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Once Finn and Iris arrived at the bottom of the stairs at last, they found Octane trapped beneath the wheelchair.

"N-Ngh… I got it… c'mon… THERE!" he shoved the wheelchair off of his body with all of his might, before leaping back up to his feet and letting out a deep breath of triumph. "Whew!"

The wheelchair's wheels spun around rapidly before slowly coming to a stop. Still, the entire right side of it was busted — definitely not suitable to be sat on anymore.

"…" Iris and Finn both decided to refrain from commenting, and Octane glanced at them apologetically, scratching his head.

"Uh… sorry. Looks like you're going to have to keep carrying Iris for a bit," he bit his lip and scratched the back of his head. Then, an idea struck him as he straightened his body up. "Or, alternatively, I would be 200% willing to carry her in your stead in order to atone for my sins!"

"No thanks," Iris immediately denied.

"I will carry her," Finn interjected calmly, much to Iris's surprise. She blushed a bit out of embarrassment, without realizing Finn's intentions in doing this were nowhere close to romance. It was simply because he didn't want to waste time passing her over.

"A-Alright then," Octane said hesitantly. "Just let me know whenever you start to get, uh… tired."

With those words, he headed down the corridor up ahead, lit by torches. "C'mon. This way."

*****

After a bit of walking, the trio stepped through a gate. Outside, however, was a hazy purple sky.

"Woah… isn't this supposed to be underground…?" Iris murmured faintly. "We did go down that staircase, didn't we…?"

"It sure is, and we sure did," Octane chuckled deviously. "We ARE underground right now. The sky you see is just a fake one made by someone with the Illusion Angelica."

"I see… no wonder it looks pretty yet somewhat artificial. Still, anyone without the Oculus Angelica would without a doubt be fooled."

Finn, however, was unable to enjoy this scenery. He just kept quiet and focused on keeping track of how many steps he was taking and storing the directions in his memory. This way, if he ever came back here, he would be able to navigate the place on his own. He also did this on the way here, so he could technically reach this underground city on his own now if no incidents happened on the way.

"There's a whole new world down here, Miss Ivis," Octane laughed. "There are many different gates to enter down here, but we choose Kas's place since he and boss are old buddies. No one else uses this gate though, since Kas won't let them."

"If only Finn could see this too…" Iris murmured in pity.

"Don't worry about me," Finn replied emotionlessly. "I'll get used to it."

"There's a city right up ahead — that's where we'll get you your armor," Octane smirked.

A few minutes later, the trio arrived at a bustling town in this underground world. Many people were walking in and out, though Iris noticed someone getting threatened by three others. Fortunately, the three walked away after a while, so there was no need to intervene.

"There is evil everywhere, huh?" Iris smiled sadly as she clutched onto Finn's back tightly. "Even amongst Ghost Hunters, who live by the shadows to protect the light, there is still hostility amongst those who are supposed to be fighting for the same side…"

"Well, of course. Some people aren't here for revenge," Octane explained as if this were a common occurrence. "They don't really care about killing Ghosts, just the money it brings — like mercenaries, in a way. Oh, we're here."

Octane came to a stop before a store that read 'CLOTHING STORE' in full caps.

"Well, that is quite the… generic name," Iris remarked softly.

"You get used to it," Octane laughed boldly. "There's no shortage of restaurants named 'Restaurant' around here."

Seeing Finn and Iris staying still, he quickly added, "T-That was a joke, by the way. This is the only one that's named like this. The owner is… you could say, a pretty unique guy, even more so than Kas."

Iris and Finn both sighed in relief and walked into the store after Octane. They were already unfamiliar with these parts, and one of them was blind… if everything was called 'Store', they would be in big trouble.

"Welcome, welcome!" A cheery male voice greeted the moment they stepped through the door.

"Hola, amigo!" Octane strolled up to the employee and did some sort of secret handshake with him, then bumped fists. "Hell yeah! Where's Mav?"

"The boss is in the back, coming up with new clothing designs," the staff member answered, to which Octane rolled his eyes.

"Agh, of course he is. That guy, does he ever do anything else?"

"Apart from counting money? No," the young man laughed. "Shall I call him for you?"

"Yeah, tell him I got two new aspiring customers for him," Octane replied with a smirk.

"Roger that!"

The employee quickly scurried off and retreated to the back of the store as Octane turned back around to Finn and Iris. "You two can just look around for now, see if anything catches your eye. It'll be another good ten minutes before Mav — the owner here — actually comes out."

Iris didn't bother responding as she was already admiring in awe at all the different armor designs in this massive store, from seemingly flimsy and decorative white dresses for women to full-on knight-like silver armor that encased the entire body in protective metal plating.

"Hm… Finn, what kind of armor do you want?" Iris asked as she climbed up onto Finn's shoulders to get a better view, eyes wandering around the room.

"… Doesn't matter. Anything that can serve its purpose is fine for me."

"Everything here can 'serve its purpose'," a man of a clear accent with flat vowels and clipped endings declared, interrupting the two's conversation. Finn spun around in the direction of the voice, forcing Iris to turn with him.

Octane's eyes lit up. "Quicker than usual today, Mav!"

"I believe I have told you many times now not to call me that, yes? It is Mavrick. M-a-v-r-i-c-k."

Mavrick, a blond man who looked to be in his forties wearing a luxurious tux and a monocle to match the look, walked over to Finn and iris.

"Now then, my dear new customers… you are new to the Ghost Hunter world, yes? I can see it in your eyes… you are completely inexperienced in picking out armor."

"But I don't have eyes," Finn retorted truthfully, perhaps a bit too honest and serious for his own good.

"That's not the point! I can feel it… your entire body is giving off a newbie smell!"

"Right. So… about the clothes?" Finn continued, completely disregarding the man's statement.

"Hm, yes… let's start with you, boy," Mavrick narrowed his eyes and stroked his short beard with his fingers. "Black hair, introverted, cold, quiet… hm, yes, I believe some black armor will suit you quite well."

Then, turning his head to Iris, he continued. "As for you, girl… hm, yes, how about white to compliment your lover's black?"

"H-He's not my lover," Iris hurriedly denied, a blush creeping up her face. "But… I'm okay with white."

Mavrick clapped his hands. "Good, good! Now, boy, do you prefer defense or agility more?"

"I want both," Finn replied calmly.

"Hm, yes, greedy! But I like that. What about you, girl? Defense or agility?"

"I think… agility will be useless on me, since my legs are crippled…"

"Oh?" Mavrick raised an eyebrow in challenge. "You think I, the great Mavrick of A Thousand Clothes, can't fix that problem?"

"… You can cure my legs?" Iris frowned. "I hope you know… they've been tainted by a Phantom. Even Healer Angelicas couldn't help — the most they could do was stop the spread of the blight to the rest of my body."

"No, no, no! Heavens, no!" Mavrick cried in anguish. "Curing your legs? Hmph! Only common, talentless lowlifes would think of that! What I mean to do… is give you new ones."

"… You want to turn me into a spider?"

"No! They are not literal legs, obviously! I mean wings, girl! Wings!"

He threw his hands up into the air and began flapping them as if to demonstrate.

Iris tilted her head. "Wings? But I don't have a Celestial Angelica…"

"So? I can give you fake ones," Mavrick calmed down and snorted. "They won't work as well as the real deal, but they'll serve. I'll ask again — defense or agility?"

Iris was dubious, but she decided to just play along. "Well, if I can fly with agility, then… obviously agility is the go-to choice."

"Good! Wait one moment, I have just the thing for you!"

Saying this, Mavrick retreated to the backroom of the store once more. After some crashing noises and the sounds of something falling over, he returned, a bruise on his face. In his hands was an angelic white robe with two beautiful wings attached to its back, feathery and light.

"Wow…" Iris's eyes sparkled as she gazed in wonder at the heavenly dress, as if she couldn't wait to try it on.

"Heh," Mavrick chuckled, as if having expected this reaction, then handed Iris the robe. It dangled in front of Finn's face, tickling his nose a bit.

"Concentrate and activate your Angelica while holding the robe tightly," Mavrick instructed.

Iris did as told, closing her eyes tightly as she clutched the robe. A golden glow surrounded her body as she activated her Oculus Angelica, and all of a sudden, her body along with the robe turned completely white.

In an instant, the light died away as soon as it came, and on Iris's body was the angelic robe.

"She's like a real angel…" Octane's jaw dropped in awe, stunned by Iris's beauty.

"Woah…" she glanced down at her own body in amazement, then tried moving the wings on her back. However, Mavrick quickly stopped her.

"Not here, girl!"

"H-Huh?"

"It takes a lotta practice to maneuver that thing. Don't test fly in my goddamn store!"

Iris blinked and cowered her head behind Finn apologetically. "Erm… sorry."

"Hmph! Hm, yes, now, as for you, boy…"

Mavrick stared at Finn for a good while, eyes narrowed, then snapped his fingers as an idea struck him and returned to the backroom.

"… Did he leave again?" Finn asked, confused as he heard the dying sound of footsteps.

"Yeah. In case you were wondering, the armor sets out here are all just for normal customers," Octane replied. "Mavrick, like Kas, is good buddies with our boss, so he gets out the good stuff for us."

"Huh… I see."

Shortly after, Mavrick returned with a thick cloak as dark as midnight, also with two wings attached to its back. The only difference was that they were black, unlike the set Iris got. It had quite the long collar, and seemed to come with pants and boots just like Iris's set.

"Defense and agility — both are in this set, boy, just as you wanted. Titanium chestplate and joint guards, surrounded by hard black leather. Comfortable to move in while also providing sturdy protection. There are even wings, as a bonus!"

Finn sighed. "I can't see, so I will just take your word for it. Do you need to know my measurements?"

"Hah! Measurements? No," Mavrick chuckled. "All clothes made by me automatically fit the size of their wearer. All you have to do is activate your Angelica while holding it, and boom — before you know it, you'll be wearing it. Benefits of the Tailor Angelica."

"I see. Thank you," Finn said neutrally, voice without an ounce of warmth in it.

"Another satisfied customer," Mavrick grinned to himself and handed the cloak to Finn, who accepted it. "Now then, try it on."

Finn did as told, clutching the cloak tightly as he activated his Oculus Angelica. As a golden glow enveloped him, his body turned pure white for a brief instant. In the next, he was wearing the black cloak, Iris still riding on his shoulders.

Even his pants and shoes had changed, from his old, worn-out ones to brand new black ones to match the rest of his attire.

"Damn, you look sick, dude!" Octane cheered. "Almost like Storm, except you have wings!"

"Mm… I think it suits you pretty well," Iris agreed.

"How is it?" Mavrick asked despite already knowing the answer.

"It's fine," Finn replied nonchalantly, moving around in this new armor to the best of his abilities while Iris sat on his shoulders. Together, it seemed like an angel was riding on top of a demon, one pure and innocent, the other dark and corrupted.

"Wait," Iris suddenly interjected. "I have an idea, after seeing how you look…"

"…?" Everyone present stopped to listen to what she had to say.

"Remember what Archon said about an alias? I have a suggestion for you."

"… Oh?" Finn raised an eyebrow, prompting her to continue.

"This completely black outfit… it kind of reminds me of the ace of spades in a deck of playing cards," Iris explained hesitantly. "I'm not sure why, but… the Ace of Spades is commonly known as the Card of Death, and this cloak of yours gives me similar vibes."

"Ace of Spades? Too long," Octane shot down the idea. "It's cool, but three words, seriously? Aliases need to be short!"

"In that case… how about just Ace?" Iris suggested with a wry smile. "It usually represents the highest card in a playing deck, used to turn dire situations around. This signifies hidden strength and the ability to determine the course of a battle — our trump card, essentially."

Finn fell into thought. "Ace, huh?"

On that day, the man named Finn Thresher was forever erased from the annals of history, declared dead and never to be remembered.

But left in his place… was a single, godlike entity:

Ace.

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About the author

Cyclxne

  • Cyclxne

Bio: "To survive is to suffer, but to live, is to find some meaning in that suffering."

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