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Mykur: The thorn imperium

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A 20-foot sculpture? Who would want that? 

She pursed her full lips at the thought. She was clearly someone who rarely give value to any representation of art, no matter how much weight it has on a historical or aesthetical level. Her preference had always been with arms, mechanical wonders or even those objects that hold immense supernatural powers. Unfortunately, she's on duty today and with the Gingerboss beside her, the woman doesn't have much choice in this endeavor.

I find this stupid but I should bid for it. 

With a sigh, her focus drifted on the series of other bidders that began raising. She figured it isn't too late to make a bid on her own and so with great reluctance on her part, the woman raised her special stick, one with the numbers "69".

At this moment, I feel like I've lost something within me. My dignity perhaps.


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Shikai didn't listen to the specifics of what the man on the stage was saying until people began to bid on the statue. The Mistress was the most on the ball of any of them, and already had her paddle up to signal her interest. He held a numbered paddle of his own, but he wondered if this was truly the best way to obtain their prize. Of course he knew that the Dead had the resources to pay for whatever the cost ended up being; but they were on a time crunch. Whats more, the people in this room were all obscenely wealthy, and there was a great deal of interest for the item. If they decided to pursue it to the bitter end, they could be here all day.

An idea formed in his mind, a way to achieve their objective, and test out a pet project of his. From a pocket of his jacket, he retrieved a cylindrical container, from which he produced a long, thin needle. The needle had been soaking in a new paralytic agent he had been working on, one that had shown great promise in his initial tests. Today would be its first field run, and he was excited to see how it went.

Taking a moment to watch, he saw that the bidding was now between six people, including the Mistress. Silently, he moved through the crowd until he reached his target, an older man who he swiftly jabbed with the needle. Immediately the man tensed up, and no longer raised his paddle to bid. With great satisfaction, Shikai stalked through the room, jabbing each bidder besides the Mistress when they put their paddle down. A few minutes later, she was the only one raising her paddle. 

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Cain’s Mona Lisa eyes encapsulated the room as the auction began, from Black at his right to the Mistress at his left, to the distinctly empty space where Shikai had been. Now they honed in on the Mistress. If her expression didn’t describe it, trickles of her disenchantment transferred to the First Officer from the black pad stuck to her.

Don’t forget that this isn’t for that sculpture, milady. This is to get close to Keli; to get close to a legendary artifact.

As the auction ensued, he turned his attention to Black, speaking aloud. The Mistress didn’t know it, but Cain was paying close attention to her response. Teamwork mattered in the Dead. 

“I don’t want your life, Neon. I want your ships! And, to be fair, you. Alive.”

“40 schmeckles”
“50 schmeckles!”

“69,” said the disaffected Mistress. Cain continued on with Black.

“When gotten what we came here to get, I want to take it back to Terrenus on your ships. I don’t want to steal them though.”

Slowly the bids came in more and more slowly. Seamlessly with his out loud conversation with Black, Cain sent a mental link to Shikai using the black pads.

How long will the paralysis last, Shikai? We need long enough to leave with Keli and his guards before the people come back.

“Black, I think we got off on the wrong foot. I think I can turn your defunct fleet into something worth fearing again.”

Black’s eyes laid steadily on Keli, whose obsidian silhouette loomed behind the auctioneer. Keli looked naked, but his features were so smooth there were no genitalia, was no hair. Black seemed aware that the bids were dwindling, but still he responded to Cain while staring at Keli.

“What could you do to make it great?” He asked in a monotone voice.

“Much has happened in the last 20 years, Black. You feared me when we were young, but now you cannot even fathom me. I’ve got the technology to mask your fleet. Protect it. I’ve got reliable men who could do well with it. Doesn’t that change anything?”

Black paused when it appeared the Mistress was the last one raising the schmeckle paddle.

“And 420 schmeckles going once, twice, three times, sold to the pretty lady in the back!”

About 15 minutes later the group was walking out a back entrance with Keli and four other guards exactly like him in odd, gigantic, smooth obsidian nature. Their skin appeared matte, inflexible and unlike skin. Their joints had the slightest of apertures that showed, indeed, they must at least have some android parts. When examined more, tiny studs that emulated fingerprints spiraled around their bodies.There appeared to be no eyes, just smooth divots of skin. When Keli, at the head of the diamond of towering figures they walked with, opened his mouth to speak though, all five of the beings spoke and it could be seen that their lips, teeth and tongues were real enough. All of the voices were Keli’s.

“I have spent my lives perfecting the art of human nature, and then twisting it to the farthest extents that humanity can take it. These extents are often unnatural and terrifying, breathtaking and inspiring. Many people have wondered what drives the unbelievable machine of my artistic touch. I hope you will join me at my art lot to see where my muse lies.” 

The group entered a sleek, bullet-like vessel that hovered a foot off the ground on a curb in a VIP parking lot. Tall, curving, taunting buildings loomed in a jagged circle into the black grey sky above them. There was one barred gate out of the circular lot, and the black silhouettes of Keli’s fans stared in like zombies, their eyes almost illuminated red in the light. When they saw Keli and the group, their arms even reached through the spaces between bars while they moaned like undead for their creative manipulator. The insides were like a limo, small panels of immaculate wood donning crystal glasses and beakers of liquor. Sleek blue lines gilded the seats and ceiling, illuminating Keli and his sentinels ominously. Cain entered without a second thought. Black stopped in front of the limo, staring with genuine fear in the back of his eyes if only for an instant before stepping into the void of the vehicle. Soon its doors would hiss shut and the gates would open. The only thing that saved some of the brainless fans was their diving out of the way at the last second; the driverless vehicle’s path would have plowed heedlessly over them if not. This was an opportunity for any of the operatives to ask questions of Keli. Especially the Mistress, who was supposed to be the most interested, considering the fact that she’d bought the sculpture now collecting dust back at the art exhibit. The Dead were a precise group of operatives who did clandestine things for deadly purposes, not people who just idly bought art. It just so happened that pretending to be people who idly bought art was sometimes part of being a precise group of operatives who did clandestine things for deadly purposes.

When they arrived at a glaring mansion, haunted windows glaring out at the secluded street on the hill leading down to the sea, Cain looked pointedly at the Mistress. His voice came through the psychic connection to the Mistress and Shikai, but not Black.

Heads up, Dead. This is where things get hairy.  He’s going to single you out Mistress. Come up with a reason that I have to come along. Meanwhile, if the rumors are true, he’ll try to dispose of Black and Shikai. Shikai, if you can manage to on top of saving your own skin, try to save Black. He’s imperative to future Dead operations. He’s got big boats. Really big boats.

Exiting the vehicle, and entering the building’s main foyer sure enough, the main Keli broke off from his four counterparts. He extended the wide, smooth extent of his black hand toward the Mistress.

“Miss, since you were the purchaser of the artifact you have acquired a view of my art’s true secret. The others may entertain themselves in my lounge. My other parts will lead them there.”

A doorway to the right framed with neon lights, through which a bar could be seen, is where the three sentinels headed with Shikai and Black. Down a spiral staircase is where Keli would guide the Mistress and, if the Mistress provided, Cain.

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Alone? The Dead Mistress frowned. She can't be alone with all these male strangers. Now she's scared of what these men will do to her. After all, she's just a poor, defenseless woman who could barely climb the stairs.

"Wait," the Mistress called out, "I can't go on alone. I need my adviser-" points to Cain, "-to confirm the authenticity of the statue. While I respect the auction's credibility, I fear that I would be easily tricked if I have no one I trust at my side. Please, sir. At least grant me this selfish request."

There was no need for her to put up a mask to make herself more believable. The Mistress' always had this plain innocent face that's borderline delicate and lady-like. She's more worried that she'd burst out laughing anytime soon. She can only hope that Keli will say yes.

While she waited for his reply, her mind began recalling all the information from the auction catalogue. If they are going to finesse this place, she'd better steal all she needs.

Exalta weapons. Black Exalta Prisms. A shield of healing. Cobran alpha wolf furs. Ballard Bay shield of healing. The elusive Vintel berries. A half-dead monster from Moonwood, ready for binding. And a baby phoenix, ready for bonding.

Then the rare materials. Bloodstones. Elemental Stones. Celuro. Stryderian scales. Runestones. And more. 

Edited by Thotification

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The plan had gone off without a hitch, and soon they were the proud owners of the statue; and had attracted the attention of the creepy obsidian man. It wasn't long after that they found themselves in some kind of vehicle that was tailor made to show off how rich its owner was. Cain warned him that Keli was probably going to try to kill him and black when they arrived; which didn't surprise the shinobi at all. Fighting while protecting Black would be difficult, but he was fairly certain that he could do it.

As soon as they were through the front door, Shikai was already planning. Keli had barely finished speaking before he slung his arm around Black's shoulder and boisterously dragged him toward the lounge. While they walked, he spoke under his breath so that the man could hear him.

"Listen up. These guys are gonna try to kill us in a few minutes. When they do, get behind the bar and take cover. I'll handle them and tell you when it's safe to come out."

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The black pads donned by each operative were such helpful devices. Being able to plan as they went instead of being forced to improvise at every turn had worked to their advantage in that Cain could now come with the Mistress and Keli. This, he thought, would give him the perfect vantage point from which to snatch anything valuable he found in Keli’s underdwelling. The First Officer more than trusted Shikai with protecting Black. It hadn’t been said, but Cain was growing increasingly fond of his work. Being in proximity to Black for long enough was always sure to produce certain lavish opportunities, and Black needed goading to join with the Dead, so Shikai’s placement was a dual-pronged strategy.

One of the two sentinels with Shikai and Black moved behind the bar, asking what drinks they fancied. Black was quick with a dark old-fashioned, seeming more keen to drink than relish in the creepy neon bar and the second abyssal silhouette that sat beside him, facing the pair. While one of them was making drinks, the other sentinel sitting still, something seemed off. Like, of course they were basically inhuman cyborgs, but besides that the cordiality changed shades as soon as the original Keli left with the Mistress and Cain. Black’s perpetually yawning eyes looked at Shikai over the rim of his glass backlaid with fear. Black had an almost uncanny ability for conveying emotion with his eyes. What’s happening, they asked.

Don’t do anything until they attack you, said Cain. We have to get as close as we can to Mykur down here.

“So,” said Black uneasily as if he had heard Cain imploring them to act natural but simply couldn’t muster the ability. Neon’s eyes didn’t wander from Shikai, but the underlying discomfort in them was still evident. “Shikai, how long have you known the Mistress?” 

Meanwhile, Keli eyed Cain, and in that exact moment something Cain rarely did occured. He deactivated the Big O around his wrist, releasing his connections to all his puppets and masked his aura so that, when Keli activated magic sensors behind the visors that had become of his eyes, Rose appeared as little more than a low level enchanter. 

The longer I have to mask my magic in front of Keli, the worse, came his voice in the Mistress’s head as they walked down a neon blue spiral staircase out of Shikai and Black’s sight. Soon the staircase was leading down a cylinder of glass. It gets harder to reestablish the longer I don't maintain it.

Outside the glass was a seemingly endless expanse of utter blackness. It seemed, when looking close enough, that pairs of barely visible red dots were stationed in a gargantuan gridded circle all around them. At the bottom of the staircase was a perfect rectangle of red light.

“Come see the exclusive view of what I have done for all these years. Know the recipe that is my greatness,” said the large artist before venturing through the plane of red.

Cain walked directly beside him, fingers sliding along the red glass, eyes roving daringly the expanse into which they plunged. He entered the portal in lock step with Keli, daring the artist to instill more fear in him. Now, inside Keli’s sanctum, Cain waited for the right moment to unveil himself to Keli.

When they entered the square of light,  the entire room around them illuminated as if the tube down had just been darkly tinted. Now they stood in what looked like a massive, futuristic hangar with human sized cells filling every wall, except for one steel corridor leading out each of the four walls. There was one Keli standing inside each cell, frozen, inactive. On the ground there were circular platforms raised about three feet in the air, each platform donning a statue demonstrating some form of human anguish. Some were singular figures with their fingers curled, heads thrown back in despair. Some were amalgams of ten, sometimes fifteen people embroiled in horrific orgy. Genitalia and faces, backs and legs were mashed together in the warp of Keli’s finished product. Centaurian figures of the human wretch adorned every platform, each of them both beautiful and disturbingly real in their one-of-a-kind proportions.

Keli looped around almost each one, saying nothing as if the extent of his perfect black, studded palm were sufficient regalement for each display. On the far side of the hangar bay were two empty pads standing adjacent to one another. Keli led the trio up a set of roll-around stairs onto one of the pads.

“Now, good buyers, I will show you how I make these displays.” 

Keli extended his hand to the nearest steel corridor. From within the slanting black could be heard heavy footsteps. Then, after a minute, two sentinels identical to Keli and his clones exited the darkness dragging figures that were indescribable at first. They looked like dead bodies, but weren’t. They were certainly living humans, except malnourished and unconscious. The sentinels, lifting the bodies easily, one by the ankle and one by the wrist, tossed the two humans in a heap on the adjacent platform and then resumed standing still. The pale, meak bodies were naked, burlap sacks tied over their heads. It was hard to tell because they were so skinny, but the genitals were a dead giveaway; one of them was a female and one of them a male. 

As that happened, a screen rose before the platform on which the three stood. The screen was split into four quadrants. From left to right the quadrants were white, green, red, black. Kelis shifted his fixed facade toward them and his digitally rendered voice came. Now genuine interest in what they chose could be heard in his voice.

“What kind of piece would you like to see? Something that embodies life, the sweet cycle out of youth and into ripe age? Perhaps, something that embodies a positive emotion like love, the caress of someone for whom you carr? Or maybe you have a darker fancy, and you want to see something that embodies a negative emotion like hatred or anger, fear maybe... Or, do you think, could you handle something that embodies death?”

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Cain whispered in his ear, and Shikai wondered how many more times it would take before his leader was satisfied. It was true that he was a bloodthirsty psychopath who loved the thrill of battle; but he was also a professional. He asked for a whiskey sour once sat at the bar, and took in his surroundings. The room was small, not much room to move around; which meant he wouldn't be leaping around once the music started. With Black on his right side, that put one goon on his left side, and one behind the bar. He figured he would take out the bartender first; since he had the most unobstructed view of his companion. If goon number two moved faster, he could quickly interpose himself between the man and Black.

After taking a sip of his drink, he smiled over at Black, "Oh, we go waaaay back! She's pretty hot huh? I would have made a move already, but apparently she has a boyfriend."

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The woman turned to look at Cain. She understood the struggle of trying to contain one's magical prowess but she's already doing that every second of the day. It was a mere side-effect of presence, one that if left unchecked, would be very dangerous to the regular people. This is why people rarely detect any magical energy within her as she herself is subconsciously containing her presence lest everyone within five meters of her be squashed by the weight of her very being.

Keli's recipe is definitely not the greatest. That much the woman understood. She had seen worse back in her days with the Legion of Doom and the occasional artist within the ranks of the moonwitch's cult. Still, she found it highly disturbing that someone like Keli could keep on doing such disgusting without repercussions. He must have some form of influence within this land.

However, she was more than angry at the macabre display. No man should be reduced to such a pitiful state. The woman would have struck Keli down right here and right now but now is not the time to attack. She must be patient. For now, she will play her part.

"I want life. I want to see a masterpiece filled with life and hope."

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Cain’s eyes met the Mistress when she looked at him. With great power came understanding of great power. What was greater was without the domain. His eyes dulled from a crystalline, yellow hue to a sanguine green in the duration of her gaze. Typically, when Cain allowed it, his presence was felt as a gentle pressure on the skin; a light pressing in of the temples. If he wished it, he could exert his psychic will to crush somebody in every natural dimension they possessed. He had acquired mastery over the elements, the senses, and tapped into the subconscious of society in the most eldritch of ways; and now he must temper them all so that Keli felt none of it in his heightened senses.

Downstairs, in the sterilly lit hangar lined with Kelis like the shelves of a twisted toy store, Cain and the Mistress stood beside the original copy of the artist. His obsidian form towered beside them, looking down at the adjacent platform bearing two lifeless bodies and the two sentinels standing nearby. Before them were the technicolor vials, tipped upside down into small hoppers that converged into one tube which slithered through the space between their platforms, up into an input valve on the platform with the two bodies. It was difficult to see, but the top of each platform was framed with vents.

The bodies, upon close inspection, were still alive. However, their eyes were listless and there was drool pooling from their mouths on the cold metal floor.

“Or, do you think, could you handle something that embodies death?”

"I want life. I want to see a masterpiece filled with life and hope."

In one motion, both Cain and Keli looked at the Mistress. Cain’s was a practiced normalcy, but deep in the subdued forest of his eye was concern that Keli might take her request as a slight. Keli’s face betrayed none of this emotion— it didn’t seem capable of shifting even to frown— but in its silent appraisal of her statement there was certainly some form of judgment. What capacity Keli’s thought process took on was as foreign to Cain as church on Wednesdays. After an uncomfortable stretch of time, Keli reached forward to three dials before the upturned vials. Adjusting the levels of certain chemicals, he pressed a red “Seal & Fill” button.

Clamping shut like a frighteningly well-oiled, gigantic machine, a transparent orb of what looked like glass closed over the platform they were facing. Then the whole orb was consumed with dark crimson fog hissing in through the vents.

Upstairs, Shikai and Black continued biding their time under false comfort. Shikai was as natural as could be, and the fear in Black’s eyes was visibly assuaged by the calm, cool and collected manner the Dead operative carried. 

“Heh, yeah,” Black said, sipping his drink. “She is pretty good looking, but I thought she was single last time we met. Who’s she seeing these days?”

Meanwhile the sentinels beside them and across the bar remained robotic. Even in their mechanical state, though, something felt off in the room. Despite the Dead men sounding calm enough, the room was dripping with tension.

Downstairs, Cain and the Mistress stared at the crimson-filled orb before them in anticipation. For almost a full minute there was silence within the orb. During this minute, the sentinels who had thrown the bodies inside walked over, climbing the stairs to the platform on which the Dead duo and Keli stood.

Then sounds of laughter and muffled shouts of excitement began exuding from the crimson orb. At this point, Keli pressed a “Drain” button. The whoosh of fans could be heard as turbines sucked the red fog out of the platform before them. Soon the two figures could be seen prancing around together within the mist. Soon, the mist revealed their actual forms. That was when the Mistress would see what was truly wrong with Keli’s work.

There was one man and one woman. Their bodies seemed revitalized by the short time in the mist, muscles and faces pulsing with life. Only the revitalization was far from natural. Whatever had sucked them dry of their life force had taken weeks, months maybe of detainment. This serum was like a hyper-steroid. Their faces were contorted, muscles uncontrollably taut with smiles, eyes wincing in forced delight. Every vein on their bodies was bulging like it might burst. Worst yet, their skin had taken on a molten form. At first it appeared simply that their flesh was wet. But when the two ran toward each other and hugged in lively exuberance, their bodies melded together. The joy couldn’t flee their faces, though. Though fear painted their eyes, their bodies slapped and slopped against one another in joyful throes. Their bodies twisted and melted together, their faces extending out from the accumulating mass in excruciating happiness.

Keli pressed a button reading “Freeze” now, the orb filling with a black substance almost instantaneously. As the smoke cleared, it revealed simply the two figures frozen in the froth of furious joy. Their mouths were still twisted up in gigantic smiles, the dimples around their eyes crying happiness. Each had at least one arm free of the entanglement they had become, hands outstretched as if showers of golden coins were falling in their palms.

“Such is the beauty of my work.”

Keli suddenly turned with a wide, abrupt backhand aimed at the Mistress’ neck and chest area, shifting his back to Cain. The strength behind the blow would be enough at least to knock her backward. Just as immediately as the other had closed, the platform on which they stood was shut in with a transparent orb. Cain and the Mistress were locked in there with Keli and two sentinels.

“Grab him,” he said suddenly. The two sentinels took Cain, one by each arm. “I do not know why you chose to bring your friend here, lady,” he directed the unmoving mask of his opaque form at the Mistress momentarily, “but now that you’ve seen my art I cannot let you leave.” Withdrawing a 9-inch syringe, Keli approached Cain, looming toward his right eye with the needle. Cain’s figure was diminutive between the Keli clones. It looked like he would be stuck there even if he tried to escape, which he didn’t as the hulking Keli neared.  “You will be a colorful addition to my palette, ginger.”

All the lights they had seen since entering— the lights dotting the stairway, illuminating the elevator and hangar, suspended in neon at the bar— turned a sinister dark red. The entire place was illuminated the color of blood as Keli and the sentinels sprung into action.

Upstairs, just as Shikai finished his response to Black, the sentinels were in action. The ‘bartender’ one, bottle still in hand, lunged its massive appendage toward Shikai so that the bottle would shatter against his face shortly to be followed by an aggressive face grab, like a one-handed basketball grip. Meanwhile the other grabbed the helpless Black in a chokehold, pulling him backward off the barstool.

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Keli's men moved fast; and if he hadn't been anticipating their attack, Shikai likely would have been caught off guard by the sudden assault. Fortunately, he had been on guard since the moment he walked through the front door, and his response was even quicker. He pushed off the bat, leaning back and out of the path of the swinging bottle. As he fell backwards, he flung a hidden knife into the eye of the goon trying to choke out Black. Given how large the men were, he didn't know if it would kill him; but it would at least allow Black to struggle free while the initial wave of pain hit. Rolling into a back flip as he hit the ground, the shinobi landed in a crouch and threw another shuriken at the goon behind the bar with one hand while he weaved signs with the other.

"Let's see how tough you are!"

Shikai slammed his hand to the ground and a small wall of stone rose up from the floor as he triggered the explosive tag on the shuriken with his other hand. The explosion would send debris flying, and he could only hope that Black had done the sensible thing and taken cover.

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And so it begins.

The white-haired woman had been looking forward to this. Keli's works would have been fine if only the man did not play with civilians. Perhaps if it was for the sake of necessity or compromise but she can see clearly that Keli is enjoying this shit. This she cannot let go.

Taking pleasure over such a dastardly act. You're no better than those I've betrayed.

As Keli turned to the dark side, the woman to spurned into action. She moved towards Cain and the sentinels, while crossing her arms across her ample chests.

"I don;t think so, Keli," she spat at the man, "You've played your card. Time to play ours."

Then the sentinels and Keli would suddenly feel an immense pressure bearing down on them. An invisible force that aims to flatten them to the ground, perhaps until they are in kneeling supplication before the woman.

I'm sure Cain would not mind losing an eye. Or two. I'll get him a brand new one later.

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Even Lucifer abides by certain, specific rules. While Cain was willing to have some of his pieces stabbed, mutilated, and regenerate them in his perfect image all over again, there were three places he was not so keen on having muddled with. Whether because of the effort that must result on his end or actual detriment, Cain refused to allow his head to be damaged in any serious way. Even so, a man of his power was capable of providing… opportunities to prove one’s self. Was not his general well-being a priority?

Looking across to the other half sphere as the smoke cleared, the two subjects melded together were indeed an immaculate representation of joy, frozen, forever. When averting one’s attention to the vials before them, the one that had been blue was drained. Now the syringe that neared Cain’s face was filled with a conversely red substance. The Mistress exerted her psychic prowess on the inside of the orb in which they suddenly found themselves captive. The orb’s confines grew black, obscuring the hangar from their view as they fought. The Mistress’s energy bounced around, amplified within the closed space. Keli’s sentinels were indeed forced to their knees, their heads denting downward, but the robots’ limbs were locked around Cain’s in a way that required that he too kneel; and whether by more direct control over his own body or something else, the original Keli felt the pressure but did not submit to it. He moved in on Cain, ever undeterred by the psychokinesis.

He drew his muscular arm backward and plunged the syringe forward not into Cain’s eye, but aiming up his left nostril. 

That was when a sickening crack exuded from Cain Rose’s body. Cain was, to Keli, simply a man who had accompanied the Mistress into the jaws of Death; so it was astounding to Keli to see the ginger man’s spine snap at a 120° angle. Cain’s dome nearly smacked the ground, his back snapped just between the shoulders so his body could bend at an incredible, backwards ‘V’ angle, these eyes suddenly devoid of life, this hair mopping the arena floor. Cain, whose arms were held mercilessly by the sentinels, had broken his own spine in order to avoid being injected with Keli’s chemicals. The fact of the matter was that Keli was a master chemist. Keli was such a master chemist that he could force a chair to express the emotion of grief. He could mold a tree to utter physical exclamations of happiness. Nobody, not even Cain, was immune to the forced chemical reactions Keli could create. The fact was that if even the magical body could resist it, the hyper resistant chemicals would generate the reaction themselves. They were as independent bodies that contorted their hosts into any desired form. This was why even Cain literally bent over backwards to avoid being affected.

You have to be physical! Croaked the voice from Cain’s dead lips as Keli’s arm with the syringe plunged over his instantaneously contorted body; his torso snapping back as if pulled by a foreign energy. Then, from the apparently dead Cain’s chest, there burst an arm. The fingers, the hand did not poke through. An entire hand PLUNGED up through Cain’s solar plexus. Suddenly coming to inhabit the lower body, tearing through the upper body, was a new Cain. The same Cain, but like a snake sloughing off its shell. Depriving Cain’s body of its magic since their descent into the basement had effectively dried out the body’s shell, but with the Big O as a conduit, the essence that was Cain could and did pump itself with 100% back into the body, regenerating the Cain that is to shed the Cain that was.

The pulsating,  wet, naked body of a newly gestated and serpentine-eyed Puppet Master blast from the bent-back stomach of the old Cain, grabbing and forcing Keli’s wrist high into the air as he rose from the broken body. Such contortion and creation were utter marvels to Keli, so reasonably he was caught off guard by the transition. His arm, syringe in hand, was severed by the Cain’s right hand sweeping through Keli’s obsidian elbow in a knife-hand formation. Circuitry, oil, and blood rained over his toned torso.

Keli felt no pain, but he did have diagnostics which showed he would leak out shortly without intervention. That was when a circle on Keli’s belly opened. It was a portal for his tools. A portal for, mainly Mykur. A hilt protruded from his stomach even as Cain severed his other arm. The surprise would have held up a human  mind, but an effective computer like Keli was always considering all issues and redundancies for certain objectives It pulled the length of the legendary blade from its stomach, back still turned to the Mistress, as it raised Mykur in an attempt to render the new Cain in twain. 

Meanwhile, upstairs, the Keli sentinels moved on Shikai and Black. Shikai was fortuitous enough to block the first stab of the bartender Keli, throwing a kunai into the eye of the second as he fell backward. Instead of stabbing the eye like organic material, the kunai shattered the Keli’s eye and exposed wires, sparking circuits. Its arms tried to tighten on Black, but the panicking Black suddenly slid through its arms like a jellyfish. He had an extraordinary ability to do so without his features warping too much, but the way he slid out from the busted-eye Keli’s grasp was a testament to not having bones or some rubbery flexibility of the like.

Stretching his arm back, back so far it stretched past Shikai’s head, Black rocketed his left fist into the Keli who had kept him captive for a second. Like a cannonball it impacted the Keli, rocketing him through the original door they had entered through and into the opposing wall of the foyer. That was when Shikai’s earth blast wrecked the whole bar. The bar itself rose up, tidal-waving the bartender Keli into the neon wall of bottles behind him. The surprisingly rubber-like Black duelled with one Keli outside while the bartender Keli grabbed the splintered granite countertop and threw it wholesale at Shikai, just a moment after he resolved from his backward somersault and slammed his hand into the ground.

“I’m fine, Shikai! You take care of him!” shouted Black. In a surprise turn of events, it appeared that Pirate Black, though separate from the Dead for now, had his own super-merits.

A gatling gun of rubber fists plummeted into the Keli before Black. Its mechanical pieces and limbs went flying as the rubber pirate battered the sentinel to pieces.

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Black had turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise! When Cain had ordered the shinobi to look after the other man, Shikai had assumed that that he would be a millstone around his proverbial neck. Seeing him actually pull his weight in combat endeared him quite a bit to the Zombie. Keli drone number one wasn't giving him any time to appreciate the fight though; flinging the granite countertop at him. Flattening himself against the floor, the mass of stone ruffled the hair on his head as he dodged it. As he did, he weaved a few signs and increased the muscle mass in his legs for a split second; his trousers ripping in places as they struggled to contain the surge of flesh.

"Now you're fucked!"

Pushing off the floor with enough force to crater the ground, the shinobi flew through the air towards the drone. The steel claws snapped into place as he went, and they sank all the way into the things torso. Shikai blew the drone through the wall behind him, and then the next, and the next. When they came to a stop, he withdrew his claws from the Keli's chest, and began to shred the drone with flurry of slashes to the chest and head.

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Unfortunately to everyone within the vicinity, Keli is not the only one who can summon an artifact blade out of nowhere. Unlike Keli's portal however, the white-haired woman had hers within the insides of her coat. First there was the ornate hilt, then came the glimmering blade and finally it was unleashed, a artifact of immense power.

The legendary artifact Baeoi.

it was a fatal mistake that the bastard Keli turned his back on the woman. This only made it easier for her to stab the man from behind, the blade digging in hilt-deep. In fact, the sword even pierced the weakened Cain. But that was all within the woman's calculations. As soon as the sword penetrated either victim, both of them would feel the gentle power of the blade healing their wounds and assuring them everything is alright. For a brief moment.

Then the blade was gone, replaced with the woman's fist which was meant to penetrate Keli's body.

"Move," the woman barked, "We don't have the luxury to kneel all day."

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Shikai Shokudo, no doubt a general in the Dead at this point, proved his wares at every turn. This neon-lit nightmare was no exception, except in Shikai’s generally sustained excellence. The Zombie general blared beneath a rectangular countertop, unnatural chemicals coursing through his undead veins to produce an immediate steroid effect on his infrastructure. Power and dopamine invigorated his movements as he rocketed off the floor toward the Keli sentinel. Behind him the tabletop burst into a million pieces and filled the foyer with ashy debris while Black battered his would-be assassin with the efficacy of a superpowered boxer. Shikai would realize he had not been assigned to Black because he was so weak, but because he was so powerful an asset to the Dead. That is, after he defeated his Keli.

The pair plummeted through wall after wall; first a kitchen and then a dining room. When they blasted through the third wall and landed in rubble, the sentinel could scarcely raise its mechanical arms before being rendered into circuitous shrapnel and shreds by Shokudo. When what remained of its upper torso and head was little more than sparking wires squirting with the occasional spurt of oil, Shikai would realize what room he was in. Likely it was a back office of Keli’s home, a desk and a computer with 3 screens and a printer there which had, luckily, been spared by the explosion into the room.

On one screen rotated a 3D mechanical draft of a head, the header “Keli Infinit” flickering in white at the top. On one sat a draft of a sword. Even the sketch of it radiated power. It called to Shikai, Mykur. On the third screen was a number ticking up, up, up, 1023, 1024; labeled “Keli Count.” There was a green button beneath this screen labeled “Accelerate” next to a red button labeled “Stop.”

Somewhere far away, Shikai would hear Black’s victorious pirate yell punctuated by the sound of heavy machinery smashing against stone walls like K-Nex.
“Eat that you metal bastard! And guess what I just met that guy!”

Underground, Cain’s body splashed out of itself psychedelically. Waterfalls of blood swirling with the Troll’s inky essence blew up and out of the bent-back Cain’s body, swimming over the second Cain who severed Keli’s syringe arm. Luckily for Keli, the portal into himself opened all the way through his body so the Mistress’s Baeoi flew right through his midsection. Luckily for Cain, his body had been submerged in blood so that the legendary blade splashed through his body. It was almost like he himself was less the sentient figure, his blood and the Troll acting as their own autonomous bodies. It seemed as though he had never been injured, but was instead an endless amalgam of shapeshifting blood and life.

“Foolish woman,” came the arrogant artist’s voice in response to the Dead Mistress’s attack. “My mind is connected to the cameras, the very artificial intelligence, every monstrous Keli in this place! I could be napping and see you coming the second you enter my estate.”

There was one backwards bent, kneeling Cain, eyes rolled back, head flopped against the ground. His arms were still held by the two Keli sentinels; but his stomach was split open like a shed skin. From that stomach extended a standing Cain with free limbs, holding the severed Keli arm. Behind Cain, Baeoi was lodged in the ground behind Cain. As the hole in his stomach closed Keli, standing at about 8 feet tall, swung his massive arm to smash Cain aside. Cain put both arms in a defensive position between him and the blow but still his form, diminutive in comparison, was launched aside. He smashed backfirst into the inside of the orb, a spiderweb crack dancing across the orb, Cain ricocheting off to literally splatter against the ground into a blackish red paste. From the paste emerged Cain’s standing form, arms coiled before him like a vampire as the two Kelis ran for him. He still held Kali’s massive arm, raising it as if to use it as a blade.

Now the original Keli, using the momentum of his swing, turned his torso so that he was facing the Mistress. He was still holding Mykur, and her blade was on the other side of him. He began moving toward her, raising his blade, huge even in his huge hands, and swung it in a horizontal line to cut her in half if she didn’t move fast.

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Purple mist began hissing in from the vents around them.

“We have to get out of here fast!”

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