Chapter Three, page three, The City of Locked DoorsMature

The night was coming to Umbras, its tenebrous fingers stretching voraciously across the vacant sky and bearing in their wake the apocalypse's venom. The Undertakers were rising from their crypts below with the creak of iron lanterns and the rattle of key chains. They prowled the city, hastening the unwilling and the tardy to their cells, insuring that all those who inhabited Umbras were behind locked doors when night fell.

Noir watched this transpire from a perch high overhead. He crouched on a wide, horizontal pipe running parallel to the Doll District's thoroughfare, waiting for the night to descend fully. An exhaust pipe burst to his left, deepening the already prevalent haze. He straightened and strolled along the pipe, moving toward the palace. The Shadow-Steel shifted underfoot, gently grasping his boots with every step he took, insuring that the light breeze never toppled him.

Do you even know where were going?

Yes, to this "Academy." Noir turned around the skyscraper's corner with a lazy glance at the alley far below.

But do you know where that is?

Noir shrugged. I don't need to know where it is. The pipe curved sharply, extending over to the adjacent building. Noir followed it, reflexively holding his breath as the apocalypse's venom swept past him. He was in no danger from it, of course, and had not been for a long time; but it still tasted foul.

The pregnant tranquility lasted a few seconds longer and then the doors began shaking in their frames. A horrific cacophony of wails, screams, and howling rose up from below, reverberating off the walls and besetting his ears. The Undertakers still patrolled the streets, searching for those who had ignored the curfew.

Noir lengthened his stride, moving swiftly now that the night had fallen. He woke the city' with a thought, pouring life in its vast, unseen nervous system. It sparked at his touch and instantly brought an ocean of churning knowledge to his fingertips. He dipped a finger into the currents and stopped mid stride.

What the hell did they do to my city? A black, ugly scar rasped in his mind, an absence where there should have been stately peaks. He turned, peering at the Grim District to the east, piercing through the veil of skyscrapers that surrounded him. Noir shuddered upon his perch, metal veins growing in his dark eyes and sprawling outward from his knuckles. What the fuck did they-

Noir! Get a hold of yourself. Noir's lips curled up sharply at this, baring metal fangs, but the warning pulled him from his rising temper and the metal perversion of his flesh slowly withdrew.

He exhaled and lowered himself to a crouch as the shadows churned. Whoever did that is going to die.

So we're changing our plans for tonight? Or are we just tacking these nameless fellows onto the list?

Noir's lips curled again. No, they're the same person; Alucard's the only one stupid enough to mess with Umbras. He straightened and marched along the pipe, ignoring the sounds of conflict from below.

Noir moved swiftly across Umbras, using the ubiquitous piping as a bridge over the monsters that had escaped their cells. The Undertakers had all returned to their crypts; they could not subdue the monsters without killing them and even if they could have done so the only open doors were the ones those monsters had broken. Thus, they left them to their madness driven violence.

Unfortunately, not every monster was earthbound. Some could fly and others made nests or hunted in Umbras's peaks. Noir came upon one of these just as he was reaching the edge of the Doll District. She hung between the peaks of two skyscrapers, a vast, convoluted web strung out beneath her bulbous form. She hissed as Noir came around the corner and spun to face him, her vast, leathery wings stretching out to either side and brushing the skyscrapers. A cord of webbing jerked weakly in her hands, pulling her attention momentarily away from him to focus on her prize; an exhausted Bellua Hyde she had caught on the city streets.

Her attention flicked back to Noir and she slowly began to retreat from him, dragging the massive Bellua up as she did so. Noir grimaced and continued along the pipe, shadow blades materializing before him to sever whatever tendrils of webbing impeded him. She hissed as her web shook but dared not challenge Noir, not when she already had her evening meal.

The End

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