Another day passes by, as dusk falls over the bustling city. While the hours continue to march on, New York continues to beat with the sounds of life, clearly living up to the name “The City that Never Sleeps”. This is not entirely true, a block away from the Phoenix headquarters, the streets are eerily empty, save for a pair that chooses to take an evening stroll.
One of them is a young man, or more accurately, a late teenager. Wild blonde hair sticks out of his head in every direction as if he were struck by lightning. His attire consists of a simple green hooded sweatshirt and an old pair of blue jeans. Sharing the walk through town is an older gentleman, looking as if he has a decade or two on the boy. He dresses in a black trench coat that covers a bland, yet tattered business suit. Long raven-black hair hangs off his scalp like a lion’s mane. Though the two of them look as different as night and day, they do share one common feature. In the dim light, their eyes glow a crimson hue, the trait of all karayans.
“Can you believe the Giants lost?” the boy groans, throwing his whole body into his gestures. “I lost a thousand bucks on that game.”
The older man gives him a sour look, “I wish you would stop gambling away our money, Aaron. How are we supposed to eat?”
“Relax, L,” Aaron Fellmind says with a sneer, “I can always persuade someone to give us cash.”
He holds his hand out in front of him, as small sparks of electricity jump across the surface of his palm. While this is truly a supernatural spectacle, the elder karayan pays him no attention. His eyes are trained on something down the street, barely visible by the street lamps. Aaron follows Strider’s line of sight, and soon fixes his stare on the same thing.
Standing just a few yards away is a child dressed in a black hooded cloak. Dancing all around his body are flames of black that fill the air with a smoke so dense, it radiates with the surrounding darkness. In the bizarre cloud are hundreds of eyes spinning wildly in their sockets.
“Uh, L, who is that?” Aaron asks.
“Trouble,” Strider answers sternly.
The troubling karayan, Gamma, lets out a haunting laugh, as the fog of wild eyes rushes for the two of them. Being a headstrong teen, Fellmind charges to meet the smog. He is ready to fight. Strider tries to stop him, but it is too late. The naive karayan balls his electrically charged hand into a fist, prepared to shock the veil of eyes.
“Take this,” he roars, thrusting his fist into the cloud.
His hand sinks into the veil of darkness, and immediately he realizes something is wrong. Aaron tries to pull back, but the fog of eyes tightens its grip, pulling at his arm. He screams in pain, as he struggles to pry himself free, but the darkness simply yanks harder. It continues to move, slithering around Fellmind, aiming for Strider.
The elder karayan unexpectedly runs toward the smoke as well. Just as it is about to consume him, he jumps into the air. His leap is nowhere near able to dodge the attack, that is, until a pillar of concrete rockets from the ground. The column rises above the cloud, which immediately pursues. L Strider moves quickly, taking another leap of faith. Again, a pillar is there to catch him, as he manipulates the stone to create a footpath to evade the approaching darkness.
He finds himself overhead of Gamma, who is too busy concentrating on his own power to notice. Strider jumps from his pillar, landing directly in front of the childish karayan. Curling his fingers into a fist, he reels back to attack. His elbow touches the stone pillar, and immediately the cement crawls over his entire arm, becoming a heavy stone gauntlet. Even if he is a child, Strider does not hold back as he drives his armored fist into Gamma’s stomach. Gamma is knocked off his feet, bouncing on the road like a stone before crashing into a fire hydrant. He does not get up.
Strider turns to Fellmind to see that the eyes and darkness are gone. Instead, he watches as Aaron stands there pulling at his own arm, gazing blankly in some sort of trance. A moment later the trance ends, and the young karayan realizes what he is doing, immediately stopping.
“What happened?” Aaron asks, shaking his head to fix his senses.
“That was Gamma’s power,” L answers in a calm voice. “He is able to manipulate all five senses, creating illusions that can actually cause injury and death. It’s called Nightmare Fuel.”
“Sounds dangerous,” the teenager remarks, while rubbing his sore shoulder.
“Very,” Strider replies, looking back to the downed Gamma, “That is why we’re leaving.”
“Leaving so soon, Strider?” another voice calls out, stepping from the veil of shadows.
Entering the fray is none other than Mr. Red. However, he is not alone. Standing next to him is a young girl, who looks to be a young high school student. Appropriately, she is dressed in a uniform for one of the local private schools. Auburn pigtails hang on either side of her head like droopy dog ears. Her crimson karayan eyes look down at a large and grotesque looking egg with a horrified expression.
“Rune,” L Strider and Aaron Fellmind gasp in unison, both equally shocked and concerned. The elder of the two looks at the suited karayan with rage, “Red, let her go!”
“You are in no position to be making demands,” Mr. Red sneers, glancing at his hostage. “However, I will let her go, if you agree to stay for a talk.”
The conversation is taken away by a low growl coming a few feet away. All parties turn to see Gamma getting back to his feet. The darkness of his illusions surrounds him, building greater in volume. Eyes of violet appear to glare while they spin violently. They appear so bloodshot that the sclera looks red.
Gamma stands upright, with his hood off. A head of snow white hair and pale skin makes him look sickly, but the blood red eyes that glow fiercely tell that he is but a beast.
A chorus of vicious hisses calls out, “Sssstrider…”
L Strider stands there, eyes shifting from Red to Gamma.
“What do we do, L?” Aaron asks, clearly shaken.
Gritting his teeth, Strider answers, “I don’t know…” What does Strider do? Please return to the top of the page to vote!
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