Bam was staring at the night sky, his thoughts haunting his mind. He hasn't seen Evolet for far too long now. A heavy sigh escaped his lips as he kept his gaze on the starry sky. It reminded him of Evolet's eyes. Bam has always thought it was an odd thing. His name was the one who meant the night. And yet whenever he saw the night sky, it was Evolet's blue-violet eyes that came into his mind first. His lips curled up into a brief smile, playfully thinking that maybe that was the reason why he was always so comfortable with her.
If anyone looked carefully at him, then they would've seen the subtle signs of eyebags that were hidden by his bangs. He was grateful that Evolet practically bribed Xiaxia to their side since it made things a lot easier on him, but he was still rather upset that Evolet herself wasn't by his side.
Don't get him wrong, the team was competent enough to cover up her spot in battles. But it felt so wrong that she wasn't the one fighting by his side and watching his back. It wasn't as if he needed the FUG team if she was with him anyway. He could just push on mindlessly and keep fighting if Evolet was there. He didn't need to worry about anyone being hurt if she was with him, except Evolet herself; but that's why Bam was the one who needed to look out for her.
Why would he need another Lightbearer? She was skilled enough in her Lighthouse control, and Bam didn't need her to be a leader when they understood each other without saying a word. Why would they need a Fisherman or a Spear-bearer? There won't be a problem as long as he beats all the enemies. And he kept conjuring up reasons why he didn't need anyone else if she was there, some valid while some rather invalid. Bam could feel the pout ever so present on his expression lately. His mood hasn't been the best since they split ways on the Hand of Arlene.
And most importantly, he was just missing her presence as a whole. The nightmares were haunting him again in his sleep, and Evolet wasn't there to chase it all away. Summoning his Pocket in visible mode, Bam poked at it sulkily a few times. Evolet gave her lavender tea recipe to him not long ago in hopes that it would help with his nightmares like it usually does. Bam thinks that it tasted all too different from the ones she brewed. He slept without her warmth in his hold and woke up without catching a glimpse at her peaceful sleeping face. Both of them weren't a fact he particularly liked.
She called him fairly often, but it was far too short for his liking because they couldn't be found out by FUG. And just yesterday she told him that they won't be able to call anymore until the Workshop Battle ends. His eyebrows furrowed even further at the memory, becoming increasingly displeased. He wanted to hear her soothing voice, see her gentle smiles, hug her and just stay like that for the whole day so he could relish in her calming presence. He slumped down and leaned on the balcony railings, staring intensely at his Pocket as if by some miracle Evolet would call him and let him hear her soothing voice.
His eyes wandered to the cityscape laid in front of him. A part of him wondering if his teammates, both old and new were there. Khun looked like he was doing rather well when he accidentally met the bluenette in the Hand of Arlene, with the exception of the whole FUG incident. It brought about a sense of reassurance to him. At least he knew his friends were fine. Though he didn’t know how he was supposed to deal with FUG if they took actions like that. He was sure Evolet had some kind of plan. She always did, telling him that everything will be okay and if it isn't then she'll make sure everything will work out. Not even once have those words been wrong.
Somewhat abruptly, his gaze snapped towards someone's frantic movements on the lonely street. He glanced at the running man confusedly, wondering why he was running before he caught sight of something chasing said man. And Bam didn't even think twice before jumping down to help the man.
Meanwhile, Evolet was also staring at the night sky aimlessly on the Archimedes. A sense of unease was bubbling in the back of her mind, and she was well aware of the cause.
"Ms. Muse, we apologize for making you wait. The head of the Workshop Battle is ready to see you now."
Speak of the devil…
One of the Workshop Personnels was standing right in front of her. And Evolet's blue-violet orbs narrowed slightly in distaste when she saw it was a Researcher that greeted her. The glint in her eyes vanished the same instant it appeared as Evolet schooled her expression to an alluring confident smirk befitting of the Khun family they all thought she was parading as despite the gnawing anxiety in her heart.
"Lead the way."
A malicious smirk was all too obvious on the Researcher's expression at her reply. And that was more than enough of a telltale for Evolet that someone was going to drop dead today. They’ve been walking through the deserted hallways for quite a while now. Evolet made sure to keep a small distance away from the man, a cold gaze wandering around the metal walls and the dim lighting.
The Researcher leading her way didn’t seem like he was going to stop any time soon, instead a widening grin on his face as the lights began to flicker the deeper they went into the halls. And Evolet stopped in her tracks soon enough with a fiery glare. The man did the same, turning around and tilting his head questioningly with an eerie grin.
"Oho~? Why did you stop Miss?"
"And where exactly do you think you're taking me?"
“To the lab of course! I thought it was rather a waste and of worry that you haven’t gotten any of your daily check ups since you entered the Tower! Especially since you massacred quite a few of our numbers outside.”
She'd been patient, knowing from the start that something like was bound to happen since it was the Workshop she's talking about. But that had been the last string of her patience. Eyes widening at the man's words, her hands automatically conjured up a single Baang that immediately shot off to the man.
There was the sound of the Baang hitting something and repelling, revealing the man completely fine. Her breathing had started to get irregular as she gritted her teeth, forcing out a reply.
"What… did you say?"
"The Workshop is waiting for you, little item~"
With a single leap, Evolet was already at the man's neck with the intention to kill. She practically shoved him down, sending both of them to the cold metal floor. A blade made out of Shinsu clashed with the man's spontaneous shield that resembled hers all too much. Her blue-violet eyes were flashing back and forth to amaranthine. Hands practically trembling as she attempted to break the shield by applying more pressure to the Shinsu blade, teeth gritted as her murderous intent oozed out uncontrollably.
"Right, right! Are you mad that I called you an item? Angered enough that you're beginning to show your cursed side??? To kill all of us again just like you did on that day?"
Amaranthine eyes bulging slightly, Evolet clenched her jaw and gripped the blade with a vice grip. Hoisting the blade again with dark purple Shinsu flaring up, she swung it down with an air of finality. The slash went through the man’s neck without any difficulties this time. Despite that, Evolet saw how the man had been grinning madly moments before.
The same exact moment, a cold hand was clasping her neck lightly and Evolet froze on her spot as her eyes dilated in shock. She could feel a chill down her spine, her heart sinking to her stomach. Evolet wasn't one to be afraid of killing or even lashing out in a massacre if needed. She wasn't one to mind the whispers and nightmares of the dead, nor did she regret what she'd done. Because she did it with a clear reason, simply returning in kind what they've done to her and no more.
What she was afraid of was the same light lavender locks as the haunting linger of cold hands pressed down on her neck until she couldn't breathe anymore. And the burning hate and murderous intent of amaranthine eyes staring down at her. She swiftly slapped the hand away before backing away, lips pressed tightly in pain as if the touch burned her. Stumbling in the haste while standing up, Evolet tripped over her own feet and crashed down to the floor.
She curled into herself, eyes squeezed shut as she tried to shut all the noise and the whispers out. The haunting voice was back in her mind again as she grasped her neck in pain. Gasping for air desperately as she tried to breathe in to no avail.
A few steps away from her, the man’s detached head shook wildly as crazed laughter escaped from it as if mocking the pained girl lying on the floor. Cogs and such coming out of the broken part. What laid on the floor was simply a well-crafted mechanical doll, another one of the Workshop’s schemes. It only reminded her of how much she detested the Workshop.
A certain hooded blond was roaming the other side of the hallway because he had sensed an odd Shinsu on the usually restricted passageway while he was wandering around. He could faintly hear the shouts of the Workshop personnels, frantically searching for their missing experiment who always took a stroll without permission.
Said living experiment was now standing in front of the connecting passage, staring at the unlit restricted section just ahead of him. His yellow eyes squinted under the bandages before he entered without much hesitation. There was someone in the restricted section, he was sure of it from the small sobs resounding in the silent hallways and the eerie laugh he heard earlier.
He found himself somewhat baffled at the sight he encountered after walking for a while. A blue haired girl was curling up on the floor, sobs wrecking her small body as she vainly tried to breathe properly. A strange chopped off mechanical head was lying near her, one that he recognized as one of the Workshop’s inventions.
Frowning under the bandages, the blond approached her casually to inquire her condition. As soon as his hand touched her trembling shoulder, Evolet’s eyes snapped open to reveal a blazing shade of glowing amaranthine. Immediately taking notice of the new presence, Evolet aimed a solid kick to his solar plexus in which the boy blocked it with his arms in a split second.
Clicking his tongue irritatedly, the blonde backed off a few steps and watched her moves for the time being. She didn't make any more moves after that, collapsing to the floor once more with eyes glazed over hazedly. Even from a few steps away, he could see that she was struggling to breathe. It wouldn't be weird if she lost consciousness if he let her be. The blond observed her cautiously, sighing irately as he approached the girl once more. He could guess that the Workshop caused her to be like this, so he'll help a bit at least.
This time he was well prepared, immediately grabbing both of her wrists in one hand as she lashed out to strike at him. The girl had struggled lightly in his hold, clearly trying to get away. Though it did no sort of damage to him and he noted how she was disoriented enough to be considerately weakened. He started to talk slowly in hopes of snapping her out of it, gradually getting irritated at how none of his methods were working and she was still in full-blown panic despite having no more strength. Already at the end of his wits dealing with the unexpected ordeal, he shouted at her without thinking it through.
"Nobody's gonna hurt you or anything, damnit!!!"
Surprisingly, out of all his many attempts and wasted time, that was the only one that worked. She momentarily tensed up before going lax in his hold. He could see her amaranthine eyes slowly regaining their focus, lips quivering as she continued to tremble albeit less than before. Sighing, he let go of her arms and watched as she rubbed her wrists gingerly. It was almost like he was dealing with a frightened child.
Both of them were sitting on the floor in the silence as he observed the girl in front of her. He could hear the small whispers counting from one to ten as she closed her eyes. He didn’t miss how when she opened her eyes, it wasn’t a bloody amaranthine shade anymore but instead a reflective blue-violet one. He found it to be weird, she seemed so weak but her Shinsu felt odd especially when her eyes were still amaranthine. He had no recollection of seeing any Workshop experiment that resembled her, though judging from the broken Workshop doll beside her… there was no doubt she had some sort of connection with them.
Back to a somewhat calm state, Evolet muttered a small thank you under her breath which the boy didn’t fail to catch. Taking a deep breath, the bluenette didn’t waste any time as she stood up on trembling legs. Not even two steps forward and she was already leaning against the wall heavily, her complexion as white as a sheet. The boy sighed exasperatedly at the girl, ruffling his blond hair roughly until his hood fell off.
“Oi, where are you going?”
Evolet stared at him, lips parting slightly as if she was about to say something before she closed it with a confused look. The Researcher hadn’t said a thing about where the head of the Workshop Battle was and she didn’t know if they were even on the right path earlier. At that point, the blond was already aware that she was lost. He considered just handing her to the Workshop and letting them take care of her. But that’d mean he’ll have to go back too and he still wanted to enjoy his small stroll.
She knew the head of the Workshop Battle was most likely in a VIP room, but which out of the many lineups? She just wanted to get away from here fast. Taking out the Guiding Lantern that she attained on the 3rd Floor, her white Lighthouse only appeared briefly before going into invisible mode again. Muttering some incomprehensible words, Evolet poured her Shinsu into the item as it glowed softly and a trail of blue mist materialized to show her the path. She seemed to be relieved by it, the boy noted from the softening look in her blue-violet eyes.
“Thank you for earlier. To answer your question… I’m heading to wherever this leads.” She replied with a nonchalant smile that contrasted with the otherwise deathly pale skin, pointing to the lantern in her hand.
He was testing the waters. He didn't actually want to fight or anything, considering it would cause too much of a ruckus and the girl before him just looked so weak despite the oddity he felt. But he was curious of what business she had here since this passage was typically restricted save for the upper ups. If she shows the slightest sign of malice, then he'll just swiftly kill her and pretend nothing ever happened here.
"The head hired me to provide entertainment during the Winners' Party and distribute the prizes during the Awards Ceremony later on. I still haven't discussed the details with him but it seems like… the Workshop's humor is as dark as always..." She answered pointedly at the doll, laughing dryly in a knowing pain. If this was his way of warning her, then she didn't like it at all. Though as much as she hated to admit it, if that was his intention then it certainly worked.
"You're going in that condition?"
Lies, he decided. It was a fake front if anything. He would've believed her words if it wasn't from the paleness and those legs shaking like a leaf. And he didn't know why but it was extremely frustrating to watch.
In the heat of the moment, the boy made an abrupt decision. Evolet stared at him questioningly as the blond closed their distance. She couldn't see his yellow eyes under the bandages, his eyebrows furrowed annoyed. The next thing she realized, he practically swept her off her feet and carried her. Evolet's eyes widened, mouth agape in surprise and shock. What was she supposed to respond to in this situation? She's never been carried by anyone else before save for Yunuen, though she's done plenty of carrying.
Yunuen did tell her to just kick– better yet, kill anyone who dared to do something akin to this without her own permission. Which she honestly didn’t understand up until today, why would she kill anyone for a trivial reason anyway. It wasn’t as if she didn’t do it often to others. She didn't sense any hostility from him either, so hypothetically speaking it should be fine, right? He did help her earlier anyway.
“Just follow the mist right?”
Evolet nodded, staying silent awkwardly in his hold as he walked without a care. She took the chance to examine the blond, quickly noticing how there were mixed presences that made up the man along with the power he had. She could make a fair guess that he was a Living Ignition Weapon, though she didn’t know why he was roaming about freely considering that this was the Workshop they’re talking about.
There were some instabilities judging from the Shinsu around him. She was suddenly reminded of the Emily device. Hansung had told her that he found something interesting about said device, and that he'll send the complete report to her soon enough. Though that was already last week. Maybe she should bribe him with coffee so he'll work faster for once?
The lantern in her hold suddenly began to shake a little, and Evolet directed her attention to the blue mist again. The trail led to a nearby room, a grandiose huge door that was decorated with golden linings and certainly out of place in the metal hallways. Both of them stopped in front of the door.
“Is that it?”
Before she could even answer him, the door slowly opened with a creak. The bluenette sighed heavily at the grand door. She tapped the boy’s shoulder twice, signalling him to let her down which he did without a fuss. He frowned as she forcefully steadied her trembling legs, taking deep breaths as if that'll let her pale complexion go back to normal. Rummaging around her pocket, she pulled out a small glass flask and handed it to the blond. He stared at the small gift skeptically, particularly at the contents that resembled small stars of various colors and the purple ribbon decorating the flask.
“Konpeito. It’s a type of candy. As a thanks for bringing me here.”
She didn’t say anything more, simply smiling at him before entering the room and leaving him outside. The boy glanced at the door briefly before staring at the flask in his hand, opening it and taking a bite at one of the candies.
"It's sweet..." He frowned at the sweet taste of the candy. Despite what he said, he took another one of the candy and chewed on it mindlessly. He lingered at the door a moment too long for his liking before he walked away, the small glass flask of konpeito safely tucked in his pocket.
“Beta?!” His gaze snapped towards the voice from his left, seeing the Research Assistant named Sophia who's been taking care of him. The blond clicked his tongue in annoyance, knowing his free time was up. He glanced at Sophia who was all too concerned about him, no signs that she had caught a glimpse of Evolet earlier. So instead he just went back with them silently, not telling a single soul about the bluenette he saw. He realized he didn't know her name.
When Evolet stepped into the room, she deliberately stayed close to the shut door. She could see a certain brunette facing away from her as he stared outside from the glass walls. He was wearing a white tuxedo with black lapels, a dark grey shirt underneath and a black tie. There was an air of arrogance surrounding him as he continued to observe the situation outside without a shred of amusement.
Given a choice, she wouldn't have accepted his invitation. Especially when the place specified was the Workshop. She already tried to kill one of them earlier, who knows what she'll do if they continue provoking her like this. But she needed his help to win this wager, so here she was. By the end of it, she was only moving for Bam's sake.
"I see the Slayer Nominee is important enough to you that you've decided to accept my invitation and come here."
"And I see both yours and the Workshop's humor is still as senseless as ever."
"Are you intent on making him the new King Candidate?"
"...I think you're misunderstanding something. I haven't chosen him as my new King Candidate. And I won't unless he himself agrees to it."
"But you won't pick any other King either… I see that part of you hasn't changed at all, Eu."
Evolet was careful to keep her expression neutral as the man turned around but made no move to move from his spot near the window. She doesn't know why he was the head of the Workshop Battle this year instead of one of their Great Teachers, nor what kind of connections and methods he pulled to get this opportunity. And while it was beneficial for her at the moment, Evolet doesn't think she wants to know the reason why he called her here.
"It's been a while… No– It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance again, Gustang-san."