Through The Looking Glass


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In Shadows

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Scene Title Through The Looking Glass
Synopsis When the Nightmare Man calls forth Hokuto's dreamers to give them a warning, they instead discover just how deep this particular rabbit hole really goes…
Date February 13, 2010

Hokuto's Dreamscape

Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise…

The world is a blurry canvas of colors, light and shadow. Ever waking from the haze of muted serenity that sleep represents, only to realize that the dream within a dream is a far crueler trick than once believed. Traditionally, when help against the Nightmare Man is requested, Hokuto Ichihara's call to arms of those dreaming minds she's conscripted to her side is a gentle one, an instructed one. They know where they're going, know what's ahead, and know what's waiting for them on the other side…

Run in the shadows…

Blurry lights give way to the image of ceiling lamps, flickering intermittantly in the way old bulbs are often wont to do. The hardwood floor isn't truly the most comfortable place to rouse to wakedness, especially considering the awkward lumps of a few softcover and hardcover books strewn across that floor. Here, the walls are lined with books, each one having an unintelligible title on the spine, every one more garbled than the last.

Damn your love damn your lies…

Music echoes thorugh the quaint interior of the bookstore, tinny and distant, sounds coming from an old AM/FM radio somewhere beyond the front of the store. Outside, the city of New York is dark, the skies pitch black, and the reflection of the interior lights hides any presumption of exterior skyline from view. To the familiar— to the educated— this place is the Ichihara Bookstore on Roosevelt Island, to the uninitiated it's just another hole in the wall book store that happens to look like it was robbed or in an earthquake, from the way everything has settled off of the shelves.

And if you don't love me now…

Sprawled out on the middle of the floor by the front door, Cong Bao-Wei stares up at the ceiling, his head throbbing, the distant ache of a headache slowly fading as consciousness replaces unconsciousness. Slouched up against one bookshelf, Kaylee Anne Thatcher looks like she'd just dozed off while trying to arrange the books, except that she'd never do so while learning up against the shoulder of Mr.Jack, who's head rests against hers, equally asleep and only just now beginning to come to consciousness.

You will never love me again…

On his back and laid out over the front counter, Mortimer stares up at a slowly spinning ceiling fan, a dry swallow reflexively working his throat up and down as he starts to awaken, able to see Teodoro Laudani seated on the narrow staircase behind the counter, hands folded and head bowed forward, as if he'd just drifted off to sleep for a few moments to rest his eyes, and is only now fluttering back to wakedness.

I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain.

They're waking to a nightmare, in a way, they're slowly rousing to a dream shared between them all. Why these few people— why now— why here? Only each one of them individually has the pieces to put together and the information necessary to place the right things in order to solve exactly what is going on.

And if you don't love me now…

The music keeps playing quietly in the background, the lights keep subtly flickering just a few more times, before they go out entirely, and when Ichihara Bookstore is cast into darkness, the light from outside becomes their only guide. It's a crisp, orange glow, a warm and fiery color that comes from behind buildings, casting the thick clouds outside with a golden irridescence. Something is burning, a great many things, far away on fire.

You will never love me again…

This is the nightmare they wake to.

I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain…

With no way out.

Listen to the wind blow…

And no light to guide them.

down comes the night.

She could have sworn she was just setting down for a moment, just a break from chaos… now… Kaylee inhales deeply as she starts to wake. Blearily eyes open, trying to focus on her surroundings. Her head comes up slowly, turning slightly to see who is next to her. That's about when her eyes fly open and she shoves him away from her… thinking.. Eww!

Climbing awkwardly to her feet, the young telepath blinks, glancing around. Shuffling backwards she barks her heel on a stack of books and with a soft curse, glances down. Wait… She wiggles the toes of bare feet.

Hands brush lightly over that familiar white gossamer dress she's always in within the nightmares, it's torn and smudge as always. "Oh… just great." She murmurs, glancing ate her companions in turn.

It has been a few weeks since Teodoro woke up asleep. He's started to miss it, kind of, except that that's like missing mountaineering after you've lost a leg. Going mountaineering with only one leg's quite possible but a far more dangerous prospect altogether.

When he awakens to the dark, he knows well enough to be afraid, and there's more to that knowing than the simplified, visceral fear of darkness.

"Buona sera?" He pulls fingers through his hair and them scrubs an automatic thumb across his cheek. Realizes then that his face is intact, and with that realization, that he's oddly lucid. And whole, full-bodied and self-aware in a way that chills as much as it brings comfort. The cripple would like his leg back. Sorely. "Shit." His har is short, too. He straightens his clothes with callused hands, passes his fingers lightly over the crucifix, the nickel-framed sailing boat and St. Michael hanging around his neck.

He doesn't have to look down to know they're there. A more negligible concern than who he's with. "Kaylee?" Uncertain recognition parses the flawed darkness. He lifts a hand over his eyes to look toward the distant ripple of firelight, looking for its source and anticipating blindness.

There's sound sounds from upstairs, just above where Teo'd woken up. Like a stumble. A moment later there's a thud, as something falls over. A stack of books, perhaps. A few moments later someone appears stepping down the stairs, wearing simple shoes and jeans, and as he ducks down all the way, the not fully buttoned shirt becomes visible, even if he doesn't make it all the way down. The stairs are occupied. Short trimmed beard, the dent in his chin, and the very blue eyes all mark him as Corbin, though of the people present, he only really knows one of them.

"Well, I don't remember any mirrors, so I'm guessing I'm not here of my own accord…" Though this is a place he visits often enough, both asleep, and awake. It's most certainly not where he fell asleep, with a small box resting in his lap, and his head leaning against a wall. He's not even sure when he did fall asleep—

But considering the situation, he's guessing he did. How else does someone suddenly appear in a completely different place. And where's that blasted cat?

The last place you want to be when you're huge is on your back- truthfully, sometimes, it can be like a turtle getting kicked on its ass. Thankfully, Bao-Wei has some measure of pride, not to mention he isn't as fluffy as he seems. After a moment of gauging the fact he is waking up on some foreign floor, the Chinese man lets out a noise between a snarl and a scoff. He probably knows he is somewhere in the sleeping world, but that does mean he has to sacrifice his dignity. He sits up in the dark, head tilted to listen to the voices scattered behind him. If anyone is even looking towards the real source of light, it may just look like a pile of books or something relevant has just decided to come alive- only parts of him are lined with that orange glow.

"«I don't suppose that I should take a roll call?»" The low timbre voice recites something shortly in Mandarin, before the scuffle of Cong lifting himself to his feet comes next. His hand checks himself out of habit, running over the buttons of a suitcoat, but he cannot rightfully see what it is.

Jack suddenly wakes up when Kaylee pushes him, looking around in utter confusion. He's not wearing that long trenchcoat as usual, instead, both he and Mortimer are in white buttoned up long-sleeved shirts, untucked from their jeans.

Mortimer groans as he stares up at the fan, then starts to roll over and places his feet on the floor from the counter. "The bookstore? Guess this is our dream… or maybe her's." He thumbs over at Kaylee. "Hey, I never thought about this before, but the bookstore has the same name as Ichihara."

It's odd, the silence here in the store aside from the murmuring voices and the distant call of that old Fleetwood Mac song coming from the back of the store. For all that their eyes are adjusting to the dark, their ears are adjusting to the barrier of language far faster. No one here speaks Mandarin as fluently as Bao-Wei Cong, but yet they know exactly what he meant with perfect clarity. If only they could discern more than basic shapes in the darkness, they'd be making progress.

Outside the plate glass windows of the bookstore, the firelight looks intense, as if the western horizon were completely on fire and the world were burning around them. Notably, they can see people out on the street, some on the rooftops of buildings on the opposite side of Main Street, watching the fires. There's sounds of crying outside, distant noises of sirens and screams far down the street that are now coming into view.

It's like piece by piece, the world is coming together for them. A police cruiser whizzes past down main street, lights flashing and siren blaring, filling the bookstore with the momentary strobing of its rooftop lights, followed by the wail and honk of ambulance and fire-engine sirens as emergency vehicles form a high-speed parade down the central road on Roosevelt Island.

The radio cuts out, followed by a series of loud blaring beeps and then a long croaking tone, followed by a staticy voice. «This is the New York State Emergency Management System. This is not a test, I repeat, this is not a test. Due to an explosion in the Midtown area of Manhattan Island, all residents of Upper and Lower Manhattan are advised to evacuate their homes and head for the nearest emergency shelters. Fire and Emergency Rescue crews are working to control the damage, and caution is urged at this time.»

Piled up with it's curls and ringlets, autumn like leaves sticking out as if put there on purpose, her head turns at the sound of her name. Kaylee looks a touch confused to see who voiced her name. "Teo?" Her barefeet make no sound on the floor as she crosses to him, reaching out to see if he is there. A brief touch of finger tips, before her hand jerks away.

The sound of stumbling behind Teo, makes Kaylee look up the stairs. "I didn't see any mirrors either." She's in total agreement there, before the foreign language pulls her attention. Stepping back out of the way of the stairs, Kaylee's breath catches at the sight of Bao-Wei. The only other time she had seen the man, was across a table with Adam by her side.

"It's not mine…" Is a simple answer given to Mortimer. "Mine… has.. more… greenery." Her tone bland, her eyes going to the window. The others are ignored as she moves toward to window as the cruiser screams past.

Head tilts a bit to listen to the radio, Kaylee's gaze watches the world outside. "Definitely… this isn't mine. This wasn't where I was when Midtown exploded. I was in class."

"I have no idea where we are," Teo announces to the dreamers at large, slapping invisible dust off his pant legs with his palms. He is lying, sort of, but he only realizes it after he said so.

For all that it refers to a disaster he had been fortunate enough to overseas during, this place is familiar to him. He fumbles his way to the radio, doubtlessly bumping into somebody or other as he makes his way and he has enough presence of mind to mumble apologies as he goes. Takes it in his hands, his callused digits bending into insect-like right angles around its contours as he gropes for the volume knob. Turns it higher, tunes it with a frenetic fidgeting of white knuckles.

"What is this? Are you people real? Xiansen?" The Mandarin inquiry is pitched a little disbelievingly at the side of Bao-Wei's head. Teo isn't used to dreaming in the language, but he knows enough of it to be surprised at this twist of events. Thus far, he had been largely exempt from this astral war.

Oh hell.

In some ways, Corbin's reminded of those conversations for the next couple of years that asked a simple question: Where were you when the bomb went off? It became one of those subjects that was safe to bring up, and talk about— cause everyone remembered exactly where they were when it happened. Or what it was like when they first found out.

"Yeah, I wasn't in the bookstore when it happened either." And nor were the people who are here here when it happened. Most of them he doesn't know, so…

"Calm down— we're real. We're just— part of a dream." They must be. But whose? The bookstore gets a frown. How many people would dream of the bookstore… "We must have been brought here for a reason."

Within a matter of moments, Bao-Wei is able to discern what might be going on outside- the shade of fire is familiar, as are the snippets of chaos in sound, the harried terror in movement and light. He pays little attention to the others for now, until he is able to recall something that he chooses not to say. He turns his head back to where Teo's voice comes from, knowing that he had spoken in another language- but regardless it does not seem like that is a barrier.

"I am real. Enough. This is Ichihara's bookstore?" She has a bookstore? That means she is bound to be physically reachable, right? He had not thought too much into how close Hokuto has to be, but this puts it into perspective. "None of you have very good deductive reasoning, do you?" Bao-Wei snipes a little before moving towards the window to peer carefully out of the side frame. "If this is her bookstore, at the point in time after midtown has exploded, whose memory do you think it is?"

Seriously, you guys. Come on.

"All this time I've been frequenting her bookstore. She has a bookstore." Mortimer says with a hint of excitement, then heads to take a closer look out of the windows. "I have no idea where I was during the bomb. Those were particularly crazy days for us, especially him."

"Speak for yourself. I can't remember either, I think we were underground." Jack finally stands, stretching and cracking his knuckles. "Oooh, so she has a bookstore. I guess you think you're soul mates now, eh?"

"Shut up!"

Something about this whole scenario feels unusually familiar to Teodoro, but it's probably just the bookstore and the general strife that resonates with his once-metal-plated head. Crowds of people are gathering outside, some people just wandering the streets in a confused daze, sobbing, others just standing silent and motionless on the roadside. It's about now when the first snowflakes start to fall, or— no— when the first bits of ash start to rain down over Roosevelt Island. They fall outside like snowflakes, thick and heavy, blown on the wind by the disaster everyone knows is happening just a half mile away from them to the west.

Tiny points of orange light drift with the ash outside, burning embers of fallout settling down on the street. Roosevelt is getting this the easiest out of anyone, in truth, with the wind blowing southwesternly. It's surprising though, just how dark the sky is, and it's not from clouds, it's from smoke and ash and dust and debris kicked up into the atmosphere from the explosion, blotting out the sun as if it were the middle of the night when it's actually noon. Perhaps the darkness is emphasized, here, or maybe things were truly this grim.

The sudden sound of a door slamming at the back of the shop is a startling change from the unusual silence inside of the structure. "Come on, come on, oh god come on please god…" The strangled voice moves hurriedly from the back storage room, clunking footfalls carrying a dark-haired woman between the aisles of bookshelves and right past Jack without so much as saying a word. Hair wound up into a bun behind her head and dressed in a mint green sweater and brown capris, Hokuto Ichihara looks almost unrecognizable from the woman who only ever wears black and white in the waking world.

«We're sorry, all lines are currently busy. Please hang up and try again later.»

It comes over the speaker from her cell phone, and the dark-haired woman frustratedly curls her fingers tightly around the pink plastic, stepping out ot the front door and gently pushing it open, seemingly oblivious to everything around her as she looks out onto the street. "Oh God… Oh God what's going on…" She looks down at the phone, dialing a number again, arms trembling, hands shaking. "Dad… pick up… come— "

«We're sorry, all lines are currently busy. Please hang up and try again later.»

"God damnit!" Hokuto shouts at the top of her lungs, turning around and hurling the phone inside of the store, fast enough and far enough that it whips past Kaylee's head and disturbs her hair, smashing into three pieces against the corner of a book shelf.

"Both of you shut up." The words snapped at the twins, as Kaylee isn't really in the mood for their bickering. Or maybe it's all the stress lately that's making her snippy. The slapping makes her turn to see the woman that she has only ever seen in her dreams, but does work for. "So this is Hokuto's dream." Stating the obvious, brows lifting a bit, but then she looks worried. "I don't like that thought. She's suppose to be our gateway… if we're hear.. and she's here…" She says softly, glancing at the others. The nightmares normally have one more piece.

Which means she only feels the phone fly by her, making her duck, hands coming up to protect her head, but freezing mid motion. "The woman has an arm on her." The telepath states blandly, straightening again.

There isn't a lot of elaboration to be had on the Midtown disaster, even as Teo pinches the radio to clear the signal. Of course, not even the most daring news crews are venturing close enough to the flames and— he doesn't know why he's bent over this radio as if he's going to hear anything new, honestly. He'd already spent one November of 2006 agonizedly hawking media outlets. Perhaps even two. He knows how this goes.

Apparently spelunking through the dreams of others is a fad everybody suddenly knows about. The ghost would be amused. Teo pushes the radio away from him and drags fingers through his bristly-short hair, looks up in a jolt of violent surprise when the phone piece goes flying to a death of snapped plastic and wiry viscera. Of all of them, she's the least out of place, and it seems the least lucid. "Wake her up?" he suggests, feeling very uncomfortably like the novice. He burrows his hands into his pants pockets. He amends, "Make her lucid. You might be able to, if she recognizes you."

The big man gets a sideways glance, almost a bothered glare from the blue eyed Company Agent/Reporter. Corbin knows it's likely her dream, but in some ways, it could also be his. This was the day that changed the woman he had been partners with forever, on top of the loss of her mother which had happened not even a year before. She never quite recovered from it, and she never quite came back to who she'd been before— which is who she seems to be in the dream. The color on the clothes, the exclaimations of emotion…

It's been a long time since he'd seen her wearing color. Which might have been why he started wearing more of it. Someone had to bring some color back into the girl's life.

"Hokie," he says after her outburst, the breaking of the cellphone. Moving down the stairs, he starts toward her, hands slightly raised as if in a 'I come in peace' gesture. "It's— " Going to be okay? How? How will it be okay, even if it's just a dream? This happened. Midtown exploded, and she never saw her father again. He knows how that ended. Make her lucid. "You're going to be okay. This is a dream, a nightmare."

Bao-Wei watches the scene in silence from where he stands, an idle sheen of light reflecting off of his glasses. There are some things that are best left to develop; it is a somewhat good choice here, as he is able to see Hokuto's memories of midtown- ones that are so very obviously stark because of her father. He can only suppose that the bomb is the reason she cannot get through, which can mean one of a few other things. Judging by her reaction, it is probably one of the worse outcomes.

"I don't know about this, I mean, waking a sleepwalker… though technically she's not sleepwalking. Alright, I'm not so sure at all anymore…" Mortimer sighs and watches Corbin, having no idea what's going on, but suddenly marches over to stand next to him. "Ichihara?"

"Well, I've gotta say, this is all great, but I think I'm gonna go find the Nightmare Man!" Jack heads for the front door, then reaches out to try turning the knob. "Then I'll pound his face in and drag him to the Company."

Jack heads out the front door of the store, but when he steps out the entrance he just disappears, no sign of him headed on to the street, and Mortimer feels an odd sense of deja-vu as he sees Jack walking in to the bookstore from the back entrance. It seems like, for all that Jack is a part of Mortimer, they can't seem to get too far away from one another in this place.

Hokuto doesn't turn from the way her back is kept to Corbin, not at first anyway. When she does ever so slowly angle herself to regard the man over one mint-green clad shoulder, he catches the golden color of her irises — like that of an owl's, or a cat's — when she lays eyes on him. "Everything's going to be alright?" Her tone of voice is husky, cracking with a subtle tone of amusement at the end as she turns around fully, color bleaching out of her clothing to turn into shades of grayscale, leaving only those horrible yellow eyes to stare at Corbin.

"Is that all you can ever say, Corbin?" Those yellow eyes drift over his shoulder towards Teo, narrowing subtly, then back to Corbin again. "I want you all to know, that I am never going to let her go. I want you to tell that to the others, tell that to every single person she thinks she can use to get rid of me."

Dark brows lower, and Hokuto takes a step towards Corbin, laying a pale hand up on his cheek. "You— and him," the Shadow angles a nod of her head towards Teodoro before turning yellow eyes back to Corbin, "know just as well as anyone that she's never going to get rid of me. Don't make me make examples of all of you, like I did to John Logan." Her smile turns thin, lips pressed together in that innocent smile she's perfected over the years to hide signs of depression. "Next time, I'll kill your little girlfriend too."

"Not a good idea Teo… She's the one that lets us walk the dream world." Kaylee eyes the woman, even as Corbin moves for her. "Allows us to help others." But the sound of Hokuto's voice, pulls her attention. Brows drop into a confused look. Eyes narrow dangerously at the yellow-eyed dream walker. Long thin hands, curl into fists as she knows who is there, anger flashing in her eyes.

But then her fingers uncurl and a smile touches her lips, almost like she knows something. "Don't be so sure." Kaylee says softly, stepping around behind Corbin, Kaylee studies the woman. "We've been able to stop you so far." It's not bragged, it's just simple fact. "Push you out of people… " Her hand comes up and she makes a little locking motion, as she's done before, ".. locked you out." Your getting desperate… scared.

Increasingly out of depth the further he gets out to sea, Teo finds himself resisting the urge to look down at himself when Hokuto indicates him. He does not see why he is being indicated. He isn't doing anything, except standing here amid somebody else's deja-vu, listening to a dedicated absence of proper nouns flitting to and fro in the darkness of the bookshop. He hasn't seen John Logan in weeks, and he's never met Corbin's girlfriend.

But Hokuto's lucid. Lucid enough. That's something they can work with. Teo doesn't bother to explain the difference between awakening and lucidity to Kaylee, figuring it's a marked improvement on the situation that she has Hokuto's attention. "Does this 'she' have a name?" he finally inquires, out of no one in particular. His head snaps upright when Mortimer abruptly reappears through the backroom, his brows knotting with surprise.

Strangers, nearly all of them. It's an easy assumption to make, that they know who 'she' is.

There's a visible wince at the way the woman looks, and how she acts. Corbin takes a step back, running into a bookshelf with his plain shoes, before he stops and looks back at her. "She may not be able to get rid of you, but that doesn't mean we can't. That's why we're here. To stop you— to help her." His girlfriend… Well if anything could have gone differently in the last near four years, that's one of them. "And I didn't say everything would be okay. I said she would be okay." And sometimes everything can boil down to one person. Except when it really can't.

"Hokuto, that's who she… looks like," he says, brow furrowing a bit. The Nightmare took the form of his sister, who also died when the bomb went off. The practice on broadway for the show she was going to be in. Broadway didn't survive the bomb very well at all, and neither did any of the women in his family.

But if this is Hokuto's nightmare, and the form of Hokuto's nightmare… where is Hokuto?
It's not that he was concerned before Kaylee stepped in, just that she is right- and it brings a familiarly smug look onto his face. For now, he does keep back, fixing the Hokuto with her golden eyes with his own, listening closely to both it's words and the words of the others. By the time Corbin comes around to wondering where Hokuto herself is, so is he; but in a less concerned, more analytical way. She is obviously not standing there, and this is very much her dream.

Barring any further explosions, Bao-Wei picks up his feet and moves slowly off to wander between the shelves of the bookstore, debating out of habit whether or not to put some of the books away. Once a nerd, always a nerd. He feels for the Library setting, truly.

"Nightmare Man." Mortimer states with clear distaste, backing up once Corbin does. "Where is she?! Let her go right now!"

"You won't get anywhere doing that, Mortimer." Jack grins, starting to approach this Hokuto, stepping right in front of her face. "Why don't you get out of her head, and take a walk in mine? I'm sure you'd have plenty of fun."

There's a snort from the gold-eyed woman, one pale hand moving through dark hair. "Hokuto," it implies, as if the creature with her face were not the woman in question at all. "She's been eclipsed, entirely, and now what token resistance she's putting up against me can end. I don't want to have to hurt any of you, that's not why I'm here, but I will if you make me. So— " the gold-eyed Shadow lifts her hand and makes a dismissive motion, "go… go dream some more fanciful dreams and leave me to my work. She needs me, just as much as the rest of you do."

Gold irises turn back to Corbin, one brow raised, "She is everything." The creature states with some emphasis and personal bias, "Fine," her pale hands come up, head crooks back and gold eyes peer down the bridge of her nose to Corbin, then over to Mortimer.

"Nightmare Man?" One black brow goes up, and the Shadow's lips turn into a smile. "That's… such an adorable title. Though I guess I would perhaps be something a bit more… gender neutral." Licking at her lips, the gold-eyed creature looks back to Corbin, brows furrowed before a nervous flick is given to Bao-Wei.

As the doctor is perusing the shelves in the book store, something catches his attention. A creak of the floorboards under his feet. Typically, this is just a humbling reminder that he needs to exercise more, but Cong Bao-Wei is a perceptive man, one who has spent decades of his life working for organized crime and knows a thing or two about concealing things. When his foot touches the floorboard and the creak echoes, there's a subtle depth to it that belies extra space beneath where he's standing.

That, coupled with the scrutinizing look the Nightmare Man offers for just the barest of moments seems to be indicative of there being something worthwhile that alerted his attention from the conversation. Perhaps then, that's why the rumble comes, why the ground shudders and why over the Nightmare Man's shoulder, Hokuto Ichihara can briefly be seen in the reflection of the glass blindfolded and in black as Corbin remembers her.

The glass windows shatter immediately, blowing into the store as if some gale force wind had thrown a branch into the storefront. But when the glass breaks, Hokuto's Shadow lets out a frightened scream and drops to her knees, covering her head and cowering from the sound. "I didn't do it!" She screams in the moments before the shop's interior cracks, crumbles and begins to decay, "stop yelling at me!"

Paint peels off the walls, old floorboards wither and age, and the sky outside grows lighter, if only because the clouds themselves are on fire. A portion of the ceiling crumbles and breaks apart, shattering down onto the floor and sending the second floor bedroom tumbling to the back of the store to crush the radio to pieces. The sky, overhead, is revealed to be amultitude of swirling conflagrations, spiraling like a hurricane around an impossibly huge tower that is the eye of the storm.

From here, it looks like scaffolding of rusted metal surrounding a stone pillar, the wind howls with disconcerting noises, screams from distant burning buildings, and choking clouds of smoke blow in fromt the street along with cinders and ashes. It's like a more pronounced version of the disaster they were just seeing, more surreal.

Teodoro Laudani recognizes it as something a bit more Faustian.

It's not the most welcome realization.

Hands lift to ward off the flying shards of glass, ignoring any sting that they may cause. Kaylee's eyes are on the yellow eyed figure on her knees. As the roof crumbles, she ducks her head away from the crumbling bits that fall on her. Then slowly she turns her head to look at the chaotic scene above them. It draws her attention upward, her eyes widening at the sight. "Whoa."

Licking her lips, Kaylee glances at the others, before her gaze slowly comes back to Hokuto. Her head tilts a little, eyes curious…. then they unfocus some her mind moving to touch the person on the floor, trying to hear what is going in her head. Since there is no one actually screaming.. it must be in the the womans head. As she listens, she crouches down slowly.

It is one of the most unwelcome realizations, actually. Teo's dream-face drains of blood, and he finds himself crouched down by the cash register as if the counter is going to afford him some protection in the middle of the room if any segment of masonry or roofing comes down to lay a half-ton blow as big as his head— on his head. His eyes flit searching the skyline, pupils constricted to pinpricks in irises that seem to be comprised of striated white. He'd been about to say something, and it palpitates to croaking nothing in his throat.

They'll have to pardon him. He is new to this scene; the Nightmare Man had answered his summons entirely at his own convenience, once upon a time, and he'd just as easily avoided him since. All that Teo knows is hearsay, of about this astral war and its bloody spillover into the plane where flesh tears and bones break. News stories. Criminal reports.

Realization hits him like ice water. "Fuck," he says. "Jesus fuck on a kebab, this is her. This place is hers. Hokuto—"

Funny thing about nightmares, even or especially the ones with superpowers and grand mortal peril involved. You don't just wake up when you want to. "Hey," he says, callused fingers knocking plaster off the counter's edge as he gropes forward. "Hey, summon patronuses? Safewords? What do you guys have?"

Hokuto is everything…

In a way she is, but Corbin isn't so pin-hole minded to think that the girl is everything. If she's okay, then that's the equivilent of everything in a way, but the whole world won't necessarily be okay if she is. The place explodes, and he flinches, a flicker of black and white before the windows attracting his attention too long to pull away entirely. A slash of blood starts to roll down his cheek, a deep cut from the glass. But a cosmetic cut, really.

"Hokuto!" he yells against the screams, the hurricane sounds, the eye of the storm that they're being pulled into. They're here because of her— he's here because of her. But this… "Even if she's… eclipsed, she's not gone. We wouldn't be here if she was gone. We didn't bring ourselves, she brought us. You— " the girl is curled on the ground, upset. "I don't really have a Persona yet," he says, but even as he says it there's a flicker of a white hand on his shoulder, half formed, but misty. Maybe he has it and still doesn't know it.

"Hokuto!" he says again, moving closer. Kaylee may be trying to probe her mind, but he's hoping to get through her her in a little more conventional way.

When one conceals things, it is either out of selfishness- keeping something from someone- or safety- keeping someone from something.

While what happens around him is equally disconcerting and interesting- Bao-Wei is only able to pay the dreamscape attention because of the peeling down of the building around him. He stays put, habitually lifting a hand to block anything, which turns out to simply cast a dark outline of his arm above his face, as the fiery clouds alight the ground with burning color.

But there is a pressing matter underfoot. Literally. Even before Teo has had reality hit into him like a wall, Bao-Wei's figure amongst the rubble of the bookstore is unmistakable; his silence may not be, however. When Teo does speak, the man turns his head to the young man, squint curiously from behind his glasses. The eyes behind the lenses are both a brilliant orange, one slitted like a reptile. When he breathes out heavy, it is with a curl of faint smoke.

The sight of him shifts- as if seen from behind the lenses of some three-dimensional movie glasses- not a warp, not quite- but a subtle twinge of lines and shapes falling just off-center. His head turns back in time to only half-mask the forming of ridges over the sides of his skull. It is not some horror film transformation, but the warping of his face, his arms- to say the least it looks like it might hurt. Knuckles pop and extend, his shoulders set back while his already big hands tense and thread with more intrinsic muscles than is necessary. Claws make no mistakes in forming from fingers. He has to do it anyway- go to what has been helping him fight as it is; if a relevant transformation can help him investigate something that takes but a moment, all the better.

While his skin tinges green and goes rigid as in scales, Bao-Wei goes at the floor with one fist, in an attempt to crack a floorboard apart, only so that he can fix his claws into them and rend them out of place.

Mortimer is shielding his eyes from glass, being confused as all hell, and trying to back away from Nightmare Hokuto as he tries to figure out what exactly is going on.

Jack, meanwhile, is staring directly up into the eye of the storm, eyes wide as glass pierces his skin, his smile is wide and toothy. "He's coming!"

When Bao-Wei's massive clawed hand smashes through the floorboards, each single stroke of his taloned caress tears at the structural supports, sending planks tumbling down into the deep recesses of the basement of Ichihara Books. A cloud of dust rises up from within, cloying and thick, terrible and heavy and oppressive, swirling in abstract and artful eddies as it whirls up around the transfigured dragon's body.

But there, in a dusty old storage basement, viewed with the fiery lights of the skies above, Bao-Wei Cong has found something unusual. Covered with a mildew spotted and dusty cloth is the arches of a tall frame, tucked away behind boxes and books and stacks of magazines and old record albums in the basement. But the cloth only covers it partway down, and it's everything below that shows exactly what it is.

A hidden mirror.

In this place, in these horrible ruins, the dark-haired woman crouching in terror has changed. Maybe it's what Corbin had been wishing for, maybe it was the result of the changeover from this place, maybe if Corbin Ayers claps his hands three times and believes in faeries Hokuto Ichihara will make it out of this alive.

The pale woman's hands move away from her head, somewhere in the explosion gray clothing turned black, and a blindfold covered her eyes. Hokuto, as Corbin knows her, reaches up and wraps her arms around his shoulders and pulls herself up with that embrace. "Corbin," she breathes out, hiding her face into his shoulder, seeming far less confident about herself at the moment.

She turns, looking to Teo, then around to the others. "The— Nightmare Man…" her voice hitches in the back of her throat, one pale hand coming to smooth over the scuff at Corbin's cheek, "he's— he's inside my head, I can't get him out, I can barely keep myself away from him. He's the one who drew you here, not me, I— I can't find any of you. Something's happened he— he just keeps getting stronger, I can't— " Hokuto swallows anxiously, "I can't stop him."

"Sad little girl…" The voice comes from the halfway demolished second floor, and a dark silhouette moves across the shattered piles of furniture and sagging structural supports, "obnoxious guests…" Resembling at first the gold-eyed Shadow of Hokuto Ichihara, she then as she passes behind a wooden support beam that holds up a non-existant ceiling, she reappears behind Teodoro on the ground floor.

"Teo…" Hokuto breathes out seductively, bare arms wrapping around his shoulders. She's unclothed here, just a parchment pale ghost of a woman with long, dark hair flowing like water behind her. Golden eyes lid halfway, a Cheshire smile crosses her lips and she brushes her nose in a telling line over his cheek where a scar should be, "I need a favor…"

She ducks behind his head, and when Hokuto emerges on the other side, she's completely changed. There, the olive-tanned skin of a young man with curly black hair and a warm smile is clearly Sonny Bianco, not Hokuto Ichihara, but the golden eyes remain a constant.

"When you summoned me… we had a deal." Dark eyebrows go up slowly, and Sonny's lips press against the side of Teodoro's neck. "I would go after Danko and Dean… and you would owe me a favor at a later date." He breathes out a warm breath against Laudani's neck, tongue slowly sliding up the feeling of a hastening pulse.

"Kill them." Sonny breathes out into Teodoro's ear with a light pluck of lips against the lobe, "kill them all."

The young telepath has nothing to protect her, but her ability. Nothing that comes to her in some form or another. Of course, her ability seems to be failing her as well. That is never good. Her head comes up as she hears Bao-Wei tearing at the floor… blinking at the sight of the… what the hell? Then the seductive voice behind her.

Pushing to her feet, Kaylee turns slowly towards Teo and the Nightmare Man. Taking a step towards them, her voice is soft and calm. "Teo…" Glancing at the now male figure, she gently repeats his name. "Teo… Don't listen. You don't have to do anything." The fingers of on hand flex open and closed slowly. Already she's trying again, to ease herself into the mind of Teo… the words of the dream manipulator making her had to try and take the precaution.

There's still enough dream manipulator in Teo that he remembers that blood here isn't really. Broken glass, sawdust, falling fragments of petrified rebar, or the torn tissue of Kayla Reid's unshod feet. Aren't. Not really.

His finger catches on the jagged rim of a deformed steel nail, and it's whole and fair again before he can even bring it up to his face to look. Breathing in the cloying stink of erupted plaster doesn't hurt your lungs because these aren't lungs, and even the threat of blindness at the razor points of broken window panes promises only the semblence of the less eventful shallows of sleep. Not to say it's just a dream, not to discard the value and power of individual fantasy and archetyped loathing, but to find vague reassurance in the interpretive nature of things.

Even the purest representation is diluted and twisted by experience. Smoke and mirrors, flattened cardboard dioramas they carry around in their subconscious. Storybooks, plastic tiaras, and air guitars.

This does not account for the way Teodoro's chest constricts, as if it was the sinew and muscle around his heart that his slain ex, inconveniently resurrected, is toying with in his teeth. His eyes close and open in stupid surprise. He almost turns his head around to look, but he can't really bring himself to dare, really; he'd missed the funeral for a reason, soon as he'd found out Danko had left the good Doctor's face intact for an open casket. To be confronted with the libidinal symbolism of naked smile and unclothed dick is more than he wants to deal with.

Now, if you want to get really maudlin: he can not really remember at what point he started holding Sonny's hand, in either world.

His fingers tighten around Mephistopheles' palm. "I owe you," he agrees. He's being a little smart, now, but in lieu of a rakish silhouette and a fluttering croak, it leaves him croaking like pneumoniac. "But I asked for two heads, and you only served up one. That's half your fee, and I get the sense you aren't working that shape a tip."

Oh hell. Of all the things to get pulled in for, someone who made a deal with the devil gets to find out what happens when the devil wants his side of the bargain fulfilled. This can't end well. Corbin reaches a hand up to hold on to the form of Hokuto, grasping to the black and white. Maybe if he fights hard enough, this won't end with him losing something as important to him as the woman he worked beside all those years. "Even if you can't stop him, maybe we can."

But can they when Faust finishes his dealing? If the monster delievered on only half of his deal, and that's a valid point, that still leaves half of them. "Kaylee, you need to get out of here, somehow, maybe the dragon can get you out, and if not…" he says, worried for her safety, especially since what little he's seen of her tells him she's stubborn. And too much so for her own good. "You should be strong enough to force a way out. Take people with you."

The Nightmare Man they've been trying to fight— how long has he had his claws in her…

She was trying not to sleep. She'd been taking No Doze like it was vitamins—

"It's almost your birthday. If you would wake up, I'm right there, with a present for you. I know you've been asleep for a long time, but you could wake up this time… even if just for a few minutes." Optimism. Always a trait of the Star.

Bao-Wei, in a totally bizarre halfway point between man and dragon, is not as keen in noticing the coercion going on with Teodoro Laudani. Dragons are known universally to be attracted by treasure. He is no different, even in life- though treasure is not always something shining in the dark, begging to be reached for.

He disappears from sight after literally just dropping himself down into the basement. Nothing thuds, nothing clangs- somehow, he lands as light as he might have simply taking another step. Orange eyes glint bright in the dark and musty air, and he tosses the glasses on his nose elsewhere in favor of clutching at the cloth drawn over the mirror with a forefinger and thumb, curved claws unhidden for now. Bit by bit, he shifts, and at some point in the basement, he converts entirely, keeping the scale of a large pony as he does so, as to neither disturb space or have too much around him in which things may hide. When the paw clutching at cloth finally pulls it aside, the mirror itself is revealed- the form of it is familiar to him in that Hokuto has bade similar. Its state, on the other hand-

There is a deep crater of cracks near the middle, circular, with branches of cracks extending out from it. The crater alone is knowingly fist-sized, and the damage obvious in intention.

"There's no way we're letting you keep Hokuto! You're out of your goddamned mind! Is there a way to put him in our head?" Mortimer asks, looking to Hokuto for direction.

But it's Jack who suddenly grabs Mortimer's collar, tugging him back hard. "Ichihara, I think we're in full agreement. We'll pull that bastard into us, somehow!" The hand jerks back, pulling Mortimer's head and smashing it into his own. The two crunch and make all sorts of disgusting fleshy noises until they're only one person.

When his eyes open, they're completely silvery, and a small clockwork mass of tentacles with one red eye in the middle appears behind them. "Well, Nightmare Man?" they ask in a dual voice, with that edge of crazy, but a hint of sanity, then suddenly they're running for him after pulling a sword out of that tentacle mass.

"Come on, Teodoro…" Sonny croons out, one hand moving down along the Sicilian's chest, "maybe you can just kill half of them then?" There's a lopsided quality to Sonny's smile as she shifts shoulders behind Teo, this time when he appears in phantasmal visage to him it's an entirely different mask worn, one of more sharp and severe features, dark black hair pulled back tight behind her head, strong shoulders and coarse hands. Hana Gitelman brushes her palm beneath Teo's chin, eyes lidding halfway, "What's one more death on your conscience?" She's playing a dangerous game with his mind.

Once more shifting shoulders, the Nightmare Man's visage becomes something unwelcome as the wavy hair and dark eyes of Minea Dahl comes over Teodoro's shoulder, her hand moving down his stomach, arms still slung around his shoulders. "Or do you only kill people when it suits you?" Her fingernails dig gently into the fabric of Teo's shirt, breathing out a hot breath against his neck. "Kill the blonde girl."

"Mortimer?" A quiet, gentle voice calls out behind the less psychotic of the two, "You— want me in your head? I— I could probably go there." Another unclothed figure, pale as Hokuto but with vibrant and wavy red hair. Cassidy O'Shea wraps her arms around Mortimer's shoulders and noses against his cheek. "Come on, you and Jack and I can be happy together… like it used to be." Her tone of voice is sweet, gentle and calming. "Let's go, Mortimer… right after Jack helps me with…" Cassidy gentle presses her nose against Mortimer's temple, "slaying a little dragon problem in the basement."

Hokuto immediately slouches down against Corbin when Cassidy shoes up, letting out a pained groan, one arm slung around Corbin's shoulders. "He's— he's too strong…" she whines out against his shoulder, her knees buckling, "I— I can't make an exit. I'm sorry, I— " there's a hitch of breathing, and Hokuto weakly leans more against Corbin for support. "He's too strong."

In the dusty basement, confronted with the tall and shattered mirror, Bao-Wei Cong is staring into the Abyss. In each fractured shard of the mirror, images and scenes are playing out like snapshots of a life. All of them seem to depict a very young Asian girl that resembles Hokuto closely, all of these fragments of memories look disjointed and broken from the shattered quality of the mirror's surface, and yet— just like the mirrors in the hall— this hidden one ripples like water on the surface when Bao-Wei draws near, as if it could be entered.

But what lies through the looking glass?

"No…" Comes the snapped word, in anger… It's unclear if it's thrown at Corbin or the Nightmare Man, as Kaylee moves closer to Teo and…. the woman. "You will leave him alone." Blue eyes cold, she is so very tired of the Nightmare Man and him messing with people she considers friends. Her hand cuts through the air in a sharp movement, almost as if she's backing handing nothing. "«You will leave him alone.»" Her ability attempts to strike out at the woman clutching at the Sicilian.

"You owe nothing, Teo." Kaylee insists, "You are stronger then him…. you don't have to do his bidding." She holds a hand out slowly, palm up fingers spread as she takes another step forward. "You don't have to do the bidding of this one.. We can fight him together." She's trying to had not to force her ability on the man…. even as he's asked to kill her, she still holds out that hand to him. "Don't give in to his temptation."

He's already rebuked them once already for the lack of gender-neutral pronouns. Giddy with a blurry sort of confusion, disoriented by girl-sized fingers and the sensation that he is trying to extricate himself from the grip of certain death. Teo stops just short of informing them that the Nightmare Man, as it were, is more of an it than anything else.

His grin turns brittle, his teeth forming an idiot rictus in his head because he doesn't know what else to do. The thing's standing too close. They may be in Hokuto's dream tonight, but it's his head that the Nightmare Man has crawled into, insinuated itself in and he can not help but realize that the whole team is worried he's going to let them down. "Sorry, signorino." Tweaked into a diminutive, the formality is turned into a wry insult. Fails to change the fact that his apology is almost sincere, but he means it. Christ. Minea. "I've lost my gift, and there's no skin or little blue pill in the world that's going to bring it back to life."

There's an odd beat's pause. "Why would I be able to kill anything you couldn't?"

"It is not too strong, damnit," Corbin says, closing his eyes as his hands wrap around the fragile figure against his shoulder, weakly sagging. It doesn't take much for him to pull her back up closer to him, twist into her, lean his scruffy chin against her hair. "You don't have to fix everything Hokuto. There's a way out of here, somehow, and we need to find it." The shadow wants the man to attack Kaylee, but— as he expected, she's stubborn, won't listen. Which is fine, cause he's stubborn too.

Mortimer Jack, the disappearing fat-dragon, the man who refuses to follow through on his deal with the devil— The quick appareance of Minea triggers a brief twinge, but he pushes it down. He doesn't like guns, and shooting at a dream guy whose refusing to help the big bad 'it' is not going to help anyone.

This isn't a Company Man involved right now, anyway.

"You're not alone in this, Hokuto. I'll carry you out of here if I have to, and then we can come back and get rid of this thing that's hurting you." And carrying he does, toward the hole in the floor. He may not be able to see the mirror, but at least he can try to get her there.

Despite its size, the dragon's paw that nears the glass is delicately placed there; as his form gets closer, he can see it make reactions in kind, though he does not touch it. Instead, his claws curl back into a fist, closing as he drops to all fours again from his precarious hovering. His nose nears it next, but only so that his eyes may catch the occurrences behind each shard. This mirror could use repairs, he knows this- but for now it will do. Perhaps that will turn out to be his opinion of Hokuto, at a later date. Repairable.

A hollow shake rattles the floor, coming from down below and swaying what is left of the ground level. Wood splinters into the air as something rams into it from beneath, and long ivory horns crash into boards to knock them apart. The dragon has grown in a matter of a blink, it seems, pushing the size of his original appearances as he juts his head and shoulder out of the now gaping hole; one scaled limb reaches up and out into the store, claws out and swiping down forcefully onto another section of floor, clambering for one of the forms of the Nightmare Man. The sound of scraping and cracking and snarling is barely tolerable.

"There is a way out- Go!" The dragon's words rumble as badly as the floor had when he came up through it- but his meaning is clear.

"The moment of clarity, where Mortimer and Jack meet. We can feel Jack's love for Lola, Mortimer's crush on Ichihara, but you, Cassidy." His hand raises to gently take her chin. "You're having a baby, you represent a bitterness for what could have been. We're Mortimer and Jack, sane and insane, super sane maybe?" He snickers and releases her chin.

"You can call us Alex, and we're completely over you." That clockwork mass of tentacles suddenly wraps around itself, becoming a bronze sphere, clicking and moving like some sort of circular version of Lemarchand's box. "Nightmare Man, release Ichihara, now!"

There's a strangles hiss from Cassidy at Mortimer's rebuking, and she lurches back, gold eyes diminishing before a massive shadow seems to darken Cassidy's form. She turns— not quite in time— to catch sight of a gigantic scaly abomination clamboring down on her. She screams, arms raised to defend herself, but its too late. A scaled muzzle slams into her, knocking her to the ground, jaws open, snag her bloodily by a leg, swing her up into the air and then the gawping maw of razor sharp teeth simply snatches her in mid flailing flight, blood squirts out between the sword-sized teeth, limbs fall dowm from either side of Bao-Wei's colossal mouth, and the corpse of that Shadow dissolves into threads of smoke and shadow that slither out of his teeth.

By Teo, Minea's scrunched up face turns into a scowl as she curls her fingers into Teodoro's shoulders, her golden eyes shining brightly as she hisses in his ear. "Then you're no use to me." Kaylee can feel it immediately, a surge of mental power turning like static over her mind, just like the last time she mentally combatted the Nightmare Man.

Slithering around Teo, Minea's naked form quickly shifts and changes, changing to become a dapper-dressed blonde man with short cropped hair, his ice blue tie contrasting against the rest of his dark pinstriped suit.

In Adam Monroe's free hand, he holds a tarot card— XII - DEATH, "Sod off." The Brit states as the static hiss grows in noise, creating an interference of screeching proportions, and then deafening silence inside of Kaylee's mind as he siphons her ability from her. Turning his head to look over his shoulder, Adam glances over to Teo, two fingers coming up. "Walk."

Teo's eyes glow a faint irridescent blue for a moment, his spine becomes rigid, back arches and a choking breath snaps out from his mouth as he stands up rigidly straight. The two fingers point to the stairs Teo had been on earlier, ones sagging and in disrepair. Suddenly caught as if by strings and strands of some sharp mental control, Teo begins walking up the creaking flight of stairs as Adam turns back towards Kaylee, tongue running over his lips.

"Where were we my dear?" He holds up the Death again, pointing it towards her as a torrent of whispering voices fill her mind's eye. Hushed, desperate, perverse things come slithering in between her ears, allt he thoughts she tries to cut out, the dark secrets, the dirty fantasies, the spiteful words and then scathing rebukings.

Finding something to latch onto, the Nightmare Man's form changes again, red hair coiling down from his head, creases of age crossing a woman's face, and Megan Young's stern and disapproving countenance stands tall and authoratative. "You think you know how to protect anyone? You can't even save the people you love, you can't do anything by yourself. You'll always be Adam's little girl, needing to rely on someone bigger, older, stronger, smarter to get anything done."





Megan takes a step forward slowly, the voices cut out and as she flicks the card around in her hand, it becomes another card entirely, depicting a radiant sun shining rays of light down on things. XIX — THE SUN "You're a failure, Kaylee." An aura of despair settles in, siphoning the strength from Kaylee, drawing happiness, confidence, courage all away and leaving her with crippling self doubt and depression.

At the top of the stairs, Teo's jerking motions come to a stop, and Megan turns up to glance at him after a moment, offering up a smile. Two fingers angle towards a shattered window on the second floor, angle out, and Teo begins marching out the window, climbing over the end and then //plummets out of sight until a smash is heard somewhere outside.

"N— No!" Hokuto lunges off of Corbin's shoulders when Teo goes out the window. She finds herself face to face with the Nightmare man, grasping at the hand utilizing the cards, struggling with all her strength to pry them free. "Those are mine! They're mine! Not yours! You can't have them!" The blindfolded woman screams, but the Nightmare Man simply turns, slowly, Megan's form giving way to something taller, more masculine, dark and strong brows furrowed and black hair swept back and away from his face, a long and dark coat worn over his shoulders.


Hokuto's breath hitches in the back of her throat, she lets out a weak keening sound and falls away, scrambling back to Corbin, reaching up to grab his pantleg and pull herself up, a terrified look in her eyes. The Shadow of Sylar raises one hand, depicting a card showing the title XX — JUDGEMENT, "Get away from that mirror."

The sight of the man who treated her like a daughter, actually makes Kaylee take a stumbling step back, her stomach twisting painfully… even in this nightmare, her mind has been trained well. "A— Adam?" Blue eyes wide, she tries to move back more only to trip over a book, landing hard on her hip. Hands keep her upright, but just barely as he moves closer.

The appearance of the card gets a gasp, her head filled with mind numbing static again. Hands reach up to grip her head as she seems to fold in on herself. She expects it to get worse, but then the silence comes.. She tries not to think.. to do anything…. but recent events are indeed still fresh in her mind and he finds that fresh wound in her confidence caused by the woman that forms in front of her eyes.

"No… NO" Kaylee tries weakly to protest as everything this version of Megan says, It's all a verbal slap to the face. Her eyes feel hot with tears, as they threaten to shame her. As the despair settles over her, Kaylee's arms wrap around herself, tears trickle from the corner of her eyes as they squeeze shut against the emotional pain… and she can only curl forward almost as if she would just fold into herself and vanish. Hard to fight what you believe yourself, so Kaylee can only gives a soft choking sob.

One moment, Teodoro's a stoically indifferent puppet among alienated friends; the next, there's nothing but an extra lipping of crimson smeared in a razor-edged smirk along the broken window glass where he had stood for an instant against the void of a whistling fall. The sky blotches another lurid note of red, a macabre good-bye. Whatever is left of him is unavailable to press his question or to lend comfort, never mind to fight.

Tarot cards. Sure, Corbin doesn't know much about them cause she never finished his reading, and even when he played with them for hours on end after she first went unconscious and left him with the store, he never really understood what any of them meant. Some were obviously bad, some were good. And— Justice sounds like a good card. So does the Sun. But in this case, no, no they're not good.

With Hokuto back to him, he wraps a protective arm around her. The Dragon is ready to lead them down, but the Nightmare isn't ready for them to go. And this could get very, very ugly.

"Kaylee snap out of it. Hokuto, those cards are yours. Are there any that have a mirror or reflective surface? Maybe you can use one to get us an alternate out. Or at least get them out of here. I'll stay with you until this is over." It's the one way he can make sure she gets out of it. The hospital he took her for care is as good a place as any to pass out and not wake up.

No Patronus— though he doesn't realize he could well be holding on to it. No weapons of any kind. The most he can do is think of that.

Bao-Wei cannot go up- it would leave the mirror without a guard; he cannot retreat, either. Whether or not the beast recognizes the holder of the Judgment card, he knows that he has to stand his ground- as is such, it is no wonder the Emperor falls squarely on his shoulders. He stays to defend the mirror, other limb reaching up and digging claws into the floor, darkened teeth flashing angrily, gritting hard together.

A thrumming growl sounds in his chest, and as the dragon tenses its neck back, there is but a massive inhale through bared teeth before the store is filled with fire. Like before, it licks over those with Bao-Wei like a breeze, yet burrows dangerously into anything else. Something seems to have made it far more forceful, and now the heat, fire, and destructiveness comes like a monstrous gale wind.

"Ichihara." Alex says as he heads for the sphere, silvery eyes vaguely turned to her, with no pupils to tell what exactly he's staring at. "You try to get out of here, and we'll see what we can do about this guy. You owe us a date, well, you owe Mortimer a date, Jack isn't interested."

He moves to try and stand inbetween Sylar and Hokuto/Corbin, holding that sword out threateningly. "Come on, Nightmare Man, why don't you let them go and become a part of us? And why are you taking the form of the Clock Man anyway?" Truth be told, the one time he met Gabriel, he had no idea whot he guy was.

"No— No there's— " Hokuto lets out a hissing breath, her blindfolded eyes shielding the expression of terror in them. As Corbin drags her towards the opening in the floor, she looks out towards Kaylee, screaming and backing away from the visage of the Midtown Man himself. The Nightmare Man's golden-eyed image of Sylar lifts one dark brow up slowly, lips creeping up into a hesitant smile before he curls his fingers in the air and motions to Mortimer, palm extending out and sending a — perhaps too hasty — shockwave of force toppling down on him, uprooting the ground, the floorboards, books and papers and journals and sending him bouncing head over heels across the floor, cartwheeling end over end before crashing down past Bao-Wei into the basement.

Golden eyes turn up towards the dragon and Sylar's countenance stares down a beat just as terrifying as himself. "Ever the genderless creature…" the image of Sylar offers in cold commentary towards Bao-Wei, his palm up and droplets of blood rising from the floor coalescing into sharpened droplets like little shuriken made from Cassidy's blood on the floor. "Fitting in a way," he grins, "isn't it Doctor? Of all the marvels science has, and you still can't figure out which side of the coin you're on."

Dragged towards the edge of the hold, Hokuto looks up to Corbin, reaching into her sleeve and pulling out a single tarot card. "This is the best I can do…" she whispers to him, concealing the face of the card and just showing the symbol on the back. Her jaw trembles, and she rises up onto her toes, pressing a kiss to the side of his cheek. "I'm sorry," she whispers before shoving Corbin into the basement's open cellarhole.

Hokuto turns, black hair flowing like weaving ink as she lifts her hand up holding that card between two fingers. The Nightmare Man only notices her now, gold eyes meeting the blindfold that covers hers. Swallowing, dryly, Hokuto takes one sandaled step towards the Nightmare Man, slowly turning the card over to show the depiction of a man hung by a tree branch from one leg, his other bent into a figure four, hands bound behind his back.


Both of Sylar's dark brows go up, mouth opening partly, and a hitched breath is taken as both he and Hokuto seem to breathe the same breath for the barest of instants. "Go back to sleep." Hokuto demands as she turns the card upside down, and both she and the Nightmare Man let out a pained, howling scream, the floorboards crack beneath each other and both Hokuto and the Nightmare Man shatter into thousands of pieces of scattered glass.

When their images shatter, the mirror in the basement makes a hissing pop sound, and each shattered pane of the broken glass begins to fuse back together one by one. Jagged lines, broken pathways, a crater from a fist struck against a reflection unwanted all seal shut before revealing the reflection of Hokuto's hall of mirrors chamber.

With one notable difference — all the mirrors are gone.

If by Corbin's insistence or not, slowly the young blonde chokes back the tears, swallows the lump in her throat. The emotions the Nightmare Man has thrown on her lifts slowly, as Sylar and Hokuto scream and shatter. A soft gasp and Kaylee lifts her tear tracked face, body slowly uncurling.

Arm unwinds from around her and she presses her hands to the floor, pushing himself to her feet again. Blue eyes fall to the shattered pieces and she frowns, brows lowering. Slowly she turns to Corbin and then to Bao-Wei, there is almost a look of shame on her face. She is suppose to be stronger then this. Bare feet shuffle carefully on the wooden floor, moving to where the dragon sits with his mirror.

"No! Hokuto!" Corbin yells even as he falls, watching the shattering and ending up laying on his back in the hall of broken mirrors. It takes him a few moments before his hands finally raise up to rub at his face, and he rolls to get up. "Damnit… Why could she…"

Let him stay with her? Like it would have really helped with anything, but two people facing the shadows should work better than one person alone. And yeah, he heard what the crazy guy kept talking about. But he's— going to ignore that for now. It doesn't help anything. And she kissed his cheek and shoved him away.

"Looks like we won't be going into anyone's dreams anymore," he says, at the signs of broken mirrors everywhere around them.

Every mirror but one.

For the time between a failed firebomb and the shattering glass, there are plumes of angry, seething smoke coming out of any air escape in the dragon's muzzle. Even those bright orange eyes have peeled wide, nostrils flared. But when he finally gears his mind out of that jumble, his jaws clamp down tight onto air. They open again with a bellow, as Bao-Wei moves into reverse and comes down back to the basement level with the others; the tendrils on his face have flattened in orange lines along green scales, and from the ground up- Kaylee and Mortimer encounter just how much room he takes up.

The dragon's tail smashes broadside into a wall, the spiky club sticking for a breath before he yanks it back, ground crumbling inward.

Bao-Wei does not wait for something to happen, this time. He focuses his eyes on the mirror and moves towards it, both front limbs herding Kaylee and Mortimer roughly at the mirror. They all are done here.

When they move thorugh the mirror, they find Corbin, toussled and a bruise on his forehead, seated in the empty expanse of Hokuto's hall of mirrors. Typically, this place takes on the features of the environments around them, but now, here it seems somehow different. What Corbin sits in now resembles the foyer of a great skyscraper, where the walls are made of exposed, rusted metal scaffolding expanding up an infinite height to absolute blackness beyond. The mirrors stand in a circle of twelve just as they always have, like hours on a clock, each one shattered and broken with the same fist-imprint that the mirror they emerged through hat.

But behind Corbin, up beyond the hall of mirrors, rises a pair of concrete stairs, twenty-two in total, each one marked with a roman numeral, starting at 0 and ending at XXI at the top. High at the top of those stairs, rests a single, undamaged mirror in an worn and old wooden frame, just like all the others had been.

And beyond the mirror, there is a reflection of one final dream.

One last step through the looking glass, into the deepest and darkest subconscious realm they have yet to traverse. The portions of Hokuto Ichihara's minds that she has kept secret, kept hidden and kept tucked away in an imaginary basement beneath her fantastical bookstore of the mind.

In that mirrored surface, there casts the reflection of only one thing. A tall, towering statue of a man holding a book, muscled and proud, bald headed, swathed in robes like some greek god.

Around him, the petrified statues of screaming children. It is a doorway to the one mindscape they have yet to venture to— the only dreaming mind left remaining to save.

The Nightmare Man's.

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