Christein was scoping out the crowds again. He knew it wasn't necessary. Those that knew his face wouldn't be interested in what he was doing—unless they saw Amadhay, of course, which he was pretty good at avoiding. And then those that would be interested in what he was doing wouldn't know his face. That was the great thing about invisibility.
When he got back to the table, both Amadhay and Ben were absent. It didn't take too much thought to recognize that they were probably together. Even though it irritated him that the girl would ditch him, even for a short while (which he knew it had to be considering she hadn't said anything to him and she wouldn't leave without saying something to him), with Ben, he recognized that it only made sense to let her have her time with the phantom as well. He knew that she had a strange kind of relationship with the man, even if she refused to admit it beyond that short time when Ben had been truly dead, that verged on a possibly romantic relationship. It was only fair that she spend time with him before the two of them went off for Goddess only knew how long. Especially since, even if he died on the mission, it would take a necromancer out in space to keep Ben from coming back to her, which pissed him off.
He wasn't the only one she would miss and he needed to come to terms with that. Especially since he was denying himself any untoward feelings for his little cousin.
So with the two of them out of the picture, Christein didn't much feel like sitting around and eating by himself. He had only wanted to get food to be sure that Amadhay ate something. So instead, he crowd-gazed, checking out the different people milling around the shopping center. There were groups of blunderlusters in abundance, especially ones wearing brightly colored clothes and talking louder than anyone had any right to do in such a crowded, public place. They were joking around, playing with each other, running back and forth and disturbing the peace, but in such a way that most of the older patrons simply smiled benignly after them.
He'd never been able to have that sort of freedom. He'd only had a few friends when he had been their age, and the sorts of friends he'd had wouldn't have been going out in public and playing around. They had, almost expressly stayed in caves, learning of the Old Ways and making plans against his father. Those had been his blunderlust years. He hadn't been like Hynnkel, who'd had a friend almost from the moment he had been born to wander around with and make idiotic mistakes that would just be excused as blunderlust. He'd been held to a different standard from birth.
Just thinking about that made him angry. Angry with his brother, his father, the happy teenagers, even Amadhay, whose freedom was always so distracting to him at the worst of times.
His eyes caught sight of a familiar pair of teenagers. There was Amaya, Amadhay's nearly identical sister, and her closest friend, the Prince Croy-li du Kay. The two were on either side of a young, dark-skinned girl with thick hair in matted coils. Neither of them had noticed him yet, which he counted as a blessing. The last thing he wanted was to gain the attention of the girl who could make this relatively relaxed and enjoyable trip into a horrible nightmare. The last time he had seen his younger cousin, she had shot him. He didn't really want to see what she would do this time.
Casually, he stood up from the table, leaving his bags. He sneaked easily to the corner of a food stand, slouching so that he would blend in with the shorter people of the crowd around him. He kept a close eye on Amaya, determined to get far enough way that she wouldn't spot him.
“So, the bathroom's over there,” his cousin told the little girl in a much too loud voice, pointing to the same bathrooms Amadhay had gone to. He should warn her. “Do you need me to go with you?”
The little girl gave Amaya a look to tell her that the suggestion had been unwarranted. “No, Lady May. I can go to the bathroom alone. I promise.” She hugged a small, rather ugly doll to her chest before smiling a wide smile at the teenagers and dashing off to the bathroom.
Amaya rolled her eyes and glanced at Croy-li. “Don't give me that look. I know Ten told me to go with her, but I didn't feel it was necessary, okay?”
Croy-li rolled his eyes right back at the girl. “Just know it's your funeral.”
“Oh come off it, what could happen to her in a bathroom?”
“She could fall in?” the dark-skinned teenager jokingly suggested before rolling his neck and running a hand through his dyed-teal hair. “How long do you think it'll take Tenshu to get her a present?”
“Forever and a day,” Amaya replied. “You know he's probably going through every toy store here to find something perfect for her. Or a bunch of things perfect for her.”
Tenshu. Tenshu Tanhakinshu was here, in this mall. Christein smirked and, with a certain feeling of predestined inevitability, he pulled the slip of dark fabric, his mask, from his back pocket and pressed it to his face, feeling the familiar magic form to his face and conceal his identity. This would be an excellent time to get a little revenge on the necromancer. He and his partner had been a giant pain in his butt for the past year. Between killing Ben, kidnapping Amadhay, beating him unconscious, threatening the three of them, and just being nuisances in general, he wanted to give Tanhakinshu a taste of his own medicine. A time when he wasn't with his partner seemed like the best chance he was going to get. And he knew that the necromancer's vampire partner wasn't around, because Melani had just reported last spotting him Over the Water yesterday, during his debrief on her mission there.
He looked up to the second level of the mall, where the toy stores were all located. If the necromancer was attempting to buy a toy for the little girl, then he was sure to be up there. With ease, Christein fell into his invisibility Gift, knowing that even with his mask, that his irregular height and tell-tale limp would give him away long before he could find the other man otherwise. He walked right past his little cousin, who continued talking to the prince as though she had no worries in the world. Deftly avoiding running into other people, Christein limped up the stairs to the second level and searched for a head covered in auburn hair. Auburn wasn't a common natural hair color for Roadesian natives, and considering the hair trends seemed to be bright, unnatural colors, he felt pretty sure that he'd be able to find the necromancers by his hair.
The first three toy stores were a bust. There was no trace of the man, not even a hint of his necromantic abilities to indicate he'd been there in the past ten clacks. Christein had almost resigned himself to using a tracing spell when he caught a glimpse of long, straight, auburn hair turning a corner. Forcing himself through a group of aelfe around Amadhay's age and making them look around, spooked and yet excited, he quickly followed the hair around the corner.
And there he was. Tenshu Tanhakinshu stood at the window of a toy store, eyeing the display with a strange intensity. He had his arms crossed over his narrow chest and his hip cocked the way Amadhay did when she was in thought. His narrowed eyes were focused on a set of porcelain dolls, a variety set of different ethnicities. One, Christein noted as he sneaked closer to the man, taking care not to let him know he was there, looked surprisingly like the necromancer, with long auburn hair in a ponytail, green eyes, and olive skin. It even wore a necromancer's seal on its black dress. Tenshu nodded to himself just as Christein made it close enough to touch him.
“Definitely that one,” the man muttered to himself just as his DS went off. He answered it. “If you're calling to tell me you lost Semi, I will kick your ass,” were his first words to the other person, but they were drowned out by screams. Tenshu jerked to a straight-backed position, listening carefully. “Cole, slow down. I can't hear you. Where are you?” he called loudly into the DS, turning from the shop and straight into Christein.
Christein turned visible as Tenshu was knocked back to the floor by his own force. The smaller man looked up at him in horror as Christein smirked cruelly. “You have something of your own to worry about,” he taunted.
Tenshu looked around, assessing the situation for a moment, before moving forward into a crouch. “Really, Christein? You honestly think you can take me on your own?” he scoffed, making Christein angrier.
The taller man clenched his fists, ready to attack him, but the necromancer was faster. With an incredible ease, Tenshu swept his hand up, as if swatting at Christein and though the gesture didn't touch Christein, the blast of black magic did. It slapped Christein away and into the railing of the banister separating the second level from the air above the first level. Christein hit with a sickening sound, telling him that something had probably broken. He gave a soft groan, pushing himself up on his elbows and watched as
the necromancer got to his feet.
“I'm here, I'm coming. I'll be down in a click,” the necromancer assured the person on his DS. “What? She what? Shit.” Tenshu didn't notice Christein standing and following him as he picked his way through the crowds. People were moving in masses in the same direction as him, pushing against him. “Don't let her move or the spell will increase, do you hear me, Cole? If you let her move, it will get worse.”
Christein was gaining on Tenshu, his appearance making it easier for him to intimidate those around him into moving and less likely to push back against him when he shoved them out of his way. His ribs hurt, and that was a major motivator to getting him after the other man. He wanted reparations for all the pain the necromancer had put not only him, but Ben and Amadhay through in the past year. He hadn't been able to do anything for her while she was with the Palnoki, especially since every time he'd come close, the damned necromancer had shown up and nearly killed him. But now? Now he could certainly get some sort of payback when someone needed him and he wouldn't be able to help because he was too weak.
He caught up with Tenshu at the bottom of the stairs. The necromancer seemed to know he was there, because the man turned at the last click, but it was still too late, because Christein grasped him by the throat and slammed him down, onto the stairs. He put too much force into it, and it knocked the breath right out of the necromancer, slamming his head against the corner of a step. Tenshu winced, the reality of the attack hitting him slowly. He clawed at Christein's hand, trying to get enough breath into his lungs to speak.
The aelfe clenched his hand even tighter, a sneer taking to his face as the necromancer began to turn a shade of blue to tell him that the asphyxiation was taking a very real toll in his body.
“Le...t go,” Tenshu managed in a whistling whisper, weakly snapping his fingers.
At the snap of his fingers, Christein felt a jolt, almost like lightning running through his veins and jumped back, letting go of Tenshu. The younger man gulped in air, gently touching his throat as the aftereffects of his curse rushed through Christein's body. The aelfe trembled for a few clicks, giving the necromancer time to refocus, grabbing for his DS.
“Cole, is she still alright? Croy-li?” Tenshu made it to his feet just as Christein recovered from the curse. Both of them heard a harsh, angry cry that sounded alarmingly similar to Amadhay’s voice. Tenshu wavered on his feet as he tried to run in that direction, pushing himself against the stair’s railing and stumbling awkwardly. All Christein could assume was that the necromancer was having a hard time getting himself back to normal after nearly being strangled.
Although he kept his ears attuned to Amadhay’s voice, Christein kept his focus on the necromancer. He refused to let the man go, even if it meant not helping Amadhay. Making sure that he could never touch her again was far more important than checking on her when she had Ben to keep her safe if she needed it. He doubted she needed any help. Truth be told, he had very little doubt that the necromancer was in fact, trying to save someone from her.
With that in mind, the aelfe focused inwardly, keeping his eyes tracking Tenshu, who was closing the distance between the stairs and the oversized fountain that separated the shopping area from the food court. He only had one chance to do this, one chance to catch the necromancer with enough magic to incapacitate him long enough for Christein to catch up and dole out the last, painful, blows. The necromancer was far superior with magic, but Christein had quite a bit more brute force and that roughness to his power was what was going to help take him down.
Christein could feel his magic gathering in his hands, could see the darkening of his skin from dark olive to brown as he lifted them and aimed at Tenshu, muttering the incantation as quickly as he could. The necromancer made it to the fountain just in time for Christein to easily plant a target right on his back. “Boom,” the chameleon aelfe said, using his trigger word to shoot dark brown from his hands and into the other man’s back, hitting him hard enough to knock the younger man into the fountain headfirst. It immobilized him as Christein limped as quickly as he could to get to him. Mentally, he counted the clicks as they passed, knowing that he had thirteen before the spell faded away. 4…5…6…7…8
One brave little man tried to stand between him and his prey. Christein didn’t even give him more than a quick look, his eyes flashing red to tell the man that he had no chance. It didn’t stop the man from attempting to tackle Christein away. His tail lashed forward and smacked the man away faster than he could take another step, making Christein smirk. 11…12…13.
He wasn’t quite to the necromancer when his curse ended, but he was close enough that Tenshu was only able to push out of the water and hack out several coughs, trying to get the water out of his lungs, before Christein landed a blow to the back of his head in time with a loud explosion from the other side of the fountain. Tenshu drooped forward in the water, barely keeping his nose and mouth above the water while Christein paused, considering leaving him here and checking on the other side, but a loud, strange laugh that was definitely Amadhay’s confirmed that all was fine. Instead, he focused him attention back on Tenshu, who had managed to lift his upper body and turn so he wasn’t lying face-first in the water.
His auburn hair floated in the water beneath him as he took in labored breaths, trying to focus his eyes on Christein. The lazy focus of Tenshu’s eyes told Christein that the necromancer was only barely holding on to consciousness. He punched him again, and was unpleasantly surprised when the necromancer tried to shock him again. Luckily, the power behind the attack was waning and it only felt like a minor shock, not the full intravenous lightning he had dealt with before. Unluckily for Tenshu, it only served to make Christein angrier. Grabbing the front of the necromancer’s shirt, he lifted him into the air and slammed him into the statue of an ancient Ora ruler, hard enough to put cracks into the rock. Now, instead of just spewing from the statue’s palms, water was dribbling from the cracks and there was red staining the light color. Red that had to be Tenshu’s blood.
Christein grinned savagely. “Looks like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place,” he taunted the necromancer, who seemed to be having a hard time keeping his eyes open. “Here, let me help you with that.” He tossed Tenshu back into the water and watched with a strange glee as the man struggled to sit up above the water. He was failing. His head kept falling under the water and the abject terror in his green eyes only served to make Christein more excited. He limped through the water, toward him, only to be stopped by a body flying into his path, through the statue.
The contained pandemonium broke out all around him and now that his focus was off of Tenshu, he could see that everything was quite a bit more problematic than he had thought. People were running around, screaming and hiding. A few bystanders even seemed to be injured, though he was almost positive it wasn’t from his battle with Tenshu. The statue was completely destroyed, there were abandoned bags and food everywhere.
The body that had been thrown through the statue was Ben. And on the other side of the water spout that had once been a statue, were both of his little cousins, the Prince du Kay, and the little girl. The little girl lay at the edge of the fountain, obviously unconscious, with Amaya next to her, struggling to stand in front of her. Amadhay was standing with her back to him, facing off against du Kay, a strange red and black speckled aura coating her and thankfully hiding her physical attributes from any onlookers that had yet to already flee. He could hear the sirens of the Local Force coming closer.
He glanced at Tenshu one last time, before realizing that getting a few more hits in to an already dead man wasn’t worth the chance of being caught by the Local Force. “Ghost Sparrow,” he snapped at Ben, who was slowly getting to his feet. Ben snapped his attention to him. “Erase evidence of us,” he ordered the phantom, who immediately looked ready to argue, his eyes on Amadhay.
“I will get Red Robin,” he said through gritted teeth, already making his way around the spout and toward her. He didn’t look back to Ben, simply expecting him to do as he ordered. While he didn’t have any higher ranking than Ben, he was supposed to be the leader of their upcoming mission, which he used to give him leverage this once.
“Red Robin,” he called, trying to get her attention away from the Prince, who looked as if he wanted nothing more than to get to Amaya and the little girl, not fight Amadhay more.
Her code name did nothing to get her attention. She cackled as she tossed a ball of strangely colored power at du Kay, who held up a small, opaque, shield, which bounced the ball right back at her. She absorbed it without a flinch. “Red Robin!” he tried again, louder this time.
She still didn’t look at him, though du Kay did. That click of inattention to her was apparently all she needed, because before either of them could blink, she was smashing du Kay’s shield against his own face, bloodying his nose. When he let go of the shield to grab his face, she dropped the shield to the ground and pulled her arm back, letting her power cover her fist.
She’s going to kill him, Christein realized just before she let her fist fly.
Before it could hit, however, Amaya, who no one had been paying attention to, knocked into Amadhay from the side and both sisters fell to the ground. Amadhay reared to attack her, but almost as if an off switch had been flipped, she lost the red glow. Something was whispered between the two sisters, and Amadhay’s eyes went searching, moving away from Amaya, who fell back in a crumpled heap. For a moment, he thought that Amadhay was looking for him, especially when she relaxed at spotting him. But then her eyes moved past him, into the fountain.
Before he could follow her eyes, she was standing in front of him, panting and holding her side as if she were injured. “You should take these and leave. I’ll help Benjy.” She pressed their forgotten bags into his arms. He started to argue that they should both leave, but she interrupted him. “You’re noticeable. You need to leave. I’m fast. Benjy is a phantom. They can’t catch us and we need to not leave a trace, especially not in videos. I wasn’t wearing a mask. So go. I’ll catch up with you.”
There was something in her words that didn’t sit right with him, but he did take the bags from her, noting that she had given him Ben’s bags as well. She was right, in a way. He was noticeable even when invisible. If they caught sight of him, they were in trouble. She, on the other hand, was small and could get in and out easily where he couldn’t. Ben could go completely incorporeal if he needed to, he could even go partially corporeal and still get the information out that they needed.
He nodded. “I’ll wait for you at Ben’s,” he told her, and she nodded. “If anything goes wrong, you call me.”
“I know. Go.”