With the two girls out of the way, Ever and the man who had helped him ganged up on Gunter. Realizing that he was outnumbered and overpowered, Gunter broke off from Vincent and managed to roll towards his two hurt allies while avoiding shotgun blasts.
“Damn.” Gunter muttered. “And ven ve thought things vere going to be easy…”
“Well, well, look what has happened while I was away.” said a voice familiar to Vincent, Ever, and the three Thanox agents.
The apothecary appeared from out of the shadows away from everyone else. He had his confident grin on as before, and he was wearing a brand new suit.
“Crap. Not the Candyman again.” Ever groaned.
“Don’t worry, we’ve got more help this time.” Vincent said.
“So, I get to meet the Candyman in person for the first time.” the other man announced, smiling.
The three Thanox agents, momentarily forgotten, moved themselves aside. But the Candyman quickly addressed them.
“You three should have left this to the professionals.” he said.
Although irritated at his remark, the three were in no shape to respond. The Candyman returned to analyze his new situation, just as a new member entered the scene. The aeromancer that Maria some time ago had zapped away had returned. He came towards the protagonist group and stood together with them.
“Guess I’ll help you guys out again.” the new aeromancer dressed in black said.
“Wait, you were the one who helped us out with the police?” Vincent asked.
The man nodded in response, and turned his attention to his new foe. The apothecary showed the faintest look of surprise and irritation at having a new enemy to battle, but shrugged it off and said,
“This should be interesting. It’s about time that I exercised my powers against some WORTHY foes.”
And with that, he held out his hand and began summoning his powers.
“OK everyone, be careful! We can beat him, but he’s still strong!” Vincent announced to his new group.
“Yes. I’m ready this time.” Ever announced, stepping forward to the frontlines.
With the opposing sides facing each other, and the three Thanox agents watching the scene from the sidelines, nobody noticed the missing person.
Jules ran as fast as he could after regaining consciousness only a minute ago. He looked at his hands just to make sure, and reassured himself that he really was carrying the Tome. While running, Jules recalled his quick conversation with Samael.
“Jules, you’re awake!” Samael had said. “There’s no time to dawdle, we’re about to fight the Candyman again and I don’t know how the situation is going to turn out.”
“…unnnhhh…” Jules had replied, getting on his feet.
“Jules, I need you to do this for me. Take the Tome and head to the town northeast of here.” Samael said, giving him the Tome and using the stars to point to the horizon behind Jules. “In the town, you will find a friend of mine living in a red-roofed house. He has studied ancient artifacts throughout his lifetime, so he may know something about the Tome.”
“Why are you sending me out like this?” Jules had questioned.
“…You seem to be the least susceptible out of our group, and no one so far has noticed that you are awake.” Ever had replied. “I don’t know how this situation will turn out, and I need you to guard the Tome and get it away from here. That house will be our next rendezvous point. Go, now!”
“…But…” Jules began, but was quickly pushed on his way.
Before rejoining his allies for the upcoming fight, Samael turned back and had said,
“Jules…I’m trusting you.”
Back to the present, Jules ran through the alleys. Upon turning one corner, he found a dead drug addict laying on the ground and a bicycle nearby. The bicycle still seemed to be in good condition. Jules thanked his good luck, took up the bicycle, and began riding on it with one hand and with the other clutching the Tome towards his next destination, while wondering how the situation he had left behind will turn out…
Lengths of scripture billowed in the summoned winds. Three pairs of majestic, cygnus wings wrapped taut spread from the angelic body that soared in their presence. Beneath black shroud, the unknowable angelic face of darkness lie, hidden from the mortals lest it be their end.
"I..." the celestial hissed, "have returned!" The long arms of its robes flapped in the air as it stretched its reach. The creature surveyed its surroundings as though just waking from a deep sleep.
Then it saw the Candyman.
He only smiled, never bothering to run with the others nor so much as to look up at the angel, nevertheless just as commanding. Ishmael dove to the jagged, bloodsoaked ground, nearly prostrating itself kneeling before the apothecary, as if to beg for forgiveness. And its existance.
"Did I give you permission?" asked he in white.
"The tome..." it rambled, beginning to slant its gaze upward. "It can cure usssssss..."
"Ground," Candyman commanded, and again, the fallen's face was flat. "Do you even know what is contained in the tome?" He was answered by silence. The apothecary tilted his head, adjusting his spectacles with a most disgusted expression. "Why do you wretched things even strive for what you cannot even begin to understand. Fi! To be rid of them all if it would not be such a terrible bother for me to do," he trailed on. Turning his attentions to the cowering angel, he continued his belittlement. "Stay out of my way if you so wish, and wish if to live."
An abyssmal growl echoed from the creature. From the folds of its robes, it began to summon a blade of shadows, but just as Ishmael raised its brow enough to peek at its foe, he was already holding a small vial. It reeled back, shielded itself from the very site of the liquid held within.
"Remember what happened last time, friend," the Candyman mocked while returning the container to a hidden pocket inside his jacket. "And do tell your other self to play nice," he gave as a final command, before turning and setting off after the others. "There is still fun to be had with my new toys."
"Hu-hurry," shivered Maria, whose limbs were bandaged by the only means Gunter knew. Crude, yes, but the ice did prevent the blood from flowing. They had known many battles, and being successful did not always mean winning. Without arms -- or any useful part of them, at least -- a hasty retreat to base was the best they could do. All hope was not abandoned for their side; Sasha alone was left to track the tome. She would receive her allies' aid once Maria could make a quick recovery from her quarters.
Jules had not made a terrible amount of progress. Even with his natural magick, his wounds were not yet healed, and his mind far worse off. The recent events were too much for the teen to handle. The ancient's words were lost to him; he could barely remember where he was let alone where he was to go. He was still not entirely sure if he was even sane -- none of it seemed real. He wanted it all to be over. He wanted to curl up in a ball and wake from this nightmare.
They had already been lured into a deserted part of Neo-Columbus, but he went deeper, running from any sign of life and movement that his blurred eyes could tell. His vision cleared, and he slowly spoke the letters sparsely labeling the building which before he stood.
"Library." The least inhabited area of all the city. He hugged tightly the tome and raced up the stairs...
Vince crashed against the dimly light stone wall, releasing a hail of bullets
"Dammit," Tanner screamed while holding an almost burnt out cigarette in his lips, kicking down a door, "you gotta learn to aim better, Vince."
"Like I'll run out?" he laughed, blowing away the guards that appeared behind the busted door. "I got enough to last me days." Looking behind his partner, Tanner whipped his shotgun from its holster on his back, exploding the heads of some fast approaching guards. "If I do, it'll be your fault. I wanted this to go nice and clean, but you had to shoot somebody."
"He was askin' for it," Tanner defended, channeling some currents to a fine tuned blade that collapsed the stair well the two had entered, crushing the goons ascending to face them. He did the same once they had gone up a few flights. They would expect them to try and get down, but they were assuming the duo had a logical and well founded plan. Racing up a few more flights, a small woman stood in their path.
"Well, hello, boys," greeted the brown clad woman sweetly. "I've been expecting yo- oof!" The door she was previously standing next to was cast quickly open, as a muscle-bound man and voluptuous woman entered.
"Hah," the bald man scoffed, "we found you! Give us back the Tome!"
"Hey," complained Sasha, rubbing the lump on her head, "I had them."
"Shove it," he ordered, not even bothering to look at Sasha as he spoke. "I have my orders." He cracked his knuckles in anticipation. "Which one of you wants to go first?" Narrowing his eyes, Tanner carelessly tossed the Tome into the hands of Vince while he cracked his neck.
"Tanner, what are you-"
"I've got this one," he assured Vince. "What? You don't think I can take him?" He smiled madly. "Tell you what, if I do, you owe me a round at the pub." Snapping his fingers, spinning blades carved out the wall.
"Don't be a hero," Vince order his partner through clenched teeth, but it was too late. He was catapulted through the just-cut opening on a gale, riding the stone slab. He was not sure how smooth the landing would be, but at least the Tome was safer out there than in the head quarters.
"Damn you, you smug ass," the large man cursed. "Maria, follow him. Make sure he doesn't get away." Planting her lips on the back of his bald, shiny head, she blew a kiss to Tanner and returned the way she came. "You go with her, too, bitch. And try to keep up."
"Hey," fumed Sasha at the insult, "now, you listen hereeee!" Uncaring for her words, the giant picked up the girl with a single hand and tossed her into the hallway. Landing hard on her backside, she shot a mean eye at her superior. Dragging her eyes over, they met with Tanner's. He quickly winked at her, only getting an eye roll in return. The Blade Master studied his foe, noting his advantage in size among other things. One thing about him stood out above the rest, however, to Tanner at least.
"Nice shades," he complimented. "Mind if I take them?"
"Over my dead body," the oaf threatened.
"Thanks, I dinna wanna take 'em without your permission." Quickly retrieving his firearm, he blew a deep hole in the man's chest. Thinking the battle to be over, he was astounded that it repaired itself before his very eyes. Tanner then noticed his earring of the Staff of Asclepius. "Ooooh, you're Doc, ain't ya?"
"'Fraid so," he disappointed, brushing off the pellets that were pushed to the skin on his chest.
"So you're a pretty well trained healer, I take it. Yeah, this is gonna take a while..." Springing into action, Tanner waved his hands about at a variety of angles, sending out unseen razors that tore into Doc's flesh, that quickly healed. The battle was waged like this for hours, little ever being accomplished.
"Nothing will work, fool. You cannot harm me!" Tanner eventually grew to weak to continue combat. The colossus gained the upper hand, smashing his oversized fists into his chest, shattering ribs. The mammoth mocked his victim's failure with an uproar of laughter, throwing back his neck, to drag out his humiliation. His victim lied bruised and pummeled on the cold hard floor, exhausted. An idea quickly came to the agent and he flung a rivet of water that lashed deep into his neck, slicing his juggler.
"What was that suppose to be? You could try no harder in this, your dying breath? The world will be better off when you're rot!" Taking a step forward, the doctor suddenly began to feel light headed. He looked down to see that the water was still bound to him. In fact, it was coming from him. Establishing a connection with his blood stream, Tanner was now draining his body dry. He may be able to heal wounds, but that ability does little for this massive of blood loss. Before he could get a last word, Doc fell flat on his face, smashing his sun glasses. Stooping down, Tanner swiped the specs. A little disappointed in their condition, he still donned them. Not leaving anything to chance, he sent a cascade of cuts through the fallen man, slicing him into pieces before kicking and scattering them throughout the stairwell.
It was hard for him to believe it all happened days ago. Much like Vince, his days were filled with persistent skirmishes and frequent hiding. Word never got around to the main office as to which one actually had the Tome.
This was all divulged as Tanner and Vince exchanged stories from the past few days, their long time friendship outweighing the mission at hand. Ever, having cleaned most of the clumped mud from his garb and face, although it truly did not make much of a difference on him, grew impatient. Pacing, he approached the angel of Darkness. It growled as he approached.
"Oh, yeah, I'm real afraid of you."
"Godslayer," it hissed with a most vengeful ire, pulling the blade of shadows from out its robe's sleeve. Ever did not halt his approach. The angel knew it would be pointless and withdrew the blade.
"So, how's the big G doin'? Still pissed at me, I assume," Samael babbled, wasting time while the two agents caught up.
"Greatly," it briefly answered.
"So, how are the gang doin'?" he inquired. "You know, Michael? Gabriel? ... Satan?" A low rumble grew from the angel. Ever only laughed. Bored with the heavenly figure already, he returned to Tango unit. "Can we get going? I just know that Jules will screw this up."
"But I thought you trusted him, Sam?" Vince questioned the elder while in the middle of re-enacting one of his fights on Tanner. Twisting out of the mock fight, his partner began to walk in an direction in which they saw nothing. He, however, say Sasha. Currently, she was banging a tracker, the same one the Thanox trio used to find the rendezvous point, attempting to get it to work. Rather odd how they came about it...
"Well, how was I to know that the original tracker was there," Maria defended herself. "I don't really just say, 'Hey, I should look between them'."
"Yeah, Gunter, don't blame her," Sasha supported her. "Enough other people check there for her."
Sasha smiled at the memory. She received a nasty jolt for it, but it was well worth it for the look on Gunter's face.
"So, what are you up to, hun?" Sasha turned about with a large rock half raised behind her, prepared for a strike. She stopped when she saw it to only be Tanner. "Aw, what? No hug."
"Go away, you pest," she wishfully asked, returning to her tinkering.
"You know, I killed him for you," he said, slowly stepping closer. "I guess you could say that the doc is out." He chuckled at his entirely unfunny comment.
"Oh, and what? You expect me to just throw myself at you just because you iced someone who was a minor annoyance to me?"
"Well, it would be nic-... ow" A craggy formation rose up from beneath his legs, striking straight up. "No point this time?" he asked, still in a falsetto voice. "You must be softening up," he squeaked, wiping away a tear. Whether it came from touched emotions or the, erm, rock was hard to determine. Not even bothering to look at him, she ran off, chasing a blip on the tracker. Smiling, Tanner tried his best not to keel over.
With a loud clash, Jules stumbled through the doors of the Library. Delirious, he only managed a few steps before crashing into a stack of books. He was not sure for how long he had been laying, but when his eyes opened, an elderly lady was peering down at him, her head cocked at ninety degrees. Too tired to be alarmed, he merely sat up.
"Oh my," she croaked, "what brings a youngun like you to this place?"
"Book," he whispered. "The ... the book." She let out a chuckle that sounded more like a cough.
"My dear, this place is all about books."
"I have ... the book." He held out the mysterious tome to the librarian. Its tattered yet fancy binding caught the old woman's eye. "Is... the roof red?"
"Uh... sure, honey, sure." Snatching the tome, she attempted to read its wondrous contents, only finding that it would not open. "Why... why won't this book open?"
"It opens," Jules stated, still not fully aware of his surroundings. "I opened it before. Taking the book back, he effortlessly parted the pages. Amazing, the woman went to peek at its text only to have it slam shut on its own. Confused, and a little scared, she scuttled backwards.
"Why don't you get some sleep, child," she offered, rubbing her eyes in disbelief. "Apparently its been a long night for all of us..."
"What do you mean you don't got them?" Maria shrilled as she and Gunter broke through the headquarter doors.
"I-I-I just dought," Gunter stuttered in panic at the anger in the maddened maiden's voice, "dat you vould have-"
"What? What did you think, Gunter?" Maria demanded to know. "That I would have carried my own hands?" The dodged dodge some rubble in the entrance of the battle ravaged main hall, fast approaching what once was the front desk. "Tanner will pay for this!" Maria screamed, startling the evil receptionist. "And I believe I have just the thing back in my office," she said in a much lower tone, looking at her bloody stumps, wondering the malignant possibilities.
"Is da doctor in?" Gunter quickly inquired the now recovering secretary.
"You mean Doc? Oh, I'm sorry, there was an incident with the intruders," she began to explain. "I'm afraid the doctor is-"
"In." A voice boomed from the shadows as a large, bald man stepped into what little area of the room received light. He was only wearing pants, and they were badly shredded. His exposed chest bore several linear scars ringing around his body. "The doctor is in."
A restless healer tossed and turned, pulling the sheets over his head, and finally getting up to reassure himself of his
"Okay," Jules thought, "I'm stuck in this musty s***hole of a library. I've been able to get rid of Maria for a while, and I doubt they could have followed me with that battle going on. And besides, what the hell could be in this book?"
He grasped it, and brought it to the window for a closer look. The arcane tome seemed to glisten in the moonlight, almost becoming metallic. Entranced in a swirling silver light deep in its surface, he was jarred by the sound of a car door slamming. Jules peeked out to see a fuming geomancer looking at a small device.
"S***, no time for this now. That must've been some kind of tracking device, but where did they pla..." His eyes sunk back, and he remembered an... intimate moment with Maria. He grappled with words great enough to describe his ander and disgust, "That nasty bi....How in the hell did sh... I knew she was lying! It'll enhance the experience my as..." Jules was enraged at his own word choice, but knew that action must be taken. An idea came to him, and he hoped he could move fast enough.
Sasha walked up to the large doors, and looked back to the tracker, the small blip was moving quickly somewhere in the structure. One pillar splintered the wood, and Sasha ran into the building. She wandered into the cavernous main hall following the trail of the blip. He was somewhere in this huge room, and he was closing in quickly. Sasha pivoted and sent a mass of rock into a rustling behind her. The librarian was dashed across the far wall, there was a whimper and then silence. Jules took his opportunity. Sprinting on the towering book cases, Sasha began sending them into the air around him. He charged ahead, leaping across passages when a column threw his next platform down. Blinded by an avalanche of books, Sasha began to send shockwaves through the foundation, compromising the stability of the antiquated building. Just as the roof collapsed inward, Jules dove through a near window, barely grabbing a fire escape on the next building.
He struggled to pull himself up the railing, and escaped onto the rooftop, where he was met with a maniacal laughter. A familiar cane grazes Jules cheek as he tries to duck out of the way.
"Damn, I missed." The Candyman mocked as Jules began to stagger. "What? Oh thats right, the whole venom deal." He approached Jules, who fell back. Grabbing at Jules's jacket, the Candyman tore it off, and pulled the small protrusion out. His jaw dropped, but he quickly set back to his usual frame of mind, and he looked back to the teen.
"Hehehe..." Jules laughed, choking on his words a bit, "I didn't know you were so into erotic fiction."
The Candyman's grin ceased for a moment, but he resumed it as he tossed the crimson book away. "Listen to me boy, I've been happy, and I'll remain happy if you don't want to die. There is a book in that rubble if I am not mistaken, and I will have it. Tell me where it is or no amount of your own medicine will save you."
He removed his right glove in the same manner as before, but much slower. The Candyman traced a finger down Jules's forehead to his chin which quickly became discolored and singed. It was temporarily numb, but Jules felt the searing pain flash into his face. As the Candyman withdrew Jules sunk his nails into his own forehead, roliing in pain. He cursed bitterly, but the pain slowed and he lay on the ground sweating, with a scar running down the middle of his head.
"Had enough yet?" The apothecary asked playfully. The pain he inflicted more than made up for the anger of being decieved.
"Damn, S%^#!" Jules screamed. "Alright, alright you've got it. I can show you where I hid it.
The hydromancer replaced his glove, and grabbed the young man by the back of his collar. Despite his gaunt figure he was able to handle him roughly as he pounced off the rooftop onto a brick pillar still standing among the ruin.
"Point to it." He commanded to the slumping boy. A finger was raised into the collapsed magick reference section. Another large leap into it where the Candyman ordered Jules to find it. The healer sifted through the volumes until he came upon an unadorned rather tattered unadorned book.
"For me? I can't...." the deranged one paused, "Do you take me for an IDIOT?" The glove was removed and he smacked Jules, sending him rolling back a few feet. The cheek glowed red, then a morbid grey, then back to a slightly pale normal skin color. Only pain was intended in the blow. "I've seen the tome before! Now eee..." An aquatic knife cut through his shoulder and suit, and was absorbed into it. "Pity...not again..." he said as he looked at his jacket. A red stain began to soak in at the point of impact
Tanner was ready for several more strikes before halted him. "I wouldn't do that if I were you. Your friend seems to need medical attention, and I wouldn't want him to receive an extra dose of my happy medicine." Tanner returned the blades to his sleeve. "Now then, if you'll excuse me I must see a man about a supposedly indestructible suit!" He tossed a ball of putrid water to Tanner, who had to roll to avoid it. When his eyes returned the man was gone.
"The touch," tanner muttered under his breath looking at Jules scar. "Where's the tome kid?"
"Don't call me kid. And where does everyone hide the books they don't want others to find?" He returned to his feet, exhausted from the rapid attacks. He walked over to his previous guest room and pulled the tome out from under the mattress, throwing it at Tanner.
Moments earlier Vince and Ever puffed trying to follow the direction they thought Tanner took.
"Dammit!" Vince remarked, "Tanner gets to follow her on a motorcycle, not noticing there wasn't another vehicle around for miles!"
Ever stopped, leaning on a streetlight to catch his breath. "This isn't the way he took. We had to have lost him some intersection earlier."
The wind picked up, and the lights in the area seemed to become brighter. Soon it was apparent that they were several times more brilliant than seconds earlier, and the entire row of them burst in an instant. A crack of electricity shook the air behind them, and they saw the beautiful face of Maria, shrouded in a large robe. Not much farther back was Doc and Gunter.
"Should ve help her out boss?" The russian asked.
"No," his new specs glinted from the arcing energy, "I want to see what they're capable of first."
Maria cast the cloak back, showing a much more revealing shirt and short skirt. Despite that, Vince's and Ever's gazes locked onto her new arms. She took a running start and bounded into the air, only to smash a titanium fist into the pavement and allow bolts to shoot out wildly. It was not a precise attack, but more of a demonstration.
"Hey boys, want to feel a woman's new touch?" Vince cringed slightly from her comfort, Ever merely pulled out a rod...