Anacrusis

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Strife!

Strife!



The night passed, but the darkness stayed. Ancient forces would have writhed in destructive fury had they seen just who had been allowed to waltz into their world. They would not stand for it! Seeing such Heavenly thugs parade right over the river unscathed would leave them furious, and the intruding squad would be wiped out in mere milliseconds. Such a shame most of said ancient forces were dead.

Ink’s nonsensical nightmares dissipated slowly into a bright world. Far too bright was it for him; a screaming crimson glare burned the jelly out of his eyeballs, and he turned to face the citrus-scented floor. “Morning.” He said, with a splitting headache.

“Good m-morning!” Smiled Toven.

“Is it?” The Reaper made it to his knees after a while on the ground, and Coda created glowing red bones for Parallax to fetch - one had just went over Ink’s head. Parallax was upset to find that the bones were made of light, and just passed through the floor and into oblivion as the Hero hadn’t figured out how to create actual objects yet.

For most, breakfast at the Sleepy Box was a joy: hot beans and bacon strips from out of the metal heaters and bowls of pineapple slices, with bread; the toast maker had panicked when it was forced to toast an already toasted piece of toast, and it caught fire.

After a nervous meal surrounded by chattering people in a crowded lobby (there was like, five other whole people in the room) Ink was half-glad to be on his way out into the cold nightmorning air. The group bid farewell to Tabbes, who gave an obscure, beyond butchered slang response back. He and the Hero shared a strange hand gesture - holding out their pinkie and index fingers like a bison’s horns as their vibe frequencies crossed for a moment, in sync and in phase with each other.

*WHOOSH*

And just like that, the revolving door had swept them apart and they both went back to minding their own bloody business. They would see each other again some day soon, for sure.

“So Toven,” She began as they walked into town to find Napoleon, “You walk this way to school every morning? Or does Mulb’s usually take you?” She looked to the faint purple smear on the horizon. The city of Atlantis, home to Kaullej University, the only school ever sought after by academics since the dawn of time, and now the only real school in existence.

“O-Oh, no I’m home-schooled.” He smiled, and Ink thought he saw a twinge of sadness in the boy’s face before an outbreak of evil laughter broke out not too far away. Turning around to see what the source was they saw a very tired-looking, sluggish gang of heavily armour-clad goons across the street. One was huge and round and wore a scraggy horned helmet, one was incredibly short and was also round and somehow more intimidating that the huge one. One (the one that seemed to be in charge) was only slightly taller with a spiky helmet that looked to be in the shape of a star, one was missing half his limbs, and one was tall with brown skin, a toy plastic bow at her side which she had “won” at the fair.

“How was that, number three?” asked the Lieutenant.

“Yes Lieutenit, very nice.” Said the old man with little enthusiasm.

“No! I’m not trying to be nice! I’m trying to be evil! How about this?” She then attempted an eviler laugh.

“Oh yes, ’course. Very evil.”

Toven turned away and tried to urge his friends onward.

“Uuugh, finally, a hotel!” said the one they called their Lieutenant.

“Where!?” Exclaimed the one with the bow.

“Right there! Are... you... blind!” screeched the Lieutenant.

“Yes, Lieutenant Ma’am!” she responded.

“Oh, think you’re funny, do you?? I don’t need your attitude right now ’Zurei!” There was a brief pause, then, “YOU.” The Lieutenant directed her voice towards the trio and Parallax. “You three look helpful, come here and answer some questions!”

Toven was terrified, but could he live with himself if he didn’t try to help these completely random strangers?

Ink wasn’t sure about this. It all seemed rather sketchy, and it was probably best to ignore them.

Coda had now full accepted the role of Hero Of The Universe, and approached the dumb, fatigued thugs with a confident grin and a poised fist. Parallax thoughtlessly followed.

“What sort of questions?” She asked.

“Very important questions, vital to the success of one of the greatest, most noteworthy conquests of this era!” Replied the Lieutenant, her shiny armour clinking in an attempt to make her great, noteworthy dreams of recognition and respect come true.

“Sounds like my type of question, man. I am the Hero of the Entire Fricking World, after all!”

It was a battle of egos.

“Well then, I challenge you to answer my question correctly and without hesitation!”

Both squads backed off a little as the pair locked eyes, Tripphire quickly looking away to fumble in a pouch by her waist. She then pulled out a picture of their Target that sent a chill through one’s entire being when scratched.

“Firstly! Is there a receptionist in that hotel over there or is that place free to raid? Also,” she shoved the photograph into Coda’s face, grinning like a very smug maniac “Do you know this elusive little twerp!?”

Coda laughed confidently, “Well of course I know her. She’s me!”

There was a silence - the eventful kind; Tripphire lowered the card, and realised just who she was talking to, and didn’t even look back around at her crew but acknowledged the fact that they had already known and had she been a little less caught up in boosting her own ego then perhaps they could have informed her of the situation. Both squads advance to stand by their own apparent ambassadors. The Lieutenant shrank, but then reinflated like an inflatable thyng, and said, “Perfect! You wouldn’t mind sticking your hand out on front of you for a second so that we can, erm… Stab it?” She drew the enchanted dagger - the one that Witch Mulberry had missed, the one that captures the souls of all that it cuts, as Kry had so kindly reminded the Lieutenant before drowning.

“Sure.” Said Coda, and punched her in the face with a glowing fist. It seemed like the right thing to do, and the two sides prepared to do battle.

“You’re goin’ do regred dat!” Said Tripphire with a bleeding nose, “Ged ’er!”

And the night air echoed with awkward scuffling as the amateur crew made an advance, Irig getting straight to swiping at Ink’s ankles.

“Hello,” He said, “Please cut that out.”

“YOU DARE STAND IN THE LIEUTENANT’S WAY! ARGH!” She said loudly back.

Toven tried to step in, tried to tell them all that it was okay, that they could work it out just by talking, but talking was what nobody seemed to be in the mood for.

Adrien giggled in a fit and became immobilised due to his ticklishness when his gut was faced with a barrage of glowing red explosions. McKraken crankilly lit a dogend that was in no better shape than he generally was, and watched as ’Zurei fired sucker-dart-arrows into Adrien’s back. Irig flew past his one good ear after being kicked like a shouting football.

“McKraken! Get out there!” Ordered Tripphire.

But as soon as the old man stepped out, weaponless, the Hero kicked his wooden leg across the street. He fell over sadly and stayed there for some time.

“Blast!” Said the little Lieutenant. “No matter, you can’t take me on! The great Lieutenant Tripphire of Her Majesty’s own private guard!”

Something about her struck Ink. Something about what she had said, something about the way her decorative armour glistened, something about how she looked made the Reaper feel like he should be the one fighting her, but he just couldn’t put his finger on why.

Anyway, when she raised her blade above her head, and started to swipe its silvery edge towards Coda’s face, a green barrier blocked it mid-air. Green, glowing, translucent and unbreaking, and Ink was already feeling the straining fatigue. Such a small and carefully placed forcefield, but he could barely hold out long enough to block the attack. The Lieutenant was then sent tumbling backwards, completely obeying all known laws of physics concerning the transfer of momentum during a punch to the gut with the force of the actual sun.

The knife fell to the floor with a metallic clatter, and Tripphire rebounded off of Adrien’s thick, gelatinous blubber.

Bleeding from the nose and crawling on all fours, the Lieutenant groaned and reached for dagger.

The opposing trio were a trio no longer, for Toven had gone missing, and the other two had only just now realised.

“Hey, where’s T?” Coda said, confirming my point. Ink shrugged, neither of them had seen him leave. What Ink was more curious about, however, was why Coda hadn’t picked up the enchanted dagger before it was too late.

Tripphire pulled herself up onto her knees, exhausted, winded, beaten inside and out, yet determined not to loose. “Bwahahahaa!” She exclaimed, “You are mistaken if you think that you foolish kids can defeat me in battle!”

All other things in the street were silent apart from the patter of frail feet that came swiftly closer.

“I am the greatest Lieutenant there ever was, ever is, and ever will be in this Universe, and you will fall befo-”

There was a quick swish of a moderately-sized wooden stick through the air, and a sound like a metal pot being hit with a moderately-sized wooden stick. The Lieutenant paused around three-quarters of the way through her sentence, and fell flat on her face, out cold.

Toven was standing by her, and he fitted the bristles back onto the bare broomstick. “Hi, i c-called us a t-taxi.” He said, greeting his friends again. He didn’t have good swing strength or even technique for that matter, but the broomstick to the cranium was enough to immobilise a beat-up Tripphire for a while. Ink eyed the dagger that still lay in her hand, and removed it before she woke up again. The gistening blade repulsed him, but he couldn’t put his finger on why. -No matter-, he thought, and sheathed it in his pocket.

Not a single of member of Tripphire’s crew felt like fighting anymore, except Irig, but that wasn’t really a big problem for the opposing trio. They gathered around the fallen Lieutenant as the trio plus Parallax sat on the curb to wait on the taxi.

“I t-tried to find Nnnnnnn-Napoleon, but he wasn’t whh-where we left him.” Toven explained.

“... I’m sure he’ll understand.” Said Ink.

The dark street like a leather belt refracted only the eternal night in its sodden asphalt, and in it two pale yellow lights made their way up the road. Their taxi was just about here.

They stood, seeing it come close, and the Hero turned to him, “That was awesome, T-bone! Like when you came in with the broomstick.”

“Heh, y-yeah…” But he wasn’t so sure. He knew he the woman in the shiny metal clothes had deserved it for pulling a knife on his new friends, but he still felt bad for doing it. He felt… Sorry.

Sorry as he watched the Lieutenant hoisted up by the dopey, tired squad. Then he had an idea.

As the other pair entered the taxi, he excused himself and ran quickly over to the little battalion, tapping the huge one with the horned helmet on the side. He squealed and looked down at Toven, who produced a chunk of cash from his pocket.

“HHHH-H-Hi. You can h-have this, for the hotel.” the boy attempted a smile, and then the Lieutenant herself pushed aside her crewmates and looked at him. “Hi. S-s-ssssssorry for uh, brooming y-you.” he smiled and handed the paper money to the Lieutenant, who’s jaw hung and who’s eyes were frustrated, defeated and sorrowful.

“Please, hurry yourself up!” Shouted Ink from inside the door, “What do you think you’re doing??”

“Sorr-ry!” He called back, “I have to g-go. That will get you into th-the hotel. Bye!” And he jogged back to the taxi, who’s black form and yellow roof-light awaited departure in the black morning, and the ivory child apologiesd yet again and departed into the dark, undying night.

The Lieutenant, failuresque and weaponless and surrounded by useless fools, cursed into the night, and the Reaper had only just now managed to put his finger on why he despised her so. Though turning around now would be a mistake, for he was tired and needed sleep.

-Next time.- They both thought.

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