Music is a wonderful thing. They say that music comes from the soul; that it gives flight to your inner self. There’s no lying in music. There is only truth, a truth that can easily be read by those who know the language.
Drek stood like a deer in headlights. He had been singing only moments ago, caught up in the moment so much that he didn’t see the man enter the ballroom. Music always did have a way of intoxicating him. It coursed through his veins, even if he had left that life behind. It filled his mind until all he could see before him was the music itself, but an errant voice brought all of that crashing back into reality.
Before him stood a man only a few years younger than Drek, though he was larger in build. His clothing, much like Drek’s, was simple. He dressed himself in plain blue jeans and a very loose black shirt with long sleeves, though one sleeve was rolled up. The arm that was covered showed off no skin, the sleeve culminating in a black glove. As they locked eyes, the man began to clap slowly. “It really was beautiful. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard you sing.”
“Owen…but…how?” Drek’s usual demeanor fell away. Shock painted his face as he stared at the man who stood before him. Ever quick, however, he snapped back to his usual self. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
Owen simply laughed as he stepped closer. “Security isn’t doing so hot. Someone went and blew up part of the manner. I guess it’s got their team scrambling to get things fixed. Left some holes for rats to get through.”
“You dumbass. There’s still cameras.”
“All of which are under my control. Now, there’s something I came here to ask you.”
“It was so important it couldn’t wait until I won this?”
Owen finally closed the gap between them and extended his hand with a flourish. “May I have this dance?”
No music played, but they waltzed all the same. Each step was one of an experienced dancer not just with the dance, but with the partner as well. Those that danced together often were easily identified by the way they adjusted for each other. Eventually, their routine came to an end, but they didn’t break their embrace.
“Tell me, why did you really come here?” Absentmindedly, Drek put a hand on Owen’s covered arm. He couldn’t help but remember his first fight and things he saw, but hearing Owen’s voice certainly made it easier.
“Couldn’t ever get anything past you. I just wanted to tell you not to get yourself killed. You have a nasty habit of overdoing things. Also, I have something to give you.”
Drek opened his mouth to yell at Owen, but was silenced by a kiss. They stood there for a few moments that lasted for a long time in both their minds. As their lips parted, Drek could only stare helplessly into Owen’s eyes. The only thing that snapped him out of it was the realization that he was still in a fight.
“Owen, you have to leave. They’re going to wonder why the camera’s down in here when they don’t see me on any of the other ones. After that, it’s only a matter of time.”
Owen broke of their embrace and gave Drek one last look before taking off out of the ballroom. Drek breathed a sigh of relief, although inside he wished Owen could stay. Nonetheless, he knew that he was in the tournament and had to win it himself. Silently, he sat down on the stage and waiting for his opponents. He no longer felt like seeking them out.
“His name’s Brolc. That’s a curious name.” Donavon bore down on one of the many computers in their home base, his eyes nearly closed from squinting.
With a sigh, Michael took a pair of glasses off of the table and handed them to his father. “That says Drek, not that it’s a very ordinary name, either. He is rather cute, though.” Michael loomed over his father, a bit of a gleam in his eye. He was dressed in the attire of a Victorian gentleman. Clearly, it was more of a relaxed day.
“It seems that the lad’s shown a rather frightening prowess at manipulating blood. Perhaps we’ll all go along for this one. No telling what he’s going to pull.” Donavon adjusted his glasses as he took a step away from the monitors. “This sure will be a fun one. No stops won’t be pulled on either side, I’m sure. So, shall we?”
And so it begins. Drek heard his opponents coming, but didn’t bother to rise. He didn’t want to fight, but he was sure that would change soon. Instead, he simply sat and waited.
Three figures came into the room; two males and a female. Drek certainly hadn’t expected such a turnout. As he rose to his feet, he called across the room, “So which one of you is my opponent?”
“All of us, I’m afraid,” Michael answered.
Drek had hoped that some of the ‘teams’ had thinned out before he had to fight any of them. His tactics weren’t based around fighting multiple opponents. Separate and eliminate. That was how he lived in the past, why change things now? Shifting to his feet, Drek placed his hands in his pockets and walked towards them.
“I suppose there’s no chance you’re all going to come at me one at a time, eh? After all, I’m the only thing standing between you and your dreams. I know if I had a team we probably wouldn’t even be sharing these pleasantries. We’d already all be on you, but as that’s not the case, it seemed only fitting to share a bit of dialogue before we got at it. Now then, shall we?” Drek wasn’t planning on wasting any time. He needed to separate them first of all and the best way he saw of doing that was to take out the strongest target first. Just from looking at them he could tell it was the old man. He wore it well, hidden beneath a thin frame, but Drek saw through that. It was his business to size people up and kill them. This was no different.
Separation was the first step. Easy enough. Drek dug the ring that covered his entire middle finger and culminated into a point into the soft flesh of his palm. There, blood oozed from the surface and took flight at Donavon. As they careened through the air, the droplets hardened into small knives. Donavon sidestepped with ease, smirking as he did so. With his veins still containing the lingering remains of his previous matches adrenaline, he seemed ready for a fresh batch. He left Michael and Florence in favor of the hunt, as expected.
Drek hadn’t set any traps before hand, which meant he was playing it only by ear. His strongest attacks would go into the old man, which meant his fight was going to have a rather extravagant opening. He hadn’t exactly planned on the pillar he passed blowing into his side, however.
The marble struck him in the gut and knocked the wind from his lungs. Though Drek hit the ground hard and slid for a few feet, he quickly rolled over and rose to his feet, even if he was gasping for air. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. No one was faster that Drek. No one was better at laying traps, but Donavon was one step ahead of him. Slowly, oxygen returned to Drek’s lungs and he was mobile again.
“Okay. Avoid the pillars,” Drek whispered to himself, but even as he did so, a section of the floor blew inward. He dodged it, but saw that Donavon was circling rapidly. The other two were moving in their own fashion, but neither seemed as aggressive. That was a stroke of luck. They were being good, letting the doctor have his fun and watch to see if they needed to join in. Fools.
Drek slid a knife out of its holster and prepared to puncture himself when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. He hadn’t even realized that the explosion on the floor that he dodged pushed him near another pillar. As the pillar exploded toward him, he stabbed himself deep in his arm and dragged the blade from elbow to wrist.
Donavon stood still, resting his head in one hand as he watched the cloud of dust and rubble where Drek stood. As the dust began to clear, Drek stood firmly in place, a shield of blood coming from his arm. Drek was still a little stunned and mourned the lost opportunity to attack through the dust. Instead, he threw the shield at Donavon like a discus, the circle of blood cutting through the air with a visibly sharp edge.
Donavon delighted once more to see the match not ended at that. He did, however, have a slight miscalculation. He didn’t think that the blood could be manipulated in the air, or so it seemed, because when the disk turned to needles that flung like a shotgun at him, he only managed to get out of the way after taking a few to the leg.
“You’re getting sloppy.” Slow and easy, Drek repeated in his head. If it looked like the doctor was in any real trouble, the other two would step in and then it’d be over. Instead, he needed to go slow. Just long enough to get in close and deliver the final blow. But first, it was time to start the show.
Gripping his blade so tight that color fled from his knuckles, Drek stabbed himself in the chest. No matter how good he was at healing, it still hurt like a bitch. The blade only stayed in him for a few seconds before he pulled it out, though in its wake came a torrent of blood that followed in an orderly fashion. Once out of his body, it solidified on the end of his knife, forming a sword that could pass off as being made of ruby to the untrained eye. “You ready, old man?”
“It would seem that you’ve lost your manners somewhere. No need to panic, though. I lose things all the time. I’m sure that my son will be able to help you.”
Drek let his temper rise. He flung himself at Donavon, slashing madly. The over exaggerated movements were not only easy to follow, but easy to dodge. Donavon moved as if dancing, humming a melody to himself as he did so. It was insult upon injury. Drek slashed again, but as the blade passed by, it turned into a liquid again and a tendril struck out at Donavon’s side. It found its mark and stole away some of the doctor’s blood as Drek stepped off to the side.
The tendril snapped back into place and it seemed like nothing had changed. Donavon, though shocked from attack, still let a smile crack his lips. His finger pressed a button on a remote that Drek could have sworn wasn’t in the man’s hand a moment ago. In response, there was an explosion above Drek and a chandelier came crashing down.
“Check,” Donavon said as he walked toward the fallen wreckage of the chandelier.
The word, spoken in Drek’s voice, rent the silent air that follows and precedes any great event. From the chandelier flew Drek’s sword. It didn’t need any help finding its way into Donavon’s chest and all the way through. Donavon gasped for air a few times before crumpling into a heap on the floor.
Badly cut up, Drek pushed his way out of the twisted clutter of metal that use to be so elegant. “Blood has a funny way of always wanting to go back to its owner. I just gave it a bit of a push.” Drek didn’t bother checking on the body. The sword was made of blood, after all. His own blood was already flowing through Donavon’s veins, strangling his body, for lack of a better word. The old bastard was actually fine with a sword through him. He would have kept fighting if it had been a normal sword. Even Drek would have been in awe if there had been time. Instead, he now had two very pissed people charging at him.
Michael, with tears burning his eyes, ran at Drek full tilt, not a weapon in his hands. The loss of his father left him reckless. He would have been dead had Florence not began showering Drek with knives.
Only one found its mark, but it sliced deep across Drek’s chest. As he moved out of Michael’s way, tripping him up and sending him sprawling, Drek tended to his own wound. The hoodie was shot, hanging limply from his body. It would only get in the way, so he gripped it in the center and tore it off. Instead of a bare chest, however, it revealed breast bindings and a sports bra.
Even through his angered delusions, Michael registered what he was seeing. Still, seeing that Drek was no longer on the attack, he ran to tend to his father.
The area where Drek was cut felt cold, unnaturally cold. She put a hand against her chest and took a deep breath. She would live, but it was the most painful wound she’d gotten in a long time. Sucking it up, Drek turned on Michael. She’d rather have fought the harder of the targets, but the boy was close and defenseless. That was the best kind of target.
With a snap of her fingers, blood jumped from Donavon’s open wound and gouged its way into Michael’s eyes. He let out a shrill scream as he fell backward, gaping holes where his eyes once were.
Drek cast a brief glance at the two bodies, sighing. “I only had to kill one of you, but you wouldn’t accept just that, would you?”
A scream, unearthly in nature, tore through the air. Drek thought she could see the glass windows of the ballroom crack, but she couldn’t be sure. What she did know was that all of the knives had returned to Florence and she was coming at her like a bat out of hell.
“You don’t get it, do you? If it bleeds, I can kill. There’s no one I can’t beat.” Drek pulled the last of her knives from its holster and hurled it at Florence. In her frenzied state, Drek doubted that she’d dodge it and she didn’t. Instead, it passed right through her body and she kept coming. “No…it can’t be.”
Florence slowed as she came up on Drek, who had now fallen onto her backside. “Unfortunately, I can’t bleed.”
“No. It can’t be. It can’t end this way. Ghosts aren’t even real.” Drek scooted backward, trying to get away from Florence’s ever-steady advance and the knives that orbited her without ever tearing her eyes from the ghostly figure. Suddenly, something occurred to Drek. She shouted out into thin air, “Stop the fight! I’ve won!”
Florence stopped moving, staring down at her prey with a puzzled look. One of the monitors in the room, the only one untouched by the fight, crackled into life and Miss Lydia appeared. “Explain yourself.” She looked, frustrated wasn’t the word. In fact, she almost seemed delightfully curious.
Drek rose to her feet and gave herself a bit of dusting before looking up at the monitor. “I’ve won. All of my opponents are dead. According to the rules, the terms of victory are incapacitation, yielding, or death. As you can clearly see, all three of my opponents are dead. The match is over. I win.”
The room fell silent once more. The only sound that persisted was Florence’s knives ever moving and ready to strike out given the word. Instead, Miss Lydia smiled.
“He…or rather, she’s right. The final match is over. The winner of this tournament is Drek. Florence, please see to it that you do not harm the winner in any way. The tournament is over and it simply wouldn’t do if our winner couldn’t accept her award. Drek, please proceed to the main hall. We’re waiting.”
Drek didn’t even look at Florence. She simply took Miss Lydia at her word and left the ballroom. There was nothing left for her there. Her future was ahead of her. It wasn’t in the ballroom or even the study. Drek’s future lay outside the manner all together.
“And they all lived happily ever after. Doesn’t that just make your eyes water?” Faye’s voice echoed down the hallway, her small form silhouetted at the end as Drek approached.
“What’s going on?” Miss Lydia was standing over several monitors as one by one they all went black.
“Something’s wrong. All of our surveillance systems are going offline. We can’t find Drek anywhere!” Emily was visibly sweating as she ran back and forth trying to figure out what the problem was.
“Faye? What are you still doing here? I’ve completed my mission. Jules, Kio, and Donavon are all dead. That means I’m free to go. My contract with Mr. Adin has been fulfilled.”
“Now now, Veronica. There’s no need to get all flustered. I just want to talk to you.”
“Why did you call me…?”
“Miss Lydia! There’s been a breach in security. We’ve found an entry point from the main hall into the rest of the hotel where the defense systems are down.”
“I want Drek found, now! Send anyone who’s able.”
“Don’t worry, Veronica. I’m just on a mission from Mr. Adin. He sent me here special. I’ve been begging for this assignment and he finally gave it to me.”
“What other assignments could you have he-“
One of the cameras, a single one situated in a hallway a good ways away from the main hall, flickered into life. Emily and Miss Lydia both glued their eyes to the screen and one they found there.
Drek lay on the ground, nursing a wound in her leg. At the other end of the hallway, Faye held a pistol aloft; smoke still rising from the barrel.
“You really think that Mr. Adin was just going to let you leave? You don’t leave a group like us. I bet you had plans of using the money from this tourney to get away from everything. Probably take that gear head Owen with you. You two always did make such a cute couple. Oh my God, that really was your plan? You’re pathetic, Drek, you know that? I’m going to enjoy this.”
No. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I just wanted to be free. Was that really too much to ask for? I just wanted to be my own person. I wanted to be Veronica again. I didn’t want to be Drek anymore. This was my chance. This was my big chance and I fucked it up.
Faye walked closer to Drek, the gun raised.
Faye stopped only a foot in front of Drek and placed the barrel against her forehead.
The hammer clicked back into the ready position as Faye’s finger applied pressure to the trigger.
Miss Lydia’s staff arrived in the hallway, but all they found there was a rather large blood spatter that covered a good portion of the floor. They all stopped running and shifted uneasily at the sight. Though there was so much blood, not a hint of a body or even a blood trail could be seen. With disappointment, they withdrew.
Drek had watched Veronica Haygood get executed a long time ago and once more, she had that privilege.