Okay, so I apologize for taking so long to release this chapter, but some stuff has been going down in the real world (ugh) and I've had very little time to work on this while I've been dealing with it.
Hopefully, it should all be sorted now, and my full concentration will return to this story. Thanks to anyone who favourited and followed the story so far. The number went up very quickly, and it caught me a little off guard. Can't thank everyone enough.
Chapter Two -
The Man in the Black Mask
Jack, Margo, Edith and Agnes walked up the steps towards the front door of their house. The walk home from the party had been anything but quiet. Jack and Agnes were conversing loudly the entire time, each conversation topic they explored being incredibly juvenile. Margo and Edith had remained fairly quiet, with the eldest of the two messaging friends on her phone, and the youngest contemplating that weird boy Charlie.
Since bouncing on that bouncy castle, Jack had felt a lot different, and not in a bad way. He could feel constant energy running through his veins, energy that he was itching to export in a multitude of different activities. In fact, it took the girls fifteen minutes to get Jack off the castle after the party had finished, and even then there were still many complaints.
Jack still had no clue as to the reason why he felt so different, but did explanations actually matter? Not to him. All that mattered at this moment in time, was finding some more fun stuff to do.
After making their way into the house, the four went straight to the kitchen, where Jack made each one of them a sandwich, albeit messing around the entire time. He may have only known them for two months, but Jack had memorized exactly what sandwich each girl preferred. He decided that doing so would be a good decision, otherwise, it would just cause many unnecessary rifts and arguments.
"That party was so awesome!" Jack proclaimed as he set down each sandwich. His giddy smile shot itself around the whole room, before finally landing upon the youngest of the three sisters as she sat in her booth seat. "Thanks for inviting me, Agnes."
"You're welcome." She beamed proudly. "Do you wanna come to the next one?"
"Pfft...are you kidding!?" He replied with a chuckle. "Of course! I can't wait!"
Just as the teen sat down with the girls beside the kitchen table, Margo's phone buzzed for the umpteenth time and attracted her attention once again. Edith, who was getting a little frustrated by the constant vibration, narrowed her eyes at her, sporting a questioning expression.
"Who are you texting so much?" She asked sternly. Margo stayed quiet for a second, finishing her next text message, before turning to face her little sister with a slightly excited smile.
"Just my friend Avery." She replied. As soon as she finished her sentence, she quickly shifted her gaze to Jack, using her expression as a persuasion tool. "Is it okay if I go out in a bit?"
"Go for it." Jack said with a shrug, seeming disinterested. He was way more interested in a question of his own. "What do you two wanna do today?"
Edith and Agnes glanced at each other, both clearly unsure with what to answer with, before looking back to Jack with a shrug of uncertainty.
"Dunno." Edith replied. Jack frowned slightly, turning away as he took the next bite of his sandwich, before having his train of thought interrupted by Agnes.
"Why don't we play unicorns!?" She requested suddenly, prompting Edith to huff at her little sister's idea of fun. Running around and pretending to be some unicorn in some made up world that Agnes would imagine sounded the total opposite of fun. There was no way her brother would go along with something so ridiculous.
"Yeah, why not?" He answered, followed by a loud cheer as Agnes punched the air happily. Margo and Edith's mouths fell agape in shock. Were their ears lying to them, or did he actually just say that? They turned to face their brother, looking at him like he was crazy.
"What!?" Edith blurted angrily.
"Jack...are you feeling okay?" Margo asked. By the genuine concern in her voice, you'd think Jack looked seriously ill.
"Okay?" He inquired with a loud laugh. "I'm more than okay! I feel amazing! Why?"
"What do you mean 'why'!?" Edith boomed. "You seriously wanna play unicorns!?"
"What's wrong with that?" He questioned. At this point, Edith was lost for words. All she could do was stutter, looking at him like a ghost was slowly taking his place at the kitchen table.
Her brother, the boy who punched 999 on the boxing machine, the boy who rugby tackled a grown man to save her life, the boy who used to go around kidnapping and beating people up as a living, wanted to play unicorns!? How could she respond to that?
After a few seconds of stunned silence at the table, Agnes perked up in excitement and began gathering all the details she needed for her little game.
"Which one do you want to be?" She asked. "Arthur, the unicorn prince, or Matthew, the unicorn villain?"
"I'll be the prince one." Jack replied politely. Agnes nodded, taking a mental note, before Edith's loud scowl penetrated the air, breaking herself out of her state of slight shock.
"Oh come on!" She snapped. "You're not even gonna be the cool unicorn!?"
"Well...which one do you want to be, Edith?" Agnes asked. The tomboy crossed her arms and frowned in a furious sulk.
"Who says that I'm playing!?"
"Awww." Her little sister moaned, pulling a deeply disappointed face. "Please..."
"No, Agnes!" Edith replied sharply, prompting Agnes to relay an aggressive frown. She wished her cute pleads worked against Edith the same way it did against Gru, Lucy and Jack. "I've got better things to do than pretend to be some stupid unicorn!"
"Pfft...like what?" Jack questioned, rolling his eyes and crossing his arms. Edith quickly turned and eyed him up with ire, preparing to retort and put him in his place. But to her dismay, her mind went completely blank.
"Well...uhhh..." She replied. She didn't have a clue. There was never anything good on TV during the afternoon, playing in the backyard on her own would be boring, and she had played with every single toy she possessed a million times. There were no other options. Unless...
"Like...go out for a little while." She proclaimed, lifting her head valiantly with a smirk. Now that sounded like a fun idea. Jack narrowed his eyes, lifting his head with hers accordingly.
"To do what?"
It was clear that Edith didn't have a clue what she wanted to do, and chances are, she would end up strolling aimlessly around the neighbourhood, all on her own.
"You're gonna get bored..." Jack warned.
"How do you know?" Edith asked aggressively with a sharp roll of her eyes. At this point, Jack was tired of arguing. Gru really wouldn't approve of letting her go out all on her own, but Jack wasn't her father, and he wasn't going to stop her.
"If you don't wanna play unicorns, then fine." He stated before uncrossing his arms and pointing a demanding finger at his little sister. "But make sure you take your phone with you. And don't go too far. And look both ways when you cross the road. And don't talk to any strangers."
"Okay, okay!" Edith snapped bluntly, sharply rolling her eyes as she got back to her sandwich. She racked her mind while she ate, thinking up some cool stuff to do. She could go down to the nearby wood and find some cool insects. She could go over to the soccer field and kick a ball around. She could go down to the library and deliberately make a lot of noise. Or, she could do it all. Anything is better than stupid unicorns.
After a few minutes of Jack and Agnes debating the storyline in which their game would follow, Margo finished her sandwich and got up from the table, ensuring that she didn't forget her handbag.
"Okay, I'll be back for dinner." She said, fishing through the handbag and making sure that she had everything she needed.
"Wait, wait." Edith spoke quickly, taking the last bite of her sandwich and following on. "I'll come with you."
"You're not hanging around with me." Margo stated sternly, quickly shifting her gaze from out of the bag and to Edith. It wasn't that Margo didn't like her, it was more that she didn't want her hanging around with her friends. Who knows what kind of private stuff she'll tell them. Edith frowned and scoffed, seeming quite offended.
"Why would I wanna do that!?" She replied aggressively, poking out her tongue. Margo rolled her eyes in slight aggravation, before making her way out of the kitchen, Edith following on shortly behind.
"See you later." Jack called out. "Have fun."
The two gave a little wave as they disappeared out into the hallway, before Agnes spun in her seat and turned to face Jack with an extremely toothy grin.
"So then, Jack?" She asked, bouncing a little in her seat. "Are you ready to enter the land of unicorns?"
"Agnes..." Jack mumbled lowly, glancing at her with a humorous smirk. "I believe my name is Arthur."
Nigel rubbed his aggravated forehead, feeling his eyes burn under the intensity of the monitor's light. He had spent the past two hours fumbling around on the internet, reading through a variety of different articles and columns, attempting to find any added information on Venin.
However, the combination of his lack of computer knowledge and Venin's strangely impressive hiding techniques, meant that Nigel had found absolutely nothing. Gru was going to kill him for this.
After another article had been deemed a dud, Nigel turned away with an exasperated sigh and contemplated how he even got to this assistant position in the first place. His father used to be one of the top-class AVL researchers, finding the information he wanted almost immediately and in fantastic clarity. He dreamed of following in his footsteps, but some dreams just aren't meant to come true.
Nigel was an idiot. Or, that's how his father perceived him to be anyway. He joined the AVL in the hopes of taking over for his dad after he passed away, but his idiocy landed him some stupidly degrading job of briefing the infuriating director and pushing keys on a grubby keyboard. Life sucked.
He had never found himself a wife, or even a girlfriend for that matter. He had a small stint in college, where he just about managed to lose his virginity, but that was about it. All of his family had passed on, and the only people he ever spoke to on a daily basis, was his small group of friends.
He owned some crappy apartment in a terribly run down building, where rats and cockroaches were practically becoming rampant. Every single day, waking up in his cheap bed and watching his barely comprehensible TV, was a constant reminder of how his life was going nowhere, and how everything he had ever inspired to be was becoming further and further away from a reality.
"How you holding up?" Derek asked suddenly, appearing from the left and placing down a mug of coffee beside Nigel's chosen computer.
"Not good..." He replied tiredly, rubbing his eyes and sighing. Derek was one of the people involved in his little friendship group, and possibly, one of Nigel's favourite people to talk to. He was a very nice and generous guy, who loved his AVL job and adored drinking himself silly.
"Well, don't worry about it." He responded with a shrug, taking up the seat beside him. "Just remember, only another five hours 'til quittin' time."
"Hmm...thanks for reminding me." Nigel said with a chuckle, taking a sip of the coffee. He desperately tried to savour it, hoping to extract as much energy as possible. "Fancy a trip to the bar later?"
"Stupid question," Derek replied with a smirk. "I'd love to."
"Good." Nigel stated, navigating through some more web pages, each one littered with frustratingly long paragraphs and low-quality images. "I need a good drink right about now. I mean, the more time I spend in that crummy apartment, the closer I get to absolute insanity."
"Well, in that case, how about you come over to mine for dinner tonight?" Derek asked. "I mean, you can't eat meals-for-one every night."
"It's not every night..." Nigel replied with a chuckle. That was a blatant, and not very believable, lie. "But...I don't wanna be any kind of trouble."
"Nonsense." He said promptly. "You won't be any trouble! Plus, I'm sure Melissa and the kids would love to see you."
Nigel turned away from the computer monitor slowly, giving his friend a large grateful smile.
"Thanks." He spoke.
"Think nothing of it." Derek replied, returning the smile. "Now, enough of me disturbing you. You've got work to do. I'll talk to you later."
Nigel gave a nod as Derek got up from his seat and wandered off. The one thing he was extremely thankful for, was his friends. They treated him well, even though sometimes that would make him feel unintentionally worse. I mean, going over to Derek's huge house and seeing his beautiful wife and adorable kids made him feel incredibly envious. Some kind of change was needed in his life. A big one.
He turned back to the computer and continued his pointless research, knowing full well that locating any information was a far cry at this point. What if Gru fired him for this? What was he going to do then...?
Margo arrived at the town park, her gaze being immediately caught by Avery and Lauren sitting on one of the benches. Avery was Margo's best friend. She was a beautiful brunette who loved makeup and boy bands, even though she wasn't particularly interested in music. It was more the boys she seemed to enjoy.
Lauren, on the other hand, was one of Avery's other friends. She was a blonde who always wore gothic clothes and makeup, but refused to dye her hair black. Margo was unsure as to whether or not she actually liked her.
"Hey, guys." She greeted, attracting the two girls attentions.
"Finally." They said in unison, Avery smirking playfully.
"Where've you been?" She questioned, furrowing her brow as Margo took up the spot beside her.
"Sorry, I couldn't shake Edith off." She replied. "She was following me for a little while, but I'm pretty sure I lost her."
"Wouldn't be surprised if she's watching us right now." Lauren spoke, narrowing her eyes and spinning her gaze around the whole park. "That girl creeps me out."
"Hmm..." Margo said, turning away so she couldn't see her vicious frown. She didn't like people talking smack about her family, but she was really in no mood for arguments.
"So anyway..." Avery spoke, sensing the slight increase in tension. "Where should we go?"
"Hang on." Lauren replied quickly. "My brother hasn't got here yet."
"Brother?" Margo inquired, twisting her face in confusion. "I didn't realize you had a brother."
"You never asked." Lauren responded bluntly. Margo didn't bother hiding her aggressive frown that time. "He's my twin brother. Probably one of the best and most interesting brothers as well. He plays in a rock band and one of his songs has over 200 hits on YouTube. He's only 13!"
Margo had to resist the urge to scoff mockingly. 200 hits was nothing when it came to YouTube. Plus, Jack was probably a much more interesting brother. I mean, how can you get more interesting than a former intimidator for a villain organization, who saved his own sister's lives on two separate occasions? You can't.
"Hmm...he sounds...cool." She replied with a slight tinge of sarcasm, one of which Lauren thankfully didn't pick up on.
"Oh, here he is now!" She announced, pointing to him. Margo twisted her head and followed her finger, where she was met by a tall, brown-haired, muscley boy, who wore a grey tank top and ripped jeans. Her mouth fell agape, just like it did the first time she saw Antonio.
"Hey, Lau." He said, his voice just as deep as his appearance suggested, only seeming to make him more dreamy. "What's going on?"
"Not much." She replied with a shrug. "Just waiting for you."
"Ah." He replied. He turned and gave Avery a nod and then fixed his gaze onto Margo. He inspected her for a second, as if he was checking whether or not she was safe, before smirking and giving her his full attention. "I don't believe we've met. I'm Chester."
"Uh...Margo." She replied, mouth still fully-open in shock.
"Hmm...interesting name." He said with a nod. Margo was completely unsure of how to respond to that, probably because her conscience was completely clouded by that familiar feeling again. Thankfully, Avery perked up, electing Margo to regain her senses momentarily.
"So, again, where should we go?" She asked. The four remained silent in contemplation for a few seconds, before finally, Chester came up with a suggestion.
"I say we try the lake." He said, still wearing that proud grin. He could sense Margo's deep stare in the side of his head, and it was adding to his already inflated ego. "There's a tonne of skimming stones down there. I wanna see if I can beat my record."
"Sounds good to me." Lauren said, beaming. "Avery?"
"Yeah, cool." She replied with a shrug. "Margo?"
Margo didn't respond. Instead, her senses had got lost in his voice again. After a few seconds of awkward silence, in which the three were staring at her in confusion, she shook her head and tried to speak coherently.
"Oh! Uh...um...yeah." She said, not making eye contact with Chester. "That...sounds...pretty fun."
Chester chuckled, enjoying how awkwardly she was speaking, before strutting off towards the trio's desired destination. Avery and Lauren followed, the latter giving Margo a look of complete bewilderment, as if she was embarrassed to be seen with her. Margo did her best to ignore it and concentrated on walking properly, which was proving difficult as the image of Chester's cute grin still dominated her vision.
She had to keep herself together. She couldn't let herself get upset over another boy. Flashbacks of that idiot Antonio reappeared in her mind, and the memories of how she felt came flooding back. That feeling of rejection was painful. A pain on the inside that seemed to linger for longer than she was comfortable with. She knew that if she went chasing after this Chester boy, the same thing could happen again.
But, for some reason, she found herself pacing very close alongside him, doing her best to avoid eye-contact. She felt her heart beat faster the closer she got, and even faster every time he opened his mouth to speak. She was incredibly fearful of saying or doing the wrong thing, and she had no clue as to a reason why. But even though she had no explanations, she was very familiar with this feeling.
And she was also familiar with what the next few weeks were going to entail...
Edith strolled slowly down the sidewalk, her eyes fixed to the ground in a tired frown as she walked. The idea of going out and making her own fun had proved to be a failure. After spending an hour searching for her older sister when she got away, she finally gave up and got on with the small list of activities she had thought up.
She started by venturing the nearby woods, searching for any interesting insects. She ended up finding some pretty cool looking spider, but unfortunately, it managed to escape and she couldn't find it again afterward. After twenty minutes of aimless exploration, which got boring quickly, Edith decided to just get on with the next activity.
She made her way over to the soccer field, where she saw a group of teenage boys playing a five-a-side game. She approached them and asked if she could play, getting a few scornful frowns as a response. Not taking no for an answer, she joined in and kicked the ball down the field before running after it. After a few seconds of sprinting as fast as she could, the other boys unable to keep up, she shot the ball into the bottom corner, electing a chorus of gasps to surround the field. Unfortunately, clearly jealous of her skill, the boys took the ball back and shooed her away.
Finally, she traveled to the library, the weight of the kazoo in her pocket bringing an evil smirk to her face as she walked through the door. She hid behind one of the bookshelves, before fishing out the aforementioned item and blowing as hard as she could into it. The extremely loud and infuriating noise rang around the whole room, startling a few men and women out of their skin as their books fell to the floor. After a few seconds of holding back a booming giggle, the woman behind the desk found her hiding spot and kicked her out, handing her a lifetime ban in the process.
Now, she was making her way back to the house, a vicious scowl dominating her expression. Jack was right. She was extremely bored. When she got back to the house, she could still join in on the unicorn game, but why on earth would she do that? That sounded even more boring than aimlessly strolling.
Finally, the house came into view. She glanced at it with a sigh, taking her hands out of her pocket, before walking towards the front door. But just as she was about to take the first step onto the front lawn, a voice from behind interrupted her, making her huff in exasperation as she quickly realized who it belonged to.
Edith slowly turned to face Charlie, who was awkwardly glancing at her with his head down.
"Well if it isn't the stutter-er..." She said, crossing her arms. Charlie shifted his gaze to the floor immediately, that feeling of fear taking over his senses once again. Edith eyed him up for a few seconds, still attempting to uncover the reasoning behind his constant wariness, before noticing the small white bag in his hands.
"Is that...a party bag?" She asked, pointing at it.
"Oh. Uh...yeah." Charlie replied. "D-Did you n-not get o-one?"
"No!" Edith stated loudly and aggressively, prompting Charlie to flinch slightly. Why didn't she get one? In fact, for that matter, why didn't Agnes get one either? Then, it clicked. Jack's rude introduction probably took them off the party bag list, and probably rid them of another invite.
"W-Well, y-you can h-have m-mine if you w-want." Charlie spoke, holding out the bag to her. Edith peered down at it in confusion for a moment, before looking back at the strange boy with the same expression.
"I-I dunno..." He said with a shrug. "T-To be n-nice."
Edith's frown finally faded for the first time in half-an-hour. It replaced itself with an expression of indifference. She took the bag from his grasp and turned away sheepishly.
"Uh...thanks." She muttered quietly. Charlie gave her a barely noticeable nod, followed by his usual fearful shift in direction. After a few seconds of awkward silence, Charlie perked up again, but didn't move his gaze.
"D-Do you wanna...I d-dunno...go h-hang out." He mumbled. Edith winced slightly, imagining what would happen if she got caught hanging around with this strange boy. There was no way she could accept, but considering what he had just done, she also didn't want to hurt his feelings. The party bag gesture was very kind of him.
"Well...um...I'd love to, but..." She said skittishly. "I've got some important stuff to do."
"Oh," Charlie replied, lowering his head sadly and giving a small nod of reluctant acceptance. "Alright."
"I'll...uh...see you around." Edith said quickly before turning around and darting for the front door. Charlie raised his head and watched her disappear into the house. He kept his eyes locked onto hers, watching as she slammed the door closed at speed.
"Yeah...see you around."
Edith sighed weakly as she emerged into the downstairs hallway. That was horribly awkward. She was really unsure as to what was going on with that boy, and the niggling question kept bugging her. As she started towards her bedroom, Jack and Agnes came bounding through the living room doorway, the young girl laughing hysterically as she sat on his shoulders.
Edith looked up at her sister and brother with a frown, inspecting the two of them as they came to a halt. Agnes wore a massive smile, one of which Edith hadn't seen on her since being readopted, while Jack's cheeks were a shade of dark red, his expression curled into one of complete joy.
"Hey, Edith!" He yelled, giving her a large, beaming smile. "Love to chat and all but me and Agnes need to get to the glitter forest."
"It's urgent!" Agnes boomed through her uncontrollable giggling. Jack couldn't help but giggle along with her. "All of the unicorn magic is being stolen by the evil elves!"
"We must hurry!" He proclaimed as he began running down the hallway, Agnes cheering gleefully as she clung tightly to his neck. Edith's watched the two disappear with her mouth agape. After a few seconds, her stunned mind finally allowed her to respond.
"Um...okay." She mumbled.
"Come on! Just move already!" Fiona bellowed angrily, slamming her palm down on the horn, producing that familiar irritating honk noise. The traffic on the highway was unbearable, forcing all of the cars upon it to come to a complete halt. The more time she spent staring at the dozens of equally frustrated drivers in front of her, the more painful her pounding headache was becoming.
She knew that if she still had her old job right now, she wouldn't be in this mess. When she was working there, she was entitled to free air transport, to and from home. But unfortunately, you can't rewrite the past, and the boss of the IVB had decided to relieve her of her duties around an hour before the whole organization exploded in a huge mushroom cloud. Literally.
Now, she was stuck in a numbingly tedious job of stacking shelves at her local supermarket, where she was also forced to come to the aid of any entitled shoppers who were having trouble finding their next bottle of cod-liver oil. God, how she wished for her old job back.
Being the receptionist for a huge villain organization was incredibly exciting. Each and every day, you'd see or hear something new. You were even given a multitude of extensive perks, including full health and dental care and immediate compensation if you were injured in any way. Everything before-hand had been perfect. But now, everything was boring and unfulfilling. What was even the point anymore?
Suddenly, the sounds of a very loud aircraft came booming from above, startling her and many of the other drivers around her. She perked her head out of the window, and was shocked by the sight of a massive magnet, hovering over her car and slowly lifting her into the air.
She shrieked in fear, looking down as her vehicle ascended further and further away from the highway below. Soon, the aircraft belted forward, forcing her to grasp onto the driver's seat in order to stop herself from being flung out of the rear window.
After a minute of pure fear and adrenaline, the aircraft slowed and began descending. Fiona took a reluctant glance out of the window, just in time for her car to lightly land back on the ground, directly in front of her house. She stared at it in disbelief.
She fumbled with the door handle and quickly exited the vehicle, looking up at the small helicopter-like aircraft that was floating above her car. She spluttered in shock, alternating her stunned expression between her car and her house, before finally being interrupted by an unrecognizable man, who opened the driver's side window of the aforementioned aircraft.
"So, now that I've done you afavour..." He exclaimed, making Fiona furrow her brow in complete bewilderment. "You need to do one for me!"
Nigel pulled up into the parking lot of his apartment complex. The depressing sight of the disgruntled building depressed him even further. As he guessed, he could locate no other piece of information on Venin, even after another five hours of research. God, why was he such a degenerate!?
He pushed the car door open and slammed it shut angrily. He had decided that he had reached his limit. If Gru began chastising him tomorrow, he was going to kick off. He didn't care anymore. He just wanted to rid himself of all of this stress and frustration. At least he had a nice night out to look forward to. He made his way over to his apartment door, where he was shocked to find it open a crack.
'Oh, god no...' He thought to himself. The last thing he needs right now is a breaking and entering. He apprehensively wandered up and opened it fully, expecting to see every possession he owned stolen. Thankfully, however, the inside of the apartment looked perfectly fine. Nothing was stolen and everything seemed perfectly fine. So, why was the door open?
"Hello!" He called out once entering through the open doorway. There was no sight of anyone inside, or even any indication that someone had been inside at one point. He shrugged and deduced that he probably left it open on accident this morning.
He turned around to close the door behind him, not expecting to be hit across the head with a crowbar by an unknown figure, knocking him unconscious almost instantly...
Gru and Lucy pulled into the driveway of the house, the former sporting an expression of irritated fatigue. Today's mission had been a fairly stressful one, taking up seven hours of the couple's day. The reason it took so long, was that a small gang of villains went around causing damage to multiple different landmarks simultaneously, meaning the duo had to travel all around the country just to keep up with each one of them. However, Gru did receive a very hefty paycheck for doing so, almost reaching a five-digit number, so it was definitely worth it in the end.
The couple unlocked the door and entered the house, both of them letting out a huge sigh of relief as they walked in. It was great to be back home. It was also great to see the home still intact. Considering Jack was basically a clone of Edith, the house being burned to the ground or being exploded into millions of small fragments was definitely a possibility.
The two continued down the hallway and entered the living room, where they observed Jack and Edith sitting on the floor, playing a fighting video game on the TV, Agnes sitting just behind them, watching the two intently, and Margo slouched on the sofa, resting her head against her palm and seeming lost within her own thoughts.
"Hey everyone." Gru mumbled tiredly, giving them all a weak smile. The only one who turned around and acknowledged them was Agnes, who beamed brightly.
"Mommy! Daddy!" She yelped, jumping up and running over to the couple to give them a huge cuddle. Gru and Lucy chuckled as they bent down to meet her, the small girl rapidly alternating her hugs between the two of them.
"How was the party?" Lucy inquired, slightly cut off by another hug.
"So fuunnnnnn!" Agnes cheered. "I got to run and prance and bounce around and I met a new friend and Jack almost punched someone."
Gru and Lucy simultaneously peered up at the teenager with a frown, who rapidly started slamming one of the buttons on his controller. After a few seconds, the TV blurted out 'WINNER', prompting Jack to cheer and Edith to sigh loudly.
"Come on!" She sulked as she crossed her arms, stopping herself from lobbing the controller across the room at the last second. That was the fourteenth time Jack had beaten her in a row.
"Are you sure you've played this game before?" Jack teased, smirking proudly.
"Shut up..." Edith mumbled, locking her arms together even tighter. Jack chuckled as he quickly diverted his attention to the AVL duo.
"How was work?" He asked jubilantly.
"Tireeng." Gru replied, still retaining his frown. "Jack...what have I told yoo about puncheeng people een publeec!?"
"I can't remember." He replied with a shrug. "To be honest, I wasn't listening."
"Well, leesten now den!" Gru yelled. "Don't do eet!"
"Well, he was talking rudely to Edith, so what else was I supposed to do?" Jack retorted calmly. "Also, I didn't even punch him."
"Den don't threaten to either!" Gru demanded, sighing and rolling his eyes. Instead of responding, Jack gave a sharp scowl and returned his gaze to the TV. Just before he started the fifteenth round with Edith, Agnes bounded over and tapped her older sister's shoulder.
"Can I have a go?" She asked politely.
"No." Edith answered rudely, refusing to turn around and meet her gaze.
"But you've been playing for an hour!" Agnes argued. "It's my turn!"
"How about you come back in another hour?" Edith replied briskly, finally turning to show off her vicious frown. Agnes's expression grew more aggressive, preparing her next move of holding her breath, before Jack leaned over and offered her his controller.
"Here you go, Agnes." He said happily. "You can use mine."
Agnes cheered joyfully as she took the controller from out of his grasp. She moved across to take over Jack's previous spot on the floor, giving him a small hug as he moved out of the way for her.
"What!?" Edith questioned angrily. "I don't wanna play her!"
"Well...it's not all about you, is it Edith?" Jack retorted, feeding her a tone that was a little more aggressive than she was used to. Edith gave him a shocked and insulted expression, before promptly turning around back to the TV with a huge frown.
"Hey." Gru said as he slumped down on the sofa, startling Margo with his unexpected greeting. "Yoo okay?"
"Oh." Margo said, shaking her dazed head a little. She didn't even notice them come in. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine."
"Are you sure?" Lucy asked as she took up the spot beside her husband. "Cuz you looked a little zoned out."
"Yeah, I was just...thinking." Margo replied, giving her mother and father a reassuring smile. For some reason, she felt a little guilty. She didn't lie. She had been thinking. But possibly, it was because Gru probably wouldn't have approved of what she was thinking about. "How was work?"
"Not fun." Gru said, shaking his head. "We've been here, dere and everywhere today. I'm absolutely shattered."
"Yeah, me too..." Lucy spoke, slumping back into the sofa.
"Too shattered to cook...?" Margo questioned, leaning forward hopefully.
"Nice try." Gru replied, chuckling as he ruffled his eldest daughter's hair. "Not dat shattered, unfortunately."
Just as Gru finished his sentence, the TV let out another 'WINNER', prompting Agnes to celebrate and Jack to let out a huge shocked yelp.
"No way!" He cheered, giving the youngest sibling a big high-five as she beamed proudly. "Nice one Agnes!"
Edith couldn't believe her own eyes. This wasn't happening. Surely, Agnes hadn't just beaten her at a fighting game. Unfortunately for her, the health bars on-screen were telling a different story. She had just lost to a six-year-old. Could this day get any worse!? She dropped the controller to the floor and lowered her hat over her eyes, hoping to hide from the embarrassment.
Jack looked to his younger sister, whose frown was large and aggressive, and decided to stay quiet. From having dealt with people doing it to him, he knew that teasing someone with an angry personality when they've just been embarrassed, always ended in pain. And now that he knew that she could pack a fairly decent punch, he actually felt a little intimidated.
'That's my sis...' He thought to himself. He grinned as he gave Agnes a pinch on the cheek, making her giggle, before standing up and moving over to sit beside Lucy on the couch.
"So, Jack...how's de job search goeeng?" Gru asked suddenly. By his tone, he was using that specific question as a tool to berate him.
"Huh?" He responded, giving him a look of bewilderment.
"Yoo have been searcheeng for a job, right?" Gru continued, lowering his voice. He already knew the answer. "I mean, yoo can't expect to seet around de house forever, can yoo?"
"Oh...I guess not." Jack replied quietly, dropping his head in sadness.
"So, weel yoo start searching?"
"Yeah...I guess." Jack muttered, not making eye-contact with him. "I'll...start tomorrow."
"Good." Gru stated happily, nodding before standing up. "Anyway, I should probably start on deener. I'll call yoo all een a beet."
After he left the room, Lucy, Margo and Agnes began conversing happily while Edith continued sulking in annoyance. Jack, on the other hand, kept himself unusually quiet as he looked to the ground with a dejected frown. Getting a job didn't sound very exciting, so why should he have to do it?
He just wanted to keep on having fun. He just wanted to play with his sisters all day long. He just wanted to enjoy every day that came. If he got a job, he would barely have the chance to have fun, barely have the chance to play with his sisters, and barely enjoy every day that came.
He couldn't let that happen...
The night was silent. The breeze was cold. The darkness was eerie. Not a peep nor sound could be heard along the barren road beside Crestfall forest, where Dru was standing around and waiting. He looked down to his digital watch, which displayed '10:58PM', and felt his heart skip a beat in anxiety.
In two minutes, Dru was about to meet up with his next villain partner. He was incredibly fearful of saying the wrong thing, and the pressure was causing him to dread the all-important conversation. This had to go well. No exceptions.
Soon enough, two bright lights appeared at the end of the road, indicating that a car was approaching. Dru felt a lump form in his throat and had to try his hardest to swallow it back down. But, as the unrecognizable vehicle got closer, more and more fear drowned Dru's thoughts.
Before he knew it, the vehicle, which could now be identified as a limo, pulled up beside him. Dru inspected the windows closely, but the extremely dark tint made it impossible to see through. Barely audible voices could be heard from inside, prompting Dru to inch closer in an attempt to eavesdrop.
But, just took as he took a step forward, the doors flung open quickly and startled him back into his original position. Two hench figures dressed in black tuxedos, who were presumably bodyguards, exited the car, proceeded by a tall man and a shorter woman. Dru eyed them up, attempting to extract as many details about them as possible.
There wasn't much to say about the woman. She was brown-haired, looked around forty years old, and stood at around 5'4". She wore a dark red turtleneck and black joggers, a combination that didn't seem to work together.
The man, on the other hand, was around 6'3". He wore a woolly green jumper, embroidered with the letter V. His biceps were of decent size, not exactly huge but definitely not average. He had a tattoo of a flaming python on his left arm, and another tattoo of two diamonds on his right. However, the most striking trait about his appearance was the black mask obscuring his entire face, bar from his eyes and mouth.
"Are you...Dru?" The man asked darkly. Dru gulped quietly before responding in a fearful tone.
"Uh...um...dat would be me." He replied, gritting his teeth a little. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Suddenly, the man's ferocious expression replaced itself with a charming grin. He approached and offered his hand, beginning formalities.
"Nice to finally meet you." He spoke with an evident cheer in his voice. Dru accepted the handshake and relaxed a little, returning his smile. "I do apologize for being so rude and brief on the phone. You must understand that I had to be cautious, for I wasn't completely sure if you were really who you were claiming to be."
"No, no, I get eet." Dru responded, giving him a nod. "I do assure yoo dat I am Dru."
"I can see that now." He responded, moving his eyes down to the villain's feet and slowly lifting it back to his head. Dru felt like he was being scanned by a machine. "I have seen images of you before, and you're the exact representation. I must add, I've read up on your work, and I found it rather impressive."
"Yoo deed?" Dru inquired with a proud grin.
"Indubitably." The man replied. "From what I've heard, you were part of the group that took down the IVB, am I correct?"
"Uh...yoo sure are!" Dru proclaimed with a rapid nod.
"I must say," He stated. "I am both impressed and thankful for what you did. I never liked the IVB. They were never who they claimed to be. Just a bunch of greedy businessmen, going around brainwashing children and tricking evil-doers."
"Very true." The woman beside him finally spoke, unexpectedly grabbing their attentions. It was now that Dru noticed that she had been eyeing up coldly the entire time.
"Now, I don't believe we've introduced ourselves." The man spoke, lifting his head a little. "I am Venin, and this Fiona. As I said earlier, I am planning a huge evil plan, possibly one of the evilest plans ever conceived, and I want you to be a part of it."
"I can't thank yoo enough for eencluding me." Dru spoke. "I have to admeet, villainy was getteeng a leetle boreeng."
"I understand what you mean." Venin agreed. "Heists do get very repetitive after a while. But I can assure you, this scheme that I have devised will certainly bring the spark back into villainy."
"I can't wait!" Dru yelped, beaming. "So...what ees de plan?"
"Before I tell you," Venin spoke, lifting his finger to point at him. "I need to know how committed you are."
"Oh..." Dru replied with unease. "Well...how can I prove dat I am?"
Venin smirked evilly before slowly shifting his gaze to one of his bodyguards. After using his head to motion towards the boot of the limo, Venin gestured for Fiona and Dru to follow him, leading them to stand behind the vehicle.
"How do you feel about torture, Dru?" Venin asked, retaining that evil grin. Dru nodded his head, giving the masked man an uncertain smile.
"Eet's a useful tool." He replied apprehensively. Venin returned his nod, seeming satisfied.
"Good." He spoke. He quickly turned his gaze back to the bodyguard, who was patiently awaiting his cue. "Release him."
The bodyguard opened up the boot and pulled out a man in a black suit and a white tie. His mouth had been taped closed and his hands and legs had been tied up. He squirmed desperately to free himself, but judging by how they still looked firm, the bands were clearly too tight. The bodyguard threw him down to the ground, the air being penetrated by the sound of a muffled squeal as he hit the floor hard.
"Dru, Fiona, I'd like you to meet Nigel." Venin spoke, looming over him as he lay on the ground in total terror. "Through the use of IP tracking, I managed to gather this lad's internet history. He has been spending the whole day, going through article after article, attempting to locate information on me. I don't necessarily appreciate that, and I would quite like to know why he has been hounding the internet in search of me."
Dru gawked down at the man, observing how his eyes were filled up with petrified tears. He was continuing to squirm uncomfortably as muffled screams came protruding from his mouth. If this is how he was going to prove his commitment, then...
"Fiona, would you please remove the tape for me?" Venin requested.
"My pleasure." Fiona stated coldly as she kneeled down and ripped the tape from his mouth. Nigel took in a deep breath before pleading with a tone of absolute fright.
"Please don't hurt me!" He yelped. "I'm sorry okay!"
"Fiona, please demonstrate your interrogation technique." Venin spoke, his hands behind his back as he prepared himself to watch this display. Oh, how he wished for a bag of popcorn right now. Dru could do nothing but continue to gawk in shock.
"Will do." She replied, before cracking her foot against the back of Nigel's head, causing him to yelp in pain. "So...care to explain why you've been stalking my friend here?"
"I-It's my j-job." Nigel whimpered. "I w-was f-forced to. Just p-please don't k-kill me."
Fiona kicked him in the back of the head a few more times in succession, causing Nigel to transition from painful yelps to anguished cries.
"Who do you work for!?" She yelled after placing one last thumping kick into his cranium.
"The...the...the AVL." Nigel mumbled quietly. A small drop of blood ran down his forehead, adding to his complete state of fear.
"Ah, so he works for those cretins." Fiona said, lifting her head and making eye-contact with Venin. "Anything else you wanna know?"
"Yes." He replied. "But I think you've adequately shown your capability in interrogation. Excellent work. Dru, would you please step in for her?"
"Uh...s-sure." He replied apprehensively. He moved across to stand over Nigel, who was sobbing in fear, and felt a small wave of guilt blanket his mind. If this was what he had to do to get the spice back into his life, then so be it. He booted him hard in the stomach, forcing another cry out of his lungs.
"What do de AVL want weeth heem!?" He asked, trying his hardest to sound intimidating and ferocious. It was quite hard to do that when you have a voice mirroring that of a mouse.
"They...they just...they want to-"
Dru kicked him again, this time harder, before kneeling down and picking him up by his hair.
"SPEET EET OUT!" He screamed. Nigel began uncontrollably crying.
"They're tracking him okay!" He yelled. He tried his hardest to keep his voice from quivering, in order to keep his sentences coherent. "He's wanted for many different accounts of murder, abductions and thefts, and they want to bring him to justice! That's all I've got!"
Dru dropped him back to the ground with a painful thud and turned to Venin, who was glowing brightly, and used his expression to question him. The masked villain peered down at Nigel as he sobbed in both pain and fear, giving a prompt nod.
"I think we're done here." He spoke. He gestured towards the limo, instructing his two new partners to follow on. "Very impressive work, Dru. I think it's time we discussed the plan, don't you?"
Dru gave an excited squeal as he pranced into the back of the limo, Fiona following behind with a frown of pure exasperation. Just before Venin jumped in with them, he passed a handgun over to one of the bodyguards and gave him an instructive expression.
"Ensure our little friend here won't bother us again." He said, giving the guard a wink as he gestured his head to Nigel's disgruntled figure. The bodyguard promptly nodded in understanding. He cradled the weapon in anticipation as he shifted his direction towards the AVL employee. The limo's engine started up, sending the vehicle off down the road at speed. Nigel, who was beginning to feel a lot safer, peered up and caught a glimpse of the guard as he approached him.
"What are you-"
Dru stared out of the window, his mind taken over by a sense of pure excitement. As he played out the fun and folly that this new style of villainy should provide...
...he had no clue what kind of mess he was getting himself into.
Another chapter comes to an end.
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