Chapter 20

Chapter 20

A Chapter by Cynical_Art

Chapter 20

 

 

Judas entered the Garden of Black Roses atop his Black Crystallion. A Crystallion was a mechanical horse that ran on crystal fuel through the source of a crystal heart. There were only six in the world, one for each knight, and one for each Sword and Shield of a Knight, the highest division of the Ark Hunters. The Black and White Crystallions of the Knights were the fastest form of land travel, excluding trains. Knights were often categorized by which of the two horses they rode, Judas the Black Knight and Virgo the White Knight.

            The welcoming audience gathered by President Obsidian consisted of his wife, two sons, Emerald, and himself. Emerald’s presence caught Judas by surprise. Judas and his Sword and Shield were the only invitees. His Shield went by the name of Ruby, who was none other than Emerald’s sister. His Sword was called Sand, an introverted Homunculus who was possibly the Pawn with the least fame. Upon arriving in Sector Three, before the hunt began, Judas was required to speak with the president of Sector Three in order to discuss his plans and methods for killing the demon.

In Judas’s recent visit he was only doing a Sector check-up and wasn’t allowed to engage in any cases directly and therefore did not need to inform the President of anything. Knights only ever undertook cases themselves when the issue was considered a direct threat to the Ark’s stability. Aside from that their only job was to govern the Ark Hunters. Whenever they were directly involved in a case however, it was required that they spoke to whoever was in charge of the area so that they may prepare ahead of time for whatever damage may be caused. Knights were rarely called to field duty, some never having to at all after reaching the position, but the term last resort did not go lightly with them. The blood baths that came with Knights on the field were moments marked in the pages of history.

            President Obsidian gave a slight bow as the hunters descended from their Crystallions. Obsidian was dressed in an open black rosebud robe exposing his bare chest, black pants, and boots. His ebony exoskeleton was not visible, but his wavy hair clouded his mysterious face and raven eyes. Obsidian’s vessel was that of a mature man on his early thirties. His rise in power came from large investments to some of the most prominent technology companies but ironically he was known for his lack of interest in modernization. Obsidian was a man of art with a love for relics of the past, which often caused controversy. His Garden of Black Roses was one of his many controversial monuments, this one appealing to the Graveyard of Roses made for the Messiah kings of legends. Judas had met him on several occasions before and never liked the man for his different way of thinking.

            “It is good to see you again, Judas,” greeted Obsidian.

            Judas nodded. “And you, President.”

            “Right this way.”

            Obsidian turned and started leading them through the Garden of Black Roses and towards his manor. The Garden of Black Roses was everything you would think it is from its name. Black roses filled the garden in all ends. If one were to gaze from the sky it’d look like a black cross. The path of roses led directly to his manor. His manor was a traditional looking manor from old times. The bricks were fully exposed with many pointy tops, towers, and flags with his black raven emblem imprinted on it. As they entered the manor Judas quickly noticed that none of the lights were artificial. The entire manor was lit with chandeliers and candles with not a hint of crystal fuel running anywhere. It was like stepping into a time machine to the past.

            “Very…classic,” commented Judas.

            “I imagine you don’t like it,” said Obsidian. “No cameras to see what everyone is doing all the time. No artificial air like the Ark. Not even televisions to see the world that’s not right next to you. It can be very…disconnected.”

            “Funny Sector to become president of for a guy who hates modernization.”

            “It’s not that I hate it. It’s made me rich and powerful. I simply enjoy some peace of mind. In today’s world you can never truly feel like you’re alone. Someone is always watching you, listening to every word you say. But here, there’s nobody watching or listening to me that I don’t want. Not even the Imperator can reach inside these walls. It’s my own escape paradise.” I can see why Adam gets away with murder in this Sector.

            “Yeah, well not many people are seeing or listening to what’s been happening in Sector Three nowadays,” said Judas with a slightly mocking tone.

            “You mean the quarantine,” said Obsidian. “I should thank the Imperator. Wish she had done it sooner. I never get a break with all the media thanks to all the new technology being produced in Sector Three. Now I finally get to relax.”

            Judas stopped walking out of disbelief. “You do realize your people are dying, right?”

            Obsidian glanced back and shrugged. “Yes, well, not much I can do but leave my faith in your hands. I run this Sector, make sure everything is in order, get my money, and enjoy my life, but blue haired demons are problems the Ark let get out of hand. Big problems that quite frankly I can’t solve with what little power I have. I mean, that is the main reason why you’re even here, isn’t it? To fix this little issue the Ark let grow because I don’t have the means to do it myself.”

            This set Judas off. “You talk like you don’t even care about this Sector. Is everything just one big investment to you? How did you ever get elected president? Did you pay the people to vote for you? Sometimes I wonder if even your family is just another one of your investments.”

Obsidian glanced at his family than glared at Judas. “Listen Black Knight, I’m no stranger to your little family quarrel. You can feign justice, but beneath that title all that lies is a traitor.”

Judas felt his hands clench. “You question my loyalty?”

            “I question any man’s loyalty who puts his family second. With someone as such, one must question what they truly value. But enough arguing, I think we may be scaring our audience.”

            Judas looked around at the all-too-interested crowd and calmly stood his ground. Only certain details about what happened ten years ago were ever released to the public. The last thing he wanted was Ark secrets meant to be maintained getting out because of an insignificant quarrel with an impossible man.

            “This way,” urged Obsidian.

            They entered a large dining room with an enormous wooden oval table in the center with chairs all around it. In front of four chairs were plates with food in it and a peculiar bright red apple sitting on top. The floor was white marble shinier than a mirror. Golden chandeliers lit the room with their warm candles. The whole place looked like something from an old painting, but even Judas could not deny how beautiful the entire setup looked.

            “Please, sit and eat,” urged Obsidian.

            Judas looked at him questioningly, “I didn’t realize we were coming for dinner.”

            “Who wants to discuss plans on an empty stomach? I like to treat my guest kindly. Besides, before we discuss solutions to our little dilemma I must take my family to church. Then I can discuss whatever must be discussed with you and the lady Emerald.”

            Judas glanced at Emerald whom he hardly remembered was present anymore. Why is she here? Emerald looked as ready for camera as she did the day they arrived. Dressed in her s****y fashion and signature hairdo as usual. Her exoskeleton covered only her hips and shoulder blades with a little bit of her neck. She was wearing a one-piece suit that was see-through with a green miniskirt and breastplate masking the outer edges of her breast that matched her eyes. She was wearing white silk elbow length gloves and thigh-high boots exposing her delicious thighs. It wasn’t everyday fashion and would probably look silly on anybody but a celebrity. She looked about as physically beautiful as any woman could get though. But that’s where it ended. There was no depth in any of her features like there was with Breccia. Emerald’s beauty was only skin deep.

            Judas looked back at Obsidian having just registered what he said. “Church?”`

            “Yes,” confirmed Obsidian.

            “I’ve never heard of a homunculus who follows a religion.”

            “We all like answers to why we exist. Humans believed in the Crystal Gods because it provided them with an unexplainable source of energy on which they thrived upon. The Messiahs believed in the one God because they considered themselves chosen for a greater purpose. Homunculi know their creators, so we can’t see things for miracles and worship science as the source of all things. But I like to think there is something greater out there so I follow in the footsteps of our creators.”

            “Our slaves,” corrected Judas.

            “We were once their slaves.”

            Judas gazed at him blankly. I’ll never understand this man. Obsidian shrugged as he led his family away to wherever church was. With little elsewhere to go, Judas took a seat by the dining table, and his Sword and Shield followed suit. Emerald joined them almost immediately. Each sat in front of a plate.

            “They don’t still poison food in this day and age, right?” asked Ruby in a humorous tone.

            Ruby looked nothing like her sister, but attractive nonetheless, then again, what rich homunculus wasn’t. Ruby matched her name from head to toe. Short crimson hair, ruby eyes, and blood-red exoskeleton. Her exoskeleton covered her feet, upper thighs, chest, and shoulders. Her body was not voluptuous like Emerald’s but it was slim with tasteful curves. She also wore a black armor identical to Sand wrapped around the outer edges of her torso over her black suit.

            Judas stared at his food questioningly. “Maybe not in today’s day and age but take a look at where we are. This doesn’t exactly fit the modern standard of our society.”

            Emerald giggled. “You two are so paranoid. Obsidian can be a little odd but he’s really nice. He’s been real polite to me since I got here.”

            “That’s the idea when you wanna feed someone poison,” said Ruby.

            Emerald laughed. “Paranoid.”

            “It was a joke,” Ruby justified dryly.

            “You can’t fool me, Ruby. I can always tell when you don’t trust something. You always lower your head and look through your lashes.”

            Ruby rolled her eyes. “That was years ago.”

            Judas pushed his plate slightly to the side and turned his attention to Emerald. “So why are you here?” he demanded.

            Emerald jumped on her seat startled by his tone. “Me? Well…the President called my escort and told me he wanted to meet with me. I’m guessing the President is going to manage where I perform.”

            Judas nodded. It made sense. His Sector, it was only natural he called the shots. Although it still seemed rather unprofessional to call a pop idol into a meeting that was sure to contain sensitive information. Then again, Emerald was also a Pawn. Her duties went much further than simply entertainment. Still, Judas couldn’t help shake the uneasy feeling building up in his stomach.

            Time went on while all of them sat in silence in front of their plate. Judas felt tenser with each second. Obsidian knew the time of their meeting and yet he picked now to go to church. Even for a man of odd taste like Obsidian, it was completely unprofessional of a President. Judas’s hunter instincts didn’t allow him to see the President’s detour as just a simple trip to the church. With each coming second, the more he felt he was being set up for something.

            Emerald finally broke the silence. “Father didn’t tell me you were accompanying Judas,” Emerald said to Ruby with a hint of disappointment in her voice.

            “Father doesn’t tell us a lot of things,” said Ruby. “Only what we need to know. Or rather what he deems we should know.”

            “It’s seriously annoying sometimes.”

            “He’s a businessman. In case you haven’t noticed most important people in our society aren’t much of the family type. All they care about is money and power. Feelings only complicate things.” Maybe someone should remind Mr. Church.

            “Yeah, I know,” said Emerald glumly.

            “So, you excited to sing? The Town District could use a little liveliness,” said Ruby. Stupid songs aren’t going to bring anyone back to life.

            “I don’t know. The whole Sector just gives me the creeps. I’ve never seen such a depressing atmosphere.” Did you expect a f*****g parade for all the dead people?

            “Well you don’t leave the Ark much. I follow depression. I’ve seen more dead people than you could ever imagine. You’re lucky dad made you in charge of just bringing joy and happiness to the public.” Who thought it was a good idea to bring these two along together?

            “It’s really not that great…I hate it.” Who gives a s**t?

            “Well it could be worse.” F**k this!

            Judas stabbed his fork to the wooden table. “How long does it take to f*****g pray?”

            Silence consumed the table. Emerald shrunk into her seat not daring to meet Judas’s eyes. Ruby raised her eyebrow at Judas and than shrugged. Judas held his grip on the fork to demonstrate his unwavering frustration. It seemed everything was starting to get under his skin. He hadn’t felt relaxed since he got to the Sector and now he had to deal with the most frustrating man he’d ever dealt with in his life and listen to two sisters wanting to discuss life itself. At least he could be grateful that Sand made about as much noise as a wall. Maybe I really am just being paranoid. Judas attempted to look for a clock out of natural instinct due to waiting so long only to find that there was none inside the relic house. F**k this whole place!

            Emerald placed one elbow on the table, leaned on her hand, grabbed her fork with her other hand, and stabbed the apple at the top of her plate. Judas watched through the corner of his eyes intently as she moved the apple from side to side on her plate. Why is it so damn shiny? I’ve never seen a cleaner f*****g apple. Emerald continued to move it from side to side in her blatant boredom. Why is she doing that? It’s so annoying. Finally she stopped swaying the apple from side to side and lifted it up. Is she actually going to eat it? Well, it’s an apple; I guess it’s not a big deal. But what if it really is poisoned? Should I stop her? Emerald opened her glossy mouth and brought the apple closer, and closer, and closer, and closer to her mouth.

            “Don’t eat it,” said Sand. Everyone looked at him dumbfounded and Emerald put the apple back in her plate.

            “Why not?” asked Emerald.

            “Because this whole place is shady,” said Sand.

            “Glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks so,” celebrated Judas as he stood up. “I’m gonna go look for Obsidian. There’s no reason to delay a short meeting this long.”

            “No need to look for me,” said Obsidian from the hallway entrance to the dining room. “And I’m sorry my house isn’t welcoming.”

            Judas eyed him suspiciously. Obsidian was a naturally suspicious looking character but he didn’t give much to read on aside from his physical exterior. His expression was always relaxed, for the exception of when he glared at Judas earlier. His body motions were very conserved, hands almost always behind his back except when he was gesturing something. And his tone cold and dry, lacking any sense of emotion. Him being strange was just a trait of his personality so one could only deduce so much from it. It was impossible to read what was going through his head. Judas decided it was just best if they got business going and went their separate ways.

            Obsidian sat at the end of the oval table and folded his hands. “Thank you all for coming. So let us get straight to the point. We’re all here together because of the blue haired demon, correct. Emerald, your job is to bring happiness back to my Sector, or distraction, whatever you want to call it, which I desire from the deepest depths of my heart. I’ve arranged a mandatory event for all homunculi to attend in which they will hear you sing in the Town District. It will be an invitation-free cloaked masquerade where all the leading figures of Sector Three will be expected to be.”

            A cloaked masquerade was the homunculus version of a masquerade. Since a homunculi’s exoskeleton was the equivalent of seeing a man’s face, they wore hooded cloaks on top of their masks to cover both their hair and body. Generally strict invitations were given out for these since literally anyone would be deemed inconspicuous once inside. Even a human would be able to pass for a homunculus during a cloaked masquerade.

            “So you’re planning on luring the blue haired demon,” interrupted Judas.

            “You catch on quick, Knight. You will also be attending the masquerade, of course. I’ve already made beautiful masks for you and your Sword and Shield to wear.”

            “That’s a lot of civilians in a warzone. How will we protect them all?”

            “You mean aside from the police and hunters. Well the Reapers of course.”

            “It’s too risky. When the demon attacked the lab he got away while taking countless innocent lives. The same may happen again. I won’t put innocent people’s lives at risk.”

            “Oh please, suddenly the righteous man? A Knight with a mission only has one goal, Judas. You’re only purpose in being here is to cleanse my Sector of that demon. Casualties are the least of your concern. It’s not as if you came in here expecting everyone to come out alive.”

            “Last I remember this whole meeting was about me telling you how I will do things,” reminded Judas. “I don’t care how sure you are, none of us know what we’re really dealing with so best not take any chances.”

            “I bet you came here ready to tell me that you will somehow do the impossible and kill the demon without anyone dying in the process,” said Obsidian in his usual dry voice. “The only reason we have these meetings Judas is because Knights always bring casualties. You’re hunters, all you know how to do is hunt. We’re not trying to throw someone behind a cell. You’re no Rook. We want a dead man. So drop the act. The only reason you don’t want to use my strategy is because you want to guarantee all the glory to yourself.”

            “Say what you will. Clearly the demon has a fearsome power capable of killing countless people flawlessly. Not to mention there’s no guarantee the demon will show up. He’s audacious but he doesn’t seem to be stupid. He hasn’t gone for your head yet for a reason. If we gather everyone together in a cloaked masquerade it’d be a blatant trap. If I were him, I’d lay low.”

            Obsidian shook his head. “I disagree. I’ve been dealing with the demon some time now and I can tell you that all he wants is to make a statement. He’s challenging the Ark, letting us know that our perfect control is nothing but an illusion. You think he’d miss a chance like this one to let the Ark know their best can’t stop him?” Obsidian leaned forward. “But let’s not kid ourselves either, Judas. We both know his hate for the Ark is much more personal for him. Let’s be honest, do you honestly think he’d say no to a direct invitation to kill the man who ruined his life?”

            Emerald looked from Obsidian to Judas to Obsidian and back to Judas. “The man who ruined his life?”

            “Pick your words carefully, Obsidian,” warned Judas. “Some secrets in this world can cost a life. The Imperator doesn’t like what she can’t control.”

            “Is that a threat, Knight? The Imperator trapped me here with a man capable of singlehandedly killing over one hundred homunculi without letting one living person catch a glimpse of his face. I was dead to her the moment she imprisoned me in my own home.”

            “Sometimes I wonder whose side you’re really on.”

            “No, Judas. I’ve always been on the same side. I stand where my family is. It’s you who’s in question. What side are you really on Judas?”

            Judas gripped one of his handguns under the table. “I fight for the Ark. No one else. Now I suggest we get back on topic before this escalates into an unnecessary conflict.”

            Obsidian leaned back on his chair. “As you wish.”

            Judas released his grip on the gun and put his hands over the table once more. “So elaborate your plan for me a bit more. What makes you so convinced it’s full proof?”

            “As I said, he likes to make statements. It’s why he rapes our women before killing them all. It’s why he leaves messages written in blood. It’s why he leaves no survivors. He’s gotten bored just killing rich people. I can see it in his victims. It’s no longer a, this just happened yesterday story anymore, now it’s just, this happened again. He won’t pass down the opportunity to come to a cloaked masquerade requiring no invite where both the President of Sector Three and the Black Knight are together in one place. He’ll know it’s a trap, but he is audacious, not to mention, utterly driven by hate.”

            “But he hasn’t attacked you before. You can only assume it’s because he knows his own limits,” said Judas.

            “There’s a big difference between walking into my front door and sneaking in and destroying it from the inside. I’ve seen his growth in my Sector, from just hiding and killing out of a means of survival to killing to send a message. His power doesn’t seem to have changed but yet he still keeps climbing the ladder. Every kill he test his limits a little more. We’re the next step. He’ll take the bait.”

            It seemed believable enough. Adam was starving for revenge and Judas was at the end of that ladder. If Judas were Adam he wouldn’t pass down an opportunity like this, so neither would Adam. And if Adam was anything like he was ten years ago, he was the kind of person to run into a plan headfirst without an actual plan. He’s probably been waiting ten years for this opportunity.

            The thought brought chills to Judas. What if he couldn’t stop Adam? Adam would kill him and everybody else. The Imperator would probably bomb the entire Sector once she realized it was lost. But what did Judas care what the Imperator did if he died. It’s not like he’d be able to see Breccia again. Who would even remember him? His mother was dead and his only friend was his wife. He’d just be another person killed by the blue haired demon. And running wasn’t an option. Then he’d just be another traitor killed by the Imperator. The sad truth was he only had one option. Risk it all, and hope for the best. The only way he was coming out of this alive was with Adam’s corpse.

            Judas nodded. “Fine. We’ll go with the plan.”

            “Who will protect me if he decides to try to kill me? I’ll be the most obvious target if I’m singing.” stated Emerald with fear clearly painted in her voice.

            Obsidian tilted his head towards her. “You’re insignificant to him and attacking you would instantaneously reveal him. He wouldn’t dare. Besides, no one will be allowed within twenty feet of you on stage. But to reassure your safety I’ll ask the Reapers to spare some of their men to protect you on stage.”

            Emerald nodded with blatant lack of confidence in Obsidian’s words.

            “What makes you so sure the Reapers will protect her? They’re an execution squad,” said Ruby.

            “They’re just as eager to kill the blue haired demon as you guys. They’ll kill him if he makes an appearance.”

            Ruby stood up. “Look, I don’t care who kills the demon. I just want to make sure my sister will be safe. The Reapers don’t need to follow orders from any of us and have the jurisdiction to search anywhere. They’ll do whatever they deem the best choice in their interest.”

            Judas gestured his hand at Ruby to sit down. “The Ark Police and Hunters will still be there for security. In any case, if you’re that concerned, you can stand by her on stage. I wouldn’t mind having a pair of eyes staring at the whole audience.”

            Ruby nodded and sat back down. “Works with me.”

            Obsidian stood up with his hands raised. “So it’s settled.” Everyone glanced at one another as they nodded. “Good, let us eat.”

            Judas looked at his shiny apple. “Still don’t trust this food. I’ll get something outside.”

            “Agreed,” said Ruby.

            “Same,” said Sand.

“Don’t leave me behind,” said Emerald.



© 2012 Cynical_Art


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Added on September 7, 2012
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Cynical_Art
Cynical_Art

New York, NY



About
I am 21 years old, I got my Bachelors in Science Degree when I was 19. My career profession is computer animation (I am an Environment Modeler, for those that follow the profession) but I love to writ.. more..

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