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Fantasy Code: Feral

After some shuffling about, Barry finally managed to lure BB out of her game of hide and seek once everyone started heading out. The ride back wasn't much of a talking situation with all the discomfort physically and emotionally among many. Back at the hotel however, things were calming down. Sure, many agents were surly around but non with ill intent. BB was taking a large nap after all the commotion of today. He was surprised she had lasted so long to be honest. She is a burst of flame but no sustain. Still feeling some light headedness, he retired to the room so as to keep from all the noise while he preps BB a nice meal this time around rather than simple sugar water. He loaded it with more sap and nectar he had been saving up with his plants back at HQ. Though a little more viscous, it was surely a delectable food for a hummingbird. Tapping the bottom of his container, he let the last drips of the treat into something easier for her to drink from.
Walking over the the pillow he rested her on, she was snoring away. Barry couldn't help but smirk, even in sleep she is as loud as ever. His lips were held rose for seconds till they fell grim. This mission was a horrible failure and he wasn't even able to help. He wasn't able to protect her. Even if she was able to handle herself, part of him couldn't let that feeling go. The life choices weren't the best in the long run. It was always some form of violence. He sat down at the edge of the bed, hunched over and eyes coldly gazing the container of nectar. Oh how he wished he was back at the greenhouse without any of this. It would be better for the both of them no doubt.

He wished he knew if one of the criminal organizations were using this feral technology. Some dealings were going on since he left no doubt. No matter where he went or what he did, trouble was going to find him. Bringing the bottle closer to his face, looking through the soft pinkish orange.
"Stuck no matter what." He thought to himself sullenly. His head rotated to see the small bundle of feathers rising, some singed. He huffed bittersweet. Of all the problems he had, she wasn't a single one of them. She was saving him every day. Perhaps he was selfish in his mindset. Without her, what does he really have. Was he protecting this feeling, the get away, or her? He closed his eyes and turned away. Burying his head into a palm, he shook. Of course he was thinking of her. He just wants to know she is free and able to be herself, nothing more.

A quiet tapping of a beak cut his feelings off. He swung around to greet BB, but the pillow was empty. Troubled, he looked around.
"Barry, you think too loud!" A shrill hit right next to his ear.
Jumping up, he picked at his ear with a pained face.

"Oh yeah, sorry about that. You know, eventually it wont bother you after you lose your hearing too! It'll probably be from all that loud music! What else could possibly be the reason!" BB said swooping through the air and eyeing the bottle. Her eyes sparkled as she jetted down to his hand.
Rolling his eyes, Barry opens the container and lets her sip away before heading out the door to the lobby.


He looked around for the others only to find them at the bar or pool/Jacuzzi. He let BB make horrid noises of pleasure as she ate before making his way to the hot tub. He pulled up a chair but didn't find the urge to hop in himself. He set the nectar, as well as a sap covered BB, on the ground before opting to read a botanical book.
Wiping away some of the sap from her head, she looked up at Simon.
"How you holding up, Hunk man?" She questioned with what sounded like a mouth full of food.
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Simon sat back and let the warm water of the hot tub swirl around his aching muscles and tired limbs. As much as he wanted to keep pushing forward with the mission and trying to figure out the next step in stopping Feral, he knew until he was feeling a bit better he wouldn't be much help. Besides that, the pain med's that the doctor had given him were finally starting to kick in and Simon was feeling REALLY good. With his good eye closed, he settled into the curved porcelain of the hot tub slowly moving his legs over the jets that were set into the side to massage the bruised muscles.
A rustle of feathers Simon let the lid of his good eye open slightly to see Luness nestling in on the edge of the hot tub. Her comment about the hot tub put a satisfied grin on his face as he re-closed his eye.
"You ain't kidding. Next to a steam room, these things are the next best thing after a rough work out like today."
Simon took a deep breath in and let himself sink into the water a little more, his shoulders nearly completely covered now. He was beginning to relax so much now that he nearly missed the footsteps approaching the hot tub. When the water level didn't change and the voice of a small bird filled his ears, Simon knew BB and Berry had joined them. He chuckled at the sound of the little bird talking with her beak full before answering her.
"Honestly, I'm feeling pretty good at the moment. I'm sure once the pain med's wear off, my head is going to hurt like crazy. But for now, I'm good."
Simon lifted his hand out of the water, steam pouring off of the exposed skin as he gave BB a thumbs up to show his current contentment.
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Jimbo continued to sip on his scotch a little bit more as he mulled over the current mood at the bar. He was releaved when Beth joined them, giving him an out from his solitary foreboding of the current situation. Though, her subject of conversation only made his fear transfer to something different. He tightened his grip on the glass at the thought of another Mythic attack here in Singapore, and nearly broke the glass in his hand. It cracked sharply, the bartender sighing to himself before he walked over and switched the glass out for a new one. Jimbo, surprised by the glass looked up at the man who gave him a side glance of please don't break my stuff before returning to the other patrons at the bar. Jimbo sighed and tried to relax by sipping more scotch. He set it down and looked to Beth.
"While I don't doubt Totus' insight, something that he rarely seems to be wrong about, what makes him think that there going after a Mythic?"
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Amber regarded Jimbo thoughtfully. A silence came to sit between them for a few drawn-out moments.
"I'm not mad." She wasn't speaking about the lost weapons. "You were looking out for him. I don't think I can blame you for that."
She looked like she was about to say more but at that moment Beth approached and offered her owl's theory. Amber looked grim. "I think Totus is right. All the weapons we saw at the meeting were made for large targets, and made to subdue or capture."
She tried to hide the uneasiness that had crept into her heart. There was only one mythic that had been seen near here...and it had killed her team.
"We can't let them succeed."
Then Amber seemed to come out of her dark thoughts. "But, we're not doing anything tonight. Get some sleep. We can come up with our next move tomorrow."
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Alec hung back from following the others as they entered the hotel.
"Hey Alec? Hot tub? Huh? Huuuuh? Hot tub? Alec?" Duik was grinning, but his face fell when he saw his partner's serious expression.
"Not tonight D, but you go ahead. I'll catch you back at the room."
"Well, ok bruh." His memory still hadn't returned and Alec worried about how Duik would feel when it did.

Duik had come round to the hot tub outside and wasted no time slipping into it.
"Oooooh yeah. This is the best. Bubbly hot water, where you been all my life?"
He sat up on his haunches, balancing on the curved seat.
"Crazy night huh? I still don't remember what happened." He paused for a moment, looking a little sullen. "Hey uh...I..I didn't hurt anyone did I? When I was all crazy on that weird purple goop?"
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It wasn't an excuse. No matter how much the mantra unconsciously continued in her head practically frustrating Loahu all the same, it was the truth. The both of them were sparsely seen during the time their teammates were in the hospital waiting for their companions, animals and humans alike, to find out the results of the damage. Xiao Hui's mind went into over-drive at the time and she followed behind the rest of the doctors and nurses while Laohu stayed with the tech team to figure out exactly what caused their friends to go off the deep end. After countless hours, one-by-one, her friends were starting to regain conscious. But, no matter how much she wanted to see Simon, BB, Luness, and Duik, the ones on the opposite bond link made her feel uneasy even more. How could she comfort their leader Amber, much less Leandra and Alec?

Despite being through many rough encounters with the ferals, this experience seemed even worse. However, the more the Watch got involved with the ferals, the more grandeur of unease, discomfort, and pain continued to fall upon all of them. Xiao Hui wasn't sure if it was right to think, but it was how she felt. Better us than the world? What could she do about it? Run herself dry and continuously work without sleeping? Feeling? Well, that was her only option. She was useless, again.

Don't make promises you can't keep, rang through her head and Xiao Hui could only sigh as she stood in silence with Laohu. Laohu, on the other hand, could comfort Xiao Hui as much as he could before he knew it wasn't working. Get a grip rang through his mind towards his companion. But, no matter how tough he wanted to be on her, Laohu knew being insensitive could set off a ticking bomb that could very well end the last remaining composure Xiao Hui had.

"Our. . . friends," Xiao Hui slowly started, "Are they alright?"
A small, deep laugh-like sound escaped Laohu's mouth as he looked up, "You know I can't read their minds but . . . they're strong, if they weren't, they wouldn't be here, would they? Trust them and be patient." Laohu paused for a moment before sternly speaking, "Running away from your friends during their darkest moment isn't what friends do, Hui. Alone in darkness and the ferals win. But together, they can't stand a chance."

Xiao Hui could only swallow back a small sob before nodding. They needed her, she needed them. Shaking off her nerves, Xiao Hui let out a deep sigh while Laohu was thankful to get the vibrant orange color off his coat. He was finally back to his normal appearance and he never felt better but only if his partner would get it together. However, even if Laohu tried to be strong for the both of them and his friends, he knew that washing off the dirt and muck that occurred just a day ago, would take more than a shower to shake off the feeling of dread and the elephant in the room.

Once the elevator dinged to signal that they were on the first floor of the hotel, Xiao Hui could only pause in her steps. Laohu, on the other hand, trotted towards the man Hui had been avoiding most of the day. In her heart, Xiao Hui wasn't ready to see him and knew he had a lot on his mind, especially about Duik. Biting her lip, Xiao Hui tried to avoid eye contact as she made her way down and looked in the lobby. Lea.

With only as much as a "hello" in greeting Alec, Xiao Hui turned into the lobby, not meeting his gaze before approaching Leandra who was sitting at the table, staring into the window.

"Hey, stranger," Xiao Hui started, her voice quite small as she attempted a little wave, "Is this seat taken?"

On the other hand, Laohu paused for a moment before rubbing his head against Alec's leg in small comfort before stepping back, looking up at him, "Where are you off to? Not coming in? And Duik?"

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Beth hesitated before answering Jimbo, taking a long sip of water. Before she could, Amber spoke up. Beth gave a small nod.
"I think it was the net gun that caught his attention most. The Russ- well, it could supposedly stop a moving train. I don't think the Ferals are going into transportation, so the only other thing that would require that kind of power is.. catching a mythic. He thinks they wanted the canon to either scare one up, or to help subdue it."
Beth glanced at Amber again, and gave a solemn nod. She didn't want to say so, but the Ferals with a mythic sounded an awful lot like the end of the world.
But the next moment, Strong was coming out of it, and wishing them off to bed. Beth gave a small smile, and then glanced around.
Xiao had emerged again, and had gone to join Leandra, who was, for lack of a better world, pouting by the window. Past the window, she could see another small group of them near a hot tub. Simon was there, and seemed to be doing better. Luness was fluffing her feathers, and they had been joined by Duik, Barry, and little BB. She hadn't seen Manjano since he had come in- he must have gone up to rest, and for good reason.

Beth gave Amber and Jimbo a small nod, and then said, "I think I could dip my toes while I wait for my bird to come back. Have a good night." With that, she stood and walked out to join the hot tub group. Beth slipped her shoes and socks off, and pulled up the legs of her pants so she could sit and dangle her feet in up to her ankles. As she did, Duik was speaking.
Beth gave the others a glance, and then said softly, "Don't worry about it Duik. We had you," It wasn't exactly an answer, but.. well, he could wait until the morning, right? Or at least wait for Alec?
As she said it, she felt Totus growing closer. His presence was warm and happy, so he must have been well-fed and on his way back.
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Her vision began to blur, as she stopped focusing on the beach beyond. Just as she closed her eyes and let out a frustrated sigh, Leandra heard Xiao Hui’s voice. Her eyes snapped open and she looked away from the window to her best friend. She attempted to smile at her, but it came out strained. In a small voice, she replied, “All yours.”

Looking down at her hands, Leandra began anxiously fiddling with her fingers. Her hands were shaking and she furrowed her brows at this. She had no reason to be afraid right now, not even to be anxious, yet she could not keep her hands from shaking. Frowning, she tried to grip both hands together, but instead they began shaking together. A tear began rolling down her cheek as she bit her lip and let out a small frustrated whimper. She was normally the motivated twin, the happy one, always ready to lift someone up. Now she could not even lift herself up.


Luness stiffened when others began joining them at the hot tub. BB’s appearance made her shrink a little, but she forced herself to preen in order to avoid making her discomfort too obvious to the others. When Duik joined them and inquired about what happened, Luness slowly stopped preening. She looked at him while the others seemed to hestitate in responding. Luckily, Beth walked up to them and vaguely gave Duik a response. It did not directly answer his question, but perhaps it would satisfy him for now. Luness stared at Duik with a forlorn expression, understanding the pain and confusion with having amnesia regarding the incident. She had only heard about what she had done, but Luness did not know what Duik had done. Leandra had hit her head in the warehouse, but Luness did not know how it had happened. So much had happened in there, there were countless ways Leandra could have gotten injured. Leandra had not been the only member to leave injured, though. Beth had sprained her wrist and most everyone was sporting a new bruise here and there. If Duik had actually hurt anyone, it could have been any one of the teammembers.

Feeling as if she needed to try and soothe the concerned hyena, Luness added, “I believe nearly everyone is aching from whatever happened at the warehouse. None of us are too terribly injured and those of us worse off than the others will adapt and overcome their new obstacles in life. That’s what we’ve always done best: adapt and overcome. Do not fret, dear.” She did not feel the strength nor the motivation her words were meant to instill, but Luness hoped that Duik felt better in the end.
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Seeing her best friend in her current state broke her heart into pieces. Xiao Hui was never good at comforting others, much less, used to being so close to people. Laohu had been right. Friends don't leave each other to fight on their own, especially, a friend like Lea. But, the moment Xiao Hui's eyes locked eyes with Lea, Xiao Hui couldn't help but want to walk over to her or lean forward and give her a big hug. However, Xiao Hui was conflicted knowing that she didn't want to make a scene nor give Lea a hug when it wasn't asked. Xiao Hui knew all too well the meaning of boundary and space. But, since Lea hadn't ignored her nor pushed her away, Xiao Hui took the chance and scooted the chair back across from Lea and slowly sat down.

Silence passed for a second but Xiao Hui heard a small whimper from Lea as a small tear also fell down her cheeks. Xiao Hui's gaze softened as she reached into her pocket and extended a handkerchief. "It isn't much." She started before turning her attention towards the window. "Lea. . . I can't pretend to know what is going through your heart or mind, but, you aren't alone." Xiao Hui softly spoke, reassuring her before making direct eye contact with Lea, the vibrant and kind-hearted soul.

"If you don't mind speaking, or me asking, how did you and Luness meet? I don't think I heard that story, yet. A story for a story?" Xiao Hui tilted her head to the side, sending a small smile. "How about over some tea? I can brew us some. I'm sure the hotel is quite extravagant enough to have all the materials needed." She finished, giving a small wink at her friend.

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Hearing Xiao Hui sit down brought Leandra out of her thoughts and she glanced up when her best friend began speaking to her. Taking a deep breath, Leandra accepted Xiao Hui’s handkerchief and wiped away the tears from her eyes as well as the lone escapee from her cheek. She smiled softly at the gesture and listened intently when Xiao Hui looked her in the eyes. It was more of a comfort than Xiao Hui might have understood to remind Leandra that she was not alone. Feeling so disconnected from her companion had left a growing hole in her heart, but it seemed to stop growing when she realized she still had Xiao Hui. The many memories they had created together the past year began to slowly cycle through Leandra’s mind and she felt a creeping warmth wash over her.

Her walk down memory lane was interrupted when Xiao Hui inquired about when she had first met Luness. Leandra could not resist flinching at the thought of it, as it had not been a fond memory in terms of why Luness had felt so compelled to swoop in. Still, Leandra would not keep secrets from her best friend and was certainly a bit keen to learn more about how Xiao Hui and Laohu had first met. Inhaling and then exhaling, Leandra said softly, “We did not meet on the...best of terms. Not in the sense that we clashed, but more so in the sense that I was in danger and she...well...she saved my life.” Smiling again, Leandra sniffled before she continued, “My brother and I were going to school one day and he had already bonded with Falarion at this point, but I had yet to bond with Luness. Honestly, before I met her, I never believed in any mythical creatures or beasts truly existing in this world. They were the things of fantasy and movies, not real life. Yet, Luness came to life that day and proved me wrong.”

Glancing down at her hands, Leandra was oblivious to the fact that they had stopped shaking and still clenched them together. “There were these bullies at the school that always picked on us for being albinos. Back then, we hadn’t considered dyeing our hair and getting colored eye contacts to fit in, we just accepted our fate. So, these bullies decided to pick on us again, but they caught us off-guard and off the school grounds. One boy had an eagle companion and the older one had a...wolf.” She whispered the last word, tears threatening in her eyes, but she wiped them away with Xiao Hui’s handkerchief. Clearing her throat, she continued, “Falarion tried so hard to protect us, but Manjano got scared because the wolf was overpowering Falarion. When Manjano rushed forward to protect Falarion, the wolf backed off. But the eagle did not.” Abruptly, Leandra realized that Manjano had likely not shared his half-blindness with anyone yet and she highly doubted Falarion had shared his own disability. Hesitating, she then continued, “Um, while they were being attacked, I failed to notice the wolf sneaking up to flank me. I didn’t have a companion yet and I didn’t know how to fight or defend myself. I was...helpless. He cut my back so deeply that I fell down and couldn’t move because of how much pain I was in. I could see blood coming from behind me and I honestly believed I was going to die.” Leandra’s eyes became distant as she added, “Then she was there. A blinding light racing down from the heavens, or so it felt. She screamed a fury and anguish I had never imagined hearing from a bird before and then suddenly the wolf was yelping, running away from me...on fire. The bullies backed off then and Luness landed in front of me, looking down at me in such a curious and concerned manner that I felt like I was looking at a human. She wasn’t able to heal my wounds completely or hide the scars, but her tears alleviated the some of the pain.”

Sighing, Leandra looked up at Xiao Hui now and said softly, “It took me months to finally learn how to walk again after I had to get back surgery. Throughout all of the physical therapy and pain, Luness was there with me and encouraging me no matter how much I wanted to give up on myself.” Pausing, Leandra added in a whisper, “She’s the mum I never had.”

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Simon continued to relaxed as he felt the water rise slightly higher as Duik crawled into the hot tub. He lifted the lid of his good eye and watched the Hyena with a smile, he was really glad to see Duik back to his usual self. He silently agreed with him about the waters relaxing properties. But when he began to ask about the warehouse incident, Simon's smile faded slightly and he looked a little more apprehensive. He lifted his torso out of the water and let his arms rest on the sides, more steam poring off of his exposed skin. Before he could respond to Duik, Beth joined the small group in the relaxing waters. She and Luness beat Simon to the punch at consoling Duik over the incidents that happened in the warehouse. Though, Simon couldn't help but notice neither of them really answered Duik's question out right. With his own attack on Duik weighting on his chest, Simon sighed and gave Duik a reassuring smile.
"Everything is still pretty hazy for me Duik, but I do remember that before I started blacking out, I had to uh......well.........punch for a lack of a better term, you off of Leandra. I don't think you did any damage though! But I have been meaning to apologies for that Duik. It was not my best thought out plan, and it costed me this time. Not to mention, I am not sure if I did any damage to you by punching you in the side. I hope you are ok, and will forgive me for that."

Jimbo wasn't sure if it was the scotch or what Amber had said to him that finally loosened the knot in his chest. After a few thoughtful moments, he realized it was a good combination of both. He looked at Amber and gave her smile, before Beth and her were discussing what Jimbo had feared ever since they had received this mission. Jimbo swiveled in his chair to face the two, holding his glass in his hand so he could swirl it around the single spherical ice cube that rested at the bottom of the glass.
"During our first mission to Singapore, we were just report to disturbances of a large animal causing trouble tot he beach front properties. This was before FERAL ever showed their ugly mugs, or at least, before I knew anything about FERAL."
He gave Amber a sideways glance. There were still holes in the SIngapore mission that the agency was keeping to themselves. Purhaps she had learned more about it since she had been around Darcy and the other higher ups longer. But it was doubtful that she would let anything slip if she had, and Jimbo knew that. Still, he took another sip of his scotch and then rested it on the table before continuing.
"I agree with Totus, there's no other reason for FERAL to need such heavy hitting equipment if they weren't going to try and hit something big. The Merlion is a big catch, so it would only make since that they would need something to hit it hard with. But there's just something I can't quite get my mind wrapped around. Last time, we went into this blind. Even with the resources that The Watch has, we had no idea what we were up against. The Merlion is THAT elusive. Hell, no one has seen the beast since it was last here. But it almost feels like FERAL is going in after this thing knowing what they are up against. My question is, how?"

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BB made a twirl at Simon's response. It was nice to see he still had that bit of charm to him after everything. Not too long after, Duik joined in as well as Beth. Things seemed to finally calm with the events of the past. Though, most everyone still had the goo on their minds.
"Aww come on guys, no need to think about that stuff anymore. Y'all have felt bad enough for actions you didn't even know you did. Just chill out, have a drink, rent a movie. Honestly, I bet the scientists are already making an anti goo so we can't go feral again. Just stay away from pudding and jello for a day and you'll be right as rain." The small bird said as she lounged at the rim of her bottle and began cleaning herself from the mess she made. "I bet a hundo I would have taken you all down tho if I got gooped on. Guess we will never find out though."
Behind his book, Barry rolled his eyes before leaning over to bop her on the head lightly. She turned, mouth agape, to meet a smug grin on his face. "Right, you don't count, you weren't their!" She yelled throwing her wings up.

Annoyed, she jumped off her bottle, hopping to the other end of the hot tub where luness was. Pouting, she began cleaning herself off again. "Ugh, men. Anyway, how long do you clean for? Like, your feathers are absolutely to die for. Have I mentioned that to you? I Mostly just do a spot check but I bet you do something like a hundred brush strokes method. To be honest though, I like the bed head look. It suits me more! I bet people have wanted to say 'how long did it take you to get that look?' And I go 'Oh this? I woke up like that.' and be all smug about it. A power move really." She perked up suddenly counting them everyone around. "Hey Beth, were is my enabler of dangerous tasks? He doesn't seem like the drinking type. I wanna compare feathers! I demand more feathers!"
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Beth glanced at Luness as she spoke, and then looked at Simon. The young woman tucked a loose section of hair behind her ear, and swirled her ankles through the water. After Simon apologized, Beth added softly, "That whole thing was just.. nuts. I'm just glad we got everyone out." A bit of darkness fell over her face, until blessed little BB spoke up.
She couldn't hep but smile as the little bird chattered away encouragement. If any one of them was an optimist, it was BB. It truly impressed Beth how the hummingbird kept a good attitude, even in situations like this. There was a smile on her face at the end of BB's little speech, and it stayed as she felt Totus above her somewhere, looking for her.

When BB began to demand Totus, Beth gave a soft laugh. "He went out for some dinner, but he's actually-"
"Right here," Totus finished his sentence from above them, as he circled down to them on silent wings. He landed near the other birds, and almost immediately began preening. His feathers, especially his legs and chest, were streaked with city dirt.
"I really don't enjoy city-dwelling. What possesses humans to cluster so closely all the time?" He grumbled, but Beth could feel that he wasn't in a bad mood at all. He just felt the need to say this after nearly ever hunting trip in a city.
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A smile made way towards her lips as Xiao Hui felt her tense muscles relaxing for a moment when Lea took her handkerchief. But, her nerves settled in once more when she noticed Lea flinched slightly when she inquired about how she and Luness first met. Xiao Hui could only wonder if Luness and Lea's first memories together would make her withdraw into herself even more. She couldn't imagine the thoughts and emotions surfacing through her best friend at the moment, however, Xiao Hui could only hope that her being with her right now reassured her everything was going to be okay and only time would tell. All the memories from the past year and their mission brought not only them, but the team closer than ever through good and bad. Xiao Hui felt that couldn't be easily erased.

Nevertheless, Xiao Hui remained patient, waiting for when Lea was ready to talk. And not a moment sooner, Lea started from the beginning and Xiao Hui gave her her full attention. With a small nod, Xiao Hui listened to Lea's explanation and smiled softly hearing that their first encounter was similar to both her and Laohu's aside from Laohu being a mythical. Saved her life? Another encounter they have in common and Xiao Hui couldn't help but tilt her head in wonder but also slight concern knowing that both Lea and Majano's past weren't as beautiful either.

But, as Lea continued her story, Xiao Hui resisted the urge to clench her fist that were under the table, hearing about the blatant prejudice due to their difference in hair and eye colour. Xiao Hui found herself slowly getting angry and perhaps even sorrowful as Xiao Hui found it hard to swallow watching her best friend unravel before her eyes. However, Xiao Hui also saw bravery and strength in the woman before her and a sense of pride filled her being. Although Xiao Hui found herself seeing both the twins in a new light, it was newfound respect for them, they survived through the obstacles thrown at them and Xiao Hui couldn't be even more thankful for both Falarion and Luness. To her, it seems that no human and no animal are complete without each other: the bonding and perhaps that's the call and "heartstrings".

At the end of Lea's story, Xiao Hui empathized greatly with her. It wasn't until Lea was finished whispered that Luness was the mum she never had did Xiao Hui realise there were tears in her eyes. Her heart ached as she couldn't imagine the horror and trauma all of them had to face, fighting against each other when it wasn't warranted. Biting her lips, Xiao Hui nodded, taking a deep breath as she reached up to swipe away a small tear at the corner of her eye.

"I'm glad," Xiao Hui said just above a whisper, "that Luness came in time and that all four of you survived."

With a small nod, Xiao Hui got up from her seat and slowly scooted her chair next to Lea's, closing the distance between them as she placed a small hand over Lea's hand, sitting back in her seat. "Thank you, all of you, for enduring and finding your way to the Watch because I'm grateful to have met you."

"Even from the beginning, Luness would never do anything to hurt you, Lea. Not only is she your animal companion, but, you said yourself who she was and what she means to you and that can never break." Xiao Hui started, before pausing for a moment, "The silence between the both of you right now is discouraging. You are only going to hurt yourself even more by doing this, Lea. Whether you need or want to hear this right now, it is as clear as day that you both need and rely on each other because like Laohu and I, he is a part of me and I am a part of him, better together. Like partners, he watches for my blindsides and I for him. But, like a brother, father, mentor, guardian, he would never do anything that I would not want, trusting him me. And the same with me for him."

Clearing her throat, Xiao Hui took a deep breath,"Do you remember Gigi and her partner? The misunderstanding between them? Although the situations are different between the four of you, if only by a little Lea, please meet Luness halfway. I can't say that everything will instantly heal, however, there's no rush to start from the beginning again. Take your time and go at your own pace. Please," Xiao Hui whispered, "talk to each other. Let her know exactly where you stand and both of you can slowly move forward. And I'll be here to encourage you."

At that, Xiao Hui remained quiet, hoping her words sinked in and she hoped Lea didn't think she was pressuring her into doing anything she didn't want. But, Xiao Hui knew. . . this . . whatever it was, couldn't continue.

Extending her hand towards Lea, Xiao Hui nodded her head towards her hands, "Lea, do you trust me? Will you steadily open your heart again and take babysteps with her?"

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Hearing Xiao Hui’s quiet reaction, Leandra smiled softly and nodded in response. It had been the perfect timing that Leandra had never expected to occur in her life. She still often wondered who her real mum was and what she was like, but she did not necessarily want to pursue the curiosity. She had only ever heard bad things about her biological parents and it seemed logical for her to simply move on with her life.

When Xiao Hui scooted closer and placed a hand on hers, Leandra hesitated a moment and then relaxed again. Xiao Hui’s comment made her pause before she said, “I am definitely grateful to have met you and Laohu. Getting to know you over the past year and being taught to better defend myself is something I am extremely appreciative of.” Sighing, she continued, “That was something I refused to be after the incident - defenseless.”

Leandra glanced down at her hands with Xiao Hui’s on top and smiled again. Listening to Xiao Hui, Leandra realized she was right. What Luness had done was beyond her own control. She had been forced to act that way, she had not done so intently. Luness was not a monster. She was a mother. A sister. Her best friend. Her companion. Nothing could ever change that. Xiao Hui was right again when she mentioned how Leandra was hurting herself. It really was as if she were punishing herself and not just Luness. It was agonizing to ignore her companion when she was so close to her and yet so far away. Leandra had created the distance herself, though. Luness had reached out to her afterwards and Leandra had pushed her away in fear. Yet she knew that Luness could warm her and eliminate that fear with ease. Leandra just had to let her in again. Luness was always there for Leandra and while she had not admitted it out loud, she had felt an agonizing ache in her heart when she had simply gone to clean up by herself. She did not like to be alone. Not after Luness saved her.

At the mention of Gigi, Leandra blinked out of her thoughts and grinned because Gigi always made her think of Falarion. She was not certain if he had kept up with Gigi through video chatting over the past year, but she knew he had been pretty devastated when the two had to go their own ways. At the mention of trying again, Leandra nodded and replied softly, “I know. I’ve just been avoiding her since it happened because of how afraid I’ve been. I just have never seen such intense violence except for when those bullies attacked me years ago. I felt like I was going back in time to a dark place I never wanted to visit again. But you’re right. She misses me and I’m hurting her just as much as I am hurting myself in this situation.”

Hearing Xiao Hui’s questions, Leandra laughed quietly and said, “You know I trust you with my life, Xiao Hui. That shouldn’t even be a question.” Exhaling, she took Xiao Hui’s hand and added, “I will try. I promise.”

After a moment, Leandra took her hands back and then looked into Xiao Hui’s eyes with a widening smile, “Well, now you owe me a story, Xiao Hui. Please tell me how you met Laohu.”

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Alec didn't know how to feel when he caught sight of Xiao coming down the hall. She gave him a tiny greeting, which he didn't answer. He was ready to be angry, but when he saw her face that anger melted. She obviously felt terrible about what had happened. Not that it was her fault. It wasn't anyone's fault, or maybe it was his, for chasing that damned truck right into upturning. He chastised himself. Duik was ok. Everyone was miraculously ok, or would be with some rest. At any rate, Xiao wasn't ready to speak to him and he let it go, turning instead to the tiger.
"I'm going to turn in early. A lot happened tonight...still trying to process it. Duik doesn't remember. I hope it stays that way. He doesn't need that burden."
He turned to go. "You should join the others, I think they'd like your company."
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Duik gave Beth a look of concern as he cocked his head to the side. "Are you being vague on purpose?"
The phoenix spoke next and only then did Duik notice: "Oh man, your wing! Are you ok? That looks bad."
He listened to Simon, "is that why my side aches?" Then his face fell, "wait, what? You had to pull me off Leandra?!"
The hyena began to look panicked. "Oh God...did I hurt her? Geez...I gotta go apologize." He made to leave the water, and then realized he would be soaking the lobby if he tried. He looked back at them helplessly. "Can...someone help me dry off?"
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Amber met Jimbo's eyes with a knitted brow. There was genuine concern there. "I've been asking myself that very same question. The intel we gathered on that thing was sealed away behind the top securities. Only the highest members of the Watch have access to it...them, and the survivors of the attack...we need to be careful. If they have that intel who knows what else they have."
She drew in a deep breath. "We won't solve it tonight though. You should take Simon and go get some rest. Something tells me we'll have a lot of leg work tomorrow, and I have a report to send before then."
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Luness winced at Duik's realization that they all were indeed being rather vague and she tried to give him another reassuring smile. She felt like smiling with a beak did not quite look the way she hoped it did, though. She would have to do it in front of a mirror at some point and make sure she was not looking weird or perhaps even frightening. Although, if that were the case, she felt as if someone would have surely said something to her by now.

When Duik noticed her bandaged wing and inquired about it, Luness' smile faded and she ducked her head for a moment. The hyena was quick to jump from one subject to the next, though, and she had little time to actually respond. Instead, she looked sideways at her own wing and had to resist the urge to try and move it at all. They had done their best to try to keep it against her body and still, but it could be so hard sometimes to not move it at all. It was instinctual after all, and no bird enjoyed being grounded. Now she had to hop around everywhere and she was beginning to understand just how frustrating moving on land must be for penguins. At least she did not waddle like one.

Hearing Simon mention punching Duik off Leandra, Luness gasped and then felt a twinge of sympathy for Duik when he scrambled out of the hot tub to go and apologize to Leandra. Perhaps he would have better luck than she had. More than anything, she wanted to be with Leandra and comforting her. In doing so, Luness was always comforting herself as well. Now Luness just felt disconnected and very much alone despite being surrounded by friends. She just did not understand how to reconnect with Leandra.

Duik's request brought a smile back to Luness and she hopped over to him before saying, "Don't worry, dear, I hear that I make a very fine blow dryer when one is in need of a quick dry." And with that, she began to glow a mellow orange, her heat radiating from her body into Duik's. Closing her eyes, Luness began humming softly, temporarily forgetting where she was. In her mind, she saw herself in Leandra's bedroom back in Australia, standing on Leandra's bed while she was laughing and dancing about the room. Luness was trying to get her to sit still so she could help dry Leandra's hair, but she could not stop moving because she had just gotten the letter for their first mission with the Watch. Leandra was ecstatic and her energy was uncontainable. Luness missed that energy.

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Jimbo listened to Amber as he finished off the rest of his scotch. As the bar tender made to refill it, Jimbo waved his hand at him signifying he was done. He didn't feel like getting blistered tonight, especially after the conversation he and Amber had just had. He needed to be able to think without the edge of the day, and he had reached that blissful threshold with the drinks he had.
He let out a sigh and the rubbed at his furry temples as Amber finished. There was something about this whole situation that he didn't like and it was obvious that Amber did not like it either. Whether Simon had even gotten this far in the line of thought, he wasn't sure of. even more so with him doped up on pain meds, which he could begin to feel leaking over to his own thoughts as Simon relaxed outside. At the mention of Simon, Jimbo turned to find him still in the hot tub with Duik, Beth, Luness, BB, and Berry sitting on the side lines. HE noticed Duik struggling to get out and began to hop down from the bar stool to see what was going on and retrieve Simon. Before walking outside, Jimbo stopped and gave Amber a half smile.
"Thanks Amber, for everything. Especially today. You know just as well as I do that he's a giant idiot. But I.........you did what I couldn't at the warehouse, and for that, I owe you a lot. And so does he."

Not wanting things to become awkward, and having said what he needed, Jimbo lumbered towards the door to the deck and pushed it to open. He made his way over to the tub, sidling up to Berry as his eyes met Simons. Jimbo gave Simon a nod towards the hotel and Simon nodded back. Still in his briefs, Simon pushed himself out of the hot tub and over to the side where Duik was. He tried not to laugh at the image of a Hyena stuck in a hot tub as he placed a hand on Duiks shoulder blade.
"Here, I'll help you out."
Being careful not to put to much pressure on Duiks side where he had hit him, Simon helped Duik get out of the hot tub, where Jimbo was waiting with a fresh towel from a trolley parked beside the tub. Simon too, climbed out of the tub and wrapped himself in a towel. Jimbo looked over everyone in the tube and gave them a smile.
"Simon and I are clocking out for the night. Hope everyone has a good nights rest. I think we've all earned it."
Simon bent down and scooped up his cloths, and then gave the others a goodnight and a wave before he and Jimbo headed back inside. Simon glanced over at the bar where Amber sat, and gave her a wave goodnight as well. Jimbo was climbing onto the elevator with Simon when he finally spoke to him.
"You know you owe her right? Like big time. We both do."

Simon only let out a sigh as he leaned on the back of the elevator and closed his good eye. The elevator took them to the 15th floor and chimed for them to step out. The hotel hallways were nice, but the pair couldn't help but think only of a soft bed until they reached their room. Simon fished the key out of his jeans and opened the door for Jimbo who barely fit in the door frame. Simon immediately headed for his bed, flopping down onto it after changing into some pj bottoms. With the conversation with Amber still fresh in his mind, Jimbo walked over to the window to pull the blinds. He gave Singapore one last look, which was highlighted by thousands of dots of lights from the nightlife below them. Every now and then one of the lights would blip out of existence as a night bird would fly over the city hunting rats or whatever else was daring enough to try and find sustenance in the street below. Jimbo pulled the curtain behind him and climbed into his own bed beside Simon, who was already snoring loudly.

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Totus glanced over at Beth as Duike spoke, but she gave him a small shake of her head. As Luness dried him, she said, "Leandra is a little banged up like the rest of us, but she's alright." Beth spared Luness a glance and added, "I don't think she's hung up on it, Duik."
Beth had an inkling that it might be better to leave Leandra alone entirely, but stopped herself from saying much more. Totus sent her a few happy images, which left her reassured that Leandra would probably at least be kind to Duik.
Simon hopped out as well, now that Jimbo had come to retrieve him, and Beth gave them both a small, placid wave as they went. She waited a few moments, just so they wouldn't have to walk together, and then stood as well.
"Well, now that I have my bird, I think I'll head up, too." She gave the remainder a wave, and patted Barry on the shoulder as she passed. "Goodnight everyone."

Totus watched Beth walk for a moment, and then leaned over to Luness.
"I um.. well, I overheard a few things, here and there. If you need a room to sleep in tonight, you can join Beth and I, no questions asked," The owl whispered. There was a flash of a memory, of a rooftop where he told the phoenix a childhood story. That seemed so, so long ago. He gave a tiny bob of his head, and then leaned away. He lifted into the sky, and added, "Goodnight, all," as he flew into the hotel behind Beth.
The owl landed on her shoulder, and nibbled her ear affectionately. "Should we check on Manjano before bed?" There was no teasing in his voice this time.
Beth blinked in surprise, and then whispered, "Um.. no, I think he's probably already asleep. Painkillers and all. We can stop by in the morning, maybe."
Totus just gave a nod, as the elevator slid shut around them, and left it at that.
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Duik grinned gratefully as Simon helped him climb up the slippery side and Luness dried his fur with tender attention.
"You guys are the best." He said in earnest. "Hey, if I son't catch you later tonight, we should all do breakfast together! I saw them wheeling in the supplies when I was in the kitchen earlier today. They have a mountain of fresh fruit, and those tiny little breakfast sausages," Duik held up his paws to indicate the rough size between them, "The ones that are cooked with honey. Man I could eat a cartload of those!"
He got up and turned to go. "Thanks guys! Peace!"
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Duik made his way into the corridor, but he didn't see Leandra right away, it was Alec, looking slightly more broody than he usually did. Duik could tell instantly through their link that he'd taken the events of the night much harder.
Simon and Jimbo passed them and Duik caught the dark glare Alex fixed on the larger man's back.
"Hey Alec, um, have you seen Leandra?"
His scowl softened at that. "I think whatever needs to be said, it should wait for tomorrow."
Duik made a face, the conflict apparent in his hazel eyes. Alec wasn't in a good space, he felt torn.
"Yeah, maybe...ok."
With one regretful glance in the direction of the two girls, Duik followed his partner to the elevator.


The next morning Duik was feeling much better. Alec had still been frowning when he woke up up Duik's usual brightness and his goofy jokes managed to drag him out of his dour mood.
Amber was already there when they made their way to the dining area, sitting at a round table with her phone. She looked like she was concentrating hard on whatever the screen showed her. Calista, it seemed, hadn't come down yet.
"Hey Alec." Duik prodded his side with a paw. "Can I get an order of those sausages while we wait for people to come down?"
Alec looked up at the ceiling in mock exasperation. "Yes. That's all you'll be eating for breakfast anyway isn't it?"
"No!" Duik exclaimed as if he'd been insulted. "I haven't tried pandan yet! Theres a lot on this menu that I wanna try. I feel like we haven't really gotten the chance to explore yet. I really hope we have at least a little time. I wanna go shopping downtown."
"You're not wrong," Alec sighed. The idea of taking a break sounded wonderful, but with what they had uncovered last night, we wasn't sure if Amber was going to like the idea.
Still, it was a hope, maybe if he corrupted some of the others onto the idea, they might be able to win her over together.

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Name: Manjano Companion: Falarion
Location: Hotel Lobby
Tagged: SilverFlight SilverFlight (Amber, Alec, & Duik)
As the sun rose and began to seep in through the hotel blinds, Manjano let out a low groan. He draped his arm over his face and was about to groan again when he felt Falarion tugging at his sleeve. He briefly let go to whine, "Come on, sleepyhead! The others will be in the lobby soon enough this morning. We should go down, too." Falarion hesitated before he added, "Maybe everyone is in less of a mood after some good sleep? The group was quieter than usual yesterday..."

Sighing, Manjano slowly sat up and winced at an ache from his foot. The cast was holding up well enough, but he wasn't going to be walking on the foot just yet. Falarion carried each crutch over to Manjano and with the irritating rhythmic sound of the crutches, he began to move about the room and get ready for the day. He changed into a grey t-shirt with a black leather jacket on top as well as a pair of black jeans and sneakers. Noting it might be chilly this early in the morning, he put on a dark grey beanie at the last second. Then with Falarion at his side, Manjano made his way to the elevators.

With a soft ding, the pair arrived in the lobby and Manjano slowly made his way over to the dining area. Amber, Alec, and Duik were already present, though Amber was very focused on her phone. Manjano felt as if she rarely, if ever, took a break from her work. Perhaps she was just a workaholic. While he contemplated this, Falarion bounded forward and stopped just short of Duik before he dropped down on his front legs and wagged his butt in the air. "Good morning! How are you guys doing!?" He yipped before bouncing in a circle and then pausing to glance back at Manjano. "Come on, slowpoke! Can't you smell the breakfast! I want bacon!"

Manjano never ceased to be amazed by Falarion's morning energy. He definitely needed a cup of coffee before he could even manage a proper conversation. With a grunt, he hobbled over with his crutches and was mindful to leave one resting against a chair. It would be impossible for him to hold a plate otherwise. Maintaining his balance on one leg with just one crutch, Manjano carefully made his way along the buffet while Falarion hung back with Duik and Alec.

Looking up at Alec, Falarion said, "Hey, you look a bit down this morning - tired, maybe? What are we doing today? Do we need to beat up some more bad guys? I hope not since Manny needs to rest and heal." Adding in a whisper, Falarion said, "He really doesn't like being crippled like this and is easily angered when it's brought up."
Beth cleaned up, tossed the days clothes onto the floor, and curled up in her pajamas under the covers without a word to her bird. She was asleep in record time, her mind all but disappearing from Totus's. The owl was still relatively awake, so he spent the next few minutes straightening up. Beth's clothes got draped over the back of the arm chair, a couple pairs of shoes were retrieved and set next to her bags. He even went into the bathroom and unpacked her toiletry bag, laying everything out in the places she would want them in the morning. Then, he picked a spot and watched her breathe until he fell asleep as well.
Beth woke up before the sun really did; the sky was pale but the sun hadn't broken the horizon yet. Totus was sleeping now, and she didn't disturb him. The young woman pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweater, and disappeared out the door. She took the elevator down and then went out to the beach, sitting next to the giant ruts from the whales. The water was farther away than it had been the day before, enough that she glanced between the hotel, the large ruts, and the water line several times. But then the first edge of the sun peeked over the horizon, and that detail slipped away with a vague thought about bays and narrow inlets. She watched until the sun had made it halfway up, and then brushed herself off and slipped back inside.
When she returned to the room, Totus woke at the sound of the door opening. He grumbled something, and Beth shot him a few moments of her morning.
"Mmm.. beautiful sunrise," He mumbled, and she gave a chipper nod as she went for a shower.
Taking the elevator down with Totus on her shoulder, Beth was glad that today allowed for slightly less formal clothing. She hadn't worn this favorite pair of skinny jeans in a year. And Totus was beaming that she had followed his suggestion for her shirt- a teal blouse that she was pretty sure he had picked out at a mall years ago. Beth wiggled her toes inside of her gray boat shoes as she waited for the doors to slide open, patiently allowing Totus to fuss over a lock of hair that wasn't laying the way he thought it should.

The pair joined the gathered group of Alec, Duik, and Falarion.
"Morning everyone," Beth greeted softly, reaching out to give Falarion a small scratch, and watching Manjano work his way across the buffet.
Totus tilted his head, and whispered, "Do you think he realizes how pitiful that looks?"
Beth stifled a giggle, and addressed Alec warmly, "Coffee? You look like you could use some." She would give Manjano another minute- he would either make it back to the table, or drop his plate and be forced to admit defeat.
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Barry scooped BB up and made their way back to the room. BB struggled to free herself and make a break for the city. The lights! The sounds! It was calling to her yet her archenemy, Barry, had to get in the way. A click of the door and all hope was lost. Opening his hands, BB sprang and flew to the window. Placing a wing to the surface, she looked out longingly. "One day... Wait I mean night! ONE NIGHT!" She muttered, bonking her head against the glass. Barry rolled his eyes and got ready for shut eye. As he got snug in the covers, BB flew over and perched on his forehead. She scanned the room intensely yet nothing revealed itself. Relaxing, she sat on him. "Man, everyone is super bummed out...." She said softly. Barry looked up as best he could and nodded lightly. "Hey BerBer?... I love ya. I figured I scared you pretty bad. I could feel it I think. It was pretty scary for me also. If it happens again, I'll probably find a new way to deal with it. I would rather not charge head first into a furnace." "Please don't charge into anything" He signed and quietly wheezed out. "You think LuLu is mad?" "Not at all. Just sad like we all are." "Gosh I hope they figure out an anti goo. They would all have been beaten had I gone super bird. Wouldn't even handle 5% of my power. So, don't go hitting your noggen again. You're the only one that can stop me.... and I'll stop you too! To be honest though if you got gooped that would be funny. I just imagine Simon picking you up with one hand! I'll stop you though. I promise. Barry looked straight ahead, his eyes squinting trying to make sense of her rambles. He sighed and picked her off his head and onto his chest where she was met with a tired smile. "I'll keep you safe, don't worry. Proud of you, maybe we can head out to the town tomorrow if it's safe. Any ideas?" Perking up, her eyes blazed with stars. "Hunky men. We go to the hunky men." They stared at one another, a battle between glory and a deadpan expression. With out warning, Barry flipped to his side and fell asleep.


Though there was the burning light of morning pouring from the window, Barry did not wake from light glancing his face. It was his alarm clock for life whom was tackling the door. "Hunky men, hunky men." She mumbled to herself. A quick snap from Barry's fingers and she looked over. "Breakfast" He signed while looking at her as a mom would reminding a child to eat. She sunk before sluggishly falling to the bed. Barry got up and began the morning rituals of hygiene while BB lay there like all hope was lost. Picking his clothes, he looked outside. It didn't seem too cold nor too hot. Clutching his scarf in his hand, he felt the scar on his throat while inspecting it in the mirror. "You do know no one is going to care about that right? They all know I'm sure. You'd get overheated if we go out anyway. Who cares about a battle wound. Might even be a guy or girl into that kinda look." Uttered monotone.
Wincing, Barry clung to it for a solid few seconds before regaining posture and leaving it on the bed and scooped up the small bird.

Walking down the stairs, they came to meet the others at the table. "Hello everyone, pleasant morning I guess." She said dejected while Barry raised a hand. Placing his companion on a free space, He nodded to the food and walked away. "Bring me a coffee, black as my soul is void." She said slumping to the table. "Good morning... wait I said that... Good eating everyone. How's the game of Sudoku going, Amber?" She questioned while staring with equal intent as she was to the screens.

Barry casually walked over to grab a plate, still warm from a wash no doubt. Picking whatever he found nice, he noticed Manjano. Raising a finger, half curled, Barry looked off to the side. "He probably doesn't want help. but it would be a nice gesture right? If anyone would help it would be Falarion or Beth, but they are busy anyway. Maybe I should just keep watch and wait. No he would ask me... ugh I suck at this." He thought to himself, absent minded of his surroundings. Shaking himself awake, looked to Manjano while pointing at his own plate.

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Jimbo felt the sun on his face before he had even opened his eyes. The warmth radiated across his face as the giant alarm clock in the sky crept closer and closer to the small sliver that had been left in the blinds during the night. Jimbo winced when it was finally in full view and he attempted to roll over and return to his dreams, when he felt something amiss in the room. He let his eye slide open to view Simon bed next to him, which had been remade after he had left it. Jimbo's maw opened wide, revealing his massive canines that he was very studious about keeping up with. Lifting himself from his bed, he half expected Simon to be in either the shower or the small sitting area when he left the bedroom, but he wasn't able to find him in either of them. He scratched his head for a moment and then went back to the bedroom to look for something. When he wasn't able to find what he was looking for, Jimbo went straight for the door and left the room.

It took him a moment, and asking several housekeepers who barely understood English, but Jimbo eventually found what he was looking for. When he entered, the room was somewhat quiet in the wee hours of the morning. The only sound Jimbo could hear was the whirring of a machine, and the solid thump, thump, thump of padding feet. Rounding the corner of the gym, Jimbo found Simon padding along on a treadmill at a solid pace. The gorilla shook his head and lumbered over to the side of the workout equipment and sat down in clear view of Simon. Simon did not look at him though. He kept his eyes fixed on the window in front of him that was starring out into the waters that straddled the shore line. His breathing was deep and even, no sign of labor or pain. But the look on his face said otherwise. Jimbo sighed and leaned against the equipment he sat on.

"Rough night? I didn't hear you get up. How long you been down here?"
Simon took a deep breathe and looked down at the treadmills panel before him.
"Uh, I think about 4 hours or so? Maybe more. I couldn't sleep. Between some pretty messed up nightmares, the headache, and the pain in my face; sleeping was near impossible."
Jimbo huffed and reached up to the panel to hit the stop button. As the machine slowed, Simon stepped down and grabbed the towel that had been on the railing to wipe the sweat from his face and arms.
"How'd you know I was here?"
Jimbo chuckled slightly as he wandered over to the gym bag Simon had brought and tossed him the water bottle next to it.
"Your bag was gone. You never go to the gym without it. Even when you travel."
Simon smiled as he caught the bottle and picked the bag up. for the pair to leave.


After returning to the room for Simon to get a shower and take his medication, the pair headed for the elevator and made their way down to the eating area. They could see several of the others had already made it down and were split between ordering at the table and a large buffet line that had been set out for those who wanted food more immediately. The pair decided to join the table and found seats across from Alec and Duik. Finding a chair Simon looked around at the rest of the group with his one good eye and gave them a warm smile.
"Morning everyone! Anyone get any good sleep last night?"
Simon reached over and grabbed a menu and began looking over it. It didn't take long for him to find something that sounded tasty, and then he recalled Duik mentioning the sausages from last night.
"Hey Duik, you should give the Nasi Lemak a try too. Not sure where you fall on chili paste and coconut rice. But if you like the sound of those, its a little treat I found out about the last time I was here."
Jimbo, who once again declined sitting in a chair for favor of the ground, moved the chair beside Simon to another table and then planted himself next to the table. He already sat comfortably at the table without the chair, so he reached across and grabbed a menu and began to flip threw it. While he did so, he to looked around at the others and noticed that Calista wasn't with Amber at the table. He raised an eyebrow at this, and then reached over and plucked his phone from Simon's pocket. He pulled up Callista's number and then began to type behind his menu.

Fuzz Ball
You commin down to breakfast? Or do you need more "beauty" sleep?
Name: Manjano
Location: Hotel Lobby
Tagged: SilverFlight SilverFlight (Amber, Alec, & Duik), Flutterby Flutterby (Beth & Totus), Bolts Bolts (Barry & BB), zCrookedz zCrookedz (Simon & Jimbo)
Just as he neared the buffet table, Manjano turned at the sound of others joining them. He first noticed Beth and Totus, though his eyes were mostly on Beth. He could not help himself, as he looked over her attire for the day and a faint smile appeared on his face. She seemed more relaxed than usual despite what all had transpired recently. He wished he could share that feeling, but his foot had kept him up most of the night until Falarion had finally convinced him to take of his prescription pills. He hated relying on them, but even now, his foot was aching once more and he turned away from Beth in an attempt to hide his grimace. He knew Falarion could feel his pain, but his companion was not making a big deal out of it. At the very least, Falarion understood that Manjano hated appearing weak in any kind of public scenario, even when surrounded by close friends and family.

He refocused on the task at hand and Manjano carefully picked up a plate while he continued to maintain his balance on his single crutch. Just as he was puttin down his plate to collect some scrambled eggs, BB made her appearance along with Barry. The hummingbird was loud as ever and Manjano winced at the cacophany of words. Even as she complained about how early it was, Manjano muttered to himself, “Just let me get my coffee first...honestly.” Just as he slopped some eggs onto his plate, Manjano scowled at the sight of a few pieces falling off the plate and onto the buffet table instead. He had been sure that his would be simpler, yet he could not even do this much on his own. The very last thing he wanted to do right now was admit that he needed help, but it would take him forever and a day to make his own plate, then to make a plate for Falarion, get his own coffee, and so on. His stomach grumbled in protest at the thought of how long it would all take and he sighed.

Torn between asking Beth for help and being judged by Totus, Manjano was frozen in place until he heard someone approach. Looking to the side, he saw an equally torn Barry who then pointed at his plate. Manjano struggled to not scowl at this and took a deep breath before giving Barry a resigned nod. He appreciated the help, despite the frustration that was coming from this situation. At least Barry was a mute and not deaf, as that would have only complicated everything even further.

Quietly, Manjano began telling Barry which foods he wanted and then when they were done with his plate, he hesitated before whispering, “Hey, uh...any chance you could help make a plate for Falarion, too? He’s only going to want a ton of bacon.” Sighing, Manjano used his free hand to rub the back of his neck before saying quietly, “Despite how I may appear to you...I am appreciative of the help. I was hoping to avoid this kind of situation, but I suppose there’s not much I can do about it.” He furtively glanced over at Beth and Totus, suddenly realizing they had probably seen everything that just transpired. As much as he wanted to ask for help with his coffee, too, Manjano already felt bad enough asking Barry to make a second plate. At this point, it likely would not hurt to just ask Beth to help him with a coffee. After all, she was probably going to want one for herself anyways.
Totus hopped off of Beth's shoulder and made his way to the table, perching on the back of a chair happily. When someone from the waitstaff appeared to take orders, he ordered for Beth with absolute certainty. She had been thinking about the food on the way down, and how to fake what she wanted with the standard buffet fair if they didn't have it. But he wanted her to have a fresher, hotter breakfast, to prolong her good mood.

Beth stood quietly to watch Barry and Manjano interact for a moment, surprised to see Barry offer to help, and equally surprised to see Manjano accept it. She looked at Alec, and excused herself by saying, "I'm just gonna see if those two need help." A blush colored her cheeks when she said it, which she hoped he would ignore.
SilverFlight SilverFlight

Rather suddenly, Totus flashed a few images of the food she had considered on the way down. Apparently, her bird had everything but the drinks handled. She made her way over to the buffet anyway, joining the two men by appearing on Manjano's other side.
"Good morning, Barry," Her tone was chipper, and she gave him a bright smile.
When she addressed Manjano, her tone was a little softer. "Hey," A hand came up, rested on his tricep, as she leaned closer to whisper, "I really wish you would sit, instead of creating more pain for yourself."
Beth leaned away, and then spoke to them both again, "I was going to order the biggest latte possible from the kitchen, do either of you want something?" He blue eyes switched between them a few times, before resting on Manjano.
Bolts Bolts Lioness075 Lioness075
“I am definitely grateful to have met you and Laohu. Getting to know you over the past year and being taught to better defend myself is something I am extremely appreciative of.” Leandra sighed before continuing, "That was something I refused to be after the incident - defenseless.”

A warm smile made way towards Xiao Hui's lip as she nodded. Leandra's words meant the world to her, especially now. She empathised with Leandra's plight of never wanting to be defenseless anymore. If at any moment in time Leandra wanted to spar with her, Xiao Hui knew she would drop everything to help her closest friend. Laohu definitely would feel the same way.

“I know. I’ve just been avoiding her since it happened because of how afraid I’ve been. I just have never seen such intense violence except for when those bullies attacked me years ago. I felt like I was going back in time to a dark place I never wanted to visit again. But you’re right. She misses me and I’m hurting her just as much as I am hurting myself in this situation.”

Xiao Hui bit back a sigh as she nodded, grateful that her words didn't cause more harm or damage. She was beginning to doubt herself if she was going to do anything right and thankfully, her words got through to Leandra. Xiao Hui wished for her friends to be happy, but even more so, comfortable with each other. But, Xiao Hui knew it would take time for the relationship to be repaired. Nevertheless, Xiao Hui had faith in both Luness and Leandra. They will come back stronger.

However, Xiao Hui couldn't deny that Leandra was also right. Seeing a loved one out of the blue become so violent and not like themselves is heartbreaking but also terrifying. Xiao Hui briefly remember the days her father would lash out in anger and became a tyrant after her mother passed. Xiao Hui, to an extent, knew and felt the terror and fear Leandra was currently going through, but, after being part of House Lao so long and being trained to not show any fear, Xiao Hui was beginning to wonder if it was okay that she was getting used to the violence and hardships. Perhaps, it didn't help that she also joined the Watch.

But, after Leandra's previous words, Xiao Hui heard a small laugh from Leandra as she spoke again, “You know I trust you with my life, Xiao Hui. That shouldn’t even be a question.” Exhaling, Leandra took her hand and added, “I will try. I promise.”

Tears nearly brimmed around her eyes, but Xiao Hui blinked back the tears as she resisted the urge to let out a small sob. She was trusted. Xiao Hui gently squeezed Leandra's hand as well, nodding. Hearing Leandra's reassurance that she would try to approach Luness and work out their relationship was wonderful news.

But, soon, it was her turn to speak about her past. Xiao Hui was surprised, at first, that Leandra would tell her such personal information - her past no less. However, Xiao Hui couldn't help but find herself blushing slightly at Leandra's widen smile, seeing the almost excitement in her eyes to hear her story as well.

With a deep breath, Xiao Hui began, "How should I begin?" She pondered slightly, tapping her chin as her eyes wandered around to see where Laohu had gone. But, noticing that Laohu had been with Alec for a moment, her brows furrowed before her attention went back to Leandra.

"I don't quite remember when I felt it, but, I always knew Laohu was there - even when we hadn't bonded yet." A smile displayed on her lips. "He was like my guardian angel. When my. . . brother and mother. . . " Xiao Hui paused for a moment, feeling a lump in her throat as she realized she never spoke about her mother or brother in a long time. It felt foreign on her lips. Nevertheless, after the small setback, Xiao Hui continued, "Were sent away for their protection, I was 13 at the time and found myself very lonely. Laohu started to show himself slowly. By the end of the year, we were playing together in secret since my father, as you know, is a bit. . . . well, yes." Xiao Hui laughed slightly, shaking her head as she sighed.

"Before I knew it, 2 years passed and on my 15th birthday, everything changed." Xiao Hui gazed over at Lea for a moment before she found herself repositioning herself. She sat up straighter, taller even, as she placed her hand on her lap as her legs were positioned to the side. Her mood changed slightly as her expression remained passive and blank. Almost robotically, as if rehearsed before, many times down at the police station, Xiao Hui started, "I lost my brother and mother that day. The other Houses were adamant on taking charge, wanting to overthrow my father for power and wealth. They were corrupt, just like the lot of them. Screams, fire, and blood was everywhere in our house. Friends to foes. No one was to be trusted that day. In the end, when one of my father's enemies attempted to cut down our line. Laohu came out of the wood-work when I was faced with a sword in my face."

Her breath shuttered slightly but she continued nonetheless, "His roar was echoing and magnanimous, practically shaking the grounds of the house. We bonded in that moment. Through the burning of our house and the stench of iron, we survived. Despite them losing their lives and the war, Laohu and I lost something greater. My father was no longer himself but we rebuild. In the end, much like you, Lea - Laohu was everything: my companion, my family, my friend, and a parent."

A sad smile crossed her lips as she shook her head, out of her dazed moment.

Laohu, on the other hand, gave a small chuff as he watched Alec's expression change from anger to . . sadness? Understanding? Whatever it was, Laohu could only observe both Xiao Hui and Alec from afar. He knew, no matter what he wanted to say, or encourage, it was between the both of them. Laohu knew Xiao Hui could fight her own battles, but, that didn't mean he wouldn't try to aid her when she needed. But, in this situation, Laohu knew he could only watch over them.

At hearing Alec's words, "I'm going to turn in early. A lot happened tonight...still trying to process it. Duik doesn't remember. I hope it stays that way. He doesn't need that burden." He turned to go. "You should join the others, I think they'd like your company."

The white tiger could only let out a small huff as he shook his head. Humans. Stubborn. All of them. Laohu could only nod and mumur an okay as he watched Alec leave. He wouldn't force the situation and could only wait til Alec disappeared back upstairs. Laohu knew a lot happened within the day, but, he also knew being alone wasn't the greatest ideal. Nevertheless, he turned away from the entrance before making his way to both Xiao Hui and Leandra.

With a small head tilt, he felt the air shift slightly, hearing the middle of both his and Xiao Hui's story. A small chuff could be heard as he approached, placing his head on Xiao Hui's lap as he nudged her. "Speaking behind my back, are you Hui?" The white tiger sassed, trying to ease the tension. His eyes looked towards Xiao Hui's face, understanding through her expression - emotionless or not - what she was feeling.

Turning his head towards Lea, Laohu nudged her as well before giving a toothy smile, his canines showing. "We should all get to bed soon, rest up for tomorrow. Shall we continue this in the morning?" Laohu tilted his head to the side as Xiao Hui smiled slightly, giving Laohu a gentle pat.

"Thank you, Leandra." Xiao Hui gently said. "I'll see you tomorrow?" She questioned, tilting her head to the side before getting up, placing another small gentle pat on Leandra's shoulder. As she started to turn, Xiao Hui finished with, "I trust you too, Lea."

The next morning arrived and Xiao Hui was currently tying her hair up into a high pony as Laohu was cleaning his coat. With one more glance at the mirror, Xiao Hui patted her cheeks as she woke herself up. Encouraging herself internally, Xiao Hui could hear Laohu's soft chuckle in her head as she resisted the urge to throw a pillow at him. She couldn't sleep a wink, but, when did she ever? Laohu, on the other hand, slept like a log. Cat's always did like their naps, didn't they?

Soon, the pair walked downstairs and noticed they had been one of the late ones, as usual. Xiao Hui could only shake her head before Laohu spoke, "Asian time. It's true."
"Oh quiet, you."
"Hui, you can try, but you know I'd sing like a canary, especially when I'm hungry."

With that, Laohu nudged Xiao Hui as he waited for her to grab the kettle and add some water to boil. "Would anyone like some tea?" She called out-loud.

tags: Lioness075 Lioness075 , SilverFlight SilverFlight , Bolts Bolts , zCrookedz zCrookedz , Flutterby Flutterby

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