Stormcrest isn't the most prestigious school in the entire realm, nor is it the kind of place that world-defining Heroes or the cream of the royal family attend.
It is, however indisputably the greatest school for naval warfare in the entire known world: it is the place countless legendary captains, stoic morale offices, scouting specialists, master shipwrights, and deadly marines claim to hail from. The people who attend its halls later go on to form the deadliest sea-faring armies of the Empire, and those who excel are known to almost never receive a posting of less than Vice Admiral.
And then, once-Grand Admiral, many-times Savior of the Realm, the stoic master of Enlightened Sorcery, Lung Feng Zao returned after a hundred-year long foray into the depths of the Underworld. The nine-hundred-year-old Hero came and returned to his previous job as Headmaster last year, and Stormcrest went through a sweeping reformation: for the first time in ages, the school would theoretically allow complete mortals due to its merit-based entry examination, a choice that was opposed by some.
In the corners of the world, however, there are whispers of immaculate thunderings coming to the western coast, where Stormcrest lies...
On the first day of school, as students converged in the Reception Hall and conversed, Headmaster Zao stood in one fluid motion and made a curt slashing gesture. Few saw it, but the hall grew silent anyway. He had, with that gesture, somehow altered the nature of the air within the hall, such that it conducted sound but poorly. Within a few moments, all eyes were on the Headmaster. He cleared his throat and began to speak. His voice, possessed of a rich and easy timbre, seemed not at all like that of a man his age.
"You are all here because you want to be sailors? No, I think not. I think you are here because I have accrued something of a reputation these days, and the courtiers and recruiters and parents around you made a decision to capitalize on that reputation. They cannot be faulted for that decision. The fault lies entirely with you. You, who are savvy and young and smart. You, who know yourself better than anyone. You didn't want to be a sailor! You didn't want to join the Navy! All you wanted was riches and power, and what you walked into - what you got! - was vomit and the storm-tossed sea. You'll grow up, you'll seize power, you'll waste eight hours a day on charts and eight more on decadence, and you'll be miserable."
"Some of you think I'm wrong. Some of you really love these waters. You will stop loving them when they are filled with blood, but it is an admirable sentiment nonetheless. Whether I'm wrong or whether I'm right, however, is immaterial." Zao smiled briefly - mirthless, bloodless.
"I don't care whether you'll be miserable. I don't care how much you'll hate it. And you will hate it. The Realm needs soldiers. It needs sailors. It needs officers. And you, sorry fools, have given yourselves to that Realm. When I'm through with you you'll have given it every mote you've got and ten you didn't know you had. And it will still not be enough to save your life. Each and every one of you will die screaming just as the last class died screaming." Silence. Zao, uncharacteristically, dodderingly, picks up a glass of water and sips it once.
"People have asked me for centuries what my 'secret' was. I told them, but they didn't believe me, so they continued to ask. Now I will tell you. We are not Heroes. We are not Champions. Perhaps we are great people, but not if might makes right. We are not the apex predators of the sea called Existence. That title belongs to another creature. Yes, I see some of you whispering it now. Anathema." The last word whispered with a hateful, bitter intensity. As if it were the only things supporting him, Zao deflated visibly and continued in a gentler tone.
"Since I was… very young, I have never compared myself to other Heroes. My point of reference has always been the enemy - for what is the worth of a man's ability if his mortal foe's is greater still? Decades beyond number I've measured myself against them, and not once - not once have I found myself their superior. That is my secret. That is the lesson you will learn, either in here or out there. There is always a greater power. A sky above the sky, and a sea under the sea."
There was no clapping or applause, each of the students in the winesilk-crowd too afraid it'd draw undue attention. Zao's piercing gaze assessed the crowd below him and as it passed over particular sections of the crowd, those very sections appeared to stiffen, like blades of red grass standing on attention in front of the wind.
"Before you storm off to your rooms, I will recite the names of several first-year students," Zao eventually said, voice uncompromising. "Those named, will stand up and make themselves apparent, then move up here to stand in a row to my right."
"Maravetia of the Seadogs." Zao said the name without any particular intonation or interest, watching the girl in question as she stood.
"Ayralis Ragnavin Kutherylle." There was no more curiosity in him than with the previous name.
"Eleonora Luna," he said, with a hint of curious skepticism, but without voicing anything else.
"Fáidh Ceangailte Aigéan." He managed to stress the correct accents.
"Solomon the Executioner." There, instead, was a hint of impression - not respect, per se, for no one had yet to ever see Zao show such a thing - but perhaps some mote of favor.
And finally, the favor leaving his tone to stress on bitter suspicion instead, Zao coldly recited, "And Theodore Zhang."
Location: Reception Hall
Interactions: Zao (Birdsie
Mentioned/Nearby: Literally Everyone Else
Marie stood up with little interest on her monotone face. She had been part of well disciplined mercenaries, so she just went through the motions she normally would. Stand up and don't look around too much. Though she was curious about one thing: Why did Master Zao call her a Seadog? The entire company was gone. Both their ships sunk. She had watched the leviathan maws close on Anthony, and she saw as each of her comrades were slowly eaten one by one as she dangled from a piece of driftwood. Why then, was she being called a Seadog? Despite walking up, her face showed little emotion to the state she was in. She felt stares and glares both, but she paid them as much heed as the Grandmaster's outward interest in her.
Despite her disinterest on the subject of social standing, she knew about Zao deeds and legends. She also knew what it meant to get into this academy on an official recommendation of the navy. Whether it was due to taking an opportunity so another mercenary group didn't recruit her first or if one of her previous business partners vouched for her, she didn't really care. Now that she was on the stage to Zao's right something finally donned on her. There was an element of necessity to being called up. Or was it trust? Probably more likely necessity. Either way there was a significance to this. As of now, Zao was her commanding officer, and he had called upon her personally. Upon that thought, Anthony's last expression came into mind as well as their last normal conversation and Marie felt her fists ball up tighter. Her expression and posture betrayed her inner turmoil. Right now, she was a soldier.
Theodore ZhangI entered the Reception Hall for the first time and found myself a bit overwhelmed by it's size. My old school was much smaller in scale - though the number of wretches here was perhaps only double, this room was far grander than any hall I had seen before. Of course, I had already learned all of this during my preparations to assert my dominance. In a perfect world, I would already have some subordinates, but as all of my subordinates had been rejected that hadn't been possible. The trash crawling around here came from around the world, so I hadn't been able to get any reliable connections. Besides some information on the teachers and the buildings I had read in the library, I didn't know anything about this place. But this also meant nobody knew anything about me. So now was my chance to make a strong first impression.
First, I needed to find a target. I see a rabbit-eared woman with a small frame. No, I need someone who looks tough. I glance at a massive, well muscled oaf with a sword half the size of his body. Standing a head above the crowd, he's impossible to miss. Yes, beating that monster would leave quite an impression. . . . but I don't want to pick a fight I won't win. I walk around a bit, trying to gauge the power of each person, and am surprised at how many people look stronger than me. It occurs to me that I'm going about this the wrong way. Beating someone weak is a meaningless feat, here. If I want respect, I've got to pick a fight with the toughest, meanest looking guy. I look back at the guy with a big sword. A plan comes to mind. It's risky, but it might just work.
The hall is full of people, chatting amongst each other. A few minutes ago, an uninspiring young male - an additional risk factor - had thought to talk to the giant oaf, and they weren't stopping. I checked my watch. I had hoped that he would have left by now, but it seemed I would need to start. As I squeezed my way through the crowd to my target, I gripped my free water bottle, given away by a booth outside the hall. The blue container had the words 'STORMCREST NAVAL ACADEMY' were emblazoned in a gold font. Grabbing my target from behind by the shoulder, I decided to start a beautiful relationship with him.
[Theodore: Hey, muscles for brains! Your fat's taking up too much space in this crowded hall. Why don't you just get out of this school and make the air a little fresher?]
[Uninspiring Male: Do you know this guy?]
[Giant oaf: No... So, young man. What business do you have with me?]
[Theodore: Ha, you're even dumber than you look. I think I just told you. I'd rather not go to school with a massive brainless mutant, so I think you should drop out of the academy.]
[Giant oaf: I see. Well, I shall consider your wishes, but that reason alone is not enough for me to quit. So I believe I will be stay-.]
I smashed my bottle on his face, so hard the plastic cracked and the yellowish contents sprayed out.
[Uninspiring Male: Ahh! Are you crazy?]
[Theodore: You don't wanna listen to me, huh? Well piss-face, I guess you'll need to experience the fear of Theodore Zhang for yourself.]
The giant grabbed the arm I had used to hit him with the bottle before I could retract it. Impressive reflexes. Nearby, people were giving us a bit of a berth. Good, let them come and see.
[Giant oaf: I don't know what you're trying to do here, but I think the one that should leave is you.]
My feet left the floor as the giant picked me up with one hand, wiping the fluid off his face with the other. However, he wasn't expecting me to pulled out a dagger soaked in paralysis poison and stab the arm holding me. As he released me in shock, I rolled away and laughed.
[Theodore: Well since you don't have anything going for you but big muscles, how about a fight. If you win, I'll quit the academy. If I win, you quit.]
[Giant oaf: I'm not so foolish as to bank my future on am unnecessary fight. After all, with your behavior, I'm sure you'll be forced out of the academy soon enough. Pulling a weapon out here... but, if you really want fight, I am thinking that you need to be taught a lesson.]
He made a face, and his muscles got bigger. I watched the cut I inflicted on his right arm heal immediately as my foe grew another meter tall. Ah, I forgot that most people here had a Grace. And that mine was quite useless here. I had been hoping he would be more reliant on his sword - in this crowded environment, he wouldn't be able to use it effectively. But it was pretty clear that he would be able to beat me up with muscles alone. Getting into this fight might have been a big mistake. But for now, I faked confidence and tried to buy some time.
[Theodore: As expected, you really have nothing but muscles in your body. Do you really think a bit more strength is going to do anything against me? Well, before I beat you too badly, why don't you tell me your name.]
[Giant oaf: So you really got into a fight with a person you don't even know the name of? Well, I'll tell you my name. I am Guile Burlap, a knight of the Golden Order.]
Unfortunately, he was done talking. Guile lunged at me, grabbing my whole body with his massive right hand and bringing the left into a fist hurling towards my face at Mach Two. But I could tell - the paralysis poison before had taken an effect. His grip was weak, and I slipped and dodged easily. Guile looked at his hand, shocked it didn't listen to his commands. "What did you do?" he mouthed, but no sound came out. In fact, the whole hall had gone quiet. We both looked around, and realized the headmaster was about to speak. In the nick of time, too. Thank god that the military sticks rigorously to the schedule. Had the speech started even a minute later, I would've been beaten. I'm sure rumors will spread making me seem just as dangerous as my foe, and later I can figure out a way to beat him. For now, I left the water bottle on the ground and edged away. Wouldn't want to get right back into the fight once the speech ends.
It was a fairly short speech, and at the end, the headmaster started listing names. Hmm, maybe these were particularly impressive people. I listened intently, hoping that Guile's name would be called. That would surely help my reputation. But then -
[Zao: and Theodore Zhang]
...ah, what? And the way he said my name... Did... did I just get in trouble? Regardless, this was a golden opportunity. A scoffing smile rose to my lips as I stood up and made eye contact with as many others as I could. Guile, the observers of the fight, and some others. With a face of confidence, I projected out a simple message to the observers as I stood up and walked to Zao. [I am superior to you].
Name: Theodore Zhang Age: 17 Gender: Male Race: Human Sexuality: Heterosexual High Concept: A manipulative bully.
Backstory: Born to a moderately poor family, Theodore was blessed with a surprisingly high intellect and sent to the best schools in the area. His ruthless personality stood out even more than his performance, though. He rose to the top of the food chain of students, aggressively targeting the weak and using them to increase his reputation further, to vent his frustrations physically, and to make them do all the homework he didn't want to. Which was all of it. Tests, he somehow innately knew how to do well. And miraculously, through a combination of well placed threats, bribes, discretion, and luck, his actions went largely unpunished, and his academic record was flawless.
The closest his evil empire ever came to collapsing came in his final year of high school. A girl named Amber some of his lackies had beaten up turned out to have charms quite effective against him - an exceptional ability to bargain and find people's weaknesses and personalities. She quickly found Theodore and convinced many of his underlings to give up information that put him in very bad positions. She was physically strong enough to get out of the increasingly dangerous traps Theodore placed in the way of her and her allies, and mentally resilient enough to come back after taking a beating. Those under Theodore encouraged him to kill her. But perhaps it was just her appearance, or perhaps the repeated encounters, but, he felt a fluttering of something like love stopping him. No, love is too strong a word. It was more of an... admiration of her efforts and ability. The death of someone like that would be a shame for humanity. So, underneath him, his allies hatched a plan to kill her without his assistance. And she was gone. He quickly learned of what had happened, and found her body, drowned in the ocean. As if to mock him, he gained a Grace from Marygold, the Primordial representing manipulation. He had perfect life he had always wanted - people under him that would follow his every whim, nobody to oppose him, and even the power of a Hero. Even as he did increasingly reckless and cruel things, nobody would stop him. Nobody could stop him. And yet, he felt empty.
The year ended, at it was time to leave his empire behind. To a place where nobody would know him, where he could start fresh. Perhaps, he rationalized, climbing the ladder once more was what he needed. The only thing that had changed with Amber's death was that life got easier. So he went to the hardest university he could find, for the hardest ladder to climb. A naval academy, where the ocean would surround him. Perhaps he, too, would soon find himself drowned deep under the waves.
View attachment 820505 Weapons & Armor: He carries two sharp, silver daggers with him and some bottles of poison of varying strength that can be applied to them and has fairly sturdy leather clothing. Items & Personal Belongings: The clothes on his back.
[Quick Learner]: He can quickly learn the basics of any academic subject. [Brawler]: He can fight quite effectively with any object. A sword, a chair, a ball, an arm, a cat, you name it. [Manipulation]: Theodore is very good at reading people, finding their weaknesses, and using them to his advantage. [Pickpocketing]
Spells & Magic: [Grace|Fleeting Memory]: Modifies a living target capable of thought for a duration. Any object that comes within a 1 inch radius of any body part of the target of size at least 1 cubic inch during the duration will not have any effect on the target. Rather, objects will appear in anatomically relative position to the last person/object that the target was thinking of [the recollected] at cast time besides themselves and effect them. The attack can be blocked by the recollected or objects not within a 1 inch radius of the target at the time the spell was cast.
For example, swinging a sword, then casting the spell on a target thinking of a doll more than an inch away from the sword would give them an opportunity to block with a sword of their own, but not their fists or armor. Should the sword be within an inch of their neck, the part of the sword within an inch will appear an inch from the doll's neck. If it's strong enough to cut through the doll, it will continue through and appear to all watching that the sword has gone through the neck of the assaulted without them being harmed.
It costs more findross for longer casts, and much more findross when used on targets that trust the user. On himself, all of his findross would be depleted in a second, but on one who considers the caster a mortal enemy, it could take a few minutes, time for tens of short casts.
[Charm|Blameless]: Saying things like "It wasn't my fault! He did it!" is unreasonably convincing, even with clear evidence to the contrary.
[Charm|Healthy]: Poisons, diseases, cold, paralysis, and the like affect him less than others due to his great metabolism and healthy lifestyle.
Weaknesses: [Bully]: He's just a total jerk. You can blame at least part of this on his Grace, but it's more than that - he has a terrible personality and likes to prey on the weak. [Unexceptional Strength]: He's actually quite strong, but relative to the other's at the academy, quite lacking.
Hobbies: Cooking, Running, Exercising, Kicking puppies Quote\s:
"Of course I'd have to teach you a lesson - you shouldn't have looked at me that way."
"It's a sweet deal for you. Money, and your family stays safe."
"Nothing has any meaning, in this worthless world." <- so edgy wow
Fáidh listened closely to Zao as he gave his speech, there were things she agreed with and others she did not but all in all Fáidh felt fortunate to bear witness to such a speech. Zao was a man of legend and a man that didn't normally give speeches to no-bodies such as those assembled here, Fáidh included. It was truly an honor and his advice was well thought out and something Fáidh intended to keep noted for future ordeals. However, Fáidh did find it saddening to have her doubts confirmed by the headmaster. Fáidh, unlike most, really was just here to join the Navy. It was her calling and not some political move to claim riches or power. Fáidh had had her suspicions that those in her class would think in the way described by Zao but looking around now with the confirmation of the headmaster it saddened the Paladin to realize not a single other person assembled was in this for a sense of justice.
Fáidh made her way to the stage when her name was called, noting that Zao had managed to correctly pronounce her name with relative ease. It wasn't very often such a thing happened and Fáidh would have been lying if she said it didn't catch her off guard. In fact Fáidh wasn't sure whether her name being singled out or being pronounced correctly surprised her more in that very moment. None the less the young Paladin made her move towards the stage, taking care to retain proper posture and pacing. The last thing the Paladin wanted now was to make a display of herself before her peers and she most certainly didn't want to do anything that might bring embarrassment to the Paladin badge. Standing upon the stage Fáidh took her place third in line and brought her spear base to rest upon the ground without a sound, her grip tightened upon the shaft as she was left waiting for the others to come join her upon the stage.
Luna was a reserved person for the most part, and the bounds of her knowledge of school etiquette were slim, especially considering that she'd essentially been home-schooled by her sisterhood. So suddenly being thrust away from home surrounding by unfamiliar faces was rather terrifying, and she wasn't about to try and conceal that obvious fear as her face seemed to pale more every second as her bone-white knuckles clutched the only familiar thing she had on her person, her staff, wanting nothing more than to go back to her room and ask for guidance from Chester as she was accustomed to. She missed her family already.
Her displeasure was only heightened by the uncomfortable and binding clothes they all had to wear. It made her feel constrained and heavy as opposed to the light cloths she was used to, although she had to admit, it did look nice with its lush reds and meticulous craftsmanship. However, overall, the thing she found most haunting was the overwhelming amount of sound.
The forest was never quiet, from birds to bugs all adding to the cacophony, but the sounds of talking and walking were like a monsoon in comparison and it was giving her quite the headache. She hoped they didn't all gather very often and that it was simply to give them all their introductory talk.
When she was called, she walked carefully and slowly to her seemingly designated spot next to the other three that had gathered, trying her best not to slip on the smooth floors with her uncomfortable shoes. Her eyes nervously darting around the room, glancing at the various faces before they looked back, and she felt compelled to look at another. It was like a small ocean of people, and only then she remembered that her reason for being here was to set a good example.
She stood a little taller, composing herself, and gave a small yet shaky smile.
What a nightmare come true. She had suddenly been thrust away from home with neither her sisters nor her father, surrounded by people she didn't know in an unfamiliar place, all because she was the youngest. Birdsie
and everyone else pretty much
In one of the offices of Stormcrest, resided a diligent octopus. The reception for the first-year students will begin shortly and yet, he is still in his office. It was to add the finishing touches to the arrangement of the subjects that he would be lecturing this year. The pen caught between the smooth fingers of the man elegantly yet also firmly across the paper. A minute of writing later and the professor ended the string of letters and dates with a quick but sharp period. He rose from the wooden chair at his desk, from one of the drawers in the desk, Shugon pulled out a miniature mirror and set it on the right side. His gleaming, black orbs for eyes glistened in the mirror's reflection. The first thing, the octopus noticed was how dreary his tie looked, just awful. A sigh could be heard. Now what would the kids think if they see their professor exhibiting such poor behavior with his attire? It all comes back to that maxim, Knowledge will give you power but character respect.
With one quick motion, he straightened out his tie and returned the mini mirror to its' drawer. He aligned relevant papers together then placed them to the side, the pen slotted alongside its' sibling-pair in the holster. Before Shugon departed the office, his gaze turned some of the many memorabilia that he had neatly positioned around his office. That steamboat figurine with a sharpened bow for example or his framed Ph.D. in Marine Biology, the geometric shape with a mind-bogglingly number of surfaces another example, and much more, ambiguous memories of his long life.
The octopus locked his office then walked to the reception event in a quickened but composed manner. To his surprise and delight, Zao hadn't begun his welcoming speech. His towering figure and appearance weren't tough to miss as the sharply dressed made his way onto the stage alongside his colleagues.
----- One humbling speech later -----
The selected first years had arranged themselves, as always they were unique individuals. All of them had potential, but it was up to them to nourish and flourish it or to abandon and squander it.
Then one of the youngsters, Theodore Zhang walked up to the venerated Headmaster and gave him a piece of his mind. Suffice to say that Shugon's dark eyes contorted themselves into a devilish stare, this was going to be good and he didn't even need to intervene.
When Solomon's name was called, he moved stage right as commanded. While he showed zero emotion, the name of the headmaster played in his head, along with the deeds associated with the name. In it Solomon knew he was subordinate to a master of his craft, something Solomon could only respect. Admire? Ehhhhh. That was a different story entirely. Solomon knew not to fall under any spells of endearment, which meant high respect for a man and up to head over heels for a woman. It would cloud his judgement, and he knew better than to spare someone he was ordained to execute.
He clinked to the right and took in everyone else in. One thing he knew was that he could very very easily rip apart almost everyone in this room in a no magic fight. Some of the men were actually disappointing to behold. Little to no conditioning amongst the men in this room. Either scrawny and fragile or fat and weak. Sorcery was powerful but in a weak body, Sorcery was wasted. Same with charms or even Graces. Crazy that Gods could trust a weak body to serve Their will..........but Their will be done.
Solomon didn't care all that much to join the Navy. He was here for a couple of reasons. To learn some new Charms, maybe a bout of Sorcery. Ultimately, though, his goal was to learn leadership and battle tactics. There was much to learn from the navy, indirect battle tactics that those like the army just didn't have. While the Army has powerful direct battle tactics, if he were to train or command his own men, if he could discombobulate and destroy with as little risk as possible to them, he would do so. If his opinion of the navy changed, maybe he would stay. As it stood though, he was really there to learn as much as possible while staying in for as little time as it took to learn what he felt he needed to learn
Solomon knew he would need to keep up his physical conditioning while here. There was no way that sort of thing was a requirement of this Navy. Some of them looked unconditioned. Some of them like Sloth. He had to almost force himself to believe that it was because they were more talented than he was in terms of magic, which he wasn't that great in, in all honesty. The Grace he was blessed with and the Charm he chose to learn meant that he needed to be at his peak strength at all times. Magic that depended on physical strength cost the least amount of Findross anyways. He didn't know if one could LOSE their Grace, but he couldn't help but feel like his God would strip him of the Divine Hand should he lower his body to that of Glutton incarnate
Standing there, he was glad he didn't have to speak. He just stared with beading piercing eyes, his Executioner badge flashed on his person. It was that credential alone that netted him MANY more jobs than the common mercenary, as the skillset for an Executioner meant he could carry out Exorcisms, Inquisition missions, Church missions, bodyguard and escort missions, and of course the high paying executions of heretics and Death Row criminals. It wasn't the killing that brought him joy. It was the serving of objective justice that couldn't be reversed or corrupted. The title of an Executioner came with a long and brutal screening process. You weren't simply raising the blade to end the life of a sinner. You were sending that sinner to the god of judgement for the earthly transgressions they committed. Whether the god they served saw it as such was irrelevant to him. His job wasn't to send them to Heaven or Hell or Purgatory. He was to send them to Judgement
William had passed the time before the headmaster had begun speaking organizing a game of dice in the corner of the room. Currently he was on his third roll. He had rolled double six's twice now, but the game was being held up on account of an accusation of cheating. The fellow across from him on the floor waggled his finger threateningly at Kidd, whom shook the dice in his hand absentmindedly.
"YOU'RE CHEATIN' ye foul-lookin' barnacle eater!" Said the man, who was remarkably spindly to the point of looking malnourished.
"Ye rigged the dice!"
"They're your dice, mate."
"Ah... well..." This did seem to confound the man, but if he let Kidd roll again and he rolled higher, the boy would clean him out. Kidd made motion to do so and the man exclaimed again. "WAIT! Ye have a luck Grace! That's cheatin'."
"'Fraid not chap, just isn't your day. Be a good sport yeah?" The boy's voice was high and melodic, seductive to the ear. His sleight British accent made the women in attendance of the game melt as he teased his opponent and them along with him. He made another go at rolling the dice and them other man caught them on their way out of his hand.
"I'm not playin with a cheater!" Said the man again, swiping his hand away from Kidd's reach as he tried to get the dice back but failed. "Ye' won't be swindlin' the likes o' me boy!" Said the sailor, whom promptly stood up and raked in his rightfully lost cash. That is the first time William obtained a glint of malice in his eye. He grabbed the man's wrist tightly, and did not let go as he looked him in the eye.
"Now I can't stop ya' from backin' out of this hand, friend, but I'll be taking my first two wins, unless you're prepared to roll for the whole pot." The man looked reproachful and Kidd met his gaze fiercely. He could tell the man was more afraid of going broke than of William, and decided to cut his losses.
"Bah!" Said the poor bloke before retreating into the crowd with his dice and throwing the fistful of dollars where Kidd sat on the ground cross legged. He didn't seem to mind, and calmly collected his winnings from around the dirty masonry. As he sat up straight he counted his winnings.
"Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, say what's goin on why can't I hear myself?" Kidd looked around to see if anyone else had noticed anything strange. Most of them had confused expressions as well, until headmaster Zao began speaking. The charm was unnecessary at this point, as Kidd fell truly silent at the sight of him. The legendary Zao, in the flesh, more or less speaking to Kidd. In a way. Kind of. It was enough to keep an excitable fellow quiet. William was a tad disappointed, however, when some first years were called out by name and this did not include him. He disappointedly scanned the occupants of the stage now, and wasn't particularly impressed with most of them. What made them special over him? Aside from the scary fellow in the white hood none of them looked as if they'd seen much combat themselves. While scanning the stage, Kidd spotted a man whom nearly made him gasp.
There was a man on stage wearing a very dapper suit with an octopus for a face. Kidd had never seen nor heard of the likes of this and, on top of looking very unusual, looked very strong. The man looked like a boxer by his physiology, if the physiology of octopus-people could be considered akin to humans. He wondered about the cephalopodean's takedown defense in detail as he mesmerized at the man's moist green skin and onyx-colored eyes. He would be sure to ask the man to go a few rounds if he proved to be high spirited like Kidd.
Silence came abruptly to the chaos that once enveloped the hall. The eyes of many, if not all, were directed towards a single direction. A single entity. A single voice. That which belonged to the Headmaster of Stormcrest - Lung Feng Zao.
As the renowned figure spoke, his words made emotions arise in the hearts of those present. Students and staff. Young and aged.
Fear. What horrors must they face in their time here?
Regret. Perhaps they should have chosen a different institute instead.
Excitement. If they could go through the trials the Headmaster spoke of, then they could be at the very top of all.
But to the one who has been forsaken by her own kin, there was only one thing that the Headmaster's words ignited.
And it was none other than intrigue.
To Ayralis Ragnavin Kutherylle, the Headmaster sounded different from those that she had heard before. A tone invisible to most was heard by her - the very sound of truth. Perhaps this man knew the truth of the world. The hidden principles that lay beneath layers and layers of the natural and man-made laws. And it was at that very moment that Ayralis had decided to make such one of her goals - to uncover the hidden truths of the world.
Immersed in her thoughts, it took quite a while for Ayralis to realize that her name was called. In fact, someone near who had recognized her was the very person to point out that fact to her.
And so, with slight haste, she went up the stage, following the instructions that were relayed to her by someone else who was actually paying attention.
Once every one of the students he called to his side was assembled, Zao continued his speech, as smoothly as if he'd never paused it. "The students currently standing to my right will be my personal class for this year. I will have special lessons with them, and pass on some of my secrets, with the expectation they won't share them around foolishly no matter how much dogged bribery is employed to sway them otherwise. Some of you are, now, wondering, in your heart of hearts: what earned them this particular distinction? Talent? Heroism? Money? Allow me to disabuse you of stupid notions - it was none of that."
Zao's smile returned, predatory, with a glint of cold vengeance in his eyes. "The answer is much simpler. There is no reason at all." The old hero raised a fist, his grin never leaving his face. "I have taken everyone in this group in on a whim, and I will use them to prove a point: a true hero survives and achieves greatness, or they die and fade into obscurity. By the end of this year, the group standing to my right - as well as anyone else I whimsically decide to add to their flock - will be the greatest warriors, savants, and commanders in the Realm, or they will be corpses in the soil or sea. It depends on their efforts and will. Until then, you are dismissed to enjoy the last couple hours of freedom."
The Headmaster proceeded to walk off the stage, ignoring a sudden avalanche of murmured questions. He called after the students he called to the stage, once, "We'll have our first lesson tomorrow at dawn. Await me in front of my office. Dismissed." With that information, he turned the corner, followed by a bunch of teaching staff.
Location: Hallways or Office
Interactions: Zao (Birdsie
There were days when the god questioned her place in the mortal realm. The many little beings often held her fascination, and they would on occasions surprise her. Yes, surprise might be a word fitting the description. Azariel, one of Asteroth's most trusted subordinates in the Celestial Library, would not deny that mortals had something particularly special about them. Your average mortal may be unremarkable and pitiful, but even the lowest had a point of interest at times. The theories they came up with and the ways they interacted with the world were far outside the norm of even the lowliest of gods. Perhaps, it was this reason Azariel stuck around mortals as long as she did. After all, if one looked at termites they were surprisingly soffisticated creatures capable of great feats. Yet, even one human could come around and destroy the progress in the blink of an eye with little resistance. This, in a way was how Azariel and some other gods saw mortals.
Though, one would probably struggle to comprehend the idea of meeting a termite soldier that stood 6 feet tall and would easily subdue a would be attacker. That would easily describe Azariel when she first met Zao. Nearly a millenium old and someone who has discovered a new form of an old magic. Azariel tried her usual methods at first to no avail. She had never felt respect for a mortal before, and that was because no mortal before Zao could even hold a candle to her. She, a god, had to admit that Zao was a paragon among mortals. Not one hero of legend came nearly as close as he did. Though, she wondered if his respect was truly earned. After all, the winged god of knowledge was currently hanging from a chandelier with ropes made of some odd magic Zao had made up with his charms. Sorcery had no effect on it, and she was starting to feel a little more drained than usual. If she didn't act soon, the god would have to spend her first week in a petite tiny form.
The god closed her eyes and began speaking in a primal language. Soon, the ropes began to unravel a little, but in response they began to turn and spin in a way where the god began to start swinging in a circle at increasing velocities around the chandelier. If the god could get any form of motion sickness, a swirl of barf would cover the library form by now. The entire ordeal was disorientating though. She had to start her chanting over at least twice. What was even more shocking was how the chandelier was even staying on the roof. But, third time's the charm.
A massive crash resounded through the library as an entire book case fell over. Magic glowing rope was strewn about the book case and floor as the god rubbed her head. The rope had rejected her quite harshly and the god was glad she had wards placed all over the library. She picked up the rope and it began to try coiling back around her like a snake. In a panic she uttered a word and the rope went flying to the other side of the library and hid in a crevice. Perhaps she could get some poor sap to go hunting for that thing later. She certainly didn't want to be looking for it.
A clock materialized in front of Azariel and she checked the time.
"Well then, I guess I missed the assembly. Perhaps I can intercept Zao though. No one hangs me from a chandelier in an effort to revert me to my weakened form!"
A hiss sounded from above and Azariel dodged just in time for the rope to coil around thin air and slink back into another random crevice. The god shrugged and flew off out the door. After a short flight she found herself find Zao a short walk away from his office.
"I always find a way, Zao. I'm surprised you thought that rope was enough to hold me," Azariel said with a smug look on her face as she hovered in front of Zao. "Though where is your little entourage now? I had hoped to see some of them before I had to return to book keeping. Though, I can always find out where they'll be resting their heads, if you even told the students that information."
So it was a bet, a gamble that he could take a bunch of randoms and make them achieve greatness. While Solomon wasn't the arrogant type, he would like to believe that, by choosing him, the bet was as good as proven. Well........was a point really proven? Given Zao's points, it seemed like he was just playing a numbers game. If you take enough students, soon you'll be known as a good teacher. If you play a game enough, you'll eventually be known for winning more times than anyone else.
Then again, Zao really had already proven how good he was. It may very well be a case of they either be the best or they die, whether by trying or by giving up. If Solomon were in Zao's position, he would doubt that there would be an in-between, but is that good thing? If a teacher took 100 students and 50 straight up died during training while the other 50 became the greatest in their craft, is the teacher really a good teacher? Or did they just survive bad teaching?........Or would that make Zao an overall average teacher since greatest in the craft and dying during training are opposite extremes? Did the students die because they were weak? Or because it seemed like the teacher just sent them on a suicide march? It was quite the question that Solomon couldn't answer. With an output of only extremes and no averages, would you be more known for the extreme bad or the extreme good?
It struck him hard because that's how it was while training to be an Executioner. If you die, it was because you're too weak to be an executioner and your God would choose your afterlife path......but that could just be a cop-out for bad teaching............but was it bad teaching if EVERYONE that makes it out becomes an S rank or higher?
Solomon sighed. Pondering such questions would get him nowhere. If Zao's words were to be taken to the word, there was no room for averages. Either he becomes the best or he dies...... and until he was Ordained to die, he wouldn't die unless it while fulfilling an order from his God.
"I suppose I should just skip the gym today then," he muttered, and turned to the rest of the line. "My name is Solomon. Should one of you desire to speak with me, I'll be at the sparring ground. Otherwise, I guess we'll get better acquainted tomorrow." While out, he may as well explore the grounds as it seems like there is a lot of ground to cover.
Hearing Zao's explanation of why she was up on the stage surprised, and for the first time since her arrival to the academy, a true smile lit up her face, not one of malice, but one of unadulterated glee at the idea of telling father about it, so when they were all given leave to depart the crowded room, the were-rabbit wasted no time dallying and hopped her way in the direction of the dormitories with a large spring in her step.
Her mind didn't even consider the idea of talking with her classmates, or the possible tribulations that could come from being under the tutelage of Zao himself, but simply of the happiness she would be able to bring to her family.
Once she got there, to her pleasure finding it rather empty considering it was a public dormitory, she pulled out a small cage from under her bed containing a snow-white rabbit, plucked it from the cage, wrapped both herself and the little creature in the bedsheets, and began babbling in the world's softest whisper, the words barely noticeable, never mind understandable, and if one were to pay extra attention, they might have even heard the little fluffy creature whispering back.
The only thing to interrupt the soft whispering of the two would be the small child-like giggles of Luna herself.
It turns out I was not in trouble. I had a moment of panic there, thinking that this place might be different from the rest. What a foolish notion. I should've learned this lesson a million times. We are all subject to the whims of those above us. And despite the impressions they may try to give, those with power are always whimsical. In school, the teacher's spanking paddle would find it's way to students seemingly at random. In the military, it's even stronger - you will follow your superior commander, no matter how irrational his demand are. You must throw your life away for nothing, train yourself to be slaughtered, take the punishments given to you. Zao's speech and mannerisms told me that he would be no different. [Zao: Each and every one of you will die screaming just as the last class died screaming.] At least he was being direct and truthful. And he was just as whimsical as everyone else in power, choosing a random subset of people. So, Zao. Despite all the tales of greatness, you are just like all the others.
At home, the hierarchy was always clear - parents first, then the child. Sometimes, there would be a period where we pretend to be equals. But I was always a prisoner to my parent's fancy, should they feel the desire to scream or punch. At first, I thought that this was what the hierarchy was for. I really believed that there was someone else who would come help the weak. But that someone else never really came, and a seed of doubt grew in my heart. That seed flourished on a day my mother had taken too much of her favorite drug - euphoria. That event coincided with a day I stole a generous amount of cash to buy some toy. My mother flew into a rage - breaking the toy, attacking me with chairs, glass, and more. My father thought it would be a good idea to call the police. When they came, they saw a strong man, a weak woman, and a beaten child. My father was taken to jail on the whims of authority. Because he was too afraid to take his place at the top of the hierarchy, he fell to the bottom. So I had to live with my mother. But I had gained one thing - I understood that there were only two kinds of people - those who rise to the top of the hierarchy at any cost, and those that let themselves be trampled. Personally, I would rather be the former.
But now, I am standing in a room with a bunch of people who are considered my equals. Always a scary word. There is no clear hierarchy, but Zao had made it clear that there would be. Some of us would die, some would become heroes. A Hero. Someone who stands at the top of the hierarchy. Zao was giving us a few hours to see if anyone would rise to the top, or if we would all passively be content with the notion of equality. I looked around as people filed out. The strongest-looking man, Solomon, had left the room, and besides him there were 4 girls and a... tentacle... thing. As I don't really know anyone's strength, I decide to play it safe and find the weakest target - without a doubt, it's Elenora Luna. I could almost see her shaking in the unfamiliar environment.
... wait, where did she go? She left while I was monologuing to myself! I've been had! Alright, then I guess I'll go with that other girl, Aryalis.
I walk up to her, and rip out my hair. A few random tufts, as big as I can manage. It hurts of course, but it's necessary.
[Theodore: Look at all this hair I have! Brown, curly, and stuck at the top of my head. It's not too long, and I don't stand out. But what about you? Your bright red hair really stands out in a place like this.]
I try to grab her wrist and activate my Grace on her. Supposing that they had last thought of my hair when I activate my ability, Physical attacks done with her body would be the equivalent of pushing my body against my hair until one breaks, so the hair would break and I wouldn't feel much, and she would feel absolutely no resistance, as if I or anyone else didn't exist at all. On the other hand, the hand grabbing her ear would still be touch her since it was there when the ability activated (though she could pry it off). In any case, so long as she didn't use weapons, she wouldn't stand a chance unless someone helped her. But why would anyone want to do that?
[Theodore: If you want to stand out so much, I hope you can back it up. Let me give you a taste of the real world. As a weakling, you'll need to follow the every whim of the strong - in this case, me.]
William walked with a lax posture as he waded through to the middle of the crowd, all the while never taking his eyes of Zao as the man spoke. Words of two roads diverging at this very moment. Everyone in attendance, Kidd was sure, felt they were on the road less traveled. The road to glory that Zao had so aptly warned them they had no hope of ever seeing. Kidd knew the man spoke the truth about all gathered in the hall having unrealistic expectations, including himself. William attempted to gather his ego up and place it back into it's proper cupboard in his mind, warning himself that if he treated this experience as another of his games of chance he would surely end up at the bottom of the black sea before him. This was, to Zao, merely a display of the way of the universe. The strong will always succeed, and the weak will fail. It mattered not which ones were on stage and which were in the audience. If they died, they had no one to blame but themselves regardless of who their teachers were.
The life coming back into the room marked the end of Zao's dreary speech, and many participants of the meeting scattered. A few in the crowd below the stage by William looked as if they had already given up. Good for them, thought Kidd, The blokes' are much smarter than me, anyways. William then absentmindedly sauntered toward the exit, following the scary hooded executioner. Why don't we go ahead and test the waters then. See how Zao's words apply to one of his chosen and I. The taller man got a head start, and Kidd made no effort to catch up to him further, trailing behind down the dimly lit hallway which led to the training grounds. He could tell by the way the warrior had openly invited all on stage to the training grounds he was confident, but William sensed no malice in his words, as if the man genuinely wanted some good practice. I could definitely use a warm up roll myself.
From the man's gate, William observed he was likely very strong with good balance. Likely a striker like the Octopus man from the Staff's table. The man's armor and disposition gave William the impression the fighter did not often practice non-lethal techniques. Kidd personally always liked to have the option open, and his grappling style allowed him to go for the kill as an alternative is necessary. Solomon would naturally make it out to the wide courtyard which served as training area of the grounds. Around the edges were many columns separating the main grassy fighting space from the observation sidewalk which ringed the area. Against the walls were all manor of replica training weapons, staff, wooden swords, even bows with soft-tipped arrows. If Solomon knew William was behind him he would be sure to notice him walking a ways away from him once the two emerged into the courtyard, at least half it's full distance. He the began to stretch lightly, first reaching for his toes and then sitting down and again repeating the process from different angles.
"I believe you issued an invitation for a bit of sport, eh mate? I may not be one of Zao's personal class, but hopefully I can entertain you until lights out." Stated William politely in his high, boyish tone. He gave the man a grin with a glance from the corner of his eye, continuing to warm up.
Eberron watched in quiet amusement as one of the students decided to pick a fight with someone far larger than himself. The Dark Apostle was even more amused when he saw the teen puncture his opponent's arm. But when the large man seized up, it all clicked for him. The boy had envenomed his blade, causing paralysis. "Not bad... Cleaver, but far too egotistical. He currently is of no use to me... for now at least..." Eberron thought when the air grew quieter. That was when he spotted the legendary Headmaster himself. The speech, while a bit presumptuous, was dead on, end the man knew he had to somehow get into the legendary hero's good graces. He of course knew sucking up to him would never work. Only fools like boot lickers. No, he would have to make himself worth the old man's time and knowledge. While his patron was extremely helpful, he could only tell him so much at a time. Perhaps another source of knowledge would prove useful.
"Of course, i could always befriend one of his chosen students, but that could prove risky. No. The only way to get his attention is to play to my strengths and stand out among my peers. As annoying as it may be. Who knows, maybe i could even get a devotee out of it. Or at least a friend..." He thought as his eyes scanned over the selected students. "Zhang is out of the question. Far too Egotistical and unpredictable. The execution looks too rigid along with the paladin. The Seadog could be bought, but money can only go so far when it comes to loyalty. No, the best choice, is the one unfamiliar and exceptionally uncomfortable with her surroundings. Luna..." He continued to ponder, as he followed the others out of the main hall. "But first, having a bit of muscle on my side couldn't hurt. And i'm sure Guile would relish in the opportunity for some payback.
With his plan now formed, the Artificer quickly approached the still paralyzed giant of a man. Reaching into one of the pouches in his satchel, he pulled out a vial of antivenom. "Man, that kid is a fucking psycho. Here allow me to get that nasty shit out of your system." Eberron said as he unstoppered the vial and approached the man. Seeing the apprehension in his eyes, Eberron gave a reassuring smile. "Don't worry friend, it's antivenom. The little bastard must of envenomed his dagger with a paralysis poison. Crude, but effective. Now, I'm gonna need you to swallow this alright?" He said as he carefully emptied the vial into the hulking man's mouth. "It should take about a minute to start working, so no need to worry, you'll be moving around like this never happened and be able to kick the little shit's ass if you want."
Zao's speech was nothing short of unique. To some, it was stupid, controversial, or perhaps infuriating. To others it might be awe inspiring, uplifting, or even great. Marie's reaction perhaps was a mix between the two general feelings. Surviving was definitely an important aspect, but it really didn't do well with the fact she already was suffering from Survivor's Guilt. After all, for the mere act of it she had been given a power that could've saved her entire Mercenary Company, her family. Yet that was only after they had all been eaten and drowned. She only received her grace after she washed up onto the shore with the juvenile leviathan corpse. She had hoped that at least someone had made it. If only someone survived, she might be fine with it. It would've meant her actions meant something, that her survival meant something.
Yet, just after being rescued, Maravetia learned she was the only survivor. Everyone was effectively dead, and now here she stood. Beholden to a man who she would call her new mentor, who might as well have just stated that her entire family died because they didn't have what it took. Perhaps that she was a hero for merely surviving.
"Real heroes, the ones who deserve true praise, will always be those who place themselves before others. Those who take the initiative to make sure the situation doesn't go to pure shit."
She could practically here his voice after Zao's speech finished. Her knuckles became bone white, more so than usual, and she began taking some subtle deep breaths. Deep inside, she wanted to believe Anthony's words. After all, she wouldn't be here if he hadn't decided to take her in. If he had merely given up and let her die, or dropped her off on the harbor without a say, she wouldn't be standing on this stage. She didn't care Zao picked her on a whim, but she only cared now about his emphasis on surviving. To her, he had no respect for the dead. The dead who may have been the very reason for others to live.
Something pulled the former mercenary out of her own realm. Before she considered leaving, she saw the most peculiar sight. Theodore immediately trying to pick a fight with Ayralis. Well, that's what it looked like to Marie anyway. Her old company may have been disciplined enough to keep infighting to a minimum, but it wasn't like it never happened. After all, the last thing a group protecting merchants from pirates and reclaiming stolen goods from said pirates wanted would be the crew deciding the pirates would be a better ally. Mutinies and infighting were never tolerated, and those who were prone to picking fights for petty or frivolous reasons were often the ones to decide that a change of alliance was a good idea. Those people were often branded with a rather harsh method.
Maravetia felt anger as Theodore tried to pick on Ayralis. Obviously, he had chosen her because he was running under an assumption she was weak. That really bothered her as she felt her blood begin to boil, solidifying a hostile presence around her. It only worsened as the man made small meaningless claims to justify his hostility and aggression. Being able to prove strength? What a joke when one was merely picking the weakest, too afraid of losing or harm to actually try anything else. Those people weren't strong, they were cowards. Cowards who would happily watch their comrades die if it meant they would live, cowards who would happily ruin any semblence of unity, and cowards who would happily put a blade through the gullet of their friends for a more lucrative opportunity.
Marie began walking, her eyes locked on her target. People like this little shit needed to be taught a lesson. If they wanted to practice might makes right, they had better be able to back it up. Scenarios flew through her head as she saw red and began calculating possible outcomes. Sizing up Theodore as she would any other enemy. Her eyes locked onto his neck and she began to extend her hand, planning to lift him up like a kitten. Though, an abnormal amount of bloodlust could give her away at any moment.
Fáidh had no idea what to expect when she was called upon and even now with Zao having finished his speech she was still unsure as to what the future held in store for her. Was she going to die or would she rise to greater heights, what was her purpose and just what had the gods set in motion? Fáidh understood she was now a part of an elite class mentored by Zao himself and that was an honour of great note but just what exactly did that entail? It was obviously not going to be anything like her Paladin training and one could easily surmise that it wasn't going to be anything like the normal classes her fellow year members would be partaking in. So then, just what had the gods put in motion? It mattered little at this point, all Fáidh could do was give this her all and hope to land where the gods intended her to, perhaps push further still and humour their known curiosity. This was going to be one hell march of education, but then again it's only those who walk such a path that make it to heights unknown by the masses.
Fáidh was lost deep in thought when Theodore approached the stage but when he took hold of Ayralis' wrist Fáidh's attention was fully locked on the scene at hand. 'If you want to stand out so much, I hope you can back it up. Let me give you a taste of the real world. As a weakling, you'll need to follow the every whim of the strong - in this case, me.'- How pathetic, to think a man would use such underhanded tactics against a lady who was minding her own business. Hate, greed, a longing to stand out before others... such a man... nay such a child as this was nothing more than that of a worm, wriggling and twisting in an effort to keep moving forward speaking of the world as if it knew a world outside its meagre dirt-filled sanctuary. Truly pathetic!
Fáidh was about to step in and attempt to disarm the situation but before she could do so she felt something sinister in the air. Not only could she sense bloodlust emitting from Ayralis but also her fellow classmate Maravetia. Someone was about to be seriously hurt here and by the looks of things, it was going to be the assailant. Maravetia had already begun to make her move, she was already within reach of the boy and her outreaching hand was just about to make contact with his neck. A shakedown would have been fine and well deserved but the bloodlust emitting from those two was not something to be taken lightly and from the looks of it Theo hadn't even realised just how much danger he was in yet.
Just before Maravetia took hold of the boy's neck a chain found itself wrapped tightly around her wrist while another was secured around both Theodore's waist and extended assailing arm. Theodore was pulled, with great speed, back several feet behind the Paladin before Maravetia's wrist was released and the attached chains of both targets returned to Fáidh's waist. "This worm of a man deserves to be punished and severely too but I'm sure the institute has ways and means to do so without student such as ourselves plunging him into a near-death state. I also assume Zao would disapprove of such actions and as a result tomorrow morning we too would be punished as a class. I do apologise for chaining your wrist miss Maravetia but given the situation, I couldn't think of an alternate method to delay your actions.".
Turning her head slightly to gaze pitifully upon Theodore, Fáidh continued "Aside from that line of reasoning I must say it would be unfair for you two to fight such a pathetic and small man. Unbecoming of you even, it may taint your souls to even spar with such a being. He's practically still a child, a child who thinks he's a 'big boy' now......"
Shugon Ragsdale Reception > Zao's office; Interactions: Silver WolfBirdsie
Mentions: Dem peeps at the stage a bit.
The cthulhoid in a suit merely stood there and attentively surveyed the crowd of students that congregated for the reception whilst also listening to Zao's speech. His mind's eye-rolled at the melodramatic speech, most of these kids will forget his rationale by the next morrow. With the speech at its' end, the rest of the teaching staff began to follow Zao but Shugon lingered on the stage. The Stygian jewels that resided in his tentacled head passed over the crowd. In the dark depths of his city, light from the sky scarcely ever penetrated the aquatic metropolis, even so, his eyesight isn't poor by any definition of the word. Most of them, he committed to his visual memory but not all. When word reached the cthulhoid's inner ear about his prolonged presence on stage, he saw it best to begin his departure.
He turned on a heel then began to follow in the direction of Zao and the rest of the faculty. It's a pity that he didn't persist on stage if he did then he would've witnessed a monumental scene of hubris, one which would've brightened up his day but alas another place, another time for that.
Shugon navigated the halls of this academy as he had done many times before, the pride in his steps were enough to prove that. As the tentacle-faced man walked ever closer to his office, he would have to pass by the office of his colleague Zao which eventually, of course, he did but the situation puzzled him. Zao was there but a woman that Shugon does not recognize. When approached, Shugon managed to catch the smug look on the woman's face and her words as well.
Then it struck him. It's the librarian. Shugon merely shook his head if he had lips then he would've cracked a small smile. He approached the duo. "Ah, Azariel. I thought someone was unaccounted for during the reception? Were you perhaps tied up with something?" The octopus' voice reverberated while tentacles twisted and turned with his words.
Before the thrill of the fight cold even hit me, I felt the cold touch of some metal on my wrist and waist, pulling me to the side. My eyes widened in surprise. This Ayralis... did she have hidden chains, ready to defend her at all times? She didn't even move her hand or make any motion that might indicate she was casting a spell to move them! With my wrist entangled by the chain, I couldn't even reach to take hold of anything and found myself flying back at an outrageous speed. The chains released me a I flew past, and for that brief moment in the air I noticed that Maravetia girl, who had moved to a location right behind me, and her hand, too, was entangled in chains. Why was she so close to the fight?
Flying quickly through the air, the chains released me, and I managed to retain my balance as I slid back on the stage. I was shocked to see the source of the chains was, in fact, another girl - Fáidh, her name was? Was she perhaps a friend of Ayra? Unlikely, I remembered them walking up to the stage from different locations.. Perhaps, Ayra had some ability that could control people nearby, and Fáidh - Maravetia, too, were manipulated to attack me. And judging by the hovering chains, Fáidh was quite strong. As I contemplated how to get out of the situation, the paladin started to speak:
[Fáidh: This worm of a man deserves to be punished and severely too but I'm sure the institute has ways and means to do so without student such as ourselves plunging him into a near-death state. I also assume Zao would disapprove of such actions and as a result tomorrow morning we too would be punished as a class. I do apologise for chaining your wrist miss Maravetia but given the situation, I couldn't think of an alternate method to delay your actions.]
[Fáidh: Aside from that line of reasoning I must say it would be unfair for you two to fight such a pathetic and small man. Unbecoming of you even, it may taint your souls to even spar with such a being. He's practically still a child, a child who thinks he's a 'big boy' now....]
Wait, what? After a second, I pieced everything together. What was I thinking before? For some reason, this Maravetia girl had tried to attack me. And the paladin had come to stop her. Why? Well, in this world, there are only two kinds of people - those who oppress to rise to the top, and those who meaninglessly cling to the top for protection and end up nowhere. So the Maravetia girl was the real threat - she had attacked me because defeating me would give her an ally in Ayra and increase her social standing. Which means that, despite her frail stature, she had thought she could win. Fáidh's metal chains still hurt; she was surprisingly strong for someone who believed in justice. The face of the girl I killed came up into my mind, and I tried my best to dismiss it. I had been reckless - the people in this school were much more dangerous than I thought. You couldn't judge people by their looks - magic was everywhere. Perhaps I was no longer the strongest physically. This school was a nest of snakes, far more dangerous than I had imagined. For now, a strategic retreat was needed.
[Theodore: Three on one seems hardly fair. Have you all no shame? And why target me, when Arya was just as involved? If I really am so pathetic, aren't you all the ones targeting the weak? I was just giving her some friendly advice. ]
I poured a lot of mana into my Blameless charm to help ease them off of me. [Theodore: But I'll forgive your injustice, just this once. Since we're all of the same class, maybe I'll give you all the same advice. Weaklings must do everything they are told. And, as Zao said, that includes dying. That's the first and most important lesson for anyone in the military. Learning that lesson early will to spare you from learning that lesson with a lot more pain in the future.]
Still, the way things were going, Maravetia probably use them and use me as the common enemy. A fate I wanted to avoid. I needed to throw some wrench in their relationship to prevent them from getting too buddy-buddy. [Theodore: And the people whose whim's you'll need to abide by aren't just those above you. The person you think is your equal now] I look at Maravetia. [might very well one day be the one whose happiness your death saves. Especially you, Fáidh. Jumping into everyone's else's business is going to make you disappear very fast.]
Zao smiled to himself and hung his head low as Shugon approached and greeted them, before answering, "She was, and I would suggest she quit prying for today. I may be convinced to use stronger, firmer rope if I am too annoyed today. I have tasks to see to."
The Headmaster, the so-called Dragon of the East Wind, looked at Azariel then dryly said, "Don't you have school-books to sort through?"
Solomon didn't know William existed behind him until he spoke up while Solomon was grabbing some of the replicant weapons. He wasn't about to use that training armor with the training weapons. His own armor should suffice. When training, one needed to be as close as possible to performance armed, and since he couldn't use his own weapon as there was no Sanctified Holyfield to keep them alive, he'd need to use the replicant weapons.
He looked at William when he spoke. If this boy has training, it was in technique, not in strength as he didn't look like he lifted all that much........unless there was a grace or charm that compensated for that. Solomon wouldn't be cocky enough to overlook that possibility. Solomon dropped his weapons and grabbed a grew of the training weapons. A replicant crossbow, a replicant sword, and a replicant mace, as well as a chain. On each of these, he ensured that the general weight of the weapon as well as the weight distribution were as close to his own equipment as he could. "So one arrives.........William. So you want to spar with me? Excellent." He gave some practice swipes of his replicant sword. "Choose the weapon you desire so we can begin." They would make small talk after their sparring match. Solomon wanted to get at least one workout in for the day.
After curing the Protein Guzziling Buffoon of his minor case of paralysis and gaining an ally/pawn, Eberron made haste to the workshops. He had much to accomplish, and little time to do so. That and his little friend was waiting for him to preform some maintenance. Lengthening his steps, he hastily made his way across the campus and into an environment he felt most at home at. While not completely devoid of life, very few students were around, so he was able to find an empty workspace to claim as his own. Moments after his arrival, the sound of light clacking made it's was towards him, as metallic armatures pranced across the stone tile floor. A small mechanical unicorn stopped before the artificer, it's white alloyed plates a stark contrast to the industrial and drab workshop.
"Master. Have you finally found time to fix me. The Tertiary pistons in my foreleg keep seizing up. Possible minor damage from this unit's transport to this school. Also, may i have a hug?" The adorable Mechanical Golem requested as she plopped down in front of him. Having to resist the urge to laugh at her antics, Eberron set his tool kit on the worktable and began to set them up.
"Of Course Sweetie. but first let's get you up to 100 percent. I'll need your help with a few projects in a bit." He replied before picking up a peculiar set of tools and set to work repairing the mechanical lifeform. "Your core seems to be in perfect condition, and i do see the problem with the piston. It appears to have taken some minor damage as you said. But it'll be an easy fix. How are the new armaments i've installed been holding up?"
"The Twin Rotary guns have added a bit of weight to my chassis, but no issues have arrived. I look forward to testing them on a bloodbag." The adorable mechanoid said as Eberron replaced the White Alloy plating into it's rightful place, covering up her internal workings. "Can I have a hug now?!" She asked excitedly her chassis shacking with excitement. Giving a slow sigh, Eberron gave a small nod and smile, only to be tackled by the metal unicorn. "SET PHASERS TO HUG!"
The god pouted like a small child before replying, "Quite literally. My attempts to breach Zao's mind this morning was met with me unceremoniously hanging from a chandelier in the library. Magic rope slowly draining my findross, and when I finally found a way out, the blasted thing tried coiling around me like a constrictor snake! Now there's a fully animated rope slithering around the library. It's quite possible it could be problematic to more than just myself, assuming that rather than it being Zao who made the damned thing aware but some crazy freak reaction to my own magic."
Azariel let loose an exasperated sigh before looking at Shugon. "Since I doubt Zao will do anything to curb the strange rope that has now made the library its residence, do tell me what his little batch of misfits are like. Anyone or anything of particular interest?" Azariel asked in a way that definitely, completely, honestly, did not imply she was going to use any of the students to her own ends (obviously it did). Though perhaps not in a way that would lead her to trying to unravel the secrets of a certain hero who was in the room with them. No, Azariel wasn't as stupid as that, but her curiosity was definitely showing anyways.
"Also," the winged god added as she began floating upside down for no apparent reason. "Shugon, could I ask for some assistance on the rope matter? File it under later because it is rather fascinating. If it becomes a bother to my work or starts attacking students, I may need assistance in neutralizing it since it is tailor made for me."
Azariel didn't really care when she got back to the library at this point. Who was going to visit anyways? It's not exactly like she was expecting there to be students at a naval academy excited about books of all things. She already had the library meticulously sorted long ago. If she really needed help, students were essentially free labor. Sure, a knocked over shelf might be one thing, but she didn't remember it being of particular importance. It might've been a collection of sea shanties and legends of very low probability, but nothing beyond that.