The last few weeks had been both illuminating and trying; the toadstool witch had spent over a week under medical care and supervision – admittedly, not all in the hospital, at least – and some of the most sensitive plants were dead by the time she got home. Planning for this trip had been more stringent. The introduction of new friends in the week thereafter had introduced her to a group that she thought might put in the effort to enter her home in her absence: Chanterelle had no real delusions that the fact was guaranteed, but in the worst case, she’d had time to prepare water bulbs to slowly seep moisture into the soil of those most prized possessions. The rest of them were replaceable. Technically, all her plants were replaceable, but their fading still upset her- besides, it was a waste of mana and energy for them to be neglected.
She had to stop thinking about it. The worry for her garden was tangible in her packing; the witch had went back and forth on the idea of bringing a small tray of seedlings that she had been slowly nurturing from real seeds over the course of her recovery, but her worries of destruction turned out valid when she was frisked to get on the plane. There was a feeling of injustice curdling in her chest. Chanterelle was reasonably certain that the rest of her classmates had not received the same treatment. They’d sat her down to ask about organic material; there was only one plant seized from her (which, they assured the witch, would be kept in the office until her return) but they made the witch turn out her pockets filled with dirt in the process. The agent ‘helping’ her seemed to think it was all very funny. Chanterelle did not.
There was validity to their concerns with the movement of organic material into a unique ecological zone. Chanterelle knew that, and she couldn’t deny that, but she was certain as to the health of her plants. She could feel it- besides, plants that came from her were of her flesh, and the witch felt a certain kind of offense to the idea that she was diseased. Either way, she’d made it through the empty building, made it out onto the tarmac when the rest of the group had already congregated. She had some concerns with the impending ten-hour flight. The chief among them was her company.
She’d made a tentative kind of peace with Maria, with the hospital visit, but they… weren’t friends. They had respect for one another, certainly. There was no more conflict between them then there had been before; in fact, they seemed to have more respect for each other, even if the toadstool witch had gotten into the habit of enforcing some distance.
Raphael, for his part, was as friendly as ever. She worried about him in the aftermath of the tournament. Hadn’t had enough time to really check up with him at all. She’d missed class in that week; the week following felt like catchup for the relationships that had lagged behind. It was hard.
Despite the animosity she’d sensed at first from Maria, Chanterelle thought she knew Ark the least. They’d spoken, at least briefly, through the classes she’d attended. He was perfectly pleasant. They were compatible in discipline; he seemed interested in her abilities. It just hadn’t gone very far yet. It made her nervous, to collaborate with someone she barely knew. The witch was used to her knowing her co-conspirators like family
But social concerns weren’t something she could air so easily in the aftermath of the tournament or within the development of emotional connections to her peers. She wanted to talk about it. There was another thought in her mind, though – Chanterelle had never been on a plane, and she was nervous about it, particularly considering the length of the flight and the fact that they were moving over open water. If they were to crash, it would be… catastrophic. “I’ve got another pressing question,” she interrupted, "what are, er, the relative chances of this thing falling out of the air?”
Team ReaperJarvis Briseis (Weapon, Blood-sucking Gauntlet, Undead) March 28th, 2067 DWMA Campus, Lot E
“I didn’t bring him,” Jarvis replied, slipping his phone back into his pocket at Adrian’s approach. Unlike the other three, Maiden was someone he felt more comfortable conversing with as a fellow former member of Team Arrow and someone who he’d watched spar with Zari for the last two weeks. They’d completed a mission together. Trained together, in a sense; Though they focused on completely different things, it wasn’t like they were unaware of what the other was doing. Jarvis spent nearly as much time with Adrian as he did Zari, granted that was largely due to the fact his meister and the autonomous weapon trained together often, and, while they’d never interacted soul-wise, he did consider Adrian a friend. Watching them work hard these past 2 weeks made him want to work a little harder as well...kind of. At the very least, Jarvis knew he didn't want to be left behind. “He followed me here like he followed me from Siberia. I just didn’t have the energy to deal with his tantrums.”
For some reason, one that Jarvis couldn’t fathom, Blackie had been incredibly attached to him since this morning. Was it the scream that had woken them both up? Their new roommate, Alistair Craven? Attempts at removing that cat from his head only resulted in the feline throwing a hissy fit and Jarvis did not fancy the claws digging into his scalp. He figured it was best just to leave it alone. Like the bird that had been stalking him for the past week, Blackie would grow bored eventually.
Jarvis shrugged. “If this is anything like Lot C, I may just sit out the fighting, since I now know they have no intention of passing us that easily. Just gotta make sure no one tries to resonate with madness..."
The scent of decaying flesh caught his attention.
Red eyes followed the Egyptian girl as she arrived in Lot E, greeting them all in a respectful and cheerful manner befitting a disney princess–except princesses didn’t bow. Asian greeting? Should he recuperate? Before he got the chance to though, she pet Blackie, who purred and leaned into her touch. Certainly a different reaction than when Jarvis first tried tending to his wounds. Did living around an undead for so long acclimate the cat to living corpses? Give it bravery points? Or was it simply enjoying the attention, regardless of where it came from?
Were they actually kindred spirits? Jarvis shrugged. He didn't know enough about their souls to say that for certain. "Uh-huh. Nice to meet you."
What Jarvis did know was that the Egyptian girl definitely wasn’t a bloodsucker, but definitely was not human either. Some sort of corpse-like golem? A zombie? The sheer scent of decay would make sense in the latter's case, but Jarvis couldn’t be positive, since it wasn’t as if he’d ever really interacted with that many zombies in life. The closest thing would be the reanimated corpses that he and Atli encountered back in the day, when they’d been chasing a necromancer for a mission, but those things didn’t quite have the… “vitality” …the Egyptian girl seemed to have. She smelled older as well. Much older…though not as old as Valerija.
More interesting than her age, however, was the fact that she seemed to know much of what was going on. Sharing an amused sidelong glance with Adrian, since he hadn’t been aware the autonomous weapon had been assigned a 'partner', Jarvis’s gaze drifted to ‘Aka Kuro’ who the Egyptian girl revealed to be a Deathscythe. Admittedly the only Deathscythe he knew was the Blue Reaper…and only because Cyrus was the most televised. After leaving DWMA, becoming a bloodsucker, and killing Atli, Jarvis had stopped paying attention to the ongoings of their old school. There was no point, he’d thought. Past choices couldn’t be undone…and it was impossible to reclaim everything that was lost. Even now, he wasn’t sure there was a point. He just wanted to see how far he could go…with DWMA...with Zari…who wasn’t yet here.
Jarvis checked his Magitech watch.
Brown-haired coffee girl kneeled in front of him, though her eyes were clearly on Blackie, who was preening from all the attention he was getting. Do all girls like cats, these days? Not that Jarvis could blame them. He himself thought Blackie had been a rather adorable-looking Siberian tabby when he’d first picked up the injured stray on that cold winter day. Very fluffy. Jarvis sighed. But, of course, looks could be deceiving…like the case of Shuumie who, while Jarvis still thought cute, he didn’t have the energy to deal with–especially a creature that tried to kill both him and his meister. Taking care of a pet was a hassle. Still, Blackie was a companion to him...as much as Zari or Adrian.
“Blackie is a black Siberian cat. You can hold him if you can get him off my head.”
Hidden behind the forest of stakes, laid down on his back with his bare feet swinging in and out of the shallow water was Abyss, drawn to the shoreline like a moth to a flame. He was actively avoiding getting put into manual labor by his Meister - who no doubt would have him carrying logs should he only come to remember the young weapon in the moment - passing time on his phone whose screen defiantly attempted to light up enough to be visible in the blinding sunlight. Time was creeping on, and he hadn't yet seen a single of the Fate agents that were supposed to show up. Bored. His phone fell to land on his chest as he let his arms fall outwards into the sand and began to make a poor attempt at snow angel in it.
Maybe if you smash the stakes even harder you'll attract ALL the fate groups Wulf. He wildly gesticulated in sign language towards the sky as another wooden pole was embedded into the sand. Not that Starwulf could see him over here anyway, but Ilyes always made a point out of talking to himself. D'ya think they lost the time? Annoyed and disappointed with his lack of an answer, he moved his head as if to stare through the stakes at his Meister, then defiantly kicked his feet out of the water and made a back roll into standing and pocketed his phone in the motion. With floaty movements, almost as if his airy traditional clothing actually gave him lift, he leapt onto the nearest stake and danced over towards where Starwulf was making a ruckus.
Absentmindedly he frolicked forth, but nearly lost his footing from shock as he reached the other side. In the short time he'd spent to himself on the shoreline, they had in fact been joined by one other - a very tall and muscular grey-haired woman who'd already begun helping them with the stakes. Dramatically he grasped at his heart in surprise, but was still unsure whether or not his theatrics had gone noticed. Immediately though, his attention had been snagged from his Meister, and he altered his course to crouch at the edge of a pole just by the stranger. He hugged his knees and eyed her curiously with an innocent smile.
His experience at the DWMA was that while many agents learned a lot of languages, nearly none of them bothered with sign language - probably given a lot of them could use other means of communication via resonance or magic - but in a vainly hopeful attempt at making a new friend he motioned welcome towards her and gave her a little wave. Her stern exterior and forceful movements didn't put him off at all, even if her soul almost snarled not to be approached. After years upon years by Starwulf's side, there were very few things that scared him aside from, well, Starwulf, and while he gladly played along as his vicious and dangerous weapon during missions, Ilyes was inherently a gentle creature. In innocence, he extended his left hand as an offer to shake it - fully intending to convey a telepathic "Hello!" over their brief contact should she take it, as his expert superficial resonance abilities and gentle wavelength allowed him to do.
As the others piled in bit by bit, Rieko turned her attention back to the papers in her hand as she read over the contents again, pausing to acknowledge each one in turn and what they were up to. After the two new inductees, Jarvis showed up with a cat on top of his head, arcing her brow at this situation she would think about what to say without saying too much... Or so she would like to have done as Adrian was next to arrive, only speaking to Jarvis. While the previous two had been open and talkative, these two were not.
Though she could not blame them. The DWMA essentially and for all intents and purposes dissolved their team. Though in practice it just placed them all here, it was not difficult to replace a bond of trust, had it been her way this would have been conducted earlier, with less secrecy or some other form of handling this all. Next the zombie had arrived and she was quite talkative and well informed. Who had she learned all of this from she wondered. Well, it made little difference. Though with the cold reception the others here were getting or giving, she wasn't about to do a school introductions period. Though students they may be, all of them were adults, no matter how much of a hand up they needed. And she was here to give them that. Watching with slight interest as the cat seemed to be the center of attention, she was sure that Sunder would not mind the presence of the small beast.
With a stern gaze upon her face, she pulls a pen out of her stack of papers, settling on one page as she spoke; "Eloise “Elly” Keegan. Meister, skilled at soul perception." She said, inclining her head to the blue-eyed brunette. She didn't feel the need to mention where the young lass was from. Next, "Sage Chauvelet, Weapon, spear, has elemental properties of plants. An interesting pairing given the mythological origins of your people." She says of the green-haired man and then Elly respectively.
"Jarvis Briseis, Weapon, hand claw gauntlet, blood sucker abilities." With a jerk of her pen towards the man with the cat, she didn't seem to pause at making it known he was a blood sucker, or much to care as she went on down the list, "Adrian Hackney, Autonomous Weapon, Iron Maiden. And yes, I do mean he turns into an Iron Maiden or has qualities towards that."
Then at Ashi she pauses a bit to say some words during the introduction; "My, I've not heard that name in a few years. Though you are correct. I am curious how you came to know of our intentions. Though indeed, Adrian Hackney, this is Ashi Monsera, Autonomous Weapon, chakram, greater zombie. We are missing Azariah "Zari" Vasher, Mesiter, partnered up with Jarvis. Whom I was informed would be a bit late possibly, we can deal with that later and you can tell him about your names on your own accord.
This team was made around a system of twos, the classical weapon and Meister pairings, two undead and two autonomous weapons. It is hoped that the last grouping of two shall allow for some form of cover and ability to operate around one another." Pausing and putting the pen away she then motions with her free hand to herself and speaks, "I am Rieko Tanka and have a few titles such as Aka Kuro, Blood Priestess and to those with a funny sense of humor or a lack of common sense, Scars."
"I am a Naginata type Death Scythe, my current Meister and co-mentor is.." With that she pauses a bit and smiles. "Well, he always like to do his own entrance, so soon yes?" With that she stops talking and lowers her hand, waiting for the other to join in, provided he was around. "And then we may decide what to do with the cat."
Eloise Keegan - DWMA Lot E ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Though it wasn't much, the information Jarvis departed with gave Eloise the impression that the tournament wasn't such an inaccurate representation of its ongoings. Apparently, their first group started out with a bang, with battles and madness risk. Thankfully for the latter, Elly didn't get a feel that anyone here had that problem. Though, there was of course the latecomer that could change that.
"Sounds like your group had quite a debut originally," Elly commented with a smile, reaching a hand out toward he feline to allow it to smell her hand. "I'd rather not get into an unnecessary scrap myself, or risk a madness outbreak."
Commenting on that, Rieko spoke up again, causing the smaller girl to look back, though keeping her arm outstretched for the cat to hopefully not claw her. The woman began reading them off and listing off their specialties. Her peers were interesting, though Adrian's supposed form did take her a bit off guard as--Well, it wasn't really a weapon and was certainly cumbersome. She turned her head back briefly to look at the autonomous weapon.
"Iron maiden? Like, a full one?" She questioned with curiosity, her hand escalating to pet the cat lightly, barring it savagely attacking her hand at this point.
Then, Elly turned her gaze back to Rieko. She indeed was a death scythe after all, though her partner was late. While the Irish girl liked pushing buttons, she wasn't going to test that last epithet the maiden spoke of. Instead, she was more interested in the itinerary, and the cat of course.
"So, is this meeting more of a formality for us to get acquainted or does it serve another purpose? I do hope Mr. Briseis' prediction isn't that accurate and you don't plan for us to have a battle royale," Eloise asked smirking.
A lot had happened in the last couple days. From Rand's rather fair remarks about his lacking display in the tournament to the meeting with Raphael prior to that- things had been, busy in the following days after.
Not to mention the slack he got from his cousins: specifically, Alinta who had been honest and called the fight fairly lacking. A sentiment Lady Noir had shared in.
It didn't feel good having both your mentor or the lady of the House or a cousin tell you these things. So the time he got to spend with Rand, learning about the Seal Rings, as he had chosen to dub them, and testing what he could do with them under Rand's watchful eye. To say Ark did not immediately become absorbed in the magic behind the rings, from their functionality to the experimentations he began after Rand had introduced him, would have been a lie. For the majority of the time they were given in those two weeks, most of Ark's time had been spent practicing-- if he wasn't later being called by family back into the Witch Realm to receive an earful on how he could have done more in the fight at hand.
Those meetings however tended to be short, and thankfully so.
Ark did not want precious time wasted on hearing the same thing over and over and over again.
For a majority of his time that was all Ark really did, spending hours in the Training Grounds or at his own home's estate practicing during the times he wasn't with Rand. To him, testing out what he could and couldn't do with this magic tool was an absolute necessity. There was the Pull having its subtle influence on him. However it was a bit more than just that, it was also the thought that wormed its way into his head, battle anxiety crept in on the day he first tried his magic while using them, that what if- in the heat of the moment- he forgot the Rings were on his arm- what if, in the heat of the moment, he couldn't slip them off fast enough-- the what-ifs became a nag in his mind. This nag became a voiced thought that he presented to Rand- a modification to the Rings that could be considered later. Where instead of needing to pull them off, he asked if they could be broken- taken off like armor and then reattached when he needed them once more. It was just a thought process, an idea- but not one he bothered heavily on once he had voiced it.
Instead he focused on how quickly the Rings allowed him to channel magic, how hard it was or what it felt like when he hit each Ring's limit- and testing out what it felt like merely focusing on the functionality of what he wanted his magic to do when channeled instead of focusing on both the amount and function.
It definitely made things easier that was for certain. With One Ring on, he was capable of wider area effects around him, but still could not use his most powerful form of magic. With two rings, he needed to focus more on the sculpting and size of what it was he wanted to create. With all three, he could shift or alter the earth around him in small bursts. Things that disrupted movement, or moves that would let him create miniature walls for defensive purposes. The difference between the rings was honestly something that took him a couple days to get used to- by the near end of the first week, he had started to get a lot more comfortable in testing it out.
What came next, was forcing himself to get out of the mindset of holding himself back too much- that, was what took the most time. At the end of it all however, Ark came out feeling satisfied. The familiarity he had gained with the Rings may have initially interrupted his plans to seek out Nadia and Dani, or seek the others out for some practice- but in the end, this was exactly what he needed after feeling like he could have done so much better in the tournament.
There was a buzz in the air as Ark reached the airport, and he knew what that buzz was.
Excitement. A double-edged sword, given what he understood of just where they were going.
Practicing with his new arm jewelery wasn't the only thing he had done during his time spent with Rand, having heard of Dall Island only through rumor once, Ark had tried digging up information about the place- he hadn't found much, much to his surprise. Information about the island, to some degree- especially whatever had caused it to be initially shut down when it was site for the beta project of FATE, the Paean Program, was also locked and out of the eyes of the nosy.
It was a shame, but knowing Rand he expected more information to come as they all arrived.
He arrived minutes after Chant, exiting from the car. Carrying a briefcase, his grimoire strapped to the holder on his belt, and a suitcase with clothes.
In that briefcase he had everything he'd need. His gloves, and the bits of armor his father had designed to help him in combat, gauntlets that would protect his forearms, and legs. Not stuff he may use much, but still stuff he brought in the rarity he needed it- just like when he had been deployed to handle things in Nigeria with his team. The times he thought he wouldn't need the armor at all, they had ended up saving his life or preventing some pretty horrific injuries.
The checking process went as usual- it was not his first time being in an airport, DWMA affiliated or not, but the metal in his briefcase did cause the officer checking the contents of it when Ark opened to raise a brow.
Which he merely rose a brow back.
Over on the side, he could see how Chant was taking the inspection, and judging from her face it wasn't going well from the way the officer attending her chuckled and she frowned.
It went as smoothly as one could expect in any airport security.
Rand's explanation was soon followed by Maria's question.
And then Chant's unnecessary comment.
He frowned looking down at her and said in a disapproving tone: "Don't joke like that." Because he personally knew what it was like being shot out of the air by a magical projectile- not in a plane though, in a chopper.
Unintentionally, his mind went there. He wished it hadn't.
Ark put a finger to his ear as he suddenly heard the growing sound of alarms. He looked around, trying to play it off as if he was looking for something else, but his eyes went in different directions clearly.
It had been exhilarating for about five seconds, then it was downright terrifying when he remembered he still didn't know how to fly. The blearing alarms had been so loud, colors had whipped around and around like a merry-go-round, till he had straightened out, hundreds of feet in the air, wind hissing as the alarms faded and the pop and crack and sparks of fire and bits of metal followed his speedy descent towards ground, tossed different ways, seeing one glimpse of a soldier clinging to one of the helicopter's legs for support as the chopper's destroyed propeller blade failed to keep the aircraft buoyant.
Fire and smoke-- burning flesh-- he could hear their fading screams.
Ark sighed, running a hand through his hair- eyes still pinched tightly shut as he tried to get his mind off the memories.
It had been good they'd been flying over a city when the Outlaws had shot their chopper down- he managed to make it- the pilots and some of the Egyptian soldiers that had been with him-- not all of them survived. He blinked and the image of one pilot, sliced in the throat by glass, blurred out of his mind as he left his bag of luggage, unaware how tight he was gripping his briefcase, and began pacing to get the nervous wave of energy off him.
Didn't even realize that his grimoire was glowing, responding to his stress.
So he considered trying to play it off- crouching then rising, as if doing squats for a moment before he shook his legs, hoping to maybe get something going to help distract himself. After all that was what his therapist had advised. If he ever had an episode, ground himself in something calming. Exercise was calming.
So he started doing squats out of nowhere.
"I doubt we will have anything to worry about. Besides, Rand's pretty smart. I'm sure he'd figure something out to help us avoid plummeting to our doom."
It almost made him wish he could bring Moana. She was practically a spirit of frost. Manipulating water and ice would be easy for her. Too bad she couldn't join- Noir wouldn't have allowed it even if she wanted to.
FATE wouldn't have allowed it unless she volunteered. And he doubted she ever would. They all had images to maintain after all, why sully hers?
"Tell us a bit more about those spiders this Orb Weaver left behind." Ark didn't really ask, as he decided to maybe do some walking- up and down pacing; it wasn't a question, it was a request that came out in his voice as a desire to know. Something to get his mind off things.
A small part of him felt irritated at Chant for unintentionally setting him off, another part of him felt ashamed.
He thought he had better control of this- maybe he never would have the same control he once had ever again- it was disturbing to think about- so he decided to wait to see if conversation would help him ease his mind off his own demons.
The Grimoire continued to glow, Ark doing jogging. "Man, I'm excited." He chuckled- convincingly also. Which was true he was- he just didn't add the part where he was also feeling a wave of anxiety. "Can't wait to get to that island." And that part, wasn't a lie.
She'd been feeling this for a while now, ever since she'd begun watching the boys of the now defunct Team Arrow- and there was this growing desire, to peck at the Bloodsucker. It was innate like some kind of itch she needed to scratch.
Umbra, only a few inches larger than the Common Buzzard, sat on a branch with a Murder. Watching from a distance. Her feathers, indigo, red, silver, black, made her almost stand out- or would have if she had been visible in the shade she sat in, on the perch she was at. High above the clearing of which Lot E's members gathered, several meters away.
Every now and then, she would chirp. Banter. Small talk- with the crowd of birds around her- birds she had been interacting with off and on, for years since they had returned to Death City, and every now and then, they would reply back.
Catching up was good, this current job however was mind numbingly boring and the talking was starting to rot just as much as her patience.
She knew Az had told her to simply keep an eye on everyone and report back while he went about gathering information- and she had. Every one had been accounted for- even Ashi, as she joined the Lot, another pair of crows landing into the perch and joining the crowd that sat around her. Chirping in response that the Zombie would be joining any moment, and true to their word, she had.
Her strange eyes zoomed in, clarifying the distance and enhancing her vision as she studied each student there.
A part of her wondered just what would happen if she landed, and transformed into her larger size for just a moment. Who would react first? How quickly could they reach her before she transformed.
Sage would be something of a problem. He could transform and release poisons but poison wouldn't slow her down that much- it never had before. Maybe she'd bother him and Elly, just to see how the girl that liked being in controlled handled an out of control situation. After all- Reiko knew that if Umbra suddenly acted out, not to get involved, and simply watch unless things truly went south.
Somewhere on the ground, through their link, she sensed Az moving- even if he wasn't on the radar of the others- even the Bloodsucker, he would always be on hers. Even though he was invisible right now, currently standing not far and right next to Reiko- she could see him, feel him, as much as she could see around her and feel the rays of the sun through the roof of leaves above them.
Eating a student was forbidden, and even if she wanted to fly by, innocently, and then pull a little prank by attempting to devour Jarvis in one fell swoop-- it was best she didn't. Her brother would be quite mad- and the last thing she wanted to do was stir up conflict right now when first impressions were everything.
The magical Demon Beak squawked and the Murder around her all broke out into squawks in response; fits of laughter.
Jokingly, she had said: I bet Zombies taste good when left to cook in the sun.
It had been so sudden, the others had busted out laughing in surprise. 'Oh Umbra, you wild card', they had said-- but to human ears it would have just sounded like a bunch of annoying birds making a lot of unnecessary noise.
After all, she wasn't like her wild brethren- she knew that, and it wasn't like she would come out unscathed in a full on fight with Adrian present what with his annoying wavelength-- though her regeneration gave her an advantage against it, testing that and ruining her brother's plans wasn't on the agenda today. Nor did she have any desire or interest to test the mettle of the group when there would be something better prepared that could do that for her. Theatrics was fun, but a time and a place for all of them was a necessity.
Still, it was boring watching Reiko interact with them. She wanted to see some excitement, something better than just playing scout like she had been these last two weeks.
Luckily, she saw something of interest that had caught the group's attention. Initially she planned on ignoring it, but...now that she saw the attention it was getting in the group, Umbra squawked once.
Tipped forward, fell down, then spread her wings, flying in the direction of the clearing.
Four other birds followed her- squawking in laughter at what she had planned.
So his hunch had been correct, not even a Super Soul Perceptionist could detect the spiritual presence of a fully suppressed Soul. The Hoshi had truly done something unique refining their art in the Spiritual Arts to be able to simply do this without the aid of technology- even if he flared his wavelength now, a small fraction of his soul would no doubt register albeit faintly, even if the suit was aiding him.
Still though, it was sort of funny to see how Jarvis could not detect him easily, despite the fact he was not far away from Reiko and had been watching and listening to everything, everyone was saying this whole time.
A bit odd that Jarvis had brought the cat with him honestly, unless it was magical in nature- which from what he understood, wasn't clear from the reports he had been digging about everyone's personal lives- then perhaps he brought the pet along for brownie points with the group? Ultimately it didn't matter.
Maybe it was instinct, maybe it was their link- but Az sensed a disturbance from above, he turned seeing dots- birds fly above them, they squawked, like birds normally did. Flying up over into an adjacent tree.
Umbra his eyes narrowed. What are you doing, you sneaky demon?
Using soul perception, all he got was mischief- literally, a ominous little tune played in the air above the others that when he focused, came directly from Umbra as the source and the four birds around her as the pieces that backed up her ominous little melody.
For a moment, Az wasn't sure what to make of this- was she going to pester the students? Was she going to attack? He told her not to but his little sister, as he often attributed to her- had a mind of her own. She was an adolescent after all- and in her rebellious stage of life.
So he stood there moving around the others in a wide breadth, getting further away in a position so that if he needed to- if she did do something drastic, he could blitz her.
Surprisingly the ravens came out first and Umbra trailed behind. The birds circle flew above the group as if just transitioning to another branch- then disappeared behind the trees as they flew away.
Az, blinked. Confused.
Was she playing a joke on him? Knowing where he was maybe she had just shown herself to simply make a point of being a little nuisance. He couldn't quite tell since none of the students really seemed to mind- the actions had been very bird-like in nature, some birds flying overhead wouldn't draw any attention- they were animals- and Umbra had not flown anywhere near enough for anyone to get a good look at her either.
Still though, the behavior was curious. He knew Umbra well enough to know when she was up to something. With the group getting acquainted though as long as--
Then he heard it- a squawk. The Murder came from above like a migration of birds you might find flying overhead, passing by, going about their day, ignorant of the troubles of ground-dwellers. Umbra flew among them without a concern in the world for anyone below as she took off with the group- more than nine crows, fifteen at least- flying from the horizon on the west where Az saw them, then going southeast overhead, their voices disappearing with the distance-- at least, that was what the others might have thought.
Az could hear them. Could hear Umbra's soul nearby even if it looked like they had merely flown elsewhere. Listened as each of the members in her group spread out, hidden in the treeline above.
One moment there was nothing to worry about, casual conversation. The next, the Lot had birds hidden in the trees. A murder of crows watching, Umbra among them- hidden in the shade, silhouette's barely visible through the layer of branches on the group's eastern side.
A single squawk and the Lot above the heads of Team Reaper, was circled by a line of black squawking birds. Only to be charged by a frontline of crows led by Umbra. The birds flew around or in between the group- seemingly acting scared of something they had seen or reacting to something negative- cutting off any further introductions with noise.
Among them-- Umbra was the fastest-- incredibly so that she wasn't even visible by sight but was more a blur, she swooped in, grabbed- and was up in the air with the rest of the flock, one target in her claws, clutched tenderly as she looked down at the group.
Blackie, the Siberian Cat, rested snuggly in the front limb of her forelimbs. Clutched gently as she eyed the group from far above as the dots they were.
The murder squawked, laughing in unison at their success and Umbra squawked with them.
It was right then and there, Az popped into existence out of nowhere a distance away from the group in his silver zip up suit he looked like one of the guys you'd see handling background activity on the Green Screen for movies.
Taking the mask off he threw it down and shouted: "UMBRA! What in the seven suns do you think you are DOING?!" He yelled in clear surprise and some form of anger as he waved his fist up in the air at the flock of laughing birds. "This is not how I wanted to make my entrance with these guys! It was SUPPOSED to be cool! GET DOWN HERE!"
Az, stumbled over his words. "W-WHAT DO YOU MEAN, 'MAKE ME?!' What are you nine? GET DOWN HERE!"
He turned to Jarvis, an apologetic smile on his face as his eyes swept through the whole group- suddenly quite composed, no longer as irate as he had just appeared. The man in the zip up suit, talked quite calmly with his hands together as he pointed at his students.
"My apologies, don't worry, I'll get him back, she won't eat him or anything she's just messing around" he laughed, though whether it came off as genuine or not was a mystery. "She likes to pull these kind of pranks you see- really, bad timing. Just...one moment."
"UMBRA!" he was off moving towards the crowd of hovering birds that had now gone a bit more silent when he began talking. "Bring back the cat! I'll trade you, c'mon!"
There was another audible squawk.
Az sighed, rubbing his temples, Jarvis could hear him say. "I can't believe you're really doing this-- okay, fine, I'll give it to you now, just, get down alright. This is not the time for pranks. I get you're bored but--"
From the mass of flying birds, Reiko's voice echoed down, a perfect match but said in a impatient tone: "But, it's time to pick it up."
"Okay, fine, excuse ME, for wanting to test a theory and how it could be exploited- could help them in the future. Get off my back- get down here." He pointed to the ground, hand on one hip, and the tone in his voice now meaning business: "Now, Umbra."
There was a pause. A moment of silence.
The mass of Murderers came down, and Umbra deposited the cat into Az's outstretched hands.
Az turned, smiling at Jarvis. "HAHA! See? Told you she wouldn't eat him." Then clearing his throat as Umbra and the mass of birds seemed to trail behind him. "Here, which one of you wanted to see this little guy?" He asked, calming the creature down as he moved towards the group. "Probably guessed already but I'm your other mentor, call me Az, Reiko--" he glanced at his partner smiling at her with a wink: "Loving the work" a thumb went up, "good job partner!"
The bright and unyielding gaze of the sun warmed the streets of Death City as it would any other day, but since today just so happened to be the day that Giane and “Juno” would be meeting for the first time as designated partners, it made that heat go from tolerable to sweltering.
Standing by the center fountain of one of the more well-known parks in Death City, Jun was bouncing on the soles of her flats with a basket on her arm filled with both desserts, sandwiches, and a few drinks she had packed for the occasion. An icebreaker, because despite her nervous excitement, it was still a pleasant day and perfect for a little picnic.
Plus as partners, Giane should get to know that she absolutely adores food as soon as possible, right? It was too late now, she would probably be here any minute-
Or he? Giane could be a boy’s name. Jun doubted it, but the possibility was there and-
She was overthinking this. The bubbly, pink-haired woman shook her head vigorously before stopping her head with her hands, patting her cheeks twice. "This is just the beginning of what will be the two coolest partners ever, it’s no big deal."
“Hm. Think so?” A calm voice resonated from behind the taller girl.
Jun jumped at the sound of her voice, turning around abruptly to look at her new partner, eyes wide from shock before the relief set in.
Giane, ever the cordial one, made sure to promptly arrive at the venue for this partnership grand-opening. The young woman was wearing a casual outfit– a pair of black sunglasses, a pink floral Hawaiian shirt, black pants, and her late uncle’s blazer. Her hands were in her pockets, and tucked under her left arm was a slim, fancy brown box.
“Juno, right? ” The shorter girl took a hand out of her pocket to lift her sunglasses and rest them on her forehead, before extending it towards her new partner for a shake with a lazy smile on her face.”Cute name. Works well ‘fer such a pretty gal. Name’s Giane, but you can just call me Gia. How the hell are ‘ya?”
Dumbly, Jun reached her hand out to shake the hand her partner was extending to her, her grip gentle and the shake almost robotic as the small smile that grew on her lips was a little shaky. "You can call me Jun." And then her smile was bright again, beaming from the compliment as she began waving away the kind words. "Oh wow, that’s really kind of you Gia. I happen to love your style, it’s like, lively but casually doing business mogel.".
Following the shake, Gia’s eyebrows raised, and she quickly reached for the box she was carrying under her arm, offering it to her. “Chocolates, imported ones from Italy. Thought you might like ‘em.”
The confusion came first when the box was first presented, though it was a very pretty box. Gia had her hooked at "Chocolates", the giddiness making her knuckles knock together as she looked between the woman’s face and the box growing more excited the longer she spoke. Swaying in place, the bubbly woman accepted the box like it was the holy grail being bestowed upon her. Starstruck eyes and a wide smile, as she held the box of sweet treasures close to her chest when she remembered the basket hooked on her arm.
"I also brought food so we could have a picnic!" Jun cheered as she raised her arm up to show off the basket, careful to not tip it while she did so."But I can totally try these chocolates first, I’ve never had imported ones before. This gonna be sooooo good~". She added, hand resting on her cheek in bliss with a soft sigh. Already imagining the taste of the chocolates was making her mouth water and her stomach start to growl loudly in protest. The soft fabric of her ruffled, white sun dress smoothed out when the pinkette patted her abdomen to placate it. Sections of her hair slipped off her shoulder in long, gradient waves at her head tipping forward as she verbally shushed her talkative stomach.
“You must be hungry, that’s cute. You could eat ‘em all right now, for all I care.” Gia quietly chuckled to herself, before suddenly walking off towards one of the fields of grass that riddled the park. Pulling her other hand from her pocket to beckon her new partner to follow her, she spoke. “Well, let’s not wait any longer and get some food in ‘ya. Surprising as it may be, I’ve actually hung out in this park before. Think I know a good spot.”
The flustered chuckling that mixed in with Gia’s more subtle one was at least pleasant despite Jun’s slight embarrassment. A worthy trade-off in these trying times. "That’s… Actually good to hear, cause I doubt I could stop myself once I try one." She admitted while rapping her knuckles on her head, the small punishment for the overindulgent behavior though it was mostly for thearetrics. The pinkette followed just slightly behind her newfound meister with a skip in her step."Ooooooo, really. I mostly just come here to jog in the mornings. There is usually the best food trucks that park on a street I have to go down on the way back that sells-" Jun continued speaking animatedly about the various food trucks that have started to appear in the morning on her way home, somehow ending up on trying to rate them based on the aesthetic appeal of the food showing in its flavor.
And with that, the two had spent the rest of their time together indulging in their food, getting to know each other and generally enjoying each other’s company under the warmth of the laughing sun.
( Collab w/ JellySquishies
...Memories of the picnic lingered within Giane’s mind as she prepared herself for her first day on the job. She nonchalantly gazed at herself in the mirror, before exhaling a relieved sigh. “Even if she don’t seem like it, she’s a smart one. I got lucky.”
Meeting up before officially starting as problems was a genius idea for one reason and one reason only: Gia liked gatherings, but didn’t like gatherings where she didn’t know a single person she’d have to gather with. So, getting to know her ditzy new partner was a good move for all parties involved– A comfortable Leone meant a peaceful event for all parties involved.
While fixing the last button on her shirt, she left home, setting off to school grounds with plans to make it there way before 10 AM. In her line of work– well, her previous line of work– being on time was the name of the game. She lit a cigarette in her mouth and inhaled as she walked the morning jade, her face briefly becoming a cloud of smoke with an exhale.
Gia could only wonder what would be in store for her and the rest of this “Team Praetorian” on their first day, but she imagined it couldn’t have been too much. After all, if the rest of the members of this team were anything like her, they’d have little to know clue who their partners were, or what they did. It wasn’t like they’d be getting thrown into the pits of hell right off the bat, right?
Her eyes slightly narrowed. Then again, this wasn’t exactly a normal program. There was no telling what kind of shit they’d be getting into, no matter how many days they’d been in attendance. She’d have to keep her guard up, for her– no, her and Jun’s sake. This was a partnership, now. No more flying solo. By the time she’d made it to the lot, a group of others had already seemed to form. Immediately, a cloud of doubt flew over her head.
". . ."
There was no way in hell she was the last one, right? Her eyes trembled with embarrassment as they looked over the members of the growing circle. She even recognized the rosy-tinged head of the partner she had just referred to as ‘ditzy’ as one of the people who’d made it there before her. Without wasting any more time, she cleared her throat and stepped closer to them.
Losing all her mental footing thanks to the fact that she wasn’t one of the earliest arrivals, all she could do was lift her hand in a half-assed wave at the group, before shuffling off to the side to be next to Juno.
“Mornin’-- oh.” Her cigarette fell out of her mouth, further amplifying this humiliating and depressing start to her day. She lifted her foot to crush it beneath the sole of her shoe and put it out.
Whether in the day, or night that massive piercing smile of the moon or sun could always be felt beaming down with hauntingly eerie lunar light, or the vibrant imposing sunlight. The call of the dancing moonlight however was a bit more harmonious to Artem’s essence as his midnight stroll for supplies was better than the sunny day run. Not that Artem minded the streets filled with people, nor was it a problem in crowded areas as it served well for flexibility training to get past them all fluidly. The noise of life was a grand rhythm to step to after all, but it was the moon’s nightly veil that was a better theme to the city's depth of design. It didn’t bring as much joy or wonder to Artem as he wished it could. It was just nice to look at overall thus that smiling moon was the better of stagehands in Artem’s opinion. It wasn’t overpowering, only adding that which needed to be seen.
Though there were still quite a few people around as the nightlife did have its own denizens after all, however, each was distracted by the beat of their own desires for the most part in such low-key light. The meister currently found themselves heading through the more noisy party life district as it was a straight shot to his home. The ambiance of charm from the silent night trek was replaced with wild waves of youth mixed with uncontrolled emotional release all around. As much as the noise was annoying the music was at least able to muffle some of it out.
As annoying as losing that starting stride had been, Artem was still indulging in a habit of his… people watching. Though empty to understand it all these people were following their emotions tonight enjoying sensations Artem couldn't even begin to grasp. Yet in that distraction, he lost himself wondering what it was like before pulling away as he accidentally bumped into someone without warning...
The woman he’d run into had been all smiles. But her drink tipped from the impact, splashing a sour-smelling liquid across his shirt, and that smile turned into a concerned frown as her other hand snaked forward to stabilize him by the shoulder. “Careful,” she murmured over the noise of the crowd, “you’ll ruin your outfit like that.”
Her eyeliner was thick and heavy, smearing, now, down her face toward her chin. Bellamira had certainly seen better days. Her eyes twinkled dully under the strobe lights of the club; it was all bodies in here, and there was a deep bruise about her shoulder as if she’d already been roughly picked up off the ground. The piercings in her ears and face shone similarly dully: tarnished metal had been the choice of the day because it matched the faintly shining bronze finish of her leather gauntlets, but the outfit was definitely defensive. She looked like she would be ready for a brawl, if only she was stable enough to fight.
She tipped back the rest of the glass in a smooth motion, choking a bit on the downslide, her hand searching behind her for a surface for the empty cup. That hand rose toward him invitingly; he was a striking sort of person in this half-light, but there were many beautiful people in the world if you looked at them from a different perspective. “What,” she mused, voice lilting, “too shy to greet me?”
It was rare to be taken by surprise, but it had been in an indulgent daze that now splashed Artem’s shirt with an alcoholic beverage now anointing his sense of smell with a rather potent texture. Whatever she had been drinking smelled strong enough to take out an elephant. At first, his senses to strike nearly saw a hand at the woman’s throat as from what he had read and seen many a time these situations were quick to violence. Yet his vision of her face quickly quelled any opinion of danger. She placed a hand on him as she tried to regain stable ground before doing some sort of ritual to summon a table that wasn't there for her glass.
“...,” he was about to apologize, yet he had never been in a situation like this, and knew not what words to really use here. It was clear she was drunk, and even more clear that tonight had either been rough to her or had caused her to be rough on herself. Her face showed signs of crying, and her clothing and color told him she was on high ends. In short, Artem had no idea how to interact with this scenario… he had nothing to work off of nor anyone to guide him through this. He had seen people in similar situations on his nightly watches, but being in it was ethereal so heavy that it halted his own actions. Yet her next words gave him some semblance of ability to try and mimic what he thought she needed.
“I don’t want to upset you by misreading nor add to the grief you already may have milady, but if you like I could give some of my time to just listen if you like to whatever is or is not troubling you,” He was told if someone was sad you should listen, and try to shoulder some of the burdens even if to a stranger. He slowly placed his purchased goods into a rolled-up ball as he placed it in his pocket. She had offered a hand invitingly which he took not in any way, but to offer some form of comfort as he cupped it with both hands. It was at this moment it was very clear Artem had no damn idea what he was attempting to do it was a mixture of signals stuffed into one grenade suddenly exploding on the drunk girl.
“Or if I am completely in the wrong here I can at best redirect you to the nearest establishment, and call you a cab while getting you something to eat as all the drained colors from your skin, and eyes tell me you are quite famished,” And at least Artem knew he was way over his head yet did not stop digging a bigger whole by trying to be… well human in response.
“Oh, death, I always-” There was a bit of a grimace. Mira pulled him toward the center of the room with her double-handed grip, fingers intertwining with his same hand. The smile extended more widely. “-always have looked like this.” A chirping of laughter peeled from her lips. A shake of the head, a far-away expression. “Don’t be a fool- you must have come to dance.” The last phrase was only a murmured suggestion, but the weapon was comfortable among the tight bodies and noise.
“Wha…,” none of what she had just said had matched what he had offered as she pulled him straight into the dance club. The sudden overwhelming sight of crowding quickly overtook anything Artem was about to say as he fidgeted at the sudden massive explosion of social interaction. What she had said about always looking that way though caught him off guard for a moment to ease him into what was happening. She seemed to not exactly be in this moment with herself as if distant from herself as she laughed. Her fingers were entwined with his to make sure he couldn't pull back as easily. If he didn't know any better he would think he was being kidnapped by this girl.
“I see,” as his senses came back to him it sorta clicked what she needed… a distraction. Pausing briefly he halted her with his hand as he took in the whole room for a moment, everything from the people, the colors, and any item in sight was now seared into his photogenic memory as he then concentrated on the girl in his grasp. He didn't know why, but he had gone from trying to help and leave to now directing any help he could to keep her in place.
“As you wish,” with that the song Illusion by Imagination started playing, and he slowly began to sway backward guiding her to follow. Slow, and steady he watched all of her body movements making sure he understood her steps, tempo, and most importantly her expressions to how he moved. The song was perfectly steady to learn a new partner’s motions and capability.
The dance was simple, of course. There was little more style to her movement than the average foxtrot; bemusing in its simplicity but somehow classy nonetheless, a dance of the uninitiated and the awkward, but also of the ballroom - a dance easy with even an acquaintance. She held him loosely, hand in hand and shoulder across shoulder, stepping forward into the spaces available in the crowd and shrinking back against its push, like a drop of water amongst a sea of bodies. “Why’d you come?” She almost laughed, ear tilting in their swing to hear his response, “If you didn’t want to dance, make merry, feel better, seek company.” Her wink seemed slow, somehow, against the crowd – but their pace, of course, felt the music. Mira was no stranger to trodding on toes, but it was always easier to lead, so she did it confidently and did not give him the first step.
Rather quickly Artem was given a rather unexpected duet of the dance as the girl whose name he did not know revealed even in a drunken state a rather intoxicating control of the dance floor even more so without warning Artem for once in a long time found himself not the lead in the dance. Yet at the same time, he clearly had no issue with that as he let her take lead to the smooth rhythm keeping up with her with no misstep. Why, pray tell, did he have no issue with it? Because in its own right it painted a story for him that words never could. A simple, but classic tale filled with a dark manner of demotivation. A desire to be productive but laced with uninitiated doubt. An almost anxiety-filled awkwardness to each step, but a beautiful language Artem could read non the less as a blossom to be a lantern in the deep abyss.
Artem wished he could understand such an emotion to understand what he was seeing, and feeling with each step he took with her. Yet he could only know it was there and tell it was a beautiful moment non the less. His studying nature was halted as he was reminded of her question of why he was there. He thought about how best to answer that as we wasn't out looking to dance this particular night, he had no understanding to be merry outside of a few darker practices or in chance scenarios like this, and he could not really feel the desire to seek company outside of soul resonance.
“Because I bumped into someone who if only for a fleeting moment needed me to give them the attention they haven't had in a long while,” he spoke rather with a flat expression yet at that moment Artem would take complete control of the lead as he released her shoulder, and spun her slowly to the music before taking the lead letting the ballroom speak for itself that she needn’t think too hard on it as he directed her through the rest of the song with a slow rhythm that built up to a passionate swirl of directions. With each step, Artem came to understand the mystery girl’s semblance of being in his own strange way. Some languages of bonding with another sometimes just ignited with a random occurrence. When the song was over he was about to let her go.
“It was… fun getting to know you at this moment. Yet I realize I don't even know your name… yet saying that I should give mine first. I am Artem Belouse it was an honor to feel your presence,” he said strangely in his own blank manner of speech bowing to her respectively as one would to a dance partner.
There was a quiet tch at his first statement, but though Mira finally gave up the lead to her partner, she seemed no less in control. There was a domineering quality about her; long black dresses and leather overshone her dullness. The weapon looked pleased while they pulled to a stop: a bit of separation and they were both bowing. "...my name is Bellamira Ossana. The pleasure," she announced theatrically, "is of course all mine."
There was a half-faux half-bow, a smirk, and then the woman reached forward with a clawed hand to shake his own. Her fingertips were only slightly sharp; enough to identify someone in the know but not to out herself entirely. "Perhaps I asked too much," she admitted, "what drew you to Nevada?"
"That's a genuinely nice name, Bellamira," Artem responded, now having a name to address the gothic woman. As he took her clawed hand a thought came to him. It was minor,and not at all well hidden as he looked at his own hand that had held onto hers in the gentleman's grip.
"The desire to feel I wager. Though I have been told by my employers at the DWMA that that is my mission problem," Artem spoke bluntly, not hiding anything in complete opposition to his nightly veiled companion. He observed her for a moment.
"Would it be wrong to assess you are as well from the DWMA," he asked nonchalantly as her grip and composure spoke of someone who knew how to protect themselves and very well for that matter.
The smile fell immediately. The shift in tone in the air was palpable; the formerly fizzy drink turned sour in her mouth like the degradation of apples through the winter. The pricking of his hand ceased - it was like the woman had seen a ghost. This, she swore to herself, is exactly why we stopped dancing with pretty boys.
“Yeah,” she said finally, resignedly, her gaze lingering on their hands as the small blades fully melted back into her skin. “I’m from the DWMA. I-”
Her grip loosened, and she turned from the centre of the room, suddenly trapped by the euphoric claustrophobia, the bodies and sweat, the alcohol and heat emanating above into a collective smoke. “-I need some air.”
Only two paces before her gaze snapped back up to meet his. An unspoken you coming? in the crowd. “I restarted the program last week, actually.”
Without meaning to it was immediately clear Artem had hit an extremely sour note on Bellamira’s nerves as her tough girl air melted within a second, and the ghostly complexion seemed to worsen. This was exactly why Artem tried to avoid communicating with people he wasn't on the team with or working with in any other capacity. Socializing was not in his blood, and clearly, he had just boiled hers down to the bone. Her hands became a mess like an addict coming down from a high before she tried to answer. Yet she couldn't even get through that answer as she went to retreat, turning back with a clear question posed.
Not having to be asked aloud Artem followed her taking her hand again as he got ahead of her acting like a bodyguard pushing a few people out of the way for a straight line for the exit and getting Bellamira out into the cool crisp night air. Once they were a few steps away from the club he turned back to her letting her hands go.
“I see… I am sorry to bring up something so effective on your nerves… I am not very good at… interacting as it were. It's half of why I was placed into the new F.A.T.E program,” he expressed trying to make up for shutting down her good time by giving her personal info on a sour note himself. He spoke still with no real sense of emotion, only giving marginal what he could in trying to ease her through the sudden whiplash he had befallen on her.
“No, I don’t mind, I just didn’t expect it so plainly,” she responded, taking in slow breaths of the night air and fishing in her pocket for a light. “I’m actually joining FATE too. Coincidences upon coincidences, Artem.”
With that, she flourished a cigarette, lighting it between her teeth. She offered a second one to the man; moving away from the building the requisite amount almost as if still dancing in rhyme. There was more alertness, out here, than there had been in the club: the thudding of the bass speakers was quieter out here and almost had a soothing sort of tone.
“I think you’re doing fine. You want one?”
“I see,” Artem spoke, not sure how to really respond past this point as she took to a cigarette to cool her nerves, a rather ironic way to get a breath of fresh air, but Artem digressed to bring it up. The music’s toned-down nature seemed to help her as he walked up to her watching the smiling moon take its slow path. Indeed it was quite the coincidence…
“No thank you, but I am curious about tonight's seemingly intriguing coincidence. Feels like a strange step of chance for two people out of step like us,” he mulled watching her now as it was a curious nature to why she was in the program. However, given his last hiccup, something told him asking was a bad idea.
“Do you want to leave this place,” he asked out of the blue.
“Yeah,” she replied without looking at him, flicking her cigarette in the light of the moon so its smoldering ashes poured onto the stone path beneath their feet, “I think I do. Strange coincidences require a strange response.”
She took another long drag off the smoke, blowing its residue upwards; she squeezed her eyes shut as it cascaded down her face and met his eyes again when they opened. “Where are you thinking? Not another bar?”
“I concur,” Artem nodded in response, never showing emotion as Bellamira did yet seeming to be giving a positive vibe to her response. He paused to think about everything up till this point to ponder an answer to her last question. Social life was probably best to avoid at this point, and well…
"I know a nice scenic route that shows off the city's more pained passion," or was an odd offering for sure, and seemed a bit out there, but Artem placed the offer up without blinking. There was a sharp laugh from the woman alongside him. “What, are we going on some kind of graveyard tour?”
Her voice was dry, but friendly still, and her face turned to look at the stars and catch the eyes of the smiling moon looming above. She followed his steps, though; there were few places that Bellamira was afraid of going and even fewer people she was afraid of. Besides, he was a FATE student, and Bella was reasonably certain that she could take him in a fistfight. She hadn’t been sizing him up yet, not exactly.
"Graveyards have a hauntingly good song to tell. It's respectful to give them a good show. Especially when mixed with New Orleans jazz," Artem expressed as they did in fact started to head to a more run down area where a slowly investing slope was changing the quality of the density to the air. Once they were past the incline Artem would direct them to a rustic old building. On the side there was an archaic staircase that without even thinking Artem began to traverse. There was a nervousness beginning to bubble under Bellamira's pleasant expression. With easy steps taken the view would turn from a normal scenic view of the city to an all encompassing overlook of the entire city from all directions. The nightlife was flooded with the gothic nature of Death City and the shine of man made lights created a beautiful portrait of the co other lively nature even way past the daytime. Even more, beautiful though, was the night sky filled with stars mapping out old seafaring bearings and constellations. Bellamira's eyes seemed to reflect the stars against the darkness of the void. She turned to look, look more, identifying constellations tucked into the back of her mind. Those paper stars glanced at him. Reconsidering their first impression.
Once they reached the top the gentle washes of the midnight breeze showered the two as Artem went to the ledge of the roof.
"It's rather nice, is it not? It almost makes the city look alive," he expressed, finally breaking the silence. It was a strange thing to say, causing a question to easily be asked or ignored at the same time. The woman crouched down on the edge of the roof, hands stabilizing her to sit at the edge, feet swinging over the rooftops as she finally settled down.
"It's beautiful," she replied softly. "So many things are beautiful, and I've experienced.. almost none of them." A pointed glance. "Is this a mortuary?"
"It is. What better place to experience life than near death," Artem mused as he kept watching the city from above.
"So are you scared of resonance," he asked, giving her a negative reaction to the DWMA; it usually stemmed from a set pattern. Fear from PTSD, something related to the blood mbvi, or a traumatic experience found in a mission. There were also the potential odds of it just being a life experience in general. Mira’s chin jutted up toward him. Her face pulled in an almost defensive position; drawn eyebrows and lip pulled into a sneer.
“No, not at all. Should I be? Are you?” The tightness in her shoulders melted, though, with the sharpness of her tone. There was a grimace there instead; though it might not have been intentional she could bet it would leave a poor first impression. This was certainly an interesting first impression. She’d never been brought to a graveyard on a first meeting. Mira… wasn’t sure what that meant about the person adjacent to her, but she certainly thought about it. He must have been some kind of goth, right? There was no other good explanation for it.
“I… see my apologies,” Artem curiously responded with a slowly raised eyebrow at the very opposite physical reaction to the vocal response given by the more hilarious dressed punk goth woman in this particular exchange of thoughts. However, no poor impression was made on Artem as Bella worried about it. Yet her verbal answer would earn another definite new experience of a first impression.
“Then would you let me resonate with you,” he asked, offering up a friendly hand to take hers. It was sharply clear he was serious - no training, no prepping, no form of knowing what she was or anything about him or each other's wavelengths. It was a genuine offer to experience each other as only partners would. Yet they were complete strangers, no ties, no connections just a shared happenstance of being in the same place at the same time. His look was void of any doubts, nor emotion - it felt flat yet there was a hint of not curiosity but an expression to know her more for no other validity, but because somehow without any reason he knew he needed to. “That’s a tall order for FATE agents,” the woman replied back smoothly, almost automatically, but she held her hand up to the man at her side and gripped at his fingers with tips of her own. Her skin was unbearably cold, like steel left at room temperature out of the light. There was no chill in the desert air; the ambient temperature never really seemed to matter, really, unless it was particularly cold or she had something to keep the warmth close.
It took a moment of awkward contact before she could push for anything at all. Her soul, admittedly, was just as cold and standoffish as her hands. This wasn’t resonance. It was an early stage of it, perhaps - a connection between souls - but there was no real connection that Bellamira pushed. There were no thoughts or feelings pressing up against Artem’s own being, no prying into his own personal affairs, no implicit intrusion into his being. The feeling was like leaning up against a brick wall: stable, cool, and overwhelmingly neutral. “You sure?” She prodded, gauging his reaction with a raised eyebrow, still sat down at the edge of the roof a little bit below him. The weapon decided against pulling herself up with his hand.
“True, I would understand…,” Artem didn't need to finish as Bellamira threw caution to the wind. giving her hand with nary a question posed. The tips of her fingers touched his, sending a frostlike metal converging on his skin. Yet the temperature around his hand stayed warm yet with his nerve damage it felt like pins and needles. Yet his soul broke it down for him to have the legit experience… it was different, an experience he never had before when resonating. In fact, if it wasn't for her soul slowly connecting he wouldn't feel it at all.
It was clear Bellamira wasn't pushing into it; she was taking her time only meeting halfway to make this a true meeting of souls. With her half of the bridge built, his started to extend as his hands brushed past her fingers taking a full grasp of her hand. It would come with no notable physical effects like Bella’s yet her soul would quickly feel a tug from a lofty yet strong rush of air. It was nothing yet something at the same time it was as if she was being surrounded by a gentle cloud, yet vacuumed forward by a never-ending tornado. It was a strange mixture of ease, and intensity mixed into one true high experience. Yet most notable was the lack of any form of resistance, no rejection, no form of processing; it was a strange and almost disturbing immediate acceptance like a blank slate copying Bellamiras wavelength while still having qualities of its own.
“Is it all right to continue,” Artem asked. Their souls were bridged but had yet to completely link. It was a mixture of a snow storm ready to flood anything in pure white yet it was waiting for that one final crystallization to take off for true resonance.
But the sensation did not develop into the feeling that Artem would define, based on all prior experience, as resonance. The weapon sat there motionlessly for a long moment as she pulled on the strings of his soul, weaving them through her fingers, taking the essence she had been offered and spooling it around her hand in a more spiritual sense to contain it. The elation of new connection was something she allowed to rise to the forefront. The snow chilled her hands; Bellamira noted that the feeling was not painful, not really, not so much as it was jarring in its unfamiliarity.
In one motion, she pushed herself up with her free hand, bringing it forward as she stood to grab the back of the same hand she had before. She pressed it between her palms; the cold was intense, too intense, but she didn’t much seem to mind. “Catch,” she breathed, and in a moment, Mira had almost seemed to disappear before his eyes.
Slotted between his index and middle finger, like a person might hold a pencil, was the handle of a thin metal scalpel. The feeling of encroachment became more intense; Bella breathed in the music of the soul but there was little of hers to reveal, except for those frontline emotions, those things she had given to him. It was like being pulled up against that brick wall: he had an understanding of its geometry, its corners, and grooves, but no real insight into what that box entombed.
The connection didn’t fail persey, more so it was unexpectedly halted on Bellamira’s side it was clear now she was indeed scared of direct connection it seemed Artem had guessed right originally she was scared of resonance, or that was his guess at least. Yet he didn't rub it in her face, nor bring it up at all. He simply concentrated on what she was willing to do today. In the moment of transformation, Bellamira shrank so fast that Artem almost failed to grasp she was a much smaller than usual weapon. Thankfully upon the feel of steel between his finger, it clicked with him as rather quickly he twirled her between his finger weighing her, and registering her dimension before catching her in a reverse grip and flipping her to an almost surgeon-like hold.
As he held her he could feel her soul, but only on the surface. It was there, yet it wasn't so close, but so far away. It was different than usual. As a blank slate, he could usually resonate immediately with someone on the first go, but she was withholding on purpose. Safe to say it was an unusual experience for the shark-teethed individual. However, that seemed to cause an unusual reaction in him. A draw as it were to what was inside the box of her existence. His own soul was much in irony an opposite she could see all of it yet there was, in fact, nothing inside it. It was an empty sphere constantly pulling at anything around it yet going nowhere at the same time. There was no emotional source nor physical desire it was a strange harmonic semblance of taking and giving in reverse. The more its sphere took the more there seemed to be in the torrent of pull.
'Sorry,' came a flat response to the sensation of space, 'It's been a while’.
This had to be another utility meister. The thought made something inside her cringe; the resonance was too easy, too freely offered, and the idea of showing her soul to someone it meant little to sent a wave of perceivable anxiety through that connection. Still, though, she pressed on - took the thread around her hands and used it like floss on one of the seams of the brick - within thirty or forty seconds, some of her began to leak, mingling around the thread spooled in her incorporeal hands.
This was not resonance, but it was close enough to be serviceable. The feelings that came forward were overarching ones; he felt the implications of the overarching theme and nerves without thought. This was not an open connection, but it was enough to hold onto. It was careful, utilitarian. The tip of the blade changed shape, melting to reform in the other direction, now back-handed. It was a demonstration. That sort of control was hard to exert alone but possible. Even like this.
“...Don’t be, I could say the same. I assumed too much I apologize my offer was a bit out there, to begin with, I imagine,” he offered in counter taking the blame rather than letting her take it. It was true though he did expect it a little to seemingly everyone had their own baggage even if he couldn't understand it. Most importantly he felt her anxiety like a sudden small thumb of a drum starting to grow… he needed to help calm down.
She was still trying to keep their connection together by threads avoiding resonance, and soul connection, but aligning just enough to keep a bond going to allow him to hold her. It was extremely impressive, and he knew it. It was like being taken a bit by bit apart by threads. It was jarring in earnest. There was a sense of her, but it was a mimic of hollowed connection only enough to keep it all together.
“Your technique is rather beautiful I didn't know a weapon could do so much…,” his words halted as she showed off a bit transferring her blade to the other end in a melding process he could sense it to feeling the weight, and metal shift in his hands fluidly. He had heard that weapons had their own capability of application, but this transcended what he believed was plausible.
“Wonder,” he finished his thought not sure what he should be expressing at the moment. Once he processed his own logic he decided for all the splendor she showed it was only fair he in turn gave her a show. 'Thank you,' she replied, though the diction itself was neutral. “Could I award you for a moment something equal to behold,” he asked for permission finally having an answer to help her bring down the anxiety. There was a ringing in the back of his mind; the meister might just feel like it was the clanging of metal, more than a noise of joy, but upon closer examination, the sound was clearly laughter. Usually, the reaction she received from such resonance was less positive. More inclined to search. More inclined to push. This was a comfortable sort of position; though she might have been weaving the threads of some thought and separating other more dissonant ones from each other like crossed kite strings in the wind the effort was more often derided than appreciated. 'Of course,' came the reply, 'I'm here, after all.'
The sound of laughter was always something that concerned Artem; it wasnt for a lack of understanding it was for a joyous moment or could be used to mask fear; it was simply an oddity to him… fun… fear. Such powerful things he couldn’t register not without feeling it through another. And the laughter Bellamira produced showed a sign of her own anxiety starting to melt away. His appreciation of her was effectively already doing what he was aiming to accomplish. It was a strange world of feeling. Yet still, a promise had been made. “Alright I promise to you there are no concerns to be had,” he offered before walking to the bridge with her in hand grasping the railing of the bridge before jumping over it now stationed in a tense moment of being on the dangerous side of the railing with nothing to stop them from falling. There was a screeching of railroad brakes, an innate reaction from the depths of her, a feeling she couldn't repress or leave behind.
Without much else said he let go, and tipped forward the sudden rush between them, and the wind was felt. Yet the sensation of falling would never be felt, but the rush of being upside down would instead take over. It might have taken Bellamira a moment to register all of that rudeness at once. Yet had she trusted him she would now see that Artem’s feet were attached to the bottom of the bridge keeping them anchored to a physic-defying moment. What was also notable was a strong vacuum-like sound followed by a torrent of wind pulling away from Artem’s head all the way up to his feet. Despite the screech, and the waves of fear crashing through her soul, Bellamira had no real need to be afraid. She could drop in this form. She could hit the ground, and all would be well. Maybe the fear was for him - a stranger who could easily crash to his death. He had no similar sort of protection.
Somehow his feet were creating such a powerful vacuum effect that it was keeping them latched to the bridge's underbelly. Another gentle breeze wafted past them as Artem started to walk to the other side of the bridge before swinging his body a few times forward, bending upright to grab the railing with one hand. Once his vacuum died out he swung his legs performing a 180 spin before landing safely back right side up on the bridge. The relief that sank through her mind was palpable. It buzzed out, leaving her with a feeling of acceptance, of core neutrality. “How was that,” he asked, curious about how she had felt after that experience.
'Clearly suicidal,' she snapped back immediately, though it felt less angry than concerned. The feeling of hanging, of the imminent plunge, had awakened some sort of feeling Bellamira could not quite remember: the feeling of being thrown in an arc through the air. It had caught her by surprise. Loosened her grip on the spool of awareness she kept in her palm. The crack in the wall seemed to grow under pressure; the anxieties and reliefs only grew to his perception. It was almost.. what, overwhelming? 'But beautiful just the same.' “By all means, I can’t do it for long with a resonance like this, but I have trained enough with it to know the limit. I promise I had it all calculated out, and I appreciate the concern. Yet, you were in no danger, so I could do it without a worry,” his expression showing for a moment there was indeed no acknowledgment of fear or even a thought that something had gone wrong. He had simply gone through with it like it was an everyday thing. It made a surge of stress flow through her form.
And while it seemed to have shaved off the original anxiety Artem could tell another had taken its place strangely though even within her voice it was not for herself but seemed more directed at him strangely enough.
“It seems I have upset you,” he spoke, twirling her through his fingers again like an expert, clearly showing he had confidence with smaller arms of war. In fact, it seemed he preferred her size as he decided to practice a few mock attack lunges, and slashes. Quick, and slow she had a perfect balance of weight allowing him to change up-tempo without warning. After a few more practice attacks he halted.
“I do apologize,” A little delayed, but very clear he meant it. With nary a thought, he sat down with her in hand watching the city faded off the further he looked. He was indeed an oddity there was no anchor to his mentality yet he was logically sound in his thoughts and soul. Yet that ever-encompassing empty was never forgotten. Yet in the moment of that showcase, he had felt her wall crack in a few spots. A dime to a dozen that if he pushed he probably could break it… but he wasn't going to do that.
“Do you want to stop here? Anymore, and some of your memories or feelings could flood out… I can tell you don't want that. Regardless, I thank you for this night… I have never really shared like this before,” he pointed out offering her an out before something could be shared between the two. Even though he wanted the night to continue as such a unique experience this girl clearly had a life to live outside of giving him a genuine moment of liveliness. A chitter. Laughter, maybe, but in a much more repressed form.
There was a long moment of silence from the weapon in his hand. Finally, carefully, came the reply - ‘I think I might’ - but she made no motion to stop the resonance, to hand him back everything she’d stolen for the moment, to sever that connection. There was a comfortable familiarity to this kind of work. It was busywork; it was exhausting. It was like riding a bike: you might never forget how to do it, not really, but it got harder if you neglected to exercise that muscle.
‘I’m not upset by you. For you, perhaps. I thought you were dead. I was fine.’ There was a bit of a clicking; a noise that would have been audible if not for the blade in his grip. It was a reproachful noise. Bellamira, of course, was aware that many of the FATE students struggled with the act of self-preservation: she had not expected to immediately be confronted with it in that way. She made no real effort to dam the wall. He would feel what he felt; she had done her part and he was responsible for some part of his experience. The grief was what always came first.
But she pulled a memory to the forefront. Something to share. It was more of an experience of a moment than a vision of any sort; the feeling of rushing air and tightly gripping a weathered guardrail with small hands. It was windy on that bridge; it felt like she was alone. Just standing. Watching something down below. The blowing of a train whistle; a screeching of brakes. The feeling of being grabbed from behind. Picked up, maybe, like a babe-in-arms pressed against their parent’s chest. The feeling of familiarity. Of this same sort of partial resonance. The feeling, from those hands, of fear.
Bellamira herself was still. It was a core memory; not a bad or a good one but an event she could never forget and one that frequently came to the forefront of her mind. The feeling of safety. She would have smiled if she could, but the memory overshadowed the guilt coming from inside the deepest parts of her soul. They mingled together. The air smelt like shortbread, but also of gasoline, of oil, and dish soap repelled by each other in the sink.
‘See?’ she pressed, ‘we’ll be fine.’ “As you wish,” is what Artem spoke yet what happened was a sudden opening giving a small moment of Bellamira opening herself up to him letting him feel her grief, the concern for him… it was different than other weapon bonds he had before her technique was reaching into the void, and placing something inside. A memory of a scared little girl clinging onto a guard rail before suddenly being scooped up by a loving embrace… without reason, Artem could feel a single tear roll from his eye… it confused him. It had not been the first time, but this time the memory of a partner seemed to hit a lot differently. Yet in turn, the cycle of giving and taking would react. As that small opening Bellamira gave would give her an unexpected memory back.
There was a young boy sitting on a chair just dangling his feet. A mother sat next to him, full of concern, but he had none and was just watching his feet go back and forth. His left arm was completely casted, yet he seemed to not mind at all. However, the mother was extremely concerned as a doctor came in with a heavy look. He spoke but no words came out the mother had tears flooding down her eyes with each new word that escaped soundless from their lips. The boy though had nary a thought in the world. Without warning the mother grabbed him into a deep hug as the doctor placed down a folder with a paper jetted out a bit reading “how to raise a child with congenital insensitivity to pain”. The memory froze with the child simply still swaying their feet before looking at their mom a bit confused by the sudden action. With no emotional entanglement, the boy still reached up and patted his mother on the head. The memory was cut off there…
“Sorry about that… I didn't mean to flood you with something in response…,” Artem hadn’t done that by choice, the memory had suddenly just come out of the void ziplining into Bellamira in response to her own shared memory. His soul clearly had a strange way of functioning. The two would stay there for a moment in silence still connected until…
“This has been an interesting night… I appreciate you grabbing me out of the blue,” he spoke, thanking her for the strange chance of fate. He didn't mind that she had gotten one of his core memories. He wasn’t able to feel from it like he had from her but that alone was thankful enough to feel even if only for a moment a warmth of a parent like his tried so hard to give him. Now he had an idea of how his own felt… even if only in a fleeting moment.
‘FATE’s the name of the game,’ she joked softly, but the feeling between them was heavy. The detachment of his memory was something she did not relate to; it stood in stark opposition to her own experience so overwhelmed by terrifyingly temporary emotion. The memory, though, sent chills down her spine. It was the alienation she wanted to desperately avoid. The feeling of separation from other people. The dedicated act of mutual misunderstanding. The distance from her parents, built up over time, the distance that had grown larger and larger since her earliest recollections.
‘I never mind listening,’ she admitted, a bare whisper in the back of his mind, but something nagged at her, ‘it’s sharing that’s the hard part.’
There was another memory. One harassing her, one spurred from those feelings of isolation, but the strife involved made her fight to wrangle it back with her tangled hand. A hotel in New York, alone, looking over the skyline at a coffee table and considering the burnt-out spoon in front of her. The only thing left on the table-
The scene snapped back, though, rapidly shifting into another cityscape she was far more willing to share. The memory started with a stumble; the feeling of feet fumbling on the slippery trail of a banquet gown that was far too large for her anyway. Its satin was cool against her skin; maybe she’d lost weight or maybe it was a hand-me-down but it pooled around her heels whenever she halted. The fabric slipped through her hands as she yanked it up to tie it about her waist. Wherever this dark street was, she was alone, she was walking quickly and trying to avoid attention-
There was a car in the street behind her. There were other pedestrians, sure, but they paid her no mind as they moved along in their merriment. It had been following her, she thought; she was not hard to spot in the golden gown but had been doing her best to evade. Skipping streets, ducking into alleyways, feeling the anxiety mounting every time she caught another glimpse of the beaten-up Sedan. The windshield was tinted. Its front windows were tinted, too; the idle thought about its legality broke up the intense anxiety of the motion. But its casual movement had finally caught up to her; she stepped into the beam of the streetlight like it would somehow protect her from the invisibility of violence and swallowed the heart stuck in her throat. The car pulled up to her on the wrong side of the street beside her. Its window rolled down-
and there was a genuine, complete, total wave of confusion as she realized it was the brother that had always derided her sitting in the driver’s seat. His expression was tense. It might have been anger; she did not think it was meant for her. There was a sigh. She started to turn away as if to run, but his voice cut through the night with a sense of authority that made her pause. “I’m not bringing you home, Bells, but I need you to get in the fucking car.”
She seemed somewhat amused by this memory; it was tainted by the feelings of affection she had now, obviously not in its original form, but the fear she bestowed to Artem had faded in response to that same feeling of comfort. Things were okay. Maybe they were okay because of that moment, or maybe they would have been fine either way, but that was what she wanted to give him. The idea is that things could improve over time. That feeling could change.
“Most find it hard to,” Artem responded watching and experiencing another of Bellamira’s memories surprisingly. She didn’t seem like one to share in fairness, but yet again she did. However, this particular memory did not play out in full as he saw only a glimpse of a room, and a burnt spoon… wait… before he could be sure what he had seen he was being pulled into another. It seemed that one she was not meaning to share for obvious reason… he knew what he had seen though.
“Bella…,” before he could inquire the next memory played… she was running away from home, and someone was following her, her brother… there was a hint of confusion mixed with a foam of fear as the car caught up. The memories feeling were dampened by something he could tell what he was feeling was not the original felt by Bellamira. He respected what she was trying to give him… he understood what she was hoping to pass on… yet his brain couldn't process it fully, especially only siphoning it from the barely held connection. “It's strange isn’t it how it seems we can barely open up to people we’re supposed to know… yet as two complete strangers we are opening up without reason to,” he responded, his face almost registering a smile that never formed
There was a long silence as Bellamira shifted into her more physical form. She tugged her hand from his loosely; it was not a violent action but it was one that clearly signaled that their short rendezvous was over. “It is,” she replied in voice, “but I think that fleeting connections are the most important ones of all.”
Turning away, she began to retreat from the bridge; her steps were light and she was in no hurry - not really cutting off the conversation - but it was time to go home. The fatigue was setting in. She’d already been out all day; she might have been willing to try to actually resonate with someone else on a day she didn’t start out so frustratingly tired. There was a detachment to her words. There was a detachment to her soul, too; the woman shook off the feeling with a shake of her head. “Thanks for the walk.”
“So it seems… but the dissolve at the end is such a sour aftertaste,” Artem mulled slightly as the ability to feel Bellamira’s emotions faded out of existence as she retook her human form, and broke contact off with a soft tug. Surprisingly she had not straight up tugged her hand away, but slowly instead… it was a bit confusing to Artem. “Thank you for this moment,” Artem emotionlessly responded, watching with his head rested against a bent knee as Bellamira slowly sunk out of sight with the moon as her final veil of the night waved to her with a lethargic motion of his hand. She didn’t feel the need to answer it. He was another FATE student - she had confidence they’d meet again sometime, anyway.
Agent: Ashi Monsera
Location: Lot E
From all the new faces Ashi started to get some ideas about personality, and facts through her new team's mannerisms... team. Ashi paused on that word as she closed her eyes glimpsing for a moment a crimson red rain bursting from her left arm as she tried to reach for her...! Ashi opened her eyes back up not allowing that memory to repeat again she had worked too hard to break out of that, and now was not the time to relapse into it. Ashi distracted herself by watching Eloise's actions the female was clearly soul perceiving the rest of them. Ashi wishes she still had that skill or many of her lost talents, but such was life. Humorously, Eloise was also a cat lover immediately latching onto Blackie just as quickly as the zombie causing the zombie to smile softly they would get along alright. The green barred one next to Eloise, Sage she believed she had heard was rather polite in response yet didn't react much after that for the moment.
Jarvis the owner of the adorable kitten named Blackie lackluster snapped his attention onto her probably smelling her scent of frozen decay. He also watched her as she spoke to their honorary Deathsycthe mentor. It seemed... she was ahead on knowledge about the Deathscythe of these days... wasn't it required to know all current Deathscythes at all times? It seemed the strict regiment of knowing the chain of command at the top around the world was no longer... enforced. Ashi wasn't sure if it was odd she went out of her way to find them out, or thoroughly spend her time reading about them all to this newer generation. However past that once Eloise spoke to Blackie Jarvis revealed his pedigree... Ashi made a mental note to study up on the breed later.
"A favored guess your deathliness I was a part of my country's military. It makes sense in certain circumstances that one who can not be paired by the bond will instead be bound to one who can cover them, and in turn, cover back. It just made sense to me I mean we did all in advance know who was in our team all agents common knowledge is accessible to all agents," Ashi pointed out being both a bit blunt, and just pointing out common tactics. Rieko then went on to go over them all revealing that the one known as Zari would be in later. The Deathsycthe officially introduced herself to them and made a small note of something needing to be done with Blackie. During that Ashi tilted her head remembering when she had first seen Adrian's weapon labeling she had been reminded by a german diplomate regaling the tale of such a devious device. It had been a rather intense story of the supposed torture device. Ashi even had to have someone pull up a picture so she could get a full understanding of it. Little to not most of the time counting down to this meeting had been Ashi studying Iron Maiden's to know what she was working with.
Yet in that moment of listening a rustling sound of a murder of crows had caught her attention she quickly watch the mass swarm into the forest at first seeming like a nature clearing from one spot to another for the avians. Thinking nothing else of it she returned to Eloise speaking up until without warning Blackie was snatched by a blurring large bird that Ashi was barely, but still able to keep up with Ashi was about to slam her hand into the tree next to Jarvis, and Javelin the massive about to be a dead bird. Yet before much else could happen someone else got involved way faster. Hearing the verbal ques of prior acquaintance between the new entity, and the bird Ashi's fist that had loudly buried itself through the tree was wrenched back out creating a strong rustle for everyone to hear. Shaking the tree chunks off her right fist she watched the scenario play out until Blackie was successfully retrieved. The Meister of their teaching duo had made himself known Az.
"Hmm, I see well it is stated that people must have a sense of humor from time to time... I suppose an avian trick can be accepted this time," she smiled before giving the man a respectful nod.
Agent: Artem Belouse
Location: Lot A Near The Pond
As the blue-haired man stared at the endless blue lake he was mulling over how this second round of interacting with Bellamira was going to go as the last had been... well a very unusual dance of sorts with midnight high tense stroll. The oddity of this all-to chance to be her actual partner brought a strange sensation to his thoughts he knew her well enough to know that resonance would have to be well earned... it would take time, especially with her workaround trick. His main goal would have to be getting her to open up, and from what that night taught him... that would be no easy feat, especially for someone as dead in the emotional pool as him. This was when his soul perception kicked in feeling Temperance before she had made it to his side. He turned to her as she asked about his tie, and if he liked sharks. For a moment he pondered her question as he studied her soul it was a gentle bright blue with a strangely notable darker hue at the ends. The most notable element of it was its never changing pragmatic face judging without reason it seemed. If he had to take a guess she was very reserved with some form of paranoia in play. The theme of brown colored her physical form of hair and eyes making her seem mismatched in appearance to her soul with her choice of clothing speaking loudly. Given she was attempting to converse Artem made a similar attempt.
"They are pretty misunderstood I feel. They're given a lot of bad rep for no reason other than existing. Whale sharks in particular are very kind from my prospect of understanding the word. Your thoughts," he asked in turn before another wavelength came to his notice turning a bit he saw a brightly lit both figuratively and literally pink girl come burning in excitement with a very interesting soul. It was bright pink just like her legit shading of hair... and its energy was all over the place vibrating non-stop... yet oddly he noticed it was... in sync in the movement to Temperance's soul's tempo of movement. There was also a notable green ripple effect underneath the soul yet he could feel something else... there was no mistaking it there was a hint of madness. To be fair just looking at her collar would deduce that, but her soul spoke more volumes than a fashionable item did. In truth as it was clear, she was a weapon with his perception he could imagine she was well skilled at assisting amplification, but it was a hard guess as while he could see quite a bit his perception wasn't anywhere near perfect these were simple guesses at best.
"You are not late ma'am," Artem spoke but that's all he would be able to get out before Jun went insane on Temperance's pants... which he could wagger was not how Temperance wanted her conversation to go. It was the extreme suddenness of losing the conversation that Jun would probably overload Temperance real fast... he figured anyways. Watching would quickly answer that of course.
"You were in a fight beforehand," Artem asked Jun attempting to help alleviate some of Jun's energy towards him to help out Temperance avoid overwhelming energy from the pink-haired girl. Yet as he asked this another soul popped up With the winner of the one wearing the least amount of clothes of those present was a silver-haired lioness. The reason he labeled her as such was the numerous amount of scars along her entire body, and her weapon soul was indeed a wave of an impression on its own. Spikes resembling a wolf's ears protruded from her erratically flickering with a murderous wave of battle hunger. This was the very type of person Artem had to avoid resonating with as it would cause their biggest issue to develop ten times over for his own battlefield issues would be too out of control as it were. He watched her close in particular as she was clearly annoyed noticing Temperance before grunting and speaking that they needed to go to the other side of the pond most likely. At this point of now mentor insight she was probably right in earnest. Once she was gone he stood up as the person he was most expected off moved in... in truth he had known Bellamira had already arrived yet with no proper way to well ignite another conversation with her in connection to the last time they had spoke... he had left her be.
"Bellamira. Hopefully, the morning found you well," Artem addressed the gothic woman's first words to the group doing his best to give an inclusive response to her hesitant hand. There were many levels of uncertainty if this would work out. Artem had a more unique level of issues, and Bellamira only knew the service level that being he could not feel pain, nor much else both physically or emotionally unless connected to a weapon, and even then he only feel the weapon's emotions. The floating orange lantern that was Bellamira's soul was much less prominent in the sunlight than it was with the moonlight. With nothing much else to say or in truth no way to say it as of now, Artem was about to follow after Miroku until the last of their group arrive.
The arrival of Gia was indeed an oddity of its own at first glance it was quite clear the woman was struck with some form of realization that seemed to rattle her to the core so much so it felt like she was just staring at the rest of the team for no particular reason. Artem blinked a few times not sure what to make of Gia's stare nor if he should try to communicate with her. It was then she cleared her throat making Artem believe it had simply been a relapse of surprise... maybe this Gia was shy? No there was sudden confidence yet was instantly killed to a half attempt wave of her hand before sheepishly shuffling over to Jun. So she was shy? However, she seemed to pop back into existence ready to speak... before dropping her own cigar out of her mouth and ending her existence in conversation with the group. While Artem couldn't really process embarrassment, nor humiliation in any form he did know that when people were in a rut of a hard time it was best to give them positive reinforcement as such he walked up to her placing one hand on her shoulder before raising his other with a thumbs up.
"You did well," was all he said before giving her a nod of approval for her brave attempt to be bold, and battle her shyness even if failing miserably for the group. With that, he directed himself in the direction of he had taken a glimpse of Gia's soul before turning away though. It was interestingly in contrast to what he had seen so far prideful, prominent with a fierce aura that one day he was sure she would match up to. That or everything that had just happened was some cosmic level of irony on the girl's first impression of the group going totally south. Yet that was unlikely, right? You would have to have some pretty bad luck for so many faulty stars to align.
As such Artem headed in the direction were now quite a bit was going on where Miroku had headed to start with there were two buff men going to town on some wood poles, and it seemed Miroku was even helping... that was a good image maybe her soul and outwards actions were not a sign of her actual personality. Yet more notable was the entity that had neared Miroku walking over he noted the sign language and immediately responded back signing to the water folk, and welcome to you as well, after doing such he motioned to Miroku.
"He is saying welcome I don't know if you know sign language, but just in case I thought I would give a verbal read," he expressed to the wolf lioness woman before turning to the buff men. It didn't take even a moment to register this was in fact Starwulf the messenger of the text their mentor for the FATE program which probably made the laid-back weapon in the pool his partner... well maybe it was hard to say as with Starwulf the presence was so prominent this one felt easier going. It seemed their mentor was trapped in a project meaning if they wanted to get their session started it would be best to help. As such in response Artem took off his v-vest and rolled up his sleeves watching as they impressively showed off their craft.
"Where can I assist," Artem asked if allowed to help their much-needed teacher.
No sweat dripped from this man. Unlike the large, burly man he had enlisted to assist, Starwulf wore his full suit with little adjustments other than the tie loosened and the first button undone. More impressively, his suit itself seemed to flex and keep its form quite well as he picked up and rammed each one of these logs into the ground. There was a stark contrast between him and the other individual. Starwulf was tall, only an inch at best shorter than his companion, but his suit hid his toned body and even then his form looked to be at least half that of the other. He did not grunt or heave as he picked up these massive stakes. The telltale signs of wavelength amplification were short and brief flickers, existing for a few moments of a spark before he slammed the stake into the ground. His companion however huffed as he threw them up laterally, his wavelength spike was plain and obvious when he slammed it into the ground, and dribbles of sweat despite the cool, arid morning seeped from his hairline after the first few.
Starwulf stopped, then inhaled, first and foremost affording attention to the wonderful, lively signs Abyss threw at him. He had a point. Not one Starwulf cared about, but he had one. "I have no doubt that the other team can hear us. I doubt Reiko would bother me during work and the birdkeeper might piss is pants if I growled at him," Starwulf commented, loud enough for the entire group to hear him. He wasn't aggressive or assertive as much as he was just factual; his words might seem boastful, but his flat affect didn't seem to take any joy out of it.
"If you want to help, do as Miroku. Carry us the stakes, and we'll drive them into the ground. If you are unable to carry one of those logs the twenty feet it takes, I order you to do one-hundred push ups on the rocky part of the beach," Starwulf told them, his tone almost praising Miroku for her initiative. Followed immediately by barking orders at them as if he were a disappointed coach from a second-rate basketball team in some underfunded rural high school.
"Oh, and my manners, apologies. I am Starwulf, your mentor. The gentlemen assisting me is Erikk," he added, catching himself from turning back to the stakes. "I suppose I should set a few ground rules. First, I don't like tardiness, excuses, or weakness. Second, I happen to be an equal-opportunity sensei, meaning I have same expectations of women, weapons--or whatever you happen to identify as. Third, there will be no use of drugs or mild-altering substances in my presence," Starwulf instructed them, giving them virtually the same set of rules he did those he taught in the dojo.
He then eyed Gia specifically. "Including those disgusting cancer sticks. A Sound Soul Dwells within a Sound Mind and a Sound Body. Only makes sense you must keep your body a temple for it to remain sound," he told her, before transitioning into his reasoning behind his stringent set of rules. "If you absolutely must, get a Death-damn nicotine patch. I'll tolerate coffee, caffeine tablets, and tea, but don't enter my dojo with soda or soft drinks," he instructed all of them.
Starwulf didn't display a lot of emotion, either in his voice or his body language, as he barked these orders at his group. The only exception to this was a definite emphasis on his disdain of cigarettes. Outlining new rules and expectations for them. He was of the mindset that everyone here wanted to be a normal agent, so he was going to treat them as such until circumstances demanded more. What he put in front of them was the same expectations he put in front of everyone he ever trained. True, they needed help; it's why were there. But, pampering them and holding their hands the whole damn time was not his way.
"And for clarification, my dojo is wherever the Hell I happen to be at the time, unless Black☆Star or Lord Kidd are there to outrank me," he added, now with a little more assertion in his voice and a distinctive lack of Cyrus being on that short list of his superiors. "Any questions?" he asked, "remember, the only stupid question is the one you don't ask."
Team ReaperJarvis Briseis (Weapon, Blood-sucking Gauntlet, Undead) March 28th, 2067 DWMA Campus, Lot E
Blackie sniffed at Eloise’s hand. Eyes rolled upward, Jarvis watched the interaction between the meister and the black cat, even as he listened to Reiko Tanaka, aka Aka Kuro’s, introduction, which was quite useful as it shortened and avoided all personal introductions that normally opened the first day of class when no one knew anyone. Jarvis now knew the names, and important, of all those in Team Reaper without having to go through the whole ‘I am Jarvis Briseis, a weapon and a bloodsucker, this is my trauma.’ song and dance.
“Do with the cat?” Jarvis questioned curiously.
Eloise’s steady method of approach seemed to be working and, maybe, just maybe, Blackie might’ve jumped off Jarvis’s head and moved towards the human girl on his own. He didn’t seem to mind her touch, after all. However, before Eloise could succeed in luring the cat off his head, the daemon bird swooped in to steal away Blackie first, accompanied by the laughter of crows. Since Jarvis had been looking upward–his eyes rolled up– the entire time, he watched it all as it happened. He’d noticed the ominous shift in the air as more birds arrived, of course, but, seeing as he didn’t speak bird, it meant nothing to him.
He still sensed no actual malicious intent.
Then, a guy in a silver zip up suit appeared out of thin air to confirm his thoughts, their interactions with the laughing avian almost comedic. Were it not for Blackie’s distressful mewls, it might’ve been. Jarvis had a vague sense that someone had been watching them, of course, but, like with the bird, he didn’t care enough to focus or locate.
Why look for someone who didn’t want to show themselves…even going as far as wearing some sort of Magi-tech suit to make himself invisible? Or, at least, Jarvis assumed it was the suit.
Silver suit guy wasn’t as good as Midori when it came to hiding anyway. Wavelength suppression would’ve been something Jarvis would’ve wanted to learn from the two-star if they were still around as it made hiding, hunting, and–more importantly–blending in with humans easier. As a bloodsucker, and someone who studied basic wavelength manipulation during his human years at DWMA, Jarvis tended to suppress his wavelength unconsciously whenever trying to hide–especially at night–, but he wasn't as good as the Hoshi assassin/Monster Hunter in that regard.
His other option would be to go Valerija’s route and learn Soul Protect…which he’d been procrastinating. Magic, the kind he’d seen some bloodsuckers perform, always made him hungrier. As lazy as Jarvis was, he didn’t crave power, and tended to learn on a need-to-know basis. Calm Mind was something he deemed necessary given his current partner. Hypnotic Eyes to hunt. Blood manipulation, Valerija’s speciality, in order to protect himself from Vampire hunters, other bloodsuckers, etc. Was there a need to learn more?
If he intended to continue in DWMA, and fight stronger supernatural monsters, the answer was probably yes. Jarvis sighed.
Red eyes watched as Blackie frantically hissed and struggled before finally being dropped in Silver Suit’ waiting hands, unsure whether it was the height or the prospect of being eaten that frightened the Siberian cat more. Jarvis had never taken Blackie on a flying excursion before and Jarvis doubted the cat had much experience flying or being so high up.
“I didn’t think she would,” Jarvis replied to the approaching man who laughed in relief and introduced himself as one of their mentors. Or, at least, Jarvis assumed ‘Umbra’ was smart enough not to do so; The name brought back memories of a weird classmate and a much smaller bird.
Were they the same person? He hoped not. The sheer awkwardness would just kill him.
In Az’s grasp, a terrified Blackie wasn’t calmed in the least. He clawed, hissed, scratched, and tried to bite at his captor. Whatever bravery points Jarvis awarded Blackie in his head disappeared. Uncrossing his legs, Jarvis jumped to his feet before approaching the pair, taking the feline back from Az, and soothingly stroking the frantic, perfectly ordinary animal. Blackie calmed in his arms…relatively. Unlike in Sibera, where Jarvis lived a perfectly ordinary NEET life away from humans (minus a couple surprise visits from Val, vampire-hunters, and the like), DWMA these days was full of monsters, magical creatures, and otherwise supernatural beings that would probably happily gobble up the ordinary animal…if they weren’t on leashes; Witches, studying magic on campus, that needed subjects to experiment on, etc.
Such was the risk of choosing to follow him to DWMA - of choosing to be a part of his undead life.
“If she does, I might just eat her myself.” Jarvis shrugged. Probably not if he were practicing ‘calm mind’, but Jarvis had a history of acting without thinking when loved-ones were involved. He knew, in his head, of course that all those alive would one day leave him behind, and a Siberian cat’s lifespan maxed at about 15 years, but that didn’t mean he’d let its murder go unpunished. Would it even have counted as murder? The death of humans was murder. The death of animals was an unfortunate accident and the death of monsters like himself, a heroic feat. Umbra couldn’t even be blamed for wanting to eat; To eat or to be eaten was simply a natural part of going through life for many creatures. The only mistake Umbra would’ve made would be consuming a friend of Jarvis, in which case, it should be prepared to face Jarvis.
If the laughing birds thought they could escape Jarvis by being in the sky, they’d be dead wrong; Only calm assessment of the situation had kept blood wings from sprouting on his back to engage Umbra for possession of Blackie, after all. Jarvis yawned. Frankly, if Az hadn’t managed to talk his bird down, or the talking took any longer, he still might’ve. There was a limit to pranks, after all, and Blackie’s distressful mewls for help had started to grow irksome.
“At the very least, I’d demand compensation from her owner. I’m in the FATE program because DWMA doesn’t trust me, so I’d rather not push luck, but if I had to choose between a friend or the school, I’d probably choose the friend. That’s the kind of guy I’ve always been…and it’s not like I have so many that I can afford to be picky.” Still stroking Blackie, red eyes flicked up towards Umbra, glowing a brief pinkish sheen, before returning to meet Az. Jarvis sighed. He hadn’t intended to make things tense. He wasn’t even really angry. He was just stating a fact– making his stance clear. If Umbra had eaten Blackie, Jarvis wouldn’t have taken the assault lightly. “Anyway, I think Blackie is done for today.”
Though he had no idea what the Mentors had planned by demanding they meet in Lot E, there was no reason for it to involve his cat.
Jarvis placed the mewling Blackie–who was being over dramatic about a little joyride–back on top of his head, shading them both with his furry hood, before glancing at Ashi who shook tree chunks from her right fist. “He appreciates the gesture.”
Aka Kuro being informed that Zari would be a little late explained why Jarvis still hadn’t received a reply to his morning text. It worried Jarvis a little since, for as long as he had known his partner (three weeks), Zari had never been late. That was usually Jarvis. However, he also knew that worrying about the things he didn’t know, that he couldn’t know, was a waste of energy. Hopefully Zari hadn’t caused some sort of trouble and gotten himself incarcerated like Zosar.
Jarvis’s shoulder slumped at the thought. Given the madness his partner possessed, it wasn’t even a far off guess.
Eloise Keegan - DWMA Lot E ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Slowly, Elly was coaxing the cat's guard down with the skills of a diplomat. However, before the girl could enjoy the fruits of her labor, the squawking of crows grew louder and more incessant before a blur shot past her. She blinked a few times in confusion before she realized the cat was gone, taken by one of the vocal birds.
Before she could really process the situation, another hidden factor appeared in the form of their other mentor. Elly spun on her heels to look in the direction of the shouting, awkward man. She stared at his apologetic frame, then glancing down at the mask and up at the birds. She could feel his soul now, clear as day. That wasn't speed. He didn't just get here. He literally appeared out of nowhere. That was reason enough for her to be on edge. It was one thing for someone to slip by without her paying attention. She specifically surveyed the area with her sense. There wasn't anyone else on the lot. She could even see through Soul Protect, so what the hell was that?! Forget the Emmett guy, who was this man and what was that mask?
Exhaling calmly, Elly watched the exchange as the bird brought Blackie back and Az tried, futily, to calm it. Jarvis was rather unamused and nonchalant about the whole thing, retrieving the cat and calming it to what degree it could. Elly wasn't so messed up that she would contemplate hurting a little cat for no reason, but it was worth noting that the bloodsucker wasn't so disinterested with everything.
The zombie was more unamused and less nonchalant, punching a tree after the avian made off with the animal. Elly wondered if she planned to throw the entire tree at the flock, but regardless seemed to calm down when the situation resolved itself. She supposed this was still better than the apparent battle royale the first actual day started on.
"...Would a crow even taste that good?" Elly joked with a smile, clasping her hands behind her back once more before turning her attention to the new mentor. "Were you here the entire time? You just appeared out of thin air."
Adrian was livid. Anger seethed from him so fiercely that it might as well have been a flame surrounding him, and anyone with a half-decent skill at Soul Perception could see it. He had been in this Lot--this fucking Lot again, even if it wasn't the same one--less than five damn minutes and a bird swoops down to catch Blackie? Everyone acted like it was fine. Everyone was calm. It just seemed like such a small thing to blow over, but Adrian was not having it. Those were talons that carried that poor cat. That was the act of a predator. And, for what? It's jovial fun? To a play prank? To assert dominance? Adrian could only speculate, but said speculations only drove his anger further.
Jarvis at least made a comment about what he would do to the bird, but no. No Adrian didn't find that sufficient. Jarvis likely just couldn't be bothered to deal with it if it didn't seem like it would be a problem again. If this Mentor of theirs promised it wouldn't. But Adrian, Adrian was not so easily convince. Adrian did just believe that a slap on the wrist to this avian beast would keep it in its place nor did he accept the apologies from their mentor. If he was such a high rank, why wasn't he capable of controlling his pets? Why did he allow one to swoop in and ruin his plans? If had no control over that, then what could they expect as a team under him?
Adrian was not having it.
"Fuck your apology, get your shit together," Adrian shouted, waltzing right up to Az, squared up like a man in a bar ready to swing his fists with a ass-grabbing lowlife of a drunkard. Except, it wasn't his fists readied. It was his transformed spikes, protruding from the palms of his hands after he ejected both of them in his rage just a moment ago.
"We're supposed to answer to you, but it seems you answer to a bird. Does that you bird-brains? Or, is that an insult to him because he's smarter?" Adrian spouted off, triggered by the series of events that unfolded. Stripped from his last team, Zari nowhere in sight, what appeared to be an incompetent mentor, and stuck at the starting line.
"Just in case he is the brains here, I'll make this real clear. Next time that thing swoops down at us, we're gonna test if it can out speed my Self Resonance. If you don't like that, I suggest you get a collar for it--just like us," he threatened, with no lack of seriousness in his tone. He was, for all intents and purposes, ready to duke it out with this new mentor of theirs. The intent radiating off of him was not just harm from his Pain Wavelength, it was the desire to hurt someone. Not inflict pain. Inflict injury. And, it was directed entirely at Az. His words were coated in a similar venom. His threats were more like promises, even the emphasis he made on collars and how they seemed to have them but that out of control bird didn't.
A flame burned in those blue eyes of his, and they were fixated on Az without any focus on those that surrounded him. An asymmetrical snarl on his upper lip adorned his face. His body language alone communicated just how ready he was to make the first stab.
Eustice was gone. Taken away in shackles to be thoroughly engaged in questioning after finally admitting he would give them some information.
A part of Zosar had no idea what that would entail for his friend. While he wouldn't forgive him for what he had played a part in letting happen, including exacerbating his own personal situation, he did worry.
The one thing he didn't worry about was Eustice saying a word about the Enlighteners. Even if they hadn't seen each other in nearly 5 years. Among the many he knew, Eustice was as loyal as he was.
Whatever he told them, probably had some sort of catch even if it was the full truth.
At least he knew the DWMA wasn't about to kill Eustice any time soon. They had that chance before, and they didn't take it.
Just like they could have killed him.
Zosar shook his head, droplets of sweat falling away below him, and then continued his reps.
Training in here was all he could really do now. So train he would.
It was March 16th and not a soul had visited him since he’d been here and only Midori had been by in that time since.
He wondered if the news would only be broken to his team and his team alone.
To say he was disappointed in only getting one visitor would have been a lie. He hadn’t really been sure Midori would even show up after the news got to him, he’d held some small flicker of hope- but being a mercenary in the real world as a kid, did a number on things like blind optimism. Pragmatically, Zosar wasn’t bothered that much by it.
Not even she had come, and he wasn’t entirely surprised. He was basically the one forcing her to reset once a decision was made, and by extension what had happened at the Tournament was sure to affect Adrian, Zari and Jarvis by extension.
Then again even if the whole group had known, and by group, he thought of Dani and the others, it wasn't like he was close to any one person except Midori. What possible reason any one of them could have had to visit him- would have been a mystery to him. It had only been the 12th where Midori had informed him that the news had been broken to the others of what had happened to him.
He wondered just how much of that had been covered up and edited information and how much had been the truth.
Then again, how different had things been if he had never followed him at all.
'It probably would have been worse, given what we know he was planning'
He sighed, more out of exhaustion from his rep.
Sweat covered Zosar's upper body as he swapped from the handstands he had been doing, to now trading blows with a phantom opponent.
He struck out like a boxer, swiped his thumb over his nose, then deftly came from the side, hips tilting as his leg swept in to where he imagined he had struck just below the ribs without use of his wavelength.
So much lost. He felt himself think. For all I know I have no chances left after this.
There was that anger towards Eustice bubbling again- but like always, it simmered and died down.
The guy had been looking out for his friend. Zosar couldn't help but understand why he had gone to such lengths. He had done the same for the people that used to be his friends.
He just wished the others hadn't had to die for a literal suicidal mission.
His mind flashed back to the Hoshi assassin. Akari, her name. Image clear in his head. A cousin of Midori no doubt.
Ducks, dodges, sweeps, strikes.
Some part of him wanted her dead.
He squashed it. It would take him nowhere. Revenge when taken, always left him satiated but hollow.
The bag was a sturdy opponent.
Reinforced with magic the punching stand before him had been reinforced to take a beating from meisters using Amplification. While Zosar hadn't amplified with every hit, the hits he did land made indents in the sand filled back that refilled after a couple seconds from each heavy blow.
The perfect target for his frustration.
Strike after strike, Zosar hit the bag hard. Indents becoming deeper with every hit as the days had passed.
As he continued his training. Focusing his control, Zosar couldn't help but think about how he wished more things in the real world were sturdier like this bag. Maybe then he wouldn't always have to hold back his wavelength. Utilize it at the potential he was capable of without always having to hold back.
The next strike he made was open palmed. The bag leaned back and when it came forward, he struck again, a pop from his natural strength slugging it, sending it to the side as he brought his arm back.
It felt good.
It was satisfying.
Not just letting his frustrations out, but feeling like he could finally let his wavelength flow freely just a bit without having to restrain it so much.
Sometimes it grew tiring, always holding back. Always restraining. There were times, he just wished his wavelength weren't so unstable. Wasn't so volatile. Then he could cut loose more and not always have to worry about hurting Adra or any one he resonated with, like he had with Neil, his first initial partner before Mark.
Or the time he had tried Chain Resonance and failed that too because he was too worried about causing a chained rejection.
The dungeon halls echoed with every strike, but he did not care, did not mind.
With each blow, Zosar hit harder. Till his hands, his knees, his feet, started to ache just a little.
Soon he was bored with the bag. And began picturing an opponent. His eyes narrowed, and he focused on the imagery of killing intent.
Midori's was cold. Resolute and unwavering. Much like Akari's in the brief moment he had sensed her bloodlust- they were almost similar.
He knew Midori however. He didn't know her.
He tried picturing the attack, went still as he imagined it. Blades through the heart. He spiked his wavelength, swiveled and struck- in his head, she dodged easily, and he imagined by the time he had blinked she had slit his throat, lobbed off his head without even a blink.
Anger made his wavelength spike- but conditioning made Zosar force it down.
He took another stance, pictured her approach from a frontal assault- spiked his wavelength- failed.
He repeated this. Over and over, Zosar turned it into a game. If he could get better at his strength and speed- he could land a hit. With Akari as his target, much like Hiroshi had once taught him, Zosar put the mental battle into techniques.
The failures just sent him back to childhood. How he had struggled to do even half of what his peers could do with their wavelengths. Had things been different maybe he might have never joined the field. Delegated to supportive work like the less combative operatives the Enlighteners had employed.
Grit, stubbornness, and a passion pushed him through that- and so he believed he could push through this. If emotion was going to cause him to spike when he didn't mean it, then perhaps he should start giving into that a little.
For sometime, he was lost in his training. Till he heard Midori's voice- and turned.
"It's time to go."
His muscles tensed.
What other choice did he have?
Sara glanced at the time on a passing public stand watch, the time 2pm, the date March 20th, told only the bare minimum, but she expected as much.
Zosar had been kept in a low security area, she was to be escorted due to being a Fate agent (if she weren’t, she wouldn’t need an escort), and that he was here for his own protection. Protection against what? Had been the question to pop in to her mind.
Zosar’s story from their first day meeting each other on that Lot had reminded her he had allies. Was it a group then? Seemed pretty organized if they tried to enter Death City. Wait, did they enter Death City? Was Zosar at the tournament? Did they trespass into the colosseum? What were they doing here? Did they still have business with him? Are they dead? Who else was alive? They must have known him for a long time if they tried to get him out, if that’s what indeed happened. They were still loyal. She wondered what happened now, considering Zosar was here and not somewhere else. Did Zosar keep them from leaving or was there a fight?
Considering he was in a low security prison and not a higher one or in the dungeons, that left her wondering if he even wanted to leave in the first place. Of course, Midori never told her much about it. Her worries were not swayed, but only were made much worse as he tried to downplay it as much as possible. Her anxiety from her days being sick had kicked back up today and she wasn’t feeling very good. She probably needed to take her medication again, if she still had some left.
Either way, she followed Midori through the DWMA security complex, her ears picking up on a lot of aggressive behavior from other people and her nose picked up on reserved and calm demeanors to anger to sadness and stress.
Lots of stress.
It was then that a particular soul scent struck her. Metal, bloodied peppy and sweet flowers… It was so strong. She could smell the hate and the anger from the overpowering scent, and the sweat… Was he working out? As they made it near his cell, she realized it was him. Zosar. His scent was so strong, almost overpowering. She had to shut down her olfactory soul sense, just in case she embarrassed herself. Her cheeks were tinted pink, but that didn’t make the kindness or determination in seeing him waver.
She approached the room and cleared her throat. “Hey, Zosar.” Her ears were forward and she had a huge smile on her face. She looked a little shy, but with an expression fit for a high school girl meeting her crush in a long time.
As if Dani were here, bloodlust filled the room. Though Sara wouldn't have noticed it anymore with her senses switched off.
The strike he sent out made another dent in the wall, shattering it, and his mismatched eyes turned in her direction. Wide eyed, focused, but in that brief moment- the look in his eyes said he found the intrusion more of a nuisance than a welcome.
For a brief moment, Sara got to see what Zosar looked like when he was in his element. Training. Murderous intent, something she had never sensed before from him was now a wellspring of fury that rivaled even Dani's murderous wavelength, and it rolled off his sweating frame, empowered his blows. Topless and in training pants spares, he stood in martial form, barefoot- the wall in front of him was damaged with dents he had made in multiple places with his training. The weights he had used tossed aside. The training bag that had been brought to him, viciously ruined.
He clearly had been keeping himself busy.
Yet while she only had a few seconds to see it, it was gone just as quickly. All of Zosar's bloodlust vanished as soon as two seconds had passed and he had noticed he had guests.
"Sara? His eyes lost that hard edge. His expression, no longer cold and disdainful. "Uh…hey?" He shifted from his stance as he looked down at her.
The entirety of his rage was gone in an instant. As if it hadn't been there a second ago.
"It's good to see you again." He smiled slightly, looking around. "I honestly didn't think anyone would visit me."
And then he felt awkward for the state his room was in.
"Sorry about the mess…so…how are you?"
Sara giggled and shook her head, waving a nonchalant hand at him. “Oh, Noah’s room on a bad day looks worse than this. You’re good.” While the rage he held and the murderous intent she saw from him was a stark contrast to what she had seen before, it only led to her to speculate what kind of environment he lived in before. And she wasn’t at all upset that he had looked at her in such a way. He probably didn’t recognize her at first.
But that was okay. She was here to help him emotionally in some capacity, even if it likely won’t end up working. “I’m doing good. I have a new weapon partner now. Her name’s Eva and she’s a cool lantern flail. During the tournament, I also fought against Iris with Midori. It was so cool! Even though just keeping Midori’s blades sharp was a task, I did really well for my first time.” Her excitement knew no bounds, though her ears fell to the sides and her voice became less chipper as she continued. “Oh, and uh… I noticed you weren’t around, so I got worried about you and I started missing you.” She then smiled wide and her chipper attitude came back. “That’s why I asked to be here to see you. So, how are you?” She asked with her head tilted, her smile constant now.
“I’m better, now that I have some company again at least.” He dismissed the earlier part about worry or concern. It was good to know someone was aside from his only friend in DWMA. He extended his hand to the bed.
“I don’t really have chairs but want to take a seat?”
She smiled even wider as he seemed even better in her company and she skipped over to the bed as soon as he gestured towards it, plopping down with that happiness that seemed to never leave her. “So, now that I hath taken a seat,” she jokingly said before trying to contain herself. “So- Oh, dang it.” She deadpanned, her ears falling to the side as her face spoke mild annoyance. “I forgot to bring food for you.” She pouted before shaking her head, a determined look on her face replacing whatever emotion she had earlier. “Oh well, I’ll just give it to you later. I may not be able to give it to you in person, but it’s probably gonna be my famous Japanese dishes.” She stuck out her tongue, a rather pleased and yearning look on her face as she wished she had some now. Shaking her head from her random thoughts, she finally took a moment to bring herself back to reality. “Oh, so Noah wanted me to tell you to ‘hi’ and I wanted to ask, how was that mission with the aqua cat? Midori and Zari told me a bit about it, but Zari thought it was boring because he didn’t like chasing something so infuriating, hehe.” She giggled, finding that hilarious.
“It’s alright,” he said with a smile, reassuring her. Still sort of just processing that Sara was here.
Honestly after their conversation, his and Midori’s, he hadn’t thought Midori would even come back. A reformed brainwashed agent helping a spy? Especially one that the head of the program didn’t even believe could be fully reformed. He believed Midori would have done what little he could and washed his hands of him after. Hadn’t thought he’d come back again or at all. So to see someone else joining him…
…It sort of hit how pessimistic he’d become right there.
He brushed it off, let himself try and at least savor this unexpected visit for what it was. Sara had seemed like a nice person, if there was any hidden intent behind this, maybe he’d pick up on it.
“Tell him I said ‘hi’ back” his smile widening. “As for the mission, it was alright, a bit hectic chasing it around part of Death City but I think we all did pretty well for our first mission.” He grinned.
Our only mission.
“How was the tournament?” Deciding to move away from that line of thought. “I sort of missed everything after Gauss’ match ended, or at least the first part of it. How did he, Noah and Prudence do?”
Midori chimed in for the first time, chuckling as he commented, “Oh, it was shocking.” He then added, ”He really lit up the arena. Didn’t’e, Sara?”
Sara started giggling at Midori’s interruption, his puns making her roll her eyes. “Oh, death, that.” She shook her head and looked at Zosar. Zosar had changed the subject, so she wasn’t going to talk about that mission any longer. The tournament topic, at least with performances, had her huffing. “Well, not only did he light up the stadium and turn the space in the arena into an inside of one of those electrical plasma ball toys, but he and Noah suffered bad rejection. Idiots.” She sighed and shook her head. “What was even worse was that Maria’s doll blew up behind him. After that, Maria tagged out for Chanterelle, and Gauss and her did a fist fight with no meister stuff and no witch stuff. Of course, her blood accidentally got on him and he looked so drugged up on something, he blew a hole in the mushroom witch’s shoulder… And uh…” She blinked a few times and chuckled sheepishly.
A literal hole in a Witch’s shoulder? The image made Zosar wonder what kind of fight or what kind of Witch, Chanterelle even was to have that be so feasibly possible in a fist fight. Sara might have been exaggerating but given Midori hadn’t jumped in to explain it left little to the imagination. He’d seen injuries as bad, it wasn’t hard to exactly imagine.
To his minor surprise it didn’t make him feel as good as he had thought hearing Gauss had been laid flat by whatever toxins were in Chanterelle’s blood. It did make him smile a little though hearing how well Maria had beat him, though he felt bad for Noah in the exchange of the terrible rejection they may have experienced, he could at least feel some comfort now in the sense Gauss had gotten his dues for their last match at least.
“I wasn’t aware of what was going on with Nadia and Dani’s match against Ark or Raphael. I was meditating because I was talking to Midori during the intermission and I wanted to practice so I wouldn’t be resonance cucking him. But from what I heard, Ark fought kind of restrained but at least his fight with Nadia and Dani was cool. I heard Raphael had said some rather mean things and Zelda decided to train us with an audio system that taunted us so we wouldn’t have an issue. Dani’s madness nearly tainted Nadia in some kind of false resonance of sorts, so I’m glad Nadia didn’t get affected. Their hatred nearly got them to resonate, so I guess? Still dangerous.” She shrugged. But then her face lit up with excitement and she stood up, her hands balled up as her excitement ramped up her voice and her tail became a blur.
“Oh, oh, and I fought a Sitheris! Iris is so fucking cool! I don’t even care that she is a part of the Mabian line, I will totally fight her again, even if I fall unconscious again! Her mutation spells were so cool! Oh, oh, and I did really well with Midori despite that fight being our first time being a duo!” She calmed down and blinked a few times, taking a deep breath. “Phew. But yeah, Chanterelle won, then Nadia, then Iris.” She finished explaining, trying to calm herself down from her excitement about fighting Iris.
Zosar couldn’t help but smile a little at Midori’s comment and Sara’s energy. When she finished, he was still smiling. Almost lost in thought. “Sounds like both sides had quite the time, wish I could have seen it.” His smile widened, though there was no mournfulness in his tone, just sincerity. “Maybe introduce me to Iris, she sounds like a fun character if you two had that much fun fighting her alone.” He chuckled, Sara nodding in agreement to do so at a later date. Turning his attention to Midori, he also asked, “How is Adra doing by the way?” The question also implied how she was handling what he had left in her care. That being one of the kittens he had taken as his own.
Despite handling the rest per Midori’s instructions, Zosar had gotten one of the cubs to open its eyes to create that link, all under the guise of being accidental- even if it had been an intentional mishandling on his part.
”Adra has been doing well. When you captured Shuumie, she completed her first Calm Seal. I’ve been working with her to be able to replicate that at will. Now she can use it like a toggle switch, and it’s done wonders for her,” Midori told him. It was the best update he could give in terms of her progress. ”In terms of how she’s feeling, well… she doesn’t hate me like she used to, but she hasn’t been very open with me. We have a history–not that kind of history, either–and I guess I’m not the best person to vent to for her,” Midori explained, giving them some insight as to why he had less to offer.
He nodded, it was enough at least to know something of his, he supposed, old partner. “It’s fine, thanks.” He wasn’t sure why he added the thanks, Midori was a good guy, he just felt on some level it needed to be said.
Sara watched the two speak, smiling wide as Adra seemed to get a calm seal up now. Oh, that reminded her, she needed to learn how to do that, too. She raised her eyes at their shared history, before realizing he was in Paean. Was she in Paean, too? Either way, her eyes widened when she remembered something someone had said to her in the past week about the mission. “I heard there was a litter. Did you get any of the kittens?” Her eyes looked hopeful at Zosar, implying she wanted to see it.
“I did.” His grin came back. “The others didn’t. Dawon is with Adra. After we’re done, check on her and go see him for yourself.” He advised- “let her know I said hi.” He added with reservation.
“How are things with your partner though, Eva, right?”
She nodded happily, and the werewolf’s eyes sparkled with delight. When asked about Eva, Sara’s grin widened and she giggled. “Oh, she’s amazing. Poor girl’s got a lot of trauma, but I’ll help her through it. She’s pretty cool, got some kleptomania problem, but not for keeping stuff. For giving stuff away to others. I’m gonna get a big ol’ backpack and shove her inside if she warns me, so she doesn’t do it. And she’s got something else about her soul that is weird.” She took a moment to think, wondering what it was. “It’s like, she’s got another person in there, which she told me something troubling happened a long time ago, so I’m assuming it has to do with her old meister, but I’ll figure it out later.” Her ears perked up and she smiled wide again. “Oh, and Zari came to see me and Noah. That was cool. I met this new girl, smells like a Zombie, called Ashi. Got to show her around Death City. She’s a part of Fate too.”
"A zombie?" His eyes glanced towards Midori. Uncommon. There was only one Zombie he knew of and he was long gone, right after Stein. "That is interesting. Hopefully, I'll get to meet her."
It was at that moment that a short young lady in a suit entered the room. Glancing around it once with the same cheerless air her eyes displayed, she told Midori: "Time's up." Her eyes glanced in Sara's way only once, "you'll both have to leave now. Cyrus' orders. Visitors get a window of time to visit once a day." She informed them, more for Sara's sake.
Sara pouted, but approached Zosar, talking to the woman. “Just a few more seconds. I’m not leaving without a hug.” She put her arms out wide, a huge, beaming smile on her face. “Pleeaaase, Zosar?” Her ears fell back and her eyes widened in some kind of puppy-dog plea. Even her voice sounded unnaturally cute.
”Those orders were only in place when he was under heavy surveillance. Now, he’s under protection.” Midori chimed in. He gave a sideways glance to the lady. ”I still have a supervisor role through the Fate Program, so I’ll… supervise a bit longer,” he told her, cutting through her next potential argument of Sara being a Fate Agent as fast as one would expect any assassin–preemptively.
”Just make it quick,” Midori instructed, his gaze falling back over to Sara and Zosar.
”And, yes, she is a Great Zombie. An anomaly. The last on record was made by the late Professor Stein, and no one even knows how. This one seems to be… temporal in nature. Even the Guild of Mage is at a loss for a proper explanation,” Midori went on, filling in the gaps Sara left behind. ”A scarred soul is one I’ve encountered in the past, too. I have not met Eva, but I’d be wary. Even Professor James likely only has speculation, given the rarity,” Midori commented. Sara was amazed at the information, but she was going to hold on to it now. There was no reason to speak on it anyway. They were about to leave.
The short woman in the suit was quite appalled by the comment from Midori. She tried sending a message to Cyrus’ office and the stereotypical look of rage one could only find from a middle-aged woman failing to get her way swept across her face. Whatever news she got apparently landed on the side of Midori.
The small little grin Zosar shot Midori’s way was hard to miss. He almost told the suit to ‘eat it’, he wisely decided not to.
Leaning in and giving Sara the hug, Zosar made it quick. “Sorry about the sweat.” He apologized, “Like I said, didn’t expect visitors.” Patting her on the back as he began to release her.
Zosar gave her a hug, and Sara immediately rubbed her face in his chest and squeezed her body flushed to his, doubling to get as much scent of him as possible and to also shake her head at his concern as her tail became a blur. “I don’t mind…” She then whispered, her cheeks turning pink and her ears fell back. “Besides… It makes your soul scent smell even better, hehe.” Realizing she said too much, she decided to let go as if she didn’t do that. She poked his nose and she smiled wide. “I may not be here within the next week, but hopefully I can come back again. However, I don’t know if I’ll be able to. So hopefully the next time I see you is when you’re out of here.” She smiled wide, her tail wagging slower now as she realized she had to leave.
There was that little comment about his scent again. He couldn’t help but chuckle. Especially at the little boop.
“I’m looking forward to it.” He beamed. “Thanks for coming you two. Really do appreciate it.”
Sara giggled, nodding before suddenly ruffling his hair. “And I appreciate the uh… Work.” She looked him up and down, her eyes narrowing as her tone teased with a lilt at the emphasis before turning on her heel and skipping out of the room.
Thank yooouuuu! Sorry for the wait, but now it's time for four more posts~!!!
Life Hanging on a Thread
After his body was taken from the field so the others could clean up and fight, Raphael was taken to the hospital. It didn’t take long for him to wake up after being admitted and put in a bed. He had bandages covering his burns and cuts after they treated them, and he had a nice purple splotch on his cheek where Nadia slapped him. His other cheek hurt, as if someone had punched him there, and his chin was sore, but he didn’t recall the former injury from the fight. He wondered if anyone took a shot when he was knocked out. He couldn’t blame them, as upon awakening, he realized what he had done wrong. He felt something off, like someone was staring at him. There was even a pressure on his arm, preventing him from pulling it up so he could take a sip of water that was next to his bed. His eyes scanned the room, hoping to find anyone or anything that he could identify as the source of the eerie feeling.
“Oh.” Came the soft voice ringing with melancholy, red wires followed the trail from a nearby chair as a somewhat deranged face of both hate and amusement lit up through yellow eyes with a faint light illuminating the figure, a figure known to Raphael as something grabs at the bed sheets laid over him, holding him in place. “It will be best if you don’t yell. If you do, well, I’m sure you understand. Tee hee.”
Raphael’s blood ran cold upon hearing who it was. And feeling his sheets tighten over him. But, he wouldn’t be surprised with the attempt at his life, and he figured Maria would have pulled something like this. The vibes she gave him made him think of yanderes from manga he read. He simply sighed and shook his head tiredly and slowly, his neck feeling stiff. “Ah, yeah, about that. Yeah, I made them angry, almost giving Dani a madness episode. Honestly, I forgot you were watching, Maria. Either way, they are most likely thinking about something. Sometimes, you have to be aggressive to make people like them think. At least they attempted resonance.” He smirked slightly, which probably wasn’t the best idea, considering Maria’s dolls likely had weapons. “So, you here to enact retribution? Hurt me? Kill me?” He asked, but not tauntingly. More so out of curiosity.
“You exposed them for the world to see.” She says flatly. “Struggles of the more mundane have a beauty all of its own. But there are lines, like the wires I now have running to my children, who hold you.” Crossing her hands the pressure builds on his body as wooden hands could be felt, rising up to her feet, she tilts her head and smiles.
“I wonder, what secrets do you have? But kill you?” Humming a bit at that, she waved a hand and the presence suddenly vanished. “Do I have a reason to do such?”
The building pressure had him wincing, his body still sore from the fight. Yet, he held no fear. He knew Maria wouldn’t kill him. He didn’t know if Rand cared, but there would be an uprising in F.A.T.E. if that ever came to pass. He just sighed, shrugging as the pressure vanished. He sat up a bit, his eyes tired as he looked at her. “Secrets? You could ask my therapist if you wish to know. But a reason to kill me? If I were you, I’d have tortured the bastard who had hurt my friends. I’d have found them in an alleyway and made them pay for what they did and put them in the hospital.” His voice got more hoarse as he got angry, but he let it subside, gaze falling to his blankets. “But there’s a reason why I’m in FATE. To stop enacting vengeance. To stop… Whatever I did back there. That tournament was too soon. But it happened now. There’s nothing we can do to mitigate it or pay for my actions.” He then looked up at her. “Why are you here then?”
“You are already in the hospital.” She says in a matter of factly way. “I do not care to know your secrets, but what if they or I dragged your own family into this?” She said with narrowed eyes as she walked closer. “..Friends are a special thing, they are the people you say goodbye to today and hello to tomorrow. Maybe not always tomorrow, but not all seem to value friends. Least not truly. It is a precious thing.” With that said she was suddenly upon him in a dash as she grabbed her knife from the belt pouch and swung towards his one good eye.
Raphael watched her get closer, not one ounce of resolve left as he just looked defeated. He was defeated. If she wanted to stab him, she could do so. And now, she was going to plunge her knife into his one good eye. He didn’t really care, he found himself. The madness that would make him want to get mad at her for hurting him was pushed down by the collar. Maybe it was the sedation from the collar, but he didn’t even move. He was a statue.
Stopping just short of his good eye, the blade is pulled away as she hums and moves to pick up and cut an apple, making the peels look a bit like rabbits as she speaks, “Unfortunately my pull is creation… Though should this happen a second time...” A slight pause in her cutting as she continues, “But ah, I will be watching to see this change you speak of and how sorry you are. Though, I think it would be a very bad idea to apologize to either here soon.”
“I know…” A part of him felt relief that he wouldn’t have to lose his sight. His eyes trained on her before he looked down at his lap. Specifically his hands. “Glad you’re not like me. Vengeance only brings pain, because even if you were to atone for the pain of another through violence or defamation, you just get yourself hurt, too.” He sighed, memories flooding in from the event that put him here. “I… I will try. Not because you threatened my vision or my life. But I… I don’t want to…” He trailed off and sighed. He couldn’t bring himself to say it. “Do you know what Madness is like?”
Pausing for a bit to stare at him, her hands soon go back to work as she lays the little apple rabbits on a tray that held the original apple. Listening to his words she pauses for a bit once more, the ends of her mouth moving as if to search for words.
“Madness... Revenge... You are very much wrong, I would do all sorts of things for revenge, one of my dear dolls was damaged by a student in the guild, the first I had seen in years, he made fun of it. So I beat him into submission with it. I also did suicide bomb with one of my creations upon Gauss. If anything it is my most human quality.” With that she wipes the blade off on her dress and pauses. “I am tempted to humor your words and I would like to make more friends… For that I don’t do anything more.”
With that she decided to tell the one who used the power of secrets to harm others a secret of her own, for it could not hurt her. “I have only flashes of memories from that time, but my Master Mirai told me much of that time, or at least what she was told. My mother, who I gained the traits of creation and sorcery from, were also her talents, but she was driven mad, with of course, madness. She made art out of all sorts of materials, even out of parts of those my father, also driven mad lured to the house. A hotspot was developing around them, more and more madness gathered. The DWMA noticed and the DWMA killed them.
I hold no ill will towards them for it. However I was seemingly unaffected, but they feared I was a carrier of Madness, one that was not bothered by it but that could spread it to others… Well, maybe not so not bothered. Either way I spent the next several years confined to a workshop for my safety and those of others. Till the cure at least. So, I understand madness more than you might think and for that reason alone I do not fear you or Dani.” And with that a smile came upon her face, what emotions were behind those eyes and that inhumanly forced smile was difficult to say.
Raphael listened to her story, his eyes widening at how she just spoke of it. As if it didn’t bother her. Then again, she was young. She shouldn’t have, considering he took the information she gave to use against Nadia and Dani, yet there was that implicit trust, or maybe there was nothing he could do with it. If anything, his eyes fell and he sighed after she was done. That smile looked strange to him. The girl was odd, yes, but there was a pattern to her behavior, if not a bit disjointed due to how she was socially. He looked up at her, moving on to speak about himself. “I used to live in Manchester. I was put in a bunker when the plague hit and we were forced to stay put. There was a breach and my mother got hit with the virus a year before the vaccine was made. I was ten, I think. Maybe twelve… She didn’t make it. I never saw her again, and my father… It’s hard looking at him now, with the way he conducts himself at home…” He shook his head. “The madness spread and I was sensitive to it. So when witches decided to bully me and make me feel lesser for being a Sorcerer as I was living here in Death City some few years ago, it struck. The madness struck hard, but it rarely ever broke into something uncontainable due to my… methods in handling it.” He shifts the collar on his neck, his eyes going to the bunny-shaped apple slices on the tray. “Still, regardless of your reasons, I appreciate you at least seeing me and speaking with me. Thank you… I shall… Ponder on this…” His voice trailed off once again, his eyes falling back to his lap in defeat.
Listening to his own story her face remains impassive for a few moments before she speaks once more as she picks up the tray, having come there to do whatever she had come there for, she stares at him for a bit longer and then finally speaks.
“Yes, Nadia told me of her goading you with Fish and Chips. As to witches, know that value in the art of Magic is not purely by the talent one has from birth, but in what they do with it.” Setting the tray in his lap she does a few gestures with her hands and the wooden creations spring to life, letting go of what little hold they still had on the sheet and blanket, gathering around her legs and dress.
“Only those that crawl along shall find the true secret of the Magus. It is up to you if you crawl forward, or if we meet again... As to your mother, that is unfortunate, I was four or five at that time. You still have memories… It is up to you how you honor or curse those.” And with that she turns to leave.
Raphael was, furthermore, surprised that she had cut up and gifted him the apple. He didn’t know whether he should let her have some or take it all for himself, but seeing her already turning to leave, he hesitated before calling out for her. “H-hey.” It didn’t sound as confident as had been holding himself the past several days, to which he cursed himself for mentally. “You… Sure you don’t want one of these? I know they are a gift and I shouldn’t give any back because- well… You gifted them for me, but… Sharing is caring.” He smiled a bit, finding it a little funny that he just said that. “And um… Thanks… And I genuinely mean it. Thank you. Sometimes, I need this. To remind myself that the consequences mean something and it’s not all in my head.” What she had spoken of had helped him some, as well. The art of magic is purely just an art form, and people make do with it with what they have. And her attempt at giving sympathy about his mother. He hadn’t thought much of her since her passing.
“No, it is for you. You are in the hospital after all.. Plus there is one more I need to give apples to, though I don’t think I shall face him.” With that said she motions for him to keep the offering.
The corners of his lips turned up in a sort of small smile, even as she turned to leave with her dolls in tow. Even with her awkwardness, it was nice to know that Maria still held some sweetness to her. At least he had a snack in the meantime. The other person she referred to had to have been Thaddeus, which he swiftly ignored his presence on his mind. He’d rather just do something else that wasn’t fume about him. Now…
What if he created something for a change? For her?
Breaking Down Your Chains
After the talk with Maria, Raphael was now confused. He didn’t know what to think. She could have killed him - had every right to, now that his Madness didn’t hamper him. He helped Nadia and Dani, but he knew they wouldn’t want to see him, much less keep him alive. After Maria left, he grabbed his satchel and had been reading one of the books he brought with him to the tournament - a book about metal spells. His cheek where Nadia slapped him was purple and his cuts and burns covered with bandages. He had a tray of apple slices cut like bunnies from Maria’s visit at least, which he was munching on as he read his book.
“They’ve done a number on you.” Ark’s voice resounded from the entry door.
Raphael's head lurched towards the door, and he grimaced upon feeling his neck scream in protest. He held his neck and groaned. "Yup. They did." He fought the strain in his voice but to no avail. "Come on in, take a seat, I guess." His tone almost sounded defeated. After Maria's visit, he was rather confused, yet felt a bit better with himself. Then again, he also was just threatened to be killed if he went after her friends, which he understood. He just hoped Ark was a bit nicer this visit.
“Suppose it was to be expected.” The other mage eyed him as he came in and sat down. In his hand he held a container, which he placed gently on the bed.
“That balm will speed up your recovery when you apply it to bruises, cuts, and any spots on your body. My grandmother made it,” he specifically left out the part where it had been meant for him in case he had gotten into a more serious fight than had been expected.
A fight his aunt had stated was rather dull in expectations.
He pushed those thoughts aside.
“So, tell me. Who gave you the tongue lashing when you came too?” He gestured to his cheek in signal to his bruise. “I bet it was Nadia, right?” His brow went up. “Maria I noticed left not too long ago also. I doubt she was happy with you either.”
"She uh…" He motioned to the bunny apple slices. "She gave me that." He touched the purple mark on his cheek and winced. "And that was Nadia, but that was during the fight. My other cheek is somewhat sore and I don't know why. I woke up feeling like a train had punched me." He shook his head. "I don't want either of them to see me. They want me dead, probably, despite how I helped them." There was no malice in that statement. It was obvious he was already over it.
A swat over the shoulder followed swiftly after that line. Raphael winced at the hit, hissing through teeth as he went up to grab his shoulder and look at Ark like an abused puppy. “I wonder why.” He replied in the same tone of casualness he had. “You do know what you did was pretty messed up right?”
It was a rhetorical question, and it was a good thing Raph wasn’t a meister. Ark’s soul glowed- but not with power, with distaste. But Raphael didn't need to see it to feel it. The aura from Ark intimidated him.
“I know you were trying to help.” The sternness in his tone, ever present. “You went about it the wrong way though. There were other alternatives, better options, to doing things. And you should reflect on that, because eventually you will have to apologize to all of the ones you offended.”
He felt even more defeated now, being scolded didn't help. He just sighed and took his chain links and played with them, only giving the balm a passing glance as he preferred to play with something he was familiar with. "I know. I am aware of everything. Painfully aware." He winced again, more so out of discomfort at being reminded of his injuries. "Maria came here and threatened my one good eye at knife point. Threatened to take my life if I do it again. I can't blame her for doing that, but it reminds me of what I used to do when I was younger." He sighed, shaking his head as he set aside his chain and took the balm, more so just using it to fiddle with something rather than actually using it.
Ark didn’t say anything to that. Hearing Maria casually threaten someone’s life for doing something she didn’t like, was not surprising to him though. Didn’t mean he wasn’t sure how to take how serious she was about it.
"You know, I had doubted that what I was doing was even right to begin with. Several times, there were moments that I guess the world tried to tell me no. That I should think, but I continued anyway. I think… it started when Gauss fought." His lips curled up in disgust and he growled. "If the collar wasn't sedating me, I would feel it come up again. I never felt so much wrath, so much madness plague me like that, just from seeing someone hurt a friend of mine and be so similar to me. I'm… Wishing I hadn't done that. I needed to put that anger out on someone and wish it wasn't them. I apologized to Maria, but she wanted to see me change to make it mean something. Of course. I don't settle for cheap apologies." He scoffed before finally opening the balm and getting some of it on his fingers and applying it to his cheek where Nadia slapped him. It was cool and tingled a little.
"I'm assuming this balm wasn't actually for me, but I appreciate it all the same, even if it's meant for you. Thank you." Raphael had an idea that the balm was likely not for him. He assumed Ark was too angry with him to think that far ahead, not meaning anything bad about his foresight. He just thought Ark wouldn't be as nice.
“No problem.” He nodded. “As for your response to Gauss, I wondered why you were targeting him so much earlier. Guess I have a better understanding as to why now.”
“If you mean what you say about proving your sincerity, then do it.” Was all he added. There was not much else he felt needed saying on that front. If Raph was serious about making amends, he would.
Raphael shrugged, but he couldn't help but feel his mind go on a spiral. His mind replayed the same video of seeing Chanterelle getting beat by Gauss and he winced. Proving his sincerity would be difficult. Not because he couldn't do it, but because of how it would be received. Without the madness, he just had the pull and it wasn't as strong. He sighed shakily, having put away the balm as he held his head in his hands. "For a long time, I let the pull take me. It was my saving grace as I thought it was protecting me and others. My madness was just exacerbating its effects. But… I don't know anymore. I don't even know how to even prove anything if they're still gonna want me dead by the end of it." He paused. The realization he'll have to see his father and that disappointed look on his face had him gritting his teeth.
For once, he was starting to feel like a fuckup without his Madness getting in the way by pulling him for retribution, and he didn't know how to handle it. He’s always had it. It’s always helped him! He broke down, gripping his hair and squeezing his eyes shut as he curled up in a ball and shakily breathed, trying to calm himself and keep from crying.
"Death… I'm so so sorry…"
His voice cracked as he whispered. Madness, as Raphael just found out, wasn't a savior, but a master. And he was stuck being its slave. "What have I done…? What has it done to me…?"
Ark was silent. In a way he was empathetic. He understood what it was like, and was still wrapping his head around how his own Pull influenced him. It was a subtle thing, much like Madness unless exacerbated. And on some level he understood what Raph was going through.
“You’ll have your chance to make it up.” His hand came to pat him on the back gently. “It’ll take time…but you’ll get there. We all will.”
The friendly touch, one made for comfort, had surprised Raphael. It had been a long time since anyone other than his father comforted him, and even then his father didn't do it very often. It made him feel warm, making it nearly impossible for him to keep from crying. He leaned into the touch before ultimately letting the tears flow freely as he sniffled and tried to keep from making any noise. That didn't work for long and he reached for Ark to hold onto him, needing someone to anchor him as he softly cried.
The immediate movement caught Ark off guard, his muscles tensed when Raphael shifted towards him, they always tensed when someone moved now in a way he wasn’t expecting, but by the time he had pulled the slightly taller mage into a hug, Ark’s muscles had already relaxed.
It was awkward. He was used to it. Awkward scenarios weren’t uncommon among mages when you had youngsters testing out magic. This was just a different kind.
Empathetic, Ark patted his friend on the back, trying his best to soothe the pain. For the next few minutes, the chain Sorcerer cried into him, before finally speaking in a croaking voice. "I don't want Madness anymore… I wish it would just go away…" Sniffling some more, he realized what he was doing and pulled away from Ark with a look of embarrassment and fleeting looks in his direction, clearing his throat so he didn't sound so pathetic.
"Ah… I'm um… S-Sorry about that, I uh… Heh, needed that. Thanks." He stammered out, wiping away his tears and reaching over for the tissues on the other end of the bed to wipe his nose. "I um… No one except for my father ever saw me break down like that so um… Yeah…" If the Madness were to goad him now, he'd have felt the urge to threaten him to not reveal this vulnerable side. Or strike him.
The earth mage merely nodded silently. He’d seen his fair share of tears. To Raph he merely offered him a reassuring smile. “No worries, I won’t tell anyone.” No teasing in his tone, just genuine reassurance. “We all have our moments, no reason to rub it in for anyone in a vulnerable state.”
A soft smile appeared on Raphael's face. He felt a bit better now at least. He looked over at the apple bunnies and smiled a bit wider, grabbing one and offering one to Ark. "Want an apple bunny?" His voice sounded way better now, on the verge of nearly chuckling from how out of left field it was. Plus, he wanted to offer before he had some himself.
Ark’s stomach grumbled.
He smiled sheepishly. “I’ll take five.” His hand already reaching out for one.
Raph chuckled as he got four more apple slices for him, putting them in his hand. "You should eat something other than some poor man's apple bunnies." He broke into a bit of laughter, Ark's silliness making him feel a bit better. "Dork."
Building New Links
After Maria and Ark met him, Raphael felt even more lost with himself. He was told by a doctor not to move his head too much. Not to get up or walk very far if he does get up to go to the bathroom or pick something up. He at least had his satchel on the bed, and he was sitting up completely instead of laying back on the inclined bed. He was ruminating over his grimoire, his three links of chain next to the book as he leaned over the book to read it over.
The talks he had with the other two had been enlightening. There was a lot to ponder, and he wasn’t so sure if he could have more things to ponder about unless it helped his mind wrap around the views of others. Empathy was something he struggled with, even if it came almost naturally for his friends. Or maybe that was just to prevent the guilt from affecting his Madness because if they got hurt in his presence, then he was a bad friend, and his pride couldn’t take that. But fuck his Madness anyway, he realized during Ark's visit it was never a boon.
These thoughts plagued him and he groaned, resting his head in his hands and sighing softly. There was a soft rapping at the door. “Raphael,” a voice murmured crossly from the other side of the door, “I know you’re in there.”
Raphael’s head perked up, but he winced as he placed his hand on the back of his neck. It still felt sore from the uppercut he took. He spoke hoarsely, his head pounding just slightly. The tone in her voice - one of the few friends he had since this F.A.T.E. business - sent chills down his spine. “Y-yeah… How’s your shoulder?” He quickly asked, hoping that she didn’t have any more words for him. He got punched twice by Ark and held at knife point by one of Maria’s dolls. If anything, touching her bare arm would be fucking lovely, and thankfully he wasn’t monitored.
The door opened with a muted creeeeeeeeak. Chanterelle’s sling had been discarded sometime since Raph had last seen her; though her arm was slack it hung on its own accord. Her collar was wrapped with – what, saran wrap? – some sort of cling plastic, and condensation hung against it, obscuring the wound from a distance. Her skin was pinned open around the edge of the wrapping: it was clear that somebody wanted visibility into what exactly was going on in there.
The witch silently crossed the room to his bed. She sat down at the foot of it, not looking at him, gaze directed at the hand clenched in her lap. Finally, she let out a heavy sigh. The gore was visible to him. The bone inside that window – and a window it was – was slowly beginning to form out of hard detritus sourced from around her body. Its growth and motion was barely perceivable, but there were clearly solids that existed within it, unlike the last time Raphael had seen her.
“My shoulder is doing fine,” she assured him coolly, “thank you for asking.”
Her gloved hand reached out for his knee, and her hand rested there, head turning to finally look into his face. He looked bad, too; the fight had knocked the shit out of him and she had expected as much. When their eyes met, it was hard to tell what she was thinking, if anything because of the dilation of her pupils. Finally, she spoke again: “I watched your fight.”
A moment passed, to let that sink in, before her lips once again parted. “I… understand. I really do. But it… was hard to watch. Really hard to watch. Are you…. Okay?”
Raphael wondered if she was disappointed in him. Her tone held no such emotion to let that be known, so he looked away, not bearing to look at her. The touch to his knee felt nice and a soft smile pulled at the corner of his lips, but he still felt guilt. His cheek was still purple, holding a large splotch from where Nadia slapped him, and his neck was stiff. His body bandaged after his burns and cuts were treated, with one around his shoulder where she threw the knife. The question though, of whether he was okay, caught him off guard. He looked up at her, eyes trying to make out whatever emotion she held and trying to ignore the window to her wound.
“I’m surprised… You’d care at all after that.” His gaze fell down to her hand on his knee and he sighed through his nose, his body shivering and making his sore muscles ache more. “I… Have a lot to think about. Maria came by and uh… Well, nothing short of threatening my life, but I understand why. I exposed and hurt her friends to a degree that maybe I shouldn’t have and Ark slapped my shoulder.” He rolled his shoulder, which still ached. “But at least his conversation was… I don’t know, enlightening, I guess.” His voice croaked and he hung his head, which made him wince again from the pull on his sore neck. “I am aware of what I did. I am aware of why it was wrong to do so. But in that awareness of the bad, I knew there was good to come of it. I knew it was wrong, yet it helped Dani and Nadia. To an extent. I nearly gave them the ability to resonate and had them think of things they never would have if I were not the catalyst. Plus…” He looked off to the side, sighing. “I felt so angry. Angry at Gauss. He is too much like me, and my frustration had to be put somewhere… I…” He didn’t want to say it, but it could have been felt. That he was sorry.
“Well, I am not here to berate you.”
She sought his gaze, but he was avoidant; there was no wonder after something like that. He must have felt guilty, she imagined – she felt guilty for the results of her fight and it had not gone nearly so poorly. Her lips pursed. “Even if it could have maimed you both.”
Her sigh mirrored his own. She was looking out the window; this room had a view of the small parkette below where some patients were smoking, and others were milling about the space. This tournament would affect the way that others saw the combatants, she was sure of it. Chanterelle was not excited to see how it would affect the ways others saw her. “I know what it is to feel wrath. It is the Pull. Maybe the others do not understand that; it is ultimately why I refused to fight Gauss in my way. I felt the Pull was far too dangerous to feed into, for me, against a man already injured: I did not know what would happen if I let him feel that rage.”
A deep breath. “You are not only mad, you know, you are also a sorcerer. We destroy.”
Her face creased at the mention of helping; the pull was not a helpful thing and neither was madness and she loathed the miscategorization but could not put it to words. Instead, she acquiesced, “So they see you as a loose cannon and me as a coward or a fool. You, at least, would try to be different if you were there again. Hold onto that.”
Raphael’s shoulders sagged. At least she wasn’t here to give him an earful. She was still compassionate, though and it felt maddening. Why was she being so helpful? Ark was the same, as well. He didn’t understand. Maybe this was what friends were for. Was he even a good friend then? Upon hearing what the Pull did to her, he nodded and sighed. She understood him, at least. That felt comforting. He chuckled upon being called a loose cannon and he shook his head when she said he’d do something different. “No… I don’t think I would have. It’s complicated… It wasn’t just the Pull. I legitimately thought I was helping them. Ark thinks I was misguided in thinking that way. Either way, you’re not a coward or a fool. That fight was at least entertaining, even if I wanted to blow a blood vessel hearing him talk to you like that.” His thoughts then went to Maria and he shook his head. “Our Pull is at least different to others. My father and Maria. Their Pull is to preserve and create. I… I don’t know. I wasn’t holding back either in that fight.” He set aside his grimoire and pulled up his other leg to rest his head against his now propped up hand, his eyes anywhere but on Chanterelle. It was evident his mind was all over the place trying to wrap around others’ viewpoints.
“I do not believe that, you know. The Pull thirsts for destruction, and violence, and fear. Anyone pretending otherwise is denying themselves real reflection.”
But she considered the rest of his words and nodded although she was not pleased with the response, realizing that this blow to his ego would not be easily resolved. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been. “Our classmates, of course, are free to have their opinions. There are whole schools of thought centered around the Pull. Perhaps my viewpoint is just brutalist.”
Her tongue clicked. “I was not offended while I was in the arena, you know, and I managed to speak to Thaddeus here. It went much better than your conversations with Maria and Ark, it seems.”
Raphael chuckled at her thought of the pull, nodding when she said it was brutalist. “Yeah, it is.” A smile on his face now. However, when she spoke of Thaddeus, his eyes trained on her, as if seeing if she incurred any injury after the fight, but it seemed she did not. The window to her collarbone had him wincing. “How… How was it?” It was obvious he was trying to bite back anger still centered around Gauss. His tone was strained and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, as if attempting to quash whatever violent tendencies he wanted to enact. Nothing except a few medical personnel kept him from leaving his room to find Gauss and punching him for… For what? Being similar to him? Yes. However, after his conversations with his past visitors, he realized there might be something wrong with that train of thought. He might have to see his therapist later.
“He apologized to me,” she started, but the last part of their conversation – its confidentiality – made her stop to think. Her eyes met Raphael’s, and she offered a comforting sort of smile, a non-verbal it’s okay. “Wasn’t angry at all. You know, the man has an ego, but he’s hardly irredeemable.”
Chanterelle took in a measured breath through her nose. Her hand moved off his knee to comb through her hair; it was more of an awkward motion than an apprehensive one. “My point is, I don’t think anyone I’ve met yet has been irredeemable. Troubled, at worst.”
She watched for his reaction, gauging it carefully. What did she need to say? The witch wasn’t sure.
There was a mix of emotions on his face. Some of it was confusion, anger, and others were relief and surprise. He wasn’t that bad? Just troubled? That was odd. He was sure-… The madness didn’t hit him now like it did earlier, so he thought a bit clearer. Or worse? It put a lot of doubt in his mind about finding and beating up the guy, that was for sure. He looked up at her, eyes curious. “You told him, didn’t you?” He paused to let it sink in before continuing, his question not accusatory. “If he were like me, and he actually had a side you can talk to like how I am now… And how I was then when you told me in your home… Did you tell him?” Concern sparked the end of his question, but he didn’t really care to hide it.
There was clear hesitation as Chanterelle was hit with the question. She squirmed in her seat, almost in the same way Raph did, her fingers biting into the flesh of her own leg. Finally, she nodded; her face was somewhat aghast but the paling of it had more to do with the idea that a true conception of her could spread. The words had already been said, and she would have to deal with them. She would have to trust.
“I did. Nobody deserves to be lied to in retaliation to whole and painful truth,” she started, justifying, trying to explain. Her mouth closed, opened, closed again. It took a gritting of her teeth to get it out. “I told him because some people need a goddamn break from being treated with suspicion. What kind of person would I be if a person bore me their soul and I just, I what, I lied to their face? Nobody who did not know would believe it. It was a calculated risk; I do not expect him to share.”
Raphael saw how uncomfortable she was and, as she spoke, it was easy to see she grew defensive. After she was done talking and to avoid her breaking into a tissy, he put a hand on her arm that was covered by her sleeve, shushing her as she made her point. “Hey, it’s okay. I’m not upset about that. I just wanted to know, so if I do meet him, I don’t get any more surprises if he talks about you. I understand now, too. It’s okay.” He pulled away his hand and was now able to look at her. “I doubt he would, but I’ll make sure he doesn’t. And no, I won’t-... I won’t threaten him.” It took a lot of him, the strain in his tone evident, to say he wouldn’t threaten that bastard’s life. “I’m sorry. If I was… Acting weird or… What-have-you…”
His voice became quiet before he brought the volume back, his hand instinctively rubbing his chest despite the madness not being as bad right now. “When I stopped the medics to see you, I… A part of me wanted to- well, no two parts of me. One large part wanted me to have you tell me to beat him. Beat him senseless, so I could have a bigger reason to. The other part… The part that probably is my inner self… Wanted you to tell me not to. So, I could get a better grasp of myself.” He spoke truthfully, baring himself to her as he trusted her. He respected her and he needed help.
Chanterelle's eyes ruminated on the hand on her arm. It was comforting to interact with people unafraid of treating her like any other person, but it was still a foreign feeling to her. She nodded along to his words; the frustration in her body was quickly waning. It was difficult to know that you were out of control; sometimes you had to admit that you lost it.
"I know," she said quietly, "I saw your wrath. You brought it to your next match."
His disposition turned, though, to a wry sort of smile. She balled her hand into a half-hearted fist and leaned to punch him in the shoulder- more playful than impact.
"Hey," she started, "you don't need to protect me. I know that the whooooole DWMA encourages this hero complex, but you know, I am a big bad feral witch. I got it."
A bit of a chuckle. "I'm glad you didn't whoop his ass on that gurney, though. Would have been a lot more trouble than what it was worth."
Raphael chuckled at the mock punch and her lightheartedness, nodding in understanding. He was smiling now, regardless of her comment on his wrath. The concern she also held for him was touching. He smiled at that. He looked over on the other side of his bed, seeing a tray of apple slices from Maria, where she cut them into bunnies. The thought that she did that still touched him, and it was enough to make his eyes glossy. “Yeah… You’re a big girl now, I shouldn’t need to be protecting you like I’m your overprotective big brother.” He chuckled again, reaching over to grab an apple before giving one to her before continuing. “Here, and… Yeah… I know now that if I had, I probably would have been kicked from the program. Still labeled as unpredictable and unsafe and I’d have to do more daily therapist visits.”
Chanterelle took the apple from him and snapped it in half between her teeth, munching as she listened. She ruminated for a moment on the apples. They must have been a gift. The big brother comment gave her a moment of pause - it felt wrong to her innately - but she dismissed the sentiment. "Well, try to keep it together. I don't want to see you kicked off campus yet."
He noticed the pause and found it amusing. Did she not agree or did she not seem to like that? Either way, he didn’t care. He shrugged at her response and nodded, eating the last of the apple bunnies. “Yeah, I’d rather not do that either. Thanks, for coming by, by the way. Maybe we can do something. I’ve been on this bed thing all evening and I’m starting to get restless.”
Ahhh, France. Paris, specifically. Sara had never gone, being a biome mutt for most of her life and then being mostly a girl in a militaristic city. When Gauss had offered for the gang to come with after their briefing the day prior, Sara obviously said she would! Eva was just as excited about it and that just compounded onto Sara’s excitement. They could be likened to chipmunks having drank an espresso. The clothes, the culture, the food- the smells. Is this what dogs felt like moving across a new city in a car at high speeds? It was exhilarating! Plus, she got to know the lay of the land and their laws a bit better. She may not be able to speak French, but that didn’t matter! They would be getting a distinct advantage with their mission detail.
The training before the offer for Paris had plagued Sara’s mind with what she and Eva could do better, even as they were supposed to treat the weekend as a sort of vacation. During training, she nearly transformed as a rather clever insult from Zelda’s script had kicked in her racial bloodlust. Thankfully, she was able to calm herself down with Eva’s help, but feeling the fur trying to prick out of her skin like hypodermic needles sent her body running cold from the uncomfortable memory, especially as memories left to be forgotten from a time long before the vaccine began to resurface. So many lab coats and needles.... Despite the “Drills” as Zelda put it, Sara still wasn’t able to resonate with Eva. Not like it was needed, as Eva’s traumatized soul wouldn’t be able to do so. Plus, while Sara bonded with her within the sixteen or seventeen days in the interim, she noticed a few things about her partner as well as what can be inferred from Eva talking to her about her past as they bonded.
One of which was the strange spring breeze scent. Her soul had wings. Well, broken ones. So broken in fact, Sara didn't even consider this being a Grigori Soul, and it might not be. Given Sara rarely ever used her ocular soul perception, the one time she did so to catch a glimpse of what her soul looked like due to the confusing scents had her staring in awe. Even if the soul looked more broken than not, Eva still had something that looked like a Grigori Soul. It was a shame she was in Fate, but Sara was here to help her, too.
The second thing she noticed was that her soul has an indescribable, unique scent whenever she has an episode of wanting to steal something and then promptly giving it away. Usually, Eva would tell her before she’d go running off with that five-finger discount urge, giving Sara ample time to restrain her, if need be.
The third was that - despite what Sara had thought before - Eva’s soul held onto the bits and pieces of her former meister. Sara had thought Denni, as a being, was stuck to Eva like another personality, something her therapist explained to her when comparing the werewolf’s inner beast and that of a person who has split personalities. In actuality, Denni’s soul was imprinted on Eva’s, giving her memories that were not her’s. It could have been mistaken for such, as Eva’s voice would change and her general and usual demeanor might be overlaid with the demeanor of Denni’s. Plus, Denni’s soul scent would get stronger, having more of a presence within Eva’s soul scent than usual, as if it flared up. But when Sara found out it was just Eva’s soul being influenced by the - almost - literal ghost of Denni, Sara realized it was just all a culmination of some unique PTSD, and her kleptomania probably stemmed from it as a psychological need to take and give it to someone less fortunate, unless she always had it.
Regardless of these discoveries, Sara treated her like she was normal and how she would with a best friend: helping her when she needed and keeping her out of trouble. Their training showed that Eva had to get past the issues that plagued her mind and for Sara to do something else with her bloodlust. With Midori, she was able to weaponize it. But his soul, even when they couldn’t resonate and as it sat next to her’s, was still a ground. A focus for her. The chill never ceased to run down her spine when she imagined looking into its barren void. With Eva’s soul - even from afar - it was strange. It was confusing and way too colorful. There was just so much going on and - even when she saw the soul to focus upon it - she found herself either getting lost in the kaleidoscope of Alice’s Wonderland, tuning out the world and therefore her combat awareness, or she would ignore her partner’s soul to better get a grip on herself in combat, but ultimately felt like she couldn’t find a better focus to weaponize her bloodlust and she had to hold herself back even more. Eva’s soul was just too distracting, yet ignoring it proved difficult to even get into the groove of a fight and then wielding her would be off. She didn’t want Eva to suffer a rejection.
Noah’s soul was just fog and mist and a depressing, puddle-filled sidewalk, but it could be a ray of sunshine and fluffy, white clouds with the sky all around them. His soul was easy to put her focus onto as it wasn’t as distracting, but his goading remarks to get her to try harder or follow orders were very distracting. Midori was even easier to focus on and he rarely ever told her what to do. Just gave her the clarity she needed and amplified her wavelength for her, something Noah rarely did unless it was to resonate. Even if they couldn’t resonate, she could still focus upon the dreary darkness of his soul and - for the first time - was able to weaponize her bloodlust without feeling like she’s going to change. But Eva’s soul?
No, she didn’t want to wish for anything but to have Eva get better. So what if she wasn’t a Two-Star, a Hoshi, or a partner with a soul that wasn’t as troubled. Noah had things to learn and he probably knew that during their training, and Midori couldn’t be around all the time. Even if she weren’t a weapon, she can teach Eva. They already went through lessons on what resonance was like and how it should feel, but during their training, Sara wanted to give Eva more control until they were 50/50, with Eva amplifying her wavelength like a weapon should while Sara told her when it was time to use her will-o-wisps. She didn’t need clarity like what Midori gave, as too many things happening at once were still distracting and she couldn’t keep it up for too long if Eva could. She just needed to think around it.
She’ll have to ask Zelda if there were any meisters she had that had psychedelic landscapes or souls that had a lot going on with it.
Right now, however, they were in a cafe, enjoying some fine food when Gauss spoke up, asking how everyone was enjoying Paris. With a soupe à l’oignon - a type of onion and beef stock soup with melted cheese on top and croutons - and garbure - a thick soup consisting of cabbage, peas, onions, carrots, croutons, cheese, and most importantly beef - sitting next to each other with a chocolate soufflé sitting behind the main entrees with her third refill of hot chocolate. Each of her main dishes were half eaten, having already eaten (or drank?) her second bowl of french onion soup.
Dani’s comment was as expected, while Nadia’s was not. Sara looked at the giantess, her head tilted in curiosity. Opera houses and museums? She liked those? Given her attire, Sara shouldn’t have been surprised, but here she was. Eva then spoke up, thanking Gauss and being polite. Sara gave Eva a more intense stare, as if trying to discern if her voice lowering and the soul scent she was emanating was indeed a memory of hers or if it were Denni’s. She wasn’t going to out her, but it would be useful information for later. After discovering that the memory of seeing the louvre in accordance to Denni’s soul scent spiking confirmed to Sara that she’s never gone to the louvre. Interesting. Sara chuckled at her grumbling and grabbed a piece of her pastry.“Happily~.”She teased with a wink, eating the piece right in front of her with mock humming noises to further taunt her.
“But yes, I’ve never been to Paris before. Let alone anywhere else outside of Nevada. This is wonderful! Thank you, Gauss~.”She beamed at the guy with a lilt to her tone. After Eva became her partner, she sounded way happier than usual.“And also, there’s more than just pastries, look at what I’m eating.”She spoke to Eva, taking a bite of her garbure soup, her ears falling to the sides as bliss showed in her expression. After finishing her bite, she looked at Nadia.“If you find a really cool opera house, I wanna go, too. Harmonies makes my soul feel at peace.”She said, letting out a nostalgic sigh.“I used to go to concerts back home. The Rockin’ Ruffians, as an alt rock band of werewolves called themselves, did this one song opera style and it was surprisingly gorgeous.”She then went back on track and looked at Zelda, a teasing smirk playing as she started to feel more like herself.“So, big bad Ice Queen, what do we got for the day, hm? What’s this mission gonna be about?”
Waiting for Gauss to be fit for training was almost unbearable. While he did spend ample time with Gauss during his stay at the hospital, and then meditating alone when he needed to practice entering his soul space, brushing up on how Weapons should work in partnerships (as requested by Zelda), and playing video games on his spare time, there was only so much of that he could do before he got bored or lost his motivation. He did, however, started taking courses in self defense more often. He either tried to condition his body to do moves he saw in video games or actually did some brushing up on some moves from actual martial art videos. Of course, he needed to stretch and be stronger than he was to do anything with what he was doing, but he seemed to be getting the hang of it. At least, in practice.
Death forbid he had to fight by himself.
Once Gauss got out of the hospital and recovered enough, they were able to do those pained “Drills” and do resonance training. The training was a little difficult. While he was able to resonate with Sara, resonating with Gauss was a different beast. While Sara did most of the work in their partnership while he just talked and controlled his lightning, he had to pull his weight more with Gauss. He worked on amplifying Gauss’ wavelength when it was needed, and they were able to finally resonate. Their Basic Resonance didn’t last very long however, but that was fine. It was progress.
However, Zelda had to speak with him alone about being a weapon and what that meant. She had noticed Noah’s pride in being a weapon and knew where it stemmed from. The talk they had was insightful, even if Noah’s irritation with Zelda being a part of the DWMA affected him and made him bitter at first and when an outburst erupted because of the memory of his mother and the viewpoint she instilled in him could potentially turn out negative, he realized how toxic the mindset his mother instilled in him was. He proved Zelda’s point in that talk. Just because he was a weapon didn’t mean that he should be automatically given respect. Even if there were no problems with Noah and Gauss at this point in time, she didn’t want there to be a time when it did become a problem as they both held egos and pride within themselves. She told him that being a weapon meant earning the respect of the meister by the work you put into it, not because of what you are. Noah couldn’t refute that. Sara would have said the same thing.
Another point Zelda touched on was how he was holding up with Sara having another partner and being in the same team. It was bound to happen; a duo splitting ways and trying other partners out would cause a distaste or preference to form for their original partner, especially if they had to start over from scratch with troubled people. While that temptation would flare up time and again from both ends, she pressed him that it was imperative to get better with Gauss and to not let Noah’s past relations cause a strain in their resonance and their relationship as weapon and meister partners. Getting better with a partner didn’t mean Gauss had to get better and get to the point Noah was with Sara, but to also better himself so anyone could pick him up and he could be useful to them, even if they couldn’t resonate. He had not only the ability to generate an element, but also a Healing Wavelength and he best make himself useful or else his entitlement will cause problems in the long run.
The coming days were not only spent on resonance training with Gauss, but strengthening his healing wavelength and making it usable beyond having to be wielded by a meister. Of course, it didn’t happen like he’d planned, as his attention was spread thin with most of his focus being on resonance. However, he did manage to get better with his lightning generation. While he still needed to be spun to generate enough within his soul, he could shoot it out at close range and potentially further with Gauss’ magnetic wavelength.
After their briefing, he wasn’t surprised that Gauss wanted an early start in Paris. Of course, why wouldn’t he go? Noah found himself enjoying the sights and the food more than anything else. Unlike Sara with her enormous appetite and chipper attitude, Noah just wasn’t feeling it today. He had to pull himself out of bed despite lacking any motivation. But Gauss was someone he could focus on so Noah could actually put effort into today; he wasn’t going to disappoint him because he wanted to be lazy and stay in bed all day. Well, maybe it wasn’t laziness…
Having only the appetite to eat a cooked hot dog wrapped in cheese and dough and eating his fourth breakfast muffin with some orange juice to pep him up, he tiredly looked at everyone else who was there. While the vacation here was nice, he felt like he could have been doing so much more and the lack of productivity in anything relating to their partnership or his wavelength and elemental control left him feeling lacking in something. He didn’t know. He indulged in Gauss’ question, but let the other responses go from one ear and out the other. Sara’s antics with Eva had him smirking just slightly but it was gone soon after. He was the last to speak, sighing.“Ah, yeah, it’s been fun, I guess. Still can’t help but feel off, though. Had fun yesterday at least.”He genuinely smiled, even Sara staring at him with a sort of awe expression because he never smiled so often. First, Zari’s appearance in their apartment and now talking about what they did yesterday?
Noah could practically feel the wind coming off Sara’s tail despite sitting across from her and he couldn’t help but sigh. Sara speaking to Zelda had him perking up, finally eating his fourth muffin he’d been spinning on its circular end. Mission? Oh right, that briefing they did before coming here.
To be honest with himself, he already forgot about it. No wonder why he felt off.
Cafe No. 9, Paris, France | March 28, 2067 | Morning
Honestly, whoever thought adding speakers and being able to put all her frustrations out on a script about her new students - and saying a half-truth to them that it wasn’t her thoughts but what she could cleverly craft against them based on what she knew - would be such a great idea? She was a bit glad Emmett wasn’t there to hear some of that, but she figured he would have heard it some other time or had one of his ‘peeping ears’ as she liked to call them scattered around the place. What she said to them was rather mean and some of them even uncalled for. Did it work? Yes. Did they destroy a speaker or two? Definitely, especially for the first bit. Did Sara nearly transform? Yes, but with the combined effort from herself and Eva, she was able to keep from transforming and focus on their training. However, the later “Drills” were far more successful in that the others didn’t let the comments get into their heads.
Aside from pride with how well they’ve been doing, she also felt some guilty pleasure at being able to insult them.
The training with the students was eventful however. They all saw improvements. She did have to have a talk with Noah concerning his entitlement of being a weapon and, while it did result in him shouting, he seemed to want to change. Gauss and Nadia were able to resonate with their partners and Sara and Eva seemed to be making headway despite having the inability to do a Basic Resonance as of yet. Everyone seemed to be doing well now, even though Dani and Noah look a bit bummed today.
However, the pride and the satisfaction at accomplishments would not last. Now, their mission was right around the corner. She had kept the mission vague and left out any detail so that the students would be able to relax and focus on training rather than worry about the mission itself. She didn’t want them to neglect their training in the vain hope that being creative with anything else other than each other would help them.
Certainly, she didn’t want what happened in the colosseum to happen again.
Gauss spoke after some awkwardness as she was sipping her cherry diabolo - a type of soft drink with syrup that’s similar to italian soda - asking how everyone was enjoying France. True to form, Dani and Noah made small comments, Nadia seemed to want to get over the wait while also criticizing and then appreciating what France had to offer, and Eva and Sara were chipper. Then Sara asked about that mission.
Ah, yes. That.
Her gaze was strictly on her drink, her legs crossed and her back resting against the chair’s backing, head bowed. Letting out a sigh, she realized that this mission might have been chosen too early.
But that’s up to her students to find out for themselves. She just wished Emmett were here, but he probably bugged her or something so he could hear everything while he was out. Looking at the students, she spoke, her voice low so as to not disturb the peace of the cafe with what they’ll be talking about.“Earlier before we left for France, we talked about how you’ll be assigned to a mission. You’ll be helping two one-star teams within Paris with their ‘fire’ problem.”She took a deep breath and straightened out, hands on her lap as she assumed a more formal posture.“The mission states there is a meister with a fire wavelength. We have reason to believe she is Astila Stein as testimonies report someone like her using fire to resurrect bodies and attack from underneath via catacombs. However…”She looked at everyone, her gaze intense, as if she were looking through them. She leaned over a little, her words stressed to show the seriousness of this mission.
“Regardless of how little information that is, do not take this meister as a fool. Not only is she a Stein, but she has inherited the Stein Madness and is a master at her wavelength control, whether alone or with a partner. She also has a spot in DMWA's Top Ten Most Wanted list, being a huge deal. Personally, if you haven't heard of her, you're either new or been living under a rock. She is very, very dangerous. Not only that, but the people she controls via fire are extremely hostile.”While Zelda did not say it, she held doubt about this mission. She didn’t know if it was gut instinct or nervousness from having her students fight someone so dangerous bleeding over to feel like her gut instinct, but there was a small hint of doubt. Regardless, she held conviction to do her duty as a DWMA agent, and that is what she'd do.
Besides, from what she had heard of Astila, she wouldn’t be surprised if the Stein girl had done this. Too many people said they saw her and the madness had taken hold of her that she was not salvageable. Before she relaxed, she looked at Noah.“And no, she is too far gone in her madness. Corrupted souls cannot be salvaged.”She relaxed back into her chair, her gaze not-so intense but she scanned each student, seeing their reaction to this news."This will require teamwork with not only between you all, but on-the-spot teamwork with one-star teams. Emmett and I will help when we can, but do not expect us to save you if you go too far and bite off more than you can chew. We would like to, but we can't be everywhere at once. Any questions?" Her voice lost the intensity it held as she asked.
Astila Stein? What? Gauss nearly choked on his pastry.
Name-dropping one of the most dangerous renegade Meisters in the DWMA was a big deal. In fact, a big deal was an understatement. Astila was ranked seventh in the DWMA before she went AWOL, and even then she was projected to be climbing ranks. Had she been in the DWMA now, the current top five might be entirely different. Fredrick would still obviously be on top. Herakles, for what Gauss knew, wasn't going to be dethroned. But, White Reaper, Starwulf, and Crimson Rouge might all be a rank lower, or something like that. Astila wasn't that far behind Fredrick... or as most people knew him, Stein...
Stein was a different beast. Gauss studied him closely, mostly academically. He was a Utility Meister and Stein a Genius Meister; it was a leap, perhaps fueled by Gauss' own pride, but part of him idolized the man. Stein became one of the youngest Three-Stars ever and tore through the ranks at an unprecedented speed. Gauss could recite nearly every battle, actually. Stein was only twenty-six when he requested to fight the current Top Five--a feat unheard of, especially given Herakles presided at the top. A man that named himself after a literal Greek God. Or, Demigod. Whatever.
But what the fuck is a Demigod to a Stein on a mission? Apparently, absolutely nothing. Stein didn't just beat them, he mocked them. He allowed assassins to strike fist, only to deflect or dodge. He copied techniques. Even Herakles ultimately had little fight to put up. Stein was nowhere near as strong, sure, but he was too quick. And, more importantly, he could actually hurt Herakles, which was a feat itself. In a battle of attrition, the Demigod lost every time. The only individual he gave praise to was the White Reaper. All of those fights, if there are recordings, aren't available to the public. So outside of interviews or written documentation, knowing exactly what went down... impossible.
But the point was, Zelda was fucking telling them that someone at least remotely comparable to those five is who they might be up against? Emmett was still out doing Death knows what. Could Emmett and Zelda even stand a chance against Astila if she had a weapon? What were their ranks, anyway? More so, why the Hell would these branches send a bunch of one-stars to this. To Astila. That was like lambs to the slaughter. Even if there were fifty of them, Astila would probably run through them like a hot knife through butter. That was the skill gap here, at least in Gauss' eyes.
Gauss looked at Zelda with a stare of pure indiscretion, as if she and her intellect were far beneath his own. A slight tilt to his head, his eyes squinted, lips pursed. He licked them slightly, preparing himself for what he was about to say.
"Are you absolutely sure we're uh... qualified to go on a mission where Astila-fucking-Stein is a possibility?" Gauss asked. His right eye then twitched a little. "Based on what I've seen from her victims, I'd rather let Dani tie me up and use her imagination and a red-hot butter knife on my back like a canvas." he added with enough sarcasm to drown the ocean.
As the morning continued, Nadia sips her tea, her look of satisfaction vanishing bit by bit as a scowl came up upon her features. Setting the cup down upon its saucer and lowering back onto the table, her now free left hand taps her fingers upon the surface of the table in synchronized fashion, one by one before rolling back and repeating once more. The words of those that were on the trip however did not bother her or led to this change, having had her cup of tea as she gazed at them all in turn.
Eva and Sara seemed to be enjoying themselves at least, the later how ordered a whole lot of food, some of which she was surprised could be ordered for breakfast, her partner was dressed in a... "Chyo?" (What?) Was that a ribbon? Now that did contribute to her lowering the cup. Next was Noah who seemed to be alright with the whole thing, not hating nor disliking it? She was not sure, what settled her mood however was when Zelda started to talk.
With each passing word the other takes on her glare and pauses for a bit, savoring the information. A Stein and the crazy one at that, the fire using bitch that went crazy and became a pain in the ass anywhere and everywhere, she was in France huh? What would be the best way to fight this? Maybe they would get lucky and there was someone weaker with abilities much the same. Else it would be a very interesting operation, one to make the arena look like a joke.
Gauss was quick to speak up on the matter, all of this sounded like a no step back order. With that her finger tapping stops as she smoothed both hands across the tabletop with a heavy exhale. "First a Gladiator match and now this? The only question I have is how much damage we are allowed to deal to the catacombs? If we are fighting this, well someone is going to die, those one stars likely first, then the crazy bitch. So, the French must be willing for some destruction to history. Otherwise, we have no means to win short of weight of numbers."
Standing up from her seat, Nadia's jaw seems to twitch as she looks at the other, still not smiling as she goes about gesturing with her hands as she spoke; "This all is some big fucking joke, da? Or are you serious? Having a laugh at us all, yes?"
Daniella Ethalyn - Paris Cafe ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
As soon as her mandatory response was turned in, Dani went back to idly listening to the conversations of others, though only half registering what was said. It was all to be expected pretty much. The wolf was excited. Her new partner was also so. Nadia wanted to go to a fucking museum, Noah was being a grouch like she was.
She bit into her muffin, staring at the table in front of her blankly as she ate. It wasn't until Zelda spoke up about their mission did this disposition change. One star teams, fire wavelength, kill a mad Stein--Wait.
"Tahfuc-" Dani half choked on her pastry of choice, coughing a bit to clear her throat as some of the others spoke up their own skepticism. However, that wasn't going to stop the Demon Sword from pitching in as well.
Setting the muffin down on the table, Dani shot up as her seat skidded back slightly. Her eyes narrowed on Gauss briefly with a scoff. "Yeah, I'm sure you would, prettyboy," She retorted with matching sarcasm before her focus shot to Nadia. "Fuck their history! I ain't dying for that, they can read a book!"
Then, finally, her attention turned to Zelda. "Even fucking I know who that is. We can't take that crazy bitch!" She exclaimed, likely causing any natives to glance at what was likely perceived to be and dismissed as a typical American tourist. "A chair and some rope would've been cheaper and easier than buying us a plane ticket!"
Basically everyone knew he Steins. Even if Dani didn't pay attention to bigshots by image, she knew some names. Stein was one of them. Dani had been willing to pick a fight with Gauss stuck-up sister. That was punching up. This was punching up at a drake; a fucked-up-in-the-head drake that could raise the dead and outclassed them in strength, speed, and experience. Not to mention, just because they could work within their partnerships now, doesn't mean they as a group had cohesion.
"Trust me, Jarjar," a nickname the Bloodsucker hadn't heard in years, the mentor's eyes were on Jarvis, even as Blackie hissed and bit at him during the transition- not a scratch emerged on Asmund's arms or hands. "I would not have blamed you for going after your feline companion" he reassured him, undoing his suit and slipping it off to reveal the black ensemble of jeans and the tight sweater he currently wore. "And to answer your question, Elly, yes, I kept my distance for a part of the introductions and only got closer when I noticed Umbra's activity- I wasn't sure if you would be able to detect me past a certain point, so I figured staying out of your range in case, would be a good test of your abilities." He smiled in her direction.
At least until Adrian went off, for, a generally understandable reason.
Had Zari been here dealing with the two of them would have been a complete affair. It was probably why Umbra had chose to act now, instead of when the boy with the Madness that triggered at the slightest sense of injustice, was present.
Still didn't make it any better that he was the one that had to deal with the aftermath of her 'fun' this time either.
Adrian went off, in quite the same way that his therapist had advised him to be wary of. It was, in his eyes, a understanding reaction to what had just unfolded- and was precisely why Umbra was now keeping her distance up on a distant tree, watching from below. Stirring the pot to see how they reacted had been something they had discussed before- even if it wasn't something he had suggested she generally do- but Umbra being the way she was, had chosen to improvise nonetheless. Adrian had every reason to be upset, every reason to be angry and frustrated- he'd lost his first team within the first week of adjusting to it and that had to be upsetting, frustrating as all hell to have to start all the way back from square one because of an incident that didn't entirely have much to do with them, not to mention they had also lost their previous mentor- whom, as Asmund understood from his talks with Midori, had spent as much time as he could, helping them before the transfer. Something he knew Adrian felt appreciation in, which would only trigger frustration at seeing a new one, engage them with a situation like this.
What stopped Asmund from immediately responding however to appeal to Adrian's understandable fury, was the bloodlust that came off him.
With Zari present, he had expected something like this- Zari no doubt would have immediately gone after Umbra, immediately threatened harm, probably even immediately come to dislike him for allowing the magical creature the freedom that they didn't have in comparison for a lack of control that they were collared for.
With Adrian, he hadn't been entirely sure if something like this was completely off the line- so to see it confirmed, merely made him pause in thought.
He hadn't had the chance to interview the teammate Adrian had accidentally stabbed, but if he had, he wondered if there had been more than a few times, given the record on Adrian's sheet of insubordination, how many times he'd come close to hitting a teammate, a superior, or anyone that truly ticked him off- with his wavelength.
Perhaps the only good thing, was that he had some control over it at all.
"Rest assured" he replied calmly, hands up then to his chest "I will make sure she doesn't step out of line again."
As he brought his hands down to his sides, there was a subtle gesture he made, one Miko would have recognized, that translated to: 'don't jump in'.
Then his eyes shot over to Jarvis, warning him to stay out also.
"Now, what do you intend on doing with those spikes you have out, hm? Would you like to put them away?" his voice just as soft, the question, more like a suggestion as his finger gestured to his hands, his position unmoving from AW. In fact he hadn't budged a bit since Adrian moved towards him. "Or do you intend on going through with what your soul is telling me?" He asked quite casually, as if the threat of being hit with Adrian's wavelength, wasn't as big a deal as the records made it out to be.
When he knew from experience, how painful wavelengths geared towards causing actual pain, could really be.
Adrian was going to be problems and he needed a bit of physical force to remind him where he stood, autonomous weapon or not. While she could understand how hurt some of them felt at having their teams moved around, they had to be reminded of who was whom in all of this madness. She had read the file on this AW and knew what he was capable of, but he did not know what they were capable of in kind, yet Az had forbidden her interference in this matter. Had he not she would be making the other eat some humble dirt.
Watching the interactions play out, the Miko gave a tired sigh as she stared at her Meister, while ages changed his hijinks were at least no different than Archy’s, though that one was a different matter altogether. She was sure Asmund likely had all the attention upon himself and the crows as she coughed loudly into a clenched fist to get everyone's attention.
“Well, least Mister Adrian there, cares to jump at the offer, shall we give them the briefing? Also, that little one, you may want to return it, or I can keep it for the time being, lest Jarvis has elsewhere to take it. In the future do not bring the cat. I care not what it wants, with us always assume when called for that danger or travel will be around the corner.”
Having given Jarvis back the cat already and nodded to his own fair warning at an outcome he would’ve had to intervene in, Asmund merely replied with a very casual: “Dually noted.” He turned his attention to Reiko, “And yes let’s begin the briefing."
Just as he was about to respond however, Asmund paused. Pulling out his communicator and spotting an urgent message, he moved to Reiko and whispered in her ear: “We have a message from the DCPD, we’ll check it on later after this and see if it has anything to do with Zari’s lateness.”
He turned immediately to address the students. “Alright, since we have three people part of this group that already have been through the basics of the program, and three new students- we decided to give you guys an exercise to assess your capabilities on the field. A mission is too early in our opinion for all of you, so today’s exercise is going to be performed on a field nearby Lake Tahoe that we’ve secured for you- where we’ve broken you up into teams that will be retrieving the components to a device you’ll need to get out of the field and signal that you have successfully completed the mission.
“This field isn’t anything particularly special, Lake Tahoe has a small ley line that runs through it, but the effects it has on the environment there are not particularly dangerous or threatening enough to be a challenge for you on this task- what you guys will be facing, are other agents. People that volunteered to be obstacles in your objectives to get each component of the radio you’ll need to build to signal to us you have finished your assignment.”
“Indeed, the enemy composition is much in line with your own and mainly made of one-star agents and NOT personnel.” Rieko says as she looks at the group. “There are two weapon meister pairs and one AW pairing, what each of you may face ultimately depends on which drop off site you pick. The teams are assigned territory to defend rather than having free reign over the field. To be clear that this field isn’t so much a field as a woodland with a few clearings, the radio is split into three parts. A transmitter, receiver and battery. Once you have your part make way towards the central area of the zone, a hut with a fire tower is there. You can find and see it easily enough.” “You’ll have until nightfall to complete this exercise. The Agents you’ll be facing may have some of them on a One Star level but they aren’t ones you should scoff at. Reiko and I carefully examined each of you, your personalities and capabilities- expect them to be an obstacle between you and your objectives. They’ve been ordered to not hold back.”
With a nod Rieko continues on with where he left off at. "Report to the DWMA Airfield to helipad 03. We will not be entering the terminal. You have fifteen minutes, may be extended to thirty. Least there are any problems or questions? And before you ask, your teams will have a flare you can fire off to announce surrender and that you forfeit the game. Which needless to say counts as failing the assignment, but we rather have you all back in one piece."
Well, the next couple weeks after the tournament was… Eventful. Everyone was disappointed, he had his only good eye and then his life threatened by what he’d consider a classmate, and all eyes felt like they were on him. Wary. Watching.
Good. At least, he thought so after his collar stopped sedating his madness.
Despite what he had said to Maria, Ark, and Chanterelle, all who spoke to him during his time in the hospital, his madness wanted him to go back on his word. His own fight against madness had finally begun for him. Instead of doing what he was told by his therapist because she said so, he started doing those mental exercises because he was actually concerned about his actions. What happened at the tournament was a shitshow, and his father - the chillest guy on the planet when not in a rivalrous debate with Ark’s father - didn’t make it a warm welcome as Raphael returned from the hospital. Raphael had decided to walk home because he didn’t want to meet his father, and when he finally did get home around dinner time, the atmosphere was tense. Almost miasmic.
His father had seen the replay on the television when he got home. All of Raphael’s words that he spoke to Nadia and Dani. Raphael’s father had brown hair, blue eyes, but a similar build to Raphael’s. Instead of calluses on his fingers like Raph’s, his hands were smooth. Raphael was the spitting image of his mother if she were female. Even their personalities were extremely similar. Because of how different Raphael was appearance-wise to his father, he could barely believe he was this man’s spawn. The only things he knew that made them similar were the face shape, body build, and they were both Sorcerers. But even when Raph stood there, almost transfixed, seeing his father stand instead of sitting with his arms crossed and his legs shoulder-length apart, body facing the television as it filled the room with its white and black noise and static, Raphael realized that his father looked like a stranger, especially with how angry he was.
He was never this angry before…
That wouldn’t be the last of what his father said, Raphael was sure of it. He tried to appeal to his father, approaching from the side. While Raphael was taller than his father by several inches, he walked up to him like a cautious animal ready to bolt from the slightest provocation of this statue of a man. “I-I was trying to help them. They couldn’t resonate unless reality slapped them. And while they may hate me and I have everyone wanting me dea-.”
“Not everyone wants you dead, Raphael.” His voice cut through the smoothness of Raphael’s words like a hot knife through butter. He glared at his own son, gaze piercing that sent Raphael stumbling back. “No, but a lot of people wish you paid for what you said. A lot of people want you hurt. Luckily, only the ones who had seen it from the telly heard what you said. It doesn’t matter what reason you did it for because anybody could do what you did and do it for different reasons. The fact that it happened at all repulses me.”
Raph stood there in shock, his eyes widening when he realized he wasn’t able to weasel his way out of this one. “B-but father, I-... I helped them! So what if everyone wants me dead or worse? I-”
“They will condemn the Valerias line for as long as you live!” Raph’s father pointed to his son, fiery fury in his eyes and his deep voice shouting through the startled boy. “Our income is based on not only what I can make but your image in the Fate program! Do you want us to go bankrupt? This has nothing to do with my rivalry with Lucas. This has everything to do with how they view you! Even if you did take and use reality’s slap first and helped them somehow, there was another way! If you had done it a different way but with the same reason to help them, I assure you not everyone would want you dead or tortured! I am not confident about selling the brand because it has our last name on it. The name you share!”
“So you’re more upset that your business model is getting shit on? You’re not upset about me or what’s going to happen to me?”
“While I am upset about what you’ve done to my branding, I am more disappointed and upset at your conduct. Not only did you tarnish our branding and our name, I can’t imagine the shit your mentor is going through because of you. What you did-” He points his finger to Raphael. “-is your fault. This is your mess. Fix it. You’re intelligent enough to do so.” His father turned to walk away, but Raphael went to touch his father on the shoulder to stop him.
“But father, I-”
Raphael’s world became dizzy as he felt a sudden sting on his cheek. He stumbled back a bit from the force of the backhanded slap his father gave. He looked up, eyes glossy. His father’s face was stoic. To Raphael, his father didn’t regret what he’d done. His father looked at his hand and glared as he balled it up. Then his sharp gaze returned to Raphael, who flinched back. “I don't need excuses or apologies. How’s that for a reality slap, boy?” He snarled, before going through the home. A slam of a door down a hallway rattled the walls, leaving Raphael stunned and tensing his jaw.
He did this. He did this.
But he slapped you, Raphael… You should get payback. Your father can’t be punishing his spawn like that.
“No, no, no, get out of my head…!” Raphael yelled at himself, clutching his hair as he tried to run from the static of the telly that seemed to make it worse. He ran to his room and slammed the door shut. Leaning against it, he looked at his hands. He did this. He did this to himself. Again. And not even his father was willing to save him this time. “No, no, he can’t keep saving me, I’m twenty-fucking-two years old, I’m not a child anymore.”
But you sure act like it~. How befitting.
“Shut up!” He cried out, sinking to his knees, resting his head against them as he covered his ears with his hands and clutched at his hair.
You know, your father - Jared - thought you’d have the Pull of creation, which is why he named you Raphael. How disappointing you are~.
Raphael only whimpered.
You are such a disappointment to your family and friends, but you’re not a disappointment to me~. Raphael stopped sniffling. I can help you~.
Raphael shook his head violently and banged the back of his head against the door. “Shut up! I don’t need your fucking help! All you do is cause problems for me!” He got up and stumbled over to his vanity. He looked at himself, to get a ground on reality. Instead of the puffy-eyed, red-splotched cheeks of his pitiful face, he saw his reflection smile at him. It was uncannily wide. It looked like him, yet wasn’t. It spoke the same honeyed words to him, sounding so sweet yet Raphael knew better.
Come on, you know I make you feel soooo goood~. The figure leered at him, his mouth moving but it wasn’t synced up with his voice.
He lashed out at the mirror, his Demon Tool smashing the reflective glass and ruining the hallucination he was having of himself. Finally, the voice’s gleeful laughter faded as the glass rained down, shards flying dangerously close to his face. Some hit his body, but didn’t rip his clothes. He panted as he stared at the broken mirror, then at his hands. Some of the glass shards had nicked his hands, but he barely felt them. He just felt so, so numb. So numb…
“I need to call my therapist…”
Despite the problem he met with his father when he came back home, it only seemed to make him try harder. He ripped the page out of his book of the strength sap spell he had been thinking about during the tournament after he read up on it and realized it was more illegal than he thought. No matter, it was a spell thought up from his madness making his thoughts on Gauss worse. He abandoned the duplicate spell as he focused primarily on a different element. He had gotten a book from the library about electrical manipulation, as his chain can at least pass a current. He wasn’t sure how alchemy worked to galvanize or change the chain’s metallic properties, but he didn’t care much. He added Shocking Chains to his repertoire anyhow.
And now, he found himself in the airport. During his time training and holding up in his room, rarely ever seeing his father, if at all, his father actually drove him to the airport. While his father didn’t talk at all, the silence was comfortable enough not to give anxiety. Raphael had wished his father wished him well instead of speeding off in silence, but that was neither here nor there. The mission briefing was all that was on Raphael’s mind. There wasn’t much to it, but he figured Rand wouldn’t leave them all in the dark.
The airport was rather empty save for themselves and the staff. Raphael had to take off his trusty, signature jacket and he had to spill his contents from his satchel. And even then, the metal detector went off on his piercings. Raphael had the second longest time to go through security due to his body’s piercings and what he was bringing with. Instead of waiting for his tongue to lash out in a quip, he simply rolled his eyes and grabbed everything and caught up to the group. Not only did he have his satchel with him that had his essentials, but also a small suitcase for travel and stay. And his father - the one time they ever spoke to each other after Raphael came home and talked of the mission briefing - said to bring survival equipment as if they were going camping. Raphael didn’t know if there was any housing available there, so doing so was a good idea.
Rand was going to wait to give the details and prompted their questions, if they had any. Raphael raised an eyebrow at the cat comment from Maria but shook his head. Just another of her eccentric tangents. Then Chanterelle asked something about the plane crashing and Raphael closed his eyes to hide his discomfort of the thought being brought up. He turned to see Ark almost chastising Chanterelle with his tone. He raised a brow. It didn’t sound like a joke, but a genuine concern. Still, Ark seemed to have gone through something as his grimoire began to glow from his stress, his hand tightened around his briefcase. Was he okay?
Then he did squats.
Definitely not okay.
It was enough for him to get a chuckle out of it though. He started jogging in place and Raphael just shook his head. “Ah, dork.” He chuckled. Ark asked Rand a question about the Orb Weaver and then expressed his… Excitement. His grimoire was still glowing. Peculiar.
To prod, he crossed his arms and leaned towards Ark a little, a smirk on his face. “Are you now? Does your grimoire glow when you get excited, too?” He turned his focus on Rand. “Is there housing on Dall Island or are we going to need to camp out?” The long flight or the distance to the ground did not trouble him. In fact, from all that had happened, he kind of wished the plane would crash. Let everyone else survive. But he didn’t think about it for long as he tried to bring a smile to his face, looking at the girls, specifically at Chanterelle.“Even if being thousands of kilometers above sea level is a bit harrowing, the flight will pass before you know it. I’ve been on a plane before when moving to Nevada. It’s not that bad. Just gotta get used to the ear popping from the elevation change.”