|"Are we done in this reality yet? Hello? Hellooo?"|
Saito Takeda leaned his elbows upon the lacquered surface of his desk, the thick leather of his gloves creaking as he steepled his fingers. What had once been heavy slabs of muscle in years gone by had slowly given way to fat, but he was still a big, intimidating man. His gaze was inscrutable, his eyes having long been replaced with soulless, reflective black lenses.
A pair of heavily augmented bodyguards stood to either side of him. They were the best money could buy, their bodies having been turned into brutal chem-tech weapons by the brilliant, albeit deranged, scientist.
Takeda's inherent violence and ambition had seen him rise from humble beginnings to become one of Zaun's most powerful chem-barons, the infamous rulers of the undercity. Today he planned the downfall of yet another of his rivals.
"Bring her in, Ortos" he said, through a cloud of exhaled smoke.
Unseen chains rattled and pulled taut, and the dark iron doors to his office ground open. Two more bodyguards stood to mute attention outside. One could never be too careful. Takeda had learned that the hard way, as his many scars attested.
Takeda's shaven-headed chamberlain, Ortos, stepped forward, leading a petite figure to the entrance.
Shadows clung to her, making it difficult to see her clearly, though Takeda glimpsed a flash of blue-tinged flesh and a pair of predator's eyes that reflected the chem-fire sconces of his office. He felt an unfamiliar tremor of apprehension at her appearance, but forced it aside. He was one of the most feared men in Zaun. Why should he feel uneasy in his own office?
"The Lady," Ortos announced.
Takeda waved a gloved hand, and Ortos retreated, the doors grinding shut behind him. Evelynn sauntered forward, moving with sublime grace, the heels of her boots echoing sharply.
She came to a halt on the other side of Takeda's wide desk, and planted her hands on her hips. He could see her more clearly as the shadows retreated to the corners of the room.
Her slender figure was clad in gleaming red leather, and her eyes were yellow and almond-shaped, like those of a cat. A wild mane of crimson hair framed her face, and sharp canines glinted as her lips parted in a sardonic smile.
"I've been called many things," she said, "but a lady? That's a new one."
Takeda leaned back in his seat, considering her. "Around here, most call you the Widowmaker."
Evelynn shrugged. "At least it's accurate."
"I've never married, myself," said Takeda. "But the one I want you to kill, the Baron Artega Holt, has a wife. Two of them, actually, and a throng of mistresses."
"He sounds perfectly charming. I'm sure they'll miss him dearly," purred Evelynn. "I shall be glad to make his acquaintance."
"Before I commission you, I need some kind of assurance," said Takeda. "How do I know you are the right one for this job?"
"You would have me prove myself, like some back-alley cut-throat?" she asked, a hint of irritation in her voice. "Has it been so long since I stepped foot in Zaun that I really need to audition?"
"We hear something of your exploits from time to time. That Demacian knight-commander assassinated last year; that was you, wasn't it?"
Evelynn gave a slow nod. "It was."
"And the heir of Clan Kozari, in Piltover last week?"
Evelynn's expression hardened.
"No, that was not me," she said. "That was the."
"Ah," mused Takeda. "Interesting. Well, I guess it proves that reputations and gossip can never truly be relied upon. I'll trust what I see with my own eyes."
"Then I'm afraid this might leave you disappointed," hissed Evelynn.
The blue-skinned assassin took a step back and instantlyinto shadow. Takeda's bodyguards tensed, flexing their piston-strengthened limbs in unease. Takeda glanced left and right, trying to discern her location. Nothing. She was simply gone, vanished completely, as if she had been swallowed by the darkness.
"Not bad," he said. He'd heard of her power, of course, but such things are often over-exaggerated. He was pleased to see that in this case, the rumors were true.
Talonedgrabbed him from behind, blood red nails digging into his flesh as Evelynn emerged from the shadows. She was far stronger than she looked, and forcibly turned his head to expose his thick neck. Her grasp was ice-cold, as if warm blood no longer flowed in her veins, and her fangs were inches from his jugular.
His guards turned instantly, stepping forward to defend their master, but Takeda raised a hand, stopping them in their tracks. He knew they would have been too slow had she truly wished to end his life.
"What do you think?" breathed Evelynn through bared teeth, her chilled breath caressing his throat. "Impressed yet?"
"Not bad at all," he said. "Yes, you will do nicely. Now, let us discuss my offer."
"I hope you can afford me," she hissed, tightening her grip, and leaning closer. "I don't want you to have wasted my time here."
Takeda swallowed uncomfortably. "I don't think that will be an issue," he said.
Evelynn released him with a shove, and sat on the edge of his table. She stretched like a cat, completely at ease.
"You haven't yet asked my price," she said.
"Whatever it is, I can pay it."
"Money holds no interest to me, Saito," she said.
Takeda furrowed his brow. "Then what is it you want?"
"Much more than you will be willing to give, I'm thinking," she said. "But I believe you'll come around."
"This is not the way things work here," growled Takeda. "I own this district. No one makes demands of me."
"You've seen only a fraction of what I can do," said Evelynn. She leaned back, smiling. "I'm in the perfect position to make a few demands."
Takeda said nothing. His body was tense. He opened his mouth to speak but Evelynn interrupted him, holding up a finger.
"Don't say anything rash, my dear," she said. "You'd be dead before the words left your lips."
Takeda stared at her, frozen in indecision.
"Very wise," Evelynn said, after giving it a moment. She stood, moved back around the desk, and strode toward the door.
"Artega Holt will be dead before sunup," she said, without looking back. "I'll be in touch about my first payment."
"First payment?" said Takeda.
"The first of many," she said, pausing to look back at him. "You'd be wise to remember that I can strike wherever there is darkness. And Zaun is such a dark place."
She nodded toward the door, raising an eyebrow. Takeda growled an order, and the doors swung open. Before she left, Evelynn gave him a wink.
"Don't take it too hard," she said, as she melded into the darkness. "So long as you don't irritate me, this partnership will work out well for us both."
Takeda sat alone in silence. After a few minutes, his chamberlain peered into the room.
"Can I get you anything, my lord?" Ortos said.
"No," said Saito Takeda through gritted teeth. He slammed a fist onto his desk. "Leave me. All of you, leave me. And stoke the furnace. There are too many shadows in here..."