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Chapter 3 - Persuasion

It seems that blood soaked chapter of the invasion on Demonic''''s organization is ready to be forgotten. However, one refuses to forget, much less, to forgive.

Chapter 3 - Persuasion

Chapter 3 - Persuasion
Author's Notes:
-The chapter dump continues, with the third chapter written by myself. I'm rather fond of this one, so... Enjoy! :D

Standard procedure was useless here. During the first few weeks after the invasion on Demonic's organization, the Crows had exhausted all of the usual resources. No form of government had any records of Kat's residency or whereabouts. None of Demonic's personal contacts or connections had any leads, and every group's archives had come up dry. At that point, they had given up.
Now, the task had fallen upon the shoulders of the sister crow alone. Of course she had rechecked the usuals- a tedious process which put her search on hold for over a month. Needless to say, this second attempt produced much the same results. The crow was at a loss.
She sat on her bed in her room, staring hazily at the screen of the laptop in front of her. Typing dexterously with one hand, she rested her chin on her other, thinking only distantly of her current predicament. It was hopeless. No clues, no leads, and no brother to help her. She logged on to her blog site with a heavy sigh.
The blog existed solely for amusement purposes. The Crows—or any in Demonic’s employment, really—had very little resembling a personal life. Perhaps because of this, some liked to entertain the idea of a normal life, and the internet was a perfect world to start a fake life in. The female Crow, for instance, had begun a blog under an alias containing entirely falsified information about her and her life. Reading over a few comments on her latest entry, the crow glanced at the names and photos of those on the site; images of girls with their boyfriends, or in a group at a mall, or posing in front of a mirror. So many profiles from all over the world...
"That's it!" she whispered to the empty room, "Maybe it's simpler than it seems..." and with that, the search began. Following links, looking into every social networking site she could find, the crow searched for her old friend with Kat's common alias, Katelyn Hart. Pouring over pages upon pages of blogs and profiles, scouring lists of website member, she finally seemed to stumble upon something promising. The sister crow clicked into the profile of a girl with very familiar pink hair—it could be dyed, but it was worth a look. The girl wore cute, stylish clothes, a sharp contrast to the fighting garb which Kat had worn during nearly all of her time at the organization. The photo featured on her page also only showed part of her face and her eyes were obscured by large sunglasses. Frowning slightly, the crow began hacking through the site's security systems to view the entire profile without creating an account or contacting this mysterious girl directly. She grunted in frustration.
"Nothing about her location... not even a country..." she grumbled to herself with a frown. Well, for now she could at least search through her posted photos to see if this was indeed Kat. With a few clicks, she was in her photo gallery, perusing the results for a clear shot of the girl's face. The crow's brow creased in a deep frown. Several partial shots, a lot with sunglasses obscuring the eyes. It was so suspicious that it nearly confirmed her identity as the missing Kat. She had to be sure, however, as the organization had not the money nor time for useless travel, and so she quickly selected a group of pictures to send to the tech lab for facial recognition scans. This done, she took another look through the photos, and this time, something caught her eye. There was a napkin in one particular photo bearing what was presumably the name of a restaurant of sorts.
"Oh-ho-hooo, what's this now?" the crow said quietly and zoomed in to see the napkin better, "The Bread and Roses Cafe..." a quick online search of the name revealed it to be a small cafe in London. With a triumphant laugh, the crow punched the air in victory and slammed the laptop shut.

The afternoon was a scene of dull melancholy, painted in grays and neutrals. Rain pattered on the roof of the café like a hundred finger nails tapping on a table. The storefront rested comfortably on a quaint little street, nestled between a barber shop and a florist’s, with a welcome mat and wind chimes by the door. Water was gathering in puddles between the cobblestones along the street, splashing up around the feet of passersby, eager to escape the sudden rain. So formed the white noise that filled Kat’s ears as she sat at her usual table, engrossed in her latest romance novel.
Annabella could feel Jason’s warm breath on her skin as he drew closer to her. Her heart pounded as he wrapped his arms around her, whispering softly into her ear,
“I never thought I’d see you again.”
“I could never leave you,” she responded breathlessly, her body warmed by his as he held her close. Hearts pounding, the two leaned into one another and their lips touched softly and tenderly…

Kat paused for a moment, folding the corner of the page to keep her place. When she looked up, she gave a start on seeing a waiter whom she couldn’t recall approaching, but who now stood, staring at her from across the table. The girl frowned curiously at an odd bulge on his chest, beneath shirt and apron (only slightly more remarkable than his startlingly red hair). She hastily pulled her attention from it, but she could tell that her waiter had noticed the glance. Laughing awkwardly, she began to say,
“I’m so sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to be rude-”
“Oh, no, no, not at all,” he quickly interjected, “it was rude of me to stare! You just seemed so absorbed in your book—I didn’t want to interrupt. Regardless-” he said, his words oddly paced and disorienting, “I digress! What may I serve you on this delightful afternoon?”
“I, uh, just a lemon tea, i-if that’s alright.” Kat stuttered out, completely taken aback by the man’s presence. With a smile which displayed perfectly straight, white teeth, he bowed deeply and hurried off to retrieve her drink.
She exhaled softly and rested her chin on her palm, her elbow on the table. Absently, she began to drum her fingernails on the cover of her book, which featured a tan, muscular man with his shirt open and blowing in a staged wind. Kat smiled dryly. These cover models were always the same, and she had a different kind of man in mind. Sighing wistfully, she let her mind wander to now bittersweet memories of a tall, slender man with misty hazel eyes.
“Here you are, miss!”
“Wagh!” Kat jumped, crying out in surprise. The waiter had returned with her tea in hand and a cheerful smile on his face. Chuckling good-naturedly, he set the drink down on the table for her, saying,
“I’m so sorry, miss, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“Oh, no, not at all,” she responded, “I sort of spaced out, I suppose…”
“That so?” the waiter said with a laugh, “You should be more alert—you never know when someone could catch you off guard.” That said, he bowed courteously and excused himself.
“Hmmm…” Kat sighed softly and took a long sip of her tea. Golden eyes half lidded, she allowed herself one more brief thought of romance, then shook her head of it and returned to a reality of rainy English afternoons and a lonely apartment with her only remaining friend. Tea passed her lips and tongue, warming her throat and chest as she sipped quietly. As she warmed up, she dreaded the rain more and more, but knew that Crimson would have a fit if she was late getting home. They were planning to move again soon, which meant packing and covering their tracks.
As she finished the last of her tea, Kat got to her feet to leave. She scanned the café, but could find no sight of the peculiar waiter. Frowning, she shrugged and left her pay on the table, grabbed her umbrella and departed.

Rainwater splashed up around Kat’s feet as she ran, struggling to control her unwieldy umbrella. Her breath swirled in a thin fog before her, expelled in quick bursts as she ran. Puddles had formed along the streets and sidewalks, so that Kat’s shoes were quickly soaked through. In her hurry, she vaguely noticed that the water seemed to reach up from the pavement like grabbing hands as she splashed through, but quickly returned her attention to speeding on her way back to Crimson, who was no doubt awaiting her return anxiously.
“Crap…” she muttered, glancing down at her watch, “I’m already late. Well, just one more block.” A puddle splashed up around her leg. She lost her footing for a moment, but quickly regained her bearings. Shaking her head to clear a bout of momentary dizziness, she paused to catch her breath.
“Already late…” she said to herself, “so no harm in taking a break to…” she drifted off. The dizziness was returning and wouldn’t go this time. Water splashed up over her feet. That was odd—she was pretty sure she had stopped running. But now she could swear that she felt like she was moving. Buildings shifted slowly, like a clock’s minute hand, and colors slowly began to melt into one another; Big Ben chimed deafeningly as the face melted down like a Dali nightmare, and the Parliament building seemed to fold and collapse in on itself. Kat could see people around her, but they were only vague shapes and swirling colors. She tried to focus on a face, but to no avail, until one figure stood out, completely clear.
“Al… Altojo…?” Kat whispered. He approached her slowly, a gentle smile on his lips. Her mind went numb, and tears began to form in Kat’s eyes, then fall down her face, warm against her cold skin. Her chest hurt as her heart thudded painfully behind her ribs no matter how she begged it to stop. All at once, he was directly in front of her, although he had appeared to walk in slow-motion. The red bandana covered his eyes as always, but he seemed to see Kat as he smiled warmly down at her.
“Altojo…” she repeated, “Wait, but… you’re… you’re… this isn’t right…” he made no response, but only remained before her, smiling as he had in life. Slowly, as though forced to move against her will, Kat reached up and pulled the bandana from his face. His eyes opened, and he stared unblinkingly down at her. Hazel. They were eerie, familiar hazel eyes.
“You’re dead…” Kat said weakly. The words now echoed around her deafeningly, like a teasing chant. Voices joined in the horrifying mantra, and Kat tried to cover her ears to block it out, but to no success. The sound was in her head. All at once, as the chorus reached their crescendo, a scythe’s blade ripped through Altojo’s body, spraying blood over Kat like the afternoon rain. She screamed, and she felt her lungs and throat ache with the strain, but could not hear her own voice. She was horribly cold. The world spun around her as scarlet rain fell from a dark sky.

“Ka… K… you… ay?”
“Hm…? Who…?” Kat had fallen, though she couldn’t recall when or how. Someone was holding her up from the soaked pavement. She heard a vaguely familiar voice calling to her, but the sound was muffled as if she were under water.
“Kat… can y… me?”
With all of her strength and willpower, Kat pushed through the clouded fog of her mind to reach reality. She saw faces surrounding her, but soon focused on the person holding her.
“You!!” Kat choked out on seeing the narrow eyes and wicked features of the sister crow above her, staring down with less concern and more utter confusion. The small crowd around her stirred with whispers and awkward looks, but Kat took no notice. She struggled to get free from the crow, but what unsuccessful in her weakened state.
“What are you doing here?! I’m not going back—I never wanted to see any of you again!! I-”
“Kat, shut up!” the crow hissed back at her, “Kat, you skipped your medication this morning, didn’t you?” she said more loudly, “I told you these fits of yours are getting worse and worse. Come now, let’s get you home and take your pill.”
“Wha-?” Kat began to protest, but then simply let the crow pull her to her feet and drag her away from the now dispersing crowd. She did her best to keep up, and soon enough, they were at the apartment she shared with Crimson. Making a note to ask her unexpected guest exactly how she just happened to know where she lived, Kat stopped to catch their breath on the steps leading to the entrance of the complex.
“Where… where are your wings?” Kat said a little breathlessly, staring over at the sister crow, sans her typical enormous black wings. The crow laughed and shook her head, saying,
“That’s your first question? Really?” Kat rolled eyes at this, so the crow simply said, “It’s a spell. No big deal. Just something my brother and I picked up. Makes blending in considerably easier, no?”
“I see…” Kat muttered, then was silent for a time. She watched passersby cross in front of them, strolling along more easily now that the rain had stopped for the moment. Spell or no spell, Kat noticed that the crow’s black attire and odd disposition still earned her plenty of stares. The crow sighed heavily and said,
“You’re a pretty terrible conversationalist if you can’t come up with something to say at a time like this.”
“Well excuse me!” Kat responded, rolling her eyes and throwing her hands up dramatically, “I’m trying to decide what to ask first. I mean… Well, why are you here? I have a feeling that I really won’t like the answer, but I suppose I have to ask.”
“Hey, it’s somewhere to start at least. You’d think after years of missing my delightful presence, you’d have more to say.” The crow said with a grin. Seeing Kat unresponsive to jokes, however, she sighed and said, “Well, I’m not sure how to say this, but your life is in danger. Again. Seems to be a bit of a thing with you, huh?” Kat gave her a look and she continued, “Anyway, as it so happens, there’s someone on the loose who’s after you to get your power, which puts you and anyone you may be associated with at the moment in danger.”
“My… power?” Kat questioned.
“Over wind.” The crow clarified, then continued in a more serious tone, “Look, I don’t know if you know this, but there are three other marks like the ones on your ankles that appear when you invoke a greater control over wind. The others are of fire, water and earth. A reliable source of ours tells us that there is now someone after the bearers of all four, and pardon me for being presumptuous, but I’m willing to bet that whatever had you tripping back there was caused by that person.”
“So… you want me to come back to the Organization. For… protection?” Kat said skeptically, as though the very concept were laughable.
“I don’t know Demonic’s motives, Kat,” the crow admitted with a sigh, “But part of why I have to bring you back is for information purposes. Our source can tell you more about that mark, and hopefully you can tell us a bit of what you know as well. See? A win-win situ-”
“I don’t have any information.” Kat interrupted, scowling, “This is completely pointless. I don’t know anything that would be of any use to your little group.”
“You may know more than you think you know.” The crow returned.
“Now you’re just being ridiculous.” Kat said. She got to her feet and brushed off her bottom, turning towards the door to the apartment building.
“Kat, wait,” the crow grabbed her old friend’s wrist and said to her almost pleadingly, “you could at least hear me out. Or… or let me stick around a bit while you give it some thought. Just some consideration?”
The pink haired girl was silent for some time. Her first impulse was to flat-out refuse and send the crow back immediately. Kat had no proof that any of her information was indeed true. Still, she had gone through all the effort of tracking her down and coming to get her. Perhaps a little thought on the matter was warranted. Besides which, if it was true that her own and, more importantly, Crimson’s safety were at stake, it deserved at least some attention.
“Ugh…” Kat grunted, rubbing her temples in frustration, “Fine. You can stay for a few days, tops. I’ll think about it, but I give no guarantees.”
“Fantastic!” the crow cried out, clapping her hands together in delight. The pair entered the building and began ascending the stairs as she babbled on about something or another. Kat more or less tuned this out, however, as her mind was already screaming at her for allowing this to happen. Rolling her eyes with a disgruntled sigh, she fished around in her pocket for her key, then shoved it into the doorknob with deliberate force.
“Sorry. Damned thing won’t unlock unless you practically break the key in half… anyway, here we are.” Kat said, gesturing around the inside of the apartment rather unceremoniously.
It consisted of a bedroom, a small kitchen attached to a common room of sorts, and a bathroom, tucked away in a corner. The bedroom had only one bed, but it was clear that the couch in the common room was also in use as a makeshift bed as well. A few dirty dishes sat in the kitchen sink, but not enough to imply neglect. Conspicuously new curtains hung around a window looking out towards the neighboring apartment complex, and a small bottle holding a handful of flowers sat on the sill. Overall, the place was not much to look at, but it was clean and it was apparent that some effort had been put into its appearance.
Crimson, unnoticed by the other two girls thus far, had been seated at a small table in the kitchen, pretending to check her e-mail. She never got much since she and Kat had gone into hiding, but she liked to think she was more interested in that than waiting impatiently for Kat to get home. At the unmistakable sound of the key being jammed into the door, she gave a start and shot up to her feet. She advanced on the door, lecture already prepared and on her lips, when she caught sight of the sister crow.
“You!” Crimson roared, and began groping around blindly for something—anything—with which to strike her. Knocking a pile of mail off the table to spill across the floor and nearly tripping over the leg of a chair, her flying hands finally found the handle of something. She swung her weapon up at the crow, furious and breathless. The crow, finding herself now held at umbrella-point, raised her hands in surrender and backed up against the door.
“Uhm, I’ve been living with Crimson, by the way.” Kat muttered awkwardly.
“I… I can see that!” the crow responded with as much charm and joviality as she could muster in her situation.
“Kat, get away from her!” Crimson growled, never taking her eyes from her target, “You. Why are you here? Isn’t your little freak group done with us?”
“Crimson, please, hold on,” Kat pleaded, placing a hand on her friend’s umbrella-wielding arm, “She actually helped me out earlier, and we’ve been talking, and it sounds like there might be something going on, so if you could just p-put, down… the… umbrella… ah!” she grunted as she pried it out of Crimson’s hand, “and hear her story, maybe we can figure something out.”
The corner of the blonde’s mouth twitched in a snarl. Her muscles tensed still, fists clenched to strike at the slightest provocation, she turned and sat huffily at the kitchen table. The other two shared a glance for a moment which was long enough to test Crimson’s patience.
“Well, come on, let’s hear it.” She barked at the crow, “I’ll throw you out on the street if you don’t start convincing me otherwise soon.”
The crow came to sit across from Crimson with a sigh, while Kat remained standing against the wall behind her friend (mostly due to a lack of further seating). Running her hands down her face, she paused, then said,
“I suppose I should start at the beginning.”

The stores weren’t overly crowded the next day when Kat agreed to go shopping with the sister crow, as it happened to be a weekday. She’d initially wondered at how much she had been letting the crow drag her into since they’d reunited, but on arriving, she actually began to enjoy herself, and didn’t mind it much at all. Needless to say, she had decided against even attempting to bring Crimson with them, but she found herself enjoying the crow’s company regardless, now that the pressure of their initial meeting had lifted. Kat recalled some good times with the two crow siblings back at the organization, and they were nice to think of, but far from enough to convince her to return.
“Hey, hey, Kat! How about this one?”
Kat turned to see what the crow had picked out off the rack of clothes she had been sifting through, and only had to see that it was leather—again—before turning back and calling over her shoulder,
“You know what the answer is on that one.”
“Oh, come on,” the crow insisted, hands on her hips, “It’s not even really leather. It’s this sort of weird… organic…”
“Look, you don’t even know what it is so don’t bother. Whatever you want me to try on, if it’s something that you would wear, just assume that the answer is ‘no’,” grabbing a few cheep t-shirts from a shelf, Kat gestured for the crow to follow and headed towards the nearest dressing room.
Inside, she began struggling to get out of her own clothes and into unfamiliar ones while the crow waited on the other side of the door. After some silence, the latter asked, innocent as anything,
“Still have your fight clothes laying around somewhere?”
Grunting slightly as she pulled a sundress over her head and onto her body, Kat paused for a moment to consider her response. In all honesty, she did. The clothes she’d worn on missions with the Organization were still tucked away in the bottom of her suitcase, and she knew for a fact that Crimson still kept her katana nearby no matter where they traveled. However, she wasn’t going to fall into this path of conversation.
“Why? I don’t need them or anything.” She said, quite casually. She could just picture the pouting look on the crow’s face on the other side of the dressing room door, and nearly laughed out loud at the thought. Straightening the dress in the mirror, Kat opened the door for the crow to see, saying conversationally, “Hmmm… maybe some boots with this, even. I know I have an old pair. I’d add a hat or something but I don’t want to overdo it… What do you think?”
The crow put on an exaggeratedly thoughtful expression as she looked Kat up and down in the adorable sundress. She shrugged and said, so friendly that it bordered on annoying,
“I think Dolosus would really like it on you.”
Kat was silent. She narrowed her eyes at the crow, folding her arms over her chest. Her heart thudded painfully against her ribs, but she could find no words for the moment. Finally, looking away, she muttered,
“You had to go and throw him into this, huh.”
“Well don’t you want to see him again? There’s no way you can just walk away from everything now. Things like that don’t just vanish, Kat.” The crow said.
“This is all rather deep for you, isn’t it?” she replied sarcastically, eyes still averted.
“Oh, come onnnn!” the female crow said rather childishly, “Do you want to see Dolosus again or not? Far as I can tell, it’s a pretty simple question. Well?”
“Well…” Kat whispered, staring at the floor. Yes, she wanted to see him. More than anything, she wanted to see him. She had not gone a day since leaving the organization without dwelling on her memories of him, and she had imagined their reunion in at least a thousand different ways, all of them breath taking. At this point, it was no longer even a question of whether it was worth it or not, but whether she could justify it.
“Come on,” the crow said with a smile, pushing her back into the dressing room and closing the door behind her, “change back into your clothes. We’ll get the t-shirts, the dress, and if you see a pair of boots you like, hey, it’s on me.”
“I, uh, okay…” Kat stuttered out, obeying out of a lack of any preferable option. Now back in her own clothes, she gathered her purchases in her arms and joined the crow once more. They paid for the things and headed out, Kat now in quite a state as the crow hummed happily to herself.
“We’ll head back to your place and talk to Crimson about our departure. She’s welcome to come along, of course, soon as we’ve got her okay.” The crow paused for a moment, “Er… Maybe you should do the talking this time. I’d rather not see what other household objects she could menace me with”



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