Izumi Lockhart was on administrative leave due to discovering the body of a close friend- as per Standard Operating Procedure. She was staying at her apartment residence, however, rather than anywhere else. It was a move that Neia knew would cost her dearly if she didn’t move quickly enough. She had to get there first, before anyone else did.
Slipping between the buildings via alleyway while buck naked would have been easy enough on any given day, but with her still transformed for speed, and everyone on the island on high alert looking for both of her forms, this just made her current task a bloody logistical nightmare.
Thankfully, as she reached the apartment building in question, it seemed like nobody was around at the moment.
Neia began climbing up the apartment buildings side mounted fire escape, climbing up to the floor that Izumi lived in. ‘IDIOT IDIOT,’ she berated herself, why had she tried rationalizing it?! No- why had she JUMPED OUT THE BLOODY WINDOW!? That had just thrown them onto her scent all the quicker!
Now Ahra Neia had to clean up her mess.
She reached the window of Izumi’s apartment bedroom and wrenched the window open. Alarms sounded. ‘Fuck!’ When did Izumi get security on the windows!? That must have been new in-between her last visit and now, and probably insisted upon by the Mystryal Agency in case Dispatcher Terran’s murderer came after her.
‘Bluh,’ Neia would have to be quick about this then.
“GRRRR…” And so with a shake of her shoulders, Neia reverted to her smaller form to slip through the window. “Oiiiii! Izumi!!”
“Neia?” Izumi called out from another room- “What’s going on!?”
“No time to talk-” Neia opened the bedroom door and started stalking through the hallways of the apartment. “We’ve got to move. You… We’re in serious trouble!”
And there Izumi was, sitting on the floor and leaning against the bed in the guest bedroom- which had been decorated with posters of kittens and children’s comic characters. She looked up at Neia in surprise- “What? What’s wrong? Are they coming?”
“Yes! I screwed up! AGAIN! Now let’s get out of here!” Neia grabbed at Izumi’s right arm- and the Leprechaun pulled back in surprise.
“No! I can’t! I can’t leave!” Izumi protested.
“Yes. You CAN.” Neia resisted the urge to scrape her eyeballs out with her own fingers. “We’re going now!” Especially if she was going to make this look like a kidnapping.
“No! I can’t!” Izumi then grabbed at the doll in the bed, and hugged it tight. “I can’t leave without my Sasha!”
Neia growled- “IZUMI! We don’t have time for this!”
“I Can’t Leave her! NOT AGAIN!” Izumi cried out.
“FINE!” Neia started to shift, “We’ll take her with us then!”
That Fucking Doll had caused enough trouble as it was- no sense arguing over it and wasting more time!
Neia shifted into full Werewolf mode and grabbed Izumi in one arm and slung the stupid bed-ridden doll over her shoulder. As she turned to leave the guest bedroom, Neia ran into a problem. Well… Two problems at that. The first was that door was too small for her to fit through in this form. As for the second…
Kana Mayoi and Nahgi Llewellyn stood on the other side of the door, both looking mighty displeased with the situation as it stood.
Well, them and about half a dozen other Lycan Detectives standing in the living room just barely hanging in sight, all of whom seemed itching for a reason to shift into wolf mode and fight.
“[Fuck,]” Neia swore, and dropped the doll to the ground so she could let Izumi down into the floor with some dignity. “[Looks like the gig’s up then, isn’t it?]”
Mayoi had no clue what Neia was asking, but got the general gist of the tone of voice to nod. “Explanation time, ladies.” She scowled. “Starting with why you’ve got a Golem that looks like a girl who died when I was Six.”
“Years ago, Izumi snapped,” Neia sighed as she shrugged on a bath robe from Izumi’s bathroom. “Dunno for how long she’s been like this, but… during the case when…” A stall, a grimace, and a snarl, “The case where Darren died- we stumbled on this cache of Golem pieces, and Izumi saw this one doll that, well,” She motioned at the Drow race child-sized Golem that Izumi was hugging tightly, and glaring at anyone that tried to take it away from her. “She started keeping it in our room after we found it during the initial investigation. I told her it was a bad idea, but….” She shook her head. “She wouldn’t let go. That was the first time I think whatever she’d been hiding from us slipped up and finally started showing itself.”
“So it was this thing the criminals chased you all after?” Mayoi asked, frowning as she watched her childhood friend hug the spitting image of another, long since dead, childhood friend.
“Terran…” Neia frowned, “Terran warned us that the people we’d taken it from were going to come after us, and he was right. Sort of.” She sighed. “They remotely activated that damned doll and it started attacking us. It… didn’t do Izumi any favors, in the sanity department.”
“I can imagine,” Mayoi grimaced.
“Darren died subduing the robot,” Neia continued on. “Tore it’s Heartstone Core straight out of its chest at the same time it ran a blade through his heart.”
“And after that?” Llewellyn asked.
“After that, Izumi just flat out broke. She’d seen her friend die again for a second time and Darren too…” Neia shook her head. “Terran tried to help. Said he’d fix her up if it meant she could help them bring Darren’s killers to justice.” She said, “As far as he saw it, the Doll was acting on orders. Take out the ones giving orders, and get revenge.”
“And then the case proceeded as actually reported?” Mayoi asked.
“Yeah,” Neia nodded. “We smuggled the doll back to the islands, and Terran worked to fix the damage on the doll.” She shook her head. “I should have reported it, but it-” She sighed. “It kept Izumi from getting worse. She seemed stable!” She scoffed. “As far as I could tell, she’s just been trying to make real some fantasy world where the girl that doll looks like never died- like she’s been in denial the whole time.” She paused, watching her partner start brushing the Doll’s hair with her fingernails. “Terran managed to make a finalized core for it, a string of micro heartstones that would charge each other constantly without having to keep replacing the one that they’d last tried to use, but it still wouldn’t… He couldn’t program a golem to have a soul. Especially a soul that had long since reincarnated. Izumi…” Neia looked away. She could lie, say she didn’t know what happened, exactly. Claim it could be a split personality thing, say she thought they switched personalities at the wrong moment, and the one version of her couldn’t handle the truth or something, but… “I know I can’t lie out of this.” She looked up at the Chief, and met her gaze. “Izumi was just heart broken. She… just stopped. Like a puppet with strings cut. So I… I got mad. I told Terran to make it work. He said it couldn’t ever work… I shifted, threatened him…” She scoffed. “Gotta give it to Terran. He’s got guts. Just swallowed the damned heartstones instead of letting me have them… Course,” she paused, “that just backfired. He started choking. I was already in wolf mode… forgot… tried to get it out of his throat…” She shook her head. “Izumi watched me strangle him completely by accident. That’s when she came back to life and suggested we frame it up as a homicide, and while everyone else was looking for a real killer, we could time it and slip away…”
“I didn’t know she’d gotten this bad,” Mayoi lamented her friend’s mental degradation. “Maybe if we’d talked more, we could have noticed, or…”
“I don’t know if it would have done any difference,” Neia cut that line of thought off. “I’m pretty sure that whatever this is, it’s not any kind of split personality disorder.” She shook her head, “I did my research. I thought, maybe at first it could be Past Life Reestablishment Syndrome? That an old life was taking control to preserve the newer one? But it didn’t fit what I was seeing. Didn’t fit DID either, as far as I could tell. This was just, a moment of lucid clarity from her, suggesting we frame it and run… after we got her home, though, she got like this again.”
‘If this is any kind of split personality, it’d be impossible to tell,’ Llewellyn sighed inwardly. ‘If there’s one failing in the Sight, it’s that split personalities have completely different weaves to them, but only when one’s fronting’ Looking at Izumi, what Nahgi saw now was definitely not what she usually saw when it came to split personalities. It was broken- heavily- shattered and barely held together with the mental equivalent of string and glue.
It was a terrifying sight, and was nothing whole or coherent. Izumi Lockhart was simply broken.
“I should have just told you the truth as soon as it happened. That it was an accident,” Neia sighed, then looked Kana Mayoi in the eyes and said, “I’d turn in my badge if I still had it on me. I deserve to be tried for the murder.”
“I don’t think you have to worry about that, Neia,” Llewellyn sighed. “Depending on a psych evaluation for Izumi… it’ll probably be ruled Accidental.”
Nahgi’s Sight focused onto the woman’s aura once more, and focused now on the colors of it. The sickening mix of puke greens and swirling neon pinks that the Golem had absorbed some small traces of. It was just residue like any personal item usually began to collect over time, especially if the emotions were potent enough. Potent emotions were something Izumi had in spades, it seemed.
“But she made me investigate,” Mayoi smiled sadly at her friend. “Some small piece of her was still sane enough to know I’d figure it out if I took point.”
“So what happened to the Heartsone core?” Llewellyn asked.
“Crushed in his throat, or snapped in two as it was torn out, and thrown in the garbage disposal… or maybe it was just dumped in the ocean,” Neia said simply, smiling faintly, “I don’t really remember which. That whole night was kind of a blur.”
Tsukia Tsubaki was sleeping.
Lizzy sighed as she closed the door to that guest bedroom in Mayoi’s apartment. How many times a day did someone need to take a nap?
But even so, Lizzy couldn’t blame her for it. No. She really couldn’t, not after the events of the last… it had only really been two or so days ago that her father had been killed, hadn’t it?
Time had a way of slipping past unnoticed. Such as it was when Kendal came back to the apartment, opening the door with a given key and a slipping in with an annoyed expression on her face.
“Welcome back,” Lizzy greeted.
“Yeah, thanks,” Kendal sat down at the table, cheeks puffed out with filled air before it all escaped through her lips with a mighty exhale. It wasn’t Lizzy’s imagination that the escaping air had a faintly orange hued tint to it.
“Sooo, where’s Miri and Tyler?” Lizzy asked.
“Bones took ‘er to the place to search the thing for the whatchamacallits,” Kendal answered. “Which probably is gonna be useless, since Mayoi said she was going to arrest someone.”
“Oooh, So quick?” Lizzy wondered if all cases were like this- solved in a day just in time for dinner! …But then again, she’d only come into the previous investigation near the end, so she couldn’t say how long things normally took.
“Meh, I don’t even know or care,” Kendal shrugged, leaning back into her chair, and pushing it off of its front by use of her feet. “All I know is that I got told to come back here and wait. Which makes me mad, but I’m used to it by now. They probably won’t be back for hours yet.”
“Really? That’s–” Lizzy’s skin warned her of a sudden spike in the room’s temperature by reason of feeling it mere moments before the actual temperature change occurred. ‘A temperature shock wave?‘ Was that even possible?
Lizzy had barely formed that thought before all strength in her legs left her, dropping her to the floor in a heartbeat. She barely had enough time to brace her fall with her arms before they, too, lost strength, leaving her pinned to the floor as an uncomfortable heat wave rolled over her and just sort of… hung there.
“Woah!” Kendal jumped in surprise as she, too, felt the heat wave in the room- a temperature change that was definitely not her doing.
“That’s Perfect,” began a voice that Lizzy had heard before in her current lives. But Kendal, having heard it before- just the once- years in the past, recognized the speaker immediately. “I’ve been waiting for the best opportunity to strike and now… Heh. You’ve given it to me on a silver platter.”
Lizzy had enough strength in her neck to try to look over her shoulder towards the very bedroom door that she’d closed less than a minute before.
Standing there, leaning against the frame, was Tsukia. Except… Not. Her clothes had been ditched and her skin had turned an ashen hue of purple… or maybe that was a trick of the lighting from the multi-hued blue shaded flames that were surrounding her body? And then her eyes were a blinding shade of pure white.
“W- What…?” Lizzy barely managed to croak out when Kendal growled, and started to ignite her own flame aura.
“KYIAHLNAH!” Kendal knew the person across from her in a heart beat. “You…!”
“It’s You! It’s me! And aren’t you oh so happy to see me?” Kyiahlnah in Tsukia’s body grinned as her hair began lifting upwards now on an updraft of current that made the flames spike and lash out, threatening to light the apartment on fire. “Yes. Imagine my surprise when I finally put out the pitiful spark of resistance this soul was putting up, only to find myself in the company of two of my oldest enemies, reborn into new forms!”
“W-What!?” Kendal took a step backwards.
“W-What!?” Kyiahlnah spat back in a mockery of the other girl. “Oh, please, don’t tell me you don’t remember? The time you drowned my ARMIES in a river of water?” She scowled- a look that threatened to stretch Tsukia’s mouth into an awkward position. “It took me literal real time WEEKS to rebirth that army. Do you even know how much time dilation I had to do just to get them up to a mature reproduction age in that time span?”
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” Kendal took a breath, steadying herself as she realized that this Demon had no idea who she was actually talking to. What a weird time for a case of mistaken identity! “But you’re going to regret taking my mom away from me…!”
“Your mom?” Kyiahlnah’s head tilted to the side, yet her hair remained floating, giving it a surreal appearance. “Wait… NO!” And a grin formed as it clicked in her hijacked brain. “Am I truly so lucky? That the soul of the great Battlemage ended up in that puny sacrifice whose parents screwed up my Last attempted return to power?”
“YOU-!” In response, Kendal’s latent fire magic ignited, burning off her clothes as she prepared to go all out- not even caring what it would do to her body in the process. “Are going to DIE.”
“Heh…. So it IS You!” Kyiahlnah’s face twisted into a grin that definitely broke Tsukia’s jaw bone- the snap echoed very distinctly. And then with that, Kyiahlnah began to float across the room, starting slow at first, deliberately passing over Lizzy, before accelerating at a speed that was almost impossible to see with the naked eye.
Kendal didn’t stand a chance against a Demon who had been preparing for revenge for countless centuries- Kyiahlnah’s stolen arm rocketed forwards so that it would pierce through Kendal’s chest, right below the rib cage, and burst out through the other side, barely avoiding severing the spine. It was a calculated strike- and Kyiahlnah’s broken grin continued to grow even as the flames around Kendal extinguished for a moment.
“You’re a fool if you didn’t think I wasn’t prepared for any situation…” Kyiahlnah hissed into Kendal’s ear as the girl slumped forwards into Kyiahlnah’s flame covered body. “And I have her to thank for it.” And then Kyiahlnah pulled her arm out, and let Kendal fall to the ground, her flame aura reigniting in the process and beginning to expand out of control- burning red flames shifting to a bright orange as they did such.
“Ke-Kendal…!” Lizzy began to try to force herself up.
“DON’T.” Kyiahlnah spun around on an invisible floor above the actual floor and launched another immobilizing wave of heat at Lizzy to stun her again. “Oh you lovable FOOL!! I don’t know why- nor particularly care how you ended up in the reincarnation cycle, but it doesn’t matter.” she grinned, “We still wouldn’t be in this current situation without you, Zuzol.”
Lizzy’s eyes widened as she heard that name directed at her, “What?” That was not her name. It just wasn’t.
“I’ll admit, I thought you were dead when my Acolytes first summoned me all those years ago,” Kyiahlnah began to rant, even as the out of control flames from Kendal shifted from orange to bright yellow, spreading further and further, a curtain caught aflame. “But… My disappointment has given way to sheer delight at the fact that I’ll be sending you to your next life… Personally.” She pulled back a hand-
And then the fire alarms sounded off- drenching the entire apartment in water.
As everyone well and truly knows- water plus fire equals steam. And as we all have learned from experience, when touched, steam, as we all know, is synonymous with PAIN. And for a magical being covered in fire like Kyiahlnah? Nothing hurts more than a sudden downpour of RAIN, especially a downpour made up of water that came from a reserve specifically enchanted to put out the magical flames generated by a living flame demon.
Kyiahlnah let out a roar of surprise as she was affected by the sudden drenching more than she expected, so much so, as a matter of fact, that she lost all semblance of floating on air currents as the flaming aura around her body disappeared. She was forced to land on her feet, but very much off balance.
“HOLY WATER!??” She hissed- her voice losing all traces of its might in that moment, sounding more like Tsukia’s own voice in that moment. Both girls looked at Kendal- whose own rapidly expanding flames had been put out as well. Even so, they could still hear the sheer disgust and surprise in Kyiahlnah’s voice more than anything else.
It was a very peculiar formula, this type of Holy Water. One that had a specific “Fuck You!” mixed in that was directed solely at Kyiahlnah herself. One that both of them knew would be recognized.
Kyiahlnah glared at the Battlemage’s reincarnation, and made a decision….
“SCREW IT! SHE’S DEAD ANYWAYS!” And then the next thing Lizzy knew, Kyiahlnah opened her mouth and a massive eruption of flames flew out- flying towards the nearest window and breaking through by simply melting the glass.
Then, like a puppet with strings cut, Tsukia’s body fell to the ground, either unconscious or dead… but most likely the latter, by Lizzy’s judgement.
Countless seconds passed, maybe even minutes, before Lizzy managed to get herself to her feet and moved over to check on Kendal. The sprinklers stopped in the mean time, their job was done.
“Kendal??” Lizzy got down on her knees and rolled the girl over off of her side.
The girl had no physical wounds on her body at all- What?? How??- but where Kyiahlnah had punched through, there was what looked like molten lava in place of skin- and it was spreading. Rapidly, at that.
“Kendal! C’mon!” Lizzy tried shaking the wounded girl away, to no avail. “Kendal!!” She shook again- and again- and then put her hands onto the open wound and tried to do— What? Something. ANYTHING.
This had to be a nightmare. This just had to be a nightmare! There was no real way that Kyiahlnah had hitched a ride inside Tsukia! Come on! Mystryal was smarter than that! They would have checked! They would have found the stowaway and—
THIS. WAS. A. DREAM. Right? RIGHT? This was a dream where Kyiahlnah said she was Zuzol! Right? Zuzol the Muse! That meant….
It was a dream! Zuzol’s powers could be whatever she wanted them to be! And if this was a dream, then by The Guardian Trio as her witnesses, she was going to SAVE KENDAL. And so Lizzy focused all of her might- all of her will…
“So Let There Be HEALING!” Lizzy grit her teeth AND FOCUSED.
She focused, and prayed, and drew upon the powers only a dream could actually draw upon. Because, this couldn’t possibly be reality. There was no way… there was no way that Kyiahlnah had hidden away inside Tsukia and there was no way that either of them were really dead or dying or—
A golden glow began to pour out of her hands as her magic reached into Kendal’s rapidly unraveling magic, and attempted to tame the wild magic- to prevent it from exploding and rampaging out of control.
It didn’t matter what was real or not. It didn’t matter what was a dream or what was reality. In this exact moment, she was going to TEAR APART the Fire Magic seeking to consume Kendal’s soul…
And then, she was going to find Kyiahlnah and MAKE. HER. PAY.