the door for her.

Walking in Jules told him, “Now I'm sure I'm starting to rub off on you. I'm going to hate to see what you're going to be like after we're married.” Inside the familiar sight of the lone woman behind the counter reading a magazine greeted them. Smiling as she leaned on the counter Jules went, “Hi Cheryl.” she barely waved an acknowledgement. “Is he in the back? “

“Like always”, she said not looking up. “He said he was expecting the two of you. Oh and congratulations.”

“Thank you,” Jules told her. Then the two of them and Carter looked back at the door seeing that Marcus had finally decided to enter. While he took in the surroundings Jules turned back to the young woman. “I hate to ask but could you look after our friend here?”

Finally putting down her magazine she eyed Marcus, and didn't look all that impressed with what she saw. “As long as he doesn't bother the other customers.”

“Thank you again,” Jules said as they headed toward the back. Carter stopped Marcus from following them, which made neither him or Cheryl too happy.

Near the back of he store Xypher spoke up, “What other customers? It's always just us in here.” Cart flicked him as they approached wall that was obscured from view from the front of the store. Activating the hidden trigger the wall swung open revealing a hidden hallway. Crossing the threshhold it closed automatically behind them as they walked deeper in.to the inner sanctum. There was a computer that seemed to be part of a massive device of a particular Makai Priest design.In front of it was the person they were looking for.

“Yo,” he said in greeting while not looking away from the screen in front of him.

“K-Byte,” Carter said as he stood by the man.

Next him Jules went, “What did you find?”

“Well for one there are more people with the names you provided than you'd think,” he told he. “But all is not lost, thanks to you telling me that he was kicked out of your order I thought ahead to the next question and found this.” Hitting a few keys on his keyboard he looked up to a screen on the wall, and some very basic information appeared on it. “This is the oldest Sean Lastings with the freshest information that I could find.”

“Freshest?”, Jules said for the two of them, “I don't understand.”

He leaned back in his chair, “I mean this particular individual technically didn't exist until some time last year. I don't know who set him up but this is under 'bare bones' as you can get.” Seeing their confusion he elaborated, “I mean there should be something else here besides what you're seeing, a social security number, a state issued I.D. number, pictures from his last birthday, something. Something more than this at any rate.”

Looking at what was on the screen Carter asked, “Does this mean you can locate him?”

K-byte hesitated in answering right away, “Yes and no, mostly no.” Carter looking at him sharply made him add, “I mean the most current information I can find is still a few months old.” Then Carter looked over a Jules, she read the question that was on his face and nodded, that was more than likely the timeframe he was possessed by the Horror. Oblivious to the silent conversation that was going on K-Byte went on, “But I called you in because I was able to get his last known address. Now I don't go hunting Horrors as regularly as the two of you but I'm just guessing here that the Horror would stick to what the unlucky person knew personally.”

“It's never that simple,” Carter told him plainly.

Jules quickly added, “It depends on the Horror.”

“Fair enough,” the hacker told them, if he was offended by Carter's bluntness he didn't show a sign of it. “Any way that's the best I can do on him. That Lucille chick? She was better at staying off the grid then Sean was. Digitally speaking she's a ghost.Sorry guys.” Then he jumped out of his chair, “Now for the original reason I wanted the two of you to stop by.” While he went to another table in the room Carter shot her a questioning look. Motioning that she would explain later they followed him. “Now while I'm sure my invite to the wedding got lost in the mail.”

“Well K-Byte,” she began, unsure how to say this without offending him.

Then he made a motion like he was waving it off, “I'm just messing with you guys.I fully understand that it would be a problem explaining why a non Makai Order guys is at a Makai wedding. But I did have Alex whip up a wedding gift for me. He rummaged around the table until he found what he was looking for. Extending a hand as he turned to face them again. In it was a pair of sphere's, that outside of four blue markings on each, looked exactly the the ones they already had.

Staring at them Carter went, “I think we already have a set of those.”

He started grinning, “Not like these you don't. Go ahead and try it.” They each took a sphere and studied them intently. Carter was the one to see what the Hacker was talking about. Gently rubbing his thumb over it e said, “Jules.” It flashed like the old ones did to indicate that it activated. A second later an arrow shape symbol started to float in the air.. After a second he realized that it was pointing toward her. Moving the sphere around the arrow stayed pointed at her.

K-Byte chimed in, “They'll still contact any other communication sphere like normal. But that little homing feature is unique to this particular set. The'll lock on to each other no matter how far apart they are. I got the idea after that first little adventure that got us together, seeing how it would have been useful then.”

“Thank you K-Byte,” Jules told him as she gave the hacker a quick hug.

“Yes thank you K-Byte,” Carter told. The hacker just grinned and nodded,seeing how this is about as touchy feely Carter got with anyone who wasn't Jules. “Can we get a copy of Lastings last address? It might be useful since the person with us might be able to confirm if it's any where near he saw him.”

“Sure thing, “ he said getting back into his chair. Hitting a switch he said, “Hey kiddo, I'm sending something to the printer, have Carter and Jules' friend out there look it over to see if he recognizes the address.”

After a moment Cheryl responded, “You got it big guy.”

“She likes to feel involved now that's she knows something's going on,” he explain afterwards. “Keeps her less nosy about what's going on back here. Now is there anything else I can look up for you two? Another person, maybe another kinky club to spice up the ol' love live life?” This time both of them looked at the hacker. He put his hands up and rolled his chair back a bit, “Went too far with the joke, got it.”

Jules just shook her head slightly, “We'll see you later K-Byte.” And he waved as they headed for the door.

***
Lasting's last known address was only a few blocks from where Marcus had run into them. So at the moment the Hacker's assumption was correct. Not that Carter would admit it to the man, Just out of personal pride as someone who actually hunted Horrors if nothing else. But Jules was right when she mentioned that the behavior depended on the Horror. And seeing how the Horror possessed a person who was kicked out of the order it may be using the knowledge he had as well.Nobody said it out loud but all three of them knew that made these particular Horrors even more dangerous than usual, and that was before you took into account one of them supposedly had the talent to become a Makai Guide. “How close are we to where you made contact with them?”, Carter asked Marcus.

He looked around, turning several times as he thought it over, “We're a few streets away.” Then he looked around again, “I think, we didn't come this way, exactly.”

“Exactly, which way did you come in?”, Carter asked in return, trying hard to not make it sound like a demand. Just because he was getting frustrated didn't mean he could take it out on the Knight in training. And most of his frustration stemmed from the circumstances under which he met the man, and that was most definitely wasn't his fault.

“We came in from the south,” he answered.

“Well that helps a lot,” Xypher mumbled. Carter gave him a quick flick but said nothing when Marcus looked his way.

“I hate to say it,” Jules said to him, “but maybe we should have just headed to that address K-Byte gave us.” She looked back to see if Marcus was still following them. “It probably be a better starting point then where we're going.”

“K-byte said the information he had was a couple of months out of date,” Carter said. “Even if the Horror is using what Lastings knew about the area it's smart enough to realize that's were most people would start looking.”

“I like to point out,” Jules said, “That you didn't rule out completely that it wouldn't still be close by that location. And we're concentrating on Lastings and forgetting about Lucille,” Carter looked at her so she explained further, “She's possessed by a Horror too. They could be using what she knows of the area just as easily.”

Carter nodded then said, “It's possible. And more than likely what's happening. Which makes going to where Marcus and my father last saw them a good starting point.”

“Good to see you haven't lost all of your senses yet,” All three of them whipped around at the sound of the new voice. Behind them was his father Paul, holding a training sword. One made out of soul metal, but a training blade all the same. “Although you should have sensed me before now at least.”

“What are you doing here?”, Carter demanded as he stormed up to him before either Jules or Marcus could stop him.

Not looking all that impressed he said, “The same as you.”

Carter eyed him,” More like trying to get back your sword.” Here Marcus quickly moved to get between them and pushed Carter back a bit. He looked back to see Paul with an inscnsed look on his face. Enough of one that Jules quickly joined Marcus in trying to separate them. That still didn't stop Carter, “Tell me I'm wrong. You can't, can you?”

“Carter,” Jules muttered in a warning tone.

Xypher spoke up, “Carter I'm sensing a Horror!” Everybody stopped what they were doing and looked around, searching for any signs of it. Then the Pin added, “Two of them. Sort of, it's hard to tell.”

“Oh my,” they looked up to see Lastings standing on a balcony with Lucille sitting next to him, “Not exactly the happy family reunion I thought was going to happen.” He looked almost disappointed in this. “I discovered I have the taste for a happy family. They do have a particularly unique flavor to them. Wouldn't you agree my dear?” Lucille barely nodded as she started flipping over a set of card, one by one, which floated in the air after she let them go. “Maybe a day time talk show is in order, they are all the rage today. Almost makes me miss the simpler days of being in the order, almost,” he said with a wicked grin. “But you have to admit this modern world does have some wonders of it's own. All those delicious morsels just walking around all free range. Not that any of you would understand that particular insight,” he waved a dismissive hand at them. “Some things are lost on cattle after all.

Beside him Lucille kept flipping over and studying cards before one in her hand caught her attention. “Sean,” she held it up for him to look at. “The old one and the son. They both come for your latest trophy.” Carter felt his father stare at him after that revelation, but said nothing.

“Really now?”. Reaching behind his back he retrieved the sword in question. All of them below shocked that the Horror had no apparent problem holding it. “They want this back. Honestly I think it's broken some how. I did them a favor in taking it away from them. I mean I can barely use it so it has to be broken.Marcus,” he addressed the forth man in the group, “my old friend, didn't you tell them that I was was the best swordsman in our class? They seem stunned that I'm holding it properly.”

“My friend ceased to be the moment you took him over,” he said defiantly.

“Don't tell me you were jealous of my skills as well old friend,” he said looking disappointed again. “Well it does explain why you didn't argue all that much when the bitter old men expelled me because I was better than them. Hell I should have been the one teaching the classes and they knew it.”

“And all the artifacts you sold off and the fighting you did with the regular humans?”, Jules pointed out. She was forced back as a tarot card impaled itself in the street between her feet. She looked back up to see an intense looking Lucille staring right at her.

With another dismissive wave he said, “A trumped up charge they made up in order to get rid of me. Like I said I was the best one there so they made up an excuse to do so.”

“I doubt it,” Carter told him causing Sean to try to drill a hole in him by his eyes alone. Staring right back at him he held his ground. “It's been my experience that the best don't have to say they are. And those that do deep down realize that they're no where near as good as they think they are.”

“Have I mentioned I'm rubbing off on you,” Jules muttered.

“Nobody is disagreeing,” Xypher told her. “I'm only sensing these two.” With that Carter started to pull the staff from his coat.

Pulling another card Lucille said, “Now.” Smiling Sean stepped on top of the railing and dropped down to the street. Lucille dropped down as well landing next to him. Looking right at Jules she said, “Time to save you from inevitable heartache when he finds someone else.” If she was looking to get a rise out of Jules it failed as she held her ground, Madou brush drawn and at the ready. Marcus, on the other hand, ran right past them at a full run before anyone could stop him.

Sean let him get close enough in order to grab him by the neck and hoist them off the ground. As he tried to free himself Carter and his father both started to move to save him but stopped, not realizing both of them feared it would cause trouble for Marcus. Sean just tsked at the man in his grasp, “You think you would have learned after I spared the two of you last time. Are you in that much of a hurry to die old friend? What do you say my dear, shall we put your old ball and chain out of his misery?”

Taking another card she glanced at it before saying, “We were never a thing and it's not his time yet.” Not even looking up she threw it at Jules with a quick flick of her wrist. Seeing it coming at her she knocked it out of the way with her brush. Taking up a fighting stance got ready as Carter stood next to her.

“You're still too soft at heart Lucille,” with hardly any effort he tossed Marcus to the side. “I wanted sonny boy any way.” The rest of them scattered while Carter held his ground as Sean came at him. A sword suddenly in his hand he swung down at him. Barely avoiding the blow Carter fought back enough that he was able to fully draw the staff to block an attempt at his head. “Oh,” Sean said in mock surprise, “You think you have teeth as well like all the other wolves in the world.” Not saying a word Carter pulled on the staff revealing the hidden blades. Here Sean looked like he was caught off guard as Carter pressed the attack.

Close by Jules and Lucille fought. Obviously the latter wasn't trained to fight like Jules was. But she was holding her own having a similar dancing like style. And Jules had to deal with these larger than normal Tarot cards coming at her from different direction that she had to deal with. “He will find someone else,” she said during the card assault. “They all will, it's in their nature. He will break your heart.”

Jumping up to avoid a card coming at her legs, Jules spun over and kicked her legs out nailing the other woman in the head. Trying to ignore how good that felt Jules told her, “You don't know Carter.”

“Do you?”, she shot back as she cracked her neck before continuing her attack. “I saw it, he already hide something from you that you just learned about.” That caused Jules to pause. She did just found out about Mason. Lucille smiled seeing she hit the mark. “If he hid that from you after all this time, what else is he capable of?” The seed planted, that thought stopped her long enough foe Lucille to kick her back.

Both blades out Carter was holding his own against Sean. A fact that seemed to incense the Horror the longer it went on. He Jumped away as Carter tried to slash him with both swords. Crouched down he stared at the Makai Knight, who held his ground. “You realize it's taking you two swords to keep up with me,” he spat.

“And anyone as skilled as you claim to be doesn't need to make excuses,” Carter told him, twirling his blades around in his hands before getting a better grip on them.

“Another thing you noticed from my inferiors,” Sean snarled, rage on the edge of overtaking him.

“Careful Carter,” Xypher muttered, when he realized what he was doing. “He might not react like you think.”

“Not now Xypher,” he mumbled not taking his eyes off the other man. Carter knew full well how bad this tactic could backfire on him. But he had always hated those who bragged about their skills with a sword, even when he was younger, especially when he was younger. Before anything else could happen his father rushed past him, sword held high ready to attack. Carter had to do a double take to make sure he was seeing what he was seeing, “Dad?”

Sean easily countered that initial strike. His father kept on attacking but all of them were blocked or deflected. “This man taught you?”, Sean said to Carter as he easily deflected each strike. “You had to have learned under someone else. How else did you learn to duel wield?” Carter charged in not even hearing him anymore. There may be issues between them but this was his father rushing in to take on a Horror he had already lost to, trying to take him on with a glorified training sword. There was no way in hell he was going to let him face this Horror alone. “Oh is this the family reunion proper then?”, Sean taunted while they both tried to attack him

“Help you're woman,” his father snapped at Carter, frustration growing that the Horror was able to defend against both of them. “This bastard's mine.”

“Stop fighting against me,” Carter snapped back. Both of them were going for the same basic area when they tried to attack, effectively getting into each others way which was allowing Sean to fend both of them off. Sean suddenly grabbed Paul by the coat and threw him across the street. “Dad!”, Carter cried out before he was kicked in the chest and sent flying back.

“And I'm bored now,” Sean said as he stood there. Looking back between the two for a bit, he focused on Paul, “Marcus must have picked up this sudden streak of stubbornness from you old man. Maybe seeing what happens to those who spurn my generosity will curb that new streak.”

“No!”, Marcus shouted as he jumped on Sean's back and wrapped an arm around his neck. Sean tried to sling him off but Marcus held on tight. Probably because he knew his life depended on it. But it gave Carter the chance to get to his feet and connect the blades together and hold it over his head and spin it cutting a circle in the air above him. Lucielle was able to hold Jules off enough to see him do it and held out a hand. Several large Tarot cards quickly covered the circle interior, effectively blocking his armor from coming down.

“What?”, Carter looked up when it happened. Looking back down he saw Sean finally tore Marcus off of him, throwing him into Paul. Flexing the wrist holding the sword he turned into his horror form. Gaining two feet in height his form bulked up, skin almost red in color. Long horns adorned his gargoyle like head. Looking at the sword in his hand he tossed it over his shoulder with out a second thought. Holding out that same arm a long thing spike grew out, almost looking like a sword blade. He started toward his father and Marcus. Carter looked back up at the tarot cards obstructing the armor's portal briefly before running at the Horror. Behind him Lucille had dropped her human form as well in a cyclone of those very cards, now looking like a thin pale gargoyle herself with wings on her back. Every time Jules tried to hit her a tarot card would appear and block the intend strike.

Running up behind Sean he swung with one end of the double bladed staff, cutting him behind the knee. Dropping to a knee he swung with a back hand that Carter rolled under to dodge, getting to a knee he swung out with the staff again but was blocked by the Horror's sword spike. Taking a quick glance back at his father, who was just now stirring, Carter tried everything he could to force the Horror away from him, The horror started laughing as he held him off, “Where was this passion at the start of the fight?” He raised his arm up then swung it down forcing Carter to jump back to avoid the spike. “In fact where was this skill in the old man for that matter?” Retracting the blade he stood there, “Lucille please be a dear and dispose of these gnats for me.”

With a sudden strike that knock Jules back she said,” Of course Sean.” An even larger Tarot card came between her and Jules, but it was transparent enough that the Priest could see through it. “You'll thank me before I'll consume you.” With a wave of her hand another card appeared and it's edge was aimed at Carter. Jules started pounding on the card and shouted but her voice couldn't be heard. Before she could send it Paul rushed in and pushed his son out of the way. Cocking her head she sent it toward her apparently new target. Carter moved and swung his double bladed staff as he tried to get between the card and his father. He intercepted the card but the impact made him lose his grip on it as it flew in the air and stuck up right in the street. Cocking her head again Lucille motioned with her hands again to make more giant cards appear that she sent flying into the side of the building above them. Paul pushed Marcus out of the way as Carter tried to grab him before the rubble came down on them.

Walking over to the staff Sean pulled it out before reverting to his human form. “Well that was a diversion,” he said as he examined his new trophy. “Interesting, I never knew a weapon like this even existed.” With a chuckle he added, “Next thing you know there'll be a Knight with an ax.” Looking over at Lucille he saw her stalk Jules, who still had some fight in her. “Not yet my dear,” he called out. “Let the sadness flavor her a bit more first. She looks a little bland otherwise.”

Studying her for a moment she eventually said, “Of course.” Then turned her back to her, but not before slamming the tarot card into the Priest. Keeping her Horror form she got close to Sean and scooped him up in her arms before flying off into the night sky. After a bit the Tarot card faded away letting Jules to run toward the pile of rubble that Marcus was trying to move piece by piece.

“Carter!”, she shouted as she got closer and started to help him. Various things ran through her head, most of them bad. But she saw thing, He was trying to pull his Father out of the way, she was sure of it.So where were they now? A thought hit her as she reached into her pocket and found the new sphere K-Byte had given them earlier. Hoping his didn't get crushed by all of this she rubbed it and said, “Carter.” It flashed like always but she didn't start hoping until the arrow appeared and pointed out his general direction. “Come on, you better be alive,” she muttered as she walked around the pile. Then she started walking on top of it until he pinpointed her location. “Over here!”, she shouted at Marcus, who dropped what he was doing and joined her. They both started moving chunks of rubble until they found them, with Carter trying to cover his father, fortunately this section was a bit more shallow compared to the rest of it. Didn't mean it still wasn't lethal by any means. She turned him over as carefully as she could and tried to find a pulse on him. “Don't be dead you idiot,” she told him. He groaned a bit in response. “I'm going to kill you for putting me through this,” but she smiled as she said it she was so happy.

“I'm..,” he said as he tried to move, then he grunted and reached for his leg. Jules was already there trying to move up his pant's leg. It was bloody,Obviously one of those chunks landed on it, but as far as she could tell nothing was broken. First things first, she helped him into a sitting position before returning her attention to an interior pocket of her coat. A quick search revealed the small metal vial she was looking for. Then she started looking into his pockets for the Madou lighter. “It's in this one,” he grunted while reaching into a pocket on the the other side of his coat and pulled it out.

“Fine,” she told him as she popped the top of the vial, “Then drink this.” He obliged downing the whole thing. Then he tried to position the lighter by his leg. She took it seeing he was having trouble doing so, “I got it.” The blue flame came to life as she flicked the igniter and brought it to his leg. The limb looked like it caught on fire quickly as she pulled the flame away from him. As it burned, he grunted a bit as the wounds started to magically mend themselves, with the flame disappearing once they did. He seemed to breath easier as he tested the leg before leaning on Jules to stand up. “What did I tell you about getting worn out before our wedding?

“Sorry,” was all he said. She could tell he meant it so she let it drop. Looking down at his chest he went, “Xypher?”

The pin coughed a couple of time, with dust flying out of his mouth. “I'm still here,” he answered. “But I'm not sure how.”

Looking at the other two Jules went, “How's Paul?”

“Dazed,” Marcus answered, but sounding relieved, “But he's alive.”

“Good,” Jules said as Carter stopped leaning on her and tried walking on his own. “Now I don't have to explain to my future mother-in-law why her husband and offspring didn't come back.” Carter started looking around then looked at her questioningly. Guessing he was wondering about his weapon she went, “He took it too.”

Carter apparently took it better than she thought he would, at least visibly. Just looking down for a moment before looking back up with a determined look. “Can my father be moved?” Before Marcus could answer Paul stood up and started walking away. Or at least that was his plan before he almost fell. Carter was right there to get under his arm and support him, which took the older man by surprise from the look of things. He helped him along as Marcus and Jules walked with them, both concerned the Greystone they were worried the most about was hurting worse than he was letting on. Eventually Carter said, “Mom's going to raise hell.” His father simply grunted and nodded in agreement.

***
“What do you me they're alive?', Sean demanded as he dropped down to the loft's main floor. Storming over to Lucille, who assumed her usual seat on the floor by the table, “You pretty much dropped a building on them. How can they possibly still be alive?” Lucille kept looking at her cards.

“They still breath, according to the cards,” she told him. “I thought you would have been happy that you'd get to play with the son one more time. You looked like you were enjoying yourself.” Her usual attitude infuriated him, but something about the slight smirk on her face set him off.

“You did it,” he accused her. “You made so that debris wouldn't kill them.” When she kept flipping her cards he grabbed her wrist to get her attention. “Didn't you!”

Now she looked up at him, but he was the one showing a bit of fear. Slowly she stood up and force-ably removed his hand from her by grabbing a finger and bending it back. “And I suggest you do not forget who needs who in this particular partnership. Or should I have left you in that hole in the wall bar so you could drink yourself to death because you lost your shot at Knighthood with no chance at revenge?”

“Sorry my dear,” he said, almost fearfully knowing how much damage she could do with the cards she could summon. “But even before they kicked me out I knew it was never wise to give a Knight another crack at you, even those as good as sonny boy. He's almost as good as me, almost,” he added a cocky grin returning as she finally let him go. He quickly left her alone, instead deciding to mess with his latest trophy. “Still never knew a weapon like this was around.” He tried to pull it apart but couldn't. “Why won't you come apart? It was in two parts before, wasn't Lucille?” He looked back in time to see he nod lazily as she returned to looking at her cards. Getting irritated again he kept trying to pull it apart, “Then how are you suppose to do it then?”

Smiling to herself she softly said, ”You'll get a chance to as ask him again.”
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Old July 13th, 2019, 08:44 PM #7
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The house just come into view as they turned the corner. Beside him Carter saw his father brace himself for what was coming next. It was something he was used to seeing, when he went out with his father Horror hunting when he thought he was ready. His father always did this when he was hurt while doing his duty. Although Carter found himself doing the same remembering some of his mother's reactions depending on how badly he was injured. Having a building fall on both of them? Carter was seriously considering handing him off to Marcus and let him take the full blunt of it. But that would make it worse for Carter in the long run, again personal experience. Besides there was no way Jules would let him do it, and by the look on her face she was waiting for the opportunity to chew him out herself.

“What the Hell happened to you two?!”, his mother demanded as she came rushing out of the house. In one of the rare times for Carter to witness his father winced a bit. And in that moment Catrer did as well. “I'm minding my own business knowing the kids had left for the night, the next thing I know you're gone too. Now look at you, all of you.,” Jules wisely stayed back a bit while Marcus tried to shrink down a bit. After a bit she gave out a frustrated sigh before getting under his father's other arm. “I swear we been together all this time and I still don't know what I'm going to do with you. I don't even want to know what happened.” Marcus started to say something but one look from his Mother stopped whatever he had to say.

***
Once they got into the house she guided them into the bedroom and directed Carter in helping to get Paul on the bed. Once they did Carter stepped away as she retrieved her Madou Brush and waved it over her other hand. When her palm started glowing she turned it over and slowly passed it over him a couple of times. Only then did she finally relax, “Nothing major outside of some bruises.” Turning toward Carter she asked, “What was he doing out there?”

“The same thing we were,” he answered. “We bumped into each other. I didn't even know he was planning this.”

She blew out a breath, “Oh that sounds like him all right.”: Without a word she turned her attention to Marcus and started examining him as well. “Well you look well enough to explain what was happened.” At this point Carter made his way out of the room, although Jules tried to stop him. “That boy is just like his father, fair warning dear,” Judith said as she started examining her. Dabbing at a small cut on her forehead she went, “How bad was it?”

“Lucille had an ability we weren't ready for,” Jules went. The way Judith was looking at her she knew that wasn't what she wanted to hear. “Parts of a building fell on them.” She looked back at her husband with a shocked look. “I have no idea how either of them walked away from that.”

“In my day we used to call it 'Makai Luck',” Judith told her when she finally stopped messing with the cut. Then she found a bandage to put on it. “There was no other way to explain how the Knights walked away from some of the situations they found themselves in. Carter doesn't look that worse for ware though.”

“I gotten into the habit of carrying some Reverter with me since we gotten engaged,” she explained, Judith nodded in approval. Then she did the spell on her palm and studied her,“Well Marcus looks to be in the best shape out of all of you. He can help me around the house tomorrow Now let's see about that son of mine. Be a dear and help me hold him down. He resists this more than his father ever did.”

“Of course,” Jules quickly agreed and followed her out. The both stopped when they spotted Carter slumped in a chair unconscious. “Carter,” Jules cried out and rushed to him.

“Shh,” Xypher went. “He just nodded off. He was exhausted. He had to be to listen when I suggested that he might want to sit for a bit.”

“He didn't even argue? Not even a little?”, Now Jules was getting worried. So was his mother since she was right there making her palm glow again and waved it over him. Watching her Jules asked, “Can I ask you to teach me that one of these days? I get the feeling I'm going to need it sooner rather than later.”

With a bit of a smirk on lips she said. “No offence honey but I was going to show it to you if you wanted to know it or not.” After a bit she pulled her hand away. “Looks like the pin was right. I'm not detecting anything seriously wrong with him. A night's rest and he should be as good as new.” Backing away she placed her brush in a pocket. “Let's let him sleep her for now, I hate to wake him ust to get him into a bed. Normally I'd offer you one of the spares rooms to sleep in Jules. But if you're anything like me you probably don't want to leave his side until he wakes up. But I will say that couch can be rather comfortable. At least that's what Paul has told me on occasion.” Jules s\gave her a small smile for her joke. “There's a couiple of spare blankets in that closest over there.”

Looking over at the door she was pointing at Jules went over and retrieved two of those blankets. Putting one on the couch she started opening the other to put over Carter. Judith helped her arrange it a bit, even pointing out a smaller pillow that they placed behind his head. “It doesn't get any easier does it?”, Jules asked. “Seeing them like this.”

“No it doesn't,” she said standing close to her. “Honestly if somebody said it did I'd question how much they actually cared to begin with. I mean how can you love someone and not be concerned when they come back in this sort of shape. We both better get some rest dear. Both of them are going to be stubborn enough to do this all over again tomorrow night.”

“Oh I believe it,” she said looking at her soon to be husband. “Night Judith.

“Good night dear,” she said as she went to her husband. Who unsurprisingly was sitting on the edge of the bed.She told him, “Lay down.” Paul looked up at her than waved her off with a hand. So a little more forcibly she repeated, “Lay down.”

“I'm fine Judith,” he told her. He started to get up so she pushed him right back down. “There's nothing wrong with me.”, he said a little too loudly.

Not looking impressed Judith fought to keep her voice from rising as well, “The side of a building fell on you. I'll decide if you're fine or not. And don't raise your voice Carter's in the next room passed out. And his fiance is still up.”

Upon hearing the current state of his son Paul looked at the door with some concern, “Is he all right? He didn't look like anything was wrong when we were heading home.”

“He's just worn out,” she explained. “And even if anything was wrong, well he has your stubbornness there.” He seemed to relax at that but she had to know one thing one way or another. “So why are you treating him like you have been?”

“He's a grown man,” Paul told her. “He needs to stand on his own two feet without any interference from me.”

Sitting next to her husband she said, “Like your father did with you? Do I have to remind you how that affected you after we were married?” He looked away from her. “He's hitting a pretty big milestone soon. Carter could probably use an experienced ear right about now, or some advice if asked.”

Still not looking at her he mumbled, “He has that person to go to.”

Judith looked at him in disbelief, “So this is about him accepting the Rook mantle and not following you.”

“No it's not,” he said defiantly. “I pushed him to take it, why would I have an issue with something I had to talk him into to begin with?”

“Well that's what Carter thinks according to Jules,” she shot at him. “And if it's not that how long are you going to let him keep thinking that and not tell him the real reason, whatever it is.” Instead of responding, Paul laid back down and stared at the ceiling. Realizing pushing him on the subject would just cause an argument, and that would wake up their son who needed the rest at the moment, so she got up to ready herself for bed. But as soon as Carter was awake she was going to revisit this one way or another.

***
In a hallway made of tarot cards a woman ran for all she was worth. It was suppose to be a simple pay off. Get a little freaky with the guy who picked her up on the street and his quiet girlfriend. Not a big deal, it was something she'd done before, hell she enjoyed it. But getting, drugged her rattled mind finally settled on, drugged she had to have been drugged, This was not part of the deal. So focused she almost ran into the man who picked her up. She should have remembered what the old lady tried to teach her. The pretty ones are generally more trouble than they're worth.

“That was quite the chase you took me on,” he said with the charming smile that caught her attention to begin with. But his eyes were something different, predatory, almost hungry. The sight of them made her back up. She was so focused on him that she almost didn't see the tarot card floating in the air, the one coming toward her at high speed and slit her throat.

“Lucille!”, Sean called out after the woman dropped to the ground.”I found her first. Those are the rules. She was mine.” The cards faded away and he immediately regretted his tone. “You never took one like that before,” he started to say, trying to explain his outburst. He stopped as he watched Lucille walk toward the body and kneel down. She made eye contact with him and held it for a second before leaning over the fallen woman and consumed her.

“You play too much,” she said while using her thumb to wipe the corner of her mouth/ Raising to her feet she added, “It might be why you find some of them stringy.”

“Yes my dear,” he quickly said as she walked past him. “You are quite right. There is a fine line between properly flavoring them and overdoing it after all. So are we going to look for more tonight?”, he asked mainly because he was still hungry after taking on Sonny boy and the clan with him.

“Too dangerous,” Lucille told him. “We come across two different Makai Knights in the same week.”

“So you think word about us is going to spread .” She confirmed this thought with a simple nod as she went back to her cards. “We left them alive,” he told her. “They're probably sounding the bells as we speak.”

“No,” Lucille informed him. “They are telling no one at the moment. The son still thinks he can handle the situation.

“Without access to his weapon or armor,” Sean scoffed. “Daddy did make him an idiot didn't he?” Lucille said nothing, she just kept reading the cards in front of her.

***
Wondering why there a huge pain in his neck as he came to, it took Carter a moment to realize why. He fell asleep in a chair. One he barely remembered sitting in the previous night, although he vaguely recalled Xypher suggesting the idea. Things we a bit of a blur after they got his father home. Discovering the pillow under his head he looked down at the blanket covering him, one he recalled his mother saying her mother made when she was a child. A quick glance around the living room he spotted Jules sleeping on the couch close to the chair. Or at least he thought she was sleeping at first because he saw her looking at him. “That was more of a nap than a proper night sleep,” she told him.

“I'm fine,” he told her more or less automatically. But he did feel fine, well rested even. So much he started to get up.

“Sit back down,” she told him. When he didn't automatically complyshe added, “Or I'll get your mom.” They just sort of stared at each other for a moment. Then Carter sat back in the chair leaving her looking a little stunned. “Wow, that actually worked.” Sitting up herself she looked him over.

“How's my father?”, he asked after a few moments,

“He's going to be fine,” she told him, “according Judith.” That eased his mind considerably, knowing he was all right after what happened. Jules spoke up, getting his attention, “Tell me the truth Carter, why didn't you tell me about Mason?”

He didn't respond right away, but Jules just kept looking at him, waiting. Finally he told her, “Because I was embarrassed by the whole situation. You'be seen where I grew up,” he gestured around the room, “we didn't have a man servant waiting on us. I don't even consider Mason to be a servant, just somebody Lowell badgered me into agreeing to let come in every so often.”

“Carter, he's assigned to serve whomever holding the Rook mantle,” she told him, although he was aware of that fact he said nothing. “He's just doing his job, like you and I are. It's nothing to be embarrassed about.”

“To me there is,” he said softly. “Around here we had to be as self sufficient as possible. The Watchdogs even offered me a mansion to live in, just because I was now a titled Knight. I lived in one while training to take over being Rook. I was never so uncomfortable in my life.” Jules suddenly snorted and he shot a look at her.

“Sorry,” she said. “I just got the image of you living the high life. It did not suit you at all.”

But she did look satisfied with his answer. Good thing too since it was the truth. Still it had him wondering about the timing of it all. “Why ask me that now? There was plenty of time before we ran into Sean and Lucille.”

“Because of Lucille,” she told him, although she looked embarrassed to admit it “She tried to convince me that you'd do me like the Knight she was with did her.” He opened his mouth to defend himself at least but she talked over him. “I know you're not whomever that bastard was. If he's even still alive, I'd be surprised if he still was. But she knew that I found out you kept something from me. I hate to admit it but it put a thought in my head. And I hate myself for letting fester for even this long.”

“Don't,” Carter told her. “In all honesty I should have mention Mason before now. But who knows what else she'll try and use against us.” Looking at the pin on his chest he went, “Xypher, Do you know anything about the Makai Guides and what they can do?”

“Just what Jules told you,” he answered. “They were pretty much out of the picture when I was created. And none of the others I've partnered with were all that curious about them. Until today I was under the impression that they died out, like Jules was.”

“I bet Vincent had some information on them,” Jules mused. Then she started shaking her head, “But they confiscated every thing he had after he tried to expose what we do. Maybe one of the books I own has the information we need, but they're back at your place.”

“Our place,” Carter corrected her.

“Not just yet,” she told him, although she did have a bit of a smile on her lips. “In a few days it'll be 'ours' but right now it's yours.”

“Not to me it isn't,” he said. “You were home every time you were there even before we decided to make it official.”

“Am I the only one wondering when Carter became this sentimental,” Xypher quipped. The only answer he got was a quick flick from Carter. “Ow. Come on Jules back me up here.”

“I'm still working on when we started completing each other's sentences,” Jules told Xypher. When Carter looked at her she went, “You had to have noticed us doing that.”

Technically he did, but he never really thought about it. “We better go back to sleep before we disturb my parents.” Putting the cover back over himself Carter tried to position himself so the pain in the neck he first felt wouldn't return. Although he felt Jules staring at him before lying back down herself.

***
Paul woke up before his wife, just like he hoped. Because he knew Judith well enough to know that she would have picked up right where she left off the night before. And he wasn't sure if he had the words to properly explain why he was acting this way. Slowly, and carefully since he was still feeling the effects of the previous night events, he got out of bed and got dressed in some fresh clothes and left the bedroom. There was going to be a war on multiple fronts coming up and he wanted to be ready for it, mentally at least. Leaving the bedroom he soon found his son sleeping in a chair and his fiance on the couch. Walking up to Carter he watched him for a bit before reaching out and gently rubbing the top of his head like he used to do when the boy was younger. Lowering his head a bit he left the house.

He didn't see Marcus at first, figuring he was taking the morning to heal up a bit himself. Then he looked up and saw him in the practice yard where he and Carter were sparing yesterday. That sight brought back memories from when his son was learning under him, memories that were almost too painful given their current situation. Feeling like they were going to over run him again he started down the path to clear his head. But one of those memories wouldn't be denied as he reached a certain spot. One that always came to him when he reached it. Slowing to a stop he just stood there as his mind went back.

It was almost fifteen years ago and he was coming in the opposite direction, coming back from a meeting with the Watchdogs. He only hurried his pace when he noticed a group of boys tussling in the middle of the road. With one in particular shouting at the pile, “Admit it you cheater!” Paul pace turned into a run as he got closer, pushing the boy aside. Grabbing anyone by the shirt that he could he started pulling them back one by one. Like he thought Carter, definitely beaten and battered, was at the bottom of the pile, doing his best to fight off who was left. Even going so far as to try and lunge at the others until he held them back.

He looked at all of them, his son included, and demanded, “What is going on?”

The boy who stayed back pointed at Carter and said, “He jumped us.”

Taking a look at the group and his son again he addressed the boy, “So all of you just happened to be walking the path that leads to our house and Carter jumped the lot of you by himself?” The other boys looked nervously at each other realizing he wasn't buying the lie being told to him. Even the boy looked surprised that he wasn't buying it. So with a little more authority in his voice he asked, “Then why were you standing back calling somebody a cheater?”

“Because he is!”, he proclaimed as he pointed at Carter. That caused him to try for the boy again making Paul to push him back.

“I didn't cheat,” Carter defiantly said. “You're just mad you lost.”

“You cheated,” the boy repeated. “I'm the best swordsman in the camp. I can't lose.” Now things were making a little more sense to Paul. There was a tournament at the training village before everyone was dismissed to go home today and Carter was one of the participants.

Realizing who the boy was now Paul went, “Wasn't your father the judge for today's tournament?” With a deer caught in headlights look the boy stared at him, realizing he was caught. “He's a good swordsman in his own right, he teaches the lot of you if I recall correctly. What did he say about this supposed cheating?” The boy started looking angry telling Paul all he needed to know, he didn't believe the cheating claim either. “There's nothing wrong with losing to a better opponent. That's just life. I'll be talking to your father later, about this and how you decided to handle your disappointment,” he looked at the rest of the group for the proper effect.

With one last angry, “Cheater!”, he ran off with his lackeys soon following him.

Only then did he kneel down to get a better look at the damage his son took from the confrontation. He was bleeding from the nose and it looked like maybe from a cut on his temple. Getting a cloth from a pocket he started cleaning him up the best that he could to get a better look at the damage done. “I hate him,” Carter mumbled.

“Now Carter,” he said in a steady tone. “Thoughts like that is how darkness gets in your heart and leaves you vulnerable to Horrors”. Carter winced a bit as the cloth came into contact with his nose.

“He's always talking about how good he is,” he went on. “That nobody else was good enough to beat him 'cause his dad had a title.”

“I heard he was one of those,” he mumbled as he started in on the cut on his temple. Getting a better look at the damage he added, “They might have stopped if you just said what they wanted you say.”

“No,” Carter said looking stunned his father would even suggest that. “That would mean I quit. Makai Knights don't quit, ever.”

“You don't say,” he pretended to look thoughtful at this. The boy learned this lesson a little too well it seems. “I suppose your right, we are a little too dumb for our own good.” Satisfied that nothing was broken he stood to his full height. “Now normally I'd chastise you for fighting with other children. But this time I'll let it go because you were just defending yourself. Let's get you cleaned up before your mother notices,” he said rubbing the top oh his head, as Carter looked up at him and beamed.. He handed him the cloth to keep under his nose as they headed toward the house and Carter excitedly told him the details of the tournament. And from the description his boy didn't cheat.

“Shouldn't you be resting?”, Carter voice pulled him out of the memory. Paul looked back to see him getting closer.Although Paul could swear he was favoring his side a bit. Judith gave him a clean bill of health so he was probably imaging it.

“I could ask you the same question?”, he said turning back around to look down the path He heard Carter come to a stop a few feet behind him and stay there.

“If you're going to finally take down that old rope swing,” that made him turn back around to face Carter, “it's a little further down.” With that Carter finally took a couple of steps forward. “Although I am surprised you never cut it down to begin with.”

He grunted and said, “I figured if I did you just put it deeper in the woods. And it was far enough away from the house I thought it wouldn't be a distraction.” And with that he turned back around. Although he would never admit it he never thought once about cutting it down.

“What did I do?”, Carter asked suddenly. Reluctantly Paul faced his son. “What did I do to cause this rift between us?” His hand went to the slim golden pin on his right, “Is it this? I didn't even want this to begin with. If this is it I'll get rid of it,” Carter ripped the pin off his jacket and went to hurl it into the woods.

Paul got a grip on his wrist to stop him. “It was was my idea!” The confusion on Carter's face made him repeat it, “It was my idea. I visited Lowell a few weeks before you officially took on the title.” he finally let go of his wrist and his son kept looking at him. “We were both worried about how the rest of the Order would react to you taking on another's Knight mantle. I told him to take you in as one of his own.”

“It was your idea?”, he said, still in disbelief. “Then why are you acting...?”

“Because you didn't want it,” he blurted out. “You never really understood how good you actually are. I wanted you to be better than me in every aspect. But you never took that step, even fighting when they offered you the promotion ”

“I can't be better than you,” Carter said. Which caused Paul to walk away in frustration. Then he added, “I couldn't be better than you because in my mind you were the best, titled or not.” Paul looked at his son, this time it was his turn to be stunned. “I trained as hard as I did because I was trying to be as good as you were, better wasn't an option to me.” Cautiously Carter stepped closer to him. “All I ever wanted was for you to be proud of me.”

“I am proud of you Carter. I never been so proud of anybody in my life.”

“Then why act the way you been acting ever since I took on the title?”, he asked.

He looked away, feeling ashamed over the situation. “Because I thought you didn't need me in your life anymore. I would just hold you back from reaching you true potential.”

“You're my father,” Carter told him, “Of course I'm going to want you In my life. Even if you said you're didn't know why they sent for me.”

And there was no way he could ignore the hurt in his son's voice with that last statement. As stoic as Carter was acting Paul knew he hurt him deeply when he said that. “Because it was going to be embarrassing enough for another Knight to learn I lost my sword and armor,” he told him truthfully, “and the idea it was going to be you made it too much to bear.” And before Carter could respond he went on, “And look what happened, the same thing happened to you. What kind of father does that make me?”

Stepping even closer Carter said. “Just means were related.” Paul knew still knew his son well enough to know he was trying not to grin,

He knew the feeling, because Paul was having a hard time himself, “Then you have my apologies.” before either of them realized it they hugged each other. Pulling back a bit, wishing at least Judith was here to witness this moment, Paul went, “So I guess we should be waiting for another Makai Knight to show up to lend a hand.”

Carter looked down at the Madou pin on his chest, “You send in that report yet Xypher?”

“No,” he replied, “just like you asked.

Feeling confused himself Paul looked at Carter, who simply said. “The assignment's not over yet. And you taught me Makai Knights don't quit.”

With the memory fresh in his mind Paul pretended to look thoughtful again, “I suppose so. Then we better get you properly prepared for the next time. Maybe find out exactly what a Makai Guide can do before she surprises you again. One more thing...”

“Don't tell mom?, Carter offered, not hiding the smile this time. Paul grinned himself as he reached up and tossled his hair before both of them headed back to the house.

***
Back at the house Jules and Judith were already on that task going over the limited library the elder Greystones had. Judith was at least, seeing how she had been studying the whole Makai Guide concept since Marcus told her and Paul about it. Jules was trying to figure out exactly what kind of Horrors they were dealing with. Still looking through one particular tome she blew out a breath, “Never thought I say it, but I wish my old mentor was here.”

“It was Vincent wasn't it?”, Judith asked as look up from her book. The idea that she knew that made Jules freeze a bit. “I should have told you sooner dear but I did bit more than a little checking on you once I found out you were engaged to my son. I actively sought out people who knew you an asked what they knew about you.”

“Hopefully it was mainly good things,” Jules said trying not to sound nervous. If she knew what Vincent tried to do then she might look at her differently.

“I would say mainly excellent things Jules,” she told. “Things like how you helped Carter stopped your mentor from exposing our world. That had to be hard.”

Cautiously she went, “It was, mainly trying to figure out how the man I knew could be capable of doing what he did.” Seemingly sensing her nervousness Judith put small smile on her face and indicated that she should take the seat next to her. Reluctantly Jules did so, hoping this wasn't her way of attacking her.

“Relax dear,” Judith said. “I realize you're not him.” Jules wanted to relax upon hearing that but still left her guard up. “If I had a problem with you, you'd know it. Honestly I don't think I could have done it, fight my own mentor that is. I didn't look for details but I did get you knew him most of your life. I think about who trained me and what would happen if she went rogue. Like I said I don't think I could have done it.”

“Thinking about some of the things he did helped,” Jules told. And she was very grateful her soon to be mother-in-law didn't press for details. Still it didn't mean images of some of the things he had done didn't pop up in her head. So she asked, “Did you find anything?”

Judith rubbed her arm in understanding, “I haven't found anything that indicates that a Makai Guide could do what you guys described. I'm assuming the Horror amplified her abilities somehow or adapted them to it's use. How's your search going?”

Going back to her book she pointed out a particular passage, “This come the closest so far at least as far as Lucille is concerned.”

Leaning in to get a better look Judith read a name listed, “Helvax. That's just one name dear what about the big one?”

“About that, she said as she reread the passage, “I don't think he's an actual Horror. According to this Helvax, once attached to a woman in grief it will then search out another like minded vessel to be her partner.”

Judith brow furrowed in confusion, “So basically this one Horror can possess two people at once?”

“If I'm reading this right,” Jules told her, “the other one is basically the muscle of the duo. Essentially an intelligent puppet.”

“Either way what was ever left of this Sean character is what you've been seeing,” Judith mumbled as she took the book from Jules. Reading the passage for herself she went, “I still don't believe it.” To Jules she added, “Just when you think you read or heard it all where Horrors are concerned.”

“I know right,” Jules went. Then she felt the sphere activate in her pocket. “Will you excuse me for a moment?” Judith told her to go right ahead and Jules went into the next room. Making sure Judith couldn't over hear her she pulled it out and said, “What is it K-Byte?”

“It might not be much,” the Hacker told her, But I was able to get a visual on the Horrors you were fighting last night.” Again looking back to make sure Judith couldn't over hear things she urged him to continue. “Doing my usual techno wizardry I was able to track them to a particular location. About a few blocks from where you guys fought them.”

Jules stood a little straighter hearing this. Now she had a choice to make, get the information now or wait until Carter got back from wherever he was at the moment. Realizing lives were at stake she told the hacker, “Give me the location.” he did so and she looked up to see Judith standing right there.

“Okay, that's something I wouldn't have the nerve to do,” she told her.

“I'm just going to scout out the location,” she told Judith. And that was her actual plan, so no lie was needed. “See if they're actually still there or if there's any other Horrors in the area before I bring Carter in. There's no point if we head down there and they're already went somewhere else.”

“You kids and your modern ways,” Judith said shaking her head. “An informant and everything. I know some Knights, Paul included, who would have loved something like that.” Jules wasn't sure how to explain the situation with the hacker, luckily she didn't need to. “Carter hasn't mentioned this either so I assume it's not something the rest of us is supposed to know about. Fair enough, anything that helps my boy and future daughter-in-law is all right in my book. But at least take Marcus with you, I rather not tell Carter I let you go off by yourself.”

“I'll get him,” Jules told her. Neither was sure what to do next so Judith gave her a quick hug.

“Be careful honey,” she said.

“I will,” Jules told her. “I'll be back as soon as I can.” with that she set off to find Marcus then head to that location. Hopefully this wasn't a mistake on her part but they had to know before the Horrors fed on somebody else.

***
The building looked normal enough from the outside. To be honest it looked like a bit of a dump nobody's lived in for a while. Standing close to a walll so she couldn't be easily seen by anyone passing by, still Marcus did his best to stand in front of her and block her from view, and her view in the process. She didn't need to see the building in order to do this. Holding a simple disk in her hand she quickly activated her brush and waved it over the disk quickly. Various symbols hovered in the air over the disk, looking a bit like a radar of some sort. Which it basically was.

“I got something,” she said. Marcus looked back to see as well. There were exactly two massive dots that seemed to hover above the rest of of the symbols. “That has to be them. I'm not detecting anything else in there.”

“So what do we do now?”, Marcus asked.

Before she could answer a hand clamped down on her shoulder that made her jump. She looked back and saw Carter was the owner of said hand. And he was not looking pleased at that moment. “Carter,” she said trying to sound normal, “What are you doing here?” He answered by holding up his sphere, “K-Byte, right. I should have guessed he'd contact you you too.”

Behind him his father commented, “This was why I never had a partner. More trouble than they're worth.”

“It can have it's advantages,” Carter informed him. And Jules was happy he was at least defending what they do. “Although communication needs to be worked on occasionally.”

“I was just scouting it out,” She told him.

“That's what mom said,” Carter told her. He looked past her and Marcus to the buiulding that brought them here. “What did you find out?”

“They're in there,” she told him, “and there's no other Horror that I can detect,” she held up the disk for empahsis before pocketing it.

“I still don't know what the next step was going to be,” Marcus spoke up.

“I was going to get Carter,” Jules told him. Carter just looked at her, “I was going to get you. At least call you. Now that you're here what do you think? It won't be dark for hours. It could be our chance to catch them by surprise if they're getting ready for tonight.”

“Yes it would,” Carter agreed while looking at the building. “Come on let's check something out first,” he told Jules. The rushed over to the building with Paul and Marcus right behind them. Ignoring the main entrance they looked around the building until she spotted a side entrance in a alley. Marcus went to go in but both Carter and Paul stopped him. Carter looked at Jules and she knew he wanted her to check the door first. Getting out her brush she did a quick examination of the door.

“”There it is,” she said. With a quick couple of waves with her Brush a Black piece of paper with blue symbols appeared. “She might be a Horror now but Lucille apparently still has some tricks in her bag.”

“What is it?”, Marcus asked. “Some sort of barrier?”

Paul spoke up, “It's a booby trap.” Jules nodded in agreement as she worked out the best way to get around it “All the doors are probably set up like this.”

“I told you there were some advantages,” Carter told his father. “Can you get around it Jules?”

“Eventually,” she told him. “But it's going to take some time.”

Looking up at the brightly lit sky Carter commented, “Right now we got plenty of it. Xypher, is it blocking you sensing anything inside?”

“No,” the pin answered. “Jules was right, those two are the only ones in there. We got lucky there.” Carter and his father made a similar grunt.

“You three get get comfortable and stand watch,” Jules told them. “I'll get started on this.”

“A little bossy isn't she?”, Paul commented.

Xypher told him, “You got no idea.” Which earned him a quick flick from Carter.

“Thank you,” Jules told him as she studied the seal on the door. This one was going to be a little tricky.

***
From an upper window Sean looked down into that very alley. “They are down there,”he said sounding a bit amazed. Turning back to Lucille he went, “How did they find this place? They didn't follow us last night.”

Studying her cards intently she said, “They had help. But who it was is being protected by a strong seal of some kind. But this person has many eyrs?”, this was the first time her own reading confused her. “I can't find this person's location.”

“One of them probably knows it,” Sean offered. “Can you get it from there.”

“No,” she told him after flipping over a few more cards. “The ones who know are making sure to shield what they know about this many eyed individual.” The frustration she was feeling was evident in her voice.

“So should we head down there then?” Sean asked as he stepped away from the window. “Granted their uninvited guest but we should still be proper hosts and all.”

“No,” she responded sounding board. “The Priest will try to disable the spell. Let her tire herself out first and let them come to us.”

“And show them the play room,” Sean said with a grin. “I do love showing it off, it's so exciting.”

***
The sun was already descending in the sky when Jules finally got the black seal off the door without it going off. Carter held his father and Marcus back as Jules checked the door one more time before opening it. Carter was right behind her as she went in with her brush ready to defend against any attack. When none came Carter waved his father and Marcus in quickly then let the door close behind them. Jules pointed out the stairway before she went toward it and did a quick check for any more traps before the group headed up.

Carter kept looking around for any sign of danger. He didn't want to admit it out loud but not having his sword, and therefore his armor, was making him feel a little naked at that particular moment. Not to mention a little more cautious. He only felt a little better when he caught his father doing the same thing.Marcus on the other hand looked like the proverbial cat in a room full of rocking chairs. “Relax,” Carter told him.

Marcus looked at him as they hit another floor before continuing up. “Because the Horrors can sense the fear?”

That depends on the Horror,” Carter told. “With these two it's likely.”

“But mainly,” Jules cut in, “it looks like you're about to sprain something you're wound so tight.” Carter didn't say anything, mainly because she was right.

Then his father spoke up. “You're not much one to talk son. The first time I took you out hunting I was surprised you could still move you were so scared.”

Both Jules and Marcus both chuckled ast that statement. Particularly her. He was even positive he heard Xypher snicker a bit. Carter realized why his dad said it, to get Marcus to relax a bit. Still didn't mean it wasn't annoying, “I was eleven.”

“You were the one who insisted that you were brave enough to hunt with me,” his father added.

Now past the nerves, apparently, Marcus asked him. “Have you ever been in a Horror's den before?”

Looking at the flight of stairs they still had to go Carter answered with, “Yes, but not one at this type of power level. How about you Dad?”

Paul looked surprised, like he just realized he had been calling him dad instead of father. A small smile formed on his face that quickly went away, “No, this is a first for me.”

Jules held up a hand to stop them as she reactivated the mystical radar in the palm of her hand. ”They're a floor above us. So stay behind me and Carter when we bust in.”

“Told ya you had no idea how bossy she could be,” Xypher spoke up. Jules quickly turned around and flicked him herself before resuming his course. “Hey!”, he protested, “It's bad enough when he does that to me. Please don't start flicking me too Jules.”

“Then don't say anything that'll make me flick you,” she told te pin. “We're almost there,” she informed the group who slowed down when she did. She pointed at a particular door that they headed for. One more quick check she opened it to a hallway with several other doors. Checking the disk on last time she announced, “They're on this floor.”

“Xypher,” Carter began.

“I'm sensing them,” he said. Carter slowly entered the hall, feeling the darkness just hanging in the air. Judging by his father's reaction so was he. They past a few doors until the pin called out. “On your left.” Carter immediately looked over there to see a lone door. One look at Jules was all she needed to do a check on that particular door, even going over it twice before nodding at him. She backed up a bit as he came forward and kicked the door in and rushed into the room with the rest of them on his heels.

“Seriously doesn't anyone knock any more?”, they looked up to see Sean and Lucille on an upper floor looking down at them. Carter quickly located the stairs but one of those giant Tarot cards appeared on the steps blocking his path. Then one covered the door they just came through, as much as Marcus pounded on it the card wouldn't move. They were trapped. “Well since you're here we might as well be gracious hosts, as tedious as that thought is. Lucille, would you please show them the playroom.”

“Of course,” she said as she wave her hand.

Behind them the card blocking the door seemed to multiply and cover the room other wall, floor and ceiling. The size of the room even seemed to grow from their perspective. The four of them quickly closed ranks and stood back to back. Jules, Paul and Marcus had their brush and swords at the ready respectively while Carter kept his eyes on Sean who jumped down, a sword in his hand as well. As Lucille slowly hovered down to their level Sean said, “What do you think? A little more interesting looking than the usual human .playroom, at least I think so any way. I just know it makes Lucille happy.”

“And if we're not in the mood to play?”, Jules demanded.

“It's so adorable how they think they have a say in the matter,” Sean said Lucille.

“The son looks annoyed,” she said, which caused all eyes to set on him.

“He does, doesn't he?”, Sean muttered to himself. “I know, do you think I should show him my collection? Just this once.” He was on the borderline of begging with this request. Lucille gave him a lazy looking nod as an answer. Grinning ear to ear Sean wave his arms around in a grand fashion. Various swords started to hang in the air, slowly spinning around in circles. Carter subconsciously counted about twenty before he forced his attention on the Horrors in front of him.

“What do you think?”, he asked, almost giddy. “My little trophies from the Knights I've bested. Most from before Lucille and I joined forces.” Carter's eyes darted back and forth between him and the swords. What did that mean, before they joined forces? Almost like he was reading his mind, his grin only got bigger. “Shall I explain what I mean?”, Sean asked innocently enough. “Of course I should, you wouldn't fully comprehend on you own anyway. You see after I was forced out I decided to prove to the rest of them that I was the best. So I tracked down those I could and proved my point by taking the one thing that had more value than their very life. Their sword and armor. I did sometimes wondered if the ones I bested were still alive at this time. But that feeling passed quickly enough.

Carter walked toward one of the swords in the air and swung an arm out. His hand passed right through it. “An illusion,” Carter stated looking right at Sean and Lucille. “Others would have noticed this many Knights losing their weapons before now. How many of these are actually real?

“That's for us to know sonny boy, Sean told him. “Think you're smart I see, yet you fell right into here with no extra incentive from us.” Suddenly more of those Tarot cards appeared between him and the others, effectively cutting him off from them.

“Carter!,” Jules and his father both screamed as they pounded on the card. Before long she started blasting at it with her brush as he and Marcus began trying to chop at it with their swords.

“What's you're game?!”, Carter demanded.

“Normally the game would consist you running a maze, survive without either me or Lucille finding you first then you'd live. If either of us found you first then well you'd be dinner,” Sean told him, as easily as someone discussing the weather. “But Lucille said you'd be too good at it and we couldn't have that so I came up with a new one, with the lovely lady approval of course.”

“Flattery,” Lucille said, almost sounding disgusted. With another wave of her hand the room seemed to shrink down a bit into a lone hallway that seemed to extend until infinity. The swords real and fake still spun in the air as Sean stood on the other end, between them was his double bladed staff hanging like the rest of them. Just close enough that Carter could go on the attack as soon as he grabbed it. Sean's grin grew bigger in anticipation of the game starting.

“The game is simple,” Sean told him. “Just grab your weapon.”

Suspicious Carter went, “It can't be that simple.”

“Of course it's not, my dear as you suggested,” with another flourish of her hand Tarot cards started flashing back an forth around the weapon. “I assure you the edges are quite sharp,” Sean continued. “I would imagine that they would take a limb right off in one go. We have to keep it interesting after all.”

“Only to you,” Lucille muttered.

“Now let's not have a disagreement in front of the uninvited guest,” Sean said turning to her. “They didn't come all this way to see us squabble before they die.” Feeling the others behind him just staring Carter just eyed the cards as they passed by. He wasn't detecting a pattern, at least not one he recognized immediately. And he wouldn't put it past them to change it up or make it go faster if he did try for it.

Then some else caught his eye in the floating fields of swords. And suddenly a new plan came to him. So far Sean, and more importantly Lucille, didn't notice it so far. Not taking the chance that she would Carter started running down the hall. Sean''s grin got bigger, almost salivating over the idea of him getting sliced to ribbons. And if he didn't time this right he still might. Increasing his pace he jumped forward once he was close enough.. But he didn't try for his double bladed staff as he sailed over it. He kept his arms close as he started curling his body mid way, barely avoiding those cards, so he landed in a roll to his feet and continued forward. Caught off guard both of them didn't react as he reached into the field of sword while still looking right at them. His right hand wrapped itself around a familiar handle of his family's sword and pulled. In the same motion he whipped the sword around cutting Sean in the chest.

“Sean!”, Lucille cried out as he stumbled back clutching his chest. Most of the swords faded away, leaving five, including the double bladed staff behind him and the one in his hand. Swinging it around easily Carter stood straight with the tip of the blade pointed at the floor. Jules and the others quickly went forward as the cards blocking them faded away while Lucille was stunned. Sean produced a blade of his own as he took the hand away from his chest to study the blood there for a moment.

“A lucky shot with a broken sword,” he sneered.

“I grew up around this sword,” Carter told him as he started swinging it around again easily enough. “I know how to use it properly.” To prove this Carter easily intercepted Sean's blade as it came at him and deflected it away. Then going on the attack keeping Sean on the defense until he made enough space between them to rethink his strategy.

While that was going on Jules studied the still flashing tarot cards that were whizzing by the double bladed staff. Carter was still holding his own but this was still in their way, and Jules wasn't sure at that particular moment if Carter could summon another armor, even if it was his family's armor, if Lucille decided to get involved. She should have paid more attention when Vincent explained how the soul metal worked. Neither she or Reks even thought to ask if she remembered correctly. If it wasn't magic related neither of them really cared. And now didn't seem like a good time to find out.

“Marcus,” she said, “Give me a hand, Paul get ready.” He didn't argue, much to her surprise, and nodded as they followed her. Wrapping a hand around her brush the bristles started to glow.once close enough she studied the movement of the cards. She pretty much did the same when Carter was preparing to make his move, so far she couldn't detect a difference in their movement. Waiting few more moments she ignored the duel betwen Carter and Sean on the other side, and the fact that Lucille was now looking in their direction. She couldn't worry about that now. “Marcus now!”, she ordered and thet placed their respective weapons into the flashing cards, blocking their path and creating an opening. “Paul,” she called out, he didn't hesitate as he reached in and grabbed the staff and pulled it out into the open.

Once free the cards disappeared from view. Not trusting her eyes Jules put her brush where the cards were and didn't feel any resistance. The Horror was apparently telling the truth, that had to be a first as far as she was aware of.. “Come on,” she told them and they rushed forward toward the battle still happening.

Unaware of what was currently happening with the others Carter kept up his duel with Sean. And he had to admit the guy was probably good before the horror, or whatever it was his mother wasn't exactly clear about Jules research on the matter, got him. But there were hiccups in what he was doing, so much so that he was able to snap off a quick reverse round house kick to knock him back. Carter pauses as he heard something fly past behind him. Risking a look he saw Lucille stand a little too close staring at a metal spike now embedded in the wall between them. He looked over to see Jules pull out another slip of grey paper out with his father holding the double bladed staff and Marcus right behind her. Seeing an opening he kicked Lucille back before swinging the sword at Sean, who easily blocked it.

Sean started swinging a little wilder now, frustration getting the better of him. So much so Carter was having a hard time keeping up with the new attack. Behind him Lucille ran right for Jules who rushed in to meet her. In it all he heard his father shout, “Carter!” He looked back just long enough to see him toss the staff in the air. Getting some space between him and Sean he threw the sword he was using in the air as well. Both weapons passed each other as Carter caught his weapon with one hand and quickly brought into play as Paul caught his sword and held it at the ready. With practice ease Carter used both blades to deflect Sean's attack.

Lucille attacked Jules with a viciousness that wasn't there in their earlier encounter. So much so Jules was finding herself being forced back. Suddenly Lucille retreated back several steps holding a reddish grey slip of paper in her fingers. Jules recognized it almost immediately, “No.” With a smirk Lucille threw the paper down to the ground. The energy wave it released quickly over comed all four humans. Jules did her best to fight the effects the wave caused. It would use their worst fears against them. She kept telling herself that whatever she was going to see wasn't going to be real. It was all an illusion created and magnified by the spell.

“Look at what happened to you,” a new voice told her. She quickly located the source and found Vincent looking at her, disappointment etched on his face. “This is my legacy now. I should have killed you instead of Reks. I never should have taken you in to begin with, I just felt sorry for the unfortunate woman who gave birth to you.”

“You're not real,” she strained to get out.

Carter wasn't sure what just happened exactly. He was fighting Sean now there was nothing.What the hell was going on. Still he was ready for the next attack. At least that was what he thought. Then “What a disappointment of a son you turned out to be.”

“Dad?”, he went recognizing the voice. He turned to him and saw how disgusted he looked.

“Tell me about it,” Jules said as she walked by with her arms crossed. “I realized too late that I choose the wrong one.” She closed her eyes and leaned her head a bit as a hand lightly caressed her cheek. The owner of the hand came into view.

Reks looked at him with a smug smirk, “You lost any way Knight. Her heart was mine all along.”

“Not real!”,a voice sounding like Jules came through the void.

“Carter listen to me,” Xypher spoke up. “I'm seeing what you're seeing and this isn't real! You know exactly how Jules feels about you. Remember at the club when you ran back because you thought you left her in danger? Think about that moment and hold on to it.”

He tried to do just that. Through the chaos in his mind he remembered what Xypher was talking about. He ran to the door and looked in fearing the worst. But there she was, sitting on the counter without a care in the world. Then she looked up and smiled warmly at him, and he knew she loved him. Focusing on that instead of the scene in front of him it started to fade away, enough thast he saw Sean come toward him and he lashed out in response.

“You're not real!”, Jules shouted at “Vincent”. Raising her brush above her head she slammed it down to the ground. The wave of energy it released quickly dspersed the spell Lucille just laid down. Although it left the four of them a little woozy they stood tall and faced the two fallen humans. “Now you just pissed me off,” she told Lucille and started for her until Carter stopped her by holding an arm out.

“We know your story,” he told Lucille who shot a look toward Marcus. “We know about the future you would have had.”

“I should have had!”, she shouted back.

“Well here we are,” Carter told her. “A Knight and Priest getting married soon, a future that should have been. But that wasn't meant to be, because of your Knight. He cheated on you and struck back when you confronted him.” The way she seemed to be getting angrier told him the story Marcus told them was the truth and not just heresy. “You tried to convince Jules that I'd do her the same way.”

“Because you will!,” she practically exploded. “All you Knights are exactly the same!”

Carter took a step forward with his arms outstretched, “Then prove it! You were told to stop trying to be a Guide because you discovered secrets you weren't suppose to know about through your readings. Then read me. Read me and tell me I'd be capable of doing that to Jules.”

“Lucille don't”, Sean tried tro say before a backhand from her shut him up. Not taking her eyes off Carter she made the cards hover in the air in front of her. They started moving on their own. She looked up at them, behind him Jules held her breath. Carter just stood there with his arms out, waiting. After what seemed like an eternity Lucille lowered her head slightly. A single tear dropped down her cheek right before her rage exploded. Shouting a cry of agony at the top of her lungs the cards started spinning around her revealing her Horror form once again. Behind her Sean dropped his human appearance extending the spikes on his forearm. Around them the figures in the cards start to move, first looking at them then stepping out of the cards.

His father suddenly standing next to him, Paul said, “Get those two. Marcus and I will hold off the rest.” Carter nodded to him as he and Jules took up similar fighting positions. Without a word the charged forward as the beings from the cards did the same. Carter, his father and Marcus begun slashing away at them as Jules blasted them with her magic at will. While most of the now living images were focused on the two of them both Paul and Marcus made their way forward and started slashing away, creating a opening to the two Horrors.. Carter and Jules ran through it before more came in and closed it.

Taking the lead Carter took care of of any stray image warrior coming close. Lucille came at him trying to catch him off guard. He jumped at the last second landing on her shoulder and leaping off her toward Sean. Who used a forearm spike to block the one end of the double bladed staff coming at him. Quickly changing direction Carter spun around and came at him with the other end as the other forearm spike intercepted it. Spinning around again Carter lashed out with a high kick catching him in the gut, Sean stepped back with a grunt as most of his air left him, bent over slightly, from the impact. He backed up again as Carter swung the staff around. Continuing his spin Carter brought the staff back around. Seeing the blade coming Sean tried to get the spike back in the way but the blade came in faster, slashing him in the shoulder. Grabbing his wound and crying out in pain Sean backed up again while Carter swung the staff around before bringing to rest in the crook of his arm, ready for the battle to continue.

Caught off guard by Carter's tactic Lucille didn't see Jules come in with a straight punch to the face. Knocked back more by surprise than anything else She was caught by a quick kick that hit under her chin that snapped her head back. Sensing the opening she needed Jules energized the bristles of her brush and went to strike her with it. But another tarot card appeared to absorb the blow. “Damn it,” Jules muttered as she quickly backed up, she wasn't fast enough. Lucille recovered enough that she formed those cards to block all of her attacks again. Her Horror form seemed to smirk a bit as she apparently sensed the desperation rising in Jules. Thinking fast she jumped up acting like she was going to perform a kick of some sort. Like she thought a card appeared to block her path but instead she used it to jump again and flip over the horror. Energizing her brush again Jules swung as she landed and made contact this time. Lucille recoiled in pain as she stumbled forward but Jules didn't immediately celebrate, the chances of that working again were slim. The Horror would be looking for it now if she tried it again.

For several more minutes the fight went on. Before long Carter and Jules found themselves back to back facing their respective opponents. With the moments they had since both Horrors were apparently regrouping as well Jules went, “Sean basically a puppet right?”

“According to your research,” he responded.

“What do you think will happen if we take out the puppet master?”

“We cut the strings,” he said said as he spun around her and took a swipe at Lucille who didn't get a card up in time. The sight of holding her side enraged Sean to the point he wasn't even thinking, just attacking anything that was in his way, including the images that were on his side. Jules and Carter quickly got out of his way although it was obvious his attention was on Carter. Jules went back on the attack on Lucille, her wound apparently making it hard for her to focus and call up the cards to defend her as her blows were landing more frequently now. In his rage Carter was able to lead Sean were he wanted him, eventually taking up position behind Lucille. Pulling an arm back Sean lunged at him with the spike. Carter rolled out of the way at the last second as the spike sailed over him and into Lucille's back.

“Lucille!”, he cried out as it dawned on him what he had done. Still lodged to the spike Lucille held up a hand to form a barrier of cards in front of her. Running in and jamming one of the blades of the staff into an opening before the barrier closed completely. Quickly reaching into a pocket he pulled out a regular human lighter that he tossed to Jules. Catching it she flicked the flame to life and brought her brush to it. Pulling it away a flame trail followed the bristles. Pirouetting in place the flame circled around her as she brought her hands above her head. While Jules was doing that Carter worked the blade in the opening until he was able to break part of it away, a hole large enough for Jules to do what she need to do. The trail of flames concentrated in the bristles of her brush. Lowering it and taking aim she launched a fireball at the opening. Carter made sure it stayed open before he ran past and took a swing at the unprotected side of Sean as the fireball hit Lucille. Both was engulfed in a massive explosion. Both of them screamed around them the imagewarriors started to fade away, returning to the cards they came from. Then some of those cards flew past all of them and began circling around the flames. They heard Sean say, “Lucille what are you doing? NO... Argh!”

Xypher mumbled, “That can't be good.” as they kept their eyes on the scene. Eventually the cards and flame faded away revealing what looked to be Sean. But now he had Lucilles' head and wings with streaks of white Flowing over the red body. Xypher spoke up again, “She forced the two of them together. This is Helvax's true form.” Flexing it's wings and extending the forearm spikes again the Horror looked at them.

Carter reacted first running in with the double bladed staff at the ready. Helvax started to go for him but then it covered up it's face as Jules sent blast after mystical blast at it to destract the Horror. Paul and Marcus ran in as well joining in as Carter slashed one leg as they took the other. Paul started to hold the sword over his head but a Tarot card appeared that slammed Marcus into him.While his first instinct was to go to his father Carter kept his attention on Helvax. Separating the staff into the two short swords he jumped at the Horror again. It raised up a hand to swat him away but Jules quickly shot a metal spike into it's arm. That distraction was enough for him to jump off the horror's leg and into the air and kick the spike still lodged in the arm. Helvax screamed as she batted Carter away with it's other hand before tearing the spike free. It hurled the spike bake at Jules who jumped out of the way before launching another one at the Horror.

Grunting as he got to his feet Carter reconnected his bladed to the double bladed staff and ran at Helvax again. Dodging cards as they suddenly appeared in his path he slowly made his way closer before feinting to the right and swinging one of the blades at it's knee. Catching Jules' eye he briefly looked above him then at Helvax. Getting the idea she helped Paul and Marcus get to their feet before telling them, “Follow my lead.” Again Paul didn't argue as they followed her toward the Horror. The Horror's attention now on the incoming attack, Carter quickly spun the staff over his head. The newly cut circle above him opened up letting an unearthly light shine down upon him. Red armor rained down on top of him and quickly covered his body.

Realizing a little too late what was happening Helvax turned and came face to armored face with Rook. Swing the bladed staff around a bit he ran toward the Horror. Helvax didn't back down and came at him as well. Wings flapping it rose into the air making Rook watch it ascend. Then the wings stopped flapping and the Horror dropped straight down, forearm spikes fully extended. Rook jumped back to avoid being impaled as the spikes stuck into the floor. Before Helvax could free herself Rook lashed out with the double bladed staff breaking both of them. Rearing to it's full height, with a grunt Helvax regrew the spikes.

Rook ran in and jumped up to attack. The Horror kicked out a foot sending the Makai Knight flying back. Skidding on the floor a bit Rook got to a knee and tried to figure out a new strategy. While he did that Helvax reached for him. Jumping to his feet Rook leaped on the outstretched arm and ran up it. It was a short distance so he jumped up again and repeatedly stomped on the Horror's head before gravity won out and he dropped back to the floor. Stunned from the move Helvax tried to cover it's face with one hand as it tried to keep Rook and the others back with the other.. Getting under the hand Rook ran past slashing at it's legs again. Howling in pain Rook kept going until he reached the spikes still embedded in the floor. Pulling one out he shouted, “Jules!”. Seeing the spike in his hand she retrieved another grey slip of paper. He threw his at Helvax as Jules lauunched a metal spike at the same time. Both spikes pinned Helvax to the wall behind her by the wings. As she pulled herself free by ripping the wing Rook came in again and slashed through the Horror.

With one last cry of anguish Helvax exploded in a fireball that quickly dissappaited. The armor flew off of him as it returned to the portal above him. Around them the Cards slowly started fading away revealing the loft they were covering up. Before too long things were back to normal. Then Jules pointed behind him, “Carter.”

He whipped around and saw a human looking Lucille stumble out what was left of the explosion. Singed and wounded she reached out toward him with a pained and sad look on her face.”Be...”, she said as she slowly came forward. Carter was at the ready for any sort of attack. But all she did was come toward him slowly, almost willing herself to reach him. “Be...,” she repeated. “Be happy...” Slightly confused bt her choice of words Carter caught her as she fell forward. In his arms she looked up at him, fresh tears streaming down her face. Smiling weakly she told him, “Be happy together,” before she slumped in his arms, body disappearing into a bunch of tarot cards that blew away like dust.

“That wasn't the Horror,” Xypher announced once she was gone. “That what was left of the real Lucille.”

“Be happy together,” Carter repeated before looking over at Jules. She took his arm and silently led them out of there.

***
Hours later after they rested after the ordeal Marcus stood holding the sword out. Jules waved her brush over it, bristles glowing as she made several slow passes over it. Finally she said, “I can't detect anything. Damn if I know how it was done.” Next to them Judith stood there with a I told you so look on her face. “Are you absolutely sure something was done to the sword? Because I'm convinced those two are making it up.”

“I thought the same thing,” Judith informed her. “At first.”

”But the weight is off,” Marcus insisted. “At least compared to every other sword I've every wielded.”

“It's going to go down,” Judith added, “as one of life's great mysteries. That secret was lost when Paul's grandfather died along with the Priest who did it.”

“I better get back to practicing with it,” Marcus said as he sheathed the blade. “If you'll excuse me.” With a slight bow he left for the practice yard. Judith smiled and went to her not quite so secret porch. Jules joined her and together they watched father and son in a sparing match.

“Well this was one way to introduce ourselves to each other wasn't it?”, Judith said as they watched for a bit.

“It wasn't exactly how I imaged our first meeting going,” Jules agreed. “I'm just happy Carter and his father are on better terms now.”

“You will get no argument from me there,” Judith told her.

***
Carter blocked and parried everything his father threw ar him with the wooden training sword they were using. Backing up when necesary and charging forward with his own attack only when he saw the appropriate opening. And he knew his father's tells well enough to know when an apparent opening was a trap. Then he did sometc the wooden sword up Carter grabbed his wrist with his free arm before Paul could bring it to his neck, and claim victory. Struggling a bit Carter was able to flip out of the hold and in the same motion flipped his father over to his back. It stunned him long enough for Carter to bring the edge of his sword to his father's neck.

Seeing the situation at hand and not seeing an immediate way out he dropped his training sword and said, “I yield.” Keeping the blade there he reached out a hand to help him to his feet. “Good,” he muttered, “you remembered the lesson about not assuming the battle is over until it is. So did you learn that little flipping move from Lowell?”

“Not exactly,” Carter told him. “I came up with it myself using what both of you taught me.”

“Combining the skill sets into something your own,”Paul said. “I figured as much when I saw you fight the Horrors those two times. Good for you son,” he slapped him on the arm. “You're as good as me now.”

“Almost,” Carter told him. He looked over to the practice yard and his father did as well. Together they watched Marcus try to swing the sword around like he witnessed Carter doing. “Looks like he almost has the hang of it now.”

Grunting in agreement Paul added, “He didn't even need my grandfather's journals to do it either.” Carter looked at him smirk out of the corner of his eye. Guiding him away from the sight to give Marcus a little privacy he said, “So your wedding is in a couple of days now. If I know your mother she already has me dressed in her head, so that should be enjoyable. Are you sure there's going to be room for us? We did confirm that we're attending pretty much at the last minute.”

They heard Jules call out, “We'll make room.” They looked to see her come up to them.

“Didn't you tell her we were going to have a private chat?”, Paul asked him. Carter answered with a slight nod. “Listens to you doesn't she?”

Carter looked over to his side and smirked, “About as well as mom listens to you.” He motioned with his head when his father looked confused. Coming in from another direction his mother was joining the apparent party. Before he could protest she worked his way under his arm as Jules stood next to Carter. “I was going to make sure there room for the two of you one way or another.”

“He did,” Jules confirmed. “Not that I was going to argue the point.”

“Hopefully my future daughter-in-law can be as forgiving of the harsh greeting I originally gave her,” Paul told her.

“Already forgotten,” she told him. “The way I figure it I met you at a bad time.” Putting a arm around Carter she added, “Besides you helped raised this guy right here and he turned out all right. So you can't be all that bad.”

Paul chuckled at that, “I'll give credit where credit is due where Carter is concerned.” He gave his wife a quick squeeze. “But I'll take the bad time excuse, it's close enough to the truth.” He looked at Judith expectantly.

She looked back and said, “You're not expecting me to disagree are you?” Paul just grunted.

“I hate to leave so soon,” Carter spoke up, “but like Dad said, the wedding is in a couple of days and we still have some things to take care of before then.”

“Unfortunately he's right,” Jules added. “The maor things are done but there are some smaller details to take care of.”j

“Don't worry dear,” Judith told her. “I remember those particular days well.” Letting go of her husband she gave Jules another big hug. “We'll see you at the wedding. You come here,” she told Carter who obliged and she hugged him as well. “My boy's getting married, I can hardly believe it.”

“It's still a little surreal to me too mom,” he said as he hugged her back. Letting go he turned to his father and extended his hand, “Dad.” Paul took the hand then quickly pulled him into a hug of his own. Then he gave one to Jules, who looked like she was getting squeezed again until she let go. “We'll see you in a couple of days,” he said repeating what his mom did. “We better get going,” he told Jules.” They headed down the path as Paul pulled Judith closer and gave her a quick squeeze as they watched them go.

“A ton of details,” Jules said after a bit. “I'm sure we forgot something since we were dealing with Lucille and Sean. And there better not be another mission waiting for you when we get back.” Carter nodded his agreement as they walked down the path. “Where do you think we should start?”

“Personally?”, he asked. “I think we should have a long talk about you heading into a dangerous situation without me backing you up.”

“I was scouting the area out first,” she told him, getting a little annoyed. “And I had Marcus with me.”

“Ah Jules,” Xypher said. “You might want to be glad he didn't let you keep the riding crop for this talk.”

She looked at the pin, “Carter would never do me like that, would you Carter?”

“Of course I wouldn't treat you like that.” He put an arm around her and pulled her closer. As she rested her head on his shoulder he added, “Much.”

She looked up at him, “You heard that, huh?” After a few beats he looked at her and grinned. She returned it as they continued down the path.

***
Two days later in a Makai temple Paul, Judith and a group of other Makai practitioners stood around, The two Watchdogs stood on a special balcony over looking the situation. Before long one man, Makai Priest Alexander, stepped forward and faced those who had gathered. Looking at no one in particular he nodded on either side of the room ten Makai Priests and ten Makai Knights standing in rows of two got into position. The Priest each took out their Madou Brush and pointed them at a area slightly above them, creating five softly glowing orbs that created a lighted walk way of sorts on the other side the Knights unsheathed their swords and created an arch of steel. Before long Jules and Carter both appeared and came forward. Carter had the staff in his hands while Jules held her brush like a bouquet of flowers as they met in the middle by Alexander.

Carter held out his staff and opened his hand slightly Jules did the same with her brush as she held it against the staff. Both of them grabbed both items and stood there. Alexander stepped closer and retrirved a ribbon that he tied loosely around their hands. Looking at the assembled crowd he began, “Friends, and esteemed Watchdogs, we have come here to bear witness to these two protectors who have decided to pledge their loyalty to each other and no other. Have both of you agreed to this arrangement, swearing not to do anything to nullify this union and join forces to protect humanity from the Horrors and their like. Do the two of you swear to honor and protect each other? To lay down your life for the other if need be. To defend humanity as two protectors acting as one?”

“I do,” Carter said.

Jules smiled as she said, “I do as well.”

Nodding Alexander looked at the crowd. “These two have sworn before us their intention. And as the one presiding over this union I accept their statements as the truth. Now does any one present wish to say anything against this union?” The crowd looked at each other but no one said anything. Satisfied Alexander started smiling, “As no one has issued an argument against this union I pronounce this union of two to be officially united as husband and wife.” With the crowd clapping in approval Carter leaned in and kissed Jules. “Let nothing, not Knight, Priest or Horror tear this union apart.” as they broke the kiss Alexander undid the ribbon, “Allow me to present to you the new Mr. and Mrs. Greystone. And let any Horror that comes across them beware.” Again the crowd applauded in approval as Carter and Jules stood there soaking it in, neither letting go of the other's weapon. “Go on,” Alexander told them, “Go greet the crowd.

Looking backat him Carter glanced down at his chest and gave a quick wave at the not so hidden camera Jules had pointed out earlier. Jules did the same before both of them walked toward the crowd where they were greeted but several well wisher.

Looking down Alexander mumbled, “You owe me for this one K-Byte.”

“Come here dear,” Judith told Jules right before giving her another bear hug. Paul congratulated Carter before giving Jules a not quite as big hug as his wife had. “My boy's a married man now,” she said hugging Carter and started to cry a bit. “Now remember what I told you there's no rush for any grandchildren.”

“Speak for yourself,' Paul said. “I'm fully ready to be a grandfather.”

A woman came in a gave Jules a quick hug of her own, “Mom,” Jules went.

“I agree with your father in law Jules,” she said. “And your father sorry he couldn't make it.”

“It's alright,” she said. Actually it wasn't but she swore to herself that she wasn't going to throw a fit if he couldn't make it. “Oh mom, this is Carter.”

“I figured Jules,” she said with a little laugh. “I just wish I could have made it out here sooner to meet you properly.” Taking both of his hands she told him, “Take good care of my little girl now, she's the only child I have.”

“I will,” he told her. “With my life if need be.” She seemed satisfied with his answer so she, Judith and Paul stepped aside to get to now each other a little better since they were technically related now.

Jules looked over to see Mason standing there. She walked over to him saying, “Why aren't you with the rest of the group? I'm sure carter wouldn't mind.”

He coughed in his hand a bit, clearing his throat. “First of all my sincere congratulations to the two of you. But first someone wanted to say hello to you personally.” Behind him the head of a dark haired woman peeked out, looking a little nervous.

“Hi,” Jules said feeling a little confused. “And you are?”

“Um,” she began while stepping around Mason, by the way she was dressed she was obviously a Makai Priest.”Well you could say I'm your sister-in-law. One of them anyway. Well the one who'd admit to it at any point.”

It took a second, and taking a second look at her coat to see a golden pin similar to Carter to put two and two together. “You must be Lillian.”

“You would be correct,” she said. “I wanted to say hello personally before I greeted Carter.” Again Jules was confused and it apparently showed. “I heard about your last assignment with the fallen Priest. I didn't want to put any thoughts in your head after hearing her story.”

“I don't think that would have popped in my head but okay then.” She grabbed Jules in a hug before she could react. “Nice to meet you too.”

“Oh you have no idea how happy I am for you two,” she said after letting go. “I thought Carter was going to follow my father whole line of thinking in all aspects of his life, so I was ecstatic to hear you were in his life and the two of you were making it official. You are going to see a lot of me in the future, just to warn you. Faux big brother!”, she suddenly cried out getting Carter's attention. Once he turned around she started hugging him as well. “Papa wanted to come but he didn't want to cause an issue between you and your father.”

Taking a moment to hold her side a bit Jules asked Mason, “Why does it seem like everyone on his side of things act like they want to squeeze the life out of me?”

He chuckled slightly before saying, “I won't presume to speak for others but Miss Lillian is quite the hugger. There were times I was afraid she was going to squeeze Carter in two on occasion.” Seeing that Lillian was done talking with Carter he added, “Again congratulation, but I'm afraid Miss Lillian could only get away for the ceremony and this part before having to return. I'm sure I'll see you soon.” With a slight bow he followed Lillian out of the room. Both Jules and Carter watched them go before turning their attention to different guets.

***
“Wow,what a day,” Jules said as they entered his, well now their, home. Carter closed the door behind them and went to the den to put Xypher on his stand for the night. All three of them satisfied there was no red envelope in sight. Before they walked away Xypher spoke up, “I'm happy for the two of you, I really am. Almost like a proud father.” Smiling Jules gave him a light tap on the head before they left the den.,

“Jules,” Carter said suddenly. “Lillian said her father told her to give me this.” In his hand was a small velvet box. He opened it to reveal a pin like his. Carter took it and placed it on her jacket. “He's taking you in as one of his as well.”

“I'm honored, although I get the feeling the other two daughters wouldn't approve. Based on what you and Xypher told me about them”

“One would eventually,” he told her, “the other one not so much.” He looked at her, almost like he was studying her, “What is it?”

“It's stupid,” she told him. He pressed the issue gently until she said, “I just can't help thinking about Lucille.” He nodded in understanding as she went on. “All that hatred that grew in her because she never got to see this day she was suppose to have.”

“All because she got involved with the wrong person,” he added. Lucille had popped in his head on a couple of occasions today as well.

“Makes me think what would have happened if I never met you,” she said putting her hands around his waist.

“Or if I never met you,” he told her holding her tight. “But let's not think about the what ifs. Let's worry about the here and now.”

“Agreed,” she said. “And let's try to be happy like she wanted us to.”

Carter nodded his agreement of her sentiment and held her a little tighter. “Are you ready to call it a night Mrs. Greystone?”

Her smile grew a little bigger, That was not something she was going to have to get used to. “I'm ready if you are Mr. Greystone.” Keeping his arm around her shoulders they made their way upstairs.


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