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Old June 8th, 2008, 01:50 PM
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JX Valentine
Your aquatic overlord
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Harassing Bill
Age: 26
Gender: Female
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Sorry for the late responses, everyone. x_x It's really rude of me to have not responded for so long, so I thank everyone for your patience and for taking the time to review. (Especially you, Alter Ego, because I'm pretty sure you said something similar in a review that was subsequently chewed up by PC's data crash, so I couldn't go back and see what you had to say.)

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Originally Posted by Bay
The actions and the Pokemon battles are good, though there were a couple of times maybe on the Pokemon battles you could have used less words to describe some attacks make it look like the battles are going more of fast pace. You described the attacks well but sometimes as the saying goes, less is more. ;)
Ah, I understand what you're saying. Thanks, and I'll try to improve for future chapters.

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(sorry, have a soft spot for characters that aren't able to open up their feelings yet ^^; )
XD It's okay. And don't worry. There's going to be a decent ending regarding that.

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And sorry to ask, but since maybe Viola's name and Sebestain's name are from Shakepear's characters, you don't mind telling me which play(s) have those names ^^;
Yep. As Luphinid said, Sebastian and Viola are a pair of twins in Twelfth Night (or What You Will). They're not twins here for reasons I can't even remember. *shrug*

Also, Cesario, Orsino, and Olivia also the name of a character in the same play. In it, he's the male persona Viola takes in order to work for Duke Orsino, who is in love with Olivia, a countess on the island of Illyria.

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There's a couple other things I want to metion. First is how at first Haunter's pressence is not menioned too much but then later in the chapters he became more noticeable and his personality is beginning to show too.
Yeah, good point. I've been playing around with ideas on how to bring him out more without making it seem like I randomly inserted him (because I've tried that with another fic and ended up with exactly that feel ^_^;), but so far, I'm not too sure about it. I might post a revised version later on to see if it works.

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This next thing I one to mention is from Chapter Ten. I felt you could have Viola react to the news that Knight Rose was the one that hired the Trio, since now she knew why the Trio was going after her in the first place.
Also a good point. I'll play around with that scene as well, though I'm worried there about taking away the "Oh God, someone else is after me" reaction.

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Well, so far this story is getting interesting and am wondering what's going to happen next. Can't wait for the next chapter and hope to do a better review for it. ^^
You did fine. Thanks for the suggestions. =D

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Originally Posted by Alter Ego
There are just too many adverbials here, so maybe reword that somehow?
Sure. I think it's better without the "slowly" (and maybe "however"), so I'll go back to take that out.

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Knight Tide is dueling himself? That's rather...schizophrenic. x.O
Oh yes. It's based on an anecdote from a friend of mine. The both of them take martial arts, so during a class, she had to step aside for a moment and told him to spar with himself. Somehow, he managed to do it.

Joking aside (although that story was completely true), thanks for catching that. I'll go back to edit. =3

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Another case of adverbs a bit too close for comfort. Maybe switch around the order there a little?
Or maybe drop the "unfortunately." Thanks for pointing that out!

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Yeah, not much on that front as usual. Content-wise, I'm deeply disappointed that Viola didn't have a split-personality disorder,
Hey, she might. XD You never know how messed up some people in this fic are.

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I do agree with Bay that it's slightly odd for Viola not to react at all to hearing what Knight Rose has been up to, but then I guess she was too confused/preoccupied with other things to pay much attention to that?
Well, sort of. Bay's right in saying I should bring out some reaction at the mention of her name, but she was concerned about the fact that someone else is watching her for reasons she doesn't quite know.

And thanks for the feedback. I was hoping it didn't turn out to sound too boring. ^_^;

That said, the next installment is finally up. Sorry again for the long period between your replies and my response.



Act Eleven: Antagonist

Rosaline Wu rarely set foot in Illyria before she started hiring the Trio for various odd jobs. Her domain was the interior rings, closer to the Sunflower District. Nonetheless, whenever her standing as one of the highest ranking Knights in the organization was threatened (such as by a new Knight she had met on a subway one fateful day), she made sacrifices. Holding her head high, she entered the nightclub and walked straight back, towards Orsino's office. When she was halfway there, his dark-haired sister turned from the bar and wove like silk towards her. The young Knight's pale hand fell on Rosaline's shoulder, which she shrugged off with a saccharine smile.

Offering her own sour smile in return, Maria followed her fellow Knight to the back room. The two women passed into the dark office, with Maria closing the door silently (compared to the booming music outside) behind her. Orsino looked up at the newcomers with a smile from where he sat at his desk.

"Knight Rose," he greeted. "What a pleasant surprise. What brings you to our humble abode?"

"I think you're well aware of my reason for being here," she said.

With a nod, Orsino flipped through the papers in front of him. "Oh yes. Your assignment."

Rosaline raised her thin eyebrows. "Very good. Now, it's my understanding that she's still in the Game. I have, since I've hired you, been keeping a close watch on her."

She stopped here to reach into the folds of her dress. Orsino, with a small smile, looked away in feigned modesty. His eyes fell on the couch, where a shadow stretched and lazily watched. Cesario wore what might as well have been his own clothes at that point (as opposed to his disguise as Viola): a long, brown coat over a clean, white shirt and black slacks. With a bored expression, he rested his cheek on his hand, clad in one of two gray fingerless gloves. For once, he lacked the black wig (thus exposing a bristle-short, brown thatch of hair covering his head), so his dark blue eyes were for once not obscured. Orsino preferred seeing Cesario's eyes that way, considering it was easier to read the actor's expression – although not by much.

At that point, he glanced towards Rosaline, who had by then pulled out her Master. She prodded the screen several times before showing it to Orsino. The corners of her mouth pulled down as he raised an eyebrow at the sight of Viola's profile.

"Knight Illusion, Rank F," Rosaline recited with a low growl. "She's been climbing in rank since I've hired you! Look at the number of Keys she has as well! She's started collecting!"

Orsino nodded. "So she has."

Rosaline furrowed her eyebrows and pressed the screen to exit the window. "You were supposed to make sure she was taken out of the Game."

"Were we?" Orsino moved his gaze towards Olivia in the corner of the room. "Olivia, my dear, could you recite the contract we'd agreed upon with Knight Rose?"

Olivia nodded. "Four million for the first try, two million for the second, zero million for the third."

"I'm well aware of your prices," Rosaline snapped. "Do you honestly forget the other times I've hired you?"

Orsino shrugged. "Well, if you've worked with us for that long, ma cherie, then you should have realized that you need to be extremely clear with what you want. If you aren't, then we're not at fault for taking you literally."

Rosaline's eyes widened slightly, but her voice boomed with enough force to mask her uncertainty. "What are you saying?!"

"Four million for the first try," Olivia said as her lips curled in a grin. "You paid us to try to dispose of Knight Illusion, not to actually dispose of her."

At that, Rosaline whirled around and started towards Olivia. "Don't be ridiculous! You're assassins! You aren't paid to try to kill someone!"

"Are you saying you won't pay, then?" Orsino asked.

Rosaline threw a glare towards him. "Of course I won't! Why on earth would I pay for a job that isn't done?!"

Orsino shrugged, holding his hands to his sides with his palms facing the ceiling. "Then, I'm afraid we'll have to take measures to insist you pay. Olivia, dear."

"Don't you dare touch me!" Rosaline growled.

Her hand reached into the folds of her dress again to not only slip her Master into place but also to draw another object into the open. Within seconds, her pale hand pulled out and enlarged the red and white sphere that contained one of her closest partners. Hardly hesitating, she tossed the poké ball in the air and let it spin above a spot just in front of her until it split open and cast a shower of white light towards the ground. As she reached out to catch the ball again, the light quickly reshaped itself to form a white-haired creature with bouquets of pink and blue flowers adorning her hands. The roserade, seemingly unaware of the circumstances of her summoning, bowed and waited for her next commands.

Olivia, meanwhile, took a step back, trying to leave as much room between herself and the pokémon as she possibly could. She reached into her own pocket for a poké ball, and barely a beat behind Rosaline, she pulled the ball into the open and tossed it into the air. It similarly cracked open, and as Roserade bowed, white light cascaded in front of Olivia to form her ariados.

Rosaline drew in a breath as she cast a glance towards the spider. Noticing her expression, Orsino stood, reaching for a small poké ball on the corner of his desk.

"This is your last warning, Knight Rose," Orsino said calmly. "We have done exactly as the contract we'd agreed upon stated. We have gone through our usual tactics. You will not walk out of this establishment without paying us, nor will you walk out without apologizing for insulting us."

Although Rosaline's expression flickered with insecurity, she still scoffed. "Ha! Know your place. I am a Rank B Knight from Cornflower District with almost twenty Keys to my name. And you? Rank J and Rank M Knights, both from Orchid District. I did not get to where I am by allowing myself to be crushed by con artists such as yourself. I'm not afraid of you."

Orsino nodded. "Very well, then. Olivia."

Without needing another word from Orsino, Olivia pointed at Roserade. "Ariados, Spider Web!"

As soon as she heard the command, Rosaline laughed. "Roserade, dodge and use Leech Seed!"

Quickly, the spider lifted his head and narrowed his purple eyes. A gargling sound came from somewhere near the back of the arachnid's throat just before he parted his sharp pedipalps. A string of white thread burst from the mouth behind them and shot towards the rose pokémon with surprising speed. Just before it struck, the dainty grass-type leapt into the air and pointed both of her rose-adorned arms at the spider. Beneath her, the white thread sailed, landing on the carpeted floor before lacing back towards Ariados in an ornate net. The roserade smirked, preparing for her attack.

Suddenly, something struck her from behind. She shrieked as the things, a storm of white pins, drove themselves into her back. Ungracefully, she fell like a lead brick before landing face-down on the spider web. Weakly, she struggled against the sticky net, but it was no use. The web held her tightly to the floor, smothering her as she pulled desperately at her bonds. Clacking his jaw in amusement, Ariados crawled closer to begin wrapping the rose in white silk.

Sucking in a gasp, Rosaline turned and reached for her pokémon to help. Before she could move more than an inch, however, another storm of white pins struck her side. Poisonous needles sank into her fleshy temple and pierced the thin membrane around her brain. The side of her face was assaulted with pins. Her skin was cut and pierced hundreds of times, her nose was nearly sheared off, and her eyeball began to leak its inner liquid. Pins struck her neck, tearing open her throat and the veins within it. She wheezed in an attempt to scream, but eventually, all feeling left her. Rosaline's dying body finally collapsed after a few minutes of this assault, right next to her beloved roserade. Her blood began to pool under her head, and she fixed her almond-shaped eyes on her partner for the last time.

Everything was still for the next few moments. The pin storm ceased, and all three human occupants stopped to listen closely. Finally, Olivia stooped to take Rosaline's left wrist. Two fingers drew along the smooth underside, but Olivia felt no throb.

Olivia looked to the couch. "Expired."

Cesario sat up, curling his long legs over the side of the sofa like a cat curling his tail. Beside him, a second roserade stood atop the couch. She extended one of her green legs, which immediately began to morph back into a blob of pink. Cesario extended an arm to allow his ditto to creep from the top of the couch safely to a new perch, and once it was safely on his shoulder, he stood and stretched with a yawn.

"Give me her Key," he said. "I was the last to strike."

"Of course."

Olivia grabbed Rosaline's shoulder and roughly turned the late Knight over onto her back. Without a beat of hesitation, she ripped open the silk dress and drew back its folds to reveal the hidden pockets just inside the flaps. Cesario leaned over the body and clicked his tongue as Olivia quickly rummaged through each pocket.

"What a waste," Cesario commented. "She has such a lovely body. It's a shame the mind was no good."

"Perhaps we can cut off her breasts," Olivia said absentmindedly. "Donate them to those in need. The arms too. She has pretty arms."

Finally, she pulled a Key from one of the pockets and held it up for Cesario to examine. Cesario grinned half-heartedly and took the object between two fingers, as if the thing was contaminated. In his pocket, his Master beeped as it began to register the transfer of Keys.

"As enticing as that suggestion is, my dear Olivia, I must remind you that we're not in that kind of business," Cesario replied. "I'm certain, though, that you may be able to think of a few who are, but I know for a fact that your brother may not be as interested or enthused by the idea of branching our fine firm into such provocative territory."

Orsino sighed. "Given the excitement we've had today, all I care about right now is a carpet replacement company. Honestly, I thought we'd agreed that it would be clean."

Cesario smirked and glanced towards his partner. "You know as well as I do that some things simply cannot be helped on a job."

"Perhaps," Orsino replied as his lips drew into a thin line. "In any case, what do we do now?"

"Well, that should be obvious," Cesario said as he slipped his hands behind his back. "We've just completed the first part of our job, so we should proceed to the second." He hesitated for a beat as he glanced at the body. "And get rid of that thing. The two of you are welcome to take whatever can be salvaged – poké balls, money, her Master, whatever you can find useful. It's the least that can be done, given that it seems she won't pay us after all."

Olivia's eyes gleamed as she turned her head towards Cesario. "Oh, you are entirely too kind—"

He glared at her. "No body parts."

---

Viola preferred her own or Sebastian's cooking, but a free meal was a free meal. She sat in a booth, between the wall and Mercury, who was constantly gesturing wildly to Puck, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern in the booth next to theirs. In front of her was a cup of black coffee, the steam still curling from its bitter surface. Romeo sat across from her with his eyes out the window. She'd noticed the dark patches under his eyes, but she felt a little shy about asking. Instead, she glanced towards Benvolio, who sat next to Romeo with his own cup of coffee. Briefly, she opened her mouth to speak, but instead, she took in a breath and closed it again. Benvolio caught sight of this action and narrowed his eyes slightly. He placed his cup on the cold table as he turned towards Viola.

"What?" he asked.

"Oh, um…" Viola looked towards the window, mirroring (unintentionally, at least) Romeo's expression. "Nothing."

"If you want to speak," Benvolio said flatly, "then speak."

Viola awkwardly glanced towards him again. "I was just wondering if something happened with Romeo."

Even at the mention of his name, Romeo didn't seem to react. Instead, he only sighed and continued to stare out the window. With a bored expression, Benvolio eyed his cousin and offered a slight shrug, acknowledging the fact that asking him would be out of the question.

"I don't know," he said. "Romeo appeared early this morning on the doorstep of the Montague family mansion, and he seemed every bit as lost as he does now. From what I understand, he separated from the rest of the group when they thought it would be a wise idea to attend a Capulet costume party uninvited. I should assume that someone like Mercury would be too preoccupied to keep my cousin from harm."

Mercury snapped a glare towards Benvolio. "Hey! You talking about me? What did you just say?"

Benvolio ignored her. He took a long drink from his cup and kept his eyes on the table. Mercury scoffed and turned back towards the other booth.

"Stuck up jerk," she muttered.

Viola couldn't help but crack a small smile. Mercury resumed her conversation, and Benvolio leaned back in his seat nonchalantly.

"Why do you put up with that?" Viola asked.

Benvolio tilted his head. "What do you mean?"

"Well…" Viola motioned towards Mercury. "You two don't seem at all alike. Why do you follow them?"

With a huff, Benvolio raised an eyebrow, and for the first time, Viola saw him smile. "Do you know what a House Heir is?"

Viola slowly shook her head.

"Oh, for goodness sake," Benvolio said with a sigh. "You really do lead a sheltered life." Before Viola could respond, he shook his head. "Assuming you don't already know, while we do have elections every four years regarding which party is in power and who achieves what position, the position of Head of House or party leader – the ones who act as advisors to the city council, campaign managers, and chairmen of the party as a whole – is a position passed down through the family who established the party in the first place. So, for example, it can pass from father to son, father to daughter, mother to son, or mother to daughter, depending on the specific House rules. In the Montague House, power passes from the eldest child to the eldest child – or, should the current leader have no children alive or otherwise capable of inheriting power, his sibling's eldest. Romeo's father just happens to be the eldest of his generation, and Romeo is an only child. Therefore, Romeo is the next in line to inherit the title of Head of House.

"Now, you've already asked why I follow Mercury and her band of urchins wherever they go."

Mercury turned again and glared at Benvolio. He once again ignored her, prompting her to turn back around.

"The answer is simple," Benvolio continued. "My cousin, the dear and brilliant man that he is, has decided that Mercury, the sister of the current mayor, would be safe company. I, meanwhile, realize that Mercury's definition of fun is to roam the streets at night and to start drunken brawls with the Capulets, so I've taken it upon myself to watch my cousin in order to ensure the title of Head of House passes safely to Romeo and not to the next in line after him, namely me."

Viola shook her head. "But why wouldn't you want it? You seem like a competent person."

Benvolio smirked, but his expression seemed somewhat softer than it had been before. "I thank you, Viola, but think about it. If the House Heir were to die by the Capulets' hands, the Montagues would demand a retaliation. Verona City, for the past few months, have rested on a balance – the lowest number of violent crimes and homicides in decades. Should the Montagues demand a retaliation, we would be seeing all-out war the likes of which we haven't seen in almost twenty years, all because of the stupidity of my cousin's choice of friends."

Mercury slammed the table with a hand and turned back around to send Benvolio a death glare. "Do you want me to punch you in the face? Because I definitely can!"

As if on cue, a waitress in blue stopped at the table with a tray propped on her shoulder. Benvolio quirked an eyebrow at Mercury as the hurried woman pulled plates of sandwiches from the tray and placed them in front of the four seated at the booth.

"Anything else I could get you?" she asked. "More coffee?"

"A muzzle for him," Mercury snapped with narrowed eyes fixed on Benvolio.

"Ignore her," Benvolio said. "Coffee would be lovely, thank you."

He sent his own glare right back at Mercury as the waitress moved to the other table. Mercury huffed and reached for half of the turkey sandwich in front of her.

"Well, if you're gonna talk about me," she growled.

Viola ventured a small smile as Benvolio continued to ignore Mercury's grumbling. With the grin still on her face, she picked at her own sandwich in thought. Something had been nagging her mind for the past few days, and slowly, she was gathering the courage to talk about it.

"Benvolio," she said, "you know a lot about the Houses, right?"

He glanced at her. "As one of the highest members of the Montague House, I was taught everything there is to know about them from an early age. It was rather difficult to avoid."

She nodded. "Well, then, do you know much about the Prospero House?"

Even Mercury fell silent at the sound of the question. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern twisted in their seats to face her, and Puck craned his neck to watch through the space between their heads. Mercury widened her eyes as she sat dumbly while Benvolio lowered his cup. Only Romeo remained as he had been a moment ago, with his eyes still out the window.

"Um…" Viola glanced at her companions and tucked herself into her corner. "Forget I asked."

"Where did you hear about that?" Benvolio whispered.

Viola shook her head. "Just… just something I heard on the street."

Benvolio placed his hand in the center of the table. "Then do us all a favor and pretend you never heard it. The Prospero House was a dangerous group, Viola. They were anarchists, people whose only goal was to rip apart Verona City at its foundations. All they wanted was mayhem and destruction. That is why they do not exist in this city. Now, listen to me carefully. If you are looking for more information about them, don't. They were masters of propaganda. As soon as you found them, you would be dragged into their circle, and then…" He shook his head slowly. "You would be as good as gone. Do you understand?"

By then, he stared directly into Viola's eyes. She found she couldn't look away. She couldn't do much of anything except stare back. Benvolio had always seemed cold to Viola, but right then, she saw a steady seriousness, a flicker of something actually human in him. Slowly, Viola nodded, and satisfied, Benvolio sat back and picked up his cup again.

"And anyway," Mercury said, clapping her hands together, "Montague House is way better. You're unregistered, right? Ever think about registering Montague?"

Viola blinked at her and opened her mouth to speak. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern both broke into wide smiles at this sudden break from serious conversation.

"Yeah, man!" Rosencrantz said. "Join Montague, get girls!"

"What?" Guildenstern reached up to smack Rosencrantz on the side of the head. "Idiot! What's she look like? A lesbian?"

"Hey, I don't know. So far, she hasn't been all over me. Only girls that aren't all over me are lesbians and Mercury, and Mercury's 'cause she's got no taste in men."

Mercury turned around. "I oughta smack you upside the head for that mouth!"

Before Rosencrantz could reply, there was a chorus of beeping between the two tables. Even Romeo stirred, breaking in concentration to reach into his pocket. Each Knight quickly pulled out a Master, many of which were already blinking with an incoming job. Viola looked around at the rest of the group in confusion. She opened her mouth to ask, but her companions seemed intent on reading what was on their Masters' screens. Unwilling to interrupt, Viola turned her own attention back to the screen of her Master, still displaying the regular desktop for her PDA, rather than any sort of message.

"All right! Let's go!" Mercury said.

At once, the men and Mercury stood, shoveling money out of their pockets and tossing them onto the tables. As the others started towards the door, Benvolio lagged behind, glancing at Viola as she sat for a moment alone.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

Hastily, she shoved her Master back into her pocket. "Uh, yeah. I… I just needed a moment to breathe. I'm ready."

With that, she slid out of the booth and started after the rest of the group. Benvolio eyed her back for a brief moment before starting after her.

---

The warehouse in question was across the Gold River from Wisteria District, in the southern strip known as Dandelion District. In general, Dandelion District lived up to its name with incredible enthusiasm. Once a busy industrial center situated right against the river, environmental laws a few decades ago shut down a number of factories – and, for that matter, the warehouses that stored raw and finished goods right after or prior to use. As a result, the majority of the district (that is, whatever wasn't still running or being bought up by the wealthy with plans of renovations running through their heads) was abandoned, with dark buildings looming over the river. With the lack of maintenance, every so often, a weed poked its way through cracked concrete to display bright, yellow petals as an act of defiance towards the gray world around it.

This warehouse was surrounded by them. Viola looked at the yellow flowers with slight interest as she passed on the way into the building. The others led the way, ignoring the heads and keeping their own bent down as they quietly entered. Even Mercury had fallen silent at this point, communicating in almost solely gestures as she scanned the building with wary eyes.

Inside, the place had fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling (or, rather, what was left of it), but none of them were lit. Whatever light that came in either filtered through the dirty windows near the high ceiling, came through the doorway, or shone from the gaping holes overhead. Metal crates, each coated with thick layers of brown rust, lined pathways through the warehouse that often lead to piles of rubble.

"What does it look like?" Puck whispered to Mercury.

Mercury shook her head. "A disc. That's all we've been told."

"****," Puck muttered. "This place is a dump. How are we going to find one disc in all this?"

"I don't know!" Mercury replied, her voice rising slightly in volume. "Let's split up and search. Use your pokémon if you have to."

With that, she started down the closest path alone. Puck hesitated, then shrugged and nodded to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. All three took separate paths, eyes to the ground in search of one object. Romeo, who had been oddly silent since the diner, took a fifth, but when his hands slipped into his pockets and his head tilted back, Viola realized he wasn't entirely concerned about actually looking for anything. Shrugging the notion off, she stepped forward to take a sixth path when Benvolio reached out to grasp her shoulder.

"Stay with me," he said.

Furrowing her eyebrows, she didn't argue, opting instead to do as she was told. Benvolio waited for a few beats before starting down the same path Viola would have taken, and following close behind him, Viola walked with her hands in her own pockets. A few minutes passed in this manner, with Benvolio silently leading and Viola glancing from crate to crate just behind him. As they walked, a question wormed its way into her skull.

"Why do you need me to follow you?" she asked.

Benvolio pursed his lips. "I want you to be honest with me, now that we're in private."

Viola stopped, the statement having caught her off-guard. "Okay. I wasn't really intending on lying to you."

Turning, Benvolio caught her gaze, and Viola felt her heart skip a beat. She saw in his eyes an incredible intensity, like staring into the face of a marble statue – unwavering, solid, cold but not entirely cruel. Simply unmoving. Unable to look away, she bit her lip.

"Are you or are you not a member of the Prospero House?" he asked.

Without even considering it, she shook her head vigorously. "No! I'm not a member of anything!"

Benvolio lowered his eyelids. "If I find that you were lying, I can be a very ruthless enemy, and as a member of the Montague House, I will have no choice."

Viola nodded. "I-I understand that."

Turning away, Benvolio started forward again. "In all honesty, Viola, I'm fond of you. I find you naïve and possibly submissive, yet I enjoy your sanity in the midst of the trash my cousin chooses to call his friends. I think you may actually be a positive influence on him."

He looked over his shoulder and grinned, but when he did so, he found himself glancing at a grave-looking face. This time, he stopped in his curiosity. He could almost swear her eyes had turned darker as her mouth drew into a thin line.

"Benvolio," she said, "all you've been talking about all day is Romeo. I know he's your cousin, but can't you form opinions based on yourself?"

At that, he snorted and scowled. When he spoke, his voice dropped into a growl. "You should be one to talk. Allowing yourself to be dragged about. You act like a saint, but you stand in the back of our crowd, looking like the wonder-eyed child. Does everything awe you, or are you simply a happy puppet waiting to be played with?"

The reply came quicker and calmer than Benvolio had anticipated. Viola gave him a small smile and brushed past him nonchalantly.

"I am," she said, "but the difference between you and me is that you're stronger than me. You're the next in line after Romeo. Yes, you can influence the House Heir that means so much to you, but it also means you don't have to stand in his shadow and shelter him from the consequences of his every move. It means you're supposed to lend your voice to shape your House as much as you can. You have more power and influence than I can ever hope to hold. That's why I'll always be your puppet – because what am I compared to you?"

Benvolio stood in silence for a moment as he considered her words. He knew she was right. He always knew it. Yet, somehow, hearing her say them struck something in his mind. It both frustrated him and stunned him to the point where he had to wait for his mind to recover and calm itself before he could respond. And even then, he had to clench his jaw and swallow hard first before he could speak.

"You have no idea how the system works," he said.

She shrugged. "You're right. I don't. But your position still says something. Rather than considering yourself support to Romeo, why don't you consider yourself as you are?"

"And you? Will you ever stop considering yourself to be our puppy?"

"I know my place."

Benvolio glared at her back. "Viola, your place is—"

Before he could answer, a loud crash rose from somewhere nearby. Looking up suddenly, Benvolio cursed and started back towards the beginning of the path.

"Never mind," he said. "Come on. One of those idiots might be in trouble."

With a nod, Viola turned and fell into step behind Benvolio. Slowly, her expression faded from the detached state Benvolio had faced to one of determination tinged with worry. As they emerged onto the first path and started up Mercury's, Benvolio risked a glance back. He felt heavily relieved when he saw that the dark look in her eyes had vanished.

The path ended in a clearing of sorts. It was only considered a clearing in that there were no crates stacked one on top of another, but instead, there were only piles of twisted metal and bolts underneath and surrounding what appeared to be a piece of the metal ceiling. Creeping alongside Benvolio, who tucked himself behind one of the crates, Viola glanced towards the clearing to see Mercury standing beside an ambipom in its center. The purple monkey narrowed its eyes as he swayed his double tails in anticipation. Mercury, meanwhile, cast her dark eyes around the clearing.

"All right, you prick! Come out here where I can see you!" she demanded.

From behind the other crates, five people in black began to creep into the clearing. Benvolio took a deep breath and reached out to yank Viola back. She threw him a curious glance as she stumbled backwards to stand beside him.

"Benvolio," she whispered.

He brought a finger to his lips as a motion for her to keep quiet. She pursed her lips, cutting off the questions that were already halfway to her mouth as he turned back to the scene.

"Capulets," he murmured to her. "Too many of them. Mercury needs to get out of there."

Unfortunately, Mercury only straightened and smirked. She placed her dark hands on her hips as she watched one of the Capulets, a tall, dark-haired man with oddly pale skin, step forward to approach her. He narrowed his dark eyes as his jaw clenched in his gaunt face. Beside him, a houndoom stalked with his lips curling to reveal his glistening, white fangs.

"Mercury Prince," the man said. "While I apologize for my intrusion, I can't say that Hyper Beam was entirely necessary. I shouldn't expect much less from you, always rushing in without thinking things through. You've left your ambipom open. I could have attacked and killed you while he was recharging."

Mercury scoffed. "I don't need battling advice from you. Tybalt. I should've realized you were here. You got the disc, huh?"

Tybalt relaxed his shoulders and reached into a pocket of his black overcoat. His pale hand emerged a second later, pulling with it a silver disc in a blue case.

"I believe I have," he said. "You have three choices now. First, you let my friends and me walk out of this warehouse without a fight. Second, in your drive to get the disc and complete your mission, you battle me and lose. Third, the option that I most prefer, you side with us, and I share the spoils with you."

Mercury grinned. "Sounds like a tough decision, but I think I'd be happiest if I pried that thing out of your cold, dead hands. Ambipom, Swift!"

The monkey leapt into the air, channeling energy into its double tails until the pale hands began to glow with a bright, white light. Twirling, he swept his tails around quickly as the light and energy surrounding the hand-shaped tips pulled away in a shower of star-shaped particles. Tybalt stood with his eyes on the monkey before he made a small motion to the houndoom beside him. Without hesitation, the demon hound squatted low to the ground before springing upwards, into the line of fire to shield his master. The stars hit the dog, but he hardly slowed as the space between himself and the ambipom closed rapidly. With a sharp shriek, the monkey fell to the ground, flat on his back. Seconds later, the dog was on top of him, pinning him to the ground with a clawed paw on his chest and the foaming muzzle just inches from the monkey's face.

"As surprising as this may sound, Miss Prince," Tybalt said, "I'm not actually interested in fighting you, even for the disc. I merely wanted to tell you that your likelihood of taking it is low."

Mercury looked from her ambipom to Tybalt with a sweeping glare. "Oh really? So I guess all this is just a nice 'hello, nice to see you, let's have tea and crumpets'?"

Tybalt quirked an eyebrow. He held his tongue, knowing all too well what kinds of troubles fighting with the mayor's sister would bring.

Instead, he said, "Actually, I was looking for the Montague friend you always have around. Romeo, was it?"

Mercury narrowed her eyes. "What do you want from Romeo? And he's not here. I came alone. Of course, if none of you can realize that, I don't blame you. It's not like any of you can count anyway."

"Well, then, I have no reason to tell you," Tybalt replied, his voice rising slightly in volume. "It's not any of your business that Romeo slept with my cousin Juliet last night."

At his last words, Tybalt restrained himself from grinning as he watched Mercury. She stiffened immediately, and her eyes went wide as she thought about it. Her feet shuffled backwards slightly as her head reeled with the thought of it. Then, as quickly as the look of shock passed across her face, it faded into one of pure rage as Mercury lunged for Tybalt.

"You son of a *****! That's not true!"

Silently, Tybalt sidestepped her and prepared to strike back. In that moment, his comrades lowered their guards as they readied themselves to run in to help their leader. For that, they didn't notice the four shadows looming on the crates above them until they jumped. One of them – Rosencrantz, as Viola realized – gave them only a split-second warning.

"Banzai, Capulet *****es!"

Four men dropped from their perches onto four Capulets, and four Capulets went down under their weight. Tybalt spun around to face his struggling comrades, just in time to feel Mercury's fist collide with the side of his head. Following his master's example, Ambipom tensed one of his tails, balling its end up into a tight fist that swung around and collided with the shoulder of the houndoom. With a high-pitched whine, Houndoom was thrown off Ambipom by the force of the Brick Break, eventually slamming into a pile of metal and wire that cut past his black fur and into his muscular shoulder. Tybalt, at the same time, fought back by kicking Mercury into a crate before turning towards Romeo, who slammed the Capulet he had ambushed against another nearby crate.

"Montague!" Tybalt growled. "So, you do dare to show your face around here!"

Romeo kept his ears trained on Tybalt, but he didn't say a word. Instead, he curled his fingers into the collar of the whimpering Capulet he held.

In response to this, Tybalt sneered. "You coward. You won't even turn to face me. I know what you did in our garden last night, you filthy little—"

Mercury punched him again. He stumbled back, intending on getting his footing before Mercury hit him twice more to drive him back. Eventually, she pinned him to a crate with a hand over his throat.

"Don't you dare," she hissed. "Don't you even dare…!"

In the next instant, Tybalt's houndoom leapt onto her, and with a scream, she was pulled back, onto the rusted sheet that had been part of the ceiling with the dog all over her. Ambipom screeched and flung himself onto the dog to fight him off in a blur of purple and black within a rain of blood red spraying across the floor. Viola heard blood-curdling shrieks rippling across the clearing, and it took several stares in their direction and Benvolio's smooth hands clamping over her mouth for her to realize they came from her and not Mercury. When the fight between the dog and the monkey rolled off Mercury's body, Viola could see why no sound came from the other woman. Mercury's throat had been ripped completely open, and her mouth was clawed and bitten until she no longer had a lower jaw. Her dark eyes had already taken on a milky film as they stared straight towards the ceiling in painful horror.

Tybalt breathed in shock for a moment, not because his houndoom had killed someone but instead because he hadn't expected Mercury to lash out at him at all. For a long moment, neither Montagues nor Capulets even moved, save for Romeo, who reached into his pocket for a poké ball. With swift movements, he summoned a pokémon, a white horse with a brilliant, red mane and a sharp horn jutting from her forehead. The rapidash, taller than most Viola had seen, stomped in front of Romeo, grinding her obsidian hooves into the metal debris as it melted slightly beneath her hot touch. Tybalt turned his eyes towards the horse just in time for Romeo to point directly at him.

"Megahorn," he said simply.

Without questioning her master's orders, the mare lowered her head and started into a gallop towards Tybalt. The Capulet turned and launched into a run in a desperate attempt to escape the horse, but she proved to be faster, jamming her horn into his back and ramming him into a crate near the entrance to the pathway where Viola stood. He didn't even scream, merely let a small "guh" push from his throat before he sagged on the horn of the rapidash. With a snort, she pulled away from the crate, leaving a large spot of red blood on the rusted metal. Bending her head down, she allowed the corpse to slip off her horn before she turned back to receive praise from her master. In the meantime, Houndoom craned his neck away from his opponent to see his master, stabbed through the heart and lying on the ground. He barked once before Ambipom leapt viciously on him and finished the battle between them.

Reaching out to his own pokémon, Romeo stroked her forehead as Tybalt's blood trickled between her eyes. He stared back towards the Capulets, who each looked from their downed leader to their adversary staring them in the face with a cold, dangerous glare. Then, without a word, all of them started for the nearest passage. None of the Montagues had anything to say to them.

When Benvolio slowly uncovered Viola's mouth, she took a few deep breaths as she stared at the corpses littering the floor. Her eyes were wider than he had ever seen, and her face was deathly pale.

"Viola," he said, "this is how the Game…"

His voice trailed off. She shook her head loosely, as if only a string attached it to her neck. Then, without warning, she turned and ran back down the corridor. Benvolio turned sharply and began running after her before his cousin glanced towards the corridor.

"Benvolio," he snapped. "We're not finished yet."

Cringing, Benvolio stopped and took a step back. By then, Viola disappeared around a corner.

---

Outside, it took a few minutes for Viola to emerge, stumbling into the bright, afternoon sun. She couldn't cry. Literally, she couldn't cry. She could only run with her eyes frantically searching for other paths. For this reason, she stumbled along with her mind focused only on the road in front of her instead of anything else around her.

With that narrow focus, it was completely understandable that she passed by him without even realizing he was there.

"He" was a dark-skinned man sitting in a small alley between warehouses. His tattered, gray overcoat and trousers blended with the debris and shadows around him, but his black shoes gleamed oddly in what little light filtered into his nook. A gray, wide-brimmed hat covered most of his face, revealing only dark, coarse hair trailing down the side of his head. When Viola ran past, one of his large hands rose to push the brim up enough to expose his brown eyes as the other hand tightened around the neck of the green bottle in the brown paper bag between his legs. He leaned to the side a little, just enough to catch another glimpse of Viola as she ran away from the warehouse. With a smirk, he straightened and reached into one of the pockets of his ratty coat to pull out a gleaming Master. Pressing the screen a few times, he leaned back as his Master placed a call to someone he knew entirely too well.

"Feste, it's certainly a pleasure to hear from you," Cesario said on the other end with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

"You'll be even more pleased to hear what I'm about to say," Feste replied with a smooth voice. "I found your girl. She's on the move in Dandelion District."

"Dandelion District? What the hell is she doing there?"

Feste shrugged. "Beats me. But don't you worry. I'll keep an eye on her."

Cesario sighed. "And I suppose you expect me to pay you."

"I'm no fool," Feste replied with a chuckle. "The Great Cesario never pays his friends."

"Ah, good. Then we've come to an agreement." Cesario's voice softened slightly as he added, "Bring her to our meeting hall as soon as you can convince her, Feste. In one piece."

"Relax. You know me. I'll make sure of it."

"Good."

Before Feste could add anything else, the call cut. His nostrils flared slightly as he heaved a sigh and slipped his Master back into his pocket.

"Stupid boy can't run this House if he wanted to," he muttered.

With that, he took a swig from the bottle and stood. Wincing, he swayed slightly, placing a hand on the wall of one of the warehouses for support until he regained his balance. Then, with a breath, he started forward.

"Anything for a Prospero," he said as he raised his bottle again.
__________________
Professional ninja. May or may not actually be back. Here for the snark and banter at most.

Need some light reading?
Anima Ex Machina (Chapter 20 now available)
The Leaf Green Incident (SWC 2012 winner)
Braid (Creepypasta apparently)
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