By Ezra Santana
"Angelo, stop drooling. You look like an idiot." Adesina rapped sharply on the Fiore’s head, hoping to be rid of the creepy, glassy-eyed stare painted on his face.
"Stop looking like a starving dog, it doesn't become you—much."
The fox man rolled his eyes at Adesina.
"Excuse me, but do you not see the hot girl on the stage?" He gestured at the center of the dance hall. "Or are you that out of touch with your hormones?"
He thought for a minute before adding, with a leer, "At least, where Avery isn't concerned?"
"Shut up." Adesina snarled, shoving her friend off his seat with one hand, feeling her face heat up. If she had had a choice of where she had wanted to be that night, it most certainly would not have been inside an expensive cabaret-slash-brothel, not retrieving Avery from her mission here after just coming back from a grueling one of her own.
She took a sip from her glass and scowled at the young woman who seemed to be holding Angelo's attention. The girl was pretty, with curly long black hair and a slender figure, but Adesina couldn't see anything particularly wonderful about her, except that the revealing costume she was wearing consisted more of fringe and rhinestones than of actual cloth.
Of course, Angelo had always had more than enough hormones for the two of them.
"You idiot, you know you should be looking for Avery, instead of ogling prostitutes." She seethed.
"Why?" Angelo grinned, waggling his eyebrows. "Getting all excited over seeing Averylooking like one of these hot girls in—OW!"
"Shut up!" Adesina snarled, vein pulsing on her forehead.
"Yeesh, calm down, princess." Angelo just laughed, rubbing the bump on his head sheepishly and stood up, looking around the enormous hall. He started, stared, then sat straight back down, stunned, before turning to Adesina.
The druid found herself very bothered with the singsong way Angelo said her name, as well as the evil grin threatening to split his face in half. Using stealthiness, Adesina edged away, making sure to put distance between herself and that inane leer.
"Look over there." The foxman pointed, his smile dangerously close to popping off his face. Very reluctantly, Adesina followed the direction in which Angelo was gesturing at.
At first he couldn't understand what Angelo wanted him to see. As far as he could tell, it was just some rich old man attempting to seduce a pretty girl who wasn't appreciating the action.
Adesina squinted, trying to get a better look at the dancer.
Muscled, provocatively-clad, long red dreads…
"Oh, typical." Muttered Adesina. She drained his glass and brought it back down on the table's surface with a particularly loud clang and rose from her seat.
"I'm going to go help Avery." She narrowed her eyes at Angelo. "Don't do anything too stupid."
"Who, me?" He asked, as innocent as a fox. Adesina merely rolled her eyes before entering the crowd, intent on beating the man harassing Avery to a bloody pulp.
Once sure that Adesina was safely occupied, Angelo allowed himself a self-indulgent smile. He wasn't exactly breaking his word, per se…
…but the beautiful curly haired woman's beckoning smile was simply too intriguing to ignore.
Avery was not in the best mood.
"If I am ever, offered another mission like this one, Adesina, hit me." Adesina watched apprehensively as her (sweetheart) friend drained her beer mug and slammed it back on the table, her eyes glinting with restlessness and anger.
The couple was sitting at one of the cabaret's tables, a good ways away from where Avery’s now-unconscious victim lay. Avery had unpinned her headdress and dropped it carelessly on the floor, where it lay like a dead, oddly dyed peacock. She kept shifting in her seat, clearly uncomfortable with the glittering, oddly cut black dress she wore.
"You know I can't do that." Adesina soothed, humoring her, while trying also to avoid being punched in the face.
"Do you have the information?" Adesina asked. Avery nodded and produced a scroll that had been strapped to her leg.
Adesina tried to ignore the fact she happened to be wearing fishnets, of all things.
"Everything right here." Avery flourished the fat parchment at him. "Enough dirt to thoroughly ruin that scumbag's reputation." She smiled placidly, "He'll never know what hit him."
"Good. Grab your stuff and let's get out of here." She stood and looked back towards the table she and Angelo had been sitting at, only to find that it was vacated. He groaned in exasperation.
"Great, where is that idiot?"
"Probably making out with a dancer somewhere out there." Said Avery, clearly amused.
"I really shouldn't be surprised."
"But you always are." She pointed out serenely, taking her untouched glass and sipping from it.
She turned towards the dance floor, where the guests and dancers mingled in the strangest dances.
Angelo was easily spotted, being right in the center of the room. With him was the pretty woman that he had been (and was still) ogling, her long curly hair, whipping around from the energy of their dance. Angelo had his arms around her waist, and looked idiotically happy.
"That idiot," Adesina smacked her hand over her forehead, bringing it down to rub her eyes. "Come on; let's go get him before he does something stupider than usual."
She had barely taken two steps before Avery yanked her back with enough momentum to nearly dislocate her arm. She let out a hiss of pain and turned her glare on her.
"Adesina…" She recognized the deliberate steelness in her voice as a Very Bad Sign.
"What?" she repeated again, but this time warily.
"That girl Angelo's dancing with? She's an Assassin."
Adesina blinked, then swiveled her head back around to examine the showgirl, wondering what she could possibly have missed; she was normally excellent in recognizing assassins. But no, even with potential new knowledge, she still looked completely harmless.
Well, as harmless as a courtesan could look.
"How would you know that?"
"I accidently found some things in her room that…only an assassin in a place like this would need." She coughed awkwardly. "Knives and such."
Adesina sighed, "Avery, this woman probably consorts with men would also carry knives; for all you know she could just have the sense to defend herself."
Avery glared at him, "They were knives that you are supposed to hide in your body."
"…I'm afraid to ask, but exactly where?"
Avery simply stared at Adesina before raising an eyebrow.
"Oh." Adesina found this hard to wrap her mind around and abandoned the effort.
"One more thing: her selected patrons; they don't come back."
"Well, what would you expe—where's Angelo?" Try as he might, Adesina could no longer see the foxman or his glittering partner on the dance floor.
Angelo could not believe his horrible luck at the moment.
Sure, a pretty girl was leading him to her room. Unfortunately, the girl's strong magic and well-concealed hairpin-turned-knife suggested that she was a assassin, and was either intent on information or assassinating him.
He strongly believed it to be the latter; except for missions, Angelo had a very bad memory.
Though not possessing the best judgment, no one could say that Angelo was not observant. It was a pity that his observational skills had an annoying tendency to go missing off the battleground, only popping up at Very Bad Times.
The girl in front of him—Ezra, she called herself—came to an abrupt halt in front of one of the several doors lining the hallway.
"In here," she indicated with a tilt of her head, lowering her eyelids to veil her eyes. Angelo found himself thinking that she would be a whole lot prettier—and younger-looking—if she would just wipe the heavy eye make-up off her face.
"Ladies first," He grinned at her, playing the part of the gallant gentleman. She stared at him just a tad longer than necessary; he assumed she was a little surprised, though he barely caught it.
"Not here, though." She shot him a coquettish smile and tugged lightly on his wrist, then walking her fingers up his arm.
Angelo didn't budge. The tugging grew more persistent, but still he resisted. Finally, the girl complied and let go of him.
Sadly, he didn't expect her to grab the front of his shirt and, with surprising strength, hurl him headfirst into her room.
Unfortunately for Angelo, a chair had seen fit to lie in his path, and his foot snagged in one of the rungs and sent him sprawling on the ground. A sudden pressure on his chest and a sharp edge at his neck forced Angelo to look up to find Ezra sitting astride on top of him; her face had lost its coy smile, now replaced with a frown.
"For someone with such a powerful magic pool, you are really lacking in the brains department, aren't you?" She leaned closer so that he could see her face clearly. "Aren't you?"
"I find that my instincts generally do more than enough to make up for that little disability." Angelo spoke calmly as his mind—recognizing that, burlesque dancer or not, the slim woman on top of him was dangerous—whirred to find a way out the situation. The most obvious was to get her off him and run…but he had to take care of that knife, first.
She started, and then let out a snort. "You speak a little too well to a woman. It sounds almost rehearsed." Angelo winced as he felt her weapon nick his skin. He had to do some talking, and fast.
"What would that have to do with anything?" he asked, attempting to be conversational, "I'm just a shinobi who happens to be worried enough not to make derogatory comments to the assassin with a pointy object." Despite the circumstances, he managed what he hoped was a winsome smile.
"A human who worries about self-preservation?" She tilted her head curiously, "That's a first."
"Oh no," he assured her, "It's not dying that worries me. It's the looming threat of potentially being castrated. I want to spread my legacy, should I ever gain one."
The assassin laughed genuinely, though she kept her knife firm against his throat.
"Hm. I take back what I said. Maybe your brain does have some sort of function." Ezra shifted on his chest, "But you seem to have forgotten the one advantage you have." The hand not holding the weapon reached up and brushed his bangs out of his eyes, then trailed over his face.
"Enlighten me." Those two words were barely choked out as he felt filed nails flit delicately over his face.
"No. Find out. I'll wait." There was definite sadistic pleasure in her voice. Angelo squirmed, uncomfortably recognizing that their positions not only left him feeling…awkward, but that she was prepared to keep him there as long as possible.
"Well, if you're going to be like that…the only thing I can think of would be my size." He raised an eyebrow. "Am I right?"
"Provided that's not a double-entendre, it would seem so." She affirmed in a surprisingly mild tone. Angelo grimaced as the knife cut deeper into his skin. "Now why aren't you taking advantage of it?"
"It isn't," he assured, for once able to keep a cheeky retort tucked firmly away. "And again, this knife is very dangerous, no matter how much stronger I am. Besides," he added, turning his head to one side, "The view down here is much nicer, I'll bet."
He used the split second she eased the pressure on his throat out of shock to flip them over, grabbing the knife and embedding it deep in the wall. Unfortunately, despite the fringed, impractical dress she was wearing, Ezra managed wiggle out from under him and attack.
Indeed, it was as though her clothes were actually helping her subdue him, as Angelo kept getting snagged in the hanging fringe and her hair. Considering it wasn't exactly a real fight, more like some bizarre sort of wrestling match, it made the indignity slightly less embarrassing. However, Ezra bit and clawed and kicked like a monster. He struggled to hold her down, but she never held still long enough for him to deliver a blow to her neck necessary to knock her out.
Somehow they managed to end up back where they started, only this time Angelo was face first on the floor, nose pressed into the carpet and his tail swinging widely, and Ezra was breathing heavily.
"You're right, you do have good instincts. But you're still dead."
If it had been possible, Angelo would have liked to point out that in his current situation, death by suffocation was far more convenient than by stabbing, judging from the way her hand was scrabbling about.
Fortunately, the door flung open with a bang and Angelo felt the pressure on his chest removed, allowing him to lift his face off the floor and take a few gulps of air.
"Fiore, you are without a doubt the most idiotic man on this world." Adesina, as per usual, looked much put upon, holding the struggling Ezra by the arms while Avery had a firm hold on the girl's legs.
"Fortunately, I'm also the strongest." Angelo pointed out, getting to his feet with a slight stumble.
"Didn't look like it to me." Adesina returned, somewhat smugly.
"Hey in my defense—she's freakishly strong!" He pointed an accusing finger at the girl, much to her annoyance, as evidenced by the way she tried to bite him. Avery gently yanked on her ponytail.
"Stop that, Ezra."
"Cool it, Avery." She snapped, squirming. Angelo looked over at Avery, mouthing 'Miki?' questioningly. She simply shrugged, while Adesina rolled his eyes.
"Well, there certainly seems to have been a misunderstanding." Ezra had stopped struggling and had lowered her head so that strands of curly black hair hung over her eyes.
"A misunderstanding?" Angelo repeated, a little confused. Ezra laughed, though did not raise her head. Seeing that their teammate wasn't in (much) danger, Avery and Adesina let go of Ezra, though remaining in grabbing distance.
"Trust me, I was not about to attempt to seduce and kill the Fox Prince." She tilted her head a little, studying him. "Although, it seems that it's much easier than people make it out to believe." She added drily, much to Angelo's annoyance and Adesina's amusement.
"Anyway," Ezra continued, "If you three wouldn't mind, I have a man to kill." Head held high, she left the room, shouldering Angelo out of her way.
She paused at the doorway and turned to face Angelo, tugging on her dress to straighten it out. "Let's do this again sometime; just somewhere a little classier." She winked and blew him a kiss before exiting into the hall, her heels tapping on the wood floor.
Angelo felt himself blush, from both mild embarrassment as well as the badly smothered laughter behind him.
"It's not funny." He snapped.
"Actually, it is: but disregarding entertainment value of staying here a little longer, we need to leave now." Said Adesina, setting to work at yanking open the room's window and quickly succeeding.
"Why?" asked Angelo, watching as first Avery, then Adesina jumped out of the window into the dark.
"Remember that old man harassing Avery?"
"Apparently, he woke up, and now he and his bodyguard trying to kill her."
"Exactly. Now let's get out of here before she can catch Avery again. I really don't want to have to clean up another body."