(GM-led) Devils In The Details
The ground rose suddenly to meet Metzil, the crack of the chair reverberating up his host's spine.
"Gah! You ba-" The words were lost in the whoosh of air from his lungs as Kuroda stomped across him toward the stage. Mr. Stein forgotten in the commotion, backed up in astonishment, fear gripping him as Kuroda's glamour wavered. Metallic armor materialized across him as he moved. Supple mortal skin birthed rippling tendons wrestled over power bones, then disappeared. But within his hood, the frosted cobalt eyes remained, piercing Stein's delicate subconscious. Metzil concentrated to prevent the human's fear from overpowering his compulsion.
Those simpletons would get sealed for this, locked out of the Revelation Cycle. Metzil would personally entomb them in the deepest crypts of Hell. He flipped to his stomach. Someone finally noticed the flames.
"Fire, bloody hell! The fucking floor is on fire!"
The warning echoed through the room as more patrons and staff raised the alarm. They scrambled, tripping over their own seats as they bolted for the exits.
With an impulse, Metzil pushed his will into Stein. Fate's powers of persuasion were vast and it took little effort to lay the command within the human.
Stop the cloaked man, don't allow him to reach the Weevils. He is dangerous, he will kill them and they are your only hope of infamy.
Stein blanched before rushing the hulking Kuroda, stumbling in his effort. He fell just short of grasping his body, instead wrapping his arms around his legs and pulling him to the floor. The flames speared past them toward the bar, glass shattering in the oppressing heat.
Metzil turned away from the stage, toward Norsa, whose face was drawn in ecstasy in the light of the glowing flames. The air choked Metzil's host and burned his eyes. He pushed the inconvenience away, advancing toward the wrath demon. This botched acquisition was his fault. He clamped his teeth through Fate's lip. The taste of blood filled his mouth, splaying from his mouth as he voiced the incantation. Metzil will his rage into it, forcing the spell to take shape. A dagger appeared in Fate's hands. It's blade crystalline garnet blade with a simple woven silver handle.
Norsa was oblivious to the danger approaching from behind, lost in the chaotic wilderness of his inferno. Metzil savored loomed overhead, the dagger poised.
The feminine scream barely carried over the fire's roar, awakening Norsa and he turned toward its source. The dagger caught him then, just hooking his well-tailored suit and shredding down its length. Metzil roared in frustration, lunging again as his quarry fell away.
Upon being haphazardly dragged to the ground by the influenced Stein. Kuroda had fallen to his knees before toppling forwards, bracing his right side to land against the metal scaffold staircase. Eliciting a loud oof and groan from the two Weevils now under his side. "... Really, you truly have to stand in the way of a herald?..." Kuroda's words hung coldly upon the air. A thick accent beginning to form in his speech whilst he reached around his back and ripped a large spine of bone out from himself.
Kuroda was quick to brandish towards Stein once he looked up to Kuroda, however upon seeing their radiant soul with his well honed eyes. However he weighed Stein's soul in comparison to the four souls of the Weevils. After coming to a conclusion in that small instance, he was quick to pierce Stein's throat with the spine. The blue gaze of the Mastema locked with the humans own. A look of sterling fear and agony warped his expression as the immense pressure of being in the presence of the otherworldly paralyzed him.
Nonetheless as this occurred, a loud echo would occur once Stein was skewered with the chitinous spine.
ALERT ALERT! VALUABLE ASSET IN CRITICAL CONDITION! ALERT ALERT! The Alarm blared once more across the open space, the fighting between the demons were quick to cease Nosra and Metzil had turned to face where Kuroda was sitting upon the scaffold staircase, four sinuous tendrils sprouting from just underneath his spinal growths, were being manipulated to violently throttle the weevils. Although they were the big quarry of this assignment, Kuroda was banking on his reputation of a strangely high failed deal rate to leave the impression that he was going to kill them.
Nosra, who had zoned out initially to enjoy their craft, was coming reeling back to reality as Kuroda pressed his weaponized spine up to the writhing body of one of the weevils
Metzil who also just returned his attention to him, " You, What the hell did you just do?! You killed a target!" which Kuroda was quick to quip back " Oh I don't know, let me check?" he would kick the sputtering stein as blood pooled and flowed freely from his neck
"Oh, no, no... I'd say he'd be dead in a couple of minutes... wanna come and save his ass? If you do I'll just poke another hole in one of these boys here. Well if I don't break their necks first.~"
"What the fuck is happening? THESE ASSETS SHOULD HAVE BEEN OBSCURE."
Bob launched herself from the bathroom, pulling Astra and Cye with her. The floor had cleared as the flames began to climb the walls, the entrance turning into a deadly clinch as patrons struggled to escape.
"He's not dead, not yet. We can salvage this!" She couldn't tear her eyes from the rush of red velvet coursing across the floor. Stein's body twitched at the base of the scaffolding.
"We can salvage this right?"
Astra surveyed the scene. She knew the manager didn't matter. He would have made things easier sure, but this was so far out of containment. Only the Weevils mattered, and getting them away from whatever poachers had wandered into this heist. She didn't recognize the intruding demons, but clearly, they had quarreled with Fate and he must have pushed them too far. This debacle was Fate's fault. If they didn't turn this around, Astra would be sure to feed Fate to Lulu first.
Astra felt the fear of failure clawing up her insides. She couldn't take a Mastema, she didn't think Cye could either. They needed Larazeth for this fight, but there was no way he would be able to make it down those stairs. The only option was to take the fight to him. Abruptly the fire on the left side of the room went dark, smoke billowing into the enclosed space and obstructing everything. Val's obnoxious giggle echoed in the haze. Finally, some cover.
"We need to push them up those stairs and into the alleyway. Then we won't have witnesses. We can drug the weevils, negotiate with these slobs and hopefully still secure this deal." Astra didn't know how she got her voice to sound so optimistic.
"And while we are bum-rushing them up the stairs, how are you going to prevent them from killing more weevils?," Derision rolled off Cye.
"Cye, I said push them up the stairs."
Metzil would enjoy this.
He turned, his previous quarry forgotten. His work, his windfall withered before him. The brightness behind Stein's eyes finally yielded to oblivion. So much potential was gone, but perhaps not all was wasted. Pacing toward the blood now dribbling across the room, he crouched Fate's body and ran his finger within the tepid pool. There was just enough mana here.
With precise strokes he began to etch runes, the ichor flowing away from his movements in ripples. The glistening liquid was memorizing. A smile pulled at his lips. Every demon knew the runes, knew the ritual. But it had been so long since Metzil had harvested in the field, the anticipation made him giddy. Unbuckling the mana watch at his wrist, he placed it within the center of the binding, its red warning light revealing his ravenous hunger. The machine whirled, siphoning. The ebony mana began to twist above it. Slowly, the energy indicator lights began to fill.
Yes, Metzil would enjoy this.
Norsa clutched at his coat. The material was slashed beyond repair, but meager enough to cover.
Kuroda killed him. The man's body slumped across the floor.
Shock halted his movements. Made him slow to realize he was alone. Part of the wall was no longer on fire, but still billowing smoke. And Metzil drawing.
As Metzil was in the midst of drawing runes upon the floor. Yet Kuroda wasn't showing any signs of urgency like many of the other demons at the moment. All he needed to do was utter a few words to invalidate Metzil's works. Metzil could feel Kuroda's gaze upon him. It felt oppressive, as if a blue star was gazing down upon him and snuffing the remaining time he had left at this very moment. Yet in this moment, Metzil's direct efforts were misguided. Astra, Cye, and bob had the better idea. Their biggest threat at the moment was the Mastema, and what was a Mastema. Only Astra had a general idea of what they were looking at, and maybe even Nosra given their previous works together.
A Mastema, or more appropriately "The Mastema" was ultimately just a title. in reality it was a mostly overlooked individual. In the history that is isolated within the hells, they're considered the Shepard of the second generation demons. Those being the watchers, who retain some of the highest positions across hells bureaucracy. "The Scales of the Six," "The Novenaries," As well as "The Second Hierarchies" Nonetheless this was a figure of extreme standing watching a louse grasp at straws, and he was about to crush them under heel.
Kuroda would then utter the words "As to pour your works unto your fellow neighbor, they were all of blood and bone. You had shed the blood of a saint. You give me blood, then you shall drink blood. As that is what you deserve."
As he spoke, Metzil was sweating bullets. The increasing desperation was made ever more apparent, the longer Kuroda spoke. Each of his words were spoken in the english language, yet an immense strain was being placed upon Metzil, as they heard echoes of dozens of speakers in their ears. Speaking Hebrew, Afrikaans, Persian, Hindi, Latin, and even French. They could understand that they were all saying the same thing, and just as Metzil finish the sigil upon the ground. The blood would fall apart, purified into water. Undoing his desperate attempt to salvage the situation.
There was silence outside of the screams of the former patrons above the street, the crackling of the fire, which was growing ever louder. Metzil would raise his head to see Kuroda's gaze, but would feel something sharp, followed by an immense bludgeoning force strike his stomach. Kuroda had summoned his signature Halbard at that point and launched it with his one free hand at Metzil. Skewering him and pinning only his now crumpled and bloody mess of a body to the wall.
Nonetheless, as this confrontation had ended, Nosra, Astra, Cye, and even Bob were privy to perhaps one of the forgotten truths of the hells. One that was backed by what happened here in the bar. A miracle had occurred. It was even caused by the ranks of hell. Which to Kuroda would soon rise to his feet, motion for everyone to follow him up the scaffold stairwell and into the fruit warehouse up above, that way they could be more at ease without any of the fire. The Weevils were being dragged up the stairs. His tendrils still firmly around the necks of the band. Whom were fading in and out of consciousness at this point due to his tightening noose.*
"Let them go now," Bob spoke as they cleared the warehouse. Sirens blared from the opening of the alley, as a firetruck sped past.
The hulking Mastema turned slowly in her direction, the unconscious mortals dragged limply behind it.
"Please," she continued. "If they die, we are all screwed."
Bob edged closer, hands raised in supplication.
"Who are you working for? Monn'Santoe? Viduus?" She stopped well beyond the menacing demon.
"Lets make a deal." The words rang with truth. They filled the air, reverberating within the confines of the alley until they settled within their bones.
"Your employer won't be happy with this mess. Things seemed to have gotten out of hand." The windows beside them burst, glass shards spraying across the concrete street. Flames lept through the shattered opening, smoke rising into the ski.
"Your assets aren't doing so well." Bob gestured toward the demon's captives, their color turning an unpleasant blue.
"We'll clean up your mess and you give us three."
As the group had cleared the warehouse, and their conversation entered a stage of negotiations. The Mastema had turned around to face Bob, Astra, and Cye. Nosra stood close by to him, a bit more nervous as the air was filled with uncertainty, mixed with truth. Various things went wrong this asset acquisition venture. However a new light was made apparent. A demon had caused a miracle in this scuffle, they killed one asset without a care, and they seemed fairly disgruntled. Nonetheless, the intensity of the situation grew to fade at the first offer made unto the table.
Kuroda, unfurled his tendrils from the necks of the Weevils. Whom had been given quiet rough treatment in the moments before, and had thoroughly passed out due to a lack of oxygen, as well as the tightening of the noose around their necks as they were dragged up the stairs.
"Hrm?... So you want three of these radiant souls?... For fixing my mess?..." Kuroda's voice rang out as they stood in the alleyway, the flames flickering through the nearby windows high above them within warehouse walls plumed smoke high above them.
"How about this then. I'll give you the four souls here... however I get to draw the terms for a long term contract, you all clean up this mess. Also in addition... Hire me on, I'll still work for my current contracter in addition to working for you all... It's rare to find demons who are willing to wheel and deal with me. My mood was rather foul up until you started talking, Consider the lives of these potential sinners yours to collect ultimately however."
As Kuroda said this, a immense quandary was presented to those who were present. He was effectively reneging his own claims to the souls, at the prospect of writing up the contract that outlines specific stipulations that would lay ownership to a soul. Normally deals are one and done, however these long term contracts had specific stipulations that would void said contract if the persons in suspect were left unfulfilled, didn't perform specific tasks, or the contract provider can't fulfill certain conditions. These were long term investments, and they didn't necessarily have to pan out. Not only that, he was forwarding his services Brimstone and Co, which would be unheard of as it would effectively mean lowering himself to working beneath them, as the Mastema had connections to the second and first hierarchies
Larazeth stumbled from the crowd fleeing the Cavern. His face was drawn in irritation, his emotions thickening the air around him. A hazy soup settled over the would-be rescuers, their movements turned sluggish. A few fell in exhaustion, bodies left piled before the emergency vehicles.
He made his back toward the alley. The team would have to come out the exact way they went in. Having Val light the building on fire hadn't been part of the plan. But Larazeth was sure they must have encountered the competitors without him and made a quick get away. What that meant for the assets he couldn't say, but he sure as buttons he wasn't going home without something to show for it.
Turning into the alley he filled it with his presence, allowed it to roll before him, an invisible consuming wave. He half stumbled into the standstill, his team caught open and negotiating with the would be thieves.
Sloppy. Asinine. Amateurs. Your assets are dying as you stand here listening to us. If she had listened to us, this never would have happened.
The voices chattered to themselves, happy to list the failures that were already very apparent to Cye. Lulu would make their punishment worse than wax this time. Worse than that time she cursed them to be a mouse and allowed the office cats to terrorize them. Worse than that millennia of filing.
"How about this then. I'll give you the four souls here... however I get to draw the terms for a long term contract, you all clean up this mess. Also in addition... Hire me on, I'll still work for my current contractor in addition to working for you all... It's rare to find demons who are willing to wheel and deal with me. My mood was rather foul up until you started talking, Consider the lives of these potential sinners yours to collect ultimately however."
It was as though the demon had shined a light at the end of their proverbial tunnel.
"Yes, that sounds exactly like what we need to do." The words burst from Cye, excited energy filling their limbs. "Yes, I have the parchment. We need to wake them up." She gestured toward the weevils.
Astra eyed Cye'tlov. She had been left gawking as Bob, the soul analyst of all things, took the lead, but the outburst from Cye shook her most. She had to rein in her team. Taking a step forward, Astra drew the Mastema's attention. She felt the weight of his stare settle on her, attention trained for detail.
"And whose your current contractor? I'm betting they aren't going to be very pleased that you didn't complete their assignment, " she said.
The Mastema was a big player, brought in to test these mortals. The Mastema were a class of heralds versed in corruption and disaster; a viable mana making cauldron of chaos. But his presence professed to the involvement of more influential architect. With these souls being worth a fortune, agreeing to his terms could throw Brimstone into a feud it may never walk away from. Astra couldn't help as her thoughts drifted back to Lulu. She could hear the conversation ahead of her.
Sloppy. Asinine. Amateurs. Disappointment gathered in her chest, a deepening hole of dread within her. Worst of all she didn't know what would Lulu would do when she found out all Astra was going to have to agree to.
Val studied her nails. Two broken. Boy, that made her mad. She pursed her lips, deadpanning the monotonous conversation before her. Bet it would make other people mad if something happened to that paper… or perhaps a curse on the blood quills? Why not both?
As the congregation gabbed away in the alley, Cye'tlov's apparent Enthusiasm to accept the Mastema's counter offer was met an ease of tension in the air. In turn the Mastema held their hand out as if to await for the papers, however once Asta stepped forward and asked their question. The oppressive gaze of the herald had once again been cast down upon the demon. They would retract their hand once the over excited cye had placed normal paper within their hands to write up the contract.
"My Contractor... perhaps I should say contractors actually, well as it stands you all have no real right to know such information. Although neither force would entirely care if I were to spread the information. A long time ago, I was an adversary. A "demon" capable of retaining the title of Satan, as it stands however,I'll tell you that one of my current contractors is Satan...but who exactly is satan?… that’s up for you to speculate"
As he said this, the paper in his hands began to slowly drip with ink,before lighting ablaze and charring to a brittle crisp, becoming a pure sheaf of carbon paper. He brought a finger up to the carbon page and in turn a growth of bone pierced through his finger tip, creating a fountain tip as he began to write the terms of the contract.
"I doubt those below the third heirarchy to know who I'm referring too... however do not mistake those who hold the title of Satan... I do not refer to hell's poster child lucifer... No, they're just a young child who threw a temper tantrum and tried to grow past their station…. I suppose I can reveal one individual who held the title before, Baal, the first king is one such man who I have a contract with.”
As Kuroda wrote out the terms of the contract, his tendrils began to shoot downwards to latch onto the chests of the weevils causing them to jolt awake suddenly once these tendrils retracts and retreated back into the form of the mastema. They gasped for air and sputttered to catch their breath while coming too
"Get to work convincing them"
What a fuckin' mess, Asta thought to herself. How could this have gone so off the rails? She could feel her body bristling with anger, her face shifting to look more like the wrathful monster she was.
How in all Hells was she going to explain things to Lulu?
Not to mention this Mastema situation was proving to be a bit more troubling than she initially thought. Doesn't help that the guy seems to have a shitty, smartass attitude. OOooOO the guy has a contract with Baal, he's such a edge lord.
Asta felt herself getting more and more annoyed as the conversation went on, the fire within her building to an inferno. She wondered if Cye could feel the warmth that was surely come off her, and the corner of her mouth slightly upturned at that possibility. It was time to get fuckin' real.
"Hold up there, gruesome," Asta roared as Kuroda started writing the contract. Her voice had gShe extended her frame to her full height and a low growl rumbled from her belly as she stepped toward the Mastema. "Long term contract for us AND we have to clean up your mess? AND we hire you in? Do you even hear yourself, what you are asking? This whole situation has been essentially the worst interview!" Asta gesticulated wildly with her clawed hands as she admonished the demon before her and her team. Bob and Cye both found themselves having to dodge around her wild arms and restless tail. Asta palmed her face in exasperation and continued. "For you to come onto our team with the... the prowess" Asta enunciates with lovely air quotes around 'prowess' "that you've so sloppily shown here... I shudder to think what our boss would think striking up a deal with you without her. You are bold as shit, but that will only get you so far."
Asta was so incredibly enraged she could feel herself almost losing control, but found herself cooling as she thought of the ways this deal could be better shaped to go well for everyone involved. She took a deep breath in, and blew out a cloud of smoke and clasped her hands together so she didn't wring this fellow's neck.
"Hoooooookay, you know what? I think we can make this work so everyone is all peaches and cream," Asta goes as she paces back and forth between the Mastema and her team. "How about this. Absolutely FUCK no to a long term contract or hiring you without big boss's buy in. That's the first thorn in my ass. However, we can get you council with her for a proper interview. We can pretend none of this ever happened and I can put a solid word in for you. You'll have the chance to work with us, whether you blow it or not is out of my claws." Asta paused for a second and looked off in the distance as she considered her next points. "Next thorn, yeah sure, we'll clean up your shit. And we get those four souls. I can even include that in my spiel, let boss know that you helped us get these bad boys." Asta stops again to gesture at the weevils. "As for your other contractors... Fuck 'em. Last thorn that's up in there real deep is the idea that you would be working with our competition alongside working with us. That shit stinks. Brimstone's legal team can get you guidance on how to sever those ties real quick."
Asta then looks around, taking in all the BULLSHIT. She was settling into her anger elegantly.
"What do you say to that?" Asta asked the Mastema, crossing her arms. She looked back to her team to see if she could read their expressions.
As Asta listed off these various complaints they had towards the Mastema's initial counter offer, he grinned and the air was filled with levity of jovial laughter.
"Wonderful! Now we're negotiating. However there a couple problems with your line of thought. As it stands baal, and the other individuals who held the title of satan aren't your competitors. I am. What I'm offering is effectively a merger of assets, and interests. They may be my contractors, by they don't gain anything besides potentially powerful souls to send through the wringer and to forge new demons, but in reality they don't need my souls, in a sense this is merely a long standing formality between me and the 1st and 2nd hierarchs."
As Kuroda said this he would walk to and kneel down beside one of the weevils even without a illusionist a glamour began to form around his hulking frame. Creating a fairly burly middle eastern man with royal blue eyes, blackened hair, and tanned skin. He reached out and grasped one of them by the cheeks. The glamour was fairly high in mana density, making it almost impossible to discern from reality, and looking at his form was creating a haze over their minds. This was obviously a high quality residual glamour. Nonetheless what he said next only threw a further curveball in their discussion.
"I'm not bold... It's not bold to demand things of others when the odds are so far stacked in your favor. You are the one who is bold little recruiter. I accept your terms happily. However make sure to not renege on the deal.
Kuroda would then rise to his feet and approach Asta, reaching out a hand eminating in harmless blue flames
"Do I have your word. You will absolutely fulfill your part to a T little Soul hunter?"