Dawn and Dusk/Rule 10
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
It was getting dark. Perfect. Tomasu slipped on his mask, the black cloth soft against his clean-shaven face.
"You realize that this is going to cost, right? And by that I mean more than normal rates." The tall, gray-haired man opposite him nodded.
"I'm not surprised." the man said in a grim, husky voice, "I'm asking a lot. Plus, you'll be away from your precious redhead." Tomasu's blue eyes were sharp and dark as he glared at the man, before slinging himself over the white-railed balcony of the man's house, landing with a tiny -piff- as a small cloud of dust rose.
He then turned up to the man, saying in a soft, cold voice, "I expect no less than three million." and then lept off into the night.
Rule 1: Keep all of your tools on you at all times. You never know when you'll need them.
Tomasu's hand instantly sprung to Hebi and Noctem, his two short swords, flipping them out. He lept into the air, swords facing the targeted cliff. He landed successfully, the blades digging into the cliff face, and then he made his way up.
Rule 2: Keep limited supplies. You don't want them holding you back rather than being beneficial.
Upon reaching the top, Tomasu stopped to eat, exhausted. First though, he peered over the cliff, curious as to how high up he was- ah, that childlike curiosity. Whether on the job or being silly with Envy and Haldien and Ross, that curiosity always remained. It was a remnant of his past as an orphan, he reasoned with himself. To make discoveries you had to be risky, and to be risky, you had to be curious.
Rule 3: In high positions, always be careful. Don't rush.
Looking down, Tomasu guessed that he had just climbed about 70 yards. He nodded to himself in approval. Not bad, Tomato. He stood up, finishing off his slice of bread and looking around. He was on a completely flat plateau. Unnaturally flat, even. There wasn't a single bump or dip in sight. Not good for an assassin. Luckily, the plateau was covered in shrubs upto Tomasu's waist. He immediately went prone before continuing his scanning, now looking for living creatures. This was where his dragon blood could shine. The front of his head stretched and grew into a lizard-like shape. He took a deep sniff. Ahaa!
Tomasu's legs swelled and two extra limps sprouted from his back- almost wings but without the thin membrane. He launched himself through the grass with his legs, maintaining the speed with his almost-wings as he chased the scent.
Rule 4: Trust nobody. They may use you for their own needs without giving you a reward.
Tomasu smashed into the source, a large male human hidden in the grass. Tomasu sat over him, blades to the back of his neck. "AH! NO! I DID NOTHING WRONG! PLEASE!" the man screamed with a thick Italian accent.
Tomasu growled in annoyance. Heard it once, heard it a thousand times. He turned the man face-up, revealing his fear-covered face and said, "What'd you do wrong. Tell me, I want to make sure you know."
"I... I didn't do anything wrong." The man admitted quite suddenly, grinning. To anyone else, it would've been rather unsettling and disarming. "It's a trick question."
Rule 5: If you do trust someone, be very careful not to let anyone else know.
Tomasu pulled the man up, giving him a clap on the back. "Good to see you, Wally. Sorry about all that, you just can't be too careful."
Wally shrugged. "Eh, you get used to it! What do you need from your old partner in crime, Duskie?" Duskie was short for Tomasu's assassin name, Dawn and Dusk. He smirked. "I need to know where I can find the key." Wally raised an eyebrow. "Key? There's a lotta them, you know. Are you goin' a bit loony?" Tomasu laughed and shook his head. "Sometimes I think so. But not right now. I'm talking about the Underkey." Both his and Wally's faces grew serious. Wally was silent for a few seconds, and then he softly said. "The Underkey..? To the Underlands..? Why would you want to go there? Why would anyone want to go there!?" Tomasu sighed. "I need to find someone for a job."
"Over five-hundred thousand."
"Didn't think so. Bah. I don't suppose that'll change."
"Nope. So where is it?"
"As always, some rich bastard has it. His name's Ronin King. He's an ex-board member of the Centari Corperation. Big house. Big man, too. And well armed. You'll need to be very careful, Dusk."
Tomasu nodded. "Where's the house?"
Wally grimaced, "You're not going to like this- Christchurch, New Zealand."
"What!? That's the whole opposite side of the goddamn world! And the city's apparently practically a warzone with the earthquakes recently!" Wally nodded. "I certainly hope you're being payed well."
Rule 6: Make sure you always have a backup.
"You're a bastard."
"Well, I needed help with this job... Not only are we going to be breaking into a mansion, but we've got to actually go into the Underlands. Pretty sure you'll be worrying a bit more about surviving than about Bad Dream's returning before you. Plus, I'm giving you half of the reward." Tomasu was sitting at a table in an abandoned McDonalds, opposite a particularly interesting man. The man was completely covered in a black hooded robe, decorated with dark purple runic designs. He was an assassin with skill rivaling that of Tomasu's. He went by the name Carpe Noctem- Latin for 'Seize the Night'. Carpe's ancestry was a fascinating one- he himself was over 2000 years old, and he was the son of Remus, brother of the founder of the Roman Empire. He was also a devout follower of the once-great Lord Bad Dream, a terrorist who recently was the leader of the superpowered organization, the Black Tie. Bad Dream had mysteriously disappeared the previous year, supposedly killed. Carpe grumbled. He obviously didn't care much for the blonde mutant dragon... thing opposite him. But he did have a respect for his skills, and admired the reasoning behind him doing his job. The boy wanted balance, and he believed the evil was weaker than the good at the moment. So he was working to fix that.
Carpe sighed. "Alright, Scales, fine. I'll go with you. But I'm your equal, not your lesser. Keep that in mind." He stood up, robes billowing. Tomasu stood up after him, smirking underneath the mask. "I knew I could convince you."
Rule 7: Don't ever waste time.
"That outfit makes you look stupid, you realize."
"Yeah, yeah." Carpe grumbled, adjusting his surgeons mask and straightening his white jacket. He was covered entirely in white formal clothing, aside from the mask. The mask wasn't out of the ordinary though- everyone was still worried about another flu, worse than swine flu. The two of them were standing in an airport, waiting for their flight.
"You're equally stupid looking." Carpe said to Tomasu. "So don't give me that crap." Tomasu was in a white suit himself, only instead of a mask he had a scarf clumsily wrapped around his face. He also wore his white headband, his most prized piece of clothing. He wore the headband everywhere, no matter how stupid it was with his outfit.
Tomasu chuckled, "Whatever. Our flight's here."
Indeed, their flight had arrived. It was a small private jet, designed for two pilots and three passengers. Carpe and Tomasu hopped on the plane and closed the door. Tomasu adjusted his tie, a signal to Carpe. A tiny needle emerged from Carpe's sleeve, and he stabbed the pilot in the neck. Perfect placement. The pilot slumped forward, dead, his head stopped from hitting the controls by Carpe's hand. They moved him into the back and shed their white formalwear to reveal their assassin clothing and then they moved to the controls.
"Alright, let's get this over with."
Rule 8: Know every way to get out of a situation.
"Scales, we've got a problem. Two fighter jets. Australian flag."
"Yep." Carpe exploded in a puffy purple explosion. Tomasu continued to fly straight, unfazed. A minute later, Carpe rematerialized in his seat. "Three... Two... One." -BOOM!- The fighter jets exploded, shards of metal raining down on the smaller plane.
"Nicely handled." said Tomasu, eyes straight forward as he continued handling the controls.
They landed in the hills a small way from the village of Akaroa a couple hours later. It was a very small village perched on the side of a large inlet from the ocean. It was incredibly beautiful. Tomasu took in a deep breath of the clean air and looked around for Carpe. He found him sitting on the side of a rocky cliff overlooking the inlet. As always, his robe's hood covered his face any stopped any expression from being revealed. But his posture gave away what he was thinking. Tomasu walked over and sat down next to him. Their feet were dangling hundreds of metres off the ground, and yet, there was this calmness. "Missing the old days, Carpe?" He nodded, turning to Tomasu. "You weren't around in the days when we just had small towns like this one, and when we had no cars and planes and very few ships." he sighed, rubbing his concealed face. "Back then... That was the golden days of assassination. Everything you did felt like an epic quest. This job -is- an epic quest, but it just doesn't feel the same. Where are the dangers of bandits as you travel down the road? What about the stormy seas and traveling by ship? It's all gone."
Tomasu gave him a bit of a sad smirk. "Who knows, Carpe. They may have bandits in the Underlands, for all we know! You'll get the..." he searched for a word. "...the epicosity. You'll get it eventually." Carpe just leaned back, flopping against dewy grass. For all his seriousness and age, Carpe was still human, Tomasu realized. He chuckled and stood up. "Alright, then. This is New Zealand! This is wear they film all the good fantasy movies! We could steal some horses and ride to Christchurch- it'll take longer though."
Carpe blinks, looking up at him. He appeared to think over it for a second, but shook his head. "No, it's not important. We need to get this key quickly, and horse-riding would be very attention-grabbing."
Tomasu shrugged, "Alrighty then. It's nearly dusk, so we should set up camp."
Tomasu woke up with a start, his hand clutching at his husband's leg beside him. Only it wasn't his husband's leg. Carpe glared at him.
"And a good morning to you too." he growled. Tomasu scrambled to his feet.
"Shit, uh sorry. Bad dream." he rambled.
Carpe shook his head. "Whatever. Let's pack and get over to Christchurch." Tomasu nodded hurriedly, still embarrassed, and went about working on unpegging the tent Carpe went to work on unpegging the opposite side. "So what was the dream?"
"Hm?" Tomasu looked up.
The question had come from Carpe. Obviously. Carpe repeated the question.
Carpe nodded. Tomasu shrugged. "It was kind of strange. I had this dream of jumping off a cliff and not being able to use my wings. In fact, I couldn't use any dragon powers..." Carpe frowned.
"Think there's a meaning?"
Tomasu shook his head and continued to pack the tent.
After the tent was packed, Tomasu slid his mask on and tied his headband. Carpe pulled his hood over his face, which was already covered anyway with a full-head mask. Tomasu rolled his eyes. "Do you really need all of that? Even I've never seen your face, and we just spent the night in the same tent." Carpe grumbled, "The mask hides more than my identity." Tomasu wanted to ask more, but dared not. So he changed the subject. "Should we go by land, air or our own separate ways?" Carpe shrugged. "Land would be the slowest, and we'd best stick together, so I think air would be best." Tomasu nodded. "Alright, then. Stand back." Carpe did so. Here we go, though Tomasu. He winced in anticipation and then dropped to his knees. An oblique bubble of blue energy formed around him, hiding the transformation from Carpe. Tomasu still felt it though. His nails and fingers and toes grew dramatically, followed by his hands, feet, arms, then legs, and then the rest of the body swelled, catching up. Tomasu's face morphed to a draconic shape, his bones cracking and bending as he transformed. His entire body was then covered with scales, followed by a slick black coating on his chest and legs. Finally, he let out a bellowing roar as two great scaly wings and a long, thick spiney tail burst from his back. The movement was powerful enough to shatter the ground under him, as well as the bubble. He stood, now about 4 feet taller, and stretched. Carpe looked impressed and Tomasu gestured to his tail. "Slip your feet between the spines and grab onto the thick scales between my wings." he growled. Carpe clambered on and found what he meant- three larger scales between Tomasu's wings that were reversed, making perfect handholds. Carpe grabbed ahold and Tomasu smirked with his great maw. His wings extended, the thin membrane catching the cold wind. His muscles rippled, the two huge appendages flapping and stirring up a gale. "Here we go!" He ran for the cliff they were dangling off the previous afternoon and leapt off. They were immediately lifted by a rising air current, raising them high above the clouds. Tomasu bellowed over the rushing wind. "Right! Christchurch! Away we go!" And they zoomed off.
Balth grit his teeth, looking at his watch, around him at the other heroes relaxing in Atlas Square observing the sunset. Where was Chester?
Speak of the devil. Balth turned his head in the direction of the voice (Another hero did too, but, realizing that the voice didn't mean him, went back to what he was doing). Sure enough, it was Chester. The short-green-haired transman was more than a little taller than Balth, something that was quite unnerving to the Peacebringer. Still, he grinned and waved. "Hiya Chester!" he smirked. "You took your time."
Chester shrugged. "Had some new shirts I wanted to try on. Where's Hy?"
Balth shook his head. "He's got a Rogue Isles citizenship, remember? Can't get to Atlas by law."
"Ah. Anyway, he's probably slaving over that zombie." Chester rolled his eyes, chuckling at the thought, then gestured Balth to walk with him. "Cmon, follow me." A couple minutes later they were on the way to Kings Row via the monorail.
"I told you ten times! 'Don't stand in the fire' I said and what do you do? Stand in the bloody fire!" Kryp sighed, rubbing his face as Hy sat in front of him, his hair on fire, blinking.
"Sorry, Kryp! I was too busy worrying about master. I haven't seen him since yesterday!" Hy was going cross-eyed trying to look at his burning fringe. Realizing he wasn't going to put it out himself, Kryp facepalmed and drooped a wet towel over Hy's head, putting out the flames with a little hiss. The two of them were sitting outside a cave in Nerva. Kryp had invited Hy to join him on one of his great heists. That... had been a mistake, as Hy had no prior knowledge in thievery... or even moving quietly, for that matter. This can be a very bad thing when it comes to fire-throwing wizards and demons.
"Alright, this time, stay reeeeally close to the walls, okay? And don't ask the demons if their horns are..."
"Made of interiyithium."
"Yeah, that. In fact, don't talk at all. Kay?"
"Good. Let's go."
Kryp swung open the cave's hidden door.
"So how's the transition going?" Balth asked Chester, taking a slurp from his slushy. They were sitting in a bar in King's Row.
Chester took a chug from his bottle of light beer and grimaced. "Ugh, that's some shitty beer." he smiled to Balth. "Transition's going well though! Just started on the hormones a couple days ago, actually! Haven't yet seen any major differences, but the doctor says I won't for a while."
Balth grinned, "That's great to hear! Soon that girl I met in Junior year will be all but gone!" He chuckled, but Chester visibly winced. He didn't want to be reminded about his younger self. Balth noticed. "Oh, sorry..."
Chester shook his head. "Don't worry. So how's the new apartment?" Chester and Balth used to the live in the same building- Chester in an apartment on his own and Balth in an apartment with his partner at the time, Laurel.
Balth stretched, yawning. "It's coming along! Got a small temporary place at the moment."
"So wait, you haven't got a place?"
"Naaaah, not really..."
Chester leaned over and gave him a thwack across the head. Balth yelped, "What was that for!?"
"You're living on the streets, aren't you!?"
Balth looked at him blankly, silent for a few seconds. Then he slumped. "Yeah..."
Chester sighed, "Why didn't you ask if you could stay at my place, Butcher? You know I'd say yes. We've been friends since school!"
Balth avoided eye contact, "I-I don't know... I guess I just wanted to get out of that building as quickly as possible..." Chester slid closer on the bench to him and wrapped an arm around him, pulling him into a hug. Balth burst into tears, his fingers clutching at Chester's shirt as he sobbed into his shoulder. "I still miss him! So much!" he managed to get out, each word separated by a sob. Chester just ran his fingers through Balth's blue hair, rocking him in the hug, softly shushing him and wondering, all the while, where Lauren was.
Tomasu gave his wings a final flap. "Here we go!" He pulled them in close to his body and spun into a high-speed nosedive. The clouds zoomed by. The ground was getting closer... And closer... And- Carpe flinched- closing his eyes tight... But nothing happened. No crash. Instead, Tomasu had extended his wings at just the right time. The incredible falling speed had been converted into incredible gliding speed. They were rocketing across the countryside. Over the whooshing of the wind, Carpe screamed to Tomasu, "Never do that again!"
"Never do that again!"
"Do that again!? Okay!"
Kryp put a finger to his lips, then gestured down the limestone corridor. Hy peeked around the corner, spotting what Kryp was motioning to. It was a large demon, whose wingspan filled the corridor. Kryp made a number of detailed gesture, seemingly explaining what to do. Hy tilted his head, not understanding at all. Kryp sighed in exasperation, made a gun with his finger and pointed it at the demon. Hy nodded. He understood -that-. The two of them were clad in high-tech powersuits, which were powering up as they stood there. Kryp mouthed, 'Three... Two... One.' They spun around the corner and charged the demon. Hy leapt into the air, sending an electricity-charged shield slamming into the demons head, while Kryp slid under the demon, giving his... sensitive spheres... A high-powered, kinetic-energy enhanced punch. The demon slumped to the ground, unable to let out little more than a grunt before being knocked out completely by a shocking jab to the back of its neck from Hy's fingers. Impressed, Kryp gave him a thumbs up, before motioning to remain silent. Kryp continued silently down the hall, Hy following not-so-silently.
Chester finally managed to calm Balth down. He grabbed a napkin and cleaned up the remaining tears, before giving him another squeeze. "Cmon, now. Where's the normal cheerful Balth gone?" He smiled. Balth looked up at him, eyes swollen and red. Seeing Chester's smile, he managed to give a little smile back. Chester brushed a couple strands of Balth's blue hair out of his face and said, "So do you want to move in? I can sleep on the couch while we find a new place for you."
Balth seemed surprised. "You'd do that for me?" Chester nodded, stood and helped Balth stand.
"Cmon, I'll get you the spare key."
Tomasu landed with a loud thud, branches cracking underneath his feet. "I'm never flying with you again." said a more-than-slightly dazed Carpe as he clambered off of Tomasu's back. "Anyway, back to the job. What's this guy's name?"
Tomasu smirked as he morphed back into a human. "Some guy named Ronin King. Big money. Former board member at Centari."
"Huh. Black Tie did some deals with Centari."
"Not surprised- they did some shady crap."
Carpe shrugged. "So where in Christchurch?"
Tomasu adjusted his mask. "Central Business District."
"Jeeze." Carpe blinked. "Think the house is intact?"
Tomasu looked to him. "Even if it isn't, the key's fine. I got an x-ray satellite image on the house from Arachnos before I left Grandville."
"And you didn't tell me earlier?"
"Didn't need to."
Carpe sighs. "Alright, come on. Let's go."
Chester ruffled his hand around in the bowl of fruit, finally finding the key and tossing it to Balth. After a couple second he turned.
"Can I look at that key for a second?"
"Uh... Sure." he tossed it back. Chester smiled in thanks, then examined it. This certainly wasn't the house key...
"Shit, shit, shit, shit, bloody shit!" screamed Kryp as he and Hy fought the onslaught of demons.
"Nine o'clock!" he roared, and Hy sent a hard, charged punch to his left, straight into a large creature's skull. Kryp was punching in all directions, as was Hy. The monsters were endless.
Suddenly, Hy had an idea. He roared at the top of his lungs to Kryp, "JUUUUUMP!" Kryp leapt into the air and, while he was in the air, Hy sent a shock through the ground, hitting all the demons and other assorted creatures surrounding them. The entire horde collapsed to the ground, save a single demon. As Kryp landed he gave it a kick in the head. It collapsed like the rest. He dusted himself off and then dusted Hy off.
"Not bad for an alien." Hy bowed and Kryp rolled his eyes. "Cmon! It's just this way!"
Kryp gasped. The corridor opened up into a huge, huge cavern. It was like a massive cathedral. In the very center was a small floating box. The side of the room that Hy and Kryp were on was covered in foot-width tiles. Hy started moving towards the box but Kryp grabbed his wrist, pulling him back. "Bad idea, mate."
Kryp picked up a rock and tossed it in the direction Hy was walking. Mid-air, the rock was impaled by a thin spike that launched from the roof.
"Yeeeeap. These places are always booby-trapped. Cmon. We'll find the clue." He motioned to follow him backinto the corridor, and then searched the walls. "Cmon... Cmon... Where is it!?"
Hy looked up and pointed. "Is this it?"
Kryp looked up.