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Small rapid foot steps echoed throughout the long corridor and finally, the small boy reached an extravagant door. Tugging with all his might, the small messenger was able to pull the grand mahogany door open. A cold draft rushed up his spine, and he, for the first time, laid eyes on the main office of the GRIM headquarters. He stared in amazement, but all at once, was a bit put down. He expected much more: many desks, 20 or so workers bustling about, important documents here and there stacked in tall piles, and most of all, he expected to see a very important looking man at a large desk. The only thing from his imagination which really was there was the desk... and there was nobody except one man, who sat regally in a large chair. He didn't appear to be very old, mid twenties perhaps, and he was anything but intimidating. The room was completely marble, with no windows, but many candles, a single chandelier hung from the center of the ceiling. The boy stood in the doorway waiting to be acknowledged by Murdock, a name which seemed to belong to a very powerful man... up now that is. Now, this name hardly seemed to match the character sitting only a few meters before him. Clearly unheard, how he could not tell, the noise the door made upon opening could wake someone from a dead sleep, he cleared his throat loudly but kept a smile on his face.
Murdock looked up from a large book, and beckoned for the white haired boy to come forward. Setting the book aside, he adjusted his large golden rimmed monocle. "What is it now, another party invitation from my brother? I've told him to stop sending these wretched letters, I have no need to partake in any dinner he may hold!" He made a distasteful face and put his hands under his chin to lean on the desk.
With a shaky but sure voice the boy spoke, orange eyes flitting here and there, feeling a bit uncomfortable, " Sir, I've been given orders not to pry into any letters I deliver. I cannot be sure of it's contents." He smiled up at the ceiling, feeling he had spoken with much authority and class.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Christmas? Hurry it up... better get bad news over with quickly," He outstretched a hand waiting for his letter.
Quickly, the horned boy patted across the floor and placed the letter in the man's gloved hand. Opening it carefully, Murdock's yellows eyes darted back and forth scanning the page, his expression never changing. With a sigh he placed the letter down and tapped a finger against the desk, not saying a word.
"Well, Sir, is it good news or bad?" He backed up slightly, expecting to be scolded for speaking when he wasn't spoken to.
" To tell you the truth, I'm not very sure." He paused spinning a strand of his long indigo ponytail around his finger, " Please send for Hanzel Fullernien, I need to speak with him." He pointed to the door, and slumped down in his chair. "Oh, and please do be quick about it....err...."
"Oh, um..., I don't have a name, I was taken in by-"
"Your new name is Smudge, now go. Before I lose patience."
The boy turned and quickly but quietly left the room, contemplating his new name. He had always been refereed to as Goat Boy, or Curse boy... or something worse. He had never been given a real name, even if it was just a half assed pet one. He liked this new name.... it seemed to suit him he thought as he made his way to the main lobby to find Hanzel. He had heard rumors about Hanzel Fullernien... he was one of the most serious bounty hunters in the entire GRIM order, he had never once lost a culprit, and from what he knew, he was not a very amiable person. At the main lobby desk he received a room number.
576, he knocked on the door, no answer. He knocked again, still nothing. Pressing his ear to the door he listened for sound. A loud startled yelp escaped his mouth when a sudden gunshot went off inside. In terror to knock again he leaned towards the door and in a quiet yell managed out the words, "Mr. Fullernien, You need to see Mr. Murdock right away. He-" A bullet pierced the door right above the goat boys head, his eyes widened and he felt as if he were going to faint... this job wasn't supposed to be so stressful!! He dropped to his knees in fear, ready to crawl away. But just as he was backing up, a large steel toed boot kicked open the apartment door.
" Well? What does he want this time? Another low class mission no one else will take?" Despite his emphasized exit, he leaned against the door frame in a hunched manner, a lazy look in his eyes...or maybe it was a look of disinterest. His brown work jack was pinned together in the front and it hung off one shoulder messily. He wore a black and white striped muscle shirt, and long loose army green pants, with many pockets His brown hair fell in long bangs covering only his left eye, the ends were white and his visible eye shone a fiery red.
" He didn't say, but it seemed a bit urgent! I think you should follow me and see!"
He didn't speak or make any attempt to move for a short amount of time, then all of a sudden he adjusted his jacket and sulked down the hall. The goat boy followed behind him trying to keep up with out looking rushed. "So, Mr. Fullernien... how long have you been working for GRIM?"
" Too long."
" Well, um.... how come you get some of the worst missions then?"
" I guess there just aren't any difficult ones any more. These criminals are getting to be real pussies, none of them put up a fight anymore, then I'm not allowed to kill them.
" Oh.... that's too bad.... I guess." Hanzel was so much taller than he was, even though he was slouched. But he sure was what everyone described him as, moody and indifferent. It was amazing he had become so skilled at what he does with an attitude like that. He wondered how old Hanzel was, he didn't look older than 20, if that.
Pushing open the large double doors to the head office, Hanzel stomped up to the desk, loudly slamming his hand onto the paperwork the indigo haired boss had been writing out, Clawfinks did not even flinch at the sound, in fact he continued filling out the papers, " HEY! You deaf? You better not be sending me to catch some low class robber or something! Im sick of these half ass missions!"
" Oh, Hanzel... nice to see you too." Dismissing Hanzel's attitude, he stood and walked about the room in a business like manner, "Now you'll probably object to this the second I tell you, but I thought I should add a few things before you have the chance... You're clearly upset you haven't been assigned anything difficult recently, and believe me, this is not easy. And though this assignment probably isn't your cup of tea, you should know, this girl... is sort of a bad luck magnet. She always ends up in the worst situations, so I figured, perfect for you! You lie danger."
" So what's the mission then? Huh?"
" Your job: to train this danger prone girl. No one else is in the position to teach her, and what she needs is hands on experience, her attention span is too short for any form of classes."
" No! Never! I'm not babysitting some girl the people here are too stupid to teach! And if she's unteachable, ditch her! Who needs her!?"
" Her gunman talents are unmatched by any other female."
" Yeah? Well we've got plenty of guys here that I'm sure can out match her! So ditch her!"
" If you take this mission I will greatly increase your salary, and not to mention all of the missions you two will get! Top class missions."
".... Keep talking."
" hn, thats what I thought. Myself and the other top ranks will be away for a while in England, which means no one to take the difficult missions, you'll get them immediately. Imagine all the killing you can do if you don't have to report to me before doing it. The decision is yours....and I would like to add, Gretel Levellin, is... well.... send her in!" And with a snap of his fingers the double doors opened again, this time a woman dressed in a GRIM uniform strutted in, she was followed by.... well, the first thing Hanzel saw were her massive boobs, but that's besides the point.
Gretel Levellin was average height for a girl, but wore knee high black heeled boots, making her figure even more appealing. She wore a blue pleated mini skirt, and a white and blue low cut sailor style shirt, exposing her entire stomach and quite a lot of cleavage. Hanzel almost forgot she had a face. Long black side bangs, and short forehead bangs framed her childish small featured face. Her large purple eyes were accentuated by long dark black eyelashes, and her bubbly expression made them appear even wider. She smiled sweetly at Hanzel and flipped a long strand of her black hair over her shoulder, and then, she spoke, almost too quick to understand " You must be Hanzel! I've heard so much about you! You're going to be training me from now on huh? Oh, sorry, My names Gretel, Gretel Levellin, but you can call me Gretty if you like! Or would that be improper!? Can I call you Zelly?" She giggled and held out a hand covered by a furry pink mitten for Hanzel to shake.
The three males stood silent for a moment, almost in shock by how quickly the high spirited girl had spoken. Hanzel's eye twitched slightly, and he put a hand to his forehead, the days would be so much longer from here on out... if only she couldn't talk. After a moment, Hanzel shook the girls furry pink hand, " Just Hanzel, please.... Lets try not to use nicknames."
" Oh, alright! Your right, nicknames are so cliché! So, when are we going? I'm parched!!"
" Maybe you should keep your mouth closed more, you're drying it out...."
" Silly, mouths don't work like that! You can't trick me! SO! We leaving soon?
" Miss Levellin,... How much caffeine have you had today?"
" I had some orange juice!"
" Well, none I guess!"
Slowly backing up, Hanzel whispered to Clawfinks, " Does, um, does she have a mental disorder I should know about?"
" We couldn't find anything, we wish we had, she wouldn't be allowed in if that was the case." Now speaking normal tone, Clawfinks continued, " Well you two better get going! Here. Your investigating a kidnapping." Handing Hanzel a map, he withdrew to his desk. Shewing them off, he returned to his paperwork.
Once the two were outside, Hanzel sat down examining the map. As usual, the destination was circled with a brief description of the case in the margin. Simple enough for a beginner like Gretel, he thought. Taking a few guns from his pockets he carefully reloaded them, test aiming them, and pretending to shoot a few at Gretel who sat across from him, staring off into the clouds.
" Your good with guns I hear, that right?" He cleared his throat to get her attention.
" Huh? Oh, well.... I guess I'm pretty good!" She smiled cheerfully and swayed back and forth a bit.
" You got your own gun?"
"Durrrrrr-" And with that she took off her mitten and right before Hanzel's eyes reached her hand down her shirt. " Right here!" and with that said, she retrieved a large silvery white hand gun. It clearly was no beginner gun, and judging by its size Hanzel guessed it used explosive rounds. It was Russian crafted, clearly meant for dealing intense damage, and quickly. Hanzel had seen many things in his 20 years, but never had he seen a girl so, well, stupid and girly packing such heat.
"Well, shoot, lemme see your skill."
" Sure!" She ran a hand down her leg and to her boot, and from there, she retrieved a case of 6mm rounds. " Don't wanna waist my good rounds!" She exchanged them, as Hanzel guessed, with explosive rounds. " Well, tell me to hit something!!~"
" Close your eyes, I want you to hit everything I throw.... upside down. "
" I met a girl once who could do that, you're supposed to be better than any female gunman, or so I've heard. Now climb a tree and hang upside down with your eyes closed!"
"Fine! If you don't believe I can! Then I'll show you!" Placing her gun between her teeth she began to climb the tall tree that stood behind her. Once she was a good ways up she shimmied onto a skinny branch and hung over the edge of it with ease. Closing both her eyes she removed the gun from her teeth and loaded it, aiming ahead, " Kay, Zelly, GO!"
Picking up some large rocks and pieces of bark Hanzel stood below her. Quickly he threw seven of the items from his hand into the air. Six shots went off, and to his knowledge they all hit, only one of the target pieces fell to the ground unhit.
" Well, what about that last one?!"
Opening her eyes she flipped down from the tree, momentarily exposing her blue panties. Hanzel pretended he didn't see. " Why would I hit that one?" She inquired, fixing her clothes and hair, " That was a silver piece!" Kneeling down she picked it up, and flipped it from hand to hand.
" Good. How did you know?"
" Well, that one made a different sound in the air! I know not to hit money, there's no reason!"
" I'm impressed! Good job, you've earned my respect in shooting!"
Her face lit up and her cheeks reddened in a childish blush, " Thank you!! Really, thank you Hanzel! That means a lot to me!"
" Yeah yeah, lets get going!" He walked ahead down the dirt road, glancing at his map every so often. " We should be there in an hour or two, can you deal?"
" Of course I can! My boots are so made for walking!"
Hanzel decided to ignore how lame that comment was, and just kept walking, fumbling around with one of his pistols to amuse himself. Gretel skipped along side him humming or whistling occasionally. About an hour in to the walk Hanzel noticed she was nibbling on a small piece of sweet bread.
" Hey, where'd you get that?!"
" I brought it, you wanna bite?"
" Don't you eat food without telling me! Im starving, I didn't get to eat breakfast this morning!"
" I said you could have some!"
" Fine! Gimme it!"
" Nope! You missed your chance!" She giggled playfully and held the bread above her head teasingly.
"If you're gonna be like that-" Quickly he grabbed the bread out of her hands, " then neither of us can have it!" He began ripping the bread into pieces and throwing it on the ground.
" Hanzel! Stop it! You're wasting it!"
" It's what you get for hiding it, if you needed it bad enough you'd eat it off the ground, but I guess your not that hungry!" He looked back and gave her a smug grin. She huffed and sadly watched as the clumps of bread rolled across the ground around her feet.
The two were almost to the town when Gretel's acute sense of smell picked up on something very peculiar for a woodsen path, it smelled like sugar. She could smell it from almost a mile away, and she immediately began to wander away from Hanzel, without making a sound. As for Hanzel, he was enjoying her silence, until he noticed she wasn't even behind him anymore that is.
" Gretel.... where'd you go? If this is your idea of a joke I'll gladly leave you here, there's no time for games!"
He turned and walked a bit ways back, thinking that maybe she had to fix her shoe or something like that. When he still didn't see her he got a bit worried. She was the kind of girl to fall in a well, or be easily lead off by a stranger, and if she was hiding, he was sure she would have given up and started giggling by now.
" Gretel!! GRETEL! This isn't funny! I'm leaving if you don't follow me!" Giving her once last chance if she was in fact still hiding. He sat down for a moment or two, thinking exactly where he stopped hearing her whistling. He had been too busy ignoring her to realize. He remembered her whistling was increasingly loud when they passed a small dilapidated bench completely overgrown. He would retrace back to here.
Meanwhile, Gretel was pushing her way around trees and shrubs, still in hot pursuit of the delicious scent. Almost all at once, the faint smell of sugar was met by thousands of smells; mint, cinnamon, chocolate, marshmallow, any candy scent imaginable. Stepping over a fallen log, she brushed her bangs from her face and looked up. Her large eyes widened even more, and a look of sheer bliss spread across her face. There, right up a quaint little path, was a breathtaking sight, a small cottage, made entirely of gingerbread. Without even thinking, Gretel approached the sugary abode, reaching for the...the gumball doorknob! It took all her strength not to lick it, and without even a second thought, she opened the door and poked her head inside.
"Hello there? Anyone home?~"
Meanwhile, on a path not too far away:
The bench wasn't to difficult to relocate, and by doing this, Hanzel even found a clue as to finding out where Gretel had wandered off to. Small heel indents could faintly be made out on the damp ground, and they were even more noticeable when she took up skipping. As he followed them, he came to the spot in which Gretel had been so easily distracted by the sweet aromas, and in minutes he reached the house of gingerbread. He did not approach it as Gretel did, instead, he slowly walked around the back, inspecting each window and door, looking for anything.... even more out of the ordinary. He knew a gingerbread house in the middle of the woods wasn't normal, thank god, and had a strange feeling something fishy....er... sugary was going on. This had to be where Gretel had run off to, this he was almost 100% sure of. He decided against entering unless he really had a reason, maybe he was wrong, maybe nothing was up and Gretel would be done with her sugar coated adventure soon.
In the house of gingery bread
" Oh my, I was not expecting company! Dear, the place is just a wreck!" A short round woman exited the kitchen wiping a red substance from her hands onto a dish towel. " I was just finishing up a delightful pie, wont you join me?"
" I don't mean to intrude, but if you don't mind! I was only passing by!"
" Nonsense, you seem like a wonderful little girl, please take a seat and have a bite to eat!"
" Ummm I'm not sure if I should...." She put a finger to her lips in thought, looking around the room. Thousands of bowls were scattered here and there, all containing delicious looking goodies, there was something ominous about this house that was almost to perfect to be true, of course, Gretel ignored her premonitions and headed for the kitchen. The round woman pulled out a chair for her, and made her way over to a very large oven.
Gretel sat and watched the woman go about her baking. Comfortably, she took off her mittens and placed them on the table. She was not a kind looking woman, nor did she appear mean, but something about her appearance just seemed a bit... gross, that might be the word for it, or maybe repulsive, awkward, not right. This woman definitely had something up, other than a liver spot or two. She approached Gretel at last with a plate containing 3 fairly large slices of...cherry, she thought, pie.
" Eat up hun, you're far to skinny!"
" I'm watching my figure mam, I don't think I should eat all of these, they're much to large. Would it be fine if I only ate one?"
" Of course! If you think you can stop at one!"
" Im sure I can~" And with that Gretel took a bite of the scrumptious looking dessert before her. No, one piece would not be enough. As she finished her second piece hungrily, she had a strange feeling in her stomach. She had eaten so much, but only felt hungrier, so she continued eating, almost as if it was not possible to stop. The large woman continued placing fresh slices in front of Gretel as she ravenously ate them.
" There we go dear! Have another!"
Between mouth fulls of food Gretel managed out an "okay" and leaned her face closer to the delicious pies, pressing her breasts to the table. This apparently made the gun hidden there become visible to the old woman who snatched it before Gretel even had time to blink.
" Good girls don't play with dangerous weapons like these! You should be ashamed of yourself missy!"
" Mmm I- I'm very sorry! I need it! Please give it back!"
" Nope, not until you tell dear old granny why you have such a violent object!"
" mfwell," She swallowed a bite of food, " I'm a bounty hunter in training! For GRIM, you know?" Picking up another chunk of pie on her fork she lifted it to her mouth, but it was instantly slapped out of her hand by the rotund elderly woman.
" I forbid guns in my household! You need to be punished!"
" Actually, I just remembered, I have somewhere I need to be, and I'm kinda running late and-"
" Oh no no! You broke the rules, you pay the price!" Grabbing Gretel by the arm she pulled her forcefully from her seat.
" OW! Let go of me you old hag! Let me go!" She desperately reached for her gun that the old woman had in her other hand.
" Sorry deary, but it's time out time! Talking back only makes it worse! Oh, and about this, you aren't getting it back!" She tossed the shimmering gun onto the counter on the far side of the room. Gretel tried to pry from the chubby woman's grasp but was unable to, she felt dizzy, like everything was going in slow motion. " Ooh, you're arm feels so tender! You might do after all!"
" What are you talking about? Unhand be you animal!"
And with that, the old woman forced Gretel to the still open large oven. She had so much strength for such a plump lady, it was almost unnatural, and Gretel couldn't break free, no matter how much she thrashed. Unknowingly she put a hand to the burning metal of the oven in an attempt to push herself away, letting out a loud shrill scream from the singeing pain. Holding her burned hand she tried to kick the woman away again, and managed to free herself for a split second, enough time to grab her gun and point it at the woman, forcing her to stop in her tracks.
" I'll shoot you! I will! D-don't think I wont because I'm a good girl!"
" Good girl? Ha! Good girls don't kick their grannies OR point guns at them!"
" Well nice Grannies don't try and shove innocent girls into ovens!"
"What would YOU know about nice?" She took a few steps towards Gretel with a hand outstretched, " But if you want to learn, I can forgive you! Ask your granny for forgiveness! I wont be mad!"
" You should be the one asking for my forgiveness!" Holding her gun out with one hand she pulled back the lock, and pointed it right at the woman's head.
" I know your a nice girl! You cant do it! Nice girls don't shoot helpless old women!"
" Then I'll burn the place down!"
" I thought GRIM bounty hunters don't kill children?"
"You don't understand? You really are an imbecile! I thought you knew! Well, thats to bad! Burn the place! Burn us, you'll be no different from me, just like good old granny!"
" NO NO NO! You're trying to trick me!"
" Then burn us down! DO IT FOR GRANNY!"
And then, almost as if her mind was waiting for the perfect time to think about it, she remembered exactly why she and Hanzel had came into the woods. A kidnapping, that was why! Was this woman the one doing it? She had to be! Yes! Finally, she figured something out before it was too late! " Nope, sorry, but I can't! I wont let anyone innocent die under my care, lady! And you! You're not innocent!!" A still childish smile spread across her shiny pink lips, and without even thinking, she pointed her gun at the old woman's chest and walked forward, forcing the grotesque lady to back up. With a smile on her face, Gretel pushed the old woman back, back, back, until she fell into her own oven. Slamming the heavy metal door closed, Gretel rushed over to the only other door in the entire cottage. Rushing down the basement steps she could hear quiet murmurs and frightened crying, all hushed.
" Hello, it's alright, I'm here to help you!" She turned her head around the corner, and saw rows of cages. All containing either one or two children. In slight horror she approached the first cage and knelt down trying to get the lock undone.
One child spoke, a boy, no older than 6, " Wheres the old woman? She's going to lock you up too if she sees!" his voice was still in a whisper.
" She's gone now, it's safe."
All of the children began murmuring to one another, some in excitement, others in disbelief. The same boy spoke again, "Are you sure! She's never gone.... she'll cook you up if you're not careful!
Gretel was making her way around unlocking all of the cages, " I promise, I killed her."
The children's whispers were now mostly in shock, the boy spoke again as Gretel neared his cage to unlock it, "She never dies. We've seen it. She's not human! You'd better lock these again before she comes back down and makes us eat more!"
"I locked her in the oven, there's no way. Now please hurry, I can get you back to your families." Now, some of the children began moving sheepishly from the old metal cages, they cautiously clung to Gretel's legs, skirt, and hands. " That's it, just follow me! You'll all be out of here soon"
She was about to turn the corner to ascend up the stairs with the frightened children when she hear a loud thump above her, it drew closer and closer. " H-Hanzel- is that you?"
No reply, but now she could hear slight breathing, almost wheezing, and the noise grew louder. She motioned for the children to wait, and she turned to go up the stairs, hand on her gun. Halfway up the dark stairs she could make out a slight figure in the threshold.
" You've been very very naughty!" Croaked the old woman, hardly standing, she limped down the stairs towards Gretel. Her skin was nearly melted off the bone and she held a butchers knife in one hand. " Now come here for your punishm-"
" OI!! No one gives Gretel a hard time except me! You got that? Ugly hag!" All was silent except for the sound of a round clicking in Hanzel's gun. " GRETEL! I'd close my eyes if I were you!!"
Quickly she shut her eyes tight and turned to shield herself, covering her face with her hands. A loud shot echoed through the small cottage. Gretel could feel warm blood hit her shoulder and back. Unable to react to the disgusting feeling she now could feel creeping over her, as she knew exactly what substances dripped down her skin.
Hanzel stepped over the old woman's unrecognizable corpse and over to the frightened and disgusted Gretel. Putting a hand on her shoulder, he wiped off some of the blood.
" It's fine, open you're eyes. You're gonna have to get used to this if you're working with me!"
Hesitantly she opened her eyes a crack, not daring look behind at the monstrosity of flesh that had once been a monstrosity of an old lady. " I never would have been able to shoot, I owe you one!"
" Don't sweat it! Though I will make you pay me back, you know!?" He walked down the stairs and approached the group of children, who were now all huddled together in the far corner of the basement. " NOW she's dead! Trust me on this! I checked!" He smirked at them all and gestured for them to follow as he walked over to a large pile of boxes. Pushing them aside, he kicked open a large cellar door that looked as if it had been rotting for years. This door was not made out of gingerbread like the rest of the house, just plain old damp wood, and it broke into nearly 100 pieces with the impact of Hanzel's boot. Quickly, the children ran ahead of Hanzel into the sunlight, Hanzel followed, then Gretel.
" How'd you know that door was there?"
" I took a walk before I helped you!"
" Gee, thanks! I could be dead thanks to you!"
" But you're not! So I'm at no fault!"
" It's still mean, you don't need to go and put it like that!"
" You did good."
" Aside from a few stupid decisions, you did really good! I'll put in a good word."
" But I still couldn't kill her myself"
" Don't beat yourself up about it, it takes people a while to learn how to kill someone and not feel guilty. Well, not me, but you know,
. other people."
" You just wanna make me feel like a failure, don't you?"
" Pretty much!" He stretched and walked to the front of the house, with the children all following, eager to reunite with their families.
Before leaving to town with the children, Gretel gave the house one last look, she had been so unaware before. Things obviously weren't what they seemed here, and she'd fallen for it. Hanzel and the children were already walking ahead when she realized her mittens were on the table. Quickly, she dashed into the house to retrieve them, and on her way out, she loaded her gun with a set of explosive rounds. " I wont let you trick anyone ever again! You're just a bunch of sugar coated lies!" She walked away from the house, and aimed behind her, shooting one bullet, allowing the house to catch fire. As she exited the once quaint pathway, she skipped off to rejoin Hanzel and the children.
" Hey, Gretel... So, you still think you ate cherry pie?"
Chapter one, end.
This chapter has been revamped twice. Please inform me if you notice anymore errors.