Closed RP Snake Charmer

This RP is currently closed.


Staff member
"Thank you for this. I mean it."

"Hey, it's alright, honestly. I want you to be safe- and I want you to feel safe as well, yeah?"


It was odd seeing Cass like this; receded into herself like a pillbug, hands a thousand leagues deep in her pockets, hood pulled up tight to cover her freshly-dyed hair- anonymous, or as anonymous as she could get. She could never be described as shy, or even nervous before, but something seemed to have got to her that day. Kosuke noticed from the moment she walked into work. Usually, what lay behind her smile was judgement, bitterness, but today? Today she was twitchy, and quick, and curt; had been since the morning, only getting worse as the hours rolled on and the evening drew nearer.

He had taken her aside mid-afternoon, whilst the store was empty and he still had cover from the lunch rush. Guarded as she was, it didn't take long for her to tell him what was going on. Kosuke always had been easy to talk to; perhaps a little too easy. It was a boyfriend, she said- well, a one-night thing, a friend of a friend, someone she hadn't given much thought at the time but now seemed convinced she would be the one to fix him. Well, either fix him or kill him. Somewhere along the line, his delusion had turned violent. Aggressive. Then, last night, as she was walking home from work, suicidal.

Kosuke asked why she had come in that day. She said she needed a different crowd; people who weren't in that circle, who wouldn't bring it up to her as a tragedy to mourn. She was paranoid, too, as the last person he was seen with. There had been a lot of crime lately, and the increase in metahuman violence meant anything was possible. A suicide was easy to fake- or, god forbid, induce. What if they thought it was her?

Admittedly, there wasn't much Kosuke could do to help ('Really, just hearing me out is fine enough.'). He gave her the rest of the week off, offering to cover the shifts he wouldn't otherwise be taking ('But you're already overworked as it is!'), and offered to walk her home in the evenings ('Isn't your apartment way closer?'). She was grateful for that, despite her insistence; they both knew she just wanted the company.

So, here they both were; walking home in the bitter evening, Cass constantly checking over her shoulder, and Kosuke constantly looking to reassure her.

"We did well, today." He said, "Good sales. I know you don't give a shit about that, but-"

Cass laughed.

"I know you don't give a shit about it, either."

"Yeah, but..."
He returned the laugh, "Yeah."

It was just something to change the subject to, really- something to distract her with. His words, like his gait, were casual, yet purposeful; careful, without seeming like they were.

"Did you go to Resident for that- uh, that party they were doing?"

Cass shook her head.

"Not my scene. I don't like being judged- I prefer doing the judging, y'know?"

Kosuke shrugged.

"Yeah, I feel the same. I'll admit, the only reason I go is I like it when people recognise me, y'know? I like the attention. Couldn't give half a shit about the place itself- though, ah, with the exception of-"

"Downstairs, of course."

"Of course."
He smiled, "That old man needs someone to talk to, as well."

Cass nodded.

They continued like this as the walk wore on, idle chatter on local matters, from the perspective of two people who thought themselves far above that sort of thing. It was enough to fill the time, and just about enough to distract Cass from her immediate worries, as well. Kosuke always had been good with distraction; perhaps a little too good. It was appreciated here, though. By the time they had reached her door, Cass had visibly relaxed. Her posture was almost back at its usual slouch, her eyes were no longer darting about quite as much, and the look on her face was considerably less haggard. She glanced over to Kosuke as she opened the door, smiling slightly.

"Thank you. Really, thank you."

"Hey, any time."
He smiled sympathetically, "Like I said, I want you to be alright. You're our best barista- VULTURE would be in a shit load of trouble if you left."

Cass laughed.

"No, but- seriously, Cass. Any time." Kosuke sighed, "You're- like, you're a good friend, yeah? It's the least I can do."

"Hey... hey, man, you too. Thanks, again, I-"

Kosuke shook his head and smiled.

"Go, get some rest." He said, "I'll keep my phone on in case you need anything, okay? Don't be afraid to call me."

"I won't. Alright. I- yeah, alright. Good night, Kosuke."

"Good night."

She closed the door, but paused- opening it just a crack to say one more thing.

"And... and you get home safe, alright?"

Kosuke nodded.

"I will."

She closed the door. Kosuke stayed at the step for a few more moments, in case she had anything else to add, before turning around and walking home. He put on a pair of headphones, playing whatever he had queued up, and turned the volume down; perhaps he had taken Cass's advice to heart, and wanted to be able to hear. It could be dangerous, at this hour, though the streets weren't completely empty; people were just starting to leave for parties, socials, gatherings, whatever they had going on. Kosuke kept his head down. If he saw anyone he recognised, he'd smile at them, but that seemed unlikely.

He had left his bike at home, again. VULTURE was just close enough to walk to, but he preferred to use his bike whenever he could. Sometimes, of course, it was nice to walk, but it was equally nice to sit- although, some could say he did that enough at VULTURE. It seemed that, in the months post-MYTHOMANE, Kosuke's sedentary tendencies had got even worse; pushing the chair around the store like a go-kart, rather than getting up to walk. He had mastered when to stop it so as not to crash, though, so it wasn't an effortless mode of transportation.

His apartment was on the middle floor of a fairly boring complex; nice enough to be comfortable, but nothing fancy. It was the kind of place you'd expect the manager of a record store to live, but not necessarily a rock star- though, when you actually entered the apartment and saw the way he had decorated the place, the latter would likely click into place. The external halls were empty; most of its residents weren't exactly party types. Kosuke took the headphones out of his ears as he approached his door, turning the key in the lock and stepping in, the red glow of the automated LEDs greeting him as he breached the threshold. The door clicked shut behind him.

Kosuke turned his phone off and threw it on the couch.

As much as he hated the bastard sometimes, he was proud of the persona he had crafted- if only for how practical it was in its eccentricities. Everything had been explained away. Exhaustion brought on by a nightlife of crime? Stress and overwork- plus, would you ever consider Kosuke a morning person? Knowledge of Pittsburgh's underground that no normal person should have? Research for the darker tone of VANITY PROJECT; plus, would you ever consider Kosuke a poser? The deliberate mask-slips where he let his cruelty seep through, intimidating his peers to get what he wanted? Well, he worked retail, didn't he? It would be weirder if he didn't have a scary side; plus, would you ever consider Kosuke a pushover? God forbid! God fucking forbid.

There were things to do, that evening, as there often were. People to watch, to track, to alter. He had his sights set on one young woman in particular. Hazel Clarke. 22. Metahuman. A fine arts student with a wide circle of friends; a good support network, helping her through the struggles her powers brought on. Her touch was corrosive. Something on her skin, some highly concentrated acid, could burn through almost anything it touched, so she had to learn to cover up. She was warm, all the time- too warm; wrapping her body in resistant material before putting on clothes, even in the height of summer. The only things that were removable were the gloves over her hands, since her degree required a bit more dexterity than they would allow. Her tale was one of tragedy, and of triumph. She had managed to contain her dangerous nature. She had managed to live, to thrive in spite of it.

Oh, it really was a pity. Not only for her, but for her network as well; attacks like this don't often happen to people who will be missed. It would ruin them. All of them. Scores of strangers he had only read about in passing, brought down from their ordinary lives to shatter against the concrete like porcelain urns of their friend's corrosive ashes. They'd be inconsolable at the news, praying her death was quick, at least- but, of course, of course it wasn't going to be. He wondered how many would try to deny that, how long that denial would linger. He wondered how many would seek out the man who did this, only to find a corpse, or a convict unable to conceptualise his own innocence, blinded by the guilt he was forced to bear. He wondered if he'd see any of them in the future. He wondered how many of them had a future.

But he was getting ahead of himself.

He pulled the jacket over his shoulders; thick and cut-resistant, the leather and padding providing both physical protection and a way to alter his figure. The boots served a similar purpose. Steel-capped monstrosities with knives hidden in the soles and a block inside, above the heel, making him stand a few inches taller than he normally did. The gloves. The belt. The thick leather pants. Then, before the mask, the face. He spent a while in the make-up chair, applying just enough to make himself as unrecognisable as he could. It wasn't flawless, especially from up close, but he looked like a complete stranger from afar. Once satisfied, he covered it with tight-fitting fabric, leaving a gap for his eye. Only then did he put on the wig, the mask, and, finally, the hat.

Lament armed himself, then walked out the door.
She was like him, he noted. Unlike many other metahumans he had met, her physical capabilities remained unaltered; she wasn't much faster, stronger, or more durable on top of her corrosive touch- all she had was her touch. Perhaps, with the right guidance, that wouldn't be so much of a weakness. God knows it wasn't for him, and his power tended to be a lot less destructive than hers. It's not the vessel that matters, but the pilot; and the sonic doomsday weapon he carried behind his teeth. Ah, well. It was too late for that now. The injuries she had sustained were, whilst not immediately fatal, unlikely to allow recovery. She had been fighting for too long, taken too many blows, shattered too many bones- Lament wasn't blessed with X-ray vision, but he knew a case of severe internal bleeding when he saw one.

It was vicious- it had been the entire time. As soon as that man laid eyes on her, he had no choice but to strike; wound up like a cheap toy. Violence was inevitable. Brutality was inevitable. What Lament hadn't been expecting was how long it had taken. As soon as the man's fist made contact with Hazel's face, his skin started to burn and blister. Repeated strikes to the head like that would've killed her in minutes, but there seemed to be just enough sense left in him to make him avoid that area for the rest of the sordid affair- anything uncovered, anything he wasn't protected against, he avoided. It was almost impressive, how well he could think through the fury. Anger must not have been a stranger.

Lament watched from his perch, leaning casually against a wall, recorder in one hand, audio player in the other- in his pocket, as unseen as he was. His thumb rested on the button, waiting for the right moment to drag this man back into lucidity, to make him realise what he had done. Not yet, he knew, not yet; her wounds were severe, but she'd likely survive an ambulance ride and die in hospital. He wanted her dead on the scene. He wanted him to watch her die, right then and there. That should be enough to make him listen, to make him accept the suggestion that he kill himself where he stood. All Lament would have to do was give him his gun back.

For now, he was content to observe.

More than content, actually; he was transfixed. As soon as the man had learned Hazel was a metahuman--the hard way--that became the only cognizable throughline to his maddened rambles. She was a weapon, a danger, she can't just do this to people and get away with it! What was she? What the fuck was she, and what did she do to his face- oh, god, his face!

And Hazel would struggle and claw, frantically trying to find out how much flesh she had to melt away before he left her alone, before the agony was too much to push through- an answer she'd find in minutes, were the scales not weighted, but one that would take her up until her death in the place she found herself in.

She was screaming, but it was unremarkable.

He was making more noise than her; shrill and primal and hoarse.

After a while, he stopped being able to rant. Whether that was because of the pain, or the deterioration of the muscles in his jaw, he was no longer able to form anything resembling a word. He was a mess, a horror. His face was almost entirely free of skin, by now; burned-red, slick with blood and pitted with open sores. His shirt was just barely clinging to his body, the plastic having melted and fused with the skin of his shoulders a long time ago- perhaps when she tried to push him off her, or when she tried to stop him punching her, or when she tried to grab him to calm him down. His hands, his weapons... you could see bone- bleached-white bone, sticking right through the knuckles, threatening to snap with every feral strike. It was nauseating, even to look at. He'd likely die of infection, if the fight were to last much longer.

But, still, he kept going.
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Hazel Clarke. 22. Metahuman. A fine arts student and a great target for their organization, a metahuman who had to suffer daily for the sake of those around her. At least, in Obsidian’s mind she suffered. He couldn’t imagine what it was like to have corrosive skin, to be unable to touch people, to have to wrap yourself in material to protect others from you. The idea that she should have to hide her gift in order to fit in, the idea that people would consider her a weapon because she was born with a gift that she didn’t ask for?

Obsidian not only understood that he identified with that.

He had been waiting outside her apartment for three hours. Her classes had ended and she should have been home by then, according to her schedule. Hazel was one of those people who functioned like clockwork. They were always exactly where they should have been, exactly when they should have been, without fail. That was why Obsidian had started to grow concerned. Her college was a half-hour walk, but Hazel didn’t own a car- so Obsidian set off on foot, leaving Sulphur and Lapis with the Rover to await his return.

About halfway there, he found her– or what remained of her. At first, Obsidian had thought about stopping it. But as he approached, something became very obvious; the man had no control over what he was doing. He got close enough that if there had been blood left to splatter, it would have hit his shoes. Still, the man didn’t stop. He sighed heavily and began walking around them, his shoes snapping with each precise step. He kept his gloved hands in his pockets.

He heard a sharp crack. As he peered back around to the front of them, he saw that one of the man’s exposed bones in his knuckles had cracked. A splintered fracture, the bone split messily and shards breaking off as he continued to decimate Hazel. He tsked and shook his head.

This was the work of another metahuman. Obsidian knew that for a fact. This amount of rage, this amount of single-minded focus, this amount of oblivion to the outside world– this wasn’t a natural state of mind. Of that he was certain. He knew there were metahumans out there who could induce things in other people. After all, couldn’t his brother Sulphur do just that, wring the truth from anyone near him?

Once again Obsidian sighed heavily and crouched next to the fight, taking it all in with morbid curiosity. Then, he stood, dusting off his coat with precise and clean motions, his body tight and tense. Any meta who had done something like this would likely be nearby. This was the kind of thing that someone that vicious would want to watch. You didn’t induce this level of violence unless you wanted to see it. So he tucked his hands back in his pockets and walked further into the alleyway.

“Well, this is unfortunate. Are you still here? I wanted to talk to Hazel, but I would love to speak to you instead. Quite impressive what you’ve done here.”
A man, bathed in shadow, circling the fate-locked pair in cold, unfeeling amusement. Lament could recognise the stranger by sight alone: Obsidian. Hardly the most unexpected arrival, given his usual targets, but it wasn't his intention to meet him; and it certainly wasn't his intention to be interrupted by him. Lament kept the recording going, making sure the device remained unseen inside his jacket.


His thumb brushed over the headphone controls, pressing down on the off-switch.

"Show's not over yet."

It took a couple of seconds for the man to stop. He was angry, still. Aggressive, still. Violent, still. The only thing that changed was his will to continue; it seemed as though the aural anaesthesia had finally worn off. He slowed down, his strikes becoming weaker, more laboured, finally aware of the toll it was putting on his already ruined body to continue. Eventually, all but the screaming had stopped. Then, what was left turned to whimpers.

Lament pushed himself up from the wall, producing a handgun from his jacket. He walked over to the scene, to the victims, and shook his head in mock disappointment. In the end, he was right- more than right, actually. In the end, he didn't have to suggest a damn thing. The man took his gun, shot Hazel in the neck, then himself in the head.


He turned his head to where shadows coalesced, and took a bow.

"Not my cleanest, I'll admit- but you don't care about clean, do you, Obsidian? You're like me."

Lament cocked his head to the side.

"You just care about dead."

Obsidian watched the rest of the act with mild interest. In truth, he was watching with genuine curiosity. It was over quickly, with a shot to Hazel’s neck and one through the back of the man’s head. Blood, skull fragments, and brain matter sprayed the wall and ground before he collapsed. He nodded thoughtfully and then sighed. He gave his full attention to the man who had bowed to him. With a dark smile, he inclined his head to the man, a gesture barely visible through the shadows.

“So you know who I am. That puts me at a disadvantage.”

He looked the man over, in his ostentatious outfit. All black clothing, with a hat that had chains dangling from it that rattled when he moved. Like Obsidian, he wore a long coat. Unlike Obsidian, his was made of leather. He wore a white mask with only one eye exposed. The shoes looked heavy, as though he wore weights inside them.

Just from the hat alone, Obsidian had an idea of who this was. If the rumors were right, this was a dangerous man to be in contact with. Lament had audios of so many deaths, so many murders, that it was alarming. After what Obsidian thought he had just witnessed, however, it began to make sense to him.

“Do I have the… honor of speaking to Lament?” He circled the scene again, stepping over the pools of blood and gore that covered the ground. Obsidian was not afraid of Lament. Suppose Lament tried to do anything to Obsidian, well. That wouldn’t go over well. Unless he got a particularly good headshot in– unlikely given his speed– then Obsidian would be able to reach him fast enough to take him out before he could do to him whatever he had done to this poor man. “Since you’re taking credit for this scene, I take it you helped to instigate it?”

He kept his voice cordial, and his posture relaxed. He would prefer to avoid an altercation, if at all possible. Especially if he turned out to be a meta. Metahumans were so rare, even if they seemed to find more of them here in Pittsburgh.​
There had been reports of murders he hadn't been able to record- at least, he knew they were murders. Some people didn't. Their hearts gave out, apparently, with no known cause. No chemicals found in their body, no burn marks from electrical charges, no alterations in their physicality that would cause sudden cardiac arrest. They were alive one minute, and dead the next- no evidence, no cause. The work of a metahuman. Perhaps the work of Death himself. People liked to call their fellow mortals Death.

But Lament had no doubt the man before him was the culprit. The targets lined up, the motives lined up; sure, he had other people to do some of his dirty work for him, but that was just good practice. He had to do things himself. The methods fit well with what he saw; a black void drawing in life, leaving nothing but a husk behind- no cause of death, no trace of evidence. This was the man responsible. Which meant that, right now, Obsidian had the capacity to kill him where he stood, and it was more than likely that there was nothing Lament could do to save himself if he decided to. He was no match. This man could kill him in an instant, and he knew it.

But he wouldn't.

He reveled, briefly, in the thought of telling Obsidian how he viewed him; for all his metahuman strength, his terrifying power, the ease with which he could lay waste to his opponents, right now he was functionally identical to an ordinary human holding a gun to his head. Lament had about as much chance of escaping a point-blank shot through the skull as he did whatever this man could induce, so why treat them any differently? He knew he was mortal. He knew his physique was human--perhaps even detrimentally so--but he also knew that never affected his chances.

Ah, the honour of speaking to Lament. That was a good line, hard as it was to discern through the smothering irony with which it was spat. He'd have to keep it.

"Got myself a fan, have I?" He laughed, "To be noticed by the great Obsidian... surely, the honour is mine."

As if that vulture didn't snap up every metahuman he laid his eye on. As much as the Vanity inside him wanted the admiration to be something special, it was about as prestigious as the goddamn draft. He was going for Hazel, after all. Though Lament had thought she held a lot of potential- fuck it, he had changed his mind. If she was worth saving, she would have managed to save herself.

"And I s'pose you could say that."

He dragged his words along the crease of his smile, playing coy about as well as Axel played fucking guitar.

"I mean, what can I say, hm?" He shrugged, "Violence against metahumans is... not that hard to find."

The word was said fluently, fluidly, all in one piece, with only the accent to mark it. The wry smile faded from his visage, though it was hard to tell it had. Only the fading of the crease beneath his eye could show what changed beneath the mask.

"Though, I've gotta come clean- most of it weren't my doin' at all. I just provided the spark- the suggestion. Didn't need much of a push. Makes me suspect he was already inclined- makes me wonder how many people are."

Lament shook his head, chains rattling against each other.

"Was she one of yours?"
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“If she were already one of mine, this would be a much different conversation. The only reason I didn’t kill the last person who took one of mine is because he ended up replacing him, in a way. And that was a tough call. No, she wasn’t one of mine. I had been hopping to– well, I suppose it doesn’t matter now.”

He sighed and turned his head toward Lament. He sized the man up. Inspiring violence against meta-humans– he wasn’t too fond of that. That could be an issue. His own could hold their own. A regular human wouldn’t be able to take on even Lapis, as small and frail as she was. One touch, and she would drown them in pain like they’d never felt before. She had been taught by Sulphur himself how to incapacitate an attacker. Lapis, the weakest meta in his family, could hold her own. But the ones he wanted to recruit, or the ones he wanted to save?

If they couldn’t protect themselves, they left themselves open to attacks like this. He took one last look at the two bodies on the ground and then turned a polite smile, with eyes that shined with malice, onto Lament. Not that he would see either through the haze that surrounded him. He could drop the shadows, and allow Lament to see his face, but he felt like that would be a bad idea. Like it wouldn’t achieve what it had with Todd.

“As for being a fan, well. I know of your work. It’s hard not to when you do what I do. A fact I’m very sure you’re aware of.”

He made his way toward Lament, in slow and easy steps. He kept his hands in his pockets, to make it obvious he didn’t intend to attack, or anything of the sort. He stopped a few feet away. He was just close enough now that if Lament focused his eyes on the shadows, he’d be able to see the brief flash of white teeth as Obsidian bore them in a smile that was more teeth than actual amusement. “And you know of me. Now that, that makes me so pleased. I do enjoy it when people know who I am before I meet them.”

He didn’t elaborate on that statement, on the why. Maybe Lament would know it was because Obsidian wanted his name to echo through the underground, to inspire meta-humans to seek him out. After all, Hazel had been the one who had initially put out feelers about him. And he had others to speak to, others who had done the same. The more people who knew his name, the better. That way, his name would eventually arrive at the right people.​
"Replaced by his killer, hm? And here I thought your blessing meant something."

Lament remained still as Obsidian approached him. Distance mattered far less than intent, and there was no reason for Obsidian to kill him; a man as arrogant as that wouldn't let himself get wound up to the point of murder over petty jabs like this. Violence, if he was particularly sensitive, but not murder. Murder would be pathetic. Obsidian didn't strike Lament as particularly pathetic, despite everything- not in that sense, anyway. Perhaps with the right jabs in the right places, he could provoke the beast into doing something interesting, but such a feat was beyond easy for Lament, even if his hidden voice couldn't strike wordlessly at every raw nerve it could touch.

No, anger was easy to induce, cheap- and, if not properly directed, it was suicidal.

"Oh, I know."

It wasn't clear which of Obsidian's words Lament was referring to. Being a fan of his, being pleased he had heard of him, wanting people to know his name- it could apply to all of them, really. He spoke casually- not quite patronising, but detached, as if he had heard this sort of thing a thousand times before, as if he was used to dealing with admirers.

"Intoxicating, isn't it? Reputation- infamy."

His body remained static, but he accompanied the statement with a head-tilt.

"To have people fear your name before they've even heard it."

He laughed.

"And yet, if those are your goals, why slaughter so anonymously? Why not stake a claim on the bodies? Why not own your legacy? Why bother hiding? It just doesn't make sense to me, 's all. Makes me wonder."

His stare hardened; the single, pitch-dark eye sharply focused on the distorted mass of shadow before it.

"What does a man like you have to fear?"

A sharpness made its way into Obsidian’s posture in the tightening of his shoulders, the way his movements became so precise, and even in the way he spoke, his tone clipped and laced with warning. “You don’t know anything about that situation. I would ask you to please refrain from making comments about it. He’s a special case.”

His voice softened a bit at the end as he spoke of Todd. Todd’s situation was so unique that there would never be another situation in which he allowed such a thing to happen. But Lament didn’t need to know that. He didn’t need to know anything.

He already knew too much, as it were. He huffed, a soft sound but still full of disdain. The idea that he didn’t claim his kills was amusing to him. Clearly, Lament had no concept of having to live in secrecy for your own protection. Predators of any kind weren’t necessarily accepted in polite society, after all.

“You’re mistaken. It’s not fear. It’s caution. If it became known that I were responsible directly for those deaths, then it would affect my business and my safety during the day when I must wear a real face. That is, if I were responsible for it. I never said I was. I’m curious as to what gave you the idea I was, as well.”

His smooth voice was less clipped now, his tone back to being somewhat soft and polite. He pulled his hands from his pockets and began to fiddle with the straps on his gloves, adjusting the tightness of the slip closure. He tugged on the straps and looked at Lament, his head inclined while he waited for the man’s response.​
And there it was- one of his nerves. Whatever this new recruit had done, it was enough to cause a wound, cause a weakness. A special case, indeed. For a moment, Lament wondered if this case was like him--a man able to strike at the heart, leaving the body unscathed--but Obsidian surrounded himself with those of similar oddity, surely one of them would be able to resist such methods, or at least point them out. After all, he himself was able to detect foul play in the scene prior; he must, at the very least, had observed this sort of thing before. Then- ah, there must have been a human behind the meta.

In an instant, Lament's respect for the man began to freefall. He had assumed his mask of humanity was a recruitment tactic; a lure, meant to draw people to his side so they can further his goals. He had assumed that the void before him could mirror the void within him. He wasn't expecting Obsidian to be the sentimental type- not genuinely, at least. It seemed almost as much of a waste as the cause, to be emotional, to be imperfect. Was that not something he had learned to remove? Did- god forbid, did he think he didn't have to?

"Mm, I'll say no more, then."

His posture remained casual, and his hands remained in his pockets, despite Obsidian removing his. This new recruit, this one exception, this special case- Lament felt an almost pathological obsession to ensure this was someone he'd regret. To pull out the arrow, to make him bleed, to close the wound and make him stronger for it. Like a single wrong note in a ten-minute solo, the fact he was already so close made it all the more...

Lament shrugged.

"Oh, I know that." He said, "I ain't askin' about the man behind the shadow, I'm askin' about the shadow itself. 's far as I can tell, Obsidian is only known to folk like me, and folk like her."

He pointed to Hazel's corpse.

"But it's humans you wanna get to, right? Well- how are they gonna fear somethin' they don't even know exists? There are about fifty goddamn people waitin' in line to claim credit for every unsolved murder- your caution is makin' yours the last fake-name on that list."

He laughed.

"Whereas someone like me- well, I'll tell you; I ain't killed a soul in this town, and people treat me like I'm the Devil himself. The fear of a scavenger. It's like I said- reputation is intoxicating."

His voice dropped a little quieter; though, shockingly, remained unarmed.

"But you didn't answer my question, did ya? I asked what a man like you has to fear."

Obsidian paused in his movements, his hand tugging on the strap of his glove. Then, he flexed his hand and undid the glove on his left hand. He turned the bare palm upward toward Lament. Across his palm was a deep and ragged scar. A scar from a serrated knife. “Even the strongest of us can fall prey to men when we aren’t careful. I’ve learned from experience that no one is safe, and that you can’t trust a single soul except for those who are just as hunted as you are. What I fear is not being known for what I do but for my family being known”

He paused for another second, then slid his hand smoothly back into the leather glove. Lament had some points, but all of them were refuted by his concern for his family. “I won’t risk the others for a chance at becoming the monster for people I hate. Besides– I like when they fear the dark, and not when they fear me. When they fear the dark, they fear each other. They don’t fear a meta. If I let them fear the shadows, then they would turn that fear on people like her.”

He gestured to the bloody pulp that used to be Hazel. “This, right here, is the reason I don’t take credit for things I… may or may not have done. I don’t want to inspire fear. No, I want them to fear each other as much as we fear them, and then while they’re tearing each other apart, that’s when– well, I have big plans.”

He finished securing the glove and then stuck his hands back into his pockets. He didn’t really expect Lament to understand what he was talking about. Lament, who was fine with turning violence against meta-humans with his vague abilities. And on that note…

“Besides, I’m not the only one not taking full credit for what I may or may not be doing. You don’t just inspire such intense violence. Such uncontrollable rage. What’s your secret, Lament? What are you trying to hide?”
So, trust was bound to persecution, was it? Though hardly surprising, the sentiment sent another cold snap of disappointment through Lament. The idea that there was some intrinsic, inseparable solidarity between all who have suffered the same way; that the fire his cruelty was forged in had managed to melt their desires together, so that none could ever separate. It was... cute, almost- and sad, certainly. To feel a misery so intense as to cause a delusion like this; to force the belief that it somehow managed to strip all those involved of their individuality, their own desires, their ability to act as anything but a persecuted collective. Friends. Family. Us. The idea that they'd all believe the same; you've suffered that much already, it would be unthinkable to make you suffer anymore.

How tragic, that Obsidian was the strongest believer in his own dehumanisation. How tragic, that Lament, of all people, thought he was better than this.


He sighed lightly, shifting a little in place. Lament looked uncomfortable- convincingly so.

"That sorta thing changes you, don't it? Makes you sharper- makes you colder." He shrugged, "You really are like your namesake, aren't ya? Your strength, your sharpness, is revealed only when you've been shattered into a thousand pieces."

His posture became tense for a moment, and his voice grew quieter.

"I hope you got 'em back for that. Not everyone can."

Was Lament talking about himself? A close friend? Another, nebulous us? It would explain the tension, certainly; the discomfort, as well. His own scars were hidden by his clothing, as Obsidians were before, but that didn't mean they weren't there. Perhaps the two had common ground, perhaps they could make a connection...

He gestured vaguely towards Hazel, as if to stop that thought in its tracks. He hoped his companion was observant enough to pick that up- his reticence, his guardedness, the idea that there was something inside him to guard.

"Oh, tearing each other apart- now you're speakin' my language."

Lament's grin could be heard through his words; overcompensating, perhaps, for his prior discomfort.

"Though, ah- word of advice. They ain't gonna be targeting other humans for the type of murders you commit. With an unseen shadow bringing death with no known cause- you're right, they ain't gonna be targeting a meta. They're gonna be targeting all metas."

He shrugged.

"Of course, if revolution by means of starting a war is what you want, then you're going about it the right way- just know you're making my job easier as well, yeah? I won't even have to spark the next Hazel."

A laugh escaped him; low, callous, and still, somehow, unarmed.

"I ain't tryin' to hide shit, Obsidian." He said, "You just haven't been askin' the right questions."
“You’d be surprised at what humans think was caused by other humans. From what I understand, the media is referring to it already as an untraceable poison. It helps that I don’t kill everyone I feed off. My targets of choice tend not to remember the event all that well either.” The admission that Obsidian’s victims far exceeded the number of bodies found– well, he said it with a smile, one that bled into his words.

“Until they put the pieces together, well. By the time they do, it will be too late. Revolution by war– you could say that’s close to what I’m planning.”

He wouldn’t be saying that he wanted to radicalize every meta he could get his hands on, that he’d be teaching them how to defend themselves against the coming onslaught. He wouldn’t talk about how his war had already begun, how he was dealing to so many gangs and private entities already. He’d let them tear themselves apart, and then he would come for whatever was left.

“But, what are the right questions, Lament? Where did you get that… fabulous hat?” He said it with so much disdain and sarcasm, all while looking down and examining his shoes, as though they were more interesting than the conversation at hand. Then he looked back up and tilted his head to the side.

“Are you a meta, Lament? Or just really persuasive? Because this, this wasn’t just persuasion. I know mind-altering powers when I see them. A good friend of mine can do something, ah, not quite like that, but she can fuck with your brain. So tell me, Lament, what do you do?”
So, he fed off them, did he? For a man who left no wounds, took no blood, no flesh, nothing at all from his victims except for their lives- what remained for him to feed on? Lament had read the reports. This untraceable poison as the media decided to cover it up as, it didn't have any physical symptoms- it just killed. Cardiac arrest had been his first thought. The idea that Obsidian could trip the cardiovascular system in some way, inducing a heart attack by touch, but that wouldn't explain what he ate. It was a question that remained as such for all of five seconds, before the obvious--and only--answer revealed itself.


It would explain a lot more than just the murders, if that were the case. The survivors; they'd be disoriented, barely conscious throughout the ordeal, so of course they wouldn't remember. The confidence; sure, Lament already knew how easily Obsidian could kill him, but the man knew he was a meta- hearts aren't a thing all metahumans need to have, but energy? Oh, and it even explained the shadows; at first, he had assumed they were chemical, some sort of heavy smoke, but knowing all this- well, it explained how easily they covered him, for one. And the rest. It explained everything.

And yet, it left some questions unanswered. Questions of scope, of limitations- not just of Obsidian, but of those he fed from. This man could take energy, couldn't he? Now, who did Lament know who had an excess of the stuff?

"People are more likely to believe in fairytales than you might think- if you don't hand them what you want them to believe, if- god forbid, if you let them come up with their own narrative..."

He shook his head.

"You ain't playin' chess, here. You can move their pawns as well, not just yours. Make sure you do- I wanna see where this great uprising shit is going."

The comment on the hat, sarcastic though it was, prompted an equally ingenuine pose. Lament had made the hat himself. It was large, impractical, and only really intimidating if you thought about what it represented; a man so confident that he wouldn't engage in combat that he'd be willing to wear something as cumbersome as this.

And the questions that followed, of course, prompted a smile.

"Would it make this better if I were?"

He tilted his head to the side, listening to the chains clink against each other.

"No- you already know the answer. If you thought I was human, you would've killed me by now. I'll admit- you're putting up with a hell of a lot of bullshit here. It just wouldn't be worth it if there wasn't something already there, would it?"

Lament shook his head.

"To answer your question, Obsidian; just as you control shadow, I control people. Simple as that."

Hazel lay, face-down, bleeding acid into the rain-soaked streets before them. Beside her, the body of the man who killed her, his skin still dissolving long past his death, as the acid ate further and further towards his core. Lament didn't even have to look at them- he didn't have to point at them. Simple as that, he said. Simple as that.

"But I'm wasted on myself, don't you think? A weapon of mass suggestion..."

He clicked his tongue. Firing a blank.

"Indiscriminate? Or simply aimless?"
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Obsidian had, in fact, put up with a lot of bullshit in this conversation. Snide and softly spoken comments about his creed, about his convictions, about his methods. The clear disdain for his beliefs. It was enough to make Obsidian want to close the space between them and wrap his hand around the man’s throat. But, then it came. And from Lament himself, and not from Obsidian.

A proposal.

A small smile formed on Obsidian’s lips that grew into a sharp toothed grin. He took a few more steps around the blood and acid as they spread across the ground. He brought himself, finally up to the man. Maybe three feet between them, and Obsidian looked down at him. He let the shadows part just enough that his sharp smile and a hazy view of his eyes could be seen. Just light enough that his eye color couldn’t quite be made out outside of “light”.

He looked Lament over in a moment of silence, listening to the chains rattling. He fixed his gaze on the one eye that was showing. The mask completely covered the rest of his face, but Obsidian could make guesses. He could see the eye, mirrored on the other side of his face.

“Aimless. Directionless. In need of a cause to point you forward. Yes, I do believe that could be your problem. I could offer you something to focus those gifts of yours on.”

He took his hands from his pocket and reached into his coat’s breast pocket. He pulled out a small card, printed on heavy paper stock, a slightly textured feel to it. As it moved in the light the ink went from black to red and back. It had very simple and neat text written on it, as though by hand instead of printed. On further inspection, small imperfections could be seen, confirming this. It read:


The numbers shifted in the light, blood red and black mixing together in a swirl. His sharp smile stayed on his face as he held the card out between his index and middle fingers with a dramatic flourish.

“I can provide you with that direction. With a cause. Would you like to see the world burn, Lament?”
Lament took the card in his gloved hand. It felt premium; thick paper, metallic ink, dark flecks marking the pulp- hand-pressed, perhaps? It seemed designed to give off an air of wealth, of class. The mark of a Lord who would be King, to all the noblemen he could rally to his side- your fortune will be preserved, will be doubled. Your lives will be changed, will be saved. Your power will be great, will be mine. Take this for me. Help me to Take.


Obsidian was close, now; too close, for some, but Lament knew their prior distance was more a courtesy than a buffer.

"I want it to collapse. I want it to break. I want it to stand on the clifftops over the storm, drowning its shivering body with gasoline, screaming, laughing, only silent when the fumes fill its lungs and force its breath to catch. I want it to take a lighter and stare, hypnotised by the flame, dreading its ravenous embrace but bringing it to its chest regardless, setting itself ablaze in raucous purity- blisters swarming in futile insulation, hair shedding sparks like fireworks, flesh sloughing down into the churning waves below, from its perch, from its throne. I want it to know suffering on a level it cannot conceive, to crave it on a level it cannot deny. I want its madness to be biblical."

He slipped the card into his jacket.

"And then, Obsidian, I want the rain to put it out."

A laugh.

"So it's forced to do it again."