The sun was setting on the island metropolis of Hudson City, lights beginning web the buildings in a glowing lattice work. The city was home to many disparate groups and rife with magic and metahumans, a haven from the strict laws of the USA. Hiding in the light, performers, superheroes and mundanity, knowing that it made them seem safe.
On the edge of China Town crowds were becoming more dense as the work week ended and the weekend began. Tourists were flowing into the brightly coloured streets but the younger people of the city were on the way to the Plaza ,home of the cities nightclubs. Neon lights flickered on, drawing in crowds like moths to light. In the club, Wyrm, the music was muted, waiting for the dark. Currently a dim cavern, the Wyrm had a sinuous wooden bar, matching with winding starts and walkways that made there way through the building. As the lights slowly flickered on the design of a massive serpent appeared, fangs enclosing the dj booth, now occupied.
Doing her best to hide her wince as the music rose in volume, Kilala sighed, settling further in her chair. She had been here since soon after opening, carefully, slowly weaving an illusion over herself. It didn't hide her from view, just allowed people's eyes to slide over her. Delicate work, technically far beyond her skill level, but she had some help. Annoying help, but help non the less.
On the bar a cat appeared with a slight pop. You would think that would cause an issue in the growing crowd around the bar, but Kilala knew that no one else could see it. She glared at the cat, which gave her a smug look and began to clean itself, twin tails twitching.
“You will draw attention to yourself, Kadan, “ she mentally hissed at the cat, before taking a drink.
“You wanted me here,” came a voice in her ear as the cat yawned, “anyway you know better.”
He stretched, claws scratching at the wooden bar, but leaving no marks on the smooth surface as Kilala glared. Being possessed, at least technically, by a cat was beyond irritating. A demon would be a relief at this point. Still it came with some advantages, advantages which had Kilala warming a bar stool. With a bit of focus she would see the swirling omin-present streams of magic. With the right priming she could track the caster a spell, thus why she was here tonight. Memories of a still figure on a bed, breathing shallow, magic gone, the barest trickle left, caused a scowl on Kilala's face.
She let her glass hit the bar, straight through the apparition, making disappear in a swirl of colour. Bending around to scan the entering crowd, Kilala did her best to seem casual but she carefully noted people as they entered. No one caught her attention, but as she was about to turn back to the bar Kilala felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, a feeling of danger goosebumping her skin. Looking back at the people entering the club, she zeroed in on a small group of men near the entrance.
Drawing a breath, Kilala rose from her seat, holding her jacket over her shoulder. She has made concession to the club scene, a tight halter neck top, the lacy fabric only covering what decency required, leaving most of her torso bared, belly button piercing visible on skin the colour of pale cream. Instead of the typical tight jeans or micro mini, Kilala was wearing loose pants that hung from slim hips, nice leather boots instead of pumps. Still these guys had be focusing on Asian girls, at that point at least Kilala fit the mould.
She walked over to the table that the men had sat at with a flirtatious smile on her face.
“I don't think I've seen you here before,” she said, talking to the one with the strongest concentration of the foul magic on them.
“Same here gorgeous. I'd remember,” he said leering at her. Obviously thought he was god's gift to women, Kilala thought mentally rolling her eyes.
“Same here,” she replied, “ what's your name?”
“John and yours, honey?” Replying Kilala let herself fit into the flow of the conversation, soon sitting at the table, flirting, accepting offered drinks, thanking the potion she took before coming here for keeping her sober. After she started pretending she was a bit more than tipsy whispered in her ear.
“How about we go get some fresh air, honey?”
Agreeing with a laugh Kilala got to her feet, faking a slight unsteadiness. In a laughably gallant move he hooked his arm in hers. Surreptitiously flicking her eyes across the group Kilala could see the smirks. As they left the table, he ushered her out into the alley next to the club with the grip on her arm. Inwardly rolling her eyes, Kilala wondered if they had gotten sloppy, or maybe foreknowledge was to be forearmed. Still, she continued her chatter and pretended to focus her attention on the man in front of her, trying to ignore the skin crawling effect of the magic on him.
To her lack of surprise the rest of the men from the table appeared. Then her shoulders tensed as she realised there were more men that had been in the club. A quick count put it at nine, which made the situation even more dicey. Kilala could feel the alarm of Kadan mirror her own. Doing her best to calm herself she allowed the groping for a few more seconds before pulling away in alarm.
“Hey what's going on,” she said, still playing her role, as if she had just noticed the increase of people.
“Whatever we want honey,” said with a sneer, not even turning to see behind him. Well that it cocky as hell Kilala thought. The sneer quickly faded as a broad smile appeared on his supposed victim's face. In a smooth movement Kilala drew a small knife from a sheathe on her leg and pressed it to his throat.
“Seems like you will be doing what I want,” she said to the now sweating man in front of her, before focusing on the rest of the group for a moment.
“I suggest you all stay still as well. Unless you want to...”
Her voice trailed off as a figure behind the glaring thugs walked out of the darkness. Dressed in dark coat with long hair loosely tied back the man was obviously shorter than the group of thugs, but danger flowed off him like waves of heat. Worse than that Kilala recognised him and the symbol embroided on his jacket.
“Who the hell are you?” One of the group said, “Fuck off or you''ll be sorry.”
A smooth, slightly accented voice replied, “It looks to me that you are the ones in trouble.”
To Kilala's slight surprise several of the men turned to the intruder, with fists raised. She winced as the group of thugs closed on the figure. The man who she was restraining tried to twist, shouting for them to help him, but was soon silenced as Kilala swiftly drew her knife back and her head forward. She rubbed her forehead as he slumped to the ground. Crouching next to him she grabbed at the barely visible necklace, revealing and intricately carved amulet. She was carefull not to let it touch her, this close to her it made her skin crawl.
Reaching into a pocket, Kilala was momentarily stunned by a bright light, the smell of burning fabric with a hint of flesh reaching her nose. Looking up she saw that most of the rest of the group had joined there leader, only two still standing against their opponent. Next to her, Kadan appeared in a tense crouch.
“Get what you are here for!” He hissed out looking at her with vivid green eyes, she nodded finishing her delayed movement, bring out a small pouch that she dropped the amulet in. Some of the tension left her shoulders, the caustic feel of the magic withdrawing. Rifling through the downed man's pockets she found his wallet and, after a brief moment of reflection, leaned against the alley wall,. In a studiously relaxed pose, she went through the wallet, keeping an eye on the remainder of the fight. It didn't take much longer for there to only be the long haired man left. He looked around for a moment before noticing her, causing his mouth to tighten before coming closer.
“Returning to old habits?” He said looking at her with bright orange eyes obvious irritation in his voice.
“Hardly,” Kilala snorted, slipping the wallet into her pants “I want to know who this idiot is. This money might as well be used to help his victims too.”
She raised a hand to stop the man from talking as h e opened his mouth.
“What are you doing here? Doesn't one of the Queen's most powerful servants have better things to do? Eh Phoenix?”
“Zhu Que is the correct name. As you well know.” He started off icy, but the second sentence was muted, almost under his breath, but continued to glare at Kilala, Kadan intermittently hissing at him. Suppressing inappropriate laughter, she continued.
“That didn't answer the question,” she said, watching for a long moment as Zhu Que shifted impatiently on his feet.
“I could ask you the same,” he snapped, before looking away and continuing, “You aren't the only area that has been targeted by this trash.”
Kilala pursed her lips, she felt more unsurprised that she thought the announcement deserved, but it made sense. Sort of.
“Sounds like someone has a death wish,” was all she said standing up from the wall. “ On that note I'll leave the clean up to you, that's what you mob types are good at aren't you? I'm sure you'll get what ever information you need.
“Give me the amulet student of Zhang Guolao.” he said stepping closer and out as she turned away.
“Yeah no,” she replied finishing her turn and walking out of the alley, seeing his fist clench out of the corner of her eye, senses ready if he tried anything, but he let her go with only a suppressed noise of anger.
Moving quickly to her bike, Kilala shrugged her jacket on, ignoring the apparition on her bike seat. Starting up her bike she dodged the crowd on the street, some drunk even at this early hour.
“You say others have a death wish!” Kadan spoke into her head ,” that idiot could have cooked you with a click of his fingers.”
“Maybe,” was the only reply the spirit as Kilala focused on the road. And on the amulet. Something more than she thought was going on here.