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Malus: World of War I
Between Warriors and Murderers, Part I
By TheBlackPhoenix100

Stories you might want to be familiar with:
Harry Potter
The Princess and the Frog
Cool World
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Naruto
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Professional
Madness Combat
The Three Musketeers
The Count of Monte Cristo
X-Men
Red VS Blue
Gargoyles
Soul Calibur
Kingdom Hearts
Superman
Kick-Ass
Spider Man
Die Hard
Dark Wing Duck
American Dragon: Jake Long
Batman
The Green Hornet
God of War
Hercules
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
The Legend of Zelda
Gargoyles
Suburban Knights
Marvel Comics
Kingdom Hearts

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY, MAGICAL BRITAIN, 9:32 PM

The new Headmaster of Hogwarts stood in the center of the Forbidden Forest, an aura of darkness surrounding his intentions as he waited in the dark of the night. He was alone, only an obsidian statue of his master to keep him company. He awaited the order in which he was now second-in-command of. For the mark on their right hand was growing darker. Their master was rising again.

Suddenly, near a dying tree, black smoke instantaneously appeared, and was gone just as quickly. From the smoke emerged a man in black robes with long blonde hair, who bore a smug, pragmatic look on his face, carrying a cane with a snake head.

"Lucius," said the headmaster.
"So glad you're the first one here."

"Barty Crouch Jr," responded Lucius coldly.
"I hope you called us here for a good reason."

Another cloud of smoke appeared instantly, and out walked a radiant, but feral and unkempt looking woman who had an air of wealth and danger to her.

"I've seen the Mark," said the woman with a disturbingly anxious tone to her close friend who had called the meeting.
"This is a sign, Barty."

Then more clouds of smoke shot into the forest, ringing like a gunshot through the night. The entire inner circle of Death Eaters stood before Barty. Bellatrix Lestrange, Lucius Malfoy, Antonin Dolohov, Augustus Rockwood, Alecto and Amycus Carrow, Thorfinn Rowle, Walden Macnair, and Yaxley.

"Fellow champions of the purest blood," said Bartemius with a smile on his face. He enjoyed the power that came with the rank given to him, and which he felt he had rightfully deserved for some time.
"We gather here under good tidings. You have all felt the call growing stronger. You have all seen the Mark grow darker. That is why I called you here."

Barty then walked back toward his desk, placing himself next to an obsidian statue, which portrayed their master, standing in a field of butchered Muggles many times smaller than him. The second-in-command of the Death Eaters stared toward the statue in child-like admiration, as did a few of the others, particularly Bellatrix.

"The Dark Lord is growing stronger. The hour is near. The time has come to return to his side. And when he regains his strength that was taken from him through the cowardice of the blood traitor, Longbottom, he shall lead us to an age in which magic reigns supreme."

Barty then turned toward his fellow wizards and witches.
"Brothers. Sisters. Our time of hiding in the shadows is over. The time of Muggle reign is at an end."

Barty then removed a concealed wand from his sleeve and flicked it upward. From it emerged a green skull born from magical energy, with a snake protruding from its mouth.

"The age of the Mark has begun."

The rest of the Death Eaters raised their wands, each of them firing a green bolt of sustained energy into the sky, as a much larger version of the mark appeared in the sky, rising in the clouds like a beacon of motley determination and dark power. The Death Eaters had risen.


NASHVILLE, 11:05 PM

A stretch limbo carried Lord Facilier and Holli Would to see the former's most recent client, who was in fact a crime lord who had found a way to cross between dimensions. How he had done this was unknown and it scarcely mattered to a voodoo magician who had found his own ways to do the same thing. The limbo was being driven by one of his shadow demons, as two other diminutive ones shined Facilier's eloquent shoes on the floor of the limbo, with Holli's arm draped over the Shadow Man's shoulders. Facilier himself had his usual cheery grin on his face, as he peered at a card that told him his client's intentions.

"Our friends down in N'Orleans are playin' their part. Our client's goin' to have to accept the deal. And our donor's already taken his next turf," said Facilier with calm enthusiasm.

"We're having a meeting with one of the most dangerous crime lords in the U.S," said Holli with a flirtatious, just as confident tone.
"Aren't you scared?"

"If he ain't dangerous, I wouldn't be dealin' with him, now would I?" replied the don of New Orleans with charming self-confidence.

The limbo then slowly drove to a stop. Facilier and Holli looked out the window. They were here. Sensing their master's silent orders, the shadows then vanished until they would be called on again. Both the don and his concubine stepped out of the limbo to see a large night club with a large blue sign which read "The House of Waves". The loud rave music could be heard from the outside of the building, as several anxious people were gathered in a long line to get into the immensely popular club. Skipping past the long line, Facilier and Holli up to a rather imposing looking figure with a purple dragon tattoo reaching from the collar of his neck to the left of his cheek, who looked at the two sternly and with an unruly look on his face.

"Back of the line," he said with a deep grumble.

"Hun, big boy. Your boss called me here," said Facilier with Holli perched on his shoulder and his cane raised like a scepter, and his unwavering smile perched on his face.

"Password," replied Hun.

Facilier toward his jacket pocket, about to pull out one of his cards, which would tell him the password.

"Alpha," replied Holli before Facilier could even reach his hand into his pocket.

The guard then stepped aside without a word, and without changing his expression. After exchanging a quick glance of approval toward the ever-efficient Holli, Facilier proceeded into the open doors of the club with his beautiful right-hand woman by his side. The music was ear wrenching, the people were gyrating chaotically, but both he and Holli maintained their unbreakable cool. They proceeded through the unruly crowd to a table where their rather short client sat, with two topless hookers by his side and a large, shirtless man with a mask made from white sheets of paper and a large sword stood at his right attentively and coldly. This client was the man who owned the club. Taking his attention away from his glass of champagne, the man looked up to see Facilier extend a hand for a handshake.

"Lord Facilier," said the crime lord as he extended his own hand as well.

"Mr. Gato," said Facilier cheerfully and politely as he shook Gato's hand.

The Shadow Man then looked toward the tall, brooding swordsman who stood by Gato's side.

"And Mr. Momochi," he said calmly despite the man's more than intimidating presence.
"Always good to see your broodin' face around any parks."

Gato then stood, snidely shoving the hookers aside.
"How about we take our business to private quarters?"

"Good by me," said Facilier.

Facilier, Gato, Zabuza, and Holli then proceeded through the crowd and up a ring of stairs, past several chaotic party goers. Many were in fist fights, trading drugs, enjoying time with more hookers (even some women were enjoying time with the hookers).

"I'm takin' it that business is good and clean," said Facilier, raising his voice over the loud environment.

Gato had a grin on his face as well, though not as pleasant or confident as Facilier's.
"The first part's more or less true."

After proceeding through a couple more parts of the unruly crowd, they walked into a door which led to Gato's private office. The door that led to it was thick and mainly sound proof, so the noise outside was reduced greatly. Gato took out a handkerchief, wiping some sweat off of his forehead as he walked over to his eloquently designed chair, cane in hand, Zabuza leaning right next to the door. There were seven bodyguards with semi-automatics in the room, many of them noticeably staring at Holli.

"I'm glad you offered me this deal. I've been looking for somebody I can trust around this damn country," said Gato with a cutthroat nature creeping through his voice.

"Well, the look's over," responded Facilier as he slowly took a seat, facing Gato from the other side of his desk.

"Now down to business," said Gato as he took out a capsule, opening it and spilling cocaine onto his desk.
"I understand that business has been growing for you too. Nobody on Frollo's paycheck bothering you. All of the other criminals either adoring you or scared shitless of you."

Facilier shrugged relaxingly, confidently slouched in his chair.
"I know how to make my ways around. Somethin' we're both good at, I'd wager."

Gato was spreading the cocaine into three lines on his desk.
"But I'm just curious. How long do you think you can get away with this shit, anyway?"

"I don't get away with anythin'. I take it and keep it."

Gato then picked up a straw and began sniffing on the cocaine.
"Something we've all got to learn how to do in times like these."

Gato put the straw down, his eyes slightly bloodshot from the drugs.
"But if there's anything clear in this game, it's that the guy with all the money and all the power makes the rules. You're a rich man, but you're not too big on the horsepower."

Facilier's grin suddenly adapted a wily twitch to it. He knew that Gato would go down this road from what his cards had told him. And this was how he was going to seal the deal.

"If I ain't one for horsepower, how come all the dons ain't pouncin' me at all?" the Shadow Man asked with arrogance crawling into his voice.

"I have my ways of knowing things, Facilier. You see, Lord Barkis, he was a partner of mine. He told me he was going to take New Orleans and blow your brains out. Now he's missing from the public eye, with no leads on where he is. And here you are."

Facilier let his arms out.
"The one and only. There's me for ya."

Gato chuckled cruelly, then snapped his fingers. The semi-automatics in the office were loaded, as Gato's men closed in on Facilier and Holli. However, Holli still stood straight up with her seductive smile and Facilier still slouched in the chair, his cane still lifted like a king lifting his scepter.

"Nice guns, boys," said Holli in a completely controlled tone.
"But what happens if you miss and hit the boss?"

Zabuza then drew his sword without a word, holding it toward Facilier. But the don was still as composed as ever, his smile not wavering in the slightest.

Gato then stood up, leaning on his desk.
"You see, I've got money and horsepower. Frollo can't touch me. None of the other dons can touch me. And now, I've got you by the balls. So here's the deal. I'm going to turn you in to Frollo and get that old fuck of my ass for the rest of my career. And while he sets you on fire like a piece of wood, I'm going to parade through this country with your whore there at my side and bring my way up to the top of the food chain. How's that for our deal?"

Facilier sat up straight in his chair, still as composed as ever.
"I ain't the type for that kind of business. Luckily, you're in a better window of opportunity than your partner was. Wanna hear my side of the deal?"

Gato then reached into his jacket pocked and pulled out a handgun.
"Alright, smartass. Listen to me, and listen to me good."

Suddenly, one of Gato's goons smashed his head on the desk so hard that his forehead caved in, leaving a batch of crimson, hot blood on the edge of Gato's desk. The other six were then pulled down onto the floor or up to the ceiling, trapped there by shadowy creatures as Facilier continued to sit with complete composition in his chair, Holli standing by his side just as calmly. Zabuza then tried to push his blade forward into Facilier's throat, but found that it wouldn't budge; it was being held it place by none other than the shadow of the Shadow Man himself, whose right arm was wrapped around it like a snake.

"I'm listenin'," said Facilier dryly and slyly, as the semiautomatic were wrested from the guards by more shadow demons and placed toward Gato's head at point blank range. The diminutive crime lord's jaw was dropped, absolute shock in his eyes. He had been in business with a magician.

Zabuza then pulled out an explosive tagged kunai with lightning speed, preparing to aim it toward Holli.

"No!" Gato shouted, almost yelping.
"Put the fucking sword down!"

Pausing for a moment, Zabuza then closed his left fist around the explosive tag on the kunai, setting it out on his own flesh. He didn't even so much as flinch from the pain, which felt like nothing more than a prick to him. He then sheathed his sword in silence, looking toward his two opponents to completely anticipate their moves.

Facilier then stood up, calmly adjusting his hat. The clip of Gato's handgun then dropped seemingly on its own, the drug dealer turning to see yet another of Facilier's shadows holding it.

"Look," said Gato.
"We can cut a deal."

"See, Gato, goin' back on what ya said, the real powers in this world are money and magic. And I got both. But I ain't here to kill ya," said Facilier, holding his hand out as a card flew into it from inside his sleeve.

"I got another client in Nevada. He's into theatrics, so he's not goin' to show himself like a dandelion. Find the web he's spinnin', you'll find 'im. And Holli's comin' with ya, so that should help."

Gato looked toward Holli. At least that was one upside to not having the upper hand in this deal.

"Sending your withered whore to find a don hiding in the shadows? How the fuck's that going to help?!" demanded Gato.

Facilier walked over to Holli, brushing her hair behind her ear as she looked back at him with a radiant seduction.

"I don't just hire pretty bluebirds. I've got a taste for the best," he said as he stroked the woman's cheek.

Gato rolled his eyes. How could he work with this man to save his own life if he was barely going to be told anything?

"Who's the guy we're after?" he asked impatiently.

Facilier then tapped his cane down twice on Gato's desk as the shadows released the thugs flying toward their master's shadow and disappearing into it, as if becoming one with the entity. The ones on the ceiling dropped to the floor with solid thuds and gasps of regained air that the shadows had been strangling out of them.

"You'll be findin' out soon enough when ya get there," said Facilier as he turned around to exit the room.

"And don't be goin' against me or Holli while I'm away on my own trip. I got new friends lookin' after different ways of my empire. So if you kill the deal, you die too."

Facilier then closed the door behind him, leaving Holli behind with Gato and his men, the crime boss slowly sitting down in his chair, shocked at having been beaten for the first time in his criminal career, and so easily as well. He then abruptly threw his empty handgun down in frustration.

"We're headed to Nevada, boys," said Holli coldly.


THE POLICE STATION, SOMEWHERE IN NEVADA, 5:23 PM

Norman Stansfield sat in his office, keeping a large washcloth on his broken nose. He was moaning and cursing to himself. He had tried some cocaine to make himself feel better, but since his nose was broken and bloodied, whenever he inhaled it it burned from the inside. He was surrounded by some of his friends. Otherwise, these friends could simply be referred to as other corrupt cops who either followed him to get closer to such a high ranking officer who could provide them protection in their less than ethical ways in the police department or because they were simply terrified of him and wanted to stay on his good side.

"You want a drink for the pain, Norman?" one of them with a round hat asked nervously.

"You want a bullet for the brain, John?" said Norman in frustration, briefly taking the washcloth away from his nose.

John fell silent, tilting his head in fear as the whole room fell quiet, except for Norman's filthy mutters.

"So you actually fought Hank J. Wimbleton! THE Hank J. Wimbleton! What was he like?" asked one of the younger cops with great anxiety in his eyes. He was new to the program and barely knew Norman at all, only aligning himself with him to join in with the other corrupt cops.

Norman looked up at the young man.
"Hey new guy, can I see your gun for a minute?"

The young cop shrugged and pulled his handgun from his belt, handing it to Stansfield, who leaned back into his chair as if a great part of his soul was being restored.

"Thank you," he said with a weary sigh as he shot a bullet into the rookie's skull, sending him crashing to the floor with a thud.

"Anybody else wanna ask about Hank J. Wimbleton?" he asked with noticeable sweat on his forehead and a fierce, unkempt look in his bloodshot eyes.
"THE Hank J. Wimbleton?!"

The whole room fell silent for several minutes as Norman slowly moved his gun about, still aiming the weapon at his "friends".

"Well," one of them started before he received a bullet to his skull as well and fell to the floor with his dead associate.

The silence was then broken when the door to Stansfield's office was slammed open. In walked the corrupt head of the Nevada Police Department, Sheriff Lennox, who walked toward Stansfield with drunken age in his eyes, carrying a nearly empty whiskey bottle in his left hand.

"Sheriff," said Norman while looking down at his gun, refusing to completely acknowledge his hated boss.

Lennox responded by grabbing Stansfield's desk and toppling it over to the left violently. His employee merely kept looking at his gun, more sweat gathering on his forehead as he refrained from shooting the only reason he wasn't being arrested for his corrupt dealings.

"Do I look like a guy who can afford somebody like Hank running around my fucking town?" Lennox asked shill, obviously holding back great anger.

Stansfield stared Lennox down, often peeing back to the desk that he knew he would have to clean up.

"What are you being quiet for? I asked you a damn question! Can I afford to have a fucking contract killer like Hank running around Nevada?! CAN I?!!!"

Stansfield slicked his messy hair back with both hands before he replied,
"Well maybe if you actually did some of the shit you shove up our asses-"

"Does that sound like a fucking answer, Norman?! You've got the most dangerous contract killer in this damn state in a whorehouse, right in front of you, and you let him kill my guys and lie on the ground like a damn roadblock and let him get away! I've got our new benefactor offering me billions for this guy, and you let him slip out while you're too busy shooting bartenders and rookies!"

"Here's a good one. How 'bout you grow a pair and find him yourself?"

Lennox suddenly began to grow more and more angry.
"Not my job, Noman! I pay you to deliver the goods, and you can't even catch one guy in a damn whorehouse! How the fuck do you lose somebody in a damn whorehouse?!"

"You'd probably do a good job catching him if all you knew how to do wasn't sucking on your own dick in that shitty office of yours."

Lennox then smashed his whiskey bottle down on Noman's head. The corrupt cop briefly doubled over, but quickly rose back up, cuts from the broken glass in his skull.

"I want you on a manhunt for that son of a bitch," continued the sheriff in a slightly calmer manner, but still as angry as ever.
"If you lose him, it's my ass on the line. Find the bastard and bring him here. And learn your fucking respect too."

As he finished, Lennox walked out of the room, still limping through his drunken state.

"And clean up that damn mess!" he shouted one last time, pointing at the bodies that lied bloodied on the floor.

The door was then slammed behind him as Stansfield remained in his chair, the hatred in his eyes especially evident. The room was silent, the tension terrible. The crazed officer then rose from his seat and placed several bullets into one of the officers, shouting in rage as he did it and the man repeatably; the cop gyrated from the bullets as he became another corpse on the floor. He then slumped back into the seat, looking completely exhausted, like he had been brainwashed. His men were shuttering and had their heads low, not wanting to be the next one to procure his wrath. After a couple more seconds of sitting down, seconds that were agonizing with terror for his men, he snapped his fingers, causing the other cops to jump up in sudden fright.

"He wants Hank? I'll get Hank. Call the clown."


LYON, FRANCE, 11:42 PM

The French city still lied in ash and disarray, its people wandering through the great ruins, rage and despair toward Frollo, who had allowed the Demon of France to destroy their homes, pillage the wealth that marked the effort of their lives' work; families and their lives, and murder their husbands, wives, and children. And now they pledged their allegiance, their hopes of a better civilization that could be built off of Frollo's tyranny to a man who dedicated his corrupt life not to France, but to his own lust for power. In their desperation and hatred toward the darkness, they pledged themselves to the sinister machinations of Cardinal Richelieu.

Near the gate of the city, the Cardinal's ever faithful right-hand man and cold-blooded captain, Rochefort, was gathering the Cardinal's soldiers to more heavily guard Lyon. He had recently arrived in the city with a platoon of thirty of the Cardinal's guard, an act of protection which would surely win more people over to Richelieu's support. Many of these men had endured grievous injuries at the hands of the Demon. They were the lucky ones, for not all of them had made it through the night. Though they were mourned by the majority of the soldiers, Rochefort couldn't care less. What mattered was that his master's enemy no longer had the upper hand. The war for France was now Richelieu's to take. But that didn't stop him from knowing that there were still enemies to be dealt with, one of the most formidable about to make himself known to the deadly captain.

"Gentlemen," said a nearby voice, polite and gentle with a hint of calculating poise.

Rochefort and his guards turned turned calmly to see a wealthy looking man walking toward them, polished wooden cane in hand, eloquent cape blowing in the wind, face lined with the serenity of a priest, and the strength and determination of an eagle. It was Edmond Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo. Rochefort and the count were familiar with each other, as both were renowned across France, for both their influence and their skills.

"Monte Cristo," said Rochefort.
"What brings you here to Lyon?"

"I could ask you the same," responded the count with somewhat of a fearsome tone hidden in his calm.

"I've never known the Cardinal to care this much for the poor and the needy," he continued.

"He offers generosity to France. This nation deserves as much after all that it has suffered under Frollo's reign."

"Well that's quite impressive for him. Uncharacteristic perhaps," the count continued, the ferocity within his voice making his calm pierce like a cold knife.

Rochefort stepped forward a bit.
"Whatever suspicions you have, they're not well placed. The Cardinal has done no harm to you. And he's trying to fight the man who took your son. If I were you, I'd show some humility."

"You'll have to forgive me when I state this notion. There is no humility in my heart for traitors, liars, corrupt men who claim to serve a Lord whom they place in their paths like shields, or their captains who murder archdeacons."

The captain suddenly widened his eye. How could he have been so careless?! Rochefort was quick to regain his composure and put his focus back on the count. He needed to get him away before he divulged anything more.

He then put his attention back toward getting Dantes away before he revealed anything more.
"Spare me your lies and leave, count."

"Whatever the Cardinal's planning, these people won't become a part of it. Not while I serve France and the Creator. Not while I breathe."

"I assure you that the Cardinal is working to help," said the captain, careful not to give away his master's true intentions, aware that he might have a recorder on him or other people might be listening.

"Now leave before I arrest you."

"Go on, then. Do it. The Creator will always find those who defy the mold of his world. I can tell you now that there are places in Hell for those who have committed what you have."

Rochefort chuckled silently.
"I'll make you a deal. When the Lord comes to help you, I'll call my men off. Guards. Arrest him."

Rochefort's men unsheathed their rapiers, lunging toward the count. But Dantes moved his cane up, wielding like it was his own blade against the others. The first one stabbed his blade toward Dantes' chest, but he deflected the blow with his cane, lunged forward, and struck the man in between his ribs as he fell to the asphalt ground, gasping for air. The second swung at Edmond's throat as the count arched his neck back to avoid the cut. Then Dantes' third enemy positioned himself behind the count, swinging toward his spine, but Edmond swung around swiftly, blocking the blow and placing the guard in a blade lock. As the two clashed briefly, Edmond pushed his opponent's sword away, knocking him on the ground face first and keeping him down with his boot on the guard's head. The second guard once again lunged at Dantes, with his blade pulled back to stab the count. But Dantes merely ducked with little effort, striking the soldier in the collarbone, fracturing it, and knocking him over.

As the man beneath his boot struggled without fruition, Dantes turned instinctively to see the captain himself walking forward coldly, not even bothering to reach toward his sword. Dantes took his boot of his already beaten opponent and stepped toward the most skilled of them, swinging his cane with great precision. But Rochefort, with the speed and proficiency of a master swordsman, drew his rapier and clashed it against his enemy's cane, in one movement with no effort shown on his face.

Both of the two had their weapons crossed, the edge of each one pointed toward their faces. Cold ferocity and deadly determination was frozen on their faces, both ready to attack at any moment. But Dantes knew how revered of a swordsman Rochefort was, even if he was also a well-known warrior. He wouldn't be as likely to defeat him as he was his three guards and was at a serious advantage since he lacked an actual killing weapon.

"Impressive. But I've never lost," said Rochefort with a cocky grin on his face.

"That makes two of us," replied the count.
"But killing me will just prove to these people the tyranny of the Cardinal."

Rochefort then looked around, still keeping his blade at the ready, but not as cautious as he normally would be giving that Dantes couldn't kill him with the weapon that he held. Several people, still wearing veils of pain and grief from their losses to the Demon were watching, looking as if they were preparing for their last hope to escape their grasp. Though the captain wished to kill Dantes right now, as was a pleasure for him against any opponent, doing so would ruin his master's plans, and he had already attracted unwanted attention. But then again, perhaps he could make this situation work.

"Your loyalty to Frollo is admirable," said Rochefort as he turned his eye back to Dantes.
"But he is not what this land needs. I could arrest you for attacking me in his name, but that is not the Cardinal's way."

The people were now beginning to glare at Dantes, the man who was trying to help and protect them now being made out to be an enemy of theirs.

"I pronounce none of my loyalty to that tyrant," said Dantes.
"But I will not pronounce it to Richelieu either. Now leave this city."

Now the people didn't know who to follow. Here was a man who had always looked out for their city, and many other French cities, protecting them with his wealth and devotion to good, and the champion of a man who offered them permanent, undying defense against the Lord High Protector of France; a chance for them to finally feel like they were free from the evils of their world.

"Put the cane down," continued Rochefort, still trying to earn the support of the citizens of Lyon.
"Are you a count or a savage?"

"I'm whatever this city needs me to be. And you and I both know that I don't need a sword to destroy you."

Rochefort's glare became darker with frustration. Dantes indeed needed only words to destroy him. If Lyon, and France as well, learned who truly killed the Archdeacon, everything would be undone. And if he killed the Count of Monte Cristo, that would jeopardize Richelieu's plan just as grievously. There was indeed only one option.

"Prepare the horses," shouted Rochefort to his soldiers, who were also watching with anticipation nearby.
"We proceed back to Marseilles immediately. But we the majority of our soldiers here in the case of another attack."

This was not exactly what Dantes had planned, but it was the best he could do for now. If he protested against that, it would look like he wasn't looking out for the city's best interests.

Rochefort backed away, still keeping his guard up and his eye fixated on Dantes, before he twirled his sword and sheathed it.

"Remember Dantes," said Rochefort.
"Traitors and enemies will never go unpunished."

"You should remember that for yourself as well. As should the Cardinal," replied Dantes with unwavering calm.

Grinning at his enemy's daring, Rochefort then climbed on his horse, turning toward the gates along with the cavalry that he had brought this night, looking like he was ready to leave. But then he turned to declare a couple final words of deceit.

"You can aid the judge in his extortion for as long as possible, count. But ultimately, it is nobility of action, not wealth and power, that shall guide France. Remember that when your master falls."

He then lashed the reins on his horse, riding from the city with his soldiers close behind him as Dantes watched. He then looked around at the citizens of Lyon, at the fear of the unknown, resentment towards the evil of the new order, and the doubt in the good that was left which ruled their faces. It was through these broken, desperate people that Richelieu intended to win over France, deduced Dantes. It was a battle between two evils, the lesser of whom could arguably be Frollo, through the count's eyes. The judge was tyrannical and twisted, but was dedicated to the order and justice of the world in his own way, keeping the criminal underbelly at bay with each step he made toward conquest during his crusades. Richelieu, on the other hand, would thrive on the decay and famine of the world, using it to further his own might. The Cardinal would be a parasite in the already dying system of France. And Edmond Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo, an enemy of the two most powerful men of France, had just plunged himself into the thick of a war that was about to ensue between these two powers. And he knew would need to be ready.


THE SLUMS, SOMEWHERE IN NEVADA, 12:49 AM

Hank J. Wimbleton wandered through the slums of Nevada, making his way toward the location that his mysterious contact had told him to go, continuing to follow the trail of wanted posters, newspaper articles, and several other pieces of paper that bore either news of a kidnapping, tragedy, or just news about celebrity gossip that nobody cares about.

As he proceeded, snacking down on a loaf of bread he had smuggled from a bakery, leaving behind a couple of coins and dollar bills as payment, a small boy, about eight or nine years old by the looks of him, bumped into him while running. The child was filthy, obviously homeless, with terrible bruises and scars on his face, not the kind of marks somebody could get in a childish fight. His cheeks were also lined with tears of despair, fear, and famine. As he looked up toward Hank, he backed up, tripping frailly over a couple of garbage bags, backing up toward a dumpster as he whimpered and tried to look away from the former killer. Hank merely walked towards him aloofly, tearing off the piece of bread that he was eating, the cold look on his face giving him an eerie aura. As Hank got closer, the boy shut his eyes as best as he could, covering his face with his hands as he curled into a ball, terrified of whatever injuries, possibly fatal wounds, that he feared for every day.

But the boy felt nothing hurt him, not even touch him. So he slowly and nervously brought his hands apart and opened his eyes to see Hank still standing over him, holding the uneaten majority of the loaf of bread out to him, his mask back in place. Looking at the loaf and back up at Hank, unsure of what to think of this, the child reached out toward the loaf slowly, then snatched it away very quickly, the fear on his face slowly residing. Like an abused animal denied love and care, he buried his face into the bread, desperate to rid himself of his hunger. Hank merely looked down in sympathy for the child, and for all of the victims of Nevada's vast poverty. He then walked away without a word, not looking behind him to see the boy take a brief break from the bread to look toward Hank with a thankful, but still very nervous smile.

After about a half an hour more of walking through the trail left to him, he arrived at the end of his road: an abandoned warehouse with graffiti and destroyed concrete scarring it. This was where the trail ended, but the only person there was a silver-haired, yellow eyed, and tan skinned homeless person of about middle age lying near the entrance, curled in a ball, shivering, his eyes twitching and darting about madly as if beyond his control. Was this a trap he had been lured into?

"Hankie, ol' boy!" said a voice from behind him.

Hank quickly turned to see the source of the voice, his prodigious hearing leading his eyesight to a nearby store, which was also abandoned, but far more desecrated than the warehouse, with shelves hanging from the walls, shattered glass, and the small room of it stained red on the bottom. However, the back of the store was pitch black, until a tiny orange light, like that of a fire. Hank stood like a man waiting in line, but was more than ready to fight whomever was talking if he needed to. This was an outcome that he was rather hoping would occur. The light drew closer toward him, revealing itself to be a flame from a lighter burning the tip of a cigarette, illuminating the cheery, carefree face of a man with several bandages on his body, white bandages tied around his head, a headset with a microphone on it, a ball cap, a black leather trench coat with a white undershirt underneath, black combat pants with matching boots, and a military chain just like Hank's, which read "Deimos".

"Always good to see you again, man!" continued Deimos as he put the lit cigarette in his mouth.
"How long's it been? A year? Month? Week? I've been too damn high to remember, anyway."

Hank continued to eye Deimos, not sure if this was another person he had forgotten or if he was simply playing a mind game with him.

"Hankie, c'mon man!" said Deimos in a laid-back fashion.
"It's your ol' pal! I know you're quiet, but you're no ghost, are ya?!"

Deimos then reached his hand out to give Hank a light slap on the face, but Hank grabbed his hand quicker than lightning, ducking under it and twisting it so that Deimos was turned around and forced to lean forward.

"Since I'm a ghost, you might not mind if I kick your ass," said Hank coldly.

But Deimos was laughing.
"You've still got it, man!"

Then, Hank brought his grip on Deimos' left arm broken as the smoker knocked it away with his right, then spinning around to deliver a punch to Hank's gut, but the trench coated man knocked the blow aside, standing up against Deimos. But the man was still laughing, not in a serious stance at all. Instead, he was leaning over, his right hand on his knee, his cigarette in his left.

"Hank," another, more serious voice said.

Hank turned again. Out of the warehouse doors emerged another man, who stepped over the silver haired homeless man. This one had a plain leather jacket, a gray t-shirt underneath, combat pants, a black bandanna with white bandages underneath, black sunglasses, and several bandages placed around his torso, with a hook sheathed on his back. He was another with a military chain, this one reading "Sanford". Hank kept his eyes on both people, not sure whether or not they would attack or wanted to aid him in some way. Deimos put the cigarette back in his mouth.

"Hankie, my man! When've you been this jumpy?!" said Deimos.

"You brought me here for a reason?" said Hank coldly, holding both of his arms out toward both Deimos and Sanford. Deimos' carefree nature on his face began to waver slightly as the edge of his cigarette slowly, as if it was lighting with the tension.

"How's your wife?" asked Deimos with a somewhat brooding nature.

Hank winced a bit, not sure if he was being played or not.
"What're you talking about?"

Deimos put his hands on his hips, raising his head a bit to look over at Sanford.

"I don't think he remembers jack shit, Sanford."

Sanford kept his eyes directed toward Hank, slowly unsheathing his hook.

"You may not remember us, but we're your friends," said Sanford.
"We want to help you."

Hank kept his guard up. If Deimos had shown enough skill to counter his grip, then Sanford must have been a skilled fighter as well. They probably be as easy as the cops he fought in The Lonely Girl.

"How do I know you're telling the truth?" asked Hank.

"Just look at the chain around your neck," said Deimos.
"It's the same as ours. We work in the same line of business."

"What business is that?"

"Killing the corrupt, stealing for people who need it, kicking ass and getting pussy on a regular basis, the daily stuff," Deimos said casually.

Hank raised an eyebrow.
"That sounds like something I would do."

Sanford sheathed his hook.
"We've been thinned down over the years. Now it's just us three. You're our leader, Hank."

"Who gave me the job?"

Deimos brought another puff of smoke from his cigarette.
"Well you took it from the last guy who didn't know what he was doing. And no one else wanted to take it from you. You've done a good job though."

Hank then lowered his arms, quite confident that he could trust these two.
"So what's the order of business now?"

Deimos walked up to Hank, his hands in his pockets, cigarette releasing smoke from his mouth.
"Last we saw you, you were on your way to look into all those disappearances."

"Disappearances?"

"People with developing mutations around Nevada were being abducted. Men, women, children, anybody with that weird ass DNA going on in them."

"Mutants. You mean those people on the news? I kept hearing about this Brotherhood of Mutants, Magneto-"

"If more mutants go missing, there could be a war in Nevada," said Sanford.
"The Brotherhood's already dangerous enough here. Somebody's trying to start a war in this town."

"So that's who we're fighting?"

Deimos scratched his bandage lined head.
"We're fighting the corruption in the city. The sheriff, Lennox secretly runs the crime in Nevada. And ever since he hired this guy named Stansfield, things have gotten worse."

Hank's eyes widened slightly at the name Stansfield.

"So when do we start?"

Deimos shrugged with a bit of a chuckle, sending smoke careening from his cigarette.
"Do I look like a damn Google page? You're the leader. You should tell us."

"I would if I remembered anything."

Sanford stepped between the two.
"I say we just look into things. Hank, while you're at it, you should catch up on what you missed. Deimos, you should probably look into that broadcast you were trying to get over to... What's that place again?"

"Blood Gulch."

Hank walked past Sanford and Deimos.
"So we're helping this city, eh? I guess there's no time we should waste here."

Deimos laughed.
"Good to have you back, Hankie!"

Hank raised his right hand in a lazy solute as he walked through the doors into the warehouse. As he walked in, he could see no detectors, but he heard a female robotic voice coming from somewhere near the door say,

"Welcome to the household of the Covert Nevada Defense Agency. Welcome back, Hank."

Hank looked around for a while, once again trying to familiarize himself with a place and a situation that he clearly had been in before. But once again, no memory came to him.

Sanford whispered to Deimos,
"You sure he's not someone else in disquise?"

"If he was, SHEILA would have known. This is the right guy. But whatever happened to him to make him forget everything, it probably explains why he was gone so long."

Deimos and Sanford then proceeded to walk into the warehouse, Sanford looking around for anybody who might have followed them, and Deimos continuing to smoke, both completely ignoring the curled up homeless person who lied on the ground. Both were startled to hear Hank's voice, as they turned to see him leaning against the wall next to the entrance door.

"One thing though. You said I had a wife?"

Deimos and Sanford eyed each other briefly, before turning back to Hank.

"Yeah," Deimos said.

"Who is she? Where is she?"

Deimos carefully took the cigarette out of his mouth, spitting on the ground briefly, before looking up at Hank with a careful and slightly nervous look on his face.

"There's a lot you've missed lately. We'll get you back on track as soon as we can. But I don't think we should put the tougher questions first."

But Hank did want to know, desperately.  He knew that he had been someone before, but he was not sure what.  And whether or not these memories would lead him down a light path or a dark one, it would lead him down a path to answers nonetheless.  Why else would he have a reason to be here, then to reclaim what he once had, and that which he could not remember?


CASTLE MORAY, SCOTLAND, 9:32 AM

Siegfried stirred in his unconsciousness, through the gaping void that filled his tormented memories of the deeds of his darkness. The waking void bled with the whispers of the shadow within him, slowly devouring his light. His vision trembled with the eyes of the Azure Knight, watching as he dueled a losing fight with Xehanort. The voice of the knight whispered to him in his haunted slumber, telling him of how he would never be rid of him, how he would always carry the darkness of his sins and his past, and how the coming war would end with him as the conduit of his and Soul Edge's malevolent will.

But as he plunged deeper into the abyss that scorned and jeered him with a torturous remedy that it seemed would forever haunt him, he was awoken by the warming female voice of a Scottish nurse, pulling him back into the world of light which he could only barely embrace.

"Are you alright, sir?" said the nurse, who had green eyes and grey, elderly hair.

Siegfried rose from the bed, looking around a bit to notice that his tunic and his armor had been removed. There were others around him, men, women and children alike, most of the men soldiers by the looks of them. They were wounded from injuries as minor as arrows to the knees or as major as lost limbs. Siegfried could just tell that most of them wouldn't make it.

"I had it removed. You were suffering from excess heat, possibly from a developing fever. You're safe now."

Siegfried rubbed his temples with his right hand, trying to push himself back into reality after his overwhelming nightmare. He tried to remember what had happened to bring him here, what he had been seeking that brought him such a long way from home, and who the man he had dueled in his nightmare was. As he slowly came to, the memories began to sink in, his mind absorbing them like a sponge to water. His expression showed weariness, but was still brooding and on guard.

"Where am I?" he asked coldly.

"You're in Scotland. Castle Moray, to be precise."

The two then heard footsteps, looking toward the door that led to the nursery as it was opened. Inside walked a man in a royal uniform, a golden crown upon his head, and grey hair sported on his head, just above the bridge of his neck, and as a chin curtain. His physique was muscular, his stand bearing unwavering confidence. It was like staring upon a lion proudly leading its pack. It suddenly made sense. He was in Scotland, in the residence of Castle Moray. That must only mean that the man who stood before him was none other than the legendary high king of Scotland, the Timeless King of Moray.

"Good morning Gruoch," he said with a gruff Scottish accent, with a warm smile to balance the might in his voice.
"And you stranger, you have nothing to fear. I am Macbeth, Timeless King of Moray. You are safe here, my friend."


LEXCORP, METROPOLIS, 5:09 AM

Lex Luthor sat at the edge of a long table, at which sat several of the United States' most powerful crime lords, with which he intended to battle Xanatos' forces with. He sat with his fingers pressed against each other, his eyes closed as he focused himself on the situation at hand. At the table sat crime lords Frank d'Amico, Warren Fisk, Hans Gruber, Negaduck, Eli Pandarus, the Great White Shark, Hammerhead, Silver Sable, Wario and Waluigi, and Tombstone. By his side stood his "son" and second in command, Alexander Luthor, Jr. Every criminal took their seat as Luthor opened his eyes, sitting up straight and putting his hands on the table, with this fingers wrapped between each other.

"My friends," he said.
"We have gathered here today in preparation for a moment that will shape the underbelly of the United States of America. That will shape the world itself. Before us lies a war that will-"

"We'll change the world, we'll make the future, bla fucking bla," loudly and rudely said Frank d'Amico as he looked up at the ceiling in boredom.

Luthor scowled. d'Amico had great resources and was a very powerful don, but his lack of manners annoyed Luthor.

"You'll be wise to let me finish, Mr. d'Amico."

"I just want some good money worth the job," said Wario as Waluigi nodded lazily.

Luthor rolled his eyes. Criminals now-a-days just didn't believe in higher ideals anymore. It sickened him.

"Where is Mr. Wilson?" asked Warren Fisk.
"I was made to believe that he had been joining us."

"He told me that there was business in Africa that he needed to take care of. But he still continues to fund our operations and his resources have been kept in check."

Luthor then straightened his suit. He knew that he wasn't around the most amicable of people, so he needed to be patient with them.

"The operation that we have underway will offer all of us control over not just the world's political structure, but the material of it as well. Sitting here today are the faces of people who will create a new future for all kind."

d'Amico, who was slouching in his chair, snickered quite noticeably, as if he wanted Luthor to hear his amusement at the idea. Lex merely rolled his eyes and continued on.

"For years now, different forces have held us back. Cobra Industries was one, but they have been eliminated, disbanded. They are no more. Judge Claude Frollo, as mighty as his empire may be, will soon be no threat to us. He fights forces beyond his comprehension, so his downfall is all but inevitable. Our current threat that we must annihilate is David Xanatos, chairman and CEO of-"

"Hold up!" said Wario.
"Let me get this straight. You think that Xanatos, a CEO of some company, is a bigger threat than the Judge of Paris?!"

"He's fought the law with significant competence and skill. He is not an opponent to be underestimated. If he remains alive, our plan will fall through time and time again."

Wario then stood, pushing his chair over abruptly.

"Don't give me that! You just want him gone because he owns the only company in the U.S. that trumps yours! You're not after him for the grand plan, or whatever this is! You want him for some schoolboy grudge!"

Luthor curled his right hand into a fist, trying to hold back his rage at Wario's defiance. He was making a fool out of him in front of the people who he needed to make his domination possible.

"This business is too personal," continued Wario.
"I know from experience that this is going down the drain! Wa and I are out!"

Suddenly, as Wario and Waluigi turned to leave, they stopped as they heard a door slam open. A lazy, sarcastic laugh echoed through the halls as every criminal in the room turned to see who the source of this noise was. Down the rather dark hall of the meeting room walked one of the most dangerous criminals of all time. His Glasgow smile seemed to glow with the red make-up that covered it like bloody lipstick. His face, chalked with white paint. His eyes, surrounded by black that gave him a less than human appearance. His sandy hair, dyed green. He wore a purple suit that resembled a long coat, giving him a semblance between a business man and a junkyard dog. The laugh turned more stale and more dry as he walked into the full light of the room, everybody except for the two Luthors shuddering when the laid eyes upon him.

"And I thought my jokes were bad," said the Joker, who tilted his head in an obscure manner as he stared a soul piercing stare toward Wario and Waluigi. The two immediately sat down.

"Kidding!" exclaimed Wario quickly as Waluigi hastily nodded next to him.
"It's a great plan! Really!"

Then, it was d'Amico's turn to stand.

"You!" he proclaimed as the Joker took his seat at the other end of the table, barely paying Frank any mind.

"Take a seat, Mr. d'Amico," said Luthor firmly, almost snapping at d'Amico.

"This clown killed my partner! Ruined a business deal that would've made me fucking billions! I'm not working with him!"

The Joker adjusted his suit.

"Chuddy? Oh, he'll be missed," said the Clown Prince of Crime.
"I almost forgot what I was doing when I took care of him. When I saw that I'd killed him, I felt torn apart. Though, I'd fairly say he felt even more torn apart."

Negaduck snickered at this dark joke as Frank started to walk angrily toward the Joker. However, Alexander stepped forth and raised his left hand, which began to glow with light. Frank stopped in his tracks, then after a frustrated grunt and flipping the bird to the clown, who merely raised an eyebrow in return, went back to his chair, sitting down and giving the table a smash with his fists. Alexander then put his hand down, getting rid of the light.

"Thank you, Alexander," said Luthor, simply looking at him from the corner of his eye without turning his head.

"Please understand," continued the leader of the operation.
"The Joker has already proven to be a valuable ally in our coming war. And I am confident that-"

"What?!" loudly interrupted an angry d'Amico again.
"You're telling me that you ordered him to kill Chudnofsky?! You ruined the deal?!"

Luthor gave a deep sigh in annoyance to this man. As he forced himself to keep in mind often, d'Amico was a great asset, but he would be perfectly fine with letting the Joker kill him as well once the world was his.

"Los Angeles has mass media attention and plays a key role in the American economy. It's conquer plays the dual role of a distraction for the law, particularly and fundamentally Frollo, and it grants us an ideal position in this war."

"That's what Ben and I had already done! You broke my empire for no reason, you fucking asshole!"

"Mr. Chudnofsky was not to be trusted. He was far too ambitious and borderline incompetent. But once our conquest is complete, you will have an empire that your former one will pale in comparison to. My word is given. In the meantime, I expect that you and the Joker will cooperate to the full extent that our venture requires."

d'Amico rubbed his hands over his bald head, leaning over in his chair and noticeably muttering,
"Mother fucker!"

Meanwhile, the Joker had just scratched marks into the table with his switchblade, each indicating the number of times d'Amico had cursed.

"Anyway," continued Luthor.
"I am confident that through our combined might, we will be the victors who will rewrite history. Who rewrite the grand order. And with the information that the Joker's spy has provided us with, our time to strike toward the muscle of Xanatos has come unto us."

Luthor then stood, his fingers placed on the table like a warlord looking over his armies.

"Gentlemen. Within this room lies the greatest force since the Olympians. Within this room, this temple to the warlords, the conquerors of this country, lies the future."
Malus: World of War I:
Between Warriors and Murderers, Part I
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