-The Mala Suerte Chronicles-
Part 1. Prologue in the Sand.
"The City looks so pretty do you wanna burn it with me?" –Hollywood Undead
The building is abandoned. For now. The walls are aged and peeling and most of the windows no longer hold glass. Wind whips through the abandoned apartment. No one has lived in it for at least a decade. The wooden furniture is broken, and the one redeeming couch is missing its cushions. Black X's spray-painted on the walls. He doesn't know what they mean, but he doesn't have to worry about them right now.
After all, it was only his first day in Las Noches.
Las Noches, the one place on the planet so royally fucked that even the devil turns his face away. And that was why he was there, wasn't it? Because of a crime he hadn't committed?
The trial had been a joke. He'd been covered in thick silver chains, standing in a cage. Yes, a fucking cage, like what was used for shark diving. The judge had looked down at him from his high pedestal of power, his baldhead shining, his long white beard trailing down as he read off legal formalities that he hadn't cared to listen to. The man had looked so fucking old Ichigo had wondered if he cut the bastard's throat, would dust fall out?
Judge Yamamoto had practically screamed his sentence after Ichigo had screamed and raved over the bogus charges, pleading 'not guilty'.
He'd been dumped in the barren wasteland hours later by armed guards. They'd pointed their semi-automatics inches from his face as one black-clothed guard had removed his handcuffs and leg shackles, throwing him a small black backpack.
"Your provisions," he scoffed, his helmet hiding his eyes, "This is as far as we take you. Keep heading south: you'll know when you get there."
Ichigo's rage had been taken out of him by this time. He had been too exhausted from slamming himself around his cell for the past three days awaiting his trial and the additional hours in the back of the heavily-armed black army vehicle.
It drove away from him, dust spitting up into the air and making his eyes itch as he took a look inside his backpack.
A small empty silver canteen.
A box of matches.
A standard army-issued pocket knife.
A wet nap. (Seriously? What sick fuck had planted that?)
A package of salted crackers.
A length of rope.
A neatly-packaged waterproof tarp blanket.
That was it. Nothing else. Thankfully they'd allowed him to change back into the clothes he had been wearing before his abduction and absurd trial: worn-out black Converse, a pair of loose-fitting beige cargo pants with multiple zippers, a studded black and silver belt, his favorite washed-out blue vintage tee, and a hooded black jacket lined in fake white fur around the hood that his sister Karin had given to him for Christmas six days ago.
He could see his breath float out in front of him. Karin had literally saved his ass.
He slipped the backpack on his shoulders before running his fingers over the metal collar the army droids hadn't taken off. He had known they wouldn't, but it still bothered him. It wasn't tight, just a nuisance. A thick metal ring with a link that jingled slightly, much like a dog collar. He knew it had to have some kind of microscopic chip in it to track him as the new and ambitious psychotic government was paranoid like that. In his microscopic cell in the jail, he'd seen the printed black writing on the edge of the collar in the sliver of mirror that had been on the wall: KI15. VIZARD.
He rolled his eyes remembering it. That's the word the judge had kept flinging around, what had made the jury's eyes get either large in fear or squinted in concentrated anger.
And here he was, serving out a sentence in a place that would make people think jail was a five star hotel.
There wasn't even a guarantee that he would survive here. Anybody shipped off to Las Noches was never heard from again.
Everybody whispered stories, and a lot of people had actually been in on what actually went down in Las Noches. It wasn't good.
Las Noches was mostly wasteland, but at its center was a city that had been decimated during the Last Great Winter War. Most buildings were still standing, but the land was still covered in mines, barbed wire, and other nasty gadgets the new government had devised for victory. Welcome to the New Order of Japan.
In the city was supposedly the old governor's estate, a giant mansion that had been pretty much untouched from the invasion. That was where Ichigo would have to go to get answers about his new way of life.
He just had to make sure that he didn't get killed on the way. After all, this was a hell pit that had no rules, and those condemned to Las Noches were what the government deemed as the most dangerous. Only those that the government did not intend to incorporate back into society were sent here.
Ichigo was eighteen years old. He'd never committed a crime in his entire life. He had gone to school and gotten good grades and kept his mouth shut as the government was torn down and rebuilt, while people were killed and soldiers were storming and invading people's homes. He'd known that a lot of people were disappearing, being interrogated, being imprisoned for stupid and petty reasons, but for them to abduct a teenager in the middle of the night…none of it made sense.
And a vizard? Impossible. He didn't believe in that crap. He didn't have any voodoo magic; he couldn't snap his fingers and shoot lightning, so what the hell was going on?
Maybe the new government had caught on to all the fighting he got into. Maybe all the punks he'd beaten the shit out of had ratted him out. Yeah. Maybe that was it.
Ichigo ran a hand through his unruly and spiky orange hair, sighing as he looked up at the sky and studied the stars. South. Got it.
One foot in front of the other. That was all it took. The night's inky blackness consumed his retreating form.
Approximately four hours and a gurgling stomach later, Ichigo was standing at the top of a white sand dune, staring down into the valley that blinked with life. Lights flared out all across the expanse of the dead city, although nearly half of the city was shadow. He could make out the piles of rubble and some of the buildings looked almost ancient. He'd had luck so far in not running into anyone, but this was where things got dicey.
He needed to make it to the governor's mansion. The guards had told him there'd be a man there who could 'instruct' him on how to survive in Las Noches, a mysterious man simply known as Aizen.
Ichigo had fought his way up the gigantic sand dune for that simple purpose, to make sure he could have the mansion in sight.
And damn was it in sight.
It was huge, the brightest and most exquisite building in the city. It was like a halo of life, a generator battery for the sickly-looking buildings surrounding it. It looked pristine, untouched, like a diamond on top of a pile of charcoal. It was on a raised hill, so that helped some, but Ichigo was still a far way off. If he was careful and didn't run into any trouble, he'd make it there by daybreak.
The moon was bright as Ichigo did his best to skirt down the sand dune, still marveling at how the sand could be so incredibly white. It was almost like snow, especially with the brightness of the crescent moon. Long white trees with naked branches greeted him as he approached the outskirts of the city, his eyes wary, his body tense. He'd taken the blade and put it in his palm, hoping he wouldn't have to use it. He had been in a dojo since the age of four and had always relied on his body and reflexes to protect him, but he couldn't ever be too cautious in this new environment.
The downside was that dying was common here. The upside was that there were no firearms. No guns, no bullets, basically all forms of higher technology. Apparently everyone was issued a knife when exiled, but Ichigo knew once he reached the mansion, there was more to learn.
There was one rumor he was dying to find out about, the one rumor that would be his ticket out of this hell pit for good.
The wind was cool as he walked down what Ichigo would call an alleyway, although the buildings on either side of him were crumbled messes. His footsteps sounded painfully loud to him. It was just that quiet.
He stopped. He heard it.
Followed by a giggle.
"Looky looky," a childlike voice said somewhere from Ichigo's left. He pivoted, his body automatically falling into a defensive position from years of practice. His golden eyes searched a shadowy form. A short petite form that Ichigo would almost swear was feminine, but women were never exiled to Las Noches.
The form leaped lithely down from its perch in the remains of the side building, a hand on one cocked hip, his large purple eyes almost angelic, "Hiya, how's it goin', good lookin'?"
Ichigo remained silent as he studied the creature before him. The boy couldn't have been more than fifteen, his hair short and black and feathered out, his face heart-shaped with small lips that were currently exposing bleach white teeth. Sharp-looking bleach white teeth. Ichigo's eyes traveled quickly down his adversary's body, noticing the odd choice of clothing. Tight white shorts, booty shorts in Ichigo's opinion, with a tight white top that exposed most of his chest and navel with sleeves that reached to his hands, the look polished off with knee-high black boots tied intricately up the front. The silver collar identical to the one around Ichigo's own throat read AL08. ARRANCAR.
Ichigo took a step back as he heard another growl, knowing it wasn't coming from this AL08.
The stranger rolled his large purple eyes, turning towards the darkness from which he had come, "I know he looks delicious, but you're not gonna eat 'im!"
"What do you want?" Ichigo finally asked, his voice dark, his body still poised for action. This kid might look harmless, but he'd hate to be wrong.
The stranger turned back towards him, hands on his hips, his smile playful, "My name's Luppi, what's yours, cutie pie?"
Ichigo hated repeating himself, "What do you want?"
"So tense," Luppi drawled, taking a few steps forward as Ichigo took another step back, "I just wanna talk. Promise!"
Ichigo looked to the darkness behind Luppi, noticing two crimson eyes were staring back at him now.
"Don't mind her," AL08 said nonchalantly, waving his hand dismissively, "Just a pet I'm babysitting for tonight. Starrk's such a lazy bastard sometimes! Letting his demon wander around, not cool at all."
The 'pet' growled again, licking its chops as it stepped forward into the moonlight.
Ichigo's jaw wanted to unhinge, but he kept his jaw locked as he stared at the massive white wolf that was now standing to the side of the petite stranger, its head higher than Luppi by at least two feet. Ichigo imagined its paws were bigger than his head. He could easily ride the behemoth, although he had a feeling he would never get such an opportunity.
And had the kid just called it a demon?
The thing was staring at him as if he were a piece of raw meat for the taking, its jaws glistening with saliva.
"You're new," Luppi said in his high voice, cocking his head to the side, "Just got here, huh? You're still wearing clothes from the Outside."
Ichigo ran his eyes over the smaller boy's body again. If that was what was considered proper garb around here, no thanks. Although he had to admit the kid pulled the look off rather well. Ichigo hated to admit that he was cute.
"I'm not gonna hurt you," Luppi continued, batting his lashes, "unless you want me to, that is. I'm just a humble messenger of Aizen-sama, sent to bring in stragglers like you. You do wanna see Aizen-sama, don't you? You'll have a lot better chance of surviving if you do."
"Why should I trust you?"
"You shouldn't," he said cheerily, "You shouldn't trust anybody until you know they won't put a blade in your back, but I don't want to kill you. There's no point. You're too weak for me."
Looking at his adversary, Ichigo doubted it. This kid sure had ego issues, "So you'll take me to Aizen?"
Luppi nodded, "In the morning. It's safer during the day. Much safer."
Ichigo knew they were several hours from daylight, "What are we supposed to do until then?"
Ichigo didn't like the smirk on Luppi's face like he was thinking something completely different internally, "We find a hide out, somewhere safe to squat until I can take you. You need rest. You look exhausted."
Ichigo sighed, letting his body relax slightly, although he was still wary of his first stranger, "You're not going to try and kill me in my sleep?"
Luppi giggled, "Why would I do that when I can kill you while you're awake? It's so much more entertaining."
"You're very honest."
"Lying doesn't really do you any good here," Luppi said, springing forward and grabbing a hold of Ichigo's hand. He tensed, but the hand was so small and cold he couldn't help but be reminded of his younger twin sisters. He unconsciously squeezed the hand back and Luppi smiled warmly at him.
Ichigo stiffened, trying to draw his hand away but Luppi held him in a vice like grip, making Ichigo unsure of what he had just gotten himself into.
"There's an apartment a few blocks over that hasn't been used in ages. Nobody will bother us there," Luppi said, beginning to drag Ichigo along, the beast demon following silently behind them, "I'll take good care of you! No one's gonna lay a finger on you while you're with me, promise."
Ichigo allowed himself to be dragged along, too exhausted to not trust the younger boy at that moment. He knew he should be smarter, but all his adrenaline and energy was completely gone after the long night and his stomach was empty. He hadn't slept in two days.
So here he sat on the floor of the grubby apartment, thankful for his coat. The walls were a good windbreaker, but with the windows busted, the cold still managed to seep in. Luppi was curled up on a broken couch, his large eyes watching Ichigo as he began to nod off.
"Rest," Luppi commanded in a sweet voice, "I swear on my life nothing will happen to you while you sleep."
The white wolf huffed from the corner of the apartment, so large she had barely been able to fit through the doorways of the complex. Her giant head was resting on her paws, her tail curled to her side as she closed her large red eyes.
Ichigo blinked again, his head nodding to the side, "I don't know what I did to deserve this. I didn't do anything."
Luppi smiled sadly at him, "You were born, KI15. All of us were."
Ichigo didn't stay conscious long enough to argue.
Luppi watched the berry head for the next hour until he was absolutely positive the child was out cold. He moved quickly and silently to his side, laying him down flat on the floor so that he didn't have to stay in such an uncomfortable position sitting up against the wall.
And Luppi had wanted to get a close up since he'd run into the strawberry hunk. His raptor vision allowed him to see crystal clear in the darkness.
The berry breathed softly, his face relaxed, making him that much more handsome. High cheekbones, a proud forehead, a long straight nose and a light dusting of cinnamon colored freckles across the tops of his cheekbones and nose. Luppi wanted to lick them to see if they tasted like cinnamon.
He reached out to trace a pale finger against the black letters stamped into the metal collar around the berry's neck, sucking on his bottom lip. He wondered how long the boy would last in this place. If he chose to participate in Adjucha, his time would be shortened dramatically. Luppi had a feeling the kid would enter: he looked like a fighter, a determined youth desperate for freedom.
It was adorable and admirable at the same time.
"We'll see," Luppi sighed, returning to his place on the dilapidated couch.
Luppi wasn't going to place any bets yet: he hadn't seen the youth in action, didn't know what he was capable of.
As soon as his eyes had caught the word VIZARD, he had known Aizen-sama would be very, very interested in the newest addition to Las Noches. He knew Aizen would want to make him a pet. Aizen always loved to destroy pretty things, but pretty things with power were his obsession.
Luppi continued to watch the berry for the remainder of the dark hours as Starrk's demon growled in her sleep.
The man fell to his knees in the white sand, blood spurting as it escaped from his shoulder. His blade arm had been cut clean off.
The blade that had done so was suddenly in his chest. He shuddered as he moaned in pain and fear, the blade twisting as it was removed, blood now beginning to pour out of the wound and out of his mouth. He would bleed out in a matter of minutes, be dead in less.
He should have known better. He and the five other men should have known better. He had tried to play dirty, all of them laying in wait, ready to ambush, to overwhelm and surprise, to take his weapons and provisions before he even knew what had hit him.
They had been so blind.
And now he was paying for it in blood.
"Who…are…you?" he gurgled, gravity the only thing keeping him upright as his life drained away.
Lightning blue eyes stared down at him. Even in the dark they shined like a predator's with the reflective sheen of a cat, "It doesn't matter. You're dead."
The man managed to smile before he died. He was absolutely right.
6 wiped his blade clean with one motion on his white pants, uncaring of the stain. He could feel his enemy's blood in his hair, sliding down his neck and chest. He hated when it began to harden underneath his metal neck collar. It would itch if he didn't clean himself up soon.
The sky was purple around the edges, preparing for the sun that came with day. He sheathed Pantera on his back, standing up straight, alive amongst a small pool of death. The few bodies lay silent, their blood sickly sweet in his nostrils, the copper tang in the back of his throat. He loved it. He loved creating death.
He left the bodies where they lay, not bothering to check them for provisions or weapons. Anything they had was useless to him. He'd been in Las Noches long enough to have acquired everything he needed to survive, and if he hadn't, he had learned how and where to get it.
"Mah mah," a whispery voice said from the shadows. A tall and beautifully pale male stepped into the moonlight, his silver hair appearing to be made of moving mercury due to the lighting. He wore an ensemble of black leather pants, high black laced boots, and a black shirt fitted to his frame. A long white coat trailed after him, billowing in the wind. The metal collar around his neck was stamped IG13, the link on the collar jingling as a crimson red metal disk had been attached, announcing his participation in Adjucha. His eyes were hidden as he smiled, "They weren't even participatin', Sexta. Ya sure love to make a bloody mess."
6 glared at his comrade, the one person in all of Las Noches he had come to trust. They had an alliance of sorts, considering they had been in Las Noches for about the same amount of time. They'd managed to survive together for over two years, a fucking huge accomplishment for such a dangerous place. Most were lucky to survive a month.
Now they were among the top predators and the others were sheep.
"They got in my way," 6 said, looking back at one of the freshly dead bodies, "They're all the same, Adjucha or not."
The fox-faced man smirked, opening his eyes to reveal shiny light blue eyes, the pupils slit vertically like a cat's, "Then they deserved it, ne?"
6 watched 13 begin to walk away, his white coat catching in the wind again, fluttering wildly, the silver hair beginning to float as if he were underwater, "Time fer rest, lil' kitty."
6 began walking after him, watching the silver form reshape, 13 shifting into his alternate demon form. The silver-haired fox was large and sleek, intelligent slit ice blue eyes regarding his ally, his white teeth exposed in a sly grin.
The metal collar gleamed in the moonlight. IG13. WARLOCK.
The cold air soothed 6's skin as they headed toward their resting place.