Chapter Four, Page Four, The City of Locked DoorsMature

The whistle sounded again, calling for the final boarders and for those already on board to take their seats. A shudder coursed along the Trolley's length, followed by a surge of heat as it began generating power. The whistle blew again, marking the beginnings of their departure, and various doors clattered shut. Groaning with the strain, the Trolley lurched forward along its rails, propelled by the many, wheel-like gears that protruded from its sides. It moved slowly at first, but quickly built momentum as the boiler underfoot amassed heat and steam.

So what are we going to do about the kid, Solomon's attached her to us.

I don't know yet, hopefully I won't be required to babysit her at night. If Solomon Doll does decide to bunk us together, then I'll have to drug her.

And if she wakes up and notices that you're gone.

That's what I'm trying to figure out.

She's still an Undertaker, you could just erase her mind like you erased the Ferryman's.

No, I can't, not when she's half human.

You could marry her then; you know, bind her to your fate and make sure she never betrays you.

She's a little young for me and that just might blow her cover as a boy.

Elope then, it'll just be me, you, and her out in the wilds having dubious adventure.

Elopement defeats the point in marrying her.

Yes, but it makes a good story.

Not really.

 The Trolley carried them promptly to the Grim District, where they disembarked outside the citadel into a squadron of Grim's guards. One of them, a sergeant with a feathered brow, stepped forward as Noir descended the stair, "If you follow me sir, I will take you to the scene of the crime."

Noir glanced past the man to where three other men in red coats stood off the side, "Are we to be escorted everywhere?"

He turned a scathing glance on the sergeant, who scowled back, "Yes, sir, Proctor Grim has issued a command that all officer-level personnel are to be placed under constant surveillance."

Noir rolled his eyes and scowled, "For our protection of course."

The sergeant scowled at Noir's tone "Primarily, sir, but also to insure that none of you provoke disagreements in our district."

Noir looked at the Sergeant for a long moment and then leaned forward, "I'll take you and your guards; but you should know that I don't give a damn what going on between you lot and Solomon Doll. If any of you try to bully me or the kid back there, they'll be pulling your entrails off the walls."

The sergeant swallowed and, even though he drew back, met Noir's gaze, "You wouldn't stare start a war."

Noir smirked and stepped past, clapping him on the shoulder, "Keep telling yourself that, punk."

Adrian followed him with a grin, sticking her tongue out at the sergeant as she passed. The sergeant and his three guards closed in around them, the gold filament of their blood-red coats glinting in the sunlight.

Noir scanned the other three guards at a glance and then discarded them as Ungifted; the sergeant was a Pathomancer. "First things first, kid, don't go anywhere further than five feet away from me, second, don't apologize to a thug that just threatened to beat you to a pulp."

"The other guards say relations are already strained enough between Solomon and Grim, we shouldn't antagonize these guards; it might start a war."

"War is inevitable, kid, it's just a question of when Grim wants it to start and whether or not Lock and Key will let it happen." Noir scanned the street, noting how the pedestrians clung to the skyscrapers and watched the red guards warily. It looks like Grim's rough on his district

Would it matter if he was Radiance's heavenly savior come to earth?

Not in the least. They arrived at the Academy, or what was left of it, shortly after that.

 Noir gave no reaction as he turned the corner and looked upon the Academy's shattered remnants, but the red guards grimaced or scowled in fettered wrath and Adrian released a small gasp. The Academy had been obliterated, its campus, walls, floors, ceiling, and contents scattered across the wide space it once inhabited. Now there was only the original Shadow-Steel foundation, recognizable by its far darker hue and the fact that it was slowly consuming the rubble.

A widely dispersed crowd milled across the wreckage, exploring the crevices, searching for indications of what occurred here and speaking with one another. The majority of them were Grim's red guards, but every one of the other ten guard forces had sent delegates, all of them officers. There was also a wide variety of pedestrians, ranging from news peddlers, like Harley, to private inspectors and a sprinkling of vendors with breakfast-laden carts.

Noir glanced back at the sergeant, "Where's the body?"

The sergeant lifted his hand, pointing toward the largest clump of red guards, "Near the center."

"Thanks," Noir strode in rubble, his feet sinking slightly into the pliant ground.

Remember to search for his secrets.

Yeah. Noir subtly implanted a nest of shadow tendrils into the ground underfoot and sparked it into live, sending countless, invisible shadow veins out through the ground. A moment passed and then a slow stream of information woke in the back of Noir's mind, detailing everything that lay amid or below the rubble. He found something before long, a small box lost in the rubble beneath where he had fought Alucard. 

The End

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