Center of Regalo/Regalo Woods
Card: #3, The Empress
After her confrontation with her subordinate Ari quietly yet hastily ducked out from the ballroom and headed towards her own room. The ball would last approximately another hour or so and since her focus had been unfortunately shifted she was in no mood to deal with the waste that cluttered the busy dance floor. A heavy sigh left Ari’s mouth as she finally slipped into her room undetected she couldn’t deal with people especially those that were apart of La Famiglia. Her body fell into one of her soft to the touch lavender chairs. She didn’t quite remember what material it was made out of it but was by far her favorite. Mounds of papers made themselves at home on her desk with one file and all its content spread open rested on top of the others. Somehow Ari had fooled herself into the thought that her work was done but she was Head of Intelligence her work was never done. As easily as it would be to pawn it off to one of her lackeys they tended to have the loosest of lips to whoever could spot the cash. Nowadays she only trusted Camellia and herself with the privileged files although there were files even she couldn’t show her right-hand.
In an effort to remove herself from her current thought provoked state she shuffled through the material on her desk. Her most tedious project was the one that involved the members of La Famiglia. Ari had committed those ones to memory with Moreno around it was much too dangerous to have those types of files around for just anyone to see. A yawned escaped Ari’s mouth her eyelids felt suddenly heavy as she nestled into her chair. Before she knew it forty-three minutes had passed her by in an instant. Several drawn out blinks and eight eye-rubs later Ari senses had focused and she heard a soft murmur almost like a ritualistic chant outside her window. She quickly sprung up from her chair and threw open the curtains to reveal a sight that baffled her, the island of Regalo in flames. Every precaution and protocol about this situation whizzed through her mind faster than she could grasped. Immediately she began to undress herself, she placed each of her hands on the opposite side of her hips and forcefully removed her white dress over her head. Then with one finger flung her heels out, which both landed with a clunk on the other side of the room. In haste she made a dash to her closet and selected a black low-cut shirt, a leathery purple jacket, and skinny jeans to match. Her accessories included the black bangles she had worn to the ball and two black studs in her ear. If there were attackers out there the least she could do was let them look at something fashionable before they died. She patted her thigh that confirmed her knife was still firmly attached to her hip.
Ari stepped out into the hallway almost simultaneously her Arcana Mark came to life. If one were to peer down the hall she was in they wouldn’t see the tall, deadly force that moved toward their direction. Thankfully her card power granted her the power of slight invisibility as Ari could casted an illusion on the mind of someone to make them think she wasn’t even there. It was the perfect method to utilize on the battlefield and one she intended on using in the tournament if she was forced to participate. The mansion was left behind and Ari made her way into the center of Regalo where the flames burned the brightest. Trying to shield herself from the flames she kept her right arm bent just above her eyes as she searched through the smoke. Each step was took with caution to avoid the dead bodies that littered the streets. The chants still rung in her ears but from which direction she couldn't tell. Ari began to run towards Domencio’s shop; she hoped that he had the intelligence to have gotten his family out alive. When she arrived on the scene a man she could barely see was butchering someone who laid defenseless on the ground with what looked like a butcher knife. As she took her next step the man immediately detected her even with all the smoke clouding the air. Ari saw the man rush toward her unlike the thieves earlier this one was meant business.
What she lacked in physical combat skills Ari regained in fast reaction time and quick thoughts. She rolled onto the blood soaked ground as the blade swung where her body had previously been. Ari stood up and swiftly kicked the guy in the gut as he turned around to face her, which had almost threatened to swallow her entire left foot. With the smoke and flames that surrounded them it was had for her to rely on her illusions because her opponent weaved in and out of it. Ari firmly grasped the hilt of her knife it felt right in her hand. Nova had a very strict policy on when they could take someone’s life and surely this fitted that situation. If not, it’s not like Nova was around to discipline her Ari thought. Through the smoke to her left came a hand that welded a knife and in response Ari dodged the weapon and traveled down the arm so that she ended up behind her attacker. Her knife’s blade reflected the flames as well as absorbed the heat from the environment. Ari pressed her arm securely around his neck. Despite her steady hold the man seemed more like a bull, restless and had plenty of fight.
“It’s time to put you down, any last words?” She liked to let them think they had last words but she would stop their existence before they had the chance to choke any words out.
“Ms… Terranci!” The man managed to choke out. Ari’s arm went slack causing the man to easily rip from her grip and turn to face her. His face became recognizable to her even with all the grime and soot smeared on it, it was Domencio.
“My, my I’m glad I didn’t kill you first.” Ari grinned and Domencio returned it. He responded by telling her how the man who she had seen him stabbing was one of the ones that had ravaged his business. His wife and child were already on an escape boat but he foolishly turned around once he remembered he left their savings in the store then he returned and that’s where he met the zombie-like foreigner.
“I saw some heading towards the deep fore-“ Domencio’s voice grew softer as Ari took off towards the woods where she used to call home.
Guilt settled in as she had never even considered her father as someone she needed to save. Her footsteps pounded the pavement as she dodged every dead body, burning debris, and zombie solider she could and made her way towards her house. She spotted two men carrying touches who stopped every few seconds to set another tree on fire and then continue onwards. A loud whistle drew their attention toward Ari where she motioned for them to come to her. One had a long, blond ponytail and looked quite scrawny while the other was bald and stocky. They met each other’s gazes and nodded before the bald one launched himself at Ari. She responded by delivering a swift kick to his abdomen that made him cry out in pain. Her concentration switched from him to the other in hopes of finding a way to defeat both of them. Mr. Bald unsheathed his long, brass sword while he advanced forward. Ari rushed toward the man, his sword soon swiped at the air in front of her. Lucky for her he had easily fallen victim to her first illusion, she had projected an image of herself a few inches ahead of where she actually was. That allowed her to observe how he handled his sword and it was clear that he was quite new at this but his swipes were made with force.
Unknown to Ari, Ponytail had taken his partner’s torch along with his own torch and created a ring of fire to trap them inside. He then waited for the signal that his partner would give once he was ready to take the poor girl down. Ari eyed her surroundings after she caught Mr. Bald grinning from ear to ear as if he had already claimed victory. In a flash he was on her, once again he swiped at her, which left Ari only able to defend herself with her knife. She was able to block his poorly aimed attacks but the sheer force of his blows pushed her backwards towards the flames. Ari gritted her teeth and dove northwest of her current location. Ponytail and Mr. Bald both lunged at her as they continued to chant the words Moreno had taught them. With her back pressed against the flames Ari decided that she’d rather take a fist than a sword. Ponytail’s fist caught her on the jaw as she sidestepped the area where she thought the sword swung. A pain sharper than the one that resulted from the blow to her jaw made her realize her sword calculation had been off. The sword had sliced through her jacket and dug deeper into her flesh. Ari casted two illusions at the same time, one a giant bear that rushed through the flames to guard her and then that the circle of flames had died down.
With her left hand cupped to her damaged right shoulder Ari ran forward and slammed her head into Ponytail’s stomach, which caused a stunned Ponytail to stumble and fall backwards. She seized that moment with her knife to make sure Ponytail wouldn’t ever attack her again. Ari panted heavily as she wiped the blood from her knife onto her pants. Mr. Bald appeared a little move brave in face of a giant bear and charged toward it with his sword out. Ari swore under her breath as his sliced through her illusion and then without hesitation ran towards her. The sword’s tip stopped inches away from her heart and then dropped to the floor along with the man that had controlled it. Ari looked from the crumpled body upwards where she met the gaze of a plump, older man who held out a boulder high in the air. He grinned before he dropped the large rock on top of the body, which caused the sound of broken bones.
“You’re injured,” Domencio’s face dropped as he saw the open wound.
“It’s nothing!” She shifted her hand back on top of her injury and began walked forward. “Why did you follow me?”
“If I hadn’t…”
Without any more words spoken between them they trudged deeper and deeper into the woods. As soon as they arrived at Ari’s destination she was unsure of why he had followed her around because she surely didn’t want his pity. With each movement her shoulder ached but the blood had ceased so she knew she wouldn’t bleed out. Domencio stepped in front of Ari to open the screen glass door but she swatted his hand away, which left blood splatter wherever she touched. Ari looked at the door as closely as she could even though it was dark she could tell the door was slightly cracked opened. Every lesson that she was taught about stealth flew out the window as Ari one handily knocked the door open and run into the house. Adrenaline coursed through her system as she threw herself at the man who hovered over her father’s restrained body. Her fist pummeled into the victim’s face, left, right, left, right, over and over and over again. Tears welled up in her eyes much to her disapproval but she couldn’t stop them. Emotions flashed through her that she had kept bottled up, words she had never said and ones she was all too familiar with were spoken, and memories that were buried resurfaced. Her punches waned in strength but Ari continued until the mixture of pain, blurry eyesight, and tiredness got to the point where she wasn’t even hitting her target.
Two rather large hands wrapped themselves around her torso then lifted her up onto her feet and gently wiped away her tears. Ari was slowly leaned back into a chair as she watched the man undo the restraints that kept her father in place. A smile appeared on Ari as she noticed for once her father actually looked at peace despite his unkempt appearance. With the ball she had completely forgotten to cut his hair and give him a quick shave. Pain filled Ari; she couldn’t believe this was all her fault. A stupid ball wasn’t worth more to her than her father yet she had let it come in the way of her responsibilities. He was soon cradled in Domencio’s strong arms. Ari reached her hand out to stroke his hand when the sound of chanting shook her out of her mindset. In a flash Ari was at the window ever so slightly she pulled the closed curtains outward in order to peek outside. Flames were spreading, Moreno’s men were somewhere out there in the darkness but everything seemed to blend. As she looked back to Domencio she noticed a sheet was placed over the man she had pummeled but its white color was dyed a deep red in some parts. Slowly, her eyes glanced at her shaky hands, which had made the same color transition as the sheets. Ari pressed a single finger to her mouth and waved Domencio to follow her as she opened a side door.
Their steps outside crunched the leaves underneath the weight of their feet. A slight breeze blew through the trees as they continued their quest back to the town part of Regalo. Inch by inch they cautiously traveled out of the woods and into the city. The flames had grown and the smoke was heavier than she remembered, which caused her to fall back closer to Domencio. A reflection caught her eye when Ari looked downward she saw herself in a blade of a sword. Blood in the shape of her hand was smudged on her face from when she had leaned into her hands. The tears had caused lines to form in blood that looked painted on. Shakily Ari snatched up the sword and placed her knife, blade up, in her back pocket and covered it up with her jacket. Their speed picked up as weaved their way through the town somehow they managed to avoid most of Moreno’s men. The ones they had encountered Ari lead them away and took care of them with her new weapon. She quickly adapted to the weight and feeling of the sword. Even though most of her blows missed entirely she got the job done and returned to Domencio who hid in alleyways. One man had successfully reopened her wound with his own sword and would’ve down the same to her throat if she hadn’t had Arcana Powers.
They arrived at the escape boats and Ari ushered them onto the nearest one, which contained Domencio’s family. He wished her luck and Ari made him swear on his life that he wouldn’t ever reveal the man’s identity (even though he didn’t really know much) and protect him with his life until she could look after him once more. After she waved them off she confidently faced the town of Regalo where the screams echoed into her ears. Her job wasn’t finished until she cleared as many houses and building as she could. The pain in her shoulder throbbed as it bled almost as if it was reminding her she wasn’t invincible.