Their first actual mission in the Rapid Improvement Program. This was more than just a test of the waters. This was no dainty toe-tipping to feel a chill; this was a complete submersion into a new environment and a new atmosphere. When he told Callah just days ago this was a new chapter in their lives, this was precisely what he meant. Despite that, and despite all of his forethought, even Cole did not anticipate what it would actually feel like to be out in the field. What it would feel like to be on a mission of the caliber they were put on a private jet and flown out. There was pressure to it, admittedly excitement, and a type of indescribable anxious energy that felt neither good nor bad or maybe both. A feeling that perhaps even Callah might not be able to decipher if she read his soul through his hand.
It was not just the gravity of the mission, however. There were other factors that bore down on Cole. His fellow Meisters were Luka and Dai and each presented their own array of issues. Dai was hot-headed, tended not to think before acting, and while Dai's combat prowess probably surpassed Cole's own even factoring in resonance, combat alone did not make for mission success. Luka likewise had the tendency to not always think before acting. She was young. Seemingly immature. Unlike both Dai and Cole, she had next-to-no actual experience in the heat of the moment. Cole himself was normally analytical, he thought out his actions and weighed his options. With these two, that likely wouldn't be an option. While it would be possible to convince them to be cautious, it was just as likely that situations would arise where such communication wouldn't be possible and thus he would be forced to approach a situation reacting to both outside forces and his partners' actions.
A part of Cole questioned the decision for Lord Death to send Luka of all the possibilities with them. Luka might have been highly capable, but she was just thirteen and this was an international mission involving an entirely different branch of the DWMA. With Dai, at least, there was experience. Everywhere in the world, there were short-tempered souls with gritty personalities, and from what Cole knew about Australia, some of these folks might not care what superlatives Dai called them. His duty, however, was not to question the Shinigami, but to act out his will. Perhaps this mission was to provide Luka that experience she needed or perhaps he knew Dai and his prowess would be necessary. The logic behind it didn't matter, the decision was made and it certainly wasn't his place to question it. In the grand scheme of things, especially for an immortal like Lord Death, the three of them had but grains of sand between them in terms of their differences in experience.
These thoughts consumed him during the flight, too. Lord Death gave Cole the mirror explicitly. Cole, the overthinker, even questioned this. Was this simply due to his nature as a scout and sniper making it less likely to be broken or was it an indirect way of making him a leader? Lord Death never explicitly stated, but the logic there was strong. Cole wanted so desperately during their flight to review over contingencies and combat coordination, but he avoided most of this. On their plane ride, Cole opted not to assert himself as any type of leader. While Luka might have followed suit, he expected Dai to be resistant to it and in turn that resistance might sour any cooperation from Luka later. Instead, he thought his best course of action would be to try to provide instruction if the time and situation called for it in the heat of the moment. He knew Dai well enough to believe that if he had a sound piece of advice when the time was right, he might listen. Dai was hot-headed, but he wasn't downright stupid. That same logic applied to Luka. More so, he knew Luka had Aiden and his experience with Aiden--outside of those interactions due to Callah--was that Aiden was in fact more cautious and preferred the defense. In fact, that's all he did. Cole hoped that avoiding a pissing contest to sour their team structure would make it stronger when and if the time came.
That didn't mean he was completely passive, however. During the plane ride, Cole at the very least asked a few questions to get a general sense of his partners. Cole had the best Soul Perception, Luka the least trained, and Dai was capable as much as any Meister. Luka had trained with her weapons, but had far from mastered either, and using their individual skills in succession seemed also off the table. Dai, however, was a natural and his combat style was much less complex. Cole made the suggestion that if combat did come up, their best bet would be a linear fighting style. Cole in the back for obvious reasons with Dai taking lead and Luka filling in where she could, using both her offense and defense. Dai having better Soul Perception and instincts in general made him a great front line option despite the lack of a defense, and Luka in the middle could make up for that by applying defense to either Dai or Cole if flanked. In this way, he didn't restrict anyone, the guidelines weren't harsh, no orders were barked, and they at least wouldn't walk in blind. How well they stuck to that idea would ultimately be up to the others.
Then there was Callah. Oh, Callah. Cole was sure she felt his nervous energy. She seemed concerned and wanted to reassure him and Cole couldn't lie to her, but he rationalized his feelings as natural. Not something to cause a problem, but something to work through and use as a tool for success. A sound mind was important to his training and letting anxiety get the best of him would only compromise things. The years he spent dampening the voices worked well to dampen that unsure voice in his heart, even if it was his own.
Thus, they stood in front of the Opera House and to say it had seen better days was an understatement. Cole let out an audible sigh, then said aloud, "wait." He didn't want to enter. Not yet. He focused his Soul Perception in and into the field in front of him, scanning as much of the Opera House as he could to see if there was any activity or signatures that could be relevant. "I believe we should do our best to keep our Perception active, even if we meet an ally. Lord Death seemed almost distrustful of this place." He then pulled out the mirror provided by Lord Death and looked down to it. "He also said to contact him as soon as we arrived, and here we are. He didn't say if he meant once we had entered and talked to someone or quite literally as soon we arrived. I would err on the side of caution and do so now. If he intended to send Death Scythes and a Three Star, then I don't believe he would be too peeved if we ended up calling him more than he anticipated, but we are a team. What are your thoughts?" he asked them. He didn't want to seem authoritative, so he planned this out specifically. A suggestion of caution with their Perception followed by requesting their opinions. It may backfire in regards to making that call, but planting the seeds of teamwork now would hopefully make it easier to cultivate later.
One partner gone, an empty space to be filled. To say that Tavares was surprised by this notification would be a lie, a little confused at the sudden change and the lack of explanation, but surprise- not so much. It was not the first time he'd suddenly lost a prospective partner before the journey of a duo or trio could even begin; the tales of such a combination lost to probability; given the life of Meisters aiding their Weapon partners towards greater success, he doubted it would be the last so after a moment, once he had digested the information he moved on, for the important day that lay ahead. Whatever had caused this or wherever Milo was off to, he wished him the best. And so with Ezrah's information delivered at this rather abrupt change, with his new partner announced the insegnante began the briefing towards the first mission RIP was to endeavor. For a brief moment he glanced at Adelle, trying to gauge her reaction, see how she felt about all of this- but it was fleeting. He spared only a second to see, and then just as quickly returned his attention as Ezrah began. Not wanting to being perceived as staring.
The task given...she sounded quite plain. What was it that plagued this garden which required the investment of an agency such as E.A.T? To say that Tavares found the mission to be somewhat lacking, would be a insult, yet found it somewhat odd, he did. It was not what he had been expecting for their first mission- but he knew from the Raids that he and others had performed in the past, that you should expect anything when investigating potential cases of the supernatural, as nothing was consistent when dealing with the paranormal. So wordlessly, despite the case, to honor the Lord's trust in them as a whole he accepted all that had been put forward without question. Adelle was to be his partner, Vox and Lucien his allies at armi. Off they went on train, but not even here did Tavares bother to engage Adelle in conversation. The case in which they found themselves in had ensnared his mind in such a way that any desires he had in conversing with Adelle had evaporated by the time they had boarded. He remained mostly silent, not out of any sense of brooding over the recent news his former partner had suddenly dropped- that was done, over with. To the others Tavares might have been brooding in silence over being tossed suddenly into a new partnership, his expression gave that feeling at least, his eyes distant as he watched things pass by on the train ride over, his body language signaling to be left alone. But it was the thing Ezrah had mentioned that had him so quiet.
The flowers that were being stolen all had magical properties, and the only hint that they had were the rhythmic buzzing of bee wings.
Fate was a cruel mistress; of all the times to taunt him now, why here? He would have known all kinds of flowers and the magical properties they held, he'd have known the chemical concoctions that could be made from them- such were the ways of his tribe in healing and other arts. Rare plants that held magical properties- he couldn't remember. It'd been so long, more than a decade since he'd conducted such studies in focus. There was nothing of value he could offer with his Shaman heritage, it made him frown-- but as they reached the site of interest, he wiped that frown away and donned a new expression of grim determination.
"Hello Sir Geoff," Tavares said warmly at the keeper's greeting and moved immediately, grasping his senior's hand, in doing so also purging his mind of the negative thoughts. "As far as I am aware, there has not been a sneeze yet" Tavy quipped with a grin.
Tavy's eyes observed. Foxgloves, his kiddy name he saw, others like Boxwood, some Shrubbery he vaguely recognized but aside from a few the rest were a mystery. It was almost shameful but he let it go as it was to be expected. Not taking the lead but instead opting to stay nearby Adelle, whom Tavares now realized he had not spoken at all or much to, his thoughts turned to her. As he walked it dawned on him he had not said a word on the train ride, and now he fumbled to think of what to say to her. From what he saw with her interactions with her last partner, she was not one to hold her tongue- surely she might be thinking all kinds of misconceptions. Just as he was about to speak he caught the sound of bees and immediately his eyes turned away, but what he saw was nothing of interest. The option he considered apologizing to her for being distant, but with the notable closed off zone in sight, Tavares chose not to bring it up just yet.
Observing the layout as Geoff put it, Tavares separated from the others and took a look around. Footprints aside there were nothing notable he could see. Sliding his glasses back up his nose, Tavares hummed silently. "Do you mind if I try something?" He asked, and moved only after a confirmation. Kneeling at a spot where some of the flowers had clearly been ripped apart, Tavares placed his hand over them. Then he focused. Avo had once said that if he grew his spiritual might it was possible to unlock things that were dormant in him, perhaps it might work here? He closed his eyes, touched the ripped plant matter and soil, and reached out with his soul.
Seconds went by, but Tavares felt nothing. Mistress Terra did not speak whispers to him, no feeling travelled up his arm, he had no visions-- and after ten seconds he returned his arm to his side. "Well," he chuckled though it sounded dry, "that did not work like I had thought. Sir Geoff, I must ask" he said as he rose, "we were told something about buzzing, and I see you have bees here. Have the bees ever acted strange in any way?"
Yuan (Meister) Salt Lake City, Utah - Mayor Martin's House A six-hour bus ride.
Yuan had spent the first hour with pleasantries—Introductions, how was your 2 days of “unstructured” learning, etc, etc. Seeing as how she didn’t really have experience with how DWMA classes operate or the ‘basics’, she simply took those days as free days. The fact that Yuan tended to be productive on her free was more a habit for her than anything else…though enjoying duck stew at Lucien’s place had less to do with productivity and more to do with convenience…and escaping the endless questions about the mysterious R.I.P class that she barely knew herself. As a new student, popularity via association with a class even more advanced than E.A.T wasn’t something she’d come to expect. While Yuan could keep up a sociable demeanor decently well, there was something relaxing about being in the company of someone who didn’t care what anyone else thought of him.
Yuan still returned to DWMA’s Girls’ Dorm afterwards and heard all the rumors about a fatal incident wherein a dashing boy swooped in to save the day. The N.O.T girls that shared a room with her were still squealing about it, though Yuan pieced together the truth with a few more questions to the right people easily enough. Seemed Rio from her R.I.P class had a brief asthma attack and Luka called Aiden to help. As curious as she was about the well-being of those involved, it wasn’t the sword and shield trio that she ended being teamed up with to deal with a ‘Zombie’ problem.
Sion Noguichi and Noelle Accessoire.
Yuan didn’t know much about them beyond what she saw in the first class. The Japanese meister seemed sensitive to the noise produced by Cole and Callah’s resonance, which suggested a highly keen perception, while the French umbrella protected her meister. One had a ‘giving’ soul while the other had a ‘taking’ one. That was the impression she got from watching them. Of course, Yuan had her twin partners to pay attention to, offering to read their palms as way to pass time. Certainly she could spend the long trip to Salt Lake City, Utah planning on how to kill a Zombie in her head, but she really didn’t know anything about zombies, and the only solution she could come up with involved smashing their brains as seen in the movies. Better not to stress to much before the mission even started.
“Wow, Erica you have nice long wealth lines! You too Grace~!” No surprise seeing as they were identical twins. “Be sure to share your blessings with the less fortunate. Good karma come to those with generous hearts~”
Some fortune-telling stuff was utterly bs. Some had actual roots in the science of souls. Yuan learned both. Eyes closed, the redhead trace the lines of Grace’s palm a little longer. In reality, she was familiarizing herself with the wavelengths of Grace’s soul. Not touching. Just seeing if she could distinguish the madness from the rest of it. Grace seemed to have more than Erica, which Yuan assumed to mean Erica got her infection from Grace…though it was only a guess on her part.
She’d done all she could prepped for if the worse came to worst. Calming herbal mixtures. Needles. The rest was up to luck. Who knows? Maybe a zombie wouldn’t be so bad that she wouldn’t even need resonance to return it to the ground. The rest of the ride Yuan spent either snacking or napping, since she didn’t feel like initiating a road trip song or anything like that. Her father’s men, the boys in the Crimson Dragon, had always been loud. Even now, she could see them gambling or drinking the rest of the trip away while they pestered their ‘Young Miss’ to sing them a song. That was before Ran Mao came into the picture.
The sun had already nearly set when Kinsley inconsistent stutter greeted them. Climbing off the bus, Yuan followed the man to the mayor of Salt Lake City’s house…where Erica was attacked by his overly emotional wife. Yuan place a gentle, sympathetic hand on the woman’s shoulder…though its true purpose was to wrest the screaming lady away from one of her partners if necessary. “Don’t worry, M’am. We’ll defeat the Jiangshi that’s taken your child.”
She didn’t promise to save the child because, for all she knew, it was already dead. A zombie that kidnapped/killed children. A woman whose laughter sounded like a child. Interesting. Glancing at Erica, Yuan questioned Alma consolingly. “What is the child’s name? What do they look like? We’ll need that information if we are to start looking...”
Or rather, zombie hunting.
Night was already fast approaching, which meant the time for the city to be attacked by the mutilated child-killer was near. They could investigate the ‘mysterious energy’ near the mayor’s office as Mayor Martin suggested. Keep an eye on the children of the city since that’s what the zombie seemed to be targeting. Or roam the city for further clues. Staying together was safer, but splitting up was faster.
Yuan looked to the rest of the group. “Mr. Martin’s office seems like a good place to start, but let’s exchange numbers in case any of us encounter this 'zombie'. Depending on how long this mission lasts, we may need to find lodgings as well…”
Ideally, they’d want to find and defeat the zombie in a single night…but Yuan didn’t count on ideals. She had already exchanged numbers with the twins when they helped her unpack, but didn’t have much opportunity to interact with either Noelle or Sion. Messing with Lucien had been highly amusing…though if the dhampir thought about it, two days wasn’t enough nearly enough time for Yuan to get the numbers of everyone in the R.I.P class. Not even Yuan got around that fast…though Professor Erzah provided his easily enough to any student that wanted his advice.
And everyone at DWMA seemed to know that 42-42-564 was the number to knock on Death’s door.
St. Louis, Missouri - Missouri Botanical Gardens Lucien spent most the train ride complaining about train food. The imperfect balance of flavors. The meat that could have been more tender. For most others, it would have been an adequate and satisfying meal. However, for Lucien, whose sense of taste was far superior than the rest, he could easily pick out its many flaws. Seeing as he hardly knew either Adelle or Tavares, the former being a new student and the latter someone he’d never personally interacted with before, Lucien mostly complained to Sheena, relating to her the woeful travesty performed on the delicacies before them and how he would’ve made it differently.
The duck stew he’d made yesterday for example. The duck cooked to perfection. The seasonings complimented each other perfectly. Even a simple dish could be made fabuleux if one knew what they were doing. Fortunately, Yuan hadn’t been able to invite the entire class to the lunch soiree at his apartment, but she’d managed to get the crazy twins to come. Sheena as well, though that was nothing too new. The idea of living together was briefly discussed now that they were assigned partners, but there were many other factors to be considered when making such big decisions—the division of rent, which of their two apartments they would use, the furnishings, etc. They could also combine their expenses to find a different location altogether…though it wasn’t as if living together necessarily strengthened bonds.
Sometimes it broke bonds too.
Uprooting their lifestyles when there was no guarantee of a stable partnership didn’t seem very wise either…especially after seeing how easily some of the students had been dropped from the R.I.P class. Adelle and Tavares hadn’t been assigned partners last Lucien remembered. He wasn’t even aware switching partners had been possible. Had the soulful argument between Stone and Edgar during their first class been too much? What about the high and mighty Milo? Scared off by all the paintballs or was something else going on? Neither Adelle nor Tavares seemed to be talking to each other either, which would have made the train ride even more awkward…if Lucien hadn’t filled the silence with all his culinary complaints.
Lucien glanced at his own partner who sat beside him. “You wouldn’t abandon a culinary expert like myself and drop out of the R.I.P class, would you Ma Cherie?”
Vox frowned. Her fingers moved rhythmically, picking at the zipper tag of her jacket, which had been sticking for a while but hadn’t seemed well and truly busted until a day or so before. She met the gaze of the man beside her, appraising him, and here she seemed to snap to attention where she had been distracted before. It was difficult to pay attention to Lucien when there were other things on her mind, if only because he had so much to say, and the quiet presence of Adelle and Tavares did nothing to comfort her. Her tongue moved over her teeth inside her mouth, and her fingers released the zipper, hand falling to her side.
These movements accompanied a sort of internal contemplation. She shook her head, gaze sliding to the wall behind him, and when she spoke her voice was low. “I don’t believe I’d have any motivation to do so, Lucien. Some people may not… have been ready, for life at the DWMA. I have made the grade for years and will continue to – and I expect the same from you, no?”
Lucien nodded, finding that answer acceptable.
A long pause. “I like my place just out of town. You’re welcome to join me there – there’s a couple bedrooms.”
Fortunately, it didn’t take them too long to arrive at their destination. A cab ride later and the Missouri Botanical Garden came into sight. Flowers here. Greenery there. It was a lovely place for people who liked vegetation and the beauty of nature. Tavares seemed to want to do the talking with the garden’s keeper, so Lucien let him, simply following Sheena and making note of all the edible plants he recognized as Geoff lead them to the site of the crime.
“How horrible!” Lucien frowned as he scanned the mess of torn shrubbery. “Whoever the thieves are, they must be savages to leave behind such a mess!”
His eyes briefly followed Tavares, hovering over the meister as he placed a hand over the ripped flowers, seeming to focus. However, when nothing happened, Lucien lost interest. Tucking a lock of blond hair behind his ear, the weapon leaned over to study his own patch of ravaged flowers, getting a whiff of their fragrance. Professor Erzah hadn’t really said anything special about the flowers being stolen—only that they were rare and that there was a possibility of magical properties…though it was never proven. “I’m less curious about the bees and more so about the reason behind the theft. What’s so special about these plants? What could they be used for?”
Everything about the start of their first missions as members of the R.I.P. class felt rather rushed as far as Luka was concerned. While she didn’t necessarily have many unanswered questions, she also hadn’t had much time to process the reality of what her team was being thrown into or really learn about how her team would function as a team. Was someone in charge or were they supposed to figure that out together? Well, that was one question right there, actually. She had noticed that Lord Death had handed a mirror to Cole, but he’d never actually said anything about Cole being in charge. Luka was actually glad for that because he had been on her team in paintball, and he was one of the ones who’d tried to just put her on defense. Although she hoped she’d been able to prove she was capable of more than that, she wasn’t quite so sure she liked the way he seemed to consider her.
On the plane ride, Luka sat with her partners because they were who she was familiar with. After two days of unstructured time, they’d actually managed to become quite comfortable with one another. Well, there were still some issues with the whole roommate situation. Luka panicked when she woke up and some of her things were in places she wasn’t used to, but they’d drawn a line to help Luka quickly discern where her things were and where Rio’s were. Though it hadn’t seemed ideal initially, it was more than a little helpful for the girl who was so grounded in routine. After moving in, they’d spent the whole next day training together - all three of them. They’d even managed to convince one of Aiden’s brothers to come meet with them and give her tips when it came to dual wielding weapons. Although it was something she’d done before, Luka had far from mastered the art in the slightest, and she wasn’t at all opposed to pointers and tricks from people who knew more about what they were doing.
While on the plane ride, Luka actually took a nap. She’d been anxious for their first mission as a team, and anxious to learn about who they’d be working with, and therefore had not slept well at all the night before. Briefly, she wondered if Rio had slept well either or if she’d been too loud with all her moving about overnight trying to slow her mind down to no avail. She heard bits and pieces of the little lectures Cole tried to offer, receiving them with some understanding.
It was just before their landing that Luka found herself waking up; the timing really could not have been better. Looking out the window, she was able to piece together where they were just as the plane landed and she disembarked with the rest of her team, keeping her partners close because they really had no idea what they were stepping outside to. Her eyes first and foremost fell on the Opera House and a shiver ran down the young girl’s spine as though she were standing in front of a haunted house. She’d seen pictures of it before, but never anticipated it could look so creepy and old. “That’s not what it’s supposed to look like,” she muttered softly, saying what everyone else was probably thinking. “You guys don’t think Lord Death is just trying to scare us or test us, do you?” Her E.A.T. days weren’t that far behind her that she didn’t remember the times where the headmaster had actually been pulling the strings of a mission the whole time. Her voice hadn’t been loud enough to carry too far, but she imagined her partners, at the very least, would hear her.
Then she heard Cole again. When he mentioned perception, Luka’s shoulders sunk just a little. Her soul perception wasn’t very good at all and she knew it. It was just one of the things she struggled to focus on. The rest of it, though, she had some thoughts on.
“We could at least walk around the outside and see if there’s anything interesting?” she suggested thoughtfully. “The people might know something and everyone is walking around without issue so it doesn’t seem too unsafe.” Whether she was interpreted as naive or thoughtful remained unclear, though.
To have joined RIP at last was something of a treat, and to do it on her trip back from a mission was something to celebrate. Today, Ceinwein felt it was a day to celebrate and so with excitement and joy in her chest it was finally time to begin the feast she had been denied on her first landing at Nevada. Metallic wings carried her back to DWMA, and while her disdain for air travel was strong, her love for food overpowered it. Shortly she landed at an airport within Death City and as soon as she saw him, Ceinwein grinned. She pushed past individuals with ease, the tallest in the whole area, seeing over everyone's heads was an advantage that made this easy. Speaking excuses and pardons, once Ceinwein had reached Arthur, her guardian, she clapped his hand and returned his beaming smile with a grin and then a bone crushing hug and whoop of joy. A whoop that caught some eyes- but if Ceinwein noticed, she frankly couldn't have cared. Upon releasing him, the Shamaness, giddy with laughter, said: "My friend today is finally the day we try everything!"
Arthur's cheerful smile slightly faltered at this news. Something Ceinwein did not pick up on. Already she had pulled out her cybernetic box, the phone clicked on and locations for the nearest restaurant being looked up. He looked at the one bag slung over Cei's shoulder, glanced at his wristwatch, adjusted his glasses, and then asked with some hesitance. "Everything?"
"EVERYTHING!" She had declared, her eyes on her phone, her grin maddening and then she spotted one. Giddy, hopping up and down on her sandaled shoes, an arm wrapped around the much shorter man and pulled him towards her phone with a grin of delight. Arthur could see how her eyes sparkled as she began telling him of the Tender Serpent, like a child excited for the Christmas gift they had always wanted.
He sighed, scratched at his brow, and said it.
There was simply no time to go on this crusade of gluttony that Ceinwein wanted. Her protests to get something quick were denied, for Arthur knew her well. The girl would not settle for one simple plate, she would get three- and once she finished these three, she would move on to another. Her bloodline gave her a stomach that could not be rivalled by even champion food competitors, and as a result the quest for gluttony needed to be stopped now before it was too late. It had been he who had denied her such a task when she first arrived in the States after all, and while there had been a few passes to indulge in one or two delicacies, Arthur implied heavily that today was not that time.
"But I do not understand why?" Cei had cried in dejection. Her brows knitted down in aggravation.
"Because Lord Death requested you meet with your new team immediately at--"
"He did?" interest and astonishment in her voice. And like that, hearing the Master's name alone, he had her. Arthur simply nodded. And almost instantly, Ceinwein seemed to rethink her priorities. She exhaled slowly and then said: "Let us be off then."
The metallic beast that was the Challenger growled to life, and with a threatening grrr, they were.
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New partner, new mission, and a growing aggravation.
Ceinwein did not like planes that much. She loved travelling, seeing the beauty that Anu had wrought to mortals with her kindness, but the sky...the sky was an enigma. Revered by the Nemain, but not understood by all. She did not hate these metallic contraptions, for they were transportation that did not require any technique to perform, but she did not like the disconnection that accompanied being in the air. It was as if her connection to Anu ceased when she was too far gone, the song that Mother Anu sang to them all was faint or rather the feeling she felt from the very Earth itself felt distant as if to never be there. While up here she could vaguely detect the winds and the chorus of the winds, they were garbled to her ears. Ambisagrus in all his beauty, despite her admiration, was not one she understood. Frustrated with this nonsense that she could not block out, she tuned her mind over to these new allies of hers.
Cole, Callah, Luka, Aiden, Rio, and Dai; the latter her new partner. Her blue eyes wandered over each of them, taking in details. All of them so tiny as they were literally so-- if her father's words were anything to go by, by next year she'd be a few more inches taller and probably a bit larger. She'd finally be reaching her maturity stage, just like her father had. As she eyed each new member, it was Dai her eyes settled on. The boy was covered in scar tissue from what she could see and if she were being honest there was something about these scars that held her curiosity. What could a mere child, no older than the youngest member of this team, have gotten involved in to attain so many scars? Some looked nasty, and her heart went out to him in a way. Training was brutal back home, but not to the extent where such injuries could be achieved. The curiosity was there and if she were a fool, she'd ask him. But it seemed rude to do this- far too rude in fact so she chose not to. What kind of mark would she be giving if she did?
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Her lip curled back in disgust. Mother Anu hummed tunes of somberness. It was faint like all songs of Nature but could be felt physically as they all came to their destination at last.
At Cole's request, seeing as Lord Death had bequeathed him the sacred All-Seeing Mirror, Cei opted to halt at their leader's order. She glanced in his direction, glanced in Luka's upon hearing her suggestion and then schooling her disgust for this ominous atmosphere, closed her eyes as if to get a better feeling of what the Lady sang. "I believe we should do as the Master has advised" Cei spoke at last, "and contact him, I do not like this place. I am not against walking around however but be warned, Mother has only ever sang tunes so somber during tension, you are wise to have us wait Cole." Cei praised in her odd manner, "And you show promise young one by having us search for a means of information." She said to Luka with a small smile. A smile that vanished as she turned to another. "What say you, partner?" her brow rose as she turned to Dai, scrutinizing him with her expression expectant.
Sion spent the majority of the six hour drive trying to keep away from socializing and sleeping in the depths of his comfortable winter coat. Besides all the exercise regimen he'd been putting himself through lately, he'd have to spend the majority of the day prior cleaning out a room in his rather spacious downtown Death City flat. It was for Noelle, as they figured that living together would let them couple their training much more easily, and in a bad scenario it'd be better to be close rather than across the city from one another. There was still plenty of money lining Sion's pockets from his old life, so she'd agreed to move into his three bedroom condo. She'd even have her own bathroom. Fancy that.
But he stirred in his sleep. Most of the rest was sleepless, and as he leaned with his back against the window of the bus he viewed his team mates through eyelids barely even ajar. The combined cacophony of their souls made it hard to sleep in the first place, but the subtle dark hints emanating from the twins kept him on edge. Rumor had reached him that they suffered an infection of madness, and he honestly didn't know if he could defend against that if they'd get too close. Rumors there were plenty of in a school like this. Every now and again he'd be approached by a student from one of the other classes, each with their own interest. Some wanted to know how to place in the class, some expressed envy, and very few seemed genuinely interested in getting to know a new student. It didn't matter much to Sion. He had other things to worry about.
As soon as they got off the bus Sion took a few steps aside and sparked up a cigarette. This was a real mission, finally, and he wanted to keep his nerves in check. The fidgety Kinsley that greeted them didn't seem to be expecting conversation, and so Sion kept to Noelle's flank as they wandered through the snowy streets.
When they arrived, he flicked aside his cigarette and entered last. Inside, he was immediately assaulted by a woman's wailing. She was on her knees, grasping at one of the twin's clothes with Yuan reassuringly placing a hand on her shoulder. Sion turned his face away and pulled a hand through his hair to disguise the momentary cringe that rolled across his feature. The sorrow, he respected. The sound? Not so much. He opted to let the other, more tactful team mates take that conversation.
"Are you suggesting we split up?" He asked Yuan, and he held out his phone towards her with his contact information clearly displayed. With his head turned to the mayor he continued, "General rule of thumb with child killers, as far as I've come to know 'em, they aren't super rational to be going after kids in the first place." He returned the phone to within his pocket. "Usually don't cover their tracks well, or really avoid retribution. A map marked with the locations of known incidents would be good. Might be able to approximate some pattern." His attention turned back to Yuan. "I don't think we should split up before we have a better read on the target. Their strongest option, outnumbered as they are, is to divide and conquer."
He looked back to Noelle, as if to gauge how heavily the mission details would affect her. After all, despite her stern exterior, she seemed to feel for other people quite strongly. It was a good quality. "If the area isn't too big and their soul is notable, I should be able to hear them." He wanted to place a reassuring hand on his partner's shoulder, but these fingerless gloves were far too little padding to protect from his wavelength.
Lowering his voice, he added a final comment.
"And with any luck, the young girl's voice that's been heard isn't a witch."
To put things simply, Dai was pissed. A partner switch-- after the very first day of class, to boot? He was so damned upset about it that he ended up spending his first 'free day' (or so he called it) exercising until he was too tired to even think about it, and his second one sleeping. Now, he was being shoved into the roomful stomach of some sort of gigantic, metallic hawk.
Speaking of, he wasn't too fond of the flying contraption that had them soaring in the air-- at all. He hated being airborne unless he was the one in control of it. Being on the infinite ground of the Earth and having full control over your own motion was optimal for him, and having absolutely no control over that put an unusual, unfamiliar tremble in his legs as he sat idly in his seat. However, though he was nervous and uneasy, he did his absolute best not to show it. His expression was fairly neutral, with a hint of annoyance in it, and he spent the entire hawk-transport pretending he was asleep, listening and replying to Cole's annoying strategizing, or staring at some random object that was fixed inside of the flying beast's stomach.
The bird had finally landed (how had they not been digested?), and Dai was eager to be one of the first to step off. Immediately, he was greeted by an enormous white structure that looked more like an insect trapped in a spiderweb than a world-renowned piece of architecture. Once he had confirmed it was simply a building, and not an enormous beast making an attempt at challenging him, he turned back to face his comrades for this mission.
This time, Dai had actually done a fairly good job at remembering his teammate's names. Cole, the smartass who nearly blew his eardrums out two days prior, and his partner Callah, the very source of the noise that almost deafened him. He bore no ill will against them for it, thankfully, but he wondered if his opinion towards them would change at all throughout the duration of their mission. He needed to make sure that they were capable enough to hold their own and not slow him down. Sure, the sharpshooter/rifle duo held their own during that stupid paintball exercise, but this was the big leagues-- they'd better not disappoint him.
Next, Luka, the damned runt that chewed him out right before he could get his hands on Lucien or that skunk-haired, sorry excuse of a classmate. He was still pretty annoyed with her for calling him out in front of the whole class as if he had done something wrong, but he repressed his annoyance with the smaller girl and saved it for a more appropriate time. Her partners, Aiden and Rio, supported her pretty well-- at least that was what he was able to deduce from their little mishap during their first class, but he still had his doubts. There were three of them, sure, but that just meant there would be more dead weight to carry if they screwed up.
Finally, there was the star of the show: She was tall-- way taller than he could ever dream of being, with olive skin, a striking expression, and a powerful build. Her very being exuded a nose-catching aura of might. She was his new partner, Say-- Sayn wayne-- Sane...
Okay, he hadn't quite remembered everyone's name. He remembered that she insisted he call her 'Cei', though, so that was what he'd know her as until she repeated her full name enough for him to remember it. He could tell that she was promising, he just had to get her in his hands and swing her around a bit before he could be completely sure.
Luka was the first to speak. She looked... anxious, and asked the rest of the group if they believed Lord Death was testing them. There had been times when that masked clown had sent him on missions just to reveal that he was the one behind everything, but this seemed... serious. Either way, he scoffed, opening his mouth for the first time since they'd gotten out of the flying contraption to respond to her. "If that's the case, I'll go take out that skull-faced bastard myself." He got another glance of the huge building ahead of them. "Still, this seems like too much to be another one of his dumb tests." He turned his head to look at the brown-haired girl, a sudden air of seriousness surrounding him as he addressed her. "Keep your eyes peeled, runt. I don't wanna have to come savin' ya if you wind up deep in some shit."
The next to talk was Cole. First, he suggested that they have their Soul Perception active for the mission, to which he quickly objected. "I ain't gonna be of any use there. I wasn't blessed with the power to go around seein' souls like everyone else." He raised his arms over his head and held them there, before huffing out a reassuring statement. "Don't worry 'bout me, though. I can handle myself without that shit. If you don't believe me, just wait and see."
Then came the time to make a decision on what to do from where they were. Cole was right. For now, they were a team, so they had to work together and settle on one concrete plan on how to start their mission. Luka suggested they scour the perimeter of the Opera House to see if they could find anything worthwhile, but they still had to contact Lord Death as instructed. His increasingly eccentric new partner observed him as she waited for his opinion, and he couldn't help but grin in her direction as he stared back, sizing her up once again now that they were actually standing next to each other. "Personally, I'd like to just go right in there and take care of whatever might be waitin' for us down there," He moved one of his raised arms to point in Luka's direction, refusing to break eye contact with Cei as he spoke. "But that little runt's got a point. Checkin' this place out from the outside might save our lives, for all we know. Why don't we just walk around this fuckin' thing while we call Lord Death? Kill two birds with one stone, y'know?"
Planes were just plain disorienting for someone who already lacked one of their senses, and so for Callah, being on a plane wasn’t precisely ideal. The whole situation was made a little bit better simply due to the fact that she was on a plane with some people she knew. Callah was well aware that she could rely on at least a few of her teammates to make sure they were actually being taken to where they were supposed to be going. As far as where they were going, Callah had little pieces of understanding. She had a general idea of where on a map Australia would be, but her sight had long been gone before she had ever been able to see any images of the legendary opera house.
That being said, there were some other things she could sense on their journey through the sky. As she sat beside her meister, Callah was all too aware of the nervous energy that radiated off of him. There weren’t many things that managed to put him on edge this way that Callah was familiar with so she did what she could to be supportive as he listed a couple strategy type details. It was hard to plan when they didn’t quite know what they were walking into, but she tried to help.
Finally, though, the arrived at their destination and Callah had her hand on Cole’s shoulder so she knew where to put her feet as they disembarked. However, the ominous nature of the opera house in front of them was entirely lost on the orange haired weapon. Being blind did have its advantages. She did continue walking for a few steps forward after everyone else stopped, unaware that they had stopped until Cole said, ‘Wait.’ That got her to backstep a few paces, lining back up with the others.
“I think we should do whatever you think, Cole,” Callah remarked. Given that she had no sense at all for how creepy the building was in front of them, her tone was very lighthearted. “I think Dai also has a good idea, though, of walking while we call him. I mean, I can’t see anything so I’m useless here,” she didn’t seem to mind that at all, though, “but we should do what helps the most.”
One more thought occurred to her, though. “I don’t think Lord Death would’ve gone to the trouble of putting us on a plane if it was one of his tests.” She hadn’t even known the grim reaper had a private jet until they’d boarded this one, after all, and she’d been a student at the DWMA for some time.
After only a day of not knowing who her new partner would be, or whether or not she would even have a partner going into the next mission, Adelle finally got an answer. She wasn’t quite sure if it was an answer she liked or not, but some partner was probably better than no partner at all. Adelle was to pair with Tavares. She’d met him when they’d engaged in paintball, but he had been on the other team. She didn’t know if he’d been paying attention or not to her weapon forms, she didn’t know if he was a creep or not, and she didn’t know much about what he preferred in a fighting style. Adelle really wished she knew more than she did, but unfortunately, there hadn’t been time for a meet and greet before their mission started.
Then again, it seemed like there would be time to converse while they were en route to the site of their mission.
Adelle would have been more than willing to engage in conversation with him while they were on the train to Missouri, but it seemed as though Tavares had other plans that he didn’t feel inclined to share with anyone. She couldn’t say that it didn’t bother her because it did bother her, and it only grew her fears that she’d been paired with another naive guy who thought every girl was the same and every weapon was just a weapon - a tool - and nothing more. She tried to shift her focus to the task at hand, though. While she would’ve liked to make a few conjectures as to what was happening, it didn’t seem right to guess without putting eyes on the scene.
Fortunately, it didn’t feel like too much time passed before she was able to do that. Adelle didn’t feel it was fair for anyone to call them partners just yet, seeing as they hadn’t even exchanged two words between each other, but she still tried to stick nearby regardless in case of emergencies and also with the small hope that maybe they could talk at least a little.
When Tavares asked if he could try something, Geoff nodded and said, “Sure, go ahead.” As far as he was concerned, this patch of plants couldn’t really get any more damaged than they already were so there wasn’t anything that could be of significant harm. Though there had been a brief look of hope in his eyes, it faded when nothing seemed to happen regardless of whatever the man was trying to accomplish. Adelle, too, watched curiously. She wished she knew what Tavares had been hoping would happen.
Despite some mild disappointment, Geoff did answer questions readily. “I’ve not seen anything odd from the bees. Bees do what bees will do. I hear ‘em at night, but I don’t usually see many moving around after dark. That might be a bit odd,” he seemed to consider it briefly, but it wasn’t really information he could use with his limited knowledge. His gaze then drifted to the other man in the group that was supposedly going to help him and he shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not sure what’s special about ‘em, aside from them being near extinct. This was one of the only places in the world anyone could come to see them. There were a group of researchers that wanted to study them about two years ago, but the owners of the garden declined because there was a risk of losing the species. Wasn’t worth it to them. There was a botanist that came to see them shortly after that. She took some pictures and did a little science article about needing to value species on the verge of extinction and the owners were quite happy for her support, but we never saw her again. I can probably find a copy of the article if you’d like.”
Swiftly, before anyone else could say anything else, Adelle nodded. “Yes, please. If we could also get the name of the botanist, I think that might be helpful.” If not, then it certainly wouldn’t bring any harm to any of them to say they spent some time researching anyway.
Nodding, Geoff left them to examine the scene a bit further while he went in search of the supposed article.
“We’re probably going to want to know where some of the other rare plants are when he comes back,” Adelle suggested, “so that we know what areas to watch tonight. He can probably give us a full tour if we think it’s necessary.” While Adelle wasn’t necessarily in favor of using their mission to get free tours of beautiful places, she wasn’t going to refuse it if it seemed necessary for them to do their job well. “Does anyone have any thoughts?” While it sucked that they didn’t know the magical properties that the plants possessed, Adelle did imagine there was something there that was the main reason behind the thefts. That much was clear in her eyes.
The moment she heard the words: 'skull faced bastard', Ceinwein's eyes narrowed dangerously as she stared at her meister. With just that sentence, her respect for Dai began to teeter dangerously off the edge of a cliff and plummet into the abyss that waited with open maws below. She frankly didn't care if Dai was making a joke, the statement alone, whether she had misunderstood it or not, sounded quite insulting to her ears. In her world, in her tribe you did not speak of a Legendary in the casual manner that so many in the modern world were accustomed to. Even in a lesson, you gave the name the same respect you gave your parents and elders. Unfortunately some did not do this.
Of all the ways people had referenced to Lord Death in her travels from Wales to Asia, including the missions she participated in abroad, skull faced bastard was a new one.
She did not like it one bit, but then again if they were troublesome heretics- they would not be here.
While she wanted to lecture Dai-- to cut him off and tell him to be more respectful of the very being that was responsible for keeping the balance of all lives, the very same one they all had the honor to work for. Cei did not. Her eyes narrowed and that was the end of it. Time among these outworlders had wizened her not to take insult to things as easily as she had before, but still. It got under her skin something fierce. All she could hope was that he wouldn't be doing it repeatedly, or she'd lose her patience just as quickly.
She didn't much care for how Dai spoke to the rest of their teammates either. A little tact could have helped, he certainly could be better with his words, but if they were able to handle his manner of speaking, she would not admonish him lest he go too far and get ahead of himself. The only thing she did say was in response to his statement.
"Then we are in agreement." Her reply simple. "Let us make haste then, Mother's song has yet to lighten and I would rather we not stand here so exposed." Without waiting, Cei moved, expecting the others to follow.
Ah disappoint was an old friend that Tavares was chagrin to welcome with open arms. His eyes could not help but linger upon the remains of the petals and stem where he had been performing something of which had ultimately been nothing. He honestly didn't know what he'd been expecting; maybe the same feeling he felt whenever he focused his wavelength? Maybe some kind of revelation? He had not a clue. All he knew was that whatever he had wanted had not happened. His fellow sprouts or peers, back when he'd been in the tribe, had always told him during practice that if he could feel a thrum- like a vibration radiating through his body as well as the ground, then he was in touch with the very planet itself. Mother Gaea spoke many tongues, but he was deaf to all- even the simplest one. He had felt neither of pulse, vibration, or song, and as the conversation continued with his thoughts currently distracted, he exhaled from his nose slowly, letting go that the Animist ways would never be his to test after all.
Appreciating that Adelle had asked for the article and details from Geoff, Tavares remained ultimately silent until Miss Stone had asked her questions for suggestions from the team. He hummed in response, thinking. While he was out of practice, there were some things he had learned- rudimentary things, simple concepts that all young Shaman were taught at a basic level within Gaea Prime. The same training his father had finished with him on their return to Italy, and perhaps maybe enough to help them piece together the clues that would point to this culprit.
"First" Tavares began, he bowed to Adelle, low and deep. An odd spectacle given the current scenario. "I would like to apologize." He rose from his bow, smiling a rather small smile. "I made a mistake Miss Stone, Madame Vox, and Sir Lucien. I was ignoring you three earlier because I had been caught up in something personal- it will not happen again. I shouldn't have been so distracted earlier, perhaps we might have been able to talk more" and his eyes specifically glanced Adelle's way before shifting between the three again, "had I not been so distracted. I believe zere is a way I can help clarify some things. To answer Lucien's earlier domanda, I would point out what had caught my attention earlier. My old teachers that I studied under briefly, were Earth Shaman. I descend from them actually, and the thing I tried to do earlier is a technique of the tribe. One of the things I recall from my studies with them and my father in private, was the utilization of certain types of flowers in magical arts. The Shaman are animists, and of my father's tribe many uses could be made of certain flowers to create...unique effects. While I cannot speak for the ones here, if we can narrow down which flowers have been attacked, maybe we can figure out what exactly our culprit is trying to do by research. I do agree however, we should keep an eye out for the remaining ones. Who knows if our culprit will come back again today."
Now, Aiden wasn't the brightest crayon in the box. He wasn't dumb by any means, but if one were to compare him to Cole or Lucien--two specialists, basically--he might compare in intellect to their general knowledge. Aiden knew this. He never pretended to be the smartest guy. But, even he took a brief moment to question the validity of sending a fresh team--R.I.P. or otherwise--into Australia where he wasn't even sure if there was backup. This idea was so, so outlandish to him that the thoughts of others in regards to this being a test came to his mind as well. They were basically investigating the whole-ass Australian branch. Surely there had to be a few E.A.T. students with more experience. Surely Lord Death could have spared an instructor or two. Surely, there was someone else even if not a three star.
And, oh, the Hell is this about three completely green one-star Meisters--only one of which could even use resonance--somehow equating to a three star Meister? Let's face it, almost any three star would mop the absolute floor with them. Get in on Cole, he's useless. Luka would unfortunately probably just have a breakdown. Dai, now Dai, Dai would put up a fight like Hell, but the thing is, three star teams were no joke. Depending on who it was, they might just toy around with Dai out of the entertainment value and once they were bored, remind his comrade about the sheer gap in skill and experience that all his beloved tenacity had no hopes of bridging.
One might think that was an overstatement, but it wasn't. Aiden's sister was a two-Star and he was fairly certain with her partner, she could probably solo all of them if she took out Cole first.
Yet, Lord Death was nervous? Was that a rouse? Was there secretly some higher tier agents on the plane or somewhere there shadowing them? These thoughts preoccupied the mind of Aiden, although they didn't make him nervous. Just more curious.
There were distractions as well. There was a new girl. Pretty, in her own way, from what he saw, but not Aiden's type. She towered over him and he was a little above average in height. And, honestly, more built than him. She might smash him if even tried. Though, he couldn't deny the undercut and abs had their appeal. Nonetheless, he knew nothing about her. Callah or even Rio out of this group were far more to his normal 'type' and since Vox was nowhere to be seen, these were just thoughts to entertain. Really, Aiden sincerely wished he got her number when he could have. He still hadn't and texting her during this unfortunately long plane ride might have been yet another distraction.
The other thought process that entered his mind actually involved Cole, and no, Aiden didn't quite swing that way. This was an entirely different set of tracks. They were entering an Opera House. Aiden and his sometimes spastic brain immediately thought 'is this a phantom of the opera house type scenario?' in which case if so, Cole claims he can see ghosts. If Lord Death had such a twisted sense of humor that he would send them on a ghost themed mission, would Cole secretly be their ace? How fair was that? Most experienced duo, only ones that can resonate, and oh hey, GHOST BUSTERS. Jeez.
That said, it did seem Cole and Callah made sense to be given the mirror and at least given some level of influence over the team. Cole was a Meister, most even-headed--unless there's a giant hole to jump into, apparently--and his normal tactical mindset made him decent to follow. Aiden was aware Luka had lukewarm feelings about him and Aiden himself even questioned his overprotective nature, but in the field, Aiden wasn't exactly upset by him having his back. Same with Dai. It seemed Cole didn't precisely want to step on toes, however, as his only suggestion during the whole plane ride was a rough idea to fight in a line. No one seemed to argue with it and it made enough sense. Kudos.
Then they got to the opera house. It looked more like one of those haunted houses one would visit to scare their girlfriend only to accidently piss themselves when a man with a fake chainsaw jumped out to get them. Funny store about that involving Brenden, but no time to share.
Up next was a round of discourse between Cole and the others regarding the next steps. Cole asked for input and got plenty. Call Lord Death while scouting. Fair enough. This however made Aiden revisit his thoughts about this being a test. Let's assume this was another test instead of a serious mission, he considered. While the others continued deciding, Aiden ran his mind through this scenario. If this was a test, what were they being tested for? Teamwork? Cooperation? Communication? Decision-making? All of the above, probably. Aiden let his gears grind on this for a minute, but he didn't have the raw brainpower to keep those hamster wheels spinning for long enough to come to a detailed outcome. Instead, what he considered was this: it didn't matter. If this was a test with some type of badass in the background ready to jump in and save them if need be, then so be it. Adjusting how they approached the situation because it wasn't 'serious' seemed like it would defeat the point. Besides, in the event this wasn't a test, slipping up because they didn't take it serious might just get someone hurt, and that wasn't an outcome Aiden was about to support.
Just as Aiden was about to make a comment, he realized something. He turn to Cein, ran his hand through his hair, then said, "I believe we're all overlooking one very important part of this scenario," he said, keeping his eyes locked onto the tall girl, looking straight up to her with his same gentle smile. "Aside from Dai, I don't think anyone here actually knows your name. Lord Death didn't introduce you and you weren't here for the paintballs, so I got no idea what to call you, miss," Aiden explained, pointing out that thus far no introductions for the new girl had been made. Aiden let out a light chuckle before adding, "That might be important to know."
Aiden then turned his head to the others, followed by his whole body if only to let his crimson hair do a bit of a flip. "I do agree, though, that contacting Lord Death sooner rather than later would be a good call. And, since no one gave us earpieces," he said with a dramatic sigh as if they should have been, "splitting up might be a bad call, too. One last thing since I'm sure most of us are thinking it. This might be some type of bogus test, and if so, then so be it. Might as well treat this like there's a Kishin egg in there that needs cracked open or it's doom's day for us all tomorrow. Anything less and we're really not putting all our effort into the rapid improvement part of this, now are we?"
NOELLE ACCESSOIRE Location: Salt Lake City, Utah Interacting: Sion ( Prizzy Kriyze
), Yuan ( QuirkyAngel
), Grace & Erica ( CelticHero37
) Meister: Sion
Noelle managed to somehow peacefully sleep through five of the six hours that they had been riding the bus for. A day earlier, while her partner had been busy preparing a room for her arrival, she had been packing. Thankfully, her previous apartment wasn't that big, and most of her furniture and belongings would be able to fit in a single room. The real problem was her wardrobe. Literal pounds of blouses, dresses, skirts, and all other kinds of clothes had to be removed and placed into suitcases, all of which were now waiting neatly on standby at the door of her apartment. Of course, packing them properly to avoid unnecessary wrinkling or ruining the fabric of the clothes took a lot of time, as well. She really did love and care about her clothes like they were her own children.
By the time she had finally woken up, they were already in Utah. She enjoyed eyeing the scenery as it passed by, unsure if she would ever be able to see some of the landmarks and surreal nature they passed ever again in her life. As much as she detested it at first, America truly was a beautiful country, and there was no denying that. Once they entered Salt Lake City, however, her demeanor changed from intrigued and mesmerized one to stern, focused and slightly uneasy. The most populated city in the state (at least, that was what google told her), reduced to a state not too far from that of a ghost town. Was a single zombie enough to strike this much fear into the hearts of the people? No-- She thought to herself, lost in her own thoughts as they got off of the bus. There must be something more to it. I'm sure we will learn more once we speak to the city's Mayor...
Right on cue, they were greeted, and promptly escorted to the Mayor's... home? The tranquil stillness of the city harmonized well with the soft crunching of snow beneath the footwear of the DWMA students (and company), and, for a moment, Noelle was able to feel more comfortable with the situation they were in. As they entered the home, she couldn't help but think about what her fellow classmates could be up to on their own missions. Two particular people that came to mind were Luka, and Adelle.
Adelle had come to mind first, of course, because of their budding friendship that had begun the day before. Sharing a coffee and chatting with another girl around her age was practically a delicacy for her as, surprisingly, Noelle didn't have many friends. Next was Luka. She hadn't gotten a chance to have a full-on conversation with her younger classmate, but she still had some natural urge to make sure the girl was safe. She closed her eyes and lowered her head to offer a short prayer for them, along with the rest of the R.I.P class. Please, keep everyone safe.
When the distraught woman, who she now knew as 'Alma', threw herself onto Erica, Noelle had extended a hand in hopes of calming her down with her wavelength, only to stop herself when Yuan took charge to reassure her. Good. Now that she was awake and focused, she could see that she was part of a fairly solid team. Judging by their performance in the class's first exercise, Yuan and the twins held their own extremely well, pushing sudden fits of laughter aside. Now, as she listened to the young meister take charge and begin spitballing ideas on courses of action, it became clear that she worked well as a leader, too. And Sion, of course, was Sion. She knew that he was more than competent.
She continued to stand quietly as the group talked amongst themselves, taking after Sion and holding out her own phone with her contact info set on it for the others to see. In all honesty, she wasn't very happy with this mission. The fact that there was someone-- no, possibly multiple people out there kidnapping and harming beings as innocent as children made her skin crawl. She was sad. Of course, she could only hope for the best in terms of finding the children that were missing, but that statement, that 'found dead' had echoed from the mouth of the mayor and been repeating itself in her head ever since he had mentioned it. Her fist clenched within the pocket of her blue parka jacket. The best she could do now was work her hardest to bring down the culprit, and hopefully bring enlightenment to those poor, lost souls so that they could rest peacefully.
She snapped out of it when Sion mentioned the elephant in the room, opening her mouth to give her own opinion on it. "It is very possible that said voice could be a witch," she explained in the same hushed tone to avoid bringing Alma any more unnecessary panic, returning her phone to her pocket once everyone had gotten her information. "I am aware that we have not seen this culprit yet, but I do not believe that one zombie is enough to strike this much fear into the hearts of this city's residents. I feared that there was something more to this." She had half the nerve to transform and guide herself into her meister's hand right then and there (definitely not because she was cold), but she knew that conserving energy would be a key aspect to completing this mission-- especially since they didn't even know exactly what they were going up against, yet. "It was still smart for us to exchange contact information, just in case we do somehow end up divided from each other. I have an important question, though..." Even though her expression was void of fear, the slight frigid tone of her voice made it clear that she was a bit nervous. "If we do encounter a witch, do we engage in combat with it, or retreat?"
St. Louis, Missouri - Missouri Botanical Gardens
Lucien’s eyebrow rose when Tavares responded to Adelle’s group inquiry with a bow and apology, followed by an introduction/explanation of his heritage thereafter, but otherwise didn’t interrupt as the Italian meister verbalized his thoughts. There was no harm in getting to know his classmates and it certainly provided an explanation for what the Earth Shaman descendant had attempted to do…not that it had done anything in the end. Lucien couldn’t say he knew very much about Earth Shamans, but it was obvious Tavares wasn’t a very good one. Either that, or Earth Shaman ‘techniques’ weren’t much help in the current mission. Whichever the case, Lucien had always considered himself a fairly pragmatic person when it came to work, whether it was work in the kitchen or as a student of DWMA.
It was clear from the responses that no one among them, not even the groundskeeper, knew much about the flowers.
Hand turning into a knife, Lucien cut out a small sample of the torn flowers and enclosed it in a Ziploc bag. Protective of their rare flowers they may be, Lucien doubted the owners of the garden would mind now that the orchids were dead, and further research into these unknown, nearly extinct blossoms might provide clues that could save the other targeted flowers. Lucien was by no means a plant expert, but DWMA had a number of brilliant minds/teachers, and submitting the samples to one of the organization’s research labs would provide answers regarding the potential uses of the flowers and any magical properties—if any—that could give them insight on the culprit’s goals. At the very least, it’d add to DWMA’s database of knowledge.
“Perhaps sending these flowers to your Earth Shaman family would yield some actual answers to my domanda then,” Lucien commented idly to Tavares’s thoughts as he slipped the Ziploc bag into his pockets. “Honey bees are mostly diurnal as far as I’m aware, so hearing them at night does sound a bit odd…but, then again, I’m no expert on bees.”
He had no idea what prompted Tavares’s interest in the pollenating insects, but he who was he to question the Earth Shaman’s insight? It wasn’t like they had much else to go on…and abnormal buzzing could certainly be something worth looking into. There was nothing that kept the company of flowers more than hungry bees, after all, which made them possible witnesses to the act of thievery…if they could be spoken to.
Straightening, the blonde’s hand morphed back to normal as he dusted his black pants and looked to Adelle, nodding in approval. “I’m glad you inquired about the article, Mademoiselle Adelle. The name of the botanist as well. I, for my part, think that botanist sounds highly suspicious…but it’s not like we have many suspects to go on. Whoever is stealing these nearly extinct blossoms clearly knows their value and has a deep interest in them.”
Deep enough to resort to crime at least. Children only messing around were unlikely to know the difference between flowers and target the rare ones specifically. Lucien, for his part, couldn’t care less about the nearly extinct flowers unless they had a cooking purpose or nutritional value. He shrugged. “Botanist? Plant researcher? Anyone who’s shown a history of interest in these rare, unstudied plants is a liable suspect. For all we know, the thief may very well be a wealthy flower collector that is annoyed the Missouri Botanical Garden owners won’t let them buy the endangered species and took matters into their own hands…though I doubt such a soul would be evil enough for us to collect. Lord Death isn’t likely to send us on a mission that the police could easily handle without reason...”
Which meant that there had to be something supernatural afoot…or, at the very least, something the Death God wanted to them confirm. Wouldn’t make sense for the Grim Reaper to send his R.I.P students otherwise. Even as an E.A.T student, Lucien really only signed himself up for missions that could yield a potential kishin egg. His goal in school was to become a Death Scythe, not do charity work, though he had no attention of failing to complete a mission specifically assigned to them either. Guarding flowers may not be the most exciting of tasks, but it was still one given to them by Lord Death. He wouldn’t give it anything less than his best.
Lucien checked his nails for dirt. “I also think we’ll need to buy tents if we’re going to be camping inside the Missouri Botanical Garden tonight. Or, at the very least, sleeping bags. I’m not a wild child and don’t fancy napping on the hard, bug-filled ground while waiting for our mysterious culprit to show up.”
If they showed up. Geoff said the raids happened every night, but he never specified the exact time they occurred. Who knows how long they’d have to wait? Depending on when (how late) the thief decided to make their move, Lucien and his fellow R.I.P classmates may have to take turns patrolling the gardens as well. “A full tour of Shaw’s Garden does sound like a lovely way to spend the day though.”
If he wasn’t going to get to dine on a gourmet Kishin Egg, a free tour of one of Missouri’s attractions would have to do. Lucien glanced at his R.I.P class partner. “Don’t you think so, Sheena?”
If there was a reason Lucien wasn’t too bothered by Tavares ignoring them, it was that he was used to it from his own current meister. Even before they met again the R.I.P class, Sheena had a history of distractibility—too focused on her own music/world to pay much attention to others. As much as it had annoyed him at first, Lucien had come to accept that his classmate wasn’t always going to be answering his texts in a succinct manner…if she remembered to at all. Lucien also had his own culinary interests to attend to and, while he loved attention, didn’t mind her lack of it…too much anyway. He doubted it would be the first or the last time he wrangled an apology from Vox for failing to comment on his new set of knives. However, that was their relationship. Adelle Stone was a new student. She was also Tavares’s assigned partner. Taking the time to clear the air and explain his lack of attentiveness at least showed the meister had initiative and a degree of self-awareness. Lucien couldn’t say he cared too much about the relationship of others, but the less difficulties his teammates had with each other, the smoother their mission would be.
Besides, Adelle ‘Stone’ and an ‘Earth Shaman’ descendant sounded like they ought to get along…thematically at least. “We can see which rare flowers have already been targeted and take a stab at the ones the culprit may go after next, all the while expanding our botany knowledge for future science classes.”
DWMA did have normal classes in addition to weapon and meister classes, though Lucien couldn’t deny he was more interested in learning about edible plants so as to increase his repertoire of recipes, increase his skills as a chef, and add variation to his dishes.
A rush of things had happened since Rio had entered the R.I.P. Classes, new partners and challenges had come, paired with a mission so soon into the trio's partnership. Adding into the confusion, was Rio having been moved to the Dorms with Luka. While she took great care to aid the struggles Luka had gone through for this, Rio had just as many. She was underprepared for living in the dorms, and in the days since she had moved in, had to get different things from her previous apartment before her things were sent back to her home another country away. The added strain was Rio hadn't shared a room with anyone before, and hadn't experienced this before. Yet, at the end of the day, Rio swallowed her discomfort and stress so she can ease Luka's where she can, and, the line in the room aided this, thanks Aiden.
When she wasn't moving into her new dorm, Rio spent a fair part of her days training with Luka, acquainting with her partners' souls, and letting Luka get used to her weapon form. Training with Aiden's brother was an aid, though Rio felt she hadn't done much. Following this came the briefing on the mission that Luka, Aiden, Cole, Callah, Cienwenn, and Dai, were all to go on. There wasn't much information that was given, as, there was not a lot of information that even Lord Death had. The Australia and Oceana branch of the DWMA had gone suddenly silent, with no information as to why, and all mirrors he had there were shattered. Pushing her thoughts of how many years of bad luck that was, Rio looked to Cole, whom now held the mirror to speak with Lord Death.
The morning they were to leave, Rio awoke to Luka's movements, preparing herself, especially for a flight across the world. There had to be special precautions to be taken for her own safety, nothing out of the ordinary for Rio, whom, at this point was used to this. The plane ride was rather quiet, yet it bothered Rio a bit, why would Death send three, one-star meisters to do reconnaissance on an issue, in which a branch of the DWMA, which had at least two or three three star meisters in it had gone suddenly quiet? Something about it just did not sit right in Rio's mind, and through the plane ride, it constantly ate at her mind, why the three of them, and of course, the worst case scenarios...
Rio couldn't help but ponder why someone else wasn't sent, she was sure Aiden's siblings or some of her own cousins could easily take care of this issue, but they weren't here, and there was no backup as far as she knew. Nervously, Rio couldn't help but toy with her hair, pulling it forward in it's ponytail, running it through her fingers, a nervous tick she had since childhood.
As the plane landed, a single question replaced the last in her mind, 'What happened here?' as her amber eyes set upon the famed Opera House covered in spider-webs. It was plain to see for everyone, and commented of quickly by Luka, while Cole asked about calling Death and using Soul Perception, followed by Dai, who... Was Dai. Rio paid little mind of Dai's crass words, agreeing to Luka's plan, nodding with her allies, Rio's voice came following Aiden's, "I'm in agreement, contacting Lord Death should be our first step, gathering an idea of what's going on from the outside is a good start before we delve in. While splitting up isn't a good idea, so long as we are in eyesight of one another, in theory we'd be able to back one another up." Pausing for a moment, Rio turned to the Opera House, "And if we do end up split up where we cannot see or find one-another..." Pausing for another moment, Rio extended her hand to a building that rest a few-hundred feet from the opera house, along the waters nearby, "We regroup in front of that building, and go from there. Does everyone else agree...?"
Grace and Erica were excited to work with some of their classmates again. Since it had been a while since they'd even been close to another soul, they had been a bit more exhausted than they'd expected thanks to the madness. So most of the free time they had during the unstructured learning days ended up going from having fun plans to just crashing on the couch and becoming a warm place to sit for their cat Wallace. The fact that they were taking a bus ride to their destination was an added bonus. Bus rides weren't really something they ended up doing often thanks to faster transportation options available at home. So despite being fairly mundane, it was a fun experience for them. They had cute matching coats and were looking pretty sleek overall. Grace was excited about being in a vehicle with a bunch of students and getting to socialize with them. For Erica, it was more the experience that she was drawn to. Looking out the window as cityscapes and natural scenes glided past her window. The warmth of sharing the experience with others.
As the trip progressed, Yuan offered to read the twins' palms. They'd heard of these sorts of things but had never had someone do it for them before. Erica was just curious about what went on and how someone was able to do such a thing. The information Yuan came up with seemed to be pretty accurate, and at the very least it showed that she had quite a good understanding of them. Grace, on the other hand, was a bit more apprehensive. She was afraid Yuan might dig up something that would lead to some secrets. Secrets that she wasn't really prepared to talk about, especially not with Erica there. That's why she felt rather relieved when Yuan finished what she was doing.
It wasn't long after this that the bus arrived at their destination. Right away, there was one thing that was apparent. Something was off about this place. Which was to be expected, but one was never quite prepared for something like this. The jarring transition was sobering for the twins, who had almost forgotten why they were on a bus. Both Grace and Erica's face became serious. For them, playtime was over. Their past experience giving them insight into when they should switch off the cheerfulness. As the group followed their escort, Erica scanned the area to see if she could pick up any details that might be important later. Not much stuck out to her other than the obvious, though. She thought she had seen some movement in the shadows at one point, but that could have just been a trick of the eyes. As they entered the building where they would be briefed, Erica's mind had already transitioned to analysis. The situation was clearly quite dire here and she noted that being in the new R.I.P. class meant that their normal missions would likely already be on the more dire side of things.
One thing Erica hadn't been prepared for though, was the lady rushing up to her. Erica's snapped out of her analysis and blushed. She was stunned for a moment and unsure of how to handle the situation. As such, it took a moment for her brain to process what had been said and by that time, Yuan had stepped in. Erica was thankful that her meister had stepped in, but a little miffed when she realized that she had frozen. Grace, on the other hand, had stayed back, trying to give Erica a chance to work through the social issue in her own way. After all, Erica really needed practice dealing with trying social situations. Once she had registered the words and recognized the gravity of what was being said, though, she looked toward the woman who seemed to be named Alma. Erica's expression took on a state of calm diligence and nodded. The energy she gave off was reassuring in a way that only Erica could pull off.
Then Erica jumped into the conversation, "It could be a witch, but I'm inclined to think it might be a Kishin. Of course there's always the possibility that we could be dealing with both. Either way, one thing is certain, we're the best the DWMA has to offer. There's a reason were here. We need to be down for anything. Whatever we encounter, there is no one coming to take the muckle job. We're it. So retreat is not an option except in a tactical sense. Yuan's something to add is a good state to start, and splitting up is not ideal. So we'll travel together for now, but we will very likely have to dump once we figure out what is going on. Every second can count in defending the city."
Grace stepped up with her sister and nodded. She was ready for the fight, and her sister had said enough for the both of them.
Yuan (Meister) Salt Lake City, Utah - Mayor Martin's House “Nah, I just wanted to get your number, Cutie~” Yuan replied teasingly as she added Sion’s number to her phone’s list of contacts. Noelle’s as well. “I bet the police that have Mr. Martin’s office blocked up would have a map marked with the location of known incidents. We’ll have to work with them if we’re going to get anywhere.”
Before joining DWMA as a student, Yuan would have never thought to work with law enforcement. Dongmei Wu was the daughter of a Chinese mafia lord and a figure in the Zhongguo underworld who tried to live up to her father’s expectations. Back then, the police had been the enemy. To an extent, the Grim Reaper and his school of do-gooders as well…though DWMA been less enemies and more an organization to be wary of. She—with her occasional visions of the future—had worked with the Crimson Dragon to avoid the eyes of Death. Now, as Yuan, she worked for Death in order to hopefully bring down the Crimson Dragon and the witch currently running it. The change was certainly extreme, but not as jarring as she’d expected it to be.
In fact, it felt rather nice being the good guy for once. Doing a good deed.
Slipping her phone back into her back pocket, Yuan continued her reassuring pats— waiting for Alma to pull up a picture of her child or something—while listening amusedly to the opinions of her classmates. Sion was sensible and pragmatic…and seemed to know a thing or two about child-killers. Noelle cautious and caring despite her frigid demeanor. As for Erica, something about the ‘shyer’s’ twin’s response gave Yuan a sense of experience. A strong sense of determination despite various proposed obstacles that, if Yuan had to guess, stemmed from whatever experience gave them the madness. If there was one thing she agreed with in Erica’s response it was that, in a town filled with fear, where hope had clearly died, the DWMA students had portray a sense of confidence and professionalism. At very least, they shouldn’t be talking about running away from a witch in front of the mayor and his wife. “Erica makes a good point,”
Stepping away from Alma, Yuan pulled the stern-faced French weapon into a warm, cuddling embrace, her own red jacket enveloping the other’s blue parka as she pressed her cool cheeks to Noelle’s soft ones. “I can feel how tense you are Noelle-dajie. Whether it’s a zombie, witch, Kishin, or any other horrors that await us, we’ve just got to do our best together~”
Sending a playful smirk in Sion’s direction, Yuan continued blithely while enjoying Noelle’s warmth. “What we do would probably depend on the strength of said witch and their intentions so it’ll be hard to say while they are still wearing soul protect,”
Yuan had done some research on witches while looking up ways to kill Ranmao.
“Not all witches are strong, you know, and not all of them evil…though most end up feeling the pull of magic that make them inclined to destructive tendencies. If they are capable of speech, my first inclination would be to talk to them and ask them nicely to stop doing what they are doing…and if that doesn’t work, we test the waters. Defeat them if we can or call for back up from DWMA as necessary. Regardless, our priority should the safety of Mr. Martin’s city and its citizens~”
The last line was more for the mayor’s ears than anything else, since getting the man on their side would make their lives much easier. Checking out the mysterious energy in the section of the city being blocked off by the police ought be their first goal, but Yuan got a strange feeling that getting past the police would be their first hindrance. Might just be her natural animosity towards police officers affecting her thoughts…but would they let a group of children through easily? Especially given the fact that children seemed to be disappearing in their town as well…
Although the conversation happening between the students and the mayor wasn’t necessarily the most comforting and actually sounded downright frightening at times, Alma did seem to calm down a little bit at Yuan’s hand on her shoulder. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out her wallet and opened it up to a photo that included two children - a girl and a boy. “That’s Hannah and Hunter. I sent Hunter to stay with his dad earlier today,” Alma explained, pointing to each child as she spoke of them. It was clear that she cared about them both very much. Though she didn’t explain it, sending her son to his dad’s hadn’t been an easy decision.
The mayor smiled at Alma’s ability to do as she’d been asked despite his knowledge of how emotional she was currently feeling and knowing how hard this must be for her. “Hannah’s the first child who’s up and vanished,” he explained so that the students could understand. “The rest of the victims we have found bodies for and been able to bury so if you’re looking for patterns, this is definitely a break from what pattern was going on.”
Alma nodded and then added, “She fought, though. Her room’s destroyed; literally knocked a wall down. The mayor was kind enough to allow me to stay here until the city is safe enough for the repair company to come to mend the damage to my home.” She held some pride in her daughter’s fighting spirit, but it was clear that fear for her daughter’s safety still ruled the woman who remained on her knees.
After nodding to verify Alma’s information, the mayor gestured for the students to follow him into another room which he appeared to have converted into an office for the time being. There were errant papers all over the place, most appearing to have little to do with the current situation. It seemed like he had brought every file from his office home with him so that he wouldn’t be missing anything in case it should have been needed, and anyone making that assumption would be completely correct. Gathering them around a table, he had a map laid out with a few different markings on it. “Naturally, our own investigators tried to do what they could in the current crisis before we put in a call to the DWMA so we do have a few pieces of information that might help you.”
First, he pointed to a circle on the map near downtown and where his office would be located. “This is where the officers detected that strange magical energy,” he explained. There were certain tools they had access to that would detect those types of things. “This is also where we first started getting reports of the laughter that sounds like it's coming from a child. That started around the same time as the children started dying so we know it’s not Hannah.” The mayor was addressing thoughts he imagined would make sense. “All of the killings have been happening in the residential areas, though. Most have been ripped right out of their homes, although there was a boy found dead in the skate park when things first started. Looks to have been from the same creature. Many like Alma have tried sending their children out of town, but there are a few parents who aren’t able to send their kids anywhere and who refuse to separate from them. Officers are stationed near as many homes as we can manage, but we don’t have enough people for that to work perfectly, not to mention our officers are terrified.”
Finally, he pointed to a police station labeled on the map. “Chief Vincent is stationed here. He’ll be able to give you a list of the homes that have children in them this evening and which ones are guarded as opposed to not. That might be your best point to start at. Be careful, though. You don’t look like much more than children yourselves.” Though he had faith in them, it was hard for someone in his position to not be concerned. The mayor would give them the map before they departed from his home. The police station they had been pointed towards was actually closer to the mayor’s home than the mayor’s downtown office was.
Meanwhile, just barely on the edge of what any of them would have been able to sense, laughter was resounding as through a portal in the downtown area of Salt Lake City emerged two beings, one of whom had wings on her back and appeared very young but also developed and mature in ways that were definitely odd, and another who walked on two feet and had arms that flailed around as though they had no bones. In fact, they didn’t really look like arms at all. One soul was… difficult to identify. The other was definitely a kishin egg.
Noelle seemed to be keeping herself collected in spite of it all, and Sion gave a bare nod when she voiced her question. To be honest, he hadn't considered the option to retreat yet, and that was on him. Bad experiences and a tendency towards self-sacrifice wasn't conducive to increasing their chances of success. If it proved to be too much, they could retreat, contact the school, and hope for back up. They couldn't possibly be expected to withstand a city-wide threat on their own without the option for retreat, right? It was only their first week. Seemed one of the twins disagreed with that estimation though, but they were, well, quantifiably mad.
He gave a sidelong glance to the fairly younger Yuan when she complimented him, and whispered "Don't wear it out." to himself. He stepped back to offer room when she stepped up to hug Noelle, and though Sion made no notable facial expression, the thought of whether this was common in other cultures ran through his head. Perhaps it'd even been back home, and he just never picked up on it. When everything you touch gets injured intimacy falls to the wayside, and even physical touch becomes uncomfortable. Maybe, just maybe though, Yuan just happened to be a bit of overly affectionate. Eccentric. A weirdo.
But she made a solid point. Soul protect. Sion had only recently become familiar with some of this stuff, but he'd dived deep into the area of soul perception. If they were potent enough for that, then his sense was unlikely to be of any help. At that point, an opponent that echoed laughter around the city would put themselves at unfortunate detriment. No amount of soul protect could block physical sound.
Even his cold disposition was tugged at when the crying woman composed herself enough to show a picture of her daughter. It was faint, but a trace of sympathy washed across his features when he looked between the photo and Alma's red, sorrowful eyes. This was the sort of redemption he wanted, but he was deathly afraid of letting anyone down further. He found his hand had tensed into a fist inside of his long sleeves when he broke off from her to follow the mayor into the next room; and though he shook the tension off, the thought floated in the back of his head. He needed to do this now, didn't he?
Now wasn't the time to contemplate, however. Sion leaned over the table and made an effort to memorize the map as he listened intently to the mayor's explanation of each marked location. "Fuckin' magic." he whispered under his breath when Martin mentioned that the energies had, in fact, been magical. As he wrapped up his briefing, he asked them to be careful and immediately earned some mild ire from Sion by saying the looked like kids. He turned his head to the mayor with a raised eyebrow. "Thanks?" Sion turned and folded the map up to stick it in his pocket. "You're one PhD away from essentially sharing names with a shoe brand, but I didn't feel the need to state that." He spun on his heel and began walking away, then realized his dry sense of humor probably wasn't best at a time like this, and looked back over his shoulder. "I'm just kidding, by the..."
His voice trailed off as his eyes turned absent. Something had changed. A new sound presented itself somewhere on his auditory horizon. A... child's laughter? Yet it instilled no happiness in those who heard it. There was only a sense of... dread, for lack of a better word. His gaze refocused on his allies. "It sounds like we're out of time." He turned on his heel and rushed for the door, but paused with a hand on the door frame. The labored breathing of the woman behind her caused him to turn his head and looked at her.
"... make sure to keep a bed warm for Hannah. She'll need it when we bring her back."
He waited until the rest of the team had gotten out on the step before he pulled his hood back and turned around to face them from the sidewalk. He would've said something sooner, but after he realized his callous nature didn't instill much hope in the mayor or the mother, he figured he'd wait to talk tactics until they were out of earshot. Searching for Erica's gaze he spoke, "While I commend the passion, don't limit yourself from retreating. The school has more resources, and we'd be of no help to anyone if all we do is die." Turning to one side and avoiding each of their gazes in shame. "That being said, I apologize for being so crass around civilians. I'll work on it." He paused.
Then, as if catching himself wasting time, his head snapped back towards them and his hand raised to pull the scarf away from his mouth. There was a fierce glance in his eyes when he spoke, and his sentences concise to save time. "They're in the city. I heard them, the laughter. It's diffuse, can't track it. The civilians should be our priority. Need to get the unprotected areas from Chief Vincent, lay an ambush, maximize our advantage. They don't know we're here." Soul perception and its derived abilities were unique to weapons and meisters, he'd read it in the library. There was a chance they could get the jump on them. "If things go wrong, you should know I'm somewhat resistant to magic. Might help out."
Without waiting, he produced the map and began jogging in the direction of the police station. Discussion could continue on foot, he figured.
The train ride had been fully occupied by Lucien’s critique of the onboard cuisine, but Vox found little input in the conversation Lucien was having, on account of her not partaking in the onboard meal. She’d packed a light lunch with some fruit and a granola bar, a few things to snack on that she’d picked up the night before after spending the day with her partner. Vox had not expected the train food to be good, but she’d also not expected it to be a problem, and she spent most of the ride quietly eating orange slices and offering them at intervals to her peers.
The cab ride was more of the same, but shorter, more crowded. It was quieter, and somehow even more awkward; neither Tavares nor Adelle seemed much for conversation and she wasn’t sure if the two had even met each other before. It had been easy for her to slip into a sort of peace with Lucien; he’d been a classmate of Vox’s for a long time, and they’d come to a kind of understanding over the years. It would be harder, she guessed, to partner with somebody in year one like so many people were eager to do.
Maybe she’d missed out on something special. Something about having a partner from the time you just begin your highest-level training seemed a romanticized ideation to Vox; it was most likely that she would have many partners in her life, for many purposes, because her aspirations as a meister ultimately centered around her own goals and improvement at her craft. She had not yet found a weapon that allowed themselves to move in her time, to use the beat, and she did not feel (as she walked, with a spring in her step, after the groundskeeper Geoff with the group of her peers) as if she had been shorted her pairing. They were getting along well, and even Dai had not been much of a problem so far. Lucien seemed pleased with her performance, and she was pleased with his.
Some of her peers were moving into each others’ apartments, while others were dropping out; the pair had discussed the idea of living together at some length but had not come to any concrete decision. Lucien was hesitant to move into the dilapidated split-level house that Vox had bought with prize money in her third year at the DWMA, even though she had offered him permission to outfit the kitchen in whatever manner he saw fit, and she had no want to move back into the centre of Death City. Parking was abundant, and Vox valued her ability to get the hell out of dodge as she saw fit. The train had robbed her of that today. She hummed quietly to herself as they were led to the flowers, and her classmates questioned the bees, and Tavares examined the destroyed blossoms. Lucien was right – it was a travesty, to destroy things like this, and for no clearly apparent reason.
Tavares seemed to be anticipating something with the blooms, but it did not come, and the query about the bees provided little information. They’d been sent to guard these rare flowers, and Lucien seemed annoyed by this failure, but Vox wasn’t sure he should be. It wasn’t like either of them was able to do much to identify a random plant. Geoff did mention a botanist, however, and both Adelle and Lucien jumped on that immediately. He offered the group the article, and Vox nodded along to the conversation, tongue rolling over the tops of her teeth in her mouth as she rocked slightly back and forth.
She dipped her head almost into the conversation as Lucien mentioned camping, murmuring something about having “a single sleeping bag in her bag but being unaware that a tent was needed or she would’ve brought one because you know there’s one in my front closet but we can’t go back for it now and I don’t have a bike to go get another…” she ran out of breath, and her voice faded, but came back more composed. “I mean, yeah, we’ll get a tent. I’d love to go for a tour of the ground during the day – maybe we could make up a map with the plants we want to pay special attention to highlighted for each of us? There’s a set of walkie-talkies in the bag – more reliable than cell phones, for quick communication. We could set shifts.”
Geoff left to get a copy of the article, and now they were alone again as a group standing in the middle of the garden with the petals of torn orchids spread wilting and dying around them, to discuss their mission. Adelle asked for everyone’s thoughts, and Vox smiled a bit to herself, examining the girl. She could make a fine leader – already, she took initiative, and wanted to facilitate communication within the team that they’d been placed in. Tavares could be an excellent partner, with a bit more confidence, and a bit on time to bond. She didn't know much about Tavares, him being in such a younger year, but she thought they’d do well.
“The endangered bees might be a good lead,” she started, “if they were connected to the flowers. If they were codependant on them, pollinated them or something. You could target the flowers to get rid of the bees if you were determined enough. We’d have to check to see if the destroyed flowers are ones the bees like, I guess? Although that could be getting off track, when we’re considering a stakeout anyhow.” Her eyes darted over to Lucien. “Still, like Lucien said, I’d just love to expand my knowledge in preparation for, uh, botany or something.”
The group was sending so many mixed signals that Luka almost regretted the fact that they hadn’t actually appointed a leader. Having a leader would’ve had them organized much faster and then they could begin the actual contents of their mission. She knew rushing into things wasn’t wise, but that didn’t prevent her from wanting to start gathering information sooner rather than later, which was why she had proposed looking around outside a little. Nonetheless, she did listen to what everyone on their team seemed to think of the situation.
Luka couldn’t hold back a small grin when Cei seemed to compliment her idea, but she still couldn’t quite tell whether Cei agreed to it or not - at least, not at first, she couldn’t.
Dai’s remarks had her simmering. “I am not a runt,” she objected, though it was more in a whisper, under her breath. She knew that getting into a fight with the other meister would be pointless right now, but Luka was definitely having a growing desire to show him that she was just as strong as he was in her own way. It may later be that he did need to save her ass, if only because he himself had inspired her to prove herself. The whole situation was foolish, really, but Luka was young and emotions always brought her on a rollercoaster. She couldn’t object, though, to Dai’s recommendation of combining her recommendation with Cole’s. Most people could walk and talk at the same time. Luka couldn’t but she imagined others on the team could.
Their new team member had started walking first and Luka had been prepared to follow before a comment from Aiden brought pause to the group’s movements. Cole didn’t seem to object to walking around the building, and appeared to be working on calling Lord Death simultaneously, but it seemed Aiden had made an important observation. None of them knew Dai’s new partner. Thinking about it, Luka realized knowing her name would be helpful, but she didn't think it was a reason to stop moving. The young meister extended her hand to Aiden and gestured for him to walk with them. She reached her hand to Rio as well. “She can tell us about who she is as we walk, Aiden. And that sounds like a great idea, Rio. It’s always a good idea to have a regrouping plan in case we get separated.” While Luka was inclined to think that they were fairly safe as long as they remained outside of the building - there were civilians around, after all - she wasn’t about to knock any ideas from her partners.
Slowly, the group started moving around the Sydney Opera House to find that the building didn’t necessarily look any better from any of the other angles they could see it from. However, as they moved around, it also became increasingly more apparent that the civilians walking around didn’t seem concerned in the slightest about the state that the building was in. It made the atmosphere a bit disconcerting. If anyone dared get closer to the building itself among the students, they would notice a few things within the debris that surrounded the building. The wind blew just so and managed to bring a wing towards them. Fragile, translucent, broken… it looked like it belonged to a very large bee.
Then there was Lord Death, who appeared in the mirror as soon as Cole called him. “Hiya!” he greeted, as joyful as ever. “How’s it going, guys?” The grim reaper looked around briefly but wouldn’t be able to see much unless Cole flipped the mirror and allowed him to. “You’re not there yet? Hmm. Is the opera house blocked off or something?” Though he hadn’t anticipated a need, he was prepared to make a call to get the team inside if that was needed.
“We haven’t gone inside yet, Lord Death,” Luka called out. “The city appears fine, but the Opera House looks like no one’s been inside it for months.”
“Oh dear. Well, I do need you guys to go inside and see what’s there.” That was kinda the mission, but he didn’t feel he needed to explain that part of the situation. “Probably a good idea to use Callah to see what’s ahead when you go in because I have no idea what’s there. Call me once you’re inside and from there I can instruct further. Have confidence in yourselves. I didn’t put just anyone into the R.I.P. class and I selected all of you from that class for this mission for a reason. I believe this team has an ample amount of caution and strength to handle whatever’s inside.”
Though he stuck around for a moment or two to answer quick questions, Lord Death didn’t seem like he was going to stick around for their inevitable entry. He would only be an extra item for them to carry and therefore a liability.
Little did the students know that multiple sensations awaited them inside of the Sydney Opera House. While the lobby was void of any bodies - living or dead - there was a near constant banging sound that they would hear underneath them that presumably came from the hidden Australia Branch of the DWMA. Off to the side would be a door opening to a staircase that would lead beneath the building itself and into the DWMA branch’s main lobby.
An organ was playing on the main stage of the Opera House, and if anyone ventured in that direction, they would see that a swarm of bees seemed to be inhabiting it. There was some buzzing, but it was overwhelmed by the sounds from the organ that the bees seemed to be unintentionally producing. More interesting than that, though, was a singular moving being - about human height - who appeared to be carrying a large sack on their back while searching through every single nook and cranny the opera house had to offer. Anything the hooded creature picked up was added to his sack.
And his soul was a kishin egg.
If your character would like to ask Lord Death any questions in your next post before he vanishes, please let me know and I can briefly give you his replies so you can include them in your post. It will help things move a bit more quickly.
When Tavares mentioned that he’d been distracted by something personal, it seemed only natural that Adelle became curious about what specifically that personal distraction might have been. After all, if she was going to be partnering with him, then sooner or later their souls would be closer than seemed physically possible and those personal distractions might just come to affect her. However, Adelle wasn’t silly enough to think that asking about it while they were among other students was wise or appropriate. She still barely knew him and while they were all growing comfortable with working as a team, it seemed appropriate to let people keep some personal details close to the chest. After all, even Adelle couldn’t say she didn’t have some things she had no intentions of sharing anytime soon.
She was grateful, though, for some small explanation even if it created more questions than it answered. She hoped her appreciation showed in her expression.
Then Lucien spoke of needing to get tents. Adelle had to comment on that. “I’m not necessarily sure we’ll need tents. If we’re going to be trying to catch whoever is doing this, which is what I understand the mission to be, then we don’t necessarily want to be sleeping at the time when they seem to strike. We could maybe see if they have a place of lodging for us to catch a quick nap before night falls, though.” She didn’t necessarily want to imply that they needed to go without sleep entirely because that certainly was not the case, but Adelle didn’t intend on sleeping when they were supposed to be on guard. Adelle sighed softly when their teammates seemed to be jumping on board with the camping plan before she’d even had her say.
However, there wasn’t too much more time to discuss it because the groundskeeper came back and extended his arm to Adelle with an article in hand. It was a simple two paragraph article defending the botanical garden’s decision to prohibit magical research on their preserved species written by a woman named “Xanthe Apary.” Adelle’s eyes narrowed at the name briefly because she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was that sounded off about it. “The article was published in a local magazine,” the groundskeeper explained.
Without pause, Adelle pulled out her own phone, something she only had to help communicate when it was needed, and quickly searched the name of the supposed botanist. “There’s no match,” she said after a search result yielded nothing. “Did the garden get any information from her when she wrote this article?”
“Unfortunately, no. She was given a free single visit ticket, in fact. I think she used it the day after the article was published.”
That was disconcerting.
“We’re going to need to be able to explore the garden a bit to get a lay of the land. Can you get us a map and mark where your rarer exhibits happen to be? We’ll want to scout those areas for information and to see if there are any clues from other areas that may have been targeted?”
“O’course! Do you need anything else right away?” He looked at the rest of their group. If no one had anything else, then he turned and headed off again to prepare said map. If anyone asked about lodging, he would mention that there was a little cabin on the grounds that he could open to them. He would even give whoever asked about it the key.
Promptly afterwards, he returned with a map he’d prepared just for them. “Red circles are areas that have been raided. Black circles are areas where there are some rarer species. We’ve also seen some signs of them in the foxglove that we keep, though it’s not nearly as damaged as the other areas.”
Erica had gone back to contemplating the current information she had when Alma pulled out a picture of her kids. A confused glance came from Erica as her attention was brought back to the people in front of her by someone mentioning her DWMA code name, Hunter. It took her a moment to realize that it was Alma talking about her son. This gave her the opportunity to take a good look at the picture, though. She wanted to imprint the image of Hannah on her mind so that she would be able to recognize her instantly. However, the description Alma gave of the incident and how Hannah was the only kid that hadn't been found, Erica became concerned. On the other hand, though, Erica noted that this likely meant Hannah was still alive. It was the state that they would find Hannah in that worried her, though.
Of course, at first, she had considered that Hannah might have been the one laughing and might have had something to do with the incidents, but when they had been brought into the other room and the mayor clarified, that again made Erica uneasy. Before Erica thought it was likely that Hannah might be in the area, but now she wasn't so sure. She took note of all the information she could while she was there. Eventually, though, an uneasiness came over the room. Erica's ears didn't focus on the sound that others had started to notice, though. Instead, her eyes fixated on the mess of papers in front of her. She couldn't take her eyes off it. It bothered her. Minging... such disorder. Tis simply unacceptable. It must be organized. I-I'm sure there will be some important spearings if we just return it to order, she thought to herself.
Before she knew it, Erica had walked toward the desk and was reaching out for a stack of papers. She heard a pounding in her head and at first she had thought it was her heart, but before long it had strengthened and was now resonating like the steady and orderly beat of drums. Then an image started to flash into her mind. A large castle keep towered over her, rising up to meet the sky. The individual stones of this keep were coated in a paper that had a pattern of words printed all over it. Life. Death. Life. Death. Life. Death. The door to the keep beckoned her in. Erica recognized this place. The very realization of this shot a pang of worry through her that managed to break her out of the trance.
The drums were gone and Erica blinked. She was now holding a stack of papers in her hands although she didn't remember picking them up. Erica knew then and there that something had suddenly amplified the madness and it had caught her off guard momentarily. Setting them back on the table, her head snapped around and she called out, "Axel?" Yet when she looked, her sister was nowhere to be seen. Then Erica looked to Yuan, worried as she asked, "Where's my sister?" However, before she could get an answer to her question, she heard screaming coming from the other room. Erica was instantly overtaken by dread as she rushed toward the door.
Grace had followed the group into the mayor's office, as it was clear he had more information for them. She didn't have much to say, though. Grace was able to follow along with what was going on just fine. It's just that strategy and tactics weren't really her thing. However, as things seemed to be coming to an end, something did catch Grace's attention. She thought she heard a voice from the other room, "So?"
Grace glanced toward the door, something seemed odd about this. It somehow felt like the question was directed at her. She stared at the door for a moment, then the question came again, "So?"
Grace began to walk toward the door, she wanted to find out what was going on and who was talking in the other room. She opened the door and went back into the room where Alma was. To her surprise, she didn't find anyone talking, let alone asking that question. But then the voice came again. This time resonating directly inside her head, "SO WHAT ARE WE GOING TO BREAK NOW?"
Grace started to see red until the image of the blood waterfall flashed in her mind. The madness constricted around her soul and her eyes landed on Alma. An unnatural grin started to stretch across her face as she was drawn in. Grace certainly hadn't been expecting something like this, and the amplification of madness had caused an imbalance she had not been ready for. Grace started to walk forward as a cracked scream began to shear the silence in her head. There were no drums this time. However, despite what she was currently facing, Grace had spent a lot of time trying to control the madness, and she knew she still had a sliver of her own consciousness in control. She knew she couldn't fight it alone, but she could play the game in her own way. As Grace approached Alma, her hand raised into the air. It would seem a little odd, but for someone unfamiliar with such things it wouldn't be anything more than that. Grace desperately tried to find a way to stop what was going to happen, but it was hard to concentrate. However, as she was just getting ready to strike, she found the answer. A side table right behind Alma.
With that object in mind, Grace answered the question herself, Tables are a scunner. That table's in the way. That's what we're off to break. In that moment, she took control. Grace's hand transformed into a partial edge of her weapon form as her arm whizzed past Alma and crashed into the table. "Sloch this you numpty! Take your fuckin' jobby arse and break a shank! Boggin' board! Mwahahahahahaha!"
By the time Erica had rushed through the door, Grace had completely destroyed the side table and was just starting to calm down. Grace turned to Erica and said, "It's okay! Don't worry. I'm in control now. Just wasn't ready for that shift is all. I-is everyone okay?" Erica relaxed slightly. It seemed their training had paid off in this instance. Nobody seemed to be hurt. Although being frightened was a different story. This certainly wasn't going to instill confidence in the people they were trying to help.
Salt Lake City, Utah As the group had initially been led away from Alma’s rather emotional state, the woman took what time she had to collect herself and regain some sense of control over her own emotions. She still held the picture in her hand and she smiled as she looked at it, briefly recalling the day it had been taken with a smile growing on her expression. For some reason or another, she wanted to have confidence in the students who had arrived to help her. She wanted to believe that they would return her daughter to her without too much damage.
What happened next made that rather difficult, though.
Alma had pushed herself to her feet, intending to retreat into the room that the mayor had so graciously allowed her to occupy given her circumstances, but when she turned around, her eyes found one of the girls right behind her with the most unnatural expression. Needless to say, a scream tore from her lungs, something mixed between horror and a return of all the sorrow that had enveloped her only moments ago. Then, unable to handle any more of what was going on, the woman fainted, her head falling dangerously close to a splintered piece of wood from the table that the crazed student had just destroyed in front of her eyes while speaking absolute nonsense.
Naturally, those sounds all combined managed to draw the mayor back out of his office and he was absolutely stunned at what he found. It didn’t seem like too much of a leap in logic for him to assume that the crazed student was the reason Alma was on the floor and he didn’t give them a chance to explain anything after that. “GET AWAY FROM HER!” the mayor all but screeched at Grace. The mayor could not deny that he seriously considered putting the students back on a bus and getting them out of his city before learning that he may have just invited another one of the zombies inside his very own home. Fury was fuming in his eyes.
Everyone chimed in. Everyone had their say. Rio and Luka both made great suggestions that Cole would have himself had someone not moved forward to him. Aiden even managed to be thoughtful in both realizing no one knew the tall girl's name and pointing out they had no communicators outside of the mirror--which yes, Cole agreed would have been nice. Lord Death could afford a private jet, but not a half dozen ear comms for the Meisters at the least? If Cole were the type to let his mind wander, he'd wonder where the Suggestion Jar was.
It did seem that the group concluded calling Lord Death now would be the best course of action which was a relief. Cole went out on a limb in not taking the proactive route, but it seemed to have played in his favor. It was time, however, for Cole to step forward with that proactive role, especially given the tall girl marching head first had been called out by Aiden insofar as not having introduced herself. Cole waited long enough for any questions to Lord Death if there were any and the girl with her introduction before he voiced himself again.
"Alright, R.I.P. Team One, quick recap. We scout the area as a whole group, we proceed with caution per Shinigami instruction, and if somehow we are separated without opportunity to regroup, we reconvene at the designated spot outlined by Rio. If I'm already going to be scoping the area with Callah, then I also find it best every weapon enter their transformed state with their Meister before proceeding. There is no benefit to waiting. If something is willing to attack us simply because we bear weapons, it's a threat sufficient to wield our weapons," Cole said, his voice more projected and solid this go around as he reiterated the major talking points they went over.
Cole then took a few steps forward to reunite with Callah before placing his hand on her shoulder. "I'm here when you're ready to transform," he told her, less so giving her an instruction and more so the green light to do so. Cole was always respectful to Callah in this way.
"As for everyone else, same idea as before. We stay close, Dai first to react to anything in tight corners, Luka in the middle, I'm in the back. Any time we change rooms or position, we gather round and wait to see if I scout with Callah first. We don't want to waste the element of surprise if we have it," said with his final bit of guidance. "That said, weapon up and we follow your lead, Dai. I'm not sensing any Soul Signatures from out here. Just don't forget who you have in the back. The creed of every good sniper: one shot, one kill," Cole added, hoping that's precisely how it would turn out if need be; a headshot for a wicked soul.