- Event Details:
Christmas was an event that Akeya tended to leave to the social creatures to celebrate. It was nearly universally seen as an opportunity for people to come together and be happy together and all that, which meant that for her there was little to do but to get her hands on some of the special foods and snacks made for the occasion and find a quiet place to enjoy herself in her own way. Other people could make a big deal of the festivities: she'd rather find a large scroll to read through while eating some good food.
Of course there was an equally likely answer to how the dragoness would spend Christmas: taking care of those who would threaten the Christmas celebrations. While she herself had little interest in attending it would be a mistake to think that Akeya didn't recognize that they held some value worth preserving. Whether she liked it or not she had to live with society, and one of the ways to make this easier was to keep society as a whole happy. For which Christmas was vital during the harshest time of the year: it got people to think about the good things in life and try to adopt a more positive mindset. Without such celebrations the chill of winter would shrivel the hearts of many and make them that much less pleasant to deal with.
That and she could usually find a way to get paid for her work. By this point it was tradition that every time the Winter Solstice came around something or someone would rise up and try to make a mess of it, so by this point people who had little interest in attending the festivities themselves could just sign up for extermination of pests in exchange for rewards. Akeya found that a very pragmatic approach, since it meant that people like her were given something to do with their time instead of constantly being reminded to try and enjoy the atmosphere.
For now the disguised dragoness was wandering through the city of Magnolia idly, ears and eyes sharp to catch any trouble the moment it jumped up. In her human form she could easily pass for someone unimportant as long as she kept her attitude in check, and the lack of guardian figures would make those with less pleasant intentions emboldened and more likely to make a move. She'd already heard rumours that in other cities there had been sightings of strange figures leaving people shocked and shaken, but so far Magnolia had been spared...
Well, that just made it more likely that the same trouble would pop up here soon. The sooner the better, so Akeya would have something to aim herself at rather than watching the humans and their ilk celebrate the Solstice. She'd heard more sombre voices say that the modern approach of buying excessive amounts of presents was obscuring and hindering the more virtuous intents behind the celebration, and she couldn't exactly disagree: a lot of the happy people walking around didn't seem to have any real intention on reflecting on the past year. It mattered little to her since her expectations weren't high to begin with and the only thing she needed was for the members of society to have their desires satisfied so they'd be more bearable, but it was still worth noting. As long as she had nothing else to take care of.
She'd been wandering for a while when Akeya finally heard the sounds of distress which she'd been waiting for. Turning around sharply she headed for the nearest alley, striding past a young couple who clearly thought they wouldn't be found in the shadows. "Do that inside before you catch frostbite." She spoke curtly without breaking her stride. Behind her there was the sounds of shocked gasps and some embarrassed mutterings, followed by the rustling of clothes and two pairs of footsteps leaving the alley. Akeya wasn't exactly opposed to watching a good show but her work had just arrived. That and frostbite was a serious danger in this weather.
Closing her eyes she merged with the shadows and disappeared from the alley, her consciousness spreading out over the city and then converging on the source of the disturbance she'd picked up on. A man was stumbling out of another alleyway babbling something about how he hadn't meant it and how it had been just a joke. He didn't seem to be in a hurry to explain what exactly he was talking about, but Akeya didn't need to know that to see what was going on: someone was using illusion magic to show him disturbing images, and from the sounds of it either it included messing with the man's thoughts or the illusionist somehow could drag up the target's guilts. Sounded like some kind of karmic application of magic, which Akeya wasn't necessarily opposed to but which still fell under her job as things she'd have to deal with.
People joined the celebrations to have fun, not face their own worst self. Akeya knew of several ways to confront the ugliest parts of yourself and getting drunk was the least efficient of all of them.
The culprit was found hovering in the middle of the alley, about a floor above the ground: a girl with blue skin, pale hair, and simple but clean clothes. She looked like she could have been some peasant from the outskirts of Magnolia's territory if it wasn't for the colour scheme, the floating and the supernatural feeling around her. In fact... Akeya peered at her first adversary from the dark. It looked like this one wasn't even truly alive. Some kind of undead, and given that she was hovering it might be a spirit. A spirit showing people their own guilty thoughts? That was solid but old-fashioned.
Regardless, she hadn't come here to admire the handiwork of this girl. Containment was her job here. Given that the target was in the alley that wasn't even very difficult.
The spirit was still focused on the man who was trying to make some distance when the shadows that filled the alley all shot out and wrapped around her, first grabbing her arms and legs before binding her entire body. Within moments the spirit girl was enveloped in a cocoon of dark, after which the cocoon disappeared together with the prisoner trapped inside.
Outside of Magnolia Akeya dispelled the cocoon, giving the girl a brief window in which to strike back with her illusion magic before the dragoness hit her with a fluctuating wave of twilight, light and dark annihilating each other until at the right moment a rift opened between and swallowed the spirit. Having learned how to connect herself to the world in which spirits resided when they didn't grace the world of the waking Akeya knew a thing or two about getting rid of them. Especially weaklings like this one which were clearly only barely hanging on in the first place. "No to see who was controlling you..." The rumours and reports talked about an old man being responsible for unleashing the spirits, so getting rid of that weakling just meant she had a thread that might lead her to the real culprit.
The wave of illusions had been brief, but Akeya had already noticed the recurring pattern: memories of things she had done in the past and the results. In her case that boiled down to a lot of corpses. A whole lot of them. She imagined that for most people that kind of thing would be jarring, but she was already aware that she was responsible for a mountain of bodies. And she wasn't planning to stop adding to the death count any time soon.
Stepping to the side Akeya narrowly dodged a scythe which attempted to bisect her from behind, followed by a figure on a mount rushing past her without showing any sign of slowing down. When the dragoness responded with a series of light beams the figure swerved to the side to dodge them even as the scythe changed shape into a simple but deadly spear. As the weapon caught the light of the evening sun Akeya noticed that it was made of ice, although clearly a magical variant which could resist being used as war materiel.
Getting a good look at the assailant Akeya quickly noticed the similarities with the previous ghost, except more mature and more combat-oriented. And the mount... rather than a horse, a skeletal reindeer. Fitting for the circumstances, although rather unusual otherwise.
She didn't have much time to think about that: the warrior maiden was already turning around and charging her with the spear. Mounted combat had as primary advantage that it allowed for charging attacks along with improved mobility, and despite being a ghost this ice-weapon wielder seemed to be aware of this fact. Akeya lowered her centre of mass, then when the enemy was close she jumped up into the air and spun around. The spear which threatened to pierce her was deflected by her scaled tail. The dragoness's clawed foot caught the side of the rider's head and launched her out of the saddle into the snow.
When the spear collided with her tail Akeya got a strong sensation of suffering... albeit not her own. For but a split second she could hear the cries of widows and widowers, images of graves and broken homes flashing through her head. She might have been confused if it wasn't for the first ghost. "Trying to make me feel bad about what I've done."
Before she hit the ground Akeya's body split into two, an orb of light and an orb of dark. The two spiralled around each other before reforming into the humanoid dragoness right above the woman who was still trying to get up. Grabbing the slender pale blue neck Akeya planted her knee in the small of the back to keep her prey from moving before unleashing another void rift to send this ghost back to where she belonged as well. The skeletal reindeer, who had begun to charge Akeya after its rider got forcibly ejected, faded away when its master disappeared.
Standing up Akeya hardly needed a warning to tell her that the next ghost was already rapidly approaching. It looked like taking care of the first ghost had drawn the attention of the one behind all this. Good: her job was to keep these nuisances from interfering with the festivities. If she could achieve that goal by having them waste their time trying to mess her up that would be as effective a tactic as any, especially since they'd be hard pressed to make her regret her actions of the past. She didn't kill needlessly, but that also meant that when she did resort to murder she didn't regret it.
That and she wasn't very inclined towards remorse in the first place.
Turning around the cold-blooded assassin watched the third and last ghost approach. This one looked different from the others: a vaguely human figure, shrouded by dark robes with as only distinguishing features a crown of withered flowers and twisted branches growing out of its back. Ominous if nothing else, although Akeya would say that she'd seen worse.
What she couldn't dismiss was the spirit's dreadful aura. It washed over her like she'd stepped into an ice bath, chilling her bones and actually making her shiver before she forced herself to stop. This being brought with it the idea of death and decay: the end of all hopes and dreams, the final barrier which none could surpass. Akeya wasn't easily swayed by fear, but she was was still a living being and couldn't just dismiss the effects of feeling like death was very near.
Rather than attacking her the ghost hovered a meter or so in front of her, leaving the dragoness to wonder what the plan was. After several seconds of staring at each other, with Akeya narrowing her eyes and clenching her jaws to fight off the aura's effects, the world around them began to shift. Another illusion, but on a much grander scale. Akeya could even feel it reach into her mind despite her best attempts at forcing it out, digging into her memories and bringing forth...
A land littered with the bodies of the fallen, fresh and old, rotten and bare-boned. Akeya glanced around with more than a little curiosity, noticing two things: one, the ground was a dark red, enough blood having been spilt for it to permanently taint the soil. The second thing was that the corpses were of various creatures: humans, but also dragons and various other types of entities. She could even spot some bones in the distance were of such size that they had to belong to one of those ancient creatures large enough to form bodies of land by themselves.
"Hmmm..." Turning to look at where Magnolia should be Akeya saw that there was naught but rubble there. Whatever happened was long enough ago that there was no smoke or fire left of the incident: just desolated husks of destroyed buildings. "Now what is this supposed to be about?" Even with the aura still surrounding her Akeya found this vision to be less than disturbing. The deaths of others meant little to her, only her own and the very few she actually cared about.
The vision shifted, the landscape changing until she was standing in a completely different location. Here Akeya looked down on what looked like some kind of large-scale market. Dragons of various types and sizes were chained up, and from the way that the smaller folk were walking about it was clear that the dragons were the goods that were on sale. Descending down onto the ground the twilight dragoness walked up to a dragon in humanoid form, chained with magic restraints that kept her from turning back to her full form. "...For pleasure and breeding. Price to be determined upon purchase." Akeya read this from a sign in front of the unlucky dragon's cage. Looking her over Akeya raised an eyebrow. At least they chose a good specimen.
"I guess I'm supposed to be bothered by this." Turning around Akeya spread her wings and flew out of the market, back towards where the spirit was still hovering. "You've got your aura, but other than that it seems you can't get a grip on me." Given that the first ghost had been about past mistakes and the second ghost had given her images of those suffering from her actions in the present she figured that this was supposed to be the ghost who tried to haunt her with horrible futures. Unfortunately for the ghost there were apparently some limits which made scaring Akeya... difficult.
The world shifted again, this time moving to... "...Oh."
Akeya fell silent as she looked down at Leila's body, lifeless with empty eyes. Looking at the wounds the dragoness could quickly determine who was responsible for them as well: she tried to not be too predictable with her attacks, but Akeya did have a habit of slitting throats when the opportunity presented itself. A clean and quick death, with minimal fuss.
"So in this future I kill Leila?" Akeya didn't move her eyes away, but she didn't need the ghost's answer anyway. There was a silence as the dragoness studied the remains of her beloved. This lasted for a good half a minute, until...
"You had to make it corny." Even as she said this the assassin had already struck: a Horizon had cleaved the ghost cleanly in half. At the same time a burst of light evaporated the ice spikes that had been about to pierce her while she was distracted by the sight of Leila's corpse. Akeya turned away from the fake body and faced the bisected spirit, arms folded. "As I said, your aura is strong, but other than that you're really clumsy." With a dismissive flick of her tail the spirit dissolved, the illusion that surrounded Akeya fading away with it.
Now that past, present and future had been dispelled, the only thing left was... the one responsible for the spirits. Given the frequency of the spirits he had to be close by... Casting out her senses it didn't take long for Akeya to pinpoint the location of an entity with a sizeable amount of mana, sufficient enough to be responsible for the summoning and directing of the three ghosts. Melding into her own shadow she shifted locations.
An old man was standing on top of a nearby hill, looking out over both Magnolia and Akeya's position. When the dragoness stepped out of a shadow several dozen meters away he didn't react startled: he merely turned around and looked at her with a disdainful glare. "You're a tough one aren't you? I can tell that you're not easily swayed by your emotions." The corner of his mouth curled up into a mocking smile. "A bit like myself in that regard. Tell me: you don't seem to care much about Christmas. Why are you interfering with my plans?"
Akeya wondered whether she should even answer that, but after some consideration decided it couldn't hurt. "I get paid for it." There was more to it, she also thought there was value in letting others celebrate the Solstice even if she herself was lukewarm about it, but that answer was sufficient.
"I see. A mercenary mindset. Not one I dislike, at that." The old man lowered his head for a moment, obscuring his eyes with the brim of his tall hat. "It's almost unfortunate that I have to do away with you now, but I don't have the time to haggle for you to leave me alone." As he lifted his head three figures appeared around him: the three spirits Akeya had dispatched before. "You could deal with them each alone, but I wonder how you'll fare when past, present and future torment you all at once." With a small motion he indicated for the ghosts to begin moving, the youngest and the oldest floating towards where Akeya was standing while the one atop her skeletal mount summoned a lance of ice.
Unfortunately for them Akeya had hit her limit. Narrowing her emerald, reptilian eyes, the dragoness gave them all a glare cold as the grave and just as emotionless. As she let her killing intent flare the area around her darkened even as the snow became brighter and sharper: a contrast strong enough to hurt the eyes.
Around Akeya a new figure formed, one ephemeral and immaterial but as real as anything: a humongous dragon, with iridescent scales which glimmered where they were touched by light but dark as night where cast in shadow. As the seconds passed by the image only became more and more vibrant, the three ghosts trembling and slowly moving backwards as the dragon's tranquil fury washed over them. Even the old man looked taken aback, eyes wide and mouth hanging open as he tried to comprehend what he was looking at. "What... is this...?"
This time Akeya had no reason to answer him.
The next sound was soft and precise. Something hard and sharp parting skin and flesh.
Duke Scrooge looked down at where blood quickly stained his suit, dripping down onto the white snow below and painting it sanguine. Reaching up with his hand he felt where his throat had been cleanly sliced open. Opening his mouth he tried to breathe, but only a faint whistling escaped his ruined windpipe. Turning around he managed to catch the sight of Akeya standing behind him with one eye before his legs gave out and he fell to the ground, one hand reaching out to catch himself but only managed to gasp at the bloody snow. Another weak attempt at getting air into his lungs, a bloody froth forming around the cut on his throat, and then the Duke of Humbug fell silent for the last time.
Akeya could simply have incapacitated him. Her decision to kill him was multifaceted: the fact that he used both mental magic and illusion magic meant that a single slip-up could result in him easily freeing himself from any prison. And while his spirits might base themselves around a theme of exposing you to the consequences of your actions at least two of them acted with deadly intent: if he'd just been out to scare people who were celebrating Christmas she'd have knocked him out and left it at that.
The third reason that she really didn't appreciate him trying so hard to make her feel bad about her decisions, whether they were in the past, present or future. Akeya wasn't the kind of person who doubted herself much and she didn't need someone using magic to try and force that kind of insecurity onto her.
The fourth reason was that out here she could cleanly dispose of the body so nobody would know.
With their summoner dead the three spirits were long gone, leaving the dragoness to set about removing the evidence. She imagined that with this the troubles in the other cities would also quickly come to an end.
PWC: 3,541/2,000 (Completed)