19 years ago...
A weak body was sent smashing against the cold, hard steel of the wall.
Blood seeped from this figure's open wound; her azure hair was tainted by the crimson fluid spewing forth from her body.
Simply put, it was an unexplainable phenomenon.
Even this woman, who received the attack couldn't even slightly understand what had happened to her.
Before she realized it, she had been blown away a great distance. Her entire body, from the surface to her very core, had received damage equally. The shock didn't just come from one spot and spread from there; it was more like an unnatural force had permeated her entire body like a cloth being dunked in water.
This was a power beyond comprehension.
On her last legs, she couldn't fight back against this overwhelming opposition. As her magical aura bathed her body, she used that last of her power to bisect her own magic origin and her own body, forming...
The New Client
With a strange sound like a sliding instrument, two people stepped out of a mirror in a small Magic shop in the country of Stella, located to the East of both Fiore and Bosco. These two were strange indeed; a young boy dressed in black robes, a large sword strapped to his back, covered in bandages, and on his neck, feet, and arms, strange, red bands. He also possessed a dull expression and shocking orange hair.
The girl was more shocking still; dressed in a thick, black trench-coat, her attire underneath unknown with the exception of white leggings. Her appearance was beautiful; pale skin and hair equally pale, snow white and almost glowing with a soft light. Her bright red eyes, however, looked thoroughly irritated. Needless to say, the two complimented each other physically, and that was a good thing, as these two were a duo of the Akatsuki Guild, Jason LaHote, the Guild Master, and Vivian Starrkewolfe, the Solar Dragon Slayer.
"It would appear we've arrived..." Jason looked around the dark, dim storage room, blinking unamusedly. "...in the general vicinity at the very least. I'm unfamiliar with this location, so I don't believe our client is here."
"This place is too cramped." Vivian mused, "It's like I can hear my own heartbeat." Thinking about it, that Exialia woman would have the same heartbeat as her- and she really didn't like her, or that monkey guy, especially when he always joked about sandwiches. She hated sandwiches. "Let's go look somewhere else, then?"
"Agreed," Jason nodded and the two made their way out of the shop's back room, ignoring the shocked looks of the cashiers and the store owner. They made their way out into the bustling, cobbled streets of Stella's city of Harthim, carriages rushing past them, and their ears were overcome with noises; human talking, horse hooves hitting the cobblestones, the sounds of the city were quite loud.
"It would appear we picked a job for a client in a busy city," Jason observed, concluding that he was not a fan of the city setting at all; it was quaint, but the noises were too much. "Our client is stated to be the wealthiest man in this city..however, it would appear nearly everyone hear is of high status." Jason was right, of course; Harthim was a city where the wealthy gathered and lived; finding a wealthy man in a city like this would be finding one particular strand of hay in a haystack.
"Full of richfags, really." Vivian had a distaste for rich people- which wasn't really her fault, more that the Magic Council turned her off from any proper sense of wealth. Right now, she had everything that she really wanted. Aside from an overly affectionate person, who she thought was a bit creepy.
The two proceeded to walk throughout the city, gathering no leads for an hour — but they did make a stop at a small ice cream parlor where Jason paid for a vanilla cone for Vivian and a strange, tea-flavoured ice cream for himself. At Vivian's insistence — the woman complaining about them being lost — he actually stopped and asked a person for directions. Their client, named Ito Busujima, was currently the wealthiest man in the country of Stella, lived in the mansion at the edge of the city of Harthim.
Thanking the man for his services, the two proceeded towards the edge of the city, arriving in front of a large gate. Peering inside, Jason saw what appeared to be a large garden, adorned with various bush cuttings that were shaped into different creatures, water fountains, and the like; in the center of all of this was a very large mansion. Obviously one of the oldest buildings in the area based on design alone, it was still very well maintained; a large, oaken door adorned the center of the mansion, which itself was milk-white with a burgundy roof.
"I suppose there's no shortage of flaunting." Jason said thickly, crunching on the last bit of his cone.
Ice-cream was too cold for Vivian's own tastes. It was so cold, that it seemed to wrap around to hot once more. It was like ice in that way, when one touched it for too long. Truly fitting of the name, ice-cream. Her thoughts drifted off. Though she felt the strange urge to steal Jason's food. She felt like Iris sometimes. "This guy has too much money. Let's steal it."
"Vivian, we aren't here to steal from our client." Jason was quick reprimand her. he walked over to the gate, and floating at the front was a glowing crystal; a Communications Lacrima. These were common for use in Guilds but this one was more than likely used to contact the Master of the establishment. Jason placed his hand over the Lacrima, activating it with his magical energy. It cast off a soft glow, and the face of an elderly man in a dark black suit. Given the air about him, Jason immediately assumed he was the butler.
"Ito Busujima's residence." The voice spoke cleanly and crisply, directly into the other Lacrima. "Who may I ask is calling?"
"Jason LaHote and Vivian Starrkewolfe, of the Akatsuki Guild." Jason replied, equally crisp. "Your employer hired us on for a job."
"Ah yes, the Akatsuki Guild." The man looked down at a piece of paper. "I do believe he mentioned you. Please, come in."
The gates creaked open, sliding slowly inside the garden. "Vivian, try to behave when we arrive. This is our client." Jason said sternly.
"They smell like cash-money. This whole place seems like cash-money." Who the hell knew what cash-money was? "The rich ones are always the most corrupt so I'd be careful if I were you."
Jason, naturally, ignored her, as the two proceeded up the garden path. He gripped one of the two golden door knockers, and knocked very loudly on the two huge oak doors. After a few moments of waiting, the same butler from the Lacrima came down, opening the door to greet them.
"Welcome to the Busujima residence." The man said curtly, bowing ever so slightly. "Please, come in." He stood aside, allowing Jason and Vivian to step into the mansion. With surprising haste, the elderly man led through straight down a narrow corridor, into a large living room; decorating it were various statues and paintings, and the man led them straight to a large sofa sitting in front of a ornate glass table. In front of was a sofa of equal size, but it was empty. As they took their seats, they immediately felt as if they were warming up; Jason and Vivian quickly noticed they were sitting next to a fireplace with a roaring fire that was crackling as if it had been burning for hours.
"The Master will be with you shortly." The butler replied as he took his leave. "Please feel free to remain comfortable until then."
"This place is too well-furbished. It's too suspicious." Vivian eyed the butler off as he left. "I think we should just leave. Thankfully, I'm wearing sneakers. For sneaking."
Jason looked at her, exasperated. This girl was the one he was relying on to help him change the world? It seemed a bit...impossible, to say the least.
A rustling sound caught their attention, and two girls appeared from one of the other rooms, carrying a platter of drinks. They both had a shock of long, orange hair, the same colour as Jason's, in fact, and their attire was that of typical maids, albeit with a few critical alterations; chains on their necks and wrists that kept them bound to each other.
Jason's eyes caught onto them immediately, naturally curious about the chains more than anything else; maids working in a mansion was nothing to be surprised about.
"I wouldn't trust them. Never trust anyone with ginger hair. They have no s-" Vivian suddenly realized that yes, Jason had ginger hair. "Never mind, hehehe."
"Here are your drinks." The girl who said this seemed fairly cheery, but even so, there was a bit of melancholy to her voice.
"If you need anything else, do not hesitate to ask." The other girl, seemingly a bit younger, spoke slowly and sounded, if possible, worse than the other. They turned away, and walked towards the fireplace, just as a man in a dark black suit with black hair, two cheek-length locks which framed his face, descended the steps and took his seat in front of them. "Welcome, Jason LaHote, and Vivian Starrkewolfe, to my home. My name is Ito Busujima, and I am pleased that you could make it."
"...That's kinda hard to pronounce." Then again, with a name like Vivian Starrkewolfe, she couldn't talk. "What do you need, anyway?" Even so, Vivian was keeping an eye on those twins. Something felt unnatural about them- almost as if they were completely inhuman. Or perhaps, they were something worse.
"Call me simply 'Ito', then," Ito said airily, brushing off Vivian's crass attitude. "Did you not read the request when it arrived at your guild?"
"She hasn't been fond of looking at things in their entirety," Jason explained, pulling out a slip of paper. "Your job request is asking us to drive away protesters, I believe. For the substantial price of 1,500,000 Jewels." It was the money Jason seemed most interested in, not the details of the job, as he locked eyes with Ito in that moment.
"Yes, that is correct," Ito took a glass from the table, and motioned Jason and Viv to do the same. Neither did, as neither drunk alcohol, and this caught Ito's attention. "Should I send for something else? A discussion is hardly a discussion if not over drinks."
"I'll take a cup of Earl Grey Tea," Jason replied briskly. "Vivian here will take any form of carbonated drink."
"Of course." There was a sudden, loud CRACK! in the air, as well as a sharp shriek of pain. Flickering from Ito's fingertips was a glowing, whip-like construct. "You two. Tea and carbonated beverage. Get on it."
"Y-yes..." The shyer one answered almost immediately, and the twins made haste towards the kitchen.
"..." Vivian immediately went silent, deciding that she'd take action, even if Jason didn't like it or not. Moving closer to Jason, she whispered, "Screw the job. We need to do something. Even I can tell evil when I see it. What this guy's doing is using his influence to hide from the consequences. That's unforgivable."
"Be patient..." Jason was heavily inclined to agree with her, however, he wanted to gauge this man a little more. Perhaps if he could get some more information on these girls, before they acted....
"Ito...who are those two girls?" Jason inquired quickly, deciding to keep him occupied while the maids were fetching drinks.
"Those two?" Ito seemed surprised Jason was even curious. "I'd like to sugarcoat it with the term "servant", but 'slaves' are more accurate. I found them, unconscious in a cave on the outskirts of the country of Four. They don't even have names, and I was getting tired of paying the current maids. Allowing those girls to live here and eat is payment enough; in fact, I'm not even sure if they have names."
Jason could feel Vivian trembling besides him; her anger seemed to be working up, and to be honest, he felt like his own emotions were flickering as well. Not enough to show on his face; such a thing was unheard of.
The two girls were making their way back towards the meeting room, carrying glasses of tea and soda in their hands. Ito, however, flickered the whip at the ground, catching the twins' feet and causing them to slip, spilling their drinks all over the floor.
"Oh...no...." The shyer of the twins looked somber as the liquid pooled onto the floor.
"My my my...look what you've done. You spilled it!?" Ito snarled at them. "Clean it, now!" The whip cracked once more, striking the girls on their backs, causing shrieks.
Jason's eyes twitched as the twins seemed to scramble for cloth to clean the liquid.
"We need to get them away from this guy. It's true what they say, all rich people are assholes." For once, Vivian Starrkewolfe was absolutely, one hundred percent, in the right as she whispered those words.
"Agreed..." Jason stood him, moving in a blur. There was a loud, metalic noise, and the chains binding the twins were shattered instantly; both girls looked at each other with confusion.
"What are you-!?" Ito began but he was slammed into the closest wall by Jason, who had thrust his arm into the man's neck. He began to gasp for air, his bright blue eyes meeting Jason's cold brown ones. From what could be made of his gasps, he was asking "Why?"
"If there's something I despise..." Jason raised Gehaburn slowly; the blade seeming to gleam in the light of the fireplace, "is someone who mistreats their fellows. You took these girls in, but treated them as less than human. You won't live to regret your actions...but remember my face in Hell."
There was a brutal squelching as Jason let the man fall and bifurcated him with ease; red blood hit the polished floor as Ito's body slumped down to the ground in two halves. Wrapping the blade back up in bandages and slinging it over his back, Jason was quick to notice the butler from earlier, and several other unknown employees had seen the entire spectacle.
"Are you aware....of what you've done?" The butler asked slowly, almost quivering.
"Exterminated vermin," Jason replied coldly. "Do you have an objection?"
"None at all!" A meek looking woman replied. "In addition to the mistreatment of these two girls, his funds were being used to back Human Experimentation. I believe the client was a Namisuki...I'm sorry, I've forgotten her surname."
"The protestors he was going to have you handle were against these experiments," The butler explained quickly. "You may have just saved the lives of hundreds of people, sir."
"So we managed to exterminate two birds with one stone..." Jason muttered. He seemed to think this was satisfactory; money or no money, they'd accomplished something.
"What will you do now?" The butler inquired.
"We'll take these two with us." Jason gestured to the orange-haired girls. "You can handle..disposal. This will remain between us, but leave the country at your earliest convenience."
Almost a little too willingly, the twin girls seemed to follow Jason and Vivian as they left the mansion. They walked in silence until the reache the countryside of Harthim, where they stopped under the shade of a tree. Breaking the silence almost immediately, Jason was the first to speak.
"I will get to the point. You're free now. While we are together, I have a proposition; come with us. Join our guild."
Vivian moved closer to Jason, asking, "Don't tell me. You're inviting them into our guild?" She could read Jason like a book. Albeit, a book which had the same thing over and over in its pages.
The more energetic girl's eyes shone brightly, as she asked, "What the hell is a guild, anyway?"
"A Guild is a group of mages, either under the control of the Magic Council, or separate," Jason explained. "Our Guild, however, is unique. We are the Akatsuki, and our guild is the one that will change this world."
"I've never heard of a thing like that before." The energetic girl replied bluntly. "In fact, it doesn't sound like much."
"Doesn't sound like much." The quieter twin mimicked her sister's words; whether she was sincere or had an interest in parroting was unknown.
"My proposition stands," Jason replied, undaunted by the girl's lack of knowledge on the concept of a Guild.
"I see." The twin with green eyes replied. "Anywhere is better than here, of course! Then I will accept."
Vivian slowly had herself becoming uneasy at the thought of more and more girls. She wondered how Wendy'd react.
"We will be join you," The quiet one agreed. "You are our Master now." There was the briefest of silences; certainly the girl was volunteering her sister and herself for something a tad extreme?
"Do either of you have names?" Jason inquired, disregarding the last comment entirely.
"No," It was the soft voice of the quieter girl that answered once again. "We woke up without any recollection of anything — even names are lost."
"As I figured." The orange-haired boy replied. "If that is the case...I will give you names now. Something to take with us, back to Akatsuki."
This gesture stunned both of the girls; perhaps it was due to their time spent with Ito, but they hadn't expected Jason to give them names. They'd been far too used to being called "you" or "things"; anything that denoted them as less than a living being.
"From here on, you shall be Ichigo and Ringo Kobayashi." He named them each in turn; the more lively of the two twins was to be called Ichigo; the demure girl was Ringo. The fact that they now had names made them feel...warm inside. It was the first gift of any kind that they'd been given. This Jason...perhaps they could trust him with themselves.
"Thank you..." Ringo smiled softly; it was an infectious smile that could put joy in anyone who saw it. Given how stoic she had been, the effect was huge.
"It's nothing," Jason waved this off; whether or not he would admit it, he wouldn't have been able to simply leave them.
Vivian seemed to be peering at the two, picking up their similarities, and subtle differences; like two sides of the same coin. They'd found an interesting duo. "You two are such a great pair. Honestly."
"We're not a pair," Ringo replied, suddenly a tad crisp.
"We're one person," Ichigo chimed in earnestly. "You're insulting the real pairs in this world by saying we're a pair. Though none of them are here to hear you, you should still apologize to them."
Vivian blinked; stupefied. She was quickly reevaluating these two; they'd stumbled across another weird group of people.
"That's enough." Jason ordered, and Vivian, Ichigo, and Ringo were caught at attention. "We've overstayed our welcome. We're going home now — to where the dawn is."