It was close to midnight in the ever-busy city of Death Vegas, the bright lights of the big signs and bigger buildings giving the sky a warm orange glow. The whole city had basically become the epicenter of one massive celebration, and the noise seemed to echo out into the desert for miles.
People from all over the country, and even the world, were experiencing the wonders of the strung out paradise…except, perhaps, a disgruntled pair of former lovers currently walking the one place the city lights never touched, a nefarious nexus of alleyways commonly called the Dead End.
One of them was a taller man dressed in an emerald tuxedo, with slicked blonde hair and a small soul patch. The other was a slightly disheveled brunette in a puffy blue dress. The two walked in stormy silence, neither one bothering to spare a glance at the other, the moonlight being their only guide.
Finally, the man spoke.
"You're just makin' a big deal outta nothin'," he said, his rough New York accent coming through.
"Nothing, you said?" the woman asked incredulously. "Unbelievable. You don't care at all, do you? Do these last three months mean anything to you? Anything at all?"
"Look, baby, I-!"
"Don't you call me baby, you beast!" she interrupted sharply. "I gave you my heart, Laurence! My soul! Everything! And look where it got me…"
"Angie, just listen to me!"
"No! I'm tired of listening to you and your lies! Why don't you just go back and cling to your maid friend, Destiny?" Laurence stopped dead in his tracks, taken slightly aback by her out-of-left-field question. "Admit it," Angie said between angry sobs, "It's her you want, not me!"
She started to storm off, hoping that would be the end of it, but Laurence grabbed her by the shoulder, forcing her to stop and look at him. "It's not like that!" he cried, his voice ringing out in the alleyway.
The two paused for a moment, their frenzied thoughts bouncing around in their brains, trying to find an exit in words. No words came. Angie's tears slowly trickled down her cheeks before rolling off and striking the broken tile of the alleyway, prompting her to wipe them away with her hand.
Slowly but surely, the darkness around them began to take shape and surround them, a wall of shadow that completely encompassed them. Laurence gritted his teeth as a shiver went down his spine, the chill of dread settling over him. Angie began to tremble with fear, instinctively grabbing her ex-boyfriend's hand for comfort as the darkness grew thicker and more tangible.
There was something there, directly behind them. Something tangible. A presence.
Then there were footsteps. They jumped at the sound. Someone was coming toward them, walking toward them!
They slowly started shuffling to the northern end of the alley, which would eventually lead them to light and safety. At least, they hoped it would. Things being the way they were, Laurence and Angie were beginning to doubt they were going get out of this alive.
The footsteps got louder…closer. Their hearts started racing. They had to go faster! They quickened their pace, though the alleyway only seemed to be getting longer, their salvation seeming farther and farther away with each and every hurried step.
A figure appeared in the darkness, a hazy shape in the dim light of the moon. Laurence's eyes widened in fear. He kept close to Angie, clutching her hand tightly.
"Wha—? Who's there!?" he called out fearfully. The shadowy figure paused. So did they.
For a moment, time seemed to stand still. Laurence didn't know what to do. Angie was just as terrified as he was, but neither of them were making the move to run.
The figure moved suddenly, causing them to jump. Whatever was hiding beyond that veil of shadows was surprisingly menacing. It appeared human, but it didn't necessarily...feel human. Finally, after a long, dreadful silence, the thing decided to step out of the darkness and reveal itself.
What stood before Laurence and Angie was, to their surprise and relief, human. He was a medium-height, tan-skinned man with a rough, stubbly jawline and a thick black mustache. His stocky build was enveloped in a steel gray suit, a similarly colored fedora atop his head.
Three gold chains dangled down from around his neck, the longest of these adorned with a small crystalline skull with glaring ruby eyes. He wore several rings on each of his fingers, each one adorned with a different precious stone. An ornate cane was in his right hand, a larger amber jewel nested at its head. A long red feather jutted out from the strap on his hat, his eyes hidden behind a pair of designer sunglasses.
"Buenos tardes," he said slowly, giving the couple a malicious smile. "Out for a stroll?"
Laurence eyed him with a mixture of curiosity and fear. "Yeah..." he responded carefully, "...just, uh...out for a stroll..."
"Yes!" Angie said a bit too quickly. "And now we, uh...are going to...go...hit the casinos! Ain't that right, baby?"
"Uh—right!" Laurence said, pulling Angie closer to him. "We''ll uh...see ya later, a'right? Have a, uh—a nice night!"
The newcomer's expression suddenly grew dark as the distraught couple tried their best to back away from him. "Oh no. You two aren't going anywhere. Amigos!"
The moment the word touched the night air, two enormous men in dark suits stepped out of the shadows behind the still terrified couple and cut off their escape. The two turned and gasped in surprise. They spared a moment to look back at the mysterious stranger only to have their arms pinned behind their backs by his henchmen.
Struggling proved pointless; the men were just too strong. That didn't stop them from trying, which only served to make the man in the gray suit smile with apparent satisfaction.
"It's a shame your night is going to end this way," he said mockingly. "If it helps, your souls will be supporting a good cause!" His sunglasses slid down his nose as he tilted his head down, his blood red eyes leering out of the shadow of his hat brim. He reached into his coat, and with a gratuitous flourish, pulled out a massive golden-plated revolver.
The screams rang out seconds before the shots did, although both were drowned out by the sounds of Death Vegas' night life. Fortunately, someone was watching through the lens of his Soul Perception. He focused in on the group just as the two innocent souls among them disappeared from sight.
"That's it, I found 'em," the boy said, glancing over at the girl beside him. "Let's get to work."
"Right," she said confidently, holding out her hand.
The young man just shook his head. "No dice. You can transform when we get there." The girl just gave him a dirty look.
"Fine, don't carry me there. Dickhead," she said, sticking her tongue out at him.
"Just c'mon," the boy retorted over his shoulder, "You could use the exercise."
The girl just resorted to snorting in derision. He gave her a slight grin before jumping over to the rooftop across from them, clearing the gap between buildings in a single bound. Shrugging her shoulders and breathing out an annoyed sigh, she leaped after him, her ash blonde hair billowing out behind her.
They stuck to the high ground, his Soul Perception guiding them to their target, the soul stealer. Their movements were near silent, their presence masked by the night. The moon was their only real source of light, but it wasn't enough to give either of them away to anyone who may have been watching. While stealth wasn't normally a priority for them, it was always nice to get the drop on the enemy when given the opportunity. For the first time in a while, they had that advantage, so they decided to make the most of it.
The man in the steel gray suit was walking down a different branch of the Dead End alley network, chuckling softly despite himself. His operation here in Death Vegas was going well. Better than expected, even.
While soul trafficking was a relatively new business for him, he found that doing the dirty work himself made it feel safer than it was. It gave him a certain...satisfaction. His boys were currently busy carting the night's souls away to the warehouse, where they would be loaded into trucks and sent over the border. He, meanwhile, was just taking a walk.
There was no real need to bring his enforcers. Their time would be better spent speeding up the soul delivery. Besides, he could take care of himself.
All at once, he got the feeling that he wasn't alone. He looked up and down the alleyway, his head turning swiftly side to side. To his chagrin, no one was in sight, not even his boys. But he still had that feeling. That dreadful feeling that someone was watching him.
"Hey, asswipe!" a voice called out.
He took another quick look around, gripping his cane tightly in both hands. "Qué? Who's there?"
That was when he realized that the voice had come from above him and looked up. There he found what he least expected. It was a pair of teenagers, a boy and a girl, both giving him dangerous looks from the rooftop high above him. The moonlight gave their shapes definition, but even from where he was, it was hard to make their faces.
"Who dares?" he snarled.
"Just shut up and listen," the young man said flatly. "Soul trafficker and head of the Sinaloa Cartel, 'El Chapo' Guzmán, you have been marked for death by the Grim Reaper. In his name, we hunt down thugs like you, to preserve peace and order."
El Chapo grimaced. "So, Lord Death has finally found me..."
"Yup," the girl beside the boy answered, "And you're gonna pay for taking those people's souls, you fuckin' lowlife!"
The crime lord just snickered. "Sorry, chica, but human souls are in high demand right now!" He turned and started to walk away from them, stopping only to glance over his shoulder at the two students. "My business is lucrative...and private. I suggest you run back to your escuela...unless, of course, you want to die tonight!"
He shot them a devilish grin, his jagged teeth glinting in the moonlight, a physical indication of the evil in his soul.
The young man on the roof scoffed, clearly unimpressed. "There's nowhere to run, El Chapo. The end is near. Your soul is mine!"
He leaped down off the rooftop, holding out his hand. Without any prompting, the girl vanished into a flash of light, replaced by a large scythe.
"Let's go, Nina," he said darkly.
He twirled the scythe above his head before bringing the blade down in an arc, aiming for the top of El Chapo's head. El Chapo jumped back in the nick of time, the scythe blade burrowing into the ground he had been standing on seconds earlier.
As the crime lord felt around in his suit coat for his revolver, he noticed several odd things about the young man's weapon.
For one, the scythe's connection ring bore two elongated, feminine eyes. Even stranger was the fact that one eye was a blood red while the other was a flat gray, almost black. The darkness of the alleyway couldn't hold a candle to the darkness in those eyes, that cold and dangerous gaze.
As the young man removed the blade from the alleyway cobblestone, he noticed that it wasn't just the weapon's irises that were two-toned. The blade itself was also two-toned, one flat blood red, the other jet black. While this struck El Chapo as odd at first, he soon realized that nothing about DWMA was normal, especially the weapons.
El Chapo finally found his revolver, taking aim as the scythe meister sank into a stance. He fired off a few rounds, but the young man charged forward, effortlessly deflecting the bullets by twirling the scythe out in front of him as he ran. He kept the scythe spinning until he was directly in front of El Chapo. Without a word, he swung it in a horizontal arc, aiming for the convict's neck.
The cartel head only barely managed to dodge it, his eyes widening behind his sunglasses as the blade tore through the air above him. The boy followed through with several more slashes, each one coming from a different angle. El Chapo dodged most of them, using his revolver as a shield when he couldn't get out of the way in time. In the gaps between swings, he would fire off a shot or two, but he never landed a hit.
Finally, the young meister brought the scythe over his head for a downward swing, but El Chapo saw it coming. As the blade came down, he slid to the side and fanned the hammer of his revolver, silently thankful that his weapon never ran out of bullets. With a short jump and several twists in midair, the young man managed to dodge all of the bullets, though one managed to put a hole in the black jacket he was wearing.
He took a swipe at El Chapo's legs as he landed, forcing El Chapo to curl into a back flip to avoid getting his legs cut off at the knee. The crime lord landed on the wall behind him, his cane in his left hand and his revolver in his right. With a yell, he pushed off with his legs and leapt straight for the young meister, his revolver pointed at the boy's heart.
But the boy was too quick.
He twirled the scythe out in front of him, putting a wall of spinning metal between him and the crime lord. El Chapo didn't even get the chance to pull the trigger before his gun was knocked out of his hands by the scythe's handle. He was sent flying in the same direction within a few revolutions.
As El Chapo sailed through the air, the young meister put his scythe behind his back. He let the two-toned blade rest on the ground, watching as the convict landed in a heap not six meters away, his golden gun and designer sunglasses clattering to the ground seconds after.
"Mierda..." El Chapo grunted as he got to his feet. "You're better than I imagined, eh?"
The boy didn't say anything. Instead, he gave his enemy a sly smile, using his free hand to make a universal gesture. Come on, he dared silently. Come on.
"You just signed your own death warrant!" El Chapo roared. With a flourish, he pressed a button on his cane, causing a small blade to emerge from the bottom. He charged forward, the boy instinctively shifting into a defensive stance. El Chapo went on the offensive, using his cane as a rapier.
The young meister did well enough to block his slashes and redirect his stabs, but he was constantly being pushed back. The crime lord was an astonishingly good fencer.
"You can barely keep up with me, huh?!" he said between slashes.
"Fuck off," the boy said as he deflected another angular swipe. El Chapo tried to skewer him several times, finally resorting to using only stabbing motions. It proved to be his final mistake. With another front-facing twirl, the young meister knocked the cane sword out of El Chapo's hand, leaving him completely vulnerable.
Without giving it a second thought, he swung his scythe up and at an angle, taking off El Chapo's outstretched arm at the shoulder. His cane clattered to the ground, his severed limb landing not too far away from it. The soul trafficker screamed in anguish as blood poured out of his wound, painting the ground around him a vivid red.
He tried to go back for his revolver, but it was no use; he was losing too much blood. It didn't take long before he lost the strength to stand, falling flat on his face not two meters away from his gun. His vision began to blur, his ears began to ring, his breathing became labored and slow. His end was at hand, although he didn't want to believe it.
Using his remaining arm, he turned himself over, staring down his attacker all the while.
"Listen, boy," he said, his blood pooling on the ground around him, "This means noth—"
The young meister didn't wait for him to finish. El Chapo's final thoughts died on his lips as the boy forcefully stepped on his chest, crushing his ribs. The convict spat up blood as he reached for the night sky, grasping at the air as he gasped for breath.
The boy put the blade of his scythe against his neck, its top-facing flat glinting red in the moonlight. El Chapo stared wide-eyed at the blade, his expression fearful. Then, all at once, his expression narrowed dangerously, his crimson eyes speaking volumes of hatred and regret as he looked up as his assailant.
"Do it," he whispered angrily, blood running down his chin. "Do it!"
"Done," the boy said, his expression grim.
Without a moment's hesitation, he used his right foot to push the blade through the crime lord's neck, decapitating him. He stepped off the body as it tore itself into shadowy ribbons, leaving a crimson soul floating above a pool of blood. The boy sighed, the tension leaving his body with a slump of his shoulders.
"That makes sixteen," he said dully, running his fingers through his snow white hair. "Take his soul and let's go. I'd like to get home before 6 AM."
The scythe turned to light in his hands, shifting into a human form. When the light faded, the girl from before was there instead, crouched beside him. Licking her lips greedily, she stood up and sauntered over to the crime boss' soul, smiling all the while. Grabbing it, she popped it into her mouth and swallowed it whole, sighing satisfactorily as it landed in her gut.
"Not too bad," she said happily. "Really hit the spot." She looked back to her brother only to discover that he had already started walking back. "Hey, Specter, wait up!" she said as she trotted after him.
He just kept his hands in his jeans pockets, looking around for a good-sized window. "We need to call Lord Death and report in," he said, not bothering to spare a glance at his sister, who seemed way too happy all of a sudden. He supposed it had something to do with her being a creature of the night combined with a free meal in the form of a soul.
It took him a while, but he eventually found something he could use. He motioned for Nina to stop as he used his breath to mist the glass, writing '42-42-564' on it with his finger. The window instantly went black, its surface becoming that of a television screen. It then began to ring like a cellular phone, blue lines moving across the screen in radial waves.
On the eighth ring, someone answered, making the window burst into a flash of light.
"Hey, Lord Death!" Nina said, apparently to no one, "You still up?"
Just then, the light died out, the black screen replaced with live footage of an endless room with a bright blue sky and sparsely rolling clouds. A line of red wooden arches led to a raised dais, upon which lay the furniture and decor of a home office. A small couch, a comfy-looking armchair and a coffee table were just barely visible behind a beautiful but simple wooden desk. On the desk were two very tall stacks of paper that were perfectly symmetrical in terms of height and position. Books, a coffee mug, a pencil holder, and other small odds and ends were neatly arranged on the polished wood.
The room appeared devoid of people until someone stepped into view. He was a tall, pale-skinned man with thick jet black hair that had three horizontal white stripes cutting through it. His golden eyes were dull with fatigue, and it showed with every small movement he made.
"Yes, yes, I'm here," Shinigami-sama answered. "Who is—? Oh, it's you two."
"Nice to see you too, sir," Specter said dryly.
The Grim Reaper laughed nervously in response. "Sorry, sorry. I didn't mean it like that. Things have been...busy...around here." Clearing his throat, Shinigami-sama straightened himself up, his composure and vigor returning to him as he straightened his skull tie. "What do you have to report?" he asked.
Specter shrugged and shot Shinigami-sama a proud half-smile. "The soul trafficker 'El Chapo' Guzmán is dead."
"Ah, wonderful!" he said as he clasped his hands together, "I can finally cross his name off my list. Well done, you two."
"Thanks, boss!" Nina said with a grin.
The Grim Reaper gave the pair a warm smile. "I must say, I'm impressed. You two are well on your way to meeting your first-year evil soul requirement, and so soon. What is this? Fifteen now?"
"Sixteen," Specter corrected.
"Ah, that's right. I forgot you took down that serial killer in Los Angeles last weekend. Keeping track of everyone's soul counts is a little difficult when you have students and faculty to think about. But that's what I have Hiro for." He paused for a moment to think about his next words. "Be sure to turn in your mission assignment to him tomorrow. And by tomorrow, I mean Thursday. No one will be expecting you to be in class today. It's already two in the morning, and you still have to get back to Death City."
"Yeah, yeah, we know," Nina said, still somewhat energetic due to the evil soul energy surging through her body.
"Alright, then. Drive safe."
"Will do," Specter said with a nod
"Okay, goodbye." With that, the Grim Reaper's image cut out, leaving Specter and Nina looking at the front window of a run-down toy store.
"You heard him," Specter said, looking at Nina over his shoulder. "Let's get the hell out of here."
It didn't take the two of them long to find their way out of the Dead End, and it didn't take them much longer after that to find Specter's motorcycle. Specter tossed Nina her helmet before putting on his own and hopping onto the bike, gesturing for her to do the same. After pulling away from the sidewalk, the two slowly made their way through the elaborate, exquisite labyrinth that is Death Vegas.
Specter focused on the road, watching for drunken tourists. Nina, meanwhile, looked everywhere else, dazzled in every way possible by the sights and sounds of the gambling town. When they made it onto the main highway out, Specter gunned it, forcing Nina to hold onto him tighter.
Now we're talking, Specter thought to himself. No sense in wasting any more time...
Luckily for him, no one was on the road. After all, everyone who wanted to be in Death Vegas was already there, and no one ever bothered to leave, especially not at this hour. It was a good thing, too, because if Nina tapping away incessantly on his shoulder was any indication, she wasn't going to go quietly into the night. He could only handle so much noise.
"You've got my attention," Specter said over his shoulder. "What do you want?"
"Hey, are we gonna do anything about El Chapo's goons?"
"No," he said flatly, "Hiro said somebody else would take care of them."
"Fuckin'..." Nina trailed off, visibly disappointed. "Who do you think'll do it?"
"I don't know, probably Mr. Barret. He's good at that kind of shit." Specter looked up to see the moon seated high in the night sky, grinning like always. Blood was seeping through his teeth and onto his chin, a sign that a lot of people had been killed all at once. Specter couldn't help but grin, too.
It looked as though someone had taken care of the Sinaloa Cartel's installment in Death Vegas after all. Blood continued to pour out of the moon's mouth like a waterfall as he chuckled softly to himself, watching as the two sibling students made their way home. Specter just looked back to the road. He couldn't afford to be distracted.
After all, the road back to Death City was a long one.
Sid Barrett, covert operative for the DWMA, stood atop a wooden brace in the roofing of an abandoned warehouse on the eastern edge of Death Vegas. Below him, various men in dark suits loaded crates full of souls into moving trucks.
Despite their boss having been killed less than an hour previous, the Sinaloa Cartel's soul trafficking business was still in full swing. Sid knew well that the trucks were headed to México, where the souls they contained would be sold to the highest bidder. That couldn't be allowed to happen. Why else would Shinigami-sama have sent him?
"Ready to go, Naigus?" Sid asked, glancing down at the combat knife in his hand.
"All set, Sid," she replied, her likeness appearing on the flat of the blade.
"Alright. Now, all we have to do is wait for the right moment to—!" Sid was interrupted by the sound of wood splintering. He looked down to discover that the beam he was standing on was giving way. "Shit." Agile as always, he sprung into a back flip, landing neatly on a nearby stack of crates just as a good portion of the roof came crashing down.
Down below, one of El Chapo's goons was busy loading crates when he heard a sharp snapping sound. He looked up just in time to see the roof supports come down, screaming quite pathetically as they crushed and killed him, leaving his soul to float among the splinters. The resulting sound made everyone in the warehouse stop what they were doing and investigate.
Some of them saw Sid and alerted their cohorts to his presence. Others grabbed weapons from crates in the warehouse. None of them ran away.
"You were saying?" Naigus said dryly as the men pulled out their various weapons.
"Well, looks like the right moment to strike has passed," Sid said mostly to himself, standing up straighter as he twirled Naigus between his fingers. "Guess I'll have to improvise. That's not so bad. After all, I'm good at improvising." He stopped twirling. "That's the kind of man I was."
Naigus just sighed. "What happens in Death Vegas..."
The moon's mouth filled with blood as the undead assassin slaughtered El Chapo's men, stamping out the Death Vegas branch of the Sinaloa Cartel once and for all.