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Guts. // Royal Blood Read 2854 times

VenomousEve

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Re: Guts. // Royal Blood
« Reply #30 on: March 12, 2017, 05:11:52 am »
Azmila stared at Kou hard. “I don’t know. Perhaps, not enemies at least.” She suggested. The Demon’s gaze slid back toward the piles of flesh the Tzeng prince had left. There had been more useful information in all of them. Az supposed she was glad nothing to endanger Strada had come up, but she found it peculiar. Humans were so fragile. And complicated. She couldn’t understand Kou’s motivations at that point, but she could feel the bubbling froth of her Sin. It was a pleasant tickle that sang in a vicious harmony with the sterling man that came to stand beside her. She wondered if Kou was the source of Ilya’s roil too. Faint in both of them, but worthy seeds. Ivka kept good company.

“Assholes are okay.” Azmila said blandly, but gave Ilya a small and encouraging smile. If she looked like she was being brave, Ilya was too eager to be deceived. Az sighed. “They keep me fed, I guess.” She told him.

Az had been prepared to follow Kou, who seemed to be orchestrating this little affair, but stayed in her place when Ilya’s posture seemed to insist upon it. “I appreciate it.” She said of the car. “If I could be taken to the Italian supermarket on fifth street, I would very much appreciate it.” It was a favorite market of Ivena’s and relatively close to the docks. She asked for it because Ivena had suggested it in her ear.

--

Ivena sat back in her chair and sighed. It was an awful thing to lead Ilya along like this, and Kou too. To a degree, she was almost appreciative of Kou’s sourness. It made her feel a little less like she was carving this divide without resistance. “I think Suri may be able to guide him, at least a bit. If not, she is more practiced with him, at least.” Ivena muttered. She looked at Akade. “I will do what I can as well.” She wondered exactly what that meant and what Akade would hear it as.

There was a knock on the door and Ivena jumped. A quick glance back at the screen said Az was still in her brother’s car. She was about to look to Akade for direction—she was still miserably unaccustomed to what did and did not warrant concern in this business—when the door lock clicked. The man that entered was immediately recognizable though she’d never met him in person herself. “Aki, are you home?” shrill and inherently offensive, Rev closed the door behind him with his heel. He looked like he must be serpentine, glistening scales and a disarming façade worn carelessly over a natural sinister. Ivena shivered. He was lovely, but unnerving because he carried his falseness without pretense.

The petite man was quick to the backroom and quicker to place himself in intimate proximity to Akade. “Aki! So good to see you. I was hoping you were here.” Rev’s long black hair tumbled around them as he thrust his arms over Akade’s shoulders. “It’s been a while. Did you miss me?” he asked, and it was clear he did not expect that Akade should have missed him at all. “I have fun news for you. Today I—“ he snapped his head in Ivena’s direction abruptly.

“Oh, how delightful.” He laughed and untangled himself from Akade. “You must be Ilya Vladenko’s pretty treasure.” He said. Ivena shifted in her seat. She didn’t know what to say.

“You are Mister Reverend, correct?” she offered when she could think of nothing else. Reverend held up a finger and dug around in his suit pocket.

“So I am, and you are Ivena Vladenko. I hear you’re a beautiful dancer. I know a lot about you.” He said and produced a small felted object. He held it out for her inspection and Ivena’s fair face paled an extra shade. It was a crude likeness, but appeared to be a small doll in homage to her brother. “I’m very fond of your brother. I was excited when I heard you’d come to us.” Rev said, shoving a finger into the bottom of the doll and wriggling the puppet around with apparent pride.

--

Mei scoffed at the suggestion. “How awful.” She said, and she was only halfway joking as well. Whatever stubborn immaturities had kept her from Kou’s waking eyes thus far had by no means vanished just because she’d found her way back to Belou’s bed. If anything, she’d probably only brewed some new personal awkwardness. Seeing Kou at work, when he’d never wanted her to work, for the first time since the attack. Oh, and here’s my kidnapper from before. We fuck occasionally. She laughed suddenly at the thought. “Just terrible.” She confirmed. “And since when have I ever been fair.” Mei added. At least she knew.

She sat up, yawning. “But it’s just Kou.” She said to convince herself as much as anyone else in the room. Syren giggled.

“Such a big girl, Mei,” she offered, reaching for the girl and fondling her as she pulled her in close. Mei yelped but did not struggle.

“Big enough,” Mei muttered. Syren was not naïve to Mei’s tied heart. She was sympathetic even. It wasn’t as if Belou had been left unaffected either. The two Demons had worn the faces of the Tzeng heirs for one another often enough in the past. She kissed Mei’s cheek.

“Oh my god, Bel,” Mei laughed. “Only if you play Ilya for him.” She stuck her tongue out at the thought. Just for the suggestion, she felt like she needed to make it up to Ilya. But really, she could think of nothing better with which to infuriate Kou. “He’d kill us though.” She amended. “Maybe not that far.” Mei and Syren both shifted in surprise when Lib went crawling off.

“My, my, maybe he’s a Demon too? He’s certainly outlasted you, little Mei.” Syren remarked. Mei sighed, but it sounded affectionate.

“Lib, I don’t are if you want to keep popping Vision or whatever, but keep that one out of the pleasure house, please?” she picked herself out of the pillows too and went hunting for her scattered clothes.

--

Trace sat up on her couch abruptly, red eyes luminescent in the dark room. “Who’s there?” she asked. There was a soft thump.

“Just me.” Came the half hissed answer. Trace remained where she was seated and sighed.

“Ehlvie. It’s been quite a while, Slothful one.” She said. The serpent appeared over the edge of the couch and dropped to coil beside the white-haired woman. Trace was quiet until the other Demon had grown in size and shifted into a more respectable form. Ehlvie curled her tail a bit tighter as she tossed her coils of auburn hair from her eyes.

“So it has. I don’t really like visiting. It’s a lot of effort.” Ehlvie said. Trace scoffed, but did not bother arguing the point. It would be fruitless and it was difficult to take offense when Ehlvie had plummeted from the Eternal City of this very attitude. Even Pride had its limits.

“So why are you here, exactly?” Trace asked. Ehlvie yawned and sighed.

“Well, you work for people that exchange with Lucifer’s envoys, right?” Ehlvie asked. Trace stared back without answer, waiting. “Right, well, I thought you’d care to know that the envoys are trying to back alley deal with some of the Demons.” She said. Trace frowned.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I guess there’s something that’s got them nervous upstairs. I mean, they’ve never cared much about us Demons here on Earth. They only bother with Consumed ones that go banging on the Gates.” Ehlvie said, shrugging. “But here they are, chatting some of us up… they’re looking for something.” Ehlvie said. “Like, sacrifice-a-Prophet level looking for something.”

Trace exhaled slowly, shaking her head. “The Prophets are vital to Lucifer herself, though. Any one of them worth sacrificing would be a significant loss to her.” Trace said. It was troubling news. Particularly if there were envoys skulking about for Prophets secretively.

“Right, so, I think they’ll be looking for Prophets who aren’t already being used. Possibly even if they’ve been corrupted. If they’re going to sacrifice that Prophet anyway, it won’t matter.” Ehlvie said, flicking the tip of her tail. Trace nodded. She understood what Ehlvie had brought her then.

“Thank you.” Trace said stiffly. Ehlvie blinked in surprise.

“Pride in your Syndicate rises above pride in yourself these days, does it?”
   

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Re: Guts. // Royal Blood
« Reply #31 on: March 12, 2017, 09:28:02 pm »
Ilya was reminded of Kou's instance on Azmila's lack of innocence when she would not be very affected by any of this, the anatomy and its disruption. The realization didn't last long before he treated her like a guest in his criminal path, again, when the opposite was likely more accurate. What crimes had not a demon of wrath seen? At least Kou went out with Teddy. Ilya lead her out, also, leaving the men to their thankless task of readying the room for other, no less macabre meetings.

Ilya played host whenever he could. It spoke to the snob in him and Ivena would indulge him often. He liked to think he was responsible for some of Ivena's grace as a consequence. It was likely not so. The way he crossed one leg over the other and how his jacket split, it was easier, with less care, in the car ride. She'd not asked him specifically to come, but he wanted to redeem himself to her, somehow. "So, without the crazed Mr. Wing here to infer all his twisted meanings, how are things, living with my sister?" he asked. "I am not asking for any secrets." In the past there could have been none, and it made his tongue taste bitter to remember it. "Just want to know if things are pleasant. To me, of course, she's always been the perfect person to share a home with. If you're not willing to share, I can take a few guesses, too." he looked boastful, bloated. Everyone should be so fortunate to know Ivena the way he did.

The supermarket wasn't far. Ilya, who knew the finer things, ha fast taken the basket from her after having handed it to her. Perhaps they looked like lovers then, because they could not be siblings. To Ilya, not so secretly, the two categories were not so far a part. Already he was deciding tonight's meal. Intuitive brother, which followed loving her purely. Usually his guesses on her culinary moods were close. He did not always know all her desires, though. He'd not gotten to know her in all her lights.

"When sestre was younger, she used to play with her food, and father, bad man, would scold her." he said and held up carrots by their green. "When we were home alone I would cut out animals for her to eat." he said and threw the roots dramatically into the basket. He smiled at Az. Ilya was confident, unafraid of being whimsical with things he liked, and he adored food. What did he have to fear for his manliness, at his position? "Sometimes we would forget to eat the scenes we made."

-

Akade was left wondering what she might mean, in putting in her own efforts toward controlling Kou. He thought it was odd to linger on those words for so long. The images that wound around his inner vision were unpleasant to him, and he would dislike being part of it. Perhaps the landscape of eventualities he dreamed of spoke more of his own inclinations than what would actually happen. The dog on Strada's leash was not often this sympathetic toward whatever partner the organization kept itself with.

He had no time to recognize his concern to be abnormal until a visitor intruded in a familiar way. Akade did not look at Rev even as his arms dressed him. This had happened often enough that Akade was only mildly uncomfortable. Reverend like this was better than one who barely concealed threats in small-talk. "You're a good asset." he replied. Their relationship did not go further than that, despite Rev's suggestive tone. This was nothing out of the ordinary.

Akade's skin crawled a little when Ivena inevitably caught the attention of their new guest. It was a primal response that he was able to suppress before any tendon or sinew followed the impulse. Rev was usually a nuisance to the less fair sex. Historically, though, Reverend was unpredictable. Akade was suddenly not so sure what to do.

"What news?" he asked, and turned to Rev fully. With one arm still on the keys, it would be easy for Rev to invade his space. Akade had not consciously opened himself up to this, but would have preferred it to any of Rev's name brand bothering of the Vladenko sister. The doll was as unnerving as they always were. Even though Akade was trying to divert Rev, he was somewhat curious as to how Ivena would handle the situation. She'd started courteous, which was appreciated by Rev at times, and completely ignored, others. "is it about Suri? I think it might be beneficial to see if she can see about her son-in-law. Kou," and he said it closely to how Rev liked to pronounce it. "is acting a little erratic. It seems he's somewhere in the slums, now, but we can't trace him exactly." his voice was more insistent, almost pleasant, than what he'd afford Rev on any other day.

-

Bel bathed in the denials from Mei's mouth. Here was her flavor of life, then. He purred slightly at that tinge of doubt that she shared with him as their mark lived bright and well on them, even though it was not so passionate, anymore. It was hard to keep his laughter though, when she diminished Kou's possible impact on her. She would have been sour, and it would have been cute, but better sometimes she could dictate her illusion without interruptions. Everyone else had the same idea as Bel, it seemed.

"I have been Ilya for him, you know." Bel tattled. Even Lib turned for that. "He did not request it but he didn't seem to mind. Drunk on liquids and powder, though, and that's when he's most predatory." he chuckled and shuddered. It was just an act. "Poor Ilya had some attention and then Kou went on to something else." He smiled softly at the memory and tried to hide it behind his shoulder for the viewing pleasure of this group.

Libertine found a black pill and turned around with it pinched between his upper lip and his nose. He was trying to elicit laughter and Bel obliged. Lib skillfully dropped the pill onto his long tongue and winked at them as he crushed it. "There's enough highs in this world that I can live without one of them." he said and rolled the powder and gravel against the vault of his mouth, seeking Mei's belly out. Bel came to Mei, too. They were all converging on the Wing girl. Lib swallowed.

"Hold her." Bel suggested to his Syren as both the males moved higher on her body to carefully suckle. "You should have some more recreation then, if Trace wants you. So much work, these days." Bel complained against her sensitive berry upon her generous hill. Lib nodded, a little more enthusiastic with his lips.

"I'd say a good two or three days will put your mind back into a place where you can be completely effective." Lib said and looked beyond Mei's shoulder at Syren before he tended to the tit again, cleaning it from the black sand of the pill.

-

Kou sighed as he opened the door. Teddy and Ouran were outside, waiting. The staff here were undependable by design, most of them with sentences for snitching, who'd be river ornaments by the end of their single weeks as caretakers for the prayers. Kou held his gun firmly, the barell quiet in the manner a mouth is quiet, agape and waiting for the next morsel. Amaryllis was the first of the gluttons he came upon, and the girl twisted around to run at him. At least the woman under her was not so bothered by her stripped leg.

Kou wrenched to the side and tripped the rabid girl, easily flinging her into a cell behind him and locking the door. The mechanism was simple to say the least, but these people did not solve even the easiest puzzles, anymore. His shoulders hung low when he continued to the woman, who smelled of all kinds of passions and secretions. She also became furiously intrigued with him, but she did not have her ability to run, like her daughter. He wondered, as he kicked her into a cell with five others like her, if the infection would take her before she could give him more prayers.

He'd carried his sin in here too, it seemed, and that kinship didn't spare him from the next glutton. Hubris doesn't make friends. He bit into his forearm and Kou refused to make a sound as the man pulled with his teeth. Kou placed the barrel under the angles of his jaw, shooting outward. there was nothing left to bite with, after that. He sighed as he dragged the unmoving meat back to Amaryllis who was happy to taste him through the bars.

Quiety the ambitious Mr. Wing went through the corridors of this improvised prison, until all the sins were contained again. He was on his fifth magazine when he came out, bleeding from his forehead, hand and shoulder in addition to the first injury. All superficial. Teddy and Ouran had stayed until the sun lost interest in this day, listening to the prince's activities to see if he ever needed their help.

"Susie?" Ouran asked and wondered if they could go to a good grill after that, now that the evening scene was most likely firing up their oiled irons. Kou shrugged and held out his phone, dangling from his still active gunhand. He blew smoke.

"Maybe? I don't know. Nah. Bel just sent me an invite. He's taken my suggestion. There's these new girls who want to pay of their debt for psyche school." he knew Ouran didn't like that kind of talk and sometimes enjoyed reminding him this was their line of work. "Figure I could have a romp and a listen, you know? Maybe invoke some doctor patient confidentiality in my boxers." He did need to talk to someone, he felt, and a whore on her first night could be rather ideal.

Teddy didn't even answer, getting into the car. It was good to see their friend up and about, but they'd hoped for another mood.

VenomousEve

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Re: Guts. // Royal Blood
« Reply #32 on: March 15, 2017, 05:21:10 am »
Azmila trailed along when Ilya took the lead on her evening. She didn’t particularly mind, though she had intended to slip away from both men once they’d been herded from the docks. In some way, she thought she could imagine sympathy for this brother. In reality, it was probably the disparity of his heart and Ivena’s that appealed to her. This brother had Ivka bound in ways that transcended feeble human lusts, yet he wallowed in the mire of a romantic dream. She wondered what sort of taste he would have when he learned what Ivka had done for him. Done to him? Az stared out the window of the car.

“Your sister is foreign to a being such as myself. It has been curious, getting to know her.” Az said honestly. “She operates on whims that baffle me, often enough. But she has never particularly judged what I am, so I should think it would be poor form to judge her.” Azmila explained. “We were a convenient arrangement before. I enjoy her company now.” Az was not sure if the latter point was true, but it seemed she was likely to insult the elder Vladenko if she did not, in some form, praise Ivka’s merits. In truth, she did not dislike Ivena, as humans went. “I feel compelled to keep her safe and satisfied.” Because it was her job. “I suspect you understand the sentiment.”

Azmila glanced at him curiously then. She did not understand why he should be proud of his past residence with Ivena then. Ivena had left, after all, and he did not understand that sort of devotion. She thought not to say that much. “And how are you, in her absence? You are very fond of her, I realize, and must miss her. Does she visit often enough?” Az leaned back against the seat, gaze sliding toward him. “I can tell her to go home to you more, if you find it insufficient.” Az said. There was, of course, no guarantee Ivka would listen to that sort of instruction, but it was a good gesture. At least, Azmila thought as much.

If Ivena had been paying attention to the goings on of Azmila’s car ride, she might have told the little blue monster to tell her brother that she missed him. It was true, and he would like hearing that sort of heartfelt gossip. Instead, Az was mute as they reached the grocery and watched him with some interest as he began assembling her basket. She wondered if he remembered the meal he was gathering was not for him to share.

Az selected a small box of cookies from a low shelf and added it to the basket. It was a brand she’d seen Ivka nurse when she was in unpleasant moods. Sometimes that girl’s moods abated in flares of frustration that Azmila found delectable, and some disconnected portion of her Demon psychology might have thought the cookies could, themselves, rouse the ire she was so fond of. It was an incorrect assessment, of course, and was furthermore a brand that Ivka had told Ilya she disliked. That small lie had been to preserve him from needless chastisement; Ilya had often snuck them to her as a child and been scolded by their father for it. Nonetheless, it was a peculiar addition to the growing collection of Ivena’s usual preferences in the basket.

“What sort of animals?” Az asked. Early in her history, she had occasionally carved men into flesh monsters to enrage their families. She thought this must not be the same, but liked the parallels.

--

Rev was fat cat happy at Akade’s stiff compliment. It was poor and forced, but it pleased him. “I am that, aren’t I?” Rev hummed. He was a ridiculous counterpoint to his bound Demon, that blue sky rage that strolled the supermarket isles. “You also have good assets.” Rev said, though his attention was half caught with his own wriggling digit. The Ilya puppet danced.

“You are familiar with my brother?” Ivena interjected, blinking at the strange finger toy. “In what capcity?” she added, because no measure of good manners could quite quell the curiosity he’d invited. Rev made the puppet dance a bit more aggressively.

“I keep an eye on all the promising criminal princes. I like your brother more than I like what I have heard of your father. He is pretty in this business.” Rev said. He poked the puppet-shrouded finger toward Ivena. “He is pretty.” Rev amended. The context did not matter so much. Rev looked annoyed when Akade was eager to return to his original purpose. Frankly, he’d been enthused by the idea of playing with Ilya’s sister more. The man was as fickle as Azmila was measured, though. He did not waste the chance to place himself on Akade’s lap, legs crossed primly at the knee. A moment, and then he flung an arm around the other man’s shoulders. “Don’t be jealous, Aki. I have a big heart.” He assured. Ivena flushed. She was not particularly opposed to such implications so much as unexposed.

“You’re so clever, Aki. This is why We like you so much.” Rev said. “It is about Mommy Tzeng. She is willing to follow fortune, as always.” He giggled. “Conniving bitch, always. Love her.” He sighed and whirled a long lock of dark hair around his tiny Ilya puppet. “Anyway, she hasn’t got a maternal bone in her body, that one. She’ll pull little prince Kew to heel.” He said. He glanced at Ivena. “Did you know the baby Tzeng has mommy issues? Sooray is a little devil. Right now, all we need is a bit of conflict, I think. So juicy. I hear Daddy Tzeng is fond of his little girl these days. Do you suppose that he’ll remember Sooray when she goes to sit on a prettier throne?” Rev thrust his hips from where he sat perched on Akade’s thigh and then laughed.

Ivena was clearly uncomfortable for a great number of reasons. For a brief moment, she wondered if she should warn Mei. The blonde might have never known her friend’s true heart, but she’d understood the animosity between her and her mother enough to sympathize. The thought was fleeting. Unsetting any of these plans, no matter how vulgar, would diminish her place with Strada. She flushed. As much as she disliked the idea herself, she thought at least that enticing Kou into wayward beds was safer than a tedious position on Strada’s hit list. She chewed at the inside of her cheek, brow furrowed, until she realized Rev had been watching her.

“Unless… unless you’d rather try to take Sooray’s place?” he simpered. Ivena gaped at him. He waved her off. “Don’t worry, Ilya’s sister. I wouldn’t have you bedding our enemies so fast. A good distraction, perhaps, but how can I trust you?” He looked at Akade.

“Don’t let her get any ideas. Okay, Aki? Occupy her here if you must!” he giggled and reached with his puppet hand to pat suggestively at Akade’s pants. Ivena was beside herself, desperately looking for paths of visual escape.

“Please, that won’t be necessary Mister Reverend. I know why I am here and I’ll do whatever it takes. I hope you will trust me fully in time.” She offered. If she had been asked then, she would not have been able to articulate whether she meant she’d have been willing to seduce Kou or that it hadn’t crossed her mind.

--
   
Mei was in a fit of giggles, like she’d just survived some harrowing ordeal, and arced and wriggled in their gasp. Syren was willing enough to sway to whatever master took the floor, particularly if it was Bel. She held Mei fast, relinquishing her Amazonian shape to take on that of a familiar blonde. “To be fair, your brother really was exceedingly drunk,” she confirmed in Ivena’s soft accent. “He prefers this Vladenko over the other, though he won’t ever ask for either.” She shrugged. She did not tell Mei she had worn this form more than a few times to satisfy him. After all, it was her job to be what her clients wanted, regardless of what they asked for.

Mei stiffened a little, a bit less game with that bit of information. She had never cared that Bel and Syren had seen to her brother’s satisfaction, nor anyone else. But Ivena had always been a great burden on her heart. Ivena was a lovely girl. A good friend. The kind of girl she could see Kou wanting to treat right. It made her feel a little sick. In truth, she’d have preferred to hear Syren say the same of her own mother. At least then she could believe it was Suri’s own predatory inclinations at fault. Syren was sensitive to that shift in Mei’s mood and kissed the girl’s cheek. “Don’t worry too much, I tease. It’s only that I don’t want you to be too dishonest with yourself and,” she laughed then. “Kou might die if he caught you and your little friend together, right?” she suggested.

Mei rolled her eyes but could not hold the Demon at any great fault. It had been a reminder some part of her had desired, after all. To grow greater than her love was one thing, but to lose it frightened her. The familiar squeeze in her chest said that no measure of debauchery could rid her of Kou’s thumb print. It simultaneously relieved her and pissed her off. “Maybe, but I’d rather not use my friend just to get to an asshole like Kou.” She said, delightfully flippant. She was proud of herself for that.

“Better game. You’ve had plenty of time to study our friend Lib here, right? Do I even need him anymore?” she asked, though the way she arched toward his tongue and Bel’s suggested it was as empty a threat as any she’d contrived. Syren seemed to like the idea regardless, and took Lib’s shape with ease.

Belou’s phone rang from where it lay forgotten beneath a mound of pillows. If he did not answer, his caller would insist until he did. It was Trace. “You and that Jackal bring Mei to my home immediately. We must speak.”

--

Trace was terse as ever on the phone, saying what she wished and hanging up with the expectation of an appropriate reply. Naturally, she would see to Mei’s safety herself when possible, but she was busy these days. If Mei was not with her on the job, it was best she be kept near natural guards. Mei did not have a Teddy and Ouran and it was probably about time she did. Belou could not be expected to take on such a role, but his ties to Mei made him an appropriate canary for this impending coal mine. What Ehlvie had said was not overly concerning, but the slothful creature had thought it important enough to make the trip. Thus, these arrangements could be temporary, but were decidedly necessary for the time being.

Libertine would be a reasonable start, by virtue of his habit of appearing regularly anyway. Trace went to her window to check that it was fully shut. Ehlvie was terrible about closing things after herself. She needed to find somebody more reliable than that painted mess of a man, to be present when he inevitably would not be. Of those who’d come to Mei’s rescue on the night Lib had first come to them, the only she thought to be particularly suitable were Ilya Vladenko and Kou himself. Trace inclined her head as she stared through the glass. “She would not be happy about that.” Trace said to herself, and then wondered if she particularly cared. Still, she continued to reflect on the syndicate's other available possibilities.

« Last Edit: March 15, 2017, 05:36:01 am by VenomousEve »

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Re: Guts. // Royal Blood
« Reply #33 on: March 15, 2017, 01:36:01 pm »
It did not surprise Ilya when Az told the story of an Ivena who’d not judge the blue demon. He liked to think of his sister as a methodical creature, but knew she had sides to her that were more emotional than thought through, so he nodded with recognizing hums when Azmila went on. Truly, it was a bit like listening to his favorite TV show on a radio. Ilya would take Ivena in any form he could. He was of course warmed by the sentiment of Az being willing to oversee Ivena’s safety. Really, he was a simple person.

But even the cold and measured Vladenko crime family head was a bit stumped for conversation when she asked him how he was doing about Ivena’s absence from their home. Nobody ever really wondered. It wasn’t really fitting he tell Azmila about wandering into Ivena’s room and smelling her clothes like a common degenerate. Or that he’d tell her to hurry up for school, even though she’d never been one of tardiness, every morning she wasn’t there. He avoided their dining room if she wouldn’t be home, but ate there if he felt he had to, since he owed a debt of company to the house itself, he thought. How unseemly to be one of those people who’d go so long without properly sitting down for meat and wine. Mostly he read to keep the hardbacks company, if he had time over.

“I am getting by.” He answered. “I am attached to Ivena, but I’m not so delusional that I can’t be excited for her and her own life.” That thought did do well in warming him when the books could not. “And she visits all the time. More than she owes, and more than is convenient for her, I’m sure.” He could not speak a bad word. “Ah, but next time, if she is interrupting your friendship for me, you can come too.” He gestured toward Azmila in the next seat when she offered so generously. “Yes, please do tell her that.” To come visit me. If he should have suggested he wasn’t worth the effort, or that nobody should bother, he decided against it.

Ilya parted his lips to talk about the cookies, and then smiled, homely. Surely Az had her own connection to Ivena about this brand. Instead he shared a look with her. “I would cut pigs out of ham. Giraffes out of carrots. That kind of thing.” He said proudly as the cargo built. The deli desk suggested many things but he knew what he wanted, and had them pack it up. Extra, so they had enough. “In the beginning they were flat, paper-cut outs, almost. And then I started making things that could stand on their own.” He explained and held out a sample of cheese and meat for her. It was only one serving, and he would take it himself if she’d not have any. “When she wouldn’t eat them, I would have to start. It’s like that with toys for food, usually they’re terribly bland, though pretty. When I made Halloween for us, it was much the same. Only on that holiday will you see me eat almonds with by-the-dozen sausages.” He looked at Az then, as he picked out flowers. How was it to be a demon on that night? Could you be more yourself? “Do you have any holidays?” he asked, and realized it was a better question than he’d intended. He knew nothing of demon traditions.

Once he’d paid for everything, he placed a bouquet of red roses and one of blue lilies in the bags. It was obvious which one was meant for which woman. “Please give her my love.” He asked of her as he carried the food out to the car. “Take Azmila wherever she wants. Help her with everything she needs.” He said to the driver and handed him a credit card. “And Ivena also, of course.” He added as he opened the door. Truly, they must have been lovers to the surrounding world, then.

He would extend a card to her, once seated. “Please. It’s a direct number. For anything you need.”

-

There was duality to a person’s discomforts and it was drawn in palpable colors now. Nothing about this meeting was worse than being tortured, even by a novice aggressor. And still, Akade had no trouble staying level and composed when his skin was cut and peeled back, whereas now he felt uncomfortable. The same method of compartmentalization could be applied, but it was a shallow displacement, because that was all it could be. His presence here was needed, especially since Ivena did not know anything about Reverend. The puppet was just a small tip of waiting insanity. Unsettling, how whimsical it all looked.

Akade’s posture did not change, again torture resilience, when Rev decided to take the bait and add arms to the deal. Already the enforcer wondered if preservation for social convention for Ivena’s sake was worth it, especially since the profit of normalcy was close to nothing with the demon bound, anyway. Now and then Akade would look over at her, to assure her with that glance everything was as it should be, or at least not disastrous. Rev on his own could almost be tolerable. Rev with company multiplied exponentially. It was hard to enjoy the good news about Suri when Reverend laid it all so plain. Akade did not have any business safeguarding Ivena’s sensibilities, especially since he’d had women in her current position do much worse for far less in trade. But perhaps both he and she were unaware of her cadence’s effect.

“Good to hear.” He gave. And had to listen to the Freudian commentary about the syndicate’s royal family. True to form, always, Rev. It was all good fodder to dissolve Tzeng with, though. “I have known Suri to be resourceful in the past. I would be surprised if she can’t at least keep Kou a little busy.” Both men watched Ivena melt under Rev’s bombardment. Akade wondered when he should step in, but knew there was very little that could contain Rev when he was being himself, and at least this was neither violent or entirely unproductive.

There was a little tension, though, when Rev simply reiterated what Akade himself had suggested to her underneath so many meanings. Somehow he’d not want to monitor Ivena if she was put to that task. “She doesn’t need more to occupy her, I assure you, Reverend.” He said. “She’s is fully busy with working with us as it is.” He didn’t know if such logic penetrated Rev’s quest for games, but it was about this amount of derailing Rev had been known to oversee if it displeased him.

Admittedly, Ivena was lovely in red. “Speaking of. It seems Azmila is getting along well with Ilya.” Worth very little. Out of all the possible pieces, Ilya was the most reasonable, and not too pivotal, seeing as they would fold him in, provided their and Ivena’s wishes came to fruition. “So there’s progress.” He was only speaking for the sake of diversion now, but realized there were real points to be made, still. Why was he so preoccupied, today?

“Could you do anything to help things along further, Rev?” he posed, pushing a few buttons and finding a few vague pings for where Kou might be. “I know you like the main boys, and I think that’s good, but it would be productive to have something to the side-liners too. Teddy especially thwarted us when we tried at Kou.” He threw a quick look at Ivena then. “And Ouran is a big part of Kou’s day. They are expendable to some degree, and I imagine they’re easier to get to.” It was always capricious working with Rev. He might be delighted or he could very well take offense.

-

Bel was a bit weary when he recognized the transformation pattern Syren took on. He of course felt some of the unrest that sprouted in Mei upon seeing the likeness. Mei’s expression was also tell-tale. When Lib, with his usual gusto, was going to tease, Bel swiftly gave him a cautioning look. The Jackal would never mean to hurt Mei, but he didn’t know her heart like Bel. Better safe, on this one. Syren amended well, but uncertainty was already comfortable in the young girl’s chest. Bel would have to try and sing it away with touches later, he planned. The girl and her flippancy seemed to bounce well on their own, though.

Lib woke out of his affair with her soft orb when his name was said. He smiled at his demon and then looked up at Mei. “Wouldn’t you rather have two?” he asked and reached out to caress Syren’s shoulder. “Mirrored. Agatha could be here.” He said and winked at the handsome form Syren shifted into now.

“Pride!” Bel accused. “A sin most unwelcome. We pave the way of ours on the back of Pride!” he said theatrically and was about to make a move toward that sentiment at Libertine when he was instead called to his phone. He took it and listened and agreed. He then frowned a little and placed the phone down on his clothes, as though that little digital infant wouldn’t scream and demand attention again if it was treated gently. “Ah. I must have invited her by speaking of her.” He concluded and started getting dressed. He waved at Libertine. “You too, Jackal, sir. No more play. You get too much special privilege as it is. Time to earn your keep.”

Lib gave a vengeful little suck on Mei’s tit before rolling away from her possible retaliation to collect his own clothes. “You’re no fun, Bel.” He said and had to laugh about the magnitude of that lie. “Get proper, little girl, we’re going to see your sensai.”

And he made sure it would be he who drove this time. It wasn’t the first meeting he’d taken Mei to. Bel was in an absurdly small car behind them. “Sometimes I think he leans on the uke thing too much.” He called back to Mei before slicing traffic just so. Lib drove a cycle like he did his job, which was with little effort and care, but with great precision, anyway. He found a red light that looked sympathetic to him, so he stopped. “So, what do you think it is? I bet she’s gotten the papers to adopt you, yeah?” he said with a chuckle as he wiggled his fingers in between the visor and the guard of his helmed, most likely with another pill. “And oh. Not to alarm you, but there are like four active hits out on you from me. It’s usually not this bad.” He said before a loud swallow.

-

Kou barely missed the trio as he walked in to Belou’s house. He came upon help quickly, as was his usual special treatment, and it seemed they already knew what he wanted. Bel was always gracious. “Get Ouran’s usual also.” He said and thumbed backward at a less amused duo of friends. The girl that bore resemblance to Mei. Kou assumed they played tick-tack toe. “Teddy will take whatever Teddy takes.” He turned around and wore a confounded face. The joke was old but Ouran still chuckled. Teddy preferred human, but would politely make do whatever was on the menu, a strong believer in relief of stress. He was rather hot blooded for his silent ways. “Oh, and if you can arm mine with some first aid, that’d be peachy.” He added, as though it would explain the crusted blood on his person.

He found himself in one of his usual rooms soon, and was fast to find a couch for himself, eager to try out his newest business idea. Bel had been enthusiastic enough, but it was hard to know when that demon was being kind and when he was being honest. Kou lit a cigarette because his blood was reminding him, but also because he thought it would be quite decadent to speak so freely while gesturing with fire for emphasis. If this was a viable category of pleasure, he’d be sure to be boastful next time he met Wei. A murderer and a warden, perhaps, but he was still looking for parental approval. Tonight he’d confess and then take back whatever he’d lost in her eyes by being her first professional roll. Really, it was the full experience of Madonna and Whore. Only really, it was the second.