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The City's Dark Jewel
Ice clinked in his glass as Ryker tipped it to his lips. The contrast was not lost to him (or the bartender) that he opted for purity despite the debauchery in which he was surrounded. Ryker was a man of self-restraint – where base instincts were buried deep, replaced by a mold of a calculated exterminator, more slayer than butcher.

The woman slipped to her feet, legs pointed spears that tip-toed carefully to them. He kept his posture open, knees parted, back lounged, like the lioness might come to claim the meat for herself. The proximity of vulnerable flesh as she leaned into the bar rippled punishingly close. But the bonds of discipline locked down anything except the roam of his eyes and the curl of a finger.

Her coercion was acceptable.

He glanced at Ivan to see whether the man would accept the gauntlet thrown. Any hope he held for redeeming his shining white armor would be forever lost if he descended to those pits. His would be a taint never scrubbed clean. Bruises to the soul that never healed. Ryker’s solely clear eye blazed with coaxing suggestion. The other milked pale, it’s view cloudy in comparison. The scars snarling their heavy plaques pinched with the barest movement of his brows.

He hovered close to Oriena like razors scraped across the skin when he took to his feet. She smelled luxurious as antifreeze, the blood pulsed excitement through the string of veins webbing her throat. Whatever poison radiating from her opalescent skin sank into his. Ryker was diminished from what he once was. His own pallor was clouded upon close inspection. The hair thinner. The promise of a vile soul carefully caged.

But that did not diminish his presence in that moment. Saliva welled his mouth wet. Victory was a palatable flavor, after all.

“Lead on,” he ordered, flushing the waves of dissonance onward before them.
Presuming assent Ryker stood, close enough that doing so leered into her personal space, but rather than follow the cue of his words she turned into him. Her palm pressed into his black chest. Control for control's sake. She might as well have put her hand into a flame, she knew that. The cop was soft, an interloper, but this man was not. Something carnal shifted beneath that warped skin. But he plucked the strings here.

The crawl of his eyes made her neither shudder nor blush, but nor did she recoil. Her eyes upturned, slightly narrowed, scrutinising the ruin of his face. The blindness of one eye. The imperfections of his skin. Kasun knew he was here to test his restraint. Oriena knew there was a decent chance he would throw this fight in a desperate bid to please her. It did not stop the sly curve of her lips. "A wager to make it interesting?"
Li knew she was right. Enslavement here was still no better life, but still chains were chains and they chaffed either way. This he knew first hand. But she queried basic instincts. How did he know? Dogma, culture? A wolf was aggressive. And a roan wolf was just as much a wolf as one who was part of a pack. They didn't have thoughts beyond instinct. But then he thought of the things he'd done with his power. He was after all one of these so called monsters.

Perhaps... A slow smile spread to his lips as he realized she may not have thought to provoke action but Li had nothing better to do. It was a new thought - new direction. The world would hate it... but he didn't care.

He forgot his quest, at least as far as hunting went for the moment and he returned his full attention to the inspiration in front of him with a bright smile. "I never presumed to decide your baser instinct, Nhysa. I've seen you fight." He winked.

The action close by with the wolfkin ramped up. It only made Li slightly uncomfortable to have him close enough, but he overheard the challenge to offered. The man who was to fight the wolfkin was not a regular. He looked soft, but soft didn't mean dangerous. Li was proof of that very thing. "Looks as if there might be some fun tonight afterall." He said to his companion.
“What you must do," said Monkey, "is lure the monster from its hiding place, but be certain it is a fight you can survive.” 
― Wu Cheng'en, Monkey: The Journey to the West


His chin tilted. Slits of eyes wary of the daggers in hers. Moments like this often left a man with a blade in his ribs, payment for momentary distraction. The press of her palm pushed, but he did not move.

The barest parting of lips dripped promises thinly veiled. Surprising that the slits of white behind such honeyed lips didn’t taper to fangs.

Face tilted, the snort of a wager was entertained. “Foolish suggestion, girl. What do you have in mind?” He had no doubt his boy would win. Rage radiated from the charred remains of a soul cindered irreparable. One hungry for brutality. And he could channel. Kasun held no hope for victory.
Ivan laughed at the victory. She had come to him. These women always thought they were in control. He was sure that if he had gone to her, she would have considered that proof of something. Power games. They were dumb, but so was life.

She slid between them, calling the bartender. "Glad you accepted our invite," he said with a hint of sarcasm. He got a closer look at her too and could see the healing cuts on her arms, They weren't sticks. Good muscle tone. Yeah, she was a fighter. And he had no issues fighting a woman. This was the 21st century. Equal rights and all that. Mixed UFC fighting was a thing. So yeah, as long as it was fair. Whiiiiiich he doubted would be the case with her. Not after that night. Still, how badly would he beat her, that would be the question he'd have to decide.

This was the Almaz, after all. No refs or rules, you know? Not like he'd keep pounding her bloody. Course that smirk on her face did ask for....something.

He looked at her, grin of excitement on his face, before standing up. Cheap rentals were not tailored. While he was a big guy at 6'2 and a solid 210 the material had that cheap billowiness about it. Like a t-shirt that had been worn too often. He doubted they thought him a threat, the way he was dressed.

And that was a good thing. He loved being underestimated. The other guy- quiet one, though he guessed Ori probably kinda did that to people- Kasun, was about the same build and height, mass of tangled black hair. Something about his eyes made Ivan pause. Not the color. People wore all kinds of contacts. He'd seen devil eyes, snake eyes, cat eyes. Some had their eyeballs tattooed too, or tinted black or red. No, it was something else. A wildness there. Like a dog he'd found in an alley back when he was on the beat. All feral and stuff.

And Ivan felt a powerful thread of excitement in his chest. Just like when he was channeling. Exactly. It wasn't the alcohol. No. It was the realization that finally, finally, tonight he was gonna pound the livign shit out of someone real good. That he could let go completely. He couldn't have known that his own eyes were showing the exact same animal look.

He shot a chin at Ryker, a wink at Ori. "See you in a bit, sweetheart." He could tell it was a favored term of hers. He liked it. It was his now. He clapped Kasun on the shoulder and the man flinched, turned on him with anger. Ivan just glared back, standing firm. He did smile insolently, though."Hah ha! Save it for the pit, buddy. Lead the way."

The man shook his shaggy head after a moment and then gestured for him to follow. With each step Ivan's gaze hardened and his jaws clenched with anticipation.

[Image: images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRge443l-1ygwC67bsLzLI...DIooG0WQmb]

This wasn't UFC. No logos on the mats or on his or Kasun's shorts. No sponsors here. Just two people who wanted to beat each other to a bloody pulp while overhead people watched. He looked up then, massive lights making a suns in the middle of a night sky. He smiled, twisted his neck this way and that, squeezed his shoulders together until he heard multiple cracks.

He readied himself and looked at Kasun across the way. The man was all hairy and muscled but he just stood there, staring at him, as if he were prey. Haha! Yeah. He looked hungry, just watching, muscles a little tense, as if ready to run at him.

Ivan laughed and positioned himself.

This was gonna be fucking fun.
He didn't bite her hand off. Oriena wasn't sure she'd have minded if he did; a challenge like that fired more interest, sometimes, than sparring words. Few people were unpredictable in a way that truly enticed her attention. And she was fickle anyway. But she'd seen first hand the volatility of his temper, violent as a crack of bone, only to be reigned in just as quick. It had disappointed her at the time, but now she realised something. The control mattered to him. 

The lure set its hooks. Ryker stared down with narrowed eyes and called her unwise; named her a girl like she would wilt beneath the larger presence once its weight began to crush. Dismissive, and yet he invited her indulgence anyway. The arrogance radiated from him, victory assured. She laughed. "Ah, well, that depends on what it is you think I want, and how you suppose I plan to get it."

He pointed out her presence at the ball; led the cop by the nose to understand what she had done, and how. Oriena herself provided the why. Ryker was not stupid; he knew he dealt with a woman for whom the puncture of jagged glass shards was only a means to an end. 

She pat the steel of his chest before the heat of her hand slipped away. He might toss those odds and decide showing even a modicum of interest was not worth the risk of looking stupid. It was all about power for men like him, but Oriena was not interested in power. "Nothing it'll kill you to lose. A secret for a secret, unless you've a better offer."

Kas loped to his feet, frowning. He hated being back here, but he knew the pits and the pits knew him. An old life. He didn't want to lose his thoughts again. Angry Man tried to touch him and Kas flinched back, a growl low in his throat. No one hurt him anymore, but he did not invite the contact of those not pack. The warning was clear but Angry Man only smiled. He stared too. It was rude.

He smelled like lust and anger. Wriggling like a pup for first snow. Or first blood maybe. Hunt was good; Kas had wanted to kill the one who smelled bad, from before, but this place made all good bad too. Dark and starving until hunger drowned everything silent.

He grunted and gestured a paw. Led Angry Man to where he would lose his soul. No one stopped them from the competitor's entrance; long steps down, arching pipes above. No luxury here. Blood smelled thick. Sweat. Shit. Kas pulled the shirt over his head angrily, discarded like bones with no meat. Handlers briefed Angry Man, surprised by the sanction. Not like they usually let just anyone fight for the patrons. 

None bothered Kas. He was known. He was remembered. No one even got close. Stinking like fear despite his low shoulders imparting no harm meant. They wondered why he was out on his own. Which handler had probably lost their throat to his teeth, despite no blood on his lips. Because he was a monster.

He stalked into the ring, roughly round, pitted walls too high to climb (he had tried). Usually Kas had fought in the cage though; a top dollar draw with the eyes like gold coins. Those feral eyes absorbed now, nostrils flaring. Energy rippled. Far too gleeful. Kas stalked, unblinking. The coiled energy of something wild. But he would not strike first.
For anyone else, trading secrets was meager bait. Oriena was delusional if she thought her associate had a chance in hell at defeating a channeler. Even if Kasun was a closet channeler himself, abilities hidden behind a golden mask, Ryker’s confidence in Ivan was unwavering. If skill didn’t put him over the edge, pure, blind rage would. Mania swam beneath Ivan’s surface. It only needed to be released.

He shrugged, “Secret for a secret.” She was also delusional to think Ryker’s honor pushed him to uphold a wager lost. (He wasn’t going to lose). The ignorant girl did want something, and while he cared nothing for those desires, if they happened to align temporarily with his own, she could prove useful. She was at the ball. Connections webbed her to powerful players.

The pending fight was announced. Blood spilled the water and predators stirred. They weren’t the only ones to descend from bar-level to find better seats.
[Image: images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRge443l-1ygwC67bsLzLI...DIooG0WQmb]

Ivan's lips flared and teeth bared and a growl escaped from his throat as he watched his adversary. He just stood there, a ball of muscle, wound tight.

Ivan was reminded of the engines he'd built. You always wanted them to wait until the piston moved down to its maximum descent, the highest compression of gas and oxygen possible, deeper than anything....and then....BOOOM!! The spark igniting the mixture to yield the most power from the blast, an explosion translated into movement of crankshaft, down the drive train....and the rest was pure power. The vehicle zoomed.

Kasun was the coil. The spring. The horn went off and he went off and it was a wild animal Ivan faced. There was no strategy. No moves. No calculation. Ivan fought a beast.

He was utterly dismissive; shrugged and agreed like he had nothing better to do. Amusement glinted like glass shards in Ori's eyes. A shipwreck smile beckoned the unwary into the rocks. She laughed like he had just made the most amusing joke. 

She knew what Ivan was, but she doubted he would lean on that easy advantage. The violence in him thrummed like intoxication, but it was a heat that craved the flesh and blood of a visceral kind of war.  The power would be a cheat, tasting of victory and ash. 

And thoroughly unimpressive. 

Not that she calculated for Kasun to win either; not with the memory of Rafael's blood on his tongue and Ori's threat warping what little humanity caged his fragile mind. Though if fate had a tantrum, as the bitch was wont to do, she knew exactly what she would ask. Not a secret of value. 

The impromptu change to the schedule bred curiosity. As they descended from the bar level it became clear the ringside seats of their pit were all occupied, and even the screens drew the dark shadow of crowds. It smelled of money and blood down here, uniting royalty from either side of the spectrum in uneasy truce. She picked a table anyway, slipped her way among them to wary looks. 

One man in particular frowned hardest. Tattoos peeked from his suit sleeves, swirling across his hands. Ori curled into his lap like a cat, pressed the heat of a whisper into his ear. A lover's familiarity, at least in appearance, but it was not lust in Ori's eye, nor sweet nothings she poured. The man's jaw hardened. 

Moments later the table vacated. 

She sat without watching them leave. The curve of her smile was not a bask in victory; she'd already forgotten them. The tease was for Ryker instead. "If he does well, perhaps I'll take him from you, Ryker." 

[[I will write Kas (and Nhysa) later... since I'm technically at work *cough* Did Ivan attack in that post, or can I presume he has made the first move?]]
Ryker unfolded upon the seat, lounging more comfortably than barstools allowed. Oriena was an interesting character. “You must have said please.” Fingers drummed the table absently, only for him to snarl as something sticky padded his skin. A few snaps summoned someone to wipe it fresh.

He glanced at Oriena, disappointed. “Hard to find good help these days,” he said about the time fresh drinks were finally placed within reach. Ryker sipped his water and tuned attention to the impending fight. Ivan deserved to have a little fun. "If you try to take him, no doubt he will let you." His smile slid like oil. 

His gaze slipped from the lines of her neck upon the cage. Shirtless, Kasun's skin sunk around his ribs. He seemed to have not seen the sun in years. An addict of some kind, likely. To what drug? Ryker was moderately curious given his foray into the field recently. "From what hole did you dig him out?"

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