The camp was nervous. Members of the troupe were on edge, speaking in hushed tones. Never in their brief history together had this ever happened to them. They were uncertain on how to react. So they lamented and strummed their stringed instruments in slow, half- hearted ballads. When that didn’t work they tried to console in themselves, tightening up their security. As if they actually knew what they were doing.
He had to make an effort not to laugh. Black sheep, all of them. Easy prey dressed in dark funerary clothing. This must be their last day of the Mourning Ritual; a practice where the closest members of the deceased would place flowers and songs on the tomb. Three days to mourn, three days to spill their hearts in song and prayer. Hisoka would help them with that last task.
He strode out of the bushes, in plain sight. No In, no Zetsu, not even so much as an effort to make his stride silent. The first members saw him and froze in their place. Others noticed him and ran, screaming words that Hisoka did not register. He was too focused on his task. ‘Maybe all of you together will prove enough to satisfy me,’ he thought.
“You monster!” There it was. The few members with Nen that had some combat value attempted to take revenge of the magician. On the boy they knew since he was found in the middle of nowhere some years ago. The boy who observed and did his job without complaint. The boy with the scary glint in his eye.
Hisoka remained quiet. He had nothing to say to these people. He stood still giving them time to encircle him and assume the best strategic position against him.
“We’re going to avenge Ela. Die you abomination,” yelled the closest one as he waved a broad sword at him. Hisoka exhaled and, in a flash, disappeared from their sight.
“Where did he go?” asked flabbergasted the sword-wielder. From across the caravan, a crunching noise was emitted accompanied by the faint cry of surprise followed by sudden death. Everyone turned to look and found the magician standing tall next to two corpses. A young couple, newly wed barely a fortnight ago. The act enraged the members of the troupe. And they all charged at him.
Hisoka let out a soft smile. Chaos and pandemonium. This was HIS battlefield. And he would give them a propped welcome. One by one, members fell, each dying without actually recognizing what happened and how. Hisoka would simply appear next to a person and later disappear, leaving only a corpse. Only the elder, the troupe’s eldest person who served as something of counselor as well as an advisor and historian, recognized something amiss. His eyes did not miss the long black hair tucked under his shirt. The night his most of the magician’s features so that he was a shadowed ghoul, but the elder saw it under the moon’s light. As he fell, seconds before dying, he saw something sticking out of a nearby dead troupe member. It looked round with a long, thin spike jutting out. Just like a needle.
Karn heard the yells and screams but was slow in his reaction. It wasn’t just the fact that he was weak and crippled. Or the fact that, during their last encounter, Hisoka had crippled him further. It was shock. Karn had given up on life. His last shred of happiness in this life was gone. He had abandoned his drink, consuming only to avoid going insane from the withdrawal symptoms. Pain had been a part of his life for the past 2 days. He had not slept nor ate, simply refusing to move from the spot where he buried his wife and erected an altar of stones. Flowers and paper already began to cover it. It was then that he’ll break tradition and burn everything.
Karn wanted to burn Hisoka. That abomination who took everything from him. He wanted to kill him so bad it hurt. The hate burned a hole in his chest, sucking whatever last shreds of life remained in him. But he knew that he could never reach Hisoka. The confrontation was clear enough. Even if he managed to corner him, the magician was beyond him. Karn couldn’t become stronger. He knew it, Hisoka knew it, his wife, now dead in the ground, knew it. He had reached the maximum point in his training and he was unable to improve any more. Whatever he had learnt had served him well in his youth, back when he was a rowdy youngster. Now he used those same abilities to entertain others. He didn’t like it but it was the safest life he could find, away from Ela’s monarch father. He hated having taken away from that royal life. But she insisted that they marry and elope and Karn could never truly say no to her.
But when he heard the yells and screams, he recognized the abomination. Rather he felt it. Hisoka was back. Karn stood up, determined to kill his wife’s murderer or die trying. He planned to join his wife either way. If he could take the bastard with him, all the better.
Karn got up and made for the caravan, teeth clenched. A thud stopped him in his tracks. An inch away from his foot, corner embedded in the ground, was a playing card. That creepy joker smiled like the sadist it reflected. Karn spun and saw Hisoka smiling and fiddling with another card. His index finger twitched and a flower shot from the grave to his hand. Hisoka sniffed it theatrically before throwing it back with the pile.
“Hello Ela,” he said facing the grave. His lopsided smile and playful tones dripped in mockery. “I love what you’ve done with the place,” he continued to the grave.
Karn spat out a yell and growled, all his anger bursting forth. Despite his injuries, he hobbled forward, bounding like a wounded gazelle, towards the magician. The Magician let out a chuckle and, with a flick of his palm, the entire contents on the altar, paper and flowers, flew in the air. They created a torrent between the charging Conjurer and his enemy, hiding Hisoka from sight. Karn swatted them away desperate not to lose sight of Hisoka. He caught his shadow amongst the tree and made after him.
“Ya bastard. Get back here and fight like a man,” growled Karn as he hobbled through the dark forest. He kept his eyes peeled for any change in the environment; a slight discoloration in the dark foliage, a sound out of place, aura lingering on places. He saw a crouching figure and charged for it, stabbing through its back. With the force he put through, Karn toppled forwards, stumbling into the bush. He went through the figure. A figure that looked just like Hisoka. Or at least a shadow and discolored version of him. The darkness made it nearly impossible to discern between hues, only discoloration. He could clearly see the leaves, colored in a purple shade which Hisoka wore. But upon examination he realized that they were just leaves. It was just a bush. A bush that looked just like Hisoka. Until he touched it and applied Gyo, he remained fooled.
“What devilry is this?” he muttered. Then he remembered his wine bottle and how the boy had fooled him with his trick. This must have been the same trick. That boy was certainly a devil. He got up and began walking. After a while every step felt heavier as if something was holding him down. Was this more of the boy’s trickery? As if on cue he heard a chuckle and a finger snapping. With quick gusts of wind, cards buried themselves in Karn, penetrating him from all directions.
“I’m right here, if you want me,” came Hisoka’s voice. Karn pried every single card from his body, rage and hatred suppressing any feelings of pain. He followed the voice and found himself in a small clearing. Hisoka was leaning against a tree branch, playing with a caterpillar which had somehow made it on his hand.
“This species of caterpillar later on becomes a butterfly which is very attracted the scent of blood,” said Hisoka. He lifted his finger to demonstrate the crawling insect. “I can feel it practically itching for you already,” he said.
“GO TO HELL.” Karn shot a knife towards Hisoka. About 10 meters before hitting Hisoka the knife slowed down significantly and pierced the caterpillar. The insect fell, writhing in agony. A droplet of blood formed on Hisoka’s finger as he stepped on the bug, ending its misery.
“Why would you do that?” he whined at Karn.
The man took a heavy step forward, practically dragging himself across the clearing. “I am going to destroy everything you hold precious,” growled Karn.
“Funny you should say that. I’ve recently made a new friend. Don’t be shy. . .” From behind Hisoka emerged a figure.
“. . .Hisoka.” A second Hisoka, identical to the first stood beside the one preciously chatting with Karn.
“What trick is this? You can double yourself?” shouted Karn. Hisoka burst out laughing.
“Oh my, you really don’t have any imagination at all,” said Hisoka holding his belly.
“I am assuming that I may remove the disguise now,” said the new coming Hisoka. He looked like the Magician but his voice was completely different.
“Yes yes show him,” replied Hisoka. The doppelganger reached for his face and peeled off a thin mask. Illumi’s face shifted as he let loose the facial muscles he was contracting for the disguise.
“How?” Karn was still lost. Hisoka grabbed the mask and, with a little pressure it, crumbled into fine dust which dissipated into the air.
“It was this troupe that taught me how to create my own make up. I simply applied my own original Hatsu, Texture Surprise, and Illumi here could easily wear my face as if it were his own.”
“Tricks and cheating. That’s all you’re good for,” yelled Karn. He tried to take a step further but he found himself stuck. His entire body was held in place, as if he had been trying to walk in glue.
“Yes. Tricks and cheating actually achieve results. This is another one of mine, Bungee Gum,” said Hisoka. “See for yourself.” He snapped his fingers and the air around Karn rippled and twisted. His arms were forced outstretched and he found himself being lifted off the ground, his toes barely scraping the grass. Karn and Illumi cast Gyo on their eyes and saw Hisoka’s ability. The clearing was a mass of aura threads, stretching one end to the other, all intertwining with each other. A spider’s web.
“Shall I kill him?” asked stoically Illumi. Hisoka flicked his finger and something shot out of Karn’s pocket and into his hand. The Jester Tarot card.
“No, this one is mine. Consider this the termination of our little contract.” An instant later, Hisoka darted toward Karn, a predatory gaze in his eye. He didn’t give his old mentor time to speak. He simply slashed the card across his throat.
“My task was to kill ALL members of the troupe, Hisoka,” said Illumi. “You know full well that Father is watching.”
Hisoka walked closer to him until the two teenagers were inches away from eachother. “Not here he isn’t.”
Illumi shot him a quizzical glace. “This area is bathed in my aura. And my Bungee Gum is still active. I can also apply Texture Surprise to it and alter the image from anyone watching from outside. We are truly alone for now.” Hisoka took a breath. “But I suppose that won’t last long. So how about you and I have a chat.”
Illumi’s eyes darted from side to side. He wasn’t worried about the Bungee Gum; he could easily break out of it. Better yet he could easily kill Hisoka, albeit there was no guarantee that that will deactivate the web. But something in the magician’s eyes intrigued him. Illumi and his father had different ways of doing things. And Illumi knew that one of these days he will need his father’s position as head of household. A deal with Hisoka might just be the hidden Ace he needed.
“Speak,” he said.
“You and I are of the same breed, Illumi. We will both benefit with an arrangement.”
“And what would this arrangement entail?”
“We don’t kill each other, just yet. I’m sure that in the near future, with the way we approach life, we will need each other’s abilities. I will profit from you and you will profit from me. The moment this ceases to be so, we will simply eliminate each other.”
Illumi cocked his eyebrows. “Eliminate each other you say? In what way are we equal?”
Hisoka chuckled. “I am the Yin to your Yang. We are opposite and similar all in one. I propose mutual aid. Which you will need if you want to be in charge of your own actions someday. I’ve already proven that I can persuade people such as your father to alter their plans. Are you sure you want to throw me away that easily?”
Illumi spun and turned toward Karn lifting the body easily on his shoulder. “If you are still alive in two days, consider us in agreement. Now as per your instruction, I shall ‘burn everything’. ”
Hisoka lifted the Tarot card which he was still holding and completely deactivated his aura trap. “Don’t forget this,” he said as he threw the card at the assassin. Illumi caught it and looked at Hisoka questioningly.
“I have no need for sentiment or attachment. The memories will serve me for nothing. After all-” Hisoka started walking away “- I believe it’s high time I made some new ones.”