Inside the Lofi club, Eureka had her head resting on the bar, Oncilla humming to the background music — Forget by Pogo, a slightly upbeat change from the standard selection of music.
“Oncilla?” a voice piped from below the counter, and the werewolf bartender leaned over to look at the shorter being.
“Ah, Cleaver,” she grinned, shoving out a chair for the fairy to hoist herself upon. “What can I get you today?”
Cleaver puffed out a bit of air as she succeeded in climbing the stool (which was easily a foot taller than her whopping 3’4 self). “Pineapple slushy?”
“You got it,” Oncilla smiled as she turned around. “You were training with Necro earlier, no?”
Cleaver knotted her brows together. “Howdja know?”
“Night posted an update on social media. He was bored. You realize he has ten-k followers, no?”
Cleaver’s eyes widened with shock. “…Wow. I didn’t expect to hear that. Hey, what do you recommend to someone who’s in a daze?”
Oncilla looked up as she slid the slushy over, her eyes showing a hint of skepticism. “Is this for Necro?”
“Yes. She hasn’t stopped training for eight hours now. Refused to eat.”
Oncilla sighed. “I usually don’t pull this out, but I can make a sriracha and chocolate milkshake. Looks normal. Used for situations like this. Do you need one badly?”
“If it’ll snap her back to reality,” Cleaver said as she stared at the wood counter, “Do it.”
Across the room, Necro stared off into the pastel spotlights, watching the patterns swing slowly about. The light blue beanbag she had sunk into made her red hair pop even more, but she didn't seem to be affected as she continued to daze off.
A short fairy plopped down in the beanbag next to her, enveloped in her phone. The stark ivory light illuminated her face, showing off green eyes and scarlet hair that reached her shoulders. Red-orange butterfly wings flapped slowly behind her, carefully avoiding getting crushed as she sat. A flowy, light orange tunic with dark red leggings was the fairy’s outfit of choice, only making her wings pop more.
Necro looked over for a brief second and felt her face instantly flush at the pretty fairy. Scooching over the beanbag, Necro pulled out her own phone and started to scroll through.
The fairy tilted up her head, recognizing Necro and smiling. “Hey, are you Necro the vocaloid champion?”
Necro’s eye twitched as she practically dropped the phone in shock, tongue-tied. Biting the inside of her cheek quickly, she audibly swallowed and choked out a “yep” as her face flushed red.
The fairy pushed up her ruby-colored glasses and jostled her beanbag closer. “Nice to meet you. I’m Autumn!”
Necro clenched the hem of her sweatshirt in her hands tightly, hair drifting in and out of her face. “N..nice to meet you too.”
Autumn looked at the ceiling, orange-hued flower crown sliding back on her head. Shooting a small grin, she asked a simple question.
“So, come here often?”
Midnight was approaching, and soon. Toffee and Ishmael had said their goodbyes to the…slightly weird duo and had made their way down the streets in a slow jog, approaching the stadium with every step (but seemingly not growing closer).
Pulling out his phone yet again, Ishmael looked at the screen as the white glare burned into his eyes. Swiping to call a number, he pressed it against his ear with a calm expression hidden by his mask.
“Hello?” Eureka answered on the other end.
“Hey,” Ishmael said into the phone. “Look, how fast can you get to the Rhythm Access stadium?”
“Uh…ten minutes? I’m still in the Lofi club. It’s calm here.”
“Perfect. Look, meet me here, okay?”
Ishmael stashed the phone away and shot a victorious look over at Toffee. “She’s coming. Chances are, Eureka might have some connections or something. Like, maybe she’ll make it easier to get extra info?”
Toffee sighed as she pulled her sweatshirt sleeves further over her hands, her arrow quiver jostling on her back. “Maybe. Whoever runs this club must be crazy, though. A locked wallet? Seriously? I’m a little scared.”
Ishmael shrugged. “Is that truly the weirdest thing sticking out about this to you?”
Eureka sighed and stood up from her beanbag, rubbing at her eyes as if she just woke up. Midnight’s cool. It’s calm. I like it.
Walking over to the bar with a slightly-more-awake expression, she leaned down on the bar as she said to Oncilla, “Can I get a hot chocolate to go?”
Oncilla shrugged as she pulled out the hot milk and cocoa powder, whisking the two together as they formed a blended beverage. “Sure. Whereya heading?”
“To the Rhythm Access stadium,” Eureka murmured. “Ishmael wants me there for something.”
“Isn’t he the dude you like?”
Oncilla laughed. “Don’t worry, it’s not a love confession or anything. He’s probably just asking you to spar with him or something.”
Eureka frowned. “Are you sure? What if he doesn’t want to be friends anymore?”
Oncilla grew quiet as she slid over the finished drink. “…look,” she whispered. “He’ll still wanna be friends. You just gotta be confident, okay?”
Eureka took a long drink of the hot chocolate and nodded. “Okay.”
“You realize that was like a hundred degrees, right?”
“At this point, I don’t care anymore. Thanks!”
And with that, Eureka spun on her heel and walked out the door.
Oncilla smiled, looking over at Necro. Necro was grinning happily and chatting with Autumn, her stressed expression gone…for now.
“Huh,” Oncilla whispered, a longing look on her face. What could she possibly want?
“Guess she didn’t need the wake-up drink anyways.”
Outside of the stadium, Ishmael had earbuds jammed in his maned wolf ears, closing his eyes as he leaned against the wall of the stadium. His earbuds were blaring music, louder than they should be in such a dense area. Lyrics could be heard over the upbeat music coming from the stadium.
“Leopards laze each, on plush pillows,
Slender capes of red & chrome,
Paperback dreams, in their deep doze.
Twitch their toes to, black mambo…”
Toffee, in a bold contrast from her normal personality, was pacing back and forth, nervously braiding a frazzled strand of her brown hair. Her earbuds were lodged in her cat ears as well, the lyrics inaudible from such low volume.
“Do you think that this’ll be safe?” she questioned, her lips contorted into a worried frown. “I don’t know if this is safe. She said lock your wallet? Do you have a lock of some sort on you—oh, a safety pin will work.”
Ishmael opened an eye to look at Toffee nervously pacing about. “Chill,” he said in a quiet voice. “It’s gonna be fine. We’re getting Riri back, right? And…right, that Vampire friend of yours. Sorry she died.”
Toffee looked over at Ishmael with an infuriated expression. “The two of us were acquaintances, and nothing more. I couldn’t care less that she died. Doesn’t everyone die in the end?!”
Ishmael raised his eyebrows. “Uh, Toffee?”
“WHAT?!” Toffee exploded, stomping up to him. “What is it?!?”
Toffee whipped around with a terrifyingly angry expression, coming face-to-face with a short preteen girl.
The girl had long, wispy hair, dyed completely purple with a pink ombré at the tips.She wore a short sleeved, button down, pastel plaid shirt, revealing purple tattoos swirling up her arms. Her jeans were slightly ripped, but she didn’t seem to mind. She’s a siren, Toffee thought to herself. Better be careful.
“Hello,” the girl said in a soft voice. “Are you two the ones I am escorting?”
Ishmael tore out his earbuds and nodded. “Ready?” he asked Toffee.
Toffee bobbed her head in response. “Ready—”
“Ahh!” a voice shouted from behind, and hurried footsteps could be heard. “Guys, wait up!”
Ishmael looked over Toffee’s shoulder to see Eureka jogging along, struggling to keep up with a small figure latched onto her leg.
“I’m sorry,” she wheezed as she slowed down, bending over and catching her breath, “For taking so long. She insisted on coming…”
Nyx looked up at the trio with an emotionless face. “I was bored, and Imagine and Peacock started talking to each other in a cutesy way. It was sickening.”
Eureka sighed as she looked back up at the other girl there. “Oh, hey, Natalie.”
Natalie flinched when she saw Eureka, taking a cautious step backwards. “E-Eureka! Pleasure to see you, Miss.”
Eureka grinned weakly. “Pleasure’s mine. How is Chan-Chan?”
“Good, Miss.” Natalie fidgeted with her painted-lavender nails, suddenly interested in digging the dirt out from under them. “May we please start walking?”
Toffee shook her head up and down in agreement. “Yes, please. Sooner we get there, the better.”
“He WHAT?!” Rebel practically hollered in the bowling alley. Murdoc was busy focusing on getting a good shot, spinning his arm and throwing the heavy ball down the lane.
Snowfall sighed, her face shriveling with disgust. “Yeahhh. Genius over here told them about the HH.”
Rebel groaned, slamming her head down on the table. The nachos sitting on the cheap countertop jostled a tiny bit from the force.
“Ugh…” Rebel murmured. “Rosetta’s gonna be irate after we tell her.”
Snowfall nodded, her worry evident as well. “Hey, do you know if Autumn made it to the lofi club?”
“Yeah.” Rebel took a long sip from her soda and inhaled. “She’s pressing the girl for any information about the others.”
“Why do we need to eliminate them, again?”
“They’re the best fighters in Rhythm Access,” Rebel said as she stretched her mouth into a grimace. “The top 20. We have to get rid of them all. They’re the biggest threat, if anything, with this.”
Snowfall cocked her head to the side, her signature water streamlets bobbing around her head. “Hey, are we still doing business with the Bellman family?”
A figure came over and slapped their bag down onto the table, sighing and leaning back. “Hey.”
Rebel jerked her head upwards as a sign of acknowledgement. “Hey, Quasar. Just talking about stuff. To answer your question, Snowy, we still are. Although, they may ask about what happened to their daughter…”
“Same with the Waters family, I presume.”
Quasar sighed, looking around and diverting the topic from the current one. “Why is our base a hidden bowling alley?”
Snowfall knitted her eyebrows together, leaning backwards in her chair and staring at the geometric-patterned ceiling. “Because it’s cheaper than a high tech one…besides, free nachos.”