This story is a conclusion of the Paradise City roleplay on VS Battles Wiki, found here. If you stumble on this randomly, be warned that you most likely will not understand anything happening unless you have read the threads beforehand.
"Well, what are you waiting for old man? Tell us: what's written in there?"
Joe raises his eyes, dumbfounded.
A beat passes.
"What do you mean "nothing"? Why would anyone keep a hold of a blank book? Let alone go so as to rig the damn thing so it sets off an alarm?"
Joe simply defaults to his grump look, before throwing Michael the book.
The book was indeed empty of any contents, and the whatever alarm was ringing from it came from a source that couldn't be discerned.
"But...how? That doesn't make any sense."
"Maybe I could a look?" Stephanie chimed in.
"Couldn't hurt I guess. But hurry up, that alarm is making me nervous."
Just as hands were extended to give and receive however, Michael felts something. Or rather, he heard something. Like, something whisking. Something sleek, small, aerodynamic.
Something that was getting closer.
"Everybody, DOWN!" Michael yelled as he tackled Stephanie to the ground.
Moments later, several horrific metallic shrieks and loud bangs were heard mere centimeters off their heads.
"Warn me next time hu-" Stephanie's complaint was cut short as everyone rose up and saw the source of the noise.
"Are those...knives?" Jessica said, somehow emerging from a hidden cupboard.
"What's left of them," Otto snipped, withdrawing Scatman.
Embedded to the walls, were horribly misshapen lumps of metal that had once been simple kitchen blades, large entry holes being left where they had pierced through the RV.
"Why did none of you guys bring out your Stands to protect yourselves?"
"No human being can throw knives that fast or with that much force," Nicholas, ignoring Otto, picked up one of the bent knives, inspecting it in his hands. "I think it's safe to assume whoever we're dealing with has a Stand."
"And it's probably coming from that house," Joe chimed in.
"I'm hating this book more and more as time goes on," Michael says, staring daggers at the piece of non-literature that was now on the ground. "Well, how are we gonna handle this? If it's coming from the inside, we can't just bulldoze the building, as much as a certain somebody would like me to do that. And I don't guess the user'll be stupid enough to just bring himself to us."
"Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeellooooooooooooooooooooooo, bitches!" a voice blared from outside the RV. "Welcome to the big daddy's house! Who's the big daddy? Me! And I'm gonna be teaching y'all how to be my bitches!"
"Every damn time," Michael sighed, exasperated. "Alright, let's just get this over with."
"Joe, if you could open a portal to the top of the RV," Nicholas turns to Michael. "I believe it would be best if we went up there. We possess the strongest physical Stands. Meanwhile, Stephanie, can you see to tracking down whatever just hit us?"
"On it!" Stephanie's Stand manifests on her face, as she scans beyond the RV's walls.
"Hmph," Joe grumbles, as Hello, Goodbye creates a portal door, which Michael and Nicholas step through to the top.
A man with a mustache and sunglasses stands on top of the house, seemingly just woken up, judging by the Teddy Bear-laden sleeping wear several sizes too big and pink slippers. Holding a mug of something in hands, and taking momentary sips of it, Michael questions his life choices and Nicholas wonders if Stands have some unseen effects on mental state he may need to research.
"Welp, gotta say, I'm not exactly the best at this "trap" stuff, but wow you guys are easy. I didn't even need to fool you with my amazing disguise."
"John B. Goode I presume?"
The man had a good giggle at that.
"Man, you're even more clueless than I thought. No no, nono, that was just bait."
"Then those records were faked then?"
"Yup. And your girlfriend was fooled as well, egghead. Implanted memories. Pretty useful Stand ability right? Too bad that gal is indisposed of right now. Nothing she can against you melee-oriented folks. Not that it'll matter when you're all paste."
"...Is this loser for real?" Michael whispers to Nicholas.
"Do not underestimate him. He may look stupid, but whatever threw those knives packs a punch. And he's clearly outsmarted all of us," he says, as Don't Stop Me Now materializes behind him.
"...Right," Michael still looks unconvinced as Shoot to Thrill similarly emerges. "So, character from my nightmares, what's your deal?"
"Oh I don't have nothing with either of you boys. The boss said he wanted to care of you himself. But I am going to slaughter all your little pals, that's for sure."
"And what makes you think we're going to allow that?" Nicholas was already angling a good blast of air at the man's vital areas.
"Oh simple," he said, before drawing in a deep breath. "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH ZACKY! IT'S TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME!"
At that, the RV was suddenly cleaved in two, both halves appearing a good distance from one-another, Michael and Nicholas jumping off at the last possible second and landing simultaneously to a roof adjacent to the house, eyes still locked between the scene and the mysterious man. Everyone within screamed in some manner or the other.
Except for Joe.
"I told you so!" Joe said, as he appeared through a door next to Nicholas, somehow looking even more grumpy than usual.
"Hate to agree, but yeah Nick, kinda dropped the ball there," Michael said.
"Man, you guys actually fell for it. That's fucking hilarious. Did he use the "I'm so tired of my bosses" crap on you? Of course he did. But if you knew anything about anything, you'd know full well people would kill for half of what we make a day," the man's smile deepened. "But man, you're not gonna be living long enough for that."
"Regardless, this is still seven against two," Nicholas said, sounding tense despite himself.
"I thought you were the smart one, egghead," the man's smile became sinister. "Didn't you hear me about the boss before?"
"Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-" Michael drawled on. Yet, Nicholas soon understood that, he wasn't drawling. His movements, every breath he took, every blink, every muscle twitch, seemed to be in slow motion. He tried reaching out for him, but found his movements similarly impaired. In the corner of his peripheral vision, he could see Joe struggling much the same.
The man had a full on shit-eating grin at this point.
"Yeah, I think you can handle 'em, right boss?"
Nicholas inched forward, only to see a man appearing in front of him. A light tap followed from what seemed to be a Stand's fist, before he saw the man do the same to Michael.
Then his whole world went reeling. Being launched several hundreds of meters into the air, he struggled to right himself while feeling like his ribs were being held together by duct tape and superglue. He stopped himself from crashing just in time to see Joe and Michael careening towards the ground, similarly dazed.
He had a split second choice. He picked what he thought was logical.
Joe was swooped from an immediate doom at the last possible moment. Michael crashed, hard, though notably in a far bigger crater than he should've created.
Setting the old man down, Nicholas became aware of the blood pooling in his mouth, spitting it out. He probably should've been feeling that hit worse. He chalked it up to adrenaline.
"...the fuck?" came a weak reply from the pile of rubble next to where he landed. Michael slowly arose from the wreck, looking much worse for wear.
"What in Satan's asscrack was that?!" at the very least the damage was only skin deep.
"Presumably, the boss," Nicholas replied, helping the old man to his feet, who was still cursing under his breath.
"That thing barely touched us and I feel like my abdomen was in a fucking tumble drier," Michael said, nursing his sides.
"It's power is significant, yes, but I'm more worried about it's ability," Nicholas said. "It almost looked it could stop ti..."
All three men looked up to see the one who had nearly killed them without even trying.
"Owwwwwww," Stephanie groaned. "Where am I?"
"Not dead," a voice said good-naturedly as she was pulled to her feet, to find Mame helping her.
"Thanks," Stephanie said before looking around them, at the pulled apart RV. "What the Hell happened?"
Mame frowned at that.
"Zack turned traitor on us," she said, clearly upset. "We were all so stupid. And now we've been led into a trap. We have to find the others. Can you stand on your own?"
With the sudden unconsciousness fading, Stephanie could now feel the extent of her injuries, roughly equating to having been thrown around like a ragdoll.
"I could use some help, actually."
Mame put her arm under Stephanie's own, letting her lean her weight.
"We have to find the others," she repeated. "And the cat. Don't know where he scurried off to."
"Sorry ladies, but you ain't going nowhere," a voice came from somewhere above, before Stephanie was thrown to the ground, eliciting another groan.
"Knife guy is back."
Only after she was pulled back to her feet with surprising strength did she notice the fresh holes in the RV's walls.
"Can you take a look outside?" Mame asked.
Stephanie nodded, summoning Every Breath You Take and scanning the beyond the RV with X-ray vision. What she saw...was surprising, to say the least.
"Uh, there's a guy in his pajamas out there. And he's probably our bad guy."
Mame had a small smile despite herself.
"Of course," she murmured. "Well then, let's get out there and just show him what for!"
Mame then proceeded to pick up Stephanie, using Rumble Temple to pull them to the top of the RV.
"H-hey!" Stephanie however, quickly silenced her talking when she saw who they were facing.
"He looks even worse up front," she said underneath her breath.
"Oh it pains me to have to hurt such pretty ladies, but y'know beauties, a job's a job's a job. Now," from the windows of the house, which suddenly flew open of their own accord, more kitchen utensils flew at breakneck speeds.
The man seemed hardly surprised to see that Mame easily deflected them all with her Stand.
"I can't get a read on this guy," Stephanie said, her own Stand on her face. "I can't see his Stand. I don't know where this is coming from."
"Keep trying," Mame said, as she jumped into the air, heading straight for the man, Hamon-infused punch headed straight for his face.
Only to be stopped dead in her tracks from a block of concrete risen from the house, now cracking under the pressure of her fist. The man only smiled brighter.
"You pack a mean punch lady, I'll give you that. No Stand power on that one either. That's pretty cool. But too bad for you, you're dealing with Lee "the Big L" Barson, and I'm just about to drop a big L on y'all!"
"What the-" Jessica suddenly realized where she was, looking at the ruined remnants of the RV around her.
Unfortunately, she had very little time to assess the situation further as she got to her feet and a giant scythe nearly took her head off.
"You're not getting another cheap shot in, you traitor shit," Otto said, Scatman holding on to the Distance's scythe despite bleeding a little, with Otto himself holding a gun to Zack's head.
"Hnn," Zack merely got out, as his Stand was recalled and he merely fell through the ground through a convenient manhole he had managed to move just enough with it. Otto fired, but the shot just missed his head.
"O-omygod," Jessica slumped to the ground, realizing how close she'd gotten to being decapitated. A firm hand urged to get back up.
"We don't have time," Otto said, still staring at the manhole, Scatman standing by, ready to strike.
"R-right," Jessica said, shaking her head and collecting her thoughts. She got to her feet only to stare anxiously at the manhole.
"What do we do now? He could pop up anywhere."
Otto's face was scrunched in thought, only for realization to dawn on him.
"I'm bringing the whole sewer down."
"That doesn't seem like a great idea."
"You got a better one?"
Her frown deepened, but she said nothing further. Scatman charged one of it's hands, before pressing it to the ground. Immediately, the concrete of the street began to break apart from the vibrations the Stand was emitting. Jessica struggled to stand up as the ground beneath her literally gave way, falling but being caught by Otto.
"Don't you think you're being a bit excessive?" she said, annoyed at both the fact that she was barely keeping her balance and that Otto didn't seem to care at all.
"I'm going to bury the bastard. With his luck, he'll probably survive that too."
"And you'd be right," a voice called out as a massive scythe emerged from the ground, poised for Otto's head.
...Only for the strike to collide harmlessly with him and bounce off, instead recuperating any of the minor scratches Otto had sustained during the RV's destruction.
"Wut?" Otto replied.
"Don't worry," Jessica said, giving a smile and a quick victory sign. "Nothing can hurt you as long as my Jude is active."
"Yet you can't hurt anything while it's inside of you," Zack said, not even bothering to dodge a punch from Scatman to prove his point. "And by proxy, neither can your Stand. You've left me figure out all of you guys' abilities, and now you're going to regret it."
"We know your ability too!" Jessica said, annoyed. "And there's two of us!"
"That hardly matters when one of you is entirely useless," he turned to Otto. "Now don't get ahead of yourself. I'll kick this guy's ass and turn him to ribbons, and then I'll deal with you."
Nicholas, Joe and Michael all manifested their own Stands, staring at the man who was sitting calmly on one of the roofs nearby.
On the outside, he looked completely ordinary, if a little on the fancy side. He looked to be in his mid 40s, graying locks already showing amid his rough black hair. He wore nothing but a blue business suit with black shoes. But there was something about the glint in his eyes that made the hairs on their necks stand up.
"You're quite sharp," he admitted, looking to Nicholas with a casual smile. "But then again, that's to be expected. Nicholas White, correct?"
He nodded to himself.
"Quite the astonishing batch of people, all of you really. Even for Stand users. But as much as I appreciate a good spanner in the works to keep me on my toes, I prefer disrupting my business far less."
"So I take it you're the boss then?" Michael practically growled.
The man, for the most part, maintained his smile.
"Quite correct, Mister Prince. However, I disdain such barbaric terms. I am merely an entrepreneur."
"Last I checked those didn't sell drugs or murder people," Joe chimed in.
The man's smile just grew brighter.
"You'd be surprised Mister Wright. I'm merely more open in wielding my craft. But enough boring you with idle chatter. You've come here with one mission I presume?"
"To kill you, bastard," Michael spat.
"Of course. And you've been quite driven in that as well. I would applaud you, even. But unfortunately, all this must end now."
"One thing I don't understand," Nicholas piped up. "Why would you go to such a great length to kill us? If you contacted us in the first place, you must've known our capabilities and how much trouble we'd cause."
"Risk and reward, Mister White. All a part of business. Discovering you lot was a freak accident, a botched job that instead presented itself as an opportunity. My risk was calculated," his smile faltered a little at that. "But, theories have been made to be disproven, after all."
"That still doesn't answer the question, shithead," Michael said.
"Quite right, Mister Prince," the man sighed, almost looking melancholic. "For y'see, as much as it pains me, a good player does the most he can to not allow the others to get the best cards. And after you rejecting my very generous offer, well..."
He smiled more sadistically.
"It may be a business, but it is indeed a ruthless one. And forgive me for being selfish, but I couldn't allow anyone else to have access to such a diverse and powerful range of tools like yourself. The massive amount of damages you caused was just the cherry on top."
"Which wouldn't have happened if you'd let us go you moron!" Michael yelled, Shoot to Thrill preparing to launch an attack. "I'm not listening to your crock of shit anymore. You're going down, right fucking now! Thunderstruck!"
The electricity whip launched in the direction of the man, who stood there with his casual smile.
The whip faded in it's swift assault, before coming to a complete crawl in front of the man. The smile on his face yet remained.
"You weren't paying attention, were you Mister Prince?"
A purple humanoid emerged from the man's back. It's face was the symbol of a spade, while the other three playing card symbols were spread across it's body, all in black, along with assorted black lines. It's right arm ended in a stump which upon closer inspection revealed a watch-like device, embedded with many golden chains.
"I'm not exactly making my Stand ability difficult to understand. One would think of me as reckless. Really, however, I'm just confident, pardon me, that you are all going to die here."
With that he began walking towards them, with the lightning whip returning to normal and hitting empty air, before retreating directly to Shoot to Thrill.
"What the Hell was that?" Michael whispered, as all three of them began backing away.
"He's making our movements take longer," Nicholas said, disbelieving. "He slowed the time around us down to a crawl."
"What are we supposed to do against that?" Joe said, concerned.
"We can't get close, that's for sure. Otherwise, we'll end up like before, and this time, I don't think he'll be holding back," Nicholas seemed to think it over for a moment, before resuming. "Michael, keep firing at him from a distance. Joe, we might need a couple of doors around just to outmaneuver him."
"What about you?" Joe asked, as both he and Michael got to work, Michael activating Hell's Bells and firing fire balls at the man.
With that, Nicholas flew off. Michael cursed under his breath, noting how the fireballs slowed down as well, continuing their trajectory while the man walked normally, completely undisturbed and dodging them without even trying.
"What now?" Joe hissed.
"As long as we stay outside his range, we should be fine. He can't attack us with that."
"And how big is his range?"
Michael clicked his tongue.
"Well that's the million dollar question isn't it?"
Joe just looked grumpy as the man continued to approach and he simply opened up a door underneath their feet, leading them out on another building next to the one they were on. The man turned around somewhat, and Michael took the time to launch another barrage.
It too was slowed down, and now the man could see them. He seemed to have an exasperated look to him.
"Damn it, his power is passive."
"Hey," Joe suddenly piped up, seeming weirded out. "What is that shadow above him?"
It took a second, but then Michael saw it too. A shadow above the man that seemed to grow bigger and bigger, starting off as tiny and nearly uncatchable but now encompassing almost the entire building he was on. The night was clear, so it certainly was not any cloud. The man seemed to not notice it until the last second, when a tanker truck materialized above him, Nicholas only slightly above it.
She shot, and shot, and shot again, each deadly object being dispatched with pinpoint accuracy. She felt something, or rather someone, warm against her back, breathing deep but steady.
"There's too fucking many of these," she grumbled.
"Indeed. He's not running out of kitchen utensils any time soon, it looks like."
"I can't get a read on his Stand either," she groaned in frustration. "Fuck, and I'm running out of bullets too."
"Stephanie, focus," Mame said, catching yet another batch of relatively mundane kitchen knives rocketed toward them. "You can do this."
"And what if I can't?" she said, frowning as she turned to look at the older woman.
Mame simply smiled in return.
"Then I'll just have to keep you safe while beating him down."
Stephanie grumbled something about Mame not being her mom, before scanning the man once more with her Stand. Yet, no matter where she looked in the house, or around it, or even around the man himself, she couldn't find anything. She sighed, as she took aim for his head instead.
Worth a shot.
Choosing not to give thought to how many dead people she'd seen these past few days, and how many of them were also dead because of her, Steaphanie took the shot. She knew she wouldn't miss.
She didn't. But the giant chunk of concrete that raised up from the house to protect the man sure as Hell didn't care.
"Damn it, how many of those does he have?"
"It's a house darling. Being made of cheaply distributed composite materials is kind of it's thing," Lee was still drinking from what she presumed to be a coffee mug.
Two huge chunks of the second floor suddenly swung out, leaving the roof balanced precariously on the middle. Like horizontal pendulums, the two massive pieces came down on them both, as if they were massive blunt arms. How they could maintain structural integrity while swinging like that Stephanie had no idea, and she presumed she'd never know as they closed in at lightning speed, and she closed her eyes.
But the pain never came.
"Damn, you're strong!"
Stephanie opened her eyes to see...
"Holy shit..." she whispered.
Mame was holding back both chunks of building, windows, walls and furniture all there, with her arms. The points where her palms were meeting the walls were laden with spiderwebs of cracks.
"Well, seems like we're becoming a bit more serious eh?"
An assortment of plates flew from the lower floor, zipping forth at breakneck speeds towards both of them. Stephanie prepared to counter them, as much good as that was going to do, there must've been dozens of the damn things. She took two shots, watching as they ricochet and took down four more each, but that didn't stop the onslaught.
What did however, was a collection of wild, thorny, purple vines that spat out bullets of pure light. The offensive wall of ceramic was halted, crumbling to the ground in pieces. But from one look over, it was clear Mame was exhausted.
"I can't keep this up for much longer."
"We can't do anything. Goddamnit, what is this guy?"
"I'll hold off anything he throws at us. You need to get a shot in."
"I don't have a good vantage point," Stephanie frowned. "And even if I did he'd just swat me or stop the round."
"I can throw you," Mame said matter-of-factly.
"And have me break both my legs?"
"Would you rather get crushed to paste or impaled by a fork?"
Stephanie's frown did not let up before another layer of repurposed house utensils were thrown her way. Rumble Temple once more launched it's bullets, yet the makeshift weapons clearly got closer this time.
"I'm not holding these for eternity, we need to do something now," Mame said, clearly taking deep breaths, her arms being slowly pushed together by the chunks of building.
"...Fine. But how are you going to throw me?"
Without a word, Rumble Temple grabbed a hold of her, strangely comfortable despite being grabbed by thorny vines, before launching her into the air. She had exactly 0.5 seconds to scream before she reminded herself that she needed to do something.
While in the air, she reloaded, taking aim at the man. The first shot was aimed straight for his head. The second was meant to bounce off toward him from the roof.
As expected, he deflected them.
"Man, that the best you go-"
Which is why the third shot hadn't been aimed anywhere near that. Instead, Every Breath You Take had calculated it's trajectory so it would cause damaging debris.
It was certainly damaging, but nowhere near as much as Stephanie was hoping.
"You bitch," Lee spat, blood pooling from his mouth, his glasses shattered and thrown away, revealing crazed green eyes.
She was already falling, bracing for a hard impact, but the man didn't seem content to let that slide. This time, huge chunks ripped from the house itself were sent flying her way. She had no chance of altering their trajectory in any significant way, so she simply used her gun to alter her own falling movement enough to minimize damage.
She had to emphasize the minimize in her head.
One of the blocks grazed her, although smashing her arm, horribly scraping it and potentially cracking several bones probably didn't count as a graze. She was still falling, and before she could even think about the landing, she was already feet first on the ground.
There was no scream. Just a dull whimper as she heard both of her tibias break. She collapsed to the ground, tears welling up in her eyes.
"God...fuckin'...damn it," she whimpered. She tried crawling, but found out that only one of her arms could function properly without sending horrible needless of pain through her. She had to get away, just leave as soon as possible from that crazy asshole and this whole mess.
That's when she finally opened her eyes to stare back at the half of the RV which they had been left in. All the memories suddenly came flooding back.
How she'd been dragged into this mess, how she'd been injured far more on this one trip than she ever had before.
How, despite her not wanting to admit it, she'd grown somewhat fond of the people she was traveling with.
I'm not dying here.
It was a thought burned into her skull. Yet, what more could she do? Barely able to move, with a useless Stand for direct combat purposes and her gun having been lost sometime during the landing, she was helpless. That man would be back for her, if she stayed here. He would finish off Mame, and then come for her.
In the pits of denial, she finally opened her eyes to see a momentary glimpse of clarity: the half of the RV they had been in.
Like a thunderbolt she recalled something very important stored there. Something exceedingly dangerous. Something that she was not entirely certain would not fail her.
Her only hope.
Please please please please please.
She searched the wreck all over with her Stand, both normally and with X-ray vision. As she quickly lost hope at seeing the last glimmer of opportunity slip from her fingers, she at last spotted her saving grace.
She let out a hoarse, airy laugh of relief. There was no humor there, just a dying woman with hope. She slowly crawled toward the thing, biting into her finger on the meanwhile, grimacing but not really minding the tiny pain in comparison to what she was already dealing with.
The finger bled. It would have to do.
"Ah, such a shame sugarlips. You really looked like you had more fight in you."
Mame simply glared daggers at the man, as the house chunks only drew closer. The cracks had grown with her applying pressure, but there was no way she could fully shatter one of them without having every bone in either half of her body broken by the impact of the other being released.
"Go to Hell."
"Oh, not today I'm afraid. Save me a seat down there, though, yes?"
Knives now hovered all around his back, forming a veritable ring of stainless steel ready to gouge her organs out.
She had to think fast. She needed a clean hit.
"Of course someone like you could only kill me with tricks. You don't even have a strong Stand."
The man's smile devolved into a sneer at that. He grabbed her by the face, pulling her closer. She had to bite back a laugh, and the desire to pummel the man into the ground.
"Listen lady, I don't know who the Hell you think you are, but the moment your and that other bitch showed up, you were dead. You want to know why?" he pointed to the destroyed structure behind him. "That's my Stand: House of Fun. With it I can control any object within a 20 meter area I create. Everything touched by it's field is mine alone to manipulate as I want. I could've crushed you at any minute and fucking nothing you could do would stop it. I just wanted to play a game fir-"
He didn't get another word out as he was hit with a wave of charged Hamon that sent him flying backwards.
"You talk too much."
She felt the crushing force of the two mismatched pillars on each of her arms fade somewhat, and she was able to rechannel all her Hamon into her fists to shatter them, the wave passing through and pulverizing both structures as they collapsed.
Only to see the knives flying at her. She managed to swat most of them out of the air, but a couple of them hit their mark.
A stab at her right arm, straight through her chest and one at her abdomen. She collapsed to the ground, blood dripping onto her clothes and eventually pooling in her mouth. Miraculously, the knife in her chest had missed her heart and lungs. But she could feel her guts wriggle about as the third knife dug into them.
That Hamon shock should've shorted most of his muscles for a while. It didn't seem to short out his Stand power.
"And you're fuckin' dead bitch!"
And with that, several huge chunks of concrete flew at her, ripped from the very basement of the house.
She took some relief in thinking about how his mouth would be gone too after the Hamon took some time to travel through his body.
Yet, the second wave never came. Instead she heard distant shuffling, which seemed to get closer and closer.
"The fuck is that?"
Mame could barely move but she did manage to incline her head in just a way that she caught a brief silhouette flying past her vision.
No. No, it couldn't be.
All but a few seconds had to pass before her worst fears were confirmed by a shrill shriek that haunted her dreams.
A blue and grey blur smashed through every chunk of concrete heading her way, before heading straight for the man on the ground, far too fast for him to even react by erecting more barriers that would've done him no good regardless.
"No-NO, STOP, STOP, STOP IT YOU FUCKING MONSTER, STOP STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP AAAAAAAAAAAGHALUGSHSUHSUH-"
A variety of snapping and slushing sounds were the only thing that alerted her to what was happening. Despite bleeding out, losing a lot of her power, she used to pump Hamon through her system to at least help mend the damage from the knife wound.
No good. And taking it out would only cause more bleeding.
She moved her arm to take out the other two knives. They stung like Hell, but the cuts were relatively shallow, and her Hamon would at least be doing something to close them up quick. She moved to get up, straining as she did.
"You shouldn't move."
That voice. It was the same, but that only chilled her blood more. She jumped to her feet, ignoring the pain as a rush of adrenaline overcame her system. Rumble Temple extended from her hand throughout her body, creating a protective layer of Hamon-infused thorns.
Pale skin. Red eyes. Covered in blood. Those were the only changes she could see. But they were more than enough to confirm her worst fears.
"You idiot!" Mame barked, keeping her distance. "What have you done?"
Stephanie stared at her, expression unreadable.
"What I had to do," she said, voice barely above a whisper. "We both were going to die."
"If you don't lose your mind soon, you're going to wish you were dead! You have no idea what you've done to yourself!"
"I haven't though. Gone insane, that is," she said simply. "I'm still me. I just feel...weird. Cold."
"Then what about that guy?" Mame said, pointing with her good arm at the remains of Lee Barson. She couldn't see him very well in the dead of night, but it was clear his body was mangled unnaturally and blood was everywhere. But that wasn't what disturbed her the most. "You've already drained him dry!"
"I...I wasn't...I didn't think-"
"I said I would kill you," Mame said in a dead serious voice.
"...Will you?" Stephanie replied, voice entirely hollow. "Do you want to kill me?"
"OF COURSE NOT! BUT THIS IS ALWAYS HOW IT STARTS YOU IDIOT!" she paused for just a moment to calm herself down somewhat. "Everyone I've seen has been eaten from the inside by the thirst, every time! And you've already tasted human blood. How long will it be before your cravings overtake you? How long before an innocent is killed?"
"You're bleeding and wounded," Stephanie said, pointing at her wounds. "If I was really as bloodthirsty as you say I am, wouldn't I already have pounced on you by now?"
Before either of them could continue, the corpse standing several meters further twitched. Something clicked in Mame's head.
"Shit, get away from the-"
That was as far as she went before a knife found itself lodged in her throat.
Stephanie snapped her head around to look at the bloody corpse of the man. Or rather, what she thought was a bloody corpse. The flesh was still torn, he still looked almost completely drained of blood, and now his skin had a distinct rotten, dead look to it, but he was on his feet. His teeth had become a veritable row of fangs and his eyes were bloodshot, red and hungry.
Before she had the chance to rip him another new one, a wild branch of purple thorns careened towards him, wrapping him up and piercing nearly every part of him. He simply stood somewhat in shocked silence, before laughing, a sound like a choking walrus. In a demonic voice, far worse and yet so much more elated than it had ever been before, he spat out:
"That the best you've got bitch?"
Mame, looking decidedly well for someone with a knife in her throat and stomach, allowed a smirk on her face. The thorns lit up with a golden energy, and Lee Barson was entirely undone by the Hamon coursing through them. He barely had time to scream as he was reduced to ash.
Stephanie was just about relieved until she saw the thorns heading for her. Having already stretched past near her to get to their assailant, she had no time to dodge. They wrapped her up just as they had the zombified Stand user before her.
But this time there wasn't a smile on Mame's face.
She didn't know what to say anymore. Apparently nothing was going to work. She was convinced about what she wanted to do, and Stephanie found no other way of reasoning herself out of this.
She gave her an apologetic look, a pleading one. Mame's face betrayed nothing. Funny that, how the thing that was supposed to save her ended up getting her killed, by one of her own teammates no less. Sighing, she closed her eyes, bracing for something, far more acceptant than she should've been.
Then the thorns let go. She opened her eyes to see Mame falling to the ground.
She rushed to her side, making note about how bad the bleeding had gotten around her throat and abdomen. Mame's eyes had gotten a glassy sheen to them, but they were still present, and her face still betrayed nothing.
"I'm...trusting...you," she managed to get out through mouthfuls of blood. "Don't...s-screw...it...up...Help...them."
Stephanie could only nod. She wasn't a doctor and her Stand sure as Hell couldn't help. She didn't want to try and do anything like she did with Lee, and she was fairly certain Mame would rather kill herself than be turned to...that.
So she did the only logical thing and picked her up, activating her Stand to look for Jessica. Her enhanced hearing didn't fail to pick up how Mame's heart had stopped beating.
Mame Nashi has died.
A shockwave created another crater in the ground. A scythe swipe severed another street lamp. Both parties went at it again and again, neither backing down. And both were starting to show signs of it.
Zack could feel the entire left side of his abdomen coming loose, ribs cracked or broken in several places. Otto meanwhile had several large gashes all over his body, his suit stained with blood. Both men were staring each-other down as if wanting to kill with a gaze.
"Gonna give up any time soon?" Zack barked, despite gasping for air.
"Not before you do bastard," Otto was hardly in any better condition.
They'd been going at it for minutes now, both exhausted from the constant back-and-forth.
"Tch, why don't you just drop dead already," Zach said, as the Distance zoomed past him, ready to take another swing. Otto was ready.
Scatman barreled forth, catching the scythe by it's shaft. Otto smiled at what came next.
"That the best you got?"
Zack got a nasty shock for that bit of banter. The vibrations passed through the shaft of the scythe straight onto the Distance's body. Normally harmless at such a small scale, Scatman ramped them up to such a point that Zack could feel his bones rattle inside of his body. And along with them, his hurt ribs.
"Clever, real fuckin' clever," he snarled under his breath, with the Distance freeing itself by kicking Scatman in the gut. Both stumbled back from one-another, but Otto regained momentum first, launching several concussive blasts through the air. Zack simply sliced down with his scythe, the blasts being sent further away, before dodging them.
As he got back to his feet, he was greeted with another fistful of destructive energy that just narrowly missed his head, as Otto had closed the distance between them. The Distance restrained Scatman without touching it's arms, while Zack delivered a hammerfist straight into Otto's face. The other Stand user faltered for a second.
But before Zack could push the advantage, Otto recovered and delivered a crushing headbutt that easily broke his nose. Scatman freed itself by elbowing the distance in the gut, the shockwave sending it flying, dragging Zack with it.
As he crashed into a nearby pile of rubble, Otto spit out blood and what he could almost feel as broken teeth. Kneeling to catch his breath, he privately wondered how this much commotion hadn't caused the police to show up yet. They'd trashed nearly the entire street, slashes and cracks littering the earth, and objects scattered about everywhere. Even a few trees had been uprooted.
Otto looked to see Jessica approaching with careful steps, still somewhat freaked out and clutching desperately to the pistol he'd given her.
He smiled despite himself.
"Been better. I could use a heal."
She nodded frantically as she rushed over to his side, Jude emerging from her and getting to work fixing him up.
"You cheating son of a bitch," something groaned in front of them.
They turned their heads to see Zack emerging from the pile of rubble he had been knocked in, looking as worse for wear as Otto expected. He grunted as he rose to his feet, ready to face him head on. Jude's work had been incomplete, but he still felt it. Just that little bit of edge he needed.
Surprisingly enough, it was Jessica who replied this time, enraged.
"You were the asshole that betrayed us first! If you wanted a fair fight, you shouldn't have done what you did anyway!"
"What a pain in the ass," Zack growled. "Fine, if you want to rodeo that way."
The Distance appeared, ripping an entire chunk of the road and chucking it at them. Or more specifically, just Jessica. She was momentarily frozen in fear, until she saw a small disturbance in the air as the chunk of asphalt and concrete exploded into harmless fragments right in front of her. She didn't stay dazed for longer than a few seconds as a hand grabbed her.
She blinked, refocusing on their situation. Zack hadn't moved at all, but the Distance was nowhere to be seen.
"Gonna be a bit hard to do that," God, she just wanted to punch him. But it seemed she wouldn't be able to for a while as the very ground between them was pulled apart, separating them. And from the new, meters long and wide gap, the Distance emerged. Jessica saw her reflection on it's scythe for just one moment. She saw her entire life flash before her eyes. Every regret, every joy, each moment of sadness and happiness all leading up to this.
It was rather pathetic, she thought. So why was she still feeling anything at all then? Tentatively she opened her eyes to see how in God's name she still felt alive if nothing else.
Blood. Lots of blood. Scythe. Otto. Stabbed.
Blood on her face. Blood on the floor. Blood everywhere.
Scatman landed an uppercut to the Distance's jaw, but that was the extent of what it could do before fading back into it's user's body. Otto collapsed on her, staining her even more with blood.
She had a good few seconds to process what had just happened before setting him down.
"Omygodomygodomygod," she was blabbering, panic clear in her voice. "Why? WHY?! Why did you do that you idiot?! Couldn't you have just split the earth or send some shockwaves or I dunno, do something, ANYTHING that isn-"
"Can you lower your voice a bit?" Otto said meekly, managing to smile despite himself, in some bout of pain-fueled hysteria. "You're not making me any better."
"You stupid-goddamn it, Jude!" she cried out for her Stand to come close; that was when she felt the cold sting of something wrapped around her body.
She turned around to see the Distance gripping Jude. On the other side of her, she could see Zack approaching.
Everything went into a slow, dream-like state. She heard her heart pounding in her ears. She tasted blood in her mouth. She looked everywhere around her, death approaching from every direction.
Then something cold being grasped in her palm brought her back to the present. Jessica looked at Otto, as despite having a gaping wound in his chest, he managed to keep a stern look on her. Gone were any signs of mental disruption, his vision clear and focused. But she could also see the light rapidly fading from his eyes.
"Jessica," he gripped her hand, the metal digging into her flesh now. "I'm sorry. I couldn't save you. But now, you'll have to save yourself. He thinks you're hopeless, worthless."
He had to spit out blood before continuing, his eyes boring into her now.
"Show him how wrong he is. Show him that you have the heart," he managed to lift himself an inch off the ground. "Your life depends on it. It's you now. Not me, not him, you."
And with that he was gone. He collapsed back down, getting two more shallow breaths out, before a final death rattle gripped him.
She slumped, to her knees, glaring at her hand. At the object there. At what she'd have to do. Tears were flowing freely now. She tore her eyes away, looking at nothing in particular until something finally blocked her vision.
Barely half a minute had passed. Zack's expression was unreadable, as the Distance floated behind him now, still gripping Jude with it's one free arm. Zack clicked his tongue, before shoving his hands in his pockets.
"For what it's worth, none of this is personal. It's just work. And you guys seemed like decent people," a sigh. "If that could stop me though, I'd have left this job a long time ago. I almost did actually."
"But no one goes up against the boss and gets away scot-free. I'm sorry."
She could see the shadow of the scythe. She could hear the Stand's movements. She could feel the blood in her mouth. That staining her clothing. That which beat through her veins right now.
I'm not dying here.
She barely ducked in time to avoid the Stand's attack. Zack was so surprised by her reacting at all from the completely unresponsive mess that she was a milisecond ago that he remained stunned. She took that chance.
She pressed the gun to his throat. Mechanically she pulled the trigger. Again, and again, and again. The clip was emptied.
The corpse fell to the ground.
The Stand hovered there, staring at her as if looking for something. Then it was gone too, disappeared into the wind. As if it had never existed.
She stood there panting for several minutes, the stress, anxiety and exhaustion all coming down on her head. Then she looked at both bodies. Only then did she realize what she'd done.
She couldn't tell if it had been minutes or hours, all she knew was that she was still sobbing on the ground by the time she felt another presence beside her.
"Guess she never kept her promise of teaching you some of her moves right?"
She recognized that voice. She looked up just enough to see Stephanie smiling sadly. She looked...weird. Her eyes were red and glowing. Her skin was pale. Something about her was just unnerving.
But Jessica was still confused. She choked on her words the first couple of times before getting out what she wanted to say:
"Mame," Stephanie replied, a hint of melancholy in her voice. "I brought her with me thinking you might..."
She trailed off before resuming a few seconds later.
"But...I already knew that wasn't going to work. She's long gone."
"At...at least...at least let me take a look at her," Jessica replied meekly.
"I don't think your Stand can bring back the dead can it?"
A beat passed.
And at that she wanted to just crawl up and keep crying. But she couldn't do that, as something blue and puffy blocked her vision.
The hug was tight but not uncomfortable. She could deal with a little tightness right now. It was miles better than what she was feeling inside. She let the tears flow freely again.
Stephanie was cold to the touch, but it hardly mattered.
Otto von Bismarck IV has died.
Zack Johnson has died.
END OF PART 1