" Kiri - Red - Shitty-hair "
CODE NAME: Red Riot
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic good
AGE: 16 (default. AUs available.)
BIRTHDAY: October 16th
HAIR: -Black- Red
Eijiro Kirishima is naturally a very strong, well-built and durable individual, even without his ability. He has a scar over his right eye from an accidental childhood injury, and his time as a shield has earned him a handful of small and hardly noticable scars across his arms and body.
His hair is totally natural and totally isn't dyed or requires product to hold its signature bristled style. Nope. It's totally natural.
He can and will beat your ass at an arm wrestling match.
Kirishima is a very extroverted and outgoing individual. His loud and boisterous nature can come across as a bit "much" for those who are not accustomed to it, but he is quite easy to get along with. Kirishima's "social butterfly" personality gives him an uncanny knack of pulling people out of their shells.
Kirishima is blunt and upfront. He will frequently give out genuine praise and compliments, but will also swiftly call out less-than-stellar behavior even to those he considers close friends. He holds himself to a moral code of chivelry and honor, and falls back on his "Fighting spirit" in times of doubt.
He is incredibly competitive despite the self-doubt he has in his overall abilities. He strives to train hard and push past his limits, and chooses to surround himself with people who will help him reach those goals.
" The Sturdy Hero "
Kirishima's ability allows him to harden his body and turn his skin into jagged stone. This increases his physical strength and durability, and allows him to easily withstand things like extreme blunt force trauma, bullets, point-blank explosions, crushing force, piercing or slicing weapons, and falling from great heights.
His fighting style is geared towards close-quartered melee combat, using his fists, arms and body as both weapons and a shield. Eijiro is notorious for taking on a reckless and aggressive approach to a fight, charging head-on into battle and throwing himself into harm's way to shield friends and civilians alike.
He has learned to regenerate himself after taking devastating hits. However, there is a limit to the number of attacks he can withstand before his ability begins to give out. Kirishima is also prone to becoming fatigued after giving or recieving numerous heavy hits, and will struggle to keep his ability activated after a certain amount of time.
+ QUIRK SPOILER AHEAD +
Eijiro Kirishima's Ultimate form is known as "Unbreakable." He is able to done layer upon layer of his dermal hardening ability, therefore amplifying his strength and durability to the extreme. This gives Red Riot's "Unbreakable" a monsterous appearance with monsterous strength to match.
For his highschool timeline, Eijiro is only capable of maintaining such a form for up to 30-40 seconds at a time. But in that time, he is practically impenetrable. (For the Adult AU, he has learned to hold the Unbreakable form for up to several minutes at a time.)
Not once did the light ever waver, if anything it seemed to glow brighter at the presence of any uninhibited emotion. Eagerness, for one, seems to be working its wonders. It traveled in jagged patterns, gentle pulses of radiance spreading out its quiet warmth in waves. That’s what Cassella wanted to see. “Let’s go test that out then!” she whistled. “I’ll lend you my fire, my light, and my resistance to both, for starters. I think you'll get to grasp it in no time.” Beneath the brighter rays of the sun and the sharper shadows it cast, the pale statuette of a woman almost looked archaic. “You’ll be the war chariot that will carry on, wheels blazing. Stars will fall first before they burn you through."
With hardly a second thought, she excitedly turned to their mentor, already on her tiny entourage to grab Amajiki along the way. "Hey, Fatgum! I'm gonna borrow your boys for a while!"
. . .
She was clinging to the boy, tugging him off with Kirishima in tow. Cassella was quiet at first, and yet she seemed quite happier now, dragging the two off to the center of the court which was a considerable and perhaps a safer distance away from the rest of the seats. It wouldn’t hurt to be careful. For someone diminutive, she was quite strong, as if she could sweep the two along in a hurry if she wished without breaking a sweat. “I wasn't even sure what I was expecting today, but you two are just smashing it." The woman was laughing now, a carefree thing seemingly leaving behind all aforementioned tragedies on the backseat. “And you, Sunny, I don’t think I can ever thank you near enough!”
It was a quiet moment of serenity that intervened, all initial grief finally finding its conclusion. For years, she has waited. Sometimes all it took was the rarest of rares. “Even just for a moment, it feels like he wasn't too far away. He's still here, ready to kick some ass like what he always loved to do. Your quirk keeps things alive, even just for a little while– it’s like you’re meant to give them justice, another chance, no matter the purpose." Perhaps it was an unorthodox way of viewing things, but then again, when did she ever view everything conventionally with those many eyes of hers? "If I get a break after this maybe I'll resume looking for everyone. Maybe I can even find the cause. I was getting hopeless, but I needed that reality check after all." Patting the two at the back, she stretched slightly, rolling up her sleeves, gesturing for them to take the space.
She held out her hands, showing an array of scars that were accumulated over the years. From patches of slightly discolored burns and silvery scars from lacerations or weapons, it was already a faded assortment. There was no glamour hiding them away anymore. “I’ll give you a few notes to remember, Red. Resistance as a term is actually a bit contradictory, it merely looks like it was the outcome. It’s all about understanding that you’re now in one with the element you’re both wielding and defending yourself against, knowing that light, fire, or heat cannot simply harm its own. The nature of your quirk probably makes this a bit easier, I'm confident you won't make the same mistakes I make. Along with your abilities, hopefully, this can alleviate the discomfort if you have to take on something more intense than usual. I'll show you in just a moment."
"As for the fire, that one can be quite direct, whether it's your energy or actual material, give it something to feed and it's happy. Think of any situation, any person, anything prone to exploding– and let that thought be your trigger. Light almost works the same way, but it's a more complex spectrum depending on what you need." She glanced around as if trying to scale the rest of their surroundings.
Seems decently far enough.
“Suneater.” Her gaze snapped to the taller youngster with an approving grin. “The dragon you’re manifesting right now is capable of torching things out.”
“If you can tap on to that… I need you to set me on fire~”
There was a time she saw those wings on the regular, and marveled at the strength of the whipping air beneath them. They were a little crooked and dented in some parts with a few scars adorning the leathery hide – old injuries that lived through battles long gone, some of them she had patched eons ago. Cassella had seen that same split tail smash against structures, leveling them into smithereens, and lash against an enemy beast of the same caliber. Lesser creatures and arms have fallen from it, countless more were rendered by those talons alone. An insidious killing machine, that dragon was once known. And while the glory of that has passed, it was a story that didn’t simply end. The detail and the full reign of the boy over it was impeccable, a human replica perfectly transcribing even the blemishes and scars. To many, it will be a grand display of power.
To the woman, it was a eulogy.
Does he know how unyielding he will be to poison? Was Amajiki even aware of how much those scales have weathered, and how much more they will endure for him? Can he feel the fire coursing through him, ready to be breathed out on a moment’s notice? These were the questions that burned, things Cassella wanted to ask, yet found no words to do so. They felt shattered, closed in her throat that barred back a wretched breath. She was certain that her tears will most likely find their way out before they do, and for a moment so beautiful, there was no way in all hell that she will be ruining that.
Not for a mentor who just seemed so happy to see a student step out of his comfort zone. Not for a boy who was cradling this newfound confidence after putting up so many walls. Despite the bittersweet anguish that came with it, there was closure to be had.
The denial remained, and yet at that second, she knew… this was all that she will have.
Cassella almost jumped the moment Kirishima approached her– so quietly absorbed in these sentiments that she looked quite confused when she faced him. The poor thing looked so concerned, and those scarlet eyes were almost watering. The only time she was able to comprehend what was going on with him was when she slowly blinked, and an all too familiar heat map of the person right beside her briefly flashed upon her vision. “Oh shit–”
It was a shift of emotion so fast, akin to a heavy cloud rapidly eased and lifted away. All that was left was the warmth, and even Cassella's mood seemed to outwardly improve somehow. And yet the question still hung in the air, requesting an answer that caught her off guard regardless. “You could say that yeah. I served him in the war for a while, but I knew the big guy better than anyone. I do take pride in that.” Her voice was quiet. A friend. She could already imagine Draven dramatically protesting the idea. “As to what happened to him, I wish I knew. I've tried so many things and I don't really have a way of knowing. I lost a bunch of my friends at sea, I’m still searching for them now.”
"The friends I've found so far think he's gone. The ones who fly aren’t always meant for the ocean, and I wasn’t there when it happened. I wanted to believe otherwise, but it's not looking so good." She leaned her cheek against a propped hand, still gazing at Amajiki as he fussed around with his newfound appendages. Or at least it looked like it, as it was just a blur in her eyes. “Sorry,” she chuckled, gingerly rubbing the back of her neck. “I didn’t think it'd connect so soon, they must have improved it.”
There was silence for a while, with her wondering how she could shift this mood before the details were laid bare. But the boy was the easiest thing to distract, and the answer came to her just as fast. "Hey Red, watch this!” Cassella didn’t even open her lips, only looking like she was knee-deep in thought. And yet to the youngster, her whisper will reverberate just fine, as if she was everywhere all at once.
Extending a hand, she tapped his arm, and light instantly bloomed beneath the skin upon contact, the faint radiance hounding after her fingers. It wasn't the pattern she was expecting, illuminating jagged features beneath that were perfectly stacked together. “Transmission is working just fine, you’ll be spouting light and fire in no time!” Cassella was clearly ecstatic. “You’re already indestructible as a base, but I’ll be sharing some of my stuff with you regardless. Would you want to check it out?"
“It ain't bad on my end, it feels like how it’s supposed to. I’ve been using this from time to time so I know what to expect.” Her left eye can still feel every twitch, every burn, and it's taking conscious effort not to rub that. She wasn’t one to complain out loud in a moment like this as she took her seat. “It could vary on every host, but my receivers felt something common. They always said their hands feel a tad bit warmer than usual. If you haven’t dabbled in sorcery before, you may feel something cozy subtly running in your veins. You might even discern what your host was feeling at the moment until they catch on to wall it up. Nothing too big or distracting, that usually means it has attached pretty well and the link is working nicely, ready for transmission.” Once more, she was digging inside her bag. That thing was never short with a bunch of surprises, it seemed. “It’s a bit different with the hosts. The process of me passing some of my things to you isn’t complicated either! It’s as easy as a simple binding spell. Ah–!” Pale hands produced a small pack of fudge which she quickly handed to the younger boy. “Here, have a treat, you deserve it for the trouble.”
For the things that she has presented, Cassella only grinned at Fatgum’s remark, once more finding her eyes pinned on the pouch that was spread out for inspection. The inner side has all the clear packets of all sizes, which she has clearly filled and labeled, tagged with a name and the year it was obtained. There was a piece that looked like it was pinched off from a shattered horn, two small vials of differently colored sparkling dust, and a couple of dark shards that seemed patterned with velvety scarlet undertones. There was an assortment of scales to be seen peppering the pockets – some in varying shades of bright blue, tarnished silver, and deep black. One rectangular container caged something that looked like a piece of a bioluminescent butterfly’s wing. On one corner sat a dark mummified piece of sorts on a soft bed of tissues. The others were more obvious oddities and parts – desiccated claws, glowing feathers in a packet that looked like contained firelight, a few small bones that were picked clean, a segment that looked like a rattlesnake’s tail, and charred pieces of something that looked like a shriveled leather pelt.
She visibly blinked, however, when Amajiki found the first item to inspect. While she knew a lot of those things by heart, some of them, she will just recognize at first glance. Draven’s.
A hard swallow followed the forming lump in her throat. She was trying her best to keep a neutral face regarding the matter, eavesdropping on the conversation as Amajiki quietly voiced out his concerns. While she knew she could have validated these worries, a larger part of her psyche was more preoccupied. It didn’t feel like anything the time she was packing them up, why now? And yet a close eye was still kept as he nervously contemplated, only perking up slightly the moment this was popped in. He did it.
He actually consumed it.
Even Cassella was holding back a breath, a little too hesitant to release it. Would he need water? Anything? Those silver eyes were pinned so intently on the older boy, not daring to miss anything else that would happen. The transformation was gradual, and yet it happened before her very eyes. From his hands that turned into inky black talons, the scales that grew forth from the skin and fluidly disappeared, to the growth of horns upon his head and the accents of black that now dotted his countenance, all of it was taken in. While it appeared sparingly so… the details remained, as clear as day– something that she knew she will always discern even with her eyes closed.
“I–” she was quiet for a moment at his remark. “-- I’d imagine so, that piece belonged to a massive beast that has always threatened to toss and swallow me whole.” But never did. A chuckle actually laced those words. Her eyes seemed watery [***watermelon 🍉], but perhaps that could be blamed for what she did to one of them earlier. “How are you feeling? If you’d ever want to have more of that at some point, you’re in luck. I’m never short on those scales in particular.” There were copious amounts of relief to be had that nothing in that manifestation went wrong. There was a sense of this barely contained amazement. Pride. Nostalgia. Homesickness.
It was the complex stab yet profound shift of tumbling emotion all compressed into one, on a very expressive face that still hardly gave anything away other than seemingly genuine smiles. “But that's impressive, Amajiki. It truly is! I think the dragon that it belonged to will be just as amazed as I am." Gesturing back to the open pouch, she nodded. "I made sure that none of these would be dangerous for starters. Some of them might not taste the very best, but nothing that a bit of water or juice wouldn’t chase down so you don’t have to worry! Think about this as a sample pack, I guess?” That perhaps implied that she herself tried to nibble some of these before as an additional test, but of course, she wasn’t admitting that openly. “If you’d need any further information about what else you’d like to try, I’d be happy to answer that!”
Don't laugh. Just don't.
That was proven difficult with the Illustres already wheezing in her head at how Amajiki responded. "No needles on this one for you, Sun, I swear." That was laughingly said, as she beckoned to the three. "C'mon, seats are over there. I'll get everything ready."
With all paperwork and formal agreements done, Cassella was quick to prepare everything to get to work. The box from last night was quick to make an appearance. Administering the host in her came first, years and experience condensed in a few minutes, with the woman hardly even blinking over a syringe that seemed a tad bit bigger than it should be if placed in delicate gloved hands. Her familiar, though veiled, seemed to be quite helpful for sight without needing someone else’s assistance. Even the next part of the installation for the device to her left eye hardly earned a flinch– that didn't need any extra equipment– though that still warranted a moment of silence and a few eye drops.
One was for direct transmission, and the other was for supplementary visual feed and mapping. Both worked hand in hand together, she explained, and it only looked painful at first glance and everything will subside in time. One bloodshot eye aside, fortunately, that part was only reserved for the host, she did promise that a receiver will have it so much easier. Kirishima was up next, she gestured for the redhead to take a seat.
"You can expect slight tingling on the injection site, you may feel something moving at the first few moments. Some users reported a slight sense of hypersensitivity right after the device took hold, though that's mostly for mediums or those who rely mainly on their senses for their abilities. All of these effects are momentary and will go away as soon as it settles in, you might even forget that it’s there." Old needles and equipment were vigilantly disposed of and carefully replaced, each procedure that followed held to standard. "We've never had a reported case of allergic reaction through its history of use, it was designed to bypass a sensitive immune system in mind. I will sense it quickly if something is wrong and the chances of that are close to none, but it's a matter of what you'll be comfortable with."
She wished she heard these things every time she used the same device. Information given so readily without conditions or coercion. A sense of security, no matter how little. The option to choose, no matter how bleak. These were the only things that she could offer for the boy, an entirely clearer path than she always took. Cassella was quiet for a while, her concentration apparent the moment the needle was angled and set. It was a quick, steady sting, as said, it was out in no time. A small printed band aid followed that, a gentle placement of small cartoon pandas after the entire ordeal.
And that's it. All they had to do was wait.
That includes her, who was now concentrating on the first pieces of stimuli she was receiving and slowly giving away. And from the other end, there was gradual warmth. It comes and it goes, like a deliberate throbbing flicker of a distant fire. They have hours on end to acclimate to that.
"In the event that something happens to me and I won't be able to take it out myself, I've already organized it with someone knowledgeable who could do it on my behalf. You can wait until expiry, but I have the contacts disclosed anyway should you need them, you don't have to worry about that part." It was something that needed to be said. A glaring possibility that she wished she didn't have to address, but did so anyway. That was all pushed aside as she proudly tousled his hair. "But~ you're all done! Congrats man, that's a pretty bold move! Give it around five minutes to settle and we'll get to the best part of testing that."
With everything else cleared back and put away, the young woman was left digging through her things. A nudge aside here, one full reach there. One glance at Amajiki, and she slowly grinned, taking something out and sliding it over to the older boy’s direction.
It was a small black bundle akin to a rolled up jewelry organizer, its detailed brocade exterior embroidered with gold and glinting beads, fixed tight by a small clasp. Some parts of the hem were threadbare, but that was the only indication of how old the thing was. Turning to Fatgum, she gestured to the pouch. "I asked Suneater last night if he'd be willing to try other things to base his manifest on, and I'm letting him decide if he'd want to pick something out. He wouldn't need to use any of these in this mission, but that quirk of his just had so much potential with countless resources out there. I don't have much use for some of these, he can have them if he wants them."
"This isn't everything, but last night I curated a few things from my collection and my scrapbook over the years. These came from old assignments, from my travels and some friends. Give it a look, Amajiki. Let me know what you think."
Inspection was out of habit, and other than the first parts of the grounds itself, the benches and the tables on the side seemed like another perfect place to start. They still held up, despite the obvious swaddle of vines and the rust that has eaten up the fixtures in patches. That was where her things would go, a deflated messenger bag, the wallet that she had fished from the depths of her pockets, and the phone that after a bit of checking, was haphazardly plopped aside.
It must be something perceived to be so dire to have the older boy speak up first. She watched the two with sheer interest, not even bothering to veil that curiosity from her face, or even jump to any defense. Their stances, their words, Amajiki’s vigilant nature heavily contrasted with Kirishima’s curious, ever-so-eager disposition, all of that was taken in without the slightest bit of judgment. At that point, it wasn’t even about the strange little device anymore. Bug-eyed and fascinated, nobody would truly guess what was going on inside that head, other than the gears that were obviously whirring to life.
How can one person put so much faith in a single instrument? She herself tries new things with failure first in mind. How can she utilize that in the actual assignment to keep these two alive? How can she properly balance that out?
Just what the hell are you thinking? They will make it out alive.
A flicker of a moment actually took her away from this. Cassella did see their mentor approaching from the warmth that gilded her pale face, yet chose not to say a word, only chuckling out loud when Fatgum made his presence known. Talk about engaging a wagging pup and a very ruffled kitten. The smile that was returned for both the greeting and the compliment was immaculate. “Thanks~ I got some great help while I’m at it!” While she didn’t elaborate any further, she visibly brightened up with a nod when this little dilemma of theirs was brought up.
“I presented it to these two last night to think over. It’s not common for my folks to propose unorthodox equipment to other agencies in a landslide decision so I had to consider offering just in case.” Clearing her throat slightly, she ran her hands through her hair. For a memory of leaving that sullen council call with that peculiar unease hanging in the air, one that she usually wouldn’t feel from them, her tone was somewhat lighthearted—no need to add that to the weight for these two to carry. If anything, from how relaxed she now looked and with her general bearings, nobody will ever assume that this woman was a part of this operation, to begin with. “Red here seems open to the idea of using every resource available. Suneater leans on the side of caution, I can see where he’s coming from. I think both are very commendable.” Brushing away the creases from her suit, she straightened up. “But you’re their formal guardian so it’s only right if the final say goes to you! I wouldn’t mind either way. I was just asked to give it a shot.”
Her eyes were twinkling. That smile on her face just grew, an expression that a particular fretful youth in question might perceive otherwise. "Besides, I wouldn't mind at all if Amajiki sits this one out, I still got something nice for him."
“Anyway, you didn’t really miss much, we’re just getting started. I hope it’s not much trouble getting here, with it being early and all!"
It was the Illustres who first noticed both boys the moment they arrived in the lobby, bouncily taking their host's attention to the point that Cassella was almost horrified at the thought of them bursting out at random. They already had their eyes peeled on the elevator doors the moment they were seated there, patiently curled in wait. And yet the restraint held true, only resulting in a cheering noise of a crowd inside her head that created a good enough distraction from what she was originally doing. With all paperwork shoved back into the depths of her bag, all that was left was her phone and the arsenal of things that she had on the table. Slipping her sunglasses away, that was chucked in with the rest of her things as well, revealing bleary silver eyes that were rubbed back to life, and dichromatic eyebrows that were included with last night's dye. Even with the limited supplies, they truly went all out.
"Good morning~" Her quiet greeting was a chirp befitting the atmosphere, from the constant flow of muffled movement and chatter in the background with the early ones going to and fro, to the subtle hint of sunshine filtering through the nearest tinted window. The clouds still gathered in large patches to blot out sections of the atmosphere, but compared to last night’s conditions, it was the slightest hint of promise, even though there would be no guarantee that this would persist through the afternoon.
Maybe today isn't going to be too bad. Might as well hang on until tomorrow.
As for the woman who quickly tidied up her own table to receive the two, even with the obvious hint of drowsiness, she seemed to be in her typical sprightly mood. She didn't miss out on the breakfast menu. There was still a half-eaten stack of glistening syrupy pancakes to be had, a big bowl of mixed fruit and cheesecake parfait that she was already attacking in between bites, and toasted cinnamon roll-ups that were temporarily set nearby. Her coffee was still warm, smoke drifting out of the lightened beverage as her spoon just kept gradually stirring on its own. Judging by the other empty plates that she had to stack aside, however, she had been absently loading herself with sweets and carbohydrates the rest of the past hour. "I hope you both slept well! It took me a while to quiet down, so I had to ask for a blanket or two."
At least that's what she thought after waking up swaddled by a bunch of that.
No, she didn't remember asking anyone.
Cassella patiently waited for the two to get seated, taking her time to ogle what the boys actually got for themselves. Everything looked so good. She should have gone for the eggs. Since when did oatmeal start to look so appealing? The woman was no morning person and was only drafted through the day by tasks needing to be met, but breakfast food and decent company definitely offered some form of redemption. Kirishima’s query didn’t fall on deaf ears, at least, no matter how distracted she looked. “It’s not too far off, it’s just a walk 'round the back of the hotel where the outdoor amenities were. It was an open court of sorts for basketball and tennis, with a bit of a garden path that separates it away from here." She took her time to pause for a spoonful of her food, visibly lighting up at this. "The weather has been horrible for a few seasons now, so I’ve been told nobody has touched it for a while, even for renovations. Don't worry, we're not trespassing! Their indoor features and the pool have their guests distracted most of the time, I won't be worried about anyone walking in." Stifling a yawn herself, she took a sip of her coffee. "Well, other than Fatgum if he comes around to visit! I texted him for it, I doubt he'd miss out!"
"I’m expecting that the place might be pretty rough, so a change of clothes would be fine, but optional. We’re not going all out this morning, I just gotta see what you two could do and probably look at what we can explore with that. You know, a little bit of flexing here and there."
. . .
For anything else that the two might have forgotten or wanted to bring, Cassella wouldn't mind waiting. By the time they were finished with breakfast, she already seemed livelier– back to her typical cheery self, happily chattering along the way with all anxieties pushed aside. If anything, she seemed genuinely excited about the two in her charge.
The walk there was short, the paved path cluttered with a tangle of overgrown plants. That didn't deter the woman in the slightest, though she did express the slightest bit of intimidation at how easy it will seem to lose herself if she was shoved into the undergrowth. The tracksuit was a good idea, apparently, she was left brushing bits of soggy leaves and blades of grass off her pants when they finally reached their destination.
That open court wasn't just big, it was quite… enormous, at least, to Cassella's standards.
In broad daylight, she could see puddles everywhere, with cracks and dirt now generously adorning the once-flat concrete. A lot of the paint on the ground has peeled off with some of its structures rusted away and she was almost impressed how a year of rainfall and neglect can result in that. Moss and grass have grown in copious amounts, adorning the place with patches of gradient green, and a good amount of ivy has crept in for corner and border covers.
"So~ what do you guys think? Even the Illustres feel like this is a nice place to romp around." With a stretch, she took the liberty of inspecting close by. There had been signs of trespassers in the area– though Cassella has figured that nothing dangerous has been left behind other than a few bits and pieces of trash. The nearest plants don't seem to pose a threat, either, considering their current location. So far, so good. She seemed quite happy with what she got at the moment. If her glowing expression wouldn't pronounce that properly, what will?
"Also, have you two given a thought to what I proposed last night?"
We will be unstoppable.
We'll make them regret even messing around.
Maybe tonight, she could at least start trying to believe that.
"Thanks! We won't leave a mess!" She didn't really leave the poor boy any other option, to begin with. Cassella was quick to turn back with a very ecstatic “I got a go-ahead!”, paired with the sounds of crinkling boxes and plastic. Either the woman just had a peculiar way of setting personal tragedies aside at the moment or she was just easily excitable on a whim, there's no proper way of knowing within the first few hours of meeting.
The door creaked one more time, however.
It was slower, much more cautious– and it certainly wasn’t Cass. What peered back was a gaunt, bald thing that bobbed its head, with features that could have been well-defined if it wasn't so sunken and withered into the skull, and if that shattered jaw was correctly hinged. Cadaverous hands and broken fingers gripped the door frame, and even with the absence of eyes, empty sockets gazed at him with unbridled interest, rasping words already burbling out before they even became coherent. “Ch̷͏i͏̧c̛k̵̡̡í̡͞e ̡c͏̷̕a̕͟n̶̢ ͠h̵e͟͠lp̷̧͞?͏́"́
"No, no, stop bothering him."
Judging from the rolled-up ivory sleeve, it was Cassella's pale hand that reached over to pull the head back by the pinched cheek. It stretched a bit, farther than how any human muscle typically would, and then it was gone with a high-pitched squeak of protest. It left the door swinging. Just behind that door, Cass was temporarily grappling with the wiggling spectral figure that previously sprouted from her hip, which eventually faded back to her with one stronger nudge. “Let’s do this, man. I’ll help you out with the dye as well when your roots are done. Let's not forget your eyebrows, too.”
With two things accomplished, the night truly seemed like it ended on a happier note. The formerly pristine shirt that she had was now a mess of splotchy browns and intense reds for a cape remembered a little too late, with all that excitement to blame, but she didn't seem to mind at all. She emerged with her hair two shades darker beneath the dim light, a rare occasion of color actually gracing her head. Needless to say, she was very pleased with the outcome that she thanked Kirishima for so many times.
Cassella's discussion with the boys was brief before she bid them good night. She'll meet them down in the lobby after breakfast (all the while making a very obvious point for the two not to skip it) and they'll be off somewhere right after. There was an open run-down court that she discovered near the hotel grounds, a place due for maintenance but was hardly touched or visited due to the location's recent inclement weather.
That should do for any demonstration without the general public spectating or randomly walking in.
. . .
Seven might be stretching it a little bit. Even more so for someone who thought savoring the peace at an earlier hour before everything gets busy will be a good idea.
Slouched against one of the couches in the lobby’s lounge, a young woman lazily scrolled through her phone for yesterday’s encrypted paperwork and blueprints, one other hand gently running through her hair. No longer the downy snow white, beneath her pale fingers there was a certain fullness to those tawny strands, shedding an occasional glimpse of red.
Cassella, bundled up that morning in a black tracksuit and sunglasses could already feel the drowsy pangs of regret. When were mornings ever forgiving? Though the bed was nice, no matter how much sleep or sleeping drought sipped in, it never made a difference.
If a full stack of pancakes and salted cappuccinos won't do the trick, all the bustling and ruckus for later certainly will.
Despite all things she knew and she could do, history has proven time and time again that even the likes of her will still get hurt, or even die. There’s nothing in her arsenal that could contradict that– she knew this trepidation holds true. Kirishima had every reason to be, and so does she. “There’s truth to that. And yet out of all things in the world, this is what many of them chose to do.” There was no hint of judgment in her voice. If anything, it was almost resigned. “Even with all these abilities, sometimes there’s only so much that you could do. It’s not an excuse not to try, but these are seasoned veterans we’re talking about who mowed a lot of things that sometimes we haven’t even heard of.”It wasn’t that difficult to nudge herself to sound lighter than that. “And when you’re a pro, you’ll only meet more headstrong people in the future, no matter how much you worry!”
It felt peculiar, telling herself all those, hearing it out loud one more time. To be wrapped and tangled with the fates of impressive people, and to be ripped away from that countless times, sometimes literally where one cannot avert their eyes. How bad do you have to fail in watching over someone’s back to see them die one by one? It wasn’t the first, and it certainly won’t be the last, but are they going to be next? The woman could feel her stomach churn at the thought.
Shira was just one of the many on the list. Allister was another. There were more– there will be more. A brief glance was cast upon the mirror, and that actually caught her off guard.
"The device I showed you isn’t like that thing! I knew the genius who constructed those, he’ll be so upset if it was even compared to that.” Cassella was laughing now. That brief disgruntled look on the boy’s face already had her jumping to conclusions – peerless senses didn’t miss that, but that certainly took her back to the present. A decent enough tether, at that.
There was not a speck of blood in sight on those white tile walls, these warm lights were not hazy with smoke and concrete dust. There’s nothing beneath her fingers but the gloves that laced her hands, and the locks that she was working on. The television outside, the faint voices, and the prominent smell of ammonia–
It’s hair bleach, not some haphazard chemistry in a bucket.
Right here, she was in this hotel bathroom, meticulously bleaching someone’s hair. Right now, this was not the gruesome shade of crimson that she was accustomed to seeing. The redhead’s newfound enthusiasm has a distinctive way of grounding, and pale hands gradually settled the container aside. "They won't leave us on our own devices, for sure, especially with Fatgum in charge," she nodded to affirm this. “Man, I’m glad he’s our captain, he seems like a very chill guy. It’s easy to smuggle more equipment and snacks in, though. I’ll get the three of us covered just fine.” That sounded like a promise. For anyone else’s sake, perhaps she could push these thoughts aside. Let tomorrow worry about it because at that moment, her hair is another dilemma waiting to be solved.
"Huh, let's see. I don't even know what I want, I would have let you go crazy with swirly patterns and shit…" There was a brief pause as she removed a glove, fishing out a stray shower cap through her things. That was passed along his way just in case he needed it with all the clips in place. The next item dug out was her phone, delicate fingers quickly flipping through a board of images that were pulled up on the screen. "I could go for delicate highlights, but that might need more time and supplies to put in–" Her words finally halted. The expression on her face gradually shifted, her eyebrows rising up. “Oh!” She was positively glowing at this point, unable to contain her excitement as she showed the image that she was fawning upon. It wasn’t red, but the idea was there. “Peekaboo hair!”
“Oi, oi, Amajiki!” Poking her head out of the doorway, glittering silver eyes finally found the older boy curled up on the bed with a blanket. “I’m dyeing my hair here, too! I promise it won’t take long!”
That was hardly a question or a request, but more of an announcement.
“I’ve been around for quite a while and I’ve never heard of it,” that was laughingly said. “I’d pay quite a bit to get mine done with something different without much effort. If you come across someone with a quirk like that where you are, you gotta let me know.” His reaction to the photograph didn’t fall short – that she already regretted asking about the said villain in question. Was there any alleged reason for the attack? She will need to look at that again.
Something about that remark actually struck somewhere. She knew those worries all too well, something she shared for entirely different situations and reasons.
“I may not be a huge fan of the old military guys back there, but they didn’t pick us by draw lots, you know. All of those people sitting in the conference with us were formidable folk in their own right. Some flawless records, I could only ogle and dream of having.” Tipping her head slightly, she peered at him through the mirror. “If other teams are counting on us to do the job right beside them, don’t you think it’s only fair to trust them back with that?”
Look at you, spouting the shit that you don’t always believe in.
The Illustres were dead quiet, save for the sound of a rattling limb or two as they passed a few things around.
Truth be told, Cassella has uttered those words way more frequently than she’ll want to admit. Things that she wanted to convince herself with but never happened, reassurances that sounded sincere which eventually fell apart so many times that she wouldn’t even dare count. “Sure, there’s always the chance of things not going our way that easy. Should the others fail to do that, we’ll have a go with her ourselves.” Should the others even fail to do that– that most likely meant one thing. If the attacks can even cause pain to someone with a hardening quirk, the others may have a slimmer chance. Just how strong was this Shira? Cassella didn’t elaborate on that any further. A crooked grin was flashed, pale eyebrows twitching. “If that happens, we’ll make sure she ain’t running anywhere tomorrow.”
That was easier said than done. It always was.
Given that it didn’t take her long to get through all the roots at the back, she already went ahead with the other sections that she could access. While Cassella looked quite happy with her progress, she noticeably squinted the moment the inquiry was made. She was quiet at first, diligently focused on what kept her hands busy, until finally, she started once more. At that point, the woman was just happy that there was something for her to do. That was a good enough distraction. “Back then, I played the role of the bait. Claudia Allister was only the name of the last victim that we were able to record and it just stuck since then. We started off really nicely. That thing isn’t human. Something blew our cover off at some point, and three people in the team were killed in the process, excluding a few victims from the public. It knew I wouldn’t be able to lash out fire with so many people around. The only gain was that we finally knew what we were dealing with when we obtained a few samples, we didn’t have much time to grieve through that.”
“We were lumped into a new group and we went for one more shot a couple of days later– tracked that all the way down to an apartment that its most recent host was living in. There’s a gardener who pitched in to help from the outside to seal with insecticides. We have to use homemade chlorine gas fanned in high through the vents…it got the job done of temporarily crippling it to buy us some time to set up the rest of the stuff we needed to initiate recovery.” At this point, she wasn’t able to keep a chuckle from brewing. “A cover story was necessary and the tenants were so mad, the landlord was sooo red and angry and yelly, but nobody died this time and everyone shut up so quickly when they were properly compensated. I mean, I would be, too."
With a sigh, she shook her head. “I wish– I wish we came up with that when we first dealt with it. It’s not always supernatural and possession – we’re dealing with a colony of sentient worms that takes over someone’s body for control and disguise. You’d think that if we were only equipped with cans of bug spray back then, nobody will die.”
It was an oversimplification that was so casually said, yet ached regardless to say out loud. Time certainly made it a bit easier to swallow. Once more, she peered at her handiwork, and once she was sure that everything was all brushed in, she held out a thumbs up.
“Tadaa~ I think we’re done with bleaching here, you just gotta let it sit for a bit! But then roots do get bleached fast, you wouldn’t have to wait for long.”
She didn't seem to mind an extra hand poking its way out to pass along a clip or two the moment she held her hand out, or an eye-studded head quietly peeking out for a closer look to make sure that she was only getting specific areas. There was a low hum of approval that resounded from time to time, a looming supervisor that seemed to inwardly judge the woman for her work. “We can never go wrong with a lot of clips,” she murmured. "You seem very prepared for this." The only time the twitching limbs froze was when they heard the faint camera shutter of a photograph being taken, all additional limbs, eyes and heads momentarily retracting back.
Did that get them?
Perhaps he should have taken more time inspecting the photograph before hastily sending that…
His question seemed to perk her up. “I wouldn’t worry too much about it! Box dyes don't stay too long on me even if I want them to. I'd still rock it regardless." The response came quick, paired up with a flitting smug grin. “I just skip the bleaching, I don’t think my hair will be able to handle more with that,” she chuckled. “Lest it shrivels up when shined down by the sun and I’ll be bald in patches by tomorrow noon~”
Perhaps she was only jesting? Her attention was quick to draw back to his locks and she looked quite absorbed and serious with what she was doing. There was the obvious satisfaction with that– she was covering a decent area in a short time, after all— that was until she seemed to remember something. "Oh! Remember when I was talking about the case at the conference? For Claudia Allister? It's a long story how we winded up somewhere." A gnarled, spectral hand reached over for her phone. "This was my old group from last year! It was an emergency case that summoned me and I had to disguise myself as part of a theater troupe. We raided a closet and had a huge blast setting up the first phase of the trap."
That photograph that was brought up wasn't much– just a young man with a black scarf taking a selfie, with enough light to showcase what was going on behind him– a mess of soggy outfits and props as if the entire place has been literally stormed through. There was one taller woman near the corner who was bundled up with colorful paraphernalia, ready to sneak away with a drenched carton of pizza. Cassella wasn't too hard to spot– a tiny ghost sitting on top of a few overturned boxes, reading through a few crumpled papers. Short hair fell in messy, tousled ringlets, doused in splotches of neon blue and green as if it was supposed to pair up with the fluffy oversized coat of peacock feathers. There were two other men who seemed to bicker with each other at the back, one burly figure of scar and muscle busy putting up her hair in an updo, and the other one holding a pair of glittering faux faerie wings. It seemed like a happy enough memory to keep, just an assortment of adults mixed up and thrown together in a case, goofing around like it was a typical night out.
It certainly didn't ask for the wistfulness that bled in her voice.
"Say… what happened to that encounter back there with Shira?" Bobbing her head slightly, she leaned back, as if admiring her handiwork. "You don't have to answer now! I was listening to Fatgum earlier while watching the footage, and I'm now curious."