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[Open-M] Homesick Nightmares

#1
This place…. It felt like home from driving on the familiar highway bridge that was above the sparkling Atlantic water. The sun was setting behind the skyline of Miami which the city’s lights began twinkling. There were no cars on the road except Jacket driving his Delorean on the right side. Everything around him felt calm and quiet making him felt like he was the only one present in the city. Miami at dusk caught his attention just from how beautiful the sight was. Coruscant didn’t had the same beauty that his home city had. It’s a city that other cities around the world can’t capture the essence of what characterized it. That will be one thing that Jacket missed about his old life.
 
Night transforms the dusk sky with stars and the moon that looked down upon Miami. The prime placed his focus back on the road in front of him after admiring the skyline. A sigh comes out of his mouth from a feeling deep down in him that he realized he has lived with for a while.
 
Loneliness
 
All his friends are dead. He doesn’t have anyone in his life now. How long he’s been a part of this emotion was a long time. No one will even notice that he disappeared and was brought into this Omniverse.
 
Maybe after all this home was a….
 
Lonesome town.
 
While Jacket was contemplating his life, the highway suddenly transformed into his old apartment and he was no longer in the car but sitting on a couch in the living room. His old telephone sat on a stand next to where Jacket was at. The old apartment was rotting away and looked abandoned even still having the outlines of a body in front of Jacket that was from the police investigation. Those lines were where Jacket laid at and nearly died from being shot by Richter. Rats were present in this home as one of them scurried across the floor.
 
As Jacket looked back up in front of him, he seen the people that were part of his life. The spec ops squad mates, his bearded friend, and the hooker he saved. They stand before him but after blinking, the people disappeared into thin air. Where they stood at, big red bloody letters were painted on the wall and dripping.
 
YOUR FAULT

This gave Jacket chills down his spine and had an uneasy look on his face. The sight terrified the lonely soul and made him get up to find a place out of here. His apartment’s entrance door didn’t exist where it was at. A wall replaced the location of the door and this made Jacket terrified. He doesn’t want to be stuck in this nightmare. The prime began to run around in his old apartment looking for a way out. Unfortunately, there was no way out of this place. Suddenly, his home phone started to ring. This got his attention and rushed to pick up the phone.
 
Jacket picked up the phone in a fast pace manner. Sweat was coming down his forehead from the situation.
 
“You’re a freak and a failure you know that!” explained the caller in an angry male voice.
 
Screaming in frustration came from Jacket and ripped the message machine out of the outlet and throws it across the room angrily. He ran over to the thrown electronic and began stomping on it violently. After five minutes of breaking the message machine into pieces, he took his foot off the mess and started to breath heavily after using his all of his lower strength to crush it. He looks back at the kitchen seeing more undead Russian gangsters staring at him. They filled up half of the room and still said nothing to Jacket. From the sight, Jacket sprinted to the bathroom then he shut the door before the group could lay hands on him. The door was locked by Jacket which pounding and curse words can be heard on the other side of the door from the mobsters.
 
He tried to ignore them and headed for the sink. It had a mirror above, reflecting his appearance. There were some cracks and some dark smudges on the mirror but Jacket can still see the reflection of himself. For the rest of the bathroom, it still looked nasty along with the apartment. There were outlines where the dead hooker’s corpse laid at which was in the middle of the room. Dried blood stains on the tile floor filled the outline area even outside of it. Jacket twists the warm water nob from the sink and water began to spew out.
 
His hands are cupped to gather the water that was pouring down. After getting enough, he splashed the water on his face trying to wake up from this nightmare. This only happened for half of a minute. When Jacket was done, he turned off the water and attempted to remain calm what is happening to him. Suddenly, he looked up at the mirror and noticed that he was wearing the rooster mask even parts of his body including his mask was covered in blood.
 
Jacket backed away from the mirror and examined his bloodied hands. Heavy thumps were heard at the door sounding like they are trying to break in. He couldn’t find anything to defend himself in the bathroom. The prime had no choice to only stand there and embrace the situation.
After one more thump, the wooden door breaks open but there was complete darkness on the other side of the doorway. Could this be a possible exit of this nightmare? He didn’t want to wait any longer to find another way out. The masked prime stepped through the doorway and entered the darkness.
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#2
Luci awakes behind the wheel of 1979 Cadilliac Coup De Ville, going sixty miles per hour down a winding highway. As is often the case in the Astral Realm, the world appears rendered in greyscale, excluding herself and her two companions; The Sage and Kazura are sleeping soundly in the back seat. Luci breaths, checks her mirrors, and stares at her empty passenger seat for a moment with a very strange feeling. The air starts to vibrate, and a flickering shadow is cast on the seat.

A wild Haunter appears.

It has a vaguely humanoid form, though made of smoke and shadow. Its long, spindly arms tapper off into sharped, clawed hands.

When it speaks, the low guttural growl that is its voice is joined by a chorus of what sounds like buzzing flies.

"Better turn back, Luci," it chides.

"Shut up." Luci snaps, her eyes on the winding road. As the Haunter laughs a disgustingly long pink tongue falls from its mouth, twitching excitedly before retreating into the shadowy face.

"He is mine now," says the creature tauntingly. "I will eat his dreams, his soul, his heart. You can have what is left," it offers.

"Shut. Up." Luci repeats firmly, turning on the radio. The car is filled with loud, echoing screams. Luci turns it off.

"That's right cunt, you're in my world, now," barks the shadow. "You've crossed county lines, you're not in fucking Kansas anymore. Last exit, coming up."

Indeed a sign appeared on the side of the road, aptly labeled 'Last Exit'. Luci ignores it as she ignores the Pokemon.

"I think I've heard enough," says a voice from the back seat.
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#3
A sudden gout of flames erupted from the Sage’s outstretched hand, and the Haunter screeched, momentarily disappearing from view. The Sage looks down at his hand with surprise, and a thin smile crossed his lips A world of dreams indeed. He thought, before looking up at the road in front of them.

“YOW!” She screeched in surprise trying to pat out the small patches of fire that had caught the fabric of the passenger’s seat while steering with one hand. “Don’t torch the whole car!” she shouted in mild panic as the flames started to spread at an almost other-worldly rate. A chilling laughter spread through the now smoking Cadillac.

“I told you that was the last exit.” Came the Haunter’s disembodied voice.

The steering wheel wrenched left, jerking Luci’s arm as she tried to keep steering. Kuzuru jolted awake with a cry of alarm as the Cadillac swerved. The speeding vehicle slammed clear through the guide railing on the side of the road and started careening down the hill side. The now-flaming Cadillac bounced and rolled as it descended the lightly wooded slope, to collide solidly with an outcropping of rock. The car exploded spraying fire and metal shrapnel into the nearby vicinity.

For a moment, nothing moved but the flames that danced in the wreckage of the Cadillac and flirted with nearby branches. A orange-gold bonfire amidst a darkening forest. Suddenly a chunk of twisted metal burst away from the wreckage, as a shredded and burning Kuzuru broke free of the wreckage. “GAAH!” He screamed, every muscle taut with adrenaline, “OKAY! We’re awake now!” The Demon pulled a slowly recovering Sage out of the flaming wreckage and set him in the light snow that now covered the cliff side. Turning back to the smoldering carcass of the car, Kuzuru began searching for Luci, but he could see no sign of the psychedelic girl. Perhaps she had been thrown clear of the wreck? His search was pushed to the back of his mind however as a cacophony of howling filled the shadows around them.

The Sage struggled to his feet, looking down, he could see a piece of shrapnel that had lodged itself in his abdomen. He seemed to be bleeding ink. The howling stopped as suddenly as it started, and the Sage decided he would have to save that issue for later. Shunting aside his pain he moved towards the flaming wreckage, dueling cane in one hand, the other glowing with a small mote of flame. Without a word between them, The Sage and Kuzuru took a formation back to back. Gaunt and matted wolf-like being began to circle the edge of their light, their heads turning to skinless human skulls. Above the baying, the Sage thought he could hear another sound, blades, many, many blades, being sharpened.

“These beasts are not the real danger out here.” He said quietly to the demon, as the two circled slowly, waiting for the wolf-things to attack. Kuzuru only laughed.

“They’re plenty threat enough for me.” he said, one arm transforming into a polished steel blade. “Where’d your pet painting go?” he asked without much concern.

As if in answer to the question, a rainbow-hued hand rose from the snow a short distance away, followed by the rest of Luci as she scrambled out of the ground seemingly unscathed from the collision. “Geez!” She said with exasperation. “Momentum is a bitch when you’re phasing!” Looking around she quickly took up a positon with the other two, spray can at the ready. The three stood facing outwards as the skull wolves began to circle closer, now starting to encroach on the light of the campfire.

“These pups seem a tad hungry.” He said with a labored effort, “Anyone have any ideas?”
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#4
Luci locks eyes with one of the monsters, gazing deep into its skull cavity. She starts to breathe very quickly, and sinks down to one knee as if in prayer.

"I'm going to take each one of these bastards out, old yeller style," Luci says confidently. "Only thing is, I don't want you guys to have to watch. So its going to look like I'm running away, but I'm NOT, what I'm actually doing is leading them away so I can kill them privately. You see that kinda glow out there?" Luci asks, pointing out behind the pack of beasts. Indeed the distinct neon glow of 1980s Miami seems to flicker in the distance, surrounded by tendrils of darkness slithering steadily closer towards it. Luci does not wait for a response.

"Wait for me there, hold off the Nightmares as long as you can." Luci says as she finishes lacing up her worn sneakers.

The Sage sighs deeply, resigned to the loss of another brave, young idiot. Still, he must offer her a recourse.

"Luci," he begins reasonably. "Perhaps-"

"Nope, already laced up my shoes," she says as she stretches her legs.

A demon studies her carefully.

Luci seems to skip through time for a moment, dashing forward to punch one of the beasts square in its face. The beast seems more offended than hurt, and in a fit of fury leaps for Luci's throat, but she backpedals easily out of reach of its snapping jaws. She dances off to the left, putting daylight between herself and her party members. The beasts start to split their attention, with only a few guarding the Sage and Kazura, and the rest chasing Luci in a wide circle around them. The beasts yip and howl in frustration, until eventually the entire pack is nipping at Luci's heels.

Luci casts one last lingering glance at the pair, and sprints away, the pack of beasts in tow.
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#5
“We should go after her,” the Sage said.

“Fuck that noise,” Kuzuru answered as he skewered a straggler.

“Well we can’t just abandon her.”

Kuzuru removed his blade from the dog and held it up in the moonlight. A thick ichor slithered down the length of metal and dripped onto the desert floor. For a moment Kuzuru stood petrified, entranced by the subtle scents of foreign blood that only he could detect. He held the dribbling blade up to his nostrils, inhaled, and then flicked his arm sending a spray of syrup across the barren wastes.

“You really should stop speaking for people, it’s quite rude” Kuzuru said, locking eyes with the Sage, “and while you can’t abandon her, I very easily can.”

“Selfish,” the Sage hummed, “to be expected from a misanthrope.”

“Bite me,” Kuzuru said, “in case you haven’t noticed she’s probably the only one of us that feels somewhat at home in this place, you can go after her if you want, but I’m not going to go fucking around in devil-dog-dreamland without a guide, and our guide just told us to wait for her so, I’m going to do what she told us to do.”

Without waiting for a reply Kuzuru stepped forward, past the dwindling ring of light provided by the burning wreckage. The Sage sighed and followed after his companion and made sure to keep a healthy distance between them. In this world nothing stayed stagnant. The very earth beneath their feet shifted and transformed as easily as the wind. What was once a craggy desert wasteland was now a rough mix of scrub grass and snow. As ephemeral as the terrain was every configuration held a common hatred for travelers. Almost every step was uphill, and those that weren’t found mud puddles and other tribulations. Kuzuru stopped for a rest after a while and glanced back to find the Sage several paces away, standing still. The demon smirked.

“Are you afraid of me?” Kuzuru asked.

“Not in the slightest, but I am not a fool.”

“You think I’d attack you?”

The Sage scoffed, “I’m certain it’s a matter of when rather than if.”

A series of three curved blades sprouted from Kuzuru’s right forearm and he stepped towards his companion.

“Well if you’re so insistent on it, how about right now?” Kuzuru asked.
Without waiting for an answer the demon sprung forward. A scrabbling noise echoed across the dreamland as Kuzuru brought his blades low and dragged their tips across the earth. He was aiming to slice the man in half with an uppercut. As he stepped into the Sage’s personal space he swiped upwards. His blades caught nothing but air as the Sage sidestepped them and delivered a strike to the back of Kuzuru’s head with the knot of his cane. The demon stumbled forward and let loose a litany of profanities. It felt as if a grenade had gone off inside his head. He retracted his blades and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands.

“Fuck, I was just kidding, goddamned fuck,” Kuzuru shouted, and stumbled towards the Sage.

“Enough of this,” the Sage began, but was interrupted.

“What?!” Kuzuru shouted, his ears screaming internally.

“Enough of this foolishness, demon, I have no intention on expiring in this place,” the Sage spoke, his stern voice cutting through Kuzuru’s ringing ears.

The demon held up his hands and said, “fine, fine, I’ll play nice, I get the feeling that it wouldn’t be much fun fighting you here anyways, let’s get going.”

The city itself was as barren and malleable as the badlands that surrounded it. Storefronts morphed into theaters and skyscrapers twisted into tight towering spirals. Distant voices could be heard murmuring throughout the city, like a crowd lurking just out of eyesight. Music droned like a heartbeat keeping the city alive, a heartbeat that was damn near catatonic. Windows turned to black mirrors that offered back nothing more than a murky and distorted caricature of the viewer. Streets stretched off into the horizon and little rivers of blood ran in their gutters. Kuzuru and Sage walked through the streets, keeping a careful eye at every distrustful shadow.

“Anyone here?” Kuzuru shouted, “we’ve got a fresh order of demon badass with a side of bookworm!”

No answer.

“It’s getting cold,” Kuzuru added, “you really don’t want to wait, I hear it tastes like shit if you have to reheat it!”
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#6
Darkness surrounded Jacket and he didn’t have a light source to help him see where he was. Suddenly, a spot light shined down on Jacket which made him notice that a fire axe was laying down on the ground. Noises started to be heard from the darkness that were sounding like the mobsters he killed before. No time to waste, he picked up the weapon and stood in a ready pose with his hands gripping the axe’s handle. The undead gang members came out of the shadow showing off blood and gore that covered their bodies. Some were Russian and some were orcs having a sinister smile on their faces while holding melee weapons that consisted crowbars, bats, rusty metal pipes, and clubs.
 
Jacket attempted to remain calm and only have one thing on his mind to survive the nightmare. Kill.
 
The group surrounded Jacket then they charge on his position but he sliced his way through one side of the crowd. From the range of the swing, he did cut through thugs that created an opening to get out of the circle. Blood did splatter on Jacket after he killed three guys that try to get in his way. They turned around to notice the prime escaped their ambush but that didn’t stop them. One by one, Jacket tried to cut down the crowd with the axe. He dodged the incoming violent moves from the undead by ducking and back peddling. Gore and blood began to fill the ground from the sliced open corpses. The floor was once white where they stand but now was red.
 
One more undead gangster remained standing which appeared to be a big and tall orc. Still, the thug had no fear and attempts to kill Jacket. He swung his sharp war axe but missed as Jacket jumped over the attack, landing on the blade. The masked killer propelled himself off the blade causing him to go airborne. He raised the axe over his head with the cutting edge of the weapon pointing at towards the orc’s face. When he began to descend, Jacket swung downward with all his strength that sent the axe breaking the skull of the orc and stabbing in the forehead to cause destruction to the brain. His enemy knelt and slumped backwards lifeless while Jacket was still standing on top of his body.
 
Everyone around Jacket was dead which there was no more nightmarish gangsters coming out of the darkness. His breathing was heavy after trying to keep a fast pace from dodge and attacking. Still, the axe was lodged in the skull while Jacket let his grip loosely around the handle. Jacket’s chest gone up and down while catching his breath. The gore covered his entire body which made it hard to tell what color of his clothes used to be. Suddenly, a new doorway opened behind Jacket which caused him to turn around from the noise of the door unlocking.
 
A bright light shined in from the doorway that and made Jacket want to progress to finish this dreaming sequence. He removed the axe from the skull by pulling the handle with both of his hands. The weapon was freed from the body and Jacket faced the doorway then walked toward it. Without hesitation, he exited the darkness and appeared on the empty streets of Miami. A street lamp gleamed down on him but was once again surrounded in the same darkness as before. The city felt abandoned around Jacket and made him felt that he was the only one here until he heard snarling coming from all around him.
The wolf like creatures developed from the shadows and had glowing menacing yellow eyes. Jacket gripped his bloodied axe tightly that was dripping from his victims.
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#7
The empty street swept out in front of them, dark windows reflecting the flickering neon lighting that emanated from a few of the nearby storefronts. The Sage was thoroughly disgusted by the setting, there was no room for the sky, or anything, besides the glaring metal. It reminded him of the portal the Imperial forces had tried to take him through when he had first arrived. The blinking sign above their heads shown red with the words it displayed. TheaterTheater… blinking and reflecting off the nearby windows.

To his left, Kuzuru shouted, attempting to draw out whatever new terror awaited them in this new domicile. In most situations, the Sage would have deemed the tactic foolish. The demon was forfeiting whatever element of surprise they had managed to maintain. But it had become apparent to both primes that in the Astral Realm, danger could appear quite suddenly, without any chance for prepared reactions. It might be a nice change of pace for their enemy to reveal itself with a bit more warning.

As the demon’s challenge echoed through the empty streets, the distant hubbub of bustling city went quiet. No sound returned Kuzuru’s call, save the buzzing of the neon sign above their head and the pattering of beginning rainfall. The Sage sniffed, and held a sleeve up to block his face, keeping his dueling cane at the ready.

“Blood again.” He said, Kuzuru only nodded, scanning buildings for movement, hand on his sword and poise somehow both relaxed and taut. “This was a mistake, Daemon.” The Sage said as he glanced behind them. The wilderness had again transformed, now a snarl of wicked-looking vines and thorns. “We have left our guide to both the literal and proverbial wolves. How will we even know the troubled dreamer when we see them? Few things are truly as they appear in this place.”

“We didn’t really have much of a choice, old man.” Kuzuru shot back, his irritation quite evident. “She’s the only one who knows what’s what out here, like you said. She told us to wait here, we wait. I don’t like it either, but she sent us here.” The warrior of blood started to advance down the street slowly, “She’ll catch up when she can. For now, we figure out what to do until she gets back.”

The Sage did not immediately follow. He laughed a little, bitterly. “Do you think then that she was being honest with us?” Kuzuru turned to look at the Sage over his shoulder, but did not respond. “She claimed she could defeat those unholy fiends, but did not want us to witness it?” The Sage shook his head sadly.

“She sent us here so that we wouldn’t watch her die.” He said quietly.

From somewhere within the depths of the city, a solemn churchbell rung. The Hollow tone reverberated down the streets of the city. It was a funeral toll.

At once every door on the street swung open. Tall, hooded figures, their faces obscured by the aberrant masks they held in front of them, began to process out of the buildings on all sides. They made no sound as their dark robed forms filled the street around the two Primes, They began to flow in numbers, moving further into the city, seemingly oblivious of the intruders. The Churchbell continued to ring, shrill and clear amidst the falling bloody rain. The neon sign beamed on, it's wording altered when the primes were distracted. TerrorTerror

Kuzuru gritted his teeth as he lost sight of the Sage amidst the tide of walkers. He kept his hand on the Blade of Lost Souls, wary that starting a fight would be suicide at this point. He wondered for perhaps the first time just what it would mean to die in the Astral Realm. He certainly didn't intend to find out. The current of robed beings pushed him further down the street, towards the very heart of the city, and Kuzuru did his best to resist the press. From out of the throng an arm grabbed his shoulder, and he whirled to find himself staring down an eel-faced mask. “We look out of place.” The Sage said simply, handing another mask to the demon.
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#8
Luci sprints across the outskirts of the dream town down a highway, a pretty yet approachable prismatic blur, kicking up ash and shadow into the skeletal faces of her pursuers. She is faster than the hounds, but they are patient, and relentless. Only one of them can keep pace with her, an over-muscled beast with a deep crack running down the middle of his skull, and a broken fang poking out the bottom. Her legs burn, her heart is on fire, and the wolves start to close in.

Luci makes a sharp turn off the highway down a steep hill of bones and ash, gliding down effortlessly without loosing momentum. She is rewarded a moment later with a chorus of piteous whines as several beasts snap ankles and cause a pileup. As she slides down the hill she chances a look behind her, and sees at least four of the beasts still trailing her. The monster with the cracked skull is in the lead again, his strangled cries chill Luci to the bone.

At the bottom of the hill Luci finds her footing on wet grass and hits the ground running. A tangy scent hits her nose and she realizes the grass is slick with not morning dew, but a thin coating of blood. She stops at the edge of a blood river, the current already whipped into a frenzy. She sees a bridge off in the distance, connecting the highway above her with the dream town.

Luci's feet struggle to find traction as she dashes to the bridge at breakneck pace, but the beasts' claws dig into the wet ground easily. Luci sees the wooden bridge towering over her and paints a long golden rope from her spray-can to one of the legs. She lets out an earsplitting scream as the cracked-skull wolf sinks it's knifelong teeth into her left calf, but hold on as her rope pulls her up and she breaks free of its grasp.

Luci clings tightly to the leg as the hounds claw their way up the wooden bridge. Luci whips the golden rope upward again, climbing desperately, leaving a trail of prismatic blood behind her. She starts to hear the wolves fall one by one, their sharp claws shredding through the old and brittle wood. As Luci pushes herself up onto the bridge she looks behind her in time to see the musclebound, cracked skull wolf, it's teeth dripping with her blood, climbing steadily behind her.

Off in the distance, a bell chimes.

Luci sank to her knees as if in exhaustion.With a shaky hand she spray paints a cartoon icon of a bomb. She breathes deeply, gets up, and walks away.

The bell chimes again.

Luci gets about five feet before the snarling wolf pushes itself up onto the bridge and cocks it's disgustingly human head at her.

The bell chimes again.

"I'm gonna eat you," it declares in a rattling voice.

"Eat this," Luci responds.

The bell chimes again.

The bomb detonates. The wolf beast squeals as it is thrown bodily through the air, but rises up again quickly with singed fur and claws out. The bomb has blown a burning hole in the old bridge, and the raging blood rapids surge a hundred feet below them. His head snaps up to face Luci, growling from the other side of the hole.

The rotted bridge gives a thunderous creak. The wolf snarls helplessly. Luci breathes deeply, and the world seems to warp around her. She takes a single step behind her, and is on the other side of the bridge.

She watches dispassionately as the cracked-skull wolf falls into the blood river with the bridge.

With ragged breathes, Luci begins walking deeper into the dream city.
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#9
The mask handed to Kuzuru was that of a jackal. Black with gold trimmings and perky ears that pointed straight up, it almost appeared Egyptian in origin. He turn it over in his hand, inspecting it. Around him the crowd grew more violent, masked marauders jostling for position and damn near shoving anything in their way. Once or twice the demon was shoved and it took more than an ounce of self-control to contain his wrath. The Sage urged him to wear the mask and after another solid shove he obliged. It felt uncomfortable around his head, claustrophobic even. The elastic band cut into his skin and barely stretched far enough around his head. His vision was limited to two small slits and he wondered if the Sage had intentionally made the mask so uncomfortable.

Kuzuru followed his intrepid companion through the crowd. The eel-faced erudite stopped every now and again to make sure the demon followed, not that he particularly cared for the red-skinned bastard, but it would be nice to have a second set of hands should things go south. The fevered crowd had grown complacent now that there were no longer any outsiders among their ranks. Women, men, and children carried about their daily activities as if they were truly in a regular city. The demon watched them go about their business, and as he watched things grew more and more bizarre. Masked children came out of ice cream shops, toting cones filled with viscera and blood. People entered phone booths only to pull a revolver off the telephone receiver and shoot themselves. Blood and gore ran rampant and everyone acted as if it was a normal everyday part of life. The demon enjoyed blood, he enjoyed violence, but this was all purposeless to him, death for the sake of death offered little to him and the novelty of an ultraviolent city grew duller by the minute as there was no passion in it.

“Do you think we should go inside?” Kuzuru asked, keeping his voice just above a whisper.

“I’m…” the Sage answered, pausing to think, “I’m not sure, our first priority should be finding the dream--”

A distant explosion interrupted him. Outside of city limits, atop a ridge the two caught glimpse of a rising fireball. It was an ephemeral firefly, igniting the astral sky for but a moment before collapsing in upon itself. Both of them stood silent, their minds piecing together what they had just witnessed.

“Well fuck,” the demon began, “what do you think the odds are that she’s survived?”

The Sage didn’t answer.

Once again the church-bell tolled and spurred the robed-masqueraders to action. They squeezed into any and every open door. Kuzuru watched with stifled laughter as he watched them cram themselves into the monolithic buildings. The Sage grabbed his companion’s shoulder and nodded towards a set of unoccupied doors.

“Come on,” he said.
Kuzuru pulled his shoulder away and said, “fuck that noise, how do we know that’s not a meat grinder? Besides I’m tired of hiding, if rainbow-bitch is dead we’re probably not far behind her so we might as well do a little damage on the way out.”

After a few more moments the skyscrapers had swallowed every faceless pedestrian. Near-silence consumed the streets, the only sound being a distant and almost inaudible music track. The blood rain had ceased and the astral city had once again turned into a proverbial ghost town. Kuzuru and the Sage walked the streets, neither of them removing their masks. A noise not unlike the swipe of a cleaver into meat followed by a shrill yip caught their attention. The demon broke into a jog towards the source of the sound, and as he grew closer he could hear the baying of wolves. Turning the corner he spotted a man covered in blood and surrounded by dog carcasses. The man was wearing a rooster mask and a blood-stained letterman jacket. Kuzuru smiled beneath his mask, finally someone interesting.

Extending a series of blades across his arm the demon pointed a finger at Jacket and shouted, “you look like my kind of person chickenman, lemme axe you a question, do you ever use that thing on more than just dogs?”
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#10
Renji caught Jacket's attention as the rooster masked prime looked back at him quickly, feeling confusion. This isn't a person he knew before and why was this stranger in his dream? He saw that he was wearing a jackal animal mask similar in the style of Jacket's mask. Was he one of those corpses that were sometimes found at those Russian gang infested areas that wore the similar animal masks just like his? His weapon was strange too being fused with his body and Jacket hasn't seen anything like it before. A moment of silence fell upon the two as they were looking into each other's soulless mask's eyes.

"Well, you sure are the quiet one. How about I introduce to you who I am, my name is Kuzuru and it's about time to carve me a chicken." said Kuzuru still smiling under his mask.

Soon after, the Sage caught up with Kuzuru noticing Jacket standing in the road with a streetlight shining down like a spotlight upon him. The Sage observe the two and was thinking if this person was one of those nightmare entities or the one that was having this nightmare. Before the two did a move on each other, red headlights lit up in the darkness behind Jacket with a loud engine revving. Tires screeched the street as it took off at a fast speed. How quick the car was going didn't give a chance for Jacket to move out of the way and was hit but managed to jump on the hood was clinging on the front of the car even obscuring most of the windshield.  His weapon was dropped in the process.

The haunter causing this nightmare was driving a 1968 Camaro SS that was black with red racing stripes and supercharged. A bug catcher engine extended out of the hood.

"Hey dumbass, stop playing in the streets will ya? HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!" mocked the haunter gaining more speed.

Meanwhile with Kuzuru and the Sage, both were still collecting their thoughts from what happened to Jacket.

"What the hell just happened?" questioned Kuzuru being disappointed that he didn't get a chance to see how well of a killer was Jacket.

"That person must be the one having the nightmare in the first place since how he was threatened. We'll most likely stop this madness if we all work together. Come on, let's follow them before it is too late." Explained the Sage beginning to jog in the direction where the car headed.

Kuzuru sighed and rolled his eyes from how the situation was then followed the Sage.

Jacket started to climb on top of the car while holding on tightly. He positioned himself on the roof of the car and was thinking of somehow to stop this car. An idea lit up in his head about trying to open one of the doors. The prime tried to edge himself closer to the passenger door so he could be able to reach the handle. Almost hanging off the car, Jacket could reach the door handle and squeeze it. Unfortunately, the haunter was smart enough to leave the doors locked while driving. Jacket got back in the same laying position on the car's roof. Thought was more required to solve this problem.

Once again, another idea popped into his head and it was about the orb of omnilium he was still holding on to. Jacket grabbed the orb in his letterman's pocket and concentrated on something he needed. A rock came to his mind since it was easy to hold on plus sturdy enough to shatter a window. After thirty seconds, a rock was summoned in his hand that was the size of his palm. Jacket attempted once more to reach the passenger's door. His left hand grasped the car's roof while his right hand was trying to bash the window open with the rock.

After a couple of hard knocks on the window, it began to crack and shatter after one last hit. The rock was dropped so Jacket he could use his hand to unlock the door. Jacket could open the door now and let it swing wide open. He didn't waste any time and got into passenger's side quickly from the roof. The door shut right after Jacket sat in the seat. His head turned out the haunter who was having a blast at driving. For the pokemon, it wasn't afraid of Jacket's present. When Jacket tried to strangle the haunter but his hands went through the body due to it being a ghost type.

The haunter laughed manically from Jacket's attempt and continued to drive like a maniac. Jacket reached for the stirring wheel and twisted it to do a sharp turn causing the car to swerve and rollover. From the rollover, the car was a total wreck and stopped upside down.

"BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!" cackled the haunter as he disappeared from the driver seat with his voice causing an echo throughout the dream.

Blood and bruises were on Jacket's body after the wreck with his clothes getting ripped up a bit. He stayed in the car and didn't tempt to get out just how beaten up he was.
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#11
Luci is crouched down behind a dumpster in an alleyway, huffing paint. She can still hear the buzzing of the giant mosquitoes that were chasing her just a moment ago. Paint fumes envelope her face, and when they fade, Luci is wearing a mask of a calico cat.

Luci walks quickly but calmly out the back of the alley and attempts to blend in with the crowd of nightmares. Her skin tingles as she brushes past a writhing ball of tentacles, and she shudders as she watches a pair of giggling children stab each other over and over with a pair of long knives. Luci steps carefully, avoiding the emaciated arms stretching impossibly far from the gutters, trying to pull in more victims. Luci feels the Nightmare's disgusting eyes crawling all over her, and she tries to relax. She glides soundlessly into a  group of the animal-masked Nightmares, who seem to be talking excitedly amongst themselves in Russian. Off in the distance, Luci hears the rumble of an old car.

Haunter's 1968 Camaro SS drifts around the corner with a screech, it's exposed engine crackling angrily, it's red high beams bathing the street in an eerie, blood-tinged glow. His long, thick tongue hangs out the driver's side window, waving obscenely in the wind, and his cackle makes Luci's skin crawl even as he speeds out of sight.

Luci tries not to draw any attention as she starts walking faster through the crowd, panic rising in her stomach. A minute later, she hears a muffled explosion, and then Haunter's ear-splitting cackle.

The Nightmare's freeze at the sound of the laugh, then as one, turn their heads towards the explosion. Then they are running, flying, and slithering towards it.

Luci starts to sprint.

***
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#12
The Sage grunted in frustration as Kuzuru started to put distance between them, picking up speed with an ease that the Sage could only envy. The Sage considered calling for him to wait, but thought better of it as the funeral toll continued to split the silence that suffused the city. The Sage followed the demon around a street corner, and found yet another of the city’s ultraviolent residents. The Sage settled into a ready stance behind Kuzuru as the Demon challenged this newest monstrosity. The burly man in the football jacker advanced slowly still saying nothing in response.

A screaming car drove down the street, colliding solidly with the newcomer and carrying him away down the street. As they passed the Sage caught a glimpse of the leering face of the creature that had been in their own car however long ago.

The black car roared on around the corner and out of sight, leaving the two Primes slightly at a loss as to their next move. Kuzuru looked the Sage, shrugging behind his jackal mask. It was odd that that the Haunter had attacked the chicken masked warrior, as it seemed to be preparing to attack. The actions of the Haunter seemed at odds with its previous objective of killing them, unless…

“That’s the dreamer.” The Sage stated suddenly, breaking into a run after the speeding vehicle. Kuzuru following quickly. They raced through deserted streets, following the black trail the screeching tires left on the road. Up ahead there was a loud crash, and the Sage grit his teeth, redoubling his efforts. He may have been unfamiliar with the exact nature of this astral dimension, but he was quite certain if the dreamer were to die here it would bode poorly for their own chances of survival.

Up ahead he could see the wreckage, the haunted dreamer's body was a bloody heap in the skeletal flames of the vehicle. The Haunter leered at the primes’ arrival, dissipating away from Kuzuru’s blade as the demon rushed forward. The Sage pulled the wounded man away from the wreckage, assessing his injuries, they were many and severe. The Sage looked down, noting his own ink-like blood that was knitting together the shrapnel lodged in his stomach. He reached down, wincing slightly as he pulled free some of the ink.

Behind him, Kuzuru noted the approach of several of the demonic processors from before, movin unnaturally over floors and walls alike, masks predatory and leering. “Yo, Bookworm! We’ve got trouble!” he called, dropping into a ready stance.

“Then deal with them!” The Sage shouted back, administering the ink to some of the larger injuries. It seemed slower on another person, but the ink still did its job, snaking through the bloody woods like thread, sewing the split flesh together. He had to focus, the couldn’t lose the dreamer now. “I’m a bit preoccupied right now!”

“Yeah easy for you to say.” Kuzuru grumbled, gritting his teeth in defiance as the black mass of creatures drew closer.
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#13
The hoard of nightmares swell around Luci, becoming agitated. They push, shove, growl, hiss, bite, and scratch at each other, trying to push forward. She keeps her arms folded over her body as she tries to maneuver through the press of bodies, claustrophobia threatening to overwhelm her. Luci jumps as something skitters by her; a giant centipede, and riding atop it, several of the animal-masked cultists. Luci hops aboard the crawling insect.

The cultists are gibbering excitedly to each other in Russian, showing off their glittering steel knives, and making stabbing motions. The centipede quite suddenly starts to crawl up the wall. Luci did not need to hold to anything; gravity seemed to invert for herself and the masked nightmares riding the centipede as they climbed sideways up the wall. At about thirty feet above the swirling mass of nightmares Luci sees a lone figure with a sword standing against the tide of monsters. For the first time, Luci sees the unbridled talent for slaughter of Kuzura of the Ashen Blades.

And she knows fear.
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#14
Even against the relentless tide of hellish bodies Kuzuru of the Ashen Blades stood defiant. He refused to wait for their approach and charged towards the horde, carving into them like a weed whacker set against ground beef. Ultraviolent displays erupted from the crowd, gouts of blood painted the streets with gore and viscera. A twister of blades, Kuzuru cut swathes through the encroaching shadows. Not a word was spoken by the devil, for there was nothing to say. Words meant little in the heat of battle and even less so against astral flesh puppets. A kind of high-octane electronic song filled the air and mixed with the carnage, adding another layer of intensity to the massacre.

Haunter watched overhead as his innumerable minions were turned into a fine puree. His bright eyes shifted from the demonic lawnmower over to the fallen dreamer and his newfound friend. For a moment the ghost considered his options, a luxury only afforded to those in control. A swirling orb formed in his open palms, a roiling ball of purple malice. They would suffer for interfering with his meal, and they would taste all the sweeter for it. A sonic boom cracked above the dreamers as Haunter’s shadow orb broke the sound barrier. Kuzuru felt the impact before he even became aware of the deafening boom. A square hit. His head jerked sideways as the solid projectile slammed into his lower jaw and he stumbled and fell. Hundreds of lumbering shades enveloped him their awkward bodies smothering his limp carcass.

“You’re in my world now motherfuckers,” Haunter’s voice boomed throughout the city.

His attention now split the Sage did his best to tend to the Dreamer while simultaneously manifesting a smattering of embers. His free hand was a lighter without fuel, only capable of producing the occasional spark. Shambling towards him the cloaked creatures spoke in an unintelligible bastardization of Russian. Where they had once held knives their hands were now little more than twisted masses of flesh and cartilage wrapped around metal shivs. Baseball bats fused with forearms and axes twisted around odd-angled limbs. Finally catching a proper flame the Sage fanned his fledgling fireball with his mind. In seconds it had gone from a candlewick to a regular bonfire. Satisfied that the Dreamer was stable, or at least stable enough, he stood and turned to face the encroaching horde. He adopted a defensive posture, striking at only what presented itself as an immediate threat.

“Just give up already, what do you care about him for?” Haunter asked and then added, “he’s nothing but a whackjob in a chicken mask.”

Before the Sage could respond a voice shot out from the tide of bodies, “hey fuckboi, you’ve got it backwards.”

The pokemon turned to see a gaping hole in his army of phantasm. A blood-soaked sphere in a tide of shadow, and at its heart stood a demon. The lower half of Kuzuru’s mask had been vaporized on impact, but beneath the residual gashes and burns a set of blood-stained pearly whites smiled at him from ear-to-ear. An aura of violet malignance radiated from the demon’s battered. Thin metal wires erupted from Kuzuru’s wrists and snaked through the marching crowd. A tide of barbed wire spooled out from beneath the demon’s flesh and wrapped around every available surface. It arced outwards in a cylinder formation around the three dreamers, twisting around buildings and lampposts and fire hydrants. A physical barrier of spiky metal formed a circular arena, trapping the three dreamers in with a portion of Haunter’s army.

“I live for this kind of stuff fucko,” Kuzuru shouted, “and you’ve made a big mistake shoving all this violence right in my face, I fucking love it, this is what gets me off at night, this is what I live for, in other words you moron, I’m in my element and right now you’re standing smack dab in the center of my world, and brother, you’re looking awfully appetizing.”

“Tough talk for a dead man,” Haunter responded, sticking his cartoonishly oversized tongue out.

“I’m no man.”

Without another word Kuzuru charged forth with renewed vigor. He moved through the twisted abominations as if they were made of water. His smile stretched across his face, a permanent fixture of the bloodthirsty demon. Haunter watched in impotent frustration as his forces were unable to puncture the barbed walls of Kuzuru’s colloseum, their common weaponry worthless against the physical wall of metal and spurs. His attention turned towards the Sage, who was keeping the thinning horde at bay. Things were beginning to spin out of control. Strong wills tugged at Haunter’s grip and his control over the astral threads began to slip away.

“Enough of this,” the dream-eater growled.

Miami began to dissolve as did the hordes of misanthropes. Beneath the trio the ground began to darken, turning into a thick sludge. Kuzuru’s conquest came to a halt as his targets melted like wax. A massive eye opened up at the center of the barbed colosseum. A sea of white housed a wretched pupil which stared blankly towards the sky. A red slit bisected the gargantuan eyeball and it began to open. Sprawling out beneath them the abyss opened wide. A bright pink tongue coiled out from the darkness and spiraled ever downward. A sudden change in pressure sucked the trio into the gaping maw and they were sent tumbling ever deeper into the rabbit hole.

They fell and they fell and they fell.

Activating Kuzuru’s tier 1 super move “Barbed Trap” for one post and his tier one power-up “Strength of the Damned” for 1 post. 1/4 SP remaining.
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#15
They kept falling deeper in the hole and felt like there was no end. This dream sense like it could never end which made Jacket think was this it? A dream that he can't wake up to and must relive it over and over and over again? Also, he barely knew these people that tried to save him. Jacket could tell their real just like him but they must've been unfortunate dreamers trapped in the same realm as he was. Wind brush under his body as he continued to fall. The other two appeared to be above him and were falling still.

Jacket blinked a couple of times still seeing the same scene but can hear a faint voice calling out to him.

"Hello? Excuse me… are you on earth man?" said the faint voice that Jacket could recall familiar.

"Hey, what's the matter with you?" said the same voice which began to sound louder than before.

"Wake up man!" yelled the voice one more time at Jacket.

The dreamer opened his eyes once more but in a quick motion and noticed that he was standing in a convenience store that he usually shopped at back in his old life. Jacket was standing in front of the counter that the cashier who was his bearded friend.

"Christ, looks like you haven't slept in days. What's been bothering you lately? You still can't get over the breaking up with your ex?" questioned the bearded clerk concerned for his friend.

A moment of silence fell upon the two in the store who were the only ones in the building.

"Listen, you need to stand up and be encouraged again. You can't just let yourself be beaten up all the time. You need to find your fighting spirit and not focus on the past. I know you can be confident about who you are. That kind of attitude could've gotten us killed back in Hawaii. Look how far we've come. We can't just stop now about one thing we worry about. Don't let someone or something control your own life. Cheer up man, you'll get better." encouraged the bearded clerk for his friend.

He was right, nobody can control his life and bound him. After all, he was still a human being who had feelings.

"Don't worry about it. It's on the house…" said the bearded clerk in a positive attitude.

After those words, Jacket blacked out for a minute then opened his eyes noticing he was back in the nightmare of the astral verse. His body was laying on the ground next to the sage prime who was trying to make sure that Jacket didn't die. He saw that he had the mask off after they've fallen. Jacket still had his rooster mask on after the fall but before the sage was about to take it off and check if he was alive, the masked prime grabbed his hand to let him know that he isn't dead yet.

This did give the sage a little relief knowing that the dreamer wasn't killed. He helped Jacket to get back up on his feet. As he stood up, Jacke could see that they were engulfed in total darkness but he seen that Renji was trying to fight off a big and fat disgusting monster which the body consisted of fused bodies from the other masked nightmarish killers seen in the city, undead Russian mobsters from 1989 Miami, and undead orc mobsters from Coruscant. The monster had a wide mouth filled with deformed human teeth and fangs. Green glowed from the eyes that were awkwardly placed having one up higher than the other. Its height was about the size of a two-story building.

The thing screamed in frustration while Renji was trying to fight it off with his powers. Eight black tentacles came out from the monster as its weapons. Suddenly, the sky became purple mixed with darkness and showing the Haunter's eyes and mouth took up the horizon. His laughter boomed across the land about their doom.
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#16
Twenty stories up, riding atop a giant centipede, Luci is panicking. All around her, the world is melting into the Haunter's black, sticky tendrils. She scrambles up the building even as it starts to melt from the bottom up, climbing desperately. She casts her weird gold eyes around wildly, looking for anything at all to grab onto, when she sees her companions get sucked into Haunter's giant, gaping maw.

Luci dives headfirst into the mouth.

***

Darkness.

***

Luci takes deep, rasping breathes. All around her, thick cloying tentacles are writhing excitedly. She pushes forward, but the darkness clings to her, and it is like moving through sludge. She hears the muffled bang of gunfire, and sees a spark of light from the muzzle. She pushes forward relentlessly. The gunfire increases, then stops.

Luci bends down to grab Jacket's limp body, and starts to drag him. Slowly, step by step, inch by inch, they move through the darkness, until finally, she sees them.

The Sage is deep in meditation, concentrating on maintaining a shield of brightly glowing, swirling words written in his arcane alphabet. Within the shield, his sword at the ready, is Kazura. He is the first to spot Luci, and gives her a sardonic grin.

The Sage merely frowns as Luci approaches the shield with Jacket, very briefly creating a point of entry for them, then closing it, and resuming his concentration.

"You're alive," says the demon neutrally. "I guess I owe someone some money. You're too late for him."

Jacket lay face down on the floor, his body already becoming a pale sort of ghost as Haunter slowly eats his dreams.

"But," Kazura says encouragingly. "You're here just in time to die."

A tiny spiderweb crack appears in the Sage's shield. Luci kneels down and rolls Jacket onto his back, removing his mask and gazing down at his unconscious face.

How many dream levels deep was she now? Haunter's dream within Jacket's dream within Haunter's dream within Jacket's dream? Any deeper and she'd be scraping at the bedrock of Jacket's mind. Luci decides that this could not, in any sense of the word, be considered 'safe'.

Her hand shakes as she touches her spraycan to the center of her forehead and comes away with a glittering silver thread. She takes a deep breath, and then touches the can to Jacket's head.

***

Luci clenches her jaw as the full force of Jacket's psychosis is laid bare down to every last screaming, exposed nerve. A cavalcade of violence and trauma and fear and death and hatred all assaults her, and it takes all of her willpower to gain her composure.

Luci glides silently over Jacket's subconscious mind. It looks like a warzone. Luci passes over it as quickly as she can, looking past the murders and violent attacks, and then she sees it; a memory, pulsing with a steady rose-tinged light and loving energy.

Luci floats down gently, watching Jacket's most deeply concealed memory through the window of an apartment, and she knows what she has to do.

She would worry about the moral concerns later.

***

Jacket is sitting in the deepest levels of his subconscious with his head on his knees and his uzi in his hand. He suddenly stands up and swivels around, his gun pointed at Luci's face. Only, it isn't Luci's face.

"You," Jacket says as he slowly lowers the gun. Luci smiles with her new mouth.

"That's right baby, you wouldn't hurt me would you?" Luci asks. Jacket's eyes roam over her newly-curvaceous body crammed into a tube top and fishnets, up to her makeup-caked face and long blond hair.

"You're dead," he says flatly. Luci laughs in her new voice, a kind of bubbly giggle.

"Dead stupid, for ever leaving you," she says coyly, batting her long eyelashes.

"You're not real," Jacket says, dejected. Luci pouts cutely.

"Aww, sure I am! I'll prove it; come meet me at the library on Tier-5 when you wake up," she suggests brightly. Jacket shakes his head.

"I'm never gonna wake up. We're gonna die here, Hooker," he says, turning his gaze upward to the encroaching darkness. If Luci is uncomfortable being referred to as 'Hooker', she does not appear to show it. She grabs Jackets head with her hands.

"I know you're scared baby, I'm scared too," she says, her bright blue eyes trembling. "But you can't fight fear with anger, you've got to fight it with hope, and love, and courage. Now on the count of three, you're going to wake up, and this will all have been a bad dream. Say it with me."

Jacket only nods and wraps his arms around Luci.

"One," they say together.

"Two," they say.

"Three,"

Luci kisses Jacket deeply, and his brain fills with a cleansing white fire, and for the briefest of instants, Luci hears Haunter scream.
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#17
The Haunter’s scream was horrible to behold, its anguish burgeoning forth in a flailing mass of shadows. The sudden burst of energy was enough to shatter the Sage’s defensive barrier, and the darkness swept over the four primes, knocking them all to the ground and obscuring the world and each other from view.

The Sage found himself in a void, his own form outlined by a strange white trim, separating him from the blackness that swirled above, around and below him. He sat up, unsure of what had just happened. Like the fuse of a bomb, firey letters began to trace themselves into the darkness in front of him. The Sage squinted in the harsh light and turned his head away, but the words followed. No matter what direction he looked they were there in front of him, their igneous message clear.

ҨԖҊՅӔժ ӨԥҊ ՃӨҊժҨ

The Sage clasped his hands to his ears, head throbbing as the message was bored into his brain. “Spread our words” The Sage grit his teeth against the onslaught, unable to close his eyes. The pounding grew into a crescendo until it overwhelmed the Sage’s senses entirely.

When the Sage realized it had stopped he jerked upright. A short distance away the heaving form of the haunter was slumped on the floor, unable even to maintain its flight. Kuzuru had struggled to his feet and was now limping towards the haunter, his stuttering gate painful just to watch. The Demon’s sword was out, hanging limply in one hand.

The Sage winced as he shifted onto his knees. “Don’t do it Kuzuru!” he called out. The Demon turned and looked back at him with a face of grim resolve.

“Do NOT start this again old man!” The Demon practically roared, “This… thing… has been trying to kill us since the moment we got here. Now it’s almost done and you’re telling me not to finish the job? Fuck off!”

The Sage did not back down. “Listen to me Kuzuru, that is not the way we want to approach this. Don’t make me fight you here. The painted girl has wrested some portion of control from the spectre. She now has a share in controlling the world we are in.” He said, glancing at the two comatose primes a short distance away, before fixing Kuzuru with an even stare, “We both know who’s side she will be on if we fight.”

The Demon returned his gaze coolly, though his eyes were a fire of rage. “Your funeral then, old man.” The Katana snapped shut into its blade and the demon stalked a short distance away, muttering to himself.

The Sage staggered to his feet, and slowly made his way over to the wheezing haunter. Its disembodied hands lay on the ground nearby, twitching slightly as the main body slumped on the floor. The Sage drew near, and though it made no move to respond the haunter’s eyes watched him.

“You’ve lost control, spirit. The life you are stealing is now beyond your grasp. Go peacefully into oblivion, and do not trouble again the world of men.” The Sage intoned. The haunter’s breathing slowed as the Sage spoke and it began to fade out of view.  “Be at rest. Life must pass away, do not hold your end against the world.”

Suddenly the haunter’s eyes snapped open. And its disconnected claws grasped the Sage’s shoulders. He jerked back in surprise as the haunter lunged forward, its large tongue raking his chest and face. The Sage’s vision went dark as all the warmth fled from his body.

Kuzuru swore and dashed over as the Sage collapsed in a fit of violent shuddering. “Senile old codger!”  he shouted as his katana flashed back out of its sheath. The haunter whirled around to face him cackling, his tongue leering as it floated back off the ground. “I told you this was the wrong move!” Kuzuru grunted and brought his katana down into the haunter’s face.
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#18
As his blade sunk deep within Haunter’s semi-physical form Kuzuru felt a great series of emotions wash over him. For the briefest of moments a connection was made. Hundreds of thousands of souls turned their eyes upon the demon, and they were not pleased. Every last soul ever swallowed by his own cursed blade reached out to his psyche. They screamed, and raged, and thrashed against their eternal imprisonment. This backlash was shared with Haunter and the pokemon shuddered. Its bloodshot eyes narrowed upon the blade that brought about its end.

“They’re so loud,” it said, its voice quiet, “and so very angry.”

”Lovely isn't it?" The demon asked and added, "their anguish gets me out of bed in the morning."

A candle was snuffed and Haunter’s form flickered out of existence. Kuzuru sheathed his weapon and looked around. His red eyes peered out from beneath the remains of his jackal mask. The Sage’s body was still convulsing as whatever wicked ichor afflicted him worked its way through his body. Luci sat crouched over her fallen comrade, trying her best to steady him. Chicken mask man stood stoic, hovering near the edge of the group. For a moment the two locked eyes, and Kuzuru’s stomach growled. His unyielding hunger called out for Jacket’s blood, but his battered body made him think better of it.

“Well princess,” Kuzuru said, his gaze resting upon Luci, “what now?”

She pointed upwards. Tempestuous clouds broke and gave way to gentle light. Cold was replaced with a pillowy warmth and the world around them unfurled. Astral knots uncoiled themselves, revealing a city. It was imperfect, but it was not malicious. Graffiti scoured the walls and faceless busybodies wandered the streets. There was no more gore. There were no more masks. Kuzuru sniffed the air and found the scent of flowers. He crinkled his nose and spat against the concrete. The demon removed his mask, revealing a bloodied face.

“Well how about that,” Kuzuru said, sheathing his weapon, “how’s the old man?”

“He’ll be fine,” Luci said.

“Shame this is just a dream.”

Luci glanced at The Sage, “it’s more than just a dream.”

Kuzuru wiped blood from his eyes and yawned.

“Well whatever it is, I’m bored with it,” he said, “suppose it’s time for me to wake up, can’t be sleeping all day now can I?”

The demon turned his back on the trio and began to walk down the alleyway. He whistled an off-beat tune to himself and shove his hands in the tattered remains of his hoodie. He stopped. He glanced over his shoulder and caught Luci’s gaze.

“Don't forget about our date now darling, I’m looking forward to it,” he said, paused, and added, “oh, and when your boyfriend wakes up tell him that I’m looking forward to meeting him again, ciao.”

With that the devil stepped into the concrete jungle and vanished.

Quote:
Had a great time writing this with you guys and hope to write again with you all in the future! Thanks for having me. :)
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#19
Jacket watched Kuzuru vanished away from the astral verse, returning to the physical Omniverse. Luci and the dreamer looked back at each other for a moment. Strange, her eyes and aura were something familiar that Jacket witnessed. The masked prime turned away and began walking down the street of the calm city. While he walked away, Luci came over and knelt next to the sage to see if he was doing alright. Her head went back up quickly hearing Jacket’s footsteps that were getting farther away.

“Wait for a second! Who are you?” she questioned in a demanding manner.

She stood back up having her psychedelic colorful beautiful eyes focused on Jacket.

This made Jacket stop for a moment, he looked over his right shoulder with his chicken masked turned slightly. He once again turned his head away but this time, the dreamer took his mask off with his right hand. The arm moved slowly down while holding the mask and his hand lets go of the animal mask. Midway falling, it turned into omnilium and retreated in the orb that was in one of the letterman’s pocket.

Jacket turned his body back facing Luci as the city was still calm and normal. Amazing, that a face of a maniac killer appeared to be young and not twisted. His blonde hair shined a bit from the lighting. The expression of him contained straight and lassitude.

“You really don’t want to know…” responded the unmask Jacket gazing back at her.

Silence fell upon the both as they stared at each other. Luci has already gotten a feel of what Jacket’s character was. She hoped that Jacket will respond to her mental message and they will meet again. After that stone cold sentence, Jacket turned away and continued to walk down the street then soon disappeared and made it back to his apartment on Coruscant.
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#20
Luci kneels above the stiff form of The Humble Sage. She inspects his rigid hands, and sees an ugly green color creeping into his veins. There is only one person she can think of who might be able to heal the man, and he lay paralyzed and comatose in front of her.

Luci makes a decision. In half a heartbeat, she takes a deep breath, shakes her spray can, places it against her forehead, and withdraws a thin silvery thread. She then touches the silvery strand to the Sage's temple, and dives deep into his dream-within-a-dream.

***

Luci creeps cautiously through the Sage's subconscious. The quiet, dignified dream-plane manifests as a labyrinth of wood paneled doors and winding staircases, creaking floorboards and flickering candles that never give off enough light and give off no heat at all. The light they do cast has thin spindles of poisonous green running through them, like the toxin in the Sage's veins. Luci mutes her own bioluminescencent glow, so as not to attract any...anything.

Luci keeps her wits about her. She thinks she has a trail; certain candles burn brighter than the others, and when she follows them she sees open doors and misplaced dust. She leaves numbered stickers as she rounds corners, hoping her graffiti doesn't affect the Sage's subconscious too much.

Luci eases open another door, leading to another empty room containing six doors, two of which are on the ceiling. Her frustration builds; this room, like every other in this maze, it is uniform in it's uniqueness. Not a single room in this maze holds the exact same square footage and number and placement of doors, yet each room is made of the same hardwood floors and bare wooden walls, all unfurnished, lit only dimly by candlelight.

Luci takes the door to the left and emerges into a hallway lined with same faded wood paneling as every other hallway. And the end of the hallway is a pair of double doors.

Luci places sticker number eight on the doors, where it glows a pale yellow. She opens the doors as quietly as she can, but they creak loudly in protest. She closes them behind her, and finds herself in a very strange, very large room. Like the rest of the maze, it is lit by candles placed about fifty feet apart from each other, but the candles continue on to the left and right as far as she could see. In front of her, a few hundred feet away, is another door on another wall extending off into the left and the right infinitely.

Luci walks quickly and confidently across the room, her heart pounding in her head. She tries not to look up; although the light from the candles could not possibly reach so high as to illuminate the ceiling of the room, her soft footfalls echo disturbingly, giving her the creeping impression the ceiling is higher than she can imagine. Again, Luci is struck by the sheer scale of the maze, it's very vastness weighing heavily on her at all times like a cosmic presence. She keeps her eyes on the ground until she comes to the set of doors on the other side of the giant room. She is reaching for the handle when she stops, and stands very still.

On the door in front of her is a sticker with a yellow number eight. Three huge claw marks scar the door, slashing through the sticker.

Luci pushes the door open.

She sees an identical giant room, with candles stretching out as far as she could see on either side, and directly ahead of her, across the room, Luci sees herself.

Luci cocks her head to to the left, and sees her double do the same. She turns behind her, and sees herself again, this time craning to look behind her as well,, mirroring Luci's every move. The remnants of the number eight sticker starts to flap in a sudden inexplicable breeze.

Luci sprints to the left, the candles becoming a flickering blur as she raced down the impossibly long tunnel. She starts to feel like the walls are closing in on her, and she is right, the room is narrowing. The candles are indeed crowding her on either side, and the echo of her high-tempo footsteps is becoming flatter as the ceiling gets lower and lower. She sees a door in front of her, perhaps miles ahead. Behind her, the gentle breeze tickles her neck.

The door is closer than it appears, the strange narrowing tunnel giving the illusion it is much farther off. The door itself is very small, maybe a square foot altogether. Luci crouches down and opens it quickly, trying to shove a leg through. The breeze has a slow, steady rhythm to it now, and it reminds Luci of labored breathing. She twists desperately, shape-shifting as small as she can, shimmying her hips through the tiny door, and then her arms, and then her head, and then closing it behind her.

The breeze is gone.

Luci lets her body ease back into it's normal size, watching the door shrink in front of her as she grows. She realizes she is at the entrance to a spiral staircase. There is nothing else in the room, no doors, just the same creaking floors and decaying walls. The staircases has no railing, just step after step lit only by the dim candlelight.

***

How many miles did Luci walk down that staircase? How many hours did she spend, crouched in fear, avoiding the attention of a mild breeze? How many doors did she open, how many corners did she turn, how many hallways did she walk? How many days or years had she spent trapped down here, loosing her what was left of her mind?

***

Luci finds The Humble Sage in a very, very, very large library. She thinks it might seem smaller to him, as he is currently twice Luci's size, but even still, it must be more than anyone could ever read in a hundred lifetimes.

He is sitting at a desk, his face lit by a single candle, pouring over several books at once, and muttering to himself.

"Thrice-damned Sufi Continuationists," he rasps. The candle shakes in his hand as moves it to examine another book, and Luci sees the lines of toxic green creeping up his neck. "They never met a Mazdakist Epicureanist, though, did they? No."

Luci approaches calmly and slowly, giving the Sage plenty of time to see her. She walks up to his desk, and has to place her hands on it and stand on her tippy toes to peer over it. The Sage meets her gaze for a moment, then returns to his books at his muttering.

"Hey," says Luci casually. The Sage does respond. "It's good to see you, it's been too long."

Still nothing. The Sage has produced his quill and begun writing on a scroll with his shaking hands.

"I'm really glad I found you," says Luci, a note of desperation in her voice. The Sage pauses, dips his quill in an ink pot, and continues scribbling. "I...I really need your help."

"I am busy," the Sage barks, his raspy voice coming out as a snarl, his eyes on his scroll.

"Please," says Luci. The Sage grumbles, but does not abandon his work. "I think I'm going to die."

With a frustrated sort of growl The Humble Sage lurches form his seat. As he walks around his desk his height diminishes to what it was when Luci first met him painting in her dream. Up close, she can see his eyes have turned yellow and hostile. She watches as the eyes flicker down to her midriff, where her shirt is soaked in blood.

It is not the glittering rainbow blood that Luci often bleeds, but a deep, dark red. She trembles, and the swirling lights that make up her body flicker. She lifts her shirt, showing three deep gashes in her midriff.

The Sage seems surprised, but bitter. He draws a razor sharp letter opener and presses it against his shaking palm, and inky black blood pools into his hand. Unlike the sticky black blood he produced in the Astral Realm previously, this blood has little threads of toxic green squirming inside it. The Sage shakes his head.

"I cannot help you, you've wasted your time. And mine," he adds bitterly, turning his back to her and returning to his work.

Luci collapses in a widening pool of her own blood.

The Humble Sage continues his research. He finds Luci distracting, and a small part of him feels pity for her, but she cannot be helped. His yellow eyes keep flicking over to her though, and eventually he cannot take it.

If he was to get the girl off his mind, he would have to heal her, and to do that, he would have to heal himself.

The Sage cuts another deep gash, this time into his other palm, and begins to meditate. He concentrates on his breathing, then his heart-rate, then his cardiovascular system, seeking out every last drop of Haunter's paralyzing poison, lighting it up with his mind, and then finally pushing it out of his body through the cuts in his hands.

He screams as the green, contaminated blood drips from his hands, burning through his wooden desk like acid, and still he keeps pushing, forcing out every last drop, until

***

The Humble Sage is lying on the sidewalk in Teir-5. He sits up, and recognizes the grey-scale dreamscape that is the Astral Realm. He looks to his right and notices the murals he and Luci and Kazura had painted. He turns to his left, and his heart sinks.

Luci is lying beside him, a thin strand of silver thread running from her forehead to the Sages temple, and three deep bleeding claw marks in her stomach.

The Sage rubs his bleeding palms together, and starts to massage the inky blood into her wounds. Her breathing slows, but the Sage does not stop. She grows cold, but the Sage does not stop. Slowly, agonizingly, the wounds begin to close, and finally heal. Luci's kaleidoscopic eyes flutter open.

***
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