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The Crimson King

PRAISE BE, CHAINSAW.
“Good morning, Kaien City!“
The reporter’s familiar face flashes a gorgeous smile, the backdrop a towering cityscape that glows with life,
“I’m Karen Macnamara and this is Channel 757 News! It’s a beautiful morning here in Kaien, no doubt a sign of good fortune! We have some pretty intriguing top stories to hear about today, so stay tuned! But, first, the weather, and some quick announcements.”
She tilts her head to one side and gives another winning smile. The screen changes, a comparatively lifeless digital transition to an on-screen message, the technicolor whirs alight, an synthesized voice reading the words aloud.
...
“It is currently 0930, Saturday, the 28th, November. It will be partly cloudy with scattered showers with a low of 24 and a high of 29. Bring an umbrella.”
......
“Today is the 157th Anniversary of Acting Head Researcher Septimus Harrow’s promotion to office. Congratulations, professor.”
.........
“There have been sightings of strange men in black robes. The curfew is now 2030. Beware.”

——————
The rays of the morning sun cut through the blinds of the office window, barely revealing the silhouette of a man sitting upon an computer chair, his legs propped upon his desk, a lit cigarette in his mouth and his arms across his chest; one lukewarm acrylic, the other cold skin. A television set is propped upon the corner of the room, it’s colored yet bland features his fixation. His expression turns sour at the hearing of the Men in Black Robes. His dark jacket hangs loosely off the back of the seat, but is quickly donned as he rises from his place. His sunglasses sit on the table by the landline, the low light making them twinkle mysteriously. He dials with one digit of his false appendage, the ashtray close by now aglow with the embers of his discarded smoke, and raises the receiver to his mouth. It rings only once. He speaks into it, his voice smooth and warm, but monotonous,
“Miss Lena, close my 7:50, I’ll be away.”

“Of course, sir.”
He drops the receiver on it’s base and turns to the window, his deadpan expression livened only by the sun’s mellow glow upon his face, his eyes a paler shade, but shine the same dull color. He reaches to his shades and places them slowly upon his face, turning to the far side of his rectangular workspace, a long, leather briefcase meeting his gaze. He grips it as he walks past it and towards the door, it swinging to meet his side, blinking once at the mellow place behind him before leaving the room and locking the door behind him.

The Fumikage Family office isn’t the largest place, it’s space containing mostly it’s reception and meeting rooms. It’s colorings are not vibrant, a cold place. It’s shelves decorated with antiques and heirlooms of those that came before, encased in warded glass. His footsteps reverberate against the walls of the empty meeting room, adjacent to his office, the many chairs at the long table empty, his place at it’s head accented by the family crest upon the wall behind. He passes into the entranceway, the reception area, his secretary, Lena Godfrey, behind her half-circle desk, busy typing away at her terminal, but she glances at him as he passes by, her gaze ever focused. “Hanji,” she barks, stopping him in his advance towards the door, turning on his heel, “1230.” Ah, his meeting with Mister Khathis, “I’ll remember. Of course.” He hums, absentmindedly, pushing open the glass door and moving through, the alleyway outside now clearly visible, waving quickly as he goes, shaking her head and returning to her work, she sneers,
“You better.”

The weather is nicer in person, he thinks, a light breeze setting his coat to flutter softly behind as he walks, glancing about the streets of the Business District, a place he’d come to call home. Many pedestrians glance and maybe wave, but always smile when they see him. He was headed to the Residential District, or rather, the Snowsant’s Heart. He had questions for Rhódon. His gait never faltered, gliding across the concrete paths and rusting, steel walkways as if he had a thousand times before. With luck, he’d arrive with time for breakfast.
 
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Coyote Hart

Misguideful Moniker
Mortas Karman (Rhongomiant).png

It was an odd day indeed when his Rhongomiant and his true body were close to each other. Usually, Mortas would be out on reconnaissance or information gathering tasks. Not this morning though, that could wait for later in the day. Right now, Mortas was in need of some extra support. So Mortas positioned himself on the roof of Snowsant's Heart, his vantage point providing him a line of sight for anybody who got anywhere near Snowsant's Heart. People were milling around, going about their everyday lives. Some chatting happily with their peers. Others with serious countenances on their faces as they navigated through the dangers of Kaien city. Out in the distance, Mortas spotted a familiar face. It was Hanji Fumikage. Mortas wondered if he had also been invited.

"This will be an interesting morning," Mortas mused with excitement as he sat back on the roof.

Mortas Karman.png

1638165466500.pngToday was going to be odd.

Mortas's hands were shaky as he placed down the petite cup of espresso onto its saucer with a rattly little klink. He wasn't sure if it was because of his nerves or if it was because he forgot to order his drink decaf, and he was suffering from caffeine jitters. The latter was unlikely though. Mortas was such a frequent customer of Snowsant's Heart that the baristas that took Mortas's order were all quite accustomed to what he liked to drink. It was unlikely, and unthinkable, that they messed up his order.

So the reason for Mortas's jitters would have to be explained by his fear of interaction. He much preferred to meet people, whether that be friend or foe, through his Rhongomiant. But a few days ago, he had received a lavish letter of invitation to his home address. It was from Frida, or as Mortas affectionately called the VSP president, Frittata. It was an invitation to a breakfast party at Snowsant's Heart. Nevermind how Frittata managed to find out his home address, he hardly needed an invitation. He was at Snowsant's Heart every day after all. It was his office away from his office. His favorite cozy armchair was more comfortable than anything he had back at the office after all.

The issue with this all was that one could not go to a breakfast party as an animatronic robot. Not only would he choke on the pancakes as it went down his nonexistent digestive tract, but where would the real Mortas go? Hide underneath in the basement? Guanyu would definitely laugh at him for that.

So his only choice would be to greet the others in person. His Rhongomiant was set up on the roof of Snowsant's Heart to alert him when the partygoers entered the small cafe. Despite his relative frailty compared to the other parents, if he set up the encounter in just the right way, there should be no danger.

It wasn't as if Mortas was ungrateful for Frittata's invitation. No, quite the opposite. Mortas saw his invitation as a sign he was moving up the ranks of Kaien city. And that was always good. And free food was good too.

Mortas set his expression into the refined and calm look he always had when meeting people as his Rhongomiant. Stern and calm yellow eyes. Lips that betrayed the slightest of a smile. Trying to make his voice sound as least nervous as possible, Mortas commented, "This will be an interesting morning."
 

Nemesis;x

Sardonic Writer
Tahir Béchalot

1638208156975.pngBelly of the City, such a small snippet into Tahir's world. To the winding caverns and twisting tunnels. All shored out from her hands, fixed with wooden pillars and bangles, reinforced to her decree. It was her world, after all, painted with steel tracks and dipping carts, weaving between the fractured shadows. Silence and stagnation were the signs of a failing mine, but hers only thrived, in sound and shouts, plucking a beating tune of pickaxes. It made her heart clench in pride. She danced beneath the ailing lanterns, projecting a smidge of light across the darkened walls — hm, something to replace. She noted, passing by another worker, smiling at Tahir and she nodded back. "We are up this month by five per cent," He grunted out, sweat and dust twinkling his nose alongside his deduction. "But," He began, jabbing his thumb to the network. "We are going to need to move deeper, we have stripped most of the deposits." That was going to be a disappointing move onto the reports this month. Tahir waved him away, defined shoulders hitting rock once more into a pattern, emboldened to beat the rock senseless. Or at least how the tender girl pictured her workers, iron hearts and iron bodies.

"Another day and another rock," She mused to herself, the idiom rolling from her tongue naturally. On the surface, her operation was strung tight, knotted for success, but splinters, fraying up from the corners of her mind. Shipments were fine, but taking time to carve out another big chunk in this mine wasn't going to be worth the effort — the fiery head smacked a hand against her cheek. A strip of dirt was clinging to her cheeks, powdered from her visit and staining her clothes in a visible layer.

"I need breakfast before I can decide anything, who can I bother?" She answered nobody, of course, skipping a handful of steps up the beaten paths, surprisingly childlike. Nobody batted an eye at the girl, dedicated to the thunderous beats. Ritual bred habit and one habit of Tahir's, without fail or hesitation, checking on her workers. She was now a tarnished delicate thing in ratty leather, sauntering through the main entrance. Leading up from the mine, a smaller dwelling, constructed from stone. Imposingly dull against the backdrop of the mine. It did serve as appropriate accommodation, wiping the remnants of her journey from her countenance and her expression glittered with a lot more mirth. Unveiled in the column of light, skittering over the porcelain sink after tracing up the stairs. Nothing fancy outlined with a few rooms as the sleeping quarters. "Hm," She thought out loud, connecting her steps to the ground yet again, heading back to the echelons of civilisation seemed to be the first step.

Presentation never mattered to the girl, never cared to crinkle out the creases. She might have lived in luxury, lapped up the expensive tea, balancing at the tip of her abrasive knuckles. But she never made an effort to keep up the ruse. The ruse she was an elegant daughter, hailing from origins who sparkled her in wealth. No, she didn't have the heart to keep up the pretence to be standing on a silvery platform, contesting to the empire she was better. Her solid shoulders did speak for her. Confidence paved every twitch and monumentality to the very stance she possessed. It did far more than dressing herself up in silver. "What a stupid broadcast," Catching the end from the coloured screen, black robes, a load of pebbles in a river.

She might have said to someone, but Tahir was currently drinking up the last of her tea, slipping brown liquid to her lips. Food had been a greater concern on the horizon, with that, Béchalot Head descended onto the road. Recruitment in mind for nourishment and for her stomach, who couldn't be bothered to consume than a single cup of tea in the dingy kitchen.
 

Ineptitude

One Thousand Club
Qiao Guanyu
Location: Snowsant's Heart
Interaction/s: N/A


“Here you go, darling, one shot of espresso just for you.” Guanyu winked, sliding the mug over to the sputtering customer on the other side of the counter with a light laugh.

The barista glanced over at the clock. 09:30. It was shaping up to be yet another busy day for the café. Guanyu heard the newest patron enter before she saw them, the little bell hung by the door loudly announcing each arrival and departure. She didn’t let herself look over, instead surreptitiously taking down a mug from the shelf and adding a few pumps of hazelnut syrup. If her guesswork was correct, the person who just showed up should be…

“Guanyu!” A youthful voice cried out, and Guanyu looked up to find one of her regulars practically vibrating at the counter in front of her. “You gotta tell me about courtship rituals!”

Guanyu couldn’t help but chortle at the abrupt request as she hooked up the portafilter. “You haven’t even taken me out for dinner yet, hun.”

Laura used her old, beaten typewriter as an arm rest as she leaned across the counter. Guanyu would've felt sorry for the thing, but she knew it’s been through worse. The other woman wrote her first best-seller on that antique and it’s been holding on, if barely, ever since. "That’s not what I meant and you know it,” Laura pouted, like she wasn't already desensitized to the barista's teasing remarks. “I need it for the ending of the Roth Trilogy.”

Guanyu leaned over to grab a fresh bottle of milk from the fridge and when she straightened back up, Laura's cheeks were flushed with a bright pink glow. Clearly she wasn't as unaffected by her question as she thought she was. She cooed at the innocent reaction, quickly sidestepping the other's attempt to swipe at her in retaliation. She snickered to herself, turning back to focus on making her usual syrup latte. "I'll help you out when I'm on break, alright hun?"

The guests for Frida's breakfast party should be arriving any time now. Guanyu softly hummed along with the melody playing in the background of the café. Carefully, she steamed and frothed the milk as fresh espresso poured into the mug. It was a comforting routine, going through the motions of the job. If she wasn't so busy with her other career, she might've just ended up doing this full time!
 
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. D O V E

Birb™
Frida von Schafer

1638239281020.pngA lengthy automobile rolled down the bustling streets of Kaien city, fetching the attention of almost everyone it passed by. Painted in crimson with golden outlines, an ever-familiar insignia embellished the hood of the vehicle. With such features, it wasn't difficult to tell who was inside the luxury car. As though there weren't already enough dead giveaways, a pale hand would poke out of one of the many windows sporadically, tossing out what appeared to be half-bitten pastries.

Inside the car, the pleasant harmony of the violin and piano dominated, each beat akin to a gentle wave caressing the shore. The music originated from a well-embellished vinyl player, sitting on a strapped table across a certain lady. The woman was surrounded by two men, both donning snow-white uniforms befitting chefs. In their hands were cupcakes of different flavors, shaking slightly within their holds. With each passing beat, the color of their skin seemingly turned to blend with their uniforms, sweat forming over their brows.

"C’est dégoûtant !" The Lady exclaimed, another piece of half-eaten pastry flying out of the vehicle thereafter. One of the chefs worriedly glanced outside, catching a glimpse of children running alongside them, their hands outstretched in an attempt to catch more food. Eventually, the car sped up enough to leave them behind.

"O-Our dearest Gourmet, I fear you've already tried all the dishes we've prepared." The other chef informed, obviously trying his best not to squeak. "A-And none of them were to your liking..."

"I have? I have..." A pensive look crossed her face, followed by a sigh that elicited synchronous gulps from the chefs. "Oh, my dearest chefs, what did I say before we entered this car?"

"T-That my lady shouldn't leave the vehicle without a s-satiating meal."

"Oui, oui. Fortunately, my dears, there are still two courses I have yet to taste in this vehicle." The Gourmet eyed them each, her slender fingers creeping to the side of her crimson mask.

"L-Lady Frida!"

The music reached a crescendo as the Gourmet's mask fell, revealing a largely disfigured mouth that curled into a grotesque grin, exposing rows of razor-sharp teeth and trails of saliva trickling down her chin.

"Oh Gustav~! Roll up the windows!"

The hulking man on the driver's seat merely glanced at the rearview mirror before doing as he was told, subsequently casting his gaze back to the road as screams accompanied the music.



Ahem.

A lengthy automobile pulled up across the establishment of the Snowsant's Heart. Painted in crimson with golden outlines, an ever-familiar insignia embellished the hood of the vehicle. A large man emerged from the driver's seat, waltzing over to one of the many passenger doors before sliding it open. Out came a slender figure, donned in a silver dress with golden carvings and beautification. Her pale locks swayed as she treaded closer to the café in her elegant gait, a crimson mask hiding smiling lips underneath.

Everyone looked as she crossed, yet none dared approach. A gigantic man in a suit was close behind her, unmasked weapons by his side- one being a particularly large butcher knife. While nobody could see underneath his blue mask, the way he'd tilt his head side to side was enough to ward people off.

"Oh my! Looks like one of our guests have arrived!" Lady Frida exclaimed as she caught sight of Patriarchs Fumikage. If memory served her right, she wrote his name to her breakfast party's invitation list scheduled for today. Nonetheless, she could only hope that they did receive their letters. It wasn't uncommon for certain things to not reach their intended recipients, all due to the numerous threats inhabiting the city. It was exactly why she employed Ylva Logistics to deliver her cards.

She paused by the Snowsant's Heart's entrance, waving at the Patriarch. "Patriarch Fumikage~! Why don't the two of us enter the café together, yes? I have asked dearest Guanyu to reserve one of her special rooms for the occassion."

The Crimson King The Crimson King
 
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Colorless Spectrum

Always Blue

Quinn Victoria Ylva

Zel was patiently waiting behind the door to the room of the head of the Ashwood Corporation with his mouth turned upside down. Business dealings with Monika never takes too long since there wasn't much to be changed from their previous agreement. It was a simple renewal of contract but he found himself tapping his foot due to impatience because of the fact that Lady Ylva hasn't eaten breakfast at all and it was already this late in the morning. Quinn was one to always forget to eat when dealing with work, on too of that she favours eating junk foods rather than priorities a healthy meal. His frown only deepened at hearing her laughter behind the door.

"Can I just say these invitations are quite... Cute. I wonder if she makes these herself." Quinn mused to herself at seeing the very same card she had with her on top of Monika's desk. She remembered how Frida had asked her to deliver each of the cards to every Parent in Kaien City, was it simply a breakfast party? Or was it a rouse for a meeting at Snowsant's? There have been rumors of the Association that she had been hearing for a while now, although it might be better to confirm that first with Guanyu before telling anyone about it.

She twirled the pen between her fingers in thought before hearing the scratch of the pen's tip on a paper. "Q. Ylva." As it was written neatly in a stylized cursive. "Alright, that should do it. Only thing left is your signature and we are good to go." Quinn handed the papers with a sweet smile, that can either be genuine or something else entirely.

"Zel!" She called for her butler outside. The door creaking open just enough for him to step in but going inside no further. "Have the car ready to take us to Snowsant's, we're almost finished here." The man was quick to give a nod, unsure if he was happy that she was finally going to eat or not because she'll most likely order desserts.

Quinn then turned to Monika, watching the last few pages get signed off. "By the way, you should ride with me to Miss von Schafer's breakfast party, Monika. They said that carpooling is good for the environment and I would certainly love to hear what you've got working on your research." Not that she really cared about the environment, but there was certainly some things she wanted to know about Monika's latest research and Zel won't be able to nag her if there was someone else with them in the car.

mention: . D O V E . D O V E Ineptitude Ineptitude || interaction: AI10100 AI10100
 

Ambiloquous

Graphic Fanatic

Erika Böhler

Artificial sunlight shone through the reflective panes distinctive to one-way glass, lighting up a figure sporting platinum hair labouring furiously in a semi-tidy office space. The effort the figure exerted in shoving a painted cork dartboard into the drawer of a large mahogany desk was contrary to how it appeared to viewers, carelessly crushing papers and displacing pens in the packed space as if they were not solid wood and metal but a simple figment of the onlooker’s imagination.

In the middle of the cleaning frenzy, the double doors opened and a bald head poked into the office. The expression on the newcomer’s face stayed unperturbed at the sight of her boss frantically covering up her misdeeds — it was a common enough view, especially considering what was happening today. “Franz Böhler will be arriving in fifteen minutes.”

As the woman moved fully into the office, one of her eight octopus-like limbs — each of them gripping folders, files or flowered chinaware — reached out to set a stack of paperwork on the central desk. “But I believe you already knew that,” she added as she took a slow sip out of a dainty teacup, “seeing as you’ve set it the same period as Frida’s party on your master schedule.”

Taking a glance at the assistant that was making no move to help her, Erika smiled innocently and stuffed a half-shredded canvas into the gap between two filing cabinets. If one looked closer, they could make out a stoic face that appeared somewhat similar to the one forcing it into the crack. “Tell him that Frida sent the letter last minute. I can’t ruin the relationships between two families for something so trifling as a visit from my brother dearest. He’ll understand.”

“I’ll inform him.” Checking the watch on another arm, her assistant noted, “Ah, he also called and said he might be coming slightly earlier this time. He muttered something about ‘hiding mistakes’. I’m sure that sounds familiar to you.”

The smile on Erika’s face stiffened a tad before resuming its former brightness. Taking a quick look around the office and satisfied that there was no obviously incriminating evidence peeking out, she strode towards the outermost wall. Unlatching the largest window, she said, “Well, he certainly won’t find such things today.”

Swinging a leg over the windowsill, she leapt out of the Böhler building without waiting for her assistant to reply. Her bone structure changed and flesh rapidly decreased as she fell, which to anyone else would’ve seemed almost instantaneous, before she landed with barely a sound. In a blink, her body inflated in size until she looked the same as she did in her office — as if her transformation hadn’t happened at all.

Taking a step away, Erika paused as what that cheeky reporter had said flashed across her mind. As she was ruminating over the absence of an umbrella on her body, that exact item came hurtling out the window. Catching it deftly, she cupped her hands around her mouth and called, “Thank you, Kir!”

An arm waved out the window, as if shooing her away. Erika gladly skedaddled.


In her journey towards Snowsant’s Heart, she realized that the umbrella in her hand wasn’t one of her own — no, it was the infamous rose-patterned one that some guest had left behind in the umbrella stand long ago and never taken back. She didn’t blame the owner. If she had to choose between leaving it and pretending it never existed or taking it away with her, she would have done the same.

Dangling the curved handle from a hand, she eyed it and debated giving it to some random stranger as alms for a rainy day. She gave a mental shake of her head almost immediately; it was better to be dry and unfashionable than wet and modish. Comfort was the priority here.

Reaching her destination, she noticed that Frida and the Fumikage patriarch seemed to be tangled up at the entrance. There was also an odd-looking figure squatting above the café, but she was sure the other had a perfectly rational, justifiable reason for such an act. Perhaps perching motionlessly on a roof gave them joy? She wasn’t one to judge; whatever activity released serotonin was a good activity, so long as it didn’t affect her. Peeping at all three of them for a moment, and deciding after some internal analysis that she wanted a drink before she wanted to greet the city leaders, she nodded politely to the two at the entrance and slipped inside before they could react.

Gliding to the counter and knocking twice to get the attention of the proprietress behind it, she beamed. “Miss Guanyu! What a delight to see you in the café.” It was fairly uncommon to see the woman herself in Snowsant’s Heart, though she owned the location.

Turning her sight to the menu — it was never boring to contemplate the possible choices, even if the options hadn’t changed since the café was established — she tapped a finger on her umbrella. The flaming mess printed on the fabric reminded her of an infusion she hadn’t tried in a while. “Rose tea would be a treat; it’s a pity it’s not on the menu.”

“I’ll have ginger tea then. Unsweetened.” Everything else would likely be there when the party started — it was 100% a faux-pas to buy food from the place a catered event was to take place in, but she was so dehydrated she didn’t care enough to stop herself.

 
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AI10100

Expert Lurker


Interacting with: Colorless Spectrum Colorless Spectrum
There was merit in having deals with the same people of the same family over your rule. Contracts were easily remade and re-negotiated without much problem. Dealing with new people often resulted in arguments which often led to... less savory means of obtaining what she wanted. Still, with Quinn, she had absolutely nothing to worry about. "Nothing". Well, money was always something that could sway her business partner, but Monika made sure to provide invaluable objects as well as money to Quinn.

Quinn commented about the breakfast invitation they had gotten from Frida. "The von Schafers have always been a little grand. I wouldn't be surprised if Frida did make them herself." She reached out to the invitation, toying with it for a moment before opening it up to read it again. It was a breakfast invitation to the Snowsant's Heart, something even she frequently visited when she had the time... or whenever she finally got out of the lab.

She looked down at the papers and quickly signed them. "Always a pleasure doing business with you Quinn." How she handled her business was so jarringly different from her father's that Monika did feel like she was dealing with another family entirely. It wasn't all that bad. A breath of fresh air from the older generation was rather welcome.

"Hm? Carpool? Of course, that'll be nice. I can walk back after." It'll be nice to stretch her legs after being cooped up in the lab for so long. "Oh! That reminds me! Give me a few minutes, I need to check on something." Dropping the invitation as well as the rest of the papers, she quickly stood up.

Monika reached towards her remote and turned the television on just to catch the tail end of the broadcast. Septimus Harrow, a man who almost singlehandedly forced magitek in the Empire forward. Monika wondered what it would be like to meet him. Kaien was a forgotten city to those in the upper ranks, and they were crippled when it came to proper advances towards magitek. Monika had a deep yearning to change that, but her family's guns would have to suffice for now.

Ah, what would it be like to send a few of her researchers into the bowels of the Empire to study, to replicate and to advance. Monika would have loved to be able to get such an opportunity as well, but she couldn't very well leave the Ashwood family alone. Merlin was an able person but there was a reason Monika was chosen rather than him. Oh, her thoughts were deviating again. Faked passports were a good place to start but who could she trust to go there without getting tempted to stay there? Would they even be able to survive? There were very few of them who had ever seen anything other than Kaein.

Monika pressed a hand to her chin. Before that, however, they needed to finish their research on implementing magic into their weaponry. While she could never dream of attaining the power of a Relic, maybe enchanting the already deadly weaponry would be enough for now. Then, they could move up from there. Magic sought for payment far greater than technology ever will, but maybe they could mitigate the payment with science.

Monika shook her head, blinking and looking dazed for a moment. "Ah, the breakfast!" As if Quinn hadn't been in the room the entire time waiting for her, she proclaimed such a reminder and turned around. "Well then, shall we go now? My guns are by the door anyhow, I can grab them n the way." It wasn't rare for Monika to bring her guns around like a walking advertisement. She eagerly went up to the door, giving a cheery wave to Quinn's butler and looked over to the younger Parent, urging her to get a move on as if she didn't hold Quinn up moments earlier.
 

LazyDaze

Senior Member
SONG XUE

Qiang Xue fumbled through several papers as he strode through the long halls of the LOTUS HQ. Several samurai, whom he would normally greet, were quick to move out his way lest the make footprints a new fashion statement. As the eldest and wisest member of the 10 "Headliners" in LOTUS, he had more on his plate than most members. It was no wonder that after serving 3 other parents, and this parent in particular, his hair had quickly transitioned into silver well before his 40s. While he was well passed his prime, intelligence alone wasn't enough to be placed within the top 10, let alone the top 5. It was yet another reason the samurai were quick to move around the cunning Qiang and create a path to whatever destination his heart was set on. He mumbled rapidly and incoherently, marking his papers until he finally reached his destination. He didn't even bother to look up when he approached the door that led to the meeting room. The stationed samurai, a sleeping Huizong and a fidgety Ping, stood out in front. Seeing that Qiang had no intention of slowing down Ping opened the doors for him. Having other headliners assigned to essentially serve as doormen only further clarified the grave importance of the meeting.

Once inside, Qiang lifted his head for the first time, taking in the site before him. Four other headliners, wearing black suit and ties not unlike his own, were standing at a the large rectangular table. Song Xue, was facing away from the rest, donning the only red suit with a black tie.

"Am I late," Qiang said as he moved to his designated spot at the large obsidian table.

"No...we had just finished listening to the report for the day," Yazhue said. "The meeting was just about to start." This statement was punctuated by Song clicking off the large T.V.

"Damn...I missed Karen," Qiang said.

"Perv...," Ai said.

"Agreed," Gaunyau said silently.

"AHEM," Qiang started. "Shouldn't we start?"

Song Xue nodded with a smile before placing his sword, Angel's Tear, on the large rectangular table that was originally meant to sit at least all 10 of the most prominent members of the Xue clan. "...Yes, let's start the meeting," Song said softly. The other members followed suit, revealing their most trusted partners in crime and laying them on the table as well. However, Gaunyau, Song's personal gaurd, was the only one to hold on to his mighty blade that managed to rival his 6'9 stature. The other sheathed weapons, while not the same stature, were many shades and designs, each reflecting their owners.

"Yazhue Xue, present."

"Gaunyau Xue, present."

"Ai..."

"Qiang Xue, present."

"Song Xue...present. Now that all the formalities are out of the way. Let me tell you why I called you here."


"It must be something of the upmost importance for you to invoke Snowfall," Qiang said.

"Indeed, every man who calls himself a Xue canceled their contracts and made their way back here to prepare. Something requiring our entire force and attention even at the cost of current missions is enough to make even the strongest of warriors sweat a little," Yahzue said. The room went still for a moment as all eyes and ears honed in on Song, the one who invoked the infamous Snowfall for only the 5th time in Xue clan known history.

"...I received a tip from a prominent member of Kaien. We're under invasion......"

"Invasion," Qiang exclaimed.

"War," Ai asked.

"Invasion from who? The absence, the higher ups of Kaien? " Yazhue added.

Song motioned for everyone to calm down before leaning forward with a dark, toothy grin on his face. He was visibly trembling; however, those close to him knew it wasn't fear, but excitement. The thought of fending off a hope crushing invasion was the type of battle he had longed for during his short life. "I am unsure of the details as I am still attempting to decode the message. All I know is that they will break through fast, in the morning. Their rendevous point will be near the Heart of Snow. In other words the Heart of Xue....in other words, our Headquarters.

"...I suppose it would make sense to cripple the city's security force first. I'm sorry, but this is all happening a bit fast. I'm not sure, but could this possibly be connected to those people in the black robes," Yahzue said.

As the others deliberated openly, Qiang did the same within his mind in an attempt to piece together some of the information he had recieved before adding to the increasing panic. (Fast?....Break?......Heart......Snow.....Tip?"). "Um Song, who was this affluent tipper?"

"Fufufufufufufu, I was waiting for you to ask that Qiang. The tipper was none other than Frida the Gourmet. I assure you that she is a valid source of information," Song said while waving around a fancy envelope.


"....................................................................................................."

"....Can I see that," Qiang asked while holding his hand out. Once Song obliged, Qiang read over the letter before pulling on his silver hair. "Boss..."

"...Now do you see the grave situation we're in? We'll likely have to inform the other par-"

"This does not say invasion...it says invitiation.....TO BREAKFAST AT SNOWSANT HEART CAFE!"


"Fucking hell....," Ai said while snatching her sword off the table. Yahzue could only sigh and run his hands through his flowing hair raven colored hair. Gaunyau could only cough as he attempted to maintain his role as Song's personal gaurd. Qiang threatened to pluck out all of his silver hair and enter the final stage of aging as he became increasingly frustrated.

"How the hell did Song get his own mail?! I thought we changed the address so that I get his mail to prevent things like this," Qiang screamed.

"...When he said he received the tip I should have known....," Yazhue said while shaking his head.

"No," Ai chimed in.

"Ai's right, it isn't your fault Song's a dumb ass, but this is a whole new level," Qiang said.

"It was borderline impressive," Yahzue added.

"How could you make such illogical yet intellectually complicated leaps in the dumbest way possible! You are the invasion. Do you know how much money we'll lose today?!"

"Kill him," Ai said unsheathing her sword.

"Dumbass or not, this is our boss," Gaunyau said quietly before resting his great blade on his shoulders as a warning to Ai and the others.

"Hey....."

"Sorry fighting amongst ourselves will solve nothing," Yahzue said while drawing his blade.

"YOU'RE ADDING TO THE FIGHTING YAHZUE," Qiang said while drawing his sword. Song drew his blade as well since everyone else had done the same.


*****

Several minutes later swords were sheathed and everyone was sitting on the ground. Other low level samurai were already measuring the broken walls and moving the scattered rubble comprised of several pieces of furniture. Qiang was holding an icepack to his forehead while others ignored cuts and bruises. "Despite the unfortunate circumstances, the fact remains that you were invited to a breakfast by a potential business partner. It would be an opportunity missed if you don't go."

"Nah...," Song said while digging in his ear with his pinky.

"Kill him," Ai said which prompted Gaunyau to stand up; however, Qiang stood up in protest to prevent a repeat of the events from earlier.

"Hold on guys, let's just think for one second and take a deep breath.................BOSS STOP HOLDING YOUR BREATH, YOU'RE TURNING PURPLE!"

"Phew, thanks that helped."

" (....if i wasn't afraid of you killing me.....) Listen...Boss there will be pancakes."

"So."

"You cut pancakes with a knife."

"Yes...I do."

"Well what if they cut them better than you?"

"No one cuts them better than me."

"Yeah but how will they know that..."

"....My god you're right! We must leave to Snowsant Heart at once!"

"...Don't worry guys. I'll go with him," Qiang whispered.

*****

It didn't take long for them to arrive at Snowsant Heart. This was especially true since Song didn't drive. Qiang left first and then opened the door for Song who stepped out slowly. "So, this is the infamous spot of the invasion."

"For the last time Boss..."

"No matter, I will show them my awe inspiring pancake cutting technique. We move forward." Just as Song said that, he somehow pivoted on his first step and began walking towards the opposite direction of the cafe and into the street. If not for Qiang grabbing him by his collar, Song would have wound up in some dark alley somewhere.

"How....never mind. Ahem, Boss it's this way!"

"That's where I was going. Qiang, do pay attention, I can't be held responsible for you if you fall behind."

".......I'm starting to side with Ai," Qiang mumbled to himself. Before Qiang could even survey the situation, Song had already made his way past the entrance, ignoring those who were muddling about. Of course, Qiang had no choice but to follow the strange Parent inside the wasps nest."

"I've come to conquer pancakes!"




@people in and around the cafe LOL
 

Ineptitude

One Thousand Club
Qiao Guanyu
Location: Snowsant's Heart
Interaction/s: Ambiloquous Ambiloquous | LazyDaze LazyDaze


"Erika, sweetie! Good to see you!" Guanyu beamed over her shoulder, showing off a row of pearly whites. The barista turned the mug in her hand gently as she poured, slowing down towards the lip so she could start the design. "Let me just finish up Laura's order and I'll get back to you, okay?"

One, two, three dollops of milk layered on top of one another formed on the surface. Carefully lifting the jug and running through the middle of all three circles, she then slid the finished latte towards the author's waiting hands.

"Hah," Laura sighed reverently at her first sip. "You are the wind beneath my wings, Guanyu."

"Don't you know it." The albino laughed, accepting the cash thrust in her direction. She ushered the other off into the seats and turned to get one of the kettles ready. There was little doubt that the Böhler matriarch would be asking for some kind of tea, judging by all of her previous visits.

"So what'll it be, hun?" Guanyu questioned lightly as she fired up the stove. "I can have it served at the private room upstairs too, free of charge. You're one of Frida's guests, right?"

“Rose tea would be a treat; it’s a pity it’s not on the menu. I'll have ginger tea then. Unsweetened.”

There was the slightest pause. Guanyu's eyes flitted over to Erika's own for a split second, searching. Though what she was searching for was anyone's guess. Whatever it was, it seemed she didn't find it in the end. She refocused her efforts on making the tea. Locating the jar of ginger powder was easy enough. Getting to it, though? A little hard to do with her stature when it was placed on one of the higher shelves. She grimaced at the thought of breaking out the stool, but reluctantly accepted it as a necessary evil.

"It'll be ready in a few minutes, sweetheart, why don't you and pancake conquerer over there head on up while you wait?" Guanyu gave a pointed look at the noisy new arrivals before nodding towards the stairs.
 
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The Crimson King

PRAISE BE, CHAINSAW.
Fumikage Hanji
Location: Snowsant’s Heart
Interacting with: . D O V E . D O V E | Coyote Hart Coyote Hart | Ineptitude Ineptitude | Ambiloquous Ambiloquous | LazyDaze LazyDaze

He stops in his tracks and gazes vacantly over his shoulder at the lady, his deadpan expression hiding nothing, keeping the figure on the rooftop in his peripheral vision as he speaks, “Matriarch Van Schafer. It would be a pleasure.” He gives a polite bow, in a gesture towards the door, opening it to invite her inside, following after her. The slender, sharp-dressed man’s silhouette extinguishes the light shining through the glass paned door of the main entrance as he enters, a smirk enveloping his face as he turns to face the small girl behind the counter, approaching as he speaks, “Qiao Guanyu,” his voice lets loose with bass-filled warmth, and purpose, “it’s been too long. Let me buy you a rose tea; still your favorite, I recall, and some french toast for me, if you don’t mind.” He shifts his weight against the counter, taking on a relaxed posture as he continues, “I would have brought a refreshing bouquet, alas, I was short on time.” He turns to face the collective, his sunglasses obscure his eyes, gripping his briefcase handle tightly, light seems to fade from the world, his voice dropping to a near inaudible decibel, “And then, I would have words with you all. That’s what this ‘party’ is all about, isn’t that right?” He pulls his own invitation envelope from the inner breast pocket of his jacket, revealing it for all to see.
 
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Colorless Spectrum

Always Blue

Quinn Victoria Ylva

Quinn gave a simple agreement to what Monika had requested as they waited for the car to get ready. She didn't mind if she was late knowing Monika's tendencies, she had an excuse if ever Frida asked her why. "Miss Ylva, the car is ready." Said Zel as he came back in a monotonous voice to hide his growing irritation. He was good at hiding it but she knew him far too well.

"Yes, I know. You're back here after all." She replied whilst looking at her manicure. Finding it pleasing to see it so well done, when she hadn't had the chance to look at it the night before.

"Are you not hungry yet?" He whispered to her ear.

"Nope!" Quinn answered with a chirp. Watching Anzel's face twitch ever so slightly before heaving a sigh. He always made a big fuss when it came to her food, perhaps a little too much. It's not like she was gonna die skipping a meal or two. She just simply gets caught up with work that she forgets to eat sometimes is all.

"I really think that y-" Quinn cut him off by simply pinching his mouth the moment she heard Monika mention the breakfast party and motion for her to get a move on. A small chuckle escaped her lips as she stood up from where she sat. She faced Zel and made a motion of pinching her fingers together and dragging it from one end of her smile to another before leading the way to the car.

Quinn sat on the back with Monika while Anzel drove the luxurious black vehicle adorned with silver outlines. It wasn't as grand as the other parents would be. (Ahem, the von Schafer's.)

The ride wasn't too long but Quinn did ask Monika how the current research was going so far and she listened well until the moment they arrive. "We're here." Zel was quick to open the door for both of the Parents as soon as they arrived at Guanyu's cafe. He stood by Quinn's side and whispered, "My Lady, there is someone by the roof of the building."

"I know. I saw the figure while we were in the car. Pay it no mind, it must be Sir Karman." Or at least one of them. Quinn linked her arm with Monika as they headed to the cafe doors. "Good morning, everyone!" She cheered once the cool breeze of the inside touched her skin. She immediately took note of every Parent in the room, noticing Hanji's posture, and addressed them as so. "Matriarch von Schafer, thank you for the breakfast invitation today. I'm delighted to be here. Patriarch Fumikage, Matriarch Böhler, it's a pleasure to see you. The same sentiments goes to you too, Sir Karman. And Guanyu! The dessert I ordered the other day was simply perfection I'd like to have another for take out after our breakfast party." She slinked away from Monika and to the others, letting the other woman be now that they have other companions.

"Huh, the tension here feels a bit serious." Quinn spoke as soon as she arrived beside Hanji, "Is there something wrong?" Perhaps she was merely playing dumb, if there was a meeting at hand there was only one reason for it but she didn't want to make assumptions on what they were discussing before she and Monika had arrived.

mention: || interaction: AI10100 AI10100 . D O V E . D O V E Ineptitude Ineptitude Ambiloquous Ambiloquous Nemesis;x Nemesis;x Coyote Hart Coyote Hart LazyDaze LazyDaze
 

. D O V E

Birb™
Frida von Schafer


Lady Frida's smile widened at the Patriarch's polite gesture, although nobody would be able to see it behind her mask. "Thank you kindly, good sir." She was just about to head in when she felt a large hand tapping her shoulder. After a peek, she realized it was Gustav, tilting his chin at something on the rooftop. "Gustav, honey, stop getting distracted by automated critters. We have live ones at home." She whispered, almost in a scolding manner, clearly unaware of the detective's presence.

With that, the esteemed Gourmet entered the café, earning a few looks from its existing customers. Nevertheless, Frida welcomed the attention and continued her confident gait to the counter. "Guanyu, my darling rose! I missed you dearly. I see the café's bustling as always, a proof that you're taking good care of the VSP's products." She said as she leaned onto the counter, figuring she didn't have to thoroughly bother with the code since she was, well, the host. She then flung her gaze to another Matriarch, one that she was closely familiar with. "Erika, mi Corazón! You briskly walked past me earlier- I was almost offended! I thought our butter knife discussion made us closer than ever!"

It wasn't long before Patriarch Fumikage caught her attention as he hinted what seemed to be an approaching dire discussion. She raised an interested brow at this. Fumikage Hanji has always been a rather solemn man, compared to the other parents. She supposed being stoic was a part of his charm. She idly wondered if this was regarding the mysterious figures plaguing Kaien city in the dead of the night. Those type of news certainly ruffled a lot of citizens' feathers, which ever so slightly affected her personal business.

A few seconds of silence hanged as he finished, only broken by the entrance of two of her business partners. "Lady Ylva and," she briefly paused, eyebrows subtly dropping, "Monika." Needless to say, she still wasn't over their last phone call- when Frida realized that Monika could have murdered her when they were children with all the things she had been feeding her.

"Nothing is wrong, love." Her expression bounced back to mirth as she addressed Quinn's question. "Patriarch Fumikage here," she gently tapped the said man's arm, "seems to have something to share over breakfast. It's best we head to our reservation, so we can get started. Everyone must be starving- I know for sure I am!" She winked at Guanyu, hoping that she'd lead them to their room thereafter.

The Crimson King The Crimson King Coyote Hart Coyote Hart Ineptitude Ineptitude Ambiloquous Ambiloquous AI10100 AI10100 Colorless Spectrum Colorless Spectrum
 

Coyote Hart

Misguideful Moniker
Mortas Karman.png

1639025182500.pngThe guests were here.

That was what the Rhongomiant knew, and in extension, Mortas. And so, with the gentle klink of his espresso cup hitting the saucer, Mortas banished all feelings of nervousness from within him. It was time to talk. To make new connections. And to relish the taste of french toast. Mortas briefly lamented that Snowsant's Heart didn't serve waffles.

Outside, the Rhongomiant version of Mortas lazed around on the roof. He yawned. Mortas wasn't used to such a lack of activity. Usually, the Rhongomiant would be the one going around meeting people and talking. But unfortunately, the Rhongomiant couldn't stomach food in any way other than stuffing it into his cookie jar.

Zel, Quinn's assistant, looked up towards the top of the building. Deciding to entertain himself, Mortas looked down at the car that Quinn was in and made eye contact with Zel. He then gave him a quick wink and a an informal salute. Frittata's butler, Gustav, tilted his chin up towards where Mortas was perched. Mortas gave Gustav a small wave and a smirk of a smile. But moments later, Gustav went out of view, called away by Frittata herself. How boring. Perhaps during the breakfast party, he'd sneak off and go get himself a pedicure. But what color?

Meanwhile, the real Mortas stood up from his seat at Snowsant's Heart. And when I say his seat, I mean his seat. Mortas lived almost every day in that seat, except on holidays. And he did bring it from the detective office. Tossing down his work on the cushion of his chair, Mortas decided to join the fray of people.

"It's been a while since it's been so lively in here, wouldn't you agree, Guanyu?" Mortas asked the white-haired gal with a relaxed smile, "It's nice for us to finally have some company."

As he had already been at the cafe for the past two hours, Mortas didn't bother with the code word. He simply took a seat next to Erika, facing away from the counter and towards the other attendees of the party. He turned to give Erika a cordial nod, "Greetings, Matriarch Bohler. The ginger tea, when iced, is certainly refreshing on a warm day. You have good taste."

"Matriarch Ylva, it is indeed good to see you," Mortas greeted Quinn warmly. They were business partners after all, "I hope the supply lines aren't causing you too much trouble? I've been thinking of a new possible improvement to give to the Rhombu-- Rhongri--- Rhongombiant, perhaps we could talk over the details of the shipment in the near future?"

"And Matriarch Frittata, how do you do?" Mortas asked Frittata. Although the moniker of 'Frittata' was something that his Rhongomiant used to refer to Frida, Mortas couldn't help but use the nickname on his former employer. He was flattered that the President of VSP would offer up an invitation to Mortas. As such, Mortas knew that he would have to take the reigns of this opportunity. "I pray that you didn't spoil your appetite before coming here?"

The Rhongomiant had heard what sounded like muffled screams from within the fancy car that Gustav drove, and Mortas could only assume it was Frittata enjoying a meal. Then, realizing his folly, Mortas gave a polite laugh and apologized, "Forgive me, I forgot who I was talking to. I'm sure you could still eat a hundred-fold what you've already had. But I do hope they were up to par with your standards."

Mortas spared Gustav and Zel each an innocent wave and a salute, respectively, as if they hadn't seen him up on the roof moments earlier. With the other two parents, Mortas was less familiar with, so he opted for a cordial, "Greetings, Matriarch Ashwood, Xue Xiansheng."

With greetings almost out of the way, Mortas turned his attention towards Hanji and his solemn expression. A dark look didn't suit the leader of Fumikage Enterprises. He was almost ghastly and scary as he was. With the dark look surrounding him, it was almost as if Mortas was talking to a sentient zombie.

That being said, Mortas wasn't too surprised to hear that there was trouble brewing. Perhaps it had to do with the dark-robed figures that always seemed to elude Mortas whenever he tried investigating them. Or perhaps it stemmed from elsewhere. The sense of unease had haunted Mortas as he worked through his red tape, and it had followed him to wherever he was collecting information.

"Well then," Mortas said seriously, "Let's enjoy our breakfast post-haste so that we may hear what plagues Fumikage-sama."

. D O V E . D O V E Ambiloquous Ambiloquous AI10100 AI10100 Colorless Spectrum Colorless Spectrum LazyDaze LazyDaze The Crimson King The Crimson King Ineptitude Ineptitude
 
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Ambiloquous

Graphic Fanatic

Erika Böhler

“Quite so, I am one of her guests.” Erika nodded. “It was fairly lucky timing as well — I managed to block a social call from someone… distasteful.” She wrinkled her nose delicately at the nameless reference. The Böhler matriarch always managed to say something positive about everyone when pushed, but ancestor’s dead DNA, it was hard to scourge up any goodwill towards someone she so very much disliked. Hate was too active of a word, and she definitely didn’t want to spend her time acting upon such a pettifogging man. It would be principle-breaking to waste hours of her life doing something that may or may not come to fruition, and the resulting consequences simply wouldn't be worth the effort for a moment of schadenfreude.

When the familiar voice of a certain sword maniac came to her ears, she almost twitched at the volume. Goodness, he had some strong vocal cords. Perhaps he should try out yodelling; she had heard it was very stress-relieving. Not that she was sure his brain even had the space for stress, Song Xue being who he was. Erika flicked a couple genes to lower her hearing sensitivity and focused back on the lady of the house.

At Guanyu’s mention of the “pancake conqueror”, she smiled widely. A little too widely. “Of course! Anything for you, Miss Guanyu.” The arc of her lips looked almost as if it were drawn by a Bézier curve — and it might have been.

One thing nobody had noticed yet was the fact that her smile did not come naturally. No, the average human can only smile for so long before their muscles become sore — and most unaltered smiles aren’t even perfectly symmetrical. Of course, there are people that prefer it that way. Erika was not part of that group. Her facial muscles had been modified to be long-lasting, stamina-saving, tireless muscles that retained a perfect smile on her face until she dropped it. It also had the added benefit of being able to lift a watermelon with no additional support. It wasn’t particularly useful, but it was better than not being able to lift a watermelon, she supposed.

As Hanji walked in, she turned to Mr. Pancake Conqueror and thought about how to drag him up the stairs. Broaching the topic of swords was not what she would like to do, but it was certain to lead him away. Before she could offer to accompany him to the room, the Fumikage patriarch ominously declared that he “would have words with you all”.

A thoughtful expression came over her face. Hanji was a nice person — for a parent in a city where morals were the barrel dregs — and because it was so, his sense of responsibility almost always meant more work for the parents of Kaien. How did the quote go… “don’t shoot the messenger”? Whenever he brought an issue to light, she understood why such a quote existed. She didn’t fancy shooting him, but sometimes she just wanted to slap a hand over his mouth so he wouldn’t utter the inevitable. It was an irrational desire, but humans weren’t rational in the first place.

She finally noticed Quinn Ylva and her greeting. “To you as well, Miss Ylva.” Her smile became a tad less artificial. Though the woman had been legally married, she believed that the matter didn’t affect her so much that she was no longer young at heart. Such as the reason why she used “Miss” instead of the “Ms.” prefix common to married women.

As the woman continued to ask the question that she didn’t want to know the answer to, she sighed minutely. Alas, things would come as they come.

Before she could ruminate on it too long, her attention was taken up by the force of nature that was Frida Von Schafer. Erika was sure her middle name was drama or something of the sort; she didn’t seem to live without it. She made to poke at her mask in reply to her statement. Erika wasn’t so bold as to actually touch it, no, but she could pretend. “Don’t be — I need my tea before I can see you, kleiner Magen.” She then changed topics and gave a Cheshire cat–like grin. “The butter knife was exceedingly helpful; you need not worry about the state of our friendship after such advice.”

As she was debating bodily dragging the LOTUS leader away to their private room — she was going to fulfill her promise to Miss Guanyu, whether it took one sword or ten — a dark-haired young man took a seat on the counter next to her. Who was he? She lit up as he praised her tea. “Why thank you, I’m glad to see my taste in tea is reciprocated.”

Whoever he was, he must be a splendid human being. As he listed off the parents who were currently taking up valuable standing space in the café, she slightly wrinkled a brow. Had Frida invited him? It wasn’t nice to be disregarded, but it couldn’t be helped in this situation — she couldn’t even take a guess on the identity of this newcomer. A new parent, perhaps? Part of the nouveau riche? “May I ask who you are?”

The moment he answered so she gave a suitable response, she would be leaving to make room for the customers with Song Xue in tow — how unfortunate would it be if Miss Guanyu lost clientele due to her negligence.

 
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AI10100

Expert Lurker

Monika followed Quinn and her butler out of her office before she wandered off to grab her gun. She never left home without it after learning that Aberrations really didn't like giving a heads up on when they'd appear. After fitting herself with the boiler and letting her gun hang over her shoulder, she rushed off to join Quinn and her butler once again. She gave a wave to one of her employees, flashing the invitation at him. Her employee nodded before skulking off. Monika frequently went out unattended by her employees, finding it fun to walk around by her lonesome. Of course, her brother had other plans. Monika wasn't an idiot, she was well aware that she had guards shadowing her every move to make sure she remained unscathed if a fight ever broke out.

She ducked into the car, remarking that it was well-maintained as always. When asked about the progress of her research, Monika did not hold back. Monika was well aware that the other Matriarch was a master of information— something that she shared willingly was something that Quinn might sell in the market. However, Monika didn't seem bothered by this realization. Monika was giving surface-level explanations on their new type of weaponry— on their latest venture into the magitek world. Failure stood before them at every door but they were determined to break them down. If the stupid Empire could do it, then so can they.

Monika had barely been aware of the car stopping and it was only when the doors opened that she cut herself off from rambling. She stepped out of the car and looked up to their artificially made sky. Aha, beautiful and melancholy as always. She spotted a figure on the rooftop, tilted her head before giving a small wave at them. Before Monika could even comment on it, Quinn was practically dragging her into Snowsant and Monika willingly let herself be led.

Almost all of the Parents seemed to be present except Tahir which wasn't exactly surprising but an observation nonetheless. Quinn made her introduction and Monika gave a wave to everyone, her signature grin on her face. When she saw Quinn next to Hanji, Monika only then noticed that she was standing alone. Ah well. "Aha, good morning! Hope everyone has been having a fine day so far." Monika remarked. Morning. She had realized it was morning when Quinn had come with the papers for their new deal. The labs really did a number on you when it came to tracking the time.

"Patriarch Fumikage, a pleasure to see that you seem well. A bit too serious though, try a smile! Song Xue, as passionate as ever for pancakes! Miss Guanyu, I see that business is still doing very well, I'm glad for that. I have a couple of orders later for my kids back at the labs." Her kids, otherwise known as her research partners and hopefully some of the best minds in Kaien. Injecting sweets into their systems always did wonders to productivity. Monika could say the same for herself. "Patriarch Karman, good morning as well. Erika! I hope you haven't forgotten our little date tomorrow."

Frida's stone cold greeting didn't seem to bother Monika at all. Instead, she chuckled and raised her hands. "Peace, Frida, both you and I know that was entirely voluntary and need I remind you, you were the one who wanted that." Monika knew the circumstances of how the von Schafers worked before Frida even realized it. Shadowing her father when it came to dealings definitely gave her a lot of information when it came to the other Parents. She even had personal dealings with the previous Parents before these ones came into power. Oh, the memories. They were all so young and spry. Now they were... still young and spry but older! Monika didn't have an insider's knowledge on how they all came into power, but rumors travel fast and when someone else is on the other side of the desk for a deal, it was often easy to infer what had transpired.

She clapped her hands together, looking around. "Now then, I don't know about you all, but I'm famished. Shall we?" Famished was an understatement for someone who hasn't eaten since the night before... maybe a few more hours before that but what people didn't know wouldn't hurt them.
 

The Crimson King

PRAISE BE, CHAINSAW.
Fumikage Hanji
Interacting with: Ineptitude Ineptitude AI10100 AI10100 LazyDaze LazyDaze Colorless Spectrum Colorless Spectrum . D O V E . D O V E Coyote Hart Coyote Hart Ambiloquous Ambiloquous


It would seem the all that would come have arrived. He straightened at Ashwood and Ylva’s entrance, giving another polite bow, to them and the rest, he flashed a short, genuine smile, happily obliging to Monika’s request, his case held between the crook of his arm for only a moment as he clasps his hands together, his sunglasses twinkling with anticipation, “At last, assemblage. Wonderful. It’s good to see you all.” He turns once more to Guanyu, hard at work on the group’s tall breakfast order, giving a patient smile with the tilt of his head, “We’ll be making our migration now. If it’s not much trouble, dear, would you kindly bring our refreshments to us?”
He turned on his heel, and beckoned to his fellow guests, “And go we shall; with me, if you please,” his briefcase held once more in his good arm’s vice grip, his free hand a false one. He was familiar with the location of their meeting room, and he led confidently, the second door on the left up the stairs, a door with the number four printed upon it. A quaint long table with eight vacant seats awaited, the lighting generous but not blinding, a spacious window taking up the majority of the eastern wall, letting the early morning light shine upon the rendezvous without filter. He stood, for the time being, gazing expectedly at his acquaintances as they followed close behind. He gave another polite gesture to sit, before continuing to stay upright, crossing his arms with his suitcase nestled under his arm again.
 

Ineptitude

One Thousand Club
Qiao Guanyu
Location: Snowsant's Heart
Interaction/s: Everyone lmao​


"Haha, seeing all of you is always a treat! Today must be an early birthday present!" Guanyu laughed, her eyes curving into gentle crescents. The sight of the other parents gathered within her establishment seemed to make her smile grow all the brighter.

Her gaze lingered upon Hanji and Frida for a few seconds longer, purposeful. She gave them an imperceptible nod. As if on cue, an employee of hers burst out of the kitchen door, stacks upon stacks of plates and cups and the like balanced skillfully on one hand. He hurried up the stairs, likely to get the table for the party ready. Things were going to be very, very busy from here on out. Fortunately enough, however, the staff members were already familiar with the protocol for this situation.

The protocol in question having been made solely for dealing with... certain ravenous customers.

The albino checked on the kettle once more. Just a minute or two left before it was ready to serve. A jar of honey would be a good accompaniment, she mused to herself. Just in case others apart from Erika would want the tea to be sweetened. If anyone wants coffee instead, she should prepare for that as well. She hummed, thoughtful, only breaking out of her reverie when she was addressed once more.

"Ah, of course! I'm looking forward that date later, by the way!" Guanyu jokingly called out after Hanji as the group made their way to the second floor.
 
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LazyDaze

Senior Member
~SONG XUE~

Pancake Conquerer, it was a nice addition to his other epithets. Any sarcasm that laced the statement was lost on him so all that was left was the apparent respect and adulation he believed Qiao meant. It was nice to know that another parent readily acknowledged his skills. He was so pleased that he couldn't help but smirk and nod to himself. It was a shame though, already winning a competition before it even began. Even for someone as competitive as Xue, it took the air out of his sails. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise that allowed him to shed his competitive blind fold and notice the things that were there to be noticed, namely the unique customers. Admittedly, he passed many of them whilst he was on the outside, simply ignoring them; however, he saw them. In fact, it would be hard to not see them given the fact that they stand out like a sore thumb. Seriously, who sits on the roof of a busy cafe as if they are building decoration.

"To each their own," Song Xue said shaking his head in a dismissive manner. Qiang quirked an eyebrow at this statement since the transition from declaring war on pancakes to this statement was more than stark. He also couldn't help but notice that Xue was back to his usual calm self...perhaps he was making progress after all.

The first person besides Qiao that Song noticed was Erika the Bowling Champion

Song sat at a table filled with flash cards while being handcuffed to his char.

"Okay, what's her name," Qiang said.

"It's Urika Bowser," Song stated confidently.

"WRONG," Qiang said while smacking him across the head.

"Her name is Erika Bohler," Qiang shouted.

"Wait she's a bowler?"

"Yes, her family has a long history of-,"

"So does she have any championships?"

"Well...she became the parent, but is that really a champ,"

"Ah so Erika the Bowling Champ!"

"That's....nevermind close enough, on to the next parent."

He couldn't remember ever seeing Erika frustrated, or sullen for too long. In fact, she had one of the best smiles in all of Kaien. Maintaining such a disposition in this world was a feat in itselg, but Song always found her happiness overwhelming and sad. That said, he didn't spend too much time with the other parents outside of Monika. They were all criminals on a sinking ship, united by a common cause, but the nature of a person was not so easily erased, even in the most dire circumstances. Song knew that applied to him as well. He closed his parasol now that he was inside and reached out to Erika only to be interrupted by the slew of VIPs who would enter the cafe. The first was Fumes. The notorious smoker and rumored vampire...although, vampires don't age do they? Either way, his lungs must have been artificial by now. Although unofficial, Song couldn't help but feel as if he was the unnamed leader of the group of parents. You didn't need the ability to read and write to see that, and Song didn't have the ego to be marred by what was pretty much a fact in his eyes. Even now, he appeared to be gathering up all of the parents although Frida did the heavy lifting in that regard...OH

"Yes, Fumes, we're here to fend off the invasion right," Song said in a dark tone before being elbowed by Qiang.

"We talked about this Xue...the letter said invitation," Qiang whispered.

Before he could even say anything else Queen Victoria walked in. She smelled like money, but this was most likely a trick being played on Song by his own mind. This pattern would continue a few more times in which Song would attempt to do something, anything, only to be interrupted by another parent, or person. Even a few of the regulars would do the same. Song would nod politely to each and everyone of them. He didn't even have time to speak to Monika who seemed preoccupied with the others. Out of all the parents, Song probably interacted with her the most since his own men were often field tested her inventions. Speaking of which, Song wanted to talk to her about a self cleaning sword idea he had.

"Qiang you can wait for me down here, I'll be able to handle myself from here on," Song said while walking "upstairs" by walking to a nearby wall with his hand on the hilt of his blade. It was clear he was going to slice through it; however, Qiang simply spun Song around toward the stairs and without missing a beat Song continued after the others. Qiang simply took a seat and began praying before ordering his favorite tea.

***

Once upstairs, the big players finally assembled, Song took a seat next to Erika. "Psst, I heard you and Frida discussing butter knives earlier. I've always wanted to speak with another knife fanatic. Hopefully we can have a chat after all this is over," Song whispered before leaning back in his chair. He was slightly self aware of his own obsession. At the very least he knew many didn't see the world like him even among his own family so he couldn't help but regress to a passionate child when he saw someone else who happened to hold similar interests. Who knew, Erika the bowling champ was also a sword fanatic? Nevertheless, there were other important matters.

"So, we're all here not killing each other. That can only mean our common interests still hold," Song joked. "I'm guessing there aren't pancakes in that briefcase."

Ambiloquous Ambiloquous AI10100 AI10100 . D O V E . D O V E Crimson Crimson Ineptitude Ineptitude The Crimson King The Crimson King Coyote Hart Coyote Hart
 

The Crimson King

PRAISE BE, CHAINSAW.
The Breakfast Banter
A collaboration.​

Ambiloquous Ambiloquous
When Monika piped up after standing motionless so long to remind her of her appointment, Erika's smile became a little wry — she knew she was never going to come close to becoming a master sharpshooter, so the lessons were really just social events in disguise. Before she had a chance to reply with some witty line or two about her nonexistent gun-handling abilities, the parents were ushered upstairs by Hanji and his leader-like efficiency.

The Crimson King The Crimson King
It doesn’t take long for the collective of parents to pile forth into the spacious private room. There’s some light jabs, but eventually everyone finds the place they’re most comfortable sitting. Closest to the door, on the left side of the table, their faces lit by the slowly transforming before-evening sunlight, the scenery outside clearly visible, the bustling streets of Kaien’s Business District, and a ghostly image of it’s towering skyline; there sits Patriarch Fumikage, to his right Matriarch Van Schafer, followed by Matriarchs Ylva and Ashwood. Across from them, backlit by that same streaming sunlight, closest to the door, across from Fumikage, on the right side of the table, is where the illusive Rhódon was expected to sit, fashionably late as always, to his right would be Matriarch Böhler, followed by Patriarch Xue to her left and the vacant seat next to him, originally meant for the also absent Matriarch Béchalot, is quickly replaced by the increasingly suspicious Patriarch Karman.

Ambiloquous Ambiloquous
Somehow in the commotion, Erika managed to take the seat beside Song — or he managed to take the seat beside her. This wasn’t in her calculations. She knew for a fact that the man didn’t have close ties to any parent but Monika, so why? Her question was soon answered. Erika’s facial muscles twitched minutely at Song’s mention of butter knives. So that was the reason behind such a choice; it was quite unlucky of Frida to bring up the matter and for her to respond with her true feelings, no matter how gratifying it was at the time.

“Yes…” Her eyes wandered slightly before she fixed it back on him and turned the brightness of her pearly whites up a notch. “A chat after all this is over.”

Coyote Hart Coyote Hart
Barely keeping the excitement down in his demeanor, Mortas calmly took the vacant seat. He was absolutely ecstatic that he was sitting amongst the parents, even though it was just a simple breakfast party. It was a sure sign that he was moving up the ranks. Even better, he was sitting across from Matriarch Ashwood and aside from Xue Xiansheng, both of whom Mortas barely knew anything about. It was an opportunity to further his connections.

Suddenly remembering that Matriarch Bohler had enquired about his name, Mortas dug through his blazer chest pocket to procure his business card. On it were details of the Karman Detective Agency and the street racing subsidiary as well as Mortas’s name. But there was also a graceful little artwork of a lemon tree flower on its branch, which so coincidentally was art of his assassination calling card. Mortas cleared his throat and extended his card behind the chair to pass it over to Monika, “Ahem. Matriarch Bohler. Here you go.”

Ambiloquous Ambiloquous
Gently plucking the card out of the hand floating behind Song Xue’s chair, Erika glanced down at it for a moment to note the details. She edited her expression to be something more trustworthy, fixing her first-time-meeting business smile on her face, as she peered around the LOTUS leader’s back. “That’s a lovely lemon flower logo you have, Mr. Karman. If I ever have need of your services, be sure that I will call upon your agency.”

LazyDaze LazyDaze
Of course as soon as the action had taken place, Song was quick to activate his artifact. It was unsettling to have interactions take place behind her back literally, and he couldn’t help but feel as if it was just a tinsy bit rude to treat him as a transparent pillar. He had the briefest of urges to use his power to slice off their hands, but that wouldn’t have been a proper challenge. There didn’t seem to be anything fishy about the letter, so he deactivated his eye after Erika had received it’s contents.

(A lemon flower, I always thought lemons came from trees) Song thought to himself before shaking his head.

The Crimson King The Crimson King
Hanji gave another warm smile at the assemblage of family heads, his sunglasses lit with the orange glow from the window; he clasped his hands together in front of him upon the table’s surface, and gave a light nod of his head before he proclaimed,
“It’s so good to see you all again. It’s not often we’re all in the same place like this, so again, I welcome you all, and I hope we can answer some burning questions we all have. If you’ll allow me,” He paused to rotate his upper body to his side, raising the briefcase beside his chair to place upon the tabletop, opening it to reveal several manila folders, beneath it, the telltale shine of the black crystal talisman Kaguya, quickly shrouded again by the closing of the case, placed on the floor at Hanji’s feet, his smile was gone when he faced front again. He opened the folders as began to speak again, revealing case files and autopsy reports for three once-missing young magi, all nameless young adults, claimed by no one,
“I believe the first order of business is the presence of those black robes that seem to be behind all the recent kidnappings-turned-homicides here in Kaien, to which I can firmly say I believe the target of these attacks is almost always magi, specifically underdeveloped sorcerers; young spellcasters will much latent potential for magic but little actual skill. Almost always the way that they are killed is of some precision, with their vital and sensory organs and sometimes entire nervous systems surgically removed and apparently made away with…”
He removed his glasses for a moment, pinching the bridge of his nose, and seemed to hold his breath, before he gave a solemn exhale of air, clearly distraught, though he quickly regained his composure, and continued after resting the spectacles upon his face, “Besides that, I myself have little information on the subject, so I believe I, much like the rest of you, would much like to hear what everyone else might know about those shady characters and the nature of their apparent invasion of our beloved city.”

Ambiloquous Ambiloquous
A memory of a snippet of dialogue at the back of her mind tingled, alerting Erika to the fact that the sword-obsessed patriarch had actually been right for once — it was an invasion.

Being the matriarch of a family of mutating drug dealers, her mind whirled with the possibilities of what the incident meant and what new information had been touched upon. Perhaps it was even something disseminated from the upper cities, far away and covered in a shroud of hard-to-acquire visas as it was. From what she knew of the records, the Böhler family hadn’t bothered much with magi over the course of the centuries it existed, likely due to their own issues relating to mutations and the sheer overconfidence a guardian gave them. She had an inkling of what might be possible, but no real investigation or research to back it up.

She immediately looked across to Miss Quinn to wait for what she had to say. The woman dealt with information on a daily basis after all — more so than the Fumikage patriarch for certain — so it was impossible that she didn’t have intelligence on this subject. “Do you have anything to say about this unfortunate event, Miss Ylva?”

Colorless Spectrum Colorless Spectrum
So it was more than just a breakfast party as she initially expected. Or rather it only became that way due to Hanji’s opening topic. “Mmm, yes. This is a rather lovely topic for breakfast.” She said as she took a sip of water from her glass. She looked at each parent, wondering how they thought about the information that the head of Fumikage had revealed.

“I did plan on telling you all this, but Sir Hanji had beaten me to the punch.” She laughed ever so softly as she twiddled a coin between her fingers. “My little birds told me that these Men in Black Coats are artificial humans created through black magic.” She paused for a moment, letting the news sink in to her fellow Parents. “Homunculus. That’s what they are, made to imitate a powerful spellcaster but with no minds of their own. Whoever controls them can do whatever they want them to do, without question. So far, my little birds have only found seven of them with their names corresponding to each number.”

Her eyes had turned dark, gone was her friendly expression from earlier. “Take what you will with the information I had. I believe these Seven will be quite problematic for us and should be dealt with as soon as possible but not without getting to know them more. It’s never good to go into battle without all the information and underestimating them.” She said before picking up a piece of a bite sized pastry that she had been eyeing since Hanji started talking. "Mmmm, this is delicious. You guys should try these."

The Crimson King The Crimson King
The Fumikage Patriarch sat sullen, silent. He had heard the term before, and knew of their purposes, and who might use them. “…Artificial beings created for warfare, though the creation of life through magic of any kind has always been persecuted.” He slowed his breathing, relaxed his shoulders, and diverted his focus to food, as Matriarch Ylva indirectly recommended, “I’ve always liked to talk business over a nice meal. Though such a menacing predicament may have been better spoken about over dinner.” He chuckled, and helped himself to his own helping of french toast, quickly lathered in butter and tart syrup, and some of the machine-made coffee from the dispensary in the corner of the room, and spent the next few minutes preparing his elaborate beverage, pouring ludicrous amounts of cream, sugar, and milk into the surprisingly spacious container, finishing with a light pour from the flask hidden beneath his coat, before beginning to sip it slowly as he refocused, showcasing his cutting technique on the meal before him, dicing it finely, subtly raising his eyebrow towards Patriarch Xue, as he saw him already doing the same, though a bit more obvious in his own exhibition.

Coyote Hart Coyote Hart
“Homunculus. Huh,” Mortas repeated that word with concern. It sounded like the homunculus were a class above Mortas’s Rhongomiant. On one end of his mind, Mortas wanted to know the black magic technique. On the other end of his mind, Mortas had a feeling that the parents would have their work cut out for them.

Mortas had filled his plate with pancakes, breakfast sausages, and several sunnyside up eggs. Although Mortas spend his days in Snowsant’s Heart, he often was forced to pack his own bento box. Money was scarce after all. So it had been quite a while since he was able to taste the cafe’s excellent food.

Mortas put down his knife and fork with a clatter, signaling that he had something to say. He swallowed his bite of pancakes before he spoke, “Actually, the Karman Detective Agency has been investigating some of these deceased magi as well. And I have made tracking these dark robed men a hobby for when I’m bored.”

“I was able to track down these homunculus to their base. They dwell deep in the depths of the Industrial Region, which happens to… Pardon me…”
Mortas reached across the table to take one of the manilla folders that Hanji set down. He flipped through one of the case files and nodded to himself before he spoke, “Yes, yes. This lines up. Whether by coincidence or not, the abode of the homunculus is also where the majority of the missing magi’s last known location.”

The Crimson King The Crimson King
Fumikage could only raise an eyebrow at the casual handling of his own procured papers, but gave a casual shrug and a subtle smirk, gesturing for the informal gesture to be made off with. He could care less.

Coyote Hart Coyote Hart
Mortas dug through his blazer pockets to procure a small, messily folded map, which had a location on the Industrial Region circled. He then tossed the map along with the manilla folder back where he got it on the table.

With his contributions out of the way, Mortas took one of the mini pastries that Quinn had pointed out. It was a mini danish with a red strawberry filling. Upon tossing it into his mouth, Mortas’s eyes lit up. The syrup was not too cloyingly sweet. There were bits of real strawberries within the jam. And to top it off, there were actual strawberry seeds! Strawberry seeds! Yes, it was most definitely delicious. “Goodness. You’re right, Madam Quinn. This is heavenly. Oh… how long it has been since I’ve tasted something that wasn’t artificially flavored…”

Ambiloquous Ambiloquous
Erika pilfered a piece of the buttery dessert everyone was extolling and took a delicate bite, wholeheartedly agreeing with Mortas’ declaration — while she had worked on projects for better tasting organics with VSP, they were infrequent and revolved around… questionable crops.

LazyDaze LazyDaze
“Not to diminish your efforts, but aside from the details, I believe Frida’s well-timed invitation was pretty clear about their being an invasion in progress, yet she has yet to give her opinion despite being the first to realize this,” Song twirled a knife carelessly with his right hand while dicing up his pancakes with his left hand. (Seriously, who ate pancakes with two knives), “I was able to decipher the coded message in a matter of seconds and get ahead of this. LOTUS can move at any time. Frida, what do you think of this situation?”

The Crimson King The Crimson King
What a bizarre man the head of LOTUS was. Fumikage was obviously puzzled at the proclamation that there was an encoded message in the otherwise unassuming invitation he had received more than a week ago. Ms. Lena jokes about rooting out any ciphers in his mail, although, if she was serious, she would’ve noticed such a thing, he was doubtless about that. He turned that confusion towards Matriarch Van Schafer, beside him. “You knew?”

. D O V E . D O V E
Like a deer caught in headlights, the dear Gourmet paused from swiftly slipping pastries beneath her mask. She slowly retracted her hand, settling a half-bitten sweet on the plate before her, as her lilac eyes slowly shifted from Parent to Parent. Truth to be told, the Matriarch wasn’t as absorbed to the issue at hand than the rest, but they didn’t have to know that. Posturing was the key.

“Why of course, why else would I gather the lot of you in an immediate manner?” She nodded and smiled at the sword fanatic. “I applaud your keen observational skills!” Or, well, his creative imagination. Once that was laid out there, she then faced the rest of the assemblage. “And as I’ve expected from the most esteemed of Parents, you’ve provided us astounding information regarding these mysterious entities. I think that it’s best we formulate a plan to seize this nefarious threat on our beloved Kaien.”

Ineptitude Ineptitude
"Coming through!" Guanyu's cheerful voice called out as she entered the room. The barista placed a freshly brewed kettle of ginger tea onto the table, alongside a jar of honey for good measure. "Hope I wasn't interrupting anything important! How's the food been treating you?"

Ambiloquous Ambiloquous
The Böhler matriarch paused momentarily to stare at the “woman” who had set down her requested ginger tea, contemplated for a moment on matters regarding her existence and then simply decided to ignore it. Picking up the kettle and pouring herself a cup, she mentally sighed in relief as the spicy liquid touched her tongue. She preferred a sweetener in her drinks on most days, but for today, hydration came first.

LazyDaze LazyDaze
“I-Is this food sentient,” Song said while giving his food a suspicious glance as if it would run off the plate at any moment. “If that’s the case then the food has been treating me rather coldly. It hasn’t said a thing this entire time.”

Ambiloquous Ambiloquous
Erika discreetly gave him a look and decided that it was best not to comment on such a statement. She rather liked her remaining brain cells, altered and modified though they may have been.

The Crimson King The Crimson King
Hanji could only give an amused expression at the cluelessness of the Xue patriarch, still chewing as the head of staff arrived with tea, setting down his utensils as he proclaimed, “Everything’s wonderful, darling, and your blend is better than I remember, at that,” raising his own mug as if to call attention to it; it’s almost as if she knew he would prefer coffee over the now arriving tea. “Have we heard anything about our absent seat?” He gestures to the vacant one across the table, gazing expectedly at Ms. Qiao.

Ineptitude Ineptitude
"Haha, that's good to hear." Guanyu grinned, tactfully ignoring the pancake conqueror's words in the same breath. "As for your missing guest…" Her smile took on a sly edge. "Well, I'm already here, aren't I?”

Guanyu casually slid into the vacant seat, except… it was never her in the first place, was it? 'Her' hair was a bright red stream that fell just below 'her' shoulders, 'her' eyes a pale lilac. Everything about 'her' seemed a far cry from the barista they thought 'she' was. 'She' nonchalantly partook in one of the many pastries, humming in delight at the tart flavor. "So, what is it that you wanted to know?" 'She' asked, licking 'her' lips clean of any crumbs.

The Crimson King The Crimson King
Hanji could only stand to attention; but then he laughed, raucously, giving a short burst of applause and then resting his arms across his chest at such a thought-provoking display. How long had Rhódon been standing in Guanyu’s place? The details of such an intriguing ruse would come to him, in time, but now, they needed answers, “Ahh… back to business then, the Homunculi: who’s their master? What’s their aim?” He slouched in his seat, a smirk lasting the lasting impression of his amusement. He figured that now was all they’re missing, the full picture soon revealed.

Ineptitude Ineptitude
"Ehhh~? Isn't it obvious already?" Rhódon rested 'her' head on 'her' hand, munching down on another mouthful of flaky dough. "The Mage's Association of course." 'Her' voice was slightly muffled by the danish pastry. "All those missing organs and stuff? They're gonna be transported back to their HQ, so those creeps can steal their powers and make it their own."

The Crimson King The Crimson King
Hanji stood suddenly, and slammed his palm upon the table, raising his voice to an unexpected volume, “That’s nonsense! Fumikage Emiya— no, my grandfather, he was the one who put a bullet between Dade Copernicus’ eyes; he was supposed to be their last leader! The splinter that killed Fumikage Kaede was the last, I made sure of it myself; there must be some mistake!” He took his seat once more, forcefully, bowing his head and clasping his fingers adjacent his mouth to conceal his troubled expression. He wavered as he first began to speak again, but eventually found words, “I was so sure I had finally gotten rid of them, but… nothing justifies such an outburst. Please, accept my humblest apologies, I don’t know what came over me… I believe you, Rhódon, truly.” His arms slowly dropped to meet the tabletop, his hands became fists as he raised his head to meet the collective’s gaze. “What would we do, then? The Association has always been composed of black magi who’s most ancient creed is violence. If you were to pursue them, there’s no telling what unorthodox spellcraft they may employ against you, and there’s no preparing for what they can dish out; I wouldn’t wish any of that upon anyone.”

. D O V E . D O V E
It was surprising to see the usually calm and collected Hanji burst out. Yet, the moment felt too dire to point it out. “We do what we do best, Patriarch Fumikage.” Lady Frida said after taking a sip from her tea, her mask tilted upwards just enough for her to enjoy the smooth beverage while hiding the monstrosity beneath. “Get rid of unwanted vermin in the city.” She placed the cup back on the table. “While it’s true that the association possesses an unknown danger, we cannot simply twiddle our thumbs and let them siphon more power. The key is to make haste, lest it be too late when we make our move. I propose we formulate a plan of an attack straight to their speculated hideout. With all of our powers combined, we’d be nigh unstoppable.”

AI10100 AI10100
Monika had been uncharacteristically silent this entire time, taking one bite after another of the sweets that were provided to them. She hadn’t exactly been eating properly for a while but she was listening. Her eyes followed who was speaking— horrible things really, can you imagine so many deaths happening for so long? It would also seem that most of the Parents had been aware of this and Monika had to wrack her brain if she had ever received a report on it. Well, not really. Considering that she didn’t deal in protection or information like the others, it was unlikely that it would end up on her desk.

Rhodon had arrived, slipping into her seat with little hesitation. Monika could have afforded to look more surprised with the news that came with Rhodon’s appearance. The Mage’s Association. They had their own problems with the Association— dealing with both the advancement of technology and research in magitek, they weren’t really fond of the Ashwood family. Of course, as Hanji claimed, the late Fumikage Patriarch had put a stop to them… or so they had chosen to believe.

“While I agree that we should immediately start preparing to get rid of them, I doubt it’ll be easy even with all of us combined.” Monika piped up. Yes, most of them do have powers that many envy, but there was a reason they were such a big problem before. “They’re probably prepared to take most of us on. We haven’t exactly been secretive on what we can do. We’re at a very severe disadvantage when it comes to information about the extent of their capabilities.” She looked at their information brokers and collectors with an apologetic look. She didn’t mean that they were incapable at all. She took another meaningful bite of food, taking a deep breath as she felt more and more of her energy return.

“In any case, it won’t be a bright idea to just fight them head on, no? They might have a couple of contingency plans in the case that any of the Parents decide to attack them.” She might be overestimating them, but it was usually better safe than sorry in these cases. She had just started to enjoy working with these people and she’d rather not see another shift in Parenthood.

Colorless Spectrum Colorless Spectrum
Quinn was pleased to finally see the elusive Rhodon join them. There aren't so many chances that she had seen her face to face although she does have suspicions that she had been meeting the Matriarch almost everyday now but this wasn't a secret that she wanted to unfold. It's probably better if less people knew.

After her words earlier, she had let others take over the conversation. Mind stewing concoctions of possible scenarios that they could make use of. Frida has a point and so does Monika. "We need to gather more information about them first before we strike," Quinn started, taking in the last piece of the cake she had taken from the platter. "It's okay to overestimate the enemy, best be prepared. We can have spies collect information on how they operate and what they can do. Of course, it'll be better if we act 'as soon as possible' as Lady Frida has said, but we can't be too hasty about it. I think it's best that no one attacks by themselves," She paused to lay her golden eyes at Song Xue. Knowing that the man is quite… lacking in the intelligence department although he is one of their greatest fighters. "And it's true that with all of us together we are a force to be reckoned with."

The young Matriarch took a sip of her tea while she tapped her fingers at the table with her free hand. "Lady Rhodon, Mortas, we'll have to set up some people near their base to watch over these Homunculi every move, yes? We'll need the information of what they can do and how powerful they are before we can proceed about planning to attack their base. We could pick them off one by one and surprise them or attack them all in one go. What do you all think?" She finished, looking over to all the parents before stopping to look at Hanji as he is the de facto leader of the group.

LazyDaze LazyDaze
Little did the other parents know…or maybe they did, listing all the obstacles to defeating this new threat just made Song want to attack them even more. Nevertheless, he wasn’t surprised when a few of the parents offered a more, surgical approach to the situation. Despite being simple, it was easy to see that many, even his own family members, didn’t share his same passion for battle as him. He couldn’t help but sigh when he concluded this fact. “I figured it would turn out like this. Um, this…Humusbroccoli (Homunculi) you speak of, haven’t we watched them have their way enough? Now you’re saying that we need to watch them run amok some more.” Song leaned back in his chair while folding his arms, being sure to make eye contact with the other parents to let them know he was serious. “If I have to, I’ll go in there myself if you’re too afraid, but the invasion is going to end now. I’ll see to it.” To be honest, Song wasn’t totally confident that LOTUS could destroy the base; however, that only made it all the more enticing. He was confident in his abilities, but not ignorant of the world. He could very well die, but so could they. Those were odds he was willing to take.

Colorless Spectrum Colorless Spectrum
"This is called strategy, Patriarch Xue and sometimes a few sacrifices must be made." Quinn retorted, expecting this kind of response from Song. Perhaps it was too much to ask of him to stay still for a little while. "Underestimating an enemy could lead to devastating results, ones I am not willing to take, although you may find it exciting. I'd rather be prepared when we fight them."

. D O V E . D O V E
Frida shook her head in disappointment. The Parent's lack of faith in their combined prowess was shocking and offensive. It was as though they forgot that the last leader of the association was defeated by a single Parent. "My dears, the Association is trying to act in secrecy exactly because they don't want us to foil their plan now." She twirled her wrist. "This scheme of theirs, siphoning the powers of young magi, is fairly new and must still be in its early stages. Don't you think they'd only grow more powerful while we come up with more complicated plans? Now, that would lead to a far more devastating result." She then shifted her gaze and nodded at Song. "I agree with Patriarch Xue. We have watched enough, it's time for us to act unless we somehow find a way to collect all the young magi in Kaien...in the span of... a few days…" Frida trailed off, squinting her eyes before caressing the chin of her mask thoughtfully. "That actually may be a not so bad idea. The other Parents are worried that the Association has prepared for us attacking them…," she took a cupcake and moved it to her plate, "but what if we force them into attacking us?" A loud clanking followed as the Gourmet stabbed the cupcake with a fork.

Ambiloquous Ambiloquous
“Forgive me, Frida, kleiner Magen, I’ll be ignoring your question for a moment.” Erika arranged an appeasing smile on her face and cautiously reached across the table to air-pat the Gourmet’s hand, keeping well away from the one stabbing the cupcake and deliberately not eying the battle maniac beside her. Clearing her now-not-dry throat, she raised a hand to bring attention to herself as if she were still in primary school. “As a compromise, what if we set a time limit? Whether we can figure out the inner workings of the current Mage’s Association or not, within a set period we will place our efforts in an all-out attack. If we can find the information needed for a relatively safe and systematic takedown, then we will, and if not, we will have dawdled enough and will go through it anyway — never mind who forces who to launch aggressive action.”

Coyote Hart Coyote Hart
Mortas had sat back and listened to the back and forth between the parents, content with chowing through breakfast sausages quietly and sipping some ginger tea. He didn’t care either way, whether the remnants of the Association were destroyed or not. As long as they didn’t bother him, he’d be fine with it. There was one or two magi in the Karman Detective Agency though, and Mortas was slightly concerned for their wellbeing if the Association continued unabated.

“I’ll send some detectives to keep an eye on the Association… in a bit. The railroad ran into a bit of congestion,” Mortas informed the group. He chuckled into his cup of ginger tea. It was somewhat hilarious, as he could feel the Rhongomiant’s impatience as he waited on the train. Oh well. There was nothing to be done about it.

“Matriarch Bohler, while a compromise is a good idea, waiting any amount of time means a higher chance another magi would be kidnapped and murdered,” Mortas said as he prodded his lip with a strawberry stuck on a fork, “If we settle on this compromise, I just want to make sure that we’re okay with this potential loss of life” Mortas stole a glance at Hanji, “And the potential loss of a money-spending customer.” Mortas stole a glance at Quinn, to which the woman merely raised an eyebrow.

Mortas bit the strawberry off of the fork faux-innocently. While he didn’t feel like he could argue for immediate action given his relatively insignificant rank, he wasn’t below manipulating the other parents to do the arguing for him. And if they didn’t do what he hoped, oh well. Mortas didn’t care either way. If the magi in his detective agency die, it’d just mean Mortas wouldn’t have to pay their wages.

. D O V E . D O V E
“Which is why…,” Frida raised a finger, “we collect every young magi of Kaien. In doing so, we’ll be able to safeguard our beloved citizens and prevent the Association from growing in power.”

Coyote Hart Coyote Hart
"So we kidnap them," Mortas said flatly. He tilted his head from side to side, "Not a bad plan, if I'm being honest.”

The tactic would ease Mortas’s worries. His magi employees would remain unharmed.

AI10100 AI10100
“Then wouldn’t that alert the Association that we’re onto them and go into hiding?” Monika countered with a wave of her hand. “It would be highly suspicious for the families to suddenly collect all of the magi in the entirety of Kaien and put them under protection. I doubt they’d be desperate enough to attack a fully fortified area…” she paused, letting out a hum as she reached forward to grab a drink.

“Then again, we can bank on the idea that they’re confident enough to take all of us on. Foolish enough to slip through the cracks of the defenses and into our trap.” Of course, that was assuming that they would try to pull it off. “Though, the problem that they’d go into hiding still stands. You guys said it, left unchecked for too long and they might cause a bigger problem.”

LazyDaze LazyDaze
“If they were confident they could beat us, they would have already attacked,” Song said. His neck was becoming a bit strained with all the head swiveling he had to do in an attempt to listen to all the arguments being presented. It got to the point that he couldn’t tell what side each parent was taking anymore; however, at this point it felt like the parents would rather talk about doing something as opposed to doing anything. Song resumed eating his meal before speaking, his shoulders less tense as if a heavy burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Turns out that many of the parents were more spineless than he originally thought. “Had no idea this was all it took to have the Parents of Kaien shaking with fear. God forbid they start targeting stronger mages,” Song said with a laugh before taking a big gulp of his drink. “Hanji, you killed their leader before right? Can’t you just do that again? I’ll lend a sword of course.”

The Crimson King The Crimson King
Fumikage gave a short sigh and explained, “With all due respect, Patriarch Xue, it was not I, but rather my grandfather; he was the one who killed the Association’s last leader, Dade Copernicus, and there have been none after him. That was almost 50 years ago. There was the splinter cell that did away with my father after that, which was composed almost entirely of witch-hunter captains and their subordinates, and had no real organization, not even one they called superior, but that’s besides the point, I did not kill any of them, I merely made conditions in Kaien unsafe for them, which brought upon their immediate disillusion and disbandment, which is to say, it is almost entirely my fault that the Association is back again, hard at work pulling our home into the abyss. I could not do what needed to be done on my own, but I see now.” He stood for a moment, leaning upon the tabletop with his hands planted firmly upon the surface, adjusting his glasses before proclaiming, “You’ve all made some good points, many of which I can put myself behind. The Association is very strong, even now, and in the instance they did believe they could bring any one of us down, they likely would have and could have, but they haven’t. Do you know why?… They know that we’re not afraid of them. They know that we are no simple prey that can be slaughtered as easily as any other. They know that we can rely on one another’s strength, as they do, and the reason, the real reason, they haven’t provoked us yet, is because they know we’ll destroy them. Let’s give them a good reason to think we’re not doing what they want us to. That’s how we, how was it said, provoke them into attacking us. The most straightforward course of action is to warrant an attack that brings in their full force against our own.” He smiles, as if all his plans are coming to fruition. “We can wrangle all those kids, and then stick them somewhere in the Industrial District. From there, they’ll undoubtedly come looking, and we’ll all be there to greet them, and if we’re doing our jobs right, the kids should be safe, so to say, if we’re actively protecting the valuable assets they wish to procure, they’ll have no choice but to try and remove us from the picture, and from there we can push for an assault on their base of operations.” He sneers, and hangs his head slightly before rising, almost chuckling as he muses, “Does that sound alright, all? I’m just assuming everyone’s on board already, so I made stuff up as I went along.”

LazyDaze LazyDaze
Song snorted while folding his arms. No, it wasn’t the scenario he had in mind; however, even he learned while working with others that compromises were a common occurrence. At the very least they would be fighting sooner than later. “Sure,” Song said reluctantly, feeling the guns blazing approach was leagues cooler than…whatever this was.

Coyote Hart Coyote Hart
Mortas stared down at the shine of his teacup saucer, thinking intently. Did the parents really have the power to destroy the homunculi? He didn’t have confidence that he could win, but it was hard to say. Besides, the other parents were much more powerful than he. There was also the issue of gathering up all the magi. How would it be possible to do that without rousing suspicion in a similar way as kidnapping the magi.

“I don’t dislike the idea,” Mortas said. He wasn’t lying. It would keep the magi in his care safe while also making things interesting. “How would we explain the fact that all the local magi in the city were all in one place? Do we make a Kaien City MagiCon or something?”

Colorless Spectrum Colorless Spectrum
Quinn has settled on continuing in eating her breakfast than pushing her own ideas to the table, it was hard to argue when most were already banked on the idea. Although she did took a quick glance at Monika who shared the same ideas as her. She'd still rather find out as much as they can about the homunculi. Surprises were not her favorite after all.

"A Magi Convention is a good way to gather the magi in one place without attracting suspicion… if it was a non-parent who sets it up." She said, taking the last bite of the pancake she had taken a while ago before drinking her tea. "The magi would come to the place of their own volition, would they not?"

. D O V E . D O V E
A slow clap resounded as the Gourmet plastered a pleased smile beneath her mask. "Marvelous! I tell you, my dears, your trust in my genius idea shall not be unrewarded." Frida proudly placed a palm against her chest. Oh, all the lovely things she had done for Kaien. Organizing the breakfast and catalyzing the perfect counterplan (albeit majorly unwittingly on both accounts), she deserved an extra special meal tonight! "The Von Schafer shall be enticing our young magical guests with irresistible delicacies." She turned to Matriarch Bohler and winked. "And in the off chance that they do reject our invitations, well, I suppose my friend and I will have to add a special ingredient in our delectable offers." Inviting the young magi, drugging the young magi and forcibly congregating them in one area- all synonymous in the dear Gourmet's dictionary.

Ambiloquous Ambiloquous
Erika smiled innocuously at Frida’s gesture, her mind running through the number of synthetic narcotics that she could halt sales of without a great loss of profit — best if it was one sold directly through their own dealers and kept out of the public eye. She piped up, “I’m ninety-eight percent certain that our visitors will love it.” She finished off her tea, and added, “Whether they want to or not.”

Ineptitude Ineptitude
"Sounds like a good enough plan to me." Rhódon drizzled honey into 'her' ginger tea before taking a small sip. "I still want to keep an eye on them before this so-called MagiCon, though. Anything that can give us an edge is worth knowing."

Colorless Spectrum Colorless Spectrum
"Of course, let's have our best people looking into them while this convention is being set up." Quinn added, a small cheer in the back of her mind as the head of Rhodon and her were in the same line of thinking.

Coyote Hart Coyote Hart
“But if it’s a non-parent that’s setting it up, who would it be?” Mortas asked before he realized the answer to his own question. Everyone else here but Mortas was a parent. His expression sank when he realized that he would have to be the one to invite all the magi, “Well, I suppose the Agency could take one or two less cases and invite the magi to the convention.”

AI10100 AI10100
Well, it looked like everything was already settled. Collecting every magi in a convention and using all of that as bait. If everyone was confident that they could defeat the Association in just one swoop, then she supposed it wouldn’t be a bad idea. It wasn’t like she could argue against a unanimous agreement either. Besides, by collecting all of the magi in one area, Monika could keep an eye out for any potentials she could offer a position to. Whether or not the Association gets completely defeated, Monika still found use in the idea.

“So, when’s the tentative date for this convention? I have a new fresh batch of guns I can lend for your less skilled employees for protection.” Monika was well aware that very few of the Parents used guns but that didn’t mean none of their subordinates used them. They were convenient to use with little need for training thanks to how simple they were.

The Crimson King The Crimson King
Hanji had been holding a pondering expression upon his face, his breakfast and coffee finished but a moment before, his downturned mouth becoming a smirk as he snapped his fingers, “A convention in Kaien! It’s been too long. I would be happy to organize such an event, and we can empty out the old Rumblers’ Gym on Hathaway Street. Fret not, my friends, the public eye trusts the Fumikage brand, those kids will come when we call, and Madam Frida seems happy to cater, which will do much to further enhance the legitimacy of this… Kaien MagiCon.” He giggles fortuitously, but quickly catches himself, clearing his throat before continuing, “So long as we do well to conceal our true intentions from our participants, all should go according to plan, and I know a fair few vendors who would be glad to set up there; I’m sure they’d appreciate a lucrative opportunity such as this, and if nothing else, we will do well to attract other civilians to cover our scent just a bit, so as not to attract any unwanted attention, besides our marks, of course.” He rose from his seat, and slowly walked to the head of the long table to his left as he spoke, all the while gesticulating passionately, “With luck, they’ll catch on quick to our grand design and come running to meet us! Oh, aren’t you all so excited? In spite of the smarminess of this operation, we’ll have an excellent opportunity to utilize our abilities to protect the good people of this city, ideally, we’ll be heroes, but that’s only if we can execute perfectly, which will be difficult but ultimately priceless…!” Upon arriving at the head of the table, he leaned upon it, and grinned as he faced his assemblance of acquaintances. “If there’s nothing else, then, are we all ready to begin?”

Coyote Hart Coyote Hart
“It also falls on me to make sure this doesn’t look like something crafted solely by the hands of parents,” Mortas noted, “I promise to do my part.”

Mortas had meant the idea of a MagiCon to be sarcastic, but if everyone was somehow on board with the idea, then it wasn’t up to him to dissuade them.

“I bet with some advertisements from Fumikage-san, a few flyers from my end, and some tranquilizers, we’d be able to get this done in less than a week,” Mortas said, “And that also means plenty of time for us to gather some more information, for those who are more skeptical of our chances.”

Colorless Spectrum Colorless Spectrum
Quinn let out a soft laugh, she knew Mortas meant her and a few others who voiced their opinion on the matter. "I'm okay with it so long as everyone else is." After all who was she to disagree to an almost unanimous agreement. Hopefully, the convention doesn't become a battleground. That would be a waste with all the magis and civilians.

"I'll have my company ship out Monika's fresh batch of equipment as soon as possible." Quinn said before drinking the last of her tea. Saying her last piece for the conversation at hand.

LazyDaze LazyDaze
“My men should be good enough to keep the weakling away from any battles that take place. I personally believe it’s harder to protect someone than to just kill a target, but as long as I get to slice someone I’m content,” Song said. It seems like the plan was set in motion. He was just happy that the parents were finally acting as opposed to talking about acting. The next couple of days would keep Song entertained and that was good enough for him.

Ineptitude Ineptitude
"I'll be sure to keep a reeeeaaaal close eye on them for any movement before the due date." Rhódon smiled behind the rim of 'her' cup, tucking a stray lock of red hair behind 'her' ear. "If anything new pops up, I'll let you all know. My usual rates will be fine."

The Crimson King The Crimson King
Hanji smiled, and rose from his seat once again, “I’ll see everyone out, then. Once again, it was wonderful to see you all, and I wish you all luck in our future endeavors.” He had been walking to the door, and opened it with a short gesture of welcome to walk through it.

There’s a short chatter before each of the assemblage has left the spacious room vacant once more. Fumikage is the last to leave, giving a polite nod to the empty table, and the quiet room, accentuated by the cyan light streaming through that same window on the opposite wall, and closed the door behind him, making his way to the lobby, as the rest had, for the last words they would share for the day.
 

AI10100

Expert Lurker


Interacting with: . D O V E . D O V E
As soon as the meeting was finished, they were all dismissed and started scattering back to the lobby of Snowsant's Heart. It wasn't exactly fair that she wasn't in her full, right mind during the entire meeting— in between the lack of sleep and hunger, she didn't feel like she had contributed as much as she should have. Oh well, there was a solid plan, no plan in regretting anything. There weren't a lot of preparations she could do before the actual plan either, aside from dispensing additional weaponry for the guards in the convention, so Monika could rest easy.

"Rest easy" being diving straight back into her research.

Maybe she could devise something in the "less than a week" timeframe that she was given. Sure, they were giving the Association time to prepare, but that meant they also had more than enough time to make a few more things. The other Parents weren't as open to changing their arsenal, understandably so, but there were some she wanted to throw ideas at. Besides Quinn.

Speaking of which, she spotted Frida and immediately beelined towards her. Monika Ashwood has always been notorious for suffering from extreme tunnel vision unless somehow snapped out of it. And when she arrived next to Frida, it was like she had completely forgotten that the younger woman had been upset with her earlier.

"Frida, I had been thinking and I wasn't going to broach this subject with you until a later time. Especially in such an early stage of planning when I don't even know if it's plausible but time isn't exactly a luxury we were given much of." Monika dug into her coat and grabbed her notebook. She flipped through it. It wouldn't be the first time Frida would have seen the contents of the notebook, which was practically an enigma to everyone but her. She hadn't intentionally encrypted it but it was too messy to truly understand. She stopped at a page that showed a surprisingly well-detailed drawing of Frida's larger form or when she fights. To the side were various contraptions— most of them were scratched out. "See, I know that you are fully self-sufficient in a fight and this idea was born not out of doubt but rather of efficiency. The idea is that you, as a bigger person, could lift higher caliber weapons that we have to mount on the ground to wield properly. What I was thinking is that if we can strap a few guns onto you while in your other form, then you can have even more of an arsenal than just yourself." She paused and tapped one of the few scribbles that weren't scratched out. "The problem is the automation and activation of the guns. I have no doubt in your skills to manage a lot of things at the same time but I doubt fighting with three guns and also your fists would be ideal."

"Would have been fun to try out though, isn't it?"
She looked up at her, waiting for her input now that she had finished.
 

Ineptitude

One Thousand Club
Qiao Guanyu
Location: Snowsant's Heart
Interaction/s: N/A​


Rhódon casually passed by the counter upon making 'her' way down to the lobby, a playful skip to 'her' steps. 'She' flashed Guanyu a knowing grin. The albino gave a sly smile of her own in return before the redhead disappeared through the cafe's door. The illusion would disperse itself in due time; giving anyone who thought to follow her the slip while the Matriarch herself kept her identity a secret for another day.

Maintaining the clan's traditions were tedious at times, for sure, but she learned to make her own fun out of it.

And putting on a performance in front of the other Parents was definitely fun.

Guanyu gave a sharp whistle, catching the attention of one of her employees. She jutted her chin towards the staircase as the rest of the attendees spilled into the first floor. Understanding dawned within dark eyes, and he was quick to start on the cleanup. In the meantime, though, it seemed that two of her customers were having a rather interesting conversation, right in the middle of the cafe.
 

. D O V E

Birb™

Frida von Schafer

The meeting reached a conclusion that tugged a triumphant grin beneath the Gourmet's mask. While it was true that she expected the Parents to resort to a far more sinister method when it came to gathering the young magi, she was pleased that they ultimately came up with a plan ready for immediate implementation. That said, the golden lamb of the day was the Patriarch of the LOTUS clan. She found his bravery and straightforwardness both amusing and admirable. The type of person that she'd love to enjoy an adventurous evening with. One that would end with a candlelit dinner in her most private of chambers, just the two of them.

A grumble made itself known from the pits of her belly. "Oh my! I seem to crave something a bit heavier than pancakes." She lightly chuckled to herself as she got up from her seat. Patriarch Fumikage seemed to be valiant enough to usher her guests out, so Frida saw no point in staying any further. "I'm grateful for all of your presences despite the short notice. All of today's expenses shall be covered by yours truly. Au revoir~!" With that, the Gourmet waltzed out of the secluded room and into the lobby, where she was hastily cornered by the resident gun nut.

The Lady didn't even have the time to react when the esteemed leader of Ashwood Corporation went on a spiel about strapping contraptions on her eldritch form. Lady Frida blinked and stared at the other woman, almost in disbelief. First off, they weren't even in good terms yet! Second, she got two of her tentacles wrong in her sketch! The audacity! The Gourmet would typically pout and walk over her old friend for such audacity, but today's case appeared to be different.

Monika was currently painting a very brilliant picture with her words. The VSP has always considered the Ashwood Corporation as the best producer of weapons in all of Kaien. What would make their stellar firearms even better? Lady Frida, of course! "Monika, ma choupette, I must say that I'm liking what I'm hearing so far." She closed her eyes, imagining the chaos she could unleash if they were to make this a reality. "It's true that it'd be unfavorable for me to be personally handling the guns, hence, I propose that we mount people on my glorious form as well. In doing so, the responsibility of manning the weapons shall be shared among many."

The Gourmet slung an arm around Monika's shoulder and leaned closer, "You see, my dear, you've only seen an itty bitty portion of my true form." She raised a finger and repeatedly poked the tip of Monika's nose. "Turrets."

AI10100 AI10100
 

Colorless Spectrum

Always Blue

Quinn Victoria Ylva

She took the last bite-sized brownie by the tray before getting up on her seat. "Madam..." She heard Anzel say to which Quinn simply responded with a mischievous smile, fully knowing how disapproving he was of her eating sweets as of late. She sauntered over to the counter, all sunshine and rainbows around her, despite the fact that her idea for the Homunculi was more or less disregarded upon. It wasn't worth sulking over, besides there was something better for the morning. Free coffee.

"Miss Guanyu!" She called with a wide grin on her face, like that of a child. Placing an elbow at the surface to lean on, she said... "So, Miss Von Schafer's words were that everything served this morning was all hers to pay." Her voice sly, she's not really sure how the Matriarch of Agriculture would feel but that was what was said and she's not one to let such an opportunity pass.

Hopefully, Guanyu got the hint, she also had that order she told earlier before the breakfast party started. "In addition to the cake, I'll have an Iced Mocha Latte, two orders of pancake, a Mille-feuille, two custard-filled donuts, and a dozen pieces of those brookies bars." If someone asked her what she loves other than money, why it's a sweet pastry of course. Keeps her going throughout the day too.

She could feel Anzel fuming behind her, probably glaring over at Guanyu even when the poor woman was just doing her job. "Oh stop glaring and just sit tight over there like a good boy. I don't plan on eating all of this today so you won't have to worry if I'll get diabetes from this or not." She snarled to her butler, it doesn't stop him from pouting but he did refrain from glaring. "Ignore him, dear. Oh, may I have my Iced Mocha Latte now while I wait for the other orders?"

p.s. Dove said that Frida will be paying for all this

mention: . D O V E . D O V E || interaction: Ineptitude Ineptitude
 

LazyDaze

Senior Member



Sword Games with a Bowling Champ — Family Fun with Song and Erika Part 1

Feat: Ambiloquous Ambiloquous LazyDaze LazyDaze
Brief Mentions: The Crimson King The Crimson King . D O V E . D O V E Ineptitude Ineptitude

A recap of earlier events

Somehow in the commotion, she managed to take the seat beside Song — or he managed to take the seat beside her. This wasn’t in her calculations. She knew for a fact that the man didn’t have close ties to any parent but Monika, so why? Her question was soon answered. Erika’s facial muscles twitched minutely at Song’s mention of butter knives. So that was the reason behind such a choice; it was quite unlucky of Frida to bring up the matter and for her to respond with her true feelings, no matter how gratifying it was at the time.

“Yes…” Her eyes wandered slightly before she fixed it back on him and turned the brightness of her pearly whites up a notch. “A chat after all this is over.”



*Present day*

And now it was time for that chat to be had. The parents had finally ended their conference which left Song nothing to do until it was time for him to offer his sword for their cause. Originally, he had planned to ask Hanji a few more private questions before catching up to Erika; however, Hanji seemingly lost his way among all the parents filing out. (In reality Song simply took a wrong turn and wound up back in the downstairs lobby where he would find the fellow sword lover, Erika.)

“If it isn’t the bowling champ herself,” Song said. “If you’re looking for Hanji, I think he got lost on the way down. Sometimes I think something just isn’t quite right with that man,” Song said with a sigh as he shook his head. It was clear the poor man was deteriorating mentally before everyone’s eyes. The five o’clock shadow, the maniacal laughter, the outbursts, the self-directed monologues; it all pointed to his upcoming demise. “Anyway, Erika, seeing you has conveniently reminded me that we never were able to finish our conversation earlier. It’s strange, I never would have taken you for a knife savant.”

Erika stiffened minutely at the call of “bowling champ” — she felt like a hunter that had been creeping patiently away with her spoils, only to be interrupted by the call of some bumbling creature charging right for her. A creature ready to stab her with their pointy bits and trample over her remains before carefreely cavorting away like there would be no better pastime in the world. She fixed her expression into a “I’m listening and find the conversation very interesting” smile and turned around. “We do seem to be meeting a lot today. I wasn’t looking for Hanji, but it’s unfortunate to hear that his directional ability is quite… poor.”

Strange to say, she agreed with Song on his opinion of the man — the fact that he wasn’t “quite right”, that is. She had been 89.6% certain that the Fumikage head was facially challenged before the meeting, but now it was abundantly clear that he was not. It was impossible for her observations to have been wrong, so something must have changed between. She noted antidepressants or stimulants as a possible option and wondered if she had to give the man a discount if it really was the case.

At his mention of her nonexistent love of knives, she said with absolutely no sarcasm to be found in her tone, “What a coincidence! I would’ve never taken myself for a knife savant either.” She tapped the handle of her umbrella. “The only person I can think of who embodies ‘knife savant’ is you, actually.”

“Surely you jest,” Song said with a mild grin. He couldn’t help but give himself a mental pat on the back for using the “go to phrase” correctly when interacting with important persons. Those training sessions with Qiang were paying dividends even during ordinary conversations. “Humility suits you, but I have an eye for such talents and I’m certain you’re selling yourself short.”

Before Song could continue with the conversation he felt the eyes of someone resting upon them. The eyes of a murderer, the eyes of a cunning foe…the eyes of an annoying old man. “Oh, you actually managed to find someone as crazy as you,” Qiang said with an exasperated look on his face as he approached the parents. No, Qiang couldn’t hear the conversation from his previous position; however, the look on Erika’s face said it all. Prior to this, Qiang would have bet his future retirement funds on any woman fleeing at the sight of Song, let alone Erika. Qiang didn’t know her personally, but from what he could gather from rumors and appearances Song would be one of the last people on her list of friends, yet here she was fully invested in whatever nonsense Song was saying. “You must be Erika Böhler, I’m Qiang Xue…run while there’s still time,” Qiang said, whispering not so quietly at the end. This of course earned him a heavy handed slap on the back from Song.

“Ah Geezer Xue, this flower here happens to be quite adept with thorns, isn't that right Erika,” Song said proudly as he gestured for Erika to display her expertise.

Erika laughed evasively, her mind running at lightspeed. What did she know about knives? They were sharp, often made of metal, used to both spread butter and cut things from vegetables to human hearts. If not for the fact that the LOTUS patriarch was in front of her, she would have 100% agreed with Qiang. She was slightly flabbergasted to find a like-minded fellow in the same organization as Song Xue, but there were odder circumstances, she supposed. Unless… he was pretending to understand how his boss’ madness appeared to the wider world so that he could gain intel on her opinion of the infamous lotus-headed sword fanatic? Was it time for a leap in faith, or could she stay noncommittal to both sides?

Deciding for prudency, she tapped out the letters of “SOS” in morse code on her umbrella as she spoke. “Knives are such sleek weapons of simplicity, aren’t they? Their charm lies in their broad utility and elegant form, I believe.”

It was likely that those on the LOTUS leaderboard would have heightened senses of some form, so she anticipated some sort of response. If there was none, she could always try twisting her hair into the letters or trying for hand language — though perhaps they were a little too obvious. With Song Xue’s scatterbrained demeanor in public, there was a high chance that he didn’t understand morse code, but if he did, she could just say it was a habit. Definitely not a secret message, no.

Song’s initial smile remained plastered on his face while Qiang ceased nibbling on his toothpick and briefly halted his breathing. With every word that fell from Erika’s lips, Qiang became more certain in his conspiracy that the entirety of life was a simulation to test the capacity of the human will. This wasn’t some fabricated bullshit like Song’s invasion assertions earlier this morning…Erika…was really…Song’s friend? It was enough to make him tear his silver strands straight out of his head. Normally, Qiang would have been able to notice her unique patterned tapping, even now he considered it a bit quirky; however, he was so utterly flabbergasted by the current situation that the gears in his brain were unable to function properly. “You have to be kidding me,” Qiang muttered to himself.

“A beautiful response, I expect no less. She’s practically a Xue clan member in the making,” Song said as he gave a few comforting pats to Erika’s shoulder to appease her apparent nervousness.

Qiang stood silent for a few seconds before the gears would slowly begin to turn again. Qiang lived a life based on reason, logic and the ability to forecast the future based on those two evident truths of life; however, even for him, there were times where one had to throw away all of who you were to arrive at the truth when you had a misaligned gut feeling. In short…there was no fucking way. “Ah, what a pleasant surprise,” Qiang said with a deep chuckle. “Actually this is perfect timing. Song, tonight is a special night isn’t it?”

“Ah, I almost forgot,” Song said while pounding his fist into his palm. “It is a very important night for the Xue clan, a family tradition. Erika you should come to LOTUS HQ….post..hasstttee,” Song said while trying to read the lips of the not so subtle Qiang who was trying to fight against displaying the amusement creeping in his heart. “Anyway, we would be happy to have the bowling champ herself take place in the event.”

“Normally it is a Xue clan exclusive. It’s quite the honor to be invited to the Blizzard,” Qiang said with intentional vagueness. This time he was trying to gauge Erika’s reaction closely. Certainly there had to be something else here.

Erika turned her smile into an enthusiastic beam, as if to reflect her imaginary appreciation in being invited to what was surely a night of slashing and skewering horrors. Qiang Xue didn’t recognize her missive after all, and while she originally had the idea of sending out hand signals, she dismissed it immediately. There was a look in his eyes that was a tad suspicious, and she was starting to think he was testing her with the invitation. No matter; her precise control over her muscles and cells allowed her to react with the perfect body language for any occasion. He would never discover a single hair out of place if she chose not to show it — her every movement was impeccable.

“How could I say no to such a rare privilege? We’ll have a marvelous time together, I’m sure.” She clapped her hands together, affecting a guiltless joy.

“It’s the perfect excuse to take our mind off the upcoming invasion and magicon,” Song said.

“...Wait…the what?”

Commiserating with Qiang Xue for having such a leader and knowing Song Xue likely wouldn’t give a proper answer, Erika piped up, “Ah, Hanji announced an upcoming ‘invasion’ of the Mage’s Association at the breakfast meeting, and everyone decided that a MagiCon was the right way to go about it.” Erika tilted her head. “Not a real MagiCon though, it was simply a way to corral all the magi in the city to one place so that we could catch the Association when they invade the premises, unawares.”

Qiang couldn’t decide what was more jarring. Erika agreeing to a vague invitation by the infamous Xue clan with an even more infamous Song as it’s patriarch, or her casually explaining how Song was right all along with him nodding smuggly in the background. As he came to terms with his eventual death, Qiang slowly shifted between the glowing Erika, and the blade-brained, clueless Song. Erika. Song. Erika. Song. The beauty and the idiot, bonded by knives of all things. Yes this world was truly a simulation fabricated by some sick twisted mad man behind a computer; however, he wasn’t willing to concede…even if he had to live in a world where Song was smarter than him. “W…well, that’s good to know. You can be sure LOTUS will lend a sword should you need it.” Qiang really didn’t have the time, or energy to dissect the situation like he normally would since the current situation required his full attention. How on earth could this woman be so compliant? Hell, even the top brass of LOTUS made no qualms about expressing themselves when it came to Song. Everyone held the blade in high regard, but no one came close to the obsessive compulsion of Song. The likelihood that a random girl with a pretty smile would be the one to close that gap was unlikely, and Qiang was going to prove it. Who knows, maybe she secretly worked with this Mage Association and was planning to off Song due to his battle potential.

Well luckily for us, all the Xue clan members will be available for the Blizzard; in fact, when was the last time a Blizzard took place immediately after a Snowfall order,” Song said while looking up toward the ceiling for an answer.

“...Never, this will be the largest event to date,” Qiang said as his eyes purposely drifted toward Erika in an attempt to break that impenetrable glow coming off of her. However, his efforts would be fruitless; she was too strong.

“Champion Erika, the Blizzard will begin at 7:00 pm. Please be fashionably late.”

“It’s ‘don’t be late’ Song,” Qiang said while rubbing his temples.

“Right, don’t be late,...fashionably” Song said without missing a beat. With that said, Song took a few steps toward the upper room where the meeting was previously held before being casually pushed back by Qiang who had anticipated Song’s blunder.

“Wear something festive,” Qiang said with a smile before exiting the cafe with Song. From here on out, things were bound to get interesting.

“I’ll try my best.” Erika waved at them as they left, wondering what garments the LOTUS family included within the bounds of “festive”.

After their shadows disappeared down the street, she froze in sudden realization. She possessed no information on the “Blizzard” event, and she had allowed them to leave without asking a single question. How had she been dragged into their pace? She had been so confident in her poker smile, but curse that devious Qiang Xue, redirecting her attention to his boss’ frequent logical errors instead of the main topic at hand. It was now too late to change anything; she was really starting to lament her foolhardy state of mind. No. No lamenting. She would just have to do better later.

Stepping out into the cloud-covered sidewalk, she snapped the umbrella open as the sky started to cry. At least one decision of hers was correct today, she thought, eying the rose-patterned object in hand.


“...Cross the mountain, over the bridge and into the tunnel,” Qiang said while tying Song’s tie. Qiang was a few inches shorter than the Böhler matriarch so it was a little difficult, but no one else was available to babysit Song. He adjusted a few times like some overprotective mother before reluctantly pulling away. “I leave you alone for two seconds and you managed to get a date. They grow up so fast.”

“Shut it geezer,” Song retorted. “We simply share a deep respect for the sword.” He reached for his tie, but thought better of it when he saw Qiang wince the closer he was to touching it. Although he was inside his office he could feel the hustle and bustle of the Xue clan as they made preparations for the Blizzard. Perhaps it was the number of people that made this night feel different from the others. Literally everyone was present for the event, but Song couldn’t help but feel as if the unknown variable of another parent participating played a part in this atmosphere of anticipation. Even Song felt himself being struck by random bouts of nervousness. “Yeah suits are a lot better than the traditional attire. Why don’t we just burn the old stuff?”

“Because it’s old stuff. Ever heard of sentimental value?”

“No.”

“....Well…probably not, but still traditions are traditions. Not even a new parent can completely change history,” Qiang said. He couldn’t help but chuckle since Song seemingly did just that on a basis to frequent for his liking. As if to punctuate his statement Gaunyau The Fortress filled in the empty doorway, leaning down so they could see his face. The only problem was he was once again wearing his trademarked executioner's hood casually with his suit as if it was completely normal. Of course, no one within the top 10 found it off putting, but they weren’t a great baseline for normalcy in the first place.

“I think the Bowling Champ is here boss,” Gaunyau said in his rumbling voice. Qiang shot Gaunyau a disapproving look since he really should have known better. It was best to not let Song’s quirks become trends in the family, but his influence frequently made this a tougher task than need be. “Er…anyway, should we go meet her?”

“Yeah, go with Song. I’ll make sure all the preparations are complete,” Qiang said. It was true that preparations for the upcoming Blizzard were already in progress well before this morning; however, given the uniqueness of the current situation, Qiang made sure to make some…amendments. One such amendment was informing several members of Erika’s threat potential. Of course the Fortress himself was informed first and foremost since he usually served as Song’s bodyguard (as if he needed such a thing).

With one sheath of his trusted Angel’s Tear, Song nodded to Gaunyau before heading toward the entrance of LOTUS HQ. The walk was mostly silent, for that was how Song and Gaunyau often exchanged words. However when they finally reached the entrance, awaiting their guest of honor, Song broke their silent conversation. “I know Qiang doesn’t trust her,” Song said with a smile.

“Er…I wouldn’t say that. He…he…um…when did she win the bowling championship?”

“Nevermind that, I’ll prove him wrong. Erika’s one of us.”


Standing at the entrance to the glass LOTUS building and holding a large package wrapped in a charming fork-and-knife pattern — leftovers from sending Frida gifts for special occasions — Erika waited patiently for someone to receive her. She tugged on the bright red bow, fluffing the loops to be of equal width, and neatened her lime-green flare dress in the moments before Song and company arrived. It was both brightly coloured and could light up, so she assumed there was a considerable chance that it matched the LOTUS definition of festive. It wouldn’t do to break the event’s dress code, no matter how distasteful she might find the whole affair.

When she saw Song Xue walking over with a tall man wearing a pointed hood with two eye holes, she fixed her expression with an amiable smile. The sword-loving patriarch cleaned up nicely in a suit, which wasn’t a surprise with that lottery-winning face of his, and his partner in the black hood certainly had a memorable sense of fashion. She felt a little out of place in her glowing outfit, but showed none of it. She did, however, add another tick to her mental list of Qiang’s wrongdoings. She nodded at the two. “A fine evening, gentlemen.”

She turned to peer up at the hooded man. If she wasn’t who she was, she would have foreseen a crick in her neck later, but since her guardian was Yvo, she wasn’t at all troubled by the awkward height difference. Just in case though, she made herself six centimeters taller. “Lovely to meet you, I’m Erika. And who might you be?”

Song's eyes lit up at the sight of the premiere bowling champ (mostly because of her dress). To be frank, she seemed to be surreal; a candle appearing amongst the obsidian souls of the Xue clan. Despite Qiang’s attempts to confound the matriarch, if he were to witness her arrival even he would have to come to terms that the differences between her and the Xue family suited her. The guest of the hour was finally here. There was an awkward silence after Erika introduced herself, in part because Gaunyau was taking his time in processing the information presented to him, as was often the case. Without saying a word he turned toward Song who happened to be looking in his direction with a knowing smirk. Since Gaunyau had served as Song’s bodyguard since his induction as the Xue patriarch, the two knew each other so well that they could often have near telepathic conversations with only minor expressions and gestures. The two continued this silent dance of thoughts for the next few long seconds before they both turned toward Erika once again.

“Gaunyau says hi. Says you can just call him Fortress,” Song said dismissively. “My talkative friend also said you look absolutely stunning.” Gaunyau jerked his head toward a coy looking Song pretending to be innocent. “For what it’s worth, I would agree,” he whispered slyly. Song then made another gesture toward two of their less prominent members to bring Erika’s gift. In the blink of an eye, Song was in possession of a black scabbard, the sword sheathed harmlessly. “This here is a standard issue for Xue clan members. I hope it’s to your liking.”

“Oh, thank you!” She made the blood vessels in her cheeks dilate for a perfectly even blush, as people were wont to do after appearance-related flattery. “You’re all dressed dashingly as well, and I’m not saying so for etiquette’s sake.”

The compliment did quite a bit to soothe her skepticism of her attire, even if it was just courtesy — not that Song Xue seemed like one for following courtesy. Perhaps it was genuine after all. The curvature of her lips turned a little lighter. Or more likely, he meant it literally, which fit better with his portrayed personality. She couldn’t blame the two for being physically stunned. The LOTUS welcoming committee in all likelihood didn’t expect to see a bioluminescent dress today. And if they did, she could only applaud their foresight and prepare to fire a few employees.

Gingerly reaching out to grab the proffered sword while balancing her own present on her other hand, she contemplated the cheap rapier at her waist. Erika debated asking for a sword checking service, then decided it was fine to have two swords at once. In fact, it was probably recommended in a place like LOTUS headquarters, where every staff member was a blade enthusiast in some shape or form. Her tone was just the slightest bit dry as she said, “You shouldn’t have — what a wonderful gift.”

Holding out her left hand with the vaguely sword-shaped present, she added, “Of course, I have here a gift of my own. I hope you won’t mind the extra addition to your dinner table.”

Inside was a hastily put together gift, made feasible through the power of her mutating abilities. Her collaborations with Frida had resulted in interesting fruit, and fruit baskets were always a bland but safe choice for any respectable event. In a similar vein, she had tweaked a bouquet of dragon-pinapple fruits until they looked like a bundle of blunt blades pointing outwards. There was a 79.3% chance that the sword-like shape would cause the Blizzard participants to ignore the perfunctorily assembled contribution, but if not, she could still play off the edible bouquet as a personal preference.

“You’re too kind,” Song said as he reached for the gift graciously; however, Gaunyau took it upon himself to inspect the gift in his stead. The cautious words of Qiang echoed through the mind of the living fortress before he finally tore his eyes from Erika to inspect the gift. During this time Song could only offer a smile and a shrug. For as long as he had known the massive man, he had always taken a liking to his things, especially food. In reality, Song was just clueless to the sacrifices Gaunyau was actually making this entire time to make sure Song didn’t die. “I hope you’ll forgive me, I’ll have to unwrap this later. I wouldn’t want this to get damaged during the Blizzard,” Song said, snapping his fingers which prompted two grunts to take the package to a secure spot. Deep down, Song was buzzing with anticipation. If the gift wrapping held any weight, it was bound to be a pleasant surprise. Nevertheless, they were going to be late if they didn’t move now, plus there were so many things he wanted to show her, so many introductions, and so little time. “This way malady.” Song gave a slight bow while gesturing back toward the walkway Erika had traversed prior. This prompted Gaunyau to physically spin Song around so that he was actually pointing in the correct direction.

Erika widened her smile at the aptly named Fortress as he scrutinized her present, but let his actions be. Any parent with a brain wouldn’t be so obvious if they were attempting to assassinate another, but mayhap that was precisely what an enemy parent would count on in this situation. She tensed at the mention of damage, but relaxed soon after — her dress didn’t have pockets in the double digits for nothing. “Worry not, it’s yours now, not mine.”

Guards and participants lined the sable hallways as a sword fanatic, bowling champ, and mountain made their trek to the main lobby. It would have been difficult to distinguish between the guards and those participating in the Blizzard since the attire was mostly unchanged and both parties were carrying weapons. Many of these loitering clan members paid the trio no mind; that was at least until they did a double take after catching a glimpse of Erika’s subtle dress. Yes it was part of Qiang’s plan to somewhat embarrass the matriarch; however, this also made her easy to spot, easy to target. “I told Gaunyau to ditch the hood for this event, now they’re all looking this way,” Song said to Erika. He was obviously oblivious to the fact that a platinum haired outsider with a party dress was the reason for all the turning heads. When they reached the lobby, the even starting place, a young man with dark circles under his eyes was standing by the open entrance handing out blank cards although it looked as if he was half asleep…..dead? When he saw the trio, his eyes dilated just a bit before returning to normal. Song looked back to Erika after thinking that he should introduce Huizhong Xue, the only person on the leaderboard with a negative score, but decided it would probably be a waste.

Erika let out a fraudulent chuckle at Song’s mention of the black hood, but kept quiet on the fact that it was her own unique clothing that stood out like a pine tree in a field of dying weeds. Since their leader ignored the fact that the greeter(?) was half-asleep, she avoided asking why he was so. If it was insomnia, the Böhler company had the drugs to solve it, but alas, she was a guest today and was not here to advertise her wares.

“Take a card and then…*yawn*...a seat…or something…zzzzzzzzz….,” Huizhong said. Needless to say, he let them through.

“It should start soon,” Song started. “What do you think so far? Nervous yet?”

Studying the card handout, Erika noted the LOTUS symbol on the back and the blank face. At Song’s mention of nervousness, she pondered for a moment. Should she act the self-assured visitor or the anxious guest? She settled on a compromise. “Perhaps a little.” She mimed pinching salt. “After all, I’ve never been to a Blizzard before. What is it like?”

Song rubbed his chin thoughtfully while Fortress did his best to act out all of the activities included in the last Blizzard behind the clueless Patriarch. What would be the perfect way to accurately describe the event yet appease any concerns the Bowling Champ had? “How to describe it…like a runaway train…but fun!” 10 out of 10 response. Song stood there agreeing with himself for a few more seconds, happy with the analogy he came up with. “Let’s have a seat, it's about to start.” Before sitting he looked Erika up and down before raising an eyebrow. “I feel like you’re taller than I remember…..”

Her smile became a slightly more sincere at the pantomiming Fortress was performing in hopes of clearing her confusion — how oddly adorable and inconsistent with the atmosphere he gave off. Even if it didn’t quite help with the question, she gave it a score of 98/100 and ten seconds of gratified applause. Erika took a seat beside the LOTUS patriarch and ignored the comment on her height, brushing it away with her “that’s a secret” laugh.

Fortress walked away briefly to find a suitable chair…or couch for his large frame, the lights dimmed and the chatter lulled to a stop. Somewhere in an undisclosed room with innumerable monitors, a playful smile curled on Qiang’s lips as he cracked his knuckles before activating a few switches. “Let the games begin…”

Back in the main lobby a soft melody began to play, followed by an angelic voice as strobe lights danced around the onyx layout. In the midst of the music, the raucous cheers, and anticipation an energetic voice ripped through it all, “WELCOOOMMMME TO THE 54th BIANNUAL, TOTALLY NOT RANDOM, BLIZZARD GAMES!” All eyes shifted in the direction of the voice as a dark haired woman wearing a high slit blood red dress stood atop a descending platform. “I am your beautiful, charismatic, amazing, goddess-like, but definitely humble host Xiuyang. You are truly honored to have me.” Xiuyang gave a slight curtsey that was immediately followed by the loudest applause of the evening. Before we officially begin the Blizzard, our very own Song brought along a most interesting plus one. She’s a reigning matriarch and it says here that she is also a recent bowling champion! Please give a warm welcome to Erika the Bowling Champion!” The lights were dimmed, save for a single, deep blue light, that quietly beamed down on Erika. Song couldn’t help but gaze in awe. Perhaps it was Erika, or the dress she was wearing in the midst of the darkness, but her angelic aura resonated throughout the entire lobby. No one would have been shocked if anyone had mistaken her for an actual star that descended from the outside world. Everyone watched, and waited anxiously despite being unaware of what they were actually waiting for. “She…she looks just like the sword fairy,” Song said under his breath. Perhaps the others had overheard him, but voices sprinkling the name of Xue legend throughout the air started to crescendo in agreement. Some even started to move out their seats to get a glimpse of the character from their favorite childhood bedtime story. Xiuyang, however, urged her to do, or say anything. Everyone was watching her after all.

Erika stood up, slid her foot gracefully behind the other and dipped into an elegant curtsy — and in the process rearranged her smile into the one reserved for public occasions in front of unknown people. In cases like these, she, as the matriarch of a family, had to assert dominance. The Blizzard partakers could be compared to a pack of wild animals waiting for her to stumble on a loose rock; she needed to portray herself as a member of the group instead of the quarry. Projecting her voice to all corners of the atrium, she declared, “I hope we’ll have an enjoyable time tonight, yes?”

Once she was upright again, the bioluminescent algae dress darkened from her collar to her hems as if it were being extinguished by a wave of black drapes before reigniting itself in the swirling motion of azure swords clashing against each other. The moment a sword reigned supreme over the glowing carcasses of its brethren, she dimmed the dress until it appeared the same green as it was not a minute ago. It was an ostentatious show — and on a dress, no less — but one she believed would be received well if one considered the bold master of ceremonies. In the back of her mind, she noted the mention of a sword fairy and sat back down, thoughtful.

After Erika’s magnificent display, stillness roamed about the atrium. No one dared to move let alone speak. Even Song was at a loss for words. All it took was a single clap from Fortress to wake the senses of Erika’s newfound audience. Cheers, whistles, and even table slapping collided with one another while Xiuyang did her best to calm everyone down. Some even started to chant “Sword Fairy Erika” above the chaos. Song could only laugh at the turn of events. Even Qiang, who watched from afar, had to admit that the parents of Kaien were quite frightening, but that didn’t mean he was ready to concede the war.

“Okay, okay,” Xiuyang started. “Alright fellas settle down, we get it, Alllrigggghht! HEY, SHUT THE FUCK UP MAGGOTS!” Upon hearing Xiuyang eloquently ask them to cease, everyone sat down and stillness ruled yet again. “Ahem,” Xiuyang said while fixing a stray hair. “Thank you, now let’s get the games underway. Okay now that that’s out the way. Let’s go over the general rules for the event! No killing, but if you’re stupid enought to get killed on game night then it’s probably your fault! No parental powers Song, but Erika you’re our guest so feel free to use them! We’ll know if you’re cheating so don’t do it! We will be tracking points for each of the events. The one with the most points in the end wins! Last rule, you must swear on your life that I am more beautiful than any foreign matriarch….wait that isn’t a rule? Well it should be! Don’t tell me how to…oh okay we’ll get started. If you would all take out your cards.”

Everyone did as instructed, revealing that in the dark, the blank face of the playing cards showcased a unique glowing symbol. Song studied his card closely; it was a red hooded skull. Likely a symbol of death. If Erika was to look at hers, it was the same as Songs. “Some of you might have guessed it already, and you would be right. For the first time ever, this Blizzard will be a team event.” Xiuyang paused for effect then continued to speak above the rumbling of the crowd. “Each card has a corresponding match. The first game will be separated into two tasks.” At the snap of Xiuyang’s fingers, a holographic image displaying the layout of the LOTUS HQ appeared behind her. “The structure of these Blizzard games are a bit more innovative than what we have done in the past given our large number of participants. The marked rooms behind me will be stations for the first game. As you accrue points by playing in these games you will be allowed to move to higher floors by reaching the required amount of points to enter the other games. However, you can only play each game once. This means that there will be less participants as you ascend to the top floor. Furthermore, each floor will have an event known as “a floor game” to weed out participants. Floor games will be events that take place as you attempt to reach the actual game stations. The card you currently hold serves as a way for you to collect and track points that can be awarded by game masters. If you have any questions, too bad!”

The holographic image blinked away and Xiuyang ascended upward. However, her voice continued to echo through the various intercoms placed throughout the building. “The floor game is Match Match. Find your partner among all the participants and reach the first game station. The game will begin in 8…7…6..5…4…”

Song quickly surveyed the area before grabbing a butter knife from the table. “Get down,” he said calmly just before a loud siren sounded. This was quickly followed by the sounds of heavy footsteps and broken glass to which Song contributed by flipping over their table and taking a seat behind it. He took one peak around it then revealed his ‘reaper’ card to Erika. “What’s your card,” he said hurriedly.

Before Song had even finished his sentence, Erika had already ducked below the table, removed the glow off her dress and converted her skin to the shade of the unlit atrium. Camouflage wasn’t a feature frequently utilized in her line of duty, but it was useful in specific scenarios — scenarios such as playing a game she still didn’t quite understand the rules of in a glass-ceilinged hall on the invitation of a fellow parent that she definitely should have avoided. She eyed the card he had revealed; it was the same as hers, so she felt it was near 90.3% safe to show him her own. She flipped to show her skull symbol. “Same as yours.”

She inched a finger past the edge of the round table, skipped up the evolutionary branches to add a rudimentary eye with night vision to the tip and made sure it was attached to her nerves. It didn’t have particularly good sight, but it would do for her purpose. Focusing on the information from the new organ, she saw complete chaos beyond the table. Suited LOTUS members were fighting, running, rolling, stabbing and one lady was even swinging from the ceiling lights. Thinking for a bit, she heightened her vibration senses. “Should we be hiding, running or staying in place?”

Song placed his card back in his jacket pocket when Erika revealed that hers matched his by some odd stroke of luck. It was a little difficult to see her since it was dark, and Erika was blending in with the surroundings. “Well we found our matching cards. Now we just need to make our way to the first game station. Only problem is-,” before he could finish his statement a knife jutted out through the table, inches away from Song’s head. “That,” he said, pointing casually. “As long as it isn’t explicitly stated to be against the rules, anything goes. It’s a wonder how no one’s died…”

Erika raised an eyebrow at his nonchalant statement, sensing the person behind the table and reaching out with a microscopic appendage to tag them on the neck. Fiddling around with their genes, she changed their bone structure and composition before releasing them from her control. She wasn’t being especially malicious — as long as they didn’t move and took no impact, they would be physically fine. Probably. She too wondered how nobody had died yet. Gesturing at Song Xue’s suit, she asked, “Do you mind if I mutate you? I’ll only camouflage the colour of your skin, I promise.”

It was a very intimate request, but they were in the middle of a scene of carnage with people charging at their table, so she believed she had a little leeway when it came to mutation politesse.

As yet another clan member fell, this time by the hands…er bones, of Erika, Song took his time to consider Erika’s question. On one hand, he would much rather remain himself than not, but on the other hand, this would be a good chance to experience Erika’s power first hand. He had been watching her closely, but had been unable to ascertain the true extent of her powers. One thing was for certain, she was pretty versatile. “Sure, do your worst, but you’ll owe me one,” Song said with that innocent smile of his.

She blinked, beamed to cover up her emotions and immediately backtracked. Erika was not going to fall for whatever brain circuits she had went through to agree to his “conversation” that had somehow become a full-blown murder-happy game night. “Never mind that, I trust that you will do just fine on your own.”

One lengthy interaction with the sword patriarch was enough for a lifetime — she was 99.9% sure that he would ask her to do something ridiculous like “turn into a sword”, and what a travesty that would be — and she learned from her mistakes. Or at least, she tried to. It couldn’t be helped that the human brain was fundamentally flawed, and there were limits to the modifications she could make. Imagine being unable to feel happiness at all! That would be a great deal worse than a defective mind.

“Your faith in my abilities are appreciated,” Song said with a salute. While it was a missed opportunity to observe her powers, he felt as if it was better this way. Sword fanatic or not, Erika was not bound by their rules and customs; however, for Song it was a bit more complicated. This was a team event so no one would fault him for accepting her aid, but as the Xue clan patriarch relying on other worldly abilities would be setting a poor example.

Erasing her finger-eye from her list of active mutations, she reinforced her skull and shifted the position of her heart. Forming a camouflaged bone-plate shield on one arm and dipping her fingers into a pocket before creating claws on the other, she motioned towards the direction of the atrium’s exit. “On three?”

Song looked toward the exit then nodded, having already forgotten his prior opportunity to genetic evolution he began the countdown. “3…2…1!” Song displayed a superhuman burst toward the exit. Instinctively he avoided a few thrown objects before coming across two grunts in the midst of their own battle. Seeing them as a challenge to be overcome, despite the fearful look in their eyes, Song brandished his butter knife in his left hand in reverse grip. The pair of enemies turned allies nodded in agreement then charged toward Song. He made short work of the two, parrying the first’s blade before ducking below the sword of the other. Before rising up he swiped at the leg of the individual to his left to flip him over while uppercutting his partner all in one motion. The exit was in sight…just one problem…it was the entrance.

Erika was two shield bashes from the exit before she realized that the LOTUS patriarch was nowhere to be seen. She spun around and her smile froze as she noticed the man sprinting for the hall’s entrance — why? How? She didn’t know, and she didn’t really care to inquire at the moment. Taking a deep breath, she released her claws and condensed the muscles in her legs before shooting towards Song Xue like a pebble in a slingshot. The bone shield took a couple chips and received a long crack through the center but in the end held firm against the obstacles in her way. Seizing hold of the sword patriarch’s shoulder, she pasted on a patient smile and pointed to the actual exit. “It’s the other way.”

“Oh I found you, I was wondering where you were. The exits this way,” Song said ironically, unintentionally parroting Erika. Ah, poor innocent Erika, so helpless and clueless to her surroundings. In fact, Song was discovering that many of the parents struggled with their spatial orientation; however, he could probably chalk up her mistake to being unfamiliar with the area. The two parents were easily able to reach the exit and make it to the first game room. It was a far contrast to the dark lightless halls they had recently traversed. Some people were tending to minor injuries, others were holding conversations over snacks, and all seemed to be in an upbeat mood. Song tucked away his butter knife and surveyed the small group. There wasn’t anyone he immediately recognized which was technically a good thing. However, the competitive Song was a tad bit disappointed. There was a set of 30/20 (I'll decide later) empty chairs set in a circle in the room that was clearly outfitted for the games. “Looks like we have a bit of time before the next games. I have to say, you more than held your own out there,” Song said while grabbing an apple out of a fruit basket and taking a bite.

Erika scanned the chairs, noting the circular formation and the lighthearted attitude of the participants in the room. It reminded her of a sport she’d seen long ago, played by the younger children of her employees during the Böhler’s year-end party, but she was doubtful. It was a fairly obvious choice, if one put their mind to it. Her assumption might have been what the game organizer wanted them to think, and in actuality, the setup had no meaning at all. It was possible that the chairs were simply there to facilitate social interactions between Blizzard-goers instead of being an official part of the station — circles allowed for everyone to see each other and made for a feeling of closeness, she supposed.

Her shield disappeared and her skin reverted to its usual shade as Erika cocked her head in reply to Song’s statement. “I would hope so, being in the position I am. Your illuminating use of the butter knife did not fall behind the stories of your swordsmanship either, if we are trading compliments.”

“Sheesh you’re embarrassing me,” Song said, rubbing the back of his head. “I would be disrespecting my blade if I were to pull it out this early.”

This would have been when Song would turn to Qiang and gloat about being right, but he wasn’t there…physically. Qiang watched closely as he leaned into one of the monitors, tearing off a piece of taffy with his teeth. “I’ll admit…I didn’t think much of her upon first glance. It could have been a minor miscalculation letting her use her powers.” Qiang sighed as he leaned back in his seat then grinned. “They went through the northwest exit. Go ahead and meet them there. Make sure you put on a good show.

*back in the game room*

A large holographic screen popped up toward the front of the room once more, it was Xiuyang. “Hello famalam! Looks like those who are worthy to see me have gathered around. For that, you have been rewarded with this pre-recorded message of yours truly! Wait…this isn’t the reward? Why in the hell isn’t it? It should be…oh hell, whatever….Ahem….SO, the game for this room will be….drum roll please…drum roll please…WHERE THE HELL IS MY DRU….oh there it is. I forgot to press the squishy button *giggles* Musical chairs!” Xiuyang started clapping as the other present participants found themselves being dragged into her pace. Others had already started strategizing with their teammates while some who were inept in the game groaned loudly. The Blizzard games were as much about luck as it was about skills. “The rules are simple! There will be a set amount of chairs placed in a circle. When I tell you guys to begin, please begin walking in the marked perimeter while there is no music, but when the music starts…” Xiuyang snapped her fingers and posed in dramatic fashion. You may begin to put those butts in seats! If you miss out then you get kicked out!”

Indeed, the Böhler matriarch had been right in her original expectation. How clever, she thought, that the LOTUS event handlers had gone for reverse-reverse psychology! It was almost as if their planners had known exactly how her brain would think and gone one step further. The rumors of their muscle-headed-ness must have been greatly exaggerated. She paused. Unless there had been no reverse-reverse psychology all along, and they simply didn’t bother to hide the nature of the game for some reason or other. She had to admit that idea held more credibility than the reverse-reverse psychology one, unfortunate it was to accept.

At the end of her explanation the door to Song and Erika’s game room opened up once more followed by a strong, but short burst of wind. Song smiled when he saw a man with short hair and a scarf around his neck. His eyes were grey and there was a large horizontal scar spanning across his face at the bridge of his nose. “Yahzue, didn’t think I’d be seeing you this early.”

“Hmph,” Yahzue snorted before pointing towards Song; however, it was clear he was pointing behind him. Song shook his head when he realized what the burst of wind was. Yahzue’s partner, a person who was about an inch shorter than the current Erika, was stretching his legs as the music started to play.

“And Yanlin,” Song asked with a laugh. “Must be our lucky day Erika. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Yanlin lose in musical chairs.”

“Is that so? You will have to give us some tips; I have never played.” Erika smiled sweetly. It wasn’t a lie that she had never played, but she had seen enough of the chair-grabbing aggression shown by otherwise agreeable children that she knew the game would not be easy in a crowd of hotheaded fighting devotees.

“It’s true. Correct. Exact. I’ve never lost, or failed at the event of musical chairs. I think my record is 49-0? Why such a foreboding record I have no idea, but that is what it is. I look forward to getting my 50th win in this most important of games; however, I have to admit I am a little anxious to be facing two parents. That said, I can’t let my fans down. What fans you ask? I started a fan club last week to garner support in order to move up the leaderboard but I’m not sure it’s working. Speaking of working, I am happy to see that everyone is enjoying their time off after the Snowfall order from earlier. I think it was much needed since everyone had been doing their absolute best including myself. I guess you can be a great, superb, outstanding leader after all. That reminds me of something I read about….,” Yanlin said.

“What is he saying,” Song said as his confused look painted his face. Yahzue simply shrugged. No one ever truly understood Yanlin. He always sort of mumbled to himself.

Erika lifted her hands and shook her head to match the two confused swordsmen, concluding that hiding her hearing ability was better than showing it off right before a game. A simple game that looked to need no extraneous senses it might have been, but there was no telling what path would lead to victory until it happened. Yanlin’s speech was intriguing, and it did tell her something important — there were members of LOTUS who didn't believe that Song Xue was a good leader.

The monitor popped back on unexpectedly. This time it was Qiang. “There’s just one unexpected twist….” a faint repetitive beeping sound could be heard echoing throughout the room. The beeping sound would grow louder and faster before culminating in a minor explosion that destroyed all of the chairs save for one. “Only one team is getting out of this room, see you on the next floor.” The monitor blinked away and the music started to play. Trust Love (feat. Casey Lee Williams) by Jeff Williams with Lyrics

Songs eyes widened as if suddenly coming to a shocking conclusion. He was even seconds away from gasping although it went against his nature to do so. He would go on to utter something so absurdly late and unrelated even the narrator would have to take pause. “Wait…........................the Rhododendron (Rhodon) is a parent!?”

TO BE CONTINUED
 

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